Inner strength

After a busy September I’m focusing on finding my inner strength for the month of October. I’ve noticed I’ve been ignoring a few snags and tight spots in my hips, so I’m consciously working on staying out these areas and finding ways to strengthen them in my practice. The body is in perpetual healing till the day you die. Even though you may not be able to see it, it’s constantly busy mending, repairing and removing the natural byproducts of the metabolic actions in the body and external environmental toxins.

There is a common misconception in yoga and the fitness industry that flexibility means weak muscles, and inflexibility means strong muscles. Both principles crossover – you can maintain flexible, strong muscles by including equal amounts of mobility and strength work, and you can also have tight, weak muscles too which is what I’m currently working on in my right glute and sacroiliac joint.

To access your inner strength you must find your outer strength first. You’ll notice after a yoga class that has lots of standing poses, you leave your class feeling stronger, taller, and more confident. In yoga what we practice in the physical body trigger the same response in the emotional body. Outer strength naturally leads to inner strength.

The muscles of the legs are the biggest muscles of the body. This sequence has lots of standing poses to get straight into these muscles. The core muscles wrap around to contain the organs of the body, support the spine and are the important structure that connect upper and lower body. Igniting these muscles will help you feel stronger and move more confidently with the 360 column you have created. Arm balances like plank and Bakasana/Crow build heat and require core activation to lift the hips into the required position.

Through this sequence look for the heat and strength in the big muscles of the body. Enjoy finding your inner strength and know that you are much stronger than you think you are:

  • Take your time with the first section of the sequence and work on keeping the back of the pelvis pressed into the ground, and the hips stable, while you warm up the core area.

  • From Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Facing Dog to Phlakasana/Plank Pose leg curls, move slowly and use your whole core to control the movement. Lift you pelvic floor to give the core a base to work from.

  • In Utkatasana/Chair stay here for at least five breaths before you move on to the Parivrtta Utkatasana/Revolved Chair.

  • Take Balasana/Child’s Pose after the plank sequence to rest your core.

  • When you are in Anjaneyasana/Low Lunge push the floor away with your feet, lift your ribs and hip bones up, and strongly squeeze the glute of the front leg. Keep this connection as you move into the variations.

  • When you’re in half boat play around with hands forward first then both hands to the right of your right leg followed by the both to left to get your muscles ready for Bakasana/Crow and Parsva Bakasana/Side Crow.

  • In Setu Bandha Sarvangasana/Bridge bend your elbows and place your fingertips on your hip bones to get feedback on where you hips are. Try to keep the hips perfectly level in both of these poses.

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

Life balance

Keeping everything balanced in life can be quite the balancing act, pardon the pun. Life is like a seesaw with lots of ups and downs. There is always going to be degrees of tipping one way or the other and we have to consciously work on bringing it back to level. When you find you have slipped down to one end of the seesaw it can be quite challenging to get back to the fulcrum point. Which, after a busy period in September where I lost sight of balance, is where I find myself at the moment looking up the incline of the slide!

When the world around me is spinning I find comfort in simple, familiar poses during my practice – poses that I know feel safe, secure, and even conjure up a bit of inner strength to help me feel strong again. This sequence includes lots of twists to balance out the nervous system and hormone levels; some standing balances to find physical balance and carve out a groove for mental balance; and core activation to stabilise the whole body. Most of us hold more tension in one side of the body than the other. As you run through the sequence look for symmetry left and right. Actively soften both shoulders in poses where the arms are arised. Look for equal press down and effort in both legs for the standing poses.

Through this sequence look for signals as to how the poses make you feel and what you need from your time on the mat. Tune into your practice and let it support you physically and mentally:

  • Before you start you Marjaryasana/Cat Bitilasana/Cow flow take a few breaths in tabletop position and find equal weight through all four points in contact with the ground

  • Come back to Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Facing Dog in between flows to consciously look for your symmetry again

  • In Utkatasana/Chair stay more upright and lengthen through the crown, take your twists in this position with the hands in prayer position at your heart

  • When you are in Anjaneyasana/Low Lunge with the knee on the ground, and off the ground, contain and support the stretch of the inner groin and hip flexor by lightly pressing your feet/knee into the ground and scissoring them together. Lift you pelvic floor here

  • In Virabhadrasana II/Warrior II press strongly into your front heel and keep this connection as you move into Reverse Warrior

  • Explore a wide legged Virabhadrasana I/Warrior I with the feet mat distance apart. Notice if this makes a difference to you hip bone position

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

Simplify your day

“Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated” Confucius

Each September I’m given a reminder to slow down. Last year I tripped on the pavement and fell, leaving me with the map of the world on my knee and cuts to challenge any six year old. This year my gift from September was an eye infection, but not just your regular eye infection! After the annoyance and injustice of a healthy living person like me getting an eye infection, I conceded to the fact that these things happen, submitted to slowing down and started working on cutting down my ‘to do’ list and simplifying my day. But, like most people, slowing down does not come easily to me!

Why do we thrive on over-complicating situations and endless lists of tasks. I love lists, they help me focus and it’s so satisfying to tick off a completed task on the list! But when the lists become the length of your arm they can do more harm than good to your anxiety levels.

Sometimes it's as simple as making one or two changes to your day to find that extra bit of space to breath. Have a read through these suggestions and see what you can easily apply to your day:

  • Take a moment to work out what you really need to do and what can comfortably be left for another day, or isn’t necessary at all.
  • Make a short ‘to do’ list for the day. Don’t be tempted to write a long list or you will feel like you have failed at the end of the day.
  • Build morning and bedtime routines to start and end the day with the comfort of familiarity
  • Learn to politely say ‘no’ to requests if you simply don’t have time, or it’s beyond the acceptable scope of helping others.
  • Monitor your time spent on Social Media. Keep your phone out of arms reach at mealtimes and try to stay off screens for at least 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Prioritise putting aside time for yourself each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
  • Look at simple tasks in life with fresh eyes and be present with even the simplest of chore.
  • Simplify your day and give space to be present!

Find what you need in simplicity and self care this September.

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

A simple home practice

The kiddies are all back to school and so far so good! I have learnt from previous years that I am inclined to turn 'headless chicken' in September, and have planned and prepped to within an inch of my life! Without consciously choosing to, I’m also finding myself shifting towards calming and supportive poses in my yoga practice – such as forward folding poses. Forward folds don’t come naturally to me, they challenge my ego and patience, but they are deeply therapeutic and soothing, and my intuition brings me to them when I need them. I’m also finding comfort in familiarity by spending extra time in some of the basic poses of yoga. When the world around you is spinning fast, it feels lovely to do the complete opposite on your mat and simplify your practice to its utmost essence.

This sequence focuses on keeping it simple and playing around with as many of the familiar poses of yoga as possible. When you encounter a pose that feels perfect to you, either in finding your strength or finding ease, pause for some extra breaths and enjoy the sensations that arise. Scan through your body from your toes to the tips of your crown and look for feedback.

Notice the effects different types of movements have on you. When you flow you will notice a calming, meditative trance, as you link movement with breath. In deep stretching poses you will feel a calm introspective quietning of the mind. Alternatively the more muscular strengthening poses will bring you into the body, and the present moment, with nowhere to hide! In order to feel the cumulative benefits of this sequence, and get a sense of serenity in familiarity, practice this same sequence for 2-3 weeks. If practicing everyday is daunting for you, start with aiming for a 2-3 days a week, for 10-15 mins, and let it naturally build it up from there.

Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Dogs is probably one of the more widely known yoga poses. But we often use it as a transition and not give it enough time to explore. Relook at how you approach your Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Dogs and see is it one, or can it become one, of your familiar comforting poses.

The following are some alignment cues that you might hear in class. Print them out, along with the sequence, and play around with what makes sense to you:

  • Hands shoulder width apart, feet hip width apart, press into all five knuckles of your hands and lightly though the pads of your fingers, fingers spread

  • Roll your biceps forward, broaden the collarbones, back of the neck long, firm your shoulder blades against your back, head in line with your ears

  • Pelvis tips forward, lift your sit bones up, stretch your heels towards the ground, draw your hips up and back

  • Top of the thighs pressing back, roll your inner thighs back. Hug your outer hips to the midline, gaze to the ground under your pelvis

  • Draw your navel towards your spine to support the internal organs

  • Look for symmetry of the whole body between right and left side joining at the midline

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru

Staying present

Staying present is a topic we're all very familiar with. Being present in this very moment, in this minute, in this hour, in this day, in this week, in this month, and even in this season, can often be the most challenging aspect to yoga, meditation and life! As the summer draws to an end I feel myself drifting into anxious anticipation of September mayhem. I’m finding it hard to stay in the here and now and appreciate the last few weeks of warmer weather and longer days.

In our time on the mat we are faced with the same challenge of staying present and not getting lost in endless ‘to do’ lists. Through our practice we can take up this challenge and cultivate a presence that will help us off the mat too. Staying close to the breath is the ultimate tool for finding the here and now. There is no future or past breath – just the present breath. By linking the breath with movement, in a series of mini flows, this sequence brings you close to your breath. You’ll also notice you become very present in your practice when you pause in some of the poses that challenge you – standing poses that activate the large muscles of the legs, or seated poses which test your patience for your perceived level of flexibility. Take a few extra breaths in your not so favourite pose and see where your mind is. Loosen your attachment to what you think the external pose 'should' look like and concentrate on lengthening out your breath, pause, and find small shifts in your relationship to these poses.

Successfully staying present on your mat is a much more intense practice – physically and mentally. Reward yourself with a nice long Savasana and run through some of these alignment cues as you relax:

  • In Savasana place your hands under your lower back and slice your buttocks flesh away from you to soften into the lower back
  • Melt your shoulders away to the floor and tuck your chin slightly to lengthen the back of the neck
  • Release any tension in your jaw, part your lips part slightly and let your eyeballs become heavy into the back of your head
  • Imagine skin on your forehead becoming as smooth as silk and the space between you temples become broad and spacious
  • As the back of your head become heavy into the ground, let your whole body become heavy and supported between the ground underneath you and gravity

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru