Yoga during Covid isolation

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So just before the Covid lockdown, you find your perfect yoga teacher and class. The time and date works well for you and the teacher gets you. You even feel comfortable with the other students. You feel like you have finally found a yoga class that you can commit to long term.

Enter Covid 19 restrictions and all bets are off. No more yoga class, unless you decide to go online. You can do that, you have the space at home and your wifi is pretty good.

You set yourself up in preparation for said class and you are proud of yourself for not giving up on yoga. The class begins. The teacher apologises as she has never done an online yoga class before. She starts to take you through some warm ups and some breathing. You feel yourself relaxing into the class and into your body. Other cares and worries are getting left behind.

Then it happens. The screen starts to glitch for a few seconds, then freezes, before internet connection is lost. You feel stress creeping fairly quickly into your body. Then somehow internet is reconnected and the class continues. You catch up. You feel better.

Then it happens.. Again, and again. Internet is lost. You feel like screaming and you want to throw the laptop out the window. You remember that this is a yoga class and you are supposed to be relaxing.

Somehow, all those years of listening to the words of your yoga teacher come back into your mind. You close your eyes.

SURRENDER….

BREATHE….

FOCUS ON THAT WHICH YOU CAN CONTROL….

BECOME THE OBSERVER

You become aware of tightness in your chest, tension in your shoulders and belly. You recognise these as the result of feeling frustrated and angry. You soften your belly, allow your shoulders to drop and deepen your breathing.

You realise that you cannot control internet connection. Let it go.

You have an hour of time that you have set aside for a yoga class, and your yoga mat is rolled out. You feel like you are all dressed up with nowhere to go. Ok so you can’t go to yoga class, and the online thing isn’t working for you today.

But maybe there is another way. Maybe you can simply do your own yoga. You stand in mountain pose on your mat and close your eyes. You follow the breath moving in and out of your body.

You realise your shoulders have tensed up again. You roll them slowly a few times and notice warmth and movement of energy throughout your body all the way into your feet. This feels delicious.

One thing leads to another.

Before you know it, you have worked your way through an entire hour of yoga.

Is this yoga? Or is this you just mucking around?

What is yoga anyway?

Yoga means to unite, to connect, to yoke.

As long as you are connecting with your body, your mind, your spirit / higher self, and your breath, you are practicing yoga. As long as you have a sense of self awareness of these aspects of yourself, you are practicing yoga.

Thoughts will come and go, feelings will come and go, insights may come. You may feel a sense of connection with all that is…a sense of oneness. Allow your yoga session to be what it is, without judgement. This is your yoga session.

I like to call this INTUITIVE YOGA, where you tune into how you are feeling at the time and allow yourself to go from there. The inner wisdom of your body and being is your guide.

I will be writing more about Intuitive Yoga in the following weeks. Watch this space…..

Namaste.

Is our world male, female or other?

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My first language is Ukrainian and in this language (unlike English) pretty much everything is assigned a gender – either male, female or neutral, which makes it potentially a tricky language to learn.

So how would I assign gender to the world in which we live?

Before I go on, I have to emphasise that I am not referring to physical gender, ie man or woman. I am referring more to the qualities of masculine and feminine, to something more subtle than mere physical gender.

As humans, we like to categorise and understand stuff. For thousands of years, we have assigned gender to most things, and here are some examples: (I’m sure that you can think of some more!)

MASCULINEFEMININE
YangYin
Heaven Earth
SunMoon
ActiveReceptive
Left sided brain (rational) Right sided brain (creative, intuitive)
MarsVenus

In yogic philosophy, there is a system of energy centres located within and around the body known as chakras. There are seven major chakras, each with its own corresponding, colour, emotion, sound, symbol, qualities, organs and (yes, you guessed it!) gender. The chakras can also be related to certain eras in human history.

There is a lot of information out there about the chakras, but I would like to focus specifically on three chakras – Sacral, Solar Plexus and Heart. I would like to relate these chakras to specific eras or epochs in human history, and why I believe that we are entering the Heart Chakra era.

A lot has been written about human history, how we evolved and there are many stories, myths, legends and truths. According to what I have read, there was a time when women ruled the world (and dominated men). Women were seen as magical creatures, with the ability to create new life. Life was closely connected to nature and the cycles. Men were seen as good only for procreation and moving heavy objects (sorry guys!) This part of history can be seen relating to the Sacral or feminine chakra. The element of this chakra is water and even though water can be fluid, cooling and soothing, and it can also be destructive and a force to be reckoned with.

Then, as it does, the pendulum swung the other way and men started to dominate the world (and rule over women). ‘Witches’ were burnt at the stake, women were deprived of basic rights and disempowered. In Sweden, women gained the right to vote and to work as recently as the 1970’s. This part of history can be seen relating to the Solar Plexus or masculine chakra. The element of this chakra is fire, which is warming, and can be destructive if left unchecked. Yet the energy of fire is necessary for transformation to occur.

Neither system is ideal as there is an imbalance.

I believe that for the last few decades we have been making the transition from Solar Plexus Chakra into the Heart Chakra era. The Heart Chakra is the middle chakra out of all seven and is represented by the colour green, which is a balance of warm (yellow) and cool (blue) colours. The element is air, which has a quality of lightness, expansion and ease about it. The Heart Chakra has a sense of balance to it.

The keyword here is ‘transition’. Like the birthing process, any sort of transition can be painful and ugly, but is necessary in order for the birth of something new.

As we move away from a male dominated world, we are fumbling our way into a new world of balance. We are making mistakes along the way, and hopefully learning from these mistakes. Sometimes it feels like we are taking two steps forward and one step back, yet we are moving forward. I love seeing men pushing prams and playing with their children! I have a friend whose husband is a truck driver. My friend recently posted on social media, pictures of her husband cooking up a storm in the kitchen and wearing an apron.

We are moving away from The Stepford Wives era, away from a world of perfection and keeping up appearances, to a world of authenticity and realness.

Masculine energy qualities of dominance, control, linear growth, competitiveness, large scale, are being replaced by Feminine energy qualities of co-operation, community, human scale, fluidity and cycles. Workplaces are starting to acknowledging the diversity of their team, not only in terms of gender, religion or family situation, but also in the respect of differing styles of communication and work style. Morning people are allowed to come in early when they are at their most productive and night owls are allowed to work late. There is more fluidity and co-operation, less ‘one size fits all’.

With thanks to the pandemic of 2020, we are starting to realise that our economies are unsustainable and that we have created a society of complexity, in our attempt to control the world (Masculine qualities). This pandemic has taken away our illusion of control, and replaced this with creativity, flexibility, community, co-operation and togetherness (Feminine qualities).

Traditionally, yoga has been practiced only by men in India. Yet in the last hundred years or so, it has started to become more inclusive of women. Interestingly, when yoga was first introduced into the western world, it was predominantly the domain of women. Now more men are taking up yoga as we are coming to a place of balance.

And so the pendulum continues to swing, yet I feel that the swing is levelling out. I feel like we are creating a world of balance, inclusivity, validity and authenticity, regardless of gender.

As a world, we are entering the Heart Chakra era, as one human race – male, female, other. We are all in this together.

‘May my life force be linked to my heart;

‘May my heart be linked to the truth within me;

‘May this truth be linked to the eternal.’

(With thanks to Acharya Upendra Roy)

Celebrating Perfection of the Imperfect

In Japanese culture there is the concept of Wabi Sabi, celebrating the perfection of the imperfect.

For most of my life I have struggled with being a perfectionist, which any perfectionist will tell you is an uphill battle. The older I get the more I realise that perfectionism is an illusion. There is no such thing, except in the mind.

Nature is perfect in its imperfection, like the tree growing sideways, atop a windswept cliff. The imperfection of this tree is testament to its courage to grow in such a place, and its resilience to survive despite the harsh environment.

Life is like that too. Life is not always perfect. Yet this imperfection is testament to our courage and resilience.

As a yogini, it comes as no surprise that I love my regular yoga and meditation practice. In a ‘perfect’ world, I would have a dedicated space in the house for my practice. I’m envisaging a space which is light and airy, warm timber, large windows bringing in the greenery, the distinctive aroma of incense wafting through the air, with my mat and props all set and ready to go.

In reality, I practice yoga in the lounge room which I share with my family. My mat and props get put away every time. There is cheap carpet on the floor and in certain poses I end up hitting the window. At times, someone will walk through the lounge and disturb my flow.

This appears to be far removed from my ideal yoga space and yet it works. I celebrate my determination and resilience as I make it work despite the challenges. My yoga space is perfect for now.

Through the asana (physical posture) practice of yoga, I have come to accept the perfection of the imperfection of my body and being. There are certain poses which I cannot do, and that’s ok. There are days where my balance is not that great, and that’s ok. There are days when my practice is only ten minutes and that’s ok too.

Off the mat, I have come to accept that I am getting more wrinkles as I get older, my tummy will never be as flat as it was pre-children and some days I get tired more easily. That’s more than ok, because it’s testament to the fact that I have survived to my early fifties, that I have children and that I have notched up life experience and wisdom.

Acceptance of the authentic self is really about seeing the perfection in the imperfections. The more I cultivate self acceptance, the more I will be likely to accept others for their authenticity too.

If you would like to tell the people of the world to strive for authenticity rather than perfection, check out my creations at: https://www.redbubble.com/people/halynadee/shop