Move your body and be happy!

Exercise is another word that is often tainted with negative connotations. Why do most women exercise? Usually to burn calories, lose weight, tone up or compensate for over eating. Thinking about exercise in this way makes it feel like a chore or a punishment. It’s no wonder that it can be so hard to build healthy habits around working out!

As someone who has a history with chronic over-exercising and gym obsession, I prefer to use the words body movement rather than exercise. Exercise reminds me of pushing myself through intense circuits and hours of cardio all in the pursuit of weight loss. But moving your body has so many more benefits than burning calories. When done in the right way, body movement:

  • Boost your energy and vitality
  • Improves your mood
  • Helps you to get better sleep
  • Reduces your risk of chronic disease
  • Improves circulation, bone density and joint health
  • Helps you to live longer

What is the right way to exercise?

There are several factors that take the benefits of body movement to the next level. These are:

  1. Moving outdoors, especially in natural environments
  2. Social activities e.g. a walk with a friend, a group exercise class
  3. Moving at a non-stressful pace for your body
  4. Staying present and mindful during the activity
  5. Having a SMILE on your face as you move

The most important point is that movement should feel light, joyful and a chance to enjoy being in this human bodily experience. If exercising feels stressful, anxiety-provoking or is tied to the goal of weight loss of changing your body in some way, many of the additional benefits will be lost. Basically you are selling yourself short! This is a result of conditioning around what it means to exercise and your pre-conceived notions of fitness.

That is not to say that moving your body should never be challenging. Of course, it is good to push your limits but the trick is to do it gently. It should be so subtle that it doesn’t feel like a strain. You want to support and encourage your body into better health and fitness, not beat and submit it to your will. Perhaps at first, it will take some persuasion to get yourself off the sofa and onto the yoga mat or the hiking trail. But once you’re there it should feel good!

How much movement is ideal for health?

Most experts recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise OR 75 minutes of high intensity exercise. Personally, I recommend moderate intensity exercise as you also get the added benefits of stress reduction. Too high intensity exercise can actually increase your stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which make you feel good in the moment but can cause a crash later on!

So 150 minutes per week is equivalent to 5 times 30 minutes per week – that should be achievable, right? However, over 40% of women in the UK don’t meet this recommendation. If you are one of these women then think about why? Perhaps because you have a conditioned idea of what exercise should be and it puts you off. I’ve lost count of the number of women who have told me they are too old, not fit or flexible enough to join my yoga class! Or maybe because life is already exhausting and stressful and exercise feels like another thing on the list that you don’t have time or energy for?

But as I said earlier, body movement can be many things outside of what we formally see as “exercise”. Simple activities such as walking to the shop, cleaning the house, gardening, walking the the dog, playing games with your kids all count as movement. Getting outdoors and enjoying nature through hiking, swimming, cycling or climbing are also great ways to move your body which don’t feel like formal exercise. Personally, hiking, yoga and dancing are the ways I love to move my body and they never feel like a chore.

You want to find ways to move your body that you genuinely enjoy and look forward to. That way, you will not have to rely on motivation and persuasion to get yourself moving.

What are some ways to exercise?

The two files below give some examples of how you can bring body movement into your routine. The first pdf shows low, moderate and high intensity activities and explains how you can minimise stress by keeping high intensity activities to only short bursts, whereas low intensity exercise can be kept up for longer periods of time. The second pdf shows the different types of movement (cardio, resistance training and flexibility/mobility) which each have their own benefit for your health.

Tips for creating habits around movement

As I shared in yesterday’s post about food as nourishment, habits are key to creating a healthy lifestyle. You want to make it as easy as possible for yourself to make choices that are in line with your goals. Ideally, you want exercise to be something you don’t deliberate on each time but you just do it because that’s the way you always do it. Some tips for creating body movement habits include:

  • When starting out stick to 1-3 activities and commit to them
  • Always do the activities in the same way in the same place i.e. create a routine
  • Start with a monthly schedule and stick to it i.e. make the decisions in advance
  • Involve a friend or exercise buddy to keep you motivated and accountable
  • Make sure you have the right equipment e.g. comfortable clothes and shoes
  • Have all your equipment ready to go so that preparing is not a barrier

Today’s challenge: Create a body movement plan

Now it is time to take action! Using the template below, fill in the activities you want to commit to over the next 4 weeks. You can either repeat the same schedule each week or change it throughout the month. I prefer to reduce the intensity of movement around my period (more on that in a future post!) and increase it during other times of the month so that overall there is a good balance of effort and rest.

If you are in the Moon Life Well Women Facebook group, I will be sharing some additional resources to support you in building healthy habits around moving your body. So enjoy and I will see you tomorrow when we will be moving onto to the topic of getting a good nights’ sleep!

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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hiking mam tor

An active weekend hiking in the Peak District

Today is just a fun post to share some photos from my hike this weekend. For me, hiking is one of the best ways to stay active. It is the perfect way to move your body whilst also relaxing at the same time. You get out in the fresh air, get away from screens and social media and have chance to connect with nature. It is challenging but you don’t feel like you are over stressing your body (as long as you keep yourself well fueled that is). I just love it!

I am back in the UK this month visiting my family and friends after a whole year in Athens. One of the things I missed the most was the British countryside so I am making the effort to go out hiking and enjoy nature while I am here. Of course Greece has plenty of opportunities for hiking too and this winter I plan to make the most of it! But it is a much more rough and mountainous country compared to the UK. The scenery is completely different and there is much less of that rolling green hillside that we have here in Britain.

This weekend I went to the Peak District to enjoy the good(ish) weather and spend time outdoors. I don’t have a car since I left the UK so I needed to go somewhere with good public transport links. Plus, I was meeting a friend from Nottingham so the Peak District is the perfect middle ground. I took the train from St Helens to Edale via Manchester which took about 2 hours. I love travelling by train because it’s the perfect opportunity to just switch off and relax. I usually have a good book or podcast at the ready but this time I just enjoyed watching out of the window.

The Hope Valley trans-pennine line from Manchester to Sheffield is one of the prettiest railway routes in the UK. Not only does it join two of my favourite cities in the UK, but it also passes through all of these little villages and beautiful scenery in between. I didn’t take any photos from the train as I was completely absorbed but here is a map of the route.

hiking peak district hope valley line
By Rcsprinter123 – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84826001

I arrived at Edale train station and waited in the Penny Pot Cafe which is a favourite spot for hikers and visitors to the village. The walking route we chose started and ended from the cafe so it was the perfect meeting spot and just 1 minute walk from the station. We didn’t come prepared with OS maps and navigating equipment but there are plenty of easy to follow routes in this area. I actually took the free hikers guide from the cafe and we followed route 2 which is about 5 miles at a moderate level.

We started by heading out of Edale and climbed up towards Mam Tor. It is a slow and steady climb but you end up quite high pretty quickly! Instead of climbing right up to the tor and walking along the ridge, we took a circular route instead. We walked down the lime stone way and into the village of Castleton. On the way we were supposed to see two caverns but we took an accidental detour and ended up missing them completely!

After a treacherous half walk half slide down a steep bank, we made it into Castleton. This is another picturesque village founded in 1086! It is known for it’s history, especially Peveril Castle, and is a designated conservation area. I really like the cute cottage style houses and winding streets selling souvenirs and crystals. There are also plenty of places to eat and drink as it is a central point for hikers in the area.

We stopped for some food in a traditional pub called The Castle. They do really tasty roast dinners but I thought it wasn’t the best idea in the middle of a hike as I’d be ready to fall asleep afterwards. So instead I enjoyed a “fish finger butty” which for anyone not from the north UK is a sandwich with battered fish inside. Basically a fish and chips sandwich! I always have a big appetite when I am hiking, a combination of the fresh air and hard work I think.

It was getting late by the time we finished our food and we still had an hour to go till the end of the walk. We thought the hardest climb was over but we were very wrong. The climb back up to Mam Tor from Castleton is pretty steep. Even though there is a good path which angles up the side of the ridge it can be quite challenging if you’re not used to hiking. The view makes it all worthwhile though. You have spectacular views of the countryside and the village below. I was even happy to see Hope cement works which is a bit of an eye sore in the natural landscape.

The end of the route was downhill and then flat along a paved path so it was an easy end to the day. We passed farms and saw lots of sheep grazing in the field, I wanted a selfie but unfortunately they had other ideas. I ended up missing my train by 5 minutes and had to wait nearly an hour for the next one. Luckily the cafe was still open so I enjoyed a hot lemon and ginger tea and chatted to the workers who were super friendly! I love how relaxed and happy people always seem to be in the countryside. It just shows what the stressed out city lifestyle does to us.

I am so glad to be able to move my body in fun ways rather than feeling like I have to kill myself at the gym to look a certain way. Even hiking is more enjoyable for me now as I make sure to eat plenty of snacks on the way and fuel my body. Years ago, I would see hiking as as a way to burn calories and I would try to eat as little as possible which always left me feeling moody and exhausted. Now I feel fit and strong and I hike because I love it, not as a way to lose weight. Hopefully I will have chance to visit the Peak District again while I am here or maybe the Lake District for more hiking adventures!

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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Keeping active in the Greek winter lockdown

One of the things I’ve committed to throughout this second lockdown to look after my health and wellbeing is keeping up with my daily walks. If any of you have been following my blog for a while you’ll know that walking is my number one recommendation to keep fit and healthy. Walking is such a good way to stay active without stressing out your body and it does wonders for your mental health too. Whenever I am feeling suffocated or anxious, I head out for a half an hour walk and listen to some music or an inspiring podcast and I feel so much better! Walking at a moderate pace gets your heart rate up enough to boost your circulation and burn fat without depleting your energy and leaving you exhausted. It’s the perfect exercise for beginners as it’s low impact and you don’t need any equipment. If you are looking to improve your fitness and don’t know where to begin, just start walking daily and take it from there.

I love walking outside in nature and being in Greece this winter, we really have really experienced the extremes that nature has to offer. Only last week we were walking along the coast in the south of Attica enjoying the 20°C sunshine and dipping our toes in the Mediterranean. A few days ago I was out and about when it started raining and blowing a gale. Then yesterday we had a real snow day and we were fully kitted out in our coats and boots to hike up the local hill. And I don’t just mean the kind of sleet that turns to mush as soon as it hits the floor, we’re talking 20cm of powdery white snow. It was like being a kid again waking up to this magical winter wonderland. I love it! We walked through the park and saw some pretty impressive snowmen plus all of the destruction where the heavy snow caused huge tree branches to come crashing down. All the cars were buried under a foot of snow and it was like the world came to a standstill. There was even that eerie silence you get during when the snow dampens out the white noise.

Apart from walking of course I have been keeping up with my yoga practice. Yet another thing that’s keeping me (relatively) sane and able to cope as we move into our fifth month of lockdown.. Yoga really is an amazing way to look after your health during these challenging times. You can read my post about the many physical and mental benefits of yoga and how to start a home practice here. I’ve practiced yoga for many years but once I started teaching regularly, I found that my personal practice took a back seat so this year I have really dedicated myself to a regular practice. It’s really easy to fall into the routine of doing similar routines and not progressing so I decided to try out some different styles from the slower paced, alignment focused hatha yoga that I teach. I’ve experimented with different online teachers and right now I am building my cardio fitness through faster vinyasa flows and my flexibility through deeper, yin practices. Combining different styles of yoga really gives you that all round fitness of strength, agility and flexibility as well as helping you to be more calm and connected to yourself and the world around you.

I’m also working on some more advanced poses like forearm stands and deeper backbends. I think it’s so important to keep challenging yourself and moving out of your comfort zone to improve your fitness and keep things interesting. But the most important thing for me these days is to have fun with it! Gone are the days when I push myself through exhausting high intensity intervals or long distance running for the “results”. If I feel like it I will do those things but I know that you don’t need to do that to be fit and healthy and pushing yourself too hard can cause more harm than good. I learned the hard way years ago that chronic over-exercising leads to your body fighting back with injuries, fatigue and extreme hunger. Not fun!

Nowadays I know it’s important to live an active life but I will never let exercise take over my life. This is something I recommend to all of my health coaching clients too. Keeping it simple with a workout routine that feels achievable and enjoyable is the best way to ensure you stick at it in the long term and don’t give up as soon as life gets in the way. What used to be considered “extreme” with fitness is now seen as normal. We are made to believe that we aren’t fit unless we are running marathons or squatting 100kg in the gym but in truth, our bodies weren’t designed for these unnatural movements or to be pushed to these extremes. Yes we can go for it if we want to challenge ourselves but it’s not necessary to be healthy. It’s much better to live an active life, focus on moving your body in an enjoyable way and keeping mobile and agile.

So, now that that rant is over.. some news! Apart from keeping physically active, I am also keeping mentally active with a big project I am working on to be launched on this site very soon. Hint – check out the new page on my site menu. This is something I’ve wanted to create for a long time and I finally have the time and the resources to do it so watch this space! I’m hoping that the project will be live in a couple of months time and I’ll be offering it at a great value for early birds. If you’re interested in learning more drop me an email at lovemoonlife.mail@gmail.com

Over to you…

I hope this post inspires you to keep active during the winter, where ever you are in the world. Let me know in the comments below what your favourite ways to keep fit at home during the winter/lockdown!

  • If like this post, hit the like button and follow my blog for regular posts on health, nutrition and yoga. And please share with anyone you think might be interested.
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Real health #29 The healing power of nature (plus our Greek lockdown adventures!)

We are heading into our 4th month of lockdown here in Athens and it’s getting pretty tough! Being forced to stay at home for so long has made me realise just how important nature is for our health and wellbeing. We go for walks around our local area every day but it’s just not the same as getting out “into the wild”. If we haven’t escaped the city for a week or so I start to feel suffocated and I crave fresh air and expansive landscapes. Being enclosed in a house, staring at a screen is definitely not how humans are designed to live and I’m sure we are going to start seeing the negative impacts of this type of lifestyle even more over the next few years.

But why is nature so good for our wellbeing? There have been many scientific studies proving that nature helps to reduces stress levels, calm anxiety and improve your mood. Fresh air in your lungs and sunlight on your skin can sometimes be just the medicine you need to recharge your energetic battery (plus the vitamin D boost of course!). I know whenever I leave my phone at home and head out for a hike or sit by the sea for a few hours I feel like a completely different person. There’s something about the natural beauty and slow pace of nature that makes me feel relaxed and at peace. My breathing becomes deeper and slower and the tension in my body melts away.

I become much more present and mindful of the world around me instead of being focused on my to-do list, the latest news alert or my own worries. When we leave technology and the constant influx of information behind, our minds are free to wander, daydream and process things on a deeper level. When I was writing my first research paper, my most creative times were when I was out walking by the river or at the local nature reserve. The beauty and mystery of nature is inspiring and helps you to see things from a new perspective when you feel stuck. Nature truly is healing on so many levels. I think it’s so important now more than ever to try and get out in nature as much as possible.

So I wanted to share some of the beautiful places I have been able to visit during this lockdown. Partly as a reminder to myself how good it makes me feel and to motivate me to get outside whenever I feel low. Also hopefully to inspire you to explore your local area and find some hidden gems too! Our lockdown rules say we have to stay within the region of Attica which is pretty annoying as I can’t wait to get out and explore the rest of Greece. Nonetheless I feel lucky to live in the area we do as it is pretty green compared to central Athens and we have access to the beach and the mountains within an hours drive. But where ever you live you can find your piece of nature whether it’s the local park or even your own garden.

The view of Athens from the top of the hill in our area..

And a couple of photos from our hike at Mount Parnitha in December..

Playing on the beach at Saronida on the South coast of Attica..

Same coastline, a much sunnier day..

And a couple of weeks later snow! (a hike isn’t complete without some the yoga poses)

Finally what would nature be without some cute lil’ animals?

And I can’t leave out my own crazy fur baby who is always keeping us smiling

It makes me happy looking back at the fun adventures we’ve had over the last few months, even if we are stuck at home 90% of the time. The only thing missing is family and friends to share it with which saddens me a lot. I think this lockdown is harder for everyone, partly because of the winter but also because it’s gone on so long now. I just can’t accept the idea of the “new normal”. But I am staying optimistic, hoping that this passes soon so we can all get back to enjoying our lives. And for now we will continue to make the most of things and escape to experience the healing powers of nature as much as we can!

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this more fun style of article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your favourite place in nature to escape to.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again!

Other posts you might like

The healing power of nature (plus our Greek lockdown adventures!)

We are heading into our 4th month of lockdown here in Athens and it’s getting pretty tough! Being forced to stay at home for so long has made me realise just how important nature is for our health and wellbeing. We go for walks around our local area every day but it’s just not the same as getting out “into the wild”. If we haven’t escaped the city for a week or so I start to feel suffocated and I crave fresh air and expansive landscapes. Being enclosed in a house, staring at a screen is definitely not how humans are designed to live and I’m sure we are going to start seeing the negative impacts of this type of lifestyle even more over the next few years.

But why is nature so good for our wellbeing? There have been many scientific studies proving that nature helps to reduces stress levels, calm anxiety and improve your mood. Fresh air in your lungs and sunlight on your skin can sometimes be just the medicine you need to recharge your energetic battery (plus the vitamin D boost of course!). I know whenever I leave my phone at home and head out for a hike or sit by the sea for a few hours I feel like a completely different person. There’s something about the natural beauty and slow pace of nature that makes me feel relaxed and at peace. My breathing becomes deeper and slower and the tension in my body melts away.

I become much more present and mindful of the world around me instead of being focused on my to-do list, the latest news alert or my own worries. When we leave technology and the constant influx of information behind, our minds are free to wander, daydream and process things on a deeper level. When I was writing my first research paper, my most creative times were when I was out walking by the river or at the local nature reserve. The beauty and mystery of nature is inspiring and helps you to see things from a new perspective when you feel stuck. Nature truly is healing on so many levels. I think it’s so important now more than ever to try and get out in nature as much as possible.

