For many the February half term is an opportunity to escape to the mountains and get some skiing in.
So far the season has been great in Europe with plenty of snow throughout the Alpes. Skiing is a second passion of mine; and one that I look forward to every year. Yoga complements skiing in many ways - before, during and after your day skiing.
At a very high level - both activities require you to focus on what is ahead of you (Drishti), to keep regular breath (pranayama) and to physically move / adapt regularly (asana). By the end of your practice, or day on the slope, you are usually happily tired whilst invigorated at the same time.
Using yoga to prepare for your holiday.....
Preparing to go skiing
Build up core strength to enable greater balance, whilst also building on quad strength. Undoubtedly there will also be a time to push yourself along the piste, and carry the skis - so shoulder strength and mobility is also useful. Possibly a bit late to get really prepared for half term but how about using yoga to help prepare for skiing in the Easter break?
Pre skiing warm ups
Essentially this is a bit of warm up to prepare the body before you hit the slopes. As you would with running, some sequences to get the joints moving and muscles warm makes sense. Sun Salutation A or B are great warm ups - particularly with Chair pose in Sun Salutation B being featured. Why not pulse in chair pose up and down, to the left and then to the right, followed by slowing sitting deeper into the chair at 3 different levels?
Post skiing stretching (if you have time and are not too distracted)
Spinal twists, glute opening in pigeon pose and a forward fold allowing your arms to hang to the ground, really can relieve stiffness from the day's activities. Hold the poses for a number of breaths (how about 10 inhales and exhales through the nose counting to 4 each time) in each pose to really allow your body to unwind.
YogaTonicUK run a number of ski fit classes on Monday night at 815pm each week to help prepare you for your ski holiday.
Have a wonderful and safe time on the slopes. Hopefully you will find some of the tips, sequences and poses helpful.
This morning's practice was particularly special for me.....
As normal Shannon was giving the Wednesday morning class. It was however, the first time my mum, also known as Bibi, has been in the same class as me. It was wonderful to share our practice together and hang out afterwards. Who knows, she may even become a regular to our classes....
Sharing our yoga practice with loved ones, across generations has proved to be a particularly fulfilling experience for Shannon, Max and I, and one that we are now sharing with our Parent / Kid workshops.
We have now hosted 2 parent child workshops since the New Year, with them proving to be popular with both parents and children. Both parents and children have the opportunity to have their own class before coming together for healthy snacks and a partner yoga session for an hour.
The partner yoga sessions provide a time for parents and kids to fully engage with each other - needing to listen to each other, maintain eye contact and build trust as they progress throughout the class. Ultimately the objective of yoga is to live in the moment and to maintain a focus on whatever you are doing at the time, allowing yourself not to get distracted with other thoughts. I'm sure that an afternoon of yoga with your loved one will certainly help to stay in the moment...
Our next parent kid workshop is on March 16th from 2-4.30.
(For the keen rugby supporters not going to the game you may be able to join the workshop and then watch the England v Scotland match afterwards (its a 5pm kick off). Perhaps the workshop will set you up for calmness before what will inevitably be a tense final match.....will England be on the Grand Slam /will spoil the party again?).
So, with yoga, it really doesn't matter when you start - you can enjoy it what ever age you are (whether you are the base or flyer in partner yoga or enjoying time on the mat by yourself).
To find out more about the parent kid yoga workshops you can email us directly or book online here.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Last week the UK was hit by a thunderous snow storm that caused all sorts of disruption to the country. Schools were shut, deliveries delayed and there was more train disruption meaning commuters could not get to work.....
You really would have thought that we had had blizzard and snow drift conditions in London and the South East that resulted in our son, Max, having a snow day at home. (It was worse in other parts of the country).
Anyway, you may know that skiing is a particular passion of mine, so having a snow day with Max provided an ideal opportunity to get my 'skiing' legs back, and ready, for skiing later in the season.
If you have had the chance to watch any of the skifit yoga videos you will know that I concentrate on strengthening quads and core whilst emphasising the importance of maintaining a good balance....
So - it would appear that I am not quite mastering all of the focus areas - particularly the balancing part. However, to be fair - I am trying to surf on a plastic sledge.
Enjoy the video and have a great weekend.
OK - so there isn't much snow at all.....I really wonder how the UK would survive, if a serious snow storm did arrive.
If you want to view some of the ski fit videos click here. Hopefully they will help you in your preparation for a skiing holiday and also loosen you up after a fun day on the slopes.
Before having Max, Shannon and I were both keen triathletes, completing several Ironman events and multiple Olympic distances races. As one of the three disciplines we spent a fair amount of time on the bike cycling from London into the Surrey Hills, to Windsor or, on occasion down to Brighton. Nowadays group rides have now become a lovely way to catch up with friends rather than setting new PBs (Personal Bests).
Recently, one of our friends has asked for relevant stretches following time on the bike and the subsequent tight glutes and shoulders that have resulted.
