WHY DO NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FAIL?

 

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2017 just began and I have already received numerous emails from the yoga community and training organisations how to make resolutions.

I would like to share my New Year’s Eve with you on this topic.

This year was the second time that I attended the New Year Eve (NYE) program at Mangrove Yoga which is a working ashram north/west from Sydney within two hours drive. Their teaching follows the Satyananda tradition. Mangrove yoga

I was looking forward to the chanting, the fire ceremony, yoga classes, yoga nidra and good vegetarian food – and all my wishes were fulfilled.

On NYE we were sitting on our mats on the freshly cut grass – under the Australian sky – as per the photo above.

Before the chanting began two of the most senior swamis talked to us and one of them raised the question:

WHY DO NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FAIL?

Then she went on saying: Generally our resolutions are based on something negative, which has to be changed, i.e. I am not happy with my partner, children work, and boss or not happy with myself. What if we looked for the good in each person and in each situation? Swami admitted that developing this positive thinking takes time, maybe a life time.

I am not able to recall her beautiful words but the message was it is up to shift our attitude and look for the good. You know the saying the glass is half full as opposed to being half empty?

The Sanskrit words for the chanting were projected to a white board so we could all participate. Close to midnight we moved to the fire-place which was beautifully decorated. Here we expressed our gratitude. The mantra was repeated 108 times and we sent our best thoughts to our loved ones.

Have a good year and set achievable goals, one step at a time!

Yoga for different life stages

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Three generations of yogis – Amanda Fuzes, her daughters and me.

 

 

 

At the recommendation of Amanda Fuzes I was interviewed for ‘Inform’ magazine a few weeks ago for an article on yoga for different ages where I represented the ‘over 50’s.

Amanda is the owner/director of two yoga studios http://pranaspace.com.au/ and http://flyingyogis.net.au/. The latter is the kids’ studio where they have classes for ‘bendytots’ (from 18 months) to age 18. Amanda was talking about the benefits of yoga for children and adults.

In my interview with the journalist (Emma Brown) initially the conversation was around her questions. Later I demonstrated Trikonasana (the triangle pose) with my back to the wall – using a chair to rest my hand and in another variation on a block. The aim was to show how easy it is to modify a pose to suit.

Here is a shortened version of the questions and my answers.

How is yoga practiced if you’re a senior?

  • With more props;
  • At a slower pace;
  • Inform your teacher of your pre-existing conditions before the class starts;
  • If you experience sharp pain whilst in a pose come out of it under control. The teacher will offer you an alternative pose;
  • For more details refer read here – How is “yoga over 50” different?

 

Advice on how to start if you’re a beginner? – Which style to start with?

  • Find the right class and teacher (style, time of class, location, the vibe in the class – it has to fit in with your life otherwise you will not stick with it. Seek out qualified an experienced teachers. The class should be labelled either for ‘seniors’, ‘restorative’ or ‘beginners’;
  • Aim to practice regularly, maybe two classes per week, preferable not on consecutive days;
  • You can start yoga at any age – or come back to it at any age;

What are the benefits?

  • Regular yoga practice has the following benefits: Slows down the ageing, better posture, self-awareness, increased confidence, strength and balance.
  • It helps to cope with life’s ups and down’s better.
  • Community.
  • Skills learnt on the mat are transferable to life off the mat.
  • For more information read Benefits of yoga for older people

Which style to start with and when are you ready to try other styles?

  • Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced yoga in Australia. ‘Ha’ is for hot in Sanskrit and ‘Tha’ is cold. Hatha yoga aims to balance the body, hot/cold, masculine/feminine and the left and right side of the body. Iyengar yoga (this is the style I have been practicing for 27 years) is specialist type of Hatha yoga where lots of props are used to assist the student
  • There are two ways to experiment with different styles: either at the beginning to find the suitable class for you or once you learnt how to do the poses safely then venture out and try other styles.

What is the philosophy of yoga?

