Letting go of the old, setting intentions for the new

I was a happy participant in Byron Yoga Centre’s 8 day ‘New Year Renew and Revive’ retreat.

John Ogilvie founded the yoga centre in 1988.  His aim was to create a sanctuary (ashram in Sanskrit) for people to come where they can connect their body, mind and spirit – in a supportive, non-judgemental environment.  John’s vision is to increase the number of yogis who practice all aspects of yoga and thus making the world a better place.

The schedule for the retreat was full with yoga/mediation classes, informative talks, massages and treatments.  Most days we had three yoga classes to choose from, different styles, luckily one was restorative.  You could do as much or as little as you wished.  We even had an impromptu aqua yoga class in the 30m heated pool.  In the water we stretched our hamstrings, twisted our torso and supported each other in the Tree pose (not all of it at the same time though…).

The food at Byron Yoga Centre is Sattvic which aims to calm and purify the mind.  It is delicious vegetarian with vegan and gluten free are available.  Some of the vegetables are grown organically on site, instead of carbon print it takes a few footprints to get the vegies to the kitchen.

One of the highlights was the New Year’s Eve fire ceremony.  A couple of days prior to it we were asked to think and write down the issues we want to let go off, baggage we don’t want to take to 2015.  Once the fire was burning we released our issues by throwing the papers into the flames. Some papers stubbornly stayed outside of the reach of the fire, we had to push them in, we were all eager to let go.  It was a very moving ceremony under the Australian summer stairs.

closeup-of-a-burning-red-candle-100295966texture-burned-100285997

On New Year’s day we were asked to set our intentions (sankalpa in Sanskrit) for the year ahead.  We visualised our ‘new’ life, what we need to change to achieve it, what are the obstacles.

I have been home from the retreat for day and a half  now and cooking healthy meals and not munching between meals are presenting a problem.  Who is preparing my customary 10.00 o clock fresh juice?  One of the issues from last year is still pocking its head up – no one said it would be easy to let go!

I suggest you do a stocktake for 2014.  Be grateful for what was good and have gratitude towards the people who helped you along the way.  Make a list of the issues you do not want to carry further and have your own little burning ceremony with a candle, make sure it is safe!

Once you let go set your intentions for the year ahead.  Apply some discipline to make the changes happen.  Be flexible and alter your plans if required.  Sometimes we over analyse things instead of listening to our gut feeling (speaking about myself now).

Set your intentions
Set your intention

 Photos are courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

In with the new – out with old!

Have a great year!

Mary

Tree pose (Vrksasana)

 

Tree pose
Tree pose

 

 

The Tree pose has a number of benefits and it is a slightly neglected asana.

There is a lot of grace in the pose.

Standing on one leg helps to improve balance, strengthens the ankles, legs and the muscles which stabilize the hips.

Being in this pose gives a good indication of ones mental state on the day. Of course trees move / sway a bit and as there are many types of trees – so we all do a slightly different version of the tree pose.

To avoid injury in Iyengar style yoga we pay a lot of attention to safely going in and out of the poses (and graciously possible).

For beginners I recommend practicing the pose against a wall or preferable in a corner as per the photo below (the photo was taken in the Bungle Bungles National Park hence the shoes).

Tree Pose with wall

Tree Pose with wall

  1. Stand tall in Tadasana (mountain pose), with your back against the wall, big toe bases touching, heels are either together or slightly apart, feel that you have equal weight in both feet, raise your toes, extend the toes and place them back onto the floor;
  2. Quietly transfer the weight to the left leg, without pushing the left hip out ;
  3. Bend the right knee so the right heel lifts off the floor, come up on your toes;
  4.  Turn the right knee out (work from your right hip);
  5. Slowly bring the right foot up (help with your right hand) and allow the right knee to rest on the wall in front of you.  Variations are: if you do not feel stable keep your toes on the floor, if you are more confident bring the right foot either to the inside of your left calf or higher up to the inner thigh.  Be careful – do not push on your left knee, have the foot either below or above the left knee;
  6. Keep the standing leg strong, pull up the knee cap and the quadriceps and work the inner leg. If you do not work your inner leg the right foot will slide off – so we cannot really blame the fabric of our pants!
  7. Keep your chest, hips and face in one direction (i.e forward);
  8. Keep your chin parallel to the floor, throat soft, look with soft gaze in front of you – eye level or slightly above
  9. Bring your hands in together in front of you in Namaste or more experienced yogis bring your hands above your head, resting the heels of the hands on the crown of your head;
  10. Stay in the pose for a minute on so (on each side);
  11. Coming out of the pose: release the arms and slowly release the right leg back to the floor;
  12. Find your balance by standing in Tadasana for to-three cycles of your breath;
  13. Turn around and REPEAT on the other side.

Once you mastered the Tree pose against the wall try it free standing, facing the wall.  Stand close enough to wall so your fingertips can touch it. Only take your hands off the wall if your balance is good on the day.

I recommend to practice this pose regularly (daily).

Keeping the balance over 50 is an essential part of ageing gracefully!

yoga mat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ayurvedic Tip to help you stay gorgeous after 50! – Self-massage

lotus yoga

The first teachings of Ayurveda (the Indian holistic health science where Ayur means “life” and Veda means “knowledge”) were written down sometimes 2,000 to 4,000 BC.

It was suppressed during the Muslim invasion and the British occupation of India.

Since the 1990’s there has been a growing interest in Ayurveda as a holistic healing science where emphasis is on prevention rather than cure. In Ayurveda they distinguish three doshas: Vata (air and space) Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth). We are all a unique combination of all three.

The link between Yoga and Ayurveda is Prana (Life force).

Enjoy this Ayurvedic Tip to help you stay gorgeous after 50!

Self Massage

Written by Justin Rintul Yoga Teacher from Triveda Therapies – see her contact details below.

According to Ayurveda, life after 50 years of age is ‘Vata’ time of life. This means of the 5 elements our bodies are made up of (water, earth, fire, space and air), this period is dominated by Air and Space. When these elements dominate there is a drying up effect on the body. Basically we start shrivelling up and drying out! How can we counter this drying effect and at the same time feel nourished and rejuvenated?

How about I give you a tip from the ancient science of Ayurveda to help you remain ‘juicy’ into old age. I really encourage you to try this as not only will it keep you young, it is also a delicious, calming and relaxing experience. It is a simple self-care exercise that you can introduce into your weekly or even daily routine. It is ‘Self Abhyangha’ or ‘Self Warm Oil Massage’ (massaging the body with large amounts of warm oil).

There are numerous benefits to Self Abhyangha including the following:
• Soothes Vata Dosha
• Helps build resilience to stress
• Increases energy and removes fatigue
• Helps to eliminate toxins by stimulating strengthening lymphatic flow
• Strengthens and tones skin and body
• Grounding and nourishing
• Helps with insomnia

Here’s how to do Self Abhyangha:
This massage is best done before your shower, either in the morning or before going to bed.
1. Select your oil – As a general rule of thumb go with Coconut oil in Summer and once the weather becomes cooler and Coconut oil begins to solidify switch to Sesame (Melrose Organic is a good one) or Sunflower oil. For an extra dimension to the experience, you may like to add an essential oil of your choice to your massage oil.
2. Warm the room you are in and warm the bottle of oil in a bowl of hot water.
3. Stand on a towel that you don’t mind getting oily.
4. Pour a small amount of oil into the palm of you hands and begin with a head massage, slowly massage oil into scalp in a similar way you shampoo. (If you don’t like having oily hair you can skip the oil here.) Use your finger tips to rub your scalp even gently tugging at your hair.
5. Take some more oil into the palm of your hands and start to massage your face and then the neck, shoulder and arms, remember circles on the joints and long strokes on the limbs. Massage slowly and adjust the strokes and pressure according to area on body, i.e. more vigorous on soles of feet and limbs, slowly around face and abdomen.
6. Continue over the rest of the body, with clockwise circles on the abdomen (to follow the colon) and upward strokes on chest.
7. Spend extra attention on your feet; massaging the soles of your feet as well as the toes for a soothing experience.
8. When you are finished you can either let the oil soak in and then rinse off in the shower or wipe the oil off with a towel.
9. Sit quietly for 10-15min, drink some water or sip on herbal tea to complete the experience!

Enjoy the benefits this simple practice has on your Mind, Body and Spirit. Abhyanga along with Yoga, Meditation and a healthy diet will help keep you feeling more ‘juicy’, healthy and looking young well into your 90s!

Justine Rintoul
website – http://www.triveda.com.au

In the next blog I will recommend poses to balance Vata.

yoga mat

 

The benefits of yoga off the mat

The numerous health benefits of yoga are well documented and generally known.

I would like to share the benefits of yoga off the mat, the  transferable skills to the business world the support the yoga community.

I recently changed the jobs and the process of applying for positions and attending interviews was made easier by my yoga practice.

In preparation for the the job interview try the following poses, they aim to keep the spine upright and increase confidence.

Apart from standing tall (in Tadasana which is our basic standing pose) I included asanas (poses)  which open the chest (to increase confidence), think of the Warrier 1, 2 and 3 poses (virabhadrasana 1,2 and 3 in Sanskrit). Move the shoulder blades in and down to open chest and to lift your sternum. Have energy in your arms and fingers, keep your chest facing the front. Work your legs and feet without gripping the mat with your toes! Legs they are the foundation of the Worrier poses!

Worrier 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)
Warrier 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)

It is also important to be in the right frame of mind, so regulating the breath (maybe slowing it down whilst waiting for the interviewer, inhale for the count of 4, exhale for count of 4 or 6 if more experienced). During the interview be alert, be in the present by sitting tall, keeping your face relaxed, throat soft, chin parallel to the floor and look the interviewer(s) in the eye.

Yoga teaches us to be strong and flexible on the mat, have perseverance and to know when to have a rest.  All these skills are transferable to the business world!

The yoga community is also important.

I clearly remember attending a morning class as a student not long after my husband suddenly passed away, many years ago.  I was sitting on a yoga block and as the sun softly shone in the room I was thinking that this was familiar environment and I should keep coming here to allow this part of my life to go on as it used to.

A few years later I was preparing to teach yoga when i friend called from Hungary to tell me my Mother had peacefully passed away a few hours earlier. There was no time to find a replacement teacher. I taught the best class i could, in memory of my Mother.  One of the students offered to drive me to my Aunt’s place (who is my Mother’s sister).

I attended The Australian Yoga Therapy conference on the same weekend. During the two day conference I cried a bit here and there and everybody was sympathetic, accepting and allowed me space to be. Again I felt the support of the yoga community.

I find it reassuring to practice with regular fellow students and have regular students in my class. Over time we get to know each other and friendships are born from the common shared interest.

Once you become a yogi you become a yogi for life. The benefits of yoga “OFF THE MAT” are almost as important as the practice itself.

 

How to find the right yoga teacher?

“The most important thing is finding the right teacher – someone you relate to, someone who’s professionally trained, who keeps up with professional development and has professional risk insurance”

The above quote is from an interview with Leigh Blashki vice president of Yoga Australia (Refer to Spectrum of The Sydney Morning Herald 15-16 Sept 2012).

Recently in a yoga workshop we were asked to honour our lineage.  I would like to dedicate this blog to the teachers who shaped me as a yogi over the last 23 years and this might give further insight to the complexity of the “right”  teacher and a good class.

Robin was a physiotherapist and yoga teacher.  She was treating my lower back problem and she is the one who introduced me to yoga, I will always be thankful for it!  Her classes were hard work, in those days the classes were 2 hour long and boy she put in a lot of standing poses!  And we had to hold them for a long time to increase strength and stamina! We were delighted to do sitting poses after all that standing!  She tried to teach us how to look after ourselves and she was always encouraging, saying “you are better than you think”.  She lent a sympathetic ear if a student needed it.

I used to attend Tracey’s therapy classes when I was relatively new to yoga. The therapy classes were “short” at 1.5 hours and there were less number of students.  Most of us were somewhat stiff, we knew each other’s aliments and the atmosphere / comradery in the class was very good.  Tracey paid attention to every one of us, there was no limit to the props she would use to support us where and when it was needed.  She is very professional, always teaches a high standard class (sequence and poses modified to suit the students and to the weather).  Tracey is also very approachable and she does a lot of self development.

Zajna was very a special teacher!  Her playfulness and  intuition were always present. The poses we did were unique and the sequencing too!  From one twist through squatting to another twist! How did she come up with this?  The answer was simple: she loved her yoga and she practiced at home and shared her discoveries with us.  Her descriptions were colourful.  At one time she said to a pregnant student “it is good for the baby to see that you are folding up the blanket nicely!”  Only and Iyengar trained teacher would say this!  I wish I had taken notes on her unique sequences so I could incorporate some of them in my teaching!  Zajna loved her food and cooked with the same confidence as she taught yoga.

Helena took over Zajna’s Saturday classes and I continued to attend.  This brings in some other considerations when choosing a yoga teacher:

  • location (either close to work, to home or shopping, i.e. fits in with your lifestyle)
  • time of class

Helena introduced me to the “monthly cycle” of the Iyengar method where each week is spent on practicing a particular family of poses.  This  cycle aims at achieving a balanced practice.  Helena is very good with adjustments.  The atmosphere in her classes is jovial and the students are regulars.

Nowadays there is an abundance of different styles of yoga, we need to respect each other’s preference and be united by the love of yoga.

In conclusion: finding the right yoga teacher is a bit like finding a hairdresser or car mechanic!  She/he will become a special person in your life – choose wisely!

Tranquil yoga for 50’s

The website’s name is “TRANQUABILITY”, where tranquillity meets ability.

Both of these terms mean different things to different people.  To me tranquility means walking on the beach or just admiring hilly landscape at sunset.  Ability covers a wide range, from young age (learning to talk and walk) through teenager years, middle age towards old age (where ability might just mean coming down the stairs unaided).

Please keep reading on – especially if you are over 50.  We live longer and we need to be prepared!  60 is the new 40!

Yoga (which means to unite the body, mind and spirit) helps us slowing down the ageing.

We need to understand and accept the cycle of life and instead of resisting the change and developing a negative attitude towards life we need to activate our willpower, our intelligence.

Our health is very precious and we either have to allocate resources (time, energy and money) to staying healthy or we will need to apply more resources to being sick and recovery.

The most obvious sign of ageing is change of posture (shortening and rounding of the spine).  The effect of the rounded spine is collapsed chest which restricts breathing. This is why it so important to keep the spine supple and to open the chest.  Movement lubricates the muscles, ligaments and joints.  In conjunction western medicine yoga helps to control/reduce high blood pressure.  As the metabolism slows down we are prone to put on weight, so staying active is even more important.  Yoga poses stretch the trunk, massage the internal organs and help with digestion and trimming down.  In many cases with ageing come orthotics and lace up shoes.  Yoga is done in barefoot, toes; muscles in the feet are stretched!  We need to practice standing on one leg to keep our balance.  Pranayama (breath control) helps us to cool down and relax.  The use of props (especially for older beginners) makes it easier to get the correct alignment to allow us to gain the benefit(s) of each pose.  Supported poses restore energy.  Meditation helps to clear the mind, reduces anxiety associated with ageing.

With menopause the body becomes stiffer and due to the hormonal changes one might become irritable.  Certain Pranayama practices help to control hot flashes, have calming effect and “solutes to the sun” provide gentle form of exercise.  Cutting down on coffee / tea also helps to reduce hot flashes.

Brief Summary – how yoga poses help us to slow down ageing:

  • Standing poses for building and maintaining muscle and bone strength, increasing stamina and balance, helps to prevent osteoporosis;
  • Forward-bends, Back-bends Lateral poses and Twists to keep the spine flexible; to reduce shortening and rounding of the spine;
  • Inversions for reversing the downward pull of gravity, the hart rests and more blood flows to the brain which helps with memory function;
    • Reclining positions restore energy and for relaxation

One can start practicing yoga at any age.  Once you know how to do the poses safely yoga skills are transferable, can practice anywhere.

Yoga is not a competitive sport; it is about connecting with yourself, accepting yourself and being gentle with yourself.

Tips to start the day:

Over 50 we are stiffer in the morning so I start the day with some warm up poses, gently circling the ankles, wrists and neck combined with a few gentle twists and maybe stretching the hamstrings by extending one leg up at a time and using a belt over the ball of the foot – all of these in bed before getting up.

It is recommended in Ayurvedic science to drink a glass of water after rising, it will help the kidneys to function better.

Do a few cat and downward facing dog poses and maybe a few cycles of “salute to the sun”, open your chest to welcome a new day!

Take your health in to your hand and start exercising regularly – may be on a mat near me! 

 Note: this is a general guide to yoga over 50, written with love and good intentions and does not intend to replace medical advice.

Namaste