Tag Archives: Yoga for stress relief

Angela’s Yoga Lab: Exploring the ‘body’

We seem to have strong desire as humans to figure out what a body is and what the role of  our bodies are – how we use  them,  place them,  hold them,  how they differ from other bodies and how they are alike.

In every culture and race there is different assigned ‘roles’ for  bodies,  whether ‘real’ or fictional.  Rarely are bodies neutral.  They grow and change shape.  They exist in memory and can reflect future hopes.  Human bodies can be naked or clothed,  spiritual,  political, sacrificial,  ceremonial,  experimental,  artistic,  sexual,  pregnant, dead or alive.

They can be represented through age, gender, status or religion.  Bodies can be imprisoned or free.  They can be loving or violent, distant or close.  Bodies can be expressive and metaphoric.  They can be diseased or healthy, active, or passive. They can be disabled and abled.

Bodies host questions of ownership and who or what has rights over physical bodies.  Bodies have needs and desires.

There is great anxiety over understanding and comprehending our bodies –  as we  constantly try to assign labels and to figure them out.

I have found through teaching yoga and in my personal life that how we relate to our bodies, has direct impact on the quality of our lives.

We all sit on a sliding scale, anywhere from a non-conscious or disconnected relationship with our own body, right through to intense body dysmorphic disorders-  and all the other levels that lie between the two extremes.

In Western society there is a big focus on the physical side to the yogic practice. The Asanas and postures in classes, the shapes we make with our bodies all labeled differently under the various branches and names of particular styles of ‘yoga’ – ie. Astanga, Vinyasa, Hatha, Forrest, Jivamukti, Kundalini, Bikram etc.

For me there is great potential for exploration of the human body on the mat through yoga and I will discuss two here in this article.

Balance within the body

The first idea discussed here is creating a  ‘Functional Body’ – dealing with Range of Motion.

Often in yoga this transaction is about how to create and sustain balance within the body by marrying strength and stability with flexibility and suppleness so that  we can live our life in a pain-free, struggle-free way.  It seems to be the reason majority of people come to a yoga class.

‘Functional’ for me is NOT defined by how thin,  fat,  good looking or muscular we are  but rather is reflected in  our ability to adapt to our environment when needed to ensure survival.  ‘Functional’ is to be strong enough to hold and carry our children,  fight intruders and heal quickly from injury,  to have access through all our joints to use tools,  to run from danger and to be able to smell,  hear,  see and palpate our surroundings for our needs.  To be able to move in all directions without any limitation or pain.

Homo Sapiens as a nomadic species in the past needed an agile body that could run barefoot at high speeds from danger or to hunt,  have balance and coordination to climb trees to escape floods,  have stamina to hunt for days to find food,  fight off wild animals or other tribes,  smell their way through the dark,  find complete stillness or leap to action in a heartbeat to stay alive.

Of course as modern humans  we have no need for all these things but our physical bodies are still designed in that way and require us  to remain physically in tune and  have full range of motion.

To  move in all ways free from discomfort,  pain and disease is to ensure quality of life.

The physical side to yoga can assist our shift from having an active lifestyle to a more passive one where we sit at computers,  drive cars,  take elevators,  eat poorly,  breathe shallowly and rely on modern medication to keep us ‘healthy’ and pain-free.

Physical yoga when practiced on a regular basis in a safe way has been shown to create and maintain able bodies even with our general lack of physical activity.

The emotion side of movement

The next idea explored here is the emotional side of movement, and is my favorite exploration journey on the mat.

Afterall, we are not just ‘functional moving beings’ but thinking, feeling and sensing beings.  We have innate body intelligence.  This is also an interesting world where I feel dance and other non-verbal body work cross over and share similarities with the yoga asana practice, and is why I sometimes choose to blend dance with yoga in classes.

There comes a moment of  pure sweetness where we discover that in our physical shapes and movement  we  can express our inner landscape in  ways words fail to.

Sometimes we are processing and dealing with emotions bigger than our vocabulary is equipped to handle. Sometimes there just are no  words, or words do not do us or the situation justice.

The body does not just live in language, it has its own language

Sometimes resting in humble Balasana/ childs pose can be the most healing way to process what is going on internally or externally with ourselves and can say more than words could ever say about the relationship we have to ourselves and the state we are in at that moment.

You can also observe this in how we relate to ourselves and others using physical movement metaphor.  Some examples:

  • Jumping for joy
  • Shaking with fear
  • Being ‘spineless’
  • Getting something off your chest
  • Twisting someones arm
  • Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders
  • To have butterflies in the stomach
  • Jumping out of your skin
  • Being thick skinned

This journey can also work in reverse where sometimes coming into Asanas and specific shapes can invite in emotional qualities or cause shifts in emotional states. Sometimes memories are triggered through placing the body in specific alignment through Asana practice. It is as though we are transported in and through movement.

You can request a body exploration class with Angela on Muuyu here.

Alternatively, all those looking for a great yoga retreat this springtime can also join Angela and fellow yogini Tihana from the *15th – 22nd August 2015  in the beautiful scenic surroundings of Crikvenica, Croatia for a week long retreat. 

