Cleansing your space

We can’t discuss Saucha, cleansing, without addressing the idea of clearing our space. New folk always wonder why we take our shoes off at the door of a yoga hall, centre or ashram. This action is about cleansing. Our footwear touches the ground that we walk on in the everyday world. Removing our footwear reminds us to leave our everyday world outside. It’s an act of humility, too, as we respect the traditions and philosophies of yoga practice. From a practical and cleansing point of view, removing the shoes means that we leave the rain, dirt and impurities outside of our yoga space!

We discovered last week that three of the Shat Karmas are concerned with the digestive system. Let’s therefore begin this class with Pawanmuktasana 2. This works on the digestive system and tones the abdomen. On to the shoulderstand and plough postures, and then we meet the fish. This posture is great for the respiratory system – another area which requires cleansing.

Nose-to-knee poses have featured prominently in our saucha work. we’ll move from them into the bridges and then proceed to supine twists. The boat pose will take us to sitting where we’ll focus on more twist postures.

Now let’s come into cat pose where we’ll employ uddiyana bandha, the abdominal lock. We’ll rest in swan, and then reacquaint ourselves with our current challenge – the variation on the swan. Such a big cleanser for the heart!

Meditation is in four parts. You begin by focusing on your name – ‘I am Carole Kerton, I am Carole Kerton, I am Carole Kerton’. As you repeat your own name, over and over again, visions and flashes will come to your mind from you past and your life. Then you move to repeating, ‘I am Carole, I am Carole’, so just using your first name. Different flashes may come to your mind. Move now to ‘I am, I am’, and observe the shift in your mindset. Finish with the repetition of ‘So-Ham, So-Ham’. This means, ‘I am that I am.’ This is the sound of the breath. SO represents the cosmic consciousness, and HAM represents the individual consciousness.

Relaxation is our aura cleanser and energy balancer, Anu Loma Viloma Kriya. Yoga practice cleanses the space in which we work. Chanting around your home, and playing the Gregorian chants, is a great way of cleansing your living space.

Last day of term is July 20th.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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Six Acts of Purification

In Hatha Yoga, there are six acts of purification or Shat Karmas. These are often referred to as Kriyas and they are as follows:

NETI – nasal cleansing

DHAUTI: body-cleansing,(tongue-scraping falls into this category)

NAULI: abdominal cleansing (the first step towards this is mastery of the abdominal lock)

BASTI: colon cleansing

KAPALABHATI: skull cleansing

TRATAK: cleansing for the eyes

We’re focusing on the first of the niyamas – Saucha. All of the above practices relate to saucha, which means cleansing or purification.

Let’s begin with one of the Shat Karmas – kapalabhati. This is a pranayama technique as well as a kriya. We’ll then proceed to Malla kriya and then work with the abdominal lock, Uddiyana Bandha. This is the first step to Nauli, another of our Shat Karmas.

Salute to the Sun follows. Let’s try three rounds. Three of our Shat Karmas are concerned with the digestive system, and this sequence is great for getting everything moving!

Now for a balance. We’ll meet the Dancer’s pose. All of yoga practice shows us the liberation that can be gained by establishing healthy discipline. This pose is wonderfully expansive and free.

Salute to the Moon, practised three times will take us into a gentle place where we calm and cleanse the mind.

Back down to the mat through the squat and on to all fours for the Cat stretch and breath. Let’s add the abdominal lock at the end of each out-breath.

Pushing back into Swan to rest, and then we come to our challenge pose – the variation on the Swan. How are we doing? Gaining flexibility? Opening the shoulders, hips and, most importantly, heart?

Meditation is another Shat Karma. This time Tratak to cleanse the eyes.

Relaxation is another Kriya – Anu Loma Viloma Kriya.

It’s so interesting to explore inner cleansing in our sessions. In the West we’re so engrossed with outer cleansing…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Do’s and Dont’s

So the first of the Eight Limbs of Yoga is the YAMAS or ‘Don’ts’:

AHIMSA, non-violence

SATYA, non-lying

ASTEYA, non-stealing

BRAMACHARYA, non-misuse of energy

APARIGRAHA, non-greed

The second of the Eight Limbs of Yoga is the NIYAMAS or ‘Do’s:

SAUCHA, cleanliness

SANTOSHA, contentment

TAPAS, self-discipline

SWADHYAYA, self-study

ISHWARA PRANIDHANA, recognising that there are higher energies

If children were brought up to REALLY understand these five Don’ts and five Do’s, the world would change forever. If adults lived by these five Don’ts and Do’s, children would REALLY understand them.

Food is medicine

On this ‘Yoga Prescribed’ blog, we have had a romp through a variety of foods which have medicinal value. Yoga teaches us to be aware; to listen to our bodies. The more in touch with the body that we become, the more we are able to read the signals. I develop a headache in a specific place if there is not enough oxygen in the room. I develop a headache in a different place if I am dehydrated. In both cases, the headaches disappear immediately once I have fixed the problem. Listen to your body.

Including a variety of foods in the diet will take care of your nutritional needs. Eat a rainbow of vegetables. If you are drawn to a certain fruit or vegetable, eat it. Your body is telling you what it needs at this moment. For instance, you might find that you are fancying carrots and oranges. Yes, you might need betacarotene and vitamin C, but on a more subtle level your sacral chakra could be out of balance. You might need more of the colour orange in your life. Listen to your body.

Always remember that the way you eat matters, too. Yoga teaches us about the three gunas. These are qualities or constituents of nature. Eating in a rush is rajasic. When you are busy, busy, busy, it is not an appropriate time to eat. Eating because you’re bored and indolent is tamasic. You’re feeding your emotions, not your body. However,eating when you are calm and balanced is sattvik. You have time to consider your food and what your body needs. You eat slowly and with appreciation. Listen to your energies…Listen to your body.

‘Food is medicine’ is an ancient Chinese proverb, and it is still so true today.

Yogurt

Yogurt has been around forever. I got into making my own when we lived in the States. Live or ‘bio’ yogurts contain health-giving bacteria which synthesise B vitamins, biotin, folic acid and B 12. They keep the bowels regular and increase the absorption of calcium and magnesium. The good bacteria in live yogurt kill the bad bacteria that cause food poisoning. It is essential to eat a yogurt everyday when taking antibiotics.

Yogurt is an excellent source of vitamin B, keeping up the spirits, and calcium. It also supplies vitamin D , which is essential for the absorption of calcium. Buying plain yogurt gives you a clean canvas. You can add your own organic fruit, so you know exactly what is in it.

Turmeric

Indian Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe turmeric for eyesight, rheumatism, arthritis and liver problems. It is a spice which should be in daily use as it provides substantial amounts of highly protective and immune-boosting antioxidants. Research has shown that one of its natural constituents, curcumin, is very powerful in cancer prevention and treatment.

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family. It is grown for its root, and is used extensively in curry recipes. Make sure you have this wonderful medicine in your spice rack!

Tomatoes

Tomatoes were introduced to Europe by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. They are rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids such as betacarotene and lycopene. They contain vitamins C and E, and so protect the heart, the circulatory system and the body against cancer. They are low in sodium and high in potassium, thus are helpful with conditions such as high blood pressure and fluid retention.

Canned tomatoes lose very little of their nutritional value, so always keep some in the larder. The lycopene contained in tomatoes protects men against prostate cancer. Tinned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato ketchup and sun-dried tomatoes are all important nutritionally. They protect men and women against heart disease. I love cherry tomatoes! So much nicer than sweets!