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

Sound and movement

Traditionally in the Christmas class we do something entirely different. This year is no exception. Are you wearing red and green?!

We’re going to combine sound with movement. As well as being great fun this is a marvellous tool for learning. We’ll commence with ‘OM Mani Padme Hum’ set to the tune of ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’ and with the movements. We’ll then move on to the colours of the chakras – each colour has a corresponding arm position. Then we’ll progress to the seed sounds adding arm positions here too. (LAM/VAM/RAM/YAM/HAM/OM/SOHAM.)

Now let’s put the focus on Patanjali’s Eight Limbs, adding movements. These actions cement the order of the Limbs in our minds.

We’ll be about ready to sit at this point and we’ll make ourselves comfortable for something entirely new – the Five Tibetan Warrior Syllables. These are accompanied by a focus on five of the chakras, omitting the Crown Chakra and the Root Chakra. It’s a marvellous routine which features the Four Immeasurables – Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity. What gifts to give to your family over Christmas! Let’s spread joy, love, compassion and equanimity far and wide!

From there we embrace the Pranava Om Routine which features Chin Mudra, Chinmaya Mudra, Adhi Mudra and Brahma Mudra. Our energies will be so light and our vibrations so high that we will sing the Gayatri Mantra from every cell of our beings!

You will be so ready for your glorious relaxation, and I might even sing you to sleep with another chant!

Happy Holidays! Enjoy your Christmas break. We return on January 5th for an eleven week term.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Truth can be seen as a resonant field…

We’ve been dwelling on the yogic rule of Satya, truth. This week we’re going to focus on the spine, which is our support system. When the body is well, strong and supple, and we’re feeling in perfect balance, we can stand up for our truth.

Lets’s begin on all fours for the cat stretch and breath. We’ll count each part of the breath to ensure that we’re fully using the abdominal region, the thoracic region and the clavicular region. Then we’ll move into the swan-cat-dog sequence, which will form a link in our practice this week. Back to cat to add a leg movement which will help to strengthen the back and increase the flexibility of the spine. After a pause in the swan, we’ll repeat swan-cat-dog sequence. Now let’s come back to cat for the wagging of the tail. This is a great movement to release blockages from the lower back and hip region. When we feel the need to inhibit our inner truth, for fear of punishment or ridicule, we hold blocked emotions within the body. The lower back, indeed the entire back, expresses lack of support. Movement allows us to release the blockages. The word ’emotion’ is made up of E-motion. Movement releases feelings. And then we’re back to our swan-cat-dog.

Let’s use the dog pose to take us to standing and we’ll take ourselves into a moving meditation – Salute to the Moon. Feeling now in perfect balance, we’ll use the squat to return to the mat and visualise our way into the half-camel and the full camel posture. Then we’ll settle into the glorious counterpose, before continuing with the cool-downs, the meditation and the relaxation. Meditation focuses on the breath – imagine a crystal deep within your centre, as you breathe in imagine that crystal growing larger and brighter, as you breathe out imagine you’re letting-go into deep sapphire blue. The crystal represents the light of your truth – the sapphire blue is all about healing. As you breathe out, you let-go of all the tension that has been caused by having to repress your truth.

Relaxation will continue this good work as we move into ‘tense and release’.

Next week is the Christmas class. Such fun! Do wear your red and green…So that’s December 8th, the last class of this term. We return on January 5th for and eleven week term.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti