Comment

The Joy of Yoga Nidra

IMG_3261.JPG

Today I came across an article I wrote a while ago now for a Yoga magazine on the joys of Yoga Nidra.  I still thoroughly enjoy Yoga Nidra and have spent this year undertaking a foundation course on it.  This has meant I've practiced a lot of Yoga Nidra in all different formats and from different traditions this past year too, which has really helped me with the post-natal exhaustion.

I've also found that Yoga Nidra has helped to me to connect more deeply with my creativity, I've been writing a lot! I've also re-discovered a love of painting and have more creative ideas than I may have done previously.

Everyone should practice Yoga Nidra!  This is one of the reasons I incorporate Yoga Nidra into all of my retreats and ensure that we finish the Sunday morning Yoni Yoga class with one.  Bliss!!

If you'd like to know more then keep reading:

When I initially started practicing Yoga almost 10 years ago now, I simply could not relax.  It was impossible.  At the end of the Yoga class when the teacher announced Savasana, I would try and find any possible excuse to leave the class early so that I could avoid the last few minutes of relaxation. 

It was not so much that I was adverse to the idea of relaxation per se, it was more so that I found relaxing so mentally uncomfortable.  There were simply too many thoughts, too many tick lists, too many things I should be doing, rather than simply lying there on the floor trying to relax.

When I first ventured out to Byron Bay in Australia to immerse myself in Yoga a year into my practice, I shall never forget my first 2 hour Yoga session (the normal length of the classes out there at that time).  While I loved every single minute of the asana practice, the problem came, however, with a 20 whole minutes of quiet relaxation at the end of the class.  Proper quiet that is, with no music, no distraction, nothing.  Those were the longest 20 minutes of my life, or so it seemed in that moment!

Still with me attending these 2 hour sessions once or twice a day every day for a month and unable to leave the class early (many teachers will understandably discourage you from doing so), I quickly developed my own way of dealing with the mental chatter.  I imagined in my mind a train line with open trucks in which I placed each of my thoughts and then watched them pass by, one after the other, until I was able, eventually, to experience some relief from the constant background mental chatter.

Over the next year I practiced a lot of Yoga as I developed my practice both on and off the mat, qualifying as a Yoga teacher in the process.  My ability to relax improved hugely, but it wasn’t until I assisted on a teacher training course at Govinda Valley, Sydney that I discovered the joy and indeed benefit of Yoga Nidra. The relaxation became something I enjoyed rather than something that I endured at the end of a Yoga class.

I can still remember the experience of that first Yoga Nidra clearly.  There we were, the whole class of students, lying comfortably in the corpse pose, a bolster under knees and a blanket covering each of us to keep us warm as the teacher’s gentle voice soothed us into a state of cosy bliss as we relaxed each part of our body part by part, experiencing sensations and bringing awareness to the natural breath; it was a journey like no other I had experienced previously.

Time lost all meaning, what was actually 30 minutes felt like 5, and before I knew it we were back in the room, on our mats, in our bodies, feeling much more centred and grounded than I had felt at the beginning of the class.  What was also noticeable was the fact the mental chatter had eased, I had managed to drift beyond it into that wonderful state of being between being awake and asleep, the hypnotic state, where real healing takes place.  I felt brighter, lighter, rested and renewed. 

Essentially Yoga Nidra is a powerful meditation technique inducing complete physical, emotional and mental relaxation.   During Yoga Nidra one appears to be asleep but the consciousness is functioning at a deeper level of awareness so that you are prompted throughout the practice to say to yourself mentally, “I shall not sleep, I shall remain awake”.

Before beginning Yoga Nidra you make a Sankalpa, or a resolution for the practice.  The Sankalpa is an important stage of Yoga Nidra as it plants a seed in the mind encouraging healing and transformation in a positive direction.  The Sankapla is a short positive mental statement established at the beginning of the practice and said mentally to yourself in the present tense, as if it had already happened, such as “I am happy, healthy and pure light”, or “I am whole and healed”.

 

A Sankalpa can also be used to encourage you to let go of something in your life like smoking or overeating, focusing on the underlying feeling that leads you to smoke or to overeat such as “I love and care for myself and my body”, or “I choose to eat foods that support my health and wellbeing” or “I am relaxed and contented”.    In fact simply having the opportunity to establish a Sankalpa is powerful in itself as it gives you a focus and enhances your awareness of self.

It is actually in connecting with yourself that you come to realise all the deep seated tensions that Yoga Nidra helps you to release.  These are all the unconscious and unresolved issues that are playing a role in some of the unwanted habits and behaviour patterns you are noticing consciously.  This is the stuff that goes through your mind time and time again, the stuff you resolve to change at the beginning of each year but that “will” alone will not change.  What you need to do is get to the root of the problem and Yoga Nidra provides you with a means to do this.

With all the letting go of this “stuff”, such as trapped emotions and feelings, you become lighter and there is more energy available to be used in a more positive manner.  Plus with the power of intention in the form of Sankalpa, that which we attract into our life also changes.  It is in this way that Yoga Nidra offers us so much potential for transforming our lives in an even more positive direction than we can ever imagine.

Of course let us not forget the physiological benefits too, such as lowering of the heart rate and blood pressure, the release of lactate from the muscles that can cause anxiety and fatigue, a more restful night’s sleep and, ultimately, a calming and unwinding of the nervous system, which is basically the foundation of the body’s wellbeing.  So you see our physical health and sense of wellbeing can improve too.

Over the years Yoga Nidra has helped me in so many ways.  At times of crisis, when I have been tired and exhausted, sick and stressed, it has helped to restore, renew and heal me.  At confused times in my life when I have been unclear of the way forward then it has provided me with much needed clarity.  At other times it has helped me to let go of unhealthy addictions and behaviour patterns, the most profound was changing my relationship to myself and therefore enabling me to effortlessly let go of the need to smoke tobacco after so many years of battling with this nicotine addiction.

These days relaxation comes easily to me and I positively seek out and embrace any opportunity for Yoga Nidra for it is just such an amazing practice. In this stressful and fast paced world we live, where we can feel so disorientated and fragmented, it really helps to bring us back together and connect with ourselves again. Needless to say, I cannot promote the benefits of Yoga Nidra to you enough. But of course you cannot benefit from merely intellectualising these things, and reading about it will not necessarily change things.  What you really need to do is make a commitment to take the time out for yourself.  Lie comfortably, cover yourself with a blanket, close your eyes and allow yourself to be guided through a Yoga Nidra session.  I doubt you will regret it, in fact you may find it a life changing experience.

 

 

Comment

Comment

Happy Full Moon!

IMG_3371.JPG

I managed a beautiful sea swim this evening with the full moon in Aries rising in front of us, we saw without our clothes too, it was very naughty and thoroughly liberating!

I was feeling the full moon rage yesterday and felt drawn to paint.  Today dawned blissfully calm as if the full moon had already peaked.  It's calm tonight too, crystals in the garden!

Enjoy the ride, the energy is very heightened on a full moon and it's an ideal time to forgive and acknowledge with gratitude all the wonderful things you might have in your life...creating spaces and higher vibration for new moon manifesting in two weeks time.

Happy new moon!

x

Comment

Comment

Jill's everything but the kitchen sink Kimchi - for good gut health!

The Kimchi festering before potting

The Kimchi festering before potting

I've learned an awful lot about gut health this past ten months. Eben was born with gut issues, a result of his entrance into the world - six weeks early, Caesarean Section, administered antibiotics upon birth, kept in a sterile incubator without much human touch those first few days of his life. It was far from ideal and has resulted in a lack of good microbes, which means he is intolerant to lots of things.

And when I say lots of things, I mean lots of things - dairy, wheat, gluten, oats, soya, tomatoes, strawberries, and peppers. If he eats any of these things then his digestion is compromised (constipation mainly) and his skin flares up with eczema.

It's been quite some journey managing this, not only for him but for me too given that I've been breastfeeding him.  We've followed the GAPS diet as best we can, with bone broth (yep, I even ate organic chicken for a time), lots of coconut oil, olive oil and fermented foods. My Mum's been helping lots and has made this wonderful 'Everything but the kitchen sink' Kimchi", which I share with you here:

Jill's everything but the kitchen sink Kimchi

There are many recipes for Kimchi but I guess the overriding difference to Sauerkraut is the inclusion of chillies.

Ingredients

1 small daikon/mouli grated (I got mine from Forest Stores and they are large, so I only used half in this recipe.   You could use ordinary radishes instead and would need at least a whole packet)
2 large carrots (or equivalent) grated
1 apple grated
1 onion (red or white) or a bunch of spring onions, chopped
1 cabbage, sliced (core removed and cabbage quartered). KEEP 2 or 3 of the outer leaves for 'sealing' the mix in the jar.
1/2 bunch kale (red/white or both) or pack of small pack choi, sliced
5cm piece of ginger, finely grated
2 or 3 red chillies finely chopped or 1 to 2 teaspoons chilli flakes (to taste)
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, finely grated or minced (you do need some garlic but can reduce this amount if not keen or increase - to taste)
2 tablespoons fish sauce or dulse flakes (the latter from Hansa)
2 tablespoons Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt such as Celtic salt - as long as it is decent quality.

Using your hands mix it all in a large glass or ceramic bowl, squeezing it as you do so to start the release of the juices.    If you do this in the morning you can transfer it to jars later that day.  If made later in the day it should be left overnight before potting.

When potting, pack it down so that you force the juices to cover it, but don't pack right to the top of the jar, leave 4 - 5 cm.   Fold one of the retained outer cabbage leaves to create a 'lid' inside the jar, then use a bit of carrot set in the middle of the leaf, a little bit higher than the lid, so that as you screw the lid on, it forces the leaf down and ensures the juices cover the mix.  DON'T screw the lid tightly at this point as you need to leave it on a work surface for 3 days so that it starts to fizz a little.  You can leave it longer but after those 3 days the lids can be screwed on tightly and it can now be stored in the fridge for up to 3 months (if it lasts that long - it is moreish!).

You can vary the vegetables, although cabbage is a staple in it.

Packed into jars, see the liquid near the top  

Packed into jars, see the liquid near the top

 

Use the retained outer leaves, folded, to 'seal' the kimchi below.  Use carrot, a little higher than the lid, to push the seal down when you put the top on.

Use the retained outer leaves, folded, to 'seal' the kimchi below.  Use carrot, a little higher than the lid, to push the seal down when you put the top on.

With the lids on loosely, you can clearly see the liquid right up to the top.

With the lids on loosely, you can clearly see the liquid right up to the top.

Comment

Comment

The light of yoga

Yoga 329.jpg

I'm very excited about the seven day yoga challenge that we're launching tomorrow. I love sharing yoga and hope that this may encourage some of you to dust off your mat and have a go.  

I've been thinking recently how yoga can be a little bit like that saying, "people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime".  So it's the same with yoga.  For me it's certainly a lifelong practice, whilst I recognise that people flit in and out, sometimes because something is going on in their lives and they need the support and other times, because yoga gets too confronting.

I realised yesterday that I've now been practicing yoga, on a virtually daily basis for 14 years now. My body's changed a lot during that time, not least in terms of my flexibility,  but the hugest change has been in my outlook on life and my relationship with my self (which has had a knock on effect on every relationship in my life).

I was suffering with depression and PMS when I discovered yoga. It was for those reasons that I sought it out. Yoga made me feel better.  I mean not consistently better, at least not overnight, but gradually the depression eased as I made changes in my life, that the yoga has helped me to realise needed to be made, and gave me the strength to make the changes.

I came home to myself, to my heart and soul. Yoga saved my life.  It taught me how to dream and to believe in my dreams, it encouraged me to see the positive in all things. It helped me to learn to love myself again, to let go of the insecurities and the shame, to acknowledge my gifts and use them. It helped me to heal.

It also helped to deepen my connection to Mother Earth and to take responsibility for my impact on her. This recognition in itself has been hugely life changing, because it's all too easy to overlook this and not take any responsibility. It's made me more conscious then, which has been hugely rewarding, if at times confronting!

Yoga's amazing and I shall be eternally grateful to all the yogis and yoginis who came before me and led the way. Thank you. I hope that the seven day challenge may help in a way too, passing on a little of the light passed on to me. 

Happy practicing!

x

 

 

Comment

1 Comment

Yummy immune Boosting Soup Recipe

I can’t take credit for the recipe, it’s been adapted from one given to me from an Australian cookbook…its incredibly yummy, and very good for you!

Ingredients

3 cups of sweet potato, cut into 3cm cubes

1 leek (both white and green parts), cut in half, washed and thinly sliced

2 tsp cooking oil

1 garlic glove, minced

1 Tbsp grated ginger

1.5litres basic vegetable stock

1 medium broccoli head, small florets and thin slices of tender stalk

2 cups of seasonal leafy greens such as kale or spinach

½ cup cashew nuts

1 tsp sea salt

¼ large bunch flat leaf parsley

Fruity, high quality extra virgin olive oil

What to do

Preheat the over to 200 Celcius

Toss the sweet potato in oil to coat, place on a roasting tray, and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the potato is tender inside and golden outside.

In a large, heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole, sauté the leek in cooking oil for 8-10 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and ginger, sauté another 2 minutes. Next add all the stock. Add the broccoli pieces, leafy green, roasted sweet potato (whenever its ready, it can be added a little later if necessary), cashews and salt. Simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add three quarters of the chopped parsley (it will cook almost instantly in the hot soup).

Turn off the heat and puree the soup either with a and held blender or a food processor. Reheat then mix in a few grinds of peppercorn and taste for seasoning.  Garnish with remaining parsley and a glug of olive oil.

Enjoy!!

 

 

1 Comment