Loving Kindness blessing

This is a beautiful blessing I shared with students in classes last week. There was a lot of interest, so here it is.

Read the blessing three times with the following intention; the first time, direct the blessing to yourself, the second time, to someone you love and finally, to someone you don’t especially like, send the blessing to them.

For yourself…..

koshas pic

 

May I be Healthy and Happy

May I be Strong and Free

May I be Clear and Wise

May Loving Kindness flow through me

For a loved one and then someone you don’t especially like…..

May you be Healthy and Happy

May you be Strong and Free

May you be Clear and Wise

May Loving Kindness flow through you

 

 

 

 

Creating Space

Life has a wonderful way of reminding us about what’s important.

About a month ago a number of unexpected events occurred in my life, one after the other, in fact all within a week; and these were pretty big ones including death of a family member and moving house. I was propelled from a place of stability and ease to uncertainty and worry. My mind was constantly busy; I felt disconnected from my heart and the effortless rhythm of life. In the midst of organising, arranging and DOING, I forgot to make time for BEING. A few weeks later, I remember walking my dog down by the river (something I do everyday) and feeling an overwhelming sense of peace. I took in the trees and the sky, the gentle breeze, the smells, everything;  I breathed in life and it was good. I realised two things in that moment; firstly, how disconnected I had become in the busyness of life and secondly, that without the busyness, I would not know the absolute joy of peace.  Life my friends, is to be experienced in all its facets; the busy and quiet times, the joy and sadness.

IMG_4446Yoga is my ground; it brings me back to my centre over and over again. When life is crazy, it helps me surf the waves of emotions and find a place of ground and stability, a place where I can reconnect to what’s important, to what is real. In  yoga, I find myself and the awareness that is cultivated within the practice is with you in every moment. This, in my opinion, is the real gift of yoga.

This recording is about finding space, taking time to acknowledge what has been and connecting inwardly to feel what comes next. Enjoy.

Changing how we think, feel and experience

serenityIn class this week I am exploring the Apan (energy) mudra. This is a wonderful practice to help remove waste products and toxins from the body and to stimulate the energy of the liver and gallbladder. When our liver is functioning well, this in turn has a balancing effect on the mind.

When we work with the fingers and hands in yoga (hasta mudras or hand gestures), we are influencing the flow of prana (energy) in our body and minds; changing how we think, feel and experience on all levels.

With practice, qualities such as patience, serenity, confidence, inner balance and harmony may be experienced. As Apan mudra has a balancing effect on the mind, our ability to visualise, face new challenges and look to the future is enhanced.

THE PRACTICE

apan mudra

Find a comfortable lying or seated position.

With each hand, place the tips of the thumbs, middle and ring fingers together, extending the other fingers gently.

Close your eyes and feel where the fingers touch, while visualising the gesture in your mind’s eye.

Rest your awareness here softly, feeling and observing  – no expectations, or judgement, simply being with your experience as it is, from moment to moment.

You may like to simply sit with Apan mudra for anywhere from 5 – 45 minutes or include the following visualisation.

In your imagination, sit in a beautiful garden. Enjoy the colours and shapes of the plants around you – a garden that is blossoming and full of life. You appreciate the wonder of nature – how a seed germinates, how a plant grows and blooms. In an empty garden bed, plant something that you want to bear fruit, to come into being now or sometime in the near future; a conversation, a relationship, a project etc. Imagine how it sprouts, continues to develop, blossoms and bears rich fruit. See too, who will benefit from these fruits. Finish your visualisation with a sense of gratitude.

You may also like to affirm several times –

I plant my seeds, care for them and receive a rich harvest – that I thankfully accept. 

Rest quietly for a few moments and when ready open your eyes, welcome the light and world back in.

Ref: Gertrud Hirschi, Mudras: Yoga in your hands (Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC York Beach ME, 2000), p73

Why I love teaching yoga

I remember the exact moment that I decided to become a yoga teacher;  it was late 2001. My boys were then 3 and 5 years old, both attending pre school. I had more time on my hands and was wondering how to fill it. Having left a full time job in life insurance to be at home with my boys, I did not want to return to an office environment. I was attending a wonderful yoga class weekly at the Bhava Yoga & Dance Centre which was close and worked in with the time both boys were at kindergarten.

