Friday, December 12, 2014

Healthy Winter Warmer to relieve Stress and Tension



During these cold winter days it is imperative we keep warm and hydrated.  Many of us tend to stop drinking as much water as we normally would do and drink more caffeinated drinks such as hot tea, which are dehydrating and can cause cramping of muscles during our practice.  If simply drinking hot water to maintain body temperature and hydration is not appealing to you, then here is a great recipe for a very healthy alternative to hot chocolate!!

I cup unsweetened soya milk
½ teaspoon of vanilla
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
1 rooibos teabag
Jaggary to sweeten if needed.

(you can also use organic cows milk if you aren’t vegan, although soya milk is very delicious and by drinking this alternative you are helping reduce the stress to the planet from milk production.)

Bring the soya milk to boil in the pan adding the other ingredients and stir, before serving remove the rooibos bag.  For those of you who simply cannot deny yourself you could sprinkle a few flakes of organic dark chocolate on the top!
Delicious!

Rooibos or other wise known as bush tea has long been drunk and valued in South Africa for its healing qualities.  Nowadays it is popular in coffee shops as an alternative, offering red lattes and red espresso giving us the choice to still feel that we can go for a ‘break’ but remaining caffine free and healthy. 
It is a great antioxidant and has been know for its de-stressing qualities, which make it wonderful for those of us suffering with nervous tension.  This in turn makes it a soother for people suffering with allergies, asthma and digestive disorders as these are stemming from stress and anxiety.  Also it is a headache reliever and general good feeler.  Also it can inhibit the production of uric acid thus in turn bringing relief to arthritis and gout. 
So bring out this Toa of tea, keep warm and help to keep the immune system strong and healthy this winter.
For now
Om Lokha Somasta Sukhino Bhavantu
Mangala / Nicky

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reasons to practice the Inverted V every day!

The inverted V pose know in Sanskrit as Parvatasana, or maybe more commonly known as the downward facing dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the twelve postures performed through Suryia Namaskar, the sun salutations.  Although I love to flow through the sun salu’s with one breath one movement, I also really love to hold this posture for a series of deep breaths, and there are reasons as to why you should.
Firstly it is our legs that carry us around each day, walking, running, standing and generally moving around can bring tension to the back of the legs causing tightness to the hamstrings and calf muscles.  The inverted V is wonderful for bringing relief to the backs of the legs and causing the tension to release itself with the help of gravity, lengthening those tight hamstrings.
It keeps the spine long and allows the vertebrae to find space, which in other forward bends such as Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold) is not as easy.  With this posture it keeps the spine long without causing any other tension to other parts of the body.  Here we use gravity to reverse the usual downward pressure to the spine, and the pressure you create through the palms and feet on the mat is one of the best tools for lengthening the spine.  Here the spine receives the benefits of an inverted posture such as the headstand but is great for anyone not wanting to practice those postures yet, or has neck or shoulder injuries or simply not enough strength to hang upside down for longer periods of time.
Being able to hold here gives you the time to really slow down and focus on the breath and actually feel the breath working through the body and re-energising each and every cell.  Our breath in its gross form is our energy so to be able to feel it moving through the body is a beautiful thing.
It is a great strengthening posture not only for the arms but also for the chest.  Many people now spend hours hunched at desks and over computers this posture is a great combat to those hunched shoulders, chest and upper back muscles and brings a sense of release from pain and pressure from those areas of the body.
There will be an increase of upper body strength through the practice of this posture which is probably something we could all do with, keeping the elbows slightly soft so as not to hyperextend through the arms and engaging all the muscles in the arms by taking the biceps away from the ears and really pushing the palms down into the mat will bring a great deal of prana or energy to the whole arm and will help to build on stamina. 
And finally by bringing the chin into the chest creates a pressure to the throat area which is going to provide stimulation for the thyroid gland which in turn regulates the whole metabolic system, bring balance and harmony to our whole systems.  We could also say that this stimulation is also reaching Vishuddhi chakra located at the throat in our astral bodies, hence governing our speech and communications, so that we can make ourselves more easily understood and able to express ourselves through sound and speech more easily and beneficially.
So next time you practice this wonderful posture try to bear all these things in mind and explore through your body, instead of hanging out and wondering how long is the teacher going to make me hold this pose, give your brain a wonderful bath of oxygen, breathe deeply and feel the pose both internally and externally and let go of all the stresses and strains of the day.
Looking forward to meeting you on the mat for a bit of Inverted V time
For now
Om Lokha Somasta Sukhino Bhavantu
May you all find peace, balance and harmony
Om Shanti
Mangala / Nicky

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Using our Emotions to reach Oneness.

If we use our emotions to try to reach the ultimate goal of yoga, that of union with the supreme or universal consciousness, this is called Bhakti Yoga, and is an essential part of our practice.  The practice transmutes our lower emotions turning them into devotion or to feelings of joy, or we could say it turns all the unpleasantness into pleasantness or the negatives into positives.  We as human beings naturally have emotions, some that come fast and some that have a negative effect on ourselves and those that surround us, but learning how to channel those emotions properly can lead to a state of liberation.  Our lower emotions or those that are referred to as poisons in Buddhism, those of hatred, anger, greed, ignorance and pride shouldn’t be suppressed, this in turn would cause disease to the body as well as the mind, but it is learning how to turn those negativities around to lead us to a positive goal and find divine joy, peace and infinite love. 
Sometimes we can feel very alone with these lower emotions but the practice of Bhakti yoga can take those feelings of solitude away as we move away from our ego and become one with the consciousness that is surrounding us and in turn this releases us from these feelings, our fears and anxieties and allows us to feel part of something whole and beautiful.
To me I feel that it is pretty obvious that today the worlds major religions have failed in bringing people closer to the truth, to a place where they can feel safe, loved and the bliss of taking refuge in a higher power, this is where so many people are resorting the use of substances to get this feeling, with disastrous effects on the health of their whole system both body and mind.  We don’t need to look for answers in this way, this is not the right way, all we need to do is let go and look inward for an inner state of blissful consciousness.  One way to do this is by the singing of Kirtan, the chanting of mantras, prayers and songs to the divine.  It has been scientifically proven that singing each day only for a few minutes can improve digestion, posture, reduce stress and elevate our moods.  Our emotions can be very intense right, if we are really angry over something we may not sleep at all or be able to eat, our whole day and night can be effected and it is not something we can just switch off from as easy as that.  But the practice of kirtan or other forms of Bhakti yoga can take us quickly away from those troublesome emotions.  Even the same for the opposite end of the scale, when we fall in love also sometimes we can’t eat, sleep etc, and also in this case bhakti can keep us on the middle ground and enable us to operate with balance.  I believe that every one loves to sing but through life experience and in many cases bad schooling this joy has been stubbed out of us.  Secretly when you are alone and you find yourself singing doesn’t it make you feel better? Maybe because we have allowed our egos to become to obsessed with the ideas of perfection and how we are perceived then we are afraid to sing, but if we think of how big the planet is, how big the universe is, how big the whole cosmos is, we are a tiny tiny speck so a little singing is not going to harm you, but it is going to bring you back to harmony and balance, harmonising our emotions.  Chanting Kirtan consists of working with basic patterns of sound, that work their way through our clogged minds, and eliminate all the worries, strains and fears that have been deposited in the mind over years allowing them to gradually crumble away.  Inspiring emotions are raised that can be maintained and elevated often to a point of natural ecstasy, it gives us a good clean release of pent – up emotions which can accumulate from day to day, it is a way to clean our souls, no matter how your voice sounds or how shy you may be, to all the singing of Kirtan offers a means of touching upon bliss. 
What could be better?
Join me every Friday after asana class at Patan Studio, Moksh, Kathmandu for a glorious session of Kirtan and its free so why are you not there already!!
Asana class 9.15-10.30am and Kirtan 10.45-11.15am every Friday, start the weekend well!
Wishing everyone bliss in finding their voice!
Mangala / Nicky

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Joy of Cucumbers!!

Cucumbers can make a big impression on a yogi’s diet, part of the melon, pumpkin and courgette family it is packed with goodness and naturally distilled water which makes it superior to normal water bringing hydration for the body.  After a great asana practice why not tuck into a cucumber, re-hydrate and also enjoy these other important benefits to take care of our bodies our ultimate home for our very being. 
A cucumbers skin has a high percentage of vitamin A (good for cell repair, immune system and good vision) so always best not to peel it.  Also there is a good percentage of vitamin C (good for healing of wounds, immune system and to prevent cancers) folate, manganese and anti-oxidants.  In lesser amounts it contains potassium, B complexes, sodium, calcium and phosphorus. 
Folate or folic acid (vit B12) is wonderful for cell repair, for the heart and keeping the brain young, sounds good to me!
It is really great at helping reduce or preventing water retention, hence when we have puffy eyes putting slices of cucumber over the eyelids will bring back softness and radiance!
It is soothing for gastric and duodenal ulcers.  It can help regulate blood pressure for both low and high because of its minerals and traces of sodium.
Cucumbers can help to build our connective tissues hence our muscles, bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons, as it is an excellent source of silica.  And if you are suffering with any arthritis or rheumatism it can really help to counter uric acid that builds up in the joints causing inflammation and pain.   This is true also for anyone suffering with asthma or gout.
As well as all this it encourages detox as the toxins are removed through urination, which is encouraged from the water intake from the cucumber.
Give your immune system a boost with a cucumber!
Here is a lovely recipe for cucumber salad, it’s best to choose nice dark green ones that are firm to the touch, and I am talking about the cucumbers!!

1 large cucumber
1 tablespoon of unsalted cooked peanuts chopped in half
2 teaspoons of sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
Salad dressing-
½ cup of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of water
½ teaspoon of sea salt or rock salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper
½ teaspoon of dark Soya sauce
Pinch of chilli

Cut the cucumber keeping the skin to the required size, add the peanuts, seeds and dressing and allow to sit for 10 mins or longer before serving.

Enjoy your cucumbers!!
Eat well, breathe well, sleep well, and live well!
Om Shanti shanti shantih
Mangala/Nicky.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Feeling pain in the body relates to the mind, how can we cope?


Meditation is the most effective means of cultivating the inner causes of happiness and eradicating the inner causes of suffering and delusion be them severe physical and emotional pain to the subtlest sense of unease.  It has been proven that meditation reduces stress, strengthens the immune system, which in turn decreases the frequency and severity of illness.  It gives us the ability and the strength to let go of mental toxins or mental toxic states thus reducing psychosomatic illnesses.  It gives us the tools to be able to deal better with states of depression, fear and anxiety.  It accelerates our healing process, so there is absolutely no reason not to meditate.  Many people leave my class after the asanas and are not so inclined to stay for the meditation session, which I offer for free, a class of over 20 can drop down to 5 or 6 for the meditation.  And in reality this is the part that everyone should be jumping to stay for, it is actually the spine of our practice.  Of course we need our yogic postures to keep the body and internal organs healthy but this is essentially so we can sit for our meditation, which will lead us to a state of a free uncluttered mind in which we can be present in the moment and find freedom and ultimate peace.  The great sage Patanjali who put yoga in its first written form in the shape of verses or sutras, gave us eight steps on the path of Raja Yoga; the holistic approach.  The first two steps were our observances and restraints named the Yamas and Niyamas, our dos and don’ts in our life; these are regarding our life style.  The third step was asana – yogic postures, the fourth pranayama – yogic breathing.  Then the next four steps were regarding meditation 5. Pratyahara-withdrawing the senses, 6. Dharana- concentration, 7. Dhyana-meditation and 8. Samadhi- the state of absolute bliss.  So you can see that meditation and the steps that lead to it form 50% of the practice described by Patanjali, lifestyle is 25%, then asanas and breath work form 12.5% each.  But so much emphasis is placed on the body in many of our yoga schools and centres around the world.  Shouldn’t we be focusing more on the health of our mind, a healthy mind will in turn bring a healthy body.  I have a prime example of this in my own body as I suffer slightly with arthritis in my right knee.  When it gets painful it is definitely when my mind is troubled and then when I perform certain cleansing techniques for the body and use meditation it gets better again.  I have observed this and it is very interesting to see that a cleansing technique for the stomach, which is where a lot of wrong thinking and emotional stress can build up, releases the pain in my knee!  So why not start at the source, which is the mind and how we can deal with it is in our meditations, if we have clarity of mind then we have a healthy body.  I think what puts a lot of people off is they believe that they can’t meditate, I hear so often ‘oh my mind is everywhere,’ or ‘I just can’t sit still.’ Etc etc etc, so many different reasons they find, but if only we can understand that everybody’s mind jumps everywhere and yes we all find sitting still difficult, but we must practice, the slightest bit of practice brings so many benefits and we can start on the road to finding our inner peace where any situation can happen around us and we can remain peaceful and content.  I think one of the problems is that we all tend to put too much pressure on ourselves in this modern world, ideas of perfection trouble us, if only we could realise that we are already perfect, there is no need to do anything and all that inner quiet and peace that we speak of is already within but we just need to give it a chance to come out.  So my advice would be if you have the chance to meditate then don’t shy away from it, don’t indeed be afraid of it, but sit in the love and light of your own self.  One of the biggest obstacles of meditation is not starting at all or starting and having expectations that when aren’t met we give up.  Start with just 5 minutes, if sitting in cross legged pose for you is torture then sit on a chair, as long as the spine is straight and not resting on anything.  Then bring your awareness for a few moments around your body, start at the toes and work up and feel yourself gradually relax the muscles.  Then simply bring your awareness to your breath without changing anything, just watch it, watch every inhalation and exhalation you can feel the warmth on the upper lip with every exhalation.  Do it for every day for just 5 minutes, do it with no expectation, then over time you will gradually build up but you will definitely notice a difference within yourself after some time.  You will get to a point when you really don’t want to open your eyes again you are so happy just being there.  Let us address the monsters within of fear and stress and let them go, let the pain from your body disappear as the pain disappears from the mind.  There is no argument that it is easy it is surely difficult but so worth every moment, and as the saying goes if you have time to breathe then you have time to meditate.  This practice can help you so much, so why are you not doing it?  I really encourage you to put in the effort and watch the changes over time within you.  Freedom is your birthright so why not meditate and realise it. 
‘An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory”  Swami Sivananda
So turn off your computer now and give the next five minutes to meditation!
Keep shinning like your beautiful souls and remember that growth comes gradually, sincerity, regularity and patience ensure eventual success.
Om shanti
Mangala / Nicky

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Blessings.

To associate with the wise
To pay respects where they are due
To reside in a suitable location
To have set oneself on the right path (to emancipation)
To have much learning
To be restrained by a moral code
To have beautiful speech
To support ones parents
To cherish ones wife, husband and children
To earn ones livelihood without difficulty
To be generous
To live in accord with the Dhamma (the way)
To refrain from intoxicants
To be respectful to be humble
To be content and have gratitude
To have a mind unshaken by the world
To have a mind that is sorrow-less, stainless and secure
To go everywhere in peace
These are the highest blessings.

From without and within – teachings on Theravada Buddhism

I would like to add to this list one of the greatest blessings that I have been given by my teachers is the practice of Yoga, my grounding force and my true connection back to the universe.  For this I am truly grateful how can I ever repay my guru’s for all that they have given me in this wonderful blessing where all calmness, peace and bliss reside.  I can start by continuing to practice with honesty and determination, and to try and share all that I discover on the path with endless energy to all those who wish to come and practice with me.  The obstacles that are placed on our path make us stronger, our weaknesses are our strengths as we recognise them and overcome them.  The beauty of Yoga when all the elements the earth, water, fire, air and space come together, when the sun, moon, wind and rain become one in our hearts and we shine with the stars.  How wonderful it is to wake up to the world every morning and step onto the mat, to work with our bodies, breath, minds and soul and to find a great big inner smile.  This human existence is a true blessing with all its trials and tribulations it gives us the opportunity to practice Yoga not only on the mat but in every breath in every moment of every day.  When I think back to myself before this mysterious practice came into my life, I was lost and always searching searching searcning, now I have come home and I truly hope all humanity finds their balance and harmony back with who they truly are, beautiful shinning souls.

