Aparigraha non-greed

Let’s study the last of the Yamas. The Yamas are the first of the Eight Limbs of Yoga as set down by Patanjali. Take time to consider the ancient yogic teachings and to recognise why this practice still works so well in modern times. Our focus here is Aparigraha, non-greed. We’ll approach our practice with a gentleness and an acceptance – not grabbing greedily at the practice and then rushing back out into our day.

Cat-stretch is a great place to begin. Resting on all fours, we’ll explore the range of the movement in the spine today. After a rest, we’ll proceed to introduce Sama Vritti pranayama into the cat movement. Now let’s add a leg movement and try the Tiger pose.

Swan – cat – dog is a great sequence which allows us to move inwards. We’ll use a dog pose to take us into standing and to Mountain pose. Now, let’s feel the earth beneath our feet and move smoothly into Mountain sequence.

We’ll follow this with the squat and then meet our challenge – can we sit neatly down on the mat without falling backwards?! (For those proficients who have mastered this movement, you can try going from squat to mat, from squat to mat etc.)

Meditation, after the cool-downs, is one taught by Ram Dass. Focus on just the tip of the nose. Notice the air as it enters the nostrils on the in-breath, and notice the air as it leaves the nostrils on the out-breath. If you mind becomes distracted and a thought occurs, follow that thought around as though it was a flower, and then return to the centre of the flower which is the tip of the nose.

Relaxation will feature the solar plexus and the colour golden-yellow. Let’s gently re-balance our energies. This will have a healing effect and will follow on from the mudra used in meditation – Shivalinga.

How good to be back to a new term! And the sun’s shining!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.

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Moon Breathing

This is our last week for focusing on Brahmacharya, non-misuse of energy. To the ancient yogis this study would have involved being celibate. Nowadays, we are more inclined to think of it as being faithful and not promiscuous. Being involved in many relationships at once would dissipate the energies. But Brahmacharya is so much more than this. The positive side of this study is to use the energy for good; to use the energy as a channel for love; to use the energy as a force for helping others.

We’ll begin with a breathing exercise while seated, moving from Anjali Mudra on the in-breath, to Even-Hearted pose on the out-breath. We’ll then emulate this movement with the knees. This will prepare us for the challenge pose, half-lotus.

Now let’s lie on the abdomen and refresh our memories with the creeping crocodile. This is a great way to open the hip joints. Then we’ll move into work with the cobra, locust and bow postures. Rolling on to the side, we’ll practise our side-stretches and Vishnu’s couch.

From resting on the abdomen, we’ll push back into swan and then attempt the sequence swan – cat – cobra. Then can we progress to swan – cat – dog – cat – cobra? Staying in swan, finally, we’ll move into the variation. This is marvellous for opening the shoulders and hips!

Last asana will be the mermaid. It will feel so good to finish on a twist.

For meditation we’re going to work with Moon Breathing or Chandra Bheedana Pranayama. When we clear and cool our energies, we can utilise them wisely; we can open up our third eye and remove the pirate patch from over it! The intuition will instruct us how best to use our energies, best for us, best for all beings, best for the planet.

Relaxation is about breathing in the sun’s energy and breathing out the moon’s energy. Let’s feel the subtle difference.

This week is the last of our Spring term. We return for the Summer term on April 20th. That is for a twelve-week term, but we’re tagging on the week that we lost to the snow day. Hence we finish on July 20th. Have a great break!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Connecting our energies with nature

We continue our study of Brahmacharya – non-misuse of energy. How can we help the Planet? How can we help all beings? How can we use our energies as a force for good?

We’ll begin with Kapalabhati, and then work on improving our challenge pose – half-lotus. Then standing for Malla Kriya and the Tree of Life breath.

Moving to forward bends, we’ll bow in gratitude to nature. And now let’s fully celebrate the moon with the Salutation to the Moon sequence.

Balance becomes a greater challenge as we get older and this is more reason to practise! Let’s meet the Tree Pose.

Back down through the squat for cosmic egg. This is a reminder of how the earth embraces and protects plants beneath its surface, until they’re ready to burst forth.

Meditation is silent repetition of the mantra, ‘OM Mani Padme Hum’. Let’s connect with all flowers everywhere as we focus on the lotus.

For relaxation we’ll place the left hand on the heart and the right hand on the lower abdomen. This is the position of self-nourishment. When we nourish ourselves, and build up our energies, we have more to give to the Planet and all beings.

Last class is next week – that’s March 23rd. We return on April 20th.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

A well-regulated life

Swami Sivananda describes Brahmacharya as self-restraint. The practice of this Yama leads to a well-regulated life. Many yoga teachers resist using the word ‘discipline’ to describe yoga practice. But a discipline it is. Patanjali shows us the way with his Eight Limbs. We’re looking in depth at the first of these Limbs – the Yamas. We’ve focussed on Ahimsa – non-violence, Satya, non-lying, Asteya, non-stealing, and now we’re looking at Brahmacharya, the non-misuse of energy. Swami Sivananda declares that, ‘Those who wish to attain the Imperishable Absolute should observe these canons uncompromisingly’.

We were snowed off last week, so we’ll do the class that I had previously planned for us. (Please refer back to the previous post.) Good to see how many of the Spring flowers survived the weather!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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

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