Thursday, 29 January 2015

Self Employment - how I organise my time

NB - Problems of Privilege Warning 
Jon's view of Sally's days - fair enoughski, to be honest


I've been telling myself off a lot so far this year, and telling everyone else to remember to be kind to themselves. I teach eight yoga classes a week and I post on this blog once a fortnight - there is a lot of un-spoken-for time, which can be a problem as well as a joy and a gift. Sometimes I actually forget what I could do with it and wander round the house going 'what shall I do?' even though I know I've got absolutely tons I want to do. Finish 3 books. Do yoga. Walk. Meditate. See friends. Of course often I end up pottering - a little bit of tidying, a lot of facebook...

I like lists and plans and reminders.

I love mornings and am at my best then, so I do the more difficult things and the washing then. Washing so it will be dry and put away able by night and so that it's hanging around the house brightening things up. I put 'Admin' on the list for the afternoon because the kind of filing and account-keeping I have to do is very simple and it's a waste of alertness to do it in the mornings, though I often do. I'm taking a brilliant online anatomy for yoga teachers course, and there are a lot of video lectures, so that's a good afternoon activity.

Sadly the rowing does not involve rivers, and fortunately not shouting. It's a cheap static machine I keep in Rose's room and move back to ours when she comes home.

If you have free time do you ever find yourself forgetting what you could do with it? And do you have any suggestions that could help the forgetful to remember what to do with their spare time? I've just started working on a rather more detailed timetable...

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Beginning Things - Yoga Poses to Start Your Day, or Change Your Life



The Beginning Things are the most important - you might not get round to the Middle Things. In fact a good little yoga practice would be to skip right from the Beginning Things to the End Things. The End Things are Sitting-and-Breathing and Lying Down.

My Beginning Things are these:

1a - Lying Down (Supine)
1 - Lie down.
1a - If your legs are straight you might be able to relax them more but your waist may be more arched, your abdomen less soft.

1b - Lying Down (Semi-Supine)
1b - If your knees are bent and the feet are flat on the floor, the back of your waist may be more comfortable. Monica Voss once told us that Europeans in a yoga class lie down with their knees bent and North Americans with their legs straight. Settle. Notice things - your breath, body, thoughts...

2 - Cuddle Knees
2 - After a while, breathe out and cuddle your knees in, noticing if the back of your waist rounds out towards the floor. Move, investigate, enjoy.

3 - Cuddle One Knee
3 - When you get bored with that, keep hold of one knee and relax the other leg away along the floor. This is my MOST IMPORTANT YOGA THING; you may find it doesn't do much for you. You’re closing and compressing one set of joints – hip and knee on one side – and opening another set. But better still, it’s great for the lower back, as you ease the pelvis up on the side where you’re holding the knee and tilt it away more on the side the leg is stretched out. If the floor leg can't be heavy, the foot can be on the floor with the knee bent instead of relaxing away.

4a - Leg Stretch
4a - The next thing is to bring both feet to the floor, knees bent. Put one foot into a belt or strap and relax the foot up towards the ceiling.

4b - Leg Stretch
4b - If this is easy for you, stretch the floor leg away. You will usually feel a pull along the back of the raised leg – this is most likely to be behind the knee, but could be in the thigh, calf, ankle, back or a bit of everything. You can move the feeling around by bending or straightening the leg, angling the foot or leg differently, curling your toes towards you… There are so many ways to vary every single thing, just enjoy them.


5 - Floor Twist
4 - Then a Floor Twist – arms out at shoulder height, bend your knees and let them both drop to one side. Most often it’s nice to turn the head in the opposite direction to the knees, but you can also try looking up or to the same side as the knees and notice what this does. The knees can be tucked up nearer or sent away further, and you can land the knees on a cushion or book if the pull is too much. Find something that feels useful, interesting and perhaps fun or even life-changing. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ wrote that floor twists can change your destiny


6 - Bridge
5 - The last of my little group of beginning things is Bridge. I usually call this Setu Banda, but was once in a class which ground to a total halt while the teacher hectored us about our stupidity in not calling it Dwi Pada Pitham, when none of us had opened our mouths to call it anything. Yoga teachers. Totally mad. You lie with both knees bent and both feet flat on the floor, a few inches apart, keep breathing and roll the spine up and down. Start with the hands down by your sides, but vary the arm movements after a while – you can lift them with the hips, have them out to the sides, tuck the hands next to your ears with the elbows lifted as if you were going to do a full Wheel. But I mean just lifting the hips, Wheel (or 'crab') really is not a Beginning Thing.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

