‘Tampons? What are those. We don’t say those words out loud.’
And it’s all thanks to our period.
Sometimes it feels like I’m drowning.
Yoga does a lot more than make you look bikini ready in time for summer; it also comes with a myriad of health benefits. From improved flexibility to perfecting your posture, you can’t look past yoga as an all over health treatment.
Who would have thought that striking a pose could improve your overall health and wellbeing? Well, the verdicts in and the surprising benefits of yoga are pretty fantastic.
Improved flexibility is one of the more obvious benefits of yoga and will make touching your toes that much easier. After a few yoga sessions you will feel a noticeable difference with your muscles and joints loosening and your posture improving.
Builds muscle strength
Strong muscles can protect you against back pain and arthritis and increases your strength without sacrificing flexibility. Whereas, traditional weight training to improve muscle strength often inhibits your flexibility, not to mention the lean muscle gained through yoga will make you look great in a bikini.
Perfects your posture
Poor posture can cause back pain, soreness in your neck and a myriad of other muscle and joint problems. Poor posture, or slumping can cause pain and degenerative arthritis in the spine that will be a real pain in the long-term. Strengthening your body by practicing yoga will promote good posture by developing a strong core and the flexibility you need to support the weight of your neck and head over long periods of time.
Improves your bone health
Strengthening exercises such as yoga have been scientifically proven to decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis and can improve your overall bone health. This is because practicing yoga increases bone density in the vertebrae and lowers the amount of cortisol in the body. Too much cortisol prevents your bones from absorbing the calcium consumed through your diet, practicing yoga alters these damaging effects and ensures your bones are absorbing calcium the way they should.
Finally, one of our favourite reasons yoga is a completely worthwhile form of exercise, is the fact that it helps you relax. Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative, helping you to breathe slower and decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. This in turn creates what is often referred to as the ‘relaxation effect’ – the result being a calmer, more relaxed, happier you.
Image via tanzanianow.com
Yoga is all about the health of your mind, body and spirit and it has gained popularity all over the world. As a gentle exercise with a long list of health benefits, yoga is often advertised by celebrities on Instagram, suggested by health professionals and encouraged among communities as a way of healing the body and promoting wellness.
However, yoga does come with a stigma of being only for those with flexible genes and not an exercise that mere mortals should try. While this is far from the truth and you don’t have to be naturally bendy to try yoga, like any fitness activity, yoga does pose some risks if the positions and practice are not being done correctly.
Claire Nettley, president of Yoga Australia, is passionate about individuals trying out yoga for themselves. Part of Yoga Australia’s mission is to develop and promote the best practice for yoga, which means having registered teachers who know how to teach positions correctly.
“In recent years, yoga has become increasingly popular due to the number of health benefits it provides to not just the body but the mind and spirit also,” says Claire. “Whether you have tried it or not, most people would have a fair idea of what yoga entails, however there a few thing you need to take into consideration before you start. Yoga, like any form of exercise that challenges your body does have some degree of risk if not performed correctly.”
Common yoga injuries can range from issues in the lower back, such as disc problems, strained hamstrings and knee and neck complaints. With that being said, Claire knows how important it is for you to stay injury free during your practice and so has put together some tips about avoiding common injuries associated with yoga.
Finding the right yoga instructor
Whether you are a first timer or an expert in Yoga, your first point of call is finding an instructor who has formal training and is a registered yoga instructor. This seems like common sense, yes? But believe it or not, a recent study has shown that 68 per cent of yoga students who were surveyed never asked their instructor about their qualifications – despite knowing it was important.
Why is it important?
You might be asking how your choice of instructor can prevent injury. It’s quite simple really – a qualified yoga instructor understands how to teach a posture correctly and can correctly recognise when a particular posture or movement is not suitable for certain people. Remember everyone has their own limits and some movements may be easier for others.
Finding the right yoga style for you
There are a number of yoga styles which involve various levels of difficulty. These styles range from gentle, easy stretches such as Hatha yoga, to more advanced movements such as those in Ashtanga yoga. It is important to start with a style that is not too challenging for you. Starting with beginner classes is a good way to understand the basic fundamentals of yoga without putting too much pressure on the body.
Know your body
Yoga can help release any tension you may already have, but if you do have injuries prior to taking up yoga, it is important to be aware of these injuries and inform your teacher before your first class. Push yourself to try new things, but within reason. Know what your body is capable of.
If you are thinking of taking up yoga, make sure you do it right. If you are unsure of what’s best for you or are looking for a registered teacher in your area, visit: www.yogaaustralia.org.au.
While meditation Experts state that even a couple of minutes of meditation a day can do wonders for our brain functioning, sleep patterns and stress levels, recent reports have challenged this and highlighted the potential dangers of meditation. Some experts suggest that meditation can actually take us too far into the recesses of our minds and do more harm than good in the process. However, one of Australia’s leading meditation experts and clinical psychologist, Dr Paula Watkins, argues that these occurrences are rare and that for most people, regular meditation is a safe practice that everyone can benefit from, when practiced correctly.
“Meditation helps to give us access to parts of the mind we may not have regular contact with. The theory is that in doing so, some people may become overwhelmed with feelings of depression and anxiety as a result,” says Paula. “Research shows that even the smallest amounts of regular meditation can result in significant benefits to a person’s wellbeing, but it is still crucial to recognise that no one form of meditation works equally well for everyone.”
“Individual circumstances and personality must be considered to determine whether a certain style will be positive for that individual,” she says. “It’s also vital that we have realistic expectations about what meditation can bring to our lives. It isn’t an instant panacea for everything that’s going wrong, but rather a way that we can better explore our minds, our feelings and our true selves.”
Scientifically proven and backed by years of research, Paula has shared the five things people should be aware of when meditating, in order to develop a safe practice that can be enjoyed for years to come:
Meditation doesn’t cure all
“Traditionally, meditation was used for spiritual development and considered a tool for deepening your perception of yourself and the world. Now, it is often called upon as a remedy for all our first world woes,” says Paula. She suggests that the key is to always be aware that the practice is not a cure to all our problems. “We need to be realistic. Meditation will not somehow eradicate negative thinking or problems from our lives. But research shows that it can help us change the relationship we have with our own thoughts and with the experiences of our daily life so that we are less reactive and resistant to them. We no longer enter into such a battle with reality” says Dr Paula.
