Yoga

Plank practices for Core Strength

Your Manipura Chakra

or another reason why Core Strength is a good idea.

Throughout the year we have been looking at incorporating the philosophical ideas of yoga tradition into our physical yoga asana practice to support our health and wellbeing even more efficiently.  With the arrival of Spring in the Southern Hemisphere, it was wise to include more core strengthening yoga asana into our yoga classes.  The idea behind is that the energy of spring supports or governs our third chakra, manipura chakra, often also called our solar plexus chakra.  This is the physical area around our belly button.  Surely, we work with bandhas, our energy locks, physically our toilet muscle, pelvic floor muscles and lower abdominal muscles, all throughout our more yang style yoga practices anyway.  The intention goes a bit further to include even more front, side, and back core strengthening asana at this time of year to stimulate our digestive system, to fire up our internal strength and willpower and to gain greater physical core strength.  So for your home practice and to give you a glimpse of what happens in yoga classes, enjoy this video of plank variations.  The plank pose in all its variations is a brilliant functional exercise to strengthen our core.  Practice on your forearms in low plank if you experience any wrist pain.  And of course you switch on all your core muscles, lengthen your tailbone, engage your thigh muscles, breathe smoothly and softly, have an inner and outer smile, your jaw is soft, your eyes are soft and you experience joy.  And if your breath changes, you stop or modify.  So here you see plank, plank knee dips, plank leg raises and plank side dips.  And you hear the water fountain.

Happy practicing, see you on the mat.  Let me know how this feels for you.  Enjoy a healthy season of Spring.

What is Hahnemann Healing?

What is Hahnemann Healing?

Hahnemann Healing is a form of emotional healing. This emotional healing modality deals with negative thoughts and feelings towards current or past events in our life.  If left unresolved, these emotions can be the cause of illness and can prevent us from finding balance and happiness in our life.

Examples of emotions that this modality is seeking to heal are anger, fear, frustration, depression, aggression, confusion, guilt, grief, bitterness, anxiety etc, to name a few.

Hahnemann Healing has been practiced in ancient Egypt and been brought forward by the entity Dr Samuel Kristian Hahnemann, founder of Homeopathy.

Why Hahnemann Healing?

Hahnemann Healing is a form of spiritual healing that works in a more specialised way compared to other forms of healing in this category.  The energy used is much stronger and more specifically directed to the points in the body where it is needed.  Each one of these points relates to a specific emotion.

Hahnemann Healing is deep, gentle and uplifting.  It can form a significant part of a process of change, enabling us to move forward from old emotional blockages.

Allow yourself to feel more positive, and clear & fulfil your full health & personal potential.

What to expect in a Hahnemann Healing Session?

Treatment always begins with what is called a “Balance”, where I place one fingertip at the base of the skull and one at the coccyx (end of the tailbone/spine) at the same time.  This aims to clear any blockages in the flow of energy through the spine.  Then I will be directing energy to very specific parts of the body, touching you with fingertips only.  You will remain fully clothed, comfortably lying on my massage table.

During your session you may feel unusual sensations in your body, e.g. tingling, heat, shaking, tightness or the need to cry.  You may also get memories of past events.  All of these sensations and emotions are normal and you are encouraged to express, feel them and simply be with them.  For some clients it is simply a very relaxing experience.

You are invited to ask any questions you may have, either at the beginning or end of your session.

How often do I have to have a Hahnemann Healing Session?

In general, it is recommended to have three healing sessions to start with and then evaluate your needs.

However, each healing session is complete and valuable on its own.  You will feel a shift in your emotional state and you can then assess how many session you require.

Why is it called Hahnemann Healing?

Hahnemann Healing is named after Samuel Kristian Hahnemann, better known as the founder of Homeopathy.  He specialised in emotional healing.

How long is one healing session?

Generally, the sessions take 60minutes.

Where are the healings held?

Each healing session happens in the studio, on my massage table.  You will remain fully clothed and I will only touch you with the slightest of fingertip touch.

Again, when am I likely to seek and benefit from Hahnemann Healing?

When there has been a crisis or trauma in your life.

When you need to make life decisions, and seek more clarity to do so.

When you feel a bit emotionally “stuck” in your life.

When you feel there are emotions that hold you back from fulfilling your own potential on any level.

When there is un-wellness in your life that just won’t shift.

When you transition from one stage of life to another.

When you feel you need to “deal with” life events that have not been fully dealt with.

Hahnemann Healers are trained and certified annually. They are highly skilled at dispersing energy through the body.

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them for you.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

YIN YOGA FOR WINTER

A yoga practice to slow down and restore.

Around the time of the winter solstice, and throughout winter, we may all face some feelings of lethargy, feelings of losing our motivation for our yoga practice or any other activities that we usually really love and enjoy.  We may even lose our zest for life a little.  This is nature’s way of telling us to slow down, to go inwards, to change routines, to sleep a little more, to push a little less.  Winter is the time to quiet, to rest, and to repair.  Look at nature, she does.  So it makes sense to alter our lifestyle to be more in harmony with the seasons (see blog post http://theartofbalance.com.au/the-season-of-winter-your-kidney-health/).  We adjust our yoga practice to reflect a more inward approach (see blog post http://theartofbalance.com.au/your-5-go-to-yoga-poses-for-winter/).  We use our yin yoga practice to rest and restore.

In the introspection and tranquillity of yin yoga poses healing happens.  We allow ourselves to simply be and feel.  This is our opportunity to let go, to undo the doing.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine winter is said to be the ‘Kidney’ time of the year.  It is the kidneys’ job to transport & balance bodily fluids throughout the body.  They filter approx 3.7litres of blood per hour.  The kidneys open into the bladder, which is also involved in fluid transportation & storage. They are also known to house our essential life energy, or jing. The energetic qualities are willpower & wisdom, and the emotion is fear.

Any yin poses to stimulate the circulation around the whole back line of the body, particularly the spine, as well as low back, and the side waist around the kidneys and the inner thighs and legs, will be beneficial in the season of winter. Here are a few of my suggested yin yoga poses to keep our bodies subtle and our minds calm during this season.

Caution:  Always feel into the poses.  If there are pre-existing injuries, particularly disc ailments, check with your physician first.  Pain is not tolerated, strong discomfort is. Any pose can be held from 3 to 5 minutes or longer if time and comfort permit.

Start:            Sit comfortably, close down your eyes and become aware of your breath.  Thank yourself for having made the effort to come to the mat to foster your health & wellbeing.  Set an intention for your practice if you wish.  Either chant om, practice meditation, come into your pranayama of choice, or move into the first yin yoga pose.

Butterfly Pose.

Benefits:  Stimulates the inner thighs, groin, adductors, and whole spine. Stretches & stimulates lower back (and whole spine) and hip joints and fascia.  Stimulates kidney, urinary bladder, and liver and gallbladder meridians. Very introspective and calming.

How to: From a seated position, perhaps with a blanket underneath your buttocks, allow your soles of your feet come together and your spine and whole upper body to naturally round forward. Head can hang or you can support with fists, blocks or bolster.

Modification: Play with bringing the feet further in towards or away from your buttocks.  Notice how it feels.  There’s no right or wrong. Simply notice. Support upper body & knees with props, like blocks or bolsters.

Breath: The breath is even & smooth.  Perhaps allow the breath to flow up and down your spine.

Sphinx Pose.

Benefits:  A backbend. Compression and stimulation of the lumbar spine and sacro-lumbar area. Tones and stimulates the whole spine.  Stretches & stimulates the front of the torso. Stimulates kidney & urinary bladder, as well as stomach & spleen meridians.  It also stimulates kidneys and adrenals.  Very restoring & awakening.

How to: From your belly bring your forearms onto the floor with your elbows underneath your shoulders. If this is already producing enough sensation in your lower back area you may want to slide your elbows further forward.

Modification: Play with coming up higher onto the palms of the hands, lifting the upper body higher off the floor (this then is called seal pose).  You can prop yourself up with bolsters and/or blankets.  Move your cervical spine, let the head come forward and allow it to move back to stimulate your throat and with that your thyroid.  Notice how it feels.  There’s no right or wrong. Simply notice and modify accordingly.

Breath: The breath is even & smooth.  Perhaps allow the breath to flow up and down your spine, as well as up and down the front of your torso.

Dragonfly Pose (Straddle).

Benefits:  Opens and stimulates hips, inner thighs, groin, and back of legs.  Stimulates inner knees.  Stimulates kidney, urinary bladder, liver and spleen meridians.  Often more energizing then calming.

How to: From a seated position, perhaps with a blanket underneath your buttocks, allow your legs to move out to the side.  Now allow your whole upper to bend forward from the hips, spine stays straight preferably.

Modification: You can support your elbows on a block to keep the spine long. Support your head if needed.  Over time, you are welcome to round your spine.  Bend your knees if too much sensation on the backs of your thighs or inner knees.  Notice how it feels.  There’s no right or wrong.  Simply notice and modify as you need to on any given day.  You can also do half Dragonfly pose, with one leg bent at the knee and that sole of the foot towards the opposite inner thigh.

Breath: The breath is even & smooth.  Perhaps allow the breath to flow up and down your spine, or/and along the inner legs.  Experiment.

Come into a gentle reclining twist (see blog ‘your-5-go-to-yoga-poses-for-winter’) or a cat/cow movement.  Anything that feels good, and then finish with Relaxation Pose.

Savasana – Relaxation Pose.

Lying on your back with a bolster or a rolled up blanket underneath your knees to take the pressure of your lower back.  Place an eye pillow on your eyes, your forehead or your throat.  Make sure you are warm and comfortable.  Let the practice be absorbed, let yourself rest.  Let yourself feel the energy flow in your body.

Rebound: 

Between each pose allow yourself to lie back with legs straight or bent to absorb the sensations, the shifts, and the energetic movements of the pose just done.  Over time you will notice how your body feels energy flow.  Keep the breath soft and smooth and simply notice what is.  Check in so that you are not overstretching.

I hope you found this article beneficial.  Here is a link to an article I wrote about what Is Yin Yoga (http://theartofbalance.com.au/what-is-yin-yoga/).  If you want to practice yin yoga with me, you have three options: our Monday 930am yin/yang yoga class includes 30 minutes of yin yoga.  Our Wednesday morning 11am yin yoga class gives you 75 minutes of yin yoga only, and then there is our Friday night Masterclass of Relaxation once a month from 6-8pm with an hour of yin yoga and 1hr of crystal bowl sound meditation.   See you on the mat.

Enjoy your practice and have a healthy and restorative winter season.

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, 22nd September | 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, 22nd September 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

gate-pose-2

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