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LIGHT ON YOGA… PARSVA BAKASANA

LIGHT ON YOGA… PARSVA BAKASANA

Posted February 09, 2012

At the Phoenix Weekend, which I recently blogged about, I finally cracked Parsva Bakasana during Katy Appleton’s Hot Flow Class. Can I get a Whoop, Whoop!? It wasn’t hot as in heat, it was hot meaning we worked deep into our core, the fire centre or manipura chakra – where our sense of power and esteem resides. It was an unbelievable class that blended elements of kundalini, traditional hatha, vinyasa flow and even martial arts movements. It was dynamic but considered. Katy provided a few amazing pointers that made Parsva Bakasana make sense to me! I’ve been able to do Bakasana for a while and Parsva was happening, but often it wasn’t so crash hot, or I wouldn’t last in it for very long. Ms Apple made that happen. Here is the step-by-step I wrote down after the class: 1.    Bend your knees to a half-squat, thighs parallel to the floor. Glue the knees and things together Take your left elbow to the outside of your right thigh as you soften your belly 2.    Exhaling, drawing the lower belly in, twist your torso to the right, bringing your left lower ribs across toward your right thigh as far as you can. 3.    Make a fist with your left hand and push down with the right whilst you twist up to the ceiling – this specifically was an apple tip which really helped you to twist more. 4.    Slide the back of your left arm down the outside of the right thigh, bringing your armpit as close to the thigh as possible. 5.    Keep twist the body to press the left arm snugly alongside the thigh and the right elbow is pointing up to the ceiling. 6.    Squat down fully until the sit bones are just above the heels. Place the left palm to the floor, outside the right foot. Lean the body to the right if your hand doesn’t reach. 7.    Keep the left arm pressed into the right thighs. Then, place the right hand down in line with the left, shoulder width apart, 8.    Keep the weight on the feet, then press into the hands and lift the hips high. Here is the key – you won’t be about to elevate off the ground if your hips are low and you are just leaning into the hands. 9.    Maintain contact between left arm and right thigh. Keep lifting pelvis and inch the feet forward. Lean the body to the right. Move the left hip forward and around in a clockwise motion. 10.Increase the weight onto your hands until you can feel the weight ease from your feet. It’s here, whilst the hips are high, the body leaning into the hands via the left thigh, which you can start to raise the feet and elevate. 11.Once you are there, exhale fully, draw the belly in to lift and tuck the feet in. Straight the right arm. Left can stay slightly bent. Easier said than done. It takes practice and then some. But it’s fun and a great way to break through a few boundaries, showing you what your body is capable of. Have fun! Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live Cx Read more

IS YOGA ON YOUR TO DO LIST? 9 WAYS YOGA CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

IS YOGA ON YOUR TO DO LIST? 9 WAYS YOGA CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Posted January 16, 2012

  I am a notorious list writer. I love it. If I see something that tweaks my interest I’ll write it down to research later. If there is something I want to buy or something I want to do (there are lots of these ones) I’ll add them to the list as well. I find that writing things down encourages me to pay attention…to take it seriously. I guess I love the feeling of ticking or crossing it off. There is such a sense of satisfcation. The only problem? I used to write so many things on my list that they would stay just there – on the list. They never blossomed into reality, taking shape in my life. Just ink on paper. I remember when I first started practising yoga I was only attending once a week. Despite the obvious changes I was experiencing, I had trouble transitioning from a once a week yogi to a once a day yogi! Even though it was on my list – “start practising yoga 4-5 times per week” – I couldn’t seem to take the leap. I don’t know why, but perhaps it was hard to break a pattern of behaviour. Maybe I was scared, lazy, unsure. I had to change my tactic – I had to ‘drip-feed’ yoga into my life. So I enrolled in a second class… eight weeks later I signed up for a third and then not long after I made the commitment to attend class 4 – 5 times a week. Once I did, I never looked book. Why? well, the changes I had experienced from attending one class tripled, quadrupled even. Now, looking back, I wish I had spoken to my teacher a little more to get some insight into the benefits and value of yoga so that I could be motivated to increase my practice hours earlier. I don’t regret how yoga unfolded for me. It does so, just the way it should for each individual. But today I want to share you with you the ways yoga changed my life – holistically, not just physically. If ‘go to yoga’ is on your to-do list and it’s been there collecting dust for way to long, then maybe this will drive you to take the leap. 9 WAYS YOGA CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE:  1) Fitter body: the most physical change my body has undergone has been through yoga. Although naturally petite, I was never very toned or strong. Now I’d hardly classify myself as a weakling anymore and I have muscle tone that the gym could never give me 2) Quieter mind: My family would probably be the only people that remember me as a highly sensitive, stressed and strung out individual. I was always running on the highest speed setting and as a result would get very easily burnt out, emotional and in turn, sick. Now I have a sense of calm, an awareness of what sets off stress and a deeper understanding of the inner workings of my mind. 3) Overcoming fear: I tell this to my students all the time. I was not gymnast or one of those fearless children that just flipped into backbends, handstands and cartwheels. I was nervous of anything I couldn’t do and played it ‘safe’. Yoga has taught me how to test my boundaries, how to be spontaneous, give up to the moment and to realise that falling is an important lesson in fearlessness. This has translated off my mat. It’s given me confidence in ways I would never have imagined. I finally understand that it’s not living if you hang out on the side-lines, not trying, avoiding risks and not experiencing anything. 4) Increased flexibility: Not only did I avoid testing my boundaries, I also wasn’t flexible or athletic. In fact, the opposite. I came to yoga with a stiff back, hips, shoulders… everywhere. Over time and a lot of dedicated practice I have seen profound changes. I am still most certainly not a super-bendy yogi, but it doesn’t matter, each day my body opens a little more and I learn a little more. The benefit of greater flexibility is that I feel my body is awake, open, lighter. 5) Better diet: If you’ve read my story you’ll know that I was blessed with amazing, healthy food as a child. However, In my early 20s I lost my way and my health. Yoga brought me back to health because it gently pushed me to consider what I was putting into my body. When you have to limit when and what you eat because of a yoga class then you can’t help but to pay attention to your diet… cleaning it up along the way and ultimately respecting your body. 6) Cultivating spirituality: I grew up with a strong catholic influence through my mother. I still respect the religion and admire my mother’s passion for it. But I knew there was another way for me to ‘worship’ – not necessarily another religion, just a different way of being connected. Yoga provided me with a platform to explore spirituality, and what that means to me. I also discovered a different way to pray, moving internally and meditating, in order to foster a more energetic bond with the universe – the world around me 7) Finding passion: Yoga has changed my life. It opened up a whole new world to me and encouraged me to study and learn. It sent me on a path to understand who I am and what my place is in the world. I now have a drive and passion that I used to envy in others and long for myself. 8) Experiencing community: I imagine surfers, artists and musicians share a similar bond and with that they have a strong sense of community. Yoga has offered the same to me. Meeting other like-minded people, spending time together at events, breaking down the joy and the pain of yoga. I feel like I belong to something other than my career and my relationships. 9) Learning asana: Yoga postures. I love that I am always […] Read more

