Wednesday, 27 December 2017

3 Top YogaVeda Tips for Picking Your Perfect New Year’s Resolution (and why it shouldn’t be diets and detox!)



1. Don’t think ‘wha’ ever’. Grab that resolution by the Christmas balls! When you say wha’ ever to your new years resolutions you throw away an opportunity that Nature gives you to plant a seed.

Yes, it’s growing season! Nature has provided a dark womb under the earth so that you can harvest your ‘crops’ later and, as Nature intended, you have this opportunity within also.

Following your bliss is a great way to contact that which would benefit you. What is it that makes you smile? What do you like to spend your time doing? What area of your life felt ‘left out’ last year? For now, just put this intention into your daily yoga practice by writing it out and putting it under your mat. Take it with you to your yoga class and do the same. Then, as you practice, (literally) breathe it into life over the next three months.

The Late Winter has the quality of the Water element within it. The primary quality of water is a cohesiveness that binds and bonds. This is a great time of year to ‘stick’ to something…..even though, right now, this something is just an idea!

2. If your New Year’s resolution isn’t in line with your best dreams for yourself, it reflects what is going on with your thinking the rest of the year. New year is not a time to stop dreaming and start doing. In fact, this is just what you shouldn’t do.

During the previous Early Winter months your attention started to move inwards naturally and your mind takes on a more reflective attitude. As Late Winter arrives this reflective attitude has given some gifts. You may have realised some things about yourself that you were too busy to see during Spring, Early and Late Summer and Autumn.

This insight is exactly what you will want to bring into our New Year! But don’t stop here. Take this insight (and if it hasn’t arrived yet, it will) and foster it into a ‘resolve’. A resolve is more than an insight. A resolve is a commitment

Our lives have value, so our resolutions should too! Think of 12 different values that are meaningful to you, such as:

Cooperation
Refinement
Allegiance
Networks/Family
Imagination
Strength
Entertainment
Unpretentiousness
Self reliance
Meticulousness
Love
Spirituality
Trust

(pick from these and/or any other hundreds of values that come up for you!) ….. and use a few that you would like to bring into your life in 2018. Now, when you make your New Year’s resolution, let it be about bringing three of your most important values into your life with every opportunity that happens to come your way.

3. A lot of times you may think of a New Year’s resolution in terms of cutting something out. Don’t make this mistake and miss the fact that adding something in is a much more powerful practice.

Winter is a time when the three functional energies that direct circulation, digestion and protective measures (vata,  pitta and kapha) are balanced. But if you don't 'feed the fire' with nourishing and building foods and seasonal lifestyle changes you may find Vata dosha aggravation causing sleeplessness, worry, constipation, dry skin and a feeling of being disconnected. When you cut things out of your life you get the feeling of 'less than' rather than 'more than'. This is not a strong place to be standing in in the New Year! But, if you add in value and nourishment instead you will feel more sated and secure. Much better!

So, as well as adding via values, you can also add in nourishment this New Year rather than dieting and detoxing. A lot of people feel that detoxing is dieting and dieting is detoxing. Same same. But, dieting is primarily about taking less calories in than we burn and, subsequently, losing weight. And detoxing is about opening up the elimination channels in the body and we can gain or lose weight at this point depending on which one our body needs to get healthier.

A detox is an 'assist' for the body's natural cleansing process - which it is doing all by itself all day every day - with a burst of activity early morning and late evening and in Spring and Autumn. So, it makes sense to let Nature suggest the rhythm for the detox ......which is not January.

January is a time for nourishing the body and gentle but persistent daily exercise/asana, which is also very nourishing (not to the point of sweating). 


YOGAVEDA RESOLUTION SUPPLEMENTS:


Wake up and drink 1 - 2 glasses of hot water with a splash of cold first thing. Add a slice of lemon if you like.

Clean tongue. Use a tongue scraper - back to front.

Gargle (natural mouthwash).

Splash eyes with water (warm in cold months).

Gandusha and Kavala. Hold and 'swish' alternatively some sesame oil in mouth for 1 - 5 minutes and then spit out (coconut oil is not recommended as it is cooling and not cleansing).

Abhyanga - Lightly oil body (or at least face, belly, low back and feet) with sesame oil and wash off with a warm shower before getting on with day.


Eat seasonally or for your Vkrti/doshic imbalance (not for your Prakrti/body-type) - do not exert or sleep after eating.

Eat your (seasonal or remedial) main meal at midday


DURING WINTER EAT SEASONAL FOODS PLUS: FATTY SOUPS, RICE, CORN, GHEE, MEAT (IF PART OF YOUR REGULAR DIET), LICORICE TEA, NATURAL SALTS (SEAWEEDS, ROOT VEGETABLES, SEA-FOODS, ROCK SALT)

Evening - Relax and meditate if daytime work physical. Exercise if daytime work sedentary.

5-7pm light evening meal

Prayer or meditation

10pm - 11pm bedtime

And may all your dreams come true!

Look out for the new Sunday class in the New Year.
Full schedule for Early Winter Yoga Practices here





Friday, 22 December 2017

3 common mistakes yogis make that keeps them struggling with creating a home yoga practice (and how to avoid these forever!)


 



1. Have you been trying to show up to your home yoga practice under the watchful eye of a rigid internal dictator shouting ‘If I don’t practice, nothing will change!’ ‘Well, I’ve blown it again. Well done me. Another morning wasted’ ‘I don’t know why I even try?’ ‘I’ll get back to it tomorrow but I’ll be really angry at myself if I make any sort of sorry excuse one more time!’?

Sometimes, this works for a little while, but under this sort of regime there is always a coup in the end! Why on earth would you want to spend time each day with this sort of personality. This approach is no good. Not practicing would be a more mindful practice than bringing this sort of quality onto your yoga mat.

Discipline is a funny word. It has all sorts of negative connotations such as hardship and harshness but the root of the word comes from discipulus, the Latin word for pupil, which also provided the source of the word disciple. This is a much softer way to come to your practice. In your home practice, you are your own teacher and your own pupil. The relationship should be developed over time and with attention to what works for you. Do you know how you learn best? We all have a dominant mode of learning that is linked to our ‘body-type’. We will all have a particularly individual blend of the three modes below. Pick out the mode(s) below that reflect you most. You are likely to have two dominant modes of learning and you will probably be able to pick out one from those that suits you most of all:

Visual - you really need to see the practice or read the words to learn it. You want to see a demonstration from both the teacher and those around you on the mat. You can easily follow the route into a pose alongside others doing it, but get lost if you can’t see someone who is demonstrating the move. You notice if the classroom is clean, well put together and the colours around you. You may want to be challenged in your practice and find it harder to take to the softer parts of the class or restorative sequences. You can become over-heated easily and feel like asking the teacher to turn the heat down regularly, or even to open the doors and windows.
Auditory - you really need to hear the instructions to the practice and might even mutter them to yourself to help you move into or out of a pose. You love to hear the detailed instructions to a pose and you notice both the silences and the music within the classroom. You also notice if it is hard to hear the teacher or if there is excess noise in or outside the classroom. You may feel anxious in class or about going to class and you gravitate towards teachers that are soft and put you at ease. You can become over-worked more easily and like to have ‘stop gaps’ in between the more challenging sequences. You like to bring layers to keep warm (but you don’t always remember) and take your layers on and off often to suit the heating and cooling poses.
Sensory - you really need to feel your body move into the poses in class and then, for your home practice, you remember what it felt like to move in this way. You like to be adjusted. You like to have time to explore a pose for yourself under your own guidance and you are sensitive to becoming cold. You like to bring a blanket and socks and props and blocks to support your practice (and you always remember). Sometimes, you feel as if it would be perfect to just arrive, put some cosy socks on and a blanket over yourself and just lie there in total bliss….but the yoga teacher seems to have ideas of getting up and moving around. Boo!

If you are primarily a visual learner then get yourself onto a yoga website and learn along with one of your favourite teachers online. There are some absolutely fantastic sites now and the quality of instruction is absolutely brilliant. Here’s one of my favourites www.movementformodernlife.com. You aren’t getting adjusts or information that is specific to you, but if you are still able to go to your yoga class once a week, your teacher will be keeping you on track. You can also get more out of a good yoga book than those yogis that aren’t visual learners.

If you are primarily an auditory learner, there is a fantastic yoga website that is auditory only. It’s called AudibleYoga https://audibleyoga.com/yoga-class-search. You don’t need to waste your time setting up your mat where you can see your computer or ipad because it isn’t as valuable a resource for you to see the teacher. You can also go onto the yoga website above, but you won’t need to watch the teacher as much. The only problem with this is that some yoga videos are assuming that you are watching. Auditory yoga websites will be making sure that you don’t miss one single instruction as every instruction will be verbalised.

If you are primarily a kineshetic or sensory learner, you are best supported by 121 sessions with a qualified teacher. It is very hard for you to get to the right place without a little hands on and having the luxury of exploring the pose for yourself in your own time. Although it seems like an expensive way to create a home practice, a little goes a long way. Depending on your needs, you can get a home practice created and taught to you with one or two 121’s and use this practice at home for about 2-4 months (1 or 2 seasons). Please note, this is different if you are booking 121’s to manage an injury, using it as a therapy to manage a health condition or booking sessions alongside a yoga teacher training course.

2. Getting the quantity vs quality ratio is hugely important in your home yoga practice. If you are aiming for a 1 1/2 hour yoga session every single day and you work a 60 hour week and have 3 kids…..you are creating stress not a yoga practice (probably, there are always exceptions!).

When we get the quantity/quality ration wrong we can end up feeling either like we are getting nothing out of our regular practice or that we never seem to get on our mat anymore. Both of these scenarios will eventually end up in the ‘roll up’. That poor mat will just get rolled up and stuffed somewhere that the sun doesn’t shine.

So, what are quantity and quality? Quantity is easy. How often do you want to practice? Here’s a little quantity yoga guide.

1 x week -- you don’t want to feel any worse than you already do!
2 x week -- you’re happy where you are and you want to maintain it
3 x week - you want to see improvement. You want to get that feeling that your yoga practice is helping you with the things that feel ‘difficult’ to you whether that is emotional, physical or mental strength
4 x week - You want to heal. You feel broken and you want to heal.
5 x week - You want to put a massive effort in and create a new life.
6 x week - You want to understand the meaning of life, the universe and everything and you are willing to put that time in on the mat damn it!
7 x week - You need a day off. Don’t take this option. If you went straight here, read the part about a dictatorship above again:)

Now, quality. Quality is about what you are getting out of your time on the mat. You can spend an hour and a half on your mat and feel like to just got wrung out to dry or you can feel like you’ve been on a yoga retreat morning. You can spend 5 minutes on your mat thinking of your shopping list or 5 minutes in meditation in deep communion with ‘your higher Source’. The time, in this perspective, is of no value. It is the quality that leads your practice where you would like it to go.

Add in quality to your practice via:

OM - Free your voice and Om from your core belly 1 - 3 x at the start of each practice
Nadi Shodhana/Alternate nostril breathing (there are some great instructional videos online) - 3 minutes
Moving energy via the 5 spinal movements - backbend, forward fold, twist, side bend and lengthen the spine - 1 minute to 1 hour
Savasana - rest the spine
Meditation on the breath - 3 minutes.


3. Get right into the benefits of the pose as they are TO YOU. Every pose, like every person, has a specific relationship to you. Just because the teacher has a ‘good relationship’ to the pose and you see it in every yoga class, doesn’t mean that it is a great pose for you.

Poses are music to the Yogi soul. Each power point in the body (7 chakra) and all the mini power points (acupressure or marma points) vibrate at a certain frequency. As we move into a pose such as Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), this chord of vibrations hits the nervous system and plays a tune on you at a deep cellular level. Your cells, in response, are either dancing away joyfully (creating health) or they have their hands over their ears saying ‘turn it down please!’ It is your job to notice the difference.

Start paying attention in class and seek out your ‘dance moves’. Which poses enlighten you? Which poses expand your conciousness? Which poses feel like medicine to your body and mind? Are they restful or dynamic poses? Are they backbends, forward folds, sidebends, spine lengtheners, twists or spinal rest movements? Are they requiring you to ‘up your breathing rate’ or calm down your breathing? Notice your power poses and add them into your home yoga practice. Learn what your power poses are good for (ask your teacher) and what they symbolise in ancient myth. Let this enquire your home yoga practice further.

When we remove the dictating tone from our home health care practices and replace it with a quality practice delivered in a way that is easy for us to learn, filled with poses that we have a great relationship with, it actually becomes hard to miss a practice!

Check out the 2018 schedule here where we will move through 18 seasonal power poses to experience which ones are great for your home practice! 

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Stopping the Christmas Crazy



We are now making our way into the last few days of Early Winter and the balancing action that you could have been taking to bring balance in this season is called Brmhana or Building.

Early Winter is a time of year that brings a 'lightening' quality into the air and then into our internal space. This lightness is a natural phenomenon of the season and nothing to be concerned with (if you are healthy). In fact, it is a gift. Early Winter's lightness followed by Late Winter's dryness gives us the space we need to stop and reflect. It is a time to connect to the ethereal. A time to notice the mind. A time to float on through to Spring's oily juiciness, where we 'refill the container with elan vital'.

Each dosha is affected in a different way during Early Winter and we all have all three dosha within our body-type in our own unique constitutional ratio (called Prakrti). 

Look after all three of your Dosha during Early Winter:

Vata Dosha, or those parts of the body that require lightness and dryness to function, is helped by some lightness but aggravated by too much. Help create the right balance by keeping the warmth in your body with bundles of layers and sleeping..

Pitta Dosha, or those parts of the body that require heat and lightness to function, is helped or hindered depending on diet. Providing your body with plenty of nourishment via root vegetable (and meat if you're not vegetarian) stews and plenty of warming hydrating drinks is helpful.

Kapha Dosha, or those parts of the body that require heaviness and oiliness to function are, by their quality, a natural built in buffer to the aggravations of Early Winter, BUT this can be undone if you do not seasonally care for your body. Warm the body and keep the circulation going via gentle, but persistent, daily exercise.

Let's go back to that Brmhana/Building quality for a moment. The best way to create balance in Early Winter is to allow the mind to become still.......this is not what we want to hear as we race around for the final touches and flourishes to a celebratory season of festive fun, but, it is an important message.

5 Ways to Invite Stillness IN each day every day:


  1. Begin the day as slowly as you can. Set your alarm a little earlier and prop up the pillows behind you and just sit. You can meditate if it is an easy practice for you. Otherwise, don't create a restriction or a stress. Just sit and breathe deeply and let the body relax before moving.
  2. Take a stretch break. Go missing, if you can, or sit in the midst of your work day and stretch every part of your body. If you can't avoid the staring eyes of curious (or scared) audiences, just wiggle the toes in your shoes, rub and stretch your hands and fingers, take a few yawning backbends over your chair, pretend to pick something up off the floor and take a lingering forward fold, rub your head, hair and neck and palm over your eyes. 
  3. Find time each day to sit and watch. Sit somewhere each day and observe life going by. People watch. Nature watch. Cloud watch. Wave watch. Bring yourself into the observing state and let the World whizz by.
  4. Get a good book out for your time off and get into that rather than the television. Fall into another world and when you are done with (or during) that get into a hot bath with lavender.
  5. Create a moment for Trataka (candle gazing) for the end of each day.












Monday, 25 September 2017

Reaching Heaven and Earth with Tree Pose



Vrksasana - Tree Pose

A tree acts like an enormous sponge that absorbs carbon dioxide, producing life-giving oxygen in return. Our own bodies are doing the opposite. Ourselves and the tree are in perfect gaseous sync and taking the shape of the tree can activate all its potent points, increasing absorption of life-giving Prana and elimination of used air. 
  
We're starting into the Autumn season now and according to Ayurvedic wisdom the heat which accumulates in the body over Summer and Late Summer becomes problematic if management of ‘Pitta dosha’ is poor. The remedial action of each Autumn Season is to help the body to treat the accumulation of heat (pitta dosha) whilst not aggravating any effects of the new Autumn Winds (vata dosha).

A great pose for this is Vrksasana (Tree Pose) which tranquilises the mind (cools Sadhaka pitta); Increases concentration (strengthens the nervous system/vata dosha); Calms and relaxes the central nervous system combating stress symptoms (Vata and Pitta dosha); Helps patience and mental focus (cools Sadhaka Pitta); improves balance (counters excess heat and directs Vata dosha).
This is a pose that is great to calm and cool - an all around Autumn win!

· If you are unable to bring your foot to your thigh or calf, rest your instep into your arch of the supporting leg, instead, resting the toes of your raised foot on the floor. 
· If you are very unsteady, try practicing the pose with your back against a wall for extra support. Alternatively, you can place a chair next to the standing-leg side of your body and rest your hand on the back of the chair for extra support.
· For a greater challenge when your arms are overhead, close your eyes. Practice balancing without using the outside world for reference.

Some teachers will have you hold your arms above the head with the palms together, others asking you to spread the arms wide like branches. Whatever you do with your arms, feel the connection of your arms to the heart space (hrdya marma/heart acupressure point) at the centre and sides of the sternum.

Feel the opening in the sinus area, particularly the point at the side of each nostril on the medial side of the cheekbone. This is the region of the marma point called Phana. This marma is an important in enhancing the flow of Prana into the body and for the actions of respiration. 

Hold steady at the area of the pubic bone (bhaga marma point) as this will root you into the ground. If the hips are tight, we may be tempted to try to pull the pubic bone off centre to get a greater angle of the knee (which comes out to the side (ish) in tree pose. Don't be tempted to do this. Notice where your bent knee is (how high off of the ground) when you are in Janu Sirsasana (head to knee pose). If it is quite far, your knee will not go at a right angle in tree pose either. Making it do so will lose the earthing effect (apana vayu) that is so important when taking the Pranic shape of the tree!



Use the pose to breathe. Think of the energy of the tree in a cooling breeze, rooting into the earth. Use this image to increase your strength of confidence, standing tall as you face life’s challenges with grace and ease.

Just before you breathe in, imagine that all your problems have disappeared......... and then breathe in.
As you breathe out, direct the energy to the pubic bone, the sides of the nostrils and the heart chakra. Repeat this cycle of energy in and energy out for 10 secs - 1 minute or 5-10 breaths or several minutes. Unwind the pose and take a stretch and repeat on the other side.
Take rest (savasana).

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Fly Like the Eagle



Garudasana

LATE SUMMER

We're late into the Summer now and according to Ayurvedic wisdom the body and the digestion have been weakened slightly. If there has also been a lot of rain, Vata dosha will have been aggravated (nervous system/mind/bladder energy and circulation of energy) also. The remedial action of this Late Summer Season is to take care of the flow of Vata and enhance agni (digestive power).

A great pose for this season is Garudasana (Eagle Pose) which Improves digestion and elimination and increases circulation (a symptom of poor digestion is blockage in ALL channels. This pose also 'unwinds' the mind (mental stress and strain is a symptom of  Vata dosha chaos and a cause of poor digestion).

This is a detox pose for mind and body!

If you can’t yet wrap your arms until your palms touch, press the backs of your hands together.

Beginners can also hold the ends of a strap between each hand and pull gently on the strap.

If you can’t hook your top foot behind your standing-leg calf, rest the big toe of your raised foot on the floor to help with balance or you could also rest your lifted foot onto a block.

If you lose your balance easily, you can try this pose with your sacrum/sitting bones to the wall.

For a deeper challenge, lean your torso forward and press your forearms against your top-leg thigh. Inhale to release and unwind, then repeat on the opposite side.

Some teachers will have you hold your elbows high and in line with your shoulders; others will tell you to draw your elbows down toward the floor.

Use the pose to breathe. Think of the energy of the eagle as you practice and try to soak that into the pose (soaring gracefully high, intent gaze, above the chatter and hustle bustle of the ground below).

Just before you breathe in, imagine that all your problems have disappeared......... and then breathe in. As you breathe out, direct the energy to the solar plexus (above the belly button and below the sternum); the back of the standing/supporting calf and the top-most/upper arm bicep. Repeat this cycle of energy in and energy out for 5 breaths to 1 minute. Unwind the pose and take a stretch (perhaps downward dog or a backbend for 10 seconds) and repeat on the other side.

Take rest (savasana).

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Letting the Ground Catch Your Practice



In the last of the five blogs regarding setting up a home yoga practice using the five elements of Ayurvedic philosophy, we are pulling the thread of the all powerful Earth Element into our Yoga practice.

The Sanskrit word for Earth Element is Prthvi. Prthvi contains the qualities of stability, slowness and heaviness. When we slow our practice down, root our practice (by creating a routine) and use it to create a body 'heaviness' which is the same thing as letting go of stress (which creates too much 'lightness' in the body) we envelope ourselves around the Earth Element creating a feeling of safety and security within both body and mind.


Anxiety is now affecting a huge number of people and I have heard the the WHO (World Health Organisation) expects it to be one of the top three conditions of ill health as we move through the next ten years. Inviting the Earth Element into your daily routines is an excellent way to start to counteract the damaging effects of anxiety and mental stress and strain or to prevent anxiety and all of it's associated symptoms from taking hold.

Tips for creating a 'grounded' Yoga Practice:

  • Use Muladhara (root holding) mudra from a seated position before you start your practice to help settle your mind. Bring your palms together in a prayer at your heart, then interlace the pinky and ring fingers so they fold inside of the palms. Extend the middle fingers so the tips touch and then interlace the thumbs and index fingers so they form rings around each other, with the fingertips touching.Optional: Flip this mudra upside down and lower your arms slightly, so the middle fingers are pointed downward at your pelvic region.
  • Start your practice by lying down on your belly. This will settle your breathing into a slower pace by creating a gentle push against the breathing from the floor and allow a time to feel the Earth underneath you. Imagine the Earth element is catching you from underneath you and that all you need to do is simply surrender to gravity.
  • It's hard as the days get colder, but do take your socks off when you practice so that you can feel the sensations of the mat and floor as you practice. This will teach the body to connect and get you used to bringing your attention downwards away from your head. 
  • Create a regular routine of eating and sleeping. Try to keep as close to your 'contracted' times as you can for each of your meals and your bedtimes. The body loves nothing better than to understand what it's energetic needs are throughout the day. If you can stick to it, this will create the most profound changes to your health and energy levels.
  • Use Malasana (squat pose), Balasana (child's pose), Virasana (hero pose), Vrkshasana (tree pose), Virabhadrasana 1,2,3 (Warrior poses) regularly in your yoga sequences and use the last three poses to create a release of stress and awareness in the pubic bone and hip area. Use Malasana and Balasana to drop away tension and to strengthen mula bandha (root lock).
  • Learn Ashwini Mudra. This is a squeezing and releasing of the anal sphincter. Yes, you read that right! It's not often taught in a weekly yoga class because not everyone is ready for this sort of information and instruction, right? Here's the only video that I can find on the internet that is to the point. In Ayurveda, it is one of the remedial recommendations for piles and sexual stamina. In Yoga, it is taught as a stress relief practice, for calming the mind and for great health of Muladhara Chakra which is linked to a sense of security, feeling safe and with a sense of belonging along with the health of the large intestine and the low back/tailbone and legs.
I suppose this is a good place to end....at the bottom.


Love Sonia x

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Be Like Water My Friend



Today, in Lancashire, this is THE day to be bringing in the Water Element to our home yoga practice sessions!

The Five Great Elements (Panchamahabhuta) have so much to teach us, both about the World around us and the World within us.

Ayurveda notes the five primary manifestations of Nature (Space, Wind, Fire, Water and Earth) and invites us to unravel the mysteries of the Universe using them. When we notice that each of the above archetypes are all around us, within everything, within us, it allows us to see more clearly each thread of what has built all we sense and, also, how to build something new.

In this previous blogs, I have been using the Five Elements of Nature to build a home yoga practice.

Where's your perfect Yoga Space

Move Like the Wind

Where the Mind Goes, Prana Follows


Today, we are noticing the Water element within our breath and movement practice.

When we think of water we may think of:

  • wetness and hydration
  • refreshments and cleansing
  • that which is sustaining to life

What we may not immediately bring to mind is:

  • it is a binding agent (ie mix dirt with water)
  • it is 'oily' which has a smoothing, caressing, healing balm-like action
In Ayurveda, water is the binder. It is the element that starts to create form (albeit a loose flowing form). It is the 'thing' in the Universe that starts to gather up the small, loose, flyaway, home-less fragments and give them a medium within which to operate. 

To give an example, the Wind, or Air, element (which has chaotic movement) requires a structured flow within which to function to be helpful to the body. Within our body, oxygen requires our blood (flow) to move around in. Using this example, without the philosophy of the Water Element, our yoga practice is simply a practice in which we fling our limbs around in unnecessarily extravagant arrangements and force air in and out of our nose in an alarming manner.

This binding action that we need to incorporate into all our limb swinging and deep breathing is what will be moving us into the very heart of Yoga. It is no coincidence that the word Yoga itself means 'that which is bound together'. 

To experience the qualities of the Water element, Yoga practice suggests to let love start to grow and flow and to share that feeling of love to those around us. In our yoga practice, we intensify this intention by opening the heart and imagining that our practice is 'for' someone else's benefit. Our movement and breath becomes a prayer for those around us. 

If we were to practice with the intention of having something for our self or as a means of getting rid of something within our self, then we will have, before anything is even started, set up a resistance to 'what is' in this moment. This type of resistance is the number one block to the flow of love and the creation and support of the Water Element.

It is very easy at this point to mistake creating an intention with engaging the mind, which would bring us back up into our head and into the follies of problem solving and goal making. Instead, with this intention of the heart to share love, which is a sensation, we attempt to move and breathe as an expression of prayer for others well-being and happiness.

To open the heart:

  • Whilst sitting quietly, think of someone or something that you have great compassion for (a lost kitten, a lonely child, a loved one, someone who is suffering) and once you have that sensation (no thought), intensify it to include those you have less natural compassion for.
  • Chant the sound AUM (OM) one time or for one minute, or anywhere in between, sending the sound through the heart space.
  • Start your physical practice (your Space/Wind/Fire practices) and if your thoughts start to dominate, stop and re-attend to the heart space.
  • At the end of the practice give thanks and gratitude.
With love,

Sonia x









Saturday, 19 August 2017

Where the Mind Goes, Prana Follows



In this, the third blog in a series of  'your home yoga practice' musings, I am bringing in the element of Fire.

