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LIGHT ON YOGA…uttanasana

LIGHT ON YOGA…uttanasana

Posted September 02, 2011

Uttanasana aka Standing Forward Bend. Such a deceiving pose. So simple…. Stand. Bend forward. Yet there is so much more happening in this pose. This pose is challenging. It simply brings you face-to-face with your limitations and immediately asks you to be patient. To breath and surrender. No amount of pushing or pulling (except, perhaps, by a really forceful teacher) will get you any lower or deeper into this pose. It happens when it happens. And then, sometimes, you lose it. Like I have recently. The hamstring tear that has recently graced me with its presence has made Uttanasana a challenge. It is the pose I spent years cultivating – working slowly as my hamstrings softened and opened – gradually falling in love with it. But now, I have a different relationship with it. It’s become my indicator – It tells me when my injury is playing up, when I should listen to my body and when I should pull back, modify and go easy. But irrespective of the difficulty in achieving this pose, or how my relationship with it has changed it is still such a beautiful, nurturing, calming pose. It can be strong if you ask it, but usually the joy in this pose lies in its soothing effects. Benefits of Uttanasana: •Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression •Stimulates the liver and kidneys •Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips •Strengthens the thighs and knees •Improves digestion •Reduces fatigue and anxiety •Relieves headache and insomnia •Therapeutic for high blood pressure How to: 1. Stand in Tadasana (mountain pose) with hands on hips. 2. Exhale and bend forward – hinge from the hip joints, not from the waist. 3. As you slowly fold down lift the chest up and over – creating space between your pelvis and the sternum. 4. As you move into the position keep lengthening the front torso 5. If possible, with your knees straight, bring your palms or finger tips to the floor slightly in front of or beside your feet, or bring your palms to the backs of your ankles. 6. If this isn’t possible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows. 7. Ground the heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling. Turn the top thighs slightly inward and up – engaging the quads. 8. With each inhalation in the pose, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. 9. To come back up, bring your hands to your hips and as you exhale maintain the length of the torse, draw the tailbone down towards the pelvis. Uttanasana is a beautiful pose to practice between standing poses. You can slow down the breath and find your centre again. It’s also used a lot in Sun Salutation and Vinyasa flow practices. However, as pose itself it marries the active and the passive deliciously. Calming the nervous system down and slowing the breath, Uttanasana is both restorative for the internal body and lively for the external body. If you have a back injury keep your legs bent as you enter and exit the pose. Avoid full Uttanasana is you have a bulging disc and practice Ardha Uttanasana at the wall – hands pressed into the wall, arms parallel to the floor and the body at a right angle. It’s also nice to practice Uttanasana by leaning the sit bones against the wall to support you and take the pressure off your hamstrings. I hope you enjoy Uttanasana. Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live Cx Read more

RESTORATIVE FLU-FIGHTING YOGA

RESTORATIVE FLU-FIGHTING YOGA

Posted August 15, 2011

Over the last few years my immune system has slowly been getting stronger. I used to be that weak, sickly person…you know the one? That poor weedy human being that catches the most lingering of colds when someone sneezes 20 metres away. I guess it all comes down to a change in lifestyle and yoga! It’s happened so gradually that I’ve barely noticed, but then one day I got through a whole winter without coming down with anything, and that’s when I started to piece it together. Now, however, I tend to get a little weaker and more susceptible to colds around seasonal changeover. As winter clocks off and spring moves in I can feel the dampness building in my chest and the telltale irritable throat tickle kicking in. What I have learnt is how to stave it off as much as possible. If not totally, then to the point where I can shake it off a lot faster than before. The first thing I do is pump a lot of garlic, hot lemon tea and natural remedies like olive leaf extract, Echinacea and vitamin C. The other thing I do? I create a short yoga sequence that works on releasing whatever crap is building up in my chest but also a restorative set of postures to energise the body and immune system. So, with spring battling winter and trying ever so hard to move on in, be careful with the slight shift in temperature. Try these poses if you are feeling a little run-down or even if you’ve noticed a cough slowly creeping in. These poses really help to calm the nervous system down, allowing the immune system to focus on fighting! But also, by either being gently inverted, or opening the chest your body can work to release any build up in the chest. Try to hang out in each pose for at least five minutes and focus on maintaining long, slow, deep breaths. If you have a regular practice doing 3 x Sun Salutation A is always a nice way to warm up the body with out depleting your energy. 1) Uttanasana – standing forward bend You can perform this with bent or straight legs – this will depend on the length in your hamstrings. If you feel uncomfortable in the pose try leaning against a wall as well. 2) Supported Adho Mukka Svanasana – supported downward facing dog Same as the traditional down dog but resting the head on the bolster softens the pose and makes it less active. 3) Viparita Karani through the chair This is a beautiful gentle back bend that can easily be performed through a yoga chair or off the edge of your lounge or even a low table if you have one strong enough. As you can see, the chest is open and the head and heart are inverted. 4) Supta Baddha Konasana – reclining bound angle pose If you don’t have a bolster (as in picture) you can try a folded blanket. Lay the bolster/blanket lengthways along your spine. Press the base of your feet together and butterfly the knees out to the sides. Stretch your arms or hold onto either elbow above your head. Enjoy the pure symmetry of this pose, allow the chest to lift and open. 5) Legs up the wall As simple as it sounds. Using the bolster (cushion/folded blanket) elevate your hips and chest and stretch your legs up the wall. If you can keep your head, heart and chest below the rest of the body then you’ll maximise the release and really quieten the body and breath. Enjoy the peace and quiet that these poses bring, but mostly, enjoy your return to health! Do you have a restorative yoga sequence that you like to do? Or any other secret cold/flu fighters? Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live Cx Read more

THE CENSUS MADE ME RETHINK ‘RELIGION’

THE CENSUS MADE ME RETHINK ‘RELIGION’

Posted August 12, 2011

The other day my boy and I were at home doing our first census together. It was interesting to say the least, especially when it came to listing our income and trying to remember all the places we have lived over the last five years. There was one question that I tripped up on. Religion. There was a whole list of ‘religions’ listed to choose from… none of which really fit me. My boy looked at me and said ‘wait, you are saying ‘Catholic’ right? Umm… no. I felt sheepish (and a little silly) saying this… but my answer to his question was – “I’m not really religious, I was raised a catholic, but I’d say I’m more spiritual?” So after a little back and forth, we decided that I would write just that on the census form. It made us laugh, seeing ‘SPRITIUAL’ written in the little boxes and thinking about the person on the other end collating the data… but I had to be true to myself – that’s just what made sense to me. The difference between spirituality and religion? Well, I’m definitely not an expert and I’m only a new student in this long spiritual journey but I feel (not know) that spirituality is more about the internal life. It is the continuous search for meaning and the understanding of me, myself, the ‘I’, in this universe. So ultimately, it’s about moving inward and finding that still point – I talk a lot about this when teaching a yoga class. Slowly loosening the strong-hold grip on the outer world and reconnecting with your true, inner being and that being which is born from and forever tied to the source, the divine. And in turn I feel that I become more connected to the world and the people around me and hopefully continually improve as a person, a soul. When I think about religion I see it as external spirituality with a story, in a structured house, with guidelines and rituals that are shared within a community. An experience, a doctrine, a map to life and one that brings people together. I’m not going to go into how religion can bring about pain and suffering – I know you all have your opinions on that – I’m just talking top line here, peeps! Now, don’t get me wrong; I totally and utterly respect religion. It was and still is the saving grace for my mother. Without a shadow of a doubt it has offered thousands of people in difficult situations refuge and faith to stay strong and move forward. But to me, believing is enough. If you want to believe in the trees, the sun, the sky, all of mother earth and that is your religion, then so be it. If you want to bow to a statue of every spiritual icon that walked this planet, then so be it. If faith, religion, spirituality of any sort helps you feel whole, connected and true and in turn makes you a better person to those around you, then so be it! For me, my religion, my spirituality is most definitely an amalgamation of experiences, passions and lessons throughout my life. It consists of meditation, private prayers to the universe (or God, whatever you wish to call it), my yoga practice – a silent meditative prayer with each breath – being in nature and community experiences (such as Kirtan, or yogic events) shared with like-minded friends. Relishing in the moment, sharing what I’ve learnt with my students, enjoying time with friends, being there for my family, living my life by giving and receiving happiness, being true to myself. So, how did you answer the religion question on the census form? I’d love to hear your thoughts on spirituality/religion? What do you think is the main difference between spirituality and religion? Signing off with an exhale. Pause.Listen.Live Cx Read more

8 WAYS TO BALANCE YOUR VATA

8 WAYS TO BALANCE YOUR VATA

Posted August 10, 2011

I’ve mentioned Ayurveda before, here and here… It’s one of the health/lifestyle systems that I truly connect with and leaves me with a sense of promise. Why promise? Well I find it so inspiring that a 5000-year-old tradition was and still is so far ahead of our modern day. Ayurveda, unlike modern medicine focuses on treating the individual to come into balance or Perfect Health, rather than treating the disease in a isolated way. The other reason I love Ayurveda is because it’s the sister science to Yoga – we all know how much I dig Yoga! Together, when combined they complement each other. So Ayurveda (pronounced eye-yer-vay-duh) is an Indian Holistic health system that means ‘life knowledge’. Forget quick fixes, drugs and hospitals, Ayurveda works at achieving optimal health, every day of your life for your mind, body, and spirit. Yoga, nutrition, meditation, pranayama (breath-work), herbs, massage and more encompass the healing method that is Ayurveda. The bit I heart the most about Ayurveda is that it simply looks at the individual – YOU – in the scenario. What is happening in your life, around you, what are you eating, what are you exposed to – all the different elements that could be throwing you out (mind/body/spirit) of balance. And YOU are made up of more than one energy – Vata, Pitta, Kapha – which are called doshas. And each dosha relates to one of the five key elements – ether, air, fire, water and earth. In a nutshell – you could be dominantly Vata with a little Kapha, or equal parts Pitta and Vata or a different combination. The key is to understand the doshas, or your individual Prakriti or nature and bring them into balance. Now… Let’s talk about Vata. Vata is an Air + Ether Dosha. It is the energy of movement. The best way to describe Vata is by inviting you to visualise the air, the wind. It is ungrounded, floaty, changeable, cool, dry, erratic. But it’s also free, mobile, doing its own unique, creative thing. Vata is referred to as the ‘king of the doshas’ because it is responsible for any movement in the body – blinking, heart beating, dancing, running, talking, jumping, circulation, elimination and so on. But, as you can imagine, Vata people, made of air and ether or those of us with a Vata imbalance (perhaps caused by an unstable situation at home/work etc) generally need to work at creating stability and grounding. The other thing to note here is that despite that fact that we are all blessed with a different Dosha mix – a different Prakruti – we are all living in a predominantly Vata world. A world of fast cars, fast entertainment, fast information. Everything is now, quick, speedy. So often, each of us can be affected by Vata even if we don’t have much of it in our Dosha – our own nature will be effected by the world and environment around us. So these 8 tips to balance and ground Vata are vital for all of us. If you have had a hectic, all-over-the-place, feeling kind of spacey week – then these are perfect to bring your Vata back into balance. 1) Slow down + stop. Practice meditation. Learn to still the monkey mind each day, even if it’s just 10 – 20 minutes. Find quiet and see how Vata quietens too. 2) Practice grounding yoga. Avoid too much Vinyasa or Dynamic style practices, or at least, go slow if this is the style you prefer. Find a way to earth yourself in the practice – focus on the breath and move fluidly and with calm. 3) Breath into it. Focus on the breath – simply sitting for 5 minutes each day and practicing breath awareness. Watch the breath, feel the quality of it as you inhale and exhale and automatically the breath begins to slow. This helps Vata move from fight or flight mode (sympathetic) to the more calmer state of parasympathetic nervous system. 4) Keep Oiled. Add nourishing oils to your meal. Oil is warming, soothing and grounding. So avoid crunchy, fresh salads sans oil – don’t be afraid to add in some good quality Olive, Coconut or Walnut and notice how much more stable and nourished you feel. 5) Get warm. Seek out the sunshine and feel the warmth on your skin. Not only do you get your Vitamin D hit but you will feel less of the cold + dry Vata qualities and more energy and balance through the heat. 6) Stick to schedules. Having a solid routine from morning to night is best to ground the airiness of Vata. Try to wake up at the same time each day and follow a similar routine – exercise, meditate, breakfast etc… This will help Vatas who tend to be forgetful, late and constantly change their mind! 7) Rise with the sun. Between 2am – 6am is when Vata is most active. Ever noticed how you might wake between these hours and you are wide awake and unable to fall back asleep? The best way to work with Vata is to rise with the sun – this will get your energy going and help you maximise it! 8) Get your massage on. If you are feeling particular airy, ungrounded and restless try an oil massage in the morning. Get your hands on some good quality sesame or coconut oil and perform a mini massage. Starting at the feet and working up towards the head, massage with strokes towards the heart. Work clockwise on the belly and around the joints. Wait 5-10minutes and let the oil soak into the skin before showering A few tips to help you find stability in our crazy Vata world, and especially good if you have a lot of Vata in you – will bring you into balance. Love + light to you, Cx *Images kindly borrowed from http://www.yogaanonymous.org, http://www.ayusarathi.com and www.peacefulmind.com Read more

