Friday, 29 May 2015

Yoga for Kids - Space explorers start here...

So you want to explore space.  Let's get started in our space ship (Boat Pose)


Beyond the clouds, up to the stars (5 pointed Star)


There's the moon.  Here are two ways to make a crescent moon with your body (Crescent Moon Pose).



Maybe your moon is a half moon  (Half Moon balance)


Landing on the moon, put on your space helmet before you leave your spaceship.  It makes your breath sound noisy.  See if you can make a noise with your breath as it passes over your throat (Ujjayi Breathing)

What can you see?  There are lots of rocks (Child Pose)


What's this bounding out from the rocks?  Get ready to defend yourself (Warrior 2).


Phew, the creature is a moon dog and very friendly (Downward facing dog)


Will you return home now in your spaceship or continue to explore the stars?

Bon voyage

Space commander Janet x

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Yoga to help relieve pain: Chair yoga 2- Release tension, release pain



Yoga to help relieve pain: Chair yoga 2- Release tension, release pain
Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html 
Article to accompany this series-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/introduction-to-series-yoga-to-help.html

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you are enjoying my videos.

Thank you 
Copyright © 2015 Flexiladiesyoga


Yogis often talk about the mind/body connection. This means for instance that if you are holding onto tension in your muscles, you will feel anxious or stressed in your mind which causes your body to release stress hormones.  In my introduction to the series on pain, I talked about how stress is one of the factors that can open the 'gate' to feeling pain more intensely. We can however turn this around using yoga as a tool to release tension in your body. If we can release tension in your body in this way, we can release anxiety/stress and close the 'gate'.

We start the video by practicing some 'tense and release' where we work through our bodies tensing the muscles then letting them release completely.  

Breathing techniques provide a 'bridge' between mind and body.  In the video we practice Durga, 3 part breath. This technique encourages slow, deep breathing which draws more oxygen into your body and calms your mind. You may have noticed that when you get stressed, you breathe shallow and quick but by consciously breathing slower and deeper, you can let go of stress.  This can become a viscous circle.  We get stressed creating tension in our necks and shoulders.  This can cause restriction in our chests as our shoulders are drawn forward, impeding breathing which can cause more stress.  In the video we practice some neck releases and shoulder stretches to help break this cycle.

Hamstrings, psoas and pirifirmis muscles can all become tense due to the lives we lead and in the video we do poses that will help stretch and release these.

We end the video with a meditation in which we visualise the breath in each part of the body, encircling any tension, discomfort or pain and carrying it away.

Link for 'Yoga to help relieve pain: Chair yoga 1- Power sequence to fight pain' http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/yoga-to-help-relieve-pain-chair-yoga-1.html

Namaste,
Janet x

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Here comes the sun - bare toned arms!

There is definitely some warmth in the sun now, even in Yorkshire!  Time to shed jumpers in favour of t-shirts.

Here are a few poses to help you strengthen and tone your arms.

Before you start - do a few rounds of Sun Salutation and warm up your spine with Cat/Cow.

Plank to Side Plank- from all 4s take your right leg back and drop the right hip slightly. Bring your left leg back and press your heels back.  Your shoulders should be directly over your hands.  Make sure your bottom is not sticking up or your hips dipping down. From Plank move onto the little toe side of your right foot, big toe side of your left foot, taking the left arm up.  To modify bend the left knee as shown.  Repeat 2nd side, taking a rest between sides if you wish.  Return to Plank.

Plank


Side Plank


Modified Side Plank



Chaturanga dandasana - from Plank breathe out and bend your elbows back and lower.  To modify bring your knees to the mat before lowering. More advanced yogis might want to press back up to Plank and repeat. Rest with your forehead on the back of your hands.   



Locust variation - when you are ready to continue, interlace your hands behind your back, breathe in and lift your head, chest and arms. Press your tailbone back and down. Gaze is down at the mat. Breathe out and lower.  Repeat twice more then press back into a Child pose with your arms reaching forward, tailbone pressing back to lengthen your spine (Swan). 



Dolphin - from Swan and leaving your hands in position on the mat, come onto all 4s.  Take your hands a hand length forward.  Now place your elbows where the heels of your hands are and interlace your fingers. Tuck your toes and as you breathe out lift your hips. To intensify walk your feet forward a little. Hold for a breath or two then breathe in lower your knees and fold back into a Child Pose.  

Dolphin

To intensify walk the feet in


Crow (not for the faint hearted!! This is a more advanced pose.  I recommend placing a couple of pillows in front of you when you first practice this pose in case you tumble forward) - come into a squat, feet at hip distance, toes pointing out, your hands on the mat in front, fingers spread.  Come onto your toes and bring your elbows into your armpits.  Look forward so that the weight of your head does not pull you forward, lift your feet as you bend your elbows back.  To modify lift one foot at once.  


Reverse Plank - come into a seated position with your legs outstretched and on the mat. Take your hands behind your hips fingers pointing back towards your hips.  Breathe in and lift your hips rolling the soles of your feet towards the mat. Keep the back of your neck long. To modify have the knees bent. 

Reverse Plank


Modified Reverse Plank (Table top)


Have a great summer!

Namaste,
Janet x

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Yoga to help relieve pain: Chair yoga 1- Power sequence to fight pain



Yoga to help relieve pain: Chair yoga 1- Power sequence to fight pain-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/
Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html
Article to accompany this video- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/introduction-to-series-yoga-to-help.html


Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you are enjoying my videos.

Thank you
Copyright © 2015 Flexiladiesyoga


We start the video with some Ujjayi breathing.  The other name for this breathing technique is Victorious breath, and since we are endeavouring to overcome pain, I thought this was appropriate. Ujjayi breathing is heating for the body, which in itself can help with pain.   It also acts as an internal massage for your organs which may help with pain relief.  Focusing on the sound of the breath is also a distraction from the pain which is a valuable tool in managing chronic pain.  

We warm up with some stretches, half salutations and full salutations adapted for the chair.

I have chosen to focus on the Warrior poses in the video, including the Dancing Warrior sequence. These poses build confidence and are empowering enabling us to be strong in our fight against pain.

I have also included Goddess Squat which is also known as Victory Squat, again fitting our purpose.  In fact the Sanskrit name for the pose translates as ‘powerful’.  The pose represents the feminine power of the universe, and it doesn’t come much more powerful than that!!

We then move into a quieter part of our practice in preparation for meditation.  Our meditation is a ‘Healing waterfall’ meditation.  Visualisation such as this is a powerful tool in the healing process.  Visualisation ‘plants’ ideas in the subconscious.  Now the subconscious is very obedient and will endeavour to fulfil any ideas planted there, in this case, the pain being ‘washed’ away.  This is why it is important to have positive thoughts as worry can become ‘a prayer for chaos’.

It is my sincere hope that this series will help.  Please let me know how you are getting on.

Namaste 

Janet x

PS If you cannot wait for the next video, I did two other chair practices some time ago.
Please see 





Yoga can help heal series - Chair Yoga-Severe Arthritis/Elderly -Part 1
Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html
Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you are enjoying my videos. Thank you. 

Copyright © 2012 Flexiladiesyoga-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/






Chair Yoga-Severe Arthritis/Elderly-Part 2. Yoga can help heal series
Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html
Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you are enjoying my videos. Thank you. 

Copyright © 2014 Flexiladiesyoga-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Introduction to the series: Yoga to help relieve pain

It is really important, if you do suffer from chronic pain, that you consult your medical practitioner before starting a yoga practice to ascertain if the stretches would be suitable for your needs.

