The Mighty Breath

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

First of all the twinkling stars vibrated, but remained motionless in space, then all the celestial globes were united into one series of movements… Firmament and planets both disappeared, but the mighty breath which gives life to all things and in which all is bound up remained.

Vincent Van Gogh

Our prana (life force) will be the focus of our yoga practice this term. We are like small power stations – taking on fuel and turning it into movements, thoughts, feelings, dreams and ambitions. The fuel we use is mainly air; in the form of our breath. Allowing our breath to be as nature intended, smooth, slow and free will be our aim.

No strain, no stress, just simply returning to our breath!

Our physical postures will be flowing movements, graceful, soft and expansive. Our relaxations will enable healing opportunities. All are welcome to join our membership on Facebook and participate in as much or as little as you would like.

Please contact me here to join us.

Let’s Get A Move On

Flowing yoga, walking, running and dancing are all excellent forms of cardio exercise

Moderate cardiovascular exercise such as walking, flowing yoga or dancing is proven to prime our immune systems. Just 30 minutes a day of movement that increases your heart rate has been shown to reduce the risk of catching a cold – so even though the temperatures have dropped don’t miss out, GET A MOVE ON. (If you’re a member of my Online do-yoga! Class watch out for a 3 minute Down Dog Boogie routine that will get you going this weekend.)

And that’s not all. Movement also has a positive effect on our mood and mental outlook. It literally makes us happy! The more you move, the more energetic and upbeat you feel and so you want to move some more. Dancing is a fab way to move about – why not put on some music and have a little kitchen boogie?

The key thing is to make moving about more of a habit and sitting about less of a habit. This is particularly difficult during lockdown and if you have any restrictions (problems with joint mobility for example). Here are some examples of how you might include more movement in your day to day life – they may sound a bit silly, but if you make the little things habits, the extra steps it will make a big difference.

  • When driving, find a convenient parking spot that is a 10-minute walk from your destination
  • If you can make a journey on foot – try it, it may be more enjoyable than you thought
  • If you have an upstairs, use the loo upstairs when you need to go
  • If you do a daily walk, try going further or time yourself and try to beat your time each day
  • Put a bird feeder at the end of your garden and make sure to check it daily

As I say some things sound a bit daft, but we are all creatures of habit. We visit the same places week in week out, do the same activities day in day out, and if we make some slight adjustments we will be able to squeeze in a little more movement and feel the benefits.

A thought for Black Friday

I’ve been really enjoying “A year with Rumi” – a poetry book brim-full of beautiful words. There are many of the well-known works in it and plenty of new ones (to me anyway). Here is the one from August 1st which struck a chord with me on the consumerism and selfishness that our society seems so full of today.

What would Rumi have thought of Black Friday I wonder.

LIKE LIGHT OVER THIS PLAIN

A moth flying into the flame
says with its wingfire, Try this.

The wick with its knotted neck broken 
tells you the same. A candle as it diminishes explains,
Gathering more and more is not the way.
Burn, become light and heat and help. Melt.

The ocean sits in the sand letting its lap
fill with pearls and shells, then empty.
A bittersalt taste hums, This.

The rose purifies its face, drops the soft petals,
shows its thorn, and points.

Wine abandons thousands of famous names,
the vintage years and delightful bouquets,
to run wild and anonymous through your brain.

The flute closes its eyes and gives its lips
to Hamza’s emptiness.

Everything begs with the silent rocks
for you to be flung out like light
over this plain.

Seeing yourself through the lens of the Gunas

We all know and love the story of Goldilocks and the 3 bears. Just as some porridge is too salty, some is too sweet and some is just right… we can learn to balance out our energy with the help of this fairytale and ancient yogic philosophy devised thousands of years ago.

According to ancient yogis, all of matter (including us humans) is a mixture of 3 qualities or energies – known as the 3 Gunas.  These may sound a little abstract at first, but even if you have only been practising yoga for a short while the chances are that this will make sense to you – you have probably observed in yourself these 3 qualities at one time or another:-

The busy bee – all action, flighty and rushing around – this is known as Rajas. Rajas is the energy of change, we know it through the feelings of passion, desire, effort and pain.

The solid rock – stillness and inertia – this is known as Tamas. We know Tamas as a feeling of lethargy, dullness and heaviness.

The light of illumination – clarity and tranquillity – this is known as Sattva. Sattva is not necessarily happiness but a moment of inspiration, beauty and contentment.

A balance is required of all the Gunas in our life – all are good!  It’s when we have a dominance of one type of energy that  our lives get out of kilter. The regular practice of yoga teaches us the ability to take a step back from the day to day coming and goings of life.  This enables us to see through the lens of the Gunas where we are with our energy and how we can redress the balance.

According to yogic philosphy –

An excess of Rajas leads to wilful stubbornness, tiredness and disease.

An excess of Tamas leads to delusion, obscurity and ignorance.

We can cultivate more Sattva in our lives through meditation. By observing our actions and reactions in a non-judgemental manner – being mindful that we will always be a mixture of the 3 Gunas, our job is to try to balance them out.

One great way to start a meditation practice is to use Mudras (hand gestures). You can find out all about Mudras and a variety of practices here

Have strength and courage to stand still

Yoga Teacher Deborah Kinga demonstrates Warrior 2 pose
Strength in mind and body is required to hold yoga poses

It’s not often these days that we have the opportunity to stand still. So many thoughts overwhelm us – guilt that we ‘should’ be doing something all the time. ‘Multi tasking’ even – doing two or three things at the same time.

Being addicted to activity is just like any other addiction; the more we do, the more we need to do to get the original feeling of accomplishment. We end up with wall-to-wall activities – whether that’s meetings at work, committees or running errands for others. You add in extra bits – listening to podcasts while doing your chores. Sign up your children for after-school activities six days a week. Soon everything is so jumbled, reading while eating, shopping on the internet while watching TV and then you have to literally ‘get away’ from your home to have a moment’s peace.

Try today – just to stand still for 1 minute – maybe in your favourite balance pose or in Tadasana, evenly on 2 feet. Breathe, pause, watch the mind. It takes strength and courage to stand still. Being still begins to still the mind and then the reality of stillness kicks in. We have to face our thoughts.

Allow any thoughts to float away – they are just thoughts – “I should be doing…”, “I should be helping…”, “If I don’t get that done…” Let them go. Say to yourself –

I have all the time in the world

Picture in your mind an image of a Buddha in meditation. Keep breathing deeply and slowly for 5 to 10 breaths. Repeat on the other leg if you were balancing.

When you are finished, reflect for a moment how you feel, body, mind and soul.

Vajrasana – Thunderbolt Pose

Vajrasana – Thunderbolt or Kneeling Pose

Sit in a kneeling position with the heals rolling outwards and your bottom in the hollow of your feet.

Place the hands on the knees, soften the gaze and breath gently through the nose.

Vajrasana is useful to stretch out the tops of the feet. There are many benefits gained in the pelvis and pelvic floor region to spending 5 minutes or so in this posture. It also engages the muscles of the core and back so that they become used to supporting an upright posture. In time this becomes an effortless position to sit in.

This is a great  posture for meditation because the spine is naturally straight. It is also increases the efficiency of digestion as the contents of the abdomen sit in an upright position allowing gravity to help.

Smile and repeat this affirmation –

“In stillness I touch my inner strength”

Often people find that the feet become cramped and the legs are tight when they first try Vajrasana. Sit for a few minutes to start with – don’t over do it – use a block or folded towel under your bottom. Practice, practice, practice.  Be patient with yourself and over time you will become used to the posture. There are many benefits to feeling comfortable in this position and several other postures begin in Vajrasana so it’s a good thing to get used to it ; )

Tadasana – Standing Still

We don’t often consider Tadasana as a posture – it’s just something to begin from or rest in.

When practicing any posture in yoga we are training ourselves to focus on something in particular rather than letting the mind wander. And Tadasana is no different – in fact it it’s quite a difficult posture from this ‘focus’ perspective. When standing in Tadasana for any length of time it becomes quite apparent that the mind is not willing, able or in the mood for focus. It’s in the mood for ‘well what’s next then?’ or ‘thank god that’s over’.

Concentration is what yoga is ALL about. This term I’m hoping to linger longer in Tadasana to encourage observations of both body and mind.

TADASANA

  • feeling the soles of the feet on the mat
  • being upright
  • awareness of my skeletal alignment
  • feeling muscles, ligaments and tissues
  • relaxing as much as possible
  • taking a deeper breath
  • allowing thoughts to reside
  • sensing the spaciousness

You can also try a meditation in the posture – how about this one –

A simple meditation to calm the mind

A simple meditation to calm the mind

meditation is scientifically proven to reduce mental stress

If you find yourself anxious or agitated try this simple meditation…

SMILE as you breathe in

LISTEN as you breathe out

PAUSE for a second or two before beginning again


This works to steady the mind and make you feel more relaxed. Here’s why –

When you SMILE you stop using words and your brain is sent a signal that everything is good. You also send a positive signal out into the world.

When you LISTEN you stop thinking, the mind reaches out, hushing the thoughts, trying to hear what’s going on.

When you PAUSE at the end of the exhalation you are effectively lengthening the exhalation which helps us to relax.

The overall effect is to slow down the breathing which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system also known as the rest and digest system. This undoes the work of the sympathetic nervous system after a stressful situation.

You can read more about the nervous system and how stress works affects us at this website – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parasympathetic_nervous_system