Welcome Winter

 

The change in season always, always throws me into a flurry, usually I’m mourning the sudden ease that comes with getting out of bed in Summer or lamenting that didn’t go to the beach enough once Autumn arrives or get a chance to wear my favourite coat enough come Spring time.

As the seasons shift it honestly feels as though I may never swim again, ridiculous, I know, especially as my husband and I will be escaping to India during winter’s coldest part this year!  Come September, the anxiety of not being able to wear boots and a skirt (one of my favourite things) will soon come. 

It shouldn’t be like this, a change in season like all changes offers us a fresh start, a new beginning, renewal and a chance to live a different life for a while. This post is part celebration of Winter time’s glory, part survival guide from a Yoga and Ayurveda perspective. 

Food and Drink

My little habits change with the seasons in summer I love to drink water with torn mint leaves in it for its cooling and refreshing properties in winter this is swapped for warm water with a knob of fresh ginger for its cleansing and warming properties.

Ginger is imperative in winter, not only will you need it for endless cups of chai but, I like to use fresh ginger for all day hydration, a 20 cent sized piece in a mug with hot water, if you prefer dried ginger (bought as loose ginger tea if you are unsure of what I mean) is also good, much stronger in flavour and therefore warming and if you know which mind/body constitution you are in Ayurveda and are Pitta (fire) dosha, I would stick to the fresh stuff and reuse the same piece of ginger it becomes weaker the more you use it.

 If you feel you are fighting off a cold or flu try drawing a bath and adding 1/3 cup of dried ginger and 1/3 cup of baking soda and take a soak, watch your eyes though! 

Avoid cold drinks, drink even plain water warm (this helps remove more toxins from your system) and use warming spices such as cinnamon (perfect on porridge) cloves, turmeric and black pepper. Eat warming, slightly spicy foods such as curries and soups, we need more food in winter than we do in Summer, so try eating a larger than normal lunch and keep the evening meal the same size for better night time rest. 

I know we always say not to eat 2 to 3 hours before a yoga practice, you may find that in winter you need some nuts or dried fruit closer to your practice. (or even a cup of hot cacao or sweet milky, chai, unless you are Kapha (water) dosha as dairy is mucous producing and in winter we are trying to minimise mucous in Kapha.

Prepare meals mindfully, I particularly love meals in winter that take all day to cook such as slow cooked soups and curries that fill the house with warmth and delicious smells. Have a go at making chai- it is beautiful to look at and there is nothing quite like homemade chai!

Mornings

Sleep in a little later, in Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, it is said in winter to not rise before 7am. Winter is a time to be more withdrawn from the outside world, sleeping in is totally fine, I generally find that while in Summer it is easy to get up and practice yoga, I prefer to practice later in the day, usually after work. There is less chance of injury then, too much movement on freezing mornings can be dangerous for the body, a later afternoon or  evening practice can also be quite a nice way of flaming the digestive fire before the evening meal and warming up before winding down for the day.

If you a prone to stiff joints and for all round health, massage warm sesame oil all over your body in the mornings. Sesame Oil is known as the “king” of oils due to the levels of antioxidants present. I cover myself in sesame oil each day and leave it on but you can massage it in and leave for 20 or so minutes before showering. It is warming, grounding and fabulous for those sore parts. 

*with all oils always by cold pressed, organic oils not just sesame oil from the supermarket any health food store should be able to help. 

Yoga/Pranayama

I like to start winter practices with Surya Namaskar (sun salutes) or another type of vinyasa (flow) creating heat and opening up the heart, 6 x repetitions each side. While in Summer I would favour longer holdings and more cooling asana in winter I practice much more dynamically and leave time for a long savasana under a thick yoga blanket, make sure you rug up as it’s always surprising how fast and how much we cool down with the stillness of savasana. (any blanket is of course fine but the blankets found at most yoga schools are really snuggly available at yoga prop stores or  a little tip- camping stores). 

