Do you know the feeling of toes rigidly curling up and would not release or the calf muscle pains and you have to jump out of bed, walk a bit before returning to bed?
My students (just like me) are over the age of 50. In class sometimes students get a cramp, generally in the foot (toes) or legs (calves).
Cramp is a painful, involuntary contracting (shortening) of part or all of a muscle, or several muscles in a group.
Cramps of the extremities, especially the legs and feet, and most particularly the calf, are extremely common. Other common areas for muscle cramps include: back and front of the thigh, hands, arms, abdomen, and rib cage muscles.
The actual cause cramps in the legs and feet is not known, but it may be caused by conditions or activities such as overuse of muscles, dehydration, nerve compression, mineral deficiency and cold weather.
Foot cramps are more common in older adults and sometimes they happen at night. Nerves and muscles can wear out as aging occurs, causing cramping. Stretching, staying active, and eating a nutritious diet can help older adults prevent leg cramps.
People of any age who lead a sedentary lifestyle are also at higher risk for leg and foot cramps.
I would like to share my favourite poses which – if practiced regularly will significantly reduce cramps and will strengthen your ankles as well. These poses (as yoga in general) can be practiced almost anywhere. The photos were taken on a recent trip to the Wollomombi area of North/West New South Wales.
Raising both heels:
Start with standing tall in the mountain pose. Keep the spine erect, chin parallel to the ground. Roll the shoulders back, bring the shoulder blades in and left the chest.
If you can keep your ankles together and come up on your toes. Release and bring the heels back to the ground. This is one cycle. Repeat fifteen times. It is recommended to do three sets in a day. This pose will strengthen the ankles and the muscles in the sole of your feet and in the toes.
Releasing one heel:
Come up on your toes (as in previous pose) and release one heel to the ground. Raise the heel so now both heels are off the ground. Release the other heel then raise it. This is one cycle. Repeat it ten times, several times a day.
Stretching the calves:
Place the toes of one foot against the wall or a solid structure. Have your hands on the wall or a solid structure. Keep the front leg bent, shin vertical. Step back with the other leg to a distance where the ankle is on the ground. Do not bring the foot across our midline, try to keep the foot in line with the hip. Feel the stretch in calf. Keep your back straight (take in your spinal processors), chest open and shoulder are wide. Hold it for say 10 cycles of your breath, i.e. one inhalation and one exhalation are one cycle.
Keep the front leg as it and step forward with the other leg. This will bend both of your ankle. Stay in the pose for 10 cycles of your breath. This variation will also strengthen your ankles, good for bushwalkers going down the hill.
Repeat on the other side (i.e. have the other foot at front).
I hope regular practice of these poses will help you to manage the cramps.
Recently attended a two-day workshop (run by Elizabeth Williams) on how to teach yoga to seniors. In this context senior is someone over the age of 65. She is a senior person herself, a nurse, trainer of nurses and a yoga teacher.
Elizabeth thinks age care is medicalised, it is not possible to get a pill for every ache and pain. If one takes more than three types of medication it effects the kidney, the side effects sometimes as bad as the condition they aim to help.
The way we age is made up as follows: 40% genetic and 60% lifestyle and attitude;
80% of over 60’s have one pre-existing condition;
50% of over 60’s have two pre-existing conditions;
People between the ages of 55-65 (the baby boomers) are aware of the importance of an active life style. It is not the case for over 65’s.
There are many physical and cognitive changes as we travel on our journey towards old age.
The key messages for ageing well are:
Healthy attitude, accept it as we won’t get out of it;
Healthy diet (high in fibre, retain protein intake, reduce carbohydrates);
Exercise daily – weight bearing. This will delay the onset of illnesses, it extends independence. Walking is a good form of exercise;
Drink lots of water (tea and coffee in moderation – water is better);
Yoga is the ideal practice for ageing as it is an umbrella for life.
