Tag: holistic health

Stretching in the Sky: My Introduction To Yoga.

Stretching in the Sky: My Introduction To Yoga.

When it comes to appointments, sessions, classes, clients and even social events, I’m a very on time person. In my mind “on time” has a sub-clause which is “with five-ten minutes to spare”. Even being one minute late triggers quite a lot of irrational anxiety that is disproportionate the situation. It just stresses me out.

Bizarrely, however, when it comes to crazes and trends I’m very late off the mark. Constantly. Whether it’s an actual fashion trend, and up-and-coming musician, or a fancy new place to go in town, I always seem to have a little bit of a delay compared to other people.

It took me aaaaages to clamber myself up onto the Instagram bandwagon. And don’t even get me started on high-waisted jeans. I would say that it’s because I “don’t follow the crowds” and because I want to make sure I invest in things that are worth my time…the truth is that I’m just a bit oblivious.

Yoga is a brilliant example.

You may have read in my update post from all the way back in March that one of my goals was to try out a yoga class- for the very first time. People are often really surprised when they find out that (up until last week) I’d never done a Yoga class. I’m a personal trainer, an ex-dancer, I have a reasonably good balance between strength and flexibility. A lot of my sessions with clients focus on loosening tight hips and increasing flexibility. In principle, Yoga is right down my street. Which I have always known on some level. But, in typical Roslyn fashion, I just didn’t really think about it properly.

Not until recently anyway. One of the things I love most about being a PT is learning about and exploring different styles of training. Not to mention that my dancer-flexibility is very slowly being monopolised by my increasing strength!

The thing that’s put me off until this point is some of the “yogi stereotypes”. I’m a very down to earth person, often overly analytical. So some of the things that I believed to be associated with yoga- lots of nature imagery and spirituality- well…weren’t exactly my cup of tea.

But coming into the fitness industry and getting to know a whole load of people who either practise or instruct yoga, I became a bit more educated. I realised how broad the term “Yoga” is and began to look more into the many different and varied branches that it offers. I accepted the fact that there is probably a branch out there that suits me and adopted a “don’t know until you try” mentality.

Quite by chance (or so I thought- I later realised that it was because of International Yoga Day on June 21st) suddenly loads of opportunities presented themselves for me to finally get my ass in gear.

One of which was a 6.30am sunrise yoga class on the 35th floor of Sky Garden- London’s walkie talkie building.

I may always be late to trends. But when I do finally get there I go all out!

Stretching in the Sky: My Introduction to Yoga

Sunrise Yoga at Sky Garden, London

The Location

I didn’t intend to be simultaneously writing a review of Sky garden itself when I’m supposed to be focusing on the whole yoga thing. The thing is that when you’re in such an iconic location in a beautiful building and with panoramic views of London’s cityscape…

Well, how could I not?

It’s a beautiful place with a really calming atmosphere and the views speak for themselves. It’s a gorgeous place to watch the sunrise over London, yoga class or no.

Luckily it really added to the whole ‘yoga-debut’ experience. Before the class even started I felt removed from the hustle and bustle from the city below and far away from my daily tasks and routines.

Stretching in the Sky: My Introduction to Yoga

The Teacher

The class itself was taken by the wonderful Ro (@yoga_ro). She was calm and knowledgeable and took everything in her stride. As a teacher myself I know how difficult it can be to run a busy class when there’s a huge range of abilities. She handled this perfectly – everything was well explained and clear enough even for my own novice self- but I did notice that she gave adaptations wherever necessary and progressions for the more advanced pupils. She also has a great voice. Like an actor. Not even the slightest hiccup broke the flow.

The Practice

The practice itself I also thoroughly enjoyed. It was great to devote a whole hour to my body in a way that wasn’t putting it under a large amount of stress- like my normal training does. I love stretching, and actually having a large chunk of time stretch properly felt like a brilliant privilege.

The more dynamic and flowy bits were my favourite (sorry any yogi readers here for my appalling language…). I found myself best able to focus when one thing would move almost straight into the next and you literally barely had the time to focus on anything but your body and your breath.

In the interest of full disclosure, I felt myself losing concentration when Ro went into detail on the nature imagery (mountains and trees). I get that it can be extraordinarily helpful for other people. Just not me. I weirdly think I’d find it more calming to think about the scientific aspects of breath…the heart and the lungs and the blood circulating oxygen to the muscles, rather than thinking of emptying my vessel of negative energy.

I realise it’s essentially the same thing. It’s just the way I think.

Summary

All in all, yes, I’m going to try out a couple more yoga classes. I think it would be an incredibly beneficial thing to add to my routine to supplement a lot of high intensity strength training. I’m going to experiment with different styles and see if I can find one that’s fast paced enough to stop my hyper-analytical mind from overacting.
Am I a yogi yet? Well, no. But I’m always late to these things so maybe ask again in a few months’ time.

Keen for recommendations – what’s your favourite style of yoga and why?

Stretching in the Sky: My Introduction to Yoga

Best Lower-Body Post Workout Stretches

Best Lower-Body Post Workout Stretches

Last week’s FlexFriday post was all about stretching: what it is, why it’s important and how flexibility training (a.k.a. stretches) can help to increase your overall fitness.

As promised, this week I’m sharing three of my favourite stretches. I decided to focus on the lower body, specifically legs, hips and glutes, because these are three areas that are constantly overworked and can cause a whole range of injuries when they’re not stretched out properly.

Each of these stretches should be held for approximately 10-15 seconds (if you’re looking to maintain your current flexibility) or 20-30 seconds (if you’re looking to develop your flexibility further).

Adductor Stretch

Level: Easy

This stretch is brilliant because of its simplicity. Simply sit down and place the soles of your feet together, leaning forewards until you feel the tension in the inner thighs. If you don’t feel anything at all you can always sit in a straddle position instead. The important thing to remember is that in order to get the maximum stretch in your legs, you have to make sure that you don’t compensate when leaning forwards by rounding your back.

This is pretty easy for those of us with metal spines.

Lower Body Stretches

If you’ve ever experienced Groin Strain after working out or playing sport, it’ll be because you didn’t stretch out these muscles!

Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch

Level: Moderate

I’d say that this Lunging Hip Flexor stretch is probably one of my favourites, because it’s gives a really satisfying stretch along the front of the hip flexors, which for me, seem to always be tight. It’s useful because you can control how much of a stretch you get – and also exactly what part of the hip flexor is being stretched – simply by playing with and shifting the position of your pelvis.

That sounds complicated…but it’s honestly very simple once you get the hang of it.

Kneel on the floor so that one leg is bent and the other leg is extended behind you. Placing your hands in-front of you, on the floor or the mat, for support, lean forwards and sideways so that you’re pushing (gently!) your weight into the hip of the extended leg. If you can’t feel it it’ll be because you’re leaning slightly too far forwards- make sure you’re upper body is upright and you’ll soon feel the tug!

Hip Stretches

Hip flexors tighten up quickly if you do a lot of abdominal exercises, because they get involved to help the abs achieve the movement. In fact, they tend to get involved with most lower body exercises- so this one is definitely not one to neglect!

N.B. If you want to be super on it, and if you’re flexible enough, you can add in a really effective quadriceps stretch in. Simple bend the extended leg, grabbing it’s ankle with one of your hands (either opposite hand or same-side, whichever you find easiest). Keeping your body upright, bring the foot of the back leg in towards your bum – you’ll feel it right down the front of the thigh.

Double Hamstring/Glutes Stretches

Level: Difficult

It’s always satisfying when you manage to kill two birds with one stone – which is exactly why this double hamstring/glute stretch is so great. It can be tricky if you’re not used to training flexibility and do make sure that you’re nice and warm before it’s attempted! This one is perfect for pushing your flexibility that little bit further, so it’s known as a developmental stretch.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (semi-supine). Take the ankle of one leg and gently rest it across the bent knee of the other leg, creating a triangle shape.

Reach both hands through the middle of the triangle, placing them behind the thigh of the resting leg.

You can now lift the resting leg off the floor, bringing the knee to your chest, which will result in a super-satisfying stretch in the glutes of the leg that is resting on the other one.

Once you’re used to the glute stretch, you can try to straighten the leg that you are hugging towards your chest, aiming to get the foot of this leg as close to your head as possible, without actually lifting the buttocks off the floor.

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If this is too difficult, opt for either the Glute stretch (without straightening the second leg) OR the hamstring stretch, where you don’t do the whole knee-crossing and you simply leave one foot on the floor whilst lifting the other leg, straightened, towards your head.

 

What are your favourite post-workout stretches?

Lower Body Stretches

Why Stress is Bad for your Training

Why Stress is Bad for your Training

It’s beginning to be that time of year where the summer is coming to a close and the new school term is about to start. Gone are the carefree hours of relaxing in the sun and taking their place are hours of unending to-do lists, chores, organisation and planning.

September is a month full of school and house-moves, lessons, new jobs, clear-outs and new pencil-cases. You’re getting up earlier and falling asleep in front of the television, only to wake up and remember that you haven’t even made up your lunch for the next day.

For some reason, even if there’s not much actual difference in your routine, September just seems so much more hectic than August.

With this crazy month and all its obligations, comes the unavoidable increase of stress levels. When there is so much to do, and just such little time to do it in, it’s easy to become anxious, short-tempered and over-emotional; all go-to signs of significant psychological stress.

Whilst it’s no secret that stress isn’t exactly good for your psychological well-being, people don’t often think about the actual, physical consequences of stress on your body.

Why Stress can Affect Your Gym Routine

There’s a certain extent to which a little bit of anxiety-induced adrenaline can be beneficial to your exercise regime, as this will trigger your fight/flight response to give you a boost of energy, productivity and focus.

However, suffering from sustained periods of significant stress will, before long, begin to take its toll on your body and on your training.

Have you ever had a really good gym session, but afterwards you’re so hungry that you feel like you need to eat right away or you’ll collapse? This is because the body needs food in order for the muscles to recover, and hunger is your body’s way of telling you to fix it.

Coconut Water

 

Stress works in much the same way. If you’re feeling super stressed all of the time, then your body will struggle to balance and distribute the energy that it needs to exercise, and it also won’t be able to repair itself efficiently after a training session either.

The Science- Simplified

Cortisol is a hormone that is secreted through the adrenal glands in the body. Known as the primary “stress hormone” it is released in response to the body’s exposure to stress.

The body is put under a certain amount of physical ‘stress’ when exercising, which is different to the colloquial ‘stress’ we refer to when we say “I’m feeling stressed today”.

Nonetheless both these forms of stress are responsible for a release of Cortisol, which means that if you exercise (placing physical stress on the body) whilst you are also in a state of psychological ‘stress’ then the amount of Cortisol in your body will be exceptionally high.

Cortisol is responsible for providing the body with energy when there limited stores of glucose available, but it does so by using the amino acids found in the muscles. This causes a breakdown of muscle tissue and inhibits the transformation of amino acids into protein (protein synthesis).

The result of high levels of cortisol is such that the muscles do not have the protein that they need to repair themselves, and instead are being further destroyed by Cortisol for energy.

If your muscles are unable to repair themselves, then what you thought was a productive and efficient workout will actually result in you becoming weaker, instead of stronger.

How it takes its toll

No-one tends to walk about in their day to day life being aware of how high their Cortisol levels are – but there are certain pointers that will indicate whether your daily stresses are starting to take their toll on your training.

Stress Squat

1) You’ll fatigue too easily

Cortisol breaks down muscle tissue to create glucose for energy production. It’s the way the body has evolved to respond to panic, using every ounce of energy to react fast to an “emergency” (fight or flight). This form of energy, whilst giving you a big boost of adrenaline at first, isn’t designed to last very long. If you’re getting your energy from stores of cortisol-induced glucose, you’ll find that the initial rush wears off quickly, and you’ll be even more exhausted than before.

2) You’ll feel unusually weak after a workout

It’s normal to feel some muscle pain after exercising, but excess Cortisol breaks down muscle tissue and increasing the body’s susceptibility to pain. Chances are, if you’re too stressed then you’ll really feel it after your workout. Post-exercise pain should be good, satisfying, “I’ve worked hard” pain. Not “I’m about to collapse” pain. Make sure you get a lot of protein, either through your food or through supplements, to stop the muscles from wasting away.

3) You’ll feel run down

It’s not just the muscles that Cortisol breaks down – it also takes a big hit at the immune system. If you’re constantly falling ill with little colds and sniffles, or you’re just not feeling yourself, that’s when you know that your stress levels are taking over. Regain some control and make sure you’re getting lots of vitamin C to stop those nasty colds.

4) You’ll feel it in your bones

After a prolonged amount of time, Cortisol will start wearing away at your bones, as well as at your muscles. The breaking down of bone formation encourages a long-term risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones). This makes you be much more susceptible to injury, so when you’re feeling stressed maybe take it easy on the high impact training, and make sure that you’re practising good, safe technique.

5) You can’t sleep

Cortisol levels drop whilst you sleep, but if you are overly stressed then high amounts of cortisol in your body may result in difficulty sleeping, and an overall restless night. This will have a drastic effect on your training, as most of the body’s “repairing” occurs whilst we sleep. Try a chamomile tea or a nice relaxing bath to destress before bedtime. Limit your contact with phones, televisions and other devices to help you switch off from the stresses of the outside world.

slow down and relax

Don’t feel guilty if you need to take a break from training to de-stress for a while. In the end, it may be more productive than forcing yourself to workout in periods of high stress, and then suffering the consequences.

Although “not being stressed” is much more easily said than done, it’s important to look after your well-being and make sure that, even in the crazy months, you’re not getting overly worked up.

Take the time you need to relax and always, always, always make sure that your exercise regime is relieving your stress- not adding to it.