Avon Wildlife Trust Yoga Fundraiser

Last month I decided to start using my yoga to support a local charity, so I set up the Avon Wildlife Trust yoga fundraiser. This is a bit about why I choose them and how you can help.

Why I support the Avon Wildlife Trust (AWT)?

I think if this year has taught us anything it’s how much we appreciate and value our natural landscape and the wildlife found there. These places not only provide habitats for species that provide an important role in maintaining and securing our food chain (ie. think bees/ pollinating insects/ birds etc). But spending time in nature can also be beneficial to both our mental and physical health.

Sadly, at present 41% of species are currently in decline across the UK. With 15% of British wildlife now at risk of extinction. Earlier this year Bristol even declared an ecological emergency in response to escalating threats to wildlife and ecosystems. This highlights just has quick things have escalated and how urgent action is needed.

Someone once said to me, We might be inheriting the planet from our Grandparents, but we’re also borrowing it from our Grandchildren.” . It’s very sad to know that many of the wildlife and nature spots we enjoy today will not be here for generations to come.

As custodians of these areas, it’s important to act now and do our part if we want our children and our grandchildren to have the same quality of life as we do. One simple thing we can do is support those local organisations, such as AWT that protect these wildness areas. This is particularly important now. This is when these charities need us most of all!

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on AWT and the work they can do. Due to COVID-19 activities that provide funding for the charity were cancelled. I attended this year’s AWT AGM which highlighted some of the financial challenges AWT will be facing. By supporting now, we can ensure they continue to protect these areas for us and our future generations to enjoy.

sustainable-living-quote

What AWT do?

Avon Wildlife Trust is the largest local charity working to protect wildlife and inspire people to do their bit in the West of England.

Three ways AWT have been protecting our nature:

  • Creating ecological networks for people and wildlife so that threatened species can flourish and degraded ecosystems can be restored. Two examples are the Nature Recovery Network and the B-Lines network. 
  • The North Somerset Levels and Moors Restoration Project. An extensive area covering around 8,000 hectares of low-lying wetland next to the Severn Estuary and bordered by the Mendip Hills. Wetlands are important habitats for wildlife as well as providing carbon storage, allowing them to play an important role in climate change management.
  • Ash dieback management – producing a strategy to mitigate the impact of ash dieback on our nature reserves.

AWT is also doing a lot of work around Bristol as part of their My Wild City campaign  – restoring and protecting 8 urban green spaces. These spaces have been a haven for many families during COVID. Particularly during Lockdown, where these spaces have provided a bit of a sanctuary/ safe space for many.

What you can do?

Join and spread the word of my Avon Wildlife Trust yoga fundraiser classes – donations can be made here.

Check out any of the free courses, content, classes on my website or my YouTube channel. And show your appreciation by making a donation.

Checking out AWT – become a member, check out their shop, volunteer wth them, make a donation.

Sustainable Food

I love food! I also love our environment, wildlife and nature, which is why buying sustainable food is important. Taking control of what we eat and where we buy our foods can have a massive impact on our environment – both local and international.

Buying Local Food

Supporting local businesses and buying local reduces the carbon footprint of the products you’re consuming. So we thought we would look at what we could easily start buying local. This would be preferably produced organically or using sustainable methods.

We decided to opt for a weekly veg box from a local community farm, Sims Hill. Sim Hill offer a unique share harvest offer, where you pay a weekly amount to receive a share of the harvest. I’ll write about this in a separate post.

We’re still working out ways we can buy more sustainable foods and have tried a few different options, trying to limit the need to go to the supermarket. I’ll update this as we continue to move towards more sustainable food buying options.

Eating more plants

Eating a plant based diet is better for the environment – I recall learning this years ago when I watched Cowspiracy. It was actually this documentary that lead to Michael (my partner) becoming a vegetarian and in me eating a more plant based diet.

Greenpeace also recently launched a new campaign called, “Monster”. This campaign looks at how our diet can impact the environment. Their new video is below.

Eating Products without Palm Oil

I guess our next focus would be to reduce palm oil products – which, if you’ve ever looked at food labels seems to be in everything.

