10 Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

Set aside time in your day and honour where your body is at and the beautiful changes occurring with your pregnancy. Practice loving compassion for yourself and baby. Prenatal yoga is one of the best things that you can do for yourself, as well as your growing baby.

We are looking forward to introducing regular prenatal classes at our studios in Nundah and North Lakes. Classes will go for 60 minutes, in a non-heated room, and will help you to maintain your peace, vitality, flexibility and breath during your pregnancy. However, as always, listen to your body while you practice and do as much as what feels right to you.

Some of the benefits of practicing yoga during pregnancy include:

1. Develops stamina and strength

As baby grows within our body, more energy and strength is needed to be able to carry the weight.  Yoga poses strengthen our hips, back, arms and shoulders.

2. Balance

Our balance is challenged physically as the fetus grows within our body. Emotionally we are drained due to the increases in progesterone and estrogen. As we try to focus on holding and breathing through each yoga pose, we are able to fine tune our balance, physically and emotionally.

3. Relieves tension of lower back, hips, chest, upper back, neck and shoulders

As baby grows, more stress is put upon these specific muscle groups in our bodies.  We tend to have more of a lordotic/lower back curve due to the increased size of our bellies. Our hips get tighter due to the added pressure of baby’s weight in our bellies. As our breasts increase in size, our upper back and chest have more tension, along with our neck and shoulders.

4. Calms the nervous system

Through deep breathing, the nervous system goes into parasympathetic mode, which is responsible for relaxation.  When our bodies are in that mode, our digestions operate properly, we tend to sleep better, and our immune system is at its optimal.

5.  Preparation for Labor

You are working with conscious breathing during each yoga pose, which may sometimes be challenging. This transfers into the time of labor, allowing one to practice being “comfortable with the uncomfortable” through our breathwork.  As you inhale, you acknowledge the tension that is felt.  As you deeply exhale, you let go of it more and more with each breath.

6.  Connection with baby

A prenatal yoga practice allows us to slow down and focus attention on what is going on within our bodies. Through working with our breath and doing each pose, you become more aware of what is going on within.

7. Increases circulation

Circulation is enhanced within our joints and our muscles are elongated during practice.  Upon circulation of the blood within our bodies, swelling is decreased and our immunity is enhanced, creating a healthy environment for a thriving baby.

8. Breathwork practice

This is a good tool for labor during contractions.  If we are consciously breathing, our blood pressure and heart rate is regulated keeping us in parasympathetic/relaxation mode.  Calm mama equals calm baby.

9. Sense of community/sisterhood

It can be very comforting to be with a group of women who understand what we are going through.

10. Nurturing time

This time allows us to stop and slow down from our busy days.  Through the practice of yoga, you are setting intention in taking care of not only yourself, but of baby.

Five reasons to give Bikram Yoga another chance

1 – Healing – Bikram Hot Yoga has been used by many practitioners and teachers alike to help with and often alleviate back pain, knee pain, arthritis, and so much more. The raised temperature of the yoga room combined with the specific series of postures (done twice) & Savasanas help to realign your body. Through realigning yourself and learning to work the correct muscle groups, not only can you alleviate existing issues, but also ward off future problems. The yoga promotes the movement of fresh oxygenated blood around the body, assisting and promoting healing . If you have an injury, it is imperative to speak to your doctor/pyhsio/ chiropractor/ therapist etc., to confirm they believe you are in a fit state to participate in this form of strenuous exercise. We would then ask that you arrive at least 20 mins prior to the start of class to fully discuss your injury with BYC staff and your teacher. The yoga can help, but only if we listen to our body and our teachers. Never push into anything that is painful & never alter the postures to suit you. Even if we can only do 1% of the posture, but we are doing it correctly, in the correct alignment, we will see the benefit. A study in 2013, on the effect of heat & cold on the human knee, concluded ” Heat is beneficial in increasing muscle and ligament flexibility and may help reduce athletic injuries”. (Effect of heat and cold on tendon flexibility and force to flex the human knee Jerrold Scott Petrofsky, Michael Laymonand  Haneul Lee)
2 – Stress Relief –  You wouldn’t often associate sweating for 90 minutes in a room heated to 40C with relaxation, but we are here to tell you Bikram Hot Yoga is a wonderful stress buster! This may not have been your experience from your first class – it was not ours – but we promise, give it a few classes and you will understand what we are talking about!
3 – Improved Flexability – Research has shown that heating our muscles improves their flexibility, safely. The heat of a Hot Bikram Yoga Class allows practitioners to safely move deeper into posturers. If we listen to the feedback of our body and take  ourselves to the edge of our personal range, each and every class, our muscles listen and this range improves, improving our flexibility.

4 – Strength & Toning – All weight bearing exercise, when done regularly and correctly, tone and strengthen. Each and every posture in the Hot Bikram yoga serious is specifically designed to use your own body weight, to help build the strength and tone in your muscles. As you are using your own body weight, it is safe to practise everyday (should you so wish). In Bikram Hot Yoga, as with most forms of exercise, you only get out what you put in.  Moving into the postures alone will not magically transform your body. It is your effort level, combined with the design of the postures, that will create the results you want.

5 – Weight Loss – The cardiovascular nature of some of the class, combined with the strengthening effect of all of the postures, can lead to weight loss. However, exercise is only part of the weight loss story, combined with a health balanced diet, and this is where the real results are shown. Warning, if you are a ‘scale addict’: muscle weighs more than fat, so, as you are melting away your fat and building lovely lean muscles, the scales may not change, or they may even go up! However, the results will be obvious in how you feel (and in your clothes!). On this weighty note, we feel it is important to let you know that we believe that being healthy is what is truly important.

Health, generosity, kindness, enthusiasm, warmth: these are the qualities that make a person a beautiful and should make you feel beautiful! It is easy to say it, but not as easy to live it!
How about we change our perspective together?
Connect with yourself in the mirror and realise that you are beautiful. Beauty is a feeling that comes from within.  Cheesy as it may sound, try it!
We have one life and one body, in which to live. Treat it well.
Let’s build our body confidence together, in the room, on the mat. Build your strength, build your health, build your focus, feel the power that is you and your body. Work together to share your energy. You are beautiful. We are beautiful. Together we are all beautiful.

New Year, New Yoga Resolutions

At this time of year, I always find myself contemplating resolutions. Fast forward a month, another year and I find myself contemplating the fact I didn’t stick to any of my resolutions, and thus resolving not to have any resolutions in the future… and yet the cycle continues.

But 2016 is going to be different for me. I can feel it. Because now… (drum roll please) I am a yogi. Well… kind of. I want to be a yogi. I fancy becoming a yogi. I want 2016 to be the year of the accidental yogi. Let me share with you my new year, new yogi resolutions – and then check back in with me in a month or a year to see if – wait, I mean HOW – I follow through on them all.

1. To touch my toes

OK, OK, I know that’s not a really legit resolution, but I wanted to ease into my resolutions…

2. To do more yoga

So far this year, I have managed to practice sporadically. I wouldn’t exactly say it was a regular practice. I have been known to make excuses to get out of class from time to time. When I get stressed, I prioritise my work, or when I’m tired I still choose to sleep over practicing yoga. I KNOW this is not good for me. And I want to get to the point where I prioritise my yoga, because I know how good it feels. It’s not about losing weight or getting flexy (aside from resolution number one) or getting toned and looking good (though I will admit that would be nice… see resolution three!) – it’s about being strong, healthy, happy and calm in my day to day life.

3. To invest in some lovely new yoga gear

Oops – the old non-yogi me demanded to take control of at least one resolution so let’s indulge her for a minute. The way I see it, if I have a dedicated yoga wardrobe – you know, those quick dry patterned yoga pants that feel like a second skin, non-slip Bikram mats, soft fluffy towels for wrapping up after class, sweet smelling organic shower products and a luxe oversized slouch bag to stash them all in – I am more likely to go to class and achieve the above point! And hey – I did switch to organic rather than commercial products that pollute our water! And with all the laundry I’m going to need to do to accommodate all these clothes after all these classes, I need to be conscious of the environment however I can be!

