Yin Yoga

Yin yoga to me is better than having a massage- it releases the tension, worries and stress from being a mother, it helps reduce the stiffness from running and cycling and it eases the everyday imbalance from work and life.  Yin has always been a part of my practice, but since becoming a mother, its been even more important to take this time for myself each week.  It’s a practice I do sometimes in the morning, to ease the tension from a long night.  Sometimes in the evening, to quiet my mind after a busy day.  Often, I yin on holiday as it really helps with jetlag or travel tightness.  It’s also a practice to balance the hormones and so very often beneficial during your cycle. 

Yin poses are floor based, they are held for 3-10 minutes and the idea is to gently open the connective tissue, or fascia in the body.  In my practice, I emphasize that we should find comfort in the postures to help the body to release.  Yin is very beneficial for tight muscles but can also help bring balance to internal organs as well and is therefore lovely if we are feeling any imbalance in our digestion, or hormones.  It allows the energy or prana to flow more freely in the body.  And therefore, we often feel rejuvenated and revitalized after the practice. 

I offer a two-hour yin yoga workshop once a month at Nuffield Health in Cottingley.  These workshops are like an urban retreat as you can use their pool and sauna area before or after the practice.  Or relax in the café.  You will feel as though you have had a mini-escape and I do hope you can join for the next one.  Please book here

Home Yoga Practice

Home yoga practice can sound scary and daunting– where to start???  but it doesn’t need to be.

  1. Start where you feel safe and comfortable and work from there.
  2. Start with your favourite pose, start with your favourite breathing practice.
  3. Start where you are- you don’t need to be on your mat even, bring it into your day, taking a mindful moment while brushing your teeth or drinking your morning brew.
  4. Start with kindness and compassion for yourself- it won’t be like at a class, but it will be beneficial.

My first yoga teacher always encouraged home practice, this always seemed so intimidating to me, but I am so glad she did, and I am so glad I listened. This is where I truly began to understand the practice and myself.  I didn’t know where to start when I first started practicing at home, it seemed impossible to remember everything from class.  I was scared of getting it wrong.  I had to have all my other ‘chores’ done before I could do it.  I had to have at least an hour free.  Having all these requirements meant that I didn’t actually do it as often as I wanted.  Now, I don’t have any of those requirements, the first requirement of the day is to do a bit of yoga, whether it is a few minutes with the kids, 5 minutes or an hour alone, I try to make it part of my daily routine- like brushing my teeth, yoga is there to help keep my body, and mind healthy.

If you have questions about your home practice, get in touch;)

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga nidra is a practice of deep relaxation that has huge potential healing powers for the body and mind. It is not sleep, although you may fall asleep during the practice. Try if you can to maintain a fine thread of awareness, listening to the teacher’s voice and instructions.

During yoga nidra you enter a state between awareness and sleep, and can access the subconscious and explore further into your mind. One element of yoga nidra is the sankalpa, or resolve. The sankalpa is an opportunity to make a positive change in your life. It is a simple sentence that you will repeat to yourself. Frame the sentence in the present tense, as if it is already happening in your life. It is worth taking time to refine your sankalpa. It may change over time, but try using the same one for a number of sessions if you can. The sankalpa is like planting a little seed in the mind. The rest of the practice will help nourish the seed. The sankalpa can be very powerful, so if you are not fully sure of what you desire for your life it is worth spending time thinking about it.

You are in control during yoga nidra, the teacher is simply the guide through the technique. Allow yourself to be open to anything you may experience in yoga nidra.

A yoga nidra session can be as restful and beneficial as regular sleep but done in less time. There are so many benefits to yoga nidra- one of them being how it helps with stress. As the systems of the body experience deep physiological rest during yoga nidra, the body’s powerful, natural regenerative mechanisms are activated. Allowing the body to rest and repair itself. As the level of stress hormones in the body decrease during the practice, the body is less susceptible to inflammation and diseases associated with it. Yoga nidra may be beneficial for people with hypertension, coronary disease, arthritis, asthma, ulcers, migraines, insomnia, depression, IBS, cancer, high blood pressure, pregnancy, post-natally… the list continues.

I hope you have had the chance to experience yoga nidra during your exploration of yoga. If you have any questions please get in touch.

Healthy cookie recipe

healthy cookies

healthy cookies-natural sugars

I pretty much never follow a recipe exactly so you will have to play a little to get the consistency of these healthy cookies right for you. This one seems to always need a bit more help sticking, adding more honey- or sometimes a bit of water helps. The good news is this one seems to always turn out yummy no matter what I do!

125g flour
150g oats
1/2tsp bicarbonate soda
pinch of salt
cinnamon to taste- i have also added ground ginger and tumeric before
100g sugar—I substituted Molasses(treacle?) last time, about 4tbls=AMAZING
4tbsp maple syrup, or agave, or honey
1 large carrot grated – might try fresh ginger next time too!
100ml olive, or coconut oil
100g chopped dried fruit- raisins etc
100g chopped nuts or seeds

mix all together- should be sticking together itself or you need more liquid probably. bake 180c/gas 4/350f
8-10minutes
I recommend making double batch as they don’t last long! Let me know if you try them!

Little Changes

My New Years resolution was ‘eat less sugar’….that lasted the typical two weeks until my over indulgent sweet tooth won out. Two months ago I decided my goal need to be more defined, tangible and achievable.

‘go one day a week without refined sugar’

-no cakes, cookies, biscuits, bars, yogurts, hard candy, juice etc.
-fruit, honey etc is all ok.

My sweet tooth hasn’t got the best of me this time. The no sugar days are getting easier and I feel good because I am achieving this goal. If you are looking to make a change in your life, it is better to start small, with something that is manageable and sustainable.

Things I have been eating instead of the usual sweets-

Home-made granola with fruit and plain yogurt
Tahini, honey and oat bars
Oatie biscuits made with honey, molasses
Dried Dates

Want to join my no sugar days challenge? Comment below if you would like the recipes too;)

My Natural Birth Story

As I am beginning to teach Pregnancy Yoga in Bingley, I am reflecting on how I used yoga during my pregnancy and in labour to have a natural, drug free and surprisingly pain free labour. I know this is not the case for many women and that medical intervention is sometime absolutely necessary.  My intention in sharing my birth story is not to make any woman feel regret or disappointment about how they birth their baby. Every pregnancy and labour should be honoured, cherished and appreciated. However, I do feel that there are many scare stories about labour, and not enough stories about natural birth and that is why I am a sharing my story.

I continued my regular yoga practice throughout my pregnancy as well as attended pregnancy yoga workshops and classes, and I am truly indebted to my teachers for all they taught me.

The nitty gritty

I woke up around 4am on Dec 2nd, (the due date!- 5% of babies are born on their due date, which is why I don’t really believe in them, but this little one was punctual!) my plug came out and I started having contractions. I immediately went to my yoga mat, my comfort zone, and began my gentle movements and breathing. I remember thinking, “I really don’t know how people can cope with the discomforts of pregnancy and labour without yoga, I have never been so grateful for my practice.” The contractions became regular quite quickly. I continued to relax at home, breathe, shower, bath, listen to music and my hypnobirthing cd until about noon. We went to the birthing centre – one tip I got was that the car ride is where you can loose your calm because of the stress and the way you sit, so I knelt on the car seat facing backwards (with the seat belt on) listened to music and had my eyes covered. I was 9 centimetres by the time I arrived and got right into the birth pool. My little one was born at 4:20, she actually came out on the bed- in the traditional position you see on tv (knees around your ears) which surprised me as it was the last position I wanted, but my legs were too tired to stand.

I had a ‘toolbox’ of things to help me through the labour instead of drugs- (although I did have 2 paracetamol before leaving for the hospital because I wasn’t entirely sure I would make it there, I really wanted to push but the birth centre was 24 minutes away. I did NOT tell my husband that). I would really recommend pulling together anything you think might help to put in your hospital bag. My toolbox included my breathing practices, yoga, music, water, my husband, and emails from friends and family. I honestly feel that there was not much pain involved, the contractions were manageable because you knew they would pass. The only pain was ‘the ring of fire’ but that didn’t last long because then she was here! I would also say that visualisation helped immensely. (I spent a lot of time imagining how I thought things would go and they pretty much went the way I expected). Before I would have laughed if someone told me that practicing to breathe was so important for birth: of course I know how to breathe! But I did practice, and my breath length went from 20 seconds to 46. And I was really so grateful for that when the contractions came. It is also important to practise relaxing, it is harder than we think to relax, and practising helped me be able to drop back into relaxation over and over again throughout the labour.

I should mention that I was suspected to have gestational diabetes which I managed by diet, and I had to really push and argue my case to be allowed in the birthing centre. I was bullied and scared by doctors and told I would be induced and I may be harming my baby. I researched and read and knew that I had choices, as I felt informed and confident I proceeded to pursue my desire to have a natural birth. I have to give my deepest respect and appreciation for the midwives at Calderdale Birthing Centre that believed in me and helped make my natural birth possible.  I would have had a home birth, but I have fibroids and the risk of bleeding was too high.

This is a list of things that I think I found particularly helpful to having a natural birth-

Letting go of fears
Yoga
Information
Visualisation
Relaxing
Breathing
Tool box

Two books I would highly recommend.

Spiritual Midwifery

Hypnobirthing

If you have any questions, or comments or would like to share your story, I would love to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time to read.

Going Matless

I read the article, “Yoga Mats Are They Really Necessary” about a month ago. It briefly summarises the history of the yoga mat, and makes a few possibly controversial points about using them-

A) that they may be causing an imbalance in our practice by allowing us to stretch too much without the strength needed in some poses.

B) they define us, make the practice space ours and give us boundaries from other students.

It really got me thinking about the mat, I thought ‘hey let’s try it’. I gave myself a month to go matless in my home practice. It was challenging at first, not to reach for it, but eventually I really enjoyed the freedom, feedback and sensation I got from practising matless. It was very different, and quite challenging (especially in downward facing dog). In public classes it was impossible not to have a mat, I tried to explain- it’s OK, I don’t need one- but people bent over backwards to get one and I felt guilty refusing. After a month, and a very challenging week, I gave in, and crawled back to my mat, relishing the comfort it gave me. This particular mat was a special gift. It not only gives me a space to practice, but it reminds me of a thoughtful friend who encouraged me and gave me confidence.

Go matless for a while and see how it feels for you. If you have tried this, or if you have any thoughts on the article from Yoga International, leave me a comment, it would be great to hear your thoughts. I should mention, a few of my students practice on camping mats, instead of yoga mats- they seem to be doing just fine!  I will be doing 50/50 for now, at least I know what it feels like, and it will make travelling a bit lighter!

Home yoga practice

As a new student of yoga, I loved going to class and soaking in everything I was learning about yoga and my body. My teacher really encouraged home practice and I found this quite intimidating at first, not knowing where to start and how to be safe. I am eternally grateful for her support and encouragement. You really start to learn the benefits of yoga through your own practice.  I thought I might share a few thoughts on home yoga practice, whether you have one or would like to start one.

-Give yourself time, however much time you can spare. It doesn’t have to be 2 hours, 10 or 20 minutes to explore a few poses, your body will thank you.

-A morning practice is easier to keep the mind still and get into some of the more meditative aspects of yoga, be gentle with yourself in the morning and give your body time to wake up.

-In an evening yoga practice, your body will be warm from your natural movement of the day so you can explore more difficult and challenging poses, but it may be more difficult to still the mind. Bringing awareness to the breath will help focus the mind.

-Take notes from your classes and from your own practice on poses you try and how you feel after.

If you haven’t tried a home practice before, start simple and slow with something you feel comfortable with. A sun salutation, or legs up the wall or even a few moments of savasana! If you have a home yoga practice and have any questions or thoughts I would love to hear from you.

Asparagus and Noodles- Easy Asian twist recipe

This is another easy spring recipe.  I hope these make sense.  If you have questions please leave a comment or send me an email.  Here is a quick link to the Nettle Recipe

Ingredients
asparagus- handful per person
soy sauce tbls per person
sesame oil tsp per person
lime juice tsp per person
sesame seeds handful or so
2-3 crushed garlic
egg noodle estimate per person

 Method
Cook asparagus (I usually steam about 7-8 minutes). Cook egg noodles according to packet.  Mix rest of ingredients together a few minutes before and let rest.  Toss altogether and serve.  Might need to add more sauce according to taste.

 

asparagus noodles