The word yoga is a Sanskrit word, it means to yolk or unite the body, breath and mind. The journey of the yogi is through the eight limbs of yoga which was first written down over 2,000 years ago. Through regular practice of poses, various breathing techniques and meditation the yogi aims to progress towards inner peace (some call it bliss state).
If you decide to join a yoga or exercise class inform the teacher about your pre-existing conditions, recent operations – if you had any. Seek out yoga classes which are advertised for seniors, therapy, small classes or relaxation.
Most common changes in the body and mind as we age:
Fear of movement due to pain / or fear of fall;
Digestive system is compromised by medication, the older person might get malnourished;
Vertebras fuse together or canal narrows;
Muscle fibre reduces, muscle loss, loss of strength;
Walking with toes turned out (inner leg muscles shorten);
Reaction time slows down, when have to go the toilet it is in the last minute. Most of the falls happen in the bathroom;
Body parts might be replaced (knees, hip, shoulder) – for recovery follow the information sheet given by the surgeon after operation;
Feel the cold more – especially in hands and feet,
Eyes: fat behind the eyes reduces, loss of peripheral vision, torso leans forward. Do not do full inversions after any eye operation (half uttanasana is helpful, legs up the wall is OK to do)
Blood pressure increases – do not do full inversions;
Hearing loss (high frequency goes first);
Dehydration: as we age we do not get the ‘thirst’ sign, we get dehydrated, might faint to due this;
Sleep deprivation increases heart problems by 50%. We need sleep for homeostasis (the ability to maintain a state of internal balance and physical wellbeing in spite of changes or outside factors, such as body temperature.
Brain reduces in size (regardless of the number of crosswords one does 😊). Any concussion to the head can cause bruising against the skull, blood slowly sweeps. The effect of a fall might not be obvious for days;
Dementia is an umbrella term; Alzheimer is the most common form. The number of nerve cells disappear and the pathways reduce. Word finding (on tip of the tongue) is usual part of ageing;
Accept that an older person cannot be 100% safe;
Moving to aged care brings on depression – even if the person was willing to move in. Depression starts the domino effect of not eating well, not exercising and not sleeping well.
Do daily weight bearing exercises (like walking);
Stand on one leg (i.e. while waiting for the kettle to boil);
Keep your legs strong, practice sitting up from a chair (with feet hip width apart) – 10 times – 3 times a day;
Do a fall prevention course (it will teach you how to get up from the floor – in case you have a fall). Practice getting up from the floor before you really need to do it (come to rest on your knees, use arms to hang onto a stable furniture to come up);
Exercise your eyes (follow one hand from upright to down – diagonally, bring index finger to nose tip).
Exercise your jaw & teeth (eat apples, maybe cut into smaller pieces);
Exercise your tongue (stick it out, roll it around the top of your pallet);
If you are taking pain killers take them at least two hours before yoga class. You do not want to be totally pain free as you need feel the effects of the poses and how your body feels;
Skin care: discard commercial bath wash. Use natural oils for moisturising (olive oil, almond oil or Jojoba oil which I recently started to use and really like it). Use dry brush before shower; start from the extremities towards the heart. Let the brush dry under the sun and wash it once week without soap;
Eat with proper posture – i.e. eat sitting up – do not eat in bed;
If you have any pain get it investigated – but be aware that all painkillers have side-effects. If you accept some pain you can cope with it better;
If you use socks in bed make sure they are sticky on the sole to avoid slipping when getting or in the bathroom;
Keep your core warm otherwise blood stays there (not circulating enough);
Reduce in stress and anxiety. It helps with pain management;
Sleep well (deeply); – see previous blog
Try to learn new skills;
Keep socially active;
If you are interested in my class please contact me: Mary
‘FEAR KNOCKED AT THE DOOR – FAITH ANSWERED – THERE WAS NO-ONE THERE’
Some time ago I attended a two day workshop by Sally Flynn which focused on how to reduce anxiety with regular yoga practice. The topic is very close to my heart, to my personality.
What is anxiety? It is “a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about something with an uncertain outcome”. We all have different disposition and tolerance to it.
Anxiety is contracting us, draws us away from people – does not allow us to live life to the fullest.
According to ‘Beyond Blue’ on average one in four people – one in three women and one in ﬁve men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. In a 12-month period over two million Australians experience anxiety. We all know someone who is affected by it.
There are many ways to soothe ourselves, some of which will be unique to you. Take time to get to know your ‘base line” experience, how you feel when you are not anxious, how do you feel before starting your yoga practice and note of whether anything feels different when you complete your routine.
Remind yourself, thoughts are just tangled wired – they will soften.
In general – yoga poses which open the chest and extend the arms help us to REACH OUT.
You know your body better than anybody else – listen to it.
Wear layers, be warm during your practice. If you can dedicate a quiet space for it.
Below I would like to share five methods that have been tested by research and/or in my practice.
Deep belly breathing activates the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system and slows down reactivity. Breathing slowly, deeply, can de-escalate a full-blown panic attack in a matter of minutes. Remembering to breathe through the day de-stresses you throughout your day, and helps you install calm as your real baseline.
2.Hand on the heart.
Neural cells around the heart activate during stress. Your warm hand on your heart centre calms those neurons down again, often in less than a minute. Hand on the heart works especially well when you breathe positive thoughts, feelings, images of safety and trust, ease and goodness, into your heart at the same time.
3. Poetry & Mantra.
Because poetry is metaphorical, imagistic, emotion and sense based, reciting poetry activates the right hemisphere of the brain which processes experience in a holistic, imagistic, emotion-sense based mode. Because the right hemisphere of the brain is rich in neuronal connections to the limbic system in the lower brain, including the alarm centre and emotional meaning centre of the amygdala, snuggling with a partner or a pet, drinking a warm, cup of tea, and reading poetry or reciting a mantra can soothe and calm your nerves in about ten minutes.
4. Meditation & Yoga Nidra.
Compassionate mindfulness meditation & Yoga Nidra are gentle ways to calm the mind and body and let things simply be, over time generating a steady inner calm that sustains you over the long haul.
5. The three minute breathing space.
A simple and accessible technique that can be practiced anywhere, anytime. It helps to find ‘ground’ again when we are experiencing overwhelm, and we can clear the clutter of reactivity to restore clarity, and make sound choices.
Observation: what sensations, thoughts and sounds coming to you – 1 minute;
Breath: notice where breath shows up in your body – 1 minute
Body: breath into the body: – 1 minute;
Do it 3x a day – regardless whether you need it or not.
For each of these poses start with observing your current state, current ‘base line’ experience.
Place right hand on chest;
Left hand over the right hand;
Pause to notice if anything feels different;
Take a couple of breaths while allowing yourself to feel the touch of your hands, letting the exhale settle.
Remind yourself of an image that you find reassuring, comforting
Repeat any words or phrases that are meaningful
Meaning “I am that”, the mantra So Ham acknowledges that the energy that surrounds us is also the energy that we are – no separation – all is one.
If comfortable combine breath and arm movements.
Inhaling SO, we contain the vital energy – raise the arms;
Exhaling HAM, we absorb it as we settle, let go – lower the arms;
Repeat six times;
Pause to notice if anything feels different.
Meeting the Mood
Beginning by watching the breath or trying to slow it down may not be the most efficacious way of calming your anxiety. Meet the anxiety, normalizing it with a slightly more rapid breath like “Stairstep.”
Stair Step Breath (Viloma or interrupted breathing) – for Anxiety
Inhale: take little steps through the nostrils, as though climbing a mountain
(usually 4 to 8 counts);
Sustain (hold) for four counts (as is accessible) at the top of the mountain; •
Exhale: slide down the mountain;
Practice two or three times.
Grounding & Settling
Try placing one hand gently on your forehead & the other hand on your abdomen.
Notice the feeling of the top hand against the skin of the forehead.