4. To learn more about yoga

With all things in my life, I tend to do them best when I appreciate the reasoning behind it – whether it’s a language, a skill, a dish I can cook, a movie I know all the behind the scenes trivia about (hello Star Wars!) or a piece of electronic equipment I use. And so it stands to reason that yoga would be the same. I’ve discovered our teachers are a font of knowledge on the subject of yoga, and I have learnt a lot from them already, and don’t get me started on good old Google. From technique and philosophy to anatomy and spirituality (and let’s not forget Sanskrit!), there is just so much to absorb, to learn, to embrace, and I can’t wait to know more.

5. If I can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all

We learn this as children, but I have found as I grow older, it is easy to become cynical. It’s easy to use sarcasm as a form of wit. It’s all too easy to complain about things that don’t make you happy. It’s easy to moan and groan when things don’t go your way. But the more ‘yoga people’ I am surrounded by, the more yoga websites and blogs I read and the more yogic my life becomes, I realise life doesn’t have to be surrounded by negativity. In reality, it should be just as easy to gush when we love something, to smile when we’re happy and to compliment someone when they’ve done a good job. So for me, I’m going to think before I speak from now on. If it isn’t positive, why put it out there in the world?

6. Be patient

This is a simple one. No more honking the horn when the person in front of me drives at 20 kilometres an hour. Rather, just slow down and enjoy the view. No getting frustrated when a client is late for a meeting. Just use the time to catch up on emails, or Facebook gossip, or whatever your online preference may be. No huffing and puffing when I still can’t get my legs into my armpit and feet off the ground in Crow position. Be patient. It will come…

7. To be more conscious about what I put in my body

Now. This is a classic resolution for many people, however it usually starts as a negative. For example. Having a resolution not to drink. Not to eat chocolate. Not to have a cheeky Mc Drive Thru after yoga, but by starting with this negative ‘not’, I believe you’re setting yourself up to fail. So I’m going to flip it. I have a resolution to eat more fresh vegetables. To drink lots of vibrant, colourful juices. To guzzle water by the gallon (not in class though – it’s just a sip, right Sherry?). To have healthy snacks on hand to avoid splurging. To respect my body by treating it to things that make it feel good, and ultimately contributing to making my practice run smoothly.

8. Be grateful

I am indeed grateful for everything in my life, but sometimes it’s easy to slip into some unconsciously selfish behaviours (hello resolution number three!). So this year I would like to make much more of a conscious effort to be grateful for the many things around me. For starters – I live in Australia! What a beautiful, stunning, breathtaking, magical place. And the nature here – just wow. I get to write about places, people and things that I love, from the comfort of my own home with my beautiful kitty cats on my lap. What a beautiful way to spend my days – and be lucky enough to get paid for it. I feel privileged to practice yoga in a welcoming, non judgemental studio with wonderful teachers. My life is pretty great. But I think it’s important to take stock of that, and just be consciously grateful of that.

9. Breathe.

Because that’s what yoga is all about.

10. To be more yogic

I guess this resolution is a little like the sum of all the parts of the above resolutions (perhaps minus numbers one and three), but I do feel it deserves recognition in it’s own right. I would like to wake up in the morning and be conscious, be aware, be a good person, be grateful, be humble, be strong, be dedicated, be healthy, be helpful, be wise, be caring, be giving, be non-attached and above all, be happy. I am yogi… hear me om!

A yoga teacher’s letter to her first time student

Sweat and Stretch at Bikram Yoga North Brisbane

 

Dear First Timer:

You don’t even realize how amazing you were throughout your first class!  You stayed in that hot, sticky, drippy room the entire time.  You followed instruction.  You took a seat when you needed one.  You even found stillness during Savasana.

I know you are doubting these words right now.  I know that you looked at the folks in the front row and had the thought, “That will never be me.  They must have been born with freakish flexibility or godly strength,” but I’m here to tell you that they started the same way you did, following along, trying their best, and wondering how they had found themselves in this crazy yoga class.  The only thing they did that others sometimes do not, is come back. And not just a couple of times, but again and again and again as they looked for a way to master the class, to master their body, their mind, and their breath.  To master their lives.

I wish that for you.  That you come back.  That you try again.  You might have resistance to this practice.  You might find an excuse why it isn’t for you.  It was too hot.  The teacher was too loud, their voice booming through the microphone, so that you cannot even pretend that you cannot hear them.  And at times they even called out your name to encourage or correct you and you wished with every loud beat of your heart pounding in your ears that they would simply leave you alone.  It was too bright and and the mirrors were too much, as you watched your face get an alarming shade of red you had never witnessed before.  You might even have a headache tonight as your body urges you to drink more water and eat better food after you dripped with what seemed like buckets of sweat throughout the class.

I hear you.  Yoga is not easy.  It is a challenge.  Taking up a regular yoga practice is one of the bravest things you can do in life.  It means you are willing to become better than you are today.  It means you are ready to take responsibility for your own life’s story and face yourself on the soul level for at least an hour, day after day, to see where you are locked up both physically and mentally in order to free yourself from past injury and emotional turmoil.  It is more than a workout.  It is a work in.

I hope I see you in my class again.  For me, there’s nothing better than sharing this yoga and I want to share it with you.  I look forward to the day you look in the mirrors and smile at what you see or maybe even pull your mat up to the front row, so you can really get a good look at you and your practice and where you are in that moment.  For someday, if you stick with it, you will find your own strength and your own flexibility, in and out of the studio and you, my friend, will shine.

Sincerely,

Your Yoga Teacher

Yin Yoga: Love it or hate it?

I see two types of people in the studio – those who love Yin and those who hate it. Here’s the top reasons people dislike Yin and why they need to give it another go:

  •     I hate being still
  •     It’s boring
  •     I can’t stop thinking
  •     It’s not a workout

1. I hate being still

For busy, active people, Yin yoga can seem a waste of time. “I can’t sit still, I have too much to do”. Think of a car. We turn the car off when we’re not using it otherwise we’ll run out of petrol and it will overheat. Think of your phone, it stops working when your battery is flat and needs to be recharged. Have you ever thought that constantly being on the go or ‘on’ will leave your inner energy reserves depleted? What if you were always on standby, waiting for the next thing – what does this do to your devices? Being always busy or ‘on’ drains our energy and also over-stimulates our nervous system leading to chronic stress.

How many times have you experienced after a busy, stressful day that your body is exhausted yet your mind is over-active or wired? How many times have you found yourself unable to switch off mentally? This is what happens when we are always ‘on’. This constant state of ‘on’ leads to anxiety. Being still is our chance to switch off, power down and recharge. It can be difficult and uncomfortable but being ‘on’ is a habit that can be broken. You and your body need to switch off and learning to be still is the first step. You will get the urge to fidget, to shuffle around, to scratch or adjust your clothing – these are all tricks of the mind trying to keep you from powering down and switching off.

2. It’s boring

Boredom is a sign of a busy mind. The inherent nature of the mind is movement, so left unwatched, the mind jumps from one thing to another. When we ask it to be still, such as in a Yin Yoga class, it rebels like a naughty child that doesn’t want to be told what to do. If we learn to practice mindfulness and become engrossed in the fullness of what we are doing there is no boredom.

Boredom exists when we are not paying attention or concentrating on the present moment. Boredom is a distraction of a busy mind.  We have become so accustomed to multi-tasking that some people watch TV while playing on the computer and phone (3 screens!). We multi-task so often that we’ve forgotten how to single-task. Ever been out with friends or family to find them regularly reaching for their phone to check emails/Facebook? Maybe this is you?

We really struggle to give our full attention to anything these days and the result of our shortened attention span is boredom.We find everything boring and nothing satisfying. We are always seeking something better, something more interesting. Yet this is just a vicious cycle, leading to more boredom and less satisfaction. The antidote, as boring as it seems, is concentration. Coming back to focusing on one thing at a time and in our Yin Yoga practice this means our body and our breath. If we are truly present we will not be bored.

3. I can’t stop thinking

This is something I hear all the time. Guess what? You’re not the only one. The Yoga Sutras written approximatley 2500 years ago define yoga as ‘the stilling of the movements of the mind’. So a busy/active mind is not a new phenomenon, as it was recognised by the ancient sages as the barrier to inner peace.

