Helen Clare in a shoulder opening yoga pose

Release Shoulder Tension: Improve Posture

Our repetitive, daily forward-motion activities (driving, running, typing, reaching, etc.) take their toll on our posture. With actions where the shoulders hunch forwards, the pectoral muscles tighten and the infraspinatus at the back of the shoulders weaken.

If time isn’t taken to release accumulated tension in the chest and shoulders and to strengthen the back of the body, our posture will be greatly affected, which impacts our ability to breathe to our full capacity, to sit and stand to our tallest height, and to walk and run with proper alignment.

When we’re out of alignment, we’re at greater risk of injury because our spine is vulnerable. When running, only with proper posture and alignment will be able to run with optimal efficiency.


Try this pose, morning or evening, to open the chest, release the shoulders and lengthen the spine. You’ll need two yoga blocks – place one length ways along your upper spine, and the other at full height to support your head.

Spend a few minutes, then, if comfortable, reduce the height of the block under your head. Watch the video below, that includes a few other poses to release the shoulders and open the chest and upper back.


Yoga on the beach

3 ways yoga really helps prevent sports related injuries

With my Yoga for Runners workshops starting this Saturday, I’ve been excitedly planning – bringing together my learning and experience of both yoga and running – to offer the runners of all levels coming, the most useful and beneficial poses, sequences and techniques. Although there’s been an awesome rise in athletes taking on yoga as a supplement to their training, there still exists an unawareness or resistance from many trying it out. I got to thinking about how I can clearly and succinctly explain how yoga helps to prevent sports related injuries and what makes it such a vital part of an athletes training plan. See what you think!

  1. Yoga builds strength – where you need it most. When we train hard without enough of the right cross training, our muscles get so used to being used in a particular way, that we can start to over-rely on some, and under-use others. This type of muscular imbalance is what most frequently leads to injury, as over-compensation leads to tension, tension leads to strain, and strain leads to pain. In addition, muscular weakness means there’s insufficient support of the joints, that leads to undue pressure and eventually injury. This week, I used Gluteus Medius in runners as a great example of this – watch my glut med video here – as glut med is so often weak, yet is our primary hip stabiliser. When there isn’t enough strength to stabilise the pelvis, our alignment gets thrown out, excess pressure is put on the low back, hip and knees, and the Tensor Fascia Lata (TFL) works harder than it should – straining the Iliotibial band (ITB).

  2. Yoga develops flexibility – where excessive tension resides. So, our misalignments and imbalances that exacerbate our weaknesses over time, are also creating deep set tension. Using the example of weakness in Gluteus Medius creating an excess of tension in the TFL, it is that accumulated tension that usually causes ITB syndrome – when the IT Band becomes irritated with friction, often culminating with pain in the outside of the knee. See my ITB video here. Another example of a frequently tense/ tight muscle is the Piriformis: a small but deep external hip rotating muscle, that also stabilises the pelvis, can also work too hard if glut med is slacking, and builds extra tension through sitting and crossing legs! As with TFL, it holds on to the tension that it accumulates, if it isn’t frequently released through stretching. 

  3. Yoga enhances neuro-muscular awareness. Strength and weakness, clearly have so, so much to do with the way our bodies cope with the stresses and strains of our athletic pursuits but sometimes it’s habit and lack of awareness that overrides. What do I mean? Well, we can become so used to moving in certain ways, using certain muscles, that this becomes habitual and we loose the neuro-muscular connection and the awareness that we actually have better muscles to engage! Yoga is the best practice to create greater mind-body awareness, that not only enables you to use your physicality to its full functionality, but this awareness keeps you safer – you know when you can safely push your self harder and when you’ve reached your limit.

So, how was that for an overview of how yoga can prevent sporting injuries?! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Yoga Flow Running


I’d also love to see you at the Yoga Flow Running: Yoga for Runners Workshops, read all about them and book in here.


Join me on the Revive and Run Retreat Portugal, the perfect retreat getaway for runners and non-runners. See the details and remaining room options here.

The next Yoga Flow Running weekend retreats in Cornwall are June, 1 space remaining, and October. Get your place here.

Thanks for reading! Please share with someone this could help and leave me your thoughts in the comments below.

Helen in boat pose on a beach

Top 5 core exercises

Why strengthening your core is essential to posture, healthy back and confidence

Do you want to:

  • stand tall and strong?
  • strengthen and protect your spine, to prevent back ache and injury?
  • feel confident and self-assured?

Of course you do! A strong ‘core’ can lead to all of the above, but day to day life can, sometimes, prevent our centres being as strong as they should be 😉

The core and modern life

Generally, we sit too much… Either in super-comfy sofas, or in uncomfortable office chairs, that cause us to slouch and our belly to get lazy. And, from such a young age, we’re asking kids to sit in chairs too – starting the weak core epidemic early! (Why?!)

The core and physical activity

To combat all this sitting time we might exercise. Your chosen activity might be running, a gym routine and a weekly yoga class. As well as to de-stress, the focus might be to build muscle, lose a few pounds or to maintain an already good fitness level. Core strength is vitally important to support the impact of your chosen exercise, to stabilise and protect your spine and to maintain postural alignment.

A strong core also allows us to stay safe and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the movement. This is the essence of my Yoga Flow Running teaching but the theory can be applied to almost any activity.

The core and yoga

So, your optimal core strength is threatened by the chair and time spent sitting! If care isn’t taken to combat our comfortable lifestyles, the spine is at risk from injury during activity, due to a lack of support from its muscular stabilisers. Lack of core strength and awareness can also lead to poor technique in running, biking, surfing and other sports.

