Yoga at home

So you’ve come to love that relaxed and energized feeling you’ll get in yoga class. Maybe you’ve noticed you sleep better after a yoga class, or you feel calmer, or happier. Maybe it is a great way to unwind after a busy day or a hectic week. Or maybe yoga proved to be helpful to achieve your goals in life, because it has become easier to focus and you feel better. Whatever it is, it would be nice to get that feeling whenever you want to. Practising yoga at home might be something to try or do more often.

But how?

When my yoga teacher told me that my own yoga practice would probably be more beneficial that the scheduled yoga classes, I knew she had a point. Yoga is about your own experience, the connection with your own body and finding ways to calm your mind while doing the poses and the breathing. Of course it would be a good idea to do this on my own as well. But I remember that first time at home very well. I had bought a brand new yoga mat and there I was, sitting in “easy pose” like the picture above. And yes, I even had a cat running around as well. The thing is, I really felt silly on my mat because I did not really know what to do. Mind you, we didn’t have Youtube or Yoga Apps or anything like that at the time. I think I had a few books though, but that didn’t help much either, because I wanted to flow from one pose in another, like in yoga class, and flipping through pages in a book while doing yoga, didn’t make sense to me.

So how?

And now I am a yoga teacher myself and I encourage people in my yoga class to practise a little bit at home. One way of doing this is to keep things very simple. Your practice at home doesn’t have to be a copy of a yoga class you’ve been attending. You can make your own simple recipe.

A first helpful question is: “what is your goal”? If the goal is to relax, just pick a few relaxing poses for example as described below, and make time for the most important yoga pose: the savasana!

Savasana is part of every yoga practice, so if you want to do a short yoga practice, just do this one for 10 minutes. You lie as still as possible, as relaxed as possible, toes outward, hands away from the body with the palms facing up and follow your breath. Don’t fall asleep, but relax your body completely. Thoughts and emotions may present themselves, just observe them and bring your attention back to your breathing. That’s all, a simple pose, but for most people not so easy, because we have to lie still in savasana. And that can be very challenging after a day of running around.

Savasana is part of every yoga practise, but maybe your goal is to become stronger or more flexible. You can find lots of ideas on the internet if you look for “yoga pose” and “flexibility” or “strength”. Pick a few poses that you have done before and that you are comfortable with. Safety first, when practising alone. When in doubt, ask your yoga teacher or if you have doubts about doing yoga at home and your health, consult your doctor first.

A few ideas for your home practice – if you have done them before in yoga class – are shown below.

This is a nice side stretch. Breath into the right upper side of your body as you lift your right hand up to the sky, making space with your breath.

Another pose you can easily do at home is a forward bend. Now pay attention that you keep your knees bent a little and that your belly is in contact with your legs. Bend your knees as much as you like.

The pose above is great for opening the chest. You interlace your fingers behind your back if possible. I always use a sock or a strap to bring my hands together. The idea is to open the chest by breathing into the chest. Keep looking straight ahead.

This is my favourite pose. Legs up the wall, eyes closed and just breath into your belly. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes after a busy day and you will feel completely different afterwards!

And for those who would like to practise balance, incorporate a tree pose. Note that you can place your foot over your ankle as well, if that feels better. Breath into your belly as calm as possible and keep your eyes focused on a point in front of you.

How long do I practise?

The answer to that one is, as long as you like and/or as long as you have the time. Savasana will take up 5 minutes at least, so your shortest practice will be 5 minutes and if you add a few other poses, well, you will have a 30-minute practice before you know it. The most important thing is that you have some time to connect to your innerself and to enjoy your yoga! Namaste!

Two tips on radiant health according to…..

This week Daphne Hartman is visiting Gozo. Daphne and I studied together at Teacher Training College a long time ago. Back then a very energetic and fun-loving person, and many years later she is still that glowing, enthusiastic example of health and well-being.  As she is full-time teacher at a secondary school, a spinning and body pump instructor at a gym and a mother of three, I asked her what her secret is. She was willing to share two simple tips for radiant health.

Tip nr 1: keep moving all day long

Remarkably, as Daphne is a fitness professional, she does not recommend doing all sorts of fitness classes. Of course it is important to do cardio activities like cycling, jogging or aerobics regularly to maintain in good shape, but she believes it is much more important to keep moving all day doing your daily business. So, take the stairs, walk to the grocery store instead of going by car, enjoy the movements in your daily household chores and take a walk every now and then. These “natural everyday movements” have a greater impact on your health and energy levels than going to the gym once a week, according to Daphne.

Tip nr 2: stay away from bread

Of course it is lovely to enjoy bread every once in a while, nothing wrong with that. But to stay in good shape and to maintain a high energy level, Daphne recommends to stay away from bread and to eat lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes. She herself also eats all kinds of fish and white meat. But, she says, diet is a very personal matter, this is what works for her, and for someone else it might be very beneficial to eat other things. It is a matter of trail and error, and finding out what works for you and your family, taking work, daily activities and social life into account.

What to expect when doing yoga on Xwejni beach, Gozo?

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So it has been quite a while since I posted the first blog. A lot has happened the last few weeks! We’ve moved to Gozo and I have started teaching yoga on the beach again. Two weeks have passed since my first class on the beach and I can only say it has been even better than I remembered. Better in terms of how yoga, the beauty of the beach, the sound of the waves, the lovely temperature and the smells of salty sea, sunscreen and fennel blend into a perfect mix to practice. And even more important, the mix of people who have come to my morning or evening classes: beginners or more experienced, from different countries and backgrounds but with a shared interest to breathe & move and connect to one’s inner-self. It’s awesome!

Relax, energize, enjoy!

I teach a kind of yoga that is called “Saswitha” yoga in The Netherlands. It’s a type of hatha yoga in which movement & breath are combined at all times.  A basic principle in this kind of yoga is that body and mind are one, and the breath is the connecting element. So expect some breathwork, standing, sitting and lying positions in a typical class, as well as some guided meditations during Savasana, the final part of each yoga class in which one can relax completely. Or expect what my students tell me: “doing yoga with you is a fun and relaxing way to work on a fit body, a quiet mind and to get new energy at the same time”.  What I also hear a lot is that people like this yoga style because all poses can be adapted to one’s own possibilities. Not very flexible? No problem, just adapt the pose, for example by bending the knees or using some kind of other alteration. Not very strong? No problem, we’re getting stronger together while we are practising. Anyone can participate, something I really, really like, apart from the fact that I am not the most flexible or strong person in the world myself either! And I have learned through the years that yoga is not about those things. It is about your body-mind connection, your sense of wellbeing, about getting to know yourself better, and about relaxation, new energy and enjoying the moment, both on and off the mat!

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Back to Gozo!

Really happy to come back to Gozo this summer and teach yoga classes again on the beach. I intend to start Thursday 2 August. A year has passed since I taught my first class on Xwejni Beach in May last year and I have so many good memories of the early morning classes I taught in de summer. I met so many wonderful and interesting people, with a common interest in yoga & wellbeing. It was just lovely doing yoga together.

This year I will also do a few evening classes at 18:30 p.m. Expect a beautiful sunset at the end of the yoga session! Can’t wait!

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