8,400,000 asanas

In the yogic scriptures it is said that there were originally 8,400,000 asanas, which represent the 8,400,000 incarnations every individual must pass through before attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Down through the ages the great rishis and yogis have modified and reduced the number of asanas to the few hundred that are known today.

We’ve been dwelling on the third of the Eight Limbs of Yoga – asana. Along the way we’ve learnt some of the Sanskrit names. We’ll begin our class with a nice easy name to remember – dandasana the staff pose. Then we’ll move to the forward bend – paschimottonasana, and on to the backward bend – purvottonasana. We have a beautiful figurine in the centre of the yoga room this week demonstrating purvottonasana, the backward stretch.

Still seated, we’ll work with all the twists, finishing on the easy twist – vakrasana. Now let’s try a wide-legged forward bend to open the hips before attempting the half-lotus posture – ardha padmasana – and the full lotus pose – padmasana.

I love the half-camel and full camel poses! Ardha (meaning half) ustrasana and ustrasana itself. Then resting in swan. Do you remember the Sanskrit name for the swan pose?! Let’s continue to the mermaid which is a variation of bharadvajasana.

We’ll finish our asana work with cosmic egg, moving into the boat. Do you remember the Sanskrit name for the boat pose?!

Meditation is sama vritti pranayama – the square breath. Asanas open the energy channels, and we’re now quite ready to employ prana, life-force, life-giving energy.

Relaxation features the 22 body part relaxation whilst lying in savasana.

Next week is half-term. So, no class on May 31st. Have a great week!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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Exploration of Self

To quote from ‘The Spirit of Yoga’ by Cat de Rham and Michele Gill, ‘ASANAS are not just stretching exercises. They are a feeling – and exploration of Self’.

We’re studying the third of the Eight Limbs – asana. We’ll begin practise with Kapalabhati. This pranayama technique is a wonderful preparation for our asana practice. Then on to all fours for one of the best known and best loved postures – the cat. We’ll work with cat stretch and breath, add ujjayi breathing to the movement and then progress to the knee to nose move on all fours.Now let’s try wagging the tail, hydrant and skipping cat.

Resting in swan, let’s find a way of remembering the Sanskrit name for this asana – HAMSASANA. ‘On HAMpstead Heath there is a pond where beautiful swans glide all day’. HAMSASANA.

Now on to downward-facing dog, and through that to standing. Here we reunite with our challenge of this half-term! We’re endeavouring to master salute to the sun and to perform it effortlessly and gracefully.

We’ll complete our asana practice with the four posture balance sequence.

Meditation is a visualisation – sunrise on a far distant beach. A figure stands at the edge of the sea facing the sun and performing surya namaskar – salute to the sun. The grace and rhythm of the movement is mesmerising, and you watch until you become one with the figure, one with the sunrise, one with the beach, and one with all that is…

Relaxation features surya kriya. Our own personal sun hovers above our solar plexus…

Half-term is May 31st, so no class that week.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Myths of the Asanas

Namaste

We’re focusing on the third of the Eight Limbs – asana. Our reading this week is about trees and comes from ‘Myths of the Asanas’.

We’ll begin with an inverted asana – the shoulderstand. We’ll continue on to the plough, and then work with the fish. This latter asana is great for anyone with breathing issues.

Coming up through the boat, we’ll work into a forward bend and backward bend. Then down on to the abdomen where we’ll meet three powerful asanas – cobra, locust and bow.

Resting briefly in the variation of the swan posture, we gather our energy for our challenge – 3 salutes to the sun. This sequence contains 12 asanas and we’re endeavouring to become more graceful in this classical salutation.

We sit for meditation after the cool-downs. We’re going to focus on the base or root chakra which connects us to the Earth and our physical life on the Earth. We’ll draw up a red glow from the base of the spine on the in-breath, and take down that red glow on the out-breath.

Relaxation is concerned with our bodies lying on the mat. Each time we breathe out we feel the physical body sinking down into the Earth.

Asanas strengthen the body, make it more flexible, and work with all the internal organs and systems. Choose an asana from this week’s selection and work with it. Examine it’s benefits for you and your life…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

The third limb

More work on the third of the Eight Limbs – asana.

The sun is shining and, guess what?, we’re beginning our class with the challenge – salutation to the sun! It’s our challenge to practise surya kriya until it is graceful, smooth and effortless…

Now let’s focus on a deep standing forward bend. We’ll repeat this but add a shoulder rotation. Then on to a supported backward bend. Now we’re limbering up! The standing twist will be helpful here. It increases the suppleness of the spine, trims the trunk, and aids with the digestive process.

On to some balance asanas – the tree, the dancer and the eagle. The balance asanas are designed to give us strength, steadiness and focus.

The mountain sequence features the movements we’ve already worked with in this class – forward bend, backward bend, twist, but with the addition of a side-stretch. Great for releasing frustrations!

Now let’s finish our asana work with the salute to the moon, and return to the mat through the squat.

Meditation features some advice from a tree…

Relaxation is surya kriya. This is an excellent practice for bringing prana into the solar plexus, and we exercise our imagination as we use visualisation…

When the sun shines everyone is more positive – let’s bring sunshine into our asana practice and sunshine into our lives!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti and a big welcome to newcomers to my blog!

Asana

Namaste to you lovely people! I’m feeling very grateful today, so I’d like to thank each and every one of you for following my blog. I DO appreciate you!

We’re moving from the Niyamas to the third limb of yoga, ASANA. Postures, poses, the shapes we make, are designed to strengthen and increase the suppleness of the body. But, of course, the benefits are far greater than this. The asanas also work on all the internal processes, and, most importantly, prepare us for meditation.

We’re going to begin this week with the bridge posture – Sethu-Bandhasana. Then we’ll move on to the nose-to-knee poses – Apanasana. We’ll do a gentle twist before using the boat – Navasana – to take us to sitting.

Let’s loosen the legs with some butterfly knees before moving into tortoise posture – Kurmasana. We’ll probably be tempted to throw in the seated balance – Merudandasana! Then move on to a deep forward bend – Paschimottonasana, and then the backward bend – Purvottonasana.

Now, standing, we meet our challenge for this half-term. It’s a sequence which uses 12 postures – Surya Namaskar, the salutation to the sun. By the end of this half-term we’ll be able to perform this sequence gracefully, effortlessly, smoothly! For sure!

Meditation is about appreciating and thanking our bodies. We’ll begin by thanking our spine, our hips, our shoulders, our limbs, our neck; then we’ll thank our internal organs; then we’ll thank all our systems…

Relaxation will be the 22 body parts. Working with asanas allows the body to release, than we’re ready to let go and truly relax.

My laptop was playing up this morning, so I’m very grateful that it decided to finally co-operate!. Thank you, computer, for allowing me to post this week’s class!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion. It connects with what we’ve been studying this half-term. Ishwara Pranidhana is the last of the Niyamas and means awareness of forces greater than ourselves. We’ll begin this week with three resounding ‘OM’s. OM is the hymn of the universe. We’ll then relax. The reading this time is an ancient Chinese proverb: ‘When there’s righteousness in the heart, there’s beauty in the character…’

Standing for Malla Kriya, then on to the Sun Breath. Pausing in Tadasana the mountain, we’ll work with the Root Lock, Mulabhanda. Using the strength gained from this lock, we’ll move from warrior into triangle.

Let’s try a balance – the Tree. We’ll focus on being rooted yet stretching our branches up to the sky. Now more work with the Root Lock.

Now we meet the Abdominal Lock, Uddiyana bandha. , before returning to the mat through the squat.

Placing ourselves on all fours, we’ll practise the cat stretch and breath. Once we’ve established the rhythm, we’ll add all three of the locks or bandhas. This time we engage Chin Lock, Jalandhara bandha. All three locks are engaged after the out-breath.

Now to dog with corrections, and then finishing in the variation of the swan.

Meditation will feature a Mexican wave of OM’S! We’ll ‘OM’ until the sound naturally comes to an end, then lie down for relaxation. Here we’ll think ‘OM’ on the in-breath, and ‘OM’ on the out.

This is our last class of the Spring Term. We return on April 26th for a 12 week term. The fees for the term are now the same for everyone – 12x£6=£72. Drop-in fees are also the same for everyone – £8 per week.

Have a great Easter holiday!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Deep Peace

The reading this week begins with ‘deep peace of the running wave to you’. It’s a celtic benediction and connects us to our sanskrit mantra ‘OM Shanti’.

We’re seeking the peace of Iswara Pranidhana – the certain knowledge that there are forces greater than ourselves.

Let’s begin with the side-stretches, and then sit for kapalabhati. We’ll lie on our abdomens and explore all forms of cobra, before moving into locust and bow. Then we’ll spend a little time with creeping crocodile…

Coming up into swan, and then the glorious variation on swan. How wonderful this posture is for righting the shoulders!

And now we come to an in-depth look at downward-facing dog with corrections. We’ll finish this focus with downward-dog into upward dog several times and then rest in the swan variation. So good for hips, shoulders, back, brow chakra…

Let’s finish with a twist – the mermaid.

Meditation will feature the reading once more – ‘deep’ on the in-breath and ‘peace’ on the out-breath. Relaxation will use the focus on the breath also. Each time we breathe out we let-go and sink down into the mat. Feel like melted chocolate at the end of that?!

Next week is the last class in this term – that’s April 5th. Then we return for a 12 week summer term on April 26th.

Here comes some more peace for you – OM Shanti Shanti Shanti