In Yoga The Breath is key. To control the breath means to control the mind, to find ‘Sukha’ (ease) and lightness in the practice through the breath. In our day to day if we experience stress, the breath shortens, if we are sad, the breath is shallow, if we feel anger we may hold our breath. In Yoga we may find poses or the pace of a class challenging and the breath will change, indicating tightness in the body and/or weakness in the core body and/or a mind that wants to give up. Breathe cleansing breaths. Inhalations can be viewed as an appetite for peace, strength, evolving, growing and moving forward and exhalations can be letting go of tension, heavy thoughts and the past that no longer serves us on our path.
“I can’t do Yoga, I’m inflexible”
I have heard this many times from numerous people and the truth is one cannot be flexible without Yoga. Any sport or activity if new to the body will be challenging. Learning Yoga is like learning how to play an instrument. It takes time for the body to change, one must commit to the practice and try at least 3-4 times per week in order to achieve a pliable and strong body. So do not limit yourselves and give it a chance, any experienced teacher can help you no matter what level. Yoga is suited for the young to the elderly and the beginner to advanced practitioner. !
In Yoga the Breath is key. The practice is not fluid nor will it help the body to open or release without the Breath. There are all kinds of breathing techniques, the most simple breath is to inhale for 3 counts and exhale for the same count. Try to breathe in slowly and exhale slowly, the more one is able to control the breath the more one can control the mind. Breath will open the body from the inside, take your time and learn the Breath in your practice!
The best way to open and decompress your spine straight out of bed is to stand with your legs hip width and fold forward on an exhalation. Bend your legs and release your neck, keep your arms and head heavy and hold this position for 2 minutes breathing deeply. To come up make sure to breathe in on the way up and move slowly with your head up last.
See you on the mat!
Surya Namaskara also known in English as Sun Salutation (lit. “Salute to the sun”) is a common sequence of asanas.
The sun is considered as the only manifest form of the eternal principle. It is the giver of everything that we need, food, water in the form of rain, oxygen/energy/prana, light/vision, warmth, good strong health, intellect and so on.
Surya Namaskara, or salutation to the sun, is an important yogic practice which dates back to the ancient vedic period when the sun was worshipped as a powerful symbol of spiritual consciousness. From its esoteric origins Surya Namaskara has developed into a practice of twelve postures which weave together to generate prana (subtle energy), aiming towards the purification and rejuvenation of the practitioner.
The Sun Salutation sequence, if done at a fast pace can be a good way to lose weight and is an excellent cardiovascular workout as well – stretching and toning the muscles in the entire body. This yoga sequence improves the circulation of blood throughout the body and helps in maintaining good health by ensuring a disease-free body. Daily practice of surya namaskara has numerous benefits to offer for the digestive, respiratory, and circulatory system.
Come let us practice surya namaskara with Samantha on her Sunset yoga!
Pranayama (rhythmic control of the breath).
Prana means breath, respiration, life, vitality, wind, energy or strength. It connotes the soul as opposed to the body. Ayama means length, extension, stretching or restraint. Pranayama that connotes extension of breath and its control. This control is overall the functions of breathing, namely:
- Inhalation or inspiration, which is termed puraka (filling up)
- Exhalation or expiration, which is termed rechaka (emptying the lungs
- Retention or holding the breath, a state there is no inhalation no exhalation which is termed kumbaka.
A Yogi’s life is not measured by the number of days he lives but by the number of his breaths. So he follows the rhythmic patterns of slow deep breathing. These rhythmic patterns strengthen respiratory system, soothe nervous system and reduce craving.
Can pranayama help for stress and anxiety?
When we are in stress, a hormone called epinephrine has released into our blood stream causing a rise in our blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate. As sugar and fat is release into our blood stream, blood is diverted from our skin and digestive system to our muscles and brain. Our senses are heightened! This physiological process is known as the “flight or fight” response.
Everyone experiences some stress in his or her life, however what makes stress a killer is when it is ongoing and our system does not get a break from it.
The most effective ways of dealing with stress is the Relaxation response and it is our body’s own natural way of bringing our system back into balance. The relaxation response can be activated voluntarily. And yogic breathing practices, pranayama are easy to do yet very effective at reducing stress, activating the relaxation response and quieting our mind.
- It improves coherence between the two cerebral hemispheres signifying synchronization of logical and intuitive function. It increases alertness along with relaxation.
- The Pranayama shows a reduction in sympathetic activity which is the basis of its use in stress management.
- Pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorder.
- Pranayama improves the autonomic functions.
Learn Pranayama with our Indian Yoga Instructor Samantha.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!