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Mellows' Blog

Welcome to my blog


General thoughts and feelings about whats happening in the world of mellowburn yoga - mainly drivel but if you'd like to read it, I like you reading it :)

By mellowburnyoga, Apr 14 2020 11:22AM

One of the particularly nasty elements of the Corona virus series is the ruthless attack on the respiratory system. Never does it quite impact on the body as when the breath is negatively affected.

Our ability to inhale and exhale is quite literally what sustains us. Without it, we simply cannot survive, even beyond a few short minutes.

Our breath is also a mirror to our expressions of emotions. Consider the way you breathe when you're upset and crying. Then think about how you breathe when you're laughing or cheering... How about when you sing? And how about when you're deep in concentration?

It's a fascinating coincidence that we depend on the natural elements around us to be able to breathe. We quite literally make an exchange with the universe with every breath. We inhale and draw oxygen that the trees expel and exhale as the trees drink it back in. Even the construction of our lungs mirrors the branches of trees, because it's the most effective way to distribute into the inner or outer worlds of our bodies and the atmosphere.

We breath in and out 960 times an hour, 24,000 breaths a day. Oxygen supports and sustains every cell in the body, and within our exhale we expell toxins meaning our breath is also cleansing. Our lungs and respiratory system are so fundamental to the quality of life, yet so many of us are prepared to gamble this resource by impairing our lungs though smoking.

Our resting breath is shallow and taken care of by the automatic part of the brain. But this rest breath only involves around 1/6th of our actual lung capacity. Deep, enriching, detoxifying breathing is like a bonus ball for the body, but normally these come in the form of yawning or gasping. It is really important to spend time using breathing techniques to get into the deepest chambers of the lungs for the biggest benefits.

Shallow breathing keeps us alive, but when our corisol levels rise because we're stressed out, our body needs more oxygen. Instead it typically gets less! Dizziness, hot flushes and feeling faint are all common symptoms of heightened anxiety and yet without proper measured deep breaths, our body goes into panic mode. Our heart rate increases, our pupils dilate. We feel nautious and are unable to think clearly or consiously. Panic attacks can be crippling. Using the right breathing techniques can and do send strong messages to our nervous system and body that calm quickly and effectively.

Yoga and Breathing

Yoga strongly focuses on the art of breathing correctly and fully as a form of mediation, to increase longevity and to contain energy. The onus is on the breath being a kind of bridge between the physical and spiritual self, enabling us to move from the material world to the inner world.

Breath and breathing techniques are called Pranayama - literally translastes as 'Life Force Control' - because yogis believe that by controlling your breath, you are controlling elements of your life and your being. Different types of pranayama cultivate different types of energy - slow breathing is meditative and calming. Breath retention is cleansing and energy manipulation. Faster paced breaths are a full on energy charge.

By simple definition, concentrating on breathing means to concentrate on the now and this is a fundamental part of yoga too. Once familiar, we can use pranayama techniques in our lives off the mat too. with an array of different methods of breath useful for coping with whatever life throws at us.

5 Benefits of Better Breath Control

1. Better sleep. Consider how you sleep after you've been swimming or for a long walk in the countryside. Big bursts of oxygen in the system, cleanses and revives. Everything works better and our body is able to drop gear into relaxation because we've dealt with toxins. We can use breath techniques such as counted breath, samvritti (equal length) breath, or simply an elongated exhale to trigger the relaxation response.

2. Reduce anxiety and stress. Anxiety brings the body into the fight or flight response. It's common to feel tighteness in the chest and experience shortness of breath. By deepening and controlling the breath you can take back control, reoxygenate and regulate your heart rate and relax tension.

3. Improved lung capacity. This can have a huge impact on overall health. Your circulatory system carries oxygenated blood through the veins and our digestive, urinary, lymphatic and excretory systems function better thanks to healthier blood cells.

4. Balanced nervous system. The breath is known to control the autonomic nervous system. Our conscious body function i.e. what we are aware of doing with our bodies is known as the sympathetic nervous system, which also controls our fight or flight response. Our unconscious functions are controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system, which also controls our rest and digest response. We can actively shift from one side of our nervous system using slow, deep breathing techniques.

5. Meditation. Meditation hasso many benefits, not least of all to find self awareness and connect to inner peace. Observation often begins with noticing our breath and what it's doing. We gradually incorporate control and use this as the anchor of concentration and to find a way to calm down our thoughts.

Yoga is a fabulous way of using your breath and lung capacity to its fullest advantage. My public yoga classes at Stoughton Guildford on Thursday evenings, or at Woking Sports Centre on Tuesday nights both incorporate pranayama. Get to grips with basic yoga breathing techniques that you can use to benefit your in all areas of your life.

By mellowburnyoga, Mar 2 2020 04:39PM

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be relishing in the change of season right now. Winter is just sooooo long in the UK, even down here in Guildford where we're supposed to be warmer!

The evenings are becoming lighter and the confetti effect of spring blossom teases the eyes. Attention is suddenly drawn back to the skies and our surroundings, breathing in the newness of nature as the birds return and the bulbs begin to rise up out of the earth.

Spring is a wonderful time to rethink our agenda in life and how we might transition in reflection of nature. The heaviness of winter begins to release us into a new uplifting sense of lightness.

Indeed, in our ancestral habits of wanting to be warm, we literally tend to apply another 'layer' over winter to keep us warmer. This accumulation of food is known in Ayurvedic medicine as Ama.

Rather like a kind of tar, Ama blocks the physical and energetic channels of the body, lodging itself between organs and on the surface of the tongue as a white paste. With Ama our body feels achy, stiff and swollen bellied.

Not only metamorphaising in the physical body, Ama takes it’s reside in our mind, leaving us feeling sluggish and demotivated. Worst still we reach for those same winter comforts that got us here in the first place creating a cyclic pattern of dis-ease and bad health.

In a yogic lifestyle we're constantly attempting to rebalance, finding the sattvic equality of goodness, truth, serenity and peace.

Transitioning to Spring Time with Diet

Breaking free from the effects of Ama means to detox using foods that are designed to stimulate the bodies own natural defences.

Apples, garlic and broccoli all help the process back to health, but it's especially bitter foods like leafy vegetables, coffee, watercress and orange peel that encourage the digestive tract.

The body receives the bitters similarly to a light poison and responds by firing up all of our detoxing organs. Bile is released into the liver and gallbladder, clearing the blood of heat. Saliva is generated in the mouth at the bitter taste and stimulates breath and metabolism. The bitter taste buds continue on into the lungs which in turn kicks the respiratory system into action.

Other recommendations to shed the old winter coat are turmeric, a proven anti-inflammatory that helps restore circulation and metabolism whist helping the liver to cleanse.

Transitioning to Spring Time With Yoga

Practicing yoga in all seasons is beneficial, with different sets of poses designed to help the practitioner in different ways.

In this instance, detoxing twists move blood along the digestive tract and enliven the nervous system. A simple seated twist or supine twist on your back helps to unwind the spine and gently reduce bloating.

Spring yoga sequences should also include heart opening poses, which are wonderful counterposes to the winter hunch over, where we spend a lot of time bracing from the cold. Backbends and heart opening also tend to elevate the heart rate and build core strength as the muscles in the torso contract to stop any over dependency on the lower back.

Poses such as Camel, Reverse Warrior, Bow or Cobra all help to literally lift your heart towards the sky and create a toxin burning heat within the body, burning away the Ama.

Feeling well and making the absolute most of your body is critical for avoiding illness and discomfort. I love the saying ' look after your body, you have nowhere else to live'!

Join a (my!) Yoga Class!

Regularly practicing yoga will help you achieve a sense of wellness inside and out. Your whole body will feel more spacious and open, your mind will feel calmer and over time, you'll be able to go into the deeper elements of yoga which can change your whole life for the better! My Guildford or Woking based Yoga classes are always open to anyone who wishes to join and I hope you'll all feel welcome.

Yoga for All - Mixed Ability

This 7pm 60 minute class is a general flow for all levels and although has some tricky postures is designed to be accesible. Held at Winston Churchill Sports Centre on Hermitage Road, Woking

Gentle & Simple Yoga Class

My 6.45pm 60 minute simple and gentle yoga is held every Thursday night and is perfect for beginners or for those wishing for a slower class. Find us at Stoughton Methodist Church Hall on Stoughton Road, Guildford, Surrey.

Vinyasa Flow & Yoga Conditioning Class

This 8pm 75 minute class is intermeditate level and contains several rounds of sun salutations, leading into peak poses and more tricky variations. Muscle groups will be targeted with some conditioning reps to build strength over your whole body. Difficult in places, but gives motivation to work towards a more challenging and stronger practice, or simply listen to your body and take the many modifications given. Find us at Stoughton Methodist Church Hall on Stoughton Road, Guildford, Surrey.

Private 121 Tuition

If you have more specific needs, why not consider private tuition where I can give you my fullest attention and tailor make the practice to your needs. I have several clients, all with different aims and objectives and who I love to work with.

Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] to discuss your requirements

Until then, have a wonderful Spring 2020 and I look forward to seeing you matside! ;)

By mellowburnyoga, Jan 2 2020 07:58PM

Since I can remember, New Year signals the time to start assessing all the things we’re not happy with in our lives. Goals include mostly promises of ‘I will not do…’ or ‘I will get…’ – fill the blanks. We just love to imagine how much better life will be when we reach the desires we set.

