“Yoga stops traffick” – Fund raising event

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A huge thank you to everyone who donated to KOK at today’s fund raising and otherwise. We raised 200 eu!!!!! whoop whoop!!

(A few pictures from the class in Stadtpark this morning. Lovely day and lovelier Yogis 🙂 )

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Betty anwar Yoga cross-training and nutrition, KOK fund raising, Human trafficking

KOK fund raising – warming up

Betty anwar yoga cross-training and nutrition, KOK fund raising, human trafficking

KOK fund raising – standing flow

Betty anwar yoga cross-training and nutrition, KOK fund raising, human trafficking

KOK fund raising – cooling down

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Please join me in supporting KOK, a German NGO, in their fight against human trafficking. As part of this fund raiser I would like to invite you to join me on the mat for a 90 minute gentle flow in the outdoors. All levels are welcome.
Yoga not your thing? No problem, just turn up and donate to show your support. Who says you can’t roll out your mat and lie back on it for the entire duration 😉

I have listed June 10 and 11 as the event dates, please let me know in the comments which date suits you best. The times will be 10- 11:30 am on both days.

Minimum donation is 10 euros.

We will meet on the Festwiese (across the road from the Planetarium) in Stadtpark, and hope it remains dry for at least 2 hours.

Below is a description of what KOK do. More information may be found on their website https://www.kok-gegen-menschenhandel.de/en/home/
“KOK is a German NGO network and coordination office against trafficking in human beings. The network is active against all bodies, organisations and legislation which exclude migrants from social, political and economic participation. It believes in equal rights and opportunities for all, including persons working in prostitution and other informal economies. KOK e.V. sees trafficking in women in terms of the migration process, which is triggered by the prevalence of worldwide poverty, global crises and conflicts, and rapid transitions in political and economic spheres. In order to support their families, women are becoming increasingly forced to leave their home countries in search of employment. Some of them become victims of structural, psychical and/or physical violence. One form of this violence against women is human trafficking.”

YCT at the Yoga Connection

Very excited to announce that I will be holding regular Yoga Cross-Training classes in English at the Yoga Connection in Eimsbuettle (Hamburg, Germany):

More information can be found under
http://yoga-connection-hamburg.de/zeiten.htm

If you are interested in participating please contact Stefanie Brosda under

kontakt@yoga-connection-hamburg.de

 

Looking forward to seeing you there 🙂

full plank, high plank

Fit in 5 minutes: Say hello to the Plank

The Holidays are wonderful to spend quality time with friends and family. They are also associated with overindulgence, and you sort of take for granted that you’ll pile on the pounds.

 

Does it always have to be that way?

 

Some might argue that a 2 month set back in an entire year isn’t a bad deal. If you have a regular exercise and healthy eating plan that you’ve been following, then I’m with you.

 

Now what if your decision to get back in shape was made closer to the holidays? Do you need to give it all up?

Don’t get me wrong, the emphasis here is not on weight gain/loss. It’s about a breaking a health and fitness regime you had going (irrespective of what stage it was in) even when things get crazy busy.

I’m all about doing as little as possible to stay healthy. The key is consistency i.e. doing something every day…even if it’s for 5 minutes.

I want to share with you one exercise that you can perform daily till the festivities come to an end. It will only take 5 minutes of your day and keep you on track so you can jump right back into your pre-Holiday routine without any setbacks.
Have I sparked your interest yet?

 

Say hello to the Plank. If you’ve been practicing with me you’ll be familiar with this and the funky variations it comes with. All in all it is, in my opinion, THE most effective bodyweight exercise. Here’s why:

  1. It is a FULL body exercise. You use your arms, upper back, core (abs and lower back), thighs, buttocks, and even your feet to keep you in this position. You’re looking at a stronger core (say good bye to lower back aches), firm buttocks, toned arms and lengthened calves.
  2. It is an effective way to strengthen the wrists. I see a lot of students with weak wrists and I can’t stress how important it is to strengthen this area. Opening doors, driving, cooking (and associated prep work), carrying groceries, playing an instrument, pushing a stroller, typing – tasks we perform every day that require hands. In fact one of the causes of Carpal Tunnel is wrist weakness. Not convinced? How about wrist strength and upper body strength go hand in hand? Strengthen one and you strengthen the other.
  3. It strengthens and maintains the flexibility in your toes and feet. Your feet are the only connection between your physical body and the earth. These are what “ground” and stabilise you – your foundation. If these are weak, other muscles have to work extra to compensate leading to a host of other issues due to the imbalance created.
  4. It is a mental exercise. Very rarely in a class are you asked to hold a plank for more than 10 seconds. Most likely, you will move into several variations. In my experience, one of the most challenging aspects to holding a plank is keeping still. It’s a work in progress for me and depends on the state of my mind at that moment. Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself getting fidgety and cursing 😉 practice will help immensely and you’ll find it paying off in your Yoga class and in other aspects of your day-to-day lives.

 

How to perform a Plank

I’ve chosen a high Plank in this post to ensure you get maximum benefit in a short time.

High Plank

  1. Start in a table top pose (hands and knees/all 4s) with your knees perpendicular to your hips and hips distance apart. Wrists are under your shoulders and shoulder width apart.
  2. Head and neck:
    • Keep the neck long and drawing away from the shoulders. One way to ensure this is by finding a point slightly ahead of you to gaze at.
  3. Hands and Arms:
    • Spread your fingers out as wide as possible and engage the muscles of the arm by pressing the base of the knuckles into the mat/floor.
    •  Your middle finger points in the direction of your gaze.
    • The weight is not in the heel of your hand, but rather distributed evenly throughout the entire surface area of the palm.
    • Don’t lock the elbows out. Keep them soft.
  4. Chest:
    • Keep the collar bones wide (Imagine your chest expanding)
  5. Upper back:
    • Keep the shoulder blades on your back, don’t let them wing out like they would if you rounded your back.
    • Keep your shoulders away from your ears.
  6. Core:
    • As you exhale, feel the muscles of your abdominals moving towards your spine, and the sides of your waist drawing in. These are the muscles you want to keep strong and engaged throughout to protect your lower back.
    • The challenge comes with keeping this activation and not restricting your breath and the movement of your diaphragm.
  7. Legs and feet:
    • Extend one leg out behind you so it’s resting on the ball of your foot, and then extend the other.
    • Activate the heels by attempting to press them back (you will feel your calves here).
    • Squeeze the inner thighs together.
    • Squeeze the buttock muscles.
    • Activate the front of the thighs (quadriceps) by drawing the knee caps up.
    • Don’t lock the knees. Like the elbows, keep them soft.
  8. Hips:
    • Keep the hips in line with your shoulders (it helps to first do this with the help pf a mirror). You should be able to see your feet if you look under, and you will see a straight line from your head to your heels if you looked in a mirror.
    • Sagging hips are a lower back injury waiting to happen. You will feel the strain in your back and your feet will have disappeared!

 

Now every part of your body is working. Keep imagining the crown of your head and tailbone moving away from each other, lengthening the spine.

 

Observe your inhales and exhales, keep breathing and remember that each exhale helps you reconnect with your power house, associated with confidence and will power, the core.

 

Exiting is just as important as entry. Gently lower one knee and then the other. Shift your hips back and sit on your heels. Never exit hastily from a pose to avoid injuries.

 

Release your wrists with slow, conscious circular movements – clockwise and anticlockwise.

 

Modifications if the version above is too intense

  1. Once you extend both legs out, keep everything working and gently lower your knees down to the floor/mat. You know you’ve done it right if you lift your knees off and are in a full plank without changing anything (in other words, the angle your body makes between the knees and the mat/floor is about 45 degrees). You may chose to experiment keeping the feet on the floor or raising them.

Modified plank on kneesModified plank on knees

  1. If you have separation of the abdominal muscles (Diastasis Recti) of more than 2 fingers’ width, it is safer to plank using a chair or coffee table that’s sturdy. Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists and that the entire palm of your hand is on the surface of the chair or table.

Modified plank on chair, diastasis recti

Getting your Plank on

  1. Week 1: Start with 2 sets/rounds of 10 seconds each. If you feel that didn’t challenge you, then by all means go for 30 seconds or even a minute. Doing it twice is the key.
  2. Week 2: Add another 20 to 30 seconds. Do it twice every day.
  3. Week 3 and so on…keep adding 20 – 30s until you’ve reached 5 minutes.

 

Practice holding a Plank for 5 minutes for a week and on busy days. Observe any changes (physical and mental) this has brought about.

 

Remember, the idea here is staying consistent. This will without a doubt keep you in shape and not regressing if you’ve been making progress. You’ll emerge on the other side of the “Holiday High” stronger and ready to take on the New Year!

“Let it go…Let it gooooo..”

You’d think that after a year of listening to Elsa sing “let it go” on our stereo system at home, in the car, on vacation and basically every darn place you can think of, I’d be the last person to use it as the title of this post! HA! Elsa, nicely played……

Since the beginning of this year I’ve been obessed with the subject of letting things go. You see, this for me is very difficult. I grew up thinking that if you threw something away, it had no meaning to you, and that you rather overeat and feel sick right after just to avoid putting away/throwing away the last few spoonfuls of food on your plate (don’t get me wrong, I don’t encourage food wastage, but I never thought to myself that I could take smaller portions at a time). So what happened down the line? I saved EVERYTHING – down to ticket stubs….and for years (can you imagine what a nightmare it is to move house as a hoarder?!). Oh, and I overate – a lot! (food and weight are a HUGE aspect of the Indian culture. If you’re lean, you’re unhealthy; if your not stuffed to your eyes with food by your host/hostess, it’s not good hospitallity; watching what you eat/eating smaller portions is “complicated” and “unnecessary” if you’re lean because you need to have fat on you.)

Starting out as a mum, I was pretty sure I was doing the right thing passing on this “quality” to my kids…..up until the beginning of this year when I took my yoga practice to a different level and made the decision to teach. I realised that “keeping memoires” (as I like to tell myself I was doing) wasn’t a fantastic quality to have…the truth was that I was hanging on to everything from years gone by. That meant I had a whole lot of unresolved issues and emotional baggage I had been lugging around for years. I now realise how this has been affecting realtionships around me….

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali talk about non-attachment. Now, this doesn’t mean that you don’t care, it just means that you don’t place importance on things, emotions, acts, status, ego etc. Placing undue importance creates chains around your mental ability to think clearly…it binds your heart so tight that it is not open to receiving anymore.

Yoga sutras :

Two core principles: Practice (abhyasa, 1.13) and non-attachment (vairagya, 1.15) are the two core principles on which the entire system of Yoga rests (1.12). It is through the cultivation of these two that the other practices evolve, by which mastery over the mind field occurs (1.2), and allows the realization of the true Self (1.3).

Abhyasa/Practice: Abhyasa means having an attitude of persistent effort to attain and   maintain a state of stable tranquility (1.13). To become well established, this needs to be done for a long time, without a break (1.14). From this stance the deeper practice continues to unfold, going ever deeper towards the direct experience of the eternal core of our being.

Vairagya/Non-attachment: The essential companion is non-attachment (1.15), learning to let go of the many attachments, aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding the true Self.

They work together: Practice leads you in the right direction, while non-attachment allows you to continue the inner journey without getting sidetracked into the pains and pleasures along the way.

