Podcast on Iyengar Yoga

I was approached by my friend, Tarryn, to do a podcast about Iyengar yoga on her platform Yoga South Africa. The yoga culture in Cape Town follows the mainstream yoga culture that is about fun and fast yoga, often done to music and in a packed yoga venue, without props or much one-on-one mentorship between teacher and student. My podcast offers listeners a different, less mainstream perspective of yoga. I reveal what it’s like to do yoga in a studio with no more than 12 people, the teacher and student relationships that form, and the effects of props and a slower pace. Have a listen here.

Free Online Yoga!

Simply email me on info@ayamayoga and I’ll give you access

As you may know, I’ve closed all studio classes for now. I’m still open for outdoor private classes or live streamed classes. If you’d like to book a private class let me know via Whatsapp on 082 413 5896. Alternatively, I’m offering FREE online yoga classes to support you during your self isolation period at home. Simply email me with your email address and I will give you access to the video. See you online!

The journey of yoga. Oh what a journey it is! I salute all of you who I see on their mats week in and week out, slowly chipping away at your yoga practice. You’ll begin to realise that with each new practice, your body is completely different. Some days you find more space in the body, and freedom in your joints. Other days, you feel stiffer than the very first time you started yoga. The path of yoga is anything but linear. On those bad days, when we feel like we’ve taken 5 steps backward, we tend to be very hard on ourselves. “What have I done wrong to be so stiff today?”. We question our knowledge, our intuition, our ability, our thought and reason as to why we’re not as in shape as we were last week. And that’s the path of yoga; self enquiry. 

If you are a serious asana student, you will have gone through moments where you wonder on a deeper level why you get these off days. You might be beating yourself up over a practice-related injury, or a sore muscle, and it may leave you thinking there must be something wrong with you, your awareness of the poses or your body, the way you’re practicing, the way your mind is during practice, or that your ego is causing you to go too far in yoga which can cause this pain. Because if we were more skilled, aware, content, then surely we shouldn’t have pain as a result of yoga?

Wrong. This is exactly how yoga works. It provides us with a mirror with which to see ourselves more clearly. It brings up all the ways we self sabotage and it illuminates our weaknesses and habits that need changing. This is why showing up to your yoga practice consistently is challenging, because not only are you physically working hard, but we are working through our traumas and emotional pains too. During yoga we are confronted with opportunities to change all the time. When you do yoga you are practicing a method of self examination and self reflection, giving you the power to change things. Your practice reveals how you personally enforce your own suffering, and gives you the space and reflection to be able to change your responses to situations. 

But don’t beat yourself up! If you are feeling frustrated or pained in your practice, don’t let the emotions of shame, frustration, guilt and fear get the better of you. No one is perfect, and we all run into obstacles along our yoga journey. It doesn’t mean that your third eye isn’t as open as the person next to you, or that you don’t have enough humility or self awareness. The next time you meet yourself on your mat and you feel “nowhere”, your challenge that day is perhaps not the physical yoga poses, but to extend kindness, non-judgement, compassion and care to yourself.

Tricks to manage stress

Many of us feel stressed and anxious, and “busy”. Our lives are very fast paced and we can be lead down the path to adrenal burnout easily if we don’t manage our stress well. Yoga is a major contributor to stress relief, but I want to share with you another potent stress management tool: GRATITUDE. 

The effects of gratitude on one’s mental and emotional well being is tremendous. Below is a list of what gratitude has been found to do (taken from Mercola):

-Lowers Blood Pressure
-Improves heart health, reducing the likelihood of sudden death in patients with heart failure and coronary artery disease.
-Lowers risk for heart disease
-Improves general health by encouraging self-care
-Improves sleep
-Improves interpersonal relationships
-Boosts productivity
-Reduces materialism and increases generosity, both of which can increase happiness and life satisfaction

Our nervous systems don’t know the difference between vivid imagination or reality. Our stress response can be triggered by thinking about a stressful situation before or after its happened. We can use this to our advantage by controlling our nervous system by using our imagination. Gratitude is one of many methods of influencing a positive nervous system response.

Give it a try!

Thanks to Liesel for sharing this article with me.

Practice kindness & acceptance

This time of year is full of social activities and with that can come social pressures of how and what to be. Allow yourself to be exactly who you are without apology, and allow others the same. For we are all on this earth taking the same curriculum – of being human. Be kind on your mistakes and even kinder of others’ mistakes. I found this video very inspiring for spreading love and acceptance, click the button below to watch.
How to love yourself

Spring Yoga Retreat – 2 spots left!

We sold out this retreat this week, only to discover there is a new room available at the venue. So there are 2 more spots available if you’re wanting a yoga getaway weekend in Stanford.

Contact me to book: Monique 082 413 5896

If you’re still on the fence, here’s some inspiration:

Why go on a yoga retreat?

The traditional benefit of yoga is to still the mind, and going on retreat will allow you to focus on this more deeply. Instead of emerging relaxed from a class back into your busy home life you can carry that calmness with you throughout a whole weekend.
Practicing yoga at home can be full of distractions; the dog, your partner/kids, your kitchen (haha!) and of course, your phone. Getting out of your usual space helps you switch off and explore your practice distraction-free in a disciplined way.
Spending a weekend in this calm way helps you gain perspective of your life at large. You’ll get the chance to take a step back from daily life business, and reevaluate things. It’s a chance for true reflection and introspection.

If you struggle to find time to practice yoga in your everyday life then the benefit of going on a yoga retreat is being able to practice every day without distraction. A weekend of yoga will guide you deeper in your practice.

Giving yourself this space can be a truly healing experience physically and mentally.
To book: Monique 082 413 5896 | R3600pp sharing, R6200 private room

Why Use Props?

Props can help you no matter what level you are at. They teach proper alignment so that you receive the full range of benefits from a pose. Props help increase your staying power in a pose, which let’s you go deeper, giving you more time to reap the benefits. As we stay in a pose, the mind draws inward, unnecessary thinking is quelled, and we experience more objectivity and humility. For some, props symbolize admission of a limitation, and the ego doesn’t like that. So often yoga props have been ridiculed. But for the humble practitioner, props will help grow sensitivity in a pose and unlock more advanced poses that are not yet available to you. Then, when the prop is removed, your experience of a pose is amplified with deeper understanding and direction.

Set yourself free!

Tight pants, tight abs and poor posture
Your lungs don’t breath on their own, they are reliant on a symphony of muscles to inflate and deflate them. As you inhale, certain muscles expand the space for the lungs to inflate; the belly and lower ribs expand, creating a suction of air into the lungs as they expand. When you exhale, that space shrinks to expel the air, deflating the lungs. Your lungs will inflate only to the size of its vessel: the rib cage. When the muscles involved are restricted, the space of the vessel/ribs is compromised and therefore the breath limited.

When we breath, an orchestra of muscles are at work in the chest, neck, back and abdomen. Of this orchestra, your  diaphragm is the most important player. If the diaphragm is tight, your breath is restricted. Anything that restricts the movement of the diaphragm limits your ability to inhale fully. Tight clothes, a belt, a slumped posture or tight abdominals will all limit your diaphragms ability to move, and therefore your ability to breathe.

This is a good reminder not to slump in your forward bends. When your posture is slumped, your spine rounds backward and your front ribs dig back and compress the diaphragm. Our emotions can play a role too, as fear and anxiety leads to gripping of the stomach and diaphragm. Gym exercises such as sit-ups or crunches are a recipe for restricted breath. Since our nervous system is a 2-way communication system, any tension in our abdominals from sit ups can lead to fear and anxiety.

Tight, short abs can also contribute to chronic neck pain and headaches. When the upper abs are restricted in breathing, we compensate by using the neck, shoulder and upper chest muscles to force air in to the upper chest. This can lead to over use of the sternocleidomastoid and upper trapezius muscles (front and back of the neck – see pic above). Neck strain and chronic neck tension follow, resulting in headaches and neck ache. So be weary of tight abs!

Yoga can set your breath free from the effects of tightness around your breathing muscles, and relieve the symptoms of fear and anxiety. Don’t get me wrong – strong abdominals are essential for a healthy back, but only if they are strong AND long. Yoga promotes a balance of both by ensuring your abdominals are stretched and long as well as strong and supporting. The practice of yoga also includes pranayama, or breath control. In this practice, the breathing muscles are prepared and stretch gently before practicing ancient breathing techniques. Learn more at my next pranayama workshop on 2 June 2019 – more infohere. 

In summary; opt for looser clothes, be conscious not to slump in forward bends, become aware of how you respond to stress (release grip on abdomens), and don’t do abdominal strengthening without stretching them too. Free up your diaphragm, do yoga!

Below are a two poses you can try to stretch out your breathing muscles: Ustrasana on left and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana on right (beginner friendly).

This information was summarised from an article written by Julie Gudmestad called “Anatomy of a Yogi. Take a Deep Breath.”

Benefits of yoga rope-work

Yoga Kurunta, or yoga ropes was invented by BKS Iyengar and is one of the lesser known props. The use of the ropes reverses gravity and allows the spine to gently decompress, which has major benefits for your spine.

This method promotes proper spinal alignment, deepens access into poses, and takes the pressure off your spinal discs, which are gel-like cushions between the bones in your spine. A negative pressure is created in the discs, that allows bulging or herniated disks to retract, and thus takes the pressure off nerves and other structures in your spine. This in turn promotes your bodies own healing potential; the space created allows the movement of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids into the disks so they can heal.

Doctors have recognised this method and use inverted suspension tables in order to suspend their patients upside down. You can use this method to treat various ailments, including:

  • Back/neck pain or sciatica (pain or tingling that extends down the leg)
  • Bulging or herniated disks or degenerative disk disease
  • Worn spinal joints (called posterior facet syndrome)
  • Injured or diseased spinal nerve roots

Come and hang upside down with me for optimum spinal health and regeneration. Book a class here.

Reset yourself with us!

We have been included as one of the studios to try for 2019. Here’s more about us and what’s on offer:

The experience: Up a cobbled side street in the quirky village of Kalk Bay, Ayama is right on the doorstep of Cape Town’s quaintest shops, restaurants and the Dalebrook Tidal Pool. The building dates back 200 years with a spacious and high-ceilinged studio interior. Whilst the studio is big, the classes are kept small. This allows students the individual attention necessary to ensure correct alignment and a personalised yoga experience. Each student progresses at their own speed, and is given the pose variation to suit them where they are. Beginners are welcome in all classes, however, there are dedicated beginners classes on offer. Monique Woolls-King, the owner and yoga teacher at Ayama Yoga, is passionate about the guiding influence which yoga has on the lives of its students. It inspires connection, authenticity, fulfilment and sustainable living. The studio’s name is a Sanskrit word speaking to the concepts of extension, expansion and ascension.

Styles of yoga avaialable: Ayama Yoga is one of the few yoga studios in Cape Town to specialise in the traditional style of Iyengar yoga. Teachers of this method are trained for 3 years, ensuring a high standard of teaching regulated by the Iyengar Family in India. The classes are slow and focus on alignment, a characteristic of Iyengar yoga. It is through this alignment that students finds true freedom in yoga and are able to go deeper into their yoga practice.

Why Practice Headstand?

Headstand is one of my top favourite poses. It leaves me feeling invigorated and inspired, clear and somewhat more alive, rejuvenated and clean. I practice headstand every single day, sometimes for a whole 10minutes. Here are two of my personal favourite benefits of headstand: 

Being upside down stimulates and replenishes the pituitary, pineal and hypothalamus glands in the brain. These are the “master glands” that regulate all other glands in the body, and are therefore vital for overall wellbeing. Hormones by definition are chemical messengers that regulate our physiological and psychological behaviour. Just think about that for a second – physiological and psychological. That’s basically all of you. And headstand helps regulate all your hormones, therefore all of you! This is huge. Headstand has been proven to alleviate diseases associated with hormonal imbalance such as diabetes and depression.

My other favourite benefit of headstand is that it brings you in to the present moment because you have to balance. The moment your mind wanders, you fall. In our increasingly crazy busy world, this simple mental exercise is profoundly important for our mental health.

Other benefits of headstand are:

It draws your attention inwards
Helps releives stress, anxiety and fear
Relieves insomnia
Keeps mind sharp and clear
Relaxes and simultaneously strengthens the blood vessels in the brain which prevents migraines
Increased blood supply to the brain which improves mental function
Improves digestion
Rids water retention in legs
Stimulates the lymphatic system which helps rid the body of unwanted toxins
Takes strain off the heart
Assists venous blood return, allowing un-oxygenated blood that may be “stuck” at your extremities to return to the heart and be replenished
Lessened risk of ischemic stroke

Join me for group yoga in Kalk Bay, or book a private yoga class to sharpen your headstand practice!