Sukha And Sthira: A Lesson In Cultivating Stability & Ease In Yoga

Meaning of Sukha And Sthira In Yoga

sukha and sthira in yoga This term in our weekly yoga classes, the theme has been to cultivate both sukha and sthira in our yoga practice.  These Sanskrit words feature in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a yogic text.  Sutra 2.46 is ‘sthira-sukham asanam’ which is commonly understood as ‘Yoga postures should be stable, and the body be at ease.’  As with all Sanskrit translations, there are many possible meanings to the words.  I actually love this as it gives us licence to interpret it in a way that makes sense to each of us.  Sukha can mean happy, good, joyful, delightful, easy, agreeable, gentle, mild, virtuous or quite literally; good place. Sthira can mean to stand, to be firm, stable, compact, strong, steadfast, static, resolute, and even courageous.

I believe that the way we practice is really what defines whether we are practicing yoga or simply striking a pose (asana).  I love this explanation by Kim Allen from Dragonflyyoga360.net  ‘In yoga, we should resolutely abide in a good space.’ Perhaps this is something to ponder next time we are struggling to pretzel or force the body to go somewhere it really doesn’t want to.  You could equally apply it to what is happening in the mind.  For example if the teacher asks you to close your eyes and that makes you anxious.  You might keep them open in order to maintain the good space for yourself. There are no absolute rules.

Patanjali’s View On Sukha And Sthira

Funnily enough, Patanajali only gives this one reference about poses in the sutras. The poses you practice in class are a relatively modern invention but that’s a whole other BLOG for another time. In this context, I think Patanjali was actually referring to our posture when we meditate anyway. However, I do feel that the practice of the lead up poses creates an ease in the body and allows for extended time in physical stillness.  This means we can shift attention to concerns of the mind which we all know is where the magic happens in yoga.

These two seemingly opposite states are in fact much more closely intertwined then initially realised.  I’ve felt this on a very personal level this term since as I have slowly recovered from abdominal surgery.  Losing strength in my body, regularity in my practice along with losing some courage to practice what I usually do has created a lack of ease too.  They really do balance each other and are juxtaposed in all aspects of yoga.  Here are some examples of how we might consider sukha and sthira in our practice.

Sukha And Sthira In Yoga Practice

Gross Physical

  • Having a balance of poses that naturally encourage sukha or sthira – some to build strength and stability and others to create ease. We could also be aware of the opposite quality too eg. Shavasana may naturally encourage ease & Warrior may naturally encourage sthira
  • Within each pose, being aware of each of the qualities in balance and how that might work eg. In Shavasana the pose itself may be easeful (sukha) but what happens in the mind? This could require cultivation of steadiness and courage to stick at it (sthira)? Warrior may be a strong posture physically (sthira) but require a conscious bringing in of softness to the breath, shoulders & face (sukha), can you feel both?
  • Joints need to have a balance of flexibility (sukha) and strength (sthira) around them in order to function properly so we have good mobility. Mobility is different to flexibility; flexibility is our absolute range of movement whereas mobility is range of movement that is strong and stable. This prevents injury and is very important for our physical practice!

Subtle Energetics

  • Breath (pranayama) should be a balance of these two qualities as well.  We might notice the steady rhythm or even a count (sthira) but keep the breath natural and easy so it doesn’t strain (sukha).  Too much of one or the other and we lose the purpose of the pranayama
  • Our approach to practice has the potential to overemphasise sukha or sthira . Too much ease and being relaxed about practice means we might not do enough or any at all!  Too much resoluteness and strength might mean we do too much, don’t rest or get injured.
  • Meditation – if you’ve ever fallen asleep during meditation, perhaps too much sukha! If you try too hard (sthira) to quieten the mind, that is not going to be useful either.  It might make it harder and then you will lose the ease too.  Oh gosh, so easy to lose the balance here!

This is by no means a definitive list and I’m sure there are many other examples.  These are simply some ideas I’ve asked you to ponder in class this term.   I hope you enjoyed the recap! I look forward to seeing you next term.

X

Charley Hickey

 

About Charleyoga & Charley Hickey C-IAYT

Author: Charley Hickey C-IAYT is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross, Bateman & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK HERE

References: Yogainternational.com & Dragonflyyoga360.net

Yoga For Insomnia ~ Tips To Get You Started

Yoga For Insomnia

Yoga For InsomniaNot sleeping so great? I feel for you, I really do. Insomnia is what brought me to meditation and then yoga many years ago.  You can read more about that here and listen to my Facebook Live talk if you are interested to hear my story.

Insomnia is a very common complaint with almost half of adults experiencing symptoms on a few nights a week. It is more prevalent in women and older adults but anyone can be affected. (www.sleepoz.org.au)

Just as exercise and nutrition are essential for optimal wellness, so is sleep. As a yoga therapist, I often observe that there is a direct relationship between the quality of a person’s sleep and the quality of their waking life.

Insomnia can have complex and far reaching effects into the overall health and wellbeing of a person.  This often includes people close to them and communities at large. Many turn to pharmaceuticals to combat the problem but this is rarely a long term solution.

How Yoga Can Help With Sleep

Yoga can be a fantastic way of dealing with insomnia over the long term. It provides an excellent opportunity to relieve stress, improve self-awareness. The practices have more effect over time with minimal adverse side effects.

Most importantly guidance is required with what techniques to practice when or you could end up making the situation worse.  Yes, yoga could make your insomnia worse!  For example, having a really strong, stimulating or energising practice in the late evening.  Although this might be great for waking you up in the morning, it is not so great later. So, you might ensure your yoga teacher/therapist is confident to prescribe techniques therapeutically in order to get the best outcome.

There is a growing evidence base of research supporting the effectiveness of yoga in treating insomnia. We go through some of this in our yoga for insomnia workshops. Many techniques have been shown to be effective.  These include asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), concentration techniques, meditation and awareness exercises.

Yoga is an active therapy, this means you have to be ready and willing to make change for it to work! So, here is my action plan for incorporating yoga into your lifestyle to help ease insomnia.

Yoga For Insomnia – Action Plan

  1. As a starting point, follow good sleep hygiene practices see here
  2. Find a yoga teacher who has classes near to where you live and start attending regularly, if you need help looking, let us know! Regular practice will give the greatest benefit.
  3. Keep a sleep diary for a week so you and your  yoga teacher can analyze it for any patterns
  4. See a yoga therapist who can help you get to the root of the problem and then prescribe something that is tailored to you as an individual.
  5. Come along to one of our workshops which will arm you with a heap of yogic tools to use to help combat insomnia (and there is cake & chai!)

At Charleyoga, we aim to educate and empower you with yogic tools that are easy to learn an practice.  Some you can use regularly as a preventative measure.   Other techniques are perfect to use in place of spending hours tossing and turning in bed. They can be extremely effective if you are willing to commit to an “active” therapy. Yoga is not a passive form of therapy so requires a willingness to make change and become more self-aware (mindful).

It’s always beneficial to get live training and to build up a working, experiential knowledge of yoga by joining a class.  You could start by watching this recording of a talk I did on Yoga for Insomnia here.  I’ve been been offering insomnia workshops and yoga classes Perth clients with sleeping issues have had successful outcomes with for many years. Contact us today for more details, or go ahead and book into a class.

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

About Charleyoga & Charley Hickey

Author: Charley Hickey C-IAYT is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross, Bateman & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK HERE

My Mum The Accidental Muse

Family Yoga Perth MumLooking at this picture you may think you already know what I’m going to write.  Perhaps something like –  “My mother was a yogi from a very young age.  She moves calmly through her day with ease and grace and is such an inspiration to me and taught me all I know.”

Well, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth!  She did teach me a heck of a lot though, that’s for sure! Without realising it, my Mum was the catalyst for me starting yoga and an accidental muse as is the case with most good muses so I hear!

Family Yoga

You see, my slightly crazy and amazing Mum (think Dad may have been involved somewhere too?) decided to have 5 children.   She then unofficially adopted another and if that wasn’t already enough, ran a family day care from our family home.  Among all the hectic craziness of our loving home, I found I craved peace and quiet.  I also had difficulty sleeping as there always seemed to be someone up and about. This is what brought me to yoga at age 11, suffering from insomnia. I used to stress out about the noise, mess & busyness of our home but quickly realised that it wasn’t going to go away.

Yoga For Stress Relief

As a self confessed person of action and an avid reader, I took to researching the problem myself. I was delighted to discover the joy of finding a place of internal quiet and peace through meditation, breath work and eventually the whole package in yoga.  So, you see, I really do have my Mum and the whole of my family to thank including my late Dad and siblings Renee, Lisette, Melissa, Nick & Kerry. I really don’t mean to sound like our home environment was horrible, quite the opposite in fact.

So, when you come to along to my yoga classes, we don’t have a fancy, freshly decorated and peaceful studio dedicated to our yoga practice (although that would be nice!).  We run classes in spaces where there are often other things going on outside of our control.  This often comes with little disturbances that might intrude on our practice momentarily. However, I see these as useful opportunities to find that place of internal peace and practice for real!

Anyone can find calm in a quiet, comfortable space but does that really sound like your day to day life?

Charley Hickey

 

 

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK HERE

About Charleyoga & Charley Hickey

Author: Charley Hickey C-IAYT is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross, Bateman & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

The Joy Of Being Rescued By Those I Was Trying To Save

Yoga TeacherWell, it’s almost the end of the school break and time to start preparing for the winter term of yoga classes.  As I look ahead, I’m so grateful for being able to continue on with the work that I love.  It doesn’t quite fit properly to label it as work but I can’t think of a better and as concise description!

The truth is, I’m lucky to be at this point this year.  Earlier this year I was having some serious doubts about the future of my yoga teaching.  I was standing on the precipice of a decision that could change the course of my life.  Do I want to be a yoga teacher anymore? I’d been plagued with all kinds of worries, some real, some perceived but mostly I now see they were false.

Being a Perfect Yoga Teacher

As the popularity of yoga increases at a rapid pace so too do all the pressures on yoga teachers.  Pressure to be perfect, to be everything to everyone, to be relevant amongst all the hip new teachers on the block, to have classes running every day of the year.  There is beer yoga, goat yoga, nude yoga; the list is endless!  I’ve struggled with how as a little yoga school we are to survive and keep up with it all.  At times, I’ve felt it might be easier to just stop teaching as I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a part of all of that.  It seems so counter to the whole point of yoga and I questioned whether I wanted to be labelled as a yoga teacher at all anymore!

I spent some time soul searching, meditating and resting alone.  Then I had discussions with mentors, yoga teachers, friends and my amazing husband who bears the brunt of most of my insecurities. The unlikely conclusion I came to was that I am not going to try and “keep up”.  It goes against the grain of what yoga truly is.  Yoga is a 5000 year old plus practice, it doesn’t need to be kept up with!  I felt silly for not seeing this straight away and maintaining it as my point of focus.

Re-learning To Be a Yoga Teacher

I felt quite shaky teaching class in the weeks that followed. After 15 years, it was almost like I was learning to teach all over again.  Over those weeks, the most amazing thing happened.   I remembered the very reason I turn up to teach every day.  It has always been for the students.  I had somehow lost sight of that in my own self-doubt.

Over those weeks I had some seemingly random and very well timed encounters.  One by one several of my long term students approached me after class and opened up as to how much their yoga practice means to them.  A few even said they weren’t sure what they would do without their weekly classes.  After one such encounter, I burst into tears of happiness that I had heard exactly what I needed to help me along.  It firmly reinforced to me that I will most certainly keep doing what I’m doing!  Especially for the students that said to me “We worked out that when we are in our 80’s you will be in your 60’s so you’d better still be teaching classes so we can keep coming!”

Rescue From An Unlikely Source

So, you see, I ended up being rescued by the very ones I was trying to help; my students.

“I’d like to thank my fans” always seemed to me like such a throwaway line. Now, I see that this is everything to a yoga teacher, me included.  I don’t mean that everyone has to like me, far from it.  However the students who turn up to class each week are the reason why I will continue to run my little yoga school.

Thank you so much, I love you all!!!!

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross, Bateman & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

 

Share Your Best Yoga Selfie!….Or Not…

Share Your Best Yoga SelfieAuthor: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

So, I thought I’d put a challenge out to you all, can you take a yoga selfie and share it with us?  (By the way, I chose this accompanying photo simply because I like it.)

It’s an interesting concept which was touched upon by many of the speakers at the recent annual Australian Yoga Therapy Conference in Sydney.

The Rise Of The Yoga Selfie

More and more the idea of what yoga looks like is being propagated through social media. We are influenced by what we see, whether we like it or not!  This can underhandedly give voice to insecurities we may have about ourselves not being good enough, flexible enough, fit enough or good looking enough to start a yoga practice.  I wrote a bit of a blog about this in 2015 which you can read here, plus it has a very controversial picture of me if you haven’t seen it yet!

Most students who have been to a yoga class will already know that yoga is much more about what is happening on the inside then on the outside so how on earth is it possible to photograph that?!   As the yoga sutras (a yogic text) tell us ‘yoga is the quietening of the mind so that we may glimpse our true nature.’  How the heck do you photograph that and do you still accept my selfie challenge?

Practicing Yoga

Enquiring students often ask if their teacher practices yoga every day and my answer is always yes but not in the way you might think.  Even more alarming to me is the assumption that because I am thin (which is mostly genetic by the way!) that I must practice asana (poses) vigorously everyday which couldn’t be further from the truth!   It should be noted here that ‘wellness’ often cannot be seen from the outside.  The idea of wellness is much more than simply being thin and/or looking healthy.

8 Parts To Yoga Practice

As described in the yoga sutras, there are 8 limbs or parts to a yoga practice of which asana is one.  The other limbs are just as responsible for any kind of healthy glow that a practitioner may be exhibiting. These are the 8 limbs.  I may expand on them in future posts should you feel to follow along.

1&2 – a set of ethical guidelines to live by

3 – Asana – poses (the bit that is in photos)

4 – Pranayama – breathing practices

5 – Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses

6 – Dharana – Concentration

7 – Dhyana – Meditation

8 – Samadhi – Bliss

We practice all of these limbs in each and every class.  I sometimes speak about them specifically but mostly we just do it!  Exploring the depths of your inner self during a class is so much more than a yoga selfie could ever be.  It’s also much more useful in our everyday lives.  The practice and goal of yoga is in fact not to “get better” as a yoga selfie might allude to.  The purpose of yoga is to clear the lens of our perception in order to gain perspective.  Perspective is a wonderful thing and can help us in our daily lives enormously, especially in tougher times.

Changing Perspective

Remember those statements, the unhelpful ones like not being good enough, flexible enough, fit enough or good looking enough to do yoga?  Can we change that to “I am enough!”

When we feel that we are enough already, it makes it easier to start a yoga practice from exactly where we are.  This is preferable to striving to be somewhere else, even if we want to be.  It’s much less of a struggle this way, more pleasant and manageable.  A good yoga teacher will always start you off from where you are.  They also know that you are already everything that you need to be. Our role is to simply help you to discover that for yourself : )

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

Fremantle Yoga Class Is Moving In 2017

Fremantle Yoga

It’s quite exciting to announce that the long running Wednesday 945am Fremantle yoga class is moving  in 2017.  After many years located at the East Fremantle Oval, it’s time to say goodbye! The lovely view out over the East Fremantle Oval will be missed but the newly refurbished Fremantle PCYC Progress Hall in Hilton awaits you all.  The photos  show what it looks like from the outside and the inside is very light and airy.  There is still heating and air-conditioning to keep everyone comfortable as well.

Fremantle Yoga at PCYC

Fremantle Yoga

The reason it’s exciting for us, and a little nostalgic, is that I taught my first ever yoga class in this very hall in 2003.  Back then it was a drafty old hall run by Fremantle Council and in dire need of renovations.  Some of you that came to that first class still attend today.   This  is quite astounding and something I never expected when I first began.  I remember teaching that first class with such clarity.  I was terrified but trying hard to hide it!  Being a yoga teacher is very different to just practicing yoga which is all I had done up until that point.  I kept reminding myself to breath which definitely helped me to get through it!  Thank goodness I did or I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Moving With The Changes

Change can be difficult, especially when something is a regular part of our weekly routine.  There will be a new route to take, somewhere different to park and new surroundings to get familiar with.  Parking is easy here and there is a nice coffee shop within walking distance.  It won’t be surprising if some students end up driving to East Fremantle by mistake over the first couple of terms!  This might all seem annoying yet it is also an opportunity to practice mindfulness.  We are often on autopilot and change can be a great way of reigniting our practice of mindfulness.

Fremantle Yoga New Address

Fremantle PCYC – Progress Hall, 34 Paget Street, Hilton (MAP)

Go in the main entrance toward reception and the Progress Hall is to the left.

See you there!

Charley Hickey

Am I Compatible With Half Shoulder Stand?

Half Shoulder StandAuthor: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

Half shoulder stand is a great pose but how do you know if it’s safe for you to practice it? When it gets towards the end of the term I feel comfortably familiar with any new students.   At this point we usually experiment a little with half shoulder stand (ardha sarvangasana) and some other modified variations.

I’ve purposely excluded a picture of half shoulder stand and instead have chosen shoulder bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana) and legs up the wall pose (viparita karani).  The reason is I’m always so conscious of us seeing a yoga pose and thinking “oh, I might quickly see if I can do that one”.  Often, in our head, we visualise ourselves in the pose or have done it before so think its ok.  The fact is,  it can be dangerous and the potential for injury is high with inverted postures.  This is particularly so when we aren’t properly warmed up.

Practicing Half Shoulder Stand

The milder variations I have included in the pictures are great and much safer for most people.  I should also note that I’m a yoga therapist and therefore often teaching students who are carrying old injuries so my viewpoint may be a little different to yours!  When we practice half shoulder stand in class, it’s always done with a full warming up sequence and then a warming down afterwards.  It’s so important to follow logical sequencing when practicing poses like this.  There also many reasons why you shouldn’t attempt the half shoulder stand.  A good yoga teacher will never mind if you decline to practice a particular pose.   We are usually proud of you for listening to your own body (after all, we’re always telling you this right?!)

Safety in Half Shoulder Stand

My students know that I never teach headstand or full shoulder stand in a group class.  Even one on one, I can count on one hand the amount of students I’ve taught these poses too.   Over the years, I’ve loved practicing them myself yet my body still says “no” sometimes.  If you tick any of these boxes below then I feel you just shouldn’t practice the half shoulder stand.  It isn’t worth the risk and other poses can give similar benefits in a safer way.

  • Neck injury (old or current)
  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Eye injury, recent eye surgery or any other eye condition (check with your teacher)
  • Feeling dizzy or unwell
  • Menstruating heavily
  • Don’t feel like it
  • Don’t feel safe, strong or stable enough….
  • Any other reason you just don’t want to!

I will continue to teach half shoulder stand like this as it’s nice to provide the opportunity for those students who are able to do it.  Some students love it (including me!) and would feel duped out of giving it a go if I never taught it.  However, I’ll always provide other options for those who are unable for any of the above reasons.

Happy inverting : )

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

If you’d like to learn yoga in a safe environment, especially if you are new to things,  you can view our timetable here and read more about us here

A New Way To Think About Flexibility And Yoga

Yoga And Flexibility

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

“What will happen if I take a few days off?”  As a small business owner this is the dilemma I’ve mentally tortured myself with many times.

I’m returning to work tomorrow after an unplanned full week off from teaching which prompted me to write this.  (It’s nothing serious so please don’t worry!)

In the past, I used to easily talk myself out of having time off.   In part this was due to my absolute lack of flexibility.   I didn’t want to change things outside of my familiar schedule.  This extended to not wanting to change anyone else’s schedules either, for example the teachers that work for me.  There was also the worry of my students having to have a different teacher.  This lack of flexibility has always caught up with me in the end. Sometimes causing mini-burnouts which I’m sure sound all too familiar to anyone that lives in this century!

More recently, I’ve learnt to ask a newly phrased question instead. “What will happen if I don’t take a few days off?”.  This is a much more sensible and useful question.  It reminds me of times where my body has been sending me clear signals to take time out yet my lack of flexibility has impacted my ability to make a sensible decision.   So often we are giving others advice to slow down and take a rest when needed but it’s much harder to turn that mirror onto ourselves and really see what is needed.

Flexibility And Yoga

It’s my belief that flexibility in yoga is much more about flexibility of mind then flexibility of body.  Being flexible of mind  helps us to get through life shouldering much less stress when things don’t go to plan.  It sounds much like how a regular yoga practice can help us.  The flexibility that you might achieve over time in your physical body through the practice of yoga is great but really just a by-product of yoga rather than one of the goals.

Here is a definition of the word flexible in that physical context:

Flexible (adjective); capable of bending easily without breaking.

However, here is a definition in the context that I believe to be the most relevant in yoga:

Flexible (adjective); ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances

Synonyms –  accommodating, adaptable, amenable, willing to compromise, cooperative, tolerant, forgiving, easy-going.

These words all seem to me like universally useful additions to our personality traits.  Perhaps over time this could allow life to flow along in a  more fluid way thus adding to our overall happiness.   By comparison, being able to touch our toes in terms of physical flexibility seems less meaningful to me in terms of overall well-being and happiness.  Does being able to touch your toes help you and others as much as being flexible and adaptable to changes in your life?

How do you combine flexibility and yoga? Is it more useful to be flexible or flexible?

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

For a hands on learning experience of yoga and flexibility you are welcome to join us for a term of yoga to help improve your “flexibility” whichever way you like!  You can view our timetable here and read more about how we specialise in helping you start your yoga practice especially if you lack flexibility here

How To Master Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

Eagle Pose Garudasana

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

This week in class we’ve practiced Eagle pose or Garudasana.  It’s a tricky pose to master and is a fairly challenging balance. Garudasana brings the limbs  into the midline of the body and requires internal focus to maintain balance. It also generates a fair bit of warmth in the body as many of the static standing poses do.  This is often a surprising side effect if you are new to yoga.  It is a good example of how we don’t have to go repeatedly through large ranges of movement to generate heat and strengthen the body.  This is what makes yoga so great for anyone unable to do high impact activities due to injury, illness or any other reason.

I broke it up a little for you to make it easier to learn.  We practiced the arms first, from a seated position so you didn’t have to contend with balancing at the same time.  Then we did the legs and then put them together for those of you that wanted to have a go.  Remember that as with all poses, our body always finds its own way of doing it so maybe yours didn’t look quite like in the picture!  That’s ok though!

Modifications For Garudasana

For some of you with dodgy knees, it’s a good idea to do the milder variation of the legs.  This is where you have the big toe of the crossed over leg still resting on the floor to the side.  Over time, this pose is actually a great strengthener for the legs which is beneficial for your knees.  However, initially it’s important not to put the knee into a position that is too precarious if it’s already sore or lacking stability.

Same with the shoulders, if they are really restricted, don’t yank yourself into the arm position.  Instead, find a way of doing it that is manageable for you.   What you often find is  a “sweet spot” just between the shoulder blades or a little off to one side that’s intensely stretching.  You can then pause and enjoy some deep breaths.  This will stretch into the soft tissues around the back of the shoulders as the lungs expand and  stretch from the inside out.

If it interests you to read more, here is a link to a nice article detailing the South East Asian mythology behind “Garuda”.  Garuda is the mythical bird this pose is named for.  Included are some more detailed tips for practicing the pose.  https://yogainternational.com/article/view/garudasana-eagle-pose

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

You can learn more about our classes in Applecross, Fremantle and Bateman here and make a booking here.  If you don’t live nearby, we know lots of warm yoga teachers to refer you onto, just email us here and we’ll try to help you!

How Do I Find My Elusive Toes In My Yoga Practice?

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

A common question I get asked by students when they have been coming to class for a little while is “When will I be able to touch my toes?”.  I often hear it too from students enquiring about classes.  They are worried about coming to yoga because they can’t  touch their toes.  It concerns me that somewhere along the line; this has become a perceived standalone measure of fitness, flexibility and/or health when it really isn’t.

I think it’s something that has been propagated by toe touching as a common assessment tool.  As yoga therapists (and many other modalities too), when we are assessing, we are rarely measuring against a pre-determined bench mark .  So touching the toes doesn’t mean we’ve completed the assessment well or reached the highest standard.  The measurement is used simply to assess a person now compared to later after we’ve done some practice.  That change can then help us to see if what we are doing is working along with other measures.

I will often ask a client to bend forwards as if to touch their toes for several reasons.  Those reasons are rarely to see if they can actually touch them!  One reason is I like to see how you move when you do a forward bend.  Another is to work out whether it appears that your restriction is in a particular area.  Or to find out if you have any pain or discomfort and where that pain might be.   It’s actually more about how it feels then how it looks.   Soo please, take the pressure off yourself to touch your toes!  If it doesn’t happen EVER then that is fine!  If it does happen for you and you’ve made a change in your body somewhere along the line and that’s what you wanted then that is great too!

What you could do instead is ask yourself some much more constructive questions like:

  •  “Why do I want to touch my toes?” (This one could lead to quite a depth of self inquiry!)
  • “Can I already feel a stretch?”
  • “Where is it pulling exactly?”
  • “If I bend my knees a little, is that easier?”
  • “That feels tighter today than last week, I wonder why that is?”

This curious attitude of self enquiry is what yoga is all about, much more so than touching your toes. Most of us can’t touch our toes right away before warming up .   The picture on the right is a much truer representation of how most of us look trying to forward fold.  Focus instead on how it feels, you really can’t go wrong then!

If you’re in the “not able to touch my toes” category, you are most welcome in our classes!  You can learn more about our classes in Applecross, Fremantle and Bateman here and make a booking here.  If you don’t live nearby, we know lots of  yoga teachers to refer you onto, just email us here and we’ll try to help you!