Yoga

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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Delhi and the Taj Mahal.

taj-2

taj-1

taj-backbend

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

Dilli Haat – Market shopping for souvenirs and appropriate clothing.

Eros Hotel – for a soft landing into India.

dillhi-market-shopping-for-souvenirs

eros

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

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

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

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

Varanasi – The holy City.

thali

chai

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

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

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

fullsizerender

life-on-the-ganges-as-seen-from-our-balcony

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

street-life

aarti-1

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

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

limbo

temple-offerings-1

Varanasi – yoga on the rooftop, overlooking River Ganges.

yoga-master

yoga

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

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

mahabodhi-temple

buddha

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

Cows – the celebration of life.

cow-2

cow

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

Colours of India – Farewell my friend.

shopping-for-sunnies

offerings-on-the-river

Colourful and meaningful experiences are everywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

Om Namaha Shivaya.

Bettina Pfannkuch

What is Yoga Nidra?

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

What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra?

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

Why Yoga Nidra and what does it mean?

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

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

What are the steps and stages of Yoga Nidra?

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

What is a Sankalpa?

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

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

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

In calmness,

Bettina

Your 5 GO-TO Yoga Poses for Winter!

Do you want to keep your body subtle, your mind calm and the winter blues at bay? Then these five Go-To winter yoga poses are for you! Remember to FEEL into your body, breathe evenly – and most of all – have fun.

As any of these poses would warrant an article on its own, the benefits described are mostly physical rather than emotional or energetic. I encourage you to find a position in your yoga postures that feels good for you on any given day.

Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana

Downward Dog

One of the most traditional Yoga poses, downward facing dog pose, is brilliant for stretching and strengthening the whole body. All of our joints and major muscle groups are being activated by this posture. As the heart is above the head, it is also an inversion, increasing the blood flow to the brain. With the relation of the upper body to the lower body, it is also a forward bend. It will strengthen your heart & lungs, enabling you to better ward off any upper respiratory ailments. Bend your knees to start with, over time you will be able to bring your heels to the floor. Further move your buttocks toward the ceiling to lengthen your spine even more. Stay for 3 breaths to 3 mins.

Now if you feel like it, you can vary your Down Ward Facing Dog pose.

You can walk your dog. One heel up, one heel down. You can bend the knees and the toes, lengthen the spine and work on some more strength. You can of course twist your down dog: reach for the opposite thigh or ankle with the opposite hand. Or come into a three-legged dog, or even take your dog to the bushes and open the hips.

Swing yourself forward into a high plank position on your inhale and back into downward facing dog on your exhale.

Be creative and have fun. Always move mindfully.

Triangle Pose – Trikonasana

Triangle pose

A traditional standing pose that strengthens all your muscles in your legs, opens your hips and your chest & heart. Allow your upper body to fold over your straight front leg sideways. Keep energy in both legs & both arms, feel your chest open & expand and your spine elongate. Look to your upper thumb. If this is too strong for your neck, keep the gaze to your big toe. Trikonasana is a great pose to reflect on three ideas of living well: loving, learning and sharing. Stay from 3 to 20 breaths, change sides.

Locust Pose – Salabhasana

Locust pose

This is a safe & wonderful mini-backbend that opens the heart & lungs and massages your abdominal organs which can get a bit sluggish in the winter months. It also strengthens your whole back muscles, buttocks, back of legs and your core. This in turn will improve your posture. Gently lift up your upper- & lower body, as well as your arms, keep your gaze forward and down to lengthen from the crown of the head. Hold for as many breaths as is comfortable and repeat.

L-shaped Legs-Up- The-Wall Pose – Viparita Karani (variation)

Viparita L Shape

Open your hips and reverse the blood flow with this wonderful inversion. Take your legs as wide as your hips, groins and hamstrings allow. Then bring your energy into your heels and point the toes towards your face to further lengthen the whole back of your legs. With each exhalation ask the legs to increase the angle of the V. Hold between 10 breaths & 5 minutes. Of course you can simply put yourself into this shape without engaging the legs and still get the benefits of the pose, without the strength work.

