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  1. Yin with Awreness in Mind

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    P1000364

    Yin Yoga is already a style that lends itself to introspection because the longer held releasing postures of yin allow us to observe our mental and emotional processes and also our physical sensations. On the other hand yin yoga can also have a physical and physiological flavour when we approach it through organ pairing or anatomy specific sequences. But if we apply mindfulness to yin we can experience it either as a deeply relaxing time or plumb the depths of our inner self. So it can be the very essence of self enquiry which to many is the true value of any yoga.

    A guided mindfulness yin sequence can provide that experience but can be done in our own space with  practice. 

    It begins in a reclining or sitting pose tuning into our bodily sensations as we release to gravity and watching that process for a while without judgement but more with curiosity. Be curious....After a while (several minutes) open to the breath and let that be the passive breath without any control needed. Stay curious...

    We can stay in the reclining/sitting pose and develop the breath by moving gently from passive involuntary breathing to voluntary breathing but paying more attention to the exhalations. Allow these exhalations to slowly melt away and if anything dwelling at the end of the outbreath at that still moment before breathing in again. That is a very special releasing place in yoga thinking and argueably the most relaxed place we cn ever be. 

    Stay with the breath for a while and then very slowly move the body to an alternative position such as Child Pose even keeping the eyes closed which will allow for a more considered sense of mindfulness. Then immediately reconnect with the breath and tune into the changes brought about by the new posture. This process can exclude outside distractions but remember if that is not possible for example if there is music or other sounds then try and absorb these into your field of mindfulnerss rather than attempting to push them away. 

    With Child you may wish to direct the energy of your breath into the lower back in the region of the kidneys and adrenals or alternatively feel the soft expansive sensation of the diaphragm pushing into the abdomen as you inhale and then sinking down through the lower back or hips almost like going down in a lift.

    After five or more minutes make again a slow transition to another posture such as Makrasana (Crocodile) which is a prone relaxing pose almost like savasana on your front. Repeat the process of connecting with breath and being mndful of the new bodily sensations  and stay here for as long as it feels righ before you move again. 

    All this can be applied to any yin yoga sequence and it has the great power of bringing a deeper sense of release and relaxation which can last well beyond the session to enable better sleep and calmness in the days that follow. The practice can also begin to translate into your day to day living as you somehow can't help but progressively become more and more mindful having experienced it in the relative sheltered calm of a yoga space. 

    Stay calm...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Barry Todd (Yin Yoga Teacher amongst other things!)

  2. yoga and the enrgy body

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    P1000452

    What I love about teaching yoga chakra sequences is that they offer a great opportunity to add focused flavour to the experience. I always like t start with students reclining in savasana and take them through a guided chakra awareness. This involves them becoing aware of the geographical locations of the 7 main chakras in turn starting with the base or root chakra at the base of the trunk known as mooladhara. They are imply looking for any sensations in those areas. 

    It just so hapens that the locations of the chakras happen to be in the same places are there are concentrations of energy and nerve tissue so there is a good chance something will be felt. But it's not guaranteed and some may reveal little or nothing. For a long time I never could feel much in the thrid chakra manipura but yoga helped me to open this chakra over time.

    The second chakra is just inches above the root and in front of the sacrum, then the manipura at the solar plexus behind the navel and on the inside of the spine, thn the heart chakra behind the breast bone, the throat chakra behind the hollow in the throat, thrird eye chakra behind the space just above the eyebrow centre and the crown on the top of the head.

    The asana sequence that follows gradually works through the chakras adopting those postures that help to stimulate and open those areas in turn. Some are chakra specific but the salutaions to the sun can be included as a general overall routine that helps everything.

    I love to use music that relates to the chakras and there is some lovely soothing stuff around and it can be changed discreetly during the sequence to introduce vibrations and even chants that are more appropriate.

    This all adds to the value which is vital to student experience which I value also.

    I have often thought that a yoga teachers spec is to bring as good an experinec as possible to their students and chakra flows give us that great opportunity.

    Barry Todd

  3. Yoga from Scratch!

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    Yoga from Scratch

    I really enjoy these absolute beginner yoga sesssions as they do what it says on the tin.

    The sessions are for absolute beginners! So week one we do a few warm ups, take in some basic yoga breathing and then work gently through some moderate classic yoga poses enabling the students to grown with these essential asanas that can be seen at most yoga classes.

