Yoga blog

7 Tips for Setting up a Daily Meditation Practice

Set aside a time to meditate

Meditation is great in the morning, although equally it can help people get off to sleep. Personally, I like to meditate in the afternoon to avoid the slump and feel rejuvenated. We’re all busy and we have commitments to family, work, friends etc. etc. so choose a time that works for you and stick with it.

 

Make a place where you feel safe and will be undisturbed

We can’t all build yurts in the garden, but if you have a busy house go into your bedroom and shut the door. Be comfortable. You could use a cushion or stack of blankets to sit on, or lie down on the floor or the bed. Make your own little ritual around getting comfortable, it will trigger your mind to relax and make the meditation easier over time.

 

Ensure that you are comfortable (at least at first)

At first it can feel like your mind and body are fighting against the meditation. As soon as you close your eyes your nose itches or you start thinking about what to cook for dinner. That’s normal, don’t beat yourself up about it. But learning to sit with a moderate amount of discomfort is really valuable. In life we can’t always be comfortable, sometimes our muscles might ache from being used, or our joints might ache from wear and tear. Coping with small amounts of pain and discomfort is part of life. And the same goes for mental pain, we can’t be happy all the time and things will sometimes not go the way we want them to. When you get started with meditation sit or lie down and be comfortable, but then start to challenge yourself – try sitting crossed legged without moving. If you feel an itch don’t immediately scratch it, if there’s some slight noise in the background don’t flick your eyes open. Sit with those feelings telling you to stop and move beyond them.

 

 

Use resources to help you

Well you’ve read this far into the guide so that’s a great start using resources!! And this is really the tip of the iceberg, there are loads of books and websites with advice (please see the resources section of the guide). Different strategies work for different people so hunt around and find what works for you.

 

Connect with others trying to add this into their lifestyle

I’d love to hear how your meditation journey is progressing and for us all to bond and connect, working towards being happier, healthier individuals. So why not join my Facebook group and keep in touch. You can also use the #hollysbreathingspacemeditation on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. And why not start a little meditation circle with your family or friends?

 

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day

We’re human and we’re busy. Adding meditation to your life shouldn’t be a chore like taking the bins out. If you missed your time one day because any number of things intervened (or even just because that day you really did not feel like you could be present in that moment and it just didn’t happen for you) that’s ok. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

 

Do come back to it if you miss day

Don’t be hard on yourself, but do come back to it. Building a new habit takes time and effort, but it’s so worthwhile. Get in touch with others to help keep you motivated. Think about why you wanted to start this in the first place. And be thankful for whatever progress and positive change you’ve already seen in your life since starting.

 

Enjoy your meditation journey. If you have any questions or want to share you experiences with me, please do!

Yoga blog

Divine Dancer

Dancer/Natarajasana is my most-loved Yoga balance for so many reasons. It requires and builds flexibility in the hip, back, shoulder and hamstring, tones the legs and builds concentration and focus. But a lot of people feel unnecessarily intimidated by this pose. In this blog I offer modifications to make this pose more accessible while also working towards getting into a deeper variation of the posture.

Variation 1:

dancer 1

Bring your weight into one leg and lift the other up in front of you bending at the knee. Bring the bend leg back so the knees are in line. Lift the opposite arm to you lifted knee and balance here.

Variation 2:

Dancer 2

From Variation 1, reach back with the hand on the same side of the lifted leg and take hold of the inner sole of the foot.

Variation 3:

Dancer 3

From Variation 2 start to lift the back leg while keeping the hips in line. Allow the body to tilt forward a little, but focus on pushing the back leg into your hand and using this to open the hip and back.

 

Of course there are more advanced versions that this! But I’m still working towards them myself so like everyone else I stay where feels best for my body until I’m ready to deepen the practice further ❤ Why not send me your most divine variation of dancer?

Namaste! Hxx

 

 

Yoga blog

6 Post-Run Yoga Poses

Running is great, super for the cardio-vascular system, burns calories and increases bone density! But without proper stretching runners can find they have very tight calves, hamstrings and quadriceps. Why is this a problem? To keep muscles healthy and strong, and to maintain a healthy range of movement in joints it’s important to stretch. Here are my favourite post-run Yoga poses:

 

  1. Seated Forward fold

This is a great hamstring and calf stretch. To come into the pose inhale and raise the arms, then as you exhale bend forward leading with your heart reach down anywhere along the legs that’s comfortable.

Safety: anyone with hip constraints don’t bend too deep, you can just stay seated with a straight back. If your hamstrings are tight you may find it easier to sit on a block or even use a strap around the feet. Any pain in the low back ease out of the pose, only go as far as to get a nice stretch, don’t push into any pain.

  1. Low lunge

Low lunge

This stretches the hip flexors and you can sneak a backbend in too! From Table step one foot forward between the hands and then raise your arms up and overhead. Sink the hips forward if it’s comfortable. Challenge your balance by looking at your thumbs. Then switch to the other side.

Safety – if you have hip constraints don’t sink too deep into this. You can put extra padding under the knee to support it. If you have shoulder issues keep the hands on the hips.

  1. Low Lunge with Quad stretch

Low lunge quad stretch

From your low lunge lift the back foot, reach back for it and draw it in closer to you. If this puts too much strain on the knee come out of the pose or place something soft under the knee for extra support. Do both sides 😊

  1. Pigeon

pigeon

Such a great pose, a hip opener and a glute stretch. This pose is not for everyone, any knee constraints or pain in the knee in this pose do the alternative pictured below. To come into pigeon from Table bring the right knee to the right wrist. Walk the right foot over towards the left hip. Send the left leg straight out and behind you allowing the hips to come down towards the floor. Then you can come down to the forearms or reach your hands away in front. Do both sides 😊

  1. Spinal twist

Modified spinal twistspinal twist

Sit with both legs out in front. Cross you right leg over your left. You can keep the left leg extended and flexed, or tuck it in. Sit across both sit bones. Bring the right hand to the base of the spine. Use it to keep you straight. Lift the left arm high and try to bring the elbow over the right knee, twisting to look back over your shoulder. To intensify you can reach through the bent leg and take a bind here. Stay where feels comfortable.

  1. Savasana

savasana.jpg

You’ve earnt a break after running and doing Yoga! 😊 Any pain in the low back bring the knees up, if not extend the legs let the big toes roll out. Bring your arms down by your sides and turn the palms up. Close off the eyes and meditate for a few minutes.

 

Namaste 😊 Hxx

 

 

Yoga blog

Ten Yoga Poses to Start Your Day

Do you ever wake up stiff and want a way to quickly rejuvenate and uplift your whole body? Yoga to the rescue. Here’s 10 of my favourite poses which are perfect for first thing in the morning:

  1. Child Pose/Balasana

child pose

Take your knees wide, bring the big toes together and then sink your body back towards the heels. Reach your hands forward, fingers spread stretching out the back, keep the arms active.

Safety: those with knee or hip injuries/conditions may find this pose uncomfortable, it can be modified by adding a blanket below the knees, or staying up on the forearms.

2. Cat & Cow

Ok this is really two poses, but I LOVE them. Great for mobilising the spine and warming up the back after a long night’s lying still. Start in a Table Top (all-fours) position and round your spine up like an angry cat, tucking your chin under. Then to do Cow pose dip in your mid back, open across your collarbones and look up.

Safety: any back conditions of injuries be careful. Don’t do anything which hurts. Small movements can be much better than larger ones which cause pain or discomfort.

3. Downward Facing Dog

DD.jpg

This pose in an inversion, which means it stimulates the thyroid gland, changes the flow of blood and improves circulation… what’s not to love? Oh, and it also tones the legs and arms. To get into downward dog from all-fours tuck your toes under, push into your hands with the fingers spread and lift your tailbone high. Don’t worry if your heels don’t come all the way down to the ground straight away!

Safety: Inversions are not suitable for people with high blood pressure. This pose also puts weight into the wrists, so ensure to push into the knuckles to alleviate some of this pressure.

4.  Cobra

Cobra

This is a gentle backbend. Only lift up as far as feels comfortable. Any pain in the lower back, come straight down! Start by lying on your belly, bring the hands alongside the ribs and then lift the chest up, keeping the shoulders drawn down away from the ears and the shoulder blades pulling together at the back. Keep at least a micro-bend in the elbows not locking out the joints.

Safety: This pose can put pressure on the lower back, if you feel any pain come down out of the pose. There is a variation of Cobra, called Sphinx, where you put your weight in your forearms and lift up just a little, this may be more suitable for those with back conditions/injuries. Do not push into any pain.

5. Warrior II

warrior-ii.jpg

This pose is brilliant, it strengthens the legs and arms, and builds mental focus. Step the feet more than shoulder-width apart, slightly pigeon-toe the feet inwards. Then turn the right foot out, make sure the right heel is in line with the arch of the back foot and then bend the right knee to 90 degrees. Open the hips to the side and lift the arms in line with one another. Gaze over your right middle finger. Make sure you repeat on the left side too!

Safety: those with balance problems should be careful in this pose, perhaps practicing near a wall. If you find it painful to bend your knee so much a lesser bend is fine. A shorter stance will take some of the pressure out of the legs.

6.  Reverse Warrior

Reverse Warrior

This is a gentle backbend, which also tones the legs. From Warrior II, run the back hand down the back leg, lift the front hand high and turn the palm to face behind you. Look up to the palm (or if this hurts your neck look straight ahead). Watch the bend in your front knee, don’t let it disappear as you bend backwards. Make sure you do both sides!

Safety: Any pain in the low back come out of this pose. Looking up will challenge the balance, so be careful and have a wall nearby if you need one.

7. Tree

Tree Pose

This is so great for strengthening the ankles, opening the hips, aids balance and focus. Start by bringing the weight into one foot, then lift the opposite knee, you can keep the toes on the floor with the heel resting against the ankle, bring the foot to the outside of the calf or up onto the inner thigh. Arms can be at the heart or overhead. To challenge your balance look up or… I dare you… close your eyes!

Safety: never put the foot against the knee, the knee tendons are not strong in this direction. If you have knee of hip conditions/injuries stick to a modified version or skip this pose.

8. Forward Bend/Uttanasana

Uttanasana

This is quite an intense back stretch, especially for first thing in the morning so make sure you do the other poses first. Inhale and raise your arms high, as you exhale bend the knee (at least a little bit – don’t lock them out!) and then bring your hands down to the floor. Bend the knees as much as you need to in order to get the hands on the floor and support your low back. From there you can start to straighten the legs (keeping hands on the floor).

Safety: Those with high blood pressure/pregnant should avoid this pose. Instead you can bend half-way down with a flat back using a chair or wall for support.

9. Belly Twist

jathara

My husband calls this pose the Yoga Splat and I know it’s not the best photo ever, but hopefully you get the idea! It’s a lovely supine spinal twist, which releases tension and I love the back stretch. I do this pose at the end of most of my classes. To come into it, lie on your back with your knees up. Zip ankles and knees together and pin your shoulder blades to the floor. Then let both knees come down to one side and look away from them. You can put blankets or cushions under the knees if they don’t reach the floor. If they do reach the floor you can intensify the stretch by extending the top leg and bring the foot down onto the ground.

Safety: those with back/spinal injuries or conditions should be very careful. Check with a doctor about what movements are safe for your back. To modify you can just lower one knee to the side at a time, reducing the intensity of the stretch.

10. Uppanasana

Uppanasana

Hug your knees into your chest. If it’s comfortable rock from side to side massaging the spine into the mat. If it hurts your back to lie down skip this pose or try lying on a blanket.

 

Have a lovely day! ❤ Any questions please get in touch, or join me for a class 😊 Hxx

Recipes

Spicy Mango and Noodle Salad

Everything in this is raw apart from the noodles and it has so much TASTE! Just 20 minutes prep time… the perfect midweek dinner.

 

Ingredients:

1 large mango

1/2 red pepper

1/2 orange pepper

1/2 red onion

1 chunk of cucumber

100g mange tout

100g sugar snaps

1 big red chilli

1 spring onion

1 handful of cashews

1 small bunch of coriander

2 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 chunk of ginger

2 limes juiced

2 nests of vegan/vegetarian noodles depending on preference

 

 

Method:

  1. chop red onion, peppers, cucumber and mango into long strips. Cut mange tout and sugar snaps in half. Place all in a bowl.
  2. Cover the chopped veg with the juice of 2 limes, and the vinegar.
  3. Boil the noodles till soft and allow to cool.
  4. Chop the spring onion and cashews roughly. Chop the ginger and chilli finely. Chop the coriander roughly.
  5. Add the ginger, coriander and chilli to the veg mix.
  6. Combine the noodles and the veg mix.
  7. Serve in bowls covered with spring onion and cashew!Mango salad