Reclining Two-Knee Twist

Side Lying Twist

This is a lovely twist to end your practice or to come into anytime you feel like both back and front of torso need a stretch. It increases mobility in your spine and hips, massages your internal organs, and stretches your shoulders and chest. Be careful, and very gently ease into it if you have lower back problems. Hold for as many breaths as feels comfortable. Change sides.

Childs Pose – Balasana

Childs pose

This is a very calming and comforting forward bend. If the hands along the side of the body are uncomfortable, you can bring them forward and rest your forehead on two fists, or on both palms stacked on top of each other. If uncomfortable in the hips, bring a bolster or blanket between heels and hips, and / or take your knees wider.

Physically, it stretches the whole of your back. Great pose to rest in between poses. Can be a starting or finishing pose to allow yourself to connect to your breath, set an intention and say thank you to yourself .

Energetically, it is calming and soothing as we turn our back to the world. We are curling inwards. A great pose to come into when we feel vulnerable, overwhelmed, or need a short rest from the world.

Always finish your practice with 3-7 minutes of Savasana – Corpse Pose, allowing your Nervous System to calm & settle. Allow your body to be still, your breath to be soft and your mind to be free and alert.

Wishing you fun on and off the mat. Happy Winter & Happy Practicing.

Any comments or questions, please let me know.

Namaste

Bettina

Brahmari Pranayama – Buzzing Bee Breath

Another way to calm your mind – and relax your body.

Whilst this breathing exercise can be done anywhere and in any position, for any length of time, traditionally it is practiced sitting in an upright position.

For our purpose today, I simply want you to explore using your breath as a tool to calm your body & your mind. The breath is such a wonderful tool to use as you have it available all the time. It is always at your disposal.

So, lets gently close the lips and inhale through the nose. Exhale through your nose with a soft sound like that of a bumble bee. Or in other words, the exhalation is released in a humming/buzzing sound. You are welcome to close down your eyes if it feels right for you. Practice allowing the vibrating sensation be felt in your jaw, third eye, your forehead and eventually in your whole head and body. Allow your breath to be even and smooth. Enjoy this slow and rythmical way of breathing and enjoy the soothing sounds of your own voice. Notice how it feels. Notice how your mind calms as it stays focused on the sound you produce. Notice how your body relaxes from the long, soothing inhalations and exhalations.

This is one of the many examples where yoga practice borrows from the happenings in nature.

Brahmari is said to relief stress, ease mental tension, alleviates feelings of anger, anxiety and insomnia. It also helps to increase the healing capacity of the body. It is stimulating the pineal & pituitary gland in the brain, and with that our endocrine system.

It has a deeply soothing effect on the mind and nervous system, and will eventually bring you into a very meditative state.

It also is called the breath of joy and happiness.

Traditionally, this is often practiced with the ears blocked.

Fine to be practiced any time of day. Practice 5 – 10 rounds in the beginning, over time you can practice up to 10 minutes.

Enjoy! Happy Buzzing!

Flowing Sun Salutation B – Vinyasa Yoga Practice

A flowing sequence to warm up and detox your body.

This vinyasa will use all your major muscle groups and joints. Allow your breath to connect with your movement. Keep your bandhas engaged, your pelvic floor and lower belly muscles engaged. Find a rhythm that feels good for you. This flow can be the major part of your yoga practice or simply be your warm up for a longer practice.

Allow yourself to explore your potential. No need to achieve anything. Move with your body not against it. Have fun and enjoy.

Modify according to your health condition and energy level on any given day.

Namaste, Bettina

Flowing Sun Salutation A – Surya Namaskara A

A flowing sequence of yoga poses, commonly known as Surya Namaskara A.

Open and warm your body for the day, or prepare for a longer yoga practice and further movement. This sequence can be a complete practice or a warm up only.

Allow the breath to lead the movement.  Keep connected to your breath. Do only what feels right and what nourishes your body and your soul.

Enjoy.

Namaste, Bettina

Yoga for Brain Health

A flowing sequence of yoga poses to balance both hemispheres of your brain.

We also train our proprioception (ability to know where we are in space) with this sequence.
Notice how all movements cross the midline of your body.

Enjoy the sense of balance, alertness and vigor this sequence brings.

Namaste, Bettina

How to get into Bakasana – Crow Pose

This short and sweet tutorial taken in our studio in Frankston South, Melbourne will playfully demonstrate one way of getting into Bakasana or Crow Pose.

As an arm balance pose it requires and develops upper body and core strength. Most importantly though, in my experience, it does require a sense of fun and playfulness and, on an anatomical and physical level, is about the relationship between our upper body and our lower body.

In other words, about the ability to bring our upper body closer to our lower body, or vice versa. This requires a relatively deep knee bend, and a deep bend at the hips.

Bending at the hips. Any preparation to do so, think deep forward bend, weather lying down in happy baby pose or coming into a deep uttanasana will help you prepare.

Here, I have chosen squatting, or Malasana, for your preparation.

Once you are comfortable with the closeness of upper body to lower body, the bakasana practice starts.

Your gazing point, your dhristi, is hugely important: forward, ahead of you, NOT down or back towards your feet.

Lift your sternum, your collarbones, and your heart forward, draw your shoulders down, hug your ribs in. Engage your core, your bhandas. This will create stability so you can initially play with lifting the toes, then the feet, and finally you will be able to hold the pose for a while.

Remember to keep your breath soft, your jaw soft, your attitude relaxed.

All this is very theoretical until you practice it. So go on, give it a go.

Have fun practicing and allow what you have learned in the process / practice, to filter into your life off the mat.

Please let me know in the comments how you went and what you’d like explained and demonstrated next.

Namaste, Bettina x

5 Tips to support your health & wellbeing this Autumn.

As the days shorten here in Australia, the deciduous trees are changing colour and are letting go of their leaves, as the air is cool & crisp, we are invited to let go. Let go of the idea of an eternal summer, of the idea of a daily outdoor yoga practice, and of letting go of what no longer serves us. Releasing what is old and no longer applicable, to make way for the new. This requires us to pull in, to become more inward focused. It does not mean to become static and stale. Yoga asana practice, or any type of mindful movement is still necessary to keep the body’s systems functioning and to stay healthy.

It is modification that is required. More time to be still. More time to reflect. More time in meditation. More being, less doing. Autumn reminds us of our own cycles of creating and letting go.

1. Let go.

What came to mind as you read this paragraph? What is your idea of letting go? There is no right or wrong answer. It is your choice, your life. Your letting go. It can be a thought, a habit, a life stage, a thing or a person. Write it down. Then let it go.

2. Meditate.

Sitting, standing, lying down; simply be with yourself. Slow down, notice your breath. Notice sounds around you. Let this last for a few breaths, minutes or longer. Again, no right or wrong. Being, instead of doing is the key here. If you’d like some guidance, our monthly meditation workshop will be there for you. Or use an app like Insight Timer for some immediate support.

3. Eat what’s in season.

Cooked foods, soups, stews, warming and lightly spiced foods. Herbal teas, warm lemon water with ghee or coconut oil, root vegetables and nuts.

4. Sunshine, Fresh Air, Sleep.

I know, that’s 3 in one. Getting more sleep, by going to bed early is the key here. Can you be asleep by 10pm? Adjust to the new cycle of wintertime, close down your eyes early. Let the lungs fill with fresh air as often as possible. Catch some sunshine too.

5. Yoga poses for the lungs and large intestines.

Any yoga poses that work your belly, think boatpose, leg pumps, twists, low and high plank. Shoulderstand with cycling legs. Downdog to updog and back. Keep it moving. Sun salutations and fishpose. And everyone’s favourite our supine eaglepose as a twist and a curl.

Enjoy! Any questions? Simply ask or come to class!

With best wishes for a healthy & vibrant Autumn.

Sincerely,

Bettina