Yoga

How slow can you go – 3 poses to calm, heal and de-stress

Let’s face it, you are perhaps like me, enjoying relatively dynamic and challenging movement and adventures in your life. Yes? No? In both cases, slowing down our movement and slowing down our breathing and as a result slowing down our mind will be a good practice for us to engage in.

It will be a good idea and an efficient way to reduce our level of stress.  It will be rejuvenating.   It will be the calming.   It will bring clarity.  It will be do-able.   It will not take long.   We will love it.   Maybe not at first.   Over time, we will.

The practice of Yoga and meditation will help us get there.

There is very slow yin yoga, and more physical hatha yoga. Our weekly timetable allows for both.  Check website for current timetable.

These three (3) postures, taken out of our yin yoga program, will allow us to slow down, to energise your body, and calm your mind.  Prerequisite: a block or a book. Here we go.

Block on the base of the scull

Simply lie on your back on the floor.  No mat underneath you required.

Take your block and place it sideways behind your head.  Tilt the block backwards slightly and place the base of your skull, your occiput, directly onto the sharp edge of the block.

You will feel when you’re in the right position, as the base of the skull is where the hair starts to grow, where there is a lot of muscle attachment and where there is consequently the potential of tenderness.

You can now roll your head from side to side.  Alternatively, if you feel you have moved onto a sore and tender spot, allow yourself to pause there.  Feel into the physical sensation and let the tenderness pass.

That way you can move from one tender spot to the next.  Or simply stay still and enjoy the stretch of your neck.

On top of the physical benefit, the enjoyment comes from slowing down.  Let your body soften into this shape.  Allow your whole being to surrender to every moment.  Allow the breath to be natural and enjoy the sense of slowing down.  Receiving energy, making space in both body and mind.  Slowing down and letting the levels of stress decrease.  Hold this shape for one to 10 minutes, or until you feel it’s time to come out.

To come out, start to deepen your breath, gently switch on your belly muscles and start to bend your knees.  Hold your block, lift your head, place the block to the side and allow your head to come to the floor again.  Stay in this neutral position for a few minutes after.  Enjoy the comfort of your already much calmer state of mind.  And notice how relaxed your body is too.

Repeat as many times during the day or week as you can make time.  Praise yourself for making the time to be still and slow down.  This pose on its own is enough.  If you have time, move on to the next one.

Block underneath the sacrum

As you can see, the block is placed on its flattest side underneath your sacrum.  This is the lowest part of your spine.  From the side view it looks like most of your buttocks are covered too.  Feel into it.  If you place the block too high, on your lower back, it doesn’t feel good.

To get into position, it is best to lie on back, bend knees and lift your hips up, then lower onto the block.

Now simply allow your whole body to relax and give into this shape.  Notice how the tissue releases tension.  Notice how your natural breath slows and with that your heart rate.  Notice how easeful it is to just let go and surrender.  Stay for one minute or longer if you have the time.

Of course there are physical benefits too.  For the sake of today’s blog, the intention is to find ways to slow down and de-stress mentally, physically and emotionally.

Again, this posture on its own is enough.  Time permitting, include the other ones as well.

Optional: Block in highest position, underneath sacrum/lower back

As above, except the block is placed on its highest position between sacrum and lower back.  Again, feel into it and find a spot where it feels good.

You can keep your knees bent or straigten them, as shown.  Feel into where there is tension and see if you can relax that with your breath. Slowing down, being still, surrendering is the key here.  We are after de-stressing and calming.

Again, stay for as long as appropriate and it feels good.  Enjoy the practice of slowing down.

The block can be replaced by a book.  If you’d like to purchase a block, I sell them in the studio for $15.

Wishing you the courage to slow down.  Happy practicing.

REVOLVED TRIANGLE POSE

ONE OF THE MOST LOVED YOGA POSES EVER!

Twisted OR Revolved Triangle Pose – Parivrtta Trikonasana

Let’s explore why this standing pose with a twist is soo loved and treasured, or is it?!.  Honestly, it really gives us a marvellous full body experience.  It trains our ability to keep the balance between stability, mobility and agility.  Come re-align your mind, body and soul with this energising standing twist.

Firstly, see if you can agree that yoga is about union.  Union of the outer reality with the inner reality, the thinking with the feeling; the dark with the light, the inner landscape with the outer landscape, the individual with the group, the personal universe with the wider universe, the letting go with the holding on, and many other connections and unions.  And it is through the physical practice of yoga asana, or yoga postures, in connection with the breath that these connections and unions can be achieved.

Secondly, let’s also assume that all yoga practices enhance outer, physical body confidence and therefore enhance inner, mental & emotional confidence.  All yoga practice also helps improve one’s posture, and hence physical wellbeing.

Name:

Parivrtta               = Twisted or revolved

Tri                        = three

Kona                     = angle

Asana                   = pose, posture, or even ‘comfortable seat’

Benefits:

  • Promotes stability and mobility and the hips and the spine
  • It teaches rotation of the spine while maintaining steadiness in lower body
  • Twists the whole spine
  • Stretches chest, buttocks, back, legs
  • Opens, chest, back, hamstrings, hips
  • Strengthens legs, back, arms
  • Improves balance and stability
  • Teaches proprioception
  • Improves physical and mental stamina
  • Allows to feel the body in a different dimension
  • Takes one out of one’s comfort zone
  • Improves body confidence and gracefulness
  • Improves flexibility in the thoracic spine, in the hips and in the hamstrings
  • It stimulates internal organs and can improve digestive health and metabolism

It goes without saying that you make sure that if physical ailments exist, you have checked with your medical practitioner if yoga practice is appropriate for you.

It’s a beautiful standing pose with a twist, stimulating the whole body.  It can be practiced on its own or of course intelligently woven into a flow style practice.  Always listen to your body and never push beyond your body’s limitations.  Remember ‘ahimsa’, practicing with awareness and not brutal force.  Move into your body’s full potential on any given time you practice.  And always listen to your breath, keep it soft and flowing.  Find a way with your breath to make space and find more freedom.

Modifications:

  • Only turn your head if it is appropriate for you. Otherwise, look to the floor or straight ahead.
  • Place your lower hand to the inside of your front foot, or simply somewhere against the outside of your front leg.
  • Shorten your stand if balance is challenging.
  • Rest your back heel against the wall.
  • Rest your top hand on your lower back if your shoulder is tender.
  • Use a block to place your lower hand onto.

Hold the pose for as long as you are able to. Start small.  Start with a few breaths, then build up to a couple of minutes.  Repeat pose with other leg forward.

Pointers:

  • Stability is key. Aim not to compromise your stability for a deeper twist.
  • Aim to have equal weight on both the front and the back foot.
  • Your spine craves length. Let it have it by actively lengthening from the top of your head to your tailbone.
  • Always observe your breath. If you’re holding your breath, or shorten it, it means you are moving out of your yogic state of ‘rest and digest’.  This indicates to you that you need to modify or come out of the pose altogether to facilitate healing, rather than just achieve a shape with your body.

Please let me know what other poses you would like to have explored.  Thank you.

With my best wishes for a joyful and calming yoga practice.

VALUES TO CREATE BALANCED PARTNERSHIPS WITH YOURSELF AND OTHERS

Yoga is a practice of union, of seeking a healthy partnership with yourself and, in the wider sense, a healthy partnership with others.  This can be family, co-workers, relatives, business partners, life partners or clients.

To honour this ancient practice of yoga and to allow you to get to know me, your yoga teacher, a bit more closely, I have listed the 7 values that are most important to me when it comes to creating and fostering healthy partnerships.  This is also how I approach teaching yoga, conducting business with my clients, and live my life.

  1. Authenticity
    The ability to know oneself fully.  Warts and all.  So we can be honest and transparent in any situation.
  1. Compassion
    The ability to put oneself in the shoes and situation of others.  This allows us to act with understanding, care and consideration.
  1. Integrity
    The ability to have and to adhere to a high personal code of ethics.
  1. Accountability
    The ability to own and acknowledge one’s errors and mistakes in judgment.  And then take responsibility for the impact of those actions and choices.
  1. Assertion
    The ability to express one’s needs clearly & distinctly without judgement, emotional manipulation nor blame.
  1. Self discipline
    The ability to act from one’s own intuition and to lead from the heart.  The ability to show initiative.
  1. Freedom of choice
    The ability to put all those values in place and practice them on a daily basis.

I hope this inspired you to look at the practice of yoga in a different light.

Please feel welcome to share any of your values and anything that comes to your mind.  Thank you.

With much gratitude,

Bettina Pfannkuch

Yin Yoga and Crystal Bowl Sound Meditation – Masterclass of Relaxation

Friday, 14th June | 18:00 – 20:00 | $40

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: $40
Book via email – bettina@theartofbalance.com.au

Payment of $40 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.

SHOULDER OPENING SEQUENCE – OPEN & CLOSE BOOK

In this video, I demonstrate a simple and effective way to move our whole shoulder girdle.  It is well known amongst our community of yogis and yoginis as the “opening and closing of book” sequence.  As well as stimulating front, back and side of shoulder and upper back region, we will also combine breath with movement, which will bring us into our parasympathetic response of our nervous system.  This is our “rest and digest” state, where healing and repairing of the body takes place.

This is how we move into a yogic state.

Make sure you are comfortable.  Either sitting, kneeling, standing or even lying down.

Allow the movement to happen first.  Then see if you can connect breath with movement simultaneously.

Keep your arms in shoulder height if you can.  If you lower them down, the intensity of the exercise will be less.

Let’s practice:

Please let me know how it goes for you.

And maybe you can share YOUR favourite way to open your shoulders.

How to Celebrate – My Six Favourite Ways.

June is my Birthday month.  So each year my intention for this month is – Celebration!

And to help you find a way to celebrate in day to day life, I am going to share 6 ways of celebrating life that work for me.  Six ways to nurture your whole being, mind, body and soul.

  • listen to beautiful music (YOU define the meaning of beautiful)

 

  • spend time in nature

 

  • enjoy a delicious meal (with friends optional)

 

  • hug another human

 

  • do something physical (movement, body treatment…)

 

  • declutter

There’s no need for complication, no need to spend a lot of money, or to even leave the house.

See if you can incorporate one or many of those ideas into your life and notice what happens.

Please let me know how it goes for you.  And maybe you can share YOUR favourite ways to celebrate with me.

Celebrate!

The Meaning of OM

We have all heard the word OM, often we have chanted it, perhaps not so often we have felt or understood the meaning of OM.  So let’s explore it a little.

OM is a Sanskrit word, first felt by rishis (sages or inspired poets) while they were in meditation.  So the idea was to feel the OM, the essence of the OM, rather than the sound of OM. Initially.  Then, people started to chant OM to get the experience of OM.  And so the sound of OM was born.

It is not a religion, nor will chanting it change our religion or belief.  I just want to clarify that.

Apparently, OM represents everything, it is the seed of all creation.  It is the whole universe combined in one word and three syllables A-U-M.

In the yogic tradition, mantra is a powerful tool to focus and quiet the mind.  So by chanting the mantra OM, we aim for the focus, clarity and calm state of the mind.

The Dictionary says:

“ It is a mystic syllable, considered the most sacred mantra in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. It appears at the beginning and end of most Sanskrit recitations, prayers, and texts. “

The magic lies in experiencing the mantra of OM, so when we chant, see if we can feel the power each syllable has as the vibrations move from the lower belly up through the solar plexus, and all the way up to the top of the head. Let the vibrations clear and cleanse our energy system and our whole being.

OM is an auspicious word, it opens our heart, we surrender to something higher than ourselves when we chant OM.

When we start our yoga practice with the chant of an OM, the intention is to harmonise the energy of the group, and to allow everyone to draw the attention inwards, to where yoga practice is most impactful and to where the real joy of yoga resides.

In our classes, we often set an intention with the closing OM, such as –allowing the vibrations to heal and unclench each and every cell in our physical body, or – to send the vibration into a physical, emotional or mental part of ourselves to bring forth more healing, or –to send the healing vibrations of the OM to something greater than ourselves, to a good cause, or to someone else who may be needing some extra energy and healing.

Explore and experiment yourself with this most beautiful seed mantra OM.

Please let me know how it goes for you and what other yoga topics you would like me to explore for you.

WHAT IS AHIMSA – NON VIOLENCE?

In yogic philosophy Ahimsa is one of the 5 Yamas, the moral guidelines on how to live orderly within society.

In the Hindu and Buddhist tradition ahimsa simply means the respect for all living things and the avoidance of violence towards others.

In Sanskrit ‘a’ always means a negation, here without or non, and ‘himsa’ means violence.

In a broader sense, Ahimsa is being impeccable with our words, our thoughts and our actions.

Ahimsa on the Mat.

In yoga practice ahimsa means observing, respecting & responding to our body’s limitations and physical sensations.  It means allowing for a physical sensation, yet not tolerating pain.  It is the notion of cultivating the balance between effort and ease.  It allows us to become aware of our comfort zone, and lets us slowly increase this range of comfort in a safe and healthy way, using the breath.  Ahimsa is being fully present in our body.  It also refers to the absence of comparison.  Comparing our practice to that of someone else is not only disrespectful toward ourselves but also completely useless, as there will always be a person with more open hips or shoulders, or stronger core and legs.  And it disrespects our own and the other persons practice on that day.  Ahimsa is kindness, gentleness as well as assertive tenderness that we ought to display as we move through the asana practice.  Fully aware and mindful of what is.  And we will use that skill we learn on the mat, in our lives off the mat.

Another way ahimsa is practiced on the mat is the idea of coming into a yogic state in our yoga practice.  This means coming away from needing or wanting to achieve something.  The end outcome is not a posture to master or nail, it is simply to come into our yogic state, with the use of the breath.  Smooth, soft diaphragmatic breathing to come into a state of rest and digest.  To effect positive change in the way we live our life and our relationships.

Ahimsa Off the Mat.

Off the mat we are encouraged to live with a balance between effort and ease. If we constantly push too hard against our physical, mental and emotional body and wellbeing, we are becoming depleted of energy and dis-ease sets in.  Yet if we stay inside our comfort zone, there will be no growth.

The way we can practice ahimsa off the mat and in our lives is simply by cultivating the qualities of love and compassion.  Loving deeply and being loved, by either a partner, children, friends or a pet, is a conscious act of ahimsa.  Being mindful of our own words, thoughts and actions, so as to not harm and still be truthful, can be another way of practicing ahimsa apart from a yoga posture practice.

Some Yogis embrace a vegetarian diet, for reasons of non-violence against animals.  Personally, I feel the idea of non-violence towards ourselves takes priority.  So if your decision is to include meat as a way of nurturing your body and keeping a balanced and healthy mind and body, or in other words if you keep a conscious balance, then that is ahimsa and has priority over any more dogmatic reasons.

As Buddha is often quoted:

“The thought manifests as the word.  The word manifests as the deed.  The deed develops into habit.  And habit hardens into character.  So watch the thought and its ways with care, and let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings.  As the shadow follows the body, as we think, so we become.”

Mantra.

Our closing chant after yoga class lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu” – May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may our thoughts, our words and our actions somehow contribute to that intention, is another way to express and practice ahimsa, on and off the mat.

Thank you for considering ahimsa on and off the mat.

Let me know how it goes for you.

How to CHATURANGA DANDASANA

“Four Limbed Staff Pose”, or simply “LOW PLANK”

This arm balancing pose was our weekly focus recently and whilst we all know that there is more to a balanced yoga practice than simply asana (poses), I respect your right to know more about the physical approach.

Arm balancing poses generally develop upper body strength.  Think forearm balance, high plank, handstand etc.  However, for a healthy, successful and safe low plank, the entire body needs to work as a team.

‘Chatur’ means four, ‘anga’ means limb, and ‘danda’ means staff or stick.

Here, in this final position, our core muscles, our bandhas, shoulder girdle muscles, buttocks and legs are all switched on and have to come to the party.  And the breath is soft and smooth, not held or laboured.  It is essentially a triceps push up done in a “yogic way” with healthy alignment, all muscles activated and with the breath.  And of course with a sense of joy and curiosity.

One way of looking at it is, that low plank is mountain pose (Tadasana) with the hands underneath our shoulders (or shoulder width apart) and our elbows bent.

When we lower ourselves down from high plank, we need to make sure we keep that straight line of head, neck, chest, hips and legs and heels.  No dipping or hunching into the shoulder blades.  Simply like a mountain pose all the way down.  And then keep that straight line as we hover for a few breaths.

How to:

  1. From Downward Facing Dog we come forward into High Plank, on an exhale we start lowering by first coming forwards onto our toes and slightly bringing the shoulders forward beyond the wrists, continuing our exhale we slowly lower with all above muscles enganged, really plank like, keeping the elbows bent backwards, keeping the body in one straight line, looking straight ahead, keeping broad between the shoulders, and hover in above position if we can for a few breaths. Bandhas and the whole front and backline of the body are engaged.

Variation/Preparation:  Same as above, except we bring our knees to the floor as we lower to chaturanga from our high plank.  This is still a plank like position.  You can call it half plank.  Move with the same integrity as full pose.  Buttocks, legs, belly, arms, bandhas all work in unison.

How to:

  1. Another idea to get into the pose is to lift up from the floor. Yep, that is particularly popular in class J. We lie on our belly and come into sphinx (on forearms, elbows under shoulders), we tuck our toes under and by engaging all above mentioned muscles and an inhalation we lift plank like off the floor.  We hover, like in the picture, for a few breaths.

Hovering in chaturanga dandasana for a few soft, smooth breaths may be an epic feeling for you on some days, it may be extremely challenging or sheer impossible on other days.  Allow yourself to acknowledge what your body and your mind are capable of on any given day of practice.  Remember to move mindfully with full awareness into your full potential.  Allow yourself to become. Be patient, assertive and kind to yourself.

Low plank requires and develops strength, body awareness and stamina.

Breath:  Breath is key and will be smooth and continuous.  We lower on an exhalation if we are entering the pose from high plank.  We come up into low plank from the floor on an inhale.  Whilst holding the pose the breath is even and smooth.  Ujjayi breath if you can and chose to.

Whats next:  From low plank we can either open up on an inhale into upward facing dog, or lower to the floor on the belly and on an inhale lift up into cobra.  These are often the options when chaturanga dandasana is part of a vinyasa practice like sun salutations etc.

Remember to mindfully move, to stay present, to enjoy and to have fun.  And of course to practice safely, and to USE YOUR KNEES (see variation) until the strength is there to practice a full chaturanga safely with healthy alignment.  Do not be in a hurry.  Patience is one of the virtues cultivated by regular yoga practice.

Smile, and enjoy a healthy and balanced yoga practice.

Happy practicing.  Let me know how it goes for you.

See you on the mat.

Three things to cultivate in the New Year

Let me share mine with you…

Yoga teaches us to be fully present.  Yoga teaches us to feel.

And it is in this presence that we can hear the whispers of our heart and feel its longing.  I encourage you to listen to your heart, to acknowledge your hearts’ deepest desire.  And then act upon it.  It is safe to do so.

To make the taking action part easier and more deliberate, see if you can cultivate and concentrate on these three things in the New Year.

Something to stop:            I will stop wasting time on social media.

Something to start:           I will start weight lifting.

Something to continue:     I will continue making new friendships.

Your turn now.  You are welcome to share your findings with me.  I will hold space for you.

See you on the mat.