Our top 5 tips for balance

Following on the heels of our Mini Balance workshop at the Om Yoga Show Manchester, here are our Top 5 Tips for balance!

Balance is not just a physical element to a pose. Balance in the mind and the breath is equally as important. 

When the mind becomes agitated, so too does the body.

Breath practice (pranayama), breath-led movement in asanas, and guided relaxation can be utilised to find this balance in the mind, the body and in life

In order to find balance in your balancing asanas these five top tips are essential:

    1. Strong foundation and sthira (steadiness) – A strong, steady base in those parts of the body that make up the foundations of the pose, drawing energy up through the body from our stable foundation.                                                                      e.g. in standing balances lifting and spreading the toes, gripping the mat with the toes, weight in the heel and side of the foot, a natural arch to the foot. Active muscles in leg, micro-bend to the knees, engaging pelvic floor and core.
    1. Sukha (ease) – Finding ease and lightness in the posture. The pose isn’t stiff and adjust it whenever required. Softness in the pose and fluidity in mindful movement both in and out of the pose. Using the breath to cultivate a sense of sukha.                                                             
    1.   Drishti (focus) – Very important – focus with soft gaze on particular point e.g. The hands in Low Lunge pose (anjaneyasana). The drishti aids concentration, focus and mindfulness. Still mind = still body
    1. Satya (truthfulness) – Practise with truth, listen to your body. Use a staged approach into each posture. Use modifications and props when needed (props are for all!). Props allow us to explore what our own body’s ability is in each posture whilst aiding correct alignment. Same benefits are achieved with props e.g. using the wall to aid balance in tree pose we still gain leg strength, balance, focus and hip opening. Remember to rest when needed and ease back or release if uncomfortable. Listen to the body and make any micro-adjustments throughout.
    1. Have a try! – Don’t worry about being wobbly or losing your balance. Try to let go of attachment to the ego – self judgement/frustration. If wobbly, ease back or perhaps try previous step on staged approach e.g. Keeping toes on floor in Crow Pose (Bakasana). Can always gently release and rest when required and perhaps try again. Remember to make use of props and modifications to posture. Approach wobbliness/losing balance with a gentle smile on our faces – find lightheartedness in practising poses and in losing balance/wobbliness and trying again. Can we approach life in this way?

 

The Benefits of Backbends

In this week’s classes we explored back-bending yoga asanas (postures) and their many benefits.

Of course there are the physical benefits of backbends. We spend so much of our daily lives sitting hunched – driving, on the computer/tablets, on our phones, shielding ourselves from the rain and wind (in the UK at least!), that it is essential to counter this with back-bending asanas.

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Backbends maintain the natural extension of our spines, even increasing this mobility. They strengthen the spinal muscles. They stretch our hip flexors which can be tight from too much sitting. Countering poor posture simply feels good to do! They can feel freeing!

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However, just because they might feel good, doesn’t mean that they are without their challenges. In stressful situations, our tendency is often to close up physically, protecting the vulnerable heart space. Backbends are the opposite to this, and can therefore feel quite exposing. It can take courage to practice backbends particularly when we are feeling vulnerable. On a physical level, we are moving our body in a direction that we cannot see (behind us!). If we can’t see where we are going then we are bound to be nervous! Isn’t that the same in life too? Yet this building of courage on the mat can help us build courage off the mat too.

On an emotional level, backbends create an opening in the heart chakra (Anahata chakra) (the centre of feeling) allowing us to be more open to our own emotions, experiences, in our relationships etc. When we are physically ‘open’ this in turn can allow us to feel more emotionally and mentally open.

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So, clearly backbends are beneficial to us but when practising them it is important to be aware that ‘opening up’ in this way may release stored emotions due to the challenge of backbends. It is not uncommon to experience fear, apprehension, frustration, self-criticism, even annoyance or anger. Our aim here is to notice what is cropping up in our thoughts and feelings but without judgement of them or judgement of ourselves. Simply allow these thoughts and feelings to come and go. They always pass. Ultimately, it is beneficial to release these stored emotions, whatever they are.

Of course, it is necessary to practice backbends safely, and the good news is that, like all asanas (poses), backbends can be modified so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of these wonderful asanas! Backbends can be as gentle or as deep as is comfortably available to us, and of course it is always essential to mobilise the body before attempting backbends and to only move within a pain-free range of motion. All our bodies are different and we must always practice with satya (truthfulness) and ahimsa (compassion) to our own bodies and our own abilities. Your yoga teacher will help guide you so that you can experience the benefits of backbends.

Happy back-bending!

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Namaste

 

 

West Kirby Light Opera Society – Stars in their Eyes night!

Tia and Ben, two of our regular yoga students at our weekly Hoylake Yoga class kindly invited us to attend the West Kirby Light Opera Society Stars in their Eyes night.

It was held in Westbourne Hall and was a fantastic night out. Steve and I took my mum to see it and we all had a great time.

All of the performers were wonderful. There was Johnny Cash, Kate Bush, The Supremes, Michael Buble, Dean Martin, K D Lang, George Michael, Roy Orbison, Shirley Bassey, Taylor Swift, Bewitched, Tina Turner, Cindy Lauper, Nancy Sinatra, Grace Jones and more! The Winner was the very fierce Grace Jones. She had everyone on the edge of their seats wondering if they were going to be picked on from a very in character temperamental Grace Jones!

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We were overwhelmed by Tia who performed as Shirley Bassey, Kate Bush and Diana Ross and the Supremes. Our personal favourite was her turn as Kate Bush performing Wuthering Heights complete with the famous dance!

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The Yoga has got to help with a dance routine like this;

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Ben too was in fine voice as the man in black Johnny Cash performing Ring of Fire, complete with a Tijuana Brass man in the background!

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Tia is heavily involved in putting the night together and is also a key member of the West Kirby Light Opera society. The night was a great success and we will be sure to return next year!

Check out the website for the West Kirby Light Opera Society and their up coming events here;

West Kirby Light Opera Society

Paul