How to... Stay Calm breath self care yoga Apr 10, 2021

First published at Yogamatters.com

Finding calm in life can seem more and more elusive in our busy, often oversubscribed lives. Our expectation of how much information we can take in and how much we achieve is often at odds with the recovery our bodies and brains really need to function optimally and feel a sense of ease in our immediate environment.

We humans are characterised by the capabilities of our big front brains, the central cortex with its frontal lobes allows us to dream, imagine, create, plan, analyse and use language. When calm and relaxed, these functions can tick along and allow us to move through life joyfully, but when stress or anxiety rise, we move into the survival fight-or-flight mode and our whole relationship with the world around us changes.

Stress can have us feel like we’re living ‘neck-up’, where thoughts, ruminations and worries dominate our internal landscape. This is a fall-back to the self-protection our mind-body perceives we need,...

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How to... Cope with Stress self care stress yoga Mar 26, 2021

Stress is a common factor in everyday life, but it is important to not define this as simply bad, but rather examine our responses to challenges and the number of things ‘to do’ that we may habitually take on – or not say no to!

The nature of stress in the 21st century (in developed countries) isn’t so much about everyday survival and physical hardship, yet we still respond in the full physiological fight-or-flight way even if we’re wound up about the email influx, worried about paying the bills or having relationship woes. Finding ways and the time and space to come down from these heightened responses can create a day-to-day life where demands can seem less threatening, reactions less well, reactionary and a sense of easy come/ easy go more possible it. It is this adaptability and resilience that shows how well we are able to cope and when it feels frazzled and low, how much we need to nurture the sense of safety and gathering resources that we need...

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Yoga for Relieving Insomnia and Supporting Quality Sleep sleep yoga teacher Mar 12, 2021

We all know the knock-on effects of a bad night’s sleep, but when insomnia becomes chronic it can affect our whole being and ability to function. The daytime fatigue it creates can send us reaching for sugar and stimulants, which in turn affect sleep.

Insomnia falls into two categories; difficulty falling asleep and waking in the night. It tends to be divided into primary insomnia, where sleeplessness is the main symptom and secondary, where sleep is affected by another condition eg arthritis, fibromyalgia and depression. From a holistic and psychoneuroimmunological (PNI) perspective - where our bodies work as one completely integrated system – the calming and soothing mechanisms that allow sleep have such far reaching effects on lowering inflammation, modulating immunity and regulating mood and motivation, that promoting sleep quality is a foundation of health; not just the absence of disease, but quality of life.

When offering evening classes to support sleep quality,...

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How to... Sleep Soundly sleep yoga Mar 12, 2021

We all know that quality of sleep the night before can have a huge influence of how we feel and behave the next day. On average, humans spend nearly two-thirds of their lives asleep and this is time well spent. The rejuvenating effects of sleep are not so much about time with eyes closed in bed, but the quality spent there.

Sleep is a state of altered consciousness, where we drop into brain cycles where we have a relatively low sensory relationship with the external world. Nearly all of our voluntary muscles – the ones we can control to move around – are inhibited and we move between two distinct states; REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM sleep.

During both waking and sleeping, our brains run through 90 minute cycles – these are similar, but obviously the night-time ones involve dropping down deeper into unconsciousness. In sleep, within this period, there are four stages of non-REM sleep (about 75% of the night), followed by REM, which gets longer each time...

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Yoga for Immune and Respiratory Health covid19 support yoga teacher Feb 12, 2021

Right now, as we navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, the usual boundaries between the outside world and our internal landscape have shifted in ways we could not have anticipated. Plunged into rapid-response mode, we are fire-fighting; bodies and minds racing to keep up with the most appropriate and effective responses to current threat and danger.

Two body systems at the heart of these responses are the immune and respiratory systems – how we protect ourselves and how we breathe. Given the nature of the coronavirus, these two functions are of optimal interest at the moment – supporting their function may not prevent us picking up or contracting the disease, but how we move, breathe, reduce stress and eat can have an affect on how our immune system deals with it and the severity of symptoms.

While we know that those with pre-existing conditions – immune-based issues (such as respiratory, inflammatory or autoimmune conditions), heart conditions and metabolic issues such...

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Spontaneous Daily Activity yoga Feb 06, 2021

Spontaneous Physical Activity

We can tend to place physical activity purely into the category of exercise and like many aspects of modern life, domesticate it into specific, corralled time slots. When we add this into sedentary tendencies to sit down all day, this all-or-nothing approach to movement can be jarring (and felt as such into areas like the lower back and knees) and does not move tissues and fluids around the body as designed.

One of the downsides to the rise of gym culture is that, having worked out a couple of times a week, people may think being sedentary the rest of the time is okay. The reality is that this sudden shift from 0–100 miles an hour can shock the body and cause the very stress we’re trying to avoid. We need to move regularly throughout the day – ideally a little every hour. This movement is often referred to as Spontaneous Physical Activity (SPA) or sometimes ‘incidental’ or exercise, as it’s simply about moving more...

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Teaching Yoga for Anxiety yoga teacher Feb 05, 2021

Whilst teaching yoga for a specific condition might be termed as therapeutic yoga, when it comes to anxiety, even when teaching a group class, we can be pretty assured to have someone included who has experience of anxiety. Whether this is more reactive heightened stress states to a particular event or current circumstances, or deeper ‘trait’ anxiety where anxious states dominate day-to-day living. Many people who tend to ‘social anxiety’ may even feel that arising within the context of a yoga class, where there is close proximity to others, and they may feel expectations of ‘doing it right’.

Understanding the nature and mechanisms of anxiety can help yoga teachers offer the tools and guiding language that recognises this state as part of the human condition. For many, simply being with themselves in a kind space can create anxiety as they meet vulnerability. It is important to be able to meet these self-protective responses and not judge them as...

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Not Just Sitting – meditation inherent within yoga practice yoga teacher Feb 05, 2021

Whether we are practicing or teaching yoga, what sets the physical aspects aside from mere exercise is the quality of attention that we bring to focus. The mindful attitude that brings us towards embodiment – inviting our mind to where our body resides in the present moment – allows us to fully tune in and gauge appropriate response. This ‘listening and responding’ is the basis of a meditative practice, and the route to registering safety through our whole system as the nervous system can settle. As in Patanjali’s Sutra 1:2 “…stilling the fluctuations of the mind”.

The importance of the pause

Within practice, we can slow down to truly feel the experience – yoga as ‘moving meditation’ – and also punctuate movement with places of pause, where we allow processing through tissues and integration of experience. Within the heightened input of information from the ‘doing’ of movement, points of stillness...

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De-Stress Yoga: Your Core Starts at Your Feet yoga teacher Feb 04, 2021

Your Core is Not Just Your Abs

There’s lots of talk of core strength and core stability and even equating particular yoga postures and practices to ‘core work’.  It’s interesting then to notice that this is a very modern phenomenon within yoga and any movement that we make, any postural practice we do is never simply separated out into one part of the body but it is a culmination of exactly how our body is – one big completely interconnected system.

Understanding our true core also moves it away from a part of our body we simply focus on when exercising. Feeling it as the central channel, from where all of our movement originates opens out the physical exploration we do on the mat to noticing how we move ourselves through the world. This connection can then play out in a sense of grace and ease as go about our day.

The most recognised definition of the core is the region containing the abdominal muscles but to simply segment this area does not...

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Respiratory & Immune Support at Home – focus on diet covid19 support immunity nutrition self care wellness yoga Jan 26, 2021

“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates

In my blog series on Respiratory & Immune Support at Home, so far we have looked at your capacity for self-carefocus on the breath and focus on lifestyle factors to do at home. In these blogs, we have covered:

  • Our respiratory system and the importance of creating energy in each of our cells.
  • Our immune system – how we can help our bodies to work in harmony to be able to operate a defence system against invaders.
  • Breath awareness and how every single time we inhale or exhale, each of these actions is directly linked to our immune system.
  • Different types of breath and the beneficial impact they have on us, e.g. nasal breathing, mouth breathing and diaphragmatic breathing.
  • The all-important factor of oral hygiene, lymphatic health and stress reduction to aid our bodies’ self-defence capacity.

This week we are looking at diet and...

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Respiratory & Immune Support at Home – focus on lifestyle factors to do at home covid19 support self care wellness yoga Jan 26, 2021

If you were one of those with more time to spend at home and reflect on previous habits, you may have been including self-care practices that reconnected you with your body and nature. There has been some ‘official’ talk of the importance of supporting immunity through diet and exercise, but with the focus on ‘fighting the virus’ has in many ways taken the focus away from this opportunity to understand the nature and needs of our innate immune system.

Viruses are always part of the world we live in and how we support our innate immunity is part of the call to eat, move and breathe as close to our natural design as possible. That means tuning into health not as an action (something ‘to do’), but rather an opportunity to focus inwards and find the rhythm and flow of how all of our natural defences work.

From our oral, lung, skin and gut microbiome, to our emotional states to bring down inflammatory tendencies; we can have a profound involvement with...

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Respiratory & Immune Support at Home – focus on the breath (including free meditation album) breath covid19 support immunity self care wellness yoga Jan 26, 2021

Following my series on the self-care measures you can take at home to support your innate immunity, you can see part one here for the background information. This week we will look at the breath, and how bringing awareness to the quality of your breathing can support your immune potential, as well as your respiratory health.

At the end of the article there is a link to access Charlotte’s album De-Stress Meditations: Calming in Belly and Heart for free to support you during these times where coming into embodiment via the breath is such an important resource. Please feel free to share this with anyone you know may be in need of calm and fostering safety.

Next week we will come to diet and lifestyle support for the immune and respiratory systems.

Breath awareness

How we breathe is inherently linked into our immune system, as both our respiratory system and immunity are both orchestrated by our nervous system; as well as communicating with all other body systems...

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