Good digestion – 15 tips for getting the most from your nutrients

by Jo Dombernowsky of Jo’s Food Blog

There is a lot of focus on the nutritional content of foods in Western nutrition – for example, how much calcium, iron, vitamin D, etc a food contains. Nutritional content is important, but digestion and absorption are indeed very important too. We should be able to digest and absorb all that healthy food we eat, otherwise it is a waste! Unfortunately it is underestimated in modern nutrition. In Ayurveda, there is a strong focus on healthy eating habits as the base of digestion and absortion.

Here are 15 tips on how to improve digestion so you actually benefit from all the nutrients in your food.

1. Eat in a quiet environment. No radio, computer, music or TV. Don’t read while you eat either.Happy stomach
2. Have ½ tsp of grated ginger with a pinch of sea salt before meals.

3. Chew your food thoroughly – digestion starts in the mouth.

4. Sit down when you eat.

5. Don’t eat too fast.

6. Never drink cold beverages with meals. Consuming cold foods (ice cream) and drinking iced beverages impairs digestion.

7. Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. Drink a glass of water half an hour before meals. If you drink during the meal sip a little hot or warm water. Also avoid drinking large quantities of water within two hours after the meal.Eating in a quiet environment
8. Eat at roughly the same times every day.

9. Eat only until you are 70% full.

10. Wait until the previous meal has been digested before eating again.

11. Don’t eat just before going to bed. There should be at least three hours between eating and sleeping.

12. Eat food that is delicious and pleasing to the senses and that is prepared by a happy cook!

13. Eat salad before cooked vegetables.
Spices for digestive health
14. Eat animal protein and grains separately.

15. Use digestive spices to aid in digestion. Particularly good spices for digestion are ajwain, bay leaf, cardamon, black pepper, cinnamon, clove, coriander, fennel, cumin, ginger.

About the author

Jo DombernowskyJo Dombernowsky is the resident chef and nutrition advisor at Azul Yoga & Pilates Retreat. She runs nutrition workshops, detox retreats and special nutrition holidays and is the author of the highly acclaimed cookbook ‘Truly healthy, truly delicious’. Jo is also an inspirational Pilates teacher and her all-round healthy approach to life is clear to see! Jo has her own food blog where she posts her delicious recipes, keeping you up to date on all the wonderful new food coming out of the Azul kitchen.

The journey to becoming a yoga teacher

by Stella Hutson of Savouring Stella

I found yoga, as most of us do, almost by accident. It was 2008, I was 15, very overweight, and struggling a lot with my health and self-image. I didn’t feel like my outward appearance reflected how I felt on the inside. I wanted to be loud, funny and outgoing, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I was beyond frustrated.

stella-hutson-yoga-4That year, my mom and I joined our local health club. Yoga was one of the fitness classes offered. I loved the way yoga made me feel. It seemed all encompassing as a workout. Every part of my body felt good. I was refreshed, not overworked. I felt successful, which was rare for me in the gym at the time. My first teachers, Georgina and Amy, made me feel like I belonged there. I kept coming back week after week because it felt so good to go to class. I knew it felt good, but there were much larger things at play as well.

Over the years, I started to grasp what yoga meant as far as a mental discipline. I came across power yoga via podcast. It was more physically challenging, and it brought me to my edge very quickly. I began to feel the emotions that I held onto in my body. Feelings that I had stuffed down for years and years, ideas that I wasn’t good enough, that I should punish my body for the way it looked, that I somehow didn’t deserve to feel free and happy in my own skin. Once those things start bubbling up to the surface, there’s no stopping them.

I had a teacher who said, “Your yoga mat is like a mirror”.

Everything that we face on our mat, all of those emotions, the feeling physically stuck, unworthy, weak, defeated, scared – those are things we face in our daily lives. And how we respond when those things come up on the mat, is the same way we respond in our lives.stella-hutson-yoga-3

Maybe at first we feel like yoga is a way to escape the stress of our lives, then we realize it’s a tool to help us sort through it. The fear that I came up against on the mat, my own insecurities, were things I battled with every day. And where I would usually ignore those feelings, there was suddenly no place to turn, no one to point fingers at, just me on my mat, left to take full responsibility for everything that I am and that I become.

My meditation began to center around choosing a new action when fear and anxiety entered my being. Through that revelation, I was able to become free from those self-limiting beliefs and my life became the possibility of self-love, happiness and love for others. For me, yoga was the experience of finally feeling my body, like really feeling it. After so many years, of being unhappy, overweight, and struggling with an eating disorder that followed, I got really good at stuffing down my emotions, and refusing to feel a lot of things. But whenever I came to my mat, it was the opportunity to get connected.

Soon after this, I found Baptiste yoga (Baron Baptiste’s method of power vinyasa yoga). The classes that I took were very similar in form to the power yoga I was accustomed to, but these Baptiste teachers dug a little deeper. Their intentions for class were rooted in possibility, inner listening and playing big in your practice and in your life. It was everything I loved about yoga, the physical and mental transformation, in one hot, sweaty package.

I had the amazing opportunity to train with Baron Baptiste this past June in Sedona, Arizona. Level one lit me up! That connection that I was talking about before, multiplied by ten. I think often times we hold all of these ideas of what we should be like before we start practicing yoga. We should be more flexible, we should be able to sit still for more than ten minutes, we should be more patient, or we don’t have enough time.

You know, you’ve heard them– if not believed them to be true for you at one point. I came to my Level one training believing a few of these ideas myself. Then we find out it’s quite the other way around.

stella-hutson-yoga-1I truly believe that yoga is a practice that meets you where you are and takes you where you want to go. When we come to our mat, consistently, with any baggage from that day, the weeks, months or years, we open up a space for ourselves to get connected to our inner voice, our true north, and we gain the tools to sort through our lives. To choose what we want to create for ourselves.

Through this work, I now have a clear intention to teach full time and give back to others what yoga has sparked in me. I am wholeheartedly committed to the work ahead of me. And I am high on the possibility that anything we wish to create in our lives, we can!

It was through my training in Sedona that I learned about a 200-hour RYT training in Seattle. I applied for the teacher training at SHAKTI Vinyasa, currently the only Baptiste Affiliate studios in Washington state, and just got word that I’ve been accepted!!

This training is a BIG next step in my journey as a teacher, as an opportunity to refine my teaching, learn from a diverse group of teachers and students, and ultimately step into one of the largest yoga communities in the Pacific Northwest.

I’ve been teaching now for 3 years. My journey with yoga has taken me from Stanwood, Washington to the Canary Islands, and numerous places in between. While everyone’s practice and impressions of yoga are different, the one thing that remains constant is connection: connection to ourselves, to a larger community, and to the divine energy that connects us all in this universe.

I am deeply committed to this journey and to helping others find the happiness and connection that I have found through yoga and inspiring them as to the possibilities in life. The cost of training is high, but I am working as hard as I can to make this happen. I am also reaching out to ask for your support. If you would like to make a donation to my journey, no matter how small, I will be ever grateful and I intend to put everything I receive back out into the world in a BIG way.

I would love to hear from you – please connect to me by leaving a comment below and feel free to ask any questions or to share your experiences.

You can support my journey here. The link opens up the website ‘GoFundMe’, which is a site dedicated to helping people reach out to others for support, to move them closer towards their dreams. You’ll find some inspiring stories there, showing how much can be achieved when we get together.

I would also love to connect to you on my blog, Savouring Stella. This is where I post the best of my creative and wholesome recipes and share stories from my journey to living an empowered life. I hope it helps you in some way and if it does, be sure to let me know.

Namaste  - the divine light in me, honors the divine light in you

Stella

About the author

Stella_hutsonStella Hutson started her yoga journey at just 15 and has found her world opening up ever since. She’s a much-loved guest member of the Azul team and has travelled to the Fuerteventura retreat all the way from her home in Seattle, America, to teach yoga and explore her love for nutrition and food in the Azul kitchen – all with an inspiringly can-do attitude and the aim to help others as much as possible. Visit her online at Savouring Stella where you’ll find a mouthwateringly juicy combination of beautifully photographed, wholesome food recipes and empowering stories about her journey to step up to the challenge of playing it big in the world.

Pain free with movement: 8 tips for a pain free life

by Jamie Isaac of Fluid Art Pilates

“Civilization impairs physical fitness” wrote Joe Pilates in Return To Life Through Contrology… that was back in 1945, but never has it been so true as today!

Jamie stretch

Taking time out to stretch it out: Jamie at the Vitality Show, London

It’s our sedentary modern life and its added comforts of cars, couches and computers, along with ever increasing working hours, that are keeping us in a state of prolonged spinal flexion, and inactivity.

Our amazing bodies are designed to move, not sit at a desk or behind the wheel of a car. The result is muscle tension, pain and stress. We’ve all felt it. I’m experiencing it right now, whilst writing this blog.

Now I could write pages on the physiological reasons why this happens and the ways these prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity are having a detrimental effect on our bodies, our breathing, our stress levels and our overall wellbeing, but, perhaps we’ll leave that for another time.

Right now, what we need is a solution. We need action!

Pilates class

Jamie teaching a private class using a Pilates reformer

Pain can stop us in our tracks, but mean modern life doesn’t care. It doesn’t let us simply stop and recover and repair our bodies, so instead it’s a couple of pain killers and straight back to work.

This of course does nothing to help the issue and we end up back in those old habits and poor postures, making the situation worse.

In both my private Pilates classes and Pilates retreats I always guide people rehabilitating injuries to ‘be realistic’. Whilst making a grand gesture such as going on a Pilates holiday is a great way to get yourself motivated and on the right track, it’s crucial you integrate the advice and good habits into your daily life.

Here are a few simple tips to help you do just that – to get you moving in your everyday life, regardless of how busy it is, making space for yourself and keeping your amazing and beautiful body happy and healthy.


1. Take time out in your day to move or stretch

This could be as simple as a few basic twists or stretches whilst sitting in your office chair. Perhaps every 30 minutes of intensive sedentary work you can stand up, give the head a gentle pull from side to side, to stretch out the neck. Twist at the waist from side to side. Reach high above your head with your arms and rotate the hands around the wrists.

For those wanting something a little more structured, I’ve included two video clips at the end of this post. They are both only 10 minutes in length, which with a little time management, should be perfect to fit into your morning or afterwork routine.


2. Make yourself the team tea/coffee-maker

While tip number 1 may attract a few strange looks from your colleagues, this one will elevate you to workplace hero. It’s a genuine excuse to get up out of your chair and walk to the kitchen area or even out to the coffee shop – a great way to secure your job and your health simultaneously! Just be sure to swap yours for the occasional herbal tea.


3. Walk the stairs, jump the stairs

Swap the easy elevator for a mini workout by climbing the stairs instead. Start with one or two floors, and progress as you feel stronger. Pretty soon you’ll be leaping sections at a time, feeling full of energy and shaping up your leg muscles in the process.


4. Stretch out the pauses

It may look a tad bizarre, but a few calf raises or twists as you wait in line, or for the kettle to boil, can be a great way to ease tight muscles and relieve tension, without having to head to a local hatha yoga class.

Stand with your back against the wall and place your head against the wall. Take two fingers and push your chin towards your chest as you lengthen the back of your neck up the wall. Hold for a mere 10 seconds and reap the benefits of a tension free neck.


5. Don’t forget your feet

Even whilst sitting remember that you have feet! Make sure your chair allows you to place your feet securely on the floor, hip width apart. If they don’t quite reach then place a box or stool beneath them to connect with.

There are so many things that you can do to make your workstation back friendly. Start with finding a chair that supports your bottom and your spine, or even spend an hour each day sitting on a Swiss ball. Look for a ball that allows you to keep the feet hip width apart and 90 degrees behind the knees. This will keep your core engaged as you work.


6. Breathe on the tube, or in the car

Commuting and travelling are great opportunities for a little pranayama (yogic breathing) practice. Even some simple deep breathing or counting of breaths in and out can help reduce anxiety and flush the body with oxygen, which is great for reducing muscle tension and also for keeping the body and mind stimulated and energised.

The best thing is that this can be done at any time and no one will know that’s what you are focusing on. Try a few focused breaths during your next boring meeting – unless of course you are the one speaking.


7. Bare feet are best

Now walking around the city streets shoeless is not advisable, unless hepatitis and tetanus are your thing, but try and spend some time in the house shoe free. Let the feet work as they’re designed to do. The rest of the time be as practical with your footwear choice as style allows. You’ll be surprised at how much knee, back and hip pain is directly linked to the function of your feet. That goes for you lucky hot-climate folks too – sandals all day, everyday is a recipe for creaky hips and knee pain.


8. Hydrate

This one is simple, yet so often overlooked. Your muscle tissue is made up of around 75% water, so it’s no wonder that dehydration will bring cramps, aches and pains directly into the legs, and larger muscle groups of the body, leaving you feeling tired and slow. So take a bottle to work with you. Not only will refilling your bottle help to save the environment, but it will allow you to monitor your fluid intake through the day. Aim for 1–1.5 litres per day. Watch out for sugary juices and drinks containing caffeine. Good old-fashioned water is best, and can always be livened up with a little sliced cucumber or ginger.


BONUS MATERIAL…

These two videos were both shot on location at our Pilates Retreats.

The first is a series of gentle movements designed to mobilize and lubricate the joints as well as switch on the deep stabilizing muscles of the spine and pelvis:

For those looking for something more physical – to maintain a strong and flexible body – give this video a try. This is the perfect workout for those days when your schedule just doesn’t allow time to make it to class or hit the gym:

I hope these tips help. Feel free to pass them along to others in need. I’d love to hear how they’re working out for you, so please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. Let me know what you think of the video clips too. My goal here is to empower as many of you as possible to be able to look after your bodies, so any questions or requests for other clips that may help are welcomed.

Happy moving!

Jamie Isaac


More blog posts from Jamie: 

One big yoga family

Focus on Pilates: The single leg circle

Getting started with Pilates

Joseph Pilates: the man behind the movement

5 great ab exercises

Focus on Pilates: Leg pull front

About the instructor: Jamie Isaac

Jamie enjoys many aspects of the fitness and exercise profession, but his passion is Pilates (closely followed by surfing!) Jamie is currently teaching workshops all over the world, including weeks in Bali, the USA, England and Fuerteventura. A former international trampolinist and a graduate in Physical Education and Sports Sciences, Jamie practices and teaches Pilates as more than just a set of physical exercises. By incorporating body and mind he finds the classic Pilates method benefits all aspects of life. Jamie enjoys passing on his knowledge of Pilates, helping others to relax and progress, and teaching in specialist areas such as injury rehabilitation, specialist referral and coaching other sports professionals and enthusiasts. Jamie is the founder of Azul Yoga & Pilates Retreat and Fluid Art Pilates.

Ashtanga rediscovered…

by Emma Malarkey

I  have alway dipped in and out of ashtanga, but somehow never managed to connect with the practice long term. I remember working with one of my original teachers in India and telling him that I wanted to travel to Mysore to practise the ashtanga series. He told me I wasn’t ready for the practice and should focus on hatha and Iyengar. Of course I ignored his wise words and embarked on my journey into the Mysore ashtanga world. I remember experiencing such a difference in this world from the hatha world I had been exposed to. The practice was more intense, the people attracted to this style were stronger, with bigger energies.

I spent time with a wonderful school but after I left Mysore I found it difficult to maintain the self practice. From there I dipped in and out of ashtanga classes and workshops, enjoying the short bursts it gave me but finding it hard to carry the sequence further.

Last year I found myself being drawn into the iyengar teachings and what I experienced was a wonderful insight into the anatomy of the yoga asanas, how to protect my body, to move in and out of each asana with full awareness on a physical level.

The Iyengar style became such a strong influence on my practice and when I began to blend it with vinyasa I was able to understand how to flow from posture to posture with awareness on alignment. It changed my practice and of course my teaching style.

I now find myself in Central America, hungry for inspiration and new teachings. Unexpectedly I have found myself delving back into ashtanga … I always felt it was in the past for me but somehow it continues to find me.

Yoga in Central America

Emma in Central America

One month into my daily practice I had a wonderful experience. I took my place at the front of the class, peering out of the window at the beautiful clear Caribbean. I began my ujjayi breath. It flowed very naturally and I began my practice. From samasthiti (standing pose) I inhaled my arms above my head and exhaled all the way to my mat. I began to flow through my sun salutation like a dance, moving with my breath, seeing only the water ahead, hearing only my inhales and exhales.

