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18 Jan
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Yoga for back pain? NO deep forward bends. Please.

Stretching can feel great when your back muscles are tight. But deep forward bends are not the way to tackle chronic back pain. In fact, it can make things worse.

An increasing number of yoga teachers are recommending long, deep forward bends for lower back pain. Ask most new-ish yoga teachers how to help a sore lower back and they’re likely to pick a forward bend to 'release' the back. That’s a problem. Especially if there are bulging intervertebral discs involved. Worse still is the emphasis placed on holding the forward bend and the lack of focus on moving safely out of it. Injuries are much more likely to occur during the transition into and, especially after a deep forward bend, out of a position, rather than while holding the posture itself.

So how can yoga help somebody with lower back pain and bulging discs? There are two key steps:

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17 Jan
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Cooling yoga for hot days

Are you feeling the heat? I love hanging out at the beach with my kids in summer, but take me away from the cooling sea breeze and I get a bit hot under the collar (translation: grumpy). Maybe it's something to do with being English, but when the temperature soars, I need to cool down quickly!

Yoga offers some great tools to beat the heat, from cooling breathing techniques to diet and lifestyle changes. I've been practicing Sitali this week, a cooling pranayama (breathing technique) that never fails to beat the heat. If you feel irritable, drowsy or hot and bothered in summer, you can use Sitali throughout the day to take the heat out of things and leave you feeling calm, cool and in control. This video will show you how with a simple, step by step guide!

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16 Jan
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Yoga for cooling pitta dosha on hot days

I get cranky when it’s hot. At first, I just feel tired and everything seems too hard. Then something flips my switch and I’m off. Raging. Every day niggles suddenly becomes unbearable provocations and I find myself giving my son a roasting for the terrible crime of spilling pencil shavings on the rug. So what happens to me when the temperature rises? And what can do to keep calm? The answers can be found in Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science (Ayurveda = ‘Science of Life”). Ayurveda tells us about the three doshas or 'constitutions' - Pitta, Vata and Kapha.

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16 Dec
Posted by Nikola Ellis

3 Yoga Strategies for Coping at Christmas (PLUS free guided meditation)


I’ve got friends who LOVE Christmas. Lucky them. Christmas has always been a struggle for me. Growing up in the UK, Christmas was a time of conflict and I spent many Christmas Day afternoons in bed with one of my mystery tummy aches – a toxic combination of sugar and anxiety.

Volatile at the best of times, my family wasn't at its best when faced with the large quantities of alcohol, close physical proximity and ridiculously high expectations that seemed to be part and parcel of the festive season. I developed stomach cramps by mid morning, tears by lunchtime and retreated to bed some time in the early afternoon.

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27 Oct
Posted by Nikola Ellis

the performing yogi

 

What would my body look like if I didn’t do yoga? I know I wouldn’t feel so good. But would I actually look any different? I ask the question because the imagery of modern yoga directly equates yoga practice with physical attractiveness. While anybody who’s done more than a couple of classes will tell you it’s all about what’s happening on the inside, the external representation of yoga increasingly mirrors the wider cultural obsession with perfecting and then displaying the body.

Yoga is rapidly evolving into a performance art in which the physical form trumps the internal experience. The yoga body has become an object of display and the practice of yoga is no longer a vehicle for exploring our internal, embodied experiences. Instead, it has become yet another arena for creating and broadcasting our idealized selves.

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05 Oct
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Lighten up!

I kick start many of my morning yoga classes in Spring with Kapalabhati. Kapalabhati is an uplifting, detoxifying and energising practise that is often confused with pranayama. Yes, it works with the breath, but it's actually a kriya - a cleansing practice. It's English translation is "skull shining breath" and it really feels like you've cleansed your frontal lobes after a session of Kapalabhati! 

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24 Aug
Posted by Nikola Ellis

TRY YOGA ON THE EDGE

Struggling to find balance in your life? It could be time to take advice from an ancient sage. Patanjali, the father of modern yoga, compiled a book known as the Yoga Sutras around 2,000 years ago. 

 
While the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is the foundation for most of the yoga taught around the world today, don’t look to Patanjali to learn how to align your hips in Warrior 1. The only specific instruction he gives about yoga poses is this: 
 
"Sthira Sukham Asanam."

Steadiness AND ease are required in asana (yoga postures).

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06 Aug
Posted by Nikola Ellis

a day in the life of a yoga teacher

As a yoga teacher, I’m often asked “do you practice yoga every day?” The answer is yes, but not always in the way that you think!

6.30am
My morning yoga practice used to be quite elaborate.  Then I had kids. These days I enjoy 20 minutes gentle stretching followed by 10 minutes meditation - just enough to get me on track for the day. And, of course, even that's subject to the unpredictable schedules of the rest of the family...

7.00am
Ruby (11yrs) and Eddie (8yrs) join me for a few down dogs (which usually ends up being more of an all-in wrestling session on the yoga mat) before breakfast followed by the school run.
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27 Jul
Posted by Nikola Ellis

YOGA, BOOZE AND B.S.

Yoga and alcohol. It’s a bit of a laugh, isn’t it? I mean, who doesn’t love a glass of something fruity after class?

Disclosure – I’m not teetotal. Weekends are super-exciting at our place.  Monday to Friday you’ll find us eating macaroni cheese with the kids and chatting about Minecraft, basketball scores and what other kids have in their lunchboxes. But at weekends, we pack the children off to bed, enjoy some grown up food and indulge in a glass of red wine. We’ve occasionally been known to get through an entire bottle between the two of us over the course of a long weekend. So I’m no wowser.

But I don’t pretend that quaffing wine is part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. I do all sorts of things that don’t reflect my highest values, like shouting at my kids, eating rum and raisin chocolate and using the local rat-run before the 7.45am curfew is lifted. Nobody’s perfect.

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15 Jun
Posted by Nikola Ellis

THE 20 SECOND YOGA ROUTINE

Want to do a home yoga routine but can never find the time? Have you ever decided to do a regular meditation practice, only to find yourself constantly distracted by ‘more important’ things? Here’s the secret: save yourself 20 seconds and you’ll gain several hours to dedicate to your practice.

Willpower alone is not enough to get us into a daily yoga or meditation routine, according to psychologist Shawn Achor. In his book, The Happiness Advantage, he demonstrates the 20 Second Rule that really will get you on your mat every morning. Simply follow the same technique that Achor used to cut down his TV viewing time so that he could be more productive in the evenings.

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