Blue Monday?…..Finding that inner calm

It was widely reported that last Monday was ‘Blue Monday’, apparently ‘the most depressing day of the year’. A quick google search reveals that the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ was actually coined by Sky Travel in 2005! (The google search also prompted me to listen to New Order whilst writing this blog!) I’m not sure how calling a day ‘the most depressing day of the year’ is meant to be helpful to us but it might just help to sell a few holidays!

It did get me thinking, however, that there is something to this concept of ‘Blue Monday’. It’s January in the UK. Christmas is a distant memory. The days are apparently getting longer but it’s a slow process. I could swear that’s it’s getting darker and not lighter in the mornings! It’s cold! It’s often raining and grey. We’re still awaiting payday! My point is….is it any wonder that all this can affect our mood?

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However, regardless of all of the above, it is comforting to know that internally we can access a constant, calm space within us that is always there. It is unmoved by the changing of the seasons. It may be very difficult to access at times, particularly with all the external factors that can affect how we feel (weather, work, relationships, whatever else is going on in our lives). However, this calm, constant space is still there, despite all this.

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But how do we access this calmness? Well the first part of this is knowing it is there. Knowing that it can be accessed with practice. A breathing practice, bringing attention to the inhale and the exhale, simply observing the breath, without judgement, can help us begin to access this calmness within. The breath is always with us. But how often do we pay attention to our own breath? Thoughts and feelings will of course arise whilst we observe the breath, wanting our attention, but instead of giving attention to these thoughts/feelings, gently guide your attention back to observing the breath. There are innumerable breathing techniques (pranayama) to help us in finding this sense of calmness within. So regardless of whatever else is going on, with practice we can help manage our stress levels using our own breath, the constant calm space that is within all of us.

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Yoga posture (asana) practice is also great at helping us access that calm space within. Bringing our attention to how the body is feeling in a particular posture. The sensations you are noticing in the body and where are you noticing them? Also, breath-led movement, moving the body on an inhale and an exhale, creates a mindful practice whereby we are again bringing our attention, without judgement, to the sensations in the body. How often do we mindfully observe our bodies in our every day life?

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And of course there are so many other actions that we can take to help us find this calmness within, a big part of which is to learn to treat ourselves with more compassion (ahimsa). We often find it easier to treat others with compassion than we do ourselves, especially when we’re perhaps not feeling our best. Treat yourself! Find and do the things that you enjoy, those things that make you feel good. Yes, the weather might be less than ideal at this time of year for many of us, but use this as reason to enjoy a cosy night in, a nice relaxing, hot bath, etc. Give some thought to what you can do to help you find that inner calm.

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So yes, it may be hard to find that inner sense of calm particularly at this time of year, and it may be easier said than done (I know I’ve felt like that many times!). But there are many ways in which we can all try to help ourselves find that constant inner calm, regardless of all external factors, and before we realise it maybe that third Monday in January, and then the rest of the winter, might not feel so ‘blue’ after all!

Namaste x

The Benefits of Backbends

In this week’s classes we explored back-bending yoga asanas (postures) and their many benefits.

Of course there are the physical benefits of backbends. We spend so much of our daily lives sitting hunched – driving, on the computer/tablets, on our phones, shielding ourselves from the rain and wind (in the UK at least!), that it is essential to counter this with back-bending asanas.

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Backbends maintain the natural extension of our spines, even increasing this mobility. They strengthen the spinal muscles. They stretch our hip flexors which can be tight from too much sitting. Countering poor posture simply feels good to do! They can feel freeing!

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However, just because they might feel good, doesn’t mean that they are without their challenges. In stressful situations, our tendency is often to close up physically, protecting the vulnerable heart space. Backbends are the opposite to this, and can therefore feel quite exposing. It can take courage to practice backbends particularly when we are feeling vulnerable. On a physical level, we are moving our body in a direction that we cannot see (behind us!). If we can’t see where we are going then we are bound to be nervous! Isn’t that the same in life too? Yet this building of courage on the mat can help us build courage off the mat too.

On an emotional level, backbends create an opening in the heart chakra (Anahata chakra) (the centre of feeling) allowing us to be more open to our own emotions, experiences, in our relationships etc. When we are physically ‘open’ this in turn can allow us to feel more emotionally and mentally open.

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So, clearly backbends are beneficial to us but when practising them it is important to be aware that ‘opening up’ in this way may release stored emotions due to the challenge of backbends. It is not uncommon to experience fear, apprehension, frustration, self-criticism, even annoyance or anger. Our aim here is to notice what is cropping up in our thoughts and feelings but without judgement of them or judgement of ourselves. Simply allow these thoughts and feelings to come and go. They always pass. Ultimately, it is beneficial to release these stored emotions, whatever they are.

