About Claire Smith Yoga Instruction

A yoga and meditation teacher based in the heart of London.

Yoga for Insomnia

For many, this time of year can be extra stressful as we hurtle towards Christmas with all of the extra demands on our time, being unable to drift off to sleep at night can add to and compound the problem and send us into a vicious cycle.  Your mind seems to be overly active from the day and evening social activities and won’t quieten down even though your body is tired or even exhausted. Then waking up in the morning you can find yourself even more exhausted than before you went to bed and having to drag yourself through the day only to repeat the cycle again the following night…it really is no fun at all!  For when enough is enough, try this simple restorative yoga sequence (the dream-time sequence) as part of your evening routine and see if it helps you to break the cycle and drift off peacefully into a slumber. Try to spend 3-5 minutes in each posture with the breath long and deep and for a little cosmic extra, try some lavender or bergamot essential oil in a diffuser or oil burner and play some peaceful calming music if you like.  You can even select 1-3 of the postures with bolsters and spend 10-20 minutes in each if you like. To take this to the next level, you can also learn the specific breathwork ratio that works best for calming your mind and body in my breath work e-course below. For best results, turn off all mobile and electronic devices 90 minutes before you practice this sequence and avoid caffeine 8 hours before bedtime or use lunchtime as your cut-off point..  If your sleep has been very disrupted, then try to stay away from all electronic devices 3 hours before bedtime.

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  1. Belly breathing in constructive rest pose – Lay on your back with your legs bent and your feet as wide as your mat.  Let your knees knock in together to touch. Place your hands on your belly with the tips of the middle fingers touching.   Now take a nice deep breath into the belly, feeling the belly inflate into the hands and the hands moving apart slightly, then exhale and feel the belly relax as the diagram pushes the air up and out through the nose and the middle fingers move back together to touch.  Continue breathing into your belly and hands for a few minutes. Try this breath ratio to help deepen your breath in the postures and get your mind to quieten down: Inhale for a count of 5, gentle pause, exhale for 5, gentle pause. (If 5 feels too much then count to 4 or 3)  Try to focus on your breath and if your mind starts thinking about things, quietly but firmly remind it that now is not the time for thinking and come back to focusing on your breath.

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2.  Child’s pose – Lay over a bolster or pillow with your knees apart and big toes touching with one ear turned down onto the bolster.  You can use a folded blanket for extra support. Start to breathe long and deep as you let your body weight be supported by the bolster.  Feel yourself softening and releasing tension as you breath and your body melting over the bolster. Halfway through gently turn the other ear down onto the bolster to stretch the neck.

Insomnia3 cow pose

Insomnia cat pose

  1. Cat/cow – Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.  As you inhale, start to dip the back into an arch, broaden across the collarbones as you lift the chin and look upwards.  Then as you exhale, push the floor away, round through your spine and shoulders and tuck your chin in. Continue unwinding tension from your spine as you breathe and move between the two postures.  Move slowly, no rush.Insomnia standing forward fold  4.Standing forward fold – from all four’s tuck your toes under and roll up into the standing forward fold with your feet hip distance apart.  You can fold your arms above your head with your knees slightly bent or stand on the palms of your hands. Relax the head and neck and breathe into the back of your body.  Feel how you can really unwind a lot of stored tension from the back and head as you breathe deeply in this posture.

