Wabi-Sabi

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The Japanese have so many wonderful words for seemingly incongruous things. Wabi-Sabi is one such example. An aesthetic term dating back to the fourteenth century CE, it celebrates the humble, hidden beauty of incomplete and imperfect things.

Within this concept, random and naturally occurring irregularities are to be revered: a knotted piece of wood, the inconsistent shape of an eroded rock.

Wabi-Sabi is also an acceptance of transcience and imperfection. This is where, I believe, the term can easily tie in with our Yoga practise.

When we practise the physical asana of Yoga, we will be far from perfect. Even experienced Yogi’s will have bodies which are less than perfect, and so may be unable to force their bodies into certain poses with perfection.

And why would we want to?

If we take a walk in a forest, we will see many examples in nature of imperfection. Gnarled tree barks, broken branches, brown-tinged leaves. Yet, we will often wax lyrical on the beauty of the nature around us. We will celebrate its wabi-sabi-ness.

Nature, as life, is imperfect. And so are we. Today’s pose is one I find fun and also a little kooky! It encourages us to smile, to look imperfect, and to love that imperfection. It is a good pose to practise after the traditional Tree pose, which is a more graceful standing balance.

The Pose: Cactus. Stand tall, raising and bending the right leg and taking hold of it just below the knee with the right hand. Balancing on the strong, left leg, use the right hand to open the right leg out to the right side slightly. Bend the left arm and raise it slightly, opening out the left palm and fingers. Breathe into the balance. Then repeat on the opposite side.

Until next time,

Kate xx

 

 

Grace

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There’s a saying in the Navajo language for anyone who walks with dignity and confidence: they are said to be ‘carrying their beauty’.

I think this is such a beautiful phrase. It makes the suggestion that dignity and confidence are to be recognised as indicators of beauty. I think this can be taken as something of a revelation in the era of the air-brushed selfie, the Instagram society we live in, where how we look is often judged over who we are and what we stand for.

I read a wonderful little book recently, ‘L’art de la Simplicité How to Live More With Less’ by Dominique Loreau, recently translated from the French bestseller, in which she talks about grace and beauty coming from inhabiting our bodies as we are.

This is something that at first seems obvious, and yet, it can be the hardest thing to achieve. So hard, in fact, that I’d say it has taken me most of my life so far to realise.

Since I found Yoga well over a decade ago, I have always come the closest to this ideal of finding beauty and grace when practising Yoga asana. Often, Yoga helps me to feel weightless, limitless, and perfect in the body I have.

This week’s pose, Dancer’s Pose, is one that makes me feel graceful and confident. To move into this pose, take your right foot to balance on first and send your breath down to that leg. Bend the knee of your left leg and grab the left foot with the left hand. Hold your right arm out front to help balance and form a circle with the thumb and forefinger. Start to lean your upper body forward, balancing on just the right leg. If you are comfortable in the balance, start to press the left foot against the left hand holding it, and move the foot away from the body slightly. Feel the grace and lightness as you inhale and exhale in this pose.

Come out of the pose gracefully and repeat on the other side of the body.

I hope this pose helps you to feel like flying as it does me!

Until next time,

Kate  x

Disconnection

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Disconnection. It can have more than one meaning, can’t it?

One can be a positive: disconnecting from technology and work in order to enjoy spending time with the people we love. The negative is the opposite: feeling disconnected from the people around us, because we are in a constant state of ‘busyness’, finding ourselves becoming more insular and separate.

Our yoga practise can bring us back to our mats, back to ourselves, back to re-connect with the real life people around us.

Recently, I read a book about digitally detoxing: The Essential Digital Detox Plan by Orianna Fielding-Banks https://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Digital-Detox-Plan/dp/1780979053/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1494321358&sr=8-3&keywords=digital+detox

In it, the author refers to the position we have now found ourselves in of being permanently ‘switched on’; available night and day to answer emails, chat to virtual, online friends, and work, work, work. Often, at the detriment of the real-life relationships we are neglecting.

Since reading, I have been trying to incorporate ideas into my life which allow me to switch off, mentally and metaphorically, from the digital clutter that can threaten to fill our lives. Here are some ideas:

  • Try a period of ‘letting go’, for example, ‘Unplugged Saturdays’, or deleting apps from Smartphones and putting them back on if you really find them necessary. Often, we turn to scrolling through social media as simply a habit. Try downloading one of The Minimalists wallpaper screensavers as a reminder of what you are trying to achieve: http://www.theminimalists.com/?s=wallpaper
  • When with family members or friends, make a conscious effort to unplug, leave the Smartphone in another room, focus on whoever you are spending time with, listening to them and giving them your full attention. You may not be able to convince your whole family or group of friends to do this, but your actions are likely to have a positive effect. Lead by example.
  • Remember that when we do receive a notification, update, email, etc, we don’t have to actually deal with this immediately. Practise pausing, taking a breath, controlling the urge to jump to the tune of your devices.
  • In her book, Orianna Fielding-Banks suggests asking yourself: If this were your last day on Earth, would you want to spend it scrolling through Facebook or Twitter? Looking at pictures of other people’s lunch on Instagram, or answering countless emails? My guess is no. Take your lead from this.

The truth is, although we often complain about the impact our addictions to digital technology has over our time, if we’re honest, we can see that it is sometimes used as an avoidance technique. These constant distractions can be used to avoid being with ourselves, being alone with our thoughts and quietness. This week’s Yoga pose then, Easy Pose, is a way to reconnect with that inner self that we may be avoiding, for whatever reasons.

The Pose: Come to a seated position, back straight, legs gently crossed in front of the body. If you struggle to maintain a straight back, either sit against a wall, or raised on a cushion or Yoga block. Eyes can be open or closed, but closing them often helps us to focus. Hands rest either palms up, facing the sky, or down, touching the knees. Begin to concentrate simply on breathing, inhalations and exhalations through the nose. If it helps, breathe in for a mental count of four, hold the breath for one second at the top, then out again through the nose for four. The moment when the breath is held at the top is thought to represent bliss, peace, the ultimate release.

Try to aim to do this for a few minutes each day, to simply ‘be’ with yourself, allowing thoughts to come and go. And of course – ensure you remove any digital distractions from the room in which you practise!

Until next time,

Kate (the Yorkshire Yogini)

x

 

Warrior

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The world is in a mess. There are many things to cause us to worry recently, and this isn’t the place to go into them. World politics, environmental disasters, poverty and displacement fill our TV screens and news sites, and it is all too easy to drift into depression and anxiety about issues seemingly out of our control.

I’m not here to suggest that Yoga can change any of these serious issues. But the truth is, it can change your inner world, and often, that can be half the battle.

If we try to embrace simplicity and practises which bring us back to our core selves – such as Yoga, meditation, simply taking five minutes to breathe – we can put ourselves into a much stronger position to take action.

Courtney Carver, on her fantastic blog ‘Be More With Less’ https://bemorewithless.com/ says: “The remedy to helplessness is action”. I have found so much truth in this lately. If the world’s problems feel too overwhelming to deal with, contributing to the people and community around you will increase your feelings of control, and the satisfaction of knowing you are contributing in whatever small ways.

Simple ways of getting involved and contributing might include:

  • Cooking for, or checking on, an elderly neighbour.
  • Donating food or time to a local food bank.
  • Picking litter from the local environment.
  • Campaigning for change in issues you strongly believe in.

However you get involved, taking action is sure to turn helplessness into hope.

This week’s Yoga pose is Warrior II – one of my all-time favourite poses. It is a strong, powerful pose, which always makes me feel capable of achieving anything. The term ‘Warrior’ shouldn’t be interpreted as a negative; the idea is that you are a strong, compassionate, Warrior, facing challenges and gaining strength from your practise. As with all aspects of Yoga, the idea is of non-violence and compassion.

The Pose: Standing, spread the legs apart about three feet, one foot pointing forwards, one turning slightly inwards. Raise the arms outwards, palms face down, shoulders relaxed. On an inhale, bend the front knee deeply, and turn the head to face the outstretched hand on that side. The waist and centre of the body should remain facing forwards. Breathe. Hold for a count of three deep inhales and exhales through the nose, and repeat on the other side of the body. (See above).

Until next time,

Kate

x