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.

Autumn Yoga

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~Albert Camus

Autumn, my favourite time of year, is here again.  Well, I love spring too; probably because nature is so noticeably changing at these times.  We are blessed in our beautiful country with the variety of vibrant colours  in Autumn. The colour of the sky changes to a subtle glow while the leaves are intensely rich in beauty.  It’s really a striking time.

Autumn is a preparation, a fall towards winter.  With the force of mother nature letting go of all she has grown and nurtured throughout the year, we, too, can let go of all we don’t need at this time of year.   As animals gather in preparation for their winter sleep, we, too, begin to gather and naturally begin to draw energy inward in prepartion for our short, cold days and long dark nights.

With regard to your yoga practice, hip openers are great postures to benefit the process of letting go, and focusing on the exhale can deepen the effect.  You may remember my previous blog, “Open your hips, release your emotions” where I wrote in more length about the hip opening practice.

According to both Ayurvedic and Chineese medicine, Autumn is a time that the mind can be noticeably active with fresh inspiration.  It is, therefore, vital to clear any unnecessary emotion; to release any stored tension around the upper back and neck.  For this reason, adding upper back and shoulder releasing work to our practice is often necessary.  It will keep energy flowing from your body to mind, and vice verse.

This will help to open the pathway to allow your creativity to flow naturally.  It makes sense to me that Autumn is the time to allow new ideas to surface, with Winter being a time to ponder, allowing what has appeared to sit within, before the coming of Spring allows you to plant the seeds of creativity that have passed the test of hibernation.

However, because the mind can be so active at this time of year, it is time for the “A-type” personality, often characterized by a highly stressed or anxious state, to pay particular care.  To help counterbalance the dangerous effects of these feelings, it is important to do plenty of grounding yoga postures, such as forward bends and, once again, hip openers.  If you can manage a headstand safely, include it on days when you feel it is possible.  This will bring your mind as close to the earth as it can possibly be!

Sitting in mediation for at least 20 minutes a day is highly recommended, but any length of time is better than none!  Sit and observe the natural flow of breath.  Don’t make demands from the mind. Let it think, let it do what it needs to do.  On noticing your mind has wondered to your thoughts, simply observe.  Then gently bring your mind back to your breath, without any judgment.  Be aware of the breath, and focus fully on how it enters and exits the body.

My last advice for the moment is for all us “urban dwellers” to get out of the city from time to time.  Walk in nature, being mindful of the stunning change of season.  Allow the vibrant colours to be absorbed by your body and mind.  Feel the fresh, country air, and try to be fully present in this glory.  Then nature will support you in return, as you will have supported her by simply noticing her beauty.

Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

Sinead