Shine…

Lovely 🙂

“If you have good thoughts
they will shine out of your face
like sunbeams
and you will always look lovely”

Roald Dahl

sunbeams

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Melting Into Peace?

My friend’s father passed away last week. My friends’ mother died yesterday.   Not the first of my friends’ parents to go, but it’s happening more frequently.  My friends’ baby is dying in utero.  Not the first friends to lose a baby.  My friend’s fiancé is sick.  Very sick.  Not the first.  Not the first.

My heart is breaking but at the same time I have so much hope for the future, wonderful memories of the past and happy times here and now, leaving me with a confusing feeling…does it make sense to be welling happy tears of sorrow, nostaligia, grief and love? Or perhaps it’s sorrowful grief-stricken tears of love and hope.  Yes, I think that more accurately describes it.  But no less confusing.

It’s hard to wrap my head around.  I’m not sure I understand.  Maybe there’s nothing to understand and that’s where I’m going wrong.  Maybe it’s not possible to understand until after we pass on ourselves.  Is there understanding after death? Or nothingness? Or simply melting into the ether, merging with the great spirit, the great link, the force.  Peace.

We often hear that life is a mystery, but what about death? Life is all around us, visible for us all to see, everywhere, every day.  And yes, death is there too, but we don’t experience it. We witness it. Can it be understood?  Life is fleeting; Life is a gift; This too shall pass; You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone;  And a billion other platitudes. So what do we do?

Do what we love. Be with people we love. Make a difference, no matter how small; the small things add up.  Smile.  Laugh.  Love.  Give.  Take/Accept.  Be grateful.  Appreciate ourselves, our lives, our loved ones.  And be there to support others in their pain, in whatever way we can. It won’t be long before it’s our turn again.

To my friends in pain: I love you and am here for you always xx

If this strikes a chord with you, please share using the buttons below and follow me on facebook or twitter.
Thanks,
Laura x

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So, uh…what’s the big deal with Osteoporosis?

Want to Build Better Bones?

Bone is living tissue and as such it responds to how we treat it. Recent research has indicated that a regular, safe yoga practice can not only halt the onset of osteoporosis (fragile bones) but actually reverse its progress.  It safety improves balance, clarity of mind and overall bone strength, leading to fewer fall incidences and decreased risk of fracture.

The nutrients we take in through our diet also play a crucial part in building bone strength, so knowing what to eat and what to avoid is important, as it is for our overall health in general.

Osteoporosis and even bone fractures (breaks) are not in themselves that much of an issue – which is not to say that a fracture isn’t painful…it is!  However, the life-changing circumstances that can result from a fracture can have devastating effects, leading to being bed-bound, or wheelchair-bound, which deteriorates the muscles, to say nothing of mental well-being.

Prevention is better than cure. The best time to build up good bones is in our teens and early 20s, or actually from pre-conception!  Bone density decreases from age 35 on average, so if strong bones are not already built up, we’re on a losing battle – not an impossible battle, but certainly more difficult.

Osteoporosis is not an aging disease, nor is it a women’s disease.  20-25% of men over the age of 50 break bones due to their fragility and men with osteoporosis are much more likely to break bones than their female counterparts are.

Education is key to prevent us, our families and loved ones from inadvertently allowing this disease to develop.  While many factors are out of our control, there are still many things we can do to prevent and manage brittle bones.  Check out my post on yoga for osteoporosis to find information on Dr. Loren Fishman’s and Ellen Saltonstall’s research on the topic.

Find out more from our FREE talk at the Chiron Centre, Westbury-on-Trym,  on Wednesday April 24th, 7.30-9.00pm, or book onto our day-workshop on May 26th at Bristol City Yoga, and tell your friends and loved ones about it.

Book your place by emailing info@meltintoyoga.co.uk or iza@lacuizine.co.uk

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What’s the point of Restorative Yoga?

It took me years of struggling, comparing myself to others and getting relatively nowhere in my yoga practice before I considered restorative yoga.  Actually, I think it was more curiosity than a desire to try “Restorative”.  I just hadn’t tried it before.  I tried it and I didn’t like it. It hurt.

Now I teach restorative, so what changed?  Well, for a start, me! I changed!  My years of struggling with stretching, of pushing into the pose, of trying to look like I thought the pose was supposed to look like…well, they didn’t get me very far.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Vinyasa Flow classes I took back then. They were a great workout, great for building muscular strength and wonderful for de-stressing and taking time out from a full-on university programme, but yoga? No, I don’t think I had any idea what ‘yoga’ meant.

Now I love slower yoga practices.  I’ve taken up Astanga in recent times, so this seems a little contradictory, but no… I prefer slower yoga practices.  What I’ve always known is that my muscles are tense (understatement), but what I’ve found is that so too is my mind and my heart has been clogged (emotionally speaking).  In slowing my practice and being mindful of my movements, every bit of each of my movements, this releases the muscles and also softens my mind.  My mind has to allow my muscles to release and with one letting go, comes another, and another.

When I first took up yoga it was for restorative purposes and, as I had never heard of restorative yoga, I took up the form that was at a time and place convenient for me.  The class moved too fast for me and I was self-conscious of physical issues in front of a group who moved so gracefully, but at home I would slow every move down and work at a really basic level – my own personal version of restorative yoga.  My body-awareness was so poor at the time that my self-analysis of movement and the connection to mind and heart was at a fairly superficial level, so looking back I can see all the errors of judgement that I made, but we all have to start somewhere.

Nowadays, I’m still physically tense, although nowhere near to the extreme that I once was, and my mind still races at times, but I’ve found some compassion for myself, some acceptance of where I’m at.  I’ve stopped pretending to be able to do things that are just beyond my reach and started respecting my limits.  And lo and behold, my limits are moving, expanding, releasing, not just of body, but mind and heart as well.  My compassion for myself has extended to those around me, which has improved relationships with friends, family and those I work with.  I feel so lucky that physical issues and pain brought me to yoga, which in turn has helped restore my sanity and serenity (I’m sure there are many who would debate this, but that’s alright too).

Restorative yoga is about learning to relax.  It no longer surprises me to find students in yoga classes who simply don’t know how to, when a few short years ago I thought I was the only one!   Imagine my surprise when I finally realised that I was stretching wrong. That physical effort isn’t required to effect a stretch and in fact stopping effort is the best (only) way to stretch effectively.  Even now that I know this I still catch myself pushing on occasion, or tensing my shoulders or jaw.  Did I say on occasion? I mean on the occasion that I’m alive!  What can I say…it’s a journey, a process, a gradual learning curve.  But every step in the right direction is one I’m happy to make.

I love Astanga, but where before I would have pushed and probably injured myself, now I practice it with a restorative sense in body and mind and the result is bliss.  Bliss and better health 🙂

So I’ll leave you with a non-me example to give you a reason to bother with restorative yoga.  A few months ago I taught the Restorative Yoga class in an Intro to Yoga course at Bristol City Yoga.  This course gives yoga students an overview of several types of yoga so they can choose which they prefer at a beginner level.  After the class one of the students came up to me to say how much he had enjoyed it, and that he was surprised that he had.  He told me he had been suffering with pain in his elbow for several days.  When he had arrived for class his elbow was sore, but when he was leaving he had no pain.  How many of us cause pain to ourselves simply by not relaxing? Neck pain, lower back pain, Repetitive Strain Injuries from computer use or sporting injuries. I was thrilled that this man chose to share with me that he had relieved his pain during the class.  While I know the benefit yoga has been to me, I’m never sure I can share it well enough with others.  I admit it gives my ego a tiny, little boost… still a way to go on the yoga path, eh? 😉

Looking forward to teaching a new class starting in Bristol City Yoga on Tuesday mornings called Yoga for Healing.  This will combine Hatha, Restorative, Mindfulness and Breathwork, to help both body and mind relax. It is ideal for beginners,  those who want a slower practice, those recovering from illness or injury, or those going through a stressful or difficult period in their lives who may need some down-time.  Book Online Here, or contact me for details on info@meltintoyoga.co.uk.

If you like what you read, why not follow me on Twitter or Facebook? I’d love you to join me 🙂

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Nobody Told Us How?

I feel like I can’t just sit by and pass no comment. Work is put on hold as I gather my thoughts through writing them down. I have many thoughts about what has happened at the Boston Marathon. The first: It’s a tragedy, yes, no doubt.  The rest are ramblings of mind with a purpose. It is truth that there are people who want to hurt others.  I don’t condone hurting others. However, and here’s where I may get slammed… I don’t believe in looking for “justice” for what has happened. At least not in the way many people view “justice”.

There are a million tragedies all around the globe on a daily, no, momentary basis.  The vast majority are ignored by the vast majority.  We don’t feel we relate to those corners of the world, or those neighbours we don’t like, or we somehow believe it doesn’t affect us.  There are even those that think tragedy in certain parts of the world or society are okay, because “they” are not like “us”.  However in my little corner of the world, we watch a lot of American TV, films, listen to their music, and (arguably) speak the same language.  So we see “them” as “more like us”, and we are horrified that people “like us” can be attacked at random by an unseen and unsuspected force while just having a lovely day.  It’s frightening, shocking, and a little too close to home. Am I wrong?

We forget that this is reality. The world is at war. We may not see it in our everyday lives, we can ignore the news, stick our heads in the sand and say “all is okay”…and believe me I do, for my own sanity.  But all is not okay.  The world is in pain. Its lands, people, animals, plants and oceans are all suffering every day.  Its sky is choked with fumes of our progress and we breathe and bathe in the excrement of our own lives.

I will be the first to say that I know nothing about politics.  I really mean nothing. I have intentionally kept it this way because I find it so depressing that I don’t want to be polluted by it.  I know there are people out there that do good, amazing things.  I know politics have brought fantastic changes to so many parts of our society.  But there is also the dark side.  Those areas where people are not representing their constituents, not looking to move us all inline with the greater good.  Many are self-serving, but others are failing not necessarily because they don’t want make things better but because they don’t know how.  Nobody told us how. We stumble along and get burned on the way and we wear our scars and use them as excuses to burn others.  We become disillusioned and close off our hearts to what can actually heal us.  But nobody told us how.  Instead of healing, we hurt, we lash out, we perpetuate a cycle that we don’t know how to stop.  Nobody told us how.

In the wake of what appears to be another terrorist attack on the US I am fearful of retaliation.  I don’t want retaliation.  I don’t want justice.  I want people to look at what’s wrong in the world and heal it. Nobody told us how.  Nobody told us how? Really???

There are so many that have told us how, but we don’t listen. Jesus, Buddha, Mother Teresa, The Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Gandhi, and please, I beg you, comment with names of other wonderful souls who have maybe not told, but at the very least, shown us how.  Share these wonderful souls’ teachings with the world now.  Open our eyes to the possibilities of change, the possibilities of a better world, a better life.  And start with the Man in the Mirror.  I don’t know if Michael Jackson was a great man, a lunatic or any of the other accusations that were thrown his way during his lifetime, but he got that part very right.  Start with the Man in the Mirror. It’s the only place from which to start changing the world for the better.

I beg you.

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Living Bones

Taking a look around the room I’m sitting in I see dust. Ash from the fire, cat hair, soil from the garden and lots and lots of dead skin.  Yup. Lovely thought, I know, but I’m looking around and seeing the discarded, dead skin of myself, my partner and others who spend time in the house, including the cats.  So if we’re losing all this skin on a continual basis, why are our muscles, blood vessels and organs not oozing out for all to see?  I know you know, but I’m trying to make a point so stay with me: new skin cells are continually being made.  The lower layers of our skin creates new skin cells while the skin cells of the upper layers die and are discarded. The Circle of Life, but not as cuddly to sing about as cute lion cubs, so Elton wisely chose to sing of the life and death circle of the cartoon jungle. Why is this relevant? Because this circle of life is also the case with our bones.

Bone is living tissue.  Just as our skin continually renews itself, in with the new and out with the old, so too do our bones.  I never used to think of bones in that way, and why would I? I don’t see them everyday.  I look in the mirror and see my skin changing slowly over the years, but my bones are out of sight.  Add to this the fact that the only bones we ever really see (surgeons excepted) are bones of the dead, whether it be in museums, on tv, the carcass of a mouse that’s been forgotten by the cat after hiding it long ago (thanks fluffy-kins).  Dead. Dead bones and that’s what I used to associate with bones.

