Majariasana, cat pose

My favorite asana if I had to choose one would be majariasana, cat pose.

This very versatile pose has many variations which are great fun to play with but today we are going to focus on the basic flowing cat pose.

The reasons majariasana is one of my favorites are many but I will share a few here.

1. It warms up the length of the spine, all the way from the sacrum at the back of the pelvis to the top of the neck.

2. It connects movement with breath and is accessible to beginners  as a great, easy introduction to the connection between the two.

3. It is inspired by one of my favorite animals, cats both large and small are so present in their bodies, so connected and move so gracefully. Watching a cat wake up and stretch is poetry in motion and often inspires me to join my feline friends in a long luxurious stretch.

4. It balances back and forward bending through the body giving the benefits of both – energising and relaxing, warming and cooling.

5. It feels wonderful!

To practice majariasana we start on our hands and knees, hands below the shoulders and knees beneath the hips. The spine is in its natural curves, a position I like to call neutral spine.

Then we connect to our breath and follow it with flowing movements.

Inhale into the back bend stage, open the chest, lift the tailbone and look forwards.

Exhale and move through to the forward bend, draw in the tummy muscles, open the back of the shoulders and let the head release down between the arms.

When you find a rhythm with the breath and movement flowing it feels wonderful. Just keep following the breath and feeling into the spine.

Enjoy.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

 

Onward and upward

I have been vey busy of late with our ongoing renovations. We are currently completing just one room which will be warm and insulated for the kids to sleep in over winter as due to the pulling apart we’ve had to do to the rest of the house there are many drafts and it would be useless to put on our central heating as it would escape from many places. This has taken me back to my childhood when we had no central heating, one warm living area and had to rug up against the cold both inside and out. Though at least when I was a child there weren’t holes in the ceiling!

I see every step as progress towards going up, part of the journey and am enjoying the act of moving towards finishing at least this one room. We now have fantastic built in cupboards in what will eventually be our study but in the short term will be the kids room. As a study it will be quite large but I imagine that once it has bunks and a single bed in there it will seem crowded and small. My children are happy to be moving into a warmer room next week (hopefully it will be painted by then!) and it will be an exciting way to spend the beginning of the school holidays settling in to a new space. I am inspired by their flexibility and willingness to go along with whatever we need to do. I know it does sometimes annoy them but they are very good at taking the long term view that they will get their own rooms and privacy once it is finished and in the meantime we all need to make sacrifices.

The act of pulling apart and redoing a room is an interesting one. Our house is around 70 years old and we have found remnants of newspapers, old tools, bottles and other mysterious artifacts in the walls which give me a wonderful sense of connection with the original builders. I like to hold these items and wonder who held them back then and what they would think of our work now – building methods and materials have changed so much over those years. They built this house to last with hardwood and hard work. We are keeping most of what they have done but changing some things, the new walls are made of steel not wood, the new roof will also be steel rather than the leaky concrete tiles we have now. I am saddened to see many houses in our area being bulldosed to put in apartment blocks or units, old houses have character and I am a big fan of old architecture.  I hope that those original builders of our home know that we appreciate their hard work and are adding our own to it rather than knocking it all down to put up a more modern home.

Off to sand and paint the walls now.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

Early Daffodil

What a lovely surprise I had this chilly winters morning when I looked out of my kitchen window to spy a very early bright yellow daffodil had bloomed overnight in my garden! I just had to take a photo and use it to open todays post. Daffys are my favorite flowers, I think it has to do with their brightness, openness and cheerful yellow colour. As a child I used to imagine fairys would definitely shelter within their protective trumpets, I still like to imagine doing so myself, shrinking down and climbing in. Yellow walls framing my window to the world making even the dreariest day seem bright and full of hope.

So inspired today I am writing about unexpected pleasures and taking the time to appreciate them.  All too often I jump into a “Why me?” or “What next?” self pitying frame of mind when everything seems to be going awry. Yet when something wonderful happens that seems too good to be true I find myself looking for the catch. I try to pause in this habit and truly enjoy and appreciate these gifts, especially when they come unexpectedly. Stop and smell the daffodils, so to speak.

Something I like to do when I find myself dwelling on the  negatives is to become aware of each one and look for a positive aspect to it. Yes, we might be stuck in traffic and so running late but this has given us the chance to slow down, take in more scenery and have a chat. I might be feeling a little unwell but this brings my attention to looking after my own needs (something which I usually find I’ve been neglecting before I come down with an illness) and allows me to put them first and reassess my priorities.

Many people make hugely positive life changes as a result of challenging times so I try to think of them as opportunities rather than challenges. If all else fails go for a walk and look around, find an unexpected pleasure such as my early daffodil and spend some time appreciating the good things rather than dwelling on anything else.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

 

 

 

In the garden…

Well we have been blessed with some sunny days in Melbourne of late with frosty, cold mornings to help us appreciate that sunshine even more when we feel it’s warmth on our skin.

Yesterday I took advantage of the warm sunshine to spend an hour or two in my sadly neglected garden. One of the downsides of our major renovations is they are all consuming, taking up much of our time and leaving little room for anything else to be done around the house. This means the garden has been left to run wild form quite some time.

I was complemented on my veggie patch by a friend who dropped by recently and had to guiltily admit that it is looking good due to nature rather than any effort on my part. It is looking good however, mostly because I favour tough plants which can thrive on neglect and those which manage to self seed are encouraged to do so. My rhubarb has it’s own little corner where it divides itself and is very productive with only an occasional thinning out needed when there are too many crowns. My mint is like a weed and my only battle with it is trying to keep it contained to its own area. Lettuce has self seeded all over the place and celery is something I’ve only tried this year but am loving as I pick off a few stalks here and there and it just keeps going.

We are planting some more fruit trees to join our current lemon and grapefruit now as they are also not too high maintenance and there is nothing like fresh fruit. On the weekend our little feijoa tree was put into its new home and we have ordered some dwarf apples, peach and nectarine trees to join it shortly. Hopefully next summer will be a fruitful one for our garden.

I do love to garden, there is something about getting your hands into the soil and feeling its cool, rich texture. I also think it is important for my children to have an idea where their food comes from – not the shops but the earth, rain and sunshine. It is a great place to enter a meditative state, to become absorbed by the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings of the garden. Reconnect with Mother Earth who holds us, feeds us and provides everything we need and give her back some love, honour and respect.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

Here comes the sun

Last weeks post on savasana was all about going with the wintery urge to rest, shorter days and longer nights lower our energy levels while colder temperatures make it harder to get out of bed and get moving once you manage to do so. Many people indulge in more early nights and sleep ins at this time of the year, it is so nice to snuggle in a warm bed when it is cold, rainy and windy outside.

Unfortunately life goes on and humans don’t truly hibernate so this weeks post is about raising those energy levels so we can go about our day and keep ourselves warm and healthy as we do so. I was just having a chat with a friend after our Friday morning tennis lesson and she was saying how hard she had found it to get up and come to tennis this morning but how glad she was that she’d made the effort as she was feeling warmer, more awake, energised and happier afterwards. This is true not just of tennis or yoga but for any physical activity. Difficult though it might be to get started the benefits you’ll feel after you get moving are well worth overcoming the struggle to do so. Whether it’s going to a yoga class, doing your own practice, going for a walk or jog or anything else which gets you moving, you will reap the benefits. You warm up fairly quickly with even a brisk walk, it doesn’t have to be a full cardio workout to benefit your whole body and the more you do, the more energy you’ll have to do more.

It is important to find something you enjoy doing – I myself am not a gym person so getting a gym membership would be pointless, I don’t like going so I know I’ll just make excuses not to. I love yoga, walking the dog and my Friday morning tennis as well as having a hit (of tennis!) with my family whenever the opportunity arises.  So these are my winter warmers, I have friends who prefer the gym or other sports so that is what they do. If there is a social aspect, it is great motivation as well as adding an extra layer of enjoyment. It is hard to talk yourself out of it when you’ll be letting someone else down.

I find it also helps if it is an outside activity when the weather allows for it. We don’t spend as much time outdoors in winter and the clear, cool air can be both bracing and invigorating. It also means if the sun makes an appearance from behind the clouds you’ll get a chance to soak it in and bask in it light and warmth. While we tend to take it for granted over the long summer days in wintertime we truly appreciate the sunshine when we can get some. This is a great antidote to the winter blues which we can sucumb to if we spend all of our time indoors.

This brings me to todays practice – Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations. These are a lovely way to kick start your whole body on a cold winters morning and bring in the warmth of the sun to your whole system. There are many variations of these flowing practices to honour the sun so I cannot include them all but will give you a basic outline of one I like to practice. Feel free to alter it to suit yourself or replace it with one you are more familiar with.

These instructions are designed for people who are familiar with yoga asanas and their names (I will include both sanskrit and english) so if you are a complete beginner they might not make sense to you. I recommend heading to a studio for a beginners course or asking your yoga teacher to take you through some salutes if you haven’t done them before.

The golden breath rules for sun salutations are inhale when the chest opens and exhale when it closes so as you go through this series keep that in mind. If you prefer to move more slowly than your breath just keep the breath full throughout your practice.

Start in tadasana, mountain pose at the front of your mat.

Breathe in and sweep your arms out to the sides, bringing the palms together above your head.

Breathe out and let the hands flow down the front of the body, folding into uttanasana, forward hanging bend.

Inhale to lengthen the spine until it is parallel to the floor.

Exhale to fold down again.

Bend your knees, put your hands to the floor and step back to adho mukha svanasana, down facing dog.

Next out breath lower the knees to the floor and come into majariasana, cat pose looking forwards and opening the chest on the inhalation.

Exhale draw the belly in and arch the spine.

Inhale back to  down facing dog.

Exhale step the feet to the hands and hang forward.

Inhale come all the way up, reaching the arms to the sides and above the head as you do so.

Exhale palms together lower to the heart centre.

As you go through a few rounds alternate the leading foot for stepping back and forwards to balance the practice.

Hope you catch some sunshine today.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Have a Good Laugh…

I spent the weekend doing further training on teaching childrens yoga with Loraine from Zenergy yoga.

While the three days were very intense with loads to take in I feel refreshed and inspired rather than exhausted by it all. Sharing ideas, practices and laughter with an amazing group of women from different backgrounds with the one common interest in teaching yoga to children was fantastic. The training was held at the Abbotsford Convent which is a lovely venue, just being there brings me an instant sense of peace and contentment.

While the training was specific to childrens yoga I will share many of the practices I learnt with my adult students as well. I truly believe it is important not to be too serious in your yoga practice, a big part of yoga for me is about finding your inner joy and having fun and laughing are some of the best ways to do this. Smiling in your asanas is a guaranteed way to relax the face and bring a lightness to the poses. Having permission to be a little silly is both liberating and fun, we don’t do enough of it in our lives. Then of course there is the social aspect of laughing together which can forge some great friendships with your classmates and improve relationships with everyone else in your life. Sharing a good laugh is a great bonding experience and can difuse conflict and lighten the mood wherever you are.

Do you remember being a child or teenager and laughing uncontrollably until your belly ached and you rolled on the floor? Remember the energy and release that you felt afterwards? It is a great buzz and worth revisiting. I like to get together with a friend or two, share funny stories or watch a good comedy and surrender to the giggles without trying to restrain them. I have been accused of cackling on occasions when I really lose it but that is a risk I am willing to take.

Think of people you know who are not afraid to have a good laugh, how do you feel when you are with them? That joyful energy is contagious and lifts the spirits of everyone nearby. You don’t need to be a comedian or entertainer, just to be able to see the funny side of any situation and bring that joy with you wherever you go.

If these aren’t reason enough to indulge in a good gigglefest then the following may help to convince you it’s worthwhile. Laughter has been proven to improve both mental and physical health, reducing stress, anxiety and depression as well as boosting the immune system, relaxing muscles and reducing pain.

I’m going to finish todays post with a photo of Kelsea, my fun loving daughter who loves a good laugh and never fails to make me smile, hope it gives you a bit of a giggle and lightens your day.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx