pink hiking shoes kea island greece

Hiking and yoga in Kea (Tzia) Island Greece

I just got back from a lovely trip on the Greek island of Kea, also known as Tzia. Kea Island is one of the closest islands to the mainland at just an hours’ boat ride away and is part of the Cycladic group of islands. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I have never been there before and it isn’t one of the more touristic islands, which is part of the reason we chose it. It is popular with the locals though who often visit for a weekend. My boyfriend who is Greek had never been there before though so it was a pot luck choice. We also brought two of our friends with us so we were hoping for the best. Thankfully it worked out well and we had a great time!

Each morning we (the ladies) practiced yoga on the shady terrace outside our apartment. With the hot weather and so much travelling over the summer, my usual yoga routine had become much more sporadic so it felt really good to get back into a regular practice again. The climate on Kea Island is also hot but compared to Athens it has a lot of wind and the breeze was so refreshing during the practice. We could just about see the sea in the distance from our practice spot and listen to the sound of nature as we relaxed in Savasana. I love practicing yoga in a studio but yoga outdoors in nature takes it to the next level.

Overall, the trip was the perfect mix of relaxation and activity with plenty of good food and beautiful scenery. Typically, the Cyclades are extremely dry islands with not much vegetation but Kea Island has abundant streams, forests and cultivated agricultural areas. Even the houses there are built in a local style using grey stone rather than the usual white Cycladic houses that you see. The beaches were stunning and there was a good mix of large sandy beaches and small pebbled coves. It had such a peaceful energy and it felt like we had our own paradise to explore.

Kea Island also has 12 hiking trails which take you through the countryside and down to secluded beaches. I didn’t know this before we arrived but fortunately we found this website with maps and descriptions of the different routes so we decided to try it out. I really enjoy being active on holiday and seeing as much as possible so I was very happy to explore the island. Especially with all of the delicious food we were eating (especially the ice cream!) it was also good to be able to move our bodies and get the energy flowing after lots of time relaxing at the beach.

We had chance to try out two of the hiking trails, the first was the Karthaia route from the village of Katomeria down to the ancient town of Kartheia and it’s beach. After a steep 3km decent down a path lined with fruit trees and fragrant herbs, we saw the ruins of the temple and amphitheater and cooled off in the clear waters of Kartheia beach before hiking back up to Katomeria to eat in a traditional tavern. We passed small farms with beautiful grazing animals and also the ancient water supply of Kartheia city, Vathypotamos spring. On the way back we saw the most stunning sunset with expansive orange and pink hues spreading across the sky.

The second hike began in the capital city of Kea Island, Ioulis and ended in Spathi beach which was our favourite beach of the whole trip. This was a 5km downhill route from the city to the spring of Rokomenos and then followed the creek of the river Flea, although it runs dry in the summer months. The route described it as being shaded by cypress trees which actually turned out only to be 1km of the route so we definitely sweated quite a bit but it was worth it. We passed through the valley and saw traditional local churches, watermills and cactus plantations. We had a bit of a disaster when we tried to pick a cactus as a souvenir and ended up with hands full of tiny little invisible spikes! We imagined that the farmer was watching from somewhere on the hill and laughing at our stupidity…

Again we had chance to cool off and swim in the sea at Spathi beach which is a sandy beach with clear shallow waters and very few waves. It was like swimming in a natural pool with the salty waters recharging our physical and emotional energies. We also had a go at playing the popular Greek beach sport of raquets which I haven’t quite got the hang of yet but I am determined to master it. It is a bit like tennis without the net, you play with heavy wooden raquets and the idea is that you are on a team and try to hit the ball as hard and fast as possible whilst keeping the ralley going. I definitely get more exercise just my running for the ball when I miss it and it gets pretty tiring with the sun and sun but it is a lot of fun!

We also visited several other beaches across the island including our local beach near to the town of Otzias and a beach in the north west of the island called Xyla beach. It was very remote and we had to pass through a pretty difficult dirt road to arrive at the beach but it was very beautiful with the peaceful sound of waves, crystal turquoise waters and soft sand. The problem was that we didn’t bring any food with us and there was nowhere nearby to buy anything so we couldn’t spend the whole day there and see the sunset. We also witnessed a crazy freak weather incident as a mini typhoon passed across the beach and nearly blew all of the umbrellas away. Luckily it passed quickly as if it had never been there at all but it was a very bizarre experience!

After all of these busy days, in the evening we wanted to relax and have a quiet dinner or a drink by the sea. We visited the port and the town of Otzias several times to enjoy a cocktail and chat until late into the evening. One night we visited the city of Ioulis and eat dinner in a terrace restaurant with very tasty food and a view of the city sprawling up the hillside. The other evenings we ate simple food in local taverns and also cooked Greek dishes at our apartment. After living in Greece nearly a year now, I know all of the basic dishes very well. I love the simple, plant-based style of the Mediterranean diet, especially the use of local and seasonal produce in nearly every place you eat.

Some of my favourite summer dishes are of the course the traditional Horiatiki Greek salad with tomatoes, cucumber, olives and feta, Fassolakia (greek beans cooked in olive oil and tomato sauce), roasted or pureed Melitazanes (aubergine or eggplant), Fava dip and Kolokithokeftedes and Tomatokeftedes (fried courgette or tomato balls). Then of course I like to taste fresh fish and seafood whenever we can find it as well as traditional meat dishes, usually with lamb, goat or pork as the landscape here is not well suited to grazing cows. You can almost always find decent quality but cheap, local wine too across Greece which goes really well with the fresh local dishes. And for breakfast there is always the delicious combination of yogurt and local honey served with seasonal fruits, especially figs and grapes at this time of year.

The whole time I was in Kea Island, I was imagining how wonderful it would be to arrange a hiking and yoga retreat there next summer. It really is a place where you can fully relax and let go of your worries, explore nature and experience some of the Greek culture and the island way of life. I imagine daily morning yoga and meditation classes, healthy breakfasts with a gorgeous view, hikes in the hills and diving into the crystal waters. I imagine watching the sun set each evening over the mountain or the sea with tasty food and good company. I really enjoyed this trip to Kea Island and I hope that next year I will be able to share it with others.

If you would be interested in joining me for a hiking and yoga retreat next June or September in Kea Island, Greece, please let me know in the comments below!

Over to you…

I hope you found this article interesting and it maybe inspires you to visit Greece or even travel to Kea Island. Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you. Like this post to support my business and follow along with my blog for more articles on nutrition, yoga and holistic health practices to support balanced hormones and overall better health.

If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I am a qualified nutritionist and hatha yoga teacher and I am currently training as a women’s wellness coach with Well College Global.

My specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after chronic or restrictive dieting but I also help anyone who is looking to improve their overall health and find the perfect balance for their body. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!

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International Yoga Day: 10 things I learned in 10 years of yoga

Yesterday marked the annual International Yoga Day as named by the UN in 2015 to celebrate the many benefits of this ancient Indian practice. This year the theme was “Yoga for Wellness” which is especially appropriate for 2021 as we are approaching two years of a global health crisis. COVID19 has affected us all, whether we caught the virus or not we have seen the impacts of the pandemic on our physical and mental health. Being stuck at home for months at a time, spending more time in front of our devices and out of our usual routine has meant for many a loss of physical fitness and vitality. The anxiety caused by the virus and the endless stream of fear-inducing news stories has affected many people’s sleep, eating habits and lead to increased use of alcohol, tobacco and other substances. Adding to this the emotional stress of the loss of loved ones or livelihoods, we have a perfect recipe for poor mental health and wellbeing.

Throughout all of this upheaval, the practice of yoga has kept me going and helped me to stay grounded and feeling fairly well, considering the circumstances. Practice of yoga asana (postures) helps to keep our bodies strong and flexible and can be practiced easily at home so it has been a lifeline during the lockdowns when gyms were closed and outdoor activities limited. The pranayama (breathwork) and meditation aspects of yoga help us to regulate our nervous system, calm the stress response and enable us to relax and sleep well even during times of stress. I really believe that a solid yoga practice is one of the best things we can do for our overall health and wellbeing. Personally, I am so grateful for the practice of yoga and it has helped me so much to develop into the person I am today. In this article, I want to share 10 benefits I have experienced through practicing yoga over the last 10 years.

1. Body acceptance

I am including this one first as it really has been the most impactful on my life! When I was younger I struggled with constant self-criticism, hating my body and punishing behaviours such as over-exercising and disordered eating in an effort to try and look the way I thought I needed to in order to be accepted and loved. I originally started to practice yoga as a way to rehabilitate my body and heal from injuries but it ended up becoming much more than that. Yoga is so much more than a workout and through the practice I ended up developing an acceptance and appreciation for my body that I never thought was possible. It helped me to stop focusing so much on the external appearance on my body and instead learn to feel myself from the inside out and develop an energy and confidence that I now see is way more important than the size of my thighs or the number on the scale. Of course I still have days when I feel down about myself or compare myself to others, as everyone does, but it no longer controls my life and when these types of thoughts and feelings arise I know how to move past them.

2. Building strength

When I tell people my main physical activity is yoga, I often get the response that “I like yoga but it isn’t intense enough for me”. This makes me laugh because when practiced with intention, yoga asana can be one of the most intense physical experiences there is. With every yoga posture, you aim for full body awareness and engage every single cell. Even Tadasana (mountain pose), one of the foundations of a beginners’ yoga practice, an be extremely challenging when you really focus on perfect alignment and engaging all of the small muscles that keep you standing tall with a good posture. Other standing postures such as the Virabhadrasana (warrior pose) series, Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) and arm balances like Bakasana (crow pose) help to develop strong muscle tone in the legs, core and upper body. Modern yoga comes in many different flavours from the more fiery and intense Astanga practice to total relaxation and bliss of Yin. I like to incorporate many different styles of yoga into my routine and through the practice I have developed a strong and agile body that helps me to make the most of life.

3. Cultivating flexibility

One of the first things most people associate with yoga is flexibility. It is definitely true that yoga practice helps to open up your body and create a sense of lightness and freedom in your physical vessel. I actually don’t consider myself very physically flexible considering the number of years I have practiced yoga. This is comparing myself to others though and compared to myself before I started to practice yoga, I have come a long way. I was very sporty as a kid and I developed quite a rigid, inflexible body. Now I can touch my toes and I am pretty mobile but I am nowhere near the splits and many other advanced poses are still just a dream for me at this point. But one thing that yoga has really helped me to cultivate is mental flexibility and the ability to let go and go with the flow of life. I remember being so rigid when I was younger, completely attached to my habits, routines and my conditioned beliefs. Over these last 10 years, yoga has helps me to loosen my grip on life and be more accepting of the natural ebbs and flows and the uncertainty that is the only certain thing we have. In particular, pranayama and meditation have been the tools that helped me to release tension and tightness in my mental and emotional bodies and create this feeling of flexibility beyond the physical.

4. Finding balance

With the modern society we live in and the fast-paced, stimulating, information heavy lifestyles we lead, it can be so easy to get carried away and burn ourselves out. Perhaps we are prone to over-working, over-exercising, over-eating, over-consuming… Whatever it is yoga can help us to find that point of balance where we are not doing too much or too little, but always “playing the edge”. Through tuning into my physical sensations and becoming aware of my inner world, I was able to stop damaging my health and happiness with destructive behaviours and create a lifestyle that was truly condusive to wellness. For me that looked like exercising at a lower intensity and taking more rest days, syncing with my menstrual cycles, allowing myself breaks from work and realising that I can’t do it all and letting go of rigid dietary rules and allowing myself food freedom. It might seem strange that yoga could lead to all of these seemingly unrelated changes but I really do believe that practice yoga starts a domino effect in your life. Once you start to become more self-aware and you engage with the intelligence within, you see clearly what is working and where things could be improved. Plus, you cultivate more energy through the practice which you can then direct towards making positive changes in your life and in the world.

