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Dear You,

If I had to tell you only one thing about an ongoing meditation practice, it would be this: Meditation is your personal experiment, performed in the laboratory of your own mind and body. Like yoga, your practice will be inspired by teachers and guided by the practices that the great explorers of meditation have handed down to us. Yet in the end, the form your practice takes is uniquely yours.

It took me a long time to realise this. In fact, the main reason I began teaching meditation was to spare other people from having to wait as long as I did to figure it out. Of course, when you begin your meditation practice, and as you’re establishing the habit of sitting, you need the structure and direction of an established protocol. Following basic techniques helps you set up the discipline of regular sitting and teaches you how to get your body comfortable, find inner focus, and keep your mind from running rampant. But as you continue, things shift. You start to catch the meditation current, the inward-flowing slipstream that takes the mind inward. You begin to experience periods of quiet, even contentment. You realise that meditation is actually a natural state and that it will arise on its own if you give it time. And you discover some of the benefits of sitting for meditation—how a practice helps you hold steady in times of emotional turmoil, how creative solutions to problems present themselves naturally when you enter a certain state of quiet. You’ll find out that even when you don’t think you’ve had a “good” or “quiet” meditation, the rest of your day feels sweeter, calmer, or more energised because of the time you spent sitting.

At the same time, subtler questions start to arise. You might find yourself stopped by the same inner walls and wonder how to get past them. You might notice that your practice has become routine and wonder how to make it more interesting. You might feel that your heart is blocked or that you simply want more excitement in your sitting. So you begin to play a bit with your practice, to experiment, to get a little creative. It’s important to give yourself permission to do this. Otherwise, chances are your meditation practice will start to feel stale.

So I offer you here a few essential principles for finding your own best meditation practice. Some are basic. Others are subtler and might be new to you. They will help you to skilfully walk the edge between structure and freedom, between tradition and experimentation, so you can engage for yourself the essential mystery at the heart of meditation practice—how, by doing “nothing” with radical attentiveness, you can enter into the very heart of love and wisdom.

Get comfortable

The first principle for successful meditation is to make yourself physically comfortable. The one absolute rule for meditation posture is that your spine be erect. As long as your spine is straight and your chest is open, comfort trumps form. This might sound radical if you’ve been trained in classical yoga or Zen, but trust me—at least in the beginning, it’s true.

Use props to support your hips and knees, if needed. If you’re on the floor, make sure your hips are elevated at least three inches above your knees, so that your back doesn’t round. If sitting on the floor is too uncomfortable, sit on a chair. If it’s hard to sit upright, sit against a wall and stuff pillows behind your lower back. Use as many as you need to support your spine and push you into an upright posture. You’ll want to stay for a while.

If you want to go into deep meditation, you often need to sit for at least 45 minutes to an hour to get quiet enough to sink deep inside. But here’s the good news: 
A daily 20-minute practice—especially if you do it twice a day—will improve your focus, stabilise your emotions, give you access to a deeper level of creativity, and treat you to more prolonged glimpses of your peaceful source.

Your core practice


Next, choose a simple core practice, and do it daily until it becomes a habit. Your core practice is your base, your foundation for turning the mind inward. Doing the same practice every day establishes a groove in your consciousness, and this groove becomes a pathway into the deeper layers of yourself. For a beginning meditator trying to establish a practice, this is imperative. But even experienced meditators benefit from having a clear protocol for signalling the mind that it’s time to turn inward. From there, you can play with other practices with the knowledge that you can come back to home base. When you’re beginning a meditation practice, start with 10 minutes and increase your meditation time 1 minute a day until you’ve reached a half-hour. This will allow you to cut the basic groove of practice.

So how do you find the right core practice for you? If you don’t have a teacher, the best approach is to deliberately try out several classical practices. Take enough time with each one to feel your way into it, and notice the results. A practice is working for you when you find that it activates the meditation current. A paradox of meditation is that the technique itself is merely a portal. Your goal is not to become a master of technique but to allow yourself to enter the natural state of meditation.

