Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Running - Make Sure You Breathe

We often take the process of breathing for granted, but have you ever thought about how it can influence your run or perhaps improve your ability? Our bodies use a process called aerobic respiration to generate energy during activities. This process requires oxygen so wouldn’t it make sense to be aware of our intake of oxygen and to make sure our oxygen intake is sufficient?
As humans begin to exercise abruptly, we almost immediately increase our respiratory demands to meet the metabolic needs of our muscles. This is process is called hyperpnea. This is not the same as hyperventilation which is characterized by alkalosis. The process of hyperpnea gradually increases the body to a comfortable rate and then maintains a steady state.
During exercise, runners rely on a few muscle groups to allow the expansion of the thoracic cage (known to layman as the rib cage). The muscle involved in this area is the thoracic diaphragm—the muscle below your lungs, separating the chest cavity and the abdominal cavity, and the intercostals which are between the ribs. During vigorous exercise runners recruit more muscle groups to achieve the greater thoracic volume. The muscles included in this region are the sternocleidomastoid, and scalenes which are located in the anterior neck, the pectoralis minor of the chest, and the postural muscles of the back (erector spinae).
With this information it’s important to make the most of your run by focusing on the tips below:-
  • Diaphragm Breathing
    Focus on breathing with your diaphragm. 
    Commonly known as Belly breathing and widely used in Yoga, this will allow you to continue with deep breathing to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide freely.
  • Relaxing your Upper Body
    Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed to allow the accessory muscles of breathing to optimally function.
  • Posit Posture
    Focus on your posture. Keep your shoulders back and your chest open. This will also aid your breathing and reduce muscle fatigue. Maintaining good posture will come naturally by preserving a strong core. This includes the musculature of the abdomen and back.
  • Monitor Breathing
    Try to monitor your breathing, once you are well established in your run, take note of your breathing pattern. Is it steady and rhythmic? Breath in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth can help manage your breathing patterns.
Running is good for our overall health. Both your mind and body benefit from a good run. It is imperative to understand how the demands on our body change as we exercise vigorously. In doing this, runners can optimize their workout and make every run a good run.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Yoga is not a competition...

Competitions are all about performance, winning or losing. Yoga is different, it is meant to bring you to the centre. Sometimes you might find yourself comparing yourself to others in the class, but there is no need to compare yourself to the person next to you or your teacher, if you do, your concentration will wander like a stray animal. You will not be centred.

There is no pre-requisite to be flexible in yoga. Many practitioners would love to be flexible. Many yoga students start yoga in old age to work on their flexibility, but there is often misunderstanding. If you are flexible, that is good. If you're not flexible, that's good as well. Give your body your total concentration and work with it as much as it allows. If you are very flexible and you attend a yoga class, there is great temptation to boost your ego by comparing yourself to the other yoga students. But this is the very moment when you reduce a yoga lesson into mere performance. You are demonstrating your ability.

If you are not flexible and you attend a yoga lesson and you work with total concentration on your body, without comparing yourself to others, you will be able to transform an ordinary yoga lesson into a blessing for yourself and your body.

In both cases, work with the focus in mind. Find your way inwards and communicate with your body. You will find yourself diving into the infinity of your potential. This is the essence of YOGA. Translated YOGA means "Union". You will be uniting your mind and body. If your attention is elsewhere, unification has failed. If you turn your mind to your body, you will be in the here and now because your body is always in the here and now. It is only your mind that can prevent you from uniting your body and mind.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Shiva Rea Awesomeness

Happy in our Yoga camp
Although I love yoga, my experience of really well known teachers is pretty limited, especially now I am a mum. My time is stretched at the best of times, so I usually take my inspiration from my amazing local instructors. However, yesterday I made an exception and, thanks to my gorgeous friend, Will Forrester, managed to bag myself a highly sought after ticket for Shiva Rea's Summer Solstice Yoga Workshop held at London Zoo. Right at the last minute as well, the lovely Marie Greaves, also decided to join us and so the band of three headed off through the rain to see this world-renowned teacher.

We were not disappointed. Considered to be one of the best Vinyasa yoga instructors in the world, Shiva Rea's style and approach to yoga helps to restore energy levels, build strength in the muscles and body and works to achieve optimal balance through a Vinyasa yoga practice. For those that aren’t familiar with Vinyasa yoga, it is a technique that uses “connecting postures” which works both with movement and breathing. Shiva Rea teaches in a calming and methodical way to help a person take on the challenge of the poses. 

Shiva's four hour workshop was dedicated to lighting the fire within, helping to unlock passion in our lives. There was much "solar meditation" with beautiful and powerful chanting. Imagine it, 250 people all chanting together, it was a humbling experience. The meditation was interspersed with intense, creative and dynamic prana flow yoga. It was startling to feel the heat that I built up during the practice, sometimes not even realising how much yoga we were actually doing, such was her charisma and ease of teaching. Shiva walked around us, correcting where and when needed while all the time taking us though her amazing sequences. 

The combination of mantras and movement created a wonderful energy within the 250 strong class. Often only inches apart from mat to mat, it seemed natural and acceptable to have my neighbour's legs and feet folding across me as we went deeper into the postures. Shiva's friendliness, encouragement and humour were contagious and made the practice seem so much more honest and kind.

Throughout her teaching life, Shiva has passed on the belief that even a little yoga is better than no yoga at all and has encouraged her students to start even with just a few minutes, helping them to feel instantly better while working on balance, a peaceful mind set and composure in order to get through a daily routine. It isn’t just about the mind though; this type of yoga helps to sculpt long lean muscles, as well as build stamina while toning the body in an effective way as most fans in attendance yesterday will agree. 

Sunday Smiles

Is there anything more delightful than sitting with the patio doors open, looking out into the garden, with your daughter sitting at the same table drawing a picture for Daddy, as you put together your thoughts on a Sunday? I think not.

Daddy, by the way, is having a lie-in, it is Father's Day after all...

As this is my first post (and for that matter my first blog) I thought I'd use this time as a "test", getting some words onto the page and seeing how it looks and sounds. No matter if it's not fantastic initially, I want to see how the whole thing works as really, I'm not all that technically minded and it takes some time for me to feel confident in the ways of the virtual world. But here I am, at long last, getting my thoughts down on paper (so to speak) and it feels good...