Yoga

Ganesha Mantra

Om Gam Ganpataye Namah

This is the Mantra dedicated to the Lord Ganesha.

Ganesha is one of the more popular and well known Hindu deities.  He is the one with the elephant head, and known to be the remover of obstacles and negativity.  So chanting the mantra dedicated to him “Om Gam Ganpataye Namah is known to ward off obstacles and negativity.  It is recommended to chant it at the beginning of new projects, new work or a new life stage.

You will also get benefits from hearing the mantra or writing it.

It is translated as:

” I bow down to the almighty Lord Ganesha with all my existence and I accept all his great qualities in myself. ”

Sit or stand in a comfortable position and start to breathe softly and slowly.  When you are ready, begin to chant.  Find your rhythm, your tone, your speed.  Allow the chanting to be joyful and light, without any strain. Give attention to how it feels to chant, rather than whether you get the ‘lyrics’ or the rhythm right.

It is recommended to chant at least 11 times.  Multiples of 108 are considered best.

Have fun with this and pay attention to how you feel, during and after.  Enjoy!

Namaste, Bettina

Your Inner Resource

… a felt-sense of internal safe-haven or your mini holiday!

Would you like to feel in control most moments of your life?  Would you like to experience a sense of ease, well-being and security.  Would you like to have a tool accessible to you every day, anywhere and anytime to help you navigate the ups and downs of life?  Then let’s explore the idea of an Inner Resource together.

Where from and says who.

The term Inner Resource stems from Richard Miller, founder of iRest Yoga Nidra.  The idea as such is not new. However, there are a few concrete steps to help us find, anchor, and practice our Inner Resource.  It is also one of the full ten steps to an iRest-Yoga Nidra practice.  I recently had the good fortune of taking a course with one of his senior lecturers.  You will have experienced Yoga Nidra in one of our Retreats, Master classes and Meditation Workshops.  For more on Yoga Nidra, please see my blog “What is Yoga Nidra” here: http://theartofbalance.com.au/what-is-yoga-nidra/

What is an Inner Resource?

An Inner Resource is a tool to help you feel secure, in control, at ease, joyful, nurtured and happy during the practice of iRest-Yoga Nidra, meditation AND most of all, in daily life.  It is a resource that you can come to at any time.  It is totally unique to you.  Your Inner Resource is designed to help you feel empowered, in control of and at ease with every experience you have in your life.  Your inner safe-haven.  It can be a multi-sensory image that you create in your imagination and feel in your body and that you can return to at any time you chose to.

How to find your Inner Resource.

  1. Think of and bring to your mind a place, a person, an image, an object or an experience that brings you feelings of joy, safety, wellbeing, calm and ease. This could be: your children, your pet, a loved one, a holiday destination, a special place in your home or garden, a symbol, a wisdom figure, a photo, or a memory of an experience.  See if you can add as much detail as possible to this image.  You can add sound, taste, a smell or touch to the image you have brought up in your mind.
  2. Now see if you can determine where in your body you feel those feelings like joy, safety, ease, happy, nourished when you imagine this image. Really allow yourself some time to locate exactly where in your body you feel these feelings.  Where is the impact of your Inner Resource in your body?  Make a visceral connection. Often this can be the heart, the chest, the stomach/belly or the throat.  Your choice, your sensation.
  3. Now allow yourself to notice what exactly you feel in this body part. What are the bodily sensations you feel in that region/part of your body.  What is the effect of your image, your Inner Resource on that particular body part?  What are the energetic experiences? For example, you may feel the impact of your image in your stomach.  You notice your stomach feels warm, perhaps expansive, perhaps light or heavy, without any tension.  Perhaps your image makes you smile.  Perhaps you feel it in your heart as a warm & fuzzy feeling.  This is completely up to you.  Allow yourself the time to notice.

When and how to use my Inner Resource?

This information may seem basic or it may seem overwhelming to you.  Sit with it and see if it makes sense over time and if you can feel it.  Affirm your Inner Resource as truth in your mind and then feel it in your body.  The more details you will add and the more you use it, the more helpful it will be.

Now that you have found your Inner Resource, you can use it and bring it up anytime and every day in any way you like.

Allow your Inner Resource to emerge as a felt sense within your body.  Initially you may want to bring it up whenever you feel the need to feel secure, safe, calm and at ease.  Perhaps whenever you feel upset or out of control.  In the dental chair or before a flight, when taking uncomfortable phone calls, or trying to fall asleep.  Take your time with this.  Over time you may want to sense it when you’re happy already, or perhaps first thing in the morning to set the tone for the day.  Perhaps you’d like to finish the day with it.  Of course the more you practice it, the quicker, and more reliable your Inner Resource will become for you.  You can come to this well of love and inner calm whenever you need to.  It will become a state of being.

Traditionally, it can be your backdrop in any meditation, not only Yoga Nidra, whenever uncomfortable emotions and sensations come to the surface.

Let your Inner Resource be your backdrop, your inner safe-haven or your mini-holiday.

A final word.

The ability to sense, feel, experience and respond to the messages in our body and mind depends on our relationship WITH our body and mind.  Yoga, meditation, Yoga Nidra will help us address, develop and deepen that relationship.

So here we are, another reason to step on our yoga mat.  Another explanation why a wholesome yoga practice is more than a simple workout.  Another way of recognising yoga beyond asana (posture) practice.

Where can I get some and more?

All our yoga classes are wholesome and incorporate physical, mental and energetic practices. You will experience meditation and yoga nidra in our meditation workshops, master classes and our half day yoga & meditation urban retreats.  See website and social media for dates and timetable.

Happy practicing, see you on the mat.

Yin Yoga and Crystal Bowl Sound Meditation – Masterclass of Relaxation

Friday, 25th August | 18:00 – 20:00 | $30

YIN: 1hr
Yin yoga is a quiet, slow-paced and mostly floor based form of yoga, where yoga poses (asanas) are held for a longer period of time to stimulate the deeper layers of connective tissue.

You will be invited to let go of all muscular effort, allow yourself to come into a pose, be supported by bolsters, blocks and blankets and feel a stretch-like sensation that varies in intensity depending on your own personal preference and physical state of being. You will be encouraged to use your breath to soften, calm and quiet your mind and with that the intensity of the physical sensation.

This is a wonderfully relaxing and flexibility increasing style of yoga

CRYSTAL BOWL SOUND MEDITATION: 1hr
As you make yourself comfortable either sitting or lying down, you can completely let go of all sensation, thought or worry and allow the week that was to simply be as it was.

You will be experiencing a deep sense of physical relaxation and calmness of mind while you are completely immersed in the sound and vibrations of the crystal singing bowls.

A deeply healing and relaxing meditation modality.

Here in our MASTERCLASS, we will explore 60mins of YIN YOGA, followed by 60mins of SOUND MEDITATION.

A fabulous way to let go of the week and start the weekend with intent, clarity and calm.

Although this is an additional service for The Art of Balance client community, everyone is welcome.

No yoga or meditation experience is required.

COST: $30
DATE: Friday, 25th August 2017, 18:00 – 20:00

Book via email
bettina@theartofbalance.com.au

Payment of $30 reserves your place, and is due with booking.

Bettina Pfannkuch
BSB:733 059
Acct:512308

Thank you.

I look forward to sharing this masterclass with you.

SELF-LOVE and why you deserve some

Thank you for reading this blog.  I am forever grateful.  As this is my way to say ‘I love you’.  Ok, Ok, I appreciate you.  I appreciate your business.  Does that sound more palatable?  Why?  Have you ever said “I love you” to yourself?  Why not?  You see with Valentine’s Day yesterday, and I made a number of references to that during our yoga classes, I noticed the energy in the room shift a little.  Especially as I referred to the fact that to receive Love and to give Love, one has to first love oneself.  If you attend my yoga classes you’re perhaps a bit more comfortable with this concept, and still, it feels a little, well, awkward.  To love yourself, isn’t that selfish?  I’d like to think it’s not.  Let’s explore this challenging topic a bit more and find out what it means.  And how you can get some.

Description:

The dictionary says it is the “regard of one’s own well-being and happiness”.

In my 25 years of being in the health & wellbeing industry, I’ve come to believe this is our biggest learning.  Our biggest life lesson.  If we come to fully accept ourselves and love ourselves, or in other words have a healthy relationship with ourselves then this will eliminate a lot of our suffering, and will initiate healing on its deepest level. When we are wholly aligned with our own unique way of being we can give and receive real love.  Then we can give love without resentment.  Then we can receive love because we know we deserve it.

How would I know?

In my first years as a massage therapist, treating celebrities from all over the world, I was often very surprised that these people, despite having fame and money, and often love, were so unhappy and unfulfilled.  In my nursing training years, the question of why illness and suffering occurs came up and followed me.  In my work now, with Hahnemann Healing, remedial treatments and the healing art and science of yoga, the question of what to do so healing can take place and suffering can be reduced comes up all the time.  It is at the core of my work.  After years of my own inner work, discussions with colleagues and the ones in the know, I firmly state the answer and biggest life lesson is: Self love and self acceptance.

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere.  You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection”. Buddha

Quick fix?

No.  Self love takes commitment & dedication.  It is a journey.  Start right now & foster it daily.

Here is how.

Commit to doing all or some of the following.  Commit to acknowledging that taking care of yourself first, is not selfish, it is essential. It is taking care of others too.  Acknowledge that you are enough and whole the way you are.  Right now.

  • Appreciate your efforts. At work, at home, in public.
  • Say to yourself “I am enough”, “I have enough” “I do enough”.
  • Believe that you are enough.
  • Do more of what makes your heart sing.
  • Learn to say NO!. If it is not a hell yes, it is a no.
  • Believe and say to yourself “I am a good father, I am a good mother, I am a good friend, and I am a good spouse. Acknowledge and know that you are doing a great job.  Rather than always strive for more, better, busier.
  • Allow yourself to make a decision and then be ok with it. This one is huge.  If you decide to have that extra piece of chocolate, cake, fries etc, then be firm in your decision and support it.  No regrets.  Don’t beat yourself up after.  If you fall off the yoga bandwagon, do it with gusto, acknowledge, and come back when you are ready.  No regrets. No should haves.
  • Feel what you feel. If you have physical sensations, acknowledge and validate them.  No, I shouldn’t feel that or that.  Acknowledge and notice, it is real.  Then of course if you feel you need to investigate, shift, change, you can respond accordingly.  First, acknowledge and validate.
  • Notice what you notice. An emotion or a thought.  You ARE feeling that way, thinking that way.  Simply notice.  No judgement.  Do allow yourself that freedom of noticing and acknowledging.  If you feel sad, angry, tired, guilty, so be it. Notice.  If after that anything needs a response, well that is another story.  First – notice only. And validate.
  • Don’t hide behind the ‘lack of time’.
  • Write down your values.
  • Own your values.
  • Come to yoga class. This one allows you to practice many of those ideas.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror. Start to connect to your body.
  • Appreciate and thank your physical body. All of it.
  • Buy yourself flowers
  • Notice your food. Slowly and lovingly eat.  Fully present.  Because you love yourself.

What do I gain again?

  • A healthy relationship with ourselves allows for healthy relationships with others. Love yourself first, if you’d like to attract love from others.
  • Give love – the ability the love oneself fosters the ability to truly love another. No resentment, no deal. Unconditional love.
  • Self confidence.
  • Whole and lasting well-being and happiness.
  • A new found zest for life.
  • Less stress.
  • More freedom to do the things that are important to you.
  • Role model to those who watch you.

May you learn to fully accept and love yourself.  Have a wonderful day.

Bettina

FIVE (5) BENEFITS OF A REGULAR YOGA PRACTICE

Have you asked yourself the question why you are practicing yoga?  Maybe the answer is crystal clear to you now at the beginning of the year, since you have been without your regular studio yoga practice over the Christmas closure.  Maybe there is even more than one answer to this question.  And if you skip answering now, and come back to ponder the question later, the answer will be different.  And that’s fine, no, it’s actually brilliant.  Yoga practice is not linear, it’s patchy, it’s messy sometimes, it’s challenging, it’s loveable, it’s very much like life.  Welcome to 2017! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and relaxing holidays.  I always take this time to question why I practice as well as why I teach yoga.  Here are some of my answers.  Or perhaps you’ve been off the mat for a while and need some motivation to find your way back onto it, here are 5 reasons.  Maybe you want to convince your spouse, friend or employer to consider yoga, let them read this article.

  1. Strength – physical & mental.

Benefit number one for some, number 99 for others.  The fact is that a regular yoga practice builds up muscular strength and stamina.  Your core strength as well as your cardiovascular fitness will improve.  Especially in my yoga classes, there is a focus on core strength, as this will allow all other joint movements to be much safer and more enjoyable.  And then something magical will happen:  improved outer physical strength translates into inner strength.  The fitter and stronger we feel physically, the more stable, capable and strong we feel mentally.  Come to the mat, and experience it for yourself.

  1. Clarity & focus of mind.

In yoga practice we want to cultivate a present-moment awareness.  This in return trains our brain to concentrate and focus better.  Random thoughts become less and less, we will learn to discern between a random thought and a thought that needs further attention.  When we train our mind in that way, ordinary life distractions will be become far less impactful and the ability to direct our focus to what is important and meaningful reaches far beyond the mat.

  1. Calmness – mind and body.

Yoga is a healing practice.  With the use of the breath we are learning to find the connection of mind and body.  Unlike other movement modalities, yoga incorporates the use of the breath.  Using the breath in a smooth, even and deliberate way has a direct effect on the central nervous system.  By noticing and slowing down our breath, we are tapping into the parasympathetic response of our nervous system, or our vagus nerve.  This means we are more living in the “rest and digest” state of being, rather than the “flight and fight” mode.  So the breath is our tool to be in a more calm yet alert state of being.  The follow on effect will be reduced stress levels, improved digestive health, better sleep and so on.  Breath is what makes yoga a healing practice.  Come to the mat and befriend your breath.

  1. Increased energy, vitality and flexibility.

Our bodies are designed to move.  We are meant to walk, jump, run, twist, squat, bend and reach.  A well balanced yoga practice will make sure we include all of those movements, plus we will get upside down (invert ourselves).  So Yoga asana practice gets our heart pumping, our lymph and hormones moving to name just a few immediate internal reactions.  The immediate, as well as the long term result, will be increased energy and the feeling of increased vitality.  We also make sure that we at least keep the range of motion in all our joints, if not increase it.  You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga, flexibility will be an added benefit.  This in return will improve your posture (oops, thats another hidden benefit), resulting in improved health and wellbeing.

  1. Self development and self care.

Ok, that’s actually two benefits.  I could not decide which one was more important, and hey they are both equally developed with regular yoga practice.  Yoga is mindful movement.  We stay present or mindful to all sensations, thoughts and emotions that arise.  We don’t just get the movement over and done with while we huff and puff and let the mind wonder off.  It is this present-moment awareness, you can call it mindfulness if you like, that allows us to become aware of our innate habits, our reacting patterns.  It allows us to discover how we function on a deeper level.  For example, say a strong physical sensation is felt during a yoga pose, what happens in your mind: do you disengage, do you react with frustration, anger, fear or the like, do you look for distractions, do you let your mind get busy?  Why do you need to know?  Well, if it serves you well, keep doing it.  And if it doesn’t, change it.  Without this knowledge, or awareness, there is no freedom of choice.  And you risk running your life on auto pilot.  Also, as we stay in the present moment, and learn to breathe through these physically & mentally challenging situations, keeping our calm, we learn to do exactly that as we are faced with challenging life situations.  That’s one aspect of self development.  Yoga practice allows us to actively care for ourselves.  This care will effect change, this change will give us hope.  And hope in itself is healing.  Yoga will change your life if you let it.

Please take from this what resonates with you and let me know what you would include in that list. Thank you.  Can’t wait to practice with you in 2017!

May 2017 bring you what you deeply desire, and much health & happiness.

I added a NEW yoga class to the timetable.  More chances for you to incorporate these benefits into your life.  Join us on Monday morning 930am, starting February 6th for a yin/yang yoga practice.  Combining strength & stamina with flexibility and meditative long stretches.

See you on the mat.

yin-yang-class

5 STEPS TO ENJOY THE FESTIVE SEASON

… and end the year with clarity, ready for 2017!

Do you want to enjoy the last few weeks of 2016, rather than wishing the year to be gone?  Do you want to finish the year on your terms and keep your equilibrium instead of being dictated what to do and letting everyone’s frazzledness & craziness drain you?  Do you feel the need to come to positive terms with 2016 so you can start 2017 with a clean slate?  Then allow yourself to incorporate any or all of those five steps into your December.  These are simply steps that have worked for me personally and that have proven valuable to those who seek my services.  See & feel what resonates with you.  Be curious & notice what happens.

Reflect.

Reflection is a marvellous tool.  Allow yourself to reflect back on the year and let the good times, and the bad or not so easy times roll back past your minds’ eye.  Do this systematically month by month, quarter by quarter, season by season, or semester by semester, choose what timeframe works for you.  Or simply let the most grabbing moments randomly come back to your mind.  And then feel them, feel the good times, and feel the bad times.  Celebrate the victories, successes and rainbows again, really celebrate.  Pat yourself on the back and say well done you.  Do the same with the ugly, hard and overly challenging times.  Let them be felt, cry, scream, shout, sob, and then see if you can let them simply be.  If you reflect on your yoga journey, ask what has become a little easier, a little more effortless?  Where have you noticed most benefits?  Were they physical, mental or emotional or even spiritual?  Of course you can go further and analyse and learn from the challenging times –what can you do differently next time.  Same with the good times – what can you do again and/or more of?  But for now, simply reflect, relive and let it be.  Awareness is the first step to healing.  Now celebrate that you made it to the end of 2016.  Celebrate.

Journal.

Journaling or writing is another brilliant tool for allowing the year to come to an end in a lighter way.  Simply use your journal for the above exercise OR write down everything you can remember about 2016, the good events, the highlights, the low moments, all your feelings & emotions associated with the events.  Simply let the words come out of you.  Write everything down what you can remember about 2016, without any censoring.  Let it all be as it was and as it is for you.  This is not an exercise in creative writing.  Use words that come easy.  Let the thoughts, feelings and happenings spill out of your mind and onto paper.  If you need help to get you started, simply ask yourself, what have been the highlights and lowlights of 2016, what are you proud of, and what can you do better in 2016.  You can stop here, or you can write down all the emotions & thoughts attached to each event.  Let it all come out onto paper.  Then let it go.  Let it be as it was.  Close your journal.  Smile.  Celebrate.

Set a sankalpa.

Ask yourself, “what is my heart’s deepest desire?”.  What is it I truly long for?  This is different to a goal, which comes out of your intellect.  A sankalpa is your heart’s deepest desire. If you’d like to read more about what a sankalpa is, here is a whole blog post about it.  Write your sankalpa down.  Keep it close.  Put it in your diary, on your screensaver, or simply remind yourself of such each morning or night.  Make it into a ritual.  Mention it to yourself first thing in the morning, before you get out of bed; or last thing at night.  Or simply during the day when a particular event, emotion or time arises.  A sankalpa does not need to be complicated.  It could simply be that you are longing for more connection to your partner, or to your children.  Perhaps you long for more spare time, perhaps for more freedom, more space or less pain.  Take the time to become aware of what it is you deeply desire.  And then notice what happens.

Do something from your happy list.

Do you have a happy list?  I suggest you get your journal or a piece of paper out now.  Write down five (5) things that make you happy. Boom, here’s your Happy List.  On it could be sunshine, chocolate, cuddles, yoga practice J, walk on the beach, hanging with my mates, dancing, knitting, kissing, sleeping in, eating cake, new shoes, lippie, jocks, etc.  You got the idea.  And then do something from your happy list.  Yes, choose one thing and then do it.  Repeat.  Either daily, weekly or whenever YOU choose to.  Ah, feels good, doesn’t it.  Learning the art of selfcare and selfrespect.  It does start with you.

Meditate on your senses.

Don’t freak out, simply because you think I will ask you to “sit still and empty your mind”.  I’ll never ever do that.  If you’ve attended our meditation workshops or yoga retreats, you know I have a very permissive way of practicing meditation, and yoga for that matter.  This meditation here, takes only a couple of minutes to complete, and allows you to come into the present moment – that’s where life happens -, and it fosters an appreciation of your environment.

Wherever you are, name two things you can see, really see them.

Then name two things you can hear, really hear them.

Then name two things you can smell or taste, really smell or taste them.

Lastly, two things you can touch, really feel them.

Notice your state of mind now.  Notice to what degree you have become calmer, and to what degree your thinking is now clearer.  Perhaps you’ll notice physical changes too.  Repeat.  Whenever. Wherever.  The doing is the practice.  Enjoy!

I’m grateful you’ve read until the end.  Please take from this what resonates with you and let me know how you found these suggestions.  And if you have any questions or requests, let me know too.  I hope you can make peace with 2016 and welcome in the New Year 2017 with excitement and positive anticipation.

See you on the mat.

Enjoy this festive season.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

May 2017 bring you what you deeply desire, and much health & love.

With love and gratitude.

Bettina 

7 GO-TO Yoga Poses for Spring!

Do you want to revitalise your body, mind and spirit after this long winter?  Do you long for the time when you were able to get out of bed in the morning with vitality?  Do you wish you could go through your day with more vim and vigour?  Then an asana yoga practice tailored to the seasons will be for you.  In all our group yoga classes we allow the energy of the season to play some part in the sequencing and in the choices of yoga poses.  See if this choice of 7 spring yoga poses will resonate with you.  No need to limit your practice to those 7 though.  Step on your mat and explore.  Remember to FEEL into your body, breathe evenly and calmly.  Always move within your body’s limits and abilities.  For any medical concerns and conditions, please see your medical practitioner.  Please modify as you need to.  All seven poses described in detail would warrant an article on their own. Enjoy and have fun!  And respect the two boundaries of yoga:

  1. breath – stop, or modify, if your breath gets short, sharp, or if you hold your breath.
  2. pain – if you feel pain, stop or modify.  Regular yoga practice will allow you to learn the difference between strong discomfort and pain.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Five Element Theory, the body is made up of the same five primary elements that exist in nature.  These are Wood, Metal, Fire, Water and Earth.  These elements are linked to different organs and energy channels (meridians) in our bodies.  In spring the wood element is strongest, which relates to the organs and meridian pairs of liver and gallbladder.  Anything we do to help balance and support these organs, will be extra beneficial during spring.  Think spinal twists, prone backbends and strong forward bends to stimulate the liver.  As the liver meridian runs along the inside of the legs, and the gallbladder meridian along the outside of the legs and the side body, yoga poses that stimulate these areas are largely beneficial.

Reclining butterfly, reclining cobblers pose – Supta Baddha Konasana

reclining-butterfly

You can either start or finish your practice with this position.  Find a comfortable lying down position, clasp your hands and allow the palms to support the back of your head.  Allow your elbows to soften and gently open towards the floor.  This will allow the front of your chest & shoulder joint to open and stimulate more energy lines on the inside of your arms. Then bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to gently open out to the side.  This will externally rotate your hip joint and stimulate the energy channels of liver (yes kidney as well).  Notice where you feel sensation.  This could be inner thighs, groin area, lower back, perhaps outer thighs, buttocks or ankles.  No right or wrong here.  Notice what you notice and breathe softly.  If this is the start of your practice, set your intention, thank yourself for being here, for fostering your health and wellbeing.  Stay for a few breaths or a few minutes, depending on your time availability and your intention.

Half pigeon pose, sleeping swan pose – Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana

half-pigeon-pose

A traditional ‘hip opening’ pose. You can step into it from Downward facing Dog or from tabletop. Bring your right knee to the right of your mat and your lower leg as parallel to the front edge of your mat as is comfortable. You may want to keep the heel underneath your thigh. Do experiment and move in a way that feels good to you.  Extend your left leg back.  Lift your upper body, and feel the front of your hips yielding towards the floor evenly.  If you need to, slowly lower on to your forearms, perhaps all the way forward.  Let your forehead rest.  This may produce a physical sensation around your right buttock; right outer thigh, lower back and even your left leg hip flexors and quadriceps.  Notice sensation and see if you can surrender into this position with muscular ease.  This is deeply nourishing for your hip joints, your pelvic and groin area.  Breathe evenly and calmly.  See if you can use your exhale breath to soften where you feel the physical sensation the most.  Stay present.  Hold for a few breaths or a few minutes.  Enjoy and don’t forget to do the other side.  Remember the purpose here of stimulating inner & outer leg.  Can you feel the benefit?

Head to knee pose – Janu Sirsasana A

head-to-knee-pose-1

Can you see why I choose this asana?  Yes, it is a deep forward bend from the hips, stimulating the digestive organs.  Both, the inside and the outside of the legs are stimulated and it is one of the more classical seated forward bends.

From Dandasana bent your left leg and bring the sole of that left leg gently against your right thigh. Then with breath and your bandhas engaged bend forward from the hips.  Place your hands somewhere alongside your lower leg, or hold your feet, or even bind.  Bend only as far forward as you can from your hips with a straight spine.  Avoid rounding forward.  Remember this is with the intention to stimulate the liver.  So if you flex (round) your spine, in a more yin-like way, that is not wrong, it simply will serve a different purpose.  Always know what your or your teachers’ intention is.  So there will only ever be a safe and an unsafe way, never a wrong or right or better or worse way to practice yoga asana.  This is an active pose, keep your straight leg engaged, and keep moving the heart & chest forward and the shoulders back and down. Stay for 5-20 breaths.  Let your breath and your body guide you.  Enjoy and change sides.

Revolved head to knee pose – Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana

head-to-knee-pose-2

Can you feel the deliciousness of this pose? A wonderful lateral side bend and stretch for your quadratus lumborum, a deep postural muscle in your lower back.

Here, in addition to the stimulation of the inner thighs, you get this beautiful stimulation of your side body.  And remember that is where the gallbladder meridian runs along.  Of course moving your spine in all possible planes is beneficial in any season.

You set up as previous pose, bring your left forearm or hand (the arm or hand of the straight leg) along the inside of your left leg (the straight leg).  Sit up tall and twist your torso from the belly to your bend leg (the right in this case).  Then use your left arm as a lever working against your straight leg as you keep your chest open, and slowly bring your side body of the straight leg (here the right) sideways towards your straight leg.  Lastly bring your right arm overhead and either hold on to your left foot, or bend at the elbow, bring your hand behind your head for support and actively point the elbow toward the sky.  Keep breathing evenly; keep your bandhas engaged and your straight leg active.  This is an active position and you may only choose to hold it for a few breaths.  Change sides and enjoy.

Twisted crescent lunge – Parivrtta Anjaneyasana

twisted-crescent-lunge

Twisting and balancing.  What a glorious combination.  Twist for detoxification and balance for tremendous focus.  Two favourable spring qualities.  Can you see & feel the inner & outer leg, groin, hip and outer body stimulation for our spring meridians here?

Come into your high lunge.  Drop your back knee to the floor anytime you feel the need to.  Bring your hands into prayer and twist from your waist towards your front bent leg.  Stay and breathe with bandhas engaged.  Or, if the space is there release one hand down and one hand up, further increasing the twist, the opening in the chest and length in your spine.  Or you can simply bring both hands onto your front leg.  Listen to your body.  Enjoy this strong pose. Hold for 5-20 breaths and change sides.

Gate pose, bend to straight leg – Parighasana

gate-pose-1

Yes, you can see and feel a theme emerging by now.

You can put this and the next pose at the beginning of your practice as a gentle start.  Or put it at the end to feel the progression and the degree to which your body opened and yielded since the start.  And then celebrate.

