5 Things you didn’t know about Yoga

  1. It originated in India about 5,000 years ago
    Even though it’s just become super popular, the practice has been around for a long time.
  2. It can help reduce pain in the body.
    Certain poses can be used consistently to strengthen your muscles, for example, in your back to reduce back pain.
  3. There are different kinds of yoga.
    It’s not just about slowly moving through poses which some think is “boring”. There is also fast paced yoga called Vinyasa which keeps you moving through asanas fairly quickly.
  4. “Yoga” means to “unite” in Sanskrit
    Sanskrit is the original language for yoga. You can think of this union in any way you like. The mind, body and spirit, you and the world around you- whichever union you prefer to keep you motivated.
  5.  Each yoga pose (asana) has its own original name in Sanskrit.
    For example, the wheel pose is called Urdva Dhanurasana.

 

Photo by CATHY PHAM

Thanks for reading,

Maria

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Review of the Yogi Bare Paws Mat

Some of you may be aware that I’ve been wanting a new yoga mat for many months. I wrote a post a while ago called “My hunt for a new yoga mat” where I spoke about the questions I had when thinking about buying a new yoga mat. Click here to have a look at the post.  It was basically a way for me to put my questions and my research together when looking for a new mat.

Months went by and I still hadn’t decided which mat to go for from which company. Do I spend more money in the hope that it’s a better quality mat and will last me longer? Which thickness should I look for? Stuff like that. Eventually, in December I went to a store called Decathlon and ended up buying one of their yoga mats for £20. It said it had good grip, I didn’t try it out in the store because I didn’t want to ruin the packaging, however, when I brought it home and tried it out, I was really disappointed. My hands and feet slipped (so much!) in downward dog. I actually felt like the mat itself was stretching slightly too which certainly was not good for me. This led me to decide that a. I needed to return that mat because I was not satisfied, and that I was going to pay more than I originally wanted to, in the hope that I would get a better quality mat.

There are a lot of popular mats out there, many companies on Instagram advertising their mats, and many well known brands such as alo and liforme. But considering they were around £70 – £100, I thought that was just too much compared to what I was comfortable spending. I came across the brand Yogi Bare and saw that their mats were more affordable than others I’d seen and claimed to have very good grip. I also like the way they branded the paw with the king pigeon pose too, added plus I suppose! Anyway, I bought their Yogi Bare Paws mat in red and so far, I am happy with it. As it is made out of rubber, it has a bit of a weird smell, though over time I imagine that will fade.

Good to know:

Its quite heavy.
I used to take my old mat on holiday with me as it was fairly light, however there’s no chance of me doing that with this one.

Initial smell
If you are a bit sensitive to smells, be prepared. It wasn’t that bad but it was something I noticed straight away.

No slip
My hands and feet did NOT slip in my first downward dog and haven’t slipped in any since!

It’s a bit hard
I don’t know what mat you are used to but my old one was a little bit cushion-y. So when I knelt on it, my knees sunk into it a little. As I have slightly bad knees, I did notice that this mat is a bit harder on them. But not enough so that it hurts them. And my headstands and forearm stands do not hurt my elbows, so it’s not bad.

I would recommend this mat, if you’re looking for one. It costed me less than £50, it looks and feels durable and well made, doesn’t feel like it’ll break apart soon. It’s 4 mm thick, and, almost most important of all, I don’t slip.

Hope this has helped! Check back in with me weekly for new posts!

Thanks for reading,

Maria

❤️

5 Ways to Use a Yoga Wheel

In a previous post “Yoga Props! What they are and how they can help” I gave a bit of information on different yoga props that exist and I spoke a bit about the yoga wheel. Click here to read more.

What is a yoga wheel?
Basically, a yoga wheel can be made out of different things but ultimately they are made out of PVC, others out of other blends of plastic and other materials. The purpose of the wheel is to be strong enough to support your weight in many different poses and positions. It’s a great way to change and challenge your practice, it especially helps you work on your balance!

What can it be used for?
Like other yoga props out there, the yoga wheel is there to support you in poses that you maybe can’t yet fully do and perhaps allow you to push yourself further in poses you can do.

5 Ways to use the wheel!

  1. To open up your chest and shoulders
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  2. To support you in difficult poses e.g. backbends like kapotasana
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  3. To steady your forearm stands
    Place the wheel between your hands and go into the forearm stand as normal. I don’t personally use my wheel this way, but it works for many people.
  4. To mix up your workouts & core workouts
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    This is just a funky way to include the wheel in a core workout. You’re still doing the crunch but the added weight of the wheel and the act of moving it back and forth is a way to engage your mind a little more.
  5. Practicing handstands and handstand presses20180205_131146_1

This core work also makes your arms and hands become used to supporting your body’s full weight. Also building the core strength here is a great way to prepare for handstands and handstand press as these are the main muscles that will be used.

Thanks for reading, I hope this has helped give you more of an insight into how to use your yoga wheel!

Don’t forget to check back with me weekly for new posts and click the follow button to subscribe!

Maria

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Goals: 2018

In one of my previous posts, “Resolutions”, I talked a bit about making goals/resolutions for the new year and how to perhaps make those goals a bit more attainable and manageable. Click here if you want to have a read. 

Today I’m going to discuss a bit about certain goals I’m making for myself this year and I’m going to show you how I’m planning on making them more manageable, measurable and therefore a bit more attainable. In order to make it a bit more focused I’m just going to give a more detailed insight into my fitness goals for 2018.

Goal one: Be Stronger
So being “strong” can mean so many things to different people. Do I mean it in the physical sense? Do I mean being more emotionally strong? I’ll break it down for you here with a few mini- goals:

  1. Increase arm strength
    I will do this by:
    Lifting my weights as often as possible (try to lift at least 4 times a week- mini goal)Increase amount of reps.
    I recommend setting mini goals for stuff like this so, currently for me, my dumbbells are 4kg each and at the moment I can only do about 10 bicep curls to overhead presses. My mini goal is to increase that to 20 reps in 3 weeks. So, what I’ll do is look at today’s date on my calendar, count exactly 3 weeks and write in the calendar/diary that my goal is to achieve that by that date. Having a closer deadline makes the goal a bit more real and will, therefore, help you focus more. Once you nail that deadline, increase the goal. Maybe I’ll go up to 35 reps in the next 3 weeks after that and keep going.
  2. Increase Core Strength
    Incorporate core work into yoga practice e.g. chaturanga holdsDo core work at least 3 times a week
  3. Do proper workouts
    By this, I mean proper HIIT / Cardio/ interval training workouts. I also have DVDs like P90X and T25 that I have loved in the past that I just really need to get into the good practice of doing again. One thing that has held me back from these workouts is the problem I have with my knees. However, I’ve had them X- rayed and just need to know the results and how to go forward with healing them and making sure I don’t have problems with them again. Once the knees are good I’m going to try to incorporate, for example, three sessions of T25 a week to then increase eventually to 5.

Goal two: Increase my yoga practice time

This goal is slightly more straightforward but can be split up. So I can sit here and say, in a week, how much time do I spend practising yoga? Let’s take an example from a bad week. So, on a worse week, maybe because I have deadlines for uni or other stuff going on, for example. Therefore, I might only spend an hour that week, maybe from three 20 minute sessions throughout the week. In order to increase that, my mini goal will be:

1. Increase yoga practice to at least an hour and a half each week.

If I must, that can be 3 half an hour sessions or maybe one full hour and one half. In my mind, if I increase it just a little and start to make time for yoga, then slowly it’ll be easier to make more time and then my overall practice per week can be much longer. For me, it would be harder to go from doing yoga for an hour a week to an hour a day straight away.

2. Practice more of a variety of poses and work on my weaknesses e.g. forearm stands, handstands, hip openers, etc.

The beauty of these two goals is that they overlap. So as I increase my overall body strength with goal one “be stronger”, this will also improve the quality of my increased yoga practice for goal two. This is because, with more core and arm strength I will be more comfortable holding myself in difficult poses such as handstand, Firefly and other poses that I’ve never been able to do before, while also aiding my practice overall. By the end of this year, one thing I’d love to be able to do is to hold a handstand for at least 10 seconds. It doesn’t seem like that much of a long time, but right now I can only hold it for about 2 seconds so it would be a great improvement. I’d be over the moon if I could nail that goal throughout the year and hold it for even longer at the end of 2018. Just gotta make sure I keep up with my current goals and I’m sure it will happen!

If you would like to talk a bit more about making goals a bit more manageable or just breaking them down feel free to get in contact! Comment on this post and alternatively, you can follow me / DM me on Instagram @yogajourneybymaria

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post, please check back with me next week for more new content!

Thanks for reading,

Maria

❤️

 

Meditation

I feel like there’s a lot of negative views of meditation out there and for a lot of people, if you mention it they’re like no I’m not going to sit there and say “ommmm”. “It’s stupid” is another thing I’ve heard. Why is this? Not only people practising yoga incorporate meditation into their lives, so why do people think it is such a weird/ silly thing to do?

What is meditation?

Meditation can be a considered to be a state of mental peace and tranquillity. A time where you can take the time to observe your thoughts and feelings without stressing about them or giving too much attention to them. To some, the point is to be calm, thoughtless and just ‘present’.

