Over the past year I have been putting my heart and soul into completing my book: "A Year of Seasonal Yoga". As well as writing Seasonal Yoga articles for The Yoga Magazine. This has left me with no time for blogging- sorry about that! Once the book is published I hope to have more time for blog posts. Until then...do read my previous posts...
Read my New Blog and Get Inspired to Get on Your Yoga Mat!
In my new blog I’ll be sharing with you short posts on yoga, and mindfulness meditation. The inspiration for the posts comes from my own yoga and meditation practice, and what I am teaching in my yoga and mindfulness classes.
My posts are practical, straightforward, and with a dash of inspiration thrown in. My aim is to inspire you to get on to your yoga mat, or your meditation cushion. The practices I suggest will take you between five minutes to one hour. There are also suggestions as to how you can integrate yoga and mindfulness into your everyday life.
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Here are some of my recent blog posts for you to enjoy:
Emotional First Aid Through Mindfulness
What do you find is the best way of coping with powerful emotions and how do you navigate your way through emotionally stormy waters? Part of the beauty of being human is that we are capable of feeling both joy and sorrow, and so many emotions in between. However, when a wave of strong emotion appears, as if from out of the blue, it can feel scary and we worry about being swept away by it. The Mindfulness approach of “You can’t control the waves but you can learn how to surf” is helpful here...
The Ten Mindful Movements
.“The Ten mindful movements are another wonderful way of connecting your mind and body in mindfulness. They are a way to touch the sky, to smile at your own body, and to touch your heart.”
“I feel I ought to meditate but I just don’t get round to it.” a yoga teacher friend confides. She says that she feels guilty because she thinks that as a yoga teacher she should meditate. I know how she feels as for years I wanted to meditate, I was certainly in need of the tranquillity that meditation promised, but meditation just seemed to elude me somehow. Now I love my mindfulness meditation practice and I’m always keen to share ways that might help other reluctant meditators to find a way in. If I can learn to meditate, and enjoy it, then trust me anyone can!
The Dancing Warrior Sequence
The Dancing Warrior Sequence is a beautiful, flowing sequence, created by Shiva Rea, and I am teaching it to my classes this half-term. It is a circular sequence and it could be considered part of the Surya Namaskar family.
In this post I’ll share the Dancing Warrior Sequence with you and also a modified version of the sequence that I have devised to help students who find making the transition from downward-dog to a high-lunge problematic/challenging.
My Yoga Blog is mainly aimed at students who come to my yoga classes and mindful meditation sessions. My blog posts give teaching notes on what we have been doing in class. However, even if you're not one of my students you are really welcome to take a peek at my posts and find inspiration for your own yoga practice or teaching.
You can also find out about my own yoga and mindfulness meditation practice.
Visit my new blog and you will find yoga hand-outs, asana teaching points with links, meditations, relaxations, inspiring quotes. For yoga book-worms there are lots of suggestions for good yoga reads. As well as links to websites with free downloads for mindfulness meditation.
With my new Yoga-Cycles-Blog at Word Press you can sign up to get an email notification every time I post. That way you don't have to keep checking my website to see if there's anything new.
Check out my new blog and sign up to follow:
It's week 3 of the new term, and in class I'm building on, and developing, the two gentle yoga sequences that I've been teaching for the last two weeks (Total Body Flow and Upper Flow Series).
It's fun because now that my classes know the Total Body Flow, and the Upper Flow series, we can build on these, adding new poses, and also improvising.
I find class planning is a mixture of: getting on to my yoga mat and playing about with routines; combining various poses; seeing what works, and what doesn't. Once I've done this, I'll sit down with pen in hand and jot down a pictogram of the session (see below). Then when I am teaching it, I'll keep the lesson plan in mind, but also improvise; and in this way the whole process engages me, it's creative, and there is an organic feel to the process.
New poses this week, done sequentially, all on one side, and then on the other are: warrior one, warrior two, extended side-angle pose, into scissors pose, into hamstring stretch, and stepping in to stork and dancer pose. Over the next couple of weeks we will be rehearsing and adding to this sequence, until eventually we are doing the Ballet Yoga Sun Salute!
Below is my aide-memoire for teaching week 3. Please excuse its unpolished look- it was meant for eyes only!
A well chosen quote can provide inspiration, motivation, uplift, courage, and direction. Here is the quote I'm using in class this week. It's from "Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness" by Sharon Salzberg. It's about metta (friendliness, loving kindness) and it fits in perfectly with the theme of cultivating spaciousness:
"Metta is the ability to embrace all parts of ourselves, as well as all parts of the world. Practising metta illuminates our inner integrity because it relieves us of the need to deny different aspects of ourselves. We open to everything with the healing force of love. When we feel love, our mind is expansive and open enough to include the entirety of life in full awareness, both its pleasures and its pains…We can understand the inherent radiance and purity of our minds by understanding metta. Like the mind, metta is not distorted by what it encounters. Anger generated within ourselves or within others can be met with love; the love is not ruined by anger. Metta is its own support, and thus it is free of inherently unstable conditions. The loving mind can observe joy and peace in one moment, and then grief in the next moment, and it will not be shattered by the change. A mind filled with love can be likened to the sky with a variety of clouds moving through it- some light and fluffy, others ominous and threatening. No matter what the situation, the sky is not affected by the clouds. It is free.”
In my own early morning, home yoga practice I'm enjoying working, playfully, with the Ballet Yoga Sun Salute. About ten days ago, when I first started using it, after a long break, it all felt a bit creaky. Now, with practice, it's starting to flow again, and this morning I tentatively introduced part two of the sequence.
Sorry if this sounds a bit "lashings of ginger beer" but yoga is such fun! Do you remember when you were a kid and you wanted to be able to do a handstand? You just wanted it so bad, and so along with all your friends, you practiced and practiced, kicking your legs up against the wall, until finally you achieved it! And then you felt such a sense of achievement and pride. Yoga can take us back to that same feeling of enjoying moving our bodies, and challenging ourselves, that we had as a kid. And it's fun!
Of course part of yoga, it can't be denied, is self-discipline. Sometimes these cold, dark mornings it can be hard to get out of bed and on to my mat. But if your yoga practice has the ingredients of fun, playfulness, enjoyment, then you will love your practice and you'll want to get on to your mat. In the same way that kids want to roller skate down a hill, or do the crab pose, or learn to skateboard. Why? Because it's fun!
If you want to invigorate your home practice, or get some ideas, or get motivated, check out details of my:
Create Your Own Home Yoga Practices Day
At the moment, each day, I'm reading a chapter of a book called "True Love" by Thich Nhat Hahn. Thich is such a genius at suggesting really simple, but profound meditative practices that can be integrated in to everyday life.
In chapter one he says that if you really love someone then you are present, really present, for them. These days with all our devices and screens it's easy to be only half-there for our loved ones. He suggests to counteract this, when you are with your loved one, take a few mindful breaths, look into their eyes, and say "Dear one, I am really here for you". Even if you only say it silently (which is what I do) it sets your intention to be present and beside them.
Written on the back of an envelope, in front of me, are the words: "Let go into spaciousness with prayer". Although I'm not a religious person I find these words comforting. Try saying them to yourself each time you exhale.
Sometimes life feels cluttered, pressured, and things can get on top of us. It is at these times that meditation can help us to surround our difficulties with a sense of spaciousness; to give them some air!
The Cloud and Sky meditation is an excellent antidote to those times when you feel hemmed into a corner by the relentless chatter of the mind. For this meditation you imagine yourself somewhere outside looking up at the sky. You watch as clouds drift across the sky, and you notice that however cloudy it is, the blue sky is still there, behind the clouds. Your mind is that blue sky, and your thoughts and feelings are the clouds passing across the sky.
This week I'm teaching The Mindfulness of Cloud and Sky Meditation to my yoga classes. Looking through my books, I came across this quote, that encapsulates the theme of spaciousness:
"The great Indian teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj once said, "Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between the two my life flows." "I am nothing" does not mean that there is a bleak wasteland within. It does mean that with awareness we open to a clear, unimpeded space, without centre or periphery- nothing separate. If we are nothing, there is nothing at all to serve as a barrier to our boundless expression of love. Being nothing in this way, we are also inevitably, everything. "Everything" does not mean self-aggrandizement, but a decisive recognition of interconnection; we are not separate. Both the clear, open space of "nothing" and the interconnectedness of "everything" awakens us to our true nature."