But bones are much more than this.  They are, in fact, amazing.  While the recycling of skin tissue is quite quick, bone change is slower, but it does change, and it does grow, and it does live.

The foundation we build when we’re young sets us up for life, so in our youth is when we should start taking care of our bones, just like every other part of us…yes, the earlier we start on anything worthwhile – healthy eating, creating good sleep patterns, learning to play the piano, taking up yoga, whatever! – the better off we are.

However, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do past our youth to improve ourselves – yikes that would be depressing!  I knew a man a few years ago who took up the fiddle when he retired from work in his sixties.  I met him when he was approaching 70 and he played beautifully.  I took up yoga in my late twenties, and had I done so earlier I’m sure I’d be more supple and healthy, but I’m in better shape physically and emotionally as I head toward 35 than I was when I was 25, so I’m glad I didn’t think it was too late for me, and oh-so-delighted to have heard that man play in music sessions. I’m sure when he started his fingers were stiff and uncooperative, the strings were strange, balancing the bow was just plain awkward and playing in tune seemed impossible, but he persevered and it became a life-enriching experience for him.

I found him inspiring at the time, perhaps it was examples like his that allowed me to persevere with my yoga practice a few years later, even though I was convinced I looked ridiculous in class.  It has changed my life in so many ways that I am grateful for (one of them being that I no longer care if I look ridiculous in class!).  And now I find myself doing more and more research into bones: how they are formed and how they are strengthened. Yoga can play a major role in ensuring the new bone cells we create in our Circle of Life are the best they can be for us.

I’ll write more on this soon so do pop by again if you’d like to read more, or check out upcoming events on http://www.meltintoyoga.co.uk 🙂

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Petrified Blossoms

I caught a headline on a newspaper this morning, which stated that this cold spell we’re experiencing is expected to last until the end of April.  Another month…really??  Two years ago I spent most of March in Bristol and got sun-burned in one afternoon.  Today I look at the skin on my face and hands to see that they’re dried out and chapped from constantly alternating between central heating inside and the cold outside.

I’ve had stiffness in my neck lately, and I’m not the only one.  I was asked for advice today on how to release neck tension and along with the regular advice of “learn to relax your muscles” (I did expand on that in some detail btw, just in case you think that’s some terrible off-the-cuff, dismissive and  non-engaged response) I also mentioned that in the cold weather we’re more inclined to huddle into ourselves, retreating our heads into our bodies like turtles, compressing and stressing our necks as we do so (because we’re not turtles, which I’m sure you already know…).  With this extended cold weather, we’re retreating into our shells for longer, the stresses may build up and exacerbate pre-existing problems as well as create some brand new ones, just for us.

As I drove home I noticed the spring blossoms that had dared, in good faith, to bloom in the trees a few weeks ago.  Now, just like us, they’ve retreated into themselves.  They’re protecting themselves from the cold.  Such beautiful potential, stunted by circumstance, looking petrified.   I wonder if everyone at times feels the need to retreat from full-bloom… I know I have…  Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that Summer will still come and there’ll be another Springtime next year for us to act in good faith and try yet again.

But in the meantime…anyone fancy whisking me away to some exotic location for a week of sunshine? … 😉

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Today…

…has been exciting, confidence-instilling and interesting.

That is all 🙂

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Osteoporosis and Men

I’m going on the radio tomorrow (Friday) on Bristol Community FM (BCfm on 93.2fm) at lunchtime as part of their coverage of International Women’s Day. Why me?  Because I’m working on a Yoga for Osteoporosis project, and osteoporosis, as everyone knows, affects women, right?

Well, yes, but it also affects men.  Not as many men are diagnosed as women are.  Half of women over 50, statistically speaking, have bone fragility, compared to one quarter of men over 50 (or one fifth depending on where you source your statistics).  However, some unexpected findings I have recently come across (thank you Loren Fishman, M.D.) inform us that men with osteoporosis have a higher risk of fracture than women! Surprising, isn’t it?