  • If you are interested in the philosophy get your hands on a copy of ‘Light on the Yoga sutras of Patanjali’ by BKS Iyengar. Patanjali’s yoga sutras is the bible of yoga.
  • Patanjali categorised the 8 limbs (or stages) of yoga which represent the journey of the student from beginner to advanced level (enlightenment). The first two of these stages are conduct with others and self-discipline. The asana practice and breath control are the ones which are mostly practiced in classes. The last three stages are: one pointed attention, meditation and “bliss”.
  •  The way we practice today (in a class environment, sometimes with music and candles) is very different from how it was practiced 4000 years ago in the Himalayas. Those days it was Indian men who were taught by their guru in a ‘one on one’ situation.
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Trikonasana ~ three generations

Pink Yoga – thanks to all who attended and/or donated

Cancer Council and Pink Yoga

 

Pink yoga in Randwick

Students in the Pink yoga class in Randwick

Breast cancer was the second highest cancer in NSW during the last five year period (prostate cancer is the first but it diagnosed later and patients die with it rather than because of it).

Pink yoga is the yoga community’s initiative for fund raising for research into breast and ovarian cancer together with providing support to woman suffering from these cancers.

As detailed in my last blog I decided to hold a pink yoga class in  Randwick on 2nd of April 2016.  After registering with the Cancer Council I received some promotional material, decoration and started to promote the class to my students.

My regular students from both studios either confirmed their attendance or donated.

Due to delay in advertisement on pink ribbon / cancer council website we did not get any new students.

As per my undertaking I am donating $10 per student and together with their contribution (some students were not able to attend but donated) we raised $241.  Thank you very much to all!

 

Pink yoga class Randwick

Pink yoga class Randwick

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Pink Yoga in Randwick – Sat 2nd Apr 2016

Tranquability logoCancer Council and Pink Yoga

Pink Yoga is a relatively new concept where likeminded yogis practice together and donate some money to a good cause, namely for research into breast cancer and ovarian cancer.  In NSW during the last five years breast cancer cases rated the second highest after prostate cancer.  The survival rate for breast cancer is very good.

Yoga has been very good to me in the last 26 years and I am happy to give something back to the community and would like to ask you to join me in the Pink Ribbon Yoga classes in Randwick on Saturday 2nd April 2016

You have two classes to choose from:

11.30 am to 12.45 p.m. – general class

              or

5.00pm to 6.15 pm   – restorative class

  •  $25 per student per classof this $10 will be donated to Cancer Council for research into breast cancer and ovarian cancer. 
  • Where:  Level 1, 165 Alison Road Randwick NSW (cnr Belmore Road, enter via the purple door)

 

We have a small studio and for everybody’s comfort max. 14 students per class. Booking and prepayment is REQUIRED.No refunds. 

If you are planning to come along please email or text me with your preferred class and I will advise you re payment details.

tranquability@gmail.com

or

0408 29 6670

 All equipment provided, wear comfortable clothing and do not eat 1.5-2 hours before class. Inform me before the class of any pre-existing medical conditions you have – so I can teach you better.

If you are unable to attend please follow the link below to my supporter page which is  live from now until 30 January, 2017:

https://pinkribbonyoga.everydayhero.com/au/tranquability-yoga-for-over-50-s

 


Authority To Fundraise

Everyday Hero Pty Ltd ABN 21 117 080 430 on behalf of Cancer Council ABN 51 116 463 846 authorises Mary Abraham to fundraise in accordance with following terms and conditions:

  1. Mary Abraham will be raising funds online through http://everydayhero.com.au in compliance with everydayhero’s Terms and Conditions of use as outlined at https://everydayhero.com/au/terms.
  2. Mary Abraham will be raising funds in support of Cancer Council .
  3. This Authority To Fundraise is issued from the date of this email until your supporter page expires on 30 January, 2017.

Thank you for your support.

Hope to see you soon!

Mary

 

 

 

 

Ayurveda ~ daily routine

Lotus flower

As noted in may last blog recently I was on a Yoga / Ayurveda retreat in a small, purpose built village in the South of India.

We practiced yoga every morning and had Ayurvedic treatments every day.

The Ayurvedic Doctor, Dr Alibash Anand gave us a lecture on how to orientate towards healthy living.  Here is his list.

Ideal daily routine:

  • Wake up between 3-6 a.m. – 48 minutes before sunrise;
  • Note if you have digested the dinner (drink water – does it taste water or yesterday’s dinner?);
  • Brushing the teeth on waking (use astringent, bitter and pungent tastes);
  • Water splashing of the eyes (with cold water in summer, use warm water in winter). Note the eyes represent fire – this routine aims to cool them;
  • Retaining of medicated oil in the mouth, gargling;
  • Chewing – i.e. bitter leaves;
  • Herbal drink (avoid tea and coffee or keep it to the minimum);
  • Application of medicine / KOHL to the eyes;
  • Nasal administration of oil / medicines (try one drop per nostril, leave it there for 5 minutes, do it in the morning or evening but not before or after meal. This is more beneficial than using neti (cleansing the nostrils with warm, salted water using a special dish, called neti pot).
  • Mild stretching exercises – one should use only 50% of energy;
  • Body massage with warm oil on head, ear, feet and body at least once a week – minimum: head, ear and feet). Start with sesame oil. Oil massage reduces skin dryness.  Always use downward motion on the arms, chest and the thighs;
  • Bath with warm water and herbal powders – do not use hot water on head, use herbal powder instead of shampoo. Do not shower after strong exercise or a big meal;
  • Select a profession you like and one which is beneficial for the community;
  • Spend time with friends;
  • Have the desire for knowledge;
  • Go to bed by 9 p.m, do prayer before sleep, head towards East;

 

  • How should a person be?
    • Calm and composed;
    • Charitable;
    • Humble;
    • Affectionate to guests;
    • Religious duty;
    • Start a conversation;

 

Other recommendations:

  • Eat a healthy breakfast (suitable for your prakruti);
  • Pre-lunch appetizer drink and then you main meal of the day;
  • Relaxation followed by another herbal drink (or sip warm water);
  • Avoid sleeping during the day;
  • Yoga and/or mediation;
  • Mild warm herbal appetizer before Dinner followed by a light meal. Do not eat for 2 hours before going to bed;

On a personal note I am working towards this complex daily routine by exercising (yoga or walking) every day, aiming to reduce my chocolate / biscuit intake, drinking more water and will try the oil massage. I have difficulty with getting up early in the morning and tend to stay up till late night. 

Small changes are more sustainable then unreasonable ‘big changes’.

Please try some of the recommendations – you will feel better!

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Introduction to Ayurveda

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Recently I was on a Yoga / Ayurveda retreat in a small, purpose built village in the South of India.  The retreat was organized by Adore Yoga.

As you might know Yoga means yolk or unite, generally interpreted as uniting the body, mind and spirit or uniting the individual consciousness with the universal.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda (Ayur: life, Veda: knowledge/wisdom) is ancient science of life and healing. It is originated from India, 4000-2000 BC.  Holistic healing, sister science to yoga.

THE LINK BETWEEN YOGA AND AYURVEDA IS PRANA OR LIFE FORCE.

Ayurveda offers knowledge of the senses, mind, emotions, body and our relationships with others, with our environment and with ourselves.

There are five elements (air, space, fire, water and earth) and three Doshas or energies in the body, Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth).

Our individual constitution is called prakruti and it is decided at conception.  Your prakruti will determine how things will affect you, how you react.

An Ayurvedic specialist will assess our dosha by observing our body (built, eyes, hair, skin and nails), speech, gate, tongue and he/she will ask about digestion, elimination and sleep pattern.  Based on these he/she will specify our prakruti.  Each dosha has its positives and negatives properties, we need them all and in the body they work together (i.e. digestion).

Most people have a dominant dosha and sometimes one of the three is out of balance.

Knowing and understanding our doshas is important for selecting suitable foods, species, herbs and lifestyle.  Generally we get along better with another person whose prakruti is different from ours (imagine two cooks in a kitchen!).

Back to the retreat – we started the day with an early morning yoga class

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which was followed by a healthy breakfast, including all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, astringent, pungent and bitter).

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In Ayurveda they teach against overeating and it is recommended to fill the stomach with food up to half way, ¼ is used for liquids and ¼ of the stomach is left empty to allow for digestion.  Indians eat sitting on the floor in easy crossed legged position.  This pose helps to  as one burps at half-mark.

Despite eating big meals after a few days we all felt lighter as the toxins were leaving our body.

The table below has some information on the Doshas.

 

Dosha Vata

Air & Space

Pitta

Fire & water

Kapha

Earth and water

Main characteristics

If Dosha is

in balance

 

Occupation

Expands energy

Movement

Joy, creativity

Inspirational

Good communicator /

 

Actor

 

Efficient at alloc energy,

Transformation

Fire of metabolism

Intense, focused, detailed

Politician

Conserves energy

Cohesial / stagnant

Grounded, stable

 

 

Bank Manager

If out of balance Worry, insomnia

erratic

Poor digestion

Irritable and critical Congestion in the body, weight gain
To balance this dosha needs Nourishing and grounding/ routine

Take regular breaks

Calming foods (warm) and calming yoga poses Stimulating food (light foods/salads) and more vigorous yoga

Change routine

This dosha is dominant in People over 50 Between the ages of

20-50

Childhood

If you are interested in reading more about Ayurveda ‘The science of Self-Healing’ by Dr Vasant Lad is a good book.

We live in a Vata society, high rise buildings, air conditioning, fast pace – so ideally we all should chill out / relax more.

My Ayurvedic treatment included warm oil massage and massage with warm herbal pouches – as prescribed by the Doctor.

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Treatment table, my herbal pouches in the bowl and gas for heating

As we age we are getting dryer both outside and inside.  Self massage with warm oil (which is suitable for our constitution) once a week is an effective way to keep ourselves young.

There are a number of qualified and experienced Ayurvedic specialist in Sydney.

 

 

 

Relax and Renew yoga class on Sat 3rd Oct in Randwick

 

Relax and Renew® yoga class

 

When:               Saturday 3rd October 2015 (long weekend)

                             11.30 am to 12.45 pm (usual class time)

 

Where:              Yoga Light

Level 1, 165 Alison Road, Randwick

                            (close to Belmore Rd corner, enter via the purple door)

 

Cost:                         $25

 

What to bring:         A towel to cover your head, all other equipment provided

  

This yoga class will involve nurturing physical poses, supported by the props, staying each pose for a few minutes. The aim is to let go in a safe environment. You will feel refreshed after the workshop and you will learn poses to practice at home.

 

Please email me to secure your place: tranquability@gmail.com

 

Numbers are limited.

 

Looking forward to seeing  you there.

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

Benefits of yoga for older people

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In August 2015 I attended The Australian Yoga Therapy Conference which was organised by Enlightened Events. Various speakers covered a number of areas where yoga practice can be helpful, such as managing heart problems, increasing the immune system and mental illness in children.

The topic which was closest to my heart and body was about the benefits of yoga for older people. For this purpose I believe over 60 is when we are called an “older person”.

With ageing we experience some level of decline in vision, hearing and memory. Balance and muscle strength are often affected and anxiety and depression may increase along with sleep disorders.

 

So what can yoga offer us as we age?

 

Dr Shirley Telles, is an internationally acclaimed Yoga therapist, medical doctor and neuroscientist. She is the director of the Patanjali Research Foundation in Haridwar, India. Dr Shirley Telles presented the findings of her research into yoga and ageing (Oxford University Press will publish it sometimes in 2015).

Dr Shirley Telles’ studies have shown that:

  1. Yoga can increase bone mineral density (Judith et al., 2009)
  2. Yoga can increase muscle strength and prevent deterioration (Telles et. al., 2014)
  3. Yoga can reduce central obesity, associated with increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Telles et al., 2014
  4. Yoga can improve glycemic control and HbA(Ic) – useful to avoid and manage diabetes (Beena et al., 2013)
  5. Yoga can prevent deterioration of lung capacity (Manjunath et al., 2006)
  6. Reduce blood pressure (Chobanian et all., 2003)
  7. Improve cardiorespiratory efficiency (Papp et al., 2013)
  8. Improve primary working memory (Laveretsky et al., 2013)
  9. Enhance sleep (Manjunath et al., 2005)
  10. Induces a positive mental state (Wood, 1993)

 

Please note the above benefits are only achieved through regular yoga practice – over an extended period of time. It might take a few months before you notice the difference!

 

My students are typically over 50 and most of us have a number of pre-existing health conditions.

So how do I teach a class where there are several different “contraindications” are present?

I teach small classes (maximum 12 students) and modify the poses to suit the individual. It is not unusual that we have two or three variations happening for the same asana. Some students might need to use more props (blanket, block and maybe a chair) to gain the benefits of the poses. In my sequences I include ‘exercises’ which open the chest, keep the spine mobile and upright and we almost always practice standing poses to increase strength and balance. Whilst preparing for inversions fresh blood rushes to the brain and thus increases memory function. Of course students with high blood pressure would do modified inversions! Forward bends tend to calm the mind and slowing down the breath (especially lengthening the duration of the exhalation) reduces anxiety. I also believe in the social effect of practicing in a class environment. My aim is to teach the students poses which they can practice at home or during their travels.

For more information on my yoga background please refer to: About Mary

For timetable refer to: Classes

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact me: tranquability@gmail.com  or 0408 29 6670.

Hope to see you on a mat near me!

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Our expectation in a new class and etiquette

lotus yoga

I started to practice in a “flowy” class which compliments my Iyengar style and I really enjoy it.  Most students are regulars and some of them arrive early and place the mat to their “usual spot”.

Have you noticed that we all have a favourite spot?  Who would have thought that yoga is like real estate – location … location!!!

As in most classes – a few students arrive late.  A few weeks ago I had to “uproot” four times to accommodate late comers and let me tell you I do not travel light when it comes to props.  As an older person with back problem I use more props than the mostly younger crowd in the class.  I sensed that the person next to me felt that my belongings took up too much space.  As the class was already in progress we did not discuss the issue but this experience made me think about our tolerance, our need for space, expectation in a class, consideration and respect of others. 

Let’s consider the space first: each yoga studio has a preferred way of setting up the room which suits the size and shape of the room best.  In the absence of the teacher’s direction I would set up my mat with the narrow end against the wall in a location that I do not have anybody directly opposite me (if the room is narrow it means staggering the mats).  This set up leaves enough space between the mats for props, jumpers etc.  In square shape rooms generally the wall sides fill up first and some students might be practicing in the middle of the studio.  Be aware of any windows behind you and leave your bigger props in storage until you need them!  In savasana it is better if your feet do not point towards a fellow student’s head.

I like exploring new studios and today I participated in a relaxation class close by.  Was not sure what to expect and was curious.  We spent most of the time laying on our back, releasing our hips, engaging and strengthening the pelvic floor and the core muscles.  After an hour I started to wonder if we will do anything else and felt that my shoulders are stiff.  We had background music from a DVD chanting “Govinda” almost continuously.  I do not practice or teach with music and at times I hoped for some quietness.  Eventually the teacher changed the music and we did some sitting poses with shoulder work.  The relaxation (Savasana) was very good and I finished the class in good spirits and my back feels better.  The moral of the story: each teacher has a different style and if we are new to her/his class we need be open to the experience and embrace it!

