With the count-down to Christmas now in full swing – juggling who’s going where, what to buy for so-and-so and fitting everyone in over the festive period – things get frantic for the body, mind and soul.
At these times our heads are jam packed with to-do lists and our bodies are tense holding onto every breath. The build up of anxiety is everywhere – ahhhhhh Black Friday panic….. Just when we need to relax and enjoy the season of goodwill to all men – we are more tired and worried than ever. Now is the perfect time for yoga…
YOGA? HOW CAN I FIND THE TIME FOR THAT?
But this is when we need it most – simply take a moment out, step off the Merry-Go-Round for one minute and read this mini-meditation-
Sit in any comfortable position…….
Breathe in and open up in the heart space, sit tall and beautiful.
Expand from the inside out, become more spacious – open up to the breath.
Gently soften the eyes and feel your skin; feel the clothes touching your skin, feel the hair on your head, feel a smile on your face.
Feel beyond the skin to the Vijnanamaya Kosha – the astral or wisdom body – our aura that surrounds us.
Lean back a little and feel the support of the cosmos that surrounds you.
Breathe in and draw from the abundant well of air that we live in and lives in us.
Take heart that you are not some isolated thing battling single handedly against the world.
You are the world – and what will be will be.
Invite your breath to become smooth as silk and quiet as a whisper.
While here in this place now, feel gratitude to the earth for the sunshine and air we breathe.
Drink in each breath and be grateful for all that you have.
Be grateful for your challenges for they allow you to interact with the world and demonstrate your passions.
With this gratitude in your heart take your current experience and think of how they might be in the future.
Plant a seed for your future.
Invite the pace of your life to flow smoothly and easily, see yourself as you would like to be.
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.
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.
Give yourself the gift of yoga – in a 1-2-1 yoga session, a special practice is tailored to your needs and you can benefit from hands on care and attention. It’s a time to nurture the self and help it to radiate out and shine through to all the loved ones in your life. A session can be very beneficial to reduce physical symptoms, anxieties, problems with sleep, menopause or just feeling lacklustre. Polish away the cobwebs and winter blues with your own personal practice and let your light shine! Contact me for details of cost and availability.
“Once upon a time there was a beautiful river finding her way among the hills, forests, and meadows. She began by being a joyful stream of water, a spring always dancing and singing as she ran down from the top of the mountain. She was very young at the time, and as she came to the lowland she slowed down. She was thinking about going to the ocean. As she grew up, she learned to look beautiful, winding gracefully among the hills and meadows.
One day she noticed the clouds within herself. Clouds of all sorts of colors and forms. She did nothing during these days but chase after clouds. She wanted to possess a cloud, to have one for herself. But clouds float and travel in the sky, and they are always changing their form. Sometimes they look like an overcoat, sometimes like a horse. Because of the nature of impermanence within the clouds, the river suffered very much. Her pleasure, her joy had become just chasing after clouds, one after another, but despair, anger,and hatred became her life.
Then one day a strong wind came and blew away all the clouds in the sky. The sky became completely empty. Our river thought that life was not worth living, for there were no longer any clouds to chase after. She wanted to die. “If there are no clouds, why should I be alive?” But how can a river take her own life?
That night the river had the opportunity to go back to herself for the first time. She had been running for so long after something outside of herself that she had never seen herself. That night was the first opportunity for her to hear her own crying, the sounds of water crashing against the banks of the river. Because she was able to listen to her own voice, she discovered something quite important.
She realized that what she had been looking for was already in herself. She found out that clouds are nothing but water. Clouds are born from water and will return to water. And she found out she herself was also water.
The next morning when the sun was in the sky, she discovered something beautiful. She saw the blue sky for the first time. She had never noticed it before. She had only been interested in clouds, and she had missed seeing the sky, which is the home of all the clouds. Clouds are impermanent, but the sky is stable. She realized that the immense sky had been within her heart since the very beginning. This great insight brought her peace and happiness. As she saw the vast wonderful blue sky, she knew that her peace and stability would never be lost again.
That afternoon the clouds returned, but this time she did not want to possess any of them. She could see the beauty of each cloud, and she was able to welcome all of them. When a cloud came by, she would greet him or her with loving-kindness. When the cloud wanted to go away, she would wave to him or her happily and with loving kindness. She realized that all clouds are her. She didn’t have to choose between the clouds and herself. Peace and harmony existed between her and the clouds.
That evening something wonderful happened. When she opened her heart completely to the evening sky she received the image of the full moon – beautiful, round, like a jewel within herself. She had never imagined that she could receive such a beautiful image. There is a very beautiful poem in Chinese: “The fresh and beautiful moon is travelling in the utmost empty sky. When the mind-rivers of living beings are free, that image of the beautiful moon will reflect in each of us.”
This was the mind of the river at that moment. She received the image of that beautiful moon within her heart, and water, clouds, and moon took each other’s hands and practiced walking meditation slowly, slowly to the ocean.
There is nothing to chase after. We can go back to ourselves, enjoy our breathing, our smiling, ourselves, and our beautiful environment.”
With grateful thanks, blessings and love to Thich Nhat Hanh for his wonderfully inspiring work.
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered throughout the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace.
His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.
Did you know that there are many health and psychological benefits of smiling, laughter and a good sense of humour?
We are greatly influenced by the expression we hold on our faces – smiling actually uses less muscle and energy than frowning, so it really does make much more sense to smile. By smiling you are actually kidding your brain into thinking you are happy and this has the knock on effect of telling the rest of your body ‘hey everything is ok!’.
Smiling is an effective, free way to boost your mood and lead a much healthier life…
REASON 1 – REDUCE STRESS & ANXIETY
Studies have shown that smiling reduces stress and anxiety – even when you smile for no reason, the health benefits are fabulous, it lowers your heart rate, calms frayed nerves and slows down the breath because it relaxes the throat and upper chest muscles.
REASON 2 – BOOST IMMUNITY
The smiley face muscles send signals to the brain to release endorphins making us feel good. This in turn helps to make your immune system stronger because the body produces more white blood cells when it is relaxed and happy.
REASON 3 – BE MORE APPROACHABLE
Smiling makes us look more approachable, attractive and inspires confidence. Research has shown that people who smile more often make better leaders and are surrounded by more happy people. This is largely due to the fact that smiling is highly contagious – just one person smiling can actually lead to a chain reaction – which in turn leads to less stress and anxiety and all of the above benefits.
REASON 4 – FEEL POSITIVE
Having a good sense of humour helps to create a realistic balance in our lives – it means we can laugh at our mistakes and not take ourselves or our lives too seriously. When we get too serious we can get bogged down and feel morose which will lead only to negative thoughts, worry and stress.
REASON 5 – EXERCISE THE DIAPHRAGM
The action of a good belly laugh is excellent exercise for the diaphragm, it means that the muscle of the diaphragm gets a good work out – both tensing and relaxing which in turn is great for the lungs. Laughter yoga and laughter therapy stem from the teachings of the Buddha, it is not only good for the physical self but also for our minds in understanding that our lives are a small part something much, much greater.
I am now able to offer a brand new service – 1-2-1 Yoga Therapy from my freshly decorated therapy room at home here in North Luffenham. Yoga Therapy is a great way to work with ongoing health problems such as insomnia, specific joint pain, stress, symptoms of the menopause, and much more. With Yoga Therapy together we work out a daily yoga practice to suit your specific situation; you take control of your own health and work towards a happier, healthier you.
At each session we have a short consultation about what it is you would like to address and then work on some asana and pranayama – modifying each practice to suit your special situation. This is then documented so that you can work from the instructions at home. We conclude with a deep relaxation to target your problem area which you can record on a device to enable you to use it at home. After 4 – 6 weeks we can meet again to review your progress and adapt the practices accordingly.
Does this sound like something you would be interested in? The cost of a session is £45; however to introduce the service, during November I’m offering a 50% discount to current students (enrolled in one of my weekly classes), 25% to those who are past students and 10% off to new students. Appointment are available on Monday afternoons and Tuesday mornings please contact me to make a booking.
This weekend I’ll be kicking off my Workshop programme with a session about Yoga and Weight Loss. In my research I’ve come across some very interesting information not least that people who get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night are much less likely to become obese. It seems that the less sleep we get the more the body produces hormones that tell your body you’re hungry – thus giving us a severe case of the munchies…
If ever there was a case for putting on the jimjams and curling up in your douvet – here it is!
Legs-up-the-Wall posture is an excellent way to gently introduce your body to the benefits of the shoulder stand.
These are numerous, but include improved circulation and alleviation of nervous exhaustion. It’s a great pose to rejuvenate a tired body and unsettled mind – great for stress management. You can hold it for up to 5 minutes.
It is safe for everyone to practice; if you wish to experiment adding blocks or folded blankets under your hips, give it a try – adding a little height at a time. Take care as raising the pelvis increases blood to the head and can make some conditions such as high blood pressure and eye problems worse. Also, there are some traditions of yoga that advise against women raising the pelvis during menstruation.