Notes From my Yoga Journal – Paschimottanasana (Sitting Forward Bend)

I’ve finally done it! After years of research and at-home practice I am finally registered on a Yoga Teacher Training Programme and I couldn’t be more excited! Those of you that have read my post A New Path to Wellness you will already know my affinity to Dru Yoga – a soft, flowing form of yoga which teaches the asanas as continuous movement or, to quote their own phrase; ‘stillness in motion’ and the effect it has had on my life. In short, I’ve gone from feeling empty to feeling utterly fulfilled, spiritually, mentally and physically by the virtue of yoga.

I spent yesterday on day one of my course (although I’ve actually missed the first few sessions so have a little catching up to do!) and woke up this morning inspired to roll out my mat and practise what I learned. The learning materials that accompany the course have given me deeper knowledge of asanas that I thought I was familiar with and my journal has served as a great reminder of quotes, conversations and my own feelings from the day. One asana that thoroughly stood out to me yesterday was Paschimottanasana, or ‘sitting forward bend’ to you and I! I had no idea that such a seemingly simple and everyday pose held such greatness. It can certainly be described as a ‘master pose’, with its positive effects on attachments and stress helping to fulfill the Yamas of Brahmacharya (Self-restraint) and Aparigraha (Non-grapsing). ‘Using the senses wisely’ was the turn of phrase that I felt really encapsulated the benefits of Paschimottanasana.

When done correctly Paschimottanasana:

  • Helps to release fear and amplify courage
  • Controls dominating desires
  • Calms the swadhisthana chakra
  • Awakens the spirit

Plus has the following physical benefits:

  • Stretches the hamstrings and lower back muscles
  • Tones abdominals
  • Strengthens pelvic floor
  • Stimulates the kidneys, liver, pancreas and adrenal glands
  • Helps with conditions such as diabetes

How to do Paschimottasana

Sit upright with your legs outstretched in front of you. Focus on sitting on your sit bones (You may need to physically hoick your buttocks out from under you!) and extend your spine upwards towards the ceiling.

Breathe in and bring your arms up above your above your head so that your palms face down and your fingertips just meet. Exhale and re-engage your core whilst relaxing your shoulders.

Inhale and stretch your spine upwards towards the ceiling and then on an exhalation hinge from the hips (Not the waist!) bringing your chest down towards your legs. Keep extending (Inhale) and lowering (Exhale) until your torso is closer to, or resting on your legs. You may not get this far comfortably so do not over stretch or fold at the waist in earnest – it is better to ensure an extended spine and hinging from the hips, than to force your body down by curving the spine over.  Stop where you naturally reach and grab hold of your feet or further up your legs and rest here, continuing to extend and lower discreetly as you inhale and exhale.

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I would recommend this pose as something to practise regularly – perhaps as part of your daily yoga or to heal and de-stress when you need help with something overwhelming.

I hope you enjoyed this extract from my yoga journal, I hope to write more posts like this as I journey through my training. Please let me know how you get on with Paschimottanasana in the comments below.

Jaime xx

 

Image credit: Care2

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#reasonsforbeinghappy – week 7

Running = endorhphins = happiness.

I’ve recently got back into running again and alongside my tri-weekly yoga practice, running keeps me incredibly fit and allows me to enjoy the outdoors in a purposeful way.  Need an excuse for getting out and exploring the local area? Go running! I love discovering new routes and tracking my progress with the Run Keeper App, it truly is a great way to get those happy hormones flowing and the perfect compliment to any yogi’s fitness schedule.

Week 7

1. New running kit!

A friend recently recommended Asics as a good start point for decent running shoes.  My old Nikes were not providing my weak arches with enough support and I was getting referred pain in my knees every time I ran, and so it was time to replace them with something more effective. The staff in my local Asicis store were knowledgeable and helpful and along with chatting about my running regime and history they provided a gait analysis, which allowed them to match the footwear perfectly to my needs.  The trainers I chose had built-in arch/ankle support and good shock absorbency for my knees, and I’ve really been enjoying getting out for a run in the fresh air again.

2. Lighter, brighter evenings.

Arriving home from work in daylight is just so relieving. The heavy hug of Winter darkness is finally waning, and just like Spring bulbs which are sprouting everywhere here in Kent; I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel – It’s the 1st of March and Spring is almost here! That also means its time to get into the garden and get ready for a fruitful Summer growing season.

3. A growing blog – progress at last!

This week since the big migration I have seen a vast improvement in my stats, more followers and the beginnings of a pinterest following.  Its been really inspiring and whilst I still struggle to balance the home/work/blog balance, I have lots of exciting new ideas in the pipeline to improve Green Dreams and Yoga – thank you all so much for the continued support! As a relatively new blogger I need your help more than ever to grow and improve – don’t forget you can also find and follow me on  facebook, twitter, pinterest, bloglovin and please keep sharing with your green friends!

What are your #reasonsforbeinghappy this week? Please share them below for us all to enjoy!

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#reasonsforbeinghappy – week 6

Happiness is our natural state – the human default if you like.  Just look at the children around you; unaffected by learned cynicism, prejudice and judgement, they are free to enjoy life and all that their world has to offer them.  Children aren’t bound so tightly by societal norms, niceties and routines; they are free, to an extent, to be who they are and express themselves as such. When you consider how life begins, it’s such a monumental shame that we as society, strip our children of their default state; their happiness, by squeezing those happy little individuals into clearly labelled boxes and packing them off for a life built on adhering to ‘the norm’.

It’s a difficult cycle to break! We need society and modern life with its rules,regulations, niceties and comfort, of course, but we can relish in snippets of childhood wonder and punctuate our lives – however normal – with those things that make us most happy. Those things that bring us back – even if just for a moment – to our default state.  Happiness.

Week 6

1. Roses are red

Its more than a week after Valentines Day and the beautiful deep red roses which arrived, husband-in-tow, the evening before the 14th are still flourishing in their cream-enamel jug. Flowers maketh a happy human.

2. Catch up with a close one

My beautiful friend Naomi came to visit this weekend all the way from sunny ‘saaf’ London. Being a busy mum and teacher, 24 hours of high-quality adult company and help keeping the small ones entertained,  was utter bliss. We get so caught up with the drudgery of everyday life – especially if family and friends are far away, so visits like these are the perfect antidote to sadness.

3. Blogging like a pro…almost!

The big site migration! I feel like a wildlife trekker following migrating birds as they navigate their way across hemispheres in search of warmer climes. Except it’s not the natural world but the virtual one, that has had me on the edge of my seat this week.  Yes, I have finally taken the plunge and in addition to my new domain name, I have now moved away from the wordpress.com platform and am officially self-hosted at Godaddy! (Yay!) I must say, it wasn’t without its hair-pulling moments and flashes of gritted teeth, but lots of tea, a Twitter plea, plenty of phone calls and two square eyes later – I have just about finished rebuilding my site. I’m sure it’s not without it’s hiccups and I’m still updating/adding my widgets – please let me know if you come across any errors when viewing the blog!

#reasonsforbeinghappy from across the blogosphere!

@007nai: “I’m happy that despite having an exam next week, I know exactly what to do to relax – great friends like you and the gym!  ”

@amyloves_: “For some quiet time on my own so I can enjoy long meditation ” (www.amy-loves.co.uk)

Indulge in your #reasons this week and find that default setting. Find your happy.

Jaime xx

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Samphire Hoe – Dover

It’s crazy to think that we’ve been living in Kent just over five years now and we still have so much to explore and see! It’s a huge county, and Ashford; where we currently live, feels like the perfect epicentre between London to the north, the coast to the south, the downs to the east and the Weald to the west. It’s the nature lover’s dream!

I’ve been wanting to visit Samphire Hoe for a while now – I’m always looking for rugged new spots for Sunday afternoon walks, and so when the sun began to shine brightly this weekend, we quickly donned our boots and thermals and headed down to the coast.

Samphire Hoe is a beauty spot located at the famous white cliffs of Dover, and in the low sun this Sunday, these majestic white cliffs certainly provided a magnificent backdrop. The Hoe has a plenty of metered parking and also a tea room/info centre, which is – according to their website- open everyday during peak season and every weekend year round. We couldn’t find anyone serving tea but we did speak to a friendly gentleman in the site office, who let us park for free when we had run out of small change, for the rather old fashioned pay machine (no pay by mobile here!) Located just of the A20 heading to Folkestone from Dover, it’s easy to find and makes a great place to stop for a quick stretch of legs or rustic family picnic.

Hope our photos give you a taste of what to expect at this lovely Kentish beauty spot.

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Jaime xx

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#reasonsforbeinghappy – Week 5

It’s been a testing week! Long work days have left me feeling drained and weary, and mornings have seemed as brutal as the uprooting of long-established shrubs, who’s roots are firmly planted in their bed. Winter is a natural hibernation period for many species (Even the birds stop singing in Winter!) and so we must, in order to preserve our health, learn to take it easy and switch off this season. Although there have been lows this week, it is still possible to see the highs and I live for these moments. My goal is to make more of these moments and to savour them!

