Cleanliness is next to Godliness

The yogi fully embraces both internal and external cleanliness. Saucha is Patanjali’s guide on this point, and as we progress with our yoga practice, we realise that cleansing the mind is crucial, too. Then we can be fit to concentrate on higher things.

We’ll begin with a focus on the breath as we perform a supine movement – opening and closing the book. This rolling from side to side, working with the breath, is a time to fully connect the mind to the body. To cleanse away the busy everyday thoughts and to become truly present. We’ll follow this with the nose-to-knee poses which aid with cleansing the digestion. Then we’ll move into an easy twist, and a tougher twist. Twists are great for speeding up elimination and making it more thorough!

Bridge movements help us to open the heart. Cleansing the emotions is all part of saucha.

Let’s rest in Deviasana, the goddess, before using the boat to come to sitting. We’ll meet another heart-opener here – the cobra – and then continue with locust and bow. These will be a great preparation for our challenge, the variation of the swan pose. What a great heart-opener this is! We’re opening the front and the back of the heart…

Moving on to our pranayama technique, brahmari, we’ll remain on the knees if possible. Coming forward as we hum away the out-breath is perfect for expelling stale air from the base of the lungs. Cleansing again! But brahmari also clears the throat and the ears. Let’s mention hopi candles at some point in this practice. They’re designed to remove wax from the ears in a gentle and natural way.

Meditation returns us to the idea of cleansing the emotions. We’re going to ‘cut the ties that bind’.

Relaxation allows us to clear and re-balance our energies. Anu Loma Viloma is a fitting completion to our practice, and we’ll go out into the world feeling clean, fresh and renewed.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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Structure then liberation

We’re focusing on the first of the Niyamas – SAUCHA, cleanliness or purity. Last week we talked about tongue-scrapers and this week we’ll look at the practice of neti – a most efficient way of cleansing the nasal passages.

Whenever we talk about inner cleansing, our go-to practice is Kapalabhati. So we’ll begin our class here. Kapalabhati is the skull-cleansing breath where we make the exhalation active and the inhalation passive. Let’s do three rounds with 20 sharp pull-ins of the abdomen in each round, expelling the air briskly from the nostrils.

From here we’ll stand for Malla Kriya. This is another cleansing practice. As we whoosh out the air through the mouth, we expel excess carbon dioxide. It is this excess which makes us feel tired.

On to the tree of life breath – yoga being like a tree is an analogy used in our reading. The structure which yoga brings to your life gives you a strong, supportive frame-work. When that’s in place, we experience freedom, liberation. We’re safe to explore fully. Let’s add ujjayi breathing to the movements in tree of life.

On to some standing forward bends. These are wonderfully cleansing and calming for the mind. We’ll follow these with twists, cleansing for the digestive tract.  Let’s try forward bends with the legs wide, and then repeat the twists. Yoga’s so great for getting everything moving! The best way to cleanse is to stimulate all the flowing systems in the body, to work with total awareness, and to keep the mind connected to the flow within the body.

We’ll return to the reference of the tree as we practice the tree balance and then move into the eagle. This will stimulate the lowest part of the body and is a great lead into another go-to cleansing practice – uddiyana bandha, the abdominal lift.

Taking ourselves down to the mat through squat, we’ll come into the all fours cat position and then resume our work with the challenge pose – the variation on swan. This is sometimes described as the squashed frog, which is rather unkind but does give you the right idea!

After the cool-downs, it will be time for meditation. We’re going to focus on the sacral chakra and work with its seed sound, VAM. The sacral chakra is associated with water so it fits well with our flow theme. It brings us in touch with our emotions and the cleansing of them.

Relaxation is our energy cleanser – Anu Loma Viloma Kriya. A ‘kriya’ is an action of cleansing.

Years ago, one of my students used to say that she came into class like an old wrinkled shirt, and I sent her out again all ironed and pristine! I do hope that you all feel that way after this class…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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

And Yoga asked

And Yoga asked:

“Why is it that people practise their yoga, attend the classes, understand the principles, yet they flee in the opposite direction the moment that a challenge occurs? I notice this particularly in reference to health problems.”

Susie had been practising and teaching yoga for so long that yoga had become an entity in her life. She caught herself saying, “Yoga tells us” or “Yoga teaches us” in class, just as though Yoga was (and is) indeed a person, a best friend, a guide, the oracle…

This is an excerpt from ‘Yoga Poses Questions’. This yoga novel is available from Amazon at £7.99 or on Kindle at £2.99. Enjoy some healthy reading!

‘Home from OM – the last yoga retreat’

My latest book is now available on Amazon! It’s a novel way to navigate the ageing process, and uses story to spread the teachings of yoga.

Buy your copy of ‘Home from OM – the last yoga retreat’ now! They’re selling fast…

Click on the cover to purchase.

mumyoga

‘Home from OM’ employs the ancient yoga technique of story-telling to put across spiritual teachings, the infinite wisdom. Following the progress of ten occupants of a residential home, we engage with their lives and their pasts. Can living in a yoga community bring grace and fulfillment to their last years? Could this be a way for the elderly to progress instead of diminish? Or will new challenges emerge from the experiment? Carole Kerton has been teaching yoga for forty-one years. She believes in using humour and anecdotes to facilitate learning. Whilst yoga supports all age groups, the elderly in Carole’s classes thrive on their practice.

Brahman is the friend and the refuge

Brahman is the friend and the refuge of all…

The Self is hidden in the heart of all creatures..

If the truth of these scriptures are meditated upon by a man in the highest degree devoted to God, and to his Guru as to his God, they will shine forth. They will shine forth indeed!

OM…Peace-peace-peace

Svetasvarara Upanishad.

.That brings us to the end of our study of the upanishads. When you train as a yoga teacher, you immerse yourself in three great works, ‘The Bhagavad Gita’, ‘Patanjali’s Sutras’, and ‘The Upanishads’. The ancient teachings guide our steps.

Isha upanishad to Kena upanishad

Isha upanishad completes with: ” Let my life now merge in the all-pervading life. Ashes are my body’s end. OM…O mind, remember Brahman. O mind remember thy past deeds. Remember Brahman. Remember thy past deeds.”

And Kena commences in a way to remind us again: “The power behind every activity of nature and of man is the power of Brahman. To realise this truth is to be immortal.”

Yoga is NOT a religion. Yoga is a way of life, built on truth and ethical beliefs. All the teachings lead us to an understanding of goodness, of  God, or Brahman, or the Supreme being. I refer back to Patanjali’s Eight Limbs. The second one, the Niyamas or ‘Do’s’ contains Ishwara Pranidhana – Awareness of forces greater than oneself.