The first four limbs of yoga

Shakta Kaur Khalsa describes the first four limbs as the ‘goods’ of yoga. YAMA: do good; NIYAMA: be good; ASANA: feel good; and PRANAYAMA: live good. We’ve been looking at the last of the Yamas, aparigraha, non-greed. Non-greed is all about doing good.

Let’s begin our practice this week with the Integral yoga breathing exercises. This is a great way to open the chest, to connect to the breath and to calm the mind.

Now we’ll connect to the earth by using our Salutation to theĀ  Earth sequence. Feel how centred you become. On to the three warriors – strong poses which strengthen the body, the mind and the inner spirit. Triangle pose follows the warriors, and reverse triangle, too.

How about the half-moon balance? It’s always a challenge. And then we’ll move through the squat to return to the mat. Here we meet another challenge – sit down with control and as quietly as possible.

It’s up on to the knees for the half-camel and full-camel poses, before completing our asanas with the mermaid twist.

We’ve been practising dynamic mudras, and this week we’re going to count mudra on the right hand. This is the practice of japa and we’ll use the well-loved mantra, OM MANI PADME HUM.

For relaxation, let’s imagine that we have a crystal deep within us. As we breathe in, the crystal grows larger and brighter; as we breathe out, we let go into sapphire blue. Such a deep rest…

Next week is class as usual – the following week is half-term. So, no class on June 1st.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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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

Sound and movement

Traditionally in the Christmas class we do something entirely different. This year is no exception. Are you wearing red and green?!

We’re going to combine sound with movement. As well as being great fun this is a marvellous tool for learning. We’ll commence with ‘OM Mani Padme Hum’ set to the tune of ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’ and with the movements. We’ll then move on to the colours of the chakras – each colour has a corresponding arm position. Then we’ll progress to the seed sounds adding arm positions here too. (LAM/VAM/RAM/YAM/HAM/OM/SOHAM.)

Now let’s put the focus on Patanjali’s Eight Limbs, adding movements. These actions cement the order of the Limbs in our minds.

We’ll be about ready to sit at this point and we’ll make ourselves comfortable for something entirely new – the Five Tibetan Warrior Syllables. These are accompanied by a focus on five of the chakras, omitting the Crown Chakra and the Root Chakra. It’s a marvellous routine which features the Four Immeasurables – Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity. What gifts to give to your family over Christmas! Let’s spread joy, love, compassion and equanimity far and wide!

From there we embrace the Pranava Om Routine which features Chin Mudra, Chinmaya Mudra, Adhi Mudra and Brahma Mudra. Our energies will be so light and our vibrations so high that we will sing the Gayatri Mantra from every cell of our beings!

You will be so ready for your glorious relaxation, and I might even sing you to sleep with another chant!

Happy Holidays! Enjoy your Christmas break. We return on January 5th for an eleven week term.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

The Alzheimer’s Solution

I was reading about a book by Dean and Ayesha Sherzai. It explains their research into Alzheimer’s disease and they give a list of ‘Six things to do right now’in order to prevent the disease. The first on the list is GIVE UP MEAT. This absolutely echoes our theme of Ahimsa, non-violence. Most yogis are vegetarian or vegan precisely because of the first rule of yoga.

This week we’ll begin with dancing legs and then move into an inversion, the shoulderstand. On to the plough and the fish, before working with nose-to-knee postures. We’ll follow these with bridges and then spinal twist. Coming to seated through the boat, we’ll move on to butterfly knees, our rather amusing balance, Merudandasana, and then we’ll work with the classical half-lotus posture. Our challenge is cow-face posture and I’m hoping that our previous work will have opened our hips well. This will serve us here. We’ll complete the asanas with cosmic egg.

Meditation is repetition of the mantra ‘OM Mani Padme Hum’ – the jewel in the heart of the lotus.

Relaxation is repetition again – this time OM on the in-breath and OM on the out-breath.

Next week is class as usual, but the following week is half-term. So no class on October 27th.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

More on Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti means love and selfless devotion.

We’re beginning with nose-to-knee challenge posture. Then we’ll continue with side-stretches and come to sitting through the boat. Checking that we’re up on the ‘sit-bones’, we’ll move into paschimottonasana, the east west stretch, followed by janu-sirsasana (all forms). Let’s do our purvottonasana back-stretch, before continuing with all the seated twists.

Butterfly knees next, with rocking buddha, merudandasana balance and the tortoise pose. Our last posture will be the cosmic egg – such a good balance, and it strengthens the abdominal muscles too!

During meditation, we’ll count mantra on our fingers. We’ll use the well-beloved mantra ‘OM MANI PADME HUM’.

Relaxation will be Anu Loma Viloma Kriya. This brings into balance the right and the left, the solar and the lunar.

Last class of this term next week, so that’s April 6th and 7th. We return on April 27th and 28th. This is for an 11 week summer term. The annual retreat this year is on July 28th/30th.

In true Bhakti Yoga spirit, I bid you farewell with love, light and blessings,

Carole xxx

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

Overview of the Koshas

This week’s class looks back at the five koshas or sheaths – the physical sheath, the energy sheath, the everyday mind, the intellect or intuitive sheath and the bliss sheath. We’ll explore the idea of splitting each day into five sections!

Standing, we’ll work with some tapping to remove energy blockages. Then try malla kriya, which is great for expelling excess carbon dioxide. Fresh and ready, we’ll perform three salutations to the sun.And we’ll follow this with a balance.

Moving back down through the squat, we’ll prepare for a series of forward bends, Paschimottonasana, Janu-Sirsasana and our wide-legged challenge. It will feel good to stretch backwards after that into Purvottonasana. Let’s complete our asanas with a twist and the neat little cosmic egg.

Pranayama will be alternate nostril breathing, Nadi Shodhana. And meditation will feature silent repetition of the well-beloved mantra ‘OM MANI PADME HUM’. Relaxation will be all about warming the core as we practise Surya Kriya.

Next week is the last class of our term. It’s the Christmas class, so we’ll all be decked out in red and green! We return after the Christmas break on Thursday January 19th and Friday January 13th 2017.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.