Oh yoga, you may be thinking, that’s not for me. All the talk of corpse pose, happy baby and putting legs up the wall is, quite frankly, off putting. Well, you haven’t met yoga teacher Nadia Narain.
We promise that even if you hate the idea of it, you might just love this short series of relaxing poses from Nadia. People who go to her London classes, like her good friend Kate Moss, The Favourite’s Rachel Weisz and artist and filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson, and who buy her DVDs, can’t be wrong. They all appreciate Nadia Narain’s ability to break yoga practice down to simple, effective poses that can change the way you feel and how your body feels, too.
Of course, you may already have found yoga, be a fan, discovered how it makes you more relaxed and makes you feel connected to your body. You know only too well how it can help your nervous system by teaching you how to breathe deeply.
Yoga can also deliver a good night’s sleep – something many midlife women have discovered is missing in action. Yoga poses to help you sleep are a wonderful practice to add to your bedtime routine.
“Yoga is not the only answer during the menopause but it is one of the things that helps,” says Nadia Narain. “After a practice you feel good, and when you feel good you have a different outlook on yourself and on your life.”
That’s really important because this can be such a hard time for women, she adds. “But I prefer to think about this time in the way other cultures do: it’s when you step into your power.”
When you speak to people who do yoga regularly, they often say it has really helped them during transitions in their lives. “Your mind settles, you get away from all the repetitive and negative thought patterns,” says Nadia Narain. “You get out of your head and into your body.” So it’s especially useful if you suffer from anxiety.
“By this point in our lives – our 40s and 50s – we’re usually been hit by quite a lot of shit. Yoga teaches you ways to learn to flow with that, as opposed to resisting it. You can choose to be softer – which doesn’t mean you’re not strong.”
People are put off starting yoga, says Nadia, often because they think they’re not young or flexible enough, or ‘everything hurts’. “But that’s exactly why you want to do yoga! It feels good and it makes you feel good.” You could even say, staying flexible helps you feel younger for longer. “Yoga is supposed to be a practice you continue through your lifetime. Some of the oldest teachers – like Mr Iyengar – continued teaching into their 90s. I want to be like my student who still comes to classes in her 90s.”
Nadia says you’ll find few minutes morning and evening even more beneficial than doing a class a week. Try these four poses. They’re relaxing so you can do them in the morning or evening before bed, in fact any time you want to feel calmer.
Pose 1: Seated lateral stretch
If you’re sitting at a desk or at the computer all day, the sides of your body can become quite stuck. This pose helps get nice deep breaths into the spaces between the rib bones. It will also help to calm the mind. Opening up in the sides will allow your organs – your liver and kidneys – to have more space and so circulation too.
- Sit with your legs crossed. You can sit with a cushion or block under your bottom to help lift the lower back, or with your legs in front of you, if that’s better. You can even do this exercise sitting on a chair, too.
- Stretch your right arm out to the side, palm flat on the ground.
- Stretch your left arm up over your ear. Breathe into the left side of your body.
- Inhale, then come back to centre.
- Exhale, then repeat on the other side. Repeat twice on each side.
- Finish by raising both arms, stretching upwards. Do three times.
Pose 2: Gentle seated twist
This is another great pose after a day spent sitting down. It will get your digestion moving and also help with both lower and upper back pain.
- Sit with your legs crossed (or as before).
- Inhale and extend both arms up and overhead.
- As you exhale, twist to the right. Put your left hand on your right knee and your right hand on the ground behind your back.
- Inhale, as you stretch your arms up.
- Exhale as you twist to the other side.
- Repeat both sides twice more.
Post 3: Flowing bridge
This pose gives you calm energy. It not only creates more length in the body, opening up spaces around your organs, but opens up the armpits. There are a lot of glands in the armpits and breasts that never get any attention!
If you haven’t done it before, try it without the arm movements, until you get the hang of it.
- Lie on your back, knees bent.
- Place your feet flat on the ground as wide as your hips. Your arms should be down by your sides.
- As you breathe in, lift your hips and lift your arms up and over your head behind you, pushing into your seat.
- As you exhale, lower the the hips and the arms down by your sides.
- Keep moving like this with your breath, four to six times.
Pose 4: Supine twist
This is also calming, and good for lower back pain. It’s excellent for digestion, as it moves all your organs. And it’s good for menstrual discomfort too.
- Lie on your back, feet on the floor, your knees bent and together.
- Exhale, then bring your knees into your chest.
- Lower both knees to the right.
- Place your right hand on top of your left knee.
- Extend your left arm out to the side. Look to the left, if this is ok on your neck.
- Take three deep breaths.
- Look back to centre, release your right arm. Inhale then release your knees back to the centre. Do the same on the other side.
- When you come back to the centre, exhale then bring your knees into your chest. Give them a hug, while pressing your lower back down to the ground.
Beginners Meditation & Mindful Stretching with Nadia Narain contains six sessions of meditative yoga, ranging in length from five minutes to 20. £10.99, amazon.co.uk