Yoga to boost your immune system

In Autumn (at the change of seasons) we are all prone to catching colds.  Sniffles, mild throat sore and coughs are typical for this time of the year.

What can we do to improve our chances to stay healthy/healthier?

The answer is to include poses in our practice which are restorative and have a number of health benefits such as: open the chest,which helps with breathing, calming the mind, boosting the immune system by allowing the body to rest in a constructive way.

Staying grounded, mentally well is just as important as physical well-being.  Continue reading “Yoga to boost your immune system”

Yoga poses to help with jet lag

 

Australia (or ‘down under’) is sooo far away from everything we need to travel long haul, crossing several time zones in the process.

While my parents were alive I made regular trips to Hungary (about 25 trips!).  Many years ago the floor at the airport lounges were carpeted, nowadays cold tiles.  If you ever saw a woman laying on the floor with legs up the wall or calves resting on the seat of the chairs … it might have been me.

During my numerous trips to Europe i came up with the following guidelines for long haul air travel:

  • Start the journey in the best possible shape, increase your fitness in the weeks leading up to the trip, walk on the beach, de-clutter your mind; prepare your packing list, have copies of your important documents, get to the airport early;
  • On the plane stay hydrated, drink plenty of water during the flight (alcohol will have the opposite effect) and as you will be burning less calories – you do not have to eat every morsel of food served J;
  • Move your wrists, ankles, neck and shoulders (you might find a chart with recommended exercises in the net in front of you) – you might find useful information on a chart where the flight magazines are stored;
  • Stand up and walk on the isle as much as possible;
  • Do some gentle stretches whilst queuing up for the toilet;
  • Try to get some sleep – do not feel that you have to “do” something, the aim is to arrive in the best possible shape for your holiday or business trip;
  • Change your clock to the destination time soon after take-off;
  • Once you arrive try to spend half an hour in sunshine and assume the schedule of the new time zone straight away.

You might experience the following: your feet may swell, your lower back may ache and you may develop sinus problems due to air conditioning and changing air pressure.

I have included a few restorative poses for you below which you can modify and practice even in a small hotel room.  Use rolled up blanket(s) or bedspread instead of a bolster and towel to support your head and neck.  If you are not comfortable in the pose come out and adjust.  Stay in each pose for at least three minutes. If you do not have enough time to do all the poses do the legs up the wall and the supported bridge pose.

1. Viparita Karini (legs up the wall)  – this asana will help to reduce the swelling in your feet, heart is resting, it is a pose the remove fatigue from the body.

IMG_1719

 

2.   Back-bend to open chest as we tend to collapse the chest / shoulders as we sit.  Roll up a blanket and a towel  and have them close by. Sit in front of the rolled up blanket, bend yours knees and place your elbows on the blanket.  Slowly lower your back over the blanket.  The rolled up towel should support your neck and back of your head. Stay in the this poses up to three minutes.

3.  Repeat the Legs up the wall position but this time elevate your hips (use a blanket or a towel), stay in the pose for five minutes.

4.  Supported bridge – enjoy that you can finally stretch out.  In yoga class we might use two bolsters so the back of the knees and the feet are supported.

IMG_1703

5. Supta badha konasana (supported bound angle pose).  Alow the props to support you and the fatigue will lift.

Supta Badha Konasana
Supta Badha Konasana

6.  Forward bend

IMG_1708

7. As any yoga practice we should finish the sequence with Savasana, try with legs elevated.

Savasana
Savasana – with optional christmas eyepad 🙂

Repeat the restorative sequence on the morning after your arrival.

If you are more energetic include a few standing poses: Trikonasana (triangle poses), Parivritta Trikonasana (revolving triangle) is recommended.

Safe travels!

Mary

Yoga poses to assist digestion

Dear Reader,

Sometimes our eyes want to eat more than our stomach can handle.

The Ayurvedic guideline is to have 1/3 of your stomach filled with food, 1/3 with liquid and the remaining 1/3 is “space” to allow digestion.  I tend to misjudge the 1/3 food bit…

Sitting on the floor while you eat helps to limit the food intake.

Generally it is NOT recommended to practice yoga with full stomach however there is one pose which is “do-able” if you overindulged.  It is the Supta virasana (laying down hero). The first variation is for experienced yogis and the second one is more for beginners.  If you have knee problems please do not attempt this pose.

 

  1. Supta Virasana (laying down hero pose) – two variations
Supta Virasana
Supta Virasana
Easier version of Supta Virasana
Easier version of Supta Virasana

The aim in this pose is to lengthen the trunk.  Whilst you are in this asana you quadracep muscles will be extended too.

Most of us would not be comfortable laying back without support. For support you can use a bolster (or fold up two blankets).

If your ankles, knees or back does not allow you to lay back over a bolster use a folded-up chair against the wall and make sure it won’t slide away.  I suggest to sit on some elevation such as a block or a book as this will ease off the pressure from your knees.  .

Whichever version you do sit up tall before laying back and extend the tailbone away from your waist to lengthen to lower back.  Keep your knees either together or hip widths apart, a strap will assist.  Use a rolled up blanket, towel or a small cushion to support the back of your head and neck.  Once you established that you are comfortable in this pose stay in it for a few minutes.

 

The following poses also aim to help digestion:

There are 5 poses in this series.  The food has to travel approx. 11 meters from entry to exit so the aim is to help the digestion process by pushing the food down.

These poses lengthen the trunk, open the sides, twist, squeeze and massage the organs in the abdominal cavity and finally assist towards elimination.

1.

Urdhva Hastasana - on toes
Urdhva Hastasana – on toes

2.

Side opening
Side opening

3.

Twisting the trunk
Twisting the trunk

4.

Twist -Inspecting the heels
Twist -Inspecting the heels

5.

Squatting twist
Squatting twist

Brief description of the above poses, I assume you have done enough yoga to safely go into the poses and come out of the poses with awareness and control.

1. Stand in Tadasana (Mountain pose, standing tall) inhale and raise the arms in line with your shoulders, interlace the fingers and on the next inhalation raise the arms above your head (or you can hold the left wrist with the right hand) and come up on your toes.  Exhale lower the arms and bring the heels down. repeat a few times (4 to 8).

2. Stand in Tadasana, inhale raise the arms in line with your shoulders, interlace your fingers and raise the arms above your head .   On exhalation extend the right side of the body, keep the chest and hips to face the front. Change the interlacing of your fingers and repeat on the other side.  Repeat the cycle a few times.

3. Stand in Tadasana, inhale raise the arms shoulder height and with an exhalation twist to one side.  Allow the whole trunk to turn. Inhale back to the centre and exhale to the other side.  Repeat the cycle a few times.

4. Lay down on your abdomen, either have your elbows on the floor (like I have) or straighten your arms.  Tuck the toes under and on exhalation turn your head to inspect your heels (try to see both of them). Inhale, turn back to the centre and on exhalation do the other side. Repeat the cycle.  This pose will massage your internal organs.

5. Start with squatting.  It is a twisting movement, bring one knee towards the floor and twist away from it.  Repeat on the other side and complete a number of cycles.  This pose will help with elimination and it is the last one in this series.

Enjoy your practice!

Mary

 

 

Love your feet and toes – management of arthritis in feet


As long as we are healthy, we take it for granted that our body functions as it should do.

When was the last time that you thanked your feet for carrying you to your destination – day after day, year after year?

I used to bush-walk and we often talked about boots, orthotics, dome under the ball of the foot, corns and bunions.  No-one of these topics are sexy but as we age the shape of the feet change and we cannot ignore this.

With the arrival of spring it is the right time to exercise our toes which have been enclosed in shoes for months!

Let’s start with the easiest form of exercise: walking barefoot.

Walk 1

You can do it on the beach or walk on the grass. Both are emotionally grounding activities and allow the small muscles in your feet to stretch and strengthen and joints to move.

Be mindful when you walk barefoot.  Notice how you roll onto the ball of the foot and then you push away from the ground.  Progressively increase the time you walk, do not overdo it as you might end up with sore feet.  The sand will dry your feet so use a moisturiser after walking!

I practice the following exercises while sitting.

Blanket folded in 3

Use a blanket or big towel and fold it (see above) to sit on.  Sit towards the rounded edge so your hips roll a bit forward, the spine is upright.  Keep your feet hip width apart.

Toes relaxed

Observe your feet in a relaxed state. Notice the difference between right foot and the left!

Toes stretched

Flex your toes towards you.  Feel that you stretch the back of the legs.  If you are an experienced yogi, pull up your knee caps and quadriceps – just as if you were standing on your feet.  Move your toes away from you.  Repeat this cycle 5 times – 2 or 3 times a day.

Toes spreading

Spread your toes.  Observe if there is an asymmetry between the right and left foot.  If you have a bunion like me the joint stiffens and the gap between the big toe and second toe decreases.

Toes fist

Make a fist with your toes.  Repeat this cycle 5 times – 2 or 3 times a day.

Work the sole of the foof

Bend the legs and bring the soles of the feet together.  Align your heels.  This is the cobblers’ pose (or badhakonasana).  Now move your toes away from each other.

Interlace

Visualise interlacing your fingers.  Now try to interlace your toes, starting with the little toes.  Try the other side.

You can do these poses with your hands too.  They will help with the management of arthritis, will keep to keep the joints more mobile.

Once you finished the sitting poses come up to standing and get a tissue.

crunching.jpg

Place it on the ground with one corner facing one foot (hard surface is better than soft).  The aim is to scrunch the issue until it disappears under your toes!  Try with the other foot with a new tissue!

I believe some yoga can be done anywhere not just in a studio and you do not need the latest leotard!  Yoga is for any shape or size and any age!

Oh – and try a new colour of nail polish – maybe to match or contrast your yoga mat 😊!

Enjoy your yoga!