Keeping your Spine and Nervous System Healthy

July 8th, 2010 Posted in Keeping your spine and nervous system healthy | 3 Comments »

The spine is a delicate and yet extremely important axis that supports the whole body. It is the first structure that is formed in a child’s body and consequently all the other limbs, the arms, legs and hips, derive from it. If the movements you do during the day originate from the spine, then the spine remains supple.

The following asanas help to extend the space between the vertebrae, relieving stress to the spinal cord accumulated throughout the days activities.

When the spine is supple each breath provides a wave of movement through the spine undulating and extending without the slightest effort. Practicing these asanas regularly will provide a healthy supple body and mind.

1.Makarasana (Crocodile)                                      

Lie prone – on your belly. Rest your forehead at the hairline on the floor, arms resting comfortably above your head. Close your eyes and let your whole body relax into the floor. Let your heels turn out and let your legs soften outwards.  Observe your breath, breathing deeply, pressing your belly down into the floor. With each exhalation allow your body to relax deeper into the floor. Breathe softly and evenly.

Benefits:

Reduces stress and tension, promotes sleep, regulates blood pressure and reduces anxiety.

2.Ardha Shalabhasana (Half Locust)

Inhale, lengthening the back of your neck, observe your breath. Begin to contract your buttocks until you feel your legs lengthening and feet rotating inwards. Squeeze your buttocks and thighs and feel your legs beginning to lift off the floor. Keep your legs straight and close together. With each breath visualise your legs lengthening away from your body as your legs lift, breathing evenly, hold for as long as is comfortable.

Release slowly and turn your head to rest on the side.

Repeat slowly and evenly.

Benefits:

Improves blood circulation, digestion and helps to relieve constipation. Helps to tone thighs, hips, waist, abdomen and the posterior. This yoga pose benefits women through its effect on the ovaries and uterus, helping to correct disorders of these organs.

3.Shalabhasana Variation (Locust) 

Draw your forehead to rest at your hairline while lengthening the cervical vertebrae. Draw your arms a little wider opening the chest and sternum.  Observe your breath, on your next inhalation keeping your gaze at the level of the floor raise your upper body letting your arms lift up gently, keep your feet anchored to the floor. On each inhalation feel the upper body lift carried upon the breath and on each exhalation release slightly. Feel your breath supporting you, nourishing you.

Release slowly.

Benefits: This posture activates the pancreas, liver, abdomen, pelvis and the entire lower part of the body. Increases blood supply to the spine and the entire upper area and provides flexibility to the upper back region. It also provides relief from indigestion, diarrhea, gastro-intestinal disorders, wind troubles, constipation and acidity.

4.Salamba Bhujangasana  (The Sphinz)            

Repeat the Locust, this time as you inhale draw your arms slightly inwards to bring your forearms in alignment with your shoulders. Anchor down through the elbows,spread your fingers, open the sternum, release your shoulders downwards. Contract the thighs and  buttocks, press your pubic bone to the floor Let your gaze be soft, imagine you are looking from the back of your head. With each inhalation allow the sternum to rise upwards open and expansive, consciously release tension from your  shoulders, feel the spine continuing to lengthen.

To release exhale and slowly, lower the chest and head to the floor. Turn your head to one side and rest.

Benefits:

Opens the chest and strengthens the core body. Strengthens the spine, stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders and abdomen. Firms the buttocks, stimulates abdominal organs and helps to relieve stress. Aligns the spine and invigorates the kidneys and nervous system.

5.Bhekasana – Variation (Frog Pose)   

Inhale; turn your head to rest on the right hand side. Draw your right knee upwards along the floor to rest comfortably at your side. Readjust your head to lengthen your neck. Observe your breath; with each inhalation feel your belly pressing gently into the floor and on each exhalation release any tension you may be holding onto in the pelvis. Invite the hips to begin to lower to the floor.

Repeat on the opposite side.

Benefits:

Deeply restorative. Stretches the hips, groin and insides of the thighs. Opens the hips. Abdominal organs massaged. Stimulates parasympathetic breathing, calms the nervous system. Assists with menstrual or menopausal discomfort.

Om Shanti

© Copyright 2010 Megan Ward

http://www.manasayoga.com/


Self Knowledge -Vedanta- To Know Oneself

July 3rd, 2010 Posted in Self Knowledge - Vedanta | Comments Off

Self knowledge is in essence Yoga. Yoga can be defined as to ‘Know Oneself’


 

Namaste students and friends,

A  brief summary of the first discourse from our Self knowledge classes.

With blessings,

Megan – Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

The first sutra ‘To Know Oneself’ is the same as the last sutra. What does this mean? It means ‘To Imbibe in Yourself’

The yoga masters over 2000 years ago recognized that in order to know Oneself we must know one’s Mind, as the mind, like anything else that is not controlled will ultimately cause chaos.

The World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2020 Depression will be the second major illness after heart disease. Depression is a mind disease.

Our existence is typically at the control of a highway of thoughts racing along – often out of control. Sometimes we manage ok but when a trigger happens we react to a pattern, a program installed in us from long ago which often no longer serves us.

The study of Self Knowledge reveals the knowledge which is within each of us; it requires an enquiring mind for it is only ignorance that separates us from recognizing this truth.

The role of the teacher is only to reveal the knowledge to the student.

Self Knowledge does not give you a new identity, a new tool or a new name.

Self Knowledge helps you to go beyond the Identity.

Our world is created by our thoughts. Our world is molded by our thoughts.

We are bombarded every day with sensory overload. The mind becomes cluttered and chaotic and when this happens our stress levels increase and we literally begin to ‘lose it’

We begin by observing, detaching from our thoughts.

The most powerful method to begin with, is to allow the mind to become quiet with the awareness of the breath, your nearest and dearest friend.

Simply sit in a comfortable supported position, ensure your lower back is supported and you are not collapsing in the body.

Rest your hands comfortably in ‘Chin Mudra’ (thumb tip touching index finger tip)

Close your eyes gently, consciously release your facial muscles and jaw.

Now bring your awareness to your breath, breathing in and breathing out.

Let your entire mind become fully absorbed with this simple action.

I am breathing in, I am breathing out.

Do not allow thoughts to enter the mind.

Continually returning to the breath, the mind becomes fully absorbed with the breath.

Eventually you will feel a beautiful serenity, light and calmness coming into your being.

This is just the beginning.

Namaste

© Copyright 2010 Megan Ward

http://www.manasayoga.com/


Workshop – Being a Woman

June 12th, 2010 Posted in Workshops | Comments Off

Being a Woman                                                                                                      

Facilitated by Megan Ward

 

 

 

What are you doing in your life that is currently preventing you accessing your inner wisdom and knowledge?

 

A workshop for all women- to discover your uniqueness, your beauty your strength, yourself. This workshop is about woman coming into their power, through knowledge and understanding of their selves, of the opportunity each month through a woman’s cycle to find her truth and alignment ultimately leading to her spiritual awakening through the magnificent and empowering process of menopause. It is about revealing your truth, your voice, your courage. It is about discovering that your intimate relationships must be with the Self first, to honour yourself, to love yourself, to discover your life’s path. This workshop is for you, for the beauty of your womanhood. You have only one life now is the time to reveal your truth and inner guidance.

 


Through the Workshop you will be in a safe and supportive space:
Yoga asanas for woman’s health and relaxation

Breathing techniques to center the Self

Understanding and recognizing your belief systems and conditionings

Discourses to reveal your own innate wisdom and knowledge

Diet and nutrition to nourish and sustain the Self


Date: Sunday 20th June 2010

Time: 10am-3pm


 

 


What to bring:

 

Water Yoga mat (optional)
Paper, pen Small Blanket
Your own lunch Warm loose clothing

In addition: Chai, herbal teas and afternoon tea will be provided.

 

Namaste,

Megan – Om Shanti

© Copyright 2010 Megan Ward

http://www.manasayoga.com/


Full Yogic Breath

June 12th, 2010 Posted in Fulll Yogic Breath, Jal Neti Technique | 1 Comment »

Full Yogic Breath

By Megan  Ward

Breathing is natural; it is not an intellectual activity. Breathing affects all the bodily systems physical, physiological psychological, it affects your sleep, memory, energy level and concentration. Breathing affects everything that we do and everything that we are.

When we breathe well, we create the optimum conditions for health and well being. When we don’t we lay the foundation for illness and loss of vitality.

Recovering the natural breath is a process of undoing, unfolding and yielding. It should never be forced or strained.

We begin this process by discovering where the breath moves in our body, a geographical mapping of the home we live in, our bodies.

Begin by practicing the Full Yoga Breath in Shavasana (lying on your back, knees and head supported if necessary)

Step 1: Lower Lobe Breathing

  • Observe your natural breath.
  • Bring your attention to the area beneath your navel.
  • Gently place your hand on this region.
  • Watch your breath as a quiet observer for a few moments.
  • Now begin to deepen, lengthen and extend this movement with the intent of allowing your breath to flood into the lower lobes of the lungs.
  • While inhaling, let the lower belly rise to its limit and at exhalation let it fall completely.
  • Keep the chest and abdomen still during this entire process – only move the lower belly.
  • Repeat gently without strain up to 20 breaths.
  • Return to ‘normal’ breathing, hands to your side.

Step 2: Abdominal breathing

  • Observe your natural breath.
  • Bring your attention to the abdomen region.
  • Place your hand lightly on your abdomen.
  • Notice as you inhale the abdomen rises and then falls with exhalation.
  • Watch your breath as a quiet observer for a few moments.
  • Now begin to deepen, lengthen and extend this movement with the intent of drawing your breath into the abdomen.
  • While inhaling, let the abdomen rise to its limit and at exhalation let it fall completely.
  • Begin to notice the more you release ‘holding’ the abdomen the more the lower back arches away from the floor.
  • Keep the chest and lower belly still during this entire process – only move the abdomen.
  • Repeat gently without strain up to 20 breaths.
  • Return to normal breathing hands to your side.

Step 3: Thoracic (chest) breathing

  • Observe your normal breath, this time focusing your attention on the chest.
  • Place your hand lightly on the chest.
  • You will notice the chest moving slightly up on inhalation and down with exhalation.
  • Again observe this pattern for a few moments.
  • Now, begin to deepen, lengthen and extend that movement.
  • This time, on inhalation expand and lift the rib cage, filling the lungs completely.
  • Then on exhalation, let the lungs collapse fully, sinking to the limits.
  • In this step, keep the lower belly and abdomen still, moving only the chest.
  • Repeat gently without strain up to 20 breaths.

Step 4: Full Yogic breathing

  • This combines the above 3 steps in the following way.
  • First inhale by allowing the lower belly to fill, then the abdomen and then continue inhaling as you expand and fill the chest.
  • Then exhale first from the chest as it empties and falls and then continue exhaling from the abdomen as it draws inwards completely continuing the final release with the lower belly.
  • This is one round of the full yogic breath.
  • Repeat up to 20 rounds.
  • Remember the pattern –Inhaling - the lower belly – abdomen – chest   Exhaling – the chest- abdomen – lower belly.

Visualise your breath as a constant wave of energy running along your spine. Expansive and empowering. With no beginning and no end.

Do not attempt to force the breath in any way, there should be no strain. The natural tendency is to heave with effort. The right way is to make it smooth and effortless.

Initially you may experience unevenness or bumps in this breathing process – as though there were separation through the lungs.  This is natural considering the years you may have spent breathing improperly.

Instead, try to picture this breath as a continuous wave like pattern –the breath moves up from the lower belly to the throat with every inhalation and then, down from the throat to the lower belly with each exhalation. Over time, this natural way of breathing will come to you.