Over the week you’ll enjoy 10 yoga sessions (Ana Forrest inspired yoga, Vinyasa and Yin Yoga with Angela and Sivananda classical Indian yoga with Tihana) , fantastic coastal accommodation and delicious vegetarian/vegan meals prepared by your yoga teachers personally!

For more details contact Angela and Tihana.

* These dates have been revised as the retreat as originally scheduled to take place in March.

Croatian_Retreat  1517425_1526715984261797_5120985602636590181_n

More details & book information here.

 

Yoga Teacher; Forrest Yoga; Asanas; Vinyasa; Muuyu;

Australian-born Angela Collins is a yoga teacher based in Berlin.  RYS Certified, trained in Vinyasa Flow Yoga, and a graduate of Advanced Teacher Training in Forrest Yoga,  Angela is committed to nourishing  mind and body both off and on the mat.   She has had the privilege of teaching Yoga across the globe in Australia, Thailand, Germany, UK, France and with people of all differing ages, nationalities, and needs.  Having trained alongside Mark Stephens, Kathryn Budig, Kino McGregor and Ana. T Forrest, Angela now teaches a number of different Yoga disciplines including Pregnancy Yoga, Yoga for Addicts, Yoga for Athletes, and child Yoga.

Connect with her here on Muuyu.com or on her own website  www.endorphinyoga.eu as well as on Twitter.

Angela’s Yoga Lab: A Mantra for 2015… or anytime, really!

For many yoga practitioners a mantra is a powerful tool to use to deepen their practice.  Sound is particularly powerful and the repetition of sound can help focus the mind on that which is outside of and bigger than yourself.

The mantra below is perfect for any time you need to feel grounded and centered.  If you have only 5 minutes,  this will still be powerful and effective, but if you have more time – you can invest as long as you need into the mantra as a way to focus energy and attention on what you need most,  especially  transitions such as the one you will be making  into the New Year.

The type of mantra I have created here is a simple and highly effective version of mantra japa (repeating or remembering mantra).  With this way of using internal vibration of ‘So-Ham’ we journey from Gross to Subtle,  and the mantra will center and focus the mind on an object through the chanting itself.

How to do this mantra:

    • Find a comfortable seated position, preferably somewhere where there is natural sunlight,  a window open for fresh air ( ideally you want to be not too hot,  not too cold) and where you have some quiet and privacy uninterrupted. Turn off the TV, computer, radio and your phone.  You can light a candle or some incense if you will not be distracted by the smell.  You do not need a candle or incense as you can do this mantra wherever you are and in whatever position,  though seated is best.

     

    • Sit with your spine straight and keep your eyes closed to draw your focus inward.  Only if you are too sleepy should you keep your eyes opened.

     

    • Take a few long deep inhalations (breath inward) focusing on creating space in the internal body and then with every exhalation (breath outward) focus on releasing any tension, pain or stress –  anything that does not serve you right now.

     

    • Roll your shoulders down away from your ears, unlock your jaw and move your tongue so your mouth is relaxed.  Feel the earth/mat/ground below your sitting bones which are supporting you.  Focus on the sensation of your lungs lifting on the inhale and falling on the exhale.  Soften your face,  the base of your neck and behind your eyes.  You can rest your hands lightly on top of your knees, or in your lap.   Keep wrists relaxed.

     

    • For this mantra we begin with So-Ham Pranayama (breathing technique).   Whilst seated, bring your focus to your breath. While inhaling think “So”, and whilst exhaling think “Ham- or “Huumm”.  With the latter you may observe that this will lengthen the quality of your breathing,  which is the goal here.

     

    • Continue the flow of So-Ham and attempt to match the length of your inhale with your exhale so the flow is even.  However, do not obsess over this.   After feeling confident breathing So-Ham  begin to observe the natural pause between your inhale and exhale.  This is a pure moment of sweet stillness, a cessation of thoughts between So and Ham.  Do not hold your breath here to control or create this but rather observe how it naturally occurs.

     

    • Once you have completed a few rounds of So-Ham breathing you can begin with the mantra.

     

    • Out loud chant, “I am here, I am now, I am here, I am now, I am here, I am now.”

     

    • Repeat for at least 20 rounds at any volume or pitch you like. You can change the volume of your voice to what feels right.  Once you get into a rhythm you may find you do not want to stop at 20 rounds so,  in that case,  keep going until you feel compelled to stop.

     

    • Stay connected to the words and stay present in your body as you chant.  Do not zone out or lose connection to what you are doing.

     

    • Once you’ve stopped chanting out loud keep repeating the mantra inside your mind,  feeling the sensation of vibrations of your chanting rippling through you and the power of the words settling inside of you.

Benefits of this mantra:

This has the dualistic effect of being both a grounding mantra while also being empowering.   From a place of being grounded and anchored in the present you are able to tap into the potential of that moment with no expectations.  Often the lead up to a new year is filled with expectations.  We place so much pressure on resolutions to shift and change the various parts of ourselves and our lives – and sometimes others – which we feel are inadequate.

