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.

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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 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.

Bike Week 2020: Yoga for Cyclists

So you’re probably wondering, what on Earth Bike Week has to do with Yoga! Well I love cycling and I love yoga – and I love to encourage people to get involved with both. So I thought I would combine my two loves in my first ever Yoga for Kelly blog post. And I thought this would also be a great opportunity to share the benefits of Yoga for Cyclists with you. More on that in a mo!

Bike Week UK

Today is the start of Bike Week in the UK! #BikeWeekUK will be running from 6th June to 14th June. It’s run every year usually with lots of events on all over the country. This year Bike Week is still going ahead and due to COVID, Cycling UK are running a lot of free online events, which you can get involved in.

Cycling is a great way to reduce your carbon foot print, reduces traffic congestion and improve your overall health and fitness. It’s even great for your mental wellbeing.

So I definitely recommend checking it out and getting involved!

Yoga for Cyclists

So I mentioned before, I love cycling. However, I also know from experience cycling doesn’t always love me. I’ve learnt from experience we really need to be stretching out the body after a cycle. It helps to reduce the risk of injury, speed up recovery and help muscle performance.

It’s also important to strengthen the muscles that aren’t used during cycling – I discovered this the hard way when my quads got so strong from cycling they started to overcompensate for my glutes. I did cycle across Canada for this happen – but you get the idea.

This is the reason I’ve put together this FREE Yoga for Cyclists course.

During the course we will cover the benefits of yoga for cyclists. I’ve also included a Yoga for Cyclists class. A post ride stretch routine. And 4 yoga poses that can really improve your cycling. You’ll learn how you can incorporate these poses into your own training or recovery plan. Or just follow the post ride provided.

This course will benefit all types of cyclists – whether you’re new to cycling, a commuter, a road cyclists, mountain biker or cycle tourist.

At the moment I’m offering the course for free, however this might change in the future. If you did however, sign up now, you’ll have lifetime access to the course. This will include any additional content I might provide in future, plus any updates and improvements I make.

This is the first online course I’ve created, so if you do have any feedback please let me know. And if you do try the course and enjoy it, I would love for you to leave me a review.

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Yoga for Cyclists for Bike Week #7daysofcycling

Wanting more…

If you are after more, you might like to check out the 30 day Morning Yoga Challenge. Just 10 minutes of yoga a day for 30 days. A great way to start a new routine and also an opportunity to give yourself a little yoga break each day.

I’m also planning on providing some more yoga for cyclist resources. Some ideas I have at the moment include cyclist meditations/ Yoga Nidras and a cycle tourists body preparation course. I’ll be exploring this on my Cycle Touring site, Cycletrekkers. But, if there was anything you would like to see, then please let me know.

Before practicing any online yoga classes, please be sure to read this disclaimer. If there was anything you wanted to discuss, then you can also drop me an email at me@kellysheldrick.com

Lockdown Family Yoga

This Wednesday I have something a little different for you – a special lockdown family yoga class!

We’re all getting a little restless in this lockdown stage, and I know most of us were expecting schools to return a little sooner than what was announced. So this yoga class is one for the whole family to enjoy! A bit of fun, with all the yogic benefits of a standard yoga class 🙂

Please let me know if you enjoyed this video and you would like to see more. Family yoga classes are something I’m considering offering in the community towards the end of the year, so I’d love to hear your feedback and know whether this is something you’d be interested in.

Below the video I’ve included a little description with the benefits of some of the exercises and movements we do during the class.

Lockdown Family Yoga Class

Breath Work

We’ll start the class with some deep belly breathing. Deep belly breath is great as it uses and strengthens the diaphragm. It can help to reduce blood pressure, lower stress levels and help with different bodily processes, one being the moving lymph (toxins) to the lymph nodes.

Next is Humming Bee breath (or as I refer to it our Bumble Bee breath). During this breath we lengthen the exhale in comparison to the inhale, this has a calming affect as our ‘fight or flight’ (sympathetic nervous) reduces. The vibrations from the humming noise also can create a soothing sensation.

We combine the Humming Bee breath with the use of the Lotus flower mudra. In yoga the lotus is a symbol of personal growth, purity and kindness. As next week is Mental Health Awareness week and the theme is Kindness, I thought it seemed quite fitting. As well as it fitting nicely with the bumble bee.

Asanas (Poses)

From here we moving into the asanas (poses) starting with Butterfly pose, to open up the hips. Moving into a few Cat and Cow poses, to warm up the spine. Next we have Gate pose, where we paint rainbows through the sky. This pose stretches and strengthens the side body. Finally we move into Downwards Facing Dog – a pose disliked by many, but great for both stretching the back body (especially the hamstrings and calves) and also for building strength in the upper body.

We make our way up to standing, moving into Mountain pose. This pose may appear as a simple pose, but it’s an important foundation pose in yoga, which can really help with posture and balance. Five Pointed Star helps to stretch out the body and create space. This is followed by our Warrior 1 poses – building strength in the arms and legs, as well as stretching the hip flexors. From here we make our way back to the mat, for our final pose, a gentle twist.

Guided Meditation

We end in either a seated or lying (Svanasana) pose, finishing with a rainbow visualisation meditation. If you are in to chakras, you may notice that we move through the colours associated to each of the 7 chakras, starting with the root chakra (the colour red) and finishing above the top of the head at the crown chakra (the colour pink). If you’re not into colours – this is still a fun visualisation meditation. Visualisations (and meditations in general for that matter) have loads of benefits, which I might talk about in another blog post. This visualisation can help encourage creativity and imagination 🙂

I hope you and the family enjoyed this class. I’m very interested in any feedback or suggestions for future classes, so please drop me a message.

And if you enjoyed this class and are looking for more, you might like to check out my 30 day morning yoga challenge. Just 10 minutes of yoga a day for 30 days – long enough to reap some yogic benefits and short enough to keep the kids engaged with the practice too.

Stay safe and enjoy the rest of your week.

Kelly X

I’m too inflexible for yoga!

I’ve actually lost count of the number of times someone has said to me, “I’m too inflexible for yoga“. The first time I heard it, I found it quite surprising. Not because I was shocked that this particular person was inflexible, but because it was the main reason I started practicing yoga. It seemed odd to hear it as a reason not to practice it.

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Do I need to be flexible for yoga?” the answer is “No.” Yoga can help improve your flexibility and range of motion, but you don’t need to be flexible to begin with. This is often something just achieved over time and with practice.

I started practicing yoga over 10 years ago because I was terrible at stretching and yoga forced me to spend some time stretching out my body. It was very much a physical practice for me at the beginning. I couldn’t touch my toes and I often woke up in the middle of the night with a cramp in my calf or hamstring. I decided to start yoga as I hoped it would reduce the cramping and help increase my flexibility – which it did, with time and practice. But when I begin I definitely wouldn’t say I was flexible.

My first regular yoga class was a mixed class with students ranging in age from 23 to 75. We all had different flexibility levels, we all looked different in the pose, we used different props and sometimes even took different poses to accommodate our needs. Maybe I was fortunate as it was clear to me in this class – yoga wasn’t about the shape you were making, it was about moving in a way that felt good for you and your body. And this is bound to look different to the others around me. And that didn’t matter. Some days I could do all the poses on offer, sometimes I couldn’t. Even now I often can’t do all the yoga poses in a class – but that’s ok. I’m still getting the benefits my body needs.

“I’m too inflexible for yoga” – where did this idea come from?

The more and more I heard people say, “I’m too inflexible for yoga”, or ask, “Do I need to be flexible to do yoga?” the more I started to wonder, where has these ideas and questions come from?

For me, when I started, yoga was a gentle class, where I was given the opportunity to focus on my breath, unwind and stretch my tight muscles in a way that felt good to me.

Though it may have existed, at the time I wasn’t familiar with power yoga, and never really considered handstands or arm balances to be connected with yoga. There was no Instagram, there was no fancy yoga pants (tights) and there was no beautiful yoga studio. It was just, me, in my sweat pants (trousers for the English), slowly working my way towards touching my toes, in a big, old (non-fancy) sports hall.

I’m not sure when the yoga image changed. I almost feel like I missed the transition. One day I woke up and realised, yoga is everywhere. And though I think it’s great that there is now so much choice and variety within the yoga world. I find it sad that social media (amongst other things) has altered the perception of yoga to make it seem like only fit, flexible, healthy people can take part. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not true. You do not need to be flexible to do yoga. However, if you practice regularly, you will see an improvement in your flexibility over time.

Anyone can do yoga. What is important is finding the right class and teacher for you.

If you are worried about being inflexible, then maybe start with a gentle yoga class. If you don’t like getting on the floor, you could try chair yoga. Don’t like “Downwards Dog” pose, try ‘wrist-less’ yoga or ask your teacher how to modify poses to reduce wrist pain

Just remember which ever class you choose, it doesn’t matter if you don’t look like the other students in the class – we’re all built differently, and even our bone structure can impact the poses we do.

Back when I started yoga, there was little choice and little demand. Now with so many different types of yoga classes, there is likely to be a class out there for you. The hard part is finding it. So if you don’t like the first class you attend, don’t let that put you off. Get back out there and try a different one.

Gentle Beginners Yoga Class

So inspired by this, for this Wednesday’s weekly yoga class I’ve put together a gentle beginners yoga class and also this beginners yoga guide to help prepare you for your first class.

This class is a beginners class, but there are still a few poses that you may find a little challenging, as I think it’s good to have a little bit of challenge. But I’ll be giving lots of options and modifications for different poses throughout the class. Take what option feels good for you.

Wednesday’s weekly yoga class: Gentle Beginners Yoga Class

Now everyone is different. So if this class still doesn’t meet your needs, don’t let that put you off. Maybe even drop me a line or comment below and we can talk through some options together.