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.

 

Go away – I’m busy relaxing!

Do you find it almost impossible to relax because you feel guilty when you’re not busy?

We increasingly live under constant pressure to be productive – doing something every moment of the day; multi-tasking; maximising every second.

The increase of mobile phones means we have messages coming at us 24/7 – there is never a quiet moment!  And when there is we seem to worry – is the phone working?  No one wants me – and the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ on anything our friends are doing.

The stress that we are continually putting ourselves under will eventually cause a problem.  According to statistics from the Government’s Health and Safety Executive 85% of serious illnesses are caused by stress.  It costs our country £7 billion per year in lost work days and NHS services.

We all know the signs – heart rate goes up, sweaty palms, breathing increases and so on.  This is due to hormonal changes within our bodies described as the ‘fight or flight’ response.  The body reacts by instinctively preparing to run away or face down the problem.  Internally this means that our oxygen and blood supply are totally diverted to get the muscles ready to run or fight.  Our pupils also enlarge to take in as much information as possible and other unnecessary bodily activities shut down – digestion, metabolism, sex drive.

Does this ring any bells with you?

When we take time out to relax all the functions described above reverse.  Our heart rate reduces, the oxygen in our blood is regulated, the muscles relax, and digestion, metabolism and sex drive are all improved.

Yoga offers a great way to relax and unwind the body and mind.  A typical class will offer 1/3rd of the time in relaxation practices.  A guided relaxation can take many forms – seated in a chair or laying on the back of the body.  A teacher will use a variety of methods to help you to relax your body and mind.  Visualisations, muscle tense and release, breathing exercises, meditation and music are some methods I use.

The benefit of a regular class means that you learn techniques and tips to stop you from doing your mental ‘to do’ list and allow you to simply be and relax.  Giving yourself permission to relax is the most important and difficult thing to do.  But given the benefits, don’t you think it’s your job to get busy relaxing?

Stretch & Relax – September 2018

In this year’s Stretch & Relax classes we’ll be taking a tour around the body seeing how each part feels for us on a personal level and also how improvements with one area can often alleviate issues in others… We will begin with our FEET which form the foundation o f our standing postures and which we rely on for our mobility and independence as we get older.

Feet are actually quite fascinating once you get over the look of them. They consist of lots of tiny bones, with lots of tiny joints in between. When the joints in the feet aren’t as flexible as they could be the result is that the feet can’t operate as the ‘suspension’ mechanism of the body – so even walking (let alone running and jumping) can become problematic to joints further up the body (knees, hips and spine) as the foot is not taking the impact of the weight of the body as it steps/plods around. We will use a variety of means – movement, massage with a small ball and massage with our hands to help to get our feet more flexible. And do you know… that because of all the nerve endings in the souls of the feet working with the feet can be extremely relaxing and calming. A traditional yogic remedy for insomnia is self foot massage. We’ll spend some time working on proper alignment of the feet as this can help prevent and heal foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, and shin splints not to mention a variety of mis-alignments further up the body. Keeping the feet flexible and relaxed also helps circulation of fluids to this area which over time helps to keep the skin on the feet healthy. Poor skin health is what leads to the build up of bacteria, smells, verrucas, athletes’ foot etc

So before we pack our tootsies into the boots for winter let’s give them some TLC and – who knows you may notice that the pain in your neck goes as well 🙂

 

Next term – 19th February to 30th March 2018 – Stretch & Relax Classes at Tinwell and Preston

   

The work for this half term will focus on some standing postures – the Warriors. These are great for stretching and  strengthening the legs whilst also developing the core and back muscles. We’ll continue to improve our breathing with the stepped breath – great for relaxation too.

Nada Yoga – The Yoga of Sound

Last Saturday I was at an ‘In Service Training’ day with the British Wheel of Yoga. The topic was Nada Yoga – which translates loosely to the yoga of sound. It was taught by Rajesh David, yogi and musician – you will have heard his melodies if you have been to one of our classes.

Nada yoga is concerned with the essence of sound – the vibrations – and is studied and developed by singing and chanting. The idea very, very basically put is that you ‘tune in’ to yourself and the world around you. Yoga means to ‘yoke’or join together and all things have a vibrational quality when you get down to the atom/molecule level. Simply put, when everything vibrates at the same rate this creates harmony and balance. The principle is akin to lullabying a baby – we try to sooth ourselves and attune to the rhythm of vibrations around us.

You can have a listen to Rajesh and some of the work we did at his website here

Om is very important in this field – our chanting at the beginning and end of each session is a way for us all to be in harmony. How does chanting Om affect you? Consider how you feel next time in class – is there a sense of being soothed – all the cells of your body vibrating at the same rate?

If you are interested in working a little more on this do let me know. I am considering it as a topic for a workshop next year 😉

Beginners Yoga – June 17

We’ll be focusing our practice on relaxing the spine and the breath this term with a view to soothing the nervous system.

The nervous system controls and regulates all the other systems of the body – we have this year looked at the skeletal, muscular, digestive, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The nervous system carries messages to and from the brain – the above image shows a simple diagram of it. We don’t need to know all the details – however it is helpful to know a little bit about how the nervous system can keep us calm or can place us in ‘fight or flight’ mode which is what we call ‘stress’. I’ll be talking in some depth about this during the classes, but it is more important to have an appreciation of how your nervous system responds to your life than an in depth knowledge of the anatomy.

The postures will help to ease out the spine – working with some simple back bending. Our relaxations will be developing some breathing techniques to help the nervous system return to homeostasis (a state of equilibrium).

Would you like to join us? We welcome new beginners into the class – please email me here to book your space,

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.

 

Learn to Relax

Our relaxation exercises in the Beginners Yoga last term were inspired by the book ‘Learn to Relax’ by Mike George. It is a very readable book interspersed with exercises to help reduce stress, live in the moment and relax. As you go further into the book there are sections on finding harmony in the relationships in your life, finding time for meditation and letting go of the past. I thoroughly recommend it to everyone as it has something to offer on those days when you may not feel like a physical or spiritual practice – perhaps you may be a bit down in the dumps, and it brings some perspective to your circumstances. Sadness, fear and anxiety all lead to stress and a physical tightness in the body. In turn this can lead to reduced breathing capacity denying your body and brain the vital life source (prana) which comes from oxygen. The result is illness and disease and we want to avoid that as much as possible.

Yoga & Meditation – Spring term 2017

bow-pose

In our quest for BALANCE IN OUR LIVES, this term we’ll remind ourselves of the Niyamas (yogas rules for living) to see if there is anything that draws our attention or feels out of kilter at the moment. We’ll begin the class listening to a variety of chants of the Gayatri mantra -said to be the one of oldest mantras – and let the words and tunes flow over and around us to bring positivity and inspiration. You can listen and learn the meaning of the Gayatri in the video below…

 

Our posture work will be simple, gentle and deeply nourishing. We’ll allow our focus to rest on how the body enjoys opening and relaxing into stretches. Working with the Bow (Dhanurasana) posture and Head to Knee (Janu Sirsasana) besides some floor Vinyasa work and standing balances.

For our breathing practice (Pranayama), we will be working on the basics of alternate nostril breathing  (Nadi Shodana) with everyone finding their own rhythm and pace. Relaxations will be based upon passive relaxation techniques with some stories to complete each class. I am really looking forward to teaching this terms work:)

If you would like to join us this term, please get in touch here to book your place.

Saithalyasana (Animal Resting Pose)

saithalyasana

Sit on your mat with the legs outstretched. Carefully bend the right knee and place the sole of the foot against the inside of the left thigh.  Carefully bend the left knee and place the left heel to the outside of the left buttock. Turn your torso to the right and take a breath in, as you exhale walk the hands down either side of the right leg, lowering yourself down over the bent leg. Fold forward as far as is comfortable, making any adjustments to the position of your legs. Relax into the posture for around 5 breaths before coming out on the inhale, walking the hands back upwards to return to an upright seated posture.

Outstretch the legs once more and then begin with the left leg, carefully repeating the posture to the left side.

This is a great asana (posture) to stretch the back and pelvic region, it opens the hip joints and stretches the thighs. The abdominal organs are gently massaged (as you get lower down in the posture over time) which helps the digestive system. It is a great preparation pose for meditation postures, quieting the mind and opening the hip joints.