We’re getting close to the end of the year and time seems to be speeding up, how are you holding out? Many people have been reporting increased exhaustion which is not surprising when you consider the amount of tasks that we perform each and every day.
Fear not! Restorative yoga is here to help. This practice is the antidote our hectic lifestyles, it’s all about completely letting go and restoring our energy supplies without using energy.
Many people confuse Yin yoga and Restorative yoga however they have very different intentions. In Yin we are working our fascia, hydrating our joints, and stimulating chi flow through the meridians. In restorative yoga we don’t do all of that work, instead we use many props to ensure complete comfort in various poses to restore energy to various parts of the body. We take the time to settle into complete comfort, and we surrender. Restorative yoga provides deep nourishing rest, it calms the mind, soothes the nervous system, and aids to release tension from the body. It’s the perfect practice for anyone who stuck in busy-ness, who feels burnt out, exhausted, or who is recovering from illness/injury and needs to fully rest.
I’m doing 2 restorative workshops combined with sound healing before the end of 2019.
If you need some radical rest before the onslaught of Christmas and New Year, please join me:
Saturday 23rd November 1-3pm at Earth & Sky Yoga Marrickville, and
Saturday 14th December 3-5pm at Dancing Warrior Yoga St Peters
Summer is the most yang time of the year when we soak up the upward solar energy which is stimulating and exciting. There are many things to honour and appreciate about our Sun’s energetic boost however we must be careful not to overwork and overheat our bodies. In some places the high humidity can leave us feeling sluggish and lethargic. This can cause stagnation of energy throughout our tissues, organs and joints.
In Summer the Fire element is at its peak with longer, warmer days and increased activity. The emotions associated with the fire element are joy and love as it’s connected to the heart, and who doesn’t want more of that! Perhaps that is why so many of us crave the return of summer and it’s promise of long carefree sunny days. Of course not everyone is in agreement with the sun worshippers amongst us. Where I live in Sydney and in many parts of Australia and the world, summer spells high humidity which many people find very uncomfortable and restrictive.
There’s a lot that we can do to prepare ourselves for the upcoming summer season to cool down and to regulate the flow of chi throughout the physical, energetic and mental body. Yin yoga in particular is very effective in soothing the nervous system and cooling down the body. With its long-held poses close to the ground, gentle breathing and inward focus, there are opportunities to detach ourselves from our aversions and outward distractions, and instead to focus our awareness to our internal landscape.
I’ll be running a Yin yoga and sound workshop in November to explore poses for the hotter months which you’ll be able to practice yourself at home whenever you are feeling overheated, overwhelmed or exhausted throughout summer.
This workshop is designed for small groups (max 12) so please book early to secure your spot. I would love to see you there!
*** Saturday 9th November, 3-5pm at Dancing Warrior Yoga **
Isn’t it ironic that everything that we learn, we then have to unlearn.
This time last year I was doing advanced teacher training on adjustment techniques believing that this was the best way to serve my students. After working with hundreds of different bodies I now realise that it’s much more beneficial to allow students to feel their own way through the poses, and more importantly that there is no perfect pose that they need to attain... there is only a perfect pose for their own body which only they are able to feel.
The days of following the direction of the ‘guru’ no matter what are well and truly over. So while we may cringe at the abuse that some gurus have projected on their students through adjustments (both physical and verbal), let’s also be grateful that through their misbehaviours we have learnt as yoga students to reclaim our own inner power.
IMHO unless a student is in a compromising and dangerous position, there is no reason for a teacher to adjust them. What do you think?
Spring is an exciting time in nature when all that has been dormant over the winter months begins to awaken and bloom. This time of the year is ripe for giving birth to new ideas, projects, relationships, ways of being and to plant intentions for our own health and wellbeing. Just as nature enters a cycle of renewal, growth and expansion, we too are given the opportunity to make a conscious choice to begin anew.
