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YOGA FOR INSOMNIA

YOGA FOR INSOMNIA

Posted March 09, 2012

I don’t really drink coffee anymore. I’ve posted before on how it makes me feel and since tapping into this I’ve tried to avoid it. Every now and then I dip my toe into the caffeine pool again – only to regret it! Last Saturday was one of those days. I indulged in an ice coffee from Balmain’s coffee powerhouse, Bertoni’s. Boy, did I pay for it. At 10:30pm after staying home to do some work (exciting life at the moment) I was still wide awake, but I took myself off to bed because that’s just what I do. 10:30 is way past my usual bed time! Come 2am, I was still awake. Crap. My initial instinct was to shut my eyes, curl deeper into a foetal position and secretly pray for the sleep gods to have mercy on me. Then I had a moment…which seems to be happening a lot to me lately. Moments that is, not insomnia. I realised that If a friend came to me and asked what they should do when they are having trouble sleeping I would probably prescribe a few quietening yoga postures that would settle the nervous sytem. Lying there in bed, trying not to disturb Chris, I thought, well, up you get Claire. Let’s put these postures to the test. Did they work? Yes, they did. Did I fall asleep and settle into dreamland like a baby. Not quite as picturesque but eventually it happened and this little sequence worked a treat in ceasing the merry-go-round in my mind and helped me calm down enough to fall asleep. Check out the below restless night sequence. I held each one for around five minutes. The images (thanks to yoga journal!) are very self explanatory. Where necessary I’ve added in a couple of necessary tips. Hopefully the next time you are having a restless night this sequence might help to calm your nervous system and stop the repetitive thoughts long enough to send you off to sleep. Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live Cx 1) Marjaryasana to Bitilasana (Cat/Cow) 2) Padangusthasana (standing forward bend) Spread the feet hip width apart Ground down evenly through the feet Bend the knees slightly if the hamstrings are tight. Trigger grip the big toes with index and middle finger 3) Balasana (child’s pose) Knees and feet are together, sit bones to heels Fold over, arms by the sides, palms facing up Lightly press the forehead to the mat or use a cushion if your head doesn’t reach the floor 4) Uttanasana Similar to Padangustasana however let the hands fall to the floor, behind the feet or even just hold the elbows and hang the body forward 5) Pachimottanasana (seated forward bend) Sit on a folded blanket or cushion to raise the hips and pelvish Extend the legs, bend the knees slightly (usually they are active and straight, but this is a more restorative version) Let the hands come to the shins/ankles/feet You can place a cushion on the legs to support the body as you fold forward 6) Halasana (plough pose) Use a folded blanket underneath the shoulders (not the neck) Kick the legs over head , supporting the back with your hands Slowly lower the legs over head Keep lifting the spine, trying to elongate and straighten the back Do not attempt if you have a bad neck, or if this is your first time 7) Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulder stand) From Halasana set-up start to raise the legs up Ensure you are on your shoulders and not the neck Support the back with hands, squeeze elbows close together 8) Viparita Karani (legs up wall) 9) Savasana into sleep! Read more

IT IS WHAT IS… ACCEPTING THE MOMENT

IT IS WHAT IS… ACCEPTING THE MOMENT

Posted March 05, 2012

It’s all in the reaction. I’ve noticed through the years of reading, studying and talking with others that often the bad days in our lives are actually more about the way we react and less about the actual reality of that news, experience or situation. Let me explain.  I’ll use yoga as an example here, because this is how I first opened my eyes to this concept. Imagine you are in a pose. It hurts. Alot. Mostly, it hurts in places that you’ve never felt before. So your mind starts to turn. “This is uncomfortable. No, this really hurts. Why is the teacher making me hold this. I wish she’d just shut up and let me out of this pose. Maybe if I move my leg here it’ll feel better. Nope. Still bad. Oh god. I can’t bare it” And on it goes. You can see in that moment there is alot of chatter. Alot of back-chat, even, to the experience, the situation. There is resistance. Resistance is key. How much do we resist the things in our lives that are unchangeable, unavoidable… the things that just are? Do we accept and find the silver lining, or make the most of it? Yes, often we do. But mostly, we resist. Now I don’t mean we should lay down and just take it… no, that would be defeatist. I mean, do we ever truly just soften, let go and move in to the situation. Why do I ask this question? Well, because if you go back to that moment, in that painful yoga pose, imagine the situation and how different it would be if you just stopped. Stopped the fidgeting, the internal abuse, the resistance. And maybe just found a little stillness. Breath into the moment, focusing simply on that breath. The inhale and the exhale.  Do you imagine, then, that the moment would be a little less anger-fuelled?  I think so. I try and live by a little concept that I appropriated from Eckhart Tolle. In every moment, conversation, situation that brings about a feeling of anxiety, confusion, tension… I ask myself these three questions. 1) Can I leave this moment? Yes? Then as skillfully as possible, I make that happen. If no… onto the next question then! 2) Can I change this moment? Yes? Well then I change it!  But if no… the next is a question with an answer I already know. 3) Can I accept this moment? There can only be yes. Because if I choose to not accept, If I choose to react with resistance, with annoyance, with frustration, I then invite the suffering and further deepen the annoyance and frustration.   So it has to be yes. I have to take a moment, take a breath and ask myself – did that person really upset me? Well yes, but I can’t change it. I’ve now left that situation. So let it go and accept it. This is what I mean about reactions and the fact that our reactions make a mountain out of a molehill. I am not saying you need to rise above your human emotions, feelings, responses. We live in this world, we are part of this world and are susceptible to all the trimmings – good, bad and ugly. But, just because we are part of it doesn’t mean that we have to be a slave to every emotion. We are not our emotions and nor do we have to be governed by them. I find it quite liberating to realise that I am much more in control of how situations and experiences will pan out for myself. I don’t want to live a frustrating, angry, unhappy life. And I certainly don’t like it when something comes along to challenge my attempt at happiness, contentment, balance. But I realise now, that they do come along to show me that happiness is all in my hands. It’s all possible, no matter what I have (material or otherwise) that I believe will bring me happiness.  Do you find that some things are often ‘worse’ because of your reaction or resistance? Or have you practised the art of acceptance? Wishing you a week of living in the moment and accepting, open-heartedly, all that comes your way.  Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live Cx   Read more

BACKBENDING FOR JOY

BACKBENDING FOR JOY

Posted March 02, 2012

I remember back when I first started practising yoga, I found backbends to be so painful. I had spindly, weak little arms that could barely lift a grocery bag let alone my own body weight off the floor. My shoulders – particularly the rhomboid/trapezium area – were so tight and blocked; I couldn’t straighten my arms for nothing or no body. I eventually started to work with blocks, which are a great tool for those with less flexibility in the back. Once I had built up some arm strength I could start to straighten my arms and feel an amazing release in the shoulders. At that stage something pretty amazing started to happen. I would arrive to work after class on a Friday with this overwhelming sense of, well… joy, really! I know it sounds so lofty and a bit hippie, but I would just feel light and floaty and spontaneous. I would also feel a lot of love for the people around me, maybe for the beautiful day… anything, anyone really. I just felt happy. Once I started my teacher training we discussed backbends a lot – anatomically and energetically. Anatomically backbends encourage circulation to the heart and lungs – something that rarely happens. Backbends also nourish the nervous, lymphatic and digestive system, as well as the kidneys. They also work to stretch and strengthen the quad, shoulders and chest. Whilst building energy, opening up and strengthening the wrists, arms, legs, spine. They are pretty phenomenal poses. From even the more gentle versions like bridge pose to the more dynamic such as wheel or even full drop-backs. Working against gravity they act as an invigorator – reenergising the body and mind, refreshing the systems and reversing the forward, slumped posture that so many of us have from working on computers. Energetically speaking, cracking the heart space wide open, tilting the head back and moving into a new perspective does profound things to our perception and awareness. Firstly, overcoming a lot of fear is a practise that is important on and off the mat. But mostly, the sensation of literally opening and releasing the body has much the same effect on stored emotions, memories and tension from the past or simple stagnant and stuck energy. I have often noticed that backbends release not only my body but help to dissipate any depressed or anxious feelings I might be carrying. Now that I am finally at a stage where backbends are my friend (we still have fall outs though!) I am experimenting with moving into deeper backbends, such as drop backs that are testing my sense of courage, once again. The main photo is me giving it a shot! Unassisted, the fear kicks in and my ego gets in the way – I find a way to chicken out of it. With my teacher there to hold or guide me, I can’t back off so I fully let go and drop back. I’m not placing any time limits on when I should crack this, because it’s not about the pose, it’s about the experience into it. However, I am enjoying watching myself in this experience. Seeing what comes up, what emotions rise, how I react. If you are keen to try a few backbends, I do recommend giving these a shot at a yoga class with a teacher, and definitely ensure your body and spine is warmed up. Here is an easy how-to to practice bridge pose at home: Lay on your back Bend the knees and bring the foot to the mat, heels close to the sit bones and stacked beneath the knees. Draw the tail bone under and tilt the front of the pelvis up – protecting the lower back. Press the palms into the mat and inhale through the nose Lift up the pelvis, starting at the tailbone, working up from the base of the spine to the base of the neck As you lift higher, inch your shoulders into each other, so you are coming up onto your shoulder blades – this allows you to get more lift through the spine. Clasp the hands together underneath your body and press the hands and arms down to the mat. Ground the energy down through the feet, keep the quads strong and active and lift the chest high, up toward the fact. Hold for 10 slow, smooth breaths and then release the hands and peel the spine down, from the base of the neck to the tail. Release the legs out straight for 10 breaths Draw the knees to the chest for 10 breaths. Feel the joy! Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live Cx NB/ Sorry about the crappy pictures. I don’t have alot of me in certain poses and these were taken on holidays during my morning practice – a bit rough, but you get the idea! Read more

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

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