Spiraling into control

IMG_3400About three years ago when I was mostly confined to bed, recovering from a hip replacement operation, I was talking on the phone to my yoga teacher, Emma Lloyd, about our mutual obsession with spirals. As you do.

I’d started collecting pictures of them on Pinterest as I became increasingly fascinated by their frequency in nature, in the structures of everything from shells to whirlpools, from Messier 51a to fingerprints and ammonites. They are everywhere, they really are.

Emma was already on to it, she was recounting mathematical ratios and patterns which escape me now, but then having general anaesthetic and morphine working their way out of your system will do that to your memory. (That heady cocktail is also responsible for convincing me that watching Top of the Pops circa 1972 audiences dancing to T-rex was just about the most movingly beautiful thing I’d ever watched on an iPad, but I digress…).

Given this mutual appreciation for spirals, it was a delight to experience how Emma had been working with them, from those days to these, weaving their power into a sublimely creative workshop for the British Wheel of Yoga’s north west regional AGM this year.

Tantalisingly entitled Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Emma took us through a day of vinyasa flow, pranayama and a yoga nidra that drew on her influences, which include both Iyengar and the Satyananda yoga systems. While both methods are steeped in the therapeutic capacity of yoga, Satyananda particularly has a strong emphasis on moving away from the linear. Emma was all for unleashing the circle, as she put it ‘setting it free to power upwards in a spiralling motion, away from all notions of the vicious circle’.

How does this work in Practice? Why flex the spine in Marjaryasana (Cat), when you can work your shoulders and swirl your hips as you breathe through the asana. Yes, we are now moving out of the norm, into a fluid, snaking flow of an asana, known as Sexy Cat (Sanskrit for ‘sexy’ anyone?). Our big cat emerged in Parivritti Vyagrasana (Twisting Tiger), transitioning to Pyramid, for strength and stretch in motion. Why be content with the static strength of Utkatasana (Chair) when you can find your arms out at the side and flowing with your breath in the manner of dragon wings? Now try with one leg extended!

mathew-schwartz-418954.jpg

Aside from being terrific fun – and I am all for that – there is method and wisdom underpinning this fantastical, creative journey. This extraordinary flow sequence had multiple benefits:

  • those niggling pockets of held tension with which we are annoyingly intimate were released as familiar movement patterns in asana were challenged
  • working deep into the fascia, irritating, hard to reach areas of tension were magically massaged and soothed
  • the extraordinary flow seemed to take us in a reverse slow-motion at times, keeping us focused on the movement and balance, leaving no room for ‘I can’t do’ thinking.

Our pranayama and yoga nidra sessions both referenced spirals: weaving the breath up and down, wrapping around the spine through the yogic breath and nadi shodhana, journeying through the stars in a deep, healing relaxation.

Spiralling and fluidity in yoga make a lot of sense to me. Hopefully, it does to you.

I have this theory that our life events track in spirals, certainly not circles or straight lines. For example, have you noticed that the people we know or the situations we face, seem to pop up again? Sometimes the same but different, sometimes exactly the same? For example, I’m now good friends with a group of people from my secondary school class who I knew on a superficial level at school, but didn’t really know, in a ‘this is really troubling me’ kind of way I do now. Do we plant seeds as we’re younger, to reap the crops when we’re older?

With hindsight we can see how we could have learned together, or learned a lesson for later, but the turn of the dice took us in another direction the first time around. And so these people or situations come around again.

Now, I have no scientific basis for this theory (which, of course, makes me like it just that little bit more), just my own experience and those observed from friends, colleagues and clients. So, if you have anything to add to the spiral theory, or something you think discounts it, I’d be very interested in hearing from you.

Advertisements

If you go down to the woods today…

IMG_3359The Germans have a special word for the joy of spending time within them.

The Japanese have been running a dedicated public health programme around them since 1982.

And research investigating their benefits has discovered a wealth of measurable, positive gains from striding about them.

Call it ‘waldeinsamkeit’, call it ‘shin-rin yoko’, whatever you label it, there are very strong arguments for being out amongst them.

And yet, there are those for whom these delightful natural temples of health and life somehow manage to strike fear into the heart. For trees en masse – woods and forests to be precise – can leave grown adults quaking in their walking boots.

A friend of mine physically shuddered when I enthused about my regular traipses through woods and uttered ‘oh no’ at the thought of doing it herself, as if it were the equivalent of putting her hand into a liquidiser and turning it on.

I get almost giddy with the anticipation of the coming treat as I walk towards the edge of my local woodlands. The layers of colour and texture, the shafts of dusty sunlight, the glistening dewiness… for me it is all adventure and fun. What you see shifts with the seasons, the weather, even the time of day. Which birds will I see and hear? How many rabbits will I spot bobbing into the undergrowth? It’s a treasured opportunity to suspend the demands of the day and focus on just being. But for my friend it’s a horror film set waiting to burst into Living Dead life.

IMG_3335

To some extent, I can see why woods instil nervousness. About a third of what you can see is hidden from view because, well, there are trees in the way. The word ‘panic’ comes from the god, Pan, to whom all woodland noises were once attributed. Those woodland noises being mostly blackbirds crashing about in the undergrowth, or those scampering rabbits.

Imagination is a wonderful thing, but those myths and fairy stories are just that and we all know fiction and reality are two different things. Don’t we? Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White… they all feature woods and forests and, of course, hundreds of years ago served to warn children about the perils of wandering off into the woods alone. Today our chances of being eaten by wolves are pretty slim.

IMG_3379

That feeling we get in our stomach when we enter the woods is primal. It’s our senses switching on to alert, because so much is hidden from view. You can identify that feeling as ‘fear’ if you want, or you can choose to see it as ‘excitement’. They feel exactly the same in the body. It’s your choice as to how you’ll interpret them mentally.

IMG_3349

For me, it’s definitely ‘excitement’. I can’t think of anywhere better for a mindfulness walk, as the visual cornucopia of colour and texture unfurls you stop thinking about the 101 things that must be done and start being present in its delightful setting for ‘nowness’.

The Germans certainly get it and most of those stranger-danger fairy tales are theirs. Waldeinsamkeit, which roughly translates as ‘the feeling of being alone in the woods’, in a contemplative, relaxed kind of way, not a ‘The Hills have Eyes/Friday the 13th/The Evil Dead’ kind of way. The artist Ludwig Richter’s painting gives you the gist of it. See, all chilled serenity. No ‘where’s the demon gone now?’ flapping.

In Japan, forest batheing, shin-rin yoko, has been popular for decades. Research projects have discovered there is good reason for attributing health benefits to the practice, including blood pressure and cortisol levels dropping after walks in woods and staying lower for some time. As well as improving our stress responses, their natural killer cells (the ones killing off infections and cells going rogue and potentially cancerous) are higher. This is because trees breathe out phytoncide, an antimicrobial compound that protects trees from germs and insects. When we breathe walk about trees and breathe in phytoncide it boosts our immune system.

Apparently the tech company bright young things of San Francisco see the sense in getting into the woods when they can, even if its only for a lunch time walk, so perhaps it will catch on in Britain.

I’d be interest in hearing about attitudes to forests and woods in other cultures, though. Where else is walking in the woods a health past time to relish?

Walk back to you

savonne

Can you feel it?

The very last of summer is lifting up through the trees, the silver birch is shedding golden leaves; the season is shifting. Cooler, darker mornings, even darker evenings and advent calendars are in the shops as consumer outlets everywhere chivvy us towards Christmas.

It’s easy to look ahead and shudder at the coming of winter, but if you can focus on the now, you’ll find autumn has an abundance today these days seems to get lost in the rush towards the year end.

Perhaps it’s a consequence of globalisation that harvest time and its festival doesn’t have the role to play it once did. We are not so reliant on what grows around us and so we don’t focus on the gift of autumn. Which seems a shame, because it is a beautiful time of year.

Developing a mindful walking practice in autumn can transform your day, and it’s so easy to do. In theory!

When we walk, what do we do? Take the dog, plan our day, plan the week, think about what we’re cooking for dinner, doing at the weekend… we plan conversations, journeys, outfits, schedules. And yes, there’s a place for this, but ‘this’, this planning, this imagining, this playing out of scenarios… it’s all future projection. And you’re not there, you’re Here and a Mindful Walk is just that – being Here.

Catch up with your senses. Let them play.

Hear the birds singing, how they call to each other, how different they sound.

Look at the light, the trees, the leaves…

Feel the air on your skin, soft like downy cashmere with its final whispers of summer warmth.

Now isn’t that better than thinking about what’s happening in the office tomorrow and planning a conversation that may never take place, and certainly won’t be anything like what’s just whistled through your head, because, let’s face it… you’ll have forgotten what you’ve just planned to say by the time you get there.

And if you can’t shut up your mind, count. Count up to 100 and then start again. That silences ‘monkey mind‘ and gives you space to be. In the now. Which is basically what mindfulness aims to achieve.

Monkey mind will start jumping up and down, trying to get your attention. Before you know it, thoughts bob up. Bouncing up and down, demanding our attention. Just let them go and start counting once more.

I keep my Mindful Walk to the woods where I’ve become able to identify different bird calls. I know where the wind blows through a gap in the silver birch avenue, muzzing my hair. When the warm air lifts from the ground shimmering and rustling the tree leaves, I know the weather is turning and rain is likely. All this feels grounding. Connecting. And in between these observances I am counting, shooing away the mind’s obsession with the future. So I can be here. Now.

Let me know how you experience this. I find Mindful Walking really connecting and grounding, but I’d love to hear others’ experiences.

Mindful Walking in Short

  1. Consciously disconnect from your thoughts by counting.
  2. Count in blocks of 100.
  3. If your thoughts butt in, just smile and return to counting. Where doesn’t really matter. You can’t get this wrong. No judging; this is playing!
  4.  Let your senses have some fun. Smell the air. Listen to the birdsong. Feel the breeze against your skin, how it wraps about you.
  5. Consider how it feels to be completely experiencing the present.

 

 

Football, yoga

Yoga goals and football

Football, yoga

West Bromich midfielder, Gareth Barry, passes Ryan Giggs’ appearance record on Monday, clocking up his 633rd premier league appearance.

What Barry also has in common with Giggs is yoga; the practice which Giggs has frequently credited with making a great contribution to his career’s longevity.

In an interview with the Guardian, Barry hits the nail on the head with his explanation of the barriers to taking up yoga. He tells Nick Ames of The Guardian newspaper:

“As a player who’s been around a while you’ve got an old school mentality,” he says. “When somebody mentioned yoga for the first time I just looked at it and thought: ‘This isn’t for me, it’s for an older woman down at the health club trying to get supple.’ But I thought: ‘No, I can see the benefits there, I’ve got to embrace it.’ It can be hard work sometimes but you come away feeling much better. I’ve gone with things like that rather than saying I’ve never done it or needed to do it.” It has helped Barry since he left Villa eight years ago and as many as “six, seven or eight” of his current team-mates join in.

Interesting, isn’t it, how we all have our preconceptions of what ‘yoga is’ and who does it. I know plenty of women who think it’s for young women only. Or thin women. Or flexible people only. And men who think yoga is only for women and they aren’t welcome in a class. Full marks to Barry for opening his mind to challenging the preconception and finding out for himself that there were benefits to be had. Although it’s maybe disappointing that less than half his colleagues join him today moving forward is moving forward, I suppose.

More than 20 per cent of football injuries involve ankle ligament sprains and hamstring strains. Clearly yoga can have a great role to play in keeping joints and muscles strong, but also stable in their flexibility; rigidity and tightness can only increase injury risk.

Further reading

Guardian article by Nick Ames

Football and common injuries

Photo by David Clarke

 

 

Yoga retreat at La Pierre Verte

Rediscovering your yoga on retreat

Gifting yourself a yoga retreat has many pluses; some total immersion without distraction, the opportunity to explore another teacher’s yoga in detail and if you are canny with it, some much-needed R&R by a pool, with some sun.

And, if you are really going for it, those gifts will present in the forms of challenges to your equilibrium, giving you deeper insight into who you are. For as we know, asana is just one small part of yoga’s world and exploring our inner world is an infinitely valuable past-time.

I’ve only been on two yoga retreats now, so I don’t have a huge amount of experience to draw from, but I learned a lot about myself from both. Sometimes, you revisit a lesson you learned ages ago, but sometimes there are those ‘a-ha’ moments which really strike home.

But first, let me tell you a little about the yoga at La Pierre Verte in the South of France, close to the market town of Uzes. Led by Tara Walch, our five day retreat was themed around the elements – earth, wind, fire and water, with two sessions dedicated to balancing those elements, learning how they exist within us and how we can learn from their different qualities.There were also sessions on essential oils, some crafting around creating mandalas with wool and walks in around the local sights of interest.

 

La Pierre Verte

Run by Ella and Ed, La Pierre Verte is a delightful retreat from the 21st century where guests can camp or stay in yurts and eat with this family who hail from London, but have made this little paradise their home and business. My friend, Rachel and I stayed in the Mongolian yurt. Behold!

 

Cosy, beautifully painted and complete with an open air skylight, this roomy yurt turns out to be a pleasure to sleep in. It’s only challenges are shutting our skylight when it rains, which involves throwing a stick over the tent and pulling it down to close over the roof flap to which it is attached (not so easy in the dark). Did I feel safe and secure in our middle of nowhere yurt? Absolutely. Will I ever be converted to the wonders of late night, torchlit trips out to the compost loo? Probably not. I fear my camping days have passed me and I’ve become something of an indoor plumbing princess over the years. And a word to the wise; never leave the top off anything in your yurt. It will be alive with all manner of insect life within hours.

The Food

La Pierre food is fabulous. Fresher than fresh, colourful and plentiful, our meals were delicious.

And here is where I learned one uncomfortable lesson. When it comes to food I need grounding and for me balance involves little in the way of pulses and less dairy. Trying to feel ‘solid’ I tried eating more, which did not help matters. But we are here to learn on yoga retreats and learning this was a good thing, how frequently do we get the space to consider our constitution and what suits us? You live and learn.

The company

Five days makes firm friends!

La Pierre Yoga Retreat

The biggest challenges and surprises

Four hours of yoga a day was an absolute pleasure and in no way the physical or mental challenge I thought it might be. Tara has an Iyengar foundation, so props abound, and Donna Farhi’s teachings are a strong influence. Kindness to the self rules the day.

No, the biggest challenges were surprises to me, the feelings we experience when we let go of the familiar; coffee, wifi and for one day, solid food. Juice fasting for 24 hours was a curious experience and I know the theory of resting the digestive system fasting is meant to promote, but I can’t say I felt any benefits.

Oh, and the mosquitos! Fierce little terrors. I may have spent some time swimming around the pool rescuing insects from the surface, but mosquitos… difficult to see their merits really. Another ahimsa challenge!

The long-term benefits

Am I completely relaxed, calm and zen-like 24-7. Not quite, but there is a noticeable shift in my reaction to challenges. It is possible my partner will snap if he hears me say ‘it is what it is’ one more time, but I have become far less emotionally engaged when conflicts come along. Interesting… I also feel physically very well and my interest in essential oils is awakened again.

Useful Links

La Pierre Verte: http://www.lapierreverte.eu

Tara Walch: http://www.satya-centro.com

 

 

 

Home from home, Airb&bing it

Steeped in roman history, with architectural wonders galore, this was the perfect-sized city for two days’ exploring.

In this instalment of our adventures in France (I’ll get to the yoga retreat next, I promise) Rachel and I arrived in Nimes, some 40 minutes by train from Avignon.

Our Airb&b two-day home, owned by the delightful Emilia, was really central. As you’ll see from the pictures below, it is incredibly chic and tastefully decorated. Emilia made the most of her wonderful space with a sofa bed included so her one-bedroom apartment could sleep several people. It felt secure and authentic. I’m an Air&b newbie, so I was pleasantly surprised to find our new home was like a, well, home.

IMG-2868

Above and below: Emilia’s beautifully decorated apartment with gated courtyards

 

That’s my bag and denim jacket slung on the floor, but you still get a flavour of how chic this flat is, although perhaps not quite how profoundly envious I am of our hostess’s decor talent.

I would say the advantages of Airb&bing it are you get a real flavour of life in your city of choice, it’s culturally more interesting than a hotel and you can buy local produce to create meals to your taste. Novotels are the same wherever you are, aren’t they, but they do come with swimming pools and aircon.

Exploring Nimes – Arenes

IMG-2873

 

IMG-2872

In some ways Nimes reminds me of Palma, Majorca, with its winding streets and twisting alleys; but with its own stunning ancient monuments, like Arenes, the ancient roman amphitheatre. A Unesco heritage site which is claimed to be the best preserved amphitheatre in the world, here we learned all about gladiators, which included women as well as men, and how gladiator schools trained their students to compete in the bloody shows. There were different weapons and armour combinations and, in its beginnings, death was rare if only because gladiators were expensive to replace. Of course it all got very unpleasant as the empire began to crumble and the number of animals dying in the arena was massive. The arena is still used for events today, including bullfighting. The audio tour is great fun though and the tour of the gladiators’ quarters area particularly dark and grimly atmospheric (kids will love it!)

Jardins de la Fontaine

Oh so pretty with its Temple of Diana, which may not be dedicated to Diana and may be a library, not a temple. There is also the Tour Magne, a tower which gives spectacular views over Nimes, once you’ve hauled your way up there. Built on the site of a pre-roman watch tower, this is view is well worth the climb.

Above: Temple of Diana… check out the ancient graffiti on the left hand column, third pic

Below: Tower with stunning panoramic views (apols for slight drunken-sailor angle there, I blame the heat).

We also watched Nimes, the movie (not called that, but that’s what it is) in the Maison Carre, which is the story of the founding of Nimes and thoroughly engaging. Go fight for the romans for 27 years and you get a city and  a chest of gold (I am summarising furiously here, but you get the gist). There are no photos of this stunning building for reasons which will be explained in a later episode called Lessons Learned… (cue building of suspense).

Forwards to retreat

You learn a lot about yourself, travelling. How you deal with unforeseen difficulties. How you cope with the tiredness hours of sitting still somehow wraps about you. How you pass the hours of waiting in queues. How valiantly you can battle on with the language, simultaneously discovering that your vocabulary has shrunk to the size of a pea… (pois! Don’t be impressed, I had to look that up) But there is nothing like adventure, is there, and all those challenges are all part of the giddy delight of the new.

My journey to a yoga retreat trip with my friend, Rachel, began with meeting up at Euston station in London and then setting off to St Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Lille where we changed trains for an overnight stay in Avignon.

tomasz-frankowski-198764

Total day’s travelling time from my doorstep in Manchester, England to Avignon, France: 14.5 hours. That’s a long day but one mostly spent gazing out of windows, watching the landscape unfurl as we journeyed south. We had plenty more travel adventures along the way during our 10 days away as we made our way to Nimes and then on to Uzes and then on to La Pierre Verte and back again. Here are a few useful lessons I learned from the journeys we took during our 10 days away:

  1. Take food with you to eat while travelling. You’ll at least be able to consume something containing vitamins that won’t send you giddy with the sugar-in-disguise effects white bread can induce. Meals can get missed and crock monsieur was a (frankly, expensive) port in a storm on the way to Avignon which did nothing to help matters when faced with number 2.
  2. Some towns have more than one train station. There is little fun to be had lugging cases about at 10.30pm along deserted streets, trying to work out why the overnight hotel isn’t where it should be. It isn’t where it should be because it’s opposite another train station several miles away. One expensive taxi journey later…
  3. Just because people are local doesn’t mean they know anything about the local public transport.  Lovely though the French are and although they do try to be helpful, be prepared for many a red herring.
  4. Bus timetables are not always accurate but buses do run on time. Confused? We were. On a Saturday in the town of Uzes the bus stop and route changes to avoid the esplanade and its morning local market. But that’s not on the timetable. We saw the bus sail past on a road 50 feet away, but we didn’t find the right stop to catch the next one in nearly two hours of wandering about in the heat of the day asking anyone we bumped into. Although we spoke to lots of people who tried to help. See 3.
  5. Googlemaps is not always your friend. In the thick of high buildings your signal can get lost and you’ll be gaily lugging those cases in the wrong direction. Check frequently; that’s my advice.
  6. It’s always further than you think. And, of course, retracing your steps always seems to take twice as long than wandering off in the wrong direction. See 5 and 3.
  7. ‘Direct’ should not be taken literally. I’m a very literal person, which is probably why I find metaphor magical, but I’ve discovered I don’t like metaphor’s nuances applied to train travel. It turns out the ‘direct’ Eurostar from Avignon to London involves a stop at Lille where everyone gets off the train with all their possessions, shows their passports to the UK and French border chaps and then pushes their luggage through the scanners before getting back on the train. All 550 of everyone. It takes an hour and for those with pushchairs or mobility issues there will be much queuing for the lifts. Of course, the Eurostar staff do this every day and know what they are doing, and are reassuringly jolly and calm, but for the uninitiated its all a bit daunting.

Of course any frustration melts away once the obstacle is overcome and the spirit is buoyed by successfully negotiating what earlier felt like a mountain. Really, it’s just the fear of the unknown, isn’t it?

And as Marie Curie said: ‘Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.’ 

Except, maybe, bus timetables on Saturdays in Uzes.

Photo by Tomasz Frankowski on Unsplash

Holidays!

In less than a week I am off on a yoga retreat, with my friend Rachel.

I can’t believe it has finally arrived, but here we are.

My spare bed currently features little hillocks of clothes which, in theory, all go together in a collection of suitably practical outfits. In theory they will be just perfect for our destinations – Avignon and then Nimes. We are then at a location somewhere near Nimes where we will be learning about essential oils, yoga and river swimming.

aaron-burden-282704

We’re staying in a yurt/fancy tent and I know it’s going to be hot. But that’s about it.

I know; I’m super-vague. I have instructions and directions, but I don’t like to research my destinations to death.

Once upon a time I went on holiday to Arizona with a girlfriend who had an itinerary for everything. On that holiday I learned something about myself; I like to be free to experience without expectation and agenda. A vague plan is fine, but knowing what you are doing by the hour, not for me. I like to surrender control and feel the flow, reconnect with the joy of seeing without experience.

So this is what I know about Avignon: it’s got a bridge. Nimes: like Avignon, it’s v historic but without the bridge song. I know they are in the south and that is pretty much it.

If anyone has any recommendations, experiences or enlightening advice they’d like to add, please include in the comments.

Needless to say I’ll have plenty to say myself on my return. Au revoir!

Lunging like a Lizard

Not so long ago my hips were in meltdown.

What started as an apparent niggling running injury slowly, but surely, progressed to ‘So Deana, you have no cartilage here, in fact you’ve lost bone mass in this femur. You need a hip replacement. Now. When can you come in?’

Of course, there were many months between these two episodes. There was also an extraordinary amount of pain and enough codeine phosphate consumed to sedate the entire population of Monaco. Thankfully, the operation went well (hussar) and so began the months of building muscle, coaxing ligaments into life and teaching my body how to walk properly again.

Even now my hip stability is less than rock steady. It’s been almost three years since the operation and yet I still have less body awareness in this area than I enjoy elsewhere. Curiously, my hips are also the last place from where I lose excess weight. It’s almost as though I have additional padding, just in case they need protection from attack.

To this day the ligaments and tendons in my left hip groan like creaking floorboards and so why we must always be mindful of over stretching I am aware my left hip needs stretching attention. This is why my asana of the month is Utthan Pristhasana.

Why Utthan Pristhasana?

  • This asana gives a suitably strong hip release without the balancing act involved in high lunges.
  • You can use props.
  • If you topple you’re rolling, or at least not falling far. This frees the mind from the fear of crashing out/into the person on the next mat along.

How do I get there?

Start from a low lunge, a la sun salutations, but as you’re going to be using this as the base for your Lizard, best to get yourself nicely lined up rather than fly through as part of a vinyasa.

Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

From Downward Dog, step the right foot forward and extend the left leg behind you. Ensure you have:

  • A nice 90 degree angle between you shin and thigh so the knee is over the ankle of the right leg
  • Your left foot should extend back in a straight line, toes pointing.

Now check your pelvis and trunk.

  • Locate your tailbone and ensure it’s pointing at the floor, not your foot.
  • Bring your pubic bone forward and up towards the sternum (the bony bit below your collarbones).

Reach up and inhale…

  • Breathe into your side ribs
  • Create space between your shoulders and ears
  • Imagine heavy weights hanging from your shoulder blades, drawing them down
  • Feel the energy drawing up from the soles of your feet, flowing through your trunk and radiating from your fingertips
  • Breathe three, full deep Ujjiyayi breaths

UtthanPristhasana (Lizard Pose)

From Low Lunge transition into your Lizard.

As you exhale, lower your hands to the floor. Your right hand should be near your right instep. Your hands should be shoulder width apart. Remember to:

  • Fold on the exhale
  • Draw the hips in towards each other as you fold
  • Rest your hands on blocks if that is more comfortable for you
  • Protect your joints
  • Press down into the floor with the mound of the right toe joint
  • Keep that knee-shin-thigh right angle in place.

Next Level Variation

If you are comfortable here and want to try a variation you can lower your elbows to the ground, and on an exhale fold forward as you rest down on your forearms and bring your hands into prayer.

Take several ujjiyayi breaths and swap legs.

Shhh…


Slightly off piste post, but it’s not often dazzling revelations wash up on the shore.

So whilst this golden nugget doesn’t come from pranayama practice or any sort of meditative-retreat scenario, I wanted to do something to flag up and share this little gem. I would shout but, as you might guess, even the thought of capital letters makes me flinch. 

For while I’ve always known I was an introvert I thought it was a flaw, that there was something wrong with me. Turns out I’m just born this way. It’s like being left handed. I just am. More than that, it’s highly valuable, albeit less recognised by a business-driven society where extroverts grab the soapbox, the spotlight and bellow out their confidence, all the while smiling into the eyes of their audience.

Really, I can’t thank Susan Cain enough. And I urge you to read this book, if you haven’t already. 

If you’re an extrovert you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your friends and colleagues who have puzzled you with their need to sit in silence for hours, like this… 


(Actually, I’m considering those flowers have a too-noisy scent, I’ll go for something less heady next time.)

If you’re an introvert you’ll realise why too many people talking at once, open plan offices and packed exhibitions freak you out.


Lesson we learned last month, don’t go to exhibitions until everyone is bored of them. Introverts do not cope well with being packed into dark spaces with hundreds of sweaty people. 

But we are brilliant in our own way. We have much to contribute and have done for centuries. Just quietly. Shhhh…