Tonight we are going to practice a Listening Meditation, so bring your best listening ears - and mind!
If the weather holds warm and dry this week we are going to take ourselves outside for just a small period of time at the beginning of each class.
Tonight we are going to practice a Listening Meditation, so bring your best listening ears - and mind!
...after a refreshing one-to-one with one of my long-term students outside in her garden. Blue skies above, a warm breeze on our faces and various birds all chirping & singing. Thank you lovely lady!
A stunning multi-coloured solstice sunrise greeted us down at Pipe Hall Farm on Saturday morning. At 4.35 the sun rose between some big old oaks, lighting up the clouds and vapour trails - who said man-made can't be beautiful too? Yoga was done, gratitude was given and happiness abounded. And just as I brought my hands together at my heart the sun disappeared behind the clouds. Happy Midsummer Yogis!
The classic yoga sequence! This can be practiced slowly for an early morning stretch & wake up, or faster for a more aerobic workout, and it uses all the major muscles and joints and encourages you to breathe deeply into the whole expanse of your lungs. It's benefits are too numerous to mention, so just do it ;) DO do some warm-ups first (see BYOP 1) and take things mindfully to ensure you are practicing safely.
I am not going to give detailed instructions here because I think this is a sequence you should learn with a yoga teacher to make sure you know how to breathe, where hands, feet, knees should all be at any given point and how you should move your spine safely, so this is just an overview of the poses for those of you who wish to practice it at home after learning it in class. Enjoy!
Stand in Pranamasana (Tadasana with palms pressing together at your heart). Take a moment to do some spinal alignment breathing from feet to head and back, and visualise the beginning of a new day, sun just about to break over the horizon, the day ahead filled with promise and opportunity.
Lift hands overhead into Standing Stretch
Forward Bend towards your toes
Right leg back into Runner
Left leg back into Plank (or Cat)
Lower to the floor
Rise into Cobra (or Sphinx)
Lower down and lift into Dog
Right foot forward into Runner
Left foot forward to Forward Bend
Uncurl into Standing Stretch
Repeat taking the left leg back or forwarfirst into Runner, and forward first
Build Your Own Practice – Sheet 3 The Earth Sequence
We practiced the Earth Sequence for a few weeks last term and all felt ourselves moving slower and slower as we moved through its beautiful movements. Here's hoping we can practice this outside together very soon, but in the meantime, keep it fresh in your mind by practicing it outside whenever you can!
It is brilliant for releasing stress and keeping you grounded during those super-busy times, and also improves balance, mobilises all the main joints, releases the shoulders, spine & hips, and strengthens the legs & back.
Stand in Tadasana with your palms gently pressing together at your heart in Anjali mudra. Bend & gently place your hands on the earth, giving thanks for the life that the Earth gives us. Lower your hands to your pelvis, middle fingers just touching.
Inhale - draw hands up to throat
Exhale – turns palms down, and push gently down to pelvis, softening knees
Inhale – turn palms outwards and extend hands up out in front, then overhead
Exhale – let palms face outwards and float down to the hips once again, softly bending the knees as the hands lower. Imagine a shower of light, strength or peace (or whatever else you may need) showering down over you.
This is 1 round
The Earth Sequence repeats this simple hand movement and breathing pattern for 5 rounds in 5 different positions. Coordinating the hands with the breath ensures we keep our movements slow and mindful.
Complete 5 rounds in TadasanaComplete 5 rounds lowering into a squat
Complete 5 rounds in a wide-legged forward bend*
Complete 5 rounds while lunging to the right**
Complete 5 rounds while lunging to the left
* take your feet 2-3 shoulder widths apart. If you have any trouble with your lower back, keep knees soft as you lean forwards and lift the hands overhead
**Turn your right foot out to the right & turn your body to face over the right leg. As you push your hands down, bend the front knee and lean forward slightly. Your hands should head towards the knee, not the foot or floor. As you inhale, straighten the right leg and lift the hands up in front. Exhale and open your arms out to each side as before.
Symbol of Unity Mudra:
Finish by making rings with your thumbs & forefingers and then interlock them. Place the tips of your remaining 3 fingers together, middle to middle, ring to ring, etc and hold in front of your heart. Spend a few moments standing still, feeling your connection with the earth.
In Sanskrit, mudra means "seal" or "sign" and refers to sacred hand gestures or whole body positions that bring about a certain inner state or symbolize a particular meaning. Anjali mudra is perhaps the most common of thousands of mudras used in Hindu rituals, classical dance & yoga.
Anjali means "offering," and in India this mudra is often accompanied by the word "namaste". This is the consummate Indian greeting, like a sacred hello. Namaste can be translated as "The divine (or light) in me bows to the divine (or light) in you." This salutation is at the essence of the yogic practice of seeing the Divine within all of creation, leading to that popular yogic quote "the person in front of you is you". Hence, this gesture is offered equally to temple deities, teachers, family, friends, strangers, and before sacred rivers and trees.
Anjali mudra is used as a posture of composure, of returning to one's heart, whether you are greeting someone or saying goodbye, initiating or completing an action. As you bring your hands together at your centre, you are literally connecting the right and left hemispheres of your brain. This is the yogic process of unification, the bringing together of our active and receptive natures. In the yogic view of the body, the energetic or spiritual heart is visualized as a lotus at the centre of the chest. Anjali mudra nourishes this lotus heart with awareness, gently encouraging it to open as water and light do a flower.
Experiment with the feeling that Anjali mudra beings about by trying this simple exercise:
Begin by coming into a comfortable sitting position, lengthening your spine all the way up to the crown of your head. Now, with open palms, slowly draw your hands together at the centre of your chest as if to gather all of your resources into your heart. Repeat that movement several times, contemplating your own metaphors for bringing the right and left side of yourself—masculine and feminine, logic and intuition, strength and tenderness—into wholeness.
Now, to feel how potent the placement of your hands at your heart can be, try shifting your hands to one side or the other of your midline and pause there for a moment. Don't you feel slightly off kilter? Now shift back to centre and notice how satisfying the centre line is, like a magnet pulling you into your core. Gently touch your thumbs into your sternum (the bony plate at the centre of the rib cage) as if you were ringing the bell to open the door to your heart. Broaden your shoulder blades to spread your chest open from the inside. Feel space under your armpits as you bring your elbows into alignment with your wrists. Stay here for some time and take in your experience.
With gratitude, from Yoga Journal.com
A joyful, heart-opening breathing practice to do as part of your home yoga session or by itself at any time of day.
Build Your Own Practice – Sheet 2
Anjali Breath Sequence
Stand in Tadasana and bring your palms together in front of your heart into Anjali mudra. As you exhale, draw in the pelvic floor and lower abdomen.
Stand here for a few breaths, reflecting on your body, thoughts &/or emotions, or perhaps upon the meaning of Anjali mudra, as discussed in the following post.
Inhale - extend your hands up overhead, shoulders down & relaxed, elbows softExhale – let your palms turn outwards and lower to shoulder height
Inhale – face your palms forwards & draw your shoulder blades together, drawing your hands back slightly and opening your chest
Exhale – keeping your arms long, bring your palms together in front of you, opening the upper back & letting the shoulder blades open outwards Inhale – hold your arms still & feel your back gently stretching with the inhalation
Exhale – draw your palms in to your chest, back into Anjali mudra.
Repeat 3-5 times, feeling your shoulders, chest and back gently releasing so you can breathe ever more deeply and easily.
To finish, bring your hands back into Anjali mudra and simply stand, being aware of your body, thoughts & emotions. Smile and let your hands slowly relax down to your sides.
Due to popular demand, here is the first in a series of pages you can use to help you practice yoga at home. Most of us can remember a few warm up moves and the cat, but then it starts to get a bit tricky, so I hope these BYOP sheets will help you when you find yourself with a little bit of time and the desire for some stretching, re-balancing or just pure relaxation.
Build Your Own Practice – Sheet 1
Wake Up, Shake Up! (at ANY time of the day)
Stand in Tadasana and see how your body, breath, emotions & thoughts are today
Wake Up Your Arms
Shake or circle your wrists, elbow & shoulders – one way & then the other
Wake Up Your Legs
Shake or circle your ankles, knees & legs – one way & then the other
Hands on hips and circle your hips - one way & then the other
Breathe IN and lift shoulders up towards your ears
Breathe OUT and let your shoulders drop down
Repeat a few times
Take your shoulders back in little circles, getting larger as your shoulders soften. Change directions.
Breathe IN, reach your hands overhead and stretch up
Breathe OUT, soften knees and come into a gentle forward bend
Breath gently here, letting the arms hang down and relaxing the back & neck
Breathe IN, bend the knees & uncurl the spine up to standing, hands on the lower back
Breathe OUT, lengthen the spine upwards and look up or lean back
Breathe IN, stand tall
Breathe OUT, come into a forward bend again
Breathe IN, bend the knees & uncurl the spine, lifting the hands overhead. Stretch.
Repeat the whole sequence a few times & let the arms relax
Take the feet a little wider, soften the knees and stand tall. Start to turn left and right, letting the arms swing out from the body. Try to twist from the waist first, then up through the ribs, the shoulders and last of all, the neck. Slowly lift the arms higher each time you twist and then slowly let them come back down.Observe
Stand in Tadasana and see how your body, breath, emotions & thoughts are now
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone!) is our anti-stress hormone. It is the opposite to adrenalin and cortisol, calming us down following a stressful event, lowering blood sugar and helping with our immune response. Eastern therapies often view people with very low DHEA levels (and usually very high adrenalin & cortisol levels) as having empty heart chakras. We often try to do too much and end up giving all of ourselves away, leaving us feeling stressed, tired and a bit resentful of nothing in particular.
The good news is that we can increase our DHEA levels by practicing a little exercise for just a few minutes a few times a week. This exercise can help with stress, anxiety and panic attacks, and has also been shown to lift your general mood.
1. Take a moment to observe how you feel, without comment or judgement.
2. Try to name what is causing you stress
3. Place your hand over your heart and feel the warmth of your hand
4. For a minute or two, imagine a person, event or place that always makes you smile or feel uplifted and imagine having that feeling in your heart.
5. Bring somthing to mind that allows you to feel unconditional love or appreciation; a child, pet or a very special place. Hold that feeling in your heart for 5 or 6 breaths, holding your hand over your heart.
6. note how you feel now and how your emotions have spiralled upwards.
Practice this regularly to lift your spir
I am passionate about encouraging everybody to try yoga & see how it makes them feel.