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June '24: Out of your head into your body

Each month my classes have a theme - something that I will thread throughout the various classes helping us explore the wider world of yoga, to grow in our practice or to focus on certain skills or elements or even body parts. 

This month my classes are looking to take you out of your head and into your body. Why exactly? Well, if you’re like me, your mind is busy, filled with whirling thoughts and emotions. Your attention is often anywhere but right here. You are overrun with thought after thought as you live in the chaos and clutter of your busy mind.

 

If we are in our heads too much it can create anxiety, worry and can disturb your sleep. The ‘mental junk’ drains you; the drama and noise of your life and your mind can leave you feeling exhausted. In short, your busy mind is an overwhelming place to live.

 

Thinking serves us human beings so well. But too much thinking, especially without conscious movement breaks, can cause anxiety, headaches, and digestive upset. This month, we are going to work on getting out of our head and down into our body.

Gyan Mudra

The word "down" is important here. When we think too much, or when we are too much in our heads, it activates something called udana prana. Udana prana is the upward rising energy in the body. It's good and totally necessary for a functioning human life. But it's not the only energy we need to survive. 

 

In addition to thinking, we also need to feel our way through life.

Being able to feel your body requires the presence of something called apana prana. Apana prana is the downward moving energy in the body, and is responsible for healthy elimination as well as feelings of contentment and clarity. It supports the immune system and helps keep the mind free of destructive forces.

 

When apana is weak, the integrity of the mind-body complex is also weakened, and we become susceptible to illness, fear, doubt, confusion, insecurity, and loss of purpose; when it is strong and balanced, apana roots and grounds us, providing the foundation for a healthy body and a flexible positive outlook on life.

 

Across the next four weeks I am going to guide you through various tools and techniques offered by yoga to bring you out of your busy mind and into your body and to support and strengthen your apana prana.

 

Week 1: Back to Your Breath

After a calming meditation with Vayu Mudra (a hand gesture linked to our air element, bringing about  a calm in the mind and reducing anxiety and discomfort in the body) we will then link our movement and poses with Ujjayi breath. 

Ujjayi Breath

From our very first breath until our final exhale we are, without any deliberate effort, continuously breathing by our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Unlike other ANS actions in the body (like pupil dilation) we are able to take voluntary control over our breathing and thus, critically, can influence our Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous system. 

When we breathe Ujjayi breath we transform the automatic into the deliberate and thereby become the master of our internal landscape; we can positively affect how we feel by regulating the length, air volume and sound of our inhales and exhales.

Deep balanced breathing is the most powerful state shifter. It moves you into your parasympathetic nervous system slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. It improves your digestion and the working of the mind as the body comes out of 'Fight or Flight'. It also increases the flow of lymph fluids helping remove toxins from our body as the diaphragmn increased the output of the lymph system.

So what is Ujjayi breath?

- A soft whispering breath sometimes called Ocean breath

- It’s created by gently constructing the throat to narrow the airways helping to slow the breath 

- It's similar to the sound you hear when you put a sea shell to your ear

- It's a sound that really only you should be able to hear

- It's calming and soothing to the nervous system via the vagus nerve stimulation that runs down the back of the throat. 

- It helps you keep track of your breath as you practice ensuring you don’t loose your breath through over exertion

- It helps create a little heat in the body - it’s an energising breath sometimes called Victorious Breath

What it’s not:

- A sound so loud everyone in the room thinks Darth Vader or a loud snorer is in the room

- A forced breath that creates stress in the body

- Something that should be practiced in Savasana when we let go and control nothing but simply relax

Look out for updates over the coming weeks on the rest of the months class focus. 

Week 2: Back to your roots

Learning to invoke the Mula Banda to increase Udana Prana

Mula bandha is stabilizing and calming. It also enhances the energy of concentration.

Week 3 : Release the tension

Tension in the mind leads to held tension in the body. Especially neck and shoulders and hips. This week we have a super stretchy  nurturing flow with time to soften and release tension held in hips and shoulders

Week 4: Balance in an uncertain world

Working on our core strength and vestibular balance to create a confidence and stability in the body and mind 

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