Know yourself through your yoga

This is our last week of studying swadhyaya. We’ve operated self-study in reference to colour therapy, sound therapy and lots of self-awareness. We’ve recognised that self-study also means reading yoga philosophy and the ancient texts. Let’s consider how we can tailor our own yoga practice so that our self-understanding becomes deeper and deeper.

This week we’ll learn more about ourselves through systematic movement. We’ll work with Pawanmuktasana 1, 2 & 3. These are the anti-rheumatic, anti-gastric and anti-blocked energy movements. Let’s work with focus and take our time to learn more about our bodies.

Then meditation is a repetition of the mantra, ‘I Am The Light’. This takes us back to the beautiful translation of ‘Namaste’ from the start of the class.

We’ll return to the breath for the relaxation – breathe in for 4, and out for 6.

It’s half-term next week, so no class on February 22nd.

Enjoy this fabulous spring weather, and the way the gardens are waking up!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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Know yourself

Swadhyaya teaches us to know ourselves. Yoga is a journey of self-discovery and a journey of Self-discovery. We work constantly with self-awareness.

We’ll begin this week with kapalabhati, the skull-cleansing breath. Then we’ll stand for Salute to the Sun and Salute to the Earth.

Down through squat for some forward bends including our wide-legged challenge pose. Then a good stretch into the inclined plane.

Let’s explore the bent knee yoga sit-ups before lying down for the shoulderstand, plough and fish. On to a resting pose – the jellyfish or little bear. Then we’ll come up through boat and proceed to cool-downs and meditation. Here we’ll ask ourselves the eternal question, ‘Who am I?’

Relaxation will be all about listening to our bodies – listen to your toes, listen to your feet, listen to your lower legs etc. We’ll give our bodies a really good listening to!!

Half-term is February 22nd.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Hug therapy

We’re continuing our work on self-study (swadhyaya) with a practice on hug therapy. Did you know that hugs instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation and anger? Did you know that holding a hug for an extended time lifts one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness? Did you know that hugs strengthen the immune system, boost self-esteem, relax muscles, balance the nervous system and, like laughter and meditation, teach us to let go and to be in the moment?

Let’s begin with the left hand on the heart and the right hand on the lower abdomen. This is the position of self-nourishment. After the reading which lists all the benefits of hugs, we’ll do our stretches and warm-ups and then work with nose-to-knee poses. Let’s hug our knees to our bodies.

We then move on to what I think of as opening and closing the book. It’s also opening the heart and then giving yourself a hug.

Through the boat to sitting where we’ll meet paschimottonasana, the deep forward bend. We’ll hug the thighs to the ribs…

Now we’ll adopt a wide-legged position for our challenge – another forward bend leading from the heart.

Let’s stand now and use the Integral yoga breathing exercises. These are great for opening the heart and illustrating the flow of giving and receiving.

Here’s another forward bend, but we’ll rotate the shoulders backwards and interlock the fingers. Feel how that opens your heart?

Passing back to the mat through the squat, we’ll take a good look at the hare pose – shashasana. Shoulders are rotated and, as we breathe, we move from pressure on the brow chakra to pressure on the crown chakra, all the time opening the heart chakra. We’re opening our wheels of energy to unconditional love.

After the child pose, we’ll look at cow-head posture. Then it’s cool-downs and meditation. Let’s use the heart mudra and ‘sit in our hearts’. How would it feel to live in that happy place, and to move through the world from that place?

Relaxation features the left hand on the heart again.

Homework is to give and receive lots of hugs this week!!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

 

Sound therapy

Continuing our work with Swadhyaya, which is self-study, brings us to the consideration of sound therapy. Can we get to know ourselves better by the use of mantra, chanting and repetition of the seed sounds?

We’ll begin our practice by sounding ‘OM’ three times. We’ll then lie down for the short relaxation and sigh away three breaths. I’ll sing the Gayatri Mantra to relax you all.

Once standing, we’ll employ Malla Kriya – the whooshing breath. As well as making a very satisfactory sound, this rids you of excess carbon dioxide which causes tiredness.

Now on to Salutation to the Moon. After each round we’ll chant the seed sounds beginning at the root chakra and working up to the crown chakra: Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam, Ham, OM, Soham.

Moving to the Mountain Sequence we’ll become aware of our feet rooted to Mother Earth. After each round we’ll sound the seed sound for the base chakra – 3 lovely loud Lam’s.

Then we’ll move to the sequence of poses which takes us from Warrior 2 into Triangle.These are powerful and fill our solar plexus chakras with prana, so let’s sound Ram – the seed sound for the solar plexus.

And now we’ll practise the Dancer’s pose. See how we look up to the Brow chakra – the seat of our intuition. We’ll sound the appropriate seed sound – OM.

Spreading the legs wide on the mat, we’ll practise a different form of our challenge pose. Can we go deeper if each out breath is accompanied by a loud sigh?

Through squat we move back down to the mat for Brahmari breath. Humming is a wonderful way to lengthen the out breath and to calm the mind.

Meditation features us all chanting the Gayatri Mantra. This is transformative.

Relaxation will feature the repetition of the seed sounds, but this time internally. Inner sound is deeply spiritual.

Do we know ourselves a little better at the end of this practice? Have we moved along the path of self-study? Try chanting while you’re waiting at the traffic lights, doing the ironing, cooking. Everyone benefits!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Colour therapy

In our pursuit of self-study (swadhyaya) let’s take a look at colour and the chakras. In the short relaxation we’ll breathe in red, then orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. These are the colours of the chakras beginning at the root. To which colour do you relate most today? Which one resonates with you right at this moment?

We can change our energies and our mood by using colours cleverly. It begins by observation: what colour have you chosen to wear today? What colour foods are you attracted to right now? Does a blue sky lift your spirits? Do yellow daffodils give you energy? Does a red scarf make you feel warm?

Let’s begin in dandasana, the staff pose.We’ll think of the chakras running up the spinal cord. Then we’ll work with a variety of forward bends, some with the knee bent and some with the legs straight. On to butterfly knees and the tortoise pose. Good. Now the lower back is well warmed up and we can try our challenge pose, wide-legged forward bend while holding the big toes.

It will feel great to have a strong stretch after that so we’ll practise purvottonasana, the inclined plane. Following that we’ll take ourselves into all forms of seated twists. Notice if any colours visit your mind.

On to all fours for the cat stretch and breath. This is a wonderful opportunity to balance the chakras and to increase the flexibility of the spine. Now for another beautiful stretch, the dog. Any colours come to mind?

We’ll use the dog to take us to standing, then meet the tree of life breath. Let’s use the pranayama technique known as ujjayi. We can do this with the eyes closed which will allow us to be receptive to visiting colours.

Back to the mat through the squat balance and, after the cool-downs, we’ll meditate using colour. On the in-breath we’ll imagine a crystal deep within us becoming whiter and brighter, on the out-breath we’ll imagine melting into sapphire blue.

For relaxation we’ll return to breathing in red, then orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. We’ll continue this visiting each chakra in turn as we breathe it’s colour.

Homework will be all about self-study. Notice the colours in your home. What do they tell you about yourself? Notice the colours in your wardrobe. Notice the colours of the flowers you like, the food you like, the birds you admire. As your awareness of yourself and colour develops, begin to explore how you can use this to promote well-being. Does wearing pink open you up to unconditional love? Consciously choosing to wear pink could enable you to put positive vibes out into the world…

My audio book’s going well! Check it out – ‘Home from OM’ is available to download from Audible and Amazon…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Swadhyaya – self study

Back to yoga tomorrow, gang!

This half-term we’re studying Swadhyaya. This is one of the niyamas and it means self-study. You’ll remember that the niyamas are the ‘do’s’, so yoga very clearly expects us to focus on inner observation. Self-study must begin with awareness and an understanding of the mind’s movements, the study of the nature of thought and the thinking process.

Let’s begin with the bridges – working mindfully, and appreciating the suppleness of the spine. Then we’ll curl in the other direction as we explore the nose-to-knee postures. Twists are a lovely way to reacquaint ourselves with our bodies after the long Christmas holidays. We’ll begin gently, and then move into a full spinal twist.

Coming up from lying through the boat, we’ll examine the flexibility in the hips with the butterfly knees. Then on to rocking buddha, sit-bone balance and tortoise.

Now let’s sit up straight and experience dandasana, before moving into a deep forward bend. We’ll finish with our lovely gentle balance – cosmic egg.

Meditation is the one taught by Ram Dass – I call it the tip of the nose meditation. This gives us a real opportunity for swadhyaya. Watch the mind and the mind’s movements.

Relaxation will call us to relax the right side of the body as we breathe in, and the left side of the body as we breathe out.

Homework will be to explore the idea of self-study in your own life. Is it possible to give yourself an opportunity each day to watch the mind?

If you like audio books, I now have an audio version of ‘Home from OM’ on Amazon!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Audio book

Very EXCITING that my audio book is now up on Amazon!I was thrilled that we made it by December 30th. It feels auspicious to complete 2018 with an accomplishment!

It’s an audio version of my book, ‘Home from OM – the last yoga retreat’. Check it out and see what you think!

Friends who commute have reported that they enjoy listening on the way to work…

Friends from my classes report that they enjoy hearing my voice. It takes them into ‘yoga mode’!

Friends with tricky eyesight report that audio books enrich their lives…

Friends who have super busy lives report that they listen to audio books while doing the ironing, cleaning and cooking…

Traditionally, yoga messages were passed down by ‘word of mouth’. They were shared in story form…

I very much enjoyed making this audio book for you all. I do so hope it proves memorable and helpful for you…

May 2019 be filled with magic, love and laughter. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti