Be like a tree
Stay grounded, connect with your roots, turn over a new leaf, keep growing.....
Here's a mindfulness exercise, ideal for kids. Be like a tree :)
, belowSo I've intentionally done this blog AFTER New Year.... after the time of setting a New Year's resolution that you may or may not stick too. I've never found them easy, most of them lasted till around 7pm on New Year's Day. Now I write three things at the end of the New Year's diary and see how I got on. I guess it's an easy way of setting an intention.....
In yoga we use the term "Sankalpa" - to set an intention or resolve. And the nice thing with these resolves is that they are termed in the now, in the present. So I'd like to be happy becomes I am happy. Words leave a mark, an energy, a vibration - so if we use the words to term the resolve as happening, that is the energy we send out and the brain begins to think it's an experience rather than an imagining.
We often set a sankalpa as part of a yoga nidra, so with this in mind, here's my Happy New Year to you - a wee Yoga Nidra. Enjoy! xxxx
I’m often asked what is Scaravelli inspired yoga????
Most people interested in yoga are familiar with or the term of Iyengar yoga. Vanda Scaravelli was taught by Iyengar, and also Desikachar, when they were visitors to her home in Florence. But note the use of the word visitors; without either teacher to hand for a weekly lesson or two that most of us experience, Vanda continued to develop her own practice.
In Iyengar yoga, postures are often held and propped which encourage the body to develop, move, shift, release, etc. However, many of these postures are hard for some to get into, especially Western bodies which historically had moved in a very different way – hard on the outside but soft on the inside, as Iyengar told my teacher, Jenny Beeken. Through her practice, Vanda awoke her spine by relaxing the outer body to access the spine, it’s deep muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Her teachings encourage us to soften the outer ‘holding onto’ and strengthen the inner body, core of our being. Iyengar could see this, but it needed a western body to feel and understand what was needed. Vanda’s book, Awakening the Spine, is essential reading to all yogis. Vanda didn't wish to have a school or discipline of yoga named after her, hence the use of Scaravelli Inspired Yoga.
The yoga path of Scaravelli is not one of regimental shapes, but an encouragement of individuals on a journey of movement and vitality. Because of this, it is extremely transformative and beneficial to all levels and all abilities.
I personally believe it’s a great way to start learning yoga; the postures in essence are the all the same in any practice – Hatha, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Scaravelli – but the teachings of these disciplines is where the difference is and for many, Scaravelli offers a lesser regimented, fluid and therapeutic practice.
Of course the easiest way to understand, is to experience, so if you would like to come along to any of my classes, please do feel free to: my website is www.lotusandlaurelyoga.co.uk and lists all my classes or simply get in touch.
So I have a little bit of news! I am over the moon to update my teaching qualifications to now be a registered "Experienced Yoga Teacher" with Yoga Alliance Professionals.
This means that I have over 3000 hours of teaching experience since qualifying in 2015.
I'm also very excited to be teaching the Inner Yoga Foundation course in Little Laurel in March 2020. I'll be posting more information on my website, social media, but in the meantime if you've any questions or want to register interest, please do get in touch.
Thursday, 7th March heralds the start of our Moon Yoga sessions at Riverside Rooms.
So what do we do differently at these sessions; I thought it would be good to share a little more info about the practice in this weeks blog.
Firstly, the session is outside, but currently undercover with infra red heating at this time of year to keep us warmer. Given the nature of the practice, it is more beneficial for us to be outside under the moon as much as possible. When we refer back to the Vedic texts and the history of yoga, many yogis where forest dewellers who had retreated back to nature to study with or without their gurus. When we look at the Sanskrit translations of postures, they often reference animals and nature (mountain, dog, tree, etc) so the effect of nature on our practice is profound.
Consider the effect of the moon on our planet - the tides, degrees of darkness and gravity. It has long been held practice by farmers that seeds are planted in accordance with moon phases due to the moon's subtle effects. Waxing, Waning, New and Full are references to various stages of the moons cycles. In our sessions we work with the New and Full Moon. The New Moon is when the moon is at is visible smallest - it looks like a slither or a slit in the deep indigo sky. It is a time to set intentions - wishes - for the future, which we work with during the practice. The Full Moon is when the Moon is at it's fullest and brightest; this is a time to work with gratitude and forgiveness whilst still considering the intentions we have previously set. And if we haven't set intentions, we focus on gratitude and thankfulness in our lives, and creating forgiveness so we can move onto a new phase of our lives. Bearing this in mind, it is beneficial to repeat the practices at each phase - we can't necessarily manifest a new job promotion after one New Moon, but need to develop the appreciation, understanding and intention by stage to get there.
Asana practice (physical movement and postures) is gentle yet powerful - consider "less is more." Whilst I will always work with the bodies in attendance, various postures help create an environment in which the aforementioned intention and gratitude work can take place - the heart is open and the mind cleared to consider this.
Warming drinks also help to open the heart; we have found that in the coldness, hot chocolate warms and comforts, but equally we can have a herbal tea or other alternative.
Yoga nidra is a practice of "conscious sleeping" - we deepen the awareness of the body and again confirm our intention (called a "sankalpa" for the purpose of yoga nidra) at the start of the practice which "sets" it in the body and mind.
I love to practice these sessions as I feel it gives students a little more to keep taking forward in their day to day life. The longer session gives well need time to come back to the body and deeply connect, bringing us clarity to the mind.
I hope that I will see you at one of these wonderful practices, and do get in touch if you have any questions.
love and light
These sessions are held at Riverside Rooms, 10 Uxbridge Road, Hampton Hill, TW12 3AB; an oasis for holistic therapies with Carole Barnes and an amazing venue for this practice.
Latest craze or enhancing our kids wellbeing.....
We were all kids once. Most of us reading this will be either practicing or considering yoga, as we’re reading up about it right now. Most of us as kids practiced yoga postures without even realising it. In trying to stand up, we crawled on all fours, we squatted, we bent over in numerous ways so we’d nearly done a sun salutation just to stand up! Handstand games, headstands on the bed, can you do the splits……. All of these are yoga postures. Maybe afterwards we sat and watched the clouds, or read a book outside; very mindful and meditative activities.
Then we grew up and essentially stopped playing. And when we do play – it’s online rather than outside. We sit longer at desks to study or work, developed habits in our bodies and lives which may not be so good for us and voila – we can no longer touch our toes.
We’re all aware that movement is key to keeping our bodies and minds healthy. Anxiety levels in young adults and children are on the increase, as are obesity, diabetes, etc. Kids are still active – it’s not all doom and gloom – football, dancing, rugby, cycling – and these all tick the boxes to help prevent the aforementioned, but if you’re an adults practicing yoga, you know the benefits it brings.
And it’s exactly the same for kids. In fact it’s easier, because kids are AWESOME at yoga. It’s the most natural thing for their bodies to do so all we need to do is encourage it. Sun saluting 3 year olds? Definitely – when was the last time you were a dog, or a cat? It’s the best fun in the world. 7 year olds practising mindfulness and meditation? Really…. yes….. A guided exercise, taking in a tree, it’s textures, it’s sounds, it’s smells, it’s inhabitants – just the start. Tweenies love a shoulder stand. The most surprising thing is that most kids crave savasana. Maybe I’ve been very lucky as a teacher, but once they get into the habit, a 5 minute relax is really looked forward to.
So the benefits….. movement frees up a lot of held “stuff” – energy, frustration, excitement, etc and certain yoga postures help more so with freeing up these feelings. Once we’ve freed up that stuff, we’re happy to sit for longer, in fact our minds and bodies are positively comfortable doing that as all that stuff that made us fidget and switch off is gone. We understand more about our bodies, ourselves and our environment – if we’re taught to breath as well as be a tree how can we not appreciate these things more. If we can practice savasana, getting to sleep on our own gets easier. And we haven’t got to body confidence and self confidence yet!
Encouragement is key. Forcing, like anything with a child, is far from ideal. I have taught lots of children who spend the first session sitting and watching, then the second participating a little and so on. The introduction of singing bowls and flowers to smell – encouraging sharing and breathing as well as inviting every child to participate in some way. Yoga is not just a physical practice on a mat after all!
So don’t write yoga for kids and young adults as the next in thing – it’s far from it – in fact they’ve been doing it for years! Encourage, enjoy and be a dog wagging it’s tail once in a while, it really is a lot of fun!
If you're interested in your child practicing yoga, I will be teaching at the Yoga Bar in Twickenham during half term, 10-12 each day and at Ember in Hampton Hill on Monday, 4pm onwards (starting 4th March). Marble Hill yoga will start after Easter in April which is also a family friendly session.
Most of you who know me, have heard about my dogs, Bodhi, Arthur and Tig. They are all completely different shapes and sizes; Tig is a 11 year old Lab, Arthur a deaf 2 year old terrier cross and Bodhi, a 16 week old mongrel that looks like a whippet (as I type this, I have one on my lap, one trying to get on my lap and the third asleep on the floor)
Dog pose in it's full glorious sanskrit is know as Adho Mukha Svanasana; the translation is Downward Facing Dog; it is also known as Mountain, as the body looks like a mountain, it's peak being the pelvis. There are numerous benefits to this pose and the feeling it gives to the body is different to everyone. Which makes me think about my dogs.......
Tig as a Lab with a strong stout body looks very different as she stretches downward when compared to Bodhi who is all legs and deep chest. As breeds, and non-breeds, they behave differently; Bodhi runs fast for short bursts, Tig is happy to walk for miles and Arthur, well he'd be constantly cuddled if given the chance. In our day to day life, what we do with our bodies and how we live impacts how we move. If we are desk bound with little movement during our day at work, this can be reflected in shoulders and hips; if we are runners, probably tighter quads and thighs due to the way the muscles are used, if we are tense, the psoas can be tight, affecting the lower back.
So practice your dog and be in tune with your body. Bodhi lengthens through her spine, brings her shoulders inwards to the vertebrae. Tig, when feeling her age, softens her joints, so nothing is pushed, and Arthur's little legs with their double joints makes his dog like "puppy" pose.
We can learn a lot from how dogs move when they stretch; next time you're close to one, watch them and notice how they move and you'll see why the pose is called Downward Facing Dog.
I love cat pose, I love dog pose. Mind you, I love cats and dogs full stop, but let's talk about cat pose. Marjaryasana is it's full sanskrit name. For me, in cat, I move from the base; from the tailbone (or root). The releasing down of the tail allows a wave to move up and through the spine, bringing you into cat pose, without force or pushing. Cat pose creates length into the spine and massages the belly. Invite the shoulders to release forwards and let the breath move as it wants to.
Named cat because the posture is like an angry cat, I've been known to teach my friends "be an angry cat like Denzel" - Denzel was my 3 legged black rescue cat, who was particularly angry, and particularly loveable because of it. An ex stray who stole hearts - and anything you weren't watching on a dinner plate. So this post is in memory to Denzel, who passed on yesterday. Thank you for finding us.
"That which is non-existent can never come into being, that which is can never cease to be"
I'm sure that most of us at some point have felt anxious. If only for a split second before jumping into a swimming pool, or for an evening before a morning presentation. But for some of us, it's a little longer than that, and possibly a little more regular. And it may be the same with feeling down - we may feel down for a couple of days, but for some of us, that feeling down can manifest into depression before we know it.
I was recently reading an article by Monty Don (the he-god of gardening with velvet voice and love of dogs) which really resonated with me; and I wanted to share some of it as I felt that whilst Monty talks of gardening - and I totally agree with his view - his words also made me think of yoga.
"I think gardening is an enormously beneficial thing and it's certainly helped me with depression. I think there are two key things. One is just being outside; here we are standing with the rain falling gently on us but it's not unpleasant - it's better than being in a stuffy room! Being outside in every weather and every season connects you to something bigger than yourself; it connects you to a rhythm of life! ........ Number two is that growing things, seeing them grow, planting a seed seeing that come into a beautiful flower is life. It's a celebration of all there is and it's everything. And if you can see that and share that, that gets you through a lot. Being outside on a daily basis, working, moving, getting fresh air, feeling the weather and the seasons and then celebrating the beauty you're creating is good for your head!"
He also says in the same article "I want people to have a go and if it goes wrong, you then learn something. And if it goes right, it's great!" I couldn't put it better myself Monty, that's exactly how I feel about yoga - for every full good headstand, there's been 15 times of sliding over and learning, and for every lovely meditation, there's been a previous session disturbed by "the list of jobs".
So what's the answer to being anxious and feeling low. I wish I had it. If I find it, I'll let you know, but in the meantime, let's be a bit more Monty.
Link to the full article below.
With love - and dirty muddy hands
Most of us have what I call quirks in the body. That sore hip, bit of a dodgy knee, griping tummy and so on. I believe this is the body talking to us - maybe even singing loudly out of tune at us. And we should listen. I always ask at the start of class, anything I need to know about? (My fellow yogis know me well enough to grab me if they want to talk privately) And often, I ask is there anything we want to focus on. Our day to day posture has a huge effect on our wellbeing. Texting, phone under one ear, desk bound, driving, rushing - all of these things can change how we use our bodies - and our spines. Aligning the spine allows the mind to calm. If we sit slumped, how do we feel? If we sit, lengthened and aligned, now how do we feel? I know that we cannot change the pace of modern life, but we can, and should, bring our practice into our roles and activities.
Many women are told to do pelvic floor exercises at the bus stop or in queues! Well what about Tadasana - standing. Coming into the feet and upwards, creating the posture that connects us to the earth and the sky. And so the spine can lengthen and align, the mind can calm and quieten. In traffic, Pranayama - breath practice. Be aware of your breath, let it slow, focus on the inhalation and exhalation. These little things begin to bring the undoing to the body - maybe the muscles around the sore hip can loosen little by little, creating space and easing the soreness. Maybe by using the feet properly through the practice of Tadasana, the dodgy knee is supported better. Little by little.....
Take care and enjoy the sun - hope to see some of you at class