Moon Meditation

Tonight is a Blue Moon, a rare occurance when there is a second full moon in a calendar month. This is a very powerful time for meditation, working with affirmations and making wishes.

As such, the practice I am sharing today is a meditation practice which can be done at any time but is especially suitable for the full moon or a blue moon. The fullness of the moon represents things coming to fruition, dreams being realised or wishes granted.

Full Moon Meditation

Take a comfortable meditation posture. This can be seated in a chair or on the floor using whatever props are needed to be upright without effort or discomfort.

Take three full cleansing breaths, sighing the air out through your mouth and clearing your mind as you do so.

Close your eyes and think of a wish, it can be big or small, long or short term, for yourself, someone you know or the whole world – whatever comes to your mind.

Picture the idea of this wish as a thin crescent moon, then allow it to wax, getting bigger and fuller with every breath. Over a few minutes, however long it takes, see your wish grow and become reality in your mind. Picture it as not just an idea but something which has already occurred. Fill in all of the deatils that you can.

State your wish in the present tense, either aloud or in your mind – either way with strength and belief behind those words. Use words which are positive, as an example rather than stating ” I do not focus on negative events in my life” use ” I focus on the positive aspects of my life.”

For a few more minutes enjoy the feeling you get from your wish having come true.

When you feel ready bring your awareness back to the breath and slowly back to the space you are in.

 

May all of your blue moon wishes come true.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

 

Up in the roof

I have spent a lot of time over the past two days up in the roof space of our home. It is not very pleasant up there, decades of dust have sifted through the concrete tiles and settled over everything so every move you make raises clouds of it. Walking upright is only possible in the centre, the further to the edges you get the lower you need to crawl and when you are close to the eaves you need to lie on your belly. Then there is the fact that every step, walking, crawling or slithering, needs to be on or over the rafters or you will fall through the ceiling.  It is fairly well lit due to two skylights which never made their way into the house but do make working in the roof easier. However the filtered light only manages to show the spiderwebs and dust off in the most spooky, eerie way. Luckily I am not afraid of spiders and actually felt a little guilty about disturbing their long term homes (generations of spiders have probably existed in those tiles)but even so their webs feel very creepy.

The reason I have been up there is that we have finally reached the stage in our renovation where we are starting to move up towards building the second storey. Though taking of the roof has been for me the scariest part of the renovation leading up to this point, the fact that we are finally doing it is quite refreshing and I find myself actually enjoying the process. Funny to think that something I’ve been dreading since the plans were first drawn up has turned out to be much less scary than I’d imagined it would be. As with many things in life, my imagination made a mountain out of a small hill. I won’t call it a molehill as it is pretty big.

At this point we have only removed those dusty concrete tiles from a small area but it is a start. As each tile was lifted more light came through, not to mention more fresh air to shift some of that endless dust. We have a green tarp over the roof to protect us from the elements so the light coming in is a lovely green, one of my two favorite colours.

So how do I look at this through yoga tinted glasses? Well the gradual opening up, light coming in and blockages shifting has been very much what my yogic journey so far has been like. No sudden enlightenment when all was revealed but gradual glimpses of beauty, peace and depth both in the world around me and within myself. The fact that every yoga practice is like a tile lifting, sometimes individually they don’t seem to make much difference but as more and more are removed the light shines through.

Hope you manage to shine some light today.

Love and light,

Belinda.

Angel stretching

Friday posts I try to include a practice and today I am sharing one which is not strictly yoga but something I include in many warm ups, both in classes and my own practice.

The act of making snow angels or, as pictured, sand angels inspired this stretch and I have enjoyed it often.

It is really very simple and helps to warm up the shoulders and arms as well as the legs and hips. Great for getting started on cold mornings when joints can be a little tight.

Do I need to explain this one? Really the picture says it all but I’ll give you some general hints and tips.

1. Make sure you have enough room above your head for your arms to come all the way up and to the sides for your legs to reach out.

2. Extend through both arms and legs and keep the feet flexed as you start to flow through the angel stretch so you are activating the whole limbs.

3. I like to start with hands by the sides and feet together and inhale to spread and open the legs as wide as comfortable while circling the arms fully until my hands come together above my head. Then exhale to return to the beginning.

4. Shoulder stiffness can make a full arm circle difficult, if you have any restriction there let the arms/hands come away from the floor where needed to allow for this. Don’t force them to stay down.

5. Relax the face, neck and torso as you flow through this practice, spreading your angel wings to make a halo around your mind while stretching your legs as far out as comfortable.

6. When you feel you’ve done enough come back to the beginning and rest the body and the breath for a few minutes, there is a wonderful, restful peace that follows this practice, soak it in.

Hope you give this one a try, it really is lovely and can be done at any time of day or night.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

Big Weekend

Well the past couple of days have been huge for me, two kids birthdays ( one of which officially made me the mother of a teenager ), an injury to my cat, an outing to a Roman Exhibition, the first blossoms appearing on my new baby grafted peach & nectarine tree and more.

Weekends like that often find me very busy and a little preoccupied with whats coming next so I don’t take the time to really enjoy the moment. It’s all too busy and there is so much planning involved that I end up not really present at all.

The good news is that I’m aware of this so I make the time, I catch myself out, I stop the clock and look around to enjoy each moment as it occurs. Not always but enough, even once is a start and once I do it once it reminds me to do it again.

The birthdays were great, I love sharing my childrens joy in celebrating their lives as they get a year older. I have a little tradition where on their birthday cards each year I write them a letter about what they have done over the year, what they are into and what their strengths are. I keep all of these cards put away safely thinking that one day when they are adult they will look back on them and remember those days, that stage they went through and the joy that came with it. It amuses me that they don’t take the time to read it all when they open the cards – too eager to get to the presents and they probably wonder why their crazy mother has written stuff they already know about themselves in their birthday cards.

The cat is fine, he was a naughty boy and got into a fight where he somehow got bitten on the elbow (ouch) which then got infected. Luckily I got an appointment with the local vet who fixed him up and he’s now much better though unfortunately he doesn’t seem to have learned not to fight anymore.

The Ancient Rome Exhibition was great, if you live in Melbourne I recommend getting there if you can, kids and adults all enjoyed themselves and it is only on for a limited time.

The tiny pink blossoms on my baby tree will hopefully bear fruit in Summer, a little reminder that the long, cold winter is nearing its end.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

 

 

Upside Down

I have been practicing inversions a lot lately, from the wonderfully restorative Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall) to the invigorating and strengthening handstand. I love inversions, always have. As a kid I was always upside down, sometimes just dangling from the monkey bars and others cartwheeling or handstanding but I never paid a lot of attention to why I liked it so much, I guess it was just fun and that was enough for me.

Now I have studied yoga and learned many reasons besides fun to get upside down occasionally. Here are just a few:

1. The heart is rested by not having to pump blood uphill (so to speak) to the brain which has a huge oxygen requirement so needs lots of blood. Putting the head level with or lower than the heart means the heart can have a rest, beat slower and chill out a bit. That effect then flows on to the respiratory system slowing the breathing and on to the rest of the body.

2. The blood returning from the feet to the heart requires peristalsis (one of my favorite words!) or muscular action to help it travel back up to the heart. By raising the legs this blood can flow easily back to the heart meaning all of those hard working muscles also get a rest.

3. It has been claimed that inversions slow the aging process. The thought behind this is, in very simple terms, that by turning your body upside down you reverse the effects  of gravity – anything that was sagging downwards is now moving upwards.

4. Most inversions give you many strengthening benefits – each pose targets it own muscle group but the core is active in most of them. However, I must recommend you pracitce with caution and under qualified supervision as most of the stronger inversions require a degree of strength in place BEFORE you practice them. If you’d like to work towards them its a good idea to talk to your yoga teacher about preparatory poses to build up that strength in a safe way.

5. On a less physical level turning things upside down allows you to see the world from a different angle, like in Dead Poets Society when the students are all asked to stand on their desks and look at the world from up high, looking at things upside down brings new insight.

For these and other reasons, shoulderstand and headstand are often called the Queen and Kingof the asanas as their benefits are so many. If the stronger poses all sound a bit daring for you don’t despair. Any posture which puts the head lower than the heart is technically and inversion so good old adho mukha svanasana (down facing dog), uttanasana (forward hanging bend) and other standing forward bends give you many of the same benefits with a safer feel.

Just hanging around

With all of these benefits I imagine this fruit bat will live a happy and healthy life after spending so much of it upside down!

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Chanting and dancing

I went to a Mantra Chant night on Saturday and wanted to share my experience with my readers. This seems to be an increasing phenomenon at the moment – I have heard and read a bit about it lately so when I found out there was one happening nearby I thought why not go and see for myself what it’s all about?

We started with a gentle yoga warm up with lovely live music in the background. Then we started moving to the music, letting it express itself through our bodies. Seamlessly the chanting started in call and response fashion. I have been to kirtan before and loved losing myself in the music and chanting, this took it one step further by adding dance to the equation.  Over the evening the music and chanting changed, fast at times and slow at others. The dancing followed suit we were jumping up and down chanting along at times while others we were seated and swaying slowly to the beat. At all times there was a wonderful energy to the room and those in it. We finished with a brief savasana and there were refreshments available though I didn’t stay for them as I felt so peaceful I wanted the solitude of the drive home to seal in the practice.

I left feeling energised, refreshed and refueled though it had at times been quite physical. I love to dance like nobody’s watching and the opportunity to do so to live music and with Sanskrit chant added ticks off even more boxes for me. I will definitely try it again and encourage you to do so as well if you have the chance.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Salabhasana

Looking back over my blog posts I see a bit of a gap in the poses I’ve covered so far. Apart from gentle majariasana I have not covered any backbends. I like catching myself out in this kind of habit which many people have of favouring the practices we like or are comfortable in and avoiding those that we’d prefer not to do. Often what we are avoiding is exactly what is best for us so it is good to notice which practices make you cringe when the teacher announces them in class and have a think about why.

Why backbends for me? Well, I like to feel safe, stay in my comfort zone or close to it and I value the precious time to indulge myself in some inward focus in a nice long forward bend. In a backbend we are opening our chest and belly – the most vulnerable places so biologically we are wired to feel unsafe there. We are also opening up to everything that is happening around us, opposite to forward bends, backbends take awareness out of ourselves and into the world. I know that I have made amazing advances by trusting and opening myself up to new things and getting out of familiar territory but I still feel uneasy and doubt myself when I do so. This is exactly why practicing backbends is good for me.

Another reason many people avoid backbends is that they are often quite strong and can exacerbate back injuries so they need to be practiced with safety and awareness. One of the best for doing this in my experience is salabhasana or locust pose. This is one of the safer, supported backbends and in it you have complete control over how deeply you work the posture.

To start many people are more comfortable with a blanket over their yoga mat for extra cushioning in this pose so set yourself up to be comfortable – hard floors and locust pose don’t mix well.  Now lie on your belly with your arms out front and feet a little apart. This is a great opportunity to have a little rest so let your forehead come to the floor or turn your head to one side if that’s more comfortable and breathe into your belly for a while, feeling the lower back floating up and down with each breath.

When you are ready to practice (if you haven’t dozed off) bring your head to centre and on an inhalation lift your head to look forward without straining the neck at the same time as you lift your left arm and right leg up and away from the floor.  Exhale to lower then repeat with the opposite arm and leg. I think of stretching the hand and foot away from each other so you feel the connection in a nice diagonal stretch.

After a few rounds try holding yourself up on each side for a few breaths, feeling the upper back strengthening as you do so. Then rest again, with your head to the opposite side to before and connect with that belly breath again.

For the grand finale lift everything, both arms and legs and your head, lengthening as well as lifting and hold for a comfortable time then release and push back into balasana for a restful counterpose.

So there you have it, a safe and very beneficial backbend to play with in your yoga practice. I like to warm the spine up a little before this one, majariasana is a great way to do so and afterwards a gentle twist and a good lie down are lovely.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

A toast to Olympic athletes.

I have been watching the Olympics for the past week and a half, I greatly admire these elite athletes who spend so much of their lives striving for perferction in their chosen sport. I am in awe of their power, strength and skills which I know do not come easily, even to those with a natural talent, but have developed through hard work, dedication, determination and surrender.

I think they all deserve a reward but there are only three medals in each event and the competition is tough. For todays post I am honouring all of the athletes, no matter where they are from or what their final placing has been or will be. I see their tears of heartache and joy when they lose or win and think what it must be like to spend so many years in preparation for such an event, only to have it over so soon – sometimes without the result you dreamed of. The pressure on the athletes from the media, their country and themselves must be enormous and though I openly admire them I don’t envy them at all. What a weight of expectation they carry, especially those going in as favorites, and what a weight it must be to feel you have not performed as well as expected.

Isvara Pranidhana, or surrender to the divine, is one of the yogic niyamas which would be helpful but by no means easy in their situation. There are many translations of this but I like to think of it like this. We have a degree of control over our lives, we can do our best within whatever situation we are in, but there comes a point where we have done all we can do and then we need to let go, to surrender and let events take their course. The results do not matter as much as our efforts in the first place.

I hope all of the athletes in London can find peace with their results and recognise their efforts to get to olympic level as truly great and something to be proud of.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

 

Paschimottanasana

Winters hold is slowly releasing though there is still a chill in the air the days are lengthening and we are seeing some beautiful blue skies and sunshine. I am a transitional person, loving Autumn and Spring the most though I do enjoy all of the seasons and their very different energies. This time of year to honour the reclusive spirit of winter I like to include some nice long, deep forward bends in my practice. As a group these poses all assist us in turning our awareness to a more inward focus – shutting out the rest of the world. The longer you hold them the deeper you can go and with props you can set yourself up for a nice long exploration of these poses.

Today I have chosen paschimottanasana, which translates as the great western stretch, to feature in my writing. The name comes from the front of your body facing the east when you do your sun salutations, making the back of your body the west. The whole back of the body is stretched and elongated in paschimottanasana. This pose in commonly practiced in yoga classes but today I am looking at it with a more restorative focus than you might have experienced before.

This practice turns your awareness deeply inward and is not recommended for anyone suffering from depression. If you have any back issues take it gently and with awareness. It is also not a great morning practice unless you have the rest of the day free to lounge around and rest up. It is terrific before bed at night as it brings you into a very relaxed state or at the end of a yoga practice before savasana. Personally I feel like I am emerging from a deep sleep after a long hold in paschimottanasana, a little disoriented and groggy as well as deeply rested both physically and mentally. I wouldn’t operate heavy machinery in this state so keep it in mind when planning your practice time.

To set yourself up you will need a blanket or cushion to sit on as well as a bolster or several stacked cushions to lean forward onto. Sit on your blanket with both legs straight out in front and wiggle your pelvis around so you get a nice, supported seat where the spine rests effortlessly in an upright position. Then take your bolster or stacked cushions/blankets and place them along the length of your legs. Notice your knees, they sometimes lock here which is not ideal so if you find that has happened soften them a little by lifting the knees away from the floor. Breathe in and raise your arms out to the sides and straight up, feeling the ribcage expanding and the breath filling that space. Then exhale and fold forwards over the bolster. Depending on your flexibility you might comfortably lay along the length of the bolster with hands resting on the feet or you might prefer to fold  your arms on the bolster and rest your head on those folded arms or place further cushions/ folded blankets on the bolster to support yourself. If your lower back feels any strain bend the knees a little more or use more support so you are not going as far forwards.

Once you are there allow yourself to release into the support, shoulders broadening, face relaxed, eyes closed, breath flowing, everything softening. Hold for at least two minutes but I find to really get the benefits I need at least five.

When you are ready to come up take it very, very slowly. Come up a little on an inhalation, then a little further on the next in breath and keep floating up in this way over around five breaths. Whatever you do next do it slowly and gently.

Love & light,

Belinda

xxx