Well the Melbourne Cup has come and gone and already it feels like the run- up to Christmas has begun. Unlike in the northern hemisphere, Christmas in Australia coincides with the end of the school year and the long holiday break. Life, therefore, is busy, busy, busy as we try to get work tidied up for the holiday we’ve worked so hard all year for, attend all the school events, and do all the Christmas preparation.
Sometimes I just have to say STOP! This is madness, why am I continually creating outside the moment in preparation and planning for a single day on the calendar. How many moments am I completely missing, whilst running lists in my head. This is probably one of the hardest times of year just ‘to be’. So my yoga practice becomes even more important. It is not just a time for me, it is an opportunity to switch off the attention seeking brain and find some stillnes in body and in mind. It is also then when some sense of proportion returns and even the odd revelation – that maybe yet another silk scarf for an overseas relation won’t necessarily be appreciated.
So make time for yoga over the next 6 weeks and amaze your friends, and the staff at Myers, with your calm and centred presence!
“The Sun has got his hat on hip, hip, hip, hooray” —- all together now. Isn’t it amazing how much better we feel when the sun comes out and we can turn our faces skyward and let warmth trickle down into our bodies and souls.
Now we can begin to remove a couple of layers of clothing, put away the fleecy pjs and get out the dipilatory creams!! And then comes the shock of taking stock of the body again, noticing how it has weathered another year. Time maybe to think of stretching, tightening, cajoling and nurturing. Time to try something new and energising. Time to take up Yoga!!
Spring has once more brought the promise of warmth and growth and we instinctively feel one season end and a new one begin.
Here at the Karma Studio we have been running a very successful program of Seasonal Yoga Workshops. These workshops emphasise poses which activate specific organs and meridian lines appropriate to the season and its element. Autumn for instance represents the Metal element and focuses on the Lung and Large Intestine meridians, Winter is the Water element and hence activates the Bladder and Kidney meridian lines and next week we launch into Spring with a workshop looking at the Liver and Gall-bladder meridians identified with the Wood element.
This is a wonderful way not only to work through the body but also to be aware of the connections we have with nature and the passing of seasons. In the workshops we also look at the way seasons impact on our senses and emotions. We have just been through Winter when we should be taking time to cleanse and assess our emotions, filtering out any fear, anxiety or negativity. Spring not surprisingly emphasises re growth and vitality. Also as the Wood element it is all about removing any uncompromising rigidity from our thoughts and aiming to keep our bodies, minds and souls open and flexible.
So if you tend to feel the seasonal flow understand that it is resonating deeply inside your body and energy system.
I recently went to the Opening of an interesting Art Exhibition called a Show of Hands on at Chapel off Chapel for the next couple of weeks. In it the artist Jacqui Grantford paints the hands of a range of people – old, young, famous, everyday - and beside each painting is the subject’s personal story many of which I found inspirational and moving.
It got me thinking about hands in yoga, an aspect of the body which can sometimes get overlooked. We use them in classes to balance and suport and to fold across our bodies in relaxation. Maybe, though, we should concentrate more on taking each pose right out through the ends of our finger tips, stretching and reaching for the whole body exercise. Our hands after all are one of our main sources of interaction with the world through touch, dexterity and movement. To a palmist they also carry our lifestory and to a forsenic scientist our unique identity markers.
Perhaps then it is time to have a long overdue conversation with your hands and thank them for all they help you achieve in the course of a day. Take a look at them, give them a stretch and a shake and then use them to pat yourself on the back.
I have been a massage therapist for 20 years, with qualifications in Swedish, Remedial, Polarity, Reflexology and Chinese massage. In that time I’ve worked on hundreds if not thousands of people, old, young, fit and healthy, sick and infirm, supple, tight, stressed and well the even more stressed!
I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when, as I work on a body, it starts to relax, the tension goes out of the muscles and the person’s whole being settles into the massage table. It never ceases to amaze me how much can be achieved just through well applied touch.
The health benefits for massage are well documented and include stimulating both the blood and the lymphatic circulatory systems, pain management, relief of muscle tightness, easing of tension and general relaxation. Recent research from the US shows that massage also has significant positive gains for those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.
Why then do so many people feel that a massage is only for special occasions, a special treat or reward. Why is it some people feel guilty at sneaking in a massage as if making time for their own health and relaxation is overly self-indulgent?
Most Private Health Funds now offer refunds on regular massage thus recognising the health benefits both as a treatment and as a preventative. So don’t feel guilty, listen to your body, choose a massage and congratulate yourself on being pro-active in looking after your health and well-being.
What is it that we expect to gain from our yoga practice? For some it is the physical challenge, for others the discipline of mind over body. For a few it’s simply the companionship of a class in their chosen exercise, while for many it is the silent connection with their inner space, a chance to retreat from busy over-scheduled lives.
The aspect of yoga practice that perhaps we don’t always appreciate is its quantifiable health benefits, not just as a preventative but as a treating therapy.
I recently came across a very easy-going but thought provoking blog by Kristen Shepherd, chiropractor, actor, public speaker and yoga enthusiast. She points out that, “There is a growing body of evidence to support the fact that meditation affects blood pressure, inflammation, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, anxiety, asthma, heart disease, memory, irritable bowel syndrome, and ADD, among others. If health care made sense, meditation would be covered the way yoga classes would be covered.”
Both Diana and I are trained as yoga therapists as well as teachers. This means that we understand yoga not just as an exercise but as a healing therapy.
The Karma Studio team of practitioners has also recently been joined by a Caroline Evans a physiotherapist and yoga therapist who offers one-on-one yoga sessions for clients dealing with serious illness such as cancer.
This reminded me again that I am working with my class participants on many levels and that yoga and the meditation component we always include in our sessions, can help heal and alleviate a wide range of symptoms. It just makes me consider yoga to be all the more precious a gift in my life and one I am committed to sharing with as many people as possible.
Well, Winter here we come. The season in which we rug up, dig out the scarves and hats and crave hot soups and roast dinners.
In seasonal Yoga, Winter relates to the water element and is a time to focus on the kidney and bladder meridians. These are our filtering organs so the emphasis is on taking time to cleanse and assess our emotions, filtering out any fear, anxiety or anger.
Winter also demands that we bring heat in and Yoga is an ideal way to get the body fired up and moving in a positive, sustainable way. While the movements are slow and strong, when done in deep consciousness, they energise at a core level, bringing breath and heat into muscles, organs and spirit.
So don’t get sluggish and retreat into hibernation, join a yoga class, meet new people and open up your body and mind.
It seems that the world is shifting, literally. It is reported that the devastating earthquake off the coast of northern Japan not only has moved the Japanese islands some 2.5 metres it has knocked the Earth 10 inches off its axis.
With that shift I feel will inevitably come a shift in consciousness. Already the world is looking at nuclear energy in a different light, and we have a renewed sense of the destructive power of natural events.
So how do we stay strong and centred when so much instability abounds? Hinduism, from which yoga derives, accepts chaos as a natural and necessary part of the human condition. It also offers yoga as an antidote, a way of developing physical, emotional and spiritual strength. Through exerting control of the mind and body we can stand still and tall, calm and centered.
The poses Tadasana – Standing Strong and the Tree Pose are ideal for centreing the energy down through the legs and into the ground. To be held they require a still focussed mind, strength of will and purpose and a straight spine.
So when your world feels like it is spinning off it’s axis, strike a Yoga Pose and find your centre.
I came across an interesting article in the New Yorker online regarding the unorthodox approach of Tara Stiles who has stirred up something of a controversy over her approach to teaching Yoga. She refuses to pledge allegiance to one style of yoga and her philosophy is to open yoga up to those who may find it intimidating. Hence she has a yoga phone app; has released a video called “Slim, Calm and Sexy and regularly uploads short videos to her You-tube channel on topics such as Yoga for a Hangover.
To many this is absolute heresy while for others including Deepak Chopra it’s a breath of fresh air. He says, “Taking lessons from her has been more useful to me than taking yoga from anyone else.”
It’s an interesting debate. I do feel yoga can be intimidating for some and I would love to attract more people into it as I am totally convinced of its merits. However it cannot be diluted to the extent that it is seen as just another quick fix for fitness and weight loss, or indeed as a purely physical exercise.
We often have people ring us here asking what style of yoga we offer and they can be disappointed when we can’t answer that simply. Here at The Karma Studio we don’t adhere to one style, preferring rather to mix and match classes, clients and moods. As trained Yoga therapists, not just teachers, we aim to provide a yoga that not only trains the body but heals it, doesn’t only relax the muscles but also the mind.
As with all things it is about balance. In this case balance between not being afraid to adapt an ancient tradition to a new world while also maintaining the integrity of yoga and its wonderful heritage.
Tell me what you think – does yoga need an image change and to “get with it”?
Well everyone, what a start to 2011 with floods inundating 75% of Queensland, leaving destruction and despair in their wake, Northern NSW towns under water and now many rural areas in Victoria under threat. The clean-up will involve not just the physical but also the emotional and indeed spiritual, so we send our heartfelt support and loving energy towards the affected communities.
While the events have been shocking in terms of their scale and their raw power, I think that there has also come out of this a great deal that is positive and good. We have the renewed sense of community; the volunteering especially of young people; the wonderful act of helping a complete stranger in need; the resilience and the compassion.
Trevor Gollagher, a spiritual healer and author from Queensland who has been out doing his bit around Brisbane comments in his newsletter that, “Major negative events are a way of creating mass consciousness shifts. Another aspect of these man-made and environmental shifts is to allow us all to be more of service to the whole of which we are a part.”
The question is can we keep it going or will the urge to engage with the community recede with the muddy flood waters? I believe not for I think that many people today are searching, yearning even, for that sense of connection and belonging. The challenge for those of us unaffected by the tragedy of the floods is to actively seek to establish that sort of connection without waiting for a disaster of such magnitude to prompt us.