Thursday, 30 June 2016

Protecting your knees in standing poses - Part 1


The knee joint is where the thigh bone (femur) meets the shin bone (tibia).  It is protected by the kneecap.  Strong tendons and ligaments helped by the legs muscles and bones keep the joint in place.  Problems occur when unequal pressures are exerted on the knee joint creating misalignment that can lead to wear and tear.  Below are some ways that you can protect your knees in yoga poses.  

Mountain Pose can create tightness in the outer thighs and corresponding weakness in the inner thighs if your knees are not aligned directly under the hips.  Try practicing the pose with a block between your thighs. To come into the pose stand with your block between your thighs. Lengthen your tail bone down towards the floor to create space in the spine, lift your chest and roll your shoulder blades back and down.  Your chin should be level with the floor, the crown of your head reaching for the ceiling.  Your arms should be relaxed by your sides, your fingers gently curled.



Triangle  -  never place your lower hand directly on the knee joint - your hand should be either above or below and try to use your core strength and leg strength rather than place too much weight on your lower hand.  If necessary place your hand on a block, placed directly under your shoulder. If you have a tendency to hyperextend your front knee try microbending it. 

To come into the pose step your feet  a leg length apart, outside edges of your feet parallel to the short edges of the mat.  Turn the whole of the right leg to the right so that the knee and foot point the same way and turn the toes of the back foot in 45 degrees.  The heel of your front foot should line up with the instep of your back foot for men or line up heel to heel for ladies.  Inhale raise your arms to  shoulder height, lift your chest.  Breathe out, extend over the right leg and bring your right hand to your right leg or a block placed directly under your lower shoulder. Left arm up towards the ceiling.  Microbend your front knee if you tend to hyperextend your front knee. Gaze can be straight ahead or up at the left thumb, depending on your neck.  Do not overreach in order to bring the lower arm further down your leg as this will affect the integrity of the pose, causing the top shoulder to come forward, and the chest to collapse. To release windmill the arms back to shoulder height as you come up, turn your feet to face forward, release your hands to your hips.  Repeat 2nd side.



Warrior 1 and 2 and  Side Angle- in these poses there may be a tendency to collapse the front knee inwards putting unequal pressures on the knee joint. To correct this tendency press the knee towards the little toe side of the foot ensuring that the knee is above the second toe. Also ensure that the knee does not move beyond the ankle, the thigh is parallel to the mat and the shin vertical.  If your knee comes beyond your ankle, take your legs wider.

To come into Warrior 1 stand towards the back of the mat with your hands on your hips and your feet at hip distance.  Turn the toes of your left foot out as if to the 10 to position on a clock and step forward with your right foot.  Inhale take the arms up, exhale bend the front knee taking the precautions above. Gaze is straight ahead or if your neck allows up at the hands. To come out of the pose, exhale take your hands to your hips, inhale step your feet together. Repeat second side.  Alternatively you can come into the pose from downward facing dog.  From downward facing dog, inhale and step the right foot three-quarters way forward, exhale lower your back heel, turning the toes of your left foot out. Inhale come up taking your arms up. Again protect you knee as above. Hold and breathe.  When you are ready, exhale bring your hands down, step back to downward facing dog and repeat second side.



To come into Warrior 2 stand in the middle of your mat with your hands on your hips and take your feet as wide as is comfortable.  Turn your right leg to the right and the toes of the left foot in 45 degrees, lining up the heel of the front foot with the instep of the back foot (men) or heel with heel (women).  As much as possible have the hips level with the front of the mat but do not force the left hip point back because this will strain the SI joint. Inhale, stretch your arms out at shoulder height, lift your chest, exhale bend your right knee taking the precautions above and turn to look down the fingers of your right hand. To come out of the pose, inhale straighten the right knee, exhale hands to heart, turn your feet to face forward. Repeat second side.



To come into side angle come to the centre of the mat in Tadasana.  Step your feet wide and turn the whole of the right leg to the right, toes of the left foot turning in about 45 degrees. Ladies should line up front and back heels, men front heel to back instep. Bring your hands to prayer position.  Inhale stretch your arms out at shoulder height, exhale bend your front knee taking the precautions above.  Inhale bring your right elbow to your right thigh making sure that there is little weight on the front leg (if you need more support use a block placed under your shoulder and place your lower hand on that, remembering that there are three levels), exhale circle your left arm down then up by your left ear. To come out of the pose, inhale windmill your arms up, straighten the front knee, exhale bring your hands to your heart, turn the feet to face forward.  Repeat on the second side.


Next week we will look at protecting your knee in revolved standing poses.

Please see also,

'Protecting your knees in Hero pose'-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/protecting-your-knees-in-hero-pose.html

Namaste,
Janet x

Monday, 27 June 2016

Yoga to help heal after a tough time - releasing physical tension

Please click on the video below to watch, 'Yoga to help heal after a tough time - releasing physical tension' on my YouTube Channel'.



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

We all have times in our lives that are tough.  It might be because of a bereavement, a break up or other relationship problems, redundancy, financial difficulties or illness, physical or mental illness such as depression.  

We tend to think that we only feel stress in our minds but we can hold stress in our physical body.  Have you ever felt panicked, anxious or fearful and noticed your chest tightening or stressed and felt yourself clenching your jaw? Stress is also associated with tension in your back, both your lower back and between your blades. Anger can create tension your neck and shoulders while depression can make you feel like you are 'walking through treacle' because of tension held in your body.  


If steps are not taken to relieve stress, the muscular tension may lead to pain because tight muscles impede circulation causing build up of toxins in the muscles.  


In our video this week we focus on stretching and releasing areas where we have a tendency to hold the most tension such as the hips, low back, area between the shoulder blades, shoulders and neck.  For tension in the jaw and face I have included Lion Breath.  This also gets rid of stale air at the base of the lungs which can then be replaced by oxygenated air which has a calming effect on the body.  Do not be surprised if you feel emotional when practicing yoga stretches. Remember in yoga the mind and the body are not separate but what affects the mind, affects the body and vice versa. When you work on the physical body, you are also working at more subtle levels. The emotions you are holding in your body may not even be from a recent trauma but way back.  They need to be released.


Hope this helps.


Namaste
Janet x 

Sunday, 26 June 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell


When you are watching your favourite sporting event, whether that be baseball, tennis, or football etc it might be tempting to send out for a takeaway. This week's meatless Monday for 'Sweet and sour tofu' may change your mind - quick to prepare from fresh ingredients but delicious, what could be better.
Recipe on my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/meatless-monday-sweet-and-sour-tofu.html


In a follow up blog post Becky compares the foam rollers we use today with rag curling. 
Guest blog post on my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/vintage-natural-beauty-hair-review.html

This week we look at another sweetener, sucralose that is in many of our foods. Just how safe is it?
Please see my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/artificial-sweeteners-part-2-sucralose.html

Yoga for seniors- Preventing osteoporosis


Around 3 million people in the UK are affected by osteoporosis.  When I was young I had a lactose intolerance at a time when it was poorly understood and there were no 'alternative' milks. In my 30s a chickpox virus damaged my right lung and repeated bouts of pneumonia followed making my weight plummet to 5 stone 8 pounds, my periods stop and making inhaled steroids non-negotiable.  With these risk factors I asked the doctor if I might have a DEXA scan and sure enough the results showed osteoporosis.  Medications for osteoporosis are harsh and I couldn't cope with them so I asked my doctor to give me a year to try and reduce the deterioration of my bones.  My treatment involves yoga, acupuncture and a power walk of 20 minutes five times a week with weights strapped to my ankles.  I am delighted (this is an understatement, it was all I could do to stop myself dancing when the results came!) to report that my bone density has increased a little.  I am not 'out of the woods' but I have found the path that leads out.

Remember bones are made up of living cells.  They are in a constant state of being built up and breaking down. Unfortunately as we get older the breaking down process tends  to be greater that the building up.  This is especially true after menopause for women and as testosterone levels fall in men.  This is why it is important to take steps to build bone up as we get older, such as exercising and eating a bone supporting diet.  

Yoga can help with osteoporosis in several ways:-

  • Yoga includes weight bearing exercise which helps increase bone density.  Often this involves using your own body weight.  For instance in arm balances such as Side Plank, and in standing poses and balances such as Warrior 1, 2 and 3, Half Moon Balance, Tree Pose etc. 
  • Yoga twists, forward bends and squats help with digestion thereby optimising the absorption of nutrients that help support bone health.  Please note if you already have osteoporosis or osteopenia deep twists and forward bending from the waist are not recommended.
  • Yoga calms the mind reducing stress which also has a positive effect on digestion and the absorption of nutrients to support bone health
  • Yoga stretches cause muscle to pull on bone which encourages increase in bone density
  • Yoga flows and twists purify the body enhancing bone health (deep twists are not recommended however if you already have osteoporosis)
  • Yoga helps maintain strength and flexibility in the hips, spine and wrists where most fractures due to osteoporosis occur.

Try the following sequence that focuses on building arm and hip strength (many fractures occur in the wrist and hip), core strength, spinal strength and flexibility and balance to prevent those age related slips and falls.

Before you start spend a few minutes watching your breath in Easy Pose.

Side leg lift (strengthens the core and the muscles around the hip joint)- lie on your right side with your legs together, supporting yourself on your lower elbow and fingertips of your left hand.  Breathe in and lift your left leg. Keep in the lifted position as you take a few steady breaths.   Breathe out to lower then repeat second side.




Cat/Cow (strengthens the wrists and increases spinal flexibility. Also brings nutrients to the spine)-  come onto all fours, breathe in lift your head and chest, breathe out tuck your chin, arch your back and tuck your tail bone under.


Balancing Cat (improves balance, strengthens the wrists and hip muscles)- come back to all fours, breathe in and extend your right arm and left leg. Hold for a few breaths keeping the back of the neck long, gaze to the mat. Breathe out to lower to an all fours position. Repeat with the left arm and right leg.



Side Plank Variation (strengthens the wrists, opens up the chest reducing stress) - from all fours take your left foot to the left and extend your right leg so that your right foot is in line with your left knee as you breathe in and raise your right arm. Hold for a few breaths then breathe out to return to all fours. Repeat second side.  



Plank (strengthens the wrists and core)- from all fours stretch your right leg back and press away through your heel.  Drop your right hip a little then bring your left leg level with the right pressing back through both heels. If this is too intense drop your knees to the mat.  Hold for a few breaths then if you have not already breathe in drop your knees to the mat and come to lying on your tummy.  




Cobra (opens the chest, reducing stress and brings nutrients to the spine) - take your hands to armpit chest area, elbows tucked and shoulders away from your ears.  Inch your feet back to create space in your spine.  Breathe in and come up. Press lightly into your hands so that you are using your back muscles in the main to lift.  




Swan - come towards the back of the mat and have your big toes touching, knees wide.  Walk your hands forward and bring your forehead to the mat or to a block, keeping your elbows lifted.  When you are ready come back to all fours as you breathe in then as you breathe out lift your hips into Downward Facing Dog.  Hold for a few breaths then walk your feet forwards towards your hands.  When your shoulders come over your hands, breathe in and roll up slowly to standing.


Fierce Prayer (strengthens the hip and leg muscles)- from standing with your feet hip distance, breathe in lift your arms up, breathe out, bend your knees deeply as if you are sitting back in a chair placed a little too far back.  Hold for a few breaths then breathe in to straighten your legs, breathe out to lower your arms.  




Warrior 1- Warrior 2 (strengthens the hip and leg muscles)- come to the front of your mat and step your left foot back turning the toes of your left foot out.  Level up your hips to the front of your mat.  Breathe in take your arms up, leaving space for the neck, breathe out bend your front knee.  Take 5 breaths then as you breathe out lower your arms to shoulder height, turn to look down the fingers of your right hand.  Hold for 5 breaths then inhale straighten your front knee, breathe out turn your feet forward, bring your hands to your heart.  Step to the top of your mat and repeat second side.  



Tree Pose (improves balance and leg strength)-from standing take your weight into your left leg.  Find a drishti, a gaze point then bring the sole of the right foot to cup the left ankle, to the left shin or reach down and bring the right foot to the left thigh (never place the right foot on the knee).  Press the right foot into the left leg and press back into the right foot with the left leg.  From this stability in the legs, inhale and take the arms up.  Keep the tail bone lengthening down towards the mat.  Hold for several breaths then release on a breath out. Repeat second side. Use a wall or a chair to help with balance if you need to. 





Up Plank (strengthens the arms) - sit with your knees bent, your hands behind your hips fingers pointing back to your hips.  Breathe in, press into your hands and feet and lift your hips.  Look down at your knees , keeping the back of your neck long.  Hold for 3 breaths then breathe out to lower your hips.  For more intensity, sit with your legs outstretched, your hands behind your hips. Breathe in, roll the soles of your feet towards the mat and lift your hips.  Look down your body, keeping the back of your neck long.    Lie back on your mat and hug your knees in. Rock from side to side.  


Savasana (reduces stress) - lie with your feet at hip distance, little toes releasing down to the mat.  Have your arms a little way from your body, palms facing up, fingers relaxed towards the palms.  Have your head and neck in line with your spine and gently close your eyes.  Rest here for several minutes receiving the benefits of your practice then take a few deep breaths, take a stretch or whatever movements you feel you need.  Before you come up,turn onto your right side and rest there for a minute or two before come slowly up.  Please make sure you are fully awake before continuing with your day.




To increase the effectiveness of your yoga practice, I would recommend an alkaline diet.   This means eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, lentils and limiting red meat, saturated fat, processed foods, salt and sugar which enhance bone loss.
Also:-

  • Make sure your diet is rich in calcium.  Foods rich in calcium include skimmed milk, low fat yogurt, low fat cheese such as cottage cheese, fortified soya milk, fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, Brussel sprouts etc.
  • As well as calcium other minerals are important to help maintain such as magnesium (in beans, soya milk, white fish, whole wheat bread, almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds) which regulates calcium metabolism, and boron (in fresh fruits such as apples) which aids calcium absorption
  • Vitamin D is vital to the absorption of calcium.  Try to get some natural daylight each day. The sun on your skin can produce vitamin D. Please see 'Bring on the sun - vitamin D the sunshine vitamin' http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/bring-on-sun-vitamin-d-sunshine-vitamin.html
  • Include vitamin C rich foods to help with collagen production, a component of the bone matrix.  Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, kiwi fruit and peppers.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks which contain phosphoric acid which accelerates bone loss.  Caffeine in drinks such as coffee also should be avoided as it interferes with calcium absorption as does alcohol.


Please see also 'How Yoga can help Heal- Osteoporosis' on my YouTube channel-
Osteoporosis 1-Part 1-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcQ_l_BN4nU
Osteoporosis 1-Part 2-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czmF9NvZu18
Osteoporosis 2-Part 1-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArdK-nfub9Y
Osteoporosis 2-Part 2-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nQJmwXp0eE
also How Yoga Boosts Health-Bone strength-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVgzWgHxvNA

Please note if you suspect you have osteoporosis please see your doctor.

Namaste,
Janet x

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Protecting your knees in Hero pose


Hero is tough on your knees which are in deep flexion in the pose but on the other hand it can also be therapeutic for knee issues.  If you have knee problems you should work closely with a yoga teacher because different knee problems may require different ways of propping.  
Hero stretches the quadriceps which often are tight if we sit a great deal and this can impinge on posture.  It also stretches the ankles. If you are comfortable, Hero is a good pose to do breathing practices or meditation in because it helps keep your spine straight.

Even if you have no knee issues you need to be careful.  Never force your body into Hero, or any other pose and if you feel any pain, come out of the pose immediately.  The reason why the knees need a little extra care is that the knee joint is very shallow.  It is because of this that the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joint need to strong.  You should work on this for some time before attempting Hero pose.  Poses that would help strengthen the supporting ligaments and muscles include standing balances such as Tree pose or Dancer, standing poses such as chair pose, the Warrior poses, Side Angle or Intense Side Stretch. 

Squats such as Garland pose and Goddess Squat also help stretch the supporting ligaments and muscles. See the 'Yoga Pose Gallery'-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/yoga-pose-gallery.html

To come into Hero pose start in kneeling with your knees together and heels apart so that there is space for you to sit back between your heels.  Your feet should be in line with your shins.  Sit back between your heels.  If this is too much for your knees, elevate your hips by placing one or two blocks between your heels (short edge of the block towards your knees). Top the blocks with a blanket if you need to.  Do not let your props force your knees apart. Your ankles  should be tucked in close your hips and your weight evenly distributed over your sit bones.  If your ankles bother you in the pose, a rolled up towel placed under your feet can help.  Rest your hands on your thighs. Some people may benefit from a rolled up towel placed behind the knees. To come out of the pose come back to kneeling, remove any props then come to all fours. Extend your right leg back and press away through your heel. Repeat with the left leg.  


Hero pose 

Hero pose supported by blanket and blocks

Hero pose with towel behind knees

Hero pose with towel under ankles

If Hero is just too much for you at the moment, there are other poses that will give you the same benefits.  Dancer pose is a good stretch for the quadriceps and ankles as is Bow pose. Most people also find that they are more comfortable sitting back on your heels in Thunderbolt pose (Vajrasana) - although I remember that when I began yoga I could not do this!

Namaste, 
Janet x 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Balancing vata dosha with the earth element


Please click on the video below to watch, 'Balancing vata dosha with the earth element' on my YouTube Channel'.



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

Vata dosha is associated with the air element.  People with a dominant vata dosha tend to be active but tire easily. If vata gets out of balance they can suffer from insomnia, stress and exhaustion.  They also have a tendency to be 'spacey'. To combat these tendencies our practice this week is focused on the heaviness of the earth element to bring the lightness of air associated with vata dosha into balance.  The practice will therefore be a grounding practice that will bring the energy down reducing the stress and anxiety associated with vata dosha. Throughout our practice we will be aware of our connection to the earth. I have also included some poses for the fire element because people of the vata dosha tend to feel the cold. We end with guided meditation with grounding images.

That brings us to the end of this series on the elements but I may return to it in the future. The next series on the elements would be focused on bringing all the elements into balance which is the basis of good heath. I will focus on how deficiencies or excesses of the elements can result in health issues. For instance with a deficiency of the fire element may lead to poor immunity and digestion and absorption of food may be inadequate.

Namaste, 
Janet x

Sunday, 19 June 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell


This week's Meatless Monday is 'Ratatouille with rosemary focaccia bread' which is inspired by the French Provencal stew, ratatouille. It originated in Nice and is traditionally a vegetable stew but can be made more substantial by adding beans or chickpeas. It can be served as a side dish or a main. Here I have made a rosemary focaccia bread to accompany it which can be made gluten free if you use gluten free strong bread flour.
Enjoy!
Recipe on my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/meatless-monday-ratatouille-with.html
This blog post was included in the online paper 'PMT Chronicle & PFC Journal'- http://paper.li/PMT_Bodywork/1320597799?edition_id=63de4320-3164-11e6-8311-002590a5ba2d 

This week we are going back in time to see how our great, great grandmothers would make their hair look pretty using the technique of rag curling. 
Guest blog post on my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/vintage-natural-beauty-hair.html

Aspartame has crept its way into so many of our foods. 
In this blog post I look at some of the claims made for the benefits of this artificial sweetener and whether or not these claims may be too good to be true- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/artificial-sweeteners-part-1-aspartame.html

Yoga for seniors - sleep


Many of us do not sleep as well as we age.  We are not supposed to need as much sleep when we get older but I, at least, find this not to be true.  Poor sleep quality has many causes in seniors - you may wake needing the bathroom, you may have anxieties over health issues, pain associated with health issues, the medication you are on may cause insomnia or sleep apnoea becomes more common with age.  If you are having problems with sleep talk to your doctor to rule out any medical cause.  

It has been shown that yoga has a beneficial effect on sleep quality in the following ways:-

  • Yoga releases tension in your body and when tension is released in your body your mind becomes calm.  
  • Yoga forward bends and inversions calm your mind, relieving the stress that can interfere with sleep.
  • Yoga triggers the relaxation response which means there is a switch from the sympathetic nervous system (which is the stimulating ‘flight or fight’ nervous system) to the quieter parasympathetic nervous system which reduces heart rate, blood pressure helping you 'wind down' for sleep.
  • Meditation quietens the mind.  Often it is a busy mind that keeps us awake.  

Try the following restorative sequence to release tension in your body and mind that has built up during the day helping you prepare for sleep.  You will need two cushions, a chair and a bolster if you have one or a rolled up blanket.  

Supported Cobbler's Pose - lie back over your mat and bend your knees so that your heels are close to your buttocks. Roll onto the little toe sides of your feet so that the soles of your feet are pressed together and your knees release down towards the mat. Support your thighs with cushions to protect your SI joint.  Place your hands on your tummy and watch your breath without trying to change it in any way. Stay focused on your breath and if any thoughts pop into your mind, let them go like clouds passing by. As you watch your breath you may start to notice that as you breath in your tummy lifts, as you breathe out your tummy releases back towards your spine.  Continue to watch your breath for a few minutes. This is meditating. To come out out of the pose take your hands to the outside of your thighs and draw your knees together.  



Reclined Twist - place a bolster or rolled up blanket on your right side. Starting with your knees bent, heels close into your buttocks and your arms a little way from your sides, breathe in and as you breathe out release your legs to the right to the support of your bolster/rolled up blanket.  If you have no problems with your neck, you can turn your head to the left.  Hold the twist for a few minutes tuning into any sensation, then when you are ready to release, breathe in, centre your head and knees.  Move your bolster/blanket your left then repeat second side.  



Supported Sphinx - lie with your bolster/rolled up blanket just below your ribs, your tail bone pressed back.  Have your elbows under your shoulders, forearms parallel and your fingers spread and open.  Your gaze can be straight ahead or down at the mat so that the back of your neck is long.  Hold for a few minutes if it feels comfortable for you then remove the bolster/rolled up blanket, place your forehead on your hands and rock your hips from side to side.  




Supported Swan - come to the back of the mat with your big toes touching, your knees wide and the bolster lengthways along the mat.  Fold over the bolster and let your arms relax by the sides of the bolster.  Rest with your right cheek on the bolster for a couple of minutes with a feeling of relaxing and releasing.  Turn your left cheek onto the bolster and rest there for a couple of minutes watching your breath.  When you are ready, breathe in, press into your hands and come up.  Put the bolster to one side and come onto all fours.



Cat/Cow - with your hands under your shoulders, knees under hips, breathe in lift your head and chest, breathe out tuck your chin and arch your back.  Continue working with your breath.  



C twist - come back to an all fours position breathe in and as you breathe out swing your hips to the right and turn to look over your right shoulder.  Breathe in and come back to centre, breathe out and repeat to the left and continue.  



Downward Facing Dog - come back to an all fours position, breathe in curl your toes under, breathe out lift your hips.  Hold for a few breaths then breathe in, lower your knees to the mat, breathe out take your bottom to your heels, stretch your arms forward.



Supported Seated Forward Bend - sit with your legs under the seat of a chair placed on your mat so that it will not slip. Breathe in and as you breathe out, hinge from your hips and hold the sides of the chair.  Place a cushion under your head for comfort.  Stay here for a few minutes watching your breath then breathe in and come up slowly.



Supported Legs up the Wall (caution heart problems, glaucoma, neck issues - an alternative would be to lie back on your mat in Savasana)- sit on a mat with your right hip to the wall and your knees bent.  Swivel so that your legs come up the wall.  Press your feet into the wall to enable you to lift your hips and pull a bolster/rolled up blanket under you.  Lower your hips onto the support of your bolster/rolled up blanket and relax.  Stay here for several minutes then remove the bolster/rolled up blanket, roll to your right and stay here for a minute before slowly coming up as you breathe in.



To finish - Alternate Nostril Breathing - sit on a chair or in a comfortable cross-legged position.  You may wish to blow your nose before you start. Rest your left hand on your lap and bring the first two fingers of your right hand to your palm.  Hover your right thumb over your right nostril and your right ring finger over your left nostril.  Take a few centring breaths.  When your breath has settled into a smoothe, natural, rhythmical pattern, close your right nostril and breathe in through your left nostril.  Close your left nostril as you open your right and breathe out through your right nostril.  Breathe in through your right nostril, close your right nostril as you open your left and breathe out through your left nostril and continue for up to five minutes.  



Still not sleepy?  Try a Yoga Nidra - see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sbxmsplIP8
You may also be interested in my You Tube video 'How yoga boosts health - better sleep'
http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/how-yoga-boosts-health-better-sleep.html 
and 'Love your sleep' on the wellness blog for tips on getting a better night's sleep. http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/love-your-sleep.html

Please also see :-

'Yoga for seniors- An introduction'-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/yoga-for-seniors-introduction.html

'Yoga for seniors - Posture 1'- 
http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/yoga-for-seniors-posture-1.html

'Yoga for seniors - Posture 2'- 
http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/yoga-for-seniors-posture-2.html

'Yoga for seniors- Improving your balance'- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/yoga-for-seniors-improving-your-balance.html

'Yoga for seniors- Circulation'- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/yoga-for-seniors-circulation.html

Sweet dreams,
Namaste 
Janet x

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Protecting your neck in inversions


When we practice Shoulder Stand our necks are in flexion that is tilted forward stretching the muscles and ligaments at the back of the neck.  If we have any tightness in the neck or shoulders,  injury may result - muscle strain, strain on the neck ligaments or in the worst case scenario cervical disc injury.  It is for this reason that in my videos we usually practice half  Shoulder Stand with a wall or supported by two blocks.  Even so Shoulder Stand is best avoided if you have any neck issues  (other contra-indications include heart problems, high blood pressure, glaucoma or when you are menstruating).  Do not worry if Shoulder Stand is not for you -  safer inversions such as Legs up the Wall have the same benefits so it's not worth risking injury.  

If you have no health issues that contra-indicate Shoulder Stand you could try practicing it with a folded blanket, provided that you warm up the neck, shoulders and back first.  The blanket should be placed under your shoulders so that your head and neck are off the blanket.  This has the effect of opening up the front of the neck.  Never turn your head while practicing Shoulder Stand.  

Shoulder Stand pose

To practice Shoulder Stand place a blanket on your mat.  Your mat should be positioned with the short edge to the wall.  Sit with your knees bent with your right side next to the wall. Swivel round so that your legs are up the wall, and the blanket under your shoulders so that your head and neck are on the mat (you might have to adjust the position of the blanket. Roll the tops of your feet to the wall, lifting your lower back away from the mat.  Support your lower back with your hands.  For Half Shoulder Stand straighten the right leg then the left.  If you can do so without strain take your right leg away from the wall then the left as you walk your hands up your back so that your toes are above your face.  
To come out of the pose release your legs back to the wall, remove your hands from your back and slowly with control lower your spine back to the mat.  Roll onto your right side with your knees drawn up towards your chest and rest here for a few breaths before coming up.  

Headstand should only be practiced with the help of a teacher if you are not used to practicing  the pose.  For a good alternative try this Dolphin Pose variation.  It strengthens the arms and shoulders in preparation for headstand and has the same benefits as headstand for calming the mind.


Dolphin pose

Come onto all fours and lower onto your forearms.  Interlace your fingers, breathe in, tuck your toes and as you breathe out lift your hips high.  Press down into the mat with your arms.  Walk your feet forward if you can.  If your head touches the mat, press more firmly into your arms so that there is no weight on the head.  You may also support your head on a block. To come out of the pose, breathe in, lower your knees to the mat, breathe out and take your bottom back to your heels for a Child's Pose.

Please see also, 
'Protecting your neck in seated twists'-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/protecting-your-neck-in-seated-twists.html

'Protecting your neck in standing poses'-
http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/protecting-your-neck-in-standing-poses.html

'Protecting your neck in standing poses'-
http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/protecting-your-neck-in-back-bends.html


Be safe, be happy, 

Namaste 
Janet x 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Balancing pitta dosha with earth and water elements

Please click on the video below to watch, 'Balancing pitta dosha with earth and water elements' on my YouTube Channel'.



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

People with a dominant pitta dosha are often successful in their careers because of their drive.  They typically have 'Type A' personalities - they can be perfectionists, overly competitive and this can lead to stress, anger, irritability and digestive issues.  This is because pitta dosha is associated with the fire element.  

In our practice this week the intention is to keep the positive qualities of pitta - determination and drive but 'dampen the fire down' so that the negative effects of pitta dosha do not become all consuming.  By incorporating the earth element in our practice we can draw energy down from the head reducing stress which occurs when the fire of the pitta dosha 'burns out of control'.  I have also incorporated the water element in the practice to balance pitta as it helps us 'go with the flow'.  We also practice Moon Salutation.  You may need to practice this a few times before it flows easily so do pause the video if you want to do some extra rounds.  Once the salutation flows it is very calming, unlike Sun Salutations which are energizing.  We end our practice with a meditation to help us 'go with the flow'.


Namaste, 

Janet x

Sunday, 12 June 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell


It's the Queen's ninetieth birthday this weekend and I have been thinking about what party foods would have been around in the 1920s when the Queen was born. Waldorf salad was first presented at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1893 and was popular for Great Gatsby parties in the 1920s.
Why not try my vegan version as part of your celebrations this weekend?
Recipe on my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/meatless-monday-waldorf-salad.html

Last week Becky and I looked at some natural beauty products that were used in the early part of the 20th century when the Queen was born. In that first post we looked at skincare and Becky could not resist trying out one of these vintage natural beauty products.
Find out how she went on in this blog post on my 'sister' blog- 
http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/vintage-natural-beauty-skincare-review.html

So many 'healthy' recipes claim to be sugar free. However, when you look at many of them more closely, they turn out to be free from sucrose- that is, everyday table/cane sugar- but contain other simple sugars. 
On my 'sister' blog we look at some 'sugar free' alternatives to cane sugar to see just how healthy (or not) they are- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/the-real-meaning-of-sugar-free.html

Yoga for seniors - circulation

As we get older our circulation might not be as good as it was when we were younger.  Poor circulation of blood and lymph can cause low energy, varicose veins, painful fingers and toes in cold weather (Raynaud's), swelling of ankles and feet and even stress and weakened immunity.  Yoga can help in several ways.  Please see 
Flexiladiesyoga 'How yoga can help boost the circulation of blood and lymph'-
http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/how-yoga-can-help-boost-circulation-of.html
and also 40plusandalliswell 'Love your circulation'-
http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/love-your-circulation.html 

The following sequence will help boost the circulation of blood and lymph
Start with a few rounds of Egyptian Salutation (please see the 'Yoga Pose Gallery'-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/yoga-pose-gallery.html) then rest in Easy Pose, watching your breath until it returns to normal.  Come onto all 4s.

Cat/Cow (brings blood to the spine, nourishing the nerves that emerge from the spinal column which supply the entire body)- with hands directly under your shoulders, knees under hips breathe in lift your head and chest, breathe out tuck your chin, arch your back and tuck your tail bone under and continue working with your breath.  If you find your wrists are uncomfortable, you can make fists with your hands or come down onto your forearms. After several moves come back to a neutral spine.  



Puppy Pose (brings blood to the brain relieving fatigue)- from all 4s walk your hands forward keeping your hips elevated and bring your forehead to a block or to the mat.  If you find that the pose feels uncomfortable on your shoulders, bend your elbows and interlace your fingers above your head.  Hold for a few breaths then come to lying on your tummy. 


Sphinx (opens up the chest, nourishing the heart and lungs) - stretch your arms forward and press your tail bone back to lengthen your spine.  Breathe in and slide your arms back until your elbows are under your shoulders, lift your chest.  Make sure your shoulders away from your ears and have your chin level with the floor.  Hold and breathe. When you are ready press back into a Swan.


Swan - with your big toes touching, take your knees wide.  Walk your hands forward bringing your head to the mat, or to a block.  When you are ready come to standing.



Warrior 2 (works the legs strongly so that the leg muscles 'squeeze' the veins helping them return blood to the heart.  The pose also prevents varicose veins) - start by standing in the middle of your mat and take your feet wide. Turn your right foot to the right and turn the toes of the back foot in 45 degrees.  Ladies should line up front heel to back heel, men front heel to back instep.  Inhale stretch your arms out at shoulder height, exhale bend your front knee, turn to look down the fingers of your right hand.  Hold for a few breaths then breathe in straighten your front knee, breathe out turn your feet to face forward, bring your hands to your heart. Repeat second side.



Wide Leg Standing Forward Bend (encourages blood flow to the upper body, calms the mind and relives fatigue) - with your feet facing forward, bring your hands to your hips.  Breathe in lift your chest, breathe out hinge forward. If you have high blood pressure or heart problems do not have your head lower than your heart and take your hands to a block or to a chair.  Otherwise release your hands to the mat, breathe out walk your hands back and lower your head down.  Hold for 3 breaths in either position then breathe out take your hands to your hips, breathe in come up slowly.  



Legs up the Wall (encourages blood flow back to the heart and brain.  It gives your legs a rest from gravity, relieves stress and fatigue and releases healing energies) - sit with your right hip next to a wall, knees bent.  Swivel round so that your legs are against the wall.  Your arms can be by your sides or overhead.  If you have problems with high blood pressure or heart problems you may want to put your lower legs on a chair. Stay here for 5-10 minutes watching your breath. To come out of the pose roll onto your right side and stay there for a minute before coming up slowly.  





Please also see :-

'Yoga for seniors- An introduction'-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/yoga-for-seniors-introduction.html

'Yoga for seniors - Posture 1'- 
http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/yoga-for-seniors-posture-1.html

'Yoga for seniors - Posture 2'- 
http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/yoga-for-seniors-posture-2.html

'Yoga for seniors- Improving your balance'- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/yoga-for-seniors-improving-your-balance.html

Namaste,
Janet x 



Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Protecting your neck in back bends

In back bends where we start from a prone position, yogis can be so keen to move into the back bend that they lift their heads up first which has the potential to jam the neck vertebrae.  To avoid this in Sphinx pose start by lying on your tummy and stretch your arms forward.  Breathe in and start to lift your chest as you tuck your chin and draw your elbows back under your shoulders - only when you are fully in the back bend, lift your chin level with the floor to gaze straight ahead.  This method of tucking your chin until you are in the back bend can also be used in Cobra pose and Upward Facing Dog.  In Locust pose and Bow pose keep the back of your neck long by keeping your gaze down on the mat. In Pigeon pose, as you walk your hands back, tuck your chin and lift your chest. Then when you are in position lift your chin level with the floor.

Camel pose is an advanced back bend and you should not attempt to drop your head back for the full pose until you have considerable openness in your shoulders and in your thoracic spine. It is not a pose for you if you have any neck issues at all. The thoracic spine can be quite difficult to open.  Looking at it from the side the thoracic spine has a natural convex curve.  At best this can only 'bend' to straight.  If you attempt to drop the head back before you have the openness in the thoracic spine and the lift of the ribcage, your neck will compensate and this is made worse by the not inconsiderable weight of the head.  The result is a painful trapped nerve (here speaks the voice of experience!!!) or worse.  To avoid this until you have the necessary openness, keep your chin tucked and look down your body in Camel pose.   The following variation of Shoulder Bridge will help you create openness in the thoracic spine.
Lie on your mat with your knees bent.  Inhale lift your hips and take hold of the edges of your mat.  Pull on the mat to help you create more lift in the thoracic spine.  



You can also practice modification of Camel pose.

To practice a modified version of Camel pose, come into a kneeling position, knees hip width and take your hands into the small of your back, fingers pointing down.  Inhale, lift your chest and press your thighs forward.  Have your chin tucked and look down your body. When you are ready to come out of the pose straighten your spine then fold down into a Child's pose.  



You could also try kneeling in front of a chair so that your lower legs are under the chair seat.  Take your hands back to hold either side of the seat and lift your chest, tucking your chin as you do so.  Hold for a few breaths and then fold into a Child's pose.



When you feel comfortable with this modification try a slightly more advanced modification using two blocks placed either side of your feet.  Inhale stretch your right arm up then circle it back, bringing your right hand to the block by your right foot (remember 3 levels).  Repeat with the left hand.  Lift your rib cage, press your thighs forward and keep your chin tucked. 

To come out of the pose, take your right hand to your left thigh as you start to straighten your spine then take your left hand to your right thigh and fold into a Child's pose. 


Eventually you will be able to take your hands to your heels with your toes tucked at first, then with the top of your feet flat to the mat but do not take your head back unless you are really confident that you have the openness to do so.  Remember yoga is not about being able to achieve challenging poses but about discovering more about yourself. 

 


Please see also, 
'Protecting your neck in seated twists'-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/protecting-your-neck-in-seated-twists.html

'Protecting your neck in standing poses'-
http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/protecting-your-neck-in-standing-poses.html

Stay safe

Namaste,
Janet x