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
Yoga blog

Your Yoga, Your Body, Your Option: Or overcoming the ego in Yoga

Ashtanga NamaskarI want to share the story of my journey to being able to perform Chaturanga Dandasana or the bottom of a yoga push up. It was a slow process involving a lot of collapsing to the floor, frustration and self-doubt. That went on for a long time and then I started to do something I wish I’d done years before. That was taking an alternative option – in this case Ashtanga Namaskar or five-pointed bow pose.

It took me so long to choose this option partly because I had almost exclusively done yoga in a gym where the focus had been on strength and power, so no one had ever told me there was an alternative to a belly flop in the middle of my sun salutations. And partly because my ego was getting in the way of my practice and I just wanted to be able to do what the person next to me was doing. The irony is that when I started regularly performing Ashtanga Namaskar I quickly built up the strength for Chaturanga in a way I hadn’t by performing Chaturanga incorrectly.

Options in yoga aren’t there because one pose is better than another, but because every human body is different and there’s no need to rush or force yourself into a posture. Rather than giving in to feelings of inadequacy or skipping a pose, taking an option allows us to participate and build strength for other poses in the future.

The other absolutely fantastic thing about options in yoga is being able to use equipment. Blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters, jellies… they are all brilliant and should never be shunned. Using blocks and straps I can achieve variations of Utpluti Dandasana (Floating Stick) and Rajakapotasana (King Pigeon). Maybe one day after using the equipment these poses will be achievable for me. But even if not, I like to remember this quote ‘yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down’. Now I challenge you to go and look up a variation or option of a pose you never thought you’d be able to do and give it a go!