Wednesday, 23 December 2015

'We wish you a Merry Christmas'- Christmas yoga to cultivate happiness

Happiness is something we all want.  We often seek happiness through material things but yogis believe true happiness can be gained by finding your true self which is compassionate, gives unconditional love and is in communion with life.  How do we reach this state which yogis refer to as bliss.   The road to happiness involves negotiating the five sheaths of the body known as koshas. Please see 'On the road to bliss- The Koshas Part 5' where you will find the links for the rest of my Kosha series- Also by following the eightfold path of yoga as set down by Patanjali in the yoga sutras.  For this Advent practice, I want to focus on removing obstacles to happiness with a hip opening practice.  The hips are where we hold negative emotions such as guilt, jealousy, fear, anger, low self-esteem.  By opening the hips we can begin to let go of such negativity clearing the way for happiness to enter into our lives in this season of advent.  One more thing – celebrate the happiness of others for you often find that this generate feelings of happiness for you. 

Invite happiness into your life with hip openers

• Start in Savasana, close your eyes and take a few moments to ‘arrive’ at your practice and settle into your physical body.  Become aware of the breath and let the breath settle into a smooth, natural, rhythmical pattern.  Set an intention to let go of any negative emotions to make more room for happiness to grow within you.  When you feel ready to start the physical part of your practice gentle open your eyes

• Full Body Stretch – take a breath in, raise the arms overhead and press through both heels, moving the prana (life force) around your body then when you are ready to breathe out soften your legs and bring your arms back down by your sides.  Repeat twice more.

• Keyhole Stretch – place your head on a block or cushion.  Bend both knees and place the right foot on the left thigh.  Post the right hand through the gap made by the right leg and draw the left knee towards the chest.  Depending on your flexibility either hold the back of your left thigh or your left shin or use a belt to draw your left thigh in. If you have knee issues, hold the back of your thigh. Keep the right foot flexed to help protect your knee joint. Hold for a few breaths, breathing into the sensations.  Repeat 2nd side.

• Supta Padagusthasana (Hamstring Stretch) – start with your knees bent and draw your right knee towards your chest in order to place a belt around the ball of the right foot.  Straighten the back of the right leg, pressing the right heel away.  Hold the belt in both hands and relax your shoulders. If you wish you can extend your left leg pressing the left heel away.  Work with the exhale drawing your leg a little closer in with each exhale.  If your knee starts to bend, release a little.  When you reach your maximum stretch hold for 5 breaths.  Take both sides of the belt in your right hand, press your left hip down with the left hand and take your right leg up and out to the right.  Hold for a few breaths then take the belt into your left hand and take your right leg to the left.  Hold for a few breaths, bend your right knee then return to centre and release. Compare how one hip feels compared to the other.  Repeat 2nd side.  Come to all 4s.

Hamstring Stretch left side

• Cat/Cow + Firehydrants – from an all 4s position exhale lift your right leg keeping the knee bent and the foot flexed.  Hold for a few breaths.  Repeat 2nd side.  Turn to face the long edge of the mat.

• Frog- from an all 4s position bring your right knee level with the hip then the left. Have your feet flexed. Come down onto your forearms, hands clasped.  To come out of the pose straighten the arms, press the hands into the mat and release one leg at a time.

• Swan – come towards the back of the mat, take the knees wide and walk the hands forward until your forehead comes down onto the mat.  Keep your elbows lifted.

• Downward Facing Dog + Leg Extended Twist- from Swan, inhale come back to all 4s and tuck your toes. Breathe out and lift your hips into downward facing dog. Inhale take your right leg back, exhale drop your right heel towards your left buttock and open your hips up to the right. Inhale come back to downward facing dog. Repeat second side.

• Child Pose- from downward facing dog, inhale drop your knees, exhale take your bottom back to your heels. Either bring your hands to your heels and forehead to the mat or support your head on stacked fists.

• Tadasana-from Child's Pose, inhale bring your arms forward, come back to all 4's. On a breath out lift your hips into downward facing dog. Walk your feet towards your hands and when your shoulders come over your hands slowly roll up to standing. Stand with your big toes touching, outside edges of your feet parallel. Lift your kneecaps, tuck your tail bone under and lengthen through your spine. Let your arms be relaxed by your sides.

• Sun Salutation A-3 rounds (see photo sequence in the Yoga Pose Gallery-
• Sun Salution B-2 rounds (see photo sequence-

• Tadasana 

• Sequence – from Tadasana, come to the top of your mat, exhale swallow dive forward into standing forward bend. Inhale step back to Plank, exhale lower through Chaturanga Dandasana, inhale into Cobra, exhale to Downward Facing Dog, inhale bring the right foot forward, exhale drop the back heel, inhale raise the arms, Warrior 1. 

Exhale open up to Warrior 2, looking down the fingers of your right hand.

Inhale straighten your right leg, exhale bring your right hand down onto the right leg, the left arm up, Triangle Pose. 

Inhale bring your arms level with the shoulders, exhale bend your right knee, look down the fingers of the right hand Warrior 2.

Inhale bring your left hand to your left hip, exhale bring your right hand down 6- 12 inches beyond the little toe of the right foot, inhale lift your left leg parallel to the mat, raise your left arm, Half Moon Balance.

Exhale bring the left hand down to the mat, keep your left leg raised, Standing Splits. 

Take a breath in and on your next exhale drop the left foot to the mat, straighten both legs, Intense Side Stretch.

Inhale, exhale raise the right arm, open the chest to the right, Revolved Triangle.

Inhale come back to centre, step back to Plank and repeat 2nd side. 

After the 2nd side inhale step back to Plank, exhale lower through Chaturanga Dandasana, inhale into Cobra, exhale to Downward Facing, inhale step the left foot forward, exhale step the right foot forward, Standing Forward Bend, inhale take the arms out and up, Upward Salute, exhale bring the hands to heart.

• Goddess Squat to Side Angle Goddess – turn to face the long edge of the mat and step to the centre.  Step the feet wide and turn the toes of both feet to face the corners of the mat. Tuck your tailbone under, exhale and bend both knee, take the arms into Cactus position, Goddess Squat.  Inhale bring your right elbow to your right thigh, exhale circle your left arm down then up by the left ear. Inhale come up.  Repeat 2nd side.   

• Wide leg standing forward bend – from Goddess Squat inhale press into straight legs, take the hands to the hips, inhale lift the chest press the elbows back, exhale fold, release your fingertips to the mat and walk your hands back under your hips.  Hold for 5 breaths. To come out inhale walk your hands forward, exhale take your hands to your hips, inhale come up slowly.  Step the feet together and shake out your legs.  Come to seated.

• Baddha Konasana – sit on a block if the knees are higher than the hips.  Bring the soles of the feet together and draw the feet close in, holding your feet or ankles if holding your feet makes you round forward.  Lift the chest, spine straight.  To release extend the legs forward.

• Seated twist to Cow Face Legs with Forward Fold – take the right foot to the outside of the left thigh, wrap your left arm around your right leg, and take your right fingertips behind the right hip.  Inhale lengthen through the crown of your  head, exhale twist to the right.  Hold for 5 breaths, inhale lengthen the spine, exhale release the twist. Take the right foot to the outside of the right hip, exhale and walk your hands forward. Inhale to come up, extend the legs. Repeat second side.

• Meta Meditation – sit in a comfortable cross-leg position and take a few centrering breaths then repeat to yourself
May I be healthy 
May I be happy 
May I be peaceful and at ease
Then think of someone you love and repeat the good wishes
May ……. be healthy 
May …… happy 
May …… peaceful and at ease
Now think of someone you feel neutral about, say the checkout girl at the supermarket
May she be healthy 
May she be happy 
May she be peaceful and at ease
Now think of someone you find difficult and extend good wishes to them 
May they be healthy 
May they be happy 
May they be peaceful and at ease
Lastly repeat the good wishes to yourself.  
Reflect for a few moments on the effect of the meditation.
Start to deepen the breath before gently opening your eyes and continuing with your day

Hannah and I wish you all happiness this Christmas and in 2016.
Peace and blessings

Janet x

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