Sirsasana

Headstand – Sirsasana

Submheadstand sarah 2itted by Sarah Trombetta, SOYA 200 hour teacher in Ft. McMurray.

Starting in child’s pose, take a couple of breaths. Then sit up on your heels. Make a firm foundation to support your body by placing the forearms on the floor. Grab each elbow with the opposite hand to ensure elbows
are the correct distance apart. Interlock the fingers and keep the elbows beneath the shoulders. Now you have created a firm triangle foundation with the forearms.

  1. Place the top of your head on the floor with the back of the head firmly against the clasped hands. Tuck your toes under, straighten the knees and raise the hips up to form an inverted V shape. Keep pressing into the forearms and walk your feet towards the head until your hips are over the head, or as close as is possible.
  2. If you are able to, press your forearms into the floor and use your abdominal strength and lift the feet off the floor and bring the knees into the chest. Slowly straighten the legs and bring the feet up toward the ceiling. Keep 2/3rds of the body weight on the forearms and only 1/3rd the body weight on your head. Hold the headstand for 5-10 breaths.
  3. To come out of the position use your abdominal muscles to slowly bring the knees back towards the chest, then bring the feet to the floor and relax into the child’s pose. Do not sit up too quickly to prevent dizziness or a headache.

Benefits:

Helps to increase balance. Gives relief to varicose veins by taking the weight off the legs. Increases circulation to the spine, the brain and heart. Tones the endocrine glands. Rejuvenates the entire body increasing energy and vitality. Abdominal organs are relieved from constant pressure and with the inversion it stimulates those that are sluggish. Blood vessels can contract fully. The heart does not need to exert itself so pumps slowly and can rest.

Precautions and modifications:

Do not do if you have glaucoma or whiplash or a detached retina. Do a mild inversion instead, such as legs up the wall.

If you have anxiety or fear doing this inversion, use a wall with an assistant to help support you.

If you have weak wrists difficulty keeping your elbows under the shoulders (they tend to spread apart) then use a strap to keep them the correct distance apart.

For neck injuries or weakness in the upper body strength, do only phase 1. This is known as ardha sirsasana or the dolphin pose. Holding this pose will help you to build upper body strength without compromising the neck and head.

Advanced variations:

headstand 2While in the headstand, you can stretch the feet wide apart to the side and to the front/back.

You can drop one leg down towards the floor while keeping the other leg up, then raise the leg back up and repeat with the other leg.

Lower both legs down towards the floor and raise back up again. With legs extended, twist them to the right and then to the left.

Meditation

Preparing for Your Yoga Teacher Training

By Julie (Jools) Andrés, SOYA500, Roberts Creek, BC

The first module of my 300-hour SOYA upgrade immersion took place a year ago in beautiful Water Valley, Alberta. Three weeks beforehand my excitement began to build. To-do lists sprouted forth on sticky notes on my fridge and monitor and I made arrangements for garden minding. My head swam. I knew from my earlier training that I would be facing a wonderful, challenging, and even befuddling time. While I geared up, that nagging voice inside—the one that likes to feed the hungry pit of doubt—that voice said, “Maybe you should cancel. This probably isn’t the ideal time. You have too much other stuff going on in your life. This is really an extravagance. Maybe you shouldn’t…”

Somehow I got past that little devil. I drove 1,000 kilometres and arrived well prepared, I thought. I was ready. We began our work. In study groups we explored ancient texts that speak to us in a universal voice that is both comforting and confounding. Of course, in yoga it is all about practice, and practice we did: pranayama, mantra, meditation, specialty workshops, and asana, asana, asana. We went non-stop for 12 hours or more every day, living, breathing, eating, thinking yoga in every activity. As wonderful as it was, the nagging voice needed to be silenced again and again.

Attending yoga teacher training intensives over 12 to 16 days, or extended programs spanning over several months is life altering in a beautiful way. Because we pack so much learning and experience into a compressed timeframe it can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips for keeping sane and getting the most out of your time in retreat.

  • Don’t arrive already exhausted. Whether you are driving or flying, arrange to make your transition time adequate for acclimatizing to the new surroundings. Ensure that you have enough time to rest and go over logistics before the program schedule begins. If facilities are available for soaking in a hot tub, swimming, or other recreational activities, take advantage of them during this time. Relax and enjoy yourself.
  • Ramp up your home asana practice for two or three weeks beforehand. This way you will not be dealing with intense soreness and fatigue. Almost all yoga teacher training programs have a very heavy asana component; be ready to learn as much as you can from highly experienced teachers by being up for the physical challenge.
  • If food service is available take advantage of it rather than bringing and preparing your own. If self-catering is the only option, bring ingredients for meals that are healthy and simple. Don’t try to cook in the same way that you do at home. A Magic Bullet or other small appliance and supplies for high protein smoothies are a good option. Bring a thermos for your tea and a one- or two-litre water bottle for daily hydration. You’ll need it. Make protein bars to refrigerate or freeze at the retreat centre. Get an ample supply of fresh fruit. Bring nuts, seeds, dried fruit and, if you fancy, some nibbles of good dark chocolate.
  • If you have left young children at home arrange to have specific times to be in touch with them. This will allay any separation anxiety and allow you to focus on your training.
  • Some of the habits or mannerisms of your classmates may push your buttons. Be aware of this and witness without reacting. Interpersonal clashes can really ruin things for everyone.
  • Know that as you work deeply you will likely stir up emotions that you didn’t expect to surface. The best way to prepare is to go in with an attitude of self-acceptance. It’s all good.

Write your lists, pack your bags, arrange to cover for your absence at home or work. As your time draws closer, remember that every conscious breath in your personal practice strengthens you. Don’t back out. Each mantra repetition brings you closer to inner peace. Every observance of your thoughts leads you toward the brilliant flame that is your fearless soul.

Remember, this is why we learn, practice, and teach yoga.

Jools is a grad and lead trainer of the SOYA 300 hour upgrade. To learn more about this program click here

organic food

Mugs’ Raw Granola

I like granola but I prefer it without any added sweetener and that is hard to come by. I created this very easy recipe based on one from the book “Uncooking with Raw Rose” by Rose Vasile, which is a great book to introduce you to raw foods. I leave out the date-apple paste so this recipe is quicker and the only sweetener comes from the raisins or dried cranberries.

The groats are sprouted and the seeds are soaked.  Soaking and sprouting seeds and grains activates and multiplies nutrients like Vitamins A, B and C.  It also removes anti-nutrients or compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients, making them more digestible.

Ingredients:

2 cups buckwheat groats

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup flax seeds

1 cup raisins or dried cranberries

1 cup unsweetened shredded or shaved flakes of coconut

1 cup raw cashews or pecans, slightly chopped

 

Method:

Soak the groats in water for about 1 hour, then drain and let them sprout overnight, then rinse them well.  Soak the pumpkin seeds 4-6 hours, then rinse them well.  Dry the groats and seeds in your dehydrator or oven at a low temperature (about 115 degrees F), which takes about 2 hours depending on how thinly you spread them out.

In the meantime, mix together the coconut flakes, nuts, raisins and flax seeds.  Add the groats and seeds from the dehydrator once they are dry.  Store in a jar with a tight lid.

Top with a tablespoon of raw hemp hearts and sliced banana, apple or fresh berries. Serve with raw almond milk (or any milk of your choice).  If you aren’t eating totally “raw”, then this goes great with yogurt or non-dairy coconut milk yogurt.

mantra

Cymatics – The Power to Visualize Mantra

By Mugs McConnell, E-RYT500, Yoga Teacher Trainer for SOYA

Bill Barry photoThis July there will be a terrific series of mantra workshops in Red Deer and Calgary with Bill Barry from Shelburne, Massachusetts. Bill (Bharata) studied mantra for many years with Namadeva Acharya (Thomas Ashley-Farrand).  I love repeating mantras every day.  I have worked with mantras since I lived in the ashram 36 years ago and find them as much a part of my life as brushing my teeth.  It was Namadeva who introduced me to the therapeutic use of mantras when I started taking workshops with him years ago.

“Man” relates to manas or the mind, and “tra” means to protect.  Mantra means “to protect you from your own mind”.  Manas is the thinking part of our mind and unless we rein it in and direct it, it will think and think and think an endless number of thoughts.  Some thoughts are defeating, distracting, and deceptive while some are loving, harmonious and peaceful.  Mantra helps us to establish a discipline of ensuring we enjoy some loving energy in our mind every day.

All matter consists of vibrations that can heal or destroy, cause sorrow or joy.  Vibrations from singers can break glass. Vibrations from earthquakes cause buildings to crumble.  Vibrations from sacred mantras can affect the mind, emotions and our health.

We can feel the energy when someone is in a bad mood and they come into a room of people.  Everyone gets the “vibe”.  Equally, when someone is overflowing with joyfulness it is uplifting and infectious.

The science of cymatics shows us how sound vibrations can now be visualized. It is useful for scientific purposes such as analyzing various dolphin calls, but it is also able to reveal the beautiful, transformational patterns that ancient mantras create when their vibrations pass through water. Beautiful patterns emerge, and as the music changes the water responds.  Evan Grant, a cymatologist, says, “Sound does have form and we have seen that it can affect matter and cause form within matter.”

Evan introduced cymatics to the public on Ted Talks. His photography demonstrates how sound vibrations create amazing patterns in sand and water.  Music played by Beethoven and Pink Floyd created different patterns with their sound vibrations. Deva Premal and Miten sang the sacred Gayatri mantra and Evan Grant transformed it into moving art with cymatology.

It isn’t too hard to understand if we imagine a bucket of water on a wood deck and we start stomping our feet and jumping up and down. The water in that bucket will dance and jiggle from our vibrations as we stomp.  Equally so, water jiggles in a much more subtle way from our mantra vibrations.

With this in mind, I started a yogic practice of having a copper vessel of water on my meditation altar.  Copper is considered a very pure metal and a great transmitter of energy, just as copper wire transmits electricity throughout our houses.  During meditation and chanting the vibrations from the mantras are vibrating through the water in the copper vessel. After meditation I take a sip of the holy water that is now filled with the vibrations of my mantras.

Ok, so sounds and mantras create vibrations.

Mantras are great tools for m