The Mountains

Mountains

Classes this week are being inspired by a 5-day Dru meditation retreat that I’ve just experienced at Snowdonia Mountain Lodge in the heart of Snowdonia. I always benefit from the stillness of the Mountain pose (tadasana), but discovered a much deeper stillness when surrounded by the presence of the mountains. If you find it difficult to stand in the stillness of Mountain pose, try and visualise your favourite mountain, or find a photograph of one that you like. Imagine yourself standing in front of that mountain, feet firmly planted on the earth and breathe that stillness and stability of the mountain into yourself.

The Mountains

Heads in the clouds, the mountains stand guard.

High and tall.

Clouds constantly shifting, revealing, then hiding.
Croaks and cries of ravens and buzzards,
Slow wingbeats, barely perceptible against the mountains.

The mountains watch, immoveable.

A road winds through the mountains.
Tiny cars crawling, carrying tinier people.
The road a narrow scar on the mountains.

The mountains stand, impeturbable.

Solid and still.

Water off a mountain’s back.
Water refreshes the mountain.
Waterfalls tumble, cleansing and washing away the debris.

A sliver of silver moon rises behind the mountains.
Slowly revealing it’s fullness.
Ghostly shapes of sheep at the foot of the mountains,
White in the moonlight.

Protected by the mountains.

A hooting of the wise owls.
Blessed by the mountains.

The fading moon drops behind the mountains across the valley
As morning awakes.
The mountains awake to a sprinkling of snow
Scattered from the heavens.

The hearts of the mountains are peaceful.

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Working with fear

Javelin trainHigh Speed Javelin – Photocredit: wikipedia

Following an acute experience of agoraphobia many years ago, one of my personal challenges (still) is working with fear and anxiety. I’ve explored various different therapies and techniques in my recovery and am so grateful that I came across the transformative power of Dru yoga, which has helped me so much. I’m now able to teach yoga classes, drive longer distances and travel on public transport – all of which would have seemed impossible when I was virtually housebound and having panic attacks. Although able to do most of the things I’d like to do, there are still times when the fear kicks in or I think the fear will kick in.

If I’m not careful, I start judging myself, thinking that I should be able to ‘deal with’ the fear and not be afraid of it still. But those habitual patterns seem hard to break.

So I thought I’d try a mindfulness course, and am half-way through an eight-week programme. A quote that our lovely tutor, Shelly at The Mindful Road, sent us this week reminds me to stop judging myself:

“Note that this journey is uniquely yours, no one else’s. So the path has to be your own. You cannot imitate somebody else’s journey and still be true to yourself. Are you prepared to honor your uniqueness in this way?” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn

Acceptance has been key for me, but more recently, I’ve been working with embracing the fear, rather than trying to banish it or push it away.  One of the concepts of mindfulness is to notice and be curious. So with the fear, to be curious about how it feels, how it changes my breathing and what thoughts appear. And at the same time to welcome it (which is really hard!).

In a video clip that we were asked to watch this week, Jon Kabat-Zinn demonstrated this in relation to pain – not pushing it away, but moving in closer. If you’re interested, take a look at the video, and go to around 31 minutes into the clip if you don’t have time to watch it all.

One of those things that I’d still like to do is to go on the Eurostar, and this weekend moved another step closer to that by going on the hi-speed rail link from St. Pancras to Ashford. 12 miles of tunnels out of London, so great practice for the Chunnel. Paris, here I come!

The Power of Fire

Candle and lotus

As the weeks pass, we move on to the element of fire for the theme of our classes for the next couple of weeks.

Fire – energising, warming and transformational as you burn the old to make room for the new. The sun is a huge ball of fire, unconditionally shining it’s light down on to the earth. So we’ll be practicing some postures and sequences to ignite our inner flame, bringing us strength and confidence.

The warrior postures (Virabhadrasana) help to activate the solar centre behind the navel, giving us courage and motivation. Chair of the heart (Utkatasana); another strong posture that strengthens the core muscles and opens the heart centre where we can visualise a golden flame, glowing brighter with each breath.

With the evenings becoming longer, it encourages us to light candles, bringing the light and warmth of the flame into our homes. Focusing your gaze on the flame helps to calm the mind and stimulates the pineal gland.

Some of the founders of Dru yoga were instrumental in bringing the World Peace Flame into being, drawing together numerous flames from around the world into one. As you gaze at your candle flame imagine it filling you with peace as you breathe in, and as you exhale, spread that peace out into your home, your street, your town and beyond.

“‘Fire is divine water’ they said, ‘flowing back to its source on high’. I remember looking at the huge flames and thinking that they were indeed like a huge waterfall flowing upwards. This, again, is an indication to us that fire is always reaching up to connect with the very highest forces of life.”

From ‘The Secret Power of Light’ by Mansukh Patel

Grounding

Columns in garden

that path is you
that is why it will never tire of waiting
whether it is covered with red dust,
autumn leaves,
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.

Dream your dreams

Archer

“You shape your future reality by what you do in the present. Look to your dreams” – James Borg

I believe that yoga helps us to improve our lives in many ways, and we can use the powerful tools it gives us in whatever way we need. In Dru yoga we use a lot of visualisations and affirmations to complement the physical movement and relaxation. It’s fairly well known now that sports people visualise themselves achieving a goal to help them to actually achieve it. In the same way, we can visualise ourselves doing a yoga posture if we find it challenging, which helps the body to move into it and overcome any fear that’s holding  us back.

We can also use visualisation or the power of our imagination to take us forward in life. The Dru sequence, Energy Block Release 3, helps us let go of limiting thoughts and encourages us to focus on our dreams, whether that’s to eat more healthily or become prime minister! The highlight of this sequence is the powerful archer posture, where we aim for our goal. Any action we take in life begins with a thought, so positive thoughts create positive action.

From the book Mind Power by James Borg….

“The reason why visualisation is so powerful and effective? It creates new neural pathways of experience – even though we haven’t actually lived the reality. Neuroscience has shown us that our thoughts alter the brain’s wiring and its neurochemistry”.

The next time you start daydreaming, go with the flow and don’t automatically dismiss it as a waste of time. Just think where it might lead you….

 

 

 

Inner radiance

reflecting candle

“The warrior of light concentrates on the small miracles of daily life.

He is capable of seeing what is beautiful because he carries beauty within himself, for the world is a mirror and gives back to each man the reflection of his own face. The warrior knows his faults and limitations , but he does all he can to maintain his good humour in moments of crisis.

The world is, after all, doing its best to help him, even though everything around him seems to be saying the opposite”.

From the Manual of the Warrior of Light by Paul Coelho

And as your own inner light glows more brightly, so it shines out and reflects back to you, making the world seem a brighter place. Some lovely flowing movements in class this week based around a Dru dance named Becoming the Flame, which will help you to develop your inner strength and become more radiant.

5-minute stress relief recipe

business yoga

Only for the brave or if you have your own private office!

You don’t have to go to such lengths to release stress during your working day. Just a few minutes stretching and some mindful breathing throughout your day will really help to break the pattern of stress and anxiety that can spiral out of control if we’re not careful. As we get busier towards Christmas, and the pace of life goes ever faster, we may think we have no time to relax, stretch and look after ourselves. But you don’t need long.

5 minute stress relief recipe

Ingredients

  • You
  • 5 minutes of time
  • Any quiet space, (loos are good :-)) **

Method

  1. Shake your hands, arms, feet and legs. Really loosen the muscles and flick away stress and tension.
  2. Shrug your shoulders, holding them by your ears for a few seconds. Breathe out and release, letting go of tightness from the shoulders.
  3. Circle your hips, drawing a wide circle to release tension from the lower back.
  4. Breath of Arjuna – a dynamic, heart-opening, stress-relieving breath that we practice in Dru yoga.
  5. Belly breath in Mountain pose. Complete by grounding yourself in mountain pose and allow the breath to fill your abdomen, visualising any remaining tension being absorbed by the earth beneath you as you exhale.

Result

A ‘you’ that is relaxed, refreshed and able to cope with whatever comes next in your life.

** If you don’t have a private space, either go out for a 5 minute walk, or focus on your breath for 5 minutes. You can practice mindful breathing anywhere – you don’t even have to close your eyes, just draw your attention inwards and count your breath in and out, consciously letting go of tension with each out breath.

Dru yoga breath of Arjuna

  • Stand in mountain pose, with the knees relaxed
  • Bring right hand in front of left at hip level
  • Inhaling, draw both hands up the front of the body, as if pulling off a jumper
  • Open the arms when the hands are above your head and exhale as you slowly lower them down by your sides, creating a big circle. Keep the elbows soft, and keep your hands in your peripheral vision. Bend the knees slightly as you lower the arms, but keep the body upright.
  • Repeat, bringing left hand in front of right.
  • Gradually allow the movement and the breath to slow down as you repeat a few times.

As you lower the arms, imagine letting go of any stress and anxieties.