New online yoga classes

17.00-18.00 Gentle Therapeutic Yoga with Meditation
Focusing on a different area / aspect of the body-mind each week of the month, and on what students bring to the class and would like to work on.
Suitable for all levels, for those recovering from illness or injury, those who do not want to push themselves too hard and would like an easy way to explore some different ways into meditation.

18.15-19.15 Restorative Yoga with Yoga Nidra
Holding just a few poses, using props for support and maximum comfort to be able to deeply rest, followed by a guided relaxation journey through the levels of being.
Especially good for stress relief, reducing anxiety, healing, deep rest, sleep and relaxation.

PROPS REQUIRED: preferably at least a yoga mat. If you do not have other yoga props (bolster, blocks, etc), other items you can use are cushions / pillows, blankets, books, dressing gown belt. Here is a video to provide some ideas on using common household items as yoga props.

BOOKING is essential.

PAYMENT is by donation (what you feel you can afford) through Paypal or BACS – please contact me for details.

You’ll receive a link to register for the class and a further link and password to join either or both the Zoom classes. It’s the same link for both. 
I recommend using a desktop or laptop, but have a phone / tablet as an internet backup. They work OK, although the camera view is more limited and the screen rather small to be able see what’s going on. On a mobile device you will also have to download the free Zoom App.

If you’d like me to give you suggestions / modification / verbal adjustments, please make sure the camera is positioned to show your mat and that it is well illuminated from behind / beside the camera (if the light is behind you I will only see your silhouette). You may need to adjust the angle up/down, if we move from sitting to standing.

Please log in 5-10 minutes before the class begins, with your sound muted and preferably your video on (you can turn it off after, if you prefer).

You will initially be in a virtual waiting room, until I let you in to the main session. Then we can make sure your connection, audio and visual all work and I can let you know what props to have nearby.

If you have any conditions I should be aware of you can send me an email beforehand. You can also send me a private message in the meeting, via the chat box on Zoom or simply unmute yourself briefly to talk to me at the start of the session. I also invite people to let me know what they would like to focus on and get out of the session.

Do remember that your main job is to take care of yourself. Yoga is a wonderful tool for self care, if used wisely. It is about learning to listen to the signals from the body and respond when it tells you to pull back from a stretch or rest when it is tired. The right practice for you will leave you feeling both relaxed and energised.

Inversions – The Anti-Gravity, Rejuvenating Postures

It is sometimes said in jest that the definition of an adult is a person who has stopped growing vertically and started growing horizontally! In youth we defy gravity through the process of growing upwards and with our physical energy and activity. Then we reach a peak, turn the corner and begin to surrender to gravity….. eventually literally shrinking and sagging back down into the earth! The inverted postures are considered to be a way of slowing down the ageing effects of gravity, by temporarily reversing it, which is why they are often described as rejuvenating poses and recommended to be done every day. One of my students, who lived in South Korea, described discovering, in an area of a public park, set aside for various physical fitness practices, a slanted inversion apparatus. She was astonished to see people in their 80s, 90s and even one of 108, hanging upside down for up to an hour a day and to hear that most had been doing so for decades. Although, other factors, such as diet, almost certainly played a part in their remarkable sprightliness, the story is still quite a testament to the rejuvenating power of inversions. However, like most fabled elixirs of youth, inversions do not come without risks.

Sirsasana (headstand) and Sarvangasana (shoulderstand), known as the King and Queen of asanas, are amongst the most powerful of yoga poses in terms of their immediate and long term physiological, energetic and emotional effects and should be approached with respect and caution. They are also amongst the most contentious of yoga postures and the headstand, especially is one that most beginners to yoga aspire to – often before they are ready. Both require a high level of experience and awareness in order to achieve the correct alignment and avoid dangerous pressure on the head and neck. This is done mainly by correct ergonomic positioning, which requires flexibility and adequate strength of the supporting muscles and also by actively pressing downwards, so as to create what feels like an upward rebound effect from gravity. Thus, one gains maximum benefit while minimising the risk of injury. The main danger is that damage from poor practice, tends to be done gradually, over a period of time and without the practitioner being aware of it, until symptoms appear. This unfortunately is when the harm has already been done. 

One of the most obvious effects of inversions is the reversal of the action of gravity on circulation. It is an age old recommendation to put ones’ feet up for the relief of general fatigue and also for aching, swelling, varicose veins and tiredness in the legs. Blood and lymph are thus more quickly drained from the legs towards the heart and it has an overall relaxing effect. Thus a small degree of inversion already gives marked benefits. With a greater degree of inversion, the increased venous return to the heart stimulates it to contract more strongly, thus exercising the cardiac muscle. Blood flow to the upper body is greatly increased. We experience this immediately and, for many people, it takes several months of gradually building up, both the time in the poses and the degree of inversion, for the body to be able to adjust and be comfortable in the fully inverted position. There are baroreceptors in the carotid arteries which are triggered by the stretch caused by increased blood flow. They bring about a reflex, short term lowering of the blood pressure. With progressive training, the body’s adaptation mechanisms are stimulated to respond more quickly, inversions become more comfortable and the longer term benefits increase. Inversions ultimately have a calming effect and thus good for alleviating stress, fatigue, anxiety, mild depression, insomnia and some types of headache.

Click on the image to see a short video of a sequence of 2 supported inversions, which can be done on your sofa or armchair at home.

While there is an obvious increase in blood flow to the head, it is a common belief, amongst yoga practitioners, that inverting the body increases blood flow to the brain. If this were true, most people, when inverting, would run some risk of a blood vessel bursting inside the brain, causing a stroke or, if a vessel ruptured in the eye, possible blindness. The body has, especially within delicate structures like the brain and the eyes, mechanisms for protecting itself, e.g the blood brain barrier. However, with chronic high blood pressure, the normal protective mechanisms do not work so well. This condition is also associated with hardening of the arteries, causing them to be more fragile, – much like an elastic band, which has been over-stretched too much for too long. High blood pressure is thus one of the main contra-indications for inverted poses. At the same time there is evidence that stimulating the blood pressure regulators, e.g. with exercise, helps to lower the resting blood pressure for longer periods of time. It may be possible that mild inversions and a slight increase in blood flow through the carotid arteries, could trigger lowering of blood pressure and be beneficial, with minimal risk. More controlled research is needed.

The simple fact of experiencing the world from an inverted perspective, visually and physiologically, can shift a mental or emotional blockage and help clear the mind. Many yoga techniques cause a rapid physiological and energetic change which alters body chemistry, mood and thoughts. Learning inversions also challenges many people to overcome a certain amount of fear and are thus very confidence building.   

Many claims have been made and passed around in yoga classes, for the benefits of inversions, not all of which are as yet supported by actual, clinical evidence. At the same time, many dire warnings are issued about dangers, which are also not proven. If in doubt, it is of course, always advisable to remain on the side of caution, start low and only gradually build up to inverting more for longer periods, as the body adapts.

Ease Screen Eye Fatigue

With so much of our lives now happening online, many of us are spending far more time than we are used to staring at a screen and finding it surprisingly exhausting. (See BBC article at the bottom of this post).

This routine of yoga eye exercises both helps to relax the eyes and balance the left and right brain hemispheres (similar to EMDR eye movements). Thus they calm the mind and are helpful for reducing stress and repetitive thoughts and as preparation for meditation.

These eye exercises can be done sitting or lying down and even combined with a mild passive inversion pose, followed by relaxation with an eye cover for 5-15 minutes. This adds an energy replenishing, restorative benefit.

Breathe into the belly and slightly lengthen the exhalations.

Here is a BBC article on why online conferencing such as via Zoom is so tiring.

A Strong Immune System – Our Best Defence

A Strong Immune System – Our Best Defence

Although there are a number of supplements on the market that claim to boost the immune system, there is no real evidence for that they work. If the body is actually deficient in certain vitamins, taking the right dose of those particular ones might help a weakened immune system. However, taking mega doses of anything is at best likely to be a waste of money and at worst could be toxic. 

