Fostering a Deeper Connection to Your Practice Through Affirmation

Yoga is a multifaceted practice with many layers. It becomes a continual journey of discovery, as we approach, view and explore our practice with new perspectives. So far, we have released, listened and surrendered, and this week, we will be using affirmations to deepen our connection to our practice.

This is how it works. Every yoga posture affects the different layers of our being (our Koshas). So when we sit in Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend), we are adopting an attitude of surrender, which calms the mind (mental layer); stretches our back body, enhances our flexibility and stimulates vital organs (physical layer); improves digestion (energetic layer); connects body, mind and breath, allowing us to really listen in, with full awareness, to what it is that we are receiving from the pose (wisdom layer); and, over time, we discover a place, within the posture, where we can release, relax and enjoy the present moment exactly as it is (bliss layer).

So it follows that, if we have an opportunity to receive all of this on so many layers, with so many postures, the available benefits of a regular practice, are quite simply astounding. Once we understand the nature of a posture, we can direct our focus towards a particular aspect or benefit of that posture. One of the ways in which we might do this is through affirmation. Affirmation, like traditional mantra, works on the mental layer of our being (Manomaya Kosha). When we mentally affirm a benefit of the posture, it encourages us to recognise and invite that benefit (wisdom layer). It gives us focus, purpose and a positive connection with, and to the posture (mental layer); and it creates and reinforces positive neural pathways in our brains (physical and energetic layers). So this week, we shall be using affirmations with each of our postures, in order that we might consciously direct our attention, deepen our awareness and receive some of the essential gifts of each pose.

If you would like to experience yoga, rather than just read about it, I can be contacted in the following ways: Telephone/text/WhatsApp: 07817623330; email: [email protected]; or message me on Facebook: Free To Think.

Surrendering Into A Yin Practice

Have you ever experienced that sense of bliss as you sink into a pose, feel your body open out towards its edges, and then remain there in the moment as you slowly release, and release, and release? If you have, then you were probably practicing yin yoga.

Yin differs from our usual hatha practice in many ways. A more usual Yang practice seeks to warm the muscles and encourage opening and stretching of the muscles to build a combination of physical strength and flexibility, a deeper connection between the body, mind and breath, and an overall holistic sense of wellbeing. Yin focuses on the less pliable connective tissues (the fascia, ligaments, tendons and joints), those parts of us that give us structure, that are more stable and less able to move and stretch. This is why we hold yin postures for longer, as we patiently allow these areas time to slowly open up and release.

Only when we surrender in the pose can we truly experience Yin

To give you a better sense of how it differs, let me introduce you to some of my favourite yin yoga teachers.

Yoga teacher and author Norman Blair uses the following words to describe the experience of yin: “slowing, surrendering, merging, sinking, allowing” … So yin can be about embodying the delicious feeling of becoming one with the body, mind and breath …

In his book The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, teacher and author Bernie Clark encourages us to keep in mind that “how we practice is much more important than what we practice.” He tells us that “Too often, students force themselves into contorted positions with no regard for whether what they are doing is helping them or hurting them.” And, my favourite teaching of his: “We do not use the body to get into a pose, we use the pose to get into the body” … So yin is also about the intention behind our practice, one of ahimsa or non-harming …

Yoga Teacher Sarah Powers, reminds us that yoga is “a transformative vehicle”, and that yin serves to “not only increase my physical agility, but to stabilise and replenish my energetic vitality and mental clarity as well” … So yin is also about connecting with, and stimulating a different type of energy to yang yoga …

And yet yin is so much more … We may share some of the larger understandings mentioned above however, as is usually the case in all aspects of life, the experience of yin is completely personal and different for every person who rolls out their mat. And so, we can safely concluded that yin yoga is an opportunity to pause, soften, connect to and enjoy the moment exactly as it is – and how remarkable is that – yin needs to be felt, explored, acknowledged and appreciated, just as it is at that moment in time.

As with a candle flame – the experience of Yin exists in the present moment

And finally, I just want to point out that yin yoga is not restorative yoga. Restorative yoga is a therapeutic practice that can be practised with the intention to heal damaged aspects of our body and our Selves. Restorative yoga is more subtle than yin, encouraging a still deeper level of connection and communication with all of our many layers, it has a different purpose for a different outcome, and therefore cannot be replaced by yin.

If you would prefer to experience yin, rather than just read about it, come along and roll out your mat with me.

Telephone/text/WhatsApp: 07817623330; email: [email protected]; or message me on Facebook: Free To Think

Having Fun With Yoga

Cooperation, coordination, communication.

When we get on to our mat, the tendency is to bring the awareness inwards and focus on what’s happening in our own inner world. Sometimes, however, it is fun to experiment with others and bring our awareness and attention to the outside world. Working with a partner enables us to deepen the posture, develop trust and patience, and deepen our sense of inter-connectedness with our fellow students.

Together we can be introspective …

Supportive …

And know how it feels to experience peace and joy at the same time!

New Year, More Yoga!

How lovely it was last week to be back together in class for another whole new year of yoga. It was heartening to see so many mats rolled out for practice, and to welcome faces old and new.

There are so many ways in which we can embody our yoga practice, and this term we shall be focusing on a different perspective each week.

Last week we began by exploring how we might let go of things that no longer serve us through “Releasing”. Letting go of the old, the outdated and the unhelpful allows us to make space for the new, the desired for and the hoped for. It encourages change and a growth mindset, and it is a helpful focus during any yoga practice. We can release through the breath with a sigh, we can release through the body with a stretch, and we can release from the mind with mantra, affirmation, meditation or mindful walking.

In contrast, this week is all about discovering our experience through “Listening”. When we create the time and space to focus inwardly towards our Selves, rather than outwardly towards the world, we may discover a whole universe of unexplored territory. Listening encourages Svadhyaya, which is self-study and self-reflection, and through svadhyaya, we find we can tune in to the rhythms of body, breath and mind, and really “hear” what is being revealed to us. As we become more proficient at tuning in, we find that we begin to learn a great deal more about what makes each of us so individual, and yet so connected.

Yoga Returns To Crowland

2015 – And we haven’t changed a bit!

I am so excited to be teaching in Crowland again. I originally began to teach there after a conversation with a gentleman by the name of David Grundy, who I met at a networking event. We were chatting outside in the sunshine, and he suggested that I bring yoga to his home town. I remember saying something blase along the lines of: “Well if you help me get there, I will come!” It turned out that David is an extremely helpful and proactive individual – he was keen to practice yoga! – and in a very short time we had a class up and running. That was back in 2012, and since then, we have practiced in a number of venues, the most popular being the old British Legion Hall. Then, sadly along came the pandemic, which put a stop to all classes, and to the hall itself.

However, this story has a happy ending, as the hall was bought, and turned into the Crowland Community Hall. Now, almost four years after we last rolled our mats up, we shall be returning to the hall, to unroll them again.

I am not just excited to be teaching back in Crowland. I am also incredibly grateful to all of my Crowland students who have practiced with me over the past 12 years, many of whom are still with me today.

We have created more than a yoga class over the years, we have become friends and confidents; we have partied together and walked together, chatted together and shared special moments together. (I still have my yoga cake topper from my 50th birthday cake, almost ten years ago!)

And we have done more than just practice yoga: we have grown individually and collectively, as we explore our many layers and make new discoveries about our Selves.

Crowland students, past, present and future, I feel very grateful and honoured to teach you, and here’s to the next twelve years!

For more information about classes in Crowland, click the Yoga Classes tab.