In Yin yoga each season is associated with its own particular element, emotion and organ system. The element for Spring is wood, the emotion is anger, and the organs are the liver and gallbladder. At this time of the year we use our Yin practice to balance the wood element to attain optimum physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual wellbeing. The wood element represents a time of growth, expansion and buoyancy, it’s about renewal, awakening and rebirth.
By focussing on the liver and gall-bladder meridians we help the body to regulate blood circulation to keep all of our organs vital. The spirit of liver chi helps us to organise our ideas and to transform them into action and change. Stimulating the gallbladder chi allows us to feel strong, decisive and bold. All these qualities are required if we are to birth new projects into the world.
Be mindful that if you have some stagnation or deficiency along the liver meridian, you may experience irritation, impatience and even anger in your practice. You may find it difficult to hold poses for very long and you may want to escape the experience rather than breathing through it. If this is the case, be kind to yourself understanding that this is temporary. When you remain gentle and patient in your approach to your practice, the chi will flow more freely.
Enjoy the freshness of Spring and be bold about sharing your unique gifts with the world.
“Trees are the fingers of Mother Earth reaching toward the arms of Father Sky. They share their love unconditionally - giving away their breath, consuming our waste, and spreading their seeds far and wide. They give their bodies to us for medicine, for building, for warmth. In return they are loved unconditionally by the Sun who feeds them freely, by the rains which cleanses them, by the soil which nourishes them. But even the trees long to be just a little bit closer to the heavens” - Shaman Redwood
It’s fair to say that most of us find meditation challenging even though the practice itself is simple. All we are trying to do is stay focussed on one thing over an extended period of time, it sounds easy but in practice staying focussed on one thing is extremely hard. As soon as we try our thinking mind comes along, taps us on the shoulder and distracts us. Often, the thinking mind is so sneaky that we don’t even realise that we’ve been hijacked until we are way down the long road of story telling, imagination, fantasy, rumination and projection. The thinking mind will do almost anything to be anywhere but in the present moment, instead it craves action, drama, planning, judgement, obsessive thinking and emotional roller-coasters, sound familiar? We know that our over-active thinking creates havoc for our nervous system and by extension for our mental health and wellbeing. That’s why meditation is prescribed as one of the most effective techniques to heal and soothe us. We also know that technology with its reward mechanism to keep us hooked, has made our ability to concentrate all the more difficult.
It’s important to note that concentration in itself is not meditation, it is merely the path towards meditation. We cannot make meditation happen, we can only practice sustained concentration that may lead you to the shift in consciousness required to be in a meditative state. When we move from prolonged concentration to meditation there’s a physiological and mental change that occurs as the brainwaves move from beta to alpha and eventually theta waves. Once we arrive here the breath deepens, the nervous system is soothed, thoughts unwind and the heart rate slows. Only then do we experience the lifting of worry and sink into a blissful state, and it’s in this space that we can glimpse the concept of oneness... this is yoga.
Unfortunately there is no quick easy way to keep our thinking mind focussed in the present. There are however many effective techniques that we can practice which over time help us to extend the length of concentration and eventually reward us with the meditative state that is so healing for us. In other words, meditation is not a quick fix, it’s a method which can be highly effective if we practice regularly over a long period of time without attachment to results. If we try too hard, the body stiffens and relaxation eludes us. If we make no effort we risk falling into a hazy stupor, which can feel nice but lacks the clarity of the meditative state. And so we come to our cushion with a curious mind, ready to explore, without expectation... we simply practice.
Have a go and let me know how it goes.
“practice only becomes firmly established when it has been executed with great attention and without interruption over a long period of time”- Yoga Sutra 1.14
There’s a quiet revolution that’s been going on for the last decade or so, with the advent of the slow movement showing up in the way we consume, work, play, behave and think. People are beginning to see that fast growth, fast consumption and fast profits, are not conducive to wellbeing. Relentless speed and growth negatively influences our physical and mental health and our relationships, not to mention the devastating effects it has on our Mother Earth. The slow revolution promotes quality, sustainability and fairness above quantity, exploitation and profit.
From a yogic perspective, the slow movement is a manifestation of ahimsa which teaches compassion towards ourselves and others including animals and our planet. It encourages practitioners to do less, to do it slower, more mindfully and more kindly.
In yoga studios we’re seeing a resurgence of traditional gentle and slow practices such as slow flow, restorative yoga, yin yoga, meditation and sound healing. It’s been shown that slow movement helps reduce pain, anxiety, inflammation and stress.
It would be wrong to assume that a slow practice is somehow an easier or less powerful experience. In fact, moving slowly required more strength, more mindfulness and more precision. Moving slowly is extremely helpful in keeping the mind focussed and present. Through slow movement we can build our capacity to concentrate, to strengthen our resilience and to give us a greater sense of direction and purpose. Slow yoga is also more sustainable for the physical body as it gives the practitioner time to find more stable alignment thus avoiding injury. In addition, slow movement is more meditative by nature and gives us the opportunity to listen to our intuition and inner wisdom. This all results in less stress, more insight and more joy in the practice and in our lives.
Slowing down is not easy for many people who are constantly juggling multiple responsibilities and continually multi-tasking in a futile attempt to tick off an impossible and bottomless to-do list. If we’re serious about calming our nervous system and reducing our anxiety and stress then we can begin with small steps towards an overall intention to slow down. Yoga teaches us that like anything that we want to master in life, it’s all about practice.
“Practice only becomes firmly established when it has been executed with great attention and without interruption over a long period of time” Yoga Sutra 1.14
In Yin yoga the winter season focusses on the emotion of fear.
Fear often places restrictions on us, it can tamper with our energy reserves and render us frozen. In winter we can notice similar sensations when stepping out in the cold weather, the body automatically builds itself an armour and curls inward, restricting full breath and often lowering our mood.
When working with fear, it’s important to remember that it is the mind that creates and fuels the fear.
The Buddha taught that there are 5 common fears that we are all subject to:
1. The fear of death - in particular the death of the self, the sense of ‘me’, the personality and identity that we spend our lives cultivating, expressing and reinforcing.
2. The fear of illness - this fear is the most powerful marketing tools used to sell us all sorts of products and services. We forget that getting sick occasionally is normal and sometimes desirable in building our immunity or forcing us to stop and rest.
3. Fear of losing the body - ageing, decaying and ultimately the death of the body becomes extremely difficult if we believe that our body is all that we are. Again this is a common fear that marketers exploit to sell us stuff we don’t need.
4. Fear of losing our livelihood - hence the suffering of many souls who remain trapped in unsatisfying jobs and careers.
5. Fear of public speaking - it’s interesting that this fear was also evident in Buddha’s time reminding us that our primal fears are largely universal and shared with humanity throughout the ages.
Interestingly, I read recently in a study that one of the most prominent fears of recent times is the fear of having a meaningless life. More and more, younger people are understanding the power and value of contributing to society and to fully explore their passions and true calling. It may be that the fear of a unfulfilled life is becoming stronger than the fear of risking financial security.
A useful way to work with fear in meditation is to embrace the feeling of fear fully, and not just focussing on our own personal fears but the fears of all beings. By imagining all the universal fears felt by all past, present and future humans, we can observe how this powerful emotion manifests in the body as a curious bystander. Try this until you are so engulfed in fear that you almost become the fear itself, at that point you may notice the emotion naturally disintegrates. This technique works by removing the personal sense of “I” from the equation so that the fear is no longer personal, but universal. By allowing ourselves that distance we can work with fear in a way that is harmless to us because it’s not just about us. This also allows us to develop more empathy and compassion towards others.
If you try this and find that the fear is too strong when you sit in meditation then perhaps a physical practice is more appropriate. In the natural world, animals physically shake off their fear and we can do this too. I often use shaking in my yoga classes when we have just tried a difficult asana such as an inversion which often brings up fear in students. Shaking is effective in releasing the stickiness of fear that can linger in the body, it’s a wonderful way to literally shake off limiting thoughts and toxic energy away from us.
