Zeller Yoga in Surrey

Manage Stress with Yoga and Better Sleep Posted By Natascha Zeller Mon 18th June 2018

Stress is a natural way for the mind and body to avoid danger. But, in today’s fast-paced digital world, many people find themselves suffering from chronic stress that's unrelated to immediate survival.

Chronic stress is when the body isn’t in immediate danger, but thoughts, events, or circumstances keep the body in a state of fight or flight. In this state, the body releases cortisol and other stress hormones. Overexposure to these hormones leads to anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, and weight gain.

While we can’t eliminate all stress from our lives, we can learn to manage it better. Two simple ways to lower your stress levels are yoga and better sleep.

Yoga as Stress Management

Exercise, in general, boosts your mood, strengthens your body, and increases your energy. Yoga can do all of that and more. There are many different yoga methods; some emphasize strength or flexibility while others focus on relaxation. Most yoga techniques incorporate deep breathing and meditative practices that train the mind to focus on present body sensations. This attention to the “present” helps the mind release thoughts that cause stress, which are usually related to the past or future.

Stress hormones like cortisol cause inflammation in the body. You might notice it as aches, pains, stiffness, or swelling. Yoga methods that focus on meditation can be used as part of a bedtime routine to relieve many of these symptoms. Yoga reduces the number of inflammatory hormones in the body. These methods use deep breathing to relax your body. Some poses can even be performed from the comfort of your own bed, letting you drift off to sleep when you’re ready.

A Focus on Sleep

Sleep and stress have a cyclical relationship. Stress can make it hard to sleep yet the less sleep you get, the more stressed you feel. Lack of sleep causes the emotional center of the brain to become more sensitive to negative stimuli while the reasoning center of the brain decreases its activity. The result— you have difficulty processing and handling stress when sleep deprived.

With a concentrated effort to get more sleep, you can break the cycle and better manage your emotions. Better sleep always starts with a bedroom that’s designed for relaxation. Your mattress should support your preferred sleep position. Back and stomach sleepers may prefer a firmer mattress than side sleepers. A dark, cool, and quiet room also promotes deep, high-quality sleep.

You can also enhance your sleep by:

  • Following a Bedtime Routine: Bedtime routines aren’t just for They help relieve tension in the body and signal the release of sleep hormones. A simple yoga routine before bed can be the perfect way to unwind after a long day.
  • Going to Bed at the Same Time Every Day: The body loves a schedule. A consistent bedtime helps the brain know when it needs to start the sleep Try to keep your sleep schedule on weekends too.
  • Getting Plenty of Sunshine: Exposure to natural light heavily influences your sleep-wake If you have a hard time falling asleep at night, try getting more sunshine during the day, especially in the morning.
  • Turning Off Your Screens: Smartphones, TVs, and laptops emit blue light that’s similar to sunlight in that it can suppress the release of melatonin. Turn off your screens at least two to three hours before High-efficiency light bulbs can have a similar effect so remove them from your bedroom to reduce sleep disruptions.

Benefits of Outdoor Yoga Posted By Natascha Zeller Fri 18th May 2018

A Harvard study from 2010 stated the benefits of getting outdoors for your exercise. Apparently even the greenery can lift your spirits. You also get drenched in Vitamin D which can increase happy vibrations and clarity of the mind. Regardless of life’s busy schedule, getting outdoors while doing yoga can be a powerful boost in your emotional well-being. It’s called eco-yoga and you get to do all those mood enhancing poses outside. Tree pose under the shade of a tree just feels better. Here are some of the benefits of doing yoga outside.

Let’s face it, we belong to nature so even stating that we’re happier outside seems fairly obvious. It seems as though it’s a forgotten idea. The Japanese practice known as Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) is a deeply nurturing practice for the soul. While it’s been used for centuries in Japan, it is now catching on in the West. The practice includes walking in nature so you can reconnect with your body existing in nature. The walking is slow and intentional as the yoga instructor will ask that you take in everything. Looking at the details, smelling the air, and listening to the rich sounds of nature is a way to speak and rejuvenate the soul from life’s craziness.

Taking the Mat out to Nature

Dr. Matthew Baral, led a lecture called, “This is Your Brain on Nature.” He says that nature is what connects us to our roots. Our roots are the forest, the ocean, the grass, and all the other fine details of the outdoors we tend to take for granted. We feel most at home outside because it’s where we’re meant to be. Before the industrial revolution and the technological revolution, we lived outdoors. We found caves for shelter. That was home. This is why we find ourselves again in nature. Taking the mat out to nature and doing the ancient practice of yoga just makes sense.

Many outdoor yoga classes will include a short walk to a quiet place. The walking through nature is part of your healing and rejuvenation. A necessary part of allowing yoga to really penetrate it’s benefits into every cell of your body. As you immerse yourself in nature, you are more capable of reaching in to find that part of you perhaps you have forgotten. The outdoors is a huge part of yoga’s roots. All of the realizations occurred outside in the beginning of yoga’s inception.

Benefits of Outdoor Yoga

Reactivating the Primal Self

When you spend time outside, you replenish depleted energy. This comes from the sun, which gives you Vitamin D but it also comes from the clean, unfiltered air you breathe. As yoga is based heavily on the breath, what kind of air you breathe is actually pretty essential. Our nervous system has evolved into responding to moments of stress with bursts of energy due to adrenaline. It was useful to us when we were hunters and gatherers with a need to fight or run to survive. Spending too much time inside causes us to lose this essential part of being human. Getting outside sends signals to your mind that you’re outside and it’s time to realign. This creates more energy, vigor, and a sense of peace.

Fighting off Disease

The nourishment of being outdoors for at least an hour while you do yoga brings on many health benefits. Studies are showing that nature increases activity of cancer-fighting blood cells because it relaxes you to the point of lowering blood pressure. You have better memory and a greater attention spam by up to 20% when you spend 2 hours or more outside. This is why many yoga teachers offering outdoor yoga will incorporate a walk in the beginning and at the end with a 1 hour class in between.

What Urbanization is Doing to Our Mental Health

The business of urban life and all that it entails to keep up is wreaking havoc on people. As those people become less connected to the natural world, they lose out on what it truly is to be human. Kids opt for playing video games because they’re bored. They become addicted and believe the gaming world is reality, this is a proven fact. If you’re a parent and you don’t promote the outdoors by doing it yourself, there is risk you’ll be sending your teenage son to rehab for a video game addiction. This is the reality of our society and because the majority lives in a certain way, it seems normal. Let me assure you, it isn’t. The next time you go out for even a small walk, really ask yourself how you felt before and how you feel now. Nature clears your mind. Yes, you have a lot to do but is that what life is about? It isn’t and when you start spending time outdoors, you’ll feel the shift. If you’re an urban yogi, check out one of the many “yoga in the park” options available around you.

The sound of rivers and birds, the simplicity of a tree shivering in the breeze, and clouds passing by above offer something for all your senses. Being outside while doing the sacred and ancient practice of yoga will change how you view life. It’s a beautiful way to practice your poses.

Bio:

Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of SiddhiYoga.com, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali)

Website:  https://www.siddhiyoga.com/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/siddhiyogaacademy

Instagram: https://instagram.com/siddhiyogainternational

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/siddhiyogainter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/meerawatts

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meerawatts

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/siddhiyogateachertraining

Spring Healing Posted By Yana Armenova Sun 29th April 2018

                                                         

Spring Healing

Hi yogis, spring is in full swing and everyone is busy creating space in their homes and wardrobes, dusting off the cobwebs and last traces of winter. This month we are going to follow the same trend on the yoga mat but with an emphasis on spring-healing. We will look at poses and techniques that will heal our physical body and improve our mental health. We are responsible for keeping mind and body in good health. If the commanding centre of our body is not in good working order, we will not be able to learn effectively and perform our duties successfully.  With the transition from winter to spring our energy is usually depleted and we need something to boost our brain power, to sharpen our focus and clear our thoughts. The key is yoga.

Yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation can improve your mood, increase brain wave activity and even increase the size of memory centres. Living a yoga lifestyle on and off the mat will help you feel all the benefits of this incredible ancient practice.

Try the following postures and techniques individually or as part of a yoga routine to begin your journey to healing.

 Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

This simple standing pose is the foundation for all standing postures in yogasana. It helps you focus on your breathing until you are fully relaxed. Tadasana's grounding feeling can help you sleep better, bring relief to headaches and make your brain more alert .

Stand with feet together, big toes touching, heels slightly apart. Engage your legs, squeeze your quads and feel that immediate lift and engagement in the abs. Tuck your pelvis under and stand tall and proud. Lift your shoulders up and release them back and down creating space between the ears and the shoulders. Chin is parallel to the floor. Arms are by your side with the fingers pointing down. Lengthen your spine. Breathe in and on the exhale produce a "Ha" sound with your mouth. Repeat for 10 breaths. Close your eyes and feel the calm in your mind and body.

Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)

Shoulder stand is a great inversion that can immediately boost your mood and energy levels. It nourishes the brain by directing the blood flow to the hypothalamus and pineal gland in your brain. It also helps drain the lymphatic system that keeps your body waste-free.

                                                                     

 Always practise with mindfulness to avoid any injury.

Lie on your back and lift your legs up to the ceiling with elbows resting on the floor. Slowly raise your pelvis and your torso up supporting your lower back with both hands. Your shoulders and your elbows are the foundation of the pose. Don't move your neck and face in this pose to prevent injury in the area. Hold the pose for at least 10 breaths to feel the benefits.

 To come out of the pose, on the exhale slowly lower your torso, your pelvis and legs back to the mat. You can do Fish pose as a counter pose to Shoulder Stand.

Halasana - Plough Pose

                                             

This pose is another inversion that soothes the nervous system, improves vitality and  stimulates blood and lymph circulation.

Lie down on your back with arms by your side, palms facing downwards. Use your abdominal muscles to raise your feet off the mat at about 90 degree angle . Support your hips and your lower back with your hands and raise them off the floor too. Sweep your legs over your head so that the toes touch the floor above your head. Your back needs to be perpendicular to the floor. Breathe steadily and hold the pose. Allow your body to relax. To come out, on an exhalation use your arms as breaks and slowly unfurl your body back to supine position. 

Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

                                                   

This seated forward bend calms the nervous system and is great to practise when you feel stressed or overwhelmed.

Start in a seated position with legs extended in front.  Make sure you sit on your sitting bones by removing any flesh to the side. Bend your torso forward from your hips with a straight spine. Don't curve your back!  Bend as far as you can maintain a straight spine and it feels good for your body.  Place your hands on your thighs, ankles or feet (wherever it is available) or use a strap.

On each inhale lengthen the spine. On each exhale, release deeper into the forward bend bringing belly to thighs. Repeat for 5 breath cycles. 

 Lotus Pose (Padmasana)

                                           

This is the main pose yogis use for meditation. They do so for a reason. Lotus pose brings the body into relaxation mode allowing your brain to rejuvenate itself and to be alert when changes come its way. It encourages a straight posture and washes fatigue and muscular tensions away.

 Start in a seated position with your spine straight. Bend your right knee and place the right ankle and foot on your left thigh so that the sole of your right foot looks up and your heel is close to the abdomen. Bend your left knee and place the left ankle and shin over your right thigh in the same manner. Your hands are resting on your knees in Gyana Mudra with index finger and thumb touching and the rest of your fingers  are extended.

Inhale and exhale deeply keeping your spine erect at all times. Stay in the pose as long as you feel good and maybe use it for your daily meditation and pranayama.

Meditation

                                                

This simple technique helps our minds achieve their full potential. Meditation makes people more positive and less stressed.

Settle down in any comfortable seated position, preferably Lotus pose if available. Relax any tension in the body.  Ground your sitting bones and feel your spine rise up out of your pelvic region. Lengthen the back of your neck and rest your chin slightly downward.  Hands are resting on your knees.

Focus on the centre of your chest. Inhale and exhale one round of breath to prepare. On your next exhale, start to chant the sound "OM". Feel how the sound emerges from your chest itself. Feel how the sound "OM" resonates and vibrates in your heart, washing away any negative emotions and physical tensions. Do this repeatedly for a few minutes. Most people meditate between 10 and 30 minutes. 

To end the meditation  bring your hands together in a prayer mudra with palms flat against each other and head bowed.

Practising meditation daily will ease tensions, wash anxiety away, calm the mind. It is also helps with managing better the ups and downs you experience every day. Meditation  can improve your sleep pattern significantly which leads to better quality of life.

Humming Bee Breathing (Bhramari Pranayama)

                                                     

The Humming Bee breathing exercise improves memory and concentration. The humming sound vibrations it produces help the practitioner experience peace and serenity. This breath is a great antidote to stress and fatigue.

Find your comfortable seat in a quiet place and close your eyes. First allow yourself to notice the quietness around you and immerse yourself in it. Next, place your index fingers on your ears on the cartilage between the ear and the cheek. Inhale deeply. On the exhale, press gently onto the cartilage. Keeping it pressed, start making a  bee-like sound . Repeat a few times until you feel calm and relaxed.

Light in Body, Light in Mind Posted By Yana Armenova Sun 25th March 2018

                                                                               

                                                                                Light in Body, Light in Mind

 

Spring has finally arrived and we can spot the signs of rebirth and rejuvenation all around us. We are all slowly stepping out of hibernation mode and embracing the new flow of spring energy. To get ready for the new season, we are going to wake up and spring clean our digestive system.

Our digestive system is a powerhouse that provides us with energy and is a key element for a happy and healthy life. Stress, diet and lifestyle choices often bring imbalances in the digestive system which manifest themselves in different ailments like constipation, bloating, wind, heartburn, etc.  Thankfully, yoga is here to help us manage those ailments naturally without relying on pills.   Here are some yoga asanas and pranayama grouped according to the effect they have on the digestive system that will help you keep your body balanced inside and out.

Group 1: Heat-Creating Asanas and Pranayama

The first group of yoga practices fights with chronic constipation, heavy bloating and irregular bowel movements. These asanas and pranayamas create strong heat within the body and stimulate the digestive fire.

Contraindication: Do not do the following asanas and pranayamas if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, over-active thyroid, diarrhoea

Agnisar Kriya

                                                   

The name comes from the Sanskrit words  “Agni” meaning “Fire”,  “Sar” meaning “Essence” and “Kriya” meaning “Action”.

This cleansing practice stimulates the digestive fire and helps our digestion to work at optimal level.  Practising Agnisar Kriya for a few minutes each morning will keep you waste free and pure inside.

Agnisar Kriya creates a "vacuum effect" in the abdomen which massages the internal organs and increases the blood flow to the area.

How to practise:

Agnisar Kriya is always practised on an empty stomach!

Start by standing with the feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Bend your knees and lean forward with your hands on the thighs with your fingers pointing inwards and elbows bent.

Take a deep breath and on exhalation round your back to empty your lungs and belly completely. Stay in that moment after the exhalation without inhaling again. Press your chin to the chest. Expand the chest to create a vacuum sensation, simultaneously pulling the stomach in and bringing the navel close to the spine. Stay here for a few moments. No breath is involved here.

To come out take an inhale. Relax by taking a few deep breaths. Then repeat the process two or three more times. Respect your body and never push its limits.

Advanced Variation of Agnisar Kriya

Once you have created the vacuum effect by sucking the tummy in, start pumping it in and out without breathing in or out. Repeat this pumping of the stomach 10 times.

To release, take a breath in, relax the shoulders and the stomach. After a few deep breaths, repeat the exercise one more time.

Twists

B.S.K. Iyengar claimed that all twists have a “squeeze and soak” function. When twisting, we squeeze the toxins out of our systems. When we release the twist, our organs automatically get refilled as a dry sponge with fresh blood which oxygenates our cells on a deep nourishing level.

There is a great variety of twists - sitting, standing and supine twists. When you need to bring some movement to your internal organs and refresh your body, spend some time twisting and you will reap the benefits soon after.

 Half Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

Start in a seated position with legs extended /Staff Pose/. Bend your right knee and cross your right foot over the left knee and place it flat on the floor. Hook your left elbow outside your right knee. Inhale to lengthen the spine and raise the right arm to the side to shoulder level. Exhale and twist to the right. Initiate the twist from your abdomen and lower back. Lower your arm and rest your hand by your hips or behind you. Turn your head to the right. With each inhalation lift your spine up. With each exhalation twist a little further. Exercise your eyes by looking to your right shoulder. Stay for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.  Then sit quietly with eyes closed and totally relax.

Yogic Squat (Malasana)

Malasana is a grounding pose that directs the flow of energy downwards.  It tones the lower body and works the legs and core.  But its greatest benefit is its ability to help the body eliminate waste. Squatting puts the pelvis and the intestines in the perfect position for elimination. Maybe that is why in India people go to toilet by squatting. It brings relief to constipation and helps regulate the bowel movements.

Easy Malasana

                                                         

Squat down with your feet hip-width apart.  Keep you chest lifted and open and bring your hands in a prayer position at your heart centre. Keep a soft gaze looking in front of you. Keep the spine long and press your elbows into the inner side of your knees to open the hips a bit more. Engage your gluteal muscles to keep the knees apart. Feet are flat on the ground. If that is not accessible, you can stay on the balls of your feet. Breathe and relax.

Advanced Malasana

The full expression of Malasana is for those who like a challenge.

From standing bring your feet together and squat down. Keep you feet flat on the floor. If not accessible, fold a blanket underneath the heels. Bring your torso between the knees and grab hold of your heels with your hands.  Drop the hips and the pelvis down. Forehead is resting on the floor in front of you. If that is not accessible, bring a block under your forehead. Stay and breathe. Focus the attention and the breath inwards.

Kapalabhati Breathing (Skull Shining Breath)

This breathing technique will leave your body and mind invirogated and cleansed. Kapalabhati breath releases negative emotions, shakes off laziness, energises, cleanses and detoxifies on all levels. The name comes from Sanskrit words "Kapala" - "Skull" and "Bhati "- "Light".  When you practise it, you can almost feel your breath reaching your brain and bouncing back. The breath is a combination of very passive small inhales and short explosive exhales. The focus is on the pumping of exhalations.

Kapalabhati  breathing is best practised in the morning or when you are feeling cold.  It creates inner heat and energises the whole system. Instead of reaching for coffee when you are tired, try Kapalabhati. 

Contraindication: Do not practice if you are pregnant, if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or abdominal pain

How to practise:

When you practise this breathing technique, try to visualise that your skull is getting filled with bright light that clears all corners of your head.

Start in a comfortable seated position placing both hands on your lower belly. Inhale deeply through the nose and exhale it all out in preparation. Then take a small partial inhale and forcefully exhale through the nose all the air from your lungs, pushing your hands against your lower belly.  Keep pumping the air out, focusing only on the explosive exhalations. Try doing 10 pumps and then gradually increase to 20, 30 or maybe even more. 

 

Group 2: Cooling Pranayama

                                                       

The following breathing exercises have a cooling effect on the digestive tract. They soothe the symptoms of heartburn, hyperacidity, ulcers and reduce the heat that negative emotions like anger and stress can cause.

Deep Belly Breathing

This breath is the equivalent to an overall massage for the digestive organs.  We tend to breathe mainly thourgh our chest which unfortunately does not use the full capacity of our lungs. The result is very shallow breathing.  If we train our bodies to breathe through our bellies, we are getting more oxygen in our system filling not just the top part but all of the lungs.  Breathing through the belly thus encourages us to take deeper fuller breaths that bring our body and mind to a state of complete relaxation.  When we are relaxed, our digestive system finds it easier to process our food.

How to practise:

Belly breathing can be practised practically anywhere - seated  or lying down. Place one hand on your belly, one hand on your chest. Inhale filling the belly with air and exhale it out. On each inhale push the belly forward. The chest should be still. Repeat as many cycles as you need to.

This simple technique is cooling down your body and relaxes your nervous system. When practising, give full attention to your inhale and exhale. Be in the here and now.

Sithali Breathing

                                                                     

If you have a pet or have seen dogs on a hot summer day, you will know that their way to cool down is by opening and breathing through the mouth. People can benefit in the same way by breathing through the mouth using the Sithali technique.

Simply curl the sides of your tongue until you create a tube-like shape. Stick the tongue “tube” through your lips which will naturally purse and slowly start to suck in air. You will immediately feel the cold air inside your mouth. Close your mouth and exhale through your nose. Repeat as many times as needed until you completely cool down.

Group 3: Wind-Relieving Asanas

If you are feeling bloated all the time, the following asanas wil help you release the built-up gas in the stomach. It is always better to get it out rather than keeping it all in. Let it go!

Pavanamuktasana (Wind-Relieving Pose)

                                                   

The name of this pose literally translates as wind relieving pose and this is exactly what it has been designed to do. It will help you get rid of any stale gas and will create new space in your stomach to regulate the bowel movement.

How to practise:

Lie down in Savasana. Take a deep breath in and on exhalation hug your right knee into your chest. Press the leg into your belly and hold the knee with your hands to increase the pressure. Next bring your chin to meet your right knee. Stay here for 5 deep breaths. Start playing with the pressure you are exercising over your abdomen - try pressing the leg harder into the belly and then releasing it. Repeat the same with the left leg. If you are feeling particularly bloated, try squeezing both knees into the chest.

Happy Baby Pose

                                                                      

Another way to create space in our bellies is to do what babies do - grab our feet and rock from side to side! Babies and children often do that pose because as the name suggests it makes them happy - the pose stimulates the parasympatethic nervous system and it makes us relaxed and calm. These are mandatory conditions for our digestive system to work properly. Plus the gentle pressure of our thighs and knees onto our belly will get things moving and release any unnecessary wind and waste.

How to practise:

From a lying position bring your knees into your chest. Place your arms on the inner side of your knees and grab hold of your outer edges of the feet. Press the knees into the armpits if possible. If not, grab hold of your ankles or shins. The neck and the whole of the back are flat on the floor, tailbone is pressing into the mat. Try to  keep the lower back flat on the mat. Stay for a couple of breaths and release it all out.

 

 

 

Unleash Your Boundless Potential Posted By Yana Armenova Sun 25th February 2018

                                                               

                                                                  Unleash Your Boundless Potential

 

March is often associated with the beginning of spring which this year in the UK is going to be a quite frosty one. Although we might put on hold our hopes to practise outside in the sun, we can definitely use this arctic opportunity to step up our practice and create some inner fire to get us through the cold spell. What is more, when spring arrives, we will be ready for those shorter dresses and sleeves with well toned figures. All thanks to the group of arm balances that we are going to explore.

Vasisthasana: Side Plank Pose

This month's highlight in our practice is going to be Vasisthasana - a slightly more challenging  pose for our balance and strength. 

This arm balance is beneficial for strengthening the arms, wrists and shoulders.  It requires you to balance on one arm after all. It is also a great pose for activating the core, strengthening and stretching the legs and improving your balance.

Precautions:  People with serious wrist, elbow or shoulders problems must avoid this pose.

 

The Story Behind the Pose

In Hindu philosophy Brahma is the creative force in the Universe. He created his first son Vasistha from his thoughts. At the moment of Vasistha’s creation Brahma cursed him with temporary ignorance of his Divine Nature. Brahma wanted Vasistha to experience the suffering of life within a body.

One day Vasistha asked his divine father if there was some way to come out of this limited physical existence. Then Brahma gave him a series of lessons as to how to achieve it. Vasistha became the first student of yoga. He learned that human nature is infinite with no beginning and no end and that the true nature of all humans is limitless.

Only the body is limited. Vasistha learned that the control of the mind is the door that leads to liberation. When you wake up yourself for the present moment, there are no boundaries anymore.

After years of dedication to the teachings of Lord Brahma, Vasistha became a teacher of yoga. One of his most famous students was Lord Rama. The series of conversations between them is preserved in a scripture known as Yoga Vasistha.

The ancient philosophy that Vasistha passed down to his students described the two levels of reality: the transcendental level and the material daily level.

On the transcendental level, there is no birth and no death, no beginning and no end.

On the material daily level you are doing your duties and leaving the result to be judged by the  Higher Consciousness.

This revelation is beyond words. This is the revelation that Vasistha taught Rama. When you mind is silenced, you are boundless in every aspect of your life and you are living in synchronicity with the Universe.

The material manifestation of this philosophy is Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose).  There are no boundaries when you have the intention to do something. The intention is the seed that you plant in your thoughts and with dedication and effort you can achieve wonders.

 

Suported Side Plank

                                                  

Begin on all fours. Extend your left leg behind you with the toes tucked. Place your left hand on your left hip.  For more stability  rotate your left leg externally so that your inner edge of your left foot is on the floor. Rotate your torso until your left ribs face the ceiling and your right ribs face the floor. Reach with your left hand to the ceiling. Push the floor away with your right hand. Turn your gaze up toward your left hand or look straight ahead if this is not comfortable for your neck. Hold for at least 5 breaths. Return to  All Fours and repeat on the other side.

Pay attention to what feels good for your body and for each side of it. Maybe one side feels different than the other. Your stronger side can teach your weaker one. Explore and learn.

Vasistha teaches us that our true nature is infinite. Shift your perspective away from suffering and limitation and feel the infinite bliss of the present moment, the moment of liberation.

 

Classic Side Plank

                                                         

This variation is a bit more demanding than Supported Side Plank and  you have to pay closer attention to what feels good here and now.

From Plank position, ground your right hand into the mat, making sure the hand is slightly ahead of the shoulder. Roll onto the edge of your right foot and shift your weight onto your right hand and foot. Left leg and foot are stacked on top of the right and left hand is on your left hip. The right elbow must not be bend. Keep it straight at all  times.

On the inhale raise your left arm up with the fingers pointing to the ceiling. Turn your neck in the same direction and gaze at the  fingertips. Hold for 5 breaths.

To come out of the pose, on an exhalation bring your left arm down on the hip and come back into Plank. Rest in Child’s pose for some breaths and repeat on the other side.

Explore the sensations you may experience on both sides of the body and stay with them in the here and now. 

 

 Tree-Like Side Plank 

                                                     

Begin in a classic side plank on your right side as described above. Bend your left knee and rest the toes of your left foot on the floor behind your right knee.

 Extend your left arm in line with your ear with the fingertips straight ahead, similar to Side Angle Pose.  

Or you can reach your arm up to the ceiling and gaze up to your left fingertips. If you have a hard time with your neck, just look in front of you.

Stay in the pose and enjoy this beautiful variation of Vasisthasana for 5 breaths.

To come out, move into Plank or Downward Facing Dog. 

This variation is also suitable for transition into lunge or a standing pose. Give it a try.

Plant your left hand down and come into Plank. Move into Downward Facing Dog. Reach your left leg up and back into a Three Legged Dog and step your left foot forward into Lunge.

 

Starfish Vasisthasana

                                                

If you are feeling comfortable with all the variations described so far and would like a bit of a challenge, then this variation is just for you. It is not recommended for beginners.

This is the full expression of the pose with the top leg extended up rather than resting on the grounding leg. It is also known as a Starfish Side Plank or Butterfly Side Plank.

 

Advanced Variation of Starfish Side Plank:

Raise your top leg until it reaches a perpendicular line with the floor. Grab your big toe with the top hand without losing balance and enjoy your variation of this beautiful yet challenging pose.

Make your mistakes. Explore and learn from them. Fall down on the floor with a smile and ease in your heart. Remember that yoga is not a competition. Yoga is a path towards your self. Walk on your path with grace and gratitude to all the teachers like Vasistha  that passed down this knowledge to you in your life.

                                                                                            Namaste!

 

 

 

Love, Connect, Communicate Posted By Yana Armenova Mon 29th January 2018

                                                              

This month we celebrate Love - the force behind all creations. Love, just like yoga, symbolises union. 

We will start our Love Celebration by doing yoga together. Step on the mat with someone who you truly love and have  trust in. Radiate love and light with all parts of your body. Be Love.  

 

 Two Bodies Breathing As One

We will begin in a cross-legged seated position. Make sure that you and your yoga partner are sitting back to back with your spines aligned. Close your eyes, rest your hands on your lap and  feel the connection  with your partner. Become aware how the back of your rib cage feels against your partner's in every breath cycle. Begin alternate breathing - as you inhale, your partner exhales. As you exhale, your partner inhales. Practise  for 5-7 breaths.

 

Cactus breathing 

 We are still in a seated position with our backs resting against each other. Inhale and raise your arms up making a cactus shape. The elbows and the backs of the hands  are pressing against your partner's arms and hands. One partner leans forwards and the other one leans backwards. Hold this shoulder opening stretch for 5 breaths. Then switch sides. Make the most of this pose as it offers a great massage for digestive system as well.

 

Twisting

From the same seated position as the previous two poses, inhale and lengthen your spine as you raise the arms up above your head. On the exhale twist your torso to the right and place your right hand on the left knee or thigh of your partner. Your left hand stays on your right knee or thigh. Your partner mirrors the same movement on the other side. Hold for 5 breaths, then untwist and repeat on the opposite side.

 

 Mutual chest opening pose

 We start with one of the partners sitting on the mat with the legs extended long in front of them. The other partner is sitting behind  the first one facing the same direction and placing the soles of the feet either side of the spine (never on the spine itself!) of the front partner.  The partner sitting at the back also grabs hold of the arms of the other partner and pulls them back while pushing their chest open with their feet. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths .This stretch improves the overall posture of the body. Change the position of the partners so both of them  experience this mutual chest opening pose.

 

 Modified Temple Pose 

Begin in standing on the short edge of the mat. You are facing your partner who is standing on the other short edge of the mat. Stack your hips on top of your feet and on the inhale both partners extend  their arms overhead. On the exhale both hinge forward from the hips until your forearms meet.  Make sure your elbows, forearms and palms of your hands press against each other to feel the effects of this stretch. Adjust the distance between both of you if necessary. Release your chest and belly towards the floor.   Make  eye contact with your partner  to bring closeness between you.  Hold for 5 breaths.

To exit the pose, slowly walk towards each other. Bring the torso upright and release the arms down with a smile. The pose opens shoulders  and chest  and gives a great opportunity for eye contact .

 

The Two Trees

 Start standing next to each other facing  in the same direction. Have a few feet distance apart from each other. Bring the right palm and right forearm of the one partner to press against the left palm and left forearm of the other one to create  cactus arms on the side where your bodies are close. This position of the arms gives you the sense of togetherness. You have someone you can trust and rely on. Your partner provides you with the steadiness you need to balance the pose.

Once you have established the position of the arms,  one partner brings weight onto their right foot and the other brings weight onto their left foot  thus creating the  roots of the tree. The next step is to bend the knee of the opposite leg and place the foot against the shin or inner tight of the standing leg.

Balance for a few breath cycles and change legs to repeat on the other side. This pose provokes feelings of gratitude for the support you give each other .

 

Double Downward Facing Dog 

                                                                          

Start in a tabletop position one in front of the other.  Both partners slowly tuck their toes and lift tailbone up creating an "inverted V shape" or otherwise known as Downward Facing Dog Pose. While the first partner is staying stable in the Downward Dog pose, the second partner (the one standing in the front of the line) lifts their feet one at a time and places them on the lower back of their partner on each side of the spine (never on the spine itself!). Find stable and comfortable position for both of you. Communicate as you move to the transition. Help and adjust each other. The base partner receives a gentle lower back massage while the other partner is getting a energy boost through this safe and supported inversion.

When the pose is done correctly and safely, hold for some breaths and be proud of the team work you have both  done.

To exit  the pose, the top partner gently releases the feet to the floor while  the base partner bends the knees and finds tabletop pose and then child's pose. Repeat again this time swapping the position of the partners.

The pose lengthens the spine,  encourages communication and creates trust between partners.

 

Straddle Forward Fold for Two

Sit facing each other with the legs open wide in a straddle position. Make sure the sole of the feet press against each other. Inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale to fold forward and grab hold of your partner's forearms or wrists. 

One partner begins to move back to sitting with a straight spine while simultaneously  pulling the other towards them. The contact between you creates  trust and faith that you are not alone. You are together in this moment.  Repeat with the other partner coming into a deep forward fold. 

Find relaxation into the pose and allow your body to soften into it. Give yourself time to enter deep into this supported stretch. Stay as long you wish.

 

This pose stretches the hamstrings, opens the hips and calms the nervous system. 

 

We Are In The Same Boat

                                                    

This is a core engaging pose. Partners sit facing each other with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Both of you lift the shins up and bring them parallel to the floor.  Bring the sole of the feet to press against your partner's.  Knees are bent. 

Grab hold of your partner's wrists for support and open your chest toward each other keeping the spine long. You can stay here with your knees bent or you can straighten the legs. Stay playful.  Straighten one leg first  and then  maybe the other one will follow.

Face the challenge with a smile and move together in harmony.

Hold for 5 breaths. Gently release feet back to the floor.

 

Resting Together

                                                               

Come to a lying position next to each other on your backs. Rest your hands together. Relax completely with the eyes closed.

Feel the pulse in the hand of your friend. Synchronise your breathing and connect to the present moment. Imagine you both are one body. Surrender into this sensation of Oneness completely.

 

Love releases 

Love harmonises

Love illuminates life

Between Earth and Sky Posted By Yana Armenova Mon 1st January 2018

 

                                                           

Hi yogis! Happy New Year! The perfect way to start the new year is with an open heart. 

The first blog this year will focus on finding within us the connection between earth and sky. Through a series of backbends and heart openers we will ground ourselves into the earth and experiences of the past year and open ourselves to the skies and new opportunities of 2018. We will rediscover our  innermost source of bliss and love. We will activate the spirit of gratitude, love and compassion and give the best of us to the world. 

 

We will start the journey to the heart in Child's Pose.

From an All Fours position bring your hips to the heels, arms stretched in front of you and navel drawn in for a strong core. Elongate the spine and bring your forehead to the floor. Breathe. 

From Child's Pose come back to an All Fours position and move your spine  a couple of times in the Cat-Cow stretch.

On  an inhalation open up the chest ,  drop the belly and feel the stretch in the abdominal area, Look up towards the ceiling.

On an exhalation, bring your chin to your chest, round the back and push yourself away from the mat to make the stretch deeper. 

 

Transition: All Fours - Downward Facing Dog

 

Low Lunge and High Lunge Twist

                                                                   

From Downward Facing Dog lift your right leg up,  bend the knee, stack the hips on top of each other and open the top hip. Straighten the leg,  bring the hips to square, hold for one breath and step the right foot forward .

Untuck the back toes and release the left knee to the floor. Come up in Low Lunge with the  front knee directly over the ankle. Lengthen your torso and feel the spaciousness in the lower back. 

For the twist, bring your hands to prayer at your heart's centre. Lengthen on inhale and on exhale bring your left elbow outside your right knee. Twist from the waist and breathe. 

If you want to challenge yourself, lift the back leg up into High Lunge. Keep twisting and coordinating each movement with your breath.

 

Transition: Come to Plank and with a controlled motion lie down on your belly.

 

Cobra Pose

                                                    

While lying on your belly, bring your hands beside the chest. Elbows bent and tucked close to the body. Inhale to strengthen the legs and point the toes. Lift your torso up and make the backbend stronger by pressing the tops of the feet on the mat. Press so that your thighs and ankles are lifted from the mat. Feel how your back muscles are working. Release on the exhale. Repeat  three times.

 

Transition: Come to Downward Facing Dog. Lift the left leg up and repeat the Low and High Lunge twists on the left side.

 

Come back to Cobra pose again. This time hold the pose for three full breaths. Try to challenge yourself by extending your elbows, straightening the arms and lifting your shoulders and torso higher this time.

 

Transition: Come to Plank  and then to Downward Facing Dog.  Bend the knees and jump to the top of the mat. Or step gracefully. 

 

Dynamic Chair Pose with Cactus Arms

 Start in Mountain Pose. Reach your arms up in circular movement and bend the knees to Chair pose. 

Inhale and bend your elbows to create a cactus shape with your arms. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and push your chest forward.

Exhale, straighten your elbows and move your arms alongside your torso with your fingers pointing behind you. Look down and bend forward from your waist until your torso is parallel to your thighs into Skiing Chair.

Play with the pose and flow from Chair with Cactus Arms to Skiing Chair synchronising each movement with the breath. 

 

Transition: Forward fold - Plank - Downward Facing Dog

 

Warrior I

                                                                                

From Downward Facing Dog  lift your right leg up, look forward and ground it between your hands. Keep the back leg straight with the foot at a 45 degree angle.  The front knee is bent and the right heel is in line with the arch of the left foot . Rise up with the arms straight running parallel to your ears. Square your hips and lengthen your spine from the tailbone. Get tall from your tailbone. Stay in Warrior I for a couple of breaths.

 

Twisting Triangle

From Warrior I slowly straighten your front leg and take one step forward with your back leg to shorten your stance.  Place your hands on your waist and square hip.

Right hand stays where it is, left hand goes up. Lean forward from the waist  and fold forward.  Left hand goes next to the innerside of your right foot. The right arm goes up. Make sure your right shoulder is directly over the left one.

On an inhalation lengthen the spine and on exhalation rotate to the right to open your right shoulder. Keep breathing.

 

Transition: Low lunge - Plank - Down Dog

 

Repeat Warrior I and Twisting Triangle on the left side

 

Transition: Plank - come onto your knees

 

Reclining Virasana Pose (Hero Pose)

                                                                      

Come to kneeling position with the knees together, feet apart either side of the hips with the inner edges of the feet resting on the mat and the toes pointing to the sides of the mat. Place your bottom between your feet. Lift up your torso, lengthen your tailbone and if you want to go deeper, bring your elbows to the mat behind you and very slowly lie on your back.  Place your hands on the belly and hold for 5 breaths.. Aternatively, stay on your elbows and gradually build up to the full expression of the pose. 

 

Transition: Come back carefully to a kneeling position 

 

Camel Pose

 From kneeling position bring your inner hips together.  Keep your feet tucked for the first round.  Place your hands on your lower back and push your hips forward. Tailbone is pointing down.  Open your chest up, draw your shoulders back and down and slowly begin cascading down releasing your hands from your lower back and reaching for your heels. Drop your head back carefully. Stay for 5 breaths.

To come up,  bring your hands on your hips and go back to  kneeling position.  Your head is the last thing to go up.  Sit on your heels, close your eyes and observe  the effects of the backbend on your body.

For the second round, come into Camel Pose with the feet pointed and tops of feet flat on the mat. This variation will allow for a deeper opening of the heart.

 Transition gently to Child's Pose. Softly release your upper back. This is a counter pose for all the backbending  you just did.

 

Locust Pose

                                             

Come into Plank and from there lie down on your belly. Hands are alongside the body with the palms facing down. Lift your right leg up and hold. Release. Lift your left leg up and hold. Release.

Make a pillow with your arms and  rest your head on your hands. Shake off the hips. 

Place your hands on your lower back, interlace them behind you. Engage your legs and on the inhale lift your chest up, arms up and  hold for three breaths.

Exhale and again make a pillow with your arms, rest your head and shake off the hips. 

Now we are  coming to a full Locust Pose.

On an inhalation bring your arms alongside the body with the palms facing down.  Lift your legs up and keep your inner thighs together. Lift  your arms and shoulders up and look ahead. Everything is engaged. Hold and breathe.

Release on the exhale and rest your head on the floor. Relax for a moment.

 

Bow Pose

                                                          

Lie down on your belly. Same position of the hands. Inhale, bend your knees and reach back with your hands for your ankles or outer edge of the feet. Lift up your legs and your torso trying to create a U shape with your back, legs and arms.  Look ahead and smile. Start rolling on your belly forwards and backwards giving your digestive organs a good massage. 

Release mindfully and take a moment to lie on your belly and calm your breath.

 

Transition: Come to an  All Fours position. Sit on your heels and rest. Enjoy the effects of your beautiful backbending practice and if you need to,  take a short Child's Pose here.

 

Bridge Pose

Come to lie on your back. Feet on the mat and knees bent in constructive rest.  Bring your heels close to your buttocks in a way that you can touch them with your fingers. Keep your inner thighs close as if they were zipped together. Start lifting your hips up. Push firmly down into the mat with the four edges of your feet. Interlace your fingers under your hips and push the mat away with your hands. Bring your shoulder blades as close as possible. Open up your chest .  But keep your chin away from the chest.  Hold for a couple of breaths and release.

 

Wheel Pose

                                                      

From the same supine position with the feet on the mat and the knees bent, place your hands beside your ears.  Elbows pointing up. Lift your hips up. Push with hands and come on the top of your head touching the mat . Take a breath and push again this time with feet and hands to lift your head off the floor. Straighten your elbows. Firm  your legs. Breathe. Try to make a U shape with your body but this time upside down. Allow your chest to open up as high as you can. Drop the head back. Give yourself the permission to connect with the light in your heart and recharge your body and mind. Fill them up with endless possibilities and harmonise your being.

To come out of the pose, bring your chin to the chest and very slowly start to lower down your hips. When your lower back is on the floor,  you are safe. 

As a counter pose bring your knees to your chest, wrap them with your hands and rock  from side to side to release the tension in the lower back. 

 

Wild Thing

Flipped Dog or Wild Thing opens the heart and thus represents the bridge between Earth and Sky. From Downward Facing Dog lift your right leg up , stack the hips, bend the knee and open the top hip. Rotate your torso to the right and step the top right leg behind you.  Swing your right arm up and over your head. Create a long curved spine with open chest. Right knee stays bent. Straighten your left leg and ground your left foot firmly on the floor. Press down with your left hand and lift your hips up. Three points of your body are pressing down - left hand, right foot, left foot. Repeat on the other side.

 Do not push the boundaries of your Unique body. Stay in the space inbetween. Feel the space under you and above your body. Be open. Be full of joy and delight. Your breath connects the two worlds - Earth and Air. 

 

Seated Forward Fold

To counterbalance Wild Thing, come to seated on your mat. Legs  are strong and extended in front of you. Flex your feet. Take a deep breath and reach your arms up. Bend from the hips, reach for your feet with  your hands and lie on your thighs.  Keep the back straight.  Hold for 5 breaths. Come up and slowly lie down on your back.

 

Savasana

Close eyes. Legs are long down the mat. Palms are pointing up. Everything is heavy and sinking into the mat.

Find your natural breath. Close your eyes and find that place of peace, serenity and pure silence.

Hear the poetry of your drumming heart:

 " I am beautiful

    I am inspired

    I am connected "

 

The Magic Box Posted By Yana Armenova Fri 1st December 2017

                                                   

The Magic Box

 

 The fairy tale month of Christmas has arrived.  Christmas trees, carols, ice-skating rinks and brightly decorated windows brighten the dark evenings. The Christmas magic is in the air. On the mat December brings a box full of magic and wonders that will infuse some Christmas sparkle into your everyday yoga practice.

Let's open our magic box and see what’s inside!

 

Snowball Flow /Child's Pose - Table Top -Tiger Stretch/

                                                                    

From kneeling position rest your bottom on your heels,  big toes touching. The head touches the floor and the torso is lying over the legs. Arms are alongside the body with palms facing up. You are curled up like a tiny snowball. Use the breath here to sit still and find calmness before the snowball fight. As it is cold outside, make a “Brrrrrrr” sound flapping your lips. Repeat 3 times. Then come onto all fours and extend left leg and right arm pretending to be shooting out the snowball. Then curl up and bring the knee and elbow to touch in the middle, collect some snow and prepare to shoot out the next snowball by extending opposite arm to leg. Repeat on the other side.

 

Peppermint Stick Pose /Mountain Pose - Standing Side Stretch/

                                                                          

Stand tall in front of the mat with feet together. Raise your arms up and interlace you fingers over your  head with palms facing up. Inhale deeply and on the exhale recline your hands and torso to the right feeling the deep stretch on the left side of the rib cage. Inhale back to centre. Exhale and bend to the left feeling the stretch on your right rib cage. Hold each side  for a couple of breaths to enjoy fully your peppermint stick side stretches Mmmmm yummmmmmmmmmmmy...

 

Skiing Pose /Chair Pose/

                                                              

Start from Tadasana with two big toes touching and heels slightly apart. Bring your bottom down as you sit down on an invisible chair. Lift your arms up alongside your ears. Keep the elbows straight if possible. Open your chest and  lengthen your spine. Breathe normally. On the exhalation bend the elbows and bring your arms down and back. Straighten the elbows behind your body with the fingers pointing backwards. Make sure you are still sitting on the imaginary chair. Can you feel the wind in your face and hair ? You are skiing down the mountain . Whooooooosh!

 

Ice Skater / Warrior II -Reverse Warrior/

                                                                 

Start in a wide legged position with arms extended to the side, having the wrists roughly over the ankles. Turn  your right foot so that the right toe is pointing forward and  the back foot is running parallel to the short edge of your mat. Bend your front knee to a 90 degree angle with the knee directly above your ankle. The pelvis is in a neutral position. Avoid crunching your lower back and embrace your natural curve.  Keep the spine straight. Gaze at your front fingertips and brace yourself for action. Take some  deep breaths and reverse your beautiful warrior. Raise your right arm above your head and slide your left arm down your left back thigh. Look up at your top arm. Feel the stretch in your right rib cage and breathe. Gracefully flow from Warrior 2 to Reverse Warrior. Repeat the movement a few times coordinating it with the breath. Congratulations! You are skating on the ice-skating rink. Repeat on the other side to bring balance in your body.

Sugar Plum Fairy / Half Moon Variation/

  

From Warrior II mindfully bring you right hand on the mat about one step distance in front of your right foot. Straighten right knee and lift your left leg up stacking the hips on top of each other. Lift your left arm up keeping the elbow straight. Follow this movement with your eyes. Rotate your torso to the left, bend your left knee and grab the outer side of your left foot with your left hand . Balance your sugary stretch with a smile. Your are a dancing Sugar Plum Fairy. Repeat on the other side .

 

Leaping Rudolf / Dancer’s Pose/

From a standing position root your left foot firmly, bend your right knee and with the right hand grab  hold of the outer edge of your right foot or ankle /depending on your flexibility/. Try to lift your back leg as high as possible making  a “U” shape with your torso and leg. Engage your buttocks muscles for steadiness in the pose. Point your left arm forward to maintain the balance.  You are graceful and playful like Rudolf leaping in the snow and don't forget to flash your nose.

Repeat on the other side .

Christmas Tree / Tree Pose Variation/

                                                                

Start from Tadasana. Firmly root your left foot on the ground. Bend your right knee and bring it to the chest holding it with your hands. When in balance, bring your right foot to rest on your left inner thigh or on your inner left ankle. Yogi’s choice. Spread your branches towards the sky and sparkle into the night.

Christmas Star / Side Plank/

                                                           

Begin in High Plank pose. Gently roll on the edge of your right foot, stacking left leg on top of right to come into a Side Plank. Keep feet together and lift the hips up. Right hand is on the floor, slightly in front of your right shoulder for better support. Squeeze firmly your gluteal muscles  and lift your left leg and arm up. Your gaze is following your extended left arm pointing to the ceiling. Start shining! Twinkle, twinkle little star... Repeat on the other side and breathe steadily .

Christmas Prayer / Pyramid Pose with Reverse Prayer/

                                                 

Begin in a standing position with the right foot one stride in front of your left foot. The right foot is pointing forward towards the top of your mat while the left foot is at the back of the mat at 45 degree angle. Bring your hands behind your back and try to touch your palms together in reverse prayer. Inhale to lengthen and open the chest  and slowly start to bend your torso forward from the hips keeping the spine straight.

Depending on your flexibility you can go deeper with the nose touching your front knee  or   you can just stay parallel to the floor. Breath evenly, say a prayer and melt away with a heart full of gratefulness. Repeat on the other side . 

 

Baby Jesus / Seated  Hip Opener /

                                                               

From a comfortable seated position bring your knee into your chest. Grab hold of your left knee and nudge it gently into your left elbow, clasp your hands around your left foot and rock your leg from side to side like you would rock a baby. Imagine you are singing Away in a Manger and you are rocking Baby Jesus to sleep. Enjoy the deep stretch of your left hip. Repeat on the other side. 

 

Christmas Candle /Shoulder Stand/

                                                                   

Lie on your back and lift your legs up with the feet pointing to the ceiling.  Make a Snow Plough dropping the legs on the floor behind your head with the toes touching the mat. Support your lower back with both hands and slowly lift one leg up and then the other. Keep your neck straight and steady. Maintain strong foundation with your shoulders and elbows.  You are long and straight like a Christmas candle. Illuminate! 

Angel Mudra Meditation

                                                             

Sit in a cross-legged position and bring your hands in front of your chest. Interlock your thumbs and spread your fingers wide to create wings with your hands. Place these angel wings onto your chest and come back to your intentions for your practice and show gratitude. Your Christmas Angel Guardian is here to bring you good luck and protection.

 

The magic box of Christmas is inside your heart . Open it and enjoy all  wonders that come out. A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles .

 Happy Christmas! Ho Ho Ho ...

Embrace the Moon Posted By Yana Armenova Thu 2nd November 2017

 

Embrace the Moon

 

Hello November! The Moon and the stars are the only lights that will guide us in darker and longer nights to come. We will honour the Moon by dedicating November’s blog to the graceful flow of Chandra Namaskar (Moon Salutations).  We will salute the Silver Queen of passiveness, fluidity, tenderness, care, love and beauty. The Moon has nourishing and soothing powers that we will embrace by dancing in the mystical flow of the Moon Salutations.   

Precaution: Place your mat lengthwise to have more space to move backwards and forwards along the mat.

 

Supta Baddha Konasana:

Before you start flowing with the Moon Salutations, arrive on the mat in Supta Baddha Konasana. Lie on your back with the soles of your feet together, knees apart, falling out to the sides, shoulders relaxed.  Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest to feel the movement of your breath and your heartbeat. Start breathing deeply through the nose.  Use this time to set an intention for your practice. Let go of the things that don’t serve you anymore. Become light in mind and body.

Rag Doll

From Supta Baddha Konasana bring your knees together and squeeze them into your chest. Roll over to one side and come into extended Child’s Pose. Tuck your toes and come into Downward Facing Dog. Hold the pose for 5 deep breaths. Then gently start walking your feet to the top of the mat, feet hip-distance apart. Bend forward from the waist and grab opposite elbows. The crown of your head is pointing down. Swing gently from side to side, shake your head yes and no. Release any tension there might be in the neck and the jaw. Breath evenly. Stay here for 3 breaths. Gently unfurl the body rising up to standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose).

Moon Salutations (Chandra Namascar)

Chandra Namascar is a complex of  the following poses:

Tadasana

 Begin in Mountain Pose standing on the right side of your mat.  Reach your arms up, interlace your hands over your head with the palms facing towards the ceiling. Inhale to lengthen and exhale to take a side bend to the right. Inhale back to centre and exhale to the left. Inhale back to centre. 

 

Goddess Pose (Temple Pose)

Take a big step to the left. Heels are pointing in and toes out towards the edges of the mat. Bend your knees and sink your hips down. The intention is to have the knees and the bottom in one line. Bend your elbows to make cactus arms. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and drop the shoulders down. Try to sink lower with each exhalation.

 

Triangle Pose

                                                                                           

From Goddess Pose rise to standing straightening the legs.  Point the left foot to the left and have the right foot parallel with the short edge of your mat. Slide left arm down to the left leg, ankle or toes (whichever is accessible) and extend your right arm up. Gaze at your right fingers or if you have neck issues, look straight in front of you. Always be careful with the neck.

 Side Angle Pose

                                                                 

Start to bend the front left knee with the intention of having it parallel to the floor. Left forearm comes down on your left knee. Reach your right arm up and over your head to find a diagonal line from the right fingertips all the way down to the right foot. Hold here for a couple of breaths and try to sink the hips down a little bit more.

 

Low Lunge

                                                                 

From Side Angle Pose, look down to the floor and frame your front foot with your hands and release your back knee to the floor for Low Lunge Pose with your body facing to the left side of your mat. Keep the front knee bent and stacked over the ankle to protect the knee. Reach your arms up over your head and sink your hips down to stretch your hip flexors. Make sure you don’t crunch your lower back.

 

Wide-Legged Forward Fold

                                                          

From Low Lunge pivot your feet towards the front wide side of the mat for a Wide-Legged Forward Fold. The feet are parallel to the shorter edges of the mat. Hands come to the floor, fingers in line with your toes. The crown of the head is pointing down. Completely let go of all the tension in the neck and shoulders.  Have a slight bend in the knees to protect the lower back. Shake the head to the side slowly and shake it backwards and forwards. Hold the pose and enjoy the release for a couple of breaths.

Inhale to flat back and lengthen the spine. Turn to the right and frame the right foot with your hands.  Bend your right knee. Release the left knee to the floor and raise your hands up for Low Lunge on the other side. Lift and lengthen the torso on the inhale. Sink deep into the hip flexors on the exhale.

Fingertips go down to the floor and we prepare the body for Side Angle Pose on the other side.

Lift the back knee, spin the back foot to run parallel to the shorter edge of the mat. Right forearm rests on the front leg. Left arm extends up and over in one long diagonal line from the left fingertips to the left foot. Breathe deeply.

 

Triangle Pose

Unbend the front knee. Keep left arm extended up while the right arm comes to your ankle or foot. Look towards the left fingertips to find your balance and breath.

Ground both feet and press up to Goddess Pose - heels in, toes out, knees bent and elbows in cactus shape. Sink the hips low. Take a couple of breaths here.

Engage your muscles and step to the left side of your mat into Mountain Pose. Arms go up with  hands interlaced, palms facing up. Take  a side bend to the left, come back to centre and take a side bent to the right thus completing the first round of Chandra Namascar.

Repeat the Moon Salutation complex one more time but this time a little bit faster linking each movement with the breath.

Once you have completed the second flow, come again to a Rag Doll Forward Fold. Fold all the way down and hold the elbows. Come back to the intentions that you set in the beginning of the flow.

From Rag Doll, take a wider stance with the feet mat distance apart and move to Malasana (Yogi Squat). Heels in, toes out. Bend the knees and drop the hips down. Hands come together in a prayer position in front of your chest.  Spend a few breaths here.

 Then prepare the body for Bridge POse by lying on your back with the legs in constructive rest. Make sure you can touch your heels with your fingers. Press the feet on the mat. Lift the buttocks and the hips up. Hold. Then slowly inch by inch go down to the floor. Repeat 3 times moving and breathing.

Now you are free to take your favourite twist to bring fluidity in your spine. Twists are very good for your body as a preparation for the final pose Savasana.

 For the end of the practice we are going to unwind and let go. Slowly lie down on your back for Savasana. Soften your body with legs long  alongside the mat and arms to the sides. Palms are facing up. Feel how  your body  is sinking heavy into the mat. Embrace the stillness.

 

I am the slave of that perfect Moon!

Don’t talk to me of suffering, I don’t want to hear.

Talk to me about light, joy and sweetness

and if you can’t, keep silent!

 

Rumi

Halloween Yoga Posted By Yana Armenova Sun 1st October 2017

                                                          

                                                                              HALLOWEEN YOGA

Autumn is a beautiful and nostalgic season. The inevitable feeling of change, the drumming of the rain, the pale midday sun, the carpet of golden and crimson leaves, the birds flying off to pastures new all remind us of the calmness of the new season.  The darker evenings give us an opportunity to slow down and reflect. We turn inwards to nourish our minds and bodies with slower yet fun yoga sequences. We are going to tune into the autumn vibrations by creating a Halloween practice to celebrate and embrace the darker and colder months to come.  And with a sense of gratitude we are looking forward to the highlight of the month – The OM YOGA SHOW in London on 20th, 21st and 22nd October.

 

Halloween Cat – Cow

 

Start your Halloween practice with an angry Cat - Cow pose to wake up the spine. Come onto all fours on your mat making sure your knees are directly under the hips and wrists are under the shoulders. On an inhalation, drop the belly down and move the chest in direction of the ceiling. Exhale and round your back like a scary cat. Move in rhythm with your breath repeating the two movements. Use you Ujjayi breath, breathing only through the nose. What could be scarier than an angry cat making Darth Vader noises?

Enchanted Frog (Malasana)

                                                     

Warm up your hips with this Halloween interpretation of Malasana - Enchanted Frog Pose. From standing, bring your feet mat-distance apart and your hands in prayer position at the heart centre. Squat down trying to reach the floor with your heels. Lengthen the spine and push the inner thighs away with your elbows. You can move your hips from side to side to make the pose more dynamic.

Wild Thing

                                                            

All things wild are set free on Halloween. Use this opportunity to let your wild side roam free on the scariest night of the year. From Downward Facing Dog, inhale your right leg up and bent it at the knee letting the foot hang heavy trying to touch your bottom. The knee is pointing towards the ceiling. Firmly ground your left hand on the mat and let your right foot drop on the floor behind you. Then raise your hips up and let your right arm make a sweeping motion in front of you.

 

Warrior 2 Bat Wings

  

Another iconic animal that makes its appearance at Halloween is the bat. We will spread our wings and fly like bats in this dark interpretation of Warrior 2. From Tadasana, step your right foot back for a Warrior 2 stance. Open up your arms and gaze at your right middle finger. On an inhalation lift your arms up to touch over your head simultaneously straightening your right leg. On an exhalation flip your wings back to Warrior 2 and rebend the knee. Keep moving from Warrior 2 to standing, flying into the Halloween night.

Evil Tree

                                                             

At Halloween bats and wild things hide in the woods but they are full of evil trees. From Tadasana bring your right foot to rest on your left inner thigh. Press the foot into the inner thigh and the inner thigh into the foot to support the tree. Bring your arms over your head and point the fingers forward to create your version of an evil tree. You can sway from side to side for that extra spooky touch.

Goddess of Halloween

                                                                

As a real goddess of the night, you will summon the evil forces under your command. From Tadasana step your feet a stride apart making sure that your feet are pointing outwards. Stop the knees from rolling inwards by pressing the knees back with your hands. Sit down into the pose with the intention of bringing the thighs in line with the knees.

 

Fairy (Dancer’s Pose)

                                                      

Not all creatures in the night of Halloween are evil and spooky. Take the Good Fairy for example. Flying around in a gentle backbend she is trying to put order into the night. To come into the Fairy’s favourite yoga pose (Dancer’s pose), bend your right knee from standing and grab hold of your foot behind you with your right hand. Start gently leaning your torso forward as your right leg goes up forming a “U” shape with your leg and your back. The left hand is extended forward in Gyana mudra (thumb and index finger touching).

 

Flying Witch (Warrior 3)

                                                      

To join the army of flying witches, jump onto your Warrior 3 broom and fly away with your sisters! For this Warrior 3 variation, come into Tree pose for 3 breaths. Bring the sole of your right foot against the inner thigh of your left leg. Then bring the right knee to centre and on exhalation kick the right leg back behind you keeping it levelled with the hips. Extend the arms in front of you alongside the ears and fly into the night!

 

Crow and the Om Yoga Show

           

Another iconic creature of the night!  To come into Crow and fly with your witch friends, come into a Malasana squat first. Then bring your toes to touch, heels slightly apart and place your hands in front of you on the floor.  Place your knees as high up your arms (into the armpits is best) as possible. Start leaning forwards into your arms and play with lifting one leg up first and then the other. When you lift the feet up, round your back and engage the core.  When both feet are up, make sure the toes are touching.

To learn to do the pose without the support of a pumpkin, make sure you come and see Natascha Zeller and me at the OM YOGA SHOW at Alexandra Palace on 20th , 21st and 22nd October where we will be looking at different techniques how to master Crow and Side-Crow. Can’t wait to see you there!

 

 

 

 

Back to School Yoga Posted By Yana Armenova Fri 1st September 2017

                                                            

BACK TO SCHOOL YOGA

At this time of year stress levels tend to jump high not only because of the realisation that summer is over but also because going back to school is knocking on the door. Both parents and children  need some positive occupation to relax and face the new school year with a smile.

The yoga poses below combat successfully with stress and anxiety. They also provide numerous physical benefits such as better posture, flexibility, physical strength, calmness and better sleep.

Rag Doll (Standing Forwad Fold)

From standing, fold forward from the hips with a generous bend in the knees, aiming for the chest to rest on your thighs. Grab hold of opposite elbows, relax your head and neck and allow yourself to hang heavy. Shake your head "yes" or "no" to release any tension you might have in the neck or the shoulders. Hold for five breaths. In this pose the blood circulation is reversed bringing a fresh boost to the brain, improving vitality and mental focus.

Sun Salutation A (Surya Namascar)

The Sun Salutation routine warms up the body and invigorates all the cells. You can do one sun salutation round for a start, gradually increasing to 3-5.

From standing position bring your feet to touch. hands are at heart's centre in a prayer position. Inhale the arms up and on exhalation bend forward from the hips with a bend in the knees. Inhale to Half Way Lift with straight back and hands on shins. Exhale and bring your left leg back into Low Lunge. Press your hips forward to increase the stretch in the thighs and the groin. Step your right leg back and hold Plank for 3 breaths. Bring knees, chest and chin on the floor and glide into Cobra. In Cobra tops of feet are actively pressing on the floor, hands are by your chest and elbows are tucked in. Lift your chest up and then release into Downward Facing Dog. Bring your left foot forward into Lunge followed by the right. On inhalation come to Half Way Lift with a flat back. Exhale into forward fold and on inhalation rise all the way up back to standing. Repeat the same routine with the right leg stepping backwards.

Surya Namascar provides a whole body workout. The routine improves focus, builds confidence and self-love. It energises and stretches all muscle groups. Just what school children need the most.

Chair Pose

This standing pose improves your strength and builds stamina. Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Imagine you are sitting on an imaginary chair. The pelvis is in a neutral position and arms are extended up running parallel to the ears. The thighs are engaged.

The strong use of legs in this pose brings a grounding feeling and counteracts stress and distraction. The arms over the head build self-esteem and confidence.

Eagle Pose

Garudasana (Eagle Pose) is a shoulder opening pose that sharpens the focus. From Chair Pose, wrap your right leg over the left one and your left arm over the right with the palms of your hands touching. Bring your elbows in line with your shoulders. Hold for 5 breaths.

By practising Eagle Pose, you build the wisdom of the eagle inside you and the courage to brace confidently the coming school year. If you don't have the time or space to practise the standing version of Eagle Pose, you can only do the sitting variation interlacing only the arms while you are sitting at your desk. The position of the arms and chest create a sense of calmness that you would probably need between classes.

Handstand on the Wall/ Tree

This variation of Handstand is more accessible for practitioners of all abilities, especially when it comes to school-aged children. Find a sturdy wall (or tree if practising outside) and position yourself forearms' distance away from the wall. Place your hands on the ground shoulder-width apart. Then kick one leg up the wall. When you are stable, kick the other leg up too. Engage your core and hold the pose for 5 breaths. Make sure your hips, shoulders and head are aligned. This pose boosts focus, reverses the direction of the blood flow and stongly connects the students to the present moment,

Butterfly Pose

From sitting position, bring the soles of your feet together near your groin, Lengthen your spine and bend forward from the hips over your legs. This is a great hip-opening pose which creates feelings of happiness and contentment,

Child's Pose

This is a gentle and restful hip-opening pose. We store  a lot of emotions in our hips and that is why this pose can be seen as a great stress reliever, Kneel on the mat, bringing your knees as wide as the mat. Keep the big toes together. Place your bottom on your heels. Melt your chest inbetween the legs and rest your forehead on the mat. Arms are extended forward. Breathe deeply,

Savasana

The final relaxation pose quietens the body and mind. Slowly lie down on your back with legs mat-width apart and arms alongside the body with palms facing up. Feel the heaviness of the body as it sinks down into the mat. Observe quietly your breath,

This routine calms the nervous system and is excellent to practise at the end of the day or straight after school/work. It will soothe and rebalance your mind. Practise the routine on a regular basis , always listening to your body. Don't force anything, just flow. The benefits will soon become noticeable.

 

Seated Yoga Posted By Yana Armenova Sat 29th July 2017

   

Hello yogis!  I just got back from my holiday and I must say I spent long hours trapped at airports, buses and airplanes. There was a lot of sitting involved. This experience gave me an idea how to modify some yoga poses so that they can be practised while seated in a chair.  Use the following ideas to do your variations of twists, hip openers and gentle backbends while seated at your desk, on a bench in the park or even during your next flight to a fabulous holiday. 

Safety Tips:

Make sure you practise on a stable chair without wheels

If chair is too high, modify the pose by putting blocks, pillows or blankets under your feet to create a stable foundation. 

Cat-Cow Pose (Chair Variation)

Sit comfortably on the chair, elongate the spine and place both feet on the floor with your hands resting on your knees .

To come into the cow strech,  inhale and  arch your spine, roll the shoulders back and down and bring the shoulder blades to touch. Bring your chest forward and look up.

To come into the cat stretch, exhale and round your spine, drop your chin to your chest. Let the shoulders and head come forward

Move from cow to cat stretch for 5 breaths and coordinate each movement with the rhythm of your breath.

Chair Twist 1

From a seated upright position, gently fold over your legs. Bring your right hand outside your left foot. Look up and extend the left arm up using the friction between hand and foot as a lever to peel your torso open towards the left. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.

Chair Twist 2

Sit diagonally on the chair with the knees pointing towards the right side of the chair seat. Place your left hand on the top right side of the chair and your right hand on the left side of the chair. Twist your torso towards the back with the head looking in direction of your right shoulder. On each inhale, lengthen the spine and on each exhale, twist deeper. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.

 

Figure of Four (Chair Variation)

Sit comfortably on your chair and hug your right knee towards your chest. Grab hold of your right foot and bring it on top of the left knee, keeping the right shin parallel to the front edge of the chair. Make sure you keep the foot flexed to avoid pain in the knee. With your right hand gently start pressing your right knee down allowing the right hip to open. Hold for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
 
Warrior 2 (Chair Variation)
 
 
Come to sit sideways on the chair with your knees pointing to the right. Keep your right thigh resting on the chair and swing your left leg behind so the foot reaches the floor. Bring the foot parallel to the sides of the chair and open the arms. Keep your focus on your right middle finger, Hold for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
 
 
Reverse Warrior (Chair Variation)
 
  
From Warrior 2 on the right side, flip the palm of your right hand up, and reach up and over your head into Reverse Warrior.  Let your left hand slide down your left leg. To advance the pose, you can bring your left hand on your right hip or thigh or if you can't reach, you can grab your T-shirt. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.

 

Forward Fold (Chair Variation)

To  release all tension and prepare the body for final relaxation, sit upright on your chair. Inhale the arms up and on an exhale drape your whole torso and your arms over your legs. Release the head and the neck. Stay for 5 breaths. Then gently on inhalation, unfold yourself coming to a seated position ready for Chair Savasana.

 

 

 

Chair Savasana

 Close your eyes while sitting comfortably on your chair. Rub your hands together to generate some heat between the palms of your hands and place them over your eyes. Enjoy the sensation of calm and warmth. Then bring your hands onto your lap. Take a deep breathe in and a deep cleansing breath out. 

Now on your next inhale, say or think  of "SO" and on the exhale say or think of "HUM". This mantra reflects the sound of the breath and calms the nervous system. Repeat 10 cycles of breath, making them audible with the SO-HUM mantra,

 

 

 

 

The Desk Job Antidote Posted By Yana Armenova Tue 4th July 2017

 

Do you have a desk job? Staring at a computer screen for prolonged periods of time? If the answer is “yes”, this month’s blog is just for you.
Earlier this year Wired Magazine warned us that "sitting is the new smoking". Desk jobs have been linked to an increased heart attack risk, depression and premature aging.
Sitting hunched over a keyboard for hours leads to  tight hips and legs in addition to neck, shoulder and back pain and discomfort.
Bad posture is the other consequence. When we sit at a desk, our back and shoulders tend to hunch down and the neck protrudes forward which misaligns the spine.

The next yoga postures can be an effective antidote to many desk job ailments.


Downward Facing Dog /Adho Mukha Svanasana/


This pose stretches and strengthens many parts of the body. It releases tension in the shoulders, relaxes the neck and increases the blood flow to the brain. It  stretches the hamstrings which  tend to become very tight after a day of sitting. The pose also stretches the wrists and hands as it reduces stiffness which can result from long hours of typing.

To come into the pose,  lift the hips up from child's pose and come into an inverted V shape. Ground the feet hip-width apart onto the floor. Spread all  fingers and toes onto the floor and point them forward. Distribute the weight between hands and feet and activate your core. Your focus point is your  legs or your belly button. Bring your attention to the breath. Enjoy this stretch for about 60 seconds.

Mountain Pose /Tadasana/


This pose is superb especially after a long day of contracting the back. It is a powerful back and chest opener that can free up thight chest muscles.
Come to a standing position, feet hip-width apart and arms alongside the body.  Ground through the feet and spread the toes so you can see the mat inbetween the toes.  Stand tall and lift the knee caps up. Tuck the pelvis and elongate the tailbone. Bring your shoulder blades together, roll the shoulders back and release them, Widen your collarbones and release the arms by the torso. Bring your chin parallel to the floor and soften your gaze. Stay in Tadasana for a minimum of 5 breaths.

Fish Pose /Matsyasana/


Therapeutic for fatigue and anxiety, fish pose releases tensions in the neck, throat and head. It stretches the chest muscles and opens the lungs.
To come into the pose, lie down on the floor with legs straight in front of you. Place your hands under your bottom. Come onto forearms and press onto your elbows and forearms. Lift the chest up and drop the head back to the ground behind you. The aim is for the crown of your head to touch the floor. Breathe deeply and rest in the pose for 30 seconds.

Standing Forward Fold /Uttanassana/
This pose literally can turn your world upside down and bring some blood back to the brain. At the same time you get a great stretch for the legs. A forward bend provides a feeling of release and the added arm bind turns the pose into a deep shoulder stretch as well.
Stand with the feet hip-width apart and slowly bend forward from the hips. Bend the knees slightly to take the strain off the lower back. Then try adding an arm bind to stretch the shoulders. Interlace your hands at the lower back and stretch the arms over your head, hands pointing toward the ground in front of you. If you have tight shoulders hold a belt between your hands, allowing the shoulders to get a deep but less intense stretch. This pose can be therapeutic for stress and anxiety.
Breath deeply in the pose and hold for 60 seconds.

Cat-Cow Pose/ Marjaryasana-Bitilasana/


      

This pose can be an effective headache reliever as it  helps bring the neck back into its natural position over the spine - people tend to protrude it forward, especially when working on a computer. Start in a table top position with hands and knees on the floor and neutral spine. On the inhale round the spine and curve up into your cat pose. On the exhale arch the back and lift the chest to come into a cow pose. Repeat five times focusing on the breath.

Slow Neck Stretches A few repetition of this pose can release neck discomfort from staring down at a keyboard or a phone. This can easily be done standing anywhere. It eases neck tension and strain. Sitting in a cross legged pose, lean the head to the right and extend the left arm and hand to the ground until you feel a deep stretch on the left side of the neck. Breath deeply and hold for a few breath cycles. Repeat on the other side. You can also try standing in Mountain Pose and stretch the neck to one side gently pulling with the same hand.


Childs Pose / Balasana/


This pose helps us to turn our focus inwards and slow our minds down. This resting pose can help put the mind at ease while gently opening the back, hips and shoulders.
Sit down with legs folded beneath you. Toes touching and knees apart. The chest is melting down between your thighs and the forehead is on the floor. Extend the arms in front of you or rest them by your sides. Breathe deeply and rest in the pose for as long as your desire.

Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)

Whether you spend most of your time at work standing or sitting at a desk, you are likely to have tired legs at the end of the day. In hot weather in particular the calves tend to get swollen and vericose veins might start to form. To prevent this from happening and to rejuvenate your tired legs, just put your legs up a wall. Viparita Karani is as simple as that. The blood circulation moves towards the upper body and  gives your legs a nice break after a long day of sitting or standing.

Sitali Breathing


This pranayama exercise is the perfect antidote to a long stressful day. It releases tension in body and mind and brings us to a more balanced and clear state.
To perform this cooling breath, sit on a chair or on the floor in an easy cross legged position with your eyes closed. Stick your tongue out and curl up its outer edges. If curling your tongue is not possible for you, try your best with an O shaped mouth. Inhale through the mouth, letting the air pass over the tongue, feeling the cool breath. Exhale through your nose. Continue for 3 minutes.You will feel totally refreshed!

Enjoy your yoga practice, be positive and with no big expectations. Just hop on your mat and be present. Namaste!

Yoga for Weight Loss Posted By Yana Armenova Thu 1st June 2017

YOGA FOR WEIGHT LOSS

Hi yogis! Summer is knocking on the door and the hot weather is calling for shorts, summer dresses and tank tops. To feel completely comfortable in showing more skin in the warm months, we will focus on asanas that will help you shed any extra weight off in a natural way. All you need is an open mind and a positive approach. Open your window for some fresh prana or even better, take your practice outside if possible.

To warm up the body start with a couple of Sun Salutations A and B. Then choose the poses that are most relevant to your practice (if not all of them) and link them into a flow by incorporating a vinyasa between each pose and each side that you are practising on. Have fun!

 

 Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)


Arrive on the mat in one of the best hip-openening poses - Reclining Bound Angle Pose.
Lie on you back, close your eyes, relax the jaw and the tongue. Feel your body and surrender it to the ground. Bend your knees into constructive rest and drop them to the sides  while the soles of your feet are pressing against each other. Never force your knees down. Instead release the thigh bones to the floor. Place one hand on your tummy and the other on your heart. Become aware of your breath as your tummy rises on inhalation and lowers itself on exhalation. Hold the pose for 5 breaths or more.

 

Cobra (Bhujangasana)


This pose is great for firming the buttocks and toning the abdomen. Lie down on your belly, palms placed on the floor beside your chest. On inhalation lift you upper body up and chest off the floor. Make sure your legs are together and are firmly pressing against the ground. To take the pose one step further, you can get your palms off the floor. Stay here for 3 to 5 breaths. If it feels right for you,  you can hold for another 5 breaths.

Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

Bow pose is excellent for strengthening the back, and toning the legs and abdomen. It gently massages the abdominal organs thus helping with constipation problems.
Lie down on your stomach. Bend your legs from your knees and lift up your legs. Grab the ousides of your feet by extending your arms behind you. Form a bow with your body and once you feel comfortable with the pose, start rocking gently backwards and forwards.


Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthitta Parsvakonasana)

 Extended Side Angle Pose can be of great help for those who wish to shed extra weight from the sides. This pose stretches  the sides and strengthens the  legs, knees  and shoulders. It fires up the core and massages the abdominal organs.  Remember to find length in your side body from your heel to your fingertips.


Begin in Tadasana. Step your right foot back so your feet are  arms’ length apart. Arms are raised out to the sides, parallel to the floor and palms facing down.
Turn your right foot at a 90 degree angle. Right and left heel are in alignment. Bend your left knee and ground your right  heel on the floor.
Rotate your torso back and make sure your hips and thighs do not fall lower than the level of your bent knee.
Place the left side of your torso down on your left thigh.
Press your left  hand on the floor just outside of your left foot. If nesessary, use a block.
Pull in your abdomen enough to prevent arching your lower back.
Right arm reaches straight up from the shoulder to the ceiling.
Turn your right palm to face towards your head and reach your right arm over the back of your right ear. The palm should be facing the floor without tension in the neck and shoulders. Feel the stretch from your right heel to your right fingers. This pose lengthens the entire left side of your body .
Focus on long, deep breaths. Stay here for 3 to 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

 

Warrior 2

 

If you want to develop strength in the thighs and the hamstrings, open the chest and hips and improve stamina, Warrior 2 is the best place to start.

From Tadasana, step your right foot behind you so that your feet are arms’ length apart.  Heels should be aligned. Bend your left knee at a 90 degree angle and distribute your weight evenly between the two feet. Arms are extended to the sides following the line of your hips. Your focus point is the middle finger of your left arm in front of you. Breathe and with each inhale lengthen the spine and with each exhale bend the front knee a bit more and sink a little lower. If the knee starts to roll inwards, gently push it back so you can see your big toe. Stay here for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

 

Warrior 3

Warrior 3 tests your balance and your core muscles. A couple of breaths in that challenging pose will get you sweating and releasing all toxins out of your system. It will also do wonders for the standing leg!

From Warrior 2, come into high lunge and slowly lean your torso forwards, edging the back foot forwards until it lifts off. When lifting the back leg, keep the standing leg slightly bent until you regain your balance. Once up, square the hips and imagine your body forming one long even line from the back leg to the top of your head. There are variations as to the position of the hands. You can have your hands in a prayer position at your heart centre, extended to the side as an aeroplane or to the front like superman. Hold the pose for 5 breaths and keep your core engaged as the core muscles are the key to keeping your balance. To exit, release the foot to meet the standing one and stay in ragged doll. Repeat on the other side.

 

Boat and Half Boat

Come to sitting on the mat and give your knees a big hug turning your body into a tiny little ball with the feet hovering above the floor. Bring your hands behind your knees and extend you shins and ankles forward so they are parallel to the floor. Back is long and straight. You can stay here for a couple of breaths or release the hands so your arms are parallel to the floor. For the full expression of the pose, straighten the legs up.

To exercise the abs, lower your torso and you legs down so they are hovering a few inches from the floor and hold. Then come back to boat. You can repeat a couple of times.

 

Spinal Twist

At the end of a yoga class, the best thing to do is a couple of twists as they rinse the body out of any built-up toxins.
From a seated position, extend your legs straight in front of you and bend your right knee. Cross your right foot over your left thigh and hook you left arm outside your right knee. The right hand is on the floor behind you. With each inhale lengthen the spine and with each exhale twist looking over your right shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

 

With these poses, you stretch, strengthen and lengthen the body while simultaneously triggering the detoxification process. Weight loss will occur with consistent regular practice and positive approach. Remember that  yoga is all about relaxation and feeling good from the inside out.

 

Hydration

After a sweaty yoga class it is important to keep the body hydrated. The cucumber-onion salad is a healthy post-yoga snack that will satisfy your body’s need for something fresh, light and juicy. Hydrate and fill up your tummy with this simple and easy salad.

Wash 2 medium cucumbers. Peel and slice them in circles. Do the same with one onion. Place the vegetables in a bowl and add one tbs.  apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt and some fresh  or dried dill.
Mix all the ingredients well and allow the salad to sit in the fridge for at least one hour before serving.

Lower Back Pain Relief Posted By Yana Armenova Mon 1st May 2017

Lower Back Pain Relief

Living with lower back pain can be quite painful, frustrating and limiting. This month  we will look at how yoga poses can bring relief to lower back pain, what poses to avoid to minimise the risk of injury and how to strengthen your lower back as a preventative measure looking at the body holistically.

Lower Back Massage with Happy Baby

Happy baby is the go-to pose that would bring immediate relief to your lower back, especially when the pain comes from repetitive movements or standing for too long. Lie flat on your back and bring your kness towards your armpits. Grab hold of the outer side of your feet with your hands and rock gently from side to side massaging the spine and the lower back. The pose feels divine as it washes away fatigue, opens the hips and brings new energy to the spine.

Open Hips and Lower Back Pain

Happy baby pose works wonders on the lower back mainly because there is a strong correlation between the tightness of the hips and the hamstrings and the risk of straining the lower back. When you have tight hips and/or hamstrings, the spine takes over their job and compensates for ther inability to function properly. But then the spine gets overworked and lower back injury is likely to occur. To avoid this and maintain balance in our bodies, we need to work daily on our hips and hamstrings. Here are some simple poses that can help us keep them healthy;

Reclined Pigeon and Seated Pigeon

These two variations of Pigeon pose open the hips without straining the back or the knees.

For Reclined Pigeon, lie flat on your back and make a figure of four with your legs  by bringing your left foot to your right knee with the shin parallel to the top of the mat. Bring your hands around the grounding leg and very gently and slowly start bringing your right leg towards you. You should feel a quite intense stretch in the left hip.

For Seated Pigeon you need to bring your legs in a figure of 4 again but you start from a seated position. Gently start bringing your tosro closer to your leg. The closer you get, the more intense the strecth in the hip.

Windscreen Wipersknees A simple yet effective way to stretch  the hip muscles. Start in a constructive rest position with the knees bent and feet hip distance apart. Slightly bring both of your knees to the left without rolling on the edge of your feet. Feet should be flat on the mat. The knees might not go very far but you will feel the stretch in the right hip muscle. Repeat on the other side.

Happy Baby Warm-up

A nice way to warm up the body and work on the hips is to simply give your legs a hug. Gently bring your right knee into your chest and hold. After 5 breaths, bring your right knee slightly away from your chest towards your right armpit and hold for another 5 breaths letting your hips wake up. Repeat with the other leg.

 Core and Lower Back Pain

Strong stable core is another key factor for a happy lower back. Learning to engage the core muscles when we do physical actvity especially walking or bending over repeatedly will reduce the risk of putting extra pressure on our lower back. To stop it from overcompensating, we must become more mindful in each movement we make. Daily simple core exercises like partial crunches can do wonders.

Quadratus Lumborums and the Lower Back

 

As we have already seen, making our lower back pain free is process that depends on our whole body. The quadrus lumborums are another set of muscles that if not properly stretched can aggravate the lower back. Quadrus Lumborums are the muscles that run between your hips and ribs. When they are engaged, tension from the lower back is released and the sides of the lower back are lengthened.

One way to stretch them is by engaging in imaginative "apple-picking". Starting from Tadasana (Mountain pose) slightly raise your left hip up and extend your right arm up and over your head so that that the right arm runs parralel to the right ear. Imagine that you are reaching with your arm for some juicy apples and feel the deep stretch to your right side. Repeat on the other side by raising your right hip and extending the left arm.

Forward-Folds are a No-No

If you are experiencing lower back issues, it is advisable that you avoid forward folds as they are a quite intense stretch for the hamstrings. As we have discussed above, tight hamstrings put pressure on the lower back. If you overtsrech them with a forward fold, the lower back will overcompensate and you risk causing further damage. 

Castor Oil Massage

According to Ayurveda massaging the body on daily basis with oils has a therapeutic and healing effect. One way to relieve pain in the lower back is by rubbing in catsor oil. Once you have massaged the area, cover your back with a cloth and put a hot water bottle or heated rice bag on your back. Let it warm the area for an hour. This warm compress allows the castor oil to go through the skin to the area of pain and bring relief.

Let's Twist Again Posted By Yana Armenova Sat 1st April 2017

Let’s Twist Again

 

Each spring we spring clean our homes, we change our wardrobes and get ready for the warmer weather to come. But it is not only our clothes that need changing and homes dusting. Our bodies and minds need a fresh boost as well. To get physically and mentally ready for the new season, we are going to twist and get rid of the built-up toxins and old energies (Chubby Checker’s song optional). We will explore how to avoid toxins in our day-to-day life and learn some new delicious recipes that will put a spring to our step.

 

Standing Twists

 

Hand-to-Big-Toe Twist

Hand-to-Big-Toe is a challenging pose that works on our balance, stretches the back of the legs and builds our leg strength. When we add a twist to this combination, we get a very intense asana that takes a lot of practise and commitment for the full expression of the pose. The pose twists the upper body and challenges the hamstrings and the balance. It quietens the mind by clearing toxic thoughts and bringing our attention fully to the task at hand.

 

How to Twist:

  • From Tadasana, ground your right leg into the mat and inhale your left knee up.
  • Bring your right hand to your left knee and maintain long spine
  • Tight hamstrings modification: from here bring your left arm behind you keeping it in line with your shoulder and twist the torso to the left while holding the left knee with your right hand to give you extra leverage.
  • If your hamstrings are flexible, then grab hold of the left big toe with your right hand and slowly start extending the leg and approaching the full expression of the twist.
  • Remember to keep the integrity of the spine. It’s better to have your knee bent rather than compromising and rounding  the spine .
  • Extend your left arm to the side and twist the torso to the left.
  • Once you have twisted, hold for 5 breaths
  • Come back to centre and release the leg
  • Repeat on the other side

 

High Lunge Prayer Twist

The High Lunge Prayer Twist again plays with our balance and helps us develop strength in the legs. The key to maintaining your balance is to really square your hips while twisting. When you invite the body to turn to the side and twist, remember to keep the spine straight so the energy can run freely through the energy channels.

 

How to Twist:

  • From Downward Dog bring your right leg between your hands and rise up into High Lunge
  • Square the hips and bring your hands in prayer at the heart centre
  • Inhale, lengthen the spine and on exhalation bring your left elbow to your right knee
  • Lengthen the spine on inhale and twist to the right on the exhale
  • If you feel secure in your balance, you can open the arms.
  • Hold for 5 breaths and release
  • Come back to Downward Facing Dog and repeat on the other side

 

Seated Twists

 

Easy Twist

An easy way to warm up the spine and prepare the body for more intense twists is by practising the following variation of Sukhasana (Easy Pose).

How to Twist:

  • Sit cross-legged in Easy Pose
  •  Inhale and lengthen the spine
  • Exhale and bring your left hand outside your right knee and bring your right hand behind you
  • Lengthen on inhalation and twist on exhalation
  • Come back to centre and repeat on the other side

 

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose is a more challenging seated twist. It strengthens the spine, massages and cleanses the abdominal organs and relieves backache.

 

How to Twist:

  • Start in Dandasana with the legs extended in front of you
  • Lift your knees in constructive rest with feet on the floor
  • Drop your left knee to the side on the floor and slide your left foot under your right knee, placing it next to your right hip.
  • Inhale your left arm up and lengthen the torso
  • Exhale and place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee, twisting the torso to the right
  • Put your right arm behind you with your hand on the floor
  • Lengthen the torso on each inhalation and twist on the exhalation
  • Look over your right shoulder
  • Hold for 5 breaths and release
  • Repeat on the other side

 

Grounding Twists

 

Supine Twist

Supine twists are a great way to start and end a yoga practice. They stretch the back and release tension and stress.

 

How to twist:

  • Come down to the floor in supine position with back flat on the floor
  • Bring your right knee into your chest and cross it towards the left side
  • Spread your arm in a T-shape
  • Turn your head and gaze towards your right shoulder
  • Hold for 5 breaths and release
  • Repeat on the other side

 

Bolster Twist

Supported twists are excellent addition to any Yin yoga class and a great way to prepare the body for Savasana in any yoga class. To do the supported bolster twist, you will need a bolster or if you don’t have one, a couple of pillows and blankets will do the job.

 

How to twist:

  • Sit kneeling on the floor and place the bolster next to your right shin extending long-ways from your body.
  • Move your sitbones on the floor, move your right thigh so that it is parallel to the bottom of the bolster with the knee bent
  • Move you left leg so your shin is parallel to the bottom of the mat and foot pointing behind you. Knee is bent.
  • Place your torso on the bolster with your head towards the right side
  • Hands on either side of the bolster
  • Hold the pose for as long as it is comfortable
  • Repeat on the other side

 

Toxin-Free Lifestyle

 To reduce the toxins in our bodies, we need to look at natural substitutes for chemicals we use in our day-to-day life. Less packaged foods and chemically based products will make a great difference to our overall health. Now that spring is underway and summer is coming, try to eat as much raw fruit and vegetables as possible. Forget about ready meals, canned food and fizzy drinks. Prepare your meals at home, make time for rest, books, yoga and walks in the park. Reduce your exposure to TV and computer screens.

Reduce your cosmetics to the bare essentials and always ask questions about the origin of the products you use. Find the story behind. Maybe replace your handcream with coconut or almond oil. One ingredient on the label is always better than a dozen. Or when cleaning your house, try to stay away from bleach. Make your own cleaning mixture with natural ingredients. Diluted vinegar kills germs just as well as bleach. Stay away from air fresheners as they fill your lungs with chemicals. Freshen up your room with flowers instead or dilute essential oils for a nice natural smell. Staying close to nature is the key to eliminating toxins out of your system.

 

With a Twist of Lemon

Hot water and lemon first thing in the morning will get you energized, hydrated and toxin-free. Lemons are wonderful things that cleanse the whole body. Add the juice of half a lemon in the morning to a warm glass of water  and start the day right. During the night we get dehydrated and our bodies naturally want to make up for the lack of water in the morning.  Adding a bit of lemon to a glass of water will aid your digestion and flush the toxins out of your system.

 

Tahini, Lime and All Things Nice

 

A quick-fix dressing for any salad and an excellent detoxifier, tahini paste with lime juice can add an extra boost to your meal. Tahini paste is made of sesame seeds which are naturally rich in calcium. So next time you have a salad, splash a bit of tahini paste diluted with lime and water. It will give your salad an extra boost of calcium and enhance the flavours.

 

Spring-Clean your Home with Feng-Shui:

 

The basic principle behind this ancient Chinese philosophy is to minimise clutter so the good energy (Chi) can flow freely into your home. When you spring-clean your home, try to get rid of what does not serve you anymore. Let go of old furniture that it is not used anymore, clothes that don’t fit you and things that bring you negative memories. Look through everything you possess and ask yourself: “Do I really need this?”

And if you don’t, don’t be afraid to let go. Items and possessions take up space and block the flow of energy in your surroundings. The less clutter, the less obstructed the flow of Chi is.

 

Transform Yourself Posted By Yana Armenova Sun 26th February 2017

TRANSFORM YOURSELF

March is a month of transformation. When we finish work, it’s not that dark outside anymore. The birds are beginning to sing their welcoming spring songs, flowers start to pop in the parks. The whole Earth is making the long-awaited transition from winter to spring. Everything around us is changing including our bodies and minds. We slowly begin to strip down the winter cocoon and prepare ourselves to fly into spring like beautiful butterflies.

To reflect all the changes happening around us, the overarching theme of our March blog will be transformation. We will explore tools and techniques that will transform our practice with an emphasis on strength and safety. We will look at the link between our core and wrist strength and how to avoid injury in those areas.

 

The Link: Core Strength and Wrist Pain

In our yoga practice we use our wrists a lot. If you think of the first time you did yoga, your wrists probably hurt a lot. That’s because people tend to put all of their body weight on the wrists when doing Downward-Facing Dog, Plank, Arm Balances, etc. Weight bearing exercises build our bones so by putting extra weight on our wrists, we strengthen them but if we over exercise or put too much pressure on our wrists, we are at risk of injury. The key to keeping healthy wrists in our yoga practice is to distribute our weight evenly between our whole body, not just tip it all onto our wrists.

 

 Let’s take Downward Facing Dog for example. I personally found it really hard in the beginning to hold the pose for 10 breaths.  The pain in my wrists was excruciating. I had to rethink my whole practice.  Following the expert advice of my teachers, I started pushing my weight back into my legs and I engaged my core more. In this way my body weight was evenly distributed between wrists, core and legs and my wrists didn’t have to suffer anymore. The same goes for many other poses. The key is balance and even body weight distribution.

 

Core Strengthening:

Weak core can also wreak havoc on your wrists. If you have problems with your wrists, weak core might be to blame. The first steps to minimizing wrist injuries is strengthening our core and learning to engage it. When properly engaged, our core is a powerful bundle of energy that can not only help us master some of the most challenging poses in the asana practice but also take the burden off our wrists. Here are some core-strengthening exercises to help:

 

  • Spinal rolls: spinal rolls are a great warm-up exercise waking up the whole spine and all the muscles in the body particularly the core. From Downward Facing Dog come the highest you can on your tiptoes and very slowly roll into Plank and from there transition into a variation of Upward Facing Dog by resting your legs on the floor and look up. Then slowly engage your core, arch your back and lift with your core back into Plank and Downward Facing Dog. Repeat 5-10 times.

 

  • Knee to Chest: knee to chest is another great routine to get your core active. From Downward Facing Dog lift your right leg up into Three-Legged Dog and then slowly bring your right knee into your chest, arch the back and engage the core. Do not tip all of your weight on your wrists. The wrists are there to support the structure of the asana, not to bear the weight. Let the core do the dirty job for you. Hold for 5 breaths and return to Three-Legged Dog.

 

  • Knee to Elbow with a Twist: from Three-Legged Dog, bring your right leg into your right elbow and then try to move your knee all the way to your right armpit and back down to your right wrist. Move the knee up and down from the armpit to the wrist for 5 breaths and then repeat the same with the left leg. Always engage your core!

 

  • Plank: plank can be a total body workout in itself. When coming into Plank, remember to push the weight into your heels and slightly draw your shoulder blades apart. This would take away pressure from the wrists. Remember to engage your core!

 

  • Opposite Elbow to Knee: lie down on the mat, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the mat hip-width apart. Lower back is flat on the mat. Lift your shins up so that knees are on top of hips and shins are parallel to the mat. Place your hands behind your head and lift our shoulders and head off the mat. Keeping the knees directly over the hips, slowly bring the right elbow to left knee and then right elbow to left knee. Repeat 10 times on each side for that extra burn in the core.

 

 

Wrist Strengthening:

 

To help our wrists support us in our life on and off the mat we need to properly warm them up and strengthen them on a daily basis. Here is how:

 

  • Come on all fours, shoulders over wrists, hips over knees. Bring your palms to face up with the fingers pointing towards your legs. Gently rock backwards and forwards and only go as far as your wrists let you without feeling any sharp pain.

 

  • Come in the same position on all fours, palms facing up again but this time the fingers are pointing towards the opposite hand. Extend the fingers and then fold them into a fist. Unfold them flat on the mat and roll them into a fist again. Repeat 5 times.

 

  • Come on all fours, your hands tight in a fist. Unfold the fists and extend the fingers on the mat and then fold them back again into a fist. Repeat 5 times.

 

  • Wrist roll: bring your hands into a prayer. Bring the prayer to face down and reverse it by rolling the wrists. Repeat until all pops and clicks are out of your wrists.

 

Asana of the Month:  Agni Sara Variation

 

Our asana of the month will be a breathing exercise that is essential to developing core strength as it gives us access to the transverse abdominal muscles which are often neglected and hard to access in normal core routines. Agni means fire and sara means essence.  Agni Sara will activate the fire in the very essence of our pranic energy- our core. To do so is not an easy task and it requires dedication and a lot of preparation. That’s why we will start with one of the routines that prepare the body for the full expression of Agni Sara: Reclining Abdominal Drawing-In.

Any Agni Sara modification MUST always be practised on EMPTY stomach.

 

How to Practise:

Come lying on the floor, knees bent and feet firmly on the floor about hip-distance apart. Arms are alongside the body. Deepen your breath. Bring your attention to the pelvis and the belly. Exhale and contract all of your abdominal muscles. Inhale and make your belly fill up with air, exhale deeply and draw your belly button and lower abdomen towards your spine. Hollow the belly making sure the lower back is firmly on the floor. Release the contraction, inhale and let the belly inflate again. Repeat 5 times.

 

Happy Birthday Natascha!

Lets all wish Natascha a very Happy Birthday! Keep sharing your practice with us and inspiring us every day. Have an amazing day!

 

 

Flowing and Flying Posted By Yana Armenova Tue 7th February 2017

 

Flowing and Flying

 

We have just entered the Lunar New Year which according to the Chinese Zodiac is the Year of the Rooster. To honour the Lunar New Year our practice will focus on some of the basic bird related posture in the asana practice. Birds fly high and are not easy to imitate even for the most experienced of yogis but with the right attitude and preparation we will attempt to mimic the masters of the sky and have some fun. A brief description of each pose will be followed by some ideas how to flow into the flying asanas.

 

Intention: Our intention will revolve around the playfulness of the bird-like asanas. To approach them we need to be playful, open-minded and willing to try something new. Try to maintain that attitude throughout your practice in February and you will go far. Take it off the mat and you will go even further.

 

Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

To start preparing physically and mentally for the more challenging poses to come, we will start with Garudasana – Eagle Pose. The pose opens the shoulders and calls for great mental focus. It twists the body in a double knot and releases tension in the shoulders and the mind.

How to Flow into Eagle:

From Tadasana reach your prayer up to the sky and bend down into Forward Fold. Look up and straighten your back, fold forward and then come into Chair pose. Step back into Plank and come down onto knees, chest and chin. From there move into Upward Facing Dog followed by Downward Facing Dog. Repeat twice. From Downward Facing Dog step with your right leg forward into a high lunge, tip your weight forward and come into Warrior 3. From Warrior 3 flow into Eagle by wrapping the right leg over the left and intertwining the arms. Opposite arm to wrapping leg comes at the front. Repeat on the other side.

 

Crow (Bakasana)

Crow pose has turned into one of the trademark symbols of the yoga practice. It is an arm balance that requires the practitioner to play with weight distribution and core engagement.  As an arm balance, a lot of pressure falls on the wrists but if we make sure we engage the core rather than just tip our whole body weight on the wrists, we will save ourselves lots of wrist injuries. The core is the main lifting force in this pose while the arms and the wrists are merely a supporting frame for the pose.

How to Flow into Crow:

Do Sun Salutation A 3 times followed by a couple of Sun Salutation B with high lunge. At the end of the last Sun Salutation B come into Chair and hold it. Then bring your torso parallel to the floor leaning onto your legs, arms extended along the ears. Hold for 3 breaths and come onto your toes. Hold for another 3 breaths. Then place your hands in front of you and engage your core. Place your knees as close as you can get them to your armpits and fly into Crow. Remember the lift comes from the core muscles!

 

Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana)

Side Crow takes the balancing game one step further as it is a Crow with a twist. Just as Crow, the pose builds arms strength and core but because it is a twist, it also has beneficial effects on the lower back.

 

How to Flow into Side Crow:

Complete Sun Salutation A and B 3 times on each leg. Then come into Chair, raise your prayer to the sky and twist to the right by bringing your left elbow to your right knee. Inhale back to centre and twist to the left by bringing right elbow to left knee. Make sure knees stay aligned and your prayer is at your heart centre. Inhale back to centre and  bring your hands to the  floor on the outside of your right leg. Bend your elbow to make Chaturanga arms and place your legs on the comfortable shelf you have just created with your arms. Again, we don’t just tip our weight on our arms. We lift with our core and then we lean on our arms.

 

Bird of Paradise

 For me personally this is one of the most glamorous (as the name suggests) and most challenging bird asanas. It is a balance that requires very open shoulders and hips and flexible hamstrings. The pose requires a considerable warm-up and the best way to practice it is by building a whole yoga class to prepare the body for this beautiful peak pose.

How to Flow into Bird of Paradise

Complete 3 rounds of Sun Salutation A and B. From Downward Facing Dog bring your right leg forward and open up into Warrior 2. Hold for 3 breaths and reverse the warrior. Come into Side Angle Pose and flow between Reverse Warrior and Side Angle Pose for a couple of breaths. When you are ready, drop the right arm inside the right leg and bind. Walk your feet together, find your balance and slowly rise up to the full glory of Bird in Paradise by extending your leg.

 

Pigeon

Pigeon is more of an Yin pose that targets the hips. It is a good pose to wind down and signal to the body that the pace is changing and you are coming to the end of your practice. Be mindful of your knees and always flex your foot to protect your knees.

How to Flow into Pigeon:

From Downward Facing Dog, raise your right leg up and mindfully bring it between the hand with the knee bent and shin parallel to the top of the mat Make sure hips are square pointing towards the top of the mat. You can support Pigeon on your finger tips or your can completely relax by bringing the whole torso to the ground and extending the arms.

 

 

 

Dancing in the Clouds Posted By Yana Armenova Sat 31st December 2016

 

 

DANCING IN THE CLOUDS

With the start of the New Year we will set the intention to welcome the new by grounding into our roots and simultaneously opening our hearts to whatever 2017 has to offer. We will look at the heart-opening and yet grounding Anjaneyasana and explore the mythology behind it.

 

To be in line with the theme of new beginnings our practice will also focus on the sequence that forms the start of each yoga practice: the sun salutations. Often neglected as “just a warm-up” leading to the “real” yoga, sun salutations are sometimes rushed through and not paid the attention they deserve. This January we will change that attitude and look in detail at the seamless flow of Surya Namaskar.  

 

To spice things up, Natascha will demonstrate a sun salutation sequence from her new home in St. Lucia. So watch this space and get ready to soak up the Caribbean sun!

 

Also don’t forget to dress up for Natascha’s last workshop to the tunes of Queen. Sun-saluting and backbending in high heels are some of the possibilities that we will explore on 7th January. Don’t forget to book your spot through the Sweaty Betty website.

 

 

Asana of the Month: Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

 

Anjaneyasana is a deep low lunge that stretches the front thighs and the groin and opens the heart and the chest. It is the perfect asana to start the New Year as it firmly grounds the whole body by powering up the legs. You feel the earth’s power shooting through your legs and traveling up your torso lengthening and uplifting the chest culminating in the high-reaching arms ready to embrace the magic of 2017.

 

To enter the pose, come into downward facing dog and step your right foot between your hands.

 

Make sure your right knee is directly over your right ankle creating a 90 degree angle.

 

Release your left knee to the floor and untuck the toes.

 

Slide your left leg back as much as you can to feel the extra stretch in the left front thigh and groin.

 

Keep hips square facing the front.

 

Lift your torso up, tailbone pointing down, sink the hips down to the ground.

 

Lift your arms up and tilt your head back looking at the sky/ceiling.

 

Stay in Anjaneyasana for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.

 

Anjaneyasana: The Story Behind

 

Word has it that Anjana was a cloud fairy known for her beautiful and elegant dancing. She performed for the heavenly court and danced to the music of Gandharvas (heavenly musicians). She made the ultimate sacrifice of giving up her life of a celestial dancer to come down to Earth and marry a member of the monkey tribe Banar. Thus she gave birth to the epic hero Hanuman.

Anjaneyasana is an excellent preparatory pose for Hanumanasana that we explored in last month’s blog. When you practice Anjaneyasana and Hanumanasana, think of the story behind the poses and remember that greatness comes with sacrifice and commitment.

For this month’s focus on low lunge, try to intertwine the destiny of Anjana while you are entering the pose. By sinking deep into the lunge imagine Anjana’s descent from the clouds to earth and by lengthening the torso and reaching up, you look at the sky and the clouds where Anjana belongs.

 

Sun Salutation Revisited (Surya Namaskar)

 

"Even after all this time the sun never says to the Earth "You owe me." Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky." – Hāfiz (Persian poet)

 

Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar Surya=Sun Nama= to bow to) started historically as a way of expressing gratitude to the Sun. The classical Sun Salutations are performed in the direction of the sun in a sequence of 12 exercises which are repeated ideally 12 times (6 times with each leg) to honour the 12 aspects of the sun from dawn to dusk.

 

Every yoga practice begins with Sun Salutations for a good reason.

On a physical level, Surya Namaskar provides an excellent whole body workout. It stretches and tones the muscles and wakes up every single part of the body with its wave-like flow of forward bends and backbends.

On an emotional and psychological level the sun salutation sequence relaxes the mind, silences the mind chatter and leads us to a meditative state with its repetitive nature.

On a spiritual level, the sun salutations give us an opportunity to fill ourselves with love and gratitude and bow in reverence to the ultimate light in the world – The Sun.  According to the yogic tradition, each being represents the world in itself and thus by bowing to the Sun, we bow in gratitude not only to the outside light energy that keeps the world alive but also to  the light that resides within us.

 

In the wake of the New Year we will practice our gratitude to the Sun with a variation incorporating Anjaneyasana which adds an extra meaning behind the sequence of Sun salutations. Think of Anjana and her story of love and sacrifice when practising.

The 12 poses with the Anjaneyasana Variation are as follows:

  1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
  2. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
  3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
  4. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
  5. Plank Pose
  6. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
  7. Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
  8. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  9. Low Lunge with Alternate Leg (Anjaneyasana)
  10. Standing Forward Bend(Uttanasana)
  11. Upward Salute ( Urdhva Hastasana)
  12. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

 

To do the sun salutations, come in Mountain Pose with your hands in prayer at the heart centre. Lift your prayer to the sky with a slight backbend and forward fold in Uttansana. On an exhalation bring your left foot back into a low lunge. Inhale into Plank and on exhale bring yourself down into Chaturanga Dandasana. Inhale into Upward-Facing Dog and exhale into Downward Facing Dog. Bring your left foot forward into Low Lunge. Let the right leg join the left between the hands in Uttanasana. Reach your arms up into a prayer over your head in Urdhva Hastasana and on exhale bring your hands to heart centre and come to Tadasana. Repeat the sequence with the other leg to complete the round.

 

Chia Pudding to Cheer You Up!

January can be an exciting time with new beginnings and expectations but it can also come as an anti-climax to all the festivities in December. To drive the January blues away, why don’t you try a home-made chia pudding that will give you an extra boost of energy and introduce you to a new level of deliciousness. Who said healthy can’t be yummy?

 

All you need is:

Half a cup chia seeds

4 tablespoonfuls of brown sugar

2 tablespoonfuls of cocoa powder

1 cup coconut milk

 

How to make it:

Mix the sugar, milk and cocoa powder together and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the chia seeds and mix. Put the mixture in a glass pot or jar, cover it with foil and leave it in the fridge for at least 4 hours or leave it overnight. When serving, you can decorate with fruit of your own choice.

 

January Workshop: We Will Rock You, 2017!

 

Just a quick reminder that Natascha’s last workshop will be on 7th January. If you fancy kicking off the New Year with a rock and roll flow to the tunes of Queen, please make sure you book your spot. Bring your high heels and funkiest leggings!  After class we will head to Carluccio’s for some farewell drinks!

Breath is the Best Present Posted By Yana Armenova Tue 6th December 2016

BREATH IS THE BEST PRESENT

December is my favourite month of the year. I love the festive spirit and the Christmas euphoria. But it is called euphoria for a reason. Although all the preparation and waiting for Christmas is so very exciting, it is also very exhausting and oftentimes stressful. Amidst the chaos of visiting friends and relatives, buying presents and overeating, it is important to realize that the best present you can give yourself this Christmas (and every other day) is your breath.

 It is scientifically proven that lengthening our exhales calms the nervous system. A long exhale decreases the heart rate, lowers the blood pressure and releases tension in the muscles. So if you are overexcited by your Christmas presents, remember to breathe. If you start panicking at the thought of spending time with annoying nagging relatives, remember to breathe. If the demands of Christmas are too much for you, once again, breathe!

On our festive mats this month we will concentrate on longer exhales that will help us regain our inner peace and some deep release postures to open the hips and combat stress.

 

How to Focus on Your Breath:

 

Count Your Breaths

Count your inhales and exhales. Focusing on your breath and counting each inhale and exhale is the simplest and most effective way of connecting to yourself and the present. Give it a try - at work, on the way home, wherever you are and whenever you can. You have the tools – your mind and your breath.

Breathe Like a Baby

Anytime you feel overwhelmed or stressed, just do the most natural and instinctive thing that babies do – breathe from your tummy. On inhale, expand your stomach, on exhale empty the stomach of all air. Repeat as many times as you need to regain your calm. Babies do it, you can do it too!

 

3-Part Breath

 The 3-part yogic breath uses three parts of the abdomen. It is a nourishing and calming breathing technique that can make you feel more present and more alive by connecting you to the present. The first position of the 3-part yogic breath is the lower abdomen below the belly button, the second position is the lower half of the rib cage, and the third position is the low throat just above the top of the sternum. The breath is continuous, inhaled and exhaled through the nose. The inhalation starts in the first position, the lower abdomen. Then it moves to the second position, the low chest; then to the third position, the low throat. The exhalation starts in the low throat, moves to the low chest, and finishes in the lower abdomen.

 

Asana of the Month: Hanumanasana

By far one of the most challenging poses that tests the flexibility of our legs and hips, Hanumanasana is a very deep posture that brings with itself the potential to release built-up tension in the hips, stretch the hamstrings and improve circulation in the legs. Hanumanasana can also be seen as a Yin pose where we gradually open up and surrender to the earth. When practicing splits, it is important to apply the principle of non-violence (ahimsa). Respect your body’s boundaries and slowly but steadily progress into the pose and feel the magnificent release it can offer.

 

Hanumanasana: The Story Behind the Pose

Rama (who we know from the story behind pigeon pose) was an Indian king whose wife was kidnapped by the evil Ravana. Rama set off on a journey to save his wife and on the way he met Hanuman who became his best friend and promised to help Rama fight Ravana. Hanuman was a very devoted friend and when Rama’s brother was wounded in a battle and  about to die, Hanuman went on a search for a special herb that could cure Rama’s brother. The herb could only be found in the Himalayas but they didn’t have enough time to go there and come back. So Hanuman made a giant leap and stretched from southern India to the Himalayas to get the precious herb. He was capable of accomplishing this impossible task because he was driven by his devotion to Rama. This epic leap of superhuman physical strength and complete devotion is embodied in Hanumanasana.

When you practice the splits, think about the story behind and the connotations that come with it. The pose is asking for a lot more than a mere stretch of the legs.  It requires you to expand and open to an extent that at first seems impossible. But with devotion and commitment to the practice, we can achieve the impossible.

 

Hanumanasana Preparation:

Before attempting an intense stretch like Hanumanasana, it is important to warm up the body and the legs in particular.

 

Do a couple of round of sun-salutations

 

Do Reverse Triangle and Pyramid pose on both sides to wake up the hamstrings

 

Wild Thing, Half-Moon and Reverse Half-Moon to bring some oxygen to the legs and hips

 

Pigeon Pose to open the hips

 

Half-splits to prepare the body for the pose to come.

 

 

Hanumanasana Step-By-Step:

 

To enter the pose, kneel on the left knee and place the right foot about 30 cm in front of the left knee.

 

Frame your right foot with your hands and gently slide the right foot forward. Try to support your weight with your hands in the process.

 

Straighten both legs and move the right foot as far forward and the back foot as far backward as possible without experiencing any pain.

 

In the full expression of the pose, the pelvic floor and the legs rest on the ground in one line.

 

January Workshop: The Show Must Go On

Natascha’s last workshop before she sets off on her Caribbean adventure will be Sat 7 January 2017.  Expect a dynamic practice to the tunes of Queen to celebrate the New Year in style. You are welcome to dress up or put on your most flamboyant leggings for this one-of-a-kind rock yoga workshop. After class, we will head to Carluccio’s for a small get-together to wish Natascha good luck in her future endeavours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Feet Posted By Yana Armenova Tue 1st November 2016

HAPPY FEET

With the end of British Summer Time comes the inevitable early darkness of November. We can choose to feel nostalgic about summer and the early warm autumn days or embrace the change of season and celebrate by indulging in everything that November has on offer for us. Hot chocolate, warm soups, herbal teas, mountain yoga retreats, scented candles…What’s not to like?

Mid-autumn is the perfect time to get grounded and shed everything that we don’t need to transition into the colder season. Just like the trees that shed their leaves, we will shed the nostalgia away and focus on our roots - our feet! What better way to get grounded than dedicating some special time to our feet that support us and carry us throughout our whole life. We often neglect our feet and take for granted everything they do for us. But this month we will show them some appreciation and love with massage ideas, asanas and some Ayurvedic treatments.

Zeller Yoga Retreat:

Our lovely Natascha certainly knows how to celebrate autumn in style. You can find her next week in the Swiss Alps helping people find inner warmth and peace in Hamilton Lodge. If you fancy practising yoga with altitude, check out Natascha’s retreat section on her website for more information. More retreat dates to be announced shortly. Watch this space!

Asana of the Month: Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

Inspired by the majestic Swiss Alps and the mountainous splendour that surrounds Natascha’s retreat, our asana of the month will be Tree Pose. This grounding balancing asana lets you feel the support you get from the earth through your feet. Rather than sinking into your standing leg, push yourself away from the ground and feel the energy that runs from the ground through your foot and into your leg. Use that energy to firm the standing leg and engage all of your muscles. This leg is your support. Then lift your other leg and place the sole of your foot on the inner thigh above the knee of the standing leg. Imagine that the sole of the bent leg and the standing leg are two opposing forces, the sole of the foot is pushing into the thigh and the thigh is pushing against the foot. They create resistance that provides stability and a sense of grounding. To maintain the tree balance for longer, you can do a simple exercise that will increase the grounding surface of your foot and help you distribute your weight evenly.

Intertwined Toes:

Before attempting any sort of balance, you need to prepare your feet. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position and bring the soles of your feet together. Think of how you intertwine the fingers of your hands in various asanas like Humble Warrior or when you give your body a full body stretch.
Now try to do the same with your toes. Intertwine your toes and gently cup your feet with your hands and hold for 10 breaths. Don’t worry if a toe or two slip out of the bind. All it takes is practice. By having your toes intertwined, you gently massage the inner sides of your toes and expand their grounding surface which can significantly improve your balance. Release after 10 breaths and intertwine the opposite toes. Now you are ready for any balance that comes your way.

 

Tree Pose with a Side Stretch

 If you feel confident with Tree Pose and are up for a balance challenge, you can try to do the following tree pose variation that provides a very juicy side stretch. Remember that tree pose in all its variations is also a hip-openeing posture that releases negativity and tension that we might have accumulated in the hips. When practicing, always encourage the bent knee to open a tiny bit more to the side to get that extra hip opening feeling.

 From a tree pose, raise the same arm as the grounding leg up and let the other arm come along your side. Tilt the torso slightly towards the bent knee and keep the top arm over your ear. One arm is pulling you down towards the earth while the other is taking you to the side, stretching the obliques (number 3 from right to left in the picture).

Tree Pose: The Story Behind the Asana

With the recent celebration of Diwali and the beginning of the Indian New Year, the story  behind tree pose rings more relevant than ever. Rama and Sita were married.  The evil many-headed Ravana saw Sita one day and kidnapped her to be his wife. Sita, however, refused to be his wife and did not spend even a single day in his palace. Ravana tried to tempt her with his power and riches but Sita was unyielding. She told him she was Rama’s wife and would never belong to anyone else. Ravana threatened her that he would ask her to be his wife every single day for a year and if she said no after a year, he would eat her up.

Sita slept outside Ravana’s castle in a grove of ashoka trees guarded by Ravana’s evil witches who tried to break Sita down psychologically. Ashoka trees are a symbol of love in Indian culture and Sita leaned on the ahsoka tree breathing deeply and thinking only of Rama. The evil witches kept terrorizing her with their words and trying to persuade her to become Ravana’s wife. But Sita’s attention was entirely focused on Rama. Every single part of her being was saying “Rama, find me. Rama. Rama!”. Her words and her thoughts transferred to the ashoka trees that sent Rama’s name in the atmosphere.

In the meantime, Rama had joined forced with Hanuman who could fly and assume any form that he liked. Rama sent him to Ravana’s castle to find Sita in the form of a tiny monkey.

One day Sita  heard the words “Rama”, “Rama”, “Rama” coming from the trees. She saw Hanuman was holding Rama’s rings and followed him to her freedom and her Rama.

Drawing from the energy of the trees Sita survived the difficult times. With the help of nature she found focus and stability to concentrate on what was important in her life (Rama) and wait patiently until she was set free.

 Feet Positioning

In yoga classes we often hear various instructions like put your foot at 45/90 degree angle, bring your toes to touch, don’t roll to one side of the foot, etc. At first all these instructions can be very confusing but the underlying principle behind correct foot positioning in yoga is to use the whole surface of the foot and distribute our weight evenly between all four corners of our feet. When faced with a more challenging asana, we automatically start to overcompensate by putting too much pressure on one side of the foot which can lead to injuries. For example, in Humble Warrior and Warrior 2 I always put pretty much all of my weight on the front foot while the back foot is simply resting. As a result, I found both postures really tiring and straining my leg so much so that I had to back off from those poses for a while. Once I reconsidered my stance and put some weight on the back leg and foot as well, it felt a lot more comfortable and manageable.  It is also important in those two specific poses to think about the whole foot. People tend to roll over the arches of the back foot in Humble Warrior which is basically asking for an injury. Just remember that yoga is about balance and this is even more so when it comes to distributing your weight evenly between both feet and using the whole soles of the feet, not just the inner or outer edge. Be a self-reflective yogi and think about your stance and your feet will thank you for that.

Partner Up Using Your Feet

Yoga is an individual practice but when you do it in a class it is ok to do it together sometimes. Because yoga is always more fun when we do it together. Our feet can be invaluable helpers when it comes to partner yoga.  They can provide support not only to us but to our yoga partneras well!  Next time you feel playful, why don’t you try this Camel Partner Yoga Trick:

Your partner is kneeling with their back to you while you are on the floor behind them. Gently place one foot at the base of the neck and one foot at the lower back and let your partner ease into the backbend. Your feet are providing an invaluable support to your partner who can go as deep as they want in this gentle backbend.

Massaging Your Feet:

Your feet carry you throughout your whole life. That is the reason why it is important to give them some special attention and say thank you for everything they do for us. The simplest and easiest thing we can do before bedtime is massage our feet with oil (any oil is good).  Massaging the feet soothes the nervous system and improves sleep. Give yourself a nice foot rub and when doing so remember that our feet contain 84,000 nerve endings that connect to all the reflex zones of the body. Also all the energy channels in our bodies meet in our feet. So looking after our feet is of paramount importance. Choose the right breathable shoes and when at home let your feet feel the ground and breathe.

 How to Fight Cramps:

If you pratise sports, you have probably experienced cramps. Cramps are uncontrolled spasms in the muscles that usually occur after many repetitions of the same movement or after prolonged periods of wearing high-heels. Sometimes they occur even when you are lying in bed. To cope with and prevent cramps it is important that you:

  • Massage your legs and feet with oil to encourage circulation
  • Drink your water with a pinch of salt and lemon when the cramps attack
  • Eat potassium-rich foods like pineapple, bananas, almonds and sunflower seeds
  • Keep warm to avoid excessive contraction

Source: Ayurveda for Dummies. Angela Hope-Muray. 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Winter Treatment for Tired Feet and Heads Full of Cold

We are entering the season of colds. The best way to treat a cold might be through your feet. The extra perk is that your feet get pampered too!

Soak your feet for 10-15 min in a solution of hot water and Epsom salts.  By warming the feet you warm the whole body and all internal organs. The Epsom salts decrease inflammation, improve circulation, relieve stress and detoxify the body. They heal foot infections and fungus and soften and deodorise the feet. Epsom salts are also rich in magnesium that can be absorbed though the feet and reduce cramps! This is one magic home remedy I would definitely try this winter!

Inner Calm, Silent Strength Posted By Yana Armenova Sat 1st October 2016

INNER CALM, SILENT STRENGTH

This October our blog is coming to a full cycle marking one year of inspiration and tips about healthy lifestyles and all things yoga. To celebrate we have some exciting news and events up our sleeve. Our lovely Natascha has bid farewell to flying and is ready to embrace yoga as a full-time career. As a result, you can spot her (and me!) at the OM YOGA SHOW at Alexandra Palace from 21- 23 October representing the Body Holiday St. Lucia. Come and say hello! You will be treated to a delicious practice exploring your yin and yang side.

For our birthday month, our blog will be dedicated to finding inner calm and silent strength within our practice - the philosophy underlying all of Natascha's classes. We will reduce the pace and develop steady strength with longer holds and deeper breaths. We will turn into warriors drawing stength from our roots and reaching into the future with steady breath and strong focus.

 Asana of the Month: Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

Warrior I is one of the foundation poses in yoga. Although it looks simple and straghforward at first glance, there is a lot going on.  The asana is perfect for strengthening the upper and lower body.

To enter the pose,  gently step 4 feet back with your right foot from Tadasana and ground it at 45 degrees. Rotate your torso and hips towards the left and square your hips as much as you can with the front of the mat.

Reach your arms up, parallel to each other. Be strong and active through the arms reaching up  towards the ceiling.

On an exhale bend your left knee over your left shin so that the thigh is parallel to the floor.

Ground through your back leg and reach up high with your arms. Feel the lift starting from your back leg running through your belly and chest and ending in your arms. You can look up towards your thumbs. Stay for 5-7 breaths and repeat on the other side.

The Story Behind the Asana: Virabhadra The Warrior

Warriors are often mentioned in yoga texts. They can all be seen as spiritual warriors who fight against the human ego. In Warrior I we look for support from the ground and we reach up through our arms to our potential thus being enouraged to explore the tools we have got to deconstruct the harmful sides of our ego.

The asana is named after the warrior Virabhadra who comes out of one of the classic tales about Shiva.  Lord Shiva marries Sati but her father  Daksha disapproves of Shiva. To demonstarte his dislike, Daksha organises a party but does not invite Shiva and Sati. Sati is really offended so she decides to go to the party nevertheless to show how much she loves Shiva but this does not change her father's opinion.

Sita is devastated and decides to end her relationship with her family and her life. She falls into deep meditation and creates such strong inner fire that she burns to death.

Shiva is grief-stricken. He tears his hair out and out of his hair Virabhadra manifests himself. He kills Sita's father but after the murder Shiva regrets what he has done. He summons Virabhadra back into his body and brings Daksha back to life. Now that he is alive again, Daksha has changed his mind and even calls Shiva the kind and benevolent one. Sati is reincarnated  and comes back to life as Parvati. (check September's blog post about her story).

A Grounding Mudra for Inner Calm Within the Storm: Bhumisparsha Mudra

In line with our theme of grounding and developing strength, we will look at Bhumusparsha Mudra (Earth Witness) that will help you regain your centre when life gets too overwhelming. Sit in a comforatble cross-legged position. The right arm hangs down the right knee, the palm of the hand turned inward and the fingers touching the ground. The left arm is on the left knee with the palm facing the ceiling. The right arm is rooting us down while the left hand is keeping us open to new possibilities. The mudra represents a balance between grounding and being able to let the new come in. Close your eyes and stay in the mudra for at leats 10 breaths.

 

OCTOBER YOGA CHALLENGE

We have stirred up a Yoga Challenge to keep you active in the first two weeks of October. The challenge will incorporate everything we have talked about in the last two months including arm balances and flows and it will serve as a taster of what you can expect from Natascha at the OM YOGA SHOW.

Instead of  concentrating on individual postures each day, we will look at building up vinyasa strength through a combination of asanas. You can incorporate the sequences in your home practice after a couple of rounds of sun salutations  and you can share them with the yoga community on Instagram. To take part in the challenge, follow @zelleryoga and don't forget to tag her when you post your interpretation of vinyasa strength #OctoberVinyasaStrength.

 

 

THE OM YOGA SHOW

A weekend of yoga at a gorgeous location at the heart of London. That's what the Om Yoga Show is all about. You will find incredible workshops, lectures, classes and demonstrations at Alexandra Palace, London on 21st, 22nd and 23rd of October. The date to save in your dairy is Sat 22nd October when Natascha will be leading 2 amazing classes at 2.30-3.30pm and at 4.45-5.45 pm. Expect 30 minutes of Vinyasa Flow followed by 30 minutes of Restorative. Natascha will be teaching on behalf of the BodyHoliday in St. Lucia and she will recreate the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere of The Treehouse Yoga Studio. Can't wait to see you there! For more information, please visit: http://www.omyogashow.com/london/organizer/natascha-zeller/

 

 

 

Side Plank Demystified Posted By Yana Armenova Wed 31st August 2016

   

SIDE PLANK DEMYSTIFIED

If you’ve practised yoga for a while, you have definitely tried arm balances. They are graceful, they are inspiring and they are hard to master. Their challenging nature makes most people either love or hate them. But when broken down to little approachable steps, arm balances become less intimidating.

The three basic things we need to develop to start making progress with any arm balance are strength, flexibility and mobility.  Add open-mindedness and willingness to explore your boundaries and arm balances won’t stand a chance!

Arm balances come in many shapes and variations. This September we will explore the family of side planks. We will look at four different variations of side plank that will suit different abilities and discuss how to approach each one in a safe and fun way.

Asana of the Month: Side Plank (Vasisthasana)

Side plank works the whole body. It is great for building strength in the arms, shoulders and wrists. It tests the core and engages the hips. Before venturing into Vasisthasana, it is paramount to understand the foundation of the pose.

To create a stable and solid foundation, we need to place the grounding hand slightly in front of the shoulder. In this way, it is easier to balance and support the structure of the pose for longer. The elbow crease of the grounding arm should face the thumb. To enter the pose, come into plank, ground the right hand slightly in front of the shoulder, turn the elbow crease to face the thumb, roll onto the blade of your right foot, put left foot on top of right, lift the hips and extend the left arm up. Repeat on the other side.

Supported Side Plank

To execute side plank without losing balance and falling over takes some practice. If you are new to side planks, it is best to ease into the pose by starting with supported side plank and getting a feel for the pose.

From plank, roll onto the blade of your right foot and instead of stacking the left one on top of the right, just bend the knee and place the top leg in front of you.

Side Plank With Extended Leg

 

If you feel comfortable in side plank and are ready to experiment with the pose and your balance, bend the knee of the top stacked leg, grab hold of the big toe with your peace fingers and extend your leg towards the sky. The pose requires great mental focus, flexibility in the hips and stretchy hamstrings.

 

Side Plank with Bent Knee (Kapinjalasana)

For those who can easily do side plank and side plank with extended leg, the next step is to incorporate a backbend within the balance. This pose is a double challenge and requires significant preparation before attempting it.  We need to warm up the spine for a powerful backbend, stretch our quads and create mobility in the hips. A good way to get the feeling for the pose is by first attempting Dancer’s pose and Half Moon with bent knee because they replicate the structure of Kapinjalasana.

 

To enter the pose, roll onto the blade of your right foot, stack the left leg on top of the right and bend the left knee. Move the foot towards your buttocks, rotate your arm internally and grab hold of the foot. Push your pelvis forward while reaching back for your foot bringing the foot closer to your head. Ground the bottom foot flat on the mat for extra elevation in the hips. To come out, you can flip the dog or return to side plank. Repeat on the other side.

 

How to prepare the body for Side Plank and Its Variations

 

Fire up your core with Boat Pose and Half Boat Pose.

Stretch your hamstrings with  Supine Splits, Forward Fold and Wide-Legged Forward Fold.

Open the hips with Pigeon and Lizard Pose.

Test your Balance with Half Moon and Hand-To-Big-Toe pose.

 

The Story Behind the Asana: Pigeon Pose

Pigeon pose is a superb hip-opener that once mastered can unlock a lot of the more challenging poses including the advanced variations of side plank. But there is more to the pose than its physical benefits.

 Last month we looked at the story behind Dancer’s pose and the meaning behind Shiva’s dance. This month we will look at the deeper meaning of pigeon pose – a fascinating story that revolves around Shiva again.

 Shiva the immortal God was married to a mortal woman called Parvati. She kept growing old and dying and being born again, waiting to find Shiva. She didn’t like being separated from her husband so she asked him to show her the secret of immortality.

Shiva agreed but he didn’t want anyone else to know the secret so he took his wife to a far-away cave. He told her the mantra of immortality and fell into deep Samadhi (full spiritual absorption). Parvati was exhausted and fell asleep. Despite all of Shiva’s precautions to keep the mantra secret, there were two pigeon eggs in the cave. The pigeons hatched and as they started to coo, Shiva thought at first it was Parvatti making the cooing sound. He reproached her for falling asleep but Parvatti claimed that she could concentrate better with her eyes closed. Then Shiva looked around and saw the pigeons.  They learned  the secret to immortality but they were said to have remained in the cave preserving Shiva’s secret.

 The implications behind this story might be that practicing pigeon pose can take you one step closer to immortality or rather longevity by keeping your hips open and mobile. On an emotional level pigeon pose can bring release from built up negativity, stress and emotional turmoil.

Source: https://yogainternational.com/article/view/the-mythology-behind-pigeon-pose

 

Moving Meditation Posted By Yana Armenova Mon 1st August 2016

Moving Meditation

In the heat of the summer, our internal energy wants to mimic what is happening outside. There is more light, more sunshine, more warmth wherever you look. We don’t want to stand still. We refuse to stay inside. Our inner child is awake and wants to take in everything summer has on offer. We want to run, dance and play with the rhythm of nature. With that intention in mind, we will move and breathe in synchronicity on the mat, creating inner warmth in our moving meditation connecting to ourselves and the universal energy.

Intention: Staying Present

One of the aims of yoga as moving meditation is to provide focus for the mind to stay present. It is easy to start listening to the myriads of thoughts that run through our head every second. If we listen to those thoughts, we live either in the past or the future and we often miss out on being right here and now. To allow the mind to savour the present moment, we concentrate on the rhythm of our breath.  On the mat we synchronise each movement we make with our breath thus engaging in a moving meditation that clears the mind and provides focus for our practice. The yoga practice that follows this philosophy is called a vinyasa flow.

Asana of the Month: Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana)

Our peak pose this month represents beautifully the very essence of a dynamic summer practice. It captures the playfulness our bodies naturally want to engage into in the warmer months. It stretches the legs and bends the spine for a juicy boost of energy. It tests our balance and calls for a single focus on our breath. Natarajasana is the Lord of the Dance pose. It is the ultimate expression of rhythmic movement in the universe.

To enter the pose, first come to the top of your mat.

Root down your right leg and bend your left knee. Left knee is pointing down to the ground while the left foot touches your buttocks.

Grab hold of the outside of your left foot with your left hand.

Really firm and engage the standing leg.

Find your drishti (focus point).

Inhale and lift your left leg up as high as you can, gently bending the spine. As you lift the leg, you can slightly lean forward with your right arm extended in front of you , thumb and index finger touching in  Gyan mudra (mudra of knowledge). You are attempting to create a U shape with your raised leg and your torso.

Hold for 5 breaths.

Release the leg on an exhale.

Origin of Natarajasana: Shiva’s Dance (Nataraja)

The source of all movement,
Shiva's dance,
Gives rhythm to the universe.
He dances in evil places,
In sacred,
He creates and preserves,
Destroys and releases.

We are part of this dance
This eternal rhythm,
And woe to us if, blinded
By illusions,
We detach ourselves
From the dancing cosmos,
This universal harmony…

 Ruth Peel

Nataraja is one of the names of the Hindu God Shiva. Nata means “dance” and raj means “king”. Nataraj is the lord of the dance. Shiva is dancing a dance of destruction preparing the earth for renewal and new beginnings. It symbolizes the rhythmic cycle of creation and destruction, birth and death.  The iconographic representation of Shiva’s dance is an allegory  of  life and the way the universal energy moves in a cycle of creation and destruction.

Source: http://hinduism.about.com/od/lordshiva/p/nataraj.htm

 

How to flow into Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana):

Warm up the body with three Sun Salutations A and  three Sun Salutations B.

Lie on the floor, hug your knees into your chest and release the knees to the right, head turns to the left, arms in a T-shape. Repeat on the other side.

Come back to centre and release feet on the floor. Make sure you can touch your feet. Lift gently into bridge. Hold for 5 breaths.

In bridge pose raise one leg up and hold for 3 breaths. Release.  Repeat with the other leg.

Come to seated for  Baddha Konasana. Breathe for 3 breaths.

Come to downward facing dog and extend one leg up into three-legged dog and then the other.

From downward dog come to a low lunge on each side.

Extend the legs and bend forward for a pyramid pose on each side to stretch the hamstrings.

Come to lying on  the floor in prone position and raise your legs and arms for Locust pose.

Grab hold of your right foot with your right  hand for Ardha Dhanurasana (half - bow pose), left forearm grounding down. Repeat on the other side.

Come to Tadasana ( mountain pose) and flow into Natarajasana (Dancer’s pose)

Dare to Care: Easy Peasy Vegan Ice Cream

 This month our Dare to Care section is a very yummy one. To create inner heat and flow in rhythm with your own breath, we need energy. To refuel and cool down after a sweaty vinyasa class, why don’t you try our vegan ice cream recipe that takes 10 minutes to prepare.

Peel two bananas and freeze them. Once ready, turn them into a paste with your blender/mixer and add a handful of cashew nuts (finely chopped in advance). Blend the cashew nuts and the bananas to get the thick creamy consistency of ice-cream. Then add a handful of your favourite berries and mix once again for a deliciously smooth and fruity ice cream that is dairy-free and good not only for you but for the environment too.

 

We Are All One Energy Posted By Yana Armenova Sun 3rd July 2016

We Are All One Energy

 

A yogi is not the person who can perfect the postures.

The true yogi is the one who can see himself in the heart of all beings and all beings in his heart

                                                                                                                                  Unknown

 

When we practise on the mat, we try to synchronise our breath to our movements, our mind to our breath and our whole being to the universe. The universal energy is within us and we are within the universe. Illness, sedentary lifestyles and bad diet can form blockages in our bodies that stop the free flow of energy and cause imbalances. To regain balance and become more attuned to the universal within us, we need to work on the blockages and balance our energy centres, or chakras.

In the heat (or rain in the UK) of the summer, we will look at the energy centres and channels in our bodies and explore how a greater awareness of their existence can benefit our wellbeing.

 

Asana of the Month: Rabbit Pose ( Sasangasana)

Rabbit pose can be called a semi-inversion as it offers a lot of the benefits that come with headstand and shoulderstand yet you are not entirely upside down. Rabbit pose stretches the neck and calms the nervous system hence the pose is a superb exercise before bedtime. It also massages the third eye (Ajna Chakra) which is the centre of intuition and inner wisdom.

To awaken your intuition and stretch your neck and upper back in rabbit pose, begin in a kneeling position hip-width distance apart. Grab hold of your heels thumbs facing out, tuck your chin towards your chest and lean forward until your forehead touches the floor. Massage gently the third eye and then roll onto the crown of your head. Broaden your shoulders and do not put all the pressure on the head to avoid neck strains. Hold for a couple of breaths and release.

 

The Nadis

The life energy (prana) flows in the body through three main channels:

Ida – this is the left feminine side of the body associated with the moon and the sympathetic nervous system

Pingala – this is the right masculine side of the body associated with the sun and the parasympathetic nervous system

Shushumna - this is the central energy channel between Ida and Pingala that runs through the spinal cord and is associated with consciousness and the central nervous system.

When the prana in Ida and Pingala is balanced, it starts to flow in the Shushumna which is the basis for meditation. There are 7 main energy centres along the Shushumna that are called chakras.

 

The Chakras

 The seven main chakras are located along the shushumna energy channel starting from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. The chakras are energy balls that correspond to vital organs. They contain bundles of nerves and reflect our psychological, emotional and spiritual state. The chakras need to be kept open and fluid so that the prana can circulate freely. Otherwise the energy will stagnate and imbalances and diseases will follow.

 

Sahasrara

 This is the crown chakra located at the crown of the head. It is associated with enlightenment and deep spiritual connection with ourselves, the world around us and the divine.  Physical signs that the crown chakra is out of balance include: fatigue, sensitivity to light, apathy, fear, lack of purpose. To balance Sahasrara chakra  engage in balancing asanas like Tree or Eagle pose.

 

Ajna

This is the third eye chakra located between the eyebrows responsible for our intuition. Opening and balancing the Ajna chakra helps us develop a better awareness of our intuition. The physical signs that the third eye chakra is out of balance include: headaches, learning disabilities, eye problems, depression. To balance Ajna chakra, asanas like child’s pose or rabbit’s pose should be incorporated in your practice.

 

Vishuddha

This chakra is located at the level of the throat. This is the chakra of communication, creativity and truthfulness. The physical signs indicating imbalance in this chakra include: sore throat, stiff neck, hearing problems, teeth problems. To balance Vishuddha chakra, do more plough and bridge poses as well as fish pose to open the throat area.

 

Anahata

This chakra is located at the heart centre and serves as a connection between the  lower chakras of matter and the upper chakras of spirit. The Anahata chakra is our source of love, compassion and forgiveness. When imbalanced, people suffer from upper back an shoulder problems, asthma, heart conditions. To balance Anahata chakra, incorporat more camel pose, upward facing dog and fish pose in your practice.

 

 

Manipura

This chakra is located at the solar plexus from the navel to the breast bone and it is a source of personal power, stamina and sense of belonging. When imbalanced, people suffer from stomach problems, diabetes, arthritis, low blood pressure. To balance the Manipura charka, do more boat pose and sun salutation to create inner heat.

 

Svadhishthana

This chakra is located above the pubic bone and below the navel and it is the source of our sexual energy, procreation and creativity. When imbalanced, lower back pain, poor digestion, hormonal imbalances and menstrual problems arise. To open the chakra, do more hip opening poses like bound angle pose and wide-legged seated forward bends.

 

Muladhara

This chakra is located at the base of the spine between the anus and the genitals. This chakra is responsible for our basic needs. When out of balance, it leads to constipation, poor sleep, obesity and easting disorders. To open the chakra, incorporate mountain pose, warrior and side-angle pose in your practice.

 

Source: http://www.gaia.com/article/7-chakras-what-you-need-know

             http://www.chopra.com/ccl/what-is-a-chakra

 

Dare to Care:

Each individual choice that we make in our lives has a particular effect on the world around us. To make the world a better place and eliminate cruelty to all living beings, it is important to make well informed choices. To do that, be curious.  Learn about the place of origin of the products you use. Know the stories behind your mascara and your jeans. Say no animal testing and child labour. Be informed, make the right choices and turn the world into a happier fear-free place. We are all one energy, we all deserve to live in a cruelty-free world.

 

Achieving Lightness Posted By Yana Armenova Fri 3rd June 2016

In the summer months to come our yoga practice will be focused on building stamina and increasing our performance in high-intensity sports such as running and cycling. Yoga can be a perfect complement to our training routines as it can relieve the soreness and stiffness that result from hours of running or cycling. But we need to bear in mind that as beneficial as it is, lengthening and stretching our muscles is often not enough to prepare us for marathons and other physically demanding challenges. To prepare efficiently for a running or a cycling marathon, we need to be aware of the inner workings of our bodies. Our bodies are extremely complex and well developed machines that can be as efficient as we want them to be as long as we are aware of the parts and processes that keep them moving. Hence this month we will look at achieving lightness in our bodies and minds through breathing techniques and bandha engagement. Because when we achieve lightness in body and mind, we are strong, fast and focused and nothing can stop us from meeting our fullest potential.

Intention: Selfless Practice (Karma Yoga)

In order to receive in life, we often need to give first. This practice is reflected in the very essence of our existence - our breath. To inhale, we first need to exhale. Whatever we are up to in life, dedicating our energy to someone else will lead to greater fulfillment and inner peace. In the context of our theme of marathon training, the long hours of running and preparation can be physically draining and mentally straining. By dedicating our practice to a loved one or someone dear to us, we immediately add extra motivation and meaning to the long hours of running. A selfless practice is the best motivation you can get to get you through a marathon or any challenge that you are facing at the moment.

The Three Bandhas

To run a marathon, you need immense strength and stamina. To develop those, excessive running and leg work in the gym will not be enough.  In the human body there are three main energy locks (bandhas) that engaged properly at the right time can lead to great lightness in your step, prevent injuries and channel the energy flow in the right direction.

The word “bandha” means “to lock”. When we execute a bandha, we lock certain areas of the torso in a particular way and we help the body fight the law of gravity. From the day we are born, we work towards pushing ourselves away from the ground. Concentrating our life energy (prana) in the right places, we achieve lightness in the body. Lightness leads to more graceful and controlled movements, proper engagement of muscles and less strain on joints as well as greater awareness of the way our bodies work.

Jalandhara Bandha (Throat Lock)

To activate the throat lock, we need to lift and straighten the spine. Then we pull back the head a little and make sure the neck is stretched. Then we lower the chin. As long as the chin is down and the back is straight, we are in Jalandhara Bandha. The throat lock stimulates the thyroid which balances the regulation of hormones.

Uddiyana Bandha (Upward Flying Lock)

Only when we have mastered Jalandhara Bandha, should we attempt Uddiyana Bandha. To activate it, we need to contract the abdomen on exhalation. By the end of the exhalation, the abdomen should be fully contracted, drawn up and back toward the spine. With this contraction the diaphragm rises. When the bandha is mastered, the navel moves toward the spine and the rectal and back muscles contract. At the completion of Uddiyana Bandha the whole abdominal area is hollow. After the practice of Uddiyana Bandha, we must remember to relax slowly the abdomen. Otherwise, we might experience a choking feeling.

The benefits of Uddiyana Bandha include toning the abdominal muscles, pushing out the stale air left in the lungs and giving us the ability to fly in challenging asanas like arm balances.

Mula Bandha (Root Lock)

Mula Bandha develops out of Uddiyana Bandha. We release the upper abdomen and diaphragm but maintain the contraction in the lower abdomen. The area below the navel remains contracted while the area above it is released. We move from Uddiyana Bandha into Mula Bandha holding the breath after the exhalation for both. We can maintain Mula Bandha during the following breaths, even while inhaling.

Mula Bandha is beneficial for the pelvic floor muscles. It supports and tones the internal organs in the lower abdominal cavity.

Important: Do not use bandhas throughout the entire asana practice. Bandhas are best practised under the supervision of a teacher.

Source: The Heart of Yoga.1995. T.K.V. Desikachar

Pranayama: Ujjayi Breath (Victorious Breath)

Our Prana (breath) is our Life Energy. When engaging in high intensity aerobic activities like running and cycling, it is important to keep the life energy within the body. By keeping the prana within, we are able to last longer in any sort of strenuous activity. All you have to do to conserve your energy is to breathe through your nose. Not your mouth!

One of the breathing techniques used to energise and simultaneously relax the body is the so called Ujjayi Breath. To get started, inhale deeply through the nose and then exhale very slowly through the nose constricting the muscles at the back of your throat. It is like trying to fog up a mirror but with your mouth closed.

Ujjayi breath improves respiratory efficiency and reduces fatigue. Even Olympic athletes are said to use Ujjayi breath in their training. No wonder, ujjayi breath also calms your nerves and helps you focus.

 Yoga Challenge

For the month of June ZellerYoga is hosting a yoga challenge for runners and cyclists. If you need that little bit of extra motivation to get on the mat after a long run, please do check out the challenge on Instagram @Zelleryoga, Facebook/Zelleryoga and on the website www.zelleryoga.com.

Follow the daily asanas and post a photo of you sharing your practice with the world. Make sure you tag @zelleryoga  @great_run and @savethechildren

 

Giving Something Back

Natascha is running The Great North Run in September for the charity Save the Children. Lets show our support by sponsoring her for her amazing cause at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NataschaZeller

 

Back to Basics Posted By Yana Armenova Sun 1st May 2016

 

"Simplicity is the key to brilliance"

                                                                                                            Bruce Lee

With the London marathon just gone and spring in full swing, more and more people are out and about running, cycling and playing outside. It is easy to get active with the warm weather and the long bank holiday weekends ahead but it is also easy to push yourself beyond your limit and get an injury. In the general excitement of winter being finally over, we tend to forget our bodies are a bit rusty from the long months of reduced physical activity and need a bit of adjustment and warming up before jumping into marathon training.

To avoid injuries and get ready for months full of running, climbing and cycling, we will look at how the practice of yoga can complement high intensity sports by reducing the occurrence of injuries and maximising your performance.

Intention:  Simplicity

 This month we are going back to basics. No fancy arm balances or inversion. As a matter of fact, the “simple” and “basic” asanas are the foundation we need to master before we approach more advanced asanas.  We will stop and look in detail at postures that we tend to do automatically in sun salutations A and B. We consider them “simple” and “easy” but in fact there is so much going on in mountain pose, forward fold, plank and cobra that I would hardly describe them as easy. But once mastered with correct alignment and engagement, those poses will develop and build the stamina, strength and flexibility we need to approach backbends, inversions and balances.

Asana of the Month: Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

In a regular yoga class, we do forward folds at least 10 times. Yet do we ever stop and think about the mechanics of the body in this pose? Do we pay attention to the muscles engaged? Do we breathe or hold our breath in this deceptively “easy” pose? Or do we use it only as a transition without staying in  the asana long enough to feel the benefits it brings?

In its simplest variation a standing forward fold brings release to  the back,  shoulders and neck. It engages the abdominal muscles by bringing the torso closer to the legs and it stretches and lengthens the hamstrings bringing relief from the long sitting or running (both can shorten the hamstrings). Next time you do a forward fold, just stay there and explore the sensations it brings.

To enter the pose, from a standing position bend forward from the hips, lengthen the torso and bring it closer to your legs. Place the palms next to your feet if possible. With each inhale lengthen the back and with each exhale bring the torso closer to the legs. Let the head hang heavy,

Yoga Stretches to Up Your Game in Running and Cycling

Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): 

This iconic asana is perfect pre- and post- running stretch. It wakes up all major muscles in the body, elongates the spine and provides a deep stretch for the hamstrings. Add a little twist by grabbing your ankle with opposite hand and you will get a juicy twist that relieves pain in the lower back. Always practice both sides.

Half Monkey Pose (Ardha Hanumanasana)

The Half Monkey is the ideal pose for runners. It provides a very deep hamstring stretch and most people either love it or hate it. Whichever team you join, the important thing is to persevere mindfully with it. Remember to square the hips, point the toes of the extended leg and bend forward from the hips keeping the spine long.

Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Whether you are running or cycling, you will be using your quads a lot. A low lunge before and after exercise will provide  a nice stretch to warm up and respectively  warm down  the quads. Remember to tuck your pelvis in and elongate from the spine up when you sink deeper and deeper into the stretch. The knee must never overshoot the ankle in the bent leg and if you have problems with the knees you can always  provide extra cushioning to the knee on the floor.

Low Lunge Quad Stretch

If low lunge is way too easy and comforatble for you, then you can try a low lunge quad stretch. It goes deeper into the quads, opens the chest and stretches thighs and groin. Practise on both sides.

Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

If you are a keen cyclist, you know the shoulder pain after a long ride. Eagle pose is perfect for opening and releasing the shoulders and the whole upper back. It strengthens the legs and improves focus.

Toe Squat

Walking, running or cycling, our feet bear our weight all the time. By sitting in this toe squat, we bring relief to the feet by opening the toes. If you have problematic knees, provide extra cushioning.

Supine Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

I swear by this stretch! It feels divine for the inner thighs and hips after a long run. To deepen the stretch, gently place your palms on your thighs and press down to aid gravity.

Supine Twist with Extended Leg

The supine twist with extended leg is another excellent way to target the hamstrings and the IT band, release the lower back and open the shoulders. It is a restorative pose that also quietens the mind. Make sure that both shoulders are on the mat. When you reach for your toes, try to bring  the leg as close as possible to your shoulder.

Supine Splits

With the aid of a strap or just your hands, grab hold of one leg and extend the other.Lift the shoulders off the mat and try to bring your nose to your leg. This pose works the abs and lengthens the hamstrings. Ideal for pre- and post-running stretch.

Drink of the Month

With the summer approahing, a nice cocktail always seems like a good idea. Our healthy drink this month will be a slighlty unusual cocktail of warm water, organic cider vinegar and honey. Stir a spoonful of honey and a tablespoonful of vinegar in warm water and you will have an amazing  drink that prevents cramps, hydrates, flushes the toxins and aids digestion. What is not to like?

Give Something Back

Our tip to reduce carbon footprint this month is to recycle old running shoes. Don't just put them in the bin. Find a recycling point ouside any major shoe shop and help your old shoes come back to life in another form.

Advancing Your Practice Posted By Yana Armenova Fri 1st April 2016

                                                                "Practice and All Is Coming" 

                                                                           K. Pattabhi Jois

 

With longer days, warmer temperatures and sporadic spells of sunshine, our bodies naturally crave to be outside. Nature is waking up after a long winter sleep and so is our desire to be more active. This is the perfect time to start rethinking our practice and swap the grounding asanas for more energetic and uplifting ones. Spring is a season of growth and we can use the influx of energy that spring is giving us to advance our practice to the next level by following the three key principles listed below:

  1.  

  2. The 3 Ps of Advancing Your Practice:

    Practice

    1. K. Pattabhi Joishas put it best: “Practice and All is Coming”. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of establishing a daily practice. It keeps your spine flexible and active. It builds your stamina and it flushes the toxins out of your body. By practising on a daily basis you will notice yourself the difference in your practice and how little by little you become stronger and more flexible. Yoga is a process and you need to commit to it to see the results (like in everything else in life). But please don’t be scared. Commitment is a big word and we all know that life can get in the way of our yoga practice. And that is fine because you don’t have to do a full 90-minute Ashtanga class every single day to advance your practice. We have to be realistic and yet committed. A daily practice can mean a couple of rounds of sun salutations just to keep your blood going. It could mean a couple of gentle twists and stretches before bedtime. You can always sneak in 15 minutes of yoga into your busy life. If there is a will, there is a way. For ideas how to tailor your daily practice to your schedule, please do not hesitate to contact Natascha.

Perseverance

Advancing your practice means trying something you have never tried before. You might approach a quite intimidating pose like a handstand or eight-angle pose and you might fail at first try. All of these more advanced poses require a lot of strength, flexibility and balance which do not happen overnight. They are the result of committed daily practice. The key to understanding the advanced postures is breaking them down to small achievable steps. Once we know the steps we need to pursue, we need to commit to them and work consistently. When faced with a challenge both on and off the mat, we need to assess it and approach it in a way that is accessible to us. In this way any challenge loses its formidable character.

To illustrate the importance of perseverance and breaking down poses to small achievable steps, I am going to look as side crow.

 

Asana of the Month: Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana)

When you look at the pose, you can easily identify 4 important aspects:

  • strong chaturanga arms
  • intense spinal twist
  • strong core
  • open hips

Once we have the bulding blocks, we know what to work on to get the pose:

Chaturanga Arms: For strong chaturanga arms, a couple of sun salutations a day can gradually build the stamina. If you have more time, after completing the sun salutation you can play around with plank. Hold plank for 10 breaths and release into downward facing dog. Or you can flow between downward facing dog and plank holding each for a couple of breaths.

Another way of building up those arm muscles is by alternating plank and forearm plank.

Dolphin pose is also excellent for strengthening the shoulders and the arms.  The options are numerous. You choose the path that suits you best.

Twists: From chair pose you can bring the hands to prayer and twist to the right and then left respectively into revolved chair pose.

From downward facing dog you can come into a lunge and twist to test both spine flexibility and balance.

From Warrior 2 you can go into Triangle pose and then Revolved Triangle to prepare the spine for the twists to come.

Strong Core:

Plank pose itself tests the core but a couple of Boat Pose sets with bent knees and then stretched legs will really engage those abdominal muscles.

Open Hips:

From downward facing dog you can lift the leg and go into three legged dog, then bend the knee, stack the hips and go into your wild thing and then gracefully into pigeon. Do both sides.

Side Crow Step-By-Step:

Once we have worked on all four main aspects of side crow we can venture into flying:

 

  • Squat down, feet firmly on the mat and thighs parallel to the floor.
  •  
  • Twist your torso to the right and place your hands about a foot in front of you
  •  
  • Left arm is outside your right thigh and right arm is supporting your right waist and ribs.
  •  
  • Bend your elbows to make chaturanga arms (the arms form a little shelf your torso can rest on)
  •  
  • Tip your weight forward onto your chaturanga arms
  •  
  • Use your core to lift the feet off the ground
  •  
  • Hold and breathe. Release, repeat on the left side.

 

Patience:

It is very easy to get overexcited or scared when dealing with challenging poses. The most important thing is to take little steps and be patient with our bodies.  Do not rush. Do not overexert. But also do not despair. Just be patient and consistent with your practice. If you force it, you will get an injury. If you despair and leave it, you are missing out on an opportunity to build your strength and practice. Find the middle point. Find balance.

 

Intention:

Our practice this month will be devoted to growth. Just like the trees and plants outside, we will gradually open up and grow our practice to the next level. We will embrace all the emotions and challenges that go hand in hand with this process. Remembering the three Ps, we will consistently work every single day and give the very best we are capable of to achieve self-realisation and growth. And if in the process, fear and frustration come along, we will embrace the emotions and breathe through the tough times.

 

Seasonal Diet:

We live in a world where we can have strawberries and cherries in winter and we have access to all sorts of exotic fruit and vegetables all year round. Having this kind of variety is great but it is not always ideal for our bodies. Our bodies are adapted to the geographical region that we live in and our health and energy levels are optimized if we stick to local seasonal food. Let’s take strawberries for example. If you have eaten strawberries in winter and when they are in season, you must surely have noticed the difference in taste. Strawberries grown in greenhouses that are harvested early to survive the long shipping don’t quite taste as nice as a sun-grown strawberry. It lacks in taste and it lacks in nutrients. By eating it, you are not doing your body, your taste buds or the environment any favour.

 

By choosing locally grown food, you are supporting local economy and reducing the petrol used for shipping food from the other end of the world. So next time there is a farmer’s market in your area, go and give it a chance. Now that we are in spring the variety on the market is great and you can find the right fuel to up your game on the mat.

 

Give Something Back to Mother Earth

Mother Earth is giving so much to us it is time to give something back. Our planet is overpopulated and polluted. Global warming is wreaking havoc on our climate and we are all contributing to this. It is high time we reconsidered our lifestyles and made slight changes that would make an enormous difference to our planet. Let’s contribute to the solution, not the problem.

 

Me and Natasha urge you for the month of April to swap bottled mineral water for a reusable bottle that can be refilled at any time. You can do it. Try it out for a month. If it works, stick with it and make our world less polluted.

Standing Tall Posted By Yana Armenova Tue 1st March 2016

   

Standing Tall

Technology is great. I would have been lost without my phone and this very blog would not have been possible if not for technology. But let’s face it - technology in the form it exists today is a real neck cruncher. Literally. We are glued to our phones, tablets and laptops on a daily basis. We hunch over all sorts of devices, crunch our necks and sit in distorted positions that damage our posture, affect our mood and squish our internal organs. We stay connected with our emails and Facebook updates but we lose connection with the very source of our life energy - the spine.

 In March Natascha is going to focus her practice on preserving the integrity of the spine. She is going to look at awakening, strengthening and lengthening the spine to improve our posture and overall health. So pay extra special attention next time your teacher says “flat back”.

 

Intention: Santosha

 The concept of Santosha is one underlying the very essence of yoga. It translates from Sanskrit as ‘contentment’ and calls for appreciation of the stage that you are currently at.

On the yoga mat you might not always have the strength to do chaturanga or the flexibility to fold forward with a straight back but as long as you try and do your best, you’ve reached Santosha – you accept your current level and you are comfortable with it. 

Realising that we are enough and perfect as we are can set us free to embrace true happiness. So next time you come to class, do not compare yourself to your neighbour. Do not strive for perfection. Just follow your personal journey and be grateful to your body for taking you where you are right now. Be grateful, be content.

 

Asana of the Month: Lotus Pose (Padmasana)

This month we are going to sit up tall and blossom into spring with Padmasana, or Lotus Pose. It is the asana most often associated with meditation. The pose requires a straight back, open hips, flexible knees and ankles. It is not an easy one to get into. To avoid injuries, just leave your ego outside the mat and always have Santosha in mind.

To enter the pose:

  • Sit up tall with your legs stretched in front of you
  • Bend you right leg and grab hold of your right foot
  • Place it on the crease of your left thigh
  • Bend your left leg and grab hold of your left foot
  • Place it on the crease of your right thigh
  • Sit tall and proud and rest your hands on your knees
  • Hold the pose for a couple of breaths and release

Wake Up Your Spine Morning Routine

                         

To kickstart your day the right way, you need to bring some oxygen into all parts of the body and wake up the spine.

Start in  extended child’s pose and take 5 deep breaths. Come onto you finger tips, rest your chest between your hands and feel the stretch in your upper back. Hold for 5 breaths and move your arms to the right. Once you’ve had enough of this side stretch, come back to centre and move your arms to the left side. Hold for a couple of breaths.

Come onto all fours and draw figures of eight with your body on both sides until all clicks and pops come out of your system. When you are ready, do a couple of cat-cows and come to sitting.

Sit cross-legged and bring your right hand to your left knee and gently twist to the left. Hold. Release. Bring your left hand to your right knee and twist to the other side. Hold. Release.

Still sitting cross-legged bring your arms in front of you and interlace your fingers. Round your back and push your hands away from you. Hold. Release.

To counter the movement, bring your hand behind you and interlace you fingers. Sit up tall and open the chest. Hold. Release.

With these simple stretches we bring some flexibility and movement into the spine to prepare it for the challenges of the day.

 

Long Spine, Happy Mind

Maintaining a straight back on and off the mat has numerous benefits both for body and mind. Good posture is essential for the proper functioning of our internal organs. It lessens back pain, improves digestion, and relieves tension headaches. But most importantly of all, good posture can make us happier.

It has been scientifically proven that there is a correlation between good posture and good mood. The explanation is simple. If we slump and slouch on a regular basis, we constrict the flow of oxygen to vital organs. The lack of oxygen leads to reduced energy levels, irritability and fatigue. If we have a good posture, we are less likely to suffer from depression and we have a better memory too. All thanks to the free flow of oxygen to the brain. So next time you are tempted to slouch and hunch your neck, think about all the good things a straight posture can do to your body and mind. For more tips and routines to maintain good posture and happy thoughts, come to the mat with Natascha and bring movement to the most important bone of all - your spine.

Self-Love Posted By Yana Armenova Mon 1st February 2016

SELF-LOVE

 

In the month of romantic love, Natascha will dedicate her practice to a different form of love – SELF LOVE. Contrary to popular belief, self love is not a narcissistic notion. Looking after yourself and your body and taking the time to do the things you enjoy is the first necessary step to any love. Because once we start to treat ourselves with respect and appreciation, we feel complete and ready to give love to the world. We become more empathic and generous. Self-love is the beginning of all love.

 

Self-love on the mat is very simple. All you have to do is simply show up. Giving your body and mind some tender loving care is enough to show some gratitude to your body for all the things it does for you on a daily basis. Self-love on the mat also means realising that you are enough. You have everything you need to feel complete and centered - your body, your breath and your mind. These are your tools to a calmer, more grounded you.

 

Asana of the Month: Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

 

 In February we will open our hearts for love by bending our backs in Camel Pose. The pose will open our chest, strengthen our back and shoulders and being a backbend will boost our mood and energy levels. 

1. Come kneeling on your mat, legs hip distance apart and place your hands at the base of your spine.

2. Make sure knees are over the ankles.

3. Engage your lower belly

4. Lift up your chest and hug the elbows in


5. Keep your spine long, push your hips forward and slowly drop your hands toward your heels

 6. Lift your shoulders and lower your head

 7.  To exit, tuck your chin, engage your core and slowly rise up

 

Always remember to work with the limitations of your body and go only as far as your back lets you. Do not push and do not crunch your lower back.

 

Yoga and Injuries: Listen to Your Body and Mind Your Alignment

 

Self love on the mat means recognising your limits. Yoga is a fine balancing act between strength and softness, between pushing yourself and easing back. Every time you approach a certain asana you need to respect your body’s needs. Every practice is different and we need to learn to note what works for us and our bodies at the present moment.

 When you approach an asana, always think about your alignment. The correct alignment will save you  the pain from many unnecessary injuries and it can actually strengthen your areas of weakness. With the right approach and the correct alignment, yoga can be a powerful healing and restorative tool as Natascha has come to realise after she became pain free from a severe hip joint pain. After years of consistent tailored yoga practice, she managed to heal her body and is now sharing her knowledge and experience with all of us.

