Change is the law of nature

‘This too shall pass’
        -Persian proverb

Change happens. Just as the seasons turn, the moon waxes and wanes, the tides come in and out, creatures live and die, and so must everything in life change. Even the deserts, even the seas, even the mountains will change. Change is the only thing of which we can be sure. Over the years our bodies will change with age, but also daily there will be changes and also in our emotions, mental state and importantly our awareness. This is why we practise every day, so that we might observe this phenomenon of nature in ourselves. We use our yoga practice as the constant by which we can measure the ephemeral nature of the human condition.

This is why it is so important to keep a regular practice, especially of the standing poses because they are the poses in which we are most grounded and so most able to measure change. As the mother of all standing poses, Tadasana is like the litmus test for our daily practice. Through correct and conscious practise of this pose we are able to tune into our present state, noticing the fluctuations that occur daily, even each minute, and coming back to our centre. Yoga practice is our anchor in the seas of change, keeping us stable and afloat.

People will tend to resist change, seeing it as a loss of the comfort of the past and fearing the coming of an unknown future. Yoga practice supports us through the bigger changes, helping us to balance life’s bigger challenges and losses and preparing us for whatever may come.

Through Yoga practice we regulate our bodies and our lives through the practising of certain asanas and sequences according to our needs. It also helps us to learn to embrace change, especially in the relaxation poses and through pranayama practice. In these practices we learn how to breathe, to locate tension with every inhalation and to let go of it with every exhalation. We exhale and let go, exhale and let go of physical, emotional and mental tension or stress. There is a moment at the end of every exhalation when we are completely empty of breath and it is there we reside with our awareness as we inhale. Inhalations happen, they are not intentional; we let them happen and stay with our awareness in the emptiness. This emptiness represents the present moment. We let go of the past and stay present and let the future happen. Like this we are prepared for the change by keeping our awareness in the present moment.

Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Maria Chandler

 

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Can I practise Yoga and Still Drink Coffee?

Drinking coffee seems at odds with yoga practice, as per the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre (HIYC) method, as it is very clearly a stimulant that affects our energy levels, metabolism, moods and digestion - all things we work to stabilise through our practice. To explore the question of whether we can drink coffee and practice yoga it is worth considering the effects of coffee as described in Ayurveda. Drinking coffee increases Vata and also Pitta in our bodies. If you are of a Vata constitution you may find coffee immensely stimulating to the mind, it may give you a boost, a sensation of being full of energy but flighty, unable to concentrate, hyperactive, you may suffer heart palpitations, rapid eye movement or a pulsing sense in the hands and body. If you are of a Pitta constitution you may become hot, sweaty, hungry, impatient, go to the toilet more frequently and even smell like coffee after drinking. If you are vata-pitta you will experience a veritable rollercoaster of any or all of these effects. If you are of a Kapha constitution you will experience fewer negative effects and are less likely to suffer from drinking a cup of coffee as your natural grounded nature will balance the caffeine, in fact it can help to galvanise your energy levels and encourage bowel movement. However it would still not be recommended for before yoga practice because of the over stimulating effects of the caffeine on the nervous system. Yoga and Ayurveda are about balance, between the Ha and Tha energies, in our bodies and in our lives. We do not wish to exacerbate existing imbalances but rather to even them out to find equilibrium. As we have seen, dependent on your constitution drinking coffee disrupts the balance, thus it should not be taken mindlessly with consideration for its potential effects.

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Hatha Yoga Asanas

Hatha Yoga Asanas - Is Yoga About Physical Postures?
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – The Obstacles on the Yoga Path

Most of the people start doing yoga with a physical practice which is called asana (posture). In the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, a book 2500 years old, all that was related to yoga is compiled in 196 sutras. What a quiet unbalanced fact that nowadays 99% of the yoga practice is only physical and only 1% of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are talking about Asanas!

The main practice is actually at the mental level!!! Controlling the movement of the body and the breath is one step but the control of the mind, Citta, is a step forward. In the second sutra of the First Chapter, Patanjali talks about “Yoga Citta Vrtti Nirodha”. Citta Vrttis are the disturbances of the Mind/Consciousness and Nirodha means the eradication of it.

What are the disturbances and how to eradicate it? The answer is a step on the path of liberation.

When you go inside, you start to understand very clearly what starts to make all the disturbances. Disturbances create suffering and come from a fivefold source: Avidya, Asmita, Raaga, Dvesa and Abhinivesa.

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Knowing the Menopausal Phase

There are many hormonal issues related to women entering their late 40’s. Many symptoms which have been associated with the hormonal imbalance are hot flushes, mood swings, lack of sound sleep, constant fatigue, depression, low sex drive, forgetfulness, weight gain, frequent urine infections and erratic eating pattern. Menopause is one of a fearsome issue for lots of women, as it’s a phase when women’s system stop ovulating. This doesn’t mean that female body stop producing hormones at all. Like adrenal glands continue producing androgens, though, it’s rate drops down. Hormonal fluctuation effects the brain chemistry. The two major and most potent chemical signals among the women’s hormones are estrogen and progesterone. They have certain influence on the neuro transmitters, which also effect the mood.  Menopause can also emerge as a premature menopause below the age of 40. This type of menopause mostly occurs in females who smoke heavily, are chronic drug dependent or live at high altitudes. Another type of menopause is the surgical one - where the ovaries are removed surgically. However, in Ayurveda, menopause is not considered as a disease but as a transitional imbalance. It is a fairly natural process, from the pitta stage of life to the vata stage of life. So, it can be dealt happily looking behind at the colourful and more developed phases of life; from puberty to reproductive phase to a relieved, ovarian stress free phase; where there is no more shedding of the uterus during mentruation and we step onto a new path ahead and become more self-aware, exploring ways to attain spiritual contentment and discovering the inner peace. See your life at large! In Ayurveda, the menopausal symptoms are mostly seen vata (air) dominant in nature. Vata dominance is linked with aging as well. However, all the three doshas gets imbalanced during menopause. Hence, pitta (fire) associated symptoms and kapha (water) associated symptoms may also be experienced.

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The Art of Practice

Sadhana Padah / The Chapter on Practice – Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Patanjali, the great yogi, covered all the subject of Yoga in only 196 sentences divided into 4 chapters.
The second chapter is called Sadhana Padah. Sadhana is the practice and the one doing it, the practitioner is a sadhak.
How the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali help the sadhak? Patanjali gives us the path, the direction where the practice should lead to. When you practice, you need to know how you are going to feel. Being guided, you won’t get stuck in some mind set which you think is a very high state of consciousness.

In another chapter, he describes what are the powers that may come on your path and finally what is the goal. He is also warning you not to fall in pit holes, being attached to any kind of power. If for example you get the power of attracting money, without strong will and a good guidance, you can overuse it and get lost on the path to realization.

What are the powers, what is the final goal are not what matters for us as yet. The way to practice is what is really important to understand. He talks about the one pointedness of the mind. Keeping our mind thus our practice is focused in one direction. This is the only way to progress and achieve any result.

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