Gratitude

We might work out our bodies and even our minds, but, we can also work out our feelings. It is comforting to think of our feelings as being within our control, like a muscle to be trained. For example, if you are prone to negativity and you are aware of that, then you can start to monitor your behaviour and your attitude in situations where this arises. One feeling you can train that will help you become more mindful day to day, and feel that smile from within, is gratitude.

When I was a little girl one of the things I was taught to do before I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, was to say thank you for everyone in my life. Thank you for my mum, thank you for my dad thank you for my brother and sister, thank you for grandma thank you for ……. My family is big, so I never got to thank all the uncles, aunts and cousins, and I was asleep before I knew it.

Gratitude is a tendency towards appreciating the positive in life, either we are more naturally inclined that way, or we have to realise that it is a quality, a way of being, that requires some effort to cultivate. Whoever we are there is always room for improvement.

Sometimes in the yoga class I will ask people to take a moment to think about three things they are grateful for. I see that within moments they relax more in their posture, and a gentle smile emerges. The reason being, when we are grateful, we feel joy. Gratitude is linked to kindness, it lifts the heart, we are saying thank you from the heart.  This could be for the sound of birdsong, the kindness of a neighbour, or a child’s laughter. So many things.

Numerous studies have shown a strong association between higher levels of gratitude and wellbeing, including lowered stress levels, more fulfilling relationships, better sleep and overall greater resilience.

A way to train this feeling is to cultivate a regular practice of being thankful. It can take just a few minutes each day, you could do this before you go to bed. Think about, or write down, at least 3 things you are grateful for today. The more you do this the more you notice the many wonderful things in your life and you can’t help but smile and say thank you. Over time you start feeling grateful during the activities or experiences you are having, before eating your dinner and during the meal, when listening to a loved one, giving your whole attention and being grateful for that person in your life. Really experiencing the sights and sounds of nature instead of being lost in thoughts.

Gratitude is strongly linked with mindfulness, the more aware you are, the more you notice what is going on with your mental and physical state moment to moment. Train the muscle of mindfulness and gratitude and live a more fulfilling life. Like with a physical yoga practice or gym practice, the more you do it, the more you notice a difference.

The power of breathing through your nose!

If you already practice yoga, then you will be familiar with the importance of breathing in an out through the nose, for calming the mind and optimising oxygen intake throughout the body. Yes, we breathe out through the mouth sometimes in yoga, but the essence of the movement practice and the seated meditation is controlled nasal breathing.

Breathing steady and slow in and out through the nose helps increase the amount of oxygen delivered to our muscles and organs, including the heart and brain. The slow steady breath calms us down, or to paraphrase the yoga sutras of Patanjali: we still the fluctuations of the mind, and we increase our focus and attention.

Nasal breathing as opposed to mouth breathing, offers the following benefits:

  1. The nose filters, warms and moistens the air before it reaches the lungs.
  2. Breathing in and out through the nose helps us to take fuller and deeper breaths which stimulates the lower lungs to distribute greater amounts of oxygen throughout the body.
  3. The nasal passage releases nitric oxide, nitric oxide expands the blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow, and oxygen release.
  4. Breathing in and out through the nose activates the parasympathetic nervous system, in particular the vagus nerve, which triggers the relaxation response.

Pay attention to how you breathe, if you breathe in and out through the mouth, or in through the nose and out through the mouth, try nasal breathing. It could take some time for you to get used to this, but it is well worth the benefits.

If you would like to understand more about nasal breathing in person, or video call, then whatsapp / call (0623598162) or email me (satty@sattyyoga.nl), and I would be delighted to help.

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!

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.

Observe Yourself

When the mind and body are in balance it is like the ever present clear blue sky, a vast spaciousness of non-reactivity. What clouds and dulls the mind is negative mental states along the spectrum of I like it, I don’t like it. There is a craving for something or a sense of clinging to the view that if only things were different then life would be better.

Our day to day life is always in relationship to, or in relationship with, whether we are alone or with others, it is always in the plane of relating. It is how we comport to situations, people, things, that determines whether we are in balance or not. When we feel ill at ease, be it mildly or more pronounced we will feel it as tightness in the body and mind, reflected in our mental, verbal and bodily actions.

The very early sign of liking or disliking as a mental state is a feeling sensation in the body. To understand this and start to transform it is no easy task. It does however begin with awareness of that early reactive tone in the body and the voice of your mind. If we know a situation or interaction triggers us to behave in a certain way we can start to catch ourselves before we spill over into the habitual reaction. We can pause for a moment and actively choose to respond differently.

It is part of being human to be reactive and have emotions like anger, fear or jealousy, BUT we can modify or reduce the volume of these reactive states, through repeated self observation, reflection and a caring understanding attitude. Beneath all of this is the vast clear non reactive body / mind experience.

The centre is not the head

Have you ever noticed how you walk?

Some of us move from our head, our chest, our shoulders, the rest of the body just catching up. We are in a rush to get somewhere even when there is no need. We can stand in a queue and there is nothing to do but wait and yet we are tight in the mind and body, creating an invisible barrier of separateness with the environment. It is seen in the eyes and around the mouth. We may have tension in the belly, the lower back, the neck and shoulders. A restlessness.

Imagine moving with ease and grace, soft in the eyes, soft around the mouth, taking your time to be and do, a simple attentiveness to the present. This is not passive being, it is open awareness of our moment to moment experience whether we like what’s happening or not. If there is unease, we pause, we take a breath, we feel the breath down in the lower belly and we respond from a place of balance.

We can cultivate lightness of being through a gradual process of befriending the mind and the body. It requires a meta awareness and a willingness to drop into the body and use the breath as an anchor point to feel and experience being centred. The more we realise our head is not the centre, the more we can trust the intelligence of the body and the breath to lead the way.

Home

Satty Yoga is integrated yoga and mindfulness, a synergy between the mind, the body and the breath. A process of moving into balance and harmony through a physical practice that reveals the expansiveness of the mind and the natural creativity of the body.

The practice allows us to get to know ourselves better through tuning into our bodies and our minds. This tuning in, or soft listening, is cultivated through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is an active process with many aspects to it. The most common aspect is knowing what we are experiencing whilst we are experiencing it. Being able to drop into present moment awareness without judging or story telling.

We experience the natural energetics of the body and at the same time still the fluctuations of the mind, the two go hand in hand.

You do not need to be flexible to try yoga, the greatest flexibility required is from the mind! You work with the body’s natural intuition, softly listening, moving with the ebb and flow of the breath, moving and feeling into your rhythm towards greater mental and physical well being. Satty Yoga facilitates the process of transformation, YOU make it happen.

Smile from within 🙂