Although we will be taking a break from our weekly classes over the summer, there is no reason to stop your yoga practice. In fact this is a good time to make a resolve (in yoga we call this a Sankalpa) to do a bit of practice on your own. This will test your memory and motivation!
To help you I have made handouts for the Sun Salutes you have done in your class (if you haven’t got one, be sure to collect one this week) Plus I’ve filmed the following 2 videos -one is the Simple Sun Salute – best for beginner students and one is Surya Namaskara – more suitable for those that have got a couple of years experience. You can follow along anywhere you have WiFi – so no excuses 🙂
Please ‘like’ your favourite Sun Salute – and subscribe to the channel with the red button to see more videos later in the summer…
In the Stretch & Relax classes over the next half term we will continue to focus on the spine, but this time to look at the core muscles which support and hold the spine in correct alignment.
The exercises we will do include side bending postures to work the obliques, back bending and forward bending to stretch and strengthen the abdominals, plus twisting postures to both strengthen and release all the core muscles.
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!
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.
Over the last half term our Yoga class students have been working with the Warrior and Goddess postures to strengthen our legs and improve our lungs. We have also looked at images of the Goddess Durga with her 8 arms and thought about how fantastic that might be at this time of year to help with all of our jobs at Christmas. Mental images of empowerment like this can be used as a coping strategy and help us to combat stress in our lives. Stress happens when we feel overwhelmed or unable to cope – Christmas is a prime cause of stress, especially as one year closes (where has the year gone?/another year older!) and a new one begins (fear of change and uncertainty). So just imagine if you had 8 arms to help you out with all of your jobs and deal with whatever is to come next year!!!
Just for a bit of fun and to immerse ourselves fully in our yoga practice – we have made a ‘Durga Gallery’ – I hope that this inspires students to feel empowered (maybe enlist an extra pair of hands? or maybe reduce the amount of tasks you set yourself? you do only have 1 pair of hands really!)
“Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.” Eckhart Tolle
In our yoga classes this year we have been working with the Kapalbhati pranayama which serves to cleanse the lungs and nasal passages besides many other benefits. At this time of year with lots of colds around it’s good to try to keep ourselves as ‘pure’ as we can and this does mean cleansing the insides of our bodies – maybe just keeping hydrated with plenty of fresh water or perhaps following a few yogic techniques if we feel it’s right.
Another practice we have done in class is the Lion’s Breath which stretches the tongue, cleanses the throat and gets all the breath out of the body in one long roar! Fun and cleansing too – well it makes me laugh!
You can also use salt water (saline solution) to cleans the nostrils with the aid of a neti pot. This is particularly useful if you have a blocked nose, cold, sinusitis and can be helpful to relieve tension in the face and brow. “The breath is the most vital process of the body. It influences the activities of each and every cell and, most importantly, is intimately linked with the performance of the brain.” (Sw Satyananda Saraswati, APMB) Anything that impedes air from circulating around our bodies will have a far reaching impact upon our health, so it’s worth doing what we can to keep the air flowing.
The practice of neti can be performed at home by anyone – except if you get regular nose bleeds. A special pot will be required – these are readily available from the internet. Always prepare boiled water mixing 1 teaspoonof salt per pint of water. Don’t be tempted to use less salt – this ratio is the same as our tears and is what the body is used to. If you use pure water it will sting. Allow the water to cool to blood heat.
Fill a neti pot with the prepared water, tie hair back and lean over a basin. Begin to breathe through your mouth. Close the eyes and relax the body, tilt the head over to one side and gently insert the nozzle of the neti pot into the upper most nostril. The water will trickle through to the lower nostril and out into the basin. It may be a small trickle at first but it will unblock gradually. Once half the water has passed remove the pot and blow the nose gently. Repeat on the other side.
Now the nostrils must be dried thoroughly – this is where some people make the mistake of skipping the process and that can result in worsening the problem not improving it.
Stand up straight and close one nostril, blow the other nostril into a tissue 5 – 10 times in quick succession – rather like we do in Kapalbhati. Repeat on the other nostril. Now repeat on both nostrils again.
Bend forward so that the trunk is horizontal, turn the head to the left for 5 breaths and then blow the nose rapidly as you straighten up to standing. Repeat turning the head to the right.
Finally repeat the bending forward but keeping the head centred – 5 breaths still and then blowing the nose through both nostrils as you return to standing.
The whole process takes about 10 minutes to complete and can be done daily until the nose is unblocked. If you get regular nose bleeds then don’t do this practice. If you find that the water does not run out of the nostrils then it’s best to see your doctor for further investigation as you may have a structural blockage. If you are unsure, work with a yoga teacher – there is instruction on line but often it omits the drying stage which is vital.
In our yoga classes this term we have begun to work with Kapalbhati Pranayama. This is a practice which is cleansing and energising – the forceful exhalation clears out the nasal passageways and the pulling force of the abdomen stimulates and strengthens the abdominal muscles and organs. When you have got the hang of this practice it literally takes 5 minutes and you feel strong and ready for anything! It will make sits up a thing of the past.
The way this makes you feel so good is because the blood is enriched with more oxygen than your usual breathing which is very good for your circulation, renewing body tissue and helping your nerves and metabolism. There really is no other practice in any sport or exercise like it – which can make it difficult to understand and get into.
The following guide is meant as a supplement to our class work. It’s always best to learn from an experience teacher and exercise caution – building up the tummy muscles gradually and the bodies’ capacity to deal with the changes. If you feel dizzy at any time you should stop and sit still until you feel better. People suffering from high blood pressure, eye problems, hernia or recovering from any abdominal injury or operation should not do this practice. IF IT HURTS OR MAKES YOU DIZZYTHENSTOP
The body should be prepared over some weeks before even having a go. A gentle way to do this is to lay on your back in the semi supine position and work with leg raises and apanasana (knees to chest) to bring your awareness to your abdominal muscles and strengthen them. In class we worked with a routine called Mooncat (which I have given as half term homework). This sequence of postures includes the cat and cow, half moon pose and plank – all of which work the abdominal muscles.
Further preparation is required to understand abdominal breathing and our breathing process in general. Visualise air travelling into the body thought the nose and down into the abdomen allowing the abdomen to swell and then visualise the air travelling back out up through the body and out through the nose squeezing the abdominal muscles increasingly tighter with each round. You can begin practising in the semi supine position and then move onto a sitting posture. For more information about abdominal breathing read this post.
To practice Kapalbhati – (it is very important to have taken the steps to prepare, this lays the foundation for your success)
Sit in a comfortable seated posture (one that you can hold and feels as if your back is upright and if someone came along and gave you a shove you wouldn’t fall over)
The back must be upright and the crown of the head up towards the ceiling
The hands resting on the knees, shoulders and elbows relaxed – use your favourite mudra
Close the eyes and relax the whole body – especially the abdominal area
Inhale a deep abdominal breath and then pull the abdominal muscles back to force and exhale back out through the nostrils
The next inhale happens passively as you relax the abdomen then pull the abdominals back again to force the exhale out through the nose.
Continue pumping the air out like this for 10 – 20 rounds or less if your tummy feels tired.
Relax and then take a deep slow inhale, pause gently then exhale smoothly and slowly.
This concludes 1 round, begin again and practice up to 3 rounds.
Always practice with awareness – keep your mind on what you are doing. Stop at once if you feel faint or dizzy.
Our Yoga and Meditation classes start back on 4th January and run for 6 weeks up to 12th February. If you would like any information about my classes or wish to book a place – please contact me here
We will begin the year working with Salutations (or Greetings) to the Earth, Sun and Moon… This physical and mental workout will help you to improve your focus on living in the moment, loosen up in the hips and shoulders and strengthen the core and upper arm muscles.
“Salutations are greetings,” said the voice. “When I say ‘salutations’, it’s just my fancy way of saying hello or good morning.” E B White, Charlotte’s Web
In this terms classes, we are saying hello to the new year, hello to a new focus of BE HERE NOW, and hello to some muscles that we may not have used for a while.
Our Pranayama will utilise the deeper core muscles, as we’ll be practising Kapalbhati, a cleansing breath that rids the mind of negativity and the waist of unwanted fat (what’s not to like???)
As usual we’ll end our practice with deep relaxation for 15 minutes of pure bliss – don’t forget to bring 2 blankets this term to make sure you are warm and comfy.
This term in the Yoga and Meditation (90 minute classes in Preston and Ryhall) we’ll be continuing our strengthening of the hands and arms with a particular focus on the forearm area. To this end we’ll be playfully challenging ourselves with the forearm plank and the wonderful Dolphin Pose…
Our meditations will be inspired by our asana and we’ll continue our investigations into mudra, exploring some well used mudra and their benefits, connections and meanings.
Classes begin in Preston on 3rd November (Tuesday) and in Ryhall 4th November (Wednesday) and run for 6 weeks – if you haven’t booked in and would like to come along please contact me to see if there is a space.
When we greet with Namaste! We are greeting the light within the person or people we see. It is not their physical shape, attitude or energy of the body but the light within. You can think of this as a persons soul or spirit.
Yogis consider a person or being to be made of several layers and, by the practice of yoga (meaning to yoke), we can bring together these layers (Koshas) so that our life and well being is in harmony. To simplify this philosophy, in class I offer the suggestion to think of the Mind and the Body as 2 halves of our being – rather like husband and wife. They are on the same team but quite often have different approaches. As we get used to this as a concept we can then begin to consider and connect with the other aspects of ourselves, such as our energy, our emotions and our true ‘Self’.
Our light or true ‘Self’ can be hidden by these layers rather like 5 lampshades dulling the light of a bulb. We endeavour to ‘dust off’ these shades with our yoga practice so our true ‘Self’ can shine through and we can be at peace with the world around us.
In simple terms we have our food body, energy body, mind body, intuitive body and joy body. All these surround our light or true Self.
If you want to find out more http://www.swamij.com/koshas.htm has a down-to-earth description of these layers of being or Koshas with their Sanskrit names and attributes.
In the wise words of the Buddha…
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.