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Santosha

Practice Santosha on the mat and off the mat.  Santosha is ‘contentment’, being content with your practice, accepting what is and letting go of achieving the ‘perfect’ posture.  We are all too hard on ourselves at times and Yoga not only teaches us to be patient with others but also with our own Self and goals.

Next time you get on the mat, watch the breath, the flow and let go of forcing your body into a pose to appreciate where you are on the mat and off the mat, be content, practice Santosha.

Join one of Lily’s yoga classes when you’re here with us and practice Santosha.

Simple is best!

Are you feeling sluggish, low on energy, groggy and finding it hard to focus?  You can turn your frown upside down with a simple stretch by folding forward and holding this passive stretch for 20 + breaths and rolling back up to standing slowly with head up last – this allows your spine to release and for the blood to flow to the brain, you will feel energized and alert!

Remember to breathe long full breaths as oxygen is key for better circulation. Recharge and rejuvenate with simplicity!

Join a yoga class and see Lily for life changing advise and one on one classes when you join us.

Keep Moving, Breathing and Practicing!

Practicing Yoga or starting any activity for the first time will be challenging and one may feel aches and pains during or after the session.  I have often heard students complain about wrist pain, stiffness in the neck and sometimes low back pain after a Yoga session.  We need to remember that when we start a new form of exercise we are asking our body to change, with this change comes discomfort. When we feel this it’s important to keep moving.

It is key to keep practicing and showing up on the mat to move the body so that we can work through any discomfort in the body.  After 15 years of practicing Yoga my aches and pains disappeared with practice, so keep moving and practicing to get your blood flowing so that you can heal!

Want to keep moving? Join one of Lily’s yoga classes when you’re here with us.

Keep Your Gaze Still

In Yoga when flowing through the practice it’s easy to get distracted.  The mind tends to drift quite often and for most it can be difficult to stay present but not if you keep your gaze still on one point, in sanskrit this is called the Drishti.  ’Drishti’ or point of focus differs in each pose; for example in triangle pose the drishti is the extended hand reaching to the sky, in a forward bend it’s the toes, in shoulder stand it’s the tip of the nose or navel.  The mind is free of distractions and one is able to experience a meditative state through this focus/gazing point.

So next time you practice notice how often you look around or look away from the drishti, each time you learn a little bit more about the fluctuations of the mind and how to bring your self back to the present moment.  So get on the mat and practice practice practice! Namaste

Master the art of keeping your gaze with a one on one session with Lily, our resident Yoga instructor.

Is this a Class for Beginners?

This is a question I hear often everywhere I’ve taught and after 11 plus years of teaching there isn’t one class I’ve taught that wasn’t an ALL LEVEL class. Having said that there are classes that may flow faster or include some poses that may be more challenging but don’t let that stop you from experiencing that particular style of Yoga.

At The BodyHoliday I have had numerous beginners try my Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga classes that are known to flow a bit faster and include some challenging poses and in the end the newcomers are quite satisfied and excited that they were able to stick with it.   It is ultimately up to the student to choose what suits their body type and in fact it is important to try all styles to get a feel for what your mind/body needs.  So don’t be shy, don’t be scared and remember you can rest throughout any Yoga class at anytime and always have a choice to make it more challenging as well.

Join a yoga class and see Lily  for life changing advise and one on one classes when you join us.

Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Mat!

As I walk around Le Sport meeting and greeting with guests and introducing myself as the new Yoga Teacher, I’m seeing a common theme in the reactions I receive to the questions about yoga: self-judgment.  When asked if they’ve ever tried a yoga class, many guests respond with “I’m so inflexible”, or “I can’t even touch my toes”, or ”I would just throw off everyone else’s balance”.

And this is where I’d like to step in. These are all of the reasons we should be practicing yoga! We all have to begin somewhere and in a safe environment, where trying new activities and pushing comfort zones is a daily occurrence, Le Sport is a perfect place to give yoga its first shot.

A common misconception about “yogis” (those who practice yoga) is that we are all ‘amazing at yoga’, all extremely flexible and strong (you know, pretzel poses and legs wrapped around the ears? No big deal.). What I’d like you all to take home today is that yoga is a continuous personal development, physically, mentally and emotionally and that it has nothing to do with what the rest of the class is working on. Yoga is a learning process that never ceases, because your body, where you are at in your life, and your current state of mind are in constant transition and these are all major players in learning about oneself.

Yoga is about body awareness. It is about knowing your own limitations and coming to discover, embrace, and honour your body’s potential (and yes, we all have potential!).

A great starting point is to ensure that when you approach your yoga practice, that you’re not setting out just to master a particular posture or goal. Rather than using the body to figure out the pose, begin to use the pose to understand the body. Seeing each posture, or each class, as a learning opportunity will help increase body awareness and keep your mind interested as you move forward (or sideways, or upside down!).

You focus on your mat and I’ll focus on mine.

It’s important to remember that the only thing that matters to you in this yoga class is what is happening on your own mat!  Yoga is meant to be noncompetitive. It is most definitely not a race and all other yogis in the room are really only concerned with their own pace, not about what’s happenings over there on your yoga mat. Allowing yourself to fall prey to competition in yoga will ultimately lead to disappointment or even injuries, as you have shifted the focus of energy from one of sensation and body knowledge to one of goal-setting and winning.

Comparison is usually only created in the context of what other people are doing. Therefore, in order to avoid comparing and judging, remember to keep your eyes down and your focus inward.

What does being “good at yoga” mean?

It’s all too easy to blindly follow the yoga teacher and try out advanced postures that you’re not ready to move into. Even something as simple as the way your instructor raises his/her arms are personal preferences for his/her own practice and don’t necessarily need to be followed by you. If your range of motion isn’t as wide or long as the teacher’s, find a way to adapt. Listen to your body and do what feels right for you. Stop when you feel you need to and don’t judge yourself if you didn’t make it as far today as you had hoped. A class where you successful eased up from a posture and intelligently stayed at your own ability level is much more successful than a class where you chose not to listen to your intuition and pushed yourself too hard.

Where you are today is exactly where you should be.

You’re only a true novice once.

In closing, I’d like to encourage you to enjoy these beginning stages of your yoga practice, as they are the most humbling of all. You really only get to be a complete novice once, so embrace this time in your life and remember where you began. It will be all that much sweeter when you look back on your progress in the future.  What’s key to making this process enjoyable is to be able to approach your learning from a light-hearted and open-minded place, without judgment or attachment to results.

With that, there are no excuses not to give it a try! So I hope to see you on the mat!

See Amanda, our resident Yogi, for more life changing advice when you are with us!

Namaste!

Hello Winter

Whilst we’re soaking up the Caribbean sun here on the island, it’s kinda strange for this weathered Brit to get her head around the fact that it’s winter back home!

Without the scarves, gloves, thermal vests (never let it be said I’m not a stylish girl!) and the associated layers of clothes, it’s really hard to remember that the year has moved on.

An interesting end to 2011 was on 22nd December when we celebrated the arrival of Winter in the traditional yogic way; with 108 Sun Salutations at daybreak.

Sun salutations (Surya Namaskara in Sanskrit) are an integral part of most yoga practices. Sri K Pattabhi Jois (one of the most important teachers in the Ashtanga yoga lineage) said;

“No asana practice is complete without sun worship. Without its focusing of mental energies, yoga practice amounts to little more than gymnastics &, as such, loses meaning & proves fruitless. Indeed, the Surya Namaskar should never be taken for mere physical exercise – for something incidental, that is, that simply precedes the asanas of yoga”

– Sri K Pattabhi Jois.

 

‘Surya’ is one of many names of sun and ‘namaskara’ means to bow before or to prostrate oneself. The Sun has been worshipped in many ancient cultures for its life-giving properties. Without it, life as we know it could not be sustained. These cultures also recognised that the sun bestows its power and light on all life; free from discrimination or judgement.

 

When practiced correctly, you’ll find that they contain elements of four of the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga, as detailed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. They contain asana (the physical moving of the body), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (control of senses), dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation).

So we chose to celebrate the Winter Solstice and the coming of new light by completing a traditional Yoga Mala – 108 Sun Salutations. As we reflect on the significance of the sun, we are reminded that the sun is the illuminator of our world, that it is our primary source of heat and the giver of life.

But why 108?

The number 108 carries spiritual significance in many different cultures:

* 108 is the number of “Upanishads” comprising Indian philosophy’s “Vedic texts”.

* 108 is the number of names for Shiva (a really important Hindu god).

* 108 is the number of names for Buddha.

* 108 is the Chinese number representing “man”.

* 108 is the number of beads on a Catholic rosary.

* 108 is the number of beads on a Tibetan “mala” (prayer beads, analagous to a rosary).

* 108 is twice the number “54″, which is the number of sounds in Sanskrit (sacred Indian langauge).

* 108 is six times the number “18″, which is a Jewish good luck number.

* 108 is twelve times the number 9, which is the number of vinyasas (movements linked to breath) in a Sun Salutation.

It’s something I’ve done with students on a number of different occasions; both to welcome in the changing seasons but also as sponsored events to raise money for charitable causes. Yes it’s hard work; yes it’s challenging on your mind and body. But at those moments in time when your mind is telling you that you can’t possibly manage any more, it’s an opportunity to remember that the tiredness, frustration, discomfort will pass. It’s only temporary, just like the cold, wet, winter days. Those moments that might make us feel less than full of sunshine are just temporary; they will always move on.

However cold the weather may be where you are, why not take a moment to welcome winter and be thankful for the gloom. Without it we’d never realise just how beautiful the sunshine is!

Are you ready to rock the boat?

When you think about it, life can be a scary experience. And I’m not even talking about the really scary events; like doing a parachute jump, or going pot-holing, or meeting a huge crab half way up the steps to the spa (in my defence it was very dark, the crab really was massive and no-one had told me they don’t all live in the sea!).

But for some of us, we have to face something that pushes us out of our comfort zone almost every single day. It might be making a presentation to colleagues at work, or squashing ourselves onto packed public transport, removing a new arachnid resident from under the sofa, or even stepping onto a yoga mat.

The really interesting thing about fear is that it is such a personal experience. By its very nature, it is usually based on an irrational response which even you, the person holding it, can see. I’ll give you an example; I am scared of boats. Whether they’re the size of the Titanic (you can tell from the example I’ve chosen I don’t feel overly positive about them), or a teeny tiny dingy, as far as I’m concerned as soon as I set foot on one it’s only purpose in life will be to sink as quickly as possible, taking me down with it.

Even I know that on the law of averages, this is extremely unlikely. I know that there are more than a couple of boat excursions going out and about from around here every single day; returning all passengers in the one piece that they set out in. I don’t even have to go any further than our own Cariblue beach to see this with my own eyes.

To be honest, it wasn’t really an issue before I moved to St. Lucia. Gloucestershire isn’t exactly known for its nautical opportunities or the chance to live life on the ocean wave. But now that I am living on a Caribbean island, I’m starting to get a bit irked with it. There’s the Sunset Cruise, for a start. Every Friday evening we take returning guests off on a rather splendid Catamaran to see the island, and the resort, from a whole new point of view. Then there’s the boat trip to go and spot whales and dolphins (Flipper! Flipper!). And wouldn’t it be amazing to go snorkelling in a secluded bay, coming face-to-gills with a real life Nemo?

So it would seem that so far, whilst my fear likes to give me the impression that it’s doing me a favour (“Oooh no don’t get on the boat. Listen to me; I’m here to keep you alive, silly!) it’s actually just serving to keep me missing what could be a whole lot of fun.

But what my fear has helped me to understand is that there are people who think of coming to yoga in a very similar way as I do of my boats. I’ll admit that the chances of drowning are considerably less, and I hope that no one feels nauseous, but the feeling is exactly the same.

They have probably only listened to the stories of people having a go at a yoga class and either finding it really hard or, at the other end of the scale, getting nothing out of it at all. Perhaps they’ve got a friend (of a friend) who went to a class, had a bad adjustment by a teacher and was off work for a week. Quite often their fear is based around the feeling that they would be ‘bad’ at it (“Oooh no don’t get on the yoga mat. You can’t even touch your toes. You’ll be bad at it. Listen to me; I’m here to keep you alive, silly!”)

Sometimes the only way to slip under the radar of that little voice is to take it by surprise. Last week, due to a slight mix-up with timetables, two ladies came to my ‘Dancing Warrior’ class (a slightly more challenging vinyasa flow session) by mistake, thinking it was a beginner’s class. They only told me this at the end of the lesson, when they came up to me beaming from ear to ear. They explained that they would have never had the courage to come, believing that it would have been far too difficult for them. As it turned out, they had a wonderful time (releasing their ‘Wild Thing’ as if they’d done it a hundred times before!) and loved every minute of it.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m not going to be the next Ellen MacArthur, just like the folks who take their first step onto a yoga mat might not be the next David Swenson or Shiva Rea. But who knows what potential we are denying ourselves by listening to the voice that says “oooh no” instead of the voice that says “ooooh – YES!”?

Meet our new Yoga instructor – Meg Jackson

Get on a mat….and go places!

“With yoga all is possible” said one of the leading lights of Ashtanga yoga, Sri K Pattabi Jois. And I think he was right. Of course, I can only comment from my own experience, but I know that without yoga I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today; geographically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually!

Exactly 4 weeks ago today my yoga mat and I (along with surprisingly heavy baggage; how do clothes suddenly double their weight when they enter a suitcase?) boarded a plane from Gatwick to St. Lucia. Up until that point I had heard myself telling friends, family and students that I was leaving the UK to come to a Caribbean resort to be the resident yoga teacher at The BodyHoliday for 6 months. But it wasn’t until I actually clunked that seatbelt around my waist, and jammed my thankfully short legs under the seat in front of me, that the reality of where yoga has taken me began to sink in.

I started going to yoga because I wanted to get arms like Madonna. There. I’ve said it. Shallow, but true. It was during the time that she had particularly toned limbs, and I found out from some font of knowledge that it was thanks to Ashtanga yoga. Great! No more sweating at the gym for me. All I had to do was go to a class, get on a mat, bend myself around a bit and ‘voila’.

If someone had told me, at that point, during my first ‘Downward Dog’ I would be looking for the fastest way out of the room, I may have been a little more cautious. My arms were shaking, my knees were wobbling, my heels felt like they were miles away from the floor, and the teacher wanted me to breathe at the same time?!

Suffice to say that my relationship with yoga got off on a bit of a bad note. But, thanks to a friend who was more determined than I was, I kept going. As time went on I began to realise the more I did, the more I wanted to do. Yoga and I had our fights sometimes. Occasionally we would take a break from each other, go out and experiment a little, but always ended up being reunited with an even greater appreciation for each other.

Then I began to realise that my yoga practice wasn’t just about what was going on in my body. It was showing me what was going on in my life too. I realised that when I knew a pose (an ‘asana’) was coming up which I didn’t think I was very ‘good’ at; I’d try to rush it or miss it out altogether, rather than have a go at it. The same went for the poses which made me feel a little bit claustrophobic or trapped; a quick side-step around them and I’d be off to the next one.

So by stepping onto a mat, I actually took a step towards understanding my life off the mat a little better.

Fast forward a few years, and thanks to those first painful, frustrating, unpleasant dates with yoga, I couldn’t be more grateful for all the possibilities this amazing practice has opened up for me. I have met beautiful people from all corners of the world, been challenged personally and professionally, found physical wellbeing and strength I never knew I had, learnt more about myself than I ever thought possible….and laughed…a lot.

Even more exciting for me, is that not only has yoga done all this for me, but here at The BodyHoliday I am privileged to see this happen for other people. They come to a class, a little wide-eyed, very apprehensive, wondering what on earth they’re letting themselves in for. Then, if you look very closely at just the right time, yoga works its magic on them and they get their first “ah haa!” moment. Then they’re off; that world of possibilities begins for them too.

If you’re coming to join us here I really hope that you’ll come and see what might happen for you if you spend a little time on a yoga mat. And if quoting a yoga guru isn’t quite your style, you may want to instead keep this gem from Audrey Hepburn in mind: ‘Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!’

Getting Started with Yoga

Namaste! This is the customary Hindu greeting used when meeting and parting – traditionally done while holding the palms together in front of the bosom. If you’re saying to yourself: ‘hey I already knew this’, you’re already on the right track.

A recent study released by Yoga Journal reports that Americans spend $5.7 billion a year on yoga classes and products. The same study also indicates that 6.9% of U.S. adults or 15.8 million people practice yoga. Pretty impressive stats right? Put it on a global scale and you can add millions more to that figure.

If you’re already a seasoned yogi, then you can testify to the benefits of yoga which include but are certainly not limited to increased flexibility, muscle strengthening, increased relaxation and a powerful sense of calm. If you’ve been considering yoga, then you’re already half way there!

When you think of yoga what comes to mind? Perhaps visions of a slender and limber person contorting their bodies in the most difficult of poses. Conjuring these sorts of images is probably not the best way to begin your yogic journey. Yoga is just as much mental as it is physical. Clear up your mind of all the preconceived notions that yoga is difficult and only for the double-jointed. Yoga should primarily be about the journey. Set your mind to invite positivity and this will be the outcome.

There are just a few things which will come in handy for your first yoga session. A yoga mat (preferably a sticky or slip resistant rubber one) to set down on the normal hardwood floors of most yoga studios. These normally retail for $20 to $60 and can cost more if you want to get really fancy with it. A towel, this is a good idea for your first class because not all studios provide them. Straps help with stretching and holding various poses using the legs. Your studio might provide these, but at a cost of $10 it’s worth getting your own.

Your normal yoga class will run for just over an hour. It’ll start with warm-ups and breathing exercises to prepare you both physically and mentally for what’s ahead. The centre and main part of the session will be the asanas or poses. Your teacher will normally provide simplified variations to help beginners adapt until you are able to move like the pros! You’ll then close with a period of savasana or relaxation.

The BodyHoliday has daily dedicated yoga offerings. You can start your sessions from home and look like a complete pro or you can start with us and return home a pro! If you are deeply interested in yoga, my recommendations for the best times to visit The BodyHoliday are during our yoga themed months: Yoga June and Octoba Yoga.

Get started today! Namaste!

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