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.

Is it time to find yourself a yoga buddy?

I know, it sounds a bit American, but it’s so true – a yoga or fitness buddy is a valuable resource to keep you motivated and save you money. We’ve all experienced the initial enthusiasm of a new sport or New Years’ Resolution, but as it wears off people often find that they give up despite the fact that the new routine is really doing good things. Research shows that having a fitness buddy in fact helps to keep you on track and motivated. The same is true with a yoga buddy, there are so many advantages that you’d be mad not to go out and find yourself one right now! Here are just 5 ways that they can help you…and you can help them…

1 – Safety in numbers! It sounds silly, but even as grown-ups, if you are starting a new class, you can feel a bit intimidated by the other class members who have been coming a while and know the ropes. Bringing along a pal is a great way to overcome this sense of intimidation.

2 – Ensure that you turn up! We all have those days when we just want to crash on the sofa… If someone is relying on you to help them then you have to find the energy. And you know that you’ll feel better yourself too.

3 – Share lifts! A great way to save money, especially in our area where we often have to drive for 15-20 minutes.

4 – It’s more fun! By creating shared moments you will develop your friendship and have more fun along the way particularly when you travel together and can review the highs and lows on the way home!

5 – You can make your yoga a social event! Why not have a drink or meal afterwards once a month as a reward for sticking at it? What about a yoga day? Or a yoga holiday? Look out for workshops where you could go along with your buddy and have a new experience, delving a little deeper but still with the comfort of knowing your buddy is there with you.

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

Is Your Posture Getting On Your Nerves?

Did your know that your posture effects the alignment of the spine and this can have a knock-on effect on the nervous system?

As the nerves travel through the spine – down the central cavity and in between the vertebrae – it stands to reason that any misalignment due to injury or bad posture will have and effect on your body and mind.

nerves of the spine

When the body is in correct alignment there will be less tension and the nervous system will run smoothly, unimpeded as nature intended.

Below is a which indicates problems and their possible sources if nerves become pressured by the spine…

spinalchart

This is only meant to hi-light how important posture and alignment are in our lives – not for self diagnoses or to worry you.

Stretching out the spine in the 6 main directions, as we do in yoga, and awareness of good posture should enable all of us to move with grace and live without pain.

If you want to read more about what goes on inside you… try Spine Universe where you can watch their short video.

If you would like to work on your posture and gain a greater understanding of the spine and how to strengthen the muscles around it, why not come along to my workshop in Ryhall on Saturday 24th February? We will be looking at exercises to do just that – you can see more information here or contact me to see if there is a place.

 

Shakti Bandha Asanas

In the Stretch and Relax classes we are having a go at the Shakti Bandha Asana (energy block postures). These are exercises that help to improve the flow of energy within the body. They are useful for breaking down neuro-muscular knots especially in the pelvic region where energy tends to stagnate. The postures are very helpful for people with reduced vitality and/or a stiff back. They are useful to develop pelvic and core strength for all levels of fitness. They also improve the condition of the lungs, heart and endocrine system. It is not necessary to ‘force’ these movements, they can be done very gently to good effect – even sitting on a chair. So what every your age or level of fitness you can give your energy a boost by getting rid of any blocks with this sequence.

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’.

When the going gets tough, the tough team up…

Without a doubt the easiest part of keeping fit is the decision to do it.  Beyond that some begin enthusiastically, some mean to but never get round to it and others find a friend to help motivate them.

Teamwork strengthens resolve and builds momentum by pooling struggles and raising spirits when it feels as if you’re not getting to where you want to be.  There are plenty of life coaches and wellness experts to testify a simple fact: there’s no better route to well-being than friendship. That’s beside the practical benefits of lift sharing, reminding each other and having a good old laugh!

Be kind to yourself and your friend – well-ness is the most liberating gift you can give to yourself and your mate but it’s easy to be critical.  In the first stages of unpicking the bad habits and knitting together the good, it’s likely that there will be a few wobbles.  That’s the time when, as a friend, you can be vital in aiding them gently back to the path and support her towards their goals.

Stuck for something to give a friend this Christmas? Why not give the most wonderful thing you can – HEALTH – ask them to join you coming to your yoga class!

Let’s Explore…. PARTNER YOGA

There’s no doubt about it partner yoga has a definite Marmite effect in class – people either really love it or loathe it. No matter, there are very positive gains to working with someone when studying a posture. I like to do it in several ways in class –

  • Observation
  • Encouragement
  • Adjustment/Awareness
  • Working Together for Support

Observation and Encouragement are ways to see what a posture looks like from the outside rather than the inside. When working with a fellow student you are able to see just how the posture goes together and to see the challenges that they are facing. By verbal encouragement we really are giving important feedback which they simply cannot get any other way.

Adjustment/Awareness is brought about by getting involved a little more closely – using your hands or feet to bring awareness and develop the posture to a deeper level.

Finally, working together for support is really where we are taking the role of a prop – an intelligent one mind you!

If you are someone who likes partner work I have suggested 4 exercises below to work with AT HOME – maybe with your partner/husband/wife or a friend. Be very careful if they do not practice yoga already! Yoga can be helpful in bringing people together it certainly helps us to appreciate the challenge of postures and that we are not alone in our endeavours!

Back to Back Breathing

Sit back to back with your partner, legs straight out in front (or bent at the knee if that’s more do-able). Close the eyes and begin to breathe more deeply, the base of the spine and shoulders should be touching. Be here for some time (5 minutes +), both observing how your breath is and how your partners is. Feel the warmth and support of this seated position – two hearts beating together. After a while you may notice that your breathing synchronises.

Partner Assisted Back/Forward Bend

When you feel sufficiently warm, you can try this out – don’t expect to get too far. The back bender will bend their knees on inhalation and then, as you both exhale gently lean back into the support of the forward bender. Relax and enjoy the sensations. Stay for 5 – 10 breaths. Agree when to come up, and in unison, breath in and return to the upright position. Swap roles so that you both get a chance to do a forward and backward bend. You may like to do it again 🙂

Partner Assisted Seated Twist

If it’s going well, why not have a go at another posture? One of my favourites actually. Change position so that you are sitting facing each other and cross your legs so that the knees touch. (If this is out of the question, you could try to work in a wide legged seated posture – or maybe standing up.) Both stretch out the right hand to the partners right side waste.  Using the left hands both reach around the back to hold the partners right hand. This will entail some twisting motion but you can deepen the twist by leaning outward as you exhale. Go gently!!! Take 5 – 10 breaths and then untwist back to the upright forward facing position. Repeat stretching out the left hand to the partners left side waste etc.

Double Boat

Well you have got this far, so why not try the double boat?  Looks rather fancy doesn’t it? You will need to back off a little from each other – hold hands and scootch back a bit until your arms are straight. Now, bend the knees and place the soles of the feet together (it does help if hubby takes his shoes off – but if he won’t it still works). Breath in and then as you exhale begin to straighten your legs. Smile and breathe (or giggle and collapse). Great work – how do you feel now???

Opening Your Heart

Our work in the yoga classes this year will be based upon looking after our hearts.  The work this term involves physical postures to open the chest and strengthen the back – by doing this we are creating more space for the heart to do its’ job.  Often, as a result of sitting for prolonged periods, the back weakens and shoulders become rounded forward, this has the knock on effect of closing in and ‘crushing’ the space of the heart. A strong upright posture also has psychological effect on our being – a feeling of being uplifted, confident and joyful. When the heart is able to perform as nature intended the blood vessels run freely and blood is distributed to all the parts of our body. This gives us the essential energy that we need both to sustain and heal ourselves and to help others. It stands to reason that if the blood supply is restricted or even slightly subdued, gradually over time our energy feels zapped and we give off negative vibes, grumbling and complaining about our aches and pains…

Establishing Non Violence

“Around one who is solidly established in nonviolence, hostility disappears.”

‘Ahimsa’ is the Sanskrit word for non-violence and above is the translation of verse 35, chapter 2 of Patanjali’s Sutras. When hostility disappears it leaves space for kindness and compassion. Although we see these often as emotional, touchy feely things, when the body is deprived of energy none of us feel that we have enough energy to be kind and considerate. But… when we have a ‘spring in our step’ or some ‘joi de vivre’ and feel ALIVE then we are smiley and kind hearted to all around us. So let’s hear it for the chest openers and back bends and practice as often as we can (don’t overdo it mind you)!