"It's a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you're ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.” - Hugh Laurie
Yoga and meditation can often seem like an elusive mystical practice, shrouded in ritual, ceremony and mantra.
Ritual can serve us well. The combination of routine and intention can help us find creativity and focus. Certain daily habits can promote positive thinking and self care. Mementos can serve as a reminder of people, values and things that we hold dear in our hearts.
But sometimes it is worth reflecting on whether ritual is actually a help or a hindrance. Sometimes we can get caught up on timing and circumstance. I can't practice yoga because I don't have my mat. I can't meditate because I don't have my cushion, my candles, my mala beads, my crystals. I can't set an intention because it isn't a new moon. I am not suggesting that we should toss aside all or indeed any of these things. But perhaps sometimes the place is here and time is now. If we waited for every moment to be perfect we would never get to where we need to be.
Planning everything in meticulous detail can sometimes result in things passing up by. Equally relying on some external force to set us on our way divests us of personal responsibility and accountability. So the next time you find yourself making an excuse not to do something because the circumstances are not absolutely perfect, do it anyway. There is no great mystery. Explore the now and see what happens.
I led a yoga retreat in the wilds of Clare in January with a group 12 wonderful people. There was no WIFI and 3G reception was poor. It was fantastic! Inspired by the wise words of one of my fellow yoginis I deleted the 'mindless scrolling' apps from my phone. I felt very proud of myself. This was my opportunity to be more present, to use my time efficiently and become a better version of myself. The lovely couple who own the retreat centre have 3 children and don't even have a television. Surely I could cut down on my digital interactions. This would be easy.
Online browsing and scrolling would be done in moderation and within a strict time frame. Social media communication would be done only when necessary. A quick dip in and out of the digital waters. I had this under control. But I failed. In reality I just substituted one app for another, an old blog for a new one, a gossip website for a wellness website. I had fallen victim to FOMO. I caught myself mindlessly checking my phone in the middle of conversations. I couldn't tell you what I was actually looking at but the message I was sending to the person sitting opposite me is that 'nothing you have to say is as important as what is popping up on my screen' It isn't and it never will be. So enough is enough.
The interweb is amazing. I would struggle to keep in contact with clients without it. We live in a digital world that is ever evolving to make life easier. We have the answer to any question at our finger tips. We are a screen swipe away from loved ones in far flung places. But too much of a good thing is still too much.
From now on, for one day per week I am disconnecting to reconnect. I want to participate in what I am doing rather than document it. I want to sit and read a book instead of my Facebook feed. I want to have a conversation without distraction. I want to taste and savour every bite of my food instead of looking down and wondering where my lunch has gone. To go for a walk without sharing. To meet, greet and eat without the tweet. It is time to cut way back. I owe it to myself and to those around me. The digital detox starts this Sunday.
Spring is here but I still want a bowl of warm and nourishing goodness in the evening. Cook from stratch or throw together some leftovers. Here is my favourite combination but use whatever you like to build your own 'Buddha Bowl'.
- Toast the cumin, coriander seeds, turmeric & dried chilli flakes in a dry frying pan until you start to smell their natural oils release and then crush the warm spices in a pestle and mortar. Fry some ginger and garlic in a little coconut oil and add the spice mix.
- Toss in the the rice and lentils and slick with the flavoured oil for a minute or two.
- Off the heat, top with whatever 'goodies' you fancy. I am greedy and used them all!
Filling, nutritious and delicious. Eat warm for dinner or cold as a rice salad for lunch.
So the burning question...which style of yoga is the best? Which type of yoga is best for your core? Which type of yoga is best for relaxing? Which type of yoga is best for alignment cues? Which style of meditation is most effective? Which is better - hot yoga, cold yoga, temperate yoga, bikram yoga, iyengar yoga, power yoga, vinyasa yoga, ashtanga yoga, shadow yoga, forrest yoga, anusara yoga, yin yoga, sivananda yoga, kundalini yoga, hatha yoga, hatha flow yoga, dynamic yoga, healing yoga, restorative yoga, jivamukti yoga, [insert your preferred yoga style here] yoga... The list goes on and on and on and frankly it can become confusing and tiresome. Rest assured my style is better than your style!
I practice and teach yoga. I often call it vinyasa yoga as it denotes a quality of flow and movement. But it just yoga. Just yoga, you say? This question is usually accompanied by a raised skeptical eyebrow. For some reason just yoga isn't good enough for some yoga folk. But there must be a lineage, an affiliation, a label. The truth is that no style is inherently bad. No style of yoga is inherently better than any other. It is the attitude of the yogi that makes yoga what it is.
I have a few essential qualities that I crave in my practice and strive to offer in my teaching. A yoga practice that creates calm over chaos. Yoga that cultivates strength and ease equally. Yoga that is mindful and fun. Yoga that is expansive rather than restrictive. Yoga that melts away tension rather than creates it. Yoga that fits my body, my mind, my breath, my intention and not yoga that requires me to contort myself into a precast mould.
My yin teacher once said that if I hurt myself during class it is my fault. And therein lies the essence of yoga. Awareness, intention, reflection and acceptance are the only things that matter. If you are unsure about what you need, try out different classes, different styles, different teachers until you find something that resonates with you. You may find your yoga needs evolve over time. Mine have certainly changed. Does it really matter what it is called? Listen to your body, move with care and enjoy your practice!
I love this variation of Sirsasana. A blog post is not a substitute for good teacher who will demonstrate, instruct thoughtfully and supervise carefully while to you tackle this pose. So get yourself to class! That being said here a few helpful hints to find strength and balance in tripod headstand or sirsasana II.
Attempt this pose towards the later end of your practice. It is important that you give your body, particularly, your shoulders, core and hamstrings time to warm up.
Awareness of the contact points between your body and the floor is crucial. Double over your yoga mat for extra cushioning under the head if you need it. Starting on your hands and knees, bring the crown of your head to the floor and place the palms of your hands flat on the mat, shoulder distance apart. Walk your hands back to the point where the elbows stack directly over the wrists. Your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor which creates the ‘tripod’ between the head and hands.
Proper shoulder engagement is vital to ensure that you neck is not vulnerable in this pose. Once you have found the tripod between hands and head, squeeze the upper arms in towards the sides of the body slightly and draw your shoulder blades down your back. Keep the front points of the shoulders energetically moving up and away from the floor. Think Chaturanga arms! Make sure your neck feels long and never compressed.
Tap into your core strength. Draw the navel back towards the spine, lift the pelvic floor and hug the ribcage in.
Once you have a strong step-up in the upper body you can start to explore different variations of this headstand. Tuck your toes under and lift the hips as though you were doing downdog with the lower body. Baby step your feet towards your hand. When your feet are in as close as possible (essentially your hips are is aligned on top of the head and the shoulders), try bringing each knee, one at a time, to rest on top of your triceps. Engage the muscles of your inner thighs. Stay here for 10 breaths. This compact version may be enough for many weeks or even months.
Once your are more confident, engage your core and float the knees off your triceps, bring your knees together and keep your legs bent, with your heels hovering near your sit bones. Stay here for 10 breaths. Start to extend your legs slowly upwards, straight into the air. Hug the inner legs together and engage the muscles of your feet. Hold for as long as you desire, then come down slowly mirroring the way you came up. Once you can balance with ease you can work toward lifting straight legs off the floor. Never kick up into any variation of headstand. You will risk causing injury to the neck.
It is useful to carry out this pose near a wall but without actually using it to assist you. Use it as a buffer so that you know you have support if you happen to lose your balance.If you take your time you won't fall.
It is best to avoid headstands altogether if you suffer from high blood pressure or acute neck pain. Women on their menstrual cycle and women who are pregnant should consult a doctor before attempting Sirsasana.
Above all have fun with it. Happy balancing!
Yoga Tips & Wellness Musings. Treats & Eats.