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INTENTION SETTING & MUDRAS

INTENTION SETTING

Intention-Setting

Intention setting is a powerful practice. We do not just set intentions in a yoga class environment, it can be done any time. We set our intentions to cultivate and amplify a certain quality in ourselves, something we feel we need to work on. Intentions should be clear, pure and come from the heart. (You can also dedicate your practice to something or someone)

Usually you would do it at the beginning of a yoga practice and would come back to it throughout the practice and during the relaxation (Savasana).

Intentions that we set should be positive affirmations set in a present tense. For example, you can say ‘I am grateful’ if you would like to cultivate the quality of gratitude, or ‘I am love’ if you would like to cultivate self love or love towards other people. By saying ‘I am not angry’ you bring the negative ‘not’ into your intention, but we can change it to ‘I am at peace with myself’ or ‘I am calm’, ‘I am aware’. 

If you are struggling to find the right intention you can always have a gratitude practice instead. The easiest way to incorporate it into your life is to either think or say aloud 10 things you are grateful for and the reason why. There’s always something to be grateful for :))

MUDRAS

Yoga-Mudras-And-Significance

Mudra is translated as a seal or a lock. Some mudras involve the entire body, but most of them are hand and finger gestures only. 

These are used in meditation and in everyday life to channel the energy within our body. Hands are closely connected to the brain. When we use mudras different areas of the brain get stimulated, thus creating specific energy flow. 

Each of the five fingers represents one of the five elements as well as certain body parts and organs. Mudras are creating the balance between the elements when those are unbalanced and are also balancing our health.

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Thumb – digestion

Index finger – breath (respiratory system)

Ring finger – bones, skin

Middle finger – thoughts

Little finger – blood 

Mudras work on similar principals of acupuncture and reflexology. We are redirecting the energy flow within our bodies by performing various hand and finger gestures. 

We perform mudras in our every day life without even realising that what we are doing is mudras. For example, you can catch yourself doing the Hakini Mudra when you are thinking deep about something or concentrating. 

Hakini Mudra

Thumb sucking with other fingers rolled in is Mudra – helps to soothe and calm down. 

There are 108 hand mudras, but the most common ones are 

  • CHIN MUDRA – (tips of thumb and index fingers touching) – it is a Mudra of knowledge. It improves your focus, memory, helps with anxiety, stress and is performed for a better insight into your life or specific issue. It calms the mind and brings a more receptive state with it. Thumb represents universal consciousness and index finger – individual. When they are connected – you are connecting the individual self with the high self.

chin mudra

  • BHAIRAVA MUDRA ( resting palm in palm with right one on top). This is a Mudra of healing, harmony, concentration and balance. It restores balance between feminine and masculine, Ida and Pingala; between physical and spiritual.

BHAIRAVA MUDRA

  • ANJALI MUDRA (palm to palm). This is the most familiar Mudra. It symbolises gratitude, respect and honour. We use it as a Namaste gesture in a Yoga class. 

ANJALI MUDRA

If you would like to be more receptive and open keep your palms facing up, when you wish to be more grounded keep them facing down. 

There are many other fascinating mudras and there is loads of information available on the subject online and in books. Next time you do a gesture with your hands look the gesture up and you will be surprised to discover that you have probably just done a Mudra. 

Have a lovely week everyone full of positive affirmations!

Natallia

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Yoga Philosophy. 8 Limbs of Yoga

We have recently introduced Yoga Philosophy into our weekly classes and workshops.

The main point of introducing the theory into our Yoga Practice is to help you understand that Yoga is not just what you do on the mat, it is a much broader notion. I would also like you to learn a little bit more about the main pillars Yoga is based on and to be able to make your practice more mindful.

In the last 2 weeks we have been talking about 8 Limbs of Yoga. This term comes from a book Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Each limb serves as a guidance of how to live a more disciplined, more mindful life. You can picture it as a tree with 8 big branches and smaller branches coming out of the big ones.

According to Patanjali, you can become one with the higher self, reach the enlightenment or simply liberation, when following this eight-fold path. These principals serve as a guide for living a purposeful, meaningful life.

The principals are all described from external to internal. The first four serve as a foundation fir the last 4 limbs.

You do not need to learn them all by heart. Understanding how they work is the most important thing.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga are:

  1. Yamas
  2. Niyamas
  3. Asana
  4. Pranayama
  5. Pratyahara
  6. Dharana
  7. Dhyana
  8. Samadhi

1. YAMAS are the ethical, moral and spiritual standards. It is how we perceive people and things. There are 5 Yamas:
Ahimsa – non violence (no harming ourselves or other living beings bot( physically and verbally);

Satya – truthfulness (speaking the truth);

Asteya – no stealing (things, time, energy, attention; cultivating abundance within ourselves, being grateful for the things we have);

Brahmacharya – control (celibacy, control of how we use our sexual and sensual energy);

Aparigraha – non-coveting (not holding to material things, ideas and concepts; feeling the freedom to go with the flow)

2. NIYAMAS are the ethical, moral and spiritual standards we place on ourselves:

Sauca – purity and cleanliness of speech, mind, body and actions ( daily shower, clean eating, cleansing the mind from negativity);

Santosa – contentment (finding happiness within you, being grateful for what you have);

Tapas – persistence, austerity (being disciplined in order to achieve your goals);

Svādhyāya– self-study, self-reflection ; Isvarapranidhana – surrender to a high power ( make choices that are good for all).

3. ASANA – physical practice. Here the term asana refers to being able to sit comfortably for meditation.

4. PRANAYAMA – breath work, breathing techniques.

5. PRATYAHARA– withdrawal. It is the withdrawal of ourselves from any external noise so that we can be present and mindful of the sounds within. We can practice it by taking a break from the media, or choosing to only concentrate on sounds in Shavasana. It is there to teach us to withdraw from the outside noise, draw the energy in and concentrate on pranayama and on the yoga practice with no distractions from the outside world.

6. DHARANA – is about concentrating on a single point. It can be something internal or external. It teaches us to quieten the mind. It can be a candle gazing practice for example or breath awareness. This is the stage most of us are at when we think we are meditating, especially at the beginning of a yoga practice.

7. DHYANA- concentration and meditation on a single fixed point. It takes time and practice. We need to learn to train our mind to empty itself from all the thoughts and then to come back to you. This is a long process and once it is perfected it leads to the 8th limb of Yoga – Samadhi.

8. SAMADHI – reaching the ultimate goal of yoga and becoming one with the higher self, reaching the enlightenment. This is the stage where we can view our life as being not conditioned by the believes of others, likes or dislikes, no judgement or attachment.
In a nutshell, it all comes down to be a ‘good’ person with pure intentions following the basic ethical and moral principles. The last 3 limbs are pure internal and that’s what we need to work and strive for in our practice: to be able to isolate the external noise and to focus or meditate on one single point of concentration. A good way to start is to apply this principle in your daily life: focus on a single task; when out for a meal being present and give your full attention to a person you are with and not to an electronic devise; mindfully do your shopping by focusing only on the stuff you need.

If you are interested in the topic – there’s loads of information available online. I do think it is a good piece of information to have for your general knowledge as well.

Next two weeks we are talking about Mudras and Intention Setting. We will be going back to the 8 Limbs of Yoga now and then to discuss them in a bit more detail.

 

 

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🍋 Creating habits…Lemon & Ginger Warm Water and Following the Right Advice 🍋

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Lemon water: is it a 👍🏽 or a 👎 from you?

I have been drinking it for 6-7 years now daily and despite all the negative, or I would rather say controversial, views on the above ritual I’ve neither yellow or decayed teeth and also feel tons better after having a glass of lemon water in the morning. 

Doing something daily also creates a habit. It makes me feel good knowing that I can stick to at least one good habit without fail and that’s yet another benefit of having it in the morning. I have a routine of drinking lemon and ginger water, then I occasionally (that habit is still in the embryo stage 😜) take a greens shot, then I take my vitamins for the day.

If I don’t start my day with lemon water I will most likely forget to take the vitamins and will definitely miss out in the green shot.

Warm water on its own is great to consume before anything else when you get up. So even if you don’t believe in adding lemon or ginger to it – have some warm water … or not.. it won’t make you into a bad person if you drink or don’t drink it 😜💦 

Ginger is also known for its mainly anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities amongst many other benefits. I personally love it, but again, if you don’t – nobody is going to think less of you👌🏻

I just think that you should do whatever works for you and your body and ignore opinionated ‘experts’ out there on what SHOULD be good for you even if you don’t agree with it. What is good for one person might not be great for another. There are more benefits to it than risks.

I’m reading many posts from people involved in Health and Fitness and I must say that sometimes I have to count till 10 and physically stop myself from responding… sometimes I do write a response, but then delete straight away 😜 It’s not worth the hassle.. I think we should advise people on what to do, express our opinion.. but never push it or be arrogant about what we think is the way to go. One statement, one picture, one quote coming from someone you respect and follow can result in you blindly taking that advice. None of us are experts and none of us are perfect. I used to be that person who would religiously do everything my fitness gurus did… and I got burnt a few times…Now I listen, respect.. but check if that’s something that is going to be good or bad for me.

Have a lovely day everyone and enjoy doing, eating and drinking (in moderation 😆😆) whatever makes you happy and your body and mind healthy! 💕🍋💕

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The Power of Backbends

IMG_3268We spend most of our lives forward bending: picking up stuff, eating at the table, using electronic devises, driving, sitting on a sofa, etc. And unless you do something to reverse the effect, all this results in a bad posture, which in its turn affects breathing, causes back pain, and affects mood.

Backbends are that simple magical solution you need to prevent this from happening. They stimulate your sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response. One of the things we want to achieve in Yoga is bringing the energy up the spine and cleansing our nervous system. 

Backbends trigger blockages and once one of them is triggered you can experience a whole lot of emotions. We get agitated, excited or experiencing weird suppressed feelings and emotions as a result of this. This also happens because backbends stimulate and open the heart chakra – the mecca of suppresses emotions and buried feelings.

Physical benefits of the backbends are: 

  • Spine strengthening 
  • Improved spine flexibility
  • Improved digestion
  • Spinal mobility 
  • Chest opening which results in improved air circulation and deeper breaths
  • Hip opening and stretching and strengthening hip flexors

Backbends do not have to be advanced, simple ones like Cobra or Cat/Cow Stretch is a great way to mobilise and stretch your spine.

It’s also advisable to follow up with a gentle spine stretch to release and rest your lower back as it is mainly that part of your spine that will be mostly impacted by a backbend.

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Having a flexible strong pain free spine is wonderful! We often underestimate the importance of keeping the spine mobile especially when we get older. It’s never late to start working on having a healthy pain free spine 💕

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My Yoga & Meditation Journey So Far

‘The quieter you become the more you can hear’

Meditating, or in my case just sitting still, was easy when I was in Bali. There was no stress, no outside noise, no washing or dishes to do and kids to entertain, no classes to teach and basically no external barriers to sit still and just breathe. For the first time in my life I actually managed to go through twice daily 30-40mins meditation practices and really enjoyed them. I still couldn’t fully switch off but I sat there and felt so much better for it (sometimes even dozing off and waking up with a little snort 😝)

I’m back to the real world and I’m not going to lie – it is so much harder to do in here. But I do it nevertheless- 15 mins every morning sometimes burning my incense sticks and candles – sometimes without.

I have a little meditation space with crystals, a candle, incense sticks, holy water and some other bits and bobs there. I don’t think you actually really need all that to meditate, but it makes me happy and helps me with my daily ‘stillness’

I did try meditation before but I wasn’t persistent and there was always something/someone to blame for not doing it. I was restless and couldn’t compose myself. Walking meditation worked better for me but it wasn’t enough.

I truly believe that meditation is the key to a happy balanced life. I still can’t fully switch off and on those days when I just can’t get into it at all instead of letting all those thousands of thoughts running through my head I practice gratitude and breathing (pranayama).

I also only do it for 15 mins for now up until I feel I’m ready to increase it. It’s getting easier and easier from day to day but I know it’s going to take me many more months to learn to control my thoughts.

An interesting fact is that physical Yoga asanas (poses) were actually initially introduced to make you stronger in order to be able to sit still during meditation practices. Yoga then evolved into many various practices.

It’s perfectly fine to have your meditation practice separate from a yoga one. Breathing (pranayama) is an essential part of any yoga practice (or at least it should be!) and it is the first step to mindfulness and relaxation. I like a good strong yoga session, but I also do enjoy a more gentle and restorative practice with loads of breathing, relaxation and a long Savasana.

My personal practice has evolved from purely physical practice with no Savasana to incorporating more breathing exercises and actually staying for Savasana to all of the above plus more mindful approach to teaching and practicing yoga and pranayama to incorporating daily meditation, external and self education and evolving my practice daily.

Mindfulness and meditation isn’t my strongest point. I wouldn’t teach meditation or narrate Yoga Nidra because that would just be fake and pretentious. But I would explain it to people and use a recording of Yoga Nidra narrated by someone who is really good at it. If something has worked for me and I learnt it from a source I would share it, but up until I feel I’m proficient at some certain practices I wouldn’t teach them.

I do like working with breath and coordinating breath with movement – hence flow yoga is by far my preferred practice. I like alignment and functional aspects of Yoga asanas, but I also grew to love restorative practices.

The moral is: do what you like and don’t feel you have to become a Buddhist monk and meditate for months avoiding a physical yoga practice because it’s ‘trendy’ nowadays. There’s time and space for everything: both of them are just fine as well as any other forms of physical activities.

It has actually been proven that meditation facilitates a better lifestyle, reduces stress and anxiety and promotes clearer thinking. The same can be said about exercise and a physical practice.

I’m still only starting my meditation journey so can’t really give you any solid advise on that, but taking time for myself, painting, walking and meditating has been really making a positive effect onto my life 💕

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My Bali Adventures. Food & Flora..and a Bat

Food, Fruit and Flowers

If you don’t like coconuts then maybe Bali isn’t a place for you :)) Almost everything there is either cooked with coconuts or made from coconuts! They grow everywhere and you can either drink coconut water out of a young coconut or get a ‘normal’ coconut!

Cows are sacred animals in Bali (Hinduism). When I asked the driver why they were sacred he said that cows were like mother figures, taking care of all the people so you obviously wouldn’t want to eat your mother ;)) There’s not much cow milk on the island, mainly coconut and soya milk, that’s why ice cream is all exported from abroad and costs pretty much the same as in the UK. You can get local yummy coconut or fruit lollies made with coconut milk a bit cheaper though.

I spent most of my time in Ubud and as I’ve mentioned before, many places there were vegan or vegetarian. You could get delicious fresh juices and smoothies of all kinds as well as alcoholic drinks (I wasn’t drinking while on the retreat).

Food was delicious and no wonder it was so easy to be a vegan over there: it didn’t cost a lot and the choice was amazing!

I would say that £12 would buy you a very decent almost 2 course meal and a drink. Some people stay away from ice and salad when in Bali as they might be washed in dirty water. I had both and was ok, but I also did eat in good restaurants. Maybe when it comes to street food and suspiciously looking places avoiding ice and salads could be a good idea.

The most popular fruit are dragon fruit, mango, jack fruit, papaya, little bananas, snake fruit and of course coconuts! Needless to say they taste way better than the ones from UK supermarkets.

Jack fruit

The Bali flora is totally amazing! So many colours and shapes and smells! I don’t know the names of all these flowers, but they were all stunning!!

Oh and I also came across a bat size of a dog while in Ubud. It was the freakiest most unusual creature I have ever seen! The wings looked so artificial and when it was moving and yawning it looked like a fox! So bizarre!

Bali is very green and reminded me a bit if Scotland (minus weather!). To see secluded untouched beaches you would need to travel to the neighbouring islands, because most of the southern beaches are too noisy and touristy.

Having been once I know now what I would like to see next time: I would definitely travel to the nearby islands to swim with turtles and to snorkel; I would take a trip to see a magnitude of waterfalls in the jungle and I would also probably crash in Ubud for a few days to do yoga, dances and eat delicious food and meet some like minded yogis!

If you have been to Bali and have any recommendations please post on here – I’d love to hear from you!

Up until next time,

Love and hugs,

Natallia xxx

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My Bali Adventures. Day 6

Monkey Forest in Ubud!!

The place was on my list of things to see before I even left for Bali! Saying that, I changed my mind numerous times whether I wanted to go there or not as I was a bit scared of the monkeys!

I had no vaccinations done before going to Bali so was very aware of all the animal world of the island! Talking about animals, I haven’t met many cats there at all and Bali dogs were totally Zen! Whether it was the smells of the incense sticks or the prayers or the heat.. or the combination of all of them.. they were totally harmless and wouldn’t even move out of your way either out of laziness or the heat!

Monkeys though were a completely different kettle of fish! The sign at the entrance stated to have no jewellery, no glasses, no food and warned against looking them in the eye! So you can imaging that when we entered the jungle I was a bit on edge.

It all turned out to be pretty safe. There were hundreds of monkeys in the jungle of all sizes, ages and shapes. Baby monkeys were super cute and it was really cool to observe them eating, playing and having fun!

The jungle was amazing though! It has a little river and a mini waterfall, as well as loads of beautiful trees!

The whole experience was great and it was so good to see monkeys living in the wild with no cages or restrictions! I’m not a big fan of Zoos as I don’t like seeing animals locked up in cages – it was a completely different story seeing them run around free and happy and it felt good to be there!

It takes just over an hour to go around the place. There are a couple of temples in the jungle, loads of paths and loads of greens! It is very safe as long as you don’t feed the monkeys and there are a lot of staff all over the place as well.

Monkeys also come out of the jungle and you can see them on the cables above your head or out and about munching on fruit and whatever else they can get hold of!

Another fab experience and a great day out!

https://www.monkeyforestubud.com