Loading...
Browsing Category

Yoga

yoga – back2basicsliving

Meditation Challenge: 40 Day Sadhana “Your Habits Define You”

Myself & the bump just completed our Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training with Semperviva Yoga guided by Teresa Campbell @lalupavia. To say we learned a lot is an understatement. Each yoga training completed has taken us on a journey which reveals what we need to work on to become the people we want to be for our family, community & workplace.

 

Self-discovery and self-development are not easy, its hard work and its supposed to be. To be the best version of yourself will take time and effort. True self-development doesn’t come from reading lots of books, it comes from doing the hard practices everyday no matter what life throws at you. A daily practice that you commit to for a period of time or for the rest of your life will change you.

 

For example, if you want to save more money, what can you do every day for the rest of your life to have more savings and live a financially secure life? Spend less and save more. Instead of buying that coffee every day or eating out every day, put that money into a savings account. Do this practice every day and see what awards you will have in just a few weeks.

 

The same goes for daily practices for the mind & soul. A daily practice like meditation can alter the way you think & feel. If you wake every morning and sit to do 10mins of mindful breathing you start your day relaxed, focused, in control and over time confident to deal with any situation. The reminder to come back to the breath will remain with you from your daily morning routine.

 

As part of our prenatal training we are required to complete a 40-day Sadhana which is a daily meditation practice for 40 days which you have a certain mantra to repeat for a set period of time. For example, your mantra maybe “I am strong”, “I am Confident”, “I am enough”, “I am a leader” …. for 11 minutes you repeat this mantra along with having the arms in an active position. This is a Kundalini yoga practice, there are many different arm positions for the meditations, look up Sadhana and find one that works for you.

 

For my 40-day Sadhana challenge I have chosen an Arc line meditation. The Arc line exists as a halo of energy, stretching from ear to ear over the crown of the head. Our Arc line is the connection to the Devine, when strong, the universe delivers. We strengthen the Arc line with committed, steady practice (sadhana). Having a strong Arc line gives us the presence and desire to serve humanity in action; it gives us balance in words & deed.

 

When weak, we are easily influenced by others, ineffective, inconsistent in mood and behaviour and unable to focus or manifest our goals. Arc lines are connected to our immune system. To remove any negative energy or subconscious garbage which has collected in our Arc line we need to practice to actively clear away the crap that gets stuck in this energy field. A daily practice for the Arc line is said to help clear away any past held onto negativity and make space for more clarity & true connection.

Apologies for bed head, I like to meditate first thing in the morning so hair is never brushed! lol!

Right now, I am on day 13 of the challenge. I play Waheguru by Nirinjan Kuar for 11 minutes with my arms overhead (see above) in a seated (non-moving) meditation. I record my meditations on Insight timer and Journal after each one. The arms are feeling it in the morning but I keep telling myself I know I can keep my arms up as I have done it multiple times already. When the mind starts to focus on the discomfort in my arms and shoulders I start to sing along with the mantra. Also I imagine others in far worse situations that they don’t have the privilege to change and I send positive thoughts to them, I sometimes imagine struggles animals go through to survive, I tell myself If these creatures can survive such struggle I can sit here with my arms up for 11 minutes. It’s a constant conversation with myself to tell my thinking mind I can do more, I am more…. this type of meditation builds up so much confidence for me personally. Being pregnant and having additional fears about pregnancy and labour this meditation is great to highlight how much further you can push yourself even when your mind is telling you to quit. Such a great confidence booster for everyone!

 

I will report back after the 40-day challenge is over, if you want to follow my daily process check out stories on our Instagram account back2basicsmovement. Watch this space everyone.

 

Not sure what the 40-days will bring but up for the challenge…. oh, and somewhere in there hopefully give birth to our little mini human;-)

 

Have a great week.

 

Thanks so much for reading,

 

Theresa Burns xxx

 

 

Ignite Mentorship Teacher Training Part 2: Making Postures more accessible to Students

 

“If you are feeling something you are doing it” Bernie Clarke, Semperviva

 

For this next section of the training it will be a recap of what I learned regarding postures. How we feel in postures, how to demonstrate, options we can give, how ego can take over a shape, how doing less can be more & finally why breath is so important.

