Tag Archives: relaxation

Seasonal Yoga – Winter

Winter is a time for relaxing, restoring and recharging your batteries.  The kidneys and bladder are the organs associated with the season of winter according to traditional Chinese medicine and the kidneys can be thought of as our own battery pack.  We need to ensure they are recharged to support us through the year.

It is a time for reflecting – contemplating what continues to serve us and what no longer serves us.  But this is not a time for taking drastic action or making radical changes.  It is a time to reflect and contemplate, building a bigger picture so that we can start planting seedlings in spring that we can nurture and grow.

Water is the element associated with winter.  It reminds us to go with the flow or to be still and reflect.  When the kidneys are out of balance we tend to feel fear – the adrenal glands are paired with the kidneys and are involved in our ‘fight or flight’ stress response so if you are feeling a bit stressed or fearful practice some gentle flowing yoga or find stillness in meditation to calm the body and mind.

With the start of a new year many people choose this time of year to go on a diet but this is the time when the body is seeking warming hearty meals such as soups and stews.  That doesn’t mean you have an excuse to be unhealthy at this time of year!  Fill up on healthy vegetable with warming spices – curried parsnip soup or cumin spiced roasted root vegetable.  Check out @seasonaleats for some weekly inspiration.

Winter Recipe: Spice Roasted Winter Vegetables

  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Sweet potato
  • 2 cloves garlic – peeled
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • Olive oil

Wash & peel the vegetables & cut into large chunks/wedges.  Combine in an ovenproof dish with the garlic and cumin seeds.  Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven (180C) for 30-40 mins or until the vegetables are tender.

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Watery Winter Moon Flow

This lovely practice is great for easing out tension and gently moving the body.  Moving between child’s pose, upward dog & downward dog. Flowing through the spine, closing your eyes and taking your attention inwards.  Listen to what your body is asking you for, spending a few breaths in one particular posture, perhaps swaying the hips from side to side in updog or down dog.  Keep the focus on the watery, fluidity of the movement.

Child’s Pose – Up Dog – Down Dog – Up Dog – Child’s Pose

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There are still some spaces left at my Mini Retreat this Sunday (14th January) at Prana Yoga Hamilton.  Give yourself some time and space to relax and recharge.

Or join my weekly Restorative or Yin Yoga classes at Seasonal Yoga Academy Glasgow

I’m also starting a monthly meditation workshop which kicks off on 11th February.  This monthly workshop is suitable for beginners and those with a regular meditation practice.  It will offer a supportive space to learn more about meditation, develop a regular practice and dive deeper

Restorative Yoga – What is it?

On Tuesday 9th January I’ll be starting a new restorative yoga class at Seasonal Yoga Academy.  But what is restorative yoga and how can it benefit you?

Restorative yoga is all about bringing the body to relaxation.  We hold so much tension in our bodies – sometimes without realising and it’s not until we try and relax that we suddenly realise how tense we are; sometimes we know just how much tension we are carrying around with us but don’t feel able to do anything to release it. Tension accumulated through stress, poor posture, repetitive movements, injury etc.  And the more the tension builds the more we start to compensate with other areas of the body – an injured knee perhaps leading to more weight being put through the opposite leg or adapting the gait putting more strain on the hip.

Restorative yoga aims to gently stretch the body in a relaxed way.  Using bolsters, bricks, cushions, foam rollers, chi balls (you name it, we have it!) to support the body and ease out the tension.   Postures are typically held for several minutes to allow the body to fully relax into them.

Restorative yoga gets us back into the parasympathetic nervous system – our body’s rest and restore setting.  We live so much of our lives in the sympathetic nervous system – the fight/flight setting – always on, always active and releasing stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol) into the body.  By switching over to the parasympathetic nervous system we allow the body to clear away all those stress hormones bringing it back into balance.

Restorative yoga is a great complement to more active exercise and sports – allowing the muscles to relax fully and recover from injury and stresses placed on them, gently increasing flexibility and restoring the body’s natural balance.

Whether it’s stress, injury, general aches and pains, long term illness or just space and time for relaxation come and join me on Tuesday evenings 8pm at Seasonal Yoga Academy.

New Years Resolutions

The start of a new year, a blank slate, an opportunity to make changes.  I love the start of a new year, closing the door to the old year and stepping into the unknown: 365 days ahead of opportunities, new challenges, new discoveries and adventures.

I’ve long since given up on setting resolutions though – so many years of setting unattainable resolutions that fall by the wayside by mid-January.  The majority of new year’s resolutions fail within the first 2-3 weeks because people suddenly make drastic changes without getting the mid fully on board – joining the gym/diet groups to be fitter, healthier, lighter, stronger then the initial enthusiasm wears off, it’s winter and you just want to hibernate, eat comforting food and stay at home.  We’ve suddenly pushed ourselves right out of our comfort zone, which is exactly where we need to be to make changes, but if it’s too much too quickly the mind just wants to take the quickest route back to the comfort zone – picking up a takeaway/cake/wine/beer/ etc etc on the way!  And then there’s the feelings of failure kicking in – the negative chatter, the downward spiral, before we know it we’ve eaten more cake, drank more wine, missed the gym sessions, we’re beating ourselves up even more!