The best advice is, as we all know, to lead a healthy lifestyle. Eat moderately, a varied diet, avoid smoking, drink small amounts of alcohol only with food and just occasionally and exercise regularly (and moderately!). If we have a good healthy baseline, we can deal with an occasional…err ‘deviation’ (we are only human!) and regain balance again relatively easily. 

Other things well within our control are to develop efficient breathing, quality relaxation, good sleep, doing more of what we love, feeling grateful and being able to laugh and not take life too seriously. After all the very worst that could happen is going to happen to us all eventually anyway!

In Chinese medicine the lungs are considered to be the ‘tender organ’, because they are so susceptible to pathogens. (The Chinese medicine version of pathogens, such as wind-cold and damp-heat would not be recognisable to a western doctor, because they describe the effect of the invader on the body rather than it’s biological classification.) Healthy lungs are an essential component of good immunity when it comes to viruses etc that are likely to enter the body by that route. The lungs do have a clever method of cleaning themselves known as the ‘mucus escalator’. The walls of the respiratory tubes are lined with a membrane that produces a sticky, lubricating mucus and microscopic hair-like projections called cilia. These constantly move in a wafting action, up and out towards the throat, moving the sticky mucus, which has trapped harmful particles and organisms. One of the problems of smoking is that it paralyses the action of the cilia. Smokers often have a morning cough, because they have not smoked during the night and the cilia have been able to get going to start clearing out the accumulated mucus and other debris. Severe pollution can have a similar effect.

Apart from not smoking and avoiding polluted places, we can help support the lungs with breathing exercises. It can be helpful to think of these as medicine, with a right ‘dosage’, so they are effective without becoming harmful. If you over-breathe, you may hyperventilate, change the ph of the blood, get dizzy and could even pass out – definitely not healthy!!

The yoga breathing technique, kapalbhati is one of the kriyas (cleansing practices), partly because it helps stimulate the natural cleaning mechanism of the lungs. Additionally, it is energising, stimulates digestive fire (but only to be done BEFORE eating), tones the abdomen, cleanses the nadis (energy channels / meridians) and shifts our mood. 

If you have an underlying respiratory problem, you may have been sent to a chest clinic and been taught ACBT / huffing breath (as I was after I had contracted hooping cough in my 30’s). Here is a Youtube video. Over the years I have also developed my own yoga version of the exercise. 

The complete yoga breath is another practice that can help thoroughly ventilate the lungs and make sure the whole breathing mechanism is working well.
Inhale to a comfortable count of 4, pacing the breath, so you have some left to reach the collar bone area.
1. Breathing downwards, as if into the pelvis
2. Horizontally widen all around the lower ribs / diaphragm
3. Expand the chest
4. Breathe upward into the space above the collar bones

Either exhale from the top down, finishing with a gentle squeeze of the belly, or just let the exhale fall out through the mouth. 
If you are a beginner, take a normal breath before repeating. Do 3-5 breaths then return to normal breathing. Repeat up to 3 times.

N.B. NEVER force or strain any breathing techniques. That can have the opposite of the desired effect!! 

All these practices should be done moderately, to find what works best for each individual. More is not better. Especially if they are new to you, gradually ease into them, take pauses between rounds, to feel the effects (and develop mindfulness!)  

Gargling with salt water has been suggested in the official advice. Another yoga kriya is nasal washing known as neti. This involves flushing out the nasal passages with warm salt water. With the head forward and turned to the side, water can be poured from a container with a spout, up one nostril so that it flows out through the other (the gentle version), squirted up with a sinus rinse bottle, or simply sniffed up each nostril, while holding the other one closed. A good time to do this is before breathing exercises, after being exposed to pollution and, at the present time, after being around other people.
Examples of nasal washing devices all available on Amazon.

For many years, I noticed that my nasal membranes got so dry in airplanes that my nose would bleed. I took to rubbing a drop of olive oil inside each nostril, whenever I fly (or spend long periods in an air-conditioned atmosphere), which completely cured the problem.
In the last couple of years, because airplanes have long been notorious for spreading infections, I have taken to adding to my little travel bottle of olive oil, a couple of drops of tea tree essential oil (approx 1:10). Tea tree is reputed to have anti-viral properties. I cannot say I have any evidence for this as protection against germs, but it is pleasant and unlikely to do harm. NEVER use essential oils undiluted as they may cause irritation.