Now notice that the hand on the abdomen can tune into the movement of the tummy as you breathe in and out.
Spend a moment or two simply sitting with this.
Nothing to change unless you choose to.
Breathing in and breathing out.
Grounding – FOOT work
When we are grounded we feel calmer and more connected to the earth and to ourselves.
You can use a tennis ball if you prefer or in the sand.
Lower your eyes or let the gaze rest on one point;
Take your attention to your feet;
Now try lifting your toes, wriggling them and putting them back on the floor;
Now with your right foot, roll across the ball of the foot from the big toe to the little toe a few times, then go the opposite way – little toe to big toe;
Next see if you can stretch the arch by lifting your heel and reaching it back to the floor;
Then roll around the heel;
Finally try rolling the whole foot from side to side – inner arch to outer edge.
IMPORTANT – notice the sensations in the right foot AND the contrasting sensations in the left foot that HASN’T been massaged.
Change and try the same thing on the left foot.
When you’ve done both feet pause for about 5 seconds while you notice what sensations or feelings are presenting themselves.
Reaching OUT (sideways)
Take a comfortable seated or standing position
Tune into your connection to the ground
Place your hands on your abdominal or middle of your torso
Spend a few breaths here while noticing the movement as the abdominal expands and contracts with the inhale & exhale.
Now as you feel the beginnings of the inhale, let that be your cue to start moving the hands and arms (one or both) up and out – reaching out as far as feels comfortable
Just go as far as feels enough for today, understanding that this may change from day to day
Depending how it feels today, you might choose to remain in the ‘open’ position for a breath or two. In that case, notice if you can bring your attention back to your middle each time you exhale (while maintaining the reaching out position). What would it be like to extend your ‘reach’ all the way to your fingertips?
Next, notice when you are ready to bring the arms back down, and when your exhale is ready to begin, let that be your cue to slowly return the arms to the starting point at your middle.
Repeat this several times and choose the pace that best suits your breathing rhythm.
Expanding out as far as is comfortable, holding the expanded position if it feels okay, returning to home base as you’re ready or when you need to, all the while being let by your breathing. Remember to pause for about 20 seconds when you’re finished, and notice and sensations or feelings that are there.
Bonding with Gravity – SAVASANA with “TENSE” & RELAX
Lying on your back in a comfortable position, eyes closed:
Let your weight be supported by the earth. Notice any part that seems to be “hovering” weightlessly above the surface. Try to soften or melt all of your body towards gravity;
Now lift your head above an inch off the ground. Feel its full weight and relax it back to the earth; notice the difference;
Life one leg off the ground, feel its weight, relax it to the earth; notice the difference
Lift your pelvis off the ground, feel its weight, relax it to the earth; notice the difference
Lift an arm off the ground, feel its weight, relax it to the earth; notice the difference
Notice your full body weight resting on the ground;
Notice the full body here on the ground and the front surface of the body touching the space between the front of the body and the ceiling;
Begin slowly to pour the contents of your body towards one side and roll onto this surface (bring your arms along). Feel your weight drain into the earth;
Continue to roll slowly, pouring the fluid contents until you are resting on the front of your body. Release your front surface to the ground;
Roll very slowly onto the remaining side, pouring your contents;
Return to your back and nestle your whole body into the ground;
Slowly begin the transition to standing, remaining aware of your fluid contents with the pull of gravity;
Once standing in plumb line remain in open attention, noticing any sensations (thoughts, emotions, images) that occur. Add vision and continue awareness of gravity.
Bonding with gravity underlies all other movement patterns. We must be able to release our weight down in order to push away, stand, walk tall.
This blog is written with good intentions but it is not substitute for professional counselling.
Confession of yogi: I have been practicing yoga for almost 30 years, teaching for 8 years and in October 2018 I had my first yoga accident. Some of you might think nothing to be proud of – BUT – I LEARNT VALUABLE LESSONS which I would like to share.
Half hand stand was always a pose I could do with confidence – until – one Saturday whilst I was teaching and demonstrating I lost my balance and fall onto my left shoulder, causing a swollen tendon and nerve impingement.
Brief background to the accident
I got bad news on the Wednesday of that week and was still working through the issues on Saturday. I was determined to teach the best class I could because I am a professional :)!
On this Saturday the strap around my elbows was a bit tight, I was not quite comfortable in the spot I was demonstrating. An inner voice was saying ‘do not lift your right leg off the wall’ but I did and fall onto my left shoulder. I jumped up quickly, felt some pain but I knew no bone was broken. I finished teaching the last 20 minutes of the class. My students were concerned, they recommended cream to buy and helped to put on an ice pack.
I visited my trusted physiotherapist as soon as I could (Vicki from http://www.myspineandbodyphysio.com/) and started on the exercise routine she prescribed. It was to remove my fear of movement, to mobilise the joint and to strengthen the muscles in the shoulder. I am still doing these exercises daily.
The mobility quickly returned but the movements are still not smooth. It was recommended to modify my yoga practice. At the beginning restorative yoga replaced general practice. By Christmas I tried inversions like shoulder stand and it felt good. I also did THE half handstand without raising a leg. My confidence has suffered!
What does yoga philosophy teach us?
Yoga is more than the poses what Westerners mostly focus on. It is a whole way of life. The philosophy was written down in Sanskrit by Patanjali more than 2,000 years ago. He defined the eight limbs or stages of the yogic journey in the Yoga Sutras (chapter II.29) and they are the following:
Yama – ethical disciplines – living in harmony with others;
Niyama – rules of conduct – living in harmony with yourself;
Asana – postures for mind-body connection;
Pranayama – breath control;
Pratyhara – withdrawal of the senses;
Dharana – concentrating on a single point;
Dhyana – mediation, uninterrupted flow of concentration;
Samadhi – pure bliss, fully conscious and alert – no ‘I’ and ‘mine’ exist
Quoting BKS Iyengar ‘When the eight disciplines are followed with dedication and devotion, they help the student to become physically, mentally and emotionally stable so that she/he can maintain equanimity in all circumstances’.
In every yoga conference, workshop or course I have attended we were told to practice and teach all eight limbs of yoga.
Where did I go wrong?
The first stage (Yama) the ethical disciplines (amongst other things) include non-violence or non-injury in general. It of course includes no self harm. On the day I did not follow this. If we are not gentle with ourselves how can we be gentle with others?
As they show on the airline safety demonstrations: first put the oxygen mask on yourself then onto others who need help.
The second stage (Nijama) includes study one’s own self. I might have studied myself but I ignored the findings on the day.
My advice for safe yoga practice
Listen to your body. You know your body better than any teacher, you know what sort of day you had prior to coming to class;
Accept where you are on a given day. We bring a different body every time we step on the mat;
If a pose gives you sharp pain or you are not comfortable in it come out of that pose;
If you have an accident seek professional help as soon as possible. Depending on the advice you receive – either rest for a while or start the rehabilitation process and work on it diligently. As they say ‘you are worth it’;
Recently I have been having some problems with falling asleep (worrying and overstimulated by dancing). Today in this LONG blog I will share my coping mechanism with you. This might send you to sleep J.
If difficulties with sleep (falling asleep or waking up during sleep) occur at least three times a week or lasts longer than one month it is called chronic insomnia.
Good sleep is when it takes less than 30 minutes to fall asleep and one only wakes up once or twice during the night. Sleep should be between 6 hours and 9 hours (more than 9 hours is not healthy).
The body needs sleep to rest, to restore and to recover for homeostasis.
General tips for sleeping well:
Regular sleep and regular wake up. If wake up tired get out to sun for ½ hour,
Sleep when fatigued,
If cannot sleep get up and try again,
Bedroom is for sleep,
No naps during the day (or 20-40 min max.),
Establish sleep routine,
Eat right – at regular times,
Keep daytime routine,
Breathing exercises – see more on this later,
No clock-watching if you cannot sleep (turn it away),
Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at night,
Stop staring at a screen at least an hour before you go to bed. Blue light / screen interferes with melatonin production,
Try one or all of the following RESTORATIVE poses before you go to bed.
