Oasis of Stillness

I recently attended a wonderful restorative workshop with yoga teacher and friend Ingrid Jolley. At some point in the session, while resting in a beautiful heart opening posture she led a guided visualisation of a lake with the group. Inspired by this meditation, I decided to share it in my own yoga classes over the past week and have recorded it to share here as well. I have naturally used my own words and included some pranayama as well. Enjoy!

lake reflection

 

Explore deep relaxation and understanding through iRest® Yoga Nidra

iRest® Yoga Nidra is a form of meditative self enquiry that stems from the ancient teachings of yoga. Within each practice we learn to pay attention to the various feelings, sensations, emotions and thoughts that are constantly changing within our body and mind. This is a mindfulness practice which has a calming affect on the nervous system helping to release physical tension and quiet a busy mind. We learn too, that the sensations we experience are messengers providing us with information; when we listen, we may come to a deeper understanding about ourselves.

yoga-nidra

We learn through iRest to meet, greet and welcome all that arises in our awareness. As we practice acceptance, we learn to meet challenging feelings, emotions, thoughts and memories with a more relaxed response. As we practice acceptance, we don’t “get stuck” or fuse with our experience and therefore move beyond it. We learn to respond, rather than react to life.

iRest offers deep relaxation and can be helpful in managing stress, fear, depression, pain, insomnia and trauma. It is practiced in a comfortable position (usually lying down) and no previous yoga experience is required.

I have included a short iRest practice below. Allow 20 minutes where you will not be disturbed, find a comfortable seated or lying position using cushions and blankets as needed.

If you are interested in exploring iRest further, I run a regular 6 week online course.

Enjoy!

Auto Suggestion Relaxations

Here are two wonderful relaxation techniques that use auto suggestion in helping the body and mind to relax. They are especially beneficial to use in bed if you have difficulties getting to sleep. You may like to learn the sequence and repeat mentally to yourself or perhaps record yourself saying the sequence (it has been said that we relax best to the sound of our own voice!).

dog-savasana

Auto Suggestion Relaxation – Letting Go

Auto Suggestion on Exhale

Releasing muscle tension

For many people the stresses of daily life manifest in our physical bodies as muscular tension. We may hold fear, uncertainty, stress and anxiety in our bodies as tension. Over time this creates aches, pains and stiffness in the body leaving us feeling exhausted or even worse, leads to disorders and disease.  There is a wonderful technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) where you create tension in a muscle, hold for 8-10 seconds and then release. This action causes the muscles to relax, which triggers the relaxation response; the heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, normal blood flow returns to the belly and digestion improves. As the physical body relaxes, the mind soon follows.

Now that’s better…..

For those students that find it difficult to relax the body in savasana (especially at the beginning of a yoga class), this may be a welcome alternative to restlessness and frustration some find in stillness.

Here is an audio that draws on the PMR techniques to help relax the body prior to an asana session or as a stand alone practice.

Enjoy

Breathing to a quieter place

The word pranayama is comprised of the sanskrit words “prana” meaning breath or life force and “ayama” to length or expansion. This practice of controlled breathing helps the energy to flow more easily into the nadis or energy pathways and koshas (layers) of the body. The koshas can be visualised as the rings inside a tree trunk, where the outer layer is the physical body, moving inward to the energy (pranic) body, the thinking mind, inner wisdom and spirit. When we influence the flow of prana in the energy body through pranayama its effects penetrate every cell and fibre of our being.

When practicing pranayama, choose an environment that is clear, clean and free from distractions. Begin by observing your natural, spontaneous breath; breathing through the nostrils.  As you connect with your breath cycle, observe the four phases of the breath: the inhalation, retention, exhalation and suspension. Check there is no holding of breath or strain; that the pauses at the top and bottom of the breath are natural. The more you stay with your natural breath, the more the breath will deepen and lengthen without effort or force.

When we work with pranayama we are looking to cultivate two qualities: dirgha and sukshma. Dirgha means long and steady and sukshma means smooth and subtle. As we find the steadiness in breath, we find a steadiness in the mind, calming and quieting, soothing the nervous system. This in turn triggers a cascade of physiological changes: the heart rate slows down, blood pressure decreases and muscular tension is released.

We discover that changes in the prana maya kosha (energy body) affect the physical and mental bodies. When we find the steadiness, quietness and space within these outer layers, we open a doorway to the deeper and subtler aspects of self. Our inner wisdom, intuition,creativity and spirit move into our field of awareness as the ripples of disturbance subside.

Here is a simple pranayama practice. Enjoy!

 

In practice, I find patience and peace