Indomnia seated forward fold

  1. Seated forward fold – from the last posture come down to all fours then organise yourself into a seated position.  Gently extend the legs out in front then fold forwards from the hips holding the feet. You can use bricks, a bolster or any other props to support the weight of the head.  Breathe long and deep as you unwind tension from the back of your body. Insomnia seated cross leg forward fold
  2. Double pigeon or crossed leg forward fold – Cross the legs and fold forwards resting the head on a brick, bolster or pillow if you need support, or for a deeper posture, take opposite ankle to knee then fold forwards.  Allow the breath to go deeply down into your hips, soften, release and melt away the tension as you breathe and after 3-5 minutes come out of the posture slowly and change the cross of your legs to do the other side.Insomnia cobbler pose
  3. Cobbler pose – Raise the hips and sit on a brick or block if you need to.  Place the thumbs in the arches of your feet and start to fold forward from the hips gently using the elbows to encourage the hips to open as you breath.  Send the breathe down deep into your hips and pelvis and again try to soften and release the stored tension as you breath.Insomnia supported bridge
  4. Supported bridge pose – Place the feet hip distance apart with the big toes slightly turned inwards.  Gently lengthen the tailbone as you lift the hips up and place a brick under the sacrum. Allow your breath to open the chest and heart area as you breathe deeply and slowly.  For a deeper pose, turn the brick on it’s side so that it’s on the highest setting then place it under the sacrum. To come out of the posture, remove the brick then slowly roll down one vertebrae at a time and when the hips touch the floor, come back into constructive rest pose (first pose in sequence).Insomnia legs against the wall pic
  5. Legs against the wall – Lay in an L shape against a wall then place a bolster under your hips and sacrum.  You can use an eye pillow on your eyes or forehead if you like. Breathe deeply and slowly as you allow this wonderful posture to calm your nervous system and quieten your mind and bring you into a state of tranquillity.

Insomnia Alt nostril breathing

  1. Alternate nostril breathing – Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position and make a peace sign with your right hand.  Bend the peace sign fingers toward the palm and use the thumb and third finger. Close the right nostril with the thumb and breathe in through the left nostril for a count or 4.  Pause or float at the top of the inhale for 1 count then close the left nostril with the third finger and exhale through the right nostril for 4 counts. At the end of the exhale pause/float for 1 count.   Inhale through the right nostril for 4 counts, pause/float for 1 count, then exhale through the left nostril and pause/float for 1 count. Continue for a few minutes and feel the peace and calm wash over you.

Insomnia corpse pose

  1. Corpse pose – To finish the sequence, lay on your back with your legs bent over a bolster and your heels resting on a block each.  Use an eye mask on your forehead or eyes and place one in each hand if you wish. You can cover yourself with a blanket. Get ready to drift off into a dreamy restful night’s sleep…Enjoy! 

The Dreamtime sequence is a restorative yoga sequence for Insomnia by yoga teacher Claire Smith.  Claire is a yoga teacher in Muswell Hill and the City of London so for this and other private or one-to-one yoga lessons, please contact Claire at info@clairesmithyoga.com

7 day plant-based e-cook book

antioxidant-berries-beverage-1842615Happy summer solstice and International Yoga Day.  I hope you manage to spend some of this longest, lightest, brightest summer’s day doing what you love the most.  I’ve been in the writing cave recently and have a brand new plant-based e-cook book that i’m delighted to share.  It’s packed full of my favourite recipes that I use all the time and also share with my clients to help them achieve their health and fitness goals.  The latest research on eating a plant-based diet is really staggering, not just in terms of heart-health, diabetes and cancer but also on helping people to get their weight down and lose body fat.  The latest research shows that people who eat a high-quality plant-based diet (not chips and candy!) are healthier, lighter and leaner.   So whether you’re looking to go completely plant-based or just to cut down on the amount of animal protein that you currently eat, I hope that you’ll find some of these recipes useful and inspiring and that you’ll enjoy making and eating them as much as myself and my clients have.  By investing in my e-cook book you’ll gain the following:

– 25 Delicious plant-based recipes including breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert options that are simple and easy to make
– Save up to £300 + per month!! By switching to making these recipes instead of eating out
– Lose weight and body fat
– Yogic recipes that are onion and garlic free.  Perfect for those following a yogic path who want to eat a Sattvic diet
–  All of my recipes are refined sugar-free and gluten-free
– They’re all made using natural, unprocessed whole foods

This juncture of the summer solstice is an auspicious time for intention setting, so where would you like to be in six months time with your health, well-being and fitness goals when we’re at the winter solstice?   I wish you every success on your path.