Practicing pranayama which builds heat and gets rid of mucous and toxins on the lungs is ideal in winter, practices such as Bhastrika or Kapalabhati creates energy as well as detoxifying the respiratory system especially if you know you are prone to coughs, colds and other Kapha disorders.  

Enjoy the opportunity to spend long days in front of the fire, relish in the cups of tea and wear skirts and boots as much as you can before the swimming season hits!

 

With warmth, Namaste xxx 

Skin Deep…

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I love that being healthy is becoming trendy, I hate seeing people all over social media longing for ‘thigh gaps’ ‘box gaps’ and bony collar bones. Sure, we have been conditioned to think that super skinny is the epitome of beauty but to be honest, I think that the epitome of beauty is health. I see so many shapes and sizes in yoga classes and the thing is, I think everyone is beautiful. Big bellies are lovely, bony hips are gorgeous, wrinkles are sweet, pimples nice because they are but also because when I see people doing yoga they are doing something wonderful for themselves and I think think health and self care is really sexy!

If you ever see someone after a yoga class they are positively radiant. My husband met me for a date after class last night and exclaimed how beautiful I looked. It had been an incredibly humid day I had hair to rival Diana Ross, I was sweaty, stinky and lacking my usual face of make up- but I had my yoga glow. 

Which had me thinking about beauty last night or more so commercial beauty products, in our Western culture we spend so much time cleaning and grooming our exterior, how often do you think about how clean your insides are? We use lotions, creams, make up, things to mask our scent, I admit 100%, this includes me too. Do you ever think about what these products are made of, or what happens when you put them on your skin? We know that our skin is our largest organ, everything we put on our skin is absorbed into our bodies- what happens then? 

I am writing this post to share some of the information that I have come across about commercial beauty and personal care products and three of the biggest nasties.

There is so much information about diet and nutrition out there but these creams, make up etc. too go into our bodies too if you had to eat your deodorant I’d bet you’d like to know what it was made from. This post I hope, is a thought provoker for you if these are things you hadn’t really considered. I am what i consider a girly girl in that I like to wear make up and so on and I’ve learnt there is a safer way to do this that is just as luxurious. 

First nasty up, parabens, parabens are a group of chemicals that are mainly found in cosmetics and personal care products such as shampoo, creams, lotions, face wash, shower gels, soaps etc. They exist to extend the shelf life of these products and stop the growth of microbes it is important to understand what happens when these are absorbed  through our skin into our bodies. The greatest concern with Parabens is they mimic the hormone estrogen leading to hormonal disruption, fertility issues, immune dysfunction, skin irritation but worse and most distinctly, breast cancer. In fact, a 2004 UK study found traces of five different parabens in breast cancer tumors in 19 out of 20 women studied.(Darbre PD, Aljarrah A, Miller WR, Coldham NG, Sauer MJ, Pope GS (2004). Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors. Journal of Applied Toxicology 24:5-13.) 

Meaning that Parabens are absorbed into the skin where they stay and become toxic, scary right? Even more scary Parabens are found in just about every adult urine sample in the Western world. There is lots of information on parabens on the internet but looking at your personal care products ingredients; you can see them listed they end in ‘paraben’ for example; methylparaben, proplyparaben etc. 

There are many different products available that are completely paraben free, as i don’t have a lot of money to spend on cosmetics I use an inexpensive brand available at health food shops and some chemists called Nature’s Quest a face wash or moisturiser are around $10 each and to give myself a feeling of luxury I mix a couple drops of cold pressed coconut oil to my face wash and a couple of drops of rose hip oil to my moisturiser. Using a cold pressed oil as body lotion is an excellent way to go and a wonderful way for your body to absorb the nutrition in the oils my favourites are; coconut, almond and the King of oils sesame, be sure they are cold pressed otherwise they run the risk of being rancid and they lack nutrition. We all use toothpaste, parabens and other nasties are often found in toothpaste a good herbal, mineral and flouride free toothpaste is the way to go, I like Red Seal herbal and mineral toothpaste. There is an ongoing debate whether flouride is necessary in dental hygiene, what we know is flouride is a by product of aluminium, iron and copper. Flouride assists the body in the absorption of aluminium, which can be incredibly detrimental to our health, aluminium is what is found in the brain of Alzheimers patients. Excessive flouride has a detrimental effect on our musculoskeletal and nervous system. Various studies have linked flouride to 10,000 cancer deaths each year. Flouride is necessary for strong teeth, yes, but it is also naturally occurring in small amounts in plants, animals and natural water sources and it is thought we receive enough through our diet for dental health.  Deodorant is also rife with parabens and aluminium as we put deodorant so close to our breast tissue and lymph glands I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to my pits and use an aluminium, paraben free one. There are strong links with aluminium and prostate cancer too, so men be warned, it’s not just breast cancer!

I know not strictly about yoga but it is the self love that yoga has given me that has made me interested in all areas of my health and well being. Before I began yoga I was familiar with words such as parabens, flouride and aluminium but I didn’t care to know. Our planet and lifestyles can be incredibly toxic, if you can implement easy changes that can have a profound effect on your future…..why not?

As always, please feel free to email me at lotushealth@me.com if you have any questions, if I don’t know the answer, i’ll try to find out for you!

 

Namaste

xxxx

 

Finding the routine

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This can be a really hard time of the year to get back into the swing of things. Often 6 weeks into the the new year, the resolutions we made in the fresh excitement of New Years have fallen down the wayside or perhaps you are like me and are trying to find a steady routine so you can really capitalise on those resolutions!

I have felt as though I have been neglecting my yoga practice until I began re-reading Judith Lassater’s fabulous book, Living Your Yoga. I get so caught up in my own ego thinking I need a solid yoga practice of 1.5 hours a day…(shesh, I should be so lucky to find that hour and a half!) In her book Judith writes of her judgement of a coworker who says she meditates for 5 minutes a day and goes on to explain that its the quality and intention of the practice not the time you set. In fact in the book there are activities for spiritual growth and they are for short spaces of time 5 or ten minutes. 

Yesterday, after a long Monday at work I wanted to crawl home and hide from everything Monday related but I didn’t. I ducked into my yoga school before the evening class and had a beautiful solid 20 minute practice. It was only 20 minutes but that’s all I had. My practice did everything I had hoped; i had sweat, i felt lighter and longer and my mind was quieter. What happened next was amazing, I was content, I was happy with the practice and I let it go i didn’t nit pick about the sequence what I should have done first what could have been a better finishing pose etc. and when I got home I had the desire to clean my house, so I did unheard of for a Monday night, I know!

I’m learning that a routine doesn’t have to be set in stone and it certainly doesn’t have to have a set time limit. It should always be quality over quantity- thanks Judith Lassater! 

I think it is BKS Iyengar who said “we must cultivate what we want to grow” so find 10 minutes set your intention and  then let it go. 

 

Namaste xxx

The magic of a Sunday

ImageSunday is one day of the week when wonderful things happen, yesterday was one of those days (till I got sick). In the morning Tom finally decided he was ready to do some yoga but we are still negotiating how exactly that is going to work. I go into most physical activities with an element of steely determination, this is not necessarily a good thing, I’m constantly looking for a softness in my practice and years of practicing without that softness and overworking requires retraining of my brain and body, healing of hardened muscles and allowing flexibility. My initial response to his  pained ‘facial yoga’ and lack of flexibility is that its laziness and a personal insult. I know I sound incredibly uncompassionate, but I’m not, with all physical exertion there are sensations of discomfort, even pain and these feelings tell us things are normal and theses parts of the body could do with a bit of one on one attention. In most circumstances if you listen to your body, it will tell you when things are not right, when you are using too much force, when you are going beyond your boundaries and range of motion. To increase strength and flexibility there will be some discomfort and the more you do it the easier it becomes. Part of the discipline that comes with a yoga practice is acknowledging, things will hurt, but there is a glimpse of freedom next time you do it.

Anyway, we still had a lovely time and I felt so strong in my inversions, Tom confessed to me this morning that he had felt really nice after yoga 🙂

All morning I had something on my mind, I had very long hair and I loved my long hair, lately it was getting me down a little. At my last trip to the hairdressers she had mentioned a program called Beautiful Lengths where you could donate a minimum of 20cm ponytail to be made into real human hair wigs for those undergoing cancer treatment. At the time, though impressed with the program, I was too vain to part with my ponytail. Although, on the magical Sunday morning, I woke up pretty sure I would chop off my ponytail at some point throughout the day.

I washed my hair, and looked at how long it was wet in the mirror, doing my best Brooke Shields Blue Lagoon impression. The morning came and went; yoga, then brunch, reading, a movie, all the while I twirled my hair and contemplated parting with it. I thought about how long I had been growing it and how, I was almost defined by it in lots of ways. In the late afternoon Tom had to go out. Before Tom left he suggested to perhaps wait and get a hairdresser to cut it off, I but I really wanted to do it myself. I tied my hair into a low pony and awkwardly measured the 20cm minimum and began hacking away. I say hacking because my scissors were rubbish and half way through I had to switch to my good embroidery scissors. (This was a very pensive moment when I wasn’t sure if I could actually finish the job, I was having heart palpitations looking for scissors stopping in front of every mirror in the house to assess the hacked at messy half a ponytail!)

Eventually I got through and smiled at my ponytail, my measuring hadn’t been great I had actually cut off 25cm, but i still have plenty. I thought about how attached i had been to such impermanent part of my body. I’m certainly not attached to the hair I pull from the drain or have to unravel from the vacuum cleaner head, it is always growing!

Attachment is a key issue in my life and I am trying to live more simply and learn to ‘unattach’ myself from thoughts, things and behaviors and I think starting with my ponytail was a good beginning.

ImageI can remember so many magical things that have happened on Sundays. Sundays come with a sense of impermanence and can teach us a lot about attachment- throughout my teens I never enjoyed Sunday’s because I kept thinking that Monday was just around the corner. Now they are my most favourite day. Tom and I said we loved each other for the first time on a drizzly Sunday morning, Sundays are for swimming and lounging around, they are for watching Soccer matches at friends houses, afternoon beers, and morning yoga classes and always a special breakfast or brunch.

Namaste

xxxx

Yoga Intensive- the rest of the week….

ImageThe thing about yoga for many people and certainly for myself, it increases your sensitivity, five of the seven mornings of the intensive I cried. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, my tears often caught me by surprise as i felt the spontaneous warm drops spring from my eyes. Often I was trying to send the energy I was creating in my practice to a friend in need and other times I was releasing (or they were tears of petulance because I didn’t want the intensive to end!!). Yoga has brought about such an awareness of my emotional self and who I am, my body and the space around me- but unfortunately this awareness doesn’t come with an instruction manual and it can be difficult when you are looking at exactly who you are and unsure of whether you like it. Luckily yoga is also a vehicle for change and learning acceptance and the art of compassion can all come about through a practice. 

Each morning i was so surprised at how easy it was to wake up, get up and greet the freshness of each day. In Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, it is optimal to rise before the sun and the first thing that you ingest for the day has a profound effect of how you feel for the remainder of the day- this week rather that a black coffee being the first thing i ingested I had lukewarm water with chlorophyll, and I think that this indeed had a profound effect on how I felt. My digestion has felt quieter, I have eaten and slept less but had more energy, I think being gluten free has helped in this too. I noticed in my inversions there is a lightness, rather than using brute strength and feeling somewhat like a baby elephant I was able to float up. (for the first time I could get into Pincha Mayurasana/forearm balance it felt releasing, I felt strong…and yes, I made my husband take a photograph of it!) 

Of the intensive the actual classes, the asana and the sequences felt timeless, the mornings have felt so magical and so right but then working the 5 working days of the week have been difficult. Possibly this is something that I realised about the intensive, there are factors in my life that make me quite unhappy. 

Another thing I realised about myself during this week is the way i habitually hold my diaphragm and upper abdominals and the toll this is taking on my physical, energetic and emotional body. I am now constantly reminding myself to relax. (a trip to the physio last night confirmed my suspicions of the problems this was causing.)  

It’s true that I didn’t want the intensive to end, but it has taught be so much about how wonderful discipline can be, while I usually practice yoga daily, some of that is rolling around on the mat, it is never practiced at the same time and my home practice has never had such a quietening effect of my whole body. I realise how valuable this mental quietness is and how wonderful my body feels, how sparkly my eyes are and how much more care I have for myself. I am determined to find much more ritual in my home practice, I am determined to be up before the sun, most of the week 😉 

 

With all of my heart I would like to thank my wonderful teacher, Wendy. 

Namaste. 

xxxx

Day 1 Yoga Intensive

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I was so excited to get back on the mat this morning, I couldn’t sleep last night! I finished work at 9pm last night and raced home showered and painted my toes bright orange (my favourite colour, does anyone else like to have nicely painted toes when they are doing yoga??!!) before oiling myself in sesame oil and hopping into bed. I kept waking up worried I’d missed my 4:30am alarm. The Yoga Intensive runs for 7 days, 6:30am classes, it runs each new year and is a chance to set an intention for the new year through a series of early morning classes.

When it was time to get up I sprung out of bed, here in Adelaide it was 45C degrees yesterday(113F) we are smack bang in the middle of a heatwave, my house was hot (my poor cats can manage a few steps before having to lie on the cool floorboards!) I opened the windows and let the dawn cool breeze inside the house- it was so lovely. I kissed my husband a sleepy kiss goodbye and set off at 5:30am. The world was cool and the birds good morning chatter warmed my heart- they sounded so animated and happy and it really seemed like they had so much to catch up on after their sleep! The world was covered in a cool blue shadow, the roads quiet and there is something really nice about being awake when all around you sleeps. I had found yoga before getting to yoga 🙂

I feel so inspired at the moment by my own health, I am trialing a Gluten Free diet to see if it improves my costchondritis (inflammation of the rib cartilage) as well as a course of pro-biotics and the best thing ever liquid chlorophyll! (Chlorophyll is what give green leafy’s their green and it is so easy to add a couple of teaspoons to a juice or mineral water or just have it straight to boost the nutrients in your diet, there is some really interesting research out there into the treatment and prevention of cancer with chlorophyll)

I can really feel a connection between what I eat and the chatter in my mind, by the time I got to yoga and laid down for pranayama, I was there I was in my body and it was so wonderful. The first asana we did were repetitions of adho mukha virasana and adho mukha svanasana, it felt so wonderful to be in my body the sun rising as I moved.

 

I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Namaste xxx 

 

 

2013

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2012 was such a great year, so many wonderful things have happened; I’m now half way through yoga teacher training, married, have given the house 2 mega spring cleans, am a year older but most importantly I made it through and that is a wonderful achievement all in itself, if you’re reading this- you too made it through- well done!

I used to go over the top every New Year and set myself up for feeling pretty shitty about myself, by making up complicated New Year resolutions that even by my own admission, a few were quite crazy.

For 2013, the wonderful first year of marriage and our first overseas travels and the end of yoga teacher training I’m focusing my attention on the Yama’s and Niyama’s , the Yama’s and Niyama’s are the first two petals of the 8 petal system we know as yoga, and they are basically observances and restraints for skillful living.

The yamas are; ahimsa/non violence, satya/honesty, asteya/non stealing, brahmacharya/ continence, aparigraha/ non greed

The niyamas are; saucha/ cleanliness of body and mind (inside and out!), santosha/contentment, tapas/heat fire- this is interpreted as the fire we build up inside through asana, pranayama and meditation helping us to become the best we can be. Svadhyaya/self study, Ishvara- Pranidhara/ is acting the best way we can, and relinquishing all attachment to the outcome of our actions.

