This will change your life! Enjoy never being the same again! x
This will change your life! Enjoy never being the same again! x
As some of you are aware this a few weeks ago I began my Kundalini yoga teacher training with the incredible Gurmukh and her Husband Guru Shabbad.
I felt compelled and called to do this training which is referred to as Kundalini Yoga for the Aquarian age, (the course started one day after my birthday in February on the night of the full moon in Aquarius!) if that was not a hint from the Universe then I don’t know what is…………
So I thought I’d share a little about the Aquarian age with you and most importantly the ‘5 Sutras of the Aquarian Age’ (Sutra meaning thread or like a little pearl of Wisdom) as we have moved from the Piscean age into age of Aquarius.
“Astronomers will tell you that the Earth rotates on an axis and that this line going through the centre of the earth has a slight wobble to it. It goes through a little circular wobble about once every 24,000 years. This cycle has been broken into 12 parts associated with the 12 astrological signs, based on which constellation the axis is wobbling towards. From around 2000 B.C. to 0 A.D. we were in the Age of Taurus. From 0 A.D. to the present we have been in the Age of Pisces.” (https://www.3ho.org/3ho-lifestyle/aquarian-age/aquarian-shift-what-will-be-different)
So for the next 2000 years we will be dominated by the age of information, horizontal networking and working towards true equality, the previous Piscean age was dominated by power and hierarchy.
“This shift is bringing out the best and the worst in mankind”
As you may have already observed there has been a major shift in self-awareness, such as the huge increase in people taking care of themselves with yoga, tai chi and wellness etc…… on the other side of the coin you have seen massive injustices on the Corporate and political levels with certain right wing values becoming more prominent.
"In this time Piscean values are giving way to Aquarian values. The difference between the two is very simple. Piscean values work from the ego, creating boundaries. Aquarian values have no boundaries; they are Infinite. Aquarian consciousness takes you inside your soul, so that you can relate to the soul in all."
-Yogi Bhajan from Aquarian Times, Spring 2003.
Yogi Bhajan brought the technology of Kundalini yoga to the west to help us survive this transformational shift in consciousness, here are the 5 sutras of Kundalini yoga to guide us through the age of Aquarius. Print them off and keep them close to your heart (mine are stuck on the fridge).
Tomorrow September 22 2016 at approximately 14:21 GMT we will reach the Autumnal Equinox of 2016.
What on Earth are you talking about Jen???
The name "equinox" is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because at the point of the equinox, the night and day are of equal length.
The Equinox phenomenon occurs twice a year (around 20th March for the Spring Equinox and 22nd September for the autumn).
The reason of this being, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the centre of the Sun lies on the same plane as the Earth's equator, resulting in an equal duration of daylight hours to darkness. From here on in the nights will creep in consuming our daylight hours making them shorter until we reach the shortest day of the year - Winter Solstice, 21st December.
This equal length of night and day, offers us an opportunity to balance the light of our consciousness with the darkness of our shadow that resides in us all. This process involves letting go of anything that no longer represents us so that we can exist in our most pure form, our “truest self”.
The natural cycles of our planet remind us of the universal laws that govern all of life (and none us are immune to that – although we often think that we are). We are not in control and we should come to honour the Bio-Rhythms of Mother Nature just as all non-human life does, the Winter, with its long nights, encourages us to sleep more and focus inward, whereas the summer, with its long warm days, beckons us to sleep less and venture outside.
The Equinox is the perfect opportunity to find our centre and walk in a place of balance.
But isn’t that why we come to yoga anyway???
Seeking balance between the Ha and the Tha (Hatha yoga, being ALL physical Asana), strength and flexibility, night and day, Masculine and Feminine, yin and yang??? etc.
Yep, it is! This day (although definitely not restricted to this day) is a perfect time to release, restore and reflect on our experiences of the year thus far. But tomorrow we will have the power of our whole Solar system behind us!
You may of noticed last Friday 16th sept, the Harvest Full moon, signifying the end of the summer of growth and abundance. The harvest being a time of gratuity and humility, while we appreciate the gifts of the earth, we also accept that the soil is dying and the impermanence of everything, as the Northern Hemisphere now moves into its time of restoration and renewal over the winter months.
So I invite you tomorrow to just sit for a moment to find balance between reflection and intention. Take time to consider
- What is your own personal harvest?
- Who has helped you to achieve this and how could you thank them? (this could be a negative experience as well as positive)
- As the trees let go of their leaves, what do you wish to let go of?
- And what seeds do you want to incubate over the winter, ready to grow and blossom next spring?
Bring forth your intention to your yoga practice, today and tomorrow consider your physical practice as a means of releasing any negative mental and emotional patterns we have stored up in our physical bodies. Cultivate a sense of presence in our bodies and minds which facilitate inner peace and wholeness in our being. And plant the seeds of your intentions for manifestation in the coming spring.
I hope you are well, healthy and happy.
May I share with you this month an article written by one of my teachers Srivatsa Ramaswami, he is one of the longest students of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (The Godfather of "Modern" day Yoga), I was fortunate to do a Teacher training in Vinyasa Krama with him back in 2014. He is deeply routed in the Vedantic system of philosophy and the true meaning of yoga (i.e the other 7 limbs apart from Asana).
I invite you to go deep and explore your consciousness, one thought and breath at a time!
Physiologists and psychologists have been studying why and how of dreams for a long time and have produced impressive amount of information about dreams. Some study the electro-chemical changes and patterns that take place in the brain while others try to find out if there is a connection between the dream manifestation and the underlying sub conscious cause for such dreams. Why do some people seem to have pleasant and happy dreams while others dread going to sleep because of the recurrent nightmares? Why does a pauper has a dream of plenty while a billionaire nightmares that he is penniless. Why does the professor of physics, a Nobel Laureate has a bad dream of flunking his high school physics test? Why someone with a huge walk- in closet full of fancy expensive clothes dreams of cringing unclad in the open?
Vedic philosophers also have studied dreams with a view to understand-get some clues about- how we experience the world around us when awake. It is common knowledge that the dreams take place inside the head inside the brain. Sometime while one is sleeping the brain picks up some memories and creates a dream world out of it. The common understanding is that the dreamer experiences the dream within the brain. However the dream is not merely neurons floating around and the brain cells undergoing chemical changes. The dream is seen in space, three dimensional space. The old philosophers were not satisfied with the commonly held bland belief that the dream is experienced by the dreamer in the head. It is not a complete narration of what is happening. One has to explain how the dream is visualized, seen in three dimensions. The dream world occupies vast space much more than what the head could accommodate. The brain not only picks up some data from the memory, creates a dream space, creates dream objects and creates dream creatures, a la the world we see in our waking state, it also writes the script and produces a video called dream--sometimes pleasant ones and often times horror movies. Additionally the brain identifies one of the creatures it has created as the dreamer self to complete the dream operation. The brain is a creator, it plays god. It is capable of creating space, objects and creatures and a dream self to boot and make one believe that it is all true and really happening.
The Yogis and vedantins say that all that we experience in dream takes place not in physical space which is obvious but in mental or mind's space called citta akasa. In this virtual space the brain projects the dream and it is experienced. Who experiences that? It is identical to waking experience of the physical world. There is space, there are objects, there are creatures, there are experiences and the individual dream self who acts just like the waking state physical self. It, the dream self, appears to have a body, limbs and senses and a brain too. Who is the experiencer here? Is it the dream self or the fellow who is fast asleep? Neither of them. While having a dream, according to physiologists there is partial paralysis of several motor functions and one becomes completely oblivious to one's own physical self and only the prana keeps vital functions like heart beat, respiration digestion etc going. There is no awareness of the physical self but there is awareness of the dream world and the dream self. The brain shuts off its awareness of the dreamer and identifies with the dream self it has created. The voluntary movements are inhibited during periods of the dream process. All brain signals to the voluntary muscles are stopped. In both the cases-waking and dreaming-, the common denominator is that awareness, that unwavering awareness of both the waking state world during waking state and the dream world and dream self during the dream state. That unvarying awareness is the experiencer that the yogis and vedantins call as the real self as distinct from the physical self and the dream self. They call it drashta (seer), bhokta (experiencer) purusha (the indewelling principle), jnaH (the knower) etc.
The other or more significant state is the waking state, and how does one get the waking state experience? Of course there may be some mystery about how dreams are visualized but what is there to discuss about the normal waking state experience? I have written about it in a few articles earlier but it may be of interest to consider along with the dream state. It is common belief that we see the outside world with our eyes. Likewise we hear sounds of the outside world with the ears, then taste with our tongue and so on. But the scientists say that the eyes do not see nor do the ears hear. They are like gate keepers which have the capacity to let in only the appropriate impulses and not other impulses. The eyes let light particles whereas the ears let in sound waves. According to them when light falls on an object the object absorbs some light and reflects the light at different angles; the reflected light (light particles as rays) reach the eye which lets them to the retina by focusing the incoming light on to it. Then the retina converts the signals into electrical impulses which are transmitted through optic nerves to the sight center at the back of the brain where it is processed. Simultaneously impulses through the other senses also reach their respective centers in the brain. Then they are coordinated analyzed, compared and finally a picture of the object is created in the brain with emotions, recognition, understanding added to it. Additionally—it is very, very important to note-- the brain constantly gets impulses within the body and collates them and creates an impression of the physical self in the brain. So the brain has the impression of the physical self and also the impression of the object from the outside world one sees and there is a composite picture of both the outside world and the subject, exactly as we feel when we see an object, simultaneously being aware of our physical selves..
While a bit clinical, a scientist Antonio Demasio’s definition serves us well: A dynamic collection of integrated neural processes, centered on the representation of the living body, that finds expression in a dynamic collection of mental processes. That is, this thing we call the ‘self’ (the physical self) is the result of our neurochemistry interacting with our physical body and the outside world, resulting in not only what but how we think.
So what we call the ‘self., 'the physical me' is a re-construction of our brain and the yogis and samkhyas call it 'asmita". First, think about what the term ‘self’ implies: understanding a separation between what you are, both physically and mentally/emotionally, and whatever is outside of you, or non-self. This total experience the yogis call as the cittavritti. Now this composite picture is in the form of neurons flinging all over the brain. But we see the object in three full dimensions and it cannot take place in the limited brain space. Just as we saw with respect to dream state here also the brain will have to project the impression in three dimensional space. Yogis say that it is done in virtual space the mental space (citta akasa) like the dream space. So both the dream experience and waking state experience take place in similar virtual mental space in the brain. We may say that what we experience takes place within the brain and like the dream objects the brain projects what we experience in the waking state in a virtual space within the confines of the brain. Then who and from where we experience it, we cannot get into the brain and experience what is happening within the virtual space of the brain. The brain projects the whole experience. Since it also projects the physical image of the subject which itself is part of the cittavritti, it cannot be the observer too. The observer is the awareness which is unvarying. Further the brain is just matter made up of proteins and lipids or fat cells like the cells of the other parts of the body and do not have consciousness. While scientists have been able to identify the sense centers and understand the functioning of the brain, they do not appear to have located any awareness or consciousness in the brain. Even so the scientists hold that the brain processes the information, modifies it and also sees it. But the brain is a lump of protein and fat cells. It is a piece of organic matter. There is no capacity in it to observe its own created images, or to create consciousness. Inert matter cannot create consciousness
The awareness or the self experiences the physical self which itself is seeing or appears to see the external object at once. Thus we can not know and explain how the physical self sees the external object. When you start analyzing how we see the external objects we end up understanding that one (the awareness or purusha) is aware of one's cittavritti consisting of both the physical world and physical self. Let us take the example of you and I sitting and talking to each other. Let us take a snap shot of what I experience at this moment. What do I experience? I experience “I am talking to you”. So the totality of the experience consists of both you, the object and me the subject. And the experiencer is the unvarying awareness which the old vedic philosophers call as the real self. It is not some speculative soul which has to be searched. It is immediate. And it could also be seen that there is no plausible explanation about how I (the physical self) see the objects outside, like you even as it is the first question the discussion started with.
So in the dream, the brain picks some information from memory and converts them into a dream that can be witnessed in the virtual mental space. Likewise the brain receives information through the senses from the outside world and also inputs from one's own body and creates a composite image in the mental space within the brain, Both are witnessed by the same consciousness and that consciousness the yogis vedantins and some religions call as the self or soul. Puruha/soul/self is not just a concept but the real witness of all what we experience all the time, the one that is aware of me writing this article. It is the real awareness of what we consider as the subject and the object in one mental frame. We start with the ordinary question about the relationship between the subject and the object and end up with Patanjali's purusha as the subject and cittavritti as the object. This analysis helps the yogi to focus on the subject which is pure non changing awareness on one hand and the succession of cittavrittis, the objects on the other. Here Patanjali advises the yogi to focus on the cittavrittis which according to him are predominantly painful for most people most of the time (parinama taapa...) His prescription is to reduce and completely stop all cittavritti so that one remains for the rest of the life in absolute peace
There are some philosophers who while agreeing with the above line of logic, raise a significant objection. The brain is just organic matter with the ability to receive, collate,analyze, modify, add emotions and then project a composite cittavritti of both the objects and the physical self. But the brain is part of the physical self , and how can it project the physical self which contains the brain. It would amount to an anomalous situation, where the brain projects itself.
The view of Samkhyas, yogis, scientists and the common perception is that the world is real,, made up of infinite space, many trillions of tons of matter and trillions of BTU of energy. There are a few ancient philosophies and faiths that address this objection raised above. One line is that since what anyone experiences is only cittavrittis it is not possible to assume that the waking state cittavrittis are caused necessarily by actual objects. There is no way one can ascertain if the cittavrittis created during waking state are actually caused by objects and if they are similar to dream vrittis. This indetermination is known as anirvacaneya. There are a few others who aver that there is no substance to the forms that we see outside. One popular far eastern religion/philosophy would say that the world is an illusion and the division of the thought or cittavritti into the subject and object is unreal and is the cause of suffering. It would advise working towards eradication of the subject object barrier by meditation and view one continuum of cittvritti—a continuum of what is inside and what is outside.
Some religions imply that the creation is a grand illusion. One well known religion would say God created individual souls( the ones that experiences) and continuously creates the universe—like a succession of impulses. He also through scripture advises the individual souls not to be attracted by His creation but turn towards Him. In the puranas, even though one gets the impression that the creation is real, there are instances where it is indicated that the world is not made of brick and mortar. In the Bhagavat Gita the Lord says that He created the universe with the power of His Maya, and Maya is the power of creating an illusion. According to the advaitins, the universe is an illusion that appears to be created within the one and only universal consciousness or awareness called Brahman which is identical with oneSelf, and the universe appears to exist without.
Even science agrees that what we deal with is taking place of the mind. Yoga says that what we deal with is the projection of the mind observed by the individual consciousness or purusha. Vedanta would say that there is only one consciousness the Brahman and the entire creation is an illusion just like the dream projected within the absolute consciousness. If one can completely understand it by regular contemplation one will be less and less disturbed by the tumultuous happenings of the outside world. They would encourage to meditate upon the Self the Brahman because engaging with the outside world through the senses creates not only considerable unending pain as Patanjali would say but also because the the whole experience is an illusion like dream. Once we wake up after a dream in the night we dismiss the dream experience as frivolous . So would the yogi/vedantin dismiss the waking experience as an illusion without substance.. It is because he knows that both waking and dream experiences are on par,-- both are essentially painful on one hand and are also just illusions on the other. Just as one dismisses the dream experience as 'just a dream' the yogi/vedantin dismisses the waking worldy experiences as “Just a painful Illusion. '“Why perpetuate the painful nightmares, lifetime after lifetime?” I should tell myself.
The Universe is within Brahman but appears outside of it like the dream that takes place within but appears to be without and like the city (space and objects) which is within a mirror but appears to be without. On waking up one realizes that all the dream which appeared to take place outside is actually within one's own person. That is the power of Maya or the power to project an illusion but not actual substantive creation. The above analogies are from a beautiful verse of Sankara in his Dakshinamurti stotram
Vishvam Darpanna-Drshyamaana-Nagarii-Tulyam Nija-Antargatam
Pashyann-Aatmani Maayayaa Bahir-Ivo[a-U]dbhuutam Yathaa Nidrayaa |
Yah Saakssaat-Kurute Prabodha-Samaye Sva-[A]atmaanam-Eva-Advayam
Tasmai Shrii-Guru-Muurtaye Nama Idam Shrii-Dakssinnaamuurtaye
In case you have no idea (or often wondered) what I am doing to you in your peaceful Savasana, wonder no more...
Smudging is an indigenous and shamanic practice dating back centuries, it is used to clear and transmute “mala energía” (bad energies) by burning certain sacred herbs or plants. Smudging calls on the spirits of sacred plants to drive away negative energies to return you back to a state of balance, peace and harmony. The smudging and burning of incense is a preliminary and integral part of many indigenous ceremonies and practices from all over the world, throughout history dating all the way back to the Inca’s, Mayan’s and Egyptians and most likely way beyond that.
The linage I follow is Shipibo a Shamanic Amazonian tribal region from the Amazon basin region, and the incense that I use mainly is Palo Santo which I brought back with me from my Shamanic initiation in Peru last year.
It is used for its spiritual and energetic cleansing and healing properties similar to White Sage and Cedar. In the Shipibo tradition Palo Santo is used in smoke baths, a method of clearing negativity and demons and as a means of protection and drawing good fortune to the beholder. It cleanses your auric field (which for most of us extends anywhere from 1ft in front of us to 9 ft, the latter for the highly attuned human). In Kundalini Yoga we call this the 8th Chakra. Our aura provides protection and acts as a filter for negative environmental influences - a strong aura automatically uplifts and improves the working of all the other chakras’. It is said that the scent raises your vibration in preparation for meditation and allows for a deeper connection to the Source of all creation.
Not only do you smudge yourself (or others), but you can smudge spaces in your home or workplace, it can be used to clear the air after an argument or negative experience or even for a special occasion. If you plan on doing this, don't forget to do corners………. bad shit likes to hang out in corners! It is a strong medicine and is said to be effective in keeping energies grounded and clear, which is why it is particularly effective after Yoga in Savasana to help you come back down and out into reality a little bit more stronger and resilient to the negative effects of the external environment. It is great for calming the immune and nervous systems for a deeper relaxed state and in increasing Theta brain waves, it is also said that it can speed up the recovery of illness. The wood is extracted from dead trees and fallen branches without the use of dangerous chemicals or solvents and therefore makes the method far more sustainable and environmentally friendly, despite this unfortunately Palo Santo is very much a finite resource.
Of course (like with most Esoteric practices) the effectiveness of the smudge depends on the strength and clarity of your intention (or the person using it on you), so make sure you ask the Palo Santo or Sage clearly for protection, clearing and connection before you begin.
Homemade - Raw - Vegan - Gluten free - Guilt free - Protein - Superfood
A very quick, tasty, all natural superfood protein bar, easy to make in just 15 mins (plus setting time) and not to mention tastes amazing! This is one of my favourite flavor combinations of all time – Mint and Chocolate, they taste and smell just like After Eights Chocolate mints. Try this recipe for a healthy, whole food, clean nutrition, cheaper alternative to the shop bought versions.
You will need;
2 cups of dates (I used a small Tea mug)
One generous handful of raw almonds
One not so generous handful of Brazil nuts
2 Big scoops Organic Hemp protein powder (I used Braham & Murray Organic Protein powder)
2 Tablespoons of Organic Cacao (I used Creative Nature Superfoods)
4-5 drops of organic edible Peppermint essential oil (Optional)
A smidge of coconut oil to help it stick (I used half a teaspoon in this batch – better to go under than over, and see how you get on)
Place the Almonds and Brazil nuts in your blender (I used my Magimix blender) and pulse for a few minutes (Less than 2) until they are broken into small (or desirable crumbs/chunks).
Add the dates and pulse some more
Add the Cacao and Hemp protein power and pulse some more
Add a few drops of peppermint oil (optional – but it gives it that “After eight” taste”) test the consistency of the mixture by grabbing a small handful and squeezing to see if it will stick, then add a smidge of coconut oil – Pulse some more
Line a small tin with baking paper or cling film (paper is much better, I avoid plastic as much as possible but in this instance I only had cling film)
Press the mixture in firmly into the tin, then decorate (optional) this time I used goji berries and pumpkin seeds, press them in firmly.
Cover with baking paper (of cling film) and bung in the fridge to set. I left this batch overnight.
Cut into squares or bars however you desire, and then individually wrap. And you are all set to go!
Much cheaper and better value than buying the pre-made versions from the supermarket and much more satisfying when made by your own sweet fair hands.
Play around with different ingredients and superfoods as your heart desires.
Here are a few benefits of;
Almonds – Highly nutritious, a great source of protein, packed full of Vitamin E which is a powerful anti-oxidant and Magnesium and Copper which are essential minerals for optimum health and repair, it is also an excellent source of fibre
Brazil Nuts – Vitamin dense and full of antioxidants, high in protein and high in mono-saturated fat. They contain the highest natural food source of Selenium, an important mineral necessary for cognitive function and fertility. They are an amazing source of B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, which are all necessary for converting fuel into energy and preventative cell care. A great source of vegan protein and amazing for a glowing skin complexion.
****Just mindful of the high calorie content!***
Dates – Dense in several vitamins and minerals, and a high sugar content which means very high in energy. Dates have a super food status as they contain several essential minerals which contribute to bone health such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Renowned for their high fibre content they are great for digestive health by stimulating the growth of friendly gut bacteria in the intestines, and not to mention delicious too.
Hemp protein Powder – Derived from the grinding down of Hemp seeds, Hemp contains all 20 amino acids, of which 9 our bodies can’t produce on its own, which makes it a complete protein. These essential amino acids are responsible for helping the brain function, regulating the metabolism and enabling normal body maintenance of cells, muscle, tissues, and organs. Hemp seeds are one of the few Omega-3 sources found in plants which can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and contribute to lowering blood pressure. Not only is it high in fibre and easy to digest, it is also environmentally friendly, as one of the world’s most versatile plants it does not require pesticide’s and grows relatively cheaply and easily, so much so it can be used to manufacture almost anything from food to clothes to bio fuel. The only downside to using hemp is that it contains no THC so unfortunately you have no chance of getting high ;)
Cacao – Is packed full of anti-oxidants, Cacao contains the mood improver and known to boost serotonin. It’s full off flavanols which are known for providing anti-inflammatory protection, contains 700 compounds of polyphenols amazing heart and cardiovascular protection, as well containing an abundance of anti-aging anti-oxidants.
Goji Berries - packed full anti-oxidants, immune boosting, anti-cancer vitamin and mineral packed, they contain vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin A, iron, selenium and other antioxidants (notably polysaccharides) I love them.
Pumpkin Seeds – Rich Omega 3 fats, magnesium, zinc and packed full of natural Phytoestrogens. Pumpkin seeds are amazing for immunity, cell growth and regeneration and regulating mood. It’s the building block for melatonin which is the sleep hormone, so if you suffer from insomnia or have trouble dropping off at night its worth adding a few more of these to your diet.
Coconut oil-Although we only used a smidge (if anything at all) Coconut oil has a ridiculous amount of health benefits, High in (Good) saturated fat, it’s a unique medium chain fatty acids, the Lauric acid in coconut oil can kill bacteria and viruses and the oil can lower blood cholesterol to name just a few. I live the stuff and pretty much use it in place of all other oils nowadays.
Modern life means many of us are desk bound or spend a considerable proportion of our day sitting down, driving, watching TV, playing with tablets/phones or whatever it is……… this can cause our abdominal muscles to become weak and lazy which compromises our posture which can ultimately lead to lower back pain, or even worse compromised discs and nerve damage (namely sciatica).
There are many benefits we can reap by strengthening our core, namely improved posture, efficient digestion, and increased strength and stability for holding and transitioning into our yoga asanas.
Our core is a complex series of muscles which comprise much more than just our abdominals, they are incorporated into pretty much every movement we make, enabling us with the ability to flex, side bend and rotate.
So here are some of the many benefits of cultivating a strong core in our yoga practice;
Improved Posture – The abdominal muscles support the curves of the spine, which supports us from the inside out, how we walk, how we sit how we hold ourselves when we stand.
Centre of balance – Core abdominal strength supports us in literally every yoga posture, it holds us up in our balancing poses like Tree and Warrior 3. It gives us stability for our standing poses and literally stabilises us from the inside out. Beginning from deep within the Pelvic floor by engaging and lifting Mula Bandha and moving up spine into Uddiyana Bandha by drawing the navel towards the spine and utilizing these engagements with the breath will enable us to hold our poses stronger and for longer. A strong healthy core improves all aspects of our practice, twists, lifts, forward bends, backward bends, inversions.
Minimises lower back pain - the lumbar spine tends to over compensate during back bending and lifting if the core is weak and can also result in over rotations of the vertebrae in the lower back which may lead to degenerative discs and arthritis over time
Aids Digestion – Having a weak core can mean a weak digestive fire (Agni), therefore we maybe not absorbing as many nutrients as we could. Core work and forward folds provide lots of stimulation to the internal organs ensuring plenty of oxygen and clean blood moving throughout the organs and blood stream.
Yoga poses for Core Strength
Here are some basic poses which will get you started building a connection to your core
Boat pose - Navasana – Ardha Navasana
Balance equally on both sitting bones, make sure your lower back does not collapse and lift the chest and the heart up continuing to lengthen the front of the torso between the sternum and the pubic bone. Begin holding onto the back of the thighs just behind the knees
Exhale lift the feet off the floor keeping the shins parallel, remember to keep the bandhas engaged (lift the pelvic floor up and pull the navel towards the spine). If comfortable there you can release the arms parallel to the floor, spread the shoulders wide, squeeze the scapula towards each other down the back, reach strongly through the fingertips energizing the arms. If this is comfortable and the lower back is not collapsing try extending the legs straight raising the toes in line with the eyes. Traditionally we would hold for 5 deep ujjai breaths, however try holding for a minute perhaps working your way up to two.
Ardha Navasana is a great test of core strength, try inhaling while leaning back so feet and shoulders are hovering off the floor, hold for 5 breaths working your way up, makesure the belly and lower ribs are being sucked in and up.
Plank Pose - Kumbhakasana
Make sure your shoulders are directly over your wrists, try to make sure that your wrist creases are parallel to the front edge of your mat, pull your shoulders away from your ears and squeeze the scapula down the back, push the floor away. Suck the belly in and up and squeeze the lower floating ribs towards each other, strong bandhas make sure the pelvic floor is lifted and the full length of the thigh is engaged pushing the heels back creating length in the spine. Make sure the tailbone is reaching towards the heels and reach out through the crown of the head ensuring that the neck is relaxed. Gaze beyond your hands keep the eyes soft and the jaw relaxed. Hold for anywhere from 5 breaths to 2 mins.