If you’ve recently given birth, you might be returning to physical activity from a long break. For a number of reasons, your body might be lacking the the essential stabilisation from the band of muscles, that collectively make up the ‘core’.

This is why, in my opinion (and the teachers I’ve learned from), we should include targeted core and hip strengthening within our yoga practice. While yoga asana (poses) will strengthen your core, you need an awareness of those muscles to begin with. Only through this awareness will you discover how to properly activate the deeper belly, hip, side and lower back muscles, which in turn helps you strength them. This avoids bad yoga habits, will help you hold your yoga poses with proper alignment and therefore, increase the physical benefit from your yoga practice for your entire body!

By spending just a few minutes a day, you can effectively isolate the individual core muscles – strengthening the mind-body neural pathways, as to exactly how it feels to activate and utilise, a potentially  underused muscle group.

Top 5 core strengthening techniques

So here are my top 5 exercises, that you could start to include as part of your yoga practice. If these are new to you, start with the first one and add another each week (practising several times a week). Please note, that these may not be suitable for you. If you are suffering with a significant weakness, back issue or other complaint, you should seek a teacher’s advice (this could be with myself, in person, or online).


This is just a small number of exercises I use, that are very simple, yet very effective, if practised consistently over time. If you come to my classes then they will be familiar – now there is no excuse for not doing them at home!

To learn more, plus how we can consider our core strength throughout a dynamic yoga practice and how it aids and facilities all active poses, join me for the workshop on the 28th in St Agnes, when we will also wind-down with a few deeply relaxing, digestion aiding postures. If you’re further afield, see my regular video posts and attend a retreat. Upcoming retreats are Revive (and Run) 30th April – 6th May in Portugal and Rejuvenating Weekend 6 – 9 July in Cornwall.

Leave me a comment below and share this with someone it would help 🙂

Helen Clare in a yoga warrior 2 pose

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.”

Why do 88% of New Year’s Resolutions typically fail? Probably for several reasons:

  1. We are still in the middle of Winter, when it is harder to get up early and crack on with our goals.
  2. A year is too long a time frame for most people to actually visualise and realise a goal.
  3. A ‘resolution’ is often more of an idea or a dream. In order to make it happen, we need to turn it into an actionable goal.

Let’s use the example: “I want to get fit and healthy this year.” The future tense makes it sound too distant, so change it to: “I am/ feel fit and healthy”. Then, break it down into 3 realistic, yet challenging, progress targets that show you are on track, such as: my skin is clear and glowing, I am my ideal weight, I feel strong and flexible. For each of these sub goals, give yourself 3 tasks, that you can begin to action immediately, to achieve your goal in 3 months. So, the whole approach, when written out, may look like this:

Result (Start with what you want): I feel fit and healthy.

Target (How will you know when you’re there): I am my ideal weight of _

Actions (What you will do to get there): I run 3 miles Wednesday after work and 6 miles Sunday morning (after getting my technique checked!). I go to yoga on Monday and Thursday nightsI switch processed foods with freshly made whole-foods (this can be more specific, such as switching a lunch time pasty for soup).

Target: I feel strong and flexible – my Sun Salute feels easier.

Actions: I go to yoga on Monday and Thursday nights. I get one private yoga session a week, so I can practise yoga for 20 minutes at home, 4 times a week. I sit on the floor instead of the sofa when watching TV.

Target: My skin is clear and glowing.

Actions: I switch diary for plant-based alternatives. I switch coffee for green tea and alcohol for sparkling water. I drink 2 litres of water a day.

Some actions might appear more than once, as they are all contributing to the end result!

Have a go! This process of breaking down a goal/ dream into visible trackable targets and actionable tasks can be done for anything! Give it a try and let me know how you get on in the comments below. We all need to set goals in order to live the life of our dreams. If you’re not sure where to begin, start by envisaging what you actually, really want. Brainstorming everything you want, will reveal at least one life-enhancing goal. Write it down, as above, tell someone else at home to keep you accountable and track all your actions.

If you would like one to one coaching on reaching a goal, with private yoga, nutrition plan and mBit coaching (enhanced decision making), then check out my Best You plans and get in touch for a consultation.

How can yoga help us live longer?

Have you heard that yoga can help you live longer?! Well, there is science to prove that it can – when practised properly ; ). I’m not talking about doing the postures ‘perfectly’, I mean practising with complete focus and awareness.

Only when we are completely focussed when we practise, are we practising yoga – otherwise it would just be a series of stretches and movements.

What yoga can in fact give us, is the benefit of the flexibility enhancing stretches and the strength developing movements, plus focus, clarity and mental peace. The first of the Yoga Sutras is: Yogas Chitta Vritti NirodahaYoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind, and although we may initially start doing yoga for the amazing physical benefits it gives us, when practised in the right way, you will find exactly this: a calm, still mind.

So, back to the science and living longer. It has been discovered that mindfulness strengthens our telomerase, the enzyme which maintains and repairs the caps of our chromosomes. The telomere caps deteriorate with the ageing process but if they are stronger, they naturally last longer, hence a longer lifespan.

This really comes down to the fact that, if we are living mindfully, ie. living with complete awareness of the present moment, we do not feel any stress, fear or anxiety – only peace. When we reside in the calm and relaxed state of the para-sympathetic nervous system our brains function optimally, our muscular tensions ease and we feel calm and happy.

Now, ideally this is our natural state if being but we all know that modern living causes multiple stresses! Yoga can be your way back to the natural calm state, and a longer, more relaxed, life.