Want to Improve Hamstring and Adductor Flexibility? Try this

Want to Improve Hamstring and Adductor Flexibility? Try this

 

{WATCH} In this short video filmed at Create Pilates in Wimbledon, I show you how to do Prasarita Padottonasana (A).

When practised with care and consideration this pose is strengthening for the legs and feet – it can improve hamstring and adductor flexibility and can also help develop awareness of how to protect your lower back when you bend forward in day-to-day life. So, the aim is not to get your head to the ground (or to flop forward) – instead, think about stability in the legs and spine throughout.

– As you come into the forward fold, hinge from the hips and keep the length through the spine so that you can target the hamstrings without placing strain on the lumbar spine. If your hamstrings are particularly tight or your back is rounding you can place blocks under the hands to bring the floor up to you. (Also, it’s no good having your head on the floor if your neck is all scrunched up. If that happens, shorten your stance. You don’t want the feet to be so wide apart that you feel unstable).

– Press down through the feet to allow the legs to work more strongly. Notice where the weight is in your feet – if it’s gone back into your heels then bring some weight forward towards the balls of your feet and avoid leaning back into your knees.

– Have hands about shoulder distance apart and lift shoulders up and away from the ears. If your hands are on the floor, walk your fingertips back so that they are in line with the toes and elbows hugging inwards.

Stay here for 5-10 breaths.

TIPS – If you have sciatic issues (as I do) try keeping the feet parallel rather than pigeon-toeing. For back or hamstring issues try bending the knees (I am actually bending my knees slightly here and consequently achieving a deeper stretch into the hamstrings). And for groin issues try shortening the stance.

NB – Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, speak to your doctor before practising yoga.

Join me for Hatha Yoga at Create Pilates in Wimbledon on Wednesdays from 11.45am-1pm and Fridays 10.15-11.30am. Click here to see my current weekly class schedule.

Undo Knots in the Upper Body with Thread the Needle Pose

Undo Knots in the Upper Body with Thread the Needle Pose

{WATCH} In this short video filmed at Create Pilates in Wimbledon, I show you how to do Thread the Needle Pose.

Thread the Needle can provide a satisfying stretch through the chest and shoulders. Also, the gentle twisting motion can help stretch the muscles in the lower back and release tension in the upper back as well as easing tension in the shoulders and in-between the shoulder blades.

1. Start on all-fours. Place knees a bit wider than the hips and hands closer together.

2. As you inhale reach your right fingertips toward the ceiling. As you exhale, thread your right arm between your left arm and thigh with your palm facing up. Let your right shoulder come all the way down to the mat. Rest your right ear and cheek on the mat too. Soften your gaze to your left. Keep your tailbone in the air (N.B. Do not press your weight onto your head – adjust your position as necessary to not strain your neck or shoulder.)

3. Allow your upper back to broaden and relax your lower back.

4. With each exhale visualise any tension in the shoulders, neck, back and arms dissolving. Stay here for 3-5 breaths or up to a minute.

5. To move out of the pose, press your left hand down and unwind your twist, sliding your right arm back.

Repeat on the left side.

NB – Please make any modifications as needed to feel comfortable in this pose. Here are a few suggestions:

– If your knees hurt, fold your mat or place a folded blanket under your knees for padding.

– If your wrists hurt in the starting position, rest your forearms on the floor.

– Rest your forearms on a bolster or stack of folded blankets to lift your torso up higher. (This variation is can useful for women who are pregnant.) Rest your ear on the bolster and let your ‘threaded’ arm move toward the floor.

CONTRAINDICATIONS:
Avoid this pose if you have a recent or chronic injury to your knees, shoulders, or neck.

If you have back pain, back injuries, degenerative disk disease or any other diagnosed back condition you should approach this pose with caution.

NB – Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, speak to your doctor before practising yoga.

You can currently join me for Hatha Yoga here at Create Pilates on Wednesdays 11.45am-1pm and Fridays 10.15-11.30am. View my weekly yoga class schedule here.

 

Soothe Your Nervous System with Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Soothe Your Nervous System with Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

 

Nadi – ‘channel’ or ‘flow’

Shodhana – ‘purification’

Alternate Nostril Breathing is a simple yet effective pranayama (breathing) practice. Soothing for the nervous system, alternate nostril breathing is said to help relieve stress and anxiety and lower the heart rate among other benefits. It is also helpful to practice before bedtime if you have difficulty getting to sleep.

If my head feels all over the place (often if I’ve been trying to do too many things at once!) I find this practice helpful to calm my mind. You can also practise *Mental Alternate Nostril breathing (i.e. not using your hands).

Usually this is practiced with breath retention, but you can choose to focus on just the inhales and exhales through each nostril instead.

How to practice Alternate Nostril Breathing (NB – the instructions below are without breath retention):

  1. Sit comfortably with a tall spine
  2. Rest your left hand comfortably on your left knee (as pictured) or lap
  3. Place your right index and middle fingers lightly between your eyebrows. You will be using your right thumb and right ring finger to open and close the nostrils.
  4. With eyes closed or gaze softened to one spot, take a deep breath in and out through both nostrils (you can take a few deep breaths here).
  5. Softly close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale slowly and steadily through your left nostril.
  6. Close your left nostril (with your right ring finger) and release closure of your right nostril. Exhale slowly and steadily through your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril.
  7. Close your right nostril (with your right thumb) and release closure of your left. Exhale through your left nostril.

This completes 1 round. Repeat this for 5-10 rounds, focussing on your inhales and exhales. When you are finished. Rest both arms and breathe in and out normally for a few breaths.

*NB – I have a recorded a Mental Alternate Nostril Breathing audio to guide you through your practice, available here.

 

 

NEW Hatha Yoga Class in Wimbledon

NEW Hatha Yoga Class in Wimbledon

New Year, New Classes:

Hatha Yoga – Fridays 10.15-11.30am at Create Pilates

I’m excited to be teaching another class at <a href="http://www click to read more.createpilates.com/”>Create in Wimbledon. As well as *Flow & Restore with Yoga Nidra on Wednesdays – *now at the new time of 11.45am-1pm, I am also teaching Hatha Yoga on Friday mornings from 6th January.

Meaning ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ in Sanskrit, Hatha yoga is the general term used for the physical practice of yoga in the West. In this class, attention is given to postural alignment, encouraging students to experience and explore movement and postures through the release of tension and the use of conscious breathing.

If you like small yoga classes with the space for more individual attention then you will enjoy practising yoga at Create – a lovely boutique studio that also offers Pilates (both reformer and mat), massage and rehab.

For more details, please visit www.createpilates.com

Address – Create Pilates, 1 Lambton Road, Wimbledon, SW20 0LW

Yoga Nidra – Dreaming of Yogic Sleep

Yoga Nidra – Dreaming of Yogic Sleep

“Yoga Nidra can be understood as a total practice of yoga itself… a state of ‘awakened sleep’ … in this state (we encounter) auto-suggestive experience of the power of the unconscious mind and its linkage with the soul.” – Sri Ram Sharam Acharya.

What is Yoga Nidra?

The word ‘nidra’ translates as ‘sleep’, hence the term ‘yogic sleep’. Put simply, Yoga Nidra can be described as a form of meditation, though it is not so much a practice or technique as a state of being. It can be seen as an altered state of consciousness – neither being asleep or awake, but a state in-between. Sometimes, Yoga Nidra is referred to as ‘conscious sleep’ as the physical body is resting, but the mind remains awake and aware. Yoga Nidra brings about total physical, emotional and mental relaxation. Just a few of the reported benefits include reduced stress, improved sleep and a greater sense of wellbeing but Yoga Nidra can also be used as a means to help heal emotional and physiological wounds. For instance, the work of Richard Miller with US Army veterans with PTSD has produced impressive results. As one US Marine veteran comments on Richard Miller’s iRest (‘integrative-Restoration’ Yoga Nidra) website,

I truly believe that iRest helps to save my life every day. It has given me the hope and strength I needed to reconnect myself to the world again.” 

For my own personal experience of Yoga Nidra, it has helped (and continues to help) me find self-acceptance. As Rod Stryker (teacher, founder of ParaYoga and author of The Four Desires) describes, Yoga Nidra,  “…opens a doorway to a place where we can see ourselves and our lives in the most positive light.”

As a student I have experienced Yoga Nidras across a range of traditions – Himalayan, Satyananda and iRest (Richard Miller) – and experienced different benefits from all of them, and so when I wanted to deepen my studies in this area in order to share Yoga Nidra with more people, I trained with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, Nirlipta Tuil and Ben Woolf in Total Yoga Nidra. Total Yoga Nidra delves into all these different lineages and shows us that there is no one ‘right way’.

How do I ‘do’ Yoga Nidra?

One of the great beauties of this is that you don’t have to do yoga or meditate in order to experience Yoga Nidra, making it accessible to almost anyone. As a practitioner, all that is required of you is to lie down (or sit) in a comfortable position, listen and be willing to become effortless, or in other words, enter an effortless state of being. Restorative Yoga poses such as a Basic Relaxation Pose (Supported Savasana) or Supported Reclining Pose are ideal positions for Yoga Nidra as the body is completely supported and comfortable, thus creating the conditions for both body and mind to let go more easily. If you have classes available in your area then it can be wonderful to experience live ‘in person’ Yoga Nidra, but you can also listen to recordings meaning that you can access Yoga Nidra whenever you need it at the times which work best for you.

I have recorded short 10-15 minute practices which are available through my website here. I will be regularly adding more Yoga Nidra and meditation recordings to this page. I have been asked by many people over the past couple of years for recordings, so I hope you will enjoy them.

If you are based in London I teach a weekly Friday Flow & Restore class at Embody Wellness Vauxhall. This class concludes with a 15 minute yoga nidra. 

And don’t forget, if you sign up to my mailing list through www.ucanyoga.co.uk you will receive a complimentary 15 minute Yoga Nidra too.