Welcome the royal guest

Imagine you’re expecting a cherished guest – royalty perhaps or a much revered teacher – you would want to clean every corner. You would want to open all the windows, freshen and air all the spaces. And then you would want to stand open the gates and the doors and roll out the red carpet. This is exactly how it is with PRANA. The magic ingredient to yoga practice is PRANA, life-force, life-giving energy. The practice which actions the magic is PRANAYAMA.

We’ll begin this week’s practice with kapalabhati. Having cleansed our breathing apparatus and cleansed our skulls, we’ll move on to cleansing and unblocking all the joints of the body. Let’s work with Pawanmuktasana 1, which is the anti-rheumatic exercise. We move through all the joints of the body, methodically, working from the toes to the neck. Each movement is repeated 5 times.

Then we’ll work to cleanse our digestive system’s with Pawanmuktasana 2. This is the exercise where we work, methodically, through the entire digestive system. We’re preparing for the royal guest!

Before we move from lying on the mat, let’s practise the Eagle. We found last week that working with this quite challenging balance posture whilst safely lying had enormous benefits! We could really ‘feel’ the posture without anxiety about tumbling. That foot readily tucks behind the other calf whilst prone!

Now we’ll meet three movements from Pawanmuktasana 3. This is the energy-release group of movements. How cleansed and cleared do we feel? Can we go lightly into our challenge posture?

In meditation, we’ll visualise preparation for the royal guest. We’ll allow ourselves to understand the magic of PRANAYAMA in a deeper way. We will have the summer holidays for processing this essential part of yoga practice, and really understanding the PRANAYAMA techniques.

Relaxation is Surya Kriya. Let’s fill the energy reservoir in the solar plexus with wonderful PRANA. Surya means ‘sun’ and solar plexus means ‘the place of the sun’.

This is our last class of the summer term and this yoga year. It’s been a good one! We’ve looked, in depth, at Patanjali’s first 4 limbs. Have a great summer. I shall still post on the blog, and look forward very much to seeing you back on your mats on September 13th.

Meanwhile, only one week until the annual retreat! Yay! How I love reuniting with our larger yoga family…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

 

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Patanjali’s 4th limb – pranayama

For this half-term we’re studying pranayama – the 4th of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs. Pranayama comes from two Sanskrit words: ‘prana’ which is life-force, life-giving energy, and ‘yama’ which is discipline. Pranayama is the practice of gathering, storing and using wisely the life-force all around us.

We’ll begin focusing on prana during the short relaxation by imagining a golden light entering us with each in-breath.

After the warm-ups, we’ll work with kapalabhati. This is both a pranayama technique and a cleansing action. Then we’ll stand for the tree of life breath using ujjayi breathing. Ujjayi is performed by half closing the throat. Whilst using breathing exercises to draw in prana from the air, we also remember that pranayama is not simply about the breath. We gather prana from the earth, the sun, the natural good food that we eat and pure water as well.

On to some work on our challenge pose for this half-term. The eagle pose is a tricky balance, and we’ll examine it in some detail. This will be followed by standing forward bend, backward bend and twist, before practising warrior 2 into triangle.

Passing through the squat we”l return to the mat. Now for some work with pawanmuktasana 3. We’ll ‘pull the rope’, ‘churn the mill’ and ‘row the boat’. These exercises are great for releasing blocked energy. We’re reminded that prana cannot flow through a blocked area.Our asana work in the previous half-term convinced us that one of yoga’s maim aims is to open and release.

Meditation is SA – TA – NA – MA. We touch the index finger with the thumb as we internally say ‘SA’, middle finger for ‘TA’, ring finger for ‘NA’, and little finger for ‘MA’. all this with the right hand while the left hand adopts chin mudra. This meditation exercise rearranges the furniture of the mind! Even the mind must be cleared to allow prana to flow through.

Relaxation is all about clearing, too. This is anu loma viloma, which is great for balancing the energies.

Have a great weekend! Big welcome to my new followers…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Exploration of Self

To quote from ‘The Spirit of Yoga’ by Cat de Rham and Michele Gill, ‘ASANAS are not just stretching exercises. They are a feeling – and exploration of Self’.

We’re studying the third of the Eight Limbs – asana. We’ll begin practise with Kapalabhati. This pranayama technique is a wonderful preparation for our asana practice. Then on to all fours for one of the best known and best loved postures – the cat. We’ll work with cat stretch and breath, add ujjayi breathing to the movement and then progress to the knee to nose move on all fours.Now let’s try wagging the tail, hydrant and skipping cat.

Resting in swan, let’s find a way of remembering the Sanskrit name for this asana – HAMSASANA. ‘On HAMpstead Heath there is a pond where beautiful swans glide all day’. HAMSASANA.