Although I don’t set new years resolutions anymore I still love to plan and set goals, but not just yet.  In traditional Chinese medicine winter is considered a time for recharging, restoring and reflecting rather than taking action.  Definitely not the time to be making radical changes to diet or lifestyle.   Instead of resolutions I like to set some intentions for the year ahead that I can then build on as the year progresses.  As winter is a time for reflection it’s the perfect time to ask yourself some searching questions so that when spring comes you’ve got some seedlings to start tending.

As I was reflecting on 2017 a lesson that kept popping up for me was remembering to stay present, enjoy the here and now as the present is all we have.  Last year is now memories, the future unknown. I have to find a balance between setting my intentions and then relaxing and letting the universe take over.  So I set aside some planning time – time specifically dedicated to reflection, daydreaming and manifesting.  An afternoon or an evening, I get cosy, light a candle, make a pot of tea, put on some inspiring music, reflect, dream, & let my imagination run wild.

So grab your notebook and set yourself a bit of dream time.  Some questions to prompt you in reflecting:

  • What did you achieve in the past year?
  • What worked/didn’t work and what you can learn from the experiences?
  • Are there patterns that keep repeating? What needs to change to stop the patterns repeating
  • What would be good to take forward into 2018, what can you let go of?
  • What do you dream of doing? Let your imagination free for a while.  Let go of the ‘buts’ that stop you and let your mind be free to wander.  What steps would you need to take to make some of this a reality?

As you reflect on these you can then start to build up a bigger picture and sense of direction over the winter months so that when spring arrives and the energy starts to increase you can start planting seeds to nurture and grow over the summer months.  You’ll then be reaping the rewards later in the year.

Whatever your intentions you can start making small changes, If it’s to be healthier committing to adding a few more veggies to your diet.  Maybe some gentle exercise – going for a winter walk, some gentle restorative yoga.  By starting small & taking gradual steps you can get the mind on board much more easily, it doesn’t feel like big scary change.  It makes staying on track much easier and as the small changes become habits you can start adding more changes through the year, building and building.

So what intentions are you setting this year?  What about the intention to look after yourself, self-care, nurture and nourish?

Come and join me for some yoga where you’ll have time to relax, restore and reflect:

Tuesdays Restorative 8-9:15pm & Thursdays Yin 8-9:15pm (Starts 18th January) bot at Seasonal Yoga Academy, Darnley Street, Glasgow, G41 2SE

Plus, sign up to my monthly newsletter to be kept up to date with details of my mini retreats, day retreats, yoga holidays and yoga and meditation workshops.

Meditation or Relaxation – what is the difference?

 

I’m often asked by people in my classes what is the difference between relaxation and meditation.  They both have some similar effects on the mind and body and I believe they are both important in modern life but they are two different techniques.

Let’s start with relaxation.

There are two aspects to our nervous system – the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is where our ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response comes from if we are confronted by danger or some form of stress trigger.  The body releases adrenalin and cortisol to get the heart pumping faster and the breathing rate increases to get more oxygen around the body, particularly to the large muscle groups so that we can get out of danger quickly.  The parasympathetic nervous system on the other hand is our ‘rest, relax and restore’ response. The heart rate slows down, the breathing rate slows down and blood is transported all around the body to all the organs allowing them to function properly.

These days our lives are very much centred in the sympathetic nervous system.  We are so busy with so many competing demands for our time and energy the majority of us feel some form of stress on a daily basis.  And a small amount of stress isn’t a bad thing, the stress triggers us to take some form of action.  But if we are constantly in the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ mode then we are putting a lot of pressure onto our bodies and minds.  If the body is focussed on getting out of danger the mind is making very short term decisions, the blood circulation is diverted away from our digestive system, our blood pressure is increased for prolonged periods of time.

We therefore need to take time out and relax.  But this is easier said than done.  The common way to relax – a glass of wine in front of the TV.  We may think we are relaxing but we are still being bombarded with information which can create stress triggers.  The easiest way to relax is to find a few minutes of quiet time each day, lie down, focus on the breath and allowing all the muscles in the body to relax.   This allows the heart rate to slow down and the body to restore itself.

So what about meditation?

Meditation is a technique that allows us to become aware of the body and mind a to bring more awareness and compassion into our daily life.  Meditation works to quiet the internal chatter so that when we act we are acting out of choice rather than making habitual reactions to a situation.  It helps us to respond rather than react.  It also allows us to live in the present moment, not clinging to the past or pining all our hopes onto some future time or event.

Similar to relaxation techniques meditation also has the effect of switching on the parasympathetic nervous system but by tuning into the body and mind and choosing how we respond to situations it can reduce the effect of the stress triggers.  That’s not to say that if you’ll be more prone to danger because you can’t react fast enough rather it gives you the space to decide whether you need to react or not.

There are lots and lots of different meditation techniques but the general theme is a single point of concentration which then allows the mind to quieten.  It could be focussing on the breath – the sensation of the air flowing in through the nostrils, filling the lungs and the sensation as it leaves the body or one of the myriad other techniques.  Some days the focus may come easy other days it may be hard to quieten that internal chatter, the key is not to judge – it is what it is.  As with anything, regular and consistent practice is the key.

Over the next few months I’ll be exploring relaxation and meditation techniques in more depth and compiling some guided meditation and relaxation downloads.

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