Smile and the world smiles with you….

Think of someone you know that has a beautiful smile, the kind that touches your heart and lifts your spirits. You see their eyes light up and they generate a warmth and joy that connects from within.

The likelihood is that you are smiling as you think of this person. Your body relaxes, your breathing is steady, and your mood lifts.

Studies have shown that the act of smiling, alters your body’s chemistry and elevates your mood. We only have to try it to find out!

I will often invite people to smile during a yoga class. If we are holding a yoga pose that requires balance, focus and concentration, we might notice that we tighten in the mouth and hold our breath. Softly smiling however releases tension in the facial muscles, we also let go of tension in the mind and the body. A reminder to breathe steadily in and out through the nose counteracts any feelings of tightness. When we take deeper slower breaths, with a typically longer exhale, we stimulate one of the key nerves of the body, the vagus nerve. Activating this nerve slows the heart rate, reduces blood pressure and helps us feel more calm and at ease.

The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the human body and is the main pathway connecting the gut to the brain. It is in charge of reducing and turning off the ‘fight or flight’ response of the body. You can consciously activate the vagus nerve to induce inner-calm through relaxing the muscles of the face and breathing steadily in and out through the nose.

Try this:

Sitting comfortably on a chair or on a cushion, take a nice inhale through the nose and sigh out through the mouth. Do this a couple of times.

  • Settle yourself and notice your normal breath as it is in this moment.
  • Take a breath in through the nose, pause, and then exhale out through the nose, long and slow.
  • Centre yourself in the here and now, feeling the length in your spine, notice how your shoulders drop a little with each out breath.
  • Now, take a deep steady inhale through the nose, breathe down into the lower belly, feel your ribcage expand, then your chest. Stay with the pause at the top of your inhale. Then take a long deep exhale through the nose, emptying your chest, the rib area and the lower belly. Feel that sense of slowing down as you continue with this breath, softly smiling as you do so.
  • Breathe in smiling, feeling the healing, nourishing aspects of oxygen in your body. As you hold the breath for a few seconds, imagine it radiating health and nourishment inside you. Then breathe out thinking “Letting Go”, releasing all of the tension in your body through your exhale.

You can do this breathing at any point throughout the day, waiting at the train station, queuing in the supermarket, or intentionally taking the time out to do this at home or at work.

Keep smiling…..and, of course, keep breathing!

I like it, I don’t like it

We operate along gradations of I like it / I don’t like it, seeking pleasure, avoiding pain. This impacts our mood and our interactions. Our mind is always quick to judge ourselves and others and this influences our behaviour and our sense of being. Our brains can’t help producing states of desire and aversion regardless of our intentions. This can happen right this moment we can either be in some kind of neutral state, or somewhere along the I like it / I don’t like it spectrum.

Wherever we are there is an element of story telling,  we create past, present and future narratives in our minds and most of the time it is fiction. We are the protagonist of our own continuous unfolding monologue, and we must forever defend our sense of self. We are often wanting something else, not wanting what we already have, expecting something more from others and being disappointed when our expectations are not met. We didn’t like what someone said so we let it stoke a fire in us, and we can invent a story as to how this plays out if it were to happen again.

How can we can let go of this often defensive attachment to self during our day to day life? This is no easy task and takes commitment and time to tune into what is going on in our mind and our bodies, observing, noticing, reflecting, and letting go. We must be mindful not to be too harsh with ourselves, but to adopt an attitude of kindness as we cultivate a more balanced way to be.

It is a continuous ebb and flow as we let go of the narrow world of judgement and thereby slowly loosen the grip on our own self importance.

The fictions that don’t always serve us

We operate along gradations of I like it / I don’t like it, seeking pleasure, avoiding pain. This impacts our mood and our interactions. Our mind is always quick to judge ourselves and others and this influences our behaviour and our sense of being. Our brains can’t help producing states of desire and aversion regardless of our intentions. This can happen right this moment we can either be in some kind of neutral state, or somewhere along the I like it / I don’t like it spectrum.

Wherever we are there is an element of story telling,  we create past, present and future narratives in our minds and most of the time it is fiction. We are the protagonist of our own continuous unfolding monologue, and we must forever defend our sense of self. We are often wanting something else, not wanting what we already have, expecting something more from others and being disappointed when our expectations are not met. We didn’t like what someone said so we let it stoke a fire in us, and we can invent a story as to how this plays out if it were to happen again.

How can we can let go of this often defensive attachment to self during our day to day life? This is no easy task and takes commitment and time to tune into what is going on in our mind and our bodies, observing, noticing, reflecting, letting go. We must be mindful not to judge ourselves too harshly, to actually be kind and encouraging as we cultivate a more balanced way to be. It is a continuous ebb and flow as we let go of the narrow world of our likes and dislikes and thereby slowly loosen the grip on our own self importance.

Your own Parachute

Imagine doing something that you enjoy and the more you do it the more you get better at it, and it helps you reach heights that you never thought possible? (And no, it’s not parachuting!).

Cultivating a regular yoga and meditation practice can prepare you for anything. That sounds like quite a claim but it’s true. If you can achieve a natural resting state of equanimity and emotional resilience then you are pretty much prepared for whatever comes your way.

I know because I speak from experience. A recent example is from early 2019 where I had to have an operation and undergo surgery. It is without doubt that my yoga and meditation practice helped me physically and mentally, pre and post surgery. The many years of yoga and mindfulness helped create the resilience necessary to face difficult times. Since my operation I feel that there has been a radical shift in my nervous system and consciousness, and my body has an unprecedented degree of suppleness and energy.  This is thanks to the operation itself but also to my regular practice of meditation and breathing work, all part of yoga.

Mindfulness research is showing how meditation can benefit physical health as well as mental well being and the best way to know this is to experience it for yourself.

Yoga unites the mind and the body through the breath, and that is an almost literal translation of the word. It also helps us in times of difficulty. When I did the 8 week MBCT course some years ago, the trainer said that sustained meditation practice was like weaving your own parachute, so that when the time comes when you need all the help you can muster, your parachute is ready. As Mark Williams and Danny Penman wrote in ‘Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World’, “there’s no point in doing this when we’re falling headlong towards destruction. We have to weave our parachute every day so that it’s always there to hold us in an emergency.”

Here are two videos, one is a short guided meditation, the other one is a body scan. Both can help you in your journey to weave your own parachute:

Workshops

Yoga workshops allow for a deepening of our practice beyond the physical movement of yoga, delving further into our mind and our hearts.

Letting Go, Letting Be

Saturday 20th October 2018 10:00 to 12:30

This workshop will look at what our stress triggers are, at home and in the workplace. What can we do to better manage the trigger and the response? How can we learn to become less reactive so that we don’t hurt ourselves or the people around us?

Letting Go, Letting Be, is about understanding the connection between the mind and body before we even reach the stress trigger.  The relationship is pivotal to our understanding, we can start to see how the trigger manifests itself, catching it early before we react. We will look at how we can change our habitual mode of reacting to one that is more skillful and more responsive.

There will be some yoga practice, guided  and silent meditation breathing exercises to help calm the mind during our stress triggers, and some journal writing.

Please bring a notebook and pen.

The workshop is 40 euros, 35 euros early bird price if you book before Friday 31st August. Contact satty@sattyyoga.nl

 

Previous Workshops

Welcome to Whatever Comes!

Saturday 13th January 2018 10:00 to 12:30

In this workshop we welcome whatever comes in this new year. We learn to accept and embrace with joy and heartfulness through yoga, mindfulness and meditation.

Book early to secure your place, call 06 23598162 or email satty@sattyyoga.nl

Please bring a notebook and pen with you. There are yoga mats and blankets available but if you want to bring your own then please do so.

What will I get out of this workshop?

1. Learn to accept and open your heart through postures and breathwork, experiencing a softer, more open and accepting connection with yourself and others.

2. Experience grounding yourself through the breath, whatever life throws your way. Learning to deal with difficulties in a more balanced way.

3. Understand what acceptance means in your life and what intentions you will set for the year ahead.

 

Release the Knot of Contraction

Saturday 16th December 10:00 to 13:00

1. Understand the connection between the mind and the body. Tightness in the mind brings tightness in the body and vice versa

2. Get to drop out of your head into your body as you explore the knot of self contraction

3. Guided meditation to tune into difficulty expressed in the body

4. Releasing unnecessary tension in the mind and body brings us back into balance and the present moment

5. Learn how to develop a relationship to tension. Learn how to release the knot of contraction through sustained practice