What does a young British Cordon Bleu chef do to help with yoga?

I wrote this article about a year ago. It really can be a little bit of a challenge sometimes – we all sometimes feel a little disconnected. Or distracted. So as teachers we learn where and how to find inspiration for classes. Keeping in mind that I think we all don’t just want to find an amazing theme for a class, you want to offer something useful, helpful.

Rachel Khoo – beautiful young British Cordon Bleu chef, who lived in Paris for a while and now London, has the habit of wandering around the city with a camera and a notebook, with the purpose of finding inspiration for her philosophies and designs and dishes.

I am a keen people observer. I love walking around. I love just quietly being in nature. I love writing. I always have my class book with me. Put my iPod/phone camera in the mix and I have everything I need to try that too! So I am going to do more of that. With the purpose of finding inspirational classes.

Where does a yoga teacher’s inspiration come from? As a teacher you, of course, want to start every class knowing you have something to offer your students. You would like every student to take something away with them. So it remains a constant…
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Our thoughts are with Vietnamese Zen Master, Thích Nhất Hạnh, who is very ill.

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

We talked about Svadhyaya in class tonight – self study. Getting to know and understand ourselves. Extend that understanding and love to yourself as much as you would to a loved one.

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Yoga – the University of Self

One of the underlying and key things I try to convey to my students is that yoga is us learning about ourselves.  And so do I!  

I have often found it hard to look directly at students – I sort of look at the body part we are working with.  Occasionally I am able to look at someone and crack a joke.  It’s simply that it becomes really close when you look at someone, in their eyes.  It makes me feel really vulnerable and at present I am a little freaked out if someone comes close.  When I was teaching Body Balance/Centergy ( group fitness class based on yoga), it was easy – but then you are on a stage and you have a microphone.  Connecting directly is easy then. You are also then dealing with a large number of people.  A yoga studio is smaller and people are closer.  

So today I plucked up the courage to look at my beautiful students.  I connected more directly and so closely with them.  It was like having a two way conversation.  So I am getting that ego – that vulnerability – out of the way.  And so I, too, am learning and growing.  ❤

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The Trinity of Yoga and Resilience – Part III

Over the last two weeks we looked at what helps us with resilience.  In the first week we looked at flexibility – adaptability and then we looked at balance.

Today in class we started on the third element in resilience – strength. We talked about how strength is not necessarily a rock or a loud voice. Strength more often is flexibility and balance. Knowing when to let go and when to be soft – flexibility. Knowing when to stand strong. I dedicated class to my mom – Joan Elizabeth (Egen) Vorster. The strongest person I know. And we talked about Mahatma Ghandi. The impact he had on the world. And just like my mom, never a harsh word uttered. Ever.

At end of class – quoted: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that quiet little voice at the end of the day that says: I will try again tomorrow.”

Sending love  ♥


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The Pendulum Swings

I have been teaching my classes over the last three weeks based on the trinity of yoga:  strength, balance and flexibility.  Danna Faulds, a yogi and poet, expresses these concepts so well in her poems:

Have patience. The pendulum
that swung too far in one
direction will swing back.
At the moment of its turning,
everything hangs in the balance.
All the momentum of past actions
is suspended in mid-air, and
those who care about what
happens next are poised with it.

There is a long and anxious
pause before the motion shifts,
and then a sense of free fall,
when the world is turned on
its head and nothing is known
or normal. Have patience then,
and do not rush to either extreme.
The way will paint its own arrows
on the trees if you can wait for clarity.

~  Danna Faulds

I ask my participants to think about an area in their lives where they feel they might need a little more balance – work/life balance,  balance in a point of view, perhaps a reaction to a situation or a person and then to look for these in their asanas.

Har Har Waheguru
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Yoga for Bodybuilders

Although exercise and weight training is important for health and vitality, body builders can face problems related to joint and muscle pain. Yoga is a useful solution to help realign the body properly and improve flexibility. Beyond helping with any muscle or joint pain, yoga can also help improve poses and movement.

Risks in Body building

Body builders spend hours working on improving muscle mass and physical exercise, but that does not necessarily mean that good health will always follow. Common problems with health can occur as a direct result of building up a large amount of mass and hours of exercise for extended periods of time.

One important risk that a bodybuilder might face is injuries. Lifting weights, particularly heavy lifting, can result in injuries to the muscles and bones.  Even minor injuries from general weight lifting and exercise, such as sprains and strains, can add up over time causing pain and discomfort.

Beyond the physical risk of injuries, body builders often face a reduced range of motion due to increased muscle mass. Building up muscle has a risk of losing flexibility. Range of motion decreases and the body becomes less capable of stretching and moving freely. Along with the reduced ranged of motion, stiffness in the muscles can develop that requires longer periods of time stretching to regain the same level of physical movement.

Joint damage is another common problem that occurs over time while bodybuilding. The reason is simple: the joints take on more pressure due to exercises, weight training and increased muscle mass. Over time, the joints can cause discomfort and pain. When measures are not taken to correct the joint pain, inflammation and arthritis can develop.

Although body builders often spend hours exercising, they face health risks that are possible to prevent. It is not necessary to lose range of motion or face uncomfortable injuries due to increased stiffness.

Improvements with Yoga

Many body builders see positive changes by adding yoga to a normal routine. Beyond the improvements to flexibility, yoga can help improve sleeping habits, energy levels and general happiness. Sleep is a necessary part of healing after exercise because the body takes that time to repair muscles. A greater amount of energy can provide the opportunity to enjoy exercise without losing focus or taking unnecessary risks due to fatigue.

Here are a few poses to try:

Downward Facing Dog

The asana called downward facing dog is a basic pose found in several yoga practices. The movement increases general flexibility throughout the body and improves circulation. It also stretches out all of the muscles throughout the body.

Start on your hands and knees. Place your hands forward and adjust the knees so that they are below your hips. Slowly, lift the knees off the floor and pull the tailbone away from the spine. Move your heels toward the floor. Draw your shoulder blades toward each other and keep your head between your arms. The proper form has a shape like an inverted V. Stay in the pose for around five to eight long, deep breaths.

Seated Twist

The seated twist helps improve flexibility in the back and helps reduce the risk of back injuries from lifting.

Sit on your mat (or the floor) with your legs out in front of you. Now put your right foot (knee up) next to the outside of your left knee. Tuck your left heel close to the buttock (or leave that leg straight if this is difficult). Keep the sit bones even on the floor and lift up through the top of your head, then twist from the shoulders toward the right. With your left arm, hug your right knee toward your upper body. Look over your right shoulder. Hold this pose for a few breaths – lengthening the upper body on the inhale and twisting a little more on the exhale. Then uncross the legs and do the other side.

Warrior Pose

Warrior pose is a pose of power that improves general balance and builds core stability. Start with the legs together. Do a side lunge with the front foot facing forward and the back foot facing sideways. Hold the arms straight from the shoulders, activating the arms. Hold the pose for a few seconds, release, then do the other side.

Bridge pose

Bridge pose is a great chest stretch. Lie on your back and bring your feet, soles on the floor, close to your buttocks. Keep your arms on your mat, palms down. Be sure that your toes face the front and feet are parallel to each other. Now, as you inhale, start lifting the hips. With every inhale, lift a little higher. You can support your bridge with your hands or a block under the hips.

Cow face arms

Cow face arms are an element of cow face pose, in which the legs are crossed and the feet tucked close to the buttocks. (That is a great hip opener!) For this purpose, you could also just sit with legs straight in front of you. Stretch your left arm out horizontally and then tuck it up between the shoulder blades. Now stretch your right arm up, then tuck it behind your head, toward the fingers of your left hand. It may be necessary to use a strap to hold between the two hands. Hold this for a few breaths, then do the other side.

If you are unsure, why not attend a class? Most instructors are experienced in helping all body types and would help you find the best way for you to practice. There are so many more asanas that can help.

Yoga can help body builders improve flexibility, create more space and reduce the risk of injuries. Although it might seem difficult at first, the practice can increase the amount of time that body builders are able to continue working out and enjoying their workout while also improving mental and physical health.  I have a few muscle men in my classes and they love their yoga practice!

Om Shanti Om


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Amazing music to practice to ♥

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Please feel free to check out feedback from students over time.

Om Shanti Om

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Yoga Helps with Anxiety and Stress

Anxiety is a common condition in this world as it is today, so it is important to find a form of exercise that calms your body and allows your mind to recuperate. Luckily, practising yoga is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety because it requires complete attention and focus on performing each pose. Many of the asanas we perform are aimed at helping with anxiety. During yoga, breathing becomes increasingly important as you get deeper into a pose. According to a study at the St. Elisabeth’s Medical centre in Brighton, MA yoga is one of the best non-medicinal ways to eliminate stress and anxiety. According to the report, 25 out of 35 trials focusing on the effects of yoga on stress reported a reduction in stress when practising yoga (1).

Here are the top 5 reasons why yoga is great for reducing anxiety.

Take Time for Yourself

Despite yoga often being practised in a class with others, yoga is much more about connecting with yourself than with those around you. During your yoga, your body is only limited by your mind and your imagination. Even an hour of yoga each day allows you an opportunity to leave the stresses of your busy life. You won’t have to answer phones, talk with customers or deal with any other issues that are causing you stress. Instead, practising yoga allows you to escape into a different world where you can forget the problems outside the studio’s walls and focus on being in the moment.

Clear your Mind

From planning a dinner to driving a child to an after school activity to finishing a project at work, being busy can be both stressful and challenging. As the day progresses, our minds begin to become cramped with all the things we have yet to accomplish. Often, this causes us to become stressed and to lash out in unhelpful ways. Practising yoga reduces anxiety because it allows you to clear your mind by pushing away negative or stressful thoughts and focusing on your breath. Yoga is as much physical as it is mental exercise.

Problem Solving

Have you ever had so many thoughts running through your head that it is almost impossible to get any work done? I think we’ve all been there before and the best solution is to grab your yoga mat and work these issues out at the studio. Not only does yoga allow your mind to rest, but also it releases more blood and oxygen to the brain giving you the energy necessary to solve even the most complicated of problems.

1. Aw, Li; “The Effects of Yoga on Anxiety and Stress,” St Elisabeth’s Medical centre, March, 17 2012.

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7 Ways to Fit in Yoga Classes at a Studio

We all know it is important stay in shape and we all know what it is like to be busy! There are many ways in which you can make – sometimes small – changes your lifestyle so that you are able to fit in Yoga classes in a studio and stay in shape. Practising yoga in a studio, along with other practitioners and a teacher is a great way to stay on track. Yoga is great for the body – an all over workout – and mind as it creates a state of relaxation and fitting it into your schedule would be a big plus to continue living a healthy lifestyle.

1. Assess Your Day to Day Routine

Have a good look at what your normal schedule looks like. Casting a fresh eye over what you are used to doing is a good idea, anyway. Looking over what you can move around or don’t need would be helpful to find your yoga time.

2. Find a Studio that Works for You

Location is a good place to start – is it on your normal route, or perhaps close to you? Look for a reliable studio with classes at times that work for you. Perhaps try a few classes with different instructors to see if there is someone who resounds with you. Talk to the other participants and get an idea of what they think of the studio.

3. Desire to Get in Shape

Very few things would motivate as much as a real desire to stay or get into shape. You would be more likely to work harder to fit different things into your schedule. Finding ways to encourage yourself to stay healthy is a great way to find the courage to clear a schedule and keep an allotted amount of time set aside for yoga.

4. Talk With Friends

Having a “yoga buddy” or two could be of great help – to share the experience, and you would be less likely to miss a class if you have an “appointment” with your friend. You would be more likely to fit in more yoga time. Having friends who are interested in completing the same goal and attending yoga classes with you as well is an easy way to encourage yourself to go to the studio and work out.

5. Buy Gear

If you own all of the needed gear for yoga classes, why wouldn’t you go? Logic dictates that you are more likely to make time for something you have invested your money into. Buying gear helps cement your commitment to yoga in your mind. Besides – there is such a great range of lovely yoga clothes out there!

6. Just Do It!

I know – it sounds obvious. I know from experience that it can be pretty easy to talk yourself out of doing something if you start thinking about it too much. If you want to stay motivated, it works – just get into your gear and go. And I find that I am usually very glad I did that!

Procrastinating will only stop you from achieving your goal.

7. Make it part of your day

Going home first after your work day can make you lose your resolve. If you made your class early before your day starts, or during the day or on your way home after you are more likely to attend.

Making time for yoga in the studio is a great way to help stay fit and stress free. Yoga is a wonderful way to relax and clear your mind. It helps you to stay on top of your goals in life and to stay focused on all that you have in front of you. By utilising these tips, you can position yourself to be prepared to take on the commitment of yoga classes and easily fit them into your autumn schedule. While life can be overwhelming, you will always have time to exercise and relax your body.

Namaste – sending love ~ Amanda

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