Warrior with a Difference!

What can I say? Sharon gives her warrior pose a completely new angle with this athletic arm balance. My first thought was for her safety, although I should have known she would be solid as a rock, not just physically but emotionally. My second thought was for the freshly painted walls in the custom-built, new studio. My third thought: “how on earth does she do that?”.

Fortunately Sharon shares her expertise freely and is happy to teach everything from a humble warrior to this advanced, off the wall version. The lettering on her leggings reads “willpower”, but perhaps it should be Sharon power! She is a fantastic and inspirational teacher to practise with, definitely not your run of the mill instructor (excuse the insider’s joke – she is based in The Mill Studio).

As happens with many of the best yoga teachers, Sharon’s style is completely unique; she may be admired and copied but is impossible to emulate. Knowledgeable from everything from Pilates to Yoga, she has been in the fitness industry for more years than she cares to admit and that experience shows when you visit her studios. It’s not just her expert instruction, the underpinning knowledge of anatomy and physiology or the latest fitness research, but the positive vibes and feelings of achievement you’ll leave the studio with, and the sense of connection that will be instantly apparent. You’ll know that you are in safe, capable, caring hands that are ready to support you as you take your journey to the next level.

The next time something or someone is driving you metaphorically up the wall, remember Sharon can teach you how to do it in style! If the advanced version of this posture is beyond you, as it is me, she’ll help you unwind and de-stress with balances that suit your skill level and experience. Whether your goals are fitness orientated or you have a different objective in mind, you can be sure you can enjoy the experience and the journey at The Mill Studio with Sharon. Click here to view our latest timetable and book a class.

As we always advise, please make sure you ask your health care professionals before you take up any new types of exercise.

Peacock Arm Balance

This arm balance looks incredibly impressive, but what is truly amazing is the ability to teach not just the balance itself, but the progressions that make this fantastic achievement possible. Fortunately, Sharon, pictured above, has the skills, qualifications and the expertise to do just that.

The balance is called peacock or Mayurasana and it is thought to symbolise concepts such as love or immortality. You may already be familiar with the peacock gesture (Mayura Mundra) in which you join your thumb to your ring finger.

As you can see from the picture, this posture strengthens the wrists and the forearms. Really good abdominal strength is needed to be able to sustain the pose. It includes an element of counterbalance with the legs held parallel to the ground, helping to stabilise and maintain balance. This pose will certainly challenge your muscles in an unusual way, ensuring that you develop significant core stability and strength.

You will need to focus your eye gaze forwards whilst shifting your weight forward, then experiment, playing around with your balance – perhaps floating one leg into the air at a time whilst you acclimatise before eventually floating both legs into the air, squeezing and engaging your inner thighs as you lift and balance.

The trick, if there is one, is to move your centre of gravity forward, allowing your legs to float almost naturally off the ground. You will feel a little like a human seesaw as you find the perfect equilibrium or balance.

Peacock is a really advanced posture, so it takes time and patience to be able to achieve it. It’s definitely not one you should try if you have any issues with your wrists, elbows or shoulders, but if chaturanga dandasana is one of your favourite postures, peacock might be one to try as your next challenge.

This is where a great yoga teacher comes into their own: they can help you learn all the progressions that build up to this posture and they can use props like bricks and blocks to help you get the feel of the posture safely and in a controlled environment. Once you’ve mastered the technique, you’ll be richly rewarded – the posture really frees the mind and the soul and almost feels like you are about to take off and fly – but you’ll need a fantastic, supportive teacher to be able to achieve the posture safely.

Sharon is an expert when it comes to chakras: her chakra meditation is quite the best I have ever heard. Peacock arm balance helps to energise the second chakra, known as Manipura or the naval chakra, which is thought to be the centre of vitality controlling our energy balance.

As we always advise, please make sure you consult your health care professionals before you take up any new types of exercise.

manipura chakra

 

 

 

 

But I’m Not Flexible!

If you don’t feel your body is flexible, hot yoga is definitely what you need to be doing. Why? It’s simple. Hot yoga will improve your flexibility. Being flexible will keep you fit and healthy and significantly reduce your risk of injuries.

Flexibility refers to the range of movement you have at your joints, where two or more bones meet. Flexibility varies and is specific to your body composition, depending on all sorts of things like gender, the length of your muscles, the length of your arms and legs, and the amount and type of exercise you do.

There are two types of flexibility – static and dynamic. Static is limited by the structure of your bones and muscles and can be influenced by the size of the muscle and your muscle tone. Dynamic flexibility is the range of movement you can achieve when you are moving.

You may have different levels of flexibility at different joints: some people have great range of movement in their spine but limited flexibility in their ankles or shoulder joints, or vice versa. The key thing is to understand your strengths and the areas you need to improve.

Poor flexibility can increase your chances of being injured and that is why it is so important to work on this aspect of fitness as part of your exercise routine. Ironically, being too flexible can also increase your chances of injury.

Finding a great yoga teacher can help to make sure you are doing the right postures for your body. Your teacher can help you improve or maintain your flexibility in a safe and effective way. Practise regularly and you will soon see the benefits.

So the next time you hear yourself saying “I’m not flexible enough for yoga”, rephrase it to “I really need to find a great yoga teacher”. I firmly believe you won’t regret it!

As we always advise, please make sure you ask your health care professionals before you take up any new types of exercise.

Harmonize Your Thoughts

“Yoga not only allows you to learn to control your breathing, but it ultimately enhances your abilities to harmonize your thoughts and enhances your inner beauty.”
Debasish Mridha

Find a space where you can find balance and inner harmony. For us that’s in a hot yoga studio but for you – who knows! Explore until you find that place where the world passes by peacefully and you can just enjoy a moment of stillness, at one with yourself and your surroundings.

Harmony

 

Yoga for your Heart Health

Not only is the exercise good for mind, and uplifting to the soul, it’s also extremely beneficial to the body.

Your heart has a demanding job to do, physically: to keep working tirelessly to supply your working muscles with oxygen and nutrients by keeping a steady supply of blood circulating round the body. How does it do that? Well, the heart is made up of a special type of muscle called cardiac muscle: an involuntary muscle that keeps working without you having to tell it to, unlike your skeletal muscles.

The cardiac muscle is supplied with oxygen and nutrients by the coronary arteries, and the blood vessels are surrounded by smooth muscle fibres of varying thicknesses.

The left side of your heart deals with oxygen rich blood, while the right side of your heart deals with deoxygenated blood, sending it back to the lungs to pick up more supplies.

During a yoga session your heart will need to supply the muscles with enough oxygen to allow you to work. The intensity of your workout determines how hard the heart needs to work to supply much-needed oxygen and nutrients. Just like all muscles, as you work them, they get more efficient and more able to perform their job effectively.

Please consult your doctor before making changes to your lifestyle such as going on a diet or embarking on an exercise programme. Yoga or any other activity should never be a substitute for consulting your health practitioner. 

Why does Hot Yoga Have Us Jumping for Joy?

What is is that leaves us feeling like we could jump for joy after a hot yoga session? Is it something about out style of hot yoga or do all people who practice hot yoga feel the same?

It could be the release of those feel good hormones endorphins that interact with our brains, lifting the way we feel. Endorphins not only help reduce our perception of pain but also give an energy boost which can leave us feeling really positive, enjoying a natural buzz from our exertions.

If you prefer to think it is something more than the chemical reactions going on inside our bodies, you could attribute it to the social, welcoming atmosphere found in many, friendly hot yoga studios across the UK and around the world. Yoga practitioners tend to be positive people, ready to help, support and celebrate their achievements together.

Some people tell us that the relaxation phase of yoga sessions give them deep feelings of happiness, related to an emotional release. Precious time spent listening to our bodies, just letting go, concentrating on the here and now, and feeling grateful for what we have and what we can do.

No matter what it is, and whether we can truly analyse the root causes or not, this post is a celebration of the joy hot yoga can bring. If you feel it too, please let us know!

Simple And Complex Carbohydrates: What’s The Difference?

Hot yoga helps your body’s muscles become stronger and more flexible. The food you eat will support (or hinder) the process. In this series of posts, we’ll suggest ways to naturally increase the resources available to your body through simple but effective changes to your diet.

Carbohydrates come in two forms, simple and complex. These classifications relate to how quickly the body can absorb them and make them available to use as energy. Simple carbohydrates are absorbed quickly and cause a spike in your blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates take a bit more effort to break down and take more time to digest and absorb.

Carbohydrates contain about 4kcal of energy per gram. There are three different types of carbohydrate:

  • Sugar is naturally found in some foods like fruit, honey, fruit juices and milk. Increasingly, it is also added to our food in the form of table sugar and additives like lactose and maltose added to foods to make them sweeter. These raise your blood sugar quickly, leading to spikes followed by troughs.
  • Starch consists of sugars bonded together in long chains which means they take longer to break down and digest. These give us a slow release of energy throughout the day and can be found in foods that come from plants like bread, rice, pasta, vegetables, potatoes.
  • Fibre is found in foods that come from plants. Fibre slows the process of food through your digestive system allowing your body time to absorb all the goodness in your food, adding bulk and keeping your digestive tract healthy. Good sources of fibre include vegetables, whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta and pulses like beans and lentils.

It is a myth that carbohydrates are bad for us – our bodies need fuel and fibre to remain healthy. However, it’s wise to think carefully about the type, quality and quantity of the carbohydrates you choose and try to limit the amount of simple carbohydrates like sugar or things that have been heavily processed like cakes and sweets. Instead try to include more starchy carbohydrates like vegetables and whole grain products that have not been heavily processed to remove the goodness from them.

As in anything it is important to get the balance right. Consume more calories than you need and you will gain weight.  By replacing high sugar foods and drinks with high fibre, starchy food you’ll get the balance right. You’ll feel fuller for longer and avoid the sugar spikes that can sap your energy and sabotage your eating plans.

 

 

Hot Yoga and Diabetes

An increasing number of people with diabetes are turning to yoga in an effort to keep their condition under control and improve their overall quality of life.

So what is diabetes? Diabetes is caused when either the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells in your body become resistant to insulin. Insulin does the important role of regulating the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood, making sure there is not too much or too little. Insulin acts like a key to unlock cells and allow glucose in so it can be stored until it is needed.

Today’s lifestyles mean that more and more people are at risk of becoming diabetic at some point in their lives unless they take action by changing their lifestyles.

Around 90% of diabetic people have type 2 diabetes. There is a growing body of research which says exercise and changes to diet can significantly improve and even reverse the effects of this type of diabetes. Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson is one of several public figures who have recently claimed they have managed to reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes through weight loss, exercise and diet.

If you’re trying to avoid becoming diabetic, or need to find a way to manage type 2 diabetes, hot yoga is a great way to exercise, increase your insulin sensitivity and help to stabilise your blood sugars whilst you work. Always listen to your body and to your health care professionals who will advise you about the best way to manage your health condition.

10% of diabetics have type 1 diabetes which is controlled through insulin injections. We’ll write about this in a later post as there are some important things to think about in relation to type 1 diabetes and hot yoga.