Choose your company

Choose to spend your time with people who make you feel happy, energised and well. – In yoga practice, we often check in with ourselves to notice body, mind, emotion and breath. Using the skills you’ve cultivated on your yoga mat, pay attention to how you feel before, during and after spending time with the people in your life. Your body is constantly giving you messages – listen in to them. Do you feel easy in your skin? If there’s tension gathering, where is it gathering? What is the nature of it?

In addition, notice how easy it is to get the attention of the people in your life, how balanced the relationship feels and whether you feel empowered in their presence. When you discern which people make you feel best, choose their company more often. Where possible, limit the time you spend with people who diminish you or deplete your energy.

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Be Yourself

 

Be yourself. – There is only one of you on the planet. The world needs you to express your unique set of skills and talents to their fullest extent. You’ll find that the people you need to support you in your full expression of yourself will come, sometimes from out of nowhere. You can never predict or control the way that other people react but you don’t need to. If you are fully in your groove of self-hood, you’ll have all the support you need and the sources may just surprise you.

Yoga is a practice that can help you dive deeply into yourself to remember who you are. It can also provide some tools to help you stay strong in the face of challenge. Today, sit for a moment in your own company and follow your breath into your body with your awareness. As you allow your awareness to rest inside for a few minutes, just notice the coming and going of thoughts, emotions and sensations. See if you can sense the subtle, unchanging presence beneath the fluctuations and know that you can return to this space whenever you choose. Know also that the unique expression of who you are is coming from this place and the more you can connect inward with it, the more authentic your outward expression in the world will be.

 

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Hiding? Yes…but from what?

Someone asked me a provocative question this week. We’d been having a discussion about the fact that the path of tantra (the perspective from which I’m teaching) considers everything from the mundane to the sublime to be a means of waking up, to living fully, to remembering our own best and brightest nature. I had told this person that I used to be a successful IT executive but that I had hated, hated, hated it but that I am struggling to make ends meet as a yoga teacher. So he asked me, “If you’re really living a tantric lifestyle, why aren’t you working in an office instead of hiding in a yoga studio?” Continue reading “Hiding? Yes…but from what?”

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Is your practice serving you?

Kelly Fisher
How do you feel?

How does your yoga practice make you feel? Most days, at the end of it, do you feel more in tune with yourself? Do you feel easier in your own body? Do you feel freer in your mind and more open in your heart? Do you feel more yourself and less your persona?

Even if it’s just a little, or only subtle, when you finish a practice and feel better than when you began, you can be sure that you’ve contributed to improving your wellbeing on many levels. The flow on effect of that healing will begin to positively impact upon everything you do, every relationship that you have and every choice you make.

If, on the other hand, you end up feeling depleted, wound up, twitchy and frustrated perhaps it’s time to examine the kind of practice that you’re doing (one size most certainly does not fit all) or the way in which you’re approaching your practice. Practicing yoga helps you to cultivate a deep knowledge of yourself and in order to derive the benefits of this practice, it must be approached with a deep respect for yourself. If your practice isn’t serving you, do something about it!

The best place to start is to examine your attitude and motivation. Why are you practicing yoga? What do you hope to experience or receive from the practice? Taking that into account, how will you approach your practice?

When you begin from a place of self-respect and care, invariably you are able to develop more sensitivity, more receptivity and greater self-harmony. And in my opinion, that’s the whole point really. It doesn’t matter exactly what kind of practice you’re doing, it matters how it serves you. When you’re practicing with the goal of taking care of yourself, you will know if a certain kind of practice is helping you or not.

I practice yoga to reconnect with the deep innate wellspring of truth, consciousness and bliss. When I take the time to connect with that part of myself, I notice everything changes. When I first started practicing, it was only subtle. Little by little though, as I collected these moments of time spent in remembrance of and connection with myself, it began to have a flow in effect to the rest of my life. Every day I become more authentic, more empowered, freer to be exactly who I am, how I am and through natural extension of that, I feel like I’m able to be of far greater service to the world around me.

How is your practice improving your life?

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Breathing meditation for Chakra Balance

Breathing meditationSince I’m away, I thought I’d offer you a breathing meditation practice you might recognise from one of my classes if you’ve come along recently. This practice is tremendously balancing and helps me to remember my connection to the rest of the world and encourages me to carefully cultivate the kind of influence I would like to have on the people around me. It has evolved from my own practice, taking influence not only from the Yoga tradition but also another form of eastern wisdom, the Japanese Jiu Jitsu form – Seishinkan. The philosophy and breath form are from the Yoga Perspective while the movement pattern is based on a Jiu Jitsu warm up.

BACKGROUND

There are seven energetic centres along the spine that, within the Yoga tradition, we call chakras. In Western medicine, these energetic centres correspond with massive crossing points of nerves, the communication channels within your nervous system. In yogic theory, it is thought that you can have an excess or a deficiency of energy in any of these centres which will affect your way of being in the world. There are many techniques of balancing the various energies in the body, but from my experience, pranayama is among the most effective.

Beginning just above the pelvic floor, we find Muladhara chakra (root chakra). This centre is said to govern your sense of foundation in the world – your family, your home, your finances. A little further up, just in front of the sacrum is Svadisthana chakra(sacral chakra) which is your emotional, creative, sexual centre, governing the gifts you have to offer to the world. Next between the navel and the sternum is Manipura chakra (solar plexus chakra), your personal power centre which influences the way you assert yourself in the world. Then at the level of the chest is Anahata chakra (heart chakra) and this is the turning point in the chakra system. It’s your connection with the outside world – how you manifest all of the things you generate in the lower chakras in relationship to other people.

In the first phase of the practice (described below), I spend a few rounds of breath drawing energy from the root to the heart, smoothing the breath, regulating my own energy. After some time, I move up the chakras to the final 3 which have more to do with your relationships to the outside world and to spirit.

At the level of the throat, Visshuda chakra (throat chakra) governs the way you communicate with others. At eyebrow center, Ajna chakra (third eye chakra) is your connection with your intuition and the vast amount of wisdom that is available to you from the universe if you are open to it. Finally at the top of your head and just beyond is Saharara chakra (crown chakra) which connects you to Source. (Universal Energy, God, Spirit, Divine or however you see it).

In the second phase of the practice, after I’ve spent some time generating energy for myself, I consciously choose the kind of energy I would like to send out. Energy must be exchanged to be sustained. You can’t horde the energy you generate for yourself and expect to nourished by it. Yes, first you generate energy for yourself but in order for it to live, to breathe and to be manifested the way that is most life-affirming, it must be shared. It must be perpetuated. To create abundant energy, you must share what you have and in a timely fashion. Energy that is hidden is wasted.

THE PRACTICE

This breathing meditation can be done from seated or standing. If you’re sitting, take your time to establish a good, steady seat, grounding through your sit bones and inner thighs while extending tall through the spine. If you’re standing, have your feet hip distance apart and second toes parallel. Ground through the four corners of your feet and lift tall through the spine. With your eyes closed, let your awareness come to your breath. Gently begin to lengthen and deepen it, using the ujjayii technique if you wish.

Check out the video for visual instructions of the first two phases of the breath

PHASE ONE: Nourishing yourself

Once you’ve got a sense of breathing fully and deeply, begin first phase of the moving meditation, which helps to balance and harmonise your first three chakras.

Interlace your hands and let your arms hang straight down in front of you, palms facing up just in front of muladhara chakra. Inhale to a count of three and as you do so, draw your hands up to the level of anahata chakra (chest-height). In the pause between the inhale and the exhale, flip your hands to have the palms facing down. Then exhale to a count of three and, keeping your hands interlaced, release your arms to hanging in front of you again. In the pause before the inhale, flip your hands to face up again. Repeat this for 10 cycles of breath or two to five minutes, as you like. You might like to visualise your spinal column being filled with light from the base of your spine to the level of your heart as you inhale. See that light getting brighter and brighter with each inhalation. Feel that you are offering nourishing energy to yourself and attracting more of the same with every breath.

PHASE TWO: Offering your energy

When you are ready to move to the next phase of the breath, extend the inhalations and exhalations to a count of six. Beginning with the hands interlaced, palms facing up in front of the base of the spine (as before), inhale to a count of three and draw the hands up to the level of the heart. Continue counting and flip your palms to face up (signifying the transition from internal to external) and extend your arms straight, palms reaching past sahasrara (crown of your head) facing the ceiling. In the pause before the exhale, release your hands and face the palms forward. As you exhale for a count of six, radiate your arms wide and scribe a semi-circle with them until your hands are hanging by your hips. In the pause before the inhale, interlace your hands again, palms up in front of the base of the spine. Continue with this breath for 10 cycles or two to five minutes. As you inhale, visualise drawing light up your spinal column from the base all the way past the crown and then as you exhale, visualise radiating that light out through your fingertips, surrounding yourself with white light. Consider what type of energy you would like to be radiating and consciously send it out along with the light.

OPTIONAL PHASE THREE: Balancing internal generation with external radiation

As a reminder that it’s important to balance the energy you offer out to the world with the energy you direct to your own self-care, it’s nice to combine phase one and two of this practice for a few cycles of breath or even a few minutes. Begin with a three count breath as described in phase one, lifting the hands to heart height as you inhale and exhaling to take the hands back down. Let the next breath be a six count breath as described in phase two, lifting the hands all the way up to over head as you inhale and radiating them outward as you exhale.

When you’ve finished your practice, it’s nice to stand, sit or lie quietly for a few moments, absorbing the experience of this meditation.

~article by Kelly Fisher

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Keepers of the flame

Fire is an amazing thing. We human beings are fascinated by its beauty and energy. When a fire is burning well, we can contentedly stare into the flames for hours on end. More often than not though, a fire needs constant tending to keep it from dying out or raging out of control. Our personal internal fire is no different.

Manipura chakra is the energy centre that governs the manifestation of our personal power. It is located at the level of the solar plexus, between the navel and the sternum and is thought to rule our will and autonomy, as well as our metabolism. The element associated with this chakra is fire and many of the practices we do to boost the energy at this centre are heating. Conversely, when our internal fires are a little too hot and this energy centre needs pacification, cooling practices are more appropriate.

As Anodea Judith states:

“When healthy, [Manipura] chakra brings us energy, effectiveness, spontaneity, and non-dominating power”.

When it’s excessive, we can become overbearing and aggressive. When this chakra is deficient, we can lack confidence. Maintaining a steady flame requires consistent care and attention. It is well worth the effort though, because a fully functional Manipura Chakra is a useful thing to have at your disposal when you’re pursuing a goal and trying to maintain good, solid relationships at the same time!

As an ambitious, driven sort of individual, I’ve never suffered from deficient energy at Manipura Chakra for any length of time. Oh sure, every now and then I fizzle out and need a confidence boost but generally speaking, my Manipura chakra blazes with all of the fire it’s meant to. And yes, sometimes the fire burns hotter than is sustainable…my apologies to anyone whose eyebrows have been singed. Continue reading “Keepers of the flame”

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Set yourself free

Have you been feeling a little tired recently? Do you find it difficult to get motivated to do what you need to get done on a daily basis? Have you been dealing with minor niggling aches, pains or illnesses that seem to have no real cause? Do you find yourself slightly unrecognisable sometimes? You, my friend, may have sprung an energetic leak. Continue reading “Set yourself free”

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Intention vs. Resolution

Why not join us and start this year of yoga by grounding yourself on the edge of your January mat, taking a moment to check in, and setting your sankalpa for 2009?

From a yogic point of view, the process of setting a sankalpa (an intention) goes a little like this. Step one: set a positive intention, focusing on the results you want, rather than thinking about what you don’t want (as tends to be the case when we set New Year’s resolutions). Step two: let it go. The Universe conspires on our behalf. Where energy is placed, the Universe augments it. Continue reading “Intention vs. Resolution”

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Make it happen

Whenever you’re embarking on a new journey, a new project, a new day or even a new yoga practice, it’s great to know where you’re headed. Setting a goal or an intention is a powerful way to embed an idea into your subconscious and to galvanise your internal resources to bring it to fruition. Once you’ve got a goal though, it can be helpful to take stock of where you’re starting from in order to clarify which direction or plan of action is most appropriate.

At the outset of my recent training with Shiva Rea, she offered us four questions to get us thinking not only about our goals for the training but also our goals for our lives in general. She had us grab a bit of paper and a pen and then threw them at us, one by one, giving us about two minutes to jot down whatever came to mind immediately. She didn’t want to give us too long to think about them because she wanted the answers to come from an instinctive place, rather than an academic or intellectual place. Continue reading “Make it happen”

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Sankalpa – Setting your intention

You may have been in a class at Yoga Unlimited where the teacher invites you to set a ‘sankalpa’ before you begin your practice and you may have wondered what ‘sankalpa’ meant. There are several English translations for this Sanskrit word, including intention, affirmation and dedication, among others. Each of these translations expresses a different aspect of the original flavour of the word but the one that I connect most easily with is ‘intention’. Continue reading “Sankalpa – Setting your intention”

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