Every Smile Makes You A Day Younger

smile

There’s nothing like a nice smile to set you on your way in the morning or off into a peaceful sleep at night. Why not try this short meditation which focuses on the feeling of a smile…

Settle into a comfortable seated position.

Relax any tension in your jaw, let the lips part and separate the upper and lower teeth.
Without changing your facial expression, imagine the feeling of a smile.
After a few moments, bring that feeling of a smile to your heart and linger there.
Now feel the smile in both lungs and the space in your back between the shoulder blades.
From there, bring that feeling of a smile to your abdominal organs, digestive system and pelvis.
Allow the smile to flow down both legs, through the knees, calves down to your toes.
Allow the smile to spread across the shoulders down the arms, through the elbows, wrists and finger tips.
Feel your whole body as one large, open, radiant, beautiful smile. Resonate with that glow. Feel yourself as the embodiment of a smile, your whole being renewed, reverberating with the presence of a smile. Every single cell is smiling.

Now you can go about your day bringing that lightness and positivity to every situation.

Time for a nap – er… I mean relaxation

I know that it’s sometimes hard to stay awake during our deep relaxations! But you should try to… when we relax the body and mind for about 15 minutes we have a chance to truly nurture ourselves. The ancient yogis said that this type of rest is equivalent to 4 hour sleep. I’m not certain that’s scientifically proven, but I do feel that during the relaxation exercises we are teaching our body to be still (when it is otherwise still?) and our minds to stay focused on just one thing and allowing all thoughts to drop away into the background. If we just give in and go to sleep – well it’s good to get a little nap – but that is all it is. It can also be a bit disorientating to wake up on a village hall floor and can make you feel woozy.
When we have trained ourselves to remain alert during relaxation we can move on to the practice of Yoga Nidra – in this state where the mind is between being awake and asleep we are very receptive to ideas and this is where a ‘Sankalpa’ is used. A Sankalpa is a resolution for change – after we find our resolve, we repeat it during the practice and rather like sowing a seed into the soil, this resolve is placed deep within us. I hope that we can begin to use this technique next year in class, so please consider your own Sankalpa – it can take some time to figure out and find the right one, so be patient.

Here is the Deep Relaxation with Introduction to the Chakras – it’s a good one to repeat as you can learn the position and names of the Chakras while having a good rest.

Just in case you missed it…

I know that it’s sometimes hard to stay awake during our deep relaxations! But you should try to… when we relax the body and mind for about 15 minutes we have a chance to truly nurture ourselves. The ancient yogis said that this type of stilling the body and mind is equivalent to 4 hour sleep. I’m not sure about that, but I do feel that during the relaxation exercises we are teaching our body to be still (when it is otherwise still?) and our minds to stay focused on just one thing and allowing all thoughts to drop away into the background. If we just give in and go to sleep – well it’s good to get a little nap – but that is all it is. It can also be a bit disorientating to wake up on a village hall floor and can make you feel woozy.

When we have trained ourselves to remain alert during relaxation we can move on to the practice of Yoga Nidra – in this state where the mind is between being awake and asleep we are very receptive to ideas and this is where a ‘Sankalpa’ is used. A Sankalpa is a resolution for change – after we find our resolve, we repeat it during the practice and rather like sowing a seed into the soil, this resolve is placed deep within us. I hope that we can begin to use this technique next year in class, so please consider your own Sankalpa – it can take some time to figure out and find the right one, so be patient.

Well, just in case you missed the So Hum relaxation from a couple of weeks ago, I have recorded it for you to do at home – but please try to keep with it. This is a very soothing and effective style of relaxation practice – hope you enjoy it.

 

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.

Time to relax with a good book

fireside

As the days get shorter and the outdoors less inviting, a cosy seat near the fire or radiator seems much more appealing. Curling up with a good book is a fantastic way to relax and unwind – why not chose some poetry???  Here are a couple of lovely wintery poems… or you could get creative and write a poem of your own???

 
Winter-Time

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850 – 1894

 
Winter’s Embrace
Shimmering lakes of silvery ice
welcomes skaters’ scarring slice.
Hills adorned in lacy white
watch children sleigh into the night.
In the brilliant pristine light,
snow birds in tall trees take flight.
Evergreens draped in capes of snow,
their heavy branches hanging low,
blanket earth as north winds blow
Winter’s dance is quite a show,
an ice-kissed, dazzling, magical place,
transformed by winter’s cold embrace!

© Patricia L. Cisco
Published: December 28, 2017

 

 

 

PillowTalk – Let’s Get Down To This Relaxation Business…

No doubt about it, eye pillows help you to relax – the gentle pressure soothes and quietens the mind. Blocking out the light is a way of inducing Pratyahara (withdrawing the senses), which some people find difficult in a class situation. Our eyes receive lots of information via visual impressions which at times in our lives can become overwhelming.  Practicing some yoga postures with the eyes closed (forward bends for instance) can be very soothing to the mind and of course our yogic relaxations are helpful to ease worries and anxiety. When we relax in Shavasana at the end of our class there is nothing better than an eye pillow placed over the eyes and brow.

Lavender Eye Pillow from Yogamatters are available to purchase in class £10. They include a soft lavender fragrance which is pleasantly relaxing. Eye pillows can also be used to sooth bouts of insomnia, relieve headaches, reduce puffiness and ease tired eyes.

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.

 

 

Yoga For Tired Eyes

Have you been burning the candle at both ends? Got a cold and can’t sleep because of a stuffed up nose? Been putting in long hours at work due to customer demands or co-workers off sick?

Left untreated, tired eyes can lead to eye strain, headaches and a build-up of tension throughout your whole body. If you are going through a stressful life issue, tired eyes can hinder your thinking, making you feel lifeless and dull. As they say, your eyes are the window to your soul so it’s wise to take heed and do something about it.  Getting enough rest is crucial – try getting a couple of early nights – whatever it takes (cancel a party, use 2 or 3 propped up pillows). Simply ‘resting’ your eyes even if you can’t sleep still helps.

There are several yogic exercises that help to relax your eyes and bring more oxygen to them. Practice one or 2 of the following exercises 2 – 5 times during your day for both instant and long term relief.

Quick note – when you practice these exercises, keep your back straight and head still, relax your shoulders, breathe steadily and just move your eyes.

  1. Open your eyes wide, look from side to side 10 times, then up and down and then diagonally 10 times.
  2. Imagine you are staring at the face of a clock. Starting at 12 o’clock, slowly move your eyes from minute to minute along the clock until you return to 12 o’clock. Rest your eyes then repeat going in anti-clockwise direction.
  3. Look straight ahead, hold your thumb up about 30 cm in front of your face and focus at your thumb nail, then focus on something in the distance. Relax and repeat 5 – 10 times. Change hands and look at the other thumb.
  4. Close your eyes and press the tips of your fingers to the outer edges of your eyes. Gently massage this area using small circular motions. Relax and repeat 3 – 5 times.
  5. Close your eyes. Rub your palms vigorously together to warm them up and get the energy circulating quicker. Cup your hands over your closed eyes for 30 – 90 seconds. Stay focused on your breath and gradually release your hands.

So next time your eyes feel tired and you know you have being over doing it, take a rest and give these eye exercises a go.

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.

Understanding Your Own Breath

Sitting still and simply observing your own breath or working with a Pranayama (Ujjayi, abdominal breathing, 3 part breath etc) are all calming exercises that will help you to get to know your own breath. Simple practices such as these help to relax us – body and mind –  a relaxed body breathes better; a relaxed mind thinks clearer.

I’d like to share with you ‘Natural Breathing’  a preliminary practice taken from Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. This exercise follows the ‘journey of the breath’ and gives us an excellent focus for a 10 minute meditation. You could easily record it onto your phone and then listen to it whenever you wish. Besides calming the mind and the breath, this practice helps us to learn the mechanics of the breathing process.

Remember the words of Tich Nhat Hanh

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

― Thich Nhat HanhStepping into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice for Novices

 

Natural Breathing – The Journey of the Breath

Sit in a comfortable meditation posture or lie in shavasana.

Relax the whole body.

Observe the natural and spontaneous breathing process.

Develop total awareness of the rhythmic flow of the breath.

Feel the breath flowing in and out of the nose.

Do not control the breath in any way.

Notice that the breath is cool as it enters the nostrils and warm as it flows out.

Observe this with the attitude of detached witness.

Feel the breath flowing in and out at the back of the mouth above the throat.

Bring the awareness down to the region of the throat and feel the breath flowing in the throat.

Bring the awareness down to the region of the chest and feel the breath flowing in the trachea and bronchial tubes.

Next feel the breath flowing in the lungs.

Be aware of the lungs expanding and relaxing.

Shift the awareness down to the abdomen. Feel the abdomen move upward on inhalation and downward on exhalation.

Finally, become aware of the whole breathing process from the nostrils to the abdomen and continue observing it for some time.

Bring the awareness back to observing the physical body as one unit and open the eyes.