The Truth is always present like water is under the ground.
Have wonderful days
Om Om shanti Om
Nicky / Mangala

Next retreat date with Nicky: 10th, 11th and 12th November @ Neydo Monastery - Nepal.  Please check website for details www.pranamaya-yoga.com

Friday, September 26, 2014

Navaratri - Celebrating Female Energy.



Navaratri celebrates 9 nights of the forms of Devi or we can say female energy.  This is considered an important junction of climatic and solar influences and is a wonderful opportunity to worship the Divine Mother.  This can evoke every aspect of the universal consciousness in the form of Mother, the one who removes all our miseries, the one full of unconditional love and compassion the one who protects.
This morning as I chanted Kali Ma with my group of kirtan singers I really felt the aspect of femininity and love rise within me and the word namaste came to my mind.  This word has such deep and profound meaning it is not simply a greeting it is a way to honour all universal consciousness that resides within each of us.  So in light of this I will leave you with these words and I hope that you feel this too.
Namaste
My soul honours your soul
I honour the place in you
Where the entire universe resides.
I honour the light , love, truth
Beauty and peace within you.
Because it is also within me.
In sharing these things
We are united we are the same
We are one.

Namaste to one and all
Love from my heart and wishing you all find the beautiful light within you and allow that light to shine outward into the world.
Happy Navaratri!
Mangala / Nicky.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

3 Tips for a life of Balance

“Hope is nature’s way of enabling us to survive so that we can discover nature itself.” Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Yoga is the practice of union, union with the universal consciousness and Ayurveda is the practice of living in balance with nature.  Yoga means to yolk, Ayur means life and Veda means knowledge.  Therefore we can take it that ayurveda is the practice of knowing how to live life, the knowledge of life and yoga is that which binds it all together.  Both Yoga and Ayurveda are lifestyles that interweave together like hand in glove they fit so well together.  When I first discovered yoga it was as if a light had been lit within me, and then later in discovering ayurveda a second light was lit, and one doesn’t seem to be far from the other.  Ayurveda speaks to every element and facet of human existence and is applicable to each individual’s existence.  To those of us who seek a greater harmony and a move away from technology back to nature ayurveda is there and has been tried, tested and refined over the centuries to bring greater peace and longevity.  I see so many people these days constantly attached to screens and ‘instant’ information that then leads to aspects of ill health possibly without even realising it.  All this overload of machines and technology can lead to unsocial behaviour, a tendency to be withdrawn, low attention spans and lack of concentration, obesity and lack of enthusiasm, anxiety and stress.  Do we really need this?  What yoga and ayurveda provide us with is a journey back to reality, that which connects us back to the very nature of what we are, those eight elements of earth, water, fire, air, space, individuality, mind and intellect.  When I am practicing my sun salutations I really do feel that beautiful flow of energy, which is that universal rhythm, how the sun rises and fall and we as human beings are part of that same rhythm and if we want to remain as healthy as we can it is best that we don’t forget it.  This universal rhythm is not only what is surrounding us in the aspect of the elements but also it is what makes our very being, if you think that you are more than mud then think again.  If you think you are more than a blade of grass growing out of that mud then think again.  The key is to watch nature that surrounds us and learn from her, she is our greatest teacher.  Separating ourselves from nature is a huge mistake and will only lead to disease of one sort or another.  The practice of yoga and ayurveda takes us back to the source, back to simplicity and back to health.  You can start with these three simple ayurvedic tips to start to bring you back to balance and at one with the very essence of life that which you are. 
1.Keep a regular routine of waking, eating and sleeping.
If we look at how the sun and moon rise and fall each day there is regularity, if we get up constantly at different times, go to bed and different times, eat at different times, the body becomes confused.  A regular routine maintains balance in the bodies functions.  Digestion, elimination, a better quality of sleep and mentality will be improved by a daily routine.
2. Lunch should be your biggest meal.  If you think about it, it is very logical; we eat for our energy and why eat a big meal not so long before you go to bed when the body needs limited energy?  Ayurveda advises that when the sun is highest in the sky is when we should eat our largest meal of the day, this is when our digestive fire is at its highest.  Dinner should be very light and easy to digest, soups or porridge are ideal. 
3.Stop drinking iced drinks.  Ice or chilled drinks make digestion very difficult, if you imagine all your internals are not chilled, they are body temperature, imagine the shock as something so cold goes into the body and the effect that has on the organs.  Like a rock that has been in the sun and is hot, if put in very cold water what would happen to it?  It could easily crack.  So let us be gently on our bodies, drinks that are room temperature are better. 

We need to embrace who we are not move away from that, look at nature and follow her lead, see when the plants are more active and when they are at rest.  Eat with the seasons.  Fighting against the natural rhythms of the universe means fighting against you very own nature, this is going to lead to problems.  Learn to live gently, love yourself and the earth around you.  The nature around you is the nature within you, there should be no separation, through yoga and ayurveda you can shine like the very beautiful light that you are.
Shinning like the sun and moon
Om shanti shanti shanti
Mangala / Nicky

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Celebrating Ganesha Chaturhi with a little story!


In honour of Ganesha Chaturhi, the time when we celebrate the Elephant headed God; Lord Ganesha, here is a little story of when he as a small boy learnt lessons on kindness and ahimsa; non-violence. 
“One day the elephant-headed little boy-god named Ganesha went off to play in the woods of Mount Kailasa where he lived.  He was a mischievous little boy and he especially loved to run and play and sometimes pretend he was a warrior.
One day he took out his play bow and arrows, ‘what can I hunt?’ he thought.  He spotted his little white cat and immediately pursued it.  He shot his play arrows at the cat, and the cat run off terrified.  But Ganesha thought that the cat was having fun.  So Ganesha searched for it and found the little cat shaking in fear behind a tree.
‘Aha! I found you,’ he cried, and again shot arrows at the cat.  But the little cat ran off.  Once again Ganesha found the cat under a log and this time he pounced on the cat, rolled with it in the mud and tossed her up into the air.  But the cat ran away and Ganesha couldn’t find her again and so went back home.  When he got there he saw his mother, the Goddess Parvati.  He stopped in his tracks when he saw that she had mud stains on her face and hands and scratches on her arms.  ‘Mother what happened to you?’ he asked.  Parvati looked at herself and said: ‘I don’t know, did you do this to me?’ 
‘ME? Why NO!’ Ganesha exclaimed, but then looked down at his feet and thought ‘but I was a bit rough playing with our cat today.’
‘Oh,’ said his mother as she gathered him up into her arms.  ‘Now I understand.  You know Ganesha I am this whole world.  My body is this whole earth.  Anytime you do anything to it you also do it to me.  You see I am that little cat too, so anything you did to it, you also did to me.’
‘I understand now mother, my actions really do matter.’
‘Yes,’ answered Parvati, ‘it is impossible not to do any harm to everything, but we can be very aware of out actions, so that we do as little harm as possible.’
Ganesha thanked his mother for his lesson and went off again to make peace with the cat and play gently this time!

It’s nice to hear stories no matter how old we are, to remind us and to make us smile. They are a way to link ourself with the story and through the story with the wider world, I hope it brought a smile for you too and it’s a story you will share with your family. 
JAI GANESHA JAI  to the one full of wisdom and strength, to the one we honour before all to help us to remove all the obstacles that we face.
Have wonderful days let us increase our compassion, strength, wisdom and focus.
Om Shantih
Mangala / Nicky.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Looking at Depression, where did it come from?

We go through life daily thinking that we are coping with all that we face, and then for some, suddenly like a car running out of petrol we can’t seem to go on anymore.  Everything can become just too much to cope with even the smallest of things can seem like a huge thing to take on.  And where did our feelings of joyfulness and playfulness go?  Even getting out of bed can seem like a mountain too steep and daunting to climb.  Because for most of us we have moved into such a fast paced life full of machines and technologies that we don’t see ourselves anymore and then one day we wake up lost.  Then what do we do?  Anxiety can be a natural and normal response to any stressful situation but if we experience it for a long time and it effects our daily life then we call this a disease, and we need some external support. 
Anxiety is a fight response and it is actually healthy up to a point, i.e. anxiety about an interview or exam or challenging situation can make us perform better, drawing the best out of us.  But when somebody feels anxious continually then the ‘fight’ has gone and ‘flee’ takes over often leading to giving up – this is depression.  Fight or flee, sometimes we are not able to fight but we are not ready to flee either and this is causing the problem.
Anxiety normally comes and goes, when it stays for a long time this is when a person can start to withdraw from society, depression is coming from anxiety.
So what is the cause of this anxiety?  Some common causes can be –
1.    Lack of training in childhood, not being given enough duties and responsibilities.  This training should start at home at a young age, things such as doing the washing up, cleaning, gardening, looking after pets etc.
2.    Overworking, handling too big a responsibility without having the correct training.  This seems to be all too often the case as we are expected to be super humans by most employers these days.
3.    Tradgedy in life.
4.    Fear of loosing ones job, income, position in life and fear of death.
5.    Alcaholism, smoking and the use of drugs.
6.    Having a lack of willpower and wisdom.
The main cause of these anxieties is looking for happiness in all the wrong places, looking externally, outwardly instead of looking inwardly to find the joy that is there, which is our birthright.  External things and situations are not the answer to our happiness because they are not permanent they are fleeting.  Think back to when you were a child and you really really wanted something and no matter what you gained that thing, where is it now?  Do you even remember?  All external matters are impermanent, the highs you get whilst intoxicated don’t last and then actually only bring a low and create more anxiety and stress.
So how do we start to put ourselves right?
  1. Firstly be around people you can gain support from, be close to family or friends, stay close in your yoga community, don’t isolate yourself.
  2. Sun Salutations – spending time everyday to move through the 12 postures of the sun salutations can be one of the best mental tonics there is.  This enables you to re-connect not only with your body but to remember that you are part of this universe, that the universal rhythm is within and part of you, you can shine with the sun.  This practice also allows your mind to focus inwardly letting go of the outward experience and concentrating on positive emotions and eradicating the negative.
  3. Working with movement and breathing techniques, such as standing in tadasana – mountain pose (standing) reaching up high with the inhale arms up over your head and exhaling loudly whilst folding from the waist down to the floor, repeating several times up and down with the breath and getting faster then again slowing down.  Also alternate toe touching with legs apart, again moving with the breath speeding up and slowing down.
  4. Getting out into nature as much as possible, visit new places, spend time in places with positive vibrations such as temples, monasteries or holy sites.
  5. Take up new hobbies such as cooking, drawing, cycling etc, find your creativity.
  6. Working with yogic postures such as shoulderstand, ½ spinal twist and camel pose can leave you feeling more in control and invigorated.
  7. Sitting for meditation but using full awareness of breath on sectional breathing – Vibhaga pranayama.  This is where you breathe into your belly, pause then continue the inhalation into the chest, pause and finally continue with a very subtle movement of the shoulders, then exhale fully and very slowly with full awareness. 
  8. Sing and chant, a favourite uplifting song can work wonders to keep in mind and mentally repeat to yourself through the day or sing out loud if you can.  Mantras are encrusted with special positive vibrations and are very uplifting, so sing out, chant out loud to the highest mountain and let yourself go.
  9. Look at your diet, foods with preservatives, colours, white sugars etc can be a root cause of depression.  All the things you ingest have an effect on the mind, in fact the gross parts of what we eat become our bodies forming body tissues, cells muscles etc, the subtle parts of the food we eat become our thought patterns, so be very mindful of what you are eating.  Try to eat as simply and naturally as you can.
Depression is not un-common, so many people are struggling with it.  I believe the biggest step is to recognise that it is there and then we can start to deal with it.  So let us all stay healthy and happy, a happy and healthy body means a happy and healthy mind, a happy and healthy mind means a happy and healthy body.  We can pray to Ganesha, the lord of all living things to give us the strength and the wisdom that we need and to remove all the obstacles in our path.  OM GUM GANAPATYE NAMAH  - prostrations to Lord Ganesha.
Wishing that all living entities be happy, joyful and find their peace.
Jai Ganesha
Om shanti
Mangala / Nicky 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Observing and Overcoming obsticles with Paschimothanasan


This is one of my favourite forward bends, it may look to be one of the more simple postures, but it is also one of the most important.  The scriptures say that paschimothanasan practiced in the correct manor and with the right intention can bring relief and healing to all ailments – ‘ This most excellent of asanas, paschimothanasan makes the breath flow through the Sushumna nadi, rouses the gastric fire, makes the loins lean and removes all diseases.’ -Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
I love the meditative nature of this pose, bringing equal amounts of awareness to the posture and the breath, allowing your heart to surrender within will bring you to a sense of peace and inner quiet.  It requires a conscious control to bring the body into alignment – the toes, knees and neck in the correct line, and by breathing deeply and focusing on that flow of breath it helps us to let go, allowing the body to be taken down by gravity giving us a sense of detachment which is vital for meditation.  That sense of detachment can then be applied in our daily lives, what we learn on the mat doesn’t mean it stays on the mat, apply that to our every moment in our daily lives and we find that things become stress free and simpler, causing less suffering. 
This wonderful posture calms and soothes the entire nervous system and gives an internal massage to the abdomen and abdominal organs, joints are mobilized, the spine increases its elasticity and a sense of youthfulness is gained. 
This posture can also be quite challenging for many people, as they think they have to push themselves as far down as they can to be any good at it, this is such wrong thinking.  However you are in the pose is how it is, there is no good or bad in effect, as long as we have awareness of body alignment and breath, then think what is happening to our minds no matter where you are in the pose.  I believe that this pose allows us to see many obstacles that are hiding our sense of true happiness, then we can start to address those obstacles removing them slowly one by one, like peeling an onion! 
Other benefits include the aiding of the digestion, constipation is relieved by the digestive fire being invigoratied.  There is invigoration to all the internal organs especially kidneys, liver and pancreas.  This invigoration to the pancreas controls blood sugar levels and carbohydrate metabolism, it is an invaluable pose for those suffering with diabetes.  And there is a complete stretch to the whole of the back of the body from the toes through the feet, calf muscles, hamstrings, through all the muscles in the back to the neck.  Wonderful hey!  So here is how –
  1. Sit up straight with the legs stretched out in front of you the toes flexing back towards the body, take out the flesh from under the buttocks and sit on the sitting bones, head, neck and back in a straight line.
  2. On an inhalation raise both arms up beside your ears reaching up as high as you can to lift out of your hips.
  3. Exhale and fold forwards from the hips, keeping the spine as straight as you can, try to keep working the crown of the head forward to keep the sine straight, not rounding.  Place your hands where they fall i.e on your knees, shins or ankles or if flexibility is there, hold onto your toes.
  4. Breathe deep inhalations and longer exhalations feeling a sense of surrender with every exhalation. 
  5. To come out of the posture, on an inhalation reach forward with the arms and then gently lift the upper body back up.
Some common mistakes to be aware of are allowing the feet to fall apart, keep the feet together and the toes flexing upward.  The head is bowed – keep the crown of the head pushing forward.  And the rounding of the back, I see this all the time, so really have an awareness of keeping the spine straight, that way the energy can flow more freely. 
So let us remain forever youthful with paschimothanasan, enjoy see you on the mat!
Om Lokha Somasta Sukinho Bhavantu
May we all find peace, balance and harmony
Om Shantih
Mangala / Nicky

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yama and Niyama and why you need them.

There is so much emphasis in today’s Yogic world on the physical body, but what we do on the mat is such a tiny proportion of what yoga is.  If you think that you have been to your yoga class today so you have done your yoga then think again, this is not the way.  Yoga is a state of mind, a way of being, a science of the heart that explores and defines all aspects of life.  In the traditional yogic world there is little attention given to the postures and full attention in ones inner nature.  Today it seems as technology is taking over the world human beings are moving further and further away from the inner nature and a totally caught up in the body and machines.  We want to start with the body for sure, to be able to keep it healthy and to control it but then move on away from the physical aspect and dive into the inner being.  Yoga should allow you to reach your higher nature, not become obsessed with the body but know how to use it beneficially, everything should be focusing on reaching that higher state, every breath in your day should be yoga and this is where the practice of the Yamas and Niyamas are essential, without them ‘Yoga’ is not possible. 
Yama outline the actions from which we should restrain, the things we should not do in our daily lives and the Niyama details the actions, which we should do.  Together they form a highly moral code of ethical conduct that keeps the mind quiet and more positive, they enable purification of the mind that prepares us for deep meditation.  Without following this ethical code all our mistakes come back to us whilst meditating and disturb the mind greatly creating huge boundaries and barriers for us to overcome before we can reach our inner peace.  Without the practice of Yama and Niyama inner peace is not achievable. 
THE YAMAS
Ahimsa – non-violence or non-injury to all living entities including humans, birds, insects, fish and ourselves.  In thoughts and deeds.  This means maintaining a fully pure vegetarian diet.  We must show compassion and respect to all things blessed with life.  Every living thing at the end of the day is trying to find happiness, even those mosquitoes!
Satya – truthfulness, not lying not only to all living beings but also to ourselves.  This is also in thought as in deed, sometimes words are not needed to make a lie, and sometimes saying nothing or making a gesture can also lead to incorrect impressions and misleadings.  Don’t be manipulative.
Brahmacharya – non-sexual misconduct, not harming anyone through sex, any action of a sexual nature that causes suffering to another.  Rape, adultery, sex with another’s partner, sex with children or family members are obvious forms of sexual misconduct.  Or sexual acts that result in expressions of anger, disputes and even violence.  Brahmacharya also means chastity or sublimation of the sexual energy, refraining from sexual activity.
Asteya – non stealing, this could be taking others possessions by force, by deception, secretly or by borrowing and not returning.  We can take this also to the level of ideas not just in objects.  This means not exploiting or cheating any living thing.
Aparigraha – non-greediness, not living with too much, living simply is best and having a lack of jealousy of what others have.  Many of us live with so many unnecessary things, time to think of the cause they have on mother earth and give them up, be simple and happy.
THE NIYAMAS
Saucha – purity or cleanliness, this is keeping both internal and external cleanliness.  Our yogic postures, breathing and kriyas can provide internal cleansing for the body, but we also have to think about our minds, which we can ‘clean’ during meditation.  This also refers to our environment. 
Santosha – Being content.  The yogic way is to be able to maintain a happy and contented mind whatever your situation.  If you end up staying in some grotty place be content with it, the next time if you end up staying at a five star hotel don’t be over excited but maintain being content.  Everything is always coming and going, always changing, yoga can mean keeping a contented mind in any situation.
Tapas – performing austerities, meaning don’t be lazy get out of bed in the morning, don’t be greedy, don’t eat too much, and don’t indulge yourself.  Extreme austerities for us normal householder yogis are not recommended unless under expert guidance, just be very mindful of all that we do.
Eshwarapranidhana – self surrendering, having an awareness of a higher nature, a higher being and living with that awareness, whatever faith or non faith you are coming from, but the yogic way sees a higher spirit and lives with that awareness.  Surrendering your ego to a higher spirit.
Swadhyaya – self analyzing, being the witness to yourself and learning to build on your wisdom eradicating ignorance.  This includes study of the scriptures and Vedanta philosophy.

So breathe life into your yoga practice through your whole day and night, even in your sleep!  Allow yourself to rise to a different level, there may be many challenges on the way but this is your strength, overcoming our weakness, our mistakes and our ignorance is what makes us strong.  So dive, be bold dive deep and find the complete peace of which is within you and is your birthright.
Om Lokha Somasta Sukhino Bhavantu
May you all find balance, harmony and peace.
Om Shantih
Mangala / Nicky

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why I love the Sivananda system of Yoga.


Throughout history there have been great explorers and adventure seekers, those that set sail across the oceans, those that rode camels across the deserts and those that made wings and tried to fly.  Yoga for me has been and continues to be that great exploration, the journey inwards and the exploration of the self is full of the whole world and for me it is the Sivananda system of yoga that gives me the transport to dive into that journey.  It is full of light, colour and darkness, elation and joy and then difficulties and challenges.  But Swami Sivananda has given us the opportunity to feel and experience.  To know yoga is to know what is in our hearts, he gives us the means to our own experience, an experience of feeling.  He has shown us ways to open our hearts, there is so much emphasis on the bodies and the minds these days, everyone wants that perfect body, what ever that may be or what the media presents to us, and everyone is searching for knowledge or wants to find meaning behind everything but Swami Sivananda has given us the map to feel a more complete way of life through the heart, “Develop the heart, develop the heart.” Says Sivananda.  Who cares what the body looks like as long as it is healthy, who cares if we don’t understand everything from an intellectual point of view as long as we feel.  In our hearts is all cognition of memory, all time is there, all knowledge is there, all peace is there, all light is there, so why look anywhere else?
The Sivananda system of yoga is very profound, Swami Ji was one of the  great enlightened masters who shared so much love for all people and brought so much peace to the world.  To me it is a system that puts you on an arrow and directs you straight to the centre of the heart.  And what is so beautiful is that it is accessible to everyone, beginners and very advanced practitioners alike, it is there for all of humanity whatever your culture, age, and background.
The practice always starts in stillness then there is the creation of sound with the chanting of the very powerful AUM, which is a vibration of consciousness, like the creation of the Universe.  Then there comes an awareness of the body like an awakening, moving onto working with pranayama – breath work opening the vital life force ready to move on to Suryia Namaskar; our salutations to the sun where we move through the whole body like a creation of that body then strengthening, lengthening and preparing the body for birth with the inversions.  Like birth the head comes first with the headstand and we move through the postures in the correct order working through the energy centres from the highest energy centre at the crown of the head to the earth centre at the pelvic floor.  This flow of asanas are like the journey through life, they are always changing within the body, sometimes challenging and sometimes comforting and then like the circle of life we come back to stillness in savasana our relaxation pose at the end of the class.  It is a very organic process and what you learn on the mat you can apply to the world that awaits you once you leave the studio or place where you practice.  The journey allows you to dive within, experience it and then come back out flowing from the internal to the external just like our breath flows in and out of the body.  For me I love it every time I practice I experience something else there is a real depth behind this system and often it is hard to get off the mat, I could just stay there in yoga, but like all things we have to be fluid and there are the other things in life to take care of!
His Holiness Swami Sivananda was born in 1887 in Tamil Nadu – India, and left his body in 1963.  He was one of the first Indian masters to make yoga accessible to anyone also bringing this amazing practice to the West.  He was eager to relieve human misery and decided to look within himself and became a Swami – a wondering monk – and spent long years in secluded practice in the Himalayas.  He founded the Divine life Society in Rishikesh where he trained people from all walks of life and from all over the world in the synthesis of the key paths of yoga, encompassing Hatha, Raja, Karma, Bhakti and Jnana yoga and wrote hundreds of books explaining the most complex aspects of yoga.  Today there are Sivananda teachers all over the world and centres and ashrams within India and many countries worldwide.
I hope I can bring the light of Sivananda to anyone that comes to practice with me, I certainly have felt him in my heart from the moment I saw his face staring at me from a computer screen as I searched through for teacher training courses, I saw him and knew yes this is what I am meant to do.
“Divine life is full, infinite, perfect and blissful.  Therefore lead the life divine.”  Sri Swami Sivananda
For now enjoy the journey!
May we be lead from the unreal to the real, from the darkness to light from mortality to immortality.
Om Shanti Shanti Shantih
Mangala / Nicky


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What we wear for practice, words from Sadhguru.

A very nice article by Sadhguru that I thought I would share, every detail of our practice has to be considered, no stone left unturned everything has relevance and should be thought about.
Sadhguru looks at the importance of the right kind of clothing during sadhana, and the need to avoid metallic objects on the body at this time.

Sadhguru: When I did hata yoga as a young boy, the only thing we were allowed to wear was a small loincloth. The idea was that there should be as little obstruction as possible. Traditionally in India, people did not wear stitched clothing. Both the dhotis for men and the saris for women are just pieces of unstitched cloth. When clothing is stitched, the movement of energy gets restricted to some extent – you want to minimize that when doing sadhana. This does not mean that you need to start wearing a loin cloth, but yoga practitioners should not wear synthetic clothing such as the kind that athletes wear. It is best if your clothing is organic – either cotton or raw silk. Since organic raw silk may be too expensive and difficult to get, organic cotton would be the best option. Wool is all right too.
Before starting your sadhana, you should remove any objects from your body, especially metal ones. If you take an image of electromagnetic waves, even a small object will create a certain circulation around itself. If you put any object on your body, it will tend to disturb the free movement of energy. Except for a few parts of the body that are dormant, like the earlobes, any kind of metal should be removed – even nose studs. Only your rudraksh and the snake ring, you can keep on. Rudraksh is a good support that creates a cocoon of your own energy and makes you available to grace. The snake-ring because it prevents the one-in-a-million chance that you accidentally slip out of your body when you do certain sadhana. For women, if you are using any kind of metallic clips on your spine, that should go. Plastic is better than metal in terms of energy.
For the practices, you must remove your spectacles too. Many people have gotten rid of their glasses through the practice of proper yoga. For your vision to correct itself, you need to avoid wearing glasses or contact lenses for some time. If you can manage without glasses or contact lenses, try to do so. In case you get headaches, spend more time with eyes closed. If you are using contact lenses, do at least your morning sadhana without them. That way, mild vision problems may improve over a period of time.
I was brought aware of the teachings of Sadhguru some time ago and was so grateful of this charismatic man.  I look forward to hearing more from him in the future and a dream to visit his ashram one day.  For now let us consider what we are wearing for our practice more in terms of not what we are looking like but what it means in terms of energy and how that effects us. 
Have beautiful days
Om shanti
Mangala / Nicky