Headstand – Sirsasana

Many people find that the Sirsasana posture helps relieve stress. As you focus your mind and body, controlling your breathing to be able to maintain this pose, you’ll be setting your daily cares aside. The increased blood supply to your brain can help clear your mind so you see things with increased clarity.

If you want to learn to headstand, working with a really experienced yoga teacher like Shaz (pictured above) is the safest and best approach. A good teacher knows when you have enough core and upper body strength to maintain the pose, will teach you safe progressions to help you gain sufficient strength, and can help you find alternative techniques, if necessary.

You may expect the arms to take a lot of the strain and pressure in this pose but experienced yoga practitioners load the head and neck with roughly 40-48% of their body weight when performing a headstand.

It helps to think of the pose as three distinct movement phases. The neck or cervical vertebrae is at its most vulnerable while you lift your legs into the posture. Technique is extremely important at this point: the safest way to master this balancing act is to use your core muscles to lift both legs in a slow and controlled manner. When exiting the posture, take care to use the same type of slow and controlled movement.

You’ll certainly feel a great sense of achievement when you can stay stable and secure in this pose and you will certainly see the world from a different angle!

Sirsasana isn’t the type of posture we recommend doing at home, unless you are already adept at it. Quite apart from the potential strain on the body, spare a thought for your ornaments and furniture! If you live in the Cheadle area and want to learn yoga with us, why not visit our studio? Check out our full timetable here.

As we always say, please consult your health care professional before starting any new type of exercise.

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.

Five Things We Love About Hot Yoga Classes

The heat

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? In your first few classes, the heat may not seem like the blessing it is. Before long, you’ll find yourself loving the heat and enjoying (perhaps even craving) its effects on the body.

Learning control

All forms of yoga emphasise mind and body working smoothly together. Hot Yoga is self-paced, so we are always in control, learning to sense when we can push and when we should rest. As you maintain the hold in a challenging position you never imagined you’d do, you’ll feel how much stronger and better balanced your body has become.

The energy

In our demanding world where energy is a precious resource, it’s good to be able to recharge. The less we do, the less we feel like doing. It’s so easy to fall into bad habits with the best intentions. Exercise turns this negative cycle on its head because the more energy we expend through exercise, the more our bodies can do over time.

Camaraderie

Many people think of yoga as a solitary, serious exercise, but in a class, it’s far from that. An inspirational teacher passes her energy and enthusiasm on to students, and in turn, they help boost each other.

The afterglow

After a good hot yoga session, you’ll feel the same buzz of collective achievement you experience with team sports. Ever watched the winning football team at the end of the Champions League final jumping up and down together holding the cup? Expect that kind of feeling – not so intense, of course, but every time – you’re never on the losing team with yoga.

Our Style of Yoga – Vinyasa Flow

We love to go with the flow. Our yoga is a modern style of movement to fantastic sound tracks designed to energize, challenge and relax, all at the same time. Whatever your fitness goals, we can help and support you in your journey to achieve and eventually exceed them.

Our sequences flow with the breath. One sequence you’ll often experience when you practice with us is sun salutation early on in the class to help you warm up and connect with your breathing. This close connection between movement and breathing is an important feature of our style of yoga: vinyasa flow yoga. Poses flow seamlessly into each other in a logical way allowing for progression and success.

This style suits us perfectly because it allows a large range of options and postures to accommodate everyone, including total beginners and people with joint issues, more advanced and experienced athletes at the peak of their fitness and those working to regain fitness following an injury.

Yoga naturally helps muscles develop an extremely high level of static strength. Our sequences vary from fast paced ones to much slower ones, and contain isometric muscle contractions to challenge your fitness further. Isometric muscle contractions happen when your muscles are working hard but are not changing in length or creating a lot of movement at the joints. This allows the muscles to strengthen without placing stress on the joints which is one of the reasons yoga can be so helpful for people with joint issues and athletes recovering from injury.

Is our style of vinyasa flow yoga for you? Well, the only way to find out is to try it and see! If the first class you found doesn’t suit your style or your psyche, move on. Not all studios are the same. Keep trying different teachers and yoga styles until you find a combination you have a great connection with.

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Is a Summer Break from Hot Yoga Wise?

Most people who have tried hot yoga know the buzz those feel-good endorphins give you. But at this time of year, many of us have holidays to look forward to, which means an enforced a short break from hot yoga classes. Even if you’re not going away, when it’s really hot outside, it’s tempting to skip hot yoga for a few weeks, but is that wise?

The odd week off might even do your body good. When your body has been training hard, a short break (sometimes called a deload week) can allow the muscles time to recover and prevents your fitness level hitting a plateau.

Skip yoga class for a few weeks and you’ll soon notice a decline. If you’re not substituting something equally active, the time when you had perfect abs and everything felt easy can soon become a dim and distant memory. You’ll notice the decline in several areas, some physical and some mental.

If you’re relatively new to exercise, you may start to lose the motivation to keep fit, even though you know you really ought to for the sake of your future wellbeing. One missed week leads to two or three and before you know it, you’re back into old patterns of behaviour without your healthy yoga sessions.

Within just two weeks without exercise, your aerobic capacity starts to decline (this is your heart’s ability to pump blood around the body efficiently). It will take a little longer before you start losing your hard won muscle mass and strength, but in four to six weeks away from training, this too will start to decline. Older ladies tend to lose muscle mass at a faster rate.

The fitter you are, the more you will notice the decline, but the good news is that you will have a higher level of residual fitness than a beginner, having spent years laying firm fitness foundations down.

How to prevent this decline? That’s easy really. Plan your training year and devise strategies for coping with holidays. If you have to have a few weeks off, try and fit in a few high intensity short training sessions which will really get your blood circulating. For example, plan a couple of sessions which just use body weight exercises. Programme a timer into your phone with 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest, repeating for four minutes, Tabata style, and you’re good to go. Better still, speak to us (or your hot yoga studio team) – we’ll plan a few sessions you can do anywhere, to tide you over.

Of course, we can’t replace the social connections and the laughter we have in class – for that you will need to hurry back! We’ll save you a mat space and you can be sure of a warm welcome.

If you’re soon off on a holiday adventure, travel safely and have a wonderful time! If you’ve just finished a break and feel ready to get back on track, check out our timetable and book a session.

Change Your Life for the Better with Exercise

The short term and long term benefits of exercise include:

  • Improving your mood with naturally produced dopamine and serotonin
  • Long lasting improvement in your brain functioning
  • Increased attention and focus
  • Quicker reaction times
  • Better memory function, including improved long-term memory
  • Stimulating the development of brand new brain cells
  • Reversing the cognitive decline from ageing

How much exercise should I aim for?

Experts suggest we exercise 3 to 4 times each week for at least 30 minutes, keeping our heart rates in the heart health zone. Just like your five (portions of fruit and vegetables) a day, your four (sessions of exercise) a week are designed to make sure your body gets the things it needs to work well.

The heart health zone helps you understand how hard you should train – pushing yourself enough to make a difference while keeping sufficiently below your maximum safe heartbeat rate.

Your personal recommended rate depends on your age and your current fitness level. Calculate your own heart rate training zone here.

What sort of exercise works best?

We believe in holistic exercise for mind, body and soul. Exercise sessions can and should make you feel happy, not just in the glow of achievement afterwards, but while you’re doing it.

We wouldn’t be without our regular hot yoga sessions, as the heat of the studio and intensity of the exercise helps us stay in our heart rate sweet spots. Any of your favourite sports and activities can count towards one of your four a week, providing the intensity is within your recommended zone.

22 Signs That You Should Be Doing Hot Yoga

  1. A really good, body and mind workout would be great but you don’t know how to fit it in a busy schedule
  2. You’ve heard a little about yoga and wonder what all the fuss is about
  3. You are struggling to justify buying that really nice pair of leggings you’ve seen
  4. Your current fitness regime is boring and you wish you could try something new
  5. You’d like to feel more in tune with your body and more at peace in your mind
  6. You think you ought to exercise more but don’t fancy doing it alone
  7. You love the heat and find a sauna invigorating
  8. You have a VERY stressful life or job
  9. Health and fitness seem like things other people are passionate about, not you
  10. You’re afraid you’re not bendy enough for yoga
  11. You enjoy the sense of well-being and adrenaline rush that exercise gives you
  12. You’re tired of feeling constantly tired
  13. You’ve tried several different ways to keep fit or lose weight, but have never found the right thing for you
  14. You have recently visited an elderly relative who has had a fall and don’t want to be in the same situation
  15. You find yourself always rushing from place to place and struggle to relax
  16. You secretly envy people who are strong, flexible and well balanced
  17. You’d prefer a holistic approach to keeping fit
  18. You’re happy to embrace who you are, but that doesn’t rule out being more active
  19. You wish you had more stamina
  20. Life is too serious and you want to have more fun
  21. Your best friend has taken up yoga and and you can’t help noticing she looks better for it
  22. You wish there was a simple way to feel better about your future

If two or more of these statements resonates with you, we believe you’d most likely benefit from Hot Yoga sessions. For more information on our classes, click here.

Crescent Lunge – What a Bind!

This fantastic stretch is technically a bound revolved crescent lunge. As you can see from the picture, the bottom hand reaches underneath to link with your other hand to really take the challenge of this pose to the next level. Your drishti or gaze can be down to the earth, facing forward or over your top shoulder.

It’s an amazingly satisfying posture to get into. Though it might not appear so at first glance, this pose opens your heart, stretches and elongates the spine and expands your chest to allow you to fill your lungs.

Part of the challenge in this pose is the strength and balance you need in your legs to be able to create a really stable base. Can’t quite reach? Not a problem! We’ll find a modification that is right for you, for example, by using yoga props or lowering to one knee.

Before you know it, you will find yourself in Parivrtta Baddha Anjaneyasana which is the Sanskrit name for this lovely posture – hope you enjoy it as much as we do! (Anjaneya means praise or salutation)

Practising Yoga Safely

This pose can help develop your fitness, but we always recommend that you work with a great yoga teacher if you want to attempt postures like this and many others we’ll mention on the blog. Your teacher should have the expertise to support and guide you and recommend safe postures for your body and experience level, and – just as importantly – to check your alignment once you are in pose.