Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month?
One of my favourite ways of to manage stress (besides yoga!) is knitting.
I’m a newish knitter, currently making this cowl (pictured) to practise knitting in the round on double-pointed needles. I find the process of knitting meditative and calming. Not only is it brilliant learning a new skill, it is very helpful for stress relief and my mental health. And I’m not alone. It has been shown in research over many years that knitting (and crochet) has physical and mental health benefits. Just last month there were calls to prescribe knitting on the NHS. Charity organisation Knit for Peace (www.knitforpeace.org.uk) carried out a widespread review on the health benefits of knitting after receiving testimonials from their 15,000 volunteers about how it had improved their lives.
Sounds like a perfect reason to get knitting!
(P.S. If you’re interested in finding out more about the work of Knit for Peace and supporting their work by donating knitted or crocheted items or cash you can find more information at their website.
“Because yoga can help you feel so good, sometimes there is a tendency to present it all as positivity, love and light, heart-opening and unicorns. But in truth, it’s not all fluffy. When you practise yoga (not just asana) for a while, you find that it can make you more aware of the not so good too and teach you a lot about yourself (if you’re ready and willing to listen). So, I don’t expect myself or others to be perfect – after all, we are all in this together! It is all an on-going, life-long practice.”
I was recently interviewed by Yogamatters – just a few of the topics we touched on include:
- the importance of self-care
- why representation and visibility of diversity in yoga matters
- how my own experience of stress and injury has influenced my yoga practice and teaching
And much more. You can read the interview in full over at the Yogamatters blog by clicking here.
Thanks so much to Yogamatters for the interview feature 🙏🏾 🙏🏾 🙏🏾
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.
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”.
#getyouromback 31 Day Yoga Challenge from Sweaty Betty.
Sweaty Betty’s 31 Day Instagram Challenge involves practising one pose each day (a different post for each day of July). I think this is a great way to start building a home yoga practice!
Here I’m showing some Cat / Cow Pose variations for #getyouromback
My philosophy behind U Can Yoga from day one has been and remains that you can find your own expression of yoga, that yoga is for anyone who wants to give it a try and experience its many benefits.
I am taking part and will be posting some pose variations and instructions on Instagram with the intention of sharing a few ideas to make these poses a bit more accessible along the way – e.g. some standing and seated versions for those of us who find getting onto the floor a challenge.
Find out how to get involved by visiting the Get Your Om Back page at Sweaty Betty’s website here. And find me on Instagram @ucanyoga1.
To celebrate 1 month of opening its doors, join us for Body Align’s Open Day this month.
Have you had a chance to visit brand new wellbeing studio, Body Align in Elephant & Castle yet? If not, then the October Open Day is the perfect chance for you to sample a range of yoga and Pilates sessions and more all under Body Align’s cool yet quirky roof. Based at the new Artworks development, the studio is housed in refurbished shipping containers.
Some of the classes you can try on the day will include:
Hatha Yoga & Gentle Flow (which I will be teaching)
Chanting and Meditation
All levels welcome! Class times will be displayed once they are all confirmed on the Open Day Event Page on Facebook here.
(Just remember to turn up 10-15 mins early to register – and do feel free to spread the word!)
The more the merrier, and there will be some freebies and a few prizes too. Look forward to seeing you there 🙂
If you can’t wait, then you can sign up now for the introductory offer of £30 for 14 consecutive days and try as many classes as you like – from Forrest, Ashtanga, Broga and much more to a wide range of Pilates classes for all levels, there’s plenty to choose from. Plus, you can still join me on Wednesdays for Hatha & Gentle Flow at the NEW time of 7.45-8.45pm.
Keep an eye on the Body Align Facebook page for full Open Day details as they are confirmed. And to see all of the classes currently on offer visit the timetable here.
BodyAlign – Hatha & Gentle Flow Yoga, Wednesdays 20.15-21.15pm – starts 3rd September. Flow, Relax & Unwind from your day.
Brand new wellbeing centre, BodyAlign opens on Monday 1st September at The Artworks, an exciting creative enterprise community on the corner of Elephant and Walworth Road close to Central London.
Offering Pilates, yoga and functional classes, BodyAlign is a small-sized studio offering more personal, specialised sessions with no more than 10 people per class.
I’m really looking forward to teaching Hatha & Gentle Flow Yoga here on Wednesday evenings – ideal for a some mid-week restoration. Be lovely to see you there!
NB – Sign up here by 31st August for a FREE class or to take advantage of the offer of Unlimited Classes for the Month of September for £55.
Visit the BodyAlign website here for further details and see all the classes on offer on the timetable here.