Short & Sweet

To my horror, I realised yesterday that this year I have posted a grand total of exactly TWO blog posts! I am not sure how that happened, and I am also not sure who pressed the fast-forward button on my life, but it means we are suddenly less than a month away from Christmas and (even more alarmingly, if that’s possible) less than a week away from my in-laws arriving for their annual visit.

It’s been a year of much change and stress, which has resulted in a fair amount of (sometimes reluctant) growth and reflection on this whole thing called Life. More about that another time. For now, I am looking forward, not backward, and as I have recently resigned from my day job at the fabulous Pebbles Project, and am now in the incredibly exciting position of focusing 100% on my yoga offering, one of my short-term goals is to get back to blogging regularly.

The only way I’ll do that is if I ensure that I keep my posts short and sweet. None of these diabolically long-winded posts like the last two or so (what BORING planet was I inhabiting when I wrote those? Was I even awake?) – God help anyone that managed to persevere through either of them… so in that vein, I’ll be signing off now as I head off to my beautiful and beloved bed for another night of restorative sleep and another productive day ahead. Nice to be back!

Ayurveda & Dosha Types for Beginners

IMG_6916[1]

Malasana / Garland Pose – a beautifully grounding pose for when I am feeling the effects of a Vata overload (South Easter to blame)

I posted recently about how the incessant wind that we’ve been having in Stellenbosch lately tends to make me go stir crazy, and that it’s got to do with Vata overload. Unsurprisingly, I had a few people asking me what that’s all about. So here’s a post as promised.

Ayurveda is a holistic science of health which is focused on maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state. It began about 5,000 – 6,000 years ago when Indian monks were looking for new ways to be healthy. Revering their bodies like temples, the monks believed that preserving their health would help them meditate and develop spiritually. Over thousands of years of observations, they gathered all their conclusions and advice and preserved it for future generations. This collection of knowledge came to be known as the “science or knowledge of life” — Ayurveda.

It differs from modern medicine in that it views every individual as unique, and there is no lifestyle routine or diet that is prescribed for everyone. Aside from that, a major difference is that it focuses largely on prevention, and providing specific advice and guidance on how to maintain your physical and emotional health. Food and lifestyle routines are considered the most important medicine. If you come to an Ayurvedic doctor with a complaint, you are more likely to leave with a recipe than with a prescription for pills.

Ayurveda is based on the principles of three doshas, which are the energies that make up every individual and perform different physiological functions in the body:

The 3 Dosha types:

1. Vata Dosha: Energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat.

  • In balance: There is creativity and vitality.
  • Out of balance: Can produce fear and anxiety.

Characteristics for Vata predominant types: Creative; Quick to learn and grasp new knowledge, but also quick to forget, Slender; Tall and a fast-walker; Tendency toward cold hands and feet, discomfort in cold climates; Excitable, lively, fun personality; Changeable moods; Irregular daily routine; High energy in short bursts; Tendency to tire easily and to overexert; Full of joy and enthusiasm when in balance; Responds to stress with fear, worry, and anxiety, especially when out of balance; Tendency to act on impulse; Often have racing, disjointed thoughts; Generally have dry skin and dry hair and don’t perspire much.

2. Pitta Dosha: Energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body’s temperature.

  • In balance: Leads to contentment and intelligence.
  • Out of balance: Can cause ulcers and anger.

Characteristics for Pitta Predominant Types: Medium physique, strong, well-built; Sharp mind, good concentration powers; Orderly, focused; Assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial at their best; Aggressive, demanding, pushy when out of balance; Competitive, enjoy challenges; Passionate and romantic; Strong digestion, strong appetite, get irritated if they have to miss or wait for a meal; When under stress, Pittas become irritated and angry; Skin fair or reddish, often with freckles; sunburns easily; Uncomfortable in sun or hot weather, heat makes them very tired; Perspire a lot; Good public speakers; Generally good management and leadership ability, but can become authoritarian; Subject to temper tantrums, impatience, and anger; Typical physical problems include rashes or inflammations of the skin, acne, boils, skin cancer, ulcers, heartburn, acid stomach, insomnia, dry or burning eyes.

3. Kapha Dosha: Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.

  • In balance: Expressed as love and forgiveness.
  • Out of balance: Can lead to insecurity and envy.

Characteristics for Kapha Predominant Types: Easygoing, relaxed, slow-paced; Affectionate and loving; Forgiving, compassionate, nonjudgmental nature; Stable and reliable; faithful; Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build; Have the most energy of all constitutions, but it is steady and enduring; Slow speech, reflecting a deliberate thought process; Slower to learn, but outstanding long-term memory; Soft hair and skin; tendency to have large “soft” eyes and a low, soft voice; Tend toward being overweight; may also suffer from sluggish digestion; Prone to depression; More self-sufficient; Gentle, and essentially undemanding approach to life; Excellent health, good immune system; Very calm; strive to maintain harmony and peace in their surroundings; Not easily upset and can be a point of stability for others; Tend to be possessive and hold on to things. Don’t like cold, damp weather; Physical problems include colds and congestion, sinus headaches, respiratory problems including asthma, allergies, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Each person has all three doshas, but usually one or two dominate. I, for example, am Vata-Pitta. Various dosha proportions determine one’s physiological and personality traits as well as general likes and dislikes. For example Vata types will prefer hot weather to cold and Kapha types are more likely to crave spicy foods than other types.

My reference to the wind making me feel extremely flighty and unsettled has to do with the Vata in me, and the fact that when there is an overload of motion (wind is a classic example), I feel completely overstimulated. Once you know your Dosha make-up, you can work with your diet, your lifestyle, your entire environment to bring yourself into balance. When it’s blowy, I need my practice to be extremely grounding. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is a classic Kapha, finds the wind absolutely exhilarating and wants to get out and about and do things when the South Easter is pumping.

Whilst I’m making this to sound extremely simplistic, it is actually a very complex science, so feel free to do some more indepth research – you will find a wealth of information on this topic. If you are curious about finding out about your dominant dosha/s, I give a link below to one of many. Most online questionnaires are very similar and will provide similar results. Please keep in mind that shorter questionnaires will give a more generalized and approximate result. Also, your body changes with age, seasons, and life situations so the results will change as well. Taking a few different questionnaires will give you a more definite result for your dosha type.

As with any of these online / DIY quizzes, please take it with a pinch of salt – I believe wholeheartedly in the premises of Ayurveda and the Chopra Centre is a reputable source, however to reap the full rewards of this phenomenal life science, I advise you to make an appointment with a proper practitioner, and am happy to refer you to one if you are interested. Just comment below and I will respond. In the meantime, here is the link for fun and to get you started.

Once you’ve done the quiz, feel free to let me know whether the results resonate with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Click here for the short time-lapse video that I posted on Facebook and Instagram that prompted this post: me attempting Tree pose in a gale-force wind.

I quote extensively from a MindBodyGreen article: for the original post, click here.

 

 

Who’s On The Mat? Meet Christine

  
 Allow us to introduce you! 

My name is Christine and I am a 40 year old copywriter from Stellenbosch. 

My favourite asana is the ‘half lord of the fish pose’, specifically when you can grab your toes with your opposite hand. I feel so powerful, when twisted 😉

Your least fave asana?

This must be the downward dog or as I call it the dying dog. I can’t say why, but definitely my struggle pose. I try to do a downward dog once a day at home.

How did you get into yoga? 

I am inquisitive by nature and I was driving down die Laan when I saw Nicci’s notice.

What does your practice mean to you?

Yoga has taught me so much about myself, but mainly it taught me to accept and love myself.

What floats your boat about our studio? 

I love the studio, it is everything I imagined a yoga studio to be, or rather what I wanted it to be. Apart from her wonderful classes, Nicci is not only a yoga instructor to me, but a friend. I love her sense of humour and the honesty that she brings to her classes.

So, between friends, something that not many people know about you? 

I can’t sing. I can guarantee world peace by singing a few lines from a song. Also the reason behind my silent ohms!

Any final thoughts? 

If you haven’t started with yoga yet, my advice is get a mat and join us!

Thanks for these words, Christine. It’s really wonderful to see how committed you are to your practice, how it works for you, and how you embrace it – even the dying dog 😂. Here’s a little picture just for you:  

Who’s On The Mat? Meet Barbara

  
Please tell us who you are?

Hi, my name is Barbara Seele, I grew up on a beautiful farm in the Natal Midlands, and am now doing my masters in conservation ecology here in Stellenbosch.

Favourite asana? 

It was a tough call between trikonasana (one of my all-time favourites), and doing an acroyoga bow pose (dhanurasana)! I love playing around and challenging myself, all whilst feeling that I’m flying. Thanks to Hannes for being a stable and steady base (in the photo). 

Any asana we’re unlikely to see you in voluntarily? 

Hmmm, probably a hip opener, I find those really challenging (and really good for me). Especially the wide angled seated forward bend (upavistha konasana).

How did you get into yoga? 

I first started doing yoga when I was 18, I found it fascinating, and really liked how I felt at the end of shavasana. I slowly got into it more deeply, and in 2011 I completed by teacher training course in Bali – an amazing experience. After a bit of a break I am now feeling drawn in to deepening my yoga practise again.   

Why is yoga important in your life? 

Yoga allows me the time and the space, and the breath, to really focus on myself. I like how it makes me feel – stronger, more calm and more grounded. And it allows my often anxiety riddled thoughts to become clear and light. 

Your thoughts on the studio? 

To share a yoga space with others is an intimate and special experience. I feel safe in Nicci’s studio, I love the incense, the plants outside and the beautiful, warm energy that is held inside the four (now green) walls. Both Nicci and Victoria (the teachers whose classes I have been to) are intuitive, supportive guides, and I deeply appreciate their classes. 

Anything you’re working on adding to your practice at the moment? 

I’ve been trying for a long time to do a headstand on a horse…with no success yet. Maybe I should rather start by trying the crow 🙂

Thanks for your answers, Barbara. Let us know when you get that equine crow right! We love having your petite self in our studio space and look forward to when we see you teaching in the future 😊

Vishuddha Chakra – About, Asana & Suggested Journaling Questions 

   

Source
The fifth, or throat, chakra is perhaps the most misunderstood chakra – which is ironic since it is linked with understanding and being understood. Located in our throat, it is associated with speech, and our ability to communicate. But this chakra represents so much more! It is also linked to our ears, and our ability to hear – both physically and intuitively. It is the connection between our sense of who we are inside, and how we represent ourselves out in the world. 

In addition, it is the bridge between our lower chakras, where we play out most of our daily ‘human’ experiences, and our two ‘spiritual’ chakras (in the sense of the energies that move through them)– our third eye and crown.

One way that the complex nature of the throat chakra is reflected is in the element associated with it within classical subtle body systems – ether. While the lower four chakras are each associated with physical elements – earth (first chakra), water (second), fire (third) and air (fourth), the throat chakra element is ‘ether’, as in ‘ethereal.’ Within the historical systems that first defined these associations, ether represented the energy that bridges the physical and subtle realms – it both surrounds us and is in us. In modern terms, I think ‘vibration’ comes closest to this meaning, and certainly the throat chakra is deeply connected to vibration through sound – sound as speech, as music, and as simple tones.  

Because the throat chakra can be a difficult one to fully grasp, I think one of the best ways to do so is by looking at how blocks or weaknesses in our throat chakra manifest in our lives:

Difficulty Speaking: Although there are many ways to communicate, speech is our primary means of doing so, and from an energy body perspective, it’s a function of our throat chakra. 

Difficulty speaking might come in any form, physical, linguistic or psychological. It might be a stutter, difficulty projecting our voice, feeling perpetually tongue-tied, or a fear of how others will react when we speak. Of course, any fear or anxiety we feel is most likely also related to at least one other chakra, but any problem speaking is also linked to the throat.

Trouble Expressing What We Really Feel or Think: This means through any means – writing, movement, art, music – not only speech. All of us typically have one or more ways that we best express our thoughts and feelings, but if we have no outlet for this, it corresponds to a throat chakra issue. We might have developed emotional blocks in childhood from parents or caretakers who dismissed our emotions, or asked us to lie (as often happens to abuse survivors.) We might have patterns of ‘people pleasing’, where all of our expression is filtered through an analysis of how others’ might react, inhibiting true self-expression. Another possibility is that we ‘overtalk’ – engage in constant meaningless chatter as a way of avoiding communicating how we really feel or think.

Deception Issues: This may mean we ourselves have difficulty telling the truth, especially when it’s a difficult truth. It can also mean we have difficulty discerning the truth – both within ourselves, and in others. We are prone to both self-deception and/or deception by others. Our throat chakra is not just about our ability to speak truth, it’s about our ability to recognize it – it’s our ears as well as our mouth, listening a well as expressing, on intuitive as well as physical levels.

Disconnect Between Our Inner and Outer Selves: Our throat chakra is a bridge between our inner and outer selves – who we feel we truly are, and how we represent ourselves in the world. If we feel we need to hide parts of ourselves from others out of fear or repression patterns, this is associated with a holding or even blocking of our throat chakra. This doesn’t mean we need to tell everyone in our lives all about ourselves in order to have an open throat chakra. A balanced and clear throat chakra is more about an alignment between our true values and how we live and express them.