The video below shares a few poses that will help loosen the glutes and shoulders following a ride. All the suggested poses are also relevant for skiers that may also experience similar tightness following a day on the slopes.
Who knows - a yoga practice could help prevent the soreness and become part of your regular training regime.....perhaps on your recovery day? Just a thought.
I hope you find the poses useful; whether you are a regular cyclist or enjoy the freedom a bike rides gives you; whilst not forgetting the skiers amongst you.
Let us know if the video has helped.
I appreciate we have just moved into February so can just about still be thinking about New Years resolutions - if you haven't made one or want to make a new one - an article from Australia. (The word seems to be getting out about yoga).
So - the article outlines a number of benefits of doing yoga as part of a new healthy regime (as well as having a healthy breakfast - the article is sponsored by a well known cereal brand).
It is important for students to find both a style of yoga and a teacher that suits them. Try a few styles and teachers out so you can establish what you like and what you don't like. When trying to explain the difference in styles of yoga I liken it to 'Track and Field' in that the different track events (100m / 800m up to 10km) are all running events but require different types of fitness / stamina. The same can be said with yoga - some styles hold poses for longer, whilst others follow a set sequence each time and then there is of course the hot yoga, power yoga, goat yoga and broga!.
The article summarizes some of the benefits of a regular yoga practice in the morning are outlined as the following
To read the full article click here.
So - why not give yoga a go?
At YogaTonicUK our classes have a good mix of students - both men and women with varying levels experience and fitness. If you live in the Cookham area have a look at our class schedule online or contact us by email to find out more.
We look forward to welcoming you to one of our classes or I am sure another teacher will also do the same wherever you are!
Appropriately, a blog linking yoga and American football ahead of the Super Bowl this weekend. (Come on the LA Rams!)
American football (particularly this side of the pond) - is often perceived as the archetypal 'macho' sport with plenty of physical contact, taunting of opponents and less than subtle celebrations....
This video outlines one athletes path to finding yoga.....did he find yoga or did yoga find him as Goldie has suggested (available on BBC Sounds).
NFL linebacker Keith Mitchell found yoga as way to recover from a career ending spinal injury that left him unable to move for several days. Initially the main objective of starting yoga was to regain full mobility. What turned out to be a means of recovery became a life changing experience.
Now a yoga instructor, Mitchell believes the combination of mediation with physical movement has changed his life.
Isn't it great that increasingly professional athletes turning to yoga, breaking down the social stero types that yoga is predominantly for women. Interestingly, yoga was originally for boys in India - it is only as yoga practice was adopted in the west that it became the domain of women. Yoga is constantly evolving, being influenced by geography, gender, age and the ever increasing styles of yoga that people can practice. Most importantly the practice of yoga is open to everyone - there is no right or wrong way.
Go find a local teacher or class - try a few out to find out what you like and don't like. If you don't try it - you wont know if its for you or not....
So what does running have to do with yoga?
The objective of yoga has been described trying to achieve the, 'restraint of the modifications of mindstuff' - or essentially clearing the mind of thought and reaching a meditative state. One thing when learning meditate is that this 'state' may only be fleeting on occasions.
To complete the summer of challenges (not a conscious goal) I entered the Maidenhead half marathon- again with the hope that friends may join me. Much like the swimming in June, I found myself on the starting line alone - again. More time for inward reflection.
Like the day of the swim it was another gloriously sunny day. Unlike the swim, my preparation had not quite gone to plan. A few longer runs were not going to provide the 'legs' needed to find the event comfortable. Despite the company of a new found running buddy that provided a welcome distraction for the first 6 miles, it was going to be hard day on the road. Rounding onto the second loop of the half marathon, I realised that it was going to take the most of my inward reflection to help get me through the rest of the distance. It wasn't pretty but brief moments of reflection (I cant quite say I reached the meditative state) helped me get through a few of the tougher miles.
Sometimes you have good days (the swim) and sometimes there are hard days (the run) - both are experiences none the less.
Who knows - perhaps I may find someone to share an event with at some point soon...
On a recent business trip to Budapest I was keen to experience yoga in a different country and potentially in a different language.
Within my time and travel constraints I found 2 options.
My first class was in a meeting room at work given by a colleague that had recently qualified in one of our meeting rooms. Students were scattered either side of the desks in the meeting rooms as we followed our instructors sequence. I still remember giving classes having recently qualified - with a certain degree of nerves and not daring to move too far away from the primary sequence. Despite offering to the follow the class in Hungarian, I think she took pity on me. With a mixed range of students, the 90 minute class was a wonderful way to get the travel and day's work out of the system.
Looking to challenge myself I found a second local class to gain a Hungarian yoga experience - a 90 minute Bikram class before work. The studio was located on the second floor of a small shopping arcade. Fortunately, it turned out that another student recognised the lost look on my face and directed in the right direction. Most of my practice has been Vinyasa flow so this would surely offer something new. And it certainly did as it was silent Brikham class with no instruction but 'prompts'(sounded like a 'pfssss') for the next position. It was no coincidence that I positioned myself in the middle of the room with many angles covered by the surrounding mirrors.
Despite not experiencing being taught yoga in a foreign language, the overriding feeling was that there is a connection between yoga practitioners - whatever the country, whatever the language (or not), or setting; it is our shared perspective that brings us together. We do spend a lot of time on the mat looking inwards, however, I do believe that this practise in itself does make us more open and worldly in our perspective.
Whenever possible, I will certainly aim to join classes wherever my travels take me. If you have the opportunity certainly continue your practice, or self study (Svadhyaya) as a student of yoga.
For the first time, YogaTonic UK entered a team into the Cookham Regatta Challenge Cup event in 2018. Shannon and I thought it would be a great opportunity to hang out with our yoga friends, off the mat and to enjoy doing some different activities.
As part of the Challenge we would have to compete in 5 events - twice - including dragon boating, Canadian canoeing and several non water events such as volleyball, tug of war and 'silly walking.' Most importantly, it was not about winning but having fun with friends and family... although it would appear we all have a competitive edge. Competition is not bad - though it is important the way in which you compete. In all of the events there was a friendly respect for our opposition, but that did not dim the desire to win.
In yoga philosophy, one of the 'niyamas' (self observations) is that of 'fiery cleansing' (Tapas). It would be fair to say that of all the events that gave the most cleansing / fiery sensation was the tug of war. Not something any of us do to often but certainly something that gets the adrenaline pumping and voice strained in an attempt to encourage the team to pull in the same direction at the same time.
Another yogic 'self observation' is 'contentment' (Santosa). Though we may have lost some races, we were content with how we worked as a team. Santosa means to be happy with what we have rather than what we don't have. We had a great team. We had a lot of laughs. We lost the last dragon boat race but we won overall with highest points. Even if we wouldn't have won, it was still a great day out.
That day, we were a team of active people who like to do yoga. It was fun doing events which were competitive. Sometimes people fall into feeling competitive when they go to a yoga class. It's human nature to observe another person but yoga itself should not be competitive. We are all built differently. There is no wrong way to do a pose in yoga (only if it's unsafe for your bod). In a yoga class, you can do some fiery cleansing (Tapas) through your breath and concentration. You can practice contentment (Santosa) by enjoying the class and know you are doing your best.
So back to the regatta. Great day. Big smiles. With many of the younger generation desperate to get involved I would like to think there will be YogaTonic teams of various generations well into the future... and who knows we maybe able to retain the title in 2019...
Our summer holiday: We have been looking forward to it for months. Easy journey to airport, smoothish flight on Alitalia, fresh Italian coffee immediately upon landing at Rome airport and the long wait at the baggage carousels. Still waiting. No bags left at carousel. How is this possible?
I am not sure why I was surprised that our baggage had failed to turn up; although the last time this had happened for me was in 1992 so had been lulled into what appears to be a false sense of security by checking bags for the flight. Of the 2 bags, one had running shoes, a chess board and a pack of Uno. The remaining bag had all our clothing for the weeks break for the 3 of us.
Having lost our bags, was this the opportunity to put our yogic 'aparigraha' (or non attachment in Sanskrit) to the test. Thankfully leaving the airport we found a local Decathlon what would provide us with the key essentials for the next few, or however many days. Both Max and I found our 2 Tshirts and shorts within 10 minutes, whilst the third member of the family took a little bit longer trying on the few pieces of clothing... (Shannon edit: Tim's yoga shorts were exceptionally tight from not trying on at shop)
On day 4 the first bag turned up- both the chessboard and pack on Uno were gratefully received and members of the party made best use of the games and the chance of a bit of one upmanship. Our clothing issues had not been resolved and the Decathlon was hours away from the remote rural hotel. Only at the end of day 5 did the clothing bag arrive. Our limited wardrobe had served us well and made us realise that once again we had over packed. Did we really need all these clothes? And more importantly can we travel with just hand luggage in future to prevent us from over packing and to make sure we arrive with all our bags.
Practising aparigraha encourages us not to hoard both physical and emotional things and for us to be content with what we have without a sense of loss. Maybe in some small way we learnt a little about non attachment.
In this case - less proved to be perfectly sufficient - though I would have to say that it is certainly worth trying on clothes in future. It proved particularly interesting trying to do yoga in shorts that were rather tight and felt as if they would split any moment. Naked yoga was certainly not an option. Perhaps next time if we do check bags we will pack emergency clothing in our hand luggage. Perhaps we will just pack less.
Life throws us little lessons to show us that it's about the journey, not the luggage.
Tim & Shannon: Part time yoga teachers from Cookham, Berkshire. We thought it would be fun to share our learning experiences with like minded people.