gratitute, health and fitness, self help

The Power of Backbends

IMG_3268We spend most of our lives forward bending: picking up stuff, eating at the table, using electronic devises, driving, sitting on a sofa, etc. And unless you do something to reverse the effect, all this results in a bad posture, which in its turn affects breathing, causes back pain, and affects mood.

Backbends are that simple magical solution you need to prevent this from happening. They stimulate your sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response. One of the things we want to achieve in Yoga is bringing the energy up the spine and cleansing our nervous system. 

Backbends trigger blockages and once one of them is triggered you can experience a whole lot of emotions. We get agitated, excited or experiencing weird suppressed feelings and emotions as a result of this. This also happens because backbends stimulate and open the heart chakra – the mecca of suppresses emotions and buried feelings.

Physical benefits of the backbends are: 

  • Spine strengthening 
  • Improved spine flexibility
  • Improved digestion
  • Spinal mobility 
  • Chest opening which results in improved air circulation and deeper breaths
  • Hip opening and stretching and strengthening hip flexors

Backbends do not have to be advanced, simple ones like Cobra or Cat/Cow Stretch is a great way to mobilise and stretch your spine.

It’s also advisable to follow up with a gentle spine stretch to release and rest your lower back as it is mainly that part of your spine that will be mostly impacted by a backbend.

IMG_3269

Having a flexible strong pain free spine is wonderful! We often underestimate the importance of keeping the spine mobile especially when we get older. It’s never late to start working on having a healthy pain free spine 💕

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gratitute, health and fitness, resolutions, self help, travel

My Yoga & Meditation Journey So Far

‘The quieter you become the more you can hear’

Meditating, or in my case just sitting still, was easy when I was in Bali. There was no stress, no outside noise, no washing or dishes to do and kids to entertain, no classes to teach and basically no external barriers to sit still and just breathe. For the first time in my life I actually managed to go through twice daily 30-40mins meditation practices and really enjoyed them. I still couldn’t fully switch off but I sat there and felt so much better for it (sometimes even dozing off and waking up with a little snort 😝)

I’m back to the real world and I’m not going to lie – it is so much harder to do in here. But I do it nevertheless- 15 mins every morning sometimes burning my incense sticks and candles – sometimes without.

I have a little meditation space with crystals, a candle, incense sticks, holy water and some other bits and bobs there. I don’t think you actually really need all that to meditate, but it makes me happy and helps me with my daily ‘stillness’

I did try meditation before but I wasn’t persistent and there was always something/someone to blame for not doing it. I was restless and couldn’t compose myself. Walking meditation worked better for me but it wasn’t enough.

I truly believe that meditation is the key to a happy balanced life. I still can’t fully switch off and on those days when I just can’t get into it at all instead of letting all those thousands of thoughts running through my head I practice gratitude and breathing (pranayama).

I also only do it for 15 mins for now up until I feel I’m ready to increase it. It’s getting easier and easier from day to day but I know it’s going to take me many more months to learn to control my thoughts.

An interesting fact is that physical Yoga asanas (poses) were actually initially introduced to make you stronger in order to be able to sit still during meditation practices. Yoga then evolved into many various practices.

It’s perfectly fine to have your meditation practice separate from a yoga one. Breathing (pranayama) is an essential part of any yoga practice (or at least it should be!) and it is the first step to mindfulness and relaxation. I like a good strong yoga session, but I also do enjoy a more gentle and restorative practice with loads of breathing, relaxation and a long Savasana.

My personal practice has evolved from purely physical practice with no Savasana to incorporating more breathing exercises and actually staying for Savasana to all of the above plus more mindful approach to teaching and practicing yoga and pranayama to incorporating daily meditation, external and self education and evolving my practice daily.

Mindfulness and meditation isn’t my strongest point. I wouldn’t teach meditation or narrate Yoga Nidra because that would just be fake and pretentious. But I would explain it to people and use a recording of Yoga Nidra narrated by someone who is really good at it. If something has worked for me and I learnt it from a source I would share it, but up until I feel I’m proficient at some certain practices I wouldn’t teach them.

I do like working with breath and coordinating breath with movement – hence flow yoga is by far my preferred practice. I like alignment and functional aspects of Yoga asanas, but I also grew to love restorative practices.

The moral is: do what you like and don’t feel you have to become a Buddhist monk and meditate for months avoiding a physical yoga practice because it’s ‘trendy’ nowadays. There’s time and space for everything: both of them are just fine as well as any other forms of physical activities.

It has actually been proven that meditation facilitates a better lifestyle, reduces stress and anxiety and promotes clearer thinking. The same can be said about exercise and a physical practice.

I’m still only starting my meditation journey so can’t really give you any solid advise on that, but taking time for myself, painting, walking and meditating has been really making a positive effect onto my life 💕

health and fitness, self help

5 TIBETAN RITES

5TR

5 Tibetan Rites is a series of exercises that I learnt while doing my Yoga teacher training. I practiced them for a few weeks and felt great. Then I stopped and moved on to something else.. as you do..

