yoga seeds #19 – Shaping the mind

Michal Lassmann, who participates in my classes, told me the other day that she had noticed how yoga was changing the way her mind worked and had found an interesting article that could explain this phenomenon. There are many ways in which our mind can be shaped by hatha yoga, which really means any physical approach to yoga:

  • We are putting aside a space and a time in which we come in relationship with ourselves, gradually building an inner home that offers stability and nourishment. As a result we can be less dependent and more healthily interdependent in our relationship with our environment.
  • We train being here and now, which are the only coordinates in which we can feel the joy of being alive.
  • We learn to recognize well-being, which can be a better compass than advantages/disadvantages lists for certain types of choice-making.
  • We subject ourselves to challenge while keeping a steady and calm breath, so we train equanimity in intense situations (more about this in the abovementioned article).
  • We are placing ourselves in the dynamic space between potential and limitation and learning to integrate the inspiration to go further with the acceptance of what is.
  • We practise focussing our attention and, as a result we are more able to place our mind where we need it to be, just like our limbs.
  • By spreading attention throughout the body and also focussing on specific points we develop plasticity between our panoramic and pin-point attention and the ability to zoom in and out of different aspects of experience. As a result of this plasticity we learn to become aware, not only of what is most intense, but of the whole picture, which is very useful in difficult life circumstances that we can do nothing about.
  • By paying attention to our breath/body sensations, emotions/energy and mind, we learn how they are connected and influence each other, and gain freedom to step out of spiralling states.

Now I’m giving you the floor! In what ways does your hatha yoga practice shape your mind?

Thanks Ruta for contributing the following!: “Maybe it’s the right side because our heart is on the left side and we don’t want to squeeze it either. We want to have an open, loving heart, and not a heart that’s suppressed.”

Thanks to all my students at Yoga Hub Berlin, who inspire me with their practice.

Visit the Yoga Seeds index to go straight to what you’re looking for.

yoga seeds #18 – The right side

Why do we roll onto our right side at the end of savasana to come up to sitting?

First of all it makes sense that we all roll onto the same side to avoid collisions. But why the right side? The liver is on the right side of our trunk and it’s bigger and heavier than the other organs. If we lie on our left side, it weighs onto the rest. However, if we lie on our right side, it will be underneath and won’t compress anything. This is why sleeping on your right side, especially after a heavy dinner, may feel more comfortable, because the stomach won’t be squashed while it does its work. Of course, lying on your left side is not going to cause any damage to your body, and definitely not for the few seconds between savasana and sitting up. It could even be that for some people lying on the left side is more comfortable for a variety of reasons!

Do you know any other reasons why we roll onto the right side? Or reasons to roll onto the left side? Leave me a comment or write to me here!

  • Ruta has sent in this comment: “Maybe it’s the right side because our heart is on the left side and we don’t want to squeeze it either. We want to have an open, loving heart, and not a heart that’s suppressed.”

Thanks to all my students at Yoga Hub Berlin, who inspire me with their practice.

Visit the Yoga Seeds index to go straight to what you’re looking for.

yoga seeds #17- The seat of power

The sanskrit name for chair pose is utkatasana, which means powerful or fierce pose. It’s not a particularly exciting-looking pose… but it definitely is hard work and that’s how it awakens our power! I consider it to be one of the most functional poses, because it brings us benefits in everyday walking, standing and sitting, so I include it in every single sun salutation round!

From mountain pose (tadasana) flex the knees and the hips as if you were going to sit down, leaning forward with your trunk just enough to counterbalance the weight of your pelvis going back. Press the feet down through the base of the big toe, little toe and the heel. Slide the sitbones back to take pressure away from knees and ankles. We don’t want to let the belly pour forwards and the lower back to come into a backbend, so engage your pelvic floor (mula bandha), pull the hip points at the front of the pelvis towards each other and the sides of the waste towards each other (uddiyana bandha). Use this core action to also lengthen between ribcage and hips. Regardless of the arm variation you use, kiss the shoulderblades together at the back to open the chest to the breath.

A quick anywhere-will-do power recharge to activate manipura chakra, which is connected to digestion and our capacity to turn energy into action: from tadasana exhale actively engaging your core strength into utkatasana. Take a breath there, using the final exhalation to gather in the core ready to press down the feet even more as you inhale to come back into tadasana. Repeat several times. I absolutely love this when I need to feel my feet on the earth and my energy ready for action!

Thanks to all my students at Yoga Hub Berlin, who inspire me with their practice.

Visit the Yoga Seeds index to go straight to what you’re looking for.

yoga seeds #16 – A Goal in life

It was Sunday and, like many Sundays, we stayed behind in the studio for a chat and a cup of tea after the class. Like many Sundays, we bypassed idle chit-chat and the conversation flowed into things that mattered to us. “If there’s a goal in life that really makes sense, that must be preserving and cultivating a sense of wonder”, she said. I felt I had been given a treasure. I’m passing it on.

PS: I’ll teach the last class of the year on the 31st. Xmas can be trying… shake off some of the excess, reconnect to yourself and set off into 2019 full of vitality!

Thanks to all my students at Yoga Hub Berlin, who inspire me with their practice.

Visit the Yoga Seeds index to go straight to what you’re looking for.

yoga seeds #15 – We

A couple of weeks ago I had a bike accident and injured my arm, so there were things that I couldn’t demonstrate. The way I do transitions aims at working from the ground up and from inside out and can be disconcerting if you’ve never done it before, so I needed support. I asked the people who felt familiar with my classes to raise their hand, so that others could follow them if necessary. The large number of raised hands warmed my heart. The classes have been building up since we opened and there is now a good amount of regulars, a kind of core group. We all know how different it is to practice alone or in a group, so the energy of the group plays an important role. This core group is made of people who’ve chosen the class consciously and this means they come with a commitment, dedication and perseverance that is in the room for everybody. Not only that; when somebody comes for the first time they find a friendly vibe and a familiarity that I can try to facilitate but can not create on my own. We’re all contributing something, whether leading the class or taking it. And that’s what makes the class OUR class.

PS: I’ll teach the last class of the year on the 31st. Xmas can be trying… shake off some of the excess, reconnect to yourself and set off into 2019 full of vitality!

Thanks to all my students at Yoga Hub Berlin, who inspire me with their practice.

Visit the Yoga Seeds index to go straight to what you’re looking for.

yoga seeds #14 – Special and subtle: the breath

The most basic pranayama practice is observing the breath. “Basic”, as opposed to “simple”, because it’s the basis upon which we can develop other practices and also because observing the breath is no simple matter. For one thing, as soon as we turn our attention to it, the breath tends to change. The first challenge is allowing the breath to be what it is while we become aware of it. Like other bodily functions like the heart beat or digestion, breathing changes automatically depending on our state. What makes breathing special is the fact that it’s the only bodily function that we can also direct to a certain extent. All this means that it’s a meeting point between the body, the mind and our emotions or energy. For some people observing the breath feels uncomfortable or even unsettling. This can be disconcerting, when observing the breath is always suggested as a way to calm down. It is in the long run, but while we get there it’s worth being very gentle with ourselves. We are approaching a central aspect of our way of being in life and, by doing so, we are faced with things that we may not usually notice. Imagine your breath is a bird on a branch. If you are too conspicuous with your watching, it might fly away. Observe softly, kindly, with no expectation or demand, take a break from the practice if you need to and when you’re ready come back. Observe almost as a question, “Can I?”. And respect however long the gettting-to-know-one-another takes.

Thanks to all my students at Yoga Hub Berlin, who inspire me with their practice.

Visit the Yoga Seeds index to go straight to what you’re looking for.