Archives for May 2013

Ten Tips for Staying Present and Calm

I think one of the greatest benefits of yoga is that it brings you into the present moment. It allows you to connect with here and now.

Even when practicing yoga it is possible to be elsewhere. I have certainly had days where my mind just won’t shut up. These are the days where yoga is a real challenge and yet these are the days where we need yoga the most. Don’t run from your mat, stay be with yourself. Don’t judge your mind, accept everything as it is and go back to your breath. Notice subtleties in your movement, gradually bring yourself back, here.

 Why is being here and now so important?

Blossom falling off a tree with a quote from Eckart Tolle about being here and now

So glad I found a moment to capture this beautiful tree on my daily bike commute

The mind is an incredible thing.  It just doesn’t seem to stay still. Sometimes life is great and sometimes it is challenging.  It doesn’t matter how much yoga you do, challenging things will happen and great, wonderful things too! Everything is changing all the time and yet the mind can cling to some fixed ideas about reality. Sometimes our minds repeat the same thoughts again and again, strengthening them, feeding them. These thoughts may have nothing to do with what is actually happening to you. Often they are about some possible future or some past experience.

I have observed that when something is happening, the mind often is not fully present with the experience. Instead it can think about what will happen because of this, even though it doesn’t yet know the future.  Sometimes we also filter things through our past – neither of these filters are real. If you are present then you have no choice but to surrender to what is happening. As you experience this more and more life becomes more beautiful and less stressful. You get to experience life in it’s many colours and embrace it each and every moment.

Believing and feeding a negative future in your mind can’t be helpful.  If you must have a vision of the future in your mind make it one that inspires you and makes you smile.

 How to stay present in your day to day life

  1. Practice it preferably daily, through yoga, meditation or just when going about a daily task like washing up.
  2. Be compassionate with your mind, if you notice it’s not being present, be with it.  Learn to laugh at it and tell it to shut up if it’s not being helpful.
  3. If you feel panicked notice what is actually happening, is it as bad as your mind thinks it is?
  4. Use your breath to make you aware of here and now.  Notice your breathing as it is or take a few deep breaths.
  5. Feel what it’s like to be in your body.  Feel the contact with the floor or the chair.
  6. Notice the sounds that are around you.
  7. Listen to what others are saying.  The mind can get so busy planning it’s next move. Take the time to really listen to what other people are saying instead of planning what you are going to say next.
  8. Focus on the every day things that are actually happening. Where are you right now and what are you doing?
  9. If you catch your mind creating stories, notice it without getting involved, like a cloud passing in the sky.
  10. If you feel you’ve got stuck living in the past or the future, that’s okay.  Now is the only moment you have, be here now and don’t worry about the past.

Do you find your mind likes to create unnecessary drama?  What helps you to stay present?

Ashtanga Yoga Liverpool Bimonthly Social – Guest Post by Rosey

Helen does something every couple of months that it seems not all yoga teachers do. No, she doesn’t get crazy drunk and then go on a weekend long McDonalds binge. As far as I know. She organises socials, a chance to meet up with others who go to her classes, or for that matter don’t go to her classes.

So every few weeks we meet after her last class of the week, on a Friday night. We have a great place for this – a café called The Egg. This is perfect for a bunch of yogis because it’s all vegetarian, so great for vegans too, but also because you just order your food whenever, so you can drop in for a drink, a bit of cake, or go for a full meal. It’s also unlicensed, so you can bring your own alcohol if you want to but it’s nice to be somewhere on a Friday night where being surrounded by drunk people (or in my case, being led astray to become one of the drunk people . . .) isn’t part of the deal.

Yoga students eating food at the Egg

Ashtanga Yoga Liverpool’s May Social, last week

So some of us will have been to Helen’s last class that day. Or maybe one or two other classes during the week. Or no classes for a week. Or a month. Or ever. One of the nice things is meeting people’s partners, or complete yoga newbies who are coming to meet us all before venturing to class. Some of us know each other well now and have a big catch up. Some – probably most – have never actually spoken before, but having been in the same yoga class a few times, once introduced it’s often ‘Ah, so you’re the S____ who I heard being told to get those toes in during backbends’. There’s usually a bit of chat about yoga, and it’s a good chance for swapping experiences and asking advice more informally than in class, and then there’s usually an awful lot more chat about other stuff.

By the end of the evening, it’s often impossible to tell who knew who before we met up a couple of hours before. More than once I’ve assumed that the group going on for a drink or arranging to meet in the park next day must have been friends for a while, when it turns out that night’s the first time they’ve spoken. This is so important for people who are new to the city, and want to get to know people, but also who want to get to know places and organisations. Between us we have a pretty impressive wealth of knowledge about living well in in Liverpool. It never feels like there’s a ‘clique’, or an ‘in group’, just a bunch of otherwise disparate people who a) live here and b) do yoga. And we’re all nice, honest.

And then next time you’re in class, instead of a polite smile while you arrange your mat, there’s a proper grin, and a ‘how are you?’. And a confession from me that I have, once again, forgotten your name. Sorry about that.

Rosey Stock

Rosey

The next yoga social will be in July. You can keep updated with Ashtanga Yoga Liverpool’s events via the monthly newsletter. This blog post was written by Rosey Stock, you might recognise her from class. If you would like to contribute the blog, please let me know. It’s great to get the student perspective. Thanks Rosey.  Helen

Fat Chance : The Bitter Truth About Sugar by Robert Lustig – Book Review

Robert Lustig writes that it’s sugar, not fat, that is the major cause of obesity. Lustig is a paediatric doctor who specialises in treating overweight children in San Francisco.

 

Yoga can help you maintain a healthy weight and help overweight people to lose weight. There is some research to support this. I think that one of the ways that yoga does this is by making you more aware of your body and health and helping you to make healthier choices. I have noticed that if I eat sugary foods, at times like Christmas it makes me feel hungry even when I am not. I did not fully understand why this happened but was curious. This book more than answered the questions I had.

 

Fat Chance: The bitter truth about sugar explores the role of the hormone insulin, in weight gain. Insulin causes energy to be stored in fat cells. Robert Lustig is talking mostly about the molecule fructose. Fructose is one of the two molecules found in sucrose, the other is glucose. Robert Lustig argues that a calorie is not a calorie. He explains a calorie from fructose is much harder for the body to breakdown, especially if there is not enough fibre in the diet. He reviews a number of diets which have been successful in promoting health and maintaining healthy weight. He concludes that what these diets have in common is that they are high in fibre and low in sugar.

 

a glass of orange juiceSurprisingly to me, he also talks about fruit juice. We usually think of  fruit juice as being healthy. Robert Lustig that it supplies the body with a big dose of fructose. Fruit is also high in fructose. Whole fruit contains fibre which slows down the metabolism of fructose. This makes fruit a healthy choice. He says that one of the major problems is that people drink too much sugar, be it in fruit juice or soda.

 

So what does he think we should I eat?

Lustig recommends we eat real food. There is no need to go on a fad diets, just eat wholefoods.  He says that that this is a dose dependent problem.  A little sugar is fine and if you are a healthy weight and very active it may even be beneficial.  The problem is that for many people processed foods and sugary drinks have become the norm.

Is sugar addictive?

sugar falling out of a glassLustig likens sugar to other drugs.  He presents a strong argument for how it messes people’s hormones up so much that they eat more of it and more food in general.  His explanations are great for explaining the difficult cycle that many people struggling with their weight find themselves in.  He also offers some advice that will help most people get on track.

 

What are his tips for food shopping?

fruit and vegetable in supermraket1. Don’t go shopping hungry.  Doh! Been there 😉

2. Shop in the periphery of the supermarket, buy real food.

3.  It shouldn’t need a nutritional label.  Eat processed foods in moderation.

4. Real food spoils.  This is good. If bacteria can digest it so can you.

5. Watch out for hidden sugar. Lots of foods you don’t expect contain sugar.

 

It is hard if not impossible to completely give up sugar.  As with many things moderation and common sense are key. Personally I like to occasionally give myself a complete break from it, just to make sure I am not becoming a sugar addict 😉

Would I recommend the book?

I really enjoyed this book because it was backed up with lots of research and scientific explanation. I think it is an important book and I am glad he wrote it.  I think it just depends how much you want to learn about nutrition.  I think it may be too in-depth for some people’s interest.

You can also check out Robert Lustig youtube videos if you want to learn more.

 

Are you addicted to sugar? Have you ever given it up?