The Benefits of Yoga in Pregnancy

Just after I qualified as a yoga teacher and was preparing to set up my first ever yoga class, I was approached by a few pregnant ladies who asked me if they could attend my yoga classes. My yoga teacher training only covered pregnancy yoga very briefly and I honestly did not know enough about it to confidently teach it. I told them I would come back to them and booked myself onto a training afternoon so I could learn the basics and hopefully make a decision that was right for me as a yoga teacher and also the expectant ladies who wanted to attend a yoga class.

Through the training I learnt that there was so much more to consider in pregnancy yoga than just changing someone’s position, for example there are the symptoms of pregnancy, pelvic girdle pain, the risk of over extending due to the hormone relaxin, preparing for birth, letting go of fear, anxiety and also support systems. The decision was clear for me, if I was going to teach ladies who were pregnant it needed to be in a dedicated class. The last thing I wanted was to turn people away from class but it was important to me as the teacher that all yoga students who attended my class felt protected and supported and that they felt safe when they came to class. In order to do that for those who were pregnant I needed to know more and I booked myself onto the full Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training course.

Yoga is a holistic practice, connecting the mind, body and breath. Yoga works on all the humanistic levels, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This is in fact the case for all types of yoga. As someone who practices and teaches yoga I have always found yoga very nurturing and helps you to reconnect with nature in the most subtlest of ways and from what I have learnt yoga in pregnancy is no different.

There is evidence available to demonstrate that yoga during pregnancy reduces pain experienced throughout pregnancy and can also reduce stress and anxiety, (Beddoe et al, 2009).

However, the positives of taking part in a yoga class during pregnancy go beyond the evidence and not only does this benefit mum but also her baby too. Techniques and movements learned during a class can assist a woman during labour, as well as supporting her and her baby postnatally as well.

With the natural skeletal changes that occur during pregnancy, a yoga practice can keep the body active, healthy and balanced. Movement with breath work together calms the mind and brings balance to the nervous system and reduces muscular tension, promoting deeper relaxation that crosses the placenta and benefits the baby.

Breathing techniques learned in class can bring a sense of calm and creates a sense of space in mind and in body too. Breathing techniques can support with reducing insomnia but also energise in times of fatigue. Practicing yoga in its ever so gentle nature provides us with confidence and empowerment and can really help a woman to prepare giving birth to her baby.

Practicing yoga at anytime increases body awareness but for a pregnant woman it is an opportunity to reconnect with her own body but her baby as well providing early bonding opportunities. Attending a yoga class also brings other expectant mums together creating a sense of community and support for each.

All my love

Andrea

Reference

Beddoe, AE, Chin-Po, PY, Powell Kennedy, H, Weiss, SJ, Lee, KA. (2009). The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Yoga During Pregnancy on Maternal Psychological and Physical Distress. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing. Volume 38, Issue 3, May-June 2009, Pages 310-319.

Savasana: a foundation for our Yoga Practice

I need yoga in my life, it’s a fundamental necessity for my wellbeing. It serves me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I know you have heard me say this many times before but it’s true, yoga supports me to be a human being on all levels, my holistic whole self, all that I am, all that I am to be.

Through blog writings and poetry I often write about fears and some of the unhelpful thoughts I have that do not support me in any shape or form whatsoever. I like to see the bright side of things look for the positivity, when I am in a dark place I always look for the lessons, but sometimes my mind just takes a hold of me and runs away with itself dragging me a long in the process. My mind works fast and I can read something and see about 3 or 4 different sides to the story in an instant. At times it’s a real blessing in disguise when I have been working on an investigation, some kind of analysis but when it really gets a grip of me it can be quite troublesome and exhausting. It’s the time when I am most likely to experience anxiety or a panic attack. Over the years it has taken a lot of work and practice to settle my mind

There have been a few things that have helped me to settle the mind over the years for example engaging in any kind of creative pursuit such as writing, jewellery making, gardening but highest on my list is Yoga. Yoga is my saving grace, the moment I slip into Savasana my mind settles and I return to a natural state of wellbeing, calm relaxed and at peace. After 12 years of practice Savasana, is like slipping into a mould, the space that tells me it’s time to relax, it’s time to switch off and my mind responds. It is not often that is does not respond.

When my mind is relaxed and at peace I can obtain the clarity and peace that I need to move forwards instead of the chaotic noise of fear and negativity that confuses me so much. Over the years I have learnt to accept that this is part of me, it’s the part of me that needs to be loved. Through Yoga practice I have learnt the tools to help my mind feel better, soothe and nurture it

Savasana is said to be one of the hardest postures to master. We are not used to relaxing in this way. In today’s society where we rarely switch off and even when we are at home watching TV or listening to a podcast we are not really relaxing in its truest sense because we still have input coming in from an external source. Savasana cools the mind and body down and as we scan from the tips of the toes to the top of the head it’s a real opportunity to observe our own awareness of our bodies, our own sense of being and note how we are feeling, where is the tension? Where is the fatigue? In Savasana we learn and allow ourselves to experience a deeper relaxation, we train our minds not to judge, not to be distracted. It really is the foundation of our practice and from here we can heal ourselves with breath, movement and intention setting.

All my love

Andrea

Stress, Anxiety and I

In 2005 I was experiencing panic attacks on a daily basis, sometimes 3 or 4 times on a particular bad day. When I look back and reflect on that time what alarms me the most is that I used to just carry on my day as normal. So for example, I would get up have a panic attack in the shower, I would be on my way to work and I would have another. I would have to pull over or park up somewhere until it passed. Perhaps I would have another mid morning or afternoon and then maybe one in the car on the way home. I was exhausted by the time I would get home. Yet each day I would just get myself up and go to work and relive the same day over and over again. At the time I was not particularly happy at home and in life, I just felt so unsettled all the time. I felt like I was existing but not living, I felt completely disconnected. I wasn’t particularly happy in my work either. I felt stagnant but I didn’t know the answers no body seemed to know either. I would take action to move forwards but nothing seemed to want to move forwards. I had counselling, I had CBT but nothing seemed to shift at the time.

Eventually I went to see a psychotherapist and during one session she asked me if I had thought about travelling-I said no, I can’t do that surely, I have a home, a pet, a job but in all honesty I knew I could and deep down I knew I wanted to. I needed space, I needed life and I needed inspiration. Once I decided that this was what I was going to do things seemed to fall into place pretty quickly, my house and car were sold within the space of a week. That confirmed it, I was meant to go. My panic attacks subsided, they didn’t go completely but a lot less than usual, but in September 2006 when I left the house they completely disappeared. I moved back home with my parents with my little cat Millie until I started to travel in January 2007. I spent time in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, South America and Miami. It had made me realise how narrow focused I was about myself and my own life, what I could be and what was possible. I needed more outdoor time in my life and creativity. I needed work that inspired me and kept my agile, fast thinking brain in check otherwise it would just spiral out of control into negative thinking.

On returning to work later on in 2007 I started my Diploma in Tropical Nursing in London at the London School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine there which was just an amazing course. I also returned to work and things were fine for a while until I picked up my MSc in Public Health Dissertation. The panic attacks returned with a vengeance. I was so upset and disappointed. It was at that time I started to go to yoga, I had to do something. The last thing I wanted was to relive those pre travelling years. My first session was horrible, I was in a state of panic the whole way through but eventually by the end it passed. That session is imprinted in my mind because although I struggled the whole way through I had a light bulb moment that if i just focused on my breath and practice yoga I can get past the anxiety and panic.

In 2009 we sadly lost 3 family members, I realised at the end of that year life was too short to sit at a table and write dissertations, I stopped doing it and started to embrace my creative side. Any remnants of anxiety I had just seemed to disappear completely. I started to get out into nature more. The penny finally dropped why did it take me so long?

When you are in a heightened states of stress and anxiety you cannot always see and end point, you think it’s going to be with you for the rest of your life. What I have learned is that stress and anxiety appear when I am not honouring myself, when I am not engaging in the things I love, I have to get myself outside, I have to be creative, I have to grow things from seed, I have to cook from scratch, I have to write, I have to exercise and practice yoga and I have to have a job that has lots of different elements to it rather than one focus. It’s all part of loving myself and being who I am. You don’t have to do anything drastic like sell your house or go travelling sometimes it’s just a small change that can make a difference.

I cannot remember last time I had a panic attack, although I did have a period of burnout in 2014. I promised myself I would never let myself be like that again and I’ve so far kept to my word. Sure I have had times of incredible stress since then but you know I am so much better at coping with it. I have my stress toolkit that contains all of the above. For me it’s about loving myself enough to honour all that I am and loving the beautiful life, talent and skill I have been given.

All my love

Andrea

Turning up to Yoga

When we turn up to a yoga class we are opening ourselves up to bringing a sense of peace, balance and well-being to our lives. In What happens in Class I wrote about the 8 parts that make up a 90 minute yoga session. In each session we move into ourselves, become energised through the breath, we set our intentions, involve ourselves in action through asana, we explore and experience stillness through relaxation, then knowing that something has changed for us, we note a difference to how we were feeling before we began to practice our yoga. Finally, whatever we have learned on the mat we take with us to our worlds that we live in. If we miss out one of the parts in the sequence we are not truly practicing yoga and although we may feel good we may become unbalanced in our practice.

When we practice yoga we bring into union the mind, body and breath. When we bring these elements together we settle the mind. In the settled state the limitations, criticisms and unhelpful self beliefs start to break away and we can truly see who we are and what we are capable of. The problem is that we need to turn up, we need to show up for ourselves. On my own reflections I have been guilty of not turning up to practice, I make excuses, I am tired, I have so much to do, I have had a bad day at work and I haven’t gone. Sometimes disappointment in myself sets in for not going, sometimes it feels okay to miss a class but what I can tell you is that the times when I have worked through my own objections to yoga practice and turned up regardless I have learnt something valuable, I have learnt how flexible I am, I mastered chaturanga even though I thought I couldn’t do and I have also left class in a state of happiness.

When anyone engages on their own yoga path there will be obstacles and most of the time those obstacles will be a result of our own doing and our own mindset but through continued practice we learn to navigate our way around them. We just need to turn up and sit on the mat.

All my love

Andrea

Discovering yourself through Yoga

“I was standing in my yoga class by myself, my body covered in white and pink scales. As I moved through the yoga sequence, my body in flow and with focus on my breath the scales started to fall and disappear into the ground. I could see parts of myself again. As I paused in Tadasana I felt the courage to remove the remaining pink and white scales from my face. I could see the whole of me and I finally revealed my true self.”

When I think of this dream or I tell others about it, the the little hairs on my arms and neck stand on end and I get the goosebumps. Throughout the years I have often had dreams like this that have been so clear with strange elements of symbolism that they have had me reaching for the dream dictionary. In short this dream was about myself being buried and hidden behind what I thought was right for me instead of embracing who I was and being more me in the world.

When I was small I used to spend time with my grandparents and I would make things, create stories and act them out. My Grandma was part of a writing group and she wrote poetry and short stories and I used to do so too. I remember really enjoying this time and being really happy but somehow it became lost, hidden and buried under exams, degrees, post graduate study, home improvements and the general expectation of a career, society and myself about what I ought to be doing. I felt unhappy like there was something missing.

Once yoga helped me past the anxiety and panic attack stage of my life and I started to explore deeper I began to listen to myself more. Through all the noise of day to day living I could finally hear myself speak. My body, heart, mind and soul was telling me to write again and I started to journal.

As I recall 2009 started out as such a promising time, I was 34, I obtained a new job, found a new home following some time out travelling and I thought I was all set. Sadly the remainder of the year was fraught with sadness as we lost three beautiful family members including my Grandma who encouraged me to create and write. As we move through life there are those times when we are reminded of the fragility of life and this was one of them. It was the wake up call I needed. I finally left the education system and I wrote the first draft of an idea I had for a book. I have re-wrote it a few times but never done anything else with it. Annoyingly it still sits upstairs just waiting to be used. There are a few reasons why it still sits there, one of them is because I never really understood what it was about until recently and secondly I have felt I needed more space to work on it a little more. I have always said it would have its place in time.

I do believe that Yoga brought me home, over the years it has helped me to understand who I truly am and encouraged me to show the world those parts of me too. My learning through Yoga hasn’t stopped there, it has healed me, encouraged me to surpass obstacles I have faced and challenged my beliefs and old worn out behaviour patterns. It is one of the reasons I teach students in class to focus in and listen to their body. I’m sure you have all seen the Jigar Gor quote, “Yoga is not about touching your toes it’s about what you learn on the way down.” It is certainly true for me.

All my love

Andrea

Mixing Yoga with Coaching

On Sunday 3rd February 2019 I delivered my first ever workshop as a qualified yoga teacher, an idea that had been brewing in my mind for quite some time. Through completing the health coaching course and just finishing off the life coaching part I had realised how much yoga and coaching overlapped. Not only in terms of theoretical perspective but also practically too. Through the 12 week coaching programme we use relaxation, visualisation and breath work and I wanted to devise a workshop that used the coaching and yoga together.

Our lovely class room

My vision for the workshop was to create a safe space where people could come along and have some time for themselves and allow themselves the opportunity to explore possibilities for the future. The relaxation was a mix of yoga practice, meditation, breath work, discussion, sharing with others and at the very end a deep yoga nidra to empower movement towards those goals and hearts desires. The very things we have always wanted to achieve but keep putting off, making excuses or just denying ourselves the opportunity to just go for it.

In the workshop we explored our three brains, the brain stem (critter brain), the cortex and the limbic system and the part they play in helping us to move forwards with a goal or to slam on the breaks. For the brain to give us the go ahead, love, safety and belonging need to remain intact. If anyone of these are missing the brain, the brain stem particularly will stop us moving forward. We will then provide ourselves with all sorts of reasons why we cannot go ahead and we leave our goals unrealised. Sometimes those reasons may seem quite logical, money, time but ultimately they prevent us from reaching our goal.

Sharing our goals

In the workshop I shared my own goal and how the brain stem has played out for me. I have had to work some hurdles but this time I’ve been determined and I have recognised where my brain stem (critter brain) has been getting in the way and I’ve had to be creative. A method to by pass the brain stem is just to move forwards with small but consistent steps towards your goal. The brain stem becomes less frightened and less likely to slam on the breaks. We don’t want to be in a position where we are telling ourselves we are unable to do something for so long that we begin to believe that this is the case, this is know as Samskara in yoga.

At the end of the workshop we finished with a beautiful poem by @Poetess (Rachelle Lamb)

May you fall madly in love this year .. in love with someone who unhinges your tired trajectory, in love with a spouse of several years who might be aching for lightning, in love with demanding children and crazy relatives .. in love with the particular pedigree of genius insanity that has perhaps claimed you in spite of your reluctance .. and certainly in love with an animal, a cloud, a redwood, the wild .. these at least once a day. May you fall in love with this fragile jewel of a world, with hard work, real learning, just causes, petitioning and prayers. May you fall in love with wonder itself, with the grand mystery, with all that feeds you in order that you may live .. and with the responsibility that that confers. May you fall in love with heartbreak and seeing how it’s stitched into everything. May you fall in love with the natural order of things and with tears, tenderness and humility. May this be a magnificent year for you. May you fall deeply, madly, hopelessly, inextinguishably in love.

I truly and utterly loved delivering the workshop. It was an absolute pleasure and I thank all who attended for their time, attention for taking part, getting involved and supporting everyone else in the room. Including me. I am hoping to deliver another workshop in the future focusing on overcoming obstacles although I am not sure when that will be but for the time being I will be focusing on teaching yoga classes again

Love

Andrea

Hearts Desires and Focused Goals

Since I started teaching Yoga I have been wanting to put together a workshop.  For many years I have taught through my profession as a nurse, small groups, large groups, conferences, I love it all.  I really enjoy the planning, telling people about it and the delivery, bringing people together, discussing, sharing ideas and learning.  I could not wait to get going but the time had to be right.  Being a newly qualified yoga teacher in 2017 saw myself just finding my feet finding a venue to teach, learning about the problems that arise when you are first starting to teach, the things you don’t think about, for example what happens when I am sick, I am never sick, but actually was, what happens when it snows, what happens when the venue isn’t available for nine weeks? I didn’t think this would happen either, but it actually did.

2018 was busy, it was crazy, the year just seemed to be a none stop roller coaster, I took part in workshops myself, learned about different types of yoga and shared my experiences by bringing them to class to share with others, I was deepening my knowledge.  I also started my pregnancy yoga teacher training and my life and health coach training too.  I changed my job and there was no space to even consider a workshop and towards the end on 2018 there seemed to be no space to teach yoga at all. However through the Health and Life Coaching Course I began to see an overlap between coaching and yoga and this idea was confirmed further when two of my Yoga students agreed to help me with my certification.  The idea to develop a combined workshop started to grow but I was concerned about how to fit it all in with my busy schedule.

On Sunday the 2nd December 2018 I decided I was going to commit to my own hearts desire and focused goal and spend the next 90 days working towards that goal.  I was worried about how I was going to fit everything in but through meaningful conversation through my own Coach made me realise I was just making excuses and I needed to press forwards with my goals and so the workshop was born.

I know how difficult it is when you have that feeling that you know in your heart you really want to do something but for some reason you find yourself up against opposition. The opposition not only comes from others but from your own beliefs, fears, worries and obstacles that you allow to get in the way.  I envisioned the workshop being a space where people could relax, reduce noise of the mind and society and really focus on their own goals without fear of being judged or dismissed.  The workshop is about offering a safe place to become motivated, empowered and excited about their goals and know they are possible.

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I am looking forward to the workshop and sharing my own experiences as well as teaching beautiful yoga.  The level of the workshop is relaxed and suitable for all levels.  We will start off focusing in and noticing how we are feeling then move through a gentle warm up routine and noticing how the smallest of movements can change how we feel and move us to a positive and relaxed state. We will then set our intention for the workshop and then practice some yogic breathing to settle the mind and relax the body further before setting our goals and understanding our why?  Why we want to set that goal and understand the importance of it and significance it will have in our lives.  We will then move into our yoga routine before experiencing a deep yoga relaxation (Nidra) empowering us further towards our goal, with a very special finish to the afternoon.

 

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