Buy e-cook book

Free plant-based e-book

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I hope you’re doing so well and enjoying the light.  I’ve been worshipping Surya the Sun God (in between the rain!!) during my morning practices and classes over the past few weeks with Surya Namaskar and giving thanks for all the bounty the Sun provides.   I’ve been feeling the rising solar energy since Beltane and have been in the writing cave honouring the shakti coming through to put down onto paper plant-based nutrition wisdom.  My new e-book will be birthed soon but until that time, I have a free gift for you as a valued member of my community and as a taster for what’s to come.   Throughout my 15 year career as a personal trainer people often come to me with the goal of trimming down and reducing their body fat.  Diet is obviously a key part of what we look at together and clients often ask me ‘What should I eat?’  My new e-book will be a collection of some of my favourite plant-based recipes that are specifically designed to help people answer that question and to reach their goals. Click the link below for a free sample.  My 7-day plan is coming very soon!

Free plant-based ebook

Breath-work e-course

Breath-work e-course

 

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I’m super excited to announce that my new e-course to help relieve stress and anxiety is now live!  As a valued member of my community, I want you to be the first to know.  The course is called ‘overcoming the worry habit’ and here’s some things you’re going to learn:

– Making friends with your breath as it is and learning how to breathe more deeply and consciously
– Building a foundation – Simple yoga breath work that you can use anytime, anywhere to calm your mind and emotions
– Yoga breath work combined with something that stimulates your mental anxiety, worrying.
– Breathing patterns that work to calm your mind when you can’t find the ‘off switch’ for your thinking – so helpful for those times when you wake up in middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep!

As a special bonus, everyone who signs up for the course will receive a 50% discount as a thank-you for being part of my community.  This course is very near and dear to my heart, and I can’t wait to see what all of you think. There’s lots to learn, so sign up now!

Here’s what people are saying about the course:

As someone who experiences anxiety, I found this course to be a very useful step in the right direction towards managing my negative emotions. I feel that with practice, it would make a dramatic difference to the amount I worry.

 Before the course, I would just have to wait for my worries to pass, but through the course I have learnt that it is possible to take action through breath control to calm my worried thoughts.

 I felt genuinely calmer after the ‘Worrying and double length exhale’  breathing session, which the preceding courses helped me build up to.

 When controlling my breath patterns, I felt fully relaxed and I have taken what I have learnt to slow down my racing thoughts which also makes it easier for me to sleep when I get them at night.” – Kathleen Finch Administrative Assistant Kingsley Napley

Buy the course

 

Green prana juice

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Ah the magical mystical green juice, one of my favourite morning beverages.  I seem to be forever on a quest to find a new favourite to enjoy and I think I’ve found it in the Prana juice.  The numerous health benefits of drinking a daily green juice have been sung from many a webpage – I was lucky enough to attend a yoga workshop with yoga master Dharma Mittra and he said “Drink green juice everyday because it gives you more power in meditation”.  Well if that’s what Dharma Mittra has to say on the subject, then sign me up!  I also love the fact that they make me feel light and energised and give my cells a quick injection of nutrients.  Here’s the Prana juice recipe, be sure to use organic fruit and veggies.  Wash the fruit and veggies well then juice them in a juicer.  I often lace mine with a teaspoon of wheat grass powder:

1 Granny Smith apple
3 stalks Celery
1 lemon peeled
2 cups kale
1 cup parse
2 inch piece ginger
For more yoga lifestyle and other private yoga lessons or one-to-one yoga in the Muswell Hill and surrounding areas please contact Claire at info@clairesmithyoga.com.

World mental health day

Autumn well wishes to you all.  Tomorrow is World mental health day and the focus this year is on mental health in the workplace.  The latest statistics are really quite sobering:

“At least 1 in 4 of us will experience some kind of mental health problem each year, with anxiety and depression being the most common.”