DRY SKIN BRUSHING is a method of all over exfoliating to help keep skin healthy and the skin is the immune system’s first line of defence. You can read my post about it here

The other factor we hear a lot about is stress. A certain amount of stress is actually good for us, but too much and over too sustained a period is not.
So in the time-honoured words from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; “DON’T PANIC”!!!
Learn to relaxxxxxxxxx…… This might be easier said than done, especially for those who are so used to being constantly wound up those few extra turns, that they are no longer even aware of it! An indication is if you are someone who finds it a big challenge just to be still and do nothing for 10 minutes and immediately want to reach for your phone. Here is a hypnotherapy recording by Trevor Sylvester to help you relax and strengthen the immune system

Every now and then, practise taking a different perspective. This is called pratipaksha bhavanam. Imagine taking a step back from yourself and seeing what you are doing, thinking and feeling as if from some some distance away. Apply the bigger picture view and ask yourself what is the wisest way to proceed – for your own well-being and happiness and for all others around you.

Learn the art and skill of relaxation. Find what works best for you. Start with short power naps and progress to longer guided relaxation. Eventually you could dive into the deeper aspects of meditative consciousness in yoga nidra. Find a position that is comfortable and works for you. Savasana, the yoga ‘corpse’ pose with some supports works for many people.

Restorative yoga is exactly what it says, using supported yoga postures to deeply relax and to release tension from different areas of the body in various positions in order to restore energy and optimal function.

Establish a routine to help ensure you get good sleep. 
• Aim to go to bed at the same time most nights 
• Eat supper well before bedtime, avoid caffeine and minimise alcohol consumption
• Stop using all electronic media several hours before bed
• If your mind is worried / preoccupied, read or watch something that transports you into another state, but be careful of over stimulating the mind in a different way 

If you are going through periods of insomnia, don’t worry, try to snuggle up and luxuriate in the fact that you don’t have to get up yet. As long as you are resting your body can still replenish itself. If your mind is too restless, listen to a relaxation or yoga nidra recording, which will also help enable your body to restore itself.

What do you love? Think of the places, people you hang out with, pets, activities that you most enjoy, that give you a sense of well-being / peace / joy / calm / okay-ness, or when you can become so wonderfully absorbed in the moment that you forget yourself. Make sure you give time to them regularly. It is good for your health.

What simple things in your life is it easy to feel grateful for? The feeling of gratitude is good for our health.

And finally the joy and healing power of laughter. I believe it is our saving grace. it gives us distance and perspective and stops us from taking ourselves and life too seriously.

Try watching this video, see what happens to you and how it makes you feel.

“Don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out of it alive!” ~ Elbert Hubbard

Cleansing Breathing Techniques For Healthy Lungs

In my 30’s I caught whooping cough, while in India, which was not diagnosed until it was over and I was back in the UK. By then it had done some damage to my lungs and, as I was deemed more than usually susceptible to infections, I was sent to a chest clinic. They taught me the Active Cycle of Breathing Technique (ACBT), otherwise known as the ‘Huffing Breath’, which has been extremely useful in helping to keep infections at bay. I might even say I seem to be LESS susceptible than I was before the whooping cough!

Here is a link to some physiotherapy descriptions /demo, which I think explain the technique very well.

Physiotherapy description of ACBT 
Youtube video demonstration

Over the years I have developed my own ‘yoga’ version, which I use pretty regularly and, at the moment, am using every day. I also find kapalbhati (shining skull breath) very useful (see below).

