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Surya Namaskara

Surya Namaskara also known in English as Sun Salutation (lit. “Salute to the sun”) is a common sequence of asanas.

The sun is considered as the only manifest form of the eternal principle. It is the giver of everything that we need, food, water in the form of rain, oxygen/energy/prana, light/vision, warmth, good strong health, intellect and so on.

Surya Namaskara, or salutation to the sun, is an important yogic practice which dates back to the ancient vedic period when the sun was worshipped as a powerful symbol of spiritual consciousness. From its esoteric origins Surya Namaskara has developed into a practice of twelve postures which weave together to generate prana (subtle energy), aiming towards the purification and rejuvenation of the practitioner.

The Sun Salutation sequence, if done at a fast pace can be a good way to lose weight and is an excellent cardiovascular workout as well – stretching and toning the muscles in the entire body. This yoga sequence improves the circulation of blood throughout the body and helps in maintaining good health by ensuring a disease-free body. Daily practice of surya namaskara has numerous benefits to offer for the digestive, respiratory, and circulatory system.

 

 

Come let us practice surya namaskara with Samantha on her Sunset yoga!

Pranayama

Pranayama (rhythmic control of the breath).

Prana means breath, respiration, life, vitality, wind, energy or strength. It connotes the soul as opposed to the body. Ayama means length, extension, stretching or restraint. Pranayama that connotes extension of breath and its control. This control is overall the functions of breathing, namely:

  • Inhalation or inspiration, which is termed puraka (filling up)
  • Exhalation or expiration, which is termed rechaka (emptying the lungs
  • Retention or holding the breath, a state there is no inhalation no exhalation which is termed kumbaka.

A Yogi’s life is not measured by the number of days he lives but by the number of his breaths. So he follows the rhythmic patterns of slow deep breathing. These rhythmic patterns strengthen respiratory system, soothe nervous system and reduce craving.

Can pranayama help for stress and anxiety?

When we are in stress, a hormone called epinephrine has released into our blood stream causing a rise in our blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate. As sugar and fat is release into our blood stream, blood is diverted from our skin and digestive system to our muscles and brain. Our senses are heightened! This physiological process is known as the “flight or fight” response.

Everyone experiences some stress in his or her life, however what makes stress a killer is when it is ongoing and our system does not get a break from it.
The most effective ways of dealing with stress is the Relaxation response and it is our body’s own natural way of bringing our system back into balance. The relaxation response can be activated voluntarily. And yogic breathing practices, pranayama are easy to do yet very effective at reducing stress, activating the relaxation response and quieting our mind.

  • It improves coherence between the two cerebral hemispheres signifying synchronization of logical and intuitive function. It increases alertness along with relaxation.
  • The Pranayama shows a reduction in sympathetic activity which is the basis of its use in stress management.
  • Pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorder.
  • Pranayama improves the autonomic functions.

Learn Pranayama with our Indian Yoga Instructor Samantha.

Santosha

Practice Santosha on the mat and off the mat.  Santosha is ‘contentment’, being content with your practice, accepting what is and letting go of achieving the ‘perfect’ posture.  We are all too hard on ourselves at times and Yoga not only teaches us to be patient with others but also with our own Self and goals.

Next time you get on the mat, watch the breath, the flow and let go of forcing your body into a pose to appreciate where you are on the mat and off the mat, be content, practice Santosha.

Join one of Lily’s yoga retreats when you’re here with us and practice Santosha.

Simple is Best!

Are you feeling sluggish, low on energy, groggy and finding it hard to focus?  You can turn your frown upside down with a simple stretch by folding forward and holding this passive stretch for 20 + breaths and rolling back up to standing slowly with head up last – this allows your spine to release and for the blood to flow to the brain, you will feel energized and alert!

Remember to breathe long full breaths as oxygen is key for better circulation. Recharge and rejuvenate with simplicity!

Join a yoga class and see Lily for life changing advise and one on one classes when you join us.

Keep Moving, Breathing and Practicing!

Practicing Yoga or starting any activity for the first time will be challenging and one may feel aches and pains during or after the session.  I have often heard students complain about wrist pain, stiffness in the neck and sometimes low back pain after a Yoga session.  We need to remember that when we start a new form of exercise we are asking our body to change, with this change comes discomfort. When we feel this it’s important to keep moving.

It is key to keep practicing and showing up on the mat to move the body so that we can work through any discomfort in the body.  After 15 years of practicing Yoga my aches and pains disappeared with practice, so keep moving and practicing to get your blood flowing so that you can heal!

Want to keep moving? Join one of Lily’s yoga classes when you’re here with us.

Keep Your Gaze Still

In Yoga when flowing through the practice it’s easy to get distracted.  The mind tends to drift quite often and for most it can be difficult to stay present but not if you keep your gaze still on one point, in sanskrit this is called the Drishti.  ’Drishti’ or point of focus differs in each pose; for example in triangle pose the drishti is the extended hand reaching to the sky, in a forward bend it’s the toes, in shoulder stand it’s the tip of the nose or navel.  The mind is free of distractions and one is able to experience a meditative state through this focus/gazing point.

So next time you practice notice how often you look around or look away from the drishti, each time you learn a little bit more about the fluctuations of the mind and how to bring your self back to the present moment.  So get on the mat and practice practice practice! Namaste

Master the art of keeping your gaze with a one on one session with Lily, our resident Yoga instructor.

Is this a Class for Beginners?

This is a question I hear often everywhere I’ve taught and after 11 plus years of teaching there isn’t one class I’ve taught that wasn’t an ALL LEVEL class. Having said that there are classes that may flow faster or include some poses that may be more challenging but don’t let that stop you from experiencing that particular style of Yoga.

At The BodyHoliday I have had numerous beginners try my Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga classes that are known to flow a bit faster and include some challenging poses and in the end the newcomers are quite satisfied and excited that they were able to stick with it.   It is ultimately up to the student to choose what suits their body type and in fact it is important to try all styles to get a feel for what your mind/body needs.  So don’t be shy, don’t be scared and remember you can rest throughout any Yoga class at anytime and always have a choice to make it more challenging as well.

Join a yoga class and see Lily  for life changing advise and one on one classes when you join us.

Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Mat!

As I walk around Le Sport meeting and greeting with guests and introducing myself as the new Yoga Teacher, I’m seeing a common theme in the reactions I receive to the questions about yoga: self-judgment.  When asked if they’ve ever tried a yoga class, many guests respond with “I’m so inflexible”, or “I can’t even touch my toes”, or ”I would just throw off everyone else’s balance”.

And this is where I’d like to step in. These are all of the reasons we should be practicing yoga! We all have to begin somewhere and in a safe environment, where trying new activities and pushing comfort zones is a daily occurrence, Le Sport is a perfect place to give yoga its first shot.

A common misconception about “yogis” (those who practice yoga) is that we are all ‘amazing at yoga’, all extremely flexible and strong (you know, pretzel poses and legs wrapped around the ears? No big deal.). What I’d like you all to take home today is that yoga is a continuous personal development, physically, mentally and emotionally and that it has nothing to do with what the rest of the class is working on. Yoga is a learning process that never ceases, because your body, where you are at in your life, and your current state of mind are in constant transition and these are all major players in learning about oneself.

Yoga is about body awareness. It is about knowing your own limitations and coming to discover, embrace, and honour your body’s potential (and yes, we all have potential!).

A great starting point is to ensure that when you approach your yoga practice, that you’re not setting out just to master a particular posture or goal. Rather than using the body to figure out the pose, begin to use the pose to understand the body. Seeing each posture, or each class, as a learning opportunity will help increase body awareness and keep your mind interested as you move forward (or sideways, or upside down!).

You focus on your mat and I’ll focus on mine.

It’s important to remember that the only thing that matters to you in this yoga class is what is happening on your own mat!  Yoga is meant to be noncompetitive. It is most definitely not a race and all other yogis in the room are really only concerned with their own pace, not about what’s happenings over there on your yoga mat. Allowing yourself to fall prey to competition in yoga will ultimately lead to disappointment or even injuries, as you have shifted the focus of energy from one of sensation and body knowledge to one of goal-setting and winning.

Comparison is usually only created in the context of what other people are doing. Therefore, in order to avoid comparing and judging, remember to keep your eyes down and your focus inward.

What does being “good at yoga” mean?

It’s all too easy to blindly follow the yoga teacher and try out advanced postures that you’re not ready to move into. Even something as simple as the way your instructor raises his/her arms are personal preferences for his/her own practice and don’t necessarily need to be followed by you. If your range of motion isn’t as wide or long as the teacher’s, find a way to adapt. Listen to your body and do what feels right for you. Stop when you feel you need to and don’t judge yourself if you didn’t make it as far today as you had hoped. A class where you successful eased up from a posture and intelligently stayed at your own ability level is much more successful than a class where you chose not to listen to your intuition and pushed yourself too hard.

Where you are today is exactly where you should be.

You’re only a true novice once.

In closing, I’d like to encourage you to enjoy these beginning stages of your yoga practice, as they are the most humbling of all. You really only get to be a complete novice once, so embrace this time in your life and remember where you began. It will be all that much sweeter when you look back on your progress in the future.  What’s key to making this process enjoyable is to be able to approach your learning from a light-hearted and open-minded place, without judgment or attachment to results.

With that, there are no excuses not to give it a try! So I hope to see you on the mat!

See Amanda, our resident Yogi, for more life changing advice when you are with us!

Namaste!

Hello Winter

Whilst we’re soaking up the Caribbean sun here on the island, it’s kinda strange for this weathered Brit to get her head around the fact that it’s winter back home!

Without the scarves, gloves, thermal vests (never let it be said I’m not a stylish girl!) and the associated layers of clothes, it’s really hard to remember that the year has moved on.

An interesting end to 2011 was on 22nd December when we celebrated the arrival of Winter in the traditional yogic way; with 108 Sun Salutations at daybreak.

Sun salutations (Surya Namaskara in Sanskrit) are an integral part of most yoga practices. Sri K Pattabhi Jois (one of the most important teachers in the Ashtanga yoga lineage) said;

“No asana practice is complete without sun worship. Without its focusing of mental energies, yoga practice amounts to little more than gymnastics &, as such, loses meaning & proves fruitless. Indeed, the Surya Namaskar should never be taken for mere physical exercise – for something incidental, that is, that simply precedes the asanas of yoga”

– Sri K Pattabhi Jois.

 

‘Surya’ is one of many names of sun and ‘namaskara’ means to bow before or to prostrate oneself. The Sun has been worshipped in many ancient cultures for its life-giving properties. Without it, life as we know it could not be sustained. These cultures also recognised that the sun bestows its power and light on all life; free from discrimination or judgement.

 

When practiced correctly, you’ll find that they contain elements of four of the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga, as detailed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. They contain asana (the physical moving of the body), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (control of senses), dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation).

So we chose to celebrate the Winter Solstice and the coming of new light by completing a traditional Yoga Mala – 108 Sun Salutations. As we reflect on the significance of the sun, we are reminded that the sun is the illuminator of our world, that it is our primary source of heat and the giver of life.

But why 108?

The number 108 carries spiritual significance in many different cultures:

* 108 is the number of “Upanishads” comprising Indian philosophy’s “Vedic texts”.

* 108 is the number of names for Shiva (a really important Hindu god).

* 108 is the number of names for Buddha.

* 108 is the Chinese number representing “man”.

* 108 is the number of beads on a Catholic rosary.

* 108 is the number of beads on a Tibetan “mala” (prayer beads, analagous to a rosary).

* 108 is twice the number “54″, which is the number of sounds in Sanskrit (sacred Indian langauge).

* 108 is six times the number “18″, which is a Jewish good luck number.

* 108 is twelve times the number 9, which is the number of vinyasas (movements linked to breath) in a Sun Salutation.

It’s something I’ve done with students on a number of different occasions; both to welcome in the changing seasons but also as sponsored events to raise money for charitable causes. Yes it’s hard work; yes it’s challenging on your mind and body. But at those moments in time when your mind is telling you that you can’t possibly manage any more, it’s an opportunity to remember that the tiredness, frustration, discomfort will pass. It’s only temporary, just like the cold, wet, winter days. Those moments that might make us feel less than full of sunshine are just temporary; they will always move on.

However cold the weather may be where you are, why not take a moment to welcome winter and be thankful for the gloom. Without it we’d never realise just how beautiful the sunshine is!

Are you ready to rock the boat?

When you think about it, life can be a scary experience. And I’m not even talking about the really scary events; like doing a parachute jump, or going pot-holing, or meeting a huge crab half way up the steps to the spa (in my defence it was very dark, the crab really was massive and no-one had told me they don’t all live in the sea!).

But for some of us, we have to face something that pushes us out of our comfort zone almost every single day. It might be making a presentation to colleagues at work, or squashing ourselves onto packed public transport, removing a new arachnid resident from under the sofa, or even stepping onto a yoga mat.

The really interesting thing about fear is that it is such a personal experience. By its very nature, it is usually based on an irrational response which even you, the person holding it, can see. I’ll give you an example; I am scared of boats. Whether they’re the size of the Titanic (you can tell from the example I’ve chosen I don’t feel overly positive about them), or a teeny tiny dingy, as far as I’m concerned as soon as I set foot on one it’s only purpose in life will be to sink as quickly as possible, taking me down with it.

Even I know that on the law of averages, this is extremely unlikely. I know that there are more than a couple of boat excursions going out and about from around here every single day; returning all passengers in the one piece that they set out in. I don’t even have to go any further than our own Cariblue beach to see this with my own eyes.

To be honest, it wasn’t really an issue before I moved to St. Lucia. Gloucestershire isn’t exactly known for its nautical opportunities or the chance to live life on the ocean wave. But now that I am living on a Caribbean island, I’m starting to get a bit irked with it. There’s the Sunset Cruise, for a start. Every Friday evening we take returning guests off on a rather splendid Catamaran to see the island, and the resort, from a whole new point of view. Then there’s the boat trip to go and spot whales and dolphins (Flipper! Flipper!). And wouldn’t it be amazing to go snorkelling in a secluded bay, coming face-to-gills with a real life Nemo?

So it would seem that so far, whilst my fear likes to give me the impression that it’s doing me a favour (“Oooh no don’t get on the boat. Listen to me; I’m here to keep you alive, silly!) it’s actually just serving to keep me missing what could be a whole lot of fun.

But what my fear has helped me to understand is that there are people who think of coming to yoga in a very similar way as I do of my boats. I’ll admit that the chances of drowning are considerably less, and I hope that no one feels nauseous, but the feeling is exactly the same.

They have probably only listened to the stories of people having a go at a yoga class and either finding it really hard or, at the other end of the scale, getting nothing out of it at all. Perhaps they’ve got a friend (of a friend) who went to a class, had a bad adjustment by a teacher and was off work for a week. Quite often their fear is based around the feeling that they would be ‘bad’ at it (“Oooh no don’t get on the yoga mat. You can’t even touch your toes. You’ll be bad at it. Listen to me; I’m here to keep you alive, silly!”)

Sometimes the only way to slip under the radar of that little voice is to take it by surprise. Last week, due to a slight mix-up with timetables, two ladies came to my ‘Dancing Warrior’ class (a slightly more challenging vinyasa flow session) by mistake, thinking it was a beginner’s class. They only told me this at the end of the lesson, when they came up to me beaming from ear to ear. They explained that they would have never had the courage to come, believing that it would have been far too difficult for them. As it turned out, they had a wonderful time (releasing their ‘Wild Thing’ as if they’d done it a hundred times before!) and loved every minute of it.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m not going to be the next Ellen MacArthur, just like the folks who take their first step onto a yoga mat might not be the next David Swenson or Shiva Rea. But who knows what potential we are denying ourselves by listening to the voice that says “oooh no” instead of the voice that says “ooooh – YES!”?