The year I became a rookie yogi & competition time!
Last year saw two big changes in my life. I started doing yoga and focusing more on this blog. Yoga for me is a bit like eating olives: It took me a long time to get into it, but now that I am, I love it. I am by no means an expert yogi but having practiced for just over a year I can honestly say I feel like a different person.
My somewhat haphazard exercise regime had until then consisted mostly of aerobics, preferably step, if I happened to live somewhere near a decent class. To complicate things, we move house a lot and I'm fussy – the routine has to be interesting, the music good and the teacher inspiring. It can be surprisingly hard to find a satisfying combination of the above. If by now you have a suspicion that I am also a little slow to get up from my desk, you wouldn’t be wrong. I am the first to admit that I find it hard to get out of the door and to class unless there’s something special to entice me there.
My first step (or not, as the case was!) towards yoga was a bad fall. Think silly boots, slippery road and yes, a few drinks – not a great combo!
I was very lucky to not break anything and the doctor later called the massive bruise on my leg and hip “the most impressive hematoma of the year”. He even wished out loud that he could show his medical class, at which point I was trying not the be sick. Partly from the pain of my leg being prodded, partly at the thought of standing exposed, black and blue, in front of a class of students. Needless to say I was not paraded in front of any class but I did have to re-examine my approach to exercise for a while.
By the time the worst of the swelling had gone down, I hobbled along to a yoga class – the most feasible looking thing on the schedule of my local gym. Now, I have tried yoga before and quite frankly I couldn’t wait to get out of there, so my expectations were not exactly high. Whether it was the wrong type of yoga for me, a bad match of teacher or if I was quite simply not ready, who knows. However there was something in the name of this class, Vinyasa Flow, that seemed tempting so off I went, albeit slowly.
Lo and behold it was a perfect fit and I have been going ever since. Not fanatically, my haphazard approach is intact to a point, but most weeks I fit in a practice or two, whether it is in class or at home. Vinyasa Flow is fairly dynamic, you move with your breath and it feels like you have done a workout afterwards. I like that I can just focus on breathing (or try to!) and the rest somehow seems to follow. The time flies by.
With blogging comes many hours crouched over a laptop in awkward positions, writing or going cross-eyed over web design or whatever social media tool I’m trying to get my head around. To counteract all this, yoga has been my saving grace. I remember to sit up straight more often (not all time!) and doing just a few stretches in between screen time can refresh both body and mind.
One night last year I was sitting in a tiny hotel room in Portugal with stiff muscles and a tired brain, desperately wanting to do a bit of yoga, but not knowing how without headbutting the wall or making things worse through a bad pose. I have seen the effects of yoga gone wrong and a friend is still suffering from an ill-advised move a few years back. As I lay there I thought: “Surely I’m not the only one wanting to do a bit of yoga on the road in need of a few tips?”
This led to this new series: Yoga on the Go.
My lovely teacher, Rachel Spain, has kindly agreed to help bring you some guidance on how to limber up safely and effectively. From time to time I will throw in a few tips of my own, based purely on personal experience. Rachel has recently moved to Ibiza where she will be running yoga retreats – check out her page for more info.
To kick it all off, it's competition time!
Up for grabs is a great saffron coloured Balance Travel Yoga Mat. I’ve been testing one out over the last couple of months and I love it. It fits in my suitcase, is relatively lightweight and has enough thickness to not feel like you’re standing on a teatowel.
To enter the competition all you have to do is:
- Subscribe to the SusDane newsletter (you can do this from the home page, scroll down)
- Like the SusDane Facebook page and recommend it to a friend by sharing it
I can only post the prize within the UK – apologies to those of you based elsewhere.
Deadline for entries is 27th August 2013.
So without further ado, here are the first few tips, fresh from Rachel in Ibiza.
During and after a long haul flight these easy exercises are a great way to stimulate circulation and get blood flowing to your limbs.
Make a gentle fist and rotate the wrists 10 times in each direction go for full, smooth and gentle circles. If it hurts you are doing too much!
Lie on your back or sit and bring one knee into your chest and interlace your hands underneath the thigh then circle the ankle 10 times in each direction again go for full smooth rotations.
Rotate your shoulders backwards 10 times then forwards 10 times. Here's Rachel demonstrating.
When you are sitting a lot the hamstrings (back of thigh) gluts (bottom) and hip flexor muscles (front of hip) all shorten or tighten up and this contributes to lower back pain. Stretching these muscles out can help to ease the discomfort.
Lie on your back with both legs stretched out (on the bed is ok if you have to but a hard floor is better) bring one knee to the chest and interlace your fingers over the knee, try to relax both shoulders down. Breathe in to your back and as you breathe out gently draw your knee closer towards you. Do this 5 times and then repeat on the other leg.
Lie on your back with both legs stretched out (again, on a bed if you have to but hard floor if possible) using a towel or something similar, loop the towel around the arch of one foot holding onto the ends of the towel in your hands and extend the leg towards the ceiling. Relax your shoulders down and really concentrate on controlling your breath. Deep, slow, controlled breaths...breathing into the middle of your back as you inhale and as you exhale try to relax the shoulders and the facial muscles. If your knee is bent, on each exhale try to straighten it, very gradually DO NOT FORCE IT. If your knee is already straight try bringing the leg closer towards you with each exhale. 10 breaths on each leg.
Lie on your back with your knees bent up and the feet resting on bed or floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee, lift your left foot bringing the legs in towards you and interlace your fingers around the left thigh making sure the right arm goes inside of the right leg (not around the outside). Relax shoulders and head down and take 10 deep relaxing breaths repeat on the other side.
I hope that you enjoy this new dimension to the site and find the tips useful. The aim is to keep things simple, accessible and easy to do on the road. Please do contribute with your own comments, experiences and tips and enter the competition!