• By Amanda Blackburn.

A New You!

After I gave birth to my third child I was a size fourteen and weighed ten and a half stone and although this was not large, I was not happy with the way I looked and wanted to make myself feel happier. I waited till my son was 6 months old and decided to make a start by exercising once a week to build up my fitness levels as I had a very tough third pregnancy and hadn't been able to exercise much throughout it so to start with I joined a local Zumba class. Zumba was the new craze at the time and as I love dancing so much I thought I would give it a go. I remember my first class there were over a hundred people, the atmosphere was buzzing, the music was pumping and the Zumba teacher was brilliant! I was very lucky to find such an encouraging friendly Zumba teacher with the dances so well choreographed and not too hard to follow. After two weeks going once a week, I became hooked on the dance fix and went another evening too making it twice a week. I have been doing this now for over five years and haven't missed many classes over the time, my Zumba teacher is still as good as she was five years ago, changing the music and dances after a while and keeping up to date with all the new music and moves. My Zumba teacher also teaches yoga and after three months of Zumba twice a week I also joined yoga and have been doing this once a week for five years too. So with three hours of exercise a week I lost some weight and toned up. Yoga was the hardest class for me because I had never done it before and my core strength was poor after having three children. With weekly sessions and lots of patience, I feel very proud of what I can do now, although I can't stand on my head and there is still lots of room for improvement yoga has strengthened my core muscles and helped combat stress and I am very flexible. I have met so many lovely people through my classes and have been on lots of social dates with them all. I have found that because I enjoy my classes so much it's not a task, but some me time and it keeps me fit too! So the first step to losing weight is to find a sport that you like and start to exercise for at least an hour a week and then gradually build it up to two hours and then to three. Make sure you allow at least one day rest in between each hourly sport and do something you enjoy, or you won't keep it up. Exercise will kick start your energy levels, make you feel better about yourself and will encourage the start of a healthy eating plan. I also follow a healthy eating plan that I found for myself and it is easy to follow. I will be writing my next blog on my healthy eating plan that can help you to be able to get to your desired weight. Until then here are a few yoga moves for you to practise at home that can help tone your body and mind from within! I have also included a link to my Zumba/Yoga teachers website at the end of the page in case you live in Coventry and want to try out her class, she also teaches private yoga classes at her home if you would prefer to learn without others.

Start with the easy pose, sit and cross your shins, widen your knees and slip each foot beneath the opposite knee as you bend your knees and fold your legs in toward your torso. Relax the feet so their outer edges rest comfortably on the floor, leave a comfortable gap between the feet and the pelvis. Lightly lift your sitting bones and make your thigh bones heavy, relax your shoulders opening out your chest and take deep breaths in and out for five placing your palms together lengthen your tailbone toward the floor.

Repeat placing the opposite leg in front of the other. This yoga move calms the brain, strengthens the back and

This is the cat stretch, on your mat get on your hands and knees and keep your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips. Spread your fingers, your middle fingers should be facing forward, gaze at the floor. Breathe in deeply, on a exhale gently pull your abdominal muscles backwards and towards your spine. Tuck your tailbone down and under, gently contract your glutes.

Press down firmly with your hands, this will take unnecessary pressure off your shoulders. Press the middle of your back towards the ceiling rounding your spine upwards and curling your head inwards looking at the floor between your knees, don't force your chin to your chest. Repeat 10 to 20 times. This improves posture and balance, strengthens and stretches the spine, neck, hips, abdomen and back. It also increases coordination, massages and stimulates organs in the belly, like the kidneys and adrenal glands, creates emotional balance and relieves stress and calms the mind.

Downward facing dog, start on hands and knees with knees directly under the hips and your hand's shoulder width apart. Place your wrists slightly in front of the shoulders and spread your fingers straight ahead pressing firmly through the hands. Lift up engaging the lower belly, draw it in and up as if you were scooping your lower belly up along your spine. Take several full breaths and tuck the toes to start to lift the hips up toward the ceiling. Pedal a few times through the feet alternately bending and straightening the legs. Let the arms be long with the rest of the spine. Keep a gentle bend in the knees and make the spine as long as possible, from the neck all the way to the tailbone. Think about scooping the tailbone towards the heels and bringing length through the sides of the waist. Hold for 2-3 breaths, then float the knees to the mat and rest in child's pose (will show what child's pose is next). Repeat several times. Downward facing dog energises and rejuvenates the entire body. It stretches your hamstrings, calves, spine, shoulders, arches hands building strength in your arms, shoulders and legs.

Childs pose, get on your hands and knees, walk your hands in front of you. Lower your buttocks down to sit on your heels and let your arms drag along the floor as you sit back to stretch your entire spine. This stretches and strengthens hip muscles, thighs and ankles and helps to relieve fatigue. Childs pose also increases blood circulation and can help cure back pain.

Plank pose is an arm balancing yoga pose that tones the abdominal muscles whilst strengthening the arms and spine. To achieve this pose correctly it takes time and practice don't injure yourself by trying this move, I pushed myself at the beginning and suffered from shoulder, chest and arm pains for a whole week after Always start with the beginner's option until you have built up some strength. The moves may look easy but are deceiving and you will ache the next day. Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Breathe smoothly and evenly through your nose. Spread your fingers and press through your forearms and hands and do not let your chest collapse. Look down between your hands, lengthening the back of your neck and drawing your abdominal muscles towards your spine. Tuck your toes and step back with your feet, bringing your body and head into one straight line. take care not to allow your hips to sink too low and keep your thighs lifted and your head in line with your spine. Press the front of your thighs up towards the ceiling while lengthening your tailbone towards your heels and hold the pose while breathing smoothly for five breaths. To release, slowly lower onto your knees, then press back into child's pose and rest. if your arms or abdominals are not yet strong enough to support your full body weight, lower your knees, this is called half plank pose. Whilst in half plank make sure to keep your head and spine in a straight line.

Tree pose, standing on your mat bend the right knee shifting all the weight into the left leg and turn the right knee to the right wall resting the heel against the left leg. Slide your right foot up the left leg, only as high up as you can maintain your balance. To help you balance focus on something and breathe holding your abdominal muscles in towards your spine and even out the balance in the four corners of your foot that is placed on the floor. Keep the right knee bent at 90 degrees toward the side wall keep your shoulders down and your back and chest pressed forward. Slowly lift up your arms into prayer position, you can also put your hands in front of the heart in prayer position if this is easier. Breathe and hold for 4-8 breaths and repeat on the other side. Tree pose increases balance, focus, memory and concentration and strengthens the ankles and knees. These are a few yoga moves for you to practise at home, there are also lots of videos showing you how to do these moves on youtube that I found very helpful. If you join a group it is always better than doing it yourself at home, I can never be bothered at home and going to a class motivates me. You also get to meet some lovely people and it gets you out of the house. It is important to find a well-qualified teacher that you like, this will keep you going to your classes as you will enjoy them. I have added a link to my Zumba/Yoga teacher Nicki Clarke which I highly recommend if you live in the Coventry area, here is the link. Remember to achieve long-term fitness and weight loss it takes time and effort and will not happen overnight, but once maintained you will be able to keep it up forever as it will become part of your normal weekly routine,


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