Hurt, dissapointment, emotional wounds – we’ve all experienced them. If you analysed past situations in a non-judgemental way, you’d see that most of these “injuries” arise from expectations…..expectations of the other person involved or of what you thought the outcome should have been. In the present, these past unfulfilled expectations still leave a sour taste in your mouth. You’re always wary and cautious. You’ve built some form of armour around yourself. Now, imagine how many layers of armour you’d have built over the years everytime you encountered unpleasant, “not-what-you-expected” situations…..how much inner strength do you think it will take for you to break those walls down and get to the core of who you really are? Breaking those walls is nothing but forgiving, bidding good bye to the past, and moving forward…..breaking those walls is letting go.

“The root of suffering is attachment”     – The Buddha

Letting go doesn’t necessarily mean something from the past (although in most cases, the roots will lie back in time. The past is usually what shapes the present), it can be in the here and now too (down the line “today” will be a day in your past) – maybe it’s something you did/said, something someone did/said to you, maybe it’s a relationship that’s either not benefitting you in a positive way, maybe you can’t change the situation/the person involved and it’s tearing you up inside. Ask yourself if it’s worth all the time and emotion you invest into the feelings these people/situations conjure up in you. Depending on your honest answer, you will know what to do.

So how can you start breaking down the armour, letting go and moving forward? Ok I’ll be honest here, each of us have our own battles…and whilst some things are easier to kiss good bye to, others need a lot of time. I’m in no way saying that you have to move on from one day to the next, but just setting the intention and knowing where you want to be sometime in the future is enough to start with. Setting honest intentions and repeating these to yourself everyday (maybe even multiple times in a day) can work wonders in manipulating your subconscious mind.

How did I start out?

Well, first thing I did was to get rid of clothes. This was the first exercise I set for myself and it was TOUGH!

Second, toiletries (yes, you may be laughing here, but I actually developed an unhealthy obsession with stocking up on toiletries that I never used for fear that the container would be empty one day!)..in 3 months I haven’t had to buy shower gel because of the stockpile I have lying around!!! These might seem really lame, but I kid you not they’ve wonders in changing my attitude and outlook.

I’d read an article not long ago about how clutter in the house is a barrier to free flowing energy, and that clearing up clutter pockets like drawers, closets etc. can have a huge effect on how you feel. I can vouch for that…

Third, I made a 2 column list of people from the yesteryears – one for those I never really forgave and the other for those I’d hurt and never apologised to. I went through each name on the list and had the “conversation” I should have had, ending with “it’s over…let’s move on”.

Fourth, my kids – I make them clear out their rooms once a month (or every week depending on the clutter) and make it a point they understand how to regulate their food portions and appetite. If they skip a meal, big deal – they’re healthy and happy and more than honest with me when it comes to hunger!

Maybe you have a few toxic relationships in your life and you’re scared to “let them go” because (perhaps) society would see you as being cold, or maybe because you don’t want to hurt them. Let me tell you from personal experience, that if a relationship is pulling you down so much that it’s stopping you from moving forward, affecting the innocent people around you and leaving you depleted…it’s not worth having in your life at the moment (if you feel you’re not strong enough to handle it) or at all….the choice is yours. The resolution you may choose to make is to always keep your heart and mind receiving, open and full of love to these people if and when they are ready to re-enter into a fullfilling, positive and nurturing relationship. Again, let not expectations drive any of these decisions.

Negative emotions cause blockages in the flow of vital energy within us. When left to fester for too long these can manifest as diseases of the body and mind. A documentary I watched a few months back said that physical ailments can be treated by first cleansing the mind. An unhealthy mind results in an unhealthy body. I’ve come to believe strongly in this.

We’re all on our personal journeys with challenges and achievements that are unique to us. Your yoga practice can only help you on this journey. It is so unique to you and is different from one day to the next. Keep practicing, keep your intentions clear and keep your breath flowing. Honour the present moment and be thankful for it. It is in this moment you can decide where you place the step in your path – forward or back.

Namaste.