Previously recorded live and creative yoga practices, January 2022
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Previously recorded live and creative yoga practices, January 2022

“We do not learn by experience, but by our capacity for experience. ”

Gautama Buddha

 

I was recently invited by @f22aop an all female photographic group, to offer some mindful yoga practices for their audience through instagram videos. These sessions were targeted towards photographers and those working within the creative sector, but I see them as being accessible general practices that would benefit you too!

 

Enjoy them as an opportunity for you to experience what it means to sense movement that is invigorating and uplifting, experience breath-work as a means towards cultivating greater focus and clarity, and experience the amazing benefits of relaxation to assist in the release and softening of deeply held tensions.

 

To gain further insight into my thoughts around these practices read on. If you’d like to jump straight in and practice, head to the videos below. Each practice is around 30 minutes and is designed take you on an experiential journey exploring postures, creativity, focus and rest.

 

Practice 1: Yoga for neck and shoulder care; A 30 minute mindful practice

 

It is realistic to assume that general movement patterns and daily stress accumulates over years and amongst other areas in the body, can affect the neck and shoulders very specifically.

 

Common movement patterns include lifting or hunching the shoulders towards the ears and below are a few examples of day to day activities which can exacerbate and build tension in this area:

 

  • carrying shopping bags, rucksacks or children
  • chopping and preparing food
  • using a phone or tablet
  • using a laptop or computer
  • holding camera equipment
  • deadlines
  • stress
  • falls
  • sleeping awkwardly

 

It comes as no surprise then that the neck and shoulders are calling “Excuse me can you give me a break??” But it’s not always so obvious is it? Sometimes we don’t know we’re holding onto tension until we experience pain and at that point we take pain-killers or seek out a health professional or physical therapist to try and help us feel better.

 

“Neck muscles react strongly to stress and this tendency can be further aggravated by driving or by sitting at a desk all day. Many of us have the habit of guarding ourselves in stressful situations by tightening the muscles in our neck and shoulders in an unconscious attempt to brace against trauma, real or imagined.” Lillias Folan Yoga Therapist

 

Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Care was designed more specifically for photographers who are putting lots of strain and stress on the neck and shoulders, but I feel it will be useful for anyone wanting to experience greater space and ease around the neck and shoulders whilst integrating whole body movement and breath work. Experience which movements or positions serve you well with regards to finding greater overall stability and mobility around your neck and shoulders, and notice also if you experience discomfort or potential agitation, what are the triggers for this? This information is helpful when it comes to providing yourself with a clearer understanding of your own movement patterns and responses, so that you can begin to support your own self-care needs. You have the option to practice using a chair for additional support.

Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Care

 

Practice 2: Move and Breathe; Be Kind to Yourself – 20 minutes

 

I recognise that as creative practitioners we need time for ourselves to explore our innate sense of curiosity and playfulness. This may arrive as a personal photographic project which perhaps enables space to explore new ideas, collaborations or connections. Sometimes though, we may decide to try something else to help evoke the same levels of curiosity and playfulness. For me this comes through my yoga practice and an opportunity to move and breathe in an integrated way that helps boost mood, energy and often confidence so that I have the headspace to delve further into projects and ideas which are yet to be realised. It is useful in that I often feel clearer about what is important to me, and let go of what is not. Sometimes this may also lead to a journaling session.

 

The breath as a bridge

 

One way we can explore this through yoga is within the breath-body connection. It can be a very creative way to practice. Think as the breath as a bridge between the body and the mind.

 

The bridge enables:

  • passage
  • connection
  • crossing boundaries and potential obstacles
  • focus and direction for our route ahead
  • and potentially the most direct, and easeful way for us to get to our chosen goal.

 

In this practice I offer the breath as a bridge towards exploring our capacity for focus and creativity. The focus arises through the experience of breathing and moving together. To inspire, is to inhale, to exhale is to release the breath. Take this into a more creative exploration and we can begin to look at ways in which the inhalations enable openings, length and expansion, while the exhalations can encourage a sense letting go and a deeper feeling of calm within.

 

Throughout the practice I provide you with a further experiential layer by saying “Imagine your hands are an extension of your heart. As you move from this place, do so with a sense of self-compassion, one that is gentle and kind, warm and light. Offer this out into your practice space, even to your friends, or to the way you may handle your food. It is an act of care. When you bring the hands back, welcome them with the same level of compassion.”*

 

This way of practicing is creative and subtle. It draws upon the powerful tool of imagination and visualisation towards cultivating a certain feeling or quality within ourselves. It can help us to learn that there is more to our movement and thoughts than just aimlessly moving our arms away from the body. Combine this with the bridge of directional breathing and we step into a very transformative practice. Here you are invited to move from a place of kindness with the inspiration of the breath, expanding and rising in the body, and to come back to that place with the same level of kindness, gentleness and self-compassion.

 

*This creative practice idea was offered to me as part of my person practice with Yoga therapist Zoe Martin. Zoe is a very creative practitioner and has introduced me to the subtle ways of practising over the years. 

 

Move and Breathe: Be kind to yourself

Practice 3: Nourish and restore – A guided relaxation

 

“Deep relaxation practices help us to relax systematically and to bring awareness to all the parts of ourselves that require loving attention.” Tracee Stanley, Radiant Rest

 

In this final practice I turned my attention towards relaxation. This is an area that is becoming more and more interesting and appealing to me. I’ve come to the realisation that now more than ever we need to learn the tools of relaxation to help empower and awaken ourselves to our own potential of living and being in the world.

 

During the last 2 years of living in a global pandemic I’ve felt anxious, sometimes exhausted, often overwhelmed and confused. It has felt difficult to know where I stand and in which direction to go. Yoga has in many ways offered me a place to become grounded and to feel clearer for myself, but I’ve had to maintain discipline around my practice in order for me to navigate towards clearer paths or bridges in my life.

 

I’ve found great comfort in resting and following guided relaxations or meditations and then integrating them into my own silence and ability to find stillness. There has been so much movement on an emotional level that being able to experience stillness and quietness has been an extremely powerful healing tool. As humans we are not used to this silence anymore, it feels overwhelming to be in our own silence and, can be very uncomfortable too.

 

Relaxation is transformative

 

It is not easy learning how to release tension and constriction in the body and mind when it has potentially been building and residing there for many years. Often we don’t know how tense we are until we stop, pause and rest. But I’d like to suggest that it is in this pause where the magic happens! The beauty of rest can bring about a great quality of energy and clarity, it can be transformative in terms of how we feel and think about ourselves and our actions. It is like taking a giant hug which helps to reassure ourselves of our place in the world. 


Nourish and Restore offers you an opportunity be guided into a relaxation through some movements designed to help release agitation or restlessness. I then bring you to the ground and you have the choice, to lie down, sit up, or rest onto a sofa.
You choose which will be the most comfortable position for you to be able to rest into for some time. Once you find this place of comfort, ensure you have blankets, cushions or any other props to enable greater warmth. Notice how the body settles, the sensations of energy that you are presented with. Then, I invite you to contract and relax throughout the body, making sure that you stay tuned inwardly to the experiences within you of tensing and softening. From here I invite you to find the breath and offer you breath awareness within the body to help maintain more subtle levels of awareness whilst you begin to experience the further sensations of relaxing more deeply towards the ground. 

 

To be guided is to be held in some way, to be directed inwardly. Once you feel comfortable practising this with me for a few more goes I’d recommend exploring the same practice yourself without the sound of my voice, and see how your inner voice and experience enables you to explore your innate ability to relax in the comfort of deep stillness. You may wish to make some notes after this practice to help further reflect upon your experience.

Nurture and restore: A 20 minute guided relaxation

 

I hope you are able to explore these practices, and if you do, honour yourself and the way the body, breath and mind respond. Remember they are practices offered for you to help with your self-care and as you explore them have some discernment around what feels supportive, more easeful, and what doesn’t. There are options within all of the practices to explore the postures from standing or seated positions depending on what feels best for you in each moment. They are designed to be gentle and accessible because I hope you all will be able to participate regardless of ability or experience.

 

Please also note these yoga sessions are not prescriptive practices and I advise that you seek professional advice should you be experiencing any ongoing or new chronic pain before participating in these classes. It is important to have an understanding of your personal conditions in order to establish which mode of therapeutic inquiry will serve you best.

 

Finally congratulate yourself, if you managed to practice all three sessions you have carved over an hour of space and time in across your week to learn something new for yourselves around personal self-care and wellbeing.

 

Thanks to @f22aop team for allowing me to share what I do away from my photographic practice, it was a privilege and unique experience for me to have had this opportunity. I love working with creatives and enabling space for us all explore new ideas.

 

Practice yoga with me in person and online

 

Join me on YouTube anytime! There you’ll find practices including 5 minute breath awareness through to longer holistic practices which I hope will inspire you to practice. What I offer is continually evolving as I enjoy discovering useful ways to support and direct ourselves through the practice of yoga.

 

Along with my YouTube channel you can connect with me on instagram by signing up to my mailing list, where I will keep you up to date with my ongoing class schedule as well as linking out to my blog, so you can be the first to read any new article or practice that I have launched.

 

I teach weekly online classes via Zoom along with small, group classes from my home town of Marple, Manchester. You are welcome to join me at any stage, whether you have experience of yoga or not, practices are designed to be inclusive and accessible.

 

Keep in touch and I look forward to reconnecting with you soon.

 

Helen x