Wednesday, 25 March 2015

CHILD'S POSE THE QUIET SEDUCTRESS

Despite its status as a “resting pose,” Child’s Pose can be the Marmite of yoga asana for many people. You either love it or you hate it. 
 
When I started practicing yoga as a mother - eventually of five, finding the time to go to a yoga class was a major effort of planning and delegating. Once I had made it on to my mat I wanted to really go for it. The last thing I wanted during my precious moments of me time  was to curl up like a little mouse and be still.  I could feel myself almost drumming my fingers with impatience and agitation with my desire to move on to something more challenging. 
 
However when I came to do my yoga teachers training and yoga began to take on an increasingly significant role in my life and not just an escape from child rearing, I noticed a shift in my relationship with Child’s Pose too. I no longer felt frustrated by what I perceived as wasted time sitting back on my heels. In fact, I actually began to look forward to it.
 
When I heard the word, “Balasana," any previous frustration melted away and was replaced by respect and a quiet curiosity. With a new found 'teachers mind' I began to explore subtle variations of the pose with my arms, legs and breath. Throughout my many months of teachers training whilst I enjoyed all the challenging stuff, the wisdom, the philosophy and anatomy I started actually choosing Child’s Pose whenever it was presented as an option. 

In my home practice I found myself in Child’s Pose more often based on learning to actually listen to the call of my body, mind, or spirit. Slowly, little by little, practice by practice I had grown to love my nemesis pose.  

Looking back, it's not so difficult to understand why this gentle, humble asana eventually seduced me into its care.



1. Child’s Pose provides respite between effort

Maybe it is an age thing, my urban life of physical work and the demands of a large family  but I now really love the  moments of rest granted by Child’s Pose. 

Child’s Pose provides respite time between my efforts: a moment when I can breathe, recharge and revitalise before asking my body to work again. It encourages me to be grateful for the strength, flexibility, and stamina that allow me to move and experience a full and active life.

Child’s Pose invites me to reflect on the positive changes that come from my yoga practice. 
It appreciates the time and effort I put in when working through challenges. No matter what the outcome.

Child’s Pose inspires me to appreciate my body and its incredible abilities, no matter what my level of practice.

2. Child’s Pose gives me time to take stock

Sometimes, despite my good intentions, I am on my mat, but my mind is miles away.
Child’s Pose gives me time to take stock, to check in and think about why I may be 
distracted or discouraged or apathetic. It offers me a second chance to return my practice in 
a better way, with more intention and focus.

Child’s Pose allows me check in with my body as well as my mind. To scan my body for 
stiffness, tightness, disquiet, fatigue. It encourages me to ask if I should dig deeper. If I 
should be more gentle or I need to take some healing breaths. Or perhaps I simply need to rest.

No matter what I am feeling mentally or physically, Child’s Pose encourages me to explore 
and consider my needs on any given day.



3. Child’s Pose is always there

 Child’s Pose is always there for me. No matter where I am in my practice, no matter what pose or sequence, the door to Child’s Pose is always there with a welcome sign on it.

When I realise my muscles aren't trembling with joy, Childs Pose calls me from the corner 
enouraging me with the assurance that it's there for me should I need it.. Child’s Pose gives me permission to try, fail, rest, and try again. 

Child’s Pose accepts me unconditionally. It knows that on some days I want to explore and others I want to take refuge. That two contradictory thoughts can be part of the same journey.  It doesn't need to know whether I am on the path or off it  rather, it asks me how I want to travel. It reminds me that I don't always have to push and struggle, that can pause and rest along the way.

I can celebrate my successes. I can explore obstacles and reflect on challenges. I can take time to heal, center myself, and redirect my focus. I can set a new intention at any time. And thanks to what I’ve learned from my beloved Child’s Pose, I can do this off the mat as well as on it. 

FOR INFORMATION ABOUT ELISA'S LONDON YOGA CLASSES & OVERSEAS YOGA HOLIDAYS VISIT Elisa Williams Yoga

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

PLANNING AHEAD - YOGA HOLIDAY IN KERALA 2016



Would you be interested in joining us in Northern Kerala for Yoga and relaxation in Winter 2016?

We have just returned from our fantastic winter yoga holiday in Northern Kerala. We were all delighted with our welcome in this unspoilt region, our friendly boutique hotel with its purpose built yoga space, pretty bungalows, gardens, pool and deserted beach. Needless to say somewhere this idyllic doesn't stay a secret for long and our hotel is already getting booked up for next year. Rather than missing out, we have decided to look at our options for next year as soon as possible. To secure our yoga group an exclusive winter booking at this wonderful resort, we are writing to gauge whether there are enough people keen to sign up for the holiday and make their deposits by mid to late April. We appreciate that it is a long way off, however we honestly think you will have the most amazing holiday at a time of the year when sunshine in the Northern hemisphere is in very short supply.


 If you would like to see more photographs of our trip to help make up you decision then please follow this link! 


Friday, 13 March 2015

THE IMPORTANCE OF A STRONG CORE


For many years I suffered from chronic low back pain exacerbated by 5 pregnancies within the space of 7 years. I turned to yoga and eventually to becoming a yoga teachier to see me through those pregnancies and to build up my core strength to see me through my day to day life - stronger and pain free.
Over the 25 years I have been practicing yoga the improvement to my health and wellbeing have been remarkable. My increasingly strong and flexible core muscles have resulted in:
  • less or no back pain
  • faster recovery times from minor injuries
  • faster recovery from child-birth
  • stronger and safer transition between dynamic yoga postures and sequences
  • increased ability to practice dynamic yoga poses mindfully
For more information about Elisa's London classes and overseas retreats please see http://www.elisawilliamsyoga.com








Yoga postures require us to move the body into dynamic positions, which we then hold for extended periods of time. In general, anytime you hold your upper body in a static position, and then move it shortly afterwards, with the spine extended beyond the hips, you incorporate your core muscles.

In yoga, there are a large variety of postures that do exactly that. In an average 60 – 90 minute Vinyasa Yoga class, whether you are aware of it or not, a large majority of the postures that you perform will help bring strength and flexibility to your core. Vinyasa Yoga, if performed mindfully and slowly, with a focus on alignment, is exceptionally good for core training.

At first you keep the core taught and rigid to strengthen it, and then you allow your core strength training to include movement, in order to ensure that your core muscles have a ‘functional’ strength that keeps you safe through all the movements that you perform in your day-to-day life.
Yoga’s all round approach to the body and balancing strength with flexibility is ideally suited to providing practitioners with the benefits of a strong and flexible core.

Visit www.elisawilliamsyoga.com for details of Elisa's West London Yoga Classes, Overseas Yogaa Holidats and Retreats

Saturday, 14 February 2015

LIBERATING THE SIDE BODY

How often in yoga do we find ourselves being forceful in our quest for a deeper backbend or forward bend? Its a habit we are all a little guilty of from time to time. However its possible to change this habit a little by directing a little more attention into opening and move the sides of our bodies. Sidebends stretch out muscles, like the quadratus lumborum, that don't get as much release in forward bends and backbends. By leaning into and breathing into our sides we can send breath through the ribs, lower back, hips, neck, and the entire side portion of the spine. 








ALL OF ELISA'S 2015 LONDON YOGA CLASSES AND OVERSEAS YOGA HOLIDAYS CAN BE FOUND  AT
www.elisawilliamsyoga.com

IN THE MEANTIME TRY SOME OF THE FOLLOWING SIDE STRETCHES 

Cross legged easy pose side stretches
Sit in crossed legged easy poses take a long inhale and then as you exhale walk your hands out in front of you. Take a moment to set the intention to flow breath down the length and bredth of the back and now walk your hands to the right sending breath down the left side of the body via the armpit towards the hip. Keeping sitting bones firmly grounded now walk your hands to the left and breath into the right side befor moving back to midline.

Sitting upright again change the cross of your leg and raise the right arm to the sky while extending the left palm away from the left hip. Soften the left elbow towards the floor - press into the left palm and lean the right arm over head towards the left. Look up underneath the right tricep and draw the right arm out of your peripheral sight while breathing from the right armpit to the hip keep lengthening the right side of the torse while shortening the left. The repeat on the left side. Then take a second foward bend prowling your hands towards the top of your mat.

Kneeling side stretch
Come to kneeling on all fours. Walk the hand to the left of your mat and keep walking them until they come as close as possible to being alongside the toes. Breathe into the right side of the body lengthening the right side while shortening the left. Then repeat walking the hand towards the right side.

Downward facing dog side stretch
Come into downward facing dog. Pivot the heels to the right,  bend your right knee and direct it across the left thigh towards the left. Extend you hips and buttocks towards the left and breath into the right side. Change side pivoting feet so that heels point left bend the left knee and direct it across the right thigh towards the left while extending buttocks towards the right.


Low lunge side stretch variation
Step your right foot between your hands, lower your left knee to the earth, untuck your toes, inhale and raise your arms. Lengthen your tailbone. As you exhale, touch your right fingers to the earth (or a block) and reach your left arm up and over to the right, arcing your left side body. Hold for 5 breaths. Inhale as you raise both arms, exhale and lower your hands, return to Dog, and switch sides.
Swinging standing forward bend
Come to standing at the top of your mat in a forward bend with your feet just wider than your hips. Turn your heels out slightly. Hold the opposite elbows as your spine lengthens and the crown of your head descends. Pendulum your torso loose and free from side to side for five breaths.


Side plank
Step back to plank. Then move into sideplank balancing on the left arm extending the right arm forwards to the front of your mat. Breathe into the right side then change and practice side plank on the opposite side.

Three legged downward facing dog
Return to downward facing dog.
From downward facing dog raise your right leg to the sky. Find your balance and bend your right knee opening the hip as you lengthen through your tailbone. Send energy your hands and breathe into your side body for five long deep breaths, Straighten your leg and level your hips then lower you leg to the ground. Change sides.

Gate Pose 
Step left knee to the ground and extend your right leg out laterally, turn it out and place the sole of your right foot on the ground. Inhals and bring your arms our to the sides at shoulder height as you exhale being the right hand to the top of the thigh or shin and reach over to the right with the left hand. Hold for three breaths then inhale with arms extended parallel to the floor. Then take the left hand over to the left and extend to the right with the right hand. Look up under right tricep. Turn palm of right hand to the sky. Change sides.

Garland Pose
With your feet as wide as your mat, squat, reaching your sitting bones toward the earth. Lift your chest and the crown of your head to the sky. If your heels don't touch the floor, place a blanket beneath them. Bring your hands to prayer at your heart. Hold for 9 breaths.
Squats with standing side bends 
From garland pose, interlace your fingers; as you inhale, stand up, spin your palms to the sky, and reach to the right, bending and lengthening your side body. Exhale back to Malasana. 
Interlace, inhale, stand up, and reach to the left. Repeat this sequence, moving from Malasana to Mountain pose side stretch, 3 times on each side before moving to child's pose to rest.

Side stretch in extended childs pose
In child's pose extend both palm forwards along the ground and then walk hands to the right breathing into the left side then walk hands to the left and breath into the right side.

Come to kneeling upright with toes tucked under resting sit bones on your heels. Interlace fingers interlace fingers as you raise arms above head and take hands first to the right then the left breathing into both sides of the body.