If you have ever seen the terribly sad orang-utan video then I’m sure you know why reducing palm oil is important. I’ve included this video below.

What else can we change to move towards more sustainable living?

Sustainable Living

I recently watched the David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet and it gave me hope and really helped me to re-focus my priorities and well, just kicked my butt into gear and investigate some more sustainable living options. If you’ve not watched the doco yet – do! It’s got to be one of the best things I’ve watched this year.

So I’ve decided to actively reduce my carbon footprint and move towards a more sustainable lifestyle – hence the title, ‘Sustainable Living’. It’s something I’ve always tried to be mindful of, but not something I really focused on. Well the good thing about Lockdown – I’ve got more time to focus some energy on this and really try to reduce my footprint. And I’ve come to really appreciate the big difference we can all make by making some small changes to our lifestyle.

I thought I would share my journey here. Why? Because it holds me accountable, and you never know I might discover something others might find useful.

Sustainable Living Categories

To help break it down into more manageable chucks, I’ve separated my life into different areas. I’ll be looking at each area and what I can do or change.

Food

I’ll be looking at; the food I eat, where I buy my food, where my food comes from and where I eat out, to see where I can reduce my carbon footprint and live more sustainably.

Energy

The appliances I use. How often and when I use them. My energy provider/s and the plans I’m on. How to make the home more energy efficient.

Travel

Those that know me, knows this will be a difficult one for me. Travel is likely my largest carbon contributor.

Local, national and international travel. Looking at my modes of transport. The car I drive and where I go/ stay when on holiday.

Finances

Since I work in finance this is definitely one I want to focus on – the finance industry has the potential for huge positive change and influence in protecting our planet for future generations. Investors also have a lot of influence and can put demand on the industry to invest responsibility.

I’ll be looking at ethical investing and ethical banking. And disinvesting in equities that don’t meet my values.

Stuff

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Reducing my waste and trying to buy more ethically.

Looking at what stuff I buy, the packaging it comes in, where it comes from and the impact my purchase could have on the environment.

Anything else

What organisations I joined. How I’m getting involved in the community. Fundraising. Building awareness. How I will try and use yoga to help – including starting to support a local organisation with the Avon Wildlife Trust Yoga fundraiser. And anything else that might pop up on the way.

Yoga for Spinal Health Classes

I have two Yoga for the Spine classes for you. The first is a 25 minute Yoga for Spinal Health class, where we’ll be either standing or seated in a chair. And the second is a 25 minute evening yoga for the spine class, where we will remain lying on the floor.

Yoga for Spinal Health

During this 25 minute Yoga for Spinal Health class we’ll gently move through all 6 movements of the spine – lateral movements (side movements), twists and forward and backwards motions.

This will help to strengthen and stretch the muscles that support the spine, as well as increasing fluid to the spine aiding in good spinal health and mobility.

Who can do this class?

Beginners and all ages welcome!

There is also no kneeling or weight on the wrists. During the class we’ll either be standing or seated in a chair.

Please remember to work within your own range of motion. This will vary from person to person and will mean that some poses don’t look the exact same as they do for others – this is perfectly normal as we’re all built differently.

The important thing is to work with what feels good for you and your body – this is your practice. Yoga can be challenging, but never painful. If you do feel pain, please gentle come out of the pose.

What you need:

  • A wall (optional) – though great for extra support and also to assist with alignment.
  • A chair
  • A yoga mat (optional)
  • A pillow or yoga bolster

When to practice:

The movements in this class are quite gentle, but also dynamic, which means it can be practiced at anytime of the day.

Great to practice first thing in the morning to really waken up the spine with some gentle movements. But also quite a nice way to wind down in the evening, as we finish with an ‘inwards’ pose, which can be quite calming for some people.

We usually recommend not practicing on a full stomach.

Yoga for Spinal Health

25 minute yoga for the spine class

Evening Yoga for the Spine

During this evening yoga for the spine class we’ll spend the whole practice on the floor, moving through the 6 movements of the spine (lateral, forwards, backwards and twisting).

This practice will help to stretch and release tension in the spine and back. It will also calm the nervous system, preparing the body for rest/ bed.

What do I need?

  • Yoga mat (optional)
  • Pillow or bolster (optional)
  • Wall (optional)
  • Yoga belt/ strap or rolled up towel (optional)

Who is this class for?

Beginners and students of all ages welcome!

The class is quite a gentle, passive practice, where we hold poses for about 5 breaths each.

When to practice?

In the evening as this class is a great way to gently stretch the back and prepare the body for bed.

That said, it won’t hurt to practice the class at other times during the day, especially during times when you’re feeling a little anxious or overwhelmed as we will be working to calm the nervous system.

25 minute evening yoga for the spine class

More Yoga to aid Spinal Health

The core is also an important aspect of spinal health. A strong core can provide extra support and protection for the spine.

For this reason I’ve put together a 7 day core strength challenge, which aims to strength each muscle within the core over 7 days. The challenge is only 5-10 minutes a day for 7 days, so can easily be incorporated into your usual daily route.

I’ve also created a short Yoga for Lower Back Pain course which covers the common causes of lower back pain and how you can work the supporting muscles to help resolve this pain. 

Lower back pain is often a response to weak, tight or inactivate muscles. This is something that builds up over time. It can usually be reversed, however just like it can take time to develop the lower back pain response. It can take some time to reverse these effects. This course is designed to give you the tools, to work towards reducing the common causes of lower back pain.

Sign up before 8th August to receive 40% off with the discount code: ORANGES.

7 Day Core Strength Challenge

Why commit to the 7 day core strength challenge?

  • The core stabilises and supports your body, protects your spine and helps reduce lower back pain.
  • A strong core can help improve balance and prevent falls.
  • Core strength can help mobility of the body and spine.

What to expect during this 7 day core strength challenge

  • Each day for 7 days we’ll focus on a different area of the core, this will increase your understanding of the core and all the muscles that make up the core.
  • By the end of the challenge you’ll have knowledge of different exercises, which help engage and strengthen each aspect of the core. You’ll be able to incorporate these into future practices.
  • Each daily challenge will be 5-10 minutes long. This allows you to easily fit it into your daily routine. You might like to practice it when you wake up, or take a 10 minute break to complete the challenge during your work from home schedule. The challenge is completely flexible.
  • This challenge is beginner friendly! It might be challenging at times (after all it is a challenge) – but it is still beginner friendly!

Each morning starting Monday 20th July, I’ll be posting the daily challenge below, as well as on YouTube and on my facebook page.

Subscribe to your preferred platform to keep updated.

Day 1: The Obliques

Day 1 of the 7 Day Core Strength Challenge

Day 2: Transverse Abs

Day 2 of the Core Strength Challenge

Day 3: The Back

Day 3 of the core strength challenge

Day 4: The Glutes

Day 4 of the Core Strength Challenge

Day 5: The Abs

Day 5 of the 7 day challenge

Day 6: Hip Flexors

Day 6 of the 7 day Core Challenge

Day 7: Pelvic Floor & Diaphragm

Day 7 of the core challenge

If you enjoyed this challenge, you may also like to try the 30 day morning challenge. 10-15 minutes of yoga, every day for 30 days.

Supporting the Wrists in Yoga: Mini Guide

Wrist pain is quite common and there are lots of different causes for it, each can result in different aches or pains and triggers. This Supporting the Wrists in Yoga mini guide will give you lots of information to help you modify and support the wrists during your yoga practice. That said, wrist pain is very indiviual, it’s important to listen to your body and only do what feels good for you.

This mini guide doesn’t replace any medical guidance, however it does provide some information to help support you during your yoga practice.

Common Causes of Wrist Pain

Some common causes of wrist pain include arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome, ganglion cysts, gout, strains, sprains and fusion in the wrists.

Pain can also be caused by incorrect alignment and overuse. During yoga we usually want joints stacked over joints when bearing load. For wrists this usually means having a straight line between the wrists and the shoulders – but not locking out (hyperextending) the elbows.

If you’re not use to placing weight on the wrists, then taken your time to slowly build up. Take regular rests when you need it and never stay in the pose to the point of feeling pain. This can end up causing wrist strains and soft tissue damage.

Loosen the Wrists

This short sequence will help you to loosen the wrists, reduce tension and increase movement of synovial fluid to the joints. This can help with wrist mobility.

Please remember to work in your range of motion. If you feel any pain, then please stop or modify that pose or movement.

https://youtu.be/3p8OaNeSq6Q
This short sequence will help you to loosen the wrists, reduce tension and increase movement of synovial fluid to the joints.

Yoga without the Wrists

There are some yoga classes specifically designed without poses that place weight or pressure on the wrists.

Here are two yoga classes that specifically don’t place any weight on the wrists:

Wrist Modifications

There are a few modifications and supports you can use to help support the wrists in your yoga practice.

  • Folding the front of the mat for extra padding or using a blanket to support the hands in poses such as Downwards Facing Dog or Plank pose (any pose where we put weight on the hands/ wrists). This can help in one of two ways:
  1. To reduce the extension of the wrist, place the heel of the hand on the folded mat/ blanket with the fingers on the floor.
  2. To reduce the flexion in the wrist, place the heel of the hand on the floor, with the fingers on the folded mat/ blanket.
  • Use a specific yoga wedge that like the folded mat/ blanket, helps to either reduce the flexion or extension in the wrists. Changing the angle of the wrist can relieve pain in poses such as plank where we place weight on the wrists.
  • Use a chair to support the hands in poses such as Downwards Facing Dog. This reduces the amount of weight on the hands/ wrists.
  • Use a wall to support the hands in poses that place weight on the hands. This reduces the weight on the wrists, like using a chair.
  • Come onto your forearms, rather than your hands. You can use yoga blocks or books to raise the forearms up to keep alignment of the spine, in poses such as All Fours position and Cat/ Cow.
  • Use dumbbells to support the hands in poses like Plank. Changing the position of the hands and where the weight is distributed can ease pain for some people.

Supporting the wrists in yoga with this Wrist Friendly Yoga sequence

During this short sequence we’ll use a chair to help support the wrists. I also offer the option to use yoga blocks or bricks instead.

This class is to give you some inspiration to different ways you can use these props and help you in supporting the wrists in yoga.

Supporting the wrist in yoga with this Wrist Friendly Yoga sequence

I hope you found this Supporting the Wrists Mini Guide helpful.

I’ll try and add to this guide overtime, however if you’ve come across any specific modifications or alternatives poses that work for you, please share them in the comment section below.

Yoga without Series: Yoga without Shoulders

Thank you for joining me for this 20 minute Yoga without Shoulders class. During this class we won’t actively be taking poses that use the shoulder muscles, however you may still use the arms to support the legs and to help with balance.

During this class we’ll focus mostly on the lower body, hips and the core.

You might also like to have a couple of props. Maybe a towel for extra padding or a couple of yoga blocks or pillows/ blankets. Though this are optional.

Yoga without Shoulders Class

https://youtu.be/V7rKhJ1Vmbg
20 min Yoga without Shoulders routine

A bit more about a few of the exercises

During this class we did a little bit on strengthening the core muscles. The core is super important for the body as it stabilises and supports the body, improving balance, preventing falls and helping mobility.

I’m currently working on a 7 day core strengthening challenge, where we’ll learn about the core muscles and focus on a different core muscle each day. For just 5-10 minutes a day for 7 days you’ll learn about how to strengthen and look after these vital muscles. So keep an eye out for this in future – sign up to my email list to be kept updated!

Leg Raises – core exercise

During this class we do two sets of 10 leg raises. This exercise engages and strengthens the transverse abs, which is the deepest of the core muscles. The transverse abs is the muscle that wraps around the spine, protecting the spine and providing stability for the body.

While doing this exercise see if you can keep the lower back pushing into the floor and the lower belly muscles engaged. This helps to protect the lower back and target the correct muscles.

Core Exercise: Leg Raises

Side Twist – core exercise

Another important muscle of the core is the obliques. These are the muscles that run down the sides of the torso. They help with rotation of the torso, as well as pulling the chest downwards and also in lateral (side to side) movements.

During the class we do two sets of 10 of these side twists. This exercise targets and strengthens the oblique muscles. Just like the leg raises it’s important to try and keep the lower belly muscles engaged as you bring the legs back up to centre.

Core Exercises: Side Twists

Other Classes in this Series:

Yoga Without Series: Yoga without Forward Bends

Thank you for joining me for this 25 minute yoga without forward bends class. There won’t be any seated or standing forward bends and we will avoiding hinging forward at the hips.

You may like a few props for this class:

  • A couple of yoga blocks or old books. Or you can use a couple of pillows from your bed. Or a bolster if you have.
  • I usually like to have a towel or blanket to hand as well (optional)
  • There is an option to use a rolled up towel or strap/ yoga belt too (optional)

Yoga without Forward Bends Class

25 minute Yoga without Forward Bends class

A bit about some of the poses

Baby Cobra Lifts

Baby Cobra lifts are a great way to build strength in the muscles of the back. These back muscles include the multifidus and erector spinae muscles, which both run down the centre of the back and provide support for the spine and the lower back.

The back muscles also play an important role in core stability. The core isn’t just about the abs or a defined 6 pack – it’s so much more important than that. The core muscles stabilises and supports the body. Helping with mobility, balance and even can prevent falls.

I’m currently working on a 7 day core strength challenge, where we will spend 5-10 minutes a day learning about the different muscles that make up the core, then complete s few exercises to help strengthen these muscles.

Yoga-without-Forward-Bends-cobra-lifts
Baby Cobra Lifts – you can do this with or without the hands lifting. Check out the video to see how to do this exercise.

Supported Fish

Supported fish pose gently stretches across the chest and throat, while also releasing any tension in the upper back and neck. My physio actually once prescribed a variation of this pose to ease some upper back tension that I was experiencing at the time.

This is a fantastic pose to do if you’ve spent a long time sat in front of a computer or laptop, or have just been on a long drive, as it gently counteracts the rounding forward position we tend to be in when doing this activities.

Supported Fish – in this pose I’m using yoga blocks, but you can use pillows instead (I show this option during the class).

Other classes in this series

Please remember that yoga can be challenging, but should never be painful. So if you do feel any pain, please come out of the pose. Please also read my disclaimer before practicing any online classes, and if unsure please check with a health practitioner or doctor before attempting any classes.

The ‘Yoga without’ Series: Yoga without Inversions

This week’s Wednesday class is a 20 minute beginners Yoga without Inversions class. This means the class won’t include any poses where the upper body or head goes below the lower body or heart – so no bridge poses, forward folds, handstands, downwards dogs etc.

Yoga without Inversions

Optional props for this class include a towel or yoga mat. However the class can be done without both if you like.

If you were after a yoga mat, I like Yogamatter’s mat – these are the mats I will be selling at the market. However, there are plenty of good mats out there.

https://youtu.be/pGFBV6Ixh4Q
20 minute Yoga without Inversions Class

Ujjayi Breath (Ocean’s Breath)

This is the audible breath, often used in yoga, especially in Vinyasa yoga where we tend to move breath to movement.

During the class I’ll explain how you can practice Ujjayi breath, but in a nutshell you breath in and out of your nose. On the exhale you want a slight constriction at the back of your throat. So you’ll sound a little like Darth Vader.

There are a lot of benefits to Ujjayi breath, however if you prefer you can return to your natural breath. Do what feels best for you.

Some of the benefits to Ujjayi breath include:

  • Naturally slows down and deepens the breath. This can calm the nervous system, by engaging the parasympathetic (‘rest or digest’) nervous system.
  • Focusing on the breath can help with our concentration in the pose. Allowing us to stay longer in the pose as well as helping with balancing poses.
  • Provides relief when holding poses for a long period of time – when a pose starts to get difficult, Ujjayi breath can provide that release, to help you stay in the pose a little longer.
Breath work – can actually be done seated, standing, upside down if you fancied it.

Other Classes in the Series

If you’re new to yoga and want some help getting started, then I’ve put together some free goodies especially for you. You can receive an email with all these goodies by signing up here.

Yoga Nidra: Guided Relaxation

I recently completed a Yoga Nidra training course and wanted to share my learning with you. I’ve also recorded 2 Yoga Nidras, to give you the chance to give it a try – you can sign up for these here.

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra translates to “Yogic Sleep’ and is a form of guided meditation or relaxation, usually practiced lying down.

It is a combination of Western psychology, Buddhism and Yoga.

A Nidra can consist of all or some of the following:

  • A body scan
  • Breath awareness
  • The use of images
  • The use of opposite sensations (such as hot and cold)
  • A sankalpa (or intention/ affirmation)

For some people, a specific image of sensation might be triggering. Usually Nidras with images or anything that might be triggering, will mention this in the description. The Nidra may also use a ‘safe space’ that you can come back to at any point throughout the practice.

How do I practice?

Nidras are usually practiced lying down, however any comfortable position works just fine as well. Eyes are usually shut, however if that’s not comfortable for you, you can just soften the gaze. Make yourself comfortable.

If you’re practicing a Nidra for sleep, you may even like to practice while in bed in case you drift off to sleep.

You might fall asleep during the practice, you might drift in and out of consciousness, you might stay with the practice from start to finish. Whatever happens know there is no wrong way to practice. Whatever happens is what you need in that present moment. You’ll still receive the benefits of the practice – some of which I’ve listed below.

As mentioned above, if you find something triggering during the practice, you can always bring your awareness back to your ‘safe space’ or the room around you. You can also always end the practice at any point by making some small movements.

Benefits of Yoga Nidra

There are loads of benefits to practicing Yoga Nidra. I’ve listed a few of them below.

  • Relaxation: You’re giving yourself time to do nothing! Today it’s often difficult to find the time to let your thoughts slow down, relax and just be. During a Nidra we switch from focusing on our thoughts, to just feeling the body. This can relax the body and soothe the nervous system.
  • Improves sleep: Nidra can help the body relax so resulting in some people being able to fall asleep and stay asleep. Sleep is an important aspect of our lives – and one that many people struggle with. Sleep can help decrease the risk of anxiety, depression, hypertension, stroke, weight gain, reduce the risk of accidents, and increase memory, concentration and good decision making.
  • Creativity: Being in the state in between being asleep and awake can inspire creativity. This is because the mind is able to think without judgement, as the logical part of the brain is switched off. This enables us to ‘think outside the box’.
  • Memory Aid: During sleep the brain processes and stores memories – during a Nidra the brain waves experienced are similar to the ones experienced during sleep. Scans of the brain have shown that Nidra can help with processing and storing these memories.
  • Increased body awareness: By bringing awareness to your breath and body, you’re improving the neuron pathways within the body. This means your mind becomes more connected to the rest of the body and how it feels and what it needs. This means you’re more likely to identify when you’re becoming ill or before you reach burnout.
  • Emotional Regulation: Linked with the previous point – by becoming more body aware we are able to better at observing a situation and choosing how best to respond – not just reacting out of frustration or anger.

Want to try Yoga Nidra?

I’ve recorded 2 Yoga Nidras, which you can download and listen to in your own time – these are completely free – my gifts to you!

  • The first Guided Relaxation is a Calming Yoga Nidra.
  • The second is a Guided Relaxation for Sleep.
  • If you sign up now you’ll also get access to a BONUS Yin Yoga for Better Sleep Class. Beginners Welcome!

To receive your free gifts you just need to >>> Sign up here

Want to find out more?

If you want to read more about Nidras and the importance of sleep – here’s a list of resources you might like to check out.

Yoga Nidra

The History of Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra: Awaken to Unqualified Presence Through Traditional Mind-Body Practices by Richard Miller

iRest Program For Healing PTSD: A Proven-Effective Approach to Using Yoga Nidra Meditation and Deep Relaxation Techniques to Overcome Trauma by Richard Miller

Sleep:

The Sleep Council – loads of resources and information on sleep.

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

Are we Brain Washed During Sleep? This is an article about a study done on how sleep can help the brain.