We enter with the premise “I am not enough”, “I /my life needs to change because who I am right now or how things are now – is not of any worthy”.

We can also get swept up in the hype of the idea at this time of year that things should or must shift and while change is healthy,  often these expectations lead us to over-promise,  over-commit and under-deliver, making us feel even more helpless and worthless when we cannot follow through.

Life being fluid is filled with death and rebirth, coming and going.  A new year is just another entering and exiting.  Having an equanimous mindset and connection to the present,  being here and now, anchors us so that we can handle any weather that may come our way both in 2015 and in the rest of our life.   We do not need an arbitrary date to make changes that need to take place.  We need to be in touch with ourselves so we can see from a place of clarity.

Whatever we enter the new year with is the place we take off from. The year before is gone but the year ahead is also unknown.  So all that matters IS as the mantra promises – the here and now.

 

Yoga Teacher; Forrest Yoga; Asanas; Vinyasa; Muuyu;

Australian-born Angela Collins is a yoga teacher based in Berlin.  RYS Certified, trained in Vinyasa Flow Yoga, and a graduate of Advanced Teacher Training in Forrest Yoga,  Angela is committed to nourishing  mind and body both off and on the mat.   She has had the privilege of teaching Yoga across the globe in Australia, Thailand, Germany, UK, France and with people of all differing ages, nationalities, and needs.  Having trained alongside Mark Stephens, Kathryn Budig, Kino McGregor and Ana. T Forrest, Angela now teaches a number of different Yoga disciplines including Pregnancy Yoga, Yoga for Addicts, Yoga for Athletes, and child Yoga.

Connect with her here on Muuyu.com or on her own website  www.endorphinyoga.eu as well as on Twitter.

 

If you liked this, you might also enjoy these two posts.  Just click on the pictures to bring you directly to the article

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Angela’s Yoga Lab: Yoga for All Seasons – Fighting Winter Depression

I am a native Australian.  I was born in Sydney and spent the first 22 years of my life there.

Moving to Berlin in the height of winter I experienced for the first time a physical and emotional coldness as well as a darkness I had never known was possible.  The coldest it gets in winter in Sydney is around 5 degrees (usually overnight or early hours of the morning). And even in winter it would be light outside until at least 7pm in the evening.   Before moving to Berlin I had never seen or touched snow!

Berlin winters can sometimes drop to -20.  It can snow and it is pitch black by 4pm.  It can be harsh.  In fact, it is not uncommon to wake in darkness and to come home in darkness.

Like a bird flying south,  the past few winters I have flown to warmer countries or back home to ‘escape the winter’.  However, this year we will be staying in Berlin and so I have a plan to get me through and to fight fatigue and winter depression through yoga practice and specifically inversions.   (I’ve talked in greater detail about inversions here if you would like to read more).

Research on the use of yoga for depression, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, included studies with a total of 3,515 participants.  Findings highlighted that just 30 minutes daily meditation can improve the symptoms of depression, anxiety and pain.  Furthermore, when the researchers compared the magnitude of the gains with those taking medications the effectiveness was similar but with no side effect.

A Swedish study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry and which was built on previous research from 47 clinical trials, also discovered that group mindfulness training proved as effective as the established psychological treatment for depression, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

As mindfulness and the meditative state can be a vital part of yoga practice it stands to reason that incorporating yoga into your routine can thus have a therapeutic effectiveness in beating back the blues.

Yoga asana builds confidence and strength in the physical body and helps to calm the mind.  By balancing the hormonal endocrine system, strengthening the balance between our para-sympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system,  asana practice maximizes our opportunity to allow the body to function at optimum by producing the right hormones to keep us balanced and feeling in control.

I believe the yoga mat is a monitored environment to work under the controlled stresses that we apply in varying degrees to body and mind,  an environment where we can develop effective coping mechanisms.  When I am feeling unbalanced or depressed yoga has become a useful go-to-tool for moving through it.

During winter time when we have less exposure to Vitamin D (i.e. less hours in sunlight) and have less opportunities to exercise due to extreme coldness and darkness yoga asana takes on even greater importance.

Here are some instant mood and depression boosters:

  • Yogic Breathwork

Yogic breathing clears and maintains healthy internal organs. Pranayama such as Agni Sara connects the mind to the core of the body, actively pumps fresh blood around the body and creates internal Agni (fire) that heats us from the inside out.

  • Flowing Asana Practice ( such as Vinyasa or Ashtanga)

This type of practice keeps the joints supple and lubricated, which is great for when coldness causes crunchiness and stiffness.  Asana where we sweat detoxes us and flushes our system.  This works to boost our immune system which is also essential at this time of year when we are more susceptible to colds and flu.

  • Inversions

Going upside down is a great way to chase depression from cell tissue as it offers an instant mood-shifter and energy boost.  The key in mastering this is to take baby steps to build your core and upper body strength. This journey itself can be deeply healing and gratifying – seeing something build and build to the point where you exceed your preconceived limits of what you thought or imagined was possible on a physical and mental level.

Entry level / Intermediate Inversion Practice

  • Downward Facing DogAdho mukha śvānāsana

After some time and when ready to up-level you can move downward dog onto the wall.  Press your feet into the wall with legs at a 90 degree angle.  Hold here for up to 10 breaths, come down and pause in child’s pose, then move up again for a round of 10 breaths, building up stamina and confidence.  Explore transitions with one leg straightened, and then the other.

  • Dolphin

This asana is ideal for those with tweaky wrists or sensitive people who also cannot do downward facing dog.

Again, after some time when you’re feeling more confident, you can move dolphin on to the wall. Keep legs at 90 degrees to the wall, straightened if possible, bent legs if new to the pose)

Intermediate/ Advanced Inversion Practice

All of the asana listed below can be built up to variations such as straddle, lotus or baddha konasana:

  • Headstand – Shirshasana
  • Handstand – Vrikshasana
  • Forearm Balance – Pincha mayurasana

Do remember that when trying for the first time, only attempt the mentioned asana under the guidance of an advanced teacher, and be sure that you do not have any contraindications to inverting the body or going upside before attempting them.

If you would like any further advice or guidance with anything mentioned in the post also feel free to contact me here.

Yoga Teacher; Forrest Yoga; Asanas; Vinyasa; Muuyu;

Australian-born Angela Collins is a yoga teacher based in Berlin.  RYS Certified, trained in Vinyasa Flow Yoga, and a graduate of Advanced Teacher Training in Forrest Yoga,  Angela is committed to nourishing  mind and body both off and on the mat.   She has had the privilege of teaching Yoga across the globe in Australia, Thailand, Germany, UK, France and with people of all differing ages, nationalities, and needs.  Having trained alongside Mark Stephens, Kathryn Budig, Kino McGregor and Ana. T Forrest, Angela now teaches a number of different Yoga disciplines including Pregnancy Yoga, Yoga for Addicts, Yoga for Athletes, and child Yoga.

Connect with her here on Muuyu.com or on her own website  www.endorphinyoga.eu as well as on Twitter.

If you liked this you might also like the below posts. Just click on the pictures to go straight to the article.

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4 Airplane Yoga Poses for Long Haul Travelers this Holiday

Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with family and friends but for many people that means taking long-haul flights back to hometowns or holiday destinations.   While there’s much to look forward to by making such a journey, sitting still for a long time on a plane can be less than fun, especially for your joints and muscles.  Practicing certain yoga poses during the flight can keep your blood flowing and so prevent chances of swelling,  stiffness and in,  rare cases,  developments of blood clots in a deep vein known as deep vein thrombosis.

Calming the mind – especially if you boarded your flight after a largely hectic pre-Christmas workload – and reducing overall anxiety about flying, are two further benefits.

So,  while I’m not suggesting you start with sun salutations in the aisle once the seat-belt sign has blinked off, here are 4 flight-friendly yoga poses that you can practice either while seated or when stretching your legs in the cabin and without drawing too much attention to yourself.

1. Seated Cat Cow

Aim: This is a wonderful exercise if you suffer from a fear of flying as it frees the tension or stressed emotions that you may be holding onto by releasing blockages within your spinal column.

How: On the edge of your seat, align your feet with your hips.  Place your hands lightly on top of your thighs, inhale, and roll your shoulders to arch your chest upwards and outwards.   Look towards the tip of your nose and, as you exhale, roll your spine forward.  Allow your body to follow the flow and length of every breath. Continue for 10-20 breaths.

2. Seated Spinal Twist

Aim: Relieves stress and relaxes your back.  Especially great if you’ve fallen into a crumpled sleep over your arm rest or have just finished watching two back-to-back in-flight films without standing up at any stage.

How: Sit on the edge of your seat.  Gently place the back of your right knee on top of the left, place your left hand on your right knee, and your right hand on your right armrest.  Inhale and straighten your spine (feel like the top of your head is reaching to the hand luggage storage).  Keep this length and slowly exhale while turning towards your right side.  Stay here and take 4 deep breathes before repeating on the other side.

3. Thigh Stretch

Aim: Wakens your legs and prevents stiffness in your thigh muscles.

How: If you have an aisle seat, stand next to it and place your left hand on the headrest.  Straighten your back and tuck in your navel. Lift your right foot off the floor and bend your knee (so your lower leg is behind your body). Grab your right ankle with your right hand and gently pull up until your heel is touching or moving toward your butt. Hold for 6 to 8 breaths. Gently release and switch sides.

4. Side Stretch

Aim: Lengthens the muscles between the ribs and pelvis, including the lower back. By opening the sides of the rib cage and expanding the lungs, this makes breathing easier, which is particularly helpful in the small, sometimes stuffy, confines of a plane.

How: Go for a stroll around the cabin to re-energize your body.  Find a little space – usually there’s a little more room outside the bathroom area towards the back of the plane.  Step back with your feet hip width.  Raise your right arm, sideways, toward the sky. When you exhale, keeping your chin tucked in, lean over to left side until you feel a gentle stretch on your right side.  Hold for 5-10 breaths before repeating the other side.

Of course, do be mindful of others and your own safety when practicing these or any other yoga poses on the plane.  Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the flight also to keep yourself hydrated.   Most of all, though, breathe deeply,  stay energized and have a happy and healthy holiday.

Siobhan01

Siobhan is the Head of Communication and Content with Muuyu and a co-founder of the company.  Born in Ireland she has close to 20 years’ experience working in the areas of PR, communication and journalism.  She is also the editor of the Muuyu blog.  Siobhan has been practicing yoga on and off for most of her adult life.  However it was while doing a post-natal yoga class when pregnant that she really began to connect with her practice and she has been a regular practitioner ever since.

Connect with Siobhan here.

If you liked this, you might also enjoy these two posts.  Just click on the pictures to bring you directly to the article.

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Angela’s Yoga Lab: Reflections from the World of Yoga, Berlin

The World of Yoga three day event which ran at Postbahnhof, Berlin, last month from 7th to 9th November was open to the public to showcase what is currently happening in the yoga world and industry.  Top-class Instructors from all over the globe,  including Native German Jivamukti instructor Patrick Broome attended alongside an array of events including Ayurveda seminars and workshops, world music, yoga seminars and Acro Thai massage workshops.  Set over two levels, the Postbahnhof was filled with stalls selling books, yoga clothing and mats, yoga props, oils, CDs, raw and vegetarian food, and other health and wellness products, all in between open rooms where classes were held.

I was privileged enough to teach twice at this event this year.  On Saturday 8th November I led a two hour Forrest Yoga Class, and on Sunday the 9th November a 45 min power introduction to Forrest Yoga.

Overall, my impression was that this annual event is great for anyone but especially those experimenting with finding a style of Yoga that is right for them.  There was something for beginners through to the advanced practitioner and even classes and workshops in child yoga.

Upside-Down Workshop

For my Saturday event I developed a juicy sequence called Upside-Down Workshop, an Inversion and backbending class. (You can read about my love of backbending here).

I invited fellow Forrest Yoga Teacher, Inga Brodersen (pictured with me below) to assist in demonstrations, translating the class into German and with hands on adjustments.  Together we guided a full mixed levels class through a sequence of challenging Forrest poses, towards peak asanas of Playful Handstands, Forearm Balances and Wheel Drop backs.

Using the inner child to explore without attachments to a goal

I knew in advance that the area we were in had virtually no wall space to aid us with Inversions and so it could be challenging for those afraid to try without the security of the wall.  However these limitations encouraged me to find a fantastic theme: ‘The Art of Playfulness!  Releasing and Connecting to your Inner Child – through Yoga’.

As I often observe in my son (age 4) children are not governed by a sense of failure.  They just want to explore without an attachment to a goal.  They are truly present to the availability of their bodies and because they have yet to be taught that there is such a thing as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ when it comes to their body, their sense of freedom allows them to experiment, make mistakes and thus learn and grow.

So the aim was for participants to view the workshop and these challenging asanas through the eyes of a child, with a sense of curiosity about what part of the poses they could do, meeting themselves in the present moment and without a sense of attachment over an outcome or goal.

Everyone was encouraged to experiment and explore the poses in a safe space and not to force themselves or label what they were trying as good, bad, right, wrong.   Inga and I assisted participants to invert their body and go upside-down to see the world from a new perspective.

Working with an area of focus

My Sunday class focused on a technique I first encountered with Ana Forrest, something I now practice myself and also teach in my classes.

At the beginning of the class whilst breathing deeply in Ujjayi students were asked to navigate inside and pick an area.  This area could be either in the physical body itself or an emotional or psychological focus  (If you are practicing yourself and there is more than one area of focus, pick the most prominent one at that present moment).

I’ve highlighted some examples of how you can find this area below.  These are not rules, but rather observations from my own practice and seeing patterns emerge in classes:

  • Often a psychological focus is associated with the front or back of the skull, the forehead, stomach, shoulders, jaw and neck;
  • Emotional spots include the front or back of the chest, throat, stomach and lower belly and inside or near the sexual organs;
  • If students have fascia or scar tissue from an old or current injury or tightness or pain in the muscles or joints somewhere on the physical body, then the focus is that actual site itself.

Once located, this area or spot then became their personal focus for the class.  I invited students to place their hands on the location of this ‘spot’ within the body,  to inhale deeply and run healing energy into the area,  exhaling with any kind of Bhramari they wanted ( i.e. breath with sound) using  the sound vibrations to  ‘buzz up’, awaken the area and thus creating sensation and awareness from the inside out.

Throughout the duration of the class whenever inhalation was cued, students were told to breathe into this area and to redirect the energy of the asana they were in into their chosen area to heal it. Each asana generates a different energy for each person.  To explain further how this can work take as an example Vira (Warrior)  One or Two, wherein a student can send the grounded, stable energy that this asana generates into their area of choice.   When utilized on an ongoing basis this technique can be very powerful.

To experience this technique guided with me first hand,  or for further tips on going upside-down, contact me here at Muuyu to request a class at a date and time that suits you.

