yoga blog by yoga lover in Bicester

Loving yoga

Scary thought …. I’ve been enjoying yoga for almost 40 years!!  Whilst inevitably during that time my practice hasn’t always been regular, yoga is something I have come back to time and time again, and still really love…. and have practiced almost everyday for the last 15 years.

It’s amazing how even the simplest breath or posture can still seem fresh and new when approached with a kind and curious mind … a kind of constant exploration … what’s here today?

Yoga has been my companion through happy times and sad times, relaxing times and stressful times, periods of ill health and wellness …..and I’m more and more deeply into my practice.

And now I’m lucky enough to be able to share my love of yoga by teaching others – something I’ve been doing for nearly 9 years …. and yes, each class still feels fresh and new too.

If you haven’t tried yoga yet, you don’t know what you’re missing!  It is a wonderful practice for mind, body and soul (with the right teacher).

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Incense … no thank you!

Why is it that so many yoga teachers still burn copious quantities of incense during their classes?

There is a growing body of evidence indicating that the smoke from incense sticks can be carcinogenic …not surprising really …. is breathing in lots of smoke ever likely to be good for you?  And of course for anyone suffering from asthma, the smoke is a real problem.

In yoga, we encourage deep breathing … so even more reason to ensure it is not smoke filled air!

Of course  yoga teachers want to create a nice welcoming environment for our students, but,  I really think incense smoke should not be forced upon students.  By all means, use some incense prior to the class as a space cleaner, but not during please!

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Feeling Blessed

I am so lucky …… I’m beginning to live the life of my dreams!

Having trained as a yoga teacher almost 10 years ago, I have been teaching part-time for a long while ….. but about five years ago decided I wanted to spend more time teaching as I love it so much.

It’s taken time, gradually building classes over the five year period … and there have been some scary moments when I’ve had doubts … but I am so, so glad I’ve stuck with it.  There’s still a long way to go, and the marketplace is ever more competitive, which simply means I need to get better and better and keep thinking of ways to thank the lovely students that choose to come to my classes, courses and workshops.

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How to find a good yoga teacher

So you’ve decided you would like to take up yoga …. how do you choose a good yoga teacher:

  1. Check our their training.  A good teacher will be happy to tell you about their training.  Yoga teacher training takes around two-three years.  (If someone has only done a short weekend type course, they will not have any real depth of knowledge with which to guide and support you).  All the reputable teacher training programmes cover not only yoga postures, breathwork, mudras (gestures), and bandhas (energy locks), but also the philosophy that is an integral part of yoga, plus anatomy and physiology, health and safety, teaching skills, how to adjust students safely, common health issues etc … you can see why a comprehensive course needs to take a coupe of years.
  2. Are they registered with one of the major yoga organisations – such as British Wheel of Yoga or Yoga Alliance – to be registered with one of these organisations, a teacher has to have evidenced a comprehensive training and also on-going professional development – i.e. they are competent to teach and keep their teaching skills up to date.
  3. Check their insurance.  A good teacher will be fully covered by an insurance policy..  Whilst one hopes nothing bad wil ever happen, it’s another sign that you are in good hands.
  4. Can you try out a class?  A good teacher will want you to be in the class that is right for you and will be happy for you to try a class before committing to a term.
  5. Does the teacher seem professional?  Are the tidy and organised?  Are you asked to complete a health questionnaire before starting a class (in a gym it might be a verbal health screen rather than a written document, as you are likely to have completed a full screen on joining).
  6. Do they explain things in a way you can understand?  A teacher may use demonstration or words or a mix of both.  Some may bring along pictures or other teaching aids … but you should always know what you are supposed to be doing.
  7. Is the teacher happy to answer questions?  You should always feel able to ask questions (even if you choose to wait till the end of the class so as not to interrupt the flow of the class)
  8. Do you like the teacher?  And yes this is important … if you don’t, you won’t keep going to the class!
  9. Do you enjoy the class?  Do you feel welcome as you arrive and enjoy the practice.  Yoga is wonderful with the teacher that is right for you.
  10. Does the class flow well.  A good class will have a mix of standing, seated/kneeling and laying postures with alternatives offered to suit different levels of ability.  There will be forward and backward bends, side bends, twists and inversions, plus breathwork, relaxation and perhaps meditation.
  11. Do you feel good afterwards?  Most people find yoga refreshing and relaxing, they enjoy the stretching, toning and de-stressing.
  12. Do you want to go again?  Find the class that makes you want to keep going back for more!
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Starting a home yoga practice

So you’ve been going to a yoga class for a while and would now like to start developing a home practice too … what might you want to think about?

1.  Where to practice

Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a room you can dedicate to your practice.  But for most people it will be finding somewhere in the house (or perhaps the garden on a nice day) where you can practice undisturbed.  So long as you have space for your yoga mat and enough space around you to move safely you’ll be fine.

2.  Creating the right environment

To make your space special, maybe you’d like to have a candle (safely positioned) or some flowers, an ornament …. whatever you fancy really that just marks the space out as special to you.  I’d suggest shutting out the cat and dog …. they always seem to want to join at the most inconvenient moments!  Make sure you’ll be warm – perhaps have a blanket nearby to wrap yourself in for your final relaxation.  And don’t forget to turn the phone to silent.

3.  Getting started

Settle yourself first – slow, deep breathing – standing, sitting or laying as you prefer.  Then do some warm up movements – gentle stretched.  Then work through some postures that you are familiar with – trying to incorporate a range of movements – forward bend, backward bend,side bend, twist and inversion.  And finally some breath work and relaxation.  Avoid anything that is contraindicated for any health issues you may have.  Don’t overthink what you plan to do … go with the flow … otherwise there’ll always be an excuse not to get started!  It really doesn’t matter whether you spend 10 minutes, half an hour or more ….. just do it!

4.  Keeping up the momentum

We tend to start something new full of enthusiasm … and then life starts to get in the way … I’m too busy, too tired, there’s something on TV (or whatever your pet excuse is!).  It’s useful to note how good you feel after a practice, and any changes you notice in how you act and feel later.

5.  Sources of inspiration

Your yoga teacher may provide home practice routines – I do for my students – see  Yoga journal is a reputable site  The British Wheel of Yoga also has some poses

Do be careful with what you pick up on the internet … anyone can put anything up and there is an awful lot of rubbish there!

6.  Enjoy it

Really the most important thing ….. pick times of the day that suit you – it doesn’t have to be the same time everyday, or the same length of time … or even every day. …. just enjoy!

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Is yoga the same as mindfulness?

I went to a talk with this title recently and found myself surprised by the stance the speaker took.

Their view was that meditation (mindfulness) was a tool to reach yoga.  Yoga of course means ‘union’ … generally understood to mean union of mind, body and spirit.  But I had always thought of yoga being a journey towards that point – not just a destination.

Some people will start a yoga practice as a physical thing – some exercise.  Others will have heard that ‘it’s good for stress’.  Many will find that whilst they start with yoga as a physical practice, it soon becomes much more – the quieting of the mind, the relaxation of body and mind, as well as the strengthening and toning of muscles.

In my yoga, I aim to practice mindfully – with attention to body, breath, and awareness ….. which makes the practice meditative.

What do you think?  Are yoga and and mindfulness the same?  And what about meditation and mindfulness?

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I have to vs I choose to

If you say ‘ I have to’ it sounds as if you have no control over the action or decision.  Change it to ‘I choose to’ and what a difference it makes.  Suddenly you have control … or responsibility.

Do we opt for the ‘I have to’ when we are too lazy, too afraid, too tired, or too disillusioned?  Somehow ‘ choose to’ as well as being a far more powerful statement also comes with a whole lot more personal commitment.  ‘I have to’ hands over the control to someone else, ‘I choose to’ that’s down to me.

Try it out … see what a difference it makes to you.

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Why don’t more men come to yoga classes?

Why is it that you see so few men at the average yoga class?  Many of the famous yoga teachers are male … yet classes are usually predominantly female, which must make it challenging for men to feel comfortable in them.

What can we yoga teachers do to make our classes more ‘man friendly’.  I read this article in the Telegraph  which articulates some of the dilemmas well!

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Don’t miss all the beautiful colors of the rainbow looking for that pot of gold.

“Don’t miss all the beautiful colors of the rainbow looking for that pot of gold.”

Read this quote the other day and it has stuck with me.  You can interpret it on many levels … here are just  a few:

Be mindful, in the present moment … whatever you are doing focus on that  – for example, if you are walking, notice the feel of the ground under your feet, the breeze against your skin, the sounds and sights around you.  If you are eating, savour the food – the textures, tastes, colours … don’t also check messages on your phone and watch the TV.

It’s OK to take time getting to where you think you want to be … and perhaps that might change … i.e enjoy the journey.  Perhaps the journey is actually the whole purpose.

Whilst it can be good to have goals, be flexible in your approach .. notice the steps along the way and savour them.

I can also link it to yoga practice.  So often when I’m teaching I see people grasping to reach what they perceive as the perfect Triangle (Trikonasana) ….. rather than really feeling the openness in their chest as they reach for the sky with one hand whilst the other is perhaps still resting on a bent leg.  When I ask people to stand in Mountain pose (Tadasana) and ‘check in’ with themselves … i.e. really take note of how they feel physically, mentally, emotionally … so many find it difficult to be still …. to really tune in to what’s going on.

So, enjoy the colours of the rainbow .. be mindful … be really present … and savour the monent!

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Who am I?

Who am I?   A powerful meditation …. and one I’ve been contemplating on for some time.  Do I know the answer … really know the answer … no … somehow every time I get close to feeling ‘I’ve got it’, things change … and I guess that’s the essence of life … nothing is permanent … everything is transient.

And I guess some of the value of the meditation is looking beyond my ego’s definition of me … to really discover what lies beneath.  And right now, I don’t think I get to that depth of understanding.

I’ve been working with a quote that caught my eye recently “Being myself includes taking risks with myself, taking risks on new behaviour, trying new ways of ‘being myself, so that I can see who it is I want to be”.  I’ve had some fun and some revelations …. become so much more aware of the contradictions within myself … the different facets of my personality.  Learning about me ….. how I relate to others, what makes me tick.

Another powerful quote that somehow takes this a stage further … and in the right direction (for me) is “Always do your best.  What you plant now, you will harvest later”.  Whilst I don’t believe we should act predominantly out of self interest, the idea that ‘as you sow, so you will reap’ is sound.

Do we ever really work out who we are?  Are we a never changing being.  I think not, but spending time meditation on the questions can certainly bring both answers and more questions.

Often the meditation is turned around as ‘I am’ (So Ham) …. equally as powerful and often drops into Who am I

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