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Let the Yoga Challenge Begin!

It has only been two days since I was released from the hospital, but I’m already easing myself back into life in London. Yesterday, I took a wonderful walk on the beach back in Norfolk with my family and embraced being able to deepen my breath (with acute pancreatitis it is very painful to breathe, the diaphragm hits down onto the inflamed organ). Since my arms are still an eyesore of rich purples and blues and my organs are still a bit swollen and tender, I wasn’t even considering starting the yoga challenge until next month, until…

I decided to go to a different sort of yoga class today, and so, today is officially Day Number 1 of Lizzie’s Yoga Challenge 2013.

Organs play a role in how we manage stress in the body. The liver and pancreas are both considered ‘stress organs’, helping to manage both the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates, respectively; the liver in particular playing a major role in filtering toxins out of the body. On the basis of my ‘recovering’ state of physicality, I chose a class called ‘Yoga for Stress’ at Triyoga, Primrose Hill.

I return to Triyoga in Primrose Hill regularly for two teachers whom I will visit during the Yoga Challenge this month. It’s not my regular choice of practice primarily because of the following:

  1. Parking is overpriced and a maximum of two hours. One of the classes I go to each week is two hours, which means I have to run out the door each week, not the best way to exit a two hour practice! I have heard there is free parking at a nearby grocery chain, but haven’t quite figured out the logistics on that yet. If you are one of the ones in the know, do tell.

  2. The studios, bathrooms and mats are downright dirty. I could also add cold, smelly and dark, but you get the point.

  3. The staff are not particularly friendly, although the guy at the cafe is very knowledgeable and sweet. I might add that the food at the cafe is yummy, even though a bit overpriced, but I digress.

Despite all this, I do like the layout and find the studios spacious with the right props, and there are some very good teachers that teach here.

Walking into Studio Two, there were ten to twelve students in the class, many of whom had never been before as I asked a few if there would be any asana and no-one seemed to know. Howard Napper, the teacher, walked in and the class began.

Howard explained that every week the class has a different theme, and today’s class was all about the role sugar plays in stressing the body. He spoke for a good ten minutes about the way the body digests sugar, and brought us to his main point, that we should eat more fat. He used the analogy of starting a fire – that burning paper without catching a flame is like eating white bread, while eating fat is like sitting a slow burning log atop a flame. For more on this, check out the following video:

Also of interest and along the same lines, the Huffington Post and Doctor Mercola talk about the benefits of my favourite oil to cook and bake with, Coconut Oil (it’s saturated, but don’t be scared).

After the talk, we worked on deep breath work, lengthening the exhale, and continued this breath into a series of supine twists. We did a few downward dogs, not with the intention to ‘stretch’, but to release, and finished the class with child’s pose, seated breathwork (again, suspending the exhale and letting the inhale come to meet us rather than moving to the inhale) and a brief savasana.

I felt more open after class and breathed deeper, without any intensive asana. As someone just out of the hospital with a need to increase lung capacity, it was relaxing and space inducing.

After class I decided to approach Howard as I am again in the midst of exploring the role of diet in my life, and wondered what other insights he may have. After a brief chat, he said, and I paraphrase, “if I want to know what to feed my dog, I look to my dog’s ancestors, the wolf, to see what they were designed to eat. With humans it’s the same thing. All these man-made constructs of processed foods and enriched foods don’t really feed us as animals.” We spoke about veganism and the altruistic, yet potentially unhealthy and unsustainable side effects for some, and he told me that no mammalian species on earth had ever been vegan, no one he knew had ever been able to maintain it for more than ten years. Furthermore, he said it was a man-made, new age experiment.  Controversial? Yes. Wrong? No. (Having been vegan for seven years and ending with a severe vitamin A deficiency that led to nighttime blindness, I am constantly re-assessing the role of diet and food in one’s health and wellbeing and realize I am at the tip of the iceburg in my own learning process.)

I enjoyed Howard’s class, and for someone looking for a teacher with a mainstream approach to yoga and very little asana sprinkled on top of breathwork and nutritional/lifestyle theory, Howard’s class may be just right for you. Check out Howard’s website here:

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