Do not eat for say 1.5 hours before practicing,
Do your bathroom routine before you start,
Dedicate a quiet place,
Allow enough time (you might dose off like I do),
Wear comfortable clothing or your PJ’s,
Cover your eyes (use an eye-pillow, hand or face towel folded),
Do not worry about the props – substitute the bolster with a blanket folded to support the spine (and only the spine) and to lift the chest, use towels in additional to blankets. Books can be used for extra elevation.
The aim is to open the chest, release tension in the abdominal area.
Soles of the feet are touching, gentle push the heels together (strap is optional).
Focus on your breath, inhale for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 4. If you are more experienced hold the breath after inhalation and after exhalation, so the cycle will be 4:4:4:4. or you can extend the exhalation to the count of 6 or 8. Return to your normal breathing if you experience any discomfort.
Try to take the breath up from the abdominal area towards the clavicles, shoulders. Notice how your abdominal rises and how your ribcage expands on inhalation.
Stay in the pose min 5 minutes – don’t worry if you dose off.
Pashimottanasa (forward bend)
The aim is to rest the forehead. This helps to calm the mind.
Any chair will do and any elevation on it. If you are more flexible a coffee table might do the job. A modified version is to sit at the dining table and have some props to rest the forehead.
Keep the shoulders, try to keep the front of your torso long.
Stay in the pose for 5 minutes (gradually build up to it).
Viparita Karini (legs up the wall or on chair)
This pose is everybody’s favourite.
The heart is resting, helps with swollen feet.
For support any chair or the coffee table will do.
Support your ankles on the chair.
Hips can be raised with blanket or bolster.
Focus on the breathing as noted earlier.
Stay in the pose for 5 to 10 minutes.
For more experienced yogis the legs can be on the wall – vertical or at a slight angle.
Hips can be resting on elevation, folded blanket.
Though this photo was taken outside please do it inside for this routine.
Savasana (pose of the corps)
It is said not finishing a practice with Savasana is a bit like not saving your document on the computer – however you might want to relocate from the floor to your bed – AND FALL ASLEEP QUICKLY.
For support under the knees/thighs use a small pillow. I find it helpful – it allows the lower back to soften.
This photo comes from the ‘relax at Christmas’ series – hence the eye cover
To go to sleep or to calm yourself down try the following pranayama (breath control) and meditation techniques:
Sit up tall, feel the ground under your feet.
Roll the shoulders back, feel that it helps to lift your chest.
Mindfulness of the five senses
Without trying to alter your experience bring your awareness to your five senses
notice one thing you can see,
notice one thing you can hear,
notice one thing you can taste,
notice one thing you can smell,
notice one thing you can feel,
Focusing on each of the five senses in turn takes you into the present moment.
Grounding calming breath for sleep
Breathe through your nose
Inhale for the count of four (4)
Exhale for the count of eight (8). If 8 is too long try 6.
Repeat three times or until desired effect.
Using the diaphragm; breathing fully into the belly and expelling all the air can help activate our parasympathetic nervous system, relaxing the body and mind. If it is uncomfortable return to your normal breathing.
4:4:4:4 – this technique was listed under the poses as well.
Inhale for the count of four (4)
Hold the breath for the count of four (4)
Exhale slowly for the count of four (4) – or longer for experienced yogis
Hold for the breath for the count of four.(4)
This is one cycle. Repeat four more times.
If you experience any discomfort return to your normal cycle of breath.
2017 just began and I have already received numerous emails from the yoga community and training organisations how to make resolutions.
I would like to share my New Year’s Eve with you on this topic.
This year was the second time that I attended the New Year Eve (NYE) program at Mangrove Yoga which is a working ashram north/west from Sydney within two hours drive. Their teaching follows the Satyananda tradition. Mangrove yoga
I was looking forward to the chanting, the fire ceremony, yoga classes, yoga nidra and good vegetarian food – and all my wishes were fulfilled.
On NYE we were sitting on our mats on the freshly cut grass – under the Australian sky – as per the photo above.
Before the chanting began two of the most senior swamis talked to us and one of them raised the question:
WHY DO NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FAIL?
Then she went on saying: Generally our resolutions are based on something negative, which has to be changed, i.e. I am not happy with my partner, children work, and boss or not happy with myself. What if we looked for the good in each person and in each situation? Swami admitted that developing this positive thinking takes time, maybe a life time.
I am not able to recall her beautiful words but the message was it is up to shift our attitude and look for the good. You know the saying the glass is half full as opposed to being half empty?
The Sanskrit words for the chanting were projected to a white board so we could all participate. Close to midnight we moved to the fire-place which was beautifully decorated. Here we expressed our gratitude. The mantra was repeated 108 times and we sent our best thoughts to our loved ones.
Have a good year and set achievable goals, one step at a time!
At the recommendation of Amanda Fuzes I was interviewed for ‘Inform’ magazine a few weeks ago for an article on yoga for different ages where I represented the ‘over 50’s.
Amanda is the owner/director of two yoga studios (Flying yogis for kids and Prana-space for adults). In the kids’ studio where they have classes for ‘bendytots’ (from 18 months) to age 18. Amanda was talking about the benefits of yoga for children and adults.
In my interview with the journalist (Emma Brown) initially the conversation was around her questions. Later I demonstrated Trikonasana (the triangle pose) with my back to the wall – using a chair to rest my hand and in another variation on a block. The aim was to show how easy it is to modify a pose to suit.
Here is a shortened version of the questions and my answers.
How is yoga practiced if you’re a senior?
With more props;
At a slower pace;
Inform your teacher of your pre-existing conditions before the class starts;
If you experience sharp pain whilst in a pose come out of it under control. The teacher will offer you an alternative pose;
Advice on how to start if you’re a beginner? – Which style to start with?
Find the right class and teacher (style, time of class, location, the vibe in the class – it has to fit in with your life otherwise you will not stick with it. Seek out qualified an experienced teachers. The class should be labelled either for ‘seniors’, ‘restorative’ or ‘beginners’;
Aim to practice regularly, maybe two classes per week, preferable not on consecutive days;
You can start yoga at any age – or come back to it at any age;
What are the benefits?
Regular yoga practice has the following benefits: Slows down the ageing, better posture, self-awareness, increased confidence, strength and balance.
It helps to cope with life’s ups and down’s better.
Skills learnt on the mat are transferable to life off the mat.
Which style to start with and when are you ready to try other styles?
Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced yoga in Australia. ‘Ha’ is for hot in Sanskrit and ‘Tha’ is cold. Hatha yoga aims to balance the body, hot/cold, masculine/feminine and the left and right side of the body. Iyengar yoga (this is the style I have been practicing for 27 years) is specialist type of Hatha yoga where lots of props are used to assist the student
There are two ways to experiment with different styles: either at the beginning to find the suitable class for you or once you learnt how to do the poses safely then venture out and try other styles.
What is the philosophy of yoga?
If you are interested in the philosophy get your hands on a copy of ‘Light on the Yoga sutras of Patanjali’ by BKS Iyengar. Patanjali’s yoga sutras is the bible of yoga.
Patanjali categorised the 8 limbs (or stages) of yoga which represent the journey of the student from beginner to advanced level (enlightenment). The first two of these stages are conduct with others and self-discipline. The asana practice and breath control are the ones which are mostly practiced in classes. The last three stages are: one pointed attention, meditation and “bliss”.
The way we practice today (in a class environment, sometimes with music and candles) is very different from how it was practiced 4000 years ago in the Himalayas. Those days it was Indian men who were taught by their guru in a ‘one on one’ situation.