Most core practices fall into five basic categories: mindfulness, mantra, inner body, visualisation, and self-inquiry. Each type of practice trains your attention in a particular way, and each will have its own effect on your inner state. They are often combined, but when you are beginning your practice, it’s best to start with one. In general, you’ll want to work with one practice for about a month to get a clear sense of how it affects you.

Your core practice focuses your mind. You should be able to attach your attention to the practice with enough pleasure so that you can follow it past your surface thinking into a deeper state. If you’re not a visual person, you don’t want to adopt a visualisation practice right away because it will be a struggle. If a technique doesn’t feel pleasurable at least some of the time, it’s not the right technique for you; if you don’t get some enjoyment out of it, you simply won’t do it.

Nobody’s meditation is always enjoyable. Meditation can be boring, and there will be days when sitting feels like a struggle. But if your practice is consistently tedious, it means that you’re not connecting, and that is often a sign that you aren’t doing the right core practice.

As natural as breathing

Mindfulness, which can be defined as simply paying attention (to your breath, your body, or your surroundings), is one of the most widely practiced methods. Mindfulness of the breath is the most basic and natural meditation technique because when you follow the flow of the breath, it automatically causes your mind to turn inside. You can use it not just in seated meditation but at other times, too.

Observe the coolness of the breath touching your nostrils on the inhalation and its slight warmth as it touches the nostrils with the exhalation. As you notice thoughts arising, simply note “thinking,” and return to your focus on the breath.

Another way to practice mindful breathing is by observing the part of your body that moves with the breath. It might be your upper chest, your diaphragm, or your belly. Instead of trying to “place” the breath, simply observe the breath as it rises and falls in the body.

That’s my meditation mantra

Practicing with a mantra gives you a focal point—a meditative thought to substitute for your ordinary mentalogue. The right mantra carries with it a feeling of comfort and sweetness that lets you easily sink inside. The best way to experience a mantra is to receive it from a teacher who has practiced it herself, but certain traditional meditation mantras have an embedded power of their own. The best known of these is Om.

Sitting quietly, inhale slowly with the thought “Om.” Exhale slowly with the thought “Om.” Feel the energy and vibratory quality of the syllable as it impacts your inner body. When other thoughts arise, bring your attention back to the thought “Om.” Allow your mind to merge with the mantra, as if you were a boat merging with the current of a river.

Come to centre

Another classic way to bring the mind inward is to focus on one of the subtle-body spiritual centres, usually the heart centre or the third eye. One of my favourite heart-cantered practices is based on a cantering prayer from one of the Christian contemplative traditions: Sitting quietly, bring your attention into the centre of the chest, behind the breastbone, deep inside the body. One way to find this spot is to measure five finger-widths below the hollow of the collarbone, and then bring your attention inward from this spot to the very centre of the body. Let the breath flow as if it were flowing into and out of the centre of the chest, touching this place in the inner heart. You might imagine that there is an opening in the chest wall and that the breath is flowing in and out horizontally. 
Or you can simply feel that the inhalation ends at the heart centre and that the exhalation begins there.

As you focus your attention on the heart centre, choose a word that helps you turn inward. It should convey a feeling of safety, of connection to love, to the Divine, or to inwardness itself. “Trust” is one such word. “Love” is another. Think this word to yourself with every other exhalation, and feel as though you are dropping it into the heart. Let your mind gently release and settle into the heart.

With the mind’s eye

If you are a visual person, it’s energising to have a visual element in your practice. I often recommend the classic visualisation in which you imagine a flame in the centre of the head, in the third-eye centre. The third eye, or ajna chakra, can be found by placing your finger on the forehead, between the eyebrows, then taking your attention from that point into the centre of the head. Sitting quietly, bring your attention to the third-eye centre. Inhale, feeling the breath rising to this centre. Imagine the breath coming in and out through the forehead, as if there were a nose there. Imagine a thumb-sized golden flame in this centre. Imagine that, as the breath flows in and out through this centre, it touches the flame and makes it glow. Feel its golden warmth.

The place beyond thought

Shankara, one of the great teachers of the Indian Vedantic tradition, famously defined the true Self as “the witness of the mind.” Self-inquiry practices take many forms, but their goal is to move past your concepts about yourself and bring your attention directly to that inner witness. Using the natural tendency to think as a trigger to look beyond thought, they can bring you into direct contact with your own pure awareness, the consciousness or intelligence that is your true Self.

Begin by focusing on the flow of breath, cool on the inhalation and warm on the exhalation. As you notice the mind wandering, ask, “What knows I’m thinking?” Then wait and notice what arises in the wake of the question. Within a few minutes, you should become aware that there is indeed a “knowing,” an impersonal awareness that observes your thoughts. See if you can remain present to this knowingness, the witness of your mind.

Dealing with distraction during Meditation

Whichever core practice you choose, you’ll need to have strategies for working with thoughts that arise. The most basic is simply to remember to refocus. As soon as you notice that you are thinking or spacing out, you bring your attention back to the mantra, to the breath, or to any other practice you’re doing. Over and over again, you’ll lose your concentration, get lost in thought or reverie. This is normal—it’s been happening to every meditator since the yogis of prehistory sat in their caves. Simply recollect what you’re supposed to be doing, and say to yourself “thinking.”

Another tactic for breaking your identification with thoughts is to imagine them as clouds in the sky and see them drifting away, dispersing gently into the background of the mind.

Meditating and Staying fresh

Once you’re comfortable with your core practice, you can begin to practice it creatively. One of the most powerful ways to shift the tone of your practice is to experiment with different spiritual attitudes. For instance, you could infuse your breath practice with the awareness “I am being breathed by the universe,” or breathe in and out with the thought “let go” or “I am loved.” You could practice mantra with attention to the energy of the mantra’s vibration in your body, and notice how your experience deepens when you feel the mantra energetically.

As you go deeper into your core meditation practice, you’ll start to notice energetic shifts. You might sense your energy softening, or you might feel yourself sinking, as if you were going to sleep or falling into a state deeper than sleep. You might feel sensations in the crown or the centre of your head or tingles on your skin. You might have a feeling of expansion in the heart. Colours might appear or visions of faces or landscapes.

These shifts are invitations to move to a more inward level, to ride the shifting energy into a deeper, more expanded inner state. When such a shift happens, see if you can just go with it and catch the meditation current, the natural energy that will take you beyond technique and into the 
meditative state itself. This is when your meditation stops being routine and becomes a creative and challenging form 
of inner exploration.

The art of balance in meditation

Once you’re established in your core meditation practice, take time once or twice a week to try something different, to bring balance to your regular practice—to sample something from the spiritual smorgasbord. Experimenting with a different practice can help you develop those parts of your being that remain unexplored in your regular practice.

We know we need balance in our outer life—we don’t always realise that we need balance in our inner life as well. If in your basic practice you’re strengthening your focus, try spending time just sitting in a relaxed way, not trying to focus your attention, yet maintaining your posture and intention to meditate. If you’ve been doing a self-inquiry practice, or opening the third-eye centre, yet noticing that your heart feels dry or closed, you’ll want to find time to experiment with a heart-based practice like mantra.

But if you’re doing a heart-based practice that unleashes emotions or subtly invites you to associate successful practice with feeling good all the time, you’d benefit from spending some time each week with a detachment-inducing witness practice—perhaps sitting non-judgmentally with whatever arises, being the one who observes it all.

Staying the course

Sometimes you’ll experience periods of great depth and excitement in your meditation practice, and at other times it will feel dry and boring or like a struggle with thoughts. There will be weeks of peace, and weeks when sitting for meditation brings up emotions like grief, anger, and fear. Be willing to sit through boredom and resistance, and recognise that meditation is a journey that will take you through different emotional layers. This is part of the purifying effect of meditation—a process that is sometimes called “samskaric burn-off,” during which your buried tendencies come up to be released. Let them move through you without hanging on to them or trying to push them away.

The people who get the most from meditation are the ones who welcome it in all its seasons, realising that when they sit to meditate, they are inviting both an intimate encounter with their own mind and heart and a deep opening to the universe itself.

The field of a meditator’s exploration is her own inner being. Yet the great surprise that awaits you in that journey is the recognition that by -knowing your unique inner Self, you ultimately know the wholeness, the vastness, of the universal Self. Everyone knows that the drop is contained in the ocean, wrote the poet Kabir, but few know that the ocean is contained in the drop. Keep meditating, and you will.

Sally Kempton is the author of Meditation for the Love of It. Visit her at sallykempton.com.

The post Letter to a New Meditator: How to Begin Meditating and make Meditation a daily Practice appeared first on Australian Yoga Journal.

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If you have high blood pressure or know you are at risk for it, yoga postures, breathing and meditation can be powerful tools in your self-care regimen. Several studies have shown that yoga can lead to significant reductions in blood pressure, most likely thanks to its ability to calm stress, which can cause short-term spikes in blood pressure and may be implicated in the long-term development of the disease.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania medical school in the US conducted a large trial of yoga and other lifestyle interventions for high blood pressure, following an earlier trial that showed promising results from yoga.

Of course, if you have high blood pressure, your doctor may also recommend switching to a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in sodium, and getting daily moderate aerobic exercise to help control the condition.

If you’re a high-intensity person who’s always juggling a lot of activities, the most healing practice for you may be one that lets you “undo”. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your favourite active vinyasa class. Try alternating days of active practice with days of quieter practice and especially include calming forward bends and slow, deep breathing.

Commit to a weekly restorative session where you set a timer and settle into a relaxation pose (see right) for at least 5-10 minutes, cultivating the ability to release tension, slow your breath and calm the chatter of your mind.

Deep sleep tames blood pressure

Medical researchers have discovered another reason to get a good night’s sleep. In a recent three-year study, men who regularly slept deeply were less likely to develop high blood pressure than people whose sleep was lighter and more disturbed.

Calming poses

If you have high blood pressure, include these poses in your routine.

Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose

Lie on the floor with your legs resting on the wall or on a chair, arms at your sides, palms up. If you’d like, place one eye pillow on your eyes and one in each palm.

Supported Child’s Pose

Extend your upper body forward onto a bolster or folded blanket. Adjust for complete comfort.

Supported Seated
Forward Bend

Sit on a folded blanket and stretch your legs in front of you. Fold over and rest your forehead and folded arms on a chair or bolster.

The post Lower Blood Pressure with Yoga and Meditation appeared first on Australian Yoga Journal.

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Joyful and whole: That’s how you want to feel, and you know meditation can get you there. Yet for one reason or another you resist it: you may think you don’t have the right temperament, or you just can’t manage to find the time. But beyond all the excuses, you also know that the last thing your mind wants to do is get still.

According to the yoga tradition, the mind is by definition activity. Its job, which it doggedly carries on even when you’re sleeping, is to constantly assess your circumstances, make sure you’re safe and search for pleasure. Meditation, on the other hand, is what you experience when your mind is no longer searching the hidden joy that rests within every moment. The purpose of the mind and the goal of meditation are antithetical. So it’s no wonder that trying to quiet your mind creates distraction and restlessness. How, then, can you get to that place of feeling joyful and whole if your mind is naturally resistant? As it happens, there are several ways, each of which yields different levels of joy and awareness.

First, there’s the meditative state that occurs spontaneously whenever you’re engaged in something you love whether it’s practising yoga, surfing, bird watching or making love. The activity itself effortlessly settles your mind, thereby absorbing you into the moment and opening you to a heightened sense of being. While it can be deeply satisfying, it is a less profound meditative experience than others, since it diverts part of your attention to the activity and away from the actual source of the bliss, and it usually lasts only as long as the activity does.

Second, there’s intentional meditation. This usually involves sitting (or walking) in silence to still the mind or to disassociate from its normal state of activity. To do so, you focus on an object like a mantra or your breath, or you “witness” your thoughts without getting involved in them. If you have ever tried intentional meditation, you may have noticed that the mind at least in the beginning resists. This has less to do with your temperament than it does with your brain, which prefers to avoid stillness.

Then there’s Tantra, which predates Patanjali. This all-encompassing yoga tradition offers some powerful alternatives to common meditation practices. Instead of trying to still your mind or detach from it, you ask it to do what it loves best – move! Tantra offers an array of techniques, some of which require you to move attention in a particular pattern until your mind effortlessly becomes still. In these practices, you put your mind in motion, often by associating a dynamic image with it: moving your breath along subtle energy channels or “seeing” a sublime symbol opening and closing within your body. Since you “re-create” the moving image with each breath, your mind becomes so busy it doesn’t have time to think or resist.

You can use this remarkably simple and accessible method at any time.

Another technique is mental alternate nostril breathing, or prana shuddhi. Originally described in an ancient Tantric text, it’s a meditative, effortless version of the classic pranayama technique. Instead of physically blocking one nostril at a time and breathing deeply, you simply visualise your breath as a stream flowing alternately through one nostril at a time, with its endpoint in the third-eye centre. The rishis, or ancient seers who uncovered many yogic practices, found that when the flow between the two nostrils is balanced, the two sides of the brain harmonise and still the mind. And according to Tantric teachings, an active third-eye centre — the part of the brain associated with intuitive wisdom and spiritual vision — can open you to a direct experience of the Infinite.

While the physical pranayama practice affects your body and nervous system, prana shuddhi can be a more immediate path to a balanced and still mind. You can use this remarkably simple and accessible method at any time, either as a complete practice or as a preparation for your regular meditation practice.

What is Tantra Yoga?

While the word tantra has several definitions (textbook, system, loom), its literal meaning comes from the root tan (to extend or expand) and tra (instrument). Tantra, therefore, could be understood as the body of knowledge, or instrument, that moves you beyond all limitations. The Tantric approach is to use everything—all aspects of your self and life—to help you overcome all boundaries, physical, psychological, and spiritual. Tantric practices include asana, pranayama, mudras, Ayurveda, visualisation, contemplation, mantras, mental and physical techniques that cultivate kundalini (spiritual energy), astrology, herbology, various forms of devotional or ritual practices and a seemingly infinite variety of specific techniques.

Tantra Yoga’s ultimate aim is to empower us

Classical and Tantra yoga differ in both their approach and their goals. In classical yoga, the primary concern is quieting the mind. As Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutra, Yoga chitta vritti Nirodha, or “The goal of yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” We do this in order to isolate our highest nature (purusha) from everything else (prakriti). In Tantra, the emphasis is less on the mind and more on energy transformation. This is because your experiences and actions are rooted in your energy (pranic) landscape. “Just as a door is opened with a key, similarly a yogi opens the door to liberation with Kundalini/Shakti (boundless spiritual power),” states the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Tantric seers did not view the world as a distraction from spiritual experience; rather, they believed the two—spiritual experience and living in the world—could be exalted simultaneously. Tantric practices were designed to illuminate a vision of the sublime place where worldly and spiritual  prosperity converge in their fullest glory. Tantra’s ultimate aim is to empower us to be a vital, joyful and fearless expression of our source—an infinite continuum of truth, beauty and auspiciousness.

Third Eye Seen

This ancient Tantric technique, prana shuddhi, is a mental version of alternate nostril breathing that balances and stills your mind.

