Posts In: yoga

Balance for better

March 3, 2019

Welcome to March.

This is a month that symbolises promise and celebration for me. It is a month full of family birthdays (including mine!), gorgeous baby animals and my favourite flowers (even if they did come out early this year). It is also the month of International Women’s Day, held on March 8th. I love this day. It’s a celebration of everything that women have achieved to-date as well as an acknowledgement of the work that still needs to be done. As the mum of three girls, my wish to see our world equal for both men and women is galvanised.

I read this weekend that according to the World Bank, women enjoy an equal legal footing with men in only 6 countries – and Britain is not among them. Independent of these findings, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted research recently that showed a strong correlation between gender equality in the workplace and the potential for growth in the economy. So in order for us all – men and women, young and old – to enjoy greater economic growth, we need to continue to focus on gender equality.

This year the theme for International Women’s Day is #balanceforbetter. I cannot imagine a more appropriate theme! As well as working towards balance – or equality – with men in boardrooms, pay and legal rights, it is my belief that we also need to work hard to counteract today’s hectic, tech-constant, overloaded world by finding balance in our lives. This is VERY hard, and not just for women.

How many of us are good at taking time out? How many of us prioritise just being? How many of us are able to live in the moment?

The daily juggle between career/family/home is as familiar to me as the back of my hand. Even with all the yoga at my disposal, it still requires a wilful determination every day to give myself time to unplug, disconnect, and reset. Sometimes though, just like everyone else, the “stuff” wins and my iphone is recharged more often than me!

“Everything feels impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

Achieving balance can feel like an elusive impossibility but little by little, with patience and time, it is possible. And we won’t let a little challenge get in our way will we?!

It is with this impetus that classes this month will take on the #balanceforbetter theme.

So how can we work with this theme in a yoga practice?

Last year, I explained how we could use the 2018 International Women’s Day theme of #pressforprogress to apply to yoga and this year is no different!

1. By very definition, Hatha yoga is all about balance.
In Sanskrit, the word ‘Hatha’ can be broken into two syllables ‘Ha-’ which means sun and ‘-tha’ which means moon. The sun and moon are representative of yin/yang, light/dark, energising/calming, spring/autumn, summer/winter etc., and as such, when we practice Hatha yoga (from which all physical yoga is derived), we are working to integrate these opposites so our practice can be perfectly poised between effort and ease. There are so many ways this can be expressed in a yoga class – sun/moon salutations, yin/yang yoga, body/mind connection, lifting/grounding, forward bends/back bends, warming/cooling practices and so on.

2. Balancing – literally.
Standing on one leg can have more benefits than you might initially think. Balancing helps us to focus, clear the mind clutter and improve concentration. Try staying balanced and then think about what you are having for dinner or the spot on your nose! Balancing can also help us reduce stress and inner tension as we work to find our centre of gravity and, with it, our equilibrium. Balances strengthen our muscles and build our coordination, which can prevent the falls that often lead to injuries as we get older.

3. Pranayama.
A lot of the time, and particularly in times of stress or anxiety, we shallow breathe predominantly in the chest. Learning to breathe more deeply using the full capacity of the lungs helps us to calm the mind and feel less overwhelmed. By evening up our breathing so the inhalation and exhalation are the same length (sama vritti) we can literally balance the breath. We can also use pranayama to reach a more peaceful and harmonious state of mind by lengthening the exhalation (2:1 breathing) and practising ujjayi (victorious breath) which uses a constriction at the back of the throat to create an ocean sounding breath, helping us to keep our awareness on the breath. Most of the time, our breath flows more smoothly through one nostril or energy channel (nadi) than the other. Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) is a great pranayam for balancing the hemispheres of the brain and helping to purify or clean the subtle energy channels and promote clarity of mind.

So, if you’re feeling a little off balance this month, Hatha Flow classes will definitely help you #balanceforbetter!

Come and join me on the mat!

Namaste, Tamsin x

Girl Power Month

January 5, 2018

Inspired by the amazing women in my life, and in honour of International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day both taking place this month, bendy yoga will be dedicating all March classes to celebrating women, female solidarity and girl power (the Spice Girls’ music might just feature on my playlist for the full ‘girl power’ effect :-))

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the achievements of women across all spheres and from all walks of life. This year carries the theme #pressforprogress, which is a strong rally cry urging us to get a move on with advancing gender equality.

Let’s face it, the #metoo and #timesup hashtag movements, along with the recent spotlight on the gender pay gap, have just shown us we are still pretty much living in the Dark Ages. And that’s before we even begin to contemplate the millions of women and girls living today who are subjected to genital mutilation or forced into marriage and virtual slavery.

I often feel deflated by how far women still have to go to achieve “equal” status ….and yet….I definitely feel that right now there is positive momentum pushing us in the right direction. Seeking to change the status quo for women, and speaking out against it, takes more than just riding on the coat-tails of momentum though. It takes strength and courage.

From a yoga point of view, I believe we can #pressforprogress in several ways.

1. By channelling our inner warriors and goddesses.

This is as much about developing a strong self-belief as it is about developing a strong physical practice. By focusing on bravery and endurance in our physical practice, we can grow our inner fortitude and resolve. To do this, I will encourage my students to try something different in their practice, maybe have a go at the pose they think looks too hard, maybe stay in a pose for one breath longer than they’re used to and, above all, try to tap into their inner voices because “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Sometimes that pesky inner voice is just a grumpy old Simon Cowell in disguise, telling you “no, no, that’s impossible” and wanting to sabotage your progress. Well, Simon Cowell turned down the Spice Girls and said they would never work so what did he know?! It takes a lot of determination and courage to override your inner voice (I’m sure the Spice Girls never forgot what Simon Cowell said!) and that is why setting a clear sankalpa or intention for your practice can be so powerful. I doubt there was ever a warrior that went into battle without a clear intention!

2. By taking the #pressforprogress theme literally.

In yoga, there are millions of alignment cues that focus on pressing. We press into the four corners of our feet in standing postures, we press into our hands, particularly index fingers and thumbs, in downward facing dog and we press up into handstand (if we are lucky.) By focusing on correct alignment and the sensation of pressing correctly in every posture, we can deepen our awareness of our practice and continually evolve it.

3. By harnessing the power of peace.

International Women’s Day also coincides with the United Nations day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. The UN states on its website that when women lead and participate in peace processes, peace lasts longer. It is perhaps no surprise then that women’s power is often associated with peace.

Peace is a quality describing a society or a relationship that is operating harmoniously. Arguably, to be peaceful, is one of the best qualities humans can possess. However, in our society, we are always being hurried along, moving from one busy task to the next. Practising yoga can be an antidote to this busyness. It can help your nervous system live in a state of equanimity (rather than in constant fight or flight mode) and give you time to pause, feel, and tune in. Through yoga – which helps us to be completely present in the now – we can bring peace and comfort to ourselves, even in the most turbulent of times. And as The Dalai Lama put it, “we can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

“Individually, we’re one drop but together we’re an ocean.”

I hope you’ll be inspired to take action and get involved in #pressforprogress – whether that be through your yoga practice or in another way through your local community. You can also take action by selecting one area below that you commit to focusing on. This goes directly to the International Women’s Day campaign.

Namaste, Tamsin x