So Hum Relaxation Audio

Yoga Teacher Deborah King in a meditation posture

Here is a guided relaxation audio that’s just over 10 minutes long. Why not take 10 minutes out of your day just for yourself?

This audio guides you to lay down in Semi Supine position or Shavasana but you can also do it sitting in a chair or meditation posture. In fact you could even try it as a respite from working at your computer. As with all relaxations and meditations you should not do them while operating machinery, say for instance driving a car. Please be sensible and stay safe when you practice.

Following an initial period of relaxing the physical body we move to a meditation on the breath. Listening for the sound of ‘So Hum’. So Hum is derived from Sanskrit and literally means “I am That”. As we repeat the mantra it becomes “I am that, that I am”. As we meditate on this, we begin to appreciate that we are all one, we have all come from one Infinite Source, and a part of that infinite source is present in all of us. We are all connected.

Just few minutes of relaxation along with this magical mantra can bring calm and so much positivity inside and out. Hope you enjoy it.

You can find another relaxation audio Introduction to the Chakras here and more meditations on my YouTube channel do-yoga-at-home


Positive Thinking: 7 Top Tips for Looking on the Bright Side

Yoga Teacher demonstrates Happy Eagle arms with the power of positive thinking
Happy Eagle Arms with the Power of Positive Thinking

The power of Positive Thinking has been known for thousands of years. This quote and its many variants are attributed to Henry Ford the great industrialist and suggests that everything we do (or do not) is down to our mind set.

“If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Henry Ford

Put simply if you think positively you will draw positive things to you. What happens when you think optimistically? You stand up straight. Walk with a spring in your step. Say a cheery ‘Hello’ to a passer-by. Maybe even hum a little tune. Your breathing slows down. AND everything begins to look better in your life. People recognise this. Even animals recognise this and as a result are drawn to you. When you give off good vibes, good vibes come right back at you.

If you are feeling down in the dumps, what happens? You sit hunched over, restricting oxygen to your lungs. Your face is frowning and crumpled. You watch all the bad news on TV or on the internet and feel even worse about yourself and your situation. The deprivation of oxygen to your body means you feel lethargic so decide not to get on with the housework or go out for a walk. AND it’s a cycle downwards – people don’t want to talk to you as you are often critical and negative.

Let’s face it we have all been in both situations – it’s called being human. Yoga can help us identify our moods – as we develop the idea that we exist and experience life through different layers (physical, emotional, mental). This understanding helps us to be the ‘witness’ and detach from our actions or thoughts as necessary. But it takes a lot of practice and it often feels like going against the grain.

Why It’s Difficult To Think Positive

We are all predisposed to negativity for survival purposes. We will always hold a negative or threatening thought in our minds for far longer than a positive or happy thought. That is why joy in our lives seems so fleeting. When we are happy, we can relax and don’t need to use our brains to organise anything. When we are stressed and anxious our minds are continuously searching for a solution, worrying about the future or what will happen to our loved ones.

It is difficult to change this behaviour as our brains are hard wired this way. But there are several habits that we can develop to train our minds to think positively. The scientists call it neuroplasticity which means the brain’s ability to change and develop new pathways of thought depending on the environment and circumstances.

We can go off things…

If we have bad experiences our brains try to get us to avoid that situation. It could be the work place for example. Deadlines, cross customers, boredom could lead to a feeling that you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning or a sick feeling in the pit of your tummy on a Sunday night. The reason is that you associate the workplace with negative emotions.

Well the opposite can also work. If we consciously aim to have good experiences this will mean that out brain’s want to repeat them. And if we are all positive and perky about said experience it makes us give off good vibes and – who knows – perhaps a friend might like to come and join you so you can do it together? We have to make a dedicated attempt to re-wire our brain n this way. No one else can do this for you.

Here are 7 top tips to help you make Positive Thinking a habit.

Positive Thinking #1: Kindness

Being kind to others has an extremely healthy impact on us both physically and mentally. Studies have shown that we feel better about ourselves when we are kind to other people. Kind actions have also been proven to make us feel happier and less stressed.

Kindness is contagious – when someone does you a good turn, you will be inspired to pay it forward, and the person who receives your kindness will feel the same, so on and so forth.

Kindness also inspires us to be thankful, so if you are truly struggling with positive thinking and finding something to be thankful for, do a good deed for someone else — you will notice immediately how great it makes you feel.

Positive Thinking#2: Make time for yourself

We all spend large parts of our day working to earn money or looking after loved ones. Out of your total waking time, how much time do you spend doing things that you love?  Setting time aside to focus on hobbies and passions will give you far more joy and happiness than vegetating in front of the TV.

We often forget that if we have the energy and willpower to slave away for eight or so hours a day with little reward outside of financial gain, we could easily spend an hour or two every day doing what we actually enjoy.

Remember you need to give off good vibes — like attracts like.

Positive Thinking#3: Stress Less

Are you working too hard? If you do, you will be unhealthy. If you sleep too little, you will be exhausted. And if you neglect your family or friends, you will feel lonely.

Why not allow yourself a little time to just relax?

Does doing something for yourself make you feel guilty?

One of my biggest problems is biting off more than I can chew. I just wish there were 9 days in a week – then I would have time to get everything done. Sound familiar? These self-imposed deadlines are damaging to you and all those around you. Stress actually forms the foundation of many life-threatening diseases, so in the long run you will get much less done if you are dead!

When stress leaves your body, your cells regenerate more efficiently. Less stress is literally more healing.

Positive Thinking#4: Sleep well

No one is in a good mood when they don’t get enough sleep. Let alone be all up-beat and ready for some positive thinking. But what can you do if you suffer from insomnia? Well first of all don’t worry about it – don’t add to your stress. Accept that there are things going on in your mind that don’t want to switch off and try your best to work out a pathway to sleep.

Some ideas that have been found effective are – setting up a bedtime routine that might include a bathing ritual, scent, gentle exercise or warm drink. Don’t watch screens just before you sleep, reading a book is better for the eyes. Ensure you are cool enough – the body temperature drops a little when you sleep. Finally, you can’t expect your body to be tired if you haven’t done any exercise. You need to have some exercise each day to tire out your limbs and then the body is ready for true restoration.

You can find out more about how to get a good night’s sleep on the NHS website here alternatively, try out my online yoga classes ‘Yoga for a good night’s sleep’

Positive Thinking#5: Try Meditation

Meditation helps the mind to slow down and relax. It gives perspective on our situation and can help us to reflex and be kinder to those around us. By clearing away negative and unnecessary thoughts the mind is rejuvenated and becomes more resilient. It’s the perfect antidote to stress and anxiety.

We can learn, through meditation, to tune into positive thinking and weed out the negative thoughts. Meditate often enough and a lot of damage will be undone. You’ll be left with a clear mind and a refreshed perspective.

You can try out meditation with various Apps or why not sign up for one of my online courses – click here to find out more.

Positive Thinking#6: Make Gratitude your Attitude

Many studies have proven that giving thanks makes us happier. It floods our brains with dopamine, the one chemical that has the potential to drown out the negative thoughts and anxious feelings we too often carry throughout the day.

Gratitude gives out super-positive vibes. Remember, like attracts like. If you make an effort to be grateful, you will find that you will be blessed with more things to be grateful for.

A fantastic way to consciously practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Every night before you to go to sleep, list everything you were grateful for throughout the day. Over time, you will see your lists become much longer!

Positive Thinking#7: Stop the negative self-talk

“If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Henry Ford

Henry Ford’s words are just as true today as when he wrote them. We are always telling ourselves stories about how bad things are. Yes, living through a pandemic is bad – but at least we are living and not dying. We need to change the narrative – instead of telling yourself “This is bad,” we need to affirm, “I can handle this” or “I will be okay.”

Pep talks work — they may be a bit American, but they do motivate, inspire, and uplift. Try to give yourself a bit of encouragement everyday when you look in the mirror. If you tell yourself at least once a day that you are beautiful, talented, or just plain awesome you will come to believe it. Or maybe it will just make you smile for being so daft.

I would like to sign off with this song from ‘The Life of Brian’ – Always look on the bright side of life. It was one of my Dad’s (whose name was Brian) favourite songs. Hope it makes you smile.

Ujjayi Breath – a beginners guide

 

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.

If you are familiar with the 3 Part Breath that we do in class, it’s a good idea to do a few rounds of this to begin with. The 3 Part Breath encourages a full inhalation and exhalation – you can find out more about it in this post here

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.

A comfortable seated posture with a straight spine is the starting point for any breathing practice

Understanding Your Own Breath

Sitting still and simply observing your own breath or working with a Pranayama (Ujjayi – for example) are calming exercises that will help you to get to know your 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 air 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 air 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 air 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.

Yoga for Good Vibes

Our new term begins next week (20/4/20) and the classes are designed specially to be taught online with the focus on raising energy vibrations.

The affects of lockdown are affecting us all – they can be felt physically, mentally and energetically. Our yoga this term will focus on the vibrations that we give off and how to make them GOOD. The first aim is to release blockages that form when we are inactive. This will include hip opening postures as this is one of the main areas to quickly get stiff and restricted. We’ll work to increase energy with physical movement and static holds (Warrior 1 variations) and breathing exercises (Ujjayi and Bhramari).

Our relaxations will be uplifting and positive.

The classes will be a live feed to a closed FaceBook Group. All times will be as per the usual timetable. You will be able access the recorded class at any time throughout the week. So you will be able to do parts of the class – eg listen to the relaxation to help you sleep. That said, the traditional sequence of the 90 minute session has evolved over many thousands of years to be the most effect way to use the yoga class.

The term will run for 6 weeks and costs £30. We will move back into the village halls just as soon as we are able. The British Wheel of Yoga have advised me to prepare for disruption to classes for 6 to 12 months so we may have to alternate with classes in person and online for some time. It is worthwhile taking the time to set up your home yoga space so that you can adapt as necessary. If the technology is putting you off, I am happy to help you as best I can with your set up.

If you prefer, I can offer alternative remote teaching options for this course, for example emailing posture guides and sequences, audio files or 1-2-1 Zoom classes.

Please contact me if you would like to book – new students are most welcome.

Chair Yoga Sequence

Here’s a gentle chair yoga sequence that’s ideal you are recovering from illness or are less mobile at the moment. It works through the limbs and joints and has a short section of standing and sitting. This is great for strengthening the thighs.

You will need a chair!! Get one that is stable. A dining or kitchen chair is best – one with no arms and a firm seat.

Take care at all times, stay focused and breathe in and out smoothly through the nose.

Try to practice everyday. Let me know how you get on – are you feeling stronger?

Calming Yoga Sequence

Here’s a short sequence to calm the mind, ease the shoulders and… moisturise your feet. A real all round calming sequence! It’s ideal when you are feeling stressed out and need to take ‘a moment’.

Find a small, quiet space to lie down in, grab some moisturiser with an enjoyable fragrance and some soft blocks, then hit play.

It takes about 15 minutes and leads you through some guided breathwork, gentle stretches including ‘thread the needle’ which is great for the shoulders. Finally working into the feet with massage and ‘ankle cranking’ and finishing off with the stepped breath.

Let me know how you get on!

SPIRITUAL ADVICE FOR FEARS OF PANDEMIC

I AM REPOSTING THIS FROM https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/coronavirus-meditations/ AS I FOUND IT INSPIRING.

By Gesshin Claire Greenwood

I don’t know a single person right now who is not emotionally affected in some way by the COVID-19 outbreak. As a Buddhist priest and community mental-health worker, I have counseled many people in the last week who are anxious about family members contracting the virus. This is perfectly understandable; I have also felt the anxiety and fear. Fear is a natural response to the existential (and very real) threat of death. But the people I talk to also feel powerless, confused, and are desperately searching for a feeling of agency in the face of potentially overwhelming tragedy. I believe these secondary feelings of powerlessness and confusion are perhaps more painful than simple fear.

In times like these, I am grateful for my many years of Buddhist practice. After initially feeling anxious about the virus myself (and doing my share of stress shopping—yes, I did buy dried lentils and canned food), I have started to feel more grounded and hopeful—or at least, equanimous—about the state of the world. And so I would like to share with you a few things that have been helpful for me in gaining equanimity.

Old Age, Sickness, and Death Are Inevitable.

Buddhist wisdom points to the reality that suffering is an enduring and continual part of being alive. There is one foundational Buddhist parable that explains this beautifully. Before the Buddha was enlightened, his name was Siddhartha, and he lived as a prince in India. (“Buddha” means “one who is awake.”) Siddhartha’s father had received a prophecy that his son would be either a great ruler or a great sage, and so he kept his son enclosed in the palace, surrounded only by lovely people and beautiful experiences, to prevent him from encountering the spiritual life. However, well into his early adulthood, Siddhartha longed to see what was outside the palace. He convinced his attendant Channa to drive him through the city on his chariot.

When he finally entered the city, Siddhartha saw many wonderful things, but he also saw a man who was hunched over and wrinkled with age. He turned to Channa and asked, “What is that? Why is that man hunched over and wrinkled?” 

“That is an old person,” Channa answered.

Ignorant of the ways of the world, Siddhartha asked, “Who becomes old?” 

His friend answered, “Everyone in the world is young in the beginning but grows older with time. None of us can escape old age.”

Siddhartha continued driving, and eventually saw a beggar lying on the side of the road, wheezing and coughing, with a pale face drenched in sweat. “What is wrong with that man?” Siddhartha asked Channa. 

“He is sick,” Channa answered. 

“Who becomes sick?” Siddhartha asked. 

“Everyone who lives long enough will become sick. There is no one who can escape that fate,” Channa replied.

Next, Siddhartha encountered a corpse being carried away on a stretcher. He asked Channa the same questions, and Channa explained that everyone who is born will inevitably die. Siddhartha was shocked and horrified. 

Before he reached home, Siddhartha encountered a holy man. Channa explained that many people, when faced with the inevitability of suffering, choose to devote their life to spiritual practice. This experience inspired Siddhartha to leave the palace, become an ascetic, and eventually achieve enlightenment.

I love this story because even though it might seem ridiculous that someone could be so sheltered as to not understand old age, sickness, and death, the truth is that we are very much like Siddhartha in our naivety and ignorance. We are often sheltered in our own kind of psychological palace where we are shielded from things like illness. Yet this kind of suffering can ultimately not be avoided. We will all, everyone one of us, face old age, sickness, and death. The fourth sight—the holy man—reminds us that we can choose the way we respond to this suffering.

Personally, one of the most distressing things to me about the COVID-19 outbreak has been a feeling that “things should not be this way.” In reality, though, things are and always have been this way. While there is a certain contemporary, American, capitalist flavor to the suffering caused by COVID-19 (our abysmal healthcare system, corporate greed, governmental incompetence, lack of sick days for most part-time, exempt workers, and a host of other factors), the suffering caused by illness and death is nothing new.

There is one more Buddhist parable that I want to share. According to a Buddhist legend, there once was a woman who sought out the Buddha after losing her baby to illness. Crazy with grief, she asked him for medicine to bring her son back from the dead. He replied that he would give her this medicine if she brought him back a white mustard seed from the house of a family that had never experienced death. The woman went door to door, searching for a family untouched by the loss of a loved one. Of course, she could never find such a family. She realized that death touches everyone. And in realizing the universality of grief and death, her suffering lessened.

This story shows us that the feeling of “things should not be this way” is an additional and unnecessary pain on top of our inevitable suffering. We cannot avoid old age, sickness, and death, but we can remove the unnecessary assumption that things should be otherwise, and the psychic pain this assumption causes us.

Recognize Interconnectedness.

Another important piece of wisdom, though not exclusive to Buddhist traditions, is the recognition of interconnectedness. Nothing lays bare our interconnectedness like a literal global pandemic. Humans depend upon each other for survival, and we also impact each other in large and small ways.

Take, for example, the now ubiquitous advice to wash your hands to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At first glance, hand-washing is an act of self care. Frequent hand-washing protects us individually from contracting the virus. But it is also an act of community care; we help protect others when we help protect ourselves. So too with the recommendation to stay home when sick. Although there is definitely a level of privilege in being able to take time off work, it is clearly important to take care of our communities by preventing the spread of illness. In these simple hygiene practices, our understanding of “self” and “other” start to break down.

Where do I end and you begin? We breathe the same air. My survival and happiness depends upon yours. As the Dalai Lama points out, “Interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Even tiny insects survive by mutual cooperation based on innate recognition of their interconnectedness. It is because our own human existence is so dependent on the help of others that our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence. Therefore we need a genuine sense of responsibility and a sincere concern for the welfare of others.”

Convert Fear into Action.

Without catastrophizing too much, I think it is important to consider a future reality in which there is insufficient government response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and our healthcare systems become overwhelmed by illness. This is when community response will become crucial. In fact, the CDC recommends talking to your neighbors about creating a community crisis plan. But I don’t think we need to despair too much. Human beings are quite good at taking care of each other, especially in the face of natural disasters.

In his book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger documents how mental health actually improves during times of war and disaster. This, he theorizes, is because we have lost touch with our natural proclivity to form community (i.e., to join “tribes”), and disaster necessitates building community. During World War II, he writes, psychiatric wards were “strangely empty,” and suicides decreased. Despite the horrors of war, social resilience actually increased, because people depended upon each other more.

One member of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Charles Fritz, intrigued by the resilience of citizens during the blitz in London, conducted further research into community response to disaster. According to Junger, Fritz was “unable to find a single instance where communities that had been hit by catastrophic events lapsed into sustained panic, much less anything approaching anarchy. If anything, he found that social bonds were reinforced during disasters, and that people overwhelmingly devoted their energies toward the good of the community rather than just themselves… Disasters, he proposed, create a “community of sufferers” that allows individuals to experience an immensely reassuring connection to others.”

The months to come will undoubtedly bring pain, suffering, and fear. My wish to you, gentle readers, is a recognition that “things should not be another way.” This is all the stuff of human existence. It’s beautiful and traumatizing and it’s life. Additionally, I invite you to open up to your surroundings and to your community. This can be a time to get to know neighbors, care for the most vulnerable, share resources, and build connections.

If we can convert our individual suffering and fear into compassion for others, we will suffer less. This is because you and I are not separate. We breathe the same air and touch the same subway poles. As COVID-19 spreads, fear and grief are perhaps inevitable, but so is connection and care. We are all of these things.

[This article was originally published on Medium.]

Nurture yourself to Keep Healthy…

In these trying times it’s very easy to be short tempered with our housemates. It’s very easy to sit for hours on end binging on a Netflix serial. It’s also very easy to keep on pouring the wine/gin/beer.

Try your very best to resist. Taking half an hour out for deep relaxation will make all the difference. You can find sound tracks to suit your mood on Spotify or YouTube. Classical music, guided relaxations or sounds of nature all work really well.

I’m sure you will be surprised at how effective this deep relaxation is. Not only for you own state of mind but how you treat your loved ones around you.

I know that it’s hard to stay awake during these deep relaxations! But you should try to… when we truly relax the body and mind for 15 minutes or so we have a chance to really nurture ourselves. The ancient yogis said that this type of ‘stilling’ the body and mind is equivalent to 4 hour sleep. I’m not so 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 in the middle of the day 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. Unfortunately I had to postpone last weeks Yoga Retreat on this theme, but I will reschedule it as soon as we are the right way round again.

I have recorded a couple of relaxations that we have used in our classes. You may feel more comfortable working with the sound of my voice. Please feel free to try them out and other types as mentioned above.

 

Daffodil Relaxation for Springtime Nurturing
So Hum Relaxation

A chance to relax in this crazy time…

I was really pleased when Deb said she would be running the yoga sessions on line, as life is so odd at the moment it was good to have one regular commitment. As the time drew nearer I did wonder though if I would actually lie on the floor in my lounge covered in a blanket for 20 minutes – but I did! I asked my son to help me set up the telly first, we have Apple tv it was very easy, I am sure there are other ways or you could watch/listen on your phone or computer. I put out my blocks, mat and blanket as usual, moved the furniture, changed into my yoga gear on and tuned in.  The lesson was great, comfortingly it followed exactly the same format as usual, with some additional health and safety advice about low ceilings. I found it very easy to follow, and gradually started to relax and stop thinking about other things as the time went on. A very stiff neck and shoulder caused by a combination of stress and fence painting slowly eased off. It is great that the lesson is now available to watch again, I will definitely do parts of it through the week, and look forward to next Wednesday. I do have a confession though Deb – I fell asleep in the relaxation –  luckily no one could hear me snoring! Thanks again.- 

Yoga Student in Ryhall