Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year: New You

Well, 2012 is about to leap upon us and at this time it's all about new year’s resolutions.
For me, 2012 means continuing my passion for teaching yoga and with it, acceptance. If you don't value and accept yourself, you are always frightened that other people will reject you. To prevent people seeing how unacceptable you are, you keep them at a distance, and so you are always frightened and lonely. If you value yourself, you don't expect people to reject you. You aren't frightened of other people. You can be open, and so you enjoy good relationships.
If you value and accept yourself, you are able to relax and enjoy yourself, without feeling guilty. When you face a crisis, you know that, no matter how difficult the situation is, you will manage. How we see ourselves is central to every decision we make. People who value and accept themselves cope well with life and all that it throws at them.
As I continue on my teaching journey, it has become more and more about helping people to realise all of the above and in doing so, I can do the same. At first people come to my classes to get fit, lose fat and become more flexible. But as things progress within their practice, they learn to accept the limitations of their body and rather than push themselves into postures, they nurture and love their bodies and through the weeks, then months, of learning and practicing, a realisation that they are beginning to love themselves from within comes to the fore. It is quite something to see the transformation within people and only now, through regular teaching, I am really beginning to see people change. Inspiring and humbling.
As well as the physical benefits, through yoga people can regulate and assist their stress levels and mental health. Good mental health isn't something you have, but something you do. To be mentally healthy you must value and accept yourself. This means that:
  • You care about yourself and you care for yourself. You love yourself, not hate yourself. You look after your physical health – eat well, sleep well, exercise and enjoy yourself.
  • You see yourself as being a valuable person in your own right. You don't have to earn the right to exist. You exist, so you have the right to exist.
  • You judge yourself on reasonable standards. You don't set yourself impossible goals, such as 'I have to be perfect in everything I do', and then punish yourself when you don't reach those goals.
So as I prepare to restart my classes after the festive break, I am setting myself a resolution to continue to assist those who most need it, in my classes, a way of learning acceptance and therefore moving forward in a more positive manner in the new year.

Yoga however, is not for everyone, so here are some top tips to help you into a positive mindset for 2012:
  • be active: exercise releases endorphins, and is proven to be beneficial for your mental wellbeing. You don't have to be an athlete - just a gentle stroll in your local park helps decrease feelings of depression. One habit naturally slim people share is their ability to stay in motion. Try to inject each day with more activity (adults should aim for 30 minutes daily). The opportunities are endless once you've developed the right mindset.
  • go green: take advantage of the natural ecotherapy available on your doorstep. Connecting with nature boosts your mood and can help lift your mood. So do some gardening or head out for a walk in the park.
  • try something new: new hobbies can exercise your mind, you might even suprise yourself. 
  • give back: helping your community can be just as rewarding for yourself as those you choose to help. 
Finally, to get into the swing of looking forward with a healthy attitude (start as you mean to go on, and all that..!), here are ideas on resolutions:
  • control your portions: want to downsize your figure? Start downsizing your dishes. Studies show using smaller plates and bowls promote weight loss because they help to curb overeating. 
  • slash sodium consumption: besides contributing to water retention (think bloat!), sodium can raise blood pressure. Processed foods contain the most, so make sure to read labels. Lower sodium diets are linked to decreased risk of heart disease, but are also associated with lower hypertension and weight management.
  • increase antioxidants: when your body breaks down food it produces molecules called free radicals. Cigarette smoke and radiation also produce free radicals. Over time, the damage from these substances can result in conditions like infection, cancer, inflammation, and heart disease. That's where antioxidants step in. (Once you cut an apple, it begins to brown, but if you dip it in orange juice, which contains vitamin C (an antioxidant), it stays white). You can defend your body the same way by including rich sources in your diet. Pomegranates, coffee, and even chocolate contain antioxidants.
  • stop smoking: for smokers, quitting may be the hardest resolution to stick with because it is so challenging. If you consider the benefits, and take advantage of today's resources, this could be the year you successfully become a nonsmoker.
  • floss: like many people, you may not know that bacteria in your mouth can lead to serious problems if you neglect oral health. You may also be surprised to learn that during routine exams, your dentist can spot indications of diabetes and heart disease. One simple thing you can do to head off bacteria is floss your teeth.
  • wear sunscreen, all year round: sun exposure affects everyone. Most skin cancer develops after age 50, though sun damage starts at an early age. The sun's rays are also behind brown spots, and can make wrinkles appear before their time. Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen, even in the winter, anywhere skin is laid bare to the elements.
Whatever you resolve for 2012, having healthy expectations for yourself is important to both your physical and mental health. Obviously, that's easier said than done. A mean-spirited inner-critic can ruin relationships, keep you from reaching personal goals, and cramp your ability to be an active participant in your life. So, make sure you are kind to yourself.

