Wednesday, 15 July 2015

HEALING FOR BACK PAIN


One of the reasons so many of us suffer from back pain is poor posture. 
Sitting with a hunched back and drooping shoulders can make the muscles in the lower back weak. Also the way we stand, walk and even sleep can cause back pain. Hence we need to make a conscious effort to improve our posture by avoiding sitting slumped in chairs and reminding ourselves to walk with a straight back.
If you have an office or sedentary job make sure you sit on a chair that supports your back and lets you sit with your feet touching the ground. Get up once every hour or two and take a walk. This will help release tension in the back, stretch the muscles in the legs and relax your eyes. Practice some chair yoga during your working day to help alleviate back pain and let you work comfortably. Take time out for brief meditation and focusing on deep breathing  to calm your mind, stay focused and enhance your productivity.
Aside from being more aware of our posture, yoga and stretching, swimming and regular walking also help in relieving the back pain. Swimming strengthens the entire back, especially when practicing backstroke and front crawl.
Walking is also one  of the best exercises to strengthen our lower backs but remember to focus on walking with a straight posture.
Another major contribution to the increasing problems our society is having with back pain is obesity. Being over weight increases the pressure on the lower back and leads to a higher risk of lower back injury. 
Eating a healthy diet eating In addition, adopting a less sedentary lifestyle along with regular practice of yoga can help alleviate  lower back pain.
While these yoga postures are highly beneficial, people 
suffering from any back injury or slip disc, are advised to consult their physician before practicing any of these yoga poses or other physical exercises.
Elisa's timetable for her West London yoga classes can be found here  public-yoga-classes

Note: While these yoga postures are highly beneficial, people suffering from any back injury or slip disc, are advised to consult their doctor before practicing any of these yoga poses or other physical exercises.












Friday, 3 July 2015

THE THING ABOUT HANDSTANDS

Kick legs in the air like you just don't care!
Doing a handstand as an adult is not, in fact, impossible or just for yogis on Instagram.



Being willing to fall down is an important part of yoga. It means you really went for something, You decided to be daring, courageous and step outside of your comfort zone. Yoga is as much mental as it is physical, and there's a constant element of play.


I was always petrified to kick up into handstand as a child , a teenager and well into my adult life. I would consider all of the potential bad things that could happen ranging from breaking my neck, my wrist, hurting myself in any number of ways. In yoga classes I felt self conscious of making a fool of myself if I constantly tried and failed. I never considered the possibility that I could press up into the pose and actually stay there. 


However eventually something happens that helped me to shift my perspective and give myself permission to fall, 

tremble and shake. I was in my forties when I managed my first ever handstand and from then on my entire practice seemed to shift with it. 

Falling out of a pose in yoga, is not failing. It's learning. Once I had embodied this I have been happy to turn my world on its head in all sorts of other ways without being gripped by fear.

Go on be courageous kick your legs into the air!


Elisa Williams teaches yoga in West London and occasionally on holidays overseas. See www.elisawilliamsyoga.comwww.elisawilliamsyoga.com




Tuesday, 30 June 2015

BEAT THE HEAT - COOLING BREATH

We're having a heatwave! 

This cooling pranayama practice was devised deep in the Himalayas, whenancient sages observed and imitated the world around them in their attempts to master body, breath, and mind. 

They noticed the curve of a bird’s lower beak, a new green leaf uncurling, and the hiss of a cobra—and emulated those shapes and sounds in a practice called Sitali (the cooling breath).

 In this pranayama, the inhalation is moistened as it passes through the curl of the tongue (described as a bird’s beak and an uncurling leaf), so that you are “drinking” water-saturated air.

Besides building breath awareness, this practice is said to calm hunger and thirst and cultivate a love for solitude. Sitali also cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and according to the system of ayurveda, soothes a pitta imbalance, common in the summer months. In addition, this practice reduces tiredness, bad breath, fever and high blood pressure.




How To Practice Sitali

Close your eyes, breathe diaphragmatically for several minutes, then open the mouth and form the lips into an “O.”

Curl the tongue lengthwise and project it out of the mouth (about 3/4 of an inch).

Inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as if drinking through a straw.

Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as the abdomen and lower ribs expand.

Withdraw the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils.

Continue doing sitali for 2 to 3 minutes, return to diaphragmatic breathing for several more, and repeat the cooling breath for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Gradually you can work your way up to a 10-minute practice.

Can’t Curl Your Tongue? Try Sitkari

Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.

Gently press your lower and upper teeth together and separate your lips as much as you comfortably can, so your teeth are exposed to the air.

Inhale slowly through the gaps in the teeth and focus on the hissing sound of the breath.

Close the mouth and slowly exhale through the nose.

Repeat up to 20 times. This practice is called sitkari. 


Cautions for Sitali and Sitkari


Because sitali and sitkari reduce body temperature, they are best practiced during hot weather or after a vigorous asana or heating pranayama practice (like bhastrika).
If you have a vata or kapha constitution, sitali and sitkari may not be appropriate during wintertime. But no matter when you practice, be sure to take in air that is close to body temperature, since the breath won’t be warmed by the nostrils, ifthe air is cold, it may aggravate the lungs.

Monday, 29 June 2015

YOGA FOR BETTER SLEEP


Here are three yoga poses to try for deep, healing sleep every single night.



Double Leg Twist

Whether you’re ignoring the snoring noises coming out of the person next to you or distractions in general, this pose uses reclined twists to help release worries and overstimulation on a profound level, while breathing deeply and evenly helps calm and quiet your entire nervous system


Lie on your back in bed, fold your knees together to the left of your body, but keep your chest facing the ceiling.
Breathe deeply, matching inhales and exhales in tempo and intensity – think: easy and breezy.
After a dozen or more deep breaths, switch your knees to the other side and repeat.
If the twist feels uncomfortable, try putting a pillow under your knees so the twist is less intense.

Blue Sky Meditation

Often our monkey mind swings from one thought to the next and doesn’t seem to stop. When an over active mind prevents you from falling asleep try this meditation to clear and calm your mind, which in turn will encourage your body to relax, too.


Close your eyes. Inhale deeply; then, open up your mouth and release.
Visualise depositing your scattered thoughts in clouds in your mind.
Start to inhale and exhale smoothly and as calmly as you can.
With each exhale, imagine clouds floating away to reveal soft, peaceful blue sky.
Repeat until there is only space to rest instead of think.

Soften and Relax

This gently stretches the tissues that form joints and softens the tight, holding spots in your body.


Lie down, and hug yourself into a little ball, knees toward your face.
Release, with a big exhale, like a star that fell from the sky into a big x shape – arms wide, legs apart.
Inhale through your nose; then, exhale with a long sigh out of your mouth. Repeat.
Imagine you are melting into your bed, your bones and muscles getting heavier.

Sleep well.For more information about my classes and retreats visit www.elisawilliamsyoga.comwww.elisawilliamsyoga.com

LEARNING TO LOVE YOUR BODY THROUGH YOGA

One of the best things about Yoga is it gets us connected to our body again. Most people have lost this connection thanks to the busy, modern world we live in. 

We lose ourselves in our mobiles and iPads, PCs and TVs, iPods and computer games. We spend our days sedentary at a desk, or in the car  commuting to and from our jobs, on the school run ferrying the family.

We’re not moving enough and even when we are, we’re not fully aware of our body and how it feels to move.


When I teach yoga I try and encourage my students to bring their awareness to how each pose feels. If we stretch one leg, for example, I’ll tell them go back to  notice how it feels compared to the leg they haven’t stretched yet. If we're in a twist I ask them experience the sensations and feelings that arrive in their body breath by breath.

This “noticing” is so important as  it really helps us to become more connected to our body and if a student wants to pause a little longer or more often, I make sure that they know that they can. It's not boot camp they must listen to what their body needs and then simply join in again with the rest of the class when they're ready. It's important not to rush through the poses without giving ourselves time to connect with our body and notice how it feels.
This enables us to begin to appreciate our body and become happier with how it looks and feels. Not just because yoga can help us to lose weight, sometimes that’s not enough. It's important for us just to feel happy about our body to learn to love our body.

When we're connected to our bodies we learn to love our body.  We want to do things to nourish and take care of it. Without realising it, we start to eat better, rejecting foods that make us feel bad and choosing foods that make us feel healthy and good. 
Yoga helps us to become more tuned in to what our body needs and can affect our appetite and how much we eat. That’s why as we practice yoga more often, we can begin to make healthier eating choices without a second thought. This in turn can lead to easier weight loss without the need to diet or count calories,

Thursday, 25 June 2015

CULTIVATING CONNECTION WITH OURSELVES & OTHERS

Do you ever feel isolated and alone – like no one knows you’re here? Do you ever feel separate and apart? Do you ever feel completely connected and surrounded by rich, nourishing relationships?

Whether your answer is yes or no, my next ONE DAY YOGA RETREAT on Saturday September 12th in the rural setting of The Chilterns Hills may be for you.

In the morning session our focus will be on grounding, feeling connected to every part of the body. Exploring our relationship with ourselves as a means to develope relationships with us.

We’ll move through centring, meditation and after a wonderful lunch and walk in the pretty South Buck  countryside we will return for some restorative poses and a long yoga nidra designed to help further explore our relationship with connection – to ourselves and to others – in a safe, supportive way.

For more information see www.elisawilliamsyoga.com


Friday, 22 May 2015

THE SIMPLE ART OF MINDFULNESS


To me mindfulness is simply kindness and awareness, being aware of the present moment, but also being very kind to yourself, accepting how you are feeling without telling yourself you shouldn't feel that way. 


If we act with kindness towards ourselves this is a very positive step forward. Mindfulness is also a way of being and behaving in our daily lives. 


We don't have to set aside time to sit quietly on the highest mountain in lotus position and burn incense to pratice mindfulness - although sometimes it's wonderful to try that too! We can pratice mindfulness anytime, anywhere. From staying calm when we're stuck in a traffic jam; to having a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend; to making scrambled eggs; to taking an exam, enjoying a view, walking down the street, cleaning our teeth.




While this kind of practice is not suitable for people with serious mental health problems, it does have huge benefits 
for those with stress, anxiety, pain or depression. 

The idea of mindfulness is that we use our awareness and kindness that we learn to practice in meditation and take that 
with us through the day, generating positivity and gratitude. If we are kind and gentle with ourselves then we can only gain benefits.

Many people avoid any type of ‘mindfulness training’ because they think that it’s complex, new-agey or are afraid that they ‘aren’t doing it right.’ 




Albert Einstein believed, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” I know that my description of mindfulness is basic but I simplify it to 
encourage more people to get into the habit of practicing 
mindfulness regularly throughout the day and reap the 
benefits.

Being fully present in the moment creates mindfulness no matter what you are doing. Mindfulness is about being aware of your surroundings, connecting, and then guiding your 
thoughts in a positive and constructive direction. With practice you'll get better at guiding your thoughts to fine tune a state-of-mind that best fits whatever circumstance you find  yourself in. 

Elisa Williams teaches yoga in West London and runs numerous overseas holidays and retreats www.elisawilliamsyoga.com