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.

My Anusara Trail

www.hushyoga.comLast week I attended an Anusara immersion with Noah Maze.  He had travelled from L.A. to teach the first module of a three part, in-depth study of this heart-opening style of yoga.  After completing the 5-day practice, I am more energized and persuaded by Anusara yoga than ever before.

I first heard about Anusara yoga back in late 2006.  At that time I was not aware of its universal principles of alignment, its congruency with tantric philosophy, or its founder, John Friend.   However, even with so little understanding, I was drawn to its beautiful practice.

Parallel to this, I had started to feel my yoga practice and teaching had got a little flat.  While I don’t know exactly why, I think it was simply the yoga version of writer’s block.  I had lost my inspiration and was looking for something to reignite my love for yoga practice and passion for teaching.  A friend mentioned something about Anusara, and in particular, its characterization as a heart opening practice, and that was enough to spark my interest.

I went to NYC in the summer of 2007 to find my yoga buddies all raving about Anusara and telling me I’d love it.  So off I went to Kula Yoga with my pal Carolyn in August 2007 and there began my Anusara trail.

I was immediately engaged in the class.  The teacher gave a heart-warming introduction; the group chanted a beautiful invocation and the class started with an uplifting beat.    The teacher was giving directions in class that I didn’t understand, but I could see how the group responded to these instructions and I learned from watching fellow students.

When the instructor mentioned ‘kidney loop’ I saw everyone lengthen their lower back and draw into their core.   While I listened to many instructions throughout the class, I captured the concept of ‘kidney loop’ internally and this alone made my participation worthwhile. This is probably because, up and to that point, my teaching of that movement would have been, “lengthen your lower back, lengthen between the hip and the rib cage, pull your belly back to your spine, and draw your lower rib cage in.” Whew!  Yet, all she said was “more kidney loop” – amazing!

From that class, I gained the understanding that Anusara yoga has a clever method of language to explain alignment.  I wanted to learn more. That autumn I went to an intensive immersion in Berlin with Bridget Woods Kramer.

From a teaching point of view, the way John Friend has compiled the method of alignment alone is genius.   Each class is centred around the ‘Universal Principals of Alignment’ that not only include the alignment of the physical body, but also aligning to supreme consciousness: Opening To Grace, the first principle of alignment.

I am inspired by the physical system of Anusara.  The alignment techniques work so well that I am enthusiastic and feel uplifted in sharing this knowledge and experience with my students.

The physical alignment and the heart-opening interpretation was enough to draw me to Anusara.  I never expected to gain the amount I have from delving into this fully rounded system of yoga, and my learning curve is still on the up. It is not possible to do justice to this system of yoga in a short blog, so I will be back with more Anusara detail and love.

…To be continued

Om Shanti,

Sinead.

Detox Day 4: Clarity Of Mind

Downward DogWell done for your efforts so far on the winter detox!  Have you remembered to do some of the yoga postures & meditation we practiced at last weekends workshop?  Try to include a short yoga practice into your daily routine.  It will benefit you in so many ways.  Cravings will diminish, your body will feel great and your mind will be relaxed.

Today is the day you will begin to feel clarity of mind, a sense of lightness and fresh energy.    The hardest part of the detox is the first three days when your body is eliminating wheat, coffee, alcohol, meat, dairy and sugar from its system.   Now that your body has adapted to your recent nutritional changes, you can begin to reap the rewards of consuming fresh, delicious produce.

When we are detoxing, more thought has to be provided for meal planning. Organization is key, starting with smart shopping and having access to lots of produce.  Most meals will be made at home, with the knowing that the food you are preparing is providing your body with the best source of nutrients.

When food is prepared with a sense of nurturing, it can be argued that the nutritional value of the meal increases.   It’s comes back to mindfulness, yet again: being mindful of what your body needs; being mindful when preparing; being mindful of the benefits you receive.  Look at all the colours of the foods you are using; be aware of their vibrancy, texture and of how much goodness they are offering to you.  Then we can be grateful for the food on our plate and to Mother Earth for providing us with an abundance of natural foods.

Being mindful helps to bring us into the present.  When we are in the present we are in the natural flow of life and find balance.

Below are some two detox friendly snacks.

Enjoy,

Sinead.

Detox friendly comfort drink: Heat 1 tsp cinnamon (or 1.5 cin sticks) in 8fl oz rice milk. Add 1 tsp honey. Om Delicious!

Snack:  Vegetable crudités such as celery, carrots, cucumber, with almond nut butter or homemade hummus.

My Breakfast Yoga: Warm Up Sequence

It’s been a few weeks since I last wrote a blog.  Mainly because I have been updating my website with a New Look and haven’t been able to follow up on the blogs I had promised.  However Hush Yoga’s new look is nearly finished and the site is ready for me to post weekly yoga blogs.  I still have some work to do, like changing the menu photo – it’s a bit large, to say the least!!! So I am toying around with other ideas at the moment.  If you’d like to offer any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

So here’s the continuation to the warm up blog as posted below.hush yoga, Sinead in lunge pose

We’ve already sat for a few moments in meditation, focused on breath to centre body and mind and gone through postures such as Child’s pose, downward dog, baby cobra and cobra (as previous post).

Continuing along from the last posture, child’s pose I move back into downward facing dog holding for a 5-7 deep ujjiya breaths.

From downward dog, step your right foot forward to your hands to lunge pose.

In lunge pose stay on the finger tips, lifting chest up and forward while drawing the shoulder blades towards the spine.

The right knee should be directly over the ankle in correct alignment.

The back leg is straight with the thigh bone lifting up towards the ceiling which keeps the leg active and strong.

The left heal is stretching back while the right knee is moving forward, creating length and flexibility  in legs, while the feet are energetically moving towards each other to create strength and stability.  This also helps to align the hips. The right hip pulls back, left hip forward.

The left thigh is rotating inwards, slightly while tailbone moving forward and core muscles should be engaged.

Hold Lunge pose for about 5-7 breaths, step back to downward dog. Hold for 5-7 breaths.  Then step the left foot forward to lunge following the same instructions as above

Move back to downward dog and repeat the sequence in previous blog.

hush yoga, Sinead O'Connor YogaFrom Downward Dog,  step right foot forward to lunge, then left foot forward so you end up in a forward bend.  In the photo I have my legs straight but I often keep knees bent in the warm up sequence until I feel the hamstrings have warmed up.

Viola!  Including the postures in the post below it is a 10 minute warm up giving time to your body and mind to get into the yoga practice.

I’ll be back with more blogs next week.  Unless more website  problems.

Peace,

Sinead

My Breakfast Yoga

This weeks breakfast yoga is all about warming up the body before leading into a strong flowing Vinyasa style practice.

Last week I let you know the main postures I use to warm up the body.  I tend to mix it up from time to time. Here is the first warm up sequence to get you going on your yoga mat.

I always sit and focus on my breath for a minimum of 5 minutes. Often I focus more on the exhale and a sense of my body weight dropping towards the floor with the out breath. However always keeping the the spine straight, with shoulders directly over the hips and the chin parallel to the floor.  This meditation practice helps to ground the body and clear the mind.

Move from this short meditation into a childs pose. Hush Yoga, Sinead in Childs Pose

When in Childs pose begin Ujjaya breathing.  Also begin to connect to the core centre, applying Uddiyana Bhanda and Mulabhanda (drawing the navel gently back to the spine while using the pelvic floor muscles).

Stretch the arms, lifting the whole arm off the floor so only the hand is resting on the floor.  Draw the head of the arm bone back and hug the arms towards each other to create strength and stability.

Move forward onto hands and knees. Place hands directly under shoulders and shoulder distance apart, knees under hips, hip width apart.  Begin Cat, dropping the head and tail bone down to toward the floor while lifting the middle spine up towards the ceiling like a cat.   Reverse into cow stretch lifting the head and tail bone up towards the ceiling while dropping the middle spine.  Maintain a strong connection to the core centre, trying not to let go of the belly, especially in Cow stretch. (sorry no photos)

Move back into child’s pose for 2-3 breaths.

Hush Yoga, Adho Mukha SvanasanaMove into downward dog, keeping knees bent at first, with heals lifting high up off the floor.

Then stretch into the full pose.  You can bend one knee while stretching the opposite heal towards the floor.  This helps to warm up and loosen the calf muscle and hamstring, ( great after a night in high heal shoes ladies 😉 ).  Then make sure you hold a still downward dog for a while, focusing on breath and Bhandas (core centre)


Hush Yoga, Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana

Plank Pose, Hush Yoga From downward dog move into plank pose holding for a few breaths and then lower through chataranga to the floor.



Prepare for baby cobra pose.  Place hands Beside shoulders and lift chest off the floor, with out using in the hands to lift the chest up, so only the back is doing the work.

Hush Yoga, Baby Cobra

It is important to use your core muscles in cobra pose and also make sure the legs are strong by stretching the thigh bone back, spreading toes wide, turning thighs in slightly and moving tailbone forward without gripping the buttox.  Lower to body back to floor.Sinead, Hush Yoga

Move through baby cobra to full cobra however keep the elbows slightly bent, making sure the shoulder blades are moving in towards the spine and the shoulders are pulling down from the neck/ears at all times.

Move back to Childs pose for a few breaths.

Voila!  Ther’s  a simple yet very beneficial warm up.

Over the  next week I will break down the above postures in more detail.

Next weeks Breakfast Yoga will be a continuation from this warm up leading  through a flowing sequence towards sun salutations.

Enjoy your yoga practice.  Be kind to your body, take your time and warm up properly.

Peace,

Sinead.







The Dance Of Yoga

The Dance of Yoga

“We have become so dependent on the form of a yoga pose that we have forgotten how to feel a pose from within.  While it is necessary to learn correct alignment trying to “copy” an exact shape of a yoga pose is unrealistic.   After all we are all uniquely different in our bodies shape, height, weight, flexibility and strength.  For some a yoga practice has become all about getting to the next challenging pose or being able to achieve the physical form while feeling it from the inside is secondary and sometimes there is no connection made to the internal sense of the pose at all.

In our modern form of yoga we are loosing this point of the practice.   Being caught up with how the body should look, moving to advanced postures and what you think you should be doing on a yoga mat actually brings you further from your centre and closer to your inhibitions.

Let me put it to you like this.  When you look at a ballet dancer she is beautiful in her movement, her poise is perfection, the lines and shapes she creates are a pure form of art.   The dancer has been trained so well and with such determination to hold exact shapes, to move beyond any normal physical limitation and to constantly achieve perfection in balletic technique.

While this to the onlooker can look as such freedom in movement for the dancer it is emotionally restricting.   Most ballet dancers, whilst maintaining their elegance off stage, there is often a tightness or strictness in their manner.  Their presence is far from the free, beautiful Giselle they portray when performing.  The ballerina has been practicing her art for so long and with so much control her off-stage posture reflects this constraint, lacking ease and freedom in her personality.

In comparison, look at a contemporary dancer, salsa dancer or street dancer.  You instantly connect to the freedom and fun in their movement.  Their bodies are so much more relaxed and secure. Yet they too have learned technique and alignment.  They have moved beyond that form to find their own expression and that is the beauty in their body and the expression in their dance.   If you meet one of these free form dancers off their stage their personality often reflects the freedom they have found in their movement.  They tend to be very down to earth, open minded and very real.

Like the ballet dancer if you are constantly trying to reach perfection in any pose you immediately create inner limitations.   When we focus too much on alignment and getting a posture correct we are not in union with our true self because we are in our head.  When we are in our head we loose out on experiencing the fullness of a moment and the true depth, meaning and feeling of the pose.   You loose the connection to your heart and instead of being free of your ego you feed your ego.

It is important to learn alignment and shapes of a posture but there comes a time when it is time to move out of an idea of what a yoga practice “should” be like and instead move from within to find true expression.  There comes a time that it is important to connect to your inner self and feel what your body really needs for you, in that moment of time.

Learn how to move your body in a safe way but also learn how to play around with that.   Too much form will make you the ballet dancer of yoga.  Too much strictness in your practice will actually do the opposite to what yoga is supposed to do.   Yoga will bring you in union with who you are not with what you are “supposed” to be, but only if you practice it in harmony with your own needs.

When you move from within you are in your heart.  When you are in your heart you are fully present.  When you are fully present you are in Yoga.   Being able to pay attention to what’s going on inside and being able to express that through your body and through asana is Yoga.   This way of practicing yoga will have a much more profound effect on your entire being.   It will help you to release blockages and restraints.  Then you will find liberation in your body and mind.   Most importantly you will do this in your own truth, not in the truth of others.

Peace,

Sinead.

p.s. Would love to hear your comments.  What kind of yoga do you practice, the ballet of yoga or the contemporary dance form?  If so, how do you benefit or not, from this?

Veronica’s Yoga Energy Medicine

Guest Blog By Veronica Larson

Wow….. I am sure I’m not the only one experiencing the simultaneous speeding up and deepening of, well, everything.

Things have been moving so fast that in this last year, i hadn’t even begun writing one thing before the next one showed up, utterly different. I have had the most extraordinary, challenging, intense and healing time of travel, work and people interaction, personal growth and inner work (I know, I cant help it), reflection, inspiration and now clarity as it is no longer an option but to stand in this fire of truth, and move from here. Through this process, along with all previous and continued work, has developed A WHOLE NEW SCHOOL & UNIQUE BODY OF WORK that very clearly and eloquently distills all my past experience and teachings into what I am now calling YOGA ENERGY MEDICINE. It is what I know has been at work for many years, it is what makes the work so beautiful, profound and positively received by so many. I am really really grateful and delighted for the adventure that it is now being made available to all of us in in a language and format that clearly practices, heals, awakens and transforms, through workshops, classes, individual clinic sessions, and personal healing retreats, and I am on fire with the power, love and clarity that it now also teaches this work in its essence, in the absolutely amazing and powerfully transformativeTRAINING COURSE FOR TEACHERS & THOSE WANTING TO STAND IN THEIR TRUTH, hosted by lovely Sinead O’Connor’s Hush Yoga Studio in Dublin 2.

It seems a  lot of peoples personal and professional lives as well as their health/bodies are more and more rapidly showing up as a reflection of what is out of balance, both in the immediate day to day reality as well as in the world as large. As within so without…. And what better opportunity for us to really stop and take note, of what our life is about, of what we are creating, both on a personal and thus global level, with our thoughts, words, choices and actions. What an amazing wake-up call for us to really begin to see the true power of our own capacity as human beings.  Something is indeed shifting, and it is very obvious in global, environmental and financial systems that as well in the state of our own health and how we use our energy, that a new paradigm is called for. One where we ourselves are continuously at the point of power of creation, and where we are able to make choices and take actions that are aligned with the highest and the best for our own health and well-being and thus that of the planet. A place of connection, free of fear, automatic reactions, limiting beliefs and addictions that literally run a lot of us like automatons at present, perpetrating our conditioned behaviour to literally by free will give away our birthright of amazing health and vitality, and joy of co-creation of an empowered and fulfilling life.

This work prepares and opens the body to be an embodied manifestation, and point of powerful co-creation of this new consciousness, this new paradigm. Not as a concept but as a living participating experience of your Self. Yoga Energy Medicine reaches these places by its nature of being person-body-condition directed, a way of working in Yoga-Union where, instead of applying more external actions and concepts onto already limiting mind-body patterning, we access a space where your body’s own wisdom becomes a recognizable way of being that brings forth all the information and actions that you need in terms of healing and your yoga practice. It is a practice of connecting to your Soul light and beginning to trust and live and live from here, and it always only happens at the pace you desire.

In its development this way of working has continued to provide the effective release of energy blockages, physical pain, emotional trauma held in the body, and other mind-body patterning that obstructs the natural flow of the divine current of life, light, and love in the body. Yoga Energy Medicine works on levels of Source, Soul and Consciousness, in opening, connecting and recalibrating the memory of your body’s portals and divine pathways to the flow of Your Essential Nature, as a conscious bodily experience. The result is the awakening of your innate body wisdom, inner healer and Soul Connection, of the wholeness, health and well-being that is our essential nature, which you already, naturally and always are, and may temporarily have forgotten. It awakens the memory in body of who you really are, what it feels like to be at home,connected, and alive with vitality, passion, and a deep sense of peace and complete freedom.

See Hush Yoga website for info on Yoga Energy Medicine Training and introductory Workshops, and weekly class, as well aswww.livingyoga.ie for all the upcoming events and the Training Course which starts mid -November. I will be in Dublin for six weeks from the last week in September and apart from the public classes and workshops will also be available for individual Yoga Energy Medicine sessions and treatments. There are already many enquiries about the Course so if you are really considering doing it, do get your completed application form in soon!

We are very much looking forwards to journeying together in this ever deepening and life affirming adventure in truth, freedom and infinite Presence!!! Who would want to be anybody else but you?? Being you, having your life, is the coolest thing ever and if you don’t know it yet, you are welcome to come along and find out!

Love and Blessings,

Veronica Larsson

School of Love, Yoga & Consciousness


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.