    The instruction is in English! Leaving out the ancient sanskrit (that can come later) and there are alternative or modefied versions of every pose so that no one is left floundering. This makes for greater comfort and allows students to feel confident from the start that yoga meets them at what ever stage they are on the stretchometer.

    There is time for relaxation in the closing 5-10 minutes with guidance on being aware of the passive breath. This helps the budding yogis to get on a new and better footing with their breathing.

    No one is run ragged and everyone's body is allowed to have their old them still in tact while the new them begins to make its early appearance at that all important steady pace.

    Next week will see the simple introduction of the Salutations to the Sun. A neat routine of 12 postures of which only 7 need be learned as 5 are repeated in the closing stages of the flow. This will need to be visited throughout the course (5 weeks) and is a useful well rounded sequence getting to allparts of the body including some toning of the inyternal organs and glands.

    A great way to ease our tense and stiff bodies into something approaching open and flexible.

    Barry Todd (yoga teach)

     

     

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  4. Be in with the Yin Crowd!

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    yoga

    Yin Yoga has to be the most overlooked style of yoga around which is a crying shame as it has so many assets. That being said I know it will not be for everyone even the most convinced yoga practitioners probably because it is a very introspective an meditative type of yoga and there are those of us who will prefer something more dynamic.

    Nevertheless, don't be deceived as while Yin Yoga is not necesaarily a restorative cosy practice it should have the same outcome as hatha albeit a differing path.

    Yin Yoga could be said to have come out of hatha yoga in that it uses many of the conventional hatha postures with a few of its own thrown in that are growing in number every year along with some familiar but modefied poses too.

    There are three practice elements to yin yoga. 

    One: come to a suitable or appropriate stretch (twist or squeeze)

    Two: Relax, connect with the breath and relax into the pose

    Three: Stay for time

    The first element is of great importance and it is the one that many who are new to yin take a while to adjust to and sometimes they don't. Element One requires a little vigilence. The key is in the words suitable/appropriate. In Yin Yoga we are going to try and stay in the pose for anything from 3 to 6 minutes or longer (element three) and if we attempt to do this applying our selves in the same way that we might in a 30 second pose will be very tiring, stressful and build unwanted tensions.

    Yin appeals more to our soft connective tissue which prefers gentle considered movements and stretching and if we cultivate this kind of approach it will help our tissues and skeleton to tone and strengthen over time. 

    The relaxing element is important as by letting go once we are in a yin pose then we build less tension and are less likely to feel stiff the following day.

    We are also able to get into a better relationship with our breath because we are in the poses for longer and this allows us to be more focused and introspective. This latter value makes yin appealing to those interested in developing meditation. 

    So who might yin yoga benefit besides everyone!

    Well, it tends to appeal to an interesting mix. On the one hand it is great for those who wish to conserve energy or who don't have a lot. It is also useful for sports people as it can be a great complement to active exercise. Over the years I have people with M.E. an CFS together with weight trainors, footballers, runners, cyclists an ju jitsu martial artists. But it can be beneficial to those who do other yoga during the week or simply walk for exercise. It is a good idea with yin to be sure to complement it with something more aerobic at least like walking during the week as out and out all stretching can weeken us an we don't want that. 

    So if you practice yoga already why not give yin a chance sometime or if you are in sport or want to complenment some other kind of daily exercise with a more prolonged stretching style yin is well worth a try. It can really bring on your flexibility. 

    There has been some interesting research recently in Japan that is showing that the kind of work we do in yin yoga can help heal soft connective tissue that might not respond to other kinds of treatment so yin is evolving.

    Get in with the yin crowd!

    Barry Todd

     

  5. Yoga = self empowerment for students!

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     P1000452

    Yoga is often a science of misconception. What I thought yoga was about when I started practising many years ago has changed many times over the years and in fact the whole idea of yoga is open to interpretation. Having said that everyone can find something they need in yoga whether it is toning and flexibility, a calm mind or stronger mind, undestanding thoughts an feelings, a complement to their sporting regime, better mental health, focus and concentration, physical and emotional balance, spiritual fulfilment etc etc. or they may want all of these things.

    I started when I was preparing for my GCE's at school when a fellow pupil told me a friend of theirs  only needed 2 hours sleep and had amazing concentration skills because of yoga. I was impressed and curious and wondered if yoga could do the same for me. I wasn't totally sure whether to believe the sleep thing but some adults at the time said it definitley had a connection with calmness and relieving nervous tension which I had loads of! I just had to try it. I must say that very early on I felt a bit special knowing that I was now a "yogi" practising this ancient mystical discipline and revealed it only to those very close to me. They thought it was just a phase I was going through. Well, many years later I'm still with it.

    Yoga definitely helped me through my GCE's then later A Levels and subsequent examinations by practising the postures, the breathing, relaxation and meditation. If not at the time, I probably came to realize much later how it all worked. How the postures began to make me feel physically more comfortable. The relaxation putting me on better terms with my feelings and emotions and the meditation bringing the incredible benefits of sitting in stillness. That also impoved my patience! The breathing sort of glued everything together.

    The greatest thing of all at that time when under the control of a structured school and later college regime and still at home under parental house rules so to speak,  was that yoga began to give me a growing sense of self empowerment. When I was in a tight corner in class, in the exam room or with the occasional family or friend confrontation I could just connect with my breath and find that calm abiding that all the great yoga sages talk about. It takes daily practice over time but it gets stronger. Cultivating that growong sense of physical awareness and the subtle power of the breath and stillness can help your own yoga practice evolve in a personal and individual way.

    You get on better terms with feelings and emotions and the continuous self enquiry improves the relationship you have with yourself and this translates onto relationshigps with others. You see things coming that bit quicker than the next person, you become less reationary and you begin to get over those day to day mini traumas more quickly so you can get on with your life in a more positive and creative way.

    So try yoga. By all means try it to get more toned, flexible and strong. To get calmer and more focused. To improve concentration. As a psycholigical buttress. But always remember that thread that runs through all practice that thread of self empowerment. Yoga can be that life long friend and rock from hereon in. The one nobody else sees but can sense it in your demeanour and the way you deal with life.

    Barry Todd

     

  6. What's Yoga got to do with men?

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    Barry training

    I have been a yoga teacher for about 15 years and in the early days most of the attendees were women. Well I might as well say, all the attendees were women. I can't really remember any men attending in the earlt 2000's. Then around 2010 there were a few men attending with wives and girlfriends mainly from curiosity or compulsion! 

    It's all strangely surprising when you consider that yoga all started with men, for men despite it's notionally being open to all humans. Still for many years it has appealed to women with men often seeing it as the soft option to exercise. Of course those who practice yoga know it is neither of those things. When you've tried some of the core postures you soon realize its not a soft option. Further more it's not strictly an "exercise". It is physical but with a different agenda. 

    Yoga is really about calming the aggitations of the mind through the body. As we know it's difficult to separate the body from the mind. Humans are somapsychic animals and yoga practice gives us the opportunity via a diverse range of postural positioning to work deeply with our muscles and soft tissue to release knots and tension so allowing us to deal better with pains and discomfort and provide a physical environment that allows us also to be mentally comfortable.

    Even if you wish to avoid all the mental, emotional stuff of yoga there are physical bye products such as greater flexibility, toning and strength and more joint stability. This is great for sports people and sportsmen. Ryan Giggs the great Man United player swore it transformed his game and allowed him to avoid injury more and play into his 40's. There are also many other celebrities now turning to yoga both sports and none sports.

    I said about avoiding the mental stuff and you can decide to do that but in reality your body won't let you. Over time regular yoga practice incorporating correct brathing and relaxation will naturally begin to quieten you down and bring greater calmness enabling you to see tensions and callenges coming earlier so you can deal with them and recovering from stress and emotional attacks more quickly.

    In the last few years I've seen an increase in male attendance at classes. Just yesterday the majority of my students were men. Some come for physical reasons such as a compliment to their sport or sports injury recovery. Others to relieve stress from a pressurized job. Still others who are at a crossroads in their life and are seeking to engage better with their inner self - yoga can be "spiritual" but at the very least it is always self enquiring. The increase in male interest in yoga is great because it begins to signal that yoga is a beneficial practice for everyone and can only bring more harmony into the lives of both women and men. 

    Barry Todd (Yog Teacher/Trainer)