Yoga gets the blood in the body flowing! Relaxation helps circulation, movement brings more oxygen to your cells (which function better as a result), twisting brings fresh oxygenated blood to organs, and inversions reverse blood flow from the lower body to the brain and heart.
How to improve our circulation?
Poor circulation can be caused by many things: sitting for most of the day at a desk or in the car, high cholesterol, blood pressure issues, and even diabetes. It can also manifest in many ways, with the body showing signs of:
cold hands and feet
brittle hair and nails
dark circles under your eyes
Luckily, there are almost as many ways to combat it as there are symptoms. You can try:
healthy balanced diet
moving the body with exercise
Movement is key to wellness on many levels, including circulatory health. Yoga is not only one of the most accessible types of exercise (it’s low impact and can be practiced by everyone at all levels), but it’s also one of the best types of exercise for poor circulation.
The below sequence of poses will be a great addition to your self-care and wellness routine. This is especially for you if you’re dealing with circulation issues, no matter what their cause or physical manifestation in your body.
I have been guiding some of our students through the yoga sequence this week. It has been put together in a way that will allow you to explore the asana and yourself while also becoming familiar with the sense of moving inwards again and encouraging your prana (energy) to flow freely, as it should.
Best Yin yoga poses for Spring and the Wood Element
Wake up stagnant Wood element energy with Spring Yin
Spring Yin is all about harmonising the element that drives us forward again in life, after the retreating energy of the Winter, the Wood element. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Wood element represents new beginnings, drive, and fresh ideas. Now, after the passive tendencies of Winter, this energy can sometimes be left stagnant and in need of some encouragement to come out of hibernation. The best yin yoga poses for Spring will help you to create space for growth and to blossom. Yin yoga poses for the Wood element invite us to investigate the balance between the desire to move and create. The wood element brings the need to be still and reflect.
Decompress and temper the flow of your emotions
If you relate to characteristics of somebody who finds it difficult to put the breaks on in life, particularly in your working life, then your Wood element may need calming. The Wood element governs the tendons and ligaments in the body via the energy of The Liver. Responsible for the tempering of Qi within the blood that it stores and distributes, we can compare The Liver to a pressure cooker, which to function properly needs its valves regulating.
The best yin yoga poses for spring help to soothe and release stored and unprocessed emotions of anger and frustration, as harmonised Liver energy creates a smooth and even flow of emotions in the body. Excess Wood energy can manifest as an accumulation of tension in the muscles, ligaments and tendons, combined with feelings of impatience and irritability. So work on cultivating acceptance of whatever emotions are arising in your Spring Yin practice and softening into them the best you can.
Find the correct decision to put into action
The paired Yang organ of the Wood element is The Gallbladder. The Gallbladder is related to our ability to make clear and proper judgement. It is involved in our decision making. The Gallbladder assists the Liver in making correct judgements, which the Liver will then put into action.
The symptoms of an imbalanced Gallbladder can be; neck and shoulder pain, sciatica, blurred vision in both a physical and mental sense and the inability to follow through with decisions or the tendency to make poor or rash judgments or both!
Be kind to yourself while working through my Spring Yin sequence, bringing gentle awareness to any inner conflicts that may be arising. From this space of loving-kindness, clarity for the path ahead can often open up before you.
The Liver meridian
Starting on the top of the big toe, the Liver meridian runs up the inner aspect of the leg just in front of the Kidney meridian. Entering into the torso at the groin. It then proceeds to connect with the Wood element’s pertaining organs of the liver and gallbladder, before connecting with the lungs. Continuing up the throat the Liver meridian circles the lips and moves into the corner of the eyes and across the cheeks and forehead.
The Gallbladder meridian
The Gallbladder meridian travels from the outer corner of the eye, where one branch weaves back and forth along the side of the face before curving around behind the ear and down into the shoulder. This branch then continues down through the side body to the outer hips. The internal branch journeys from the cheek, down the neck and through the chest to meet the liver and gallbladder, to then converge at the outer hip. Here, the Gallbladder meridian runs down the outer leg and knee and ends at the fourth toe.
Now you have a better understanding of the energy systems of our fabulous bodies, feel free to click on the link below to practice the Spring detox sequence. It has been placed together carefully, to provide a full balanced programe to allow the Prana / Chi to flow like water.
The sequence has the option for you to press play so you can stay on your mat and flow through it with your beautiful breath. I hope you enjoy and please do leave me some feedback in the comments.
Virasana is a wonderful remedy for tired legs at the end of a long day, as well as an alternative to posture for seated meditation.
vira = man, hero, chief
Hero Pose basics
Releases tension in the thighs, knees, and ankles
Strengthens the arches of the feet
Improves digestion and relieves gas
Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
Reduces swelling of the legs during pregnancy (through second trimester) and Christmas shopping!
Therapeutic for high blood pressure and asthma
To come into Hero pose or Virasana, begin in an all fours position on your hands and knees.
Bring your knees closer together and separate your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart
Press the top of your feet down and slowly lower your hips back until eventually sitting on the mat (or props) between the heels
Use your hands to roll the flesh of your calves away, draw your navel in and up, ground through your sitting bones and extend through the crown of your head
Stay for 5 to 10 breaths
Come out of the pose the way you came in, by placing the hands in front of you and lifting the hips back up to all fours
Beginners’ tips for Hero pose
Use as many props as you need to raise the hips up, and avoid any discomfort in the knees. Stacking cushions or blocks between your feet is a great option
You can practise the pose one leg at a time with one leg folded under and the other straight out in front of you before coming into the full pose
Gradually build up the length of time you stay in the pose.
If your ankles are stiff, place a rolled up blanket underneath to decrease the stretch
Keep pressing firmly through the tops of the feet and firm the inner ankles in
If you feel any discomfort in your knees, adjust the pose accordingly by elevating your hips by placing a couple of blocks or cushions between the feet to sit on.
Avoid in the case of ankle or knee injuries or recent knee op.
If your quads (front of thigh muscles) are very tight, come into the pose slowly and keep the hips higher by sitting on props such as yoga blocks or cushions. You should feel the stretch in the belly of the muscle rather than at the attachment points at the knees.
I enjoy poses that appear simple yet present us with a physical and mental challenge. At first glance, Hero Pose appears to be as easy as just getting down on your knees. However, the posture calls for a precise, deliberate alignment of your feet and knees. Depending on the structure of your calves, ankles, and quadriceps, you might need to modify the pose. You must practise inner and outer calm and sit with oneself in order to hold the pose.
I hope this break down on hero pose helps you to explore it further in your own time, and you are more than welcome to come along to one of my yoga class in St Helens, or for an even deeper practise one of my yoga workshops in Merseyside too!
Oh and speaking of Christmas shopping and aching legs…why not come along to my Relax & Recharge Christmas Yoga Workshop. A few hours to treat yourself with some gentle postures to unwind, meditation to unravel the mind and a relaxing sound bath by my guest facilitator as my Christmas gift from me to you! All levels welcome, even complete beginners.
So this coming month’s theme for my online yoga classes is deities. A sankalpa (intention) will be set at the beginning of each practice. This intention will be based on the chosen deity of the week and what they represent. The first yoga class will be themed on Ganesh.
The yoga class is for everyone. Suitable for beginners, all the way to advanced. The sequence will include some somewhat challenging asana. Purposely placed to challenge us and entice the ego to come out and play. I will be guiding us inward to focus more on the mindset. Encouraging us to overcome what’s perceived to be an obstacle and learning to move into the postures with strength, ease, and surrender.
Overcoming Difficult Times
So for those who are in the St Helens and Merseyside area, please feel free to come along to practice with us in St Helens town centre. Or maybe choose the option to practice yoga online in the comfort of your own home.
So let’s begin with an insight into the beautiful story of Ganesh, so we can become familiar with the moral of the story.
Traditionally, at the start of a brand new venture, the mantra Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha is used to clear paths to potential difficulties. This chant invokes Ganesh, the acknowledged deity and ‘lord of obstacles’.
Here is one of my favourite versions…enjoy!
What does Ganesha symbolise?
Also referred to as Ganapati, The Lord of Beginnings, The Remover of Obstacles, and also the deity of fine Fortune, Ganesh is probably one of the most well-known deities. He’s the son of Shiva and Parvati, two of perhaps the most powerful Gods and Goddesses, however, despite the celebrated depictions of his elephant’s head, he wasn’t born that way….
The story concerning how Ganesh got his elephant’s head varies across India – as most things do – however a wide told story goes one thing like this:
The birth of Ganesha
One day Goddess Parvati was at home on Mt.Kailash preparing for a bath. As she didn’t want to be disturbed, she told Nandi, her husband’s (Shiva) cow, to guard the door and let no one pass. Nandi faithfully took his post, intending to carry out Parvati’s wishes. But, when Shiva came home and naturally wanted to come inside, Nandi had to let him pass, being loyal first to Shiva. Parvati was angered by Nandi’s act of defiance, but even more than this, at the fact that she had no one as loyal to Herself as Nandi was to Shiva. So, taking the turmeric paste (for bathing) from her body and breathing life into it, she created Ganesha, declaring him to be her loyal son.
such power did Ganesha possess
The next time Parvati wished to bathe, she posted Ganesha on guard duty at the door. In due course, Shiva came home, only to find this strange boy telling him he couldn’t enter his own house! Furious, Shiva ordered his army to destroy the boy, but they all failed! Such power did Ganesha possess, being the son of Devi Herself!
This surprised Shiva. Seeing that this was no ordinary boy, the usually peaceful Shiva decided he would have to fight him, and in his divine fury severed Ganesha’s head, killing him instantly. When Parvati learned of this, she was so enraged and insulted that she decided to destroy the entire Creation! Lord Brahma, being the Creator, naturally had his issues with this, and pleaded that she reconsider her drastic plan. She said she would, but only if two conditions were met: one, that Ganesha is brought back to life, and two, that he be forever worshipped before all the other gods.
