Autumn is well and truly here and we are starting to wrap up, take stock and look ahead to the darker months. This time of the year is all about balance and transition: time to let go of what’s no longer needed, just as the trees drop their leaves; also to feel gratitude for all the gifts of the summer – enjoying drinking in the autumn sunshine and reflecting on all the fun we’ve had so far this year… perhaps also thinking about what seeds we want to sow as we look ahead, and turning thoughts towards new creative plans for the new year. Activating the energy channels in our upper back and opening shoulder and arm joints encourages us to let go of whatever needs to be released in preparation for moving on. A good time to practice Triangle/ Trikonasana, which also strengthens the legs, opens the chest and encourages a feeling of being wonderfully balanced.
~ Take a wide stride on your mat and turn the right toes out to the right. Ground through the feet and activate the muscles in the thighs.
~ Extend the arms out to the sides and slide the body sideways, over towards the right.
~ Let the right hand come down to rest on the right leg, perhaps with the back of the hand on the shin, or grasping the ankle. Let the left arm extend up towards the sky, or if the shoulders are stiff, bring the left hand onto the small of the back.
~ Align the upper body so it extends over the right leg and doesn’t tip forward. Lift the left hip and draw into the right hip.
~ Lifting and creating space across the front of the chest, take your gaze up to the sky. (If the neck is stiff direct your gaze forward or down instead.)
~ Breathe into the posture and continue to lengthen and find space.
~ Slowly come back up, turn the toes the front and take a breath before repeating on the left side.
Hello summertime friends! We have been enjoying lots of yoga outside in the sunshine, as well as feeling uplifted and inspired by the excitement of the Olympic Games. As we all know, yoga isn’t a competitive pursuit, but I have been reading about Yogathons across the world where participants receive a gold medal for completing 108 rounds of sun salutation, and like the idea of the challenge!
Taking our practice outside is wonderful, and we have been making the most of opportunities to take classes into the open whenever possible this summer. One drawback is that this isn’t always so easy for hay fever sufferers, however yoga can actually help with the condition; hay fever relief is one of the very many benefits of Bridge Posture. It is also lovely to include in a gentle restorative practice after lots of running around in the sun…(and strengthens those leg muscles, ready for more of the same!)
~ Lie flat with knees bent, feet planted onto your mat hip width apart, close to the hips, arms alongside body.
~ Inhale and press down into the feet, as if trying to push the floor away, so that the hips lift to the sky, keeping knees hip width apart and above the ankles.
~ Keep the breath deep and flowing and focus on opening the front of the chest. If you like, clasp the hands together and make a support with straight arms pressing down onto the mat, underneath the spine.
~ To come down, place the spine carefully, section by section, so that the tailbone is the last part to make contact with the mat.
Namaste. Enjoy the sun!
So, here we are the other side of the longest day. The mid-point in the calendar is a good time to take stock of our achievements since January, and also perhaps to consider how we can build on those achievements in the months that lie ahead. Warrior I is a strengthening, focusing posture but I also see it as celebratory: taking a confident stride forward feels empowering, and as we sink into the knee, swooping the arms up overhead, extending into the fingertips, it feels good to celebrate all that we have and all that we are. Happy Midsummer – let’s hope for more sunshine in the second half of the season!
From standing in Mountain Pose, take a big step forward with the right foot, turning the left foot out at a slight angle.
Sink into the right knee – it should come to a point above the ankle; take care not to sink too far forward.
Keep the hips facing square on to the front.
Inhaling, reach the arms up overhead, palms facing towards each other, fingers to the sky. Imagine reaching up to take hold of something from a high shelf. Relax and broaden the shoulders.
Feel grounded in the lower body, the upper body lifting up and out of a strong foundation, and a full, energising breath flowing.
Repeat, stepping forward with the left foot.
Bluebells, blossom and glimmers of sunshine between the showers – yes, Spring is here, albeit a rather damp one.. New life is being released into the plants and trees and we feel re-energised as we emerge from the Winter. Whether it’s Spring cleaning the house, clearing clutter in your life or detoxing and improving your diet – this season is all about letting go of the old and bringing into focus new creative plans that lie ahead. A simple seated spinal twist, combined with a full, flowing breath benefits both our nervous and digestive systems. Without being fixated on how far we can reach (though taking it slowly you might find after a few breaths that your body softens and invites you to twist ever so slightly further), and simply enjoying the sensation of the action, we are squeezing out toxins and tension, making space for renewed energy.
Sitting in a comfortable cross legged position, inhale and lengthen the spine, then exhale and drop the shoulders; feeling grounded in the pelvis and light in the upper body, bring your focus to the rhythm of your breathing. Inhale and take the right hand onto the left knee, exhale and twist to the left, sweeping the left arm around, planting the palm down onto the floor behind the back, close to the body. Take your gaze over the left shoulder. Let the breath flow. Enjoy the twist, and when ready, release, move back gently to the centre and repeat on the opposite side.
If you are reading this sitting at a desk, try a variation using the back of your office chair. Sitting with knees hip width apart, turn to the left and take hold of the side of the chairback with the left hand. Bring the wrist of the right hand onto the outside of the left knee, palm facing out. See if you can twist further by using the right wrist on the left knee as a lever. Relax the shoulders. Take your gaze over the left shoulder. Repeat on the opposite side before getting back to work!
Happy Springtime! As I write, the weather has turned blustery after a gloriously sunny spell. On one of those warmer days last week, the first week of the school holidays, we practiced Tree Pose out in the sunshine. At this time of year nature is melting and releasing energy into all the plants and trees and it’s a good time for us to focus on clearing out the old, and nurturing new creative plans.
Take a few minutes in Mountain Pose grounding the feet, spreading the toes, spine lengthening, shoulders relaxed, focusing on the breath. With each inhalation feel that you are drawing strength and stability up from the earth into the posture. Ground a little more into one foot as you pick up the other and place it onto the inside of the calf, or higher up onto the inside thigh – whichever option you opt for, taking care to avoid the knee area. Keep the hips level, hands in Namaste. Having found stability, try raising the arms and spreading them as the branches of your tree. Keep grounding through the feet, dropping the shoulders, lifting the heart, sending lots of energy up in the fingers. Choose a spot on the ground, or below eye level on which to focus and draw into your core to help with balance. Breathe in stability and calm….breath out tension and tiredness.
Come out of the pose gracefully and carefully when you are ready and switch to the opposite side.
Benefits of Tree Pose:
* Grounding; improves balance and concentration – particularly valuable for busy people in all walks of life.
*Tones leg muscles, promotes joint flexibility, opens the chest.
*Teaches us to be strong but also flexible, like the trees I can see from my window right now being blown in the wind!
Adjusting back after the holidays can feel daunting, but here’s hoping that once we get going we are all feeling refreshed and ready to embrace all that 2012 has to offer! Let’s make space for some fun, relaxation and indulgence whenever we can, and not just in the holidays… A few ideas on this theme: Aromatherapy Massage Clinic new at the studio on Fridays; also new this year Yoga for Sports and Family Yoga on Sundays (from later this month) and Ashtanga Yoga classes Mondays evenings and Friday monings – why not give it a try? See our timetable for details…. Look forward to seeing you soon!
After a morning at the computer catching up on work and a backlog of correspondence I feel I’m getting on top of the mounting pile of tasks, but am also quite beleaguered; my eyes are tired from lack of screen breaks. I crave fresh air so I head outside. Immediately my eyes feel refreshed as I take in the colours of the autumn afternoon; bright yellow, orange and golden leaves like flames against a slate grey sky. It’s such a treat to relax my eyes and shift my focus, gazing out beyond the next field. The drishtis or gazes practiced in yoga work on the mind, body, spirit connection; a soft gaze at the horizon, or perhaps imagining taking the gaze beyond the limits of our surroundings out into infinity brings inner focus and calm. It can also help to put life back into perspective after a morning of mundane tasks and too much time spent close to a laptop screen! Safia x