Free Your Inner Warrior; A Review of Hatha Yoga

Free Your Inner Warrior; A Review of Hatha Yoga

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Pros & Cons of Hatha Yoga

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Pros:
Widely spread classes throughout the country
Large price range of classes, some free
Yoga is not about comparisons or judgment. Everything to our own pace.
Gives us a deeper self awareness which can be empowering and wonderful.

Cons:
May need to try out a few teachers/classes before you find one you like
There is a lot of choice in styles, speed and temperature
There is a minimal risk of injury (as with any exercise)
As we explore Yoga, we may experience a deeper side to ourselves, perhaps releasing emotions which could impact our lives outside the studio.

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I can see that hesitant look on your face…… I know full well that a few of you may already be breaking out into a hot sweat at the thought of reading a review on all things yogi and the impending pressure to ‘breathe’ and be at one with the universe BUT, I promise, the less ‘hippy’ and yogi among us can also practice yoga without ending up on some mountain side in the lotus position chanting Om! After the last few months Ive realised it really is an exercise for anyone.

Yoga, in a variety of forms, has become a huge part of my life since my last diagnosis. I remember lying in bed after my surgery last year thinking “I don’t want to feel like this at eighty!’ I was so freaked out by how much I depended on people to help me and how much it hurt to move certain muscles that the realisation hit hard and I had to take action. Old, bent over and frail were not an option for my later years!

Since then, I have become much more familiar with yoga as a practice, and way less intimidated by it. I had dipped in and out over the years but never into a regular practice and now seemed like as good a time as any to prioritise it. Unfortunately I may now need to take out shares in Sweaty Betty, in a bid to ‘blend in’ but at least I have all the gear and SOME idea!

There are so many different descriptions of yoga but basically;

‘Yoga is a system which allows us to deepen our awareness and become more balanced…Yoga is freedom: as we return to the present moment we experience the true nature or our natural mind and a state of complete happiness. …Yoga is a way of livingand is available to everyone.’
– Louise Rogers

My body had never felt like it needed to be stretched more. I needed to feel more flexible and grounded as well as work on the old core but when I looked at all the different yoga classes around me, I was overwhelmed with all the choice there was and didn’t have the energy to investigate how many different styles of downward dog I could get myself into!

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Thankfully, I knew someone who could help me separate an ‘Asana’ from my ‘Prana’ as well as translate all this sanskrit language that I kept coming across. Lou lives in my village and I got in contact to see if we could have a couple of one to ones to see how much I could (or couldn’t) do a few months after my surgery. I was pleasantly surprised and It was a great taster and now, a year on, I do her friday morning class and love every minute of it. (I do other yoga classes to compliment my Hatha but Ill review those separately!)

As a short definition the word ‘yoga’ means “union”, or harmony of body, mind and spirit. The Sanskrit word ‘Hatha’ derives from ‘ha’, meaning ‘sun’ and ‘tha’ meaning moon, symbolising life force and consciousness. Hatha yoga offers specific practices that can purify the body, calm the mind and open the heart, exactly what was needed in my case. I was already pretty much in a prayer position at the end of every day anyway, (isn’t every Mum?!) and if feeling connected to something, anything, meant standing on one leg in tree pose, I was there!

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Hatha yoga is a term used to describe any yoga which incorporates the use of physical postures (asana in Sanskrit). Some popular yoga styles are Vinyasa, Power Yoga, Kundulini, Iyengar and Ashtanga, and there are many more to choose from. The flow of Lou’s class is what I love about it. It isn’t too fast and it isn’t too slow (though everyone is encouraged to do everything at their own pace) and after a few flows of varied Sun Salutations there are postures for balance and core. Like Lou, it makes me feel calm and grounded and gives me a conscious time out, to breathe and be closer to ‘me’.

‘Yoga for me is about developing the tools to navigate who I am in order to live a life which is more comfortable. It’s about acknowledging the experiences and decisions which have shaped us, paying attention to the thoughts and sensations of the moment, in order to respond to life less from patterns of defense but more from integrity.’
– Louise Rogers

Hatha yoga can be really helpful for cancer patients specifically, because it focuses the mind on the body in a healthy, nurturing way and can be tailored to the individual and their own ability so focusing on different areas of need. I would actually visualise the drugs draining out of my cells and my muscles finally felt stimulated. Since it increases blood flow, balances glands and enhances all that lymphatic drainage, it supports the deepest healing processes; clearing toxins, removing blockages and aiding the flow of energy through the body, helping levels feel a little fuller and a little less thin on the ground. I like to imagine it as a refill for my ever decreasing energy canister!

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For me, breath work is so important (cancer cells hate oxygen so my deep breaths have increased ten fold since reading that little nugget!) and this type of yoga really emphasises the focus on the breathe. We practice Ujjayi breathing which is nicknamed the ‘Ocean Breath’. It is a very centring breath and though I often literally forget to breathe during a lot of the flows (inhaling and exhaling at the right time is like trying to keep up with a quick step!) as I have become more familiar with it, I think of it as an anchor that tethers my mind making it less likely to wonder. So, (ignoring the odd little gasps for air during a Sun Salutation), I generally have clarity towards the end of a class and I finish feeling energised, more positive and calm.

Breathing exercises release tension and replenish energy. We learn how to replace poor ineffectual breathing habits with more healthy, life-enhancing ones. Simple breathing exercises can help to deal with the strong emotions that a cancer diagnosis gives rise to: panic, grief, despair. We observe how our emotions affect our breathing, but when we learn to change our breathing patterns we can create more serenity and balance. The breath is the link between body, mind and spirit.
– Louise Rogers

There are a lot of different approaches to yoga so do read around it (there are thousands of books written on Yoga) and any classes you like the look of. I spoke to the lady who runs a Red Hot Yoga near me and she talked me through all the class descriptions but having Lou on hand was perfect and I am very lucky to have her so nearby. If you pluck up the courage and go along to a class for the first time, take time to speak to the teacher and introduce yourself. Tell them your situation so they are aware and the chances of connection with them will be greater if they can give you exactly the type of practice you need. It is, as with most things we do for our well being, an incredibly personal thing. As Lou says;

Many people feel a little apprehensive before taking their first yoga class, whatever their circumstance, but we all begin somewhere! A good teacher will reassure you, explain things in great detail, and show kindness and compassion.
– Louise Rogers

I know how reassuring I find it when we are told we can do ‘adapted’ versions for any postures that feel too strong or intense! When someone says ‘pain is your body telling you its not ok’ I’m not going to argue! Another reason why I love it; you can do it to your own ability and you are not judged or criticised for that. I can see that through practicing yoga I am being encouraged to listen to my intuition and do what feels right within my own body, regardless of whether I achieve a particular shape.

Yoga is a life long practice, and there are wonderful things to continue discovering.Yoga is becoming a hugely popular main stream exercise and lifestyle practice and I can see why. With all these different benefits, it is definitely something that has massively contributed to my healing and my recovery and dare I say it but recently I have been very tempted to go on a few yoga retreats too. Im sure I would find myself sitting on the side of a mountain, though perhaps not in lotus position, chanting Om then, but with all the good its doing me and all the fun Im having, where is the harm in that?

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Best Foot Forward; A review of Reflexology

Best Foot Forward; A review of Reflexology

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Pros & Cons of Reflexology

Pros:

  • Effective way of internal massage on vital organs and internal processes; Helping with circulation, energetic flow, digestion and balance and wellbeing
  • Accessible and often provided in hospitals for free.
  • Not too expensive
  • Widely spread therapists through UK
  • Can have alongside other treatments to compliment

Cons:

  • Not necessarily relaxing depending on the practitioner
  • Need regular treatments to see results
  • First few treatments can have side effects
  • Not good in first few months of pregnancy or for DVT and some types of cancer

 

Reflexology is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work affects a physical change to the body.

– Wikipedia

If the thought of having your feet touched, let alone massaged, makes you squint and look like you’ve just sucked a lemon, your not alone! I not only hate feet and everything about them; weird shapes, discoloured nails and rough skin among others, but I happen to have the most sensitive feet on the planet. When it comes to my own feet the only good thing about them is that they keep me standing! However, having my feet ‘tickled’, as my daughter puts it, is weirdly one of the most therapeutic things that has come out of cancer treatment for me.

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There is no doubt, Reflexology is a hugely powerful treatment. As a little bit of background for you (Warning, History alert!); It dates back to the ancient civilisations in Egypt, India and China. The oldest evidence of its use comes from a pictograph in the tomb of an Egyptian physician near Cairo but it wasn’t introduced to the Western world until the early 20th Century. Dr William Fitzgerald, an American ear nose and throat dude, came to London and introduced the ‘Kengtitude zones theory’ in 1916.

The re-discovery of some form of systemised foot treatment is accredited to Dr William Fitzgerald who called it Zone Therapy and drew it to the attention of the medical world between 1915 and 1917. It was in 1915 that an article entitled To stop that toothache, squeeze your toe was published in Everybodys Magazine, written by Edwin Bowers, which first brought Dr Fitzgeralds work on Zone Therapy before the public.

– Reflexology-net.com

A guy called Dr George Star White and Dr Riley, his wife, went on to develop this theory, making the connections to the hands and feet but it was a women (of course!) Eunice Ingham, “The Foot Therapist’ who made the final connections, asking why not treat the hands and feet to treat the body. In 1934 the phrase Reflexology was coined. Ingham died in 1974 after devoting forty years of her life to reflexology. What a gal!

 

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Reflexology has been used frequently in fertility, cancer and later stages of pregnancy as well as other major illnesses as well and as a regular treatment for general wellbeing. Clearly I am a massive fan but it was when I started having it as a complimentary treatment offered by the hospital where I was having radiotherapy, that I really began to understand the true benefits. It made such an impression that after treatment finished in 2007 I enrolled in an evening foundation course. Punchy for the old energy levels at that stage of recovery but I had been so inspired by my reflexologist, who had opened up this pathway and made me want to learn more. I met Lisbeth at Parkside oncology hospital, where she volunteers as a therapist, and she became my real life angel. Wings and all!!

Reflexology is not my job, it is part of my life. It is my passion. Its a treat for me to give it and see what it brings to everyone.

– Lisbeth Doeff

I explored regular reflexology during treatment because, not only was it complimentary (always a bonus) but I really noticed that my body needed a helping hand in flushing out the chemo drugs, maintaining some wellbeing and helping my system heal as well as release negativity. Chemo and radio made me feel like The Marshmallow Man with jet lag; so weak and bloated and the fatigue seriously frustrated me. I was emotional, low and though doing my damnedest to put a positive light on things, Lisbeth had this incredible ability to tap right into this, recognising how draining that was in itself and helping me understand what was going on inside my body as well as my head. This, in turn, helped release other emotions so deepening my own healing process. It balanced me and transformed my ashen complexion to a rosy glow and I started to appreciate I was doing the best job I could.

Its not always relaxing! I was, and still am, frequently on the ceiling during treatments, and though this doesn’t sell it as a lovely fluffy relaxing treat, it is exactly what I need physically and emotionally. It is as if my system is getting a work out inside and out. I come away feeling rejuvenated, calm and energised. The discomfort I feel only reflects the tension I hold in certain areas of my body, namely my lower spine, digestive system and adrenals.

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I have learnt so much from seeing Lisbeth. She has taught me that healing not only comes from relaxing holistic treatments but from a deeper spiritual understanding, a nutritional perspective as well as an emotionally balanced mind. Reflexology helps on all these levels. It helps digestion, it clears my thyroid and adrenal sluggishness, releases tensions and helps flush toxins. I am so much in my head it is a wonder I can hear anything other than the conflicting voices yelling at each other across what little mass of brain I do have, but having regular reflexology helps shut them up and brings some p & q! I love how I can feel the energy and attentions draining away from my head and into my feet.

Whether you are going through treatment for an illness or simply feeling out of balance, keeping your body functioning well on the inside is imperative. Seeing my foot as a map of my body seemed pretty bizarre but strangely fascinating. Im no scientist but there is a lot to be said for ‘itchy feet’! Lisbeth also practices massage, mindfulness and reiki but her intuition and patience are what makes her treatments such a profound experience.

 

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She believes that

Different treatments work for different people and they have to try what they think will help them..It is important as a therapist to know where your boundaries are and to do what is best for them as individuals……I am always training and still learning.

Reflexology is good for anyone, unwell or not. I just so happened to discover it because of an illness. I am so glad I did and am committed to having it regularly. It isn’t going to stop me getting cancer but it certainly helps keep me sane and feel proactive in assisting my body deal with stress. Having had more than one diagnosis there are areas that I know Lisbeth will give special attention and because I have known her so long, it makes the treatment much more effective. If it is something you are interested in, look up The Association of Reflexologists for more information.

Anything you do during this healing time is for you and should be tailored to your wellbeing, no one else’s. Lisbeth’s most important lesson to me was to Trust. To trust in my instinct and to trust in myself and my own ability to beat this and that, whatever happened, I would be ok. More importantly, I trusted her and I would trust her with my life, not just my feet. After all, clearly they do more than just keep me standing!

 

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