Come to kneeling; bring your left leg straight to the side.  Feel if toes forward (like here) or pointed to the side works best for your body.  Lift your torso, engage your bandhas, find length and then with breath slowly bring your right hand above and over your head, and your left hand to your straight leg, opening and leaning your torso to towards the left, the bend leg side first.  Try not to collapse here, keep the front of the torso open and the back of the torso long.  Breathe evenly, notice sensation, stay present to thought, emotions, and feelings and always come back to noticing your breath.  Breath is key.  I know you know.  Enjoy this beautiful pose.  Stay present and active for as long as you can, perhaps 5-20 breaths.

Gate pose, move to bent leg – Parighasana, variation

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From the previous pose, simply come up and bend over towards the other side, the bend leg side.  You may need to bring the floor up higher with a block, bolster, and book, whatever stable you have, to rest your fingertips or your palm on.

You can keep your straight leg on the floor, or, as here, lift the leg, keep it there or practice some pumping actions to further stimulate your belly, your inner and outer leg.  Of course you keep your bandhas on, keep the breath evenly and only move in a way that supports you.  Challenge yourself yes, but don’t hurt yourself.  Enjoy, stay for as long as you feel you can and change sides.

Have you remembered to keep your inner smile and outer smile?

Have you made sure you enjoyed your practice?  Could you find an element of joy, lightness or / and playfulness?  Did you modify as you needed to?  Could you allow yourself to shine and to explore your potential?  High 5 to you.  Now celebrate!  And remember, next time you step on the mat, you will be a different person, the practice will feel different, we are not robots.  Now take rest with Savasana, or continue practicing.

Always finish your practice with 3-7 minutes of Savasana – Corpse Pose.  Or in our case here, perhaps finish with the first asana on page one.  Simply taking rest at the end of practice.  Allow your Nervous System and your heart rate to slow.

Please take from this what resonates with you.  Let’s not be too concerned if toes point this way or that.  Keep yourself safe; allow your own intuition to tell you what’s supportive for you and what’s not.  Often the hang ups on details are simply procrastination in disguise.  Simply step on the mat, smile, breathe and move.  I know you know, I needed the reminder.

Enjoy the season of revitalisation and make the most of what you can do and what you do have.  Please let me know how you found these suggestions.  And if you have any questions or requests, let me know too.

See you on the mat.

Namaste

Bettina

Pilgrims on the Ganges River

On my recent trip to India, September 2016, visiting Varanasi was a definite highlight.
Many chances to laugh, to experience joy, to practice being present, to practice meditation in many different ways.

Here, the following is happening:

As we were on our way home to the hotel for breakfast, from an early morning sunrise boat trip, visiting several ghats, chanting the Gayatri mantra, meditating and journaling, we passed this boat of visiting pilgrims, who were very interested in singing and celebrating with us.

I often play this little video clip as a reminder of happy times, as a way to meditate on emotions, on sound and on the idea that all is one.

Maha Devi.

Enjoy the sounds and sights. Close your eyes and allow the energy of happiness to take over.

Glimpses into my Women’s Spiritual Pilgrimage to India – September 2016!

Well, where do I start? And which photos do I include?

Firstly, it was an enriching journey and a well needed holiday. I am confirmed in my belief that being spiritual means different things to different people, and that is absolutely fine by me. There is no right or wrong way of being spiritual, in my mind. I am also proud of and confirmed in the way I teach yoga and how I guide you into exploring your physical, mental and emotional potential and allow you to feel content within your body and your mind.

Secondly, India has much to offer, and I will surely be returning one day to explore this vast and diverse country even more.

Thirdly, by travelling with an open heart and having good intentions, like seeking to understand, one will not exploit those living in poverty. It’s ok to continue to travel to third world countries.

Fourth, surrender to the things you can’t control. I know it’s a no-brainer, but I was surprised by how slow and inefficient everything and everyone works. So, I had to surrender to India time, India efficiency and Indian people’s way of shaking and nodding their head at the same time, which can mean both yes and no, or maybe. Oh, and the semi-existence of wi fi. At the same time, it was reassuring to feel how everyone has their place, their task, knows what they’re doing and goes about their day with ease and calm and no sense of hurry or urgency. Quite fascinating really.

Fifth, the level of energy and depth of the various spiritual places we visited varies and takes you with it, overwhelms you, surprises you, makes you feel a certain way. It plays with your heart. So tears galore in my case, from touch-down to farewell.

Sixth, my favourite place was Varanasi, the oldest, holy, living city on the planet. And my favourite experience was the Aarti, a Hindu ceremony, on the river Ganges. I personally feel very peaceful in the presence of slow, flowing water, as I have grown up very near a river. I’m also very fond of ritual and ceremony. You hear me say “celebrate” a lot. In particular the use of one’s own voice, chanting, singing and reciting are pastimes close to my heart. More on that with the appropriate pics further along.

Seventh, my most needed experience was connecting to my heart space, to slow down, to be on my own and to allow for Bettina to be heard and felt. After all, it has been 14 years since I had time on my total own.

Enjoy the glimpses into the journey and know that my musings simply reflect my opinion and are given with the intention to inform and to entertain. Perhaps even amuse. All places and experiences would validate a blog post and story on its own.

New Delhi and the Taj Mahal.

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Delhi was a kind and soft introduction into India. It’s a big city in a third world country. The site and gardens of the Taj Mahal in Agra reminded me a lot of home. In fact, I felt very at peace, in harmony and at home. The gardens are lush, spacious and well kept. It surprised me how small the inside of the mausoleum was though. The energy is calm, not vibrant. The view and the gardens (moonlight gardens) from behind are magical beyond words. Of course, I had to strike a pose on the spot.

Dilli Haat – Market shopping for souvenirs and appropriate clothing.

Eros Hotel – for a soft landing into India.

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I hugely enjoyed the climate of Delhi. 30 to 38 degrees Celsius and some humidity. No heater needed, no layers of clothing to warm up, just nicely enveloped in warmth.

This market stall is where I spend most of my time in Dilli Haat, as the market holder was very humorous, talkative, witty and kind. I was looking for experiences, for connections to people, rather than just another souvenir. Oh, and I loved bargaining.

I have to say overall, I had nothing but pleasant experiences. The people are kind, softly spoken, a bit hard to read at first, but then you tune into their energy and smile with them, at them, let them make interesting comments about your appearance, and simply marvel at the sense of calmness with which everything is accomplished. Initially, I took this as a form of des-interest, and dis-connection, this is not the case though.

I was particularly amazed at how effortlessly the crowds of people both on land and on the river subside after a gathering without any pushing, yelling or aggression in any way. Same with the traffic on the roads, everyone tuts their horns, but there is no aggression or sense of immediate urgency, everything is accomplished in due time and calm effort. Remarkable. Maybe it’s the climate. I’ll have to dwell on that a bit. And I invite your comments and viewpoints.

Varanasi – The holy City.

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To watch and experience life on the banks of the holy river Ganges in Varanasi, was a highlight for me. The daily morning rituals, the business of the river during the day and the ceremonies in the evening are all equally important and rich. One feels privileged to be able to observe the going ons on the river and to be walking the streets of this magnificent place. The energy and atmosphere is both calm at times and vibrant, heavy often and mystical. Varanasi plays with your senses, you’ll experience sensory overload, as it is always loud, busy, colourful, warm, dramatic. A splendid place to practice pratyahara (drawing your senses inwards), pranayama and meditation.

The Thali, a meal consisting of the 6 different flavours (sweet, sour, salty, astringent, bitter and spicy), as well as all other food offerings were delicious. Curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner is what suits my palate and body well. And what is not to smile about when there is masala chai tea offered wherever you go. At the end of the trip though, I did miss the act of chewing. So a salad was a welcome addition to my diet, as well as a bit of dark chocolate once at home.

The streetvendors, stallholders and beggars were not as in your face as I had been warned about and had anticipated. I felt very much in control and having my personal space respected. Of course I only bought from and gave to vendors where I had an outstanding experience, where I felt some form of connection. Either because of their sense of humour, their story, their way of looking after me and keeping me safe.

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Pilgrims from the south of India admiring the beauty of the banks of the river in Varanasi. And below, the view onto the river from our room.

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Streetlife in Varanasi and an evening ceremony on the waters’ edge. Aarti is a Hindu ceremony of worship, held in the evenings to celebrate and honour a deity. Here, mother Ganges, Devi Ganga, is worshipped as she represents life, she is the creator of all and everything. I could write a blog on Aarti alone. For now, simply imagine hundreds of people on land, hundreds out on the river on boats, heat, chanting of vedic mantras by these 5 priests, bells and other musical instruments, fire, flowers, intense colours, dance moves, clapping and happy vibes, and see if you can simply tune into the divine vibrations of this sacred act.

Below, I found my calling on the Ganges. And offerings in front of the Durga temple.

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Varanasi – yoga on the rooftop, overlooking River Ganges.

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Yoga in India is a lot, if not exclusively, about prana. The moving, keeping and increasing of prana, life energy. This yoga master took us through a number of yoga practices and the format is very close to the format we practice here at The Art of Balance – Yoga and Massage, you use breath to connect to your body, you move with asana, you practice pranayama, you relax. Yes, our yoga practices are often more vigorous, more flowing, more strength and flexibility building, more well-rounded and definitely longer. It was both re-assuring and embarrassing when he pointed to me and said : “You have perfect body, perfect practice”. So there you go. I have to own it. And you can too!

Bodhgaya – A World Heritage Site, where Buddha attained enlightenment.

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The Mahabodhi temple is the site where Buddha attained enlightenment.  And the statue below is the Big Buddha of Bodhgaya.  Significant places of worship for practicing buddists all over the world.

Cows – the celebration of life.

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cow

In India the cow is holy as it represents the mother, the creator of all life.  One gets quickly used to the sight of this creature and is surprised to see how well it fits in to daily life.

Colours of India – Farewell my friend.

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Colourful and meaningful experiences are everywhere.

India, you have been good to me, I will keep you forever in my heart.  I am grateful for the experience and for all the people I have met along the way.

Thank you to Belinda of www.belindaodea.com for making this journey possible.

Thank you to YOU my reader, client and student for allowing me to grow so I can allow you to do the same.

I hope you enjoyed this little journey and if you have any comments or questions, please let me know.

Until we meet on the yoga mat or the treatment table.

Om Namaha Shivaya.

Bettina Pfannkuch

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation resulting in a deep state of relaxation, a state between sleeping and waking consciousness. A meditation that takes the art of simply being and observing further and allows us to tap deeper into our subconscious mind, it becomes a mind-body therapy. We typically explore Yoga Nidra in both our monthly Meditation Workshops and our monthly Urban Retreats (yoga and meditation immersions). It is a simple mindfulness practice and can be done by anyone. You don’t have to be a seasoned meditator, nor do you need any yoga experience. And, as in all our classes and offerings, there is nothing to be achieved. This is a practice, like yoga, where simply doing the best you can, and in Yoga Nidra, this means lying down and listening, is the result, it is what makes it so beneficial. So no pressure, and no fear of big words. It is best, in the beginning, to have someone read to you or to listen to a recording. Most recordings go from anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes. Let’s explain and explore in more detail.

What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra?

  • Lower heart rate
  • Breathing slows down
  • Reduced stress
  • Relaxed body
  • Calm mind
  • Better quality sleep
  • Ability to fall asleep easier
  • Joy
  • Ease in body
  • Clarity of mind
  • Quiet mind
  • Lightness of both body and mind
  • Happiness
  • Heightened awareness
  • Feeling of spaciousness and abundance
  • Helps to resolve trauma
  • Helps to overcome or better deal with feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, frustration
  • Improves capacity to welcome any feelings, emotions, and life situations
  • Improves compassion towards oneself
  • Improves compassion towards others

Why Yoga Nidra and what does it mean?

Yoga Nidra is often translated into ‘psychic sleep’. It allows you to drift in and out of consciousness, almost into sleeping and yet your subconscious is still alert and listening. It is also said that 30mins of Yoga Nidra is as restful as 2-3hours of sleeping. Now, I got your attention. It means that in a lying down position you allow all your feelings, all your physical sensations, all your thoughts, all your visions and imaginations that may occur during the meditation to surface, and you will welcome them all in, without any judgement or need to change them. It is simply a welcoming practice.

The practice itself is the result. There is no need to achieve anything here. Be kind to yourself and know, that this is the art of doing something nurturing and supporting for yourself. Let go of any judgment, of any idea of the ideal practice. Just like in yoga asana practice. In this sense it becomes also a practice of mindfulness, of being present.

What are the steps and stages of Yoga Nidra?

  1. Firstly, you are invited to find a comfortable position. Traditionally it is suggested to lie down. However, you are in charge and can decide what the most comfortable position is for you.
  2. Set an intention. This could simply be to stay open and present to whatever thoughts, feelings and sensations arise. Perhaps today, you need to find clarity or simply relaxation. If you come to our yoga classes, then you have felt that this intention setting is invited in every class and sets the tone for your practice as well as gives it purpose.
  3. State your Sankalpa. This means you now connect to your heartfelt desire and really ask yourself, what it is you deeply long for. Say this positive statement to yourself in the present tense, as if it has already happened. Say it three (3) times. Set and feel this affirmation with all of your heart, your whole body and mind. For example “I am at ease”, or “I have all I need”, or “I am patient” (clearly, this one is for me).
  4. Body Scan or Rotation of Consciousness. This means that you gradually allow your awareness to rotate throughout your physical body. You sense your whole body systematically and feel it as one whole radiant sensation. Start with your jaw, your mouth, your eyes, your ears, your nose, your forehead, your whole head, your neck, your throat, your left arm, your left hand, your right arm, your right hand, then both arms and hands simultaneously. Become aware of your chest, your shoulders, your back, your belly, your pelvis, your sacrum, your whole torso. Feel your whole upper body. Now become aware of your left hip, your left leg, your left foot. Then feel your right hip, your right leg, your right foot. Now feel both legs together. Now become aware of your whole lower body. Feel your whole body now as one entity, as radiant sensation.This is a very basic body scan. Time and experience permitting, you can be much more detailed and even include your chakras, your energy centres. This is where a recording will come in handy. I am working on one or five for you, please be patient with me. In the meantime, join us for the meditation workshops and retreats.
  5. Breath Awareness. Simply become aware of your breathing. Allow yourself to notice your breath. There is no need to shift it in any way. Sense your breath in your body. Notice the air moving in and out of your nostrils or notice the breath in your belly or your ribcage. There is no right or wrong, simply become aware of your breath and feel it moving in and out of your body. Perhaps you can allow yourself to feel a wave of energy in your body with each breath.
  6. Welcome your Feelings and Sensations. Become aware of any physical sensations in your body. Perhaps you feel heaviness, warmth, tingling etc. Allow yourself to feel that without any judgement or the need to push it away or ‘fix’ it. Simply welcome it in and experience it. Then see if you can also bring up sensations of the opposite. Say you feel heaviness, see if you can bring up lightness in your whole body and your mind. Then proceed to invite in and sense emotions that are currently present within you. Say you feel anger, frustration, sadness, happiness etc. Sense it, stay present and allow the opposite to be felt too. Do this with as many sensations and feelings as are present.
  7. Observe your Thoughts, Memories, Images. Become aware and observe any thoughts, memories or images that are present for you. Simply notice them without judging them or trying to change them. Welcome in your experience just as it is. Often in a guided meditation you will be invited to experience images and symbols on a level of feeling, emotion and imagination just as they are read out to you.
  8. State your Sankalpa again. Allow yourself to state your Sankalpa, your positive affirmation again three times. Three times in the present tense, as if it had already happened. If you do not have a Sankalpa just yet, leave out this step. You still get the benefits of this meditation. See below for an explanation.
  9. Closing, Return. Now become aware of your breathing again. Become aware of your surroundings and deepen your breath. Slowly move again, thank yourself and enjoy your day or a good night’s sleep. Know that you can practice for as long and as often if you feel is appropriate for you.

What is a Sankalpa?

A sankalpa is a positive affirmation or positive resolve. It goes beyond simply goal-setting, it is inviting you to truly feel and connect to your heartfelt desire. It is a goal that comes from your heart. It is what you deeply long for. Take your time with connecting to this feeling. Sometimes we have to really allow some time to acknowledge it. For example, we might strive for success in a material sense, and yet, our heartfelt desire might be to simply be loved, unconditionally. Or it could be as simple as feeling abundance in our life. I have written an article on Sankalpa, read the full article here.

A final word, be mindful that there have been books written on Yoga Nidra, so our article here is meant to be a brief overview. My writings are based on my personal experience and the feedback from you, my clients. For this blog, I have consulted the book “Yoga Nidra, a meditative practice for deep relaxation and healing” by Richard Miller. This can be borrowed from our studio library.

Thank you for your curiosity. If you have any questions, please ask, I’m happy to find an answer and have a conversation with you. And please let me know what other topics you would like to explore. I look forward to your comments and to connecting with you in the studio. Enjoy your meditation.

In calmness,

Bettina