Why Reclined Pigeon Rocks

Reclined Pigeon pose – also known as Eye of the Needle – is a fantastic post-run and cycling stretch and also a great Pigeon variation that is kinder on the knees than the more traditional version of Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana).

As well as particularly targeting the hips, glutes and lower back this is also very helpful for stretching the IT band (illiotibial band), therefore improving your performance.

I found this pose and Legs Up The Wall especially helpful after running the Brighton Half Marathon in February this year. I had no soreness the next day. (NB – Click here for a Legs Up The Wall video where I show you how to get into the pose).

That said, even if you don’t run or cycle this pose can be of help if you spend a lot of time sitting – I imagine that includes most of us! 🙂

Reclined Pigeon can also be good for easing sciatic pain. Speaking from my own experience of sciatic pain due to having spondylolisthesis I have found this pose to be incredibly beneficial.

Aim to hold this stretch for at least 5 breaths but ideally longer. Work up to holding this stretch for 3-5 minutes on each side.

In this short video filmed at evolve, I show you how to get into Reclined Pigeon.

(Thanks to <a href="http://www.urbanlucy.com/" title="www.urbanlucy find more info.com” target=”_blank”>Urban Lucy for the comfy Beyond Yoga outfit I’m wearing in this video!)

There’s no such thing as a perfect yoga pose

There’s no such thing as a perfect yoga pose

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Each month I write for OM Yoga Magazine – here is my column from November 2012

Since 2012 I’ve written a monthly column and the odd feature for OM Yoga Magazine. This column was originally published in the November 2012 issue:

A mild thoracic curve means my chaturanga can look slightly lopsided. However, I only noticed this after observation in a mirror and working one-to-one with a teacher. X-rays and scans confirmed mild scoliosis
as well as spondylolisthesis, so the wonky chaturanga then made sense. Not long ago I had the experience of being in a workshop where an advanced teacher tried to (literally) wrench my shoulder up and back in chaturanga to straighten me out, despite my explanation of my physical imbalances. Instead of listening, he stared at me blankly and said, “You’re not doing it right”.

These experiences greatly inform how I approach teaching. They also remind me what an honour and privilege and responsibility it is. If I were less confident, that experience with the advanced teacher would have upset me. (Let’s save the ‘what is advanced?’ discussion for another time!) I like to remember the words of Judith Lasater who I studied with earlier this year. During training, one of the many things she said that stuck with me in regard to yoga asana is that there is no right or wrong – there is only safe. It’s important that we do our best to be safe in our postures.

I enjoy one-to-one yoga sessions a lot. Each person I guide through practice teaches me something. Every body is different. There is no perfect yoga pose. One of the things I love about working one-to-one is being able to guide someone to finding the expression of a posture that works best for them. Together we can take more time to get back to basics, break down poses and tailor their practice. My hope is that within this the yogi comes to experience that the practice they are developing is about more than touching their toes. When a client told me she had practised a couple of poses on her own at home because she liked how they made her feel afterwards I was delighted. Delighted that she felt confident enough to do some asana practice on her own and that she was finding her own unique experience of yoga that went beyond where to place her feet in trikonasana. Even better that this was for her self-care and not to please the teacher.

Paula Hines is a London-based yoga teacher (www.ucanyoga.co.uk) – if you are in London and interested in 1-2-1 or Small Group Private Yoga, please click here for details.

If you’d like to read a selection of my past OM Yoga Magazine columns and a FREE 24 page preview of the latest issue at my U Can Yoga website, please click here.

The Perfect Yoga Pose

Originally published in OM Yoga & Lifestyle Magazine.

There is no such thing as a perfect yoga pose.

A mild thoracic curve means that my chaturanga can look slightly lopsided. However, I only noticed this after observation in a mirror and working one-to-one with a teacher. X-rays and scans confirmed mild scoliosis as well as spondylolisthesis, so the wonky chaturanga then made sense. Not long ago I had the experience of being in a workshop where an advanced teacher tried to (literally) wrench my shoulder up and back in chaturanga to straighten me out, despite my explanation of my physical imbalances. Instead of listening he stared at me blankly and said, “You’re not doing it right”.

These experiences greatly inform how I approach teaching. They also remind me what an honour and privilege and responsibility it is. If I were less confident, that experience with the advanced teacher would have upset me. (Let’s save the ‘what is advanced?’ discussion for another time, but really like Michael Taylor’s take on “advanced” yoga in his great Mind Body Green blog post here)

I like to remember the words of Judith Hanson Lasater who I studied with earlier this year. During training, one of the many things she said that stuck with me in regard to yoga asana is that there is no right or wrong – there is only safe. It’s important that we do our best to be safe in our postures.

I enjoy one-to-one yoga sessions a lot. Each person I guide through practice teaches me something. Every Body is different. There is no perfect yoga pose.

One of the things I love about working one-to-one is being able to guide someone to finding the expression of a posture that works best for them. Together we can take more time to get back to basics, break down poses and tailor their practice. My hope is that within this the yogi comes to experience that the practice they are developing is about more than touching their toes. When a client told me she had practiced a couple of poses on her own at home because she liked how they made her feel afterwards I was delighted. Delighted that she felt confident enough to do some asana practice on her own and that she was finding her own unique experience of yoga that went beyond where to place her feet in trikonasana. Even better that this was for her self-care and not to please the teacher.

Continuing Education with Laxmi

Continuing Education with Laxmi

“Through our yoga practice we aim to bring balance into the body so we can bring balance to the mind.”
– Sally Parkes, Laxmi Yoga

I love that there is always more to learn.

I’ve just got back from a week in Wales with a brilliant bunch of yogis: Part One of Laxmi Yoga Teacher Training founded and led by Sally Parkes.

It is a year since I began my yoga teacher training journey and in that time the learning hasn’t stopped. From learning to teach restorative yoga with Judith Hanson Lasater to studying the teaching of vinyasa flow with Shiva Rea and attending numerous workshops. I’ve continued to learn from my spondylolisthesis in my own asana practice. And mostly, I’ve learned from everyone I’ve been fortunate enough to guide through their yoga practice since I started teaching.

In the Hindu sacred texts, the Vedas, the Goddess Laxmi is the one who has the object and aim of uplifting mankind.

The above, comes from the opening page of Laxmi Yoga’s training manual. This particular training has come at just the right time for me. There have been many lessons over the past year and I knew I wanted to deepen my knowledge in certain areas as well as engage in some more self-inquiry.

I have attended Sally’s classes and retreats as a student and since starting to teach I’ve had the pleasure of joining her retreat team. With a background in studying sports and exercise science, and some fourteen years experience teaching not only yoga but also Pilates and personal training to people of all ages and abilities, Sally has a wealth of knowledge. As a student I appreciate her non-dogmatic style, her passion that yoga really can be accessible for everyone and that she incorporates all aspects of her experience into her approach to teaching. So, I’m very happy for the opportunity to study with her!

Our first week in Wales was spent studying and practising at the welcoming Dru Yoga Mountain Lodge in Snowdonia, which is also home to the World Peace Flame.

Our group consists of a mix of practitioners who have some teaching experience either in yoga or other disciplines along with some completely new to teaching. What we have in common is that we are all dedicated yogis and it was wonderful to share our range of experiences over the course of our first week together.

Partner work in Warrior 2

Partner work in Warrior 2

Outside of our regular sessions and posture clinics each day with Sally, we practiced meditation with Nanna Coppens from Dru Yoga who has been teaching for over twenty years.

I got to teach a restorative yoga class for the group, which was a real joy! For some, it was their first experience of a restorative yoga practice. Another group member who we affectionately named ‘Guru Chris’ guided us through an energising Kundalini yoga session. While Neil Phillips gave us a great insight into the principles of Ayurveda.

We are studying Anatomy and Physiology with Dawn Morse. As well as being the programme leader of the Sports Therapy Foundation Degree provided by the University of Bath and lecturing in Sports Therapy and Sports and Exercise Science, Dawn has also taught yoga (including mother and baby and children’s yoga), Pilates, personal training, sports and remedial massage and injury rehabilitation… So, it’s fair to say that Dawn knows her stuff!

With our friend Fred the Skeleton

With our friend Fred the Skeleton

Though I have a deep interest in studying anatomy this is not a subject that comes easily to me. But Dawn’s approach is brilliant. We came away covering so much more than we’d imagined possible. Certain aspects were familiar to me from study I have done so far, but I’m particularly enjoying learning more about biomechanics. And I wasn’t alone here as we even spent a whole evening of study time outside our anatomy sessions watching and discussing Paul Grilley’s anatomy DVD. I’m looking forward to studying with Dawn again when we return to Wales in November.

Friday night was Kirtan Night! It was great fun and I’ve been known to enjoy a chant :D. Along the way Nanna, who led the session told the stories of Ganesha, the Gayatri Mantra and talked about the World Peace Flame Foundation. Very apt indeed as our Kirtan was taking place on the International Day of Peace. An uplifting evening all round.

On Saturday night we after dinner we watched Yogawoman together. I’m so glad that I finally got to see it! An added treat was that one of the contributors to the movie is Laxmi Yoga course tutor, Caroline Shola Arewa who we’ll meet in October.

The week whizzed by. Yet in that short space of time so much happened. For one thing, we realised we had all taken in more that we had thought. That’s thanks in no small part to Sally consciously cultivating a great learning environment. We arrived mostly as strangers but bonded as a group very quickly.

Laxmi Yogis with Sally Parkes (far right) and Dawn Morse (far left)

Laxmi Yogis with Sally Parkes (far right) and Dawn Morse (far left)

I’m already looking forward to Part Two in October where we’ll be delving deeper into the subtle body and the Chakras with Caroline Shola Arewa. And we’ll be doing First Aid for Yoga Teachers training with Julie Cleasby – a refresher for some and all new to others among our group. To follow that in Parts Three and Four, among other things, we will be learning more about teaching special populations and the business of yoga, the latter being especially crucial for anyone seriously planning to earn a living as a yoga teacher. At each stage of the course, I’ll be blogging about the experience. In the meantime, there’s studying and assignments to be done before we meet again in October, so I’d best get on with my homework! 😀

Straight to the Core

Ever since confirmation of my spondy, in seeking advice on how I might work on addressing this, one word (even from some fellow yoga teachers) has repeatedly come up.

Pilates.

I’d wanted to do some more Pilates since Tilton House but never got round to it. Now I’m in a situation where I know that strengthening my core (in particular the TA muscles) will help to support my lumbar spine.

I turned to one of my yoga teachers, Sally who is also a very experienced and knowledgeable Pilates teacher. It was at Sally’s retreat at in the summer last year where my interest in Pilates was re-ignighted.  I took classes for a while several years ago and always felt that yoga and Pilates complemented each other.  But as ever, life got busy, work to took over and Pilates (and yoga, for a while) fell by the wayside.

I was so grateful when Sally kindly said she would guide me through some Pilates moves I can do at home.  Not least because I know she is a great teacher, but also because I know she is patient and kind.  (I remember an experience of a Pilates teacher barking at me like a drill sergeant in a scenario which apparently wasn’t a bootcamp style class.  That didn’t really work for me…).  In my first session with Sally it took me some time to get re-acquainted with Pilates breathing on some of the exercises, which does differ from how we breathe in yoga.  I really appreciated Sally’s patience then!

I am also seeing a wonderful yoga therapist who after my initial assessment explained that, in yoga terms, my prana was being depleted down the front side of my body between my ribs and my pelvis.  Aside from working with my yoga therapist on correcting my posture from my feet upwards (as even the way I naturally stand has been putting additional pressure on my lumbar), there is a significant focus on the front body being able to support the back body, thereby allowing the back body to rest.  So, she mentioned working on the TA muscles (and Mula Bandha) in my very first yoga therapy session too.

I’m finding that combining my yoga therapy exercises along with the Pilates exercises Sally is showing me are really complementing each other. It does take dedication to practice regularly but just a few weeks in I am already noticing a positive difference in how my body, and mind, feel.

Sally is kindly going to monitor my progress over the next few weeks or so, gradually building on the exercises where appropriate, so I’ll be charting my progress here on the blog too.

As I work on my own physical therapy I am looking forward to seeing what I learn along the way and consequently being able to share some of this experience while I grow as a teacher too.

I’m feeling good about 2012.