1. Clear home, clear mind
I have been reading lots lately about breaking free of the mundane, everyday ‘cycle’ we all live. More on that later! For now though, to work towards this freedom we all need to downsize our lives – stop buying ‘things’ and clear cupboards of their ‘stuff’. I have given away two bags of clothing this week – most items had not been worn for several years and the breathing room they leave behind is far more beneficial than saving them for ‘that’ day. Now just to work on Hubby’s side of the wardrobe…

2. Seasonal suppers
The foodie highlights this week have all been seasonal delights; Parsnip gratin, beetroot soup (A staple in our house!) and a gorgeous roast squash and leek risotto. Winter tummies favour the warm and the filling so dig out that slow cooker and stock up on seasonal roots this Winter. Featured image is of a beautiful Crown Prince squash (Fondly known in our house as a ghost pumpkin!) My all-time favourite squash; it’s sweet with firm flesh and delicious roasted whole with a filling of cream, thyme and Parmesan cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

3. A bloggers chat
I finally caught up with my bestie and fellow blogger this week and what began as a quick catch up, turned into an epic chat about everything from world travel to teaching, and everything in between. We talked lots about the blog; she really is my go-to-girl for advice on the technical stuff and I came away from our chat with a new sense of determination and inspiration. I have dusted off my laptop and dug out my notebook – I can’t wait to share lots more posts with you this year!

#reasonsforbeinghappy from around the globe:

 

I love hearing good news! Congratulations @KaraWillow, good luck in your new position! Do you have any good news to cheer up this final cold winter month? Share your happy stories below!

Jaime xx

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An Early Midwinter Morning

As I move around in gentle light. A shift’s occurred which ends the night. An ever flowing change by sun, which fades again once dusk’s begun. For now, I peek fresh-faced, anew, from hours of sleep a yearning to, start the day, light rises now, the moon steps back a graceful bow. A gentle mist hangs on the land, a winter frost clings on each strand, of grass, and plants alike do glisten with specks of glass and dew drops hidden. The birds will rise soon, crystals fade and melt in warming sunshine rays. The depth of Winter centres me, grounds me, holds me sets me free. Morning light, you let me see, morning light will be, will be.

Jaime xx

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#reasonsforbeinghappy – week 4

I can feel it.  We are almost through January and Spring is not too far now. The evenings are getting lighter and in the garden, crocuses are beginning to peak above the leaf-mould canopy, to warm their growing stems in the ever-low  sun. The threat of snow still looms but with the longer days comes hope, a sense that all will be well and that good is coming.

1. Bulbs-a-springing

Crocuses, daffodils and snow drops, all beginning to appear in my garden. The fruit of last year’s labour when I planted what felt like a tonne of bulbs.

2. Birds-a- singing

Two homemade bird boxes (courtesy of a very handy hubby and the local wildlife club!) one pretty fresh water-holder, a peanut feeder, mealworm feeder, seeds and a fat-ball holder. Plus a big compost bin and lots of year-round green foliage have all helped to bring birds back to my garden. I just love slow weekend mornings spent watching the birds out the window, feeding and enjoying our garden wares. The excitement felt by my children last weekend when a blue tit explored one of the bird houses was just immense. We even have a resident robin! Stay tuned for a new post about how I brought nature back into my urban garden.

3. Baby arriving!

January can be a tough time of year. The highs of the holiday season seem like distant memories as we fall back into our daily routine and try to give our bank accounts a break. So nothing could warm my heart more this month than the news of a new baby! Congratulations to one of my dearest, oldest friends, we can’t wait to meet her!

#reasonsforbeinghappy from around the blogosphere:

@KitchenGoddess3: #reasonsforbeinghappy I’ve been on a fantastic long weekend to Edinburgh.The perfect chance to recharge my batteries

What are your reasons this week? Let us know below!

Jaime xx

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#reasonsforbeinghappy Week 3

Ok, so it’s not strictly week 3 but thanks to a busy start-of-term, I’m only just catching up on the blog! Anyway, labels, timekeeping and routine have never been strong points of mine! I’m here to champion the chaotic, the spontaneous and the late. Spend your time having the fun, rather than being punctual in documenting it. That’s my blogger motto anyway!

Here are my latest happy things:

1. Wildlife Walks
It’s been a gorgeous start to January here in Kent. Mornings lay heavy with grey-white mist and afternoons soon warm with low Winter sun-beams, penetrating the cold air in long, golden strands. We’ve had some lovely walks this week and have explored some new beauty spots in our local area; like Bedgebury Pinetum and our local favourite; the Ashford Community Woodland. Boots thick with mud, red noses and misty breath, all synonymous with glorious Winter walking.

2. Young Poet in the Making

My eldest daughter stood up in front of the whole school this week and impressed us all with her poem about the colours of Mexico, beautifully read and wonderfully written. I love poetry and I’m so pleased my children are also inspired to write; it’s good for the soul! Huge proud mummy moment!

