RSS Feed

» Listings for June 2012

  1. serif 2013A number of people with lower back problems can benefit immensely from practising yoga but are often put off by the fear of further injury or irritation. I have proved the benefits for myself as I have had two degenerative lumbar discs for years. Also men can be put off yoga thinking that it is a soft option.

    On the latter note first, if they were to practice yoga regularly for some years and become aware of some of the more advanced postures then they would realise that yoga is anything but a soft option. Some of the advanced core strength postures for example can be so demanding as to be impossible for many of us. Having said this progression to “advanced” postures is not essential. In fact as your practice matures you often want to do less posturing and work more with your mind.

    For those suffering from back ache or back strains or injuries they would still do well to start their yoga practice with a softer approach until they become stronger and more aware of their bodies.

     So how can yoga help with back issues? Well, one thing that I have discovered in all the years I have been teaching yoga is that no two backs are the same! Two people with strain or degeneration of L3 and L4 for example may respond differently to the same set of yoga postures, while one will say they feel more comfortable when forward bending and the other when backward bending.

    What’s important I think is that they begin to work with a number of postures with a view to discovering which ones benefit them.

     A maxim I discovered years ago and one I repeatedly tell my students is:

    Use the posture to get into your body NOT your body to get into the posture.

    In other words the posture is your tool, your servant and is a means to find out more about yourself. The posture is not something to admire and aspire to and worship for its form and beauty as you may have seen in photos in yoga books. Okay, you can have the challenge of working towards achieving the correct alignment but while you are gently making your way there always leave room for your body as it is today!

     It is also advisable not to simply practice yoga for one part of your anatomy…so while you may start yoga to help your back be open to working with your whole body. Yes, you may think it best to spend a bit more time with your back but don’t neglect the rest of your body. Yoga is a holistic practice and working with the whole body can only help the back.

    One of the good things for someone with back trouble is that a lot of yoga focuses on the spine anyway so you will get plenty of posture practice for the back.

    Some people ask me if it’s sensible to attend a regular class as a beginner especially when you are having trouble with their back and I would say discuss this with the teacher first. They may suggest a beginners or a more gentle type of class. You may not feel so at ease attending a stimulating Vinyasa flow as a first class.

     Once you start to settle into regular classes you will begin to realise that it doesn’t really matter what other people are doing on their mat. You just follow the teachers instructions and practice at a pace and intensity that you can manage and if a posture doesn’t feel right, is beyond you or is off putting sit it out in a relaxing pose and wait for the next posture…an understanding teacher will appreciate this. If it is a posture you would like to master ask the teacher what preparatory postures you mighjt do for a while to build up. Remember you are practicing yoga to get to know your back and body better. To understand those muscle groups in and around the problem area that you want to tone and strengthen so they become almost like scaffolding to support you.

     Your yoga practice should also include breathing techniques and this will also bring you benefits. Linked to this is the use of what we call bandhas in yoga. These are yoga body locks and important but must be learnt with the guidance of an experienced teacher as they have to be applied with care and safely. They can help to strengthen and tone the core area which in turn may help the back.

     In addition it is important to get the right amount of rest and while you will benefit from practice on a daily basis (even if only 30 minutes a day) take a couple of days off each week. Also mix gentle yoga practice with some aerobic exercise such as a brisk walk for 15-30 minutes several times a week. It is important not to get too enthusiastic and attack your back with hard intense posturing thinking it will do the trick….this can just lead to pain and irritation. So always be moving towards your working edge looking for a suitable depth of stretch for you…this can change from day to day depending on a number of variables with our lives…so if one day you discover that you cannot get as deeply into a pose as you did the day before don’t get downhearted,  accept this. You may reach a point with some postures where you cannot go deeper and this can simply be because your anatomy won’t allow it. Don’t judge yourself adversely because of this.

    Furthermore, check out your diet and make sure you include plenty of fresh produce and foods that will provide your body with good levels of nutrients and minerals that will feed the muscles and soft connective tissue….vital to help bring more strength to the back.

     I sometimes ask my students at the start of a class when they are relaxing in a horizontal position to think of what they would like to gain from the session. What outcome would they like. This is even when they don’t know what the postures are going to be, This resolve makes them think about each posture in turn and makes them try and practice with their outcome in mind. It doesn’t matter if they wanted to finish feeling relaxed and chilled or stimulated and revitalised…they can get either of these outcomes from the same set of postures most of the time if they practice with their resolve in mind. Yoga can be a personal practice even in a group.

    Above all, make sure you enjoy your yoga practice. Look forward to your class and your own personal private practice and try and have a positive feeling about the time you spend and cultivate a nourishing feeling of physical awareness.


    Barry Todd


  2. This is a selection of letters in response to a radio show about anxiety.  Some of the questions are very long and detailed and have been edited to reflect the theme of the question:

    Making phone calls at work

    I get so nervous and sometimes while I'm trying to speak I have the weird random need to swallow in the middle of a sentence and it sounds like I'm choking on my words. does anyone else have this problem?


    Try buying a book on NLP. Look up the swish method and use it for telephone calls at work. You will need to practice a few times away from work first. It is always easier to have someone guiding you through it but it is possible to DIY
    I'd be happy to help if you encounter any problems with it.

    advice, digestion/anxiety

    Lets think of anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10.

    1 is feeling happy and realxed, 10 is 'im gonna have a heart attack, my stomach is leaving me, i cant see a thing, im 100 degrees and both my legs dont work.

    So, 6 years ago, my anxiety was at level 9/10 throughout the day for about 6 months. I couldnt do anything! After extensive sessions in therapy, changing my diet to cut out sugars, caffiene, alcohol etc i improved and have been living a fairly normal life. So, for the past 2/3 months things have been deteriorating again and im finding that my anxiety levels are inconsistant, ranging up to a 6/7 on occasion when driving.

    This person has been to the docotr for tests and diagnosed with IBS which she feels is a fob off.


    Yep you are right IBS is what they call anything they can't find another name for.

    In my experience IBS is invariably , if not caused by, increased by stress. I work with a local GP group in the UK and they agree that most of their IBS patients could be somewhat anxious. They just don't have the time to spend on discovering that.

    I would suggest that you make a consicious effort to relax several times a day.

    There is a great difference between relaxation in its true form and distraction. Many people feel that distracting things like reading a book or watching TV are what they do to relax. In this case I mean really relax in a quiet space and do absolutely nothing except maybe listen to music. You have to be strong because you will start to get thoughts. For some it will be about what they could or should be doing instead of relaxing others may find unwanted worries invading the relaxation space. It's okay on both counts. just acknowledge the thoughts and tell them to go away for the time being as you are in training. It won't work but eventually you will find that you are managing to relax.

    You use the 0 - 10 example. Use it in this too. Use any method you can to push you level down so that you are moving your relaxation indicator to a more relaxed level. This could be visual, like a ruler type measure for instance, it would be for me, but any method that is comfortable for you woud be great.

    You come across in your messages as a very determined and no nonsense person and I think you have the determination to work dedicatedly to this ends.

    I'd be interested to know how you get on.

    Sever Panic Attacks -- PLEASE HELP ME :'(

    I have had anxiety issues since I was 17. I am now 24. As of turning 21, months after, I developed bad panic attacks with symptoms that literally make me cry. They haven't been very bad up until monday night, going into tuesday. I felt like I couldnt breath right. My nose felt narrow, i was dizzy, dry mouth, sick to my stomach and in horrible neck and head pain. I couldnt stop crying or shaking. I wasn't able to fall asleep. My fiance' ended up staying home from work with me. As the day went on I felt better. I ended up falling asleep around 2am which is actually early for me. I woke up about 430am, right before my fiance' wake sup for work. I was covered in sweat and felt out of it. I got some water and sat in bed until I cooled off. Out of no where, I felt dizzy, head pressure, felt like I couldnt breath, i couldnt walk straight or even think, my mouth was dry and I can't explain how terrified and depressed and angry I was all at... she goes on to explain lots more sympotoms of this current anxiety and says that her friends are suggesting she takes medication.


    If it really is ruining you life , as it seems to be, then taking tablets for a while could help but I urge you not to depend on the tablets for long term relief. Take any counselling or CBT therapy that is offered to you with the aim of reducing gradually the medication (under your doctors supervision) and don't stop searching for the answer to your problem. Also make sure you know what the potential side effects.

    If you have any spare money then seek out an experienced hypnotherapist who specialises in anxiety. If you cannot do that keep talking to people and working on your problem. Join groups to discuss and kepp talking about it.

    Don't give up on finding your freedom from the entrapment you find yourself in. medication ideally is a temporary answer but your ultimate solution comes from within. You will probably need some help and guidance though to get there.

    Help needed

    I am in my thirties now.When I was in elementary,high school,even in the beginning of my university days.i was considered to be a prospective,intelligent,aspirational young man who is going to do something out of his life. He goes on to say that he developed a fear of death and ended up taking meidcation from the doctor, later joining the army and ending the medication..  In the army the state of my mind was getting worse.A part of my military service was in a dangerous zone.
    The funny thing is that during all that period nobody could say that there is something wrong with me.I was able to maintain healthy look.

    My major problem now is constant tenseness of the whole body,especially of my face muscles.
    Great tenseness of my face muscles is what stop me behaving normally.I became introvert and am only comfortable going out at night.

    Alcohol is a kind of solution for my problems,I do not drugs and do not take any medicament.
    I am not an alcoholic.I would describe myself as a person who abuse alcohol by definition if I am right.

    Nutritional therapy has been suggested to this person by some friends.


    If you can I would see an experienced hypnotherapist. By that I mean talk to a few and see which ones seem unphased by your problem.

    Nutritional therapy (my partner is one) can help with coming off alchohol but at the end of the day if your mind is so tense that it also making your body tense you do need a release. i would think there is a lot of anger in there somewhere and it needs to be released in a safe environment.

    So if you can afford to seek out those hypnotherapists and talk to as many as you need to until you feel you have found someone with the esperience and professionalism to help you.

    Good luck

    Anxiety and Love

    Please please please help me, I am so scared!

    I have been with my boyfriend for almost three years. During this time I have never felt anything but happiness and love, but then about a month ago now I started having strange thoughts. To begin with I believed that my boyfriend had cancer - I was obsessed with this for weeks, I looked up websites, constantly checked my boyfriend. She goes on to say that things have been getting worse and also states that she had an eating disorder when younger.  This  theme is running through several of the letters I recieved.  Many of you young people who really don't know where to turn. This answer is meant for all of you.


    I understand where you are all coming from. Anxiety feels like a monster. It is a fear that has no foundation and so to make it real you start to find things to be frightened about or you just feel frightened with life. It invariably comes from past learned behaviour that has kept you safe in some way. Wether that is avoiding some kind of trouble or just learning to be fearful because that it the message you pick up.

    All the therapies in the world that try to get you to rationalise and see through your fear may have some effect but it is often limited and not long lasting.

    It's like visiting someone you don't know who tells you that you are perfectly safe in the room with them - as long as you don't open the cupboard in the corner. That is then a background caution that has registered with you subliminally. If you start to hear weird growling noises or someone else comes into the room acting fearfully you are going to be thinking about what is in that cupboard. No matter how many time you are told that you are safe as long as you don't open it, if the doors are rattling and the growling continues and people around you are fearul you will be scared.

    That's how I would describe anxiety, no matter how many times you are taught how to rationalise it, lurking is the fear that makes you vulnerable.

    Taking tablets might help temorarily but my fear is that they become a crutch and if you continue with them they do have side effects.

    The best course of action is to see a hypnotherapist who specialises in anxiety and in

    If you have any comments, advice or need help with anxiety yourself please feel free to add to this blog.  I will reply via this blog to any requests for help.  It is invaluable to hear from others suffering in the same way as yourself, especially if they have found a way to conquer their condition - so pelase do add your own comments and experiences too.