Finding Your Yoga Vibe
Like anything in life there are so many options and choices! One CEO one told me that ‘choice’ is the definition of strategy, in one word. I love this. It’s clear and straight to the point.
Some people say that there are too many books, or too many types of therapy or too many paintings. Not so. There are so many types because there are as many types of people as there are choices.
This applies to Yoga. There are many different types, but also styles of teachers. This is great news! This means that the benefits of Yoga can be experienced by more and more people. Whether you’re looking for a physical practice, release, or a break from the monkey mind, there are Yoga styles out there. Usually the mind, body and soul combination can be found in all styles but perhaps with a different weightage or emphasis depending on the main theme. When I first explored Yoga more in depth, I discovered that the postures or physical part of Yoga is only ⅛ of the wider world of Yoga, and so I entered a fascinating world where the true benefits of living the lifestyle of what Yoga can be felt.
Although there is some discussion around what constitutes as ‘Yoga’, even on a purely physical level Yoga can be extremely rewarding and beneficial. Any Yoga is better than no Yoga. I was in and out of Yoga for years before I found a style that suited me I then took that style forward into my teaching, adding on my own unique teaching on top of that.
I was trained in Hatha, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga so my style follows typical Hatha Yoga poses but in a Vinyasa flow. I focus on a theme for that season and prepare the sequences in advance. I first feel the theme e.g. ‘Chakra cleansing’, ‘Balancing Energies’ or seasonal such as Autumnal ‘letting go’ and then I feel my way through the moves, visualising a smooth transition between each move and optimising some of the Yoga websites with all the poses and sequence suggestions. I pick and mix and make my own flow… take myself through it and then I’m ready. At the beginning of the session I talk about the theme and then we always have a short moment to set the intention for the session in meditation. Building the energy slowly we move into each move and I intuitively speak at intervals that allow for healing and mindfulness, always emphasising the ownership of the group that individually they know their own limits and should go within to monitor their level of challenge that’s right for them.
I am drawn to healing as it is part of my profession and so ensure groups are small enough to support any individual care with barriers or injuries but always recommend they also speak to doctor of physio before carrying out Yoga. We have a variety of students, some undergoing physio, some with arthritis, or other ailments and together we have seen great improvements physically and in their approach to life. We always draw a line in the sand as to where we are today, and that being exactly where we need to be. We don’t judge, we simply observe, have awareness and continue to grow forward. Some days we have more energy than other days so it’s also about optimising that but being kind to yourself when you’re not feeling as proactive. Sometimes we need support, sometimes we might even need a push and sometimes we want to push ourselves. Sometimes we just want to stretch and go easy. This should all be your own choice because only we know what is right for us at any given time within our own mind, body and soul. It’s about getting to know yourself and taking back control of your own mind, body and soul. We reflect a lot back to life throughout Yoga. My main message is that your life is yours and your sessions are for you to make the choices that are right for you.
We always end with a luxurious meditation at the end that is linked to the theme but slightly different each week, making use of guided imagery, aromatherapy oils and singing bowls. We often incorporate small breathing exercises which is a typical factor of Hatha Yoga.
Whichever Yoga you are more drawn to, it’s also not always necessary to stick to one style. If you choose a more feminine restorative energy one session and a more masculine cardio another session then this can also be a nice balance of your own energies. For my cardio energy I like to jog; I often find this very meditative in itself. The space allows me to either clear my mind completely or I choose it for contemplation, working out my feelings or solution finding. Sometimes I even use it to run through any speeches I’m due to give. Check out my blog on ‘getting back into running’ on Yoga Class Near You.
I recommend that you you visit different styles and teachers to get an idea and keep going until you find one that sits well with you. Here are some keywords to type into a search engine, depending on your overall main aim such as:
masculine, feminine, restorative, physically demanding, meditative, healing, laughter, yin, hatha, vinyasa, beginner/ intermediate/ advanced, calming, ashtanga, relaxing, evening, energetic, cardio, fitness, relaxing and so on.
Here’s some descriptions below of the main Yoga styles to give you some indication of what you might be looking for
Hatha yoga is a generic term (meaning balance of the sun and moon or masculine and feminine) that refers to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. Nearly every type of yoga class taught is hatha yoga. When a class is marketed as hatha, it generally means that you will get a gentle introduction to the basic yoga postures with some advancing into intermediate and advanced depending on the progress of the class. You may not work up a sweat in a hatha yoga class, but you should end up leaving class feeling looser, longer, more relaxed and positive. With varying styles of teachers there will also be added unique benefits.
Ashtanga is based on ancient yoga teachings, but it was popularized and brought to the West by Pattabhi Jois (pronounced “pah-tah-bee joyce”) in the 1970s. It’s a rigorous style of yoga that follows a specific sequence of postures and is similar to vinyasa yoga, as each style links every movement to a breath. The difference is that ashtanga always performs the exact same poses in the exact same order. This is a hot, sweaty, physically demanding practice.
Approximately 30 years ago, Bikram Choudhury developed this school of yoga where classes are held in artificially heated rooms. In a Bikram class, you will sweat like you’ve never sweated before as you work your way through a series of 26 poses (like ashtanga, a Bikram class always follows the same sequence, although a Bikram sequence is different from an ashtanga sequence). Bikram is somewhat controversial, as Choudhury has trademarked his sequence and has prosecuted studios who call themselves Bikram but don’t teach the poses exactly the way he says they should. It is also wildly popular, making it one of the easiest types of classes to find.
Basically the same thing as Bikram. Generally, the only difference between Bikram and hot yoga is that the hot yoga studio deviates from Bikram’s sequence in some small way, and so they must call themselves by another name. The room will be heated, and you will sweat buckets.
Iyengar yoga was developed and popularized by B.K.S. Iyengar (pronounced “eye-yen-gar”). Iyengar is a very meticulous style of yoga, with utmost attention paid to finding the proper alignment in a pose. In order to help each student find the proper alignment, an Iyengar studio will stock a wide array of yoga props — blocks, blankets, straps, chairs, bolsters, and a rope wall are all common. There is less heart rate increase but you’ll be amazed to discover how physically and mentally challenging it is to stay put. Great for any injury or chronic condition.
Restorative yoga (sometimes also known as ‘yin’) is a delicious way to way to relax and soothe frayed nerves. Restorative classes use bolsters, blankets, and blocks to prop students in passive poses so that the body can experience the benefits of a pose without having to exert any effort. A good restorative class is more rejuvenating than a nap. Studios and gyms often offer them on Friday nights, when just about everyone could use a little profound rest.
Vinyasa (pronounced “vin-yah-sah”) is the Sanskrit word for “flow”, and vinyasa classes are known for their fluid, movement-intensive practices. Vinyasa teachers choreograph their classes to smoothly transition from pose to pose, and often play music to keep things lively. The intensity of the practice is similar to Ashtanga, but no two vinyasa classes are the same. If you hate routine and love to test your physical limits, vinyasa may be just your ticket.
Good luck and keep going, keep growing
Yoga for Writers (or those on laptops for long hours)
As writers, we often find ourselves sitting for long periods of time; sometimes this can lead to various problems such as hunching of the back, wrist and muscle strain and neck ache. All these actions can often lead to headaches or other physical pains too.
It’s important in any activity that we participate in that we stretch and we move the circulation and allow the energy to flow through our body smoothly to prevent any physical or emotional injuries, as one can lead to the other. One day I was cooking some soup in a pan and I suddenly became mindful. I wasn’t in a rush and yet I was stirring really fast, I felt pressure to cook it fast and eat it so I couldn’t enjoy my chilling time and I also noticed my shoulders were hunched. I immediately dropped my shoulders and started to stir slowly and it was interesting how much anxiety I was storing in my stomach over this. I then started to slow my thinking and feelings down and decided to just enjoy the act of cooking and nourishing myself. In my Yoga sessions I remind people to be mindful in the postures, if they are tensing any muscles that shouldn’t be at this point, or if they realise they are still holding their shoulders. We can also be mindful while we work.
The following sequence will support some of those problem areas that begin to hurt or ache during sitting and writing for long periods. Some of you will be able to do it with ease and maybe some a little more stiff. I always say, ‘be kind to yourself’. Yoga is not about competition, it’s about the union of mind, body and soul and only you know where your cut off point is from a good challenge or a painful movement. Another reflection of life. As we are talking about writing in specific, and the emotions that can often cripple us, such as negative self-talk, remember that wherever you are now is exactly where you’re supposed to be and improvements will happen the more you commit and keep moving forward. You know when to push yourself and when to let go.
During your Yoga practice, think about the ways in which the act of Yoga has a reflection in your approach to writing, or your thoughts about yourself, or even the theme, plot or characters. However, just notice, just observe. If you are overwhelmed with thoughts then use the session as a chance to come away from the writing and take a time out. Remember to read the affirmations at the end of this piece whenever you need them or alternatively, create your own.
Yoga Routine to try at home
1. Bumble bee – breathing and action which cuts out external stimuli by blocking ears and closing eyes and humming – creates sense of peace and the frequency of ‘om’ is drawn into the body.
2. Savasana and Yogic Breathing – relaxation pose while breathing into the belly first, then chest, then collar bone savasana is laying flat on the back and relaxing and setting the right mindset and intention for the Yoga practice.
3. Om x 3 – AAAUUUUMMMM is the universal energy and its frequency can be found in all of nature – chanting it brings the vibration into our body
4. Universal breath – sit cross-legged and pick up the earth energy as you breath in, then bring the universe energy from above into your heart centre as you breathe out.
5. Neck and shoulders – if you struggle sitting for long periods then this can be done on your knees or standing.
– Neck: left, right, chin to chest, right ear to right shoulder and left tips of finders reach out. Take your right arm above head and rest on ear as an extra weight to increase stretch (don’t pull) – swap sides an then do full head roles clockwise and anticlockwise
– Shoulders: huge rolls back x3 and forward x3 (you will feel and hear an interesting mix of movements and cracking!)
6. Childs pose – options; one fist on top of the other, hands in front and palms flat/ or up, or arms by side, play up (blankets can also be used under the buttocks or on top of the thighs. The most important here is to relax and breath and feel the benefit of the previous postures)
7. All 4’s – wrist rolls – hands under shoulders, knees under hips (blankets can be placed under knees if knee issues) 3 options: a) if wrists OK, then stay on all 4’s to rotate each wrist x3 clockwise and x3 anticlockwise, b) lean on elbows and forearms if not comfortable on wrist (dolphin wrists) and do the rolls c) if you want to work on the arms you can lift the opposite leg while rotating wrists.
8. Cat/Cow – great for moving synovial fluid movement in neck and shoulders as well as each vertebra) – breathing in you come up to cow, breathing out into cat (shoulders rounded an tail bone under).
9. Hands upside down – sit back on your ankles, and turn your wrists upside down so that your fingers are pointing towards you with your palms up, but your back of your hand is on the floor. Here we can release any further tension from the wrist by gently adding a little wight onto them by very slowly leaning onto the wrist. You can take full control here and rock back and forth to the limit that you feel comfortable.
10. Dolphin walk – Legs go up into dolphin (same as down dog but you are resting on your elbows and forearms which are on the floor) and then just bend one leg at once, releasing tension from hamstrings.
11. Child pose
12. Down dog and walk dog – same as #10. in down dog.
13. Mountain – standing up straight, tail bone a little tucked under, tummy in a little. Shoulders back and down and chin parallel to the floor.
14. 1 full sun salutation – See this image for instructions.
15. Mountain pose – for a rest of a 1-2 breaths and rebalance
16. Toes to floor – stand on tip toes, arms straight out in front and with the count of ten been legs and come to sitting.
17. Bridge – or bent leg bridge if your arms struggle with the move (opens up the chest)
18. Hug knees and happy baby – This balances out all the work done on lower spine so it’s back to neutral and happy baby is fun! feel free, just grab the inside of the soles of both your feet, laying on your back. Stretch one leg then the other, then both and role around in all directions – cooing noises are optional 🙂 )
19. Spinal floor twist – 1 leg is bent, 1 straight. Let the bent leg fall over the straight to twist the spine. Arms are shoulder height, shoulders do not come off the floor, palms are down and head looks to the opposite side of bent leg
20. Hug knees – rock from side to side.
Mindfulness generates self-belief
It’s important to believe in yourself, below are some examples of affirmations:
· I am a writer
· I am a great writer
· I am totally devoted to writing
· I am extremely creative with words
· Ideas are always flowing out of me
· My mind is wired for writing
· I love to write
· Being a writer is just a natural part of who I am
· I just always keep writing no matter what
· My imagination is free
· I am technically sound and always developing more skills
· My creativity is increasing
Keep going, keep growing.