Emma Lovell Yoga

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Fall II - mixed media on gesso - 25 x 20 cm - float framed - 2014

In her article ‘Addressing the fear of falling in seniors‘, Katy Bowman discusses how a fear of falling (and not being able to get back up) and can actually cause people to fall:

‘Most of us can relate. If you’ve ever walked over a slippery surface or spent any time on ice or snow, chances are you’ve caught yourself altering your movement patterns to prevent a fall; the alteration is a natural response to fear. But if this response is natural, how can it eventually lead to a fall?

It turns out that fear-induced alterations in gait patterns can have a profound impact on the muscles used while walking. Timid walking tends to mean less clearance of the foot from the ground (shuffling), bent knees to lower the center of mass and a reduction in the natural arm swing that balances the movement of the legs.

Being afraid of falling every now and then is no big deal. But being afraid whenever you are walking can reduce the loads to the muscles of the hip, eventually atrophying them to the point where they no longer stabilize the weight of the body as it is moving. Combine instability and poor mobility with a crack in the sidewalk or the unexpected object in the kitchen and you’ve got yourself a fall.’

Take a look at this guy taking the fear out of falling:

‘No one wants to be That Guy who has fallen and can’t get up. The reality, though, is that with beds, couches and chairs abundant, many people have lost the strength to get off the floor because they just don’t get down there anymore. As simple as it sounds, getting down and back up again requires joint mobility and muscular strength.’ Katy Bowman from ‘Addressing the fear of falling in seniors.’

You may have seen the new BBC series How to Stay Young and the sit to stand test they featured.  This week’s classes have been based around building strength in the legs and mobility in the hips to enable a more easeful transition from sitting on the ground to standing.  Here is the test:

A lot of people struggle to do this movement (see quote above) and so it can be helpful to modify the exercise by using the hands to start with or by lifting the hips up higher than the feet.  For example you could start by standing without hands from a chair and then gradually lower the height you are starting from.  Also try starting in a different position- try standing from a kneeling position or even a squat and then try coming up with hands, with one hand, and then with no hands.

Crouch- sold

More importantly, as a longer term measure to build strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance, think about sitting on the floor more often and varying how you are sitting.  If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable, add cushions, blocks , or whatever is needed under the pelvis to help take away any tension in the low back or hips.  

Click here for details on my ‘Happy Hips’ workshop.

For more inspiration on dynamic living spaces, or just increasing your daily movement, I recommend taking a look at the video here.


(‘Crouch’, ‘Gaze’ and ‘Fall III’ artwork from Claire Cansick)

‘Your joint laxities are affected by how your entire body moves through the entire day, throughout your entire life. By learning how to move your entire body better, and then moving it better, you will see spillover into areas you didn’t imagine could be related to how you move.’ Katy Bowman

You eat how you move

Really interesting article from Katy Bowman on the relationship between how you eat with how you move:

‘In the natural world, how you eat is based on your ability to get and prepare your food. By being directly involved with your food at every step throughout your life, you maintain the skills and physique necessary to continue to eat. In the natural world, you eat how you move...Historically the work (forces created by human movement) necessary to eat included not only the hunting and gathering bit, but also the mashing, banging, rubbing, beating, tearing, pounding, soaking, spreading, turning, hanging that it took to make nature edible. Said another way, most of the food you use to make your meals–even the “whole ingredients” like nut and coconut flours, oils, milks, and syrups you pour with ease, meats cut with precision, and veggies clean and separated for your convenience–has been processed. Not like in the “I just made this food by putting different chemicals together” kind of way, but a “hey, we performed 14 hours of labor so you could have these whole foods to now cook for your meal, you’re welcome,” kind of way.’  Full article here

Having spent basically a whole day trying to make apple juice from scratch, my movements included picking, pounding, pouring, grinding, pressing, lifting, among other less violent ones.  I could have bought the apple juice and saved myself a lot of time, but when looked at from a movement perspective, if I had  just skipped to the end bit, my movements would have probably just been pouring and sipping.

Here’s a couple of foraging recipes I’ve tried recently:

Hawthorn fruit leather

Ingredients: 1/2 litre hawthorn berries (you can add any hedgerow berries like sloes and rose hips- just improvise, but make sure you use approx half the volume of water to fruit.), 2 dessert apples (chopped), 1/4 litre water.

Method: put all the ingredients in a pan and bring to a slow simmer for 15 mins. Mash with a potato masher then rub through a coarse sieve onto a parchment-lined baking tray (approx 25 x 35cm). Spread out evenly with a spatula then put in oven at the lowest temp until dry. In a fan oven this may take around 3-4 hours. Or use a dehydrater if you have one. Discard the parchment paper, cut the fruit leather into strips and store in an airtight container.

Recipe from Native Hands


Nettle soup

Image result for nettles

Ingredients: Half a carrier bagful of stinging nettle tops, or fresh-looking larger leaves, 50g butter, 1 large onion finely chopped, 1 litre vegetable stock, 1 large potato, peeled and cut into cubes, 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped,sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, 2 tbsp crème fraîche, a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil, a few drops of Tabasco.

Method:  Wash the nettles and drain in a colander. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook gently for 5-7 minutes until softened.  Add the stock, nettles, potato and carrot. Bring to a simmer and cook gently until the potato is soft, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Purée the soup and then season with salt and pepper to taste.  To serve add a teaspoonful of creme fraiche on top. As this melts, swirl in a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil and Tabasco.

Recipe from River Cottage

The gut

‘In the West we tend to be more attentive to the superficial muscular layer of the body, a prejudicial awareness that leaves us largely “internally illiterate.”  We don’t usually notice what’s happening inside us until we have a serious health problem or disease.’  Judith Lasater, The Breathing Book

This is next on my reading list: ‘The key to living a happier, healthier life is inside us. Our gut is almost as important to us as our brain or our heart, yet we know very little about how it works. In Gut, Giulia Enders shows that rather than the utilitarian and let’s be honest somewhat embarrassing body part we imagine it to be, it is one of the most complex, important, and even miraculous parts of our anatomy.’ From here.  

The gut and squatting

‘…sitting, rather than crouching while doing your business unnecessarily prolongs the process and may explain why haemorrhoids and bowel diseases like diverticulitis are more common in Europe than in Asia. Placing a little stool in front of the toilet could help us all pass our stool, says Enders – and we’d no longer need that pile of books in the bathroom.’ From here.

This video is also pretty good and giving an overview on the benefits of making squatting a regular part of your day:

And here’s Katy Bowman’s article again on prepping the body for squatting.

Also this, just this…


Raise your left arm into the air. Great. Now check and see if the shoulder joint also went into the air. Did it? Now, put the arm and the shoulder back down and raising your arm without taking your shoulder with it. How? By thinking “pull the left shoulder blade down as I lift my arm.” Why? Because arm movement should happen mostly at the shoulder joint and not so much between the shoulder and the neck. For better long-term shoulder health (and less neck tension) maintain those finer motor skills (look Mom, I can move JUST my arm), which keep the smaller muscles in the shoulder joint more mobile and well-circulating and reduces the pull on the vertebrae of the neck. How’d you do? Try the right side too!’  Katy Bowman, from blog post ‘Want Traps with that?’  Full article here

We’ve been fine tuning our arm and shoulder movement this week and trying to reduce neck tension in the process.  If you want to practice what we did in class at home then take a look at Katy Bowman’s ‘Alignment Snacks‘ which are roughly 20-30 minutes sessions on different areas of the body.  I recommend ‘Rhomboid Madness’ and ‘A Real Pain in the Neck’ if you want to repeat some of the exercises we did this week.

Also take a look at these two videos from Jill Miller’s Yoga Up®:

Finally here’s an interesting article on neck and head position to help avoid neck pain from Alignment Monkey.



The eyes

‘…our bodies are casted not only by what we do, but by what we don’t do. For example, many of us have “casted” the ciliary muscles of our eyes through exceptionally high amounts of close-looking (computers, smart phones, iPads, books, the walls of our homes, offices and classrooms) and exceptionally low amounts of looking to great distances.’  Katy Bowman.  See full article here for further explanation.


Here are a few exercises you might like to try to improve muscle weakness around the eyes and to help eyes strain.


tibetan eye chart

For generations the people of Tibet have used natural methods to correct visual weakness and improve their eyesight. Chief among the methods employed has been the use of certain exercises which have proved useful over long periods of time. The figure on this chart was designed by Tibetan Lama Monks to give the necessary corrective exercises and stimulation to the muscles and nerves of the optical system. The eye Muscles focus similar to a camera shutter. The purpose of these exercises is to strengthen the eye muscles to improve vision. Practice a few minutes morning and evening and see if you notice its effects.

How to Use the Chart

These exercises are to be done without eyeglasses or contacts. Do each movement for 30 seconds while in a sitting position, spine straight and do not move the head side to side. Move only the eyes.

1.) With the palm of each hand cup both closed eyes to relax them.

2.) Move the eyes clockwise around the outer circle of dots

3.) Repeat this movement in a counterclockwise rotation

4.) Move the eyes back and forth between the dots at 2 and 8 o’clock

5.) Repeat this movement back and forth between dots at 4 and 10 o’clock

6.) Blink the eyes briefly and finish therapy with the palming same as exercise #1

Repeat exercises as desired being careful to avoid strain.

Source:  http://www.wellnesshour.net/tibet.htm via here.


Here’s a couple of exercises from this article in Yoga International:

1. Palming

 Rub your hands together for 10 to 15 seconds until they feel warm and energized. Then gently place your hands over your eyes, with the fingertips resting on the forehead, the palms over the eyes, and the heels of the hands resting on the cheeks. Don’t touch the eyeballs directly, but hollow the hands slightly and allow them to form a curtain of darkness in front of the eyes. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and relax. Envision the eyes absorbing the darkness like a sponge, while also welcoming healing warmth and energy from the hands. Invite the eyes to grow soft and spacious, and enjoy this break from visual stimulation. Continue this palming action as long as it feels soothing—for just a few seconds or up to five minutes. When you are ready to emerge, gently remove the hands from the face and slowly open the eyes.

This palming technique can also be done after the eye exercises that follow to further rest the eyes.

2. Eye Rolling

 Sit upright with a long spine and relaxed breath. Soften your gaze by relaxing the muscles in your eyes and face. Without moving your head, direct your gaze up toward the ceiling. Then slowly circle your eyes in a clockwise direction, tracing as large a circle as possible. Gently focus on the objects in your periphery as you do this, and invite the movement to feel smooth and fluid. Repeat three times, then close the eyes and relax. When you’re ready, perform the same eye-rolling movement three times in a counterclockwise direction.


As with all movements in the body, variation is key- try to vary your focus by spending some time looking at the furthest thing you can see in the distance, watch sunsets, sunrises, the horizon.  Give your eyes a real break and test your proprioception by practicing a sun salutation with your eyes closed, try a balance with your eyes closed and notice the difference.


Think about the different ways you sit throughout the day- there are so many options (see below), but how many do you actually use?  Katy Bowman (again!) has written loads on varying your movements and posted this image on postural habits around the world in this article


 ‘When a man is narrating a story, he sits on his crossed legs … During a meal he kneels on his left knee and sits on his left heel … while inspecting anything or testing a weapon, he kneels on both knees and sits on his heels, … when he washes his hands, he squats … When it is hot, he lies down on his stomach … when he takes a nap … he turns over on his back …’

Bedouin sitting and reclining habits as described by Alois Musil (1928) in this interesting article.

The hands

Posted on by Emma

This week we’re considering the hands and wrists.  We’re thinking about keeping our wrists and fingers mobile and healthy through variation in movement, and also how best to use the hands to support us in poses to avoid injury or strain.  Here’s a handy guide on where to place the weight in downward dog:


We tend to push a lot with our hands in yoga, supporting weight through our hands in many poses, but never actually ‘pulling’ with our hands.  It’s important to keep the joints healthy and not trapped in the same movement patterns by using the hands, wrists, and shoulders  in other ways, for example hanging:

Katy Bowman has a great article here on preparing for hanging and swinging, with variety being the key:

‘Vary your hand positions and vary the surfaces you hang from. Vary the bars and sometimes head for the trees. Size and texture are variables. So are scapula and hand positions. The more you mix it up, the more of “you” you invite to the party.’