The abdominal breath moves the diaphragm down and up as you inhale and exhale, pushing the abdominal organs forward, and then back inward. The air is encouraged into the lower lobes of the lungs and the organs in the lower torso are massaged, stimulated and relaxed. It’s a fantastic breathing exercise to practice to release tensions and stresses at the end of the day and also to help to ease and release lower back discomfort. It will help to improve the functioning of your diaphragm and encourage more prana and oxygen into the body.
Lie on your back, knees bent or legs stretched out. Place your hands on your abdomen. As you breathe in through your nose work with your diaphragm to expand the abdomen into the palms of your hand, as you exhale draw the abdomen back in towards the spine. Continue the practice for 5 minutes initially and increase from there.
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The Bija Mantra are one-syllable seed sounds that, when said aloud, activate the energy of the chakras in order to purify & balance the mind & body. When you speak the Bija Mantra, you resonate with the energy of the associated chakra, helping you focus upon your own instinctive awareness of your body and its needs. It’s an incredibly powerful practice, which can help to raise energy levels and encourage greater grounding and wholeness. Repeat mantra for as long as feels intuitively right for you to do so, and really feel the movement in body as you repeat the mantra while focusing on that particular energy centre.
Awareness on root chakra at base of spine and repetition of the mantra “LAM”
Awareness on the sacral chakra in pelvis and repetition of the mantra “VAM”
Awareness on the solar plexus chakra at navel and repetition of the mantra “RAM”
Awareness on the heart chakra in centre of chest and repetition of the mantra “YAM”
Awareness on the throat chakra at throat and repetition of the mantra “HAM”
Awareness of the third eye at space between the eyebrows and repetition of the mantra “OM”
Awareness of the Crown chakra at top of crown and repetition of the mantra “OM”
This is a great practise to relieve anxiety and tension and lift the spirits.
Sitting in a comfortable, upright position, slowly inhale and as you do so, raise the arms and gently block the ears with the index fingers or the thumbs (the other fingers can rest on top of the head for support). As you breathe out make a long low tones humming sound and listen to the vibration in your head. Lower the hands when the exhalation is complete. Repeat up to 15 minutes.
We live in a world of constant vibration, intelligent vibration actually, because everything that exists is really energy information, or energy in-formation – vibration.
These vibrations form matter, substance or intangible things. The key frequency of vibration of an object or an animal is known as its resonant frequency. Vibrating or oscillating systems will absorb energy if the energy is delivered in the resonant frequency.
Although they may seem like inert objects crystals are very much alive, they are both filled with energy and are conduits of energy – that is one of the reasons crystals are used in watches, radios and modern medical devices.
Crystals amplify their own energy as well as the Divine universal energy, which we already know as Ki, Chi, Prana, Love and Reiki. Crystals have been used for healing since before Egyptian times. With advances in geology and quantum physics, the structure and energy of crystals is beginning to be understood.
Like human beings that vibrate on their own individual frequency crystals vibrate on their own individual frequency. We have all had the experience of meeting a perfect stranger and either liking that person immediately or feeling an antipathy towards them – without in any way being able to explain our feelings or emotions.
Enjoy more energy – sometimes we have all the energy we need, whilst at other times it is sadly lacking. Invisible, intangible energy is affected by everything in your life: your thoughts, your choice of friends, your colleagues, family members, and how much fun you are having at the time. Having lists of incomplete jobs drains your energy. Worrying and any kind of anxiety rapidly deplete your reserves.
Conversely, some people and places make you feel energised, enthusiastic and positive. The trick is to identify the people who regularly drain your energy and distance yourself from them as much as possible. Choose to spend more time with those whose company you enjoy and who understand and inspire you. There are a number of steps you can take;
- Throw out clutter, regularly clear out piles of paperwork and magazines that build up, delete old contacts from your email and facebook;
- Keep your thinking positive;
- Vary your routine, doing something different each day, and things you enjoy too;
- Move around as much as possible during the day, especially at work, walk when you can;
- Make the effort to do something you love, taking time to enjoy yourself every day;
- Set goals, so that you have something to work towards;
- Create time and space for yourself to complete tasks by turning off mobiles and responding to emails or messages only at designated times during the day;
- Do not let anger build up – if someone is angering you, express yourself and discuss it with them – if there is nothing further you can do, send Reiki to the situation and release it from your thoughts;
- Avoid stimulants such as tea and coffee late at night, get enough sleep, drink lots of water and eat plenty of nutritious food and engage in regular exercise;
- If you are Reiki attuned, give yourself Reiki for as little as 15 minutes a day to keep your energy level high;
- Spend as much time as you can outdoors enjoying fresh air – natural light makes you feel good, whilst artificial light drains you. If possible, keep plenty of plants in the room where you work, so your environment is oxygen rich (add crystals too!).
Sit in a comfortable position. Breathe in through the nose using Ujjayi breath if you can before breathing out very gently and softly through the mouth as if you are trying to blow a piece of thin golden thread out into the middle of the Universe. Continue for a few minutes. This breathing technique offers the potential to experience a calm and cool mind.
Here is an example of a grounding exercise:
- Place your feet flat on the ground approximately hip width apart, knees soft, spine elongated.
- Take your awareness to your feet and imagine that your feet are sinking through the earth into the ground below. You are literally planting your feet on the earth.
- Now imagine that you have roots growing out of the soles of your feet down into the earth below. Let the roots sink deep into the earth, down to the very centre of the earth. Now imagine that your roots are attached to the centre of the earth so that you can move freely but are connected to the earth.
- Allow the energy of the earth to flow up through your spine and throughout your body without effort. In this way you can balance energy within the body, both from above and from below.
Writing can do wonders for your health. Not only does it keep your creative juices flowing – or start them flowing – it provides you with the opportunity for a safe, cathartic release valve for the stresses of your daily life. Not only that but it can help you to realise your heart’s desires and the resistance and blocks you put in place to realising these. It can also help you to identify negative patterns and tendencies in your life. There is so much date about the mental and emotional benefits of journaling that holistic therapists, counsellors, psychologists, life-coaches, therapists and social workers encourage their clients to do it. The key however is to focus on what you were thinking and feeling and to express this in your writing. It is a really valuable tool in getting to know yourself a little bit better, healing and coming to recognise your inner truth, as well as helping you process and let go of negativity and stress from your life. And let’s not overlook the creativity of it all. Get yourself a journal and a pencil and get journaling – and remember no one else gets to read it, it’s just for you, part of your daily self-care!!!
Kapalabhati is one of the six Shatkarmas or methods of internal purification in Hatha Yoga. In Sanskrit, ‘Kapal’ means the skull and ‘Bhati’ means to shine or illuminate. Kapalbhati cleans the cranial sinuses and hence the name.
Kapalbhati is a breathing technique where rapid inhalation and exhalation is done. The exhalation is forceful and rapid, while the inhalation is normal. Exhalation is the main part of Kapalbhati as this helps to throw out the stale air from the lungs. The resulting inhalation increases the oxygen content in the blood. It has the effect of purifying the nerves and the pranic nadis.
In normal breathing, inhalation is the active process while exhalation is passive. In Kapalbhati this is reversed. The abdominal muscles and the diaphragm are used to forcefully exhale the air. The abdominal muscles forcefully move inwards towards the diaphragm thereby throwing the air out. The inhalation is done in a passive relaxed way to fill the lungs with fresh air. This is practiced without any gap between two respirations.
Kapalbhati should not be practiced by those suffering from heart ailments, high blood pressure, stroke or epilepsy. Those with ulcers should do it with caution. If you had any recent surgery of the thorax and abdomen, you should avoid the practice.
- Kapalbhati has to be practiced on an empty stomach. Early morning is the best time for the practice.
- To do Kapalbhati, sit in a steady and comfortable pose with the spine extended and the waist long
- Place the hands on the knees and breathe normally.
- Relax the whole body
- Now, take a brief inhalation then actively exhale for up to 20 breaths. As you exhale actively draw the abdomen towards the spine and allow the inhalation to happen as a consequence of this – the focus is on the exhalation.
- Take a few deep breaths in and out before repeating number 5 perhaps increasing the exhale up to 25 breaths.
- Take a few deep breaths in and out before repeating number 5 increasing the exhale to 30 counts
- Sit quietly and notice any changes in how you feel, perhaps a clearing to the frontal part of the brain, or an increased awareness of subtle vibration within the body or perhaps no change at all!
Find some quiet time to spend alone in nature, sitting on the earth or the sand and just allowing your mind to wonder, meditating on your desires and intentions. You will feel much better for taking this time for yourself, and especially outside where it is often easier to hear your inner voice and that of your angels too. Just spending time quietly in nature, even just ten minutes, can have a profound effect on our health and sense of wellbeing.
This is a beautiful and profound technique that creates a balance between the right and left sides of the brain and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The right nostril governs the sympathetic nervous system, it is related to the logical, left brain mind. The left nostril governs the parasympathetic nervous system, the creative and passive side of the brain, ruled by the moon energy.
Every 88 minutes one of the nostrils is dominant, then for up to 4 minutes both nostrils operate equally, and for the next 88 minutes the other nostril becomes more dominant and so on. This technique tricks the brain, it does not know which nostril to make dominant, and so it lets the breath flow evenly in and out of both.
Essentially this is one of the ancient classical “pranayama” techniques that clear blockages in two of the major energy pathways (nadis) to allow for a balanced flow of physical and mental energy and gives a balanced outlook on life.
Use Vishnu mudra. Inhale and exhale the tidal breath through the right nostril and then inhale right, close right, exhale left, inhale left, close left and continue out of right. Finish the round by exhaling out of the right nostril.
In its purest sense, the term “Positive Thinking” refers to the ability to understand and live in accordance with Vedanta, one of the six main schools of Indian philosophy. The main teachings of the Vedanta are to be found in ancient scriptures known as the Upanishads, meaning the “highest knowledge”.
On a more simple level, positive thinking helps an individual to maintain mental balance and clarity. There is a belief that we can manifest situations, events and conditions in our lives based on the thoughts we are thinking. Therefore it is advantageous to try to adopt positive thinking so that we can create positive situations in our lives.
Try and notice the nature of your thoughts, whether you have a tendency to negative thinking and see if you can catch yourself before you fall into negative thinking and shift your thinking to be more positive. Over the time the more you catch yourself falling into negative thinking patterns, the more you will come to recognise that these are not you, just a tendency you have developed over time. With this awareness you can start to transform your thinking into more positive terms and realise that you are the creator of your destiny depending on the nature of the thoughts to which you give energy!
“Gratitude” has become a bit of a buzzword these days, but it is still a beneficial practice to incorporate into your daily life. “Gratitude turns what you have into enough and more”. Acknowledge with gratitude the positive aspects to your life each day, be that verbally out to the Universe, or in a journal, or perhaps cut out pictures and create a gratitude collage. You can also make it a part of family life and share it with others during mealtimes and before going to sleep at night. It can be very helpful if you are used to only focusing on the negatives in your life, especially if you are suffering with depression or antipathy. If this is the case then perhaps acknowledge 5 things you are grateful for each day, and see how this starts to shift your awareness and makes you more aware of all you have, rather than all you feel you are lacking in your life.
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Historically the yogic diet is Sattvic in nature, which means that it pure and consists of foods that calm the mind and sharpen the intellect. These are wholesome, and naturally delicious foods without preservatives and artificial flavourings. They include fresh and dried fruits and berries, pure fruit juices, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, salads, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, wholemeal breads, honey, fresh herbs, herbal teas and dairy products such as organic milk and butter.
A Sattvic diet is easily digested and supplies maximum energy, increasing vitality, strength and endurance. It will help to eliminate fatigue, even for those who undertake strenuous and difficult work. Saying all this, if you do not eat a Sattvic diet, it does not mean that you are necessarily any less yogic. However it is important to consider the ethics and ecology of the foods that you eat, respecting animals and the earth and the effect of the food stuff on your body, mind and emotional state.
In this fast paced world in which we now live, very few people find time, or indeed make time, to properly relax. Instead the mind, body and senses are continually bombarded with stimuli and have no chance to rejuvenate themselves. In order to increase one’s sense of wellbeing and health, it is important to set aside time each day to allow this rejuvenation to take place. The act of relaxation is therefore central to yoga.
Learning to relax properly is as important as learning to practice the postures or breathe properly. It could be said that while the yoga poses help to create extra energy and the movement of energy within the body, relaxation helps to seal this energy – it allows the cells to absorb the effect of the practice. Thus it is really important to relax at the end of a physical practice and allow the body and mind to rest. This is often very difficult for people, not simply to relax the body and let go of (often long held) tensions, but more so to relax the mind, which can often be very active and resist the relaxation process.
Furthermore uncontrolled emotions use up as much energy as physical activity, although we are seldom aware of this. Proper relaxation is about letting go of emotions, observing them for what they are and understanding their changing and impermanent nature.
Often people think that relaxation is simply a physical condition so that by watching TV or drinking wine this is relaxing, but this this will not create true relaxation. Proper relaxation comes only when the mind, body and spirit are at ease.
Savasana (corpse pose) is the ideal posture in which to relax. The posture requires that you lie flat on the ground, completely relaxed, and simply breathe. Relaxation before, during and after any physical activity is vital in order to bring your heart beat back to normal, circulate fresh air and prana through your body, eliminate lactic acid from your muscle and allow the mind and spirit to relax.
You lie flat on the ground with eyes closed and chin tucked gently towards the chest, lengthening the back of the neck. The legs are straightened along the ground, feet hip width apart and outer edges of feet softening towards the outer edges of the mat, toes relaxed. If this is uncomfortable for the lower back then the knees should be bent. The arms should rest beside the body, hands a few inches away from the sides of the body with the palms facing upwards. Fingers, hands, arms and shoulders should be relaxed.
The breath should be light as the body is allowed to sink to the ground, eye balls almost sinking in the eye sockets and tensions easing. The mind should also be allowed to relax so that while thoughts will likely still come to mind, energy is not given to them so that they pass through as quickly as they arrived.
One should never underestimate the importance of Savansana in day to day life, taking time out like this is a true gift to the self and should be encouraged for true healing to take place and for the body, mind and soul to feel rested and nurtured.
There are many different meditation techniques so that some are led and some are guided and the experience and effect will be different for everybody. The more you practice the more you begin to understand that there is no secret method, and no quick way to mental peace. Simply by practicing the techniques over time your mind begins to clear, your thoughts begin to slow down and you are much more in control of your emotions. It really can be a life changing experience that you will want to incorporate into your life on a daily basis.
Many students however do not realise this and come to class expecting to be taught how to meditate. In fact many teachers make a lot of money proclaiming to being able to teach others to meditate. The truth is, meditation must come from within and it must come from taking the time practice and from observing the self in the moment. It is not an easy process but one that does offer many rewards with a regular and dedicated practice.
Ujjayi translates as “what clears the throat and masters the chest area” (Dekishar, Heart of Yoga). By gently constricting the glottis at the back of the throat it is possible to slow the rate of breathing considerably and thereby activate the natural relaxation response (the parasympathetic aspect of the automatic nervous system).
Thus with its concentration on the hissing sound during inhalation and exhalation, this is a meditative breath. It has a profoundly relaxing effect on a psychic level. It soothes the central nervous system and calms the mind. It can help to cure insomnia. It slows down the heartbeat and is useful for people suffering with high blood pressure.
Sit in any comfortable upright position and close the eyes. Lightly constrict the back of the throat until the breath has a soft whispering quality. This is the same movement we make when we snore. When done correctly it feels as though the breath is being inhaled and exhaled through an imaginary hole in the throat. Coolness will also be felt in the throat. The breath can become much slower and can be heard by the person next to you (bit not the whole room).
Viloma means to go against the grain (as in a grain of timber) or against the natural order of things. The natural order of the breath is to flow continuously in and then out. The feeling should bring about a feeling of calmness or lightness within the body and mind.
This pranayama may be compared to climbing up a tall ladder, with a pause at each step.
- Inhale into the bottom of the lungs as you count (counting at a rate that is comfortable for you) 1,2,3
- Pause briefly as you count 1,2
- Inhale middle 1,2,3
- Pause 1,2
- Inhale top 1,2,3
- Pause 1,2
- Exhale beginning at the top of the lungs 1,2,3,4…to…9
- Pause 1,2 (maintaining the same rate of counting throughout)
This is a wonderful breathing technique to increase your lung capacity, bring fresh oxygen and life force into your body and let go of stress and tension. Lie comfortably on your back, or comfortably with the spine extended.
- On the inhalation, first, send the air to the bottom of the lungs so that the abdomen fills and moves away from the spine, then continue the inhalation, expanding the ribcage outwards and then finally take the breath higher to fill up the chest.
- On the exhalation, first, relax the chest and let out the air naturally; then, relax the ribcage; and finally, pull in the belly to complete the exhale.
- Begin with ease, and gradually, let the breath deepen.
- Never breathe too deeply. Always keep the breath comfortably full.
- At the top of the inhale, the chest should lift up gently. At the bottom of the exhale, the abdomen should be all the way in.
- Start with 5 minutes and progress from there.