Our bi-monthly focus for March and April 2019 is Connection
Connection to ourselves, to others and to our environment is an important part of our human experience. It gives life real depth and real meaning.
And everything is connected by ‘prana’ (life-force), or what we often refer to as ‘energy.’
This energy flows within us and around us, it is literally the pulsation, the vitality, the breathe and power that flows through our life!
Understanding this sense of connection, and knowing that we all have an energetic effect through words, actions, and even thoughts reminds us to treat ourselves, others and our environment with kindness, love and respect.
As we flow and move together in yoga posture practice on the mat, we connect between breath, mind and body which leads to greater connection off the mat with friends, family, partners, colleagues, strangers and our environment.
Positive Psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson states, “What we’ve learned is that when people move together as one orchestrated unit, they later report that they experienced an embodied sense of rapport with each other—they say they felt alive, connected, with a mutual sense of warmth and trust as they converse. Other studies concur. When synchrony is surreptitiously produced in experimental studies—by having people walk, tap, sing, sway, or rock together in time—it breeds liking, cooperation, and compassion as well as success in joint action.”
Other research shows that yoga posture practice can improve the function of the vagus nerve, a key nerve in resilience and connection.
People with low vagal tone tend to have more trouble recovering from stressful events, while people with higher vagal tone tend to recover with greater ease. And, in addition to indicating one’s level of resilience, vagal tone is also correlated with feelings of social connection. The greater your vagal tone, the greater your perceived sense of connection.
Additional studies on Loving-kindness and compassion based meditation, in which you actively send good wishes to yourself and others, has also been shown to improve both vagal tone and feelings of social connection.
Meditation is a key yoga practice to facilitate intuitive connection and connection to innate wisdom. When the mind moves from a place of doing to non-doing, a space is created for intuition, wisdom, insight, clarity and connection to arise.
Connecting with nature can also be incredibly invigorating and leave us feeling deeply connected to our immediate environment. There are so many simple ways to do this; practicing outdoors, taking a walk, cycling, sitting out in the garden, having picnic in the park or whatever it is you choose. That same energetic connection and prana we experience with each other also extends to our environment.
This all means that we have an abundance of ways to cultivate and nurture connection in our lives!
I firmly believe that the more connected we are in life, the happier we are, the kinder we are, the better we feel and the more fun we have!
I look forward to sharing space, having fun and cultivating connection together!
With Love & Blessings
PS: Join me for FRIDAY EVENING WORKSHOPS, 7:30pm to 9:30pm on 1 March, 22 March, 5 April, 17 May @YogaDublin Ranelagh. We will connect with the specific moon cycle, the elements of Yoga, with each other, have fun and feel good!
Happy Christmas & Happy Season of Giving!
Hope you are enjoying time to relax, refresh, rejuvenate, be merry and have fun!
Sending Gratitude & Appreciation to you beautiful Souls!
Thank you for sharing your time and energy.
Thank you for your wisdom.
Thank you for the chats, requests and the questions.
Thank you for your commitment.
Thank you for your smiles, laughter and hugs.
Thank you for being a never ending source of inspiration.
Thank you for the privilege and the trust that you have given by allowing me to teach, to guide and to share.
Thank you for the gift of your presence.
Thank you for being a part of my life journey.
You are magic!
Our bi-monthly focus for November + December is the Gift and Spirit of Giving.
As always, I encourage this to inspire and fuel our yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices, to come into our classes, workshops and sessions, and I will certainly keep this focus in mind over the coming months for my own personal practices and life.
Happy November, Happy December – the last two months of 2018 are upon us!
As the end of the year and the holiday season approaches we can often feel the pressure mounting - Christmas (here in Dublin) seems to come earlier and earlier each year!
Each of us has our own traditions and unique ways of celebrating or marking this time of year (whether practicing a specific religion or not).
Often this means time spent gathering with friends and family. This social time can be full of fun, love and laughter – but it can also be stressful, have us feeling on edge and exhausted.
It may mean spending time on your own over the holiday season (and many people do). This solo time can be peaceful, contemplative, and nurturing - but can be also be lonely, have us feeling down and agitated.
I personally have done the holidays many ways (and for me the holidays means celebrating Christmas and New Years’). I have shared this time with loved ones and I have also spent it on my own due to various life circumstances, as well as by my own choice, travel or deciding to go on retreat.
The one thing this season has in common for us all, no matter how it’s spent, is it presents us with both blessings and challenges!
It’s easy to get lost in the fun, frenzy and feelings and to forget the insights that this time of year and the season of giving can offer to us.
It is important to remind ourselves that in giving (to others, as well as to ourselves!) there is a beautiful gift… Giving evokes a spirit of Gratitude.
We naturally express gratitude and thanks when receiving, but there is gratitude in the giving too!
Gratitude for having that person to in our life to give to.
Gratitude when giving to ourself, being thankful for the ability to nurture and care for ourself.
This Gratitude is the Gift of Giving!
An article published by The Greater Good Science Centre at UC Berkley notes the following:
In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect.
Other research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds. And I would add that gratitude is also integral to connection to ourselves.
Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, co-directors of the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, found that teaching college students to “count their blessings” and cultivate gratitude caused them to exercise more, be more optimistic, and feel better about their lives overall.
A study led by Nathaniel Lambert at Florida State University found that expressing gratitude to a close friend or romantic partner strengthens our sense of connection to that person.
I would propose that it would also come to reason that expressing self-gratitude also strengthens our sense of connection to ourselves.
Barbara Fredrickson, a pioneering happiness researcher, suggests that cultivating gratitude in everyday life is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness. “When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but [other people’s] as well,” she writes in her book Positivity. “And in the process you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.”
So, it seems that science agrees with what ancient wisdom has said for millennia, The Gift of Giving is Gratitude!
We can look to Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras on how to bring this spirit and gift into our practice and ultimately into our life.
On the yoga mat in our posture practice and in our meditation and mindful practices we can look to one of the five Niyamas (internal observances) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, called Santosha.
Santosha is considered an essential and fundamental foundation of yogic practice.
Often translated as ‘contentment’- Santosha can also be translated, perhaps in a deeper and more useful way, to mean ‘Equanimity.’
Equanimity is a state of psychological mind/soul stability and composure which is balanced and undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, discomfort, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind/soul.
In essence, from a yogic perspective, Equanimity is the ability to be with what is.
We can practice Santosha (equanimity) in Yoga posture practice by letting go of the desire to attain the perfect looking pose, by working within our current ability and feeling and accepting the experience of the pose as it is without wanting to force or to change it.
We can apply Santosha (equanimity) in our Mediation and Mindful practices by noticing our thoughts, feelings, emotions in a given moment, by observing without judging, without criticising or analysis and by acknowledging and accepting whatever arises.
Through cultivating Santosha (equanimity) in our practices we become present in our life to what is actually happening, we become aware of what experience is being given and of what we are giving.
This allows us to take space for the beautiful Gift of Giving and for Gratitude.
Wishing you Joy, Fun & Laughter and many moments of Gratitude.
And I look forward to sharing space and cultivating Santosha together over the coming months.
With Love & Blessings
The focus for June 2018 is CONSCIOUS SPIRITUAL PRACTICE and will inspire our yoga and meditation classes, workshops, sessions, and my own personal practices.
As we come into June, summer time vibes fill the air and we often feel more energised and alive.
It is a perfect time to connect to intention and to bring more awareness into our practices, into our thoughts, our words, our actions… and into our Life!
It is after all, intention and awareness that distinguishes a Yoga practice from a physical fitness exercise routine.
Conscious Intention in yoga posture practice or any activity with the wish that it bring you closer to Divine energy, to Oneness and the higher Self is referred to in Sanskrit as sadhana.
In essence, ‘Sadhana’ means ‘Conscious Spiritual Practice' and it is always done with the intention to include others - it is never meant to be self-centred or goal-orientated.
We can develop our Conscious Spiritual Practice, or Sadhana, through techniques and practices like yoga, meditation and chanting – and we can go further to expand our awareness to reflect Conscious Spiritual Practice into our whole life.
As spiritual beings who are having a human experience, Sadhana is one key to making this human experience an integral part of our spiritual growth and to bringing nourishment into our life.
It is through Sadhana, cultivating Intention and connecting to Awareness that we empower ourselves to re-ignite our inner world and transform our outer world.
Our Conscious Spiritual Practice offers a direct and personal experience and embodiment that brings us to a knowing that we are all truly connected.
So, this month as we continue to dive deep into ourselves, and embrace our conscious spiritual practice, I invite us all to move with intention and awareness - on and off the mat – and to discover what joy it brings to ourselves and those around us!
With Love & Blessings
“The Core” in Yoga is considered to be both a physical and energetic space.
It is literally the centre of our balance and our strength, on and off the mat. It is a key foundation and aspect of yoga practice that is accesible to everyone, and benefits practitioners of all levels and abilties.
On a physical level, core posture practice focuses on the entire abdonimal region, the waist and the belly, through what I refer to as engaging the external dynamic.
Cultivating the external dynamic, and dynamic activation, in core posture (asana), practice, with focused breathe work (pranayama) and specific core sequences (ullola) builds strength, tones the belly, flattens abdominals, supports the lower back, protects the sacrial joint, and has many other potential physical benefits including improving posture, increasing metabolism and aiding digestion.
But if nothing else, flowing gently through a core practice with some belly busting movements certainly awakens focus, internal awareness and connects us to the inherit intelligence that we already have in body and in mind.
This core connection brings us to an energetic space, through what I refer to as engaging the internal dynamic.
Through this internal dynamic, with mindful movement, we relax the mind bringing ease and effortlessness into our practice and into ourselves.
By awakening the internal dynamic, and internal activation, we also become aware of our core energy. We feel the power of the yogic core as it cultivates resilience, uplifts and energises – and as our practice becomes a little more juicy and delicious!
The issue of the moon and its effects has long been discussed in both science and yoga communities – and I have to admit I am one of those people who loves the moon!
Science tells us that the moon affects tidal rhythms - influencing the rise and fall of sea water levels with an increase in movement from the gravitaional attraction and pull of the Full Moon. (And if you’re wondering if the new moon also affects tides? It does, but I’ll write more about yoga and the new moon another time.)
Midwifes and childbirth professionals often swear that there is a surge in births during the Full Moon. My friend, an experienced midwife and labour & delivery nurse, says she never wants to work on a Full Moon because “it’s so intense” with expectant mother’s waters breaking and a ridiculously high number of deliveries. Ironically, she was born on a Full Moon herself!
On a Full Moon, you will also often hear people comment that their sleep was disrupted, and some studies have shown a Full Moon does affect the level of melatonin (sleep hormone) we produce, so it seems that the moon may indeed affect our sleep.
Some people feel the Full Moon alters their mood or behaviour saying “they went a bit mad.” The word “lunacy”, meaning madness, does come from the ancient Latin word “luna”, meaning moon. And I have found myself and others on a spontaneous night out in unusually ‘top galavanting form’ on more than one Full Moon night, so maybe there’s something in that too!
The moon is said to have a similar effect on us as it has on the sea, causing movement in our internal tides, thus impacting energy levels, joints, muscles, physical and even our emotional life.
We know that biologically humans are made up of mainly water. In adults the percentage of water in our body ranges from aprox. 60% to 70%, and in infants it’s even higher.
Simply put, on a Full Moon there is motion in the ocean, and in ourselves!
So what does any of this have to do with Yoga?
This Full Moon motion happening within our bodies and in ourselves, whether it is felt physically, emotionally or in some other way offers us a rich opportunity.
Yoga posture practice (asana) invites the balance between ‘opposites’, sun and moon, male and female, right and left, and so on. This is expressed in the Sanskrit word “hatha.” All physical aspects of yoga, or yoga posture practice, is a form of ‘ha-tha.’ Translated from Sanskrit, ‘ha’ means “sun”, and ‘tha’ means “moon.” This alone gives us an indication on the yogic connection to the moon, to our environment, as well as the relevance of and our relationship to the movement in the sky.
The Full Moon, and moon cycles, create different energetic experiences that can be compared to the breathe cycle. The Full Moon energy corresponds to the end of inhalation when the energy or life-force (prana) is greatest. We can tap into this energy in our practice to deepen our understanding of the dimensions of the breathe (pranayama) and of our experience of life – after all ‘Breathe is Life!’
A Full Moon naturally occurs during a specific month, time of year and season. So, each moon also holds an individual energy that is in synchronicity with one or more of the five yogic elements of earth, water, air, fire and space. We can reap more benefits from a Full Moon yoga practice that includes consideration and focus on this elemental resonance.
In my own life, I feel a personal influence and connection with the cycles of the moon, both on and off the mat. I have enjoyed cultivating, sharing and guiding practices and techniques that empower a direct experience and embodiment of the benefits of doing moon practices – and it is something that has become a valuable tool and useful part of my own life rhythm.
With Full Moon Yoga practices we can understand and honour each moon and its corresponding, unique energy so that we can connect, deepen and invigorate ourselves in body, in mind and in spirit to feel good, to be present and ultimately enrich our experience, our resilience and our openness to the ever-changing rhythms of life.
Moon-ing never felt so good!
NOTE: There are some practices that would not be suitable to do on moon days (such as ashtanga yoga, power yoga and some pranayama practices.) If practicing on your own, I would advise you choose to not to do these stronger physical practices on Full Moon & New Moon days. If in doubt ask an experienced yoga teacher for their advice or you can always just take the moon day off.
* This article was first published in Positive Life Magazine in 2012. It shares my memories of the first yoga retreat I attended back in 1998-ish, as well as some thoughts I had at the time on the benefits of retreat.
Full of nerves, I sent the email and booked myself into my very first yoga retreat.
I had no idea what to expect, I was excited but to be honest had my moments of wanting to back out as well. I was committed. I was going to head off to study yoga and to take time retreating, offering myself a different holiday experience.
When I arrived at the centre, I was greeted by a friendly reassuring smile, I felt like a child on the very first day of school, brimming over with curiosity and a belly full of butterflies.
I had heard many people say how beneficial going on a yoga retreat was- though I hadn’t really completely understood what they meant- but I was here now.
I unpacked and then went out to meet my fellow retreatees. Some were seasoned, many newbies, some solo and others coming with friends but everyone finding the lay of the land, like myself, before going to the yoga room for our first class together.
The first class was a perfect initiation, I was most pleased that I felt that I had done well, for a novice anyway, and was ready for the delicious meal that awaited us.
Over dinner, the same friendly face that welcomed me reviewed the weekly programme with the group. We also went through the retreat ‘rules’ which were really just a few things to remind us to be considerate, as we would all be sharing each others space…and amidst the chats and laughter…I knew I had arrived to a nurturing, positive and fun environment.
I was beginning to realise that I had truly embarked on a unique experience and as the weeks flew by the daily schedule was relaxed - while somehow supporting each of our own personal journeys - through yoga sessions, meditation, discussions, sharing meals while making new friends, with plenty of time for relaxing on my own as well.
Some days it felt easy and care free, while others were more challenging for me. By the end of the two weeks I was wishing I could stay longer and understood that the time I had taken on retreat would give me long-term benefits.
So what are the benefits of retreat?
- Simply put, Yoga retreats give you the fun and adventure of a holiday; while at the same time ensure you feel refreshed and fully revitalized.
- Retreat enables you to not only benefit for the months to follow but potentially for the rest of your life. You will, surprisingly, discover your optimum vitality, learn to relax, reduce stress levels and experience rich relationships in life through Yoga retreat.
- Retreats are normally off the beaten path or in unique locations. Most retreats are in locations where there is hardly any traffic or noise but for the sounds of the birds and of nature.
- In an environment of harmony, you get a real chance to relax, meditate and experience the benefits of Yoga.
- You will surely experience new dimensions of yourself that you may never before known existed; It was through retreat that I came to understand that to go on an inward journey of self-enquiry, within the exploration which is Yoga, is truly the greatest adventure of them all!