They are blissfully easy and things we practice daily, to certain extent, you can see how their meanings also represent an opposite for example if you are practicing ahimsa or non-violence you are at the same time practicing compassion. Someone practicing santosha/contentment is also working hard to let go of things which do not serve them.

In 2013 I will try to be more aware of my observances and restraints, praise myself for doing something positive for myself and judge myself less when I do something less than perfect.

(I have also vowed to juice each day, get in the garden and master some sirsasana variations and I’m sure ahimsa and santosha will help me if it happens or not :))

I would like to leave you with the beautiful words of gorgeous yogini, Elena Brower

‘My intentions for the new year: Say less, listen more. Work less, sleep more. Judge less, love more’

May your 2013 be simple, inspiring, filled with happiness and health.

Namaste xx

Evangelical Yogi

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Last week I got married, it was the greatest day of my life and I cannot be happier. 🙂 🙂 🙂

This week as I slowly slip back into a routine and have had two wonderful practices in the past day I realise how much an effect not doing yoga has on my body. The feelings and sensations much stronger then that of doing yoga, go figure! My body was stiff and tightly wound, my brain foggy and when I laid down in savasana at the end of my first solid practice in over a week i thought to myself , that’s the shit.

My body has felt s much  beautiful emotion, love, anxiety, nervousness and happiness over the past month to get back on the mat and be completely in my body was such relief. The familiar soreness I carry to remind me that I’m getting stronger, the smooth breath cultivated through pranayama and the unusually quiet mind, remind me of why I love yoga. When I first started doing yoga I wondered why everyone didn’t do yoga, I was righteous and to borrow my fellow yogi, Tricia’s words, ‘evangelical’! Yoga makes sense to me in a way that perhaps swimming or cycling does to someone else, but its also for me, it suits my body and my mind. It is unrealistic when I believe in my heart that we are all so individual, that yoga asana is for everyone. It is also incredibly egotistical and ridiculous to think that yoga will prevent disease, aging or other.

My new husband is not a yogi, that is however his beautiful supta baddha konasana in the photo above, he has a job that is hard on his body and works long, unusual hours and would benefit greatly from an asana practice. The few times I have managed to be so ‘evangelical’ about the benefits of yoga, he has agreed to do some* he does beautiful yoga, his is blessed with a naturally athletic, strong body, he walks lighter and seems more centered afterwards. He also agreed in his wedding vows to take some yoga classes. ( man after my heart, I know)

But tonight sitting here feeling my yoga buzz probably combined with the sugar high from the chai shortbread I am devouring, I don’t mind if he ever steps on the mat. I know it would be of course of benefit, therapeutic even, helping to combat some of the impact his work has on his body, help him unwind, maybe even inspire him to quit smoking and eat better but he probably knows this too. If he wanted to do yoga or more importantly, if there was something about his life he wanted to change and yoga could help, all he has to do is ask his wife she is a yoga teacher after all!

I think, potentially…actually probably, I’m projecting my own desire of wanting Tom to enjoy yoga with me, than Tom just enjoying yoga so from now on I will stop. Who knows, maybe one day he may step on the mat of his own accord and maybe he won’t, I’ll love him just as much either way. I will however continue to tell him of the benefits of lying with legs up the wall after a long shift, nag him about smoking and tell him to not be so terrified of vegetable juice.

I promise to stop pushing yoga on people and just love it all to myself!

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Namaste

xxxx

* When I say does yoga only poses that are either supine/lying down or sitting, and his face probably does more yoga wincing and complaining then he does!

What is a good Yoga Teacher to you?

I feel blessed that I have been to classes where I really haven’t felt myself responding to the teaching style or teaching, often this was the case with various styles of yoga that require the teacher to teach in a particular way. I wanted to use this post to explore what I think makes a good Yoga Teacher.