Initially I thought the class was not physical enough, having come from an Iyengar background. The postures were gentle and there was a strong focus on visualisation and meditation. After a few weeks though, I was hooked. The classes were transforming; I began to discover the depth of yoga, the moments of stillness, of breath, of ME. It was wonderful.

It was late in the same year, that I received a newsletter from the yoga centre. There was an article about their upcoming Teacher Training program. Time stood still. I remember looking dreamily out the window wondering if this was for me. The timing was perfect; I was looking for direction and this seemed to fit.  It was a wonderful opportunity to both deepen my own yoga knowledge and experience and to embark on a new career, one that could really work well with a young family.  The decision was made and I enrolled for the next year.

It was perfect; imagine studying, practicing and then working in a field that you love. A job that has flexible hours and brings something positive into other peoples lives. I remember thinking, if I can help just one person feel the way I feel when I attend my weekly class, it will be worthwhile. Yoga is like that, it changes you in so many ways. It starts in class, then permeates all aspects of your life. You experience a deeper connection to yourself and others. It is so much more than a physical practice. For me, the key difference is that Yoga is a practice of Awareness. One of my teachers at Bhava, Nola Day used to say ,YOGA is Your Own Growing Awareness.

The teacher training course at Bhava was more than I could have hoped for. It was a year of learning, exploration and integration. I have now been teaching yoga since mid 2002 and my greatest joy is sharing my passion of yoga with others. I also run workshops and retreats and have recently become co-owner of Bhava Yoga & Dance Centre.

The yoga I teach is of a creative nature, using smooth transitions between postures , themes and imagery. It is a style that is gentle and nurturing, with options and modifications of postures so everyone can participate. Bhava yoga is inclusive, no exclusive; you are encouraged to move your body in a way that is ALWAYS pain free and in a comfortable range of movement. Bhava yoga is like a moving meditation (many students practice much of the class with their eyes closed), where your body, breath and awareness are moving as one – this is union, this is yoga.

Personally for me, yoga has been my rock; through the illness and death of my father, navigating teenage boys and the emotional rollercoaster of my menopause at 43. Yoga is my constant companion, my source of strength, my voice of inner wisdom and guidance. Through practice I find of clarity , stillness, patience and peace.

The Bhava Yoga Teacher Training program for 2014, begins in early February.  It is such a privilege to guide others in this amazing practice and teachings. There are limited places available in the Teacher Training program. If you feel this may be your path, whether to deepen your knowledge and experience in yoga or to share your love with others as a teacher, I would love to hear from you.

Contact : Gabrielle Boswell  Co-Director/Owner

Phone: 0413 939 530

email: bhavacentre@gmail.com or gabrielle@buddhimind.com

In practice, I find patience and peace

Opening to the day

Below is a short yoga sequence that explores gentle upper body movements synchronised with the breath. Each movement can be experienced as a gesture (mudra) that evokes a certain mood or attitude within.

For me, an asana practice is a series of full body mudras; each posture touches us, opens us to a different aspect of ourselves, influencing the energy of the body and mind. Through yoga postures we learn to explore and develop these various aspects of ourselves such as strength (physical and emotional), softness, grace, humility, dignity, expansion, contraction, vulnerability and acceptance. We meet ourselves in yoga, and in going inward we have the opportunity to connect with ourselves authentically and then meet the world with integrity and truth.  We learn too, to open ourselves to the world around us, to the infinite possibilities that are there, to our full potential.

Blessings

‘Life as it is’ meditation

wellness-and-meditationSitting or lying comfortably, with eyes closed, take a few moments to bring attention to your breath, mantra, or any other technique that you normally use to centre yourself. When you feel settled, ask yourself this series of questions:

What have I received today?

Be specific and reflect on as many things as you can recall. It can be something as simple as your partner’s smile, the sound of a bird singing at dawn, the driver who let you merge in crowded traffic. Remember, the motivation or attitude of those who gave you something is not the issue.

In reviewing your day, you are given the opportunity to see life as it is, rather than how you think it should be. You will notice times you were present and times when you were absent (perhaps in problem solving mode).

As you reflect on what you have been given today, you may find this insight humbling, perhaps feeling a deeper sense of gratitude and a natural desire to be generous in serving others.

