My Ashram Visit 2020

Yogapoint Ashram

Last month I was very lucky to be able to visit and take a course at Yogapoint ashram near Mumbai in India. Staying at an ashram is a chance to submerge yourself in the yogic lifestyle. Students are able to deepen their yoga practice and gain a better understanding of themselves and life. People can stay in an ashram as volunteers helping with whatever is needed or you can do a course which may include learning more about yoga and yogic practices, teacher training or becoming a yoga therapist. The course I did was all about yoga psychology.

The Ashram Day

Everyone staying at the ashram follows the same routine. At 5.00 the alarm is sounded, in our case at Yogapoint this was in the form of a melodic chant – you can listen here –

Gati Stwam – Yogapoint

A cup of herbal tea is available at 5.30. At 6.00 there is mantra chanting for half an hour to bring health and peace. From 6.30 – 8.00 there is a yoga asana practice, this includes several rounds of Sun Salutations as we watch the sunrise.

Between 8 and 9 everyone is given a job to do. This is Karma yoga – selfless service – where you do work (sweeping, chopping vegetables, cleaning etc) without attachment. It’s a time to reflect on how you feel and your attitude to work. Part of yoga is the acceptance that we all have a part to play in life and it’s not just about doing things for ourselves but helping others.

It feels like lunch time, but at 9.15 we have some breakfast! At Yogapoint there was fresh fruit and breakfast grains cooked in some delicious ways.

Lectures were from 10.30 – 12.30 and then lunch was served.

There was some free time until 2 when there was Yoga Nidra. Further lectures were from 2.30 – 4.30.

Yoga asana class was from 5 – 6.30 where we watched the sun set. Dinner was at 7.00. All of the food at the Ashram was delicious – vegetarian and wholesome. You can see some of the recipes on their website here

Finally, we had storytime, Q&A or singing from 8 – 9.

Lights out and silence at 10.00

The routine is simple and stringent. When the sun rises we rise and do some work, when the sun sets we go to be and have a good night’s sleep because we are tired – physically and mentally. There are no worries about what to cook, what to eat and what to watch on the TV. After a day or 2 you fall into a rhythm – and the worries of home life fall away so that you are only left to contemplate your own nature and what you want to give and get from each day. This rhythm gives rise to a peaceful soul and loving nature. All the students at the ashram were on their own journey but all were pleasant to talk to (when they are not in silence!).

If you are interested in visiting as Ashram you can look at the different courses at Yogapoint in India here or maybe consider something closer to home and look at the Mandala Ashram in Wales here. My Yoga Retreat days in Tinwell will embrace ashram culture with us all contributing to the ‘domestics’ throughout the day – but we won’t be starting at 5.00!

The Wonders of Turmeric

I have been a student of Deb’s for the last 5 years and she has asked me to share my recent experience.  I have had a historic problem with my knee and in August had an arthroscopy which resulted in additional pain.  At the end of December a friend who has similar arthritic pain suggested trying Turmeric with black pepper; it has had a remarkable effect in reducing the level of pain and allowing me to move more freely. It may not work for everyone, but for me it has made an enormous difference to my day to day life and for yoga.

Nigel, Preston Class, March 2020

Coronovirus

I know the latest Coronovirus news of Italy on ‘lockdown’ is very concerning, but we must keep calm and not panic. Let’s take a breath and be sensible. The advice from the British Wheel of Yoga is to keep an eye daily on the government websites and follow their directives. I’m sure we all agree that there is much less chance of being infected at a yoga class with a dozen people who already taking their health seriously than say at your workplace or at a supermarket. That said it’s very important to follow the first Yama – AHIMSA – ‘do no harm’ therefore…

IF YOU THINK YOU MAY BE INFECTED WITH CORONOVIRUS, HAVE A COUGH OR FLU LIKE SYMPTOMS PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM CLASSES.

You will be very welcome to make up ALL of your missed sessions at a later date.

As yogis we are already trying our best to be healthy – but here are some reminders…

Staying healthy

  • Eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
  • Keep up with your personal yoga practice – physical and breathing practices keep us healthy and you can do even more to keep your immune system tip top – see these exercises here.
  • Be vigilant about washing your hands. Keep your phone clean. Clean your car steering wheel. Keep your keyboard/ipad. Avoid touching your face and eyes.
  • Use essential oils to clear the air in your home and workplace. Eucalyptus, tea tree or lavender in a vaporiser work best. Carry an inhaler with some lavender or eucalyptus to inhale if you feel ‘surrounded’ by people coughing.
  • Keep a healthy mindset. Try to relax to your favourite music or meditate. Meet with friends and have a laugh. Try to spend time with the people you love.
  • Use a light therapy lamp. This time of year is the worst time for SAD. Having a boost of daylight can improve mood which in turn helps your immune system.

Nutritious Juice Boost

Brimming over with vitamins!

Now and again I like to make a nutritious ‘whizz’ of fruit in the afternoon – especially on those days when I fancy something sweet like a cake. In preparation for these occasions, I never waste any ‘almost-over-ripe’ fruit, I cut them up removing skins, stalks, peel, core etc and put them in the freezer. When the mood takes me I gather up my fruits – frozen and fresh and blitz it all up for a delicious smoothie.

This one includes

4 little frozen satsumas

1 frozen banana

About a cup of frozen cherries

2 fresh chopped apples

About half a cup of fresh blueberries

Enough orange juice to make it drinkable

For added zing use lemon zest and juice. For added goodness you can add a tablespoon of flax seeds.

After drinking and probably sharing it with your nearest and dearest, you can sit back and feel very good with yourself. No cake and saving what may have been wasted fruit.

A JOB WELL DONE!

3 Steps to Plank Pose

Plank pose is a great posture for strengthening the abdominals, arms, shoulders and back muscles. We have been practicing this in class and will continue next half term, extending the duration and possibly having a go at some variations such as leg raises and side plank. EXCITING!

Here is a handy guide to help you to learn the safe way to do the plank pose…

Step 1

Begin on all 4s…

Begin on all 4s ensuring you are near the top of your mat and that the shoulders are over the wrists. Your gaze is down. Breathe in relaxing the tummy muscles then breathe out and squeeze them back towards the spine – keep your spine in neutral.

Step 2

Engage the abdominals…

Holding the tummy muscles inwards extend one leg so that your leg is straight. Press the toes into the mat. Consciously breathe in and out of the chest.

Step 3

Breathe into the chest…

If you feel comfortable in the wrists and in your lower back, extend the other leg in the same way. Try to hold for 5 smooth breaths resting after in Childs pose.

In Plank pose, be aware of where your hips are – sometimes they droop downwards and sometimes they stick up in the air. Both positions indicate a weakness. If you can’t hold the hips in a straight line between the shoulders and the heel it’s best to come down. Work with some of our other postures to build up strength in the wrists/tummy/back/shoulders before trying again. Examples are Marjari-asana and the Shakti Bandha asana. You can extend 1 leg in a half-plank and hold this for 5 breaths to get the ‘feel’ of the posture.

You can read more about the benefits of Plank pose on this webpage.

Meditation For Beginners – New Course in Tinwell

Meditation is great for reducing stress

I’ll be running a new 6-week course in Meditation after Easter this year. It will take place at Tinwell on Monday evenings. This will be a gentle course suitable for absolute beginners. I’ll guide you through practical exercises to combat stress and harness the power of positive thought. Each week we will develop a technique of meditation plus simple yoga exercises to encourage the body to be still.

My 1-hour classes will include a reclined relaxation period, a wide variety of short meditations interspersed with movements to ease out the back and hips.

No Experience Necessary

This 6-week course is open to all adults over 18. It’s no exaggeration to say that meditation has changed the lives of many people in profoundly positive ways. Literally anyone can do – even the most fidgety! Often wrongly associated with a religion, meditation can bring a peace and calmness into all our lives no matter where you sit on the on the spiritual spectrum. In this short course you will try out different types of meditation – you may enjoy all of them or find a particular one suits you the best.

“The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life.” Sogyal Rinponche

Why Meditate?

It’s generally accepted these days that the mind influences the mechanical body functions and the chemical balances within the body. If the mind is disturbed, then it follows that the body becomes disturbed. Worry, anxiety and resentment restrict the free flow of vital energy around the body. This will eventually show up as physical symptoms unless the balance can be restored. This is where meditation comes in – it has been proven to be highly effective in treating the source of these mental disturbances which are impenetrable to conventional drug treatment.

If you want to find out more about how meditation affects the brain there’s an interesting article on the NHS website here

What do I need to bring?

It’s traditional to sit on the floor, but you are welcome to sit in a chair if that’s better for you. At first just bring cushions, a bath towel and a blanket. Wear loose clothing – anything stretchy is good and have plenty of layers as the body cools down when you are still. In time you may wish to get a meditation stool or a cushion, but it’s best to have a go first and see what works and try out a few meditations.

The course will run 20th April to 25th May – including both Bank Holiday Mondays – from 8.10 – 9.10. The 6-week meditation course costs £36. You are welcome to book and pay in class with cash/cheque. Alternatively you can pay below using PayPal on this page.

Shiva’s Twist

Test your balance and train your core with this challenging standing yoga posture. This is a step by step guide to Shiva’s Twist – you may like to practice near a wall when you first try so that you can use it for support. It’s best to practice in bare feet on a sticky yoga mat to reduce the risk of slipping.

Before you begin..

Shiva’s Twist is a challenging posture. Loosen off your shoulders with a few shoulder rolls before you begin. Then stand for a few breaths in a well-balanced Mountain pose, taking your awareness from the ground up – feeling the feet relaxed and evenly balanced on the floor, knees a little soft. Then carry on feeling the buttocks soft, shoulders relaxed and arms hanging heavy. Each time you inhale feel the spine lengthen and stand up a little taller. Find a spot on the wall opposite to fix your gaze on.

Build the pose…

Let the weight sink down on the right side, take the weight down through the right foot lifting the left knee up to hip height. On your next breath raise the arms up out to the sides to shoulder height. Stretch the fingers away and bend the elbows so that the fingers point upwards. Keep the breath relaxed and smooth as you hold the balance. Keep your gaze on your focus point and gently press the elbows backwards to feel the shoulder blades squeezing together.

Try this static pose on both sides.

Add the twist… complete the pose ‘Shiva’s Twist’

Once you feel stable in the basic posture, take a deep breath in and holding the arms and chest in their positions, twist towards the lifted leg. Find a new spot to fix your gaze upon and hold the twisted version for 3 or 4 breaths. Then untwist and come out of the pose carefully.

Repeat on the other side.

Counterpose

Stand in Mountain pose (Tadasana) to relieve the tension in the standing leg and upper back. After a few breaths, on exhale fold forward into standing forward bend, knees soft and head heavy to allow the spine to lengthen. After a few breaths, on inhale uncurl back to Mountain.

If you find this posture too difficult you could try the tree balance and when you are comfortable with standing on one leg, come back and try Shiva’s Twist again.

You can find out more about the benefits of Shiva’s Twist here.

Sankalpa – Time for a Change

A SANKALPA IS A YOGIC RESOLUTION

Have you tried making resolutions before and broken them by the end of January? Don’t be disappointed. Let’s make resolutions the yogic way! It’s called a Sankalpa. This method has been used for centuries – it’s like planting a seed in your mind.

Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word, it also means affirmation or positive mental statement. I prefer to use the word Sankalpa rather than resolution as there are some important differences between the two which make Sankalpa more effective than a conventional resolution when we want to change something about ourselves. The important thing is to choose the right Sankalpa.

How to choose your Sankalpa

1. Correct Wording

The correct wording of your Sankalpa is critical to it’s success. So it is worth taking some time over this process. Make an appointment with yourself to sit alone in a quiet place. Reflect on the past and dream about the future. Think about what areas of your life you would like to improve, your goals and the purpose of your life. Write it all down. You could be aiming at very specific goals or formulating how you would like to feel in general.

2. Choose one goal

Next, you want to choose what’s most important out of all the goals listed. Formulate just one short sentence that will encompasses it in a nutshell. Go for quality, not quantity.

3. Ask why?

To create your own Sankalpa, don’t just ask WHAT you want to achieve – ask WHY? For example, if you want to have more money, go beyond saying, “I want to have more money because I need to buy a house.” Connect to something deeper. What’s behind your desire for more money? Say, your answer is to feel more security or at peace with yourself, then your Sankalpa should include the state of security or peace rather than a wish of getting more money.

4. Make it short

The Sankalpa should be short. The wording should not change. If you are bilingual, you also need to fix the language of the resolve. Whichever phrase and language you choose, it should always be the same, until the Sankalpa is fulfilled.

5. Write in the first person

Your Sankalpa should be made in the first person by using “I” or “my”. Your Sankalpa must involve you only and cannot help to change something in another person. However it definitely can be formulated to change your attitude towards the situation around that person.

6. Use positive language

The Sankalpa must be joyous in its essence and therefore “not/don’t/won’t/can’t” and other negative words should not be used. For example, if you desire to recover from a medical condition it should not be structured as “I am not sick”; instead a positive statements such as “My physical body is healthy” or “I enjoy perfect health” can be used.

7. Use the present tense

It should be stated in the present tense as if it has come to fruition already. For instance, not ‘I will enjoy perfect health’ but “I enjoy perfect health”.


Here’s another example: The statement “I will not be smoking in 3 months” is not good because it is negative and in the future tense. A better statement could be “I am free of addiction” but it contains the negative word ‘addiction’ and has a limited therapeutic aim. By looking deeper at the roots of the problem and widening the understanding of the inner causes, one might come to a stronger and more efficient Sankalpa such as “I resolve to take care of my body”.

If you are interested in spending time working on your own Sankalpa, Great News! It’s the topic of our Yoga Retreat on March 21st at Tinwell Village Hall. For more information click here.

You can read more about the background of Sankalpa and how to use it in Yoga Nidra in this article here.

‘Twas the night before Christmas…

Beleive in the magic…

To all of my lovely students, newsletter readers and teachers – have a wonderful Christmas and New Year break. See you in 2020.

By Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!

New Yoga for Healthy Backs Course with Helen Spencer

Are you suffering with a really bad back?

The Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs course  teaches you how to overcome  pain and discomfort associated with back problems as well as giving you other benefits such as stress relief, better sleep, improved posture, energy and a general health boost! The course is thoroughly researched and really empowers students to take control of their back health.


The next Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs courses will start in January 2020,  finishing before Easter, with a weeks break in March.  It is a very gentle course, and very effective. It strengthens and stabilises your back and as the course progresses you will develop and improve flexibility.  It also teaches you to relax your back muscles (and your mind!) and to know what positions to use if you feel  pain or discomfort. You will find your movement and comfort improve along with your confidence as you progress through the course.  At the end of the course you will have a “toolbox” of postures and techniques to use for long term back health and well-being .

The next courses start in January 2020 at:

Space2Be, Melton Mowbray -Thursdays 7.15-8.30pm starts January 9th


Waltham Village Hall, Waltham on the Wolds -Sundays 5-6.15pm starts January 12th

All Saints Church Hall, Oakham -Mondays 5.00-6.15pm starts January 13th

You can find out more on Helen’s website here