A Different Light




It's a new year. It's a new day. My one year project Taking Photos into the Sun is over, and I am fishing around for another. Something to help me not get frowsted up and accidentally stuck in the house as I tend to in winter months. The facebook album of the photos is 'public', which I think means it will work even if we are not facebook friends and you'd like to look at lots of low resolution photos of sun and nearly sun.The project helped me with several things:

1 - most important, getting out of the house:
I spent more time than ever in my beloved Nightingale Rec













2 - I appreciated some of my favourite things even more 
 like the magnificent views from Cambridge car parks (somewhere in this photo is the window of the room where Jeremy and I met).

3 - I have got better at posting things
 and I have what I regard as definitive photographic proof. I actually had just posted something.

4 - In February I realised it isn't always about sun after all. 
This is the sun not shining while I was with my parents in Pembrokeshire. Of course it was a great day just the same.

5 - And a sunrise after 
a night in a desert. I just said that casually.

I've put the two paintings of a window in light and dark which Jon gave me for Christmas on the wall next to my computer to remind me to get up and get out of the house. There won't always be sunshine to get outside for, but there's nothing wrong with that.

Monday, 22 December 2014

My Class.



'I'm going to my class in London tomorrow.... Yes, all the way from Cambridge.... um, in the rush hour.....  not to teach; to be in the class.'

I went three times in December and the beautiful bodies floated down from the floor which had turned into a ceiling as I stood in my headstand.

Week after week and year after year I've watched them leap or unfold up and down, one long leg at a time or elegantly tucking then unfolding both knees. The room is huge and most of them do their headstands in the centre, not hugging the wall like me.

The floor is wood block, the walls are off-white and they are dressed in faded black and grey and darkish denim blues. Workmanlike. No crazy expensive yoga clothes. No crazy dangerous yoga moves. Just a lot of thought and connection and history.

We've known our teacher Catherine James for a long time, and each other too. I don't go every week and, as very often in a yoga class, I don't even know the surnames of these familiar, inspiring people.

Caroline, Celia, Chris (the rule in the yoga classes I go to - and teach - is there is always one man) Emma, Francesca, Lucy, Jan, Jeannie, Maria, Nadia, Sally, Zaza and all the others over the years, thank you.

I love and have learned so much from my books, my dvds, my students, my colleagues, all my teachers. I love my home practice. But there's nothing like My Class for feeling at home in my yoga.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Low Back Pain? Try this simple routine...


A - Start with a few Cats (Cat-Cow in American yoga speak). From all fours, hands under shoulders and knees under hips, dip and then arch the whole spine, from the tailbone to the crown of the head. Breathe while you move and notice which way your breath tends to go - are you breathing in while you lift your head or while you curl it? Try it the other way round.

Next, you need to know how to measure 7 seconds. You might say 'One elephant, two elephant...' or 'ONE and-a TWO and-a THREE' or 'One Mississippi...' Most people I teach are at 7 seconds by the time they have four or five elephants. Try it out with an Online timer

B - Then lie down on your back, right leg bent and left leg straight. Tuck your right hand under the curve of your waist, palm down. Be aware of the shape of your spine as it is now. Put your other hand under your neck and skull. (The stick man's neck never bothers him when lifting his head, so he has put both hands under his back.) Keep breathing naturally through all the exercises - you don't have to match breath with movement. 

Raise your head so your face stays flat to the ceiling - your point of view doesn't change at all. You just lift a tiny bit - only your head and upper shoulders come up. There's a nice detailed description here. Keep breathing naturally.

You come up just for 7 seconds at a time; release completely each time you come down. Do 4 like this, then change the arms and legs round.

C - The next one is Side Elbow Plank.. You can mix and match difficulty range to find something that suits you. You could do 2 with the bottom knee down and the arm to the ceiling then two with the feet stacked and the upper arm swept forward for example. Make the same pattern on each side though, and do four on each side, coming up for 7 seconds each.

Easiest version for legs and arm- bottom knee down, arm swept overhead

Top foot in front of the other makes balance relatively easy

Feet stacked and top arm resting is the most challenging

D - You don't have to have a pilates ball balanced on your back, but it helps to feel the stability you're looking for. As before, keep breathing throughout the exercise, come up for 7 seconds, relax when you bring the knee and arm back down, do 4 of one diagonal before you change to the opposite diagonal. Some people naturally raise the same arm and leg. It's much more difficult to keep the ball balanced, and this isn't the exercise we're doing here.

Spine what you might call 'flat' or 'neutral' - not dipped or arched


Once the basic version of this is easy for you, you can work on moving the arm and leg at precisely the same movement and at extending further, but not lifting into an arch - keep the arm and hand on a level.

When you're happy doing 4 on one side and 4 on the other of exercises B, C and D you can add a few more till you do a maximum of 4 and 4, then 2 and 2, then 1 and 1. It's all the 7s - always doing 7 seconds and a maximum of 7 on each side.

Don't do them on tired muscles. Judge when you're pushing it and do them regularly till they're easy. This is not a feel-the-burn thing. This is a happy back thing. The whole thing will take between 10 and 15 minutes, depending how long you rest in between each one.

This little routine was inspired by the work of Stuart McGill and his team. Their work is infinitely more detailed than this little blog post and fascinating. Google around, there's tons out there - here's one place to start: Stuart McGill back exercise pdf.

I was taught this years ago by an excellent Cambridge osteopath, Mojo Rathbone. I'd gone in with a recurrent low back pain issue, at that stage in an acute phase. There used to be a link to the exercises from my yoga class website Nightingale Yoga on a page of Men's Health, but it's gone now, with the magazine concentrating solely on muscle building for appearance it seems. So I promised my students I'd replicate the instructions here - many of them have found this extremely useful - I hope you might too. Please let me know how you get on. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Meeting Jenny

Yoga teachers talking

I think I've mentioned Jon's book Yoga for Travellers. Jon illustrated it and it was written by Jennifer J. Ellinghaus. Her real name is Jenny, but her author name is Jennifer J. Jon and Jenny and I met in London on Wednesday. 

Jon had not met her before because while they were working on the book she was travelling and doing yoga.

We talked a lot about yoga and about balance. I write and teach and look for balance in my yoga practice and my everyday every day. But balance can be over a longer period of time - a lifetime even, as Jenny describes in her book. She travels, then she settles for a while and works. We have so many different ways to find and lose and re-find our equilibrium, and our balance, and it's important to let it go from time to time. Everything changes. Embrace the imbalances.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Am I Kayaking?



I might have a new hobby, but I'm not sure. Can it be a hobby if I have only done it three times? Too early? And has it really happened if there are no photos? No photos on Facebook, no photos on Twitter. No photos on Instagram (well, I'm not on Instagram). No-one can 'like' it, or retweet it. Not even my friends or family can gather round my phone to agree how peaceful the river looks or how weird I look in the life jacket thing.

But I know how to turn this situation around. I can write about it on my blog and then Jon will draw me in a kayak on the Cam. Once it's been illustrated on the internet it must be happening.

I've posted a bit less recently, but I'm still there almost every day, liking and commenting and clicking on links. And putting up photos-into-the-sun and photos-my-camera-takes-by-itself and photos of my family. But no photos of kayaking, because I am fond of my phone and I have got utterly soaked each time I've kayaked.

In fact, so far when I go kayaking I leave home with just the clothes I stand up in and come home in the same clothes, but extremely wet (don't worry, I haven't fallen in), I just get very wet when kayaking. No bag, no phone, no make-up. It's weird and wonderful for me. I usually take my phone even over the road to the park. I might 'need' to take a photo. Someone might 'need' to phone me. Perhaps it's an early feature of hobbies that they are light and then they gather momentum, responsibility and 'stuff'. When I started doing yoga I only had one pair of weird baggy trousers I could wear to class and did my practice at home in a skirt, without a mat or strap or block or blanket or book or video. When Jeremy began singing in a choir he just turned up. Now he's secretary and gets magazines and emails and piles of fleeces to distribute. If the kayaking sticks no doubt we'll soon have a shed-full of kayaking stuff.

Maybe that's why new hobbies are good - the starting over, the simplicity?