GRATEFUL MUCH? LEARNING ABOUT LIFE FROM OTHERS…

GRATEFUL MUCH? LEARNING ABOUT LIFE FROM OTHERS…

Posted December 23, 2011

  I am grateful that I have the ability to learn… I am most grateful that I have the chance to learn and grow from others around me… I recently watched an amazing documentary called The Horse Boy. It was such an incredible story about a young Autistic boy whose parents take him on a pilgrimage to meet a tribe of Shamans in Mongolia. Why? Because the Mongolians were the original cowboys – and Shamanism is the national religion. The connection? Well, this boy has a deep connection with animals – horses in particular – and it seems his inconsolable tantrums and social seclusion are dramatically alleviated when he is around a horse…. so, his parents wanted to see if perhaps there was some healing in these Shamans who are connected to the earth, the animals, the spirits… the universe. The movie wasn’t about autism, it was about their journey and the amazing possibilities that faith, love and spirituality can bring about. But, watching this poor little man experience traumatic and often painful experiences over the smallest things really broke my heart. In moments of peace this child was incredibly gifted, charming, joyous… but was burdened with a neurological disorder that often ostracized him from the world around. This child made me realise a few things. First and foremost… I have nothing, ever, to complain about. I see the world. It sees me. I do not feel confused, anxious, lost or distraught for no apparent reason. I am blessed with the opportunity to interact with people and to express myself. All these things, he didn’t have. But, all that aside, I learnt something else… patience and living in the moment, opening yourself up to the experience is where the beauty lies. This child doesn’t know it yet, but his parents are relearning everything, because of him. They are faced with constant challenges and they are continually reevaluating how they see the world, what they think is normal and what they believe is beautiful. This little boy has taught them how to breath and stay calm in testing times, how to lap up his moments of clarity and connection with utter joy, how to love – I mean, truly love – despite his almost devilish four hour tantrums, and how to become better people – more compassionate, empathetic and open-hearted. I know that if these parents had the chance to go back in time and ensure their son wasn’t Autistic that they would refuse. Because life unfolds in the challenges not the continuous wins or smooth sailing days. There is no joy without a fight and it makes it taste so much sweeter. I learnt that this is what life is about. And I am so grateful for the chance to learn from other people. To be truly inspired by their battle, their courage and their journey. The abilty to see beauty in all moments, all people. I am grateful to learn from them. What are you grateful for? Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live Cx   Read more

FINDING YOUR CENTRE MEDITATION + PRANAYAMA WORKSHOP

FINDING YOUR CENTRE MEDITATION + PRANAYAMA WORKSHOP

Posted December 07, 2011

Stretch. Breath. Be Still… an invitation to our centring end of year workshop. The Details: What: Stretch. Breath. Be still. Meditation Workshop Date: Sunday 18th December Location: Rose Bay Yoga Room Level 1/ 696 New South Head Rd Rose Bay, NSW, 2029 Time: 4:30 – 6:30pm Price: $25  Contact: Amanda Fuzes to book  amanda@rosebayyoga.com.au As the year is drawing to a close, the silly season is about to kick in and the birth of a new year is just around the corner, what better way to find your centre, renew your energy and pause amongst the craziness than with an educational and soul-nourishing workshop. So, I’d like to invite you and your friends + family to come along to our workshop.Together, myself and Frenchy will guide you through gentle stretches, pranayama (breath work), meditation and chanting. Over a blissful 2-hour journey you will gently open your body as I lead you through a series of stretches followed by prepatory breath-work to clear the mind and centre your thoughts. From here you will be invited into a quiet space as Frenchy guides your body, mind and breath into stillness through three different meditation styles.  We will reconnect the body and mind through a revitalising breath technique before closing the practice by experiencing the beautiful vibration of sacred chants. This workshop will allow you the chance to reflect on what has been in 2011, prepare your mind for the seasonal celebrations and encourage openness to what will come in the new year – inviting new beginnings.   If you feel in need of some reconnection, time-out and a little clarity, then this is for you. I also need to mention here that Frenchy’s meditation is so blissful… her yoga nidra sends me to an incredible warm, safe and delicious space. The feedback from current students at Yoga Village is that they love her just as much as I do… so it is a must. Shout out of there are any Qs! Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live Cx *Pictures borrowed from Franziska Mayr facebook page Read more

WHAT’S THE RIGHT SEAT FOR MEDITATION? AND WIN A MEDITATION CUSHION!

WHAT’S THE RIGHT SEAT FOR MEDITATION? AND WIN A MEDITATION CUSHION!

Posted December 05, 2011

I’ve rattled on about meditation a few times here and here and here… Can you tell that I love it, that it has brought me so much? My love for it is also in the knowledge that it will keep delivering. By it – I guess what I mean is me! Meditation allows ME to bring into my life that which is beautiful, special, fruitful, exciting, real… I am forever grateful to meditation (and my teacher)… It led me to new experiences. One being the workshop that I held with a friend, Frenchy Mayr, last Sunday. It was called Finding your Centre – stretch, breath, be still. Frenchy and I teamed up as we both wanted to offer people the opportunity to press pause on the storm. Sit in the centre of it and just absorb. Rather than move at lightning speed through to the end of the year, not really reflecting on what has been or preparing for what is to come. We wanted to create an opportunity to become more aware through stilling the mind. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? I mean, surely we need to THINK to achieve something…right? Well, no, we need to quiet the monkey mind to hear the truth, that is the truth that will guide us. But I also wanted to press pause on the whole meditation thing for a moment and scale it back. Something came up at the workshop around sitting. Yes, we can bandy about the words ‘sit, be still, listen to your breath’ yet what we tend to forget is that the actual act of sitting, in itself, is a challenge. My beautiful meditation teacher, Carolyne Gowen of Still Your Mind, knows this too. She created a beautiful range of cushions and accessories to combat that (more on that later). But I wanted to start by breaking down the asana or the ‘seated’ meditation options. After all, the word Asana means steady pose. This one steady pose is the quintessential cross-legged seat or Padmasana/Lotus, that we all know so well. But, it wasn’t long before ye olde yogis realised that it’s near impossible to meditate on a himalayan mountain to connect with your internal self and reach god-realisation if your hip is groaning at you, your feet are going numb and your back hurts because you can’t sit straight. So all the asana us yogis practice are simply a series of steady poses designed to open the body and release built up tension and energy, in preparation for meditation… 1) Chair. I thought this was bizarre when I first heard of and saw this. It seemed so uncomfortable… But now, this is how I meditate at home. Choose a chair with a comfortable back and space for your hands to sit on your lap with your elbows free. Ensure your feet are firmly planted on the floor (elevate with a bolster if needed) and that you are 100% comfortable. 2) Cross leg. Keep the spine straight, thumb and forefinger pressed together and palms facing up in Jnana mudra (seal) or facing down in chin mudra on the knees. The issue here? Most people are so tight in the hips that sitting cross-legged for a while starts to ache. Solution? Sit elevated onto a bolster/cushion or folded blanket. You want your knees to drop down lower than the hips. Slide towards the edge of the support you are on and tilt the pelvis forward slightly. This will allow you to keep elongating the spine out of the pelvis and ease the pressure in the hips. Make sure you aren’t leaning against anything as your shoulders will slump over time. 3) Meditation stool/straddle – You can purchase a little wooden meditation stool that elevates you just off the ground. You sit on the stool with your legs either side of it. Similar to how you would straddle a horse. In Yoga this is a variation of Virasana or hero pose. If you don’t have or don’t want to get a meditation stool you can straddle a bolster instead. Both do the job of alleviating the hips but for some this can be strong on the quads or knees. 4) Full lotus – the holy grail of meditation seats. Most of us tight westerners have trouble with Lotus. It’s only been this year after years of yoga practice that I can practice Lotus daily. Even then I can only hold it for 5 minutes. But, the reason this is the holy grail is because once you are locked into it, you realise why those ingenious little yogis preferred it. Your spine is immediately grounded through the sacrum whilst lifted and elongated through to the crown. It’s almost as if you can feel and visualise each chakra running along your Sushumna Nadi (spinal column on the physical body) because your posture is so perfect. You feel light yet grounded in the pose. Don’t try Lotus (please!) without the guidance of a teacher… But if it’s available to you, very easily, then try and see if you agree. A few general tips * Keeping the back straight, in whichever posture you meditate is a must.  * Try to be comfortable and physically relaxed, avoid jiggling about too much. * Keep the head straight, slightly bent forward, keep the teeth slightly apart, the jaw and tongue soft and the space between the eyebrows relaxed and soft. * The shoulders should be relaxed and the hands can be placed on your lap if you prefer. Left palm over right for women and right over left for men  – this relates to the energy channels on the body. The left major Nadi (Ida) represents the feminine (moon, cool, calm) energy, the right major Nadi (Pingala) represents the masculine energy (sun, heat, power). * Keeping the body warm and particular the knees and legs to avoid numbness. * Try belly-breathing; not breathing with the chest, but from the navel and diaphragm. * The posture should enhance meditation, not be […] Read more

A YOGIC RELATIONSHOP WITH FOOD

A YOGIC RELATIONSHOP WITH FOOD

Posted November 23, 2011

After attending a yoga retreat last week and having very indepth conversations with like-minded yogis on health and nutrition, I came to understand that yoga has a profound affect on nutrition – the way we eat and the way we relate to food. That is exactly what happened to me after I began practicing but I didn’t realise that the affect was almost universal. As the food industry relentlessly bombards us with a new fad diet or confusing ‘must-do’, or rule we are all forgetting how to eat instictively healthy – feeding our bodies what we need to grow, be nourished and healthy. Through yoga there is a natural progression towards making better food choices without the guilt and emotinal battering we often put ourselves through. The physical asana practices creates a deep awareness, deeping our understanding of our body and what it needs. Through yoga what grows is a conscious of foods that create a consistent sense of wellbeing or even those foods that create a sluggish, tired body or overactive unsettled mind. Over time, yoga encourages it students to come into a more comfortable and balanced relationship with food. It takes time, be patient, begin to tune into the body and listen. Through building discipline in your practice, inviting patience and cultivating compassion you can begin to overcome alot of the food quirks we often have. No matter how formidable they may seem. And start to love your food in a healthier way. Enjoy it all. Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live (and eat!) Cx Read more

THE ABC OF MEDITATION

THE ABC OF MEDITATION

Posted November 20, 2011

Last weekend I took myself away on a yoga retreat… I decided that after an incredibly busy, yet fruitful year that I needed to press pause, take a step back and just reconnect in a beautiful bushland setting, away from the city! 9 hours of yoga, 3 hours of meditation and pranayama, and countless amazing vegetarian meals later…  I feel like I’ve had a holiday! I had so much fun,  playing with creative yoga sequences (free-stand handstand! Whee!) and challening  poses (leg around the head anyone?), revisiting pranayama and cleansing techniques I had neglected and enjoyed conversations with like-minded people (instead of subjecting my boyfriend to a discussion about the joys of meditation I had many a willing participants!) During meditation on the Sunday morning I picked up on a little meditation tool that I found incredibly helpful. The ABC of meditation. I found this so straightforward and simple I thought I’d share this with you all in the hope that maybe it’ll help you explore meditation. We all love to label and compartmentalise things in our lives – even something as free and unanchored as meditation – we are human beings after all – so for those that need to place a little structure around something, give this a shot. A is for Awareness: Take your seat – make sure it’s comfortable and you are feeling secure and settled in the spot you’ve chosen to meditate. Now, with your eyes closed simply pay attention to yourself – your body, your mind. Can you become aware of what your body is communicating to you? Does your right shoulder hurt? Are you feeling a little lethargic – where in your body is that sense of tiredness coming from? Do you have a headache? Are you feeling restless – where in your body or your mind is this feeling originating from? Cultivate Awareness. Do not pass judgement, try to rationalise or understand what you are becoming aware of… but the simple act of ‘knowing’ is all that you need to do here. B is for Breath: Now, having come to a state of awareness, move your mind to the breath. Begin to focus in on the sound, the quality and the texture of your breath. Simply ‘watch’ the breath as your inhale and exhale through the nose… can you cultivate a smooth, steady, even breath? Can you control the breath, just enough to feel a calming, soothing sensation? The breath is your vehicle to a deeper, more meditative state. C is for Clarity: Now you sitting calmly, the breath is your mantra – your point of focus. Stay with this breath you use it to ‘drag’ your mind away from distracting thoughts. Clear thoughts from your mind – sweep them away with each breath. When a thought does enter your mind, place a label to it… categorise it and by doing so you can compartmentalise it. Then let that ‘category’ fall away and bring the attention back to the breath. Inhale. Exhale. From A to B to C… three steps to ground  and guide you within the practice of meditation. Clear stepping stones that you can rehearse over and over, using them as tools to help meditation become a skill. Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live Cx Read more

SPOTLIGHT ON BADDHA KONASANA…bound angle pose

SPOTLIGHT ON BADDHA KONASANA…bound angle pose

Posted November 03, 2011

Teacher: Was your last pose Garbha Pindasana? Me: Umm, yes… (thinking I did something wrong) Teacher: Baddha Konasana… it’s time. This is what played out last Wednesday morning – the day before the new moon- at yoga. It was 7:15 am. I was hot, sweaty and thinking I was all but a few backbends and finishing poses away from beautiful, delicious, restorative savasana (relaxtion) when my teacher gave me the next pose. Baddha Konasana… bound angle pose. I’ve done this countless times. With blocks, straps, against a wall, on a bolster – every which way, you name it, I’ve done. All but one way… the Ashtanga Vinyasa way. All I have to say is %$!#@#%^!!!!! Ok.. I have alot more to say than that (surely, you know me better by now?!) but at the time it took alot of self control and respect to not swear out loud. Instead, breathlessly I just kept saying “oh, wow”… don’t fooled, I wasn’t feeling any joy here, simply pain… and opening. Now, most of my students know that I am the first to admit I have very tight hips. It’s something that I actually had to overcome mentally when doing my teacher training and in the first few months of teaching. In my head I would always think “how can I be a teacher when my hips are tight and I can’t even get into lotus pose (I can now, though!)… it took a while to realise that you don’t teach with your hips, you teach with your heart and your mind. Either way, I had read that Baddha Konasana adjusted the Ashtanga Vinyasa way could be extremely painful and takes a lot of breath control and focus to get through. Let’s just say that was written for me… To perform this posture it pays to have someone there to adjust you – it’s still an incredible pose without a teacher/adjustment, but really, to get into the hips and groin deeply you do need the adjustment. Here is a step-by-step guide. Be warm! Don’t do this pose cold, you’ll regret it. Step by Step 1.  Sit with your legs straight out in front of you, raising your pelvis on a blanket if your hips or groins are tight (this is the Iyengar in me – Ashtanga does it prop-free!)  2.  Exhale, bend your knees, pull your heels toward your pelvis, then drop your knees out to the sides and press the soles of your feet together. 3.  Bring your heels as close to your pelvis as you comfortably can. With the first and second finger and thumb, grasp the big toe of each foot, turning the soles of the feet up towards your face. Keep the outer edges of the feet firmly on the floor.        If it isn’t possible to hold the toes, clasp each hand around the same-side ankle or shin.   4.   Firm the sacrum and shoulder blades against the back and elongate the front torso through to the sternum. 5.   Release the heads of the thigh bones (not the knees!) toward the floor – the knees follow.  6.   Lead with the chest, aiming to bring your sternum to your own feet. here – your teacher/adjuster will lean into you (evenly against the lower back and thoracic spine) whilst pressing your outer thighs down – rotating out. Stay here for 5 slow, smooth breaths. 7.   Inhale to come up. 8.   Next, curve the spine forward and draw the head towards the feet – rounding the back. Your adjuster can keep their hands on your thighs, further opening the hips. 9.   Stay here for 5 slow, smooth breaths. 10. To finish, stretch the legs out to release. Baddha Konasana gets in deep – really, really deep. It can be a little painful… ok, alot (my teacher said… don’t worry Claire, I hear it’s worse that child-birth) but it’s well worth it. Baddha Konasana stimulates the abdominal organs (ovaries, prostate gland,  bladder and kidneys). It stimulates the heart and improves circulation, stretches the  inner thighs, groins and knees, soothes menstrual pain and helps to prepare the  body for childbirth. Give it a shot. Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live. Cx P.s – groin or knee injuries definitely sit on a blanket and prop another two under the knees for support.  Read more

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