Top Tips For A Super Relaxed Christmas Season

Feeling stressed just thinking about the Christmas season?  I feel for you and can empathise, that used to be me too.  Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it can still be stressful! I know several friends that don’t celebrate Christmas for one reason or another and they have the added bonus of fielding questions from well-meaning acquaintances as to why they don’t celebrate it.   Plus the shops are busy, people can be pushy and financially strung out which makes for a stressful environment.  I think it should be a time of rest, reflection and spending time with loved ones.  This is a far cry from my description so far!

I’ve refined my Christmas season into a non-stressful, peaceful and happy family time with plenty of time for relaxation and enjoyment.    Sound good?  I’d love to see less stress and more peace at this time of the year.  I’ve shared some tips and questions below that you can mindfully ponder over a cuppa.  I suggest you write your answers down if you are feeling super proactive and ready to make change.   You might have your own vision to strive for but here’s how I do it.

  1. Prioritise time for myself; don’t cancel your usual self-care appointments. If you usually take a yoga class, go for a massage or catch a movie with a friend, DO IT! This is especially so for physical based activities, all those niggly aches and pains are likely to rear their head again especially if you are stressed out (but I hope you’ll follow these tips and won’t be!).  What will I do for myself?

 

  1. Buy presents for a select few. If you think about it, are your favourite friends the ones that buy you good Christmas presents?   This won’t leave your bank account drained or have you out shopping multiple times for all the people you forgot!  Even my close family do a “present pool” where we each buy just one gift and randomly pick them out on Christmas day.  Who will I buy a present for?

 

  1. Accept invitations mindfully. Everyone wants to socialise over this period but I’ve learnt to delay some of this socialising until after Christmas.  People usually understand if you say no, particularly if you explain you’d rather have quality time with them later.   I take the Charleyoga team out to lunch in March/April instead of Christmas time.  What social engagements will I say yes to?

 

  1. Share the love i.e. preparation. If you have lots of people coming and they ask what to bring, don’t say nothing!  Make a list and get everyone to bring something.  Again it will drain you less both financially and time wise.  What can I ask others to do/bring?

 

  1. Take a breather. If time is creeping away from you, don’t try to speed up to catch up even though it may be tempting.  Instead, pause and take a long conscious breath in, then let it out slowly, repeat a few times.  Even better, you could practice either of these little sequences I recorded; you don’t even need a yoga mat!  Spine Salute Sequence  and Desk Salute Sequence  How will I take a breather?

 

  1. Make a list, plan early – all the ideas you now have from these tips, make a list now and start to plan early so you know where you’re at and can slowly chip away at it. I promise you’ll be thanking me when you are sitting down enjoying a cuppa/cocktail/mocktail with your feet up a few days before Christmas basking in the peace and relaxation whilst everyone else rushes around J  What is my vision for a relaxing pre-Christmas moment?

I hope this helps you and have a super relaxed Christmas won’t you!

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.

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Cheat Sheet For Warrior III Pose

Warrior III

Warrior III Pose – Virabhadrasana III

(veer-ah-bah-DRAHS-anna)

Warrior III pose

Virabhadra = the name of a fierce warrior, described as having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet; wielding a thousand clubs; and wearing a tiger’s skin. (http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/warrior-iii-pose/)

Yoga has a few different versions of warrior pose and I’m sure there are others that I am unaware of.  I’m often asked how many poses there are in the yogic system and to be honest, I just don’t know and I doubt that anyone does either!  It gets even more confusing  if you follow a particular lineage and poses can be named differently dependent on that.  I think it’s important not to get too caught up in whether one particular teacher is right or wrong, rather to ensure you are practicing safely and within your own personal limits.

Benefits Of Warrior III

I love the warrior poses for many reasons but here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Stretches out the leg muscles
  • Brings awareness to and helps open up the hips
  • Strengthens the leg muscles which can help to support & rehabilitate a weak knee (using safe modifications)
  • Works the shoulder joints through varying ranges without load and has a strengthening effect through the shoulder girdle
  • Generates heat in the body even when held in a static position
  • Build it into a slow or fast sequence depending on goals.
  • Works the core muscles of the body much more effectively than any sit-up ever could
  • Improves proprioceptive awareness which means your balance is better
  • Warrior poses can be challenging, satisfying, empowering and energising!

Practicing Warrior III

When practicing warrior III start nice and easily with a chair nearby to help you balance. Stand with the toes of one foot resting on the floor behind you while arms are held up either side of your head.  Gradually tip forward in equal parts so that the arms stay in position.  The torso doesn’t bend forwards so that the spine stays neutral and lengthened.  Once in the pose, ground down into the standing heel and press out through the lifted one.  Careful not to twist the pelvis, instead try to keep it level.

If you can’t tip all the way forward that’s fine, you can start with a mini-tip forward instead with the foot only raised slightly and see how you go with that.  Check out the little video I recorded to help you along.   Please only follow along with this if you are one of my regular students or already have a regular yoga practice.  Please don’t attempt if you currently have any injuries or restrictions.  The best way to learn is always in person with a real life teacher :)

Warrior III Pose Modified With A Chair

Here is a little video I recorded for my students to continue practicing Warrior III at home. For the full article and explanation, please go here https://www.charleyoga.com.au/warrior-iii-pose/Please Note: I don't recommend following this video if you are new to yoga, have never practiced the pose or are injured or restricted. The best & safest way to learn is always through a real life teacher, in person!

Posted by Charleyoga on Sunday, 18 March 2018

Cheat Sheet for Warrior III

Here is a cheat sheet for remembering which warrior is which.  I came up with this when I was learning so  I didn’t forget and feel silly! (Even though I’m always telling you not to worry about looking silly!)

  • Warrior I – Looks like the number one, arms straight up
  • Warrior II – Comes after one (sorry, I got nothing else for this one, just use a process of elimination!)
  • Warrior III – 3 of your 4 limbs are off the ground – see, easy!
  • Humble Warrior – bowing forward humbly
  • Reverse Warrior – tip backwards ie reverse

I hope these little pointers helped you and I look forward to balancing with you again next time!

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

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.

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Home Yoga Practice For Keeping You Sane

How Do I Start My Home Yoga Practice?

Do you  intend to roll our your yoga mat during the holidays but then it never seems to happen?  I find that students can be afraid to start a home yoga practice without the guidance of a teacher.  Don’t let this stop you!  If you aren’t sure where to start then just unroll your mat and come into shavasana then see where it takes you.  If you come to class regularly then you will be surprised what you remember.  Your body will remember so try not to think about it too much.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get a clear idea of how you will approach your home yoga practice.

Finding time and a place to practice at home can be difficult.  As an experienced practitioner this is still something I  juggle but it’s not impossible, honest!  Setting achievable goals and having reasonable expectations is the key.  Perhaps a commitment to 5 minutes of practice most mornings or evenings if that works better.  Keep it simple and slot it in where it is easy and likely to cause the least disruption to other daily tasks.  What time of the day works for me and how long will I practice for?

Finding Space For A Home Yoga Practice

Unless you have a spare room or live alone, the space that might be the quietest during the day could be the bedroom.  It’s a place many students overlook but is sitting unused during the day.  You really don’t need much space to practice, particularly if you are going to start with some meditation or pranayama (breathing).  Practicing yoga are on my list of things that are fine do to in the bedroom and won’t ruin the sanctity of this quiet space.  Where will I do my home yoga practice?

Some things to get started with include; laying in shavasana and seeing where it takes you as I already mentioned above.  Practicing a breathing technique like nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing) click here for more information.  A modified salute to the sun sequence that you can do for a few rounds.  I’ve included a video below of me practicing this.  The first side (right) shows a modification for the step through to lunge as that can be quite a tricky part of the sequence.  The left side shows the step through to lunge if you feel up to it.  There are many variations of this sequence and it’s a yoga “staple”.  If you attend classes with me then you would have practiced this version before.  What will I practice when I come onto my yoga mat?

There are many ways to modify but I couldn’t possibly post them all here!  If you’re new to yoga, injured or restricted then I suggest you don’t follow the sequence until you have consulted face to face with a yoga teacher or even better, a yoga therapist.

Enjoy the video and happy practicing, be fearless x

Charley Hickey

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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.

 

Hot & Bothered? Try Sheetali Pranayama Yoga Breathing.

Hot & Bothered_ Try Sheetali PranayamaAuthor: 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.

I’d like to thank the lovely lady in one of my classes who jokingly calls hot flushes/flashes “power surges”!  This comment caused many giggles amongst my students and knowing looks between those that may have suffered from this at some point.  It’s often beneficial when we can label something fairly unpleasant in a way that normalises it and turns it into a bit of a joke.  Power surge sounds like it’s almost empowering for the person experiencing it rather than it being an unpleasant hot feeling that the sufferer has no control over.   It turned out to be a timely comment since the day was a very hot and muggy one in Perth.  It seemed like a great opportunity to practice Sheetali Pranayama which is a cooling breathing technique.  Sheetal means cold or soothing which describes the breath perfectly and I love how that fits with taking charge and being proactive during a process we have little control over.

How it works

I often describe Sheetali Pranayama as personalised evaporative air-conditioning for the body!  A more scientific explanation is that we are also drawing the breath through a small gap restricting its passage so that the air loses energy in the form of heat on the way into the body. We are also passing the air over the tongue which is moist and therefore cools the breath down further.

Benefits of Sheetali Pranayama

  • Cools body temperature,
  • Beneficial for fever and hot flushes
  • Calms the mind
  • Helps relieve insomnia
  • Stress buster

It can be contraindicated if you have asthma, a cold or other respiratory problems as the coolness of the breath can be irritating to the chest so keep that in mind.  If you aren’t sure, then please ask for the guidance of your yoga teacher before practicing.

Sheetali Pranayama Technique

Sheetali Pranayama can be practiced in any position where the spine is upright, ie sitting in a chair, seated yoga posture or lying down.   Sitting is preferable when initially learning as you will stay more alert.  If you cannot roll the tongue, it’s no problem; you can still practice by placing the tongue just behind the back of the teeth and draw the breath through the teeth and over the tongue instead (Sheetkari Pranayama)

  • Sit or lie comfortably
  • Roll the tongue or place tongue just behind the teeth with lips parted slightly
  • Draw the breath slowly in over the tongue feeling its cooling effect
  • Relax the mouth
  • Breathe out slowly and smoothly through both nostrils
  • Repeat for as many rounds as you feel comfortable with, you could start with 10 rounds.

Stay cool and let me know if it worked for you : )

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

What Is Yoga Nidra And Why Should You Practice It?

Yoga Nidra

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 is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is often referred to as “yogic sleep”.  This can be a little misleading as the idea is not to actually sleep but to enter a state where you can emerge feeling refreshed as you would from sleep.

It’s a much better alternative to taking naps, especially if you are an insomniac (I speak from experience!).  Naps aren’t all bad but if you’re trying to get into a healthy sleep routine then it can be counterproductive to nap during the day when you should be awake.

How to Practice Yoga Nidra

You can use yoga nidra instead and if you’ve ever been to a yoga class, chances are you’ve already practiced it.  Usually you will lie in Shavasana (corpse pose) on your back with the legs extended and arms relaxed by your sides or a supported version if you suffer from pain in a particular area of your body.  Please ask your teacher for guidance on this one.

The teacher will then systematically guide you to different parts of the body one at a time.  You simply bring each part into your awareness as it is mentioned and move onto the next when prompted.  An audio download or cd can be used to practice at home.  The idea is that once confidence is built, guidance is no longer needed and you can practice it on your own.  Yoga nidra induces a relaxed state said to be similar to alpha sleep (stage 1 & 2 of the sleep cycle).

Research & Yoga Nidra

Research has found that Yoga Nidra has been shown to improve stress and anxiety levels and helps in building up the coping ability.  As yoga nidra relaxes the physical as well as the mental stresses, it relaxes the whole central nervous system (Kumar, 2008).  This means that it illicits the relaxation response or parasympathetic nervous system which relaxes the body and aids sleep.

It really is a fantastic practice to learn and master.  It’s a practice I often use myself on those nights where my mind is racing and I’m having trouble quietening it down.

References

Kumar, K. (2008).  A study on the impact on stress and anxiety through Yoga nidra.  Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, 7(3), 401-404.

 

If you live in the southern suburbs of Perth and are keen to try out some yoga nidra, we often practice in class.  We are located in Applecross, Fremantle & Bateman & you can view our timetable 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!

Salute To The Sun For Stiff Bodies

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.

We’ve been practicing salute to the sun or surya namaskar in class this week.  It’s a great sequence but can be tough for beginners, injured or ageing bodies, even the modified versions!  So don’t feel bad it challenged you  or you couldn’t get through it.  Although many classical styles of yoga teach it as a warm-up, I personally feel that it is something that needs to be warmed into which is what we usually do before attempting it in a group class.  Once you are familiar with it, it becomes easier (I promise!).  Some people are able to jump straight into the sequence without any problems and I’m not saying it’s wrong to do that, just not appropriate for everyone and not how I personally like to teach it.  Perhaps it is because I have such a passion for teaching yoga to bodies that are a bit more on the creaky side :)  You can read more below about the sequence and practicing it or here is a printable copy Salute to the Sun Handout if you prefer.

Salute to the Sun – Surya Namaskar

Whether you regularly practice yoga or not, you can enjoy the health benefits of Surya Namaskar – salute to the sun. Performed correctly, it is a completely safe set of yoga poses that will not cause strain or injury (ask your teacher for help beforehand if unsure).

You will experience health benefits by practicing just once daily, but you can also practice the series of poses as often as you like whenever you have time, make it realistic and perhaps start with one round and gradually build up to several once you feel comfortable to do so.  One round is once on each side, so remember to swap legs.

