Moving with grace and fluidity

Occasionally in our classes we create sequences of flowing movements and asanas. With emphasis on the flow in to and out of poses.This sequence is called grace and fluidity and it has been very popular in class. I asked one of our lovely students, who is a very good musician, if she had any music we could set our flow to and the music you hear on the grace and fluidity clip is her own composition and performance. I have been asked to film the sequence to help with home practise, so here it is, I hope you enjoy it.

Running v. Walking

running v. walkingI have just read this article which researches whether running or walking is better for you. The article itself is interesting, but one thing that grabbed my attention was the unsurprising revelation that runners are more prone to injuries than walkers. As a yoga teacher I am often helping runners recover from injury. If I am lucky I get to help prevent injury, improve performance and bring many new thoughts to the whole running experience.

Moving beyond the usual warm up/cool down stretches, I will treat you to a few ideas, based on yogic principles, that may enhance your training and running life.

Listen to your body.

Many runners ignore the little signs that your body gives to warn you to take action in order to prevent a more serious injury. Pay particular attention at the beginning of your run. Exercise produces endorphins, short for endogenous morphine, this is the feel good factor, one of the reasons why exercise can be addictive (the clue is in the name). If your little niggles and aches disappear once you are into your run – beware, endorphins are also natural pain killers, inhibiting the transmission of pain signals.

In my classes we work to develop the ability to detect imbalance in the body. We frequently work one side of  the body, stretching, moving the hip etc. We then lie in Shavasana (flat on the back, arms about 15cm away from the side of the body, palms face up) to allow time for the mind to register the difference. The sensation of one leg being longer than the other and of the hip being lower is very powerful. Many students will sit up to check if one leg is actually longer. The feeling of imbalance is quickly followed by an equally powerful urge to rectify the situation by working the other side. Still we wait a bit longer before we move, registering the bodies need to balance itself, indeed to heal itself. As a runner, developing this ability to detect imbalance could be a valuable tool to preventing injury, nipping those little signs in the bud, so to speak.

Some aches and pains will go away of their own accord, they can be run through. However, with your newly tuned body radar you can detect if the painful sensations are getting more intense, perhaps spreading and do something about it before you can no longer run through the pain.

Look out for more blogs about how yoga can add to the running experience.

Non-attachment

rucksackPacking a rucksack to live out of for 5 weeks is a very different thing to packing a suitcase for a weeks holiday. Every item is scrutinised for its value to those 5 weeks. This packing exercise has got me thinking about the yogic principle of non attachment. Within yoga philosophy, Patanjalis sutras are often quoted. Patanjali states that the principle of non attachment to objects is fundamental to controlling the thought waves of the mind. We all know how refreshing “de cluttering” can be. In its basic state non attachment is a form of  “de cluttering”. Clutter is not entirely what non attachment is about. It is more concerned with objects of desire. In asking ourselves “What do I gain by posession of that object?”, we are analysing its affect on our lives. If the answer is of no benefit to our soul, if it doesn’t help to free the mind or increase our “right” knowledge, then we can safely assume that object is of no real benefit. So maybe my intense scrutiny of every packed object is, after all, a good practice for the deeper art of non attachement.

I am not sure if the exhilarating feeling of minimal packing is the clarity of mind associated with non-attachment, or if it is partly the anticipation of adventures and freedom ahead. My difficulty is I have become rather attached to my rucksack…and I do hope luggage handlers and Emirates don’t force me to practise non-attachment in its extreme form..

 the yoga sutras of Patanjali

Developing Core Strength

I am encouraging my students to consider developing, or perhaps I should say increasing, their core strength while I abandon them for a month. In classes we have been working with this series of five exercises by Coral Brown. I love the way these are presented; slow, clear, precise instructions and by using a student to demonstrate them, she can adjust and show how deepen the practice in a calm and unhurried way.

My students already have handouts on Core Strength, which goes way beyond the actual practice of the exercises themselves. By linking the mind with the practice, approaching your mat with a confident and strong mind, so much more can be achieved. Likewise regular practice will reward you not only with a stronger core physically but with a stronger and more confident mind.

Be mindful of any imbalances you become aware of between right and left sides of your body. These will be particularly evident with the side plank. During your practice if you become aware of a weak side always start and finish with this side. In this way you will gradually redress the imbalance.

With the link above, you will have access to a 2 week programme. Please progress steadily with this once you are confident with the 5 basic exercises.

I would suggest balancing your practice with a few rounds of “Salute to the Sun”, before and after. Your body will often relish the stretches and flow after working strongly.

Enjoy!