5. Overcoming perfectionism

Learning to let go of perfectionism has been a key part of my journey with yoga. There is something to be said about aiming for perfectionism in yoga, particularly if you follow the thought school of B.K.S. Iyengar who is known for his focus on detail, precision and alignment in the postures. However, I think developing a healthy relationship with perfection is very important and something that yoga has helped me significantly with. There is nothing wrong with having lofty goals, in fact this can help to motivate us and challenge us to grow. But we shouldn’t let our perfect vision create dissatisfaction with where we are right now or lead to beating ourselves up for not being good enough. It is the same thing when it comes to comparison with others. It isn’t inherently bad to admire others or use their achievements for inspiration but it should be exactly that, a spring board for our own success and a way to open up our minds to greater possibilities. There have been times in my yoga practice when I believed I should be more advanced, but these days I accept my current limitations and I know that overcoming them is a matter of personal choice and priorities. I am not a full-time yogi, I have many other interests and commitments and my level of practice reflects that, which is fine

6. Developing compassion

One of the skills I have learned through practicing yoga is compassion, both for myself and for others. Through practicing yoga asana, you really see yourself and your physical vulnerabilities laid out on the table. Even the strongest, fittest person can have their ego cut down by simple yoga postures when you realise just how much tension and emotional stress is stored in the body. Yoga teaches us to be firm yet gentle with ourselves, to push ourselves when we need it but also to create a nurturing and supportive environment for growth and healing. Yoga also helps us to connect to something larger and feel like a part of nature as a whole. Through practicing with many different teachers and leading my own classes, I also realised just how alike we are as humans, even if we seem different on the surface. We share so many fears, insecurities, thoughts and emotional patterns and knowing this allows us to have more compassion for others and the struggles they are going through. Connecting with other yogis in the two teacher trainings I have been through was an amazing experience as everyone was so open and available to connect on an emotional level. I am forever grateful to these groups as they helped me to feel loved and supported through some very difficult times in my life.

7. Facing fears and embracing discomfort

Our bodies and minds both have habitual patterns and set ways of being that it can be very difficult to break. A big part of advancing in your yoga practice is learning to face the fears and overcome resistance that arises when you step out of your comfort zone. Whether this is surrendering into a deeper backbend or forward fold or letting go of the resistance towards inversions and balances, yoga helps us to locate our edges and push through those boundaries. When we find what we think is our limit and we are able to push ourselves that tiny bit further (with integrity and compassion of course) we discover new territory and expand our capacities which is a thrilling experience. My yoga practice has helped me to see the areas I hold myself back and where I resist feeling certain sensations and emotions. I always say to my students that learning to embrace discomfort and avoid bracing yourself against it is one of the important lessons that yoga can teach us. Not just on a physical level but this can help us mentally to deal with challenging situations and feelings without hardening and building a protective armor around ourselves which might reduce pain but also blocks out joy and connection.

8. Letting go

This one goes along with developing flexibility, but a huge benefit I have receive through my yoga practice is learning to let go. Letting go of the stress that builds up throughout the day, letting go of unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and conditioning, letting go of harmful habits and behaviours, letting go of past hurts and regrets.. a mindful, intentional yoga yoga practice can help with all of these and create a clean slate on all layers of your being. Not that this happens every time, I have to say. Sometimes a yoga practice highlights all of your pain points and for whatever reason you aren’t ready to move past them. Howver anyone who practices yoga regularly will understand that squeaky, shiny state of consciousness you experience after a focused asana practice and deeply relaxing Savasana. I find that yoga has allowed me to develop the ability to see when I am holding onto things past the point of usefulness (which yes I still do often) and use my breath and other yogic techniques to let them go. Without this ability, we can easily remain stuck in negative mindsets and moods for longer than necessary or hold onto outdated beliefs that no longer serve us.

9. Learning to relax

It should be the easiest thing in the world but somehow, we humans find relaxation so difficult! Perhaps it is the stress of living in society with all of it’s distractions and expectations but often it can be so hard to switch off, to stop doing and just be. Yoga, in particular Yin yoga and Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) has really shown me the importance of and the path to true rest and relaxation. I have always been an active and busy person and prone to burn-out as I get so passionate with everything that I am involved in and end up doing too much. Even this year with the pandemic and becoming unemployed I feel like I haven’t stopped and I am rarely bored. Carving out time for a regular yoga and conscious relaxation practice has been one of the best decisions I ever made. Sometimes I even write it on my to do list so that I don’t skip it, it’s that important. Relaxation allows our bodies and nervous system to rest and recover physically, it stills our minds so that we can think more clearly and creatively and it allows us to get better sleep so that we can recharge our batteries for the next day. Although it might seem like doing nothing, relaxation is an art and a skill that we need to work on to truly reap all of its

10. Following my heart

Last but not least, my yoga practice has helped to me connect with my intuition and realise that sometimes the right thing to do is to follow your heart. Since starting my yoga practice, I have made some big decisions with regards to where I live, the work that I do and the relationships I have in my life. I am a rational and logical person (for those of you who don’t know me well I actually have a degree in Chemical Engineering) so I always take my time with decisions and think things through, but there are times when you have to listen to your heart and make choices that might seem irrational to others but feel true for you. It can be so easy to keep plodding along the same path all of your life because it is what is expected of you or because you don’t know what is to be found off the beaten path, but sometimes there can be very beautiful things waiting! The appreciation for life I discovered through practicing yoga and the connection with my inner wisdom and deeper emotions where the reason that I left my engineering job and moved into environmental-protection and health related work, the reason that I moved to Greece and the reason I no longer chase relationships where I feel unappreciated and question myself.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this post in celebration of International Yoga Day! Let me know in the comments below if you have experience these benefits or others from practicing yoga. Like this post and follow my blog for more content on yoga, nutrition and healthy living in Greece.

