8th September 2015

The benefits of mindfulness

Mindfulness – gaining insight from ancient wisdom and modern scientific understanding by Dr Gail Loudon   As I prepare to teach my sixth Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course that I’ve guided at Studio Yoga, I was reminded by a friend how I came to embrace the mindfulness based approach to living, which MBSR and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) offers us. I still work, and thoroughly enjoy working, as a conventional doctor although it is significant that I have kept to specialities that have allowed me to follow a holistic approach to patients and to their care i.e taking into account their particular stresses in life and how that may be impacting on their health and well-being. I have a clear memory of sitting in a pharmacology lecture as a student stunned by the fact that I was the only person in the room who was completely fascinated by the placebo effect. Generally it is seen as an irritation getting in the way of establishing the effect of new […]
16th August 2015

Why yoga is like making pasta

On holiday in Italy recently we did a cookery course in Florence.  I’ve long thought there are many parallels between yoga and cookery and this reinforced my opinion that asanas are like ingredients which are combined together to produce something that will nourish you and leave you satisfied.  In many ways constructing a yoga practice is like devising a recipe. We need to have an intention for what we want to achieve before we start and both the order in which things are done and the techniques used affect the end result. Just as with food, in yoga there are many fads and trends, with different styles becoming fashionable and endorsed by celebrities in the same way as diets are. I ignore most of them – yoga is yoga in my opinion and I’m not sure how many times you can reinvent the wheel before it stops being a wheel and becomes something else altogether – but it’s certainly good to have variety.  We should be able to cater for […]
14th June 2015

Yoga Pose of the Month – Wrist Stretches

I am so grateful to the fabulous yoga teacher Zoe Knott for sharing these simple and effective ways to strengthen and mobilise your wrists. They are brilliant because while the initial series involves no weight bearing and is suitable for everyone, they get progressively stronger and more challenging becoming an integral part of our preparation for wheel pose, handstand and arm balances such as crow and cockerel pose, although it is very much a step-by-step process. It is difficult to avoid bearing weight through the arms and wrists at some point in a yoga class, so even if handstands are not your thing, options can start to become limited once you exclude poses such as cat, downward and upward facing dog, plank, chaturanga dandasana and so on.  No Sun Salutations for you.  But there are more important reasons why the following exercises are so good for those of us with weak or stiff wrists.  Firstly, to keep your joints healthy they need to be kept strong and flexible; the Arthritis Foundation […]
13th June 2015

Celebrate – International Yoga Day 2015

Sunday June 21st is the first ever International Yoga Day.  Funny that something which has been around for thousands of years has only now recognised by the UN in this way, but perhaps it just shows how mainstream yoga has now become. The day has been championed by the Indian Prime Minster, Narendra Modi, who said: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.” Across the world events are planned to mark the day, and raise awareness of the transformative and life-improving benefits of yoga.  For the ancient yogis it was a discipline that they practised in order to seek enlightenment.  Today many of us are drawn to yoga for physical reasons, to improve  our strength, flexibility and tone, but yoga can also be tremendously […]
6th May 2015

Yoga and the Feelgood Factor

Why is it that we feel better after a yoga class? Sometimes it can all feel a bit of an effort to get ourselves to yoga.  We’re too busy, too tired and for women especially, the “me-time” that’s associated with yoga can be the first thing to go when we’re under pressure. But invariably something happens during the hour or more that we’re on our mats t0 alter our mood.  Subtle changes occur.  We feel different: clearer-headed, lighter, maybe happier.  We can enjoy a sense of “wholeness”.  Maybe not quite at a state of Samadhi (bliss), which according to the ancient yogic sage, Patanjali, is the eighth and innermost limb of yoga, but definitely part of the way there. In her book “Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit”, teacher Donna Farhi compares what happens in yoga to cleaning the windscreen of your car.  Nothing about the landscape around you has changed, but you’re able to notice what’s there more clearly.  Your perception changes and you can see the potholes in the […]
6th April 2015

Yoga Pose of the Month – Cobbler Pose

Practising sitting poses such as Cobbler Pose or Baddha Konasana takes us to the essence of what yoga is all about.  Although many of us think of the word asana as meaning a pose or posture, the literal translation is “a comfortable seat”.  This, of course, is essential in order to practise meditation, as you need to be able to sit and focus your attention inwards without being distracted by physical discomfort. Baddha Konasana is often translated into English as Cobbler or Tailor Pose, because this is the position they would traditionally sit in to do their work.  However it really means “bound angle pose”.  The angle referred to is that between the legs and the torso and in Iyengar Yoga a strap is often used around the lower body to help to achieve this feeling of binding.   It’s a powerful stretch for the inner thighs and groins and also activates the muscles of the pelvic floor.  This is why the pose is regarded as beneficial for menstrual and bladder […]
9th March 2015

Snowga Yoga

A yoga practice to do on skis! If you’re going skiing this Spring, here’s a practice you can try on or off the slopes. If you’re out on the mountain, find a piece of level ground (although Trikonasana and Virabhadrasana 1 can be done standing sideways on the side of the hill).  You can either do the postures in the sequence as shown or split them up and intersperse them into your skiing day. Pose 1:  Forward Bend (Uttanasana).  The shape of a ski boot keeps your knees slightly bent and your ankles flexed which helps you access this deep forward bend. Pose 2:  Modified Triangle (Trikonasana).  You can try this either on the flat or standing at the side of the slope, but make sure your front leg is the uphill ski so you can edge with the back leg for stability.  When you have your skis on the front knee will stay slightly bent.  Repeat on the other side. Pose 3:  Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1).  A great back […]
14th February 2015

Meditation for your heart – by Jane Duncan

Each February, around Valentine’s Day,  our thoughts are inevitably drawn towards love and relationships.  Whilst many of us have happy relationships with those we love, people often comment that these connections are not as close or loving as they would want them to be.  They tell me it is hard to maintain relationships in this day and age because of work, time constraints, 24 hour communication and the feeling of not having enough time for yourself, let alone for anyone else.   They ask me how heart rhythm meditation could help ? I answer them by explaining the incredible power that the heart has – the power to attract what you desire. Every living thing has a heart that is electrically charged and is continually sending waves of electro-magnetic energy out into the world.  This energy forms a field around you which impacts everyone you come into contact with – those you know and strangers. Have you ever met someone that you instantly liked, were drawn to and it gave you […]
8th February 2015

Yoga Pose of the Month – Upward Facing Dog

For the ancient yogis learning to observe, not only themselves but also the world around them, was a crucial skill to master.  This art of observation is one of the reasons why so many asanas and the qualities they embody are named after animals or things found in the natural world: cobra, camel, eagle, tree, etc. One of the most aptly titled is Upward Facing Dog: a powerful backbend, which together with its partner pose Downward Dog, really seems to encapsulate the way dogs stretch on waking, enjoying a feeling of length, movement and extension.  For us humans this pose strengthens the spine, arms and wrists and stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders, abdomen and hip flexors.  Like all backbends it can have an invigorating, energising effect helping to relieve tiredness and lift your mood. How to do the pose: Upward Dog is a pose which works beautifully in vinyasas (sequences), for instance with Downward Dog and Cat, but to do it as a stand-alone posture begin lying on the floor face […]