FIVE ON FRIDAY … five meditation techniques

FIVE ON FRIDAY … five meditation techniques

Posted August 05, 2011

Here are five meditation techniques to try – explore each one to discover which technique works the best in calming your nervous system and bringing you into a more present and quieter state. 1) Mantra – Primordial Sound/TM I posted on Primordial Sound Meditation here. Similar to Transcendental Meditation, this meditation technique focuses on stilling the mind in order to reach ‘The Gap’ or the state of ‘no mind’ between your thoughts. The vehicle to reaching this state is via the repetition of a mantra – usually issued to you by a certified PSM or TM teacher. Often this mantra reflects the vibration of the universe at your time of birth (as with PM) or something similar. Your mantra is meaningless and meant to be that way. The less meaning you connect to the word the more opportunity you have to use it, simply as a tool to quiet the mind whilst preventing a thought pattern to emerge from your ideas around the meaning of that word. Simply sit, breathing softly and quietly rolling the mantra around in your mind – like the gentle repetitive movement of the wave; each wave is different, big, rough, smooth, small, as is your mantra, sometimes it’s louder, softer, clear, undefinable, jumbled. 2) Visualisation I find this technique incredibly relaxing but difficult to reach that point of stillness – that delicous state of deep consciousness when you are both present yet removed. Despite that, some people achieve an incredible calm state with visualisation so it is still worth a go. Visualisation is often best experienced when guided by a teacher – either on a cd or at a meditation workshop. By drawing your attention onto the descriptions the teacher is conjuring up you are slowly able to empty out the clutter and jibberish knocking about in your mind. This is turn allows the body to relax into the visualition – sunrise, never-ending ocean, tropical island – which then encourages deep physical and mental relaxation 3) Yoga Nidra Also referred to as psyhic sleep where the mind stays awake and the body goes to sleep. Yoga Nidra is something I recommend everyone seek out and try. I first experienced it during my hatha yoga teacher training and fell in love with it. The beautiful, ever peaceful Naomi Nahoum took our class on a journey that left each of us energised yet completely blissed out. Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation that quietens the mind by first stilling the body. A teacher will invite you to bring your focus to different parts of your body, rotating from your right foot, all the way around finishing at your left foot. From here visualiations, breathing exercises and spatial/physical exercises will work to take you deeper and deeper. Ultimately, a thorough Yoga Nidra session will take you into a XX brainwave pattern, which is a highly active brain wave pattern, however you are simultaneously in a deeply restful state. 1-1.5hr Yoga Nidra session is equivalent to 3-4hours of restorative sleep. 4) Mindfulness meditation This is learning the art of living and being in the present moment. As a collective consciousness we spend too much time dwelling in the past and waste energy worrying and planning for the future. But if you were to ask yourself, despite your problems, concerns, life issues, and ask this question, “what is the problem, right now, in this moment?’ usually, there isn’t one. If you think about it there is nothing too great a concern to warrant the stress and anxiety we often dwell in. Meaning, stressing over that deadline, or what you are going to cook or picking up the children are all tasks for the future. Your anxiety over it now doesn’t serve a purpose, except to overtake the ‘now’ with future worries. Often when I’m having a bad day/moment I run through these three questions – something I learnt from Eckart Tolle and his hugely popular book “The Power of Now’. First I ask – 1) Can I change it? If I can, then I do so. If not, then I ask 2) Can I leave it – the situation, the conversation, the argument? If I can then I do and if neither of these questions can be answered then I finally ask 3) Can I accept it? By the time I’ve reached question three, the reality is that I have no other choice but to accept the situation. And as soon as I do, as soon as I let go of the stress, concern and anxiety that I am creating, then the situation is bearable, manageable and I begin to learn from the situation. Instead of fighting against the unchangeable, in that moment, I have entered the present. The now. Becoming mindful of all that the situation has brought about – the good, the bad, the ugly. So mindfulness meditation is practicing how to be in the now. And it can be done in the most mundane of daily tasks. Cooking – set yourself up and then focus your heart and mind on the task. No distractions – just you and the art creating. When you are eating – take yourself away from your desk, magazine, phone conversation and just sit with your meal. Focusing in on the taste, the smell, the way your body reacts and just allowing your body to absorb. Or singing with gusto along to your favourite song. Have you ever noticed when you are driving and singing along to a great song before you know it you have arrived at your destination with no recollection as to how you got there? All you know is that you were belting it out, loving life. That is being and feeling the ‘moment’! P.s, I don’t really recommend this, for safety purposes and all… but hey, it happens. 5) Pranayama/Breath work Not necessarily classified as a ‘meditation’ technique, but to me the cleansing and mind-calming properties of pranayama/breath work achieve a similat goal to most meditation techniques. Prana […] Read more

SALT WATER STOMACH FLUSH

SALT WATER STOMACH FLUSH

Posted August 01, 2011

During my teacher training in Hatha Yoga we learnt all about a series of cleansing techniques. In theory, they sounded pretty outrageous and unusual. And, after experiencing them I can attest that a a couple of them were intense – more on that another time. But there is one particular cleansing technique called Laghoo Shankaprakshalana that I have become a huge fan of, and perform every Monday. SOoo, what is it? Well…Laghoo blah blah blah is basically a very long-winded sanskrit term for intestinal salt water flush. A little warning: We are about to get a a little more personal here – you, me and any other readers out there (hello to those people in Qatar that keep reading my blog!) I’ll do my best to be discreet but we talking about flushing out your digestive tract here… so I won’t be offended if you log off now… Well, if you are still here then brilliant, because you are about to learn about the simplest technique to giving your digestive system a flush and reboot. Laghoo is an ancient yogi practice, amongst other cleansing techniques, that is carried out as one of the ways to begin to cleanse the body. You see, before one can reach enlightenment there is a whole lot of work that needs to be carried out in the body. Cue: yoga postures, breathwork, cleansing techniques and learning how to withdraw the senses. If there is alot of chaos going on in the body – physically – then it’ll be near impossible to quiet the mind and find stillness in order to reach enlightenment. But, I’m not telling you about laghoo because it sends me on a spiritual rollercoaster – because It doesn’t (if only it were that easy!) I’m downloading about laghoo because it simply is an awesome way to care for your gut, intestines and colon which helps to build your immunity (the gut is the powerhouse for your immunity) and detox the body of built up junk and debris. Recently I was discussing this with a friend who tried it for herself and had a great result – so it got me thinking that maybe I’ll share it here! Oh and also, if you are a fan of colonics, this is technique is a) a fraction of the cost b) a whole lot less embarrasing and c) no where near as uncomfortable! Here is a little breakdown of Laghoo. Although it’s incredibly simple to do, most people learn Laghoo at a retreat or with the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher. If you can get to a retreat or try it with a teacher then great. Otherwise be careful and mindful of this practice – although there is nothing to worry about! A few starting points. • Once you have learnt from a teacher/at a retreat and want to try it again, laghoo can be conducted weekly. I do recommend that when doing it at home for the first time that you choose a day when you are totally free and have a bit of privacy • Keep an open mind and stay calm – many of people freak out when it comes to their stomach/bodily functions. There is a lot of emotional tension/trauma held in our stomachs so it’s no uncommon to feel quite nervy and unsettled about it- you can always look to a professional for guidance if you want to do this. It’s important to stay loose (pun not intended!) and trust your body to do its thing. • Depending on your current digestive system you may only need an 1hr or you may need some chill out time at home for alot longer – it does take a little longer to, ahh, pass the salt water if you are prone to constipation etc • Don’t skimp on the salt – buy a good quality salt. I recommend Himalayan Rock Salt – you should be able to find this at most health food shops • The yoga postures are designed to encourage the salt water to move fluidly and quickly through the digestive tract. • The slightly salt water (which is the same salt water solution within our bodies) grips onto debris in the intestines helping to move it through and out! Ok… now, here’s the how to: 1. The night before the morning you are planning on ‘flushing’ create 1.5 – 2litres of warm water. 2. Add 1 flat teaspoon of salt per 500mls and ensure it fully dissolves. I store it in large glass bottles and cover it overnight on the counter top 3. In the AM – before eating/drink anything – head to the kitchen and boil up some fresh water. 4. Pour yourself a 500ml cup of the salt water solution and add in some hot water. 5. Drink the 500ml cup quickly and then perform these 5 yoga postures 8 times each. 6. Once you’ve completed the postures, drink another 500ml cup and repeat the above. 7. Continue to do the above until you’ve drunk 3-4 cups and then wait – allow the system to do what it does. 8. Eventually you wll pass the water and a whole lot of junk! My advice the more relaxed you are (the less you stress yourself out about what you are doing) the quicker and easier it’ll be. 9. Let’s be honest – you can either sit on the toilet for a while (take a book) and let it all flush out, or you can stay nearby to a toilet to run back and forth! I choose the former! 10. Take rest after it – even if it’s just half an hour – lay down, stay warm and enjoy some quiet time 11. When you are ready eat something nourishing after like a warm tea and porridge. Now, like I said, it’ll happen within a different timeframe for everyone. I usually can’t drink more than the 3-4 glasses before it’s all systems go – and it happens very […] Read more

LIGHT ON YOGA…camatkrasana

LIGHT ON YOGA…camatkrasana

Posted July 27, 2011

Also known as Wild Thing. It’s a beautiful, warming, exciting pose. A heart opening pose that lifts the chest and lungs, releases the shoulders, opens the quads and front of the hips whilst building strength in the upper back. Backbends, just like inversions, test our mental and physical boundaries – raising questions around what our body is capable of – in particular the spine. But the spine is able to perform the full range of motion, and with a little persistence we can start to explore our bodies with more depth. The result? Enjoying the benefits of a healthy spine and living a life without major injury. In terms of movement – the spine is articulated in four ways: · Extension: neck moves away from chest – backbending · Flexion: neck moves towards the chest – forward bending · Lateral flexion: cheek moves to the shoulders – bending right to left · Rotation: neck turns to the shoulder – twists In Camatkrasana, a few things are going on here. The chest is lifting and the shoulders are dropping away from the lower neck – creating space for the lift. The spine, from cervical to lumbar needs to gently open and curve. Whilst the legs are strong and grounded through the feet – using this power to lift. And finally the body is supported on three points (two legs and one arm). It is a challenge pose but one that can leave you feeling joyous, energised and buzzy. The spine may not have strength, openess and flexibilty to reach the full lift and to be honest, it changes all the time. Some days I feel so open through the spine and backbending comes easily. Other days it’s like moving cement, But that is the beauty of yoga, the journey never ends. So don’t feel discourage. But when you are ready to try, your spine will need to be quite warmed up before attempting this – try a few Sun Salutations, strong standing poses and bridge poses from the floor. And if you’ve never attempted a backbend before I would also seek out a teacher to guide you and to assess the health and strength of your spine. It’s not something to take lightly – our spine is integral to our health and well-being. No need to explain that! Here is a step-by-step guide. Full version 1. Start in Adho mukka svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog). 2. Bring your weight into your right hand and roll onto the outer edge of your right foot, so you are in a side plank pose. 3. Inhale. Push your hips forward and away from you. Stay strong and grounded in your right hand. 4. Exhale. Swing your left foot back and keep your knee slightly bent. 5. Lift the chest and begin to curl back with the upper body. Drawing your shoulders and shoulder blades down and back into the body 6. Inhale. Lift your hips higher to arch further into the backbend, meanwhile keeping your right food solid to the ground – pushing down towards the earth through all four corners of your right good. 7. Keep the breath steady and gently drop the head back, lift and extend your left arm. 8. Hold for a few breaths and then return to downward facing dog before you repeat on the opposite side. Beginner’s variation. 1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. 2. Bend at your right knee and place the base of your right foot against your inner left thigh – the right knee is bent out to the side. 3. Place the right palm flat, behind the right sit buttock. 4. Inhale. Draw the left foot down – pointing the toes and push into the right hand. 5. Exhale. Lift the hips up – pushing them away from you in the direction of your bent right knee. 6. Breath evenly. Lift the chest toward the ceiling. Stay grounded through the right knee, left foot and right palm. Ensure that the foot of the right leg is behind you and not rotated to the side. 7. Hold for a few breaths and release down. Repeat on the other side. Enjoy the freedom, power and release in the spine. Note: If you have severe carpel tunnel syndrome or a rotator cuff injury then go easy with this pose, or avoid altogether. Also, if you have lower back issues I would consult a teacher first. Signing off with an exhale. Pause.Listen.Live Cx Read more

PRACTICE AND ALL IS COMING

PRACTICE AND ALL IS COMING

Posted July 20, 2011

Yoga to me is like breathing… it’s automatic. I practice because I’m supposed to. But now, after almost four years of practice I feel like a beginner again. Why? Well, I’ve embarked on a new method of yoga and yep, it’s like the first day of school. It is so refreshing. Today I might perfect a pose, tomorrow that same pose might not happen. The day after is a new day. The journey never ends. Forever a student. My new practice has me looking back to my first yoga class. That (literally) life-changing moment when the teacher attempted to put me into a modified version of Kapotasana (King Pigeon pose). My cement like shoulders refused to comply. It was here, being held in the pose, that I felt hot, uncontrollable tears streaming down my face. Margaret (one of the most influential teachers I’ve had) just kept saying, ‘I know, I know why you are crying, I know’. What she and I both knew was that, although I was experiencing more pain than I ever had, something deep inside me had been let out. Some sadness that was buried under the layers had been forced to the surface and found its way to the light. In that moment a thought entered my mind. “I need this”. My body and mind were calling out for a release. Over time I used my practice to dislodge a lot of stagnant energy and stuck emotions… the mat my shrink’s couch and the practice my therapist. Despite my love for the Iyengar method, which taught me correct alignment, anatomical understanding, patience and respect for the body recently I began seeking a new challenge. Without knowing it, I’d been searching for a practice that compliments the way I’m thinking, feeling and trying to live my life. A more meditative, spiritual experience. To do that I needed to connect internally. Mostly though I needed a teacher and practice willing to facilitate this. And then, just like that, I flipped my practice on its head and went from 5-6 classes a week in Iyengar/Hatha to 5 early morning starts in Ashtanga Vinyasa, (still doing 2 Iyengar classes!) Let’s just say it wasn’t just my practice that flipped. I’m eternally grateful for my previous practice and yoga studies, because without them I feel that the Mysore style of Ashtanga Vinyasa would’ve been the most intimidating experience to enter into. Let me describe it. Mysore method of Ashtanga is traditionally practiced in the morning and is very much about your personal practice – working through set sequences. When you enter the shala some people may have already begun and other students may be practising an entirely different sequence to you. You lay your mat down, you practice. With guidance from the teacher you flow through the sequence, focusing on your ujjayi breath and gently cultivating heat within the body. When ready you are given the next pose or you move through to the finishing sequence of backbends, inversions, meditation and savasana. You can easily see how going from the strong, detailed and heavily guided practice of Iyengar to the dynamic, flowing, meditative practice of Mysore Ashtanga has given me a little whiplash! As I write this I am still working through so many things when it comes to this new practice. Resistance, fear, joy, inspiration, insecurity. But I’m trying. I’m committing to the practice. Ashtanga has been holding a mirror up to me. Reflecting back emotions and insecurities I now need to face. It’s certainly demonstrating that it (yoga, life) is a long journey. One that is sometimes painful but that within every roadblock resides the answer. Yes the asana is important to me. I love the changes my body has gone through, I love that my practice inspires me to eat better, and I cherish the strength and vitality I feel during and after practice. Despite this it’s the gateway that the physical practice reveals that I value the most. It is a way to open myself up and face my ego, accepting where I am at, finding patience and pausing… breathing through the moment. All these lessons I take off the mat into my life. Not whether I can do 12 backbends in a row…although, that would be fun! Do you practice? What kind of yoga do you practice? What do you love the most about your practice? Signing off with an exhale. Pause.Listen.Live Cx Read more

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