WELCOME TO OUR ONLINE YOGA COMMUNITY
Yama - Ethics & Morals - Non-violence, Truthfulness, Non-Stealing, Continence (Self-restraint), Non-covetousness (desire for possess things that belong to someone else)
Most people that have tried inversions in one form or another will resonate with that complete feeling of relief when you turn your world upside down. The reason for this is the reverse of gravity on the body and the mind. This feeling is greatly enhanced when you use a yoga swing or hammock to support you because you can completely let go of any tension and relax.
When you invert fully the gravitation pull on your body is reversed. Therefore, the flow of all the fluids in your body is also reversed. The circulation is improved with an increased blood flow to the brain giving it more nutrients and oxygen. This improves the brain function, allows for better clarity and focus. Therefore, the brain also produces more endorphins – our happy hormones.
Inversions also cleanse and refresh the lymphatic system, and spinal fluids helping to flush toxins for the body.
Inversion classes are not only great fun but they improve self-confidence, self esteem and of course physical strength, flexibility and muscle tone.
As with anything, you can have too much of a good thing! So it is best to start slowly, begin with just 1 or 2 minutes to a max of about 7 and have someone with you, preferably a professional who is trained in inversions, in case you need assistance.
Also please be aware of your own physical health before inverting and get advice from a medical professional. Due to the increased flow of blood and oxygen to the upper body, heart, lungs and head it is not recommended for anyone with a heart condition, low or high blood pressure, glaucoma or issues with pressure in the eyes, brain or cervical spine (neck). It is also not advisal in pregnancy.
As we age we actually start to shrink! The constant pressure from gravity on the discs between the vertebra means that they are permanently squished. The only time this pressure is relieved naturally is when we are laying down at night. Have you ever heard it said that we are taller when we wake in the morning?
This constant pressure is greatly increased if we live a more sedentary lifestyle, desk jobs, watching tv, computer games etc. If we do not move the spine and keep it flexible, we can not keep it lubricated or refreshed with the nutrient dense fluids it needs. Long term this causes toxins to build up and the discs to dry out, erode and eventually disintegrate. The skeletal bones in the spine then start to grind on each other, vertebra on vertebra, weakening our spine. Anyone who has suffered back pain will know just how much it affects everything we do. Unfortunately, for many people by the time we feel this physical pain the deterioration has been in progress for many years.
The good news is there is a solution to helping to reverse some of that damage and relieving some, if not all, of that pain without medication. We need to create space and improve the lubrication and mobility of the joints. This is one of the many reasons yoga is soo good for us. Over time, regularly practicing deep stretches creates more space in the body, allowing us to release tensions, trapped toxins and flood the joints with fresh cleansing energy (fluids and lubrication). While we practice these deep stretches we concentrate on the breath and as it naturally slows, we notice the body naturally releasing deeper, letting go of built up tension in both the body and the mind.
Deeply stretching not only benefits the spine but the entire body. Arms, shoulders, hips, hamstrings, wrists, ankles can be all become tight and suffer degeneration due to lack of use, mobility and consistent stress and tension.
This is not an overnight fix, but if you are consistent and practice regularly you will soon feel the benefits. After all, your mind and your body need regular maintenance just like a car. If you neglect it then eventually something stops working.
Of course, before starting any exercise practice, especially if you are feeling pain, it’s important to get a check-up and approval of a medical practitioner.
A combination of yoga styles can work well together. Yin and Yang – Passive and Active. We need both to achieve balance.
The most effective way to create space in the spine and reverse the effects of gravity is with inverting. However, headstands and handstands can take many, many years of dedicated practice and are just not realistic or practical for most people. Headstands, in particular can even cause more harm than good to an untrained and unsupervised student as they can compress the vertebra in the neck if they are not practiced correctly. This is why, I personally started practicing inversions with a yoga swing, why I later became certified as a Yoga Trapeze Teacher and why I am continuing my studies in Aerial Yoga. With the support of the fabric and a qualified teacher most people can successfully and safely hang upside down and feel the relief as the whole spine decompresses. Just a few minutes of suspension can have the same benefits as a whole night laying down.
There are also many ways of practicing with the Yoga Trapeze or a Yoga Hammock without hanging upside down. They can be used to support you, keep your balance, help you relax and go deeper into a stretch. As with any other prop in yoga they can be used to enhance your experience.
The most important factor is that you listen to your body. If it doesn’t feel right for you then try something different. Get advice from any (relevant to your condition) professional including the teacher of the class you are taking. However, the most important person you should listen to your inner self.
There are many styles of yoga, and many styles of teaching. There is an option to suit every body, every age, every size and every stage of life. You just need to find the one that suits you best.
Important Note: There are a few contraindications for inversions – high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, heart conditions, vertigo, travel sickness, pregnancy, when inversions of any kind are not advisable.
You don't need me to tell you that we are all feeling more stress, anxiety and tension at the moment. We are all being bombarded with restrictions, statistics, differing views and opinions. Not matter how resilient we think we are, we are all being affected. We are all spending more time in our heads ..... What if this happens? How will I cope in that situation? Are my family safe? What is it safe for me to do? By second guessing and trying to predict the future we think that we are preparing and protecting ourselves for any eventual situation but actually, we creating stress and anxiety about things that may never happen. We are putting ourselves into prolonged periods of the "fight or flight response" rather than living in and enjoying the present moment. For more on this please read my blog Stress & Our Flight or Fight Response
No matter how hard we try to suppress them, these thoughts can keep going round and round and they can be very difficult to switch off. Although the benefits of meditation are well documented and a starting a daily meditation practice can really help you to have more control of these thoughts and feelings long-term, sometimes you can feel so mentally stressed that trying to meditate can feel too challenging. We can feel too over whelmed with these thoughts and feelings that we try to avoid facing them and we throw ourselves into physical or mental distractions that keep us occupied. Physical tasks like frantically cleaning the house or digging the garden or mental distractions like sitting in front of tv or even sleeping for longer periods than we actually need. In extremes these distractions can cause us to turn to alcohol or drugs.
Firstly, it is important to know that it is perfectly normal to have these worries and concerns, that is OK to not feel OK. Secondly, we can teach ourselves that we can not possibly know all the answers to all of the questions and that's OK too. We do not have to come up with solutions to every scenario because most of those scenarios will never happen. The time we spend worrying is valuable time that we can spend living, being here right now, trying to enjoy and find gratitude for the things that make us happy.
If meditation is too challenging for you right now then try to spend time every day doing something that you enjoy. Try to give yourself at least 20 minutes every day. For you this might be a gentle walk, a jog, doing something creative, your yoga practice or a soak in the bath. Try to be mindful during this time, how does the activity make you feel, notice the colours around you, your breath, your emotions, your sense of touch. Try not to be judgemental about any emotions or feelings that come up for you instead just observe them and tell yourself that it is OK to feel that way. You do not have to try to change it. Know that this is just a moment in time, it will pass and that's OK. Thoughts, feelings, emotions are ever changing, we can not always feel happiness and joy, equally we will not always feel sadness or pain. We need to experience the full spectrum in order enjoy the significance. This is normal, this is life and this is living.
To help you switch off, reconnect with your breath, your body and reduce the physical affects of prolonged stress, I am creating a Short Stress Busting Sequence for you in the Members area.
When we are stressed we hold physical tension in the body and over a prolonged period of time this can result in physical pain and discomfort. Each practice will be no more than 15 minutes long, targeting different areas of the body. We will move slowly and mindfully as we slow down our breathing thus releasing physical tension, calming the mind and helping us to switch back into the relaxation response. The idea is that you choose the practice for the area of the body that you feel is affecting you most, where you feel the tightness of tension creeping in. You can do one practice on its own or several together for a longer experience. My hope is that you will receive very similar benefits to that of a 15 minutes meditation practice but the slow mindful movements will help distract a busy mind and the mobility will release that stiffness in the body.
Pranayama - Working With the Breath.mp3
Pranayama is the word we use in yoga to describe the practice of working with the breath but what does it actually mean? And why do we do these practices?
Pranayama is Sanskrit word (a 3,500 year old ancient Indian language, but that’s a whole other blog). This word can be split into two parts. The first part Prana – meaning ‘vital energy’ or ‘energy force’. The second part Ayama – meaning ‘extension’ or ‘expansion’.
Prana is not to be thought of as the air that we breathe but as the energy that is present in all objects whether animate or inanimate. It is the energy that makes us who we are, it gives us focus, drive and ability. For example, we can still breathe in air but not have the motivation to get up in the morning, Prana gives up that vital energy, that motivation that vibration of being alive.
It is thought that Pranayama rides on the breath. It influences the flow of vital energy in the energy channels (Nadis) of the body. Thus when we deepen the breath, we increase the flow and expansion of our energy force in our energy channels which allows us to function on a higher level of vibratory energy and awareness.
In yogic philosophy it is said that we have over 72,000 Nadis or energy channels running through our subtle body. You can envisage them as a second nervous system or like a road map of energy channels. At the centre of body you have 3 main Nadis – Sushumna, Pinguala and Ida.
You will often here me referencing Sushumna during class, as we focus the breath I like to visualise this central line in the body and focus on drawing the breath, prana, up and down this central line in the body. Not only does this give us something to focus on, to slow the breath and turn our attention inward but it is also thought that when prana is flowing freely in this central channel we have reached samadhi – the ultimate wisdom, pure thoughts, complete joy and contentment.
Pinguala Nadi represents Sun – Yang Energy and Ida Nadi represents Moon – Yin Energy. Hatha Yoga can be translated to Sun-Moon Yoga – Ha meaning Sun and tha meaning moon.
Pinguala and Ida Nadis cross over each other as they travel up Sushumna. Each time these Nadis join together at a crossing it results in an energy centre – a Chakra. So 7 joins, 7 energy centres, 7 Chakras. If we can align all our Chakras and keep them open we can facilitate the flow of vital energy – Prana up and down the central line in the body Sushumna and thus reach pure joy, contentment and ultimate peace.
With yogic philosophy we could go deeper and deeper but it can become a little overwhelming and difficult to understand in our western culture. Like the physical practice of yoga it is a journey of understanding and discovery so will we continue along this journey another time …..
What is that about???
Many of my students and I myself, have heard this que from a teacher many times before …. ‘palms facing up, thumb and forefingers joined’ but how often do we as teachers explain why we suggest this hand gesture?
As teachers our job is to keep the class flowing and to keep the students engaged. It is not possible nor is it appropriate to explain every detail of the practice during a one hour class. However, at some stage, we have all wondered what the significance is of this often used hand gesture.
My understanding is that by connecting the thumb and forefinger you create a circuit of energy. Energy is released through the finger tips out in to the world so by joining the thumb and forefinger together you create a circuit of energy internally which allows the practitioner to focus deeper inward. Hence this practice is often suggested during Meditation and Yoga Nidra (Relaxation).
If the practitioner performs this posture with the palms facing up they are still being receptive. Their attention is drawn inwards but they are still open to the influences of the world around them, the sound of a teacher’s voice when being guided into Meditation or the sounds around them, in nature for example, as they become more present and mindful in that moment.
If the practitioner performs this posture with the palms facing down then the intention is to feel more grounded, rooted and to be more deeply absorbed inward. This positon may be more suitable when practicing a silent meditation and observing one’s own thoughts, physical and emotional feelings. This version is also more suitable in the evenings when our intention is to prepare the mind and body for sleep, withdrawing from the outside world.
The names used to describe this gesture in Sanskrit are:
Chin Mudra – Chin or Chit meaning Consciousness
Gyan Mudra – Gyan also meaning Wisdom or Knowledge and Mudra meaning Seal
The gesture is also thought to encourage feelings of wisdom and enlightenment. It is thought to help in the relief of stress, tension and depression.
This particular Mudra (hand gesture) is one of many different Mudra’s used in many different forms of Yoga and Meditation around the world. However, for the purpose of this blog today, I just wanted to give a brief explanation of this one. It is the gesture used most often in our everyday western yoga and meditation classes.
Please feel free to question or comment below J
My advice would be to think about why you want to join a class? What do you hope to achieve? What do you hope to gain? How do you currently feel both physically & mentally?
At Ashgrove Yoga I currently teach 3 styles of Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Yin Yoga & Yoga Trapeze®. They are all very different yet they all complement each other perfectly. In order to grow and evolve we need different experiences, different stimulations, and so do our bodies. Every teacher is individual as is every student so it’s about what style, location and teacher suits you best.
To help you decide what is right for you, here’s a quick description of each style of yoga, the style of my teaching here at Ashgrove Yoga and how I feel you’ll benefit from taking that class.
I often teach different ranges of classes at varying levels for Hatha Yoga depending on my student’s needs. For example; Beginners Hatha Yoga, Level 2 Hatha Yoga or Mixed Level Hatha appear regularly on the monthly schedule. Gentle Grounding Flow, Energetic Flow, Yoga for Mobility and Balance etc. are all based on Hatha Yoga and are added to the schedule every so often subject to demand.
Hatha Yoga Classes are brilliant for focusing on the mind-body connection. Your movements flow with the breath. It’s great for all over body fitness, helping you to get stronger, improve flexibility, body awareness and balance. During class we can practice meditation, pranayama (breathing exercises), yoga nidra (relaxation) and of course Yoga Asana (postures).
If you have a stressful sedentary job where you feel the need to re-energise and get active, while still reducing stress and tension, Hatha Yoga could be a good choice for you.
For some, however, Hatha Yoga can feel a little too energetic, if this your experience, look out for the more gentle classes that are sometimes offered for example: Gentle Grounding Flow and Yoga for Mobility & Balance. These courses are designed for those that need to get the body moving in a more gentle and subtle way.
That being said, some may prefer a really strong flowing class, which is both challenging, fast flowing and energetic. If this is you, look out for the more energetic classes when they come up. For example: Energetic Flow.
Yin Yoga is a grounding, meditative, passive yet very effective practice. We move through the postures very slowly, holding each one from 2 – 5 minutes. We make ourselves as comfortable as possible in each pose using a combination of pillows, blankets, bolsters and blocks. Our aim is to allow ourselves to relax into each pose to the point of a good satisfying stretch. Over a period of time we allow our minds to completely relax, we focus on the breath and the sensations of the body. We notice how and what we are feeling, if the body relaxes and the stretch dissipates we go a little deeper. If the stretch intensifies we breathe into it, releasing tension and calming the mind, while encouraging the body to let go. Each student goes to his/her own level on that particular day, honouring the fact that each day the body can be different. We never force ourselves into a pose even if we think we should be able, we leave the ego at the door.
This practice is brilliant for deeply stretching into the fascia, connective tissues and joints in the body. It also stimulates the various meridians in the body by gently stretching them encouraging the body to send vital nutrients (chi) to the internal organs.
Yin yoga is great for everybody at any stage of life. For those who prefer a more gentle approach or are recently getting back into exercise after an illness or procedure (subject to GP’s approval of course), to hard working adrenaline seekers who are constantly pounding and working the joints. Think of Yin & Yang. Energetic practices, sports, jobs are known to be Yang in nature. Yin Yoga creates the opposite. It’s about creating balance in the mind and body. Too much Yang in life is not healthy, the body becomes over-worked, stressed & fatigued. Just as too much Yin is not healthy, the body become lethargic, lazy & lacking in energy.
Yoga Trapeze® classes build strength…. Upper body strength, posterior chain strength, grip strength, core strength. We also use the Trapeze to invert our bodies and create traction in the spine. The Yoga Trapeze® is a great tool for those suffering tension in the back, neck and shoulders.
The handles of the trapeze can be used as a suspension trainer, we can hang, row and pull to strengthen the hands, wrists, arms and shoulders. We use the straps for our ankles to perform flying planks and crunches to create core strength. We can do various squats to strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and muscles in the back of the body (posterior chain) to strengthen and support the spine.
The Yoga Trapeze® is not an easy practice but it is accessible to all ages. If the mind is willing to get stronger the body will become stronger. In this practice I currently teach both male and females students from the age of 20 up to 70.
Working the Trapeze gives you an amazing sense of achievement. Strength builds quickly and students can see a rapid improvement in their abilities.
Because this is a specialised class I insist that each student completes an Introduction Course first before they can attend group classes. This is a huge benefit to the student as you get to build confidence, ask questions on a one to one or small group basis. If a student continues on to group classes, they are still very small, with a maximum of 7 students per class. Group classes are intimate, fun and supportive. I also give current students access to an exclusive Facebook Group. Where you can connect with myself and fellow students and find information, tips and tutorials on poses we have been working on in class.
A combination of all styles will work really well for all over physical and mental health, however, if it’s not possible for you to attend more than one class per week right now, pick the one that appeals to you most at this moment in your life. You can always change around and try the other classes when you feel the time is right for you.
If you are still not sure, give me a ring. We can chat over the phone or you can arrange to have a one to one class. We can chat about your current health and expectations and you can experience a combination to see which suits you best.
I’ll look forward to chatting to you soon.