When practiced in the morning, Surya Namaskar relieves stiffness, energizes the body and refreshes the mind. During the day, it is rejuvenating, and at night, Surya Namaskar can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep.

There are numerous variations of the sequence from different yoga traditions and for differing abilities. The sequence below is a slightly modified version which should be suitable for most abilities including beginners.  If you have any concerns about your ability or if you’d like a modified version that is easier or more challenging, ask your instructor for guidance.

Benefits

  • Provides all of the key health benefits of yoga in a very succinct package
  • Workout for the muscles
  • Benefits the joints, ligaments & skeletal system
  • Improves posture, flexibility & balance
  • Stimulates & conditions bodily systems including digestive, nervous, lymphatic and respiratory systems.
  • Benefits endocrine system including thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, adrenal & reproductive glands
  • Relaxing and rejuvenating for mind and body
  • Aids concentration and focus
  • Excellent for managing stress and alleviating depression

The Sequence

salute to sun

In brackets is a suggested breathing sequence if you wish to follow it but as long as you are breathing mindfully that is the main thing. Following the picture, start at the top of the circle.

 

  1. Tadasana/mountain pose. Begin by standing comfortably in a grounded position with the knees unlocked.
  2. Prayer pose (Namaste) – breathe mindfully for a few breaths until you feel ready to continue
  3. Reach the arms up toward the ceiling (IN)
  4. Forward bend from the hips, drop the head down toward the knees and hands towards or touching the floor. Keep knees bent if needed, no need to push here. (OUT)
  5. Low lunge right foot back with back knee down and hands toward or on the floor. (IN)
  6. All fours position briefly then lower hips toward floor elbows pointing backward (OUT)
  7. Low Cobra – pushing through the hands to lift the head and chest (IN)
  8. Downward Facing Dog – push through the hands, lift buttocks toward ceiling and allow heels to drop down towards the floor (OUT)
  9. Low lunge (as #5) right foot forward with back knee down and hands toward or on the floor. (IN)
  10. Forward bend (as #4) from the hips, drop the head down toward the knees and hands towards or touching the floor. (OUT)
  11. Roll back up to standing Reach the arms up (as #3) toward the ceiling (IN)
  12. Tadasana/mountain pose (as #1)

References

http://hubpages.com/health/benefits-of-surya-namaskar

Walking The Tightrope Of Life

Charley Hickey Charleyoga BLOG

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.

“It’s all about balance..” How often have we heard this little seed of wisdom, either coming from our own mouths when giving others advice (guilty!) or when others are giving us advice? If like me, you sometimes have an urge to punch these people in the face (he he, just joking!), then perhaps this explanation may help you to reconcile the concept of “balance” in your own mind.

I once had a teacher that explained to me that balance can be defined by thinking about a tightrope walker. By all appearances, they are “balanced” on the tightrope. However, there are so many shifts constantly occurring in their body and minds that allow them to stay balanced, it doesn’t just happen and then that is it and you can say “phew, I’m balanced now, thank goodness for that!”. It’s always a constant series of small adjustments, a work in progress that keeps the tightrope walker on the rope. Even though to a casual observer they may be making it look easy, it’s taken practice to get here and then continued practice to maintain. This is a handy thing to remember when you look at that person you know that seems to have it all worked out, chances are it is exactly the same for them too!

When we apply these concepts to everyday life and to our yoga practice, Yoga Sutra 2.46 describes this balance as “sthira-sukham asanam”. This could be translated as “posture should be stable (sthira) and comfortable (sukha)” It is often put into practice by “resolutely abiding in a good space”. I like that as you can apply it in any situation but I also love how you can work with these opposite forces in class, either in a subtle way or if you prefer, an extreme way.

For example, you might think that in Shavasana (corpse pose) that Sukha (comfort, joy, gentleness) would be easy to find and Sthira (strength, resoluteness, stability) would be more elusive. However, what if you were uncomfortable lying down or had an area of pain that wouldn’t go away? The sukha here might not be the position of your body and the pose itself, it might be your breath, or finding easefulness in a part of your body that you wouldn’t usually notice, like your facial muscles for example, could you find ease here? Equally, you may need to find Sthira in your mind to resolutely stay here in the pose, especially if your mind was busy with thoughts or wanting to come out of the pose and move instead! It’s such a lovely thing to explore in class, without judgement or intent of changing but with a sense of curiousness and openness to watch what is happening in your own body. This subtle balance, this constant adjusting, you are never done, balance is truly a work in progress……………..

So, next time someone says “it’s all about balance” you can say “Yeh, I know, I’m TOTALLY in balance, even right now!”

Charley Hickey

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