Eat with awareness

Saucha is our watchword for this half-term. Cleansing takes many forms from cleansing your aura when you take a shower, to playing the Gregorian chants to clear negativity from your living space. Three of the Shat Karmas – the six acts of purification – are concerned with the digestive system. Our reading this week urges us to ‘eat with awareness’, remembering that eating with full awareness puts us in touch with nature. And that is not just externally, but our own nature as well.

We’ll begin with Kapalabhati, the skull-cleansing exercise. Then we’ll stand for Malla Kriya, ridding ourselves of excess carbon dioxide. On to Uddiyana Bandha, a wonderful cleansing practice for the digestive system.

Now let’s move to some forward and backward bends. Our purpose here is to work ourselves into Parsvottoanasa, a posture which increases the strength and suppleness of the spine while improving the digestive flow and alleviating constipation.

Then we’ll use twists to work ourselves into reverse triangle.

Balance follows, moving towards Eagle pose, Garudasana. This is great for stimulating the lower abdomen! It also strengthens the knees, ankles and calf muscles. We’ll return to the mat using squat pose, and then move on to all fours for Cat. After the exhalation, we’ll engage all three locks or Bandhas.

Resting in Swan pose and then, of course, it’s time for the challenge – the variation of the Swan!

Cool downs take us towards meditation. Now, let’s repeat last week’s exercise. Folk had interesting experiences with this one…It’s in four parts, beginning with the repetition of your full name and moving towards So-Ham.

Relaxation is continuing our work with Anu Loma Viloma Kriya. (Remember that a Kriya is an action and often describes a cleansing action.) This exercise cleanses and rebalances the energies.

Next week is our last class of this term. Returning again on September 14th for a twelve week term. Keep cleansing through the summer, won’t you?

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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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

Annamayakosha

Let’s begin with the left hand on the heart and the right hand on the lower abdomen. The short relaxation is a time to let go of our busy lives and to step into the present moment.

After the stretches we’ll stand for Malla Kriya, the whooshing breath. And then we’ll meet some wide-legged forward bends. Let’s balance that with assisted backward bends and then standing twists. After resting in the mountain pose we’ll move into the mountain sequence. We’ll do this first of all with the arms shoulder width apart and then with the hands in ‘namaste’, Anjali Mudra. On to a balance with the leg extended.

Having returned to the mat through the squat, we’ll come on to all fours for the cat pose. Then back into swan, and the variation of swan. Now this is going to be our challenge pose for this half-term! It’s a good one, opening the hips and the shoulders very effectively. Returning to kneeling, thunderbolt pose, we’ll finish with a neat little twist.

After our cool downs we’ll meditate on the breath and a mantra. ‘I am well’ on the in-breath, and ‘I am safe’ on the out-breath. Then resting in our physical body, physical sheath, annamayakosha, we’ll run through ‘I’m relaxing my toes, my toes are relaxed…I’m relaxing my feet, my feet are relaxed’ etc.

The reading this week gives us a good explanation of the food sheath, annamayakosha.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Brighten your day

Bite-sized chunks of yoga theory

Brighten your day, when the world looks weary.

Upanishads, Eight Limbs and the Gita,

Quotes to make your temper sweeter.

Foods that help improve your health,

And lessons about the Inner Self.

Come and check out ‘yoga prescribed’,

Truths enlighten when well imbibed.

And if you feel by blog is worth a look,

You might also enjoy my little book!

‘YOGA PRESCRIBED’ by Carole Kerton. (£6).

‘Out of Brahman…’

We learn from the Taittiriya upanishad: “Out of Brahman, who is the Self, came ether; out of ether, air; out of air, fire; out of fire, water; out of water, earth; out of earth, vegetation; out of vegetation, food; out of food, the body of man. The body of man, composed of the essence of food, is the physical sheath of the Self.

From food are born all creatures, which live upon food and after death return to food. Food is the chief of all things. It is therefore said to be medicine for all diseases of the body…From food are born all beings which, being born, grow by food. All beings feed upon food, and, when they die, food feeds upon them.”

There! We have come full circle…Food is medicine!

From the ‘don’ts’ to the ‘do’s’

The second of the EIGHT LIMBS of YOGA is the NIYAMAS. These are the observances, the things that we should do to live a fulfilling, ethical life. The first of the Niyamas is SAUCHA, cleanliness. In the western world, we are very clean on the outside i.e showering, washing our clothes, hoovering our floors, but generally we are less concerned with the inside. Practises such as ‘neti’ or nasal cleansing are used by yogis. Tongue scraping is another favourite, and does really prevent some colds and infections. Eating nutritious, carefully chosen foods keeps our digestive tract clean and healthy. Many people nowadays are in to detox, which is helpful, focussing the mind an keeping the insides clean. Meditation is a powerful tool, used by all yogis, to clear and cleanse the mind. Yoga practice itself cleanses the energy channels and the aura.

There’s a lot to think about with this Niyama. We have been noticing the increase in rubbish thrown out of cars on the motorway. This is irresponsible and dirty. It goes against the Niyama, saucha. It is just as important to keep our neighbourhoods, our countries, our planet clean, as it is to keep ourselves clean! Dirt clutters the mind…

The seventh chakra

Now we come to the last of the wheels of energy. This seventh chakra is called SAHASRARA in Sanskrit. It means the thousand petalled lotus, its colour is violet (often white in classical texts) and some authorities say that it has no seed sound. Other authorities recommend using the sounds ‘So Ham’ to stimulate this wheel. So ham means ‘That I am’. It is the unconscious mantra that we repeat with each breath – so is the sound of the in-breath, and ham is the sound of the out-breath. So represents the cosmic consciousness , ham represents the individual consciousness.

The crown chakra connects us to a Higher Power, to Spirit World. It is all about our spirituality. In as much as we have stimulated and balanced our previous six chakras, then we are ready to open up to Sahasrara, which is located two inches above the crown of the head.

The prana that we gather through our connection with the Earth, with the Sun, with the food that we eat and the pure water that we drink, this prana is the fuel which runs the seven main chakras. In perfect health and well-being, the wheels spin freely and constantly, giving out energy and taking in energy.