Guest Blog – Matt Lunt and his 8 Week Mindfulness Based Stressed Reduction Course in Hoylake

Matt Lunt is a regular at our yoga classes and he is going to be running a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR) at the Hoylake Parade Community Centre in September. I have personally attended an 8 week MBSR course and found it an excellent introduction to Mindfulness based meditation and stress reduction techniques. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in expanding their knowledge and experience in this area. Matt is offering this at a special reduced rate as it is part of his degree in Mindfulness.

Matt has provided us with the following description of the course and some information about himself;

Eight-week Mindfulness Stress Reduction Course

25TH September to 13th November 2018 – Tuesday evenings from 6.30pm to 8.30pm

About the course:

This eight-week course takes place every Tuesday evening from 25th September. As well as the two-hour Tuesday evening sessions, a commitment to devote approximately 30-45 minutes for home practice six days a week is required.

Included in the course price:

Participation in eight two-hour group sessions

A workbook with guidelines for supporting home practice

Guided mindfulness audio recordings

Who is it for:

The course is open to anyone who is interested in learning how to use mindfulness to better cope with the pressures of daily life. Some of the ways the course may help participants to do this include:

  • Recognising when we are operating on autopilot
  • Bringing a new approach of curiosity and kindness to dealing with unpleasant experiences
  • A better understanding of our own mental habits and how these can cause us additional suffering
  • Recognising our stressors and how we can better respond to these
  • A greater awareness of the present moment

About me:

I started my regular mindfulness practice about four years ago to cope with the stresses of life and work. A few years previously, I had experienced a huge panic attack on the way to work one morning. Although I was physically healthy, I soon realised that I was neglecting to look after my mind. I started experimenting with mindfulness practices, eventually signing up for an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course. This course proved to be so helpful in helping me to relate differently to experience, so that I learned to see stressful events more clearly and recognise my own mental habits of reacting to them.

I am currently studying for a Masters in Mindfulness-based Approaches at the University of Bangor’s Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice. Leading this course will form part of my teacher training, therefore it is offered at an introductory rate of just £50.

For further information or to book a place, please contact Matt on 07896855550 or email at mlunt81@gmail.com

Thanks Matt and good luck with the course. There is a link to the flyer for the course below.

Paul & Steve

8 week MBSR flyer

Mental Health Awareness Week – helpful tips to deal with stress

At all of our weekly classes this week we discussed Mental Health Awareness Week and the topic for this year which is stress.

Stress has been shown to be one of the main contributory factors in triggering a mental health problem. Research has shown that two thirds of us will experience a mental health problem during our lifetime.

In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness week we decided we would start the conversation about mental health and ask our yoga students to share their tips and ways of dealing with Stress.

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We had our Stress board at all the classes and students all wrote down on a post it note what they do to deal with stress.

At the end of this week we had a mountain of post it notes with lots of helpful tips and ideas. We typed them all up and entered them into a special website of wizardry which came out with a wonderful word cloud with the most common suggestions in a bigger font. Here are the results;

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The top 3 helpful suggestions were going for a walk, talking to someone and doing yoga! Have a look at the word cloud and see if there are any ideas that you may like to try next time you are feeling stressed.

We would like to sincerely thank all of our students for taking part in this activity and sharing their own personal strategies for dealing with stress. Sharing our ideas can help others and remove the perceived stigma around Mental Health. The greater our awareness of Mental Health is and the knowledge that many of us will experience a mental health problem in our lifetime will help those who are suffering in silence. There is no need to suffer in silence, talk and reach out. People have lots of tips and strategies that may help you too.

Paul & Steve

Yogasmiths Summer Yoga Retreat 15th -17th June 2018

Join us on our first summer yoga retreat! We will be at the beautiful Trigonos retreat centre (postcode: LL54 6BW) on the edge of Snowdonia on the banks of a lovely lake. You get two yoga teachers for the price of one!
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For more information about us please check out our website biographies at https://yogasmiths.org/about/
Arrival from 4pm onwards on Friday 15th June 2018
Depart at 3pm on Sunday 17th June 2018
Prices, per person: 
Single en-suite £299 
Single non-en-suite £279
Twin / double en-suite £289
Twin non-en-suite £265
Price includes full board (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and all retreat sessions. There will be morning coffee/tea with biscuits, afternoon tea/coffee with cake, a constant fruit bowl and tea/coffee whenever required. All food is vegetarian. Vegan and gluten free can be catered for also (please request when booking).
 
We will have a timetable of Traditional Hatha yoga, breathing practices, guided relaxation, mindfulness meditation and free time to help you unwind and relax. 
 
Places are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment. Please email yogasmithsorg@gmail.com or telephone 07834268052 if you have any questions or queries. 
 
A £50 per person non-refundable deposit is required to secure booking.  
 
All details can also be found on our website at www.yogasmiths.org/retreats/ where you can also download a booking form.
 
Also find us on Facebook, instagram and twitter at the following links;
 
Thanks and we look forward to welcoming you to our retreat
 
Paul & Steve x

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

 

 

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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Spotlight on – Esperanza Holistics – West Kirby

One of our regular West Kirby yoga students Ludmila has her own business, Esperanza Holistics, based in West Kirby.

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Ludmila offers Reflexology, Indian Head Massage, Reiki, Deep Tissue massage, Seated Acupressure massage; either as individual treatments, or usually as a wonderful combination.

Both of us had a lovely massage from Ludmila and we both felt fantastic afterwards. We have booked in for another and I think we will make it a regular thing! We have both had a number of massages before and Ludmila provided one of the best massages we have ever had, we highly recommend her!

A combination of a regular yoga practice and regular massage is a recipe for good physical and mental health.

Esperanza Holistics is situated in a specially dedicated room in a family house, in the centre of West Kirby.

Find out more information at Ludmila’s website at;

Esperanza Holistics

Namaste

Paul & Steve

World Mental Health Day 10th October 2017

It is World Mental Health day today, Tuesday 10th October 2017. Most people suffer at some point during their life with a mental health problem.

This can range from a period of work related stress and anxiety to a more complex mental health condition. Sometimes these challenges can come right out of the blue and hit us.

Yoga is an excellent way of helping to build our resilience to mental health challenges and is also a wonderful recuperative practice.

Both Steve and I have used yoga to help us at various times in our lives. We first ventured to a yoga class when Steve was living with depression and we thought we would see if it would help. Steve found that the yoga really helped him and was a step towards recovery. I also found that the yoga helped me in many ways and I hadn’t realised that I needed it! That was the start of our regular yoga practice that has lead us to becoming yoga teachers!

I have also used yoga and breathing techniques to deal with periods of work related anxiety when I was working in middle management. Yoga techniques can provide you with the space that is all so important when the mind feels so busy and full.

There is an excellent article written by Dr Mercola titled Yoga Benefits Your Brain Function and Mental Health.

The following is an extract from it and there is a link to the full article below;

Why Yoga Is so Beneficial for Your Brain

Over the years, a number of studies have honed in on the brain benefits of yoga. For example, studies have found that:

Twenty minutes of Hatha yoga improves your brain function (speed and accuracy of mental processing) to a greater degree than 20 minutes of aerobic exercise (jogging).5,6 Potential mechanisms include enhanced self-awareness and reduced stress.

Yoga helps improve mental health, including psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.7,8,9,10

Some of the studies suggest yoga can have a similar effect to antidepressants and psychotherapy.

Yoga helps improve teenagers’ emotional resilience and ability to manage anger. As noted by yoga educator and writer Iona Smith:11

“During adolescence, the frontal lobes of the brain (the seat of language and reason) are still being formed, leaving teens to overly rely on their amygdala (the seat of emotions) …

The brain’s malleability during adolescence marks a crucial stage in both cognitive and emotional development.

Luckily, researchers are now able to paint a clearer picture of some of the factors that allow students to thrive throughout high school and into adulthood, such as self-awareness, managing distressing emotions, empathy, and navigating relationships smoothly.

When students hone these skills, they are not only happier and healthier emotionally, but are also better able to focus on academics.”

By improving stress-related imbalances in your nervous system, yoga can help relieve a range of symptoms found in common mental health disorders.

Researchers also believe yoga can be helpful for conditions like epilepsy, chronic pain, depression, anxiety and PTSD by increasing brain chemicals like gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA).12

 

Here is a link to the full article;

Yoga and the Brain – Dr Mercola article

We always ensure in our Traditional Hatha Yoga classes that we teach our students a range of different breathing exercises and different guided relaxation so that everyone can find one to suit themselves that they can use in their day to day lives.

Namaste

Paul

 

Yogasmiths at Wirral Earth Festival – Saturday 9th September 2017 11am – 5pm – FREE PRIZE DRAW!

We just wanted to let people know that we are going to have a table at Wirral Earth Festival at St Bridget’s Church and fields on Saturday 9th September 11am – 5pm. We will be in the holistic healing / therapy area and are happy to talk to people about yoga and our classes.

Further details for Wirral Earth Festival can be found here; Link to Earth Fest 2017. Its a great day out with lots of interesting stalls and live music.

We will have some information and literature with us about the Gentle Years Yoga programme that we will be starting to teach soon in the local area. This is a yoga programme / class for people with age related health conditions or for those who are advancing in years and would benefit from a gentle class. This does not mean that it is exclusively for older people though! People can begin to experience age related health issues at any age. However, age itself can be a limiting factor for physical activity as we progress into old age and the Gentle Years Yoga classes will be suitable for those who are perhaps just “feeling their age.”

The Gentle Years Yoga programme was put together by the British Wheel of Yoga and a study carried out by the Arthritis society. We will have some information about this with us at Earth Fest.

We will have an expression of interest list where people can leave their name, number and / or email address to be contacted when we start the Gentle Years Yoga classes. If you have any relatives with age related health conditions that may be interested in this gentle form of yoga please let them know.

We will also have information about our current Yoga classes and details of our new Monday class starting in Pensby. People will be able to sign up for these classes or leave contact information.

 

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Finally! FREE PRIZE DRAW!

We will be giving away three prizes;

  1. A brand new Yoga mat
  2. A copy of the excellent book Yoga Quest by Paul Fox (Chair of the British Wheel of Yoga)
  3. A voucher for a free yoga class with Yogasmiths for you and a friend

In order to enter all you need to do is leave us your name, email address and / or phone number, and if you have Facebook, like and share our page on Facebook. The winners will be drawn at random at the end of the day and notified.

Thanks and hope to see you at Earth Fest

Paul & Steve