Yoga- Evolving with the times

Evolve- develop gradually.

Synonyms: develop, progress, make progress, advance, move forward, make headway,

mature, grow, open out, unfold, unroll, expand, enlarge, spread, extend

The only way to keep a culture alive is to keep practicing, otherwise it is lost and in order for a tradition to stay alive, it must adapt and evolve.  If you keep traditions as you see them they will eventually die out.

A sense of moving forwards, progressing, this is what most of us wish for.  Learning and growing.

‘Yoga attempts to create a state in which we are always present-really present in every action and every moment.  The advantage of attentiveness is that we perform each task better and at the same time are conscious of our actions.  The possibility of making mistakes becomes correspondingly smaller the more our attention develops.  When we are attentive to our actions we are not prisoners to our habits, we do not need to do something today simply because we did it yesterday.  Instead there is the possibility of considering our actions fresh and so avoiding thoughtless repetition.’ TKV Desikachar

 Yoga is a mindful practice that teaches us that if we can become aware, if we can align ourselves and connect to ourselves fully, we begin to recognise our true self.  We can know what it feels like to honour this true self and what it feels like to be unconnected or out of line with ourselves.  This feeling of being in sync, when you are aware of your thoughts and feelings, your physical sensations and movements, when you feel your breath in and out and you are connecting to creating a sense of harmony between it all. 

Yoga is giving us a practice and teaching where we can re-learn lost skills of listening to ourselves, when we can re-connect and re-align. 

‘Yoga is primarily a practice intended to make someone wiser, more able to understand things than they were before.’ TKS Desikchar

This does not mean we reach a perfected, pinnacle state for ever more and stop.  It is a continually, shifting, and evolving self-exploration, the person you were yesterday or last year or ten years ago is not the person you are today.  We are making efforts towards knowing our true self and expressing our true self, and developing a connection to the understanding that there is a power greater than ourselves.  (I see this simply in nature for example, I can understand and recognise there are forces in nature much greater than me as a human.)

There is a lot of literature throughout the years and years of Yogic texts that inspire me on these philosophical aspects of Yoga, that even as our times change, our problems differ, our societies concerns are varied, the yogic philosophies and teachings can still provide inspiration, reflection and even clarity on the way we choose to live now.

What does change however, as we gain more and more scientific knowledge, evidence, case studies and research, are the facts that we have acquired on our minds and our bodies.  How we can affect change, how problems are caused, how we treat problems or prevent them are continuously expanding in fields of science and medicine and psychology.  What may have been thought as best practice 100 years ago in medicine for example may be considered absolutely out of the question today. (eg electric shock therapy)

In Yoga, yes we connect to a sense of tuning in and listening to ourselves but sometimes what you think or believe may be ill informed, may be cross wired based on your previous experiences and what you have been told.  There is also the case of cognitive bias, where you want to believe something, or you believe something so strongly that you continually find ‘evidence’ to support your theories.

We cannot also stay stuck to the same thoughts, ways of seeing things, opinions and behaviours.  There has to be an allowable element of openness and discovery.

Yoga as a practice how it is taught today and how it is experienced has to evolve from how it was offered and taught hundreds to thousands of years ago.  This does not mean as a practice it has to change completely or just be given up, it simply means it evolves with the times.  What one person said was the exact way to do yoga thousands of years ago cannot always be substantiated in today’s world.

Yoga teachers for example cannot defend specific teachings with the argument with that is just how it is done.  We live in an age now with access to so much information, that as well as your own personal experience and practice there must be supporting facts and evidence to the benefit and reasoning behind your methods.

In Yoga, even though something like a ‘pose’ might feel good, there are still facts that you may not be aware of and you could be on the road to an injury.  You might believe one way to do a pose is the only way because that is how you have always done it and you simply did not realise or allow for other options.  Similarly, just because you read something or saw something online, does not make it true.  You might say what I was told for years, that I was ‘too flexible in my spine’ besides the fact this is simply wrong, it led me down a confused path in my body for a long time.

You might think as a teacher that certain poses are ‘unsafe’ but is that because it doesn’t feel good for you?  Is that because it has been scientifically proven on many bodies that we should not assume such a pose?  Is there a consideration for what bodies do in gymnastics or dance or martial arts or any sports, what is possible in those realms? 

You may think it seems necessary to modify a pose if someone is experiencing pain in a certain area, but does that mean the pose is the goal and that their pain area should not be addressed and healed?

‘Progress on the path of yoga means different things for different people.  We must not obstruct this progress by deliberately setting certain goals.’ TKS Desikchar

To move forward, Yoga teachers and the community and the individuals can learn so much from zooming out and looking at what we know and can learn from a broad view of current best practices and yes connecting to your own intuition and sense of what is right for your personal way of teaching or practicing.

If we do not evolve, all that we know as beneficial through Yoga, all that we have felt and experienced will die out.  Yoga does not have to be what it was 5000 years ago, but that does mean it has to be forgotten.  Yoga has to be what works for each individual today, and can be backed up and shown over and over again to work physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  

There has to be accountability on the part of teachers and on the individuals, continually questioning where are you going, why and how?  Evolving does not finish, there is no end goal.

 

What us 'adults' can learn from Teenagers:-)

Yoga for Schools, Dublin

This week I paid a visit to a school to teach a Yoga class to Transition Years.  Over the years teaching Yoga I have been to many schools and teaching teenagers is definitely a different game than teaching adults.

Friends often ask me now do I miss teaching in school (As I was a secondary school teacher), and to be honest the answer is multi layered.  There are aspects I miss and then, as I know in some capacity or another for my life I will always be a teacher it does not feel like I have lost anything.  I still get to teach and work in an area I love and I have brought all the skills and experiences I have had with me.  

Yoga for Schools, Dublin

I really enjoy teaching mainly adults now, however, there are some notable differences and what I feel is often over looked is what teenagers can actually teach us adults rather than the other way around.

Fresh Perspective

What I notice a lot with the groups I teach in schools is that they are not laden down by opinions or habits formed.  Sure, there are always exceptions and definitely I've had some groups or individuals who do have their own opinions! More often than not though, they have not experienced Yoga, they don't really have any thoughts on it and are open to the idea of something new.  It is refreshing to be around those with a clean slate and genuine curiosity.

Vulnerability

When trying something new, whenever I teach teenagers, the vulnerability in the room is so clear.  It may not be necessarily said but it can be felt.  I in no way see this as a bad thing and a lot of us adults could benefit from expressing our own vulnerabilities a bit more and spend less time trying to look like we have it all figured out, trying to cover up or deny our vulnerabilities.

Willingness to try

Even while vulnerable, even when faced with a new activity and a new teacher they may not have met before, most of the groups I encounter over time are willing to try and give things a go.

Joy

The other day with the group of transition years I taught some fun poses like splits, headstand and Crow pose and the pure joy some of the girls expressed at 'messing' around and just trying was so refreshing.  They were smiling and laughing and happy not just through achievements but through the process.

Honesty

In my experience, many of the teenagers I teach are not afraid to tell me what they think! I love this, if they don't like something, or think it is weird, they will tell me and even if it is not in words, the honesty in their faces and body language tells me I may need to explain something a bit more or go back a step or pivot.

Humility

Yoga for Schools, Dublin

The biggest lesson of all that I enjoy learning from teenagers is humility.  No matter how advanced I might become physically or in my teaching, no matter how many years I have been doing something, a group of teenagers have the ability to pull you up on everything and get you to reassess your methods.  They want to be seen, they want to learn, they want to get value from the session or class, they don't care how much I know or what I can do, it is about what I can help them do or feel.

Overall I'm sure there are a lot of exceptions but what can seem like a one way street of adults imparting knowledge or lessons to teenagers can actually be a two way process.  If we can keep as we get older some elements of our approaches when we were teenagers how would that help in taking up and learning new skills?  How would that help in our relationships and our life choices?  How would it help us stay fresh, young, open minded, willing and excited about our bodies, our lives and our experiences?  

Why stick with or choose Yoga in the first place!

Every so often the thought strikes me as I dedicate hours upon hours to Yoga, should I be doing something else?  Should I listen to those who say this new exercise or training method is better or amazing or the next big thing!  Overtime I hear myself asking these questions, I take a moment to pause and connect to what it is I truly want from myself and life, it doesn't usually take very long before I remember what it is Yoga gives me and helps me achieve.  

A dilemma but not really!

There are so many fitness regimes, recommendations, activities and groups to be part of at the moment.  As adults this is great because we have so many avenues to find fun, to move, to be part of a community and to keep ourselves fit and healthy.  With this broad range of choice, why would one choose Yoga and what does Yoga have to offer amongst everything else?

Too much choice!

With so much information being given to us and all these options it can feel really hard to choose or to commit but as one of my teachers once said, ‘At some point to cross the water you are going to have to choose one boat to sit in’.  Of course it is great to sample lots of things but really and truly to learn about yourself, to really test yourself, to challenge your tendency to resist the uncomfortable, you have to commit to that journey, you have to choose a boat!  

Trust those who have gone before you

Yoga is an ancient practice, that does not mean its methods are outdated or they don't have anything to offer us anymore.  Yogis spent their whole lives testing and re testing theories, practices and holistic approaches to health, that time and the results they produced deserves respect and trust.  They toiled unwaivered in a mission to help individuals live a life of wellness and connection between mind, body and spirit.  

In modern times we also benefit from amazing teachers now who have created huge amounts of research to the anatomical validity of the postures and movements, the ways in which to create better alignment, improve flexibility and strength etc and science has researched the validity and benefits of meditation and mindfulness.

The work that teachers and researchers can put in now is largely supported by those that went before and all those historical texts and practices.

It is great to hear and study new ways to look at things, new approaches, new methods and as a teacher or a participant, it is always nice to freshen things up and re inspire your journey but again we want to make sure that in this search for ‘new’ or in this desire for the next thing that we don't lose sight of the principles or the foundations, the connection to the fundamentals and ourselves.

You know Best!

Ultimately you know best.  With all the information overload and distraction it can be easy to lose the connection to yourself and your own inner knowing and wisdom.  

We can hop from one teacher to the next and one method to the next and it can feel so easy to say as soon as things don't seem to go our way, or we have a bad day or we dislike what one coach or teacher had to say to pack that option in and hop to the next.  We can google any teacher/coach/information from around the world and pick and choose as it suits us which we prefer. 

In all this hopping and changing, its like watching 4 movies at once and flicking between them all over an hour, you never really get to grips with the story or characters in any of them! So like that if you are continually changing, one you are sort of staying in this nice comfortable zone where you never really have to test yourself and two you need really get to know yourself past this nice comfortable zone.  You never really get the chance to address your own weaknesses, fears, doubts, you never spend time really sitting with them, acknowledging them and learning how to move forward addressing them.  Until you can see all sides of yourself, you will never really know yourself and how you can progress and truly learn.

‘The world is your best teacher. There is a lesson in everything. There is a lesson in each experience. Learn it and become wise. Every failure is a stepping stone to success. Every difficulty or disappointment is a trial of your faith. Every unpleasant incident or temptation is a test of your inner strength. March forward hero!’ Swami Sivanada Saraswati

Yoga

Of course there will be different teachers who help create the right experience or style for you but what Yoga can offer is this real sense of connection to yourself.  You roll out your mat, you might meditate, you might move slowly and gently or with flow and strength.  You connect to your breath, you move in sync with a connection to something more than thoughts or distractions.  You free your body and mind from tension and for moments you feel completely present and immersed.

Forgetting all the latest trends and fads and images online, forgetting all the hype of whats ‘in’ right now the proof is in your own experience.  Commit yourself, really test yourself before you write off a theory or practice- feel what happens for you.

Continue, and continue, practice and practice. The journey will never end and you will allow yourself to move with ease, with stability from tight spots, to vast expanses of freedom, openness and possibilities.

And yes it doesn't have to be Yoga!

But with any question of Why there is always the Why not?!

Of course the boat you pick doesn't have to be boring or uninteresting to you, you can chose a boat filled with people or not, filled with fun and adventure.  But don't choose the cruise ship with all your meals served and your every desire catered for, you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride!  Choose a boat that might take a little bit of work, that makes you stand up and get involved, that is going to be an epic adventure!  

Let there be twists and turns and diversions from the plan.  

Let it all interest you, let the learning and the journey be your purpose and your goal.  Forget about this achievement or that or getting there the fastest! At the end of your journey be able to say that you invested all your awareness in each and every moment.  

At the end of the day, achievements and results in and of themselves are irrelevant and almost boring, what matters is how well you know yourself, how well you have truly loved yourself and others.  Yoga for me reminds of this constantly and I certainly am going to stick with it!

 

It's time to take off your Yoga tinted glasses!

Over the last week or so, I have read a number of articles and spoken to a number of people on some different issues being brought up with regards to Yoga, the practice, the teaching, the 'industry' and in general our understanding of what it means to a person.

In all my reading and discussions, this is where I have to say before you formulate an ideal in your mind, before you find your definitive answers, try removing those Yoga tinted glasses.  Think outside the Yoga mat as such!

This is where I feel lucky to have a come through a range of learning paradigms physically and mentally, that I participate not only in a physical yoga practice daily but that I enjoy climbing, running, and in general moving.

The issues I notice being brought up online and in discussions are usually regarding best practice, safety for individuals bodies, alignment etc.  What needs to be understood here though is these discussions will continue to happen and they happen across the board in the 'fitness' industry and in any teaching/coaching profession as far as I can see.

I came across this one blog post last week 'Am I the problem with Crossfit?' , the author explores the idea that instead of finding fault with Crossfit practices or coaches or specific gyms or online promotion, question yourself and your approaches, question how you move, are you listening to advice, are you moving safely and without pain?

I loved this blog, I feel it accurately describes what a lot of us need to do in everything, and that is to take responsibility.  It also shows that a lot of us who question the specific activities that we are involved in can look to other activities and see that these questions are being raised in a range of different areas and between different communities.

Asking questions is a great way to learn, but can you reach an understanding of yourself without contradicting the viewpoint of someone else?  Can you establish how you learn, how you navigate through the movements in your body to find progression without feeling negative about someone else's practices or methods?  Can you see that how you move and learn is amazing and how they move and learn is amazing for them?  Can you learn to be so open that you can share your viewpoint and also listen to others?

Then......can you then let go of all the opinions and viewpoints and have a little fun and feel how moving is about connecting not disconnecting.  When we have so many thoughts swimming around we cannot just feel and be in the moment.  

An opinion is just an opinion it is not who you are and as your opinions will change over time as you learn try not to get attached to too many of them.

Yoga is great but it is one avenue, not the only avenue...if you feel stuck or feel you are not learning anymore, try another movement, try strengthening activities, try mobility, go dancing, get outside for a run!  With so many ways to enjoy your body and learn, all avenues can only help in bringing us closer to understanding of ourselves.  

There is no right or wrong, there is only learning, so with less thought and more action, respect the avenues and each other and forget about the rules and the definitions.

 

Your 3rd option.....

Have you ever noticed how certain reactions you have to situations never quite get the results you would like?

Often in life when we are faced with difficulties or problems we tend to react in two ways.  

The first being to ignore the problem or the challenge which of course leads to suppressed feelings and un dealt with emotions and issues.

The second way is, when the problem crops up, to face it head on to complete exhaustion which more than likely leads you back to approach one!

We tend to use these two approaches over and over, neither of which being entirely successful.

The good news is, there is a 3rd option.  

With any problems or issues that you are facing, take a couple of moments to sit with the exact issue at hand and bring it into a simple meditation practice.  Allow yourself to observe how you feel and what thoughts occur around the issue.  Without judgement or criticism or wanting things to be another way, just observation.

In this way you give yourself time to become aware of what exactly the issue is calling from you, what exactly the situation may be that you may be having trouble with.  In this way giving yourself some uninterrupted time to allow new ways of responding to develop.

This in time means that you are not a) avoiding the issue or b) banging your head against a wall with it.  You are now capable of using a new response to effectively move forward with awareness and clarity.

Your problems or challenges will not go away but your ability to deal with them can drastically change as you learn to take a step back.

Often in the company of others or when listening to others opinions and stories it can become extremely confusing at times to make choices and decide what the best thing to do in a situation is.  For me taking some time out really helps with aligning what I feel is truly the best decision to move forward with.

The next time something crops up for you, where you feel challenged or unsure and you have a feeling of wanting to rush in and run away at the same time, try the 3rd option and see what happens.........

Too much information can be Toxic

I heard this phrase recently and it got me thinking....

I would have to say I definitely agree.  With so much information available to us these days right at our finger tips, it can remove us from the joy of actually experiencing something.  Like anything in life when it goes beyond a certain point, over informing can be detrimental.

The surest way to remove yourself from opinion mode and into experiencing mode is to 'do' something.  In my case, be it with climbing or yoga, as soon as I feel Im getting a little too theoretical or overloading with information, the simplest cure is to get on my mat or go climbing!  When I 'do' what I love, everything else falls away, nothing else matters, I go into the moment.

I definitely think information helps, and education is the key to success in anything but its achieving that balance, allowing time for the mind and the body.

I hear from many people new to yoga about their confusion surrounding everything 'Yoga' and its understandable as to why there may be confusion.  With so many different mixed messages on the internet, pictures, articles, videos.  This can create a great sense of overwhelm and distract us from the heart of the matter.

I find personally as soon as I spend too much time reading, viewing and generally perusing the internet, I find my mind start to go a little foggy and I find I do start questioning. With so many opinions or options or ideas being thrown out there, it can distract from what you actually enjoy or believe yourself.

In Yoga, it is spoken about in many texts the concept of going beyond thoughts, controlling your awareness in a focused way to experience a greater connection to yourself and sense of enlightenment, applying that to our modern day life, with so much going on in the mind it is important to let it go every so often.

I also have had in recent times conversations with more experienced yogis and heard similar confusion and doubt expressed with regard to which training they should pursue next or where they should study.  There is SO much information out there and trying to decipher which will be beneficial or will be of value is not so clear.

In the cases of people new to Yoga or any activity for that matter or those more experienced I would say DO more.  Go to classes, get a feel for how you sit with the practice, observe how you feel afterwards and what effects the practice has on you.  The more and more you connect to yourself the better.  Let yourself experience your body and breath connection, practice and practice some more and listen.  Questions will emerge naturally and as they do you will know what kind of information you want to seek out and what you are looking for.

Then pick up a book or two, read direct from the source, read about why yoga started, read about its evolution.  Then and only then begin to read interpretations, philosophies and modern day 'takes' on everything yoga.  Once you have established a grounding in yourself and your understanding of yoga, you can read how others understand it and you can take or leave what resonates with you.

For those more experienced yogi's looking for the next training, I would almost say the same.  Often with all the types, styles and abundance of teachers and classes we can attend it can become a little blurry as to why we entered the practice in the first place.  If you find you are ever confused, go back to your mat, sit a little longer and with time, questions will emerge, you will begin to realise what you are looking for and where you would like to go next.  Finding the training then will fall into place as you have a greater understanding of your needs.

