Keeping healthy and positive

The discipline of yoga won’t stop us dying, but it will help to keep us healthy and positive until we do!

We’re focusing on Tapas, the Niyama which means discipline. We’ll begin with a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ poem about death. We’ve been discovering this term that poetry takes us to a different place – there’s something about the rhythm which engages the mind in a different way…

Let’s begin our posture work with lying side-stretches. We’ll see how supple we feel in the hips and the side of the body. Then we’ll move through the boat, and on to the abdomen for cobra, locust and bow. Stretching back on to the knees, we’ll experiment with the variation on the swan.

Now let’s reacquaint ourselves with our old friend half-camel and camel. Backward bends are a great discipline for opening the front of the body, the heart and the heart chakra. then we can have a counter-stretch in the form of the child.

Following these with the mermaid will give the spine a good work-out, and we’ll complete our asanas with a balance – the cosmic egg.

Meditation, after the cool-downs, is our challenge at this time. Let’s see how we’re progressing with the discipline of counting backwards from 200.

Relaxation will feature the 22 body part exercise – Marmanasthanam Kriya.

Use the discipline of yoga to remain healthy and positive in a changing world!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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The discipline of returning to the breath

We have a beautiful poem on autumn to begin our practice this week. Take a breath and enjoy the autumn colours!

After the stretches and warm-ups, we’ll stand for the integral yoga breathing exercises. These help us to connect the mind, body and breath. They demonstrate the full use of the breathing apparatus.

Then on to forward bends with legs together, and then wide apart. We’ll follow this with a supported backward bend and the standing twist, Kati Chakrasana.

Now let’s attempt some balance postures – tree, dancer and eagle.

Moving with the breath, we’ll perform three Salutations to the Moon. Returning to the breath, focusing on the breath, becoming the breath, we establish a deep sense of calm.

Now let’s move back to the mat through the squat, and we’ll experiment with the crow posture. Finishing with the mermaid will round our asanas off beautifully.

Meditation is our challenge of this half-term. We’re using 200 as our starting block, and then we’re counting backwards on the breath. Breathe in think 199, breathe out think 199; breathe in think 198, breathe out think 198; continue this, but each time you have a thought return to 200 and start over.

Relaxation is Surya Kriya. Tune into the autumnal sun and fill yourself with its warmth and goodness.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Tapas – discipline

We’re moving into the very interesting yogic rule of Tapas. This is the third of the Niyamas with the Niyamas being the second of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The Niyamas are the observances or ‘do’s’, and tapas means discipline – it’s sometimes described as ‘indifference to discomfort’.

In actual fact, all of yoga practice hinges on this rule. We can’t receive the benefits of yoga practice unless we do it! In order to bring yoga into our lives, we need discipline.

We’ll begin today with some forward bends. We’ll be focusing on moving from the hips and not struggling from the shoulders. We’ll meet janu-sirsasana, paschimottonasana and then try a seated wide-legged forward bend. Let’s balance that with a backward stretch, our lovely strong purvottonasana, then work with seated twists.

Now we’ll turn our attention to our knees. Let’s try ‘butterfly knees’, ‘rocking buddha’, and the balance known as merudandasana. now on to the tortoise, before moving into the mermaid, and finishing our asana work with the cosmic egg balance.

Meditation will be all about discipline. This half-term we’ll use the meditation as our challenge. We’ll use the same meditation exercise each week and see if  we make progress. This exercise involves counting backwards from 200 – you think, therefore, 199 on the in-breath, 199 on the out-breath; then 198 on the in-breath, 198 on the out-breath; 197 on the in-breath, 197 on the out-breath. There’s a catch, though! If a stray thought enters your mind, you need to go back to 200 and start again. It’s a most interesting process. How far can you get before the mind draws you away?

As we approach the winter, we begin to miss the sun. So relaxation is Surya Kriya where we envisage our own personal sun hovering over the solar plexus.

Good to be back on the mat after the half-term break?

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Living contentedly

The human tendency is towards postponement, ‘when I get promotion I will be content’, ‘when I can afford a new car I’ll be content’, ‘when my kids grow up I’ll have time to be content’. Contentment, though, is about now. It’s about living on that line of contentment no matter what. That’s the yogic challenge in this rule – how do I maintain contentment here and now, regardless of circumstances?

This is where yoga practice in a class comes in. At each yoga class you are reminded of contentment, santosha, until it becomes your way of life.

We’ll stand for Malla Kriya at the beginning of our class. We’ll then perform three salutes to the sun, followed by forward bend, backward bend and standing twist, Kati Chakrasana.

On to a balance – the dancer’s pose – and then to another – the squat. Staying on the mat, we’ll run through our challenge pose of the half-camel, and then employ the use of the meditation stool to aid us with the full-camel. Featuring this asana has given us a good understanding of opening the front of the body, opening the heart.

Meditation will feature a hand movement. We rest the hands on the knees, then when we breathe in we open the hands (like a lotus flower blossoming) and as we breathe out we gently close the hands (as though the lotus is returning to a bud).

Relaxation focuses on the breath.

Next week is half-term, so no class on October 26th.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

When contentment becomes your way of life

Santosha, contentment, is our watch word for this half-term. Can we firmly establish the state of contentment right here, right now?

We’ll commence this week with bridges. Let’s move through them all with mindfulness – mindfulness on the breath and mindfulness on the movement of the spine.

Now to lying twists, and then we’ll take a look at the shoulderstand. Those for whom shoulderstand is not suitable will work with the column – taking the legs high in the air, whilst supporting the lower back on the hands. From shoulderstand to plough, and then we’ll work with the fish.

Let’s introduce a dynamic movement, taking ourselves from shoulderstand to seated forward bend. This we’ll repeat several times, if possible.

Now let’s go into the seated forward bend and hold it. Can you feel that stretch through the back of the body? We’ll balance that with  a wonderful stretch through the front of the body – inclined plane. And then we’ll explore seated twists. These are marvellous for increasing the suppleness of the spine and also for the digestive system. Last week we mentioned the gunas. Yoga practice encourages us to choose satvik foods, organic fruits and vegetables and pure water. These lead us to a balanced state, contentment.

Okay, now to our challenge pose – camel, ustrasana. Here the suppleness of the spine comes into play. How well can we hold that bay window?!

Let’s use the child as a counter pose, and finish off with another twist – the mermaid.

Meditation features the universal hymn, the eternal mantra, OM. Relaxation connects us with our breath. How contented do you feel at the end of the class?

For my weekly students, next week is class as usual – the following week is half-term. So, no class on October 26th.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Bite-sized chunks

We’re working through the Niyamas at a gentle rate. The plan is to digest bite-sized chunks of yoga philosophy – letting the thoughts and ideas mature within us. Right now we’re focusing on contentment, Santosha. Just spending a little time examining the line of contentment leads us there.

Let’s begin this week with the gentle sequence swan – cat – dog. After a short rest, we’ll focus on cat stretch and breath. Counting allows us to monitor that we’re using all three parts of the body fully as we breathe – the abdominal region, the thoracic region and the clavicular region. Back to our swan – cat – dog sequence, this time adding ujjayi breathing. Ujjayi is the victorious breath, and maybe we’ll be victorious over all the things that get in the way of us being content!

Now let’s meet skipping cat, and chasing the tail, before we resume our now very familiar sequence. After a suitable rest, we’ll attempt the cat balance, followed by the dog posture. We’ll hold it, having a wonderful stretch through the entire back of the body and receiving all the benefits of an inversion.

Now we come to our challenge pose. Half-camel and full camel do a wonderful job of opening our hearts!

Let’s rest in the counterpose and then adopt the child pose – balasana.

Meditation takes us to Tibet, and we’ll continue on to a relaxation where we focus on the breath. At the end of the relaxation we’ll examine how contented we feel…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

The line of contentment

Other people’s energies are constantly affecting ours. Returning to the line of contentment, in a purposeful way, allows us to be centred and aware. When we notice that our mood, our energies, are being disturbed, we have a yoga tool to bring us back to Santosha, (contentment). A simple mantra can help, ‘I return to the line of contentment’. Eventually just the realisation is enough for the return to take place.

We’ll begin this week with a poem by Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken’. Then we’ll stand for the Tree of Life breath. Standing forward bends beckon, followed by some backward bends and twists.

Let’s move from Warrior 2 into Triangle, pausing afterwards to check that we’re firmly on the line of contentment.

Now for an easy balance, before exploring the Mountain sequence.

Moving back to the mat through the squat, we move on to our challenge pose – the half/camel and full camel. The conterpose will take us neatly into the Child, Balasana.

Meditation features the breath. This is a Pranayama exercise known as Sama Vritti Pranayama, or square breath. And we continue the focus on the breath in the relaxation.

At the end of the class we’ll remember the mantra, ‘I return to the line of contentment’. Let’s take that into the week ahead, and use it as frequently as possible. Noticing also who disturbs our energies and when…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti