Putting the Head on Yoga Asana (the last workshop of 2014)


image378Workshop, The Architecture of Asana: Part 3 (The head and neck)
Sunday, November 2nd, 1.30-4.30pm Indaba Yoga Studio, Marylebone

 

An awareness of the head, jaw and neck in asana practice is crucial to being balanced in body and mind; after all, it houses all of the nerves that help us to function physically and mentally. However, most of us have ongoing confusion about a myriad of details – anything from where the ‘crown’ of the head is, to the gazing point, or dristi. This three hour workshop will focus on the cranium and neck and their relationship in key asanas and pranayama. While it is a workshop and will have a slightly different pace than a normal 90 minute class, be prepared for a full asana practice as well as an asana lab at the end, where you can bring your questions.

Hope to see you there as it will be my last workshop in 2014.

Sound Advice


600394_421617931239046_1475004198_nOn October 11 and October 18th there will be LIVE MUSIC in class, provided by Luc Acke and Javier Rodríguez Huertas at Indaba Yoga Studio, Marylebone, 10-11:30am. Please come!

Tasya vachakah pranavah
Always chant OM; God is OM, supreme music
-Patanjali

Living and working in London means that all around, there is sound. Police sirens, bus horns, jack hammers and cars whizzing past provide a colorful if not distracting backdrop. Sometimes moving beyond the chaos of the cataclysmic sound waves can be challenging.

The practices of yoga provide a framework of moving from the gross (large) elements to the subtle. We work from the outside, in, so to speak. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali outlines and eight-limed path (ashtanga) the provides steps for transformation; transformation from our belief about being rooted in our belief about who we are as a physical form, to being something more subtle, something timeless. The eight-limbed path consists of the yamas (restraints), niyamas (self-restraints), asana (seat/connection), pratyahara (looking inward), dharana (concentration), dyana (meditation), and samadhi (enlightenment).  Throughout these practices, we learn to cultivate our listening skills, ultimately arriving at the ability to hear even the unstruck sound, the soundless sound of Om.

In the sanskrit dictionary, there is a word nadam, which translates loosely to sound. Nada Yoga is the yoga of deep inner listening. The related word nadi means river or stream. Nadis are the channels in the subtle body through which consciousness flows.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states that samadhi (enlightenment) is achieved when the anahata (unstruck) nadam can be heard. The ultimate goal of Hatha Yoga is to hear this soundless sound which is Om, the dissolution of all sound and the music of the spheres. To do this the yogi must first perfect the ability to listen.

Sound is the essence of all energy. The first vibration, the Nadam, was “unstruck,” meaning that it occurred at a time when there were no things to strike against each other to make a sound. This first very subtle vibration is still resonating through each and every vibration that has arisen since the beginning of time.

To begin the practice of Nada Yoga, the yogi first practices pratyahara, shutting off as many external sights and sounds as possible and drawing inward. The first stage of pratyahara is to become still and quiet, and allow an inner tranquility to permeate the senses.

This is not easy to do, so a prerequisite might be to refine the ability to really listen. One way to do this is by appreciating good music. Be selective; it is helpful to choose music that induces an inner state of well-being. Practice listening to your own voice and to those around you. See if in walking through a busy city you can look for the sound of Om, even in the jackhammer, even in the car’s horn.

Once external listening is refined, we can cultivate the ability to listen inward. Yoga practices provide techniques for tuning our instrument, for transforming an ordinary body into an extraordinary instrument for Divine Will; for love. Through the practices of Nada Yoga, the yogi’s mind becomes absorbed in the inner sound of Om.

Live Music, Saturday October 11, with Luc Acke


luchttp://www.lucacke.be/player/?playlist_id=1&iframe=true&wmode=transparent

I’m so excited to be teaching with Luc Acke again on Saturday, October 11th at Indaba Yoga Studio, 10-11:30am. There is nothing like practicing to live music, and Luc’s voice and the harmonium are especially grace-filled. If you have never practiced to live music before, come and experience the live vibrations and incredible sweet bhav (mood). Hope to see you there (to sample Luc’s sound, click on the link below his picture).

Twist and Shout


 

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Twisting plays a vital role in maintaining the health of our bodies and minds. The twisting motion is important because it incorporates so many central points of the body, and encourages movement in the spine as well as the organs. Yoga twists require the work of the abdominal muscles, oblique muscles, spine, neck, shoulders and pelvis. Each twist improves the strength and flexibility in all of these areas, resulting in two distinct and essential benefits:

The Relief of Back Pain and Pressure
The lower back region bears a considerable amount of weight when you are standing or sitting throughout the day. This can put pressure on the lower vertebrae and restrict circulation. Yoga twists can reverse the daily damage to your lower back by restoring circulation, increasing flexibility and correcting posture. These positions rejuvenate the spinal column and improve range of motion. This makes daily yoga twists an excellent way to relieve back pain.

