Tag Archives: Stress management

Glorious Spring

What better way to make the most of the beautiful spring weather than to take your home practice outdoors?  The mornings are still quite fresh but it does not take long for the warmth of the sun to penetrate the body and combined with stimulating asanas,  pranayama and a relaxing meditation the effect can be perfect.

Being in touch with nature is such a good way to ground yourself.  Feeling the grass beneath your feet and hearing the sounds of birds as they go about their early morning activities is also a great way to connect with something bigger than yourself.

You might try starting with some  standing asanas to loosen the back and sides such as Tiriyaka Tadasana (swaying palm tree) Tadasana (heavenly stretch)  and Kati Chakrasana (waist rotating pose). This little combination is often referred to as TTK in the Satyananda tradition and it is part of a sadhana recommended by Swami Niranjan in 2006.   Even Surya Namaskara can be used as a warm up however you may like to do Marjariasana (cat pose) in place of Ashtanga Namasakara (eight limb pose) and Bhujangasana (cobra pose) in the first few rounds.  Once you are warmed up then you can  lie down on the mat (or grass if dry) and work through some of your favourite asanas.

Yoga everywhere

Mantras matter

The use of Mantras adds a whole new dimension to your yoga practice whether it be simply chanting the Surya or Beeja mantras as you practice the series Surya Namasakara or if you spend some time chanting the Mahamrityunjaya mantra or the Gayatri mantra as part of your home practice.

Both of these mantras like all mantras  have a powerful effect on the body and mind by connecting you to higher vibration, with the mind and body  becoming  filled  with something that is positive and uplifting.

The continued  repetition of the mantras (or just listening to these vibrations) can cause changes within the chanter or even to the environment. Some of the immediate changes include relaxation as the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are brought into balance. Other potential benefits include improvements in the voice and lifetime changes like attaining self-realization.

According to Swami Niranjananda “mantra  is the force that liberates the mind from bondage”

Many people get caught up in trying to understand the literal meaning of mantras and whilst it is pleasant to know the translation of the mantra it is not essential for the mantra to have its effect.  For it is the vibration that counts.  These ancient Vedic sounds resound within the body and the external environment, uplifting both energy levels and thought patterns.

To hear the Gayatri  Mantra go to http://www.satyananda.net/prasad  and go to audio then  Gayatri Mantra

(try listening to this without knowing what the words mean first!!!!….then if you must know check out the next post!)

for more on Mantra……


A balancing act

How do you get a more balanced perspective on life and develop equanimity?

You are standing on one leg with your arms raised above your head and feeling very wobbly as your teacher asks you to breathe through the practice…to ground yourself in the supporting leg, to focus your awareness and  feel the strength of the pose.

Then one day without realising it you suddenly notice that you are not wobbling anymore.  All the conscious effort in the practice evaporates and the pose seems to flow smoothly as you maintain your awareness on your breath.  What has caused this transformation? How have you been able to ward off the wobbles?

Through balancing asana you develop physical balance but also a mental and emotional balance.  The strength required in these poses develops a strength of will.   You know that you are supported and consequently you know that no matter what life throws at you…. ..you will manage it.

The steady breathing required to maintain the pose is exactly the same steady breathing you need when faced with the ups and downs of life.  All too often we panic when things start to get difficult …we breathe shallowly and allow the mind to race off predicting the future or reliving the past rather than staying present.  It is the balancing poses in particular that teach us to be present.  (you may have noticed that you become wobbly all over again if you let your mind drift and the awareness is lost).  To balance successfully you need to feel your whole body, to focus the awareness, to breathe steadily and ground yourself into the supporting leg.

If you are interested in exploring balancing asana a bit more here are a couple of useful links:



Take a deep breath……

When was the last time you noticed your breath? Not for a long time? Perhaps it was at a time when you felt short of breath or breathlessness or even a time when you took a deep breath in to smell something delicious or beautiful.

We take the breath for granted. It is always there.. that unconscious action that sustains life. We can live for days without food and hours without water but we can only live for a few minutes without air that comes to us via the breath and the breathing process.

The breath can tell us much about how we are feeling. A rapid shallow breath is common with anxiety, tension and fear whilst a slower deeper breath is calming and relaxing. In yoga the breath is associated with the life force, a means of accessing and increasing prana (life force) in the body.

“The breath itself is not prana but the means of absorbing prana and the manner in which we breathe sets off pranic vibrations which influence our entire being.” Swami Niranjan

In Pranayama or breathing practices during your yoga class you learn first of all to become familiar with your breath. To know its depth, rhythm, rate, temperature and to explore it and the breathing process much as you would explore a new home. For many of us it is the first time we have paid any attention to this amazing body process. After you learn to recognise your breath and its relationship to how you are feeling both physically and emotionally you learn to take conscious control of the breath for short periods of time, exploring the effect this has on your body and your mind. Connecting with the breath is an essential part in the practice of yoga.

Try it now…take a few moments to sit comfortably, close your eyes lightly and focus your awareness on the breath…you will be surprised by what you discover!

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is a practice developed by Swami Satyananda to enable one to experience deep relaxation.  It is a practice where the body rests completely but the awareness remains awake as you listen to instructions.  The practice is based on an ancient practice know as Nyasa where a “mantra” was placed on each part of the body as part of a systematic rotation of consciousness in the body.

In its present form Yoga Nidra offers the opportunity to completely let go of tension in the physical body which leads to a relaxation of mental tensions.  Your teacher will guide you through the practice as you draw your awareness inward (the practice of pratyahara), rotate your awareness around each part of your body, explore your breath and breathing patterns and then gently return your awareness to the outside world.

These 4 parts form the basic stages of Yoga Nidra.  As you develop your understanding of the practice other stages are introduced to help deepen the experience of relaxation and to enable you to introduce your own resolve or Sankalpa (more on this next week).

Meditation…what is it?

People have many different ideas about meditation but most agree that there are significant physical and psychological benefits of meditation. 

At a recent discussion with some of my yoga students we talked about the ways in which we experience meditation.  For some it was the ability to focus the awareness on the stillness of body and the movement of breath in the body.  For others it was a great sense of peace and calmness that came with simply doing nothing or being engrossed in nature. 

However all those present said that there was a distinct element of being the witness.  In yogic terms this is known as being the “Drashta“..the one who watches.   For watching the thoughts come and go in their continuous stream helps you to become detached.   Of course this is not so easy..as we often get caught up in the thoughts and find ourselves reacting to the thoughts.  When this occurs it is important to simply be aware that this is what has happened and resume your observation of breath, heartbeat, stillness etc.  

Swami Sannyasananda Saraswati from Australia has an interesting article published in the Yoga magazine http://www.yogamag.net/archives/2006/bfeb06/what.shtml  where he discusses the stages of meditation.

I feel that  meditation techniques can be taught but meditation itself is a practice to be experienced and takes time to develop.  What are your thoughts? Experiences?