I am so delighted to be part of this year’s Pay It Forward Yoga Festival Edinburgh running 13th – 19th Feb 2017 with a full and vibrant programme of all things yoga.  This really is a celebration of yoga that is attempting to shake the image that yoga is just for the fit and flexible, so with that in mind, you can expect something for all ages and abilities, from complete beginners to seasoned yogis.  If you don’t believe me, check out the full schedule here.  Added to that, this festival is extra special as each participant is literally giving another person less fortunate, the chance to experience yoga’s healing benefits. How does this work?  Because each time someone buys a ticket for one of the festival events, the money pays towards a yoga class for someone else out there who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to access or afford it.

So, come and take part, give it a go and give the gift of yoga not only to yourself but to someone else too whilst you’re at it!

You’ll find me teaching a beautiful empowering pregnancy yoga flow at Serenity Cafe on 19th Feb 1:15-2:15PM (please spread the word to your mama-to-be friends)

Or/mama baby

By donation at my usual open ECY Thursday class on 16th Feb at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre Palmerston Place 6:45-7:45PM

Full details www.edyogafest.co.uk 

So, it’s been a very long time since I last wrote a post and a lot has happened in that time.  In the world at large and in my own small universe.  I’ve just returned to teaching after becoming a mum for the first time and was asked the other day, “How are you finding it being back?  Does your body feel different now? Has your practice changed?”

As I sit down to write of my return to teaching, I wonder where to begin.  I feel like I’ve possibly been on the biggest yoga journey of my life so far in the last ten and a bit months of motherhood.  There’s nothing like becoming a mother for the first time to put you face to face with your own daemons that lurk in the recesses of your brain and the tissues of your body after countless long dark sleepless nights, endless hours on the sofa breastfeeding without the movement that your body so craves and the biggest responsibility for life that you have ever known.

As with many challenges in life, there are huge rewards to be reaped, not least in this case having the most beautiful content and smiley little boy who bursts my heart with joy, but I have learnt new depths to the yoga practice too that perhaps until now I was not ready for?

So if you’re facing a challenge or a huge change in your life, good or bad, that asks you to look beyond the physical asana practice of yoga, perhaps due to physical injury or lifestyle, then I invite you to delve into some of yoga’s less sung heroes that certainly helped me to find my feet, my breath, my mind, my sense of humour and most importantly my sense of Self.

Yoga Nidra: I can’t rate this practice highly enough.  I reckon the NHS should start prescribing this as medicine for Western Society!  So many of us are constantly switched on high alert as a result of our fast paced culture of instant everything when what we could all do with is some proper deep relaxation.  The kind of relaxation that is apparently as good as sleep.  Now what new sleep deprived parent or any being for that matter doesn’t need that?  Added to this, to allow for optimal healing, be it physical, emotional or mental, we need to bring ourselves into rest and digest mode and yoga nidra can be a great vehicle for doing this. Check out some lovely yoga nidras here by donation.

Breath or Pranayama: Ask yourself what it is that you need then adopt a breath that reflects that.  It’s something I often invite those who attend my classes to do and beyond weaving a mantra into the intention of the breath, there are some specific breath practices that I have found particularly useful both in times of anxiety and lethargy.  Ujjayi pranayama, simple even inhale and exhale that resonates at the back of the throat.  For me, it literally feels like a breath of fresh air whispering through the tissues of my body, balancing out the kinks, calming down the places that need calmed, energising the places that need energised and with its wave like sound, it’s a breath that I have to say works wonders at helping lull a newborn to sleep in the wee small hours.  Add in some breath retentions and you have an even more powerful tool that literally is like hitting the pause and reset button.  I must admit for a long time I struggled to find my ujjayi breath, but finally, when I stopped trying, it came to me.  So as with anything, practice with ‘Aparigraha’ or non grasping for results and the rest will follow.

Philosophy:  To me, yoga philosophy is another important aspect of my practice.  As much as our bodies like to be challenged, so too do our brains and being able to weave in the “why” yoga works and the “why” we do things the way we do, helps me to unravel and let go of the deep samskaras or imprints on the mind that unless identified will repeat again and again as habitual unhelpful patterns do.  Just as unhealthy foods will make our body and mind ill, so too can unhealthy thoughts. I could write a huge list of the books I would recommend on this subject but one that has really stood out for me is “Yoga And the Quest for The True Self” by Stephen Cope.  It’s a book that integrates Western psychology with Eastern philosophy and reflects on the different lineages of yoga through the story of Stephen’s own yogic journey.

Mantra:  Whether it be the words we speak to ourselves or the resonant hum of a gentle Aum, both are powerful ways to shift our brain chemistry.   Looking down on my post natal body after a few weeks, belly still inflated and swollen, plagued by the images of those celebs who just seem to bounce back to their pre natal bodies within days, I realised the grip that my own false identity had on me.  The false identity that said I must look a certain way to be me.  It has been a daily practice to accept and embrace what is now a different physical body.  To not only accept but to be proud of my torn abdominal muscles, my herniated belly button, for they represent that something greater than “I” exists and something way more important than the Ego Self.  It was useful to stand back and observe those deep routed ideals I had of who I was based on my physical appearance, so much judgement!  This has been one of the biggest still in progress lessons in self love, dropping the Ego and understanding a much deeper beauty that resides on the inside.  My chosen mantra?  “Om Namah Shivaya.”  We’ll cover this one in class soon!

If time is short as it is for many of us, think of this: There are 1440 minutes in the day.  Take off some of those for sleeping and some for work and you’re still left with a good few minutes.  So, let’s make them count with this delicious recipe for not just surviving but for thriving.  5 minutes of breathing first thing in the morning, 5 minutes to read something inspirational or journal or both if you have time, then 10 minutes of yoga nidra at night before bed.  All marinated with an inspiring mantra of your choosing, perhaps just “ I Breathe In Peace, I Breathe Out Tension, All Is Well”  Think of it as an extension to brushing your teeth, to quote another, “self care is not self indulgent, it is necessary”.

mama baby

It’s time for me to say a temporary goodbye as I embark on a whole new joyous journey, one that I think will require me to call on my yoga in a completely new way, (!), as I excitedly step into motherhood for the very first time.

So I leave you with this parting message until we meet on the mat again soon, something I am very much looking forward to.

As the nights draw in and the craziness of the festive season draws many of you away from the quiet contemplation that we so often unbeknowingly need at this time of year, it’s even more important to take time out to take stock, to stop, to stand still and enjoy being present.  If your social schedule is busy, then time on your mat might be spent breathing, doing a yoga nidra, or some restorative poses.  Five minutes is fine if that’s all you have.

With that in mind, I’ve created a short seated sequence that should help to release tension and restore your energy levels in time for that Christmas night out or family gathering…

shoulder sequence

If you’re feeling run down or depleted in sleep, then I’d recommend yoga nidra, or yogic sleep.  Move over power nap, you have nothing on yoga nidra’s ability to leave you feeling revived and ready to roll!  Check out www.yoganidranetwork.org for some lovely downloads.

Also, take the opportunity at this time of year to sow the seeds of intention for 2016.  Last year, I painted the above picture to reflect my own personal desire to start a family, this was my sankalpa for 2014/15 and one that I held very dear to my heart and weaved through mantra and intention on and off my mat.  In times of stillness, think what is it that you would like for yourself in 2016, what is your heart’s longing, what would you like to see grow and flourish? Here’s a great article exploring this concept more with ideas on how to incorporate it into your daily life.  http://www.yogajournal.com/article/lifestyle/resolve-to-evolve/

For those of you on spotify and who have been asking about my recent playlist, here is a link to it:  Spotify Playlist Winter 2015

Lastly, let us remember the meaning of this time of year as a time of giving.  Contemplating that perhaps the best gift that you can give, is giving time back to yourself, so that you can truly and wholeheartedly give to others from a place of loving kindness.  Happy practice on and off your mats my yogi friends!

Namaste…. Caroline xx

Balasana 2 (2)

Now that Autumn has kicked in and the leaves are turning beautiful shades of crimson and red, this is the time when you might start to feel a little bit discombobulated.  Unlike mother nature’s ability to adapt to the change of season, the trees shedding their leaves in complete faith that they will stand tall through winter only to be blessed by budding new leaves come Spring, we may find ourselves feeling twitchy, flighty and ungrounded.

So here’s my go to pose whenever I need to reconnect, ground, chill out and stop spinning out.   Use it between your vinyasa flows or stay here for 10 minutes with a bolster or pillows under your torso.  Breathe in the support of the earth beneath you and breathe out creating space for stillness within yourself.  Enjoy the pause between the inhale and the exhale, take time to switch off and reconnect.

 

supported shoulder stand‘salamba sarvangasana’

This is one of my go to poses when my legs feel fatigued or ‘jumpy’, for the occasional times I experience insomnia or when I just need to shift my perspective, let go of whatever’s playing on my mind and bliss out.

BKS Iyengar describes this pose as the “Mother of asanas.  As a  mother strives for happiness and harmony in the home, so this asana strives for the harmony and happiness of the human system.”

This fantastic pose supports the important thyroid and parathyroid glands responsible for controlling many of the body’s functions.  It stimulates the abdominal organs, so helps with digestion and is a great stress reliever and nerve soother due to the gentle chin lock regulating the blood supply to the head whilst stimulating the vagus nerve, taking us more into the rest and digest mode and away from fight or flight.

For tips on how to get into the pose safely – click here.  For those with a regular practice and no underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, enjoy at least 20 breaths in this pose before coming down.  Pregnant students should avoid this pose in first trimester or if this is a pose not practiced before pregnancy it is not recommended that you start now.  As ever, trust your body, if it feels good to you, great, if not, come out.

Look forward to seeing you back on your mats soon.  In the meantime, give this a try and let me know if this becomes one of your favourite poses too.

 

Yoga with Caroline is back week commencing 13th July – check out my classes for more details of when you’ll find me on the mat.

Meantime, why not keep up the practice by taking to your mat in your own time in your own home or if you practice at work, keep to your regular worktime slot.  I promise it will be time worth spent, even if it’s only ten minutes flowing through the below sequence, just by breathing and moving, you’re going to feel the benefits.  Practicing in your own time really allows you to tune in and go deeper as you start to listen to yourself more, trust yourself more and notice what feels good and what doesn’t.

The Sun A and B sequences are as taught to me by my teacher Claire Missingham in London.

Vinyasa Flow Start

In Sun B – 2 refers to warrior I or Virabhadrasana I, 3 = warrior 2 or Virabhadrasana II and 4 = reverse warrior or  viparita-virabhadrasana and 5 is just windmilling your hands down either side of your front foot.

I’ve added some more sequences below – the idea being that depending on time, mood and energy levels, you could do the full flow, or pick and choose one from each of the three different sections.  Your practice, your choice.  These sequences are merely to give you some ideas, if your body starts to take you off into different poses, listen and follow, be intuitive and go with what feels good for you.

If you are looking for ways to start a home practice but you’re not sure if you’re doing things right – watch this space as I’m currently working on a “Cultivating a Home Practice” half day workshop coming up this September in conjunction with the lovely Nichola Veitch.   We’ll be sharing our tips and techniques to get you confident and ready to rock your asana at home!  Dates and venue to be confirmed.

Vinyasa Flow Middle

Vinyasa Flow End

Summer Solstice Sun Salute

Summer Solstice Sun Salute

Okay so the sun might not be shining right where I’m sitting, not outside at least, but there’s a smouldering flame in my heart as I start the morning celebrating the Summer Solstice.  Added to that, it’s International Yoga Day, so there’s a certain amount of energy in the air.  Perhaps all those yogis across the globe taking to their mats, harnessing their prana has me tuned in and all fired up!?

After an early start and many sun salutations later, I’m radiating from the inside out as I rest down into meditation, softening my gaze and turning inwards to reflect on the achievements and challenges that have arisen in the past few months where the darkness of the long nights has been replaced by the light of the long days.

And now, it’s time to take stock.  What seeds have I sown that have grown into fruition, good and bad?  For me it’s worth noting that being mindful is all important when it comes to wishing for things in your life as I firmly believe, you have to be careful what you wish for!  I ask myself what has worked well?  What is it that I would like for the coming months?  What can be burnt off and what can I invite into my life to nourish and nurture me, so that I can be of better service to those around me and play my albeit small part in making this world a better place?  Some of the answers were clear to me and others are part of my daily sadhana, that daily inquiry that leads me further from external desires and needs and closer to a place of truth that resides deep within.

So, here are some suggestions as to how you might like to celebrate and harness the amazing energy of the Summer Solstice and International Yoga Day.

  1. Traditionally and even still today, many yogis celebrate the summer solstice with 108 sun salutations.  Give it a try, surprise yourself with your own strength and ride the challenge of the fluctuations of the mind as the body starts to tire and then gets reinvigorated by the breath.  Stay with it, enjoy the heat you build and embrace the quality of stillness of mind that comes at the end of the practice.
  2. Practice yoga nidra or a simple meditation in which you plant the seeds of what you would like to grow in the coming months that will bring you closer to your personal goals and true happiness.  Set time aside each day for the next few months to dedicate to this potent yet restorative practice.
  3. Get creative.  Allow some time to brainstorm your top 5 priorities for the coming year.  Where would you like to be in a year’s time from now?  Are you looking for a change of career, would you like to set up your own business, invite love into your life, start a family, or perhaps just start some hobbies that really sing to your soul?  Set the wheels in motion by creating your own mood board that reflects your life’s goals using cut outs from magazines, brochures and photographs.  Stick these images on a blank sheet of A3 paper to create your own collage of what you wish to invite into your life.  Dream big, plant the seeds and who knows what could grow as a result.
  4. Stay grounded.  With all this fiery energy circulating, it’s easy to feel unstable and as though the world is spinning all around you.  Whether walking, sitting or doing your yoga practice, you can always establish your connection to the ground by spreading your toes, (even in your shoes), and noticing where your feet make contact to the earth.  Think about inhaling the breath from the earth through your feet all the way up your body into your lungs and heart space and out again through the earth.  Repeat as many times as needed adding in a mantra such as “Breathing in peace, breathing out peace, I am grounded, I am safe.”  Work with a mantra that resonates with you or simply repeat, inhale, exhale silently in time with your breath.
  5. Seek out some summer solstice songs to set the scene or choose from a selection that I’ve created that are great for inviting light into your life.  https://open.spotify.com/user/1162352495/playlist/0DrLxMkuxH2uJf6i1rz6h8

Enjoy – Happy Summer Solstice and International Yoga Day everyone!

Vasistha = literally means “most excellent, best, richest.” Yoga Journal

Vasistha = literally means “most excellent, best, richest.” Yoga Journal

Turn things on their side, come and find a whole fresh perspective as we explore yoga through sunny sequencing to leave you feeling uplifting and revived.

When and where?

6-7:15pm Wednesday 27th May until 24th June inclusive @ £40 for the 5 week block (block bookings only – numbers to ensure personal attention for each yogi)  Please bring your own mat.  Blankets and blocks provided.

Broughton St Mary’s Church, 12 Bellevue Crescent, Edinburgh, EH3 6NE – also the option to practice in the beautiful secluded walled garden if the sun is shining!

9:30-10:30am Wednesday 27th May until 24th June inclusive @ £30 for the 5 week block or £7 drop in.  Please bring your own mat.  Blankets and blocks provided.

Temple Village Hall, Temple Village, Nr Gorebridge, Midlothian, EH23 4SQ

To book your place or for further info email contact@carolineyoga.co.uk.

Look forward to seeing you on your mats!

Putanjali's 8 limbs of yoga pic

Putanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga

It’s fair to say that for each and every one of us, life doesn’t always go according to plan.  In fact, depending on whether you’re sitting in the glass half full or glass half empty camp, it very often doesn’t go to plan but sometimes, the off plan can be more challenging than others.

Well, you could say it’s been that kind of a year already here but it’s not to say that it’s all been bad.  For as my body and emotions took a roller coaster ride as I encountered the unplanned for, it took me deeper into my yoga practice and for that I am grateful.

When the worse times kick in, that’s when you have the opportunity to reach into the yoga tool box and take out whatever it is your body, emotions and mind need.

It made me realise more than ever before that yoga isn’t all about the asana, the alignment, the physical practice, the pretty shapes we make on our mats, that’s just one small and beautiful part of yoga.  For those of us with an innate desire to move or need to in order to connect with our breath and to get rid of that pent up stress hormone cortisol, this moving element of the practice can be something we cling to, but as in all aspects of our practice, something we should practice to let go of too.

So that when that moment occurs when you too may encounter a period where through lifestyle, illness or injury your body’s need is to convalesce, you are able to use this time to your advantage.  To truly explore what other fantastic gifts yoga has to offer, to relinquish control on how you think life’s great plan should be played out for you and let go of the feeling that somehow you have been dealt the raw deal.  We can use this time to embrace what has been given to us as the lesson that for whatever reason was intended rather than seeing it as a punishment.

