Non-misuse of energy

Brahmacharya is the fourth of the Yamas – the don’ts. Here we discuss non-misuse of energy. To the ancient yogis this would have meant sexual energy. They would have chosen to be celibate. But there are many ways to misuse the energy. When we live an ethical life, adhering to the rules of ahimsa, non-violence, satya, non-lying, asteya, non-stealing and aparigraha, non-greed, we are already conserving energy. We’re not scattering it far and wide in negative circles, but keeping it for what is right and pure. Through yoga we learn to direct our energy correctly.

We’ll begin this week’s practice with butterfly knees and rocking buddha. Then we’ll check in with our hip joints as we move forwards and backwards. We’ll attempt Merudandasana, the balance, and then move into some work with tortoise posture. Now we meet our challenge pose for this half-term – half-lotus. And for those advanced yogis – full-lotus.

Let’s now come up on to one knee for the gate sequence. This is such a good series of movements for opening the sides of the body and toning the trunk. From the gate sequence we’ll move into a mermaid twist. More work on toning the trunk! And then into cat stretch and breath. We’ll employ ujjayi breathing, which is a great way to become focussed and to gain pranic energy.

Meditation is a visualisation – the crystal cave. Here we give our imaginations a good work-out!

Relaxation will focus on the solar plexus chakra. This is the seat of our energy reservoir. We’ll use the seed sound RAM to recharge our energy stocks, whilst fully conserving energy in the relaxation pose.

Watch your use of energy as you progress through next week.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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Random Acts of Kindness

It’s global ‘random acts of kindness day’ on February 17th. There are so many ways to show little acts and gestures of kindness. When we look at the Yamas or Don’ts, we’re made aware that yoga is based on kindness. Do not harm – do not lie – do not steal – do not misuse energy – do not be greedy. If everyone in the world lived by these rules, what a kind place it would be!

This week we’ll explore the bandhas or locks. Standing, we’ll first of all introduce our bodies to the root lock – mulabandha. This is all about the pelvic floor and is a small. subtle movement. We’ll then continue to the abdominal lock – uddiyana bandha, and move on to agni sara, (drawing the abdomen in and out on a non-breath.) After a pause, we’ll work with forward bends and acquaint ourselves with the chin lock – jalandhara bandha. we can use this technique in the many forms of forward bend which we’ll meet this week.

Backward bends balance our practice, and then we’ll enjoy standing twists. This movement is missing from salute to the sun, which will be our next destination. Let’s try three.

Down through the squat and we’ll move into our cool-downs. Meditation this week is, of course, on kindness. The Four Immeasureables – love, compassion, joy and equanimity – combine to create kindness.

During the relaxation, we’ll ‘kindly’ relax each of the 22 body parts.

Remember: Do good, every time you can, every way you can, to every one you can.

Half-term is next week – February 16th. Random Act of Kindness Day is February 17th.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Asteya and forgiveness

Let’s do a practice on forgiveness. Holding on to bitterness and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We’re literally stealing peace of mind from ourselves. Asteya is the third of the YAMAS and it means non-stealing.

We’ll work on some classical poses this week – shoulderstand, plough, fish for starters, Then we’ll continue with nose-to-knee, bridges and all the supine twists.

Passing through the boat, we’ll work with cat stretch and breath, then lie on the abdomen to meet the cobra, locust and bow poses. Stretching back into the variation on the swan will put us in the right place to finish with the mermaid twist.

Meditation features the colours of the chakras, while relaxation uses golden yellow on the in-breath and silvery blue on he out-breath.

It’s half-term on February 16th.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Take a breather

In order to fully embrace the five Yamas, the ‘don’ts which Patanjali takes as his first rule of yoga, we need to give ourselves some space. We need space to re-evaluate our moral principles and beliefs. This is where the breath comes in…The breath is the bridge between that which is physical and that which is spiritual.

So let’s take a breather! We’ll begin with the complete yoga breath – Mahat Pranayama. We’ll continue with the skull-cl;eansing breath – Kapalabhati. Then we’ll meet an action which rids us of excess carbon dioxide – Malla Kriya. On to the Tree of Life breath adding the victorious breath – Ujjayi.

Let’s connect our breath and focus to the earth by working with Salutation to the Earth itself. And from ground prana we’ll move to solar prana as we work with Mountain Sequence. Feeling very aware of our surroundings and in touch with all of nature, we’ll attempt the Balance Sequence and then continue into Salutation to the Moon.

Down through the squat for alternate nostril breathing and the meditation will feature the square breath – Sama Vritti Pranayama. Relaxation will be a simple focus on the out-breath – sinking down into the mat, into the earth.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Subtle ways of stealing

The reading this week comes from Stephen Sturgess and he explains the subtle forms of stealing; Asteya is our chosen Yama.

We’ll begin with the left hand placed on the heart and the right hand a little higher than usual, over the navel. We’ll notice the next three exhalations.

Then lots of leg work! Starting with side-stretches, then moving through the boat to seated leg work. Let’s see if we can place the heel on top of the head, or even take the foot behind the head, Madonna-style! We’ll do some wide-legged forward bends, lots of work with janu-sirsasana, and meet our friend the tortoise. Then we’ll shine the light on the half-lotus.

Once the asanas are completed, we’ll move on to Brahmari the bee-breath. Those happy on their knees will work from there.

Meditation is about repetition. ‘Everyday in every way I’m getting better and better.’ One hundred years ago, a doctor gave this mantra to his patients. All were astonished at the effect it had on the speed of their recovery.

Relaxation will feature the legs again. Let’s make friends with the root chakra and mulabandha.

Observe your patterns through the coming week. Are you guilty of subtle stealing from others? Or are others subtly stealing from you? The Yama rule of Asteya, non-stealing, is worthy of your attention.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

More on asteya

Following a reading by Swami Vivekananda, forward bends, backward bends and twists are the order of the day.We’ll work lying, seated and then standing. This week we’ll have a particular emphasis on observing the next three exhalations…

Meditation is an exercise in mental concentration – dharana. We’ll be counting backwards from 200, but every time the mind wanders we need to return to 200 and start over. Interesting to observe the persistence of the mind in its restlessness!

Relaxation features sama vritti pranayama – the square breath. Can we stay present for the entire relaxation time, and thus adhere to the rule of asteya? If we allow ourselves to be distracted or to sleep, we’ll be stealing away the benefits of the relaxation from our entire being.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Asteya (non-stealing) the third of the Yamas or Don’ts

Happy New Year to everyone! You see what a positive wish that is. I wish for everyone to have a happy new year – now can I live in such a way that I make that possible for those around me? Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world.’ If you think the world needs more love, then it’s down to you to manifest more love. Holding back, begrudging, criticising, these are all forms of subtle stealing from others.

We’re going to begin the new year with a run through the joints – Pawanmuktasana 1 is the anti-rheumatic group of movements. We begin at the toes and work methodically through all the joints of the body until we reach the neck. As we work we release stiffness and toxins from each joint.

Let’s move on to Pawanmuktasana 2. This is the anti-gastric group of movements. We work methodically through the digestive system releasing blockages and toxins.

And now to finish off with Pawanmuktasana 3. Here we release blocked energy from key areas of the body. This work is with the energy system of the being.

Meditation will take us right into our connection with the breath as we practise Sama Vritti Pranayama, the square breath. Ooh, isn’t it great to be back to class?!

Then relaxation will ensure that we finish our session with both sides of the body in total harmony – Anu Loma Viloma Kriya.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti