November and December 2017 Term

Once more we have reached the final term of the year, and very soon our thoughts will be turning to Christmas and the New Year. For me, Christmas is about sharing and giving and I like to try to encourage that through our class practice with a gift from me to my students.

Ajna Chakra

As we move up through the energy centres, this week we reach Ajna, the “third eye” chakra which means the “perception” or “command centre”. Ajna is located in the mid-brain, between, and just above, the eyes behind the space between the eyebrows. Whilst our two eyes look out and see the external, material world, this chakra looks inward and “sees” our internal world, beyond the physical world with what we sometimes refer to as our ‘sixth sense’. Our third eye sees the world through visualization, intuition, dreaming, imagination, clairvoyance and telepathy.

Ajna is associated with the element light and the color indigo blue and it is involved in both the creation and perception of art. It is through this chakra that we recognise that what we see has a powerful impact on us. Even when we’re not aware of it, we are all sensitive to the images we find in our environment, whether they be positive or not.

Two much energy in this chakra can lead to headaches, hallucinations, nightmares, and difficulty concentrating. If we are lacking energy in Ajna, we may have a poor memory, be unable to visualize well, and experience problems with our eyes, ears and sinuses. A healthy ajna chakra ensures we have good levels of concentration, memory and intelligence and that we are able to trust in our intuition and go with our inner intelligence.

Throughout this weeks practice, whenever you practice with your eyes closed, you can experience pratyahara, the drawing inward of the senses, which encourages us to become more insightful about our bodies, the breath, and our minds.

Intentions for Ajna might be: to trust your intuition; to improve correct perception; to realise that we are all connected; to be guided by your inner wisdom.

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Visuddha Chakra

 

Our next practice will be about cleansing and healing Vishudha. The throat chakra is the bridge between our heart and our mind, its name translates as “the pure place”, and we purify the body and mind through discrimination – paying attention to what we invite in, through diet, yoga, meditation, and exercise.No automatic alt text available.

This is the first of the higher chakras, whose focus is on the spiritual plane. This chakra is associated with the colour turquoise, and with the elements of sound and ether (the upper sky, beyond the clouds). Vishuddha is located in the neck, throat, jaw, and mouth and this masculine chakra connects us with our inner truth and helps us find our own way of conveying our voice to the outside world. Vibration, rhythm, music, voice, words and communications are all associated with this centre, and as you listen to a favourite song or piece of music, you may notice how the vibrations and rhythms positively affect your body and mind, right down to the cellular level. Music, dancing, singing and communication through writing and speaking are all fifth chakra ways of expressing ourselves. It is at this energy level that we effect our will and power of choice. Here is where we take responsibility for decisions and speak up for what we believe in.

Deficient energy in this chakra leads to neck stiffness, shoulder tension, teeth grinding, jaw disorders, throat ailments, an underactive thyroid, a fear of speaking or an inability to express our Self. Excessive energy in this chakra manifests as talking too much, an inability to listen, hearing difficulties, stuttering, and an overactive thyroid.

Intentions for this chakra might be: To communicate clearly, honestly, and with compassion; to release fear of speaking up for yourself or for others; to be a good listener; to learn not to over-talk or dominate conversations; to refrain from gossip.

Namaste (the light within me recognises the light within you).

Anahata Chakra

Next week, the focus for our practice will be on healing and balancing the heart chakra – Anahata, meaning unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten – which rests in the centre of the chest. This chakra is considered to be the centre of the chakra system and the gateway between the three lower physical chakras and the three higher spiritual chakras. It is the seat of emotional consciousness and it relates to the element of air which is all around us, and in us within our breath.

The air element of Anahata feeds the flames of the manipura fire chakra, giving us the power to love unconditionally and care for everything on our planet. Its physical location is the heart, upper chest and upper back. The heart chakra directly affects the heart, lungs, chest, arms, and hands, and physical symptoms of a lack of heart chakra energy can include shallow breathing, asthma, and other lung diseases, poor circulation, low blood pressure and some heart conditions, whilst too much energy can manifest as high blood pressure or heart disease.

Healthy heart chakra energy allows us to open up to, and connect with, harmony and peace. The quality and power of love in our life is directly reflected in the health of our heart centre. When our heart chakra energy is healthy, we feel surrounded by love, compassion, and joy and we are connected to the world around us. A deficiency of energy in the heart chakra may manifest emotionally as feelings of shyness and loneliness and we may struggle with forgiveness and empathy.

Mentally, an imbalanced heart chakra can result in feelings of unworthiness or an inability to trust ourselves or others. An over-powerful heart chakra can manifest as co-dependence, manipulative behaviours, possessiveness and jealousy.

Pranayama (breath-energy) practices, help to balance this chakra. Working with the breath increases our capacity for prana and air, along with our vitality and enthusiasm. If we hold our Selves with our head forward, shoulders rounded and chest collapsed, our head is leading our heart which can lead us to become overly focused on thought, and less in touch with our emotions and our body. Anahata chakra redresses this balance. So draw the shoulders back, expand across the chest, lengthen the neck and lift the head to feel more “heart-centred” and invite in all the beautiful qualities of Anahata, whose natural, feminine quality is to release and let go. The most powerful way to open, energise and balance the heart chakra is to love ourselves and others. Let love heal.

Intentions for Anahata practice might be: To offer and receive love with ease; cultivating compassion, allowing happiness in; releasing the fear of getting hurt; letting go of old heartache; cultivating humility; becoming less possessive; to to surrender and let go.

I look forward to exploring this beautiful chakra together, throughout our practice next week.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti (peace, peace, peace).

Practising Kapalabhati – Skull Shining Breath

Our shared intention for last week was to cleanse, energise and heal our Manipura (solar plexus) chakra. One of our practices was a pranayama called Kapalabhati, which is usually translated as Shining Skull Breath.

There are many benefits to practising this heating breath, which include cleansing the respiratory system, whilst strengthening and increasing the capacity of the lungs.

If you would like to know more about this pranayama practice, Michael Bijker gives a lovely demonstration and explanation of Khapalabhati, and you can watch it on the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UURgA8Rf7E 

 

Insight into the Wonders of the Human Brain

Yesterday, I finished reading a book called “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor, and it completely bowled me over. Jill (a neuroanatomist who suffered a severe stroke) talks about the differences between the left and right hemispheres of our brains, and what really astounded me was how she described “living in” the right side of her brain after her stroke. Words like “utopia” and “nirvana”, and expressions like being “at one with the universe” and “being in the present moment” … does that sound familiar! Her book has inspired me to research into, and find out more about, our incredible right hemispheres and, to spend more time in them … heaven/paradise/nirvana/ utopia on earth!

This is a link to Jill talking about her experience (it is essentially a very precised version of her book).  I find her totally inspirational because she connects with the scientist in me (left brain) and the yogi that I am (right brain) and makes sense of it all.  I would love to hear your comments on this fascinating subject!

Enjoy …

How Yoga Can Help us to Evaluate and Manage Stress

One of the most frequently heard expressions today is “I’m stressed”. Stress is an inevitable part of modern-day living, however, most stress can be reduced considerably and even eliminated.  Here are some considerations when contemplating stress in your life, and suggestions for reducing it:

(1)     What causes me to become stressed? Commonly shared examples of stressors are: Time-keeping, negative relationships, and money …  However, stress is very personal.  What may stress one person, will not stress another.
(2)    What can I do to reduce my stressors?  Take, for example, being unpunctual.  If being late stresses you, then allow more time for your journey, plan for the unexpected, and add extra time if necessary. Give yourself more time than you are likely to need so that you can relax and  enjoy the journey, rather than rushing and arriving stressed and on edge.
(3)    What can I not change? If you cannot change it, then try to make it acceptable by viewing it from a different perspective.  Annoying relatives perhaps will seem less annoying if you can understand and accept your differences.
(4)    Invest some time on your mat in quiet contemplation.  Ask yourself “why am I stressed, and what can I do about it right now?” Allow the question to settle, and quietly watch your breath. Trust in your vijnanamaya kosha, the wise part of us that holds the answers, and wait for inspiration to come. It may not come as quickly as you like, and it may not always been the answer you were hoping for, however it will be the right answer for you.
(5)     Contemplate the Serenity Prayer, and let it’s wisdom inspire you to trust in the guidance you receive:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
(6)    Be active and expunge negative energy.  Use the adrenalin that your body is supplying: Run, walk fast or choose a more energetic yoga practice … whatever works for you.
(7)    Breathe consciously – slowly and deeply, comfortably and with control.  Focus on the body as you breathe.  Notice the rise and fall of the front of the body with each breath-round.  Notice the lungs expanding with the in-breath and the body softening with the out-breath.  Allow the breath to ease the mind and the body into a state of tranquillity.  Remind yourself that it is impossible to breathe slowly and calmly and be stressed or anxious at the same time.  So now you have a choice to be calm or stressed.  Although stress starts in our mind, we can  erase it through the way we use our thoughts, our breath or our body.  And a combination of all three is powerful … it is what we call yoga!
Om Shanti (Peace to Everyone)
If you would like to know more about yoga, stress and anxiety management, mindfulness or relaxation techniques please contact Sarah, email me at: freetothinkmail@aol.com, find me on Facebook under Free To Think, or text or telephone me on: 07817623330

Emotional Growth Through our Yoga Practice

This term, our practice appears to be evolving around the part of our human experience that we label as our emotions.  Week one saw us looking at opening and creating space through a gentle yin practice.  Week two has seen us more actively pursuing the intention of releasing and letting go through a stronger yang practice.  As we open and release, we create space for new things to come in.  Our yoga practice always encourages us to let go of the stuff that no longer serves us in order to create space for that which we need right now, for our continued development.

Our emotions stem from our energetic self.  They begin with a feeling, which is then given an emotional label by the mind.  Yoga teaches us not to become that emotion.  We talk about becoming angry, upset or excited for example, and yet we are not really that emotion, we are simply experiencing it and from that experience there may be one of several outcomes:  we may experience change, or no change, we may avoid the emotion or push it away, or we may simply experience it and then let it go.

Yoga teaches us that we are not our emotions. That they are a means with which and by which we relate to others.  They come from the mental level of being (manomaya kosha) and, as such, they are within the control of our mind.  Our mind, however operates largely on a sub-conscious level, which means that we are not always fully aware of how it is dealing with our emotions.  We may try to think our way through/around/past emotions.  We may try to subjugate them by burying them and promising ourselves that when we have more time we will re-visit them and deal with them, or we may allow them to rein out of control and become completely caught up in them.

Yoga teaches us to simply witness our emotions.  When we can witness an emotion, we can be fully present in that emotion, without the mind taking over and making up stories around that emotion.  When we witness, we are observing through our being, rather than through our mind. Through witnessing or observing we can see it for what it is: an experience, that is separate from our Self and not a part of our Self.  We can be aware of the emotion without judging it or labelling it ‘good’ or ‘bad’, which allows us to experience it without the filter of our past experiences, thoughts and beliefs. If we are able to remain non-attached in this way, we have a mechanism to feel without being controlled by that feeling, to experience without the feeling becoming the whole experience.

This article was inspired by an article from yogi Matthew Sweeney.  To read the article go to: https://www.yogatemple.com/subtle-body

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti (Peace, Peace, Peace)

 

 

All Classes are Cancelled for Week Commencing 24th April 2017

This message is for all of my students who are currently practising with me:

On Sunday I injured my foot and cannot put weight on it, or drive, so unfortunately all classes this week are cancelled. I am really hopeful that I should be back to teaching by next week, and will update everybody nearer the time via facebook, my website and email.

I am sorry that you have to miss your class(es).

The good news about damaging a foot is that it is still possible to practice most seated and lying postures, meditation, relaxation and restorative postures!

What Happens During a Yoga Therapy Session?

Yoga therapy is about treating a person holistically.  In other words, regardless of why the person has come to see me, all aspects of the individual, and all of our levels of being are taken into account.

Restorative poses are prescribed for their ability to relax and heal on a deep therapeutic level.

Restorative poses are prescribed for their ability to relax and heal on a deeply therapeutic level.

Sessions are structured so that we can explore the best treatment methods, using yogic techniques that encourage the Self to heal and flourish and move towards optimum wellbeing.

Yogic techniques might include pranayama (breath-work), asana (posture-work), relaxation, mindfulness or meditation, restorative yoga (placing the body in supported postures to promote rest and healing), nidra (deep relaxation) and sankalpa (purpose).

The experience of yoga therapy creates a partnership between client and therapist which allows the therapist to deepen her/his understanding of the client and devise a home practice for the client to take away and use.  This empowers yoga therapy clients to take responsibility for their own wellbeing, and gives them the necessary insight to develop their own intrinsic ability to self-heal.

If you would like more information about yoga therapy, or to make an appointment, you can email me at: freetothinkmail@aol.com, or text/telephone me on: 07817623330.

Stay well!