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 😉

Yoga Classes – September 2017

Our focus for this year will be Anahata – the heart chakra. Anahata colours our life with love, compassion and beauty. Through our yoga pracite we’ll fill our hearts with love and generosity – give ourselves the time and space we deserve to feel loved and give love with joy and radiance.

In our asana this term we’ll be opening the chest area with back bends and twists, creating space to breath and for the heart to beat. Following a warm up we’ll steadily increase the complexity, strength and duration of postures to ensure that a gradual opening of the body is achieved.

We’ll be working with Mudra and Bandha for relaxation and the relief of stress and anxiety.  Our aim will be to develop compassion for ourselves, those around us and the wider world. Many of the readings and practices will come from the Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche – you may like to get your own copy for inspiration of your home practice, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

 

Yogic Breathing (3 Part Breath)

Yogic breathing (or 3 part breathing) combines abdominal breathing, thoracic breathing (chest) and clavicular (lower throat) breathing. In class I call it the ‘3 part breath’ – it can also be call the ‘Complete’ breath – but of all the names I like ‘3 part’ because it reminds me of the 3 stages.

 

This breathing exercise is used to maximise inhalation and exhalation. Its purpose is to gain control of the breath, correct poor breathing habits and increase oxygen intake. It is a worthwhile practice to do every day as the body takes a long time to make corrections and needs continuous effort. With most of us leading a sedentary (seated) lifestyle plus the pressure of gravity upon us the 3 part breath helps us to avoid a slouching posture.

 

It may be practiced at any time and is especially useful in situations of high stress or anger for calming the nerves. However, while its inclusion in a daily yoga programme will correct and deepen natural breathing patterns, yogic breathing itself should not be performed continuously.

 

Yogic (3 Part) Breathing

 

Sit in a comfortable seated posture with the spine upright or lay in semi supine.

Relax the whole body, begin to watch your natural breath.

Inhale slowly and deeply, allowing the abdomen to expand fully.

Try to breathe so slowly that little or no sound of the breath can be heard.

Feel the air reaching into the bottom of the lungs.

At the end of the abdominal expansion, start to expand the chest outward and upward.

When the ribs are fully expanded, inhale a little more until expansion is felt in the upper portion of the lungs and around the base of the neck. The shoulders and collar bone should also move up slightly. Some tension will be felt in the neck muscles – but no strain.

The rest of the body should be relaxed.

Feel the air filling up the upper lobes of the lungs.

This completes the inhalation.

The whole process should be one continuous movement, each phase of breathing merging into the next without any obvious transition point. There should be no jerks or unnecessary strain. The breathing should be like the swell of the sea.

Now begin to exhale.

First relax the lower neck and upper chest, then allow the chest to contract downward and then inward.

Next, allow the diaphragm to push upward and toward the chest.

Without straining, try to empty the lungs as much as possible by drawing or pulling the abdominal wall as near as possible to the spine.

The entire movement should be harmonious and flowing. Hold the breath for a few seconds at the end of exhalation. The breath should flow naturally in and out of the nose and not be at all forced.

This completes one round of yogic breathing.

Begin with 5 – 10 rounds and slowly work up to 10 minutes a day.

Mantram CD by Rajesh David

We have been listening to the wonderful music and chanting of artist Rajesh David at the beginning of our sessions this term. The CD (titled ‘Mantram’) is available from his website here and contains several mantras set to haunting melodies which are ideal for relaxation and meditation. All of the tunes are famous mantra chants. The one of particular interest to us has been the Gayatri which we have listened to a variety of versions this year.

The Gayatri chant is from the Rig Veda  one of the oldest known written works.  It has been sung from the very beginnings of time.  Why not join in and hum or sing along?  It has a calming and uplifting effect and once you know it you can do it anywhere. There are many benefits to chanting the Gayatri including helping you breathe more slowly, stimulating the subtle energy centres in the body and improving concentration. For 10 benefits of chanting the Gayatri see this site

There are many translations, here is one by Deva Premal:

Om bhur bhuvah svah

Tat savitur varenyam

Bhargo devasya dhimahi

Dhiyo yonah prachodayat

 MEANING:-

Through the coming, going, and the balance of life

The essential nature illuminating existence is the adorable one

May all perceive through subtle intellect

The brilliance of enlightenment

Understanding Your Own Breath

Sitting still and simply observing your own breath or working with a Pranayama (Ujjayi, abdominal breathing, 3 part breath etc) are all calming exercises that will help you to get to know your own breath. Simple practices such as these help to relax us – body and mind –  a relaxed body breathes better; a relaxed mind thinks clearer.

I’d like to share with you ‘Natural Breathing’  a preliminary practice taken from Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. This exercise follows the ‘journey of the breath’ and gives us an excellent focus for a 10 minute meditation. You could easily record it onto your phone and then listen to it whenever you wish. Besides calming the mind and the breath, this practice helps us to learn the mechanics of the breathing process.

Remember the words of Tich Nhat Hanh

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

― Thich Nhat HanhStepping into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice for Novices

 

Natural Breathing – The Journey of the Breath

Sit in a comfortable meditation posture or lie in shavasana.

Relax the whole body.

Observe the natural and spontaneous breathing process.

Develop total awareness of the rhythmic flow of the breath.

Feel the breath flowing in and out of the nose.

Do not control the breath in any way.

Notice that the breath is cool as it enters the nostrils and warm as it flows out.

Observe this with the attitude of detached witness.

Feel the breath flowing in and out at the back of the mouth above the throat.

Bring the awareness down to the region of the throat and feel the breath flowing in the throat.

Bring the awareness down to the region of the chest and feel the breath flowing in the trachea and bronchial tubes.

Next feel the breath flowing in the lungs.

Be aware of the lungs expanding and relaxing.

Shift the awareness down to the abdomen. Feel the abdomen move upward on inhalation and downward on exhalation.

Finally, become aware of the whole breathing process from the nostrils to the abdomen and continue observing it for some time.

Bring the awareness back to observing the physical body as one unit and open the eyes.