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"Take a deep breath....."

We offer this advice when someone is overly excited or anxious. We recognise breath as a way to calm mind and emotions. Breath is a powerful tool to promote well-being. It is literally right under our nose. Yet we don't pay much attention to the breath.

Using breath to enhance well-being is an effective practice. It can be done sitting at a traffic lights or in a quiet room. Daily breathing practice is both powerful and healing. Immediate benefits result for body, mind and spirit.

In day-to-day life, we are overrun with multitasking, but we are also completely out of touch with our natural breathing patterns. Modern humans tend to take shallow, uneven breaths, using merely 15% of lung capacity.

In addition, short, shallow, and fast breathing tells the brain that we are in a desperate situation, ‘fight or flight’ mode while corresponding hormones are released as a result.

If one wishes to bring balance and inner peace in such circumstances we should become aware of our breathing and start to slow things down....

Simple breath awareness is one of the simplest forms of meditation, but it is also one of the most significant.

Take your attention to the diaphragm moving and pushing the tummy out on the inhale and, without jerking, the diaphragm muscle relaxing and tummy returning through the exhale. This is simple abdominal breathing. See if you can deepen breathing more of the belly moves and less of the chest. To help relax the nerves, breath through the nose and slightly constrict your throat muscles so as you breathe out it sounds as if you are Darth Vader...

If you focus a few minutes each day on a regular basis you will notice your breath more in everyday situations. You will notice when it becomes ragged, or you are holding your breath. Awareness is the key.

Try to incorporate breath control into a day-to-day activity, taking a shower, a slow walk, cooking, listening to music, and while you are in the activity listen to your breathing.

Be aware what are you doing with your breath. Gradually over the days see if you can produce slower deeper breaths while maintaining the activity.

So the next time you find yourself in a state of confusion, anxiety, frustration or irritation whether in the office, on the road or at your local super market, etc. give yourself the gift of some deep tummy breaths to calm the body and mind.

We practice various breathing techniques at my yoga classes, you are welcome to come along and just breathe.

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For many men the thought of attending a yoga class is intimidating. All those bendy women who make it look easy. Men's bodies are very different to women's and, quite often, may lack the natural flexibility that women have.

When we talk about yoga, what first strikes our mind is flexible females in tights, as they are more health-conscious and thus, attend more yoga sessions. Since, it's a socially created myth that yoga is for girls. Some men believe that they are not flexible enough for yoga, while some others deem it as an unfit workout. Contrary to this, yoga is as beneficial for men as it is for their female counterparts. All it requires is a person's will to do yoga.

Specifically designed programs for men offer a full-body workout to improve both flexibility and strength. Not only will the yoga poses help you reduce the likelihood of injury but you will also enhance your athletic ability. You will need to use the poses that will focus on the areas where men tend to be the tightest in order to get the greatest benefit.

Yoga for men is a proven way to improve overall health and strengthen the joints that typically plague men as they get older.

Everyone experiences stress almost everyday, and men are not exempt from this reality. The contemporary man is expected to be physically and mentally strong and fit to cope with stress and to meet the demands of everyday life.

In general, men are known to be less emotional than women and they frequently suppress their emotions, according to the book, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ we men are all stuck on our caves working it out. This can increase stress levels and, eventually, to an increased hazard of heart problems.

Yoga for men has health benefits that extend far beyond the body. It is one of the few exercise forms that work out every portion of your body as well as our mental state. Whether it is toning the body, gaining more focus and peace of mind, or just becoming generally healthier, yoga is probably the best form of exercise you can perform.

I am starting a series of male only yoga classes, “Yoga for not-so-flexible Men”

Classes held initially in a private studio of 5 limit, go for an hour and work specifically for men.

There are no gongs, singing bowls, incense, oils, dogma just really good physical movement that will loosen men’s bodies. I will explain why we do a pose, how it works, what it will achieve and how men can build their own personal practice.

I will be launching the classes soon with details on this site....

Find your warrior

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Perhaps you have sometimes considered yoga but believe it is only for people who are flexible and healthy. What's could it do for you?

Yoga has been around for thousands of years and is steadily increasing in popularity across the UK for some very good reasons. As well as the physical benefits that are a given, they also include health benefits that people in today's society might need more than people did 5,000 years ago - stress relief!

That said, the early yoga practice was more about calming the mind rather than the more ‘recent’ physical asana practice. These ancient yogis still had to ‘get through the day.’

Too much stress is never a good thing especially if we don’t realise it may be creeping up on us. Stress releases a chemical called "cortisol" into the body. The stress hormone, cortisol, is public health enemy number one. Scientists have known for years that an elevated cortisol level interferes with learning and memory, lowers the immune function, reduces bone density, increases weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of heart disease...

Cortisol gives you an adrenaline rush to escape a "fight or flight" situations. This is your sympathetic nervous system taking control, influencing your breathing, digestion blood pressure and perspiration and so on.

These days, it’s not so much about tackling a sabre toothed tiger but more about being stuck on the M4 or in the school run.

If you're under constant stress you release too much cortisol.

What can we do about it? There are lots of things scientists and doctors recommend to help lower cortisol levels. Two primary recommendations are physical exercise and meditation. We know yoga combines both physical movement (asana) with mindfulness (dharana) to create a holistic approach to overall wellness. Practicing yoga consistently, at least twice a week, will help decrease cortisol levels.

Consider these healthy benefits:

- Lower blood pressure - Reduced stress and help with anxiety and depression - Promotes muscle relaxation (helping people sleep better) - Increases muscle strength - Improves general fitness and flexibility - Increases lung capacity - Feel-good chemicals are released from your brain - Imbalances can be balanced; repetitive stress imbalances can be straightened out.

Basically, you feel better, breathe better, stand straighter and handle stress better when you practice yoga on a regular basis. The side effects of aging can also be decreased with yoga. As we age we lose muscle strength, we are less stable on our feet and sometimes a little less sure of ourselves. Yoga works on improving balance and building strength. Yoga poses can be adjusted to make them comfortable to your body. The increased confidence on the mat can be taken into your daily living.

Yoga makes you feel younger. It is said in the wisdom of yoga that when we release muscles and the tensions they hold we feel younger.

Some specific health conditions to consider:

Women suffer through menopause: Yoga is a suggested activity to alleviate some menopausal symptoms. Practicing gentle yoga relaxes you, easing some of the changes your body is going through. At the same time, you are building strength and confidence. Since menopause is something our bodies need to go through, let's do what we can to make it easier on ourselves.

Fibromyalgia is recognized by widespread pain, often accompanied by extreme fatigue and multiple other symptoms that can be very debilitating. Yoga can help your body gently move those sore muscles. When you practice Yoga you pay more attention to your body and each part that you are working on. That 'attention' or awareness allows you to ease into positions and adjust poses or movements that are painful.

This information seems a little geared toward women, but men enjoy the health benefits of yoga just as much. The men that come into my classes look forward to a yoga class to address the aches and tightness but especially the relaxation. Some of my clients are athletes and they need the flexibility to be the best they can be in their sport. There are more men attending yoga classes these days than people think and they fully engage with the practice as they really feel the holistic benefits of a balanced asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breath control) class.

For all ages the most needed health benefit of yoga is the stress relief. An awful day of aggravations can melt away in just one yoga class. If you can allow yourself to relax and breathe, you simply stimulate your body and mind while working through poses with awareness and then you consciously relax.

Sometimes all it takes is a little lifestyle change to make you feel good. Take advantage of the health benefits of yoga. People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years. Yoga is now being researched to medically prove the physical and mental benefits.

Of course you should check with your GP before starting any new exercise routine. I find that many doctors encourage yoga, we have a couple of medical professionals on our teacher training programme, but you should still check just to be on the safe side.

If you would like to explore the possibilities further, please drop me a line.

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