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.

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 Yoga Breakfast.

The Benefits of Eating Hearty Porridge. Hush Yoga, My Yoga Breakfast.

Last week I gave you the the delicious recipe for one of my favourite  breakfasts.  Porridge a great reward after an early yoga/meditation practice.  Being a comfort  food it’s especially good at this time of year, warming the body up before facing the cold day ahead.

Below is a list of benefits of  porridge.  Come back next week for another yoga breakfast.

Peace,

Sinead

Benenfits of Porridge:

  • Soluble Fibre Reduces LDL Cholesterol (Bad Cholesterol) without lowering HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).
  • Soluble Fiber balances sugar levels by slowing down the digestion of starch.
  • Slow releasing complex carbohydrates stabilize sugar levels hence sustaining energy
  • Phytcochemicals found in oats are cancer –fighting.
  • Reduces symptoms of IBS
  • Can reduce the risk of heart disease as the oats latch on to saturated fat drawing fats out of the body.
  • Contains vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E, Selenium, copper, magnesium and zinc.

Enjoy your Breakfast Yoga.  Enjoy your Yoga Breakfast.  Move your Body & Free Your Mind.

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?

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

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