So I wanted to share some of the beautiful places I have been able to visit during this lockdown. Partly as a reminder to myself how good it makes me feel and to motivate me to get outside whenever I feel low. Also hopefully to inspire you to explore your local area and find some hidden gems too! Our lockdown rules say we have to stay within the region of Attica which is pretty annoying as I can’t wait to get out and explore the rest of Greece. Nonetheless I feel lucky to live in the area we do as it is pretty green compared to central Athens and we have access to the beach and the mountains within an hours drive. But where ever you live you can find your piece of nature whether it’s the local park or even your own garden.

The view of Athens from the top of the hill in our area..

And a couple of photos from our hike at Mount Parnitha in December..

Playing on the beach at Saronida on the South coast of Attica..

Same coastline, a much sunnier day..

And a couple of weeks later snow! (a hike isn’t complete without some the yoga poses)

Finally what would nature be without some cute lil’ animals?

And I can’t leave out my own crazy fur baby who is always keeping us smiling

It makes me happy looking back at the fun adventures we’ve had over the last few months, even if we are stuck at home 90% of the time. The only thing missing is family and friends to share it with which saddens me a lot. I think this lockdown is harder for everyone, partly because of the winter but also because it’s gone on so long now. I just can’t accept the idea of the “new normal”. But I am staying optimistic, hoping that this passes soon so we can all get back to enjoying our lives. And for now we will continue to make the most of things and escape to experience the healing powers of nature as much as we can!

Over to you…

  • Comment: What’s your favourite way to enjoy the healing powers of nature?
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Real health #8 Benefits of yoga for health and how to start a home yoga practice

The benefits of yoga for health are endless! Of course, as a yoga teacher I am pretty biased but I honestly think that starting a yoga practice is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. In this article I want to share the top benefits of yoga for health that I have experienced over the last 10 years of practicing yoga.

Benefits of yoga on the body

The practice of yoga has so many health benefits for people of all ages. A daily yoga practice, even if it is just 10 minutes, is a great way to get your body moving, get your blood flowing, loosen up your joints, improve your flexibility and strength. Physical health benefits of yoga include:

  • Better cardio-vascular health and reduced risk of heart disease. Like any other type of exercise that gets your body moving, the health benefits of yoga include improved cardio-vascular fitness. Unlike many other types of exercise, yoga is low intensity and not stressful on the joints so it is a great way for those new to exercise to start out. Vinyasa and other types of “flow” yoga can be especially good for improving your fitness.

  • Lowered blood pressure. Practicing yoga regular can help to lower your blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. There are certain yoga postures which specifically help to lower blood pressure including standing forward fold, downward facing dog and legs up the wall pose. Practicing yoga daily along with a healthy diet can lead to huge improvement in your blood pressure readings.

  • Reduced muscular tension from prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyles. Now more than ever we are spending increasing amounts of time in front of our computers and phones. Especially with COVID19 restrictions, many of us are working from home and sitting for long periods of time. Yoga helps to counter-balance habitual tension in the neck, shoulders and hips creating a sense of ease and wellbeing in your body.

  • Improved flexibility, balance and joint health. One of the most well-known benefits of yoga for physical health is improved flexibility. Remember you don’t have to be flexible to practice yoga but practicing yoga will help to improve your flexibility! Yoga practice improves mobility in all of the main joints in the body including the spine, knees, hips and wrists, helping you to stay fit and mobile as you get older and improving your quality of life.

  • Stronger, more toned muscles. Many fitness enthusiasts see yoga as “not challenging enough” but then you get them on the mat and watch them struggle! A yoga practice can be a full body workout where you are challenging and all of your muscles in a holistic, functional way. Of course, the intensity of a physical yoga practice varies a lot but practicing yoga can definitely be a great way to strengthen and tone your upper body, core thighs and glutes.

  • Improved sleep quality. Yoga helps to calm and relax both the body and mind which can help you to get a better nights sleep. Practicing yoga in the morning helps you to stay calm and relaxed throughout the day and sleep more soundly at night. a gentle bedtime yoga practice is also an excellent way to wind down, let go of the stress of the day and prepare your body for sleep. Better sleep has all sorts of health benefits including better blood sugar control, improved energy levels and lowered inflammation.

Benefits of yoga on mental health

As well as the physical health benefits of yoga, there are also many mental health benefits of yoga. In today’s busy world, most of us feel some level of pressure, tension and stress on a daily basis and cases of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are also on the rise. The benefits of yoga for mental health include:

  • Reduced anxiety and stress levels. Getting yourself onto your yoga mat to take some time for yourself and close out the outside world is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Unfortunately life will happen and no matter how we try to reduce the external stressors in our life the past pace and pressures of modern society will always cause us some level of stress but practicing yoga helps to reduce this stress and the anxiety that going with it.

  • Improved nervous system health. Because of the high levels of stress, adrenal fatigue and burn out are becoming more and more common. If you have a stressful job or busy family life, drink a lot of caffeine or spend excessive time on the internet or social media it’s highly likely that your nervous system could do with some attention. Yoga practice, especially breathwork and meditation but also physical asana practice is a great way to nurture your adrenals, activate your parasympathetic nervous system and and strengthen your capacity to deal with the stress of daily life.

  • Feelings of calm and wellbeing. Regular yoga practice helps you to tune into your body, notice habitual patterns of tension and gripping and learn to let go into deep states of relaxation. Often we hold on tightly to life, feeling like we need to control every little thing but yoga invites us to surrender to the flow and accept what is, creating a sense of peace and wellbeing in your body and mind

  • Improved self-awareness. I wrote an article on yoga and self-awareness recently but I think improving self-awareness is a key benefit of yoga for mental health. Yoga helps you to listen to your thoughts and feeling and over time to become aware of patterns that may be hurting you or holding you back in life. Through practicing yoga regularly, you can learn to rewire these patterns, changing the way you think about yourself and the way that you approach life.

  • Greater connection with others. Yoga classes have been an amazing sense of community for me over the years. From the huge gym classes I took when I started out my practice to the intimate group in my teacher trainings, I have always found yoga to be a gateway to deep connection with others. I’m not sure if it’s because people who are more emotionally open and vulnerable are drawn to yoga or whether it is yoga that cracks people wide open but either way, I’ve always found this sense of connection and community amongst yogis. For those interested in embarking on a spiritual path, yoga is also a great way to connect with your surroundings, higher self and something greater.

How to start a home yoga practice

I started practicing yoga by going to face to face classes and I always recommend this as the best route for beginner yogis. But a home yoga practice is a great way to complement teacher led classes and deepen your practice. The way that I started my home yoga practice and still continue to learn more about yoga is through reading yoga books. You can find books on the foundations of yoga, yoga philosophy and history, yoga anatomy and physiology and meditation and pranayama (breathwork). Some of my favourite yoga book recommendations are:

Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Eric Schiffman
Yoga for Women by Bobby Clennell
Light on Life/Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
Thrive through Yoga: A 21 day journey by Nicola Jane Hobbs

These yoga books will give you different perspectives and techniques and highlight the health benefits of yoga. They will talk you through the basics of connecting with your breath, quietening your mind and learning the alignment of the asana which will form the foundation of your home yoga practice.

Also with the internet and social media it is now easier than ever to find information and learn how to do things at home. There are endless yoga tutorials on Youtube from beginners foundation classes to crazy advanced ashtanga sequences. Whatever level you are at, you can find an online class to suit you. Some of my favourite online yoga teachers are Yoga with Adriene, Yoga Upload, The Mindful Movement and Cat Meffan. You can check out my Youtube channel Moon Life Yoga as I am planning to upload more guided yoga classes this year!

I am also offering 3 online yoga classes a week during the COVID19 pandemic.

Yoga for Absolute Beginners – Tuesday 1pm UK/3pm Greece

Yoga for Beginners/Intermediate – Thursday 4pm UK/6pm Greece

Yoga for Women – Sunday 4pm UK/6pm Greece

You can find out more information and sign up for classes here.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on the health benefits of yoga and how your yoga practice has affected your physical and mental health.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post, check out the recommended posts below and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Benefits of yoga for health

Experience the amazing benefits of yoga for health at home

The benefits of yoga for health are endless! Of course, as a yoga teacher I am pretty biased but I honestly think that starting a yoga practice is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. In this article I want to share the top benefits of yoga for health that I have experienced over the last 10 years of practicing yoga.

Benefits of yoga for health (physical body)

The practice of yoga has so many health benefits for people of all ages. A daily yoga practice, even just 10 minutes, is a great way to get your body moving, get your blood flowing, loosen up your joints, improve your flexibility and strength. Physical health benefits of yoga include:

Cardiovascular health

Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of heart disease. Like any other type of exercise that gets your body moving, the health benefits of yoga include improved cardio-vascular fitness. Unlike many other types of exercise, yoga is low intensity and not stressful on the joints so it is a great way for those new to exercise to start out. Vinyasa and other types of “flow” yoga can be especially good for improving your fitness.

Blood pressure

Lowered blood pressure. Practicing yoga regular can help to lower your blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. There are certain yoga postures which specifically help to lower blood pressure including standing forward fold, downward facing dog and legs up the wall pose. Practicing yoga daily along with a healthy diet can lead to huge improvement in your blood pressure readings.

Lower tension

Reduced muscular tension from prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyles. Now more than ever we are spending increasing amounts of time in front of our computers and phones. Especially with COVID19 restrictions, many of us are working from home and sitting for long periods of time. Yoga helps to counter-balance habitual tension in the neck, shoulders and hips creating a sense of ease and wellbeing in your body.

Improved flexibility and mobility

Improved flexibility, balance and joint health. One of the most well-known benefits of yoga for physical health is improved flexibility. Remember you don’t have to be flexible to practice yoga but practicing yoga will help to improve your flexibility! Yoga practice improves mobility in all of the main joints in the body including the spine, knees, hips and wrists, helping you to stay fit and mobile as you get older and improving your quality of life.

Boost strength

Stronger, more toned muscles. Many fitness enthusiasts see yoga as “not challenging enough”. Then you get them on the mat and watch them struggle! A yoga practice can be a full body workout where you are challenging and all of your muscles in a holistic, functional way. Of course, the intensity of a physical yoga practice varies a lot. Nevertheless, practicing yoga can definitely be a great way to strengthen and tone your upper body, core thighs and glutes.

Better sleep

Improved sleep quality. Yoga helps to calm and relax both the body and mind. This can definitely help you to get a better nights sleep. Practicing yoga in the morning helps you to stay calm and relaxed throughout the day and sleep more soundly at night. A gentle bedtime yoga practice is also an excellent way to wind down. Yoga helps to let go of the stress of the day and prepare your body for sleep. Better sleep has all sorts of health benefits including better blood sugar control, improved energy levels and lowered inflammation.

Benefits of yoga for health (mental and emotional body)

As well as the physical health benefits of yoga, there are also many mental health benefits of yoga. In today’s busy world, most of us feel some level of pressure, tension and stress on a daily basis. As a result, cases of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are also on the rise. The benefits of yoga for mental health include:

Anxiety and stress

Reduced anxiety and stress levels. Getting yourself onto your yoga mat to take some time for yourself and close out the outside world is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Unfortunately life will happen and no matter how we try. We can reduce the external stressors in our life the but the fast pace and pressures of modern society will always cause us some level of stress. Practicing yoga helps to reduce this stress and the anxiety that going with it.

Nervous system

Improved nervous system health. Because of the high levels of stress, adrenal fatigue and burn out are becoming more and more common. If you have a stressful job or busy family life, drink a lot of caffeine or spend excessive time on the internet or social media it’s highly likely that your nervous system could do with some attention. Yoga practice, especially breathwork and meditation but also physical asana practice is a great way to nurture your adrenals, activate your parasympathetic nervous system and and strengthen your capacity to deal with the stress of daily life.

Improved wellbeing

Feelings of calm and wellbeing. Regular yoga practice helps you to tune into your body, notice habitual patterns of tension and gripping. Also to learn to let go into deep states of relaxation. Often we hold on tightly to life, feeling like we need to control every little thing. Yoga invites us to surrender to the flow and accept what is, creating a sense of peace and wellbeing in your body and mind

Self-awareness

Improved self-awareness. I wrote an article on yoga and self-awareness recently. I think improving self-awareness is a key benefit of yoga for mental health. Yoga helps you to listen to your thoughts and feeling. Over time you become aware of patterns that may be hurting you or holding you back in life. Through practicing yoga regularly, you can learn to rewire these patterns. This is the first step to changing the way you think about yourself and the way that you approach life.

Connection

Greater connection with others. Yoga classes have been an amazing sense of community for me over the years. From the huge gym classes I took when I started out my practice to the intimate group in my teacher trainings. I have always found yoga to be a gateway to deep connection with others. I’m not sure if it’s because people who are more emotionally open and vulnerable are drawn to yoga. Or whether it is yoga that cracks people wide open. But either way, I’ve always found this sense of connection and community amongst yogis. For those interested in embarking on a spiritual path, yoga is also a great way to connect with your surroundings, higher self and something greater.

How to start a home yoga practice

I started practicing yoga by going to face to face classes. I always recommend this as the best route for beginner yogis. But a home yoga practice is a great way to complement teacher led classes and deepen your practice. The way that I started my home yoga practice and still continue to learn more about yoga is through reading yoga books. You can find books on the foundations of yoga, yoga philosophy and history, yoga anatomy and physiology and meditation and pranayama (breathwork).

Yoga book recommendations

Some of my favourite yoga book recommendations are:

Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Eric Schiffman
Yoga for Women by Bobby Clennell
Light on Life/Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
Thrive through Yoga: A 21 day journey by Nicola Jane Hobbs

These yoga books will give you different perspectives and techniques and highlight the health benefits of yoga. They will talk you through the basics of connecting with your breath and quietening your mind. You will also learn the alignment of the asana which will form the foundation of your home yoga practice.

Online yoga classes

Also with the internet and social media it is now easier than ever to find information. You can find a yoga huge variety of classes and practice in the comfort of your home. There are endless yoga tutorials on Youtube from beginners foundation classes to crazy advanced ashtanga sequences. Whatever level you are at, you can find an online class to suit you. Some of my favourite online yoga teachers are Yoga with Adriene, Yoga Upload, The Mindful Movement and Cat Meffan.

I also teach live online yoga classes every week. This is great for those who want to be guided by an instructor in the comfort of their home. It is different from a Youtube video in that you can ask questions during the practice and I will watch to make sure you are practicing safely. You can find out more information about current class schedule and sign up for a class here.

Today’s challenge: Feel the benefits of yoga for health

Your challenge today is try try out this yoga practice for beginners by Yoga with Adriene. Focus on connecting with your body during the practice. Reflect on your experience afterwards and share any comments below.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

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Amazing yoga sequence to release tightness after sitting

Here is a short hatha yoga asana practice to stretch and open the hips and hamstrings. This is a great practice for when quarantine has you sat at a desk even more than usual!

Move slowly and mindfully focusing on your breath and alignment in the postures. Hold each pose for around 5-10 breaths. Use props to support you if you need and feel free to ask in the comments if you want specific advice.

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Start in downward facing dog. Aim for a straight line between your head and tail bone – bend your knees if you need to. A straight spine is more important than straight legs.

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Walk your feet towards your hands into forward fold. Relax your spine and release tension from your neck and shoulders. Hands can be on the floor, ankles or shins. Again bend your knees as much as you need to to relax into the pose.

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Step your left leg back into low lunge. Keep your core muscles engaged and focus on rotating your pelvis backward so that you feel the stretch in your thigh and front of your hip.

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Raise your arms above your head and side bend to the right to increase the stretch on your hip flexors and side body.

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For a deeper quad and hip flexor stretch, lift the left foot and catch hold with your left hand (or use a yoga strap if you can’t reach). Gently pull your foot inwards still keeping your core tight and pelvis tilting backwards.

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Move into a hamstring stretch by sitting back onto your left heel. Focus on engaging the right thigh muscle and keeping your spine straight to protect your knee and back.

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If you want a deeper hamstring stretch you can work on your splits practice – use blocks to support your weight and try to keep your torso as upright as possible.

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Stretch back into downward facing dog and move your feet and hips to loosen up.

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Lift your right leg into three-legged dog. Focus on keeping your weight even in both hands and shoulders aren’t shrugging up by your ears.

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Swing your right leg through into half pigeon pose. Keep your foot flexed to protect your knee and place a block or cushion under your hip for support. You should feel a deep stretch in your outer thigh and hip but no sharp pains!

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To deepen the stretch, relax your torso forward and rest your forehead onto your hands. Breathe deeply here, this is an intense stretch but try to relax any tension or resistance you feel in your hip and find ease in the pose.

Now repeat all of the above on the other side 

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Come to a seated position and place the soles of your feet together into cobblers pose. You can press down gently on your knees using your elbows to open up your hips further.

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Bend forward from the hips and relax your torso over your thighs. Rather than head towards your feet aim to move your chest towards your feet to help keep your spine straight. Relax into the pose and breathe deeply

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Move into a wide leg seated position. Reach your right hand to your right foot and raise your left hand over your head to feel an intense side stretch. Repeat on the other side.

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Move into a seated wide leg forward fold. If you have a big cushion or bolster you can place it in front of you to rest your torso and relax deeper into the pose.

Finally (and most importantly!) move into savasana, corpse pose. I didn’t take a photo but it is pretty self explanatory..

savasana

Stay here as long you like, the longer the better. As a minimum take 20 deep breaths in and out and allow your muscles to let go and release any remaining tension. If you feel tempted to get up, imagine roots growing down into the earth from your ankles and hands.. you couldn’t move even if you wanted to so you might as well let yourself relax and be supported by the ground.

I hope you enjoy the practice! Namaste.

Over to you…

If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.

  • Please like this post and share to support my business
  • If you liked this post, follow my blog or subscribe by email to receive updates on new content
  • Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for daily updates and inspiration