Yogi Kick

Yoga and Martial Arts World


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Life lessons learned from the physical practice

Although, when I started practising regularly it was mainly for physical reasons, and to be fit, I soon realised that the benefits go well beyond the physical world! Naively, I had no idea I was embarking on a life-changing journey! The kind of journey, that once you start there is no turning back!

At a much deeper level than physical benefits, these are a few of the lessons I have learned from the physical practice:

  • Trust yourself – each accomplishment has given me the confidence that everything is possible, provided that we put the right amount of effort on it.
  • Patience – not everything is as easy as it looks and not always goes well. Just like everything else in life, these easy flows are the result of much practice and much failure! Failure is the stepping stone to success. Be patient, don’t be afraid to fail and learn from it. “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” Stephen McCranie
  • Awakening – being “busy” has become a cult in this society of consumers. To “be awaken” in this world means to look at life with a fresh look, instead of getting caught up in the society rules of what we should or should not do, and belong or not belong. And it means to connect with your higher-Self and to experience a truly and authentic life.
  • Be Yourself – the courage and determination to be yourself and to stand for yourself, without the fear of being criticised. Isn’t that amazing? Would it not be boring if we were all the same? So be proud of your identity!

Therefore, use the physical practice to explore who you are, what do you want in life and what is important for you. And by physical practice I mean Yoga, Handstands, Acro, Martial Arts, Tai Chi.. anything that you like and that will help you to connect with your inner Self.

I cannot guarantee you that this journey will be easy, but I can re-assure you that you will love it! Follow your heart and your dreams, and you will be amazed where that will take you!


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Fall in love with Yourself

When we love ourselves, we will be kind to others and we will be open to love others. Kindness starts within us.

Is loving ourselves a selfish act? Not at all, it is quite the opposite. Selfishness comes from the ego, and the need to defend ourselves. It comes from the fear of showing our weakest side, or the parts that we don’t like about us. On the other hand, when we are at peace with that, and we accept it, and we learn to love ourselves, including the darkest parts, we no longer feel the need to defend ourselves.

And how do we do that, you may be wondering? It all begins with the inner dialogue, the way we speak with ourselves; swapping negative sentences by positive and empowering ones. No “poor me” or powerlessness thoughts. That will only drag you down and attract more negative things into your life.

When we go through a suffering period in life it is easy to dive into negativity and drag all those around you into that darkness and focus on how everything is bad. However, when we look deeper there is always so many things to be grateful for. So, start your day by focusing on what you are grateful for, and it might be very simple things. The most joyful experiences are usually in the simple things!

And then each day find some time for yourself and to do something you love. Follow your heart and your dreams! Fall in love with taking care of yourself and you will see that it will only bring feelings of happiness to you and to those around you!

Each day do something you Love!


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The War Within

One of my favourites Yoga books is the Bhagavad Gita, which is an ancient, sacred, Indian text written between the 5th and 3rd century B.C.  Bhagavad Gita means  the  “Song of the Lord  and it is basically a dialogue or a “conversation” between the Prince Arjuna and his spiritual guide Krishna. The Prince Arjuna is looking for answers to fundamental questions of life.

This is the story of Prince Arjuna which is faced with a battle that he does not want to fight and asks Krishna for help. Prince Arjuna must avenge Dhritarashtra’s passing of the kingdom to his own son, rather than to Arjuna’s brother Yudhishthira, the rightful king.

Krishna does not accept to fight his battle but accepts to guide him.  And although Krishna does not want to fight Arjuna’s battle, he offers to be his charioteer and his adviser. And the Bhgavad Gita is his answers to Prince Arjuna on the fundamental questions of life and on his confusion about how can he kill others out of greed for gaining a kingdom.

bhagavad_gita

Krishna tells Arjuna, that as a warrior and a prince, he must follow his dharma, or duty, where nothing is higher than the war against evil. Avoiding this battle, will, however incur sin,  and violate his dharma (purpose, duty) and his honour. But in essence, this battle is a metaphor or allegory: the battle of good and bad that we all deal in our daily lives: the war within.

As Prince Arjuna starts asking deeper questions about life and death, Lord Krishna helps Arjuna understand who he thinks he is and what his true form is. In the allegorical sense, Krishna is a symbol of the atman , Arjuna’s deepest Self.  Once Arjuna comprehends this, Lord Krishna bestows him with the gift of Self-Realisation.

The Gita also introduces the idea of rebirth or samsara. The Self wears the body as an item of clothing; when the clothes are old, they are cast aside and a new one is put on. It is the soul (or jiva) that travels from life to life, and therefore as “death is certain for the living, rebirth is certain for the dead”.

Krishna also defines yoga not as physical postures and exercises (hatha yoga) but as the path to Self-Realisation: “Yoga is evenness of mind”, it is the union of the individual consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness – the Self (atman).

In this journey to Self-Realisation,  Krishna describes different Paths of Yoga that a person can take to find the purpose and meaning in this world:

  1. Karma Yoga: the path of Selfless Action
  2.  Bhakti Yoga: the path of Devotion
  3.  Jnana Yoga: the path of Knowledge and Intellect

These are all paths to bridge our inner world with our outer world and to find that linkage point where we can realise the meaning and purpose of our life.


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What does Ashtanga Yoga teach us?

On the other day, I asked my students what do they thought the goal of Ashtanga Yoga was. What do you think? Every day, you unfold your mat, you do the same set of postures and then you carry on with your daily life. What is it teaching you? Why do we do this? Well, it is certainly not just making you physically stronger and more flexible!

It is teaching you Patience and Faith. Every time you surrender to the practice, something changes inside you, not just physically, but at a much deeper level. Every time you practice, and you see your practice improving, it gives you confidence and faith to carry on. However, other times you practice and it does not go so well, but that teaches you to be patient.

And then with patience, and faith comes Courage. Practicing new challenging postures takes courage. But when we do them, again something at a deeper level clicks and tells you “hang on; I have the courage to do what needs to be done”.

And when the time comes, courage helps you to do what you need to do to be happier and find your inner peace. Finding inner peace is like finding a good restaurant, you walk that extra mile to have that delicious dish, right?! The same for Peace. Once you find that inner peace, you will want it all the time, and you will get rid of what no longer is serving you!

So the Ashtanga Yoga practice is basically giving us the transferable skills to have a more balanced and peaceful life.

Keep practicing everyone!

Namaste.

parsvatonasana


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Ashtanga Yoga Led class – Easter Special

Ashtanga Yoga is a system of Yoga developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the city of Mysore, South India. Ashtanga Yoga means “8 limbs” in Sanskrit. It is a reference to the 8-part method of practice in the ancient text, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In Patanjali’s method, the practice of asana or postures is one part of a comprehensive discipline of self-knowledge and care including physical and mental training.
Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic method which links postures with breath and concentration techniques that aim to give practical experience of the 8-limbed method.
In this Easter Special class we will go through the Full Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga. This class is open to all levels of practice.
When?
Good Friday (30th March), 9-11 am
Where?
YMCA, Queen Anne House, Gonville Pl, Cambridge CB1 1ND
How can I secure my place?
You can book the class here.
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Trikonasana A (Utthita Trikonasana)

Trikonasana A, the Triangle Pose

Typically you get into this posture from the front of your mat and inhale as you step out to the right. The distance of your feet should be about three feet apart or a bit shorter (about one leg’s length). This means that if you are taller you are going to have a longer distance and if you are smaller you are going to have a shorter distance between your legs. Don’t try to emulate someone with a different shape that you are. If you are tall and try to copy a short person, you will end up with a stance that is too narrow.

Then allow the external rotation of the hip-joint, the belly draws in and find the access point into the empty space of the pelvis. Find the right hip-joint and external rotate it, then pick up the right heel and spin the ball of the right foot to external rotate the hip-joint. Draw the belly in as deeply as  you can and begin to pivot into the empty space of the pelvis, moving into an external rotation. Avoid pivoting from the ribcage and avoid arching the back, but keep the navel drawn in. Keeping your hips stacked as much as possible, avoid turning your hip too much forward and instead find that line between the hips.

Then dangle your right arm. If you feel that your arm is too far away from the ground you have two options: the easiest option (number 1) is to reach the hand down to the shin. If when you press down on your shin you feel a pain at the back of your knee, maybe you are pressing down too much, so reach down and grab a block and press your hand down on the block as your foundation (option 2). Depending on how far down you go to the ground you can put the block either up or sideways. However, don’t go down too far too soon and let yourself get comfortable pivoting into the hips. If you can reach the floor easily, hold the right big toe with two fingers (option 3).  Take the left arm up and spread the shoulder blades away from each other.  The full expression of the Trikonasana pose is when you hold the big toe and gaze to the left thumb. Press down on the base of the big toe, base of little toe and heel, and keep the belly drawing in. Take five breaths and then look down, inhale to come up and do the left side, spreading the arms, turning the right foot in and then pull in the left hip-joint as you spin the left foot. The alignment is between your left heel and the arch of your right foot. Exhale reach down to the big toe (option 3),  the block (option 2) or the shin (option 1). If you hold the big toe, avoid rolling your body forward or resting too much on your thumb; instead,  keep the wrist active and align yourself up so that you can press down through the base of the big toe; belly sucked in. Take five breaths and then inhale to come up,  spread the arms to the side and exhale back to the front of the mat (Samasthitihi).

In the video you will first see the full expression of the pose and then option 2 using the block. Remember to let yourself go in stages and never jump the game. If you need to use the block, fine but treat the block like a training wheel, just like you use to learn how to ride a bike, not like something you would use forever. Those of you that come to my classes know that I tend not to encourage the students to use the block for too long, and  that is because progress happens faster without using props, but using modifications with the own the body (in this case grabbing the shin). Also, some people tend to get addicted to the block, and can get stagnated in a modification for a long time. So, although students are advised not to rush too soon, they are encouraged to work with modifications using their own body.

 


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Padangusthasana and Padahastasana

Padangusthasana and Padahastasana – Deep Forward Fold
First standing poses of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series
How to come into the postures:
Padangusthasana:
Move the feet hip width appart and enter this pose in the same way you enter the second position of Surya Namascar A, by pivoting from the hips, sucking the belly and finding the inner space of the pelvic floor. Lift the knee caps up and find the basis of the big toes, the little toes and the heels. Pressing down to the ground and with the arches of the feet lifting. Then, hollowing out the pelvis, slowly bringing the hips back and pivot down as you exhale. Wrap your fingers around your big toes. If you cannot grab your toes, you can bend the knees and then straighten the legs. Pause for a moment and suck the belly in, then inhale and straighten the arms and then as you exhale fold forward sucking the belly in. Dangling the arms to the sides and bringing the crown of the head to the matt. Gaze at the tip of the nose. Only if you are proficient at the forward bend, slowly pull the rib cage in and fold in a little bit more.
Padahastasana
These two postures are linked together. Inhale straighten the arms and place the hands under the feet, and then again inhale, lengthen, belly sucks in, and exhale fold. You can also bend the knees if you need.
Don't pull on the hands and don't pull on the feet, instead focus on strengthening the legs, bringing the belly in and relaxing the back. The key in the forward bend is relaxing the back. Once the back is relaxed you can engage the ribs and pull the ribs in to fold forward.
Then if you want to take the posture to another level, bring the sacrum forward. It will feel that you are falling, so suck the belly as deep as you can to balance.
Then inhale look up, exhale release the hands and inhale come all the way back up and bring the feet together into Samasthihi.
These are the foundational forward bends of the practice. If you need to bend your knees a litle to reach the feet, no problem, just put your effort into straightening the legs as much as possible.