Two weeks ago one of my class participants mentioned the Rites and said she had been doing them for a couple of days and never felt better. And I thought I’d share the practice with you.

The Five Tibetan Rites is a system of exercises that dates back to more than 2,500 years old. They were first mentioned in a publication called The Eye of Revelation by Peter Kelder in 1939.

The Five Rites is a form of Tibetan yoga, which is similar to the Indian yoga practice. The difference between the two is that traditional Tibetan Yoga style as well as the Five Rites is more of a flow or Vinyasa style, with movements flowing rather than being held as “static positions” traditionally practiced in India.

It is said that they aid in improving health and support emotional well-being as well as enhancing mental clarity, memory and balancing hormones.

So how exactly does it work and why are these exercises so good for you?

I’d like to ask you to read this with an open mind and if you do believe in chakras then you should be quite comfortable with the terminology. If you are on the fence or a non believer then just refer to them as energy centres.

‘The rites stimulate the energy system of the body, wake up the chakras, and get energy moving throughout every cell in your body. The lamas believe that the Five Tibetan Rites stimulate all seven chakras to spin rapidly at the same rate. They believe that the aging process can be defined by the level of activity in one or all of the chakras. If any one of the chakras is blocked and its natural spin rate is slowed, then vital life energy cannot circulate, and illness and aging set in.’

The 5 Rites should be performed as a sequence and you should start with 3 repetitions of each exercise in the first week and then add 2 more per week up until you manage to do 21 repetitions of each rite (21 is considered to be a sacred number to Tibetans)

They should preferably be performed in the morning on an empty stomach.

You can watch a video on how to perform the movements or read the description below.

You can access the video by clicking here.

This is a description taken from one of the blogs online (the link to the article is just below the description)

5tr1
Rite 1

Stand with your arms outstretched and horizontal to the floor, palms facing down. Make sure your arms are in line with your shoulders. Your feet should be about hip distance apart. Draw the crown of your head up toward the ceiling. Focus on a spot in front of you so that you can count your rotations. Spin around clockwise until you become a little dizzy. Gradually increase the number of spins from three to 21.
Breathing: Inhale and exhale deeply as you spin.

Tip: If you feel super dizzy, interlace your fingers at your heart and stare at your thumbs. Also have a chair very nearby to grab onto to steady yourself if you feel as if you are going to fall.

This movement is known to release negative energy and balance the emotions.

Rite 2
Lie flat on the floor. Fully extend your arms along your sides and place the palms of your hands against the floor. If you have lower back issues, place your fingers underneath your sacrum. As you inhale, raise your head off the floor, tucking your chin into your chest. Simultaneously lift your legs, knees straight, into a vertical position. If possible, extend your legs over your body toward your head. Then slowly exhale, lowering your legs and head to the floor, keeping your knees straight and your big toes together.

Breathing: breathe in deeply as you lift your head and legs, and exhale as you lower them.The second rite strengthens the abs and stimulates the energy center associated with the pancreas.

Rite 3
Kneel on the floor with your toes curled under. Place your hands on the backs of your thigh muscles. Tuck your chin in toward your chest. Slide your hands down the backs of your thighs as you draw your shoulders back and your head up toward the sky. Keep in mind that you are arching your upper back more than your lower back. Move your head back as if you were drawing a line with your nose on the ceiling. Slowly return to an upright position and repeat.

Breathing: Inhale as you arch your spine and exhale as you return to an erect position.This exercise opens the solar plexus, heart and throat. It also helps cleanse and balance the emotions.

Rite 4

Sit down on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet about 12 inches apart. Place your palms on the floor alongside your sitz bones. As you gently drop your head back, raise your torso so that your knees bend while your arms remain straight. You are basically in a table-top position. Slowly return to your original sitting position. Rest for a few seconds before repeating this rite.

Breathing: Breathe in as you rise up into the pose, hold your breath as you tense your muscles, and breathe out fully as you come down.This pose increases energy to the sacral region and is a gentle way to strengthen the thighs and glutes.

Rite 5

Lie down on your belly with your palms face down and in line with your bra strap. Press up into an upward-facing dog by curling your toes under, lifting your heart, and drawing your shoulders back. Your arms should be straight. Look straight ahead of you, or if you are a little more flexible, gently draw your head back, taking your eyes toward the sky. Then draw your hips up and back, extending your spine, into downward-facing dog pose. Repeat by moving back and forth between downward- and upward-facing dog.

Breathing: Breathe in as your rise up into upward-facing dog; breath out as you push back into downward-facing dog. This is the most vigorous of all the rites and is a great way to revitalize the energy centers in the body (https://www.google.co.uk/amp/www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/1022837/anti-aging-yoga-poses-the-5-tibetan-rites/amp)

I have also found a very good article on the rites, its benefits and feedback from people practicing it. Click here to access it. 

Give it a go and see what you think about it! It does not take a lot of time and you do not need a lot of space to perform the rites either.

Have fun with the practice and let me know how you are getting on!

