It’s all yoga!

I am sitting here working on the asana and pranayama sequence for tomorrow’s class, my theme this month is connecting with the breath.

Breath is a central part of the Viniyoga tradition which I teach, we know that changing our breath can change how we feel and bring us back to the moment. Not the ruminations of the past, or the worry for the future; but right here, right now.

But how do we do that? How do we get from our everyday breathing to yogic breathing? How can we bring it into our practice?

There are many types of pranayama (breathing techniques), the one most commonly used during asana practice is Ujjayi or victory breath. It involves a slight muscle constriction in the lower throat, which can make you sound a little like Darth Vader. Sounds complicated right?

Like most things in life it’s easier when learning some thing to work up to it.

Features of Ujjayi include:

  • The breath is slowed down
  • It is deeper and more lengthened than normal
  • It is consciously controlled
  • There is a slight constriction in the lower throat.

In asana work we match our movement to our breath inspiring a meditative quality in our practice; so when you are starting out worry less about the slight constriction in the throat and begin by matching your movements with the inhale and exhale. See what it is to breathe in different postures. See how the breath changes as you move or stay in an asana.

As you progress you can lengthen and deepen the breath, allowing it to support and enhance your practice. Eventually get your teacher to show you how to make the constriction in the throat.

In short begin by noticing, and remember you don’t need to be able to do everything at once, after all ‘Atha Yoganushasanam’ Yoga sutras 1.1, the time for yoga is now, not when at some point in the future you can already do it.



Can’t Sleep?


Today I came across this article in the Independent: getting less than six hours sleep a night increases risk of early death

And it prompted me to think: What causes lack off sleep and what can we do about it?

Aside from the ‘whole number of factors such as having small children, having other health issues and environmental factors’ cited in the article by Lisa Artis of the British Sleep Council; many Clients I see state one of the largest causes of lack of sleep is stress.

Whilst stress is aggravated and worsened by lack of sleep, the article fails to mention how worry and stress also raised cortisol levels which can themselves disrupt sleep. Cortisol changes in our blood is an important part of our day/night rhythm as well as our fight or flight response.

It has long been known that ‘depression and other stress-related disorders are also associated with sleep disturbances, elevated cortisol.’ 1 Therefore it would be sensible to think that managing and working with stress and other stress-related disorders to reduce the levels of cortisol in the blood in general will improve your ability to sleep.

So how can this be done?

  • Exercise can burn off adrenaline that is linked to cortisol production making less available for use.
  • Meditation and relaxation can allow us to tell our body’s they are safe and in the present, reducing anxiety, depression and helping us to control the over-thinking that often happens in response to the problems and stress of life.
  • If you have experienced trauma, abuse or have a chronic mental health issue, counselling can help you to find better coping strategies, find a way forward and share your fears and anxieties.
  • Amy Cuddy 2 has shown how changing your body language can help change how you feel and your blood chemistry, lowering cortisol. To find out more check out her TED talk cited below.

All these strategies can help although they can take some time to work, particularly if your experience of stress has been chronic.

If you want to talk through your options get in touch at:


  1. Arborelius L, Owens M, Plotsky P, Nemeroff C. The role of corticotropinreleasing factor in depression and anxiety disorders. J Endocrinol. 1999;160:1-12.

Research and Depression

This week I came across two articles that I think are quite important. The first was by the NHS. The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey is published every seven years and is based on the results of a household survey in England. Key findings show:

  • One in five women (19 per cent) had reported symptoms of common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety disorders
  • One in four 16 to 24 year old women (26 per cent) surveyed has self-harmed, more than twice the rate in young men (10 per cent)

So what we are saying here is that for whatever reason, including the possibility that women are more likely to report mental health issues, there seems to be a disparity between mental health presentation in men and women.

The second article was about a study from Denmark which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry, it found that women who take the contraceptive pill or have hormonal implants, patches and intrauterine devices are more likely to be treated for depression, with adolescent girls appearing to be at the highest risk.

I’ve been wondering: Is there a link here?

We know that some medications can cause depressive or anxious symptoms in patients, many of them have depression listed as a side-effect on the leaflet you get with your medication. There are anecdotally many women who choose alternative forms of contraception due to mood changes and depression, but this is the first time a study has validated their experiences.

Whilst I would never advocate just stopping a medication without speaking to your doctor, if you feel you are possibly affected I would encourage you to speak to your GP, to have the discussion about depression and medication.

For more information and a help-sheet about depression visit: the FREE downloadable help-sheets are at the bottom of the page.


Stress and its consequences

I’m currently writing and working on a 5 week stress management course. Sounds like some boring HR exercise right!?!

So why? What’s the problem with stress?

A little stress in our lives can be a good thing, motivating us, helping us to reach our goals and encouraging us to get out of bed (especially now the nights are drawing in and bed is oh so cosy!). Stress becomes a bad thing when we feel overwhelmed by the demands that are being placed on us and we don’t feel we have the resources to cope with them.

According to the Health and Safety Executive stress is a leading cause of time off work with the total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2014/15 being 9.9 million. Equating to an average of 23 days lost per employee who experiences stress*?

This means stress accounts for 35% of all work related ill-health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.

What we are saying is stress can lead to depression and/or anxiety, particularly if the stress being felt is prolonged, unmanaged and you can’t access support. It can affect your work life and your home life causing symptoms such as:

  • Irritability
  • Being unable to sleep
  • Overthinking
  • Worrying
  • Relationship issues
  • Feeling anxious
  • Digestive troubles

So what, if anything can be done?

The ideal is to reduce or resolve whatever is causing you stress, as well as building up your emotional and mental resilience to stress. With my Clients I use a range of techniques to help them with this including:

  • Developing long-term habits to alleviate stress including how to access support and resources

  • Learning body movements to reduce the impact of stress on the body

  • Using meditation techniques to take control of their thoughts and improve their focus

  • Counselling for long-term issues

More information about stress and how to handle it can be found on my website where we have a range of self-help sheets including one for stress. The self-help sheets at the bottom of the page are FREE to download and print.


In October we will be holding a stress management course in Hemel Hempstead for £35. If you would like to attend or want further details pl
ease contact Charlotte on 07941 259272.


The way we talk about LGBTQI issues.

The horrific massacre that occurred on Saturday night at Pulse in Orlando, Florida has stayed with me all weekend. I confess to a vested interest I am the mum of an LGBTQI teen.

I felt compelled to write this following Owen Jones walking out of a Sky News interview about the morning papers. Although he was clearly distressed he has a point: The way we talk about LGBTQI issues sucks.

The Independent for instance ran a story about about her son’s last messages to her before he was tragically shot by the gunman. In it they make it clear she knew her son was gay. Rhetoric like this reinforced the misguided notion that being lesbian, gay, bisexuality etc is some how a dirty secret, something to be hidden.

Many struggle to come out for fear of what family and friends will say, despite it being a natural and normal part of the spectrum of human sexuality.

In 2012 Stonewall did some research on mental health in lesbian, gay and bisexual teens, it showed 55% experience homophobic bullying in British schools. From a young age we are teaching these people, these human beings our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, family and friends that they are less than, that there is something wrong with them.

Saturday night was confirmation of a fear many LGBTQI people carry with them, that they can and will be persecuted for who they are. The media responds to this in ways that seek to silence the voices of this understandably shocked and frightened community. Presumably for fear of upsetting the morals and sensibilities of others.

Whilst I am supportive of religious and moral freedom it does not give us the right to force our ideologies onto others to make them conform to our view of the world, nor should it be an excuse to close our eyes and minds to the suffering of others. They are human beings who are a part of our wider communities whether they go to your school, yoga class or work with you.

I want to live in a world where no one has to come out, where no group lives in fear, where no one is bullied, and people’s sexualities are not considered a reason to hate or hurt them, but that is work for another day. Today I want to say to this community who are suffering, I cried with you, I hurt with you, I lit a candle for those who are lost; because love is the only thing that will drive out hate.




Contemplating counselling, meditation and yoga