* Mantra for Healing

“Ra Ma Da Sa, Sa Say So Hung” is the mantra for sacred healing. This healing meditation is used to pray for healing energy for our friends, family, and ourselves. If no particular person comes to mind, open your voice and heart to all of humanity and mother earth.

Sit quietly with eyes closed. Sing along with Snatam Kaur and imagine sending healing energy to whoever needs it most today.  I am sending this to my angry monkey.

Translation:

Ra – Sun

Ma – Moon

Daa – Earth

Saa – Impersonal Infinity

Saa Say – Totality of Infinity

So – Personal sense of merger and identity

Hung – The infinite, vibrating and real.

om symbol

* Resistance Wake Up Call

resistance

In Carl Jung’s wise words “What we resist persists.” Noticing where we have resistance is a powerful practice.

I keep thinking about how I want things to be a certain way, yet it’s out of my control. And rather than letting it go and letting it be, I find my thoughts still hanging on how things were and how I don’t want this to be happening right now.

I ask myself … Why is this happening? … How can I escape the unfairness of it?… How can I make things right?

This kind of thinking only takes me away from being present and makes me feel off balance and fearful. There’s a tightness around my heart.

And then I read this quote:

“If you are resisting something, you are feeding it. Any energy you fight, you are feeding. If you are pushing something away, you are inviting it to stay.” ~ Michael Singer.

Whenever we push something away, we bring energy to it and it resists. The more we push, the more energy is created, and so it resists even more in order to stay.

When we push something away, we are inviting it to stay.

Well I certainly don’t want that!

fish slap wake up call

I love messages that hit me like a cold wet fish being slapped across the face.

Others might think of it as a kind of wake up call.

Hello river, here I come again.

Consider what you have been resisting that is still firmly there…. Feel the fish slap, let it go and join me in the flow once more.

* Mindful Yoga, Living and Meditation

For this New Year, some of you may be considering setting the intention of meditating every day. In my experience, even with the best of intentions, many people start, and then stop with a daily sitting practice. Some will come back to it, and some will give it up completely.

So I decided to write a post about an alternative approach. I found inspiration in “Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life” by Charlotte Bell. Here, she bridges the gap between meditation, mindful living and yoga.

being mindful

“The practice of yoga in all its aspects allows us to connect with and dwell in awareness, our essential being…

Mindfulness is the thread that connects all aspects of yoga practice. When we give our full attention to what we are doing, we become that which is present in our experience…

When we live our lives  mindfully, we live in fullness; there is no leftover residue of regret for missed opportunities.

… Mindfulness is most commonly practiced in sitting and walking meditation. If you can sit quietly for even a few minutes every day watching the flow of your breath, you will begin to strengthen the power of your mind. But mindfulness practice needn’t be confined to formal meditation.

In his book “The Miracle in Mindfulness”, Thich Nhat Hanh writes about “washing the dishes to wash the dishes”, instead of washing the dishes in order to get the cup of tea you will have afterwards. Viewed with careful attention, the experience of dishwashing yields a surprising richness of sensation – the feeling of warm, sudsy water, the smoothness and weight of the plates in your hands, the movement of scrubbing and rinsing. Any activity can become a wondrous and sacred ritual if we pay attention.

… You might begin the practice of mindful living by choosing one activity that you already do everyday. Commit to be completely present  in this activity.”

mindful dishwashing

What could you commit to bringing new awareness to every day?
It could be washing the dishes, washing your hands, opening the front door, showering, taking a walk, or enjoying a cup of tea. It can be any activity that you take for granted, enjoy or perhaps even resist.
Its your choice. The activity that you choose does not matter as much as the care and respect you bring to it.

I’d like to share some of my daily rituals with you:
First thing in the morning, I wash my hands with beautiful scented lavender soap.
When I open the back door I take a deep breath and really feel the outside morning with all my senses.
I have a mindfulness app called Chakra Chime that goes off at 8am and 1pm. When it does, I stop what I am doing and take a moment to scan my thoughts, emotional state, my breath and my body.
When I stop at a red light, I pause and notice my breath (Still working on that one when I run late!)
When the light stays green as I approach it I say in my mind Thank You Universe. In class, as I come into mountain pose, I look down at my feet and say out loud Thank You Feet!

Committing to being mindful is a serious commitment to finding peace of mind, but it needn’t be serious!

Namaste

* Beyond the Seeker

The seeker, in his searching comes to the river. Across the river a yogi is in deep contemplation. The seeker calls out to him “Can you help me get to the other side?” The yogi looks up and says “You are on the other side.”

sitting on river bank

As long as we believe we will find the answer to our struggle or pain and find happiness on the other side, we will continue to struggle in our search.

There is no actual resolution because it is our thinking that has created the idea that the answer is out there to be found.

The search for the other side is in vain.

When we realize there is nothing to find or fix, a different kind of journey begins.

In the words of Steven Harrison. “Coming to the end of the spiritual search is the end of spirituality and the beginning of spirit-actuality. Spirit-actuality is not an expression of our need for something, or the absence of something. It is the expression of the actuality of spirit, the articulation of what life brings to us,the exploration of unity, in which we are at once a part and the whole. The perspective has changed from the “me” looking for resolution, to a “me” turned inside out and upside down – “we” consciousness peering through the eyes of “me”.

The game has changed.

The point is not to find but to look.

Become an explorer rather than a seeker.

Discover that life is based on something more substantial, grounded and connected than our self identity and little “me”.

* Are you doing yoga or is yoga doing you?

mindful yoga

Yoga Doing Y0u

Let postures flow,
movement as natural
as moonrise,
being without doing.

Go right to the edge,
to the spark within
each breath, and inquire
into the awareness that
underlies the stretch.

Release the small me
clamoring to be seen,
and experience the
emptiness beneath,
the boundaries
expanse of freedom.

This leap outside
a fixed identity,
this free fall into truth
is, very simply,
yoga doing you.

~ Danna Faulds

 

This is mindful yoga.

Allowing mind body and spirit to align and move. Releasing the ego and small me. Embracing the present moment as each one unfolds.

Namaste

* How Good a Listener are you?

listening

To truly listen to someone we must be present – without distractions or interference in our heads.
Its estimated that the average human being has 10,000 thoughts per day. Real thinkers can have over 50,000 thoughts. That’s over 30 thoughts per minute…

Now that’s a lot of buzz, interference and distraction going on.

Here is a series of 3 experiments to try for yourself to see how present and focused your mind is. I believe that if we can listen to ourselves, then we can be a better listener for others.

At each level, be patient and try not to judge yourself. If your mind wanders simply start over.

Begin by taking a few deep breaths and take a moment to center yourself and be present with this moment. There is no rush.

Level 1
Count from 1 to 50 in your head.
Notice how many times you had to start over…

Keep working on it!
Once you have this one down, move on to the next level.

Level 2
Count from 50 back to 1. Notice that a little more concentration is needed here…
Once you can do this easily, move on to level 3.

Level 3
This is a meditation practice that I learned during my yoga teacher training. With your eyes closed bring your attention to the inhales and exhales of your breath.
On each exhale, count from 50 backwards until you reach 20. After 20, count on every exhale AND inhale until you reach 1.
When you have reached this goal, your mind will be clear of interference.

.. And you will have learned a lot about patience, commitment and acceptance of yourself in the process.

Not only will you have learned to listen to yourself, but you will have begun to train your mind to come to a place of focus. Through focus we are able to quieten the mind and find peace. … and of course, become better listeners.

Namaste

 

 

 

* Relish Yoga

I’ve spent some lovely creative days re-vamping my yoga website. Its a place to see my schedule and get a feel for what I offer.

Here it is:  www.RelishYoga.com

fly free

If you are in the western suburbs of Philadelphia I would love to see you soon!

* Lean in

The next time you lose heart and you can’t bear to experience what you’re feeling, you might recall this instruction: change the way you see it and lean in. 
Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves.
This is priceless advice that addresses the true cause of suffering — yours, mine, and that of all beings.

~ Pema Chodron, Taking the Leap

courageous yoga pose

Reading these words I think of poses in yoga where we lean in to the physical and emotional discomfort and embrace the sensations and thoughts that come up. Surprisingly it is the poses of surrender and letting go, rather than strength building that can be the most challenging for us.

Our practice on the mat is a great metaphor for life. We learn to be present with whatever comes up and use our breath to lean into it. Accepting where we are in that moment.

On our mat there is no one to blame …except perhaps the yoga teacher who brought you to this challenging place. 😉

Namaste

* How Yoga Heals

 

yoga for wellbeing

Thanks to Nancy over at Spirit Lights the Way for sparking some yoga inspiration!

I take a therapeutic approach to my Yoga teaching; focusing on body awareness, mindfulness and the breath. To me its more than a physical work out.

I love this quote from Georg Feuerstein taken from Yoga Gems:
“Beginners on the yogic path would do well to understand correctly what Yoga is all about and to then approach it accordingly.
There is a humorous saying in Yoga circles that Yoga has been reduced to the practice of postures, and that postures have been reduced to stretching, and that stretching has been reduced to lengthening the hamstrings. Authentic Yoga is always a spiritual discipline, even when the focus is on the body, as it is in Hatha Yoga.”

The intention of Yoga is the quieten the mind and connect with our inner spirit, consciousness or higher power. Read more about it on my Yoga page.

In his book “Yoga as Medicine” Dr Timothy McCall shares 40 ways that Yoga (Poses, Breathing and Meditation) heals:

  1. Increases flexibility
  2. Strengthen muscles
  3. Improves balance
  4. Improves immune function
  5. Improves posture
  6. Improves lung function
  7. Leads to slower and deeper breathing
  8. Discourages mouth breathing
  9. Increases oxygenation of the tissues
  10. Improves joint health
  11. Nourishes intervertebral discs
  12. Improves return of venous blood
  13. Increases circulation of lymph
  14. Improves circulation of the feet
  15. Improves proprioception (awareness of body in space)
  16. Increases control of bodily functions
  17. Strengthens bones
  18. Conditions the cardiovascular system
  19. Promotes weight loss
  20. Relaxes the nervous system and reduces anxiety
  21. Improves the function of the nervous system
  22. Improves brain function
  23. Activates the left prefrontal cortex
  24. Changes neurotransmitter levels
  25. Lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  26. Lowers blood sugar
  27. Lowers blood pressure
  28. Improves levels of cholesterol and triglycerides
  29. Thins the blood
  30. Improves bowel function
  31. Releases unconscious muscle gripping
  32. Uses imagery to effect change in the body
  33. Relieves pain
  34. Lowers need for medication
  35. Fosters healthier relationships
  36. Improves psychological health and mood
  37. Leads to healthier habits
  38. Fosters spiritual growth
  39. Elicits the placebo effect
  40. Encourages involvement in your own healing

This list still wows me!

If you are young – there is every reason in the world to start now. Do it!

If you are in Mid life – it isn’t too late. I started yoga in my 40’s and it changed my life. This is where I find my middle ground every day.
Find a studio and a teacher that you can relate to and feel supported by. A word of caution here. Not every Yoga offered in classes is the same. Unless you are an athlete, avoid Vinyasa or Power Yoga.

Even if you are elderly and have a number of health and physical issues, finding an experienced trained teacher with a therapeutic approach can lead to a more active and healthy life… and a sense of peace and wellbeing.

yoga heals

So many people try Yoga in gyms these days. Please be careful as the focus is usually on having a physical workout. In my experience the instructors may not be as experienced, there is less personal attention and less time for relaxation and mindfulness.

For me, Yoga is about balance, alignment and inner peace. Finding balance and peace in our lives and alignment of our mind body and spirit… on and off the mat.

To find out more about where I teach in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, please check out www.RelishYoga.com

Namaste

* Yoga and Your Brain

I came across this article from Angela Wilson at Kripalu on the latest research into how yoga affects our brain and mental health.

yoga changes the brain

“With the steady rise in the number of people practicing yoga in the USA —from 13 million in 2007 to more than 20 million today—researchers have begun to focus their attention on how yoga actually changes the brain. The results echo what many of us experience: Studies show that yoga increases relaxation in the brain, improves areas of the brain that help us manage pain, and protects us against age-related decline. Together, these benefits begin to reveal the scientifically validated effects of yoga practice on brain health.

Yoga Floods the Brain with Relaxation
To investigate why yoga induces feelings of calm and peacefulness, Dr. Chris Streeter and her research team from Boston University set out to discover whether practice helps our brains produce more GABA, a neurotransmitter that increases feelings of relaxation. When we don’t have enough GABA in our brains, we feel anxious or depressed; medications such as Xanax work by upping GABA levels.
To answer this question, the team had one group of subjects do yoga for 60 minutes, while a control group read for an hour. Both groups were scanned in the MRI pre- and post-intervention. Would yoga release more GABA in the brain than reading?
The results were an unequivocal yes. The yoga group had a 27 percent increase in GABA, while the readers had no increase. But to rule out the possibility that any type of physical movement can increase GABA levels, Chris ran a second study, comparing the effects of yoga with those of walking. Again, the yoga practice showed greater changes in GABA levels in the brain. Not surprisingly, the increase in GABA was correlated with self-reports of decreased anxiety.
Studies such as these suggest how yoga might be used as an adjunct treatment to mental-health conditions such as anxiety and depression, and point to how yoga positively impacts the brain.

Read more of this article here.

I love how science shows that mindfulness and the practice of yoga are so good for our health and wellbeing.

* Ego in Yoga – hydra

hydra

“Ego can take many different forms and shapes. It is like the hydra. You cut off one head and another head replaces it. You cut off that head and see a third head and a fourth head ad infinitum.

This is because in the manifest dimension, ego identity is the root of life, and if the ego identity is lost, then life as we know it no longer exists.

It exists as light; life becomes light.”

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

I enjoy reading the different metaphors explaining the complexity of our ego, and can relate to the idea of a hydra. Our ego will do everything in its power to survive – especially adapting and changing shape!

The ego is very clever. It will allow one version of ourselves to die and create a better version that fits in with either 1. how it wants to be seen in the world or 2. what is perceives is needed to stay alive in its physical body.

In my experience with others on a spiritual path, the newer version of ego is likely to be a more evolved version of the previous one. It may show up as being kinder person, a more patient parent, a wiser leader, a humble follower, a beacon of sanity in a world judged as mad…

These are still roles that the ego plays. Less damaging perhaps, yet still ego driven.

Recognizing the hydra heads of the ego is the gateway to beyond life as we know it.

The answer however is not to keep cutting its heads off. After all this would be an ego motivated act!

Instead embrace ego for what it is. A part of our very human nature that clings to life. It is neither good nor bad. It simply is.

Then we can wake up and realize we really are the divine light beyond ego and our human form.

Namaste

* Haiku – Settle in

nurture and restore

~

Take time to nurture

Settle in the here and now

Find Your Middle Ground

~

The next Restorative Yoga Workshop will be on Saturday August 15 at 10.30 am. If you are near Media, Pennsylvania, why not join me for some nurturing and nourishment for body mind and spirit. Check it out at Watts of Yoga.

* If you are new to this site, welcome!

To explore more about finding your middle ground, please click here.

* Blogging and Serendipity

People sometimes ask how I am able to post so often. They imagine it is somehow hard work or at least requiring will and effort.

Well, I can tell you that it is such a delight to be a blogger! I had no idea when I started that this would be as much fun as it is. It feels as natural as yoga. Yup – its takes practice and you have to engage fully in the process. But when you know the basics, you can let go and go with the flow.

serendipity

“Serendipity” by Josephine Wall at http://www.josephinewall.co.uk

Every day I wake up with ideas and thoughts about people, what I have learned and how I can share it with others. I usually have someone in mind that I am communicating with. (Yes – it could be you). There is inspiration everywhere on the blogosphere … and from the piles of books on my bed side table.

I admit that when it comes to reading books, I am a dipper rather than a “start to finisher”. I believe in serendipity. A part of me wants to believe that the universe will show me what I need when I open to a random page. In my yoga classes I do this with my favorite inspiration “Yoga Gems” by Georg Feuerstein.

And, now that I think about it, its just like in the mornings, when I choose what earrings to wear.
I have a jewellery box with small earrings in it. They are all mixed up. When I reach in, I have in my mind to use the one I find and then pair it up. Every time its partner finds its way quickly between my fingers. It never seizes to delight me! How does it do this?…

In writing this post I decided to share my thoughts as they came up. I was curious about what I would write. I notice that there is some vulnerability when I don’t have a particular thought or idea to build from.

Perhaps the universe gently nudged me so I hit the right spot with you …

May you too have a day filled with serendipity and ease.

* Titanic Flow

This usually brings a smile in my yoga classes. If you can’t join me this morning, I thought you might appreciate it too! This yoga flow for the shoulders and arms, is a great way counteract using keyboard, iPads and smartphones as well as driving.  Release your shoulders and open your heart.

Titanic flow

Stand tall at the bow of the ship with open arms. Feel the ocean breeze. (Visualizing Leo DeCaprio is optional).

As you inhale open sternum and shoulders as far as is comfortable. Palms face forward.

On the exhale slowly bring hands towards each other until palms touch.

Inhale open arms and gentling squeeze shoulder blades towards each other. 

Exhale, brings palms together.

Continue moving slowly with breath 4 more times.

On last exhale pause and bring hands to heart center.

Release arms behind back and interlace fingers. On the inhale lengthen spine and gently pull arms towards the floor and away from the body. 

Pause and breathe here.

With each exhale imaging the tops of your shoulders melting

Release arms to sides and pause. Notice the energy moving around shoulders and arms.

For a short guided practice, you may enjoy listening to this recording of my voice:

Namaste

Gratitude to Kripalu gentle yogi Rudy Peirce for the inspiration!