 

Yoga Nidra

 

Without proper rest, a good exercise routine means nothing. Good sleep and rest are essential for the body to restore and regenerate. The Savasana at the end of each yoga practice is not called the most important asana for no reason. These final 5 minutes of your practice allow your body to absorb what has just happened on the mat and reset for the time off the mat. Your whole body surrenders to the earth. Your mind is still. Five treasured minutes of complete relaxation. Now imagine that this complete relaxation lasts not 5 but whole 45 minutes. 

In a Yoga Nidra class you will lie in Savasana for 45-60 min (depending on the class) on the verge between sleep and consciousness away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. All your senses are withdrawn and it is only your hearing that connects you to the world around you and your teacher’s instructions.

Yoga Nidra or also known as ‘yogic sleep’ is an ancient practice but it is particularly relevant in today’s busy modern life. We live in a world where our bodies and minds are working 24/7. The never ending rushing from one place to another and the overstimulation of our brains is beginning to take its toll on us by leading to chronic stress, anxiety and depression. Yoga Nidra provides an antidote to our hectic lifestyle and by inducing deep relaxation, it addresses and combats many of our modern ailments.

 

It is scientifically proven that yoga nidra improves sleep, alleviates headaches and reduces stress significantly. For more information on yoga nidra, visit  www.yoganidranetwork.org

 

 Alignment-Based Restorative Workshop

 

To learn more about correct alignment and experience the healing power of yoga nidra, come and join Natascha this February at her Alignment-Based Restorative Workshop in Esher at the Old Cranleighan Club on  Saturday 27 February from 2 - 4pm. What a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than nourish your body and soul with a holistic yoga practice and a deep relaxation that will rejuvenate and recharge you for the week ahead?

Don’t forget you can surprise your loved ones for Valentine’s Day with this afternoon mini-retreat dedicated to self-love and relaxation.

For more information and to book your spot, contact natascha@zelleryoga.com

 

Finding Focus and Creating Space Posted By Yana Armenova Mon 4th January 2016

 

Finding Focus and Creating Space

 

With the end of the festivities and the beginning of the New Year, January is a quite delicate time. The body is bloated and overindulged and the mind is confused by the inevitable need to switch off the party mode and go back into routine. To top it all, our minds need to work on setting New Year resolutions and figuring out ways to stick to them. The pressure for mind and body is immense.

To relieve the January stress, we will ease back from the vigorous flow on the mat to find depth within the postures and create space for new things to come. Expect to lengthen and open your body, fill your cells with new levels of energy and find the focus you need to cope with the pressures of January.

 

Intention

Our practice this month will be revolving around the notion of Dharana or single focus. The idea behind Dharana is to help the mind concentrate on one object only. In this way all other thoughts become secondary and we are fully present. By working on finding focus in each asana, we will cultivate the ability to be present, clear-headed and strong in the New Year.

 

Asana of the Month: Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana)

Revolved Triangle is not an easy asana but it is worth persisting with it as its benefits are immense. It twists, lengthens and opens the body – all the good stuff your body needs after the Christmas and NYE’s overindulgences.  By turning and leaning the torso to the right, we lengthen the spine and make it run parallel to the floor. One hand grounds us to the mat while the other reaches up and opens the chest. Having the grounding hand next to opposite foot creates a twist that massages the internal organs and flushes the body of the toxin build-up. The pose is also a fine balancing act that will make us work hard to maintain our balance and find our focus. 

 

Declutter the Mind:

With the beginning of the New Year, we need to bid goodbye to everything that does not serve us any purpose. Put all negativity from the year before in a box and bury it if you have to. We need to clear our minds to make way for better things to happen. By concentrating on your breath or chanting OM, you can clear your mind and find it easier to find focus. Take 5 minutes every day, just to listen to your own breath and the vibrations the sound OM makes and notice the difference in a month’s time.

 

What is your Ayurvedic Dosha?

To kickstart 2016 in a healthy and balanced way, this month we will look at Ayurveda and explore how the concept of the three doshas can boost our wellbeing.

 Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health rooted in the Vedic culture of India. At its core is the belief that our minds and bodies are shaped by three fundamental energies or “doshas” in Sanskrit – Kapha (Earth), Pitta (Fire) and Vatta (Wind). These three primary forces are present in us in different proportions with one of them being the dominant one. The aim of Ayurveda is to keep our dominant dosha in balance. Otherwise, ailments and problems arise. Ayurveda uses diet, herbs, meditation and music to maintain our ideal state of balance. To find your dominant dosha, simply click the following link and take the quiz:

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/ayurveda/whats-dosha/

Once you find out your dominant dosha, you can read below about the physical and mental characteristics associated with each dosha and what to do if your dosha is out of balance:

 

Kapha (Earth)

Kapha people are of large build and have slow metabolism. They do not engage in much physical activity and tend to gain weight quickly. Their skin is thick and oily and their eyes are big with thick eyelashes and brows.

In terms of personality, Kapha people are very calm and laid back. They are tolerant by nature and are easy to forgive.

To keep their dosha in balance, Kapha people need to do more exercise, vary their routine and avoid sweet, oily and salty food. Limiting the consumption of rice, dairy and eggs can help avoid imbalances.

When out of balance, Kapha people tend to suffer from flu, sinus congestion, obesity, diabetes and water retention. Depression, excessive attachment and possessiveness can also occur when the Kapha dosha is not balanced.

 

Pitta (Fire)

Pitta people are characterised by average build and strong metabolism. They have good appetites but do not gain weight easily. If they do, they quickly lose it. Their skin is fair and often with freckles and they have high intolerance for bright sunlight. Pitta people often perspire and their hair is soft but tends to go grey prematurely.

In terms of personality, Pitta people are excellent planners and like structure and organisation. They are very ambitious and seek material possessions. Pitta people make good leaders.

To keep their dosha in balance, Pitta people need to drink a lot of fluids, avoid spicy and salty meals and opt for lighter foods. The consumption of red meat, tomatoes and peppers should be reduced. Alcohol and caffeine should be limited. Team or group sports are believed to have great benefits for people with Pitta Dosha.

 When out of balance, Pitta people tend to suffer from metabolism issues, allergies, inflammatory diseases, diarrhea, fever. Aggressions, agitation and jealousy can occur when the pitta dosha is not balanced.

 

Vata (Wind)

Vata people are of a thin build. They can talk and move very fast but they get tired very quickly. They are lacking digestive strength and their appetite is variable. They often suffer from cold feet and hands.

In terms of personality, Vata people have a sharp wit but not a very good memory. They usually lack in confidence and will power. Vatta people are creative by nature but find it hard to focus. They can earn money quickly and spend it quickly. They are always alert and restless.

To keep their dosha in balance, Vata people need to stick to routines to get focused, have small sized light meals favouring warm food and dairy.  Red meat and beans should be avoided. Vata people will benefit from short breaks from their hectic life and they need to pause and rest in their day-to-day life. Yoga and low-impact exercised are recommended.

When out of balance, Vata people tend to suffer from dry skin and hair, constipation, arthritis, nerve disorders and mental confusion. Anxiety and indecision can be witnessed in Vata people when their dosha is not balanced.

Source: http://www.naturesformulary.com/contents/ayurveda/what-is-ayurveda

 

Yana Armenova is a writer, translator, teacher and yoga enthusiast. To find out more about her work, visit: https://yanainthemoment.wordpress.com/

Gratitude Posted By Yana Armenova Mon 30th November 2015

"IF YOU WANT TO FIND HAPPINESS, FIND GRATITUDE"

Christmas is just round the corner. Festive displays pop up in every shop and high street, people rush to do their Christmas shopping, supermarkets tempt with delicious Christmas dinner ideas, children practise their Christmas carols and the intoxicating aroma of mulled wine is in the air. While we may get caught up in ticking to-do lists in the pre-Christmas euphoria, it is important to put the season of merriment into perspective and consider what we are grateful for. The material expression of our gratitude might be buying presents for our loved ones but it can also be a phone call to your grandma, being kind to your neighbour or helping out a colleague at work. Gratitude has many dimensions.

On the mat this December we will stop, breathe and appreciate the present moment. We will practise our gratitude for being under one roof with so many like-minded people and we will unite our energy and synchronise our breath in simple partner yoga routines that will bring us closer together.

 

Intention: Being Grateful

The intention behind our practice in December will be gratitude in all its forms. But first and foremost we will thank ourselves for taking the time to do something good for our bodies. We will thank ourselves for coming to the mat and sharing our energy with those around us.

Asana of the Month: Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

 Christmas is the time to open our hearts and focus on all that we are thankful for. Fish pose is a classic heart opener that will stretch the muscles between your ribs, strengthen your upper back and improve your posture. Being a gentle backbend, it will also set you in the right mood for the Christmas festivities.

 

  1. 1. Lie on the floor on your back, feet flexed, legs firmly planted on the mat.
  2. 2. Place your hands, palms facing down, under your buttocks and tuck your forearms and elbows close to your body
  3. 3. Inhale and lift your upper torso and head off the floor. Arch your back, lift your chest and place your head on the floor. Don’t put too much weight on your head to avoid crunching the neck
  4. 4. Hold for 5 breaths
  5. 5. Release by lowering your torso and head to the mat. Give your knees a big hug!

 

PARTNER YOGA CHRISTMAS SURPRISE

 

Partner yoga always sounds like something quite daunting and unattainable. Probably the first thing in your head is a super fit girl in leotard doing the splits balancing on top of another super fit human being. But partner yoga is not just crazy midair acrobatics. It provides a perfect opportunity to connect with another person, tune into each other’s energy, laugh and have fun. Here a sneak preview at what we will be doing in December. Maybe you can have a little practice at home involving the whole family:

Partner Twist for Releasing Stress and Negativity

Partner Balance to Ground and Grow Together

 

Partner Forward Fold to Stretch and Build Trust

 

What Are You Grateful For?

This year has seen Natascha’s practice grow to 3 public classes a week and it is with immense gratitude that she shares her love of yoga with all of us. She also taught her first retreat up in the Swiss Alps alongside Pilates teacher Arlette Burkhardt, which went really well so next year they're hoping to do 4 more ! Check out www.hamiltonlodge.ch for dates ! 

  

Teaching in the fresh air of the Swiss Alps with this stunning backdrop Oct 2015

 

Christmas Yoga Do

SAVE THE DATE! TUESDAY 22 DECEMBER!

 
Let’s get together after our last class for the year and stroll down to the local pub to share our blessings with fellow yogis. Make sure you put a Christmas touch to your usual yoga outfit. Maybe we will work up a sweat in our favourite Christmas jumpers?

 

Yana Armenova is a writer, translator, teacher and yoga enthusiast. To find out more about her work, visit:  https://yanainthemoment.wordpress.com/

November Fire Posted By Yana Armenova Fri 23rd October 2015

 

                   Being made of stardust, you are much like a star

You shine with light, give warmth and burn with inner fire. You don’t need outside energy, you are energy

 

                                                                         Unknown

 

It is dark. It is cold. It is raining. You’ve got the sniffles and all you want to do is get into your onesie and eat pizza in front of the telly. Indulging in junk food and rubbish TV sounds like a great way to deal with the winter blues. It is our human version of hibernation but mind you it won’t be long before your body starts its little rebellion against this lifestyle. Bloated tummies, stiff bodies, a few extra pounds, headaches and depression will soon make the pizzas and the TV marathons seem slightly less appealing. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the occasional McDonalds binge and Friends reruns but we should not let the excessive consumption of sugars, carbohydrates and sitcom humor turn into a habit that will eventually ruin our body and mind.

How about for a change this November we do something good for our bodies, something that will energise our spine and brain? Why don’t you hit the mat with Natasha for a strong dynamic practice that will not only ignite your inner fire but will also help you tap into your creativity? Intrigued?

 

Intention: Creating Fire

 

To counterbalance the external reality of darkness and cold temperatures, a vinyasa flow with a focus on inversion will get all those pops and clicks out of your body. Be prepared to work every single part of your body. All those muscles that become stunted from underuse will wake up on the mat. Your core will help you flow through the sun salutations and balance in one-legged standing poses and not only. I promise you, by the end of the practice you will feel alive and rejuvenated like never before.

 

Asana of the Month: Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

 

 Pronouncing the Sanskrit name of the pose is the least difficult bit about a handstand.  Handstands are nemesis for most yoga teachers. If an experienced yogi can’t do it, why would I even consider trying the pose?, I hear you ask. Because attempting headstands will turn your world upside down. Literally. In the nicest possible way. You will see the world from a slightly different perspective. You will be challenged out of your comfort zone. You will get the blood rushing to your head. Inversions are a great way to stimulate the brain, bring clarity and create space for new ideas to come. If you are stuck at your work or lacking creativity, do a handstand to shake up your world and those brain cells. If you are feeling tired and unmotivated, a headstand will bring you new levels of energy. Some people swear it works better than coffee! Last but not least, handstands are fun. Or at least trying to do one. By introducing inversion into our practice Natascha will mindfully guide us step by step into a handstand. We will build upper body strength and make that core burn. I can guarantee you won’t need the heating on.

If you are not one of the advanced yogis who do handstands in the warm-up part of the practice, you will probably need a wall to start off. Just for that extra bit of support. Start from a downward facing dog and gently walk your feet up the wall and stay there to enjoy the sensation of being upside down. Once you get used to that funny but wonderful feeling, try to take one leg off the wall and see if your arms, shoulders and core are strong enough to bear your weight. Then try the other leg. Maybe if you are feeling adventurous enough, you will take both legs off the wall. Even if it is just for a fraction of a second. Don’s despair if you can’t. One step and one leg at a time will bring a better awareness of the pose over time. It is all about building strength and trusting yourself after all rather than the crazy shapes you can throw on the mat.

 

Unlocking the Digestive Fires (Agni)

 

 To complement our fiery practice, we will look at some of the basic principles of Auyrveda. According to this ancient science our digestive system is made of fires (or agni) that help the body assimilate all the nutrients. When we have strong agni, our bodies are able to take what they need from the food and eliminate what is not necessary. To keep our inner fires working and in good balance, it is important that we:

  • Drink plenty of warm or room temperature water
  • Don’t eat late at night
  • Eat freshly prepared food
  • Use seasonal and organic produce
  • Use heating food and spices (ginger, black pepper, etc)
  • Eat mouth-watering food: when you like the taste of your food, you kindle your agni and stimulate the better absorption of nutrients

Making those little adjustments to your diet and lifestyle will greatly benefit your wellbeing. You will feel healthier, happier and more balanced. It is worth giving it a try.

 Pranayama of the Month: Agni Sara

"There is a rule in yoga that each muscle should move at least once a day. This brings our energy back into flow and releases blockages. Energy is like water. Water that stands still becomes impure and putrid. On the other hand, flowing water always remains pure. This is the reason we should always move the muscles of our abdomen and intestines daily." Swamiji

Agni  means "fire" and sara means "wash". Agnisara basically is a cleansing breathing exercise that washes the fire charka which is located at the centre of the abdomen. This practice builds up inner heat,  stregnthens the lower abdomen. and pelvic floor and energises the entire body. It improves the digestive system and fires up your metabolism.

To do  Agni Sara, stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, bend the knees, lean forward and place your hands just above the knees. Keeping the back straight, inhale deeply and then exhale all the air out simultaneously pulling the  muscles of the lower abdomen in and up. Hold for a moment and on inhalation gently release the abdomen muscles. Repeat 3 times. With consistent practice, you will feel how your core muscles become stronger and your body is cleansed of toxins. It will give you immense energy that you can carry with you thoughout your day. Remember to practise Agni Sara on an empty stomach.  Avoid during pregnancy and menstruation or if experiencing any abdominal pain.

 

 

 

Public Classes

This month we will invert, fall, laugh and build inner heat with Natasha. Come and join in the fun at the following locatons:

  • Sweaty Betty Walton: Every Tuesday at 5.30pm (call in store to book your spot)
  • The Old Cranleighan club in Esher: Every Tuesday  at 12:30 pm 
  • Joyriders Studio, Weybridge: Mondays at 7.30 pm and Wednesdays at 6.30pm

 

Yana Armenova is a writer, translator, teacher and yoga enthusiast. To find out more about her work, visit:  https://yanainthemoment.wordpress.com/

Embracing Change Posted By Yana Armenova Tue 29th September 2015

October Yoga Blog 2015  

                                                  

                                   


                             
                                                                                

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy

not on fighting the old but on building the new

 

                                               Socrates

 

Summer is officially over. But while we are saying goodbye to the long sunny days, we are also saying hello to another season that is just as beautiful. Just take a look at  the overwhelming beauty of the autumn trees, the crisp and bright chilly mornings and the magic of Indian summer. Any change just like the change of seasons is often perceived as daunting and undesirable at first but once we realise that change is our chance to progress and move on, the uncertainty and fear of it disappear. This autumn is the living proof that change is a new beginning as the arrival of the new season welcomes the arrival of Zeller Yoga’s new blog where Natascha will share her love of yoga with all of you budding and seasoned yogis.

 

Intention: Embracing Change 

Natascha’s practice on the mat this month will be dedicated to change. With the arrival of autumn, a more grounding practice that draws us to the earth will prepare mind and body for the lower temperatures and the shorter days to come.

 

Asana of the Month: Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

 

Half Moon Pose is the perfect pose for transition periods like the change of seasons as it grounds the body through the standing leg and at same time generates inner heat and opens the torso and the hips by extending out and reaching up the raised leg and arm. Two opposing energies are working together simultaneously to help the body find balance, focus and strength.

Benefits:

  • Opens the hips
  • Strengthens the whole body
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Improves digestion

 

How to Practise Ardha Chandrasana

  • Standing with feet wide apart, measuring with arms wide so that the wrists & ankles are about the same width distance apart, rotate on the left ankle so that the big toe is pointing towards the top of the mat and place the block on the outer edge of the left foot
  • Start by placing the block with your left hand a little in front of the left foot, have your right hand placed on the outer edge of your right thigh and as you move the block forward of your left foot, the right foot  and then the right leg will start to want to lift
  • Being mindful to keep the core abdominal muscles engaged, thinking about keeping the body in alignment as you press into the standing left foot and lift the right back leg, rotating the hips and opening up the front body
  • If you then feel confident,  lift the top arm up extending out through the fingertips, with the gaze forward or up towards the right hand 
  • You can start by practising this posture in front of a clear wall, then as you feel more confident start to move away, standing free 

 

Tips for Your Home Practice

 

  • Use props:  A solid wooden yoga block is a good investment as its weight is good for support. If not a cork or foam block can also be used (more as a marker). But if you don’t feel like spending money on extra equipment, all you need is a big encyclopedia or dictionary or a shoe box to support you in your exploration of half moon pose  
  • Always remember to practise the pose on both sides
  • To prevent injuries and gain maximum benefit from the pose, warm up the body with a couple of sun salutations A and B
  • Don’t forget savasana: once you have played with Ardha Chandrasana and feel you have worked your balance and core to the maximum, rest your body on the mat for a few minutes of blissful Savasana. Imagine every bit of your body that has contact with the mat to be sinking deep down into it, almost merging. Think about the earthy autumn smells that you enjoy, perhaps warm bread waiting to be sliced straight out of the oven, fallen leaves as you rake them in the garden or scented warm baths being run. What smells and sounds evoke your cosy autumn space?

 

Pranayama of the Month: Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

 

To complement the grounding effect of Half Moon Pose, October’s breathing exercise will focus on alternate nostril breathing or Nadi Shodhana that calms the mind and unblocks the energy flow though the body.


 

  Benefits

  • Calms the nervous system
  • Improves concentration
  • Clears the respiratory channels

 

How to Practise:

  • Seated in a comfortable position on the centre of the mat, place the right thumb on the soft part of the right nostril to partially close it, then the ring finger of the right hand is ready to do the same on the left side
  • Eyes gently closed, inhaling in through left nostril, pause to then place ring finger on left nostril ready to then exhale out of the right nostril, pause to then start the round again
  • One round is an inhale & exhale, so practise 5 rounds minimum & up to 10. This can be counted on the resting hand fingers
  • Pranayama should be practised before savasana

 

Yoga Fuel

 

Pre-Yoga Snack: 

 

Yoga is best practised on an empty stomach but the reality of life is that we often rush to class straight after work and we need to snack on something to get us going on the mat. What to have before your practice is a tricky question because you need the energy boost to do all those sun salutations, balances and twists after a hard day's work but at the same time you don’t want to have too much as heavy meals and yoga just don’t go hand in hand and can make you sick.

 The key to the perfect pre-practice snack is slow energy release. You need a small light snack that will give you energy throughout the practice. Dried fruit like raisins are ideal easy-to-carry snack that you can just pop in your bag ready for your pre-sesh boost. They are high in fibre and keep you full for longer.

 

Post-Yoga Fuel:



 

Post-yoga food is as equally important as the pre-yoga snack. After your practice, your muscles are craving food to regenerate and hydration to make up for all the water lost in those sweat-inducing arm balances and lunges.

To meet those two needs and use the seasonal vegetables on the market, a pumpkin soup with a slice of warm buttered bread would warm up your body from the inside to get you ready for the chilly evenings and would feed your cells with the goodness of magnesium and vitamin C rich pumpkin.

 

Upcoming Autumn Retreats: 30 October to 1 November 2015  

 

Join Natascha and Arlette for 3 days of yoga and pilates in a fairy tale hotel in the Swiss Alps. The trendy yet cosy Hamilton Lodge is situated directly at the ski slopes offering breathtaking views of the mountains and peaks.

The luxury retreat includes: 

2 day option, Saturday to Sunday

5 x Yoga and Pilates classes, beginning Saturday morning 11:00

1 x overnight stay, breakfast, 2 x lunch, 1 x evening meal
1 x aperitif, tea snacks & cake plus free use of spa facilities
£ 299.– Based on 2 sharing
£ 329.– Single supplement

3 day option, Friday to Sunday
7 x Yoga and Pilates classes, beginning Friday evening 18:00
2 x overnight stays, breakfast, 2 x lunches, 2 x evening meals
2 x aperitifs, tea snacks & cake plus free use of spa facilities
£ 439.– Based on 2 sharing
£ 469.– Single supplement

Limited spaces available. Contact Natascha to book your spot and get further details at natascha@zelleryoga.com

To find out more about Hamilton Lodge and the retreat, visit  http://www.soulseedmedia.com/workshops/recommend-yoga-wellness-retreats/swiss-retreats/pilates-alpine-retreat/

 http://hamiltonlodge.ch/home-en

 

Where to Find Natascha from Zeller Yoga: 

Come and celebrate the arrival of autumn with Natascha who will ease you into the new season with her grounding practice at:

  •  Sweaty Betty Walton: Every Tuesday at 5.30pm (call in store to book your spot)
  •  The old Cranleighan Club in Esher: Every Tuesday at 12:30 pm
  •  Joyriders Studio, Weybridge: Starting from 12th October   

                                                Mondays at 7.30 pm and Wednesdays at 6.30pm

 

 Yana Armenova is a writer, translator, teacher and yoga enthusiast. To find out more about her work, visit:  https://yanainthemoment.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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