If you want to learn more about Yoga for Women you can check out my others posts here and you can also find my current class schedule here. Currently I am only teaching one online class a week but I will be updating the schedule in September and (hopefully) starting a face to face class here for any of you in Athens! I also offer online private and small group classes at a very reasonable price, just reach out by email if you are interested and I can put together a package that meets your needs.

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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!

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Meditation to change your mindset and your habits

We are long past the days where meditation is seen as something completely hippy or “out there”. Meditation and mindfulness are becoming every day terms understood and practiced by students, parents and business executives alike. We are starting to understand the impact of rushing through our lives in a half-conscious, distracted state is no good for our health and happiness and embracing meditation and mindfulness as tools to help us to become more present and aware. Yesterday I wrote about how to change your habits you first need to change your mind. Today I want to explain about the role of meditation to change your mindset.

Most of us spend our days operating from our conditioned mind. Our sub-conscious has a huge set of stored thoughts, beliefs, emotional responses and programmed actions that we play on repeat and these conditioned patterns define the way that we show up in the world and our identity. If we want to change our habits we have to consciously think different thoughts which enable us to feel differently create new pathways in the brain. But this can be hard to do when we are constantly bombarded with the familiar thoughts and feelings that tell us who we are. If we try to think differently, we will be greeted with a barrage of opposing thoughts and intense feelings because we have moved outside of our familiar comfort zone. This can make changing your thoughts very difficult!

Meditation to change your mindset

How can meditation help you to get past this and change your mindset? Firstly, meditation helps you to become aware of your current habitual thought patterns. Yes all of those annoying intrusive thoughts when you are trying to meditate can actually be a good thing. Pay attention to them and you will see where your mind is probably wandering throughout the rest of your day too, without you even realising. Maybe you are distracted by things you should be doing instead or maybe you find yourself criticising yourself for not being able to empty your mind and meditate “properly”. Maybe your mind tells you that you can’t do it, you are uncomfortable or that you always fail. Whatever it is, take note! This is your first glance at your natural state of being from the point of view of an observer.

You can also use meditation as a way to practice disrupting these unhelpful thoughts and letting them go. When you aren’t paying attention, one thought can lead to another and before you know it you can spiral down the rabbit hole of negative thinking. Our thoughts affect the way we feel and those emotions then affect the way we think. We can easily become stuck in unhelpful loops of thoughts and emotions without noticing. Maybe you have a memory of being left out at school and the thought brings up emotions of sadness and loneliness. Those feelings then trigger other memories where you have felt alone and the feelings of isolation grow and become overwhelming. Over time of thinking these thoughts and feeling these feeling you can start to identify with the state of being as a lonely, unloveable person and this becomes your identity. Meditation offers you the opportunity to become aware of these patterns and break the chain.

When we have negative thoughts about ourselves, there is usually another voice present in our mind which knows better. For example, I’m sure many of you have experienced body image issues at some point in your life. That voice that tells you you are not beautiful enough or thin enough is probably loud at times but there is always that quiet voice underneath which says you are good enough as you are. Meditation slows down your thoughts and allows this alternative voice to have it’s say and become louder. In other words you are able to observe a thought and how it makes you feel then choose to think a different one. Of course you can do this through out your day but the focused attention state of meditation makes it much easier to observe your thoughts and engage your conscious mind.

How to practice meditation to change your mindset

There are many different meditation techniques but as usual I suggest to keep it simple if you are starting out. All you need is a quiet place, a comfortable place to sit and a timer. You can practice in your living room, on your bed, in your garden or out in nature. There are no rules, just find a place where you feel safe to relax.

  1. Set your timer for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes (tip set it on vibrate or on quiet so you aren’t jolted out of your practice)
  2. Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position or sit on a chair with your feet planted on the ground
  3. Close your eyes and start to become aware of your body sensations, noticing areas of comfort or pain, tension or tightness, hot or cold and the contact points between your body and the surface beneath you
  4. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice the sensations associated with the inhale and exhale, the rhythm and depth of your breath, whether you feel it deep in your belly or high in your chest
  5. Hold your attention on your breath. You can count your breaths if it helps you to concentrate or continue to focus on the sensations
  6. As thoughts arise, notice the emotions they trigger. Note whether they are helpful, unhelpful or neutral and then let them go. If you find yourself distracted, at the point you realise, let the thoughts go without judgement
  7. Continue like this until your time ends and then slowly open your eyes and start to bring movement back into your body
  8. Try to keep this relaxed, focused awareness with you as you go on with your day

With practice, meditation can also help you to access your sub-conscious mind and change your beliefs. I especially like combining meditation with affirmations by starting with a full body and mind relaxation. Then from this state of receptiveness, listening to repeated phrases that reflect the new way I want to think.

My absolute favourite guided meditations to change your mindset are from The Mindful Movement. They have so many free videos on Youtube on all sorts of topics from healing your physical and emotional body, improving self-confidence to releasing fear and worry and letting go of the past. The video below is a great one if you are embarking on a new healthy lifestyle and trying to change your habits. Listen to the meditation before bed a few times a week and watch your confidence and belief in your ability to succeed soar!

Over to you…

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Benefits of yoga for health

Benefits of yoga for health and starting 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 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. You can check out my Youtube channel Moon Life Yoga. 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.

Absolute Beginners – Tuesday 1pm UK/3pm Greece

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

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

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…

  • Comment: What benefits have you experienced from practicing yoga?
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yoga for relaxation and letting go - twist

Yoga, relaxation and letting go

Last night I taught the last online “yoga for women” class of 2020 and the theme I chose was letting go. It seemed appropriate as we are coming to the end of the year and what a year it has been. I feel like the whole world is emotionally charged right now.. we have all been cooped up indoors, barely able to see friends and family for nearly 10 months now. I know I’m feeling a complicated mixture of frustration, anger, sadness, confusion most days and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. Of course there are good moments too and we are making the best of things, and I am so grateful that my loved ones haven’t been affected by the virus but still, these are testing times!