How can you meditate?

People meditate in many different ways, it kind of just depends on what works for you. It is said that someone can be doing their daily job yet meditating while someone who is sitting on top of a mountain with crossed legs may be very far from meditation. One method of meditation is focusing on your breath. The point of this is, if you are focusing on the way that you are breathing, any thoughts -good or bad- that come to you aren’t paid attention to. Then, as time goes on, you may find that you don’t quite have to concentrate so hard on your breathing and you’ve actually become calm.
An interesting way of breathing during meditation is to inhale and exhale for increasing amounts of time. For example, inhale for 6 seconds, exhale for 6 seconds and work on increasing that number each time.

What are the benefits of meditation?

  • Meditation is known to help reduce stress
  • May help you fall asleep
  • Improve concentration
  • Increase in well- being
  • Less likely to have symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • Improves immunity

It’s not all about sitting in lotus pose saying “ommm”. Some people are helped with their own noise. Perhaps concentrating on making the “omm”s as long as possible is a way of monitoring your breath and if that works for you, then great! But there are loads of different methods out there, try not to reject the idea of meditation without trying it because I’m sure there is a method out there that can help everyone!

Thanks for reading, check back with me weekly for more content!

Maria

❤️

Bandhas- what they are and how they can enhance your yoga practice

After practising yoga for a little while and following yogis online, I kept coming across this term ‘bandha’.

So, what is it? In Sanskrit, Bandha means to lock, hold or tighten. It relates to different areas of the body that you can “lock” to gain more control of what your muscles are doing. The three “main” bandhas are the Mula Bandha (the pelvic floor muscles), the Uddiyana Bandha (the abs up to the diaphragm) and the Jalandhara Bandha which is in the throat.

However, there are more than just those three, for example, the Hasta Bandha which are in the palm of the hands and the Pada Bandha are in the soles of the feet.

In a more spiritual way of thinking about it, bandhas are a way of directing the flow of the energy inside you. When you engage a bandha you focus the energy and the outcome is a body in full control.

How do you engage your Bandhas?

For example, to engage the Uddiyana Bandha in the abs, you pull your belly button in towards your spine and up towards your diaphragm. Why would you want to do it? It will help you gain more control of your body and can be described as something that will make you “fly”. This is because it locks all the strength in your core that you need to lift your legs up, for example, in flying pigeon pose.

I look forward to incorporating these into my practice more and will keep you all updated on how it goes!

Thanks for reading, check back in with me weekly for new posts!

Maria

❤️

 

The importance of breath

If you have control of your breath, you have control of your mind.

Breath in Sanskrit is Prana and yoga actually incorporates “breath control” which is called Pranayama. The basis of this is that it channels and releases the body’s internal energy. Life incorporates so many things that we just cannot control. Traffic, weather, general stressors, and the early yogi’s realised that we, as humans have this need to try and control it and gain some stability. Now, personally, I would agree with that, and yet even though we try our hardest, so much is out of our control no matter how much we try. The weather, for example, I’ve been caught in the rain or even the cold despite having checked multiple forecasts so many times. Things happen. Another thing about humans, a lot goes on in our minds, we live pretty busy lives. I’m sure at some point you’ve been thinking of like, at least 5 different things at once. What am I going to do for dinner? Do I have food in the fridge? Did I remember to lock the door? Did I do my homework? When was the deadline for that coursework? Will I have time to pop to the shops before picking up the kids? That kind of stuff. I don’t have kids, but I have little sisters that I pick up from school when I can and I appreciate the time issues and stresses parents have.

Sometimes its hard to quieten all of the noise in your head, and your breath can show that. You get nervous, your breath shortens and quickens, some people hyperventilate, and that can just make things worse. But, yogis discovered that if you even out your breath, you can even out your mind and calm the thoughts so they don’t keep jumping around and stressing you out.

So, apart from quieting your mind and calming you, what other things make breathing important in yoga? Well. Without getting too philosophically yogic here, it allows you to tap into the greatness that you have within you and harness it to really do your best. Say you’re doing your yoga practice, instead of giving energy to floating thoughts, you’re instead channelling that energy to focus on what you’re doing. I love this feeling. Because I am a bit of a worrier. I worry about stuff and I have been known to stress myself out a bit. But my best practices have been where I’ve been able to let go. A lot of the time I follow youtube videos, so I’m able to focus on my breathing, listen to what I’m supposed to do and that’s it. It’s me, my mind, my mat and whoever is teaching me. And, unfortunately (in a way), the time just flies by.

This control of your breath isn’t just for your yoga, this can help you in just everyday life. Whenever you get nervous, worried or any feeling really where you feel you need more control and clarity, practice breath control!

