Lessons From The Mat.

Sharing observations and insights that unfold through practice and teaching.

7 Tips To Stay Grounded During The Holidays

jenniolsenyoga:

Staying grounded is so important for our health and wellbeing.  A yoga practice is great, but we may not be able to, or have the time to do this every day.  However, there are many little things we can do throughout the day that serve to keep us grounded, and this practise can be more effective than the once-a-week yoga class.

There is no other time when this is needed more than the lead up to Christmas.  All the senses are stimulated, expectations are heightened, we are committing and doing more than normal, and there is financial stress.  Either way, it will make you feel excited or anxious.

If I am to be honest, this is not my favourite time of the year.  Here are some techniques that I have learnt to employ to keep the experience pleasant and me grounded.

1.  Earthing or Grounding is easy and one of my favourite.  Simply, it is getting outside and walking on the ground.  Barefoot is best, either on the grass or sand at the beach.  This has a very calming effect to the nervous system.  The breath and heart rate will drop.  Can’t get outside or take your shoes off? Then take your attention to the soles of the feet, imagine the soles of your feet growing roots into the earth.  Other variations of this would be lean your back against a tree, or if you are sitting inside, feel the back of your body against the chair and the soles of the feet on the floor.

2.  Take a minute to be present with the breath.  One minute is about 12-15 breaths.  As you count them slowly be aware, appreciate each one in and out.  Watch them slow down and enjoy the space, the silence in between.  This can easily be done a few times a day and is a great way to drop you into the present moment.  Remember, one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to be present with them.

3  Practice gratitude.  Gratitude changes the perspective on everything and reminds you of the small things and what is really important to you.  This is a favourite of mine when I am in the car….. I appreciate the artery of roads that let us get from A to B easily.  I appreciate the people who look after the roads to keep them safe.  I appreciate having a car to get around 1
in.  I appreciate the little family I have in the back.  I appreciate the conversations we have and the questions they ask…… The list goes on.  What are you grateful for?

4.  Unplug from social media, even if it is just for the afternoon.  It is easy to get caught up in what every one else is doing, but this draws your awareness from what is in your immediate environment, and out of the present.

5.  Be aware of expectations. The greater the discrepancy between expectation and reality the greater the disappointment.  Choose to be with what IS rather than something ideal.  Practise contentment.

6.  Refrain from overindulgence and you will feel better. Drink plenty of water and eat plenty of fruit and veg.  If you are lethargic from overeating, bloated, riding sugar highs and lows, your mind will follow how you feel and it will be hard to stay grounded.  If you feel you are on an unhealthy spiral drink water or mineral water with a little lemon or apple cider vinegar and it will help bring you back on track.

7.  Learn to say ‘No’ without guilt.  Look after yourself, don’t over commit, and choose how you want to spend your time.

Most of all, do things you love with people that matter and focus on what is important. Happy holidays!

Posted 364 weeks ago

7 Tips To Stay Grounded During The Holidays

jenniolsenyoga:

Staying grounded is so important for our health and wellbeing.  A yoga practice is great, but we may not be able to, or have the time to do this every day.  However, there are many little things we can do throughout the day that serve to keep us grounded, and this practise can be more effective than the once-a-week yoga class.

There is no other time when this is needed more than the lead up to Christmas.  All the senses are stimulated, expectations are heightened, we are committing and doing more than normal, and there is financial stress.  Either way, it will make you feel excited or anxious.

If I am to be honest, this is not my favourite time of the year.  Here are some techniques that I have learnt to employ to keep the experience pleasant and me grounded.

1.  Earthing or Grounding is easy and one of my favourite.  Simply, it is getting outside and walking on the ground.  Barefoot is best, either on the grass or sand at the beach.  This has a very calming effect to the nervous system.  The breath and heart rate will drop.  Can’t get outside or take your shoes off? Then take your attention to the soles of the feet, imagine the soles of your feet growing roots into the earth.  Other variations of this would be lean your back against a tree, or if you are sitting inside, feel the back of your body against the chair and the soles of the feet on the floor.

