Finding Our Purpose in Life

jetty

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’.

Powerful Thoughts

Louise Hays - the past is over card

I love these ‘POWER THOUGHT CARDS’ by Louise Hay.

If you ever need inspiring there is a whole deck of cards to turn to (you can buy them on Amazon). Always giving thought provoking and positive ideas. I especially like the one above…

How empowering is it to breath in and think ‘This IS a new day’!

Try a short contemplation-style meditation –

Is there anything holding me back? Am I stuck in a habit that no longer serves me? Are some of my beliefs and views outdated? Is it time to let go of some things to create space for new ones?

 

Inside Outside…

In our 90 minute yoga classes, the April/May half term will continue with the theme of opposites. We will be thinking of our yoga postures from the inside and the outside. After learning several asana (postures) and sequencing them we will begin to add in the appropriate Chakra focus… Why do this? It can help us to bring into balance the mind, energy and physical body. IN other words we are trying to get our mind, body and soul ‘singing off the same hymn sheet’. This is how we can reduce stress and enhance healing within ourselves.

Inside/Outside has been a topic of interest and exploration for artists and philosophers throughout time. The artist Henry Moore worked with historic armour and build a whole collection entitled Helmet Heads in which he places 2 separate sculptures together – an inner person or mind within a protective helmet/skull/shield.

Moore Helmit Heads

From the yogic perspective, for the least suffering in this life, we are advised to align our inner and outer worlds so that we can feel happy in our own skin and simply be who we are. It takes real guts to be honest and through our practice we can build a strong body and mind to enable this.

Perhaps you can think of some other famous examples from art, history or philosophy? Have a think as I wold love to hear them.

What are the Chakras?

chakras

Chakras are energy centers… ancient yogis developed a concept of energy pathways running all around the body – rather than our energy just radomly ‘fuzzing’ about inside us.  This is similar to the system of meridians used in Chinese medicine, reflexology and acupuncture.

One of the main energy pathways (nadis) is along the spine.  Where pathways cross the spine, the energy is said to become greater and move in a circular motion hence the name ‘Chakra’, which means wheel in Sanskrit.

You can find more out about the Chakras on the following websites

http://www.zenlama.com/the-7-chakras-a-beginners-guide-to-your-energy-system/

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-91/The-7-Chakras-for-Beginners.html

http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/898?page=4

Go away – I’m busy relaxing!

Do you find it almost impossible to relax because you feel guilty when you’re not busy?

We increasingly live under constant pressure to be productive – doing something every moment of the day; multi-tasking; maximising every second.

The increase of mobile phones means we have messages coming at us 24/7 – there is never a quiet moment!  And when there is we seem to worry – is the phone working?  No one wants me – and the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ on anything our friends are doing.

The stress that we are continually putting ourselves under will eventually cause a problem.  According to statistics from the Government’s Health and Safety Executive 85% of serious illnesses are caused by stress.  It costs our country £7 billion per year in lost work days and NHS services.

We all know the signs – heart rate goes up, sweaty palms, breathing increases and so on.  This is due to hormonal changes within our bodies described as the ‘fight or flight’ response.  The body reacts by instinctively preparing to run away or face down the problem.  Internally this means that our oxygen and blood supply are totally diverted to get the muscles ready to run or fight.  Our pupils also enlarge to take in as much information as possible and other unnecessary bodily activities shut down – digestion, metabolism, sex drive.

Does this ring any bells with you?

When we take time out to relax all the functions described above reverse.  Our heart rate reduces, the oxygen in our blood is regulated, the muscles relax, and digestion, metabolism and sex drive are all improved.

Yoga offers a great way to relax and unwind the body and mind.  A typical class will offer 1/3rd of the time in relaxation practices.  A guided relaxation can take many forms – seated in a chair or laying on the back of the body.  A teacher will use a variety of methods to help you to relax your body and mind.  Visualisations, muscle tense and release, breathing exercises, meditation and music are some methods I use.

The benefit of a regular class means that you learn techniques and tips to stop you from doing your mental ‘to do’ list and allow you to simply be and relax.  Giving yourself permission to relax is the most important and difficult thing to do.  But given the benefits, don’t you think it’s your job to get busy relaxing?

Yoga to give you some ‘get up and go’

If you feel rather sluggish now that the Easter Holidays (and chocolate) have left the building and landed on your waist – why not try a few yoga moves to give you some energy and elongate your muscles? Stand with feet in the correct alignment – knees under hips and ankles under knees.  Interlock the fingers and take the arms up overhead turning the palms to face the ceiling.  At the same time lift your heels and raise up onto your tip toes.  All this happens in tandem with a nice long in breath and on the out breath return the arms and heals back to the starting point.  Watch out if you have any shoulder problems – try it without the fingers locked.  And if you find the raises give you too much wobbling issue just do the arms bit and try raising the heels when you have a stronger core.  This move is called ‘Tadasana’ or sometimes ‘Tadasana with breath’.

The benefits include –

  • develops your balance
  • stretches the whole length of the spine
  • loosens shoulder joints
  • stretches the stomach area and the abdominal muscles
  • improves the ankle joint and calf muscle
  • improves lung capacity

Do 5 – 10 repetitions daily and you’ll soon feel the benefits!tadasana with breath

Do Your Bit!

lift sharing  “YAY! OFF TO YOGA”

Would you like to share a lift to your yoga class? I would like to introduce ‘lift sharing’ as an option for students because we live in a rural environment and we always seem to have to get the car out just about everywhere we need to go! Is it time to think of the environment and try to share a lift to yoga with someone who lives near to you?

The benefits of lift sharing are – cost saving on fuel/wear and tear of your car, not having to drive after the relaxation at the end of the class every week, an extra bit of push to get to class every time.
The costs of lift sharing are – picking someone up you may not know well, going a little out of your way and thus taking a few minutes more, letting someone know if you can’t make the class.

It has been statistically proven that having a ‘buddy’ with any sport is very helpful in motivation. More people stick at their sport and attain their goals when they have a ‘buddy’ to help and support them. With this idea of lift sharing you are getting both a buddy and a driver – surely it must be worth a go?

If you are interested in participating in this scheme please email me here with your location and I will try to pair you up with another willing participant. There is no obligation to carry on if you give it a go and it doesn’t work – you can tell me and I will sort it out. But you never know it could be the start of something good!

Introduction to Yoga 2019

The Introduction to Yoga course in Exton will continue from March 4th with a further 6 sessions. After this the class will continue with the same themes as the Yoga class. The benefit of this is that if you have to miss your usual class one week you are welcome to make it up at one of the other venues – all I ask is that you let me know beforehand so that I know to expect you.

Our sessions will move a little faster this time, I will be introducing you to the Warrior postures which are very good for strengthening the legs. I’ll also be telling you the story behind these postures – an historic legend – so that you can see how the practice tries to bring together and into balance our minds and our physical body.

As before I will give out sheets to add into your folders – hopefully creating a good reference for you to begin a little bit of home practice.

Don’t Over Do It

Trying too hard

Are you trying too hard? Don’t fall into this trap in any area of your life… and especially in your yoga practice.  If you are applying too much effort (we call this rajasic in yoga) this will only exhaust you and detract from your enjoyment of whatever it is that you are doing.  If you let go of your expectation and simply focus on exploring and enjoying the feelings of the practice then your practice is worth the time spent on it. For example, if you want a toned tummy, find a variety of exercises that make you feel good at the time (abdominal breathing, Kapalbhati, plank post, Utkatasana) rather than just going with one an over doing it. Your tummy will come under control eventually and the journey that you make will be an enjoyable one with many other benefits.

This philosophy applies to life… enjoy what ever it is your doing without forcing things. If you have to force things there is a sense that it was not meant to be. In our yoga we want a practice that is comfortable – yes explore the edges, boundaries and challenge ourselves – but if it causes pain or our mind to be distracted then it’s not right for us at this time.

Any ‘posture’ is simply a guide. The benefits of a posture can be felt by a subtle, gentle variant as well as a strong variant. It could be argued the subtle movements are felt more greatly by the more experience yoga student and that the stronger moves are better for the beginner who has to feel with the whole body rather than the subtle energy. So the next time you are having a go at yoga – in class or at home – ask yourself “Am I trying too hard?”

 

How fit are we???

In our classes over the winter we’ve spent a few minutes each week practising Utkatasana – the Chair pose. This is a high squat with parallel feet with and arms either at shoulder height or overhead.

Utkatasana_Chair_Pose_Yoga_Asana

It’s very good for us as it uses the large muscles of the legs and bottom to get the circulation moving around. Adding in the arms uses the shoulders and if you lift them overhead this uses the core muscles of the abdomen and back. So a really good all rounder exercise.

But did you know that you can measure your fitness using the same kind sitting and standing up exercise? Watch the video below to find out how to test your fitness. As you will see experts agree that the Utkatasana-style movement is a great way to improve your fitness, especially strengthening your legs and lower back.

So maybe have a count up? Let me know in class if you want to!