The benefits of yoga off the mat

The numerous health benefits of yoga are well documented and generally known.

I would like to share the benefits of yoga off the mat, the  transferable skills to the business world the support the yoga community.

I recently changed the jobs and the process of applying for positions and attending interviews was made easier by my yoga practice.

In preparation for the the job interview try the following poses, they aim to keep the spine upright and increase confidence.

Apart from standing tall (in Tadasana which is our basic standing pose) I included asanas (poses)  which open the chest (to increase confidence), think of the Warrier 1, 2 and 3 poses (virabhadrasana 1,2 and 3 in Sanskrit). Move the shoulder blades in and down to open chest and to lift your sternum. Have energy in your arms and fingers, keep your chest facing the front. Work your legs and feet without gripping the mat with your toes! Legs they are the foundation of the Worrier poses!

Worrier 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)
Warrier 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)

It is also important to be in the right frame of mind, so regulating the breath (maybe slowing it down whilst waiting for the interviewer, inhale for the count of 4, exhale for count of 4 or 6 if more experienced). During the interview be alert, be in the present by sitting tall, keeping your face relaxed, throat soft, chin parallel to the floor and look the interviewer(s) in the eye.

Yoga teaches us to be strong and flexible on the mat, have perseverance and to know when to have a rest.  All these skills are transferable to the business world!

The yoga community is also important.

I clearly remember attending a morning class as a student not long after my husband suddenly passed away, many years ago.  I was sitting on a yoga block and as the sun softly shone in the room I was thinking that this was familiar environment and I should keep coming here to allow this part of my life to go on as it used to.

A few years later I was preparing to teach yoga when i friend called from Hungary to tell me my Mother had peacefully passed away a few hours earlier. There was no time to find a replacement teacher. I taught the best class i could, in memory of my Mother.  One of the students offered to drive me to my Aunt’s place (who is my Mother’s sister).

I attended The Australian Yoga Therapy conference on the same weekend. During the two day conference I cried a bit here and there and everybody was sympathetic, accepting and allowed me space to be. Again I felt the support of the yoga community.

I find it reassuring to practice with regular fellow students and have regular students in my class. Over time we get to know each other and friendships are born from the common shared interest.

Once you become a yogi you become a yogi for life. The benefits of yoga “OFF THE MAT” are almost as important as the practice itself.


How to find the right yoga teacher?

“The most important thing is finding the right teacher – someone you relate to, someone who’s professionally trained, who keeps up with professional development and has professional risk insurance”

The above quote is from an interview with Leigh Blashki vice president of Yoga Australia (Refer to Spectrum of The Sydney Morning Herald 15-16 Sept 2012).

Recently in a yoga workshop we were asked to honour our lineage.  I would like to dedicate this blog to the teachers who shaped me as a yogi over the last 23 years and this might give further insight to the complexity of the “right”  teacher and a good class.

Robin was a physiotherapist and yoga teacher.  She was treating my lower back problem and she is the one who introduced me to yoga, I will always be thankful for it!  Her classes were hard work, in those days the classes were 2 hour long and boy she put in a lot of standing poses!  And we had to hold them for a long time to increase strength and stamina! We were delighted to do sitting poses after all that standing!  She tried to teach us how to look after ourselves and she was always encouraging, saying “you are better than you think”.  She lent a sympathetic ear if a student needed it.

I used to attend Tracey’s therapy classes when I was relatively new to yoga. The therapy classes were “short” at 1.5 hours and there were less number of students.  Most of us were somewhat stiff, we knew each other’s aliments and the atmosphere / comradery in the class was very good.  Tracey paid attention to every one of us, there was no limit to the props she would use to support us where and when it was needed.  She is very professional, always teaches a high standard class (sequence and poses modified to suit the students and to the weather).  Tracey is also very approachable and she does a lot of self development.

Zajna was very a special teacher!  Her playfulness and  intuition were always present. The poses we did were unique and the sequencing too!  From one twist through squatting to another twist! How did she come up with this?  The answer was simple: she loved her yoga and she practiced at home and shared her discoveries with us.  Her descriptions were colourful.  At one time she said to a pregnant student “it is good for the baby to see that you are folding up the blanket nicely!”  Only and Iyengar trained teacher would say this!  I wish I had taken notes on her unique sequences so I could incorporate some of them in my teaching!  Zajna loved her food and cooked with the same confidence as she taught yoga.