Rest in Savasana




SOME REMINDERS FOR NEW YOGIS



Yoga is harder than we think
This often comes as a surprise to new students. Yoga uses the whole body including some parts of it that may not have been used very often. This realisation can sometimes come as a bit of a kick in the bum. Yoga also involves the mind and the aim of yoga is to make the connection between the two. 
Through a series of yoga poses the body is strengthened and opened. When we practice yoga its really important to respect the body and work with what we've got. There is a yoga class for everyone. If the style or flow of the class doesnt resonate, try different classes. Some are tailored towards the students level of fitness, state of health and age. 

Gymnastics is not required
One of the most common reasons people avoid going to a yoga class is because they think that they aren't flexible enough. There is this widely held view that we will be asked to contort the body into a pretzel and only by doing so will we be practicing yoga properly. We practice yoga to become more flexible both on the mat and more importantly, off it. Its important to remind ourselves that the aim really isn't to become 'good' at yoga. Yoga isn’t about achieving some complicated contortion leave that to the gymnasts. Yoga is about the journey and being present on that journey for every single step of the way.

Yoga teachers are our guides.
Yoga is about energetics and in the same way as any other classroom setting, the teacher is a vital ingredient. My experience of yoga has been hugely enhanced by teachers with whom I really connected. There are so many different styles of yoga nowadays in the west, and almost as many different styles of teachers to go along with them. It really is important to find a teacher that we trust to guide us. It's our personal journey, but the teachers can be help us to read the map to find our own direction.

Yoga is about connecting with ourselves.
Connecting with oneself can sometimes be very uncomfortable. Yoga encourages us to be open and to let whatever comes come. As we begin to connect, we can begin feel a whole raft of emotions and sensations. The commentary that goes on in the brain can create conflict and make judgements. How long am i going to have to hold this pose? I can’t believe I tried this. What on earth was I thinking? Would it be really rude if I just left? 
Its normal, its human. In times such as these, noticing our breath can help to let go of the 
ego, the constant narative in the brain. The breath allows us to settle into the present moment instead of shutting down, closing up shop, and heading out of the door both literally and figuratively. 


Regular yoga practice changes lives. 
 “How often do I need to do yoga to get the benefits?” is a common question from new students. The answer is to practice as much as you can, whether it's once a week, several times a week or every day.Yoga starts to transform us as soon as we begin to practice, in all sorts of ways and the effects of yoga are cumulative. Yoga is healing and also slows down the aging process. Yoga strengthens our body, mind and spirit. It gives us the tools to face life with a sense of peace and resiliency that we might not have experienced before. 

I am grateful for my yoga practice and what it has taught me so far about myself, my life and how to be more present to experience life more fully. It helps me to know myself a little better each day and I am happy as a teacher to be in the position to share what I have learnt so far with others along the way


ALL OF ELISA'S 2015 LONDON YOGA CLASSES AND OVERSEAS YOGA HOLIDAYS CAN BE FOUND  AT www.elisawilliamsyoga.com

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

COMPELLING REASONS TO TRY VINYASA YOGA

Yoga is phenomenally popular these days. There are so many styles to choose from that it can become quite overwhelming to the newcomer. I love most styles of yoga but I do keep coming back to vinyasa flow. Even when my practise is slow, I can't help but link my movement to each breath. I love the liberation this style of yoga brings, the lack of rules, the spontaneity and grace. It is perhaps for this reason that despite all the new styles that keep cropping up in the yoga mad western world, vinyasa flow maintains its popularity. Essentially vinyasa means movement synchronised with the breath. 
So if you havent tried it yet below are some compelling reason why you might like to give vinyasa flow yoga a go.



By flowing breath by breath the mind stays focused

Vinyasa Flow refers to the way this style keeps us moving from asana to asana, linking each pose to an inhale and an exhale.
By timing the flow of movements to the breath the practise becomes smooth and continuous. This can help us to stay present during the class. Its particularly helpful to those of us whose minds tend to wander and stray and it prepares us so the mind can stay focused during longer held poses which often feature towards the end of the class.

Vinyasa flow offers spontaneity.

Vinyasa Flow has a lot in common with Ashtanga yoga, which also links continuous sequence 
through the breath. But while Ashtanga uses a prescribed sequence of poses taught in the 
same way in every class, Vinyasa is a lot more flexible and varied.
The practitioner has the freedom to listen to their own body and mix up the order of their poses. In a Vinyasa class the teacher will often throw in something new and unexpected. It's this “no rules” approach to yoga that appeals to many and means that the practise stay fresh and intuitive. While for repetition is the practise, for others it's the variety that prevents 
us from  falling into the slump that can set in when the  same routine is repeated over and over again.



There's a perfect vinyasa flow yoga class for everyone. 

Since there are no set-in-stone rules about how to structure a Vinyasa class, teachers can weave whatever they choose into the class. They can include different styles of yoga, some play music others prefer the silence that is often unique to yoga.
If one teachers style doesn't resonate then try another. With Vinyasa yoga, studenst can shop around to find the perfect class for them.


Vinyasa flow improves strength, flexibiity and balance.

As Vinyasa is a hybrid derived from a variety of yoga schools, from Iyengar standing poses, Anusara inversions to Kundulini breathing. It combines strength, flexibility and balance with all the holistic benefits of yoga. Depending on the level of the class, this style can really challenge students to discover their physical limits.

Vinyasa flow gets the heart pumping.

The continuous sequence of Vinyasa Flow yoga is great for getting the heart going, even when the pace is relatively slow the practice will increase the heart rate. The breaks come in resting poses like Downward Dog and Childs Pose which serve both as a respite and a time to assimilate the preceding sequence before moving on to the next challenge.


This style of yoga is also great as it enables the body to build its own heat naturally rather than rely on a preheated room.

Vinyasa flow is a great for newbies

Since Vinyasa is so varied, it’s easy to find classes that are tailored to beginners while  still providing a healthy challenge. Its also a great way to learn the basics of pranayama, or yogic breathing, which can be often confusing to newcomers to yoga.  A Vinyasa Flow teacher tells you when to inhale and exhale during each pose as its flows into the next. With practise the breath becomes instinctive. This style is a great way to learn the skills you need to build a strong foundation for a more advanced yoga practice.

Vinyasa flow is fun

With the flowing movements this style feels like a graceful dance! Some teachers using music others simply asking you to listen to your own internal rhythm. It is liberating and fun as nothing is off limits as long as you feel safe in the movement, listen to and respect your body you can simply go with the flow. There is no right or wrong, no dogma no rules. 

So why not give Vinyasa Flow a go?

ALL OF ELISA'S 2015 LONDON YOGA CLASSES AND OVERSEAS YOGA HOLIDAYS CAN BE FOUND  www.elisawilliamsyoga.com

Monday, 9 February 2015

DELICIOUS COURGETTE WITH MINT & BASIL PESTO

sauteed zucchini with mint, basil, and pine nuts



Ingredients

6 courgettes sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
3 tablespoons (or less) olive oil
3 small cloves garlic
10 (or more) mint leaves
5 (or more) basil leaves
1 heaping tablespoon capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted
1 to 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar or white balsamic or whatever vinegar you have
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Additional mint and basil, torn to garnish

Instructions 

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 10-inch pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add half the courgettes and sauté, flipping and turning every few minutes, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. 

Don't salt them yet! 

While the courgettes cook, chop together the garlic, mint, basil, and capers so that they intermingle and turn into a roughly chopped pesto. When the courgettes are golden, remove it from the pan and cook the remaining courgette in another tablespoon of oil, just as you did the first batch. 
Add a splash more oil while you are sautéing. 
Then add the first batch back into the pan, along with the herb-garlic mixture and the vinegar, to taste. 
Add salt and pepper according to taste.
Toss well. Add nuts. Scoop everything out onto a serving plate. 
Right before serving, sprinkle on extra herbs 

Serve with ricotta cheese and crusty bread