YIN AND TONIC ANYONE?

You only have to look at your local yoga studio schedule to understand that there are so many varied styles of yoga to choose from – power, vinyasa flow, dynamic yoga. One form of yoga that has gained popularity lately is Yin. Yin yoga is the perfect antidote to the (so often, too fast paced) modern life. Yin offers a more meditative approach to yoga, which aims to cultivate awareness of inner silence.Yin yoga poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues, the tendons, fascia, and ligaments with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility.

We are very much missing a quieter more intimate type of movement to complement the more yang environment. Especially in places like London where there is an immediacy to life and an extreme impatience which yin yoga helps to dispel. I come from North Wales were we naturally move much slower 🙂 ; there is definitely less bustle to get to work. Yang yoga has really opened up the possibilities to find meditation in physical exercise, to give us an insight into the elements of yin – breath, pranayama and meditation. However, the practise of yin requires you to truly let yourself go, to allow the body and mind to slow down in order to deal with the business of day to day living.

I think in our choice of exercise we are always looking for the ‘ultimate way to workout’, the harder you go the better. The sport that offers the most ‘bang for your buck’! This can also be seen in yang like yoga practices such as Power Yoga. Unlike quick regular changes in position, yin poses are held for long durations to help initial deep releases and stretches throughout the joints and muscles. It is also such a meditative style of yoga that can help to ease emotional tension and stress. I believe people really are attracted to not only letting go but most importantly being given permission to let go, so simple, but so powerful. Yin is so attractive to many; a working mum, an athlete, personal trainer, someone with an injury, anyone in a stressful job or really sits in a chair all day. Coming from a more dynamic yoga practise I can see how yin is so surprisingly rewarding to help everything slow down, turn inwards and move a little deeper. While yang-like practises are more superficial, yin offers a much deeper access to the body – soften the muscles closer to the bone.

We are such a fast paced society based on overworking, over-achieving, and too often overwhelmed, which is not a sustainable position to be in, we cannot always operate in flight mode as injury, sickness or mental afflictions can appear as a result. Since starting to teach over the last 10 months I have been quite sick, my immune system has been lower than normal, which has left to inadvertent laps in anxiety. I am now fully aware that this is due to too much yang in my life. There has to be a balance. Anyone can tell you to slow down but yin actually offers a practise which encourages this. You can be on your my mat without goals or worry of achievement, to really listen to what is going on without judgment or endless control.

However with benefits of course come challenges.  Yin offers a challenging practise which requires a totally different attitude to self-care. I have found yin incredibly challenging although rewarding to my mental and physical health. It is a relief to ‘rest and digest’, to notice how good it can feel and how necessary it is to feel this different side of ourselves. When the yang discipline of drawing to strength and stability, engaging bandas and using Ujjayi breath is taken away what are we left with? We can be left vulnerable to ourselves, how do we really feel when all of our distractions and physical goals taken away? This intimate practise of yoga requires students to be ready to get intimate with themselves, with feelings, sensations, and emotions, something of which I have noticed can be easy to avoid in a fast paced yoga practise. Yin yoga is often used in programmes to deal with addiction, eating disorders, anxiety and deep pain or trauma. Yin is such a great practise to compliment other yang styles, instead of jumping in and out there is an opportunity to learn to ‘be’ to ‘accept what is’ in that given moment, something that we can all benefit from daily. For me I didn’t know how to be very still, be entirely in my own company with no distractions. There is something so deep about yin that taps into a part of you in a way only unique to yin. And for me a healthy yin practise has poured into a healthier yang practise and a healthier life as whole. And I wish this for everyone.

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CREATIVITY IN YOGA

Creativity is important in every job, but particularly for artists, inventors, designers and musicians. The practise of yoga not only inspires creativity but it requires an imaginative mind to rejuvenate the practice. For the last few years I have really analysed my teaching, my alignment cues, how much language I give out, where to adjust and when to leave a student to explore. I have become really passionate about the use of creativity in my teaching and in self practice. I also look out for this in other classes, like a magpie picking up imaginative transitions and creative ways to describe alignment and anatomy. In order to look at why creativity is so important in yoga the first question might be to question what I mean by creativity in the first place? To me this is not just dynamic sequencing/transitions but language and the variety of modifications given to suit a variety of levels. I come from a design background where we were always taught to go out and get inspired, this concept is equally important when considering your yoga practice. To ‘step away from your drawing board’ or in this case your yoga mat!

So why is creativity so important? 

‘Being creative and cultivating creativity is crucial for our evolution. When we stifle creativity in favour of what is practical and pragmatic, passions are overlooked, our purpose is lost, and we suffer’
OSHO

In yoga a creative mind will fire up your enthusiasm keeping your tone fresh and engaging to students.  It is easy to become stagnant, repeating yourself, this can develop a monotone voice, lacking energy and enthusiasm.

Students may not understand one way of thinking, we are divided up in visual, physical and verbal learners. Now you might be lucky and find all three appeal to you but some of us lean to one area more than another. Even though I practice yoga regularly I love clear verbal cues to help me get deeper into a pose. Although a physical adjustment is great, sometimes I cannot get back there on my own. I often see that beginners tend to find visual demonstrations easier to follow than verbal cues. Agh creativity, we need you as we are all so different!

How to become more creative…

Firstly get off the mat, go to a museum, watch a movie, read a book, try a different hobbie!

Explore through self practice, yoga is like a dance, you can move though the same poses every day but get to each position in a different way. I sometimes work though my practise and say out loud what I would say to a student, this can bring up unusual (and some very funny) anecdotes of how to feel alignment. This point is linked to play and exploration.

Finally creativity comes with time and patience. Some of the greatest creative minds have been in their profession for some time, making mistakes and learning from them. 

Stiffled Creativity…

Sometimes is hard to stay creative, this is especially true when we are under pressure or nerves kick in. There are many things that can hinder and block our creativity: self-judgement, self-criticism, stress, exhaustion and essentially fear. It is easy to judge yourself, and be self critical of your own mind but when faced with challenging situations we cannot think creatively. 


“Creativity is the greatest act of rebellion, because it demands courage, imagination, and original thinking’
After all, we might not be here if Adam and Eve hadn’t munched on that apple! – o the curious mind!
OSHO

Beautiful Art by Lovetto Reyes- Cairo

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6 MONTHS ON

6 months post graduation and where am I? These last 6 months have flown past, it’s true that time flies when you’re having fun. As my Dad would say ‘Izzie you should LOVE what you do! Then it won’t be a job’. My Dad joined the Navy at 17 years old and never looked back, he used to giggle at the fact he got paid for having the time of his life! This is a lesson I have always aspired too and now I truly understand what he meant.

Back in April this year I transitioned from working full time at KLC School of Design to part time, balancing yoga classes around my schedule. I have adopted some very unusual working hours, as my mornings and evenings are usually full, my social life has completely changed. I have become much better at getting up at the crack of dawn and seeing friends in the middle of the day. I now have much more time on my own, allowing me to go to class and work on my own self practise – which is a gift. At heart I’m still a student you can never know everything, there’s always more to learn. Although I know what type of yoga I like to practise, I am still very open to new styles and new ways of teaching.

The last 6 months have not been without its up and downs, I have got confused over heating systems, lighting, speakers and so on. I once covered a class in Peckham where the heating was left on too high, I assumed the students were used to it. It wasn’t until a few students asked to open the windows did we all get the giggles – ‘I thought you were hard core!’. However with a few initial mistakes comes opportunities to learn; Never be afraid to ask questions & don’t assume anything!

Looking forward to the winter months and next year I shall be looking at retreats, workshops and new public classes. In December I will be doing my Pregnancy Teacher Training with Uma Dinsmore, starting to incorporate more Yoga Therapy into class.  My students have truly inspired me, seeing them develop and grow with practise is incredible. I can see how students sometimes appear to carry the weight of the world with them into studio. It is always a joy to see those calm smiling faces at the end of class, to see the dust settle over a cluttered mind. These magical moments is the reason that yoga is so joyful to teach.

My advice for new teachers would be to try lots of yoga styles in order to find what you are drawn to.  I think some teachers find their own style very quickly, whilst others take a while, but everyone is different. My favourite yoga teachers (do not necessarily have the most followers) but are simply passionate, compassionate and most importantly genuine. You have to be authentic as a teacher or no-one will believe you. Confidence comes with patience and an open mind.

So here’s to the next 6 months! I’ll catch you on the mat.

YOUR YOGA FRIEND

 

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WHAT YOU WANT

This summer has been a big one to say the least, I got married and survived a crazy and magical Burning Man with 30 of my friends. But the question of the summer has been: At the end of the day, what do I want? There is so much pressure, especially in London, to be at the top of your game. We are brought up in a society where everyone is pushed to work hard and achieve the highest goal from education to working life and even in our past time activities. We are categorised into A’s, B’s and C’s, constantly aiming for the top in order to do well in future life. Only recently by letting go of these deep rooted ambitions have I found simple happiness. There is such joy in finding peace with your ambitious self, to work hard but to balance this with love for yourself and others around you. This type of mindset is definitely a work in progress but it always helps to ask yourself, who is keeping score? As I asked a close friend this summer,  ‘ Why are we all 10’s trying to be 11’s’?  Not that working hard and reaching for goals is a bad thing but do it at your own pace without applying unnecessary pressure. If you’re going to work each day, doing the best you can and you’re going home with a smile on your face AND you find contentment in this – then you’ve done it!

Peace with yourself is more fulfilling than any A.

Your Yoga Friend x

 

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WHERE TO LOOK?

Where is your focus supposed to rest during yoga? Although the breath sets the rhythm, the physical focus point is your gaze. This is called a Drishti, something I feel can aid all yogi’s no matter how long you have been practising. One of the many benefits is that it can aid balance, for example if you are in a posture that is challenging like Warrior 3, looking down at a fixed point can settle your stance. A set gaze will not only limit distraction, it also improves physical practice by improving alignment and directing energy.

In Downward Facing Dog the Drishti is the navel, encouraging the lifting up and back of the tailbone instead of rounding the spine. In low Lunge an upward gaze lifts the chest and lengthens the spine. A focal point can also help you find your centre, finding strength within. Not only does a focus help physically aid postures but mentally it can help create a sense of calmness in an otherwise stressful (falling on your face) situation. By reminding yourself to stay focused, you can remain present, preventing the mind wandering or worse yet allow boredom to set in during your practise. This technique is also very powerful off the mat, by developing the ability to stay present in uncomfortable situations instead of simply looking away.

There are 9 Drishiti’s in yoga:

  1. NOSE – The space just beyond the tip of the nose. This is used most frequently and is the primary drishti in the sitting postures. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold) also used frequently in inversions such as Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)
  2.  THIRD EYE – Here, eyes are halfway or fully closed and gazing toward the space between the eyebrows. Poses include Matsyasana (Fish pose), Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reverse Warrior) as well as seated meditation.
  3. NAVEL – The navel, also referred to as the magic circle, is the focal point for poses such as Adho Mukha Svanasasana (Downward Facing Dog).
  4. HAND  As practiced in poses such as Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) and Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle) in which the hand directs the flow of energy.
  5. TOES – Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) and Janusirsasana (Head to Knee pose)
  6. SIDE RIGHT – Far to the right for example in Supta Padangusthasana (reclining head to be toe pose)
  7. SIDE LEFT – Generally the sideways gaze follows the direction as the head, i.e, upward, downward, etc. Practiced in twists such as Ardha Matsyendrasana and Marichyasana etc.
  8. THUMBS – Urdhva Hastasana  (Upward Salute in Sun Salutation)
  9. UPWARD – Up to the sky in Virabhadrasana and Utkatasana (Warrior 1 and Chair pose). This is an inner gaze where the eyes are closed and the gaze is directed in and up toward the light of the third eye. ‘To gaze into infinity’.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

~ Viktor E. Frankl

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