1. Inhale a complete yoga breath to a count of 4 into: 1. pelvis – 2. lower – 3. middle – 4. upper chest. 
Comfortably pace the breath so as not be straining and have enough left to reach the collar bones.
2. Hold for a count of 5 (+/- optional extra: apply yoga locks; lift pelvic floor and close the throat)
3. Press the tongue down and exhale forcefully through the mouth, squeezing out as much breath as possible and imagine misting a mirror about an arm’s length away
4. 1-2 normal breaths
5. Repeat 3-5x = 1 cycle 
6. I repeat the cycle in various positions to reach different parts of the lungs; standing or sitting upright, forward bend in standing or kneeling (lungs inverted), on my back, side lying. 

This practice can make you cough, as it moves secretions up out of the lungs towards the throat, to be swallowed (so the stomach acid can kill any bugs) or spat out.

NEVER force or strain. The whole sequence should be easy and comfortable.

KAPALBHATI – Shining Skull Breath
This is a yoga cleansing technique for the respiratory tract, which also has many other benefits.
Here is a link to a free pdf, with instructions and pictures, on Kapalbhati

My post on strengthening the immune system contains some other techniques for helping to cleanse the respiratory tract and stop infections from taking hold.

Yoga As Therapy – For Back Problems

One day, many years ago, when I was in practice as an osteopath, I found myself lying on the floor, immobilised with pain. The bell rang to indicate the arrival of my next client…. I had to grit my teeth, roll over and crawl to the door. My client was pretty shocked to see me in even more pain than she was and I tried to joke that, perhaps on this occasion, she could treat me!

That was not my first back pain attack, nor my last. I had damaged a disc, in the most classic way – trying to lift and pull a heavy object out of a cupboard while in an awkward twisted position. Then, while I was being badly adjusted in an extreme yoga posture, it herniated. I actually felt it go – sort of like toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube! Oddly, there’s no immediate pain, because the disc itself has no nerve supply, but the pain quickly comes on as the injury site swells and compresses adjacent nerves and ligaments. Then the muscle spasm kicks in and it’s like being in a corset. The clever body immobilises the area to prevent further damage. However, if you manage to override the muscle spasm, the excruciating pain will be just as effective in keeping you from moving!!!

Thus began my own particular journey of REALLY learning how to deal with back pain – a far more profound and effective learning than 4 years of osteopathic training, but of course, very much supported and informed by my training and experience of working with clients.

Over several years, it became very clear that, even after the original injury had healed, the pain attacks continued to recur at times of emotional upheaval and stress. I explored and developed a sequence of yoga based exercises, poses with breathing and mind techniques that worked for me. The pain attacks diminished in duration and intensity, until I would now say they have pretty much disappeared – if I didn’t want to tempt fate… The main difference is that I no longer fear them, as I did in the beginning, because I know what to do, what works. I have the tools to help myself and those tools are applicable to other problems; both physical, mental/emotional and even to apparently external life situations.  

I have shared what I learned with many of my clients and yoga students and taught them techniques to help themselves when they experience back pain, also to diminish the frequency and duration of pain episodes. When the fear goes away people start to see the ‘problem’ from a different perspective. They can realise it is a friendly warning sign that they need to pay more attention to what they are doing and adjust, stop or do something different.

I learned the absolute truth of the words, “The mind is everything,” as the Buddha said, “It is with our minds that we create the world.” Being empowered to help ourselves is a huge component of healing. It puts us in control and by far the best person to know what is working and what is not is the one who is suffering. No one else can really tell you what actually makes you feel better. Other people can guide and suggest things to try, but our own body tells us what it needs – when we learn to listen and trust! 

I now teach workshops, mainly aimed at yoga teachers and yoga therapists, who already have some knowledge of the poses and other techniques of yoga. 

Dry Skin Brushing

A Healthy Morning Wake Up

Dry brushing is just what it sounds like – brushing over [most of] the exposed skin surfaces with a dry brush. It is usually done in a certain pattern and just before taking a shower.

Why would one do this?

It has a number of potential benefits, from smoother skin to improved circulation and even immune function and, not lease of all, it feels good!


Effects and Benefits

• Exfoliation
This most obvious effect and benefit is immediately noticeable. The process of brushing with a firm, natural bristled brush over the skin helps loosen and remove dead skin cells, naturally exfoliating skin. That means less less dry, flakey skin and a softer, smoother surface.

• Cleansing
The added benefit of exfoliating the skin is removing dirt, excess oil and residue from the pores. This reduces the need to use soaps or gel, which tend to remove too much of the skin’s natural protective layer of oil (sebum). Sebum is our own, tailor-made moisturiser, which both lubricates and waterproofs the skin and also forms the immune system’s first line of defence against the entry of harmful organisms.

• Elimination
The skin is the largest organ of the body one of whose functions is elimination, so it follows that if it will function well if it is kept healthy.

• Stimulate circulation
You will probably notice that your skin is a bit pink after brushing and may feel slightly tingly, because the skin capillaries have dilated bringing more blood flow close to the surface. 

• Lymphatic Drainage
Although somewhat debatable, some proponents of dry brushing claim that brushing the skin assists lymph drainage.
The lymphatic system is a major part of the body’s immune system, which collects the fluid that surrounds all the cells into vessels to be filtered and cleansed via lymph nodes, at strategic places in the body and then return it to the blood circulatory system.

• Natural Energy Boost
Similar to the oriental method of Do-in, designed to stimulate qi flow in the meridians, dry brushing has an invigorating effect and wakes you up with a natural energy boost. It can become a little bit addictive (in a good way!)


Selecting a Brush

Pasted Graphic 6.tiff

Natural, sustainable bristle is generally considered the best. I use a firm, cactus bristle brush, with a long, removable handle. The handle allows me to reach my entire back and removing it makes it easier to use the brush on other parts of the body.   

Initially the skin will be quite sensitive and it’s better to start with a softer brush, later you may prefer a stiffer, firmer brush. (IF you choose to brush your face only use only a small, VERY soft brush.) 

Tampico cactus bristle - the firmest type of bristle available is best used dry. Tampico is a type of Cactus which is preferred by experienced body brushers for dry body brushing treatments as it is the most effective. It has firm, low flex, thicker fibres.

Sisal / Agave bristle - slightly less firm than the tampico. 

Hogs hair - a medium strength bristle, which is good for all skin types and it can be used wet or dry. This is a good bristle to start dry body brushing with the aim of progressing to the cactus.

Boar bristle - a strong, good quality bristle, often used in hair brushes. Ethically sourced as the animals are not killed.

Horse hair - slightly softer than hog’s hair and again can be used wet or dry. Perfect for gently exfoliating the face..

Goats hair - the softest of the bristles and is for use on very sensitive skin or in facial treatments.


How to Dry Brush 

Dry brushing can be done daily over the whole body, preferably in the morning before showering. Start with a gentle brush and soft pressure. Gradually work up to a stiffer brush and more firm pressure.

The order and direction

The most common recommendation is to brush inwards towards the heart, in the direction of the lymph drainage channels, as in Swedish massage. 

Another method is to follow the direction of the energy (qi) flow in the meridians – down the back of the body and up the front, which is similar to the oriental do-in practice of tapping along the meridians.

I tend to use a combination of both these methods, brushing up and down while working my way in a particular direction: 

1.  Using the long handle to brush 2-3x up and down the spine from top downwards

2.  Remove the handle and brush across the tops of the shoulders

3.  The back and sides of the torso, working my way generally downwards 

4.  A circular motion 2-3x around the sacrum, then each buttock 

5.  Up and down the outside and outer back of the thighs then lower legs, including 2-3 circles around the knees. 

6.  The soles of the feet and up the inside and inner back of legs to the groin.

Repeat 5-6 on other side 

7.  Circle the abdomen in a clockwise direction spiralling into the navel then outwards, ending at the pubis. 

8.  Up the front side ribcage, armpits and inner arms to palms. 

9.  The back of the hand, from the fingers to the shoulders and a circular motion around the shoulder joint 

10. Gentle circles around the breast, finishing at the sternum.

Repeat 8-10 on other side

Note: Do not brush too hard! A light, smooth stroke works best and is less likely to do damage. My skin is slightly pink and pleasantly tingly after brushing, but it should never be red or sting. If it hurts at all, apply less pressure, use a softer brush or stop completely.

Replace the brush when the bristles become too soft to be effective or are falling out.


How often?

This depends on what works for you. Some say daily, some once a week. In the beginning it is probably best to leave at least a day or two between brushes to check how your skin is responding and whether there are any adverse effects. I do not use soap on my skin, so I dry brush every day.


Cleaning the brush

Note most brushes are designed for dry use and wetting them will tend to adversely affect the wood and may loosen the bristles and make them fall out. Wetting the brush also softens the bristles, so if you prefer a stiff brush, don’t wash it too often. Putting it out in the sun will help kill any bacteria. You could spray it lightly with hydrogen peroxide, which kills bacteria and evaporates, or use surgical alcohol, then let it dry naturally.



Always explore and pay careful attention to what works best for you and YOUR body and use your common sense. If you have very sensitive skin, open or recent wounds, rashes, or a history of eczema or other skin conditions, this is almost certainly not for you. 

Illness, medication and pregnancy can all alter the sensitivity of the skin and, even if dry brushing was previously fine, it may not feel good at these times. 

Do NOT ignore warning signs like discomfort, pain, rash, itchiness, extreme or persistent redness. Avoid sensitive areas, don’t use uncomfortably stiff bristles, and stop immediately if irritation occurs.

There have been no scientific / clinical studies on dry skin brushing and it is not likely there will ever be funding for any, so the reports of its benefits are anecdotal (some are far-fetched!). It is generally agreed to feel good and the potential for harm is minimal (with the common sense precautions). Experiment for yourself.

Yoga for Fertility

Yoga to Support Fertility
Anna Blackmore

Of the women who have come to me for yoga therapy to assist conception, only one did not conceive and she realised after a few sessions that she actually was not at all sure she even wanted to have children!

All had been thoroughly medically investigated and several were undergoing fertility treatment. One couple did have some medical impediments. She was diagnosed as pre-menopausal (premature at only 36) AND her husband’s sperm had poor motility. She was a tall, rather thin, sinewy type, creative, hyperactive and doing a very strong, dynamic yoga practice (a typical vata dosha prakruti – see the last section on Ayurvedic Doshas). They were determined to have a child and did everything they could to enhance their fertility. They kept to a very healthy diet and regular mealtimes, gave up alcohol, reduced work commitments, including travelling, and followed a sustained course of acupuncture and Chinese herbs. She (and sometimes he) did the daily yoga routine I drew up for her; slow mindful movement sequences with lots of focus on breathing, some restorative poses and the guided relaxation that I recorded specially for her (a variation is included in the package). At first she found it quite a challenge to slow down so much and occasionally felt the need to do a more dynamic practice, but after a while, as she discovered the benefits, she enjoyed the slower practice more and more and went walking / gentle jogging in the park if she felt the need for more exercise. They even got a puppy and took to spending more time out in nature – amongst the birds, the bees, the flowers and trees….!! It took 2 years and their third assisted conception (ICSI) worked. Now they have a lovely daughter.

A woman’s body needs to be soft and ‘juicy’ to assist conception. Strong, dynamic exercise (and strong yoga styles / practices) tend to be too heating and drying. It is best to do a gentle, slow-moving, mindful yoga practice, with more focus on breathing and relaxation and to avoid overworking and stressful activities. Walk in nature as much as possible and do the things that bring you joy. Keep to a regular daily routine of meal times and sleep, avoid excess cold, raw foods, stimulants and too much time on the computer and internet, especially in the evenings. This deranges vata dosha, which dries out the body, can reduce fertility, stirs up nervous energy and anxiety and disturbs sleep.

Commit to making the yoga practice part of your regular daily routine, even if you can sometimes only manage a few minutes or just 1 technique.

Formulate an intention (sankalpa – notes on how to do this are included in the package) and repeat it daily before and at the end of the practice. At the same time, too much attachment to the result creates tension, do all you can, on your side AND let go of the result. The rest is in the hands of Fate / God.

The full package of notes, yoga sequence and hypnotherapy recording is £5.00. You can purchase it here.

Establishing a Yoga Practice

Guidelines For Establishing A Yoga Practice

• Make an intention to do at least something every day, even if it is just one pose or technique. If that’s all you do, you have achieved your goal, anything more is a bonus.
• Establish a routine  – if possible at the same time and in the same place every day. Most benefits come with regular practice.
• Choose a clean, airy, warm space and make it as pleasant, special and dedicated as possible.
• Place something in your practice space to inspire and remind you of the purpose and benefits of your yoga; perhaps a photo of someone who inspires you or representing your goals, a statue, flowers, a candle, ….
• Use a sticky mat on a firm even floor (some sticky mats need to be machine washed, with a small amount of detergent, when they are new, for the grip surface to work).
• Wear loose, comfortable and seasonable clothing and avoid anything tight or restrictive.
• Practice after bowel opening and before eating (or at least 2 hours after, if practising later in the day).
• During at least the first few days of menstruation, women are advised to do a gentler practice, more passive poses, no full inversions, strong abdominal work, or back bend stretches. This is in order to support the down and outward movement of apana, so that menstruation flows unimpeded and painlessly.
• During pregnancy it is advisable to do only restorative yoga during the first 3 months, avoid any strong stretch or pressure on the belly throughout and, in the final trimester, do relaxation lying on the left side.
• Avoid practice during illness, only relaxation is recommended (yoga nidra will help assist recovery).
• Inhale and exhale rhythmically, via the nose (unless it is blocked), throughout the practice.
Breathing is paramount. Never hold the breath, if you get breathless or your breathing becomes laboured, pause and relax to allow the body to regain the rhythm.
• Develop mindful awareness of how your body is responding, take pauses between poses / sequences to observe the effects and develop the ability to relax at will.
• Never hurry the practice, if time is short, do less poses. It’s better to do 1 pose with full awareness than rush through 10 with your mind elsewhere.
• Practice according to your capacity, never strain or compete with yourself or others or strive to achieve an image of what you believe the practice should look like.
• The asanas should be creating more ease in the body, be painless with no more than a mild stretch sensation and a comfortable degree of effort.
• Strong stretch sensations mean the muscles are actually contracting to protect themselves. Stiffness after practice is an indication of micro tears in the muscle filiments.
• If the practice is correct for you, you will feel both relaxed and revitalised for several hours afterwards. Feeling exhausted or stiff are indications that the practice is wrong for you and you must stop and consult your teacher.
• ALWAYS do a relaxation, even if it is just the length of a slow count backwards from 10 to 1. We all need relaxation as much, if not more than exercises. Relaxation balances the nervous system and will ultimately give you more energy.

Like the oxygen mask… the power of laughter

Remember how, in the safety instructions in airplanes, they always say to “Put on your own oxygen mask BEFORE you help anyone else”. This is such a good metaphor for a fundamental truth about life; we have to help ourselves before we can really help others. Our first duty is to take care of ourselves SO THAT we can care for others, fulfil our potential and contribute to the world.

It is said that the highest forms of healing are those which we do for ourselves. We are blessed in this age, to have so many tools to help us. It so happens that yoga, yoga therapy and hypnotherapy have been the main ones I have found to work well for me and that I use with my clients and students, but there are of course many others.

The basics are pretty obvious. A form of exercise we enjoy and are motivated to do regularly. A diet, which makes us actually feel good, rather than just gratifying an addiction, and is also pleasurable to eat. Noticing what we think about and cultivating thought habits, which generate positive emotions. The causes of dis-ease are from within and well as from outside, emotions affect our biochemistry and thus our health. No matter how bad a day has been it is always possible to find something to feel grateful for and to fall asleep with ‘an attitude of gratitude’.

And finally humour. This may be our saving grace. Laughter, we are told, is the best medicine. When we can laugh, it lifts us out of the situation and ourselves, it gives us perspective and punctures excessive self importance. There is even laughter yoga. In a group you start laughing with the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ intention, then it gets more and more real, because laughter is so infectious and can eventually become uncontrollable.

Click on the image and enjoy what happens as you watch and listen….