Headstand Challenge – Embrace Possibility

Yoga HeadstandThe Yoga Headstand (Sirsasana) is cited by many as being the King Yoga Pose! This month I invite you to join me in the Headstand Challenge! Don’t think you can do it, you can trust me!

The Challenge: I will email you one short free video every two weeks instructing you through the stages of building a strong, safe and supported headstand as well as video to help you build up your strength to hold a headstand away from the wall. Slow and steady when you’ve mastered it and either shown me when attending one of my Southampton Yoga classes or send me a photo, your reward is a free yoga class either in person or if you’re not local a free online class.

Sign Up: You can sign up and join the challenge at any time and you have as long as you want to complete it! But you will need to sign up by emailing me so that I know to send you the videos.

The Why: As B.K.S. Iyengar says in his section on Headstand in Light on Yoga, “The best way to overcome fear is to face with equanimity the situation of which one is afraid.” The list of benefits for doing a headstand is impressive from improved immune system, stress relief, helping to relieve the symptoms of menopause, therapeutic for asthma, infertility, insomnia and the list goes on! But you know what Headstand can be scary; it literally turns your world upside down. A lot of people understandably freak out about the idea of standing on their heads and are worried about their necks. Yes, if you planning on balancing the whole weight of your body with your neck this is going to be bad! Which is why we have the forearms down on the ground as 90-95% of your weight in Headstand is supported by your arms and shoulders. This is going to take some strength, practise, patience and humility. If you haven’t done a yoga headstand before, a rough guide is around 6 months focused practise to be able to do it.

You in??? In 4 months time I’m leading an intermediate to advanced class on Inversions such as headstand, so start the challenge now and then we can refine it at this class. Remember to let me know that you in so I can send you the videos. I’ll see you at a yoga class in Southampton.


Why Are My Breaths So Short In Yoga?

Yoga BreathingPeople tell me often in class how hard they find the breathing especially when it comes to linking breath with movement and that they seem to be inhaling when they’re meant to be exhaling, generally holding their breath or just feeling that their breaths are too short.

I used to experience just the same thing early on in my practice. When it came to following my teachers pace in class, it always seemed too slow and I would have to hold my breath between the inhales and exhales, take extra breaths or even rest in child’s pose as I felt out of breath. I would often feel tired or lacking in stamina and I see this now when I teach people who I know are physically really fit but seem to struggle with their fitness. This always comes down to their breathing technique as our breath provides the fuel for the muscles in our body and if we aren’t breathing efficiently the body won’t have enough fuel to feel strong during yoga.

In short, breathing well means getting enough oxygen to nourish your body. When we have uneven or short breaths, we’re not getting as much oxygen into our bodies as we could. It takes practice to improve your breathing technique but start by focusing my top 5 tips.

1) Always start with your breath. Whenever you unroll your yoga mat, sit or lie down, close your eyes and connect to your breath. Deepen your inhale and lengthen your exhale. As you begin to move keep this connection to your breath.

2) Focus on your exhale. When we exhale more fully, this naturally leads to a deeper inhalation, which means a richer more efficient breath.

3) Count your breath. Often in class we are so busy trying to follow what pose the teacher is instructing that we simply aren’t mindful of our breathing. Start counting your breath and try to make your inhale and exhale of equal length.

4) Practise the Ujjayi Breath. This is a great technique to focus on as it is a powerful breath which encourages you to use your full lung capacity. It is also an audible breath so it keeps you focused on your breathing, when you can hear that your breath is getting short you know you need to rest in child’s pose for a moment and let everything settle.

5) Practise! Getting in sync with your breath will radically change your yoga. So practise. I have two free videos to support you, Technique Lesson on Yoga Breathing and Instructions for the Ujjayi Breath.


Why I Go on Yoga Retreats?

Every year I make it a priority to get away, ideally on my own and retreat. It can be a long weekend in the UK (usually to the beach in Eastbourne) or if I’m lucky a far far away land! This time last year I spent two weeks on a lake in Thailand, with the closet mobile phone reception a 2 hour boat ride away. The venue’s slogon was ‘somewhere in the middle of nowhere’ and that really summed it up. I spent most of this precious retreat time, being quiet, still, slow and reflective; nourishing my body and mind with great food, lots of yoga and lots and lots of space. Being on a retreat is space to just be, no ‘TO DO LIST’, nothing to accomplish and no expectations. We spend so much of our life living up to labels which get stuck to us through our jobs, our family relationships and other people’s perceptions of us; going on a retreat is a way of removing these labels and spending time with our true self-free to just be. This can be liberating, this can be daunting but it is always precious. I’ve booked my retreat time for this year and am heading off on my own to Tobago over Easter adding some much needed sunshine to my retreat needs.

I feel so truly honoured to have been able to lead two weekend yoga retreats last year; to have been able to hold the space for people to experience the nourishing and healing effects of retreating, even if just for 48 hours. I’m running three weekend retreats this year at the beautiful Brooklands Barn in Arundel, the March retreat is almost fully booked with just a few spots left and I’m already taking bookings for the August retreat (8th – 10th). There is more information here. Join us, I would love to share the amazing experience of retreating with you!


Yoga Mat – Review

Yoga Hedge EndThinking about buying a new yoga mat? I get asked my opinion regularly on what type of yoga mat to buy and to be honest there is no one size fits all. There are so many different mats on the market, with different thickness and textures much of which comes down to personal preference as well as a huge price range from mats as cheap as £4 and some that cost well over £100 (but who really needs their yoga mat to come with Swarovski crystals??).

At present I’ve been using an Argos Pro Fitness Yoga Mat that came as part of their Pro Fitness Yoga and Pilates Set, which also includes a small fit ball, two weights and two stretch bands. A fairly cheap and cheerful set at £24.99 but you know what it does the job! The mat is super cute in baby blue with pretty little butterflies and foliage on it and to my surprise it was really pretty grippie. When you get a new yoga mat they usually always have to be broken in as they come with a slippery film on them which does go after a few uses but is really annoying the first few times you use the mat. This mat wasn’t slippery at all but it did have quite a smell of plastic which I’m sure this will soon fade.

Yoga SouthamptonAlthough a fit ball is not a standard prop that you would use in a yoga class, I’ve been it to help me develop the strength and feel the technique to press up into a yoga handstand which is all about core strength and lifting the hips up. This Pro Fit Ball is quite small which makes it even harder work and really makes me activate my core when I do my fit ball handstand preparation.

Fancy a new mat? Yoga mats are available here. I look forward to seeing you at a yoga class in Southampton with your new mat.