Difficulty Integrating Spiritual Insights and Daily Life: Our throat chakra is also a gateway or bridge between our psychological and spiritual selves. Our lower chakras represent our physical body (first chakra), emotional body (second chakra), mental body (third chakra), and relational self (heart chakra). Our third eye and crown chakra are linked to our intuitive, occult, and spiritual levels of being. Our throat chakra serves as the bridge between these two groups of chakras, just as our neck bridges our torso and head. When it is blocked we may feel as if we can not integrate spiritual experiences and insights into our daily awareness. For example, we may feel peaceful, calm, and wise within meditation or prayer, but not experience an increase in these feelings when we are off our meditation cushion or away from a house of worship.

Physically our throat chakra is linked to our throat, neck, mouth, ears, jaw and thyroid gland, so within energy medicine, problems with any of these are linked to issues with our throat chakra.

Suggested questions for journaling:

How do I express my unique creativity?

What healthy/unhealthy [foods/drinks/information/ideas] am I consuming?
How can I communicate my ideas, needs and wants clearly and compassionately?
What are the qualities of my voice?
Click here for a fun read on 7 ways to balance your throat chakra. 

 Source:  Lisa Erickson from Mommy Mystic; Elephant Journal 

Anahata Chakra -About, Asana & Suggested Journaling Questions 

  
Source 

Anahata Chakra is more commonly known as the Heart Chakra. The literal Sanskrit translation of “anahata” is “unhurt, unstuck, or unbeaten.” The Heart Chakra is perfectly situated in the middle of your body, balancing the world of matter (lower three chakras) with the world of spirit (upper three chakras).

The Sanskrit word implies that deep beneath our personal stories of suffering and pain lies boundless love and compassion.

Determining whether your chakras are balanced is quite an elusive subject; people often seek healers or reiki masters to rebalance them, when it’s just as easy to look inward and dig deeper within yourself. 

Signs your heart chakra may be blocked include feelings of shyness and loneliness. If you have an inability to forgive or a tendency to lack empathy, then you may be leading with your head more often than your heart.

Flip that the opposite way and an overpowering chakra can include feelings of codependency, and looking outward for acceptance or fulfillment. Intense jealousy or harsh judgment of others is also a red flag.

If you fall into the blocked category, figuring out how to rebalance your chakras really boils down to repressed emotions. Whether it’s a traumatic event stemming from childhood that you can’t even remember, or a grudge you’re holding so tightly from last week. When you repress your feelings, your heart chakra’s balance gets out of whack.

Try to set these three intentions to extinguish your repressed emotions, whether you’re consciously aware of them or not:

1. Be open with your emotions.

Any way you want! Whether you write them down or scream out loud, you need to let them out. Be extremely honest and open with every word; don’t hold anything back. Write coming from the heart — it’s always painful, but it’s part of the healing process. Even if you have no intention of anyone else reading what you write, it’s so helpful to put your feelings into words so that you can become comfortable, aware, and at peace with it.

2. Stop clinging to your feelings.

You get what you give. Practicing yoga really helps with this, because it teaches you to live in the present moment. Dwelling in past loves or past problems only brings us down, and if we stress about the future then we aren’t living fully. Like most things in life, it’s easier said than done. Do yourself a favor and consciously work on this one!

3. Practice the art of acceptance.

A good rule of thumb is “If you can’t change it, forget it.” Why stress about something or someone you have no control over? It’s a waste of time and energy. Instead, focus on what you can control. That’s what will bring you contentment and happiness. Set your daily intention to going with the flow and letting it be.

Try incorporating these three reminders into your daily life, and always remember that love is the greatest healer. Especially love for yourself. Keeping this intention while practicing asana will help open your heart. A few great poses to aid you in “opening your heart” are camel pose, eagle pose, and a back-bending practice. The heart chakra is represented by the color green. Eat more dark green leafy vegetables and drink green tea.

  
Suggested questions for journaling: 

How do I show myself love and compassion?

How do I give love and compassion to others?

In what ways am I generous/stingy?

What am I grateful for in this moment?

How can I cultivate empathy for people close to me as well as acquaintances and even strangers?

Source

Guided Meditations for Svadhistana and Manipura Chakras

In the second class of the Chakra balancing series we’re currently doing at the studio, we focused on Svadhistana and Manipura chakras (2nd and 3rd). On Saturday past, my printer had run out of toner so I wasn’t able to print hand-outs as I would have liked, and I promised to post the guided meditation scripts that I used on the blog. Here you are: with special thanks to Wanderlust for these gorgeous words.

WATER

Svadhistana: A SWEET OCEAN MEDITATION

While you are earth, you are – quite surely – also water. Everything ebbs and flows, drips, drops, pours, splatters, trickles, ripples, soaks, splashes… everything is nurtured and nourished by water.

Sit on the edge of a cushion, pillow or blanket. Weave your fingers together, touch the tips of your thumbs and rest your hands in your lap. Close your eyes. Connect to the rise and fall of your breathe.

Imagine you are sitting in a small boat, a canoe perhaps. With each inhale that arrives, feel the sensation that you are floating on top of the water. With each exhale, you are drifting further and further from shore. Feel the vastness of the ocean below you. The possibility of the sky above.

Now, imagine that a wave rolls underneath you and rocks your boat. And then another. And another. Feel them come and go, come and go, holding within them life’s ever-changing nature.

Think of the many waves of your life. Some have lulled you with their gentleness, their consistency and comfort, while others have been giant, drag-down tsunamis that you nearly drowned in. All have integrated into the great big ocean that makes up the tapestry of you. You are each wave, but you are also the entire ocean. Honor all that has brought you here.

Ask yourself: Do I give myself permission to feel the fullness of all of my feelings in any given moment? Think of what you have stuffed inside or shoved away… What part of your emotional landscape in waiting to be acknowledged? On the other hand, ask yourself: What parts of the past am I clinging to? What am I ready to let go of?

Roll onto your back into Baddha Konasana with the soles of your feet together and your knees wide. If you need some support, prop blocks or pillows underneath your legs. Place your hands on your lower belly. Feel the vulnerability of this position, your body’s expression of total openness and receptivity. Ask yourself: Do I allow for pleasure in my life? And feel the space to listen…

Dance, swim, DTR, take a warm bath with essential oils of cardamom and sweet orange, eat sweet potatoes, sprinkle cinnamon on everything. Do/wear the things that make you feel sexy. Express your sensuality through movement-based practices. This part of you needs tending always. Look for the sweetness in life. Stop and smell the roses, as they say. And then walk on.

May you feel each of your feelings fully, and then surrender them to the flow.

FIRE

Manipura Chakra: A FIRE MEDITATION

In the same way that fire turns matter into heat and light, this is where you take what you’ve been given and make the best of it. And then some.

Without a strong third chakra, we remain stuck in the sameness and drudgery of a passive life. Manipura is action, doing, going through the eye of the needle, breaking inertia.

Note: Light a candle, or better yet, complete this meditation in the middle of a circle of lighted candles.

Sit on the edge of a cushion, pillow or blanket. Cup your left hand and make a fist with your right hand, extending your right thumb up. Place your right fist in your left open palm, and draw your hands in front of your solar plexus (located just below the sternum and above the navel). Close your eyes. Connect to the rise and fall of your breathe.

Imagine that your right thumb is a flame, flickering at the center of your being. With each inhale that you take, watch the yellow flame grow just a little bit brighter. Imagine a warmth spreading from this area of your body and filling you from the inside out…

Now, imagine that you have gathered a little stack of sticks. On each stick, write a word or phrase representing something in your life that is no longer serving you, something that you are in the process of letting go of, or need to be. Remember that some things must be let go of hundreds of times before we are free from them, maybe thousands. Forgive yourself this process, for letting go is one of the hardest things to engage with…

Now, place each stick into your flame. Watch it catch fire. And burn. And as each stick is completely burned, imagine that a gust of wind travels into your hands and carries the ash away from you, far far away.

Ask yourself: Do you have the energy to do the things you want to do? Do you have the confidence to do the things you want to do? What gets in the way? Oftentimes our energy is drained in one area of our life, and we are left lifeless before the mountain of wonderful, enriching experience that could be…

Stand up, with your feet a little wider than hips distance. Reach your arms overhead, weave your fingers together, and extend your pointer fingers. As you inhale reach up high, and with your exhale sweep your arms through your legs while shouting, “HA!” Inhale your arms back into the sky, exhale shoot your arms through your legs, “HA!” Do this ten times, and then pause, hands in prayer at your heart. Feel what has been stirred…

Boil sliced ginger for a tea, build a campfire, eat a spicy curry, take a heated yoga class, go for a run, massage some sandalwood into your sternum, make a plan, and execute.

Fire teaches us that power results from combining and integrating, rather than fighting and dominating. Remember, there is ease and grace in true power. And you are powerful beyond measure.

You can change.