Forearm Plank Pose – Phalakasana
On your knees take hold of your elbows and then extend your forearms parallel out in front of you, this will ensure that your forearms are shoulders width apart. Firm the elbows into the floor and pull the shoulders away from the ears. Suck the belly in and up and squeeze the lower floating ribs towards each other, strong bandhas make sure the pelvic floor is lifted and the full length of the thigh is engaged pushing the heels back creating length in the spine. Make sure the tailbone is reaching towards the heels and reach out through the crown of the head ensuring that the neck is relaxed. Gaze beyond your hands keep the eyes soft and the jaw relaxed. Hold for anywhere from 5 breaths to 2 mins.
Side Plank – Forearm Vasisthasana
Right wrist grabs left elbow, then roll onto the outer edge of your right foot and stack the left foot on top, keep the hips lifted and let the left arm rest on the left side of the body or reach up.
Cat & Cow – Majaryasana & Bitilasana
Start in neutral spine on hands and knees, hands directly underneath wrists and knees directly underneath hips.(Cow) Inhale as you let the belly dip the sitting bones rise and move away from each other, chest broadens and heart lifts remember to look up. (Cat) Exhale chin to chest look towards your navel push the floor away, round the upper back, magnetize sternum to pubic bone, pull the belly in and up and feel the sitting bones move towards each other. Take anywhere between 5 and 20 rounds
Tiger Pose – Eka Hasta Pada Vyaghrasana
In neutral spine on hands and knees, extend right leg back and left arm forwards, squeeze everything in towards the midline, energetically squeeze the inner right thigh, flexing the foot will give you more stability. Hold for a minimum of 5 breaths, swap sides.
Then inhale reach through the extended foot, exhale hug the knee into the chest and repeat 3- 5 times on each side.
Counter pose - Bridge pose - Setu Bandhasana
Core followed by bridge helps train the muscles to become responsive and flexible through relaxation after intense engagement. Lie flat on your back knees bent with soles of the feet firmly grounding into the floor about hip distance width apart. Arms alongside the body palms facing down, inhale as you press down firmly through the arms and the feet to lift the pelvis off of the floor in line with the thighs. Energetically squeeze the inner thighs in towards each other while keeping the thighs in line with the hips. Engage the glutes, Keep the core engaged don’t left the lower ribs flay out, wiggle the shoulders underneath for more support, tuck the chin towards the chest and don’t move the head and the neck whilst in the pose, take 5 long deep ujjai breaths then exhale slowly lower the pelvis back towards the ground vertebrae by vertebrae, then repeat by inhaling up, try to aim for at least 3 rounds
Always take rest in Savasana when finished, this is where all the good work you have just done begins to integrate within.
Developing core strength goes way beyond cultivating a taunt tummy and rock hard flat abs…… this centre of gravity is an energetic space which contains our essence of who we really are, home to our 3 lower chakras Muldahara (I am), Swadisthana (I feel) and Manipura (I become), the pelvic and belly region is central for emotional healing.
Listening and learning to tap into this wisdom and energy contained deep within the centre of our being will enable us to harness this power and innate intelligence which will improve our life beyond our yoga mat.
Core work is a great start way to start a yoga practice, for me it brings a deep central awareness in each of the asana's to come, we begin to feel from the inside out and break the habit of moving from the outer body. It creates heat with in the body and can set an intensity for the practice.
Be sure to listen and honour all of the sensations that arise in the body and your mind, we are then creating a space for the union of yoga to occur……….. your ego maybe screaming “I can’t hold / do anymore” but the body’s intrinsic intelligence is doing everything it can on a cellular level to ensure that it is prepared for “more”, this then can radiate out for the remainder of the practice
So before or after (or both) we begin core work I invite you to place your hands on your tummy, close your eyes and just take a few moments to express gratitude for everything the core does do for us already in our lives
It is very sad that many of us (myself included) see our abdominal region as something that should be controlled or crunched into shape. We judge it by its appearance, if it wobbles, we feel ashamed and want to hide it or work it harder. This creates an air of dualism between “me” and “my body” insinuating that you are separate from a part of yourself. This is counterproductive to our practice, our life but most importantly it is the complete opposite of yoga.