In the future, I plan on going into a bit more detail about the different breathing exercises that you can do to gain control, so stick with me if you’re interested and click the follow button to receive alerts when I post new stuff!

“Master your breath, let the self be in bliss, contemplate on the sublime within you.”

Thanks for reading,

Maria

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Why is wrist care important in yoga?

Wrists are not made to carry the whole weight of your body. So without the proper prep, it is possible that with a lot of weight being placed on them, you may injure them. In the modern workplace, being in front of a computer typing on a keyboard, it’s likely that you don’t use your wrists to their “full extension” which is when your wrists are at a 90-degree angle to your forearm. And so, being in asanas that demand this of you, (e.g. crow/ crane pose or handstand) can cause a lot of strain and can cause pain in your wrists. This might just be a bit of a stretch but sometimes it may develop into pain and then develop into injuries such as Carpal Tunnel.

If your wrists are already sore or have been for a while due to strain, I’d recommend resting your wrists to allow any damage to heal. It might sound difficult to stop, but you can still practice yoga without putting a lot of pressure on your wrists, for example, boat pose, chair pose- no wrist pressure! After time of resting and healing, it’s time to start incorporating wrist stretches and then slowly introducing more pressure to build up to more heavily weight-bearing poses. The same goes for if you’re starting out- get into good habits asap! Incorporate good wrist stretches into your practice to care for your wrists to avoid injury.

In occasions such as this, visual aids may be easier to show you different exercises. So here are some ways to strengthen and take care of your wrists:

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Being in tabletop pose is a good position to stretch and strengthen your wrists because you are able to apply pressure whilst not placing all of your weight on them. The picture to the left is the first wrist exercise. So start in tabletop and face your fingertips opposite each other with your hands flat and just rock side to side. You should feel a stretch in your wrists here. You can also rock forward and back here.

 

Here with the second picture, place your hands down with your fingertips facing your knees and rock back and forth. You can also turn your hand around so that your palms are facing up here and again, rock back and forth.

 

 

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With the third picture here, place your wrists together, your fingertips facing out to the sides and lay your hands down in front of you. Now, you can rock back and forth, side to side or move in a circular motion so that you feel the stretch in your wrists.

 

 
Another thing that you can do is, place your thumb and middle finger of your right hand around your left wrist. Now rotate your left wrist clockwise and anticlockwise 10 times each way and then swap wrists!

These are just a few things that you can do to help protect your wrists! Try and incorporate these into your practices as much as you can to avoid any injuries!

Thanks for reading,

Maria

❤️

 

 

My hunt for a new yoga mat

I’ve had my yoga mat for quite a few years now, and I don’t want to say its falling apart, but, it certainly isn’t in perfect condition (and yeah, it is kinda falling apart).

Now that I practice yoga, pretty much every day, I need a new mat that is going to be good for me and my practice and that is going to last me. But the issue is, which kind of yoga mat do I choose? There are so many different kinda of thickness, materials(and more things!) that are used and there are just so many different companies to choose from! I’ve seen a lot of people online that use yoga clothes and mats from a company called ‘Alo Yoga’, but I have looked on their website and although the stuff on there is BEAUTIFUL and I would love to treat myself to almost all of their website, for me, it’s kinda expensive. I’m a student and I only work part-time, I really don’t have the money to spend like £80 on a yoga mat. Yes, they do offer a cheaper more basic one, but that is still over £30.

Now obviously that brings up a few questions, well, how much am I willing to spend? But, how much is a good amount to spend? The phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ comes to mind. If I don’t spend a fair bit of money, will I just end up with a crappy mat that won’t last or will make me slip if I get sweaty? It’s kinda difficult to know what to do. There are a lot of yogis who I follow online that use a variety of different mats that they are happy with. Another brand is ‘Liforme’, but again, I’m looking at minimum £80. ‘My Mantra Active’, slightly cheaper, as I’m looking at it, some mats are on sale for £50. ‘Byoganow’, still about £40-£50.

So, from then my search has gone to Amazon, because the prices start super low, but there is potential to pay a lot too. 6mm thickness seems to be the ‘norm’ from what I can see, I’m not really sure how thick my current mat is but I wouldn’t say it’s thicker than 6mm. But then again, some descriptions are saying 6mm mats are ‘Super thick’, so, what’s that about? So basically, more research needs to be done on my part to really find out what I need my mat to be and how much I’m gonna spend to get it. Is it worth saving to spend £80 if it’s a super good mat and will last me?

If anyone has a yoga mat, a company they would recommend or any tips for buying a yoga mat for everyday use, please let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,

Maria

❤️