Measure your progress in yoga not by the yoga positions you can do, but by the person you become.

Modern society thrives on progress. It seems like we are always being pressurised to achieve more, earn more and buy more. This rarely leads to lasting happiness because there is always more you can have and do. With social media images of bendy yogis bombarding your newsfeed, and with pressures to achieve coming from all directions, it’s easy to bring this mindset to your yoga practice. This is such a shame because if you are always striving to achieve more, you will never surrender and accept this moment, just as it is, enjoying the real fruit of yoga.

People practice yoga for all sorts of reasons and I understand that you may want to become more flexible. You may be really tight and need to get more flexible in order to enjoy normal healthy movement and posture. If you practice regularly this will happen, whether you strive for it or not. If you have been practicing yoga for many years, as I have, you may be very capable of doing all sorts of positions that you never dreamed were possible, and yet you still may seek progress in what you can do. I do. I love to challenge myself to do more, but the main benefit of this is what it brings to my life. It helps me to stay calm in challenging and new situations. It helps me to be more present for my friends and family, it helps me to believe that anything is possible, and hopefully it helps me to be a better person. Very few people really care, or even know, what yoga positions 18 years of yoga has made it possible for me to do. But they do care about what kind of person I am.

If you practice yoga regularly you will become more flexible. There is no need to worry about that. Practice, surrender, and use your practice to become more present. Sometimes it will be wonderful. Sometimes it will be challenging to really be here. Practice, practice and practice some more. Then bring your practice into your life.

Sometimes as a teacher, I notice that the people that seem to understand it the most, are actually the tightest. They have had to tune into their breath. They have realised that it is going to take a while. And they have surrendered. I am not saying this to be harsh to the bendy people. I happen to be one myself, but I think sometimes within the yoga community, we forget this and we think the bendy people are the great yogis. This is not always the case. They may not have even done that much yoga. They might be a gymnast or a dancer. They might really struggle with other aspects of the practice too. We are all different, but the real journey is an inward one, and that’s where the real peace lies.

Do you ever put pressure on yourself to be better at yoga? How has yoga had an impact on your life and or who you are?

Marc’s Vegan Samosa and Bhaji Recipes from my Yoga Workshops

As some of you know my fiancé Marc has been making some amazing food for my workshops.  Here he shares his Samosa and Bhaji recipe which have been a real hit at the workshops. The Samosa recipe is a little different from a traditional recipe as they are baked in the oven rather than deep fat fried, healthy and delicious! All recipes are vegan, enjoy.

Samosas

Vegan samosa

I tried to take a picture of these but by the time I got there there was only one left. I think that says it all!

potatoes – 2 large sized ones (about 600g)
onions – 2 (about 250g)
peas – 1 cup (about 60g)
ginger – 1 thumb
garlic – 4 cloves
finger chillies – 2
lemon – juiced
mango chutney / dried mango powder – 1-2 tbsp
cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
cumin 1 tsp
ground coriander – 1 tsp
chopped coriander – small bunch
garam masala – 2 tsp
chaat masala – 2 tsp
vegan spread
pastry brush

Either 1 pack of Filo pastry (like jus-roll) or make your own!

Method

filling:

Some peel the potatoes but I don’t.
Wash and boil potatoes until cooked, remove from heat, change to cold water to cool them down.
In a large pan warm up some coconut oil, sauté the onion for a minute, then add the chillies, garlic for another minute.
chop up potatoes and add
Add everything else except the mango and lemon and quietly simmer for a few minutes until everything is evenly covered with the spices
add lemon juice and mango and gently relax into the mixture

preparation:

warm up some vegan spread in a small pan
Take one sheet of fill and place flat on work surface, with the length going left to right
thinly brush with spread
fold bottom third upwards to middle and brush. then do the same with the top third, so it it only a third as deep as before. brush again
add a dessertspoonful of the mixture to one end
fold the corner down to the bottom edge, to form a triangle
keep folding along the length of the pastry until you reach the end.
brush the end again and seal the samosa and place seam-down on a baking tray
do the same until you run out of ingredients
bake gas mark 5 for 20-25 mins, until golden brown, turning once

Top hints: If you make the filling the day before and leave in the fridge overnight the flavours mix deeper. For an alternative texture, try just cooking the potatoes but not the rest and it will cook in the over anyway but it will be a bit more crunchy and ‘drier’. You can deep fry these but I prefer to bake them, as its more healthy.

 

Bhajees

yoga-workshop-eating

Yoga students enjoying Marc’s snack at a recent workshop.

gram lour 4oz / 120 g
potatoes – 2 large sized ones (about 600g)
onions – 2 (about 300g)
ground coriander – 1 tsp
chopped coriander – small bunch
turmeric 1/2 tsp
finger chillies – 2
ginger – 1 thumb
garam masala 1/2 tsp
chaat masala – 1/2 tsp
cumin 1 tsp
seaweed/nori flakes – pinch
1/2 pint water

Method:

Some peel the potatoes but I don’t.
Wash and boil potatoes until cooked, remove from heat, change to cold water to cool them down.
In a large mixing bowl, put everything but the potatoes and water onto the bowl and combine thoroughly
add potatoes and stir well in
slowly add water until the mixture is slack, not runny (if you overdo the water you can rescue it with a bit more gram flour
heat up oil in pan to very hot (the oil needs to be about 5-6 cm deep), or use deep fat fryer set high
carefully pull together a bhajee using two desert spoons to fashion a ball and place into oil
cook for around 8 minutes until it turns a deep golden brown and start to float
cook in batches, depending on the size of the pan being used and lay aside on kitchen paper

Top hints: I like using red onions for a slightly less aggressive hit. This is definitely better with organic onions and potatoes. Serves well with mango chutney, hummus, vegan mayo or vegan cucumber dip (I suppose I’ll have to mention that now too)

Vegan cucumber dip

plain soy yogurt – 2 cups
cucumber – 2, sliced small
garlic – 3 cloves chopped finely and crushed beneath knife blade
lemon juice – 3 tbsp
paprika – 1/4 tsp
pepper – dash
fresh chopped mint leaves – 1tbsp (a bit more if not fresh)
seaweed/nori flakes – pinch

Balancing your strength and flexibility – how to stretch your shoulders

One of the great things about Ashtanga is that it builds both strength and flexibility. Sometimes people graduate towards one side of this spectrum rather than the other. Flexible people tend to like to become more flexible and strong people tend to want to become more strong. What we should really be doing is moving towards balance but sometimes the ego likes to do what it is good at and sometimes the body has a natural ability towards one or the other.

For me personally I feel like I have moved from one end of the spectrum to the other. I remember a teacher once telling me that I was naturally flexible and I should work on my strength. So I did. I worked really hard on it and then I was told that I was naturally strong and I should work on my flexibilty. Ha! I worked hard for all of it.

As you get stronger you can get tighter but the shoulders can get tight from life too. It’s important to keep the shoulder flexible not just so that you can do deep backbends but to help maintain an upright posture and release tension in this area. One of the postural changes that can happen as people age is that the shoulders, upper back and neck come forward. That’s because activities such as working at a computer, driving and riding a bike can make it hard to maintain good posture. Eventually your body decides it should stay in this slouched position but not you! You do yoga!

Here are some great stretches to keep these areas free.

Pectoral muscles and upper back

upper-back-stretchPlace a yoga brick or two under your upper back, the top end should be at the base of your shoulder blade (vary height depending on your flexibility). You can experiment with taking the block higher but don’t go too low, you want to focus on the upper back not the lower back which is a lot more flexible. Start with your arms by your sides as shown in the picture and experiment with moving your arms up above your head gradually looking for any tight spots in the front of your shoulder. This shouldn’t feel too intense if it does start lower. You can stay here for up to 5 minutes but I usually find a minute is enough to release it. This is one of my post bike ride stretches. It’s nice because you don’t have to do anything!

Pectoral doorway stretch

pec stretch1One of the best way to stretch the pectorals is in a doorway. There are 3 different positions I like to do. Place you arms in the positions shown with your hands on the doorframe, for the first position your upper arm will be on the door frame too. Step through the doorway, hold for about 30 seconds. Try all 3 positions and repeat the one that is tightest. The pectorals are commonly tight causing the shoulders to come forward which can cause faulty shoulder mechanics.

pec stretch 2
pec stretch 3

Arm behind your back

This stretches the external rotators of the shoulder. It may be noticeably tighter on your dominant arm. If this the case do the tight side first then repeat on the tight side after doing the more flexible side. You can do this as as and active stretch if possible using the other arm to gradually bring the elbow up the back. You can also do it as a yin pose (holding it for up to 5 minutes). To do this put the arm behind you, start in a relaxed position i.e not too deep, then carefully lie down on your back, make it less or more deep depending on your needs, go gently.

Latissimus dorsi (lats) stretch

This broad muscle goes all the way from the shoulder to the lower back. If it’s tight it can limit your overhead arm position. In yoga this makes poses like downward dog and urdva dhanurasana difficult. It is important to be flexible here in any sport that requires an overhead position – such as swimming, climbing, catching a ball overhead, hand-standing etc. It’s good to stretch it out in different ways. Here is a couple of my favourites.

lat stretch

    From child’s pose with hands out in front come up on to your knees take your hands forward about one of your feet’s distance. Keep your hips high and take your forehead, nose, chin or chest towards the ground.

sidebend-lat-stretch

    Standing with feet hip width apart. Reach hand up overhead to whatever extent you can, hands touching if flexibility allows, parallel if you are very tight. Then side bend, anchor through your feet and reach up and over with your arms.

 

If you try out all these stretches you may find some of them are tighter than others. Those are the ones you will obviously get the most benefit from practicing.
Do you have tight shoulders? Where or how are you tight? Do you have any great shoulder stretches to share?

Teaching from experience. Why practicing yoga every day is important to my teaching

I practice yoga six days a week. As a yoga teacher I feel this is essential for me. I understand not all yoga teachers do this and that I am very fortunate to have the time to do so.

I find there are a number of myths among yoga students about yoga teachers and their yoga practice. So here is my insider view from my own perspective.

Myth one : Don’t you know it all?

Ha ha! Nope. Thanks for your faith in me but I will never know it all. Physically, philosophically and spiritually, yoga is a vast subject. No one person in the world knows it all and I am no exception. There is always more to learn….

Myth two : Are there yoga poses that you can’t do?

There are many yoga poses that I can’t do and I am grateful for that. I find working on a challenging yoga pose teaches me a great deal about myself and is a great way to develop my sense of being in the here and now.

Myth three: Aren’t you doing yoga all day when you are teaching?

Yoga teaching and practicing are entirely different activities. When I teach my focus is external. I am looking at my students. I tend not to demonstrate that much as a teacher. This is because I can’t see my students when I am demonstrating and I can’t help them. Sometimes a visual cue is necessary and helpful. When I do demonstrate a yoga pose in class I am still not really practicing yoga. I am talking to the class checking they understand and checking they are okay. My focus is not on my breath my focus is on my students. So I still need time to focus on my own practice.

I learn from this yoga practice. By practicing daily I practice on days when I really don’t want to. I watch my inner resistance and I learn to be with it. Teaching requires me to give from myself. When I teach I give everything I have in that moment, it’s a full-hearted effort. I am there for my students in whatever way I can be, in that moment. My yoga practice helps me stoke my own fire so that I can give more.

My yoga practice helps me to be a better teacher. It helps me to be more present when I teach. It helps me to be aware of my body when I adjust. It helps me to remember what is like to find something challenging. It teaches me what it is like to be a student. It reminds me why I love yoga so much.

For all these reasons and more, I practice yoga daily. My students inspire me to do so through their own dedication and I am grateful to them and my practice for all that yoga gives.

Do you ever practice yoga when you don’t feel like it? Do you think it’s important for a yoga teacher to have a regular yoga practice themselves? Share your thoughts.

Happy New Year – How you can achieve your goals in 2015

Happy new year! This is the year, the messages are everywhere today is the beginning of the new you. Here I am going to share some tips for how I set my goals to help you achieve yours. Yes I know I am am a yogi, I should be happy just where I am, and I am but our lives will change in the next year and we can have an impact on what happens.

My tips for achieving your goals

  1.  Set your goals high but be realistic. You might want to do 5 hours of yoga a day, spend 3 hours a day  with friends and get promoted but are there enough hours in the day to achieve this? By all means set a big goal. One of my goals is to cycle 100 miles. I know I will have to make some sacrifices to achieve this I know I will have to do some extra yoga stretches to keep my body in a balance. It’s a big goal but I am excited enough about it to prioritise it.
  2. Write them down, and if you can, tell someone. Writing it down makes it more real, and telling someone makes you more accountable. Another one of my goals is to write on this blog more often, at least fortnightly. There I have told you so feel free to comment if you see I am slacking.
  3. Break it down. Some goals can seem huge. If you feel overwhelmed by your goal you may put it off but most of the time a big goal can be broken down into small actionable tasks. For example if you want to eat healthier you could start by learning to cook one new healthy meal a week. Work out what your next step is for each of your goals.
  4. Do challenge yourself. Your goals should be exciting they should make you feel inspired. Don’t be scared to challenge yourself.
  5. Find inspiration or help if you need it. We all get inspired by different things. Think back to a goal that you have previously achieved. What helped you achieve it? Was it involving your friends or your family, was it reading books about the topic, was it following a blog of someone going through a similar journey? See if you can find what motivates you then go find it.
  6. Make your goals clear. We all want to eat well, do yoga and exercise more but when will you know that you have achieved this goal? What is the outcome you are really looking for? If you want to lose weight what’s your goal weight and how are you going to lose it? Be clear on where you want to go and how you are going to get there.
  7. Regularly check your goals You need to check in regularly weekly is best but monthly is okay too. Are you still working towards this goal? What could you do next? Have you achieved it?  As you start making progress towards your goals you may find that you don’t want them after all or that something else is more important. That’s fine you learned something about yourself and you can set new goals at anytime, you don’t need to make them in the new year. Set new goals or change your current ones if you decide they need changing.

Here are my goals for 2015 in no particular order

  1. Write more – specifically writing a blog post on this blog at least fortnightly and starting a new cycling blog.
  2. Meditate for at least 30 minutes daily
  3. Cycle 100 miles, plan is to this in August at a sportive in Anglesey where I grew up.

Yoga is not there, I know but I already practice every day and I don’t need to do more than that.

Helen and Marc toasting their engagement

Marc and I celebrating our engagement with Appletise on Christmas Day. I know I like to step onto the wild side!

In other news I am very happy to announce that my partner and I got engaged whilst on holiday in Lanzarote. We are delighted. I look forward to seeing those of you in Liverpool soon and sharing more on this blog this year. Thanks for reading.

Do you have goals for 2015? Do you have any tips for how to achieve goals?

Great Expectations – Going with the flow at Christmas

Christmas is coming… are you filled with joy, excitement, or maybe a mixture of many feelings. Christmas means different things to different people, and this can lead to very different expectations. It can be a day for families to come together and yet for some it can make them feel even more alone. Whatever your perspective or situation it is important not to place too high an expectation on this one day of many but instead to live each day as fully as you can. It can be a day of giving, of sharing or feeling like you’ll never have enough or of feeling like you have too much. It is a day of excesses. Everything is heightened and yet it is just a day….and like every other day, for all our hopes and dreams about it, we do not have complete control over it or the people we share it with.

Helen practicing yoga in the snow

Yoga in the snow

People are often amazed that I practice yoga even on Christmas day. For me I feel I need yoga on this day of all days to ground me to help me see each moment for what it is. To help me to see what other people may be asking of me. To help me to be not in my idea of how this day should be but in the actual moment as it unravels. I get many benefits from my yoga practice but the most important one for me is to train my mind to be more present. I practice this awareness on the yoga mat but I also bring it off the yoga mat into every aspect of my life. Yoga helps me immensely to embody each moment. Sure I have days where I get on the mat and my mind is totally distracted. I have days where my mind is so distracted that my yoga mat is the last place I want to be but those days of overstimulation are when I need yoga the most. I just take it one breath at a time.

Practicing yoga at Christmas time can seem selfish – how you can find the time

When your around your friends and your family it can seem strange or selfish to disappear for an hour or so to practice yoga. Is it really though? I feel I can be of much more use to others if I have practiced yoga. I am fortunate in that my friends and family understand that I practice yoga daily, that it is part of who I am. That said, if I feel like it is conflicting with their day I will discuss it with them. I can be flexible (pun intended) about when I practice. If you feel your friends and family do not want you to practice yoga talk to them about it. Tell them why it is important for you to find this time to practice yoga and the benefits you get from it. Be flexible, make your practice shorter, find somewhere out of other people’s way or practice at another time of day when others are busy or before they get up. Who knows they may even want to join you…

As the day unravels keep an open mind if you feel disappointed is it because you are comparing reality to your expectation of what you think reality should be. If you are dissagreeing with someone else are you taking the time to understand where they are coming from? If you are having a conversation with someone are you really listening? Of course with all the yoga in the world conflict can still arise life can be as challenging as it can be delightful. Yoga can give you some tools and some space to experience each moment more fully.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Please share below how yoga helps you through the festive season.

 

Student Perspective – Why Mysore Style is my favourite yoga class by Kate

I’ve been practicing Ashtanga for about 2 1/2 years now, and recently have been developing my home practice, which seems to be ever-expanding. Recently Helen asked if I would write something about Mysore style classes, which I feel strangely divided about. Mysore style teaching is definitely my favourite (I’ll explain why). Unusually, Monday’s Mysore style class is always quieter (which I do love, so I am secretly hoping not to advertise it too well).

Mysore is the Indian city where Ashtanga yoga originates from. Around the world Ashtanga is traditionally taught ‘Mysore Style’. In a Mysore class each student has the freedom to do their own practice, like they would at home, but with the benefit of support and guidance from their teacher. Teaching is individualised with students receiving new postures one, or several at a time, when they are ready to move on. Helen teaches a Mysore Style class every Monday at 730pm and the structure of the class, which is led by the student’s own practice, means it is completely open-level and appropriate for everyone.

Kate, Helen and Kevin practicing Ashtanga Yoga in a Mysore Style Class

Kate, Helen and Kevin practicing Ashtanga Yoga in a Mysore Style Class

My first Mysore class was just over a year ago when I was trying to consolidate my home practice. Prior to this I had been attending led classes, and felt a bit unsure if I would be able to remember the sequence. However, there was no need to worry. I entered a quiet class with a couple of experienced students and went through the sequence slowly in bite-size chunks with Helen, and was surprised how quickly I had remembered the postures. Now the sequence seems to be second nature up to my stop point, although I still experience memory lapse at Navasana!

There are a few things that I love about Mysore Style Classes. The first is the way they demystify self-practice. Because in these classes you are practicing leading yourself, this can help you to feel that your practice belongs to you. This confidence helps me to be more committed to practicing at home.

I have also found that developing my self-practice through Mysore Classes has helped me to be more tuned into my body. Facing challenges from pain or weakness requires physical and mental re-education, and the challenges are constantly changing. An example from my practice is that midway into primary series seated forward bends I like to yawn (a lot), which Helen (and other students) started noticing. But it’s not because I’m bored, I just breath lazily in deep forward bends, and the result is reduced oxygen to my brain! During Mysore teaching Helen helped me with the depth of my breathing, and last week with Christine I was able to spend a bit more time in deep seated forward bend focusing on using my diaphragm to breath deeply (and yes, no yawning!).

A really brilliant thing about Helen’s Mysore Style Classes is the atmosphere, as a result my Monday practice has become relaxed and thoughtful. Helen also recently started Mysore Intensives, traditional early morning practice Monday-Thursday, with full led primary series on Friday. Getting up very early and practicing before work is definitely a challenge for me, amazing and I would highly recommend the experience.

So if you are curious about Mysore Style Classes, my advice is to give it a go, with an open mind. There is no need to know the sequence in advance or to begin at a certain level, and it might just become your favourite style of class.

 

Foam rollers offer an affordable solution for home massage. Which foam roller should you buy?

Many of my students know I am am a fan of foam rollers. They offer an affordable way to massage yourself at home regularly.

What is a foam roller?

My foam roller collection

My foam roller collection

A foam roller in the traditional sense is a roll of foam. You roll your body on it to massage your muscles and fascia. When you find a tight spot you can either hold for 30 seconds to a minute or you can friction gently moving from side to side. They are a great compliment to a yoga practice.

I have 3 foam rollers, a quadballer, a tennis ball and two recently purchased rumble roller balls. This is a real massage arsenal which I use almost every day for 5 -15 minutes. I use them on different areas of the body depending on where needs work. At the moment I have been doing a lot of long distance cycling and the foam roller has been a godsend for my quadriceps after a long hilly ride.

The humble foam roller

Strandard foam roller

Strandard foam roller

This is a traditional foam roller and was my first foam roller. The benefits of this foam roller are that it is cheaper and less hard, so good if you have a lot of tightness and don’t like your massage too deep. They are usually quite long which doesn’t make them a good travel option. You can now buy smaller ones. For massage purposes I think the larger size is unnecessary but the larger foam roller makes a good prop for some stretches. Another thing to consider when buying a foam roller like this is that they will eventually loose their density, usually in the middle and then loose their effectiveness and need to be replaced.

The grid

The grid by Trigger Point Therapy

The grid by Trigger Point Therapy

The grid is my middle of the road roller, it is firmer than the traditional foam roller and has grid-like grooves to get in a little deeper. I use it almost every day. I find it great to use to check in and see what areas are tight. After a 50 mile bike ride, the thought of using the rumble roller, (see below) on  my quads makes me want to run for the hills, so I usually use this first. If they are really tight then I will use this for a couple days first. The grid is small and hallow so is great for travel, you can just put some things inside it.

The rumble roller

Rumble roller

Rumble roller

This as far as I know is the big daddy of foam rollers and it looks like it! The rumble roller comes in two densities blue and black. This black one is the firmest one. I bought it because it was introduced to me by one of my students, Tony, and I discovered that I could get into areas that I knew to be tight but couldn’t be released by the grid anymore. The spikes aren’t sharp. They go into you like the the fingers of a masseur would. It can be intense but as with any of the foam rollers you can control how deep you go by how much weight you put on it. I have had excellent results with the rumble roller. I use it daily in combination with the grid. If I had to have only one foam roller I would personally choose this one. On my current trip to London to see my yoga teacher the rumble roller was one of the first things packed.

The quadballer

Quadballer by Trigger point therapy

Quadballer by Trigger point therapy

Not exactly a foam roller this is made by the same company as the grid and designed for the quads. It’s shape and density means it goes deeper than a foam roller however I now prefer the rumble roller and rarely use it.

The humble tennis ball

Want to start doing some self massage but not sure? The tennis ball is cheap and is great for getting into small specific points like the hips. A fantastic tool.

The rumble roller balls

Rumble roller balls

Rumble roller balls

These are made by the same company as the rumble roller and similarly mean business! I have been discussing buying them for a while but the expense held me back. One of my students bought one this week and I got to have a go. The massage release was fantastic, it gets in really deep. I bought both balls (two different densities) as I found the green ball a bit hard at first. I love the balls in the same way as I love the rumble roller it gets in deeper than my tennis ball into smaller specific areas.

Which do I recommend?

Well it depends! You certainly don’t need to buy the arsenal I seem to have acquired. If you are unsure about it, a standard foam roller or a tennis ball would be a good choice. The grid is probably a good option for most situations. It also depends on what area needs a massage. Sensitive areas like the IT band are better served with a standard foam roller or a grid, although I do use the rumble roller on mine most people would find it too painful. The rumble roller is good if you don’t mind a bit of pain, and like your massage deep. The balls are more portable and good for targeting smaller areas, but make exploring larger muscles time consuming unless you already know where to massage. Despite my numerous foam rollers there are obviously many more on the market. Since I bought mine I have seen cheaper alternatives come onto the market. These might be great but as I haven’t used them I can’t comment. Remember you can control how deep the roller goes by how much weight you place on the roller.

How can I find out how to use a foam roller

Perhaps I will do another blog post but for now I will leave you in the safe hands of athletes treating athletes who have some great videos demonstrating how they can be used. You can also check out Trigger Point Therapy which is an excellent book. Do you self massage? Do you have any other suggestions?

Raw vegan chocolate cake with Cashew nut cream – recipe

People ask me for this recipe all the time so I thought this was the best place to share it with everyone. It’s so delicious and quick and easy to make.

The cake recipe

raw chocolate cake with cashew nut cream

Raw vegan chocolate cake with cashew nut cream

What you need:

  • A food processor
  • walnuts 350 grams
  • Dates (medjool are best) 10-15
  • Cocoa powder 3 spoonfuls – you can use raw cocoa if rawness is important to you
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  1. Put the walnuts in a food processor and grind down to crumbs. Do the walnuts by themselves as this makes them easier to process.
  2. Add the cocoa, the dates and vanilla essence and process together. Add the dates gradually until mixture starts to bind.  You can add a little water if the mixture seems dry.
  3. Take mixture and press into cake tin using a spatula.
  4. Voila, you have your cake. Place in fridge for at least 30 minutes. You may like to add some fruit to the top, such as strawberries or whatever  you fancy.

