Yoga is not just for girls!

I think the cultural stigma and stereotype of Yoga being a ‘girls sport’ has urged me to address this. So here I want to share with you how this is open for everyone! Men and even the kids too!

The main issue here is that people often associate yoga with flexibility and of course they associate that with women. Whilst it is important, it is not key and in fact strength is the main factor. Increasing body strength I know is very important to men and will help gain muscle, which is typically a big part of a man’s fitness routine (or at least the gym goers I know).

So why should a man choose Yoga? Well… I know most men will focus on muscles in specific areas – usually their biceps, shoulders, back etc and therefore tend to be weak everywhere else, but with yoga this builds the muscle evenly across the body ensuring a man can maintain conditioning.

I don’t know about you but all I hear from men in relation to their gym chat is deadlifts, right? Well, they’d be pleased to hear that again yoga actually increases this strength and a study has actually proven this (so therefore not just me being biased).

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Hmm… have I persuaded you guys yet? Well, even more good news, of course – yoga will increase your flexibility, meaning you are less prone to injuries. If you look at Yogi’s the majority of us have an injury free record (me!) whereas men… well.. the amount of gym injuries I hear about is concerning! And another thing I’ve really noticed that whilst a man can be ‘hench’ / ‘ripped’ or however you’d like to describe in great shape they tend to only work on muscle building and actually forget about cardio, or do the bare minimum.

Yoga actually improves your cardiovascular system which of course will contribute to a better cardio workout! I can see why men don’t do Yoga – One of my close male friends who I convinced to start yoga, and who is a very ‘manly’ rugby playing estate agent, said to me that “it’s intimidating being the only man in the class” but…. That is no excuse! You don’t need to go to a class to do yoga, this can be done anywhere! I’ve taught him some basic moves (see some below) and now he just does these in the comfort of his own home.

However, if you’re brave enough to go to a class it would be more beneficial especially as a beginner to learn the basics but first, I want to clear up some misconceptions which men will automatically think… like “I need to know all the names of poses before I go” – no, you definitely do not, it’s a class and therefore you will be learning throughout, the instructor will always run through each pose (of course attend a beginners)

“I’m not flexible so how can I practice yoga?” – again, no. There is no need to be flexible, they actually say that if you are naturally flexible you could be at a disadvantage as you focus too much on how far into the pose you can get which in turn is going to of course cause injuries.

Thirdly, the biggest one I hear from not just men, but women too “yoga is easy, I don’t see this as a workout, it has no benefit to me” again, wrong! I know the classes I attend we actually all sweat buckets, so we must be working right? Ashtanga is known like a cardio and weight training session so give that a try if you really want to be challenged and let me know if you still have the same views thereafter!

If you aren’t brave enough to attend a class – here’s some at home workouts you can try!

  1. Chair Pose
  2. Downward Facing Dog
  3. Warrior One
  4. Standing Forward Fold
  5. Boat Pose
  6. Half Pigeon
  7. Upward Facing Dog
  8. Butterfly Pose

And, what do you need for these? Get yourself a good yoga mat and some blocks (some of these moves will require them) and you will be on your way! In terms of what you should wear, there are specific yoga clothing for men which you can buy from websites like YogaBloke and YogaMatters but otherwise Under Armour do a good sport range or any other sport brand like Nike etc!

So if I haven’t convinced you to make this your goal for 2017 yet then maybe start off with the partner workouts and move on to doing it alone, that way you can slowly ease yourself into it…. And to top it all off, nowadays male celebrities are taking part and even the NFL teams so it’s got to be doing some good to them!

It’s February… The month to love yourself!

Happy February and Happy Yogic Love! And what a special month this is with Valentine’s Day in a couple of weeks. Now that doesn’t mean loving someone else (if you are/ aren’t in a relationship) but this month is all about loving yourself. Whilst it’s nice to receive flowers and chocolates from your loved ones, I have found that to be loved you must first love yourself.

I am guilty of falling into the ‘busy’ trap and helping others too much and not focusing on me. Whilst this isn’t a bad quality to have of course, sometimes, you have to be selfish – so what better way to do this then Metta meditation. As I spoke about in my previous blog post, meditation was one of my top tips for January (which I hope you’ve all been working on) and in turn your motivation levels should have started to increase and you should have noticed a change in your mind?

With this positive energy, turns positive corners in your health and there’s no better way than trying out some different types of meditation like Metta! Originating from pali language where ‘metta’ means love this type teaches us how we should love our self before loving others – perfect! And for you busy bee’s, again this only takes 10 minutes and can be done anywhere – whether it’s in the workplace/at home/ on public transport, there’s no excuse here!

Another one for the month of love, is Bhakti Yoga. Now why do I say this? Well, Bhakti Yoga is dedicated “to love”. This was originally practiced in a Hindu culture but due to its focus being God it can be practiced by many other religions, and if you’re not religious that’s ok too!

This type of yoga doesn’t focus so much on breathing techniques so you may still want to incorporate some of your daily practices whilst doing this one. If you want to learn more I will be doing a blog post on this to give you some top tips and please, if you’ve tried this one before I am very interested to know how you found it, it’s something very different and gets a lot of negative press around it. Of course, this one can be practiced any time of the year and not just in the month of love!

But, if that doesn’t appeal to you, then why don’t you work on some heart opening yoga. By stretching these muscles you are not only opening your heart but releasing emotion which in turn will release positive energy making you feel great and keeping your spirits high. It doesn’t need to just be a special occasion to keep the spirits high; we have this within us we just need to work on it – so why not incorporate these poses monthly rather than just this month, you will notice a difference and hopefully will learn to love yourself more!

Here are a few of the top heart opening yoga poses I want you to try in the next couple of weeks and if you like them, please add them into your daily routines…

  1. Extended Tabletop
  2. Arching Warrior
  3. Upward Facing Dog
  4. One Armed Camel Pose
  5. Bow
  6. Wheel
  7. Wide Tip-over Tuck
  8. Twisting extended side angle

And if you prefer to work out with your partner, then Yoga has some of the best Valentine’s Day poses! I was lucky enough to try these on a yoga retreat and I found it was a great way to communicate and develop self-awareness for my own boundaries, just like we need to in a relationship.

So my top 8 here are…

  1. Partner Wide-Legged Forward Fold
  2. Partner Tree
  3. Arching heart (my favourite – take a picture, its beautiful!)
  4. Partner Bound Angle
  5. Partner Bow Pose
  6. Savasana Neck Rub
  7. First Chakra Chair Kriya
  8. Seated Shoulder Opening Twist

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Now you can call that different over a day that can be so clichéd and may I just add my partner loved it (but of course, what is not to love in yoga!) But, if I still haven’t stolen your heart with any of the above then all I ask of you this month is to just focus on yourself! Open your heart and do what you love to love yourself. Of course, I hope that will include Yoga because after all who needs to be head over heels with a man who provides chocolates and flowers when you can be head over heels in Yoga! Loving you is the greatest gift and your love should belong to your yoga teacher!

Post Festive Season: Tips for looking after the mind, body and soul

What a busy December it’s been – the stress of festive preparations definitely left me feeling under the weather, especially with flu season coinciding! Whilst I’ve loved spending time with families and friends, all the festive parties and activities have made me lose focus on myself and I’ve now definitely got the January blues!

So for this, I wanted to share with you my top tips on how to look after your body post-holiday season… after all yoga is all about strengthening the body, mind and soul!

I think my number one rule is to set aside a few hours a day. It is so important to take this time out and focus on yourself! Time management is key in yoga. I am guilty myself some days of making the excuse of “not having the time” because I am so busy and caught up with other things that I don’t prioritise it enough.

So as a new year’s resolution, I got myself a diary and made sure I wrote in the days I wanted to do classes and pre booked these all so I had no excuses! I tend to prefer going to classes as I feel more motivated in that environment but those of you that practice at home – why not try one of the Yoga apps?

Daily Yoga is a great one (and free) they’re all timed sessions so you can keep on track and manage your workout based on the time you have! Or, if you are one for a yoga DVD – make sure to set yourself a time and add this to the diary so you stick to it.

Now I don’t know about you but I definitely over indulged in December and this definitely left me feeling groggy so my number 2 tip is attention to nutrition! I know this is what a lot of people tend to focus on post December pig outs but for yoga it is really essential we maintain this throughout the year and as long as you are practicing regularly, your mind will adapt and stimulate. Why say no to fatty foods? Well of course it is okay to have a treat once in a while and especially around holiday seasons but to ensure we create energy for the body and mind we need to be eating the right foods!

So for me personally, I am a vegetarian and I know that a lot of my yoga enthusiasts have also adapted to this kind of diet. Of course, it’s a personal preference and there is no ‘right or wrong’ diet with Yoga so don’t panic… As long as you have a balance of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds your mental vitality will increase. So say no to those fatty foods and sugars that will leave you feeling groggy! Keeping up with your yoga poses daily won’t be enough if you’re nutrition is poor…

Did any of you set a new year’s resolution? Talking to a few friends I know a lot have given up chocolate, caffeine, smoking, or maybe even alcohol. Whether it is a Dry January or a DeChox this New Year, cutting something like this out of your diet can make you anxious and increase your stress levels. Your mind can go crazy (I know when I’m craving chocolate mine does) so my next top tip is meditation.

New-Year_Resolutions

The key here is to relax! I love meditation and I find it so good to re-focus on my goals. This is a great one for you busy bee’s as well, it literally takes 10 minutes out of your day and will leave you feeling refreshed! And if that isn’t good enough, it’s proven to strengthen the immune system so it’s especially good if you’re stress hormones are high! Winter season also means flu season so my final tip is to keep the bugs away!

The best way to do this is of course my favourite…. Yoga! But honestly, ensuring you practice regularly will strengthen immunity and hopefully keep that flu away. If you are one of the unlucky ones who have already caught the flu (like me) I have found pranayamas are great for clearing the chest and Surya Bhedana for help with breathing through the nostrils! So that’s it – 4 top tips for a happier & healthier January!

For me, 2017 I hope to strengthen my mind, body and soul and over these next few posts I will be giving you an insight into how we can do this and make 2017 the best! So if you are still uuming and arring, give it a try and make it your new year’s resolution! And for all you keen yoga enthusiasts I’d be interested to know how you’ve got through January, so please share your top tips!