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By West Norwood Therapies Team, Mar 19 2019 09:44AM

Yoga teacher Emma Klein shares the importance of Savasana in yoga - often a love/hate part of a class - ahead of her restorative yoga workshop on Sunday 24th March.

Savasana the Corpse Pose

One of the hardest but the most important postures out of all of the yoga postures. It is a fully conscious, completely still meditation.

People who come to classes, generally fall into two categories

• Those who love savasana and wish half the class was a meditation; and

• Those who don't see the point and often leave before the end to avoid savasana

For both groups, it's important to understand why we do savasana.

For those of you who view yoga as purely a gym or aerobics class, having 5 minutes of lying on the mat doing nothing often seems like a waste of time and it can feel that in our crazy busy lives this time could be better spent. Maybe by getting to the showers faster so that you can get to work or home sooner.

Realistically, 5 minutes in the grand scheme of our lives is a very small investment into something that is the most important part of an entire yoga practice - Savasana.

Why is Savasana so hard?

A lot of people really struggle with lying still and allowing the mind to switch off. Either twitching and wriggling with the mind running wild and their thoughts going all over the place or in some cases falling asleep.

During an Asana class, if the mind has been concentrating hard on maintaining the breath, how the body feels in each posture and being fully aware of oneself, and the body has worked hard throughout then by the end both the body and mind should be tired. This helps to keep the mind clear of thoughts and the body still.

The mind can often still get in the way however, with thoughts still running rampant. Such as

• How much longer will this last?

• Am I breathing correctly?

• Did someone just snore?

• I really need to sneeze/cough/scratch an itch

• I'm hungry

• What am I going to make for dinner?

• What am I really doing with my life?

• Should I quit my job?

Having thoughts is not the issue, allowing those thoughts to expand and flow into a full conversation in your head that is where we fall off track. Being able to bring your thoughts back to your breath and stillness every time they wander is the hard part.

The Art of Savasana

In an ideal world, it would be easy to allow the body to rest and to calm the mind to have no thoughts for 5-10 minutes. However, this takes time and practice but is extremely rewarding once mastered.

A successful savasana takes practice, but here are some steps to help you find that calm space

• Find a comfortable position. Wriggle, stretch and move until you are comfortable, in a position you can maintain with stillness for 5 – 10 minutes. Traditionally, flat on the back with the feet flopping out and the palms facing up. Keeping the chin slightly in to help release your neck. The more comfortable you are the easier it will be to relax. The more relaxed you are the more benefits you will receive. If finding that comfortable space means putting on a jumper or covering your eyes, then do it. It is important to find what works for you. And if you need to roll onto your side or even sit-up then do it.

• Take a few deep cleansing breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth to release any tension. Sighing out loud if this works for you. This signals to the parasympathetic nervous system that is OK to relax.

• Slowly bring your focus onto your breath. Feeling the rise and fall of the chest and stomach as the whole body breathes. Observing as you breathe in and out any areas of remaining tension and consciously allow that tension to flow out of your body.

• When your mind wanders, because it will, bring it back to your breath. Allow yourself to observe without becoming attached to any one thought. Some days this will be easier than others, but that is part of the practice. Over time the moments of stillness and quiet will become longer. Don’t judge yourself when this happens, it is normal and takes time and practice.

There are lots of benefits to taking the time to practice savasana.

Stress Relief - Savasana calms the brain and helps to relieve stress and mild depression, reduces headaches, fatigue and insomnia as well as lowering blood pressure. The body holds mental, emotional and physical stress in the form of muscle contraction or tension. Stress is linked to many health problems and learning to release this tension is extremely beneficial to both short- and long-term health.

Healing - Giving the body time to rest, as well as relieving muscle stress allows the body time to heal. Draining any toxins that have been released during the practice and reoxygenating the body.

Self-Acceptance - During class we focus on our bodies and what they can do; today, in this class. In savasana we do not have the distraction of doing to keep us from being self-conscious. By allowing yourself to just be and surrendering to the moment takes practice. It is difficult to accept yourself just as you are in this moment.