I know what it is like to have chronic pain.  Many years ago, after part of my right lung was damaged by chicken pox, my chest pain was so bad that I was taking a box of painkillers each week.  This continued for many months until I got a proper diagnosis.  It took a bout of pneumonia and a collapsed lung to galvanise doctors into investigating further and finally tell me what was causing the problem.  Once I knew my 'enemy', the Mac Dougall fight in me came to the fore (my ancestors were Mac Dougalls).  I vowed that I would sort the problem out naturally (no more painkillers).  I consulted a herbalist who recommended echinecea tincture (this was at a time when nobody had heard of echinecea!) to help prevent further bouts of pneumonia and I started to do yoga.  I started just doing a few stretches but when I started to feel better, I wanted to do more.

Yoga can help chronic pain in many ways but first we need to be clear on what the difference between acute pain and chronic pain.  Acute pain is the result of injury (for example my lung becoming damaged).  This is detected by sensory nerve endings which relay the signal to the spine and thence to the brain.  According to Descartes who formulated the first theory about pain (the Specificity theory) the intensity of pain is proportional to the amount of tissue damage.  This does not explain some pain.  My dad used to tell me that in the second World War, men who had limbs amputated continued to experience pain in the limb that was no longer there.

The problem is that the sensory nerve endings that detected the original injury can become oversensitised and continue to 'detect' injury when the body is healing or even healed.   This DOES NOT mean that the pain is not real, IT IS.  This is where a more recent theory of pain can help explain what is going on.  This is the 'Gate control theory of pain'.  According to this theory pain can be influenced by psychological factors.  The pain messages pass through 'gates' in the spinal cord. When these gates are open, the pain is felt intensely.  What opens these 'gates'? Anxiety, fear, depression, stress, fatigue or absence of distractions. In my case my 'gate' was opened by fear and anxiety.  I did not know why I was experiencing such pain months after the chicken pox had left my body.  I thought that I was seriously ill and I did not want to leave my family.  What closes the 'gate'? Yoga, meditation, breathing, acupuncture, hypnosis, and TNS.  In other words our 'suffering' is influenced by our thoughts and emotions as well as our expectations and memories of the original pain.

Meditation can also release endorphins from the brain stem which are the body's natural painkillers. Yoga can also help reduce stress, depression and anxiety.

In our yoga series on pain we will be doing some chair yoga. This is suitable for people with fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, osteopenia, arthritis as well as the elderly and people who have limited mobility. We will also be working on the facia to relieve pain.  The facia is the connective membranes in the body which may become stiff. We will then be targeting specific chronic pain such as back pain, shoulder pain, sciatica, chronic headaches etc.

Other factors that may lead to pain are poor posture. Below is my playlist on YouTube called 'How yoga boosts health' and on it there are three videos which will help improve posture.



Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html

Muscle stiffness may also cause pain please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/beginners-yoga-stay-flexible.html,

Limited range of motion in the joints can lead to pain. Please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/how-yoga-boosts-health-joint-health-hips_5.html http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/how-yoga-boosts-health-shoulder-joint.html) http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/yoga-for-knee-health-part-1.html http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/yoga-for-knee-health-part-2.html

Long periods of sitting may cause back pain

Below is my playlist on YouTube called 'Yoga can help heal series' and on it there are six back pain videos.



Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html


My special interest is helping people heal and I feel that this series is one of those that may be much longer than I anticipated when the idea was first conceived.

Namaste,
Janet x

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Using mudras in your yoga practice

Mudras are hand gestures that direct the flow of prana.  Mudras can direct prana to the chakras bringing about physical, mental and emotional balance.

Mudras are often used in meditation.  They can also be used to clear the mind at the start of a practice.  But you can incorporate mudras into your asana practice too.

Here are some ways to use mudras :-

Gyan Mudra in Easy Pose/Warrior 2 - this mudra, often used at the start of a practice, increases focus and concentration, helping you to put your daily life to one side to be fully focused on your yoga practice. In Warrior 2 it is a reminder to remain focused in the fight against evil and ignorance. 

To practice the mudra join the first finger and thumb, rest the back of the hands on the knees, palms facing up.