*Blog 1 'Finding Your Perfect Space'
*Blog 2 'Move Like the Wind'

Ayurveda's philosophy of the Five Elements explains that within everything and even within every explanation of every thing are the five natural manifestations of energy called:


  • Space/Ether
  • Wind
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Earth
If you try to describe anything you hear, touch, see, taste or smell - that description will bear some resemblance to the five archetypes above. One particular quality will stand out from the rest. But, when we look deeply enough, it will, in fact, resemble all of the above to some degree or another.

Today, we are pulling the thread of Fire out from the explanation of a home yoga practice and examining it in order to create an expansive, personal, enjoyable and meaningful 'at home yoga practice.'

We have our designated space (first blog) and movement (second blog). Today, we will bring forward an intention for that movement (Wind) within that space (Ether).

When we think of Fire we think of heat and the transformation it causes (wood to ash; melting of candle; destruction and, perhaps even, the pheonix rising from the ashes). In Ayurveda, this heat and transformation has it's seats in the heart and mind as well as the digestive organs, eyes and skin. In each of these parts of the body is a fire that glows hot and strong when healthy and weak and cold when unhealthy. Your yoga practice should entice the above 'seats of fire' to glow.

You can use three methods to ignite the fire:

  1. Start to breathe in a way that fills the belly (seat of fire) as you breathe in and also feel the navel move backwards to the spine as you exhale. This will blow on the embers of the Fire and make them strong. Rather than focusing on the movement of the spine (blog 2) as the intention, let the movement of the spine intensify this slow pumping of the navel which lights the Fire of the belly.
  2. Use your mind and your gaze (drsti) to move energy. There is a saying that 'where the mind goes, prana follows'. Your mind is another seat of Fire. The stronger the mind, the brighter the Fire. Using your mind in your practice this way will help brighten the mind's focus and healthy intensity. You can see this brightness of the mind in the eyes and also you can focus your gaze (softly, as if looking from the back of the eyes and using peripheral vision) so that you can 'watch' your own practice. You will feel the two techniques above transform the feel of the practice and also the warmth and circulation of blood and oxygen and nutrients that your practice generates.
  3. Start your day with warm sesame oil abhyanga (self massage); leave on for at least 10 minutes - longer if convenient and then take a warm shower. Wear 'breathable' clothing. Our skin is an important Fire seat and when given the proper care, can also transform the feel of our yoga practice. This step may not be possible on every occasion, but sometimes is better than never!
Your home yoga practice is now taking shape with the tools called 'Panchamahabhuta' in Ayurvedic traditions. Pancha means 'five' and maha means 'great' or 'important'. Bhuta is a word that doesn't have any direct translation into english, but the english word 'element' is often used. It's not a great translation, because we rarely use this word in the sort of context I am writing about now. It is more helpful to think of the word Bhuta as a manifestation of energy. The World around us is, ultimately, pure energy. This energy vibrates at different frequencies and, according to ancient Ayurvedic knowledge, creates sound and space; feelings and movement; warmth and appearance; taste and texture; mass and, with that, an odour. Energy is now 'something' that has manifested into a form we can smell, taste, see, feel and hear. A Bhuta!

All things have all five Bhuta within them (Space/Air/Fire/Water/Earth). Today, we have incorporated the Fire Bhuta into our daily home yoga practice. Here's some more ideas to work with the Fire Bhuta at home:
  1. As you get ready to get onto your mat, light a candle to symbolise the Fire that will build because of your light your practice will bring.
  2. Set an intention for your practice. Dedicate it. This will connect your heart and mind Fire to the movements that you make. Make this dedication as an offering to another rather than as a wish for yourself.
  3. End your practice with Trataka (candle gazing meditation). Find a 'fire meditation' on my mini immersions page of my website 
Above all, find joy in your home yoga practice and the warmth of that joy will be like touchpaper to all the Fires within!

Sonia x

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Move Like The Wind


Learning Ayurveda is learning how Nature affects us and how we affect Nature. It is learning about relationship, consequence, rhythm and releasing the bonds of resistance to what is. Ayurveda describes the World around us and within us as five manifestations of one energy (Shakti).
In the first of this series of blogs starting with 'Where's Your Perfect Yoga Space?' (http://yogisouls.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/wheres-your-perfect-yoga-space.html), I wrote about how the five building blocks of the Universe can be used to build your daily practice.
Today, we are inviting the Wind Element (Vayu Bhuta) into your practice space..........
The Wind element animates that which it touches and, therefore, this is the stage where you can start to explore movement as a practice. Movement in Yoga is directed via the spine. There are five movements of the spine to explore during your home practice.
During your first next practice session, without trying to do a particular pose, explore all the twisting movements that you can muster. You can twist from standing, seated, lying down and from a balance pose! As you twist, imagine concentrating the energy in the body into the space behind the belly button. Try to move from the belly by bringing it in towards the back instead of swinging the hips or the shoulders first. Let the shoulders or hips follow the movement of the twist and the other half (shoulders or hips) remain stable, creating a 'wringing out' of tension. There is a power in this movement and also in it's effect. This power comes from finding our centre
On your second practice day, explore all your back bend moves. You can be gentle or strong depending on your experience and flexibility. A back bend is essentially a front body opener. Make sure that you don't try a back bend from the neck down (throwing the head back and expecting the rest of the body to join in). Squeeze your shoulder blades together - now use this to 'grow' your upper chest upwards and outwards - let the hip crests (front of the hips) come forward to counterbalance your upper back moving backwards - now let your neck follow the movement of the curve of the spine (resist throwing the head back but, rather, let it join in the natural curve of the spine below the neck). You may feel the heat of this pose. The potential energy that it creates. The body is now easily breathing in and finding acceptance. As we explore the backbends, we also explore our own latent potential and can encourage it's unfolding.
On your third day, explore all the side body openers. Stretch sideways and feel the breath soar. You can do this from seated, standing, lying down (banana shape pose). If the side body is tight, as you stretch the side the body gets pulled forward into a forward fold. Use some blocks, blankets, bolsters and cushions for extra support so that you can move back into your sidebends. Notice the rushes of energy around the body. Perhaps, some long forgotten areas become 'awake'. Move in a swaying, loosening fashion as if being pulled down a slow moving river with many twists and turns. Find your sense of creativity returning as you allow yourself to neither start nor finish a movement, but simply to transform from one side pose to another. Let your self play and have fun!
On your fourth day, move in a way that lengthens the spine. From seated, you could try putting a block, blanket or cushion under your sitting bones - then press your palms into the mat or floor beside you and feel the shoulders move out of the way and the spine lengthen - Now sink your sitting bones deeper into the ground and feel your crown lift high into the sky. Downward dog and plank pose are two poses that help the spine to grown long and strong. Notice that you need to figure out how to lengthen the spine. One thing that will help is to move from the heart up and the heart down. Give your heart some space. Kindness and patience is the only way to move forward with this sensitive lengthening of the spine.
On your fifth day, hinge at the hips into a forward fold. Relax and release as you explore this calming movement of the body. You can do this seated, lying down, standing or in a balance. Notice the activity of the legs. Active but not tense. Feel the sensation of the parts of your body that touch the floor/mat. Encourage the body to use the support of the ground beneath you to deepen the pose. Move forward confidently like an elephant strides through and pushes asides lesser weights that its own, but also, there is a gentleness there. No aggression should be used, just a forthrightness.
All these spinal movements are actually how me move energy into and within the body and also how we release spent energy. Each spinal movement moves Prana in a particular direction helping all the supports of the body (Prana, Agni and Ojas) and re-balancing imbalance (Vata, Pitta, Kapha dosha).
On the sixth day, combine your spinal movements into an enjoyable and curiosity induced flow of movement. See how and where your body naturally moves whilst listening to the cues that come from the depths to guide you in moving energy where it needs to go and away from areas that have become 'jammed' with excess. Notice whether you favour the backbends, forward folds, sidebends, spine lengtheners or twists. Notice why you favour them. Because they feel good? Or because they feel easy? Notice the movements that you avoid. Notice why you avoid them. Because they don't provide any sense of importance or relief? Or because they are challenging and require you to feel more?
Let your heart lead you rather than your head. As you sway and swing your way from pose to pose, be indifferent to the narrative of the mind. 'Why don't I try something harder/easier?' 'Why doesn't my back bend get easier?' 'I just felt a sense of quietening. I wonder why. I must ask my teacher why.' 'My knee hurts. My knee always hurts. What's wrong with my knee?' ----- Let all of the natter get lost in the flow of the exploration of movement.
You don't need to set a time limit or a minimum time. Let yourself move until you are done. Everyone is different. Every day is different. Sometimes you start and your body just wants you to go on and on (your head usually finds something better to do, but you are too in the moment to listen to some crankiness of the mind). Sometimes, your body moves for a bit, irons out a few creases. Lies down and rests. Then you are done. Try not to overthink this either.
Soon, we will move onto other essentials for your practice. For now, find a space and animate via the power of the Wind.
Wishing you a wonderful play,
Sonia xx