Posts in Mindfulness
Breathing Mindfully - A Practice You Can Do Anywhere!

Before reading this blog post, wherever you are, breathe in and breathe out. Concentrate on the inhale where the cool air moves through your nostrils, the chest and belly expands, and then exhale fully. Do this twice more, observing the breath and the sensations that come. Well done, you have just breathed mindfully. Simple huh?

Breathing is something that we all do, all of the time. By bringing our focus onto the breath we can work on being present in the moment.

You can do the following exercise for just a few minutes, or for longer, it’s up to you. During this you may find your mind drifting, this is ok and totally normal (even for seasoned practitioners). When you notice thoughts coming into your mind, gently but firmly bring your attention back to the breath. This practice of breathing mindfully is a great first step for developing a pranayama practice.

Preparation

Sit or lay in a comfortable position. You may close the eyes or keep them open with a soft gaze, you may want to rest your hands on the stomach and help you connect to your breath and feel it in a more physical way.

The Breath

Inhale, notice the feeling of the cool air moving through the nostrils into the lungs. The chest and belly expand at the top of the inhale. Exhale through the nose, the chest and belly contract, navel to spine. Continue the breath, feel what it is really like to breathe. Notice the calming effect it has on the body and the mind, observe the sensations without judgement.

You may find that the mind wanders from time to time - this is normal. Acknowledge the thought, and then come back to the breath - it can help to imagine your thoughts as books: allow yourself to look at the cover, read the title and then consciously put it on the shelf to read later.

Reflect

Once you have finished the exercise, take a few moments to notice how you feel. Enjoy the experience you’ve just had connecting to yourself and your breath, body and the space around you and within you. Know that you can always come back to this practice at anytime and anywhere (even in the queue at the supermarket!).

Next Steps

Take this mindful breath and apply it throughout your yoga practice, keep focused on the breath for the duration and observe how it affects your practice.

Tried it? Let us know how you get on. You can share your experience on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook using #camyogis


Take a Deep Breath, Flow, and Restore - A Q&A with Rachael Moore

Many of us know Rachael Moore as our resident Vinyasa flow guru, but not as many know about her love for restorative yoga. It's all about nourishing the body and mind while taking time for oneself amidst the cloud of our busy, and often hectic lives. We spoke to Rachael about her new class Flow + Restore which combines two very different, but very compatible styles of yoga. Read on to find out more.


What is the Flow + Restore Class?

Flow and Restore is something that i will often do in my own practice when i need to slow down, nourish myself and restore my energy levels. It is a slow mindful practice where i am able to coax my often tight body and busy mind into a state of relaxation through rhythmic, often circular movements before settling into supported stillness where your body is held and supported with props.

How does it differ from a regular Restorative or Flow class?

Although the postures that we explore in the restore aspect of the class will be very similar to those in a regular restorative class, the way we enter the posture is a little different. It is as if we are using the flow aspect the practice, to prepare and limber the body (and mind) for the longer-held restorative posture. You may find that it is then easier to settle into the posture once you have had chance to ease into it though movement. In a regular flow class, there is very much an emphasis on dynamic movement with the breath to create strength, flexibility and stability. Although there remains a strong awareness of the breath during Flow and Restore, it is more about tuning into the quality of our breath and the quiet sensations that we so often fail to notice in a faster paced, movement focused practice.  

Is the class suitable for all levels?

Yes! Students newer to the practice may appreciate the slower, less demanding pace just as much as the more "advanced" student may appreciate the opportunity to explore different aspects of their practice. Regardless of where a student is in their practice, or in their life, it can be a revelation to be able to simply move with gentle undulations before coming to a place of rest.

What can students expect from the class?

You can expect gentle guided movements and explorations of the body, tapping into your internal compass of how your body needs to move, be moved and be nourished. While resting and being held in the restorative postures, I offer students the opportunity to have simple, gentle hands on assists with therapeutic grade essential oils, matched to the theme of the practice. This adds another layer and potency to this practice and compliment a restorative practice beautifully.

What are the benefits of a restorative practice for students who usually attend more yang/dynamic classes?

I think regardless of what style of yoga you normally practice, and actually even if you normally aren’t a yoga practitioner, we can all benefit from a little re-callibration through our nervous system. We all increasingly live in such fast forward moving society that the opportunity to drop back and yield with no expectation other than to rest, restore and replenish are few and far between. This practice gives our nervous system a much needed opportunity to move from our Sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) towards the Para-sympathetic NS (Rest and Digest). As we begin to soften and yield, we may notice the breath becoming freer, more naturally flowing un-obstructed through the body giving rise to feelings of increased energy, vitality and general well being.

Can you recommend any books etc for students that wish to find out more about this style?

Judith Hanson Lasater - Relax and Renew Book is the bible of restorative yoga and is one that I regularly refer back too. I actually have not found many good books out there in this area, so if anyone else has some good recommendations I would love to hear about them. Please comment down below!


Rachael is teaching a brand new weekly Flow + Restore class at Mitcham's Corner Student on Thursdays at 11am. Click here to book.


Pranayama Series - Coming Soon

We are often told during class how important the breath is in yoga, and will usually practice pranayama exercises during class especially at the beginning and end. But what is pranayama and why do we do it?

During this series of blog posts we will be exploring the most commonly practiced pranayama (breathing) exercises - the ones that are most likely to pop-up in your classes. We will discover how, what and why, contraindications and benefits of these practices.

Prana = Life force/Energy
Yama = Regulate/Lengthen

Prana translates into “life force energy” and Yama translates into “control or mastery of.” Thus, Pranayama is used to control, cultivate, and modify the Prana in the body.

Prana is taken in through the air we breathe, and since the pranayama exercises increase the amount of air we take in, they also increase our intake of Prana.

Look out for the series of blog posts coming soon. Let us know if there is a particular pranayama practice that you’d like us to cover.


Note: When learning new breathing techniques, it is common for people to feel light headed or dizzy. If this happens, stop for a few moments and then resume. After your body becomes accustomed to the change in flow of oxygen, the dizziness will no longer occur.

Chanting - The Sound of Yoga

Contrary to belief, Yoga is not just about flexibility and postures. Chanting and mantra recitation have accompanied yoga practices for thousands of years. So, what benefits can chanting bring? silent om chanting

  • Your energy increases and your mind becomes sharper
  • A study by Dr Alan Watkins [senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College London] showed that while chanting, our blood pressure and heart rate drop to its lowest in the day. Doctors say that even listening to chants normalises brain wave patterns, adrenalin levels and lowers cholesterol levels.
  • You feel vibrant and flowing with creative ideas
  • You gradually become more in tune with every thing in life
  • Neuro-scientist Marian Diamond from the University of California found that chanting helps block the release of stress hormones and increases immune function. It also keeps our muscles and joints flexible for a long time
  • Chanting can build your confidence and releases your inhibitions
  • Chanting is fun, easy and always available to you (and hey, it’s free!)
  • Using chants as part of our exercise regimen, helps facilitate movement and flow of the body during exercise
  • Chanting removes blocks and connects us directly to the heart, leading us to experience a natural harmony with the world around us

The overall experience is like a meditation with voice. You will leave feeling free, energized, uplifted and joyful for the day, week or weekend ahead.

If you're keen to give it a go, why not try one of our chanting workshops this June, there are three to choose from. Maybe you'll even become addicted and want to take them all :-)

Nada Yoga - the yoga of sound Kirtan! Chanting from the heart  Chant Your Life! with Nikki Slade

 

What changes with mindful parenting for just 6 minutes per day?

mindful parenting The short version?

  • They sleep better
  • They confide more of their feelings in you
  • They calm down quicker (no, mindfulness is not the way to have calm children all the time, sorry if that's what you want!)

I was intrigued by evidence that children need mindfulness as much as adults do, so I decided to spend five minutes a day (sometimes less) using mindfulness techniques with my children, and began to notice tangible changes within just a week. Keep reading to find out more about the techniques I used and how they worked.

The longer read...

I have four children; a teenage girl, a pre-teen boy and two young twin girls. I've been practising mindfulness for 12 years but only began practicing with them over the last two years.

Lets begin with the main reasons I actually moved from wanting to practice with them to actually practicing with them.  I'd started to feel like there was always one child missing out on some attention. I worried that when the children were sad or anxious, I didn't really understand an effective way to help them release their anxiety. I also felt like I was failing because I couldn't empower them with a way to help themselves when other children were unkind at school. I found myself growing increasingly frustrated by the fact that at least one of them would get up every night, and my lack of sleep meant that I felt unable to be as kind as I would like to be and had no "space in my head" to work out a way to make it better.

Most of my working life has been spent on projects which help organisations and people to create habits for increasing effectiveness and satisfaction. This meant that I had learnt from various scientific studies that anything I did would have to meet this criteria;

  • aim low
  • feel easy
  • do at same time of day
  • had already been proven to work by others so I really believed in it - motivation

I started by asking the children to practice as part of mealtimes, before pudding, as an incentive. This took the form of a Tiny Pause - 4 mindful breaths. This went okay, but felt more like an opportunity for the children to demonstrate how ridiculous they could make 4 breaths sound/be/last. Plus my plan of fitting into a daily routine meant that none of them were really getting the high quality attention they needed, or thought they needed, from me.

My next plan was bedtime. I would do a guided mindfulness practice with them (all parents taking our Mindful Parenting learn to do this, its really quite simple once you have the technique). I would do this at bedtime for the youngest three (individually, apart from the twins). This initially lasted 10 minutes or less, which I shortened to around 5 minutes because I felt too tired.

This worked really well - mindfulness lends itself to a moment when children naturally want to relax. Within four days they were asking me to do it! Within a week I noticed that they were all sleeping through the night (wake up times before had been 3-4 times per night, first week of mindfulness this dropped to just once a night).

I was so pleased with this promising start. But I also wanted them to confide in me the stuff they were anxious about. (You know when your child is anxious and you ask them if they want to talk about it and they just shake their head? No matter what you do for them, in that moment you feel like you're failing, you feel like the truth is out, that "I am a rubbish parent"). The technique of mindful listening would be my next approach.

I decided that aiming to do this everyday with all children was unrealistic for me. So I just aimed for one child a day. After school before supper, I would sit down, ask them to sit with me. Wait and listen. (Mindful listening is a recognized practice with an incredibly easy method). This was much harder than I expected as I was very tempted to ask, or prompt them in some way. Sometimes we would cuddle, sometimes we would just be next to each other on the sofa. No screens on around us.

So if I could keep from trying to guess the root of their problems or asking them all the questions I had tried before (its amazing how as parents, we know some things aren't effective but we just keep repeating the same behaviours hoping, like a miracle, it will change the outcome). Anyway with my lips kept firmly shut and my attention focused on them, something magical began to happen...

They would just start telling me stuff. From what they had just been building with lego or who had done what/ said what at school both funny and sad things.  This continued. They began to express more of their feelings. The quieter I kept, the more they would share. Although sometimes they would ask me, "Dad, why are we sitting here?", I would reply “ because I love you and want to be with you", with the simple reply "Oh, ok." And then after a short pause, "I'm going to go and play".  So this moment of mindful listening would last between 1-5 minutes, depending on what they felt like saying. I would always leave it to them to end that moment (although I confess to sometimes finding my attention drifting, to what I will make for supper, or why the school couldn't do choir at a time that meant we could get to swimming, or why was there new bit of pen on the wall...you know the drill).

And I noticed something else. I felt better. I felt better because I was making it clear, really clear through my actions, that I loved them, that I was making time to give them high quality attention. Sure it was short. But I least I did it and it was definitely an improvement from “ yes thats lovely", while work my way through house chores or “ I'm just in the middle of something can't you go and play? “ hoping, but knowing, they really don’t understand why I couldn't just be with them.

Although it may seem obvious, it's important to understand that part of the success was down to me feeling a bit better about me. Less internal criticism meant a reduction in exploding moments, when I shout because I’ve had it up to here (imagine my hand well above my head!) with all parts of life; work, play, relationships.

It's now routine for us, and has helped with exams, best friends falling out school, new teachers, general arguments, school productions, even football matches.

Click here to find out more about Mindful Parenting at Camyoga