Less Stress, More Savasana

Less Stress, More Savasana

Heard the one about the yoga teacher who’s tired and wired?

Whilst chatting with a friend after our morning run, I burst into tears, out of the blue. I joked that I was just tired and emotional. Surprised? I shouldn’t have been. Yoga teachers get stressed too.

Those tears were a sign that I’d not been giving enough time to myself. On top of this I’d been finding it harder to wind-down without guilt, as there always seemed to be more ‘to-do’.

Yoga teachers who teach full-time will most likely have been there at one time or another and relate. I’ve found this to be a recurring theme and it’s not so strange when you think about it – we give a lot of our energy to others whilst teaching and if we don’t take enough time to replenish then it is only a matter of time before a slump comes. It’s the same for any of us in a life or work situation where we give a lot of ourselves. We all need to recharge. And it’s not selfish. Filling up our own cup enables us to give our best to the people, work and causes we care most about.

“You need a holiday,” was my friend’s advice. I knew a holiday anytime soon was not on the cards, but when I got home I did what I could in that moment – I lay down for twenty minutes. Yep, that’s right, Savasana, plain and simple. And you know what? I felt a lot better for it – no longer tired or emotional, my perspective had shifted. “I should do this more”. While I make an effort to get on my yoga mat each day, I admittedly don’t take Savasana every day. Why not when it has the capacity to make such a difference? Last month I wrote about slowing down and I find myself still thinking about that this month off the back of a busy, albeit exciting period. So, I’ve decided to embark on 365 days of Savasana – the easiest pose to do, yet the hardest to master. Everybody (yoga teachers included!) needs more Savasana in their lives. If you’d like to join me then come on over to www.ucanyoga.co.uk and click on the 365 Savasana tab. I’d love to have some company on the journey. Let’s see what we learn about ourselves on the way.

This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue OM Yoga Magazine. You can read a selection of my past columns and a FREE preview of the current issue of the magazine by clicking here. And find out more about the 365 Savasana Project here.

 

Class Time Change: Sunday Flow & Restore now at 6pm – from 2nd October

Class Time Change: Sunday Flow & Restore now at 6pm – from 2nd October

From Sunday 2nd October my weekly Flow & Restore class at Embody Wellness will start fifteen minutes earlier at 6pm.

Flow & Restore – Sundays 6-7.15pm

In the first half of this beautifully balanced class I guide you through a series of flowing postures to help develop strength and flexibility. The pace then slows for the second half of the class with a focus on restorative and yin poses allowing your body to release both physical and mental tension. Finishing with a deep relaxation, you will leave feeling rested, uplifted and ready for your week ahead.

See you on your mats 😀

Visit the Embody Wellness website here.

 

Calm Mental Agitation

Calm Mental Agitation

Calm mental agitation with Seated Angle Pose

This Restorative Yoga pose, like many forward bends can help mental agitation, relive insomnia and a bit of gentle pressure on the forehead here can help to relieve headaches too. I also find this relieves tightness in the lower back.

Supporting the torso (even if you are naturally flexible enough to reach the floor) makes this especially restful. In the picture above (at Embody Wellness) I’m using a bolster and blocks but pillows and blankets make a good substitutes.

This is very similar to Dragonfly pose in Yin Yoga which also stretches the back side of the body (back and hamstrings especially). This is one of my favourites to practise in the evening or before bedtime.

Experience more Restorative and Yin Yoga poses at my weekly Flow & Restore and Slow Flow classes for class times and venues please see my class schedule here.

The glorification of “Busy”

The glorification of “Busy”

No matter how old I get, September is always associated with ‘Back to School’. The move into Autumn symbolises a time when many of us feel we need to get our heads down and get back to work after the summer. And before we know it, our daily calendars are full to bursting (if they weren’t already, that is).

I have an admission. I don’t like being busy. I like to be productive, to be effective and actually get things done. But, busy? To me, it’s overrated. I’ve increasingly noticed that whenever I say that I am busy the response is usually “that’s good”. And for a long time that was my response too. But why is that?

We have more time-saving technology and services at our fingertips than at any other time in history, yet we all seem to be busier than ever. Some of us wear our Busyness like a badge of honour. But is there a problem here? Are we confusing busyness with effectiveness?

Yoga teachers are certainly not immune from this. In London, where I live and work I see exhausted, scheduled to the hilt yoga teachers regularly. And I have fallen into this routine before too. For every class or client you guide through their yoga practice, you are giving your energy. So, there’s no surprise really that if you don’t take steps to replenish, it’s just a matter of time until you’ll burn out. However you spend your days, whether you teach yoga, work in an office, are a stay-a-home parent or anything and everything in-between, we can all work to burnout. But whom is that serving? From the point of view of teaching yoga, it’s tough to give your best in this state.