Cashew nut cream

You can make the cream into a pouring cream or a thicker cream that can be used to ice the cake. Change it’s consistency by the amount of water you add.

  • Cashew nuts 200 grams
  • Vanilla essence 1 teaspoon
  • agave nectar (sweeten to taste)
  • water
  1. Process the cashew nuts in food processor
  2. Add agave if you want it sweeter to taste, add vanilla essence and water. Add more water if you want to use it as a pouring cream, less if you want to use it to ice the cake. Mix ingredients together in food processor.

This cake is rich and delightful. It costs a fair amount to make because nuts are expensive but it’s a perfect treat for special occasions or whenever you have the chocolate urge. The cashew nut cream cuts through the intense flavours of the cake. Enjoy….. Have you got any great recipes to share with our community?

Open your hips with Yin Yoga – Sequence from my recent workshop

My students at my recent yoga workshop asked me if I would share the yin yoga sequence on my blog so they could practice it again. So here it is. The sequence takes about 50 minutes to an hour with a nice relaxation at the end. Each pose is held for 5 minutes. If you have less time just pick a section of the sequence to practice.

What is Yin Yoga?

Yin yoga is a quiet yoga practice as opposed to a more dynamic yang style such as Ashtanga Yoga. In yin yoga positions are held for between 3 and 20 minutes. As well as helping you to open your hips this sequence will also help you to stay present and still.

Precautions and Guidelines

  • If it hurts, stop, adjust or don’t do the position until you have discussed with your teacher.
  • Don’t go too deep, remember you are going to be here for 5 minutes.
  • Use props such as pillows and yoga blocks to make yourself comfortable.
  • This sequence is designed for each pose to be held for 5 minutes, use a timer so you don’t have to think about it.

The  Yin Yoga Sequence

Upavishta Konasana – Wide angle seated forward bend

Matylda upavishta konasana yoga pose - wide leg forward bend

Matylda demonstrates upavishta konasana yoga pose – wide leg forward bend

When doing this as a yin pose it is nice to have something to rest on. What you use depends on your flexibility. If you are very tight you may need to rest with your back against the wall. The next step would be to fold forward onto a chair, then some yoga blocks/cushions, then your own elbows or if your really open place you head on the floor. Be gentle. If you feel this pose at the back of your knee or in the buttock strongly, stop come out of the pose and talk your yoga teacher about how to do it safely.

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Rosey demonstrates Badha Konasana with her back against the wall

Badha Konasana – Bound Angle Pose

Do this pose with your back against the wall. If one side is tighter than the other put something under your more flexible leg to help even them out.

Marichyasana Hip Opener Variation or Firelog pose

Here you have a choice. The first option demonstrated by Gabor is more accessible for most bodies.  Place one leg onto of the other just above the knee, then bend the other knee, use the wall to help keep your back as upright as possible. Firelog pose demonstrated by Kate may be too hard for some. Place both legs onto of the other and fold forward as much as you can. If you have more time you can always do both.

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Gabor demonstrates an alternative -opening the same area

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Kate demonstrates fire log pose- Agnistambhasana

low lunge, dragon pose

Claire demonstrates the low dragon lunge

Dragon Lunge

Lower the back hip down until you get a stretch in the back leg either front of the hip or front of the thigh. As you going to be here a while make sure you are comfortable by adding padding under back knee or folding your mat up.

Supine quad stretch

Supine quad stretch on block

Kate demonstrates supine quad stretch on block

This is a favourite of mine as I do a lot of cycling and this really helps to loosen my quads. It requires a lot of flexibility so you way prefer to practice virasana at first. To do the supine quad stretch bend your right leg back whilst sitting on the front of a block. Lie back onto your elbows, if that feels okay you may want to lean all the way back as Kate demonstrates. If you are flexible and are not feeling a stretch you may want to use multiple blocks or turn the block. The block should be on your sacrum, a flat bone at the bottom of your back. If it is too intense and or you feel pain in your back/ knee stop. Have a go at virasana instead. To do virasana sit on as many blocks as needed with you feet and calves to the side of the block. If you don’t have blocks you can use books. If you can sit on the floor between you legs do that.

This sequence is designed to stretch out the hips in  multiple ways, you may find you are tighter in some positions than others. Practice working on your tightest areas if you want to make the sequence shorter. Do you practice yin yoga? What benefits have you found?