I wish you all, the most prosperous of years, filled with all good things. May it be happy, healthy, lucky and loving.

Namaste (the divinity in me bows to the divinity in you).

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Yogic Ideas to Help You Combat Christmas!

This is the time of year when we over-indulge on pretty much, a daily basis...eating way too much or simply eating all the wrong foods. Virasana or Hero's Pose may well be the perfect medicine for your digestive system at this time of the year.  It’s fabulous for tonifying the digestive meridian in the body.
It also helps loosen your ankles, knees and hips.  An added bonus.
Depending on the flexibility of your knees, hips and ankles you may find it difficult to sit with your buttocks resting between your feet.  So, there are couple of modifications with blankets you might like to try for extra comfortability.
If your knees are sore then place one or more folded/rolled blankets behind your knees.
You can also grab your calf muscles and roll them out and away from your thighs – this should create more space and usually works well.
If your hips and buttocks are tight or your bottom a little bony, sit on one or two folded blankets.  This will also help remove any stress from your knees.
The key is to feel comfortable so you’re able to sit and breath into this yoga posture for around 5 minutes.
Tired Legs or Aching Back From Too Much Shopping:
Why not try legs up the wall for 15 minutes.  This yoga pose is great for fluid retention in your legs.  And, if legs up the wall sounds way too tricky for you why not try a gentler version with legs resting on a chair.  Still has the same wonderful effect.

Honestly, this has got to be one easiest ways to deeply rest your body.  Not too mention the health benefits for your adrenals, circulation, organs, heart, aching legs and nervous system.  So much better for you than having another cup of coffee and soldiering on.
Trust me, you’ve got to try this restorative yoga pose and experience it for yourself.  After 5 minutes of chillaxing with your “legs up the wall”,  you’ll feel so much better.  All you need is a floor and a wall.  Blankets and cushions are handy optional extras.
Before you start:
Grab a few cushions, blankets or a bolster just in case you decide you need a few under your buttocks to feel extra comfortable and supported.
Of course you don’t need any props at all, just the floor and wall is perfectly fine.
I personally prefer having a bolster under my bum as it gives a nice gentle stretch to my sacrum and lower back.  I also love using my yoga eye pillow as it relaxes my eye muscles and helps deepen the relaxation experience.  A light blanket is also handy as your body tends to cool down when you relax.
Getting into legs up the wall:
1: Sit next to wall with your knees bent and your left shoulder and left hip against the wall.
2: Swing around to bring your bottom up close to the wall supporting yourself on your elbows and forearms.  If you're using a bolster have that against the wall first and then swing around and up onto it.
3: Slowly move your legs straight up the wall.  Keep them relaxed.  Come away from the wall if your hamstrings are tight or tailbone and buttocks are lifting off the floor.  Remember being extra comfortable is important.
4: Use a folded blanket under your head if necessary.  Make sure your chin is slightly lower than your forehead. Your neck must feel comfortable, without any tightness or pinching at the nape.  If blood flow to the head is obstructed, the brain cannot relax.  A towel rolled and placed under your neck can also be helpful.  Take your time and do what feels right for you today.
5: Place your arms out by your side with your palms turned up.  This opens up the area under your arm pits and gives space to your chest and heart area.
6: Breath slowly and deeply.  Enjoy the release of tension from your legs, your spine being able to relax and chest area more open.
7: To finish simply bring your knees to your chest and very, very gently roll out to your right side. Wait for a few minutes before you get up.  This is very important – gives your blood pressure time to adjust.
Yogic Detox Tea:
Help your body out a little by detoxing gently each day with spiced hot water.
1/4 tsp coriander seeds, 1/4 tsp of cummin seeds and 1/4tsp of fennel seeds. Mix with 1.5 litres of hot water.  Sip throughout the day. 
Yogic Aura Cleansing Bath:
Cleanses negativity from your aura and removes chemicals from your physical body.  Soak for 20 minutes and repeat each day for 7 days.  If you start to feel dizzy or weird leave bath immediately as you have successfully loosened and removed enough negativity for the day.
I personally have not done this one for 7 days but a few of my friends have and all rave about how awesome it is.
  • 1 lb Baking soda
  • 1 cup Sea salt
If all else fails...breathe:

It seems obvious but sometimes, when we're at our most stressed it's the hardest thing to do. But breathing - not just breathing, but breathing properly, deeply - helps us to relax, unwind and take stock. It's how birthing mothers get through their hardest of labouring moments; it's how yogis stretch into their deepest of poses; it's how people stay sane when someone shouts in their face. Use your breath mindfully and the rest will follow.


Remember to enjoy the festivities. It doesn't all have to be perfect. Spend it doing the things you love doing, with the people you love doing it with. Time is precious, it's important to enjoy it!

Happy times!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Yoga at the Office

Even if you love your job, spending 40-plus hours at a desk every week can sometimes lead to more than just a headache; it can also be a pain in the neck, shoulders, back, feet, and eyes. Being chained to your desk starves your extremities of blood, oxygen, and other fluids, resulting in tight muscles and stiff joints. But before reaching for the industrial-size bottle of ibuprofen, try these poses, spending 3 minutes every 2 hours doing the following moves to relieve some tension.

The Pain: Wrists and Hands

The Cause: Typing is a very repetitive motion, and we do it for hours, on top of that, we hold our hands in a very tense position, so the muscles get stiff and blood doesn't circulate as well (as evidenced by how chilly your hands can get even in summer.) 

The Yoga Fix: Sitting at your desk with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart, lengthen up through the crown of your head and let your shoulders gently drop away from your ears. Bring your hands together on your lap, interlacing your fingers. As you take a deep breath in, reach your arms out in front of you and press your palms away. As you exhale, raise your arms overhead and try to straighten your elbows as much as you can without scrunching your shoulders. If your shoulders rise up, keep your elbows slightly bent. Hold this pose for 10 complete breaths and lower your arms on the last exhale. Repeat twice more.

The Pain: Feet and Ankles

The Cause: High heels push body weight to the front of the foot and the pointy styles we wear shove our feet into unnaturally narrow spaces. High heels throw off your entire skeletal system because your foundation, your feet, doesn't have a solid connection with the ground.

The Yoga Fix: Remove your shoes. Next, sitting in a chair, cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Weave the fingers of your left hand from the bottom of your foot up between your toes as if you were holding hands with your foot. Begin making circles with your ankle. Make 10 circles in each direction. Next, carefully release your fingers and hold onto the top of your foot. Bend your toes back towards your shins and then down toward your heel. Do this five times in each direction. Now, using your thumbs, gently massage the bottom of your foot, especially the arches. Switch sides.

The Pain: Neck and Shoulder

The Cause: Typically, we slouch, rather than sit. Your head is as heavy as a bowling ball, so when you push, drop, or tilt your head forward to squint at your strategic plan, your neck is bearing a lot of weight.

The Yoga Fix: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on the corners of your lower back with your fingers pointing toward the floor. Rotate your shoulders up, back, and down, bringing your elbows close together without pressing your hips, shoulders, or head forward. Take a deep inhale. Now, root your feet firmly into the floor as you lift up through crown of head and bend back very slightly. Press your elbows closer, lifting up through your heart. Hold for five deep breaths.

The Pain: Eyes 

The Cause: You may be unaware of it, but while staring at your monitor or reading, you probably tense up your face. Plus, recent studies say hours in front of the glowing computer screen may fatigue the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain.

The Yoga Fix: Turn away from your computer so your eyes are focused on a completely different object. Sit up in your chair with your chin parallel to the floor. Now, without moving any other part of your body, look up to 12 o'clock, over to 3 o'clock, down to 6 o'clock, over to 9 o'clock, and up to 12 again. Do that five times in each direction.

The Pain: Back

The Cause: When you're sitting at your desk, the discs in your back are bearing three times more weight than when you're standing. The result? Spinal fluid—which keeps your spine flexible instead of brittle—gets squeezed out. This means discs can slip out of place, rub up against each other, and cause excruciating pain. To top it off, a brittle spine increases your risk of injury because there's less fluid to act as a shock absorber, which means bending down and lifting your 5-pound purse can cause a lot of damage one day. The remedy? Twisting poses strengthen and lengthen your spine to create more space. This allows fresh fluid to flood in, relieving compression and bringing sweet relief. 

The Yoga Fix: Keep your chair facing forward, but turn your entire body to the right. Keep your thighs parallel and knees over your ankles. Next, place your hands on the back of your chair. As you inhale, lengthen up through the crown of your head. As you exhale, rotate from your belly, ribcage, and shoulders (but keep your shoulders relaxed and chin parallel to the floor.) To enhance the twist, push with your right hand and pull with your left hand.

Use these yoga workouts to relieve the pain of your desk job and instantly transform how you feel throughout the day at work!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Return Home - The Last Chapter

10 November 2011

"Dear All,

In the past week there has been the passage back and return to Guernsey, the first day back in the office, the Welcome Home party, dinner with the golfers, Channel TV’s great resume, the last ever marathon – No 40, a return to normality and my first gymn session … so a quiet week!!

We booked out of the hotel and headed for the ferry terminal, the Volvo with a headlight out and the camper van with injector problems and a puncture.  So it wasn’t just the team that was tired and ready for home.  The slow boat out of Portsmouth is a relaxed and easy way to travel and Condor has been terrific in looking after us.  Big breakfasts were eaten, newspapers bought and read and it was a journey at a pace and with a level of activity I want to get used to .

We were met by the BBC TV and Guernsey Press newspaper journalists, along with Mike Marshall and Julie-Anne Headington when we came off the boat. Staggered to find that we made the lead article on the front of the Press and there was more about us inside as well.  Julie-Anne presented me with a pair of slippers as she had promised, and once we got the interviews out of the way, we headed for home.

On arriving back in St Peters, there was a banner welcoming us back attached to the front of the house, with a chicken casserole and chocolate cake on the doorstep from our lovely friends and neighbours Nick and Helen.  Happily they were able to join us for supper so we cracked open another bottle of champagne and had an excellent evening in good company… even the cat seemed happy to see me after 7 weeks away.

On Tuesday I headed for the office at the usual time and opened up around 8 am.  The old habits were quickly resurrected and by 8.05 I was heading down the road to the corner shop for the paper and the Victor Hugo boulangerie for my morning coffee and croissant.  Not the quiet precursor to the day that it usually is … lots of queries about the adventure and many congratulations all of which was much appreciated.

It was quickly back to reality on returning to the office.  I received news of a friend’s serious illness and that reinforced how fortunate I feel to have been able to do this challenge with no obvious serious damage.  Currently I am about 12 stone and feeling as fit as a butcher’s dog.  I do realise however that I need to put on a few pounds.

Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday was a busy time working with Alex and Natalie on the Welcome Home party on Wednesday evening.  Ian Robertson, the well-known BBC rugby commentator and Wooden Spoon supporter replaced John Inverdale who had pneumonia.  Also Ian Irving another Wooden Spoon stalwart came over to give us 40 minutes of stand-up comedy.  Rosie Swale-Pope came over too.  Ian Robertson was ‘in conversation’ with Rosie and me for 30 minutes.  Also attending was the Lieutenant Governor and his wife Lynda, the Bailiff and Lady Rowland, and Bill Hill, the CEO of Wooden Spoon. With the exception of Heather (my 2 marathon companion) all of the team from Guernsey were there and Sue Dale made it over from Jersey.  There were big screens showing photos and footage of the run and the general consensus was that it was an excellent evening making about £5k for the charity. 

Much to my surprise Chris Griffiths and the Guernsey Event Co team produced a fantastic little booklet of the daily “blog”.  These were available at every place setting and we collected up those left over at the end of the evening and  we have been selling them off for £5 apiece for the charity!

On Thursday Sally and I went to a dinner for about 20 organised by and made up loosely of my Saturday morning golf pals and partners.  They had been unable to attend the dinner the previous evening due to a golf club commitment.  It was boisterous, noisy and great fun and I look forward to rejoining them on the golf course a week on Saturday after nearly a year’s absence because of the training. 

On Friday the footage of the final marathon filmed by Channel TV was aired on the evening news.  It was edited down to 9 minutes and captured the feel of the challenge really well.  If we can find a link we will advise you of it.  I took it easy on Friday evening since my final marathon was the following morning and I had not done any exercise for a week.  Sally and I did go out to a wedding dance and that took minds off the prospect of the following day’s endeavours.

Saturday was just like old times!  Awake early with nervous anticipation.  Porridge, honey and coconut milk for breakfast around 7am and off the KGV playing fields to meet Doc who spent another half hour taping my feet … nothing changes!

The format for this fund raiser was that I was to run the whole marathon distance while one of the local rugby clubs organised for teams to join me.  Each team was required to run only one mile and they had to raise funds to participate.  Currently it looks as though they will have raised something between £10k and £15k which is a fantastic effort.  The money will be split between St Jacques Rugby Club and the Guernsey cancer charity Hope for Guernsey.

As for the run itself, I tried to maintain a pace of approximately 12 minutes per mile.  The route took us down to the west coast at Cobo and we ran south to Perelle, turned around and headed north along the main coast road as far as Vale Castle where we turned around and ran back to Cobo and then up the long hill to Sausmarez Park and along back to the KGV.  The organisers tell me that it was 26.2 miles however, my Garmin was telling me that it was closer to 27.5!  I crossed the try line (check the link and you will understand) in 5hr 24min … marathon time of approx 5hr 10min … and I was pleased with that.

Along the way we had teams of rugby players in kit, rugby players dressed as grannies, we had a couple of nuns and a couple of penguins too.  Guthrie Steer joined us for a mile as did Heather Reid and her team from the Medical Specialist Group.  In fact Heather joined me twice.  She did a few miles at the start, then went for a cycle ride (she heads off to Cambodia on a charity cycle tour next week) then she re-joined me for the last 5 miles… plucky or what? 

This was the only marathon in the 40 in which I ran the whole thing and I did find it hard.  Thank goodness therefore that the organisers had arranged to have squads from the youth section of the rugby club joining me with about 8 miles to go because that injected a bit of life into the old legs.  Over the last mile I was joined by the minis and their bubbling enthusiasm spurred me on to the end.  As we entered KGV I felt a bit like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn with the kids, the penguins and the grannies all running behind. There is a Channel TV report of this at: 

There were further interviews, kind words and great support.  I was given a chance to say publicly how much I appreciated the great team effort that got me over the finishing line that day and every day previously on the run through the UK.

After that we retired to the bar for a well deserved noggin and Sally and I headed for home and an early supper, with the intention of coming back to their Bonfire Party but aching muscles later prevented this!  Maybe there is some credence to the benefits of the cold bath!

With all physical commitments now out of the way, it was great to get back to a level of domestic normality on Sunday … long lie in, breakfast in bed, Church.

As for the cards, letters and calls of congratulation they’ve been pouring in since we got back which is very kind of folk and much appreciated.  The fund raising continues with much still to do.  Will we reach the targeted £1m? No, but there is nothing wrong at aiming for the stars.  Will we raise significant sums for a number of good causes?  Absolutely we will and when we have a better idea of how much that will be I’ll let you know.  

Future exercise?  Well tonight it was a light session in the gym and that’s all I am proposing for this week.

Next week?  Well next week we’ll see how I feel.  One thing is for sure … it won’t be a marathon or anything like it!!  If I talk of doing anything like this again, shoot me!  Didn’t Steve Redgrave say something like that? 

But I do have plans for 2012.  I will be heading off to learn more in order that in the future I might teach running technique.  I like to think that I’ve learnt a bit about running but I want to take that a bit further.  Also it is 10 years since we first held The Channel Highland Games.  They were a riotous success in 2002 and I have set the wheels in motion to have the games resurrected.  That will keep me busy.  

And that is you bang up to date.  Thanks for taking an interest in my exploits over these past 7 weeks and thanks for sharing it with so many.

Best Wishes

Finally, here is a piece from Channel TV about Dad.