Paola stumbled across yoga by chance but soon found it was her calling. She talks to Sundried about life as a yoga instructor.
Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?
I became a yoga teacher because I was struck by the completeness of the yogic path. You work using the body, but the goal is much higher; getting a fit body is only a consequence of the practice.
It all started by chance, walking through the centre of Bologna in Italy. I felt a scent of incense coming out of a door so I went in, attracted by the smell. It was in this strange way that I found my first yoga studio. From that moment, it was an on-and-off practice for some years until I realised that this was my calling and I began to deepen the path more and more, even going to India to study further.
What are your training goals now?
I’m practising and teaching Hatha Yoga and Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, but now I’d like to advance in my Ashtanga Vinyasa practice.
What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?
Don’t be in a hurry to get results. I demand a lot from myself and I had to learn patience. I discovered that the best results are obtained with patience and consistency.
Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?
I follow a vegetarian diet. I try to balance my diet with plant foods that contain a high amount of protein.
What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?
Yoga is all about internal motivation, determination and training of willpower. We can help with the consistency and observation of the small visible improvements we see from week to week.
Talk us through your training regime.
I practice yoga every day, preferably early in the morning. Alongside yoga I also do climbing and running.
How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?
I’m a teacher, but I am also (and always will be) a student. I love to learn new things following workshops and retreats.
What are your top 3 trainer tips?
- Listen to your body. It knows what it's doing.
- Always practise joyfully and lovingly towards your body and your path.
- Keep the full picture in mind. Yoga is not a path that is an end in itself, it’s a path that enriches us mentally, emotionally and physically. The attitude we have on the mat will be the same that we have in the life.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Why work with Sundried?
Because I really like the Sundried products and I like the strong brand ethic.
Favourite fitness quote:
"You may not be there yet, but you’re closer than yesterday."
We are almost all guilty of being chronic sitters. In fact we spend on average 8.9 hours a day sat down in the UK. The result is slumped shoulders, arched backs and poor posture, but functional training can fix that. Knowing the right corrective exercises can help you to improve and even correct your posture.
Effects of poor posture
Posture helps stabilise the spine and prevents back pain and fatigue. When the back is straight, the spine is supported by stabilising muscles. As you slouch or practice other methods of poor posture, your spine no longer has the support it needs to stay balanced which can lead to health problems.
Poor posture causes aches and pains. In an ideal world your spine is in neutral alignment and your muscles support your frame, however as we fall away from this alignment, the muscles have to over extend or contract to try and keep the spine stable and protected. This then leads to tightness and fatigue. The major muscles which suffer the effects of this are the Rectus Abdominus, Internal and External Obliques, Erector Spinae, Splenius and the Multifidus. This is why aches are not limited to the lower back, but can also be felt in the neck and shoulders.
Curvature of the Spine
A more serious effect of poor posture is the development of a spinal curve. Naturally your spine should resemble a soft “s” shape, however poor posture can cause this to become exaggerated. When bad posture becomes a habit, pressure on the spine builds and slowly but surely, the curves in the spine change position. Once its position has changed, the spine's ability to achieve what it’s designed to do - absorb shock and keep you balanced, is significantly reduced.
A change in the spinal curve can cause subluxations. A subluxation is a partial misalignment of the vertebra which can become a major issue. One affected vertebrae can then affect the integrity of the entire spinal column. The knock on result of this is that spinal nerves can then become stressed and irritated.
Blood Vessel Constriction
Poor posture changes the alignment of your spine, the resulting movement and subluxations can cause problems with blood vessel constriction. The constriction of the blood vessels around the spine can cut off blood supply to the cells of the muscles, which can then affect their nutrient and oxygen supply. Blood vessel constriction can also raise your chances of clot formation and deep vein thrombosis.
One of the most common side effects of bad posture is nerve constriction. As the spine changes in shape, the resulting movements or subluxations can put pressure on the surrounding spinal nerves. The nerves that connect to the spine come from all over the body and when pinched can not only cause neck and back pain but may also cause pain in other unrelated areas of the body.
How can you fix your posture?
Tight hip flexors often occur as a result of extended periods of sitting and can cause shortening of the muscles. Tight hips can also lead to a restricted range of motion and discomfort around the lower back muscles, joints and legs.
Functional corrective exercises: Corrective exercises for tight hip flexors would include lots of dynamic movements to strengthen the hips, making sure to mobilise this normally static muscle group. Tight hip flexors will restrict your range of motion for a good squat, so try warm up exercises to activate the hips before you step into a squat rack.
Exercises may include:
- Standing donkey kicks
- Cross body leg swings (these could be banded or performed with a cable attachment)
- Yoga moves such as the “Open Lizard Stretch” or “Pigeon” or “Butterfly” stretch
Internally Rotated Shoulders
Typically it’s those with office jobs who tend to suffer from internally rotated shoulders the most. This is because you’re sat leaning over a computer and extending the arms to type. This causes a craning of the neck and pain around the top of the neck and shoulders and can also result in weak chest muscles. In order to correct this, we need to strengthen the chest and perform exercises which retract the shoulders.
Exercises may include:
- Cable flyes - Always opt for standing over seated when trying to train functionally. Sitting is not functional. Strengthening the chest will help to push your shoulders back and improve your posture, as the chest muscles are reactivated.
- Rotator cuff exercises such as a lawn mower pull - A lawn mower pull requires you to pull a band or cable from the ground, across the body and up to the shoulder joint, retracting your shoulder.
This is caused by... wait for it… you guess it, too much sitting! Sitting completely deactivates our largest muscle group and can cause weak, tight glutes. This can often lead to sway back and an overextended pelvis.
Exercises may include:
- Deep sumo squats - These will activate the glutes and fire up the hip flexors, taking a wide (sumo) stance also enables you to get lower into the squat, activating more of the glutes and training the abductors.
- Multidirectional lunges - Multidirectional lunges are great for reactivating tired glutes as you fire up the muscles in multiple planes of motion, you should complete a lunge on each leg at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock.
As well as targeting areas which have suffered the effects of too much sitting, we can also stretch to prevent these tight zones in the first place or be more active throughout the day. A great way of doing this is EHOH, an initiative designed to prevent the dangers of sitting, where every hour on the hour, you get up and do a mini workout routine, stretch your legs and move your body about to prevent the dangers of sitting.
We all know how important it is to stay active in order to keep fit and healthy, but rest and recovery often go under the radar. Rest is a very important part of being healthy so make sure you know how much you should be resting and why.
Why are rest days important?
When we train, we are putting stress and strain on our body so that it has to adapt and change. When you lift weights you are tearing your muscles and it is not until you refuel and rest that your muscles repair and grow stronger. This is why overtraining is such a problem and why rest days are so important. Read our article on overtraining to find out more about what happens when you don't rest properly.
Signs your body is in need of recovery
You’re exhausted despite having had a good night's sleep
If you know you’ve had enough sleep but you still feel exhausted in the morning, it’s a good sign your body is in need of recovery and sleep just isn’t enough. Let your muscles repair by giving them complete rest until you feel more energetic. This could be anywhere from a few days off to a week without training.
Your resting heart rate is significantly elevated
An elevated resting heart rate is a sign of overtraining as your body’s metabolic rate is increased to meet the imposed demands of training. For those who train regularly with heart rate, this will be easy to monitor. For those whose resting heart rate is unknown, the best time to take a pulse for this reading is first thing in the morning, right as you wake up. Continue to monitor your resting heart rate as you awake for the days after training and if it is normal you know you’ve had adequate recovery.
You drink plenty of water but you’re still thirsty
Suffering from an unquenchable thirst is a sign your body is not experiencing adequate recovery. When your body is in a catabolic state (ie. breaking down muscle) it becomes dehydrated. Keep your water intake high to avoid dehydration and give your body time to recover.
You are always aching
Do you feel like your DOMS will never end? If you re-train muscles before they are fully repaired, they will never have the time to recover and grow stronger. It’s normal to experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) for some time after a good workout, but any more than 72 hours is a sign your body is struggling to recover and you probably need a rest. A deloading week is often added into training programmes to allow recovery and recuperation before returning to regular training frequency.
Consistent training places your body in a constant state of repair and your immune system can suffer the consequences. An increase in illness frequency suggests that your body is in need of recovery.
Tips for ensuring adequate recovery
- Plan rest days. Create a programme with rest and recovery sessions included. Most people plan a training regime but won’t make progressive changes to it or factor in rest. Add recovery days to ensure you get the most from your training.
- Nourish your body. Eat a nutrient-dense diet with adequate quality resources from carbs, proteins and fats. Nutrition helps the recovery process by replenishing the muscle and liver glycogen stores, helping to restore the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, and proteins will assist with muscle repair. This is particularly critical in your choice of post-workout meal.
- Ensure your recovery timing is relative to your sport or exercise. For example, a boxer or fighter will need a significant amount of recovery time in between fights. A light jog or yoga class will, in contrast, only take minimal recovery.
- Avoid self-medicating. Pain killers can mask the pain of an injury or ache and lead you to rush into your next session too quickly, without giving yourself adequate time to repair.
- Have weeks of complete rest. This will give your body time to recover and you will return with a new lease of enthusiasm for your training, with more energy and regained focus.
- Get a massage. Massage can help to relieve tired, achy muscles through potentially helping to break down built up fluid which will help to reduce inflammation and speed up the recovery process.
- Reduce stress. The stress hormone cortisol interferes with your recovery in a big way. Elevated cortisol levels will leave you stressed, moody and can cause a catabolic state where muscle is burned and fat is stored.
How many days a week should you rest?
We all have different bodies and therefore we all recover at different rates. The average person can perform 5-6 tough workouts per week with a day or two recovery. However, athletes can train multiple times per day without rest. The key to knowing when to recover and when to carry on is to listen to your body. Keep track of your progress by writing down your workouts and noticing when you feel run down, or if your progress is stalling.
Never feel guilty about letting your body recover, rest days are just as important as training days and taking a rest day will not halt your progress, instead it will do just the opposite.
I am now going into my second year of university but I have been practising yoga and meditation on and off since I was about six years old. Back then my main motivation for doing yoga was the free dried mango at the end of each class and being referred to as a ‘yogi bear’ by our kid-friendly teacher. Now, I practice yoga and meditation in order to deal with any anxiety or tension I may be carrying and as a way to switch-off for an hour during the day without taking a nap.
I am nowhere near the standard of yoga that I should be for someone who started out so young. After trying a higher class-level, I realised that the only pose I could actually do was the downward dog whilst everyone else was in headstands. So I only attend beginners classes but as they say, yoga is very personal. However, one day I hope that I will be able to reach a higher level. Equally, meditation takes a lot of discipline and practice; a skill I am still trying to master.
There is a stigma that yoga is easy and does not require much energy, but if you ever hear someone say that, ask if they would like to join you in a hot yoga class and their opinion may change rapidly. Yoga, usually entails meditation at some point, and requires not only physical power but also can be a workout mentally which is why I believe it to be one of the only ‘full-body’ workouts you’ll find on a gym timetable.
Read more: What Are The Benefits Of Hot Yoga?
Over the past year I have made it my goal to attend at least one yoga class a week and try a home meditation practice, usually one I find on YouTube. But obviously I do have lapses and I have found that the best way to keep up is to do at least five minutes of my favourite yoga poses before listening to a calming guided meditation just before going to bed.
I have loved attending yoga classes at my gym but I have also been to some at ‘Yoga West’ which are fantastic! I have managed to try a range of different types of yoga which I will review below.
Read more: How Should You Prepare For A Yoga Class?
Yoga has improved my strength, agility and stamina which have in turn improved my level and intensity of workouts in the gym. This has translated into pretty much any activity I am doing, whether I am weight training, in a spin class or running. I have become more physically capable but also more aware of what my body is telling me, and tracking my breathing. I have found using yoga breathing techniques in the gym have made exercising and stretching easier and often less painful.
Yoga and meditation have also really helped me reduce my levels of anxiety and stress, which were becoming a major issue for me during first year of university, and it became the perfect way to reset myself into a positive mind-frame. And therefore I feel it has not only conditioned my body but also my mind. I feel the poses are empowering and as I make progress I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in my body.
Just by adding a few yoga poses into the end of my gym sessions, I am less sore (they do act as good stretches) and feel more energised, which is worth it even if I look a little odd on the gym floor!
Here are some of the forms of yoga and meditation classes I have tried over the past six months and my thoughts on them;
- Vinyasa Flow (fast-paced/fitness yoga)
- Yin Yoga (yoga in slow motion)
- Hot Yoga (detox yoga)
- Meditation and Mindfulness for Beginners
- Gong Bath (Intense Meditation)
- Les Mills Body Balance (a mix of yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi)
This is my go-to yoga class, and usually the most popular. I find it is the perfect mix of exercise and meditation. By the end of a class I feel I have worked out, but instead of being exhausted I actually feel more energised and mentally refreshed. I would recommend this class for any beginners wanting to add yoga into their weekly workout schedule as it is perfect on its own or to compliment a post workout routine.
I think this is one of the more mentally challenging forms of yoga. Essentially, you have to hold each pose from anywhere between one to five minutes. It is tough. You really have to discipline your mind and body in order to power through and hold the poses for such a long time and maintain your focus. However, although hard, I have found this to be one of the more rewarding classes. You are able to really listen to what your body is telling you in the different poses and react accordingly. It also allows you to perfect poses and deepen them as your body relaxes into them. I would recommend this yoga class for the morning when you want to energise yourself or for the evening as more of a way to reduce any lingering stress from the day.
In all honesty, this is not my favourite. It gets sweaty. However, it is an extremely good way to help feel detoxified after a ‘cheat’ day. It makes the yoga a lot harder so would also be good for anyone who wants more of a challenge.
Meditation and Mindfulness Course for Beginners
I went along to this with my father and we both loved it! This was a two-hour masterclass teaching the basics of meditation followed by a few sequences of yoga. Before this course I had only ever meditated in yoga classes or listening to apps guiding me to reduce my stress or fall asleep. And although meditation helped me defeat my insomnia I essentially never gave meditation the attention it deserved. This course helped me grasp the basics of meditation and inspired me to add meditation into my everyday routine. The benefits are brilliant! I still meditate with guided tracks or music as I find this helps me concentrate but I would highly recommend going to a course like on their journey to mindfulness.
This was given to me as a present, and a very memorable one. I have never experienced anything like it, or felt two hours pass more quickly. It is essentially a bath of music. Leo, our brilliant instructor played a whole array of musical instruments; different gongs, a conch shell, bells …. Creating, as he explained in the introduction, binaural beats.
After the session many said they felt an almost ethereal outer-body experience, I did not feel this way, but I definitely felt I had experienced something very calming.
Les Mills Body Balance
I absolutely love this class for a Sunday night wind-down. It allows me to explore different practices (the yoga part is still my favourite) and see how easily you can flow from one form into another. For me, this is one of the more ‘fun’ classes, as personally I don’t think it is that much of a workout (maybe I’m doing something wrong) but I do think it’s a great way to unwind and prepare my body for the week ahead. This class is perfect for anyone who wants a taster into yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi.
By Siena Barry-Taylor
Yoga is a $2.5 billion industry and is growing in popularity every day, with many people practising it for mindfulness, wellness, and health. But what are the benefits of hot yoga? Is it worth investing your time and money into this hobby? We take a look.
What is hot yoga?
Hot yoga is a broad term used for any yoga practice done in high temperatures (usually above 30 degrees Celsius.) Some say this is done to mimic the hot and humid temperatures of yoga's country of origin, India. However, some say it is so as to make the yoga participants sweat more and become more flexible thereby getting more out of the session.
A common type of hot yoga is known as Bikram yoga after its founder, Bikram Choudhury, and was first popularised in the 1970s. Bikram hot yoga consists of the same 26 poses and two breathing exercises in every class and is typically done in 40 degree heat (105 degrees Fahrenheit) with 40% humidity.
Bikram yoga has recently come under scrutiny due to personal and professional indiscretions by Bikram Choudhury including alleged sexual assault and multiple law suits.
Advocates of hot yoga claim it encourages the sweating out of toxins and improves circulation, increases flexibility, and decreases stress. However, the drawbacks of exercising in such intense heat and humidity include nausea, dizziness, and the risk of passing out. Pregnant women are one group who are strongly advised against practising hot yoga as the excess heat can cause over-exhaustion and muscle injury. The fetal development can also affect blood pressure which can in turn increase the risk of the mother suffering nausea or syncope (fainting).
Hot yoga benefits
There are supposedly many benefits to practising hot yoga, for example the heat loosens up your muscles, making you more flexible. It is even thought that yoga can reduce emotional eating thereby helping you to lose weight. This is thought to be because of the de-stressing effect that yoga can have on people.
It's very important that you stay well hydrated when practising hot yoga due to the intense heat and humidity which lead to profuse sweating. A leak-proof water bottle that you can have with you is vital. You also want to make sure that you have a non-slip yoga mat as the excess sweat could cause you to slip when holding your poses. Finally, your yoga clothing needs to be super sweat-wicking and stretchy to give you complete freedom of movement and to prevent you from chafing and ending up with sweat rash or body acne after a particularly sweaty hot yoga session.