Special Thanks again to my assistant Inga Brodersen – you can find more about her and her Forrest Yoga classes in Berlin here

AngelaInga

Australian-born Angela Collins is a yoga teacher based in Berlin.  RYS Certified, trained in Vinyasa Flow Yoga, and a graduate of Advanced Teacher Training in Forrest Yoga,  Angela is committed to nourishing  mind and body both off and on the mat.   She has had the privilege of teaching yoga across the globe in Australia, Thailand, Germany, UK, France and with people of all differing ages, nationalities, and needs.  Having trained alongside Mark Stephens, Kathryn Budig, Kino McGregor and Ana. T Forrest, Angela now teaches a number of different yoga disciplines including Pregnancy Yoga, Yoga for Addicts, Yoga for Athletes, and child Yoga.

Connect with Angela here on Muuyu.com or on her own website  www.endorphinyoga.eu as well as on Twitter.

You can also read Angela’s previous blog posts here and here.

First Ever British Yoga Festival

The first ever British Yoga Festival, organized by UK’s best-selling YOGA Magazine, runs next weekend (Friday 5th until Sunday 7th December) at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London.

The Festival, which is expecting a turn-out of approximately 15,000 people from London, the UK and around the world, will showcase a host of yoga workshops, classes and demonstrations.  The line-up includes everything from Acro to Ashtanga with some Fierce Grace, Full Moon Flow and Yoga Rave  stirred in for those who like their yoga a little on the weird and wonderful side.

The impressively starry line-up of teachers includes Claire Missingham, Howard Napper, David Sye, Sonia DoubellRachel Okimo, Vena Ramphal, Dirish Shaktidas and Radhanath Swami.

YOGA Magazine and Festival organizers told Muuyu, “”When we launched in 2003 YOGA Magazine was the first dedicated UK monthly magazine to promote the benefits of a yogic lifestyle.  Now, after building up a solid reader base over the last 11 years, we felt that this was the right time to host our first ever British Yoga Festival due to the increasing appeal of yoga, and industry and reader demand for a yoga show to offer something different.”

With that in mind attendees can also look forward to a vast range of stalls and an array of activities including Ayruveda, diet and nutrition, green living and meditation and a full children’s programme.

To mark their first ever festival, YOGA Magazine will also be aiming to set a new world record for the UK’s largest indoor yoga class. This will take place on Saturday 6th December at 1.30pm and organizers are hoping for over 2,000 people to join in.

So if you’re in London next weekend, grab your mat and make your way to Islington.   To keep the industry thriving it’s important to support new and ambitious events such as the British Yoga Festival. And chances are you’ll  have fun, meet other like-minded folk and find a great class or workshop to do that you wouldn’t have had a chance to find otherwise!

For further information look here.

Siobhan01

Siobhan is the Head of Communication and Content with Muuyu and a co-founder of the company.  Born in Ireland she has close to 20 years’ experience working in the areas of PR, communication and journalism.  She is also the editor of the Muuyu blog.  Siobhan has been practicing yoga on and off for most of her adult life.  However it was while doing a post-natal yoga class when pregnant that she really began to connect with her practice and she has been a regular practitioner ever since.

Connect with Siobhan here.

 

Bikram Yoga: 5 things to think about when you’re a teacher

Having taught Bikram Yoga now for nearly eight years I have noticed an evolution in my teaching style that, rather than being a replication of the standard Bikram Yoga training, is in fact a reflection of my own personal perspectives on how best to engage students in this style.  Things I now hold important I actually didn’t view as important in the past, and things that I once held as sacred I’ve since dropped from my teaching.

So for any certified teacher beginning their journey as a Bikram instructor here are 5 things that I’ve learned over the years that will hopefully give you something to think about in your classes:

 

1.Dialogue. It’s not important!

The Bikram Beginning Yoga Class Dialogue that instructs the 26 postures and two breathing exercises is a great tool to help any newly graduated teacher to stand up in front of a room and deliver confidence.  However I know teachers to this day that pride themselves on being ‘word perfect’, and yet have the same connection delivering their dialogue as, like I once heard a student describe, “a trainer at Sea World.”

What is important is the energy that the dialogue delivers. If you can genuinely project the fluctuations of energy that are vital in communicating each posture while keeping minds engaged and focused then you can lead your students in a really great class.

2. It’s only yoga!

I have seen teachers jump on the podium and become little Emperors: “Who taught you that? Never do that in MY class!

People are coming to the room with all sorts of issues, trying to heal and get better, and your job as a teacher is to let them find space and compassion, not a box and compression.  New teachers seem to think that this is necessary to be a good teacher.  It’s not.  It says more about you than anything else.

3.Savashana. It is quiet.  

How can you go from “100 percent effort, to 100 percent relaxation” in the floor series if you as a teacher are constantly nattering during rest?  Like music it is the silence between the notes the makes it beautiful and important.

4. Leave the Newbies alone.

New students don’t want to be constantly singled out, especially in their first class.  They just want to fit in and get through it.  Stopping the class and getting off the podium to walk over and correct a student is just bad teaching.  Do it subtly, possibly incorporating the correction into what you are saying during the posture.

5. Be authentic.

Whatever makes you happy. I know some excellent teachers that make me laugh constantly.  I know some excellent teachers who deliver brilliant classes without it being a comedy show.  Whatever your style is it’s got to be you.  And if you are friendly and authentic that’s how your classes will be.

Contact Matt here to request a class in Bikram Yoga.

Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Hot Yoga, Yoga Teacher, Yoga for Athletes, Yoga for Weight Loss

Born in Zimbabwe, Matt Devine is CEO of Muuyu and has been teaching yoga for nearly eight years.  He primarily teaches Bikram or Hot Yoga.  As a former rugby player who needed reconstruction on both his knees, he has experienced for himself the therapeutic benefits of a hot yoga practice on the body.   He believes that part of yoga’s intense ability to heal is regulating one’s sleep patterns, as with longer, deeper sleep more healing occurs, and better sleep is a regularly cited benefit of hot yoga. 

Connect with Matt on Muuyu here.

Asana Investigation: Focus Backbends

Angela’s Yoga Lab: Exploration on the Mat

In my classes of late, I have been focusing on habitual pattern forming, working with the Amydala, (two almond shaped glands situated in the brain) that are responsible for memory function, patterns and relationship forming.  As part of this  I have been tapping into those Asanas that involve backbending.  Backbends are also fantastic for exploring and tracking sensation, a topic I discussed in my previous Muuyu blog article.

Going backwards allows us to address our fears.

Journeying into Yoga backbends you will quickly meet your emotional and physical edge/s –  which is a juicy and interesting place to begin to name and track inner sensation!  Often going backwards can evoke a lot of fear regardless of the ‘level’ you are at.

When we address fear on the Yoga mat, it also provides an opportunity to confront ourselves and investigate our habitual ways of dealing with fear which,  as I have learned,  can be a great catalyst for change.

Being curious when our fears become exposed, we can quickly see what is functioning within us and what is not.

For example  I love the transition from dropping back from Tadasana into Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel)  which can be viewed as “literally dropping backwards” into the unknown. To master the drop requires a steady,  controlled mind,  an equanamous mind,  in the face of the unknown.

Asanas are there to serve us.

Asanas going into spinal extension involve going into the central nervous system of the spine. The spine is responsible for efficient nervous response, motor control, efficient functioning of the organs and providing accurate feedback to the brain in response to stimuli. When we are not rigid in our responses we can train to become more flexible in our mind.  When we have blockages in the mind or the body, using Asanas such as backbends are a way to find new ways serve us, and where fear is involved, to investigate the fears that limit or hold us back.

Backbends also assist the reproductive organs and help to cleanse the digestive system, stomach, colon, intestines and the prostate aiding in preventing disease.

Backbending also works with The Shushumna Nadi line – the channel that allows energy to flow from the base of the spine – up the central channel of the body toward the crown of the head.  With regards to Nadi shoma  we can view backbends as a way of cleansing out the Shushumna channel and potentially any old patterns that exist within the central nervous system.

A healthy, regular backbending practice removes blockages along the spine allowing energy to flow more freely within the body.

Be mindful of how to avoid injury.

Of course, as with any Asana, be aware not to push past your edge in backbends.  Injury is a definite possibility and if new to backbending in Yoga practice,  work with an experienced Yoga teacher who understands the anatomy of safe backbends to ensure you do not compress the spine.  Ensure your teacher is someone who makes you feel safe and who can offer modifications, props and hands on adjustments.

Be sure to warm the body efficiently before attempting back bending.  Intermediate to advanced backbends are always the peak Asana in my classes allowing time to build up to them.  Do not jump into a backbend cold and always use twisting to neutralize the spine post back bending.

Entry level backbends such as Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing dog), Cobra and Ustrasana ( camel Pose) are a good place to start.

Q: have you encountered fears, mental blocks during back bending?

Do you enjoy backbends or find them intimidating?

I love to hear your feedback, so please share your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

 Request a backbending themed class with Angela on Muuyu.com

Yoga Teacher; Forrest Yoga; Asanas; Vinyasa; Muuyu;

Australian-born Angela Collins is a yoga teacher based in Berlin.  RYS Certified, trained in Vinyasa Flow Yoga, and a graduate of Advanced Teacher Training in Forrest Yoga,  Angela is committed to nourishing  mind and body both off and on the mat.   She has had the privilege of teaching Yoga across the globe in Australia, Thailand, Germany, UK, France and with people of all differing ages, nationalities, and needs.  Having trained alongside Mark Stephens, Kathryn Budig, Kino McGregor and Ana. T Forrest, Angela now teaches a number of different Yoga disciplines including Pregnancy Yoga, Yoga for Addicts, Yoga for Athletes, and child Yoga.

Connect with her here on Muuyu.com or on her own website  www.endorphinyoga.eu as well as on Twitter.

