Yoga Definitions: Savasana

credit: yoga.com
credit: yoga.com

Ah. Savasana (Sha-vahs-ana). Savasana also known as corpse pose. We lie back on the mat, hands by the hips with the thumbs facing up, we shut our eyes and relax. Seems easy doesn’t it? You just lie down and shut your eyes… Except we want to stay awake and we want to stay aware. We aren’t just losing consciousness like we do when we are going to sleep. we are trying to relax the body, trying to release tension in the muscles, in the face in; in the jaw; in the neck; in the legs; in the feet… Anyway you get the idea! So the act of lying on the mat with the eyes closed might seem simple (and aren’t the simple things often the most difficult?) but there is a lot more going on behind those closed eyes.

As our bodies slow down that’s when the mind becomes most active. You have nothing to distract yourself from the thoughts, or feelings, or tasks you’ve been trying to distract yourself from. You have no choice but to sit with them. Suddenly the brain is buzzing and all sorts of things pop into the head. Who am I? Did I leave the straighteners on? What just happened to me in that yoga class? I don’t think I deserve that? This feels nice? I;m hungry!

Rest assured that this is completely normal and just like our bodies protest when we exercise them in a new way, the mind does the same thing. And don’t be fooled – Savasana is very much an exercise.

Credit: Chopra
Credit: Chopra

Why would we torture ourselves like this?!

The benefits. The benefits of Savasana are enormous and especially pertinent in our modern day lives where our brains are constantly bombarded with stimulus. Screens and more screens, ever growing responsibilities, societal pressures, busy home lives, depression, illness and anxiety disorders, work and more work, global warming! There is always something to worry about and our caveman brains are excellent and devising life threatening scenarios that we simply must save ourselves from. This sets that nervous system on kill, rather than stun, and results in cortisol (stress hormone) flowing round the body for extended periods of time. This sets us on edge, even if we don’t think we are on edge.

Savasana is an excellent way to counter these effects. Savasana is a time for rest, not sleep. Savasana helps us hit the reset button, Control, alt, delete. The physical benefits include:

  • reduced heart rate
  • reduction in blood pressure
  • regulating breath
  • calm the nervous system
  • reduce cortisol in the body
  • develop respiratory system
  • relaxed muscles
  • quieter state of mind

It takes practice, and it can take a lot of practice, so be patient, be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Think of surrendering the body to the mat, perhaps you can surrender in your other postures as well. Perhaps you can surrender some of those extra duties in life that make you unhappy…

Namaste

Yoga Definitions: Mudra

anjali mudraMudra are symbolic gestures that we make with the hands and fingers also known as a ‘seal’ or ‘mark’. Traditionally they were used to facilitate the flow of energy round the body but I use them to engage different muscles in the hands, arms and upper body and to bring a little variety to the practice.

Below you will see a simplified nervous map of the body. There are nerves that run from the spine and body down the arms into the fingers. If reflexology is your bag then stimulating these nerves brings about stimulation in other parts of the body.

In any case setting an intention and repeating it to yourself while you carry out a defined hand movement creates a pathway through the nervous system and into the brain reinforcing the desired behaviour. This is great for brain health for all but can be especially beneficial for those wishing to prevent or reduce the decline in cognitive function due to aging (lavretsky, UCLA).

Here are a few to get you started:

Chin Mudra
  • chin mudraBring thumb and index finger together
  • slightly stretch the remaining three fingers
  • symbolizes the unity of universal and individual consciousness
  • practice for concentration, creativity and as a gesture of knowledge
  • palms face up when you feel receptive of face them down to feel more grounded.
Shuni Mudra
credit: omsica/mind valley
credit: omsica/mind valley
  • Bring middle finger and thumb together
  • slightly stretch the other three fingers
  • practice for patience, discipline and a feeling of stability
Anjali Mudra
  • anjali mudra2Bring palms together in front of the chest
  • fingers to the sky
  • symbolizes honour to yourself and all else
  • express of love and gratitude. Namaste

Yoga Definitions: Chakra

chakras1
Yoga chakras

So perhaps a term you’ve heard in passing or in a comedy sketch and you’ve probably seen something similar to the images in this post. The word Chakra comes for the sanskrit word for wheel and refers to the energy in the body (prana) which, in yoga, travel through channels or ‘nadis’. There are 7 major chakras in yoga and tend towards major glands along the spine and in the skull that secrete hormones that regulate various bodily functions.

The chakras are thought to be spinning vortexes of energy and each one is responsible for different behaviours or values in life. Each also has it’s own colour and mantra as well. If our prana becomes depleted or our nadis become blocked due to poor life habits or pattern behaviours it is said to cause problems in out physical, mental and emotional well-being. By practicing yoga we revitalise the chakras and allow the prana to flow freely again.

  • Root chakra – muladhara – base of spine – red – security
  • sacral chakra- svadhistana – below naval – orange – desire
  • solar plexus chakra – manipura – stomach – yellow – confidence
  • heart chakra – anshata – middle of chest – green – innocence
  • throat chakra – vishuddha – throat – turquoise – communication
  • brow chakra – ajna – between eyebrows – indigo – wisdom
  • crown chakra – sahasrara – head – violet – oneness with all
Yoga Chakra Symbols
Yoga Chakra Symbols

 

Yoga Definitions: Asana

asana

Ok so this one we will all be familiar with. These are the positions/postures/poses that we put ourselves in during the class. We think of asana as physical postures used to get a bit more control of our body’s and also to increase the proficiency of a number of bodily functions.

Through practicing the postures or asana we create strength, endurance, increase flow of energy and circulation around the body, they have an effect on the fascia and lymphatic systems in the body and also help to keep muscles and joints healthy or even improve them. There are also studies that state that yoga is a great way to gain and keep cardiovascular fitness (heart). So you know that you are doing yourself some good.

Some argue that yoga was originally created hundreds even thousands of years ago to prepare the mind for a greater realisation and to rid the body and mind of any ailments that would obstruct this process.

So whether you practice yoga for a bit of mental relaxation, or for the physical benefits or for something more spiritual, it makes no difference to me. It’s YOUR practice after all. What we should watch our for is EGO! Today its the yoga asana is also where ego can really come to the forefront. We push ourselves into postures that our body may not be ready for. And it’s difficult as we all want to make progress in one way or another and sometimes you do need to work close to the limits to make that advancement… But it should be done mindfully and you should be asking yourself in every posture ‘is this right for me?’ and not thinking ‘I should be doing this as that person on the mat next to me is’. This is where one of my favourite benefits of yoga comes in. It allows you to have a greater understand of your body, of how your mind tends to work in all sorts of situations. I feel it can also empower you to feel confident in the decisions you are making, regardless of the opinions of others, which can lead to increased self esteem.

Kicked up into headstand on my own for the first time and felt controlled!
Kicked up into headstand on my own for the first time and felt controlled!

 

Yoga definitions: Namaste 🙏

So if you’ve been to a yoga class chances are you’ve heard the word Namaste. Normally hands come together in front of the chest (or heart centre in yoga) and the teacher will bow while saying ‘namaste’. 

In its simplest term it’s used as a greeting and a goodbye so you may have heard it at the beginning and/or end of your class. 

If you delve a little deeper it can also be used to verbal use an acknowledgement of gsomething  a little bit extra which we all share. For some it’s God, for some it’s light. 

I personally use Namaste at the end of my classes after our savasana as we are all nice and relaxed and in a similar headspace. Figuratively the heart feels ope. And physically the body and the nervous system have become relaxed.

Primarily, in this context at the end of class, my utterance of ‘namaste’ means goodbye but I also bow with the intention that the teacher in me bows to respect the teacher in you. Without you, the students, I wouldn’t have any cues which means I wouldn’t have anything to say. What I learn from you guys shapes the way the class evolves, within a session and over a longer period of time. Just to let you know that that makes you my inspiration 🙂 

🙏Namaste 🙏

Changes to the timetable (week beginning 20/02/2017)

Hello Yogis,

I am off to do my aerial yoga teacher training this week (yippee) and it is midterm break which mean a couple of changes to the timetable. I’m back next week though!

Mon – Yoga @KGS 7:45-8:15pm **No Class – in-service days
Wed – Fitness Yoga @ Picky 12-12:45pm on as normal
Thu – Fitness Yoga @ Picky 7:30-8:15pm **Jane Covering
Sat – Fitness Yoga @ Picky 11am-12pm **Jane Covering

lailalovesaerial
Image: (C) lailaloves

Take care of your own heart

 

Untitled-2Valentine’s day can mean many things to many people. Here at Yoga Orkney we don’t discriminate. We’d like you to take care of your own heart. So whether you have that someone special to celebrate with today or you are rocking Valentine’s day in your own way here are the facts (thanks science) that show doing yoga means taking steps towards increased heart health.

Yoga can:

  • Reduce body weight and BMI
  • Reduce blood pressure (systolic and diastolic)
  • Lower cholesterol (<LDLs and >HDLs)
  • Reduce heart rate

All these factors play a role in your cardio-metabolic health and an increase in any of these is linked with future cardiovascular problems. The good news is that regular physical activity at an adequate level can reduce the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and help maintain a healthy weight. Yoga has even been shown to be as effective as aerobic exercise in favourably modifying body weight and heart rate for the improvement of health.

If you already practice yoga you’ll know how great those few moments of savasana (relaxation) at the end of the class feel. The evidence is beginning to reveal that this could be down to a modulation of autonomic function and a beneficial modification to markers of sympathetic (fight or flight response leads to increased HR) and parasympathetic (all nerves outwith brain and spinal column leads to decreased HR) activity on the heart. Savasana and yoga in general are excellent in combating stress and a reduction in stress leads to positive impacts on neuroendocrine status (hormones for everything!), metabolic and cardio-vagal function (how well all the biomechanical processes work and how variable the heart rate) and related inflammatory responses (how able the body tissues are at dealing with stresses).

So ditch the excuses and hit the mat, Live long and prosper 😉

Namaste

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2047487314562741

 

 

Changes to the timetable (week beginning 13/02/2017)

Hello Yogis,

I am away for training over the next couple of weeks so I will keep you up to date with any changes to the timetable. Classes for the coming week are posted below:

Mon – Yoga @ KGS 7:45-8:30pm (normal)
Wed – Fitness Yoga @ Picky 12-12:45pm **GAVIN COVERING**
Thu – 50+ exercise @ Picky 10-11am, Yoga for Strength @ Picky 12-12:55pm and Fitness Yoga 7:30-8:15pm
Sat – Fitness Yoga @ Picky 11am-12pm

Heart-Health-Yoga

Getting (back) into it I’m January 

It’s a tough month! You’ve had all the festivities and perhaps, like me, you’ve indulged in the wonderful abundance of food and drink over December leaving you feeling sluggish and a little ashamed. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dark and you have to get your behind in gear to go back to work. All this can leave you with a bit of a January downer.

But all is not lost! Why not apply the symbolism of a new year, of fresh beginnings and reinventing an area of your life that’s been making you feel unhappy or uncomfortable? Even a tiny change is enough to reap physical and emotional benefits. You could try saying ‘yes’ a little more. If you are a ‘yes’ man you could try saying’no’ a little more. Drop your evening glass of wine and go for a walk (or get on the mat instead). Save for a holiday instead of buying more. Maybe you could practice being kinder on yourself or let go of strong emotions more swiftly.

Make whatever it is you choose personal to you. Don’t feel guilty about putting your own needs first every now and then. A beautiful flower starts with healthy roots.

🙏Namaste 🙏

12 poses of Christmas – Day 12 – Half lord of the fish pose

Day 12 of the Yoga Orkney 12 poses of Christmas. Amazing dedication, that’s you on day 12! Christmas eve. If you managed even a few of these days, great work. Think about what you are going to achieve in 2017.

Sanskrit name: Ardha Matsyendrasana

Benefits:

  • Stretches shoulders, hips and neck
  • improves flexibility and blood flow to the spine
  • Therapeutic for asthma

Contraindications:

  • Back of spinal injury