Summer Yoga Day 2019

“YOGA FOR A HAPPY HEART”

I hope you can join me for a wonderful day of yoga on Saturday the 22nd June – to celebrate World Yoga Day. Places will be limited, so please book by email as soon as possible.

22nd June 2019 – Exton Village Hall – 10am to 4pm – Cost £35

Programme

10.00  Welcome and introduction to the day

10.15 Meditation on the Heart

10.30 Yoga Postures – Opening the Heart-space

11.45 Coffee Break

12.00 Mudra and Pranayama for a Healthy Heart

12.30 Shared Vegetarian Lunch (Please bring a plate of food to share)

1.30 Relaxation – Yoga Nidra with focus at Anahata Chakra

2.00 Circle Yoga Postures

3.00 …When you don’t feel like being kind…

3.30 Joyful Chanting

3.50 Questions, further practice and close

 

Dhyana Mudra

dhyana mudra2

We often see the Buddha represented with this gesture. It is beautifully simple and brings you into deeper, more profound concentration. It is the traditional mudra to aid qualities of tranquillity and inner peace.
Method: To do the Dhyana mudra, simply sit with your hands facing upward, right hand resting on top of your left palm. The right hand, representing enlightenment and higher spiritual faculties, rests over the left hand, representing the world of maya, or illusion.
I like to visualise the hands as a little basket. Sometimes there are flowers in the basket and sometimes there is a little fire burning. The space within the hands is empty and you can see that space as freedom and a way to empty the mind. You can do whatever works for you – it’s a soft embrace and the fingers could be holding a dove…  allow your imagination to roam and find something that works for you.

MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS – A MORNING WORKSHOP

Saturday 26th May 10 – 1 Ryhall Village Hall

Many people get frustrated with meditation or simply have no idea where to start. Meditation is meant to be enjoyable, relaxing and a powerful tool for our health. I have put together a morning of movement and stillness, noise and silence, laughter and peace so that I can pass on this hugely rewarding practice. No previous experience of yoga is necessary – just a mat and blanket.

So what exactly is meditation? Emptying your mind like emptying your kitchen bin??? Well it can have that effect – but in a more gentle manner – we are trying to sooth the mind and reduce the ‘background’ noise. Meditation gives our mind something to focus on, so it has an anchor to hold onto. Anchors may include saying a mantra, looking at an object, watching the breath or simple movements. An anchor also helps us be fully present and live in the moment – trying to stop thoughts of the past and future.

Holding onto these anchors helps quiet our minds and then we can get a glimpse of how the mind is working.  We can then get to see our worries, our obsessions and the busyness of the mind just like clouds floating in the sky. Potentially, we can choose to let these things go as we put some perspective onto the thoughts and see them as just that – thoughts.  In a sense we develop our own method of managing our thoughts. Instead of our thoughts controlling us we get some control over them!

Some people see meditation like sitting at the shore of the ocean of your mind and just watching the waves come and go. We’re not pushing our thoughts away, or judging them but simply watching these thoughts as we’d watch the waves while sitting on the beach. And whilst on the beach watching each wave there’s also a sense of connection to something bigger, something that helps you put some perspective onto the thoughts.

But what if I can’t sit still? Or simply don’t have 5 minutes a day to practice? Don’t worry, meditation is not supposed to be something that is added to your to-do list. Fidgetty people are actually the ones who can benefit the most from meditation, as it helps you to r-e-l-a-x. You can meditate walking or gently moving the body in different ways as well as the traditional statue-like state. That said, being still in the body does help to be still in the mind, but this will come with practice and patience.  There are many well respected studies that show how beneficial meditation is for stress reduction, productivity improvement and easing insomnia. You can read more about this here

On this MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS workshop you will take a light hearted tour around the important aspects of meditation and explore several different methods. It is experiential (you will do things) as well as being a little theoretical, giving you some background information which will hopefully inspire and fire you up to make time for meditation in your life.

Please book your place in class or email me via the Contact Us page.

Live each moment as a moment of pure joy!

The Radiance Sutras are a wonderful set of verses which help us to stop and appreciate the present moment. They are translated from an ancient text and give us  112 ‘yuktis’, or yoga meditation practices, for opening to the divine mystery within everyday experiences… here is yukti 51…

Wherever, whenever you feel carried away,

Rejoicing in every breath,

There, there is your meditation hall.

Cherish these times of absorption-

Rocking the baby in the silence of the night,

Pouring water into a crystal glass,

Tending the logs in a crackling fire,

Sharing a meal with a circle of friends,

Embrace these pleasures and know,

“This is my true body.”

 

Nowhere is more holy than this.

Right here is the sacred pilgrimage.

Live in alertness for such a moment, my beloved,

As if it were your one meeting with the Creator.

(Taken from The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche)

Pause a while with a mandala…

Why not print off this lovely ‘mandala’ and colour it in for someone special this Valentines’ day?

What’s a mandala? I hear you ask…

mandala (meaning circle) is a spiritual motif. Without beginning and end, just as the universe is believed to have no end, the circle symbolises the universe. It’s seen as a representation of the inner and outer world.

The Sanskrit word mandala indicates everything that is round or circular. In tantric traditions, it often refers to a sacred space, which can be round or square or any other form.

The model of the mandala is a square with four gates containing a circle with a central point. Often the mandala is also in an outer circle. This basic form can be found in many ancient mandalas, but there are many more variants. The mandala can be filled with all kinds of patterns.

In the recent trend of colouring as a form of relaxation, one of the most popular types of patterns to colour is the mandala. Many people find coloring a mandala a form of meditation. As they focus on colouring in the patterns of the form, they relax, their mind grows quiet.

The mandala can also be used as an object to focus your attention on while meditating. Because of the symmetrical shape, your attention is directed to the centre.

 

WHY COLORING MANDALAS IS FOR EVERYONE

It’s an activity everyone can enjoy:

  • Children: Because the mandala isn’t a literal representation of reality, children can fully enjoy their creativity. They don’t have to worry about choosing the right colour green for the trees or what colour blue the sky should be. The mandala can have all the colors of the rainbow. Or just their favourite colour. Colouring a mandala is an excellent way to end a busy class and help children unwind.
  • Adults: Everyone has had those days when your head overflows and your thoughts just seem to keep running in circles. Colouring a mandala for an hour may help you calm down. By focusing only on the pattern and colours, your mind may become wonderfully empty. You come to rest for a little while.
  • Elderly: For the elderly, colouring mandalas may help you keep your memory in shape. The repetitive nature of many mandalas allows you to create beautiful symmetrical patterns, but you must concentrate to ensure that your colours are symmetrical (if that is, indeed, your goal). Remaining focused on a creative endeavour of this sort may keep your mind sharp.

Finally, you may not think at first glance that colouring mandalas is something that can be done in a group, but it’s a great activity to do with friends or relatives. Make a photocopy of a mandala that everyone can work on at once and go to town. Or give everyone their own copy of the same mandala and see how people come up with different colours and patterns for the same design. There is no end to creativity when it comes to madalas.

 

 

Walk With Me…

If you would like to learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh and his methods of meditation and mindfulness, there will be a screening of a film about his village on Thursday 1st February at the Arts Centre, Stamford.  If you are interested in something it’s always worthwhile to find out about it from a variety of sources – our brains seem to like to connect a bit of reading, a bit of chatting and a bit of doing together and this makes ideas ‘stick’ firmer into our minds.
Review from Rotten Tomatoes –
With unprecedented access, WALK WITH ME goes deep inside a Zen Buddhist community who have given up all their possessions and signed up to a life of chastity for one common purpose – to transform their suffering, and practice the art of mindfulness with the world-famous teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Filmed over three years, in their monastery in rural France and on the road in the USA, this visceral film is a meditation on a community grappling with existential questions and the everyday routine of monastic life. As the seasons come and go, the monastics’ pursuit for a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them is amplified by insights from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.

 

SYNOPSIS

“Slow down and breathe. This contemplative journey follows in the steps of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and is a rare insight into life within a monastic community. The sun rises. Everything is calm and still. Life is beautifully serene as Benedict Cumberbatch’s composed, meditative voice reads an extract from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals. So begins Max Pugh and Marc J Francis’ (Black Gold, LFF2006) fascinating and immersive exploration of what it means to devote one’s life to mindfulness. With unprecedented access to the famous secluded monastery of Plum Village in the South West of France, Walk With Me captures the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns on a quest to develop a deep sense of presence. It is an insightful rumination on the pursuit of happiness, living in the present and our attachment to material things – a welcome remedy to the stresses of city life and a world in turmoil.”

Laure Bonville, London Film Festival

The Blooming of a Lotus

In the yoga classes this term we are working with the Thich Nhat Hanh book “The Blooming of a Lotus”. This book guides us through simple techniques of meditation to help focus on the ‘now’.  If you want to get your own copy, we are starting at the very beginning and working through the first and second exercises from chapter 1.

Here is a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh from the beginning of chaper 1 –

“In the Anapanasai Sutta, the Buddha teaches mindfulness of breathing as a guided meditation. There are sixteen exercises divided into four parts. The first part is using the breath to be mindful of the body. The second is using the breath to be mindful of the feelings. The third is breathing to be mindful of the mind. The fourth is breathing to be mindful of the objects of the mind. In this book all four of these areas or fields of mindfulness are covered. The exercises on mindfulness of the body are the most basic practice and can be used at any time as an introduction to exercises for looking deeply and transforming. They help us become accustomed to breathing consciously and to use the breathing to unite the body and mind.”

Peace Prayer for Christmas

Give peace a chance… as it’s the season of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men why not spend a few moments to let the words of Mahatma Gandhi seep into your soul? Try reading the words aloud or repeating until you can remember the prayer with your eyes closed.

Can you give peace a chance in your house this Christmas? Whether it’s creative differences over how to roast the potatoes or children agreeing which game to play/movie to watch, allow these words and meanings into your Christmas Day and ‘work’ with your loved ones for ‘unity and love’.

Stepping Off the Christmas Merry-Go-Round

 

With the count-down to Christmas now in full swing – juggling who’s going where, what to buy for so-and-so and fitting everyone in over the festive period – things get frantic for the body, mind and soul.

At these times our heads are jam packed with to-do lists and our bodies are tense holding onto every breath.  The build up of anxiety is everywhere – ahhhhhh Black Friday panic…..   Just when we need to relax and enjoy the season of goodwill to all men – we are more tired and worried than ever. Now is the perfect time for yoga…

YOGA? HOW CAN I FIND THE TIME FOR THAT?

But this is when we need it most – simply take a moment out, step off the Merry-Go-Round for one minute and read this mini-meditation-

Sit in any comfortable position…….

Breathe in and open up in the heart space, sit tall and beautiful.

Expand from the inside out, become more spacious  – open up to the breath.

Gently soften the eyes and feel your skin; feel the clothes touching your skin, feel the hair on your head, feel a smile on your face.

Feel beyond the skin to the Vijnanamaya Kosha – the astral or wisdom body – our aura that surrounds us.

Lean back a little and feel the support of the cosmos that surrounds you.

Breathe in and draw from the abundant well of air that we live in and lives in us.

Take heart that you are not some isolated thing battling single handedly against the world.

You are the world – and what will be will be.

Invite your breath to become smooth as silk and quiet as a whisper.

While here in this place now, feel gratitude to the earth for the sunshine and air we breathe.

Drink in each breath and be grateful for all that you have.

Be grateful for your challenges for they allow you to interact with the world and demonstrate your passions.

With this gratitude in your heart take your current experience and think of how they might be in the future.

Plant a seed for your future.

Invite the pace of your life to flow smoothly and easily, see yourself as you would like to be.

Breathe in peace, breath out love.

A Beautiful Verse From The Radiance Sutras

Bathe deeply in that ocean of sound

Vibrating with in you, now as always,

Resonating softly,

Permeating the space of your heart.

 

The ear that is tuned by rapt listening

Learns to hear the song of creation.

 

First like a hand bell,

Then subtler, like a flute,

Subtler still as a stringed instrument,

Eventually as the buzz of a bee.

 

Entering this current of sound,

The Listening One

Forgets the external world, bcomes

Absorbed into internal sound,

Then absorbed in vastness,

Like the song of the stars as they shine.

Yukti Verse 15 – The Radiance Sutras (Lorin Roche)

This is one of the verses I have used at the beginning of the yoga class this term. The Radance Sutras are a volume of verses set out in a conversation – a seeker asking a knower the way to find peace. It is a compendium filled with practices to integrate into everyday life – just thoughts really to help weave stillness and meditative qualities into the fabric of your life.

If you have enjoyed the readings why not get your own copy? Creating your own personal yoga practice is often considered only to be rolling the mat out and physically exercising… it can be laying in Shavasana and doing a breathing practice, reading a verse from a book – or, in the case of these sutras, you could take just one verse and recite it or do the suggested practice for a week or two.  Variety is the spice of life and you can make your personal practice of yoga whatever you want!