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!)

5 Reasons to Go on a Yoga Retreat

5 Reasons to Go on a Yoga Retreat

Yoga in the Yurt at Tilton House

Yoga in the Yurt at Tilton House - photo by Kat Kinsella

Originally published on Urban Lucy‘s Urban Blog.

Despite practising yoga for a decade I didn’t go on my first yoga retreat until 2011. One of my very first thoughts once I was there was “What took me so long?!” The retreat I’d chosen was a weekend break in the UK, yet it was just enough to bring my mind and body back into balance. And suited by budget too. I’d always thought that a retreat was a pipe dream but whether you want to head off to far-flung sunny climes or have a short but sweet weekend break closer to home there’s such a wide range of choice out there that it is possible to find a getaway to suit your tastes and needs.

I loved the experience so much that I now teach yoga on retreats and believe so much in the value of taking time out for you. Far from being selfish, taking that time to take care of you allows you to recharge and, in turn, enables you to give the best of yourself to your loved-ones. I recently returned from teaching on a weekend retreat in Sussex and was reminded all over again of why it’s so good. Here are just a few reasons for you:

Delicious food on the Sally Parkes Yoga retreats at Tilton House

Delicious food on the Sally Parkes Yoga retreats at Tilton House

1. No pressure to ‘do’ anything
Ever been on holiday and ended up with an itinerary so packed that you came back feeling like you needed another holiday? Well, one of the great things about being on retreat is that there’s no pressure ‘do’. We have enough pressures and ‘shoulds’ in our day-to-day lives and even on holiday that can creep in when what our minds and bodies really need is the opposite. On retreat you have the genuine opportunity to slow down with no guilt whatsoever. You can opt in or out of as many of the classes and other activities on offer as you like. Hang out with the group, or spend time alone. It’s your choice! It’s a real chance to Relax and restore.

Join Sally Parkes & I on our Relax & Restore retreats at Florence House

Join Sally Parkes & I on our Relax & Restore retreats at Florence House

2. You get to indulgently focus on your yoga practice (or even begin your yoga practice!)
If you already love yoga, then what better opportunity to practice every day! Though if you’ve never done yoga before, a retreat is a great place to start. There are lots of beginner-friendly retreats out there in the UK and abroad, including the ones I teach on for Sally Parkes Yoga (www.sallyparkesyoga.com). As a beginner you’ll be in a safe, nurturing environment and guided by teachers who want to support you.

Experience a nurturing Restorative Yoga class on retreat at Florence House

Experience a nurturing Restorative Yoga class on retreat at Florence House

3. It can be an opportunity to support a transition phase in your life
When I went on that first yoga retreat I was in the process of being made redundant from the job I worked at for almost ten years. Though it was a change I wanted, it was still a lot to come to terms with at the time. Being out of my regular surroundings was a great chance to step back, take stock and reassess things. It helped me get clearer about what I wanted. I’ve heard similar stories from other people about how they found a new perspective while on away on retreat and consequently, were able to take positive action once back at home.

4. It’s okay to go on your own (if you want to!)
Of course it’s okay to go on any holiday on your own, though holidaying alone isn’t something everyone feels comfortable with. From my experience, going away on retreat is a great way to go away on your own. The environment is safe and supportive and you get to meet some great people. People come from diverse backgrounds, yet often similar experiences have brought them to a retreat. It’s not uncommon to form lasting friendships.

Beautiful grounds at Florence House

Beautiful grounds at Florence House

5. The effects can last when you get back home
I feel this is best summed-up by a recent retreat guest who at the end of our weekend retreat totally humbled us with the following:

“I came on one of these retreats a while ago and came away with a warm feeling that lasted a long time. This time I’ve got that feeling again.”

So what are you waiting for? Why not start planning your next, or even your first yoga retreat? Do something nice for you.

This Summer you can join me on the following weekend retreats with Sally Parkes Yoga:

20th – 22nd June & 8th – 10th August – Summer Detox Retreats: Yoga and Meditation Weekend Retreats at Tilton House, Firle, near Lewes, East Sussex. Click here for more details (NB – only twin share rooms remaining for these dates. Autumn Detox Weekend 10-12th Oct is now SOLD OUT.)

29th – 31st August. With Sally Parkes and I – Summer Relax & Restore Retreat: Yoga, Pilates and Meditation Weekend Retreat at Florence House, Seaford, East Sussex. Click here for details.

Watch this space at the U Can Yoga website for upcoming retreat dates in 2015!

Tis the season to be…stressed?

Originally published on the Urban Blog at Urban Lucy.

There’s something about the run up to Christmas that can send even the most easy going person’s stress levels soaring.

If I suggested that you put your lengthy to-do list to one side and lie down for twenty minutes right now, what would your response be? (I think I can hear you shouting that you’re too busy from here!) Maybe it would feel lazy or indulgent when you have so much to do? But I invite you to look at your life and ask what you hold most dear. Of course, we all have responsibilities and obligations we must meet. But busyness and meaning are not the same thing. It comes back to balance and being able to tune in to what your body needs.

I’m a qualified restorative yoga teacher and for me, one of the joys of a restorative practice is that it gives us the permission to do less for our own benefit. I love practising and teaching dynamic yoga too, and there are those days when there’s nothing like going for a run to clear your head. But sometimes, what our bodies need is to be still.

It is known that restorative yoga can activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of our autonomic nervous system responsible for our ‘rest and digest’ activities). Regular yoga asana practise can do that too, but in this instance, restorative yoga works on a deeper level. So, it can be especially beneficial when we are feeling fatigued, stressed or in a state of feeling ‘tired all the time’. Restorative yoga can also be helpful while working though ailments or injuries. (Many of the restorative poses we know have been developed by BKS Iyengar or inspired by his therapeutic work.)

What is Restorative Yoga?
Sometimes referred to as ‘active relaxation’, in this style of yoga, props including (but not limited to) bolsters, blankets, blocks, and eye pillows, are used to facilitate relaxation by supporting the body. While the body is supported there is no need to ‘hold’ a posture, so we are able to completely let go, giving the body the opportunity to rest.

In order to relax fully it is very important to feel comfortable in each pose, re-arranging your props as much as you need to before settling.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to make it to a restorative yoga class in your area or have a teacher come to you, then that’s brilliant, but if not you can still reap the benefits at home. A good place to start is with this Supported Savasana. If I’ve been rushed off my feet and feel frazzled, I’ve found that doing this before bedtime makes a real difference to the quality of my sleep and calms my busy mind.

In lieu of the yoga props you would find at a studio you can improvise with what you have to hand – pillows, blankets, cushions, the throw from your sofa….

(NB – I’m suggesting a version here that I find works very well, but what’s most important is that you feel comfortable, so adjust your props as much as you need to before you settle.)

Have a timer to hand that you can easily set to twenty minutes once you are settled into position.

– Create a comfortable space to lie down – if you have a yoga mat, place a blanket on top covering the
surface of the mat for extra cushioning. If you don’t have a mat use extra blankets to create a thicker
base;

– Before you lie down, place a cushion or folded blanket for your head and neck to rest on;

– Carefully, lie down on your back and place a thick rolled up blanket (or pillows / cushions under your
knees). Allow your legs to relax and roll outwards;

– If you find that your heels do not touch the floor, take a rolled up bath towel (rolled onto a long
‘sausage’ shape) or cushions and place underneath your ankles for support;

– Cover your eyes with an eye pillow or scarf;

– Extend your arms out by your sides, palms facing up. Relax your hands – you will notice that your
fingers will curl towards your palms.

From here, allow your body to be supported by the props and the ground beneath you. With each out breath visualise any remaining tension melting away. Just be here. See what happens. Notice if any resistance comes up to staying there.

If you find twenty minutes feels like it whizzes by then try thirty minutes, but if twenty minutes is way too challenging to begin with, then gradually work your way up. I’d suggest seeing if you can do this Savasana once a day for five to seven consecutive days. Judith Hanson Lasater, who I trained with, jokes that restorative poses are magic, the magic being that they only work if you use them!

The main thing is to give it a try and to be kind to yourself along the way.

If you’re interested in learning more then Judith’s book Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times – one of my previous Books of the Month – is a wonderful place to start.

NB – If you are in London over the Christmas and New Year period and would like to be guided through a full restorative practice then my regular Relax & Restore classes at Embody Wellness in Vauxhall will still be taking place 7-8.15pm on Fridays 20th and 27th December, and 3rd January. I will also be covering the Basic Yoga class at Embody directly before from 6-7pm on these dates.

Here’s to less stress in December!

Relax & Restore for the New Year

Relax & Restore for the New Year

You can use props at home for your Restorative Supported Savasana

How was your Christmas? I hope it was good for you. Maybe you’re still enjoying some time off in the run-up to the new year, or maybe you’ve already headed straight back to work after having just Christmas Day off.

Either way, it’s easy to feel a bit of a slump at this time – the celebration of Christmas has passed and that phase between now and New Year’s can sometimes feel a bit ‘blah’.

The impending New Year can prompt reflection, and the altered pace of the things in the outside world can make us slow down whether we wish to or not. I suggest embracing that slower pace. Take some time to relax and restore your body and mind. One very accessible way to do this is with some restorative yoga at home. In my latest post for Urban Lucy, I’ve included a Simple Supported Savasana exercise that you can easily do at home – if you can give yourself twenty minutes a day then you can do this. And if you’d like to learn more about Restorative Yoga and its benefits then check out my Book of the Month by Judith Hanson Lasater.

And as we move into 2013, I’m really looking forward to teaching with Sally Parkes on the Relax and Restore New Year Retreat at Florence House in East Sussex Jan 11-13th. It will be a wonderful mix of Dynamic, Hatha, Restorative Yoga and Pilates.

If you’d like to join us and Bring a Friend for Half Price, then you can visit Sally’s website here for full details and to book. (Classes are suitable for all abilities including beginners.)

Florence House is situated between the stunning Sussex coastline and surrounding wild landscape and there will be plenty of time during the weekend to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. There will also be the chance to pamper yourself with a range of treatments from expert therapist Jo Poxon.

It’s a great way to kickstart 2013 on a positive note and I hope Sally and I will see you there 🙂

In the meantime, however you plan you spend your New Year’s, I wish you peace, happiness, good health, prosperity and much love in 2013.

Paula
x

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