The busier we are, the less time we have. Time is arguably our most valuable commodity and it’s irreplaceable.  It’s a significant thing to lose.

I think it’s time to stop worshipping at the altar of busy.  Being busy for busyness sake or to attain more ‘stuff’ isn’t all its cracked up to be. What if we took another look and scrutinised what we are actually busy with? Try it and you might find there are things you can take off your to-do lists and lighten your mood and improve your wellbeing at the same time. Give it a go and notice the relief this brings.

This was originally published in OM Yoga Magazine. You can read a selection of my past columns and a FREE preview of the current issue of the magazine by clicking here.

Click here to learn more about the 365 Savasana Project.

Mother’s Breath

Mother’s Breath

Breathing is easy.

Until it’s not. It’s something we do every day and take for granted. Yet, how many of us are breathing properly? The way we instinctively knew how to breathe when we came into this world as babies. As we get older, we seem to forget how to breathe well.

We seek out the best diets, superfoods and life-hacking techniques to be healthy and feel better. Yet, many of us go about our days completely unaware that breath is our most important source of nutrition. Before water and before food. We simply cannot survive without breathing.

My mother, in her late-seventies has had a number of health issues since retiring at sixty but is actually doing pretty well. This brilliant woman and brave survivor arrived in a tough 1950s London as a teenager and built a life from nothing. I love that she will complain about her arthritic hip at the same time as bending down to wipe her kitchen floor. She does not see the irony that her standing forward fold is a perfect Uttananasa that would be the envy of countless yoga practitioners a quarter of her age.

Several years ago Mum was prescribed the use of an inhaler due to persistent shortness of breath. This shortness of breath meant that walking to the bus stop just a short distance from her home was struggle. She’d walk very slowly and would usually have to stop a few times on the way. Over the past year she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Going along to the hospital with Mum where the doctor and nurse we saw insisted that prescribing statins was the only way forward, I was sceptical. Mum, a former nurse herself and already on medication for high blood pressure was not jumping for joy at the idea but took the prescription. The supposedly rare side effects of this drug presented themselves visibly within a just a few days and Mum felt worse. So, she decided to stop taking them.

Around this time, hearing Ben mention that simple breathing practices had the potential to help conditions like atrial fibrillation intrigued me so I wanted to find out more. He very kindly met with me and generously shared some simple tips I could share with my Mum. I left our meeting optimistic and met with Mum the next day. She seemed receptive, though I also wondered whether she would really do her breathing practice consistently for twenty minutes a day.

About a week later I got an excited phone call from Mum. On her trip to the shops that day she was standing at the bus stop bemoaning the fact that the bus was taking so long when she realised something… On her walk to the bus stop she had not been out of breath and she had not needed to stop to rest. Not even once. She asked me if this could possibly be down to ‘the breathing’ as she calls it. I responded that yes, it may well be. This was the incentive she needed to keep going. She would practise on three or four days a week for twenty minutes at a time rather than every single day, yet this still seemed to be enough to make a positive difference to how she felt. Not only that, she noticed her sleep was better (no small thing as insomnia has been an on-going issue for her for some years) and she had more energy.

After about two months, Mum’s practice fell by the wayside – she blamed having a busy phase (i.e. an active social live!) – and her insomnia and shortness of breath started to return. Consequently, she resumed ‘the breathing’ and soon started feeling better again. A follow up at the hospital even showed clear improvements on her peak flow tests and atrial fibrillation and as I type she is still not taking statins.

When I caught up with Ben I was excited to share this good news. I am so grateful to Ben for his generosity with his time and in sharing his knowledge.

Breathing is magic. And easy. When you know how.

Thank you Ben. I hope you thrive in spreading this important, empowering work to as many people as possible. I feel it is your Dharma.

With gratitude,

Paula

 

Ben teaches breathwork at The Shala in South London – find out more about about his ‘Breath for Life’ workshops here

Ben Wolff is a London-based yoga teacher, clinical hypnotherapist and dream yoga practitioner. He is a tutor on Uma Dinsmore-Tuli’s Yoga Nidra Teacher Trainings and in her words “Ben has a profound depth of experience and understanding of Yoga Nidra. He has an acute and wide understanding of contemporary scientific research into meditation, neuroscience and other fields related to Yoga Nidra.” As a self styled breathmaster he has first hand experience of the healing power of the breath and fully understands that the breath can be the most powerful tool we have. “The breath is my yoga and my yoga is the breath”.