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

Eternal Circle of Life meditation

The SATNAM mantra is one of my favourites and is widely used in Kundalini yoga.

This mantra is called the Primal Sound Mantra, because it consists of the five primal sounds: S,T,N,M, and ah. The literal meaning is as follows: Sa means birth (or infinity); Ta means life; Na means death; and Ma means rebirth. Thus, the mantra describes the eternal circle of life: birth, life, death, rebirth.  

SA is the beginning, infinity, the totality of everything that ever was, is or will be.

TA is life, existence and creativity that manifests from infinity.

NA is death, change and the transformation of consciousness.

MA is rebirth, regeneration and resurrection which allows us to consciously experience the joy of the infinite.

In addition..

Sa: evokes a sense of emotion and expansiveness
Ta: creates a feeling of transformation and strength
Na: stimulates a sense of universal love
Ma: evokes the quality of communicativeness

satnam

 

In this meditation, which could be practised either lying in savasana or seated comfortably, I have brought together mantra (sound), mudra (gestures) and a connection to the corresponding chakra.

Enjoy!

Welcoming the light and shadow

Does a snowflake, flung from an angel’s wing, trust the fall, 

not yet knowing the grand design or what it will become?

There is patience, a whisper of natural order,

as it follows it’s innate path, anchoring light to Earth.

~ Transformation by Myra Dutton

In the depths of winter I find myself moving between emotions; loving the gentle sun as it shines on my face, enjoying the layers of clothes that keep me cosy and warm, then feeling flat and demotivated when faced with overcast skies, grey and drab, or frustrated I can’t walk the dog as it’s raining.

Here are some recent pictures I took as I walked by the local creek; it captures both the shadow and light.

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There is peace to be found in acceptance; the inevitable change of seasons and to notice how our own natural rhythms and cycles are connected to those of the earth. We learn to value sunshine and shadow, light and darkness, activity and rest, work and play – to explore the balance; the yin and yang.  

IMG_3098

Yin characteristics are cool, wet, feminine and quiet, whereas the yang is the opposite: warm, dry, fast, masculine and extroverted. Winter is a yin season, a time for storing and conserving our energy in the way a bear retains fat by hibernating , or a farmer stores food for the cold months ahead.

 

The yin and yang symbol reminds us that both sunlight and shadow contain within themselves the potential or seed of their opposite quality. At the darkest part of the symbol is a small dot (bindu or seed) of light; at the lightest part, is a small dot of darkness. The challenge can be to accept the value of both the light and the dark.

yin yang symbol

At a time of the year when there is less light, we benefit from embracing the value the darkness. Think of a baby developing and growing within the darkness of the womb, or a seed in the darkness of the soil. The dark is good. It is a place for rest and renewal, a place of healing, wisdom and inner knowing.  We can use quiet, reflective and mindfulness practices such as yoga nidra (deep relaxation) and meditation to get in touch with this place within. Here we may find understanding, inspiration and insight into who we are and discover our heart felt desire, that which we want more than anything in life, for health, wealth or healing.

Here are some questions you may like to reflect on at this time of the year.

1. What aspect of yourself or life have you kept in darkness? What have you avoided, repelled or ignored?

2. Which aspect of yourself or life could benefit from warmth, compassion and light?

3. As the sun’s light strengthens over these next few months, what aspects of your life would you like to cultivate and strengthen?

I am running a 6 week iRest® yoga nidra course beginning Friday 9th August @ 6pm. If you are interested in exploring this practice of deep relaxation and self enquiry, please contact me or click here for more details.

Opening to Clarity and Truth

vishuddhi chakra

The throat centre, vishuddhi chakra is the seat of verbal communication. When open and balanced, we give voice to our thoughts and feelings, our deepest hearts desire. We can speak with clarity and truth, expressing our wants and needs to others.

The colour associated with the throat centre is blue; a colour that brings peace and tranquility above everything else, promoting both physical and mental relaxation. It reduces stress, creating a sense of calmness, relaxation and order – we certainly feel a sense of calm if we lie on our backs and look into a bright blue cloudless sky. It helps regulate the metabolism.

Blue in Nature

  • ocean, water
  • fruit such as blueberries and blue plums
  • blue cheese
  • birds like bluejays, bluebirds, Blue Heron, robin’s egg
  • jewels like lapis lazuli, blue sapphire, blue topaz
  • flowers like forget-me-nots, cornflowers

Blue should be used with caution for those feeling sad, lonely or depressed, as it may increase these symptoms.

Here is a recording of a guided relaxation I used in class recently, connecting the colour blue and vishuddhi chakra.

Blessings

Experience Change through Awareness,Acceptance and Action

It can be really useful through the day to find time to pause. To notice when you feel a sense of busyness, rushing, doubting – and to notice how this feels: how it feels in your body and where you experience these feelings and sensations. Often we experience this as constriction or tightness in the belly, chest, perhaps in the hands or around the eyes.

The first step in creating change is to notice, to become aware. Then to simply take one mindful breath, and in that breath we can feel a shift from contraction to expansion. One breath will open the space within and that space will continue to grow and expand . Within this moment of presence there is an acceptance of what is. Acceptance creates a sense of expansion and freedom within. From here we open ourselves for more creativity and confidence to flow. We are not looking to change or fix but to shift the feeling from contraction to expansion and our awareness from wishing things were different to presence and acceptance.

Here is a short practice that can help you become aware of holding, constriction and tension in the body and how to change that experience through awareness, acceptance and action. The more we practice these skills, the easier and more effective they become and over time they become another tool you can draw upon whenever and wherever needed.

Up with the birds….

This time a few weeks ago, I was waking early to the sound of beautiful birdsong. My family and I stayed at Echuca, camped by the banks of the Murray river. I enjoyed my morning practice, a 10 minute meditation, looking out over the water as each day began.

 

Here is a short practice exploring gentle movements of the neck. It is always important to move in a comfortable range of movement for your body, without force or pain. This was recorded early one morning by the Murray; you can hear the birdsong.