What is Yin Yoga?

I'm excited to add a new class to the weekly studio/zoom schedule: Monday evenings 5.30-6.45pm will now be Yin Yoga & Yoga Nidra. I'm looking forward to sharing this very different style of yoga with you. Here is some information about what to expect from a Yin Yoga class. 

YIN MONDAYS

What is Yin Yoga?

Yin yoga is the perfect compliment to a busy work and/or family life, vinyasa flow practice, and other activities such as walking, running, weightlifting, CrossFit or working out at the gym.

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Creating Your Home Yoga Practice Using The Four Tendencies

The Four Tendencies is a book written by Gretchen Rubin which proposes that we all fit into one of four personality types that shape every aspect of our behavior. Never heard of it? Check it out here  The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) and take her free online quiz to see what personality type you fit into.

How can using this framework help you set up your home practice?

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Virya: Right effort in Yoga

I have been curious this week in my practice about the yogic principle of virya. The sanskrit word virya is often translated as 'effort' but can also be translated as 'energy', 'diligence' or 'enthusiasm'. 

While it seems a simple concept that we of course should apply some effort in our practice, I found it interesting when I really started to look at the idea of 'right effort'.

Do we really apply as much effort as we could or should in some areas of our practice? Or perhaps do we sometimes apply too much effort?

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Journal: The External Practice Of Saucha

Saucha JournalThis week as we explore the external practice of Saucha/cleanliness our journal reflections encourage you to explore how the state of the space around you affects your inner state. Make a cup of tea (or something similarly delicious) and take some time to journal and contemplate the following questions:

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Aparigraha: Freedom!

When I dig into the yamas it's always quite humbling. I've been studying for years, but the breadth and depth of yoga is such that sometimes some areas slip until you bring them back into focus. This is the case for aparigraha.

When I'm planning yoga classes I brainstorm for a while. This process includes sprawling diagrams of ideas and quotes that are eventually rounded up together in ways that can be woven into our physical practice. Interestingly, a couple of things happened when I dug into aparigraha. Firstly, before I even started to organise the ideas, I was inspired to have a good old closet clean out. Secondly, I couldn't help but write in capital letters in the center of my plan 'FREEDOM'.

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Aparigraha: A Real Life Lesson

One of the best things about being a yoga teacher is that I will forever be a student of yoga. I'm always learning, and I'm not immune to the many ways that we can resist the physical and/or internal practices! Today I thought I'd share somewhere that I got stuck;

As we traveled through the yamas together over the last few months I came to a sudden stop with aparigraha. I understand many of the meanings and applications of this yama and I do my best to practice it on and off the mat, but unsure of how to perfectly share the meaning and application of aparigraha I became paralyzed by indecision and perfectionism. I told myself that I couldn't cover all that there is to cover in this subject in the time I had allotted myself, and my impossibly high expectations made me stop rather than making any attempt.

Aparigraha can be translated as non hoarding, non grasping, non attachment or non clinging.
But what was I subconsciously doing? I was attached to what people might think of my personal interpretation of this yama. I was attached to the results of my efforts, and grasping for perfectionism. Don't think I haven't noticed the irony in that situation!

So let's have another go. What we do on the mat is a preparation for what we do off the mat; we practice - imperfections and all. Let's dig into the practice of aparigraha and prepare to let go…

An Introduction to Aparigraha

This month (albeit beginning a little belatedly!) we’re focusing on the next yama - aparigraha. Firstly, let’s explore the translation:

Aparigraha

A - as a prefix in sanskrit negates the word(s) following it i.e ‘non’

Pari - translates as ‘on all sides’ 

Graha - means ‘to take’, ‘to seize’ or ‘to grab’

For the practice of yoga, this yama is translated in many different ways; some of the interpretations include non hoarding, non grasping, non attachment, non greed and non coveting.

When we explore these different translations it’s interesting to note that they have very different connotations - non greed and non coveting relate to wanting and taking more than we need, whereas non attachment and non hoarding may refer to things that we already have and need to let go of.

For that reason we’ll be exploring this yama from two different perspectives. We’ll share some journaling questions and affirmations to help explore this yogic practice both on and off the mat.

Bramacharya: Stress, Fear and Fight or Flight

The fourth yama 'Bramacharya' in yoga refers to the right use of energy, both on the mat and in our daily lives. While it traditionally referred to the sexual energy of young men on the spiritual path, in the modern day householder yoga tradition it is important to look at 'right use of energy' as a broader concept.

This week we're looking at how much energy we spend on stress, and the physical response to stress and fear.

Fight or Flight

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5 Ways To Practice Attention and Presence

If your focus on asteya and attention have you aware that you're often distracted or lost in an online world, here are 5 easy ways to start bringing your attention back to the present moment. 

Pause and breathe:
If you get to the end of each day (or week) and wonder where it went, add some breath breaks into your day. Simply stop what you're doing and focus on taking three slow breaths. This will help you relax both body and mind, and allow you to be present and appreciate what's around you.

Do one thing at a time:
We often believe we're getting everything done by multitasking, however the truth may be that we are really just distracted and bouncing around feeling busy but not achieving much! Pay attention to completing one task at a time.

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Journal: What's Stealing Your Attention?

Our journal questions this week are on being present and our attention. Pick one or all of them (there are quite a few this week) to write about freely without self-editing. Grab your pen or laptop and dig in!

Asteya Journal

What distracts you the most in life? How? Do you notice or is it subconscious? Write about some of the ways and times you get distracted.

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Asteya: What's Stealing Your Attention?

Last week we began our exploration of the third yama, asteya/non-stealing. We started the practice by thinking about ways that we steal time and energy from ourselves and from others. In my post, I said that our most valuable resource is time. This week I'd like to expand on that; consider for a moment if our most valuable resource is not only our time, but also our attention.

Asteya

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Journal: Asteya

Below are this week's journal questions for exploring asteya/non-stealing of time and energy:

As always you do not need to share your journal responses with anyone; grab a notebook or laptop and write freely and honestly without filtering yourself.

Asteya journal

In what ways do you steal time from yourself and from others? What changes can you make to reduce how often this happens?

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Affirmation: Asteya

If you find yourself in a cycle of procrastination or being habitually rushed, try adding one of these mantras to your day to encourage a more calm and considered approach to your time.

"I use my time well"

"I am in control of how I spend my time"

Asteya: A Contemplation

Asteya time

The first week in our focus on asteya or non-stealing we're paying attention to time and energy.

Consider for a moment if there are any ways that you steal time and/or energy from yourself and from others.

Now also think about the following:

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An Introduction to Asteya

'To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.’ ~ Sutra 2.37, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Asteya

During the month of June we're turning our focus both on and off the mat to the next yama; asteya which translates to non-stealing.

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Satya: Always Do Your Best

The final agreement in The Four Agreements, and our final week focusing on satya/truth is 'always do your best'.

In a perfection-seeking society this agreement can be one of the most liberating. This agreement requires the application of satya to discover and practice the truth every day. In the book Don Miguel Ruiz says; 'under any circumstances, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next.' I understand that if you're working on aircraft engines, or you're a doctor, nurse, surgeon etc, perfection is sometimes required! In this practice I'm referring to our every day lives – our yoga practice, routines, interactions with others, home-life, and 'perfection-not-required' work.

When applied in our yoga practice, always doing your best is the practice of the yama satya (truth) and the niyama svadhyaya (self-study).
We change day to day and our practice should reflect this. Some days we are well rested, energized or relaxed, other days we are tired, sick or frustrated. A 6am practice may look and feel very different to a 2pm, 6pm or 10pm practice. Our best on the mat is altered by our mental, emotional and physical state. Rather than stressing ourselves with an idea of perfection, it's important that we are kind to ourselves in our practice and commit to doing our best at that moment, knowing it's different day to day, and even hour to hour.

When it comes to activities off the mat, this agreement is equally as important. 'keep doing your best – no more and no less... If you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough. When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself... But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgement, guilt and regrets.'
'If you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don't judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame and self-punishment.'

When you make the commitment to doing your best, you can move out of a perfectionistic, results orientated mindset and find contentment in whatever arises, knowing that you have done your best.

This week, both on and off the mat, continue your practice of satya by noticing if you are doing your best. Do not be afraid to be truthful to yourself about the times you are not doing your best and be aware of how not doing your best makes you feel. Please also remember that your 'best' is not a set bar or goal; it changes day to day depending on your energy, emotions and physical body. Practice this agreement alongside self study and know and accept that your best today may not be the same as it was last week or last year. This will lead you towards the second niyama; contentment.

Satya and Internal Chatter

How often do we define ourselves by how we feel in any particular moment? How often does the internal chatter of our minds say 'I'm not good enough', 'I'm too fat/thin/short/tall/lazy/loud/quiet', 'I'm a bad person because I ...'. Worse, how often do we define ourselves on the judgments and words of others? 'she said I can't sing, it must be true' or 'they don't like my haircut; it must be horrible'.

When we define ourselves by our emotions and the words of others, we step out of the practice of satya/truth.

Why is it important to explore the truth? Take the example of being told that you can't sing. Maybe you really can't sing; perhaps that is the truth. Or maybe you can sing beautifully but the person that said those words had a headache in that moment and really meant to say 'please be quiet'. If we don't explore our truth and stand by it, we can allow the comments of others to become a belief in our minds and affect our internal dialog and future actions.

Some of the beliefs we have about ourselves are deeply rooted in things said to us as children, and others change day to day, almost moment to moment, depending on our experiences and interactions with others.

There is a phrase in sanskrit 'chitta vritti', which translates to 'fluctuations of the mind'. In order to begin calming the chitta vritti we must identify with the truth rather than with our ever changing emotions or the opinions of others. As we become firmly established in our truth we can be more confident and calm, rather than riding a rollercoaster of emotions.

This week, as we continue to focus on satya, practice being aware of the fluctuations of the mind. Notice if you have firm beliefs of yourself or others that may not be established in the truth and take the time to explore the truth. Become aware of how often you allow the words of others, or your own emotions to cloud your beliefs and lose sight of what is true for you. Set the intention each day to practice satya in your thoughts, words and actions both on and off your yoga mat.