Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: flexibility

Getting Back Into Yoga

Getting back into yogaDo you find it hard to get back into something after a break? I’ve experienced this recently with yoga (and blogging actually, oops…) It’s not that I stopped practising, I just hadn’t been doing as much, which I’m ok with. But it was when I found myself getting genuinely cross because my bus was 3 minutes late that I realised it I needed some yoga love back in my life (yes, doing yoga makes me a nicer person.)

But actually getting back into yoga wasn’t as easy as I expected. Here’s what I found helped:

  1. Clarify your motivations. I made a list of all the reasons I wanted to get back into yoga. They included everything from, “I’ll get better at keeping things in perspective,” to, “My back won’t hurt as much after I’ve been sitting writing.”
  2. Make a plan and keep it simple. In the past whenever I’ve wanted to get back into yoga, I’ve gone back to Ashtanga yoga, because it’s disciplined, I know it well, and I can just follow the set structure. But this time I wasn’t keen to do that. Instead I chose an online yoga class from Meghan Currie (look her up – she’s amazing) on Ekhart Yoga. It was an hour long and incorporated lots of stuff I wanted to work on – forearm balance, handstands and backbends. I decided to do this every day for a week. Simple.
  3. Stick to it. Once I’m into something, I’m pretty good at sticking to it, but I find the first few days of a new routine the hardest. So I refused to let myself skip a day or shorten the practice, because that would only make it harder to do it properly the following day.
  4. Remember to enjoy it. During the yoga class, I’d try to focus on the bits that felt good, and really notice them. I’d find ways to make my sessions nicer – lighting a candle, wearing my favourite leggings (in the picture – I actually love them) and hanging out for a little bit longer in postures I was enjoying. And at the end of the practice, I’d take time to acknowledge all the positives that came from it – strength, flexibility, mindfulness etc.
  5. Review it. After my week of doing the same thing every day, I wanted to mix it up a bit. I’m over my Ashtanga phase of making myself do the same thing repeatedly just to see how far I can push it. Variety is more fun. So my plan is now to do that class twice per week, and other kinds of yoga on the remaining days. I’ve added in some yin yoga, some core strengthening classes and sessions where I just play and see what I feel like doing.

Has it worked? In a word, yes. I can already feel the difference in my flexibility and strength. And crucially, I’m loads more patient waiting for buses. Or at least I’m working on it…

 

5 Reasons Why Retreats Are Amazing For Your Yoga

Retreats are so good for your yogaI’ve been out teaching at a beautiful yoga retreat in Andalucia for a few weeks now, and it’s struck me just how good it is to practise yoga in a retreat setting. Here’s why:

  1. You practise yoga every damn day. Weekly classes are fab. You turn up every week, and it’s like a little oasis of peace and tranquility in the craziness of your life. But when you do only practise once a week, it can take ages to feel a noticeable difference in your body and mind. For the super-impatient (like me!), this can be way too slow.  If you’re more of a “I want to see a difference and I want to see it now” type, practising yoga every day at a retreat will be right up your street. People leave after just a week already feeling the difference in their strength, flexibility and self-confidence. Result.
  2. You have chance to notice the fluctuations in your own body and mind. This daily practice means you tune in every day to where you are mentally and physically. You learn that things come in waves – some days you might feel grumbly and cross, taking a while to settle into your practice, while on other days you might bounce through the class like a happy little yoga bunny. And it’s all fine. You learn that tomorrow may well be different, or not, and it really doesn’t matter. It’s the turning up and doing the yoga no matter what that counts.
  3. You have fewer distractions. Yoga to clear your mind is great in theory, but it’s less fun when you find yourself utterly unable to let go of your mental “to do” list – realising that you forgot to feed the cat, you need to put your jeans in the wash and you still haven’t fixed the printer. And it is good to practise yoga at these times – learning to get absorbed and be present even when your mind is being really annoying is a useful skill. But equally one of the most lovely things about a yoga retreat is that you can let yoga be your priority. It helps you to focus better and just enjoy it a whole lot more.
  4. You get into a happy yoga routine. Making it to yoga class when it means you have to haul yourself out of bed 2 hours earlier than usual, pile on 7 layers of winter clothing and de-ice your car in the dark? Unlikely. Making it there when you can roll out of bed and onto your mat as the sun rises over the horizon? Much more appealing. The yoga retreat class convenience factor takes a whole lot of the effort of motivating yourself to do yoga out of the equation. And the great thing is that once you start to practise yoga daily, the yoga bug bites. By the time you leave, you’ll find yourself wondering why you would ever start a day without yoga, which makes it considerably easier to keep up your practice back home. Even if it is really bloody cold in November.
  5. You get to practise yoga in stunning settings. Let’s be clear – I am by no means a yoga snob. Some of the best yoga classes I have done have been in very average church halls with biscuit crumbs trodden into the carpet (though trying to work out if it was a custard cream or a rich tea is pretty distracting mid-downward-facing dog). But doing yoga in the mountains at dawn, or on a rooftop under the stars, or on the beach as the waves lap the shore is pretty special. Experiences like these make it easier to get that warm, fuzzy “yoga is magical” feeling. It’s a bit like a holiday romance, except without the getting dumped as soon as you get off the plane bit.

I’m at the end of my round of retreats for 2016 (sob!), but if you’re convinced by this and would like to join me for a beautiful yoga retreat in 2017, watch this space! It’s going to be so much fun…

3 Amazing Ways That Yoga Makes You Strong

Yoga Makes You StrongThere’s a misconception out there that yoga is:

a) Only for the super-flexible

and

b) Solely to make the super-flexible even more bendy.

To steal a saying from someone wiser than I am, that’s not yoga, that’s just bending.

Yoga is great for flexibility, but for me its power has been in the strength it’s given me.

Here are three of the ways that yoga makes you strong:

  1. Physically. Just try lowering slowly from High Plank to Chaturanga and back again and you’ll see that there’s more to yoga than having open hamstrings. Yes, flexibility helps you to move deeper into postures, but so does strength. Full Wheel pose for example requires upper body strength to lift yourself up as well as flexibility in your back to move into the back bend. You can be as bendy as you like, but without the strength to support your body weight, after a few rounds of Sun Salutations, your muscles will be shouting at you. Your body needs flexibility and strength for optimal health, and yoga can help you to develop both.
  2. Mentally. Meditation is like exercise for your mind. Repeatedly bringing your focus back to the present moment takes real mental effort, and just like strengthening a muscle, regular meditation improves your ability to concentrate. Yoga is meditation in motion. Maintaining mindful awareness while moving through yoga postures can be even more challenging than trying to do it while sitting in meditation. Not only that, but yoga challenges you to move out of your comfort zone, to face your fears and to experience discomfort without shying away from it. This last one is especially true in yin yoga – if you haven’t tried it, do! The discipline and focus yoga requires is as strengthening for the mind as it is for the body.
  3. Spiritually. It’s hard to find a definition of spirituality that doesn’t sound new-agey and weird. But one way to think of your spirit is that it’s the thing that lies beneath the fluctuations of your mind. Your spirit is deeper than your thoughts, your feelings, your wants and your worries. You might prefer to call it awareness, or consciousness or your soul, but whatever term you use, it’s the idea that there’s part of you that observes everything that happens, but remains untouched. And as such, it’s the source of your inner strength. No matter what happens there’s part of you that’s still okay. Yoga helps you to connect with that.

Yoga’s power to make you strong on all these levels is one of the many reasons I love it so much. Whether you’re experiencing physical, mental or emotional challenges, yoga can help you to become strong enough to handle them.

If you’re wanting to take your strengthening yoga practice to another level, and work through some of your fears while you’re at it, I highly recommend this free online class from the incredible Ana Forrest. I discovered it a couple of weeks ago, and I love it. Let me know how you get on!

Much love Jade xxx

What happens when you do yoga for 3 hours every day

I’ve spent the last 10 days in Guatemala for the first part of my 500 hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Frog Lotus Yoga. The experience has been incredible, not least because we’ve done an hour of meditation every morning followed by a 3 hour yoga workshop. This is what I’ve found happens when you do yoga for 3 hours every day…

  1. Much of what you can’t do is in your mind.

Being challenged to try new things, and to keep trying them is a really good thing. There have been many postures, like Astavakrasana (in the picture) that I’d not done before because I assumed I couldn’t do them. Life lesson there. It’s also tempting to give up when you can’t do something the first time you attempt it. But when you do try again, it’s amazing how quickly your body learns.

  1. Your body can also be the most frustrating thing.

That said, there are still plenty of postures that I feel like I “should” be able to do now after doing so much yoga, but my body isn’t ready for yet. Full Hanumanasana (splits) for example – I mean seriously, I’ve been practising every day for the last six months! But yoga tunes you into your body’s the innate intelligence and what that can teach you. Unfortunately, for certain things, the lessons are in patience and acceptance of where you are right now. It’s about trusting that with consistent practice the posture will come, when and if your body is ready.

  1. Yoga tells you what you need and when.

On a similar note, unlike fitness training, where you might set specific goals, yoga has a tendency to dictate what your body needs next. This may or may not be the same as your ideas. I came to Guatemala thinking that I’d done enough strengthening work, and it was time to improve my flexibility. I probably have improved my flexibility a little, but what doing yoga for 3 hours every day here has really taught me is that I still need to get stronger. Much stronger.  Because I’m naturally hypermobile I have muscle groups that need strengthening before I develop a greater range of motion. Yoga won’t let me ignore that in the way that I could if I was training in the gym.

  1. Progress isn’t linear.

My first morning of practice here was amazing. My hips felt super-open, I managed Dragonfly pose for the first time and everything came very naturally. I thought I’d nailed it.  I had visions of myself levitating by the end of the week. The next day, everything hurt. My legs felt like they were made of stone. Even handstands, which I usually love,were a massive effort. You have to accept that even when you do yoga for 3 hours per day, not every day is a “breakthrough day”. Some days have been about practising gratitude and surrendering to the reality exactly as it shows up.

  1. Doing so much yoga feels amazing.

Before I came out to Guatemala, I’d been doing lot of other exercise as well as yoga, like spinning and interval training. I thought I’d miss that when I came to just doing yoga. I even told myself I might carry on some fitness training in my breaks. No chance. My short breaks are spent reading my course books while trying to catch a few rays of sunshine. But I’ve loved it. My body and mind feel really good for the consistency and routine of this daily practice.

Now I’ve just got to figure out how I can carve 3 hours out of every day to practise yoga when I leave here…

Happy yoga-ing lovely people!

Jade xxx

Lunar flow, incense sticks and learning not to swear out loud

beachI’m nearing the end of my first Workaway placement as an actual yoga teacher at Marina Yoga in Krabi, Thailand. I’ve loved it, and I’ve learnt far more than I’ve taught here.

Each week I’ve looked with some trepidation at the schedule to see what I’m down to teach in the “timetable lottery” next. My first yoga class here was called “Lunar Flow.” “What the hell is that?” was my first reaction. It sounded like some new age euphemism for menstruation. After some frantic googling, I discovered that this is a class which involves moon salutations, a flowing sequence, more gentle than the vigorous sun salutations. With the words “Only teach what you practise,” ringing in my head, I spent the next few days practising moon salutations at every opportunity (in the shower, while waiting for my tuk tuk, in my sleep…) When it eventually came to teaching the class, I loved it. One student afterwards said to me that they didn’t know how I remembered the more complex sequence. I smiled and said, “Just practice,” choosing not to mention the incident that morning where I had fallen over practising while washing my hair.

I had similar experiences teaching new meditation practices – sound meditation, surya vipassana, chidakasha dharana – even the names scared me at first. But I realised quickly that I could learn, and practise, and if something didn’t work for me I could adapt it so that I was teaching what I felt comfortable with.

This learning to adapt applied to being flexible with my class plans too. Learning not to worry when instead of the beginners I was expecting for the vinyasa class I had planned, two students arrived wanting “advanced yoga.” Although it was important that I had planned my classes (I’m not confident enough to wing it yet!), it was more important that I let go of those plans when they weren’t right for the class.

My teacher told me that the students you need will find you. This came back to me during my first experience of teaching yoga nidra (a guided relaxation yoga practice – like yogic sleep). I was setting up the room, trying to ignore my nerves, when a student walked in. “What, no incense?” she complained. How rude, I thought, but I tried to maintain my equanimity and inner calm as I hastened to light a jasmine stick.

“Breathe,” I told my class, and myself as I guided them into relaxation, successfully, or so I thought. Until 10 minutes in, when said student sat bolt upright, scaring me so much I bit my own tongue. It was like something out of a zombie movie. “I don’t understand you,” she barked. “Use shorter words.”

“Of course,” I smiled, trying to do my best Dalai Lama impression and not panic. The longest word I had used was “sensation”. I spent the rest of the class trying to find simpler ways of saying everything. My mental dialogue went along the lines of, “Fuck, is ‘intention’ too long a word? Probably. Argh, think of something else. ‘Goal?’ But that doesn’t sound very yogic, does it? Shit, better say something, quick.” Although I kept my language simple, and my swearing internal, I fully expected my student to walk out at any point. As it was, she stayed, but complained afterwards that she hadn’t felt any connection to me. The feeling was mutual.

And yet, I recognise that just like when I was a secondary school English teacher, the most challenging students are often the ones who teach you the most.  As a friend of mine said, everyone comes to yoga with their own agenda and their own shit to deal with. That doesn’t mean I always have to accept people being difficult, but I can learn to manage my emotional reactions, and respond with kindness not judgment. I may not like the feedback, but it does teach me something. Even if I did still have to fight the urge to tell her where she could shove the incense sticks.

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