Tag Archive | mary abraham yoga teacher

Trimming down – New Year’s resolution

Dear Readers,

Hope you summer break was pleasant and belated good wishes for 2020!

Did you make a New Year’s resolution (or maybe more)?  How is it going?

As I understand 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the end of January or latest by mid February.

If you eat or drank too much during the festive season – and your waistline has expanded as a result – this article is for you (and for me 😊).

As we age it easier to put on weight, the metabolism slows down so we need to watch the energy intake and output more closely.  Hormones also affect how and where we store fat on our body.

My aim is to show you a variety of poses which lengthen the spine and make you move around the waist.

I used props to make the poses more accessible for people who are not very mobile or not very steady on their feet.  Work with your body intelligently – do what suits on a given day!

We need to practice regularly to reap the benefits of yoga!

Let’s start – I will give you some pointers!

Remember to do the poses on both sides – holding for equal amount of time, maybe count your breath!

Standing poses:

Apart from helping to trim down we also strengthen the ankles and legs and open the chest – which creates more space for the lungs to do their job.  Having the wall behind us helps with alignment.  Note that I keep my elbows and knees slightly bent as I have flexible (hyper extending) joints.  If you micro bend the arms and legs you will protect these joints, you will not overload them.

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Trikonasa (trinagle)

Feet are about 1m apart, right toes turned in, heel is wider. Keep the left heel roughly in  line with the right inner arch.  If you are not steady move the left foot ‘backwards’. Stand tall, on exhalation take the hips to the right, create space in the left side.  Place your left hand on a chair or block or on the inside of your left shin.  For some of you the fingers might even touch the floor!  Aim to keep the arms in line with the shoulders.

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Parsvokonasa (side angle)

The feet are wider than for Trikonasana. Left forearm is resting on the left thigh. This is the therapy version.  The anchoring points are the right heel and left big toe-base. Aim to keep the left thigh parallel to the floor, shin is vertical.  This pose is also very good for lower back problems.

Twists:

What I love about yoga is the variety. As you can see below twists can be done sitting on the floor, sitting on a chair or standing.

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For these twists the common theme is: inhale, lengthen the spine and twist on exhalation. Stay in one spot for a few cycles of the breath and then twist more. Head turns last. Keep your knee(s) in line with your hip. Soft gaze, in eye level and look towards your shoulder.

Forward bends:

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These poses open the back of the body, torso and legs.  Sit on a folded blanket and when you go forward pivot around the hips!

For the chair variation have enough elevation on the chair so you can rest your forehead. The skin on the forehead to extend from the hairline to the eye brow – it is relaxing!

When doing the variation on the floor some of you might be able to go forward without the strap – but do not collapse the front of the body.

Inversions:

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In the first variation I rest my sacrum on two blocks.  Aim to keep the chest open and the legs to vertical.  It is OK to keep one foot on the floor.

The chair variation is my favourite restorative pose, I do it before going to bed at night or before going out if I am tired. The strap keeps the knees together so you do not need to do any work!  I do not like heavy eye pillows so I use a folded face towel.

Relaxation:

All practice should finish with Savasana (the pose of the corpse) meaning we stay still.  To be able to stay still we need to find a symmetrical comfortable position.  Not doing a relaxation is a bit like not saving your document on the computer!

Choose the variation which suits you:

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Enjoy your practice and hope regular practice will help you to shed some of the excess weight!

Warm regards

Mary

Yoga for different life stages

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Three generations of yogis – Amanda Fuzes, her daughters and me.

 

 

 

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 http://pranaspace.com.au/ and http://flyingyogis.net.au/. The latter is 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;
  • For more details refer read here – How is “yoga over 50” different?

 

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.
  • Community.
  • Skills learnt on the mat are transferable to life off the mat.
  • For more information read Benefits of yoga for older people

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.
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Trikonasana ~ three generations

Ayurveda ~ daily routine

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As noted in may last blog recently I was on a Yoga / Ayurveda retreat in a small, purpose built village in the South of India.

We practiced yoga every morning and had Ayurvedic treatments every day.

The Ayurvedic Doctor, Dr Alibash Anand gave us a lecture on how to orientate towards healthy living.  Here is his list.

Ideal daily routine:

  • Wake up between 3-6 a.m. – 48 minutes before sunrise;
  • Note if you have digested the dinner (drink water – does it taste water or yesterday’s dinner?);
  • Brushing the teeth on waking (use astringent, bitter and pungent tastes);
  • Water splashing of the eyes (with cold water in summer, use warm water in winter). Note the eyes represent fire – this routine aims to cool them;
  • Retaining of medicated oil in the mouth, gargling;
  • Chewing – i.e. bitter leaves;
  • Herbal drink (avoid tea and coffee or keep it to the minimum);
  • Application of medicine / KOHL to the eyes;
  • Nasal administration of oil / medicines (try one drop per nostril, leave it there for 5 minutes, do it in the morning or evening but not before or after meal. This is more beneficial than using neti (cleansing the nostrils with warm, salted water using a special dish, called neti pot).
  • Mild stretching exercises – one should use only 50% of energy;
  • Body massage with warm oil on head, ear, feet and body at least once a week – minimum: head, ear and feet). Start with sesame oil. Oil massage reduces skin dryness.  Always use downward motion on the arms, chest and the thighs;
  • Bath with warm water and herbal powders – do not use hot water on head, use herbal powder instead of shampoo. Do not shower after strong exercise or a big meal;
  • Select a profession you like and one which is beneficial for the community;
  • Spend time with friends;
  • Have the desire for knowledge;
  • Go to bed by 9 p.m, do prayer before sleep, head towards East;

 

  • How should a person be?
    • Calm and composed;
    • Charitable;
    • Humble;
    • Affectionate to guests;
    • Religious duty;
    • Start a conversation;

 

Other recommendations:

  • Eat a healthy breakfast (suitable for your prakruti);
  • Pre-lunch appetizer drink and then you main meal of the day;
  • Relaxation followed by another herbal drink (or sip warm water);
  • Avoid sleeping during the day;
  • Yoga and/or mediation;
  • Mild warm herbal appetizer before Dinner followed by a light meal. Do not eat for 2 hours before going to bed;

On a personal note I am working towards this complex daily routine by exercising (yoga or walking) every day, aiming to reduce my chocolate / biscuit intake, drinking more water and will try the oil massage. I have difficulty with getting up early in the morning and tend to stay up till late night. 

Small changes are more sustainable then unreasonable ‘big changes’.

Please try some of the recommendations – you will feel better!

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Introduction to Ayurveda

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Recently I was on a Yoga / Ayurveda retreat in a small, purpose built village in the South of India.  The retreat was organized by Adore Yoga.

As you might know Yoga means yolk or unite, generally interpreted as uniting the body, mind and spirit or uniting the individual consciousness with the universal.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda (Ayur: life, Veda: knowledge/wisdom) is ancient science of life and healing. It is originated from India, 4000-2000 BC.  Holistic healing, sister science to yoga.

THE LINK BETWEEN YOGA AND AYURVEDA IS PRANA OR LIFE FORCE.

Ayurveda offers knowledge of the senses, mind, emotions, body and our relationships with others, with our environment and with ourselves.

There are five elements (air, space, fire, water and earth) and three Doshas or energies in the body, Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth).

Our individual constitution is called prakruti and it is decided at conception.  Your prakruti will determine how things will affect you, how you react.

An Ayurvedic specialist will assess our dosha by observing our body (built, eyes, hair, skin and nails), speech, gate, tongue and he/she will ask about digestion, elimination and sleep pattern.  Based on these he/she will specify our prakruti.  Each dosha has its positives and negatives properties, we need them all and in the body they work together (i.e. digestion).

Most people have a dominant dosha and sometimes one of the three is out of balance.

Knowing and understanding our doshas is important for selecting suitable foods, species, herbs and lifestyle.  Generally we get along better with another person whose prakruti is different from ours (imagine two cooks in a kitchen!).

Back to the retreat – we started the day with an early morning yoga class

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which was followed by a healthy breakfast, including all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, astringent, pungent and bitter).

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In Ayurveda they teach against overeating and it is recommended to fill the stomach with food up to half way, ¼ is used for liquids and ¼ of the stomach is left empty to allow for digestion.  Indians eat sitting on the floor in easy crossed legged position.  This pose helps to  as one burps at half-mark.

Despite eating big meals after a few days we all felt lighter as the toxins were leaving our body.

The table below has some information on the Doshas.

 

Dosha Vata

Air & Space

Pitta

Fire & water

Kapha

Earth and water

Main characteristics

If Dosha is

in balance

 

Occupation

Expands energy

Movement

Joy, creativity

Inspirational

Good communicator /

 

Actor

 

Efficient at alloc energy,

Transformation

Fire of metabolism

Intense, focused, detailed

Politician

Conserves energy

Cohesial / stagnant

Grounded, stable

 

 

Bank Manager

If out of balance Worry, insomnia

erratic

Poor digestion

Irritable and critical Congestion in the body, weight gain
To balance this dosha needs Nourishing and grounding/ routine

Take regular breaks

Calming foods (warm) and calming yoga poses Stimulating food (light foods/salads) and more vigorous yoga

Change routine

This dosha is dominant in People over 50 Between the ages of

20-50

Childhood

If you are interested in reading more about Ayurveda ‘The science of Self-Healing’ by Dr Vasant Lad is a good book.

We live in a Vata society, high rise buildings, air conditioning, fast pace – so ideally we all should chill out / relax more.

My Ayurvedic treatment included warm oil massage and massage with warm herbal pouches – as prescribed by the Doctor.

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Treatment table, my herbal pouches in the bowl and gas for heating

As we age we are getting dryer both outside and inside.  Self massage with warm oil (which is suitable for our constitution) once a week is an effective way to keep ourselves young.

There are a number of qualified and experienced Ayurvedic specialist in Sydney.