Christmas break 2021

Our last face to face class will be on Saturday 18 Dec 2021.

We shall resume on Saturday 15 January 2022.

Thank you for attending my classes during this challenging year!

All the best for the festive season and hope to see you in the New Year!

Gratitude

What is the difference between gratitude and positive attitude? 

Gratitude dissolves the sense of lack which helps us overcome greed and lust.  It is being thankful for what we have.  The gifts in our lives become precious and we rejoice in what once seemed mundane.  This is more than a ‘glass half-full’ attitude; this is grateful for having a glass no matter how much is in it.

What to be grateful for?

Be grateful for your childhood, for your young years and adulthood and if appropriate for your incarnation.

Be grateful for this breath, not the last or the next one. Prana (lifeforce) moves around the body.

Let’s all be grateful for yoga, this path of love, wisdom and to our fellow yogis, teachers and their teachers before us – going back to over 4,000 years.

Reflection

With the end of another year effected by Covid-19 it is time to reflect on what we have learnt , what challenges allowed us to grow and what we are grateful for.

It is also a time to look forward to the future, with acceptance that uncertainty will also play a part and none of us has full control.  Understanding what give us joy (do more of it), what values do we want to integrate to our lives and how will we take care of ourselves.  Unless we are well, we are not able to service others in our community.

Consider spending five minutes a day to be thankful for what is good in your life and practice gratitude. 

Let the lights shine on your wall!

If you can breath you can do yoga

If you can breathe you can do yoga – and how lucky we are to practice!

The Western definition of breath is the air taken into or expelled from the lungs.

In yoga we have the term ‘prana’ which means lifeforce.  Prana is much more than breath, it is energy.  The ancient yogis advocated the practice of pranayama (sometimes translated as breath control) is to unite the breath with the mind.

Pranayama is the 4th limb or stage or the 8 limbs of yoga which was first written down over 2,000 years ago. It covers the journey of the student (we are all students) from beginner to experienced.

The importance of working with the breath in yoga cannot be overemphasized.  Avoid holding your breath in poses, something that can happen in when you are in an unfamiliar or new situation.  Just keep regulating your breathing throughout your practice.  Unless your nose is blocked, inhale and exhale through your nostrils.  You might notice that one nostril is more prominent, and it changes during the day

How to use the breath?

The effective way to breathe is to follow your instinct to inhale when you open the chest and to exhale when you compress your chest and abdomen.  For instance, when you stretch your arms above your head, inhale.  When you bend forward, exhale.  While staying in a pose, just breathe normally.

Simple breathing techniques (Pranayama)

Pranayama can practiced laying down or sitting in a comfortable pose where the spine is upright.  You might sit on a chair or roll up a blanket and place it under the spine and have a pillow under your head, so the head is higher than the chest and the chest is higher than the abdominal.  If you are using a folded blanket the tailbone is on the floor not on the blanket.

At the beginning of your yoga practice / class it is a good idea to connect with yourself and with your breath. 

Lie down and place your hands on your abdominal with the thumbs touching each other above the naval and the other four fingers below the naval.  Observe the rhythmical rise and fall of your abdominal. 

Then take your hands higher up to the sides of your ribcage, above your floating ribs.  The ribcage expands sideways and upwards. 

Experiment with moving your hands towards your shoulders.  Allow the fingers to touch your collarbones.  As you inhale allow the breath to travel from your abdominal to your thoracic area and then towards your shoulders.  The inhalation expands the frontal torso.  Exhale softly, from the top, and allow the breath to touch your back body.

Below are a couple of pranayama practices. 

If you get dizzy at any time, please return to your normal breath.

4:4

Inhale for the count of 4 and exhale for the count of 4.  Once you established this pattern try to lengthen your exhalation, try for the count of 5 or 6 or even longer.  Extending the exhalation helps to calm the mind.

Square breathing technique 4:4:4:4

Pranayama recognizes the state of ‘no breath’ or holding the breath between inhalation and exhalation and vice versa.  Try the following 4-square breathing technique.

Visualize a square in front of you.  Inhale for the count of 4 on the left vertical side of the square. Hold your breath as you ‘move’ across the top side of the square. Exhale for 4 on the right side of the square.  Hold your breath as ‘move’ across the bottom side of the square.  Repeat this process 3+ times and return to your normal breathing.

Enjoy the practice!

Meditation minimizes melt down

What is meditation?

Meditation (the uninterrupted flow of concentration or one pointed attention) is the seventh limb or stage of the eight limbs of yoga.  The eight limbs represent the students’ life journey through yoga in order to reach Samadhi where the Individual spirit is liberated and joins the Universal spirit. 

Yoga is a spiritual practice and meditation, just like the poses, is learnt skill.

There are several types of meditations to choose from such as: Mindfulness, Japa, Walking, Metta (Loving kindness), Kundalini, Guided meditations, Chakra meditation – to name a few.

Usually it is practiced in a seated position (see chart below) but walking meditation is just as good.

What are the benefits of meditation?

There are numerous benefits of meditating regularly. It helps us to live our lives better, it lowers stress levels, increases wellbeing, reduces blood pressure, improves our health and it assists with self-realisation.

Meditation helps to even out the ups and downs of life, minimizes meltdowns.

Note: meditation might not suit people with mental health challenges.

How to start meditating?

Unless you prepare the body for meditation you will not be able to sit comfortably.

Try the following stretches with breath awareness:

  • Stand tall in the mountain pose: inhale raise the arms as high as you can comfortable then exhale lower the arms;
  • Stand tall in the mountain pose: inhale raise arms above the head and come up on your toes;
  • Stand tall, inhale raise the arms and exhale, pivoting from your hips bend forward. 
  • Do some twists of the spine, either standing or sitting.

When you are ready to start meditating find a quiet spot, be warm.  A symmetrical seated pose is recommended as the spine is elongated, lungs can work efficiently, the energy rises in the body.  Have support under your knees and hands. Please note my main photo is is taken in Bhutan and it is more about the landscape than sustainable posture for meditation.

If you choose walking meditation find a familiar area, beach or grass in your backyard or local park. Set a reminder (say five or ten minutes) and when that time is up start walking back to your starting point.

If laying down one might fall asleep – which is also beneficial but is is called a nap not meditation :).

In yoga, unless the nose is blocked, we inhale and exhale through the nostrils. 

Once you are seated and comfortable start observing your breath, the length of your inhalation and exhalation.  Try to count for four as you inhale and for four as you exhale.  If you have some experience in Breath Control (Pranayama) you might add pauses after the inhalation and after the exhalation, so your count will be 4:4:4:4.

During meditation:

Accept that it is hard to steady the mind.  Meditation is going inwards, might not be pleasant.  It is self-discovery.  Keep your attention your breath. 

In Meditation you remain in the Waking state of consciousness (low frequency Beta and Alpha brain wave patterns) and gently focus the mind while allowing thought patterns, emotions, sensations and images to arise and go on.  Gradually allowing the layers of the unconscious and subconscious to come forward, expanding the Waking state with one-pointed concentration and non-attachment to the streams of impressions flowing, visualization, memory, learning and concentration in the field of mind. 

If your mind was wondering during meditation, it does not mean that you had a bad meditation. 

What is stopping you from meditating?

A lot of people think they do not have the time or place to meditate, or it is too hard.  Initially start with five or ten minutes per day and gradually increase the time to 20 minutes.

You might want to try some guided mediations (apps) to start it.

Enjoy the inner piece and the process of quieting the busy, chattering mind.

AUM

5 tips to avoid eye strain

Thanks to COVID we are using screens more than ever before.

Many who are working or studying from home are staring at laptops or other devices all day. For some, these new ways of working can take a toll on their eyes causing blurry vision, headaches and eye strain.

Below are some tips to keep your eyes healthy. It is an extract from Lindy’s blog @ https://theeyescene.com.au

5 tips to avoid Lockdown eye train


20-20-20 Rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet (6m) away, for 20 seconds.
Think Blinking: We blink less often when reading from a screen, this can cause dry and irritated eyes.
Screen Set-up: Your screen should be between 40 and 75cm away from your face. Ideally your eyes should also be in slight downgaze. And don’t forget to minimise glare and reflections on your computer screen.
Bigger text: Make sure the font is not too small for sustained reading and the brightness level is appropriate for the surrounding light.
Get Outdoors: Take regular breaks and stretch those eyes out by looking at objects in the distance.

Coastal walk is a good way to look into distance and contemplate

Note: if you are suffering from eyestrain it is recommend you have an examination with an optometrists.

Colour yourself calm

We all have different ways of calming our mind, keeping our sanity.  What is yours?

I find coastal walks and swimming in summer lift my spirit and restorative yoga (indoors) help me to quieten the chattering mind. 

Now I have a new tool, can be taken anywhere!

Some time ago I was looking for books on mindfulness and I found the book below: ‘Colour yourself calm’ – written and compiled by Tiddy Rowan, Mandalas by Paul Heussenstam.

It contains 33 original mandalas in colour and on the left page and on the other side to it the black and white template for us to colour in.

What is mandala?

A mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल, romanized: maṇḍala, lit. ‘circle’, [ˈmɐɳɖɐlɐ]) is a geometric configuration of symbols. In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and trance induction.

In the Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Shintoism it is used as a map representing deities, or specially in the case of Shintoism, paradises, kami or actual shrines. A mandala generally represents the spiritual journey, starting from outside to the inner core, through layers.

Meditate to mandala

The first time I meditated using a mandala was a few years ago in Mangrove creek yoga ashram. We were sitting on the floor (you can sit on a chair if it is more comfortable). The big mandala was on the wall in front of us. We were asked to softly gaze towards the mandala, for about five or ten minutes. It was to ease the overloaded mind and to release our creativity.

Start colouring!

Colouring is an easy way to relax the mind, body and spirit whilst subconsciously developing self knowledge, expanding imagination and creating a sense of wellbeing.

Relax and start colouring to calm yourself!

Stretches you can do anywhere

At the time of writing Sydney is in the second week of a lockdown due to the spreading of Covid 19.  Exercising outdoors is allowed.

Have you noticed that you hold stress in your neck and shoulders?  On the photos below I demonstrate the poses I practice regularly.  These will mobilize your joints, will lengthen the front and sides of the body and will stretch your spine, lower back included.

It is important to keep physically and mentally healthy during this lockdown. Let’s start with the  exercises and a future post will focus on calming the mind.

Continue reading “Stretches you can do anywhere”