Oil Pulling – a cleansing practice for spring

I have been speaking to some of my students about cleansing practices that I’ve been doing now that spring is (almost) here. Something new to me, which I’m loving doing, is an Ayurvedic cleansing practice of coconut oil ‘pulling’. It’s a bit out there but I’m loving the results! The first thing you do when you get up is to place a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and ‘pull’ it around your teeth and tongue for 10-15 minutes before spitting it out and brushing your teeth. Apparently we have a huge amount of bacteria and toxins in the mouth which keeps our immune system busy. When these are pulled out through the oil our immune system is freed up, and can concentrate on other areas. Those who use Ayurvedic medicine claim it gives us whiter teeth, healthier gums, decreases allergy symptoms, clearer skin and can even regulate menstrual cycles.

If you have any cleansing practices that work for you, please share!


One simple breathing technique to deal with stress – Extended Exhale Breathing

Breathing techniqueAfter about a year of trying to get pregnant I decided to focus less on my corporate career and more on my yoga.  As many of you know, the pregnancy journey is a hard road to travel with huge highs and lows. I felt as though I was constantly short of breath.  I remember sitting down to read a book, thinking that I was relaxing, and I could feel my heart banging away underneath my chest.  So I started looking into yogic breathing techniques that would calm my nervous system and help me breathe easily again. If that sounds like something you can relate to, try this simple extended exhale breathing practice. It certainly helped me.

First find a comfortable seated position.  You could sit on a chair with your feet on the floor and your spine straight, or on the floor leaning against the wall.  Close your eyes and focus on your breath.  Notice how your breath is moving.  Is it fast or slow?  Is it easier to breathe in or out? There is no judgement. Just notice.  In yoga we breathe in and out through the nose. See if you can make the outside of the nostrils really sensitive so that you can feel cool air coming in through the nose and warmer air leaving.  Place your hands on your belly and as you inhale feel your belly rise, as you exhale feel it gently fall back to the spine.  Try and keep the chest still as you breathe from the belly.

Now start to count your breath. Breathe in for one count and breathe out for two counts, through the nose.  Do this 10 times.  Then if you feel able, start to increase this breath ratio.  Breathe in for two counts and out for four counts. Again do this 10 times.  Don’t rush.  We spend our lives rushing from one thing to the next, take your time. Luxuriate in each breath. Remember, the breath should always be easy and smooth.  If it becomes tight pull back a count or come back to your normal breath.

Extended exhale breathing is like the ultimate self help tool for calming frayed nerves, like when you are waiting for test results or travelling in a taxi on the way to appointments.  I found it powerful and easy to do – and best of all it really works.



Savasana – the save button of yoga

Last week a new student of mine told me that they were going to leave the class five minutes early as they had an important meeting to get to and ‘they weren’t really into Savasana’.  I asked them why this was and they said they didn’t really see the point of lying down after their practice, they found it boring.

To me Savasana is juice of the practice, it’s where the “sweetness” comes from.  It allows the body to integrate all the good work it has already done.  A more modern analogy might be that it’s a bit like pressing the save button on a computer.  For me Savasana is a bit like a barometer of the practice that I’ve just completed. If I’ve pushed myself too hard, and have gone beyond my limit I feel tired and my mind is still active. The stories or thoughts that I’ve been telling myself throughout the practice are still with me.  If I’ve stayed with my breath and practiced within my limits then I get this wonderful floating feeling, my breath is easy, my mind is noticeably quiet.  My stories and thoughts tend to be less pronounced or even disappear entirely.

Savasana in sanskrit means ‘corpse’ pose.  One way of looking at it is that each time we get to the end of our practice it gives us the opportunity to shed dead thoughts or emotions or stories that do not serve us.  We breathe them out and let them go into the mat and earth that supports us.  From this place we are able to bring in what we need, emotions and feelings that sustain us.  It could be as simple as ‘I breathe in peace, I breathe out stress’.

It’s important not to move quickly once Savasana is over, hug your knees into you chest and roll to one side.  Take a few more breaths and then slowly peel yourself off the floor into a seated position.  Give yourself the opportunity to be still.  Notice how you feel.  You might find that you are more grounded, more settled – maybe not?  There is no judgement.  But if the thoughts are less scattered, and you feel calmer, remember – this is you. Without all the clutter and chaos that surrounds you.  This is you. Inside all of us, is this still, calm center, which you can access at any time.  Don’t forget it’s there – tune into it each time you finish your practice and see if you can take it away and share it with whoever you meet.  So if you feel like leaving your next yoga class early, please don’t.  Stay and share the benefits of your practice, not only with yourself, but with everyone else too.

Be kind to yourself and hit the save button.



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