Pull yourself together….

You must be mad….

Pull yourself together…

Others have it worse…

You don’t know how lucky you are…

Perhaps you’ve heard one or all of the above before and you really wish that you could ‘just snap out of it’ but for someone who hasn’t been through mental illness, it’s so tricky trying to explain what it’s about.

Tomorrow sees the start of Mental Health Awareness week and although society has made some progress it has also taken a turn for the worse in other ways.  Even up to today I heard on the radio about how students are committing suicide more than ever due to the pressure that they are facing.

Online bullying is increasing and as much as I love Facebook, I sure am glad that it wasn’t around when I was in school.  School was tough as it was.

So why am I writing about this on a yoga blog?  I find that when I’m going through times of stress it’s a reminder for me to get back to my mat as soon as I possibly can. It’s time to breathe and flow through asanas that help to heal my body.

I love sharing these asanas with others and as a yoga teacher sometimes I see the effects that anxiety has on a students body.  Yoga is one of the ways that people can find some relief from anxiety and depression. Not just by practicing yoga but also through attending classes and becoming part of a community where you can get to know other people.

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One of the things I love most about teaching is when I see a full class of people from different backgrounds with one aim in mind to practice yoga and to learn more from the practice.  By coming to class they are able to get in touch with how their body works, heal their body and hopefully meet others with common interests.

If you have been too shy to try out a yoga class, ask around or even post in the comments below.

If you have been feeling too depressed to move then one step at a time and one asana at a time.  It all comes back to the breath.

Returning to that peaceful place

 

Among the many reasons that people come to yoga is to find some sort of relief from the pain caused by anxiety and depression.  If you’ve ever been unfortunate to experience either of these, it’s very scary. To those who have experienced neither I would describe it as a feeling of dread that grips you and you don’t know why. You might wake up in the early hours or not be able to go to sleep because your mind is racing with thoughts of things that can go wrong.

I like to think of yoga as a moving meditation; I’m as human as the next person and sometimes I’m lazy about going to my mat, in fact, I would not describe myself as one of those dedicated “Yoga Every Damn Day!” folk. However, when I do carve out time to place myself on my mat, it’s a reminder to breathe and to stay present in what I’m doing. It’s a humbling practice and I love how I learn so much regardless of whether I’m practicing on my own, in a class with others or teaching.  I believe that how one practices yoga can tell us so much about who we are. Can we surrender to the practice and stay in the present, maintaining a longer breath than usual?

The twists and turns in yoga represent squeezing out toxins in our body both physically from over-indulgence and mentally from the thoughts that go whirring through our minds.  Lord of the fishes is an Asana where the student crosses their legs with the knee of one leg pointing high to face the ceiling and twisting from the waist with a cross to the arm and the elbow resting against the outside of the knee can help to twist deeply.

1803 Lord of the Fishes

The pace of yoga also slows back down when looking to ease anxiety or depression.  In modern times students can access a wide range of styles from the original Hatha yoga to the fast- paced Power yoga.  Personally speaking, although I’m trained to teach Vinyasa flow where positions flow from one pose to another and I can teach power yoga, I’m conscious of those who have injuries and challenges who may require a slower practice even if they don’t quite know it.

So, to end with a reminder to check in and set your intention before you make your way to class.  Perhaps have a few teachers who you practice with according to how you’re feeling and what you want to gain from your practice.

 

 

Leanne de Araujo teaches at a range of locations including:

 

Saturday

Old Ruts Rugby Club, Poplar Road, Merton, SW –at 8:45-9:45am

Nuffield Cheam, Peaches Close, off Sandy Lane, Cheam, Sutton SM2 7BJ – Saturdays at 4-5pm

 

Sunday

Fitness4less, Gander Green Ln, Sutton SM1 2EH – 10:15-11:15am

Nuffield Leatherhead, The Crescent, Leatherhead KT22 8DY – Covering on 7 and 29 April from 5:00 -6:15pm https://www.nuffieldhealth.com/gyms/leatherhead

 

Monday

Synergy 81, Unit 81 Barwell Business Park, Chessington, Surrey, KT9 2NY Covering on 16 April 2018 http://www.synergy81.co.uk/

The Riverside Centre, 113 Culvers Avenue, Carshalton, SM5 2FJ – Mondays at 7:45pm

 

Tuesday

Fitness4less – 8:30-9:30pm

Busylizzy (Sutton branch) at The Riverside Centre, (Address above) – Mummy and Baby yoga 10:15-11:00am and Baby yoga 11:10-11:45am  Please see https://busylizzy.co.uk/bee-my-guest/ To book

When how you look becomes part of your yoga practice.

170815 Yoga WheelAs part of my yoga teacher training we had to get in touch with our ‘demons’, those voices in our heads that criticise and put us down. For many people, it was that their class would be boring or that they would forget their class plan. For me my fear was that people would judge me because of my weight, wondering to themselves why their teacher is overweight, and I don’t look like the stereotypically slim yoga teacher commonly seen in magazines and on Instagram.

Not fat but generous

Now I would never refer to myself as fat as I think that it is an ugly negative term, however, in terms of health, I’m aware that I do have more than just a couple of pounds of weight to lose and it’s been a focus of mine for a while. As with my yoga practice aspects of it are personal to me, knowing that when I eat healthily I know that I can take the diabetes that I have into remission. That said rather than affect my practice in a negative way it has enabled me to dialogue more with students who have faced their own battles with weight loss and others who are accepting of their weight but have other life battles. It has enabled me to engage with students both on and off the mat. That said I don’t take it for granted that it is because of my rather generous size but also because I genuinely care about the people who join my class. That’s a trait that comes from within no matter the size and shape of the person holding space for others.

Love, passion, and Yoga

Originally yoga was not about being super slim though I can completely understand the discipline that goes with staying slim if it’s not one’s natural body shape. That said yoga is about love and passion and I happen to have a passion for food that is shared with my family, in fact, it would take a will of iron to turn down some of the food that is cooked by my family who are excellent at what they do.

“Awareness is like the sun, when it shines on things they change.” Thicht Nhat Hahn

What yoga does bring to my students and me is a greater positive awareness of our bodies and what they can achieve. It is not something that can necessarily be placed in a box and labeled. I would love to continue to share my yoga practice with as many people as I can regardless of whether they are a size 0 or size 20 plus.

Starting From the Heart

I’ve been procrastinating for ages about writing a blog post, even right up to last week I went to a blog writing workshop with the intention of writing a blog post soon after though it wasn’t to be.

Saturday 27th January marked International Holocaust Day and this is a subject that as morbid as it is, is close to my heart.  I thought about how I could share this with my students without going into a full-blown historical speech which might have ended up taking up the whole of the class.

Well, the beauty of yoga is that we express how we’re feeling or what we’re thinking through the asanas (positions) that we practice.  We might go through a heart opening practice in which various positions are practiced, which in turn although there is a whole range of positions that can be practiced it’s not as straightforward as that.

What I find interesting in my continuing learnings as a yoga teacher is that not everyone can practice even some of the traditional heart openers because they are in turn backbends.  A number of my students come to class to relieve back pain, which Yoga can help alleviate but only if certain positions are practiced.

A student with lower back pain needs to keep their spine as stable as possible, which means not going into any of the twists, nor backbends, the latter probably being the more obvious recommendation.

So, as I’m writing and thinking about this I’m thinking about what a heart opening practice would mean for a student with back problems.

Let’s take a basic gorgeous position “The Crocodile”, in my first version of this write up there will not be photos accompanying this piece so you’ll need to imagine lying on your front with your forearms resting on each other similar to as if you were resting.

To layer another position on in this sequence moving your hands to your side you will find your forearms pressing into the ground to form the Sphinx, at the moment you will be still lying on the ground.

The potential trickiness for a student with back issues is when they go into cobra, hands pressing to the side of the chest, body starting to lift, whilst pelvis is pressing to the floor, they would need to stop there.

Once the student has the strength in their arms to press up fully, the strength will carry through down their spine, past their hips possibly to their knees which are still resting on the ground.  The full Updog position is an intermediate pose which will have the student pressing down directly through their arms to their hands, whilst their flexibility and strength allow the front of their feet to rest on the ground.

Admittedly I’m seeing various opinions about whether the Updog is good or bad for the back though it’s crucial to consider at what point you experience pain, remembering that the motto “No pain, no gain” doesn’t exist in yoga, except perhaps for the Crow pose, though we’ll leave that for another blog post. 😊