yoga blog by yoga lover in Bicester

What are chakras?

There can sometimes seem to be a lot of jargon in the yoga world!  One of the words you may hear is ‘chakras’ … so what are they are why do they matter?

In yogic traditions there is the belief that we have what is known as a subtle energy system – when you are in the relaxation part of a class your teacher may refer to ‘prana’ and drawing in prana – also known as ‘life force energy’  or ‘cosmic energy’ – i.e. energy from the universe.  This energy moves through our body through chanels known as ‘nadis’.  Where the channels intersect is known as a chakra.

You may like to think of this as a network or roads with junctions.  When traffic (energy/prana) is flowing smoothly everything works well.  As soon as a route gets congested – often at a junction point (chakra), things start to go wrong.  Equally, if the traffic is moving too fast, things can go wrong.  So the idea of working with our chakras is to balance out the energy flows so that we feel great – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Chakra translates as ‘wheel’ – they rotate to help move the energy around.  Whilst there are thousands of channels and many, many wheels, we tend to focus on the 7 major chakras which are located at the front of the spine and upwards:

  1.  Muladhara – base of spine
  2. Svadisthana – below navel
  3. Manipura – solar plexus
  4. Anahata – heart
  5. Vishuddi – throat
  6. Ajna – between eyebrows
  7. Sahasara – crown

Each of the chakras is associated with different physical organs, glands and senses.  With a particular element,a specific planet,  essential oils, crystals, animals and so on.    It’s a complex area, but in essence, simply put :

  1.  Muladhara – security, stability, grounding, courage
  2. Svadisthana – playfulness, experimentation, sense of self
  3. Manipura – power, transformation, change
  4. Anahata – compassion, peace, trust
  5. Vishuddi – self- expression, will, communication
  6. Ajna – clarity, trusting inner guidance
  7. Sahasara – inner wisdom, higher mind

So in a yoga class, a good teacher will aim not only to offer a physically balanced class, but also a emotionally and spiritually balance class.

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What can Mindfulness do for me?

Unless you’ve been asleep for the last couple of years, it’s highly likely you’ve already heard of mindfulness.  Perhaps you have some ideas about what it is (something about getting calmer?) and maybe some thoughts about what it might do for you (something about getting calmer?).  Perhaps you’ve read an article in a magazine that seems to claim that mindfulness is a cure for just about anything too!

Mindfulness has been around for years in the yoga world, but has more recently become popularised and there are a wide range products and courses claiming to help you become more mindful.  But what does that actually mean?

Just take a moment to consider whether any of these apply to you:

  • I often spend time thinking about the past – perhaps a bad experience of something that hasn’t gone particularly well.
  • I often spend time worrying about something that might happen in the future

These are just two examples of the kind of thought patterns that can leave you feeling uncomfortable, unhappy, and dissatisfied.

Mindfulness gives you tools to use to stop you spending so much time ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, which gives you the opportunity to actually enjoy what’s going on now – be it a conversation, a walk, a meal, reading a book etc.  It’s about being in the present moment (to use one of the buzz phrases). And this can help you feel less anxious and less stressed; calmer and happier.

So if you’d like a bit more ‘mellowness’ in your life, mindfulness might be just what you need.

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Real Yoga

Having read about Freestyle yoga  but never having tried it, I booked in to a class this week to experience it.   The tutor was friendly and spoke to newcomers to check any health issues.  She gave clear instructions throughout the class.

The class was at a gym and we were crammed in like sardines – impossible to stretch your arms out without banging into the person next to you …constantly had to move up and down mat to avoid being bashed.

The whole class was postures  – I won’t call them asanas as they were not referred to by the usual English or Sanskrit name – they were simply stretches and movements.  Yes they were well put together, formed logical sequences with counterposes.  But was this really yoga?

To me, definitely not … it was simply an exercise class.  It completely lacked any sense of spirituality.  I came away feeling really sad that this exercise class could be called yoga – where was the essence of yoga – the union of mind, body and spirit.  Just one of the classic 8 limbs of yoga featured.

With the lack of regulation around yoga teacher training at present, almost anything can be called yoga, and here is a prime example.

Let’s hope that professional standards come into play soon so that yoga means yoga – yes of course we need the richness of different styles, but let’s keep the spirituality that is the heart of yoga

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Want to try a Gong bath??

If you’ve never been to a gong bath and would like to know a bit more about happens ….. well, in essence it’s very simple … you lay snuggled on a yoga mat (or similar) snuggled up in a blanket and let the sounds of the gong wash over you (hence the name gong bath)

But what’s going on?  Sound can be very powerful – just think how music can affect – physically, mentally and emotionally – can make you feel happy, sad, alive, relaxed etc.  Gongs are used as a form sound therapy, with the player taking you into a deep state of relaxation in order that tension can be released.

Or as my friend Martyn puts it: “A gong bath is an opportunity for you to have time to yourself, to deeply relax and rejuvenate, and to delight in the awesome sounds of the gong.”

The vibrations of the gong have wonderful effects on the human being from top to toe.  On a physical level, your cells will all vibrate (some people who feel this strongly describe it as their limbs feeling fizzy!).  On an emotional level you may find yourself opening up from the heart, feeling things you’ve not felt since childhood.  And in the mind, your brainwaves are massaged such that you go through states akin to day-dreaming, meditation and deep sleep. Many people find the experience very spiritual in nature, and most find it deeply relaxing.

Inevitably, everyone’s experience will be slightly different as we all come to the gong bath feeling different.  Most people tell me they feel amazing – relaxed and energised; that they sleep like a log and can’t wait for the next time!  Sometimes when there is a lot of tension to release (mental, physical, emotional) you can feel slightly irritable or tearful afterwards …but that’s a good thing … shows healing taking place.

The first time you come, inevitably, you’ll be feeling curious, perhaps even a bit nervous.  A lot of people have told me it just gets better each time they come along.

So, treat yourself … book into the next gong bath with yogabeing, lay down, relax and let the sounds and vibrations do their thing!


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As I am now offering Reiki treatments in Bicester, though it might be helpful to write a little about what Reiki is and how it can be of benefit.  I’ve found that lots of websites talk in really ‘airy fairy’ language that can be difficult to understand …. so I’ve used plain english!!

What is Reiki

In essence, Reiki is a relaxing experience, drawing on natural energy systems (Prana, Chi) that help mind, body and emotions to release so that the body’s natural healing mechanisms are encouraged to do their work. Some therapists use a hands on’ technique, but my preference is for ‘hands off’ – this is both so that I can feel the energy fields better, and also because it seems to be preferred by my clients.  So, I work using a ‘no touch’ therapy.  You lay, fully clothed on a treatment couch, probably snuggled in a blanket.

What can you expect?

I will talk to you to find out a bit about you and what has brought you along for a Reiki treatment.  Then I’ll encourage you to relax and begin the treatment.  You may be aware of sensations of warmth and tension release.  After the treatment, it’s up to you whether you wish to ask any questions, or simply to just relax for a few minutes.

And after the treatment?

Drink plenty of water and try to make time to relax to enhance the benefits of the treatment.

How often is Reiki advised?

It is very much a personal choice how often you have a Reiki treatment.  Many people book a 4-6 weekly session, much like you might a massage.  Others may book a course of several treatments to help them through a difficult period in their lives.

What to look for in a Reiki Therapist?

Someone who is qualified, and someone with whom you feel a sense of connection.  There is a trend for beauty therapists to offer Reiki treatments – but my suggestion would be to look for someone who works more with energy fields than nail varnish!  To me there is a high difference in being able to massage away tense muscles, to using a ‘no touch’ more spiritually oriented therapy to release tension from mind and emotions as well as body.

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Ujjayi Pranayama

We’ve been enjoying the lovely Ujjayi breath as our pranayama practice in classes this week.

Sometimes known as Victorious breath, it’s a wonderfully calming, quieting breath.

I usually explain how to do it by suggesting students make the sound of the sea – the waves rolling in and out of the shore – whilst breathing slowly in and out through the mouth – this helps create a focus on the throat.  Once a slow, gentle rhythm is established, then transfer to making the same sound, with the same feel in the throat, but breathing softly in and out through the nose.

What’s actually happening is that the glottis is restricted, which serves to slow the breath down.  The pranayama has a soothing effect on the nervous system.  Some find it helps with insomnia.

If you’d like to try Ujjayi breath, sit comfortably, making sure you’ll be warm.  Let your spine be upright, including your neck.  Hands can rest gently in your lap or in Chin Mudra (tip of thumb and first finger touching).  Gently settle into a slow and comfortable breath, thru the nose, for a few minutes.  Then try making the sound of those ocean waves, breathing through your mouth.  Having got the hang of it, move to breathing through the nose and still hearing that wonderful ocean wave sound.  Keep the breath gentle, soft and slow.  After about 3-5 minutes, let your breath settle back into it’s normal rhythm, and then choose whether to gently stretch and carry on your day, or to move into a period of relaxation.

Please note Ujjayi breath is not recommended for anyone suffering from severe depression or psychosis as it takes you so deep within yourself.

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Amazing feet

Feet are amazing …… 28 bones, 33 joints, 12 ligaments and 34 muscles.  They support us for hours each and every day … whether we are walking, running, standing or even sitting with feet on floor.  A recent article in Saga magazine stated that by the time we are 50, our feet have covered 75,000 miles … yes, you read that right, 75,000 miles.

And of course in yoga our feet play both a physical and symbolic role – helping us grip our mats in standing asanas like Warrior 1 and 2, enabling our standing poses like Dancer and Tree. We often use the symbolism of feeling our feet being ground when we need to feel ‘still’ or ‘grounded’.  And if you’ve ever enjoyed a walking meditation, you’ll know all about how wonderfully the feet can convey the feeling of the ground beneath you.

So it’s well worth looking after your feet – a bit of regular tlc

  1.  Wear comfortable shoes – as least most of the time!
  2. Vary heel heights – good for both feet and legs
  3.  Avoid dry skin building up and keep feet well moisturised
  4. Exercise the feet regularly

Some examples of good exercises for feet:

  1. Lay with legs up the wall (Viparita Karani) – your legs and back will love this too
  2. Whilst standing, try to create a space between each toe – gives a lovely stretch
  3. Whilst standing, try and move the big toe away from your first toe – supposed to alleviate bunion pain
  4. Whilst standing, lift each toe in turn (if you can)
  5. Whilst seated or standing – roll a tennis ball around under your foot – said to alleviate plantar fascitis
  6. Whilst sitting or laying, with leg straight, point and flex foot – good stretch

And I love this wonderful quote from Thich Nhat Hanh

Image result for poem about lovely feet

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Flippin’ Incense!

I’ve written about my loathing of smelly smokey incense sticks before… but after what might have been a wonderful browse round an interesting shop yesterday, feel compelled to write again!

I’d planned a trip to a lovely shop selling beautiful crystals and was looking forward to browsing and treating myself to some lovely new crystals.

Hmmmm that was the plan … but the shop owner had chosen to have lots of those wretched smokey, probably carcinogenic incense sticks burning. Within a couple of minutes my nose was running, then the coughing started, soon followed by itching skin .. so I chose to leave.  For the rest of the day I had a headache and was coughing.

How is this a great customer experience?  I realise that the shop was trying to create a nice atmosphere, but as I’ve mentioned this issue to friends, several have commented they have exactly the same problem and avoid yoga studios, shops and centres that use incense sticks.

So come on people .. think of your customers and get rid of those horrid joss sticks!!

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Your best self

Sometimes you read something  and it really makes a deep impression.  Meli who facilitated the Mindfulness Summit last year shared this quote from a book I’m currently reading :

“Practice sharing the fullness of your being, your best self, your enthusiasm, your vitality, your spirit, your trust, your openness, above all, your presence. Share it with yourself, with your family, with the world.”  – Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life

What a lovely sentiment…. sharing the best of yourself.  And that word practice is so key … we have to start doing it … won’t always be able to manage it …. but as we practice, we can get better at it.  By becoming more aware, perhaps we start to notice those small, mean, judgemental thoughts … and of course the first step to change is awareness.  Sharing our fullness of being – that real essence our true selves.  Sharing our trust and openness – you have to be feeling good about yourself to be able to do this … if you are coming from a place of fear, suspicion, or anger, you simply can’t do it.  Sharing our presence….. being there, really there.

And somehow, as we do this, the spaciousness in our hearts grows and grows.

I love this sentiment – will be the focus of my meditation this week.

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Enjoy yoga outside

There’s something very special about enjoying a yoga practice outside.

You are more in contact with nature – with the feel of the ground beneath your feet, the breeze on your skin, the clouds above you, the warmth of the sun, sounds of birds etc. Yes there may also be the sounds of people or traffic, but once you are really in your practice, these sounds tend to fade into the background.

Your balance is challenged more when the ground is a bit uneven and the feedback you receive helps you bring a Beginners Mind to your practice.

I love Sun Salutations, or the slower Earth sequence, Tree balance … they all become magically different when enjoyed outside.  Just sitting with the breath becomes new again.

Try it …. in your garden, in the park, in the countryside … just enjoy the lovely summer!

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