From a yogic point of view no emotion is inherently good or bad, they all exist to communicate with us. Fear sometimes warns us against danger but it can also let us know that we are about to experience something new that will help us to learn and grow. It’s our job as yogis to observe our emotions, become familiar with their patterns and learn to interpret what the emotional body is communicating in order to use this information for our highest potential.
“Some of the worst things in my life never happened” - Mark Twain
I use my chakra crystal bowls in my meditation, Yin and sound healing sessions to ease clients into a deep relaxation state in a very quick and easy way. This is highly beneficial for those who suffer from stress-related disorders or general exhaustion.
After a sound class or workshop clients regularly report feelings of calm and deep rest however they are not always aware that underneath the pleasing sound experience there is also a more profound energetic healing taking place. Crystal bowl sound is a form of vibrational medicine which validates that everything in the universe is in a state of vibration. The chakras, bones and organs in the body all possess a different resonant frequency and each crystal bowl has a specific note on the musical scale which corresponds to each part of the body. By absorbing the sound-waves from the bowls, energetic imbalances can be addressed in a natural, safe and holistic way.
Keeping our energetic body well-tuned is important to allow us to feel vital and to keep our inner spark, this has a domino affect on our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
If you’ve never tried sound healing, why not have a go and notice for yourself the effects it creates in all the layers of the body.
You can catch my sound Yin classes at Dancing Warrior Yoga, Coga Yoga and Haven Wellness every week as well as longer, more in-depth workshops on a monthly basis. For upcoming workshop details go to yoginithreads.com/yoga
I hope to see you there!
As the weather cools and we begin to draw our energy inward, Autumn gives us the opportunity to pause, reflect and process. In Yin yoga each season brings its own energetic quality, element and organ system. Autumn is ruled by the metal element, the lungs and the large intestines, it’s the season of transformation associated with cycles, the rhythm of the breath and releasing.
Metal is the most malleable substance because it can be transformed and re-transformed many times over without ever losing its integrity, it comes from the deep layers of the Earth and symbolically represents the discovery of our own self worth and value.
Our Lungs transform the air we breath into the oxygen necessary for our bodies to function, they open into the nose, and are directly connected to the skin and body hair which are part of our immune system and work very closely with other organs in providing and maintaining a sense of homoeostasis in the body.
As nutrients enter the large intestines, they are later eliminated as waste that our bodies no longer need. In Autumn we witness the same process in nature, as trees shed their leaves in preparation for the cold winter. Nature teaches us to let go and release what we no longer need, it shows us that it’s time to slow down, reflect, observe and move with an awareness to create the space for transition and growth.
Sadness or grief can surface at this time, in the Yin practice we delve into these emotions to release them and to arrive to a place of acceptance and a state of ease. Just as the decaying leaves add rich nutrients to the soil, we also need to nourish ourselves with this gentle and compassionate practice.
Autumn Yin connects us back to ourselves, to generate a gradual and healthy transition to the coming darker season. We just need to trust and let ourselves fall into Yin.
Yoga mudras are symbolic gestures often practiced with the hands and fingers in yoga and meditation. Using a mudra brings another dimension to the yoga practice by facilitating the flow of energy in the subtle body.
There are many types of Mudras designed to bring different benefits, depending on what we specifically need. Each finger represents a different element, they are:
Thumb - fire and universal consciousness.
Index finger - air and individual consciousness.
Middle finger - space and connection.
Ring finger - earth and the body.
Little finger - water and the emotions.
Mudras are one way of creating balance between all of these elements within us.
One of my favourite mudras and a crowd favourite is Gyana mudra, done by bringing the tips of the thumb and index finger together and keeping the other three fingers lightly stretched. This symbolizes the unity of fire and air as well as the unity of universal and individual consciousness. This mudra increases concentration, creativity, and is a gesture of knowledge. Keep the palms facing up for deeper internal insight or facing down to feel more grounded.
Gyana mudra is connected to the root chakra and is used to reduce tension by calming the energetic body. Many yogis use it in meditation to focus and seek more internal guidance.
If you haven’t used mudras in your practice why not give it a try, if nothing else it will lift your sense of extension and grace.