Easy Pose 




Warrior 2



Steeple Mudra in Crescent Moon/Warrior 1-this mudra stimulates elimination from the colon, skin, and lungs.
To practice the mudra, interlace your fingers, except the first fingers which point straight up. The thumbs cross, right thumb over left.

Crescent Moon



Warrior 1 



Prayer Mudra in Twisted Fierce Pose/Revolved Side Angle-prayer mudra can be incorporated into Sun Salutations and is often used in Tadasana to take a moment to remind yourself of your intention for your your practice. Prayer mudra helps you connect with the divine and enter a meditative state.
To practice the mudra bring the palms together, hands at the heart centre, thumbs touching the sternum.

Twisted Fierce Pose



Revolved Side Angle 


Lotus mudra in Thunderbolt Pose-the lotus flower blooms on the surface of muddy waters, its roots embedded in the mud below so that it is a symbol of beauty emerging out of darkness.  It can be used in Thunderbolt pose to offer up your intention to the universe to be fulfilled. The mudra also reminds you of the beauty within you.

To practice the mudra bring the heels of your hands together, join the thumbs and little fingers and spread the other fingers wide.



Buddha Mudra in Lotus/Half Lotus (note Lotus pose should not be practiced if you have knee issues) - this mudra induces the meditative state.  It is often practiced in Kundalini yoga between kriyas.

To practice the mudra rest the left hand on the right hand and join the thumbs.  




Namaste
Janet x


Article Copyright © 2015 Flexiladies Yoga

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Beginners' Yoga-Stay flexible



Beginners' Yoga-Stay flexible-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk
Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html
Please read my article 'Beginning Yoga'-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/beginning-yoga.html
Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you are enjoying my videos.
Thank you
Copyright © 2015 Flexiladiesyoga


In our beginners' yoga video, Strong to the core, we were focused on building strength http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/beginners-yoga-strong-to-core.html

Many sports we enjoy also build strength but it is really important that strength is also combined with flexibility if we are to avoid creating tension in the body.

In the video we start with Egyptian Salutation.  This is a very gentle salutation and yet it has all the benefits of Sun Salutation.  It gently works all the muscles and joints, it stimulates digestion and the endocrine system, calms the nervous system and by opening the side body, improves the efficiency of the respiratory system. We further open up the chest later in the video with a twist and Cow Face arms.

Many of us have stiffness in the lower back, especially if we have a sedentary lifestyle.  Pelvic tilts are great for bringing flexibility to this area and in a flow with Bridge pose also open up the spine and chest.  The flexibility of the spine should be of prime importance for everyone.  Yogis say 'you are as young as your spine is flexible'.  We create more flexibility in the spine with Cat/Cow.

It seems that just about everything we do tightens our hamstrings - sitting, walking, running etc.  If we do not release this tension, back pain can result.  In fact tightness in the hamstrings is one of the leading causes of back pain.  To help remedy this we practice a hamstring slide and standing forward bends.

In everyday life, we tend to have our shoulders forward.  This can lead to tension in the chest and shoulder muscles.  Such tension can even have psychological effects, causing depressed mood.  In the video we practice Cow Face arms, and a wide leg forward bend with fingers interlaced behind the back to counteract this tendency.

A difficult to reach area is on the back between the shoulder blades.  We release tension here with Eagle arms.

The hips are another area that may be tense.  We sit with our legs forward, in our cars, at our desks, on our sofas.  In the video we open up the hips with Baddha Konasana, Cobbler's pose and a wide leg forward bend.

We end the video with a warm water meditation to help release any remaining tension.

