When we greet with Namaste! We are greeting the light within the person or people we see. It is not their physical shape, attitude or energy of the body but the light within. You can think of this as a persons soul or spirit.
Yogis consider a person or being to be made of several layers and, by the practice of yoga (meaning to yoke), we can bring together these layers (Koshas) so that our life and well being is in harmony. To simplify this philosophy, in class I offer the suggestion to think of the Mind and the Body as 2 halves of our being – rather like husband and wife. They are on the same team but quite often have different approaches. As we get used to this as a concept we can then begin to consider and connect with the other aspects of ourselves, such as our energy, our emotions and our true ‘Self’.
Our light or true ‘Self’ can be hidden by these layers rather like 5 lampshades dulling the light of a bulb. We endeavour to ‘dust off’ these shades with our yoga practice so our true ‘Self’ can shine through and we can be at peace with the world around us.
In simple terms we have our food body, energy body, mind body, intuitive body and joy body. All these surround our light or true Self.
If you want to find out more http://www.swamij.com/koshas.htm has a down-to-earth description of these layers of being or Koshas with their Sanskrit names and attributes.
In the wise words of the Buddha…
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
The tree pose looks simple but takes strength in the supporting leg and flexibility in the bent leg/hip. (That’s not to mention the concentration).
First of all take off your shoes – it’s much easier to balance when you can feel the soles of your feet on the floor. Chose a room where the floor is stable and level. Never try to balance on a rug or slippery surface.
Try balancing next to a wall so that you can place one hand on the wall for support.
Lift one foot off the floor and turn out your knee. Be gentle, place the sole of the lifted foot next to the standing leg – low down to begin with.
Focus the gaze on a spot ahead of you. Breathe a few times to see if you can hold the pose still.
Next try the other leg.
When you feel confident, move away from the wall and try the hand position.
As your balance and flexibility improves, you can move the foot up to press onto the inner thigh. Never press the foot onto the knee joint.
In class this term we are shining a light on the often overlooked workhorse of the body – the digestive system.
This mudra (hand gesture or seal) is the ‘gesture of unshakable trust’ – we hold it in front of the heart and repeat a mantra. The one I have selected to end our practice is:
“I am a creation of the greatest omnipotence,
whose strength and power lovingly support
me at all times”
By learning to read our ‘gut instincts’ we can bring about harmony in our body and in our life.
On a simple level, if some foods don’t agree with you, then it is probably best not to eat them (ie if you wake up with a hangover following several glasses of wine try to cut down or cut it out). If you are not really hungry then it is best not to eat and so on. Follow the simple principles of nature and have faith that the digestive system will work as it was designed to.
As we are all aware, the feelings within the digestive system are capable of telling us much more than if we are hungry or not – anxiety, anger and fear all manifest as emotions within the ‘gut’. Through listening to, and tuning in with this feedback from our body we can live much more in tune with ourselves and our world. This is how yoga begins to unite the body and the mind.
This pose is an easy way to strengthen your back – you can do it standing in a wide leg stance as I’m doing or Tadasana (two leg standing). If you need a break from your work at a computer keyboard, try it at your desk when seated! A minute or two everyday should help keep the shoulders and upper back strong. Also – try the meditative version holding the final pose for 10 breaths or so.
1 Stand or sit tall, pull the navel into spine to activate your core
2 Cross the wrists in front of you, raise the arms overhead as you breathe in
3 Exhale bending the elbows and spreading the fingers wide
4 Inhale arms back up overhead
5 Lower the arms back to the start position as you exhale
6 YOGA ADVENTURE 1 Hold the pose – squeeze the shoulder blades together and navel towards spine a little more. Keep the breath flowing smoothly for 5 or so breaths
7 YOGA ADVENTURE 2 If your wrists feel ok – take the fingers backwards and feel the effect on the upper arms
8 YOGA ADVENTURE 3 Test your balance by working this flowing arm movement while standing on one leg in Vrksasana (Tree pose)
9 MINI MEDITATION Imagine the sun beating down on you in a scorching desert
9 Release the pose – bring the arms down and then give yourself a hug to ease out the shoulders.
I’m freshly back from a trip to the Lake District, and just about dried out. Yes it rained most of the time and yes I got hailed on and blown about on top of Cat Bells – but there is something about the mountains that draws me and my family back year after year. The dramatic scenery, the challenge of climbing to the peak, the soft, sweat water and of course the beer!
Thich Nhat Hanh gives us these words to meditate on…
Sit quietly cross legged – sukhasana, kneeling – vajrasana, or in a chair Egyptian style – half way back feet flat on the floor.
Repeat the following 3 times and visualise a beautiful mountain with a lake beneath…