Shiva, having cooled down by this time, and realising his mistake, agreed to Parvati’s conditions. He sent Brahma out with orders to bring back the head of the first creature he crosses that is laying with its head facing North. Brahma soon returned with the head of a strong and powerful elephant, which Shiva placed onto Ganesha’s body. Breathing new life into him, he declared Ganesha to be his son as well and gave him the status of being foremost among the gods, and leader of all the ganas (classes of beings), Ganapati.
Meaning of the story of Ganesh
At first glance, this story may seem like a myth or a magical tale to share with our children. But, the true magical meaning is veiled.
Parvati is a form of Devi, the Parashakti (Supreme Energy). In the human body, She resides in the Muladhara chakra as the Kundalini shakti. It’s said that when we rid ourselves of the impurities that bind us, then the Lord automatically comes. This is why Shiva, the Supreme Lord, came unannounced as Parvati was bathing.
Nandi, Shiva’s bull, who Parvati first sent to guard the door represents the divine temperament. Nandi is so devoted to Shiva that his every thought is directed to Him, and he can easily recognise the Lord when He arrives. This shows that the attitude of the spiritual aspirant is what gains access to Devi’s (the kundalini shakti’s) abode. One must first develop this attitude of the devotee before hoping to become qualified for the highest treasure of spiritual attainment, which Devi alone grants.
the great secret is revealed
After Nandi permitted Shiva to enter, Parvati took the turmeric paste from Her own body, and with it created Ganesha. Yellow is the colour associated with the Muladhara chakra, where the kundalini resides, and Ganesha is the deity who guards this chakra. Devi needed to create Ganesha, who represents the earthbound awareness, as a shield to protect the divine secret from unripe minds. It is when this awareness begins to turn away from things of the world, and toward the Divine, as Nandi had, that the great secret is revealed.
Shiva is the Lord and Supreme Teacher. Ganesha here represents the ego-bound Jiva. When the Lord comes, the Jiva (the consciousness in body), surrounded as it is with the murky cloud of ego, usually doesn’t recognise Him, and maybe even ends up arguing or fighting with Him! Therefore, it is the duty of the Lord, in the form of the Guru, to cut off the head of our ego! So powerful is this ego, however, that at first, the Guru’s instructions may not work, as Shiva’s armies failed to subdue Ganesha. It often requires a tougher approach, but, eventually the compassionate Guru, in His wisdom finds a way.
Mudras are gestures created with the hands to focus the mind and direct subtle energy towards a certain place. They’re highly symbolic and are said to be powerful in the yogic tradition.
The Ganesh mudra represents strength and power and is additionally thought to be strengthening for the physical heart, and the muladhara chakra. Position the hands clasped in front of the chest with the elbows wide. This mudra represents both protection, but can also symbolise that our biggest obstacle area is often caused by ourselves. Our doubts, fears, and insecurities are often the only things holding us back (ego). By knowing this, we might realise that rather than seeking outside of ourselves for the answers to life’s issues. The real work lies in removing our obstacles. Maybe if we ask nicely though, Ganesh can lend a hand….
Here is some of my favourite Ganesha homeware…click on the images to take you to store
Today’s sequence has been put together in honour of the full moon. Society typically encourages our solar, more masculine impulses, making it easy to pursue worldly achievement rather than inner awareness.
Although the aim of hatha yoga is to balance our lunar and solar energies. The word Ha meaning sun, and the word the meaning moon. Even our asana practice tends to reflect a bias for the solar. They often emphasise sun salutations and heating practices in the interest of physical fitness.
“chill out before we burn out.”
If the divine lunar force could speak, she might lovingly remind us to “chill out before we burn out.” Like a mother, the moon can teach us to slow down, listen to our own needs, and be receptive to change.
We can invoke and pay homage to the lunar energy in nature and within by practicing Chandra Namaskara, otherwise known as the moon salutation.
Moon Salutation – a full-body prayer
The 15 steps in the sequence below represent 15 lunar days; a 16th step honors the tantric goddess Shodashi, who presides over all the phases of the moon, as well as all that is perfect, complete, and beautiful. When practiced with devotion and gratitude for the divine feminine, this version of Chandra Namaskara can become a full-body prayer. An inward-moving and mildly calming practice, Chandra Namaskara can be practiced any time of day, including late afternoon and evening.
To bring an element of ritual into your practice, try it during the new and full moon phases. Try practising outside anytime under the moon itself. The sequence is safe to explore for anyone who practices sun salutations, and many women find it soothing during menstruation or pregnancy.
Move through the moon salutation slowly and mindfully, maintaining a smooth, deep, diaphragmatic breath. (Avoid using ujjayi breathing, which is heating). Tune in to a sense of devotion as you honor all the phases of the moon and the cycles of your life. Just as with the four seasons, the phases of the moon carry various qualities and intentions. If you practice yoga during the full moon, be prepared to experience new sensations. Feeling a little ungrounded or obstinate. Accept those feelings and try to create space and open yourself to the powerful energy of the moon.
Free Visualisation Meditation
I have attached a link below to take you to a free Visualisation Meditation script and audio file for the end of this practise.
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