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My Yoga Journey

yogaYoga impacts people’s lives in so many different ways, everyone’s story is unique. I love to hear the transformations it’s created and then I realised this morning I have never really shared my yoga journey fully here. So here it is!

It begun as I wrote last week when I was worn out from trying to “make my business work”. I was always pushing, striving, trying to force things to happen. It was the same in my exercise routine, I loved to run and each year I would book my self on to longer runs to push my distance further. I was always getting chest infections from running in the cold.

Yoga helped me to calm down, to be in the present moment and to just focus on doing things that felt good to me. That was just the beginning though.

I always found I loved the yoga teachers that related life to yoga in their classes. I also found it interesting to understand what each different asana (pose) was doing for me. I fell in love with the classes that caused emotional releases, and the ones that helped me to connect with the silence within myself.

I considered myself spiritual back then but with no fixed belief, I was just open to learning about “the Universe”. I resisted religion, my parents were Christians but I had resisted church for most of my life, only going out of duty at Christmas and Easter. I did have a sense of God as my mother always told me she prayed for me and in difficult times I had a feeling of being looked after but that was it.

The first time I went into an ashram in India I was a little overwhelmed with the devotional chanting, it bring up memories of having to sing in Church. Every morning and night we were guided in to silent meditation and were told to repeat a mantra whilst focusing on either our heart or our third eye.

I am a big believer in gratitude so instead of repeating a Sanskrit mantra as they suggested I simply said THANK YOU. As I repeated it all the things I had to be grateful for in my life would come to mind, it was lovely.

Over the two weeks of living in the Ashram I started to have a sense of believing in God, I listened to the teachings about the Hindu Gods but I felt a strong instinct that there was just one, the God my mother had always spoken of. Unexpectedly my meditation mantra turned into “Thank You God”.

In every Satsang (meeting) people would have an opportunity to select and lead a chant. One morning some started to sing Amazing Grace and it just made me burst into tears.

This was the beginning of my connection with God and my faith, it has continued to deepen ever since. And I love the devotional chanting now, the essence of it, the sense of love you feel through singing and not caring how you sound to others! I believe all religions are speaking of the same God, it’s just different interpretations and we can all learn from each other. Ultimately it’s all about Love.

The next time I visited India I decided to give up eating meat. Firstly because you just don’t eat it there for risk of getting ill, but after 5 months of not eating animals it felt so right for me that I decided to continue it when I returned to the UK, Alongside that I also cut down the amount of alcohol I drink.

The results of this have been amazing; I feel clear headed, self aware, able to connect with my inner silence more, I’ve lost weight and I feel balanced. The times when I do have a drink now I notice it, my sleep is interrupted, I feel emotional and my blood sugar levels are all over the place. I also feel at peace with myself for not eating the animals I love so much, it just feels like the right thing to do.

To summarise yoga has connected me to my soul, to God, to living a healthy conscious life, and above all to Love. Yoga has healed my heart and opened it. Being love is my daily intention, I believe that is what life is all about.

Who knew this would all come from what I first thought of as a way to heal my back and get more toned!

What is your yoga journey? Or maybe you are at the beginning and have a whole adventure in front of you, how exciting!

Namaste

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What Is There To Let Go Of This Autumn?

2011-11-13 14.33.25A new season is upon us and just as our environment is changing around us we naturally feel the shifts in our bodies, energy and emotions too.

Summer builds up heat, we can feel more out going, active and extroverted. When the Autumn hits we start to experience change, new ideas, inspiration and can want to start planning ahead for the future. The drop in temperature alongside this rush of new mind activity can lead us to feeling depleted, on edge, and off balance.

It’s important for us to take time to look after ourselves during this transition into Winter. Keep warm, eat seasonal fruits and vegetables and allow time for contemplation.

As with the leaves falling from the trees, there might be situations, emotions or people in your life where it feels like it’s time to let go. Holding on to old rusty coloured leaves is not going to help us blossom again in Spring time is it?

Take sometime to consider what is working in your life right now and what is not? Then make the decision to learn from it and let go.

Great Yoga for this time of year is fluid, grounding and solid rather then anything to hectic and stimulating. Forward bends and twists are great for allowing yourself to go within, to calm the mind. Balancing poses will be also be useful for grounding and balancing.

Make time to wrap up and enjoy walking through the Autumnal leaves, the myriad of gold, yellows, oranges, reds and browns can be truly breathtaking. I love to go right into the middle of wood and experience my senses becoming completely overtaken by the colours around.

Seasons are a perfect reminder that nothing stays the same, our life and the world is constantly evolving. When we try to grab on to something not wanting it to ever change this is when we can create pain in our lives. Allowing yourself to flow with the seasons, to embrace change and the uncertainty of it gives us sweet freedom.

Namaste

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A Great Detox Soup Recipe

Some of you may have heard me recently mention my new love of mung beans! According to Gillian McKeith they are “The detox bean” good for:

  • lowering high blood pressure
  • treating stomach ulcers & urinary problems
  • cleansing the blood by introducing more oxygen
  • liver cleansing
  • filling you with energy

I experience them as balancing my blood sugar, in fact my whole system and weight loss.

I started off under the instruction of my yoga mentor, Hilary MacRae, doing a 10 day detox where I was just to eat mung bean detox soup for 10 days. I have to admit after about 4 days I introduced muesli for breakfast and I did struggle a bit with sugar cravings but I felt good at the end of it! Since then I now eat mung bean soup for lunch and dinner at least 2 days a week, I feel really good when I do this; lighter, more energy, less sugar cravings and I have lost a bit of weight by doing it.

If you fancy giving it a go, here is how I make my mung bean detox soup!

Sauté a chopped onion in some ghee (this is what Indian’s use to make curry, it’s yummy and good for you). Then add a bit of fresh ginger, tumeric, asafoetida, and some masala spices.

Next I add in mung beans (these need to be soaked over night before hand), water and a bit of Boullion vegetable stock powder. I use a whole bag of mung beans so I can eat it throughout the week.

Bring to boiler then simmer for about 30 mins, until beans are looking soft.

When it’s near ready, in a frying pan I sauté (in ghee) some garlic, fresh ginger, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and some rock salt. Once ready I add this to the soup.

Each day when I heat it up I also add some steamed broccoli or spinach so give it some green nutrition. I eat the soup with some rice cakes for a bit of crunch.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, I actually miss it now when I don’t have it in a week and my body can really feel the difference.

Namaste

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The 8 Limbs of Yoga Explained

India 2011 162When I started to get into yoga it really was to give my body a good stretch, tone up and also to feel lovely and floaty by the end of the class. I’d often heard people say that yoga is a way of life, it’s a philosophy but I didn’t really know what they meant.

Five years later I get it now. I am not expert in it all, I am only still a novice, but I know it’s shaped who I am today, how I think and act. One of the main “guides” if you like to call it for yoga philosophy is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. A sutra is a verse full of words of wisdom.  In his sutra he describes yoga as having an  8 fold path which are guidelines to the way of living your life. These are the 8 limbs of yoga.

Astanga yoga is derived from this 8 fold path, ashtanga literally means 8 limbs.

So what are these 8 limbs of yoga?

1) Yamas

These are rules for social conduct;

  • Non violence – in action, thought and deed
  • Truthfulness
  • Non stealing – including taking credit for something you didn’t do!
  • Celebacy – or at least moderation of sensual pleasures
  • Non possessiveness – being aware of not accumulating unnesscessary things

2) Niyamas

These are more personal observances and self discipline;

  • Cleanliness of body and purity of mind
  • Contentment/ satisfaction
  • Austerities, the self disciplines we put upon ourselves for example giving up chocolate/ having a day in silence
  • Self study – of scriptures and Self
  • Total surrender to God

3) Asana

Asana is the physical practice that you experience in a yoga class. Asana literally means any posture that is stable and comfortable. The aim is to get in the pose and then be able to meditate comfortably in it.

4) Pranayama

Yogic breathing, prana is life force energy. Through pranayama practice you control the breath, the life force, it shows you how your breath impacts your mind and emotions.

5) Pratyahara

With drawl of your sense organs, this is where we go within. Shutting our the external world and taking your focus internally.

6) Dharana

Having gone with in then there comes mind fixed concentration. This is the practice of meditating on one object. Our minds are like monkeys jumping around all over the place so rather than trying to switch off thoughts altogether it can help to have one point of focus, like a mantra to repeat for example.

7) Dhyana

Once you have gone within, narrowed your focus to one point then you are meditating. This is Dhyana.

8) Samadhi

This is the final stage, the point where you have transcended your Self and are in a state of bliss. When you loose yourself completely in an object, and that object is revealing itself fully. Kind of like reading a great book, to begin with you focus on reading it but before long you become so immersed in it you are not even aware of the book or your Self just the story going into your mind.

That was a very basic run down of the 8 limbs. It’s so much more complex and to be able to follow it all requires a huge amount of discipline but it can be good to pick just one aspect and focus on that for a bit.