I went to a talk with this title recently and found myself surprised by the stance the speaker took.
Their view was that meditation (mindfulness) was a tool to reach yoga. Yoga of course means ‘union’ … generally understood to mean union of mind, body and spirit. But I had always thought of yoga being a journey towards that point – not just a destination.
Some people will start a yoga practice as a physical thing – some exercise. Others will have heard that ‘it’s good for stress’. Many will find that whilst they start with yoga as a physical practice, it soon becomes much more – the quieting of the mind, the relaxation of body and mind, as well as the strengthening and toning of muscles.
In my yoga, I aim to practice mindfully – with attention to body, breath, and awareness ….. which makes the practice meditative.
What do you think? Are yoga and and mindfulness the same? And what about meditation and mindfulness?
If you say ‘ I have to’ it sounds as if you have no control over the action or decision. Change it to ‘I choose to’ and what a difference it makes. Suddenly you have control … or responsibility.
Do we opt for the ‘I have to’ when we are too lazy, too afraid, too tired, or too disillusioned? Somehow ‘ choose to’ as well as being a far more powerful statement also comes with a whole lot more personal commitment. ‘I have to’ hands over the control to someone else, ‘I choose to’ that’s down to me.
Try it out … see what a difference it makes to you.
Why is it that you see so few men at the average yoga class? Many of the famous yoga teachers are male … yet classes are usually predominantly female, which must make it challenging for men to feel comfortable in them.
What can we yoga teachers do to make our classes more ‘man friendly’. I read this article in the Telegraph which articulates some of the dilemmas well!
“Don’t miss all the beautiful colors of the rainbow looking for that pot of gold.”
Read this quote the other day and it has stuck with me. You can interpret it on many levels … here are just a few:
Be mindful, in the present moment … whatever you are doing focus on that – for example, if you are walking, notice the feel of the ground under your feet, the breeze against your skin, the sounds and sights around you. If you are eating, savour the food – the textures, tastes, colours … don’t also check messages on your phone and watch the TV.
It’s OK to take time getting to where you think you want to be … and perhaps that might change … i.e enjoy the journey. Perhaps the journey is actually the whole purpose.
Whilst it can be good to have goals, be flexible in your approach .. notice the steps along the way and savour them.
I can also link it to yoga practice. So often when I’m teaching I see people grasping to reach what they perceive as the perfect Triangle (Trikonasana) ….. rather than really feeling the openness in their chest as they reach for the sky with one hand whilst the other is perhaps still resting on a bent leg. When I ask people to stand in Mountain pose (Tadasana) and ‘check in’ with themselves … i.e. really take note of how they feel physically, mentally, emotionally … so many find it difficult to be still …. to really tune in to what’s going on.
So, enjoy the colours of the rainbow .. be mindful … be really present … and savour the monent!
Who am I? A powerful meditation …. and one I’ve been contemplating on for some time. Do I know the answer … really know the answer … no … somehow every time I get close to feeling ‘I’ve got it’, things change … and I guess that’s the essence of life … nothing is permanent … everything is transient.
And I guess some of the value of the meditation is looking beyond my ego’s definition of me … to really discover what lies beneath. And right now, I don’t think I get to that depth of understanding.
I’ve been working with a quote that caught my eye recently “Being myself includes taking risks with myself, taking risks on new behaviour, trying new ways of ‘being myself, so that I can see who it is I want to be”. I’ve had some fun and some revelations …. become so much more aware of the contradictions within myself … the different facets of my personality. Learning about me ….. how I relate to others, what makes me tick.
Another powerful quote that somehow takes this a stage further … and in the right direction (for me) is “Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later”. Whilst I don’t believe we should act predominantly out of self interest, the idea that ‘as you sow, so you will reap’ is sound.
Do we ever really work out who we are? Are we a never changing being. I think not, but spending time meditation on the questions can certainly bring both answers and more questions.
Often the meditation is turned around as ‘I am’ (So Ham) …. equally as powerful and often drops into Who am I
This is the ‘thought for the day’ from Inner Space Oxford, and I think it’s lovely.
Everyday we have a choice – we can be grumpy, miserable, short tempered …. or happy. And when we choose happiness, the world just seems a different place. Somehow we notice the positives rather than the negatives What do I mean by that …… some examples:
- the warmth of the sun shining through the window rather than the difficulty seeing my computer screen
- the joy of my cats playing in the garden rather than worrying about the 8 dirty feet that will soon be coming through the cat-flap
- the opportunity to ‘just be’ for a moment rather than getting annoyed at the queue in the supermarket
The situation is still the same, it’s just our perception that we change .. and when we do so, we take away stress and bring a bit of sunshine not only to our own lives, but quite possibly to those around us.
At this time of year many people think about starting new things … including yoga … which of course I think is a very good idea!
If you’ve never done any yoga before then what do you need to think about? Here are some thoughts for you:
What is your motivation for starting yoga? – is it part of an exercise regime – then look for a Power Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga class – you’ll often find these at gyms. Is it to de-stress or to stop you getting stressed in the first place – then look for a hatha yoga class – these are often taught by teachers trained by the British Wheel of Yoga. Do you want to gain or re-gain flexibility, improve posture or balance – again a hatha yoga class will be good.
How well trained is the teacher? – this is important …. there are loads of different courses of very different quality …… some teachers have trained for a few weekends … others will have done a really thorough training programme. You want someone who knows their stuff and has been prepared to invest in a decent teacher training programme. Ask any prospective teacher where and how they trained and also how they keep their knowledge up to date – many of the reputable teacher training schools require their teachers to undertake regular training.
Is the teacher insured to teach you yoga? – this links in with the training section above, and is another quality indicator.
If you are pregnant, then look for someone who is trained to teach pregnancy/pre-natal yoga.
Make sure you talk to the teacher in advance Ask them about their style of teaching, what to expect in a class, what to bring etc. Any reputable teacher will be happy to talk to you and answer your questions.
Enjoy your yoga!
It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful yoga is. It’s so sad when people consider it purely a physical exercise as practicing yoga can help us on so many levels. From the book Yoga as Medicine, here are five more ways yoga can heal(1-10 are in previous posts)
11. Nourishes inter vertebral discs
Most joints benefit from movement. The cartillage that forms the spinal discs hasn’t got it’s own blood supply, so relies on movement to deliver nutrients from nearby blood vessels.
12. Improves return of venous blood
Inversions performed as part of a yoga practice encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart meaning the heart doesn’t have to work so hard.
13. Improves circulation of lymph
Lymph is key in the effective functioning of the immune system – the contracting and stretching of muscles as you do a yoga practice stimulate the lymphatic system.
14. Improves function of the feet
Some say ageing begins in the feet! Standing postures, with the correct alignment encouraged by a good yoga teacher can help alignment and reduce the likelihood of problems not only with the feet but also the ankles, knees, hips and lower back.
15. Improves proprioception
This means knowing were you are spatially. Yoga balances, sometimes done with the eyes closed can really help with this and increases overall awareness of the body.
Keep enjoying your yoga!
Continuing with some of the ways yoga can facilitate better health, both as prevention and treatment from the book ‘Yoga as Medicine’ ….
6. Improves Lung Function
7. Leads to slower deeper breathing
8. Discourages mouth breathing
9. Increases oxygenation of tissues
10. Improves joint health
Connecting with the breath is a core element of both my teaching style and the way I do my own practice.
The improvement of lung function come through both posture and breathing – in yoga we learn to sit and stand tall – avoiding slumping so that we can breathe more fully. We are encouraged to breathe more slowly and deeply and to breathe through the nose. More oxygen to the lungs may translate into more oxygen to the brain and other tissues. We just feel better when we breathe better – and function better as a result.
The cartilage that acts as ‘shock absorber’ between surfaces of bone – such as in the knee joint – needs synovial fluid which is promoted through movement. And of course moving correctly can help work the right muscles and realign bones – helping to reduce wear and tear.
It’s wonderful to feel the gradual improvements that result from a regular yoga practice … the world just somehow feels a better place,
Am reading the book ‘Yoga as Medicine’ … all about yoga as a therapy.
The author cites 40 ways yoga can heal …. I’m going to pick the first 5 to comment on
- Increases flexibility
- Strengthens muscles
- Improves balance
- Improves immune function
- Improves posture
I’ll post some more benefits another day … just a list would be boring!
We are familiar with the concept of yoga increasing flexibility – and my students certainly tell me it does! And some postures can certainly help strengthen muscles – such as Locust (Salabhasana) working on the back muscles, or Sun Salutations (Surya Namsakar) working on upper body strength. Asanas to work on posture feature in every class I teach – maybe something simple such as coming up onto toes with a breath in, or a Tree pose (Vrksasana) or Dancer (Natarajasana).
What about improving immune function – yes the mind can influence healing – the strongest research links are to the benefits of meditation – again something I include in all classes – be it through mindful practice or ‘formal’ meditation.
And yoga certainly improves posture – through creating awareness, strengthening core muscles, teaching ‘correct’ posture – I’m sure my students get fed up with me saying tummy in, long back , shoulders down!
It seems that more research is published almost everyday on the benefits of yoga. So why don’t you try a class. You’ll find a useful tool to help you find a local teacher on the British Wheel of Yoga website. And if you love near Bicester in North Oxfordshire, come along to one of my classes!