“Yoga is so much more than an exercise practice,” says Yoga Teacher and Shiatsu Practitioner Emma Michael. “It’s a holistic activity which can bring a profound sense of peace and balance.
“And let’s face it, most of us under an increased level of stress at the moment; our lives are changing dramatically, at a very quick pace. So moving our bodies mindfully, with the breath through a yoga practice, can be a fantastically simple way to help us deal with these tough times,” says Emma.
Within a week of the initial movement restrictions, Emma had closed her studio (The Centre) and set up online classes.
Three mornings a week, she hosts sessions in Hatha Yoga (breathing techniques and the alignment principles of the key positions), Mindful Flow Yoga (strengthening the body and mind while improving flexibility, resilience and mindfulness), Pregnancy Yoga, and one-on-one private Yoga, as well as Pranayama classes, in which students practise mindfulness and breath orientated meditations.
“I ask everyone to keep the videos on during the online sessions so that I can keep an eye on what they’re doing. Predictably, it’s not the same as being in a live class, where I can keep a closer eye on things and adjust as I see fit. But it does enable me to check that basic, sensible alignment and movements are being maintained, especially with newcomers.
“We’re so isolated at the moment, and I feel it’s really important to connect with others: to smile in recognition of each other, share a few words before and after the session, and see that we’re all together. This was one of the main reasons I started the online sessions. At this time,” Emma smiles, “community is essential.”
For more information, email [email protected], call 97 873494, or ask to join ‘The Centre’ Facebook group. Yoga classes cost from €7, while Meditation & Pranayama are ‘pay what you can’
She’s a Life Coach, NLP Practitioner and Hypnotist, Director of the Global Woman Club Cyprus, and she’s just come out of quarantine after returning from South America a few weeks ago. But being confined to one small room hasn’t stopped Elisabeth Villiger Toufexis from keeping public spirits high with her daily meditations.
“I record a meditation every morning,” Elisabeth explains. “They’re easy to follow, and easy to do, especially for people who are not used to meditating and need to get some peace in their mind.
“At this time – when life is crazy and the mental chatter in our heads becomes unbearable – meditation is a beautiful and effective way to calm down our busy mind and find inner peace. As soon as we start meditating, our brainwaves slow down, the self-regulation of our heart starts, and our self-repair mechanism sets in.”
Regular meditation, she continues, can not only increase self-awareness and reduce stress, but also helps rid us of anger and anxiety.
Despite the evidence, Elisabeth notes that it’s easy to get the wrong idea about meditation – especially if you’ve never tried it. “Many people have the wrong perception of meditation. They imagine that you have to sit in a lotus pose for hours and burn strange-smelling incense. Of course most of us don’t have the time or patience to do that!” she laughs. “But even just a long conscious breath can be a small meditation, being aware of the present moment.”
Elisabeth’s meditations are posted on her Facebook page (‘Elisabeth Villiger Toufexis’) every morning at about 8am. Each is no more than 10 minutes in length, and all are free to access
Practised worldwide, Pilates was originally developed in the late 19th century as an aid to alleviate ill health. Today, more than 11 million people regularly enjoy the benefits of a discipline which emphasises alignment, breathing, the development of a strong core, and improved coordination and balance.
Here in Cyprus, there are any number of Pilates teachers, many of whom are now working online. Anastasia Uvarova of Alpha.Physio.Care is one such instructor: professionally trained in the UK, she’s been a Pilates instructor for more than a decade.
“The main reason I launched online Pilates classes was to support my current clients during this period of uncertainty, at a time when physical movement is restricted and mental state can be greatly affected,” says Anastasia.
Anastasia hosts a number of classes throughout the week: Clinical Pilates on Monday and Thursday at 4pm, appropriate for all abilities and designed to include equipment that can be found home (such as bottles of water or a pillow), as well as a Pregnancy Clinical Pilates class on Monday and Thursday at 5pm.”
“If there’s one thing we’re all experiencing at the moment,” she smiles, “it’s restriction of movement. And that’s where Pilates is so helpful: it’s all about getting regular, healthy movement into your life, and I change up what we do in each class to maximise the physical benefits.”
Alpha Physio Care’s Online Pilates classes cost €5 per session, trial session free. Visit the Facebook page ‘Alpha Physio Care’ or call 22 322408 for more information
ELISABETH’S 2-MINUTE MEDITATION
Get into a comfortable position with your back straight, feet firmly on the ground, your hands gently in your lap, and close your eyes. Take a long breath through your nose, hold it for two, three seconds and breathe out through your mouth. Repeat this a few times until you feel calm and relaxed, and then return to your normal breath.
Now, imagine there’s a healing white light above your head, which enters and fills your head, goes down into and fills your chest, your abdomen, your legs and your feet. Imagine that your whole body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes and fingers is filled with this healing white light, helping your body heal and grow. Imagine that this healing white light both surrounds and protects you.
When you are done, take another deep breath: breathe in relaxation and breathe out tension, breathe in light and breathe out darkness. Start moving your fingers, open your eyes, and come back to the room.
EMMA’S YOGA POSES FOR STRESS
CHAIR EAGLE ARMS
This is a great pose for those who hold a lot of tension in our shoulders from long days of sitting at a desk, and can easily be done in a chair, or in front of the computer as a quick mini break. By stretching the shoulders and upper back, improving the posture and melting tension from your neck and shoulders, the Chair Eagle Arms (adapted from the Eagle pose or Garudasana) can also help eliminate distraction, encourage focus and calm the mind.
LEGS UP THE WALL
The restorative nature of the Legs Up The Wall Pose or Vipariti Karani can relieve tired legs and feet, stimulating blood flow to all the parts of the body that really need it. It’s an excellent pose for calming anxiety, and can also help with insomnia. Try holding it for up to five minutes with closed eyes; it can relieve stress and prepare the body for evening relaxation.
RECLINING BUTTERFLY POSE
The highly restorative reclining butterfly pose or Supta bada konasana can not only help the body prepare for sleep, but also relieve stress and tension and ensure your night is restful and undisturbed. If you feel any tension in your lower back in this pose, try putting a pillow or two under it back so your chest and upper back are higher than your hips.