This week we’re joined by Rachel Parnell, a yoga teacher, whose fab, ‘how to’, graphics on Instagram caught our eye. Rachel breaks yoga moves down into simple to follow instructions taking away any anxiety you might have about not doing something correctly.
Practicing yoga outdoors was one of our ways of dealing with Pandemic anxiety last year and now that the weather is finally changing for the better we’re grabbing our mats and heading outside when we can. This month is picnic month too, so we’ve decided that a yoga picnic with friends is definitely on the agenda. Rachel has recorded a simple session that everyone from beginners to advanced practitioners can do together, find it here. Why not pack up that picnic and head outside to your own garden, the park, the hillside, wherever you feel happiest to practice?
Below Rachel answers, some of the most often asked questions about Yoga from the team and from our followers.
Is there a best time of the day to practice yoga?
Not particularly, that’s the great thing about yoga – you can use the postures and sequences in short flows whenever you find the time. It's really about what suits you best, sometimes it can be nice to start the day with a flow to help wake up the body and help you to feel energised – equally so it can be great to practice you right before bed to help you relax. Choose a time of day that suits you and won’t leave you clock watching so that you can enjoy and benefit from your practice.
Where do I start? I’ve never practiced yoga before and I’m nervous about getting started.
Try starting with a beginner class, something like hatha yoga which is a slower style of practice and will really help you to get to know the postures. It can be nerve-racking to start anything new, let your teacher know that this is your first class and just take your time, embrace the experience, and don’t worry about what you can and can’t do at this stage.
Is there one pose that everyone should know how to do, and why?
Personally, I think everyone should know how to do Child’s Pose. It's such a great rest and release posture that you can use at any time of day when you’re feeling a little bit stiff or achy! It’s simple and easy and something you can do in class if you feel you need a break from a flow or a moment to re-centre.
If I’m short on time should I practice, or wait until I’m in less of a hurry?
If you want to fit in a short practice then there are simple sequences you can use to take a 20 mins flow etc, these are good for giving the body a little bit of a stretch and get you moving. If you are planning a stronger practice then you must make sure to leave time for your warm-up and cool down – for example, if you are planning a vinyasa style practice then it’s important to prepare the body adequately and release to afterward as vinyasa is a much more dynamic and stronger style of movement. Whenever you are planning a practice think about whether you will be rushing to finish in time, it’s better to wait until you can focus completely on your body rather than everything else going on in the day – this will help you to benefit and engage more with your practice.
I struggle to relax when it’s cool-down time, any tips?
Try taking a scan from the crown of the head all the way through the body to the fingers and the toes, focusing on each area and how it feels. Allow your attention to draw in on any sensations you can feel or make gentle movements such as turning the head from side to side so that you can focus on your body. Make sure you are really comfortable – I always encourage people to use blankets and cushions during relaxation so that they can really release and settle into the mat. If you are slightly cold or feel uncomfortable in your position, it will be harder to relax.
Is there one move that’s particularly good to aid digestion?
Yoga Twists are really great for digestion, they help to flush out the liver and kidneys and to detoxify our internal systems. You can take simple seated twists, supine lying twists are also really nice as they help to relieve tension through the back and hips as well.
I’m pregnant and wondered if there are some ‘best’ positions for me to do before birth?
It can be nice to practice the more relaxing postures such as a child’s pose or cat/cow to relieve some tension, these can help you to keep calm and centred which some women find useful when preparing for childbirth. Try to avoid any deep twists or positions where you are lying flat on your tummy or your back, avoid sinking into wide-legged positions too much as the pelvis is more fragile during birth. As you move through your pregnancy just be aware that there are higher levels of relaxation in the body which can weaken the joints, overstretching or holding poses for too long can risk damaging the ligaments. It’s okay to do positions such as downward-facing dogs, as you move through each stage of pregnancy you need to just be mindful of your body and not push yourself too much.
How soon after birth can I practice yoga again?
For Post-Natal Exercise it is recommended that you wait at least 6-8 weeks before returning to exercise (8-12 weeks if you have had a cesarean section), you should have your final post-natal check-up before starting back. Yoga is a great form of exercise to take after childbirth, you can find some classes that are specialist in post-natal exercise, but start back with a gentle beginner style to ease yourself back in, it’s important not to push the body too much too soon as you can risk damaging muscles that have been weakened by childbirth.
I spend a long time at my desk each day, is there a yoga move that would specifically be good for when I take a break?
Yoga Stretches such as Cat/Cow or child’s pose are really good for relieving the back if you have been sitting for a long time. They help to lengthen and stretch the body and are very gentle movements so you can slowly relieve some stiffness.
Is it normal for my muscles to feel like they are shaking when I’m holding positions?
When you are starting out it’s common to struggle when holding some of the more progressive standing postures – my top tip is to never be afraid to use our props! You aren’t failing if you place a block under your hand or if you use a strap to help you, it’s better to feel stable and supported when holding a posture as this will help you to benefit more throughout the practice.