Hey guys,

So, if you follow my blog you may have read my post a few weeks back about yoga ‘as a non-yogi’ and what you can expect – which is the unexpected! Taking up yoga on a regular basis has challenged me in ways I didn’t expect, both physically and mentally, but I can safely say I am now 100% addicted! I have now progressed to an intermediate class and I love everything that yoga has brought to my life. In this post I’ll take you through some of the ways yoga has changed my life for the better and the benefits of taking it up yourself.

Improved flexibility

This is something that takes a bit of time and won’t come overnight after your first yoga class. However, yoga is an amazing way of stretttttchinf out every muscle and ligament in your entire body! And it feels amazing afterwards! Sometimes I don’t think we realise how our lives and daily stresses and strains can cause our bodies to get all crumpled up and a good stretch can do the world of good.

Increased core strength

Yoga is all about the core and some of the poses literally pummel your abs without you even realising. I’ve definitely noticed that my core strength has improved which has in turn made my balance a lot better. 

Better posture

This is a biggie. Do you ever catch yourself hunched over your computer at work? Same! It’s one of my worst habits. Since I’ve been doing yoga regularly I have noticed I’ve been sitting up straighter and taller as well as standing straighter, without even really noticing or making a conscious effort to alter anything. Yoga works on all the ‘little muscles’ in your back which don’t usually get much attention in the gym, but quite literally hold you up! It’s worked wonders for my hunched shoulders.

Better sleep quality

I have written before about things like getting up earlier and using ASMR and music to help my insomnia but yoga and, specifically, the meditation session at the end of yoga class has had a noticeable impact on my sleep. Not only do I fall asleep quicker but my sleep quality is a lot better, for example I sleep longer and find my sleeps more settled with less waking up in the night.

Calmer mind

My day to day life and job can be pretty stressful at times and sometimes just using some breathing techniques or simple stretching from yoga helps me to clear my  mind and feel calmer almost straight away. Our lives can be stressful and it’s important to take some time out of the day to just breathe. I can go to a yoga class with my head full of the day I’ve had and leave feeling peaceful and like my mind is almost empty; totally clear of whatever has happened. There is literally nothing a yoga class can’t fix!

 

I would seriously recommend practising yoga and meditation to anybody, no matter whether you are a beginner or more experienced, trust me, you’ll see the benefits in no time!

Fancy taking up yoga but not sure if you can fit it in to your busy life? Why not try Desk Yogi? 

Their mission is to help people experience the wellness of yoga and meditation in their workplace, even at their desks! The programme provides wellness plans including 5 minute meditation videos to help you relax and get the benefits of yoga at work. Check out their website for more details about how you can get involved!

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One of my New Years resolutions for 2017 was to ‘get into yoga’ – whatever that means. I’ve been to the odd class before with friends but I’ve never sustained it for long enough to see any improvements or benefits. Lately I’ve been seeing toned women on Instagram doing headstands and various other tricky looking poses and I thought ‘I want me some of that’.

In January Paul and I (yes I dragged my husband along too!) started attending a weekly yoga class at our gym. We were lucky because our local gym has a brilliant yoga teacher who runs a really excellent mixed ability class and she’s fantastic about helping you get the very best out of your practice. As much as I am enjoying it, however, I would say yoga definitely does not come naturally to me! I’m a gym bunny, I love working out and lifting weights and I’m very naughty and very rarely stretch afterwards. Consequently, my flexibility is at around zero and I can’t even touch my toes! Now, a few months in I am loving regular yoga and I am starting to see the benefits, but I thought I would share with you a few things that you might find tricky as a ‘non-yogi’ like me trying to take up this hobby!

First up, let’s get out of the way. Even if you think you are fit, you are not yoga fit.

Before I started yoga classes I considered myself a moderately fit and kind of ‘sporty’ person. I thought I was quite strong, I can run a bit, I generally enjoy exercise so I kind of naively thought I was take to yoga pretty easily. Let me tell you; I may have thought I was strong, but I am NOT yoga strong. A few seconds in some of the poses and I was wobbling all over the place, sweating and breathing heavily whilst the rest of the class look serene. Yoga seems to just use muscles that you never use at any other time when working out. It is an amazing workout because it hits cardio, strength training and core stability all in one session. But, if you are new to it like me, don’t expect to take to it naturally.

Also, it hurts the next day.

The morning after my first yoga class I tried to sit up in bed and my body just wasn’t working. The aching was like nothing I’ve ever experienced! After a good training session it’s normal for the section of the body you have been training to ache but after yoga it was like my entire body was hurting. Good news however, after about 15 weekly classes I can confirm that the morning-after pain never again reaches the heights of the first session. I think it was just my body having a tantrum for putting it through something so unfamiliar and difficult!

They make it look easy.

I have re evaluated my initial goal of nailing the Insta-Yoga-Headstand. I can confirm that 15 weeks in and I am still NO WHERE NEAR a successful headstand! It takes time, really consistent practice and incredible core strength to do most tricky yoga poses. Right now I’m still working on touching my toes. But I am getting closer!

It might involve singing.

Yoga is a spiritual practice at it’s heart. Unbeknown  to me, it is quite usual for a yoga class to all close their eyes and belt out a couple of ‘Ohms’ at the end of a class! I love it, but just to pre warn you as I was slightly bewildered at my first class.

You will probably become addicted.

Despite all of the aches and wobbling – I am now a yoga addict. My Tuesday nights are not complete without an hour spent upside down! Not only have I seen an improvement in my core strength and flexibility, but also I feel like it really reenergises me and helps me feel calm. After a long day at work sometimes I umm and ahh about going, but afterwards I feel like the day’s stresses have melted away! I have even noticed a decrease in tension headaches since I have been going. I am determined to continue practicing yoga and get better, stronger and DO THAT HEADSTAND GODDAMMIT!

Are you a yogi? Or considering taking it up? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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I have suffered from sleep problems on and off throughout my adult life, but the worst episode I had started 3 years ago and went on until last year. It is so debilitating and exhausting when you can’t sleep and trying to explain that weird ‘trapped’ feeling when your staring at the ceiling at 4am waiting for the sun to come up is impossible. 

Personally, I have decided to stay away from medication and try self care remedies.  I have managed to overcome my sleeping issues myself and although I know these steps won’t work for everyone they really helped me and now I can get off to sleep quickly almost every night. Here are a few simple tips and lifestyle changes that I have made which have really worked for me.

Go to bed earlier.

This may sound strange but this is the thing which has helped me the most I think. My acupuncturist told me that at 11pm we (humans) get a burst of energy and endorphins (this is where the phrase ‘burning the midnight oil’ comes from and why many artists and writers insist they do their best work in the middle of the night!).  We can avoid getting this burst if we are already asleep by 11pm! It might sound like the opposite of what you want to do if you have trouble dropping off but simply changing my regular bedtime to 10.30pm has made a really big difference to my routine.

Sorry, no lie ins!

Everyone’s insomnia is different and I know a lot of people can’t sleep in at all, but with me if I had a day off or late shift the next day I would often lie in until 10 or even 11am trying to ‘catch up’ on sleep. By forcing myself to get up at 6am every weekday for a workout and 8am on the weekends I have established a kick ass routine and by the time the evening comes around I’m shattered from getting up so early so fall asleep easier! You know when parents pack their kids’ weekends full of activities to ‘wear them out’ – well it works for us adults too!

A little bit of exercise every day.

I know it’s so easy to say but doing some exercise everyday has helped me to become a fitter, more active person and has definitely improved my sleeping, and my well being in general.

Stop trying too hard.

On the occasions I do go to bed and I can’t drop off I don’t stress about it like I used to. I leave the room (nothing worse than a deep-sleeping partner’s heavy breathing when you can’t drop off!) and usually have a bath or read a book. It doesn’t take long to start getting heavy eyelids.

ASMR.

This is a new one for me, but in someways has made the biggest difference. Sometimes there are some nights when I just can’t shut my brain off and when I close my eyes my head is buzzing with thoughts and stresses. This is when I get out my Ipad (on low brightness), plug in and listen to some ASMR videos on Youtube. I won’t go into too much detail as I’m no expert but ASMR ‘artists’ create videos using special microphones and sounds to create a sense of deep relaxation, and it really works! It’s sooooo relaxing. These videos have really helped me when all else fails and they have me drifting off in no time.

You can read more about ASMR here.

I do understand that these won’t work for everyone but I really hope that this might help someone – because I know how frustrating it can be! In our busy lives sleep is often the first thing to go and more and more doctors and researchers are proving just how important it is to our physical and mental health. If you are really struggling make sure you ease the burden by chatting it through with someone you are close to or your doctor.

Have you guys found any self-help methods for sleeping that really help you?

There is no denying that the staying on top of your health and fitness regime is HARD during the festive season. For one thing, it’s cold and dark and who wants to get their bum down the gym in those kind of conditions. Secondly, the number of parties and social events in most people’s calanders tend to step up a gear at this time of year meaning more food, drink and general merriment. Bah humbug say my abs.