What have I given today?

pet loveGo through the day’s events in the same way, but this time notice what you have given to others. Be as specific and concrete as possible. As above, your motivation is irrelevant. What did you actually do? It may have been as simple as feeding your pets, washing the breakfast dishes, or sending a friend a birthday card. You may find that without great fanfare you contribute to the well-being of many people and animals—you make a positive difference to the planet.

What difficulties and troubles did I cause today?

Again, be specific. Don’t overlook the seemingly insignificant. Your list may include things like “I backed up traffic while looking for a place to park” or “I moved the kids off the lounge so I could sit there.” This question is often the hardest, but its importance cannot be overstated. It may bring up feelings of remorse, but its primary purpose is to provide a more realistic view of your life.

In general, we are all too aware of how others cause us inconvenience or difficulty, but rarely do we notice when we are the source of inconvenience. And if we do, we usually brush it aside as an accident, not that big a deal, or simply something we didn’t mean to do. We cut ourselves a huge length of slack! But seeing how you cause others difficulty can deflate your ego while reminding you again of the grace by which you live.

These questions provide the framework for reflecting on all your relationships, including those with family, friends, co-workers, partners, pets, and even objects.
Remember, what makes this a meditative practice is that you are not analyzing your motivations or intentions; you are not interpreting or judging. You are simply shifting your attention from self-centered thinking to seeing things as they are, and as all yoga traditions point out, in seeing, there is wisdom and liberation.

Blessings

A lesson in humility

” Mindfulness is more than a practice, it’s a way of life”

Just over 12 months ago I wrote this post but didn’t publish. It is interesting to look back over the past year and reflect on how I was feeling then. Now I would like to share with you this story…….

I consider myself a good driver. I believe myself considerate. I am decisive and assertive (not aggressive) behind the wheel (I learned that from my Mum who is licensed to drive small trucks). I do not intentionally break the law or speed, however it seems my intentions have been overshadowed by mindlessness. My husband has told me that I tailgate, not leaving enough distance between the front of my car and the rear end of others.

My heart sank as I was driving along a familiar road, having picked up my son from school, when I saw a policeman step out into the middle of the road and put his hand up signalling me to stop. Naturally I pulled over to the side of the road and he asked to see my license and then informed me that I had been speeding: I had been detected driving at 56 kilometres through a 40kph school zone. He wanted to know if I had a reason for speeding, I said “No, I was just talking to my son”.  I am not one for lying or making up excuses or bursting into tears. It’s just not me. I live by truth. So there I was faced with the truth and faced with the consequences of my actions.

Now I did not feel that I was speeding, I was not in a hurry, it was not a conscious decision, yet obviously I had been speeding, I was doing 16kph over the speed limit. Now I know this is probably going to upset some people, being a school zone: it was 4:15pm, well after school had finished, yet in this area the 40kmh rule applies at all times, not just in school hours. I would have known this had I PAID ATTENTION. There is no excuse.

slow-down

I recently got a new car, it is a zippy little car, a manual and it is so easy to speed, without trying. I found that I almost need to have my foot pulled back towards me, not to speed. I had only received a speeding ticket a few weeks earlier on the way home from work. It was late, the road was quiet and I was listening to music. I was pulled over doing 76kph in a 60 zone. Again: no excuses.

When I arrived home and looked over previous correspondence from Vic roads I realised that my license would be suspended. I had accumulated 12 demerit points in the last three years (six of them in the last four weeks). My heart sank. I went into panic mode. What could I possibly do to change this outcome?

This outcome is not acceptable. I will not accept it!  

I had no reason for speeding, I simply was not paying attention. I was not paying attention, and that’s no excuse. My mind raced and I laid blame everywhere but with myself. I blamed the policeman for having the audacity to pull me over. I was not driving technically dangerously but of course I was: I was breaking the law. I blamed my son and his loud music because my car has this great stereo – he plays angry, heavy metal or hip hop music. Is that driving me to speed? I blamed my new car and I blamed the system. I blamed everyone and everything but myself.

So I am faced with two options, the first is to continue to drive but if I suffer any more demerit points over the next 12 months, I would lose my licence for six months or I can accept my penalty and not drive for three months.

As I considered both options, the three months is appealing because it is over quicker. If I chose to continue to drive, how could I possibly not speed for 12 months, I ask myself?

But this thought is ridiculous – I am NOT MEANT TO BE SPEEDING AT ALL. So I thought, Ok, there is still some time before I officially need to make this decision, but I know it is coming. So I choose option one: continue to drive, drive my boys to school, drive to my classes, run my business. All these things I need to do and I need to find a way to do all that without breaking the law.

“I am practising mindfulness all throughout my day and yet there is still more for me to learn”.

I am annoyed at myself, for not being more mindful when I’m driving. I’m a yoga teacher. I teach mindfulness nearly every day. I have just come back from a wonderful seven-day retreat, teaching mindfulness and how to integrate what we learn in our yoga into our life. I am practising mindfulness all throughout my day and yet there is always more to learn.

As the first day progressed I realise that I am feeling quite calm and relaxed. I did not realise how rushed I must have been behind the wheel, just as I did not realise I was speeding.

It is great to have a mindful practice; but to stay present all the time is really hard work. I am interested to see if it remains hard work or becomes easier. I know already after just two days that I can feel this sense of acceptance coming over me. I find myself considering: Do I feel calmer because I have moderated my speed or do I feel calmer because I accept it?

I do feel calmer and there is a gentle sense of acceptance. I know there is no one to blame for this but me. No one, nothing – all me. I think there are probably quite a few lessons bundled up here for me. So I thank the universe for this lesson, this opportunity to grow. To deepen my practice of mindfulness, to deepen my observance of svadhyaya (self study) and hopefully to be a good example to my boys. I am deeply grateful for my yoga practice, it gives me this wonderful framework, through mindfulness and svadhyaya to grow, to access this deep well of peace with me.

The affirmations that I have been working with for many months now – “I am grateful for all the gifts that come my way” and “I am at peace with myself and the world around me”. These were really hard to say only a few days ago. I said them through gritted teeth. I did not really feel them or believe them but I said them anyway. And now I do feel them, I feel them more deeply. It is very humbling to lose my equanimity and then find it again at a deeper level. I love this journey.

“When we struggle against something difficult or negative or painful, this only gives it more energy, and the negative aspect gains strength. When we acknowledge the difficult element, letting it simply be, it comes and goes: but it does not get stuck. It does not gain power” Bien, T. (2006) Mindful Therapy.

About 2 weeks later, I paused to reflect on this life lesson. I am studying yoga therapy and understand that for change to take place, there must first be acceptance. I also understand that what you resist, persists. I was able to shift my focus from the ‘problem’ to the ‘solution’. I considered my initial resistance to accepting the following: my license suspension, that this was my fault, the amount of effort required to make a change for a lifetime not just 12 months and that my mindfulness practice had not been integrated into my life as well as I thought it had.

I considered the calmness I experienced a few days after being pulled over. Was it because I was driving more calmly or was it the acceptance of the situation? There is a deep calm that flows from acceptance. What a blessing this has been. I am becoming now more mindful of times when I am NOT being mindful. I am noticing when I am disconnected, my mind in the past or future and not in the here and now. So more and more I’m finding mindfulness in my day, in all my activites. I do a mindfulness practice, yes, I have moments of mindfulness, yes, but my intention is to be as conscious as I can be as often as I can. There have been a lot of lessons in this, it has been really wonderful.

When we are aware, we are back in charge, we see ourselves in truth. We see our thoughts, behaviours, the sensations in our body, our feelings and emotions as they are, rather than as we think they should be or how it could be. We are experiencing the truth of the moment. And yes that can be painful and sad, yet it can also be wonderfully liberating and help you affect change.

Acceptance is a pathway to peace of mind.

The 12 months have now passed and without further incident, my driving habits have changed. I have changed.

Immunity Boost

I returned from a wonderful week teaching at Sanctuary Retreat in Mission beach, North Queensland to find my family coughing, sniffling and low in energy; yep they all had a head cold.  Determined to not be taken down, I put together a program of positive attitude, lots of rest (challenging for me!) Zinc, vitamin C, echinacea and a yoga sequence that boosts the immune system.  I am feeling really good! Sure, my throat was a little sore for a few days, and my hankie had a good workout, but it hasn’t developed into anything nasty.

Here is a little of what my students are practising this week; this sequence will also help the functioning of the lympathic system, which supports our immune response. A practice that includes supported and inverted postures, increases circulation of lymph—a clear, watery fluid that moves through the body picking up bacteria and viruses and filtering them out via the lymph nodes.

