Monday, April 29, 2013

Yoga is better than good; 16 reasons to practice.

We all practice our yoga for many different reasons and actually many of the same reasons.  But I think it is safe to say for everyone of us we practice because yoga makes us feel good!  It tastes good, it is good, it is better than good it is wonderfully amazing!  For myself it has brought so many benefits both physically and mentally, too many to bore you with here, but here are some of the reasons to practice according to Yogacharya Sundaram:
1. This yogic system benefits the vital organs of the heart and lungs directly and maintains them in supreme efficiency.
2. It induces effective and vigorous blood circulation and completely eliminates all impurities from the system.
3. This ensures the ductless glands function in a normal way and makes sure they secrete their juices effectively maintaining absorption into the blood stream.
4. This destroys harmful bacteriological invaders and increases the anti-bacteriologic power of the blood to a remarkable level.
5. It helps growth and maintains the metabolic system.
6. It keeps the body handsome!
7. It prevents accumulation of adipose tissues or useless flesh.
8. It increases longevity.
9. It purifies the senses and the sense organs.
10. It provides plenty of blood supply to the brain and increases the brain power.
11. It stimulates proper and balanced functioning of the entire nervous system, both sympathetic and parasympathetic. 
12. It brings about purification and easy control of the emotions; lust, anger, greed, hatred, jealousy, delusion and over excitement.
13. It brings peace and harmony to the mind.
14. It brings about harmonious and efficient distribution of Praana or energy in the body and enables such energy to carry on the work of the system perfectly.
15. It enables and gives enough endurance and viatlity for carrying out more than the usual quantum of physical and mental work if without undue strain to either the body or the mind.
16. It enables each of us to excel in his or her own setting or profession.

So what could be better than that!  Lets roll out our mats and get started 
Have a great practice
may you always have love and peace in your heart
mangala / nicky

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sarvangasana the Shoulderstand

Recently I seem to have had many practitioners approach me in regard to them not sleeping well.  This can be caused by many reasons; a change in our life may be taking place, or stress build up coming from overworking or emotional imbalance.  There are so many stimulants that surround us that it can be hard to escape them and find yourself physically and emotionally at rest.  And of course what you are putting into your body has a huge influence over the state of the mind. 
But not being able to sleep and not receiving the amount of rest you need each day, can cause a disastrous effect on both the physical and mental bodies. 
Often I am asked which postures are good to reduce insomnia and I recommend Sarvangasana; the shoulder stand.  In fact this posture has so many benefits, the word ‘Sarva’ means ‘all parts’ in Sanskrit and hence the shoulderstand is said to benefit all parts of the body.  According to Swami Sivananda there are three asanas which alone will keep the body in perfect health; Headstand, Shoulderstand and Seated Forward-bend. 
However one of the benefits of Shoulderstand is that it relieves insomnia.  There are some preparatory exercises for this posture in order to strengthen the abdominal muscles and lower back muscles.  You can practice single leg raises and double leg raises before coming up into the pose, and it is always a good idea to have done a few rounds of sun salutations to warm up the whole body before performing any of the asanas and preparatory exercises.
Here is how to come up safely into your shoulderstand.
  1. Lie flat on the mat on your back with both feet together and flexed up toward the sky.  The arms are beside your body with palms flat to the mat.
  2. Inhale and bring the legs up to a right angle, as the legs come up behind you the hips raise up off the mat.
  3. Support the back with the hands, fingers pointing in toward the spine, thumbs toward the chest.
  4. Straighten your body upward taking the hands further toward the shoulder blades so as your weight is coming onto the shoulders.
  5. Always keep your head in line with the spine within this posture, never looking side to side, and keep the chin tucked into your chest.
  6. Keep the feet together and relaxed, all the muscles in the legs relaxed so as the circulation can flow the opposite direction.
  7. Breathe deeply through the nose and allow the tummy to come out on the inhalations and bring it back in on the exhalations.
  8. Hold for as long as you are comfortable.
  9. To come out of the posture, lower the legs 45 degrees over your head, place the palms flat to the mat behind you, using them as a brake.  Slowly unroll your body down onto the mat.
  10. Rest in Savasana the relaxation pose.

Sarvangasana encourages deep breathing, which brings a real calming effect on the body and the mental state, which can help with insomnia and depression.  Turning your body upside down in this manor also allows you to look at the world from a different point of view and maybe inspire you to approach a difficult situation with more confidence and courage.  It can help to increase your sense of independence turning your direction of focus inward and helping to let go of external experience. 
Physically there are so many benefits to this posture; because of the chin pressed into the throat the thyroid gland gets a lot of stimulation and is regulated, thus regulating all other glands.  This posture brings a rich supply of blood to the thyroid thus regulating the body’s metabolism and heat production, growth and development of the muscles and bone tissue.  It controls the heart rate and thus blood pressure can be controlled.  Also the parathyroid gland receives stimulation and helps to maintain calcium levels in the blood and tissues, this reduces risk of blood clotting.  The spine gets fed abundantly whilst in this pose with all the nutrients it needs keeping it strong and elastic.  Because of the inverted position of the body blood is not permitted to stagnate at the lower extremities of the body, all the veins in the legs get a lovely rest and it can help to prevent varicose veins, the blood recirculates here.  The heart receives a gentle massage and the upper back muscles are stretched.  Shoulderstand helps to keep a youthful figure and smooth skin, so as you can see it’s a wonder pose!  Lets do more sarvangasana! 
Don’t worry if at first it seems difficult, with the build up exercises of single and double leg raises you will start to become stronger and the pose will start to become easier, breath through it and just think of all the benefits it is bringing and enjoy it.  It is just a matter of practice. 

Lets relax more and sleep better with the practice of Sarvangasana
Looking forward to seeing you all on the mat
Om Lokha Somasta Sukhino Bhavantu
May all living entities find harmony and balance
Om shanti
Mangala / Nicky

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Teachings from Swami Tattvarupananda

“Anger is not the problem.  The problem is that you think you should not have anger.  Anger is a healthy emotion.  The only thing is you should handle the anger and not let the anger handle you.  This counts for any emotion.”  Swami Tattvarupananda.

We have spoken a bit about anger and the emotions before in February 6th’s post on how to handle anger, fear and anxiety, by resting in Childs pose and punching it out in vajrasana.  But what Swami Tattvarupananda has said here was like a little light in my mind, that it is ok to have these emotions, in fact we shouldn’t be without them; they are natural and human.  But it is how we handle them that makes all the difference, being able to disattach from them and not let them consume us is the key. It is through the practice of meditation that we can learn to keep calm and gentle through our daily lives.  Many people are put off from the practice of meditation as they try it once, their mind is jumping all over the place and they think they can’t do it and give up.  This is the case for all of us; the mind is a wild tiger that needs to be trained, which takes time, patience and dedication to the practice.  One of the main obstacles to the practice of meditation is the lack of concentration, which living in the modern world with stimulants from sounds, colours, lights and noise flying around us constantly, is no surprise.  When we see people meditating, are they really meditating and have found that state where everything stops, stillness, contentment and peace are all that is there?  Or are they too sitting desperately trying to concentrate as thoughts of all kinds of nature pop in and out of the mind?  Probably the latter.  The benefits of the practice of meditation are boundless, no matter how bad you think you are at it, the benefits are still coming, you will find you suddenly deal with a situation better than you might have, things don’t bother you so much any more and the list goes on, so don’t give up and get frustrated.  There is nothing wrong with being a bad meditator, in fact we are all probably that, due to our minds not being trained that way, its just a question of re-training and with patience it gets better.  Here is a lesson in concentration to help you build on that quality and help you with your other meditation practices. 

Sit in a comfortable position that you can maintain for some time, in a place where you wont be disturbed, making sure that the spine is held straight.  Close your eyes and just breath effortlessly for a while let go of your day and just be with yourself.  Then start to count with the breath, beginning with the exhalation – 1, inhalation – 1, exhalation -2, inhalation – 2, exhalation – 3, inhalation – 3, etc until you reach the number of 21.  The thing is though as soon as another thought pops into your mind begin again at 1.  Practice this for about 5 minutes, have a short break then try again.  There is no relevance to the number 21 it is just a target, and as your concentration begins to increase with practice, you can increase the length of time and the target number.  Be honest in the practice and always come back to 1 as soon as a thought distracts you, which is the tricky part, as you want to continue and then wonder what was a thought, and what was not, it is a very interesting practice and I’m sure you will learn something about yourself from it.

Enjoy and looking forward to seeing all you meditating YOGIS soon!
Om Lokah Somastah Sukinho Bhavantu
May all beings find harmony, balance and peace.
Om shanti
Mangala – nicky.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Being in the now, 'what's for breakfast?' asked Pooh.

Our Guru’s are always telling us to stay in the present moment, be in the now, let the past go and don’t worry about the future.  It is surely a wonderful thing, but the present moment is so hard to grasp, just as you think you have it its gone.  Past doesn’t exist it has already left us, future never comes, there is  only the present but how do we stay in it?  When we have so many things to think of living in this modern age, so many different things to take care of and decisions to be made, that always seem to lead us to thinking about a situation we could have handled differently and what we should do for the future.  Present moment can sometimes seem like impossibility so is it so that it is also a non-reality as we are never seemingly in it!  Well here are some wise words from Pooh bear, the bear of little brain who infact explains the whole concept of Taoism beautifully in the book by Benjamin Hoff; The Tao of Pooh.  So in fact maybe that bear is a bear of genius.  Who needs a huge brain to find illumination!

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” Said Piglet at last, “what is the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?”  Said Pooh.  “What do you say Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?”  Said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s the same thing.”  He said.

This little gem has helped me a lot, to just think of pooh and simply what’s for breakfast!
Om Om shanti OM
See you on or off the mat!
Mangala / nicky