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yoga – back2basicsliving

How My Yoga Practice Has Changed: Early Pregnancy

Currently I am 19 weeks pregnant, almost half way. So far, the journey has been full of changes and surprises, not all bad.

Usually I am a very active person. My favourite forms of exercise are Yoga (Hatha, Vinyasa & Kundalini), hiking, walking, snow shoeing & snowboarding. The mentioned are the exercises I gravitate towards and enjoy doing. They have been tried and tested and for me are easy to do & go to regularly. Until pregnancy.

The biggest difference for me since getting pregnant is my lack of drive to want to do a more physical Yoga class. The walking, hiking and snowshoeing no problem but going to a tough Vinyasa or sweaty Kundalini does not appeal to me right now. Before, these were my favourite classes. (By the way snowboarding has been postponed until next year. I fall a lot and I’m too scared of doing something damaging to my body or the baby)

Yoga was a huge part of my exercise routine, on average I would practice 4 times in the studio and self-practice once or twice at home. I also teach, however that has been postponed since December as my student is away on vacation until the end of January.

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Currently I am attending 2 classes a week, a prenatal class and a Yin or soft Hatha class. Both classes are very relaxing and I feel really safe. That’s the thing its not that my body is not able for my usual yoga class it’s my mind freaking out that I may be doing something that might hurt the baby. I have gone to my usual classes and felt anxious and uncertain of how I am feeling. So weird. I know that is ridiculous but I cannot help the way I feel……it’s so strange. There are some poses that do not feel good right now, like extending my legs into the air and staying in downdog too long, the blood pressure in my head gets too much.

Yoga for me was as much about the physical as it was about the mental. However, these days its definitely more about the mental. I love the reassurance from Theresa the prenatal teacher on how you can feel whatever you feel and its ok. She mentions that we as pregnant ladies should take moments each day of self-compassion, speak nice to ourselves and give ourselves a break. This advice can apply to all of us, not only pregnant ladies.

We all might be going through a big change it doesn’t have to be pregnancy, maybe the go to workout routine doesn’t work anymore, maybe focusing on the softer, lighter more reflective activity maybe what our bodies need. Maybe it’s my body telling me its ok to take it easy for the next while even though my brain is saying, you are getting lazy, you need to be working out more, don’t be one of those pregnant ladies who blames the lack of doing on their physical state!

This is where I can go down a rabbit hole and where I need to listen to my teacher’s advice of having more compassion for myself. The fact that I still want to practice yoga is great, the fact that I go walking everyday (yes at a slower pace) is healthy for the baby and great for me too.

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This is where I have to let go of my judgements and start supporting my decisions to slow it down. Maybe this is what I need right now, embrace it and enjoy my moments of fresh air & reflection before the arrival of a baby.

My promise to myself moving forward is to show myself more compassion, meditate, reflect, get as much fresh air as possible on my walks, breath, practice my 2 yoga classes and be ok with that. Be thankful I can do all of that and be grateful for a healthy body which is carrying such precious cargo.

Would love to hear if you went through similar experiences or you have completely different experiences during your pregnancy.

Thanks for reading.

Chat soon.

Theresa xx.

Milestones: Tracking The Journey Through Life

I have been thinking about milestones recently, but what are they?

Long ago milestones assured travelers that they were on the right path or that they had arrived at a destination. They were often used to signify the centre of a town or a starting point of importance.

I see them as being definitions of where you are at and where you have come from. They can direct you in life and show you where you have come from and where you may end up.

Life has different milestones for everybody, different markers in life so to speak. Some people would consider these markers good or bad, but I don’t think they are either. They just are. They are turning points. Not necessarily pointing out the path but highlighting where a change will take place. Death, life, change…

I drifted through life for a long time, even when I was in college. I was lost and I never knew what I wanted to do with myself. Nevertheless completion was a milestone. It was a launching point for the rest of my life.

I put no thought into the course I took in college. It just happened to work out ok. I got lucky and it allowed me to leave Ireland during the recession and start into a career that brought me to where I am now.

Moving to Canada was the next major milestone. Having lived in Vancouver for the last eight years I have seen amazing things and met some of my best friends here. On the other hand, I sacrificed years with my family including the last five years of my mother’s life. Was it worth it? I do not know.

Death was another milestone. It is a difficult thing to speak to someone that you know will die in a matter of days. It’s funny how you still talk about the ordinary things. I am eternally grateful that I was with her for that last week. It is a shame she could not live to see me marry Theresa who she loved like a daughter. Nor did she get to meet my niece, here newest grandchild.

These milestones have marked my life but they have only shown me where to go in hindsight, in reflection. When we walk the road of life and come to these milestones, they may not show us where to go immediately. It is only in looking back we you will learn from them.

It is with this sentiment that I approach the next milestone of my life. Through sacrifice, loss, friendship and family, I do not see that path I need to take but I can see what is important. It is with this knowledge that I will embrace the next marker in life and welcome my child into the world.

Peace,

George

 

 

Your Breath Is One Of The Most Powerful Tools You Have: Use It

What is the breath? It is the intake of oxygen through the lungs to burn through fatty cells and produce energy. We also get rid of body waste like carbon dioxide through exhaling.

I remember walking past Lululemon when the new building in Kitsilano was under construction. I saw flashing red text which said “Breathe in. Breathe out.” Why do we need to be reminded to breathe? We’re not going to forget some day and faint.

We do, however, need to be reminded how to breathe. We need to be reminded to breathe deep into the belly and expand the lungs through the side ribs. We need to be reminded to breathe deeply and mindfully.

Most people take short, shallow breaths which may trigger a fight or flight response, where as deep, belly breathing calms the mind and helps the body relax.

When I teach my yoga classes I try to make the breath, rather than the pose, the primary objective. It is difficult, even in my own practice, to follow this to the letter but I try to make the breath the guide through the class. If the breath is shallow or you are holding your breath it is a warning sign. What you are doing is not working.

The same principal applies in life, just like in your yoga class. Your breath should be used, both to guide you and to assist you through life.

Have you ever had anxiety before a meeting, before public speaking, during a difficult conversation or during a difficult time in your life? Do you think that your breath was deep, slow and even? No, you will probably find that it was shallow and uneven.

The breath will guide you or react to your situation but you can also take control of your breath through deep mindful breathing and, though it cannot change the chance events that will happen in life, I guarantee you it will change how you react to them.

You can use your breath as a rudder through life to direct yourself mindfully in the direction you want to go. You can use it to slow down and think through a situation to make a true choice rather than a snap decision.

You can use the breath as a shield to carry you through life and difficult situations. If you make a conscious effort to use your breath every day it can be truly life changing. To take one, two or even five minutes every morning for some deep mindful breathing and also take the time to mindfully breathe when faced with a difficult situation.

Over time you will train yourself to use the breath as a solid foundation on which you can move through life.

So tomorrow morning take control of one of the most powerful tools you have and make it work for you. Rather living a life in a reactive mindset, use your breath to seize the present moment and steer your life in the direction you want.

Peace,

George

How to Plan A Yoga Sequence & Where to Look for Inspiration

Planning my yoga classes is one of my favorite steps of teaching. Right now, I teach 1 private class and feel I cannot show up each week with the same class. Initially it was hard trying to come up with new sequences each week, but I have found a system that works, and my student is happy.

Yoga teacher training thought us that the best thing to do as a new teacher is to keep things as simple as possible. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.  These are words I try to live by for planning a class. My aim is to create moments of strength and ease throughout the whole class which will leave my student feeling strong, relaxed and happy after our session. I don’t feel this needs to be overly complicated.

For my class I follow the advice of my teachers and warm my student up well before moving onto any standing or deep stretching poses. One tip that really helps with sequencing a class is to think of the final pose you want your student to achieve. Rebecca one of the teachers at Semperviva training highlighted that is important to have the body warmed up and the targeted muscles prepared for peak poses so that your students have a higher chance of achieving the pose. There is less frustration and less chances your student will injure him or herself when you plan your class with these peak poses in mind.

This gem of advice is what I personally use for my classes. When I want my student to achieve tree pose, I will ensure we do core work so the student understands where their core is and how to engage it before coming into tree, I will also do a few smaller balancing poses on each leg so the legs and the mind are prepared and finally standing poses with arms raised or in motion is a nice way to prepare the upper body for tree with arms overhead.

Where do I get my inspiration for classes? I go to classes! I aim to attend at least 4 classes every week, so I develop my own practice and to get inspiration from teachers who having been teaching for years. When a teacher has certain poses or sequences that make me feel great, I record them.

I bring a pocket size notebook to class with me and a pen. I leave them at the front of mat, so I can quickly scribble what I like down after a sequence is complete. I have a memory like a fish, so I will not remember anything after class. If I do forget my notebook, I make a voice recording on my phone after class and just say everything I can remember about the class, so I can incorporate some of those poses and feeling into my next class.

Another great resource is YouTube. I like looking at YouTube videos of yoga sequences. I have subscribed to a couple yoga studio channels like Alo yoga in California. On these channels I can learn my sequences, how to explain to get in and out of poses safely and be exposed to world class teachers from the comfort of my couch!

For each class I create I write the sequence in a notebook and label it according to how challenging it is, for example; soft class, warm class, sweaty Betty.

Once I have a nice collection of classes written I will then rotate each class from my notebook. I will keep trying to improve these classes and adjust them each time I teach.

This is how I plan my classes and where I get my inspiration. How do you plan for your class and where do you get your inspiration from?

Have a lovely week,

Thank you,

Theresa xx

Top 5 Tips: Yoga As Public Speaking

I have been teaching my regular Yoga class at YMCA for three weeks now and I have subbed a few classes also. I wanted to share some of my (limited) experience in teaching with respect to speaking. Teaching a Yoga class, no matter how many students you have is a form of public speaking.

Speaking in front of a group of people doesn’t bother me too much, but if I do feel nerves I try to trick my brain into thinking that it is excitement that I feel, not nerves. My top 5 tips for speaking as a yoga teacher are as follows:

  1. Be yourself
  2. Speak from the belly
  3. Maintain good posture
  4. Slow the breath and breathe deep
  5. PRACTISE PRACTISE PRACTISE

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken,” (Oscar Wilde). Stay true to tour values, otherwise it will be transparent and that will show through your class.

Why do you teach? In all likelihood it’s because you love Yoga. If you get to the why, then you will find the passion and it will shine through in your class. Confidence will flow from that passion. I see this with my own teachers, I see their love for Yoga and their love for teaching and I see it flowing from them in confidence and power. Keep your teachings and offerings true to you.

Speak from the belly. As Max Strom advocates, take your voice from low down in the gut rather than high up in the chest. Not that this is a problem for Max as he has probably the deepest voice I have ever heard. Is it coincidence that he was one of the most impactful teachers I have ever practiced with?

Research has shown that politicians with deeper voices will receive more votes as a deep voice conveys greater physical strength, competence, and integrity. This perception may stem from our more basic minds, coming from a time when physical strength was important in a leader. You are the leader in the class situation, taking the students through the routines and postures.

As Yoga teachers we must be heard. The act of projecting our voices will affect our confidence and mood. Tony Robbins makes a point that people who are slumped and speaking in a low voice will neither project nor hold confidence. Robbins encourages people to speak quickly and energetically. I don’t agree with speaking quickly in a yoga environment, at least not for me, but an energetic voice does not have to be a quick voice.

Carry presence in your voice. Carry presence in your posture. Most of us as yoga teachers will practice what we preach and maintain good posture. Not me though. I find myself slacking on posture all the time. Stand tall with your core engaged. Keep your chest proud and shoulders back. Just like smiling effects your mood (click here for my blog on smiling), posture will affect your mood and confidence. Fake it till you make it (with regard to confidence). If you don’t feel the confidence then pretend that you do. Act like you are confident and the confidence will follow. As yoga teachers we are leading a group of people that look to us for instruction and guidance so we should carry ourselves as such a person. You are awesome, so act accordingly.

If you have the time and space to do it, try a power pose before the class. Stand tall, feet slightly apart with your chest proud and your arms outstretched and look up. This is a classic power position and whether you believe it or not, you will feel more confident after spending two minutes standing like this.

Stay connected with your breath and body and get out of your head. We must Endeavour to remain present both as we practice and teach yoga. A daily meditation practice will help, but also before you teach, get grounded and let your bare feet touch the ground if you can. Slow the breath down and breathe deep in to the belly. Become present. This will also help with your delivery.

Practice your class before you teach it. Practice with a mirror, a camera, teach your friends. If they are not willing then teach yourself, but practice. For my wedding speech, I knew the speech but I didn’t practice saying it out loud. I wanted it to seem spontaneous rather than rehearsed but that was a mistake. I am not an experienced Yoga teacher so maybe you will reach a point that you don’t need to practice and it will just flow, but for me, I need to PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE. It also takes away the stress.

Be aware of your tone of voice and body language. Keep your chest open and inviting. Students may unknowingly mirror you. If you come to class with a bad attitude it will almost certainly carry through to your class and to your students.

Don’t over think what you have to say. Keep your words and your class simple. Over complicating anything is a recipe for confusion.

Try to catch the filler words (“uh”, “erm”, “um”, “well”, “so”, “like”, “hmm“, etc.). If you don’t think you do this then you may want to record yourself.

I bought a Bluetooth voice recorder for $50. It clips to my shirt collar and connects wirelessly to my phone. I don’t use this in any of the public classes I offer, but my friends don’t mind me recording my voice during the private classes. Also when I put a new routine together, I work through it myself first, and record my instructions, then I take my own practice a few times. It really helps me see where I need to improve with my delivery. I also bought a Tripod for my Iphone for $20 so I can record a video of my practice.

I also intend to write out my instructions and practice saying it over and over and over (like we have been thought in Yoga Teacher Training). Repetition. Say it again and again until it rolls off the tongue.

Try not to take things personally. If a student leaves the class for example, it could be for a hundred different reasons and in all likelihood has nothing to do with you. You don’t know their story. Try not to read anything from student’s faces. If they look angry or unsettled, they may just be having a hard work out. That doesn’t meant that they are not getting what they want from it.

The fear will be there. It will only go away with experience and practice. There is no such thing as the perfect class. Perfection is a state of mind. Forgive yourself when you stumble or if your class wasn’t what you wanted. It doesn’t matter. The great thing about the present moment is that it starts afresh all the time. The past doesn’t matter. Learn from it, use it and move on. It’s ok to mess up and fumble.

Peace,

George