Living contentedly

The human tendency is towards postponement, ‘when I get promotion I will be content’, ‘when I can afford a new car I’ll be content’, ‘when my kids grow up I’ll have time to be content’. Contentment, though, is about now. It’s about living on that line of contentment no matter what. That’s the yogic challenge in this rule – how do I maintain contentment here and now, regardless of circumstances?

This is where yoga practice in a class comes in. At each yoga class you are reminded of contentment, santosha, until it becomes your way of life.

We’ll stand for Malla Kriya at the beginning of our class. We’ll then perform three salutes to the sun, followed by forward bend, backward bend and standing twist, Kati Chakrasana.

On to a balance – the dancer’s pose – and then to another – the squat. Staying on the mat, we’ll run through our challenge pose of the half-camel, and then employ the use of the meditation stool to aid us with the full-camel. Featuring this asana has given us a good understanding of opening the front of the body, opening the heart.

Meditation will feature a hand movement. We rest the hands on the knees, then when we breathe in we open the hands (like a lotus flower blossoming) and as we breathe out we gently close the hands (as though the lotus is returning to a bud).

Relaxation focuses on the breath.

Next week is half-term, so no class on October 26th.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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When contentment becomes your way of life

Santosha, contentment, is our watch word for this half-term. Can we firmly establish the state of contentment right here, right now?

We’ll commence this week with bridges. Let’s move through them all with mindfulness – mindfulness on the breath and mindfulness on the movement of the spine.

Now to lying twists, and then we’ll take a look at the shoulderstand. Those for whom shoulderstand is not suitable will work with the column – taking the legs high in the air, whilst supporting the lower back on the hands. From shoulderstand to plough, and then we’ll work with the fish.

Let’s introduce a dynamic movement, taking ourselves from shoulderstand to seated forward bend. This we’ll repeat several times, if possible.

Now let’s go into the seated forward bend and hold it. Can you feel that stretch through the back of the body? We’ll balance that with  a wonderful stretch through the front of the body – inclined plane. And then we’ll explore seated twists. These are marvellous for increasing the suppleness of the spine and also for the digestive system. Last week we mentioned the gunas. Yoga practice encourages us to choose satvik foods, organic fruits and vegetables and pure water. These lead us to a balanced state, contentment.

Okay, now to our challenge pose – camel, ustrasana. Here the suppleness of the spine comes into play. How well can we hold that bay window?!

Let’s use the child as a counter pose, and finish off with another twist – the mermaid.

Meditation features the universal hymn, the eternal mantra, OM. Relaxation connects us with our breath. How contented do you feel at the end of the class?

For my weekly students, next week is class as usual – the following week is half-term. So, no class on October 26th.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Bite-sized chunks

We’re working through the Niyamas at a gentle rate. The plan is to digest bite-sized chunks of yoga philosophy – letting the thoughts and ideas mature within us. Right now we’re focusing on contentment, Santosha. Just spending a little time examining the line of contentment leads us there.

Let’s begin this week with the gentle sequence swan – cat – dog. After a short rest, we’ll focus on cat stretch and breath. Counting allows us to monitor that we’re using all three parts of the body fully as we breathe – the abdominal region, the thoracic region and the clavicular region. Back to our swan – cat – dog sequence, this time adding ujjayi breathing. Ujjayi is the victorious breath, and maybe we’ll be victorious over all the things that get in the way of us being content!

Now let’s meet skipping cat, and chasing the tail, before we resume our now very familiar sequence. After a suitable rest, we’ll attempt the cat balance, followed by the dog posture. We’ll hold it, having a wonderful stretch through the entire back of the body and receiving all the benefits of an inversion.

Now we come to our challenge pose. Half-camel and full camel do a wonderful job of opening our hearts!

Let’s rest in the counterpose and then adopt the child pose – balasana.

Meditation takes us to Tibet, and we’ll continue on to a relaxation where we focus on the breath. At the end of the relaxation we’ll examine how contented we feel…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

The line of contentment

Other people’s energies are constantly affecting ours. Returning to the line of contentment, in a purposeful way, allows us to be centred and aware. When we notice that our mood, our energies, are being disturbed, we have a yoga tool to bring us back to Santosha, (contentment). A simple mantra can help, ‘I return to the line of contentment’. Eventually just the realisation is enough for the return to take place.

We’ll begin this week with a poem by Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken’. Then we’ll stand for the Tree of Life breath. Standing forward bends beckon, followed by some backward bends and twists.

Let’s move from Warrior 2 into Triangle, pausing afterwards to check that we’re firmly on the line of contentment.

Now for an easy balance, before exploring the Mountain sequence.

Moving back to the mat through the squat, we move on to our challenge pose – the half/camel and full camel. The conterpose will take us neatly into the Child, Balasana.

Meditation features the breath. This is a Pranayama exercise known as Sama Vritti Pranayama, or square breath. And we continue the focus on the breath in the relaxation.

At the end of the class we’ll remember the mantra, ‘I return to the line of contentment’. Let’s take that into the week ahead, and use it as frequently as possible. Noticing also who disturbs our energies and when…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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

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