Peace - Finding that moment of stillness, connecting with your breath, finding acceptance. Our lives are so busy that often the only peace we find is during sleep. Being able to find and appreciate peace during a conscious waking moment is extremely fulfilling.

Accepting Death - It is extremely common for people to fear death. To fear the unknown, pain and loss. Death however is universal and natural. Savasana is called the corpse pose as it is a living death. The peace we find while in savasana feels good. It is unintimidating. Savasana helps us to acknowledge and accept our own mortality.

When coming out of savasana, we often feel rejuvenated, energised and refreshed. It is so crucial to remember that all the postures we do have a purpose and that savasana is just as important if not more so than the rest of our practice.

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Sep 6 2018 10:17AM

Massage therapist and yoga teacher Erika Zettervall considers the meaning of home and how we can find this within ourselves.

Home and away - went home for summer and then came back home.

The downside with self-employment is you don’t have holiday, but the upside is you have the freedom to take time off. For the last couple of years I taken a longer summer break and gone on a road trip “back home” to Sweden. It is a long drive and it feels far, but I love it, the journey gives you time to reflect and adjust. The transition from here to there is a gradual whilst traveling through different landscapes, crossing over bridges, going down through long tunnels and sometimes adding surprise diversions, both literally and metaphorically. The shifts and changes in the environment passing whilst meditating on where you are, where you going and where you’ve been. It takes effort and focus just like a meditation.

Many Londoners are like me, born in one place and moved from different counties or countries, stayed on and made a life here. Visiting your old home can throw you off kilter and bring up memories and questions. We might experience nostalgia and longing, or become reminded of why we left in the first place. The sense of being a different person or version of me in the different places, a bit confusing, conflicting or even frustrating. In my case there is a recurring questioning and pondering whether or not I want to or should return to live over there. At times an outsider everywhere and at times home is anywhere. These two polarities have become easier to encompass over the years thanks to my practice of yoga.

The word yoga has many definitions but ‘to yoke’ is universally used and can be take meaning to balance and that is a form of bridging. ‘Skill in action’ is another definition. Lately meditation has been the focus in my practice taking a seat every morning. This has built a greater confidence in belonging /feeling at home, bridging life here and life in Sweden. Meditation cultivates contentment and inner peace, but also builds resilience for opposing feelings and creates a capacity for space and inclusion.

The question of belonging is very current with the intense focus on identity. It is all prevailing in politics, media and popular culture. Earlier this year I heard and interview with Brene Brown talking about belonging and quoting Maya Angelou:

“You are only free when you realise you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great,”

She then explains:

“We confuse belonging with fitting in, but the truth is that belonging is just in our heart, and when we belong to ourselves and believe in ourselves above all else, we belong everywhere and nowhere.”

It may sound corny but home is where the heart is, when you are content you are at home. With inner peace we are at home wherever we are and with whomever we are. Instead of either or, us and them, this or that, there can be bridges, balance and acceptance. So when I long for home it might be the seat I am looking for.

It great to be home.

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Dec 7 2016 09:00AM

Our sports massage expert and neuroscience phd student, Jenny Greig, looks at the physical effect of anxiety and the research into the effect of massage in counteracting these symptoms

Anxiety and stress seem to be fairly common symptoms of the hectic lives that we lead as we try to cope with the demands of our jobs, family and friends, and financial pressures. Sometimes these feelings can be unpleasant but manageable, but severe or long-term stress and anxiety can have serious consequences for our health and well-being.

We have our ancestors to thanks for the feelings of anxiety – we have evolved to respond to danger with the ‘fight-or-flight’ response in order to protect ourselves from attack by wild animals. Physiologically, the hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released, and the heart rate and blood pressure increase. Blood sugar is also increased to prepare the body for action and the immune system is suppressed. In the modern world, this stress response can be detrimental as mostly the things that worry us cannot be solved by running away or fighting, and it is important to find ways of counteracting this so that we don’t end up with long term consequences to our health. Stress and anxiety can also result in a loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, headaches, back and shoulder pain, loss of appetite and difficulty in concentrating.

