In our 90 minute yoga classes, the April/May half term will continue with the theme of opposites. We will be thinking of our yoga postures from the inside and the outside. After learning several asana (postures) and sequencing them we will begin to add in the appropriate Chakra focus… Why do this? It can help us to bring into balance the mind, energy and physical body. IN other words we are trying to get our mind, body and soul ‘singing off the same hymn sheet’. This is how we can reduce stress and enhance healing within ourselves.
Inside/Outside has been a topic of interest and exploration for artists and philosophers throughout time. The artist Henry Moore worked with historic armour and build a whole collection entitled Helmet Heads in which he places 2 separate sculptures together – an inner person or mind within a protective helmet/skull/shield.
From the yogic perspective, for the least suffering in this life, we are advised to align our inner and outer worlds so that we can feel happy in our own skin and simply be who we are. It takes real guts to be honest and through our practice we can build a strong body and mind to enable this.
Perhaps you can think of some other famous examples from art, history or philosophy? Have a think as I wold love to hear them.
Heal is a documentary film about the connection between stress and illness. It shows how the mind and the body can affect each other when they are out of kilter. It is a very life affirming film. Many examples are used where giving the mind and body the right conditions/therapy has had tremendous healing power. It’s well worth a watch.
You can find the film on Netflix if you are a member or buy it on Youtube. Below is a trailer from youtube.
Throughout this year we have been seeking to open our hearts – both from a physical and emotional point of view. In our work over the next 6 weeks we will be looking to release anger and fear which can often block our opportunities to show kindness and compassion. We’ll use some sideways bending to stretch the chest area and make the spine more flexible – and where the spine goes the mind tends to follow. (This is also a great workout for the inner thighs and hips – areas associated with holding deep emotions). Eventually making our way towards a suitable Pigeon pose which brings openness to the hips and, depending on the variation, openness to the chest. We’ll use some of the postures to relax deeply into, bringing a calming and relaxing quality towards the end asana work.
The technique of our breathing will be enhanced with a return to some of the basics of Pranayama and, for those who wish it, to develop their Sama Vritti Pranayama. Our relaxations will include some visualisations and story telling.
The aim is for an uplifting practice to warm the heart and bring joy.
Our focus for this year will be Anahata – the heart chakra. Anahata colours our life with love, compassion and beauty. Through our yoga pracite we’ll fill our hearts with love and generosity – give ourselves the time and space we deserve to feel loved and give love with joy and radiance.
In our asana this term we’ll be opening the chest area with back bends and twists, creating space to breath and for the heart to beat. Following a warm up we’ll steadily increase the complexity, strength and duration of postures to ensure that a gradual opening of the body is achieved.
We’ll be working with Mudra and Bandha for relaxation and the relief of stress and anxiety. Our aim will be to develop compassion for ourselves, those around us and the wider world. Many of the readings and practices will come from the Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche – you may like to get your own copy for inspiration of your home practice, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
In the Yogafit classes this term we have been developing a pose called Anjaneyasana – a deep lunge which sinks the hips down and stretches the groin. Ooh-er Mrs! This is extremely beneficial for us all to have a go at – obviously when suitably warmed up and when the time is right – don’t be tempted to spring into this one first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
Whilst it may be obvious that this pose is a hip opener, it would be very easy to argue that most of our work in yoga is opening the hips as there are many muscles that help to move the hip/leg joint.
There are over 20 muscles that cross the hip (the collection of inner thigh muscles known as the adductors, the collection of outer thigh muscles known as the abductors, the hip flexors in front, deep lateral rotators in back, and more), so any movement that stretches any of these muscles could be considered a “hip-opener.”
If you take a closer look at the diagram you will see that some muscles even span through the pelvis and hip joint, actually joining the upper leg bone to the lower back vertebrae. All of the muscles that move the hips can become weak due to a sedentary lifestyle (too much sitting on your ass) and so this puts an increased pressure on the spine as you compensate movements with the back muscles because your hips have become a bit lazy and tight.
Tight hips affect everything from your ability to do Anjayneyasana to simply being able to pick your socks up off the floor. More movement of the hips means more strength in the muscles and more circulation generally in the pelvic area. This will lead to decreased back pain, relief from constipation, decreased menstrual cramps plus opening the hips can create an energetic shift or release as well. The yogic tradition holds the hips as a storage ground for negative feelings and pent-up emotions, especially ones related to control in our lives. Hip-opening can also create space for the birth of new ideas and new pathways….
Opening the hips gives us access to freedom of movement in the body and in our own unique expression — creatively, physically, and spiritually. Enjoy – even simple cross legged pose will do it!
Last year a new Yoga Centre opened in Sheffield. Some students may be interested in the workshops and retreats they offer… The leaders are very friendly, I have been on several of their workshops and training days before.
As you’ll see below, they have some real treats in store for 2017.
The centre has a beautiful room for Yoga practice, but it is not huge and places are limited. Early booking is recommended for all these events.
Give yourself the gift of yoga – in a 1-2-1 yoga session, a special practice is tailored to your needs and you can benefit from hands on care and attention. It’s a time to nurture the self and help it to radiate out and shine through to all the loved ones in your life. A session can be very beneficial to reduce physical symptoms, anxieties, problems with sleep, menopause or just feeling lacklustre. Polish away the cobwebs and winter blues with your own personal practice and let your light shine! Contact me for details of cost and availability.
It’s actually quite difficult to put into words why yoga is so good for us. For those who have been practicing for some time , I’m sure you know, it just feels right in so many ways. I think the words below by Vanda Scaravelli (taken from her book “Awakening the Spine”) go some way to help describe why we should all give a little time each day to a yoga practice. And for those times when we have wandered away from our mat, they are words of encouragement to get back to it!
“If you practice yoga, your everyday activities will improve and become more efficient. You will have less time for useless occupations which constantly get in the way, preventing your contact with more essential things. Yoga is like a sieve through which the superficial falls away, leaving only what is important.
When you are tired, your digestion will improve if you do some poses before eating. You will need to sleep fewer hours as your body will be more relaxed during the night. You will gain a few inches in height. By eliminating that curve along the back of the spine and allowing space between your vertebrae, you will grow a little taller. You will be able to improve the poses, as there is no end to progress. You will grow straighter if one part of the body is weaker that the other, by paying a lot of attention while doing your poses. By continuing this attention throughout the day, you will reach a better balance.
You will no longer be a slave to your body, as independence from it is the greatest gift you can receive.
Health is freedom. When we are healthy the body is not “in the way”, it will be better prepared to react against illness and disease.
The presence of the body should not be felt negatively. It is only when it does not work properly or when it is ill that we feel encumbered by its presence. Even when a small part of it is disturbed, like a mild pain in a cut finger, or a simple cold that blocks your nose, keeping you busy the whole day with a handkerchief in your hand, or a sore throat which makes you lose your voice, it heavily reminds you of its existence and you are obliged to become conscious of it all the time.
Yoga is a way of life. It changes you and therefore changes the way you relate to other people and influence your environment.
As the sun delicately opens the flowers, unfolding them little by little, so with slow and careful training, yoga exercises will open the body.
When the body is open, the heart is open. There is a transformation in the body’s cells. They work in a different way, and new growth is possible.
To re-establish contact with our body is to be in contact with nature, and so to come in contact with the cosmos.
Balance is restored. Space is around us and that tremendous power, arising from the earth in unison with these universal forces, will become part of us.
What is that binding force that holds the many worlds together and whose intensity also attracts us to each other? Can we call it gravity, energy, love?”
This excerpt give a great example of how Vanda Scaravelli passes on so much rich information in a form that we can all understand. The book is called ‘Awakening the Spine’ and is crammed full of such gems – a perfect present for yourself or a loved one.
If you have already contracted a cold or flu type bug it’s best not to practice yoga asana – rest in Savasana and listen to a relaxation tape, letting go of any anxieties or tension in the body.
If you are feeling OK and everyone around you is going down with something – then you could try these 3 postures which will help your immunity system to fight off the bugs.
Improves circulation to the head, sinus, throat etc. Hold for 5 – 10 breaths so that you can relax into the pose and allow the gravitational forces to take effect.
Use a gentle version of this back bend to open up the chest and airways. Cobra has many other benefits for the immune system including lessening the effects of stress and fatigue. Practice twice for up to 5 breath, feel the length through the spine, release shoulders away from the ears.
Legs up the wall
Take your time to set up for this relaxing pose. It will help to refresh your whole being. In particular improving circulation to the head to bring relief from that ‘thick head’ or congested sensation. This will also ease away stress and anxiety, thus calming the nervous system. Stay for 5 – 10 minutes. (Actually pretty good after a day of Christmas shopping too)
Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the most important things you can teach yourself to do – simply letting go of the tension in the tummy and allowing the diaphragm to move naturally up and down will not only release tension in your back and shoulders but also enable a fuller, more complete breath to enter and leave the body. When the breath is full in this way, your body will naturally take on the correct amount of oxygen for the activity that your body is working on – this means that your heart and circulation will adapt too.
A simple diaphragmatic breathing exercise…
If you are sitting in a chair, place both feet on the floor and feel that both sitting bones are connecting with the seat. Release the abdominal muscles as you draw a breath in and feel the breath rise up straightening your spine all the way into your shoulders. Keep the height of your head as you exhale and maintain the feeling of being lifted in your ribs. Now close your eyes and continue repeating the simple mantra – I am breathing in 1, I am breathing out 1, I am breathing in 2, I am breathing out 2 and so on up to about 10 breaths.
To learn more about the diaphragm see this website…