Cleansing and Detoxifying Body Tissues
Performing yoga twists massages inner muscles and organs, essentially wringing out toxins while bringing in a rush of fresh oxygen and nutrients. This flushes impurities from inner tissues and helps organs perform their functions properly. Among other benefits, this is an effective method for improving sluggish digestion.

Join me on Sunday, October 5 to learn more about twisting and the relationship of twists and front, back and side bending in the Central Column: Architecture of Asana Series at Indaba Yoga Studio, Marylebone, from 1:30-4:30pm. There will be twists aplenty and backbend merryment too. Please come!

From the Ground Up


originally posted on Movement for Modern Life

imageYS. 2.46 sthira sukham asanam

May the relationship (connection with the earth) be steady and joy filled.

Our relationship with the earth may be the most important connection we have in our lives; afterall, we come from the earth, and some day our bodies will eventually, but inevitably return there. What is more, the gravitational pull to the earth’s centre may be the single most prevalent physical force we will ever know. We are a mere 3959 miles from the earth’s core, whereas the the closest moon, star or planet is almost one hundred times that distance. Despite this, we spend the large majority of the time looking outward, being “star struck”, and in awe of what’s out there and how it might affect us rather than increasing our knowledge and compassion towards what is just under our feet; that which is also our greatest support and biggest resource. Ironically, this mirrors the relationship many of us have between ourself and other beings; there is a great propensity to look outside of ourselves for strength and happiness rather than finding the answers within.

Yoga has long been documented as a journey inward, a practice that stabilitises and balances the mind and body, so it would make sense to begin with a good foundation to the earth, the element that connects us to our roots and to all other beings. In reality, however, we are sensorial-based creatures, and our greatest sense, our sense of sight, leads us to a fascination with the things that we can see. What is more, the ego thrives on affirmation, and as such, seeks measurable results based on analysis. It is easy to understand then, how the desire for mastering advanced asanas has superseded the joy and discovery of fully understanding the subtleties and challenges hidden in ‘basic’ standing postures. As a culture we celebrate the idea of ‘onward and upward’ rather than valuing our ability to root and reflect. One of my favourite quotes comes from Richard Freeman who has revealingly said “advanced asana is for those who don’t get the basics.”

Over half of the bones in the body are found in the feet, and the soft tissue, including fascia and muscle, span as an interconnected matrix from the toes all the way up the torso to the cranium. Our designer knew how important our foundation would be to survival. While the ability to ground and take off stems through the feet, the propulsion comes via the legs, hips, spine, shoulder girdle, arms, neck and head. The whole body “gotta get down to get up” (James Brown).

In today’s world where sitting in a chair has replaced squatting, where driving a car has replaced walking and running, and where yoga practices tend to be more about learning to fly rather than learning to stand with ease and grace, let us remember the joy in finding the subtle connections of the body to enable a deeper rooting to the earth.

Yoga is an integrative practice; we practice reconditioning our mind and body to be more interconnected in the world. Sometimes, however, the ego takes over, and the practice stays in the mundane realm of ‘physical fitness’. We forget the intention behind the practice, the goal of connecting to the earth and all beings. The moment we acknowledge that we have slipped back into the mundane is a beautiful moment: it is the chance we have to reset our intention in the practice, it is a moment to find a steady, joyful place to begin the breath anew. When we find ourself ‘competing’ in some way in the practice, when we don’t listen to physical pain in pursuit of attaining a posture, when we ‘cheat’ to get into an asana and put our body at risk of injury, these are moments to be celebrated. After all, on a macro-level, the yoga practice is about increasing our awareness, so when we start to observe and recognize habit patterns we can begin to change. This is the beginning of transformation. When our foundation is strong, steady, filled with ease and grace our potential to fly becomes a permanent state of mind rather than a temporary physical feat. In yoga, we build consciously in body and mind, from the ground, up.

Please join me on Sunday, September 7, for the first of three workshops on the topic of the architecture of asana, exploring the various regions of the body in relationship to an integrated yoga practice at Indaba Yoga Studio. Follow the link below to book in:

https://www.facebook.com/events/290000161173856/

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