that path is you
that is why it will never tire of waiting
whether it is covered with red dust,
or icy snow,
come back to the path.
you will be like the tree of life
your leaves, trunk, branches,
and the blossoms of your soul
will be fresh and beautiful,
once you enter the practice of Earth Touching
~ Thich Nhat Hanh ~
Over the next few weeks, we are taking inspiration for classes from the five elements, beginning with the element of earth. We’ll be doing postures and sequences that help you feel grounded and strong.
Life can throw us in all directions at times and postures like tadasana (the mountain pose) help us regain a feeling of balance and centredness – of coming home. We feel our own inner strength, standing immoveable like the mountain. Utthitta trikonasana (the extended triangle) gives us a feeling of stability with the wide triangle base and weight grounding down through both feet.
Dru yoga has a wonderful grounding and calming sequence called Prithvi Namaskara – the earth sequence, which combines flowing movements with the flowing breath. It reminds us of the endless cycles of the earth around the sun, and of how life is always changing. If we keep our feet firmly grounded on the earth, we can absorb strength and security from the earth beneath enabling us to cope with the ups and downs of life.
A very powerful phrase that I recall from a poem whenever I’m feeling lethargic, or saying to myself, nah, leave it till tomorrow. And as the saying goes, tomorrow never comes. I’ve been feeling that way with my writing recently, and the longer you leave something, the harder it gets to do it. Routines get broken, particularly over the summer, and come September, it’s sometimes hard to find the motivation to start work again. It’s even more so now that I’ve retired from my 9-5 job and only myself to answer to.
So the longer I’ve left writing this blog, the harder it’s become to do. Weeks have passed when I’ve thought about it and not put fingers to keyboard. Then I start thinking, is it worth it? Who reads it anyway? Why bother? What difference will it make? All those insidious thoughts that creep in about all sorts of things that we enjoy or do us good like walking, meditation, drawing, yoga, eating well. For me, I know that I have to ‘just get on the mat’. Take one small step towards something and before you know it, you’ve walked a mile, done 20 minutes yoga practice, or written a blog post. And feel great at having done it!
In classes this week, we’ll be practicing the ‘Inner Fire’ sequence, a fantastic Dru yoga sequence that helps to ignite your inner fire, giving you inspiration, motivation and confidence.
Not in the mood.
Your body’s aching.
You’ve got other things to do.
Can’t slow your mind down.
Just get on the mat.
From The Spirit of Yoga by Cat de Rham and Michele Gill
“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot”
Back from a few days by the sea this week and just read a blog post by braith an’ lithe, which made me think about appreciating what we have in life. In her post, she writes about losing her sense of smell, and the feeling of loss and sadness accompanying that. Being by the sea, one of the first things I noticed was the wonderful smell of the seaweed, of the salt in the air and the particular smell of warm pebbles on a beach. I try not to take it for granted, but reading that blog today made me appreciate it even more.
We sometimes don’t appreciate what we’ve got until we lose it, whatever that might be, and we all experience loss in some form or another. If we really appreciate something or someone, will it be harder if we lose it? It might be, but if we don’t appreciate all those people or things that make life special, then we’re not fully living life. Yoga has helped me to become much more aware of the beauty in the simple things of life – to really see them, smell them and taste them.
Living about as far as you can be from the sea in England, I love to visit it, but when my agoraphobia was at it’s worst, I could hardly get to the shop down the road, so going to the coast seemed impossible. I lost my freedom to travel, and with that, lost my visits to the sea for a while. Yoga helped in my recovery, particularly the calm breathing techniques, and gradually I was able to get a little bit further and further from home. Appreciating and loving the sea gave me the incentive to keep pushing my boundaries – and it still does.
“Now is the time to mirror the flowering in the plant world by expressing your own creative fullness in your heart, life and expression in the world” ~ Shiva Rea
Unfurling: unfolding, expanding, developing, opening out, spreading out…..
The natural world often inspires my yoga practice, and I love doing yoga outside on the grass in my garden, on a hillside or on the beach (with my husband pretending he’s not with me!). At this time of year, the ferns in my garden are just unrolling and unfurling, changing almost by the day. I took some of them in to my classes a week or so ago, and got a few strange looks when I said how much they remind me of the spine unfurling.
The spinal wave is a key concept in Dru yoga, and we often mention unrolling the spine from the base up to the crown of the head with a flowing wave-like movement. To me, the fern perfectly illustrates that concept as it grows taller and unfurls from the bottom of it’s stem right up to the top. As it unfurls, its leaves expand too – like the ribs on either side of the spine. So it ends up like this……
Tall, open, expanded, strong yet flexible. All qualities that I aspire to through my yoga practice.
Does anything in nature inspire you or help you with your yoga practice?
Last week we practiced some postures to balance the heart chakra, thinking about being kind to ourselves. We often feel guilty or selfish if we take time out to do something we enjoy, but working with the heart centre to open the heart opens us to the possibility that it is OK to lie down for 10 minutes when we get in from work, or take a long relaxing bath. If you look after yourself, becoming less stressed and more patient, then everyone around you will benefit too.
This week we’re moving up the spine to the energy centre at the throat – Vishuddhi, associated with the voice and communication. If this centre is out of balance, you can find it hard to communicate – words get stuck in your throat. Our words are very powerful, and we can use them well or use them to hurt and lash out. Balancing the throat centre helps you to speak clearly and truthfully, improving your relationships both personally and professionally. For students at the University where I teach yoga, presentations are a key part of assessments, so communications skills are very important not only now, but for job interviews and in the workplace.
A posture that stimulates the throat centre and thyroid gland in the neck is the bridge (setubandhasana), so we’ll be practicing that this week. In this posture you create the shape of a bridge with your torso, and the throat centre acts as a bridge between heart and head. It’s good to keep a clear channel between these two so that you can make balanced decisions, listening to both your head and your heart.
When you prepare to speak, think first – “Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?” ~Mary Ann Pietzker.
In classes at the moment, we’re thinking about the energy centres (chakras), and how yoga postures can help to balance them to give us optimal health and well-being. As I mentioned in my last post, it’s a stressful time of year at the University with exams, assignments and deadlines. Postures and sequences that balance the sacral energy centre (swadhistana) help to give us emotional stability. If panic sets in or you can’t sleep at night with thoughts whizzing round your head, then doing some forward bends or the moon sequence can have a calming effect.
The next energy centre up the spine is the solar centre, or the manipura centre. When this is balanced, it gives us the qualities of confidence and dynamism and helps us to thrive on pressure, rather than collapsing under it. All really good for enhancing your performance in exams and presentations. Surya Namaskara, salutation to the sun, is an excellent sequence for energising and balancing the solar centre, as is the sitting twist. So, if you’re feeling a bit sluggish, can’t be bothered, or can’t get motivated then the sun sequence just might get you going!
And if you can’t even summon up the enthusiasm to move, try a breath with visualisation. Breathe in and out of your solar centre (located just above the navel), visualising a golden light glowing there, like the light from the sun becoming brighter and brighter. Imagine yourself filled with warmth and vitality from that glowing light, and feel that light spreading out around you, surrounding you with a bubble of golden light that fills you with confidence and energy.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be thinking about the chakras, and working with postures that help to balance each of these energy centres. At the University, where I teach yoga, a stressful few weeks are approaching as students prepare for final assessments, and staff are busy too. Each of the chakras is associated with different qualities, such as confidence, all of which can help to get us through stressful, busy or difficult times in our lives.
We’re beginning with the root chakra, Mooladhara, which is located at the very base of the spine. When in balance, this gives you a sense of security, of being grounded and having the courage to face life’s challenges. The warrior postures (Virabhadrasana) work on this energy centre at the base of the spine, inspiring us to be strong in body and mind. Good postures to practice if you need to boost your confidence before an exam or presentation, and done regularly will make you stronger, more resilient and less fearful.
“Fear would have you never leave the house, or turn on a lamp, or be in love or have a pet, or go for a drive in the country… Fear would seal you away and demand that you listen all the time or something terrible will happen. Fears lie. …. Your fears are not larger than you are…” ~ SARK – Living Juicy.
F – False
E – Evidence
A – Appearing
R – Real