Autumn is a strange time of year. Our environment changes quickly; we start wearing coats, waking up before sunrise.

I feel more tired than usual in the evenings, as my body adapts to the changing weather.

Before I paid attention to things like this, my bedtime routine would be the same throughout the year. But now, I find myself going to sleep 15 minutes or even 30 minutes before I would usually, and needing the extra rest.

A restorative yin practice has also been supportive – particularly poses which strengthen the large intestine and small intestine meridians.

I have also been eating more grounding foods – sweet potato, beetroot, colourful carrots.

I love summer, and sometimes feel sad when the evenings get darker. But I remind myself to try and appreciate the opportunity autumn provides to slow down and rest.

It’s definitely bolster season.


Sleep is medicine

Sleep is the most important thing we can do for our body.

In Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, he writes that he used to think that the trio of health was sleep, exercise and food. But new research has shown that sleep is the single most beneficial thing we can do for ourselves.

The way we live our modern life fights against our natural sleeping pattern.

Blue light from screens disrupts our circadian rhythm (yes, even the TV).

The night time economy means things are open late. It is sociable to eat late (when our digestion is primed to eat our main meal in the day).

Electricity leads us like moths through darkened streets when our brains need to be sleeping.

Apart from arranging more lunches, what can you do?


One of the best ways to relax the brain is through movement. Ideally, we shouldn’t exercise about four hours before bed. So I don’t mean a vigorous, ashtanga based sequence. I mean a gentle, yin sequence, designed to unwind the body.

Poses like legs up the wall and supta baddha konasana. Poses like puppy and supported bridge.

Once we start to respect our natural rhythms, evolved over thousands of years, our body will start to relax. Chronic inflammation, stress, insomnia can all be improved by the healing and restorative quality of sleep.

The small intestine, and why it matters to you

I have had a sore right wrist for the best part of a year.

It started hurting just before I did my yoga training. Then it got better (I wore a wrist widget, which is awesome and helped a lot).

And then, out of nowhere, it started hurting again.

I modified my practice. No planks, no chaturanga, no flying crow (ok, that last one’s a joke). I waited for it to get better, like it had before.

Except this time, it didn’t.

The pain was sometimes bad at night. I googled wrist tears and ulnar sided wrist pain, and looked up exercises to strengthen the wrist on youtube.

I waited some more. And, nothing.

Exasperated, I went on the wrist widget website, and saw a picture of the wrist according to traditional Chinese medicine. The ulnar side is related to the small intestine meridian.

And it started to make sense. Why would I have chronic wrist pain on one wrist, when I had suffered no trauma to the area?

As with most things, the answer to my wrist pain was in my gut. My wrist pain was my body trying to tell me something.

I’ll let you know what happened in my next post.

But for now, know that if you have chronic pain (wrists or ankles in particular), with no obvious explanation, then take a look at your diet. It may get you back to flying crow more quickly.

Yoga hearts the gym

It’s nearly Valentines Day, and I’ve found the perfect match: yoga and the gym.

In an earlier post, I told you I have a hamstring injury. I think it might be because I supinate, (where the foot rolls out more than it should) but that’s a different post.

It’s not serious but I’ve been dealing with the dreaded ‘sit bone pain’ on and off for a while. To help with recovery, I’ve modified my yoga practice.

And I’ve been going to the gym.

I had always shied away from the gym because I thought: hey, the world is your gym! (a la Jeremy from Peep Show). Who wants to run on a machine?

(I haven’t used the running machine because I still sort of feel like that).

But the weights! Oh boy.

If anyone has overstretched their hamstring and has sit bone pain (a super common yoga injury) – let me introduce you to deadlifting. Or leg curls.

It feels amazing to use gentle weights to strengthen an overworked hamstring. Seriously.

Yes, yoga provides a full body workout – there are plenty of hamstring strengthening exercises (locust, warrior 3).

But if you have hurt yourself and need to build strength in targeted muscle groups, then get thee to a gym.

Is yoga an invented tradition?

I recently went to Ayurvedic Man exhibition at the wellcome collection and it got me thinking about the history of yoga.

I was aware of Krishnamacharya from my training. I knew he taught Indra Devi, Jois, Iyengar and Desikachar. I knew he influenced our modern practice.

What I didn’t know until very recently, is that modern postural yoga (or yoga asana) is very modern. As in, the last century. 

Krishnamacharya (1888 to 1989) developed asana as we know it, at a nexus between yoga, bodybuilding and physical education in India in the early twentieth century.

So surya namaskar, downward dog, upward dog: all brand new.

Confused? Yep.

Not many people mention that the yoga asana we practice has nothing to do with the ‘ancient, centuries old’ system of yoga dating back intact to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in the fifth century CE. There were only 15 original seated poses. And yoga did not mean the physical practice we know it as today.

If anything, some yoga schools encourage the idea that asana as we know it has been passed down through the centuries. 

Do we need this ancient authority to believe in its effects?

As Sita Reddy writes in her essay ‘Who owns yoga’, the roots of yoga run deep, but modern postural yoga, including surya namaskar, is an invented tradition.

Ouch! Yoga injuries and why we get them

Yoga injury is connected to the ego.

How many of you go to what you perceive as the last stage? Because you want to prove that you can do it.

But what if there is a misconception? For example, you think the ‘last stage’ of tree pose is to get your foot on the upper thigh. When actually the pose is a hip opener. The pose is about lengthening the thigh bone out of the socket. And you achieve that lengthening wherever your foot is.

What happens when we try and get to the last stage too early? I was obsessed with forearm stand. I used to practice and practice. I wanted to be able to kick up effortlessly into a beautiful forearm stand.

And yes, I find it easier now. But I think that’s because I’m stronger from my yoga practice, not because I repeatedly practiced forearm stands for months. And I pulled my right hamstring from all that jumping when I wasn’t warm enough. It’s still tender now. I have to modify my practice to accommodate it.

Is it worth it? No. Can I see that now? Yes.

Yoga does not cause injury. We cause ourselves injury. Because of our ego, because we want to see progression.

It is so important to let that go. It’s just noise. You will perform an asana when your body is ready to perform it, and there will be no strain.

That’s not to say don’t practice difficult asanas. They are fun and exciting, and if that’s what pulls you to yoga, then great.

But yoga is not gymnastics. We cannot let our mind get ahead of our body. We must learn to control our ego and be safe.

Meditation: what is it?

There’s a lot of talk about meditation, as if it is a separate thing from yoga. There are people offering to teach you how to meditate. There are apps to help you meditate – you may have tried them.

When you think of meditation, what does it mean to you? Do you picture a Buddhist monk on a hilltop somewhere, sitting in silence, for hours?

Try sitting in stillness with your breath. Try it in your asana practice. Try it in savasana. Try it in seated meditation, in seated pranayama.

Every single person thinks they’re doing it wrong. Every single person thinks that the person next to them is doing it properly. Everyone feels like a fake.

You cannot practice yoga for a short time and expect mental stillness immediately.  It takes practice to start to understand the potential of yoga. The potential to exist in a physical and mental state at the same time.

I try to think about each movement as a physical expression of my breath. I try hard to link the two. And I keep practicing.