Climbing fishes

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We’re in Thailand and its incredible, obviously. We walked straight across the bridge from Burma to the bright lights, fresh tasting food, even hotter weather and the (forever attempting to learn) tuneful Thai language. This is all very very good for the body and mind, things feel that little easier here. More westerners of course, but there’s a reason why we are all here, it’s incredible!

After a long motorbike ride through Chiang Mai in the heat, we found an incredibly refreshing, and much needed waterfall. The rock was so grippy we actually climbed up it! Before that though, I decided fish pose or matsyasana was an appropriate posture to share with you.

This posture feels so good on the shoulders and back ( enjoy climbers ). Lay down on your back, feet together. Bring both palms underneath your sitting bones, so you’re basically sat on your hands. As you take an inhale, start to role your shoulderblades together, pressing your palms down into the ground. Your chest will begin to rise as well as your lower back losing contact with the floor. Try to keep rolling your shoulderblades together until only your elbows, forearms and palms remain in contact with the ground underneath your body.

Allow your head to drop back, however, and make sure the crown of your head is still in contact with the floor. Matsyasana is not an inversion. Pull your toes back as much as you can, until your heels come up if you like.

Enjoy this pose for as long as you like, come down gently by opening your shoulders back to the floor and releasing your hands. The idea of fish pose is to mimic the image of a fish. Your ribs protruding are the scales of a fish, down to your feet which resemble the tail. Go free fishes.
Gem yoga x

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Spine tingingly beautiful

We are slowly moving towards the border of Thailand, in another superb place called Hpa An. It reminds me very much of a place in India we visited called Hampi. Dazzling green mountains, the custom ear to ear warm smile off the Burmese people, along with jaw dropping caves sheltering you from the 40 degree heat.

Every few days we move, which usually includes a long bus/car journey along with a new place to sleep, which then means another new mattress for our spines to figure out. I obviously studied the spine a lot during my teacher training, but never had something explained so simply to me as by James’s parents. Your mattress is one of the most important things you can own as you spend up to half your life on it, and you should make sure you get the best you can afford. You rely on it both morning and eveing, and when you’re poorly, upset or exhausted. A lot of your life is actually spent on your matress and laid on your spine, so take care of it!

Ustrasana or camel pose a perfect asana to take care of your spine with variations from beginner through to advanced. Start on all fours, palms underneath shoulders, knees underneath hips. Gently bring the body up, while keeping knees, shins and backs of the feet on your mat. Keeping the left palm on the left thigh, inhale the right hand up and exhale it back to rest on the right heel. Bring the left hand up to the sky, keep the gaze straight up the left hand. Try to hold for at least five breaths. When you’re ready to release the pose, push down with the right hand and imagine someone is pulling your left hand forward, squeezing your stomach as you do this, until your body is upright. Rember to repeat on the oppsote side.

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After repeating this on both sides maybe a few times, listen to your body. You can take the pose further by bringing both hands back to your heels. During this asana focus on pushing your hips forward rather than bending your spine. If you’re comfortable, gently lower your head back.

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If you feel ready to try something a little more challenging, Urdhva Dhanurasana or wheel pose is lots of fun to play around with. Make sure you have a nice soft mat underneath you the first time you try. Mentally it made me feel much more secure whilst coming out of it.

Lay on your back bringing the heels as close to the sitting bones as possible. Next, bring your hands back over your head onto the ground, elbows pointing away from your head. As you inhale push both your palms and feet down into the ground. Don’t force your body into anything, it’s fine for your arms to stay bent. Push your chest and hips up and take as many breaths as feels comfortable. Roll your spine gently back to the ground before hugging your knees to your chest and rocking back and forth, and side to side to give your spine a little well deserved massage. Today, I took my wheel pose a little deeper onto my forearms, with an added hamstring stretch.

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Love me x

Loose legs and lavish lakes

GEM Yoga

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So we’re still in Burma, a little further east in Inle Lake to be more precise, one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever seen. Not only does the lake provide homes for thousands of Burmese residents in the form of delicately crafted bamboo huts on stilts, it also supplies the means to grow food on these spectacular things called floating gardens. Then what I found the most fascinating, fishermen who row with their legs! Only found in this region of Inle lake the local fishermen balance on one leg at the edge of their small boats, twisting the oar around the other leg, this way having both hands free to cast out and draw in the nets. Watching the graceful movements, which must require so much strength, balance and flexibility, inspired me that eveing to focus my practice around my legs!

“Splits” or hanumanasana requires a significant amount of…

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Loose legs and lavish lakes

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So we’re still in Burma, a little further east in Inle Lake to be more precise, one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever seen. Not only does the lake provide homes for thousands of Burmese residents in the form of delicately crafted bamboo huts on stilts, it also supplies the means to grow food on these spectacular things called floating gardens. Then what I found the most fascinating, fishermen who row with their legs! Only found in this region of Inle lake the local fishermen balance on one leg at the edge of their small boats, twisting the oar around the other leg, this way having both hands free to cast out and draw in the nets. Watching the graceful movements, which must require so much strength, balance and flexibility, inspired me that eveing to focus my practice around my legs!

“Splits” or hanumanasana requires a significant amount of flexibility from both the hamstrings and the groin. Always make sure you warm your body up before practicing this asana, reputations of sun salutions as well as lizard pose is great for this.

A lot of teachers practise coming into hanumanasana from standing, usually using blocs or something similar to assist you coming closer to the ground. This will work for most of you I’m sure however when I’m working this asana I like to start from sitting. You need to have fairly flexible legs to work this asana, so if you’re unsure, go back to lizard pose.

Start sitting with your legs as open as feels comfortable on your mat or a soft floor, legthen your spine (I like to imagine invisible string pulling me up from the crown of my head). If you’re opening the left leg, turn the body so it’s looking over the left leg. Take the left hand behind your left thigh, pressing down firmly on the floor, until your sitting bones start to come off the ground. With the right hand imagine someone is pulling you over until it reaches the ground infront. You may find that either your legs start to bend, you can’t get up at all, or that you have more flexibility than you think and are comfortable sitting with straight legs. Keep both hands firmly grounded either side of you to offer support. Whichever one of these may apply to you try to hold for at least five breaths. Always repeat on the opposite side, keeping your body nice and balanced.

Once you’re comfortable in this asana you can try raising your hands off the ground. It will make the posture slightly more powerful, but gives you the option of putting some interesting variations to hanumanasana.

It feels a little strange having only practised on my own for a while now – would be great to hear how everyone’s practice is going at home!? Also, are there any postures you’ve seen and are unsure about? Will do my best to offer some guidance, but keep in mind I’m still a student myself! Love gemyoga x

I like lizards

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Sunset at the top of Mandalay Hill in Burma I decided to do some hip opening practice. Personally I don’t think you can beat lizards pose or Utthan Pristhasana. Perfect if your job means sitting or driving a lot, or like me at the moment, travelling on trains, buses and aeroplanes. All of which give you very tight hips, amongst other areas that will need working on, but the hips are a good place to start.

Come onto all fours on your mat, hands underneath shoulders and knees under hips. Bring your left foot to the outside of your left hand and allow the hips to relax, becoming heavy. Depending on how you feel, you can start to bring the left foot further forward, keeping both hands to the right hand side of it. Keep the hips relaxed, sinking down. If the knee on the floor is uncomfortable try a cushion or blanket underneath. If you feel you can take the posture further, change from your palms being on the floor to your forearms. Keep the left knee tucked in tight to the body, gaze looking down avoiding any tension in the neck. Keeping the chest nice and open and the spine lengthened, feel the chest drawing down to the ground rather than your head. Hold for at least five breaths then change legs. It is worth noting that one leg is often tighter than the other. My right leg feels like it’s from a different person sometimes! Hold the leg that feels tighter for a couple more breaths.

Always here for any advice or questions yogis. Grace x

Dancing in Bombay

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Our last stop for India for the moment was Bombay or Mumbai, I found the locals still refer to their home as Bombay. So I chose to dance in Bombay not Mumbai.

We actually spent the majority of the day in one of Bombay’s biggest working slums. Surreal experience feeling yourself getting increasingly upset over the conditions in which these beautiful people are living. Yet at the same time smiling all the way through, because they are. They’re happy with so little and seem so much more fulfilled than westerners do (myself I included). No offence!

Feeling a mixture of emotions we decided to make our way to the highest point in Bombay and do yoga of course. Dancer pose or Natarajasana is a balance posture, try to see it more as a way to balance your mind and body rather than increase flexibility. Don’t concentrate too much on how high your back leg is going, this will come over time.

Stand on one leg at the front of your mat. Take for example your right leg, (allways remember to repeat the opposite side after) with your right hand and pull the heel close to your sitting bones. Try to keep your pelvis tucked under, left hand can come on to your waist. Find a point a meter in front of you to focus on, keeping your breath calm and steady.

To take yourself further in this asana, start to plunge your chest slightly forward, still keeping it nice and open. At the same time push the right foot into the right hand, and pull your foot with your hand. Slowly bringing the right leg higher, the left hand can eventually start to point straight forward, bringing your gaze across this arm. The higher you start to bring the back leg up, try to ensure you keep the chest as open as you can. With the left leg that’s rooted into your mat, keep the knee locked back if it feels comfortable, if not a little bend should do it.  Happy dancing my little yogis. Grace x