yoga blog by yoga lover in Bicester

Happiness is a daily choice

This is the ‘thought for the day’ from Inner Space Oxford, and I think it’s lovely.

Everyday we have a choice – we can be grumpy, miserable, short tempered …. or happy.  And when we choose happiness, the world just seems a different place.  Somehow we notice the positives rather than the negatives  What do I mean by that …… some examples:

  • the warmth of the sun shining through the window rather than the difficulty seeing my computer screen
  • the joy of my cats playing in the garden rather than worrying about the 8 dirty feet that will soon be coming through the cat-flap
  • the opportunity to ‘just be’ for a moment rather than getting annoyed at the queue in the supermarket

The situation is still the same, it’s just our perception that we change .. and when we do so, we take away stress and bring a bit of sunshine not only to our own lives, but quite possibly to those around us.

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Starting a yoga class

At this time of year many people think about starting new things … including yoga … which of course I think is a very good idea!

If you’ve never done any yoga before then what do you need to think about?  Here are some thoughts for you:

What is your motivation for starting yoga? – is it part of an exercise regime – then look for a Power Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga class – you’ll often find these at gyms.  Is it to de-stress or to stop you getting stressed in the first place – then look for a hatha yoga class – these are often taught by teachers trained by the British Wheel of Yoga.  Do you want to gain or re-gain flexibility, improve posture or balance – again a hatha yoga class will be good.

How well trained is the teacher? – this is important …. there are loads of different courses of very different quality …… some teachers have trained for a few weekends … others will have done a really thorough training programme.  You want someone who knows their stuff and has been prepared to invest in a decent teacher training programme.  Ask any prospective teacher where and how they trained and also how they keep their knowledge up to date – many of the reputable teacher training schools require their teachers to undertake regular training.

Is the teacher insured to teach you yoga? – this links in with the training section above, and is another quality indicator.

If you are pregnant, then look for someone who is trained to teach pregnancy/pre-natal yoga.

Make sure you talk to the teacher in advance  Ask them about their style of teaching, what to expect in a class, what to bring etc.  Any reputable teacher will be happy to talk to you and answer your questions.

Enjoy your yoga!

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And five more ways yoga heals …..

It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful yoga is.  It’s so sad when people consider it purely a physical exercise as practicing yoga can help us on so many levels.  From the book Yoga as Medicine, here are five more ways yoga can heal(1-10 are in previous posts)

11.  Nourishes inter vertebral discs

Most joints benefit from movement.  The cartillage that forms the spinal discs hasn’t got it’s own blood supply, so relies on movement to deliver nutrients from nearby blood vessels.

12. Improves return of venous blood

Inversions performed as part of a yoga practice encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart meaning the heart doesn’t have to work so hard.

13.  Improves circulation of lymph

Lymph is key in the effective functioning of the immune system – the contracting and stretching of muscles as you do a yoga practice stimulate the lymphatic system.

14.  Improves function of the feet

Some say ageing begins in the feet!  Standing postures, with the correct alignment encouraged by a good yoga teacher can help alignment and reduce the likelihood of problems not only with the feet but also the ankles, knees, hips and lower back.

15.  Improves proprioception

This means knowing were you are spatially.  Yoga balances, sometimes done with the eyes closed can really help with this and increases overall awareness of the body.


Keep enjoying your yoga!

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Five more ways yoga heals

Continuing with some of the ways yoga can facilitate better health, both as prevention and treatment from the book ‘Yoga as Medicine’ ….

6.  Improves Lung Function

7. Leads to slower deeper breathing

8.  Discourages mouth breathing

9.  Increases oxygenation of tissues

10.  Improves joint health

Connecting with the breath is a core element of both my teaching style and the way I do my own practice.

The improvement of lung function come through both posture and breathing – in yoga we learn to sit and stand tall – avoiding slumping so that we can breathe more fully.  We are encouraged to breathe more slowly and deeply and to breathe through the nose.  More oxygen to the lungs may translate into more oxygen to the brain and other tissues.  We just feel better when we breathe better – and function better as a result.

The cartilage that acts as ‘shock absorber’ between surfaces of bone – such as in the knee joint –  needs synovial fluid which is promoted through movement.  And of course moving correctly can help work the right muscles and realign bones – helping to reduce wear and tear.

It’s wonderful to feel the gradual improvements that result from a regular yoga practice … the world just somehow feels a better place,


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5 ways yoga heals

Am reading the book ‘Yoga as Medicine’ … all about yoga as a therapy.

The author cites 40 ways yoga can heal …. I’m going to pick the first 5 to comment on

  1. Increases flexibility
  2. Strengthens muscles
  3. Improves balance
  4. Improves immune function
  5. Improves posture

I’ll post some more benefits another day … just a list would be boring!

We are familiar with the concept of yoga increasing flexibility – and my students certainly tell me it does!  And some postures can certainly help strengthen muscles – such as Locust (Salabhasana) working on the back muscles, or Sun Salutations (Surya Namsakar) working on upper body strength.  Asanas to work on posture feature in every class I teach – maybe something simple such as coming up onto toes with a breath in, or a Tree pose (Vrksasana) or Dancer (Natarajasana).

What about improving immune function – yes the mind can influence healing – the strongest research links are to the benefits of meditation – again something I include in all classes – be it through mindful practice or ‘formal’ meditation.

And yoga certainly improves posture – through creating awareness, strengthening core muscles, teaching ‘correct’ posture – I’m sure my students get fed up with me saying tummy in, long back , shoulders down!

It seems that more research is published almost everyday on the benefits of yoga.  So why don’t you try a class.  You’ll find a useful tool to help you find a local teacher on the British Wheel of Yoga website.  And if you love near Bicester in North Oxfordshire, come along to one of my classes!

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Yoga as Therapy

Have just completed a course about yoga as a therapy.  I’ve often read magazine articles about how various people have used yoga to help with all sorts of physical, mental and emotional issues, so had decided to sign up to a training programme to find out more.

I’ve been teaching for about 8 years and have constantly updated and increased my knowledge through attending different courses and thoroughly enjoyed this one.  Through a mix of listening, discussing and practice, I feel I learnt a huge amount ….. and have learnt new skills to take into both my general teaching and specialised work, plus have new skills to use for myself.

Even reading through the glossy magazine that came with the Sunday Times today I noticed two references to the benefits of yoga – one saying that everyone over 50 seems to benefit (yes, agree with this!) and another crediting yoga with reducing anxiety (and yes, agreee with this one too!)

Seems such a shame when yoga is reduced to just a physical work out – as is the case in so many gyms, when it can be so wonderful and has so much to offer.

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Why yoga keeps me learning

I’ve often noticed that  I can be doing a yoga posture that I know really well, and have probably done hundreds of times before, yet it never ever seems boring … there’s always something else to notice …to be aware of….. something that just keeps my yoga fresh, interesting, rewarding and wonderful.

Have just been reading about the concept of the Cross of Learning ….. and it really resonated with me.  It’s mentioned by Alison Trewhela in her Yoga for Health Lower Backs book (a programme I’m teaching in Bicester).  She says “one of the wonderful aspects of yoga is that the subject is vast.  Learning can take place at various levels and layers and go in various directions.  Typically in the West, we feel we must learn ‘vertically’ with learning becoming more difficult as we go in an upward direction.  Similarly, we can learn more challenging yoga poses, but the more yoga we do, often the more we benefit from returning to the very basic simple poses and penetrating downward or inward gaining more precision, depth and subtlety.  In yoga we also learn ‘horizontally’, by adding ever more details about the same poses.  All these different directions of learning should be regarded as progression in yoga.”

I’ve blogged about this concept myself, as it is to me a really important principle.  I feel it’s somewhere so much of the joy of yoga comes from.  There’s no need to do gymnastic poses …..just feel your yoga from your heart and it will always be fresh, vibrant an amazing.

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Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs

I’ve  been training on this fabulous programme.  It comes out of a clinical trial run by York University, funded by Arthritis UK and is all about giving people the skills to manage their back pain.

Run as a 12 week course, participants learn simple, gentle yoga, targeting pain-relief, good posture, and improvement of their back health for now and the future. Aims are re-education and re-alignment of the body, plus raised self-awareness and relaxation. Poses include standing, sitting kneeling and lying down with stable comfort.

I’ve been teaching for many years, yet this training on this programme has taught me so much more.  And now I’m about to launch a new course sharing this programme in Bicester … very exciting!


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Treat yourself with care

“Your body is precious. It is your vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” ~Buddha

Words from the master!  So important to look after yourself … if you can’t do that, then can you really look after others?

In yoga we have the concept of ‘Ahimsa’ interpreted as non-violence – to yourself and others.  If we live with the concept of ahimsa then we treat our bodies with kindness – from eating nourish food, to a good programme of exercise …. and of course some lovely yoga!

Some people use the phrase ‘your body is a temple’ and I guess this is a similar concept – treat your body with respect – I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘worship it’ … but certainly look after it.




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Making a living or making a life

Just read a thought provoking blog under the heading ‘I’ve learned making a living is not the same thing as making a life’.

This really resonated with me.  For many years I strove to gain a top leadership role – studied and worked  for 50-60 hours a week.  Yet having reached what I thought was my goal … somehow it didn’t bring me the satisfaction I’d craved.

I’d been attending yoga classes regularly, and decided to deepen my practice my embarking on a Foundation Course run by the British Wheel of Yoga …. and I was hooked.  I’d started to work out what was real and what wasn’t, and  to define myself by something other than a job title or earnings.

The next step was a two year yoga teaching diploma course and as I discovered more and more, I started to find that sense of peace and wellbeing.

8 years on I do a basic job and am endeavouring to reduce my hours of work so there’s more time to devote to yoga and the things that really matter … and am so glad … I earn less than half what I used to but feel so much happier, less stressed and so much more healthy.





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