Sunday, 11 December 2016

Joy to the World (intermediate practice)

If there is one thing this world needs at the moment, it is joy. I have noticed that this year many people have put up their Christmas decs well before advent which I think is a sign that people are ready for something to brighten up their lives.  The yoga practice below will also help you feel joy by opening your heart to love, compassion, and  a sense of being one with all beings.  For this practice you will need a block.  

To start stand in Tadasana- stand with the feet together with the outside edges of the feet parallel (for most of us this will mean separating the heels).  Have your weight spread evenly through all four corners of the feet, the little toe side, big toe side, inner heel and outer heel. Lift your kneecaps to engage your thigh muscles.  Lengthen your tail bone down towards the floor to create space in the spine, lift your chest and roll your shoulder blades back and down. Your chin should be level with the floor, the crown of your head reaching for the ceiling.  Your arms should be relaxed by your sides, your fingers gently curled. Lower or gently close your eyes a take a moment to 'arrive' that is bring yourself into your practice and let your breath settle.  When you are ready, bring your hands to your heart and set your intention for your practice.

Practice 3 rounds of Sun Salutation A and 3 rounds of Sun Salutation B to warm up your spine (please see Yoga Pose Gallery for instructions). Rest in Child's Pose.

Child Pose - sit back on your heels, hold onto your heels and bring your forehead to the mat. If you do not like your head so low stack your fists and rest your forehead on your fists and if sitting back on your heels is not for you, lie on your back and hug your knees in.  Stay here until your breath and heart rate return to normal then breathe in and come to all fours.

Cat/Cow - inhale lift your head and chest, exhale tuck your chin and arch your back and continue working with your breath.  

Thread the Needle - after a few rounds of Cat/Cow, come back to all fours.  Inhale stretch your right arm up, exhale bend your left elbow and post your right arm through the gap made by your left arm, bringing your right cheek and right shoulder to the mat or to a block.  To come out of the pose inhale, press into your left hand and come slowly back to all fours. Repeat second side.  

Extended Child's Pose - come to the back of your mat, big toes touching, knees wide.  Breathe out and walk your hands forward, bringing your forehead to the mat or to a block.  Press your tailbone back and extend forward from hips to armpits then down to your fingertips.  Stay here for a few breaths then come to lying on your tummy.

Bow pose  - lie with your forehead on the mat.  Bend both knees and reach round for your feet, ankles or shins or use a belt.  Breathe in and press your feet up and back lifting your chest off the mat.  Hold for a breath or two then breathe out to lower. 

To modify practice Half Bow  - lie with your forehead on your left hand.  Bend your right knee and press your knee back.  Reach back for your right foot, ankle or shin with your right hand. Breathe in and press your right foot up and back lifting the right side of your chest.  Hold for a breath then breathe out to lower.  Repeat second side.

Child's pose as before.

Downward Facing Dog - come back to all fours.  Breathe in tuck your toes, breathe out lift your hips into a Downward Facing Dog.  Stay here for a few breaths.

Wild Thing - from Downward Facing Dog, breathe in and take your right leg back, breathe out and drop your right heel to your left buttock, opening your hips to the right.  Bend your left knee a little and let your right foot come down on your left side as you lift your chest towards the ceiling.  To come out of the pose breathe out, engage your core and 'flip' back to Downward Facing Dog.  Repeat second side then take a Child's Pose. 

To modify the pose, from Downward Facing Dog, inhale drop your knees to come to all fours. Swing your left foot to the right and extend your right leg so that your right foot is level with your left knee.  Breathe in and take your right arm up and over, lifting your chest to the ceiling. To come out of the pose, breathe out, engage your core then 'flip' back to all fours. Repeat second side then take Child's Pose.  Come back to Downward Facing Dog.

Tadasana  - from Downward Facing Dog walk your feet forward and when your shoulders come over your hands, take hold of your elbows, breathe in and slowly come to standing. Stand in Tadasana as before take a moment to remember your intention.

Breath of Joy – from Tadasana step the feet a little way apart. Breath of Joy involves a three part inhale, followed by a complete exhale. CAUTION - if you cannot practice a three part inhale for reasons such as high blood pressure, heart problems etc, breathe as you need to. On the exhale do not bring your head lower than your heart.  

To practice Breath of Joy, inhale a third of the way extending the arms forward, inhale two thirds of the way stretching the arms out to the sides, inhale all the way taking the arms up, exhale completely bending the knees and sweeping the arms down and back.  Repeat several times then come back to standing and allow your breath to settle.

Crescent Moon – take the hands into a mudra fingers of left and right hands interlaced except first two which are joined and point up.  The thumbs are crossed.  inhale raise your arms, exhale lean to the right as you press your hips to the left. Inhale centre, exhale lean to the left pressing your hips to the right, inhale centre.  Repeat twice more.

Standing Twist – take the feet a little wider than the hips, toes turned out slightly, inhale, exhale bend the right knee, come onto the toes of the left foot and twist to the right, swinging the arms freely, inhale centre, repeat to the left and continue.

Triangle Pose to Side Angle Pose – step the feet wide, turn the right leg to the right and turn the back toes in, making sure that the heel of the right foot lines up with the instep of the left for men or for ladies line up heel to heel.  Inhale stretch the arms out at shoulder height , exhale take your hips to left as you fold over the front leg bringing your right hand to a block. Gaze can be up at the left hand or down at your big toe.  When you are ready to come out, inhale bring your arms up to shoulder height, exhale turn your feet to face forward, bring your hands to heart.

Inhale stretch your arms to shoulder height, exhale bend the front knee, inhale take the right hand to the floor, a block or rest your right elbow on your right thigh, exhale circle the left arm down then up by the ear.  Gaze can be straight ahead or up at the left hand.  Open the chest by rolling the left shoulder back. Inhale to bring your arms back to shoulder height as you come up and straighten the front knee, exhale hands to heart, turn the feet to face forward.  Repeat 2nd side.

Wide Leg Standing Forward Bend Variation – step your feet wide and have the outside edges parallel to the outside edges of the mat.  Take your hands behind the back, interlace your fingers.  Inhale lift your chest, exhale fold to a flat back position.  Stay here if you have problems with high blood pressure etc. otherwise breathe in and as you breathe out bring the crown of your head down, your arms up and over.  Breathe in to come up slowly then step your feet together.

Dancer –from standing, bend your right knee bringing your heel towards your right buttock. Raise your left arm and find a gaze point, straight ahead.  You can stay here or breathe in and as you breathe out hinge forward pressing your right foot up and back.  To come out of the pose, breathe in and come back to an upright position, breathe out and release your foot back to the mat. Repeat second side. Come to lying on your tummy, bend the knees and windscreen wiper the legs from side to side.  Come to lying on your back with your knees bent, heels close to your buttocks. 

Shoulder Bridge - bring your hands by your sides, palms facing down.  Inhale lift your hips, take your arms overhead, exhale lower, bring your arms back over.  Repeat several times. Then inhale, lift your hips but keep your arms by your sides, 'walk' your shoulders towards your heels and support your lower back with your hands thumbs pointing out. To come out release your hands and lower your hips on the exhale. Hug your knees into your chest and rock from side to side.

Wheel Pose (note if you are not familiar with this pose seek the assistance of an experienced teacher) – lie with your knees bent, heels close to buttocks. Bring your hands by your ears, bending the elbows to the ceiling and turning the fingers out.  Inhale press into your hands to come up onto the crown of your head, breathe out and on the next inhale press towards straight arms.  Come out of the pose by coming down onto the crown of the head, tuck your chin, then release your hips down.  If you do not have the arm strength to press up, you can do the modified version holding the elbows.  Hug the knees in, rock from side to side and circle the knees or take a soft seated forward bend.  Come to seated for a closing meditation.

Meditation to promote joy - meditation cultivates joy by freeing your mind from negative thoughts.  Make yourself comfortable in a cross legged position, seated on a chair or lying down.  Relax your feet, legs and your hips.  Release any tension in your abdomen, relax the back of your body,let your chest be soft, rising and falling with the breath.  Relax your arms and hands, release your shoulders, breathe into any tension in your neck.  Soften your jaw, relax your forehead.  When you are feeling completely relaxed bring your attention to your breath.  If any thoughts pop into your head, gently but firmly let them go like clouds passing by then bring your attention back to your breath.  Continue like this for a few minutes.  When you are ready start to count the breath.  Breathe in , breathe out count one.  Breathe in, breathe out count two etc. If any thoughts pop into your head start the count again.  If you get to ten also start the count again.  Continue like this for 10-15 minutes then let go of the count and gently open your eyes.

Wishing you a joyful Christmas



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