Willy the cat

I was in my final year of junior school, so about 11, when we were asked to write our own autobiography. Ridiculous at such an age, however looking back, it was more a case of “tell us about your family and hobbies so we can mark just how bad your spelling is”. I remember so vividly the final part was to write about where you would like to go in the future. Without hesitation I drew a picture of the beach, with me chilling in a bikini, titled “Bali”. Looking back I don’t even remember how I’d come to know about the island. My parent’s had never been or really talked about it and neither had my brothers. Nevertheless here I am sat on the beach of my final page in my autobiography, 16 years ago! Which in a way I never thought would happen. So I guess what I’m saying is dream big, dream outrageous, dream the dreams that when you tell people, they give you that “they’re mental” look, because even though Bali is an island so easily accessible now, for me 16 years ago it was just a really big dream.

Sometimes though, when dreams become unmanageable such as “saving the world”, we can become deterred, even depressed. For example when you’ve spent your entire life recycling, then watch someone put their milk carton in the normal bin, or people just generally littering. Cycling and sweating before your yoga class, to arrive and see a car with its engine on, and no one inside! Sound familiar? Yoga is excellent to help get your dreams back on track.

Upward facing dog  (Urdhvamukhasvanasana) or a similar variation are always included in a sun salutation which takes part in most yoga classes – for good reason. The benefits of this asana are endless, here’s just a handful:

Stretches out the stomach, shoulders, chest and arms.

Helps to improve lower back pain.

Lifts the heart, therefore lifting your mood.

Opens the chest, so helps clear the respiratory system, and can even help asthma sufferers.

Firms lower half of the body.

Soothes sciatica.

I could go on, but I won’t.

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Upward facing dog is so great to flow into, however if you’re looking at deepening your practice, you can use it as a seperate pose and take more time in it. Starting on your belly, palms underneath your shoulders with the fingers spread wide. As you inhale push the floor away from you and press the tops of your feet into the floor, lifting your legs and hips. Open your chest, sink your hips low without touching the ground. Peel your earlobes away from your shoulders, then try to take the gaze behind you.

A slightly less intense variation, which also works great when flowing through postures, is cobra pose or  Bhujangasana. Very similar to upward facing dog, however for this pose, keep your legs on the ground. The hips can sink all the way down to your mat and have your gaze above you instead of behind. Also, don’t worry if your arms aren’t completely straight, this will come over time.

If you’re new to yoga, a great way to work towards these postures is sphinx pose or Salamba Bhujangasana. Laying on your tummy take an inhale and come up onto your forearms. Spread the fingers wide, keeping your gaze between them. Legs together with the tops of the feet on the ground, start to open your chest and shoulders by pulling the shoulder blades together. Sink the hips and the belly down. Start to feel your lower back open. Rest and repeat as you please.

I named the cat in the picture Willy. He only had one eye. I don’t know how it happened nor do I want to. He was awesome at yoga and super friendly. I hope his dreams come true too.

Grace xxx

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