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).
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!
“I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.”
– Aldous Huxley
The only thing we can be sure of is change, yet most of us spend our lives gripping onto the railing, terrified of what that change will entail, and how soon it will come.
Fear and anxiety tend to be held primarily in the gut, the location of the solar plexus. From a eastern philosophical view, the solar plexus is the location of the Manipura Chakra, the jewel in the city, or the place of resplendence. Along with governing digestion and metabolism, this is also the home of the ego, and associated with self-esteem and “warrior” energy; it also holds the key to our power for transformation.
Behind the digestive organs lies the spine, which is the engine for all movement. When the Manipura chakra is healthy and spirited, and balanced with the rest of the body and their associated chakras, taking risks, asserting oneself and being responsible for ones choices in life is natural and easy. The relationship of self and other is in check, and acting our of goodwill and service comes naturally because the sense of ego-self is in tune with the universal self, or conscious collective.
When the Manipura chakra is out of balance, however, it is associated with fear, anxiety, insecurity (that may present as an inflation of ego or self-worth), poor digestion or even chronic illness. It can also be associated with a stiff or misaligned spine. The Solar plexus is intricately linked to diet, as the diet supports, or hinders how our digestive track functions, as well as our self-image and ultimately, our self-worth.
It is no coincidence that in the sixties, a time of drastic and needed change, a number of songs were penned about the inevitability of change, such as The Times They Are A Changin’, by Bob Dylan, and A Change Is Gonna Come, by Sam Cooke. An equal number of songs were written about twisting and turning, which are the very moves that accelerate and encourage change in the body, from a digestive and movement perspective.
In the yoga asana practice, postural twists are excellent for bringing about a cleansing of the gut, as well as challenging our sense of self and all of our attachments. If we are aware and wanting to look deeply into our mental patterns and attachments, twists can challenge the questions such as who is ‘I’ and what is ‘mine’? What are the various labels we place on ourselves that we get attached to? The more we understand that the labels aren’t real, but rather, the makings of the ego, even the thoughts we have about ourselves in the world are not real, the more we can begin to accept change, whether it be a relationship-based, dietary, environmental, or professional. The fact is, everything is changing in the world all the time, and we have less control of what is ‘newer and dear’ to us than we think. When we take responsibility for the choices we make with intentions that stretch beyond our limited, ego-driven self, then we can rest assured that we have done the best we can, and the fear and anxiety dissipates.
When we embrace change and feel good about what we consume, including the food we eat and the media we read and hear, we become change agents rather than fighting change as if it were quicksand. What we feel good about eating is personal, of course, but starting from a place of not-harming any other being is essential if one is practicing yoga with the goal of sustained happiness and peace within. Healing foods packed with nutrients are generally also non-harming foods, making things like organic vegetables and fruits a great place to start.
For more on the relationship of food and diet to feeling great, check out Sharon Gannon’s book, Simple Recipes for Joy. It is so much more than a vegan cookbook; it is a recipe for creating magic and positive change in the world, starting with yourself.
For more on twisting, the Manipura chakra and the asana practice, I will be leading a workshop on Sunday, October 5 about the torso and Central Column in the Architecture of Asana Series at Indaba Yoga Studio, Marylebone, from 1:30-4:30pm. Please come!
originally posted on Movement for Modern Life
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:
Summertime is upon us! And with it, some upcoming changes to the schedule. But first, let us enjoy the glorious spring! Hope to see you on the mat soon.
UPCOMING WORKSHOP SERIES
THE STRUCTURE OF ASANA: A THREE PART SERIES
with Lizzie Reumont at Indaba Yoga Studio
Our bodies were designed by a master architect to house the most precious creation: the soul! Nonetheless, life can be complicated mentally and physically, and too often we end up living without an awareness of what it means to be in the body, without knowing how to use the resources that we have to enrich our day to day existence and to deepen our asana practice. This three – part workshop aims to shine a light on the body’s function and potential so that we may re-integrate the parts in a meaningful way. After all, a yogi is an embodied being: aware, confident and purposeful…integrated and balanced in the world.
Sunday, June 8th, 1.30-4:30pm
Finding Foundation: the feet. The structure of one’s physical architecture is rooted in the feet and connects via the legs to the spine. This 3 hour workshop will explore the anatomical phenomenon of the feet and how it relates to the legs, hips and spine in asana practice. We will look at the ankles, knees and hip joints in particular as they relate to standing postures.
Sunday, July 6th, 1.30-4.30pm
The Centre Column: the viscera and spine. The core body not only has a boney casing of spine on the back and rib cage in the front, but it has top and bottom boney landmarks in the girdles of the shoulders and hips. These hard surfaces offer containment for the vast and oceanic underlying visceral world. In this 3 hour workshop we will explore the dimensionality of the spine in conjunction with opening of the lateral body to create space. Asanas will include side-bending, twisting and back bending (front extensions).
Sunday, September 7th, 1.30-4.30pm
The Cupola: the neck and head. 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. This three hour workshop will focus on the cranium and neck and their relationship in key asanas and pranayama. We will also explore techniques for releasing tension and emotional holding patterns.
Weekly Classes in May 2014:
Mondays 2-3:30pm Indaba
Tuesdays 6:45-8pm The Life Centre, Notting Hill
Wednesdays 10-11:30am Indaba Yoga Studio
Wednesdays 2-3:30PM Triyoga Primrose Hill
Fridays 11:15-12:45pmThe Life Centre, Notting Hill 3 month cover for Molly Harrigan
Saturdays 10-11:30am Indaba Yoga Studio