Pause. Be in the now...
LIGHT ON YOGA…sirsasanaPosted July 12, 2011
I’ve decided to do a regular post that looks at a different yoga asana each time. This week it’s Salamba Sirsasana – sanskrit name for supported headstand. It’s a pose that should be regularly practiced – Iyengar and Ashtanga (the two styles of yoga I practice) include Sirsasana in every class. But trust me, it’s difficult to teach to a large group of people, so some schools might not include them in their regular open classes. Shame, because it’s worth it! It is also a pose that takes alot of dedication, patience and understanding of both your bodies physical limitations and abilities. Sirsasana is referred to as the ‘King of the Asanas’ because it is so incredibly therapeutic to the body. By inverting, you flush the heart, lungs and brain with new blood. And by nourishing the brain, being the powerhouse of the whole body, you automatically nourish the rest of the body. Sirsasana assists in moving the nervous system from sympathetic (fight or flight mode) into parasympathetic (the calmer state). When in the parasympathetic mode your body isn’t going into overdrive, fighting for survival or coping with stress. Instead, you are programming your body to be in a state of restoration, healing and nourishment. The list of benefits is extensive. Sirsasana prevents ear, nose and eye diseases, activates the pineal and pituitary glands aiding in memory. Improves concentration – sharpening the mind, assists digestion, regulates menstrual cycles, slows down the ageing process and is great for the skin –seriously, it makes you glow. It’s the King, the shiz! But for me, Sirsasana and other inversions are the most challenging yet rewarding asanas because they literally turn our world upside down. Think about it? A new perspective, an unusual way of seeing things. Perhaps when life throws you a challenge the skills learnt in overcoming fear and tackling an inversion come into play. In the beginning, headstand is terrifying. You don’t know where you are – literally disorientated from left to right, up, down, around. Everything is out of place. It’s hard to trust your body and there is a lot of fear around putting weight on your head, falling and generally feeling clumsy and awkward. But slowly, and with the expert guidance of a qualified teacher your body starts to adjust and so does your mind. Gradually you begin to believe that it is possible and your edge, that line you walk at your boundary moves further and further away. For me, it happened consistently but slowly, and that is exactly how I encourage you to learn. Seek out a teacher that can talk you through it step by step. Someone that understands the anatomy of the human body and what needs to happen to which part to get you into it safely and staying in it with strength and vitality. I believe in learning at the wall first. Some schools of yoga don’t but to me, there aren’t many people out there that have the perfect balance of strength and openness to perform this freestanding from the beginning. Plus, if you are young you may not think you are doing any damaging, but down the track the signs of a poorly performed Sirsasana will come out to nag you! Here is a step-by-step guide. Although, I strongly advise you practice this with a teacher before attempting at home on your own. Step by Step 1. Folded a blanket or sticky mat against the wall to pad your head and forearms. Kneel on the floor. Lace your fingers together and set the forearms on the floor. You should be right up against the wall. 2. Measure the correct distance between your elbows by your shoulder width. Press the inner wrists down and make contact with the entire forearm to the mat. Roll the upper arms slightly outward. 3. Place the crown of your head on the floor. If you are just beginning to practice this pose, press the bases of your palms together and press the back of your head against the clasped hands. If you are more experience then you can open your hands and place the back of the head into the open palms. 4. Take a deep inhale and lift your knees off the floor. Carefully walk your feet closer to your elbows. Keep the hips high, trying to walk in until the hips are stacked above the shoulders. Draw the shoulder blades away from your ears – try to avoid letting the weight of the shoulders squashing onto your neck and head. If you get here and it is quite difficult to lift the shoulders. Come down and rest. Keep practising this each day. 5. Exhale and bend one leg and gently kick your opposite leg to the wall. You might not get up, but that’s ok. Simply practice kicking from each leg. 6. Otherwise, if you feel ready to come all the way up. With a little bend in the knees, light bunny-hop up the wall, with both feet at the same time. 7. Keep the tailbone gently down, against the pelvis and keep drawing the shoulders away from the ears. Push away with the heels towards the ceiling. Keep pressing firmly down from elbow to wrist.Soften the fingers – try not to grip to hard – and soften the face, the jaw and the tongue. 8. Try to keep the weight balanced evenly on both forearms and keep lifting and tucking the tailbone away from the lumbar spine and towards the feet. Keep your breath slow, smooth and even. 9. As a beginner only stay for 5-10seconds, building up each time until you can comfortably hold the post for 3 minutes. 10. When you come down, stay firm in your foundation and slowly lower the legs on the exhale. 11. Be mindful not to turn the head/neck whilst inverted and coming down. Rest in child’s pose with your forehead to the mat. Note: if you feel any tension in the eyes or pressure […] Read more
PRESS PAUSE & MEDITATEPosted July 01, 2011
My mother has always meditated. She would take her self off and lay down for an hour. Her form of meditation varied from guided visualisations or simple pray. Like everything else, It was around me – I absorbed the ‘concept’ of meditation theoretically but did I ever put it into practice? Of course not. It wasn’t until the meditation workshop in my yoga teacher training that my interest was piqued. The teacher was literally the loveliest, calmest most incredibly glowing woman I had met. My god, I wanted that… to be like that! I needed to know what meditation was all about. I remember asking the teacher if she could share some of her experiences. Quite surprisingly she said no, she couldn’t because they were deeply private. Her response shocked me, but mostly it just fuelled my desire to understand even more. I had read about Transcendental Meditation on a few blogs and had noted it in my (long) list of things to study. But 2011 had been my cut-off. I HAD to learn how to meditate and mantra meditation resonated with me. No backing out. My issue – traditional TM courses cost over $1000. Although I knew it’d be a life time investment I just couldn’t swallow that price. And once again, my beautiful friend Emma introduced me to Carolyne Gowen from Still Your mind My boyfriend bought me the course for my 29th Birthday (it’s a heap cheaper than TM!) Over four sessions I learnt the art of Primordial Sound Meditation and received my personal mantra. PSM is very similar to TM. Primordial Sound Meditation originates from the ancient wisdom of India. Primordial sounds are the basic, most essential and sacred sounds of nature. They are meaningless – you can’t translate them, but you wouldn’t want to. You don’t need to attach an impression to your mantra. It’s just the sound, the feeling and how it resonates with you. During the course I received my own ‘sound’, the matra based on the vibration of the universe at the time of my birth. When trying to understand Primordial Sounds I think about that feeling, not really the sound, but the energy in the room when a group of students chant OM after a yoga class. The first time I ever heard the chant OM was at Dharma Shala in Bondi. I was 21 and attending a yoga class. Totally unconnected to yoga at the time, it came as a surprise when tears literally sprang into my eyes as 30 yogis chanted with so much passion and intensity. It was like a wave rippled through my body. It felt amazing. So, perhaps you get the importance of primordial sound if you’ve ever been to a yoga class? But if not, that’s cool. No need to intellectualise it, because it just is what it is. When you meditate though, the feeling is much subtler than when chanting. It’s like a long, slow sigh… an exhale as everything settles, softens and the mind finds a little spot to sit down and stop amongst all the mayhem. But, I digress – back to the course! Once I had my mantra Carolyne then guided me in the gentle art of meditating with that mantra. It’s so simple that of course I found a way to complicate it. In the beginning I was ‘waiting’ for it be easier. Trying to make it ‘work’ better and just generally doing what I do – putting pressure on trying to achieve! After meeting with Carolyne a couple of months after the course to talk it through she said something that clicked, made sense. She told me to give myself permission. To allow myself to simply meditate and let go of what I think should happen. Now, I do just that. A little insight into meditation: Just sit. (Upright in a chair is best – feet flat to the floor) Listen to your breath. Then focus nothing on the mantra – repeat it gently. Let it roll around in your mind. Use it to anchor you back to stillness when a thought pattern drags your attention away. Sometimes it’s really difficult to quieten the mind, sometimes It might only happen for a moment. Other times you find ‘the gap’ – the space between your thoughts and it’s like the wind has stopped. For a moment it’s just peace and then you step back out again. Just tasting that moment is so delicious! It makes meditating each day a need, not just a want. And other times you learn something in meditation. I discovered that I had to study at Integrative Nutrition. The name of this blog also came to me when meditating, and sometimes strange memories from the past crop up. And each time I just try and come back to my mantra. Trusting what Carolyne says – if that thought, memory, idea is meant to be there it’ll be waiting for you when you finish. It’s been life changing. And not in that big BANG kind of way – slow, gradual but noticeable. It’s something I will never stop doing. Something I love – just like ocean swims, or showering, or water, or cooking, or being in love. It is part of my life now. I will post more about meditation another time. Breaking down the things that happen during meditation, what to expect, how I meditate and where. If your interest is piqued or maybe you’ve been thinking about meditating then perhaps see this post as a meaningful coincidence and look into it. If you are in Sydney I cannot recommend Carolyne enough. Signing off with an exhale. Pause.Listen.Live Cx Read more
THE UNIVERSE GETS WHAT THE UNIVERSE WANTSPosted June 26, 2011
Isn’t it funny how we all insist on ignoring the signs? I mean, sometimes they are screaming at us, right up in our face… and still, nothing?! We pay attention to street signs, instructions, directions and more on a daily basis. But do we pay attention to the signs that really make a difference to our life? It’s only lately that’ve I’ve had the enough ‘pause’ in my mental chatter to actually notice the little calling cards the universe has left me. I think it might be because of the daily meditation, or perhaps focusing on my breath in yoga, or maybe it comes with maturity? I don’t have the answer, but I do know something. If we listen to the universe it’s just trying to help. Without trying to philosophise the ‘universe’ too much or dance around a topic I don’t fully understand, there is one thing I want to break down. What is the ‘universe’ that people speak of? To me… it’s quite simply me, you, ‘us’, everything all around. We are all connected to the same source, the same energy, the same vibration (more on that later!)If we literally tune in, the universe we’ll find that it is continually ‘talking’ to each living thing on this planet. And it’s working at making everything happen the way it should – be fulfilled. So, I got to thinking about the universe on Friday. It had been a long and literally painful week. After changing my yoga practice to Mysore, Ashtanga my body was feeling it and so was my mind – it left me a bit shaky. That was the first sign. I had made plans to do an inversion workshop at Jivamukti in Newtown with my friend Nadia. All day I was quietly concerned about how I would get through a 2-hr workshop after a week of dynamic yoga, full time work, study and well, LIFE. I worked through my issues and stuck to my commitment to Nadia. Driving to the workshop I sent Nadia a text. 5 minutes later, no text and a thought literally popped into my mind – “Oh wow, she thinks the workshop is next week’. Second sign. I heard it, I acknowledged it but silly me thought I was bigger than it. I pushed the thought out and kept driving. As I arrived at the studio Nadia rang me. Would you believe it? She thought the workshop was the following Friday. Relief swept over me! The universe had tried all day to tell me I needed to listen to my body and go home, but my ego – the part that doesn’t want to let a friend down – got in the way. So I persisted and so did the universe, until it got its way! All I could do was laugh, genuinely. I thought the whole situation was hilarious and I felt comforted knowing that the signs are always there. I just need to take the blinkers off, tone down the ego and listen. So what I am now wondering is – how far will the universe go to get the message through? Does it eventually give up when it goes unnoticed? Ignored? Is that how so many of us end up unfulfilled with our dreams washed away? A few ‘universal’ thoughts to ponder over. Signing off with an exhale. Pause. Listen. Live. Cx Read more