Of course, it is necessary to practice backbends safely, and the good news is that, like all asanas (poses), backbends can be modified so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of these wonderful asanas! Backbends can be as gentle or as deep as is comfortably available to us, and of course it is always essential to mobilise the body before attempting backbends and to only move within a pain-free range of motion. All our bodies are different and we must always practice with satya (truthfulness) and ahimsa (compassion) to our own bodies and our own abilities. Your yoga teacher will help guide you so that you can experience the benefits of backbends.

Happy back-bending!

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Namaste

 

 

Yogasmiths Christmas Charity Raffle Donation to Wirral’s Homeless CIC

Thank you to all those who took part in our Yogasmiths Christmas Charity Raffle. As we discussed in class, Christmas and the start of the new year is a great opportunity to practice Karma yoga via charitable giving.
There were many prizes on offer;
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The winner of our top prize, a block of 6 Yogasmiths classes and a box of After Eight mints, was Lisa Shaw from West Kirby;
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We raised nearly £80 from the raffle. We have donated £100 to a local Community Interest Company that feed the local homeless. They are called Wirral’s Homeless CIC. They have a facebook page at;

Wirral’s Homeless CIC

They can also be contacted by email at:

wirralshomeless@hotmail.com

If you would like to donate any money to the group they would be most grateful to receive it and they accept bank transfer of a Paypal. Wonderful local groups like this are dependant on the generosity of others.

Namaste

Paul & Steve

Yoga for Hysterectomy

Hi,

We wanted to share with you some lovely feedback from a private one to one client that we recently received and also details of a pre-operation yoga programme that we have put together to prepare the body for hysterectomy surgery.

Tia left us the following feedback;

“Hellooooo everyone, I just wanted to write a little something regarding the one to ones I’ve been having with Paul and to say how much I’ve appreciated all the help and he’s given me. I attend a weekly group session with Paul and Steve which is brilliant, but decided to have some one to ones in preparation for a hysterectomy I’m due to have, and it has been wonderful the preparation and research that Paul has done to put together a personalised plan for me has been just wonderful, I would strongly recommend anyone going through a similar thing to consider this. I feel that I will be able to aid my own recovery by being in a really good state of mind and body.
Thank you so much Paul and Steve you really have and will make such a difference.
Love Tia xxxxxx”

Thanks Tia!

Tia is a valued and regular member of our public yoga classes and she approached us for a one to one session to help her prepare for a hysterectomy operation.

We thoroughly researched this procedure and put together a session focussing on all the key areas that need to be strengthened to allow for optimal recovery post-surgery. The main areas being mental preparation, breathing exercises, the pelvic floor, core strength and the muscles around the abdominal area including the glutes and hips.

We took Tia through this plan across two private one to one sessions and provided her with a detailed session plan to allow her to practice at home. Tia will be able to build strength in her body in all the key areas to put herself in the best place from which to undergo surgery. Strengthening muscles in the area of any surgery helps the muscles heal more quickly post-operation. This hysterectomy focussed session will also help to greatly reduce any of the potential problems that can be associated with hysterectomy surgery.

If you are interested in this session or know someone who would be please share this with them and do not hesitate to contact us at enquiries@yogasmiths.org

Namaste

Paul & Steve

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Happy New Year! Mindfulness at New Year

This time of year it is natural that we feel tempted to engage with a lot of judgement with regards to the previous year and also projection in to the new year.

People talk about how “2017 was a terrible year… lets look forward to better times in 2018” or “2017 was a great year… onwards and upward in 2018”. Whilst this involves looking to the future with positivity when we come to the end of 2018 we will see the same types of comments being made. When we label a whole year as either bad or good then we are attaching an emotional response to that year.

If we step back and take a look at how this labelling and judgement of previous years makes us feel we sometimes see that maybe it is not all that great for our mental wellbeing. Any given year will be filled with highs and lows and our greatest skill is to navigate these peaks and troughs with mindfulness and a sense of ease.

In my own experience, mindfulness allows the lows of a year to not feel quite as low and likewise that the highs do not feel quite so high. This allows for an easy and smoother emotional and mental experience of life, less of a rollercoaster.

I have also felt that the practice of New Years Resolutions to be a self imposed pressure that often sets one up for failure. We can fall into the trap of making a list of resolutions which we cannot possibly keep. When we fail to keep these resolutions then we may well label that as such, as a “failure”. With mindfulness we can become more self aware and actually instigate intuitive stepped changes to our lives in a positive and healthy way at any time of the year.

If we approach the New Year as we approach any day with a sense of non-judgement and non-attachment then we can anchor our selves in the present and find peace and calm in that experience. We can embrace the sense of letting go of the old year without judgement or labelling and welcome in the new year with a sense of love and gratitude. We can welcome each new day like this, with a sense of being renewed each day.

Perhaps the best new years resolution is to be more mindful (and obviously to do more Yoga too!!)

Happy New Year to everyone

Paul & Steve

Yogasmiths

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12 Days of Christmas Yoga!

Hi Yogi’s

Here is a video of a fun Christmas themed Yoga sequence we put together for our classes over the festive period.

The video below is the finale of the song from our West Kirby yoga class on Thursday 21st December 2017.

Thank you to all our Yoga students for being such good sports and enjoying our Christmas themed class.

Thanks

Paul & Steve x

 

First Annual Yogasmiths Christmas Get Together – Thursday 21st December 8.30pm – West Kirby Arts Centre

As a thank you to all our class members who have supported us throughout this year we are hiring West Kirby Arts Centre for the whole evening of Thursday 21st December!

Our Yogasmiths Christmas party will start straight after class at 8.30pm. All of our students from our Pensby, Hoylake and West Kirby classes past and present are welcome to come along and join in the festivities! Dress code is anything goes although Christmas jumpers, hats, etc are positively encouraged.

Entry is of course free! We only ask that attendees bring along snacks/food if possible for a buffet to share with your fellow friends/yoga students. Any contribution big or small is welcome. There will also be a bar open for those who wish to have a Christmas tipple. Of course soft drinks will also be available.

There will be the usual Christmas music in our first annual Yogasmiths Disco (Yogasmithsco)……think Mariah, the Pogues, Phil Spector’s Christmas album etc…and we will be more than happy to take requests!

We look forward to welcoming you to our Yogasmiths Christmas get together!

Further details available on our Facebook page : Facebook event page

See you all there

Paul & Steve x

Gentle Years Yoga classes – Hoylake – Chair based yoga

We are very pleased to announce that we are starting our British Wheel of Yoga Gentle Years Yoga classes in Hoylake starting on Friday 12th January at 10:30am at Hoylake Community Parade Centre, 31 Hoyle Road, Hoylake, Wirral, CH47 3AG.

Gentle Years Yoga is a chair based yoga suitable for anyone who wishes to or needs to take their yoga practice a little more gently. This can include people with age related health conditions or health conditions that require a yoga practice that is modified.

Gentle Years Yoga is an authentic traditional Hatha yoga practice that has been modified to be chair based. A 75 minute class will include breathing exercises, a pulse raising activity, concentration activities, co-ordination activities, resistance work, yoga postures, relaxation and an important element of fun. It is suitable for all and can be adapted for all.

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Please find a link below to the British Wheel of Yoga Gentle Years Yoga research results. As can be seen in the research document, the people in the pilot had conditions such as osteoarthritis, hypertension, depression/anxiety, hypercholesterolemia, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, dementia, cancer and cerebrovascular disease.

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The pilot group demonstrated the following benefits from Gentle Years Yoga;

  • Better mental well-being
  • Better quality of life
  • Improved leg strength
  • Improved lower body flexibility
  • Improved resting heart rate
  • Improved physical function – chair raising and walking
  • Improved flexibility
  • Reduced pain
  • Stress relief / calming effect
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced frequency of panic attacks
  • Enjoyable social interaction and making new friends

After the 75 minute class at the Hoylake Parade Community Centre all attendees are encouraged to go to the cafe on the ground floor for tea, cake and a chat.

If you have any queries about Gentle Years Yoga either for yourself or a friend / relative please do not hesitate to get in touch either by using the contact form on the website or emailing us at enquiries@yogasmiths.org or alternatively you can call us on 07834268052.

We have gift vouchers available that can be used to purchase a block of 6 gentle Years Yoga classes for a relative. A great birthday or Xmas present.

Here is a link to the Facebook event for our first Gentle Years yoga class;

Gentle Years Yoga class – Facebook event

We look forward to welcoming you to our new friendly Gentle Years Yoga class

Namaste

Paul & Steve

 

Yogasmiths Gift Vouchers – Ideal Xmas or birthday present

We are pleased to announce that we have Gift Vouchers available for purchase.

These are an ideal gift for our regular class attendees and also for anyone who may be interested in coming to one of our classes.

The gift vouchers can be made out for any amount that you want, we would suggest maybe one of the following;

  • One public class £6
  • A block of 6 public classes £33
  • A block of 6 Gentle Years Yoga classes £33 (starting in Hoylake on Friday 12th January @ 10:30am @ Hoylake Parade Community Centre )
  • A one hour private one to one yoga session £35 (in West Kirby)
  • A one hour private one to one yoga session £40 (in West Wirral) (Enquire for costs for elsewhere)
  • A block of ten private one to one yoga sessions £300
  • or any other amount to suit your budget

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The gift vouchers come with an envelope to place them in.

The vouchers can be purchased and collected from one of our classes or alternatively we can send them out in the post at cost price.

Namaste

Paul & Steve