2.  Take a minute to be present with the breath.  One minute is about 12-15 breaths.  As you count them slowly be aware, appreciate each one in and out.  Watch them slow down and enjoy the space, the silence in between.  This can easily be done a few times a day and is a great way to drop you into the present moment.  Remember, one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to be present with them.

3  Practice gratitude.  Gratitude changes the perspective on everything and reminds you of the small things and what is really important to you.  This is a favourite of mine when I am in the car….. I appreciate the artery of roads that let us get from A to B easily.  I appreciate the people who look after the roads to keep them safe.  I appreciate having a car to get around 1
in.  I appreciate the little family I have in the back.  I appreciate the conversations we have and the questions they ask…… The list goes on.  What are you grateful for?

4.  Unplug from social media, even if it is just for the afternoon.  It is easy to get caught up in what every one else is doing, but this draws your awareness from what is in your immediate environment, and out of the present.

5.  Be aware of expectations. The greater the discrepancy between expectation and reality the greater the disappointment.  Choose to be with what IS rather than something ideal.  Practise contentment.

6.  Refrain from overindulgence and you will feel better. Drink plenty of water and eat plenty of fruit and veg.  If you are lethargic from overeating, bloated, riding sugar highs and lows, your mind will follow how you feel and it will be hard to stay grounded.  If you feel you are on an unhealthy spiral drink water or mineral water with a little lemon or apple cider vinegar and it will help bring you back on track.

7.  Learn to say ‘No’ without guilt.  Look after yourself, don’t over commit, and choose how you want to spend your time.

Most of all, do things you love with people that matter and focus on what is important. Happy holidays!

Posted 364 weeks ago

7 Tips To Stay Grounded During The Holidays

Staying grounded is so important for our health and wellbeing.  A yoga practice is great, but we may not be able to, or have the time to do this every day.  However, there are many little things we can do throughout the day that serve to keep us grounded, and this practise can be more effective than the once-a-week yoga class.

There is no other time when this is needed more than the lead up to Christmas.  All the senses are stimulated, expectations are heightened, we are committing and doing more than normal, and there is financial stress.  Either way, it will make you feel excited or anxious.

If I am to be honest, this is not my favourite time of the year.  Here are some techniques that I have learnt to employ to keep the experience pleasant and me grounded.

1.  Earthing or Grounding is easy and one of my favourite.  Simply, it is getting outside and walking on the ground.  Barefoot is best, either on the grass or sand at the beach.  This has a very calming effect to the nervous system.  The breath and heart rate will drop.  Can’t get outside or take your shoes off? Then take your attention to the soles of the feet, imagine the soles of your feet growing roots into the earth.  Other variations of this would be lean your back against a tree, or if you are sitting inside, feel the back of your body against the chair and the soles of the feet on the floor.

2.  Take a minute to be present with the breath.  One minute is about 12-15 breaths.  As you count them slowly be aware, appreciate each one in and out.  Watch them slow down and enjoy the space, the silence in between.  This can easily be done a few times a day and is a great way to drop you into the present moment.  Remember, one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to be present with them.

3  Practice gratitude.  Gratitude changes the perspective on everything and reminds you of the small things and what is really important to you.  This is a favourite of mine when I am in the car….. I appreciate the artery of roads that let us get from A to B easily.  I appreciate the people who look after the roads to keep them safe.  I appreciate having a car to get around 1
in.  I appreciate the little family I have in the back.  I appreciate the conversations we have and the questions they ask…… The list goes on.  What are you grateful for?

4.  Unplug from social media, even if it is just for the afternoon.  It is easy to get caught up in what every one else is doing, but this draws your awareness from what is in your immediate environment, and out of the present.

5.  Be aware of expectations. The greater the discrepancy between expectation and reality the greater the disappointment.  Choose to be with what IS rather than something ideal.  Practise contentment.

6.  Refrain from overindulgence and you will feel better. Drink plenty of water and eat plenty of fruit and veg.  If you are lethargic from overeating, bloated, riding sugar highs and lows, your mind will follow how you feel and it will be hard to stay grounded.  If you feel you are on an unhealthy spiral drink water or mineral water with a little lemon or apple cider vinegar and it will help bring you back on track.