 

Listening to our bodies can be really difficult as most of us live in our heads. Yoga is about bringing our awareness from our thinking mind to areas in bodies we want to work on. For example, if the teacher demonstrates plank pose and you are in it shaking, stressed and the mind is creating numerous ways of how to harm your teacher…. ease off a little. Place your knees on the floor, start taking deep breaths into your lungs so the body can relax. The body will still be working but now you feel the challenge & can truly benefit from your work because you can breathe. Yoga is all about “No pain, no pain” We do not need to be in pain to think a posture is working, if we feel a challenge and we can remain in a shape with integrity & breath then we are in the right place.

 

As a teacher it is our responsibility to guide our students into the best shape possible for their bodies. Reminding them of all the different options we can take in a pose and to choose the option which works for them the best. Providing 3 options of the same pose can make a shape more accessible to a wider rage of students. For example, if you would like your students to try tree pose demonstrate 3 different options in tree pose.

 

  1. Option one: Hands in prayer & left ball of the foot placed on ground and the heel resting against the right ankle
  2. Option two: Hands in prayer & left Foot placed on shin above ankle
  3. Option three: Hands in prayer & Left foot placed inside right thigh

 

For extra challenge in all the above students could raise their arms in a V-shape over their heads and maybe try closing their eyes if it feels good……its ok to fall out of the shape.

 

Julia mentioned as a teacher we should remain in option one to show our students that they don’t always have to go to options two & three and for new people in your class option one will be more accessible. I believe this is key to making your classes more accessible to a wider range of students. Offer options but let your students know that they are only options and not requirements. You as a teacher need to demonstrate that by taking your own ego out of the equation and support the majority of your students while still offering challenge.

 

Julia reminded us that we need to encourage our students to be kind to themselves, ensuring they can breathe and constantly asking how they feel in a shape. Notice if people are pushing too hard, muscles are shaking and the breath is lost. Ask your students how would this shape look if you did not feel pain or stress, encourage students to ease off a little and find their breath, bring their awareness to how they feel after that adjustment. We need to constantly remind our students to bring their awareness to a shape and to notice if they are pushing too hard or not enough. The breath will be the guide. If the breath is lost the student has gone too far, if the student cannot feel challenge ask them to go a little deeper but still breathing deeply. People need to feel & be aware of their bodies more.

 

If we need to verbally assist a student in a shape Julia advised to ensure we compliment them first, like great breath work or this looks great before offering an altered shape. This will encourage the student and it wont feel like they are being corrected as they are doing something wrong. You are only offering another option that may feel better. After assisting ask how it feels, if its good let them stay there, if not let them decide where they would like to be or offer another option.

 

If you have very flexible students in your class and you notice they may be hanging out deep in a pose ask them to ease out of the pose so they avoid hyper extension and to create more strength and stability in the shape.

 

Julia mentioned that we as teachers should always verbally assist first before attempting to physically assist. Be mindful of how you physically assist as everyone’s bodies are different and you do not want to injure anyone. Ideally if you want to physically assist you should take more training in this area.

 

Before physically assisting any student, you should ask for consent. This can be done before class by asking your students while their eyes are closed if they want to be physically assisted or get them to place a token in the front of their mat to indicate they are good with physical assists. Really helpful & safe physical assists can look like:

  1. Placing your palm gently on the top of a student’s head and asking them to push up into your palm so they sit up taller
  2. Placing your palm between their shoulder blades in plank and asking them to push your upper back into your palms to avoid slumping into the shape
  3. Placing your palm in front of their bent knee in lounge and ask them to push their knee into your palm
  4. To encourage deeper breathing place your palms on the students back & ribs and ask the student to breath into your hands

 

These are all simple adjustments that give the student the control of the movement. After your assist always ask the student if that feels better or worse? Ensure to ask closed ended questions so a conversation doesn’t start in the middle of your class;-)

 

The postures we focused on day 3 of our training were:

 

  1. Childs pose
  2. Saddle
  3. Tabletop
  4. Downward dog

 

 

We focused on each posture and went through many different options of how we could alter a posture to make it more accessible.

 

Childs Pose

Childs pose is often considered a resting pose, Julia reminded us that for many people it does not feel like a resting pose. This is where we can offer options to students to help them relax into the pose more.

