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

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The Niyamas or ‘Do’s

The Niyamas are the second of the Eight Limbs as set down by Patanjali. The Niyamas are the ‘observances’, the things that we need to do. The first of the niyamas is saucha, purity or cleanliness. To a yogi, inner cleanliness is even more important than outer cleanliness.

Today we’ll begin with kapalabhati, the skull-cleansing breath. This is a great spring clean for the lungs and for the head. Then we’ll come into cat pose and work with cat stretch and breath. After a brief pause, we’ll add uddiyana bandha to this practise. This is the abdominal lock and it’s practised after the out-breath. We suck in the abdomen right back to the spine. This is very helpful with our cleansing programme.

Let’s rest in swan pose, and then meet our challenge for this half-term. We’ll shine a light on the variation of swan. Here we open our knees wide, place the chest on the mat and the chin on the mat. We gaze forward between the hands.

Now back into cat where we’ll add some leg moves. This is great for toning the abdomen, and for cleansing away unwanted fat.

Mermaid twist comes next, followed by all the seated twists. These postures are designed to improve the efficiency of the digestive system – they speed up elimination and make it more thorough.

Let’s try a strong stretch in the form of inclined plane or purvottonasana. This will cleanse away stale energy and blockages from the spine and the back of the body. Then a seated forward bend, paschimottonasana will complete our asana practice and cleanse the mind.

Meditation is a visualisation. We’ll take ourselves under a waterfall, imagining the crystal clear water cleansing our auras, our bodies, minds and emotions.

In relaxation we’ll meet anu loma viloma kriya – here we work with prana on the in-breath and apana on the out-breath. This is a superb way to balance the energy of the in-coming and the out-going, and has sometimes been described as the worry-absorbing exercise.

Don’t forget to use a tongue-scraper every morning, first thing!

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

Understanding energy

We’ve been studying the three main energy channels and the flow of kundalini. The mantra used by those who practise kundalinin yoga is, ‘OM Namo, Guru Dev Namo’. It can be translated as, ‘I call on the infinite creative consciousness.I call on the divine teacher within and without.’
We’ll begin this week with kapalabhati. This is a kriya and a pranayama technique. It’s known as the ‘skull-shining breath’.
From seated we’ll go into a deep forward bend, and then we’ll work with all the seated twists. Let’s return to the deep forward bend. And now we meet a balance in the form of the cosmic egg.
Our challenge pose at the minute is downward-facing dog. Let’s start in cat and then use the energy to move up into dog. While there we’ll play a little. We’ll bend one knee while stretching the back of the other leg, we’ll shake each leg in turn, we’ll stretch one leg out as long as possible. Resting in the counterpose gives us time for pause, and then we’ll resume a solid dog pose. From there we’ll stand.
Let’s try a deep forward bend in standing position, and follow that with a backward bend and twists.
Coming back to the mat through squat, we’ll move into cool-downs. Our meditation this week is a visualisation. Relaxation will feature the sound of ‘So’ on the in-breath and ‘Ham’ on the out-breath.
OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Twist, twist and twist again

We’re continuing our focus on Karma Yoga. To serve our nervous systems, digestive systems and our spines, we’ll be working with twists.

The reading is an old Hindu rhyme: “Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a characteristic. Sow a characteristic, reap a destiny.”

Let’s begin with lying twists. We’ll explore all forms. Next, we’ll move into nose-to-knee poses. Apanasana will be our challenge pose for this half-term. We’ll repeat the twist postures before moving on to bridges. A third repetition of twists will follow the bridges.

Coming up through the boat, we’ll proceed with seated twists. We’ll explore all forms. Then we’ll move into a forward bend, before repeating the seated twists. A backward bend will allow the spine to stretch out thoroughly before we repeat the twists again. We’ll finish the practice with the mermaid pose.

At a convenient point in the practice, we’ll use Kapalabhati.

Meditation is ‘sitting in your heart’ – the place from whence unconditional love springs.

Relaxation is going to focus on the breath, breathe in peace, breathe out love.

Remember Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that the world needs your happiness, so BE HAPPY!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Bringing ourselves into a meditative place

We’re continuing our focus on raja yoga. We’ll begin our practice in relaxation pose, thinking the sound ‘OM’ on the in-breath and ‘OM’ on the out-breath. Then, after the stretches and warm-ups, we’ll sit for kapalabhati.

Standing, we’ll review the mountain pose before doing three rounds of salute to the sun. Having returned to the mat through the squat, we’ll attempt the crow balance, followed by the gate sequence. (There’s a sitting version for anyone with knee issues.)

Moving on to the abdomen, let’s spend time with the cobra, locust and bow. Then it’s time for a lovely counter-stretch in the form of the swan, and its variation.

After the cool-downs, we’ll sit for meditation – silent repetition of ‘OM MANI PADME HUM’.

During the relaxation, I’ll sing the GAYATRI MANTRA to you.

This practice is designed to bring us to a meditative state of mind. How long will it last?!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Pranamaya Kosha

There are five sheaths or koshas. Over the last two weeks we have been focusing on Annamaya Kosha, the physical body. and now we’re moving on to Pranamaya Kosha, the energy sheath. This one joins with Annamaya Kosha to form the Gross or Dense Body, and is supported by the practice of pranayama.

We’re going to begin with the Complete Yoga Breath, Mahat Pranayama. Then we’ll sit for the practice of Kapalabhati. (This is the skull-shining breath. It clears the head and does a wonderful job of toning the abdomen!)

We’ll work with butterfly knees, rocking buddha, Merudandasana and the beautiful tortoise, and then we’ll rest while working with Ujjayi Pranayama.

On to the mermaid now, and then to the variation on the swan, Hamsasana, which is our challenge pose of this half-term.

We’ll use downward dog as a transition pose to standing and there we will practise the Tree of Life Breath done with Ujjayi Pranayama.

Let’s move on to Warrior 2, allowing it to lead us into Triangle. And now for a balance!

Back down to the mat through the squat and we’ll practise the Bee Breath, Bhramari.

For the meditation we’ll try Sama Vritti Pranayama, the square breath, remembering that it is Pranayama that supports the Pranamaya Kosha.

Relaxation will be Anu Loma Viloma Kriya, which works with the energy sheath.

The reading this week is an old Hindu Rhyme.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti