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Ten Reasons why Spending Time Outside is more Important than Ever in Lockdown 2.0

Ten Reasons why Spending Time Outside is more Important than Ever in Lockdown 2.0

Back in lockdown 1.0, we all threw ourselves enthusiastically into our hour of exercise a day. We tuned in to Joe Wickes, we bought bikes, scooters and trampolines in record numbers. And of course, threw ourselves into the plethora of online yoga classes out there.

This time around the mood is slightly less enthusiastic. We know why we’re doing this – Covid has not gone away – but it feels harder. We’re tired, stressed and there’s only so much Zoom a person can take.

So how can we keep up our spirits this Autumn? Well here are TEN excellent reasons to get yourself outside every single day during this lockdown.

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Poppy Pickles

Complementing your Yoga Practice with Cross-Training

Complementing your Yoga Practice with Cross-Training

We all know that yoga is a great complement for other sports, but can other sports enhance our yoga practice?

Since lockdown began, back in the dawn of time – or just over three months ago – many of us have branched out into other forms of exercise, the most obvious one being more regular walking for our ‘daily exercise’.

Some of us have tried cycling again for the first time in years, others have become Joe Wickes devotees and some have dusted off our running shoes and started jogging again. But will we keep up these extra forms of exercise, and more importantly – should we?

Yoga and Running

Often as yogis, we’re told that yoga is the ONLY exercise we need to do. But that depends on what you call yoga. According to Patanjali’s famous sutras,

Yoga is the stilling of the movement of the mind

and any runner will tell you that the calming effect on the mind is the single best thing about running.

The thing about yoga is that on the whole it is practiced inside. And while we’ve been in lockdown, we have needed to get out of the four walls of our homes and into the great outdoors – or the urban outdoors. I’ve been a yogi and runner for nearly ten years now and I’ve found that the two are excellent co-habiters.

Running increases your heart rate, burns calories, boosts your mood and improves joint health; while yoga opens your hips, lengthens and stretches muscles and tendons, and strengthens the muscles around the knees. While running takes you out of yourself, yoga brings you into yourself.

Should you run and do yoga on the same day? It depends on what your yoga and run will be like. If you’re training for a marathon, then no. If you’re doing a quick 5k, then yes.

Whatever your main focus is, do that activity first. So if you’re doing the running to improve your yoga, then do your yoga practice first, and vice versa.

Yoga and Weight Training

The great Carrie Owerko said in her recent interview that if you want to build muscles, you’re going to have to do some lifting!

From the age of just thirty years old, you will start to lose muscle mass, a process called sarcopenia. This is part of the natural ageing process, but it can be prevented.

Yoga already involves some resistance work – Chaturanga Dandasana is an obvious one for the upper body, but all the Warrior poses, and Utkatasana involves the legs holding your body weight.

If you’re a super-flexible yogi, your problem won’t be making the shapes of the poses but holding them safely. By doing some gentle, regular weight training, you’ll build strength around the joints, making your yoga practice safer. If you have a student that keeps getting injuries due to hyper-mobility, then it might be worth suggesting that they look into adding some weight training into their week.

Yoga and Cycling

I have some very keen cyclists in my yoga classes, and there’s no doubt that yoga helps to stretch out their thighs and open up the hip connectors, as well as the front of the shins and ankles. But can cycling improve our yoga?

Like running, cycling is an aerobic activity that will boost your cardiovascular health. Since lockdown began, sales of bicycles have gone through the roof, as a form of exercise, and also to avoid getting on public transport.

Cycling is also a resistance activity so it builds muscle around the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. For people that work from home, which over the last three months has been nearly everyone, our glutes have had to put up with being sat on  – a lot. Cycling helps to strengthen these important muscles, which consequently support the hips and spine.

So for those standing poses that need hamstring and glute strength – think Warrior 1 and Warrior 3, and the tricky Revolved Half Moon pose – cycling could give you an extra boost. But cycling can also cause muscles to become very tight, so be sure to include lots of poses to stretch out the front of the legs in your yoga practice.

