Yoga blog

A Beginners’ Guide to Sun Salutations

Sun Salutations are fantastic! They move every muscle and joint, providing a perfect whole body workout, while also warming the body up for other poses (asanas) and increasing strength and flexibility. But they can be the most daunting part of a Yoga class for beginners, so as my next batch of Beginner Courses all start this week here’s my Beginners’ Guide 🙂

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Tadasana

Stand with toes together, heels slightly apart. Inhale and lift arms. If you have low back pain keep a straight back. If not you can squeeze your glutes, draw your abdominals in and lean back as far as comfortable. Then keep your knees soft and bend as much as you need to as you exhale forward into Uttanasana

 

Uttanasana (Forward Fold)

forward fold

Don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on the floor with straight legs. Bend your knees, bend them more… bend them so much that you have your hands on the floor. Putting some weight through the hands takes the pressure out of your lower back. Also in this position lead with your heart, not the crown of your head, so you keep your spine long and allow your chest to remain open so you can take full, deep breaths. From here step one foot back and lower the knee coming into a low lunge.

Aswa Sanchalanasana (Low Lunge)

Low lunge SS

Don’t let the knee come past your toes. If you have any hip injuries keep this position more boxy, if not you can sink your hips forward more coming deeper into the lunge.

There are two options for what comes next:

  1. Bharmanasana (Table)

Table

Any pain in the knees you can double fold your mat under them here. Knees under hips, wrists under shoulders. Spread your fingers. Keep a micro-bend in your elbows so they are not locked out and use your triceps to rotate your inner elbows towards one another.

 

Or

 

2. Kumbhakasana (Plank)

 

Plank

Any pain in the wrists in this position come to the forearms.

 

 

The transitions…

 

In plank lower your knees first so you are in Table. From here you have two options:

  1. Bring your right forearm down, then your left forearm down. Make sure your forearms are relatively wide apart. Then keeping your hips lifted lower your chest down in between them.

Forearms DownForearms down chest down

 

2. Keeping your elbows into your body, lower your chest and your chin. This will require more upper body strength. If this is not available to you now do not give up hope, the best way to get stronger is to practice the first option, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time you are building the upper body strength you need.

Ashtanga Namaskar SS

3. From Plank, roll a little forwards. Keep the elbows into the body and lower yourself in one straight line to the floor. If you find yourself doing a belly flop stick to one of the earlier options to protect your back and build strength.

Chaturanga

NB: I know it can feel like you just want to be able to do everything straight away, but Yoga practice remains fun and interesting because there is always a challenge to be working towards, your body is beautiful and strong just how it is, so never worry about what anybody else is doing.

Bhujangasana (Cobra)

Sphinxcobra-ss.jpg

If you’ve come down forearm by forearm, you may prefer to lift into Sphinx to keep the flow. Equally if you have low back pain Sphinx gives more support. Only lift as high as feels comfortable. Or if you want a deeper backbend, then you can bring the hands alongside the ribs and lift up a little higher.

From here you can push back into Downward Facing Dog. However, pushing back to Downward Dog can be quite strenuous, so you can come through Table pose, tuck your toes under and lift up into it to begin with.

Ardo Mukta Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Downdog

In this pose don’t worry so much about getting the heels down to the mat. Focus on getting along spine, by pushing actively into the hands and sending your chest and belly back towards the thighs. Spread your fingers, push into the knuckles and fingers. Keep your thighs active, gently pushing your heels down.

 

More transitions…

 

  1. To begin with get used to lowering your knees down from Downward facing dog and coming into Table. When in table you can take hold of the right/left leg and bring it forward into a low lunge. Make sure you assist your ankle so it comes under your knee.
  2. If you have the flexibility you can step your foot all the way forward between your hands from Downward Dog. If it doesn’t quite make it, take hold of the ankle and bring it forward between the hands.

 

From your low lunge, you can then step together into a Forward Bend and rise up to Mountain/Tadasana, closing the sequence by bringing your hands to your heart ❤

 

Happy practicing!

Namaste Hx

 

 

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

Yoga blog

Your First Yoga Class: What to Expect

I’ve had quite a few people email, message and say to me that they’re worried about coming to a yoga class for the first time. Reasons range from medical conditions, fitness levels and flexibility to looking silly, holding other people up and essentially being an inconvenience. I’m writing this largely to reassure people. I’m going to go through the reasons people have given for being concerned about yoga and why they don’t matter because yoga is for everybody. Then I’ll briefly explain what a typical yoga class is like.

Concerns about going to yoga…

  1. Physical Fitness – you will be fine. Yoga varies massively in intensity, some classes are more physically demanding than others, but there are always options. Much as with running where you can take a slower pace, have more breaks etc. to reduce the intensity, there are similar adaptations in yoga. But in yoga you will always end up in the same place as the rest of the people in the room. That’s the beauty of it, it is perfectly suited and adaptable for everyone.
  2. Flexibility – I always find it funny when people say they don’t want to go to yoga because they’re not flexible. Building flexibility is something yoga does in abundance! Not wanting to do yoga because you’re not flexible is like not wanting to go to school because you don’t already know everything you’ll be taught. If we only did the things we’re naturally good at we wouldn’t get very far.
  3. Looking silly/holding people up – you won’t. And if you do no one will see because they’re so busy concentrating on what they are doing to worry about you. I may (or your teacher may) correct you, but that’s what you’re paying us to do. We care about you. We love yoga that’s why we decided to become teachers and all we want is to see you progress safely to the best place you can be at in your practice. Don’t worry about holding other people up, it does nobody any harm to take a moment to reconnect with their breath in a posture.
  4. Being an inconvenience –when you’re in a class the mat and the space around the mat are yours. You are not an inconvenience you are a strong, capable person who has made the choice to come and do something which is good for your body. Own that space. Feel like you can ask the teacher questions, that’s what we’re there for. It’s your class and it’s really important you enjoy it, so giving feedback is always great too. You are never an inconvenience.
  5. Medical Conditions and Injuries – if you have any medical conditions or injuries you must ask your GP if it is safe to practice yoga. As long as you have been given the go ahead by a medical professional just let me (or any teacher whose class you’re in) know about the problem and often they can offer you options for some poses which might suit your body better. You should also never do anything you know is not good for you or that has been advised against by your doctor. And yoga should never hurt! If something feels painful, stop immediately and let the teacher know.

 

A Typical Yoga Class

A typical yoga class will involve an initial relaxation. Then usually a warm up where muscles and joints are mobilised through actions such as bending sideways, small spinal twists, extensions and flexions, and rotation of key joints which will be used in the classm like the ankle.

This is followed by a more rigorous warm up of the cardiovascular system. This is usually in the form of Sun Salutations. Sun Salutations are a sequence of movements which may feel unfamiliar at first, but they are often repeated so they will begin to feel more and more natural over time. The Salutations move every muscle and joint in the body, building strength, flexibility and balance.

Flow classes have more cardio, gentle yoga classes focus on stretching and strengthening through various positions known in yoga as asanas. Some asanas are more demanding than others, but all have modifications and progressions so in a yoga class you can work at your own pace in a way that challenges your body. People’s bodies are all different so some asanas will feel easier at first than others, that’s normal. It’s also normal for one side to be easier than the other.

After these asanas there is a meditation or relaxation. This can be silent or guided and focuses on letting go of any tension in the body. This can be a daunting, particularly for those with anxiety. If you want to you can keep your eyes open and just soften your gaze. Although it can be a little uncomfortable at first this becomes easier and it begins to feel amazing! I promise, stick with it 😊

 

Hope to see you on the mat soon!!! Hxxx