Legs Up the Wall – The Daily Yoga Pose for Instant Calm

Legs up the wall may seem like an odd phrase, but for me these words conjure up a feeling of calmness. Legs up the wall is one of the handful of yoga poses that I actually felt comfortable attempting when my LONG journey into this age old activity began several years ago.

Although the popularity of yoga continues to grow worldwide,  many people perceive that yoga is something potentially difficult and boring and would rather get stuck into a boxing session or other high cardio activity. Once upon a time this was me (although I do still love running, walking and stair climbing) but after finding my groove with yoga, I now understand that it is one of the best workouts available to us all.

I won’t lie and say that it has been all unicorns and rainbows.  It hasn’t and yoga and I have had a long history of shared emotions running both hot and cold. For many years I loved the idea of yoga but the actual reality of being able to do it, did not align with my physical (in)capability.  The turning point for me came with the right teacher, which then led to calm and acceptance of what my body could do, not what it couldn’t and the balance of these two is ever-changing believe me!).

In fact, I could never have imagined that today I would be running Yoga and Wellness Retreats in Italy!

We will get to legs up the wall in just a moment but there are three things I have learn’t through my yoga adventures, applicable to anybody trying to change any aspect of health and life that might just be handy to you right now:

What we want or need is not always available to us

I will never forget a yoga class that I attended some time ago when the teacher asked us to align ourselves into a position that looked even trickier than usual to me.

While we were all silently attempting the impossible (to me), the teacher announced that this particular pose was ‘not available to him today.’ I had to smother hysterical laughter at this point because for me, it was never going to be available, that day or any other. But you know what? We all have days when a particular behaviour, skill or practise is simply not available to us and sometimes we just need to accept it.  This doesn’t mean you have failed, it just means that investing your energy in something else that IS available to you and achievable today is a wiser choice. Plus, what is not available to you today might just be there for you tomorrow.

There is always turbulence in our lives

A howling easterly wind roaring around outside scattering dust and leaves every which way is one kind of turbulence but there are many ways disruption and distraction turn up in our lives.

The turbulence that we experience in our day-to-day lives can obviously be a lot more serious than a strong wind. It could be problems with your family, friends, health issues, financial concerns, job insecurity, moving house, relationship breakdowns or any one of life’s stressful events. All of these and more, represent turbulence. Quite often, turbulence or a shake-up in our lives is just what we need to take the first step toward real change for our physical and mental well-being. It is possible and often vital to acknowledge the turbulence and do it anyway.

Use your edge

A few years ago I was standing in line waiting to order in a cafe and noticed an interesting quote scribbled along the front of the coffee machine.  The author was anonymous but it simply stated,

“If you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room.”

To me, living on the edge has a negative connotation.   However, renowned Yoga Master and author Erich Schiffman, talks about ‘the edge’ in another way in relation to stretching in yoga. Schiffman explains that, “If you don’t go far enough, there is no challenge to the muscles, no intensity, no stretch, and little possibility for opening. Going too far, however, is an obvious violation of the body, increasing the possibility of both physical pain and injury. Somewhere between these two points is a degree of stretch that is in balance: intensity without pain, use without abuse, strenuousness without strain. You can experience this balance in every posture you do. This place in the stretch is called your edge.”

But what about applying that edge to other aspects of our daily life, where we tend to remain within a familiar but limited comfort zone by staying away from both our physical and mental edges? Schiffman suggests that staying within that zone would be fine, “Except that as aging occurs these limits close in considerably. Our bodies tighten, our range of movement decreases, and our strength and stamina diminish. By consciously bringing the body and mind to its various limits or edges and holding it there, gently nudging it toward more openness with awareness, the long, slow process of closing in begins to reverse itself. The range expands as the edges change.”

Legs Up the Wall

What is this legs up the wall you say?  

This yoga pose would have to be one of the most accessible to us all and can be achieved anywhere and anytime as long as there is a wall.

I could explain to you in writing how to do legs up the wall but it would much easier and less confusing for you all if you watch Adriene in action here as she demonstrates this pose perfectly.

Legs up the wall is an excellent restorative pose that improves circulation and is instantly restful for your legs, feet and lower back.  It is also such a wonderful pose to do just before you go to bed for a restful sleep or even during the night if you wake up and can’t back to sleep.

It is also perfect during the day if you are at work and need to take a breather – close the door and take just 10 minutes to regroup and reset before tackling the next part of your day.

Resting in this position will greatly improve the flexibility in your hamstrings and is a stealthy way of getting some meditation in your day too – you can’t go anywhere else at the same time and it puts you in the perfect mindset to do so.

What about you – are you willing to try or are you already a master of the legs up the wall?

 

 

Get me some yen

julie overlooking 5 terre

It’s time to come clean.  I have long been dedicated to eating well and exercising but for many years I have been  downright incompetent at balancing my life to enable adequate recovery and renewal, to my own detriment. A sea change has been required for some time and having just returned from a three month adventure in Italy , it really could not have been a better place to recover and work on changing unhealthy working habits.  I know that so many of you will relate to this and there is no doubt that our daily performance is greatly affected by how we design our work and daily routine. I know mine has been.

The past three months have enabled me to reflect on how I conduct my combined professional and personal life at a speed that is simply unsustainable.  For this to occur I needed distance and quiet time to do this but reflection comes in many forms.  Meditation and yoga are two very popular forms of reflection and stilling the mind and I have tried a handful of times over the past 20 years to embark upon both of these. I have tried introduction courses several times and each time finished the course feeling no more competent than before. So far, the well- known benefits of this age-old practice have well and truly eluded me. Mostly, because I didn’t allow myself the time and space to do so.

It is obvious to me now that one does not tackle meditation like an exercise program and that it is a ritual or routine that requires time and practice. Considering that people have been meditating for thousands of years, perhaps it’s not surprising that I haven’t been able to master it in a couple of decades.

The definition of meditation depends on the form you are practising, however, many forms involve training your mind to focus and achieving a state of being and awareness. The Australian Teachers of Meditation Association says, “In its broadest and most universal definition, meditation is a discipline that involves turning the mind and attention inward and focusing on a single thought, image or feeling.”

It is well documented that many successful people (including Ros Worthington and many others in this book) make meditation part of their day and find it essential to their health and for developing their ability to focus on the truly important things in their personal and professional lives. Meditation helps develop skills in:

  •   Knowing what your mind is paying attention to
  •   Working out where your mind’s attention needs to be focused
  •   Maintaining attention on what you want your mind to be focusing on

The difficulty with developing focus is not just the external distractions in our lives but also the internal chatter in our minds. It is very difficult to sit and keep your mind focused on a single thing when automatically your attention is often drawn to replaying the past, worrying about the future and other negative thoughts. Feeling relaxed and focused is an immediate positive side effect of meditation but it can also help develop mental strength, resilience and performance. Experts in this centuries old practice have various methods of meditation including focusing on the breath, counting and mindfulness. Although many people may associate meditation with spiritual practice, in a practical sense it is attentional practice.

If, like me, you have found meditation to be challenging, there is good news. In my research and practice over the past three months I have discovered that meditation doesn’t need to be lengthy. Sitting quietly admiring a view can do the trick nicely. Many have suggested that simply focusing intensely in a concentrated way for 30-60 seconds is better than trying to maintain focus over a long period of time, while your mind wanders here, there and everywhere.

Interest in maximising performance has been gaining momentum for a while but there is no doubt that times are changing. Amidst the incessant demands that we are subject to each day, people are more interested in things that bring balance, focus and harmony. Meditation (and reflection) is one of those things.