“It is estimated that some 70 million working days are lost each year due to mental health illness, costing businesses around  £70-£100bn per annum.”
We can see from the figures that a large number of people suffer with a mental health issue each year, it’s fairly common and having worked with anxiety myself, I know firsthand how awful and difficult it can be to go about daily life, with the fear of having a panic attack lurking in your mind.  One of the things I’ve found helpful in dealing with anxiety is pranayama, or yoga breathing techniques.  This is because pranayama helps to light up the parasympathetic nervous system or the rest and digest response.  When your brain perceives something real or imagined to be a threat, adrenaline gets released by the adrenal glands stimulating the sypathetic nervous system response which means the message that your nerves are getting are to fight, flight or freeze, i.e anxious feelings, racing heart and lots of thoughts.  When we calm the nervous system we stem or reduce the flow of adrenaline, therefore stopping the sypathetic nervous system from lighting up which means anxiety reduces.   The nervous system is like a seasaw, when one end lights up, the other end goes down. To calm the nervous system I’ve found that the breath ratio of 1:2 is most helpful. The 1:2 breath ratio means that you count your breath as you inhale and you make your exhale twice the length.  If this feels too difficult in the beginning, particularly if you’re feeling very anxious or panicky, then start with 1:1 ratio, the inhale and exhale being the same length.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Here’s the technique:
Start to inhale through your nose for a count of 4 counts, at the end of the inhale pause for 1 count to equalize the breath, then exhale slowly through the nose for a count of 8.  At the end of the exhale pause for a count of 1 before continuing with the next breath cycle.  You can continue with the technique for a few minutes or until you feel that your anxiety spike has passed.  For best results I recommend practicing this technique daily.  If it’s too difficult to breathe in for 4 out for 8, change it to in for 3 and out for 6 or in for 2 and out for 4.  Make the breath count work for you so that it feels relaxing and inside of your comfort zone.  It shouldn’t feel like there’s any strain or force.
For this or any other private or one-to-one yoga lessons in Muswell Hill and the surrounding areas please contact Claire at info@clairesmithyoga.com
Statistics at the beginning of the article from Francessca Lopez – Associate Kingsley Napley.

Online Meditation course

I do love this time of year, as we enter the end of the winter season we feel the winds of change as the trees start to get their first buds and the evenings are lighter.  The full moon is also approaching so it’s a fertile time to take an action or a step towards what we are manifesting.  What’s an action or step that you could take to bring about greater health, harmony or well-being in your life?  Now is a very good time to take that step.

This winter season (after some much needed clearing and releasing), I’ve been meditating on the best way to share some of my most powerful offerings and I’m using the light of this full moon to help.  An online meditation course has been born and is now ready to spring forth, so if you like the idea of learning to meditate and having me teach you in the comfort of your own home, then please click on the button below for more details. Meditation has truly changed my life, and given me a sense of inner peace and security in an ever changing world.  It’s also helped me to see things from a more spherical perspective rather than the conditioned rectilinear pathway.  In my experience, once we leave the rectilinear behind, we enter naturally into more subtlety – our meandering movement is no longer movement in a forward direction, but movement towards the living, the spontaneous and the creative.  The many benefits of meditation are now starting to circulate, but if you need a quick recap, then here they are:

1 An increased sense of peace
2 Being happy for no apparent reason
3 An increased clarity of mind
4 An increased ability to concentrate
5 Increased will-power and stamina
6 Development of your own intuition
7 An inner questioning about your own nature
Not bad eh? The course has 8 wonderful meditations, 2 delicious relaxations and 3 movement sequences along with detailed instructions that you can listen to and watch from your phone, tablet, laptop or computer.  The course follows the incredibly effective format that I learnt from my dearest teachers at the Dru headquarters in Wales.  First, we move the body – then, we relax the body and we sit for meditation.  I have also filmed and recorded how to sit correctly – I really have started from the beginning.

It is my heart-felt wish that as many people as possible take up meditation, so my course is on sale for an incredible rate of £15 for a 30 day subscription so hurry, click here to buy it now and start experiencing the incredible life enhancing benefits of meditation for yourself!