Yoga Practices

YOGA TECHNIQUE IN FOCUS – SUKHASANA

Posted by on Mar 5, 2020 in Yoga Practices
No Comments

EASY POSE – SUKHASANA

When people think of yoga this is the pose they most often associate with the practice. The Sanskrit name of Sukhasana is derived from ‘Sukha’ meaning ‘pleasure’ or ‘comfort’ and ‘asana’ meaning ‘posture’ or ‘seat’. Having a comfortable seat is the basis for meditation and other calming practices. Sitting in easy pose and gently lowering the eyelids prepares the body and mind, to move from a busy active state, to one more ready for contemplation and going inwards and away from the outside world.

It is a basic pose suitable for all levels but to obtain real comfort in a body used to sitting on chairs for most of its existence, finding comfort can be a challenge. Focus on keeping the spine long, chin parallel to the floor, knees wide without straining, and sitting bones grounded.

Tips for Sitting Cross-legged with Ease

  • Support your hips by sitting up on the edge of folded blankets or blocks. Once seated, widen the knees to allow more space for the hips. Feel the sitting bones connecting with the floor.
  • Relieve knee pain by adding rolled up socks or small towels and place them behind the backs of the knees before crossing the shins. Alternatively support your outer shins with blankets.
  • For lower back discomfort try sitting with your back against a wall supported by a cushion.
  • For very tight hips and when sitting for extended periods, support the knees by placing rolled up blankets or small bolsters below each knee.
  • Relax tight shoulders by taking an over-head stretch. Interlace the fingers and as you breathe out stretch the arms over head. Repeat a few times to release neck and shoulder tension.

Easy Pose Step by Step

  1. Sukasana posePlace your block or blanket in position, sit close to the edge and allow the pelvis to settle in neutral, legs out straight.
  2. Draw one knee in towards the body and allow the knee to fold out to the side, sole of the foot facing towards the opposite leg.
  3. Draw second knee into the body, allow the knee to fall out and cross over the opposite leg at shin level.
  4. Relax the feet so their outer edges rest comfortably on the floor and the inner arches settle just below the opposite shin. You’ll know you have the basic leg fold of Sukhasana when you look down and see a triangle, its three sides formed by the two thighs and the crossed shins. Don’t confuse this position with that of other classic seated postures in which the ankles are tucked in close to the sitting bones. In Sukhasana, there should be a comfortable gap between the feet and the pelvis.
  5. Find a neutral pelvis by pressing your hands against the floor, lift sitting bones slightly and as you hang make your thigh bones heavy, then slowly lower your sitting bones lightly back to the support.
  6. Find a comfortable position for your hands, lengthen tail bone toward the floor, keep a long spine but don’t over arch your back or allow your ribs to poke forward.
  7. Remember to reverse the cross of the legs after a period, to even out the body.

As with all yoga practices is best to take instruction with a qualified teacher and consult your doctor first, before undertaking exercise, if you have any health issues.

EXPERTISE FROM A SELF-CARE SPECIALIST – Helena Chalverus, Yoga Teacher

Posted by on Mar 5, 2020 in Self-Care, Yoga Practices
No Comments

Helena Chalverus, Yoga Teacher

Helena Chalverus

Does meditation make sense? Most of you have heard or perhaps even repeated some of these catch phrases that seem to have ascended to the realm of blind truths, like “Be in the Moment”, “Live in the Present”, “Be Here…Now”. Being the non-illuminated soul that I am… what do these expressions really mean to me and how do I practise them? How does meditation help me? Can I still live my normal life, fulfil my responsibilities, dreams and needs if I am just “being”? There is a lot more to this than one might imagine, so today I am going to introduce a simple exercise and inquiry that can open the conversation with ourselves.

My inquiry proposal is to ask ourselves what distracts us. What is your definition of a distraction? When you sit to relax or meditate and a fly is buzzing around you, do you consider the fly a distraction? What if the fly exists to teach you not to become distracted? If the fly is not the distraction, what is?

Take time to sit with these questions, without the need for an answer. Just see what comes up, before going on.

Now take that curiosity into the meditation. Our five senses will be the tools we use to observe our attention, which is our main power source.

When we sit to meditate, we are processing the information coming from our senses, and we are processing the information coming from our thoughts. When you take your attention to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations in your body, you are connected to the world around you and inside of you. You are here in the present moment, being. The loud banging of a door, the cries of a child, the heat or cold are all helping you stay here…they are NOT the distraction. The moment your mind begins to describe, analyse, or create a story about these, your attention takes you away from the reality and to the place of the mind and your thoughts. In this place you are disconnected from others, your surroundings and from feeling your body’s sensations. In other words, you are not here, you are not present, you are not being. You are distracted.

The work is in observing where you place your attention. When you see your attention directed towards the story, gently return to the five senses. It may take a long time, and the story may have many chapters, when you realise that your attention was there so long. Don’t worry, be happy that you noticed and bring the attention back to your five senses. I always visualise this process like teaching a dog to heel (walk by your side). The dog strays and you gently pull it back to your side. After a certain amount of time this straying occurs less and for shorter periods. Our mind strays and at first it can take a long time to notice, but after practice we catch it sooner and bring it back to the moment for longer periods of time.

After a time, you will begin to notice how wrapped up in the story you become in your everyday life, with family, work etc. Once you can use your attention to come back to reality and let go of the stories that are distracting you, you are truly freeing yourself from what I like to call my “inner politician”, who loves to create problems where there wasn’t one, in order to feel needed by solving it! We’ll save that for another day.

Enjoy observing your distractions and enjoy the reality with all of its clever ways to reminds us to be here…now.

Viparita Karani – Legs up the Wall – a Tonic for the Vagus Nerve

Posted by on Jan 20, 2020 in Yoga Practices
No Comments

This asana has profound effects and is easy to set up and do almost anywhere. By reversing the flow of gravity, Legs Up the Wall relaxes, renews, and rejuvenates the nervous system, toning the vagus nerve. It calms the mind, relieves anxiety and headaches, brings serenity and peace, and heightens self-awareness. Ancient yoga texts even claim that the pose will destroy old age!

How to do Viparita Karani

  • Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose-Viparita-KaraniFind an uncluttered wall and move any furniture out of the way.
  • Set up a folded blanket or cushion about three feet from the wall – this is for your head.
  • Sit on the floor with one shoulder near the wall, thighs parallel to the wall. Roll back, swinging your legs up the wall.
  • Rest your head on the blanket. If this is not in the right place gently lift the hand and move the blanket to a position that supports the natural neck curve and head.
  • Ensure your tail bone and buttocks are not lifting and your lower back is not rounded. If this is happening move away from the wall so that your lower back is supported by the floor.
  • Make sure your chin is slightly lower than your forehead but do not flatten your neck, keep the natural curve.
  • Keep legs straight up but relaxed. For those with any lower back issues, knees bent and feet on the wall is often more comfortable.
  • Place arms by the sides with palms facing up in a gesture of receptivity.
  • Close your eyes and take slow deep breaths. Stay from 5-30 minutes until you feel the need to come out.
  • To come out, bend the knees to the chest and roll gently to one side before coming up. Bring the head as the last part to come upright.

CONTRAINDICATIONS

  • Hypertension
  • Hernia
  • Sciatica
  • More than three months pregnant or risk of miscarriage

As with all yoga practices it is best to take instruction with a qualified teacher and consult your doctor first before undertaking exercise if you have any health issues.

YOGA TECHNIQUE IN FOCUS – BASTRIKA PRANAYAMA

Posted by on Dec 28, 2019 in Yoga Practices
No Comments

Bhastrika, or “bellows breath,” is a traditional breathing exercise in yoga that helps to increase Prana or life force in your system.

Bellows Breath Photo by Nine Köpfer on UnsplashBellows breathing is also a practice to consider if you’re trying to lose weight. Performing a few rounds throughout the day can help increase your digestive power or Agni (fire) and boost your metabolism. This practice helps move you from sluggish to energized very effectively by increasing oxygen and building heat in the body. Practise whenever you need to enkindle your Agni in preparation for eating or when you need an extra boost, ideal before an exercise routine or clearing out that ‘dumping’ cupboard or drawer! Avoid practising close to bedtime, as it may invigorate your mind and make it difficult to fall asleep.

Contraindications: Do not practice Bhastrika if you’re pregnant, have uncontrolled hypertension, a blocked nose, epilepsy, seizures, panic disorders, or heart conditions. You should also avoid practising bellows breath on a full stomach; wait at least two hours after eating. Please consult your doctor before practising if you have any health conditions.

  1. Practise on an empty stomach and ideally evacuated bowls.
  2. Sit up tall, relax your shoulders, relax the face and take a few deep, breaths in and out from your nose. With each inhale, expand your belly fully as you breathe with each exhale completely empty the lungs.
  3. Begin bellows breathing by forcing the breath through the nose on both the inhalation and exhalation. A slight hissing sound will be produced. Try for a few rounds up to 10 and then rest. Increase the rounds only as you get stronger in the practice.
  4. Make sure the breath is coming from your diaphragm; keep your head, neck, shoulders, and chest still, while your belly moves in and out.
  5. Remain relaxed throughout and do not strain. Stop if you begin to strain or feel tired.

As with all yoga practices is best to take instruction in Bastrika with a qualified teacher.

PAVANMUKTASANA – WIND RELIEVING POSE

Pavana = wind/air    Mukta = freedom/release    Asana = seat/pose

As the name suggests, the posture helps to eliminate any gas trapped in your abdomen. It is one of the best yoga poses for kindling Agni, aiding digestion and alleviating bloating.

How to Practise Pavanmuktasana

  1. Pavanmuktasana Wind Relieving PoseLie on your mat/floor
  2. Bend your knees and place your feet close to your buttocks
  3. Hug your knees with your arms. Inhale and lift your legs away from the floor and hug them to the chest
  4. Exhale, lift your head from the floor, and bring the forehead close to the knees without straining the neck
  5. Hold the posture, pressing your thighs on your abdomen, for several deep breaths

This simple posture massages the digestive tract helping to get the bowels moving.

YOGA TECHNIQUE IN FOCUS – SANKALPA

Posted by on Apr 13, 2019 in Self-Care, Yoga Practices
No Comments

SANKALPA – SETTING AN INTENTION

WHEN TO USE A SANKALPA

If you’ve attended any of my classes or workshops you’ll sometimes hear me invite you to ‘set an intention’ for your practice.  This idea comes from the yogic term Sankalpa. The root of the word ‘san’ means “a connection with the highest truth,” and kalpa, means “vow’.  So, ‘Sankalpa’ translates as vowing to connect with highest truth, meaning to resolve/intend to do or achieve something that is heart-felt.  This is why we will always take a few moments before setting our intention so we can quiet the mind and ego becoming settled into what our ‘soul’ or inner voice is asking for. A goal can be thought of as an individual’s will, while the Sankalpa is the universal will.

We use Sankalpa whenever we are making a commitment to bringing something into our lives or letting something go. It’s not to be used lightly on a whim or for every little thing we want.

Connecting to our heart’s desire allows for the Sankalpa to be phrased as a positive declaration of intent, such as “joy is my true nature,” rather than the ego-driven “I want to be happy.”

 

As well as getting quiet and stating a positive declaration the Sankalpa can be sealed with a ‘mudra’.  Another yoga Sanskrit term, a Mudra is a PsychoSpiritual gesture usually of the hands, that locks and guides energy back to the brain via the reflex system.

 

THE SANKALPA MUDRA

Left hand crosses the midline (heart energy center) and rests with palm open (receptive mode) on the right thigh.

The right hand goes over the left with the right palm facing down in a grounding mode.

Bringing the palms to face one another connects both hemispheres of the brain. All aspects of us–body, mind and energy hear the commitment and can work together to make our resolve happen.

 

HOW TO SET A SANKALPA

  • Find a comfortable position
  • Take a few deep inhales and exhales
  • Let the breath return to normal and begin to get quiet
  • Listen for the heart to speak
  • Phase your intention in the positive, present and universal
  • Check for ego demands
  • Adopt the Sankalpa mudra
  • Can be used not just before a yoga practice but any activity. Particularly useful before going into a potentially difficult situation of conflict.

 

March workshop

RESTORATIVE YOGA AND GONG BATHS – OPENING THE DOOR TO SELF HEALING

Posted by on Apr 15, 2018 in Yoga Practices
No Comments

RESTORATIVE YOGA AND GONG BATHS – A PERFECT COMBINATION

Alicia Davies of www.earthsongsoundhealing.com and I pioneered the combination of restorative yoga and gong baths. These two practices are natural bedfellows, focusing as they do on slowing down and reconnecting to our innate healing abilities. Many have heard of yoga but not all are familiar with Restorative Yoga. This gentle practice is truly open to everyone. You don’t have to be young, bendy, dynamic, strong or any one of a hundred things, people sometimes feel they need to be, to practice yoga. You just need to be willing and open just like you do with the gong bath.

Restorative yoga does what its name suggests – restores. A session may begin with some gentle simple movements, followed by a few positions sitting or lying down which are held for longer periods of time. Props are provided to give as much support as is needed for total relaxation in the posture. We’re not looking to build strength or to get into really, deep, stretches. We ask the body to open a little and let go of tightness and restriction – often the result of our response to stress and trauma, be that from the body, mind or emotions.

A lot of the time in 21st century life we are increasingly in the ‘fight or flight’ mode, our bodies are flooded with stress hormones and this can show up at the very least as tightness say, in the shoulders right through to serious illness. By practising Restorative Yoga, you gently move the body from ‘fight or flight’ to the relaxed ‘rest and digest’ nervous system, which helps relieve the stress response. Benefits include better sleep, better digestion, more energy and less fatigue.

The combination of opening via the Restorative Yoga and then immersing in the gong bath vibrations really lets people switch on their own healing mechanisms. We are more powerful than we can imagine but with the help of these two profound practices we can begin to take back our own healing power.

You don’t need any special equipment just comfortable clothes, a pair of socks and a desire to let go and drop into your relaxation response.

WHY ARE GONG BATHS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH?

Posted by on Feb 2, 2016 in Yoga Practices
No Comments

I’ll never forget my first gong bath, a room packed full with people and these amazing vibrations cursing through my body. I’d already been into yoga and meditation but this was a different level. But why do they work so well? Gong baths use sound and their frequencies to allow the mind to move into Alpha and then Theta brainwave states. Alpha states indicate deep relaxation and allows the brain to daydream, use imagination and firing up associative thinking and theta occurs during REM or dream sleep and deep meditation, when the body can begin to heal itself.

The frequencies of the gongs and the brain become as one and this method is great for those who find meditation a challenge, as the gongs literally transport you to deeper levels of consciousness. Sessions are typically under an hour and the effects can be long lasting. Gong maestro Alicia Davis collaborated with me recently on a yoga workshop and has this to say about gongs – “Some of the words people use to describe the effects of receiving a gong bath are –  Amazing. Powerful. Relaxing. Rejuvenating. Trance-inducing. Healing. Gong Baths are one of the world’s most ancient modes of healing used for thousands of years. They have the potential to be transformative and help people achieve lasting well-being”. For more info on Alicia visit http://www.earthsongsoundhealing.com/

WHAT IS SATISFY THE HUNGER ABOUT?

Posted by on Dec 24, 2015 in Ayurveda, Food, Self-Care, Yoga Practices
No Comments

I had so many different name ideas for this site but Satisfy the Hunger seemed to encapsulate what I was hearing from so many – a need to find food and practices that nourish our depleted, stressed-out selves.

Why I decided to do a site in the first place was because my yoga students would ask where they could find out about my food and get advice on recipes and techniques and my private cook clients wanted to know more about the yoga I offered so I decided to put it all in one place.

My posts will focus on practices and techniques that nourish the body and the soul across the spectrum of food and yoga but always with an emphasis on the practical. Who has time to prepare three-hour gourmet ‘raw’ meals or two-hour early morning yoga sessions? OK maybe some, but for the rest of us we need to access practices which are do-able, fit with our lives, are effective and Satisfy the Hunger within for a life that sustains us.