Practice, Practice, Practice!


Yoga for Complete Beginners


Quick, easy lunch or dinner

This is soup is ridiculously healthy, ridicuoulsy easy and ridiculously delicious!
Based on a recipe from the Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook by Kate O’Donnell
A delicious green soup!

3 cups of vegetable broth
1 tsp tumeric powder
1 inch piece fresh ginger root
4 cups swiss chard
½ cup courgettes/ baby marrows
½ cup fresh parsley
1 tsp coconut oil

Just bring the vegetable broth and turmeric to a boil.
then add the ginger root (coarsely chopped is fine), swisschard and courgettes.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the parsley and coconut.
Blend with an immersion blender till smooth.
Enjoy over basmati rice or my favourite, a chana dosa (chickpea flour pancake).


Yoga Vitamins

Yoga Vitamins!

What are the characteristics that we need to have or need to cultivate within ourselves to make our yoga practice meaningful and rewarding?

To quote Mr. Iyengar: The 5 vitamins required for the practice of yoga are faith, memory, courage, absorption and uninterrupted awareness of attention. With these 5 vitamins you can conquer the five sheaths of the body and become one with the universal self.

I believe the most important of these “vitamins’ is uninterrupted awareness of attention. It is easy to become distracted in class and in our daily lives by all the things we need ‘to do’, by things that keep us from paying to the little things and but potentially also the big things in our practice. It’s the little things (and possibly big things) that end up making the practice of yoga a rewarding and meaningful experience.
If we don’t pay attention, we will miss these gems in the practice…… we will miss the real yoga!
We have return our attention back to the mat minute after minute, day after day.


If you do only one pose at home…….

If you only do one yoga pose, do this one…….

Supta Pādāṅguṣṭhāsana I and II (supine leg raise upward and sideways)

This is a great pose to do on a regular basis. There is so much to this pose.
1) it lengthens and stretches the hamstrings of the top leg
2) it works on the trunk muscles, specifically the abdominals in a stabilising action to control the movement of the leg
3) it creates an awareness of spatial directions, horizontal, vertical planes
4) using concentration and awareness one can practice paying attention on the supporting leg, the leg that is on the floor, keeping attention focussed on what is still and steady, not so much on what is moving (the top leg)….

In the beginning, if the hamstrings are stiff use a belt, later on the big toe is held with the fingers.

a) Upward
Lie with the feet pressed against a wall.. bend the right leg and loop the belt around the sole of the foot and hold each end of it separately in the 2 hands. As you hold the belt, be mindful to keep the shoulders relaxed, do not create unnecessary tension, (which has to be undone at a later point).
Straighten the right leg, by beeping the quadriceps active. Press the right thigh back, away from your trunk, as you think of bringing the foot and back of the ankle more and more over your face. Keep the right hip down and draw it away from the trunk in the direction of the left heel. The right hip has a tendency to hitch up. Press the back of the left leg to the floor. It is this leg that controls the movement of the top leg.
Keep the chest open and expanded. Breathe smoothly, evenly.
- if the back or the legs are stiff, support the raised leg against a wall, by doing the pose through a doorway.
- stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat on the other side

b) Sideways
Lie with the feet pressed against the wall, repeat the actions of the previous pose, then hold the 2 ends of the belt in the right hand. Take the right leg outward and to the side. Keep both legs straight. Note the work in the abdomen as you keep the pelvis as even as possible. Keep the left frontal hip bone down as you take the right leg out to keep the pelvis level.
Keep the shoulders relaxed and the breath even.
- stay in the poe for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat on the other side.

In both these poses the primary line of extension and elongation is along the inner leg, from the groin to the inner heel. To maintain the clear line of energy, keep the inner edge of the knee firm.
This stretch of the inner leg gives a sense of lightness and spaciousness to the legs. This fundamental action is applied in all standing forward extensions, as well as inversions. This is an easy place to learn this action in the legs and then apply to more difficult poses.


What is Iyengar Yoga?

ßKS Iyengar
‘Guruji’, as BKS Iyengar is endearingly called by his pupils, has revolutionized the teaching of yoga both in India and globally. He has travelled, taught and performed yoga demonstrations all over the world and touched and transformed the lives of numerous people. To this day we can learn from him through reading his famous books, by traveling to the Ramamani Memorial Institute in Pune to study with his daughter Geeta, or son Prashant. We can also learn from the many teachers that have been under his tutelage for many years.
The master Guruji represents a direct connection to the ancient practice of yoga.

Iyengar Yoga
Guruji’s style of teaching is called ‘Iyengar Yoga’. The style is based upon a methodical approach that includes: alignment in action, precision, dynamic action, sequencing and timing.
It is yoga that is meant for everybody. Through a vast array of props (ropes, bricks, belts..) it is possible for everyone to reap the benefits of the practice of yoga. Daily practice lays the foundation for the absorption of asana from the outer to the inner layers.

BKS Iyengar’s teachings have come to us via his lifelong devotion to the study of yoga. He taught only what he practiced and experienced, thus his style of teaching was a profound experiential art. His practical approach led him to translate the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in a way that led his students to a deeper understanding of the true meaning of ashtanga yoga. The integration of the sutras and yoga philosophy in the teaching is an integral part of Iyengar yoga.
Today there are many books, publications and research papers available on Iyengar yoga. The vastness and wealth of this information are a tribute to the inspiration that BKS Iyengar has spread so generously all over the world.


Sequence for home practice: Focus - Standing forward extensions

Tadāsana
Urdhva Hastāsana
Utkatāsana
Pādāngusthāsana
Pāda Hastāsana
Utthita Hasta Pādāngusthāsana (with support of chair or with a belt)
Garudāsana
Parighāsana
Parsvōttānāsana
Prasārita Pādotānāsana
Adho Mukha Svānāsana
Parvatāsana in Virāsana
Salāmba Śirśāsana
Uttānāsana
Salāmba Sarvāngāsana
Halāsana
Marīcyāsana I
Paścimottānāsana
Śavāsana

In standing forward extensions, focus on creating extension through the length of the spine. This extension and elongation, begins with a steady foundation in the feet, firm active legs, freedom in the hip and pelvic area. Out of all of these aspects the spine can ‘pour’ down from out of the pelvis and greater openings can be experienced throughout the length of the spine.


Deepen and refine your experience of the forward extensions by exploring the following:

  • Use your shoulders: In uttānāsana, fix the hands onto the mat and gently attempt to drag them forward. If you can’t reach the floor, grasp the lower legs or backs of the knees and attempt to pull the hands forward.This draw the upper body deeper into the pose. Use the grass of the toes in Pādāngusthāsana and drawing the hands upward from under the feet in Pāda Hastāsana similarly.

  • Use your legs: engage the quadriceps to straighten the knees. A cue for activating the quads is to lift the kneecaps towards the pelvis. This helps to stretch the hamstrings more and create more length through the lumbar spine.

  • Use your hips: In uttānāsana, firmly press the feet into the mat and then gently attempt to drag them apart (without actually allowing them to move). This is a cue for activating the deep muscles of the hips. These muscles allowing that extra millimeter of forward bend. Explore how this action of drawing the feet apart, without moving them, feels in
    Pādāngusthāsana, Pāda Hastāsana, Parsvōttānāsana, Prasārita Pādotānāsana and Adho Mukha Svānāsana

  • Engage your abdominals to release your back muscles more: Gently engage the abdominals in forward bends like uttanasana and feel the effect. A cue for this is to draw the navel towards the lumbar spine. Feel how this action gives an added support to the low back. The lower abdomen ‘hollows’ towards the spine and reciprocally relaxes the low back muscles.

Remember to go slowly and gently with these actions. Be mindful of not creating tension. The actions help us to focus our minds while we are in the pose, all the while creating deeper openings within the body.


BKS Iyengar Quote

The material body has a practical reality that is accessible. It is here and now, and we can do something with it. However, we must not forget that the innermost part of our being is also trying to help us. It wants to come out to the surface and express itself.’

BKS Iyengar - Guru, master, founder, “Guruji.” Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar is best known as B.K.S. Iyengar, and he is undoubtedly the best-recognized and most influential yoga teacher in the world.

Born 14th December 1918, Iyengar lived 95 years to the full before passing away in August 2014. Iyengar founded the style of yoga known as Iyengar Yoga which now benefits millions of yogis around the globe.


Why do we chant “AUM” at the start of a yoga class?

The sound, called pranava in Sanskrit, starts outside and ends inside, much like yoga practice itself. When making the “O” sound, there is no palpable boundary between the sound inside the mouth and the sound outside of it. Inside and outside seem to mesh, just as yoga philosophy tells us our mind tends to do before we learn to still it. But, then, as the sound transitions to “M,” it begins to be felt inside the body with closed lips clarifying the border between inside and outside. Then, after each repetition, there is silence, which begins inside, where the “M” ended. The process of repeatedly shifting focus from external to internal eventually shows the practitioner the infinite that lies deep inside, beyond thinking, beyond sound and even beyond silence.

Phonetically, there are four parts that make up pranava. The “O” part of “Om” is made up of “A” and “U.” However, they combine, or monophthongize, to make the “O” sound. Occasionally, you may hear people pronounce the A and U, but they are taking too literally the components of the final sound, which has always been “Om.” Individually enunciating the “A” and the “U” is akin to pronouncing each of them separately in a word like “pause”.

Omkar is the name of the character that represents pranava. It can appear with slight variations, depending upon the script being used, but its universal, older representation, seen here, is comprised of a set of three joined curves, above which hovers a fourth curve, and a dot. The lower left curve represents “A,” the curve on the right is “U,” the top left is “M,” and the dot is the silence after the sound. Each of those five elements graphically expresses the path of the yoga practitioner toward the reliable and enduring happiness that can exist within the context of a human life.

The lower three curves represent three stages of the human mind’s progression from ignorance and suffering to clarity and happiness. The dot above represents the infinite true non-ego self, the source of the happiness. Separating the dot from the three lower curves is a horizontal curve, which represents maya, Sanskrit for the illusory quality of the world of things.

Here is a breakdown of the whole thing:

The Bottom Left Curve: The A That Begins the O Sound

This curve represents the moving mind and it is the biggest one because this is where most of us are almost all the time. The open shape of the curve and its tapered form indicates that it’s hard for us to know, when the mind is moving, where the permanence of true self ends and where the impermanence of worldly things begins.

In that confusion, we tend to misidentify with possessions or relationships when, in fact, those things are not really who we are. That misidentification is the source of painful experience and harmful behavior. So, at some point, it’s likely that the suffering will lead one to try to find a better way. That quest is what the next curve, on the right, is about.

The Right Curve: The U That Finishes the O Sound

This curve represents yoga practices, all of which are variation of the same thing: trying to focus on one thing at a time. Stilling the mind’s muddying ripples clears up our view of the vastness that underlies thought and ego. This curve is almost a closed circle. But, there is a little gap, which represents one of the main pillars of yoga practice: the practice is not about disappearing from the world. Rather, it’s about redefining it while engaging and experiencing it.

My teacher used to say, “To become enlightened, go to the marketplace.” By being in the world, but not letting it get you down, you really learn how to live above it all, yet in it all. That is why the curve is not quite a closed circle, much like the mouth, which is not quite closed when it finishes up the “O” sound before closing to say “M.” Repeating the practice that this element represents allows you to go back into the world of activity and things, and see it differently, which is what the next curve is all about.

Top Left Curve: The M Sound

The third, top left curve represents the mind as it is after the second curve’s re-structuring of identity so that we recognize the true self. This state of clarity and freedom from injurious desires is called vairagya, or non-attachment, in Sanskrit. Now, the world and its things can be experienced without the suffering that is inevitable when identity is based upon them.

Here the curve is open again, as in the first curve. But, this time, it does not taper. There is a clear line between what is inner, formless self, and finite, changing, external and manifest non-self. The curve is open to experience, but it knows where true self ends and ego-self begins. That clarity makes visible the meaning of the dot at the top of the symbol.

The Dot: The Silence After the Sound

The dot represents that infinite non-thing that spiritual aspirants seek. In Sankrit, it’s called isvara (pronounced ish-wahr’-a). In the context of yoga, it is representative of the drop of the infinite that is within each being and which is indistinguishable and inseparable from the infinite that underlies every thing in the universe.

Graphically, the placement of the dot is important. It lies outside the set of curves that represent the human mind, yet, the way to see it is by looking inside the mind itself. Yoga can be accessible to anybody because we use what we’ve got: the mind and, sometimes, the body, to find the ultimate non-ego self, which is neither body nor mind. The three curves at the omkar’s base represent the thinking and feeling self, with whose identity comes all human suffering … but the mind is also the single most reliable source for finding one’s true, infinite self. The body and mind can be stairways to pain or ladders to freedom, depending upon on how they’re used. To get to the dot, we use the three lower curves.

Horizontal Curve: The Two-Way Mirror

The horizontal curve is like a two-way mirror. It represents the illusory way that living among things prevents us from seeing the deepest reality. When we look outside for the infinite, we only see our ego self reflected back at us. The potency of the graphics here is poignant in how simply it represents our failed attempts to find happiness outside, in material possessions, relationships, alliances, and behaviors. When we look to those things for happiness, we only see a reflection of more things.

Instead, the symbol invites us to look inward. By going inside and ending identification with thoughts and things, we see what underlies them. By looking into the the three things that the lower curves represent, we finally see the dot at the top: real self.

This curve tapers where it separates the top dot (infinite) from the previous curve (non-attachment to experience). That is because, once that clarity happens, we see what has been true all along: experience and the infinite are ultimately inseparable. The “A”, the “U”, the “M”, and the silence are all one.

While it may be helpful to understand the meaning of the character, there is likely greater value in simply making the sound while listening, following its path and then being with the silence, then doing it again. Try it and see if it works for you. If it doesn’t, then do what the ancient yogis and the best yoga teachers suggest. Try something else.

Originally published in the Huffington Post, Article by James Brown


Autumn: a yoga/ ayurvedic perspective

Adjusting to Autumn with Ayurveda

Autumn is bringing shorter days and changeable weather, exposing us to qualities that are light, dry, cold, mobile, subtle and rough. Ayurveda explains that when vata dosha dominates, these qualities are present. Ayurveda refers to autumn and early winter as the vata season.

Ayurveda is an ancient science based on elemental principles that pertain to life on earth. Ayurveda recognizes the elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth as the building blocks of the natural world. According to Ayurveda, these five elements pair-up in three combinations to form the primary forces of nature called doshas. Ether and air form vata dosha. Fire and water make up pitta dosha. Water and earth create kapha dosha.

Under the influence of vata’s ether and air contributions, you can feel light, carefree and creative or spacey, scattered, and unstable. The etheric nature of vata creates a sense of space, in which you may feel free or lost. The airy aspect of vata can inspire productivity or promote anxiety. Ayurveda teaches that like increases like. If you are dominantly vata by nature or are consistently influenced by vata, you are more likely to experience the negative effects of excess vata during the vata season.

As the external environment changes during the vata season, your internal environment can experience the same type of changes; dry leaves, dry skin; crackly leaves, crackly joints; shorter days, shorter attention span; colder days, colder extremities, windy days, windy bowels. The qualities of vata dosha are found in the disorders that are common at this time of year. By observing the processes of Mother Nature, you can better understand the processes of your body, mind and spirit.

Applying the Ayurvedic principle that opposite actions create balance, you can maintain balance during the vata season by emphasizing lifestyle and food choices that are grounding, stabilizing, warming, moisturizing and softening. You can stay calm and connected in this whirlwind season with a consistent practice that includes nourishing and protective measures. Ayurveda promotes simple and regular routines as having a deeper effect on balancing vata than an ‘as needed’ approach.

Offered here are Ayurvedic recommendations for enjoying the vata season with stability and serenity:

Follow a regular routine including scheduled times for self-care, meals and sleep – balance activity with plenty of downtime
Perform a daily self-massage (abhyanga) with warm sesame oil or a vata balancing oil blend, and then take a warm shower or bath
Be mindful while eating – eat in a peaceful environment – eat in silence
Eat seasonal foods that are warm, moist, unctuous, sweet and soft: cooked fruits, roasted root vegetables, sweet grains and savory soups – more cooked meals than raw – favor sweet, sour and salty tastes
Include healthy fats in your diet, such as ghee and sesame oil
Sip plenty of warm beverages throughout the day: dosha herbal teas and water with lemon & fresh ginger, to kindle agni (digestive fire) and improve hydration
In the morning, drink water that sat in a copper cup overnight
Use warming and grounding herbs and spices: ashwagandha, ginger, cardamom, basil, cinnamon, hing, rosemary, nutmeg, vanilla
Soak in warm water that is infused with sweet and grounding essential oils: rose, sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla, jatamamsi
Wear clothing that is soft and warm – choose red, orange and yellow colors – keep your head and neck warm – protect your ears
Spend quiet time in nature: walking, gardening, canoeing – dress for the weather
Enjoy physical activity that moves at a slow, smooth and steady pace – conserve energy
Practice hatha yoga that restores energy – stay connected to the earth – keep a downward gaze or close your eyes – remain fully present and inwardly focused
Regulate your breath (pranayama): extended exhalations, alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Sodhana) and the sounding breath (Ujjayi)
Allow for deep relaxation and meditation – practice: being mindful, creative visualization, yoga nidra and conscious breathing
Seek silence

Note:

These tips are appropriate for those with a dominate vata constitution throughout the year.
If you have a pitta or kapha imbalance during the vata season (vata can increase pitta and kapha), the recommendations should be adjusted accordingly. An Ayurvedic practitioner can design a plan for your personal balance.

Adjusting to Autumn with Ayurveda

Autumn is bringing shorter days and changeable weather, exposing us to qualities that are light, dry, cold, mobile, subtle and rough. Ayurveda explains that when vata dosha dominates, these qualities are present. Ayurveda refers to autumn and early winter as the vata season.

Ayurveda is an ancient science based on elemental principles that pertain to life on earth. Ayurveda recognizes the elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth as the building blocks of the natural world. According to Ayurveda, these five elements pair-up in three combinations to form the primary forces of nature called doshas. Ether and air form vata dosha. Fire and water make up pitta dosha. Water and earth create kapha dosha.

Under the influence of vata’s ether and air contributions, you can feel light, carefree and creative or spacey, scattered, and unstable. The etheric nature of vata creates a sense of space, in which you may feel free or lost. The airy aspect of vata can inspire productivity or promote anxiety. Ayurveda teaches that like increases like. If you are dominantly vata by nature or are consistently influenced by vata, you are more likely to experience the negative effects of excess vata during the vata season.

As the external environment changes during the vata season, your internal environment can experience the same type of changes; dry leaves, dry skin; crackly leaves, crackly joints; shorter days, shorter attention span; colder days, colder extremities, windy days, windy bowels. The qualities of vata dosha are found in the disorders that are common at this time of year. By observing the processes of Mother Nature, you can better understand the processes of your body, mind and spirit.

Applying the Ayurvedic principle that opposite actions create balance, you can maintain balance during the vata season by emphasizing lifestyle and food choices that are grounding, stabilizing, warming, moisturizing and softening. You can stay calm and connected in this whirlwind season with a consistent practice that includes nourishing and protective measures. Ayurveda promotes simple and regular routines as having a deeper effect on balancing vata than an ‘as needed’ approach.

Offered here are Ayurvedic recommendations for enjoying the vata season with stability and serenity:

Follow a regular routine including scheduled times for self-care, meals and sleep – balance activity with plenty of downtime
Perform a daily self-massage (abhyanga) with warm sesame oil or a vata balancing oil blend, and then take a warm shower or bath
Be mindful while eating – eat in a peaceful environment – eat in silence
Eat seasonal foods that are warm, moist, unctuous, sweet and soft: cooked fruits, roasted root vegetables, sweet grains and savory soups – more cooked meals than raw – favor sweet, sour and salty tastes
Include healthy fats in your diet, such as ghee and sesame oil
Sip plenty of warm beverages throughout the day: dosha herbal teas and water with lemon & fresh ginger, to kindle agni (digestive fire) and improve hydration
In the morning, drink water that sat in a copper cup overnight
Use warming and grounding herbs and spices: ashwagandha, ginger, cardamom, basil, cinnamon, hing, rosemary, nutmeg, vanilla
Soak in warm water that is infused with sweet and grounding essential oils: rose, sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla, jatamamsi
Wear clothing that is soft and warm – choose red, orange and yellow colors – keep your head and neck warm – protect your ears
Spend quiet time in nature: walking, gardening, canoeing – dress for the weather
Enjoy physical activity that moves at a slow, smooth and steady pace – conserve energy
Practice hatha yoga that restores energy – stay connected to the earth – keep a downward gaze or close your eyes – remain fully present and inwardly focused
Regulate your breath (pranayama): extended exhalations, alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Sodhana) and the sounding breath (Ujjayi)
Allow for deep relaxation and meditation – practice: being mindful, creative visualization, yoga nidra and conscious breathing
Seek silence

Note:

These tips are appropriate for those with a dominate vata constitution throughout the year.
If you have a pitta or kapha imbalance during the vata season (vata can increase pitta and kapha), the recommendations should be adjusted accordingly. An Ayurvedic practitioner can design a plan for your personal balance.

Disclaimer: This article was written for educational purposes only and is based on the tradition of Ayurveda. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, prescribe or heal any health condition or to replace standard medical treatment or advice.

Reference: http://www.balanceandbliss.com/adjusting-to-autumn-with-ayurveda/

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