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.
So, what have we been up to in the last couple of weeks.
I've been beginning the start of a Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga practice - Thanks to Brian, Angie and all at Blue Chip - have a look at my facebook page for the video :)
Trying something new always conjours up feelings in the body and mind - trepidation, excitement, love and the big one, fear! I once read that we learn as much from falling out of a pose as we do from practicing a pose - and I totally agree with that!
I've also been administrating for our Inner Yoga teachers Lesley Charters on our Year 1 course, and Pauline Sawyer and Bridget Whitehead on our Year 2 course. At Inner Yoga our teaching training is a 500 hour, 3 year course. For more information on Inner Yoga, have a look at our website www.inneryoga.org.uk
Enjoy the supermoon tonight! Over the next few weeks I'll be working on content for the site, so let me know if there's anything you'd be interested in hearing about.