Tips for creating a home yoga practice

Tips for creating a home yoga practice

Find a space
It doesn’t have to be a large space complete with calming water feature and widows that look out over the ocean. A corner in your bedroom, the kitchen or lounge will work just as well. Make sure you have enough space to move around it safely and that you don’t have any distractions within arm’s length.

Props
I absolutely love using props, but it doesn’t mean you need fancy or expensive ones. If you don’t have yoga blocks at home, you can always use thick, sturdy books or even a chair for standing poses. For a bolster, use a rolled up blanket or some pillows to give you support. You also don’t need a yoga mat. In India, many people practice on cotton mats, so if it’s comfortable for you, you can practice on the carpet, a wooden floor, on a towel. Just make sure you’re not slipping and sliding around and that you have a firm base of support. You also don’t need an fancy yoga strap. An old tie, a scarf or towel works just as well.

Be realistic
We’d all love to set aside an hour or longer to practice yoga, but the reality of practicing at home means lots of distractions. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes initially and move through poses you’re familiar with. I always recommend Sun Salutes as it’s a set sequence and you can practice any of the variations safely at home.

Noise
Having family members in another room or loud neighbours can sometimes be distracting. Don’t let that dissuade you. Sometimes it’s good practice to try and practice with life happening all around us. If you find it’s too much of a distraction, you can always opt for some calm background music to try and drown out the noise. If you don’t feel like searching for a playlist, you can easily find mine on Spotify.

Be consistent
The only way to have a regular home practice is to commit to practicing regularly. Schedule in some time each week when you know you’ll have a spare moment for your practice. It can be once a week or if you’re lucky, even more. On the days you might not feel like doing a physical practice, try one of the other limbs of yoga such as Meditation or Pranayama.

Yoga at your fingertips
If you’re struggling to practice at home, you can always try online yoga. There are plenty of yoga teachers and studios offering classes online. We are now able to practice with teachers we only dreamt of before. It’s also a great option if you find it easier to follow someone leading a practice compared to following your own sequence.

Pets
If your pets are anything like my cats, as soon as you settle on the mat they’ll want to join in. Usually I don’t mind as they tend to stay close to the mat while I’m practicing a more flowing practice, and then want to cuddle up during a more restorative practice or Savasana. If you find it distracting or dangerous (beware the pets that love to weave in between your feet), it might be best to close the door for the duration of the practice and keep them out of the space.

Have fun
One of the highlights of my home practice for me is that I can sometimes just have fun and experiment a little. There’s no one to see you lose your balance. Have a giggle, try a variation of a pose and take your time. There’s no rush here, so you can really settle into a pose and listen to the feedback your body is giving you.

So as you can see, you don’t need much to set up a home yoga practice. All that’s needed is for you to show up.

How to practice yoga with an injury

How to practice yoga with an injury

There will come a time in most yoga practitioners life when you will find yourself injured. This could be for reasons completely unrelated to yoga, overuse, overstraining, receiving a bad adjustment or just plain old bad luck.

So what’s a yogi or yogini to do?
Sometimes you can still continue to practice asana or the physical part of yoga just by modifying a few poses. Other times complete rest is the best option. As someone who has had a stubborn yoga injury as well as the unrelated bad luck of breaking my foot, I thought I’d share a few tips on what worked for me.

Rest
If the injury is very inflamed and very sore, sometimes it’s good to take a break from your physical practice and rest.

Some people immediately stop practicing. In some cases that’s necessary. Some injuries might be so inflamed that resting it completely is the best thing you can do before you start rehabilitation. Others work through the injury. I opted to work through the injury initially but it soon became apparent that all I was doing was making it more angry.

I went to see a physio therapist and followed his instructions to a T. After several months I still didn’t see any improvements and began to realise that while his treatment might have worked for others, my body wasn’t responding to it. I eventually found an amazing physio who has encouraged me to continue my practice, albeit modified while providing me with some exercises to help build up strength in areas my body is weak in.

Modification
When I broke my foot, the rest of my body was fine I just couldn’t put any weight on my foot for a while. This is where I modified my practice. I adopted a more restorative practice in the beginning, making sure to give my body some rest while it tried to heal.

Once the foot was feeling a little better, I began to modify by popping a block under my leg so I could come into Table Top. I still tried to keep off the foot so my focus was more on seated postures.

Once I could put some weight on it, I incorporated a few standing postures to help with my rehab and to build some strength back into that leg and foot. It was a slow process which changed daily depending on how the foot felt. The important thing is to listen to your body and your health professional.

Focus on the other limbs of yoga
There’s so much more to yoga than just the physical poses. See this as an opportunity to explore and deepen your pranayama (breathing) or meditation practice. When I broke my foot, my meditation practice was pretty sporadic, but it provided the perfect opportunity for me to learn how to sit each morning, even just for 5 to 10 minutes and meditate. Fast forward a couple of months and I now can’t imagine not meditating each day.

So don’t dispair and think you can’t practice when you’re injured. It’s all about listening to your body and adjusting your practice to suit your needs at that time.

Benefits of bringing yoga into the workplace

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We lead busy lives. We sit for long periods of time staring at our computer screens, our work-life can often times be quite stressful and we rarely get an opportunity to hit pause during the day.

Yoga has been scientifically proven to have a range of positive effects on office workers and it’s an easy practice to bring into the corporate environment.

Benefits include:

  • Reduces lower back pain
  • Reduces stress
  • Increases morale
  • Increases energy
  • Improves concentration and focus

It also give co-workers an opportunity to relax and do a non-work related activity together. This can lead to more harmonious workplace relationships, better conflict resolutions and healthier and happier employees.

There really isn’t a good reason not to bring yoga into the office.

You can access some of the scientific articles around the benefits of yoga here.

International Yoga Day & Winter Solstice

Happy International Yoga Day and Winter Solstice (for those of us in the southern hemisphere!) I started my day on the mat (how else) sharing my passion for yoga with some wonderful students before coming home and doing my own practice. I thought this is the perfect opportunity to share a short Winter Solstice inspired sequence with you.

Remember to hit the subscribe button if you want to join me for more yoga practices.

Warming up before practice

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If I head out to practice first thing in the morning, I often need to warm up first. My tendons and muscles tend to be on the stiff side first thing and I find that doing some warm ups, either as part of my home practice, or before I leave for class really helps my body feel more comfortable. I also find that it prepares me mentally for my practice by making me aware of my breath and how my body is feeling and reacting in poses.

Join me in my latest video as I talk you through a quick warm up that you can do ahead of any yoga practice or your exercise of choice. As always when practicing, remember to listen to your body and stop if you experience any pain.

Remember to click the thumbs up on the video if you liked it and click subscribe if you’d like to receive more yoga related videos in your inbox.

Have a wonderful week!
xx

Yoga Fun – Morning Routine

Hello everyone!

Summer is finally on it’s way and I can’t wait for the warm days to arrive. It’s so much easier for me to get up early in the mornings to go to yoga when it’s light and warm. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy at the moment and I still have my mornings where I just want to sleep in.

On such mornings, I always end up doing some yoga in bed. Just a few poses and some breathing to get my day started. You really can do yoga anywhere. Favourite poses include reclined twists (you can use your pillows as bolsters if you need to), legs up the wall, Cat/Cow and Puppy Pose. Below is a little video I did more for fun, but showing some of the poses I do when I just can’t get myself out of bed. It also features one of my yoga kitties.

I hope you enjoy the video and if you do, don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.

Hope to see you on the mat soon!

Yoga for Shoulders

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Hi everyone!

So I’ve been a little bit busy recently with some exciting new projects, one of which is my new YouTube channel. Expect videos of where I live, my travels and of course, yoga! I plan to create a series of short yoga practices (called yoga bites) which most people could squeeze into their day before or after work. I’m really excited to share this with you and learn a whole new set of skills along the way.

So remember to subscribe to my channel to receive all my latest videos.

 

Book review – Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom

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I recently read Colleen Saidman Yee’s book, Yoga for Life. I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve known a little bit about her from what I’ve read in articles but this was an opportunity to find out more about her and her love for yoga in her own words.

She has divided the book into different phases of her life. Each chapter is accompanied by a yoga sequence themed around the subject for that chapter. The book read like you were having a casual conversation with her over a cup of tea and I was engaged from the first paragraph.  She opens up about her childhood, her drug addiction and how she overcame it, her modelling career and how she was introduced to yoga. She even talks about how she and Rodney met and the affair that rocked the yoga world at the time.

I think what I liked most about the book was her pure honesty and willingness to put it all out there, knowing that some people might judge her for her past actions. Her message is one of hope and the accompanying yoga sequences are great. She offers plenty of options and even includes a restorative and chair yoga sequence.

It was great learning about her journey, how she found her own voice and became the yoga teacher we all know today.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

The Eight

Most of us are familiar with the physical side of yoga, known as Asana, but very few know that all together yoga comprises of Eight Limbs. There’s more to yoga than just stretching and trying to get some killer arms while working on your Chaturanga. The Eight Limbs were first recorded in the sage Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. While it might sound daunting, I will try and outline each limb as simply as possible.

Yama:
There are five Yamas and they act as moral guides on how to interact with the world around us. This is how we practice yoga off the mat. They are:
Ahimsa (non-violence)
Satya (truthfulness)
Asteya (non-stealing)
Bramacharya (moderation)
Aparigraha (non-greed and non-hoarding)

Niyama:
There are also five Niyamas which are seen as observances and  self-discipline practices. They are:
Saucha (cleanliness)
Santosha (contentment)
Tapas (discipline)
Svadhyaya (self-study and the study of spiritual or yogic text)
Isvarapranidaha (surrender to a higher power)

Asana:
This is the limb we’re all familiar with and practice when we go to a yoga class. It’s the physical aspect of yoga. The idea behind Asana is to get the body ready for meditation.

Pranayama:
I have grown to love this Limb. Prana is energy or life source and can be described as the breath. Pranayama is the practice of controlling your breath. This can be achieved through different breathing exercises such as Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) which I do whenever I feel anxious.

Pratyahara:
This is the practice of withdrawing the senses. During meditation we draw our focus inward, letting go of the distractions around us.  Most of us experience this when we’re concentrating hard on something. It seems like the whole world falls away except for that one thing you’re focusing on.

Dharana:
Dharana is connected to Pratyahara. It’s the focussed concentration required when the senses are withdrawn to begin to meditate. We begin to focus on concentrating on a single point. Through extended periods of focused concentration we begin to meditate.

Dhyana:
Dhyana is when we become completely absorbed in our focus, this is meditation. Initially we might only be able to hold it for a second or two, but through regular practice you will be able to meditate for longer periods of time without any breaks or distractions.

Samadhi:
Samadhi is often referred to as enlightenment or bliss.

That is essentially the Eight Limbs in a nutshell. Each Limb works together with the next one to encourage your body to relax, your breath to come under control and for your mind to find clarity and peace. So next time you unroll your yoga mat, maybe try to sit still for a few moments and focus on your breath or save a few minutes for a meditation practice.

5 Ways yoga changed my life

5 Ways Yoga changed my life

When I first started practicing yoga many moons ago, I didn’t really think it would have much impact on my life away from the mat. Boy was I wrong! But I’ve never been happier about being wrong.

Yoga helped me combat stress and anxiety.
I’ve always been a bit anxious but by the time I was in my last year at university I was battling both anxiety and high stress levels. Yoga taught me to breathe, to soften where I was holding tension and to let go. It wasn’t something that magically happened overnight but through regular practice I was able to cope a lot better. I’m much better today at identifying when I’m starting to feel anxious or stressed and often a simple, quick meditation or breathing practice will help.

Yoga gave me family in a new country.
We moved to a city and country we had never set foot in. It was difficult initially trying to settle down without family or friends to support us. Luckily I was practicing with a great group of people who soon became my surrogate family. We’ve been through heartaches, health scares, tragedy and babies together. Having that support and friendship means so much to me and has made my life all the more richer.

Yoga taught me to live in the moment.
My yoga teacher often tells us to let go of all expectations when we step on the mat; to focus on our body and breath in that moment and to let go of what we were able to do yesterday. This really rang true for me when one morning I was finally able to get into headstand only to find myself in the emergency room that night due to appendicitis. This meant letting go of what my yoga practice was and changing it completely to suit my body at that moment as it recovered from surgery. I’ve also learned to do the same in my life off the mat. Dwelling on what could have been or what could happen takes away what is really happening in the present. You can’t change the past and you can’t really control the future, so rather be present in the moment now and enjoy it.

Yoga taught me body awareness.
Yoga has taught me to listen to my body. I’m much quicker now to pick up on subtle changes and can adapt my practice accordingly in order to avoid injury. It’s also taught me to respect my body and that it’s not going to be the same each day. Some days back bends are easier than others and that’s ok.  It’s just another opportunity to explore my practice in a different way.

Yoga made me a better person.
I know, this one probably sounds like a cliché but it’s true.  Yoga has really made me a more compassionate person. I’m also much more relaxed so way less likely to blow up at someone when something goes wrong. Bugs that I previously would have squished now get caught in a container (albeit gingerly) and then get released outside. I make a point of smiling and greeting people I pass in the street and pick up litter whenever I see some. Yoga has really taught me that we are all connected and by doing small things you can really make a positive difference.

Has your yoga practice had any influence on your life off the mat? Let me know how in the comment section below.