Balance between Sleep and Wakefulness

"Setting a foundation of balance" was the topic of our yoga day in January. First we experienced the balance between activity and stillness with specific yoga asanas and other practices during a special yoga session before the theory part of the day where I presented what the yoga scripts say about balance. The importance of a healthy balance between a "good night's sleep" and wakefulness came to the foreground. 

"So why do we want to attain balance in our life?" Answer: "Balance gives us a quality of life"

Let's look at sleep and wakefulness. and what the WHO came up with in their WHO technical meeting on sleep and health in Bonn, Germany 22-24 Jan 2004. "Sleep is a physiological state occurring in alternation with wakefulness, and its duration and quality are equally important for the quality of life. Indeed, waking and sleeping are not at all independent from each other and they cannot be separated. Our sleeping patterns have a direct influence on our waking behaviour and our daytime activities influence our sleep."

The consequences of insomnia can be behavioural manifesting in poor performance at work, fatigue, memory difficulties, concentration problems, car accidents, psychiatric problems - depression, anxiety conditions, alcohol and other substance abuse, medical - cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal disorders, impaired immune system function and an increased risk of mortality. (according to the WHO paper on sleep and health)

The answers that yoga give are in two fields: pranayama and yoga nidra.

P1300456cropped.jpg

With Nadi Shodan (alternate nostril breathing) we bring balance into both hemispheres of our brain, which can bring us into a more harmonious, balanced inner state that allows us to slow down and get some rest if we need the countered balance to our active daily life and during our daily activities it assists us to see things less one-sided and more objective which means we have more a choice of how to act in certain situations rather than "spontaneously" react. And yoga nidra allows us to relax the body and mind either during the day in a break to continue the day refreshed and with clarity of mind or before falling asleep to get a deeper restful sleep than when we take all events and emotions we had attached to the events of the day with us into our sleep.

 

 

Turning Mindfulness into Heartfulness this festive season

During the time leading up to Christmas I read that 40% of Australians are feeling rushed and pressed for time and that issues related to personal finance are the top source of stress.  This so called festive season is for many an anxiety driven experience, where the pressure of family expectations, social commitments and the cost of Christmas presents can lead to people having increased cortisol and heart rate levels combined with an overall negative and/or drained life experience and energy. So maybe it is THE time to practice mindfulness?

DSC03127.JPG

Mindfulness is such an "in-expression" these days, but what is it? Before the whole mindfulness -trend started it was called in the  Yoga world "expanded or heightened awareness". This different awareness one would practice while doing asanas (yoga postures) as well as during the practices of pranayama (breathing techniques) and as a result one would not only have an easier time getting into meditation practice but this heightened awareness could  also then flow naturally into every day life activities. Basically it would show effects on our interactions with others and with how we do things or work. What we call now mindfulness was called training the outside observer, the witness within us.  It has become very popular to promote mindfulness at the workplace, because one has found that through the practices of mindfulness the attitude of the person and therefore also the behaviour changed into a more conscious one. One point no-one has talked about so far is the most important part that it should develop, and that is a connection with one's heart. As my Yogamaster Swami Satyananda said we have to know which parts of our life require the head (the mind) and which ones the heart (feeling and compassion).  I would like to say during the festive season this year let's move from observing the mind to expanding the heart and act from there rather than from the mind. Let's practice "heartfulness". Through this practice where we allow ourselves first to look and observe what's going on inside us and then move our awareness into our heart and allow ourselves to truly feel, we will have a fresher outlook onto this year's festive season and we will know what and who is important to us and create a truly festive season.

Health of Mind and Body

Not only at Yoga Under The Tuscan Sun Retreat in May and September each year - But EVERY DAY

"The most important part of a tree is not the trunk - but the root. One has to nurture the root more than any other part, because once the root becomes weak, what kind of a life will the tree have? You may prop it up but with one small storm it will fall, because it lacks the inner strength to stand upright." (Sw. Niranjananda)

1 forest.jpg

There is just no health without a healthy mind. Nevertheless I read again in an article about health and fitness and weight loss: " ... weight loss is not always equal to good health and weight gain is not always equal to bad health. But the twin powers of health are: fitness and nutrition." And then I read about all the different Yoga schools that have popped up out of nowhere; and how great that you can do under water yoga, yoga in salt chambers and even yoga in a brewery - beer only after the yoga class. My sarcastic self speaks to me: "Sure, let's get more and more inventive to focus on the outer environment, something more fancy, something that gets our mind again occupied and thus distracted from the center and the force within, the union, yoga can really lead us to.... but our mind might just say that that is boring so we keep it entertained with all these new "yogas". 

In the end it is really simple. There are asanas (yoga postures done with awareness rather trying to copy anyone), then there is pranayama (breathing practices) and Yoga Nidra - THE relaxation practice. If you practices these with an experienced yoga teacher - somebody who didn't just do a 3 week course to become a yoga teacher because it is so cool and in - and then also ask for a shorter program you might be able to do daily or as often as you want to integrate yoga in your life, THEN you will see and experience life changes. Yes, I said life changes as this kind of health changes your life. It is more than a fit body and making sure you eat nutritiously. You become aware of the interplay between your body, your emotions (through the breathing practices) and get the strength for yourself and the connection with yourself through the practice of Yoga Nidra, the deep relaxation practice that is unique. 

"Managing our mind and giving direction to the energies of the mind is our greatest challenge."