Give peace a chance… as it’s the season of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men why not spend a few moments to let the words of Mahatma Gandhi seep into your soul? Try reading the words aloud or repeating until you can remember the prayer with your eyes closed.
Can you give peace a chance in your house this Christmas? Whether it’s creative differences over how to roast the potatoes or children agreeing which game to play/movie to watch, allow these words and meanings into your Christmas Day and ‘work’ with your loved ones for ‘unity and love’.
Our relaxation exercises in the Beginners Yoga last term were inspired by the book ‘Learn to Relax’ by Mike George. It is a very readable book interspersed with exercises to help reduce stress, live in the moment and relax. As you go further into the book there are sections on finding harmony in the relationships in your life, finding time for meditation and letting go of the past. I thoroughly recommend it to everyone as it has something to offer on those days when you may not feel like a physical or spiritual practice – perhaps you may be a bit down in the dumps, and it brings some perspective to your circumstances. Sadness, fear and anxiety all lead to stress and a physical tightness in the body. In turn this can lead to reduced breathing capacity denying your body and brain the vital life source (prana) which comes from oxygen. The result is illness and disease and we want to avoid that as much as possible.
“When the mind is silent and at peace, the true self is revealed. The connection to the soul can be made. It is like a pool of still water, with no ripples or waves, the water becomes crystal clear.”
This version of Patanjali’s Sutras is interpreted by Michelle Corrigan and is called Your Quest for a spiritual life. I think it is one of the best interpretations for our time, copies are available on Amazon.
The Tragus is the flap of cartilage that runs up from your cheek over your ear ‘hole’! In the practice of Bhramari Pranayama we gently push the tragus with the thumbs to ‘stop up the ears’ and close off outer sounds. This helps us to focus on the inner sound of the humming and feel the soothing vibrations in the head.
This term, in the general classes, we’ve been practicing Bhramari, using it to quiet the mind before our relaxation. One of the many benefits of Bhramari is to lift depression; it’s a good practice to learn so that come the moment you need it you can bring it into your practice to alleviate any symptoms of feeling blue or a bit down in the dumps.
There is an excellent article by Dr Timothy McCall here if you are interested in learning more about this practice and it’s therapeutic uses.
In yoga we seek to find balance… this is not a journey with a definitive goal because the world around us is in a state of constant flux. What is balanced for me now wont be balanced in a few moments time. Indeed this was brought home wonderfully yesterday when I knocked my tea and splashed it all over my computer key board. Life is a sea of change and we have to learn to go with the flow and keep adjusting to things around us – getting in a big huffy state will not really serve any purpose. It will only raise your blood pressure and then cause you to make bad decisions.
I love the Tao Te Ching – a series of writings by Lao Tzu as a guide for rulers – it forms the basis of Taoism and is an endless source of inspiration especially when you spill tea on your computer and then it turns itself off. I smiled, ‘blended with the path’, left it on the radiator and came back to it in the morning. It still didn’t work so I looked up on google (something else I love!) what to do – something about putting the battery into a bag of rice!! How Chinese! Anyway I took the battery out and it was as dry as a bone so I blew on it for good luck and replaced it. Hey presto, it is now working and I was moved to write you this blog post. All is well with the world!
Here is the element of Tao Te Ching and drew from…
FOCUS YOUR SENSES
BALANCE SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW
BLEND WITH THE PATH
THIS IS THE WAY OF THE TAO
Tao De Jing, verse 56
You can see another translation of this verse here
Many readers will of course know that Surya Namaskara means Salute to the Sun – but did you know that Atapa Snana is the yogic phrase for the healing science of the suns rays?
There are numerous benefits of responsible sunbathing – for a start it increases our levels of vitamin D – essential for building healthy teeth and bones and great for supporting the immune system and even fighting cancer. Then of course there is the whole ‘feel good’ factor which shouldn’t be underestimated.
Before you get your deck chair out, it is important to understand that it’s recommended to build up your exposure to the sun slowly. The use of sun screen has it’s pros and cons – smothering yourself in chemicals has been found to have drawbacks and certainly, if the idea is to improve your levels of vitamin D, you do need to let some light in!
The benefits of sun light should be considered in conjunction with the negative effects on the skin – especially the delicate areas of skin like the face. There are lots of articles on the web for and against sunshine… I found this one particularly interesting…
As will all things – you have to have a balance. Around 25 minutes of sun light exposure is recommended per day, although this would be difficult to get with our miserable winters. You can supplement this with eating fatty fish to ensure that your levels of vitamin D are maintained throughout the year. There are suggestions in some health reports that keeping up your vitamin D can help fight off colds.
2 rows of Lettuce:
Lettuce be kind
Lettuce be happy
1 row of Squash:
3 rows of peas:
Peas of body
Peas of mind
Peas of heart
3 rows of Thyme:
Thyme to sleep
Thyme to practice
Thyme for fun
1 row of turnips:
Turnip to class no matter what
Water freely your yogic garden
Sprinkle generously with loving kindness
There is much fruit
Because you reap what you sow
Jess Pryor from the Tuesday 6 o’clock ‘Yoga for Well Being’ class in Preston, near Uppingham, was our lucky winner for the Spring Term prize draw! She received the rather large box of Ferrero Rocher – and looks very happy about it! Hope you enjoy the chocs Jess – don’t eat them all at once! Have a lovely Easter!
This mantra is sometimes sung at the beginning or end of a yoga class. It can be on its own or as part of a longer song or collection of matra. I think it is beautiful and often meditate on it – wishing good things to people and recognising that our own thoughts and actions have an impact on everyone is food for thought. It can help when we are making choices in our lives.
Chanting mantra has many health benefits, in my classes I use them to help extend the exhalation which in turn leads to a more complete in- breath – thus training the body to breath fully. The Sanskrit sounds, said to date back to the beginning of time, have vibrational qualities that sooth and resonate in different parts of our being – from the outer body right down into the inner soul. I like to teach the meanings of the words so that they can be thought of during the chant creating a positive mental attitude, similar to affirmations.
Once you have chanted the mantra 3 times or more, it’s important to sit, reflect and feel the silence for a few moments. It is surprising how clear your thoughts are when you have practiced this simple exercise.
If you’d like to find out more about this mantra try this website which gives you information about it’s background.
Currently I have sprouting broccoli coming out of my ears. I have turned it into an interesting soup and of course, we have it as a side dish with just about every meal we eat. However, this recipe makes a change for a light lunch…
Sprouting Broccoli with a red pepper sauce
600g purple sprouting broccoli
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a small pan, add garlic and onions, and cook gently, for about five minutes. Add the tomatoes and the pepper – cook for another 5 minutes.
Bring a pan of well-salted water to a boil, add the pasta and begin to cook. Cut up the broccoli into bite size florets – don’t use any thick stems but include the leaves, and add to the pasta pot about five minutes before the end of its cooking time.
Drain the pasta and broccoli, then toss immediately with the sauce. Taste and add black pepper and salt to your liking.