Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Surya Namaskar 108

Surya Namaskar; the sun salutation is a vital technique within the repertoire of yogic practice and has been practiced for thousands of years.  The sun rises and falls around us every day, is friend to all, brings light to all and has existed since before any human existence.  The sun never says to us, unless you give me something I will not shine today.  The sun never says to the earth, hey you owe me!  The sun you see is friend to all, we should learn from the sun that allows us to grow, to nourish ourselves and to develop.  Without the sun there is no life, no vital energy, no way to live a meaningful life. 
By practicing Surya Namaskar we honor that force that brings our existence and when practiced with sincerity, effort and dedication, it brings a multitude of benefits into our lives.
This is a practice of self-expression, it is not merely an exercise to stretch our bodies, but is a way of connecting to the rhythms whole universe.  To the 24 hours in a day, the 12 zodiac phases of the year and the rhythms of your own body which is part of the universe and the universe part of the body.
For me there are four forms to the sun salutation, that of the physical, the mental, the spiritual and the pranic.  The physical aspect enables us to live dynamically; it improves circulation and flexibility, releases tensions in the body, provides lubrication around the joints and brings stimulation to every internal organ improving its function.  It brings balance back to the body without which there would be no mental balance.  Mentally it improves our focus and concentration levels, allows us to let go of mental stress, anxiety and irrelevant thoughts and enables us to live more joyfully.  Surya Namaskar is a most powerful tool for the benefit of mental health, well being and allows us then to grow spiritually.  Spiritually it allows us to sublimate our lower thoughts and emotions and turn to a higher level of thinking and awareness.  To be able to unblock the blockages from within that no longer serve us, such as anger, fear, greed and selfishness and turn them to joy, love and peace.  It enables us to connect with the Divine energy, to feel a greater sense of presence and be a part of that presence.  In its Pranic form, it allows us to receive solar energy and in turn become that energy, becoming a ray of light; it has a direct vitalizing effect on the solar energies of the body.  We can shine both inwardly and outwardly.
Through this beautiful practice we can awaken, unblock and stimulate our energy centers, but why practice 108?  Actually we only practice this many rounds for certain occasions and a good time for this is around the time of the full moon.  At this time sensitivities can be heightened, our emotions can be exaggerated, there is a greater field of energy around this time and it can enhance how we are feeling.  This could mean a time of great joy and ecstasy, or on the other hand it could be a time where anger is increased, or depression etc.  So we practice 108, to uplift the energy to a positive, to eradicate any lower feelings or release a build up of too much energy.  108 is a sacred number in Sanskrit and represents the number of Upanishads written, also representing the amount of beads on a string of Malas used for meditation.  It represents all past, all present and all future. The number 1 can mean new beginnings, an eagerness to make new changes, to be ready to start to overcome our ignorance.  0 can represent emptying ourselves of what is unnecessary and concentrating on only what is true and necessary.  8 is that of infinite energy, that which never ends and never begins, that of the soul.
At the end of the day, actually it really doesn’t matter on how many salutations you complete, but it is your intention behind it that counts.  It is a wonderful practice to refresh and detox the whole system, I personally love it, I love the sense of release I have after it and always it is a good time to make a new start or dedicate the positivity to somebody or a place that really needs it.
We will be practicing this coming Friday the 16th December @ 8.30am at Butabika Recovery College, Butabika, Kampala, Uganda, a place approaching the issues of mental health.  The session will be followed by a beautiful Yoga Nidra relaxation and a releasing meditation.  All are welcome.

Learning from the Sun, being a friend to all.
AUM Shanti shanti shanti
Mangala / Nicky.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Prasarita Padottanasana - i'm loving this sense of release!

I love this deep forward fold, as I feel a real sense of letting go in the hips and a release of tensions in the upper back and shoulders.  As I breathe in I feel expansion and as I breathe out a sense of letting go, and a sense of satisfaction as I know the shape of who I am in the outer and inner world.

Stand in tadasana then take the feet apart so that they are under your wrists if the arms are held out shoulder height.  Turn the toes to face forward.  Spread your weight evenly over the feet so you are pressing down on the outer and inner edge of the foot.  Interlace your hands behind you back and inhale expanding your chest lifting it up and pushing the hands down toward the floor.  As you exhale tip the tale bone back and fold forward from your hips, taking the arms up above your head.  Keep pressing all sides of the feet down into the mat to ground you.  Feel the shoulder blades pulling in towards each other.  Keep pushing your hips upward, this is the force of opposition, the hips pushing up and the upper body pulling down toward the earth.  Breathe deep ujayi breaths, for as long as is maintainable.  To come out as you inhale reach forward with the upper body and lift the body back up.  If this stretch is a little strong for you then lighten it by keeping the knees slightly bent.

This pose is a great reliever for fatigue, stress, headaches and mild depression.

Enjoy feeling your body, breathing into the body and finding a sense of the self again, overcoming the distortions and afflictions of our minds, calming ourselves and overcoming angers, frustrations and tiredness.
Have a beautiful day
AUM Shanti shanti

Mangala / nicky

Friday, December 2, 2016

Need some inspiration? How about a Pilgrimage?

For us Yogis being in one place is fine, creating the stillness around us, and being contented in that space is a wonderful thing.  Not needing anything else and embarking on our own personal journeys within that space is all we need.  But sometimes a little inspiration from others or from a place charged with spiritual vibrations is just what we need to dive deeper into our own practice, or to remove doubts or just simply inspire us to keep going on the path.  Temples, mosques, churches and places of spiritual significance or holy areas are places that pilgrims have ventured to over the cause of time and the energy built up in these places can often be easily tapped into by the seeker.  Sometimes it is just a place of complete peace that is needed whilst going through difficult times or whilst in recovery of something or whilst undergoing stresses and strains.  It can be amazing to walk into one of these places, just to sit, close your eyes and feel all the positive vibrations that are surrounding you; this in itself can be so beneficial and uplifting.  Walks out in nature can bring an enormous sense of wellbeing, no matter what the weather if you are ready to open your heart and feel it, the power of the rain, or a gentle breeze, the sound of the ocean, or the soft sun as it starts its decent can bring a smile from within as we start to feel connected back to all that is natural and nurturing.  A moonwalk gazing at the beauty of the subtle light is beautiful. 
Swami Sivananda tells us –
‘Mahatmas and devotees go on pilgrimage and visit sacred places as a part of spiritual Sadhana (spiritual practice.)  They have different objects in view.  Mahatmas come in contact with sincere devotees at various centers and impart their knowledge and experiences, and guide them.  They select suitable places for meditation where they find inspiration and the facility for intense Sadhana.  They clear the doubts of the householders, give their blessings and guide them.  Devotees who take to pilgrimage get Darshan (sighting) of Mahatmas and have their doubts cleared.  They receive inspiration by seeing holy men and women and sacred places and develop various kinds of divine qualities by mixing with various types of people………… I led the life of a wandering monk, just for a short time, in search of my Guru and of a suitable place charged with spiritual vibrations, for spending my life in seclusion and to do rigorous Sadhana.’

It is good to be contented in the place that we are, but sometimes a journey is necessary to find something deep within, or as Swami Sivananda says a place that is suitable for Sadhana, for deep practice where the journey into the heart holds no limits. 

Hmmm my toes are itching, where will I go?  Just for now out into the garden!!

The images above are taken in Haridwar, on the banks of the Mighty Mother Ganga, on my way to the Sivananda Ashram, Netala, Utterkashi, India.  Ready for my Sadhana Intensive.

For now wishing you all the love and light and beautiful days.
AUM shanti AUM

Mangala / Nicky.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bitter Gourd - sounds horrible but oh so good!

Bitter gourd is a vegetable largely found in tropical climates resembling a bit like a bumpy cucumber.  It can be otherwise known as bitter melon or bitter squash, and yes the clue is in the name it is oh so bitter and it doesn’t look that appealing either!  However despite that it has wonderful health benefits and cooked in the right way can be enjoyable!  It seems that it is bitter guard season here in Kampala, where they can be found at the vegetable stall outside Jazz supermarket and at Prunes organic market each Saturday morning, so bring on the gourd I say and here is why –

Benefits –
-       Low in calories and high in water content
-       Lowers blood sugar levels and helps with type 2 diabetes
-       Is an excellent source of folates (B12, important for vegans)
-       Is a great tonic for the liver and kidney
-       Helps to improve skin and fight infection
-       Helps with weight loss
-       Aids digestion and helps relieve constipation
-       It is filled with essential vitamins and minerals Vit A, B1, B2, C, calcium, potassium, zinc, copper and phosphorus.
-       Helps relieve colds, coughs, and asthma
-       Helps fight infections and builds on the immune system
-       Helps to reduce toxins within the system

Although it is very healthy it should though be consumed mindfully and only in small quantities (max 2 gourds per day) so as not to bring imbalance to the other elements such as air and space within you, or to aggravate Vata dosha.  Here is how I cook mine –
- Choose gourds that are fresh, bright and deep green
- Wash well in suitable water
- Slice down the middle length ways and remove all the seeds with a teaspoon and cut to the desired shape
- Heat a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in the pan
- Add a little coriander, ginger, sesame, parsley, cumin and a little pepper
- Add the gourd and whatever other vegetables you wish, I normally add other greens such as spinach or green beans
- Sauté for a few minutes then add some water to create some steam and cook until the desired amount
- Serve with rice cooked with turmeric and possibly raisins for a little sweetness to override the bitterness of the gourd.
- Enjoy!

Enjoy your food you eat and chew well taking in the flavor and easing digestion.  Eat to live, not live to eat! 

Wishing you great success with your gourds, and not a bitter God as a beautiful soul said to me the other day!
May you all be well, happy and at peace
Om Namah Sivaya
Mangala / nicky.