But back to the theme of letting go.. the end of the year is a great time to reflect on our lives and our inner world. How are we feeling? Are we living a life we love? Are we on track to reach the goals we set for ourselves? What patterns are we ready to break? The new year is a perfect time for a clean start, for us to let go of any habits which are no longer serving us, to let go of any heavy emotional baggage we have been carrying and to let go of any unhelpful self-judgement or criticism which is holding us back. Like that feeling of your body warming up and relaxing after you have been outside in the cold, tense and shivering to keep warm, letting go allows you to release tension from your body and mind and find comfort and relaxation. Sometimes we don’t even realise how some things are affecting us until they are gone.

Some things that I am ready to let go of are:

  • Comparing myself to others. This is a habit that is hard to break! I used to compare the way I look to others a lot and feel less than. Now it’s more about how my business is growing and feeling that I am “behind” somehow
  • Excessive screen time. I don’t use my phone too much but I’ve definitely noticed myself spending more time on my computer during the lockdown and I know it makes me feel tired and dazed. I want to at least have a couple of hours totally screen free in the mornings and evening
  • Negative self-talk and limiting beliefs about my physical fitness. I recently started to exercise again after being recovered from HA nearly 4 years and I am feeling a bit disheartened about my loss of fitness. I know I am improving and it takes time but it’s easy to fall into the trap of criticising myself

Yoga and letting go

So how can yoga help us to let go? Yoga encourages us to be present with ourselves and bring our awareness to what is happening in our body and mind. We are encouraged to notice any areas of tightness or tension and to use our deep, conscious breathing to let it go and relax, creating a sense of softness. Often when we arrive on our yoga mat and check in with ourselves, we find we are holding tension in our neck and shoulders, our jaw and face or our hips which we weren’t even aware of. As we move through yoga asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) we can learn how to let these things go and over time this ease within the body and mind becomes our natural state.

A yoga practice for relaxation and letting go looks like moving slowly, finding ease in the poses and allowing your body to open up in it’s own time rather than fighting against it, trying to force yourself into painful positions. To help with letting go, practice longer holds, anywhere from 1-5 minutes, and really stay present and focused on the sensations within the poses and the steady rhythm of your breath. You can practice scanning your body for any resistance to the pose, maybe a feeling of clenching or gripping in your muscles and try to surrender into the posture, melting deeper with each exhale. If this feels difficult you can even try purposely clenching your muscles on an inhale and releasing everything on the exhale.

I find that seated or lying poses help the most with letting go and relaxation, any pose where you are close to the ground and can really feel supported by the mat beneath you. Poses like extended child’s pose, sleeping pigeon pose, supine twist and butterfly pose are all great for finding peace and relaxation by opening up the shoulders, lower back and hips. For an even more relaxing practice, you can use props to support your body in postures, especially forward folds and reclining back bends (like in my yoga sequence for your period). Supporting your body with yoga blocks, bolsters or cushions can help you to find the comfort that allows deep relaxation and true letting go.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this quick post on yoga for relaxation and letting go. Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite pose or sequence to help you relax and let go.

  • Like this post and follow my blog for more on yoga and holistic health.
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heart opening yoga - wild thing

How yoga can improve your body image (and traps to avoid!)

I’m really enjoying teaching my online Yoga for Women classes on Sunday evenings, it’s a really cosy way to end the weekend and to connect with other women whilst we are in lockdown here in Greece. If you’re interested in joining the class contact me and I will send you the joining details. This week the class theme was about how yoga can help to develop a healthy body image. Especially nowadays with social media, so many of us have a distorted view of our bodies and waste our precious energy critisising ourselves for the way we look. We hold ourselves to such high standards, often comparing ourselves to images we see in the media which have been carefully crafted and edited to the point where even the person in the photo doesn’t look like that in real life (if you don’t believe me try following Beauty.False on Instagram!).

In my experience, yoga can be an amazing tool in our self-care kit on our journey to overcoming body shame and developing a healthier relationship with the way that we look. Yoga is one of the things that helped me the most in recovering from disordered eating and developing self-acceptance and a more positive body image. However there are also some pitfalls along the yoga path that can make us feel worse about ourselves. In this article I want to share 5 ways yoga can help to improve your body image and 5 body image traps to avoid.

How can yoga help with body image?

  1. Yoga teaches us to be still and to turn our attention inwards. Even if it is only for the short time of the practice, we can shut out the outside world and let our true inner voice become louder. This means tuning out the external voices of societies’ beauty standards, other peoples opinions of us and our own interpretation of how we should be and instead letting the inner knowing that we are fine just as we are come through.

  2. Yoga is a great way to get your body moving and improve your strength and flexibility. Heart opening postures such as back bends and cleansing twists can really help to get energy moving through your body making you feel more alive and good in your body. Standing postures help to improve your posture so you can stand tall and confident and feel good about yourself as you move through your day.

  3. Unlike other types of exercise, yoga is not focused on weight loss or burning calories but on uniting movement and breath to create a more calm, positive mindset and a strong, agile body. During my eating disorder recovery, switching out my gym and running sessions for walking and yoga did wonders to change my relationship to exercise. I started to move my body in a way that felt good, pay attention to how I felt and rest when I felt tired instead of pushing through in an attempt to achieve “results”.

  4. Practice of yoga asana (postures) gets us very acquainted with our bodies in all sorts of weird positions! We are forced to look at our belly rolls in forward folds, our thighs in downward dog, our double chin in shoulder stand.. any part that we might feel shame about we are going to come up close and personal with through yoga. And that’s a good thing! Yoga helps us to become used to seeing our bodies and to normalise the things we might not like and cultivate acceptance over time.

  5. Yoga is a personal journey. Yoga encourages not to compare our progress to others but to arrive on the mat each practice ready to try again and observe what our body can do on that day. We realise over time that nothing is constant and progress is not linear. Our bodies change from day to day depending on what is going on in our lives, how much stress we feel, how much sleep we got and also the with the seasons. We learn to accept these fluctuations and even come to love watching things unfold.

5 body image traps in yoga

  1. Beating ourselves up or negative self-talk. As I said, yoga helps us to turn inwards and let our inner voice become louder. But what happens when your mind is ruled by your inner critic? Sometimes we can let this critical voice seep into our practice and tell us we are not good enough, we are weak or our bodies aren’t flexible enough instead of just accepting what is and feeling grateful for the progress we are making. If you catch yourself spiraling down into self-criticism, pause for a moment to ask yourself why things should be different.

  2. Comparison with others. Although yoga encourage us to focus on our own practice, it can be tempting to compare our bodies or progress in yoga with others around us. This is the worst possible thing we can do when we are trying to develop a healthy body image, especially if those others are people we see online and not in real life. I have definitely fallen into this trap, comparing myself to other yoga teachers online and feeling shame for not being as flexible or as beautiful as them, as if this made me any less of a teacher. Simply not true! A home practice can be a great way to explore yoga without the temptation to compare with others around you. There are plenty of diverse teachers offering free online classes that you can try out.

  3. The perfectionist mind-set. If we have a tendency towards perfectionism we can also bring this attitude into our practice having very high expectations of our selves and holding ourselves to extreme standards. Whether that is how our bodies look or being able to achieve the perfect yoga pose, perfectionism harms us more than helping us. It can cause us to injure ourselves because we are being driven by an external ideal rather than focusing on what’s going on inside. I encourage you to let go of the idea of creating a shape with your body and instead focus on lines of energy and sensations within your body.

  4. Feeling shame about our bodies. Again this is the other side of the coin of becoming aware of our bodies, we can also become more aware of the things we don’t like about our bodies. If we are not careful we can bring our body shame onto the mat and instead of accepting what we see we can magnify the things we don’t like and start to pick ourselves apart. If you catch yourself doing this during your practice, take a big deep breath in and as you exhale imagine you are breathing out the toxic belief that is making you feel something about your body is wrong.

  5. Pushing ourselves too hard. There are many different types of yoga, from relaxing yin and restorative practices to more intense ashtanga and vinyasa practice. For anyone with a history of excessive exercise or body image worries, it can be tempting to use the more active, physically challenging practices as a way to continue to try to lose weight or change your body. If you fall into this trap, work on expanding your mind by bringing more pranayama and meditation into your practice as well as challenging your body through asana practice. Set the intention of awareness with every practice and listen to your energy levels and emotions

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article on yoga and body image, please share with anyone else who this could help!

  • Like this post and follow my blog for more on yoga and holistic health. My next post will be a short yoga sequence you can practice at home to help boost your confidence and improve your body image.
  • If you are interested in joining my yoga class or you are looking for a nutritionist and health coach, contact me and we can work together to help you achieve your health goals!
yoga for increasing energy - runners lunge

Healing fatigue through yoga and self-awareness

I shared a couple of months ago about my experience with insomnia and fatigue and my path to healing. I can honestly say I feel like a new woman and I am grateful every day to feel “normal” again and not like a half-woman-half-zombie like I did for most of the last few years. Since we moved to Greece and I took a break from my full-time job, things have just got better and better. I am sleeping at least 8 hours most nights, waking up feeling energised and motivated to work on my blog, my health coaching and to teach my yoga classes and I finally feel like I can enjoy my hobbies again and conversations with loved ones without feeling like I am just going through the motions.

Today I taught an online yoga class with the theme of “self-awareness” and it really got me thinking about the role of self-awareness in healing from fatigue. As well as a lack of self-awareness as part of the cause of fatigue. Not paying attention to how you are feeling internally, both physically and emotionally, makes it extremely easy to cross your own boundaries. To not know when you are over-doing something or when something is lacking in your life. It’s easy to keep giving and meeting the demands of others or to keep striving towards a goal and not even realise your cup is empty until you totally crash and burn and are simply unable to do all of the things you used to. In my case, crashing and burning didn’t even stop me. I continued trying to keep up with my work and it was my social life and other fun things that suffered instead.

Self-awareness in healing fatigue

Self-awareness can mean lots of things but in the context of healing fatigue I see it as:

  • Paying attention to your energy levels throughout the day and noticing which activities boost your energy and what depletes you. Getting honest with yourself about any habits that you have which are stealing your energy, maybe excessive use of social media, drinking too much coffee or not going outside all day and seeing if you can gradually let these go. Then consciously including energy building activities such as yoga, deep breathing and meditation into your day.
  • Tuning into your physical body sensations. Listening to what your body needs whether it’s something as simple as being cold, hungry or thirsty or whether you need a break, to rest or move and stretch your body. Not sitting in front of your computer ignoring all the signs from your body because you are “too busy” or “there’s not enough time” but giving your body what it needs to feel good in the moment and working in partnership with your body rather than against it.
  • Being aware of your mood and emotions and asking what you need to bring yourself back into balance. Finding ways to express any emotions that come up and release any stuck energy, especially anger or sadness as these emotions can really drain us if we don’t acknowledge and express them. I find dancing or just shaking my body like crazy is a great way to get energy moving and to release stuck emotions stored as tension within the body.
  • Observing your thoughts and mental state. Noticing any unhelpful thought patterns that send you into a spiral of anxiety, fear or stress. Often we play out the same patterns that come from the same root wound such as a fear of not being good enough or not being liked by others. We tend to over-think things, catastrophise and think of the worst case scenario (including when it comes to any fatigue symptoms we are experiencing!). Becoming aware of our thoughts and questioning whether they are true and helpful is the first step in creating a more healing mental state.

How yoga helps to develop self-awareness

My yoga practice has helped so much with building this self-awareness and eventually being able to get on the path to healing my fatigue after years of drifting around and jumping from one thing to another. Yoga gives us that safe space to shut out the world and turn inwards, to really get quiet and pay attention to what is going on inside. Yoga encourages us to be with our breath and body, to move at our own pace and rest whenever we need to. In yoga we learn not to push and force ourselves into postures but to keep a beginners mind and know that we are gradually moving along the path and we will get there in our own time. Getting on the mat every day (or at least a few times a week) helps us to observe the changes in our body and mind over time. We can notice if we’re feeling more tired or energised, more anxious or calm, if we have any areas of tension or tightness in our body and we can listen and learn what to do to feel better.

How yoga helps with fatigue

Unlike other types of exercise, yoga can actually increase our energy reserves rather than leave us feeling more fatigued. After a class people talk about having that “yoga glow” where you feel blissed out and super chilled. Well this is also a really healing place to be! It puts our body into the parasympathetic nervous system state e.g. rest and digest rather than fight or flight. Certain yoga postures are great for improving circulation, gently stimulating the nervous system and boosting energy levels. When I’m feeling sluggish, some twisting postures, back bends and inversions really help to wake me up and get energy moving in my body again. When you are feeling run down or exhausted, it’s better to go for the more supported postures where you can really relax and let go help to calm the nervous system and build energy reserves (see my yoga for your period sequence for some examples of relaxing postures for when you are feeling fatigued).

Over to you…

I hope this article helps you whether you are struggling with fatigue or if you just want to boost your energy and feel better. Leave a comment below and share your experience or tips if yoga has been helpful on your journey to healing from fatigue.

  • Like this post and follow my blog for more posts on dealing with fatigue and how to recover and regain your health and life. 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.

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Yoga for during your period / Yoga for period cramps

Should you practice yoga during your period? Yes! Practicing yoga can be very supportive for women during menstruation. Yoga can help to relax the body and mind, reducing tension which can cause symptoms such as intense cramps, lower back pain and headaches during your period. However, I recommend taking a break from exercise for a few days during your period and this includes any intense yoga practice. If you normally practice a more active form of yoga such as vinyasa flow or ashtanga, I suggest taking a break for a few days. Instead, choose a more gentle, restorative yoga practice during your period, at least during your first couple of bleeding days or until your flow is less heavy. A yoga sequence for period cramps, such as the one in this article is a much better way to support your body during this time to relieve period cramps and help you to feel better.

Yoga poses to avoid during your period

As well as more intense yoga flows, you should also avoid strong standing poses, inversions and backbends during your period if you really want to support your body and it’s natural rhythms. These poses can be strenuous on the body and could leave you feeling more fatigued during this natural time of rest and rejuvenation. Standing poses and backbends require a lot of core activation and tension in the abdomen which can increase period cramps and pelvic pain during your period. Inversions such as headstands, shoulder stand and handstands can also interfere with the downward flow or apana energy associated with elimination of period blood so it’s better to avoid these poses for a few days and practice the yoga sequence for period cramps below instead if you want to feel your best during your period and throughout the rest of your menstrual cycle.

Yoga poses for period pain

There are certain yoga poses which help to relieve pain in the pelvis and lower back during your period. Yoga poses for period pain include forward bends, hip openers and supported reclining postures which all help to relax and open up the muscles which tend to hold tension causing painful period cramps and back ache during your period. The yoga for period cramps sequence below includes a combination of supported standing and seated forward folds, hip openers and reclined back bends which will help to relieve period cramps and lower back pain as well as encouraging your nervous system to relax and let go so you can feel a sense of calm and wellbeing during your period. Menstruation is a natural time to reflect and turn inwards and yoga can really help to experience this effect.

Practicing the restorative period yoga poses below regularly during menstruation can help to reduce pain and discomfort during menstruation and help you on your way to pain-free periods in future cycles. If you have problems such as irregular menstrual cycles or heavy menstrual blood flow, these period yoga poses can also help to regulate your menstrual cycle over time by toning the muscles within your pelvic bowl and improving blood flow to your reproductive organs.

What you will need:

  • Yoga mat, towel or blanket
  • Bolster or dense cushion (see here for how to make a DIY bolster out of rolled up towels)
  • Folded blanket or towel (optional)
  • Yoga blocks (optional)
  • A quiet space to practice where you won’t be disturbed

Explore the period yoga pose descriptions and photos below , then practice this yoga sequence for period cramps in your own time. You can hold each posture for between 1 and 5 minutes, depending on how much time you have for your yoga practice. To improve flexibility, longer holds are better as you can really relax into the poses and allow your deep muscles to open up in their own time. The final reclining pose I suggest taking a bit longer, maybe 5 or 10 minutes to rest and relax with your eyes closed.

Standing forward fold (Uttasana)

Standing forward folds help to relieve tension in the lower back, reduce period cramps and calm the nervous system. During your period, practice forward folds with the knees bent deeply so you can rest your chest on your knees or support yourself with your hands on the ground or head on a block for a more restorative posture. Focus on a long straight lower back as much as possible to avoid straining and really feel the stretching along the back of your legs and a release in your neck and upper spine.

Hip opening with butterfly pose (Baddha Konasana)

Tight hips can create tension in the abdomen leading to painful period cramps and back ache. Baddha konasana pose is one of my favourites to release the inner thighs and outer hip muscles. This is where you bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to open, creating a diamond shape between your legs. Practice with your hips raised by sitting on a folded blanket and rest your upper body on a bolster or dense cushion for a full body relaxation. Yogi squat is another great pose for increasing hip flexibility! Sit on a block or two in this pose if you have knee issues or you can’t quite access the full squat yet, don’t be afraid to lift the heels off the ground.

Seated wide angle pose (Upavistha Konasana)

Another great yoga pose for period pain is seated wide angle pose or seated wide leg forward fold. This pose opens and relaxes the pelvic floor muscles, supports a healthy menstrual flow and helps to relieve period cramps. To practice this pose, open your legs in a straddle position, as wide as comfortable to stretch the inner thigh muscles gently. Again, during your period I recommend using a bolster or cushion for support and focusing on relaxing into the pose rather than trying to force a deeper stretch.

Adding a side bend and forward fold over each leg helps to lengthen and release tension in the lower back during your period. Focus on keeping both hips grounded on the mat and feel the stretch all the way from your hip, through your side body to the tips of your fingers in one long line of energy. Again, use the cushion or bolster for support, taking the weight of your upper body so that you can relax and let go.

Supine bound angle pose (Supta baddha konasana)

My favourite restorative yoga pose for period cramps or painful periods in general is supine bound angle pose. Practice this pose leaning back on a bolster for the ultimate relaxation experience! This gentle chest opener replaces back bends and acts as a counter pose to all of the forward folds in this sequence. The legs are in the same diamond shape as in the seated version of the pose above. The bolster should be touching your sacrum so that your spine is fully supported. Play around with different heights of your bolster to find the most comfortable spot where you can relax for 5 to 10 minutes at the end of your practice.

You can experiment with different arm variations to find what feels good, either arms outstretched at shoulder height or resting on your lower belly. You can even try out variations of yoni mudra in this position (as demonstrated by Ancient Yoga in the video below) as a gesture of connection with your womb and creative centre.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoy practicing this sequence of yoga for period cramps. Let me know if you give it a go and how you feel afterwards. Please like this post and follow my blog if you want more yoga sequences for support throughout your menstrual cycle. You can find a follow along version of this sequence on my Youtube channel Moon Life Yoga.

Other posts you might like

Sources

The Women’s Yoga Book (2011) by Bobby Clennell
Yoni Shatki (2014) by Uma Dinsmore Tuli
My BWY teacher training instructor the lovely Emma Lloyd

Inversions and the menstrual cycle

Today I am on day 9 of my menstrual cycle. I finished bleeding on day 5 so I am now into the follicular phase or “inner spring” of my cycle. For the last few days my yoga practice has included lots of inversions which is an amazing way to rebalance the body after your period.

What exactly are inversions? Inversions are any yoga pose where your hips are lifted higher than your head. This includes bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), downward facing dog (Ardo Mukha Svanasana) and more advanced asana such as plough (halasana), headstand (Sirsasana) and shoulderstand (Savangasana). There are also supported versions of these poses using yoga blocks, bolsters or a wall to make the postures more accessible for beginners or for days when you just need that extra bit of support.

Why are inversions beneficial for the body? Inverting the body boosts blood flow to the head, bringing fresh oxygen and nutrients into the brain. This promotes optimal function of the thyroid, parathyroid, pineal and pituitary glands and helps to balance and strengthen the entire hormonal system. Inversions also counter-act the effects of gravity on the body which can have anti-aging effects and prevent varicose veins forming in the legs by improving flow of blood and lymph. They improve circulation throughout the body, relieving fatigue and improving digestion and elimination. When practiced with presence and focus, inversions can super charge the brain, eliminating fatigue and nervous exhaustion and bringing a sense of stillness and peace. Including inversions as part of an evening yoga practice helps to calm the mind, reducing stress and promote restful sleep.

What are the pre-cautions for inversions?

  • You shouldn’t practice inversions during menstruation (aka the bleeding days of your cycle). This is because it disrupts the natural downwards flow of energy or “apana” in the pelvis and lower abdomen which promotes elimination of blood from the body. Practicing inversions during your period can cause backflow of blood into the uterus which can increase the risk of endometriosis. This is questioned by modern science but in my opinion it is safer to go with the natural flow of your body and not take the risk.
  • Do not practice inversions such as headstand or shoulderstand if you have neck injuries or eye/sinus issues such as a detached retina or ear infection as you are putting excess strain on these areas. You should always listen to your body and if you want to include inversions in your practice you can choose alternatives such as downward facing dog, bridge pose or legs up the wall (I always recommend this one for any severe condition) which still bring most of the benefits of the more advanced postures.
  • I do not recommend inversions if you have a headache, nausea or diarrhoea. These poses can help to balance the body and act as a preventative but if you are actively suffering from any of these issues you should wait until you feel better before practicing any strenuous yoga and particularly inverted poses.
  • Finally, you should always make sure you warm up the body properly and practice preparation poses to allow the body to open up before moving into more advanced postures. Always listen to your body, be kind and work within your limits, challenging your body to improve over time but without forcing and risking injury.

When is the best time in the cycle to practice inversions? Inversions can be practiced any time during the menstrual cycle except during your period. For maximum benefits, your yoga practice in the few days after you finish bleeding should be focused on inverted postures. This will stabilise and rebalance your bodily systems and help the nervous system recover from menstruation. It will boost circulation around your reproductive organs, support relaxation of your womb after it has been working hard, contracting to release blood during your period. Inverting the body during this time will also stimulate the pituitary gland which controls the release of FSH (the hormone responsible for maturing eggs in your ovaries) and after several consecutive cycles can help to regularise your cycle and support fertility. You can then include inversions as part of a balanced yoga practice throughout the month to improve strength and flexibility in the body and mind.

Example sequence including inversions (for intermediate students)

Opening sequence: Warming up and awakening the body

  • Extended child’s pose (30 seconds)
  • Cat cow tilts (explore for 1 minute)
  • Downward facing dog (30-60 seconds)
  • Standing forward fold (1-2 minutes)

Main sequence: Supporting menstrual rhythm

  • Supported headstand using wall (1-5 minutes)
  • Supported headstand – Wide legs variation (10-20 seconds)
  • Supported headstand – Butterfly legs variation (10-20 seconds)
  • Extended child’s pose (30 seconds)

Finishing sequence: Recover and calm the mind

  • Bridge pose with arm variations (1-2 minutes)
  • Plough pose (1-3 minutes)
  • Supported shoulderstand (1-3 minutes)
  • Legs up the wall and wide leg variation (5 minutes)
  • Reclining butterfly pose (1-5 minutes)

In the video below I summarise the information on inversions and the menstrual cycle and demonstrate the sequence above. Let me know if you try out any of these postures or if you are already including inversions in your yoga practice and noticing the benefits. If you are interested in 1-2-1 or group yoga sessions (currently online only) you can send me a message through the “Work with Me” tab at the top of this page ♥️

References
The Women’s Yoga Book by Bobby Clennell (2011)
Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Eric Schiffmann (1996)
Yoga Sequencing: Designing Transformative Yoga Classes by Mark Stephens (2012)