In our quest for BALANCE IN OUR LIVES, this term we’ll remind ourselves of the Niyamas (yogas rules for living) to see if there is anything that draws our attention or feels out of kilter at the moment. We’ll begin the class listening to a variety of chants of the Gayatri mantra -said to be the one of oldest mantras – and let the words and tunes flow over and around us to bring positivity and inspiration. You can listen and learn the meaning of the Gayatri in the video below…
Our posture work will be simple, gentle and deeply nourishing. We’ll allow our focus to rest on how the body enjoys opening and relaxing into stretches. Working with the Bow (Dhanurasana) posture and Head to Knee (Janu Sirsasana) besides some floor Vinyasa work and standing balances.
For our breathing practice (Pranayama), we will be working on the basics of alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodana) with everyone finding their own rhythm and pace. Relaxations will be based upon passive relaxation techniques with some stories to complete each class. I am really looking forward to teaching this terms work:)
If, like me, the start to your year has been an onslaught of decision making, you may enjoy and take solace in the passage below by Eckhart Tolle. In our yoga this term we have been meditating using visualisation and awareness of the breath. Reading passages such as the one below can be used as a focus for meditation – sit comfortably with the spine erect, relax and read the passage through. Gently close the eyes and allow the mind to be still – when thoughts enter, accept them and see them float away as clouds. An alternative, if this doesn’t work for you, is to allow one word from the passage to be silently repeated. Stay with it for a few minutes and then open the eyes and take a couple of deep breaths.
We all like to turn over a new leaf at the beginning of a new year – making vows not to eat/drink so much and committing to take a daily trip to the gym/jog/cycle ride. The yogic approach is to take small daily steps on a much worn path: using exercises that are both physical and mental to release tension in the body and mind – its an holistic approach that appreciates making changes to yourself is rather difficult and anticipates that there will be obstacles for you to overcome.
In a recent tea break, I was reading an article by Nuffield Personal Trainer and Health Mentor, Steven Thompson, who seemed to be advising against the whole ‘go for the burn’ daily gym thing (which usually fizzles out before the end of January anyway). In a nut shell it was to take the yogic approach(!) to your New Year’s training resolutions… I’ve copied it below to share it with you…
Forget forcing yourself to go to the gym every day if you hate it. A small but powerful change can be choosing a form of exercise you love. ‘When you don’t enjoy your workout, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol, which encourage your body to store fat,’ says Steven. So if your’re not seeing the results you’d expect, this could be part of the reason. No matter if you have 20 minutes or an hour to work out, spend it doing an activity you enjoy for the best, most long-lasting results.
You don’t need to spend hours exercising to see a difference. ‘Interval training involves shorter, more intense bursts of exercise, which can be tailored to suit your own fitness levels,’ explains Steven. ‘Do as much as you can within a small time-frame, before resting and starting again.’
‘Find exercises that include functional training – this mimics everyday movements, such as reaching high, bending down or twisting, to help strengthen the muscles and joints you use the most.’
Ever thought something as easy as unwinding could help you to get fit? ‘Relaxation is an often-overlooked area of fitness,’ says Steven. ‘But it’s vital for encouraging a better night’s sleep, as only then can your body recover and rebuild itself from all your hard work during waking hours. Participating in a relaxing activity also allows your body to moderate the stress hormones in your system.’ Try exploring different options such as yoga and meditation to help you unwind.
Thank you Steven – I couldn’t agree more!! Why not come along to a yoga class or workshop to find out about how this ancient system of exercise can help you with your ‘Little Changes For 2015’?
Why not have a go at making this eye pillow and including it in your yoga bag? The halls I teach in (Preston Village Hall in Rutland and Ryhall Village just outside Stamford, Lincolnshire) offer variable lighting so I always adjust it when we come to relax. However, an eye pillow – particularly with a fragrance – can add another dimension and aid your relaxation even further.
You can recycle an old t-shirt into a this useful item or use some soft fabric you have available – remember to use double thickness. This is ideal for your yoga practice or keep it under your pillow and use as general sleeping aid.
This eye pillow is very simple to make and uses stuff that you are most likely to have around the home.
Using an eye pillow has a very calming effect on the nervous system – just the weight over the eye lids and forehead can work wonders. If you add a soothing aroma such as lavender or chamomile you will also be tapping into the benefits of aromatherapy. Be sure not to use essential oils or other perfume as this may affect your skin and eyes – I used dried lavender flowers from my garden but you can use the leaves from a chamomile tea bag if you don’t have any.
Perhaps you can dry some of your favourite flowers this summer and save them for making a pillow??? You do need to make new eye pillows regularly as they can harbour dirt and grime and the eye area is delicate so never share or use dirty eye pillows.
First find a t-shirt that you no longer want. If it has been washed lots of times, that’s great, it will be nice and soft.
Cut the t-shirt horizontally across just under the sleeves.
Fold the double layers over and measure 9cm up from the fold. Pin a line 20cm parallel to the fold. Sew your oblong shape now, either by hand with small, tight, stitches or by machine. Up one side (9cm) – turn, along the long edge (20cm) – turn and then half way down the other side (about 5cm).
Cut around the oblong stitching leaving a seam of 0.5cm
Turn the oblong inside out through the gap you left down one side.
Prepare your filling – I used some lavender that I dried last year – you just need the flower heads not the stalks. You can buy dried flowers – chamomile might be nice – or you can use the contents of a tea bag. I mixed the lavender with pearl barley otherwise it would have been too strong. You only need to fill it up a bit – it’s not like a stuffed toy – just so that there is some weight over your eyes and forehead which helps to calm the mind.
Now take a rolled up piece of paper to make funnel and insert it into your sewn oblong shape.
When full to your own liking, turn in the seam allowance and sew up by hand with tiny, tight stitches.
Hey presto – a useful item out of stuff you would probably throw away.
The life of an eye pillow is fairly short. I would suggest making a new one every 6 months or so. Your eyes are delicate and the pillow, like it or not, will collect germs and bacteria. It can’t be washed so – do yourself a favour and put it on the compost bin after 6 months and make yourself a fresh one.