 

Knee Issues:

 

If your students have knee problems suggest placing a bolster between their knees and calves. Let them rest their bum on the bolster.

 

In addition to the above a bolster could be placed under the student’s chest and a blanket placed on top of the bolster behind to add more height.

 

Variation:

Another option for child’s pose could be wide knee child’s pose.

Spreading your knees wide and sitting back on your heels or bolster with your arms placed down the centre of your body turning your face in one direction and after a few minutes switching to the other side

 

Tip:

Always have the student rest their head on something, do not let the student hang their heads. Students can rest their heads on a block, bolster or stacked fists

 

Arm Variations:

 

The student’s arms can be placed:

  1. Alongside the body, palms facing up or down
  2. Stretched out in front actively pressing palms into floor

 

Point to note:

The above will depend why you are teaching the posture; do you want the posture to be more restful or more active?

 

Julia advised to encourage your students to make space and to take up space ensure to remind them to take a workable shape where they can breathe deeply and mindfully.

 

Saddle

 

Saddle pose can be difficult if you have knee problems. The below is an option the students can try but if it is painful in the knees ask your students to take a different pose.

 

Knee Issues:

 

Place 2 foam blocks end to end on the middle of your mat with a bolster placing lengthways on top.

Saddle the bolster by placing both knees and shines alongside the bolster and lowering your bum on the bolster. Encourage the student to stay here if that feels good.

 

If the student would like to take it a step further reach back with your arms and place hands on two blocks behind you while reaching your chest to the sky. If the student does not need blocks, they could place their hands on the floor

 

Tip:

  • A tip Julia gave us to cue to help with the back bend it to ask the students to lift their hips and tuck their tail bone under and lower their hips to the bolster.

 

  • Also, if you see your students’ knees begin to lift, they have gone too far and should ease out of the pose.

 

Table top

 

This is a great posture for opening the chest but it may not be accessible to everyone.

 

An alternative shape which provides the same chest opening is:

Sit crossed legged with 2 blocks placed behind you shoulder distance apart.

Reach back to your blocks placing your palms on each block and shinning your chest forward, if the student would like to take it a step further, they could lift their hips and draw them forward also.

 

In the traditional form of table top where the student can hold the shape offer different hand variations:

 

  1. Fingers can face towards the feet or
  2. Fingers can face away from the feet

 

Tip:

For students whose knees are splaying out too far or to add more heat to the posture place a block between their thighs and get them to squeeze the block.

 

 Downward Dog

 

Downward dog can be considered a restful pose in yoga however people who have wrist issues do not find this shape very restful!

 

Wrist Issues:

 

Other options that can be offered to students with wrist issues are:

  1. Puppy dog
  2. Dolphin

 

 

If students’ wrists need more support in downward dog offer them to use a wedge.

Place the wedge about foot down from the top of the mat. Fold the top of the mat over the wedge to prevent the wedge from slipping.

The students can then place their palms on the wedge.

Tight upper back

 

If you notice students whose upper back is humped in this posture ask the students to place blocks underneath their hands which will move the pressure of the pose to the back body and give more space for their shoulders and back to straighten.

 

 

Tight calves & Achilles tendons

 

Ask the students to slightly turn their toes inwards to create more space in their lower back while lifting their abdomen. Pressing heels downs and lifting up toes.

 

Another option would be to place heels on a wedge or bricks underneath heels

 

Point to note:

Ensure your students are feeling the stretch in the belly of their hamstrings in downward dog and not in the area at the base of the bum…. if this occurs get your students to bend their knees to avoid injury to the hamstring.

 

High blood pressure/vertigo/dizziness:

 

Get the students to use the wall for downward dog.

Placing their palms of the hands on the wall and walking their legs away from the wall until their back and arms are in line and they feel a stretch in their hamstrings. The head should be kept above the heart. Encourage your student to push into the wall with hands

 

The above concludes with Part 2 of this 3-part series of blogs on our Ignite Mentorship training with Julia Dotty.

 

Please feel free to offer any other insights you have or if you have any questions & feedback please feel free to leave a comment.

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa xxx

 

Ignite Mentorship Teacher Training Part 1: Help Make Classes More Accessible to Everyone

Both George & myself completed our 200-hour yoga teacher training in June 2018. We loved it; it was something we wanted to do for a long time.

Since then we both have been teaching free classes. George signed up as a volunteer in the YMCA on Burrard street In Vancouver, his class is 7:00am every Thursday. George also subs evening classes in the YMCA when he is needed. I offered free classes for the summer to my work colleagues, which we scheduled every Tuesday after work for 8 weeks in Queen Elizabeth Park. The owner of the company who I work for also requested private sessions with her every Thursday at her home. It was great to get teaching straight away after the training.

George continues to teach in the YMCA. Personally, I have put teaching on hold since December until after my pregnancy. I am 30 weeks pregnant now and want to focus my energy on rest in the evenings and my own practice of movement. Making the decision to slow things down felt right for me.

We both knew the realities of acquiring a paid position after the 200hr was next to near impossible. Vancouver has lots of yoga studios and many yoga schools which pump out a magnitude of new teachers each year. Getting paid work in a studio as a new graduate would be highly unlikely. Therefore, we both made the decision to volunteer for 2 years, do a lot of self-study and increase our knowledge even further by taking as many courses/ trainings that appealed to us. After this period of practise and self-study we would be ready to share our teachings with a group of people & get paid.

Julia’s Doty’s Ignite Mentorship training with semperviva was one of those trainings that we both wanted to take. Julia is a teacher with semperviva and also part of the faculty for teacher training. We love Julia’s classes, her humour, emphasis on the breath and warm manner is what we love in a teacher. She is extremely knowledgeable and we wanted to learn as much as we could from her but also what the course was offering.

This training was created to make yoga classes more accessible to more people. It was designed to teach teachers to use props to help people with & without injuries to access a shape in a more beneficial way. How to be mindful of your voice, the words you use including the use of traditional Yoga language so you can encourage people from other religious and spiritualities to feel comfortable and safe in your class. Yoga truly is for everybody but we as teachers need to be mindful of how to make it more accessible to everybody without losing the integrity of the practice.

The first exercise we were asked to complete was to answer the following 3 Questions in our notebooks:

1. Describe your first yoga class, atmosphere, location, music, studio. How did it make you feel, why is it so clear in your mind?

2. Think of a yoga teacher that really inspires you and list 3-4 of these qualities?

3. What are the 1-2 obstacles that are holding you back from teaching how you want to teach?

We were instructed to answer the above questions to help identify what kind of teacher we wanted to become. Julia explained the teachers you love the best have the same qualities you have and their teaching style is similar to how you would like to teach. This was really helpful as a new teacher because there are so many different styles and methods of teaching that it can become over whelming. She also mentioned that it took her at least 5 years to find her own style. As new teachers we need to give ourselves time to try out different styles and different forms of yoga to see what we are naturally guided towards more. Julia’s openness and honesty about the first few years is what I believe new teachers need to hear. For the majority of us, we don’t know our niche yet. Time, practice, trainings and self-study are what we need in order to arrive to our happy place.

The first key and most important aspect of yoga is breathing. This is where are training began. Julia thought us all how-to breath properly and how to show our students to breath properly. Focus the student’s attention to their current breath and guide them how to breath deeply into their rib cage and back, to expand their lungs to the fullest capacity. We placed our hands on our upper ribs (bra Hight) and felt our ribs expand and collapse with each breath, another option we used was tying a strap around our upper ribs, just under chest area to feel the strap move in and out with each breath. This technique of breathing is also thought be Max Strom who Julia admires and has done multiple trainings with.

Teaching students how to breath will change their lives. Deep quality breaths help our bodies rest, digest, improves our immunity and most important helps people to relax & sleep better. Sleep deprivation is a major issue in our society and if we as teachers can help people sleep better, we are having an enormous positive effect on our student’s life. Breathing is the most important aspect of all classes; this is what will help student the most once they step outside of the studio.

Giving students options is important to make our classes more accessible. Offering options in all the shapes by advising what props we can use and giving alternative gentler shapes is key to making the same class accessible to people with injuries and bodies that cannot get into certain shapes. Remember we can only offer alternative shapes to help our students but it is their decision whether they take the shape or not.

The options do not only stop at the physical shapes. The traditional use of “OM” at the beginning and ending of each class may freak some people out. When people do not understand the meaning behind something their imagination can bring them to all sorts of places. We as teachers should explain why we “OM” and that its completely personal and voluntary to participate in. “OM” helps us take deeper breaths and slows the breathing down at the start of the classes therefore helping our students get grounded. Offering different versions on “OM”, humming, vocal or silent are good for people who want to participate but are uncomfortable hearing their own voice. Religious people may want to avoid altogether so give the option to remain silent and maybe repeat their own prayer in their head each time “OM” is used. The option of not using “OM” at all is also a reality, it will depend on your class and the environment you are teaching in.

Sanskrit the traditional language of yoga I find extremely hard to say and cannot remember the words for shapes except for “Tadasana” Mountain pose and “Shavasana” corpse pose. For some teacher’s Sanskrit is in important in their practice and they want to use it throughout. However, students who are new to yoga and join their class will be confused by the words and will not know what pose to take. Most people know downdog, cat/cow, easy pose, warrior pose but in Sanskrit, I cannot even remember. Julia mentioned its important if you mention a pose in Sanskrit to follow it up with the English translation, this has automatically opened up your classes for new students to join. Only use Sanskrit if it feels comfortable to you and you are not limiting your classes by using too much. For me the only Sanskrit I use is Shavasana because I don’t like saying corpse pose, everything else will be in English. That’s my personal choice. You really don’t want to hear me butchering these beautiful words in an Irish accent which I cannot drop! Lol!

Julia gave the following 4 pointers on how to teach to a broader range of students:

• Teach by example: Beware of your body language, don’t fidget, use appropriate hand gestures and demonstrate what you want the majority of your students to do. For example, if you want your student to use props demonstrate by using props, if you want the majority of the students to stay in option 1 of a shape instead of option 3 demonstrate in option 1

• Teach by what you say & the order of how you say it: Breath should always be priority in our classes, this should always be the most significant thing we complement our student on, we should be encouraging our students to breath more and not pushing more. Are your students able to breath comfortably in a shape? If not ease back and find a different shape so they can breathe.

• Teach by what we don’t say: beware if the only positive feedback we give our class is how one or two people look great in a handstand while the majority of people are in child’s pose.

• Teach by touch or lack of: Be conscious of assisting students into poses as we are not anatomy experts and everybody’s body is different. You do not want to harm any student or be liable for harming anyone. Use as many verbal and visual ques as much possible before assisting any student. Only assist if you have received training and are comfortable in this area.

My very unique note taking skills, unreadable hand writing & stick men…..nobody ever wants to use my notes! lol!

The power your voice can have in a class is significant. Julia mentioned to keep our voice authentic and not put on a “yoga “voice. Ask yourself is your voice the same in class as it is after class when a student asks a question? Be loud enough so everyone can hear you, about twice as loud as normal conversation voice. (depending on studio size) Avoid using the upper inflection at the end of your sentences that sounds like you are constantly asking questions! Super annoying and you will lose students because of this.

Be mindful of any curse words or slang you may use and avoid using them in your class. Some teachers do use these words but curse words and slang do have a negative energy and can affect how people feel. Anyone who has lived through trauma or abuse may find these words especially upsetting. Best to avoid. Remember we are encouraging as many people to come to yoga to feel safe & secure.

One of the students in this course recommended the book “The Hidden Messages in Water” by Masaru Emoto which explains how words can affect us. It’s on my reading list.

Speak in a command form, give instructions but in a kind way as if you are speaking to your best friend. Slow down your words to speak much slower than your usual speed. Record your voice during classes to see how you really sound and this will help you improve your teaching in areas you may never have noticed you needed to work on.

The above information is so beneficial to teachers and everything mentioned will help make our classes more accessible to more students. We as teachers have a lot to work on and we may not see the results for many years but everything mentioned above will mould us into better teachers and hopefully encourage a much wider & diverse group of people to arrive to our classes. Our classes should be open to everyone, we as teachers need to know how to make this happen so more people are exposed to the wonderful benefits of the breath and shapes.

Hopefully you enjoyed Part 1 of this series of reflections on our training. A special thanks to Julia and semperviva for providing such a beneficial course.

