Japa Meditation

Japa beach

Japa meditation or bead meditation is the process of hearing and repeating transcendental sound or mantra aloud, but softly to yourself.  Japa meditation is an individual practice and is usually practiced alone.  Many people like to practice japa meditation in the early morning and evening hours, around sunrise and sunset.  This meditation can be practiced sitting in a comfortable position with your eyes closed, but it is equally nice to walk in the woods, by a river, on a beach or in a park practicing this meditation.

 

japa beads

Traditionally yogis use a mala (a string of beads), their fingers, small pebbles, or even a strip of cloth or a knotted string to count the number of times they hear and repeat the mantra. Therefore, you will need a set of japa beads to practice this meditation. These are available from Yoga Seeds, or you can use your own.

 

How to Practice

Take your set of beads and start with the first bead on the side of the head bead and hold it between the thumb and second finger of your right hand. As you hold this bead softly say the mantra Gopala Govinda Rama Madana Mohana and then move your fingers onto the next bead and repeat the mantra again. Continue chanting the mantra on each bead until you come back to the head bead. You have just completed one round of japa. To start your next round, turn the beads around and repeat the mantra on the bead you just finished on.

As you softly repeat each mantra try to keep your mind focused on the sound and gradually you will experience control of your mind, as well as a welcoming sense of internal peacefulness.

It is best to allocate a set number of rounds to complete each day. Each round will take approximately four to five minutes to complete. Two to three rounds is recommended to begin with and then steadily increase to six or more.

To learn more about Japa Meditation, come along to our Deep Peace Meditation class.

Autumn Yoga

We’ve been blessed with a wonderfully warm and sunny start to Autumn this year, and I for one, am very thankful! As the air changes and the energy shifts we are now in a more familiar autumn climate, with the transformations of the season becoming more apparent as we head through October.

It is important that we also change with the seasons — just as nature does — by adapting our daily habits and lifestyle accordingly.  Ironically, it is only through change that we can stay grounded during this shifting season.

An Ayurvedic Approach to Autumn

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According to the ancient system of Ayurveda, a sister science to yoga, there are three primary dosha’s or energies – vata, pitta and kapha. Just as each person has a dosha that predominates, each season is also dominated by one of the three doshas.

The vata dosha is most prevalent during autumn. Vata governs movement in the body, as well as activating the nervous system and the processes of elimination. The qualities of vata are cold, dry, rough, light, changeable, irregular and moving. Vata is composed of the elements of air and space. Because of vata’s association with the nervous system, its state is often reflected in our mental health.

With the abundance of vata energy circulating during the autumn, our bodies and minds can become overwhelmed and out of balance. During this time of year, you may feel unsettled, ungrounded or even a little depressed. But while we cannot change the seasonal weather shifts, we can maintain internal balance by adjusting our lifestyles to counter the predominant vata energy in nature. We do this by incorporating particular lifestyle choices that naturally hold the opposite qualities of the vata dosha.

Yoga Asanas (poses) & Pranayama (breathing)

Autumn is good time to look again at establishing a regular yoga practice if you don’t already have one! Strong standing poses, holding poses a little longer and a longer savasana (relaxation) are all excellent ways to help us be more grounded at this time of year.  Poses that focus on the lungs and large intestines, which are the two organs associated with the autumn season, should be included in your yoga practice.  Twists, back bends and side stretches are all good, and sun salutations can warm the body during the chill of autumn.

 

Parsvokanasana

Nutrition

It can be easier said than done, but it is best to establish a routine around eating by eating three meals a day, preferably at the same time each day. Try to avoid skipping meals and sporadic grazing, and be sure to sit down while enjoying your food.  Here are some other tips:

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  • Drink a large glass of warm water with lemon juice upon waking.
  • Eat lots of warm soups.
  • Choose foods that are warm, cooked and moist. Avoid too many raw veggies and salads, as these are vata provoking.
  • Drink warm tea of fresh ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. This will warm the body and enhance circulation and digestion. If not this tea, aim to drink some kind of warm beverage.
  • Eat root vegetables to enhance your connection to the earth.
  • Sweet, salty and sour tastes are calming to vata.

Lifestyle

  • Try to get a full eight hours of sleep and awake when the sun rises, which may mean going to sleep by 10.00 pm.
  • Consistent, moderate exercise regulates vata’s mobile nature, so make sure to schedule time for physical activity.
  • Curb the tendency to talk unnecessarily, and settle into the rejuvenation of silence whenever possible.
  • Use a neti pot to help keeps the lungs clear of congestion.
  • Use grounding and calming essential oils to reduce the vata emotions of anxiety, depression, fear and nervousness.
  • Commit to a daily japa meditation practice to assist in quieting and grounding the active vata mind.
  • Practice right nostril breathing: Close your left nostril using the ring finger on your right hand. Inhale through your right nostril for 6-8 seconds, then exhale through the same nostril for 5-7 seconds. Repeat for 7-10 rounds, a few times a day. This will enhance the sun energy that helps keep the body warm as the temperature drops.
  • Use a good quality moisturiser on the skin to keep dryness at bay.  The essential oils of frankincense, lavender, sandalwood, rose, myrrh in a carrier of coconut oil work very well as a natural support for the skin.

 

 We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.

Chuang Tzu

Moving Out of Pain

When we’re in pain, life sucks. In fact, it can make us feel like we’ve had the life sucked out of us. It takes our energy, motivation and sense of well-being. It affects how we move and function, and probably our sleep, our relationships, and our work too.

There are so many things we try to get rid of pain. Some help, some don’t, but we never actually resolve the problem.

I’ve had chronic hip pain for 15 years, and tried everything. In fact, I reckon I’ve spent literally thousands of pounds on different therapies and treatments.  This pain is what brought me to yoga all those years ago and I’m so grateful it did. But the yoga postures – my practice – did not get rid of my hip pain.

Fast forward to November 2014 and I come across Somatic Movement Education (SME). Like anything claiming to help, I went for it. This time I had a feeling I was on to something, and I was right.

Somatic movement, specifically Hanna Somatics, makes complete sense. The reason we’re in pain is due to tight muscles that we can’t release. The muscles have become tight due to injury, an accident or habitual patterns (such as from stress). The part of the brain responsible for involuntary movement has recognised this as our new pattern and keeps those muscles tight.  Somatic movements unfreeze this part of the brain to allow the muscles to release. When our tightly held muscles release, so does the pain, and we can go back to moving freely and easily once again.

Within five sessions of being taught a series of specific, focussed moves, my hip pain had all but gone. I attempted a cliff walk with lots of up and down steep paths and steps, and managed without a twinge (this would have normally left me hobbling in pain). I am now aware of my compensatory patterns which caused the pain, and have to be careful not to go back into them. My daily somatic moves help with this. I spend 10-20 minutes a day reinforcing my new movement patterns, which keep me moving freely and feeling great.

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My story is not uncommon. As a yoga teacher, I see restricted movement in class all the time. People are having difficulty coming into beginning postures easily and correctly. Not because the yoga moves are difficult or they aren’t flexible enough, but because they are involuntarily holding these muscles in their compensatory movement patterns.

As a somatics movement coach, I can now do more to help people. I help them get out of pain, and back into moving freely and easily. I help them improve their yoga postures. I help them feel more comfortable in their bodies, and completely relax – a happy side effect of somatic movement. Who doesn’t want that?

I teach somatic movements in my monthly workshops, and see clients on a one-to-one basis. Contact me for more details.

 

Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)

As the weather warms up take your practice outside and energise your body with a series of Sun Salutations.
  • Benefits: Increases circulation, oxygenates the whole body, warms the muscles, releases stiffness from joints, increases flexibility in the spine, increases fitness, health and tones and strengthens the back, abdominals, legs and arms.
  • Cautions: High blood pressure, shoulder problems, lower back problems
How To:
Sun Salutation
Note: Become familiar with the sequence of poses before focusing on the sequence of breath

 

  1. Stand in Mountain Pose with your feet hip distance apart and hands in prayer position at the heart.
  2. Breathe in and raise your arms above your head to lengthen the whole spine into a gentle back bend (Standing Back Arch).
  3. Exhale and roll down into a forward bend.
  4. Inhale as you jump or step back and exhale into Downward Dog. Reach out into your finger tips, lengthen and strengthen your arms, back and legs.
  5. Inhale as you lower your whole body down into a Bent Arm Plank Pose. Hold for the exhale.
  6. As you inhale lift into a Cobra Pose or Upward Dog Pose. Keep your back soft by engaging your abdominals and keep your shoulders away from the ears.
  7. Exhale into the Downward Dog.
  8. Inhale as you step forward and exhale to a forward bend.
  9. Unroll and inhale into a Standing Back Arch.
  10. Exhale as you come back to Mountain Pose with hands at the heart.

 

It is recommended to repeat this sequence up to 12 times at your own pace.  There are many variations of Surya Namaskar that can make the sequence easier or more challenging.

Gems of Wisdom

The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.

Albert Schweitzer

Before we set our hearts too much upon anything, let us examine how happy they are who already possess it.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

When one door closes, another opens. But we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

Helen Keller

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

Judge each day not by its harvest, but by the seeds you plant.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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