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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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

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

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

Non-attachment, non-greed

We’ve spent this half-term looking at the last of the yamas, aparigraha. The Sanskrit word APARA means ‘of another’ and AGRAHA means ‘to crave for’. Aparigraha means ‘without craving for what belongs to another’. It can also mean not hoarding or accumulating.

So, let’s take this idea into our yoga practice – not grasping greedily, but allowing our yoga to come to us. We’ll tune in and go with the flow.

We’re starting with butterfly knees, rocking buddha, and the tortoise posture. Knees are all about fear, and fear of losing treasured possessions or relationships is what prevents us from fully embracing aparigraha. Yoga encourages us to love unconditionally, to give without expectation of reward, and to  demonstrate generosity of spirit.

More knee work, and more work to release fear, as we attempt to sit between the knees and then move into supine thunderbolt – suptavajrasana. And then we’ll come up on to the knees for half-camel and full-camel.

Now we meet cat pose in all its forms, and we’ll add ujjayi breathing too. Swan-cat-dog sequence follows this, and we’ll finally use dog to take us to standing. Now down to squat, and sit neatly. We’ll repeat this – dog to standing, squat to sitting, several times. And let’s complete the asanas with the half-lotus.

We’ve been exploring dynamic mudras. We’ll count mantra on our fingers this week, but this time using a neat way to think of the first four limbs of yoga – DO GOOD, BE GOOD, FEEL GOOD, LIVE GOOD. By adhering to aparigraha we’re doing good – to others, but also to ourselves.

Relaxation is a repeat of last week. Lots of people love this one – breathe in and imagine the crystal deep inside you becoming larger and brighter, breathe out and let go into sapphire blue.

Next week is half-term, so no class on June 1st. It’s a great opportunity for home practice, though!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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 the  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