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Welcome to September, and welcome to Helen, our new team member. Helen has written a blog for this month and you can find it below... I would like to welcome everyone back after the summer break, I can't wait to see you on the mat!
Yoga for ‘Normal People’ by Helen Wilson. My first thoughts when I wanted to get into yoga in 2002 was, “I’m not very bendy”. I remember being in my first class, all very serious and silent and thinking, ‘I don’t think I’m cut out for yoga’ so I basically never relaxed throughout, missing the whole point of the class, as my mind chatter was way too loud!! After that I stayed at home and did my practice in the living room, so nobody could see that my heels won’t touch the floor in downward dog. However, I felt that starting a yoga practice was like a stepping stone into self discovery. Doing yoga helps me through those stressful times, when it’s easy to be irritated, annoyed, anxious or stressed out and I feel so much more motivated for it. These days we have thankfully realised the benefits of Yoga span way beyond fancy shapes; meditation, mindfulness, and simply being happier and emotionally healthier are just some of the benefits we can achieve from doing a regular Yoga practice, and with over 30 million people practising world-wide, everyone knows someone who feels better from it. In a recent study by Smith (2009) demonstrated an increased psychological and biological effect on the body, through the use of randomised control trials, this provides evidence to suggest the overall positive effects yoga can have on the mind, body and spirit. (Smith, 2009, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine). Joanna Mason (Founder of La Vida Yoga) says....Yoga is a science and there is a wealth of evidence available which supports the above. It never fails to make me feel grounded and calm, and I am so blessed to be able to share this with our members. If you have any questions regarding Yoga or Meditation then please get in touch via our Facebook page.
March 5th - I have just read the last blog that I wrote about the art of stopping time! I seem to have forgotten how to do this, we are now in March and spring is so nearly here!
Later this week it is International Women's day. This day celebrates the achievements of women throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace.
This reminds us about the women who have fought for human rights, experienced imprisonment, hunger, abuse and much more. It got me thinking that there are so many women out there, in every day life, just trying to get through each day, with the tools that they have, and the troubles that they face. No big cause to fight, just trying to do their best. For some people everyday is a battle. Life throws us curveballs from time to time, and situations arise that we are not prepared for. Not everyone has the strength to deal with every situation, nor the network of friends and family, that many of us are surrounded by. Let's spare a thought for those brave women. Those who are crippled by fear, anxiety and depression. May they know that alongside these emotions rest the higher vibrations of faith, courage, and love, and may they come to meet with them on their journey through their troubles. May we have compassion for them, for we never know when our journey, make take a turn down a similar path. Practice kindness.
The more I teach yoga, the more I find myself feeling blessed. It has been a strange transition, going from being a teacher in a secondary school, meeting targets, planning, marking, dealing with kids who have lots of issues, and some staff!
My job now, is very different. I use my planning skills, and still set myself targets, but the best bit is doing what I love, and seeing the results of it in the people who come to my classes. It is so lovely.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with my good friend Liane from Yokids, to deliver a Family Yoga Session. This was our first event, and it was so great to see so many families come along and spend some quality time together, engaging with one another and being really present. Then today I have had a workshop at DW in Barrow. Again, a lovely experience, with gorgeous people, many of whom I would class as friends. We looked at the art of stopping time.
Time marches on and continues to find us tasks, dramas, issues to deal with. It is our responsibility to set aside some of our precious time for self care, and treat this as an important event in your diary. Block it off, do not cancel it, it is just as important as the meeting you need to attend, or the school run.
We all need self care to feed us emotionally.
Set aside a few moments to decide what your priorities are. What would make you feel whole, and happy and healthy, if time and money were no object? (You'll find it's the simple things). Then look at what you can let go of to make the time you need. What can you release, or delegate? Will the world end if you don't iron every item in the laundry? Could you plan a supermarket delivery to free up some of your time? Could the kids walk the dog?
Prioritise 3 of these things and get them in your diary for this week. Enjoy!
So many people I come across, suffer from some form of anxiety, or stress. This can be debilitating, and can cause us to take time off work, or be less than our true potential. Stress is a response that is natural, and necessary, it keeps us safe from danger, but unless we learn to deal with it, it can, in itself be dangerous.
Stress is usually an anger or fear based response, and if we do not deal with it, we end up stuck in fight or flight mode, leading to anxiety, depression and adrenal burnout. Stress can also become our safety zone. It becomes our natural, normal state, and so we feel safe in stress. If we lose the stress, we may have other emotions that arise, that we need to address and this, in itself, is uncomfortable. Yet a little bit of self care, and a chance to be kind to yourself, is all it takes to help you to feel more stress free, and calm.
This is why yoga is so great. It is a complete self care system, that focuses on bringing you home to yourself. Your true self. It is not just an exercise class, I know I teach those too! If starting yoga is too much of a step, yet you find that actually self care is a priority in your life, then you can look at other ways of being kind to yourself and feeding your soul. This might be lying in a hot bath surrounded by candles, or walking up a mountain, going for a run, laughing with your best friend, spending time with your kids, or having a pet. Whatever you find is your thing, your way of self care, do it, and do it often. Make no excuses, prioritise the time in your diary. Block it out and fiercely protect it. Your true self will thank you, and so will the people who depend on you. Be true to yourself, be kind, as the Desiderata says "you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here". Enjoy.
