Monthly Archives: October 2012

Surrender…

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…to gravity and to the Earth.  Lie down, take a moment to feel yourself, every point of contact you make with the floor beneath you and then let the room melt away, visualise yourself in a warm meadow on soft grass or lying on the sand of your favourite beach, any place that brings you feelings of peace or contentment…

And breathe…  Exhale down into the Earth beneath you, feel roots extending down to connect you, to allow you to release negativity & unresolved emotion down into the Earth…she is your gentle mother after all, and will absorb all you need to discharge, and then she will keep you, supported, and embraced until you feel your roots have once more drawn in her nurturing & nourishment…and when you feel strong enough to move away, she will let you go, not far, not forever, but you will be free to follow your path, to return to her again when you feel the need of her.

Gravity is one of the fundamental forces of the Universe, and yet we do not fully understand it.  Scientists cannot completely & coherently tell you all there is to know about gravity.  It helped to create the Universe.  It is the force that draws any two bodies in the Universe to one another.  It is creative, centring, essential to life on Earth…it keeps our Moon in orbit, and in turn keeps our planet in orbit of the Sun…Earth Mother, Heavenly Father…gravity keeps them in perfect balance, so precious and essential to life.

Gravity and our experience of it, is central to yoga.  Working with forward bends and balances especially, we explore our relationship to the Earth.  Coming into Tadasana, standing mountain pose, we can connect to the Earth through the soles of our feet, anchoring ourselves in the ground, sending our roots through from the heels, from the balls of our feet, from the pads of our toes…And then we can inhale, and bring our awareness all the way up through the body, with upward flowing prana, to the crown of the head, via the spine.  Lifting, raising our crowns to the sky…strong, solid, stable, the pelvis, Mooladhara – the root chakra, we stand connected, breathing, feeling our spines resisting gravity to keep us in balance between the Earth & the sky…

Here, we can pause, we can recognise that our bodies, our yoga, the Earth, gravity…they are linked…as we breathe we see that our bodies are intelligently designed, our bodies are deeply connected with the Earth, not least through the sciatic nerves

There are thoughts I have long held, that require much more exploration and clarification in my mind before I can share them fully, but through our spinal nerves, the sciatic nerves,we hold this root into the Earth, and they are of course central to our health in so many ways, and with the root chakra is in this area and Swadhistana – the sacral chakra, the psoas, the piriformis… lumbar pain has long been held to reflect a lack of support – or a perceived lack of support – and all these things link in…in pregnancy, in new motherhood, when we most need support, women often feel that nagging ache in the lower back…and we suffer with sore hips, and in the hips we lock emotion, unresolved, to tackle later, when we feel stronger…and all that time it restricts our movements, causes us pain…

Back to Earth…back to gravity…when we work with forward bends,  we allow gravity to be at work on our bodies in a new way – we surrender to gravity and allow it to draw our crowns towards the Earth, humble, surrendered, and we begin to feel relaxed and to release pain…we do not strive, we do not force, we simply breathe, and allow our exhalation to soften us, letting Nature’s powerful forces work on our bodies as we allow our spines to rest, let those muscles stretch, let those spaces between the vertebrae open…let your spine breathe and rest…

Forward bends remind us to be humble, when we cease striving, we are able to accept here & now, to be present, and to experience contentment with where we are and what we can do today, right at this moment…and we breathe, and with humility comes further release, and further stretch, and deeper breath as we accept ourselves…santosha is in reach…

We spend so much of our day on high alert, a world in which bright light and brilliant media bombard our senses 24 hours a day if we let them…adrenaline and cortisol and the substances of survival flood our systems;  there is no need of fight or flight here, but our primitive brains, seeking to protect and to shelter, know only that the energy crisis, the banking crisis, the double-dip recession, the Arab Spring, the terror threat, the challenge of climate change, the destruction of forest and Artic wilderness, the sexualisation of our children are ever present, ever looming…and our root reacts, Mooladhara is thrown out of kilter, survival becomes an obsession and we experience greed and fear…We stiffen, and the constant threat of modern day sabre tooth tigers feels all too real…

But we bend, we breathe…and we experience the world from a different perspective – seeing behind us as we fold forwards in surrender, trusting in gravity & the Earth to support us, surrendering to something bigger, something glimpsed & felt in quiet moments…we feel our spines release, our root responds, there is nourishment here, nurturing…some of that stiffness is soothed, and we feel freer…

Forward bends bring relaxation to the nervous system, soothing and toning spinal nerves…fresh blood flow, more space as we realign and create movement where stress and stiff muscles have conspired to create blocks and tension..

Bending forward also restores the primary curve to the spine – that shaped our bodies held as we grew in our mothers’ wombs…the space created between the vertebrae allows realignment and bodily fluids to flow to restore and nourish the spine…and we experience a feeling of release and safety, muscle memory perhaps…

Child Pose
restore the primary curve of life in utero
from http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/475

In combination with balance asanas, forward bends can help us to adopt a more mature attitude to the world…physical balance brings mental, hormonal and emotional balance.  As we connect to the Earth, letting its embrace support us and join with gravity to hold us steady, we must again surrender…thoughts of threat and worry have to be released as our focus now is on steadiness and ease in the balance asana…we are better able to focus, to concentrate, hold our attention to the task in hand…

And as we balance, our bodies become more freely attuned to the forces of Nature…such as gravity.  When we surrender to gravity, our bodies are better supported and action is easier… And so we find that we have more grace and agility, more energy…we find steadiness & ease in stillness and fluidity &  grace in movement…

Natarajasana
grace in action
from http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/936

For my part, one of my favourite asanas has always been Tree Pose – also known as one-legged prayer pose…in the Katha Upanishad, the author talks of the Tree of Eternity…its troots in heaven above, and its roots reaching down to Earth…this is Brahman, God, pure Spirit, in whom all the world rests…when we emulate the Tree, we reach from our roots in Earthbound existence, lifting our hearts and branches to reflect the Tree of Eternity, to join with that immortal spirit, with God…the Spirit in us is Atman, that bright flame of divinity that burns in the heart, seeking to rejoin its source…and when we balance, we still our senses, still our minds, and rest in silence…and here begins our path supreme…back to God…this calm steadiness at the head of that path is Yoga…

Vrksasana – Tree Pose
…or Eka Pada Pranamasana
One Legged Prayer Pose…
your choice ❤

This pose always brings me back to my centre, grounding me and calming me…I return to it over & over again, and I love to see a full class of students in this pose, a human forest, full of all the majesty, glory and promise of creation…OMx

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Of herons…

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I love herons.  They are majestic, and somewhat melancholy in my mind.  The first time I saw a heron up close was the morning after I first learned how to row a boat.  I was 29, and woke early with a feeling I couldn’t shake that something was different.  I was pregnant, I knew it with every fibre of my being.  We’d been trying to have a baby for over a year.

Blood tests, scans, ovary-stimulating drugs, dye injections and x-rays.  And then, no more treatment Mrs B, your ovaries need a rest.  You could have another 3 months on these awful drugs that render you an emotional timebomb who bursts into tears at the sight of every pregnant woman or the mention of a friend’s happy news about a new baby.  After that, maybe daily drug injections…but that might not work, so it would be IVF…Only it wouldn’t because we agreed that there was a limit to what would be done to me, to us, in search of our child.

...top of the world...

Pen-Y-Fan Summit…top of the world…

And so, a rest.  A trying, impatient, yet slowly accepted wait.  Limbo.  So, we planned holidays.  A week in Pixley, walks in the wild – I drank gallons of perry (why not…no baby yet…), summited my first mountain…, walked under a waterfall…

And then we took a week to meander the waterways of the Norfolk Broads, my first holiday on a boat.  Windmills, quiet waterside pubs, peaceful sunsets over tranquil broads…Heavenly calm.  And I learned to row, our first evening out.  Next morning, I awoke before 6, excited, energised and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I had a baby dancing in my belly.

It was a whole week of delicious secret knowledge, avoiding too much local ale (OK, I had the odd half or a shandy, but dear husband and my in-laws would have noticed if I went tee-total overnight!) until we arrived home, on my birthday, and I could sneak out to buy a pregnancy test.

It told me what I knew, but I have a very analytical, practical other half who wants proof, evidence…and here it was, the long awaited pink line.

Heron on the Norfolk Broads – my messenger from God

But the heron…when I woke that beautiful, still, clear morning on the water, Lee & I quietly crept from our bed, dressed and got into our dinghy, rowing silently to the edges of the broad in which we had moored.  And we were rewarded for our early venture with the presence of a gorgeous heron.  So herons do hold majesty for me, and melancholy, but they also hold magic and secret knowledge.  The promise of a life yet to be lived.

Spiritually, may associate herons with the Sun, and with light.  As water birds, they are seen to represent going with the flow of light.  And because they eat various reptiles, including snakes they are often seen as a symbol of the constant struggle between good and evil.  In Native American traditions, all birds are seen as messengers from Great Spirit.  In other traditions, similar birds such as storks & cranes are similarly revered as messengers of God.  To Native Americans, herons also represent finding one’s way in life & following one’s path, evolving to fulfil one’s own way.

Certainly as I became a mother, finding my own way became a necessity.  I do not mother my children as I was mothered, nor as my mother-in-law or step-mother mothered.  I was lucky to find others who were also walking their own path, and so sometimes we walked our paths together, and even now they still converge sometimes.  But mothering is a journey you take largely on your own, often hand in hand with a partner and with your children, but nonetheless you must tread your own path, being true to your own heart.  You will know when you stray, because it will hurt your heart; you will feel hideous, wracked with guilt, and berate yourself for your failings.

Be aware that straying from your path is part of learning how to walk it more carefully, more mindfully.  Let any short-cuts, double-backs or forks in the road only serve to assist you in finding self-realisation and to clarify your purpose and intention.

And if yoga is your thing, then why not try out Krounchasana – Heron Pose.  It stimulates the abdominal organs, and most importantly the heart.  Experience steadiness & ease in the pose; even as you stretch, feel your heart opening to your purpose: re-affirm your commitment to follow your own path as a mother, as a woman, and set your intention to stay mindful – watchful, like the heron at the waters edge…waiting, watchful, witnessing…

Today was the first time I ever moved into this pose, guided by my lovely teacher Tina,  an Iyengar teacher of infinite fun & wisdom, and then couldn’t resist another attempt at home.  My Heron Pose is far from perfect, and I share it here to affirm my own efforts to continue seeking my own path, to mother my children with heart & soul, and to keep striving for perfection that I know I can never achieve…The important thing is to keep walking and at every step to be content simply being good enough…OMx

Nowhere near perfection…but good enough…for now at least

An ounce of practice…

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I’ve quoted the Sivananda adage before and often remind myself of it, because it is always true that an ounce of practice is worth a tonne of theory.  Some time ago, there was a Yoga Journal article that talked about micro practices.  Take a moment.  Connect with your breath.  Feel calmer.

Baby steps.

Small steps.

Pace yourself.

Do what you can, when you can.

Sit for a moment.

One quiet minute.

No phone, no facebook, no music, no tv.

Can you hear yourself breathing?

How does your breath feel?  Is it fast or slow? Smooth or ragged? Irregular or rhythmic?  Where in your body does your breath move most strongly?

Describe it.  Hear it.  Feel it.

One breath…or six…or ten…how long have you got?

One quiet minute.

OM x