In Yoga for Anxiety class I often talk about the therapeutic benefits of looking for the moon each evening. Indeed, a key pillar of yoga is active awareness. Looking for the moon each evening reminds us that:-
- The only constant is change - so there is always hope
- We are always in motion, with opportunities in each moment to change and grow
- Because we can only see things from limited perspectives we never see the whole and we make false assumptions
- We are part of nature, affected by and affecting the other parts of nature
- We are incredibly fortunate to be existing on a planet the perfect distance from our sun & moon
- We are rhythmic beings and it feels good to flow or dance with rhythm
- Our planet is beautiful and there is always something available to bring us some joy in every moment
There's an enormous body of evidence that when we engage in seeking out the beauty in nature, be that looking at the sky, listening for birds, actively noticing scent and the quality of the light and shadows, or noticing the temperature of the air and the force of the breeze on our skin - results in a more positive outlook, greater calm and reduced anxiety. It helps us to gain and maintain perspective.
And the moon last night was incredibly beautiful, I hope you managed to see her rise in pink.
Stillness - one of the pillars of yin yoga
In a yin yoga practice, I like to think about stillness as an absence of fidgeting while you’re holding a yin pose rather than a complete absence of movement. This is because some movements may be inevitable, desirable or even necessary, like gently shifting if your body opens up or changing your position or shape in response to a painful sensation. The difference between these types of movements and fidgeting is that they’re completely mindful; there’s an intention behind them and once you’ve moved, you can resolve to become still once again.
The pillar of stillness doesn’t just relate to your physical body. As your body becomes still in a yin pose, you’ll find that your breath can become calmer and quieter, less laboured and more gentle. The energy from your breathing isn’t needed to help move your body so it can become slower and deeper, but most of all it’s unforced and unhurried.
As your body and breath become still, there’s more space to observe your mind. Thoughts come and go, like clouds in the sky or waves crashing onto the shore and then receding. Over time, you might notice the clouds becoming lighter and the waves less dramatic as these more dominant thoughts begin to quieten. This can allow thoughts that don’t usually have the opportunity to rise to the surface to reveal themselves; thoughts that might be more creative or help you to solve problems. Eventually, and with commitment and dedication, as you become completely enveloped by stillness the sky emerges from behind the clouds and there’s space between the ebb and flow of the waves, even if it’s just for the briefest of moments. It’s here that deep awareness is possible.
If you can commit to becoming still, you let yourself open up to some of the many benefits that a yin yoga practice has to offer.
“Stillness is a place. You can find it in the desert or in the mountains. You can find it when you’re alone in the midst of people. You can find stillness wherever you are, whatever you’re going through.
Stillness is a place within you. Slow down. Breathe deeply. Get quiet. Become familiar with stillness. Take time to learn its power.”
Join Alison every Monday 6-7:15 for yin yoga and relaxation.
The Contagious Bliss of Mandala-Time
Taking time out to look after your body, mind and soul is an act of love for yourself and your relationships. When we walk out of Mandala feeling amazing we go out into the world with a smile and a full heart, with patience - and we spread that bliss, love and joy.
When we feel safe, valued, cared for and joyful we think and act with more patience and trust because our nervous system tells our brain that all is well and we don't need to be on our guard. The opposite is also true.
So the next time you think your housemates or family would rather you do the ironing or fix the lightbulbs than come along to spend time with your Mandala community, think again. They want you joyful, feeling safe, feeling cared for and feeling valued - because you will return home to spread that love.
Many of my yoga class will have heard the story of when I walked out of a meditation class to find I had a parking fine. I really didn't mind, because my mindset was that I was safe, that a parking fine would not mean that I had to panic about not affording to eat (I know this isn't true for all people and that just made me feel even more gratitude for my circumstance) and I knew that the parking officer had nothing against me personally, I had daftly parked where I should not at that time and so - lesson learnt.
If we think about the times we have reacted in an entirely unhelpful way, in a way that others thought we were overreacting - and the chances are we felt fearful, undervalued, angry - the chances are that in some way we felt under threat. So the more time we can spend in a safe and nurturing place where we know we are valued and where we are encouraged to value ourselves - the calmer and more joyful we can be.
I can't wait for that time when we can reopen our doors and we can all walk out of yoga or Groove class and spread our bliss, love and joy We miss you all and can't wait to welcome you back soon xxx
In yoga we focus on what is, in that moment. However, we also become deeply aware that
1: Nothing is permanent - change is inevitable
2: Everything is connected and interdependent - separation is an illusion
3: We have choices - we create change through every thought, word and action
When we become aware of suffering we have the option to try to discern the root of that suffering and to meditate on whether the suffering is caused by unhelpful desires which can be worked on or waited out, or is natural and should be simply sat with for a while. Or whether the suffering is caused by harm done, by unhelpful actions that should be worked to resolve.
Yoga isn’t ignoring pain and suffering and always waiting for it to pass or thinking happy thoughts - although sometimes it is. Nor is it descending into helpless sorrow. Nor is it ignoring negative things in the world because they disturb our inner peace - although sometimes it might be.
Yoga is active awareness and discernment - being aware, discerning and choosing consciously what to do about it. Sometimes that’s allowing, watching and waiting, sometimes it’s seeing the unhelpful self cause and reframing, sometimes it’s understanding structural causes and acting.
Metta meditation is a wonderful example of acknowledging suffering and envisioning and hoping for love and peace. Our thoughts influence our actions. We can choose to witness the truth of suffering and choose to envision and work towards a happier, healthier future Thank you beautiful community for being wonderful xxx
Welcoming You As You Are
At Mandala we welcome all and we meet each one of you where you are in 'this' moment'.
- If you are feeling tired you are welcome
- If you are feeling agitated you are welcome
- If you are feeling sad you are welcome
- If you are feeling jubilant you are welcome.
We ask you to move with or be still with your energy level as it is in 'this' moment, to be a compassionate, non-judging witness to how you feel in 'this' moment and to observe how it might shift and change.
We never ask you to change, we invite you to take notice and to choose.
Yoga And The Senses
Did you know we have more than 5 senses?
Did you know that we can strengthen our relationships with these senses through yoga practice?
The senses of Interoception and Neuroception are often neglected in the western world, yet these are crucial to our experience of living, whether we are relaxed or agitated and how we interpret those states of being.
Strengthening our awareness and ability to interpret these senses of perception gives us the ability to live with greater ease, health and joy.
This is why many who start to attend yoga classes with me say they feel they've developed super-powers - they kind of have!
Yoga for Anxiety focuses on our senses of Proprioception, Interoception and Neuroception
Yin Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga focus on Proprioception and Interoception
Hope to see you at a class soon to develop some yoga super powers!
Here at Mandala our Ashtanga Yoga, Yoga for Anxiety, Yin Yoga and our Groove dance classes gently invite enquiry, curiosity and compassionate witnessing of our fears and desires.
These classes invite us to notice where fear arises in movement, postures or breath and to adapt our physiology and thoughts to move beyond fear. When we become skilled at this we take this awareness and courage into our daily lives and live fully and bravely
The Ashtanga Breathing Technique
Friendly Darth Vader - The Ujjiyi (Victory breath)
The basis of the practice is the breath. Ashtanga Yoga is a breath practice, it's a dance to the rhythm of the breath and that's because slowing, deepening and bringing a calm rhythm to the breath activates parasympathetic nervous system dominance. Remember though that we need to create the SPACE for that breath (so many Star Wars references!) in the body, check you're not squishing organs!
The parasympathetic branch of the nervous system is in charge of digestion, hormonal balance and calm and creative thought, The sympathetic branch of the nervous system in contrast is in charge of fight and flight - tensing of muscles and inflammatory response - when that's in charge we are ready to run from tigers - muscles tight, digestion turned off, inflammatory response preparing for injury, no creativity, no sense of humour, insomnia - who has time to go to the loo, laugh at jokes or write a novel when running from danger?
So, the Ashtanga yoga breathing practice enables us to spend 60 minutes in parasympathetic nervous system dominance, this becomes a habit and gradually our breath habitually stays calm, deep and slow, our heart rate no longer increases when we're stuck in traffic or our partner doesn't put the bins out again, or an email comes in from the boss - or whatever our usual triggers are. As our practice develops we also experience how using the breath also creates space in the body, releases tension ins specific areas and enables a deeper movement into postures.
Plus what better rhythm to dance to than your own breath?