4 tips for a better posture

It’s amazing the power of a better posture. It has the ability to reflect how you feel, how you look and how you live. You just can’t beat it for an instance boost. We know how we feel after a long day at the dreaded desk; all hunched up, sluggish and generally a bit pants. A shift in your posture can lift you, help you breathe better and make you feel strong. Let’s practice it now; lift your chest, roll those shoulders back and take a big deep belly breath. Can you feel that boost of energy? Good stuff isn’t it.

Sadly, good posture takes time and practice – we need more than a few shoulder rolls to get things moving in the right direction. Posture is created by what you do all day, everyday. Never fear though, there are some things we can do for just a few minutes each day that will get you well on your way. In the same fashion that we can train bodies or minds, we can train ourselves in the best ways of moving and carrying ourselves. In this way we create a routine for a better posture.

It’s helpful to remember that posture isn’t just about your shoulders and your back. How you hold yourself starts from the ground up: ankles and knees, hips, belly, lower back, the length of your spine, through your neck and into the shoulders. Think of this chain like a belt, we want it to be not too tight, not too loose – but just right in the middle.

I’m now going to talk about four basic areas of movement that combine to create the right conditions in your body for naturally perfect posture.

 

  1. Move. We have to learn how to move everything, in every direction.

Begin where you’re comfortable, it can be on your hands and knees, or your feet. Now move everything you’ve got, easily, in every direction you can move it. I know this can feel like a very odd sensation when you first give it a go – like that awkward dance on a night out! But I promise it starts to feel really good to move your body in a more organic way. We often stick to very lineal movements, and when we step away from this, really lovely stuff can happen.

From here, you can explore the full length of your spine, and move in more directions than you’re used to moving. You’ll notice when you give yourself the freedom to move this way, it feels really good – more like exploration than exercise.

This kind of movement is really important for gaining strength in the small supporting muscles between each vertebra, which in turn helps your ligaments restore and maintain healthy alignment.

 

  1. Balance. Get on your feet and challenge your balance.

By playing with balance, you further develop and fine-tune all the small supporting muscles throughout your entire body. These muscles are the key to how you hold yourself, and how you move. When you start to improve your balance you will begin to hold yourself in an optimal position for whatever you’re doing. From here, you’ll be able to do more with less effort, avoid injury, and heal more easily – all good stuff!

 

  1. Core. Get to know it and love it!

Now this is something you’ll hear me talk about in every class I teach. We all know a strong core is necessary for a healthy back and good posture. But the trick is, the supportive strength you need comes less from linear exercises like crunches, and more from multi-directional movement.

This movement begins in your centre, and radiates throughout your whole body. So that’s why I always have one song (and you know it’s usually Fleetwood Mac!) where we work on different core exercise to help you get to know your core and build that strength.

 

  1. Drop the tension. Wiggle those hips and stretch those hamstrings.

Your legs and hips are a key part of the framework that sets up how you sit, stand, and move. When you hold too much tension here, it inhibits your ability to move naturally, and knocks you out of your best alignment. Many of us know how it feels when our alignment is out of whack, it has a ripple effect throughout the whole body which can affect us in multiple places. Finding those natural moments and learning how to move with ease in your body will help to eliminate this tension and help you find your best posture.

I hope these tips will help you on your journey to a better posture. As a lady of just 5ft2 I know the power of a good posture. So stand tall and find your inner strength.

#Yogaeverydamnday & surviving the corporate world.

It’s 07:45 on Monday morning and I’m a world away from www.theyogaclubuk.com and stretching it out on my yoga mat. I’m already in my other life. When I’m not bare foot and in leggings I’m wearing make-up and rocking it in the corporate world.  When I’m not teaching yoga I’m implementing change in a financial services environment.  The two worlds really are polar opposites, but that’s maybe a subject for another blog.

My yoga partner, Laura Brady, will tell you I am something of a social media Luddite but I do like the hashtag #yogaeverydamnday because that really is what The Yoga Club is all about – relaxed, friendly yoga in and around Milton Keynes; accessible and flexible community yoga.

But surely it’s not possible to do yoga every day? Yes it is, and I do, in one form or another. 

Yoga is not about throwing fancy shapes and looking fab in Lycra. It’s far more than that; it’s about about how you approach your life and engage with the world. And no I’m not talking about drinking gallons of green juice and eating chickpeas whilst om’ing at anyone that’ll listen to you. Well you can if you want to but it’s not strictly necessary. 

Today I want to talk about the use of breath to improve your mental & physical state, lower your heart rate & improve your ability to focus – you’ll be surprised how much the breath can affect your health.

When I feel beside myself, distracted or anxious I take a moment to breathe consciously. It’s an easy practice and can be done anywhere without drawing attention to yourself.

 This is one of the techniques I use:

  • Sit at your desk with your feet fully on the floor and your back lightly pressed into  the back rest of the chair
  • Place your hands on the keyboard and look at your computer screen (make sure the screen is at eye level)
  • Once you’ve found a relaxed but alert seated position concentrate on your breath. The breath you want to use is just like the ujjayi breath we use in yoga class, an easy inhale through the nose and easy exhale through the nose. There is no need to alter the depth of the breath; it’s just slow and steady
  • Start to tune in to the natural flow of your breathing, noticing all the sensations as you breathe in and out:-
    • Notice the coolness of the breath on the inhale, the warmth on the exhale 
    • Feel the chest rise and fall
    • Allow the belly to expand and then release
    • Notice every subtle movement of the body 
    • Imagine the effect of this breath on the internal organs, the lungs, the diaphragm and so on 
    • Be aware of the natural pause at the top and at the bottom of the breath (just like the ebb and flow of the ocean)
  • All this time you’ve been looking at your computer screen but not focusing on it, it’s a bit like staring into the mid-distance

Hopefully, you’ve got this far without being interrupted but if not just restart the process when you get the chance or feel the need.

Now back to looking at that screen:-

  • At the same time as directing your gaze toward your computer screen start to look out of the corners of your eyes, the peripheral vision
  • What can you see? Notice every detail, the colours, the movements, the people
  • Take that peripheral vision as far as you can, you can see further out of the corner of your eye than you think
  • Continue to breathe slowly and steadily for as long as you need to ……

What has the rest of the office been up to whilst all this has been going on? Have they clocked what I’ve been up to? NO, clearly I’ve been deep in thought and catching up on my e-mails 🙂

Now I feel ready to face my day in the corporate world and I’ve done a short yoga practice.

I hope you find this technique useful. Let me know how you get on at theyogaclubuk@gmail.com

 Until next time, happy breathing!

 Gaynor 

The Creaky Yogi – What’s Next?

IMG_1748I have recently been sharing my experiences of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and how I have used yoga and meditation to cope and to ease my symptoms.

Creaky yogi – living with pain

http://www.theyogaclubuk.com/2017/07/02/the-creaky-yogi-living-with-pain/

This blog recounts my journey from RA diagnosis to how I feel today.

It took me a long time to adjust to my feelings of fear for the future and the sadness for the past I had lost – let alone getting used to living with pain.

I hope that in some way this information can be of help to others in a similar situation. Rheumatoid Arthritis, or any other chronic condition, has a significant impact on your life but I found that I was able to improve my situation over time, using some reasonably simple techniques. Yoga has played a big part in this and I would like to share this information with you.

IMG_1746Creaky yogi – My yoga of choice

http://www.theyogaclubuk.com/2017/07/16/the-creaky-yogi-yoga-for-pain-management-2/

There are many different types of yoga and they all have their benefits. When I was struggling with my mobility and pain levels, I found certain types of yoga were better than others. In this blog I describe the yoga that works for me. If you are able to get down onto the floor, and get back up again :-), I would thoroughly recommend Yin yoga. This type of yoga is excellent for improving joint health and increasing range of motion. It is also a great way of starting a meditation practice and turning the volume down on the world. Please have read and let me know what you think.

If floor based yoga is not an option for you then chair yoga is a great alternative. In a chair yoga session you can work on the entire body, increasing flexibility and strength without  putting unnecessary weight on those poor joints.

Free yoga

FullSizeRenderAs I’m a yoga teacher and I have experience  of living with pain I decided to try and find a way to help you get started. I have found an online teaching platform that has enabled me to host a number of online yoga classes free of charge.

There will be two class available, Chair and Yin, and both will be live and fully interactive.

NB. I will be able to see & hear you and you will be able to see & hear me. I am aiming to schedule both in the coming weeks.

Get in Touch

If you would like to join me please register your interest below. Please note that space is limited but I will do my best accommodate everyone.

Please add theyogaclubuk@gmail.com  to your contact list to ensure your invite doesn’t get lost)

Bye for now.

The Creaky Yogi

 

The Creaky Yogi – My yoga of choice

I have received a number queries as a result of my recent blog,  , so I thought it might be useful to write a follow up. As I started to answer the questions raised it occurred to me that as I’m a yoga teacher and I have experience  of living with pain perhaps I could do more to help.

Read More

The Creaky Yogi & Living with pain

I would like to share my experience of living with a chronic pain condition in the hope it might give some assistance and insight to others in a similar situation.

I am a yoga teacher and as such you might expect me to be flexible and strong, and in reality I don’t do too badly. I say this with a sense of achievement as I also have Rheumatoid Arthritis, an auto immune disease of the joints and connective tissue.  

5 years ago I was a corporate career woman. I had fantastic jobs in the city and the swagger to match. I was always busy rushing from meeting to meeting being super important and I played as hard as I worked.

Like many people, I fully expected my lifestyle to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future, and like many people I was mistaken.

In 2012, I developed RA and to be honest I was knocked sideways with the impact of being in continuous pain. It was inescapable. It was the first thing I felt in the morning and (assuming sleep didn’t allude me altogether) it was my last waking thought. It filled my head all day and every day and it had started to redefine me as a person.

I was afraid of the future and incredibly sad over the past I had lost.

I was eventually prescribed drugs to manage my condition and in some respects the side effects of them were as bad as the RA itself. Methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug, made me sick,  tired and initially didn’t even reduce the pain. Aside from all this I found myself in a maze of well-meaning advice and I really didn’t know which way to turn.

It was 2013 when I decided to train to be a yoga teacher and at this point my pain was around an 8/10 most days. I had listened to health professionals who advised that increasing the amount of exercise I did daily would help. I researched the advice, and yes it made perfect sense. The more you flex and compress a joint the more the connective tissue is stimulated, stiffness is reduced and the joint degradation slows down.

The issue I had was that the pain I felt whilst moving increased my anxiety and bought my reality into sharp focus; and aside from anything else it hurt a lot. I found myself surrounded by people that were stronger and more able than myself and as a result I would leave classes feeling awful.

My yoga teacher training taught me to move and breathe daily in a way that supported both my mind and my body.

This is where you might expect me to say that yoga cured my RA? Unfortunately not, but yoga and meditation have been significant in providing me with a toolkit to cope with my condition and I am pleased to say that, today, my RA is largely under control.

What did I learn?

  • Pain is not constant and unchanging – When you feel pain continually your brain tricks you into thinking that you feel the same type and level of pain all the time. This isn’t true, If you use meditation techniques to really feel the body and the breath you will notice that it is constantly changing and you are not feeling 100% pain 100% of the time. Tuning into the pain and almost making friends with it allows you to reduce the associated anxiety. You can use the breath to breathe through the pain and in doing so the body relaxes and it subsides a little.
  • If you are in agony focus on it rather than away from it and be confident that the moment will pass. You don’t have to cope with a lifetime of pain but just one moment at a time.
  • Don’t jump out of bed onto sore joints – Spend a few moments in bed gently moving the joints in the morning before you launch into your daily schedule.  Five minutes is all it takes to soften the start of your day and as result you will have a more positive perspective.
  • Own your own body – If you don’t feel comfortable doing something – Don’t do it. Whether that is staying in that yoga pose or walking an additional few metres.
  • Move as much and as fully as you can but rest when you need to. You know your body far better than anyone else.
  • Don’t suffer your suffering (as the Buddhists say) – In the moments you feel okay give yourself permission to feel okay – enjoy each and every enjoyable moment.
  • Eat as healthily as you can but don’t be a slave to it. As great as they are, you will not cure any condition with green smoothies.

How has this shaped my teaching?

Firstly let me say how grateful I am to have the opportunity to teach yoga. It is truly an honour, but not only that, my teaching schedule ensures that I move my body everyday and as a result I really reap the benefit.

My objective, as a teacher , is that everyone who comes to my class feels relaxed and does what they can. After all, just leaning into our objectives yields great results and in my experience the most impressive yogi in the room is very often the one who turns up despite life’s challenges.

I really want to support everyone in developing their own yoga practise but I am especially keen to assist those that feel they can’t do yoga because …  and this is because you can, you don’t need to be strong, bendy or beautiful in lycra in order to benefit from yoga. So if you can’t come to my classes find a teacher or a class somewhere that suits your learning style.

In summary RA is a pain, literally. However, with the benefit of hindsight, RA has given me far more than it has taken. The mental strength I have developed easily outstrips the physical strength I have lost. In addition to this I feel that my perspective on life is softer and more empathetic.

Overall I am a happier, more content person than I was back in 2011 so I guess it was actually a gift.

Please get in touch if you would like any further information relating to how you can use yoga and meditation to help you cope with pain or chronic illness.

Until next time.

Gaynor

IMG_1591

New Beginnings…

So I’m so excited to be starting this new journey with The Yoga Club! Myself and Gaynor have been talking for so long about ways to collaborate with one another, and create a yoga home that celebrates all we love and our passionate about with our yoga practise.

I first met Gaynor at our 200 hour teacher training course with path4life in Milton Keynes back in 2014. We both came from totally different backgrounds; Gaynor a corporate badass, and me a education officer at The Wildlife Trust – but I knew instantly I was going to like her. She’s a total free spirit who oozes confidence and one of the most grounded people I know. Me on the other hand was a little less grounded, deciding to go travelling for nearly a year after we qualified (but much more on that later!)

I moved to Milton Keynes around a year ago and was originally commuting down to London where I was working at Vauxhall City Farm as the education coordinator (yes, I really did commute from the countryside, to London, to work on a farm!) After work I  was teaching yoga back in Milton Keynes, and after juggling the two for a while, I finally decided to take the plunge and leave my job back in August 2016 to fully commit to teaching yoga. 6 months on and I couldn’t be happier.

So here we are, and I can’t wait to bring you along with us for this brand new adventure. We’ll be sharing lots of stories and yoga inspiration as we go – and I’d really love your input with this. If there is anything you’d love us write about then do get in touch.

Looking forward to meeting you all soon!

Laura x

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