Spring is a perfect time to be talking about Saucha – an element of yoga philosophy that looks at cleanliness & purity. Saucha translates to cleanliness in a literal and physical way – but also in an energetic and mindful way. It is reminding us to practice cleanliness wherever we can as everything around us has an impact on our body, mind and spirit.
Saucha asks us to eat a clean and wholesome diet. It always perplexes me how people are so conscious of the fuel the put into their car, the products they put on their car but have no regard for their body. Or people are concerned about the over the counter drugs people take (which the awareness is a great start) but don’t think twice about the food they put into their body EVERY DAY, or the products (makeup, soap, toothpaste) they use EVERYDAY! Saucha is asking us to fuel our body with clean and healthy food – and LOADS of water.
Saucha also applies to the mind. In our society we often have lots of – if not continuous- chatter in the mind. The further into the practice you delve the more this will start to slow. But in the meantime Saucha is asking us to keep our thoughts and words clean and pure. The Dalai Lamas quote applies here “Speak only if it is true, kind and necessary.’ Pretty hard to practice as you really won’t have much to say at all!
In many traditions we are taught that our environment reflects and/or impacts our mind and emotions. Feng Shui is based on this alone. Have you ever noticed that when you are stressed often there is mess around you – whether at your desk or at home? Or that sense of peace you have when you get home to a clean and tidy house – it feels relaxing! Or the impact having natural light creates to a space, or the angle of your furniture.
Cleanliness is part of the Yoga practice to help people realize that there actions, environments, fuel, thoughts, mind and more all impact their energy. The more we focus on cleaning up our act the more the mind starts to still and the body starts to heal.
On the mat and @ the studio
1. Try to be clean, fresh for class and well hydrated. Wear deodorant, clean clothes, etc. Walking into a stinky room is not pleasant for anyone.
2. Keep the yoga studio space clean and fresh – Place your props away neatly. Don’t bring excess belongings into the studio space.
3. Align your mats in an organized and clean way – this will help the energy of the class. Everyone knows how amazing it feels when the whole class flows and moves together.
4. Wipe down your mats thoroughly. If it is drenched in sweat hang it out to dry.
5. Bring your awareness to your breath (and using 100% of your lung capacity – cleaning and detoxing your body) and your mind – dropping the chatter – cleaning your mind.
Off the mat
1. Eat a clean and wholesome diet. Real food doesn’t have packaging. Nor does it have an ingredients list. Try to limit yourself to whole food, and if you find yourself eating packaged food – go for the ones with 4 or less ingredients and only ingredients you know… no big fancy words, or strange numbers. You don’t need that rubbish. One of the great things is that the cleaner your diet the less smelly your BO! YAY for all of us doing hot yoga ;) On a more serious note I can almost guarantee that the cleaner your diet the more stable your mind and emotions will be. EVERYONE reacts to food. All you need to do is watch a child after eating MSG filled take away, or too much ice cream to see this.
2. DRINK WATER!!!! I think we all forget to drink water sometimes. I am def guilty of this in winter! 40ml per kilo you weigh is a great start. More if you exercise lots, do hot yoga, or drink tea/coffee.
3. CLEAN YOUR SPACE - Try to keep your living area free of clutter and dirt. Take the time to mindfully create space. (I really need to focus on this!). Also watch how you treat this earth, reduce pollution wherever you can.
4. CLEAN YOUR MIND: Watch your thoughts. If you see they are a little dirty (aka negative) consciously replace with a positive thought. See if you can pause before you speak and only speak if ‘it is true, kind & necessary’. Additionally CLEARING your mind should be an intention here. Journal writing is amazing for getting those thoughts that keep circling around in your head out of your head. Try it and watch the peace and space you create.
5. BREATH: Our breath is a great detoxification tool. See if every morning you can wake up. Hang upside down in Downdog or rag doll and take 9 big breaths focusing on the exhalation and trying to move all the stagnant air out.
6. MAINTAIN YOUR BODY: Lots of people are great at servicing their cars when they need to, cleaning their cars etc. But what about your body? Being reactive to issues in your body is costly and damaging. Just like your car. If you heard a rattle in your car, you would get it looked at. If you ignore it, before too long the cost of fixing it could be huge!!! You should think about your body the same way. Its better to maintain its health (like checking oil and water) regularly than ignoring it and dealing with serious injuries or chronic issues that will take along time to unravel. Below is a list of things you can do to maintain the health of your body:
a. Monthly Massage –having a massage once a month is a great way to keep your body functioning at optimal level and preventing injuries. We have two great Massage Therapists at the Green Room
b. Oil Pulling is great first thing in the morning as a detox
c. Dry brushing is great for cleaning the skin
d. Epsom Salt bath – great for relaxing muscles and detoxing skin
e. Meditation – stills the mind, reduces stress which has a massive impact on your body.
f. Neti Pot – to clean your sinuses – great for hayfever
g. And whatever works for you! Pending on your body, your lifestyle you probably know what you need to do to look after your body. Do you do it??
7. MOVE YOUR BODY! Your body is designed to move. Exercise every day - even if its a light walk around a few blocks. And of course practice yoga asana when you can as it helps to purify the body & mind.
Observe your life.
Increase your awareness.
Grow your consciousness.
Aparigraha is the concept of detaching – practicing non possessiveness, non-grasping and non-greediness. It is the idea that once you are attached to anything - it then has control over you and your happiness. Whether you are attached to your yoga mat, your car, your job, your partner, or your life – the fear of losing that thing/person/role alters the way you behave and your reactions to things. Similarly being attached to achieving or gaining possession of something really alters your reality. Whether it is weight loss, your ‘soul mate’, a certain house etc – it is all a false belief that external ideas/things/people can make you happy.
I remember for a long time I was quite attached to ‘landing’ scorpion. It wasn’t until I was working with a mantra ‘does this make me a better person’ that I realised how un-important scorpion was. (I know its ridiculous right! But I am human and it is easy to get wrapped up in the mind and ego). I realised Scorpion doesn’t make me a better person or even a better yoga teacher at all. The irony of the situation was that as soon as I stopped attaching to being able to achieve the pose I could do it every time with little effort. The attachment was hindering me, rather than helping.
In today’s society we are very attached to things and people. But I think perhaps even more concerning is our attachment to labels. Too quickly we are so eager to define ourselves as our job title, pay packet, our marital status, our family, our house, and more…. But this too is an attachment. It’s grasping at an idea that by labelling yourself as a certain thing you are something particular. You are not this. You are not that. You can lose your job, you can lose your health, your partner, your family, car, house, etc, etc…. You will still exist.
Giving control to desires, things, labels, poses ultimately lets other things outside of you, take control of your happiness. Why would you give away that power?
On the mat:
1. Practice detaching from the idea that there is a certain way a pose should look. Your yoga pose doesn’t need to look like the front of some magazine, an Instagram picture, the teachers or the person next to you. All that matters is that it feels good and you are breathing with control. Every body in a yoga room looks different therefore start to embrace an attitude that every pose in the yoga room should look a little different too J
2. Drop attachment to poses. This is a big one. Working on strengthening and working towards certain poses is definitely part of the yoga practice in building discipline and will power. However it is possible to work towards something without being attached to the outcome. Eg. If you are working towards the splits, you may practice the pose everyday but you are not forcing your body or disappointed/angry everytime you don’t make it. Instead you practice. And if one day it happens you will be pleasantly surprised. And if it never happens you will be at peace too J
3. Detach from your teacher. Yoga is the practice of you connecting to yourself – body, breath, mind & soul. Your teacher is your guide. Your reminder to stay present. Your point of meditation to allow you to switch off and follow the cues. If there is a teacher that you were not expecting taking the class it is a perfect opportunity to see if you can detach from the reaction and just delve into your practice.
4. Detaching from your body! Yes the Green Room does have a clothing policy. It is WEAR CLOTHES. We don’t get why people and yogi’s feel the need to get their gear off and take fangdangle pictures of them doing poses everywhere. If you are doing this and sharing – what is the motivation? Does your ego want people to see how far you have progressed…? Or how toned your abs are??? In the yoga studio the practice of yoga is about turning in. It is about connecting with your body on a much deeper level than the external. Wearing minimal clothing is a distraction for you and for others. You do not need to be checking out your body whilst practising… And again – why is there a need? If you are practicing hot yoga – you will sweat all over. A t-shirt or crop top or no top… you will still sweat all over. Wear clothes and detach from how your body looks… focus on turning in and listening to how it feels!
Off the Mat:
1. DETACH FROM THE FUTURE!!!! I want to be 5kgs lighter, I want to be prettier, I want to be paid more, I want to have a bigger house… SERIOUSLY. All this is saying to yourself is that you are not enough and that you will not be happy until you possess these things. Guess what. You won’t be happy when you have these things… the goal posts will move and you will continue to fool yourself with the pursuit of happiness. Practicing an attitude of gratitude and acceptance will ALWAYS help you find peace and happiness over attaching to a future possible outcome.
2. Let go of STUFF!!!! One of our regulars lives by the 100 rule. He has 100 items/possessions and everytime he buys something new, something else has to be given away, or thrown away. This is perhaps extreme… but maybe just start where you are… Anytime you buy something new – remove something old.
3. Stop filling your life with empty possessions. Another activity I like to do is avoid buying anything new (except for food) for a week, a month – pick your timeframe. Any time you go to purchase something/item you immediately donate the amount to a charity. Alternatively you can save up the amount and donate at the end. It’s amazing how much money we spend on things we don’t need. And how much that can help others who lack many things they actually need. Replace your wants with providing for other people’s needs.
4. Look after yourself first! Your body and energy. When we feel out of sorts with life, like we are stuck, down, can’t win, or worse we tend to really cling and attach on to those around us. This puts a lot of pressure and stress on them.. Instead, find ways to nurture, center, love yourself so that you feel independent and strong in your own right.
5. Watch your thoughts!!! Do not attach to negative thoughts. Often our negativity is an attachment. Whether you think you are ugly, fat, poor, single – its just labels and an attachment to being something else that often slips very easily into a habit. These thoughts spiral out of control, and become who you think you are. See if you can identify those attachments and replace with a positive mantra.
6. LET GO OF THE PAST. Yes people have hurt you. Yes you perceive that people have done wrong by you. Forgive. Let go of painful memories from your past. Free yourself by offering forgiveness to those who have hurt you. The reality is that you are the only one that the hurt is impacting. It does not serve you and it wastes a lot of your energy.
So this is one of my favourite elements of yoga philosophy – in the way that I interrupt it anyway. Brahmacharya is about self-restraint. Traditionally it is predominantly focused on sexual energy however it is a powerful concept that can be applied to all energy – so LIFE! To me Brahmacharya is about recognising that as humans we have limited energy, and Brahmacharya is about CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSING how you would like to use this limited energy. Its about learning to say ‘NO’ to yourself, to others etc. I wrote a blog last year in September (2014) about letting go of that which does not serve you… this is a similar concept.
Lets go deeper.
Our life force/energy is limited and precious. It is the most valuable thing you can share with anyone, give to anything, yet we often just throw it around. Everything in your life impacts your energy levels – everything will take energy, maintain your energy levels, or increase your energy. Right now can you think of someone that you DREAD seeing because they are energy drainers? Then can you think of doing something that excites you and gives you energy? I know even talking about yoga gives me energy!
Brahmacharya is teaching us to monitor how we expend (and gather) our energy. But as the translation ‘self restraint’ would indicate it is also about building will power and discipline to build and cultivate stronger energy. It’s about learning that all important word (that I feel like there is social resistance too.) “NO”.
It should be ok to say “NO.” No reason. No justification. Just “No” because it is not a good choice for you.
On the Mat:
**If you are in downdog and there is an optional vinyasa/flow/pose/challenge… if you are the person that always pushes yourself too far you will gain more energy, strength and will power by restraining. By saying ‘NO’ - resisting that temptation to do one more flow. By changing your habits.
On the flip side, if you are the person that is always sitting back in your pose, just flowing through the motions, you will gain more strength, energy and will power by moving outside of your comfort zone. By saying “No” to the invalid excuses, that temptation to run, temptation to sit back.
On the yoga mat Brahmacharya also applies as we are also looking for energy efficiency. We are looking at trying to share the effort in poses so you can find that perfect balance of effort and ease that allows you to breathe with control so that you can cultivate more energy. Can you say “No” to your ego when it wants to keep pushing but you are panting like a puppy??? Your yoga practice should be to your body what taking your car to the petrol station is… Refuelling, re-energising.
Off the Mat:
Its about saying “NO” to yourself when you reach for your forth Tim Tam, when you are tempted to do your 3rd yoga class for the day, when you want to take a short cut rather than doing it properly, when you know you are making invalid excuses. Its using the word ‘No” to constrain your energy, to restraint your desires, to discipline your mind and body - to fuel your life force. Choosing what you know is best for you long term…. Not in that transient moment.
Equally it is about learning to say ‘No’ to others. I still am not amazing at this. Learning to set boundaries around friendships, time, relationships and families. Saying ‘No’ when you know you need to recoup a little, limiting time with people you feel deplete you, spending more time with people who energise you.
#01: Identify an addiction, or your kryptonite. Whether it is instagram, sex, running, drugs, yoga, salt and vinegar chips, soy chai’s, chocolate, alcohol, running, exercising, gossiping… What do you crave? What do you over-do? What do you get kicks out of where you need to exercise self constraint? Start slowly and simply. How can you start to gather more prana/energy? Cut back and watch how your ego starts to find validation in your old ways. Watch the resistance in the breaking of the habits.
#02. Before you immediately say ‘YES’ to anything –pause. Whether you need to pause before you pick something up at the supermarket, put the phone down and have a think before you message someone back, or simply walk away. Pause and assess. Don’t respond or act without thinking if right now that is the best option for your energy reserves. Will this option give you energy, take energy or leave you neutral.
#03: When you roll out your yoga mat set the intention to be more energy conservative in your practice. Come back to a steady seat (equal effort & ease) where your breath is only even, slow, controlled and through the nose. Feel the difference in your energy when you step off your mat at the end of class.
Observe your life. Increase your awareness. Grow your consciousness.
Traditionally Asteya means non-stealing. Immediately we assume this means not stealing on a material level however as far as I am concerned it is so much more. Asteya is teaching us to diminish the desire to take from others (Whether that is in the form of jealousy, or taking their energy, happiness, opinions, etc ) and instead turn inwards and provide for ourselves – or realise that we already provide for ourselves.
Many of us have this weird perception that once we attain the perfect job, the perfect partner, a pay rise, the perfect pose… or someone else’s status in life… suddenly as if by magic we will be happy. We look at others and see the perceived ease at which they walk through the world and we wish that were us. It is.
You won’t be happy, EVER, unless you do the inside work. Asteya is teaching us that everything you need be content and at peace you already have. Actually peace and contentment is your natural state. It is all the thoughts, labels, attachments etc that you put onto everything that remove you from this natural state. It is greed coming from a perceived lack of abundance that creates your unhappiness. You need to stop looking externally and ‘stealing’ from the external to create a false identity and happiness.
In Green Room terms this also can be defined as owning what you are & what you have already. Being grateful for what you have. Dropping comparison, dropping jealously, dropping labels and replacing it with gratitude.
On the Mat: It is often tempting to have a sneak peak at someone else whilst practicing… and usually there will be immediate comparison in the mind. Maybe a little jealousy. The ego comes out. You might see the practitioner next to you doing the splits and you decide to push your body into the pose. If your body is not ready you are ‘stealing’ an expression of the pose that is not yours yet. You are believing that achieving that pose will add something to your identity. It will not.
Next time you see yourself comparing or being jealous of someone else’s pose, body or practice, see if you can replace the desire, the want, with a moment of appreciation for the beauty within that person. Gratitude that you can witness that.
After that moment of gratitude for seeing someone else’s beauty, can you practice asteya and sit in your version of the pose, your moment of abundance and perfection. Can you sit where you are in that moment? Not wanting more? Not wanting someone else’s version of the now? Not wanting someone else’s pose, biceps, or yoga pants? Can you sit in your version of the pose and realise you have everything you need?
Off the Mat: Start with the literal. See if you can stop ‘stealing’ & wanting – whether that is others looks, ideas, belongings or wisdom. Start to speak & live your own truth. Be as you, as you can be. We spend our life trying to work out where we fit in. But we don’t. We are all uniquely perfect and all exactly the same simultaneously. See if you can start to speak, act, and make decisions that reflect you - rather than the reflection of you that you want to be, or worse, think you should be.
Start not only to be you. But also start to be grateful for being you, and all the wonderful things you bring to this life.
#1 Pause – When you notice yourself being jealous or wanting something someone else has (first congratulate yourself, observing is the hardest step ) can you consciously change the thought pattern? Rather than saying ‘that should have been me,’ or ‘I wish I had that much money’ or ‘I want a body like that’ - can you exchange that stealing thought for a moment of gratitude for seeing/experiencing it. If your colleague gets a promotion can you be happy for them, and tell yourself you have more than you need? If you see a beautiful sunset can you observe and give thanks for witnessing it… rather than running to take a photo of it? If you see a brand newbie at class pulling out a pose you have been trying for years, can you be happy for them, and happy with your version of that pose?
Stop and give thanks for what you already have – abundance. Stop and give thanks to the situation. Stop and watch what you learn about yourself.
# Law of mirrors – My first class with Les Leventhal (a yogi rockstar) blew me away. To this day I remember (which is no small feat for my memory) him referring to the Law of Mirrors in the middle of class. He said if you see something beautiful, rather than being jealous, or wanting that - see that you are that beauty to. The Karmic Law of Mirrors states that one can only see what’s in them, regardless of whether it is actually present in reality or not. Embrace that! When you see a beautiful being (so everyone), a cute animal, a beautiful landscape, a caring friend, a loving grandmother…realise that the traits you see are present in you too. You have and are everything.
Good luck kids… This one plays with the mind J
Observe your life. Increase your awareness. Grow your consciousness.
It may seem pretty self-explanatory but sometimes truthfulness is the hardest thing of all to practice. It means not only being truthful with your words (unless they will be harming) but being true to your heart, to your soul, your feelings and thoughts. Ana Forrest, a yoga goddess, is all about being a truth speaker. About owning your past, owning your thoughts and speaking what you KNOW to be true from your heart. Do you practice this? There is a whole new world of peace when you start to live your truth, and live from your heart.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Ghandi
On the Mat
Truthfulness and non harming intertwine as will many of the philosophy ideas. You need to ask yourself each time you step onto the mat. ‘How am I today? How is my body? How is my mind?’ You need to answer truthfully so that your practice will pay homage to your body and mind – it will work towards balancing its state – whether that is strengthening or restorative.
When you go into an advanced pose just because you did it yesterday – even though you are working with an injury today – that is a lie.
When you are asked if you are being as productive as you can be with that moment…. You hear an answer, you hear your truth… but do you act on it? Do you rest in childs' pose? Or do you engage more muscles to support your lumbar spine a little more, and come back to the breath to be more productive.
Can you ask yourself whether you are doing a pose to feed your ego, or whether you are not doing a pose because of fear (fear you might perceive yourself to fail)??? Can you answer honestly?
Self assessment answered with Truth is imperative to a safe, fun and productive yoga practice.
Off the Mat
Satya can be hard – or feel impossible if fear is involved. Sometimes we know our truth but fear prevents us from making that transition to living our truth. Whether it’s our beliefs, our opinion, a job that is challenging, a friend that no longer serves us or a souls dream to chase a new land, or purpose we need to start tapping into our truth and living it. See if you can start to not only politely speak your truth, but also start living your truth a little more. If you have no idea what your heart is saying or what your soul wants... MEDITATE. Meditation is the way to knowing your truth, heart & soul.
#01: Observe your day. Observe how many times a day you say a mis-truth. Not just a lie, but something that doesn’t sit right with your heart? Perhaps you are simply agreeing with someone at work when you truly do not agree, or perhaps you said yes to something that you really wanted to decline.
#02: Before you speak see if you can hear your truth first, and then speak and act from that place.
#03: Try some automatic writing to find out what your inner truth is. Sit down with some paper and a pen and just write. With no judgment at all just let the words flow through your hand and see what your internal truths are write now. If you are not sure about where to start try a more structured approach. Write down these questions and then write down automatic answers…. Don’t think. Just write…
#04: Try meditation. Try dedicating at least ten minutes to meditation each and every day. Change your attitude to meditation to a habit - something your body/mind needs every day...like sleep, water, air. Keep a journal and watch your own evolution.
Speak your truth, act your truth, be your truth.
With love Korinne xx
“The practice of yogasana for the sake of health, to keep fit, or to maintain flexibility is the external practice of yoga. While this is a legitimate place to begin, it is not the end… Even in simple asanas, one is experiencing the three levels of quest: the external quest, which brings firmness of the body; the internal quest, which brings steadiness of intelligence; and the innermost quest, which brings benevolence of spirit.” B.K.S Iynegar
Many people ask me questions about Yoga. What is it about? What lies beneath the practice? They want to understand the meaning behind all the changes that are happening –physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically.
Yoga in the Western world is predominantly reduced to the weird shapes we make with our body. Ironically, the poses are only one of the eight parts of yoga (from a Raja Yoga perspective). Yoga in its entirety is a science, a formula to achieve enlightenment – which simply means ‘to see’… A formula to see life more clearly, to see ourselves more clearly but perhaps even more simply - a formula to help reduce our suffering – or perceived suffering as I like to say, as we choose whether we suffer.
At the green room we are intertwining many parts of yoga into any general class. There is of course the poses (asana )and breathing techniques (pranayama) but we add in withdrawal of senses (to help look within), meditation, concentration, and many of the yoga ethics and personal concepts thrown in for thought. Just like the great teacher Iynegar, we truly believe a yoga class can help you move through all parts of yoga.
Asana (poses) can embody all that yoga offers. We try to work on that at the Green Room. However for those who want a little more detail over the next little while we are going to take a walk through some of the yoga philosophy ideas and see how they apply on the mat… and in turn how you can apply them off the mat. Get ready to become more aware, more conscious and see more clearly J
#1: AHIMSA: Non harming
AHIMSA – Non harming to yourself or others - in its most pure form - KINDNESS :)
When translated literally Ahimsa is referring to literally not harming other beings but instead maintaining compassion for yourself and ALL other beings. It goes above and beyond physical harm and is referring to your behaviour, your words and of course those all-powerful thoughts.
On the Yoga Mat
On the yoga mat Ahimsa is a great focal point. In Western society we are taught to always want more, to push ourselves and demand more from our body, energy and mind. Ahimsa is the opposite. It asks us to really connect to our body – to listen to it and honour it in that moment. This applies to if you are working with a physical injury, illness, weakness or just had a rough day. It does take some practice to recognise the difference between when you are choosing to run from a pose because your mind is telling you that you cannot hold it anymore (building your mental weaknesses – feeding your flight response) – and the opposite moving slowly out of a pose because your body is telling you ‘That is enough thankyou.’ You will hear challenging cues from the teacher – come down lower into your horse, or surrender into your pidgeon…. Both are equally as hard. Both are equally as important. Learning to listen to your body and practice ahimsa (non-violence and compassion to yourself) whilst still being able to strengthen your body is one of the great lessons of yoga.
Ahimsa is not only applied in a physical sense on the mat. GRY practitioners are well aware it applies to your thoughts just as much. Observing your thoughts is step one. Retraining them is step two. Rather than beating yourself up about falling out of a pose or the fact that your legs have their shake on, or you are not as strong as last week see if you can redirect that internal dialogue to be positive and encouraging. As we say ‘Speak only to yourself as you would speak to a small child that you love.’ Kindness, understanding and encouragement prevail.
Off the Yoga Mat
Ahimsa off the mat continues everywhere you look. It is about how you interact with people, animals and the environment – how much love and compassion you show them, how you speak to them, how you judge or don’t judge them. Once you have started to practice ahimsa on the mat you will start to be a little more aware of how you treat yourself and others.
The Dalia Lama suggests that before we speak we ask ourselves ‘Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” If you ask yourself this before you speak I can almost guarantee that you won’t have nearly half as much to say J Your words and behaviour have a strong effect on the world around you. A simple smile at someone may make their day. A small kind gesture may make their week. And a hug at that exact perfect moment may be enough to improve their outlook on mankind. Practice ahimsa wherever you can. To all beings.
Of course practicing Ahimsa in the internal dialogue is as critical off the mat as it is on. We are our own worst critics. There are enough critics in the world. See if you can retrain your mind to be a fan of your amazing self.
## Ahimsa Challenges
#01: Try to only speak and behave if it’s true, kind and necessary. Notice how many things you refrain from saying or doing. This will be hard. Its ok if you forget, just assess afterwards whether what you said was required.
#02: See if you can carry on Ahimsa off the mat. Start with the physical. Rather than tormenting your body with crazy runs that your ego is doing because your bestie is running a marathon, maybe listen to when your body says ‘That’s enough.’ Rather than doing one million things each weekend, put aside an hour or two to do soul and body nurturing things.
#03: Look for the good in everyone you meet. We are all the same. Fighting the same silent battles of life and just trying to understand its meaning. Whether you are arguing with someone, bump into someone, interacting at a store see if you can feel compassion and understanding for each person you meet. Start to look for the commonalities that you share.
#04: Take it to a whole new level. See if you can give every person you speak to a compliment. Not only will it make them feel great – it has to create some good karma for you too J
Life is hectic. I often like to think of my own prana/energy like a little battery. You know those ones where you can press the buttons and you get a reading of how much is left. Currently I am running on about 60% - room for more, but def not dragging my legs which is nice :)
Just like any interaction or exchange in life – everything in your life has an energy exchange – an energy impact on you. Everything – from yoga, to talking, work, relationships, friends, family, TV shows, phones, food, thoughts – EVERYTHING effects your energy – your ability to function, your stress levels, your sleep, your immune system, and more. Everything impacts your energy battery reading!! Everything either serves you ... or it does not.
Negative thoughts will zap energy out of you like you are fuelling a bulldozer whilst positive thoughts can give you more fuel to persist and continuous positively can lift you up. Watch your thoughts... can you choose ones that give you energy. Gratitude, positivity, acceptance, surrender and LOVE all go a LONG way to helping build your energy.
For example imagine resisting something that you have no control over. Being negative or dwelling over a situation you can do absolutely nothing about. HOW INSANE IS THIS!!! What would be a bigger waste of time and energy than focusing and stressing about things you have NO CONTROL over... instead try to accept things as they are and focus on the positives. You will be amazed at how your outlook and energy shifts.
People can have a positive, negative or neutral impact on you. Over the last year or so there has been much mentioned about emotional or energy vampires – you know those people in your life that you catch up with for half an hour and all of a sudden you walk away feeling like you have been hit by a car or in need of a life support machine. Drainers. Pause. Can you identify energy drainers in your life?
And of course on the opposite end of the spectrum there are those people you love, those people you walk away feeling up lifted and inspired, those people you would love to spend more time with. Pause. Can you identify people who give you energy?
Are you a habitual ‘Yes’ person? Do you have difficulties saying no? Do you find yourself in social situations to please others? Situations just like everything else impact your energy. As an introvert I often need a day to recover if I am dragged out to socialise in a big loud group of people. I can wake up feeling hung-over (even though I don’t drink) and like I just want to crawl into a cave. Conversely an afternoon walk in the sunshine makes me feel recharged and ready to take on the world. What activities and social environments fuel your soul?
Of course there is the huge food element....this is a big one. Some food is good for us and some is not. Its not as easy as listening to the media because most of that is rubbish. Some foods will make you tired, some will freshen you up, and some will warm the cockles of your heart. Its an individual thing so make sure you start to take notice of how different foods impact YOU...
Your mission should you choose to accept it, is firstly to observe your energy levels and watch what impacts you. Observe how you feel after each meal, after catching up with different friends, after being outside, after different activities.
Secondly is to start to minimise and eliminate things that do not serve you – aka energy drainers. Whether that is people (you may limit your interactions with them, choose to part ways, or change the circumstance in which you are interacting), food, thoughts – any drainers. Start to make time in your schedule for activities, people and things that nourish your soul and recharge your batteries.
Observe your life. Increase your awareness. Grow your consciousness.
Go Slow! aka Avoiding the Myotatic Stretch Reflex
So, you’re bouncing through a high speed sun salutation with a breath count of 1 second and get 10 rounds and a few quick warrior 2’s punched out in 5mins. Morning yoga done! Then you head off to work feeling flushed and end up stiff as a board 30 mins after you sit down because your muscles have all shortened.
Yoga’s supposed to make you flexible right? Let me introduce the myotatic stretch reflex. It’s a lightning fast muscle response circuit that enables you to run and jump, and then makes it really hard to touch your toes afterwards.
At its most basic, the human body consists of a skeleton, with a bunch of muscles attached to it that enable joints to move. As we live on Earth and not, say, on a space station, gravity presents a force that we simply evolved to deal with. The fact that gravity is there means that bouncy agile animals like humans have developed neat response mechanisms to enable moving quickly.
Take running. As you run, the front leg hits the ground and sends a big spike of force into the leg. If you had to consciously control the big quadriceps muscles each time you landed, you’d probably never get anywhere as you’d just fall down. The exacting muscle response to a single legged jump with enough rebound to keep momentum and balance is pretty much automatic. The conscious brain isn’t that fast to respond to outside events, there are all these little automatic response nerves that take care of stuff like running or jumping – or any quick powerful movement. If you jumped and those automatic response nerves – the myotatic stretch reflex receptors – didn’t fire, you’d simple pancake hard. Gravity is not your friend in this action.
So, those little receptors – think of them as poking sticks – are scattered all over the body, with most of them in places that will take notice of big gravity punches – like the knees, elbows, hips. You step, and the one in the knee pokes the lower motor neuron in your spinal column, which immediately flexes the quadriceps while completely ignoring to tell the brain anything happened. You’ll notice it eventually, because you’ll feel the shoe change around your foot, and your shorts will get real tight around your suddenly bulging upper leg. But you aren’t in control the big quad flex that kept you off the floor.
The next fun fact about this stretch reflex (which is named backwards I think) is this. When it pokes a muscle into forceful reaction, the muscle gets tighter. That’s why when you run you end up so stiff. You’ve send 1000’s of continuous pokes through this superfast response loop to keep taking landing shock which also makes them stiffen up. So the stretch reflex makes your muscles stiff and inflexible.
This is the important aspect for yoga. Fast movements equal unconscious movement. Those nerve receptors are doing the work of controlling big muscle groups. Your conscious control is floating around doing hardly anything. Mindful muscle engagement means you have to move slowly to avoid triggering the automatic responses.
Rushing down and back up in a plank to chatarunga transition (pushup) is not the same as a slow controlled exhale and lower with straight back, keeping the spine from sinking under the shoulder blades with elbows hard in the ribs, pausing, then inhaling back up.
Try it. Do 2x20 quick blasting pushups, have a 5-10min break, then do 1 pushup that takes 10 seconds to decend, 5 seconds pause, then 10 seconds to rise. Exhale on the way down, inhale on the way up. Keeping the chest cavity moving is another way to keep these reflexes calm.
Slow muscle moves take significantly more effort to control. There isn’t any valid shortcuts, because any speed will poke automatic responses, taking the mindfulness out of the practice. If you want to build strength, you’ll get far superior results if you slow down poses, and especially transitions – that’s why a slow float is so damn hard compared to a jump. You’ll build clearer body awareness, which will increase your ability to engage different muscles in every situation. And you wont end up stiff and sore because you over poked the myotatic receptors.
Lastly – if you a lot of the GR stretch/beginner classes, you’ll be aware of how staggeringly strong all of those slow poses can be.
Scientific Keys, Ray Long, MD
Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, H. David Coulter, PhD.
Mind over body, Breath over mind…
Focus on your breath…
Often said in the yoga studio but what’s going on here?
First off, some biomechanics on how the body works. Breathing is critical for pretty much every form of life. You inhale air, which is mostly nitrogen and some oxygen (and other stuff), into your lungs. After inhaling air, you exhale air, which at this point is mostly nitrogen and some carbon dioxide (and some other stuff). The major difference is that small swap of oxygen to carbon dioxide. The lungs are full of incredibly tiny little structures called alveoli, about 700 million of them. They act as little doorways for the outside world and the internal body. To breathe, the alveoli are critical for that oxygen to carbon dioxide swap. The other critical part is the blood.
Among other tasks, the blood in your body provides transport for energy, oxygen and waste removal for your muscles and organs. The muscles and organs need the blood to supply oxygen and take away waste. Arteries bring oxygen and energy to the muscles and organs, and veins take carbon dioxide and waste away. If the muscles and organs didn’t get this continuous flow of new blood with oxygen and a continuous removal of waste, everything would just stop working. When you exercise, this need for oxygen supply increases and more carbon dioxide waste is generated and needs to be removed.
Now back to the alveoli. These tiny doorways sit between air, which is a gas, and blood, which is a liquid. On one hand, it takes time for the alveoli to swap over the oxygen and carbon dioxide and when it’s rushed, it won’t keep up. On the other hand, a shallow breath will only change over some of the air in the lungs, meaning there’s old stale air filling part of the lungs, which the body can’t make use of.
Now, if only you could breathe a little slower and deeper, a greater amount of your little alveoli army would have significantly more time to fill your blood with oxygen and dump the carbon dioxide out of it.
Up until you decide to pay attention, breathing is entirely automatic. The body just does it. If you run, the breath gets faster, as the unconscious mind knows that more air is needed to move into and out of the lungs for this oxygen and carbon dioxide swapping task. But it doesn’t do a fantastic job. It’s doing just enough to survive, so the conscious mind can be recruited to enhance the process a bit.
When you decide to consciously take over the job of maintaining your breath, it’s surprisingly easy to come unstuck. Dolphins and other mammalian swimming creatures are consciously in control of their breathing, but people aren’t. The rate you need to breath at any given time has to be just right, otherwise you’ll either hyperventilate – too much - or hypoventilate - not enough. Too much and you might get dizzy and confused, too little and you feel faint and weak. Controlling the breath can be surprisingly tricky.
However, if you’re comfortably in control of a conscious breath, you can start to influence other aspects of the mind and body. We’ll get to the influencing part shortly, but let’s poke around some evolutionary biological behaviours and the sympathetic nervous system.
Just for a minute imagine you’re a caveperson. You’re running around the plains either chasing down dinner, or being chased down for dinner. More than likely a conscious breath is not exactly high on your agenda. The unconscious mind controls the autonomous nervous system, of which the sympathetic nervous system is a part. And it knows that lots of air is needed and most likely you’ll have a wide open mouth breathing hard – a big mouth gets the most air in and out the quickest. This is a fight or flight response and the body’s automatic reaction processes take over to give you the best chance of surviving the day.
Because these stresses are triggering each other on your Sunday evening dinner run, you can safely say that every single one of your predecessors survived enough of these situations to put you on the Earth. That means they are extremely potent processes. Run fast, breathe fast, think fast, react fast and stay alive. This happens to enable survival. Just as importantly, survival also requires having an off switch. The body can’t run at high levels of intensity for long, so there are processes available for calming the body down. That way you can enjoy your dinner, or tell a fun story around the fire when you get home.
The problem with this these days is we don’t have to run down a kangaroo or run from a crocodile. We do however, practice strenuous exercise. When you do strenuous exercise, the sympathetic nervous system has no idea that music is playing and your standing on a yoga mat. As the sympathetic nervous system registers an increase in muscle demand, it triggers an increase in heart rate and an increase in breathing. Probably fast shallow breaths - panting. This tends to be poor efficiency, but it is good enough for a quick sprint. When you try and maintain this higher level of output for longer, you either figure out how to breathe better, or you slow down due your body’s inability to get enough oxygen and remove enough carbon dioxide.
When you take control of the breath, you can deliberately highjack the fight or flight response and replace it with a calm response. This is the influencing aspect mentioned earlier. Slow breathing is a sign to the body that all is calm. It’s a triggering action. The unconscious mind is far stronger than the conscious mind - just think about staying awake for 3 days or avoid the toilet for 10 hours. The unconscious mind will however take requests from the conscious mind. The request that a conscious slow breath rate makes on the unconscious mind and the sympathetic nervous system is ‘please stay calm, I’ve got this’.
If you’re balancing your breath rate with the needs of the body, then you’ll be calm, even if you’re holding a very intense warrior 2 pose or doing a handstand. Why would you want to do this? Because yoga asana is all about quieting the mind! You can’t remove stress if the mind is running at top speed.
So what happens now? Take long slow breaths through your nose that completely fill your lungs each time, and then slowly exhale. Maybe a small pause at either end will feel beneficial. This takes a lot of practice as the balance between having a good rate of breathing and a bad one can have you collapsing out of breath or adding to the stress your body is already under. Neither of these situations is a good place to be if you’re trying to do a yoga asana practice. At first you might find that you can barely get through a basic sun salutation without panting through your mouth. This means you need to slow down and stop trying to push the physical poses as much! Of course you can do these physical poses, but the entire point of yoga is to build a better union of the mind and the body, the poses are just some of the tools. You’ll build an amazing body without pushing past your breath balance, it is literally the side effect of a good-body-mind breath balance. So find that balance.
You’ll get exactly the right level of physical and mental workout by balancing your asana with your breath. This is a good way you can tell if you’re working effectively (or hard) enough. Hard enough is working truthfully with your breath. If you are having difficulty keeping your breath under control, let go of it, slow down and rest. When your breath is consciously calm again, then you can continue the asana. Basically, you’re not doing yoga asana if you can’t control your breath, you’re doing something that simply looks similar and yoga is anything but a superficial activity. So, be honest with yourself – maybe you need to take it a little easier. Your practice will be better, your mind will be less stressed and your body will function better.
Taking notice of your physical output to balance it with your breath takes effort, focus and practice. It gives your mind something very important to do, instead of working out a mental shopping list or rehearsing an urgent email. This is the act of quieting the mind through asana. As you do a vigorous physical practice, you concentrate on your breathe. The breath will help control your nervous system and help keep your body calm.
When you have gained a high degree of control over your breath during asana practice, you’ll enjoy it a lot more and get more benefits. The unconscious mind is trying to keep you alive in a survival situation. Stay conscious of what your body needs and you just might be able to do a better job eventually. You’ll create a conscious union between your mind, body and breath. Which is why you want to have mind over body and the breath over mind.
Dave Van Damme
It can be as simple as doubling your exhalation to calm down when you are anxious, in bad traffic, or in a meeting where you simply need to bite your tongue. It will develop over time to the more complex art of starting to observe your self. You become accustomed to watching your self in long pose holds. Watching which poses bring up anger, emotions, or those you just HAVE TO RUN FROM because the fear of what is hiding in that pose is too much for you. You become familiar with watching your ego react. Catching it out sometimes, or sometimes getting caught up in it and forcing a pose that really is not appropriate for your body in that moment.
Let us take this off the mat.
Your mission should you choose to accept it, is to pause and observe. Pause before we react to any situation – whether that be a conversation, an environment, a perceived wrong doing, etc etc. Do you have the power to PAUSE before your ego takes over? Watch how you automatically want to
react. Defensive, aggressive or walk away? Assess whether this is a productive
reaction. Assess how the best version of yourself would react in that
And then, a lot more informed and in control of the reaction, but more importantly how the present situation and your reaction will affect you and
your emotions: Act in the manner the best version of yourself would.
You will be surprised at both how difficult this is to practice regularly, but also how amazing the impact is when you start to take control of your reactions :)
Practice makes better. So keep practicing.
Written by Korinne McNeill.
KORINNE McNEILL: Yoga is life for Korinne. Creator of the Green Room Korinne is grateful everyday that she gets to share her passion with others.