7.  Learn to say ‘No’ without guilt.  Look after yourself, don’t over commit, and choose how you want to spend your time.

Most of all, do things you love with people that matter and focus on what is important. Happy holidays!

Posted 364 weeks ago

Renew You

I haven’t always been attracted to restorative postures. Generally I am one to be drawn to a physical practice where I feel my body stretch and move. But, I will admit there have been a few times where nothing else will do than a good rest in a restorative position.
Perhaps the first time when I really felt this was a period of transition where I felt mentally and emotionally exhausted, and a deep sense to draw in. Later it was my first pregnancy that drew me to a restorative practice. Now, I will use them regularly as I need.

Restorative postures refresh, renew and allow reflection. They allow the senses to still. They assist in balance returning to the body. Their supported nature allows tension to leave the body on all levels - physical, mental and emotional.

What happens when we are stressed?

The adrenals release adrenaline and noradrenaline which act upon the sympathetic nervous system and induce a response of ‘flight or fight’. The heart rate and blood pressure go up, we are hyper alert and muscles tense. Systems not necessary in the immediacy of the moment shut down…. Systems like metabolism and elimination, growth, repair and reproduction.
If we hold onto stress and accumulate it within our bodies long term there can be implications to our health. Issues like high blood pressure, ulcers, immune dysfunction, reproductive problems, and depression can be related to stress. There can be many circumstances that contribute to stress - work, relationships, worry, anxiety, overwhelm, exhaustion, or a period of change like pregnancy or menopause.

What happens when we feel supported?

When we are physically supported muscle tension can leave our body and as that happens the breath returns to normal, our hormones return to normal and that fight or flight response (the sympathetic nervous system) can take a break bringing blood flow and energy back to things like digestion and repair. Mentally the mind becomes quiet. Emotionally our load that we are carrying (the big and little things that stress us) don’t feel quite so heavy and we are able to respond, rather than react, to situations.

Why restorative postures work.

• The props provide a completely supported environment where the body and mind can feel safe.

• The postures gently target different parts of the body, moving the spine in different directions, gently stimulating or soothing different organs to assist hormone balance.

• Inversions assist in venous return of blood and lymph and rest the heart.

•Postures support full relaxed breathing.

•Postures induce introversion, helping the mind turn in, down and back.

•They leave the practitioner feeling refreshed, neither overstimulated nor depleted.

Here are three of my favourite restorative postures.

You can make these as simple or as complex as you like, but the idea is to feel supported. A good indication that you need more support is if you feel uncomfortable, a stretching or straining. Take your time to get it right - even raising or lowering by a centimetre or two can make a difference.

Viparita Karani (legs up the wall)

Simply it is resting the legs up a wall, the back on the floor, and letting gravity do the rest. This pose is great for refreshing tired legs and mind.  It reduces the systemic effects of stress. It also assists in venous return of blood and lymph from the legs back to the abdomen, thus being helpful to those who stand for long periods or suffer from fluid retention or varicose veins.

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The hardest thing is getting into the posture. Sit side on, close to the wall. Roll your back to the floor and swing your legs up. Wriggle closer if you can and if your back and legs allow. You can place support under the head and neck if you wish. You can also place a bolster under the hips if you wish - just bend the knees and press the feet to the wall to lift the hips and slide the bolster under. Take a moment to check that you are straight, that the head, hips and legs are in line.

Then rest for 5 or 10 minutes.
When you are ready to come out of the posture raise your hips and remove the bolster if you are using one, return the spine to the floor and rest with
the knees bent, feet on the wall for a few minutes to
let the back neutralise. Then, roll onto your side
and come up to sitting.
This posture is not recommended for those people
who should avoid inversions.

Supported Baddhakonasana (Supine Bound Angle Pose)
This is another favourite and full of many benefits. Physically, it gently opens the chest, abdomen and hips. Psychologically it takes us to a space where we feel safe, supported, and nurtured.

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This posture benefits people with breathing problems, high blood pressure and dealing with stress, as it gently opens and releases tension across the chest and shoulders. It is also helpful with digestive problems, indigestion and during menstruation and menopause.

Again this can be as simple as lying back, bringing
the soles of the feet together and dropping the knees to the side. Or, with more support - a bolster under the length of the spine, the edge brought right up to the sacrum. A block under the head end of the bolster to raise the head slightly, a folded blanket would do the same. Supports can also go under the knees/ thighs and even under the forearms. If you feel a strain in the groin use more support under the legs. If there is a strain on the back raise the bolster height, or lie flat on the floor. If there is a strain on the chest and shoulder raise the support under the arms. Taking your time to get it right means you can stay and relax rather than fight the posture.

To come out of the posture bring the knees up, Remove the bolster under the spine and rest with the back flat on the floor, separate the feet and prop the knees together. Let the back and groin neutralise before you turn to the side and come up to sitting.

Be cautious with this posture if you have neck, back, sacrum or knee issues.

Supported Balasana (Supported Child’s Pose)

This posture gently stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, 'rest and digest’, bringing homeostasis back to the body. It also gently stretches the lower back. A familiar posture of rest for young children, it induces calming introversion.
There is enough support under the body so that the knees and hips are comfortable. Start by kneeling on the floor, bring the end of the bolster

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or folded blankets between the knees. Lengthen the torso down over the length of the supports. Lie the head to the side and tip the chin towards the chest. Let the tailbone drop towards the heels, though it is not necessary that they touch, and there is not much weight on the legs.
If there is discomfort in the ankles try a rolled towel under the ankle. If there is discomfort in the knees, try a rolled towel in the back of the knee, or raise the height of the support. If there is trouble breathing move the top support forward so you rest on the sternum and the belly can freely expand. Rest your arms either forward or back, letting the shoulders release away from the ears. Be sure to turn your head to the other side part way through to keep the neck balanced.

When you are ready to come out press the hands into the floor to lift the torso off the supports. Sit to the side of the heels and straighten the legs letting the knees and ankles return to normal.
Do not practice this posture if you have chronic neck, back or knee issues.

The beautiful thing about these postures is that five or ten minutes can make a big difference. The next time you find yourself with a little time try one or two of these instead of looking for a distraction. Definitely a worthy addition to your repertoire of self care. 

Posted 415 weeks ago

Slow Down, Find The Moments In Between

We think of giving ourselves space and time as a bit of a luxury (think of holidays). Our bodies relax and drop stress, we can tune in to and feel connected to ourselves and our environment. But, you don’t have to wait until holidays to give yourself time and space.

When we are really in the moment time stands still, and the eternal opens up to us.
Most of the time though we don’t give this much consideration, spending most of our thoughts on what is next, or pondering what has gone by.

Yoga asana and our attention to the body sensations, alignment and breath bring us into the present moment, but still…..we get very good at racing through the bits that are hard or uncomfortable and, for that moment, we have lost awareness and become focused on the posture coming. By pausing where the discomfort is and looking at it with awareness and objectivity it loses its power.

It can be an affective tool to slow the practice right down and hold the positions between the postures for three to five breaths. I do this for myself when I am having difficulty focusing. Working like this draws my attention in and gives me time to feel all of my body before moving on. I will also use this if I’m working with an injury as stopping half way can reveal to me where my attention to my body has lapsed and even subtle readjustments can mean a big difference.

I find it useful for students too who I observe are not focused, or have lost connection to their breath or body in between and rush or push through the transitions.

Holding these in-between spaces for 3-5 breaths brings incredible heat to the body. I have used this with sun salutes and standing poses, but experiment and see for yourself. 

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=t1d3CY_Hvjg

Posted 422 weeks ago

Balance, it's a relationship thing.

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This came up the other day when I was teaching headstand to someone for the first time. But really the keys to successful balancing whether on two feet, or one foot, on your hands or your head, are all the same. Shifting it out an octave we balance relationships, work, life, again the same principles apply.

So coming back to our body. We learnt to balance on two feet when we were about one. We have been doing it for so long the neural pathways are forged and we have forgotten the learning process. Generally we learnt with our feet under our hips, and mostly in two planes - forward and back, with swinging, climbing, tumbling, jumping etc all helping to cement our awareness of where we are in space.

Balance is not a stationary place where there is no movement. It is not an end goal, a perfect position to attain. This is why I call it a relationship. It is between the front and the back, left and right, inner and outer, gravity and grace, the past and the future. We exist in duality (until we transcend into unity). In the yoga tradition this is called Prakriti. Here we have the three gunas - Rajas or energy, Tamas or inertia and heaviness, and Sattva which is harmony, in constant motion, like the game Rock Paper Scissors. As soon as one gets on top, the next one comes along and changes everything. Cycles can turn quickly or may take eons, but we know nothing lasts and everything changes.

We really don’t give too much thought to how we balance….. Until it is challenged. We can do this deliberately in our yoga practice. We start with standard poses with two feet on the floor. Our brain and feet work hard to hold us steady. Standing on one foot is more challenging still as more of the body is called in to keep the posture steady. Challenging ourselves further we try balancing on parts other than the feet - the buttocks, perhaps, or full inversions on forearms, head or hands.

If you close your eyes as you stand on two feet and take your attention to your feet against the floor, you will notice continual, minute adjustments made as your body works to hold itself steady. Learning to take headstand or handstand realise that the body needs to relearn this pattern in another form.

Some points to successful balancing:

  1. Minimise physical resistance by opening key areas like hamstrings and shoulders so that you can lift away from the floor, or get your body into the optimal position.

  2. See it in your minds eye, visualise yourself in the posture with ease.

  3. Drop your attention into the present moment. A wandering mind will not be able to balance.

  4. Move from and around your centre. Slow mindful movements. There is no place for forcing or

    rushing.

  5. Breathe. Holding the breath indicates tension in the body. Breath awareness keeps the mind

    focused and present and can help to keep the body buoyant and light.

  6. Use an appropriate drishti or eye focal point. Looking far into the distance, or eyes closed and

    you are making your job twice as hard. Find a point close, on the floor or wall, that is in the

    direction of your movement, and soften your gaze.

  7. No rush and no expectation. If you don’t get it the first go give it two more tries then move on.

    Remember your yoga practice is a journey where we also practice surrender and letting go.

  8. Practice with joy, not fear or anxiety. If you are not enjoying it, don’t do it.

  9. Learn to BE, not DO.

While we are operating in this realm of duality we will always be shifting in terms of balance. Sometimes with ease, sometimes with resistance. Take away the struggle and it is there. It was

always there. The Universe holds this truth, as It operates in unity. In the yoga tradition we call this Purusha. It is impossible for the Universe to be out of balance, it simply IS.

Now, let your yoga practice take you there. 

Posted 432 weeks ago

Yoga for Winter Immunity

Rochelle Wagstaff is an Ashtanga Yoga teacher and acupuncturist.  She lives on the Central Coast with her family and is the Director of the Acupuncture Pregnancy Clinic in Gosford.  To contact her visit http://www.acupunctureivf.com.au.

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As winter is on us and there are some nasty bugs lurking about, we are all looking for ways to boost our immunity this season. From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yoga Asana and Pranayama are effective in stimulating the channel systems and internal organs that play a key role in maintaining immunity.

Traditional Chinese Medicine considers that the immune system is strongly affected by the function and health of the internal organs- mostly the Lungs, Kidney and Spleen. If these organs are well balanced they will support the immune system (Wei Qi) and prevent you from being easily effected by external pathogenic factors (Colds and Flu). This explains why some people are more resilient, or are better able to shake off the flu before it takes hold.

In TCM the Lungs dominate breathing and the skin. It is the first organ of defence against colds, flu, wind and heat. Common symptoms of lowered immunity due to Lung deficiency are hay fever, sore throat, runny nose headaches and cough. Any yoga postures that open the chest, such as Back Bends, Parsvottanasana (Side Forward Bend), and Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle) are going to encourage Qi flow through the lungs and muscles of respiration, as is a regular pranayama practice.

Another organ attributed to the body’s immune system is the Spleen. The Spleen is one of the major organs of digestion and responsible for spreading Qi and Blood to the rest of the body. If this organ is over worked due to improper foods or fatigue, it not only consumes a lot of energy, but fails to transport the Qi and Blood that should be supporting other organ systems- including Wei Qi to the Lungs. Furthermore if transportation of nutrients is sluggish then fluids can pool leading to dampness. In TCM thick phlegm on the chest from a cold needs the help for the Spleen and Lungs to shift. Sun Salutes, Forward Bends and Spinal Twists will gently massage and invigorate blood supply to the digestive system.

So in the prevention of colds and flu this winter yoga practitioners will have a head start. The very act of working through Yoga Asana warms and enlivens the Qi of the whole body, which when healthy and strong is then better able to act in our defence. Eat well, stay warm and look forward to seeing you on the mat this winter. 

Posted 438 weeks ago

Time for a Chai.....

If there is a time for chai it would be this one- a cold and wet winter afternoon.  Chai is an Indian spiced tea that is warming AND sweet.  It is sold in India in tea stalls along the road side and by Chai Wallahs on trains, railway stations and other busy places.  It was often drunk in small cups- stainless steel, glass or clay.

I have fond memories of sitting after yoga practice with friends enjoying a glass of chai and watching the suburb wake up as people begin to get their day going.

The chai in India is special and nothing like the one I make at home.  Some special ingredient is missing here, or perhaps it is the length of time it is brewed.  And the chai I make at home really makes the chai in cafes (made with a powder or syrup) disappointing.

A wet and cold afternoon is perfect for giving it a try and it really is not that hard to make.  For two cups start with about half a teaspoon of each whole spice- cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, green cardamon, brown cardamon, and pepper corns and break them in a mortar and pestle.  Add to a pot with one and a half cups of water and a few slices of ginger.  Simmer gently for about 5 minutes to release the flavours. Then add two teaspoons of tea, or two tea bags.  Continue to simmer for 1 minute.  Now add one to one and half cups milk or soy milk and heat to just before simmering.  Strain and sweeten with sugar or honey.

If you don’t have all the spices, not to worry, it’s a very flexible recipe, use what you have.  Likewise, instead of tea you can try rooibos or dandelion root.  Experiment until you have found your flavours.

Enjoy.

Posted 442 weeks ago

What I Would Tell My Beginner (yogi) Self

I see new students come and go, and lately have had the pleasure of teaching a group of people brand new to yoga. Some have an immediate love affair with yoga, others find it is harder than they were expecting. While I applaud them on stepping into something unknown and vast, there are some things I wish I were told way back when I was in that place (without taking away from that brand-new experience). These are some things I would share with them if I could.

  • You don’t have to be flexible, just possess a willingness to start where you are. It is more about learning to be present and mindful. As Krishnamacharya, the grandfather to modern yoga said, “if you can breathe, you can do yoga.” There is no such thing as a typical yoga body. Yogis come in all shapes and sizes. Neither do you have to become vegan or vegetarian. Honouring and listening to your body, treat it with respect, being present and working with what you’ve got and where you are at- these are far more important.

  • It will probably be harder than you think initially but it gets easier. With time you won’t have to think so hard to get into poses. You will have more attention to give to the breath and will feel more ‘in the flow’. Downward dog also gets easier and even becomes a restful pose.

  • Trust that if you apply yourself and show up regularly your practice will thrive. Practice a little, regularly, the journey will be even easier and the weekly classes more enjoyable. While you don’t need to practice every day, you don’t need to wait until you have an hour and a half to practice either. Something you can maintain with some regularity is good. Or fit in a few postures when you have a free 10 or 15 minutes. In fact little bits more often is better than once a week warrior style. However, miss a few weeks and it all gets hard again.

  • There is not hurry, take your time,. What is the hurry when there is no end to the journey? Neither is there any benefit gained from pushing (this can be a difficult lesson to learn!) Have patience and enjoy being a beginner.As a child we were beginners many times over as we tried new things. As adults we become more impatient. Focus your attention on the journey, not the expected end result.
  • When you take out urgency then you can tune into your body and learn to listen to what serves you best for today. Do the best you can with the body you have bought to your mat today. This might mean sitting and breathing. A calming restorative practice is just as powerful as a strong flow class. We have become used to the idea of sweating and grunting our way through fitness. It has it’s benefits, but don’t disregard the benefits of holding supported postures for 10 minutes at a time. Difficult poses aren’t necessarily better. Don’t be afraid to modify. It is not a sign of weakness or failure to step back. This is a very important lesson and can take many years to get right.
  • It is easy to feel self conscious early on but no body really cares what you look like (except perhaps your teacher), and you shouldn’t either. Likewise give little concern to what others around you are doing. Use it for inspiration if you like, but this is really an internal journey you have with yourself.
  • You don’t need the latest yoga gear and you don’t need to be cool. Yoga isn’t about how you look, it’s about how you feel.

  • Breathe. Really, learn to listen to your breath. It can help you focus, takes you out if your thoughts, calms the mind, brings you into the present, helps you balance and hold a posture, and will tell you much more besides.
  • Turn up to your mat regularly. It is more likely you will regret NOT practicing than practicing.

To quote B.K.S. Iyengar, “Yoga is a light that once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame”. I applaud you for starting and encourage you to listen to your body, listen to your breath and enjoy the journey that unfolds before you.

   
Posted 451 weeks ago

The Gift Of Being Present (With Yourself)

It is a common mistake both for a new teacher or student to think that yoga is just for the physical fitness. But many years of turning up to my mat through a full range of energy, emotions and mental states- particularly those that are difficult, unpleasant or uncomfortable, has turned up all sorts of valuable insights, slowly revealing my deviations from truth so that my course may be corrected, my higher Self revealed. Like that old analogy of slowly polishing the mirror.

Yoga is “Union” - of the body, mind and spirit. And by working with the postures, the breath and attention you can begin to achieve that. But we need to look at all of it, the big picture. You wouldn’t say you knew someone well if you only ever saw them when they were happy, or when they were only depressed. On the other hand, you could say you know someone well when you have seen them through a full range of emotions and mental states, observing how they cope when they’re angry or sad. Likewise, there can be so much to be gained by turning up to your mat when you are feeling “under the weather”, depressed, anxious, exhausted, grieving and all those other feelings that we find unpleasant.

Yoga offers a time and place to acknowledge and accept ourselves and where we are at. To sit with the feelings pleasant and unpleasant and let them unfold with honesty and integrity.

We are very good at masking the unpleasant and finding ways to block them from our consciousness- little distractions like housework, getting on the computer, phone, tv, fitness or eating. We are VERY good at being busy! Much of the time we don’t even know that we are doing it or why.

Yoga brings us back- out of our head and emotions, out of the past and the future, into the present. By paying attention to the details, to the sensations through the body, we may start to see correlations between where our mind and emotions lie and the sensations that we feel. Turning our senses inward- listening, feeling, hearing, tasting. In this way we really honour the body. Like when we listen and be completely present for a friend. Here, we give this gift to ourselves.

Sometimes, when I’ve been exhausted or unwell or some other emotional thing has been happening I have had the most present of practices. Too exhausted to allow attention to drift onto insignificant things. Any pain or discomfort holding me with such intense awareness. Movements are slower, more deliberate. There is only here. Now.

Yoga gives us tools to be in a true connection with ourself in any moment, regardless of the quality of energy. Quieting ourselves to our experience to allow the truth to unfold, deepening our connection with our self through honour and recognition.

Don’t just leave it as a ‘fair weather’ practice. I recommend continuing yoga practice through these challenging times, slowly, attentively, intuitively. Choose a space you feel comfortable in. If you do choose to turn up to class in one of these states have a quiet word to your teacher and put your mat at the back or the side of the class where you can be more in your own space.

Unroll your mat, sit and listen. 

Posted 455 weeks ago