Day 9, 10 & 11 – Good things come in threes

I brought these three together as I was away hosting a Retreat, it works because these last 3 limbs flow carefully into one another.

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6 DHARANA – ‘Concentration’
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After we try to withdrawal from all external distractions we use this next stage towards meditation to slow down our thinking, to manage the distractions that are inside (might be something that takes awhile hey…). For this we use a single point of focus. There are a few ways to do this.
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Visual – focusing our gaze, our drishti on a part of the body, for example the naval. Or gazing out towards a fixed space.
Audible – Concentration might be assisted by the silent repetition of a sound, silently internal or played externally.
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Extended periods of this type of concentration will naturally lead us to meditation. But it can take time and its not a race.
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7 DHYANA – ‘Meditation’
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An uninterrupted flow of focus upon a single object, exclusive of all other thoughts. This doesn’t have to mean there are no thoughts (remember Pratyahara & Dharana) we are just not giving them space or our attention. I guess you could say that at this stage you are so immersed in the bliss of stillness you can’t be distracted?
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Yoga is a process and particularly the stages towards meditation may come and go – depending on where you are in life, what you have on, how pre occupied you are, how much time you are giving to the practice. We know that to practice means to repeat, so if we want to be able to do it better…
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8 SAMADHI – ‘Pure Contemplation’ 
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Once meditation is experienced you then enter a state of Samadhi – where you truly connect with the vision or object of your meditation. It is referred to as a state of ecstasy, pure bliss and peace. That might seem a little far fetched. But think of it this way – lets relate the stages of yoga to the stages of life. Now if I said to you list your life long goals > give me 5. Would complete happiness or satisfaction, joy or contentment not make the list? Thought so. So use that as encouragement and motivation for when you are sat still and there are a million thoughts racing and battling for your attention.
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This experience can’t be bought, there are no short cuts and we are all different – we can not predict how easy or hard it will be to get there. So take your time and don’t be letting the stress of trying to achieve be just another distraction.
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Have a read of this and if after doing so you think ‘well that is all well and good however I can’t sit still’ – I hear you, I have been doing yoga for ten years and honestly – I still find it pretty difficult to sit for more than ten minutes.
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That is where the physical aspect of yoga can provide a stepping stone.It gives a moving meditation. You don’t have to be quite as disciplined and as you get use to the class, the postures, the way in which they flow > you can start to withdraw yourself from the outside world and give yourself a chance to look in.
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Sound manageable now?
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Jess
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X

Day 8 – Going even deeper, hang on.

PRATYAHARA – ‘Withdrawl of the senses’ 
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I warned you yesterday the first half of the 8 limbs were slightly easier to get your head around. Today we dive a little deeper with the 5th limb, so especially if you are quite new to the practice just take what you need and try what you can.
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Note that when I first started practicing I was so focused on
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1) not falling flat on my face and / or

2) thinking how on earth people found a cross legged position at all comfy

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that the idea of meditating and withdrawing from the senses (that were seemingly supporting my balance and holding me upright) seemed flipping crazy. But it comes, I promise.
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This stage encourages us to draw our awareness away from the external world and its stimuli: the sounds; the sights; the smells. Sit still, notice them but allow them to pass without attachment, reaction or engagement. This can be a simple exercise that you try for 2 or 3 minutes at first. Then maybe you can sit for longer, and longer – until you aren’t thinking about the time and duration.
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We withdraw so we can start to look inwards. We are providing a clearer view of our cravings and habits. Cravings and habits that may be detrimental to our wellbeing or may be steering us off our path.
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Now in a world where we are constantly stimulated making time for this practice is gold, pure gold.
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This might be what saves you from living a life absent of passion and purpose, from going stir crazy or burning out.
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Unfortunately I think that we are beyond the distraction of sounds, sights or smells. I think today those stimuli are blocked by even more stimuli. What we need to detach ourself from are the constant notifications, the pull of our emails, societies expectations, the chase, the stereotypes and the comparisons.
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Does that make sense?
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I don’t have the answer, nor do I want to come across preachy. But what I would suggest is you find some time in your daily life (or a couple of times a week) to be in silence. That might be yoga, but it might also be baking, it might be walking, it might be running. What ever you like. I would advise you try and do it without a phone or the stimulation of music, and let your self just be and notice what comes up. Without too much attachment on what you are doing and wether its right or how long you are able to stand the silence.
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Another one for you to try. Maybe forward this email onto someone whose life is overwhelmingly loud right now and lacking in the luxury of silence.
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Remember to let me know if these are helpful or if there is anything else you would like to know as we move through the month together.
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Jess
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XO

Day 7 – It’s all about the breathe

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Pranayama –  Breath Control 

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Let’s start of with trying to answer this – we have been breathing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year since the day we graced the planet. I would confidently say we all know how its done. Fair?

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Then we walk into a yoga class and one of the hardest components is the breathing.
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If you are relatively new and that is how you feel then before I even dive into this aspect fo the practice I would say try not to think, just let the breath come and go. Don’t worry just yet about moving on the exact breathing queue of your teacher, instead just find you own rhythm, an easy inhale & exhale, and move with that. You will find, believe it or not, that you naturally pick up the intentional inhales and exhales – even throughout the transitions you will learn to move at that pace.
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I appreciate that right now when your teacher counts what seems to be the longest inhale known to man it feels like your lungs are going to explode, but trust me, you will learn to breathe & move with that count.
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Regulating our inhalations, exhalations and retaining the breath are exercises that help focus and move us towards a space for meditation. Initially we are just controlling the breathing system but with time we are trying to recognise and strengthen the connection between our breath, our body, our mind and our emotions.
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Not only is there an immediate feeling of uplift / rejuvenation but we are improving circulation and the capacity of our respiratory system – which together promote a whole load of health benefits.
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You can practice as a stand alone exercise – and in fact I will add a short seated breathing class to our online platform this week – or you can become more conscious in daily activities such as walking, running or of course you can take yourself to a yoga class.
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Now the first half of these 8 were the warm up – they’re a bit easier to wrap our heads around. We are looking at the world around us, inwards to ourself and starting to gain control and greater awareness for what comes next > our mind, its ability to concentrate and movement closer towards and further beyond this space for meditation.
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I have a little something before you go.
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Stop what you are doing. We are going to take 5 deep breaths.
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A big Inhale through the nose. Hold for 1 – 2 – 3. A big loud exhale out through the mouth. 5 times.
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Now tell me you don’t feel energised, uplifted? Thought so.
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The breathe is a biggie!
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Jess
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Day 6 – It is what drew me in ten years ago and what you most likely relate to

The third limb, something that sounds a little more familiar and probably what you can relate to most.
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ASANA
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‘Physical Yoga’ is what draws most of us in and I can certainly say that 10 years ago the prospect of touching my toes, avoiding injury and improving my fitness was what led me to yoga (spoiler – what makes you stay with the practice is something totally different and overwhelming).
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Today the postures you recognise & practice are the asana, they help us to develop a habit of discipline & concentration – two necessary components for a meditation practice. Asana is the tool for taking us towards that space where we can meditate.
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Back then asana wasn’t as dynamic, the original meaning of the word was to simply find a comfortable seat. Students were guided by Patanjali to find a posture where they could breathe & meditate. We are moving onto these with day 7 & 8.
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Some people get a bit high & mighty that yoga is sold as a purely physical practice (think about the image of shiny mirrored studios & women in fancy yoga wear) – however I think as long as it continues to act as a point of entry for the wider practice it is no bad thing.
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Quickly if we track back & recap the order of the 8 limbs so far it suggests that we are to; firstly address how we interact with the world around us, secondly look inwards at our relationship with ourself & thirdly get physical > start to calm & focus the mind for what comes up next.
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Is this what drew you in? Did a friend drag you to class because it was a tough workout? Did injury rehabilitation or prevention open the door?
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Jess
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X

Day 5 – From looking outwards to focusing inwards

This one is pretty fitting today actually as I wrote it on my birthday earlier in the month. I usually find that, in partnership with the new year encourages me to checkin; to think about wether I am being true to myself, am I enjoying what I do, am I surrounding myself with the right people, am I living life with a passion and purpose? I am encouraged to think about the year ahead and make sure its balanced out in terms of work, play, giving, learning, travel and down time.
So with that in mind, let’s go.
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THE NIYAMAS – ‘Observances’
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Again there are 5 here. If we say that yesterdays Yama’s were looking outward at our interactions with those and the world around us, then these guys focus inwards. Encouraging us to look at how we act, treat and care for ourself.
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Saucha // Purification
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Translated to ‘cleanliness’. This doesn’t just mean physically, instead we want to recognise negative thoughts and ‘bad habits’ that we have allowed to hang around. We want to get rid of these so we have more space and ‘less clutter’. Space for creativity, positivity and enthusiasm. And in terms of yoga – the less shit we have going on before we get on our mat the more we can enjoy our physical practice.
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Santosa // Contentment
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“I will be happy when… If I just get… When I reach…” This one is a biggie. We live in world where we are always striving for more, to reach the next level, to out do ourselves. This Niyama encourages us to have gratitude for where we are right now and what we have achieved. Encouraging us to sit with contentment so we can move forward in life with more grace and less haste.
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Tapas  // Discipline, Heat, Burning Enthusiasm 
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This can be described as the passion and burning enthusiasm that fuels our sense of purpose. When our practice gets physically tough or the silence of meditation poses a challenge we have to call upon our self – control. The drive, heat and energy of tapas is what gets our heart racing, ignites our senses and pushes us to achieve personal growth. Without it life might be a little sluggish!
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Svadhyaya // Study
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Encouraging self study highlights the good and the bad; what harms us and what serves us. That way we can make better decisions in the future and work towards a clearer, more content version of our self. This Niyama also encourages us to learn more and explore more; to delve into what inspires us and fascinates us. Today we are in a wonderfully fortunate position – because of the internet we have immediate access to infinite information and our ability to travel has never been so extensive. Just take a moment to appreciate that one…
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Ishvara Pranidhana // Dedication to God/Master
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Okay so a lot of us have moved away from strict religion – therefore ‘Ishvara Pranidhana’ surrendering to God can be a little like waoooo. And I get it. All we need to do here is respect and acknowledge that yoga came from a spiritual practice – God can translate to master, teacher, guide or higher power. We don’t have to go things alone – be open to guidence, seek support, let life lead you. Dedication to something or someone greater than ourselves encourages us to let go of our expectations, simply strive to do our best, to be authentic, to embrace and enjoy fully.
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In doing so we will ease worry, reduce stress and open ourself up to greater empowerment.  Sounds good to me.
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Can we relate to and practice these?
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Jess
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XO

Day 4 – Diving a little deeper

Right let’s rewind 5000 year ago to Kodar, a small village in Rajasthan, India. This is where Patanjali was born, Patanjali became a well respected Indian sage and you could probably say he was the father of yoga. He wrote the famous Yoga Sutras.
These sutras outline 8 limbs of yoga.
8 independent branches of the practice which offer us a source of inspiration and guidance on how to live a more balanced and ethical, meaningful and purposeful life. Both on and off the mat. It sounds quite deep and at first they can seem pretty overwhelming but if we take a step back and look at each of them on their own we can start to integrate aspects of each limb into our daily life.
The eight limbs of yoga are yama (abstinences), niyama (observances), asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption).
And we will break them down over the next 8 days in that order.
THE YAMAS – ‘Restraints’
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There are five yamas, five ethical precepts – they outline a code of conduct that should be observed when interacting with others and the world around us. They are universal behaviours ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.
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Ahimsa // Non-Violence
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We are referring to not only to physical violence, but also to the violence of words or thoughts (quite fitting given we live in a very virtual world where a lot of our interaction comes through a screen). To practice ahimsa is to be constantly aware, to observe ourselves in interaction with others and to notice our thoughts and intentions – to keep them kind, gracious and respectful.
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Many interpret ahimsa as a stand point for a vegan diet on the basis that ‘all living beings’ are entitled to be treated with kindness and non-violence. *not a prerequisite for doing yoga once or twice a week (more on this later)
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Satya // Truthfulness
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Telling the truth is a moral baseline we can probably all get behind. The circulation of ’fake news’ and the the spam out there from ‘influencers’ means that this precept is certainly far from outdated – it is more important than ever to speak the truthand support others who do so.
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Asteya // Non-Stealing
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The law has a pretty firm hold on this one but there are many ways to steal that can be hidden, so this acts as a reminder – whatever doesn’t belong to you, leave it be. In todays world that may be business ideas, intellectual property, logos, clients… you get it.
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I would probably think about our planet and its sacred reserves here too. We are taking at an astonishing rate – & we are the last generation who can help to avoid the worst impact of climate change!
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Brahmacharya // Celibacy
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One that certainly needs a little softening to work with in todays world. So let’s not get to deep here and just encourage fidelity, constancy and honest open relationships with our partners. I think most wouldn’t disagree with that so its all I am going to say.
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Aparigraha // Non-Coveting
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Not an easy one to practice – especially when social media gives us such an ‘inside view’ to everyone else world, and people have more than ever before. We are all human – jealousy, envy, and greed are going to arise. So all we can ask is when they do, acknowledge and try not to become attached.

Day 3 – But I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible.

Sound familiar? Thought so. Well the good news is that’s a load of crap so you have permission to crack on and try out a class online or somewhere near you.
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One of the benefits of yoga IS flexibility and increased mobility, so if that’s an area you feel pretty lacking in then even more reason to give it a try. Think about day to day life in your 60s, 70s, 80s; and how able you would like to be. Would you like to be able to still run around and play with grand kids? Would you like to still be able to go on those annual walks in the Lake Districts? Or would you just like to be able to move freely through your day without pain, without the apprehension of tweaking your lower back or without limitation? Well if you feel like you aren’t on track, there is time but I would encourage you to get going sooner rather than later because one thing for sure is its easier to improve your mobility now and maintain that than it will be in 20, 30, 40 years.
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And it doesn’t have to be hours in a yoga studio. I have several daily movement routines on my website which are the perfect 15-20 minute fix for you to try at home; to stretch out, to open, to release.
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If you have recently started yoga classes but you still feel like The Tin Man and its way harder than you thought (I did warn you yesterday) then I have a few tips for you.
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1) Breathe, when you go for a run or a swim and it gets hard do you hold your breath? Didn’t think so. We breathe for 24 hours a day and 7 days a week without any help, yet we walk into a yoga studio and as soon as the class gets physically challenging we hold our breath. So relax and breathe. Doesn’t have to be on the same count as the teacher, or the guy next to you who has been practicing for 7 years but just breathe. A rhythmic breathe, your own rhythm, so just a continuous flow in and out.
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2) Try to avoid eating or drinking a huge glass of water just before class – you are going to be spending a great deal of time upside down and it won’t be half as enjoyable if you are full to the brim. If you do feel dehydrated try to just work with a few sips. And food wise, unless you are someone with a low blood sugar you will be find running of your reserves.
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3) TRY not to compare. Some people in that studio will have been going to yoga classes for 15 years, some may have been professional dancers or gymnasts and EVERYONE is made differently to you. Anatomically we are not 100% the same – our bodies are not only built slightly different but habitually we have created different patterns / imbalances so what some people find easy will for some be PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE. Fact.
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4) Enjoy and keep practicing with an open mind.
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If those points don’t make it any easier, and you aren’t actually enjoying the class at all then try another class or teacher. There are lots out there so do have a look around, most studios do introductory offers which is a great way to find what you like before committing to a membership.
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Lots of Love,
Jess.
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X

Day 2 – What is Yoga?

Yoga is a complete mind & body practice that began in India thousands of years ago.
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 The word yoga translates to union; to join, to connect and to unite.
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There are two ways I look at that translation.
1. Connection of your own mind and your own body, really working on yourself, your own health and wellbeing.
2. The bigger picture; how we connect with and impact those and the world around us – the good and the bad.
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For most of us in the western world yoga is a form of exercise, we focus on the physical aspect of the practise.
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Whilst pace and intensity may vary but the primary focus of yoga is movement; stretching and strengthening, challenging your self and your balance, to avoid or to assist recovery from injury.
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Yoga classes teach a sequence of postures which are brought together by your breath – practiced on a yoga mat, in bare feet, often to the sound of music.
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It is a great way to enhance your overall wellbeing and improve longevity.
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Trust me, physically it will challenge you – it will most likely be unlike any other exercise discipline you have tried. It will support and assist those of you who run, compete, train or play a particular sport. And for those of you who sit at the other end of the scale; finding yourself desk or car bound for far too much of the day it will help undo that postural strain.
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Yoga will mentally it will give you ‘time out’ and a chance to relax, providing an outlet for stress and emotion. It pulls you away from the demand of emails, notifications, stimulation – it creates a clear space for you and your thoughts.
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Does that help?
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I might come back to this one at the end of the month, I could keep going and diving deeper into ‘what yoga is’ but I am aware it can seem quite intense straight off the bat.
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Lots of Love,
Jess.
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X

Day 1 – An Introduction to Yoga.

At the start of this month I started putting together daily emails that would shed a little more light on the practice of yoga.
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It is becoming more and more popular in the western world and in December on several occasions people said to me that their intention for the new year was going to be to start yoga, to try yoga or to do more yoga.
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So here we go! Ready?
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I will look at the physical practice (this is what got me hooked and still rocks my world) but I am also going to un wrap some other aspects of yoga. Hopefully in a light hearted way – don’t worry nothing wildly hippy or too scary. Hopefully with this new knowledge on the days you can’t physically get to a class you will still be practicing and moving in the right direction.
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Personally I don’t believe that stand alone yoga is the be-all and end-all (relating to the physical aspect here). Throughout the month I may look at other elements of health and wellbeing; things I have learnt as an osteopath, more about the practice of pilates, tips for training outside of the yoga studio and maybe a few other surprises too.
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Depending when you start reading this, I will be sharing these posts and messages via Instagram, Facebook and Email – or I will have shared. In which case you can now flip through these blog posts and catch up.
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If you find them beneficial, and I am hoping the answer is yes and you don’t all bugger off, then please share the love and pass them on.
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You can forward them onto friends who already do yoga and may want to know more, or those who are new and keen to see what it is all about. Alternatively let them know where to find me on Facebook and / or Instagram (jessicarlambert).
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I hope you enjoy this journey and learning more about a practice which is overwhelmingly life changing and totally addictive.
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Ps – if you had told me that 10 years ago I would have also thought it crazy so your not alone.
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Lots of Love,
Jess.
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