For everyone in anything in life, staying grounded admits the drama, the noise and all those around you, will help you stay true to yourself and release any need to worry about anything someone else is doing or what is being shown on the internet!  You know what you enjoy, you know what you love and you also know even beyond all that, who you are, so any other information is toxic and crowds the mind.


There is nothing wrong with being Strong!

Over the last two months I have taught some workshops on strengthening.  Developing strength both physically and mentally is amazingly empowering.  I have noticed however, that there is a lot of fear around strengthening, a lot of apprehension and doubt.

Having been involved in climbing now for a number of years, strengthening physically is something I am well used to.  It has taken me a number of years though to get my head around strengthening as such and whether it is good or bad and how it sits with me in all that I have learnt in yoga and in my yoga practice and life. 

When we think of strength, especially females I think, we conjure up images of bulky, muscle dripping figures, this creates a lot of fear immediately as with all that muscle, with all that strength, will I lose my femininity?  Going a little deeper, with a cultivation of more masculine characteristics, will my feminine characteristics of compassion and sensitivity be lost?

To this end people shy away from strengthening, for fear of losing themselves and that which they may value.

There are other reasons that cause fear, such as the fear of not being good enough, not being able and not being enough. 

In my workshop yesterday I spoke about three ways I feel we can address these fears......

1) Knowledge is power- Whether it is gaining more knowledge to stay safe in your physical yoga practice, gaining the key instructions on how to develop physical strength and move into postures or if it is gaining knowledge about a new situation in your life, a new job you would like to apply for or skill you would like to develop-gaining knowledge, educating yourself will allow you to take the first steps towards alleviating fears.

2) Directed Efforts and time-Once you have the knowledge it is then important to direct your efforts and time, to be patient, to listen to your body and mind and how it responds.  To notice changes, to notice any resistance and to stay focused on that which you wish to achieve.  Whenever fear arises, keep your attention focused on the knowledge you have gained, the steps you need to take and with this focus, thoughts are taken away from being overwhelmed or afraid.

3) Your Intention-This point is absolutely paramount in any endeavour.  When you throughout any task or new stage in life become fearful, ask yourself, deep down, why am I here, why am I doing this?? If your answer is in line with your true values and the direction and path you wish to take in life, then this reassurance will help guide you away from fear and towards action.

Strength is not something we need to fear.  It does not mean over powering another or showing off.  It means being truly strong within, having courage to do what needs to be done, having the focus to follow through on goals.  Strength in balance with all aspects of our character means the ability to be compassionate, to be sensitive and to still stand our own ground, to feel empowered and confident in ourselves.

True strength means being yourself, embodying all that you truly value and releasing fears to grow and learn and love the life you live.

What's all this Yoga about and How did I start??!

A colleague of mine asked me to write up a few words during the week about how I first started Yoga.  As I wrote, it got me thinking about what Yoga means to me now and why I continue to practice.

Often people in my classes ask me the question, 'What is Yoga?' and its funny, the more I learn, the harder and harder it gets to answer the question in a concise way.  I begin to feel like Yoga means so many things, and different things on different days!

 As I continue to learn and teach the stack of notebooks gets higher and higher!

As I continue to learn and teach the stack of notebooks gets higher and higher!

It has been the same to an extent with Climbing, when people would ask 'why do you climb?' and 'what does it mean to you?', the answer feels a little more difficult to source the longer I am involved in the activity.

Both Yoga and Climbing offer me so much in terms of overall happiness in my life and contentment.  The truth is, this joy can be found in many activities in your own life but for me the wonder of yoga is the non invasive way in which it allows you to open, heal, strengthen and relax your body and mind that means at any age one can experience a sense of health and peace in themselves.

Below is my story of how I began practicing and what Yoga means to me now.....

When I was a teenager, I found some of my Mums old books on Yoga and spent some time copying the postures and reading about the benefits and deciding on the ones that I thought would be best for me.

