INSPIRATION OF THE MONTH
INSPIRATION OF THE MONTH - October 2018
Our inspiration of the month is lateral bends and stretches. This of course can be looked at literally, as Asanas that simply stretch the sides of the physical body. However, we can go deeper than the physical sheet (Kosha) and explore our mental, emotional and spiritual stretching and a sense of "going beyond".
In yoga we often challenge ourselves, and questions: what is it we are strengthening stretching? And how does this lead to peace of mind and bliss, which is the goal of Yoga? Of course there is great value and great benefits to strengthening and stretching the sides of the body. This in turn supports the respiratory system and aids in preparation for pranayama which is extremely important. But at the same time, what we really stretch is our mind. our beliefs, our limitations, or what we perceived our mind and limitations to be.
We stretch what we thought to be possible or impossible. We find the strength and the courage necessary to redefine our belief system, our core values, our actions in this life. We even reconsider what does "strength"or "success"and "failure"really mean from these new and fresh eyes.
We know that just one (either strengthening OR stretching), is not enough. The secret lies in finding the balance. Sthira Sukham Asanam.
There are times in life we need to find the strength; to remain loyal to our values, no matter what is happening around us. To find the strength to keep marching forward, and keep our head tall, even though all we really want to do is remain in bed. The strength to keep faith in the world around us and in human kind, even though we have experienced dissapointment and betrayal .
But there are times we need to be humble. To bow down and surrender. To be flexible in our mind and heart so we can move aside from the "plan" we had and allow the path to present itself to us. This form of flexibility is strength in itself, and will protect us from breaking.
Swami Satchitananda gives an example to a tree in a big storm. Of course the strength of the tree will help it in the storm, and how deep the roots have gone into the earth, but if the tree doesn't know how to bend with the wind, then the wind will eventually break its branches.
This is a description by Joan Moran as he explains "Stretching the body as a tool to stretch the mind";
"It is the process of teaching the brain a new way of thinking by connecting the right/left brain more efficiently, increasing the ability to problem solve. It is my general observation that stretching the mind enhances innovation and productivity, optimizes the way the mind functions, and alleviates mental blocks."
No wonder we find Physical stretching so challenging!
In lateral stretches it is as if we go "outside of ourselves" to stretch and become even bigger and greater; body mind and spirit.... We don' t always see the path, as we are positioned in different and often awkward asanas, but it is the faith in ourselves and trust in the practice (or the other way around...) that keeps us going and stretching further and beyond.
Jump to Inspiration of the month:
Long-term gains in flexibility depend on your ability to stretch the connective tissue binding your muscles, but your ability to do
this is dependent upon your success in undoing protective reflexes, and this in turn is related to your ability to relax mentally.
It is essential for you to realise that your state of mind and the force of your emotions can
be even more difficult to overcome than the resistance of your muscles.
- David Coulter
lateral bends & stretches
Extended Side Angle Pose - Utthita Parsvakonasana
This pose will help you to find length in your side body, from your heel to your fingertips as the side of the body extends into one beautiful, long plane. This an ideal asana for achieving balance, opening and release.
Extended Side Angle pose opens the side of the body from the feet to the fingers
Energises the whole body and increases stamina
Strengthens the groins, spine, waist, chest and lungs, and shoulders
Strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, and ankles
Stimulates abdominal organs
Supports better posture and aids to improve balance
Contraindications for this pose, do not practice if you have a headache, high or low blood pressure or insomnia. If you have any neck problems don't turn your head to look at the top arm; instead look straight ahead with the sides of the neck lengthened evenly, or look down at the floor.
You can bring the right hand to the floor on fingertips, your forearm to your bent thigh or place your hand on a block. Make the adjustment you need to keep your chest, hips, and legs aligned. If it’s difficult to keep your back heel on the floor, practice with your back heel against a wall. As you bend your front knee into the pose, imagine that you’re pressing the wall away from you with your heel.
1. From Tadasana (Mountain Pose) make your way to Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II). Press the left outer foot and heel to the floor as you bend the right leg at the knee to form a 90-degree angle.
2. Bring the right hand to the floor on fingertips, bring your forearm to your bent thigh or place your hand on a block.
3. Move the right armpit close to the outer right knee so the arm and shin are parallel.
4. Reach the left arm up toward the ceiling. Release your right shoulder away from the ear. Try to create as much length along the right side of your torso as you do along the left.
5. Move the back ribs and spine in toward the front body, and let the chest expand against the support of the back.
6. Stretch the whole back of the body as you open the chest. If you are able to turn your torso easily, then you can also turn the head and look toward the left thumb.
7. Make sure your front knee does not drop inward. Keep your front thigh externally rotating with your knee drawn slightly toward the baby toe of your front foot. Press firmly through the outer edge of your back foot.
Kapalbhati Pranayama - Skull Shining Breathing Technique
Kapalabhati is a traditional internal cleansing technique and detoxifies all the systems in our body. And the obvious sign of a healthy body is a shining forehead which can be obtained with regular practice of this pranayama. A forehead that glows not just from the outside but also an intellect that becomes sharp and refined.
Kapalbhati Breath Instructions:
The guidance of a teacher is always recommended.
If you ever feel unwell or dizzy - stop the practice immediately.
These practices are to be done moderately and with much observation, as they are extremely powerful.
Come to a comfortable seated position, spine long.
Place your hands on your knees, palms up or down.
Take a deep breath in.
As you exhale, pull your stomach.
Pull your navel in back towards the spine.
Do as much as you comfortably can. You may keep your right hand on the stomach to feel the abdominal muscles contract. Pull the navel in.
As you relax the navel and abdomen, the breath flows into your lungs automatically.
Take 20 such breaths to complete one round of Kapal Bhati pranayama.
After completing the round, relax with your eyes closed and observe the sensations in your body.
Do two more rounds of Skull Shining breathing technique (Kapal Bhati pranayama).
Benefits of Kapalbhati Breath
Effective in reducing weight by increasing the metabolic rate
Clears the nadis (subtle energy channels)
Stimulates abdominal organs and thus is extremely useful to those with diabetes
Improves blood circulation and adds radiance to the face
Improves digestive tract functioning, absorption and assimilation of nutrients
Results in a taut and trimmed down belly
Energizes the nervous system and rejuvenates brain cells
Calms and uplifts the mind
Avoid practicing this breathing technique if you have an artificial pacemaker or stents, backache due to slip disc, recently went through an abdominal surgery, or are suffering with epilepsy or hernia.
Women should not practice Skull Shining breathing technique (Kapal Bhati pranayama) during and shortly after pregnancy, as well as during menstruation as it involves vigorous abdominal squeezes.
People with hypertension and heart problems should practice this breathing techniqueunder a yoga expert's guidance.