Stress and anxiety can clearly have consequences for our health and sense of well-being. So what can be done about it and can massage help?

There are of course many ways to deal with anxiety, such as having a good support network, which could be as simple as having a chat with a loved one about how you feel, or reconnecting with an old friend. Support can also be found outside of your usual social network, for example from a counsellor. Taking care of yourself is very important, such as eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep. Exercise can be a very good way of taking your mind off your worries for a while, increasing your appetite and helping you to get a good night’s sleep.

Massage has also been shown to help counteracting the negative physical symptoms as well as the subjective experience of anxiety. For example, one study investigated the effects of aromatherapy massage (and inhalation aromatherapy) on patients who had suffered burns, and were therefore both anxious and suffering pain. The study found that both aromatherapy massage and traditional aromatherapy reduced both the feelings of anxiety and the amount of pain the patients experienced.

Another study used Swedish massage to treat anxiety in women, and measured the physical symptoms of anxiety so they could see how massage might have an impact. They found that an improvement in blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate, although they did not see a difference in anxiety scores, suggesting that massage can help with the physical symptoms of anxiety, but in this case not the feeling of anxiety itself. On the other hand, a study of Swedish massage therapy for patients suffering from General Anxiety Disorder did find a significant improvement in the reported anxiety levels after receiving a course of massage.

The type of massage that has been studied is quite varied. A study of foot massage given to women who had recently had a caesarean section showed a reduction in heart rate variability, as well as reduced pain and anxiety. The foot massage given was 20 minutes long, and the effects were measured an hour after the massage treatment.

Overall, different types of massage have shown to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety that were measured, and some studies have also shown that the anxiety itself can be reduced. The evidence suggests that massage can be a useful tool in feeling better when suffering from anxiety, physically and sometimes emotionally too. The studies show that massage can have a role in particular in painful or anxiety-inducing situations such as following an operation or medical treatment.

Of course there are many ways of reducing stress and dealing with anxiety, but massage can contribute to your wellbeing in these areas - it doesn’t always have to be focused on knotted muscles!

If you are suffering from stress and anxiety, do make sure you see your GP for medical advice.


Jenny is at West Norwood Therapies on Thursday evenings

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Jul 14 2015 08:00AM

Our amazing aromatherapist Veronica brings you this informative article about aromatherapy and stress, covering:

- What is aromatherapy?

- What is stress?

- How can aromatherapy help with stress?

- Suggested essential oils for nervous tension and agitation

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is an ancient healthcare practice based on the traditional and scientific use of distilled aromatic herbs: essential oils. These highly concentrated aromatic oils are extracted from a huge variety of flowers, plants and trees. They have the ability to support your bodily systems, immune system and emotional/mental state. They support our natural healing energy and are of particular benefit to many chronic ailments, stress-related conditions & emotional difficulties.

They have been recognised since antiquity to possess biological activities, including antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antioxidants, antiparasitic and insecticidal properties and a large numbers of essential oils and their constituents have been investigated for their therapeutic/medicinal properties.

Aromatic oils can be applied through different mediums. Massage enhances the therapeutic benefits of essential oils and is a great way to destress, relax & restore your energy & wellbeing.

Aromatherapy blends and preparations are even more powerful when tailored for specific individual needs. When we are in a state of balance and serenity within us, when our emotions are in a harmonious correspondence with our body and our life is in an harmonious correspondence with our desire then we are mostly likely to be and maintain a good balanced health. Aromatherapy focuses on finding and understanding the causes of dis-harmony, looking at the person holistically.

Stress, what is it?

Stress seems to be the dis-ease of the 20th century, 70% of all illness is now attributed to stress. In our modern society we live under constant pressure and the possibility of becoming harmfully stressed is ever present.

The dictionary defines stress as ‘a constraining or impelling force, effort or demand upon physical or mental energy’. A ‘stressor’ is a person or situation that makes you become stressed.

The important points are: How do we cope with stress and do we allow a person and a situation to cause us stress and why?

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