Begin by sitting tall with your spine straight. Close your eyes and become aware of your breath flowing through both nostrils. After a moment, notice your breath rising and falling as two separate lines, through each nostril.

Begin to sense or visualise the breath ascending through your nostrils to meet in the midbrain, or third eye. The two lines of the breath form an inverted V.

Continue to watch these two streams rising and falling through your nostrils and merging at that midbrain point. Eventually you’ll sense a subtler layer to the breath that rides on the air current passing through your nostrils. Within a few minutes, you will become more sensitive and notice a feeling of energy or light that rides on the trail of your breath. The more relaxed you are, the more vivid this awareness will become. Gradually, you’ll experience the relationship between this energy, or light, and the third eye. These subtle currents feed, nurture and activate your midbrain centre.

In the last stage of the practice, you’ll become aware of a presence or soft glow of light at the third eye while your breath continues to ascend and descend easily. Allow yourself to melt mind, body and all limitations into that presence at the third eye while you remain aware of your breathe movement. In that space you’ll discover a sublime sense of your whole being merging into universal presence and peace. Rest in this space for as long as you like.

To bring yourself out of the practice, rub your hands together and place your warm palms over your eyes. Gently lower your chin. Feel your awareness descend through your body to your heart and navel. Give thanks, slowly open your eyes, and move gracefully back into the world.

Rod Stryker is the founder of ParaYoga (www.parayoga.com) and is the author of Tantra: The Radiant Soul of Yoga.

The post Using Tantra yoga to Find Deep Peace and Happiness appeared first on Australian Yoga Journal.

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Can you find space and quiet within, even in the midst of your busy, dynamic life? That’s the idea behind this practice by vinyasa flow teacher Elise Lorimer.

The intention is to help you feel rooted in your sense of centre while you cultivate spaciousness within—but the approach isn’t static. Instead of restorative yoga or long holds (often thought to be the most grounding), the flowing sequence of postures repeatedly alternates between dynamic movement and stillness. “If you can learn to harness your energy and find your centre during dynamic poses, you can find that same quiet, still place when the external world threatens to throw you off balance,” says Lorimer.

As you move through the vinyasa flow sequence, Lorimer suggests that you feel your feet rooting into the earth. “We often forget that the portal to getting grounded is through this body,” she says. At the same time, feel yourself expanding toward the sun through the crown of your head. Imagine drawing energy in through your feet and your crown throughout your practice, and feel how the earth and sun connect in your centre. Most important, be compassionate with yourself, especially during the more intense poses. Says Lorimer, “If we can learn to be generous with ourselves, we’re more likely to be that way with everyone we come in contact with.” ANDREA FERRETTI

To Begin

Sit in a cross-legged position and connect to your breath. Inhale and send roots down through your pelvic floor into the core of the earth. Exhale and draw the sun in through your crown to your heart. Stay for a couple of minutes; find stillness within.

To Finish

Come back to sitting cross-legged, eyes closed. Appreciate the space created within and drop into deeper stillness. Stay for 3–5 minutes.

1 Standing Sidebend

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Anchor both feet equally into the ground. Raise your arms overhead, turn your left palm out, flex the left wrist, and grab it with the right hand. Inhale and lengthen skyward; exhale and lean to the right, gently lengthening your left arm with your right hand. Breathe deeply into your left side. Take 3 breaths. Lift back to centre and repeat on the other side.

2 Adho Mukha Svanasana 
(Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Kneeling on all fours, press into your palms, curl your toes under and lift your knees, drawing your hips up and back. Balance between grounding into the earth with your hands and your feet, drawing awareness in through the bones of your arms and legs. Breathe easily and fully, releasing tension and finding grace.

3 Extended Warrior Pose

Step your right foot between your hands; rotate your left foot out and place your heel on the floor. Harness the power and stability of your legs and core to draw the right hip back and the left hip forward. Lift your arms by the sides of your waist and connect to your core. From the back shin, extend your arms forward; gaze forward. Feel a line of energy from your back leg through your belly, front spine, heart and pinkies. Maintain inner awareness and take 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

4 Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I)

You’ll flow between poses 4 and 5 to open and lubricate your hips. From Extended Warrior, inhale, lift your torso
and bring your arms up overhead.

5 Riding the Wave

Exhale, take your hands to the floor inside your right foot, turn to the left side, and draw your left heel slightly in. Keep your hands on the floor for support if you need to. Inhale and move back to Warrior I, spinning the left heel down and dialling your right hip back under you.
Flow between Warrior I and this position 5 times on each side. Then come to Down Dog for 5 breaths.

6 Elephant Pose

From Down Dog, walk your hands toward your feet and roll up to standing. Bend your knees, anchoring your coccyx toward the earth. From your core, lift your torso and heart. Press your palms together, place the tips of the thumbs on your third eye and draw your elbows together. Your arms act as your elephant trunk. Release your shoulderblades down your back and lift your breastbone and elbows. Gaze out in front of you, feeling grounded and confident. After 5 breaths, stand up and lower your palms to your heart for a few more breaths. Repeat 3 times.

7 Prasarita Padottanasana
 (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)

Step your feet wide apart. Interlace your fingers behind you. Inhale and lift your chest; then exhale and fold forward, bringing your hands over your head toward the floor. Ground through your feet and shinbones; release tension from your neck and shoulders. Stay for 5–10 breaths.

8 Chest-Opening Twist

From Prasarita Padottanasana, place your hands on the floor and turn your heels slightly in. Bend your right knee deeply while turning your left toes up. Hover your sitting bones above the earth and get heavy in your coccyx. Draw your inner thighs to the mid-line. Tuck your right arm and shoulder around your right shinbone, pressing the right leg into external rotation. Take your left arm behind you and clasp your left wrist with your right hand. (Or simply place the fingertips on the floor in front of you.) Find the balance between doing and being; appreciate the wisdom your body has to offer. Breathe. Repeat on the other side.

9 Goddess Pose with Twist

Stand with your feet a little wider than your hips and turn your feet out about 45 degrees. Gently press your hands
on the insides of your knees while dropping your coccyx down. Extend your spine forward, parallel to the floor. Inhale and draw the belly toward the spine; exhale and rotate your torso and heart to the right, left shoulder down, broadening across your chest. Inhale and return to centre. Exhale and rotate to the left. Connect to the ease and balance in your body as it moves through the transitions.

Repeat 5 times.

10 Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose), variation

From Goddess, jump your feet wider, bend your right knee and squat down until you’re sitting on the floor with your left leg extended and left toes pointing skyward. Lengthen your spine, hold on to your right ankle with your left hand and lift your right arm overhead. Press your right knee away from your mid-line. Draw your left shoulder in front of your left leg and roll the right side of your heart to the sky. Connect to gratitude through your breath.

Take 5 breaths, come out and, when ready, repeat on the other side.

The post Vinyasa Flow Sequence for Calm appeared first on Australian Yoga Journal.

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Australian Yoga Journal by Alison Cole - 2w ago

The Inaugural Women’s Laser Regatta was hosted by Double Bay Sailing Club last month on the weekend of 8th & 9th September.

The design of this sporting event was to create a unique experience centred on women of all ages. To have an event like no other that benefited the mind, body and soul had never been done before in this format. The sailing regatta was run by women, coached by women and competed in by women and girls of all ages and skill and was the perfect mantra for this event.

Why Yoga at a Sailing Regatta?

Yoga is the perfect cross-training method for athletes of all sports. Yoga can help athletes develop better breathing techniques while it improves balance, flexibility, core strength, and even endurance.

Yoga can improve every part of your performance, from endurance to power to speed, while also promoting overall health and wellness.

Why Athletes?

They found that by practicing the physical postures of yoga, they could become more peaceful and in turn achieve greater focus.

They also found by returning the body to its natural state that they could dramatically improve physical capacity, part of why many of today’s top athletes consider it a staple in their training.

Yoga may be the perfect cross-training method for athletes of all sports. Yoga can help athletes develop better breathing techniques while it improves balance, flexibility, core strength, and even endurance.

Why do something like this at a sailing event?

When do women get the chance to stop and breath? Women are the first to put themselves second so we wanted to give them the opportunity to do just that and what better place than on Sydney Harbour with the sun shining and the waves gently lapping underneath. We wanted to give the sailors an opportunity to try something new and something that can be incorporated into their sport and fitness routine that they may not have considered before. Stretching will help reduce injury, improve balance, and increase flexibility and range in motion- all important when sailing.

To find our more information, or to participate in next years event go to: http://www.dbsc.com.au/womens-laser-regatta/

The post Yoga & Sailing appeared first on Australian Yoga Journal.

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Restorative yoga and yin yoga often get confused, with many people believing they are the same practice. Whilst they share many similarities – they are both relaxing, passive, ‘yin’ practices that focus on cooling and calming the body, rather than strengthening and heating the body in dynamic ‘yang’ practices, there are also many differences between the two.

Byron Yoga Centre offer specialist trainings in Yin Yoga and in Restorative that are aimed at both yoga teachers and practitioners who want to explore these modalities. If you are confused about which practice is right for you below is a Yin Vs Restorative video of the popular forward bend paschimottanasana. Which one resonates with you?

Yin vs Restorative Yoga - Byron Yoga Centre - YouTube

Origin

Restorative yoga is derived from Iyengar yoga. BKS Iyengar developed and adapted poses using props and modifications to make the practice accessible for students who were less mobile or working with injuries. Judith Lasater, a student of Iyengar developed this method into restorative yoga in the 1970s.

Yin yoga has been described as new, yet ancient. Holding stretches for long periods of time and other techniques closely related to yin yoga has been practiced for over 2000 years in China and Taiwan as part of Daoist yoga, but it was Paul Grilley who created what we now call yin yoga in the 1970s.

Intention

Restorative intends to facilitate deep rest by slowing down movement, the breath and the mind, helping to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.

Yin yoga intends to place a small, healthy amount of stress to our joints and connective tissue (fascia, tendons and ligaments) by tensioning or compressing the tissue, which helps to release tension and hydrate the fascia keeping it supple, improving mobility in the body. Yin also helps to move blocked ‘chi’ in the body and nourishes meridians, assisting with emotional, mental and physical health.

Depth of Pose

Restorative poses are designed to be very subtle, with no deep stretching sensations. Typically restorative uses more props so that the practitioner is completely comfortable in the pose, allowing complete surrender and letting go. The poses are designed to gently open the body to allow for the release of tension, deeper breathing and relaxation.

In yin yoga, the practitioner is encouraged to find a deep stretch so typically yin yoga uses fewer props than restorative.  In yin poses, we are looking for a healthy deep stretch, often referred to as the Goldilocks Pose – not too much, not too little. Once students find their edge, the fascia begins to release and the poses can also work on an emotional level to facilitate a letting go.

Time of Pose

Restorative poses are typically held from five to 20 minutes. A standard restorative class will include no more than six postures and savasana, whereas yin poses are not held for as long, from two to ten minutes with a one to two minute reset in between each pose. Both restorative and yin and are beneficial in their own right and are complementary to each other as well as to more dynamic yang practices.

If you would like to learn more – come to Byron Yoga Retreat Centre for one or both of the special trainings, our next 6 day Yin training and our 4 day Restorative training. You will notice they are just a week apart!  If you would like to do both, enquire with us about accommodation at Byron Yoga Retreat for the time between the courses.

The post Yin vs Restorative Yoga: What’s The Difference? appeared first on Australian Yoga Journal.

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