Pranamaya Kosha

Pranamaya KoshaThe Pranamaya Kosha:

Prana – Vital energy, life force.

Amaya – field, dimension or area.

Pranamaya consists of two words: Prana – energy or life force and Amaya meaning dimension, area or field. Prana exists in every cell and fibre in the body so it therefore affects our health, our energy, the flow of blood in our system, the capacity to breath
deeply and the mind.

When there is an imbalance of prana in the body then it is often played out in mental activity. We can become dull or feel clouded if prana is moving too slowly or if it is blocked. Likewise, if there is too much prana in the system we can then experience too much energy or hyperactivity and an inability to relax and be still. Ones behaviour can become erratic, disconnected and ungrounded.

When we do pranayama at the beginning and end of a yoga class we penetrate this Kosha and begin to understand breath on a different level. We observe that Pranayama is not merely a set of well defined breathing techniques, it is in fact the manipulation of our energy, our life-force. We use pranayama to fill and balance the flow of energy in our system. Every cell and atom is affected by this practice. We gain a sense of true equilibrium in the mind, a calmness, steadiness and a sense of space. We observe the powerful affect the pranayama practice in the quiet moments after, while in meditation. In observing this we then have an opportunity to move through to the next level… The Manamaya Kosha, the kosha of the mind.

As prana is a powerful force one needs to be careful when teaching and practicing pranayama. In its essence, the asana  (posture practice) of yoga is preparing us to be able to deal with this powerful force. So for example a light bulb that is only able for 220 volts of electricity would explode with 440 volts of electricity. Likewise, when someone begins yoga it is important to prepare the body and mind to be able to withhold this powerful force that will penetrate body and mind and will electrify. That is why when you begin pranayama in my class you might be doing something different to the more experienced yogi who has been coming for a while.  The experienced can hold Bandha’s,  (Bhandas are powerful locks in the body) that move energy at a faster rate. The experienced pranayama practitioner will also be inhaling and exhaling to specific counts that have been outlined in ancient yoga texts. The ratio of the inhale to exhale being highly refined to bring prana into the body and expel it around the system, balancing the nadi’s.  Nadi’s are energy channels similar to what Chinese medicine refers to as meridian lines. We have 72,000 nadi’s in our system. We purify these nadi’s with the practices of both asana and pranayama .

Pranayama is a very powerful tool… The more you progress on this path the more it can affect the portholes of your mind… Your ability to connect to divine infinite energy becomes much stronger, visualisations and manifestations of your hearts desires become more possible….

This yoga system fascinates me. It fascinates me that this science existed thousands of years ago, in ancient times. It fascinates me that in 2014 we are still a minority who are blessed to have come across yoga, to know and use these ancient tools that empower ones life and the lives of others.

May all beings be happy, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be free.

🙂

Sinead.

Forgiveness and Letting Go Of Anger

HushYoga - ForgivenessPerhaps the best gift that we can give to ourselves and others is to let go of our anger. This is not ‘a dream devoutly to be wished’. It is possible. It does require some effort and determination on our part. Believe it or not, the essence of our meditation practice is the practice of forgiveness. This may sound a bit shocking, but we must expand our limited field of awareness from a contracted state to one of pure energy (in other words, enlightenment!).
Who is it that you cannot forgive? Each of us has a list, which may include ourselves (often the hardest one to forgive), as well as events, institutions, and groups.
Isn’t it natural that we should feel this way about a person or event that has injured us —perhaps severely and irrevocably?   From the ordinary standpoint, the answer is yes.  From a larger perspective, the answer is no. We need to vow: I will forgive even if it takes me a lifetime of practice. Why such a strong statement?
The quality of our entire life is on the line. Failing to grasp the importance of forgiveness is always a part of any failing relationship and a factor in our anxieties, depressions, and illnesses—in all of our troubles. Our failure to know joy is a direct reflection of our inability to forgive.
So why don’t we do it? If it were easy, we would all be enlightened. The truth is that it is not easy, even though we may repeat the line, ‘I should forgive, I should , I should…’ Such desperate thoughts help very little. Analysis and intellectual efforts can produce some softening of the rigidity of non-forgiveness, but true or complete forgiveness lies in a different dimension.
Non-forgiveness is just a bad habit. It is rooted in our habit of self-centered thoughts and actions. When we actually believe in such thoughts, they are like a drop of poison in our water glass. The first and most formidable task is to label and observe these thoughts until the poison can evaporate. This, of course, is a part of our mindfulness meditation practice. By shifting our perspective, we can see and experience the physical sensation of our anger, without clinging to our self-centered point-of-view. The transformation from anger to forgiveness, which is closely related to compassion, can take place because we have moved from our dualistic worldview to the non-dual, non-personal field of experience that alone can lead us out of our maelstrom of non-forgiveness.
Only an acute realization of the critical need for such practice will enable us to do it with strength and determination over the course of time. We have no other choice if we wish to mature in our practice and in our outlook.

The Kosha’s

The Kosha’s

In the scientific yoga system there are five layers of the body.  These layers are called Kosha’s.  When we come to the mat to do Yoga in todays modern world we mainly work on the first layer, the Anamaya Kosha.  The Anamaya Kosha is anything and everything we consider to be the physical body, including; skin, hair, organs, bones, joints, blood, cells, etc.  One of the main reasons for doing physical yoga is to keep the body and mind healthy and supple so that we can age with grace and ease.  The other purpose for doing yoga postures is that it is a way to enter into the energy body a.k.a the subtle body.  Asana (yoga postures) are the first point of access. While this layer is the most impermanent,  it is our vehicle, our mode of transport in this life. To enter into the energy body we have to honour this mother-ship that carries one through this lifetimes experience.   We therefore have to keep it well maintained through exercise, optimising nutrition, meditation, contemplation.  We are lucky to have yoga in our lives as yoga encompasses all of that and more.

5 KoshasIn doing yoga we begin to understand that the body is impermanent and everything that goes with the physical sense of being is impermanent; The body, our personalities, our possession. All of these are really a figment of our illusion….our delusion…..that distracts us from the Truth.

The other four layers of Koshas are our energetic sheaths, the subtle body.  Through the practice of yoga and meditation we penetrate into these layers and experience something very different from what we see or what we believe to be this world. This modern material world does such a good job at distracting us from our deeper selves that mostly people disbelieve and are disabled in the use of ones own internal power and infinite possibilities that lie within.  By tapping into these sheaths we begin to realise a different truth of life. It can have a very positive effect. We can begin a conversation with the subconscious mind and that is all empowering.  However the process is slow and one has to be patient and persistent with yogic practices; Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara Dyarana, Dyana, Samadhi.

The koshas have a profound philosophical significance.  In the traditional yoga system, the yoga of the Vedas and Bhakti Yoga (devotional yoga) the Koshas work in a similar way to the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga*, 400 B.C. Each sheath is penetrated and realized one by one. The final layer leading beyond nirvana, beyond enlightenment, to the sheath that is a“nothingness”, beyond bliss, beyond stillness.  In the later systems of yoga, such as Tantra Yoga (5th Century A.D.) and other eastern philosophies like Taoism, it is believed that we can experience any one of these layers within this lifetime at any given moment, if we prepare our bodies and minds and are willing to enter and move into a place within, a place that is beyond what we know of as the mind and our current reality.

This is my understanding of the Kosha’s. It’s not the only interpretation, though its an interpretation based on my experience of being in deep meditation and delving into the subtle body where I feel peace, joy, stillness, nothingness back to mind, matter, the material world and once again to experience peace, joy, stillness, nothingness and back to mind and matter and material world.  In my experience, the Kosha’s work side by side, drawing us into the possibility of infinite peace and the material world pulling us back out of that existence into this existence.  The play between the material world and the deeper layers of our energy system is the veiling and unveiling of Truth that is termed as Lila in yoga philosophy.

I wrote a blog a while ago about Lila that ties in well with this, so when you have time, take a read.  http://www.hushyoga.com/blog/lilas-lotus-flower-part-ii/

I’ll be back next week with a more concise breakdown of each Kosha.

Love , Peace and Happiness.

Sinead.

* The 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga is different to Patabhi Jois’s use of this word for his physical yoga posture sequence termed Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Both are referred to as Ashtanga Yoga and therefore is can be noted the term Ashtanga Yoga has two different meanings.

Aha…! Your Eyes Open.

Sit quietly now...Focus on your breath.

Sit quietly now. Feel year breath pounding in your chest… Expanding. Contracting. A constant and gentle knocking on your door. “Hello” it says, “Here I am.”  Aha.  Your eyes open yet remain shut to the oustide world.  You decide to take refuge here for a while. You surrender.  You realise all that is dwells in the right side of your heart, waiting patiently, all these years to support and to love you.  It is here, deep within the centre of your being,  where you will find magnificent peace, love, contentment, and maybe the answer to why we are here.

 

The Art of Compassion

The Art of Compassion
Another beautiful article written by Wesley Milliman for Hush Yoga:

The Art Of CompassionThe drama of life is always filled with emotions of despair or anger against the incongruity and unfairness of circumstances, as well as exhaustion from the never-ending quest just to survive. As a result of this stress, the emotions tend to dry up and the heart burns out, extinguishing the flame of our values and ideals. Thus, the important question becomes how can we rediscover and reawaken a feeling of tenderness and a sense of purpose in our lives; how can we resonate both with the suffering and joy of the human condition without losing our way or becoming so overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s problems that we lose hope.

Some of the great classical composers give us an example of what I call light-heartedness. Beethoven, for instance, was courageous enough to believe that society could be improved; behind that fragile and powerful soul pummeled by the tragedy of his deafness was a being of tremendous, heroic self-confidence. Brahms, as well, transformed terrible psychological suffering into joy, both within his heart and at the level of his soul. Handel brought us an unmatched understanding of true glory and sacredness in the act of glorification.

As a meditation practice, cultivate light-heartedness by first becoming conscious of the many different levels of emotion. The heart is capable of great sensitivity, and spiritual realization is the act of attuning oneself to a higher pitch. The task is to watch not only your own emotions but also the effects of your emotions on others and vice versa. The spectrum of emotions ranges from the extreme, vulgar emotions of violence and lust to anger, jealousy, and resentment, to the more ordinary emotions such as the desire for recognition, empowerment, status, and possessions. At the far end of the spectrum are the emotions of sacredness experienced in refined moments of love, insight, compassion, and mindfulness; this is the emotion of the soul, and, at this level of awareness, every movement is a prayer.

The word that captures the emotion of the soul best is exaltation. It may begin as admiration: admiring music, architecture, poetry, art, intelligence, or beauty. In addition, there is also an emotion that comes from a sense of awe and wonder at the miracle of life. Compared to the more low-key emotional attunement of most people, this is like cultivating a taste for the sublime.

Thus, the emotions are a reservoir for values, and we must sensitize our hearts to the more sublime and exalted values of the soul and spirit. Our hearts have become so bruised and hardened by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that we have lost the capacity to feel the higher ranges of the human spirit. By cultivating these refined emotional values, rather than killing them with cynicism and mistrust, we will transfigure the world so that heaven is both under our feet as well as over our heads.

The doorway to experiencing the emotion of the soul is through rediscovering the child within us—for it is a pure heart that leads the way to a higher attunement of consciousness. The secret to entering the consciousness of the child within is to become stripped of all guile, manipulation, intrigue, and deception. Dharmakirti said that the true nature of the heart is clear light. Defilements are superficial.

The fact is that we have become so jaded and sophisticated that we have lost touch with the sacredness of our being. Thus, it is critical that we place more value on those rare moments when we feel inspired or uplifted. This does not mean that we must renounce the wisdom we gain as we grow older; in fact, the great skill of life is to be able to maintain the innocence of the child in one’s heart while at the same time possessing some sense of mastery over life’s chaotic circumstances. The balance of these two modes of being is a great art.

Achieving such a synthesis of qualities is an ongoing, lifelong process. None of us is immune from being hurt in life. If we make a gift of ourselves out of love, we become vulnerable. Yet, somehow, just like a child who continues to trust no matter how many times he is rejected or rebuffed, the goal is to go on trusting in life itself. The miracle is that then a foundation of trust begins to develop; as people value the trust we give to them, they begin to feel safe with us. When we have attained this level of spiritual realization, we will have developed a heart-power that communicates directly with other souls.

It is our suffering, our broken heart, that gives us insight into the suffering of others. Compassion means ‘to suffer with’, not pity but actually sharing in the suffering because we too have known sorrow and loss. The extraordinary thing is that this insight of the heart is the magic that unleashes talents and potentialities within us that have been blocked as a result of our suffering.

Finally, it is this realization and knowledge of the heart that will enable us to reconcile the irreconcilables of our life: to honor our sadness, while at the same time experiencing joy. The truth is that one is never so strong as when one is broken. When you grasp that mystery, you will be able to see how what seemed like a loss or defeat is instead a victory, and that how you are broken is where you are whole. There is a Divine music that springs from a broken heart. We just need to listen intently, for it is the gateway to true understanding.

A Little Motivation Goes A Long Way.

A Little Motivation Goes A Long Way.

A Little MotivationAt this time of year normally numbers in yoga classes tend to drop off.  However it isn’t the case this year at all. More people seem to be doing yoga than ever including a full classes at 7.30 a.m. in late November.

From what I can tell many of you have the yoga bug.  The crazy knowing that you have to fit in your yoga class no matter what the cost, even if that means getting up at 6.30 a.m. on a cold winter morning.  Welcome to yoga addiction 🙂

That said, sometimes we all need a little motivation.  Even I do.  I have noticed one or two regulars missing in action and know when this happens that life has become too busy or stressful to fit yoga in.   The last thing we seem to be able to do when in this frame of mind is get on the yoga mat, even though we know it is often the best thing to do.

If you’re in that space at the moment, I advise you to pack your yoga bag early in the Rise and Sine Yoga 7.30 a.m.morning and bring it with you or leave it somewhere visible for the day.  Make a mental note that you are going to your yoga class, rain, hail or snow.  Then let your will get you to your class, fighting the voice inside that thinks you should stay at the desk at work or the voice that says, I feel debilitated and can’t move.  Remember, your will is always stronger.

I know what it is like.  As a yoga teacher I am committed to keeping up my own yoga practice at home. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.. I can’t move on the yoga mat. I sit on it, meditate on it, look at it while sitting on my couch  😉 but can’t seem to move on it.   I get yoga asana (posture) block.  When I am going through a phase like this,  I drag myself to two or three yoga classes a week until I am back in my yoga asana heaven at home.  Getting to the class is the hardest part. From there the teacher takes over, motivating the entire way through and I thoroughly enjoy it.

When you are so busy, stressful or an emotional struggle and make excuses not to make time for yoga, well then it’s most important to make time for yoga.

You will never ever say, “I regret going to yoga today”.  You will often say, “I wish I went to yoga today.”

Peace.  Love.  Happiness.

Sinead.

 

10 Holistic Tips To Beat The Winter Blues. Autumn is Preparation Time!

10 Holistic Tips To Beat The Winter Blues.  Autumn is Preparation Time!

Beat Winter BluesLike animals in the wild begin to gather supplies in autumn for their winter hibernation, we too should be preparing for the short days, long nights and cold weather ahead.  It can take up to sixty days and sometimes longer for some vitamins and minerals to effect the body so like our friends living in nature, to really benefit from the tips below, its time to build a strong internal body system now.

The lack of sunlight and grey skies in winter throughout Ireland can cause people to suffer from SAD, Seasonal Adjustment Deficiency.   Not everyone suffers from it yet it is quite common to hear people mention they have a dose of the winter blues, or are lacking in motivation, suffering from low moods and generally not in great form.

Well, I am here today to let you know how you can beat the winter blues  if you are well prepared.  Prevention is better than cure so start today if you can.

10 Holistic Tips to Beating the Winter Blues:

  1. Increase levels Trytophan or 5 HTP in your diet, essential amino acids.
  2. Vitamin B Complex.
  3. Vitamin C.
  4. Magnesium.
  5. Vitamin D:  Either 30 minutes in natural sunlight between 12- 2pm &/or a good D3 supplement
  6. Lots of Rest and Sleep.
  7. Soothe The Soul: Take a hot bath, Light candles in your home: Play mellow music.  Go for a stroll in nature.
  8. Meditate.
  9. Get creative:  Find a creative outlet.
  10.  Have Fun: Spend time with friends and family.  Laugh.

Below is a more detailed description if you have time to read.

Walk In NatureTrytophon:  There is a lot of talk about this amino acid within the health industry and especially from modern day nutrition experts.  Trytophan is one of 8 essential  amino acids that the body can only obtain through diet. Proteins change to amino acid in the digestive process.  This amino acid is responsible for the production of serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps the body regulate appetite, sleep patterns, and mood. Because of tryptophans ability to raise serotonin levels, it has been used therapeutically in the treatment of a variety of conditions, most notably insomnia, depression, and anxiety.   Tryptophan and 5 HTP significantly reduce the symptoms of these conditions and in some cases they completely disappear.  That will give you an idea of how beneficial this amino acid is.

Unfortunately tryptophan has to fight with other more dominant amino acids within the bodies structure for it to synthesize in the necessary way for serotonin production.  The way to combat this is to have a well balanced diet making sure one combines a good source of complex carbohydrates with protein.  The carbohydrates can assist other essential amino acids to be used for muscle production leaving a gateway for tryptophan and its sister amino acid 5HTP to do their work i.e. serotonin production.

It is no longer possible to buy tryptophan in health food stores in Ireland however some may supply 5 HTP.  If not in Ireland you can certainly purchase over the counter in the U.K. and North of Ireland.

High sources of tryptophan are found in the following foods:

  • Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Sardines
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Halibut
  • Lamb

Studies carried out by:

  • Bell C, Abrams J, Nutt D. Tryptophan depletion and its implications for psychiatry. Br J Psychiatry 2001 May;178:399-405. 2001. PMID:15990.
  • Celenza JL. Metabolism of tyrosine and tryptophan–new genes for old pathways. Curr Opin Plant Biol 2001 Jun;4(3):234-40. 2001. PMID:16010.

B-Vitamins:  B Vitamins are very powerful range of vitamins. They are mood enhancers and keep the nervous system functioning well.  They play a role in regulating sleep, balancing stress, anxiety & even PMS . If you are going to invest in any vitamins throughout winter go for Vitamin B complex.

Vitamin B’s are found in a range of foods including;

  • Pulses
  • Veg especially dark green leafy veg, asparagus and avocados.
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Whole grains and especially quinoa and buckwheat.
  • B12 can only be found in animal protein.  Some soy products are fortified with B12.

Vitamin C:  Is a powerful anti-oxidant, strengthens the immune system and builds collagen keeping skin healthy. It’s also a powerful anti-carcinogen.  Found in plenty of fruit and veg.

Exercise: Exercise is one of the best things we can do to lift the mood.  It aids the release of happy hormones into the blood stream while also kicking the body into producing even more feel good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.    Exercise and eating well work together. While vitamins do have an effect on their own, their power will be boosted with a bit of exercise.  Exercise on its own helps you to feel good.  It keeps you lighter in body and lighter in mind.  It also boosts the immune system keeping you healthy and strong. So make sure you include exercise into you weekly routine.

Vitamin D:  We still have a month left of light and hopefully it wont get too cold until later in the winter giving us a whole month to absorb Vitamin D from the sun.  You can up your dosage of vitamin D by making sure you go for a minimum of half hour walk at mid-day. Don’t worry if they skies are grey. The sun-rays are very powerful but it is important to be outdoors between 12pm and 2pm in winter months when the sun rays are at their most most effective.  Another way is to take a good Vitamin D3 supplement.

Meditate:  I cannot emphasize the importance of meditating.  I benefit so much from doing a daily meditation practice. My life is changing in a most positive way. The old Sinead is mid dissolving.  I am emerging in a different form. I am still the same skin and bones on the outside while being happier, more confident, stronger & increased level of intuition on the inside.  I am also more compassionate and understanding of others. Trust me. This is good.  People have been meditating for thousands of years & been trying to get the message across to us for a good reason. Get with 2013 meditation program.

Rest & Lots Of Sleep:  Now here’s another thing I like to emphasize. Sleep. After all winter is time to hibernate.  One of the best winter inventions is the electric blanket. Get one!  They make bedtime even more enjoyable.  Try to get as many hours sleep as possible. Pre-sleep wind down is necessary, so do something relaxing before bedtime.   If T.V. is your choice then watch lighthearted programs.  Really though, I try to guide people away from T.V. before bedtime. Instead read a book, listen to music or meditate,  but the choice is yours.

Rest and Relax:  Fit rest periods into your days off work.   Flick through a magazine, sit on your couch sipping a warm drink, take a bath or do nothing!  Simply rest and relax.

Soothe The SoulSoothe The Soul:  Anything that soothes the soul is a good anti-dote to SAD or feeling low.  Taking nice strolls in nature, (instead of power walks).  Having a long hot bath with soothing essential oils thrown in, such as lavender or juniper.  Light candles in your home.  Burn nice incense. Play soft relaxing music.  Read a pop philosophy book e.g. anything by Ekart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Louise Hay.  Soothing time is good for the body, mind and soul.

Have Fun:  Bringing fun into your life is most important.  For example spending time with family and friends; Go on an adventure.  Join a club to meet other people.  Or,  join a meditation group, yoga class, or any other kind of evening class.  Dance.

Find A Creative Outlet: Dance, yoga, art, crafts, theatre, music, writing, singing whatever your choice is.   It’s fun and rewarding to be creative.  Being creative also strengthens the right side of the brain, the same side that we use for intuition, wisdom and to feel a deeper connection to all beings.

Consider these useful tips to beat winter blues and develop harmony in your life.

Peace, Love & Happiness,

Sinead. 🙂

Vipassana Meditation & How Science Is Catching Up With Meditation

yoga+aula+particular+personal+yoga+porto+alegre+porto+alegre+rs+brasil__798AAB_3Matt Quigley interviewed me yesterday on his Radiomade show.  I come in at approx 1:25.  The previous interview is with Fiona Maloney about yoga and sports.

Before you listen I would like to make a correction:  At some point I say “All philosophies around the world say that the world is interconnected”.   Not all philosophies state that.  I meant to say most ancient philosophies such as Sufism, Buddhism, Christian, Yoga, Tibetan, all state that everything in the universe is interconnected, everything from the stars in the skies to the birds in the treas, the atmosphere, you and I.

http://radiomade.ie/podcasts/144

Hope you enjoy the interview and that it will encourage you to meditate.

Peace,
Sinead.

Using Coconut Oil Instead Of Conventional SPF.

Coconut Oil
Coconut Oil

Do you know Sun Protection Factors (SPF’s) could be causing more harm than good.?  SPF’s only block UVB rays from hitting the skin.  These are the same rays that synthesize the production of Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is vital for bodily functions; It is necessary for hormone production, prevention of; osteoporosis,  autoimmune diseases and depression.  It develops healthy bones, strengthens the immune system and balances sugar levels.  What’s more, these SPF’s have no resistance to more harmful UVA rays that penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin causing more harm.

In a country where we only get a decent amount of sunshine a few months a year, are we really doing ourselves good by covering our bodies in a SPF that  deflects sun rays that are necessary for optimum health?  One really has to wonder…?!?!?!

I have been researching natural sun protectors which I have subsequently found out exist in most natural oils including; coconut, almond, raspberry and carrot  oil.

With the recent mini heat-wave in Dublin, I was able to put one of these oils to the test.  I chose coconut over others, simply because I had it in my kitchen and I love the smell.  I also remember using coconut oil as an insect repellent a few years ago in Honduras, the Island of nasty sand-fly bites.    It worked on the sand-flies so I wanted to give this oil another test to find out if I could add another proof to its power.

While coconut oil protects the skin from being harmed by the sun, it works differently to conventional SPF’s;  The oil has a high resistance to oxidation and stops harmful free radical formation.   Free radicals basically hijack electrons from normal cells which then change the formation of cells causing harmful disease such as cancers and other degenerative diseases.  In other words,  to avoid skin cancer we really should be protecting the body from the over production of free radicals, not necessarily protecting the skin from the sun itself.

There is no denying that the sun is extremely strong so it is important to be sensible when using and oil and to build the skins natural resistance to the sun gradually.  I covered myself in coconut oil about 10 minutes before I lay out to allow it to sufficiently seep into the skin.  I sunbathed for up two hours a day for 6 days, starting with only one hour on the first day.   The results were no burning, a nice tan, my skin feels soft, it’s glowing, even my hair is well conditioned from it sitting on my oily shoulders. What’s more, my skin absorbed all the healthy UVB rays, i.e. Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is stored in muscles and tissue so you can stock up in the summer in preparation for the darker months of winter.   Spending an hour a day in sunlight, even if it’s cloudy could give you enough Vit D to last the winter long.

Tried and tested I can now recommend a natural SPF over the conventional ones mainly so the body absorb vitamin sun :-).

Be sensible if you are going down this route. Here are some tips:

  1. Use cold pressed virgin coconut oil.  It solidifies at a cool room temperature & turns to oil the when rubbed into the skin.
  2. Build up your skins natural resistance to harmful sun rays gradually.  Start at 20  minutes for the first day and extend by 10 minutes per day there after.
  3. Never stay too long in the sun.  If you feel your skin is beginning to burn, or if you are experiencing dizziness it’s a good indicator that sunbathing time is up.
  4. Add powerful anti-oxidizing vitamins E and C to your diet .
  5. Stay well hydrated by sipping water at 15minute intervals.
  6. Adding zinc oxide to coconut oil can increase the level of natural SPF.
  7. Detox from time to time so the bodies natural ability to fight against free radicals is working at it’s optimum. See http://www.hushyoga.com/detox-with-me/
  8. Be sensible.   If you are doing an outdoor activity, water activity, or will be in direct sunlight for hours,  it may be better to use a conventional SPF to prevent sunburn.

Find the Courage – Find your Mat

A fellow yogi (yogi is the term for one who practices yoga), a beautiful person, a beautiful soul, who attends my yoga classes wrote this touching piece.   He is too shy and humble to add his name to it.  Luckily for me I bonded with him through our mutual love for vipassana meditation and yoga.  We often correspond through e-mail sharing insights along our yoga-life path.  Thank you for your wisdom,  your art for living.

Freedom
Freedom

Find The Courage – Find Your Mat.

What do we do when life becomes difficult? When we feel we have been let down or when we feel we have let ourselves down,  return to old habits, desires, or feel that we have run into an emotional wall.

Theses are the dilemma’s  that faces us all from time to time. When we find ourselves in this space. Where do we go?

When things get tough we need more than anything to stay present.  So often our first inclination is to run from whatever it is, an turn to the unkind word, a glass of wine, beer, sex , or whatever it is that takes us from the present. This is often our first reaction.

Escape.

Escape from what is!

Escape from how it is!

In many ways we will escape. We will find comfort in our habitual patterns, but only for a short time. Then the cycle will start all over again. The mind will soon have us like the hamster in the wheel, running, running, running, never getting anywhere, one thought after another.

And how that wheel spins!!

As Pema Chodron  says: We need the courage to get curious, and learn how to STAY.

We need courage, lots and lots of courage, for this is quite a frightening option, maybe the hardest option.

To Sit.

To Breathe

To Watch

Our ego will give us so many options other than this, for stillness is the egos demise.

It will offer every suggestion possible, any thing to strengthen our belief patterns, how strong or weak, worthy or unworthy we are! How hard done by, how unfair this all is. How I have been hurt, deserve better, and a million other reasons, other than the truth, other than reality.

Where can we go?

To our mat, to silence, to our home.

Only on the mat, in silence, in stillness, only then when we catch glimpses of our true selves, see our true nature, can we find lasting joy, lasting peace, and Love and compassion for ourselves and the world.

By an aspiring Buddha who wishes to remain anonymous.

The Cinnamon Hug

The Cinnamon Hug
cinnamaon
cinnamon

One of my favourite things about this time of year is cinnamon.  Hot dishes with the enticing scent of this delicious spice, the taste is so soothing, almost as comforting as a hug from mother nature.  The powers of Cinnamon don’t only lie in her comforting quality.  She is in fact a super-spice containing manganesium, fibre, iron and calcium, along with thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, (B1,2 & 3),  B6 and B12, vitamin C.

Cinnamon regulates blood sugar by increasing levels of insulin while decreasing blood sugar levels and therefore has been found to benefit in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and hypoglycemia.  It lowers LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol).  It’s anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory anti-viral and is an aphrodisiac.

It reduces pain linked to arthritis, menstrual pain, and infertility. It reduces chronic inflammation in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumor, and meningitis, that is according to research at the Cytokine Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas.  Their research shows that cinnamon reduces chronic inflammation linked with these neurological disorders.

It’s no wonder that cinnamon was once thought of as more valuable than gold.  In the ancient world cinnamon was worth twenty times more than silver and given to monarchs as a gift.  The Roman Emperor Nero burned a year’s supply of cinnamon at his wife’s funeral as a gesture of his love and loss.

Cinnamon Porridge
Cinnamon Porridge

Cinnamon Hugging Snacks:

Porridge with blueberry’s, pecan nuts and cinnamon sprinkled on top.

Banana on whole wheat toast with cinnamon sprinkled on top.

Honey and cinnamon stewed apple. Here’s a recipe http://cookingcrusade.com/2011/03/honey-and-cinnamon-stewed-apples/

Warm rice milk with a couple of cinnamon sticks thrown in, a very soothing nightcap.

Last but not least, on a freezing cold day a hot Irish Whiskey with cloves lemon and a couple of cinnamon sticks to jazz it up.

Read more about medical benefits of cinnamon including medical studies: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-surprising-health-benefits-of-cinnamon.html#ixzz2BeAgbk5c

Hugs and love,

Sinead.

 

 

Why the Psoas Is The Fight Or Flight Muscle.

Psoas Muscle
Psoas Muscle

The psoas muscle was a main focus throughout my modern dance training.  It was one of those buzz muscles that teachers often mentioned in New York classes. Lengthen the psoas, release the psoas, strengthen the psoas, all to allow maximum flow and ease in movement.  We’d do exercises to understand the relationship between this crucial muscle and movement of the hips, legs, pelvis.  If you have a weak psoas muscle modern dance is most challenging. You need the muscle to be all of the above, strong, lengthened and most of all relaxed to move fluidly, freely and with utmost ease.

This is also the case for something as simple as walking.  Having a psoas muscle functioning at its absolute best not only benefits a dancer, it’s crucial for runners, cyclists, athletes of all kinds. Understanding the importance of this muscle and a few simple exercises could dramatically change the performance of ones chosen sport or even something as simple as walking.

What and where exactly is the psoas?

The psoas is a rope-like muscle located deep in the belly, which runs obliquely from spine to the femur. The psoas is joined at the hip by the iliacus which travels from hip to thigh. Together the psoas and iliacus make up the iliopsoas, the body’s most powerful hip flexor.

Lengthen the Psoas

Sitting for long periods of time shortens the psoas and unfortunately the muscle’s own intelligence remembers this state perpetually, until something is done about it.
A shortened psoas can cause severe problems such as lordosis (I know this one) knee pain (and I know this one), hip pain and tight quadriceps and can effect all the muscles surrounded by it, including the it-band which will cause further problems to the knee joint, hip and pelvis. It can also causes lordosis, the anterior pelvic tilt and hunching.  They are some of the physical problems which are really only the surface problem.

Why is the psoas known as the fight or flight muscle?.

Strengthen Psoas
Strengthen Psoas

This muscle has become known as the ‘fight or flight muscle’ because of how it is deeply effected by emotions sometimes causing very problematic outcomes.  When the body is under stress, anxiety or trauma the psoas muscle contracts.  It’s immediate reaction is to pull in, shorten, tighten, all because of the very primal and basic instinct to protect.  The more we look into body-mind connection the more understanding modern day medicine can see the relationship between storing emotional memories and physical pain.

While the ancient mystics,  Sages, Buddhists, Suffis and alternative medicine practitioners  have known this for thousands of years, we are only now beginning to understand that we store pain in our body.  The physical body in fact is a much more complex and intelligent computer to hold this information than the mind with so many layers of muscles, tissues, cells, each of these holding it’s own karmic imprint or pain DNA.

What’s more interesting is popular psychology has confirmed that re-living the past, re-talking it and expressing it through therapy is not always the most efficient, practical or appropriate way to deal with stored issues and negative emotions.   Today’s psychologists seem to be finally catching up with what Buddhists have been practicing for years.  When you have an uncomfortable thought, memory or moment in the present,  feel it in your body i.e feel  the area in your body that is mostly reacting to this thought, become aware of the sensation, allow that feeling to rise to the fullest and watch it slowly dissipate.   Become aware of the reaction to that in the entire body. Mostly there is a sense of relief, release and relaxation.  I am not suggesting that this method is suitable for everyone, it’s not.  Some people really benefit from the more clinical and traditional styles of psychotherapy. I am encouraging this as an alternative approach to releasing tensions, something to practice to observe and see what happens.

For example often when we are in trauma, the stomach will begin to contract at a rapid speed. The immediate reaction is to make it stop or react to it.  What if we fully feel that contraction and allow it to happen?  If it is pushed away that moves the emotional pain from the surface and deeper to the core where it may cause more harm such as turning into illness, anger or even depression.

To move as freely as dancer both in motion and metaphorical,  the psoas needs to function at its utmost best.   Keeping the psoas muscle strong, lengthened and soft is one way to begin to pay attention to it. The more body awareness we have the more in tune we can become of sensing reactions in our bodies.  If we really get that, really understand it and embody that practice, we have the opportunity to let go in each and every moment.

Om Shanti,

Sinead.

Let It Be, Let It Be, Let It Be.

Let It Be

This blog is Written by Wesley Milliman for HushYoga.

It is important not to think of enlightenment in the same way that we think of other goals in life. We will never receive a Ph.D. in enlightenment. It is not the end result of any methodology. In fact, enlightenment has nothing to do with our ideas or concepts or past experiences. It is not the realization of some grand and loftly utopia that we have created in our mind about an earthly paradise.

To some extent, life is like a sunset or a rainbow; it is exquisitely beautiful in its impermanent nature. Knowing that life is extremely short and precious, we sometimes get carried away with the desire to discover some underlying meaning. To worry about life being meaningful is a little like worrying about insomnia. The more we worry, the more sleep escapes us. In the end, it is often best to forget about our grandiose ideas.

Many people have resigned themselves to the fact that they will not become enlightened in this lifetime; they think that all will be well in some vague, distant future. As long as we are convinced that enlightenment is not something attainable now, it cannot help us to overcome our anxiety and misery. It is like a starving person sitting in front of some very delicious food and looking around for something to eat.

The truth is that enlightenment is attainable here and now. It is something extraordinary that ordinary people can witness. It is nothing more than waking up from a dreamlike sleep to the reality of what is true. When we awaken from our fabricated dream of life, love and joy blossom. This new awareness gives us the confidence that we need to override all forms of imagined insecurity. This truth is both beautiful and unsettling.

A good description of enlightenment would be that it is a state of consciousness where we do not have anything to lose or to gain in this or any other world. It is the groundless ground, the place where there is no longer any fabricated refuge. This might not sound very enticing, yet it is the most amazing miracle that a human being can witness. Quite simply, enlightenment is directly seeing the truth of what is without the mind’s distortions.

Freedom
Freedom

Enlightenment is a spiritual awakening, and it can happen to anyone at any time, because it is not bound by any culture. It is potentially available to everyone as our universal birthright. Enlightenment is the realization of love, freedom, joy, and peace of mind; it is everything our heart longs for, yet it is not, technically speaking, a religious phenomenon. It is the act of reclaiming our original innocence without delusion.

The world that we must transcend is the world that our mind has constructed. This self-created world is filled with problems, with lots of drama, lots of stories, lots of suffering. We all have a desire to transcend that world, and many people get into spiritual practices for that reason. We want to go beyond the world of sorrow, confusion, and limitation, even though now and then there are some fun moments.

We all want to be free. We all want to alleviate this ongoing sense of being confused, lost, and engaged in an endless struggle. If we do have a desire to go beyond this world of heartache and limitation, we must remember that the world we are trying to transcend is actually a projection of our own hopes and fears. It is a provisional state of consciousness constructed by our ego.

In deep meditation, we can reach a point where we can clearly recognize that our previous notions of reality are nothing more than a conglomeration of concepts, beliefs, thoughts, and memories. In that extraordinary realization, everything we believe to be true vanishes. We suddenly realize that we have been watching a movie, a dreamlike show that we have created. If we want to realize what true reality is, we simply have to let go of this alternate version of reality. We must drop this conceptual burden that the mind has created, as it were.

The highest level of meditation is transcendent wisdom, or prajnaparamita. It is a state of pure awareness, a state of luminous consciousness, a state of wisdom in which all notions of reality have been dissolved. Meditation is the art of simply sitting in silence. Sitting means just that, just sit, just rest, just be. Let everything be as it is. When we know how to let everything just be as it is, then we no longer have to act like some kind of divine terminator attempting to destroy the world of delusion and sorrow. The world of delusion and sorrow is already falling apart and dissappearing on its own. We only need to look with a clear mind and a pure heart. It sounds simple, but it is also very subtle. We just need to let everything be as it is. Once we do that, we know everything. We have unlocked the secret to enlightenment. We merely have to sit and let the world of ideas, concepts, and sorrow dissolve on its own.

Meditate To Find True Freedom
Meditate To Find True Freedom

In that spirit of inquiry, sometimes rather big openings happen. Sometimes all resistance just falls away, and we suddenly feel that nothing is blocking our consciousness. Suddenly, the mind stops fabricating its version of reality. In that undeluded ground of consciousness, we will find true wisdom, and our awakened mind will discover a timeless truth.

Non-Attachment & Letting Go.

Non-Attachment & Letting Go.

Abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tad-nirodhah”, – Pantanjali’s Yoga Sturas,  1.12. (Control over the mind’s fluctuations comes from persevering practice (Abhyasa) and non-attachment (Vairagya)).

Those of you who come to my yoga classes will know I always begin a session with a short meditation that focuses on letting go.  In fact “Letting Go” is often the intention I set for the entire yoga class.  One can never tire of this practice, I certainly don’t.  We always need to let go physically, emotionally, mentally, of past situations, present challenges and future fears and expectations.

Letting go is another term for non-attachment.  This practice is pretty much the essence of Patanjali’s Yoga Suttra’s, which is considered the most important yoga text.  It took me quite a while to get my head around the significance of non-attachment. It’s only in the past while that I have had some realisation and understanding of it. That said, it is constant practice and at the moment not much more than an awareness. I am far from dissolving my own mind that constantly churns up attachments, which bind me to my ego.  However this recent insight has had a positive effect and I already notice a shift within myself.

For years not only did the practice of non-attachment seem impossible, I fought its significance and doubted the ancient text that continues to emphasise the importance of non-attachment.  I often argued how can one have compassion and be detached? How can we care for others, have ambition and be detached?  How can we have children, lovers, motivation, careers and homes yet be detached?  It all becomes exceptionally mind-boggling not to mention frustrating.

My first real understanding of detachment happened through the practice of Vipassana  (insight meditation).  If you have read my blogs on Vipassana you will know I describe this meditation as experiencing how everything is constantly changing therefore trying to hold on to any one thing is pointless effort.  This was my first point of realisation of non-attachment: If everything is in a constant flux of change one can’t attach to anything at all.   Easy to remember when sitting in silence on a meditation retreat, with no other distractions only your own mind.  But what happens when you come back out to the real world and are again faced with life’s challenges, fears, wants and needs?  It’s very easy to be drawn into reacting when the whole point of this practice is to not react.

So how do we achieve this state and stay with it?   I have realised it’s all about Letting Go!  When I set yoga practices on Letting Go, I offer people to set intentions in their heart to let go of a specific situation or a general sense of letting go, reminding them the physical yoga practice is a creative expression that will support their intention.  While this is a really lovely practice in recent weeks Letting Go has become something else.

I now realise that Letting Go is a constant daily practice, moment to moment. Letting go is not only releasing specific situations or the stress of our daily lives at the beginning of a yoga session.  It’s letting go of everything all the time. Letting go of every thought that comes into the mind. Letting go of every single reaction to those thoughts. Letting go of expectations, letting go everything and anything that momentarily irritates you. Letting go of wanting to control or being controlled, letting go of wanting to be right, letting go of blame, letting go of judgements of oneself and others, letting go of wants and needs, letting go of the idea of a perfect life whatever that may be. Even when you blindly do react even let go of the fact that you have done so.  Let it all go!

When we Let Go it creates a very fulfilling sense of space in your entire being, full of contentment, full of an inner knowingness that this is good stuff :-).  You can feel freedom, even if it’s only for that split second before the next attachment arises. It’s those moments of liberation that gives you the motivation to persist with this practice in patience.  You can still dream, visualise, love, create, achieve, manifest whatever you choose,  it’s the Letting Go of the outcome where the practice of non-attachment lies.

Try it now.  Let go of something in your mind. Recognise the thought, don’t react, simply let it go. How does it feel?

Your ego has to terrify you all the time, so that you can investigate and come home to yourself in the body. This is what we’re all here to live. When we aren’t attached to our thinking, when all the why’s, when’s, and where’s let go of us, then what really is becomes visible.” – Byron Katie.

Just Let Go!

Peace out.

Sinead.

Post Yoga Mellow Moments

Post Yoga Mellow Moments


After I do a Vinyasa Yoga session I like to potter around my home listening to opera, classical and other types of beautiful music.  This music helps to hold on to that very lovely mellow feeling after a yoga practice.  Appreciation for these glorious sounds deepens, as your senses are fully open and heightened after flowing through yoga moves.  I have created a playlist, Post Yoga Mellow Moments, including some very special pieces.  You can download the playlist from itunes if you type Post Yoga Mellow Moments in the search on itunes store.

The playlist includes:
• Apres Un Reve
• Perfume: From the Story Perfume
• Meditation: From Thais
• Lascia Ch’io Pianga
• Claire De Lune
• Casta Diva: Norma Act 1
• Mahler Symphony No. 5
• Vide Cor Meum

Post Yoga Mellow Moments is an operatic and classical music playlist.  One of my favourites on the list is Meditation from the opera Thais.  Not only is it a beautiful piece of music the story is very familiar;  Athanaël, a Cenobite monk, confronts Thaïs, a beautiful and hedonistic courtesan and devotée of Venus and attempts to convince her to leave her life of luxury and pleasure and find salvation through God. It is during a time of reflection following the encounter that the Méditation is played by the orchestra.  Following the Méditation, Thaïs tells Athanaël that she will follow him to the desert.

This playlist is dedicated all Yogi’s out there who are torn between the temporary excitement experienced through worldly pleasures, and the everlasting inner peace, contentment and freedom that is found in the spiritual world.

Enjoy.  Be happy, be peaceful, Be Free.

Sinead.

The Mount Everest of Meditation.

The Mount Everest of Meditation.

Two years ago I learned the Vipassana meditation technique, taught by S.N Goenka, run by The Dhamma Organisation. This is a very specific technique including taking a vow of silence for the 10 days duration of the course. I wrote a blog about my first experience which you may like to read. It was both very rewarding yet extremely challenging.. So much so that I referred to it as equivalent to climbing Mount Everest.

My first experience on Vipassana was very insightful. I loved that I was brave enough to sit in silence for 10 days. That alone was a feat in itself along with being awed by the technique and the deep realisation/understanding of True Self over the ego mind which likes to think it’s the true self. One observes mind and matter, the rising and falling of everything in nature and how everything is in a constant flux of change.

I was curious to know what would happen if I sat a second course. I also have to admit my meditation practice had deteriorated and I could see myself slipping back into old habit patterns of the mind including stress, fear and pointless reaction to unwanted experiences. It was time to sit in silence once again, to reset my mind and soul.

My recent experience on Vipassana was completely different. Now I realise the first course had merely blown the dust off the surface of my true being. I could feel a huge difference. The technique penetrated at a deep level leading to profound awareness of how beneficial the practice is. I could now measure against the changes I felt since the first course.

While on Vipassana I experienced moments of pure joy when a smile would spontaneously spread across my face and stay there for hours. I had moments of pure boredom, frustration and desperation to get back to normal life. I spent a couple of days crying. Uncontrollable tears poured down my face. I became fully aware of stored sorrow and pain that was only now coming to the surface and passing away. It was a powerful release. For a few days on the course I felt the most peaceful I’ve ever felt. A wave of calm poured over my body and mind. I was in a state of utmost tranquility. It was a wonderful moment. However the practice of Vipassana teaches that everything is constantly changing. Therefore I knew my inner state of bliss was going to change so I practiced accepting and enjoying it, without holding or attaching on to it. How I felt throughout the course did change again and again and again . Although there was a constant state of inner clam that enveloped every uncomfortable thought, sensation, moment. This is Vipassana.

Vipassana is the practice of keeping the mind balanced or equanimous, (as our teacher Goenka likes to say). Through continued effort one learns to master the mind so it remains equal to sensations in the body or to thoughts whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. One experiences through observation of the physical body that every action, every thought, every feeling rises and passes away.. Every moment rises and passes away. Every person rises and passes away. The universe is rising and will eventually pass away. This is the observation that one immerses into over ten days.

To understand this on a physical and emotional level brings new light to the spiritual practice of non-attachment. Why attach to anything if nothing lasts? That is not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy life, relationships, wealth and abundance of all kinds. It’s the level of un-attachment that is important. (I will get more into this topic in my next blog).

The Dhamma Organisation recommends sitting* for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Until now I didn’t understand why it has to be an hour, surely a half hour is enough for a daily practice. With experience I now know it takes an hour to reach the deeper layers of body and mind through this technique. The first twenty minutes is only a warm up comparable to the sun salute on the yoga mat. Since back from Vipassana I have been sitting for an hour in the morning and sometimes a half hour in the evening. It’s enough for me to work with for now, a huge achievement in comparison to the half hour I used to sit a few days a week. To be honest I’ll see how long it lasts. I often start out new practices with great intentions that can often fall away. Although this time I am aware it is different. I notice a shift. The early morning meditation is most precious to me. If I don’t get around to it, which I haven’t once or twice, I miss the calm, peaceful, centred lead into the day. It’s worthwhile getting out of bed an hour earlier even if that means a 6.30 rise.

Its funny how people look at me sideways when I tell them about sitting in silence for 10 days. A look of half admiration, half concern that I have reached a state of madness. I wont pretend it’s easy… It’s not. Every moment is challenging, every moment is rewarding. It is the climbing Mount Everest Version of meditation. Really though, in a lifetime ten days is a very short time. The practice of Vipassana offers invaluable levels of awareness, peace and freedom. This is the art of living taught by the Enlightened One, The Bhuddha. Think about it.

Be Happy, Be Peaceful, Be Free.

Sinead.

* To Sit is the modern term used for a meditation practice.

Intentions of the Heart

Intentions fo the Heart

At the beginning of a yoga class we often set intentions.  The physical practice on the mat can be considered a creative expression of these intentions.  The themes I work with in class are broadly related to non-attachment, gratitude, giving and receiving, creative action, conscious living, conscious practice, loving kindness, open body-open mind… and many others.   As we begin the New Year I offer “setting intentions” as the intention itself.  To set intention is an important practice, whether or not you are a yoga practitioner.  It is important to tune to your body, your breath, and your heart in order to connect with your true desires, rather than the mind’s deceptions.  One must stay grounded in intentions to move forward both spiritually and emotionally.

The physical yoga practice can help us develop this process.  Setting strong foundations on the yoga mat could be viewed as a metaphor for setting strong intentions in how we live.  In standing postures we ground the feet down to the mat, we fortify the legs, and draw that power to our core centre.  The core centre is considered the emotional area of the body, so this action helps to develop a strong connection to deep emotions.  In postures such as downward dog and plank pose, we press the hands into the mat and draw energetically from both hands and feet to our spiritual heart between our shoulder blades.  This action not only softens and opens the heart, it also develops stability, strength, and confidence in the action of listening to your heart.  From the heart we extend back along the torso, out through the limbs, all the way to the foundation in the hands and feet – or metaphorically, from our heart we extend back out to the world.  The heart is where our intuition, compassion, and wisdom live, together making up the True Self.

So as the New Year begins, I encourage you to listen to your heart and begin to set strong intentions based on your true heart’s desires.  Instead of making lists of New Year’s resolutions of physical actions, make lists of how you would like to feel, how you would like to be, in the coming year.  Maybe you want to laugh more, to love more, to be stress free, to be healthier, to let go of worries.  Maybe you need to work with trusting in life more (this is a good one as we could all do with trusting in life!).

Sit in silence focusing on the flow of your breath.  Place your attention at the spiritual heart, at the centre of your chest, and set your intentions there.  The more time you can spend focusing on the heart centre, the more tuned-in you will become with the steps you could take to have a more fulfilling life.

The year ahead is the dawning of a time, according to the Myans.  An age where we begin to move from a place of truth, wisdom, and compassion, instead of a place of self centred power and self gain.  A powerful global shift in consciousness is already happening.  As long as you are being true to yourself and others, you will be fully supported in the realisation of your heart’s desires.  You don’t have to worry about how it will all manifest.  Simply trust, allowing the force of nature to carry you along the way.

The entire universe wants you to realise your True Self and will support you in doing so.  Setting the intention to work with your heart’s desires throughout 2012 is worthwhile.  It is living with the awareness of the rising of a New Age and a very positive start to the New Year.

Be Happy, Be Peaceful, Be Free.

Sinead.

Why Detox? Why Yoga? Part II

Detox With Me
Juice Time!

A diet rich in antioxidants and chlorophyll is especially necessary while detoxing. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C & E, which can be taken as supplements, but are more readily absorbed from consuming a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables. Leafy vegetables are a great choice and tend to have the highest source of chlorophyll, one of the main substances in super-green foods such as spirulina and chlorella.

Juicing fruit and vegetables has a powerful anti-oxidizing effect. Admittedly, in today’s economical environment, juicing can be expensive, costing as much as €20 for fruit and vegetebables that may only last for two days. On a ten day detox it can add up!  Thankfully, there are plenty of other affordable ways to use foods. Here are some good tips:

1. Hot water with a squeeze of lemon juice is one of the most powerful anti-oxidizing drinks. Even though lemons are considered an acidic fruit, the constitution of the fruit changes when it hits the digestive system becoming alkaline. It is the best thing you can do for your digestive system first thing in the morning.

2. Green tea, rich in chlorophyll. There are many green teas now available on the market. Some can be very expensive, such as Macha, however more affordable brands are widely available. Sencha is very popular.

3. Make salads, soups or steam with these chlorophyll rich foods including chard, kale, collard, mustard, spinach, alfalfa, sea vegetables, leaf lettuce, broccoli and green beans. Use these instead of spending money on expensive supplements such as spirulina, chlorella, and green algae.

4. Add herbs and spices to your diet that have powerful anti-oxidizing benefits such as tumeric, ginger root, oregano, cyan pepper, parsley and rosemary.

5. Brown rice is powerful liver cleanser so make sure you add lots to your diet. Try brown basmati rice.

6. Oat is a powerful colon cleanser. Along with porridge in the morning time, oatcakes are great to have on your side to snack throughout your day.

Benefits Include:

• Eliminates/reduces toxins and pollutants in the body
• Purifies Blood
• Promotes healthy eating
• Cleanses mucus congestion
• Improves digestion
• Promotes weight loss.
• Increased energy
• Reforms lifestyle addictions to sugar, caffeine, alcohol
• Increases Metabolism
• Promotes clarity of mind and sharp focus
• Improves Concentration
• Improves skins complexion
• Improves general sense well-being
• Improves flexibility
• Deepens yoga practice
• Promotes ease in meditation.

Next week I’ll post a 20 minute detox yoga practice.

Hope to see you soon on the yoga mat.

Peace,

Sinead.

Why Detox? Why Yoga?

The word “detox” alone can strike fear into the masses: strange coloured juices and long scrolls of blacklisted foods. But take a moment to picture this: make-up free rosy cheeks, an even-keeled mood throughout the day, and less physical pain. While we may not ever look like that yogi on a serene plateau doing a handstand, what about just feeling better than you normally do?  Wouldn’t that be reward enough?

Sri Dharma Mittra
Sri Dharma Mittra

It is widely acknowledged that one of the best ways to keep the body looking young and toxic free is a yoga practice, be that daily or weekly.  For some inspiration, take a look at Sri Dharma Mittra, who is approaching 75.  While the picture can only illustrate the physical benefits of yoga, his mind is just as sharp, his words resonate with students worldwide who are fortunate enough to participate in one of his fully booked workshops.

Spinal Twist
Spinal Twist

Spinal twists and inversions are the two types of postures that increase the body’s natural capacity for detoxifying, which you can do from the comfort of your own living space.  A spinal twist is just that: twisting the body around the spine.  This action squeezes the liver and spleen and massages abdominal organs.  Inversions, such as headstand and shoulder-stand, turn the body upside down.  This is like a pushing the fast-forward button on how blood flows to the heart.  Here, blood is purified,  this triggers a rush of blood to the face, aiding complexion and yielding a youthful glow. Any posture that holds the hips higher than the heart is considered an inversion.  The basic yoga pose, “downward dog,” has detoxing benefits, for example.

Downward Dog
Downward Dog

Just like beginning a new exercise regime, a substantial detox can be challenging and difficult particularly at the beginning.  A three-day detox will be powerful enough to help recharge the system, and remember that even one day is better than none.  A ten-day detox is optimum.  The first three days are generally the most difficult on both body and mind.  During this phase it is important to understand these feelings subside and make way for some of the benefits such as clarity of mind and spritely energy.

A detox sharpens mentality.  It is amazing how a simple “spring cleaning” works for the mind, allowing it to be light and present.   With this clarity of mind and ability to be present, it is easier and more enjoyable to as work, do yoga, and meditate.   For this reason, detoxing once every five months is ideal.

The body has its own, natural, detoxifying process, a robust system that works well and includes the circulatory, digestive and the lymphatic systems.  However, the demands on this intelligent, anatomical system can wear and become exhausted due to an overload of pesticides and chemicals in food, water, the atmosphere, environmental pollutants, and consumption of saturated fat.  Top this off with an increased use of toxic substances such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol, and our bodies can be put under an abnormal amount of pressure.

Committing to a 10-day detox can be of utmost benefit to aid the body’s natural detoxifying process.  Not only will a well-rounded detox give the body a chance to eliminate the excess build up of toxins, it will also recharge the natural system to once again work at its optimum level.

More next week including a detox yoga practice.

Om Shanti,

Sinead.

Contemplate this Detox

Detox Diet

Hello Yogi’s,

As I am off to Zurich tomorrow on my final legs of Anusara training yoga blogs are on pause this week.  So instead I thought I would leave you with information on the next Detox with Me.  I just confirmed dates, September 23rd to 25th + 10 days of online support to complete a full detox.  Below is full information including timetable and benefits.

I have to say I am really looking forward to it.  I always feel fantastic after a detox and love to support others in completing this internal cleanse.    For people who have never tired a 10 day detox, don’t worry, myself and Catherine make it manageable with nice treats thrown in.   You’ll hardly notice you are on a detox at all.! I recommend signing up soon to secure a place as the workshop has become very popular.

Autumn Detox: September 23rd, 24th & 25th + 10 days of online support to complete a full 10 day detox

Or A simple 3 day Detox if you prefer!

Detox body, mind and soul to have a healthy body, clear mind, and calm soul

ALL 3 workshops and detox support ONLY €65

Friday 2rd September,  7- 9pm: Kick Start Your Detox, Yoga and Nutrition Talk

Saturday 24th September, 11.00 – 13.30pm:  Pranayama, Twists, Hips, Meditation

Sunday 25th September, 11.00 – 13:300pm: Pranayama, Backbends, Meditation

From the 23rd September to the 2nd of October  you will have access to online support with Sinead for each day of your 10-Day Detox.  The support includes yoga tips, nutrition tips and recipes to make it easier for you to stay connected anywhere, anytime and easily achieve the 10 day detox.

With a Follow-up workshop on Saturday 9th April.  This is not a compulsory part of the program (+ €20).

Benefits of this detox workshop

  • Eliminate/reduce toxins and pollutants in the body
  • Purify Blood
  • Promote healthy eating
  • Cleanse mucus congestion
  • Improve digestion
  • Promote weight loss.
  • Increased energy
  • Reform lifestyle addictions to sugar, caffeine alcohol
  • Increase Metabolism
  • Promotes clarity of mind and sharp focus
  • Improve Concentration
  • Improves skins complexion
  • Improves general sense well-being
  • Improves flexibility
  • Deepens yoga practice
  • Meditate with ease.

Workshop Summary

The aim of Yoga & Detox Workshops is to detox the body and clear the mind

Sinead O’Connor will lead a strong dynamic flowing practice with yoga postures that fast-forward the detoxifying process of the body. This physical practice will include some pranayama (breathing) techniques as well as asana (poses).  Both will help to calm the body and the mind in preparation for a mediation practice.

With an ITEC diploma in nutrition, Sinead will also offer nutritional advice on detoxing. She has joined forces with Catherine Brien Nutrition whom will open the workshop with a short talk on detoxing and tips on how to eat throughout the 10 days.  Recipes and shopping lists will be given to each individual to allow the detox to run smoothly and effortlessly for everyone who joins in

This special workshop will also provide students with post-workshop online support.  Sinead & Catherine will address individual questions by e-mail for the full duration of the 10-day detox following the workshop. Sinead will give guidance on how to let go and release all you do not need and how to walk towards a more fulfilled life.

Speaking about the workshop, Sinead says, “If we can release from our body & mind what no longer serves us it creates room to bring more positivity into our lives.”

Lila’s Lotus Flower, Part II

Pink Lotus

In last weeks blog post, I shared with you my first inspiration of Lila’s lotus flower.  The summer solstice brought on this concept.  As I saluted to the sun, that stands still in time before beginning its decline to the darker side of winter, I thought of its relationship to the nature of all beings.

If everything in nature is “One,” the essence of everything is the same; you and I, animals, plants, stars, universe, sun and moon are all but one.  Therefore everything in nature emanates the other, and in particular, on an energy level.

The Sun is a cycle, just like we are all cyclical.  On the 21st of June it shines its fullest light on the northern hemisphere.   Isn’t it thought provoking that while the northern hemisphere is experiencing the lightest days of the year, the southern hemisphere is in complete opposite, living the shortest days of light? The nature of Yin and Yang springs to mind; positive and negative, darkness and light.  Without one there is no other; just as the summer solstice and winter solstice coexist in parallel.

The Earth has to travel through the dark days of winter before it can reach the peak of light, just like the lotus flower travels through the murky waters of materialism, through the waters of experience, before it can become a thousand petals that signifies the light of enlightenment.  According to Tantric philosophy, the journey of the lotus flower is the cosmic play of life, Lila.   One minute we are in pleasure, the next in pain, without having a true grasp on any of it.   Until one day the devotee understands pain as well as joy, but in its bliss transcends them both.

The more I delve into yoga, meditation and philosophy, the deeper understanding I have of this process in nature; coming to understand the relationship of “Oneness” we have with the sun, moon, Earth, stars, nature, the lotus flower.  If we can accept there is no light without darkness, there is no happiness without sadness, there is no peace without war, I think we may realise a deeper understanding of life, contentment, grace and eternal peace.  Indeed, some of the greatest spiritual philosophers of our time had to experience very dark times before reaching light, such as Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie.

However, just as the Sun pauses on the 21st of June, when we reach moments of enlightenment, we too can stand still there for a while.  In fact the term summer solstice derives from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).

The lotus flower pauses too, shining its thousand petals in sunlight before dipping its head under water at night. Unharmed, she releases her stunning glory back to the world at following morning light.   In emanating this symbol, we too can reach a state of spiritual maturity and enlightenment, and sit there for a while, in the knowing that we will have to go underwater again.  We do this with the rooted understanding that we are there to simply observe, without harm.  Then we can reappear from all of life’s experiences, both positive and negative, in the form of the petals of the Lotus flower, like the Buddha being still in body, still in mind, still in soul.

Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

Lila’s Lotus Flower

Pink Lotus
Pink Lotus

Today I feel great.  I got up at 8:30, although it was my intention  to be on the mat by 8. I chose to give myself an extra forty-five minutes, as I got home quite late on Tuesday. Like most mornings, I drank my hot water with lemon while sitting on my yoga mat in meditation contemplation, and visualisation.  I sent love to the special people in my life, and practiced Metta, or the act of loving kindness, for dealing with difficult situations I have experienced.  I sat in gratitude for all I have.

Preparation for Pincha Mayurasana
Preparation for Pincha Mayurasana

After my gentle lead into the day, I began a yoga asana (posture) practice for an hour. Back  bends were the predominant theme, along with Pincha Maruyasana, the posture I’ve been trying to get for the past two and a half years!  I can hold this pose firmly with my feet touching the wall, but that all changes when I try it in the centre of the room, without support.  I had anticipated I would be able to feel comfortable with it with six months of practice, but that is not the case. Ah well, in the words of Betsy Downing, “You have the rest of your life to get this pose!”

Summer Solstice
Summer Solstice

While practicing, I remembered today is Summer Solstice.  I had an idea to write a blog tomorrow in relation to the symbol of the longest day of the year; moving from darkness to light, then back to the darkness of winter.  I thought of how this symbol is in some ways related to the symbol of the lotus flower.  The lotus flower signifies the progress of the soul from the murky waters of materialism, through to the waters of experience, to the light of enlightenment.

Even as I am writing this short blog, my mind is bouncing with excitement. I want to delve deeper into this concept in the next blog now, but I am out the door shortly to begin a day of yoga teaching.

I love days like this; when I am fully present, and I trust in confidence that I am exactly where I am meant to be.  I feel so lucky to be blessed with the discipline of yoga, meditation, and to have moments of inspiration such as this morning that lead to so much enthusiasm…  it’s not always like this, I can assure you.  Last week, for example, I was feeling a little lost, with thoughts of going in a new direction to spice up my life.  Today, fully content where I am, I realise my life is like the lotus flower; one moment I am traveling through the murky waters of experience, the next I see the light of the thousand petals of the lotus flower!  I love it.  When I have these insights, I know that this is “Lila” the play of life.

More to come about Lila’s lotus flower…

Om Shanti,

Sinead.

Dakini

Varjayogini
Varjayogini

Dakini is the manifestation of the feminine in Tibetan Buddhism.

I discovered the term Dakini last week from Lisa Tully’s post on facebook.   It is a very beautiful and magical quote.

“When a Dakini appears it is mostly at twilight. Where there is a gap between sleeping and waking or a crack in the wall of ego.  A  time where communication from something beyond can take place in the language of the Dakini also called ‘twilight language’ or ‘sandhyabhasa’…love it!!”

Read more about a Dakini on Wikipedia.

Om Shanti,

Sinead.

The Yin and Yang of Yoga.

Recently I lead a workshop with the theme, “The Yin and Yang of Yoga.”  The intention we set was to learn how to balance our Yin and Yang on the mat, and apply those same qualities off the mat.   Yin and Yang is the balance between the positive and negative, push and pull, the yes and no of life

Yang energy is our masculine energy; power, strength, determination, drive, motivation, confidence, attitude all characterise Yang energy.  Physically yang energy is our muscular energy and strength on the yoga mat.

Yin energy exudes feminine qualities softness, creativity, compassion, love, kindness,

Sinead Meditating
Om Shanti!

trust.  Yin is our organic flexible energy, the ability to lengthen the body with freedom and grace. She is also the softness of our breath.

You may be aware that the world has been dominated by a Yang-based society for the past 2,000 years – a long time for our world to be out of balance.  Therefore, most of us need to generate energy to counteract this predominating energy by learning to bring our Yin to the surface.

This even goes for you, gentlemen! It doesn’t mean you will turn any less “male,” and in fact, being in touch with your Yin will probably make you stand out more as a strong, individual, modern man.  Evidence of this can be exemplified by the fact that women have not been come more “male” by living in a more masculine-dominated society. Feminine and masculine energies are only terms that are used to have some identification with the opposing effects of Yin and Yang.

If we only existed in Yin (feminine) energy we wouldn’t be able to survive in this world.  Yang (masculine) energy is our coping mechanism, our survival instinct, our wisdom. Yang is our ability to deal with the pain and sorrow of our world.  If we didn’t have any Yang energy we wouldn’t be able to survive.  We could not cope with the knowledge that so many children are starving, for example. Our hearts would simply cave in.

So it all comes back to balance.  I have indicated that most of us need to get with our feminine energy only because it has been over shadowed by our masculine energy.  Of course, in some cases there can just as well be areas of our lives or personalities that are out of balance with too much Yin.

Speaking from my own experience, my yoga practice was too Yin for a long time.  It was too organic, giving way to too much flexibility, and I was too light on my mat, with the result that my body was lacked stability.  I had problems in my lower back,  my hamstrings would pull and I had pain in my knee.  It wasn’t until I went to an Anusara class that I realised this imbalance.   Teachers would tell me to focus on muscular energy, as opposed to flexibility.  It was so helpful to have this technique brought to my attention, and my yoga practice became stronger.  Lately, I have now noticed it is time from me to pull back incrementally from this strong, muscular Yang energy in order to balance Yin and Yang on the yoga mat.

Off the mat, my story was quite different.  While my yoga practice was too Yin, my day-to-day life was the opposite.  Even as a yoga teacher, I was caught up with the “rat race” of modern society – and I was uncomfortably aware when I was too competitive, too fixated on achievement, and putting pressure on myself to generate ideas to build numbers in classes. This is my challenge to find balance in the paradox of trusting the philosophy of yoga, while still being able to make a living.

Today, I try to catch myself in those moments when I fear loosing yoga classes, or student numbers dropping, or not being able to cope with the demands of marketing and being self-employed.  I sit with the feeling for a few moments, and then I soften and listen to my breath. I honour my character for wanting to achieve in order to survive.  I honour my drive and motivation for getting me so far over the past ten years. I trust that if I soften and allow my Yin to surface that I will move forward in balance and achieve more than ever before, with a different kind of effort – one that is motivated by compassion, trust and belief, rather than one driven by fear, competition and stress.

To connect to your inner Yin:

1. Sit and listen to your breath.

2. Soften your body, relaxing the muscles from the top of your head to your toes.

3. With the exhale, think of letting go.

4. Focus on drawing the breath up the spine to the crown of the head as you inhale, and exhale the breath back down to the base of the spine.

This practice can allow you to become centred, in tune with the softness of your breath and your inner Yin.

Peace and love,

Sinead.

October in May

October in May

Hello Yoga Friends,

I hope you have been keeping well and are enjoying your yoga practice.  I’ve been hearing our summer is about to kick in in the next couple of days.  It has been such a cold month of May.  I’ve been feeling its more like late October:  Wanting to rest, cuddle on the couch in the evenings with a hot water bottle and go to bed early,  sleep for about 10 hours a night.    It seams so unfair that we have this weather when it is supposed to be the beginning of summer.

Yesterday I walked into a yoga class when the sun was shining, it was somewhere between warm and cold, almost warm but not quite there.  An hour and 15mins later I walked out, the temperature had dropped almost 10 degrees.  It was cold!

As I cycled down the road to my next yoga class distraught with the lack of warmth and sunshine for our so called summer I racked my brain to come up with something positive to say about the awful weather we are having, to bring some light into the yogi’s hearts who enter my class.  Nothing was coming.  Genuinely I could see no positivity in having winter weather in May. Its really unfair, especially with a recession to boot. Could we  please have one or the other?  A strong economy along with typically bad Irish weather or a terrible economy with excellent weather?  Now that would be a fair exchange.  Unfortunately us Irish have to deal with it all.

And then it dawned on me.  The positivity with our terrible weather is our ability to always be able to joke about it.   It has to be one of the joys of being Irish to always be able to look at the most terrible situation and somehow get a laugh out of it.

I also noted  it’s so much easier to get on the yoga mat and do a really strong deep practice when its cold outside.  Rain and grey weather lends itself to feeling grounded hence your physical mat practice can be something really special while your meditation practice can be quite still.  Your yoga mat becomes your safe abode, away from the harm of the weather outside.  Your meditation practice becomes your personal retreat from all the negativity of the world, including our Irish climate.

There it is, I found two positive situations out of our awful Irish weather when I really didn’t think there was anything positive at all with October weather in May.  Still lets do lots of Sun Salutations and hope our summer will appear tomorrow,  the 1st of June.

Om Shanti,

Sinead.

From The Love of Power to the Power of Love

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Betsy Downing’s yoga workshop at Open Mind Yoga .  Besty was practicing yoga before I was even born, and is recognised widely as a senior Anusara teacher.   She is a leader in the community, serving as co-chair of the Anusara Certification Committee.  As you can imagine, I have a lot to learn from her.

Betsy first came to Dublin a year ago, imparting a warm and lasting impression on all those who attended her workshop.  I was particularly drawn to her down-to-earth, mellow teaching style.  She also reminds me of one of my “soul-mate” friends, Mary-Beth, who lives in NYC.   Both Betsy and Mary-Beth have Goddess-like energy.  For me they represent grace, femininity and Mother Nature.  Their vibe is earthy, grounding, calm, compassionate and, most of all, a lot of fun to be around.

Betsy opened Sunday’s workshop with a talk on how our minds are so much more powerful than we realise.  If we use the mind properly – focusing positively instead of negatively – we can manifest anything, from being on time, to no traffic at rush hour, and free car parking spaces at busy times .  Mary-Beth takes this a step further calling on her car parking Goddess “Gladdis” when she needs a space! (I could only smile when the likeness between Betsy and Mary-Beth became more apparent).

I find senior Anusara teachers to be full of knowledge and incredibly inspiring, and Betsy stands true to this trend.  Each word so thoughtful, eye opening, philosophical.  She opened Saturday’s workshop referring to a book she had recently read, Wakening The Global Heart by Anodea Judith. She connected her theme of the day to the premise of this book that is based on the hope and encouragement that we can move beyond the destructive world, as we know it today, as a civilization. Our world of power, ego, competition, and self-gain is waiting to become a world filled with love, compassion, community and spirit.

To quote Betsy,  “We have gone so far with the love of power there is nowhere else to go with it.”  We have pushed “power” beyond its limitations and now Mother Nature is suffering.  Because of that, the world is in turmoil.  With love in her words and compassion in her heart Betsy offered that each one of us has a unique roll to play in the global shift of consciousness by knowing our own individual power of love.

The physical aspect of the yoga class was a classical certified Anusara style of the highest standard.  I particularly got a lot out of the handstand workshop.  I’ll be sharing all I learned with those of you who attend my classes and workshops. Shoulder flexibility, inner spiral, and the belly of the hamstring are where it’s at.   A different approach to how I originally learned a handstand, but very effective – throw yourself into it!

We chilled out in restorative postures, practiced meditation and pranayama, adding to the cloud-walking effect I had after each day with Betsy.

Betsy  also read an inspirational piece from the Integral Life and wrapped the workshop reading a stunning excerpt from our own John O’Donohue’s Beauty.  These contributions shared a common thread: each of us has a unique divinity and a personal roll to play in the changing our world to make it a better place. It’s time for us to get with program and live and lead with our hearts instead of our minds.  This is the real goal of yoga, to live in union with our true nature that is beyond all ego.

“Only through a rite of passage will humanity shift from the love of power to the power of love.”  – Waking the Global Heart by Anodea Judith.

Peace,

Sinead.

Difficult day on detox!

hushyogaToday is hard for me.  I began the detox on Monday so it’s day 3.  I’m feeling groggy… all I want is a nice cup of coffee.  However i am being stronger than my craving and know that caffeine is  only a way to escape the cloudy feeling in my head.  This is all a part of the detox.  I tend to feel quite tired in the mornings for the first few days.  By day 4 it changes, I’ll be waking up fresh as a daisy with sprightly energy.  So for now, I will drink green tea and  sit in meditation for a while.  The craving will subside.

Being aware of escaping is one of the very positive benefits of detoxing.  We can introduce this awareness into our daily lives, not only when detoxing.  Are you having that glass of wine to escape a shitty situation at work? Or are you jumping to eat lots of chocolate because you argued with your boyfriend/girlfriend.?  For me it’s great to drink wine and eat chocolate however try to do it for the enjoyment of it in its fullest,  not as a tool to escape.  Remember we never really escape anything, we only cover up and push aside our problems with superficial coping mechanisms such as sugar, alcohol, coffee.  For me it comes down to awareness.  So if you are using these tools to escape as long as you are aware of that fact and fully present in it then you should fully enjoy it.  More than likely your relationship with these coping tools will change.  Instead of reaching for that bar of chocolate you might learn to sit with how you are feeling for a few moments, be fully present in that and allow it to subside.

How are you getting on?  How are you managing your cravings?  Do you feel good about the detox? Are your energy levels changing?

I hope you are managing well.  I’d love to know how you are getting on.

Om Shanti,

Sinead.

Detox With Me!

Detox With Me!

Yoga & Detox Workshop:   Friday 1st  April – Sunday 3rd April

+ 7 days of online support to complete a full 10 day detox

Detox body, mind and soul to have a healthy body, clear mind, and calm soul

Friday 1st April, 7:00 – 8:30 pm: Kick Start Your Detox, Yoga and Talk

Saturday 2ndApril, 11:00 – 13:30pm:  Pranayama, Twists, Hips, Meditation

Sunday 3rd April, 11:00 – 13:300pm: Pranayama, Backbends, Meditation

From 1st- 10th April  you will have access to online support from Sinead for each day of your 10-Day Detox.  This online support will make it easier for you to stay connected anywhere, anytime and easily achieve the 10 day detox.

ALL FOR ONLY €65

With a Follow-up workshop on Saturday 9th April.  This is not a compulsory part of the program (+ €20).

Benefits of this detox workshop

  • Eliminate/reduce toxins and pollutants in the body
  • Purify Blood
  • Promote healthy eating
  • Cleanse mucus congestion
  • Improve digestion
  • Promote weight loss.
  • Increased energy
  • Reform lifestyle addictions to sugar, caffeine alcohol
  • Increase Metabolism
  • Promotes clarity of mind and sharp focus
  • Improve Concentration
  • Improves skins complexion
  • Improves general sense well-being
  • Improves flexibility
  • Deepens yoga practice
  • Meditate with ease.

Workshop Summary

The aim of Yoga & Detox Workshops is to detox the body and clear the mind

Sinead O’Connor will lead a strong dynamic flowing practice with yoga postures that fast-forward the detoxifying process of the body. This physical practice will include some pranayama (breathing) techniques as well as asana (poses).  Both will help to calm the body and the mind in preparation for a mediation practice.

With an ITEC diploma in nutrition, Sinead will also offer nutritional advice on detoxing. She has joined forces with Catherine Brien Nutrition whom will open the workshop with a short talk on detoxing and tips on what and what not to eat along with how often to eat throughout the 10 days.  Recipes and shopping lists will be given to each individual to allow the detox to run smoothly and as easy as possible for everyone who joins in

This special workshop will also provide students with post-workshop online support.  Sinead & Catherine will address individual questions by e-mail for the full duration of the 10-day detox following the workshop. Sinead will give guidance on how to let go and release all you do not need and how to walk towards a more fulfilled life.

Speaking about the workshop, Sinead says, “If we can release from our body & mind what no longer serves us it creates room to bring more positivity into our lives.”

My Anusara Trial Part III, The Philosophy

My Anusara Trial Part III,  The Philosophy

Tantra philosophy is the premise of Anusara yoga.  There is no possible way I could do it, or any other philosophy, justice in one 700-word blog. The Anusara phrase, “Align with the divine,” could take up a ten-page blog alone.  So here I will share with you a short introduction of my understanding of this very positive and compassionate way of perceiving life and the world around you.

When I first started doing Anusara yoga, I was confused about the philosophical focus.  There were a lot of American teachers coming to Dublin to do workshops, and while I found the workshops uplifting and positive, I wasn’t grasping the philosophical alignment.

At first I thought that Anusara yoga teachers were telling us to be happy and positive, regardless of our circumstances and surroundings.  While it is well documented that positivity creates more positivity, and smiling makes you smile even more, to be happy and positive all the time did not seem realistic.

The more I struggled to understand the philosophical approach, the more agitated I became. I really admired the teachers, their uplifting effect, and their ability to permeate “Inner Body Bright” at any given moment, but did not always feel that I could relate to this in a genuine way. I became concerned, as I really wanted to pursue an Anusara teacher-training path, but I began to doubt if I could fit into this practice if I didn’t fully feel it within.  At one point, I pinned it to cultural differences: Americans can be much more positive than us sarcastic, dry-witted Europeans.

I remember having a conversation with close yoga friends, saying, “You know, I love Anusara but sometimes I feel Inner Body Blue and I don’t want to feel Inner Body Bright!” I shortly thereafter realised that I was not the only person who was confused by this.

It took me a while to realise that  “Inner Body Bright” is actually a term used to lengthen the torso, and not a term of emotional being!  Although, it should be noted that when one does lift and lengthen the torso, it automatically has a positive reaction on the mind.   Of course, Anusara’s philosophy is not suggesting one to feel happy in a moment of sadness, anger or pain.  Instead, what it teaches us is to feel every moment to its fullest, which aligns to my understanding of Buddhism and Pema Chadron’s teachings.

When we feel an emotion in its fullest, not only do we bring it to the surface, often  it dissipates more quickly than if suppressed.  So instead of suppressing challenging emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, jealousy, we are encouraged to feel it fully, in our body  and then find some degree of positivity to grow from the experience, instead of becoming stuck in negative reactions.

The focus behind the Tantra philosophy is intrinsic Goodness. It follows, therefore, that Anusara teachers encourage students to look for the good in all things. Out of something ‘Blue,’ they try to find a positive ‘Bright.’  In doing this, it may become less of a struggle to place trust in life and what falls in our path, and learn to go with the flow.  Indeed, the word Anusara means ‘With- Current or With- Flow.’

In an Anusara class you will often hear, “Align With The Divine.” This divinity is our intrinsic quality of goodness, the essence of all beings.  It is our supreme consciousness and the consciousness of the entire universe.  When we align with the divine we move closer to our true nature and find freedom in body, mind and soul, opening to a deeper flow of grace.

On the yoga mat ‘Opening to Grace’ is the first principle of alignment.  Every posture is an offering to unveil your true nature and your true being or to simply to be with your true nature and true being.  It’s a moment to remember your breath, to feel your core centre or your heart and move from within to express the freedom and beauty of the yoga posture on the outside.  Opening to Grace is a reminder as to why we come to the yoga mat to practice this ancient art.  Through continued practice of yoga we find union with our true nature and align with the divine.

In my next blog I want to explore in more detail the Tantra philosophy that dates back to the 8th Century.  This philosophy has changed my relationship with yoga and my outlook on life.  I feel Free.

To be continued…

Be Happy, Be Peaceful, Be Free.

Sinead.

Yoga in Preparation For Meditation

www.hushyoga.com Through continued yoga practice our bodies become healthier, stronger and lighter vehicles for our souls. Our minds quieten as we tune to our breath. We become present as we combine breath and movement. These are all tools to prepare us for Meditation, the essence of yoga.  While I mainly teach Asana yoga, I always begin and end the class with mediation to encourage yoga students to be aware of meditation.  Try to sit and be still even for a few moments a day. Tune into your breath and allow whatever happens to happen. Little by little we quieten the “Chitta Vriti” (the chatter of the mind).  Little by little we strengthening the stillness of the mind.  In time one will find inner peace, contentment and tranquility.

“In practicing meditation, we’re not trying to live up to some kind of ideal – quite the opposite.  We’re just being with our experience, whatever it is.”
– Pema Chodron.

I came across this New York Times article.  Scientists now have evidence that meditation can improve memory, sense of self, empathy, stress and more. Enjoy the read:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/how-meditation-may-change-the-brain/?src=me&ref=homepage

Peace,

Sinead.

My Anusara Trail, Part II…

The Physical Technique

I have had the privilege of practicing with some excellent Anusara teachers. Their knowledge of anatomy, their commitment to their own practice and their approach to explaining philosophy in a contemporary manner is admirable.  In my experience, there is a consistent, high-level of teaching across qualified Anusara teachers, and I think it is their grounding in the ‘Universal Principles of Alignment’ that helps to make this so.  When optimized, the Principles can be applied to every single pose, and can really make a difference. The teachers have a genuine warm and nurturing manner and are very down to earth.  From what I can see, it comes back to their practice, both on and off the yoga mat.

The process one goes through to become a certified Anusara teacher can take years.  It can’t be rushed, done over six months or even a year.  To achieve this honourable accreditation is a commitment to patience, learning through your own practice and training under the guidance of more senior teachers who have been teaching yoga for a long time.

I have tried almost every style of yoga and I can honestly say that I have not come across a similar system in terms of sophisticated alignment techniques, which yet in practice, can be straightforward to implement.   For anyone who is interested in how the body moves, this method work is really fascinating.   As nerdy as it sounds, it gets me excited; I have this “wow” feeling when I see the alignment techniques being used in a demonstration, or when I integrate them into my own practice when attempting postures that challenge me, or when teaching in my classes.

Since I’ve been using the Principles of Alignment in my yoga classes over the past few years, many of my students have been able to improve more quickly than ever before. While teaching a group of beginners in Open Minds last Wednesday, I was again reminded how well this technique works.  The entire class held impressive Warrior 2, Parsvakonasan, Trikonasas, Downward Dogs, plank, and cobra; this method of Alignment is really accessible for every level of yogi.

I can see the beginner’s body react to Anusara-based instructions well.  It’s thrilling to see people do (and feel!) so well after only one class.  I see great potential in all my yoga students and feel enthusiastic for them. I am more and more convinced in this system of alignment.  The possibility to progress is in everyone regardless of age, flexibility or strength.

Even coming from a dancer’s perspective, the Anusara physical technique works.  Especially in modern dance that is more about exploring how the body can move in safe, natural ways, and focuses on creating moving forms from that point.  I’ve been using the alignment techniques as much as I possibly can in dance and find my movement is stronger and more stable.  Not only that, I have little to no pain after a modern dance class anymore, when in the past, my lower back would ache with Sacrum Iliac issues that would extend from my back into my right leg.  I am eager to share this knowledge and look forward to holding workshops specifically for dancers.

I am so grateful to have come across this style of yoga and all the teachers I have met along the way.  I have learned so much, grown and improved as a teacher.   The best part is there is so much more to learn.   It keeps getting more interesting.  I often tell my yoga students that I consider myself a yoga baby – still on the learning curve and really only one step ahead of them.  They smile.

I’m also grateful to all who come to my yoga classes. Without you I’d have no one to pass this information on to.

There is more to come.  My next blog will be about Anusara’s tantric philosophy – Freedom!

…To Be Continued,

Om Shanti,

Sinead.

Yoga & Detox, January 7th, 8th & 9th

At Open Minds Yoga,  Lower Earne St. (Off Pearse St), Dublin 2

Post-Christmas Yoga & Detox Workshop

Detox body, mind and soul to open the doorway to manifest your heart’s desires in 2011…

Friday 7th January, 7:00 – 8:30 pm: Kick Start Your Detox, Yoga and Talk

Saturday 8th January, 11:00 – 1:00pm: Twists, Inversions, Meditation

Sunday 9th January, 11:00 – 1:00pm: Pranayama, Backbends, Meditation

From 8th – 17th January you will have access to online support from Sinead for each day of your 10-Day Detox.  This online support will make it easier for you to stay connected anywhere, anytime and easily achieve the 10 day detox.

ALL FOR ONLY €50

With a Follow-up workshop on Saturday 22nd January.  This is not a compulsory part of the program (+ €20).

Workshop Summary

The aim of the Post-Christmas Yoga & Detox Workshop is to detox the body and clear negativities from body and mind in preparation to set fulfilling intentions for 2011.

Sinead O’Connor will lead a strong dynamic yoga practice with yoga postures that fast-forward the detoxifying process of the body. This physical practice will include some pranayama techniques as well as asana.  Both will help to calm the body and the mind in preparation for a mediation practice.

With an ITEC diploma in nutrition, Sinead will also offer nutritional advice on Detoxing. She will share her tips for maintaining a healthy diet. Quite different from some radical approaches, Sinead is committed to sharing her dietary guidance for achieving balance, and believes a bit of chocolate and a glass of wine is good for the soul, although not when Detoxing.

This special workshop will also provide students with post-workshop online support.  Sinead will address individual questions by e-mail for the full duration of the 10-day detox following the workshop. Sinead will give guidance on how to let go and release all you do not need and how to walk towards a more fulfilled life.

Speaking about the workshop, Sinead says, “If we can release from our body & mind what no longer serves us it creates room to bring more positivity into our lives.”

Back on the Yoga Mat

After a few days of no yoga practice at all I got back on the mat this morning and did a back bending practice.  I have lots of energy today, feeling very uplifted hence lifting upwards into a back bend was the natural way my body wanted to move.   I started with a strong standing sequence to warm the body up and then went into, camel, locust, bow, pigeon pose (bottom photo), full back bend (as in right photo) and back drops. (for those of you who don’t understand the term backdrop, it’s basically dropping into a back bend from standing).

I get such a kick when I do back drops as I still get a moment of fear before I drop my hands backwards to the floor and get a rush of relief when I am o.k.  It happens every time I do one.  There is always that moment of anticipation and fear.

I finished my practice with a couple of forward bends including pachimotanasan and janu-sirsasana,  shoulderstand and fish pose.

The Main Benefits of Back Bends:

Keeps the spine and back toned.

Builds strength and stability around the spine and sacrum.

Builds flexibility in spine.

Soothing effects on the head.

Gives a great sense of vitality, energy and a sense of lightness.

Energetically they can help to open and heal the heart.

Enjoy your back bending practice.  Get in touch if you would like any yoga posture tips.

Peace,

Sinead.








“Perseverance Furthers?” (Chinese Book of Changes)

This is Sandie.

She has taking on a 30 Day yoga challenge in aid of Pakistan with the help of Sinead and other teachers at Hush Yoga.  She will share with us her experience of practicing yoga every day for 30 days in a row.   Here’s her first blog post.  Keep it up Sandie. We’re with you all the way!

“Perseverance Furthers? ”  (Chinese Book of Changes)

(Guest Blog by Sandra Louise Moran)

To help raise money for the Pakistan Flood Victims, I am taking part in the ‘30 Day Yoga Challenge’ with the help of Sinead at HushYoga. Whilst I love yoga, I only normally practice once or twice a week – so this is a really big challenge for me.

In deciding to take on this challenge, a friend asked me whether I was doing it for a “spiritual journey type of vibe, or a ‘no pain no gain’ attitude or lets all save the world buzz”. Obviously it is a very worthwhile cause. I was also driven by curiosity: what changes will I notice in myself after practising yoga every day for 30 days? Will I finally be able to do the poses which I thought impossible? Will I be able to stick with my commitment, notwithstanding everyday distractions?

Starting out I was very nervous, but also really excited! In my first week I practiced Hatha Vinyasa, Hatha Flow and Ashtanga. I also dedicated time to focus on Pranayama and Meditation. Whilst I found Hatha Vinyasa with Sinead physically demanding, I really enjoyed the flowing movement from one pose into another. In contrast, I struggled to enjoy the Hatha class where I had to ‘hold’ the pose; my body instinctively wanted to go with a more breath – synchronized movement and I felt quite restless. I definitely need to work on this!

I did a lot of back bends this week – such as the bridge, camel and bow. Practising back bends every day for a week has already helped to straighten out the unflattering slouch I have developed from hours in front of the computer.

The highlight of the week was definitely achieving the handstand (albeit an assisted     handstand) – I’ve only done this once before and had developed a sort of mental block against it. I felt such a sense of achievement, it was brilliant! It also made me realise that some of the poses that I thought I couldn’t achieve before because I lacked strength, have more to do with fear than ability.

The most challenging pose this week was the crane pose – I’m convinced that’s the exception to my realisation!

I also practiced at home two days this week – focusing on Sun Salutations, Meditation and Pranayama. I found it very hard to motivate myself practising at home on my own – it’s a very different experience. I’ve never meditated before. Anytime I tried, I began to think about work or other things going on in my life. But I found a technique I learned from Sinead quite useful – placing your hand just beneath your collar bone, really helps you to focus and remove yourself from the outside world.

After week one of the challenge, I’m feeling really relaxed and motivated and a lot more ambitious – and definitely aiming to be able to do a headstand by Day 30. The fundraising is going well, and every contribution helps. If anyone is interested in sponsoring the cause, there’s a collection point in the studio or get in touch via e-mail.

Om Shanti,

Sandie

Serving for the Silent on Vipassana

Serving for the Silent on Vipassana

I sat my first Vipassana meditation retreat last winter and got so much out of it that I decided I wanted to give something back. So two weeks ago I took time off to serve on Vipassana retreat centre in the southwest of Ireland.   The organisation is often looking for servers. And once you have sat at least one 10 day retreat you can be taken on to work as a server.

Working on Vipassana naturally was entirely different to the silent retreat.  For one you don’t have to take the silent vow, it would be impossible to work and not speak as communication is absolutely necessary when working in a group.

When serving one still gets to sit up to 5 hours of meditation a day, 3 of which are compulsory.  Because of the nature of working and doing meditation I found this experience to be really valuable as it is more comparable to my daily life than being silent and expected to meditate up to 12 hours a day as one does when “sitting”.  “Sitting” is the term used on vipassana when taking the silent vow.

The experience working in the kitchen was so fantastic.  I can tell you it was a far cry from “hells kitchen”.  Everyone was super chilled out, easy going and all working with the determination to serve all on the retreat as best we could.  As all servers had sat at least one 10 day retreat, (most people working in the kitchen had sat three full retreats), we were fully aware of how important meal times are.  It is the one and only thing that you have to look forward to when on the silent retreat.   (Well bar Goenka’s chant when one hears it play in the meditation hall, notifying the hour sit of serious practice had come to an end!!)

The dynamic in the kitchen was a lot more fun and interesting than I had expected.  The energy altered between having a bit of a laugh to philosophical chat.  Everyone sharing their experience on Vipassana with me at one stage or another.  I was relieved to know that everyone found the 10 day retreat as difficult as I did yet everyone got as much as I did, if not more out of the practice.  The general consensus is that you can literally feel layers of old samskaras (past pain, sufferings, cravings) have fallen away after doing this practice, you notice habit patterns of the mind subtly change and you become more fulfilled with life.

With regard to the meditation, sitting was definitely not as challenging as it can be on the full retreat.  The 10 day retreat is intense on the body and the mind, thankfully when meditating for only a few hours a day I found it physically & mentally less intense. I loved being in silence for 10 days, being left with only me and my thoughts so I could really observe what is going on within my mind and emotions.  Yet I found serving and meditating equally as powerful in a very different way.  I came back absolutely buzzing with energy.  The day after I arrived home I felt I had six cups of coffee when I hadn’t even had one.  A week later I still have lots of energy while feeling clear and calm.  I notice my senses are much sharper.  I am really aware of this while on the yoga mat.  My body feels so good while moving from pose to pose, being fully present in each moment, each poise, and each movement.

I’m practicing vipassana every morning and some evenings.  This practice has being incredibly beneficial to me.  I highly recommend it.  Until you experience it for yourself you will not know what you are missing out on.  Yes it is a challenge, a commitment and you have to work at it but the rewards are invaluable. So please, bear it in mind.  Maybe someday you will be ready for the very rewarding challenge.

Coming up soon a list of benefits from practicing Vipassana.

Om Peace, Om Love,

Sinead.

 

Om Sri Dharma Mittra Guruvey Namah – I bow in respect to my Guru, Master Dharma Mittra.

Om Sri Dharma Mittra Guruvey Namah  – I bow in respect to my Guru, Master Dharma Mittra.

It was an absolute honor to have Sri Dharma Mittra in Dublin this week. I was fortunate enough to meet Dharma ten years ago in New York when I began taking his yoga classes.

I knew then that Dharma was quite different to other yogis I had met. He came across then as a true Guru and an enlightened being. When I was close to returning to Dublin after my time in New York, I was deeply upset to leave Dharma to embark on my solitary yoga path. He said to me many times, “ I always tell you, you are your own guru,” and “Be receptive. You can always contact me if you think of me, psychically.” (!!) I believed him and I often attempt to contact him psychically in meditation. (He did also concede, and gave me his e-mail address just in case the psychic channels weren’t open!)

I believed him when he said to me, “Some day I will see you in Dublin, and you will have your own yoga studio.”  I honoured this belief, and some years later was in a position to set up a yoga studio, and in the Spring, he accepted the invitation to visit Dublin for the first time.

I don’t know if he saw it psychically those ten year ago, or if they were genuine words of encouragement.   Either way, I now know I was waiting for Hush Yoga studio to open before I would invite Dharma to come here.

Dharma went out of his way to be here to share with the Irish yoga community.  It wasn’t the plan to come to Ireland at all even a few short months ago. I advocated to Dharma that yoga is on the rise here, but we need a little spiritual help.  He answered this call and so came on Tuesday last.

Apart from it being the right time for me professionally to invite Dharma here, it’s also the right time for the yogis of Ireland.  We are generally asana (yoga posture) focused in this country.  I know many of us yogis have a deeper interest in the other aspects of yoga; the eight limbs of yoga and jnana yoga (the yoga of knowledge).  Some of us crave to learn more about the subtle body and the astral plains, mantra, japa, chakras and meditation.  However, it can be difficult to remain on a spiritual path without a spiritual guru, such as Dharma, at our fingertips.

A guru is someone who opens your eyes to the salve of knowledge. At the workshop, Sri Dharma did just that.  He opened our eyes to the knowledge that already exists in all of us. He reminded us that God resides in the right side of our heart, our spiritual heart.  It lives there, a small light in everyone, and begins to shine brighter and bigger the more aware we become.  He reminded us of the yamas and niyamas, or ethical practices, of the eight-fold path of yoga.

He shared that by practicing these alone, our consciousness could move from the three worldly lower chakras to the more spiritual higher chakras, such as the heart chakra. When this happens, we find true contentment and inner peace that doesn’t rely on worldly pleasures and possessions for happiness. While it is okay to enjoy the material world, we must realize that inner peace comes from within, not from what one has on the outside.

Dharma always talks about Ahimsa more than any other ethical practice.  Even ten years ago when I was under his guidance, it was what he most emphasized. Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence towards all beings; to cause no pain or harm to anyone or any living thing. It can be taken to extremes such as veganism, not eating or using any animal product, or it can be taken in a very simple context, which is not to cause pain or suffering to others, even in thoughts. This practice is a most beneficial practice to all beings.  Sri Dharma often quotes the Lord Buddha who also taught Ahimsa through the practice of loving kindness. When practicing loving kindness one sends compassion out to the world, to all beings, including our enemies.  It doesn’t mean you invite all these people into your lives; you can keep them at a distance, but only with the understanding that they are just like you.  They have a spirit inside them that is covered by layers of ignorance, just as you are covered with layers that put you at odds with others.

If you send compassion out to the world and practice Ahimsa, you will move your consciousness to the heart and throat chakras, and you will begin to find peace and stillness in your life and mind.  Your frustration or fight towards enemies of your world will dissipate and will be replaced with compassion.  By doing this, you can evolve, and by evolving, you help others to do the same, even your enemies.  This is acting in Truth and in the service of yourself and others.

The other thing that struck me most is how Dharma spoke about our minds and thoughts. He reminded us that we are not our thoughts. We are here to observe the mind, not to be the mind.  By practicing all aspects of yoga we begin to understand the true self.  The pranayama techniques he teaches are to strengthen the mind so we are not drawn into the mundane negativities of this world. When we keep the mind strong we become positive and gain insightfulness.

In the first workshop we did some chanting to open up the chakras and a simple prananyama technique to purify energy channels.  It was Sri Dharma’s intention to teach us more pranayama in the second workshop; however participants were eager to engage with questions, and time did not fully permit. I presume he felt it was more important to answer these questions than to continue to teach what he had set out to do on the workshop agenda.

Some people expressed some disappointment at not getting to learn his psychic development technique through pranayama, but I trust there was some greater reason why it didn’t pan out that way.  I can only hope that everyone received something or as much as I did from being in the presence of Dharma Mittra, a true Guru and enlightened being.

I wish Dharma could have stayed for longer and I know he wished he could have too. He promised the next time he’d come for a few days. He commented on how lovely the people were at the workshop. I miss him already. It’s so hard to stay on my spiritual path without him.  We really are all such baby yogis.

In time, we’ll have our gurus in Ireland, but for now, as Dharma told me, we can contact our gurus psychically by closing our eyes, to visualize a guru in meditation.  As Dharma says, “Be receptive,” as they certainly are receptive.  Your eyes will open to the salve of knowledge; the world will become a magical place; you will help others to find their true self along the way by simply finding out who you really are.

Om ajnana-timirandhasya,  Jnananjana-salakaya,  Caksur unmilitum yena, Tasmai sri-gurave namah.

– I offer my respects unto my spiritual master who has opened my eyes, which were blinded with the darkness of ignorance by applying the salve of knowledge.

Om Love, Sinead

Dedicated To a Very Humble Yogini

Dedicated To a Very Humble Yogini

Last week the very humble yogini, Veronica Larson decided to drop into Hush Yoga in case I was there and I was.  Veronica and I used to practice Asthanga yoga many years ago.   She is an old friend and someone I have known for a long time, a Dublin based yoga teacher that I have the utmost respect.

Veronica has one of the most advanced physical yoga practices however where she stands out as a yoga teacher is how she teaches warmly from the heart.    She teaches yoga from a place of Truth and knowledge in both the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga.   She has been involved in the Teacher Training Program in the Elbow Room for the past few years.  When two teachers, Sarah and Helen, told me that they had recently completed the teacher training with Veronica I didn’t hesitate in offering them a place to teach at Hush Yoga.  I knew straight away the level of training was excellent and most importantly full of true compassion, support and love.

While it is great to have yoga teachers with lots of experience I had wanted to offer some newer yoga teachers a class at Hush Yoga.  Mainly because I remember what it was like when I started teaching yoga.  I taught with excitement and enthusiasm that changes after a few years of teaching.  I am still very passionate about teaching yoga but in a very different way to how I was when I started.  I sometimes wish I could experience the freshness of being a new teacher again.    Sarah and Helen stand true to this. They look up to Veronica who has been a wonderful support to them throughout their training and beyond it.   They are great yoga teachers with strong yet lighthearted spirits.  They’ve been encouraging and helpful support to Hush Yoga and me over the past few months. I am truly grateful to them and lucky they landed on my doorstep.

Veronica unfortunately cannot make Dharma Mittra’s workshop as she will be in Spain at that time but when letting me know she said that she can feel his spirit when she thinks of him and holds him dearly to her.  Not many people would be able to feel the energy of a person they haven’t met unless their heart is wide open which is the case with Veronica.    When the heart is open one has a stronger sense of everything and everyone around.  Time and space don’t get in the way of feeling a spirit such as Dharma’s even when he’s 5,000 miles away.

I am delighted to let you know that Veronica will be teaching a workshop in Hush yoga on Saturday the 2nd October.    This workshop will be a specialized workshop.  It is more about using yoga postures to help shift energy in the body however in a very different way to a regular yoga class/workshop.   I will have a more detailed outline from Veronica very soon so please keep an eye on the blog and the website for up-dates.   I know I am booking myself into it anyway.  I’m excited to work with Veronica and to learn from her.   You are sure to feel you heart expand and mind shift after this very special workshop.

This blog is a dedication to Veronica and all yoga teacher trainers whom bring us fresh teachers whom have learned yoga from place of Truth.   It is also a dedication to new yoga teachers whom have embarked on a challenging path.  May we all continue to grow as teachers and yogis in support of each other.

I am looking forward to having Veronica more involved in Hush Yoga in the coming months so please keep an eye out for this very humble yogini.

Om Peace, Om Love,

Sinead.

I just received the detail from Veronica as below:

Saturday 2nd october, 14.00 – 17.00 – Open Yoga Energy Medicine Clinic.

In this class we address any physical issues that you may, or may not! be aware of as it relates to your practice and your life. We simply and effectiely explore together, ways of moving beyond current limiting mind-body patterns and blocked energy, by applying the relevant posture work for each person/body, and thus accessing and working on a level of cellular consciousness. A very exciting class indeed, and an introduction to the work in the Yoga Energy Medicine Training Course starting at Hush Yoga soon!

 

Nettle Time

Nettle Time

By Finn Murray.

I am in constant wonderment at the requests people make for herbs from faraway places to help with common ailments, when we have our own native plants which are just as effective and which have been tried and tested over the centuries. Every region of the world has its own ‘materia medica’. This collection of medicinal plants is specific to a region, and covers all known ailments. It is only in recent times that improved communication and transport has led to the crossing over of cultures and, in particular, to the exchange of knowledge in relation to the healing properties of plants grown in other parts of the globe. However, much of this information I suspect is commercial in origin, rather than reflecting any real gap in the range of native plants available to us.

Just recently a client of mine sent to South Africa for a particular herb to help with her helicobacter pylori (a bacterium occuring in the stomach). She had learnt of this tea on the web and it cost her a stunning amount of money. What’s more, the company marketing the tea would not reveal the herbal contents and wouldn’t reply to e-mails. When people are desperate, they will resort to anything, particularly when the supposed cure comes with convincing marketing. It was a lesson hard learnt.

Here in the West – and, more specifically, in Ireland – we have our own materia medica, which comprises herbs that grow best in these latitudes and others which have become naturalised over time. These native species provide us with a cure for every ill. Perhaps they don’t sound exotic (in fact, many are common weeds), but these plants form an important part of our heritage and, ultimately, these native herbs are the tools we can use to heal in a genuinely sustainable way. No carbon footprints, no over-harvesting. They are right outside our back door, if we care to look.

So we have dandelion, nettle (about which more shortly), dock, cleavers, yarrow, elder, coltsfoot, chickweed and hundreds more. Ever notice how some plants have the word ‘wort’ in their name? This means that they have a traditional medicinal use. While in Connemara recently, my 90-year-old mother identified Liverwort and Milkwort, which were growing in profusion. While I know nothing about these herbs (they have fallen from usage), their names indicate exactly what they must have been used for in times gone by. St. John’s wort is one ‘wort’ which everyone has heard of in this country, since it was banned as an open sale herb back in 2000 for what many people consider to be unjustified reasons. Only ‘health practitioners’ (including professionally qualified herbalists) can now prescribe it, although anyone can pick it and create their own tinctures, teas or whatever with it. It will be at its peak in about a month’s time.

I have been harvesting the leaves of the common nettle/stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) recently. While traditionally nettle was harvested in the Spring, it can be gathered at any time of the Spring or Summer. As it matures, the leaves turn to a darker green, reflecting an increase in its iron stocks.

Traditionally used as a Spring tonic, nettle has a remarkable ability to reverse acidity in the body. Acidity is a problem with the modern Western diet, with its heavy dependence on animal products and can cause, amongst other conditions, rheumatism and arthritis. Drinking a cup of nettle tea a day is a good habit to get into, or mix nettle with any other tea. It is an excellent tea to drink during pregnancy, as it contains chlorophyll, vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K and folic acid, as well as a wide range of minerals and trace elements. It nourishes the kidneys, adrenals, immune system, digestive system and endocrine system. It has a noted effect on restoring the health of the villi in coeliacs, thereby improving absorption of nutrients. It is also of help to those suffering from hayfever at this time of year.

To harvest: It goes without saying that you should wear a pair of thick gloves before harvesting, unless you are brave enough to ‘grasp the nettle’! Make sure you correctly identify the type of nettle (see pic at foot) Take about 18 inches and cut the stalk approximately one inch below a pair of leaves.

To dry: Either tie in small bunches with string and suspend upside down or lay on a cotton cloth in a big basket. Place in a warm press. Leave for about 3 days, depending on temperature. The leaves should be fairly crisp. If they aren’t dry enough, they may go mouldy. Once dried, strip the leaves from the stalks. Place in a paper bag and store in a cool dry place. These will keep for up to 6 months in the right conditions.

To make a regular tincture: Chop fresh nettles (including the stalk). Loosely fill a glass jar with the herb. Cover with vodka. Push the plant material down with a chopstick or equivalent in order to release air bubbles. Leave in a dark place for 4 weeks, shaking it on a daily basis if you think of it. Then strain the liquid off through muslin or calico and put in a dark bottle. Cap, label and store in a cool place. This will keep for more than one year and can be used either on its own or mixed with other tinctures, at the dosage of 5 ml three times a day before meals in a liquid water.

To make a tea tincture (ready in 12 hours!): Fill a glass jar with the chopped herb. Cover with boiling water. Release air bubbles with a chopstick or equivalent as above. Lay the lid on top (do not screw down). Next day, strain off the liquid through muslin or calico. Add an equal quanitity of vodka and put the mixture in a dark bottle. Label and store in a cool dark place. This will keep for about six months and can be used in the same way and at the same dosage as a regular tincture (see above).

Om-bitious Retreat

Om-bitious Retreat

My Om-bitious Retreat.

By Sinead O’Connor

I first heard about Vipassana 8 years ago when a friend of mine was about to embark on a meditation retreat. After he explained to me that this was a ten day silent meditation retreat my reaction was not a hope would you catch me on that. The thought of sitting with only my thoughts for 10 whole days made me feel anxious to say the least. I was scared of my own mind. However it did plant a seed in my head as I thought someday I would be ready for a Vipassana retreat. Eight years on I was ready for the very Om-bitious challenge.

Days before I was about to embark on the retreat I began to refer to it jokingly as Spiritual Gaol. I met a friend who frequently goes on Vipassana retreats and joked with her about going to gaol for new years and her response was, yes it is kind of like that. Needless to say that was not what I wanted to hear! I was nervous as I knew it was going to be more then challenging if she was still saying that after her 5th ten day Vipassana retreat. However the excitement of what I was going to experience took over from the nerves.

On the retreat the day started at 4.30am and ended at 9.30 p.m with 12 hours of meditation practice a day. Some of these hours were supervised meditation and others you did the meditation practice on your own either in the meditation hall or in your room. I suppose it’s up to you how much you meditate in the unsupervised hours. The first two days I took a sneaky nap or two but after listening to the evening discourse taught by Goenka I decided I might as well practice the technique seriously. After all there was no point in admitting myself to spiritual gaol if I didn’t give it 100%. According to Goenka one needs the 10 days of serious practice for the technique to really begin working.

For the first three days the focus is a meditation technique called Anapana. Anapana is practiced to calm the body and mind in preparation for Vipassana. Without this lead in practice it would be impossible to focus on Vipassana. The Vipassana technique began on the fourth day. I can’t explain to you the exact technique as it needs to be taught to you by a trained Vipassana teacher but I can tell you what it’s all about.

Firstly Vipassana is the meditation technique that Gautama Buddha practiced to reach enlightenment in its most authentic form. Like Christianity Buddhism is not what the Buddha himself practiced but a variation of his teachings. The meaning of Buddha is enlightened one. There were many Buddha’s before Gautama and have been many since. Buddha did not create Buddhism as Jesus didn’t create Christianity. As far as I can tell they both wanted us to be them not to worship them. Vipassana is the road to being Buddha.

While on Vipassana you have to take vows including silence and not to practice any other prayers, mantras, rituals even Reiki is not allowed. The reason for this is they want you to experience Vipasana in its most authentic form without any other outside influence. You are allowed to talk to the teacher if you have a question or difficulty related to the technique and you can talk to management if you have an issue with accommodation, illness, food or general logistics.

As I love to practice mantra I was curious as to why I couldn’t while learning Vipassana so I quizzed the teacher about this one day. I expected to hear that they don’t believe in mantra but it’s quite the opposite. The teacher told me that mantras are very powerful and they put a shield or layer over you. What Vipassana is doing is stripping away all layers to get you to your core. There is no point according to her to do both Vipassana and mantra as they counteract the effects of each other. One is stripping down while the other at the same time would be building another layer.

Vipassana is core meditation. It’s not dressed up in any fancy philosophy or spirituality. You don’t have to be spiritual or believe in anything to experience this practice although it would help to have the spiritual understanding that we are all living in the mode of Samskara (Pali* term for pain and suffering) and stuck on the cycle of birth and rebirth which causes more pain and more suffering.

It’s a wonderful technique for the person with the logical mind or even a suspicious mind as the essence of the technique is simply experiential and makes logical sense. Do it and experience it for yourself. The meditation technique is very physical. It has to do with feeling sensations in your body. As you practice this meditation one becomes aware of “Anicca” (the Pali* term for impermanence). Because of Anicca one has to remain equanimous (evenness of mind) to all that is happening in your body as you meditate. You do not judge what is happening as the law of Anicca is the law of impermanence. As nothing is permanent you begin to understand the fickleness of life and all we attach ourselves to. The practice of Vipassana is the road to nonattachment to all worldly mater even our own body mater.

While the essence of the practice is quite simple one has to be careful that they are getting it right. When practicing Vipassana we experience moments of ease and moments of unease. As the technique is delivering us from cravings and aversions one has to be careful that they are not creating more cravings and aversions while doing the technique. This is where one has to be very careful of the mind and watch the mind. While being aware of what’s going on in the body or mind one has to remain equanimous to this and not judging, not wanting the sensations to last or go away. It doesn’t matter if the mind is off daydreaming about nonsense as long as one is still practicing the technique and not creating cravings and aversions.

The first day was by far the most difficult for me. I found the situation quite depressing as it did remind me of a concentration camp or gaol. The women are split from the men for the entire 10 days. There was no heating in the building on the first day and being the coldest winter I couldn’t put enough clothes on me to keep me warm. We queued in silence for food that was served in massive saucepans. The dining room was dim and dull. Every moment of that day I considered leaving but I knew that if I left I might not ever give it another go. I had got myself there and was determined to stay. I kept singing in my mind The Doors “Break on Through to The Other Side” to encourage me and I did break through to the other side. The other side was when I stopped considering leaving and found ease within what I was doing. It was constant hard work and never easy but I did find moments of ease and I felt more uplifted at the fact that I was there doing it.

Sitting in meditation for hours a day was both taxing on the body and on the mind. After years of yoga practice and 9 alone of teaching behind me I thought I had build up some credits and would be able to sit in comfort as I meditated. My upper back ached most of the time and my left leg was in a lot of pain most of the time. I think I was lucky in the sense that the pain I experienced was in the same area. I did experience Anicca (impermanence) with the pain as sometimes is subsided and more so toward the end of the ten days.

As you have nothing to distract you from your thoughts, no books, no t.v., no conversation one becomes really aware of what’s going on in the mind. You realize the thinking mind, which I refer to as the ego mind, is full of nonsense. Not only that but it is constantly jumping around. The monkey mind is one moment thinking about breakfast, the next a conversation that happened a year ago, the next where you are going on holidays. It jumps around thinking about one thing and then another while rarely being in the present moment. Sometimes it attaches itself to something you’re not happy with and goes on and on and on until you are so fed up of listening to it.

I found myself one day being really frustrated with my mind and really wanting it to simply shut up. So off I went to the teacher again. She told me to try to think of the constant thoughts as the rain outside the window but it is not who I am. So I went away thinking about that. Later on that evening when my mind was still going and going I had a moment of realization. This realization alone made the entire ten days worthwhile for me. I was, for the first time, able to detach myself from my thoughts. I had connected to my inner awareness, my true self. While I had known this from reading and studying yoga philosophy I had never experienced the awareness of it to that level. I realized the constant thinking is the mind simply doing what it needs to do so I should therefore just let it at it instead of trying to fight it. I realized and fully experienced the awareness behind thought. I experienced that this awareness behind the thought is actually who I am which ultimately is what spiritual authors and leaders are trying to get us to understand. As Ekhart Tolle explains in his book A New Earth that Decartes famous quote “ I think so therefore I am” no longer has any value. If one is aware of thinking then you are not what you think you are the awareness behind what you think.

I suddenly understood all the different layers to my mind and hence the layers of whom I am. I realized three layers alone of my conscious mind. Firstly The thinking ego mind, secondly the mind that is still able to focus on the meditation technique as the ego mind goes on and on and thirdly the awareness that lies underneath all of that. The ego mind had become much weaker to the awareness mind. It also made me wonder that if I am experiencing three layers of my conscious mind how many layers of my subconscious mind exist and what do I hold in these layers.

Often people think that meditating is about stopping the mind from thinking when in actual fact meditating is about experiencing all that is happening at that time. The thinking mind is always going to be there because that is what is does, it thinks. With the practice of meditation one becomes more aware of what one is thinking and how one is thinking. The part of the ego mind that wants to sabotage your life with drama’s, cravings and aversions becomes quiet but only because you learn not to feed it. The less you feed it the less it has to live on. The rain of thought outside the window moves further away while the subtle awareness becomes your inner sound. You get to know your true self.

Vipassana is probably the hardest thing I have ever done yet very doable. I’ve been referring to it as the climbing Mount Everest version of meditation. While reaching the top of the ten days is incredibly rewarding it’s the lessons on the journey that are the most valuable. It is the best thing that anyone can do for themselves. It’s a lesson on mind, matter and meditation. You do the practice and you experience it on a physical, mental and emotional level. You leave the benefits up to Dhamma. Dhamma is the law of nature that leads us to liberation. We begin to trust in that law of nature and move in flow with life instead of fighting against it. We move out of our pain and suffering caused by cravings and aversion. We become present and find true happiness and knowledge of the Truth.

I highly recommend learning this technique and hope that this article has encouraged a few to embark on the journey. Or maybe it has planted a seed in your mind as it did for me eight years ago. It may not be right for you now but you know some day you’ll be ready for the challenge and ready to get to know your true self.

Bhavatu Saba Mangalam

May all beings be happy, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be free.

Vipassan Worldwide, visit www.Dhamma.org

Vipassana Ireland e.mail: info@ie.dhamma.org

* Pali is a forgotten language that was spoken by Gautama Buddha. It is similar to Sanskrit in sound and when written.