Last week we looked at the importance of moving the body and of getting enough sleep, in order to keep the immune system strong and healthy. As I begin my next level of study in Nutrition, I am really beginning to look at my own diet and way of eating, particularly as it has changed so much recently. Setting up the studio, whilst working full time, and raising a family has been a really stressful time for me, and I never thought I was the kind of person whose appetite was affected by stress. How wrong I was! I really struggled to eat and found that I would sometimes forget! This is so unlike me, I am a real foodie! It made me really mindful of how stress affects us all differently, and it brought it home to me that during times of stress, eating a healthy, balanced diet is more important than ever.
Finding a balance is key. We all want to be able to have treats, and the odd takeaway, but it's what we do most of the time that counts. Fresh, natural food, is what our bodies need. I try to avoid processed food as much as possible, and go for a more natural option. That said, my body loves sugar! This is probably the number one issue for most of us. Fat still has a bad press, and we will look for low fat options, without realising that they contain much more sugar per gram, than the regular version. Low fat yoghurts are a prime example of this. Try to look at food labels and check the sugar content of the low fat version, if it is higher than the regular version, go for a higher fat content. After all, fat keeps you full (it is also necessary for the correct functioning of our bodies), excess sugar is stored in the body, as fat.
I also think we can get really hung up about nutrition, and become quiet extreme in our choices, which often causes us to remove food groups from our diet. Again, balance is key. Basing your diet on plenty of vegetables, fruit, some grains and dairy (or alternatives) is key. If you enjoy meat, then eat it but choose healthier cuts.
At this time of year, I find a great way to get the family to eat more vegetables, is to make a home made soup. My friend gave me this great recipe, and I love it as you can adjust the amount of the ingredients that you use to suit your taste ( I am a "measure by eye" type of cook!)
I make soup in my pressure cooker, but if you have a soup maker, or slow cooker you can use that. Or just an old fashioned pan and stove!
The great thing about this soup is that it contains onion, garlic, chili and ginger which are all really healing for the body, and great for keeping colds and flu at bay.
If you are interested in spending some time looking at your diet and trying to clean up some of your less healthy dietary habits, then why not join Rachel in our February detox? You can do as much, or as little as you want. Try giving up sugar and take up dry skin brushing, or give up meat on 2 or 3 days a week? There is full support from Rachel, a qualified naturopath. You will gain access to a private facebook group with support and education included, as well as four detox specific yoga classes on a Thursday night at 8.15.
Give it a go and let me know what you think?
Each month, I would like to explore the four cornerstones of what I consider to be important when it comes to holistic health, what makes us whole and balanced. Our spirit, or soul and what helps to feed it. Our body, the movement or care that it needs, our mind and how to ensure we take control of it, instead of letting it control us, and lastly our nutrition. By taking small steps in the right direction, we can vastly improve the way that we feel.
This month, I'm looking at how to stay healthy in the long, dark winter months. During this time there are so many bugs around and this year, in particular, we have had a particularly nasty strain of flu.
Experts believe the flu virus is spread when a sick person talks, sneezes or coughs. Common symptoms include fever and chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headaches and fatigue. Despite these painful symptoms, most people will recover in less than two weeks, but during this time they feel miserable, and life is put on hold.
Keeping your immune system strong is really important during these dark days, when the virus is easily spread as we tend to spend more time indoors together.
Taking care of our bodies during this time makes for a healthy immune system.
Sleep is a huge factor in keeping the immune system strong. Most people do not get enough sleep. 74% of British people believe that the business of life is having an adverse effect on their wellbeing. The average person gets five hours sleep a night, and starts reading emails at 7.50am.
Sleep deprivation means that the body does not function optimally, and so when a virus hits, the body is not fully equipped to fight it. Not only that, a good night's sleep is the cornerstone of good health, productivity, creativity and happiness. One of my favourite rituals in the evening is some relaxing Yin yoga, followed by a hot bath and a cup of camomile tea. There are some nights when, of course I fall into bed exhausted, and then struggle to fall to sleep because my mind is busy racing from the events of the day, or the plans for the morning, this is the time when I know that I must make time for my evening ritual.
Taking exercise is vital. The body needs to move. Our muscles are designed to move, and actually begin to atrophy from the age of 20. Less muscle mass, means a lower metabolic rate, which means we need fewer calories to get through the day, hence the tendency to put on weight as we age. Moving the body helps the body to process stress, which then makes a good night's sleep possible.
Yoga is great for our muscles. Not only is it a weight bearing activity, but it also helps to maintain our flexibility which allows our joints to continue to move freely, and the relaxation at the end of a class is a great stress buster.
Finding the movement that your body loves is key. It may be running, hiking, yoga, swimming, basketball, Pilates or dancing. There is no getting away from the fact that your body needs exercise, just as it needs food, water and rest.
The next hurdle is finding the time. Guilt rears it's head and tells us that we should be doing other things, that it is selfish of us to spend time at a yoga class, or at the gym when we should be doing something else, like cooking from scratch, or cleaning the house, being the perfect wife, mother, daughter, friend. Guilt is an emotion, that does not serve us, nor does it help us to move to a happy place. If we act from a place of love, then we soon realise, that taking care of ourselves is far from selfish. When we take care of ourselves, and love our bodies, we become better equipped at caring for others. We have more to give. Caring for our bodies is important, moving is part of that care. Find the movement that your body loves, move from a place of love and love the body you live in.