Based on my 25 years on the mat I complied the rough etiquette for attending yoga classes:

For students:

  • Please be punctual, ready to start practicing at advertised time; turn off your mobile phone; do not eat 1.5 – 2 hours prior class;
  • For big classes – if there is a designated area for personal belongings use it,
  • Advise the teacher if you have any medical issues, menstruating or pregnant,
  • As a student you are expected to take more responsibility for your learning than in normal school environment – you know your body better than your teacher; if something does not feel right (sharp pain) come out of the pose!
  • Generally there will be an easier and more advanced variation for most poses. Choose the one which fits you best on the day;
  • Please keep your area safe and pack up all of your props at the end of the class;
  • Wearing layers is helpful, apart from that wear comfortable clothing;
  • Enjoy your class!

For teachers:

  • Arrive early so you have a chance to talk to your students – especially if someone is new to the class;
  • Start and finish on time;
  • Be respectful of your students, ask if they want an adjustment or not,
  • Create a safe environment for all;
  • Be aware of your limits, sometimes referring a student to a specialist might be the best advice;
  • Keep up your own practice and participate in professional development;
  • Enjoy teaching the class – remember you learn as much from your students as they learn from you!

See my earlier blog: how find the right teacher

Relax and Renew workshop on Sunday 21st June in Randwick.  See blog and timetable for details!

Keep up your practice!

Mary

yoga mat

How is “yoga over 50” different?

lotus yoga

A few years ago a marketing guru suggested to us (yoga teachers) that we should identify our “ideal student” and instead of trying to please everybody we need to concentrate on servicing these “ideal” people.

For me it has been the “over 50’s”, the baby-boomers.  Party because I belong to this group and partly because my lower back problem excludes me from doing and demonstrating the fancier poses.

Due to the “over 50” label when I get an enquiry about my classes most people start with telling me their age.  I reassure them that I won’t ask for their birth certificate and during my 26 years of practicing yoga I have learnt how to modify the poses to suit the individual.

The question I am aiming to answer is “how is yoga over 50 is different (from other yoga)?”

Our classes are gentle in comparison to the dynamic ashtanga / power or yang yoga practices.  Gentle means that we might go a bit slower (have a rest anytime you need to).  When it comes to inverted poses we do the preparation for headstand and shoulder stand instead of the full version.  Due to the higher number of medical conditions in the class we might have more than two variations for a pose – so every student can practice safely on their own level.

In my view our attention to detail exceeds what I have seen in big “general” classes.  If we go into balancing standing poses with grace (i.e. hands on the wall until we feel secure standing on one leg) we stand straighter than a lot of people half of our age!

For an ageing / stiffer body it takes a bit longer to warm up so we start by warming up all of our joints (neck, shoulders, fingers, hips, knees, ankles and toes).  With the colder weather we experience cramps more often than in summer and more often than the younger generations.  This could indicate that we might not stretch enough or we have magnesium deficiency.

In my class we use a lot of props (blocks, belts, bolsters, blankets and chairs) which reflects more my Iyengar style practice than the age of the students.

Most of us have passed the “working long hours and exhausted all the time” stage in our lives and no one falls asleep (no one snores) during Savasana at the end of the class.  We enjoy our tranquillity!

As in any class – some over 50’s prefer open windows / fans whilst others feel the cold – my aim to please most people.  There are excellent breathing techniques to cool off hot flushes.

There is more and more medical research and evidence into the health benefits of yoga, including how it slows down the ageing.

Apart from the stretching and strengthening exercises yoga requires and improves concentration, stamina, reduces stress and some students appreciate the social aspect of practising together with likeminded people. There is no difference whether you are young or over 50!

In summary:

I believe if a yoga class is marked for over 50’s, seniors or golden yogis – it is suitable for anybody who wants to practice in a small class with a senior teacher who most likely has seen a lot on the mat and off the mat.

People of all ages and with various pre-existing conditions (or recovering from injury or operation) would benefit from attending these classes.  Students who new to yoga could learn the basics before joining in faster paced classes.  Once you know how to do a pose safely you can prevent injuries.

I would almost promote the over 50’s classes as a type of therapy class!

Keep up and enjoy your practice!

Namaste

Mary

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