Beware of intensive retreats
“When meditating, you are tuned into your physical, mental and emotional senses, and so you may start to release all sorts of pent up issues,” says Dr Paula. “People who visit intensive meditation retreats after years of blocked and suppressed emotions can sometimes experience a rude awakening. It’s crucial to know that meditation on these intensives is not all bliss. It can be kind of like a psychological boot camp. Proper guidance is crucial here. It’s also important that you research the technique and the teacher first to explore whether that particular retreat is likely to be a good fit for you”.
Meditation is not a substitute for therapy
“Many people look to meditation as a quick and easy fix for all their problems and get confused as to how to use it correctly” says Dr Paula. “While meditation may help with certain issues, I recommend not solely relying on this if you are mentally vulnerable and in need of emotional support.” It is always important to seek help or see a therapist to address any underlying problems, and Dr Paula urges meditation teachers to be upfront and honest about this when working with their clients.
It’s not a one size fits all approach
While people often ask Dr Paula which meditation technique she thinks is best, she stresses that there is no straight up answer for this – “I recommend trying a few styles and then practicing what feels right for you,” she advises. If you have a specific purpose for meditating, then it will be much easier to make the right choice. “For example, if you’re looking to relax then choose a style that deeply soothes you. If you want to deal with negative thoughts especially – mindfulness approaches are the best practice to take.”
Meditation is not for everyone
“We’ve become increasingly aware from years of research that for some people, mindfulness can trigger anxiety, depression or flashbacks to past traumas,” Dr Paula states. As a clinical psychologist herself, she advises that although meditation can be beneficial to happiness and wellbeing, it should be performed under guidance if you are working through any emotional or mental issues.
Dr Paula has recently launched a nine week online course which offers weekly training modules that include easy-to-follow videos introducing you to the technique for the week. There is guided audio to help you practice, e-books that share the psychology and neuroscience behind the techniques and workbooks, journals and calendars to help you track your progress and stay committed to your meditation practice.
Dr Paula will also be hosting a live workshop of the course at the InYoga Studios in Surry Hills from the 9th – 30th August. For more details please visit www.inyoga.com.au/whats-on/event/calm-conscious-connected-1 Membership to Dr Paula’s Calm, Conscious and Connected course costs $199 as a one-off payment, or $55 over four instalments. This fee provides six month access to the course, as well as the exclusive members-only forum where people can interact with Paula as well as other participants. For more information or to sign up, visit: www.calmconsciousconnected.com.
Got a nasty case of the winter blues? Fret not, sister – help is at hand here, so put down that bowl of ice-cream and Game of Thrones DVD box set.
The winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a mood disorder which causes people to experience depressive symptoms in the winter, or in some cases, summer. Although why you’d ever be unhappy about warm weather is beyond me, but then again, I am a proud Queenslander.
Winter blues is a well-known phenomenon, particularly in the northern hemisphere where the poor peeps go for long periods without seeing any sunshine. Lack of direct sunlight (and consequently vitamin D) is known to cause depression. In Australia, we don’t have that problem to the same extent, but it seems people increasingly feel sad or depressed during winter – why?
Mental health experts say this could be due to physiological factors, for example: being in enclosed rooms (to keep the warmth in) leaves us more susceptible to catching colds and flu, leaving us feeling miserable. And there are psychological factors at play too, such as not going out and socialising as much when it’s colder, leading some people to feel lonely and isolated.
So, what can you do to ward off the winter blues? Here are five quick fixes:
- Little Miss Sunshine: The obvious one – get your coat on, baby, and get outside to catch some rays in the warmest part of the day. For Vitamin D will boost both your mood and your health. The “sunshine vitamin” is good for strong bones and teeth, fights disease and helps you feel sexy, vital and alive.
- You gotta keep moving: Winter is no excuse to stop exercising and start carb-loading as if your life depended on it (bugger). Get a personal trainer if your budget allows and if your motivation is sorely lacking; join a group exercise class, buddy up with a bestie or hit the weights/cardio equipment at the gym – anything which will boost your mood, give you happy endorphins as you sweat and make you look and feel great.
- Let’s talk about sex, baby: In an ideal world, sex would be a nice way to start the day, if only the likes of tiredness, toddlers and work commitments didn’t intervene. A good, early-morning session with your lover will provide immeasurable health benefits, plus it’s a form of exercise, right? And if you can reach the Big-O – this will instantly put you in a good mood even if it’s crazy cold weather outside.
- Let’s stay connected: Winter is no reason to neglect your close friendship circle and become BFFs with your doona. So, pick up your iPhone and make a date to catch-up with your friends – cocktails for all! Surround yourself with positive people who make you feel happy – not Debbie Downers – ain’t nobody got time for that. Alternatively, join a class, go to a library and/or a café – being around other like-minded people will boost your well-being.
- Mind, body, spirit: The colder weather is a great reason to try an indoors exercise class like yoga, body balance (yoga, pilates and tai chi) and/or take up meditation. Your mind, body and soul will love you for it and it will bring instant calm and relaxation benefits. I’m doing a lot of yoga and body balance classes at the moment and I’ve really noticed how much happier and more zen this makes me. Repeat after me, ommm…
What do you think? How do you combat the winter sads?
Images via good-kovka.com, hercampus.com
Your June yoga calendar has just become a little more full, with the first annual United Nations World Yoga Day falling on the 21st of this month. Held in Bondi for the first ever event, yogis from all over the country and the world will be heading down to Bondi Beach Pavillion for an all day yoga-filled event.
The UN World Yoga Day will begin at dawn with Aboriginal acknowledgement and a community gathering of sun salutation as the sun rises over the beach. The event will then run until dusk with yoga classes, meditation sessions, well being workshops and even delicious food and market stalls for all your yoga needs.
Yoga Australia will be part of the celebrations on the day and will also be running events in major cities across the country to support this special occasion in the yoga calendar. Tamara Ogilvie from Yoga Australia can’t wait for the event and told us: “We are excited to be a part of such a special day for the yoga community. The UN World Yoga Day will help open up the conversation about the benefits of yoga practice to mind, body and soul and the positive impact yoga offers to both individuals and society as a whole.”
If you’re not already a yogi, this event would be the perfect time to start, with heaps of support and information on the amazing exercises and benefits that yoga brings to the body. President of Yoga Australia, Claire Nettley knows just how popular yoga is and why that is so. “Thirty million people worldwide practise yoga. Yoga Australia has approximately 2,500 registered teachers and my understanding is that there are approximately 300,000 people practising yoga in Australia,” informs Claire.
“Yoga is a science of the mind. It is a system for establishing mental equilibrium through moral and ethical guidelines, the removal of physical impurities with the goal of establishing a contemplative mind. The primary benefit is a quieter more discriminating mind that allows us to relate better to others, our environment and ourselves,” she continues.
“People will experience more confidence as they feel they can breathe better, giving them more vitality, posture improves – which also makes one feel uplifted and energetic – plus mental focus is improved. The current trend in Yoga is based very much in the physical practice of yoga asana, so people are benefiting from greater physical strength and flexibility.”
If you’re wondering if yoga suits your style, you needn’t worry, as Claire explains the current yoga trends and different styles that you can try. “I think the trend is around different styles of yoga cropping up. Everything from yoga for men (Broga – beer yoga) to hip hop yoga, yoga on paddle boards, yogalates etc,” she says.
“Acro Yoga is very popular now. There is also a groundswell occurring of slow and yin yoga styles (a reaction to the dominance of the hot yoga for some time). At the end of the day, it’s all yoga and encourages people from all walks of life into the practice. If people are mindfully moving and breathing, they’re practicing yoga and that can only be a good thing!”
If that hasn’t already convinced you to start practicing yoga, your sleep, stress management and immunity will thank you for it, as yoga has positive effects on all three of those problem areas. It also improves your flexibility, posture and your physical, mental and emotional health.
The activities on Bondi Beach at the first annual UN World Yoga Day are free, but if you would like to get inside Bondi Beach Pavillion to check out the workshops and classes, you can pre-book your tickets online for $30 or buy a ticket at the door for $50. Be a part of yoga and world history, give your body some yoga benefits and check out this special event at Bondi Beach on June 21st, 2015.
Yoga has become one of the most popular exercises in the world. People from many different countries in many different climates practice yoga for many different reasons. It has been recommended for stress relief, weight loss, strength and rehabilitation and is known for the amazing benefits you gain from it.
Those who practice yoga regularly are well aware of this, but if you’re looking to take your yoga even further, maybe becoming a certified yoga teacher had crossed your mind?
There are many reasons to becoming a yoga teacher beyond just wanting to teach. Learning more in depth about the practice of yoga and broadening personal understanding of yoga is one of the top reasons that individuals are enrolling in teaching courses. In fact, Yoga Australia has seen a 30 per cent increase in the number of people registering for teacher training in the past year alone.
When you register to become a teacher of yoga, you learn so much more about the practice, including yoga philosophy and anatomy and meditation. This enables you to then gain a more thorough understanding of what contributes to physical, emotional and mental health. While this is beneficial to those around you – as with your extended knowledge you will be able to help their practice – it’s also extremely beneficial to your own practice and the way you view your own health.
Yoga Australia is recognised as the industry peak body for yoga in Australia and has the highest teaching standards anywhere in the world. The primary mission of the organisation is to: develop and promote best practice for Yoga teaching, to support and represent Australian teachers from all styles and traditions, and to educate and inform the general public and professional community about the benefits of Yoga.
When choosing to train as a yoga teacher, it’s important to register with a governing body, like that of Yoga Australia. Not only do you have more support from a wealth of teachers and knowledge, but you can also feel confident knowing that you will receive the highest level of education and also that your accreditation will be recognised internationally.
Vice president of Yoga Australia and chair of their teacher training committee, Leanne Davis (pictured) has over 28 years of knowledge in yoga teaching and loves to share her advice on becoming a teacher.
“During teacher training students will be taught the foundations and anatomy of Yoga poses, philosophy and meditation techniques as well as practical skills such as writing class plans, presenting and getting started in your teaching career. As someone who has been teaching for over 28 years, I realised that learning is an unending process and I am constantly inspired and educated by my peers,” she says.
So, now that you’ve decided that you want to expand your yoga knowledge and training in the teaching aspect, how do you know which course to choose? Let’s take a look at Leanne’s top tips for finding the right teacher program for you:
- Choose the style of yoga you would like to undertake your training in. There are so many different styles of yoga, which means there are just as many training programs for each, whether it be bikram, vinyasa or Hatha yoga.
- Ask your favourite yoga teachers about where they received their training. This will help guide you and narrow down the style and potential yoga institutes and schools that you can pick from.
- Check they are accredited with Yoga Australia. Many yoga studios offer teacher training course, but before you commit to any programs being offered, make sure you check they are accredited. This will ensure that the course is recognised and that you will be doing the correct number of hours to be qualified as a teacher.
- If you’re interested in formally teaching yoga, it’s vital you register your certificate. This will ensure you are kept up-to-date with the world-class teacher training programs and adhere to the standards recognised across the board.
Images via Yoga Australia
There’s a predisposed image of what you have to be before trying yoga. As the myth goes, you need to be flexible and thin, be wearing fabulous Victoria’s Secret yoga pants and carrying a green juice.
Well, the green juice and Victoria’s Secret yoga pants are optional, being thin and flexible are not necessary at all, and everyone needs to start somewhere, so why not right now? The two things that is a necessity in yoga class are breathing and an open mind. While you may have to train your brain to be a little more free, your breath is ready for the challenge.
The way you breathe can change your mood and state of mind. Breathing is so important during yoga class because it acts as a sensor to our body and our movements.
Claire Nettley, President of Yoga Australia, believes that breath is the connection between mind and body:
“It’s often said that breathing is the bridge between the mind and body so when we consciously breathe and practise, we’re able to drop into our body and move with awareness, moment to moment. We use the breath as a barometer of how we’re feeling and moving. For example, if we push ourselves too hard in a pose we may hold our breath. While we may not recognise the limitation physically (or want to mentally), the breath tells us to pull back. It basically helps us to practise in a more conscious way.”