Helena took over Zajna’s Saturday classes and I continued to attend.  This brings in some other considerations when choosing a yoga teacher:

  • location (either close to work, to home or shopping, i.e. fits in with your lifestyle)
  • time of class

Helena introduced me to the “monthly cycle” of the Iyengar method where each week is spent on practicing a particular family of poses.  This  cycle aims at achieving a balanced practice.  Helena is very good with adjustments.  The atmosphere in her classes is jovial and the students are regulars.

Nowadays there is an abundance of different styles of yoga, we need to respect each other’s preference and be united by the love of yoga.

In conclusion: finding the right yoga teacher is a bit like finding a hairdresser or car mechanic!  She/he will become a special person in your life – choose wisely!

Tranquil yoga for 50’s

The website’s name is “TRANQUABILITY”, where tranquillity meets ability.

Both of these terms mean different things to different people.  To me tranquility means walking on the beach or just admiring hilly landscape at sunset.  Ability covers a wide range, from young age (learning to talk and walk) through teenager years, middle age towards old age (where ability might just mean coming down the stairs unaided).

Please keep reading on – especially if you are over 50.  We live longer and we need to be prepared!  60 is the new 40!

Yoga (which means to unite the body, mind and spirit) helps us slowing down the ageing.

We need to understand and accept the cycle of life and instead of resisting the change and developing a negative attitude towards life we need to activate our willpower, our intelligence.

Our health is very precious and we either have to allocate resources (time, energy and money) to staying healthy or we will need to apply more resources to being sick and recovery.

The most obvious sign of ageing is change of posture (shortening and rounding of the spine).  The effect of the rounded spine is collapsed chest which restricts breathing. This is why it so important to keep the spine supple and to open the chest.  Movement lubricates the muscles, ligaments and joints.  In conjunction western medicine yoga helps to control/reduce high blood pressure.  As the metabolism slows down we are prone to put on weight, so staying active is even more important.  Yoga poses stretch the trunk, massage the internal organs and help with digestion and trimming down.  In many cases with ageing come orthotics and lace up shoes.  Yoga is done in barefoot, toes; muscles in the feet are stretched!  We need to practice standing on one leg to keep our balance.  Pranayama (breath control) helps us to cool down and relax.  The use of props (especially for older beginners) makes it easier to get the correct alignment to allow us to gain the benefit(s) of each pose.  Supported poses restore energy.  Meditation helps to clear the mind, reduces anxiety associated with ageing.

With menopause the body becomes stiffer and due to the hormonal changes one might become irritable.  Certain Pranayama practices help to control hot flashes, have calming effect and “solutes to the sun” provide gentle form of exercise.  Cutting down on coffee / tea also helps to reduce hot flashes.

Brief Summary – how yoga poses help us to slow down ageing:

  • Standing poses for building and maintaining muscle and bone strength, increasing stamina and balance, helps to prevent osteoporosis;
  • Forward-bends, Back-bends Lateral poses and Twists to keep the spine flexible; to reduce shortening and rounding of the spine;
  • Inversions for reversing the downward pull of gravity, the hart rests and more blood flows to the brain which helps with memory function;
    • Reclining positions restore energy and for relaxation

One can start practicing yoga at any age.  Once you know how to do the poses safely yoga skills are transferable, can practice anywhere.

Yoga is not a competitive sport; it is about connecting with yourself, accepting yourself and being gentle with yourself.

Tips to start the day:

Over 50 we are stiffer in the morning so I start the day with some warm up poses, gently circling the ankles, wrists and neck combined with a few gentle twists and maybe stretching the hamstrings by extending one leg up at a time and using a belt over the ball of the foot – all of these in bed before getting up.

It is recommended in Ayurvedic science to drink a glass of water after rising, it will help the kidneys to function better.

Do a few cat and downward facing dog poses and maybe a few cycles of “salute to the sun”, open your chest to welcome a new day!

Take your health in to your hand and start exercising regularly – may be on a mat near me! 

 Note: this is a general guide to yoga over 50, written with love and good intentions and does not intend to replace medical advice.