Rest and digest – a restorative practice

When I was young, an uncle of mine would delight in telling us children that Christmas wasn’t really about presents at all. Clutching our gifts from Santa, my cousins and I would stare up at him, uncomprehending. With glee he would impart his wisdom: “Christmas is about the food!”

As an adult I have come to agree with my uncle. If I am not staggering from dinner table to couch for an afternoon of movies and mulled wine, I don’t really feel I’ve celebrated the season. This years lockdown has given me a gift of sorts: time. I have been rooting out old recipies and trying my hand at some of the tastes of home. (I managed a fairly decent mince pie!)

After a few days of this my body usually says “enough”. An excess of eating, effort, and activity over the Christmas period is all part of the fun. It also leaves me feeling a bit frazzled. What I need now is some time to rest and digest. Legs-up-the-wall is a favoured post-meal pose of mine and I can’t beat simple relaxation pose for calming my nervous system – almost like a reset button.

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The 3 minute home-office commute

Several of my students have told me that they are much less physically active in their home office. One thing they point to is the lack of interruptions from co-workers. A normal day at work would be punctuated by chats at the coffee machine, moving between meetings, and frequent small interruptions in person or on the phone. The lockdown home office is characterised by sitting in front of a webcam for hours at a time, followed by a few short steps to another part of the house at 5pm. Whatever your physical training routine might be, I am hearing that people are also missing that diversity of sensory stimulation and the mental space to process the days events.

When my own partner emerges from his home office space in the basement it takes him a while to switch his mind to “home-mode”. This has at times led to silly arguments and sometimes he is preoccupied with a work issue long into the evening. As tighter Covid-19 restrictions are introduced in Oslo, and my partner is at home 24/7 again, I have been thinking about the value of ritual. Our daily habits, rhythms, and routines create a framework for moving through our lives. Woven into this framework are rituals. That is, doing things in a certain way that you enjoy and which helps you to thrive.

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3 blankets for everyday practice

I have been wondering how to facilitate a nourishing home-practice for students during the coronavirus lockdown without the need to invest in expensive props. Being able to change the shape of the floor or the length of your arms using props makes poses more accessible and comfortable. With many of you now building a home practice, and restrictions on sharing props at the studio, it is time to examine how these tools are most effectively used to enhance your mindful and movement practices.

One of the benefits of going to classes at your local studio is that you get to use a wide variety of props. These can include the basics, such as blocks, blankets, and belts, as well as bolsters, chairs, weighted pillows, therapy balls, buckwheat cushions, and eye masks. When lockdown forced me to begin teaching online, I was suddenly left without these teaching aids. They were locked up in the studio, and I was sitting infront of a Zoom camera.

I recently came across an idea that I had heard before, but had ignored in favour of my cosy bolsters and significant home storage space. That is, that 3 blankets can provide you with all of the support you need during a basic dynamic or restorative practice. The functionality of this simple idea wowed me in a Covid-19 world.

My goal here is to simplify everyday mindful movement practices so that the use of 3 blankets as a versatile tool becomes a seamless, practical, and nourishing element for you, wherever and whenever you do your practice.

What makes an ideal blanket for my practice?

This is an important question. Your favourite fluffy blanket won’t do. A useful blanket will provide support for your body, without simply collapsing under your weight. The best blanket has a tight weave. To test your blanket, fold it up and press on the edge. It should resist and hold its shape.

The second consideration is size. Your 3 blankets should be the same size and big enough to cover your whole body when lying on the floor. If you cannot get your hands on blankets, towels will suffice – the bigger the better.

Enough theory, lets get practicing!

Here is a simple 3-blanket restorative sequence which will move your spine in 3 directions – flexion, extension, and lateral bend – followed by a neutral resting position. Each pose is held for 3 minutes. The entire practice can be done in as little as 15 minutes, or individual poses taken for a quick 3 minute rejuvenation.

Download a printable PDF of the practice here:

All of my online classes will now use this principle of 3 blankets. Learn more about practicing online with me here.

Wishing you good practicing!

3 blankets 3 minutes” is the brainchild of Sam Loe. Much gratitute to Sam for sharing her wisdom with the world.

Curiosity in mindfulness practices

Yesterday, I learned something new. I was sitting, listening to a guided body-scan, when the guide said:

Let the breath breathe itself. There is no right way to feel. This is what the practice is about: seeing the patterns that take us away from the present moment.

When I practice meditation and body scans, I often find myself sitting with an uncomfortable ball of anxiety that has been in my belly for as long as I can remember. I have tried all sorts of techniques to figure out what is the root of this suffering so that I can let it go. I say “let it go” with some teacherly poise, but what I quietly yell inside my head is: “get rid of it!”

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How to start a home practice

Daily home practice helps you to replenish the energy you spend while out living your life. This helps to reduce stress and increase your feelings of vitality.

Home practice is the core of your practice. It helps you to understand deeply how your body works and what you need to be nourished. Do more of what you love from class, or set out to make friends with a pose that you struggle with. Take questions and insights back to your group class and ask your teacher for support and guidance. For most of us, 1-3 group classes or online videos per week is more than enough, along with your regular home practice.

But how to start?

There are endless so-called “good reasons” not to start your home practice. I’m sure you have your own list. It can be overwhelming to attempt yoga at home. Even the simple act of starting an online video can be an insurmountable obstacle.

But give yourself a break. Home practice doesn’t have to be like group classes. In fact, it shouldn’t be.

Daily home practice is your opportunity to do things that nourish your body. Its personal. It is the work that will give you the most benefit in your yoga practice.

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