Friday, 16 September 2016

Mudra Vinyasa

Mudras are energetic gestures. They are also sometimes described as seals or symbols. Most mudras are hand positions, also known as hasta (hand) mudra but mudras are also body postures, eye postures or breathing techniques. So you can say, every yoga posture is also a mudra. These gestures are a way of directing current into or through our bodies. You can say it is about adding another level of focused attention. Hence it is common practice to use hand mudras during meditation.

More research is starting to show that our psyche is affected by messages we receive from our bodies. A well known example is, standing with an open body to feel more confident. Smiling to change how you feel, even when it is forced. Similarly, mudras engage with specific parts of our brain or body and is said to have the ability to alter how we feel or even cure certain ailments. 

Mudra Vinyasa is a moving meditation practice that focuses on shifting energetic patterns in our bodies, mainly to calm the nervous system and leave the practitioner feeling relaxed but also energized at the same time. On a good day, it leaves you feeling perfectly balanced. The practice evolved out of my love for Prana Vinyasa Yoga (by Shiva Rea), Shadow Yoga (by Shandor Remete) and Chinese Martial arts practices such as Qigong and Tai Chi (and various other branches of schools) It also grew out of my love for slow movement that feels and looks soft but is actually a steady powerful fire inside. I started to practice like this out of practicality- on the beach especially and outdoors where it is not practical or comfortable to put your hands down on the ground. I found that it got me so focused, that I just started to include it as part of my home practice also. It got a big push when a vinyasa-loving friend had shoulder surgery and still wanted to practice flow but was unable to do the "usual stuff". And so grew these Mudra Vinyasa sequences. I added mudras as I feel like they have a place in the practice, especially within some of the flows. Already we often see chin mudra in some asanas, so why not include more.

Come and try it! It is not a soft practice. There are no difficult asanas in the open practices, you are rarely on your hands (maybe just all fours and cobra) Having said that, it is a dynamic practice. You will build quite a bit of heat as you will be moving every part of your body for the whole duration of the class. Your legs & hips work quite hard as there is a lot of Muladhara Chakra work (base chakra, thinking about getting rooted & grounded) And i will be including a fire section in each practice too.

Here's a link to the practice. It is a short version that aims to show the essence of the practice. If you have practiced with me before, you can use the video to help you with the flows. You just have to repeat each flow more and add the asanas in between each flow. Enjoy!    



https://vimeo.com/181971751

Monday, 13 June 2016

Reflection

Last week, someone asked me if i ever got bored of teaching. I get asked this regularly. It has been 10 years after all, and, i believe, around 10,000 hours of teaching. 
Bored, no.
I also get asked often, how i stay inspired to do this every day enthusiastically :-D 

Truthfully, i am fuelled by people.
I love meeting people. I love chatting to people. I love connecting with people- which is why i love social media also. 

Every single time I walk into a space to teach, I am immediately lifted by everyone's presence- whether it's one or one hundred. No one class has ever felt the same, just like not one practice ever, just like not one day ever. My inspiration to teach comes from my love of watching people move, & even more so, watching as the practice unravels their realisation of their strength & brilliance. 

The only difference is that after years of teaching, I have my roots and am fully able to be authentic in my delivery. Delivering only what I know, what I practice and what I feel in my body and in my heart and what i truly believe. Not trying to be more, not trying to fit into anything, not trying to please anyone. Just serving the practice as i understand it. I am sure this helps keep the love for the work. And of course, the immense love of the practice itself!  <3 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Grow Together



When you find a teacher that resonates with you, inspires you and ignites your own fire, stick to them! There is so much to gain from working with one teacher. Give them the opportunity to get to know your body & what you seek from your practice. In this way, you open the gateway for them to serve you. The more time you give them, the more opportunity you will both have to grow together.
As a teacher myself, I am excited & grateful when a student is willing to stay. Through the times when i am interesting, entertaining and inspiring, but also when I seem to have nothing much to share (a digestion time or just an uninspired time!) The more I learn about someone's body, the deeper I get to study, the ways in which to support them in their practice. In depth understanding cannot be fostered in a short time and as a teacher, my study and progress can only be made when a student stays. Now in my 10th year teaching, I am confident to walk into any room to present a class to anybody, but on a general level. All the benefits of practice will be there; moving your body, feeling more focused & relaxed, feeling energised, feeling good about yourself, etc. Beyond this though, there is so much more to be gained from practice that can only attained when trust, understanding, connection & surrender is present, both ways.
Find your teacher, and give them & yourself, a chance- the old way.

Monday, 18 April 2016

What is your practice

If your practice is causing you to feel contracted
If your practice is causing you to feel unworthy, small, bad...
If your practice is taking something away from you

It is a milestone we sometimes meet
If it is really calling for your inner inquiry, just take a step back and examine if something needs to shift

Your attitude towards your practice
Your presence at practice
Your expectations

One way to stay focused is to have a clear purpose of why you practice.
Even if your purpose is to achieve as many asana's as possible- if this is really what makes you happy, don't let anyone rock your stage.

I see many discussions these days about what is yoga and what is not yoga. In India, almost everything is neti neti- not this, not that, as is yoga. 
#yogaisnotjustasana
That is true
But if your yoga is just asana, don't be led into thinking that you are doing a lesser practice. Or that somehow, you are missing the point.

For me, after many years of practice, i no longer distinguish between what is and is not yoga (nor have i ever, because I started yoga before social media & it's definition has never been a discussion) Yoga is in everything that I do, every breath that I take, every thought, every emotion, every practice. But before I came to live like this, yoga for me was a lot of very awesome stuff i do with my body that made me feel great.

I still love asana practice and for me, asana & meditation is still at the core of what I deem to be my yoga practice. I practice because I have a strong tendency towards passivity, especially here, in my English home - I am still trying to figure out why. I also have this tendency to drop things when they are not going the way I want it to - perfectly, that is! When I fall into these habits, I become incredibly irritable and pissed off- which is not great for those around me. My practice supports me by reminding me daily that something does not have to be perfect to feel great. Moving - well... moving helps me get going. Above it all, having this time to be quiet, to focus internally, gives me clarity, peace and a sense of my centre. It keeps me connected to my true being- not the lazy, agro self that i can fall into. Those of you who know me might think that is not possible- well, it is, but you do not meet that person thanks to yoga (My husband meets that person sometimes. I am sure he will tell you LOL) 

Just do what makes you happy
If you are doing what feels good for you, everyone around you is receiving those benefits.
When we are happy, we are more open, more giving, more kind, more of everything good and less of everything not so nice. 
Not perfection
Just better.



Monday, 1 February 2016

Mudra Vinyasa

In a general sense, a mudra is translated as a gesture but another meaning of the word is attitude. In yoga, mudra's are usually associated with hand gestures, but mudra's are also whole body gestures. Many will agree that mudra's are not something invented by the Indians but rather something that has been seen and used throughout cultures around the world. 

A simple example of everyday mudra's that you will come across often is the gesture of throwing a fist or finger at someone. Seldom is this done without some corresponding body, face, eye, etc, gesture. So in this way you can see how a whole body mudra is formed 


As stated by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in his book 'Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha' *
"Mudras provide a means to access and influence unconscious reflexes and primal, instinctive habit patterns that originate in the primitive areas of the brain around the brain stem. They establish a subtle, non-intellectual connection with these areas. Each Mudra sets up a different link and has a correspondingly different effect on the body, mind and prana. The aim is to create fixed, repetitive postures and gestures, which can snap the practitioner out of instinctive habit patterns and establish more refined consciousness

Swami Muktibodhananda in her book 'Hatha Yoga Pradipika'* explains that "Mudra is a specific body position which channelizes energy produced by asana and pranayama into the various centres, and arouses particular states of mind. Some mudras can be done separately after asana and pranayama and others are performed with asana and pranayama and others are performed with asana and pranayama to help awaken the chakras and arouse Kundalini shakti"


When we practice asanas as yoga mudra's we are more focused on the energetics (or the pulsation of prana) of the postures as opposed to the physicality of it. Not that all yoga practice should not be focused this way. Yoga asana as mudra for me is a more "advanced" way of practicing yoga asana. It is also difficult, and not practical to ask a student to feel the energetics of the pose when they are still figuring out the physicality of the pose. 


Having said that, it is not something difficult or "out there" to experience energetics or prana in the body. We all feel this in an obvious way on some level. For example, when you inhale and extend your arms overhead, most people will immediately get that feeling of that upward surge in their body.   


Aside from consciously practicing asanas as whole body mudra's, when you embody specific hand gestures (hasta mudra) into your practice, again, you will add another dimension of energetics to the practice. You can experience this for yourself- extend your arms out and do nothing with your hands, and then make a chin mudra gesture (join your thumb and index finger, extend your other 3 fingers) You will feel the difference right away.

Join me in any one of my workshops or at my regular class at red Hot Yoga on Saturday's to experience this. The video below is a snapshot of some flows that we practice. (The video is not arranged for practice and is only meant to be a snapshot) The practice is a fusion of my understanding of several yoga schools (Prana Vinyasa, Shadow Yoga, Vinyasa Flow), Tai Chi and some martial arts, mudra's added are universal.









* highly recommended books


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Advancing Asana Practice



Do you remember your first yoga class? Or even those first few months or years of yoga practice? As cliché as it may sound, I guess I would describe it as the beginning of a journey of discovery. Feeling your body in a different way- in fact feeling every part of your body- some parts that you never even knew existed!

In modern life, we are so accustomed to external stimuli that going inwards feels like a trip to a far away planet, but one that is most beautiful, & one that you absolutely fall in love with. And of course, like all love affairs, it’s a roller coaster ride with many highs and some lows- where we take stock, ask questions, reevaluate our aspirations.

I feel like yoga practice is very much like a romantic relationship- you have the honeymoon period, a period of really getting to know each other; the beautiful and the not so beautiful and then a ripening that is so sweet when you know each other so well that you know how to support each other’s happiness. So in our yoga practice, we have that initial discovery- we literally fall in love with ourselves (not an ego thing, but also lets not use that word like it’s the devil himself) Following that, there is that realization – “my body is so this and that”, but equally, “wow! My body is so strong and amazing”, etc. And then (after some YEARS) you get to know it so well, you know how you feel, how to make yourself feel better, how to move like a rock star!


But like all romantic love, this is not the moment to stop growing and learning, because we are always changing. If we stop putting the effort into our relationship, it is likely that we will lose that space of happiness and contentment. Contentment is not a place of non-activity. Rather, it a place you have found that you are happy to be in, but to remain there, you have to put in the work. The work may change. To remain feeling content does not necessarily mean doing the same thing over and over again. This works for some people but not everyone. So what works for you? You will know if you are doing the right thing for yourself but evaluating if you are feeling that same joy.    

For me, this is what advancing my practice is about. Although I have practiced for many years, I have discovered that the practice never stops revealing connections to my body and inner self. Through my practice, I am experiencing change every day. This is both very powerful and humbling. Let me make it clear though, that I am not experiencing these things just from advance poses. I feel the change in my warrior 2 all the time.

But whilst feeling the change in poses that I am familiar with keep me grounded in my body, advancing my practice continues to help me break barriers that cause me to move from my contentment spot. Advancing my practice is not about doing advance poses. It is about doing that thing you did when you first walked into a yoga class – remember how scary that was? And equally how empowering that experience was? Very soon, you were not afraid to walk into any yoga studio in the world. That is what it is all about – breaking barriers that we unconsciously create every day.

If you have been practicing for a while, do not be afraid to walk into your first level 2-3 class. And if you found after that it was not for you, at least you gave it a try, or you will never know. It is not as hard or as crazy as you think and it is ok to leave it for another day if it was not right. There is no ego and there is no judgement. 

Friday, 2 October 2015

Interview Q&A



Interview Q&A with Victoria from Inspired Yoga, Sweden

1. When and why did you start practising yoga? 

I took my first yoga class at university in 1994. I was not inspired to practice it regularly right away as I was distracted by student life and a lot of activities new to me. I only started to practice regularly when my best friend took me along to her class back in Malaysia in 1999. There was no profound reason for starting yoga practice. It was solely a physical love to begin with. I started practicing regularly because it made me feel good.
2. How has yoga helped you in your life?

Over time, i noticed how i had changed- feeling more relaxed, less reactive, more focused & also more mindful. My relationships with everyone became so much better. I guess you could really say, yoga practice changed my life. I realised some years later that everything I learn and encounter on the mat applies to how I flow in my life. I see this relationship clearly now.

Aside from this, I also used to have terrible body image issues. Yoga has really changed my relationship with my body. I have great respect & great appreciation for my body now. It is not that i am completely over these issues, but i am so much more comfortable in my body that I am not even afraid to put myself out in the big social media world now. It's a huge thing for me & i am grateful for it.
3. What does yoga mean to you?
For me, yoga is a complete mind body practice. Physical practice keeps the body healthy, meditation keeps the mind healthy. I think there is some confusion sometimes and there are some who think that physical practice and meditation are separate. Meditation can also happen during physical practice. Just taking time out to focus on the breath can clear the mind too. If practice is focused, meditation happens too.
However, I think it is important to stop every day and just sit quietly to watch the thought waves, even if it is just for a moment. The mind is an incredible place. I believe meditation & physical practice should happen side by side.

4. What is your favourite yoga pose?

I have soooo many! But if i have to name just one, it would be pincha mayurasana. I have been working on this pose since the day i set eyes on it when i could not even do one inversion! The pose just keeps challenging my beliefs. Even when I've got it, it will not let me keep it. Not yet anyway ;-)

5. What is your most memorable yoga moment?


I have a few and cannot pick one so here are a few...

When i took my first Vinyasa class & experienced the freedom of movement & creativity
When I did my first teacher training. There were only 5 of us. It was an intimate & life changing month.
When I first met my teacher Shiva Rea 
When I met you! 

6. What inspires you?

Possibilities inspires me. Waking up every morning to an abundant of possibilities & going to bed, looking forward to the morning. I feel so blessed to be given this life & this moment.
Love also inspires me. Love is so powerful. When love is present, possibilities are endless. And I mean love for anything. In an all inclusive sense.

7. What do you love about teaching yoga?

Yoga is such a big part of my life. I get so much joy from being able to share it. Not just the asana practice but also the many magical & inspiring stories. Some stories & inspiration have been passed on from teacher to teacher, so it is not possible to hear these stories if these gifts are not also passed on.
The big thing of course is also sharing asana practice. For me, it's really like playground time- when we laugh & play & discover the many things that we are capable of. A time when we breakdown many of our perceived limitations that we accumulate in our adult life. For me, it is exciting when I see someone have an "aha" moment. When they find something within themselves. And this is also what I love about teaching yoga. Every class is different. You just never know what you're going to get.