I felt every movement my body made and, as always, I pulled my iyenagar influences into my practice, feeling the alignment as I flowed. That day my body felt light and open. Something changed in that particular practice, like my body had surrendered into the sequence and I began to understand the primary series. I remember the words of the instructor … “as you move from asana to asana allow your breath to lead you. One breath as you flow.”

In that practice the sequence was no longer a set of postures I had to push my body through in 90 minutes. It became a beautiful dance that I was able to flow through. Everything came together – the breath, the body, the bandhas and the mind all became one as I made my fluid movements through the vinyasa.

I understand now that ashtanga is not just a strong physical practice but it is a focus of the mind, breath and movement. It is a meditation in motion that I am slowly beginning to unravel within every practice.

Namaste.


More blog posts from Emma:

A yoga practice in chaos

My favourite pose: downward facing dog

Santosha

Shoulderstand

Yoga in India

Yin yang yoga

About the author

Emma Malarkey, Azul Yoga and PilatesWhen she isn’t studying yoga in India or exploring the world, Emma Malarkey teaches at Azul Yoga & Pilates Retreat always bringing back new inspiration for the team and guests. Her wide ranging yoga experience means her personal practice and teaching style incorporates many different styles, including traditional hatha, tantra, Mysore ashtanga, sivananda, iyengar, vinyasa, and more modern forms such as yin yoga and Bikram.

The Azul kitchen: Banana marmalade

by Jo Dombernowsky of Jo’s Food Blog

This easy-to-make marmalade makes a delicious spread that always goes down well at the Azul breakfast table – try it and see for yourself! And don’t forget that Jo will be running a hands-on cooking and nutrition workshop in London, at Central Street Cookery School,  2 & 3 August, 2013. Please see ‘Truly healthy, London’ for more information. You can win a ticket (or a cookbook) by entering the competition on Azul’s Facebook page

Banana marmalade

1kg ripe bananas

Zest and juice of an organic lemon

200 ml water

• Peel the bananas and put them in a pot

• Add water, lemon juice and lemon zest.

• Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

• Blend and set aside to cool down.

• Put the marmalade small jars. Store one in the fridge and freeze the rest. The marmalade last for about 5 days in the fridge.

About the author

Jo DombernowskyJo Dombernowsky is the resident chef and nutrition advisor at Azul Yoga & Pilates Retreat. She runs nutrition workshops, detox retreats and special nutrition holidays and is the author of the highly acclaimed cookbook ‘Truly healthy, truly delicious’. Jo is also an inspirational Pilates teacher and her all-round healthy approach to life is clear to see! Jo has her own food blog where she posts her delicious recipes, keeping you up to date on all the wonderful new food coming out of the Azul kitchen. Azul will be hosting a cooking workshop in with Jo in London, August 2 – 3, 2013.

From Britney Spears to Carrie Macy, LA to the Canary Islands: Interview with Alex Estornel

A professional dancer and Pilates instructor, Alex Estornel started his career performing with recording artists such as Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez. After sustaining an injury, Alex discovered a passion for Pilates, using the technique to rehabilitate and to correct misalignments, and going on to train under Carrie Macy, a Romana Kryzanowska alumnus. Based in LA, Alex will be making a trip to the Canary Islands, Spain, this August to run a special ‘Pilates Strength, Agility & Tone’ week. We find out more…



alex estornel - teaser

1. What was working with Britney and J-Lo like and how did you stay in peak condition whilst on tour?

Dancing with these superstars changed my life. They are both very caring and very kind people, regardless of what we read in the headlines.

I started dancing when I was 16 and knew immediately I wanted to pursue dance as a profession. I fell in love with ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop and ballroom. I set my sights on Los Angeles early on because I knew that’s where I could flourish and grow as a dancer. As soon as I moved to LA I had the opportunity to audition for a huge choreographer and was lucky enough to be cast for both artists he was working with, Britney and J-Lo. I saw places and things that only a few could ever imagine.

I had always been addicted to exercise and while dancing my exercise regimens centered around keeping my body fit in order to be able dance on stage for hours. It’s Pilates that allowed me to keep a solid core and kept me in optimum shape while on the road for years.

2. You intially got into Pilates to rehabilitate from injury, what was the injury and how did Pilates help?

While nursing and rehabilitating a sprained ankle, a friend introduced to me to Pilates. It was the only form of exercising that gave me the feeling of dancing while correcting my mis-alignments and injuries. I found myself being able to dance better and with more control if I continued a weekly regimen of Pilates. It ultimately prolonged my dance career.

3. What inspired you to carry on with Pilates after you had recovered?

The one thing that we all cannot escape is age and I knew I was coming to the ‘end of my days’ for my dance career a few years ago. Fortunately, in 2007 I met my Pilates mentor, Carrie Macy, who certified with Romana Kryzanowska, and she encouraged me to become certified. I had already been doing Pilates for nearly a decade and realized that teaching Pilates would be my transition to a new career.

Even after being certified I continued dancing and, with Pilates, found I still had untapped abilities in dance. It was only this past year I’ve decided to hang up the dance shoes and dedicate myself solely to Pilates.

Alex_Estornel_Pilates_class

4. What do you enjoy most about teaching Pilates?

The satisfaction of seeing progress and happiness in my clients.

5. You will be running a special Pilates week ‘Pilates Strength, Agility & Tone’ at Azul Yoga & Pilates in August, what can participants expect from the week?

The participants will fall deeper in love with Pilates and most importantly, discover how our bodies can adapt, change, modify, and strengthen with the right mindset and health regimen.

We will go in depth with the anatomy of Pilates and how we can fend off physical illness with a healthy lifestyle.

Finally, we will demystify the mechanics of the body and learn how a healthy kinetic chain is the key to a balanced and strong body.

6. What advice would you give to anyone starting out in Pilates?

When approaching Pilates for the first time, I always recommend tuning into your body and revealing to yourself exactly where your aches are, your strengths, your weaknesses, and most importantly staying safe through the motions you will be learning. You must first know where your starting line is before setting your sights on the finish line. Finally, be patient with your progress. Transformation comes with repeated practice.


If you would like to experience a week of Pilates with Alex, please find more details on the ‘Pilates Strength, Agility & Tone’ on the Azul website.

About the instructor

Alex EstornelAlex Estornel is a professional dancer and Pilates instructor, well known for his work in the TV, film and stage industry, performing with recording artists such as Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez. For over two years, Alex has studied under Master Instructor Carrie Macy, who is a Romana Kryzanowska alumnus. Based in LA, Alex will be making a trip to the Canary Islands, Spain this August to run a special ‘Pilates Strength, Agility & Tone’ week.

5 ways to make sure your yoga teacher shows up to class

by Cat Easterbrook

There are always two teachers in every yoga class – the teacher, and you. Making sure they are both showing up is the only way to ensure you progress and get the most from your practice.

Assuming your external yoga teacher does a pretty good job of turning up (and if they don’t, it might be time to look for a new one), then how is the internal one doing?

Here are five ways to make sure your internal teacher is showing up to class…

1. Create your own atmosphere

yoga on diggerCandles, incense, aromatherapy oils, soft music … they might help set the tone but they’re not going to make the slightest difference if you’re having a mental argument with your partner/friend/boss.

It is your job to set the internal atmosphere. Of course, the external atmosphere is important and helps you create the internal – I love candles and incense and a good sunset yoga session as much as the next yogi – but put too much emphasis on it, even come to rely on it, and you will run into trouble.

One day the room will be too hot, the beautiful birds singing outside might be joined by a crow, the person next to you might be a little too close or a little too enthusiastic with their ujjayi breath.

PeaceThe list is limitless and it isn’t something you have a great deal of control over, so shift the focus to making sure you are taking control of your area of responsibility. Get some inner candlelight on the go by softening any harsh thoughts and sweeten them up with some inner incense.

Become a master at setting your own atmosphere and the quality of your practice will not be overly reliant on the presence of a scented candle or the absence of a tuneless crow.

2. Learn from everyone

At the moment I’m getting through some yoga teachers, mainly through circumstance (I’m travelling) partly through choice (to experience different styles). Of course there are lots of benefits to trying different teachers but you do occasionally find yourself in a class that really isn’t to your liking.

