27 July 2009

Yoga quote of the day...

Seeing into darkness is clarity. Knowing how to yield is strength.
(Lao Tse)

Yoga pose of the day

This is a double variation of the double headstand pose, also known as Sirsasana.

The PinkPower Walk

On Sunday 17th of May, the sixth annual PinkPower Walk took place. This year's walk was slightly different from previous years as it was a 16-mile walk (setting out from Richmond Park and finishing in Barnes), whereas in previous editions it was either a marathon or half-marathon event. I am pleased to announce that an amazing £160,000 has been raised from this year's walk, with money raised going to two charities, Breakthrough and the Caron Keating Foundation, both of which raise funds for research into breast cancer.

What is the PinkPower Walk?

The PinkPower Walk came to exist after a I and a group of five other women applied to take part in another breast cancer fundraising event, only to be not given a place. Far from discouraging us, this disappointment actually inspired us to set about creating our own event and with the cooperation and participation of friends and family, we were able to gather together 38 participants for the first walk, raising approximately £39,000…

The team...

The team consists of six friends: Anne, Cathy, Christine, Hester, Rhiannon and myself. Two of the original team members have since relocated; Libby, who has returned to Canada but continues to make an annual visit to London in order to participate, and Kate, who now lives in the north of England but who is hoping to set up a northern PPW event. It may seem like a cliché, but it is surprising what can be achieved when a group of women get together around a kitchen table.

It is a close-knit team; we have laughed and cried together and probably discussed most topics under the sun while organising the annual walk. I think that what really draws everyone together is the fact that all who participate are volunteers, giving up their time to come and support such a worthwhile cause.

Some figures...

During the walk's six-year history, we have raised more than £600,000 for the two charities. We have been to the breast cancer research centres in London to see how and where this money has been spent and it is comforting to know that all of the participants and their sponsors are playing a part in finding a cure for this horrible disease. In short, I am very proud to be a part of this event. Roll on 2010!

Cherie Lathey.

23 July 2009

The Credit Crunch: what to do you when you run out of ideas

Was going to give this post the following title: Lakshimi, or how the Royal Bank of Scotland resorts to Hindu deities to overcome the Credit Crunch... but unfortunately it was a tad long.

It would appear that the Credit Crunch is really start to hit where it hurts most... one's pockets! It becomes even more daunting when your bank starts sending you Hindu deities, Lakshimi (money goddess) to be precise, as a means of solving our financial worries.

I cannot help but ask myself what they will think of next: free fortune cookies when you open a saver's account; stockbroking with Mystic Meg; telephone banking with Lady Luck; free money trees for online bankers... but my personal favourite (a surefire success) are Googlemaps or GPS systems with directions to the end of a rainbow, and a free toy leprechaun for your car thrown in for short measure!

Yoga pose of the day

Camel Pose variation, originally uploaded by yogamama.co.uk.

This is a variation of the Camel Pose.

Yoga or Pilates?

Many people often ask me what the difference is between yoga and pilates and if there is point practising one if they already practice the other.

What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice and can be traced back more than 5000 years to India. The word yoga means “to yoke”; a union of mind, body and spirit, making it a spiritual tradition. Yoga aims to purify the mind and body, and the Eight Limb Path practiced in some yoga traditions offers ethical principals to follow. By following this path, it is said one can transcend the ego and awaken the spirtual energy hidden within, revealing our highest capabilities.

The physical practice of yoga poses (asanas) is what many people in the West are attracted to initially. The physical effects (toning, lengthening and strengthening of the body) and the feelings of well-being brought about by practising yoga is what can often be the start of a yogic journey… A journey within.

What is Pilates?
Pilates is a much newer practice in comparison to yoga. Joesph Pilates created this system in the early 20th century in order to assist his recovery from injury and poor health. He used his knowledge of the physical body to create a system based very much on the core (abdominal and back muscles), incorporating breathing techniques while performing exercises. Controlled repetitive actions are performed to tone and strengthen the body. Posture and alignment are improved and a feeling of well-being and bodily awareness is created.

There is a big cross over in terms of the physical practice of these two disciplines. Many of the poses performed in pilates come directly from yoga. The core strength used in Pilates is also present in yoga. The ancient yoga practice of Moola Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha (root lock and upward flying lock) esentially strengthen and lift the pelvic and abdominal area, toning the perineum and the transverse abdominals.

Should I practice both?
As mentioned above, there are a lot of similarities between yoga and pilates. It is now quite common to find classes using a fusion of the two, therefore – in some ways – allowing you the best of both worlds. Not all yoga teachers will teach core strength (Moola Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha) in their classes . Students of BKS Iyengar do not mention these words, but do activate abdominal muscles while practising yoga. Concentrating purely on this area in pilates can be of real benefit to your yoga.

I think you can combine the two disciplines. Yoga - unlike pilates - has its foundation in a (non-religious) spiritual practice, which ultimately could determine the path one is drawn to. Those looking for spiritual enlightenment will be attracted to the study of yoga and its ancient traditions; whereas those looking to strengthen and tone the body whilst using breathing techniques will be drawn to Pilates... The choice is, as they say, yours!

Cherie Lathey (yoga mama) - yoga teacher and advanced personal trainer

Yoga quote of the day...

Our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure.
(Rainier Maria Rilke)

Poem from Khalil Gibran

Let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure.
And sink not the depths of your knowledge with staff or or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.
Say not “ I have found the truth”
But rather “ I have found the soul walking along my path”
For my soul walks along all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

Khalil Gibran

22 July 2009

Khalil Gibran - The Prophet

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that
encloses your understanding. Much of your pain
Is self- chosen. It is the bitter potion by which
The physician within you heals your sick self.

Khalil Gibran - The Prophet

Yoga pose of the day

This pose is known as the Double Downward Facing Dog.

Yoga quote of the day...

Who sees all being in his own self, and his own self in all beings, loses all fear.
(Isa Upanishad)

21 July 2009

Yoga pose of the day

Warrior II variation, originally uploaded by yogamama.co.uk.

This pose is the Warrior II variation.

Yoga for runners

Yoga can be extremely beneficial to anyone who runs on a regular basis. There are a number of reason why this is the case. Firstly, runners often develop injuries especially when they are training for an event, increase their distance or come to running later in life; which makes finding the correct footwear essential. This is also applicable to practising yoga, as any problems in the feet (fallen arches, high insteps, etc...) will have an effect on the alignment of the body, thus affecting postures.

Secondly, If you develop knee, back, ankle, hip or shin pain, it is advisable to look into your style of running early on, rather than to continue running with pain, as is sometimes suggested. Most runners pronate or supinate in varying degrees, and this can often be rectified by the use of appropriate training shoes and/or orthotics.

Some of the common injuries associated with running are:

  • Runner's knee
  • Shin splints
  • Achilles tendonopathy
  • Iliotibial band syndrome (ITB)
  • Lower back pain
  • Hamstring injuries

The breathing patterns of runners can sometimes affect the upper limbs. The upper back (thoracic spine) can become tight and shoulders may experience restricted movement.

Yoga poses help to bring balance to the body. Often, when in standing poses, you are asked to lift the inner arches of the feet and push into the outside edge of the foot. This strengthens both the foot and the ankle, thus engaging the inner thigh (adductor muscle). Students are encouraged to feel all four corners of the foot (something that runners do not generally do). By working on alignment, yoga poses can help to alleviate muscle imbalances.

Also, poses can be modified with props to accommodate injuries, thus allowing you to continue practising yoga while your injuries heal. Muscles are lengthened and strengthened in a yoga practice, and joints have an increased range of motion, therefore decreasing the likelihood of further injuries.

Poses that bring balance and stability to the knees, ankles and stretch the upper back and shoulders are:

  • Virabhadrasana I and II (Warrior one and two)
  • Vrksasana (Tree pose)
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog)
  • Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining hand to foot pose)
  • Sukhasana (Easy seated pose)
  • Utthita Balasana (Extended child’s pose)
  • Virasana (Hero Pose)
  • Trianga mukhaikpada paschimottanasana (One-legged folded forward bend)
  • Bharadvajasana (Sage twist)
  • Jatara Parivartanasana (Reclining twist)

As someone who has run a marathon, half marathons and many 5km fun runs, being a yoga teacher and using these poses has enabled me to continue running relatively pain free.

Yoga quote of the day...

No one is wise by birth, for wisdom results from one own's efforts.

20 July 2009

Yoga pose of the day

Handstand variation, originally uploaded by yogamama.co.uk.

This pose is a handstand variation.

Yoga quote of the day...

Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about Creating yourself.
(Source unknown)

Recommended yoga reading

I heartily recommend the book Ashtanga Yoga written by David Swenson, a must-read for anybody interested in this particular style of yoga, which translates into English as follows:
Ashta=Eight Anga=Limb Yoga=Union (The Eight Limbs of Yoga)
David has been practising yoga since he was 13 years old and has made a life-time study of the Ashtanga series. The book looks at both the primary and intermediate series, and also offers some short forms of the practice, which are particularly useful for when time is restricted. I love the way David has put variations for all the poses. He offers at least three different options for each pose, thus making the Ashtanga series available to all.

Having studied yoga with David back in the early 90's, I don’t think this book reflects his sense of humour, which has to be experienced by meeting the man in person. The book does, however, reflect his amazing wisdom of the Ashtanga Series as taught to him by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

I use this book as my yoga bible and take it with me wherever I go. I also use it as a reference book when I need to look for any technical adjustments. I believe the poses shown in the book are very accurate and guide the student through a safe yoga practice.

Although books can be extremely useful to all yoga students, it is always a good idea to seek the guidance of a qualified teacher, before you progress to Mysore style self-practice.

19 July 2009

Yoga quote of the day...

The highest form of maturity is self inquiry.
(Martin Luther King Jr.)

Recommended yoga reading

I would highly recommend The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown, published by Godsfields press.

It is a very informative yoga book, with lots of great photos to guide you into positions. I would not recommend it to beginners, as I think many of the poses in the book are better suited to advanced yoga students. I have given this book to a number of my students, who travel a lot, as the pocket size format is ideal for them.

While we are not looking for perfect poses, I think the photographs in this book demonstrate very good alignment and technique, and introduced me to a few poses I had not seen before.

This book does not adhere to anyone style of yoga, but certainly comes under the wide Hatha yoga umbrella.

Yoga pose of the day

Headstand Sirsasana A, originally uploaded by yogamama.co.uk.

This is called the Sirsasana A pose, or as it more commonly known, the headstand.

16 July 2009

Pose of the day

Bakasana (Crow Pose), originally uploaded by yogamama.co.uk.

This pose is called the Bakasana, otherwise known as the Crow Pose.

Yoga and pregnancy

Pregnancy is a great personal journey for any woman and is a time of mental and physical change. It can also be a challenging time, as adjustments need to be made as the body starts to change shape.

A pregnancy yoga practice can help address some of these changes in a positive way. Women who practice yoga during pregnancy are able to be really present in their bodies and connect with their unborn child. Yoga has a calming effect on the mother, which is, in turn, transmitted to the baby.

Breathing techniques learnt in prenatal yoga can be used at anytime during pregnancy and many women find them very useful when giving birth. Focusing on the breath can have a profound effect; by learning to control breathing a women can feel empowered and more in control of her thoughts and her body.

Pregnancy yoga differs from general yoga classes, in that many of the classical poses are adapted to accommodate changes in the body. Twists are open, poses are fluid and nurturing for the mum-to-be, creating space in the body and helping to alleviate some of the common ailments often associated with pregnancy such as backache, heartburn, swollen limbs etc.

By practising yoga, the body is strengthened and toned; and many women find that it takes them less time to regain their shape and fitness after giving birth. On top of this, spending time in a pregnancy yoga class with other women can be an emotionally bonding experience and many friendships are formed at this time.

Q. When can I start prenatal yoga

A. During the first trimester, less is best, as the body is adapting to the changes in hormones and your baby is fast developing. Breathing techniques are encouraged and rest is very important at this stage. Fatigue can sometimes be overwhelming and allowing yourself to rest can be challenging in itself. For all these reasons, many yoga teachers and the British Wheel of Yoga recommend starting yoga after the sixteenth week of pregnancy.

Q. Do I need to have practiced yoga before?

A. It is not necessary to have any prior knowledge or experience with yoga before joining a prenatal yoga class.

Q. can I practice yoga with SPD or groin pain?

A. You can practice yoga with these conditions and there are some poses that are beneficial to them. However, always consult your teacher and inform them before you attend class and they will give you appropriate poses to practice.

Q. Can I practice yoga with back pain?

A. Yes, you can practice yoga with back pain provided it is not acute. Many poses are very effective in helping ease back pain. Always consult your yoga teacher before class.

Q. When should I stop prenatal yoga?

A. Many women continue to practice yoga up until shortly before their babies are born.

Q. What should I wear ?

A. Loose, comfortable clothing is required.

Quote of the day

Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah
When you stop identifying with your thoughts, fluctuations of mind, then there is yoga,identify with self, which is Samahdi, happiness, bliss and ecstasy.

Yoga quote of the day...

The mind is everything; what you think, you become.

15 July 2009

14 July 2009


Om is the original and most powerful mantra. It is the primal sound of the divine in its essential manifestation. In the beginning was the word and the word was God (Om).

Yoga pose of the day

This pose is called the Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, more commonly known as the Upward-Facing Dog pose.

Yoga quote of the day...

Knowing others is intelligence. Knowing yourself is true wisdom.
(Lao Tse)

13 July 2009

Yoga chant

This is a popular Sanskrit chant used in many classes (with a translation into English). As you can see, the aim of the chant is to create peace and harmony in our lives and be inspired to carry out actions that benefit all beings, human and non-human alike.

Lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom to all.

Yoga Pose of the Day: Prasarita Padottanasana

Prasarita Padottanasana: Wide-Legged Forward Bend
Prasarita Padottanasana: Wide-Legged Forward Bend - © Yoga Mama

Prasarita Padottanasana, originally uploaded by yogamama.co.uk.

This pose is called the Prasarita Padottanasana, otherwise known as the Wide-Legged Forward Bend.

Yoga and addiction recovery

It is reported that one in three of us suffer from some form of addiction. Addictions break up families, destroy communities and can take on many forms: alcohol addiction, drug addiction, eating disorders, gambling addiction, sex addiction, smoking addiction, to mention but a few.

Addictions are habits that have spiralled out of control. The use of the chosen substance becomes a necessity, as the brain and the body’s chemistry changes and develops a physical and/or mental craving. Quite often the person suffering from the addiction is completely unaware that there is a problem and, even when it is pointed out to them, they will find it very difficult to acknowledge the situation is causing any problems, which is known as “denial”.

Addiction is a symptom and can be treated. By uncovering the underlying causes and taking action, one can move from the darkness of addiction back into the light of recovery. All aspects – be they mental, physical or spiritual - need to be addressed. Twelve step programmes of recovery are being used globally to help people recover from addiction.

Many people with addiction problems find it very difficult to be present and will commonly “act out” or use their substance of choice in order to change the way they feel. They may have low self-esteem and body image issues and will be looking outside of themselves to fix this situation.

The use of yoga to help break addiction patterns is growing. Body centred treatments such as yoga, acupuncture and massage; along with traditional therapy are on the increase and are being used in many treatment centres.

Yoga cultivates bodily awareness in a kind, nurturing way. It allows students to start connecting with the body and breath and learn to sit and look within. Compassion for oneself arises and a new ability to deal with stressful situations - that would have you reaching outside of yourself - start to manifest, positive change. New coping strategies and changing patterns start to emerge, bringing about change both on and off the mat.

A gentle physical yoga practice will bring steadiness to the mind and help to detoxify the body. Many of the poses have a positive effect on the areas of the body that are most often affected by abuse. Internally, organs are gently massaged and the heart and lungs can be used more efficiently. The practice of deep breathing (pranayama) fills every cell in the body with rich oxygenated blood. Poses like the downward facing dog bring about a new perspective, looking at the world from a different angle. Light back bends bring about an opening in the chest and solar plexus area, encouraging the elimination of stored hurts (both real and perceived).

Here are some poses (asanas) that are useful in recovery:

  • Paschimottanasana - seated forward bend
  • Balasana - child's pose
  • Downward facing dog - or extended child’s pose.
  • Camel pose - back bend
  • Apanasana - knees to chest or wind producing pose
  • Seated or lying twists.
  • Viparita karani - shoulder stand variation (supported)
  • Savasana - corpse pose
“As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your own mind. If you feel bound, you are bound. If you feel liberated you are liberated.”
The yoga sutras of Patanjali.

Look within, do not look without.

Yoga quote of the day...

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.
(Chinese proverb)

12 July 2009

11 July 2009

Yoga pose of the day

Utthita Trikonasana, originally uploaded by yogamama.co.uk.

This pose is called the Utthita Trikonasana, otherwise known as the Extended Triangle.

Yoga quote of the day...

Achieving goals by themselves will never make us happy in the long term; it's who we become, as we overcome the obstacles necessary to achieve our goals, that can give us the deepest and most long-lasting sense of fulfilment.
(Anthony Robbin)

10 July 2009

Yoga quote of the day...

Consort only with the good, come together with the good. To learn the teaching of the good gives wisdom like nothing else can.
(Samyutta Nikaya I, 17 )

Urban yoga

Yoga is a growing form of exercise and grew by 18 per cent last year. As the global recession has taken hold, many people are looking at ways of reducing stress in their lives and are improving their quality of life.

Initially, most people in the West come to yoga for the poses (asana). However, there is also a great deal of media exposure about celebrities who practice yoga on a regular basis. Stars such as Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sting and many more are known to practice some form of yoga, and, given their popularity, people may have come to consider them as examples to follow.

Once on the yogic journey many students start to realise that, apart from toning their bodies, some other changes have started to happen. They feel calmer and have more clarity, feel less stressed and more energised. By practising breathing techniques (pranayama), you can have more control over your mind and body; all this while still living in the city.

08 July 2009

Yoga quote of the day...

Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.
(author unknown)

07 July 2009

Yoga quote of the day...

In your actions and in your conversation do no idle thing. Speak not idle talk neither gossip.. and do not give way to evil behaviour.
(Five Nations )

06 July 2009

Yoga quote of the day...

It is true that there is light in the end of every tunnel. But there need not be any light in the end if you blindly believe that you are in the tunnel.

05 July 2009

Yoga quote of the day...

Nowhere has the creator designed any gem other than women. For, this gem gives delight to men, when it is heard of, seen, touched or even remembered; for its sake are done meritorious deeds, and wealth amassed; and from that alone do men derive worldly pleasures and offspring. Such women are indeed the Goddesses of fortune living in mortal abodes. Hence they ought to be honoured always with respect and wealth.
Vaharamida, a poet and astrologer from 2000 years ago

04 July 2009

Yoga quote of the day...

Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play is your own will.
(Jawaharlal Nehru)

03 July 2009

Yoga and Tennis Injuries

Tennis is a sport that combines strength, endurance and has explosive unpredictable complex patterns. Common injuries that are often associated with recreational tennis are: rotar cuff tendonpathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, tenosynovitis (inflammation of the tendons) and ECRB (tennis elbow); as well as other back and knee injuries.

How can yoga help?

The shortening of muscles and lack of adequate strength is a common cause of tennis-related injuries. This is especially relevant to people with sedentary jobs who may not be accustomed to the rigours of strenuous exercise.

The regular practice of yoga can help strengthen and mobilise joints such as the shoulders, hips and ankles. Many poses, particularly those focusing on balance, help stabilise the ankle and knee joints; whereas, hip-opening poses improve the range of motion in the hip joint. These poses, combined with abdominal strength (uddiyana bandha) and controlled twists, allow the body to move safely in the various directions needed in order to play tennis.

Yoga is the perfect partner for any tennis player looking to stay injury-free. It has positive effects on coordination, balance, flexibility, strength and also allows you to gain a greater awareness of your body and your capabilities; all of this while maintaining a calm, positive approach to life and the game. It is, therefore, no surprise that so many top sportsmen and women are turning to yoga to assist them in their chosen sport.

Yoga quote of the day...

A life whish is whole, noble and full of clarity is an imperative for survival. It is not a utopia nor a luxury, but a necessity.
(Krishnamurti quoted by Satish Kumar)

02 July 2009

Yoga quote of the day...

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
(Albert Einstein)

01 July 2009

Eastern Body, Western Mind

I would highly recommend Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith and is published by Celestial Arts. It is an amazing book focusing on the "chakra system" that should be read by anyone interested in taking up or furthering their knowledge of yoga.

The author has managed to bring a very fresh approach to yoga-based, eastern chakra work; while, at the same time, ensuring that it is highly readable and provides great insight into how we (in the West) tick. Anyone looking to discover more about themselves – be it physically, mentally or spiritually - will gain a lot from reading this book..

I will leave you with a quote from John Friend, founder of Anusara yoga, regarding the book:

“Eastern Body, Western Mind is the most well organised, readable description of
the deep order of manifestation of supreme consciousness within the human
body/mind ever written”.

Yoga quote of the day...

Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree, in the midst of them all.
(The Buddha)