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.
I always look forward to the witch hazel coming into bloom in January, as it brings some much needed colour and sunshine into the garden. Even though it’s covered in snow at the moment, you can still see the yellow petals, like rays of sunlight. It made me think that however cold or miserable we might feel, our inner sunshine can still be warm and glowing.
The sun sequence (surya namaskar) is a wonderful sequence for re-igniting that inner sunshine, filling us with warmth and lifting our mood. In the Dru yoga book, Stillness in Motion, we read “Over the millenia, solar therapy has been used by numerous cultures to heal a wide variety of diseases. The sun sequence has a similar effect. The internal heat it creates stimulates physical healing and activates your inner resources. Will-power and enthusiasm are awakened and creative decision-making promoted”.
So, if that sounds good, come along to one of my classes this week to experience this flowing, energising sequence.
In Dru yoga, we work with sequences of movements called Energy Block Release sequences. We’ll usually do part or all of one of these sequences each week. They are very effective in releasing tension from the body, which in turn helps to release stress from body and mind. From the Dru yoga book – Stillness in Motion:
“You are a powerhouse of energy, but blocks in your inner circuitry may mean that you are operating seriously below capacity. The EBR sequence helps clear away these blocks and re-open inner pathways. This enables you to leave behind past conditioning and gives rise to a clear, open mind that can respond to each situation in a new, creative way.”
A stream that gets blocked with leaves and twigs becomes turbulent, muddy and flows more slowly in places, creating pools of stagnant water. So it is with our energy pathways. If they become blocked, we’ll get more sluggish, emotional and dull. Like clearing leaves from a stream, clearing our energy pathways will make us refreshed, vibrant and glowing with health.
In classes this week, we’re thinking about what it means to be ‘in balance’ and working with postures, breathing techniques and relaxation that can help to restore some balance in our lives.
When you think about balance, what comes to mind? It might be physical balance, which becomes increasingly important as we get older to avoid falls, but it’s good to feel steady at any age. Or a balanced energy, having enough energy to take you through your day, without having dips or feelings of exhaustion. Maybe you think of emotional balance – we all have those days when hormones or stress gets to us and we experience an emotional roller-coaster and seem to be at the mercy of our mood swings (or someone else’s!). Sometimes our mind goes into overdrive, and we lose our mental balance. Things get out of proportion when our thoughts spiral out of control as we lie awake worrying in the middle of the night.
If any of these sound familiar, yoga can help. Helping to restore the work life balance, and restoring balance in the whole of our lives, so we can cope more calmly and enjoy life more.
“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight………
…..Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced”.
From The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran
Be honest – how often do you feel like this?
Over the next 6 weeks in my classes, we’ll be focusing on a different theme each week, and thinking about all the many benefits that yoga can bring.
Starting this week with boosting energy levels.
In the busy lives that we all lead, how many of us haven’t said at some time, ‘ I’m too tired’, or ‘I’m exhausted’. You go to bed tired, and you wake up tired because your mind’s too active. Monday mornings are a real struggle, and you feel like you haven’t got the energy to lift a foot out of bed. Babies, snoring partner or noisy neighbours keep you awake, and you end up feeling completely frazzled.
Yoga has some great techniques for giving you a quick energy boost, and I’ll be sharing some of those this week. It won’t transform you into a human dynamo overnight, but you might go away with a bit more of a bounce in your step!
We usually think of the heart as a physical organ that pumps blood around our body to keep us alive. It certainly plays that vital role, but research from the HeartMath institute has found out that it is much more than that.
The heart has it’s own intelligence and has a magnetic field that is more than 5,000 times greater in strength than the field generated by the brain. This field can be detected a number of feet away from the body and has the capacity not only to affect all the other organs and systems in our own body, but also other people around us.
Their research also shows that “Positive emotions not only feel better subjectively, but tend to increase synchronization of the body’s systems, thereby enhancing energy and enabling us to function with greater efficiency and effectiveness”. In Dru yoga, we use affirmations and visualisations, which help to create those positive feelings and emotions – making us feel better about ourselves, and improving our relationships with others.
In the Wind in the Willows, Mole was spring cleaning, then said “`Bother!’ and `O blow!’ and also `Hang spring-cleaning!’ and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously,…….. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, `Up we go! Up we go!’ till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.
……. The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow……..” – Kenneth Grahame
To me, this perfectly captures the exuberance of this time of year. We sometimes need to leave the ‘oughts’ and the ‘shoulds’, and do something that makes us feel truly alive. To feel the energy of the earth and to blossom with it. Yoga can give us an internal spring-clean, blowing away the cobwebs with the breath, clearing unhelpful emotions, helping us to stretch, grow and feel that tingle of being alive.
Which sort of spring-cleaning do you prefer? No points for guessing mine…….