Hot summer days can make us feel tired and bothered: we end up sweaty, with flushed cheeks and heavy legs, exhausted at the end of the day. This is the result of our body working hard to keep its temperature and internal conditions in equilibrium. Our body is trying to keep cool by raising the heart rate, dilating blood vessels and sweating: the dilated blood vessels bring more blood nearer the skin so it can cool down as the sweat evaporates. Help your body by staying as cool as possible and by drinking plenty of water. You can also try these ‘hot days, cool yoga’ tips: a breathing technique that can help you feel cooler and a yoga position that is a miracle cure for heavy legs.
Looking after our neck is often forgotten, until it hurts. In this time when many of us work at a desk, slouch on a sofa, bend our head over a book or phone, or drive long distances, our posture often puts the neck forward of the shoulders, and the neck muscles at a greater risk. Neck care can help prevent muscle pains and strains, neck tightness, upper back pain, shoulder pain, degeneration of the cervical discs and neurological pain. Having had to manage a forward head myself, and having woken up numerous times with a stiff neck, I know I have to include daily neck care to prevent any chronic condition from developing. This blog discusses four ways in which yoga can help to keep your neck healthy.
When you feel burdened with work pressure, you are in a constant state of alertness: your mind is focused on your job even after work hours and you wake up during the night worrying about your colleagues or deadlines. You know that you have managed similar and even worse stress at work, but you can’t stop your mind from racing and worrying. This blog discusses the effects of stress and how it can impact your health, productivity and happiness, and why clever companies offer wellness programmes to their employees. I finish by giving you 3 simple practices that you can do right now to combat stress.
Healing lower back pain requires a broad approach, which includes daily exercises to relax and strengthen muscles, improving one’s posture, dealing with stress, etc. What conventional approaches often overlook is the surprising way of healing lower back pain through abdominal breathing. In yoga therapy, however, relaxed breathing is central to healing lower back pain. In this blog I explain the effect of abdominal breathing and a relaxed diaphragm on the lower back. The importance of a freely moving diaphragm for our wellbeing cannot be stressed enough.
If you are an office worker, you are likely to spend 4 to 9 hours a day sitting at your desk. The same is true if you work from home, if you are a student, and even when you have retired: we generally sit too much. Prolonged sitting has been linked to poor physical health, back pain and decline in mental well-being. So what can we do? First and foremost, get up once an hour for a short walk. Secondly, try the 7 ways to stretch at your desk that are demonstrated in this blog. Doing these stretches regularly will increase the blood supply to the brain, reduce fatigue, prevent aches and pains and increase work efficiency. All the exercises below should be fine for people with back pain, although it is still important not to do a movement if it hurts. Let’s dive right in!
Whether you are a mother, father, grandparent, aunt or uncle, today’s yoga is for anyone in need of a nourishing and uplifting yoga session. It is nourishing because caregivers often give so much of their time to others that self-care is put on the back burner. This session is also meant to be uplifting because apart from feeling tremendous joy and satisfaction, many mothers will experience fears, worries, guilt, the sadness of losing, the letting go, … . Therefore, this Mother’s Day Yoga Special centres on the heart area: stretching chest muscles, strengthening and lengthening the upper back, it mobilises and engages an area that can often be held quite tightly.
Let’s move and breathe deeply.
In her incredible and inspiring life story, Jo Malone says that life is about conquering things. In her journey from growing up in a council flat and struggling with dyslexia to being a world-known, innovative perfumer, she has had to conquer limitations over and over again. We all have to do this to a certain extent, and quite acutely when we have to live with pain or a disability.
If you have back pain you will know that you have to conquer feeling bad or even conquer despair every day. You may have to go from specialist to specialist until you find the one that finally helps you relieve or manage your back pain. You may need to adjust your plans and movements to avoid the pain from getting worse. You try doing exercises regularly to keep your back healthy and avoid a relapse. In any case, what you do every day will count: avoiding certain movements, at least temporary, and including others that can relax and strengthen you. Because core strengthening is an essential part in your journey to a stronger back, I made a video series that you can easily include in your daily routines.
As a child I had a poster in my room of a shepherd and sheep in an early morning field, with the text “It is not the great heroic acts that demand most of our courage, but the small tasks we have to perform every day”. Looking at the man in the freezing morning field, I saw the point. Thinking back at your New Year’s resolutions, you may agree that the daily disciplines, however promising the results, require most effort. The more regularly we stick to them, of course, the easier and more rewarding they become. It is probably most manageable to stick to one particular discipline for a few weeks, until it becomes a habit. For all of you with back pain, each of the next few blogs will give you a short yoga sequence to focus on for a couple of weeks. Today, we start with a morning routine for a healthier back.
I can’t really claim that my children are devoted yogis, but they have inevitably had to put up with yoga as a solution for all sorts of challenges, such as exam stress (“breathe!”), performance anxiety (“breathe! Connect with the feeling of your feet on the floor”), core strengthening (“this is a better way to do it”), and back pain… unfortunately also back pain. Over the years I have warned my children about the consequences of slouching until I myself slumped down in desperation. For young people the consequences of bad posture are not immediate, and all their friends slouch or practically lie at their desk… Unfortunately, at some point the chronically rounded spine has had enough, and the consequences are bound to be painful and limiting. My son had some back pain over Christmas, and so at the end of the holiday he begrudgingly took a yoga mat with some instructions. Below I explain the yoga poses my son took back to uni, as they are not only useful for students but for anyone who has to sit for many hours.