Thursday, 7th March heralds the start of our Moon Yoga sessions at Riverside Rooms.
So what do we do differently at these sessions; I thought it would be good to share a little more info about the practice in this weeks blog.
Firstly, the session is outside, but currently undercover with infra red heating at this time of year to keep us warmer. Given the nature of the practice, it is more beneficial for us to be outside under the moon as much as possible. When we refer back to the Vedic texts and the history of yoga, many yogis where forest dewellers who had retreated back to nature to study with or without their gurus. When we look at the Sanskrit translations of postures, they often reference animals and nature (mountain, dog, tree, etc) so the effect of nature on our practice is profound.
Consider the effect of the moon on our planet - the tides, degrees of darkness and gravity. It has long been held practice by farmers that seeds are planted in accordance with moon phases due to the moon's subtle effects. Waxing, Waning, New and Full are references to various stages of the moons cycles. In our sessions we work with the New and Full Moon. The New Moon is when the moon is at is visible smallest - it looks like a slither or a slit in the deep indigo sky. It is a time to set intentions - wishes - for the future, which we work with during the practice. The Full Moon is when the Moon is at it's fullest and brightest; this is a time to work with gratitude and forgiveness whilst still considering the intentions we have previously set. And if we haven't set intentions, we focus on gratitude and thankfulness in our lives, and creating forgiveness so we can move onto a new phase of our lives. Bearing this in mind, it is beneficial to repeat the practices at each phase - we can't necessarily manifest a new job promotion after one New Moon, but need to develop the appreciation, understanding and intention by stage to get there.
Asana practice (physical movement and postures) is gentle yet powerful - consider "less is more." Whilst I will always work with the bodies in attendance, various postures help create an environment in which the aforementioned intention and gratitude work can take place - the heart is open and the mind cleared to consider this.
Warming drinks also help to open the heart; we have found that in the coldness, hot chocolate warms and comforts, but equally we can have a herbal tea or other alternative.
Yoga nidra is a practice of "conscious sleeping" - we deepen the awareness of the body and again confirm our intention (called a "sankalpa" for the purpose of yoga nidra) at the start of the practice which "sets" it in the body and mind.
I love to practice these sessions as I feel it gives students a little more to keep taking forward in their day to day life. The longer session gives well need time to come back to the body and deeply connect, bringing us clarity to the mind.
I hope that I will see you at one of these wonderful practices, and do get in touch if you have any questions.
love and light
These sessions are held at Riverside Rooms, 10 Uxbridge Road, Hampton Hill, TW12 3AB; an oasis for holistic therapies with Carole Barnes and an amazing venue for this practice.
Latest craze or enhancing our kids wellbeing.....
We were all kids once. Most of us reading this will be either practicing or considering yoga, as we’re reading up about it right now. Most of us as kids practiced yoga postures without even realising it. In trying to stand up, we crawled on all fours, we squatted, we bent over in numerous ways so we’d nearly done a sun salutation just to stand up! Handstand games, headstands on the bed, can you do the splits……. All of these are yoga postures. Maybe afterwards we sat and watched the clouds, or read a book outside; very mindful and meditative activities.
Then we grew up and essentially stopped playing. And when we do play – it’s online rather than outside. We sit longer at desks to study or work, developed habits in our bodies and lives which may not be so good for us and voila – we can no longer touch our toes.
We’re all aware that movement is key to keeping our bodies and minds healthy. Anxiety levels in young adults and children are on the increase, as are obesity, diabetes, etc. Kids are still active – it’s not all doom and gloom – football, dancing, rugby, cycling – and these all tick the boxes to help prevent the aforementioned, but if you’re an adults practicing yoga, you know the benefits it brings.
And it’s exactly the same for kids. In fact it’s easier, because kids are AWESOME at yoga. It’s the most natural thing for their bodies to do so all we need to do is encourage it. Sun saluting 3 year olds? Definitely – when was the last time you were a dog, or a cat? It’s the best fun in the world. 7 year olds practising mindfulness and meditation? Really…. yes….. A guided exercise, taking in a tree, it’s textures, it’s sounds, it’s smells, it’s inhabitants – just the start. Tweenies love a shoulder stand. The most surprising thing is that most kids crave savasana. Maybe I’ve been very lucky as a teacher, but once they get into the habit, a 5 minute relax is really looked forward to.
So the benefits….. movement frees up a lot of held “stuff” – energy, frustration, excitement, etc and certain yoga postures help more so with freeing up these feelings. Once we’ve freed up that stuff, we’re happy to sit for longer, in fact our minds and bodies are positively comfortable doing that as all that stuff that made us fidget and switch off is gone. We understand more about our bodies, ourselves and our environment – if we’re taught to breath as well as be a tree how can we not appreciate these things more. If we can practice savasana, getting to sleep on our own gets easier. And we haven’t got to body confidence and self confidence yet!
Encouragement is key. Forcing, like anything with a child, is far from ideal. I have taught lots of children who spend the first session sitting and watching, then the second participating a little and so on. The introduction of singing bowls and flowers to smell – encouraging sharing and breathing as well as inviting every child to participate in some way. Yoga is not just a physical practice on a mat after all!
So don’t write yoga for kids and young adults as the next in thing – it’s far from it – in fact they’ve been doing it for years! Encourage, enjoy and be a dog wagging it’s tail once in a while, it really is a lot of fun!
If you're interested in your child practicing yoga, I will be teaching at the Yoga Bar in Twickenham during half term, 10-12 each day and at Ember in Hampton Hill on Monday, 4pm onwards (starting 4th March). Marble Hill yoga will start after Easter in April which is also a family friendly session.
Most of you who know me, have heard about my dogs, Bodhi, Arthur and Tig. They are all completely different shapes and sizes; Tig is a 11 year old Lab, Arthur a deaf 2 year old terrier cross and Bodhi, a 16 week old mongrel that looks like a whippet (as I type this, I have one on my lap, one trying to get on my lap and the third asleep on the floor)
Dog pose in it's full glorious sanskrit is know as Adho Mukha Svanasana; the translation is Downward Facing Dog; it is also known as Mountain, as the body looks like a mountain, it's peak being the pelvis. There are numerous benefits to this pose and the feeling it gives to the body is different to everyone. Which makes me think about my dogs.......
Tig as a Lab with a strong stout body looks very different as she stretches downward when compared to Bodhi who is all legs and deep chest. As breeds, and non-breeds, they behave differently; Bodhi runs fast for short bursts, Tig is happy to walk for miles and Arthur, well he'd be constantly cuddled if given the chance. In our day to day life, what we do with our bodies and how we live impacts how we move. If we are desk bound with little movement during our day at work, this can be reflected in shoulders and hips; if we are runners, probably tighter quads and thighs due to the way the muscles are used, if we are tense, the psoas can be tight, affecting the lower back.
So practice your dog and be in tune with your body. Bodhi lengthens through her spine, brings her shoulders inwards to the vertebrae. Tig, when feeling her age, softens her joints, so nothing is pushed, and Arthur's little legs with their double joints makes his dog like "puppy" pose.
We can learn a lot from how dogs move when they stretch; next time you're close to one, watch them and notice how they move and you'll see why the pose is called Downward Facing Dog.
I love cat pose, I love dog pose. Mind you, I love cats and dogs full stop, but let's talk about cat pose. Marjaryasana is it's full sanskrit name. For me, in cat, I move from the base; from the tailbone (or root). The releasing down of the tail allows a wave to move up and through the spine, bringing you into cat pose, without force or pushing. Cat pose creates length into the spine and massages the belly. Invite the shoulders to release forwards and let the breath move as it wants to.
Named cat because the posture is like an angry cat, I've been known to teach my friends "be an angry cat like Denzel" - Denzel was my 3 legged black rescue cat, who was particularly angry, and particularly loveable because of it. An ex stray who stole hearts - and anything you weren't watching on a dinner plate. So this post is in memory to Denzel, who passed on yesterday. Thank you for finding us.
"That which is non-existent can never come into being, that which is can never cease to be"
I'm sure that most of us at some point have felt anxious. If only for a split second before jumping into a swimming pool, or for an evening before a morning presentation. But for some of us, it's a little longer than that, and possibly a little more regular. And it may be the same with feeling down - we may feel down for a couple of days, but for some of us, that feeling down can manifest into depression before we know it.
I was recently reading an article by Monty Don (the he-god of gardening with velvet voice and love of dogs) which really resonated with me; and I wanted to share some of it as I felt that whilst Monty talks of gardening - and I totally agree with his view - his words also made me think of yoga.
"I think gardening is an enormously beneficial thing and it's certainly helped me with depression. I think there are two key things. One is just being outside; here we are standing with the rain falling gently on us but it's not unpleasant - it's better than being in a stuffy room! Being outside in every weather and every season connects you to something bigger than yourself; it connects you to a rhythm of life! ........ Number two is that growing things, seeing them grow, planting a seed seeing that come into a beautiful flower is life. It's a celebration of all there is and it's everything. And if you can see that and share that, that gets you through a lot. Being outside on a daily basis, working, moving, getting fresh air, feeling the weather and the seasons and then celebrating the beauty you're creating is good for your head!"
He also says in the same article "I want people to have a go and if it goes wrong, you then learn something. And if it goes right, it's great!" I couldn't put it better myself Monty, that's exactly how I feel about yoga - for every full good headstand, there's been 15 times of sliding over and learning, and for every lovely meditation, there's been a previous session disturbed by "the list of jobs".
So what's the answer to being anxious and feeling low. I wish I had it. If I find it, I'll let you know, but in the meantime, let's be a bit more Monty.
Link to the full article below.
With love - and dirty muddy hands
Most of us have what I call quirks in the body. That sore hip, bit of a dodgy knee, griping tummy and so on. I believe this is the body talking to us - maybe even singing loudly out of tune at us. And we should listen. I always ask at the start of class, anything I need to know about? (My fellow yogis know me well enough to grab me if they want to talk privately) And often, I ask is there anything we want to focus on. Our day to day posture has a huge effect on our wellbeing. Texting, phone under one ear, desk bound, driving, rushing - all of these things can change how we use our bodies - and our spines. Aligning the spine allows the mind to calm. If we sit slumped, how do we feel? If we sit, lengthened and aligned, now how do we feel? I know that we cannot change the pace of modern life, but we can, and should, bring our practice into our roles and activities.
Many women are told to do pelvic floor exercises at the bus stop or in queues! Well what about Tadasana - standing. Coming into the feet and upwards, creating the posture that connects us to the earth and the sky. And so the spine can lengthen and align, the mind can calm and quieten. In traffic, Pranayama - breath practice. Be aware of your breath, let it slow, focus on the inhalation and exhalation. These little things begin to bring the undoing to the body - maybe the muscles around the sore hip can loosen little by little, creating space and easing the soreness. Maybe by using the feet properly through the practice of Tadasana, the dodgy knee is supported better. Little by little.....
Take care and enjoy the sun - hope to see some of you at class
Here comes the Sun.....
I can't believe it's April already! The sun is (kind of) out and the veggie's are in the flower beds. It's nice to be out and about in nature. The lighter mornings and evenings make the day feel longer so it's a great time to up the practice or make the slightly later 6.30 and 7.30pm classes :)
When you're out and about, turn off the mobile phone and the headphones for 5 minutes and take in your environment. Listen to the sounds, see the sights - be aware. Sometimes that's as much of a yoga practice as a session on your mat.
Walking with awareness is like a meditation. But awareness is the key. Listen to the birds and smell the flowers. Pay attention to your breath. How do your feet feel on the ground. Maybe stand still for a moment and breathe in and out a few times. Feeling better already?
Enjoy the Summer.
Love and Light
Happy Weekend Yogis!
Hope January is being kind and you are keeping warm during the cold spell.
I'm often asked "How can I develop my practice?", especially at this time of year. So here are a few tips which I feel may help in creating a home practice which in turn will develop your practice, asanas and general wellbeing.
1) Where do I do it?
Find a space that is as quiet as possible. In the summer that may be in a park, but at this time of year, think about a space at home that has the least traffic
2) How long?
Don't say to yourself I will practice for an hour - say to yourself 15-20 mins, then see how you feel once you are on the mat and moving. Often by saying we will practice for an hour, we find an excuse as we no longer want to commit to that length of time.
3) What do I do?
How does your body feel? Is the back stiff? The hamstrings shrunk? Shoulders tight? What asanas (postures) will help? In my classes, I make sure I reference, during practice, the benefits that at least 3 of the postures I am teaching will bring you eg "Garudasana (Eagle pose) - brings focus and opens the shoulders, etc." Alternatively, practice 2 or 3 postures that you enjoy or want to develop and see where it takes you. One session, you may feel that you want to sit and meditate, so do that.
Whatever and whenever you decide to practice, most importantly, listen to your body - it really is your greatest teacher.
At the end of every break or holiday, I find my inner 17 year old self singing the Soul II Soul lyric "Back to Life, Back to Reality"........
For most of us, the next few days see a return to our daily patterns and routines. Many of us may have set New Year Resolutions. Before I began teaching, we decided, in our house, to set ourselves promises, rather than resolutions, purely because we felt that we never stuck to a resolution. Why? I'm never quite sure, but I'm guessing they felt a little imposed or we really weren't that comitted to it in the first place and promising felt a little more nicer?
During my studies, I came across Sankalpas, especially in the practice of Yoga Nidras. Sankalpas are akin to resolutions but can be a vow, intention, resolve or desire to do or be, coming from deep within the heart and mind. There is an allowing of the heart and mind to speak, connecting us to the universal consciousness. It's more than achieving a goal for yourself as it doesn't come from the ego.
Yoga practice often enables the sankalpa to come to the surface and is then used during a yoga nidra, when the mind is most relaxed and the sankalpa can imprinted on the subconciousness. They can remain the same or you may find they develop and evolve over a period of time - maybe alongside your practice.
In setting a sankalpa, move away from I will or I want statements towards I am statements; Swami Saraswati gives excellent teachings on these in his Yoga Nidra book, which I will bring it along to class.
So with all this in mind, I wish you a very happy and healthy 2017.
#setyoursankalpas #2017sankalpa :)
Love and Light
Does a chocolate orange count as one of your five a day? The normally relatively clean eating is out the window - and that's ok. The pattern of my yoga practice is disjointed and that's ok too. Yoga isn't only practiced on a mat........
But what happens when Harry Potter and a mince pie is more alluring than asanas and meditation. For me, I take my yoga off the mat. My dog walk becomes a meditative session in nature and a chance to focus on my breath. Practice is shorter - maybe only ten mins to begin with and one or two asanas. The practice length will grow and a meditative savansana will return (not everyone can find a quiet space in which to during the holidays!). There is much to be learnt about movement by slowing down and focussing on those two aforementioned asanas. And once we begin like this, does the mince pie still look as tempting? Or has the breath, the asana, the (relatively) quietening begun to have its effect on the body and mind?
"Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame."
Enjoy your holidays, be kind to yourselves and respectful of your bodies.
Classes begin on Thursday, 5th January 2017 with a special masterclass "Oh My Days.... I haven't moved for 2 weeks" on Saturday, 7th January 2017.