Spiritual Awakening July 22 2015
Protecting your body from Yoga? May 12 2015 1 Comment
There has been much discussion and advertising of late for workshops focussed on 'safe alignment' and 'how to practice without injury', 'protect your body during your practice' etc. Which for me has raised a few questions...
Whilst I understand the need of a Yoga teacher to expand their offerings to their Yoga community and to continue to express fresh perspectives on their Yoga practice. I also applaud the Yoga teacher who wants to educate their students on the mechanics of Asana. What I don't understand is what type of Yoga is being taught that requires you to 'recover', 'heal', or 'protect yourself' from it?
I have read recently quite a few discussion from Yoga teachers and students alike asking 'how do I heal my wrists?', 'how long does it take to heal an SIJ injury' and what are the best therapies to get me back into my 'normal' practice?
Having spent over a decade in the Natural Therapies industry - specifically in the field of Musculoskeletal Therapies I am feeling like perhaps some of these students and teachers alike are missing the point. If your 'normal' practice puts so much strain on the finer joints and ligaments of your body that It causes pain, discomfort or injury you need to not be seeking a therapy to heal you but to reassess the practice you are undertaking on the mat and avoid ever getting to that point.
The first Yama of the Yoga Sutras is Ahimsa (Sanskrit: अहिंसा). A term that means 'compassion' and 'not to injure'. The word is derived from the Sanskrit root hiṃs – to strike; hiṃsā is injury or harm, a-hiṃsā is the opposite of this, i.e. cause no injury, do no harm. This observance not only applies to our relationships with others and the outside world but also to our intimate relationship with ourselves. If you are pushing too far, taking yourself beyond your limits too quickly and without mindfulness and control of course you are bound to injure yourself. No-one can go from 0-100 without expecting there to be wear and tear on the body. If you have never done a handstand before in your life and you decide one day to spend 20mins a day every day throwing yourself into handstands the body does not have time to prepare for this. The wrists will suffer under the strain as the musculature has not had time to build and stabilise the joint. Just because you can 'do' something does not necessarily mean that you should. You also need to be asking yourself why it is sooooo important that handstands are part of your personal practice? There are literally 1000's of Yoga Asana - why have you focussed so heavily on one or two that the continual repetition of is damaging your body?
Social media has a lot to do with this new emerging trend but for the most part Yoga teachers themselves need to take some of the responsibility. The 'style' that we chose to study and teach is a personal decision but it is also important to understand who your style is suited to. Are you teaching Yoga for every body, every day or are you teaching Yoga for the already fit, Yoga for the 20 something hypermobile? Who are your students and what are your expectations of them...?
I recently dropped in on a class of 'Yoga' that was more akin to a display of acrobatics than Yoga and the requests of the teacher for the level of the student in the room were outrageous. Just because you bring your hands to prayer position at the beginning and end of what you are doing on a Yoga mat does not make it Yoga. As teachers it is our responsibility to guide students through a safe and holistic practice that teaches the students about their body and breath. Not asking them to perform advanced asana just because we can do it and it makes us feel important to demonstrate. There is a time and place for this type of Yoga but it is not in a room filled with every day you and me. If the class moves so fast through their series of Asanas that you can not focus on your breath or alignment let alone being mindful of your body, how on earth can you be making sure that you are stabilising your joints, relaxing not forcing... sorry but I just don't get it.
There are 5 things that I believe to be the most important aspects of any Yoga practice aside from Vedic teachings and Yogic philosophy.
Breath; There needs to be focus and emphasis on the breath - for without the breath it is no longer Yoga it is just exercise. Yoga teaches us that Prana or life-force can only be extracted from the air when absorbed through the epithelial cells in the nose. It also teaches us that there are a finite number of breaths in each life. Each is precious and to be measured. If you are breathing rapidly during your practice and through the mouth you are not practicing Yoga.
Introspection; your practice should allow you time for quiet enquiry and introspection. You are your greatest teacher if only you would allow the time to listen.
Mindfulness; is your practice just another routine in your life that you've got down pat and your movement through this routine is so automatic that you are missing the point. Have you stepped your Yoga practice up to the same level of involvement and activity as everything else you do in your life so that is no longer Yoga - its a multitasking, box ticking - 'nailed it!' session? Learning to be present during your practice is the best part.
PNS involvement; if your practice is not switching on your Parasympathetic Nervous System and switching off your stress response then the deep healing can not occur. You might as well be doing something else.
Variable and individualised; every single person on this planet is built differently. Structural anatomy differences mean that not all aspects of every Asana are available to every person. Mass Yogic prescription does not work and leads to injury we know that. Your practice must reflect you and where you are at in any one time. There are varying modifications and levels to each practice - a good teacher will give you these and let you decide for yourself how far to take your body. I have also been to classes where no modification has been given and you can either do it or you cant which means that you either participate in the class or spend most of it in child's pose resting..... how is this helpful, holistic or progressive. The students either give up and never come back or their ego pushes them to try and in the trying injure themselves.
Now I'm not saying that from time to time you won't injure your body. For some people this is part of the discovery of the outer limits of your practice and something to be learnt from. What I am saying is that you need to find a style that suits your body, a teacher who is genuinely holistic in their approach and mindful of the needs of the entire class. At the end of the day your teacher does not have to live in your body and when that body is old and weary and the cold aches those damaged joints your teacher will not be there to soothe those aches away. Let your teacher guide you but let your own heart always be the final authority. And as always Pade Pade one step at a time - Yoga is supposed to be for everyone, every single day of your life. It is a prescription for healthy living, not a fad. If what you are doing now seems extreme, if you can't picture yourself doing it when you are 60 or 70 then it probably isn't very sustainable and perhaps you need to rethink your motivations and approach.
Stay safe Yogis, be discerning and empowered in your own journey.
Meditation April 03 2015
To be able to empty the mind of thought and control the breath allows the busiest organ in our body to relax and rejuvenate - our brain!
Without the opportunity to relax the brain can not function to it's highest potential.
How many of you forget where you have put your keys? Can't make a decision about anything? Don't remember peoples names? Can't sleep properly?
Your brain needs a break! Try meditating for just five minutes a day and see how refreshed and clear you feel.
Clarity - isn't that what we are all aiming for in this murky pond we call life. Meditation can help you to turn the filter on in your pond - give the fish and plants some oxygen and breathe new life.
Try this quick meditation for a 5 min pick me up.
Sit or lay in a comfotable position. Close your eyes and focus on your breath... breathe slowly in and out through your nose.
With each inhalation take your attention to a different part of your body starting at your head and working your way down. As you exhale mentally make a note of relaxing that part of your body. For example;
Inhale - focus on your head and face
Exhale - relax all of the muscles in your face allowing your jaw to drop slightly
Inhale - focus your attention on your neck and shoulders
Exhale - allow your shoulders to drop and release
Continue your breathing and relaxation until you reach your feet. Once you have made an effort to relax each section of your body take a few moments to return to focussing just on your breathing. Slowly wiggle your toes and fingers and open your eyes and notice how good you feel.
Take the time to honor and reward yourself daily with meditation. Plant the seeds and your garden will grow with a little love, food and water!
It is better to be kind than to be right... March 20 2015
Harsh words are held forever in the ear of the listener is something that my Yoga teacher says on a regular basis. And for me her words hold true - i think back now to the times in my life (particularly the school years) when i had said something out of emotion that caused another person to feel pain too. We all know what that feels like - to be on the other end of a conversation that serves no purpose other than to make you feel as bad as the other person does. Seemingly small encounters for one person often are the catalyst for much later change or behaviours in another. Unfortunatly in the busy world we live in, under high stress and tension, compassion for another is no longer our defult setting, we are taught to be right and stand in our power no matter what the cost to others and as a result to ourselves. The fall out of some such confrontations lasting years and having ripple effects across whole generations. When all that really matters in the end is that you acted with integrity and that you were kind in the process, if things don't go your way, it dosen't mean you lay down and take it but it also dosen't give you the right to unload your grief on someone else.
There are only two kinds of energy in the world and two kinds of interaction - either healing or harming, if you are not helping to heal the people you interact with you are harming them. For example, a healing act may be as simple as a smile, hug, compliment, positive exchange of ideas, recognition of anothers talent, saying "i love you". A harming act may be rudeness, harsh words, indifference, mean thoughts or actions, inappropriate expression of your emotions.
Following the Yogic observances of right action and right speech help to guild us and act only in healing ways. Consider to yourself before you express yourself - is there a way in which i can deliver this information that will not harm those who recieve it? Is there a way in which i can deliver this information that will aid these people to heal?
Compassion and forgiveness are the key to contentment - allow yourself the gift of kindness and notice how different it makes you feel.
Daily Loving March 06 2015
Every day we wake up and open our eyes, we get out of bed and begin a series of tasks, of moments that when combined fill our entire waking day until it's time again to rest our head on our pillow and close our eyes again.
How many of these tasks or moments do you approach with Joy and Love? How many do you approach with resentment and frustration? Would you say that you achieve negativity in even 50% of your day?? Have a think about it.
Most of us would be shocked to do a personal mood audit and see exactly where we are 'spending' our energy and how much of it is actually negative. Try this just for one day and see where it gets you. Take a pen and notepad with you throughout your day and every hour take 5 mins to reflect on how you have felt about the tasks that you have engaged in and whether you have felt good, bad or indifferent. At the end of the day add up each mood or emotion and see which column is the biggest.
Changing your attitude...
Now that you are aware or the emotions that dominate the majority of your day you can take action to rectify them! The first step is to reprogramme your attitude with grattitude! When you wake first thing in the morning and before you fall asleep at night make a list in your head or better yet in a diary of all of the things that you are gateful for! The easist and best one that i can think of first thing in the morning is "I am grateful that i woke up and am alive today!" . You may like to select a body part that you feel emotionally negative about and show gratitude towards that part of your body for example - " I am grateful that i even have a belly that provides a home for my stomach."
Now you can take this appraoch to everything that you do. You may for example be asked to do a task a work that you do not like and instead of filling that experience with negativity you can fill it with gratitude and eventually love.
"i am grateful that i have been given the opportunity to learn patience (whatever it is for you) and to be paid for my services whilst learning!"
Once we have learnt to view our experiences differently we can begin to fill our lives with more loving experiences. Perhaps you may decide to make your partner their favourite meal mid week and surprise them with lots of warm hugs and greetings when they enter the home. You may give everyone close to you a loving text message just to say 'I Love you'.
Try paying for a strangers coffee and see how wonderful it makes you feel!
Pretty soon you will begin to fill your heart and soul overjoyed with acts of love and anytime you begin to feel emotionally negative about a situation you will notice, stop yourself and look for ways to achieve more love!
And never forget - that you always get back what you put out there. If you are genuine in all of your actions and selfless in your days kindness is sure to come your way.
Vitality February 27 2015
Do you ever feel that you are missing something? Missing your Mojo? You zest and zing? Missing your VITALITY?
Recently it occured to me that after the birth of my daughter i was feeling fulfilled as a mother and joyful in my new experience but something was missing. I felt somehow a little empty. I realised that it was my vitality - MY time, me!
After re-initiating my Yoga practice it became clear to me that all i needed was some time to work on myself, for myself and with myself. Restoring and reviving my mind and body.
Yoga provides us with the space and time to breathe and just be to relax and let go. Through physical work we are able to still the busy mind and through stilling the mind we are able to rest and restore.
Yoga provides us with the abiltity to cleanse the internal organs and muscles as well as re-oxygenate the blood, helping to balance hormones and emotions as well as our attitude towards life as a whole.
Yoga can be a useful tool and dear friend in times of change and progress. It can provide stability in chaos and peace in turmoil.
Having a few months away from my physical Yogic practice taught me a valuable lesson indeed - unlike most other exercise Yoga is not a chore - it is joyful and i never want to be want to be without it in my life ever again.
For me Yoga is a gift and when my 'vitality' is missing again i know where to find it - on my Yoga mat!
Stopping to smell the Roses February 13 2015
I often wonder how we end up waking up one morning and not really recalling how or why we have ended up where we are - and i don't mean after a night out on the town.
I know that we are all busy and that we all have jobs, responsibilities, significant others and so on... but somehow some of us are enjoying the ride and the rest of us are just hanging on for dear life hoping that we don't lose our grip and end up under the wheels. And, it's funny, it's not until we end up under the wheels or losing one all together that we truely take a moment to exhale and re-evalute our entire be-ing.
Recently one such change has happened on a personal level and even though i thought that i was doing a great job at being present and taking it easy, apparently i wasn't and that just taking it easy isn't enough.
Stopping to smell the roses isn't just about the smell - it's about the experience and how it makes you feel, your appreciation and the quiet moment that allows new ideas and desires to bubble to the surface like the effervescence in a bottle of soft drink. It's about finding ways to make each and every day sacred and how to fill it with the things that make your heart sing. It's about finding moderation and balance and time for yourself despite all else. A very dear friend of mind once said 'the mother wolf feeds herself before she feeds her cubs', in other words you can not give and be all that you can for others if first you don't nourish yourself.
Taking the time to not only slow down but enjoy the moments of quiet is the key to harmony within all areas of your life, practicing Ahimsa or non-violence towards yourself and then transferring that to your family and friends.
In Yoga we talk about your Dharma or your duty of which there are three. The first duty you have is to yourself 'mother wolf', you must fill your vessel before any other can drink from it. Your second duty is to your family and your third is to your community - in that order you may give what you have but you must replenish the source.
So, these holidays..... your first Dharma - YOU! Make sure that you drink all of the goodness that life has to offer you, nourish your body and soul and begin 2011 with all that you need to spread love to those around you and the greater community. If everyone took this approach imagine how truely blessed this world would be. For those who are fulfilled are not angry or hateful or hurtful, they are kind and forgiving, compassionate and loving.
"Self care is never a selfish act. It is simply good sterwardship of the only gift i have. The gift i was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self, and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves, but also for the many others whose lives we touch."
- Parker Palmer
Wishing you a blossoming heart today and every day!
Happiness vs. Wealth February 06 2015 1 Comment
Is it a matter of happiness vs. wealth or can one have both? It seems to me that there are really three types of people in this world
- those that are in search of 'happiness'
- those that are in search of 'wealth'
- those that are seemingly unphased (indifferent?) by the notion of a 'search' for either and seem to be doing just fine
In the search for happiness those of us who are following this path obviously believe that the universe will provide for us and that if you are following your heart and your vision then finances will also follow - it seems like a win win to me.
Those that are searching for 'wealth' seem to be consumed by the idea that if only they could accumulate enough money (who knows how much enough actually is) then they will finally be happy. This in itself is plagued with problems - you become a 'tommorrow' person. I will be happy when i do this, i will be happy after i get this, i will be happy when i have x amount of these..... this list goes on and continues and before you know it you are breathing your last breath and you realise that you never got there (because the list kept growing) and you didn't enjoy the journey and you forgot to choose to be happy!
Then there are those that seem unphased becasue they either just accept that life is how it is and is unfolding as it should or they don't really care either way.
I know it seems a strange way to look at people but ultimately it is true - which group do you fall into? What do you want for yourself in life? Write down your top 10 things and see which you hold in the highest esteem. Just think about this - if you are genuinely happy then all of the worries and stresses in your life seem small and insignificant, you have better health and each day is a true joy - you are truely 'wealthy'! You have more riches in your life than you could ever buy. If you are blessed to be 'rich' too then you are able to enjoy your money and not be consumed by where you are going to get more from.
If you are 'rich' then it doesn't always equate to happiness and money can't make you happy - only you can. You may spend your whole life trying to make that million to find that you still aren't happy and you really needed to be looking inside yourself the whole time and developing your own riches. So next time you are thinking about what to do next what step to take in life - perhaps you should think to yourself... 'which direction is going to bring me the most joy and perhaps this is truely the 'best decision' you can make for yourself.
You are your greatest asset - tke the time to invest in yourself and see the returns enrich your life!
Starting at the beginning January 30 2015
As always every story has a beginning. Every journey starts somewhere and everyone starts someplace. This week i was reminded of my own beginnings, the first steps on my own Yoga journey and what it is like for those who have never tried Yoga before...
For some the thought of sitting in a class that tells you to tie yourself up in knots is absurd. For some the thought of 'not being able to do it' is terrifying. As much as you can be told what to expect, each class is different, each teacher is different and even teachers within the same style can be complete opposites. Yoga is such a personal journey it is important to find a teacher that resonates with you and a class that makes your heart sing, your soul soar and your body hum!
When first starting a Yoga class it is so important to remember that unless you are double jointed and can claim to be a gymnast or contortionist as a profession you are not going to be able to do everything 'right' the first time around. It is important to remember that Yoga is a journey and there is no actual destination, each asana presents it's own challenges and even after you have physically conquered it then there is still more to learn.
The hardest part of any Yoga journey is leaving your ego at the door. The ego causes us to push and strive to be better than the person next to us. It pushes us to feel 'wounded' when our body won't do what we want it to do. It is the only thing holding us back from actually practicing Yoga. The Union that is sought and achieved in Yoga is only achieved once the ego has been allowed to leave the room. The ego is what causes us to 'hurt' ourselves - to work beyond our limitations and to leave feeling frustrated and angry.
So, if you have never tried Yoga before or if you are feeling frustrated with your progression - let go, leave the ego behind, be grateful for what you have, are and will be and just enjoy your own journey. This is the whole point - as in Yoga as in life - enjoy your own journey.