‘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.

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‘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.

PRANAYAMA

The fourth limb of yoga, and such an important one, is Pranayama. This is the study of gathering, storing and utilising wisely the life-force or life-giving energy. It is often, incorrectly, defined as breathing exercises. Prana IS gathered from the air that we breathe, but we also gather prana from the good natural organic fruit and vegetables that we eat, from the pure filtered water that we drink, from the sun and from the earth.

Pranayama techniques strengthen the respiratory and cardiac systems, improve oxygen uptake and the circulation.There are, in fact, over a hundred and twenty different Pranayama techniques, but my three mainstays are brahmari, the bee-breath, kapalabhati, and ujjayi, the victorious breath. The bee-breath, where we hum the out-breath away, is so helpful for concentration. It is great to do it before meditation. It also clears the throat and the throat chakra, and the ears and sinuses. Kapalabhati is both a Pranayama technique and a Shat Karma. (It is one of the six acts of purification.) Here we pull in the abdomen sharply, to push the out-breath form the nostrils briskly. Then we relax the abdomen and the in-breath takes place quite naturally. (The out-breath is active, the in-breath is passive.) This technique clears the breathing apparatus, clears the mind and tones the abdomen. It is the skull-shining breath. Ujjayi breathing is where we half close the throat and hear the breath in the throat, rather than in the nostrils. Some say it sounds like a baby snoring, others say that it sounds like the sea coming into a shingle shore. It aids concentration, and helps us to become victorious over our struggles and our distractions.

Pranayama is an integral part of yoga practice, keeping us healthy on all levels, and fuelling our chakras or wheels of energy.

The fascinating brow chakra

The sixth wheel of energy is often referred to as the third eye. The brow chakra is known as AJNA in Sanskrit, which means to perceive. Its all about your intuition – think about that word for a moment. In…..tuition….(teaching from within.) This wheel of energy puts you in touch with your inner guru, or teacher. It is connected to the element of light, its colour is indigo (royal purple), and its seed sound is OM. Try turning your eyes upwards to the position of the third eye when you meditate.

Foods that might awaken the brow chakra include black grapes, blackcurrants, blackberries and black olives. However, listening to your intuition and working with awareness are the most effective ways to proceed. It’s rather lovely to create a PUJA, which is a ceremony or sacred place. Choose a peaceful corner in your home, and on a table or shelf place items which resonate with you at the time. If you wish to stimulate the brow chakra, have perhaps an indigo candle, some beautiful indigo tulips, a picture or photograph of a place where you have received insights and realisations.

Always source your food organically, and feel gratitude as you eat.

Big-hearted

The heart chakra, ANAHATA, balances the other wheels of energy. It is in the centre, balancing out the three lower chakras which are concerned with our life in a physical body on this earth, and the three higher chakras which are concerned with our higher intelligence, our spirituality, and our connection to Spirit World. Anahata means unstruck sound, and it is connected to the element of air. Its colour is green (sometimes rose pink) and its seed sound is YAM.

The heart chakra is all about unconditional love. That is love without judgement towards all people, all creatures, all beings and, of course, ourselves. Taking a walk in nature is a great way of surrounding yourself with the green ray. Having an emerald green cushion behind you works really well, or a green candle beside you. Eating green fruit and vegetables brings in the green colour, too, which will stimulate the heart chakra. Try green apples, green peppers, gooseberries, cabbage, spinach and spring onions. There are so many green vegetables! Is nature trying to reconnect us to our hearts? To encourage us to be more heart-centred? To be big-hearted? Respect nature by buying natural, organic foods…

Finding the joy

So, pranayama is the study of gathering, storing and wisely utilising prana or life-force. We gather prana from the air that we breathe, from the sun, the earth and from the food we eat and the water that we drink.

Prana fuels the wheels of energy known as ‘chakras’. We’ve already met the root chakra, Muladhara, so now lets meet the second wheel. This lies two inches above the base of the spine. It is called the sacral chakra, or Swadhistana. This wheel of energy is connected to the element of water. It is about the joy of living in a physical body; and about letting go. This is the chakra which awakens when you’re having real fun with with your yoga asana practice. It’s orange and its seed sound is VAM.

To find more joy in your life, eat orange foods. Try carrots, orange peppers and, of course, oranges! Do buy organic, but remember that eating rainbow foods is not just about the nutrients, it is also feeding you on the energy level!

Food for more thought

It is prana that fuels our wheels of energy, known as chakras. There are seven main chakras, and here we’re going to look at the root chakra. This is situated at the base of the spine. Its Sanskrit name is MULADHARA, and its colour is red. The seed sound or mantra of the root chakra is LAM.

This wheel of energy is concerned with our life here on the Earth; with being in a physical body. When we work with the root chakra we become grounded. Muladhara is responsible for the legs and the feet, and the way that we walk on this Earth. It is also connected to the base of the spine and to the organs of elimination. It is associated with our basic survival skills: live or die; fight or flight.

Red foods stimulate the root chakra. Try eating foods such as tomatoes, red peppers, strawberries, cherries and raspberries. (Always source organic.)

Yogurt

Yogurt has been around forever. I got into making my own when we lived in the States. Live or ‘bio’ yogurts contain health-giving bacteria which synthesise B vitamins, biotin, folic acid and B 12. They keep the bowels regular and increase the absorption of calcium and magnesium. The good bacteria in live yogurt kill the bad bacteria that cause food poisoning. It is essential to eat a yogurt everyday when taking antibiotics.

Yogurt is an excellent source of vitamin B, keeping up the spirits, and calcium. It also supplies vitamin D , which is essential for the absorption of calcium. Buying plain yogurt gives you a clean canvas. You can add your own organic fruit, so you know exactly what is in it.

Watercress

Hampshire, where I live, is the home of watercress. Indeed, we boast the Watercress Line, a lovely little steam train, which still runs from Alton to Alresford.

Hippocrates described watercress and its medicinal values in 460 B.C. He built the world’s first hospital next to a stream flowing with pure spring water so that he could grow fresh watercress for his patients. Nero, Hippocrates and even Henry V111 enjoyed this wonderful vegetable.

Watercress is packed with vitamin C. It was prescribed in the 1500s to cure scurvy. It is a powerful antibiotic, and fights off chest and urinary infections. Watercress is also a useful source of iodine, thus it is important for regulating the thyroid gland.

Always wash watercress thoroughly under running water, and do source organic. It’s great for sandwiches!

Sweet potatoes

I got into sweet potatoes big-time when we lived in the States. They are very popular in the Caribbean, and date back a long way. Indeed, Columbus brought them to Europe, and you will find them in every supermarket in England now.

Sweet potatoes contain starch, which is energy. They provide some protein, vitamin C, vitamin E and a huge amount of carotenoids, including betacarotene. They are considered to be strong in combating cancer.

Sweet potatoes are delicious in homemade juice. Try combining apple, celery, carrot and sweet potato.

Mashing this delicious vegetable with others, such as ordinary potatoes, parsnips or swede, is a great way to introduce them to children. Get them organically grown if you can.

Strawberries

There is an old wives’ tale that strawberries are bad for anyone with joint problems. In actual fact, they have an ability to increase the body’s elimination of uric acid, which aids arthritic joints and inflammation.

Tiny, wild strawberries grow in our garden. Until the early 1600s, these were the only strawberries known in Britain and Europe. 100g of this delicious fruit contains almost twice your daily requirement of vitamin C. They also contain a little iron. They alleviate fatigue and anaemia, and eliminate cholesterol. Strawberries keep the heart and circulation in tip-top condition as they contain antioxidants. They are believed to have antiviral properties, too.

Strawberries are always associated with the tennis championship at Wimbledon. A bowl of delicious strawberries. eaten on a sunny day, is a complete tonic for mind, body and spirit! (Do buy organic…)