Yoga and HIIT

HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, is a hugely popular form of workout. It involves a short burst of intense exercise (as the name suggests) before a rest period, and usually lasts for 15 – 20 minutes. But does this highly energetic form of exercise have anything in common with yoga?

Research shows that HIIT (as compared to moderate forms of exercise) is linked with increasing levels of cardiovascular fitness, boosting aerobic capacity, and the ability of the body to absorb oxygen to make energy. It can also increase muscle mass, which as we know starts to decline from the tender age of 30.

There are already forms of yoga that incorporate this principle: Rocket yoga, power yoga, dynamic vinyasa flow. All these types of yoga will increase your heart rate quickly, and get your sweat up.

If you’ve found that your yoga practice has slipped into a slightly slumberous lockdown rut, then incorporating the principles of HIIT into your practice could be the wake-up call you need. And if you’re a yoga teacher, perhaps your students could do with a high-intensity sun salutation or jumping session to give them an energy boost.

Yoga and Walking

Most of us have been doing a lot of good, old-fashioned walking during the lockdown. Walking is a great way to keep healthier, get outside, and help to reduce polluting the world while we’re at it. Hopefully, this change in habits is something that people will stick to now the lockdown is starting to be eased.

Walking regularly brings all sorts of health benefits, and keeps your bones healthy, and is especially important for those with osteoporosis. Research has also shown that yoga can help increase bone density, so together these forms of exercise can work to keep your bones healthy.

Walking is also a great time to practice mindfulness and to walk off the stresses and strains of a day spent inside at your desk.

Yoga First

While all the above forms of exercise can complement your yoga practice, it’s important to remember what your focus is. Yoga is not just the physical asanas, not just the awareness of the breath, but a path to yourself, and, if you seek it, spiritual enlightenment.

While the body is important, it’s where physical health leads us that is the important factor. Use the methods of yoga in all other forms of exercise that you do, to achieve mental stillness. And make sure that you do all forms of physical exercise (including yoga) in a balanced way – as overdoing any of it will lead to exhaustion and injury.

Poppy Pickles

How to improve your well-being during this crisis

How to improve your well-being during this crisis

In these strange times, many of us are struggling with navigating our normal lives. Everyday things have changed; shops have closed, exercise is limited, we can’t hug our parents or friends – and we can’t go to yoga classes.

As the weeks go by we have started to adapt, but every now and then the loneliness, uncertainty, and financial worries can hit home.

So here are some ways that we can look after our wellbeing during Coronavirus.

Limit your news intake

Be intentional in the way that you consume the news at the moment. If you have a news app on your phone, turn off the notifications. One news story can lead us to another, and before we know it, we’ve been pulled down into a dark spiral of fear-inducing news.

Yes, the world is dealing with a pandemic and, of course, there are things to be frightened of. But stoking our fear doesn’t help. It just increases our stress levels, which in turn reduces the strength of our immune system.

Connect with your body

As yogis, we know this. Doing a considered yoga practice when we’re stressed calms us down, brings us back from anxiety. But it’s easy to know this, sometimes less easy to do. If you’re working from home, as well as home-schooling young children, then fitting in a yoga practice will seem laughable.

But it doesn’t have to be a whole hour of practice. It can be as simple as sitting straight and tall on your chair; feeling the sitting bones and backs of the thighs on the seat of the chair, pressing the feet down, then stretching the arms up towards the ceiling.

This simple exercise will connect you to the earth, open the lungs and heart, and bring the mind into the body.

Think about others

This is a cliché, but a true one. The more we think about others, and consider how other people might be feeling, the less we focus on ourselves and how we’re coping, or not.

If you’re feeling at a loose end and it’s driving you mad, there’s plenty of ways to be useful. Check out nextdoor.com to see if you’ve got any elderly or vulnerable neighbours that need medication or shopping picked up and delivered. Or give your elderly relative a call every day to have a chat and see how they’re doing.

Get to know your family

If this situation has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t usually spend much time with our family unit. In a normal week, my husband and I have about 20 minutes a day to have a proper chat. Weekends were usually just as busy with yoga and work commitments, time away, kids’ activities, and so on.

Without all this frenetic activity, we are turning to look at each other, and now have the time and space to have proper conversations. On the daily walks there is a chance to really connect with our children and partners, with no distractions such as popping into shops or grabbing a coffee.

If you feel like you’re still more annoyed than connected to them, then try this exercise. Taking around 45 minutes, ask your partner these questions, and see how many surprises you get.

Do a daily meditation

Meditation has been proven to relieve stress and anxiety, calm the nerves, slow the heart rate, and increase feelings of contentment and well-being. If you already have a yoga practice, adding in a ten-minute meditation every day will come easier to you, as your body will be more receptive to sitting or lying still.

Why not choose a subject to meditate on? You can set an intention for your meditation, such as focusing on compassion for others, acknowledging your resilience, and being grateful for health, home, family, and friends.

If you’re not sure you’d know what to do, or might not have the motivation to do it on your own, there are plenty of apps out there, such as calm, headspace, Aura, and Smiling Mind – and we’re currently holding a free guided meditation on Friday morning, so why not join us?

Read more

We all take books on holiday, but as soon as we’re at home, we find we don’t have time to read anymore. With the uncertainty of how much longer we will be in lockdown, now is the perfect time to get back into that pile of books. Rather than buying a whole load more, check your bookshelves first. I found at least three books that I thought I’d read, but actually hadn’t – free books!

It could also be a time to release your inner yoga geek and do a bit of yoga philosophy reading. There is a vast wealth of knowledge out there, which deepens your yoga practice.

Write things down

I always think the word ‘journaling’ is really smug and slightly intimidating. You don’t have to keep up a relentless daily diary to do a bit of writing – of course, if you do, well done. But we all have a spare notepad somewhere, dig it out and start a lockdown diary. It doesn’t have to be every day. It could be just one sentence. Or you could keep a yoga practice notepad, and write how you felt before and after your practice.

If you’re struggling with your emotions, you can try ‘expressive writing‘, which is a safe way to express your feelings, and see them objectively.

Try not to compare

We all do it all the time, and it’s never good for any of us. But right now there seems to be some sort of ‘who can do lockdown life the best’ competition on social media – especially Instagram. Some people seem to be baking, gardening, doing DIY jobs, homeschooling, setting up new businesses, and making floral wreaths, all at the same time.

This sets up a feeling that we’re not making the most of this time and can trigger all sorts of self-criticism. But it’s important to remember that everyone who posts on social media is only posting the edited highlights, and that they too are having days when they feel scared, stressed, or angry.

Be Kind to Yourself

It’s easy to forget to be compassionate and kind to ourselves. We are in an unprecedented time within living memory, and it will inevitably affect, shape and change all of our lives. Well-known author Matt Haig has a note to himself in his book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive‘, which includes these sentences that feel very apt:

Keep allowing yourself the human privilege of mistakes. Keep a space that is you and put a fence around it. Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep your phone at arm’s length. Keep your head when all about you are losing theirs. Keep breathing. Keep inhaling life itself.

 

 

Poppy Pickles

How Doga is Helping Alexandra Burke deal with her Anxiety

How Doga is Helping Alexandra Burke deal with her Anxiety

 

We’ve had naked yoga, yoga with goats, paddleboard yoga and now there’s dog yoga – or ‘doga’ for short. (more…)

Poppy Pickles

4 Ways To Get the Best From Your Buttocks

4 Ways To Get the Best From Your Buttocks

Most people know about the glutes. We sit on them, sometimes we admire them for their tone and shape and many exercise regimes are aimed at strengthening them — but when and where do they fit into our yoga practice?

The Anatomy of the Bum

Image Credit: ChangGp on Flickr.
Image Credit: ChangGp on Flickr.

The glutes are a group of three muscles arranged in layers in the buttocks. Gluteus maximus is just under the skin, works to extend the hip joint and helps to provide some stability to the pelvis as it passes over the sacroiliac joint. Gluteus medius and minimus nestle under gluteus maximus and work to abduct and rotate the hip. (more…)

Sally Schofield