Meditation on Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in South East Asia, specifically located on the island of Borneo. It was climbing this mountain that made me appreciate living in the very present, where the focus is just about the placing of one foot in front of the other and taking the next breath. It all sounds very dramatic, but the environment forces you to slow down and just be in this moment. Everything else pretty much fades into the background.

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I’m sure many of us can think of a time when we have experienced something like this, but at this altitude the experience is heightened as our basic breathing becomes laboured, making it harder to walk and even think. In some cases, people are affected so much they vomit and become rather ill, the only way to overcome this is to return to a lower altitude.

Focussing on a mantra can get you through the toughest of tasks

It’s only now that I look back that I realise this particular climb was a form of meditation. It was pretty much just me, my legs, breath and mind. The last stretch to the summit wasn’t an easy climb but I stayed focussed, and I kept repeating the positive mantra of ‘I can do this’, which at the time was only slightly stronger than the ‘This is too hard, I can’t breathe, I feel sick, everyone else has already made the summit and is coming back down!’ That one little phrase and the ability to focus on the present breath is what got me to the top! And what an amazing feeling it was to get there, that incredible sense of achievement and battle against the elements, ok it wasn’t Antarctic, but it was my own battle and I won! I’m still very proud of that moment, and if I’m having a bad day I’ll think of how I got there and that feeling at the end.

Reaching the top doesn’t mean the hard work is complete

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Admittedly reaching the top didn’t mean it was over. I’ve always found climbing down a hill or mountain just as hard as going up it, if not harder. In this instance my water bladder sprung a leak, and all the water escaped, leaving only a 330ml can of Diet Coke to get me back down to the bottom, and at altitude fizzy drinks just taste like a thick syrupy liquid, not the best back up drink to have available. When we had the chance to stop off for food I was so dehydrated that I couldn’t eat. My friend who I caught up with on the way down got the brunt of me in the worst ‘hangry’ state I’ve ever been in! Thankfully he had a spare bit of food, water and a sense of humour to share, forever thankful for that.

Being in the present

So, whenever you hear someone talk about meditation, and it conjures up images of people sitting silently in a crossed legged position, try and think about it as a way of being in the present moment of whatever activity you are engaged in. You might find you have been in states of meditation more than you realise. When was the last time you experienced being in the present forgetting about past and future worries or cares?

 

Special thank you to Anuj and the team at Feedspot who featured me in the Top UK Yoga Blogs!

https://blog.feedspot.com/uk_yoga_blogs/

 

 

 

Breathe Through Your Pregnancy

Breathing, we all do it. Simple as that, or is it?

 How often have you thought about your breath?

Maybe you’ve got stressed about something and the next thing you notice is you can’t breathe. Or perhaps you have paid attention to your breath, and realised how calming it can be, which in turn slows the breath further and makes you feel even more relaxed and calm.

During pregnancy, breathing may take on a whole new experience.

 Your body may feel more fatigued due to the extra weight and hormonal fluctuations. As your body changes your blood volume increases by up to 50%, which in turn makes your heart work harder. Not only that but as your bump grows and requires more room, this will leave you with less space for the lungs to expand. No wonder pregnancy can sometimes feel like hard work.

How will yoga help me with these changes?

Yoga will help you to focus on the breath enabling you to notice how the body is feeling on that day or moment in time. Moving through poses will help the breath to carry oxygen around the body more easily and will help to loosen up the muscles supporting the lungs in the upper body. As space becomes a premium the muscles may feel shorter and tighter and gentle movements will help to feel like the muscles are lengthening and creating the sensation of more space for breathing.

Are there different ways to breathe?

 Yes, there are many types of breath such as the traditional yogic Ujjayi breath, breathing in and out of the nose making an audible noise that sounds like a calm ocean. In my pregnancy classes the favourite breath work is; the Golden thread breath, or Mother’s breath. It is a discreet breath; in that you don’t make any audible noises and you can practice this anywhere at any time.

To start with find a comfortable seat and allow the body to relax and keep the eyes soft or closed. Inhale though through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Keep the lips soft with a small gap, imagine you are holding a thin piece of paper between the lips, just enough space for the air to pass through. You may find the exhale is naturally longer than the inhale, which is fine and you may find with each round of breath the exhale gets longer each time. It’s important to note that in pregnancy you mustn’t hold your breath at any point, keep the breath flowing. With each exhale imagine that the breath is being carried away on a golden thread, and with it any pain, discomfort or tension.

Sometimes it can take a while to find a new way of breathing comfortable, so stick with the practice where and when you can, eventually it will become second nature. You may find that during times of stress your favourite breath may kick in to help keep the body calm.

Breathing alone may not help us sail through pregnancy and birth, but it may help create a sense of space and calm, and if we feel in control of it, then it is a definite win.

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5 benefits of breath work during pregnancy

  1. Reduces stress
  2. Creates a sense of calm
  3. Helps you to feel in control
  4. Helps to reduce blood pressure
  5. Helps you to feel connected with your body and baby

Do you have a favourite breath that you come back to in times of stress?

Pregnancy yoga – But I’ve never done yoga before?!

You don’t have to be a yogi to be able to take part in antenatal yoga, you just need to be pregnant!

Pregnancy yoga is a wonderful way to adapt to the constant changes in the body and allows you to be with yourself and become more aware of these changes. Yoga will allow you to stretch and create space for you and your bump, both mentally and physically.

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When is the best time to join a class?

The yoga and fitness industry in general recommend that you join a specific pregnancy class from 14 weeks onwards.

Why?

  • Not everyone finds out they’re pregnant until quite late on.
  • If you know quite early on, then you may not want to share the news until you’re certain.
  • If you’re part of a regular exercise group, you may want to keep this up.
  • If you’re new to exercise it is recommended to wait until you’re 14th week as your body will be going through many changes during those first few weeks, and you may wish for those changes to settle.

 

What can I expect from a pregnancy yoga class?

 Classes will generally take you through:

  • Breath work
  • Movement
  • Stretching
  • Strengthening
  • Pelvic floor work
  • Relaxation

All the above are great tools to help you with the pregnancy, birth and beyond.

I’m an experienced yogi, can I still take a regular class?

Yes of course, but be prepared to adapt and modify. As your body changes during pregnancy it is advisable to chat with your teacher to seek out the best options for you. Your body will start to release the hormone relaxin, making you more flexible and rather than using this to work into poses, you will benefit from working within a reduced range of movement to avoid over stretching the joints. Work within approx. 60 – 80% of the available range of movement.

6 key benefits to yoga during pregnancy

  1. Higher energy levels
  2. Improves quality of sleep
  3. Reduces stress levels
  4. Reduces back pain
  5. May help to reduce common ailments throughout pregnancy
  6. Improves your overall sense of wellbeing

Tell me more…

The next blog I will go into more detail about the benefits, and some of the tools in pregnancy yoga, such as breath work. In the mean-time join me at one of my regular Monday evening 7-8pm classes in Ewell, Surrey.

Contact me.

 

 

Yoga Teaching – One Year On

When I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training with Yoga London in July 2016 I knew I had only just scratched the surface of my yoga journey. It was a fantastic experience and rather daunting, as at the start of any career you realise there is a long road ahead, and exciting one with lots of work to put in.

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So how have I approached my first year? Rather than put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve I thought I’d start by taking one class a week to put into practice the skills I had learnt. In the meantime, I took a part-time office job to ensure a regular income, whilst I continued to build my confidence and find my voice as a teacher.

My first regular class was in the gym at my old work place and it felt strange to have had a conversation with one of the attendees in January 2016 explaining what my plans were for the year ahead, I had to pinch myself that the goal had been realised!
My first regular class had a shelf life of a few months as the site was closing, and so I began plans to start a couple of my own classes that would fit in around my current work pattern.

Additional training
Yoga London offered an additional course to teach pre and post natal yoga. I booked myself on and started September 2016. I really enjoyed this course for many reasons, and I will blog about that at a later date. Overall my confidence grew a little bit more on this course, being able to put into practice what we had already learnt whilst learning new skills.

New year new classes
In January 2017 I had a couple of new classes ready to start. This is where the hard graft really started. How do I get people into my classes? How does social media work? Will my website get any traffic? So many things to think about as well as delivering a good yoga class.

I went in hoping that I would have a couple of people coming to my classes but knowing the reality could be no one turns up. The reality was sometimes only one person, however I enjoyed the opportunity to teach one on one, and if no one turned up it meant I could enjoy a solo practice in a beautiful big space. As the months went by a couple of the classes began to flourish and a couple of the others diminished. The ones that never picked up I finished, enabling more time to look at other opportunities, knowing that perhaps I’ll pick them up again in the future. It’s an expensive way of doing market research, but it is invaluable experience. Sometimes you don’t know how these things will pan out until you try them. Always review and make a note of what you have tried and note down what you could have done differently.

What next?
The list of training courses available is endless and there are so many interesting ones to choose from. I had a top three for this year and it took a while to decide on one, based on what would increase my customer base and what would I benefit from, in terms of building upon my current experience. In the end I decided on taking a sideways move to re-discover Pilates. Yoga has made me realised how poor my core generally is, it used to be really strong from martial arts and horse riding, but a desk job changed that.

Pilates would be great for:

• Improving my core
• Re-visiting the anatomy from yoga
• Add a different dimension to my teaching

All of these are equally important to me, however being able to diversify into another area of health and fitness stood out as a way to demonstrate that I’m serious about pursuing a new direction in life. Yoga is fantastic and I will continue my studies with it, however it is always great to cross-train in other areas, this applies to any industry. I first became aware of this when I was competing at Tae-kwon-do competitions. It’s great to be an expert in your field, however seeing and speaking to people who have cross-trained in other martial arts, demonstrate a better understanding of how the body works, and their flexibility and agility seemed to be so much greater. So, here’s to continued learning and development.

Thank you
I’m so very thankful to the teachers who gave me my first paid classes. I learnt so much from them, and it is always scary filling someone else’s shoes whom you admire. I will never forget it! A huge thank you to all my mentors you’ve been amazing, this includes friends and family for supporting me on this new adventure. Without your continued support and encouragement, it would have been so much harder, if not impossible.

Have you been teaching or are interesting in becoming a teacher. I would love to hear how your year as a teacher has been, new or experienced or even if you have aspirations to become a teacher.