Ujjayi Breath

yoga + sea

Ujjayi Breath is a great practice for relaxation – calming for the mind and soothing for the body.  It is also great treatment for anxiety and insomnia. Please be patient with yourself when learning this practice as it’s not the easiest practice to do.

Sit in a comfortable position, the spine erect and the eyes softly closed.  Allow the breath to become steady, calm and relaxed; breathing through the nostrils and encouraging the breath to be full.  Don’t force breath in or out, let it come naturally and feel the ‘ends’ of each inhale and exhale.

Bring the awareness to the throat and gently contract the glottis and continue to inhale and exhale with awareness at the throat.  (If you are new to this practice, try exhaling through the mouth making a ‘haaaa’ sound.  This will enable you to discover the contraction of the glottis. Tilting the chin down slightly can also help.)

Allow the breath to smooth, deep and slow – it will sound like baby snoring or waves breaking on the sand.  Explore the gentleness of this breath – don’t feel as though you are gripping at the throat.

When established with the practice, with each inhale and exhale take your awareness to the abdomen, chest and throat in turn as they expand and contract to encourage full yogic breathing.

Ujjayi is a wonderfully calming breath and can help to relieve insomnia.  Simply practice in bed in shavasana when sleep is being illusive.

Practice for 5 – 10 minutes each day – great for calming the body and mind before asana practice, meditation or relaxation.

Trouble Sleeping?

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We all know the benefits of a good nights’ sleep. Sleep is when the body carries out vital maintenance work, in theory leaving you refreshed and full of beans for the next day. Insomnia (difficulty getting  to sleep) is often caused by stress – when the mind feels that it can’t cope; it’s just too busy. Lack of sleep means that you have problems dealing with life the next day because of exhaustion and that leads to more stress and so more insomnia.  According to statistics from the Government’s Health and Safety Executive, 70% of visits to doctors are triggered by stress and 85% of serious illnesses can be linked to it.

When we take time out to relax our heart rate reduces, the oxygen in our blood is regulated, the muscles relax, and digestion, metabolism and sex drive are all improved.  The result of a relaxed body and calm mind is a great nights’ sleep. You begin the new day feeling refreshed and able to cope with all that life throws at you.  The benefits of a good nights’ sleep can be transformative not only for you but for the people you live and work with.

Yoga offers a great way to relax and unwind the body and mind.  A typical class will offer 1/3rd of the time doing relaxation practices.  A guided relaxation can take many forms – seated in a chair, on the floor or laying on the back of the body. Visualisations, breathing practices and muscle tense and release sequences are some methods commonly used by teachers to help you relax.

Vipareeta Karani Asana (Legs up the Wall Variation)

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Legs-up-the-Wall posture is an excellent way to gently introduce your body to the benefits of the shoulder stand.
These are numerous, but include improved circulation and alleviation of nervous exhaustion. It’s a great pose to rejuvenate a tired body and unsettled mind – great for stress management.  You can hold it for up to 5 minutes.
It is safe for everyone to practice; if you wish to experiment adding blocks or folded blankets under your hips, give it a try – adding a little height at a time. Take care as raising the pelvis increases blood to the head and can make some conditions such as high blood pressure and eye problems worse. Also, there are some traditions of yoga that advise against women raising the pelvis during menstruation.

YOGA! How can I find the time for that?

stressed lady

But this is when we need it most! When our minds are frazzled and our shoulders and neck all cramped up.  Give yourself 5 minutes, it will help in more ways than I can mention.  Importantly though, you will feel much better and those around you, sensing this, will feel much better too.  Sit in any comfortable position…….

Begin by circling the nose in a tangerine sized circle to ease out the neck.  About 5 times one way and then 5 times in reverse.

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 close the eyes and feel your skin; feel the clothes touching your skin, feel the hair on your head, feel the eyelashes on your cheeks.

Feel beyond the skin to the the astral 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.

Hollow Body Meditation

yoga + sea

This is a great technique to dissolve accumulated stress and tension, for which I give thanks to a book called “The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration and Meditation” by Joel and Michelle Levey.

Begin by sitting or lying with the spine in alignment; be comfortable, ensure you are warm enough and won’t be disturbed for a few minutes.
Bring your attention to your breath and imagine your are breathing into your head – your head is a spacious place devoid of any obstruction, a light and airy space. It can be helpful to see the breath as a luminous crystal mist coming in and completely filling the whole space in your head.
Move on now to your neck and throat, breathe in and see this area of your body filled with the same luminous mist. The space in your neck and throat free from any solidity or denseness. A light and airy space that allows sensations and vibrations to flow freely.
Allow this feeling of spaciousness to flow down to the chest, shoulders and out to the arms and hands. The fingers feeling hollow – the luminous mists of breath flowing in and out carrying sensations easily through your arms, shoulders, neck and head.
Breathing in and moving the awareness down through the torso, into the legs, feet and toes. As you exhale feel the streams of sensation flowing through the body – no knots or tension to get in the way – but the body light and airy, sensation and breath flowing freely.
Remain with these sensations, allow any thoughts, feelings or perceptions to arise and dissolve like bubbles in a stream. Feel the stream energise all parts of the body… if you find a part that seems closed, dense or the flow gets stuck, focus on this area and will it to relax, undo and melt.

Gradually, with practice you will be able to feel your hollow, relaxed body with just a few breaths – from the top of your head to the tip of your toes, completely open and free, unobstructed and radiant with an inner sense of wholeness and calmness. Om Shanti – peace to you.

Mantra – Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Lokah

This mantra is sometimes sung at the beginning or end of  a yoga class.  It can be on its own or as part of a longer song or collection of matra.  I think it is beautiful and often meditate on it – wishing good things to people and recognising that our own thoughts and actions have an impact on everyone is food for thought.  It can help when we are making choices in our lives.

Chanting mantra has many health benefits, in my classes I use them to help extend the exhalation which in turn leads to a more complete in- breath – thus training the body to breath fully.  The Sanskrit sounds, said to date back to the beginning of time, have vibrational qualities that sooth and resonate in different parts of our being – from the outer body right down into the inner soul.  I like to teach the meanings of the words so that they can be thought of during the chant creating a positive mental attitude, similar to affirmations.

Once you have chanted the mantra 3 times or more, it’s important to sit, reflect and feel the silence for a few moments.  It is surprising how clear your thoughts are when you have practiced this simple exercise.

If you’d like to find out more about this mantra try this website which gives you information about it’s background.

I’m not asleep – honest!

yoga nidra

Yoga Nidra means yogic sleep.  This is a form of relaxation/meditation that takes you to a deep, healing place where the body and mind can be truly relaxed and yet still conscious.

We usually lie in Shavasana on our backs and cover the body as during the process the body temperature falls.   The practice varies slightly from tradition to tradition and teacher to teacher. My teaching comes from 10 years practice with my teacher where I found it a brilliant way to really unwind and let go of all tensions in my mind.   Within the scope of a 90 minute yoga class we have limited time – a 15 minute relaxation is a simplified version of the full practice but this is often sufficient for profoundly relaxion.  If you would like to develop your practice further I recommend CD1 from Swami Pragyamurti’s set.

You can buy Swami Pragyamurti’s CD’s at yogamatters – these CD’s are a tremendous resource – so clear and easy to understand.  I must emphasise that you should work through the CD’s in order.  This is a profound practice that can really be a life-changing experience.

Silencing the Buzz

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Background ‘noise’ in the form of anxiety is often a constant companion…  We may have become so used to worrying that we don’t even notice it.  Try this visualisation to help you identify the hum and temporarily rid your mind of the noise…

1 Sit comfortably and close your eyes.  Imagine that you are walking down a path in a serene forest.  Soon, you come across a clearing.  Walk slowly to the centre of the glade and sit down.

2 As if from nowhere, animals surround you. They mean you no harm, but each represents a concern.  The larger the animal, the greater your anxiety.  For example, a fleet-footed gazelle may represent a work deadline, a roaring lion, a screaming child.

3 In one part of the glade is a beehive.  Bees swarm near by, making the  hum of free-floating worry.

4 Gently, touch each of the animals.  As you do so, they quieten and disappear into the forest.  The only sound left is the buzz of the bees.

5 Imagine, now, all your tiny worries one by one entering the hive, until the glade is silent.  Your worries are still, all your concerns will be dealt with another day.  All round you now is peace.

 

Adapted from a most fantastic book – Learn to Relax by Mike George.  Thank you Mike for such a wonderful book, which I’m sure has given some peace to loads of people like me.

Thank You World!

shopping lady

At this time of year it’s very easy to get caught up in what you ‘want for Christmas’ and ‘what to give’ – obsessing really about the things that you don’t have…  I know it’s TV’s fault really.  But try to find some time over the coming shopping frenzy to think about the things that you already have and say THANK YOU WORLD!

By focusing on the things you have you emanate gratitude – and when you give out gratitude that is what you receive.  This is the secret of the law of attraction.  If you always dwell on the things that you don’t have, you will give off an attitude that something is missing from your life – negative vibes.  So, put a smile on your face and your purse back into your handbag.  You have all that you need to be truly fabulous!

Instead of an expensive present, why not arrange to meet up with friends and rellies for a stroll in the countryside followed by a drink – your treat?  That way you get to know where they are in their lives, share something healthy and all of your positive, groovy gratitude vibes too!

Do you know about the theraputic benefits of massage?

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“I’m going for a massage”, you say to friends and the reply is inevitably “Oh, how lucky you are!”  I ask myself why the reply isn’t, “What’s the problem then?”  We see massage as a treat or luxury, when it should be an essential part of our lives.

Massage is one of the oldest of therapies, mentioned by the father of Medicine himself, Hippocrates, in his writings.  It has its forms in all ages and cultures and its benefits are wide ranging.  It oils the body, wonderful for aging, dry skin.  It loosens up the knots of strains and sprains which occur as part of an everyday working life. Most of the aches and pains we suffer from are muscular in origin and all top class athletes have regular massage.  It affects the blood and lymph vessels and helps to rid the body of toxins.  It soothes the nervous system, leaving the client relaxed.  It gives time and space to retreat from all the problems of our fast paced world.  When combined with Aromatherapy it doubles its powerful effects as many of the essential oils are anti-viral or anti-bacterial and help protect the body from those coughs, colds, sore throats and sinus problems which occur during the winter months.

Of course there are contra-indications.  If you have a skin problem, heart problem or fever, then it may not be suitable for you.  A well-qualified massage therapist will always ask you about your health and any medication you are taking and will take notes before and after the session.

So next time you think it is just an indulgence, just tell yourself you are looking after and taking responsibility for your own health as well as partaking of a therapy which is actually pleasant!

 

Ann Rodgers  MIPTI BAHons

Ann has been qualified as a therapist and teacher for over 20 years and works from her practice in Southorpe.  For more information about massage please ring on 01780 749018