Whether it’s singing or chanting, breathing or just being, meditating or being mindful, mudras or mantras or diving into the philosophy of the yamas and niyamas, (all of which make up Putanjalis eight fold path to yoga), we can feel empowered to heal ourselves and who knows, we might just find out more about our life’s purpose on the way.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t happy about my situation.  It was a battle to see anything good about what had just happened but then a book that I ordered came through the post and landed like a thunderbolt on the doormat, just at the point I was contemplating taking to my mat for a ‘gentle’ practice despite my doctor’s advice.  “A Path With Heart” it’s called and just the title made me realise that there was nothing compassionate or kind about moving my body when at this particular time it needed to heal.  There was nothing kind about how I was judging myself for being ‘lazy’ when in fact the term is ‘to convalesce’.

This challenging time in my life has been just that, but we can use these times to realise that this suffering is something that many others have been through, that life is rich with great times but also painful ones, that ultimately, we have shared experiences, that each and every one of us is connected to the other and that we have the capacity in the face of suffering to learn, move on and grow.  As Jack Kornfield rightly said: “Our hearts can grow strong at the broken places.”

Special thanks to Juliette for recommending the book A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield and to all of you for your kind words of support.

If you’re going through a challenging time in your life right now, you might like the following practice adapted from Jack Kornfield’s book:

Healing Meditation:

Sitting in a comfortable seated position.  Begin by noticing how you are feeling as you sit here, is the breath short and shallow or stuck in places, is your mind busy or quiet?  Simply make an observation without judgement.  Now start to notice where the body connects with the ground and as you inhale through your nose, imagine the breath travelling up from the ground to your lungs.  As you exhale, the breath leaves the lungs through the points where the body meets the ground.  Continue this for several breaths and with each inhale, observe the increasing expansion of the lungs, with each exhale a sense of inner calm and connection with yourself and the safe, secure place of being supported by mother earth beneath you.

Now imagine yourself standing in the most beautiful garden, surrounded by flowers, the warming rays of the sun beaming down on you, a stream of water by your side and ahead a beautiful, white temple with a path leading up to it.  Follow the path towards the temple, enjoying the smell of flowers along the way, the trees blowing in the wind, the water of the stream gently flowing.  As you get to the temple, the door is open and you step inside and take a seat.  Sense yourself sitting there, peaceful, calm, happy, quietly meditating.  As you sit there, you allow the wounds or the pain you feel to gradually surface.  You breathe with a gentle soft awareness that allows space for whatever will be to arise.

As you sit here, a hand rests on your shoulder and you are met by a wise person from the temple.  They have come to help you to heal.  They are kind and open hearted and you sense their warmth as they move their hand to the place where your body feels wounded or pain.  As they lay their hands on your pain, they invite you to place your hands on top of theirs and teach you what it is to feel their healing embrace.

With this healing hand, for the first time, you are able to open to the pain rather than run from it.  You are able to let it rise to the surface.  The wise person starts to remove their hands as you continue to touch this place with tenderness and kindness, bringing your attention to what is there.  Is this sorrow hot or cold, does it feel sharp or is it a dull ache?  Name the sensations as they come up.   Allow yourself this time to be with them, knowing at any time, that your breath and the ground beneath you is there to support you.   Peaceful and calm, you are able to open up to these sensations.

Be still here in this healing temple for as long as you can, feel compassion, kindness and healing wash over every cell in your body as you sit here.  When it is time to leave, you offer your gratitude and bow to the alter in the temple.  As you walk back out into the garden surrounding the temple, you feel lighter, happier and closer to being healed.  You leave knowing that this temple is here inside you, a place where you can return whenever you need to.

Namaste my friends.  Cx

SIGN UP NOW FOR THE NEW 5 WEEK VINYASA FLOW YOGA BLOCK:

When: Wednesday evenings from 6-7:15pm in the Drummond Room, Broughton St Mary’s Parish Church, Bellevue Crescent, Edinburgh, EH3 6NE.

Dates: 4th March – 1st April inclusive.  Price: £40 for the block *. contact@carolineyoga.co.uk with any questions or to book your space – places limited.

find your yoga

find your yoga

Blankets and props provided but please bring your own mat.

Previous yoga experience recommended.

*Classes run over 5 consecutive weeks and must be taken within that period.