Maybe the teacher doesn’t seem to care about alignment, maybe they haven’t even mentioned the breath, maybe they keep banging the floor and rolling around and chanting and panting and everybody is confused and embarrassed. It doesn’t matter how ‘bad’ they seem to be, they will have something to teach you.

soldier yogiOf course this doesn’t mean sticking with a teacher you don’t like (and it certainly doesn’t mean putting yourself at risk of injury) it just means trying not to completely write off the class while you’re still in it. Shift your focus from how terrible it is and look for something you didn’t know, something you can learn.

That army sergeant teacher who is barking orders about your alignment, stressing you out and completely killing your yoga buzz? That teacher is making sure your yoga buzz will be able to continue long into the future, injury free. That teacher is also giving you far better body awareness, making sure you have razor-sharp concentration and challenging you to keep your yoga calm even when someone is barking at you.

It is your inner teacher’s job to make sure that expectations and negativity don’t become barriers to learning. It should make sure you are open to learning all the time, especially when it comes to the lessons you don’t want to learn, because they are often the ones you need the most. 

3. Feel your way

slouched

‘Do you think you’re straight?’

‘Well… I think so’

‘Feel where your body is – is your pelvis in line with your shoulders’

‘Well I don’t know, you can see it!’

I think any newbie to yoga has felt that complete bemusement over a teacher asking them if they think they are in alignment. Perhaps not when simply standing (although it turns out even that is not so simple) but certainly whilst wobbling about in disorientating poses like extended side angle pose. With the physical exertion of being in the pose and your head pointing up to the ceiling it seems ridiculous that they would expect you to know where your body is in space.

But then you realise just how ridiculous it is that we don’t know where our bodies are in space. Surely that is something we should know – we are in them our whole lives. But no, our mind overactivity means our body sensitivity is dulled and in our day-to-day lives we generally only notice body parts when they scream at us.

Developing a greater awareness and sensitivity to your body is something that your external teacher will encourage, but it is something only your inner teacher can really engage with – especially at the more subtle levels.

The inner teacher should be paying close attention to what is happening in each pose, how it feels, and if the teacher corrects you, it should be really feeling what they are correcting, which parts of your body are opening, twisting, working, being released?

4. Watch your mouth

1106236_620x350Watch that inner voice. We all have one and it’s normally allowed to run riot. Under no circumstances should it be commenting disparagingly on your huge thighs, your inflexible hips, your sweat patches or the fact that you’re shaking so much in plank it looks like you’re trying to drill for oil.

Has your external yoga teacher ever spoken to you like that? No (I hope), then nor should your internal.

Gaining awareness of how your inner yoga teacher talks will help you no end in your practice. If you’re sweating and shaking then endless comments about this will only serve to increase the sweating and shaking.

5. Climb the ladder

ladderThis is the seam that runs through all the above. It is about staying aware and looking at things from a more rounded and less reactive perspective.

An external teacher can teach you effectively because they are coming from a higher perspective. Not only is it a perspective that has the benefit of greater knowledge, it is also a perspective of an outsider, someone who isn’t caught up in reacting to a situation, so they can  see what the most helpful course of action is.

They can see which poses are needed to really move you forward. They see when your competitive streak needs cooling with some passive poses, or you need to work on courage with some fearless poses. They can also see when you are being lazy and need a gentle push, or when you’re struggling and could use some support.

It is entirely possible for your inner teacher to see this too. By being more aware of your thoughts, your reactions, your body – by being less reactive, more reflective and asking ‘what’s helpful, what’s needed?’ instead of ‘I like, I don’t like, I want, I don’t want’, you can move yourself forward in your practice more smoothly and skillfully.

And the benefit of all this? Anyone who has taken part in a yoga class where all the teachers were present – the external and the internal – will know that the energy is quite simply off the scale. The learning, support and growth, and the excitement and energy that all this generates, is palpable. Leaving those classes everybody is on a high. You say a heartfelt ‘namaste’ and ‘thank you’ to your teacher and head back out into the world with your inner teacher more present than ever.

About the author

Cat Easterbrook came on holiday to Azul Yoga & Pilates Retreat and never left, finding a home on this beautiful island and working alongside the wonderful, spirited, talented, nurturing people at Azul (her, rather biased, words). She is currently travelling in India and Nepal, studying yoga and meditation, and learning to keep her yoga calm amongst the honking horns, holy cows and cheeky monkeys.
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