The full yogic breath is the basic building block of the powerful yoga breathing techniques, also called ‘Pranayama’

Breathing well is the most readily available resource you have for creating and sustaining your health and vital energy.

Enjoy,

Namaste,

Megan – Om Shanti

© Copyright 2010 Megan Ward

http://www.manasayoga.com/


Bringing Life to Your Spine

June 3rd, 2010 Posted in Bringing Life to the Spine, Postures | 7 Comments »

Namaste,

Current statistics indicate that back pain will affect 80% of us at some time in our lives.

Poor posture, unbalanced lifestyle, pain, injury all lead to compression of the spine. Often we perceive the lumbar region (waist area) as a place of weakness in the spine yet this same region is what allows us to elongate the spine and in this elongation its elasticity and youth are reestablished.

Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal and regenerate. The following asanas practiced regularly will allow you to experience a pain free and supple spine, regenerating your nervous system and bringing a new found vitality and energy into your lives. We learn to elongate and extend not pull and push. The result is a powerful wave of extension giving life to the spine.

We begin with Tadasana.

There are no beginners or advanced students in yoga – the first step is the last step.

Take your time with this asana. This is the most important pose. With this you have the ability to re establish balance. The lumbar area (waist area) suffers the most when standing incorrectly. The lumbar vertebrae become misaligned and crushed together by tension. When performed correctly and regularly Tadasana subtlety realigns your entire spine, creating space for your diaphragm to breathe fully and regenerating your spine, there is no end to progress.

1. Tadasana

Stand with your feet as close together as comfortable. Observe, is your weight evenly on both feet? Where is the placement of your weight in your feet? Can you lift your toes and maintain your balance? Enjoy the subtle shifts you feel in the body. You are experiencing the wonderful ability of the body to find its own equilibrium. Standing on the back of the heels your weight will slowly sink down. Contract your pelvic floor (buttocks will automatically contract), and draw your knee caps upwards. Feel your chest expanding as the diaphragm is given life and expression. Let the weight of the fingers gently unfold and gravitate downwards to the earth. Slightly tilt the chin in as you lengthen the delicate cervical vertebrae. If you stand long enough, while the lower part of the body, from the waist to the heels, gravitates, you will discover that the upper part of the body becomes light, free and straight.

2. Tadasana with arm extension Illustration of flexion of spine with elongation

Maintain Tadasana, lower body (from waist downwards) anchored to the earth, contracted and firm. Gently open your palms outwards allowing your upper body to open as if the heart was a lotus flower unfolding its petals to the sun. Continue the journey of the arms upwards extending the palms of your hands strongly as you activate and lengthen between the intercostals (this helps to keep the lower body grounded and active). Draw your arms in line with your ears, your gaze looking upwards, facial muscles calm and relaxed. Chest is fully open; you are experiencing full body breathing. Notice the elongation of your spine; by the lifting of the head you are already experiencing a back bend. By anchoring through your feet you naturally draw the lower three lumbar vertebrae forward enabling you to safely and beautifully elongate the spine, nourishing and regenerating this area.

3. Standing Forward Bend

Back bends require a counter posture of a forward bend.Bend your knees keeping the knees firmly together as you pivot through the hips drawing your buttocks backwards. This brings the lower back into its counter posture of a forward bend. Come to a comfortable stance and then draw your arms down to rest your palms lightly on your legs just above the knees, fingers facing inwards. You may step your feet out hip width apart if this is more comfortable for you. Relax your shoulders downwards away from your ears, broaden your sternum. Draw your navel gently in towards the back of your spine, breathe, keeping your spine beautifully lengthening in a smooth line from the base of your spine to the neck. Let your gaze be soft.




4. Pelvic Spinal Release

Lie in the supine position with your legs bent, feet and knees hip distance apart.

Observe the places where your body makes contact with the earth. Gently seal your lips. As you inhale bring your awareness to your lower back region feeling the spine gently arching away from the floor on the inhalation, a moments silence, then as you exhale feel the spine gently release back into the support of the floor. Bring your attention to the waist area (5th lumbar vertebrae) and notice the natural arch through this part of your spine.

On each inhalation the spine gently lifts away from the floor and on each exhalation the spine gently returns, creating a natural flowing wave of movement through the entire spine. This powerful wave of extension arises not from any forced movement but from the natural rise and fall of the breath.

This is a gentle movement that cannot be forced; it arises from the freedom of the breath, of letting go any tension you may be holding. Just release into this asana, it is highly restorative and calming.

Detail of spine gently
arching away from floor
on inhalation.

5. Shavasana


Rest for 10 minutes in Shavasana following the breathing meditation

Om Shanti

© Copyright 2010 Megan Ward

http://www.manasayoga.com/



Technique of Jal Neti

May 30th, 2010 Posted in Jal Neti Technique, The Gift of Breathing Clearly | 2 Comments »

The Life Gift of  Breathing Clearly

Jala Neti – The Practice of Sinus Irrigation

One of the most beautiful experiences in life is to breathe fully and wholly with vitality, to feel the body invigorated with every breath.  The yoga cleansing technique of Jala Neti (also called neti or Jalaneti) is one of the oldest and most researched aspects of sinus irrigation and nasal clearing which helps prepare your body for full body breathing.

Today, millions of people suffer from sinus infections of some sort. While many of them are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, there is help available through this unique method of sinus irrigation.

Jala Neti has remarkable effects on treating sinus infections helping to drain the sinus cavities which in turn will help reprogram the body’s natural mechanisms against nasal infections such as hayfever, allergies, sinusitis and other respiratory complaints like sore throats and coughs. It is also helpful in addressing allergies, headaches and stress and most importantly it clears the nasal passages allowing you to breathe fully.

In its simplest form, Jala Neti is a way of nasal irrigation or washing of the sinuses in a unique manner through a special pot called the neti pot or the jalaneti pot.

Method

As always technique is very important.

Nasal clearing can be performed over a sink or bowl in the shower or outside.

Fill the Neti pot with tepid water and add salt (approx 1/3 tsp to neti pot equating to 0.9% isotonic solution, the same as human blood)

Place the nose cone of the neti pot into the right nostril gently sealing it. Slowly bend forward from the waist so the tip of the nose is the lowest point of the head and then tilt the head to the left, so that the left nostril is now the lowest point of the nose. Close your mouth. Tilt the pot slowly as the saline solution begins to work its magic. After a few seconds the water should begin to run out of the left nostril. Be patient, initially there may be no or very little flow. Breathe through the mouth whenever you need to.  Allow the water to flow for about half of the pot, water flowing right to left. Remove the pot, close off the right nostril with your index finger and gently blow to expel through the left nostril. Close off the left nostril with index finger and expel gently.

Repeat the same procedure on the right side.  Always do half a pot right to left, then half a pot left to right. It is important to not blow hard or pinch the nostrils to create extra force; all that is needed is several soft blows into the sink to help remove the water from the nose. You may like to have a box of tissues handy to gently blow your nose as well during the initial stages.

Drying the Nose

Drying the nose is a very important part of the practice.

Part A is for those who do not suffer high blood pressure or dizziness. First bend forwards gently from the waist ensuring you soften/bend your knees as you hang your head upside down. Let any residual water drain out from the nose. Then point the nose towards the knees. A few droplets of water may run out.

Keeping your knees soft (off lock) rise to a standing position. Gently do some rapid breathing through both nostrils with a little more emphasis on the exhalation. Then seal off right nostril with index finger and repeat rapid breathing, release repeat with sealing off left nostril. Finally breathe consciously through both nostrils.

Part B. If you suffer with high blood pressure you can simply bend slightly over the sink keeping your head above the heart and follow the above procedure.

If after doing the above steps the nostrils are still blocked, the whole process may be repeated several times a day until there is a free flow. Jala neti should preferably be practiced daily each morning just as you would wash your face and brush your teeth. As a daily practice it will continue to build up the strength and resilience of the respiratory passages leading to improved health and vitality.

Salt to Use

Pure sea salt is the best; the finer it is the easier it is to dissolve. Avoid table salt, vegetable salt and rock salt which often have minerals or compounds added to them.

Summary of Benefits

  • Neti removes all the dirt and bacteria filled mucus from within the nose.
  • It is beneficial for illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis as it reduces the tendency for mouth breathing by freeing the nostrils of mucus.
  • It has a cooling and soothing effect on the brain by drawing out excessive heat, and is therefore beneficial for headaches, migraine, epilepsy, temper tantrums, hysteria, depression and general mental tension.
  • Neti is of great benefit for problems associated with the eyes. It helps flush the tear ducts, encouraging clearer vision and gives a sparkle to the eyes.
  • It can be beneficial for certain types of ear disorders such as middle ear infections, glue ear, tinnitus.
  • Neti improves sensitivity of the olfactory nerves, helping to restore lost sense of smell, and thereby benefits the relationship with taste and the digestive processes.
  • It has subtle effects on the pineal and pituitary glands which control the hormonal system. This has a harmonising effect on emotional behaviour.
  • Neti affects the psychic centre known as Ajna Chakra which helps in awakening higher states of meditation.
  • It helps to stimulate better powers of visualisation and concentration and gives a feeling of lightness and clarity to the mind.
  • Neti is excellent for those trying to give up smoking. Since it reduces the tendency for mouth breathing, Neti re-sensitises the nose to the actual pollution of ingesting smoke, thereby de-programming the brain of the physical and psychological addiction.

Jala Neti pots are available for purchase through most health shops, Indian Stores and from the Manasa Yoga studio.

© Copyright 2010 Megan Ward

http://www.manasayoga.com/


An introduction to Yoga -relieve back pain and de-stress.

May 10th, 2010 Posted in Postures, Relieve Back Pain & DeStress | Comments Off

Through the practice of Yoga we uncover the power of the breath. Breathing is the essence of Yoga; breathing is the essence of Life. Most people are not aware that they breathe poorly. And few of us, when faced with fatigue, illness or anxiety look to our breath as a possible source for regeneration. The following asanas will help you to discover what it feels like to breathe fully and openly.

Exploring your Breath.
Sit comfortably, either resting your hands on your knees palms up or place in Chin Mudra (join the tips of your thumb and forefinger resting the back of your hands on your knees)

Gentle seal your lips and inhale through the nose. Quietly observe your breath without judgment. Visualise the inhalation softly inflating the lungs like a large helium balloon, then a moments silence as the breath turns around, to transform itself into your exhalation.

With each breath visualize yourself joyously drawing in life energy and on each out breath consciously release any pent up emotions, letting go.

Remain the quiet observer, noticing that as your breath becomes calmer and slower, your mind, too, feels calmer and slower.

1. Pelvic Spinal Release


Lie in the supine position with your legs bent, feet and knees hip-distance apart.

Observe the places where your body makes contact with the earth. Gently seal your lips. As you inhale bring your awareness to your lower back region feeling the spine gently arching away from the floor on the inhalation, a moments silence, then as you exhale feel the spine gently release back into the support of the floor.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Art of Yoga

March 31st, 2010 Posted in Postures, The Art of Yoga | 13 Comments »

The Art of Yoga – overall health and a naturally supple spine – at any age.   

ManasaYoga is a gentle yet powerful form of yoga that teaches you how to work with the natural flow of the body.
Health and well being are your greatest assets. Tension, poor breathing and incorrect posture lead to lethargy, illness and stress.

We learn to work with, not against, the body and the mind. To elongate and extend rather than pull and push. We learn to listen to our breath to guide us into movement and from there the body naturally unfolds.

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