Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Yin Yoga – a restorative practice   

Most of us are familiar with the Yin/Yang symbol, an image that depicts ultimate balance.  Even with extremes there can be found an influence from the opposite end of the spectrum. Yang is seen as the masculine form, heat, light, movement, impulsiveness; Yin is the feminine, cool, dark, still, reflective.  When balance is present life moves smoothly, when extremes occur problems arise - consider the impact nature can have, extreme weather conditions causing devastation through flooding and arctic temperatures, or fires ranging out of control, prolonged heat leaving landscapes bare and lifeless.  
Imbalance is also a human condition.  Modern life with its  patterns of addiction, depression, digital overload reaps havoc on our bodies and our minds. More and more we see patterns of addiction, depression and digital overload adding to the emotional and physical stress that daily life can bring..   There are many avenues open to us to help bring the elusive balance into our lives, yoga is one of them.   Yoga provides the movement and strength of Yang through dynamic practices such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa flow; and the stillness of Yin in meditation and pranayama.   However, within each we must find the other, Yin brings to a dynamic practice a sense of containment, control and focus, the ability to return to centre.  Yang energy stops a Yin practice sinking into lethargy or becoming dormant, it provides the spark of interest and exploration.
But Yin and Yang are more than energy, the systems of the body can fall into either camp, those responsible for controlling and containing our energy or those that monitor and purify.  We also have the structure of the body itself, the extreme yin of bone marrow to the yang of the digestive organs, and somewhere in the middle our connective tissue, or fascia,  – that which binds, borders, supports. Without our connective tissue we would have no form, it wraps around every cell, every muscle, it is the ground substance through which our hormones travel, it attaches bone to bone, muscle to bone. It provides us with tone and tension, it can be to the point of rigidity or almost fluid.  If every other organ or structure was removed from the body, the network of connective tissue that was left would maintain our physical form.
It is the health of the connective tissue that gives our bodies a sense of ease, the ability to move unhindered through a range of motion, when it is out of balance we see the extremes of hypermobility or stiff unresponsive joints and limbs. Many factors are involved in the quality of this tissue, as we age it can become drier, losing its flexibility and tone. Posture and stress impact as well, holding patterns set in, raised shoulders, tight lower back or chest – fascia that was there to support movement becomes hard and stiff, restricting us, causing pain and discomfort.
So how do we bring back that sense of ease?  Bodywork can help, a good massage will bring warmth and movement to stiff tissues encouraging fluidity back into muscles and joints.  Movement itself is invaluable, walking, swimming or stretching.  Good diet and hydration are paramount, but one of the most effective ways to open and stretch the connective tissue is Yin Yoga. Yin yoga approaches asanas slowly, supports such as belts, bolsters, and blocks are used to reduce strain.   Participants are encouraged to find their edge in a posture and then back off, maybe a millimetre, maybe into a different posture. The aim is to create enough space to allow the body to sink down or ease open.  The breath remains calm.  Postures are held for between 3 and 5 minutes, as tension releases deeper poses can be found and explored.  Some poses may be tough with an element of strength required, other will be deeply relaxing, both physically and emotionally.  An extended relaxation at the end of a class will allow the work done to be realised throughout the body.
A regular Yin practice is a valuable addition to fitness and wellbeing.  The connection it gives us to our inner selves both physically and emotionally, will reap benefits long after we step off the mat. 

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Thieves Blend

After spending Christmas in bed ill, I was introduced to Thieves Blend by the lovely Tina Dennett, she sent me an email with her recipe, which I have copied below. You can google the term and find any number of sites giving their take on the blend, but essentially it is the ultimate anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, immune boosting blend out there, many thanks for sharing Tina:

Basic Recipe for Thieves blend below. Makes 10ml of neat blend which goes a long way.

60 drops Clove bud oil
50 drops Lemon
30 drops Cinnamon Bark ( I do substitute for leaf & this works well for me)
25 drops Eucalyptus (any of the eucalyptus oils can be used)
15 drops Rosemary

Store in dark 10ml bottle out of sunlight.
Any of the following can be added (max of 15 drops of any) by reducing the main recipe, but do not reduce any of the above ingredients by more than 5 drops each.

Hyssop (a very effective immune booster)

To make up mouth wash:
10 drops of Thieves Blend
1 tsp vodka ( acts as a short term preservative)
Make up to 200 ml with spring/mineral water
Store in dark 200ml bottle out of sunlight

Gargle & rinse mouth 2x daily as preventative or as needed up to 4x daily

This is a really potent blend and should never be applied neat on to the skin as it can burn. I also mix 10 drops with 15ml beeswax to rub under nose, very good for clearing the head.
Personally I increase the amount of lemon in the mouth wash, once I've made the bottle up I add another 5 drops of lemon, find the taste is better plus the lemon is an immune booster & an antiviral.

Monday, 9 December 2013

I often read the following extract to students who feel they 'are not very good' at yoga or meditation:

From: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

The Marrow of Zen  'in the zazen posture, your mind and body have great power to accept things as they are, whether agreeable or disagreeable'

In our scriptures ...., it is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones.  The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver's will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones.  You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn how to run!
When we hear this story, almost all of us want to be the best horse.  If it is impossible to be the best one, we want to be the second best.  This is, I think, the usual understanding of this story, and of Zen.  You may think that when you sit in zazen you will find out whether you are one of the best horses or one of the worst ones.  Here, however, there is a misunderstanding of Zen.  If you think the aim of Zen practice is to train you to become one of the best horses, you will have a big problem.  This is not the right understanding.  If you practice Zen in the right way it does not matter whether you are the best horse or the worst one.  When you consider the mercy of Buddha, how do you think Buddha will feel about the four kinds of horses? He will have more sympathy for the worst on than for the best one.
When you are determined to practice zazen with the great mind of Buddha, you will find the worst horse is the most valuable one.  In your very imperfections you will find the basis for your firm, way-seeking mind.  Those who can sit perfectly physically usually take more time to obtain the true way of Zen, the actual feeling of Zen, the marrow of Zen.  But those who find great difficulties in practising Zen will find more meaning in it.  So I think that sometimes the best horse may be the worst horse, and the worst horse can be the best one.

For me, this analogy can be applied to almost anything in life, too often we are encouraged to see the value in the culmination of an idea, celebrate the high achiever.  Maybe sometimes we should be encouraged celebrate the journey, the effort and dedication, regardless of the outcome

Sunday, 18 November 2012

My name is Gossip.

My name is Gossip.

I have no respect for justice.

I maim without killing.

I break hearts and ruin lives.

I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.

The more I am quoted the more I am believed.

I flourish at every level of society.

My victims are helpless.

They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.

To track me down is impossible.

The harder you try, the more elusive I become.

I am nobody's friend.

Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.

I topple governments and ruin marriages.

I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.

I spawn suspicion and generate grief.

I make innocent people cry in their pillows.

Even my name hisses.


          Unknown Author

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Laugh, and the world laughs with you .......


a laughter festival in Manchester June 2012 - worth a look : ))))

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Useful Yoga Videos


I get asked to recommend yoga videos on a regular basis. Different people have different needs and there is an enormous choice out there, it is difficult to be specific, but anything published by Gaiam or Yoga Journal is always trustworthy.
The above link will take you to the Yoga Journal site where you will find a number of free, very good yoga videos. Jason Crandell in particular is great - good, clear instruction and a wide selection of practices - and its all free!