Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers

Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers

Each month on my U Can Yoga website I have been featuring yoga related books that I’ve really enjoyed and want to share with you guys reading out there. For anyone who has missed the titles featured so far, I am including some my previous ‘Books of the Month’ here. I hope you enjoy:

Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers

Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers

Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers

Sarah Powers combines elements of yoga, traditional Chinese medicine and Buddhism in this fantastic and easy to follow introduction and guide to Yin yoga.

Including chapters on meridian theory, how to begin a Yin/Yang yoga practice, pranayama and mindfulness meditation, this book makes self-practice simple.

You will find Yin sequences with clear photos, dedicated to different meridians (e.g. sequences for the liver and gallbladder) and Yang (dynamic flow) sequences for balancing a Yin practice. Added to this, Sarah Powers’ chapter on her personal journey, from graduating with a degree in transpersonal psychology and her humbling experience of her first yoga class in the mid-1980s to her now twenty-plus years of practice, puts into context why she is so passionate about yoga and sharing these practices and this comes through beautifully in her writing style throughout the book.

As an aside, if you are in London this New Year, I am teaching New Year Detox Yin Yoga Workshop – a practice to stimulate the liver and gallbladder meridians (two organs that play an essential part in the body’s detoxification process) on Sunday 3rd January 2016 1.30-3.30pm at Embody Wellness. For further details and to book please click here.

Hand Wash Cold

Hand Wash Cold

Over the course of 2013 and 2014 on my U Can Yoga website I featured (mostly) yoga related books that I’ve really enjoyed and wanted to share with you. Book of the Month took a bit of a sabbatical in the latter half of 2014, but I am happy to say it has returned for 2015 and you’ll be able to find a new book recommendation each month on the dedicated Book of the Month page over at U Can Yoga. For anyone who has missed the titles featured so far, I will be including some my previous ‘Books of the Month’ here on this blog over the course of the year. In the meantime, here is the Book of the Month for January 2015 – Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezen MIiller. I hope you enjoy:

Book of the Month - Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezen Miller

Book of the Month – Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezen Miller

Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions For An Ordinary Life by Karen Maezen Miller

“Happiness is simple. Everything we do to find it is complicated.” – Karen Maezen Miller

Could you imagine that the simplicity of household chores can become
opportunities for life lessons, self-examination and selflessness?

A friend lent me Hand Wash Cold last year and it turned out to be one of the best books I read in 2014. The author, Karen Maezen Miller is a Zen Buddhist priest and here, via a mix of personal anecdotes, insights and Zen wisdom, she writes about how changing our perceptions can help us find joy in the lives we already have, rather than thinking that fulfilment and bliss are somewhere ‘out there’. I admired the author’s openness about some of the difficult times in her past and acknowledging the self-absorption and ambition of her youth on the way to her finding steadiness in the life she has now. A wonderful read which manages to be both profound and playful. A great reminder that true happiness really comes from within and that it is possible to fall in love with the life you have today.

A Year of Living Your Yoga by Judith Hanson Lasater

A Year of Living Your Yoga by Judith Hanson Lasater

A Year of Living Your Yoga by Judith Hanson Lasater - one of my previous Books of the Month

Over the past year on my U Can Yoga website I have been featuring yoga related books that I’ve really enjoyed and want to share with you guys reading out there. For anyone who has missed the titles featured so far, I am including some my previous ‘Books of the Month’ here. As we begin a new year, A Year of Living Your Yoga by Judith Hanson Lasater feels apt. I hope you enjoy:

One of the previous books of the month was Living Your Yoga, also written by Judith which is another favourite of mine. What I like about this easy to dip into book are the daily aphorisms where Judith combines yoga, mindfulness, meditation and day-to-day experiences in such a way as to provide reminders that the ordinary and everyday can be extraordinary and special. In way, this reminds me of a quote I read from Tara Stiles where she said “Every moment is spiritual, therefore there are no separate spiritual moments.” This book by one of my favourite teachers is rarely far from my reach.

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

– 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!

Love: A Matter of the Heart

Love: A Matter of the Heart

LOVE (image via“Time is precious. We’re given a certain number of heartbeats. You don’t know how many you’re gonna get – I don’t know how many I’m gonna get, so I think you’ve really gotta live every one of those to its fullest.” – Dr Kathy Magliato

It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that today is Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s a day you look forward to or a day you loathe in proportion to the amount of Valentine’s you do or do not receive or your relationship status. But love, Real Love is so much bigger. It’s just that a day like today can make many feel as though it’s only romantic love that counts.

At the risk of sounding like a ‘rom-com’ cliché it’s true that love is all around us in many forms and sometimes in the most unexpected of places, if only we choose to be aware.

For a slightly different take on Valentine’s Day I wanted to share this 5 minute video with you where cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Kathy Magliato explains how love affects us physically, how being a heart surgeon has impacted her own feelings about love and also why she believes the soul resides in the heart. This also ties in with the words of Dr. Mimi. Guarneri who is the author of my current Book of the Month, ‘The Heart Speaks’.

You can watch Dr. Kathy’s interview via Soul Pancake here: ‘How Love Affects Us Physically – A Heart Surgeon Weighs In’

Wherever you are this Valentine’s Day I wish you Love. And to quote one of my favourite teachers, Judith Hanson Lasater,

“Loneliness can only arise when we forget how much we are loved…. Love fuels gratitude and gratitude fuels compassion. Compassion changes the world.”

Light on Yoga

Light on Yoga

Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar

Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar

Over the past several months on my website I have been featuring yoga related books that I’ve really enjoyed and want to share with you guys reading out there.

For anyone who has missed the titles featured so far, I am going to include my previous ‘Books of the Month’ here on the blog starting with Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar

“[Yoga]… means a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly.” – B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga

A classic yoga text. This is the most comprehensive guide to Hatha yoga I have come across.

Ironically, it is only in the last year that I began attending Iyengar classes after a decade of asana practice, and even now it is admittedly not as often as I would like (something I wish to rectify in 2013). But I always leave feeling able to take its firm foundations into my practice elsewhere.

There is little I can say to do Light on Yoga full justice here. In this incredibly well-illustrated book, Mr. Iyengar explains not just each asana and its benefits (plus of course, correct alignment) he also guides the reader through pranayama techniques and more.

It comes as no surprise that many of the yoga teachers I know own this book. With various yoga routines to follow, hints and cautions for practice and a section on curative asanas for numerous conditions it’s an invaluable resource. It is also on the reading list for the Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training (which I am excited to be a part of this year – see here for more info).

This book also reminds us that there is no substitute for consistent practice and dedication. And for anybody who struggles with the notion of how it is possible for yoga to be more than ‘keep-fit’ exercise, I invite you to read the beginning of this book.

A must-have for serious practitioners and anyone wishing to deepen their understanding of yoga.