Well, maybe not… apparently (and I use this word because all my research is both preliminary and secondary at this stage) the diagnosis is relative to women.  Let me explain this.  Currently the best way of diagnosing osteoporosis is by use of a DEXA scan, which compares your bone mineral density (BMD) to that of a healthy 25-30 year old (peak bone health age apparently – there’s that word again), which gives your T-scores.  It also compares your BMD to that of people of a similar age, height and weight, giving you your Z-score.  So, what’s the relevance to men with osteoporosis getting more fractures? … Well, apparently(!), all these comparisons that tell us whether or not we have osteoporosis are comparisons to the bones of women.

Now, women’s lib., sexism, and anything else you can throw at me aside…men and women are different.  Yes we are, just look down!  We have different physical structures, different hormones and often, at least until very recent in the history of mankind, different ways of living, acting, behaving, being. Men (ladies forgive me) in general are stronger physically.  There are of course exceptions and as time goes by and our lifestyles become more similar there will surely be many more damsels in tuxedos and knights in shining armour with frilly knickers.  Or put another way, our physical bodies will evolve based on how we use them, so as certain women take on more physical roles women will become stronger and as certain men take on more nurturing roles (or even desk jobs), they will become weaker. Okay I’m getting a little off-track here, so…

My point, that I’m finally getting around to making, is that currently men are stronger, thus men’s bones are stronger.  So if we compare these male bones to female bones and use this as a gauge to determine whether or not their BMD has decreased, are we perhaps looking at this the wrong way??

I remember years ago reading that almost all medications in the western world are tested on men in clinical trials.  For years it was deemed inappropriate to test new drugs on women, especially women of child-bearing age, because any side-effects might be passed onto any future children or prevent said children being born.  Didn’t these guys attend biology classes in school? I learned biology from a Born-Again Christian who didn’t believe the Theory of Evolution, but even I managed to grasp the concept that there are both male and female ingredients needed to cook up a child! Anyway, rambling again… So…as men and women have very different hormone blends streaming around inside and these are just chemicals, it didn’t quite make sense to me that drugs (more chemicals) would only be tested on the common male-variety chemical blend while the common female-variety blend wasn’t tested.  Similarly here, we’re different, we should be tested differently.

Anyway, that’s one point about osteoporosis that I wanted to mention.  There are many others which I will discuss on air tomorrow.  More points include: why yoga helps, what other activities can benefit, who can be affected by osteoporosis (subtle hint: anyone at any age!) when to start in your osteoporosis prevention scheme, and we may touch on the unpleasant topic of why we really, really want to avoid osteoporosis. I don’t want to scare-monger, but there are very serious repercussions from this (at least partially) preventable disease.  I’ll also briefly mention that I’ve teamed up with Iza Redon of La Cuisine to give a free talk on April 24th in Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol followed by a Workshop, on May 26th at Bristol City Yoga, on both yoga and nutritional considerations for osteoporosis prevention and treatment.  If you’d like to know more about this please contact me for further info or check out the Melt Into Yoga website.

And on a related note: does anyone know of some lovely, caring, affectionate people who might be interested in adopting a couple of elderly cats? – The princess and the dude.  Okay, not quite related, or at all in fact, but they’re sitting purring next to me, I’m moving home soon and can’t bring them with me.  I’ll miss them terribly so want to be sure they’re well looked after.  I’m sure I mentioned somewhere in my ‘About Me’ section on here that I may draw influence from cute kittens on my blog.  This isn’t quite what I meant…

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I was just pondering this point myself yesterday and like what this lady has to say on the subject 🙂

Back to the Sutra

The greatest challenge of life is to hold all beings as equal.  To loose and lose our chains ofjudgement and break down the walls that we believe separate us.  All other philosophy stems from this notion.

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Some of the greatest principles of humanity, such as “Do no harm” and “love your neighbor as yourself,” boil down to equality.  We must dissolve all feelings of separation, before love, true love, is possible.  It is not possible to love your neighbor as yourself if you see your neighbor as less than yourself.  Love is only possible when the mind recognizes what the soul already knows, we are all equal.

Stop and think about that for a moment, or rather feel on it for a moment.  Let the tendrils of the soul infuse the word with new and brilliant meaning.  Equality is overused, abused.  It is an ordinary concept of the soul…

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