Love & hugs,

Natallia

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Bibliography:

  1. http://www.mkprojects.com/pf_TibetanRites.htm
  2. http://www.t5t.com/pages/What-Are-The-Five-Tibetan-Rites
  3. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Tibetan_Rites
  4. https://www.google.co.uk/amp/www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/1022837/anti-aging-yoga-poses-the-5-tibetan-rites/amp)
  5. wordswords.com.au/…/26282930-Tibetan-Rites-131.indd_.pdf
 
health and fitness

I bend so I don’t break…Backbends explained

health and fitness

YOGA AND CROSSFIT: THE PERFECT PAIR Improve your performance in either Yoga and CrossFit by adding both to your routine.

Most of us are more or less familiar with yoga, less so with CrossFit. Saying that, its popularity has grown quickly in the last few years to the point that unless you live on a desert island, there’s no doubt that you have heard of it. Some feel intimidated by it, but the ones who are not, love it!

A common misconception is that most people see CrossFit as being all about lifting heavy weights and doing high intensity workouts only. It is true to some extent, but there is way more to CrossFit than that. CrossFit is not a building-muscles-and-looking-like-a-potato discipline (CrossFitters are much leaner and smaller than weightlifters). It’s also not all about the look: one can see males and females of all shapes, sizes and ages working out and having fun at CrossFit boxes all over the world! Community spirit is definitely one of the defining features of CrossFit. Some call it a cult, some call it a tribe, but for others it has become a way of life!

And, similar to yoga, it benefits not only physical, but many other aspects of our life as well.

Love it or hate it, yoga has been proven to bring tremendous physical and (especially) psychological results. The success of yoga lies in the fact that apart from being a physical discipline, it has its impact on different aspects of our life and wellbeing:

1. Regular practice of yoga promotes strength, endurance, flexibility and facilitates characteristics of friendliness, compassion, and greater self-control, while cultivating a sense of calmness and well-being.

2. Sustained practice also leads to important outcomes such as changes in life perspective, self-awareness and an improved sense of energy to live life fully and with genuine enjoyment.

3. Yoga helps to relax your nervous system, which leads to a better sleep.

4. Meditation and relaxation aspects help with a racing mind, which leads to a better concentration and clearer thinking.

5. Twists, bridges and other asanas (postures or poses in other words) in yoga aid in bettering your metabolism, which then leads to increases in energy, faster calorie burn, and also helps you in utilizing more vitamins and minerals.

6. Early yoga practice makes you energized for the day ahead.

7. Asana, meditation or a combination of the two can reduce pain and disability while improving flexibility and functional mobility in people with a number of conditions causing chronic pain.

Yoga and Crossfit share a number of the same benefits

1. CrossFit improves your strength and endurance, and so does yoga. The only difference is yoga is a purely bodyweight form of exercise while CrossFit is not. The stronger you are, the more advanced postures requiring strong arms, legs and core you can get into.

2. The mindfulness of yoga helps with better concentration during the class, weightlifting and WODs (workouts of the day).

3. Yoga helps to maintain muscle strength, which protects from conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and back pain. During a yoga session, the joints are taken through their full range of motion, squeezing and soaking areas of cartilage not often used and bringing fresh nutrients, oxygen and blood to the area, which helps to prevent conditions like arthritis and chronic pain.

The muscle strengthening you get from yoga and the muscle building (and strengthening) you get from CrossFit complement each other very well:

1. Balance postures in yoga are not just about coordination; they also concentrate on stretching, core engagement, strengthening and calming our mind. All these could benefit a CrossFitter in many ways: every heavy lift requires core engagement; every overhead lift requires good balance, etc.

2. Breathing (pranayama) is an integral part of yoga and is hugely beneficial for CrossFitters in many ways. Yoga is a practice linked entirely to the breath. Establishing a full even rhythmic breath is the first tenant of Yoga. This translates beautifully to all of the elements of CrossFit, from Olympic lifting to conditioning, and will really improve your performance if you can master balanced breathing. It will also translate to a more peaceful mind.

3. Naughty fact alert: yoga and CrossFit could help improve your sex life! The fitter you are, the stronger you are, the more flexible you are the better sex life you will have and the happier, less stressed person you are going to be. Win – win! CrossFit and yoga are joining forces to take your sex life to the next level.

4. Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. Flexibility and suppleness that yoga develops can bring your CrossFit training to the next level: overhead squats, back squats, deep ring dips, squat clean, and other movements can benefit hugely from yoga practice. Ankle mobility, which is so underestimated but so essential for the majority of the movements, improves with specific yoga postures.

5. Yoga helps with muscle tightness and soreness that you can experience after a CrossFit workout. Yoga helps to loosen you up after a training session, speeds up recovery, and reduces soreness.

Having done CrossFit for 2 years and yoga for 5, my overall performance in both disciplines has improved drastically over the last 2 years. One complements the other tremendously! The quietness, peacefulness, reflectiveness of yoga and aggressiveness, loudness, and competitiveness (in a good way) of CrossFit keeps your body and mind in balance.

The verdict:  Coupling of yoga and CrossFit creates a more balanced athlete.