Why do we always want more? Trained and encouraged by society, media and capitalism, we see things as ‘not good enough’ and think we need to change ourselves based on expectations of others.

But isn’t it funny how ideals of ‘better’ usually involve looking different, spending money and buying stuff?!

Problem is, once we get the wish list… there’s always another something else!

What if we radically addressed our notion of what makes us happy?

Is happiness really just about acquiring what we (think we) want?

There’s a wonderful yogic philosophy I’d like to share with you called Sankalpa.

Literally meaning ‘connection to vow’, Sankalpa is about realising an intuitive and deep internal knowledge about ourselves.

The great part about Sankalpa is – it’s already there inside you! Your job is to uncover it.

In short, it’s all about your purpose. A calling if you like. What you’re doing here for this ride as a human on earth. Sankalpa is about being exactly who you are meant to be.

Once you’ve realised your purpose, Sankalpa means to commit to that. To be guided by it in everything you do. That purpose (or Dharma) becomes your focus for the way we live your life. Because the soul is aligned with the behaviour, you can reach the kind of contented harmony that puts the finger up at anything materialistic or superficial!

So How Do you Find Out What Your Sankalpa is?

That my friend is the journey! Sankalpa isn’t about to just jump up out of the proverbial bushes and shout HEY YOU! I’m HERE! PRINT A LABEL! It’s something that will be realised with due diligence and obviously this kind of life changing realisation takes time.

Like with anything that evokes life changing wisdom you need tools to get you there. Meditation and Yoga are the recipe for finding your Sankalpa. Learning to access your peaceful self (as we do in mellowburn yoga classes), brings you home and makes space for you to observe what is actually going on with you.

Your own reactions, thoughts, instincts, and non-judgmental realisations eventually parts the tide towards a truth about what you really want, deep down. The insights that you gather dutifully in your meditation and yoga practice opens a door to realise ultimately who you really are. Like your own personal calling!

To discover your Sankalpa you must:

Listen to your heart. Your most inner voice (sravana). Not your thoughts! Way deeper than those. This takes time and a new type of openness to learning about you.

Welcome all messages that you hear with an open heart, however subtle. Sit with them in reflection and contemplation (manana)

Respond to the call of action these messages give you (nididhyasana)

It’s Totally Okay Not to have a Clue what Your Sankalpa is!

If all this sounds a bit heavy, try going a bit more superficial and explore that. For instance, if you’re desperate to lose weight, what could be the deeper desire beneath that? Is it just because you want to look better (that’s okay!).. but… have you considered why? What will change if you look better? If it’s because you feel that others will accept you more – then ask - Why do you need that acceptance? Keep digging further and you might well realise that the only person whose opinion that really counts – is you! If you decide that you are enough, then guess what – you are enough. Maybe you’ll come to the conclusion that you wish to treat your body as the temple that it is and so want to put nourishment that will make your body feel its best, in which case you are motivated for an entirely different reason.

When you start to envelope yourself in compassion, non-judgement and acceptance, you stop worrying about the material world and start directing your attention towards more meaningful stuff, the soul food. Choosing to make a statement of your truth in the way you live your life, is to honour your Sankalpa. This is empowering and holds enormous potency to connect to and inspire others.

Don’t forget, your Sankalpa is already right there inside you just waiting for you to unveil it. You just have to be willing to find it.

Mellowburn yoga classes in Guildford and Woking always involve meditation, which allows you to remove anything that happened before the moment or will happen after it. You can just be. Nobody demanding anything of you. Time to explore what arises in that moment and accept everything with no judgement. The more we can be with just ourselves, the more easily we connect to each other.

Already Feel Like You Know Your Sankalpa?

When you realise your purpose, it's time to apply it to your life. Using wisdom (jnana), willpower (iccha) and action (kriya) you intend to live your life lead by that Sankalpa.

By regularly reviewing your behaviour and actions and reinforcing and reminding yourself of your Sankalpa by asking ‘am I living my truth?’, ‘Can I reveal my Sankalpa in my actions?’ and adjusting accordingly, you’re on your way!

It’s okay for this to be a long term project! This life is an ongoing opportunity to practice being your best self. Remember, you are perfect in your imperfections. You are here to learn! Enjoy peeling back the layers that life adds, to get back to your authentic self.

If you got this far, thank you for reading. I will always endeavour to share and inspire you (and me!) with what I feel to be relevant and meaningful. Remember, Yoga should always make you feel better and there is always more to the journey than you think!

See you matside in a mellowburn yoga class soon!

Tuesdays 7pm at Winston Churchill Sports Centre, Woking

Thursdays 6.45pm & 8pm at Stoughton Methodist Church hall, Stoughton Road, Guildford.

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