3 May 2020

easy relaxing yoga

why have easy yoga? isn't yoga, just yoga? (however you believe yoga to be)

Photo by Chris Ensey on Unsplash


Yoga has many styles, many Paths within a Path, but for some, easier poses are more maintainable, in that it's easier to do them often, like each day, than it is to do the harder movements.

easy relaxing poses

There is plenty of yoga around for people who are adept, strong, but not so much for those who are beginners, maybe even out of condition. So the poses below will be very doable for you.

The basic, simplest, easier poses could be described as relaxing poses. These can be done everyday. And they are quite easy. Three or more deep relaxed breaths per pose. This breathing technique will reduce inflammation, and quieten our feelings and thoughts. Hence, they are quite useful in our stress driven lives. None of these poses require props.

standing 

Feet hip width apart, knees softly bent. Relax your head and spine down, as though each vertebrae, from top to bottom, is gently going downwards. Fold your arms, or just hang them, and relax. To return to standing, just roll up your spine, from base to top. Either do three times (*), moving with the breath, or do three times and hold for three breaths the last time (**), or just do once and hold (***)

all fours

cat pose three to six times slowly (*), relax in child pose after (***). The child pose calms the adrenal glands so that they are releasing rejuvenation hormones rather than the stress ones.

lying on your front: the divine scent pose
(aka one of Ratnamurti's secret poses) 

Legs together or feet hip width apart. Put your elbows on the floor under your lifted shoulders, and cup your jaw with your hands/palms. Close your eyes. Lightly flare your nostrils. Imagine that you are deeply and slowly inhaling an exquisite smell in through the nose tip (not the nostrils), and on the exhale the breath and the smell flow back out of the nose tip. You will want to do this for longer than three breaths, and you will know when you are experiencing that Divine Smell. It will be fleeting at first. This smell is actually from within you. (***)

lying on the back

simple twists: (arms wide at shoulder level, palms up)

1) knees bent, either feet and knees together or hip width apart, feet flat on floor. Exhaling, drop the knees to the right as you turn your head to the left. Inhaling, return to centre and repeat on the other side. Mid to lower spinal twist. (*)

2) open the feet at least shoulder width apart. Exhaling, drop both knees to the right; the left knee goes towards the right foot. If this doesn't happen, you may need to open your feet wider. Inhale to centre. The head can turn to the opposite side, or stay facing the ceiling. Go from side to side. Buttocks stay on the ground, and this pose is for hip flexibility. (*)

3) Legs straight. Feet are more than shoulder width apart. and flexed so that the toes sick up. Press your heels hard into the floor to do this pose, and keep them there. On an exhale, turn your head to the right as you take your left arm over to the right, aiming to touch your hands. Which can take a few goes, to be honest. Inhale, back to centre. Go from side to side in a fluid motion. Upper back twist and stretch; amazing for releasing tension from this area. (*)

bridge pose

Stand your feet flat either hip width apart, in front of the buttocks, shoulder width apart and you might find that your feet slightly turn outwards in this position. Arms flat on the floor alongside the body. On an inhale, push hard into the feet, as you raise the buttocks high, exhale as you lower to start (*). You can also do this three times and hold the third time (**), or do once only and hold (***)

I nearly always teach this pose, as it is such a good all over glandular pose: thyroids; thymus; adrenals (and kidneys too), are all positively affected. 

It's ok to do this pose on the toes as this is how it was originally done, and in this position it is also very good for our pancreas. 

reclining butterfly

then still lying on your back, open your knees out to the sides, with the soles of your feet touching. Arms where ever they are most comfortable. Imagine that your abdomen expands on the inhale, and relaxes back down on the exhale. This is a very restorative pose: helps with hip flexibilty; calms; good for the digestion; and when it follows the bridge pose, it sends a fresh supply of body fluids around your pelvic area, so is helpful for our reproductive system. (***)

I hope that you enjoy this simple routine. You may find that it makes you feel so good that you do it for a longer period of time, with more repetitions for the moving poses (*) , or moving more and holding longer with the versions marked (**), or just holding the still poses longer (***).







