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 rest is equivalent to 4 hour sleep. I’m not certain that’s scientifically proven, 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.
Here is the Deep Relaxation with Introduction to the Chakras – it’s a good one to repeat as you can learn the position and names of the Chakras while having a good rest.
I know it’s usual to read a trashy novel while you are on your holibobs…
But maybe this year try something new? Why not settle down to a bit of yoga reading? You never know you might find it motivates you to do a bit of summer yoga.
My trusty yoga bible – if you only get one yoga book in your life, make it this one. It really does include everything you need to know. Some (about 10 percent) is a little bit bonkers, and really only for those having been brought up in the East with yoga since they were a kid – but the majority is sensible stuff giving plenty of background reading to the topics we cover in class. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Sw Satyanada Saraswati
Not a yoga book but this is a must for anyone living with a pain in the (insert your area here). Pete Egoscue has a fantastic, down to earth approach to pain – really that you have caused it by your own health and habits and that you can cure it by altering your ways… It’s not exactly yoga but uses many of the principles and asanas with a matter of fact ‘get off your butt’ manner. Please let me know if you get a copy and follow the advice, I’m always curious to find out how people have got on. Pain Free by Pete Egoscue
This book is a fabulous course in yoga for the hands and shows all the various mudras and asana practices for overcoming lifes ups and downs. It’s an enjoyable read to pick up and put down besides being a great guide for mudra and meditation. Yoga in you Hands by Gertrud Hirschi.
Although we will be taking a break from our weekly classes over the summer, there is no reason to stop your yoga practice. In fact this is a good time to make a resolve (in yoga we call this a Sankalpa) to do a bit of practice on your own. This will test your memory and motivation!
To help you I have made handouts for the Sun Salutes you have done in your class (if you haven’t got one, be sure to collect one this week) Plus I’ve filmed the following 2 videos -one is the Simple Sun Salute – best for beginner students and one is Surya Namaskara – more suitable for those that have got a couple of years experience. You can follow along anywhere you have WiFi – so no excuses 🙂
Please ‘like’ your favourite Sun Salute – and subscribe to the channel with the red button to see more videos later in the summer…
I recently read a compelling tale about Alfred Nobel – he of the Nobel Peace Prize. The story touched me so much that I can’t seem to get it out of my mind. The story goes (and I can’t say how much of it is absolutely true) that Alfred Nobel was born in poverty but became very rich as an inventor, chemist and engineer. He created dynamite and had many factories making ammunitions thus amassing a great fortune during his lifetime. Sadly his brother died in 1888 and the media at the time got things a little confused and thought it was Alfred who had died. The obituaries in the papers were brutal ‘The merchant of death is dead’ and similar headlines appeared. Despite many other inventions and his vast wealth creation, the main thing Alfred was remembered for was the dynamite and the destruction it caused. This is said to have incentivised Alfred to set up the Nobel Peace Prize. He left his whole fortune to be invested and each year prizes given to those who contribute the most to society.
What does it all mean?
The ancient Sages suggested that to live a happy and fulfilled life it’s important to have a purpose and to consider what you might be remembered most for…
– great abs?
– fast car?
– amazing teeth?
In our increasingly time-deprived lives we can get caught up in minutia and drowned in emails missing the big picture of what we are actually doing here. Spending weeks, months and years doing stuff that makes us miserable and just wishing we were some place else.
Perhaps there’s another way? To take time to think about…
– what makes us tick?
– what do we care deeply about?
– what do we want people to remember about us?
Though the answers may change from time to time, our life on this planet is short – so we should make it count. I doubt anyone’s last words were ‘I wish I could have spent more time at the office’.
Oh how I love to live in the moment – and what a moment this time of year is. The wonderful scent of elderflowers is in the air and they are at their best to make Elderflower Champagne. Only 8 heads are required in this tried and tested (very old) recipe. If you can do it this week it will be ready in time for the Wimbledon finals!
You will need –
A clean bucket, tea towel, funnel, old pair of tights (for straining) and some fizzy water/lemonade bottles
8 heads of elderflowers
4 litres of boiling water
1 1/4 lb of sugar
2 sliced lemons
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
In the bucket, pour the boiling water over the sugar; stir and leave to cool. Cover it with a clean tea towel. When cold throw in the flower heads, lemons and the vinegar. Give a good stir and let stand for 24 hours covered with the clean tea towel. Strain into the fizzy water bottles and place in a cool dark position covering with a bin bag or cardboard box (just in case it explodes).
It will be ready to drink in 2 weeks and gets extremely fizzy so take care when opening the bottles.
Lovely for picnics, with a splash of sloe gin or orange juice 😉 Take care if you are giving this to children, anyone driving or on medication as it is alcoholic. I would guess between 5 and 10% – I have tried to use the hydrometer to check but that’s a whole new post!
In the Summer term our beginners yoga classes will focus on our arms and shoulders. We have been moving through the body – starting from the ground up – working to strengthen, stretch and inform ourselves about all the different parts of our physical body.
In this final term we will loosen, strengthen and stretch out the arms and shoulders. Experiencing how movement (or lack of it) in the shoulders affects our hearts. We will play with Downward Doggy, Crow pose and the Universal Twist. And of course, give ourselves plenty of encouraging pats on the backs and hugs (very good move for the shoulders).
I’m not forgetting that we have 1 more body part to think about…. our heads. I’ll be teaching Ujjayi Breathing to calm the mind and ease the furrowed brows… an essential part of our practice 😉
In the summer term (June/July 2019) our yoga classes will nourish the mind and body looking at the concepts of UP & DOWN. Spending time bringing our focus to the souls of the feet and the crown of the head (please bring a block if you have one).
We will work between Up Dog and Down Dog to strengthen the core, shoulders and help the flexibility in the spine. There will be the option to work with the Cow pose for those not quite ready for the intensity of Up Dog.
It will be a term of bringing together many of the threads we have been working with all year – how opposites can help each other and by offering a true perspective on all that life offers us. Yoga is all about cultivating a mindset that objectively sees where it’s at and actively seeks a broader appreciation of situations. Thinking the opposite can really aid this.
We will continue to work with the ups and downs in our Sun Salutations – finding a suitable practice that suits each of us as an individual – but appreciating where we are and where we need to put in some work 😉 We will learn about the idea of ‘Abhyasa’ – PRACTICE!
Our year culminates with the ‘King of Asanas’ – the headstand – a truly upside down situation! No, we won’t be practicing it in class but I will introduce the benefits of the posture and we can work with a variety of preparatory exercises, which I hope will give you a flavour of the effects of the full pose.
I can’t get enough of this salsa! I first tasted it on a ‘Safari Supper’ at a neighbours house in our village – she served it with salmon steaks. Since she gave me the recipe I have slightly adapted it and served it up on top of toast and with a jacket potato! It’s a really great way to eat your fruit and veg.
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 mango, peeled and chopped
2 avocados, chopped
1 chilli, seeded and chopped (chilli flakes or chilli oil)
The juice of 1 or 2 limes
2 tbsp fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped
salt, black pepper, olive oil to taste
Put it in a bowl and mix up. Leave it in the fridge if you have time for the flavours to develop. It is probably nice the next day too, but ours doesn’t last that long.
Top Tip – for those green fingers out there – grow your own cilantro (coriander). Get cilantro seeds because the coriander seed is to grow coriander seed heads (used in Indian/eastern recipes) and the plant grown for it’s leaf is cilantro. It tastes 100% better than it’s shop bought cousin and you really only need a bit, the flavour is so powerful.
One of the great things that yoga teaches us is that we are not our thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts – they are invisible and intangible and yet have great power over our lives. When you gain control over your thoughts you can change them at will – it is easier said than done – but recognising negative thoughts when they arise can go a long way to prevent ourselves from spiralling off in a negative direction.
“When obstructive thoughts arise, practice the opposite thought.”
(from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2:33)
Meditation on the Opposite (read through a couple of time and then try a practice)
Sit in a comfortable meditation position. Watch the breath for a while – feel the softening of the body with each gentle exhalation.
Allow a thought (something that is bothering you) to come into your mind and feel the accompanying sensations in your body – eg ‘ I should have done that differently’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’m powerless’. Notice where and what you feel in your body – tightness in your tummy, heart, throat? Heaviness? Sadness?
Now consider a thought that would be opposite – eg ‘I did my best’, ‘I’m OK as I am’, ‘I am capable’. Bring into your mind a time or incident when this was how you felt. Review your physical sensations now – how does that feel? – relaxed? open? excited?
Take your time and don’t dwell for too long. It’s enough to begin with to appreciate the affect of a negative thought on our body/being. Spending time cultivating the opposites in this way affirms a positive approach to thinking and dealing with our thoughts as if they are separate from us. SMILE to end the meditation and be grateful that you have taken a little time to spend on this work for yourself.