Changing the way we breathe during yoga can have great effects on your mind and on your body. It can help to change mood and how we feel. Breathing during yoga is so important because it has many benefits.
“We can achieve many things – how we choose to respond to things, how we behave and how we feel physically. For example, if someone triggers something in us and we’re angry, we might hold our breath and our chest might tighten. But when we consciously tune in, take a deep breath and give ourselves a moment we can respond very differently to how we might have otherwise. Certain pranayama practices can help us relax, perk up or focus. They are many and varied!” Claire says.
But before you go ahead and dive into different breaths during your sun salutation or copy hot the girl on the mat next to you breathes you need to establish what your individual breath is like.
“It really depends on the individual and what you’re trying to achieve. What works for you might not work for me,” says Claire.
“Before we go off and explore lots of wonderful Pranayama practises, it really is important to check in with our regular breath. That starts by watching the breath in any given moment. Do I breathe into my belly or chest? Do I feel tension anywhere when I breathe and if so, where? Is my breath smooth or ragged? Can we watch our breath without judgement or wanting to change anything? We need to establish a baseline before stepping into other practices or we could create more tension in the body. Without a baseline we won’t know what’s working and what’s not. And again, that will be different for the individual.”
Images via kyrinhall.com and twitter.com
Over the last few years, yoga has become increasingly popular due to the many physical, emotional, mental and spiritual benefits. Regular practice of yoga postures, breath exercises, relaxation, concentration, self-inquiry and meditation cultivates health & wellbeing A low-impact exercise, Yoga postures can be practiced by anyone at any age and at any fitness level.
With the new year already moving into full gear, what better way to start afresh with your yoga practice than with a guide outlining everything you need to know – from what to wear to safety measures. If you’re new to yoga, you want to find out as much information as you can to help build a better foundation to your practice, therefore minimising injury and maximising health benefits.
Here are a few handy tips to get you on the right track and ignite your inner yogi this New Year:
Where should I start practicing and which class or style should I take?
If you’re new to yoga or haven’t practiced in a while, beginner or foundation classes are a great way to start out as they can guide you along the right track and get you motivated. This will help build the right foundations for more advanced poses and yoga styles later down the track.
Another important aspect is finding a qualified and registered teacher to ensure you are practicing Yoga in the safest manner possible. Visit yogaaustralia.org.au to find a suitably qualified teacher in your area.
There are so many different styles of Yoga practice with some more challenging than others. A good place to start is with a Hatha or Vinyasa class, depending on whether you prefer to work slowly or work up more of a sweat. As you become more confident, you can try other styles to see which one suits you most. Your first class is always a little daunting and it’s natural to feel uncoordinated but don’t worry, this is perfectly normal and you won’t be alone. Make sure you let the instructor know it’s your first class and about any injuries you may have.
What should I wear to my first class? Do I need to bring anything?
When practicing yoga, you should wear comfortable clothing that you can move freely in. Consider that you might be doing postures where a t-shirt may ride-up. Yoga is traditionally practiced barefoot, but there are non-slip socks on the market if you’re not ready to get your feet out in public!
Check with the studio or gym where you are attending the class to see if they have mats, otherwise you may need to bring your own. You can get quality mats from most sports stores. When attending your first class remember to bring a bottle of water to help keep you hydrated and a towel to wipe any sweat.
What can I expect in a yoga class?
Try to arrive at least 15 minutes early to your first class and avoid eating anything for two hours before (water is fine). You may need to sign enrolment forms and you’ll get a chance to speak to your teacher. This is a good opportunity to introduce yourself to your teacher, let them know you’re just starting out and you can also discuss any concerns or injuries you may have before you begin your practice. Plus this gives you time to settle in, relax and prepare for your practice in class. Make sure you switch off your mobile phone and enter the room quietly.
Once the class has begun, your teacher will start by going through a series of different postures and poses. They will offer students alternatives and modified poses, geared toward different levels of experience. Listen to your body and only try a more challenging pose if you feel comfortable. Yoga isn’t a competitive sport so don’t feel the need to keep up with everyone else in the class, go at your own pace. The more you practice the easier it will be and you will quickly progress.
Safety measures and precautions
Yoga may look comparatively less impacting on your body than other physical activities; however, there is still a risk of injury especially if you don’t understand how to enter and hold a particular posture or push beyond your body’s limits.
Here are some tips to help you develop the safest yoga practice:
- Pick the right yoga style: If you are still quite new to yoga, start with a series of classes that are aimed at beginners. That way you can build a solid foundation of knowledge and alignment principles before you try something more challenging.
- Be in tune with your body: Safety in yoga is about knowing your limitation and being comfortable in staying within those limitations while practicing yoga. As a student, you carry the responsibility of advising the teacher prior to commencing the yoga practice of any injuries or other factors that might affect your safe practice.
- Pick the right yoga teacher: It’s important that your teacher is qualified and registered as part of a governing body such as Yoga Australia (link thru). This will ensure you are practicing yoga in the safest manner possible and with a teacher who knows what they’re doing . It’s important that the teacher understands how to teach a posture correctly and recognises when a posture, position or breath practice is just not suitable for a particular student. Don’t worry if you don’t ‘click’ with the teacher straight away – it doesn’t mean the practice or style isn’t for you and it might be worth trying a few others until you find one you click with.
The teacher is there as a guide so if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it! You are always your own best teacher. Honour what your body is telling you that day and if it says to rest, come out of the post and take a break. There are no prizes in yoga for hurting yourself.
If you have any questions about Yoga, visit the yogaaustralia.org.au for more information and to find a teacher in your area
Is there anything that yoga can’t do? Not only is prenatal yoga good for you, but it’s also great for your baby! There are many institutions all over the country which offer great yoga classes for you and your unborn baby – with stellar results.
Prenatal yoga is divided into three different levels – one for the first-trimester, second and then the third and final trimester just before the baby is due. Below you can find just a few ways prenatal yoga is good for you and your baby, and how to get started.
Not only does it help you stay in shape during your pregnancy, yoga also keeps your muscles nice and toned, improves circulation in the body, and helps with a variety of breathing exercises that will keep you calm and centred during labor.
One of the first steps of any yoga classes doesn’t actually focus on the arms or legs at all – instead it teaches you ujjayi. This technique means that you breathe in through your nose and completely exhale through your mouth, leaving your stomach to decompress.
- Before you embark on your first ever prenatal yoga class, it’s a great idea to drink a lot of water. Sometimes yoga can feel physically exerting, so it’s always good to keep your body hydrated.
- Take a deep breath after every movement. With each class, this will be easier to remember, and soon you’ll find your body just does it naturally after every rhythm.
Best yoga position: Side-lying position
This is one of the best positions to end a class, and is suitable for women in their first, second or third trimester. Feel free to take as long as you want with this position, and practice breathing.
- Your instructor will let you know which poses to avoid, and which to embrace since your joints will begin to loosen up due to pregnancy. As a general rule you should avoid lying on your back, since the weight of the baby isn’t comfortable and it could block blood flow.
- Don’t rush into every position. Remember to take your time and listen to your body. If you feel extremely strained and tired, it’s best to take a break and ease back into the position later on.
Best yoga position: Cat Cow
This position is perfect for women who are in the early stages of their pregnancy. The exercise focuses on stretching the back muscles, and relieving any tight back pain.
- If you’re well into your trimester, you may feel that your sense of balance is compromised, and it’s harder to perform some of the standard poses. Use a chair to keep your balance, and remember to go slow and don’t rush into anything.
- It’s important to keep your body moving, so don’t hold poses for a prolonged period of time.
- Focus on breathing exercises which will help you in labor. Sometimes this could mean just reinforcing the ujjayi technique over and over again.
Image via Fitta Mamma
Do ever feel that your hormones are getting the best of you? Sometimes that time of the month can send your entire body into overdrive, with skincare problems, hair loss, and even bloating which is uncomfortable to say the least.
Although there are a few ways to balance your hormones without resorting to medication such as the pill. Below are a just a few ways to settle down your body, before it has you feeling completely out of control.
Avoid omega-6 fats
Many vegetable oils and margarine spreads can cause your body more harm that good, especially if you’re already suffering from health issues. Whenever you can, try to avoid these polyunsaturated fats which are hazardous to your health if consumed for a prolonged period of time. Substitute them instead with coconut oil, olive oil and lots of healthy omega-3 fish such as salmon.
This ancient practice is designed to settle both the body and mind, which can keep you calm and centred through whatever you may be experiencing. Reserve just a few minutes a day and practice some traditional poses through the use of YouTube videos, which are effective and easy to follow.
If you do want to commit to a consistent yoga routine, seek a qualified practitioner who can teach you step-by-step.
Did you know that coconuts are good for almost any health issue? Fresh coconut meat is great for taming any unruly sex hormones such as DHEA which actually helps to fight against anti-ageing. Enjoy coconut in a smoothie, raw, or even in your favourite stir-fry.
Cut out white grains
By eliminating refined carbohydrates, the human body actually runs a lot more smoother and can really balance out your bad hormones. Substitute white flour, pasta, and other snack foods which whole grains, or even quit wheat completely and see how your body reacts to this change.
Omega-3 fatty acids
One of the easiest (and painless) ways to balance your hormones is by eating more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Salmon, avocado, chia seeds, and walnuts are all fantastic since they are packed with alpha-linolenic acid which cannot be produced within the human body, and needs to be derived externally.
Have you ever heard of leptin before? This hormone is directly associated to hunger and metabolism which can be compromised by eating too much sugar and fatty foods. The best way to bring your leptin back to good health is by eating whole grains, getting a good nights sleep, and significantly cutting down on sugar.
Image via Beyoga and Wellness
It’s only natural that new mothers want to bounce back to their pre-baby weight sooner rather than later, but in reality is doesn’t happen with the snap of your fingers. It takes time, unless of course you are fortunate enough to have a personal chef, a personal trainer and multiple hours a day to work out.
For most of us it happens slowly but remember that everyone is different. Depending on how much weight you put on during pregnancy, how much you weighed before you fell pregnant, your age and genetic factors will all play a part in how long it will take for the weight to come off again.
Here are some tips for losing that post baby weight safely:
- Before you start any fitness regime remember to talk to your GP about when it’s best to start exercising again, especially if you’ve had a caesarean. Some mothers who had a natural birth and were physically active before the birth will be back exercising within a week whereas others who had a caesarean will take much longer, normally up to six weeks to get back in the saddle.
- Set realistic weekly goals of how much weight you want to lose, rather than setting your sights on the end goal weight. Don’t set your goals too high though to avoid disappointment. Slow and steady wins the race.
- After the birth of your baby is not the time to be trying fad diets or crash dieting, especially if you’re breast-feeding. If you don’t consume enough calories you run the risk of your body producing less milk, meaning less food for your baby. Not only that but drastically reducing the number of calories you’re eating could leave you feeling irritable, less energetic and less alert, which is not the way you want to feel with a new baby.
- New mums have little time to themselves so it can be difficult finding time to exercise which means that sometimes you need to find ways to exercise with your baby. Strapping your bub into a baby carrier or pram and hitting the pavement for fifteen minutes or more a day can do wonders for your weight loss. Alternatively you could invest in some yoga DVD’s and workout while your baby is taking a nap.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and to stave off that thirst that is sometimes confused with hunger. Try adding a slice of lemon to your water to reap some additional benefits such as cleansing the bowel, boosting your immune system and reducing stress.
- Make smart choices when it comes to eating, such as choosing low fat or fat-free dairy products, choosing foods with mono and polyunsaturated fats rather than saturated and trans fats and choosing whole grains which will keep you full for longer.
Image via iphysioperth.com.au
Back pain is a common problem, and the area is often the site of a lot of pent-up stress. We depend on our backs for support, whether doing heavy-lifting or sitting at a desk all day. Without stretching out those muscles, they can tense up under the constant pressure, possibly resulting in lifelong injury.
The following stretches are based on simple yoga exercises, and will help lengthen and strengthen your spine and back muscles. When performing these exercises, you should always remember to breathe. Oxygen will help you relax and aid your flexibility. Try and hold each stretch for a minimum of 15 seconds.
Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Your knees should be directly under your hips, your hands and arms below your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and come onto the balls of your feet. Lift your hips and try and straighten your knees, creating an inverted v-shape with your body. Keep your back flat by stretching your arms, sucking in your stomach, and pushing your chest toward your legs. Your feet and hands should be flat on the floor.
Sit on your knees with your legs and feet tucked under you. Lie your torso on your knees – or as close as you can – and roll your arms in front of you. Stretch your arms as far out as possible and feel the stretch in your upper back, between your shoulders.
Knees to chest
Lie flat on your back, keeping your head on the floor but pulling your chin slightly toward your chest to keep the spine straight. With your legs straight out, pull one leg toward your chest, hugging your knees. Hold, and then repeat with other leg. You can also do both legs at the same time to really feel the stretch in your lower back.
To attempt the sitting spinal twist, sit cross-legged on the floor. Place your right foot on the floor behind the left leg, and bend your knee upward, bringing it toward your chest. Place your right hand on the ground for balance, and bring your left elbow to thin side of your bent knee. Pressing the elbow against the knee for leverage, use it as leverage to twist your body to the right.
Cobra pose stretches the muscles in the lower back. Lie face down on the floor and place your palms beside your shoulders. Slowly push up, lifting the front of your body, but keeping your hips and legs on the floor. Straighten your arms as much as possible, and tilt your head up. Keep your shoulders down and back, away from your ears.
Can you stay serene while striving for success? Janine Hall, the smart, savvy and super-successful entrepreneur and founder of Escape Haven – a group of women’s surf, yoga and luxury spa retreats in Bali, Byron Bay, Portugal and Morocco – says hell, yes!
Janine, 40, who splits her time between Bali and Byron Bay, knows a bit about overcoming adversity after starting out her life as an orphan when her Australian mother gave her up for adoption. She lived in an orphanage before being adopted and was reunited with her birth mother 18 years later when she came to New Zealand to find Janine.
A former fashion executive, Janine quit the corporate world to open up a surf and yoga retreat in Bali in 2010. And her success has been swift – Escape Haven Bali’s now the No.1 ranking women’s retreat on consumer review website Trip Advisor. And within four years, Janine’s expanded to Sagres, Portugal; Byron Bay and Marrakech, Morocco, with all four Escape Haven retreats generating more than $1 million in revenue.
Janine’s true passion is teaching guests the same wellness techniques she’s used to grow Escape Haven. And, she’s also recently launched The Creating Futures Foundation charity in Bali which aims to transform economically poor villages by teaching orphans surfing, yoga and education. So, how on earth do you stay zen while growing a business empire?
“It can be very daunting starting a business, particularly in a third-world country where initially I didn’t know one person,” Janine says. “It definitely had its own set of challenges and when you feel isolated on top of all of this, the road can be a little rough. Having self-belief and energy to persevere helped immensely.
“The more I focused my energy, the further I could drive. I gained perspective to make the right decision and do things better. It also bought me a lot of happiness.”
Janine believes people are more effective when they are in a calm place. “You make better decisions, and you feel happier,” she says, “you connect better with others and all you can see is possibility.”
She attributes yoga, surfing, meditation, beach walks, massages and a healthy diet to her success, which she strives to pass on to Escape Haven guests, who are taught well-being tools which can be integrated into their daily lives post-retreat.
“Women can reach their dreams, make the right decisions for them and overcome their self-imposed limitations,” Janine says.
For us non-guests, here are Janine’s top five tips for staying serene while striving for success:
1) Think happy, be happy: “Your thoughts are so powerful, and in turn affect your mood and outlook on life,” Janine says. “Next time you are feeling overwhelmed at work, take a few deep breaths from your stomach, and think yourself happy and calm.”
2) Take time out to feel vs think: “Switch your mind off even for a few minutes. If you have a busy brain, get outside and connect with nature,” Janine says. “Experience everything around you by fully exploring all your senses. How does nature smell, feel, what can you see nearby and far away? Before you know it you will be so immersed in a world that feels calm.”
3) Utilise the power of aromatherapy: Using calming oils in the office will induce feelings of tranquillity and simplicity, Janine says. “Try experimenting with different scents for different moods you want to evoke – energising, calming, relaxing – the choice is yours!” Janine says.
4) Don’t deprive yourself of sleep: Good energy levels are crucial, Janine says. “Getting well-rested sleep is particularly important. You’ll feel better, make better food choices and feel happier overall.”
5) Don’t take yourself so seriously: It’s easy to get caught up and lose perspective. “Laughter is the best medicine,” Janine says, “especially through hurdles. It will instantly make you feel better and offer you a clear perspective to make the right decisions.”
I have to admit that the first time I found myself at a laughter yoga class I took my time to join in. As much as I loved the idea of laughing for fitness, I was feeling uneasy and self-conscious. What would they make me do? So I came up with the feeble excuse that I had to keep an eye on the kids and I stayed out of the action (while the kids I was supposedly looking after jumped straight in and loved it).
It turned out that I didn’t need to start laughing like a maniac from the get go. The instructor got everyone warmed up with easy exercises like taking turns to say ‘Ha’, then increasing the number of ‘ha’-s after each round. Funny noises were encouraged, but not required. Laughter started happening all on its own when we got to ‘ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha’ and counting the ‘ha’-s became slightly challenging. People would make thoughtful faces while counting, make mistakes, start again and soon everyone was able to see the humour in what we were doing. The class continued with more laughing exercises, which included the sounds ‘ha’, ‘ho’ and ‘he’ combined with easy, gentle movements.
Laughter yoga is a way to embrace the health benefits of laughter and bring more fun into your exercise routine. Laughter is known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and produce a general sense of wellbeing. Laughter yoga offers a structured approach to incorporating laughter into your week for a significant period of time – laughter yoga classes go for 30-60 minutes.
Unlike other types of yoga, I haven’t heard of anyone doing laughter yoga by themselves. In theory, it’s possible, but it’s much easier to stimulate laughter when you’re playing with others, engaging in eye contact and using each other’s energy. So here is an added bonus for you – while ‘exercising’, you also get to meet other joyful, laughing people.
Image by Guiliamar via Pixabay.com
By Tatiana Apostolova
Working out with a partner is more than just having some good company throughout the day. You can offer each other some much-needed moral support, and encourage one another to push past your limits when it comes to fitness. If you love to work out with a friend, below are some specially designed workouts which are made for those special two.
All is fair in love and war, right? Swap one of your dinner-date nights for a kickboxing workout class. Many gyms offer a trial class, which is great for getting in some much needed cardiovascular workouts at least once a week.
For those who prefer a slower workout why not practice yoga with your partner? Not only can you support each other through the various poses, but encourage one another in the often tiresome workout routines. Some yoga poses which are perfect for couples include: the supported back arch, double boat, and the double standing straddle, to name just a few.
Head down to your local pool and swim with your partner. You can choose from a variety of exercises, including racing each other in the pool. Interchange your techniques to include breast stroke, butterfly and backstroke to get a full body workout.
If the weather is appropriate, why not try a run along the beach? Running with a partner is much more rewarding than being alone, and will push you to your ultimate limits. The terrain is also more difficult, which will contribute to a better workout as opposed to grass or on the treadmill.
Why not try tandem-cycling with your partner of friend? This workout makes you rely on one another, and only works if both partners put in their effort. Cycling is also a great workout which targets the legs and the core muscles of the body.
Image via Big Stock
While meditation began as a spiritual pursuit, it has become an exercise of many non-religious practitioners as science and medicine continue to champion its benefits.
Meditation helps relieve stress and improve mental clarity. One of the most common types of meditation is the practice of “mindfulness” – focused attention on a singular aspect in the present, such as your breath or a particular body part. Meditation can help lower anxiety, maintain focus, assist creativity, improve your memory, and just generally lift your mood.
However, not everyone has the time and money to attend meditation or yoga classes. Instead, I prefer to take a few minutes out of my day, whether that is before bed, on my lunch break, or on the train, to plug in my headphones and practice guided meditation with the assistance of one of these mobile apps.
Simply Being – $0.99
Simply Being will help you relax and settle into the moment, by encouraging you to “simply be.” You can select long or short meditations (ranging from 5 to 20 minutes), and listen to your guided session with optional background music or nature sounds. The app is easy to use and great for beginners, especially those who have trouble sleeping.
Headspace – Free
Headspace founder, Andy Puddicombe, is a former Buddhist monk and a minor meditation celebrity. Headspace was built on the principle that dedicating just ten minutes per day to mindfulness practice can have miraculous effects on your wellbeing. The Headspace ‘Take 10’ program serves this philosophy, offering ten minutes of meditation over a ten-day period. An engaging, friendly voice guides the meditations, which are also accompanied by a fun animated video.
Buddhify 2 – $2.99
Buddhify is the most popular app of its kind and, not coincidentally, also the most expensive on this list. However, what is a one-off $2.99 in comparison to ongoing class fees? Buddhify has custom meditations befitting whatever you are doing in that moment. You can select an activity or mood from a colorful wheel of options, such as “walking”, “can’t sleep”, or “work break”. On top of a brilliant design, Buddhify also offers a stats page, social media sharing opportunities, and solo meditation for the more experienced practitioners.
Omvana – Free
Omvana claims it is “more than the Spotify of meditation.” It offers thousands of tracks created by musicians and authors from around the world, which you can add to your personal library and customise to your liking. There are all types of meditations that will help you sleep, lose weight, or just feel great. While the app is free and comes with some sample tracks to start you off, you will have to purchase any extras from the iTunes store.
Transform Your Life is different from the other apps on this list, as it does not provide guided meditation clips, but rather written meditations for you to contemplate over the course of each day. You can set a reminder on your phone to receive a daily assignment in “awareness practice”. The ultimate goal is to help you see past the social and cultural conditioning that might limit your happiness and mental clarity. It is great motivation for those seeking a long-term exercise in compassionate and mindful living.
Image via globalone.tv
The death of a loved one, relationship breakdown or loss of employment or finances? If you or a loved one is experiencing grief and loss, we have some survival tips to help you through it.
Although grief is a universal experience, we simply aren’t taught how to deal with. It is powerful, personal emotion which can make others feel uncomfortable about what to do or say. Instead of providing support, people often avoid individuals experiencing grief. Mourners therefore feel isolated and very alone in their suffering, even if they share the loss with others.
If this sounds like you or someone close to you, it is important to know that grieving is a very natural process. Everyone will experience it at one time or another and each person will do it differently. Some will grieve for a short time and other will grieve much longer. Some will cry and display their grief while others with hold it within. There is no right or wrong way as long as you let yourself experience it and ride though the pain.
Sometimes the significant loss we experience leaves an empty feeling within us and we crave to fill it. Initially drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or other addictive behaviours will fill the void and this is why so many people turn to addictive behaviours at the onset of grief. Unfortunately, these behaviours only mask the pain and when the behaviour is removed, the grief will rise to the surface.
Avoiding these types of behaviours and grieving in a positive way will not only get you through the intense feelings at the onset, but also allow you to move on as time passes. The following tips will help you grieve in a more positive way:
- Understand what you are feeling is completely natural. It is ok to be sad and still be able to laugh.
- Take each day as it comes and remember that as each day passed; the pain will eventually ease.
- Be kind to yourself and don’t eat yourself up over the past. Instead focus on the present and the future.
- Talk to friends and family about your loss. Although they may not have experienced grief themselves, they can be your best support so don’t be afraid to ask them for help.
- Look after your physical health; sleep, eat health, drink plenty of water and avoid excessive alcohol or sleeping medication. Looking after your physical health will ultimately help maintain your mental health.
- Keeping busy is great but don’t do so to avoid your feelings.
- Yoga, meditation, gardening, writing or things that you usually do to relax will help you stay mentally strong.
- Avoid major decisions like moving or selling your home. As time passes you will have a better perspective.
- If you are experiencing isolation, joining a support group will give you access to others experiencing similar emotions and the opportunity to share your experience.
If your grief is prolonged or if you are having trouble coping, you may need to talk to a professional. The following contacts are an excellent place to start:
Lifeline 24-hour counselling 13 11 14
Kids helpline 1800 55 1800
By Kim Chartres
Are you usually annoyed or irritated? Do you often feel like you are stuck at the wrong place at the wrong time? Do you usually pick arguments? Well, before this starts sounding like one of those useless, annoying online marketing advertisements, I believe if your answer to the questions is a yes, your chakras are probably screwing with you.
But it’s never too late. Yogis around the world believe that messier your chakras are, the more the yoga and meditation practices work on you. And the best part is you don’t need a master.
Knowing your chakras
Imagine a kitchen with half eaten cake left on the counter, scattered uncapped bottles, unwashed plates with leftover food waiting in the washbasin, and ketchup spilled on the floor. Our minds and bodies are in a similar mess. Everything’s scattered and out of place. Just because you don’t see that, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. So let’s start aligning things inside us. Trust me it’s more important than the kitchen mess you worry about every day.
Get in a line
No, I am no talking about a queue here. This line refers to a 90 degrees invisible arrangement of energy points from your tail bone all the way up to the crown of your forehead. This line houses your seven chakras. Chakras are counted from bottom to the top, so the first one is the root chakra on the tailbone, followed by sacral chakra on the reproductive organs, solar plexus chakra on lower abdomen just above the navel cavity, heart chakra, throat chakra, brow (third-eye) chakra and the crown chakra on the head.
When one or more of our chakras move away from this sequence, we are faced with problems ranging from health, spiritual, mental to social. Each of the seven chakras, with a specific color and sound frequency, will only open to give out energy once it gets back to its right place.
Take it slow
Like any other exercise, it is always good to start one by one. Exerting too much pressure on the body for quick flexibility can leave you injured, and so can an attempt to align all chakras at the same time can be too much for a naïve yogi. It’s always good to work on one chakra at a time through yoga postures and meditation.
Add some colour to your life
Each chakra has a colour: red, orange, gold/yellow, green, turquoise, purple and violet/white. You can simply mediate by imagining a lotus-shaped glow moving in a circular motion at the point of the chakra, like a wheel. Just remember to sit cross-legged, with your eyes lightly closed and your arms kept away from your body so that your upward-facing palms rest on your knees with the index finger touching the thumb. With every breath chant the words ‘Om’ or ‘hmm’ starting from when you start breathing out and stretching the word till you are ready to breathe in again.
With a greater effect, you can also download ‘music for mediation’. You will be surprised to see that there’s a specific frequency for each chakra.
With the right colour and movement imagination and music, you can do yourself wonders by meditating just 20 minutes each day. And the good news is, you can meditate for every chakra a day, completing your cycle in a week and then repeating.
So let this colourful journey to inner peace begin.
Images via innerswift.com and worldofpeace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/iStock_000010960212Small3.jpg
By Ayesha Hasan
Ok, so you’ve tried a walk through the nearby garden, made yourself a cup of herbal tea and tried enjoying it on your terrace with a view of falling leaves. You’ve also talked to a friend and intensively googled DIY techniques to relax. You’ve also given sleep a chance or two. But nothing seems to work. Have you tired making peace with you soul lately? Let yoga do that for you.
Believe me when I say it works. I have seen it do wonders for me.
Soon after my return from Afghanistan last year, where I had been on a war reporting fellowship, I realised that while I had gained something professionally, I had lost some, too, personally. My soul was bruised from the misery I had witnessed and the agony I had seen the local people go through. Their pain concealed from the eyes of the world, to which the only way to peek into the sore country is five minutes of media reports.
Every night, I would close my eyes to return to images of mutilated men and women and underfed, underdressed children trembling in cold, most not making it through the night. That is when I knew I needed some magic, and tried this phenomenal thing called yoga.
Over thousands of years, yogis have been trying to find an answer to this spiritual mystery, but all they have found is peace and so did I.
Apart from the established health benefits of everyday yoga, this practice is a great way to mediate and cleanse one’s inner self, by aligning one’s chakras (seven energy points in the body that should be aligned in a 90 degree angle from the head to the backbone) that are mostly disturbed, unknowingly affecting the entire way we think, process and react to situations.
Man has articulately developed a cage around him and trapped himself inside it, oblivious of the damages it is doing to his natural freedom. He has created each cage rod with the lust of money, sex and power. He is stuck and desperate to set himself free. It is important to revive the butterfly inside us, and trust me yoga can do that for us.
The biggest freedom is to smile and not think about what brought it. Can you smile without giving it a thought as you read this and then feel good about it knowing you did not have a reason to do it? Can you start your day without the ‘fear of the unknown’ that might take moments like these away? If your answer is no, the question is what have you been waiting for? Just remember:
- It won’t cost you anything but the benefits are valuable.
- You don’t need to have any religious affiliation or formal registration with an instructor to begin your yoga sessions. You just need 30 minutes of your day.
- You don’t have to be an expert. You can start at home and begin with simple yoga positions, or called asanas, that should not last more than 30 minutes to begin with. The timings can be increased by 10 minutes every week, taking it to an hour and then keeping it that way.
- Always treat your body tenderly and never push yourself more than what you can take. The first few weeks will add flexibility to your body, especially the back. You just have to be committed to yourself and the strength will come itself. I promise you’ll feel the ‘lightness’ in your soul the very first day.
- Using a yoga mat is preferable, but if you don’t have one, you can also start using a thin mat/rug on a flat, non-slippery floor. And, don’t forget to download some mediation music for free.
Since practicing yoga, I have not only learned to be more relaxed and happy, I have also miraculously learned to manage my anger issues. I have less back pains than before and I sleep like a baby. Coupled with the will, you don’t have an idea what gift you are about to present to your body and soul. And the next time you smile without a reason, thank me.
Stay tuned for more on the magic of yoga, simple positions and how to mediate for each chakra. Till then, stay happy and start warming up.
By Ayesha Hasan