17 April 2020

more yoga to help with immunity

more breathing techniques 
to build up our life force
give us more energy and vitality
and help manage asthma


throat health

The yoga lion pose is excellent to helping us have a healthier throat. Sometimes in life, when we have "no voice" in our situation, we can mysteriously start getting a sore or inflammed throat. And of course we can have a family history (DNA) of tonsillitis problems; or we can be infected with a virus which attacks our throat.

The lion pose is excellent for us:
  • finding our voice again. I did it for may years, found my voice again and seldom had throat problems during this time
  • creating a movement of energy, and this too helps with speech
  • develops a strong speaking voice 
  • develops our singing voice
  • and firms our face 
This can be done on the floor, and for those who can't do that, just sit on a chair with your knees apart. Put your hands on your knees.

Or:

Sit in a kneeling position with your knees wide and feet go inwards towards each other. Place your hands palms down on the floor with your fingers pointing back towards your body, arms straight. This stretches the lung meridian so it indirectly affects the lungs. 

Inhale, then lean a bit forward. With the exhale:
  • open your mouth wide
  • extend your tongue down towards the floor
  • look up
  • stretch your whole face wide, up and down
  • as you do this, roar loudly on the exhale
You may like to have a deep breath in and out, before repeating, or just inhale deeply then go into the next exhale. Do three to five lion breaths.

mouth health

You can buy tongue scrapers for this. However I used a small spoon for about seven years before I had a scraper. Basically, first thing each morning, scrape your tongue with the edge of the spoon (and of course you can use a bigger one) from back to front, rinsing it after each scrape. You will be amazed at the gunk that comes off. This also helps with our sense of taste, which is important.

more bhastrika

This is a more dramatic version, and it gives a cooling effect to the lungs, so for very mild inflammation you could try this. However some people have adverse effects with coolness in the lungs, so use your common sense here. 

Open your mouth maybe a centimetre or more and breathe rapidly in and out of your mouth. You will find that you are naturally pumping your abdominals. One to two breaths per second is what we are aiming for.

You can just do this bhastrika if it suits you better, or do it after your poses. It is very dynamic and will keep you awake so is not for evening.

caveat

If any of these techniques that I have given you in this three part breathing for The Lockdown series, do not make you feel good, then don't do them. I mean it. Yoga is supposed to make us feel better on all levels, and this definitely includes our health.

Not every yoga practice is suited to every single person. 

With the bhastrikas and kapalabhati, excluding mukha bhastrika, even just twenty repetitions of each, done every day if you can, will give fantastic results. Doing a little often is of more benefit than doing a big session once or twice a week. 





11 April 2020

more lung strengtheners

more breathing for the lockdown
and beyond

poses to help with breathing

very good for asthmatics

build up your lungs which helps with endurance and immunity

Many thanks to Dr Swami Gitananda Giri who taught these in New Zealand (Aotearoa) in the early 1970s. I have been forever grateful to have learnt some profound yoga from him. 

These are for "forcing" breath into areas of the lungs. What happens is that the breath quite naturally goes to the relevant area of the lungs. It really helps if you feel as though you are breathing deep into your whole lungs, from bottom to top, and then exhaling deeply pulling in your abdominals to assist. Relax your abdomen to inhale.


   Cat-Cow Pose | The Short and Sweet Yoga Sequence You Can Do Every ...

cat pose

The main posture for doing this complete breath is the cat pose. Start on hands and knees, palms flat on the floor under your shoulders. You can open even wider if it assists breathing in the pose. It consists of two movements for:
  • inhale as you tilt your tailbone up, abs go down, lungs wide and sort of "lifting up", head up
  • exhale as tailbone tucks under (keep buttocks soft), lift your abs to the ceiling squeezing them, tuck your head under chin towards collarbone
The whole lung area is used. In the hundreds of yoga classes that I have taught over decades, and for myself, this is the main pose that I nearly always tried to include. Not only does it:
  • warm up the spine
  • it positively affects all of the nervous systems to do with the spine. A strong nervous sytem is essential for mental and emotional well-being. When we are happier, our health is better, we have more resistance to whatever ills are going around. We might still get them, but at a lesser level
  • this pose uses our whole lungs. Front, sides, back, lower, mid, upper. So, as simple as it is, it is very powerful
  • do this three to six times. Three times on a daily basis is fine
  • in the morning when prana (life force) is higher, it gives us a reduction in inflammation, from the deep breathing and this helps with digestion, as well as breathing 
  • in the evening, it encourages deep breathing whilst we sleep, and in this way we have deeper sleep
If you can only do one of these poses, I recommend the cat pose.


Camel Pose | Yoga 15

beginners camel pose

Kneel up high with knees and feet shoulder width apart. We are going to do the beginner version. 

Lift up your chest, push your hips forwards, shoulder blades down, drop head back. Drop your arms, or clasp your hands together behind your back. Breathe deeply in and out, three to six times

To make it stronger, breathe in deeply, and do three to six mukha bhastrikas on the exhale. Do one to three breaths this way

Relax in child pose after. This will calm your nervous system and adrenal glands. When we are stressed, both of these need calming for optimum mental and emotional health. 

This is a very important backward bend. For those who are more adept, start sitting on your lower legs, and rise up on the inhale into the pose, lower down on the exhale.

Camel pose forces air into the lower area of the lungs, where a lot of the important work of the lungs is done.

20 Beginner Yoga Poses for Flexibility (+ free printable) | Yoga Rove

simple fish pose

Sit with your legs together or even hip distance apart, in front of you. Lean back onto your right elbow/forearm, then your left. Thrust your chest upwards, drop the head back. Breathe deeply in and out three to six times. To come out, push hard onto your right up as you lift your torso. Lie on floor, and take a few relaxed breaths, or just sit and do this.
  • fish pose forces air into the mid lungs
  • it affects the thymus gland very favourably, and this is our immunity gland. The camel pose does this too 
  • both fish and camel are strong on the thyroid gland
  • the nerves of the solar plexus are positively affected with the stretching, with camel and fish. The solar plexus is intimately connected to our emotional well-being  
  • there are nerves connecting the lungs and spine, and these too come into play
  • on an esoteric level, the lungs and heart are connected. As a healer, I can definitely tell you that strengthening the nerve connections of the lungs, helps make us emotionally stronger    

The Health Benefits of Anahatasana (Heart Melting Pose)
flower bower pose

Nowadays known as anahata (heart chakra) pose.  From all fours, place your arms forwards of your shoulders, on the floor. The arms are bent and relaxed (unlike the above photo), elbows a bit out to the sides. Chest is on the floor. Turn your head to one side,  be relaxed (this is not about stretching as in the above photo!) and breathe deeply three to six times. Now turn your head to the other side, and repeat.

This pose releases tension from the upper lungs, so I repeat "relaxed arms, elbows bent sideways".  When we have an asthma attack, we are unable to breathe out due to the tension in our uppermost parts of our lungs. Learning how to do this pose will definitely help keep that area moving with the breath.

Rest after in child. Arms alongside the body or under your head if you can't lower your buttocks to your heels. 
How to Do Child's Pose in Yoga – YogaOutlet.com
Please note: These poses can be quite strong for someone who has been sick, or has asthma, so if this is you, only do them once per day, three breaths each, to start with. They will bring up mucus. Any problems? Ask me about them in the comments section and I shall reply (in that section)

Disclaimer: as simple as the techniques from today and last week, are, they are not intended to replace inhalers, medication and such. For bronchial, pneumonia and similar, please do not do these until you have recovered. 




3 April 2020

breathing practices for the lockdown

do breathing practices help with dealing with viruses?

ab-so-om-ing-lute-ly

yes, they do


how? why? and what would I know anyway?

Let's be realistic. If you've come into contact with a virus, you may well get it, depending of course on

  • the degree of the contact. Full on such as eating food prepared by someone who really doesn't do hand hygienne. I've picked up a few bugs this way, for sure. Or someone who coughs all over the place, infecting things that you touch. Yep, been badly infected this way. And sometimes, well, when it's just minor contact, thankfully, we don't get it so bad. 
  • one's own state of health. Obviously, the less well we are, the more vulnerable we are. Because our immune system is already lowered. And if for some reason our immune system has been badly compromised on an ongoing level, we are very vulnerable. 

So to be clear, pranayama (yoga breathing techniques) won't prevent us getting these contact viruses. But, they can definitely lessen their severity. And I would suggest that this is the most commonsense way to look at this. And for those of us who are predisposed to have our chests affected whenever we get sick, the breathing practices will strengthen our lungs. Thereby, again, lessening the impact on our lungs. Not stopping, if you are predisposed, but lessening.

What I'll be giving today, is for
  • keeping the sinuses clear
  • strengthening the lungs
  • creating like a bubble of negative ions around our nose and mouth. Negative ions make us feel good, and positively affect our wellness
  • decrease acidity. When we are sick, our bodies are acidic, so it helps to reduce this on an everyday level
  • increasing our levels of life - force (prana)
  • feeling good: physically, mentally, emotionally

These days, pranayama is done crosslegged or similar. Instead, please do these sitting on your heels (vajrasana) or sit on a chair with knees and feet togther, feet on floor. Either of these will have more positive physical effects on your lungs. Hands palms flat, down on your thighs. 

bhastika for our sinuses

I teach this to people who are prone to sinus mucous problems, and since I learnt it, over forty-six years ago, I have never had sinus problems. Prior to that, I always did. Big time.

Use your right hand: thumb to open and close your right nostril; ring finger for the left nostril; index and middle fingers on your forehead just above between the eyebrows.

With this bhastrika, use your abdominals to begin with creating a pumping action, just because it will be easier for you if you're not used to bhastrika: inhale: push abs forwards; out breath: pull them back. Practice this.

Close off left nostril so that you're using your right nostril, and do six fast bhastrikas in and out of the right nostril. Close off the right nostril; six in and out left nostril. Now do six in and out of both nostrils. This is one round. Do three rounds.

Starting with the right nostril is the opposite way that yoga pranayama is often taught, but for sinuses, please do it this way.

bhastrika for the lungs

Again, this is not the way that bhastrika is often taught. However this is how I first learnt it and it is amazing for getting the phlegm to lift off the chest. All that hacking and coughing won't be so bad if you do get a bug and have been doing this. I do it even if I just get chesty. This is hatha yoga specific, and hatha yoga is for purification of the body. In this bhastrika we are breathing in and out of the nostrils.

Visualise a square in front of your chest. Hold onto this image whilst you do the bhastrika breathing which is rapid breathing in and out of the nostrils, and here we are doing just both nostrils to gether. Start with five, pause, do five more, repeat one more time. That's fifteen all up. It won't take too long before you can do fifteen without stopping. See if you can work up to forty five, or fifty four. The maximum is one hundred and twenty, one round only, working up to one to two bhastrika breaths per second. Finish with a slow deep breath in and out.

Bhastrika means bellows and you will notice that pumping bellows effect on your lungs doing it this way, rather than the pumping action of the abdominals which is how it is often taught.

kapalabhati for negative ions and a clear head

Hatha yoga style, and this is also different to how most teach it. Whereas in bhastrika, in and out are fairly equal and we could say it's a very active breath. Kapalabhati is too, but only the exhale has the emphasis. The inhale is passive meaning that we allow the in breath to happen by itself. 

Visualise a tringle pointing upwards in the base of your torso. Do a quick breath out of your nostrils as you pull in your abs. release your abs for the passive inhale. Practice until in and out are fairly equal in length. As with the bhastrika instructions, start with three rounds of five, and the maximum is one only round of one hundred and twenty breaths, one to two breaths per second. It can take a while to get kapalabhati right and it's okay to go slower for a while. Take a deep slow breath in and out through nostrils to finish.

This clears the head especially our frontal lobes. Kapalabhati means "shining skull". Creates negative ions around our nose and mouth, keeps our energy "up". In this version, our prana is "flinging up" from the base of the torso into the head. 

mukha bhastrika for making us less acidic

This is a mouth bhastrika. We make a crows beak with the mouth on the exhale, having around your mouth open and stiff rather than soft. Take a deep breath in through the nostrils, exhale doing a loud "shoo" through your mouth, as you pull in your abs. The next step is to inhale deeply, now start leaning forwards towards your knees (or child pose if you're seated on the floor), going shoo! shoo! three to six times out for one inhale. Now close your mouth and inhale to arise. Do this three times. 

Yoga teachers might tell you that these instructions are not correct. They are correct techniques, they are specific and not well known. They were taught by Dr Swami Gitananda here in New Zealand in the early 1970s, and this is where I learnt them, and although I have learnt and practised other styles, I prefer this method.

Do everything in the order given (please) Next time we'll do complete breath and throat health. 





29 March 2020

irregularity: instability

continuing with Patanjali's Sutras:
irregularity: one of the greatest obstacles




instability, or, irregularity

First we shall look at the instability aspect of irregularity. Some would actually refer to instability as not being "regular" with what one is doing. But let's look at this from other aspects too.

1) Going back over my recent posts about the obstacles, they do arise. One of the biggest difficulties I saw decades ago, living in an Ashram, was how hard many people found it was. Getting up 3.30am or 4.30am, doing cleansing practices, chanting, postures, pranayama, meditation. Then working all day. I had been a working mother so I was used to doing whatever I had to do without "head tripping" about it. But those who had been more hippy, many found it a real struggle to be expected to do what they didn't want to do. So instability from a sense of entitlement is a real obstacle. I just don't know what to advise over this. 

Being tragic over not having one's own way is one of the biggest blocks, and is within itself, a form of instability. 

2) As well, as I've previously mentioned, whether you know it or not, with intense meditation, we are stimulating so many areas of us. Nice meditation, lovely visualisation, self hypnosis, or relaxing methods lying down, they do not do this. Chalk and cheese. They give lovely amazing results and most definitely have their place, but do not, will not, take us through the stages and realms of deep spirituality and enlightenments.

And of course, we do feel great with intense meditation. Of course. Our brains, and our Higher Centres, our entire subtle-psycho-physiological aspects are being stirred up. They get highly energised; euphoric. We cannot access the Higher Realms without this happening. 

And this in itself, can create a sort of instability. It's not really, as it's not a pyschiatric condition, nor a deep mental emotional one. Nor a personality flaw. It's just the way that it is. Because one goes high (in the Inner Realms) and I will say that definitely we always think that we have soared whereas to someone more established, we are really at beginner level. It all takes time. So we soar. 

3) Now, it is my humble belief that we need all of these things that "support" deep meditation practices, that ease the way. And also help us handle what we are going through in terms of the realms and stages of energy and consciousness:

  • the asanas build our body so that our nervous system can handle the onslaught of energy , and keep us connected to the earthly plane
  • pranayama gives us fuel for the inner journey, and also indirectly balances and strengthens the nervous system
  • sensory withdrawal (pratyahara) gives us the stillness that we need to travel deep within
  • the gestures (mudras) help develop sublime states
  • energy locks (bandhas) help build up and direct this new energy
  • the ethics and guidelines (yamas and niyamas) help us to contain and maintain our new states of Being
  • concentration (dharana) focuses our mind so that we can go beyond mind
So how can all of this create instability and irregularity? It is because, for many, our new inner states can be hard to maintain. It's difficult because everything gets sort of "shaken". Not every spiritual aspect is going to awaken all at once. No, for we could not handle it. But everything gets shaken and part of this is:
  • mind and emotions, so interlinked, can cause a problem as deep seated feelings and painful suppressed memories can surface, and this is not always easy to handle
  • our "cravings" can re-emerge
  • our prana (life-force sheath) has quite a bit of emotional content covering it, and these get "exposed"
  • our mind sheath (manomaya) is affected. A lot of what arises in meditation can and does, come from this sheath. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes not
  • the chakra sheath (astral, vigyanamaya) gets very stimulated, and the incredible energy contained within them, is very strong
So what happens? Well, we can just keep on going, or cut back a bit without stopping. The easy way out, stopping for a while, is the hardest in the long run, and this is the next very important aspect that we shall look at.  It is one of the most important. 

And this applies, not only to our spiritual practices, but to everything in life. Keeping on going even though difficulties arise, gives us inner strength, and this is not to be underestimated.