Spring has arrived, the ideal time to reboot your body and de-stress your mind in time to make the most of your summer ahead.
I've just returned from a month in India to discover here in this rural part of gascony, the nectarine orchards have burst into blossom. The mornings are lighter and days longer bringing a welcome sense of new beginning's, which is the perfect added motivation for change.
These 5 simple steps will detox your body and mind, helping you to loose weight, become more flexible, increase your energy, lift your mood, reduce stress and leave you feeling rested and re-energised.
The Sivananda Yoga Practice is based around 5 points: Proper Exercise, Proper Breathing, Proper Diet, Positive Thinking and Proper Relaxation. Offering the simplest solution to this approach provides a structure to restore your health with ease.
1 - GET FLEXIBLE AND ENERGISE WITH THIS MORNING EXERCISE ROUTINE
It is better to be constant and regular in your approach to exercise than full power and your attempts be over before you know it. Keep it simple with a steady commitment that will grow your abilities in time.
Yoga postures provide physical movement that both strengthen the body and improve the capability of the mind. Believed by yogi's to keep the body in peak condition as a vessel for the soul on its onward journey to perfection.
Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation's offer a complete practice to increase flexibility, build strength and open energy centres within the body. Traditionally practiced at dawn in prostration to the sun.
- Stand erect with feet together and hands in the prayer position in front of your chest. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed. Exhale.
- Inhaling, stretch your arms up and arch back from the waist, pushing the hips out, legs straight. Relax your neck.
- Exhaling, fold forward, and press your palms down, fingertips in line with toes - bend your knees if necessary.
- Inhaling, bring the left (or right) leg back and place the knee on the floor. Arch back and look up, lifting your chin.
- Retaining the breath, bring the other leg back and support your weight on hands and toes.
- Exhaling, lower your knees, then your chest and then your forehead, keeping your hips up and your toes curled under.
- Inhaling, lower your hips, point your toes and bend back. Keep legs together and shoulders down. Look up and back.
- Exhaling, curl your toes under, raise your hips and pivot into an inverted "V"shape. Try to push your heels and head down and keep your shoulders back.
- Inhaling, step forward and place the left (or right) foot between your hands. Rest the other knee on the floor and look up, as in position 4.
- Exhaling, bring the other leg forward and bend down from the waist, keeping your palms as in position 3.
- Inhaling, streach your arms forward, then up and back over your head and bend back slowly from the waist, as in position 1.
- Exhaling, gently come back to an upright position and bring your arms down by your sides.
A minimum of three daily salutations (one round includes the same actions both right and left) , will maintain your health with minimum effort. With a simple approach, increasing the number of rounds as you feel encouraged by the benefits and improved mental and physical clarity.
To give yourself a kickstart why not join our Beginners Yoga retreat happening on the first May bank holiday.
All details can be found here
2 - FEEL CALM AND BREATH WITH EASE
Proper breathing provides not only optimal health, but also has a positive impact upon how you deal with life’s stresses, helping you to remain calm in the midst of seeming chaos. To be ‘mindful’ or draw ‘presence of mind’ comes when we bring our attention fully to our breath, taking each breath as an opening to a new moment. In this space we begin to slow down and develop greater self-awareness.
How do you know you are not breathing properly?
The first approach to respiration that helps to establish how you are breathing is called abdominal or yogic breath. This simple technique will undo bad habits and release the breath to enable you to reconnect with the 'essential breath', the rhythm of natural breathing that maintains balance within the body..
- Sitting crossed legged in half lotus position or in a chair wherever you feel most comfortable
- Place your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your chest.
- Take a deep inhalation and inflate your belly with air
- Bring your breath up into the base of your lungs, out to the sides of your rib cage and up to the top of your breast bone
- Then exhale all your breath slowly and follow your breath until you can no longer exhale.
- Repeat your inhalation and visualize a circular motion as your breath moves within to the count of four
- Exhale all your breath as you deflate your chest and then your belly, to the count of six
Repeat 6 times.
When we are breathing incorrectly the belly draws in towards the navel on the inhalation rather than inflating
3 - LOOSE WEIGHT WITH THIS HEALTHY RECIPE
A yoga diet is one that is satvic, which is the sanskrit word for purity. In yoga it is believed all food types carry an energy that directly affect the body. Therefore the approach is to cook with foods that don't create tension in the body and agitation of the mind. This acts as a detox, supporting the body and mind to advance in asanas and meditation.
Satvic foods increase vitality, energy, health and joy. Delicious wholesome, natural ingredients, fresh foods, organic, free from chemicals, preservatives and artificial flavourings. They should be eaten in as natural state as possible, raw, steamed or lightly cooked. These include fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, herbs and natural sweeteners.
Foods to be limited are those of Rajasic (fire) and Tamasic (inertia) quality. These include caffeine, alcohol, red chillies, onions, garlic, all vegetables from the deadly nightshade family, excess salt or sugar, fungi, processed or deep-fried foods. Meat is also avoided for several reasons, but from a satvic perspective the fear an animal feels on being slaughter creates lactic acid in the body that is stored within it's muscles to become a toxin when eaten.
This simple, quick to make Breakfast / Brunch will keep your energy going through the morning. Poached egg on a bed of wilted chard, a well hidden slice of toast and a drizzle of tahini dressing. The recipe can be found with others on the Little French Retreat food page here
Love Yoga and healthy eating?!
Come join me and Lina Bou for our Yoga+ Detox retreat this October - details can be found here
4 – START A FIVE MINUTE DAILY MEDITATION FOR POSITIVITY
''Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny'' - Upanishads
Our mind has a direct influence on how we feel emotionally and physically, creating our perception of the world and how we relate to others and our environment. What you think is what you become.
While meditation will provide concentration and clarity, initial attempts can be frustrating as it's often not a moment of enlightenment. A practice of concentration needs to be established step by step, keeping the body still and bringing the mind to a focused point using several techniques. As your practice develops you become an observer of your emotions and can step back from reactive behaviour to approach things with balance.
This mandala meditation is a technique to bring your mind's attention to a single point, softening the thinking mind and bringing a sense of stillness that will re-energise you. The best time for a meditation practice is first thing in the morning, when there is no activity or distraction. The calm created helps to then prioritise your day effectively.
- Find a calm space to practice where you will not be distracted
- Sit comfortably, either on a chair or in half lotus position (crossed legs) with a cushion to raise your hips slightly.
- Place the meditation Mandala on the wall in front 10 - 20 cm below eye line so that your neck is comfortable.
- Connect with your breath and take full abdominal breaths.
- Focus on the mandala and begin a relaxed stare with semi-closed eyes for 2 minutes. Keeping count of the time mentally within.
- Close your eyes for a further 3 minutes and keep visualising the mandala at the point between your eye brows.
- Gradually increase the time you sit incrementally to staring for 4 minutes and internally visualise the mandala with eyes closed for 3 minutes
- If you maintain your practice at the same time and same place each day it will help to increase your energy and deepen your sense of relaxation.
As the mind becomes calmer you can see more clearly which habits are positive and gradually drop the habits which are of no benefit. This process will happen naturally without being forced.
Experience an easy approach to meditation on our Yoga + Walking retreat when we find our calm in nature.
Details can be found here
5 – UNWIND AT THE END OF THE DAY WITH AN EVENING RELAXATION TECHNIQUE
Real rest happens when we are between our waking state and asleep. When our subconscious is at peace and we are no longer being stimulated by external factors.
When the balance has tipped and you feel tired more than you feel energised, are less able to perform tasks with ease, find it difficult to switch off, or you feel overwhelmed by life's demands and irritable - then it's time to step back and recharge your energy.
Proper relaxation combines three elements: Physical, mental and spiritual. Every thought becomes an action, so when we begin to relax our muscles we do so through auto suggestion.
- Rest and relaxation is best practiced after physical exercise when your muscles have been stretched or before sleep.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes
- Lie on your back in Sivasana or relaxation pose, with your feet separated 20 cm apart and your hands out to the sides, palms facing upwards and your eyes closed.
- By sending messages to our brain we can relax our body from our feet to head.
- Begin by mentally saying to yourself "I am relaxing my feet - my feet are relaxed"
- Repeat this phrase for all parts of your body, limbs and internal organs and finally your head and your mind.
- Then bring your focus to your breath and with abdominal breathing we keep the mind calm.
- Do not fall asleep, you want to be conscious of your body yet not alert.
- When the timer ends and alerts you, gradually move your fingers and toes, stretch your arms above your head and then come to lie on your right side for a moment before sitting cross legged to close your practice.
Come and spend a whole weekend in relaxation on our ' Equinox Slow Retreat for Women' with Carole Fogarty this September
visit our calendar here