So what to do? Most people ignore it and don’t realise it’s a problem until you ask them to be still for 5 minutes and focus on their breath. “But I can’t stop thinking!” Welcome to the club! Acknowledging the issue is the first step to transformation. “But I like thinking”, sure you like thinking when you want to, but isn’t it annoying when you want to stop and you can’t? It is this constant, incessant thinking that can lead to anxiety and even depression.

The only way to slow down the mind is to turn it upon itself. Ask your mind to watch and become aware of what it is doing. Don’t try to control the mind (for that is a losing battle), rather try to create space for your thoughts and watch what your mind does. Bringing awareness to our mind and its’ activities will help it to gradually slow down. The same principle applies when we observe our breath – it starts to slow down without effort. Most people give up as it can be confronting and uncomfortable to pay attention to your thoughts. But what’s the alternative? Do you prefer to be a slave to your mind?

We begin to cultivate mind/body awareness in our Yin yoga practice and this is why so many people feel lighter and refreshed after practice – they’ve stopped being a slave to their thinking and have found some mental space.

4. It’s not a workout

There are many people who come to yoga for a workout. I get that. However, the true essence of yoga is a ‘work in’. We do inner work. The whole intent behind the physical poses is to prepare the body and mind for meditation. It’s not the latest exercise fad. People often think that if they’re not working up a sweat or burning calories then they’re not doing anything and there’s no point.

So let me tell you the point of Yin yoga. Yin doesn’t use muscle activation, it is a release of the myofascial tissue that surrounds the muscles, ligaments and joints. It is in this tissue that tension and stress is stored. Yin is designed to work on releasing this tissue and the energetic meridians contained in the tissue that support our major organs. It promotes relaxation, improved vitality and brings balance back to the body.

Yin is passive and is about softening, releasing and surrendering. There’s no effort or struggle (this is something people often fail to grasp), we let go of any holding, clenching and tensing. One of the key benefits of our Yin yoga practice is that is soothes our over-stimulated nervous system helping to restore the body and mind to equilibrium. For those of you looking to lose weight, you won’t be able to if your nervous system is over-stimulated and your body is filled with stress hormones. Cortisol, the body’s hormonal response to stress increases our appetite, increases our cravings for sugary food, leads to fat storage and is often responsible for us not being able to lose weight. So if you’ve been trying to shift those kilos with a strict diet and heavy exercise then maybe you need to chill out and calm down with a Yin class.

How Bikram yoga helps overcome eating disorder

My name is Molly and about 2 years ago I dared myself to take my first Bikram yoga class. See, I had been struggling with an eating disorder for over 10 years, and at 92 lbs my body gave out. I lost complete control of myself and I no longer could function in my daily life. I was sad, I was scared and I was so fragile. After being recommended for an out patient treatment program I fell even deeper into my sickness. I was starving my self daily and any calorie I did intake I purged. I was practically daring death to come find me. I knew that recovery scared me and that I would fight it tooth and nail if it wasn’t on my own terms. at my own pace, and done in the most natural way, so I made a deal. I made a deal with my mother that I would recover on my own, I would find and support my own team of doctors who would teach me nutrition, help me explore my real issues and take my weekly vitals to make sure I wasn’t slipping. I was dedicated to being better and although it was unbelievably hard I finally reached a point when my primary care physician told me I could start to be a bit more physically active. No running or spinning, and no beating my self against a machine, I just had to find something to make my body strong and feel better again. And so, by chance, I found Bikram Yoga. After 90 minutes I was high. I was hooked. Bikram Yoga helped me to find peace with in my self, appreciation of my body, and the ability to smell, taste, feel and love again (all things I had lost). With this new found peace I found so much. In a year in a half I was in love with a fellow yogi, so much in so we bought a house and a puppy and play with her each day. My life was finally full because I had found my spiritual self through this practice. But that’s not it.

After a few months of yoga, I went for my first bone density scan. My doctor gave me the bad news. At 25 I had osteoporosis in my spine and hips. I was devastated, but driven to keep pushing my self to become a better version of myself, even if it was just a heir’s breath. A year after hearing the news of my diagnosis, and staring at little old ladies who were hunched in pain, I went for my second dexi-scan. My doctor warned me, “Molly, bone density takes a long time to build, we are looking for no movement, it will take years for your bones to re-grow.” With anxiety, I waited for my results.

“Ok, Molly, so I have some news for you.” Beth was about to run down all of my test results, including my dexi-scan.”Your cholesterol, is the lowest I have ever seen, 95, I credit that to your hard work and yoga, your estrogen is over 50, when I met you it was under 20, that of a 90 year old and the grand finally, your bone density. You have had an 11 percent increase in your spine and a 5 percent increase in your hips. Be very proud, your hard work is paying off.” This yoga is saving my life. I will never be hunched over and I will have opportunities to have babies with the man that I love. Bikram’s yoga has taught me that health is a life style and it is one that is to be embraced in what you eat, what you do, and how you behave through out the day. I thank both of you for all of your inspiration!

My dream is to help other people like me. To use nutrition and Bikram yoga to help struggling women and men to adopt a life style that is fulfilling inside and out. I am strong because of all of the hard work I have done inside of 90 minutes and I want to share my strength with others. Thank you for bringing this yoga to me, for saving my life, and helping me realize my dream

Why Backward Bending is Good for the Spine

Understanding why and how back-bending is beneficial for the spine is a challenge for many yoga students. For many, back-bending is an emotionally charged, challenging and often uncomfortable part of practice. However despite its discomforts back-bending can be one of the most therapeutic parts of a yoga practice.

Think of all the time you spend bending forward in a day, from enjoying a coffee with a newspaper, to driving, to typing at a computer, cleaning or lounging with a friend. The reality is, we spend most of our day in an unsupported forward bend.

Internally, forward bending causes the front of vertebrae move closer together, forcing the inter-vertebral disks and spinal nerves back. Prolonged poor posture can:

  • cause or aggravate back and neck pain
  • constrict blood-flow and put pressure on vital organs and glands preventing them from functioning properly
  • has been shown to have negative effects on self-esteem and mood in studies

Ironically, when most people experience back pain or discomfort their first reaction is to bend forward, not knowing it is the cause of their discomfort. In reality back-bending is what is needed to counter-act the impact of continuous forward bending. This impulse is not easy to unlearn.

First it is important to recognize that back-bending is a natural range of motion for the spine. “Think of monkeys or children climbing in a tree who reach backward for a branch, the spine bends backward,” says Jeff Weisman a Toronto based Bikram Yoga teacher.

As you bend backwards you compress the posterior part of your spinal column, pushing your disks away from the spinal nerves and decompress the front of the vertebrae. This effectively counteracts the damage of hours spent forward bending.

Those concerned and intimidated by back-bending should rest assured that the controlled environment and proper progression of the Bikram Yoga series allows for back-bends to be preformed safely. For those with limitations and injuries, remember to speak to your instructor, move slowly and listen to your body.

Physical Benefits

  • Stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and prepares the body for action.
  • Helps counteract damage of bad posture.
  • Relieves back pain, bronchial distress, scoliotic deformities, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder.
  • Realigns the spine.
  • Promotes proper kidney function.
  • Helps with digestive function, eliminating constipation and flatulence.

Energetic Benefits

  • Stimulates all the chackras, primarily creating opening in the fourth (heart) chackra.

Emotional Benefits

  • Helps to break through insecurity and fear.
  • Relieves stress and tedium.
  • Opening the lower back helps to free you from insecurity and taking yourself too seriously.
  • Helps to build confidence and self-esteem in children.

Tips from the Pros

Drop the head back as far as it goes. The head and arms do not need to stay together. – Bikram Choudhury

Allow your exhale to lower you into your maximum depth, allow your inhale to lift you up and forward. – Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, Dr. H. David Coulter

“Lift your breastbone up as you go into backward bend, instead of jamming only the lower waistband spine.
You HAVE to have your elbows pressing IN, not bowing out before you go down.

Also, LIFT the throat, shoulders and armpits before you drop down.

Then you lift UP, OUT and OVER your waistband spine so you do not get that crimping feeling.” – Mary Jarvis for All Back-bending Heals the Spine

Do not contract the gluteal muscles until you reach your maximum expression then tighten – Rajishree Choudhury (for more read this article)

The standing back-bend is regulated by locked knees – Craig Villani

 

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