Downward Facing Dog aka Adho Mukha Svanasana

 

Downward dog is one of the most synonymous yoga poses. It appears in practically every yoga class, all over the world. So what is it that this pose is actually doing, how does it benefit us, what is its purpose and how do we do it!

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Believe it or not, Downward Facing Dog aka Adho Mukha Svanasana is a resting pose. It gives us time to check in with own body during the yoga practice. Here we have a chance to notice what our minds are doing, are we focused on the breath? Have we lost all focus and started planning what we are having for dinner? Now we can re-find our focus and ensure the breath in steady and that we are breathing fully and effectively. We can allow the heart rate to come back to a calm pace during a dynamic vinyasa class.

It may be a resting pose but there is still a lot to think about (before we can take that pause) to make sure what we are doing is safe and sustainable for the body in the long term.

  • Do we have secure foundations? The feet and hands should be grounding into the floor. Don’t worry if the heels are not touching the floor just yet, direct the energy down and out into the ground. The hands spread out and knuckles pressing into the floor.
  • Keep the front of the legs engaged as you press the back of the legs back. (Engage the quadriceps to release the hamstrings.)
  • Hips pressing up and back, sitz bones pointing up to the sky. For those anatomists out there anteriorly tilt the pelvis.
  • Spine is long and neutral, supported by the use of your bandhas.
  • Protract the shoulder blades – basically think of the shoulder blades wrapping around the ribs, moving away from each other.
  • Shoulders relaxed and away from the ears.
  • Arms forming an energetic spiral as the upper arm rotates outward (away from you), the lower arm rotates inwards and the hand planting down into the floor with a feeling of resistance, as though you are opening jam jars! *it’s really common at this point to rotate from the wrist but keep the fingers pointing forwards.
  • No strain in the neck, look towards the feet or the navel, depending on which school of yoga you are practicing.

So you’ve managed to get your alignment sorted out and you’ve refocused on the breath, you’re taking a pause to reset, but what are the benefits of doing this at all?!prenatal-teaching

As it is considered an inversion it has all the benefits of being fully upsidedown. see Why go upside down?!

It is a foundation pose which prepares you for many asana, both in terms of alignment, flexibility and strengthening.

There is a benefit to digestion as the internal organs are stimulated. Other health benefits include relief for back pain and sciatica (in some cases) As a stable weight bearing pose it is a great option to include if you are aiming to improve bone health. It can help to reset the spine, especially after any complicated twists or arm balancing.

For mental health, it calms the system and can be both stress relieving and help to lift mood. Somewhat confusingly it can be energising and help with fatigue or can be soothing to help you sleep.

Basically it’s the cure-all of yoga poses!

 

 

Why go upside down?!

Inversions are used loads in yoga, any time your head goes below the level of your heart, technically that’s an inversion…. yes even downward dog!

So what are the benefits?

  • Strengthens the whole body
  • Improves balance
  • Helps drain the lymphatic system
  • Can help with circulation
  • Creates a sense of calm in mind and body
  • Boosts confidence
  • Emphasises an internal focus
  • Keeps the ego in check
  • It’s anti-aging!!!
  • Some say it boosts creativity
  • Takes pressure off the joints
  • Can help with sciatica
  • Realigns the spine
  • Can help with sleep problems

Full inversions e.g headstand, shoulder stand etc. Are not necessarily suitable for everyone and are contraindicated for those with:

  • High blood pressure
  • Glaucoma
  • Neck injury
  • Any injury which makes the foundation of the pose unstable e.g if you had a wrist injury it would be a bad idea to try a handstand!
  • Menstruation – turning the body upside down disrupts the downward energy

So what can you do instead? To get the benefits of inversions without turning fully upside down go for a legs up the wall version. Lying on your back scoot into the wall so your bum rests against it. Place the legs straight up the wall and flex the feet. Alternatively you can place a block or a bolster under the hips. Lying down and raise the legs up, feet flexed. 

Keep practicing and most of all have fun!

Harri xx

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Monday: 9:00am-10:00am restorative
Tuesday: 6:30pm-7:30pm open level vinyasa flow
Friday: 3:00pm-4:00pm restorative
Saturday: 3:30pm-4:30pm beginners vinyasa flow
Saturday: 4:45pm-6:00pm intermediate vinyasa flow (some experience needed)

Call 0208 7672266 to book

Rechere’s Health, Education and Well-Being Centre
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Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

The foundation pose of our practice, the body completely balanced, calm, steady and focused. Yet, it often turns into fidgeting, hair flicking, clothes adjusting and general lack of focus.

For some reason this pose is neglected and almost discounted by many students and sometimes even teachers! So lets give it some love and really get to grips with it.

  • Standing at the front of the mat, feet together, big toe joints touching, heels slightly apart.
  • Spread the toes without gripping the floor, weight evenly distributed through the points of the feet, arches lifted. (yogi toes)
  • There is a feeling of grounding into the floor, whilst growing and extending through the body, as though the crown of the head is attatched to an imaginary string from the ceiling.
  • Firm the thighs without locking the knees (be extra careful if you have hyperextended knees) Gently rotate the upper thighs towards the centre line and lift the kneecaps.
  • Balance the pelvis in a neutral position, as though you have a bowl of water in the pelvis and you don’t want to spill it.
  • Draw the front ribs in, whilst lifting the sternum towards the sky – opening the chest and widening the collarbones.
  • Roll the shoulders down and back to relax them and allow them to sit with ease and avoiding excessive downward motion. Shoulder blades slide down the back.
  • Let the arms hang naturally, with energy throughout, all the way to the fingertips.
  • Keep the neck long and chin parallel to the floor. Drishti can vary depending upon the school but a forward, neutral position with a soft gaze is common.

so…what’s samasthiti? Is it the same as tadasana? If you’ve ever attended an Astanga class you will definately have heard this term. Many student don’t really know the difference and it never seems to be explained! Basically Tadasana is the name of the asana, whereas Samasthiti is more the essence of the asana – the focus. Samasthiti roughly translates as ‘establishing an equal and steady posture’… Personally I believe Tadasana should always be Samathiti. That focus on balance and stability should always be emphasised to keep the medatative quality to the flow. This emphasis would eliminate the tendency for students to unwittingly use it as more of a pit stop – just a little break, where all focus is lost.

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What are the 8 Limbs of Yoga?

Here I am going to give a general overview of the 8 fold path set out by Patanjali in ‘The Yoga Sutras’ (Ashtanga – 8 limb…. not to be confused with Ashtanga Vinyasa which is the set of sequences devised in Mysore by Patabi Jois)

‘The Yoga Sutras’ aims to explain; what yoga is, the aim of yoga, how to achieve this, what might get in your way, how to overcome these obstacles and what the result could be. It is non-dogmatic and each sutra (thread) is open to interpretation. The 8 limbs are almost like an action plan!

  1. Yamas – Ethical considerations
  2. Niyamas – Self observations
  3. Asana – Physical postures
  4. Pranayama – Breath control
  5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal of senses
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dhyana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi – Freedom/Enlightenment

Firstly we need to consider our ethics, through understanding the 5 Yamas: Continue reading

Confused by the many styles of yoga?

Looking at the timetable of a yoga studio can be quite intimidating for a new student. There are so many styles to choose from, Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Restorative, Vinyasa Flow, Yin… I could go on!

So let’s take a look at some of these to help you make a decision about which style suits your needs best. Of course it’s great to try out as many styles and teachers as you want, to find your fit.

Hatha – often seen as a gentle, slower practice but hatha is actually the umbrella name for a physical yoga practice. Realistically these classes could be anything but most often, on studio timetables, there will be a more classical approach incorporating basic pranayama (breath control) and asana (postures)

Iyengar – Be prepared for lots of props. Precise alignment is the aim and dependent upon your body type, this could make it incredibly difficult. This practice is suitable for beginners to advanced and all fitness levels.

Ashtanga – The class is a set sequence which you learn in one of two ways. The majority of led classes will be the primary maybe sometimes a secondary series, but there are actually 6! Each series leads on to the next becoming progressively more difficult, so mastery of one is essential before moving to the next. Breath anIMG_0778d Movement are in unison throughout the sequence, it’s a moving meditation, with all postures linked together by vinyasa. Mysore – A way of teaching in the traditional way, where the teacher works individually to teach the student the sequence, one asana at a time. Each person is doing their own practice within the class and will go up to where they are in the sequence and stop. Once you master a pose your teacher will give you the next. Continue reading

So… what is yoga?

IMG_0854Someone approaches you with a leaflet for a new yoga class. If you are not already a convert what comes to mind? I asked some people with no experience of yoga at all and here are the results!

  • Shiny happy American ladies with perfect make up and perfect hair, tying themselves in knots and standing on their hands in front of amazing landscapes?
  • Tiny Indian men living in caves with long beards sitting for hours in uncomfortable looking positions?
  • Young, thin, active people who appear to have no bones in their bodies?
  • New age hippy types wafting around with candles and incense?
  • Something Madonna does?

 

There are so many stereotypes out there and there may be some truth in all of them. What became apparent to me was the answers I was getting were more focused on WHO practices yoga, rather than WHAT yoga is. Just from these answers we can see that a huge variety of people practice yoga but what is it that draws them in? Continue reading

What is this Blog all about?

Firstly, welcome. I’m Harri, a 29-year-old newly qualified yoga teacher! I’m super excited about sharing my yoga life with you.

You can see my journey from having just left teacher training, (with YogaLondon who I highly recommend) to full-time yoga teacher! This could take years or never happen at all but my blog will show how I get on.

I’ll be sharing bits and bobs about my own practice and how I develop as a yoga teacher. I want to keep things real I’m not going to make everything all fluffy. There is this odd stereotype of yoga teachers being these happy, floaty people who just meditate their problems away – and whilst there might be some like that – I’ve never met one! When things get tough or when things are amazing I’ll always be true to myself and let you into a little glimpse of what it’s really like.

I will be giving useful pointers and teaching cues as guides for key asana (postures) as well as ways to incorporate yoga into everyday modern life, using some yoga philosophy and trying to explain some of the concepts which are more alien to people from traditional western backgrounds. Maybe I will throw in a bit of anatomy here and there…don’t worry, nothing too tricky.

I have found mindfulness and compassionate mind training invaluable in my personal fight against post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety and depression. These concepts can be used by anyone to help with …well pretty much anything! As they fit in so nicely with yogic principles and meditation, I think it would be good to give some ideas about how to use these techniques.

The importance of wellbeing in both body and mind is close to my heart. As I become more confident with blogging I might share some of my story and how yoga has changed my life as I’m sure it could help others to see that things can get better, as long as you have the right tools. We will see how it goes.

On a lighter note! I will also share some of my yummy vegetarian recipes which are healthy, balanced and nutritious…but might throw in a few naughty ones too.

Love and Light

Harri xx