Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Happy Summer!

Hello Yogis,

It’s been a great year of yoga, teaching and practicing with you… Loads of laughter, stretches, grimaces and smiles! Now it's time to take a short break from teaching, to learn again...
I’m flying off to India tomorrow, for a yoga retreat: 12 days in the Parmarth ashram in Rishikesh near the Himalayas, moslty in silence, focusing on yoga and meditation. I feel lucky to live such an incredible experience, but I must admit, I’m a bit scared as well :-)
I then continue the holiday with my family and friends doing a “Tour de France” for five weeks.  Classes will resume when I’m back, on August 15th.

Hope you continue practicing yoga during your holiday! Here’s an adult lesson you can use for a self-practice. Just choose a nice and quiet location, unroll your yoga mat and follow the steps below:

  1. Connect with your breathe. Seat in crossed-legs position. Inhale & exhale through your nose deeply, slowly and evenly for 3 minutes
  2. Warm up & Stretch: 
    • Right hand to your right side, left arm up and slide towards the right. Stay for 3 breaths and change side
    • Right hand to your left knee, left hand behind the spine and twist towards the left. Stay for 3 breaths and change side
    • Interlace hands behind the back and lean forward, reach forehead towards the mat
  3. All Fours position (hands and knees):
    • Cat & Cow
    • Shoulder Opening (right shoulder on the mat, right arm towards the left, right ear to the floor and lift left arm up)
    • Lift right leg & left arm up, parallel to the floor. Stay for 5 breaths & change side
  4. 3 Sun Salutations
  5. Plank for 5 breaths
  6. For your strength, dolphin plank (with forearms on the mat):
    • Stay for 5 breaths
    • Bend right knee, open right hip and bring right knee towards the right elbow 5 times, without lifting the buttocks too much. Change side
  7. For your back:
    • Lie on stomach, arms along ears. Lift opposite arm and leg up, change side... Repeat 10 times
    • Cobra, turn head towards one side, then ear towards shoulder, then change side… Rest in child pose
  8. For your entire body:
    • Downward Facing Dog, for 5 breaths. Then lift one leg up, stay for 5 breaths
    • Warrior 1. Then twist to the side, hands together at your heart
    • Straighten front leg too and lean forward, hands down to the mat
  9. For your hips:
    • Downward Dog, lift right knee up to open the hip
    • Warrior 2
  10. For your balance:
    • Tree pose, left leg straight & left foot down
    • Hold right knee to your chest with both hands
    • Straighten right leg in front of you, parallel to the floor, arms up
    • Warrior 3
  11. Malasana (Squat down, knees and hips wide, heels on the mat)
  12. Pashimottanasana (seat with both legs straight and lean forward)
  13. Bridge (variation: wheel)
  14. Savasana

Remember to listen to yourself, and take a break at any moment in child pose if you feel uncomfortable or in pain.

Happy Summer to All, and see you after the holiday with great plans: Kids Yoga ECA in new schools, and new adult classes to propose!

Breathe & Smile,
Sophie / So Yoga

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Child pose with your own child

Great way to stretch more in child pose.. ask your child to lie down on you!



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

5 Tips for Crow Pose

It took me a while to be stable in crow pose.. I wish I read this article earlier!

1. Set up the foundation.

The hands are essentially the foundation of Crow pose. If you have them too far apart or too close together, you’re building upon something that’s potentially quite unstable.
Hands should be shoulder distance apart, with the weight distributed evenly across the whole palm, including the five finger pads. While it’s common to dump most of the weight into the heel of the hand, doing so can lead to unhappy wrists.
By setting up a decent foundation, you can start to build a more stable pose from the base up.
2. Get the knees as high up the arms as possible.
You want to get the body low so you can glue your knees as high up your upper arms as possible. If you’re tight in the hips, you’ll possibly find it challenging to get down low enough for the knee or upper arm connection.
If this is you, you can try using a block under your feet. The extra height the block gives you can help the knees reach higher up the arms. It also helps you wave your tail feather up in the air, which you need to do once the knees and arms are connected.
3. Draw in first, then lift up.
This was an important cue for me. I was so fixated on wanting to lift off that I wasn’t recruiting the muscles I needed to actually get up there.
So the knees are pressing in to the upper arms. The inner thighs are active and drawing in towards each other. The elbows are drawing in, not flapping out to the side. The triceps are firming in to the midline.
The act of drawing everything in should naturally encourage an upward lift.
4. Shift the weight forward.
This can be the scary part for a lot of people. If the mind is fearful of falling, it will do whatever it can to hold you back. So firstly, set the intention with your eyes by taking your gaze out in front of your hands. Then reinforce the message that you’ve got this.
Remember, if you’re scared of falling forward, then put a couple of cushions or blankets down in front to make a soft landing pad, which can help relax the mind around the idea of face planting. Another thing—keep elbows over heel of the hand. This goes hand in hand with shifting the weight forward.
For me, it all clicked into place when I focused on my elbows. I’d been practicing with my elbows flapping out to the side like chicken wings. This was creating instability, and therefore standing in my way of lifting up.
Once I realised that I needed to bring the elbows in and forward over the heel of the hand (like in Chaturanga or Four-Limbed Staff Pose), I felt stronger and way more solid in the pose.
5. Upper back is rounded, not flat.

