Giving and Loving

When we find our dharma, life flows. It doesn’t always flow, so its nice when we fall into our dharma. Dharma in yoga means the path you are meant to walk, the one you find easy and fulfilling, the effortless path which gives so many people joy.

Recently, running the Universal Yoga Teacher Training Course and the TeenYoga course, it has occurred that the 16 years of yoga practise is ripe for giving… for sharing.. all the tormented questions, then resolved, now shared. The teachings pour through us and towards the students in a steady flow of gratitude to what has been, the pain, the teachings, the teachers. Coming away from the weekend, I feel full and empty and the same time. Full of Love, awe and gratitude for the students’ willingness to listen and learn and finally, for a moment, empty of any needs or desires.

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10 ways to help your teen relax

Expectation overload, online quantitative identity, our teens need to relax deeper and more than ever before. Some of them are constantly anxious or stressed and depending on the level of stress, you may need to start with some movement to release tension, before you can move into stillness effectively.

I believe, as the Dalai Lama says, we are all basically gentle by nature, and many times expectations and society push us into a brutalised form of ourselves. Yoga and related disciplines brings us back to the gentle, kind relationship with ourselves and each other, which is what makes it such a powerful practise.

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Embodied Truth – a value based education

What is a value based education?

If we want our children to access yoga in schools, they need to be inspired by shining yogis who embody the reasons to follow them and not simply fed yet another faddish piece of information, which is out of context.

It is my experience that a congruent practitioner who shares her/his insights and failings with integrity will have a far reaching and deep impact on the child for years to come where a non-practitioner would fall desperately short.

The vulnerability and deep searching, which is an intrinsic part of the teenage years seem to open to yoga in the most surprising way. Postures that might take an adult several years to master, will take a teen a few weeks, ideas and concepts that as an adult we rail against are lapped up as obvious truths. Meditation is an easy task for many teens, where the adult has layers and layers of emotions, memories and preconceptions which stop us from opening up to meditation and stillness.

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Information or inspiration?

What is the secret ingredient of an inspiring teacher?

There are teachers who impart information and there are teachers who inspire.

Maybe a bit of both is necessary. Information encourages us to live in our form and inspiration brings us into our spirit.  Socrates said “To teach is to ignite a flame, not fill a vessel.”

To ignite a flame, we need a flame. The teacher needs to be that flame, that light, that inspiration.

We need to be alight with passion, an embodiment of truth and light in order to touch and enlighten others.

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Stress busting techniques, not what you thought!

Stressed? Breathe!

Stressed? Watch your thoughts!

Stressed? Relax!

These directives do not work for most people in highly stressed states!

Mostly because the body is in fight or flight mode, and when we try to direct it toward relaxation, it has not got rid of the adrenaline that is coursing through the body. 

In short, the body needs to move!

This is why mindful yoga (or even mindless yoga) can really help against stress. In our teen classes at the moment, this is the week when GCSEs and A Levels start, we find ourselves, reaching out for the acro yoga, the partner yoga, the strong postures, involving quad flexing and glute flexing, which burn away the stress hormones fixed to these muscles ready for flight.

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Mindful teachers = mindful students?

Increasingly, schoolteachers come on the TeenYoga course. I was told by a teacher trainer once that a good teacher can teach anything.  I believe this is true.

Getting school teachers excited about yoga and practising themselves is the best way to inspire children to practise as a form of self care. (see Ingunn Hagen’s Review article published April 2014)

 The question is often asked, how do we get yoga into schools, to help kids overcome emotional and mental trauma, to support them through stress and unease and create a beautiful life for themselves? 

 Clearly it would make sense to train schoolteachers to deliver yoga and mindfulness to their students through the day.

 But what are we imparting if the teacher is not a practitioner?

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Yoga as Sport

Who does yoga suit?

Yoga can be an excellent physical activity for 

1. The super sporty, helping them with their sport, recovery and release

2. For the obese, moving the body slowly and carefully, starting a physical practise

3. For disengaged girls (using Yoga Nidra and Partner work, it becomes a fun, non-competitive way of moving the girls around)

4. For boys (when the boys grow, their muscles often do not grow as fast as their bones, which means their ligaments and muscles are all really tight, causing many diseases, such as Osgood Schlatters and more insidious tightnesses all over the body. Yoga helps alleviate this)

5. For those in pain (the breathing exercises and gentle release are similar to those given by physiotherapists and will alleviate long term pain)

6. For those who do not enjoy competitive team sports this is a wonderful alternative which can be taken to any level

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Coping with Exam stress

Here are five easy steps towards decreasing stress during exams:

1. Breathe! As you sti down to study, make sure you take 5 minutes to notice your breathing If you need stimulation, breathe deep and fast and if you ned calming down, make sure your outbreath is longer than your in breath.

2. Stretch!  Your shoulders and neck tend to get really stiff when you are studying, so simply, shrug your shoulders ten times and make sure they drop down really deep, then allow your neck to stretch to the right and to the left, count ten seconds on each side. Then use “eagle arms” to release shoulder blades.

3. Relax! Lie on your back on the floor (make sure its clean!), turn off your phone and tell everyone to lave you alone for ten minutes, put on some really soft, classical music and close your eyes, imagining relaxing each part of your body in turn. You can also check out yoga nidra programmes on this website: http://www.yoganidranetwork.org/downloads

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Mindfulness misunderstood

What makes you feel truly loved?

A loving present awareness.

When my son was little and grouchy, it took me a while to realise that all he needed was my loving presence. By that I mean, utterly present, not thinking about anything else, but completely there for him. Its not easy, when they are two years old, I got bored. I wanted to do anything but sit with him, sometimes. I know I am not alone. But when I remembered to be present with him, accepting, and the moments I loved it, immediately the crying would stop and the smiles and the gurgling would start.

Mindfulness as taught by the high masters is this non-judgmental loving awareness towards our own emotions and thoughts and by default also towards others. This is how it works for me. This is what we offer as yoga teachers – a loving presence to anything that comes up, this is what we teach. However, it seems to me that some schools are taking to mindfulness from the opposite angle, not about emotional health and well being but back to the never ending cycle of better learning, better behaviour, easier discipline.

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Inclusion in schools (OfSted terminology)

Better than, more gifted, more flexible, less able, more friendly, less sociable, ADHD< Aspergers, dyspraxic, dyslexic…….

 On and on these labels,  “help” teachers and parents to differentiate in a class, categorising and measuring outcomes, people, products.

 As OfSted looks at “inclusion” , and we take side glances at Finlands’ non-streaming, all inclusive successful and happy school system, it strikes me how aptly yoga fits into these categories.

 Are we not all looking to belong, to connect, to be part of a whole? Where does this longing come from? It comes from within, yoga says, it is your brithright, it is the truth, this connection, that you may feel on a forest walk or in the midst of a giggling fit with your best friend, or in a big group of friends, on a roller coaster, as you scream together. This is the truth of human existence.

 In the light of this, our system seems to go in the other direction, dividing up, understanding by division and  by competition. Competition is important for people to do better, I hear you say. And I ask myself, really? I notice kids working together, the ones who get it, teaching the ones who don’t, and noticing how much more they get out of the class by teaching others and by engaging in teaching themselves. I notice how this group work enhances the sense of unity, friendship and cohesion and it seems to me the goal has been met.

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