3. Saving Orphaned Rhinos
On Monday, I had the pleasure of introducing a speaker from conservation charity OSCAP, at school assembly. She spoke of the imminent threat to South Africa’s wildlife, particularly the rhino, and what we could all do to help. In response to this we have begun a colouring competition at school and have also been selling beautiful rhino pins and bracelets in order to raise money for a new rhino ambulance. These ambulances are specially designed to pick up orphaned rhino calves in the wild who tend to stay close to their murdered mothers and then invariably die due to starvation/dehydration or predation. I am so pleased we can help this wonderful cause. If you would like make a donation or purchase a pin/bracelet please get in touch!

What are your #reasonsforbeinghappy this week?

Jaime xx

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#reasonsforbeinghappy Week 2

Wow it’s late. Well actually, it’s fairly early, but it’s been long time since I’ve posted. Too long. I’m sat writing this in the midst of a three week holiday break and having just had the loveliest of Christmases. This term was my final one as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) and so the blog was put firmly on the back burner whilst I completed the last of my assessments. It’s been a busy year! As we approach New Years Eve, my #reasonsforbeinghappy this week reflect more broadly than they have before, and, look forward happily to the coming year.

Ok so here goes!

Week 2

1. A year of unbelievable highs This was the year I began my job as a fully qualified NQT. It was the year my brother came home from the US and it was the year I married my life partner and father to my children. There have been some pretty heavy lows, a true roller coaster, but 2014 will definitely be one to remember!

2. An Abundant Christmas

Food, family, fun. Not necessarily in that order but all three nonetheless. This Christmas felt special. Newly married, with my long lost brother home, felt more complete than ever. Simple time together, good collective homecooking, walks, chats, reading and sharing. Playing. A great way to end the year!

3. New Year, New Routines
I rarely commit to specific ‘new years resolutions’ as such but always try to begin the year with a general idea of where I’m headed and what I’d like to achieve. Last year was so ‘big’; marriage, committing to vegetarianism, completing my teaching program, that I feel perhaps the smaller things were swallowed up in the chaos. This year for me, I hope, will be one of reflection, presence and stillness. I have been reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and feel ready, more than ever to, as Tolle puts it; awaken to my life’s purposes. This 3rd happy point will remind me to let go of society’s (and my own) limiting expectations, approach negative aspects of life with a non-thought-based response and fully embrace the present. I also hope to bring my somewhat scatty yoga and meditation practice into a more positive daily routine, where I am aiming to eat better, rise earlier and read more.

What are your new year #reasonsforbeinghappy? Remember, being happy is our natural state, strip away the collective societal ego and look to the unwavering happiness, love and peace underneath.

Happy New Year! See you in 2015!

Jaime xx

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#reasonsforbeinghappy

Week 1

Welcome to my new weekly feature! I have begun this weekly treat, to encourage us to seek out the positives in our lives and to show gratitude for the things, people and experiences we already have and value most. It carries a catchy hashtag as it’s title, which I will use to discover the happy-making events shared on twitter and the blog’s Facebook page, and will include some the best ones in the post each Sunday.

Here are mine this week:

1. A beautiful, fun, relaxing half-term week with my girls. As a busy primary school teacher I rarely get to spend quality time with my children during term time. I am however, lucky enough to work at my children’s school, so during those long busy days I at least get to snatch hugs and waves as we cross paths throughout the day. Although nothing beats being ‘mummy’ during the holidays.

2. My brother’s home! After seven long seven years away my wonderful younger sibling has now returned. It’s been really special getting the chance to catch up in the flesh and having him spend some time with his nieces. They adore their ‘Uncle Dan’ and as a wondering spirit, no matter how far away he may again go, we’ll always treasure the bond we have.

3. My amazing husband returned home with delicious chocolates on our third ‘monthiversary’ this week! We were lucky enough to have had a beautiful summer wedding in July and it still feels as though we are on that same high we felt many weeks ago. He’s a very special man, I have a feeling his name will be making regular appearances on my #reasonsforbeinghappy list.

#reasonsforbeinghappy from around the globe:

@JessLMontgomery:

getting to spend some quality time with old friends this weekend #reasonsforbeinghappy

@_SugarRose_:

spending the day decorating cakes and working on marshmallow recipes- veggie option too! #reasonsforbeinghappy

Amy of Amy Loves:

#reasonsforbeinghappy – I’m surrounded by love & support, every single day which makes me very happy x

Did your #reasonsforbeinghappy appear this week? Thank you for sharing with us and spreading the joy!

From the most dazzling sunrise, the bluebells in Spring or reading bedtime stories with your children, showing gratitude; taking stock of how lucky we really are, is a one-way street to wellness, enlightenment and most of all, happiness. So tell me, what are your most precious #reasonsforbeinghappy this week? Please share your lists below, with as many reasons as you like, and spread the gratitude!

Jaime x

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