In the next blog in this series we will include how to make the popular poses more accessible to people with injuries, limitations and pregnancy by using props. And lots more wisdom & advise from Julia.

Have a great week.

Chat soon,

Theresa x

A Daily Meditation Practice: Make It Work For You

From trial and error over many years I have come to realize the success of a daily meditation practice for me is to be realistic. We would all love to meditate for an hour in the morning and an hour before bed but for the majority of us that is not possible. How much time can you spare and can you find a similar time of the day to practice meditation? Making the effort to carve out time for meditation is the first step. The next step is sticking to your commitment of time & place for your meditation. This is where you need to create a habit so like brushing your teeth in the morning, you do not pass a day without meditation.

For me the best time of day for meditation is first thing in the morning. I have set my alarm 15 minutes earlier in the morning to get up to meditate. I wake up, go to the washroom, put on an extra layer, drink lemon water, take out my meditation cushion, press start on my meditation timer and sit in silence for 10 minutes (additional 1 minute warm up to get settled). So why on earth do I get up earlier to meditate and not savour that extra 15min of extra sleep? Am I crazy? Possibly! The answer is I’m not sure. I was so close to googling why meditation is good and writing a paragraph about that to fill this paragraph with but let me try and figure out why I choose to wake up earlier to mediate and why you should too?

Is sleeping not better for me than waking up earlier to sit in stillness? This is a fair question since the majority of the population suffer from sleep disorders and don’t get enough sleep at night. However, sleeping and meditation are completely different and both bring amazing benefits and both are super important. If you are a person who doesn’t get enough hours of sleep at night, I would say don’t set your alarm 15minutes earlier to wake up for meditation, sleep and let your body recover. Choose a different time of the day to meditate, simple. On your lunch break, go find a quiet bench to sit on, an empty office to sit in, the restrooms to hide out in…. honestly anywhere you can find that you feel safe & at ease in. Don’t feel you need to sit on a meditation cushion, in yoga pants at 4:45am to mediate, you don’t.

Personally I don’t have an issue with sleeping which I am very grateful for and we go to bed early in our home, around 9:30 pm. Therefore, I get enough sleep so I can wake up 15minutes earlier to meditate. This routine works for me but find one that works for you, one is not better than the other. It really doesn’t matter when, where and what you are wearing, just take 10minutes to focus the mind to meditate.

So, what is meditation? Again, the temptation to google is there but I will answer from a personal place. For me meditation is a very active practice. From the outside you may look like still with very little movement but on the inside the mind is extremely active. The practice is to bring that outward stillness into the mind. The mind or our thoughts have an innate tendency to wander, flow, distract and go nuts when you bring your body to sit in stillness. In truth your mind is always going but it becomes really apparent how crazy your thoughts are when you sit still and bring your attention to them. The aim of meditation for me is to become aware of my thoughts, notice where my thoughts lead and bring them back to a still point by focusing on my breath, the inhale & exhale through an open mouth a focal point to help focus & control the crazy spiralling of my thoughts.

Focusing solely on your breath for the first few breaths can be easy, however without even knowing it the mind wanders off to past or future thoughts and the breath is lost. The kind of exercises I like to do to help focus my mind is to focus my attention between my eyes to my inner eye, this really helps me for some reason, it’s like a pause button until I get distracted by my thoughts again and I need to repeat the process. Another one I like is to whisper silently in a kind way to myself that I am thinking and to bring my attention back to a focal point, sometimes I like that point to be my belly. A great way to help focus the mind and distract yourself from your thoughts is to count to 10 and repeat. You won’t believe how hard this is, I have found myself almost at 50 before noticing I wasn’t paying attention. When you notice you are not paying attention you start back at 0.

So why meditate? Meditation is getting a lot of media attention lately which is awesome, most of us know the benefits of it already. Even 1 minute of meditation is supposed to be beneficial to our mental health. Again, I will speak from a personal experience. Why I mediate is for the mental challenge it provides every morning. I know challenging to still my mind helps me cope with life after those ten minutes. It helps me think clearer, pause before I react (this doesn’t happen all the time but I notice an improvement), it helps me listen more as I am not afraid to sit in silence, it helps me in awkward silent situations and not feel awkward, it helps me sit in a restaurant by myself and just sit there without having to pull out my iPhone to distract me from the silence or loneliness, it helps me feel comfortable in my own skin, it helps me cope in times of stress, it helps me relax and ease into my day, it provides clarity and helps me be present in moments that I really want to be present in and fully aware.

There are many scientific reasons why meditation is great and I am sure I am benefiting from so much more but these are the reasons why I keep meditating every morning. I see an improvement in my life and how I look at life in general, I have learned to separate the unimportant from the important (can still mess up of course) and I truly believe it is those 10minutes every morning that help clear space in my head for what’s important, stillness, awareness, knowing who you are and being present in this life and taking control of your life to live the way you choose. All that from 10 minutes a day. Try it and see how it transforms you. It’s not all hype, find a time that works for you and just do it.

 

Thank so much,

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa x

The Yamas – There Is More To Yoga Than Postures

There comes a point in everyones life when our brains are so full of thoughts, decisions and emotions that we come to a stop. Our joints dry up like the tin man in The Wizard of Oz and we slow down and stall.

I read a parable about two monks who were about to cross a river when they saw a woman who needed help to cross. One monk carried her and the other monk berated him after, “We are forbidden to touch women,” he said. “How could you do this?”

“I put the woman down on the other side of the river,” replied the other monk, “but you are still carrying her.”

I have carried thoughts and worries with me for a long time. I carried them like a great weight, my shoulders and back were constantly tense and I did not realize I could put it all to one side.

We pick up our problems and hold onto them for dear life like they are our precious possessions. So important are these problems that we carry them everywhere. We do not put them down.

After a time, I realized that three simple things would allow me to put down my burdens:

  1. Exercise
  2. Fresh air
  3. Meditation

For me, yoga is a door way to these paths, it is also a catalyst for consistency. Yoga is not just postures, it is not just meditation, these are important aspects of yoga but each is only one of eight parts.

The Eight Limb path of Yoga is laid out as follows:

  1. Yamas – Moral restraints
  2. Niyamas – Observances
  3. Asana – Postures
  4. Pranayama – Mindful Breathing
  5. Pratyahara – Turning Inward
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dhyana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi – Union with the object of meditation

I instruct yoga once a week at the Rob Lee YMCA on Burrard Street, guiding people through the asana (postures). I do my best to emphasize the importance of breath, though I find it difficult to get that across but in light of the above, I teach only a small part of yoga in my classes.

Over the next week I plan to explore one of the eight limbs of yoga in more detail – The Yamas.

The Yamas, to me, are a moral guide to how we should make our way through life. They are just as much a part of yoga as the postures we practise in class. The yamas are as follows:

  1. Ahimsa – Non-harming
  2. Satya – Truthfulness
  3. Asteya – Nonstealing
  4. Brahmacarya – Moderation
  5. Aparigraha – Nonhoarding

We can all practise an aspect of yoga without ever stepping on a mat.

Ahimsa

We can inflict violence on ourselves and others in many different ways. Physical violence plagues our planet, sometimes it may be hidden behind closed doors other times it is out in the open rearing its ugly head for all to see.

There is the violence of rage, which can be silent and contemplative, seething like a sickness, or loud and boisterous like an angry thunderstorm.

The violence of thoughts, when the anger rises in our minds and we think of lashing out.

It can be as simple as an unkind word or thoughts which, when we allow them will light a spark that can burn into an anger that sits with us, hidden in the background.

I have said before that a successful day starts the night before. My Sunday night consisted of staying up late working on the iPad. I found it hard to sleep after the screen time, the blue light firing my braincells up like a Christmas tree, my thoughts going back and forth like Forest Gump whacking a ping pong ball.

The result was that I stayed in bed later the next morning. It’s funny how much of a knock on effect that has. Instead of my regular 20 minute meditation session I gave it 5 minutes.

I set out with the intention of nonviolence but was not set up to carry that through.

I often talk about finding our true selves. I also wonder if we can lose our true selves. As I drove to work I met a lady who hesitated at a fourway stop. She looked at me like I was an idiot and I reacted in anger. That is where we lose our true selves, it is not the real me. Just like the monks at the river, I put that person down a long time ago, but he comes back sometimes. If we were face to face neither of us would have reacted like that.

Two more times I got frustrated on the way to work. A strong person would have noticed the impulse to react, felt it and let it settle and become still like a ripple in water. The person who meditated for twenty minutes that morning would have let it go also.

Meditation (Dharana), just like the Yamas is another part of yoga. They are all interdependent. One leads into the other. Yoga is a way of life, not just a physical practise. That was obvious to me on my first day to examine the Yamas.

Satya

Tuesday brought me to Satya (truthfulness). It is a difficult one to put into action. It can be interpreted in different ways. This evening I was coming to the end of a difficult yoga practice when bridge or wheel pose was offered by the teacher.

Sometimes I will attempt wheel for two or three breaths when my body is warmed up and I decided for my third round I would go for it. The offer from the teacher was either pose.

It was then I realized that I was doing this pose for my ego rather than because it was what my body needed. This was the truth of my yoga practise. I came to the matt open to honesty and ready to practise truthfully.

Satya refers to truth both in thought and action. It can be found in many places in our lives, we just need to open our eyes to it.

There are many forms of dishonesty but dishonesty with ones self is the most difficult to escape. It is invisible and sneaks into our lives like a dark ghost in the night. Only with constant practise and mindfulness of Satya can we ward off this spectre.

Asteya

Asteya (non stealing) can take many forms aside from the obvious, for example, when we do not give our full effort to those who have paid for our services, we retain some of the attention and effort which has been promised to others.

This is human nature, I take out my phone in work and see a notification which is more interesting than what I am working on and my fish mind takes the bait. We fly to the shiny object like a moth to a candle.

How many times through out the day is our time or attention stolen by those who it is not intended for. My attention is intended for those who have put their hard earned cash into paying for it, or for those who I love and who deserve my attention and those who are kind and have earned my respect through friendship or courtesy.

The mindless attention leaches on social media and plastered over unsightly billboards do not deserve our attention, yet they latch onto us and drag us down into the depths of cat videos or online shopping and literally steal hours a week from us.

Non stealing can be looked at either directly or indirectly but either way the most precious things we have, our time and attention can be stolen from us or else not directed towards those who deserve it. Our most precious gifts should be held tight to our chests and given to those who matter most or those to whom we owe a debt.

Brahmacarya

This means moderation. I am vegetarian but I am also a realist. The world will never turn vegetarian or vegan though, this change would have a huge impact on climate change and eliminate unethical treatment of animals.

Eating meat is natural in the animal kingdom but over consumption is not. We eat so much beef that cows farts are literally choking the planet to death.

Whether vegetarian or carnivorous, we all have a responsibility to the home we will pass onto our children. Eating ethically sourced meat mindfully, in moderation will have an impact on this planet of a magnitude many of us do not realize.

Brahmacarya can save us, for we have nowhere else to go.

Brahmacarya can also apply on the mat in relation to the extent of the physical practise. We are always encouraged to push our selves. According to David Goggins, when we think we are spent, we have only reached the 40% mark.

This is true, but we must keep in mind humility and moderation. Taking your body straight to handstand without the experience and practise is not pushing yourself to your limits, it is pushing yourself to certain injury. It will serve your ego rather than your development.

Aparigraha

Non-hoarding. We often, by our nature, accumulate items. We fill our lives with stuff which takes up space both in our homes and in our minds. There is nothing more freeing than letting go of items we don’t need.

A cluttered space is a cluttered mind. The things you own start to own you. More space and more things require more time and maintenance. In my opinion we should only spend our time on those things we really love. If we free ourselves from those things that do not add to our lives we liberate our minds.

Just like the monks who crossed the river, we are guilty of mental hoarding. We hold onto emotions even when the moment has long past and they do not serve us. Often times I find my mind wander back to some perceived wrong which I still carry like the monks at the river. I hoard it.

In conclusion I encourage you, if you are a yoga practitioner, to go deeper and explore how we can take the entire practise, not just the the postures and breath work, off the matt into our everyday lives. Practise yoga every day, not necessarily twisted like a pretzel or meditating on a mountain top, but by being aware of the eight limbs of yoga and putting them into practise as much as possible.

There is much to offer, dig deep and you will find it.

If you liked the blog you would pay me a huge compliment by sharing it.

Thanks for reading,

Peace.

George