Unlike blood, which moves as a result of the heart pumping, lymph moves by muscular contractions. Physical exercise, such as yoga, is great for keeping lymph flowing. The movement of lymph is also affected by gravity, so anytime your head is below your heart—for example, in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)—lymph moves into the respiratory organs, where germs often enter the body. When you return to an upright position, gravity drains the lymph, sending it through your lymph nodes for cleansing.

It is beneficial also to allow your neck, throat, and tongue to relax fully, thereby encouraging the lymph to flow freely through the nose and throat.

Thymus reset –

thymus reset

  • Make a fist and place your pinky finger side on your breastbone, just below the notch between the collarbones.
  • Take a deep breath, and as you slowly let it out, firmly pound on this spot 9 times or so.
  • Repeat 1-3 times, until you feel more balanced and calm.

This is like flipping a breaker off and on again and is said to balance the thymus and the central channel of healing prana (energy) it represents.

Uttanasana (standing forward bend)

Uttanasana: Standing forward bend

Practise with soft knees, weight slightly forward without crunching the toes; head, neck, throat and tongue all soft and arms resting back within the shoulders.

 

Adho Mukha svanasana (downward facing dog)

adho mukha svanasanaThis is a beautiful posture to explore balance between the weight and work on the shoulders and on the pelvis. There should be a balance too, between ease and effort, shoulders moving down the back away from the ears, with the lower ribs hugging into the body to avoid collapsing into the lower back. I like to think of my head and heart moving forwards and hips and shoulders moving back. Maintain a softness in the elbows and knees.

adho mukha svanasana - one leg raisedTry this pose, lifting one leg, bend at the knee and slowly cirle into the hip. Straighten, release then rest in child’s pose (see below) using bhramari breath (humming) for 5 rounds.

Repeat with the opposite leg, then explore a second round of bhramari in child’s pose.

Or this variation, add a twist……

adho mukha svanaasana twist

Reach back with right hand to left ankle. Stay for a few breaths, then switch to the opposite side. Maintain level hips so the twist occurs at the waist.

 

Balasana (child’s pose)

balasana image

Bring hips back towards the heels with your head resting comfortably on the floor; arms either gently extended forward or resting back beside you.  If needed, you can support the head with your hands.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (supported)

setu bandha sarvangasanaLie with support (bolster, blankets) under the spine, with shoulder blades resting on the floor. A gentle inversion that opens the chest, stimulates the throat and calms the busy mind.

A lovely way to finish your yoga practice.

Om

Sangha: a spiritual community

Sangha is a word in Sanskrit that can be translated roughly as “association” or “assembly,” “company” or “community” with common goal, vision or purpose.

When we come together in Sangha, there are wonderful opportunities for sharing, learning and growth.
Last weekend saw the end of one such group for me and the beginning of another. It was with some sadness that I said goodbye to all involved in my Yoga therapy training (it was the last day of a 12 month course): such an inspiring, generous and gifted group of teachers.  Then the following day, we welcomed nine enthusiastic students to Bhava (our yoga centre) and the teacher training program. What a wonderfully open group of people they are, willing to share something of themselves with the group and so ready and eager to learn.
photo
In an article by Rethink Yoga, the author says….. “I have been blessed to find a similar like-mindedness within the yoga community – with students, teachers, and practitioners.  When you feel that you are with people who “get” you and are heading in the same direction you are, there is a sense of safety that allows you to experiment and press against your boundaries. Through the process of testing limits, from within an environment of trust, you can grow with joy instead of fear”.
My sangha at Bhava has supported me through my yoga journey and personal unfolding, but it has been more than this. It has held my hand and wiped away tears through my personal ups and downs too: the illness of my dad, husband and sister and then the death of my dad, the dramas of teenage children and the joys of success. I am truly blessed.

I share with you another poem from yogi Danna Faulds. Her words of wisdom are evocative and touch me deeply.

Teach me what I cannot learn alone. Let us share what we know, and what we cannot fathom. Speak to me of mysteries, and let us never lie to one another.

May our fierce and tender longing fuel the fire in our souls. When we stand side by side, let us dare to focus our desire on the truth. May we be reminders, each for the other, that the path of transformation passes through the flames.

To take one step is courageous; to stay on the path day after day, choosing the unknown, and facing yet another fear, that is nothing short of grace.

Namaste