Monday, June 28, 2010

Beginner's Mind

“We talk about 'beginner's mind' and when new yogini 's come to class, it is a honor to be their first guide to yoga practice. It reminds me that one of my goals is to look at situations with a beginner's mind. To take my belly breaths and delight in the sensations! What if it were the first time you were breathing with awareness! Some students have remarked that they hadn't known that their breath could be both 'passive' and 'active'. It reminds me to use my own knowledge of my breath to keep myself centered when troubled by worldly matters. Today, we can all have a beginner's mind, in whatever it is we are doing, and thrill at our senses, in the simple delights of breathing and the ancient wisdom which tells us enjoy our lives with beginner's eyes. What is possible, for you, with a beginner's mind?”

The above was posted by a Yoga Bear’s member in her blog and I find it to be a good reminder as it is with a beginner’s mind that we can approach our practice with awareness and humbleness.

When we remind ourselves that we are always a beginner as there is always a pose that we have never done before and so many variations to explore, we will cultivate a beginner’s mind which is having an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few." - Shunryu Suzuki

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Listening To Your Body

Do you listen to your body? What I mean is do you notice when your body is telling you that it needs a rest such as when you suddenly have a sore throat even though you have not eaten any fried or spicy food?

Yesterday when I woke up, my throat was feeling so dry and there seems to be something blocking the throat passage which I couldn’t clear. I realized that I was having a sore throat and made some of my sore throat remedy to drink. It helped to soothe the throat but I was still feeling the dryness in my throat when I went for my Ashtanga Led 2 class in the evening. Throughout my practice, I was not feeling the energy and flow and I couldn’t bind my hands in Marichyasana D and Pasasana as I couldn’t use my breath to help me in the pose. My Ujjayi breath was not smooth and felt constricted and my throat felt very dry.

I decided not to go to my yoga class today as I am still having the sore throat. I know my body is telling me that it needs to rest as I have been going to class almost every day and I have also been keeping late nights as I had stayed up to watch a Taiwanese series and was not getting enough sleep.

It’s a wonder how our body works. Do you notice when your body starts to complain? It could be an ache that suddenly develops out of nowhere or falling sick when you were feeling ok the previous day.

Many a times, if you look back on the times you fell sick, it would most probably be that you had tired or put too much stress on yourself and it’s your body mechanism telling you that it needs a rest. So watch out for the little signals your body is giving and give it a rest before a minor problem becomes a big one.

Increase your sensitivity to and awareness of the true needs of your body by listening to it and give it the due respect it deserves!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Core Tips for a Better Yoga Practice

I am a fan of Sadie Nardini’s Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga on Facebook and she has been posting core tips which I am integrating into my practice. I am posting some of her tips here which I have compiled to share with you all.

Core Tip 1:

When transitioning from Upward Dog to Downward Dog and while lowering into Chaturanga or pushing back up into Plank, strongly move the sides of your hips and waist back. You will appear to still be in a straight torso alignment, as in Plank, but now you're engaging your Spiral Line, specifically the obliques and serratus muscles that can help to take the weight off your shoulder joints.

Core Tip 2:

In your Handstand preparation, think of exhaling and pulling the sides of your hips and waist straight back towards the wall, strongly, as you hop. This will engage the obliques and give you far more core power than using the back or front of the body only.

The above tips teach us how to engage the obliques and serratus muscles which provide us with more core power for a better practice.

Core Tip 3:

In Downward Dog, lift the sides of your waist towards the ceiling and forward, until you feel your armpits hollow and shoulder joints lighten. It's farther than you might think. Make sure your elbows are facing diagonally forward to allow an external rotation of upper arms balanced with the inner rotation of the lower arms.

Core Tip 4:

In Downward Dog, resist your hands towards one another, as if the thumbs would come to touch (though your hands don't actually move from their shoulder-distance placement on the mat) and you'll get a corresponding widening in the shoulder joints and collarbones.

The above tips help to instantly decompress your shoulders, neck and upper back.

Below is a video where Sadie Nardini talks about Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga and how it can transform your yoga practice.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ashtanga Led 2 Class

I went for my first Ashtanga Led 2 (Intermediate series) class on Wednesday. The class starts and ends the same as the first series class but with different poses in the middle. For our first class, Azmi had chosen seven poses from the Intermediate Series which were done after Marichyasana D. He told us that after the 2nd class, he will be cutting out a pose from the primary series and adding another pose from the intermediate series.

The poses we did from the second series were Pasasana, Krounchasana, Shalabhasana A , Shalabhasana B, Bhekasana, Dhanurasana, Parshva Dhanurasana and Ushtrasana. I have done these poses before in the Hatha classes but poses which require me to lie on my stomach have always been not easy for me as I have a tight back and my hips tend to lift off the floor.

The poses in the Intermediate Series composed of more backbend poses and inversions. As the series is also known as Nadi Shodhana which means channel cleansing, the poses help to purifies, opens and clears the energy pathways through our bodies.

Because we spend so much time hunched over the computer, most of us find it difficult to do backbends as our body will tend to resist this unfamiliar territory. Backbends helps to open the heart and chest and strengthens the back and abdominal muscles while inversions are strengthening poses as the shoulders, back, abdomen and legs have to work especially hard to work against gravity from the opposite direction and being upside down also helps to stimulate blood circulation.

I am taking the poses one at a time and hope to see my own progress in them as I learn to open my heart more in the backbend poses. I found this interesting article about The Compassionate Back Bends at Yoga Journal website where the writer wrote about how we should develop a different approach to our practice to find joy in opening the front of our bodies.

I would also like to share this website where a very good article about backbends is uploaded. It explores about backbends and the spine and provide some principles specific to backbends.