Yoga discipline leads to self-discovery

We’ve learnt a lot about discipline – tapas. From the routine of the practice to the choices we make about our diet, we find that tapas influences everything. The real purpose of walking the way of yoga is to find the answers to your questions -who am I?

Lots on the knees this week! We’ll start with cat stretch and breath. Let’s count 1/2 as we fill the abdomen, 3/4 as we fill the ribs, 5/6 as we fill the chest. After resting in swan we’ll add ujjayi breath to the movement. Now we’ll add a leg movement to the cat which helps to increase the stretch through the back. Skipping cat follows, a great movement to increase the suppleness of the spine, and then we’ll wag our tails!

All of those cat movements will prepare us for some serious work on the downward facing dog. Let’s work with bending one knee and giving the backs of the legs a wonderful stretch. Then we’ll give the legs a jolly good shake – one at a time, of course! Now holding the dog pose will feel glorious – stretch right from the tips of the fingers to the tips of the toes!

Swan – cat – dog sequence will take us into a meditative place, and we’ll finish with child and mermaid, if we have time.

Meditation is our challenge of the half-term. How are we doing? Counting back from 200 and returning to 200 each time our minds stray is an exercise in discipline (tapas) and an exercise in self-discovery.

Relaxation features the eternal mantra – the sound of OM.

Next week is our Christmas class! Do wear red and green won’t you? We’re going to have fun…It’s the last class of our year and we’ll return on January 12th for a 12 week term. I’ve simplified the class fees – £6 per week for those who pay for the term, £8 a week for those who pay weekly.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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Yoga discipline gives structure

We continue to reference Tapas, self-discipline. This is one of the Niyamas. The boundaries that yoga provides us with creates a structure. Within that structure there is great freedom.

We begin this week with a beautiful poem by Robert Frost. We will have relaxed the body and the mind with the discipline of the 22 body part relaxation.

Let’s stand for the tree of life breath, adding the discipline of ujjayi breathing. Now on to the strong warrior 2 pose, and into triangle. After a rest in mountain, we’ll work with parsvottonasana, backward bend, forward bend, backward bend. Then we’ll attempt a simple balance and follow it with the dancer’s pose.

After a rest, we’ll work with the mountain sequence. Now, this is great for strengthening the trunk and for stretching out the sides of the body. That’s where we lay down our frustrations!

Feeling strong from the mountain sequence, we’ll meet the half-moon balance. Working with strong poses doesn’t just strengthen the body – it also strengthens the mind, the emotions and the inner being.

Travelling down through the squat we’ll approach another strong balance – this time the crow, kakasana. How strong are the wrists and arms feeling today?

Meditation is our challenge of this half-term. We’re counting back from the starting block of 200, using the breath. Each time a thought intrudes, we return to 200.

Relaxation continues the focus on the breath. How disciplined can we be about staying present with the relaxation exercise? Can we remain aware, and resist the temptation to drift or to sleep??

There are two more weeks in our term. The last class is December 7th. That’s our fun Christmas class. Don’t miss it!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Keeping healthy and positive

The discipline of yoga won’t stop us dying, but it will help to keep us healthy and positive until we do!

We’re focusing on Tapas, the Niyama which means discipline. We’ll begin with a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ poem about death. We’ve been discovering this term that poetry takes us to a different place – there’s something about the rhythm which engages the mind in a different way…

Let’s begin our posture work with lying side-stretches. We’ll see how supple we feel in the hips and the side of the body. Then we’ll move through the boat, and on to the abdomen for cobra, locust and bow. Stretching back on to the knees, we’ll experiment with the variation on the swan.

Now let’s reacquaint ourselves with our old friend half-camel and camel. Backward bends are a great discipline for opening the front of the body, the heart and the heart chakra. then we can have a counter-stretch in the form of the child.

Following these with the mermaid will give the spine a good work-out, and we’ll complete our asanas with a balance – the cosmic egg.

Meditation, after the cool-downs, is our challenge at this time. Let’s see how we’re progressing with the discipline of counting backwards from 200.

Relaxation will feature the 22 body part exercise – Marmanasthanam Kriya.

Use the discipline of yoga to remain healthy and positive in a changing world!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

The discipline of returning to the breath

We have a beautiful poem on autumn to begin our practice this week. Take a breath and enjoy the autumn colours!

After the stretches and warm-ups, we’ll stand for the integral yoga breathing exercises. These help us to connect the mind, body and breath. They demonstrate the full use of the breathing apparatus.

Then on to forward bends with legs together, and then wide apart. We’ll follow this with a supported backward bend and the standing twist, Kati Chakrasana.

Now let’s attempt some balance postures – tree, dancer and eagle.

Moving with the breath, we’ll perform three Salutations to the Moon. Returning to the breath, focusing on the breath, becoming the breath, we establish a deep sense of calm.

Now let’s move back to the mat through the squat, and we’ll experiment with the crow posture. Finishing with the mermaid will round our asanas off beautifully.

Meditation is our challenge of this half-term. We’re using 200 as our starting block, and then we’re counting backwards on the breath. Breathe in think 199, breathe out think 199; breathe in think 198, breathe out think 198; continue this, but each time you have a thought return to 200 and start over.

Relaxation is Surya Kriya. Tune into the autumnal sun and fill yourself with its warmth and goodness.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Tapas – discipline

We’re moving into the very interesting yogic rule of Tapas. This is the third of the Niyamas with the Niyamas being the second of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The Niyamas are the observances or ‘do’s’, and tapas means discipline – it’s sometimes described as ‘indifference to discomfort’.

In actual fact, all of yoga practice hinges on this rule. We can’t receive the benefits of yoga practice unless we do it! In order to bring yoga into our lives, we need discipline.

We’ll begin today with some forward bends. We’ll be focusing on moving from the hips and not struggling from the shoulders. We’ll meet janu-sirsasana, paschimottonasana and then try a seated wide-legged forward bend. Let’s balance that with a backward stretch, our lovely strong purvottonasana, then work with seated twists.

Now we’ll turn our attention to our knees. Let’s try ‘butterfly knees’, ‘rocking buddha’, and the balance known as merudandasana. now on to the tortoise, before moving into the mermaid, and finishing our asana work with the cosmic egg balance.

Meditation will be all about discipline. This half-term we’ll use the meditation as our challenge. We’ll use the same meditation exercise each week and see if  we make progress. This exercise involves counting backwards from 200 – you think, therefore, 199 on the in-breath, 199 on the out-breath; then 198 on the in-breath, 198 on the out-breath; 197 on the in-breath, 197 on the out-breath. There’s a catch, though! If a stray thought enters your mind, you need to go back to 200 and start again. It’s a most interesting process. How far can you get before the mind draws you away?

As we approach the winter, we begin to miss the sun. So relaxation is Surya Kriya where we envisage our own personal sun hovering over the solar plexus.

Good to be back on the mat after the half-term break?

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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

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