Many people think stretching is just about releasing tightness in muscle or tissue. However when you’re stretching muscle, you’re also stretching vessels that feed into the muscle, including the arteries. Aerobic exercise is commonly recommended for improving heart health however recent studies have found stretching may also be effective as it can improve vascular function and reduce arterial stiffness - major risk factors for cardiovascular disorders in our society.
A recent study by the University of Milan found that those who engaged in a 12 week passive stretching programme saw an improvement to their vascular system. They stated “this could have implications for diseases that involve changes to blood flow, such as heart attack and stroke”.
Another study by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found regular stretching may be more effective than brisk walks for combating hypertension. Their conclusion “ If stretching can reduce blood pressure, it would allow an additional option for people who need to reduce blood pressure, or it could be added to aerobic exercise routines to provide greater reduction in blood pressure.”
I’ve been designing and offering yoga classes, workshops, retreats and programmes for over 20 years and have watched just how beneficial a regular yoga practice can be for overall wellbeing. I am sure many of you will agree yoga is more than stretching. However, as evidence on the effectiveness of stretching grows it may not only change cardiac rehab, and other aspects of rehabilitation from vascular disease, it may also attract more people to step on the mat. As many of us already know, that is the first step on a empowering journey to transformation.
Come and join me on a journey around the Vagus. Learn how to stimulate this integral nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system to improve the functioning of many of the body’s systems and calm and soothe ourself physically and emotionally - to flow, grow and adapt - to surf the wave of life.
Life is a series of challenges from big life changes to those days when you feel you have it all together then suddenly everything hits you at once. Those demands have been likened to surfing a wave and surfing requires FOCUS – catching the right wave, LEARNING – how to get up on that board, BALANCE- staying up and flowing with the wave, ADAPTABILITY – getting back on and trying again each time you fall off.
In this workshop we will explore how our yoga practice can help us navigate between the ups and downs of life’s demands. Our practice will focus on techniques to access, stimulate and tone the Wanderer within us – The Vagus Nerve - a communication super highway which travels though us and relays a nonstop stream of information between the body and the brain. The vagus is key to physical and psychological resilience and plays a major role in our parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for our rest and digest capacities and is a calming and soothing force in our bodies.
It regulates heart and breath rate, most of our organs, and digestive tract. It’s involved in eye contact, facial expressions, controls our voice tone and manages the release of hormones. The management and processing of emotions happens via the vagus between the heart, brain and gut which is why we have a strong gut reaction to intense mental and emotional states. A flexible, as well as a strong vagal response is a necessary component in our body’s ability to relax faster and recover from stressful situations.
This workshop will include:
* discussion and information about the networking systems of our body in relation to our health and wellbeing
* simple breath, mindfulness, movement, self- body work and guided relaxation practices
* most importantly – time to allow space to experience what is present
These practices can have a wealth of positive effects on how we manage taking care of ourself mind, body and spirit.
It's the time of year when we've made our resolutions for change and embark on ways to bring balance back to our body, mind and life after the Christmas period. Resolutions and Yoga have some things in common, they involve an Intention - to take action, create change and usually aim to improve our well-being in some way. One major difference - Resolutions tend to be goal orientated whereas Yoga is an awareness, a type of knowing or getting to know yourself.
There is saying “ if you want real change you have to do the inner work”. Although this typically has a spiritual connotation, the physical practice of yoga can offer a way to notice, explore and understand what is present in our body and mind and how we respond or react to our experiences. Each time we step on the mat there’s an opportunity through the practice to get to know ourself from the inside and out, on all levels of our being. Through our practice we learn and grow and can make informed steps towards positive change. This is the reason why Yoga is often referred to as the path to transformation. Why not give Yoga a try? Getting to know yourself a little more may also be just what you need to help you stick to those Resolutions .
BACK TO SIMPLE WORKSHOP
2ND NOVEMBER 2019
Life is a series of challenges from big life changes to those days when you feel you have it all together then suddenly everything hits you at once.
Those demands have been likened to surfing a wave and surfing requires FOCUS - catching the right wave, LEARNING - how to get up on that board, BALANCE- staying up and flowing with the wave, ADAPTABILITY - getting back on and trying again each time you fall off.
In this workshop we will explore how our yoga practice can help us navigate between the ups and downs of life’s demands. Our practice will focus on techniques to access, stimulate and tone the Wanderer within us - The Vagus Nerve. The Vagus is a communication super highway which travels though us and relays a nonstop stream of information between the body and the brain and is key to physical and psychological resilience. It is the primary driving force of the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest system. A flexible, as well as a strong, vagal response is a necessary component in our body’s ability to relax faster and recover from stressful situations.
Come and join me on the mat. Learn how to home in on your ability to use instinctive responses to consciously access your inner strength, capabilities and self belief - to flow, grow and adapt - to surf the wave of life 🙏
A question - 70% of our brains information about movement comes from our eyes, ears or feet? That’s the information which helps with balance, spacial awareness and posture.
Our feet, the furthest part of our body from the brain, send that 70%, the eyes 10% and ears 20%. Our feet must be strong to support us but they also need to be flexible and buoyant for good health. Tension and tightness in the feet can be indicators of stress and tension held in the lower back, hips, shoulders or poor posture.
Our feet are so far from our brains, it’s no surprise they get very little attention. Spending time to reduce tension in the feet may not only help solve those physical issues, it can be hugely helpful in allowing you to feel more grounded. And you can use this to your benefit. Anytime you are stressed, anxious or nervous, instead of fidgeting, you can bring your attention to how your feet feel on the earth to help channel that nervous energy into the ground. Above are some tips from Foot Works a programme I designed for those who stand for long periods of time in the workplace. No matter who you are, it's worth taking time to work towards having happy healthy feet.
The Body Will Share a Lot When You Listen
No matter what stage of life or life circumstances we find ourselves in, we all have the ability to positively influence our wellbeing. We instinctively know how to care for ourselves but today’s buzzed up, performance led world can distract us from responding to important signals we receive from our body, to alert us that something is not right. This on alert state happens deep in the layers of our nervous system in response to incoming sensory information. Ignoring or overriding these subtle messages can over activate the nervous system and lead to biological imbalance which can negatively affect our health, relationships, and happiness.
We can’t manage things if we are not aware of or ignore them. In my teaching and day to day life I have begun to notice - peoples bodies are longing for permission to simplify, unplug and connect in a more meaningful way.
Back to Simple workshops aim to regain our awareness of what’s happening deep inside and home in on our ability to use those instinctive responses to consciously help the body return it to its natural state.
Each Back to Simple workshops will include
For dates and further details click here
Understanding the Power of Innercise
I thought I’d kick off this first newsletter with a reminder that no matter what stage of life or life circumstances we find ourselves in, we all have the ability to positively influence our wellbeing. The intelligence housed in our body is capable of change not as a passive recipient but as an agent of change. Over the years my studies have encouraged me to teach a style of yoga, mindfulness and movement that aims to help anyone and everyone connect to the power of that inner wisdom. Recently I reflected on how I can again tweak my teaching to allow that transfer from class to practicing at home with confidence - enter Back to Simple. Simple class to home practices to regain that instinct to respond in a way that helps the body return to its natural state. To start you off the practices below target three tension hotspots which can have a wealth of positive effects on balancing body and mind. Namaste
Working at Wellbeing - Self-Care & Instincts
Never underestimate the power of connection to the body in mindful ways
This extract is from a Wellness Workspace article, I hope will be published soon. It links nicely to the theme of this newsletter.
Breathing is one of the few body systems that can be either voluntary - we can alter it consciously and at will - or involuntary - it takes place automatically without thinking about it. This unique relationship between our thinking and our breathing system can play a significant role in developing awareness of what’s happening deep inside. Learning to consciously alter the breath develops the ability to positively influence the effect different states can have on us.
There are many breathing techniques to use to alter breath patterns. My “go to” is one of the simplest - abdominal breathing - the typical breath pattern adopted in the regenerating processes such as, when you are asleep, digesting food or when the body is relaxed or at peace. It is also the most efficient and relaxed way of countering the ‘emergency mode’ breathing of our stress response.
It takes as little as two minutes abdominal breathing to become calm, aware, and present and can be be practiced standing, sitting, lying down, anywhere, anytime. I start by placing my hands on my abdomen to get that sense of the lift and lowering of the abdomen in response to the diaphragm. It’s about tuning in and feeling what is present at this point - awareness building - is the abdomen barely moving, is your breath shallow or fast? Then, breathing in and out through the nose, give yourself a little time to deepen the breath and allow the abdomen to rise as you breathe in and gently lower as you breathe out. It can help to count steadily from 1 to 5 on each inhale and 1 to 5 again each exhale. It’s important to keep the breath flowing comfortably - no forcing the breath or the abdomen to expand or pull back to flatten. Initially it may take longer than two minutes to get the feel of sycronicity of the breath and abdomen. With practice you willfind you tune in, feel what’s present and the positive relaxation response within that two minutes.click here for other Wellness Workspace articles.
BACK TO SIMPLE - FIND BALANCE RETREATS 2020
The long process of looking for suitable venues for my 2020 retreats is underway. Would you believe, top of the list so far is Osea Island, a tidal island in the Blackwater Estuary, it is almost on my doorstep - 22 miles from where I am currently living and a little over an hours drive from the city!
Osea seems a perfect place for a retreat. It's a tidal island so we can only access when tides allow. ThisThis hidden oasis lies nestled within 4½ miles of secluded coastline, you can wander its private beaches and rarely see another soul. The island is also a sanctuary for wildlife with some breath taking scenery. PLUS there is no wifi on Osea so this retreat will give you a very rare opportunity to really UNPLUG and reap the benefits. If you would like to read about my experience of a few days without that technology buzz here's a link to one of my articles at Thrive Global https://thriveglobal.com/stories/lose-the-buzz-and-gain-balance/
Provisional dates are 24th - 27th April. 2020. Spaces will be limited so let me know if you are interested.
Further details will follow as soon as all is confirmed.
I’ve added a link here for you www.oseaisland.co.uk/
In my early years as a yoga teacher I would spend hours sketching out stick figure sequences, themes and variations of poses for my class plans. I would then spend more hours practicing and finely tuning those plans on my own mat before taking them out to my students. Some years on, it became a regular class joke that I never quite stuck to my plan and those poor yoga stick figures on the page hardly ever got the chance to be practiced.
Why had I started to deviate from my written plan and teach something different instead ? It could be conversations I would pick up as everyone was readying themselves before class started, someone struggling with a pose, moments when I noticed a shift in class energy that didn't sit well with me - those were cues to move away from the plan and provide the yoga that was needed for that moment. That change in teaching style was over 10 years ago now and it has been evolving ever since. Although my class content still has a theme it's not based on the usual hip opening or back bending themes but on release, the breath, posture, resilience, core connection, themes that are linked to what I call Innercise. I rarely demonstrate and I have veered any from hands on adjustments. I want my students to experience how the practice feels in their own body and have awareness and confidence in that connection. I believe that won't happen through watching a teacher perform a pose nor from adjustment. It hasn't been easy moving away from directive to embodied teaching but it has been rewarding. There are so many times I see people almost light up when they just "get it", or times when I see someone shift from agitation to ease even if only briefly.
So where does Getting Back to Simple fit in? It's another stage in that teaching style evolution. In this buzzed up, technology- driven, performance led world I have again noticed the cues not just in my classes but in my day to day life - peoples bodies are longing for permission to simplify, unplug and connect in a more meaningful way. So my classes and workshops are getting back to simple, simple breath and mindfulness practices, simple rhythmic movement, no frills poses allowing space to experience what is present, a generous dose of guided relaxation and most importantly - time to experience Innercise.
Inspiration - the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something different. Inspiration - the drawing of breath.
It was at a Max Strom workshop over 10 years ago I first heard those two definitions linked together. Prior to the workshop I had noticed I had a really long exhale but struggled to inhale deeply and no matter what I tried in my yoga practice it wouldn't change. The timing of the workshop was just right, although it was teacher training, perhaps I would find something to resolve this unusual breath pattern.
Halfway through the workshop Max talked about emotional and physical issues that can be reflected in the quality of our breath. He explained how people can struggle to inhale fully when in the midst of grief, depression or at a low. Their exhale can be super long as instincts try to let go but there can be little to inspire you and so the struggle to draw a full breath.
It was as if he had tuned right into my inner world and those words were aimed at me. My struggle for inspiration now made sense. I was a person in that process of trying to let go, my husband had passed away nine months beforehand - I hadn’t realised my breath was reflecting my emotional state - grief.
Those words and definitions had such an impact - they the were start of my journey to doing and feeling something different - how I breathe.
10 years on I use movement and breath patterns for emotional and physical well-being to release tension from the inside out. Whether it is releasing tension held in the abdomen as a result of stress, massaging the intercostal muscles to create room to breathe, promoting lymph drainage in the chest or armpit area or simply lying in stillness - it all involves skilfully and in an embodied way tuning into the depths of the breath.
The breath is like an inner ocean. It can be shallow or deep, it ebbs and flows, it’s powerful like waves. For many of us we can spend our lives splashing around on the surface of the breath never taking the opportunity to dive deeper. If you do, you may discover down in those hidden depths of the breath is the door to transformation.
My Brecon Beacons retreat is designed to give your mind and body a spring boost. Each of our yoga for well-being sessions will focus on ways to shift those sluggish systems into gear, rid yourself of the stresses and strains our frantic pace of life can bring, boost energy and restore balance.
On day one the spotlight of focus will be on the core. The first practices will include abdominal breathing and self massage using a soft squidgy ball to release tension held in the abdomen/gut. The abdomen is one of the main areas where we hold stress and tight abdominal tissue can cause many problems such as bloating, digestive and elimination difficulties, inflammation, back pain and it can affect mood.
The gut is home to our enteric nervous system - also referred to as the belly brain. This special nervous system housed in sheaths of tissue in the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon consists of 100 million neurons - more neurons than in the spinal cord! The gut area is also the most abundant site in your body for lymph and is loaded with immune rich cells. Massaging this are encourages lymph flow, boosts the immune system, stimulates the rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system and helps release that tension to ease some of those symptoms stress in this area can cause.
The additional abdominal breathing practice will also a stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, help the respiratory system work more efficiently and tone the deep core muscles prior to our sessions where we will dive into core stability and strength.
If you have been living with tension in your core this work has to be approached tenderly. That's the beauty of retreats there is plenty of time to explore this way of practicing and listen to your body.
These set of practices really will be our first step on our road to recovering vitality and putting a spring in your step!
Back to Simple Workshops