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Yoga for Athletes: 3 Hamstring Openers for Lower Back Relief

When I trained for my first half-marathon last year, I put together a three-part series of yoga poses that would open tight hamstrings and their supporting muscle groups to do after every run.  Tight hamstrings are the common culprit of lower back pain and frequently contribute to back injuries in yogis, runners and office warriors alike.

Hamstrings are a finicky group of three muscles located on the backs of our thighs.  Two of the muscles (semitendinosus and semimembranosus) stem from the sitz bones and connect along the inner side of the knee. The other one (biceps femoris) also originates at the sitz bones but connects along the outer side of the knee.  When these muscles lose their elasticity they tend to lock the pelvis, removing the normal curve of the lumbar spine and flattening the lower back.  This rigidity makes your back work extra hard to accomplish simple tasks like bending down to pick something up, let alone what I and most fitness fiends ask of our bodies on a daily basis. Without proper attention to caring for tight hamstrings you are bound to end up achy, or worse, injured.

Fret not! With daily stretching you can start to proactively compensate for rigidity, mend your hamstrings and ease lower back pain.

Check out my favorite yoga poses for providing some much-needed TLC to your hamstrings below. All three poses are designed for all people of all abilities and all body types.

#1: Modified Extended Hand-to-Foot Pose

  1. Stand with one leg extended onto a chair, straight but not locked out. Your heel should rest on the chair’s seat.
  2. Take a strap (or belt) and sling it around your lifted foot, holding onto either end with your hands.
  3. Square your hips to the front edge of the chair and bend forward until you feel a gentle stretch, adjusting your strap to the appropriate length.  Hold and breathe into that initial feeling of tightness for 90 seconds to three minutes.  With each inhale try to lengthen through both sides of the body.  With each exhale slowly hinge forward millimeter by millimeter, tightening up on your strap as necessary.  Ground down through your standing leg for stability.
  4. Once you’ve completed your long hold, relax and switch legs.

#2: Supine Hand to Foot Pose

  1. Lying on your back, loop a strap (or belt) around your right foot and extend the sole of your foot toward the ceiling.  If you know you have tight hamstrings you can bend your left knee, planting the left foot firmly on the ground and enabling the right leg to straighten out.
  2. Gradually pull the strap toward you until you feel a gentle stretch, adjusting it to the appropriate length by wrapping the loose ends around your hands.
  3. Hold and breathe into that initial feeling of tightness for 90 seconds to three minutes.  Let comfort be your guide—this should feel good and if it doesn’t you’re likely pulling too hard or too fast. With each inhale try to ground down through your rest leg and length through the heel of your extended leg.  With each exhale slowly pull your leg closer to your torso, little by little, cinching up on your strap as necessary.  Make sure you stabilize both hips on the mat—perhaps even draping a heavy blanket across your belt line—to keep the stretch in your hamstrings.
  4. Once you’ve completed your long hold, relax and switch legs.

#3: Supine Bound Angle Pose

This third pose (also known as Reclining Butterfly) focuses on the supporting cast of tight hamstrings and an achy lower back: the adductor group.  Adductors, or inner thigh muscles, and groin muscles are closely linked to stiff hamstrings.  When big muscles like the hamstrings or quadriceps get overworked as they often do, adductors and abductors are left underdeveloped.  This common imbalance can lead to injury.  The muscles of your inner and outer thighs play a crucial role in stabilization and movement of the legs and pelvis.

One of the key functions of adductors for athletes is that they pull your legs in toward the mid-line so that as you run your weight stays balanced on your planted foot and your gait doesn’t bow outward, which can lead to rolled ankles and stress on outer knee ligaments. Since they help keep you upright as you stride from left to right, they’re also key to getting maximal power out of each and every step. What athlete doesn’t want a little extra oomph wherever they can get it?

  1. Lie down on your back.  Bend your knees bringing the soles of your feet together and allowing the knees to fall open to either side.
  2. Add a pillow under each knee or wrap a strap around your ankles as depicted to enable yourself to remain comfortable and feel supported in this pose as you hold for 90 seconds to three minutes.  Your arms can rest by your side, or atop your hip bones if you’re using a strap. Be sure your elbows relax to the mat and you release any tension in your shoulders, neck and jaw.
  3. When you’re ready to let go of the pose draw your knees into your chest, give them a strong hug and take Happy Baby pose to neutralize the spine and feel some nice compression on your hip-flexors.

An important reminder—the key to safe hamstring stretching is to ease in, listen to your body for signs you might be pushing too far, and hold each pose for at least 90 seconds (and ideally a full three minutes.)  Holding a pose for this amount of time allows your body’s connective tissues to open up and release.  Aim to do these stretches after your run, or any activity that warms the muscles.

Amy_Rizzotto01

Amy Rizzotto, RYT-200, is a food and fitness loving blogger, yoga instructor, nutrition coach  and studio owner based in Washington, DC. Amy’s passion is looking at the space where yoga and nutrition fuse for optimal athletic performance and overall mind/body wellness. MOAR-fit.com serves as her platform for sharing words of motivation, tasty recipes for health and workout tips. You can learn more about what she’s up to by following her on Facebook, Instagram, PInterestTwitter and Muuyu.

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