Santosha continued

Namaste. We’re continuing our study of contentment, santosha, the second of the Niyamas. All classical yoga practice is based on the Eight Limbs of yoga which were set down by Patanjali. The Niyamas guide us in the way we interact with others, the vibe that we put out into the world. They’re known as the observances and encourage us to observe our own behaviour. Our world is in desperate need of more contentment!

We begin our class with a poem by Edward Thomas. Poetry has not only a message, but a soothing effect on the soul.

The breath is the bridge which carries us from that which is physical to that which is spiritual, so the breath will feature strongly in our practice. So will flow. Let’s work with nose-to-knee poses, followed by bridges. We’ll then flow in and out of a gentle twist.

Taking time to feel inner contentment before we move on, we’ll use the boat to take us to sitting. A forward bend meets us here, and we remember that forward bends calm the mind. A calm mind is a big step towards contentment. Let’s do a big backward stretch before moving into a seated twist.

Now up onto the knees for the half-camel and full camel poses. The full camel will be our challenge pose for this half-term. It’s so wonderful for opening the heart! Yoga’s magic is it’s ability to work on all levels at the same time. We open the heart on the physical level, the emotional level and the spiritual level.

We’ll follow the camel with the mermaid twist. Great to finish any asana series with a twist to re-balance the chakras, the wheels of energy.

Meditation leads us to ‘sit in our hearts’. We’ve been given the instruction, by the guideline of santosha, that we are required to be content, to actively seek contentment. Living in contentment is surely the best gift that we can give to the world and to those who we love.

Relaxation is all about the breath.

Have a great week filled with contentment!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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Santosha – contentment

Welcome back to the autumn term! Do hope that everyone has had a good summer, and that you’re keen to return to your practice.

We’re beginning our examination of Santosha, contentment – this is the second of the Niyamas. These in turn are the second of Patanjali’s Limbs. The Niyamas are the ‘do’s’, the observances. How excellent that we are instructed to seek and to fully experience contentment! This isn’t some sort of reward at the end of our busy lives; rather it is the constant on our journey. It’s easy to be content when everything’s going our way, but the challenge is to stay on the line of contentment when life becomes difficult.

We’ll begin our asana work with Dandasana, the staff. We’ll continue with a deep forward bend – Paschimottonsana. Following that up with a strong backward stretch in the form of Purvottanasana, and then moving into all the seated twists. Butterfly knees next, and let’s try rocking buddha. We’ll move backwards and forwards on the mat, bringing the pelvis in to meet the heels and then we’ll attempt our balance – Merudandasana. From here to some gentle work towards the Tortoise. This will prepare us to move into the half-lotus posture, Ardha-Padmasana. Mermaid pose, Bharadvajasana will be an excellent twist to complete our asana work.

Meditation features an inner examination of what we consider to be contentment. We’ll view the line of contentment from which we go up to happiness, joy, elation and we go down to depression, anxiety and despair.

Relaxation focuses on the breath. The breathing is our go-to tool to reach contentment.

How lovely to be back!

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

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

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

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

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