Do you ever get stressed out on your commute? Rush hour traffic, delays, packed out trains, platforms, tourist and people walking too slow! At times just getting to work can be unpleasant and doesn't exactly help us get our day off to a great start.
So what can we do? If leaving before or after rush hour isn't an option and we must navigate through the dreaded tube or subway system we can try our best not be reactive to all the stress and energy around us. One of the simplest things we can do is breath awareness and infact this simple exercise is great for all stressful situations whether we are stuck in traffic or having heated debate. Both external stressors and our emotions and state of mind affect our breath.
How to practice breath awareness on the train...
Breath awareness exercises can be refined over time. After a while you may start slipping it into your daily routine, allowing you to stay calm and centered.
Until Next time.. Happy Commuting
Making a connection to your breath in your Yoga practice can be transformative. All to often we hold, stain or ignore the breath which can create tension in our bodies and minds. Exactly the opposite result of what we want from our Yoga class! Here are some top tips to encourage more breath and awareness during your Yoga practice.
Yoga is a practice of awareness.
Next time you attend a class or practice yourself, take a moment, mid flow to become aware of your breath. Ask yourself, 'Am I breathing?' 'How am I breathing?' Then....allow yourself to breathe!
You should be able to breathe at all times.
Notice if your breath becomes very shallow or stained. If you are having difficulty breathing it could be a sign you should back off a little on the intensity of the pose.
In Yoga we generally in inhale and exhale through the nose.
It is thought to be the best way to keep energy within the body. There maybe occasions we exhale through the mouth in order to give a feeling of release for a short period of time.
Surround your movement with breath.
The breath can initiate the movement. Coordinating the physical movement with breath creates flow and ease in our body. Timing your breath with the movement can be challenging, especially in a class with inhale/exhale cues from the Yoga instructor. Within reason, we would say always follow the timing of your own body and breath. It would be practically impossible for all the people in a Yoga class to be breathing at the same time for the duration of the class. The Yoga instructors cues are just meant as a guide and reminder.
Do we inhale or exhale in this movement/pose?
Forward bending postures are linked with the exhalation, a feeling of release, surrender and closing. Backward bending postures are linked with the inhalation, a feeling a wakening, joy and opening. Twists are normally practiced with an exhalation as we turn (as there is less space in the lungs as we twist) and an inhalation to return. This is a general way the breath is used to compliment a physical Yoga practice and why a Yoga instructor would be giving certain cues. The reasons why can be elaborated on and it is a massive subject, with some reasons why the above may vary too.
In a Yoga class, there maybe hundreds of inhale/exhale cues, strange new breathing techniques, other people breathing loudly around you and some people barely breathing at all! When in doubt the best thing to do is just breathe normally :)
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Lots of love
Hana and Aya xxx
The deep abdominal breath, also known as diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing, is one of the best stress reducing techniques there this. As adults we often develop slightly abnormal ways of breathing. This can be due to our body taking on strained or irregular postures as result of daily and a life time of emotion and physical stresses. Sometimes we start to breath into the top of our chests using muscles around the shoulders and neck, shallow breathing, holding our breath in, holding our breath out, all of these can be a result of stress, and in turn cause us stress. This can often lead to a vicious cycle.
We are stressed so we restrict our breath = Our breath is restricted so we feel stressed
The deep abdominal breath can take us back to our most natural and effective way to breath. If you look at babies and animals, you will see they are breathing fully with their whole bodies. You will see an easy rise and fall of their relaxed bellies. This way of breathing is the most effective way to bring blood and oxygen to our brain and bodies and strengthening the diaphragm. A regular practice of the deep abdominal breath can bring us back home to ourselves and our own true nature to be calm and happy. So stop holding your breath, stop holding your belly, allow yourself to breath deeply like a happy Buddha with a big round belly and enjoy! Here is an easy way to get you started.
Deep Abdominal Breath
1. Lie on the floor, bending the legs so that the knees are pointing to the ceiling and the soles of the feet are on the floor, hip width apart.
2. Place one hand on the heart centre (the centre of the chest) and the other on the belly.
3.Close the eyes. Inhale into the lower belly, feel the hand on your belly rising, exhale feel the hand falling.
4. The hand on the heart should remain soft and still. Simply watch the rise and fall of the hand on the belly (lower abdomen)
5. Then try counting the breath backwards from 7 -1. Inhale think 7, exhale think 7, inhale 6, exhale 6 and so on.
6. When you complete the counts, allow the breath to return to normal. Roll to the side and use the hands to make your way up to sitting. Om Shanti! (peace)
Practice with Hana's Recording Below!
We all have different patterns and relationships with our Yoga practice. Maybe we practice once or twice a week. Maybe we go through periods of practicing and going to class or self practice everyday and then go through a time of yoga drought for long periods of time. What if it gradually becomes harder to motivate yourself to get on the mat? All of these things are normal. The question is how can we ensure we build a loving, rational, steady and long lasting relationship with our Yoga practice? Below are a few attitudes we can be taking during our Yoga practice, that are sure to keep you in a great and loving relationship with your practice, your body and yourself.
Congratulate yourself for getting on to your mat, whether it be at home or in a class. Showing up to practice is the most important step you can take. Sometimes it's not easy. A million things on the 'to do list', feeling tired, feeling unmotivated, there can be so many physical and phycological hurdles to jump over until we finally arrive on our Yoga mat. Then from the moment you begin, give yourself a big and wholehearted 'well done', after all what could be more important than taking time for you to look after your body and soul.
Unconditinally listen, appreciate and love your body
Listen and appreciate your body as it is today. Maybe it feels tired, tight or sore. Maybe it feels great. Either way do not expect, demand, ignore or judge your body during your class. Yoga aims to firstly connect, become aware and accept. After this, a way to transform into the expression of the posture will surely arrive. Image if one day you can easily touch your toes, then the next day you can not. The most loving and Yogic way to go about this is to simply accept that today you are in a different place. Enjoy that new place and the different stretch. Don't ignore the facts and force yourself to go further which could leave you feeling like a failure which certainly is not achieving anything good. Love, accept and enjoy your body in each posture, no matter what. This is surely key to a loving, long lasting and fruitful relationship to your Yoga practice.
No competitions and no judgements, just be as you are
Never compare yourself to other people in your class, pictures or videos on social media or yourself as you where 10 years ago. A yoga class or practice should be a space where you feel you can focus on you. What others think and what others can and cannot do is completely irrelevant You are there to enjoy, breath and feel good for yourself. Yoga is not a competition and you should not allow yourself to feel judged by yourself. Rest assured that your teacher will not be judging you as they will know and understand the Yoga ethics. Be kind to yourself always. Checkout our article about Ahimsa.
'To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.' Thich Nhat Hanh
Smile, shine and be happy!
Yoga can seem oh so serious at times! You know it is absolutely ok and fantastic to smile and even have a giggle at yourself. Allow yourself to feel good in a pose, breath deeply and express the pose to your full potential, which includes your whole wonderful being. No need to shy away and shrink your body in the corner, you are here now and you are wonderful. Send yourself love, approval and positive vibes during your practice and you will feel how your body responds in amazing ways. If you notice any negative thoughts, congratulate yourself for noticing and replace with far more useful self approval and love!
'You are amazing, just the way you are' Bruno Mars ;)
So it's January again! And as ever, we are all thinking up of our New Years Resolutions and goals. Both Aya and I write our usual list of a billion of things to do, goals to achieve, places to go, things to stop doing, things to start doing, our lists are endless. We can imagine we are not alone with this. So what if there was a way to work towards all of this at the same time in a simple and even relaxing way? Well there is. In the practice of Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra can be described as practice of deep relaxation or 'Yogic sleep'
"You can say that the main purpose of Yoga nidra is to realise one’s sankalpa. Whether this is true or not, sankalpa has the potential to release tremendous power by clearly defining and focusing on a chosen goal. Its effect is to awaken the willpower within by uniting the conscious awareness with the unconscious forces lying dormant." (Satyananda)
A Sankalpa is a Yogic resolution, in some way it is similar to our News Years Resolution. The difference is that this one is a life long affirmation, that will grow to improve all areas of your life.
Sankalpa, described as a golden seed, is planted during Yoga Nidra, into the fertile soil of the subconscious mind. (This is when we are asked to repeat our sankalpa during Yoga Nidra/Relaxation). Our subconscious mind is most 'fertile' when we are in that almost asleep state. You can also use a sankalpa in your day to day life by repeating it in the mind, or setting it as an intention during your physical Yoga practice.
So why not take some time to have a think about that one special sentence that could manifest joy, peace, abundance and love in all areas of your life. In fact if you had all these things wouldn't all your goals and dreams already be coming true? And if you already a sankalpa, stick with it, keep it with you and keep it in your practice. It is sure to grow and emerge into lots of wonderful things!
If you would like to practice more Yoga Nidra with us, we always do plenty on our Yoga retreats and workshops. We even have a very special New Years Workshop coming up this Sunday 8th Jan 5-7pm at Islington Arts Factory, checkout the link below to book your place!
Downward Facing Dog also known as Adho Mukha Svanasana is a classic! Almost any physical Yoga class will involve a variation of this pose, in fact it is often repeated over and over again. Keep reading and you will see why we love this amazing pose.
Benefits of Downward Facing Dog
Downward facing dogs are like bananas, you can never have enough, they are satisfying, filling and each one tastes slightly different and are so good for you. Plus there are so many variations and things you can do with it Banana Split, Banana Fritters, Banana smoothy and more yum yum.. So make sure wherever or whatever you are doing, throw in a down dog or two to keep yourself feeling great!
Do you spend hours working at a computer, iPad or phone? Have you ever experienced wrist or hand pain or strain? Our poor hands, wrist and fingers work so hard. Sometimes its important to give them some love, attention and Yoga too!
From the moment we are born we begin to grasp with our hands and figure out all the most intricate tasks that we can perform. The hands are truly amazing! When you look at children's hands you will see how flexible they are. They can bend their fingers all the way back but as we get older this flexibility may reduce. Keeping our bodies open and flexible throughout our lives can help us balance the forward moving and technology crazed society we live in.
So this week we have a simple and short video that you can follow along with to refresh your poor typing and texting fingers. Here is our mini Hand Workout, all in less than 2 minutes!
Until Next time.. Have a beautiful week.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed?
Right now in this busy Autumn season it's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we forget our goals and dreams. Sometimes we are so busy rushing around that we may not even know what we are working towards anymore. I recently caught myself feeling scattered, taking extra long to get things done or rushing and forgetting things. Getting stuck on a hamster wheel of existance is a pretty common occurrence and falling off to hit the ground is sometimes the only way we notice that we are on it.
When we practice physical Yoga asanas (body postures), we can also use the positioning and gaze of the eyes. A Drishti is a point of focus where the gaze rests in a posture. Our eyes often speak more than words when we are communicating with others and the way we use our eyes during our practice can have powerful effect on our bodies and minds.
There are different ways to use our gaze for example when we are doing a seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana) we can allow the eyes to look forward towards the toes, which may help us find length through the spine or we could choose to have an inward gaze allowing the gaze of the eyes for fall towards the bellybutton. Looking inwards can help us to allow the back of the neck to release and can direct the mind inwards to a more reflective state.
In a Warrior 2 pose we look towards the tip of the middle finger of the front hand, this drishti on a physical level keeps our head centered and helps us stay upright and balanced. The very slight gaze down to the hand allows the back of the neck to stay long. Without a drishti this pose almost feels like I'm just hanging out on the mat with my arms and legs stretched out, but a soon as I add the gazing point it evokes a strong sense of clarity and direction. Instead of feeling like a scatterbrain (which can at times be my state of mind!) I start to feel like a warrior, strong, grounded and with purpose.
If we keep our gaze steady, it can help our minds become calm and focused. We are no longer likely to be so distracted by all the things around us. Drishti can allow us to become present in this moment and in our practice. We can also relate the use of Drishti to our lives off the mat. If we keep clear goals in our minds and purpose in our hearts we can experience peace and clarity even in crazy times. Keeping us steady and unshakable even in the strongest tides.
What is your Drishti?
Would you enjoy a hearty stew on baking hot summers day? Wear a bikini in the snow? Just as we change our wardrobe and the food we eat according to the season we can also change our yoga practice to help nourish us in different seasons.
Autumn means back to school, work and reality to most of us, after the lovely long days of Summer. The dosha (meaning the quality or characteristics) is 'Vata'. Vata is cool, clear and dry. To find balance we can use the opposite qualities of Vata. For example instead of being a dried up crispy leaf that falls off the tree, try and be like tree. Sending energy down into the earth, find stability whilst gracefully letting go of things that we no longer need. Checkout our article on Aparigraha, the practice of letting go. After all we know we can let go, as after winter, spring and summer will surely arrive.
Here are some things you can do in Yoga practice to balance and support you in Autumn.
Lots of hot tea, cool breezes & love to you
Hana & Aya
Need a quick energy boost better than coffee? Or simply need to get your energy flowing and get you ready for the day ahead. Sun Salutaions also known as Suyra Namaskar are like full body workout in just a few simple moves. Traditionally done very early in the morning before the sun comes up, as a salutation to the rising sun! The sequence can vary between different schools and traditions of Yoga but the sequence usually links 12 classical postures to create an dance like flow. The body moves from gentle backbends to forward folds giving the whole front and back side of the body a great stretch. Plank and chatarunga tones the arms and shoulders and gives you amazing core workout (find some tips on plank here). Whilst down dog stretches the spine and hamstrings, bringing a sense of calm.
Here are a few tips and reasons to doing Surya Namaskar in morning...
Lots of Love, light & energy to you.
Please leave us comments, feedback, thought & love below.
Hana & Aya