As I write snowflakes are falling outside in my garden, and I can hear a flock of geese flying over.
The Spring Term's here, classes have started again, and it's great to be back in the swing of things.
I've gone for a gentle start to the term for my classes, especially as over the Christmas period people find it hard to keep their yoga practice going, so they might be a bit stiff after the break.
I'm starting the term with two sequences: The Upper Flow Series, and The Total Body Sequence. I find it fun to have these as my starting point and then I build the class practice around them.
The first sequence is "The Upper Flow Series". It begins with resting in Little Child, from here you move through Uttanasana, come up to standing, then into Utkatasana, and back down into your forward bend and finishing with Little Child again. It's a bit like a seed waking up, or an animal coming out of hibernation. Great for this time of the year, mirroring what's happening in nature, as the world begins to tentatively wake up with the longer days.
Here's my class hand-out for the sequence:
Following on from this I bring the class onto the all fours, for some variations on the cat pose. Then a few repetitions of little child, moving in to down face dog, and back to little child again. Followed by the runner's lunge moving in to dog pose, and then back up to standing for the second sequence: Total Body Flow Sequence:
From here back on to the floor for a few poses including: sitting twist, baddha konasana, gomukhasana. Followed by a few gentle poses lying on the back to finish with.
I love the creativity of designing my own, and class yoga practices. Remember in May 2015 I'll be teaching a yoga day on designing your own home yoga practices.
My own yoga practice has been fairly gentle and easy-going over Christmas and the New Year. With snowdrops appearing in my garden, and the days gradually getting longer, I think I must be coming out of hibernation. The last few days I've felt the need to rev my practice up a bit. Today I introduced the Ballet Yoga Sun Salute and I really enjoyed the challenge of mastering the sequence again, and stretching more deeply.
However, although there are signs of spring on the way, it's not here just yet, as the snow on the hills testifies!
I spent an enjoyable hour this morning, at my kitchen table, planning my own yoga and mindfulness practices for the next few weeks. I found that devoting some time to focussing on what I want from my own practice also got my creative juices going as regards ideas for the coming Spring Term of yoga classes.
My To Do list for my own practice includes:
Try out Ballet Yoga Sun Salute
Explore ways of creating space, both in body and mind
Practice Cloud and Sky mindfulness meditation
Try out some of Jay Blahnik's Full-Body Flexibility routines
Look through my favourite yoga books for inspiration.
Books I will be looking at for inspiration:
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha" by Tara Brach
"Breath the Essence of Yoga" by Sandra Sabatini
"Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit" by Donna Farhi
"Insight Yoga" by Sarah Powers
"Yoga for Wellness" by Gary Kraftsow
"Yoga Body, Buddha Mind" by Cyndi Lee
"30 Essential Yoga Poses" by Judith Lasater
If finding floor space to roll out your yoga mat at home is a problem and you haven't got room to stroke a cat let alone swing one, then my holiday yoga practice below will be just the job for you.
Recently, holidaying in a cute Cornish cottage I had the same problem of virtually zero floor space. Below is the yoga practice that I came up with.
Here's my holiday journal entry detailing the practice, and below that you will find the practice in a more readable form :-)
My Cornish Holiday Yoga Practice 2014
It must be great to be naturally laid-back, I'm not, and it usually takes me a day or two to relax in to a holiday. I found this yoga practice great for calming holiday nerves caused by a change of scene. It also boosted my energy so I could enjoy lovely long coastal walks.
At the end of each day of the holiday I would spend a few minutes jotting down 10 things I felt grateful for. Expectations are always high on holiday, and it can be easy to get in to a frame of mind where things as they are don't measure up to how you think they should be (the opposite of mindful awareness). The ten finger gratitude exercise helps steer you back towards an appreciation of the many blessings in your life. And... research has shown that one of the many benefits of gratitude is that, done at the end of the day, it helps you to sleep better!
Below is one of my holiday gratitude lists.
The Ten Finger Gratitude exercise can be found in Mark Williams and Danny Penman's book "Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World".
Jilly's Yoga Blog
My Yoga Blog has now moved to Word Press. If you want to find inspiration for your own yoga practice or teaching then visit (and sign up for) my new blog: