Restore natural movement
"If what we practice supports human function then it is useful, if it
doesn't we have to question why we are doing it."
Peter Blackaby, Intelligent yoga
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My focus at present is about mindfully restoring functionality to the body. My approach centers on
Biomechanically safe poses,( exercises scientifically proven to be beneficial and safe)
Encouraging two wings of awareness; one wing the noticing, recognising what is happening in a curious, enquiring way and the other wing of bringing a kindly accepting, compassionate awareness to this experience/body of ours.
Four movements of the spine
The spine and its flexibility in these 4 ways is key to health and mobility of the body. In every session I incorporate the 4 movements of the spine. Over time we clarify these movements and sense which parts of our spine moves happily in these ways and which parts are stuck. We are hoping to extend our repertoire of movement, along the whole spine, not just the already flexible parts. We are re-establishing choice, rather than our narrow habitual ways of moving.
A reflective practise
Unlike keep fit it isn't a mechanical exercise, its reflective. I was tempted to call my website natural movement but then the mindfulness aspect wouldn't be being conveyed. Yoga means union, union of the body and mind....the body and the earth......the body and spirit.
We are not learning what is the "right position" to be in as such; more sensing where we are in space, what our spines are doing, can we find the support of the bones and the earth. How is our breathing?, is it restricted? Through this exploration natural alignment will be the result.
Practice becomes about "your own state of being with yourself"
To this end I scatter mindfulness techniques throughout the session. Helping you to "be with yourself"
Today's world is fast paced and stress filled which means that few of us breathe in a free, natural and harmonious way. We mostly have fast, constricted breathing which undermines our physical and emotional health.
I incorporate breathing practices that are designed to undo the tension built up in the diaphragm.
Finding and releasing tension
One aim is to notice the difference between effort and tension. There is a certain amount of effort we need to use to get into a pose but because of our habits we use muscles we don't need (tension). If we are incorporating tension in our practice then we are actually practicing being stressed. Not generally what most people are after! It's really helpful to notice our habits of holding tension because if we do them on the mat we most likely do them in our every day life..... which eventually leads to discomfort. Poses become more advanced in that there is more possibility to loose our stability and become more tense. The challenge is to move into them in a grounded, non tense way, using only the muscles we need. Or we can push on, ignore our bodies and become more tense and stressed. It's not as easy a choice as it sounds! lots of encouragement from our society to compete and keep up!. This is why the poses are called "advanced."
"Tension is who you think you should be, relaxation is who you are."
The style of practice I follow is Scaravelli inspired; based on the teachings of Vanda Scaravelli. Gentleness, grounding, undoing, are all words that embody her method. Her style encourages you to become your own teacher and so unlike other yoga traditions Scaravelli inspired teachers vary wildly in their approach. See below the teachers that have shaped my practice.
To unwind, release unnecessary tension and begin to simply be.More details
Biomechanically safe poses
On my yoga journey I have sort out teachers who I can trust to be practicing biomechanically safe poses.
Rosabella Jordan, ( physiotherapist) taught on my three year teacher training course. Two of my long term teachers, John Stirk and Peter Blackaby are both osteopaths. My Practice is heavily influenced by Peter Blackaby at present. He has been one of my teachers for the past 20 years and I recently attended a weeks training with him. I love the way he explains the reasons why we do certain poses and incorporates the latest scientific findings to back up his view. In his book Intelligent yoga he explains why certain poses are really helpful to practice and others over time could cause harm. Its not one bit airy fairy!
John Stirk author of the thinking body; weekly classes in London....2 years(2005-2006)
2 Week long retreats
Peter Blackaby author of Intelligent Yoga; Weekend workshops for the past 15 years in London and sheffield
1 week long retreat (2015)
Sandra sabatini author of Breath and Like a Flower ; 7 weekend workshops and a private lesson
Liz Koch author of the Psoas book and Core Awareness; 2 weekend workshops and a week at the blue lagoon....hydrating my psoas.
Continuum weekend with Cherionna Menzam-sills
Teacher training with Rosabella Jordan, physiotherapist, Donna Malcomson yoga and feldenkrais practitioner, Marilyn Freeman yoga /yogabirth practitioner
Weekend workshops with Lisa Mcrory, Bill woods
My yoga practice and my teaching has been very much shaped by these influences.
Bill woods ; the softness and aliveness of the body, this balance which bought much energy in when dullness was present.
Lisa Mcrory, her clarity helped me understand well known poses in a different way.
John Stirk; I am grateful to him for introducing me to grounding and finding the wave of the breath travel through the spine
Sandra Sabatini; I often talk about the two wings of awareness. the kindness and the clear seeing mindfulness of the moment.
For me Sandra introduced the kind loving side of this awareness which is why I kept and still keep going back for more.
Donna Malcomson; her free and playful teaching set me free to explore and be a much more free thinking yoga teacher, practitioner. She helped me see the best in me.
Rosabella Jordan; understanding movements and steps to fine tune them. Careful, non stretching, patience in my practice. A well considered safe practice
Liz Koch; introduced me to whole new way of viewing this body..... as a process not an object. Her work has helped me heal greatly.
Peter Blackaby; he is the other wing to awareness. He satisfies my curiosity of the body with his amazing explanations of the body and why we move the way we do.
Also by my Buddhist teachers; Tara Brach, Steven Batchelor, Danny Penman, Rob Burbea, Vidyamala Birch, Santasiddhi, Paramananda, Many teachers at Taraloka and the Sheffield Buddhist Centre
Natural human movement
I'm really interested in this at present and am reading a book called Move Your DNA. I really am overjoyed to think that a yoga practice can support natural human movement. Getting our feet back to moving how they know how but haven't done in a long time. Being able to be agile enough to be able to get up from the floor and down again, moving all the joints in the body to restore and maintain their movement so they are available when we need them to do things we love to do....play with our children in the park, squat down and see a wild animal.....my choices add your own. Its a myth that we get old and past it; bodies adapt to how they are used and if that is a lot of sitting and limited to bending forwards movements that's what it adapts to.
Here's a picture of Vanda at 81. she began practising when she was.... and had a severe kyphosis....upper back with a really deep curve.
There is no age to yoga. You can start at 70, 80, because if it is done with the breath, you receive and you don't go against, and you will never damage the body. The first thing is not to fight yourself. Be ready to recieve energy. energy helps, breathing helps. There is no age. Vanda scaravelli
Its not mechanical; it's reflective. Am I rested? Am I keeping tension? The main challenge is to bring awareness to the body without bringing busy-ness to the mind, cluttering it with details that will cause the movement to be fragmented. Dianne Long