Every Smile Makes You A Day Younger

smile

There’s nothing like a nice smile to set you on your way in the morning or off into a peaceful sleep at night. Why not try this short meditation which focuses on the feeling of a smile…

Settle into a comfortable seated position.

Relax any tension in your jaw, let the lips part and separate the upper and lower teeth.
Without changing your facial expression, imagine the feeling of a smile.
After a few moments, bring that feeling of a smile to your heart and linger there.
Now feel the smile in both lungs and the space in your back between the shoulder blades.
From there, bring that feeling of a smile to your abdominal organs, digestive system and pelvis.
Allow the smile to flow down both legs, through the knees, calves down to your toes.
Allow the smile to spread across the shoulders down the arms, through the elbows, wrists and finger tips.
Feel your whole body as one large, open, radiant, beautiful smile. Resonate with that glow. Feel yourself as the embodiment of a smile, your whole being renewed, reverberating with the presence of a smile. Every single cell is smiling.

Now you can go about your day bringing that lightness and positivity to every situation.

Time for a nap – er… I mean relaxation

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.

Just in case you missed it…

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 stilling the body and mind is equivalent to 4 hour sleep. I’m not sure about that, 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.

Well, just in case you missed the So Hum relaxation from a couple of weeks ago, I have recorded it for you to do at home – but please try to keep with it. This is a very soothing and effective style of relaxation practice – hope you enjoy it.

 

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?

Dhyana Mudra

dhyana mudra2

We often see the Buddha represented with this gesture. It is beautifully simple and brings you into deeper, more profound concentration. It is the traditional mudra to aid qualities of tranquillity and inner peace.
Method: To do the Dhyana mudra, simply sit with your hands facing upward, right hand resting on top of your left palm. The right hand, representing enlightenment and higher spiritual faculties, rests over the left hand, representing the world of maya, or illusion.
I like to visualise the hands as a little basket. Sometimes there are flowers in the basket and sometimes there is a little fire burning. The space within the hands is empty and you can see that space as freedom and a way to empty the mind. You can do whatever works for you – it’s a soft embrace and the fingers could be holding a dove…  allow your imagination to roam and find something that works for you.

Time to relax with a good book

fireside

As the days get shorter and the outdoors less inviting, a cosy seat near the fire or radiator seems much more appealing. Curling up with a good book is a fantastic way to relax and unwind – why not chose some poetry???  Here are a couple of lovely wintery poems… or you could get creative and write a poem of your own???

 
Winter-Time

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850 – 1894

 
Winter’s Embrace
Shimmering lakes of silvery ice
welcomes skaters’ scarring slice.
Hills adorned in lacy white
watch children sleigh into the night.
In the brilliant pristine light,
snow birds in tall trees take flight.
Evergreens draped in capes of snow,
their heavy branches hanging low,
blanket earth as north winds blow
Winter’s dance is quite a show,
an ice-kissed, dazzling, magical place,
transformed by winter’s cold embrace!

© Patricia L. Cisco
Published: December 28, 2017

 

 

 

PillowTalk – Let’s Get Down To This Relaxation Business…

No doubt about it, eye pillows help you to relax – the gentle pressure soothes and quietens the mind. Blocking out the light is a way of inducing Pratyahara (withdrawing the senses), which some people find difficult in a class situation. Our eyes receive lots of information via visual impressions which at times in our lives can become overwhelming.  Practicing some yoga postures with the eyes closed (forward bends for instance) can be very soothing to the mind and of course our yogic relaxations are helpful to ease worries and anxiety. When we relax in Shavasana at the end of our class there is nothing better than an eye pillow placed over the eyes and brow.

Lavender Eye Pillow from Yogamatters are available to purchase in class £10. They include a soft lavender fragrance which is pleasantly relaxing. Eye pillows can also be used to sooth bouts of insomnia, relieve headaches, reduce puffiness and ease tired eyes.

Next term – 19th February to 30th March 2018 – Stretch & Relax Classes at Tinwell and Preston

   

The work for this half term will focus on some standing postures – the Warriors. These are great for stretching and  strengthening the legs whilst also developing the core and back muscles. We’ll continue to improve our breathing with the stepped breath – great for relaxation too.

Yoga For Tired Eyes

Have you been burning the candle at both ends? Got a cold and can’t sleep because of a stuffed up nose? Been putting in long hours at work due to customer demands or co-workers off sick?

Left untreated, tired eyes can lead to eye strain, headaches and a build-up of tension throughout your whole body. If you are going through a stressful life issue, tired eyes can hinder your thinking, making you feel lifeless and dull. As they say, your eyes are the window to your soul so it’s wise to take heed and do something about it.  Getting enough rest is crucial – try getting a couple of early nights – whatever it takes (cancel a party, use 2 or 3 propped up pillows). Simply ‘resting’ your eyes even if you can’t sleep still helps.

There are several yogic exercises that help to relax your eyes and bring more oxygen to them. Practice one or 2 of the following exercises 2 – 5 times during your day for both instant and long term relief.

Quick note – when you practice these exercises, keep your back straight and head still, relax your shoulders, breathe steadily and just move your eyes.

  1. Open your eyes wide, look from side to side 10 times, then up and down and then diagonally 10 times.
  2. Imagine you are staring at the face of a clock. Starting at 12 o’clock, slowly move your eyes from minute to minute along the clock until you return to 12 o’clock. Rest your eyes then repeat going in anti-clockwise direction.
  3. Look straight ahead, hold your thumb up about 30 cm in front of your face and focus at your thumb nail, then focus on something in the distance. Relax and repeat 5 – 10 times. Change hands and look at the other thumb.
  4. Close your eyes and press the tips of your fingers to the outer edges of your eyes. Gently massage this area using small circular motions. Relax and repeat 3 – 5 times.
  5. Close your eyes. Rub your palms vigorously together to warm them up and get the energy circulating quicker. Cup your hands over your closed eyes for 30 – 90 seconds. Stay focused on your breath and gradually release your hands.

So next time your eyes feel tired and you know you have being over doing it, take a rest and give these eye exercises a go.

Nada Yoga – The Yoga of Sound

Last Saturday I was at an ‘In Service Training’ day with the British Wheel of Yoga. The topic was Nada Yoga – which translates loosely to the yoga of sound. It was taught by Rajesh David, yogi and musician – you will have heard his melodies if you have been to one of our classes.

Nada yoga is concerned with the essence of sound – the vibrations – and is studied and developed by singing and chanting. The idea very, very basically put is that you ‘tune in’ to yourself and the world around you. Yoga means to ‘yoke’or join together and all things have a vibrational quality when you get down to the atom/molecule level. Simply put, when everything vibrates at the same rate this creates harmony and balance. The principle is akin to lullabying a baby – we try to sooth ourselves and attune to the rhythm of vibrations around us.

You can have a listen to Rajesh and some of the work we did at his website here

Om is very important in this field – our chanting at the beginning and end of each session is a way for us all to be in harmony. How does chanting Om affect you? Consider how you feel next time in class – is there a sense of being soothed – all the cells of your body vibrating at the same rate?

If you are interested in working a little more on this do let me know. I am considering it as a topic for a workshop next year 😉