Now on to downward-facing dog, and through that to standing. Here we reunite with our challenge of this half-term! We’re endeavouring to master salute to the sun and to perform it effortlessly and gracefully.

We’ll complete our asana practice with the four posture balance sequence.

Meditation is a visualisation – sunrise on a far distant beach. A figure stands at the edge of the sea facing the sun and performing surya namaskar – salute to the sun. The grace and rhythm of the movement is mesmerising, and you watch until you become one with the figure, one with the sunrise, one with the beach, and one with all that is…

Relaxation features surya kriya. Our own personal sun hovers above our solar plexus…

Half-term is May 31st, so no class that week.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Deep Peace

The reading this week begins with ‘deep peace of the running wave to you’. It’s a celtic benediction and connects us to our sanskrit mantra ‘OM Shanti’.

We’re seeking the peace of Iswara Pranidhana – the certain knowledge that there are forces greater than ourselves.

Let’s begin with the side-stretches, and then sit for kapalabhati. We’ll lie on our abdomens and explore all forms of cobra, before moving into locust and bow. Then we’ll spend a little time with creeping crocodile…

Coming up into swan, and then the glorious variation on swan. How wonderful this posture is for righting the shoulders!

And now we come to an in-depth look at downward-facing dog with corrections. We’ll finish this focus with downward-dog into upward dog several times and then rest in the swan variation. So good for hips, shoulders, back, brow chakra…

Let’s finish with a twist – the mermaid.

Meditation will feature the reading once more – ‘deep’ on the in-breath and ‘peace’ on the out-breath. Relaxation will use the focus on the breath also. Each time we breathe out we let-go and sink down into the mat. Feel like melted chocolate at the end of that?!

Next week is the last class in this term – that’s April 5th. Then we return for a 12 week summer term on April 26th.

Here comes some more peace for you – OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Yoga means union

Namaste.

We’re studying the last of the Niyamas. Ishwara Pranaidhana means to have awareness of forces greater than ourselves. I’m beginning this week’s class with a reading by a maori. It says it all for me – it explains our struggles and our eventual understanding. It explains that life, like yoga, is about connecting, joining, uniting with all that is.

We’ll start with kapalabhati, Then move on to malla kriya. Lots of focus on the breath today, as we then progress to the tree of life breath with ujjayi pranayama technique.

Now let’s get into our asana work with a forward bend, backward bend and twist.

Warrior through to triangle greets us next on the list and then parsvottonasana – deep backward bend, forward bend, and backward bend once more.

Let’s try a balance – the tree. Then we’ll approach our challenge pose, downward dog, from the other direction. Coming down into dog instead of up into it gives us a fresh perspective. After some examination of the dog, we’ll finish in child pose.

Meditation takes us straight to union – OM on the in breath and OM on the out. Relaxation brings us into complete balance -Anu Loma Viloma Kriya.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti offers us a deep peace and understanding that we are all one. Until next week…

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

Concluding our half-term on saucha

I’m guessing you’re all pretty familiar by now with the idea that saucha means cleansing, purification! We’ll begin this our last class of the term with kapalabhati. It’s a great cleanser, being the skull-shining breath. Then we’ll stand for the Sun Breath. Now this one’s a superb cleanser for the aura – the energy field.

Let’s celebrate the summer with three salutations to the sun, followed by chanting the seed sounds. This practice is great for cleansing the chakras. Then we’ll work with three salutations to the earth and again chant the seed sounds.

Moving through squat (our go-to posture to take us to the mat), we’ll meet the camel pose. This beautiful posture allows us to open and cleanse the heart. Resting in swan will take us neatly into our challenge pose. Last time now – one big effort – variation on the swan has so improved!

We’ll complete our asanas with the mermaid. It’s always good to finish on a twist, and we know that twists are incredibly efficient at improving the digestive system. We think of saucha as we speed up elimination and make it more thorough.

Meditation is Bindu Kriya. This is a form of tratak which is one of the shat karmas – the six acts of purification. Closing the eyes you visualise a velvety blackness. Place a white square on the darkness and then draw a black spot in the centre of the white square. Focus on that black spot, bindi or bindu. This practise will cleanse the mind of it’s busy monkey-chattering. it’s enormously helpful for improving the memory, too.

Relaxation is Anu Loma Viloma Kriya. We’ve practised this relaxation technique throughout this half-term. The repetition will have allowed us to fully appreciate its benefits. They are many, but you may have noticed that it cleanses away worry, and allows us to totally relax on all levels.

Do have a brilliant summer holiday, and continue your cleansing. I look forward to our autumn term which begins on September 14th. Love, light and blessings, Carole.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti