Coming back to earth (and the body)

Ah and finally the rain has arrived, about time, nothing quite so cleansing for the energy and also energising for the earth, which needs it, desperately.

Thankfully the rain held off over the weekend and while it may have been a little fresher than I would have liked, it was still glorious with the sunshine filling the skies.

On Saturday I helped to rake over the rotivated beds in the greenhouse and plant out some of the seedlings, so now we have tomatoes and squash, courgettes and more squash in the ground! We planted out more seeds too, a variety of herbs, as well as some squash and passion fruit seeds we brought all the way back from Byron Bay.

On Sunday E and I joined the rest of the group for the second training session for the forthcoming Three Peaks challenge. This time we met at the Bathing Pools and walked to Saints Bay along the cliffs and then back to the Bathing Pools via all the green lanes. What a stunning and indeed energising way to begin a Sunday. The blue bells are out in force along the cliff paths and while blue bell woods is not yet as stunning as other years, it still makes for a lovely walking experience.

The sea looked crystal clear from above and in the sheltered spots, where the sun made us feel rather warm, it actually looked inviting. Still I know from my brief swim at Vazon with E on Friday that it is anything but inviting once you stick a toe in the water, let alone submerge the rest of your body (it certainly work us up!). Still I couldn't help being reminded, once again (post holiday blues and all that) that we live on a fantastically beautiful little Island.

I particularly enjoyed walking through the woods around Fermain. There is something special about being in woodland. I guess it is the energy; the soft earth under foot, the way the sunlight dapples its way through the trees, the soft sounds of nature, and the sense of being far away from anything else, and totally conscious of the moment. It is an incredibly healing environment, a perfect place to sit under a tree and allow the worries of the world to soften away from the shoulders where they usually sit.

Yesterday I helped Mum plant out the outdoor seedlings in the outdoor raised beds that my Dad has lovingly made for us this year. We planted broccoli and purple sprouting, sprouts and artichokes, more courgettes and squash. We potted more seeds and went to the gardening centre to invest in a few more. I bought some seeds for the garden here too; this seed planting gets all a little addictive - it just blows my mind how they just grown, knowing what to do all on their own, obviously with the help of some heat, soil and water!

I have been reading quite a few Yoga texts this weekend. There was a wonderful article in one of the Yoga Therapy magazines about the recent publicity surrounding the dark side of Yoga (known now as the Great Yoga Debate). It is a fantastic article, written by Jill Miller, and I would like to share extracts of it with you, as it may resonate, as it did for me, especially as a teacher watching people push themselves into poses, because they think they should be doing them (and as a practitioner too, and falling into that trap myself in my earlier days and damaging my neck in the process):-

"I remember working with one student who had multiple disc bulges in her neck and experienced shooting pains when turning her head, yet she insisted that her practice of shoulderstand had not created or exacerbated the problem. The pose is often touted as the "queen of all asana" and it is a goal for many practitioners. The challenge with the pose is that very few humans have the off-the-charts range of motion and strength to be able to do it safely. Some people are able to practice this pose with sufficient props - but even then it is still not advise able for some people due to the pressure it creates on the cervical spine. Shoudlerstands can create a host of issues in the neck vertebrae and discs, as well as in the shoulder joints and ribs. The damage doesn't always show up overnight, but the repetition of poor form or one's body just not being suited to a particular pose can do massive damage over time, which was the case with this student...

...Sometimes there is a disconnect in the body between what we are doing and what the physical actions are doing to us. This student believed that shoulderstand was a healing pose; all the literature declared it so, but ultimately it was not an appropriate pose for her because of her body's specific architecture. Unfortunately she was not able to feel the negative effects that were building up in her body". How is this possible? Blame it on faulty proprioception.

Proprioception is defined as "a body's sense of itself in space". In order to prevent injury in our practice, we need to keenly pay attention to our body-sense to better assess where our body's joints and soft tissues are within a pose; in other words increasing our body's ability to propriocept. The brain calculates millions of sensory impulses every minute; some of these sensations are brought to conscious awareness, but most of the time our minds are too busy to notice each and every sensation. We can also "numb out" our own sensory feedback loops by over stretching nerves and thus easily "blow past" a safe end-range. Each time you unwittingly exceed your body's specific range of motion, micro-damage can occur in the soft-tissue level - until one day you hear a loud pop in your hamstring or feel a searing explosion of pain in your neck or lower back".

So if anything, this article helps to acknowledge that the recent bad press is okay, because it is simply a call for more awareness, a moment of reflection for teachers and students. It simply encourages us to acknowledge that there is a grey area in Yoga, like there is in every aspect of life, an area where we must be willing to face the intricacies of both our practice and our bodies - and in the process become more self-aware, which is what Yoga helps us to do anyway. And with more awareness we can become more conscious of behaviour patterns in our physical, mental and emotional bodies, partciurlalry those that no longer serve us.

I am really passionate about this at the moment. The manner in which both Yoga and Reiki can help to transform us back to our trueness. How they help to strip away the layers of denial and resistance, of the armour we have created to protect the core of our very being. It is never easy coming face to face with yourself. but with courage and commitment, we can truly use our practice to let go of the years of conditioning and all that other stuff that often holds us back from living the life we truly desire and indeed deserve, and yet helps us to appreciate what we have and be quietly accepting of the moment.

I am re-reading Cyndi Lee's book at the moment. She is my favourite Yoga teacher and I could quite easily quote all she says to share with you here. But last night I read the following that just says it so much better than I can hope to say it, "When we practice asanas, we fold over, twist, turn upside down and inside out, place our body in specific shapes and stay there. During this process of re patterning our nervous system and reopening our pranic thoroughfares, we look to our breath and our mind for feedback on how we are doing on the tightrope of not too tight and not too loose. Throughout all this movement, we never leave our mat. We never go anywhere, except towards a recognition of who we are, starting with a deeper understanding of how we relate to our own body."

And again, "Many people think of Yoga as just stretching. But if we only try to get bigger and go out, out, out, it would be like taking a huge breath in...and never exhaling. That;s not stretching, that is grasping. Without a connection to the breath, Yoga is just a series of frozen shapes that solidify whatever opinions we already have about who we are and what our bodies do.

With proper understanding and a little pranayama practice under your belt, the rhythm of breathing in and out can be your guide as you begin to learn or deepen your Yoga practice. Eventually it will become a seamless process of extending and gathering, of falling back to centre and radiating out, over and over again. When we experience this natural sway in our body, mind, and breath, we begin to feel a connection to the changing seasons, the movements of night and day, the flow of the tides, and the heartbeat of all beings. We begin to make Yoga - union - with everything and everybody. When we can do this we will begin to experience an even greater sense of balance between the three aspects of our being - body, breath, and mind".

The key is to practice, practice, practice.

And enjoy your life.

On that note, time to go and practice on the mat!

With love and gratitude to all my teachers, in whatever form.

Om Namah Shivaya

Ross DespresComment