 One of my first Yoga Books

One of my first Yoga Books

I first attended yoga with my friend in University, (at the time she was helping some students with a research project to discover if breathing practices such as those taught in yoga classes could increase her lung capacity and transfer to activities such as free diving.)

I cannot remember if I and any idea of what the class would be about or what would be involved and to be honest I can even remember what we did, I do remember lying on the ground though and hearing the music outside in the sports hall for aerobics and thinking I would have of preferred to be there!  As I was quite active in my college course, studying Physical Education and being involved in a number of sports, the idea of relaxing didn't quite come to me at first!

Some time after University when I moved to Dublin, I took a 6 week course of classes in UCD where I also trained for rock climbing at the time. I remember really enjoying the classes, the teacher was really nice and I felt really inspired and interested in trying out Yoga more. I began to feel the links between effective breathing and moving and allowing myself to feel a little more at ease with relaxing and not having to push all the time.

Following that course I spent a year travelling the world and tried more and more Yoga in India, Nepal, New Zealand and America. I tried varying styles, in very different settings, from Ashrams in the mountains to city studios.

When the practice on my own really began was during the summer of 2010, I spent the time in France with my now husband, he had given me a book by Godfrey Defraux and I spent time everyday, reading and practicing outdoors. I loved reading about the benefits and all the facets of Yoga as much as physically practicing.  The practice was providing a medium through which I could answer questions about myself, the world and how I understood myself within the world.

I undertook my teacher training then in 2010 in Dublin. The teacher training at the time suited me perfectly as I felt I was moving into a sense of my own practice and discovering what Yoga meant for me.  Since my original teacher training, I have travelled to India to complete a Diploma in Advanced Yogis Studies and have continued to study with national and international teachers.  The practice is always evolving for me and changes as I change.

I know now, more than ever what yoga means to me and what it meant for me when I first started. I have always been a thinker, mulling over situations in my head and trying to find my place as I grew up.

I find it hard to make decisions and often find it difficult to find clarity admits confusion. Yoga provided a medium for me to enjoy my body, to feel active in a calming and relaxing way and in that way to find moments of clarity, to find peace from thoughts, to gain a greater understanding of myself and of others. Yoga enabled me to feel more grounded, to accept my flaws, embrace my strengths and work on my weaknesses.

Yoga has given me a means to find a great sense of compassion and understanding for others, to find less at fault with myself and in turn those around me.  

The teachings of Yoga have served as a platform for me in the last number of years in which I can feel I can now move through with world with greater ease and contentment.

If I was asked to some up my practice in one word, I would say ‘Balance’.
Providing balance when you have a lot of energy, when you lack energy, when you feel weak, when you feel strong, when you feel happy or sad, insecure or confident, the practice can compliment and balance and enable one to move freely rather than spiral or burn out, to move with clarity rather than stumble off track. It can enable me to balance the use of my body in activities such as climbing and running and most importantly keeps the ego in check if it starts to control the show!

I certainly owe as much off the mat to Yoga as I do on the mat!
 

As I continue to learn, I always seek to find ways in which I can improve as a teacher and enable others to open up to all the beauty they hold within.

Namaste**

 Learning in Headstand in the outdoors

Learning in Headstand in the outdoors

Week Three: Developing Mental Strength with Yoga

This is week 3 of these blog posts looking at developing mental strength on the mat while practicing the posture and then using those mental techniques to cultivate strength in other aspects of your life.  Have you tried any of the poses to date? How did you feel?  If you have read these posts and have not tried the poses, why not?

At most the practice will take 5 minutes depending on the length of time you wish to remain in the pose.  Notice if you feel resistance to undertaking the practice, if you have been practicing, how did you feel afterwards?

This week, whether you have done this to date or not, practice this pose.  Set your phone or alarm for 5 minutes and see what happens!

Wide forward fold.jpg

This week the pose in focus is Wide legged forward bend or Prasarita Padottanasana.  This pose is not as challenging as the previous two in the sense that it is a more releasing and opening pose than strengthening.

Set up the pose......More details on this pose can be found here

1. INTENTION-encourage your intention to keep attention on what your body is doing-breathing, relaxing into the pose, and encouraging proper form.

2. WITNESS- notice when your attention shifts from doing to thinking.  Your mind may create doubts about your ability to continue holding the pose.

3. DELAY- Dont react to the doubts.  Rather, stay in the pose with the stress and delay reacting. This allows space for awareness to develop.

4. DISSOCIATE OR REDIRECT ATTENTION- Coach yourself back to your intention and keep attention on your bodes process.

5. FIND LITTLE WAYS TO ENGAGE-Keep attention engaged in your body by making subtle shifts in posture or transferring weight for one leg to the other.

We are constantly everyday filled with thoughts and distractions and unknown to ourselves reacting and behaving as a result of these thoughts and distractions.  The practice of yoga is about cultivating more awareness, if there are thoughts there, acknowledge them and let them go.  You are developing the skills to become an active participant in how your mind is working as opposed to being a slave to the ups and downs of the minds patterns.

With conscious awareness, you can release the need to follow distracting thoughts and turn down the volume, allowing for greater awareness of the breath and becoming more immersed in your yoga practice, more immersed in the moment and using that off the mat to lose yourself in the joy of activities or sports, music or art, whatever it may be for you.  Give yourself some time to get lost-thinking less and doing more!

Enjoy!

As always, happy to hear how you are getting on........and if you have read this and still feeling like you are note sure whether to try it or not, take 5 minutes to sit still and observe the breath, its only 5 minutes!

Week Two: Developing Mental Strength with Yoga

This is the 2nd week of developing mental strength through the practice of Yoga.  Did you try out Warrior One last week?  How did you get on?  Did you make any notes, reflect on the experience?

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This week the pose of the week is Dancer pose or Natarajasana.  This is a lovely balancing pose for encouraging strength, focus , length in the thigh and hip flexor and expansion in the chest swell as moving towards a backbend and creating more mobility in the spine.

Each week try out the pose suggested or even as you practice the pose in a class bring the following activity to mind;

SET UP:

Take the form of Dancer pose (The video above shows a few different variations), if experiencing tightness in the hip flexor or quad, a simple standing balance can be undertaken.  Encouraging strength in the supporting leg, awareness on the breath, length in the spine and engaging the core.  For a more detailed outline of the physicality of this pose, follow here

Choose a length of time to undertake the pose that will inject some stress, unlike last week, both feet are not placed on the mat for balances, so the length of time here will depend on your supporting leg strength, aim for up to one minute and more if you feel able.

1. INTENTION-encourage your intention to keep attention on what your body is doing-breathing, relaxing into the pose, and encouraging proper form.

2. WITNESS- notice when your attention shifts from doing to thinking.  Your mind may create doubts about your ability to continue holding the pose.

3. DELAY- Dont react to the doubts.  Rather, stay in the pose with the stress and delay reacting. This allows space for awareness to develop.

4. DISSOCIATE OR REDIRECT ATTENTION- Coach yourself back to your intention and keep attention on your bodes process.

5. FIND LITTLE WAYS TO ENGAGE-Keep attention engaged in your body by making subtle shifts in posture or transferring weight for one leg to the other.

Throughout this exercise, we are trying to introduce the distraction of stress.  What distracting thoughts did you become aware of? Were you able to create a focus such as looking towards a spot on the wall or listening to a song to escape the stress?  Stress can be a major distraction of our attention in any challenging situation.  By witnessing your minds desire to escape stress, delaying this reaction and redirecting attention to your body, you can learn to process stress and stay committed.

Take notes on your experience, feel free to contact me and let me know how you are getting on and any questions you have.

As you become stronger in your body, become stronger in your mind..........become an active participant in the activities of the mind and use the practice to observe thoughts and with practice cultivate thoughts that are more beneficial to a healthier you and enable a more balanced outlook on life.