Stay strong, stay flexible

Namaste
Janet x

Article Copyright © 2015 Flexiladies Yoga

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Drishti

Drishti are the gaze points in yoga poses.  The purpose of drishti is to take your mind from external distractions and direct your focus inwards so that you are aware of all the sensations and effects of the pose you are doing. They are especially useful in balance poses. To gaze at a spot that is not moving really helps you to stay balanced.  Try doing Tree Pose with your eyes closed and you will see what I mean!!! Your gaze should be soft in order to avoid creating tension in your body.
Similarly in meditation a drishti can help focus and concentrate the mind.  The drishti in meditation may be a physical object such as a candle or a flower or it may be the third eye, the spot between the eyebrows that is to do with our intuition. Ashtanga yoga has eight drishi which are:-

Nasagrai drishti - down the tip of the nose, in poses such as Upward Facing Dog or standing forward bends



Angusta ma dyai drishti - up at the thumbs as in Warrior 1


Nabi chakra drishti - at the naval as in Downward Facing Dog


Padayoragrai drishti - at the toes as in seated forward bend.


Hastagrai drishti- at the hand as in Triangle Pose


Parsva drishti - to the right or left as in seated twists


Urdhva drishti - up to the ceiling as in Half Moon Balance.


Ajna chakra drishi - at the third eye as in meditation


It is, however important to listen to your own body.  For instance in Triangle pose you might not want to look up at the top hand if you have neck problems.  Instead you might want to gaze at the big toe. In Warrior 1, gazing straight ahead would be a better option if you have neck problems. In seated twists, if you have neck problems keep your chin in line with your breast bone.  However, in Upward Facing Dog it makes sense to look down the tip of your nose, to resist the temptation to look up and so scrunch the back of your neck.
In other words, your practice should be modified to suit your body.

Enjoy your yoga
Namaste
Janet x

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Beginners' Yoga-Opening to Grace



Beginners' Yoga-Opening to Grace-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk
Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html 

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you are enjoying my videos.
Thank you 

Copyright © 2015 Flexiladiesyoga

To open to grace means to deepen the connection between mind and body.  All yoga does this to some extent, but for me watching the breath in meditation and balances stand out as being especially good at linking mind and body.
In the video we prepare for Dancer pose by stretching the hamstrings and quadriceps and opening the chest thereby deepening the breath and opening the shoulders.  Dancer is a pose of transformation.  It is a representation of Shiva, a Hindu deity, who is associated with transformation. Here we are focused on the transformation from thinking of our minds and bodies as being separate entities to them being connected and in union with our spirit. As BKS Iyengar says 'your body will become a temple, the asana (pose), a prayer'.
When we are in a balance pose, we have to be present.  We cannot be thinking about emails we have to do or what's for dinner because the moment our mind wanders, we fall out of the pose.  Finding a dristi, a spot that is not moving, that you can focus your gaze on, helps you stay balanced (more on this in a separate post).  The need to be focused is also how balances can improve your concentration.  
In our meditation we use a technique first used by Alfred Lord Tennyson, that is using our own names as a mantra. This allows for the 'chatter' of the mind to be silenced. Alfred Lord Tennyson describes how this opened him up to a deeper state of consciousness, which in yogic terms may be thought of as connecting with the divine.  This I think is a fitting end to our video 'Opening to Grace'. 

Namaste
Janet x

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Yoga for wrist flexibility and strength



Wrist yoga -http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk
Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html 

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you are enjoying my videos.
Thank you 
Copyright © 2015 Flexiladiesyoga

Note this video is not intended for people with wrist inflammation, wrist injury etc.  Please consult your doctor.

Our everyday activities do not usually require us to hold our wrists in full extension, that is at 90 degrees to our arm.  It is not surprising then that when you first start yoga, the ligaments and tendons in your wrist are going to protest in weight bearing poses such as Plank or Downward Facing Dog.  However wrist flexibility combined with strength gained through weight bearing poses is important in order to avoid injury.
The wrist is a particularly vulnerable area. It is one of the most commonly broken bones in the body.  After 40 years of age, women are more at risk of a broken wrist than men.  In fact I broke a wrist last year although considering the severity of the fall (while out walking), the break was small.  
The video gives some modifications in weight bearing poses to help you while you build up flexibility and strength.

Namaste
Janet x