The Sun Salutation

 The Sun Salutation Images

 

The Sun Salutation is a flowing sequence of postures which gets your heart pumping, increases blood circulation, assists and improves the lymphatic and immune system. It provides the body with a complete thorough work out. The postures flow from one into another with use of the breath (See the diagram above). This generates heat in the body which acts as a detox to cleanse the entire body system. The focus on breath awareness also helps to detox the mind. This sequence can also be slowed down and turned into a moving meditation by holding each pose e.g. for a count of three breaths in and out. Performed first thing in the morning it can really help set you up for the day.

Benefits of the Sun Salutation:

  • (Diagram 1) Tadasana helps to ground you, allowing you to build correct core and body alignment, increases body awareness and allows you to find your inner strength thereby centering you.
  • (Diagram 2) Back bends increase flexibility in the spine works the abdomen, opens the chest and improves lung capacity. Back bends also help to lift your mood and can help with mild depression.
  • (Diagram 3) Forward bends brings length into your spine, stretches the hamstrings, calves and hips, allows inner focus and soothes the mind.
  • (Diagram 4) Lunges can improve your athletic performance by working into the glutes, building strength in the quadriceps and also works into the hips, creating greater flexibility, strength and stamina.
  • (Diagram 5) Plank works the muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest and abdomen. It is a weight bearing exercise which helps to prevent osteopenia or osteoporosis.
  • (Diagram 6) Knee, chest and chin or Chaturanga Dandasana . For beginners’ knee, chest and chin to the floor is a more gentle approach. This pose increases flexibility in the spine and neck and opens the chest by stretching the pectoralis muscles. It is also weight bearing and helps to strengthen the arms, shoulders, legs, abdomen and back.
  • (Diagram 7) Cobra stretches your upper body, chest, lungs, abdomen, shoulders and it works into the glutes. As it a back bend it can lift your spirit and overall mood. As it opens the chest area it helps to improve breathing.
  • (Diagram 8) Downward-facing dog is an inversion. Inversions help to calm the mind and helps relieve stress and mild depression. It stretches the entire body – hands, shoulders, spine, hamstrings, calves and feet. As it is also weight bearing it helps to prevent osteopenia or osteoporosis. It also helps to relieve headache, insomnia, back ache and fatigue.

Practice:
Sun salutations can also be adapted with the added challenge of lunges, side angle stretch, warrior sequence, side plank etc. , being included. All these poses stretch the body, strengthen and bring it back into balance. It also helps to expand a personal yoga practice as you can add and take from the sequence to suit your own personal time and needs.

Relaxation Techniques – Flight of an Eagle

Eagle_flight

This is one of my own personal favorite relaxations.  The Eagle Spirit Symbolizes: Strength, Courage, Wisdom, Prestige, Spirit, Balance, Healing, Faith, Meditation, and Connection with Higher Power, Freedom, Awareness, Perspective, and Insight.  If caught in bad weather he will chose to fly above it.  The eagle represents endurance and strength for me, qualities we as humans possess but often lack the belief in ourselves and our ability to use them.  So for this relaxation focus on the qualities you wish to strengthen within yourself.

Setting up:

  • Find a warm comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Light some candles.
  • Light some incense.
  • Play some soft gentle music.
  • Lie down, wrap yourself in a blanket make yourself as comfortable as possible and place an eye bag upon your eyes.

Lead into relaxation: (this is important as it eases tension from your body)

  • Allow your legs to be hip distance apart with ankles in and toes plopping out to the side.
  • Become aware of your right leg, from the hip right down to the tips of your toes, raise it about an inch or two off the floor, tense all the muscles before gently allowing the leg to drop back down and relax.  Repeat for the left side.
  • Bring your awareness into your buttocks, squeeze tightly together, lift your hips a little and hold, before gently releasing and allowing them back down onto the mat and relaxing.
  • Consciously relax your lower back, belly, upper back, upper chest, relax your shoulders move them down and away from your ears and RELAX.  Allow these areas to grow heavy towards the earth and just release any tension or tightness.
  • Become aware of your right arm, raise it an inch or so off the floor, make a fist, and tense your whole arm before gently letting the tension go and releasing your arm back to the floor.  Repeat for the left side.  Allow your hands and fingers to relax.
  • Squeeze all the muscles in your face up tight, then release, relax and let go.  Allow your eyes to soften, relax your temples and forehead.  Become aware of any gripping in your jaw and relax by moving your jaw from side to side.  Allow your tongue to rest on your lower palate and relax your entire face, ears and head.
  • Allow gravity embrace you.  Feel your weight pulling you deeper and deeper into relaxation.  Give yourself permission to travel deeper into relaxation and allow your body to melt towards the floor.
  • Allow your mind to settle and become still.  Then gently bring your awareness to your breath.  Become aware of your own natural rhythm as you gentle breathe in and out.  Allow your mind to become still and calm as you gently come back into harmony with yourself.  BREATHE….. 

Visualization:

  • Now I invite you to visualize yourself as an Eagle perched high up on the side of a mountain.  Visualize yourself in great detail, the colours of your wings, the mountain you are perched upon, the area around you and beneath you.
  • Give yourself permission to experience the strength, confidence, grace and poise of the Eagle and feel yourself growing more and more in confidence.
  • Call to mind anything that causes you stress or anxiety.  Know that you too possess the strength and courage of the eagle and you have the ability to deal with these stresses and anxieties.
  • Then gently, extend your wings, spread them wide and observe the beauty of them.  Feel the strength and power within them as they gently carry you off your perch and out into the freedom of the sky.
  • Give yourself permission to experience this freedom.  Feel the air around you.  See the valleys and forest below.  Feel yourself floating and soaring through the sky free of all constraints, anxieties and ties.
  • Allow your mind to drift and go where it needs to go, trust in yourself, you have the power, you have the strength, and you will cope.
  • Notice the sense of peace and calm you feel whilst soaring.
  • Allow yourself time to find perspective and clarity.
  • Then gently see yourself returning once more to your perch.  Gently re-extend your wings once more before nestling them back in around you.
  • Keeping this sense of lightness, peace and calm with you allow yourself to become aware once more of the ground beneath you.
  • Bring your awareness once more to your breath and with each breath in that you take allow your awareness to travel deeper and deeper back into the room.  Becoming aware of sounds both inside and outside of your room.
  • Then gently wriggle fingers, twiggle toes, stretch, yawn do whatever you may feel you need to do to bring your awareness fully back to the present moment.

Om shanti. 

Breath Work – Straw Breathing

In lung disorders such as emphysema and asthma the ability to exhale fully has greatly diminished. Fear and habitual behaviours which builds up as a result of the disorder often mean that a person shortens the exhalation of the breath and uses accessory respiratory muscles rather than using the diaphragm. Over a period of time this habit can lead to more serious lung and heart problems. This breath work helps to counteract this and induces a sense of peace and calm to the body.  This breath work is also very beneficial to people suffering from insomnia.

Technique

  1. Find a warm cosy area where you won’t be disturbed, you can sit in the garden if the weather permits, light a candle, you may wish to play some soft gentle music (optional).  Whereever, you choose sit in a comfortable meditative asana (pose). Keep your spine erect with your shoulders releasing down your spine, lengthen out through the crown of your head.
  2. Breathing normally, gently count your breath cycle in a full minute. This will give you an idea as to how many breaths you may take in any given minute, depending on what happens in any minute will of course have an impact on the number of breaths you take. Eg. if you are stressed you may take a lot more breaths than someone who is in a relaxed state of mind.  Inhaling and exhaling is one round. Most people will be in or around 10 – 18 breaths in a minute.
  3. When you are ready to begin allow your eyes to gently close, observe the natural rhythm of your breath.  Don’t alter or change your breath just simply be an observer to the fact that you are breathing in and out.
  4. One hand will hold the straw, the other can rest lightly on your knee or thigh.  Place the straw into your mouth.   Hold the straw with your hand so that you are not unnecessarily contracting your facial muscles, jaw or shoulders, try and keep these as relaxed as you can.  Take a breath and let go
  5. Place your tongue on the straw once you place it in your mouth.
  6. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through the straw, do not force the breath simply let it flow.  The outbreath will lengthen and deepen with practice.
  7. At the end of the exhalation gently place your tongue on the tip of the straw and breathe in again through your nose.  Once more exhale through the straw.
  8. Continue this process for at least 3 to 4 minutes, longer if you wish. Allow the inhalation to happen naturally, do not force it to happen.
  9. At the end of each exhalation place your awareness on your diaphragm and feel the gentle bounce/spring back up motion of the diaphragmatic muscle in the centre of your body. This allows the incoming breath to be effortless.
  10. When you have finished the practice you can count your breathing cycle again. Has it changed? Are you feeling more relaxed and calm?

Benefits

  1. When you breathe through a straw it takes longer to exhale. This slows down the nervous system and soothes and calms your body.  This helps to combat the fight, flight and freeze response we experience when we feel stressed or under pressure.
  2. Increases lung capacity by increasing both the inhalation and exhalation.
  3. Practising this breath work helps to lower blood pressure whilst doing the practice and is useful prior to sleep especially if you suffer from insomnia and / or stress.
  4. Induces a very peaceful state of mind. It helps bring you back to a state of homeostasis (balance).  This allows your body to naturally repair itself and helps it to recover.
  5. This exercise is very beneficial for children / young adults who suffer from asthma.  As maintaining concentration maybe difficult in smaller children I often encourage them to use a straw to blow a feather up and down the yoga mat this introduces a fun element.  Another option is to use a hollow liquorice whip which is another fun alternative and treat! Adults and kids both like this one and I will admit to using this method myself from time to time – simply inhale and exhale down the straw into a glass of water thus creating bubbles.  Let your fun side out.  It always lightens our energy and helps to make us smile which is great for the body.

Note
If at any time you feel uncomfortable or sense panic, just stop and take a few normal breaths before resuming again. Sometimes our fear of not taking in enough air can have an adverse effect, but with practise this can be over written.

Breath Work – Bhramari Pranayama – The Humming Bee

This is one of my favourite breath works as it always conquers up images of a lazy hazy warm sunny day, with bees buzzing in the meadows. This is a great introduction to meditation as it also helps to centre and focus the mind.

Technique

  1. Find a warm cosy area where you won’t be disturbed, light a candle, you may wish to play some soft gentle music (optional) and sit in a comfortable meditative asana (pose).
  2. Close your eyes and gently note the natural rhythm of your breath. Don’t alter or change your breath just simply observe the fact that you are breathing in and out.
  3. Then gently use your index fingers to plug both your ears. Continue to breathe normally.
  4. Inhale slowly through both nostrils. Exhale slowly, but as you do so produce a long continuous humming sound like a bee. Keep your exhalation slow, steady and smooth. Do not strain your lungs or force your breath in anyway.
  5. Feel the sound vibration in your brain, throat and chest area and be conscious only of the sound. This is one round of breath.
  6. Repeat 4 & 5 a number of times gradually increasing the number of breaths you take.

Benefits

  1. This is a very relaxing and soothing breath work as you breathing slows and deepens.
  2. This breath work helps to strengthen the diaphragm.
  3. The sound penetrates deep into your mind and body, drawing attention inwards which brings with it a sense of calm both mentally and physically.
  4. This breath work is useful prior to sleep especially if you suffer from insomnia and / or stress.
  5. It helps to relieve cerebral tension, anxiety, anger, frustration and helps lower blood pressure.

Namaste – What does namaste mean

Namaste (pronounced: nah-mahs-tay). What does ‘namaste’ mean?

NamasteThis is a gesture of respect from one person to another and it occurs in all yoga classes, from kid’s yoga to beginner to the highly advanced. It represents the belief that in each of us there is a Divine spark located in the heart centre or the heart chakra. Bowing in namaste is an acknowledgment of the soul in one to the soul in another.

“Nama” means bow, “as” means I, and “te” means you. Therefore, translated directly the Sanskrit word literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you.” A deeper meaning of namaste is “the divine in me respects the divine in in you.” In other words we are all equal.

To perform namaste, you place your hands together in prayer position at the heart centre, close your eyes, and bow your head. You can also place your hands together in front of the third eye between your brows, bowing your head, and then bringing your hands down to your heart. This is an especially deep form of respect. Although in the West the word “namaste” is usually spoken in conjunction with the gesture; in India, it is understood that the gesture itself signifies namaste, and therefore, it is unnecessary to say the word whilst bowing.

Bringing the hands together at the heart centre increases the flow of loving energy and compassion. Bowing your head and closing your eyes helps the mind to surrender to the divine soul that resides within the heart. You can also make this gesture as a meditation technique. When it’s done with someone else, it is also a beautiful meditation.

I honour the place in you
Where the entire
Universe resides
I honour the place in you
Of love, of light, of peace.
I honour the place within you where
If you are in that place in you
And I am in that place in me
There is only one of us.

Mantra for Kids

Kids MantraUse this with kids, to build confidence and self-esteem.

You can become as creative as you may wish using hand movements to go with the words. Just remember it is all about building confidence in your child and self-esteem. They need to know they are worthy and so very special but most importantly – LOVED.

I am special,
I am loved,
I am a gift from God above,
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful God,
I am special,
I am loved.

Mantra – help ground you and bring you into the present moment.

This mantra will help ground you and bring you into the present moment.

Oxford Dictionary meaning of Mantra:
Mantra Pronunciation: /ˈmantrə/
Definition of mantra: Noun
(Originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. A statement or slogan repeated frequently.

Find a quite warm space, light a candle and some incense. Find a comfortable seated position either on the floor or using a chair. If you chose to use a chair sit back into the chair, feet firmly fixed on the ground. In either position ensure that your back is upright, chest broad and open. Shoulders relaxing and releasing down your spine, chin parallel with the floor, crown of the head elongating upwards. Place your hands in a Chin or Jnana Mudra or a mudra of your choice. Close your eyes and begin to notice your breathing. Slow down your breath and begin to lengthen your out breath. Allow your belly to expand out like a balloon as you inhale and gently draw your belly button back towards your spine as you exhale. Repeat a number of times before starting your mantra. Then….

Breathe In: (Say to yourself) : I am here
Breathe Out:: (Say to yourself) : I am present
Breathe In:: (Say to yourself) : In the here
Breathe Out:: (Say to yourself) : In the now

Repeat this mantra over and over again. If thoughts interrupt your progress, just gently acknowledge your thoughts and then place them to the side as you gently bring your awareness back to the mantra and your breath, gently begin to repeat it over and over again with conscious awareness of your breath. Enjoy.

Om Shanti
Noreen.

When you lack the belief & confidence in yourself & your abilities

Use when you lack the belief & confidence in yourself & your abilities.

Oxford Dictionary meaning of Mantra:
Mantra Pronunciation: /ˈmantrə/
Definition of mantra: Noun
(Originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. A statement or slogan repeated frequently.

Find a quite warm space, light a candle and some incense. Find a comfortable seated position either on the floor or using a chair. If you chose to use a chair sit back into the chair, feet firmly fixed on the ground. With either option ensure your back is upright. Shoulders relaxing and releasing down your spine, chin parallel with the floor, crown of the head elongating upwards. Hands in a mudra of your choice e.g. chin or Jnana. Close your eyes and begin to notice your breathing. Slow down your breath and begin to lengthen your out breath. Allow your belly to expand out like a balloon as you inhale and gently draw your belly button back towards your spine as you exhale. Repeat a number of times before starting your mantra. Then ….

Breathe In: (Say to yourself) : I am strong
Breathe Out: (Say to yourself): I am loving
Breathe In: (Say to yourself): I am strong
Breathe Out: (Say to yourself): I am loved
Breathe In: (Say to yourself): I am strong
Breathe Out: (Say to yourself): I’m LOVING it

Repeat this mantra over and over again. If thoughts interrupt your progress, just gently acknowledge your thoughts and then place them to the side as you gently bring your awareness back to the mantra and gently begin to repeat it over and over again with conscious awareness to your breath.

Om Shanti (Peace)
Noreen.

Leek and Potato Soup

Leek & Potato SoupThis is a favourite in our house. It is quick, tasty and a great warmer for those cold winter days. I personally love it served with homemade brown spelt bread with lashings of real Irish butter.

PS!! Just in case you get distracted some day and you “forget” to put in the potatoes, just blend all the other ingredients together, trust me, it tastes equally scrumptious!!

Ingredients:
3 Leeks
2 Celery
1 Onion
1lb of potatoes thinly sliced.
I litre of Water
3 jelly stock cubes (2 chicken & 1 veg)
1 cup of milk
1oz of butter & 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Pinch of red and black pepper.

Method:
Sautee the leeks, onion and celery in butter and oil for approximately 20 minutes.
Add the potatoes, water and jelly stock cubes, bring to boil and them simmer until the potatoes dissolve. Next add a cup of milk, blend all the ingredients together and serve.

I love serving mine with a dollop of fresh cream and croutons.

Enjoy!!!

The Symbol OM in Yoga

OM Symbol“Om” symbolises All that was… All that is… and all that shall be… even into eternity.

“Om” is a sacred word, syllable, sound, mantra, it belongs to no know language and is used in many religions. It stands for Supreme Faith. It is infinite consciousness and bliss. To the yogi no symbol is more powerful than “Om”.

“Om” symbolises the waking, dreaming and sleeping state. It enables us to maintain mental and emotional calmness, overcome obstacles and facilitates understanding.

Repetition of the sound “Om” and meditation on “Om” is valued in Yoga as a potent means of awakening the spiritual centres in a person’s personality. I love the interpretation of OM, so much so that I got it tattooed on my foot and it holds great symbolic meaning to me personally.

Chanting OM

“Om” is made up of three sounds which are combined together: A, U and M. These sounds create a vibration which connects to different parts of your body. I recommend chanting each syllable individually before joining them altogether. Find a quiet warm place where you will not be disturbed. I like to light a candle as I find this adds to the ambience for me personally. Then sit in a comfortable position, Accomplished Pose, Hero’s Pose, Easy Pose or Half Lotus, which ever pose you chose just ensure that you can stay in this position comfortably for a couple of minutes. Keep your spine in an upright position, relax your shoulders and allow your shoulder blades to move down your spine. Allow you head to be in alignment with your spine by allowing your two ears to be positioned just above your shoulders. Allow your chin to be parallel with the floor, crown of your head elevating upwards towards the heavens, and then gently draw your chin a slight fraction towards your chest just to lengthen into the back of your neck, and relax. Just be aware of the fact that you are breathing. Breathe in and out through your nostrils and feel your breath, become aware of it and notice what moves in your body as you breathe in and what moves as you breathe out. Then take a long slow deep breath in relax as you breathe out… then

A. Take a long slow deep breath in and then simply make the sound “aaaaahhhh” as you breathe out completely. Feel this vibration in the area around your abdomen. Bring your focus / awareness to the vibration for the full breath out. Repeat twice more.

U. Take a long slow deep breath in and then make the sound “oooouuuu” as you breathe out completely. Bring your focus / awareness to your upper chest area where you should sense the vibration. Again focus on the vibration for the full breath out. Repeat twice more.

M. Finally, take another long slow deep breath in and then make the sound “mmmmmmm” as you breathe out completely. You should sense the vibration of this sound in your throat area. Some people also feel the vibration in the head area. Bring your focus / awareness to your throat / head area and feel the vibration for the full exhalation out. Repeat twice more.

To combine all three together for the full chant, gently take a couple of natural breaths in and out through your nose, then take a long slow deep breath in and opening your mouth allow the sound of “A” and “U” to blend together into the sound “O”, allow your lips to come together and without stopping sound the vibration of “M”. Allow “M” to vibrate until the end of your out breath. Keep your focus and awareness on the sound and the vibration of what you are chanting, also try to keep lengthening your out breath and try to keep it smooth and flowing. This is YOUR chant and YOUR awareness, so there is no right or wrong way to do this. Just relax! Breathe, feel your vibration, experience the sensation within your body and then simply observe, noting any subtle changes within yourself and enjoy!!