I have at times left these classes feeling red hot anger and frustration that I was not good enough, embarrassed or humiliated all of these emotions can be a perfect combination for injury or perhaps worse, to never return to a yoga class again. I believe it to be very dangerous to build a yoga practice on premise of not being good enough or in an environment built on fear or ego.  I am not alone, several of my friends have had similar experiences and no nagging from me will get them back on the mat. But thankfully I have also had some teachers that have inspired me, challenged me and changed me in some way. While I believe it to be a privilege to be taught by these wonderful teachers, it also feels that they feel it is a privilege to be teaching yoga.

Living Yoga

I believe that the very most important quality of a teacher is a teacher who lives their yoga; we are after all yoga teachers and not just asana teachers. Understanding the philosophy, history, lineage and that yoga is a devotional practice. I believe it is important that teachers are aware of and follow their interpretation of the Yamas and Niayamas as I believe these restraints and observances make up certain qualities I think are important in a yoga teacher.

For example the first two yamas- ahimsa, satya are very important qualities in a teacher. A teacher practicing ahimsa or non-violence is at the same time practicing compassion, for example in an introductory level class you would not ask students to practice sirsasana (headstand), you are potentially setting the student up for injury, instead you show compassion and slowly and safely build up the strength and flexibility through practice so that one day maybe the student may be able to practice this wonderful inversion.

The risk of injury in a yoga class can be high, especially with newer students who may still be working on alignment by practicing and teaching ahimsa by teaching asana in a safe way ensuring the risk of injury is minimal and asking a student to stop doing something you feel is unsafe or a an injury risk for themselves or anyone else. I believe creating a supported and safe environment for all is a fundamental role of a yoga teacher. By creating a positive environment- disparaging, offensive or inappropriate comments should not be allowed or accepted in the yoga space.

On a more subtle level you practice ahimsa my making adjustments on students safely and to a level they are comfortable with and respecting students who may wish to not be touched. We can teach students about ahimsa how it relates to their yoga practice, being compassionate to themselves and listening to their own bodies.

Satya or truth/honesty is also very important when teaching yoga, being honest when you may be injured or feeling unwell, teachers are not there to be put on a pedestal and honesty builds trust. Being honest that every body is different, mastering a pose is mastering the pose for your body, it’s not always about getting your head to the floor in Prasarita Padottanasana!

Being honest that the path of yoga is a lifelong journey and as teachers we are still on this path. Encouraging your students to be honest with themselves, their own limitations and bodies and to not practice things not appropriate for their body, but also encouraging students to challenge themselves rather than getting stuck and doing a pose ‘well enough’ and being dishonest when it could be done better.

Niyama, Tapas or self-discipline is also important, you can be a positive role-model and play a positive role in your students life, even if it is only one 90 minute class, once, so standing with good posture when teaching, demonstrating with alignment and good technique.

One of the qualities from the Niyamas that I think is one of the most important qualities of a yoga teacher is Svadhyaya or self-study. Including; asana, pranayama and meditation you must spend time in your own body, continually learning, growing and developing. How can you talk about the benefits of a yoga practice if you don’t have a complete one?

I think that living your yoga is living with authenticity and awareness and yoga gives me a more open, softer heart, and helps me in every facet of my health and well-being and I think that this is a very good place to be teaching yoga from. It is also respect for the science of yoga and the history of yoga.

Anatomy and Ayurveda

Yoga is a devotional practice and I believe it is very important to remember this, but I think it is also fair to assume that most students seek yoga to improve their health and wellbeing in someway and so a sound understanding of anatomy and the musculoskeletal system is a very important quality. Understanding how to sequence asana, for example; where twists and forward bends come in a class, what are appropriate warm up sequences for specific asana etc.

It becomes extremely important when working with different groups eg. prenatal yoga, yoga for older people, kids yoga etc. that we can share how yoga can be of great benefit for different stages of life and having sound knowledge of the body’s systems and inner workings is important when it comes to this, especially if the student is in a more fragile physical/emotional condition due to something such as pregnancy. Some of these life stages can be so joyous and some so confronting and yoga is such a wonderful tool to assist in not only helping the body but also celebrating the body and life stages.

I also personally think it is also very important to have a basic understanding of common injuries, illnesses or anatomical problems students may come with eg. a disc bulge, scoliosis or depression and having understanding which asana can help with the ailment or perhaps pranayama and meditation techniques which could be of assistance. As yoga teachers we are not in the business of diagnosis, but we can make suggestions asana that may help tight shoulders or flat feet, for example and understanding the anatomical and kinetic body helps this.

On a more general level for the safety of your students it is extremely important to understand contraindications and cautions of specific asana is fundamental.

Ayurveda is Yoga’s sister science and I believe ultimately they have a very distinct and important bond, ayurveda deals more with the health of the body and digestion, while yoga purifies the mind they compliment and embrace each other.  Like, I have stated people seeking yoga are generally seeking to improve their health and well-being and ayurveda can transform people’s health so I think that an understanding the basics of ayurveda is a great quality in a teacher.

Communication and compassion

BKS Iyengar says “Confidence, clarity and compassion are essential qualities for a teacher.”

I agree with BKS 100 percent, confidence and clarity are all about communication and having good clear, concise instruction is very important and I think this comes with experience and fine-tuning over time to be able to communicate the best way that you can.

The way you communicate can be an indication of your confidence and a teacher that comes across as less confident through their communication, could be translated by students as having a lack of knowledge. Same goes for not just instruction, but demonstration and adjustments must be done with clarity and confidence.

I think that the use of Sanskrit language when naming the asana in class is very important and I don’t think it is appropriate to teach yoga using only English terms. I would not feel comfortable taking yoga classes from someone who didn’t use Sanskrit. Sanskrit as a student has helped me in ‘moving meditation’ hearing the foreign unfamiliar sounds triggered a relaxation and meditative response in me. This is also about respecting the history and lineage of the ancient science of yoga.

Being a good teacher is about being equipped with the right knowledge and learning from a good teacher yourself, having an open heart, compassion and to be without judgments.

I think part of being a good teacher is understanding  and embracing that we never stop learning, there is always more to know, more to see and more to feel and this means that the practice and yogic journey never ends, it evolves. Hunumasana never stops being difficult to do, it just gets easier to do it.

Namaste xxx

When you have all the tools….

Tonight when I taught I spoke of yoga being a tool for us to use- that yoga is here to service us and not for us to service yoga. It is well documented that yoga is an excellent way to de-stress and relax, to help restore harmony in our bodies in a time, in a world, when we probably need it the most.

It would be my guess, for more seasoned yogi’s or those that attend classes regularly that their is a relaxation response just by stepping on the mat or lying over the bolster with a comforting familiarity. The opening class chant or a teachers voice you know so well. These yogi’s may take deep breathing off the mat when times are stressful, subconsciously or perhaps consciously aware that extending the exhalation calms the nervous system, having a profound effect on our emotions. Or how simply how relaxing it can be to be in your body, watching your breath. These yogi’s may take a savasana to revive when feeling weary, they know exactly which way to twist or stretch when something feels tight and could do with a fresh blood supply. Or even just to know the joy of a a backbend or handstand spontaneously in the sunshine. This is I guess like a ‘yoga toolbox’ yoga’s service to us, a reward for our service to ourselves.

I choose to study yoga because I believe in the wonderful, healing, cleansing effects it has on our bodies, I believe in the science. (yes, I said science 🙂 ). I have a very big ‘yoga toolbox’ of things I have read and experienced as well as wonderful things shared to me by teacher and her teacher and all the other teachers i have experienced.

This week I had a terrible week, I searched and dug deep and I thought there was nothing in my toolbox that could help me; I was too irritated for pranayama, too depressed for dynamic asana that would have given me a bit of sparkle, my head far too jumbled for any serious attempt at meditation.

It was tonight with the wonderful power of hindsight, some clarity of mind and the old saying ‘practice what you preach’ I realised that this week in my darkest moment, I did 5 headstands sirsasana, I knew whilst on my head I had to be in that moment, if I wasn’t, I’d simply fall. The falling didn’t worry me it was losing that tremendous sense of strength. Thank you, yoga. Namaste.

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