Here are my top tips for getting the balance right and managing health and fitness without losing out on having fun:

💗 Indulge in moderation. If you deprive yourself then you’ll only binge later. Plus, there’s no fun in being the only one at the party who won’t indulge in a treat. If you want something; eat it. Just eat one or two (or a slice – don’t eat one or two Christmas puddings!!) and use your common sense as to when enough is enough.

💗 Work it off. I tend to work with my body on a kind of negotiation basis. ‘If you eat that baked Camembert you have to do 50 burpees in the gym tomorrow’ and so on. And then I make sure I follow through on my promises! Setting these kind of guidelines ensure that you work off any extra calories which might cause weight gain. I also love sweating it out in the gym after I feel like I’ve over-indulged – it helps get my body feeling normal again.

💗 Watch those proseccos. Alchohol – the invisible calories. And my enemy. I’m not saying don’t drink – just remember to take those few bottles glasses into account when you’re doing your negotiations for the gym tomorrow. On that note, you may not exactly feel like the gym tomorrow. Do not give in to the hangover. Get up, get out, work it off, start again!

💗 Don’t stuff yourself silly. There’s nothing worse than, when you’ve enjoyed a delicious Christmas dinner cooked with love and maximum effort, feeling sick as a dog because you wanted just one more pig in a blanket. Eat by all means. But don’t eat until you feel ill. It’s not good for your health or your waistline.

💗 Be chilled. You might get on the scales on 28th December and shudder a bit. Chill out. It’s normal to put on a few Christmas pounds. You’ll just have to hit the gym even harder in January.

Above all, enjoy yourself and have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones. 

Love from,

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I absolutely love ‘what’s in my bag‘ posts. Maybe I’m a bit nosy but I love seeing what others keep in their bags. I’d love to do a ‘what’s in my handbag?’ post, but I’m afraid it’s in no fit state for it’s insides to be seen at the moment! It needs a real clear out and several hundred old receipts and sweet wrappers removed before I can start that one.

However, my gym bag is a lot more organised! Plus, handbags can be a bit samey, but what we keep in our workout kits can vary hugely from person to person. I go to the gym 5 mornings a week so it’s a big part of my life. I also go before work at silly-o-clock in the morning, so it’s important for me to keep what I take streamlined, organised and to make sure I have everything I need. I hope you find this interesting and it might give you an insight into me and my fitness lifestyle.

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Workout Essentials

Gym towel – total essential if you are going to work HARD and get SWEATY!

Nike gym gloves – also really important if you are lifting weights of any size; callouses are not nice.

Phillips Bluetooth headphones – I literally can’t work out without my music blaring in my ears and I can’t be dealing with wires they get in my way. I love that these are white too they look awesome.

USA Pro hair bands – the best hair elastics for workouts; they hold my ponytail for an entire workout without needing fussing or redoing, plus the patterns and colours are so cool.

Digital sports watch – for timing exercises, rest periods or just keeping an eye on the time, having a digital watch is pretty essential for me in the gym.

Beauty Bits

After my workout I usually have a quick shower and shoot off for work, I only carry a few beauty products but they all do their job and are perfect for beauty on-the-go.

Molton Brown mini shower gel – the most compact shower gels I’ve one across, and they smell divine.

Clarins satin smooth body lotion – winter dry skin BE GONE! I use this on my hands too.

Impulse body spray – much lighter and less bulky than a bottle of perfume but still keeps me smelling nice!

Liz Earle instant boost skin tonic spritz – essential for rejuvinating my skin and making me feel awake and ready to take the day!

The Body Shop Seaweed Oil moisturiser – a lightweight cream which works wonders on my skin.

Cotton Wool

Makeup

I hardly wear any makeup to work – I work with kids so it’s not like it would stay perfectly on my face anyway! And plus, I simply don’t have the time in the morning. But I do keep two things in my bag at all times just incase.

Bare Minerals liquid under eye concealer – for the tired eye days.

Burts Bees lip balm – this keeps my lips hydrated even in this weather.

Miscellaneous

Workout print out – I find deciding what workout I’m going to do in advance and having a print out of it helps me to focus in the gym and waste less time wandering around.

Pen- I like to write down my weights/ times on the workout sheet to try to improve next time.

Gym card

Phone – occasionally I feel the urge to take a gym selfie!

And that’s it! How about you? I’d love to know what’s in your gym bag!

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