Viewing entries tagged
Yoga Medicine

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pose of the week - crow (bakasana)

Crow or bakasana was the first arm balancing pose I conquered and in the split second I held it I felt like the king of the word! There is something really powerful about balancing your entire body just on the hands, knowing that if this is possible, anything is. It’s a truly empowering moment to realise how strong is our body.

Balancing on your arms requires a lot of internal focus, it's not something you just jump into. You build towards it and one day you gather all your troops, take a leap of faith and fly. And if it doesn't work the first time, you try again, and then again and then another 100 times. 

If you want to prep and build core strength check out the video below. It's a crunches exercise that will fire up your abs and give you the right fuel to just take off and fly into your crow pose.

Come into a plank pose on a hardwood floor, with a blanket, towel, jumper, anything really under your feet.

Firm your upper outer arms in, synch your abdominals and slowly either:  bend your knees and drag them tight into your chest, or if you want a hundred times harder version - keep the knees straight, use your abdominals and shoot your bum into the air, dragging feel to land between your palms.

Repeat until sweat is starting to cover your eyes, but keep some energy left for the final flight into your crow pose.

For crow: squat down with your feet just a few inches apart. If it isn’t possible to keep your heels on the floor, support them on a rolled up blanket or a block. Separate your knees wider than your hips, bend your elbows and snuggle your shins against the backs of the upper arms.

The hands are incredible tools that allow us to reach out into the world and bring our ideas, dreams and hopes into reality. Rather than judging our arms as being too weak or too big, just thank them for doing their job of connecting our hands to our bodies and to the world. So now spread your fingers wide so you create as much platform and grounding a possible. Push the floor away with your palms and feel how much strength you've already got. Synch your abdominals asking them to turn on, this is the core of your strength both emotional and physical. Slowly start leaning the torso forward and press your shins tighty against the backs of the upper arms by engaging your adductors.

Lift up onto the balls of your feet and lean forward even more, keep squeezing those shins in. 

Maybe lift one foot...maybe then lift the other foot...

If it is scary, put a pillow under your face. As a beginner, you might want to stop here and play a little bit with tap dancing your feet.

But if you are ready to play...squeeze the legs against the arms, press the inner hands firmly to the floor. INHALE and straighten the elbows.

You've got this!

*if you are hyperextending your elbows just as much as I normally do, keep your elbows slightly bent. 

Stay as long as you can, keep breathing. To release, exhale and slowly lower your feet to the floor, back into a squat.

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Pose of the week: twisting crescent lunge

Twists are one of my favourite poses in yoga. They feel fantastic when I feel stiff around my mid back but also they just get things moving. If something is stuck or trapped in your digestive track, a yoga sequence full of twisting poses (log or short, it doesn’t matter) is one of the best ways to support your body's needs naturally. Healthy twists bring healthy blood flow and circulation to your bowel but also to the entire body. While twists can have a beneficial effect on digestion, it is important to practice them with care. Move with your breath, allow every inhale to lift you up and every exhale to move you a little deeper into the twist.

Active digestion happens after you finished all the twisting, when you are resting in savasana or seating in a meditation practice. Only when the body’s idea of ‘danger’ has passed it starts to digest and eliminate. That is how yoga, meditation and breathing support digestion. Yoga calms us by training our nervous system to transition from a flight or fight (the sympathetic nervous system) to a restorative and healing response (parasympathetic nervous system).

You can do all sorts of twists: lying twists, seated twists and lunging twists. Of the three twist variations, lunging twists allow for the most movement in the spine. If the arms are not forcefully creating oppositional pressure, there is minimal risk to the spine.

For those of you who wish to add a little spice to your twists, open the arms, or even lift the elbows. Your side abs will turn on straight away! If you want to try more gentle twists, just put the knee down.

Anther fabulous way to spike up you digestion is by drinking a beverage with lemon first thing in the morning, at least 30 min before breakfast. This will stimulate digestion and elimination.

  • juice of ½ lemon or lime
  • 1 tbls of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp of honey
  • pinch of cayenne
  • small cup of warm water

Just mix it all together. 

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Pose of the week: neck release

In my yoga classes I always work with a specific intent. It can be entirely focused on a particular part of the human body that I am currently researching to understand it’s functions and dysfunctions. Or it can also be a mixture of an anatomical part and something I am learning about in my own life. I share those with my students but not everyone can make to my class so this is the reason why I’ve decided to start “pose of the week’ blog. 

In the past weeks I have been swamped with work and despite all the wisdom, yoga, meditation my neck and shoulders become the biggest victims. We all abuse our body in one way or another but those little guys always get beaten up the most. The neck gives us the ability to hold our head up high with confidence, but also to drop our it down and hide in the shadows. It keeps us always on guard, ready for the fight. Neck muscles may be small but they are mighty and often forgotten until they hurt. 

The neck is the support structure for the head and protects the spinal cord. The brain’s messages and major blood vessels travel through the neck to the body. This is why we often call the neck the 'gateway between the mind and the body'. Neck tension and pain can be produced by stress, computer work, sleeping positions or bad posture, among other things. When the neck is tense, the shoulders rise and the chin moves up and forward, causing further misalignment and pain. Neck tension can often lead to headaches, a problem affecting something like 75% of the general population. Chronic tension can settle into the neck, and literally strangle your aliveness.

Releasing those muscles will literally improve that circulation and your energy levels. It will clear up the gateway between your mind and the body and will give us greater ability to make wise decision. 

In Chinese medicine there is a group of ten points, which are called the ‘window of the sky’ or the ‘window of heaven'. I couldn’t find them in many of the more practical acupuncture books but they definitely have a lot of references even though they are not used commonly and are classified as more spiritual points. Interestingly they are being used within the Tom Tam Healing System for a range of conditions such as MS, Parkinson's, and brain tumours to facilitate the smooth flow of blood and Qi to and from the brain. Thai massage taught in northern Thailand is based on the same Tom Tam system to ensure maximum healing benefits to the body.

So perhaps just before you go to bed tonight you consider dedicating 5-10 minutes to care for your neck? 

neck release pose
  • find a confortable seated position, it can be on the bed, in your garden, even at your desk while you are at work. 
  • put left hand under the left sit bone, palm down, finger tips pointing towards your tailbone (it’s your own palm, don’t freak out;)
  • lean head to the right and take a breath. 
  • bring right arm over your head so finger tips are alongside your jaw line for extra weight, don’t push your head down! If your neck carries a lot of tension this may feel a bit uncomfortable so maybe don’t put the arm up just yet. give it a few breaths first
  • hunt for areas of tightens on the left side of the neck, breathe deeply and allow the head to be heavy
  • after a few minutes, release arm, roll chin to chest and breath to the back of the neck
  • release the hand you are sitting on, use it by placing it under your entire forehead, inhale and lift the head up
  • change sides

I love to follow this with legs up on the wall, especially after a very long day at work. Try it!

This is a great video by Kathryn Budig.

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Wanderlust

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My last flight is booked. I've had a dozen vaccinations and I feel like a biology experiment! My medical insurance is ‘almost’ sorted and my visas are being processed. Surprisingly, even my accountant has finally stopped telling me off.

I'm about to study Thai massage. I'm going to visit my favourite elephant sanctuary, travel across Asia visiting all those people who I miss dearly. I'll be teaching and practicing yoga. I'm going to experience Tibetan culture, and will probably bring back with me another tattoo. I'm going to challenge myself, move out of my comfort zone and create unforgettable memories.

So, this is the list of all the places I'm going to visit. When it's written down like this it's intimidating, but also how exciting! 

Thailand -> Laos -> Cambodia  -> Vietnam -> Burma -> (still trying to squeeze this one in!) -> Bangkok -> Singapore -> Bali -> Kuala Lumpur -> Nepal (teaching yoga!!) -> India (more yoga)

I'm pretty sure that at one point or another my friends will get either a sobbing FaceTime message or a random paradise/handstand picture! But it will be worth it. Susan Sontag once wrote: "I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
— Mark Twain

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8 things I loved about NYC

1) Central Park - I was really lucky to have it just around the corner, and I am glad it exists otherwise I would be lost in this concrete jungle

2) Avocado chocolate mousse, actually probably food all together. NYC is full of small organic places where you can get yummy food

3) Street system and numbers - so easy to navigate

4) Yoga studio on every corner

5) As every big city people pass you on the street without acknowledging that you are a human being too, however once you made an eye contact or ask them a question they are super friendly and surprisingly open (maybe I was just lucky;)

6) The size of the US flag!

7) The high line, park built on a section of a disused rail line (weirdly resembling Central Park)

8) This is truly a city of possibilities

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Nepal

I have just had a confirmation that I had been accepted to participate in a project allowing poor and marginalised people to utilise the benefits of yoga to help overcome the physical and mental stress they often face in today’s Nepal. I am going to Kathmandu in March 2015 to spend 4 weeks working at a Buddhist Monastery teaching yoga. I am very excited about this project as I will be able to apply my knowledge and skills to work with people who need it the most and give back to the community, but also I will have a rare opportunity to closely mingle, study and learn Buddhist ancient practices. 

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