Yoga

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

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.

Yin Yoga and Crystal Bowl Sound Meditation – Masterclass of Relaxation

Friday, 12th October | 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
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.

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.

WHAT TYPE OF YOGA DO WE PRACTICE HERE AT THE ART OF BALANCE?!

Often this question does not come from you directly, rather you are asked by friends or family.  “What type of yoga do you practice with Bettina?”  And then, what to say, how to explain what makes you feel so good within yourself and what has changed your life in so many ways you had not anticipated when you first started yoga.

When I am asked that question eye to eye, I am listening between the lines, I am taking the whole context in which this question has come up into consideration.  I seek to understand the intention behind the question.

So there is no one-sentence or one-word answer.  The answers are as diverse as there are students coming to our yoga classes.  They are as unique as you are.

And still, there is a style, an idea, an intention behind what we practice.  Let me explain.

The most general answer there is would be to say we practice “Hatha” Yoga.  This simply refers to the fact that we practice physical yoga, yoga postures, or yoga asana.

We also incorporate into each and every class a form of mindfulness.  The idea of being in the present moment, experiencing everything the way it is without judgement or the wish for it to be different or to go away.

There is also an element of meditation in each yoga class.  A way to relax the body and calm the mind.  Often, and eventually, our whole yoga practice becomes a moving meditation.

Pranayama, or breathing techniques are an essential part of each yoga class too, as well as a sense of gratitude towards ourselves for making the effort to practice self care in form of yoga.

A big emphasis is placed on the breath.  Breath connects several different movements or asanas together, often referred to as vinyasa.  Here is a most basic form of vinyasa practice, a sun salutation.

This is one of several variations of the traditional Surya Namaskara A, or Sun Salutation.  An ancient sequence of physical movements, connected together with the use of the breath, traditionally practiced to greet and honour the sun.

In a physical sense our sun salutations warm the body, preparing for continuing yoga asana practice.  Energetically, they will bring us into a more meditative state with the combination of breath and movement.  Spiritually, we salut and honour the life-giving energy of the sun that sustains us and all life around us, it also expresses our gratitude for being able to see in another day (as sun salutations are traditionally practiced at the rise of the sun).

Another important aspect is that this is often the first time a yoga student is introduced to a vinyasa style yoga practice.  Vinyasa in its most liberally translated form simply means to connect breath with movement.  This synchronisation of breath and movement is beautifully demonstrated in sun salutations.  In a wider sense it means to enter and exit yoga asana (yoga poses) in a particular way, with the use of the breath to create a flow type experience, stringing several yoga poses together.

I practiced this flow on a sunny Sunday outside the yoga studio of The Art of Balance – Yoga & Massage.

Vinyasa in its traditional form simply means connecting and synchronising breath with movement.  It also refers to the fact that we enter a pose a certain way, stay in the pose for a while, and then leave it behind, emphasising the spiritual idea of life being transient.  Nothing ever stays the same.  There is an ebb and flow to life, as there is to yoga practice.  And with that yoga philosophy is incorporated into each yoga class.  Yoga practice allows us a safe playground to explore our physical, mental and energetic potential.  It allows us to get to know our tendencies, our holding patterns, and our automatic reactions.  And with that awareness, we are able to choose to keep them or change them.

I encourage playfulness and curiosity in yoga practice.  I invite you to become curious about all feelings, emotions, physical sensations and thoughts that you experience during your yoga practice.  Then allow you to be with them all, to acknowledge, validate and accept, as well as stay present with the use of the breath.  I will guide you to widen your consciousness and your ability to be with all there is.  May this be strong sensations or simply breath and shape of pose; may this be an emotion that is pleasant to you or not.  You will gain a greater connection to and understanding of your own physical body and of your own inner landscape and workings of your mind.

Our classes are aimed at you, the yoga student, who comes to class with motivations, ailments, limitations and strengths.  I will never place emphasis on a style or a sequence, I will always teach you, the student in front of me.  That way yoga therapy finds its way into group yoga classes.  If you present with a sore neck, or a tender lower back, I will get an idea of your biomechanics at the start of class and bring in asana and pranayama I feel will be helpful.  Please remember that I am a qualified and practicing Remedial Massage Therapist, and my knowledge and experience of anatomy, physiology, as well as biomechanics comes into play when I teach you yoga.

As my aim is to allow you to experience a well balanced yoga practice, I let the sum of all my learning, my own personal experiences and my own yoga practice in addition to all the yoga styles I have been trained in and experienced (such as Iyengar, Ashtanga, Yin, and Power Yoga) to come through in each class.  We do not follow one particular style or lineage.  As I do not believe in one size fits all.

Our practice can be dynamic and cardiovascular as well as slow and alignment focussed, the emphasis is on strength as well as flexibility both in body and in mind.  You come with what you have and are allowed to be who you are.  The practice of yoga and I pick you up where you are at.  No questions asked. No pretence.  I will always hold space for you.

Our yoga is permissive and joyful.  Our yoga community is down to earth, welcoming and displays a great sense of humour.  We do take our practice seriously though with enough light-heartedness, to keep an inner and an outer smile, to keep our breath soft and smooth, to affect steadiness in the body and calmness in the mind.

The sense of sharing movement and breath together reminds us that all is one.  We do not live in isolation, our thoughts, words and actions affect the people around us.  And yet yoga is an individual practice, just as we all have our own individual life path.

It is my aim for you to take your yoga off the mat.  To take the life skills you learn in the safety of the studio out into your life.  I will guide you outside your comfort zone.  I allow you to face your fears, your limitations, your strengths and your weaknesses.  It is the challenges, the demons you have to face in order to “get” to a pose that I am interested in.  It is about how yoga changes you and your life that is important.  It is the j o u r n e y that transforms you.

Having you as my student is a privilege for which I am grateful.  Thank you.

See you on the mat.

Bettina Pfannkuch

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.