Yoga: your invitation to relax and unwind

Photo by Emily Sea on Unsplash

Originally written for The Uni Bubble

Ever since I joined the yoga society at Uni two years ago, I have never looked back. Its ability to completely de-stress and revitalise is unparalleled, and I can’t think of a better way to begin my mornings. Despite my love for yoga dating back to pre-pandemic, there is no doubt that my passion has blossomed throughout lockdown, as I was suddenly given endless time to explore and develop my ability. Its healing powers has helped me and many other people all around the world to keep calm and motivated during a tumultuous time filled with uncertainty and panic. If you have found yourself getting stressed easily, looking for a gentle form of exercise, or if you feel like you have an unfillable hole, there is no doubt that yoga can help you reach your goal.

Photo by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash

Yoga, originating from ancient India, is described as a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices. The ultimate goal of the practice is Moksha (liberation) and the ability to achieve a state of spiritual awareness.  Yoga is one of the six orthodox philosophical schools of Hinduism but there is also a wide variety of yoga schools in Buddhism and Jainism. The practice of yoga is thought to date back to pre-vedic Indian traditions, possibly in the Indus Valley civilization, around 3000 BCE.

According to Indologists, the core principles of yoga are: Discovering dysfunctional perception and finding inner peace, expanding the consciousness to becoming coextensive with everything, following a path to enlightenment and comprehending impermanent and permanent reality, and entering into other bodies and attaining supernatural accomplishments.

“This form of yoga was created in the ‘Modern Yoga Renaissance’ of the 20th century, where Western styles of gymnastics were blended with postures from Hatha yoga”

Don’t let these intense principles and words scare you away as you definitely don’t need to start yoga with these in mind. Many modern yoga practices focus simply on the asanas (bodily positions), connected into a sequence called vinyasas, and accompanied by some breathing exercises of pranayama. This form of yoga was created in the ‘Modern Yoga Renaissance’ of the 20th century, where Western styles of gymnastics were blended with postures from Hatha yoga. It is a great form of natural exercise, and allows you develop strength in your core, upper body and glutes. New levels of flexibility are introduced into your system, allowing you to feel more agile.

This Western yoga allows you to exercise naturally, unwind and incorporate as much of the spiritual side and core principles as you want to. Personally, when I began yoga, I was merely on a journey towards flexibility and strength. But, after a few months of stretching, I began to listen closer to the breathing techniques, think about those core principles, and incorporate them more and more into my practice. I found that my stress levels began to significantly drop, and I found it much easier to relax and focus on my work.

“The new techniques I have learnt from pranayama has allowed me to work through my irregular breathing and control it, allowing me to feel a lot more confident”

I used to suffer from panic attacks, and I still find it difficult to breathe every now and then. The new techniques I have learnt from pranayama has allowed me to work through my irregular breathing and control it, allowing me to feel a lot more confident. You shouldn’t shy away from the spiritual side completely as it is extremely beneficial to the mind, body and soul, but you can choose to introduce it as slowly as you want on your yoga journey.

When lockdown came, I found that my free time expanded, and so did my stress levels. With coursework due in and no idea how the pandemic was going to play out, I turned to yoga for support. Beginning my days with the practice meant that I went into my daily routine feeling a lot more relaxed with a lot more focus. It also acted as the perfect break from my studies, giving me a mindful exit from the perils of Uni and pandemic life.

All of my yoga lessons transferred to zoom which I found still worked well, but I began to look for other practices to fill in the gaps between lessons. That’s when I discovered YouTube. The website is completely bombarded with amazing lessons from a whole hoard of different teachers. My personal favourite (and 9.8 million others) is Yoga with Adrienne. Her YouTube page is packed full of 7 years’ worth of yoga lessons, covering every theme you can think of. Yoga for the core, yoga for relaxation, yoga for runners… it’s all there!

Photo by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash

One of my favourite features on her channel, is her 30 days of yoga series, where she uploads a 15–30-minute video every day in a month-long cycle. Each day is different, concentrating on different aspects of the body and breathing techniques, resulting in a well-rounded practice over the course of the month. I would definitely recommend this if you are looking to get into the practice, as this will give you a great introduction.

Her yoga for beginner’s videos are perfect for those who have absolutely no flexibility and are vital for a gentle warm up before you attempt anything too challenging. The videos provide gentle stretching techniques, an introduction to the classic poses, and the necessary reassurance that everyone needs to start from somewhere!

For many, the ability to start your journey in your room is a massive bonus as you can go at your own pace without feeling self-conscious. It’s so easy to get YouTube up on your laptop or phone and try one of these sessions out. You don’t even need to buy a yoga mat straight away; you could use a towel or carpet until you feel like you want to commit and invest in some equipment. Also, as you can practice from the comfort of your own home, you don’t need fancy gym wear or yoga pants. Soft and stretchy pyjamas act as a perfect substitute due to their delivery of comfort and give.

So, if you have access to YouTube, a towel to practice on and pyjamas to wear, what’s stopping you? I encourage you to get out there, give it a go, and invite some positivity and strength into your life.

Sober for October; the story so far

10 days in and it’s fair to say that my sober October has already come with its ups and downs. The support I’ve received from my friends and family is undeniably the thing that has kept me going and my motivation up. None of my friends have attempted to peer pressure me into drinking (not that I would budge) and my mum is singing my praises at home!

The combination of the local lockdown, closed nightclubs and an increased workload has also worked in my favour. My motivation has been so happy to see the back of binge drinking, getting home in the early hours of the morning and writing off whole days at a time! I’ve been able to get up early and straight to work on most days. The third-year workload, Quench magazine, my blog and new food Instagram account has demanded all my head space, so, the no drinking couldn’t have come at a better time. My life has been absolutely filled with reading and writing!

Another interesting turn of events which has added to my sober October is a round of antibiotics! For the first time in my life I have been forced into a 9-day dry spell due to medication and it couldn’t have coincided with a better month. It has only added to the motivation and reasons to stay sober, so I’m extremely grateful for my ailments!  

Bring on the next 20 days!

Tips for cooking in a Uni/shared kitchen

Over my years of uni kitchen cooking I have continuously struggled with the entire experience. The surfaces are always dirty, you can never find the right equipment and there is always way too many people in the kitchen at once. Here is a few tips to help you stay level headed in a chaotic environment!

Plan your cooking time

If I’m cooking something a little more time consuming like a lentil dal or risotto, I like to cook it during the day at an odd time when no one else is in the kitchen. I can spread myself out and dominate the room for an hour and make as much mess and use as much cooking equipment as I possibly can with little complaint. This means when I go to eat at a regular dinner time and there’s multiple people crowding up the room, I can just heat up my pre-prepared food! Also, I would have been able to wash everything up and clean the surfaces beforehand! I can enjoy my food coma in peace without being nagged to clean up all my stuff.

Make sure you wash everything up on time

When you live with 6 people who are all cooking for themselves throughout the day, it doesn’t take long for the kitchen to become absolutely crammed with dirty dishes. This creates such a nasty environment to live in and really puts anyone off from entering the room and cooking in there. If you live with messy people, it’s a good idea to set the example of doing your washing up early and keeping a tidy space. This encourages people to follow suit and removes at least one lot of washing up from the kitchen sides.

Hide any special things you don’t want anyone to use

I can become particularly attached to certain items of kitchen equipment and easily irritated if they are left used and unwashed. A microplane is my favourite item of kitchen equipment ever. It is so versatile and grating garlic and ginger has become a daily activity for me, so I want it to be in perfect condition. As soon as I started storing it at the back of my cupboard, preventing anyone using it to grate cheese on their bolognese, I never had any issues with locating it ever again. All had been restored to natural order once again.

Keep the kitchen cupboards well organised

A lot of equipment can be accumulated in a shared kitchen of 6 and it can become overwhelming when rooting through a cupboard to locate a saucepan among multiple cheese graters and colanders. If you’ve made the decision to share culinary equipment with your housemates (like we did), it is important to get a good system together. Stack the plates and bowls together in the same cupboard. Group together all saucepans and frying pans in a way that feels natural. When you need a cheese grater you want to be confident that you’ll find it before your pasta gets cold! Most importantly – make your system make sense! We all know that a kitchen knife doesn’t belong anywhere near a baking tray.

Be easy going

It is nearly impossible to completely change someone to having the same clean mindset as you and the best you can do is just go along with it. If you are forced to live in a messy kitchen, you don’t want to fill it with animosity. There’s nothing worse than having to co-exist in such a small space with someone who you’ve had consistent arguments and issues with. Uni students are not the cleanest of people and that is something you have to get used to!