The upper back should be rounded, which ignites some really important muscles that help with balance and poise. This point can be the difference between you flying for a few seconds, and holding the pose for longer.
To round through the upper back, press your hands in to the mat as though you’re pushing the mat away from you. I like to imagine I’m puffing up a little in the centre of the upper back.

As well as physical alignment cues, it’s really important to breathe, and get the mind working for you. So let go of any un-serving thoughts like “I can’t” or “I’m scared,” and instead visualise yourself gracefully and effortlessly holding the pose. You CAN do it, and you will!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Extra Curriculum Activities.. School Year 2016/2017 comes to an end at LFS. Can't wait for next year!

90min of Kids Yoga, twice a week at the French School.. Definitely a big part of my weekly routine, full of laughter, games and stretching!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Birthing from Within

Pregnancy and birth is a universal experience, rituals vary around the world. But the pain and the fear are common facts all around the globe.

Fear activates the nervous system to produce adrenalin, which can reduce contractions, then makes labour difficult. To enter into an effective birthing process, it’s important to balance the fear factor. However, this fear feeling also brings fears to our consciousness, so we can eliminate it. Like if we look at our fears in the eyes! Worrying eventually activates the search for resources, inside and outside of us.

When the brain perceives pain, endorphins are released to help women cope. These hormones are meant to relieve the pain, and elevate the mood. A high level of endorphins basically helps to shift our mindset to a primitive and instinctive one.
Experiencing such a level of pain forces the mum of going to the edge, and beyond. Mothers need to give it their all, moment by moment. Overcoming this pain can be powerful, and help women to take awareness of this beautiful step in their life. Indeed, this book reminds us that childbirth is a rite if passage, not only a medical event. Experiencing pain helps to know us better. Also, practicing pain-coping methods all along pregnancy builds awareness, focus up to our subconscious.

Many ways of overcoming the pain and fear are proposed in the book.

“Basic tips” are first reminded to the women, such as drinking regularly, eating small portions to keep the energy level up. Creating a comfortable and safe environment: massage, nice and pre-selected music, aromatherapy, privacy...  But the most important to cope with pain, in the present moment, probably relies on old, trustful techniques: stop thinking, relax and breathe!
Letting it go, without worrying about our own image, about judgment, without the fear of “losing it” will make the birthing smoother. Remain natural, and do what feels natural.

Be open and open yourself to others! Spending time and sharing stories with other mums , staying connected with the father or working with a doula is of great support, during the pregnancy and the birthing. Finally, connecting with the baby can lead to a strong partnership!

Different types of self-expression and art therapy are proposed too, such as making a birth art piece, a sculpture, a drawing.  Having a mental picture of us giving birth is a good way to take awareness of the baby and of the birthing. It also helps to become more active in the process.

Scaling the pain, from 0 to 100, helps to differentiate pain from suffer, then to act accordingly and expand our pain tolerance.
Exploring different birthing options is also another good way to become aware of our wishes and become active. Between home birth, water birth, many options are now possible in a safe environment. Taking a stand on positions to give birth is worthwhile too: hands and knees, kneeling, squatting, siting. The very frequent “back” option is probably one of the less effective and natural for women though!

Luckily, as the book states it, nature prepared women’s bodies for the pain of childbirth!

Book: Birth From Within. Pam England and Rob Horowitz

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Everyday Blessings - Mindful Parenting

Becoming a parent is the most beautiful thing that happened to me. This extraordinary relationship that suddenly arises keeps changing and evolving, as the child grows and his needs change isn’t easy, but it’s really what matters in life..

I especially love this part: “Children embody what is best in life. They live in the present moment. They are part of its exquisite bloom. They are pure potentiality, embodying vitality, emergence, renewal, and hope. They are purely what they are. And they share their vital nature with us and call it out of us as well, if we listen carefully to the calling.”

Reading this book enabled me to take a step back and understand the nature and the quality of the relationships in my family, as well as a better understanding of my kids and myself.
 Mindfulness means being present in the moment, without thinking about what happens next. It is paying attention to details, recognize the child as he is (as he’s unique, like any tree is unique in a forest), and look at them with fresh eyes, at the very moment. It means dropping our screens and fully dedicate our full attention to our kids, at times.  I have to admit I was relieved reading that being present to our kids doesn’t mean constently paying attention to our kids! Our own needs shouldn’t be forgotten. We need to be aware of ourselves, so we can be have a clearer mind and guide our kids better.

Another aspect in mindfulness parenting is to accept the kids as they are, without judging them. Respecting their personality. Accepting the children as they are, and remembering who the kids really are enable us to recognize their needs… and then be present, and better parents for them.

If we create a true, loving connection in the early stages with our children, we can give them a sense of confidence, safety and balance… At the end, it helps them to find their own balance in life, express their own feelings…  Great and useful tools for their future lives!
First step is of course to express and demonstrate our unconditional love, and of course respect the kid.  Then what matters is to stay ourselves as we create a nurturing and rich bond, everyday. As the kids get a little bit older, I find, as the book highlights it, that sharing common activities, such as practicing sports, is a beautiful way to share time together and get to know each other better.

I also liked the idea of always try to understand the kids’ experiences, and thus try to take sometimes their point of views. And try to remember us when we were young, and what we needed from our parents.

Being awake allows us to be real, instead of being on an “automatic mode”.

At the end of the day, living a mindful life means being present in our life, so it’s about living our own lives!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

3 Ways to Use Yoga in the Classroom

Repetitions, Open Mind, Act as a Kid.. 

1. Create a daily silent moment to teach kids to regroup and reflect.

This will be a cinch for some studentsmaybe not so much for others, and that’s okay. “Instead of making it a stressful silent moment, have fun with it,” says Jakubowicz, who will neither acknowledge nor reinforce rowdy behavior with a scolding. Instead, she’ll turn the moment into a game. “I say, ‘Okay, let’s see who can be quietest longest.’ I always use this trick, and it always works. It’s also nice to cultivate imagination, so afterward sometimes I’ll ask them to share what they saw during the silent moment.”

2. Cultivate their intellect and curiositynot in the way you think!

Encourage students both to ask questions and to try answering them, with the goal of getting the class comfortable with the idea that sometimes there are multiple answers and that it’s okay not to discover even one answer. While this won’t apply to arithmetic, it can spur a great discussion on the motives of a book’s main character or why someone colored her cat blue.
“I’ll keep asking different students the same question: ‘What do you think it would be?’” says Jakubowicz. “When a kid chimes in with one answer and another student says something else, they start to process that sometimes there is more than one answer, which is empowering.”
It’s a method lifted from the self-investigative approach of jnana yoga, says Jakubowicz. “Your yoga practice ultimately sheds your layers and discovers the truth of who you are by asking questions and reflecting on what we are and what we are not, not just what we know as the single truth.”
Also, two things that you, as a teacher, aide, or parent, may want to shed: The phrase “Because I said so” and the pressure to feel like you should know everything. In the former case, use the question “why” as an opportunity to turn the question on your student. “Why do you think I asked you to get ready for snack break?” In the latter, collaborate with a, “Let’s figure it out.”

3. Losing out to restless students? It happens. Channel energy into a yoga game that helps them focus and have fun.

“Kids are so fixated on what’s happening in a single moment, so use their excitement and distraction as a plus!” insists Jakubowicz. “Yoga Freeze Dance is most effective in getting that energy out.”
To try out Jakubowicz’s go-to game, have a plugged-in playlist handy, press play, and instruct them to strike a yoga pose as soon as you hit pause. As the kids start getting the hang of it, you can call out the yoga pose they should land in. Finally, don’t forget one crucial ingredient: “Join in so they feel like it’s a collaborative effort,” she says. “The more adults get involved, the more kids feel like they are connecting with you.”