Yoga in the news

Using anger as a source of transformation

Oliver Burkeman's wonderful Radio 4 series, Why Are We So Angry? is currently being repeated and available on catch-up. It seems aligned with the Tantric Yoga way of viewing our feelings and emotions.

There are 9 Rasas – feelings or flavours – one of which is Anger, Raudra .

In Rasa yoga, we're taught not to bury or avoid our feelings but to notice them and use or diffuse their energy. Anger itself is not a bad thing, it's what we do with that energy created that can be a force for good or bad. Feelings are messengers.

The third of the programmes explores this very theme: Anger as a power of transformation: Anger may be essential for positive change: Why are we so Angry? 

The whole series is insightful; another highlights political anger: When people are secure they're not so likely to feel fearful and start blaming, getting angry at less popular sections of the population.
See link above - and all the short 18-min programmes should be there.

Mental focus
Immediately after winning the bronze Olympic medal with partner Tom Daley, Team GB diver Dan Goodfellow twice attributed the success to "being in the moment". The exact phrase was again used on 5live to explain why Oasis's Knebworth gig was such a seminal event... the band were "in the moment". How many times do we in our daily lives miss out on our bronze moment or perhaps even our golden opportunities or most noteworthy performance by zoning out.... Straying out of the present and into the future, reliving the past, or just being mentally somewhere else. Being focused can help make us happier with where we are as more successful at what we are doing...

And it's true in yoga classes, helping us to enjoy our yoga without strain or injury. The foundations crumble along with the concentration making balance impossible. Knowing when we have reached the end of our range of movement can be a close call, but attention to detail is half the battle. Is the spine long before twisting? Check. Is the alignment refined before attempting the next step? Check!

Awareness of what our body is doing and where it is in space at any given moment is called propreoception.... It's a useful if not life changing tool for everyone and especially helpful for those with hyper mobility issues.
Try it... Practice a simple sun salutation, first with your eyes open, visually checking your alignment. (Knee not reaching past ankle and sacrum broad in Warrior 1 (or lunge); hip not kicking out or knee turning in as you step forward; shoulders not rolling forward or elbows poking out in chaturanga or ashtanga - knees, chin, chest to some of you.) Slow it down and then do it with your eyes shut, feeling the alignment and where you place weight on the body...

If Goodfellow can stay grounded and in the moment during the pressures of a synchronised dive 10 mets up, then surely we can move with awareness when our feet our firmly on the ground?

There is so much in the news about mindfulness lately (just in case you haven't noticed!), moving mindfully, eating mindfully, mindfulness in the work place.... and so on. Mindfulness is often described as a form of meditation involving breathing techniques or sound to help people focus on the present moment, rather than letting the mind stray to the past or speed ahead to the next task...

It's something yogis have done naturally for years, probably without even realising they were... or at least they have tried to! It's known as interoception, moment-to-moment awareness of what you are doing, of your senses, and of how each movement, posture, breathing exercise affects your mind and your body. Basically, just noticing how you feel in each pose. It is not as easy as it sounds! And
I am definitely not saying that every yoga student manages it! (Yoga teachers included as students here...)

Some yoga students manage to stay mindful for much of their practice, other times it is hard to stop the mind wandering off and getting tied up in a string of thoughts. Hearing a car door slam outside can remind you that your car is on a meter and you start calculating the minutes you need to shower/change/get out of class and get there before you get a fine... Maybe your belly gurgles and you picture the food in your fridge, noting whether you need to shop on the way home. Or maybe the teacher asks you to dedicate your practice to someone you love and you think of your child, and wonder how they are coping with the babysitter, if they're doing their homework, or feel guilty you haven't gone to see a relative lately... It can be endless. But just noticing when the mind begins a little journey is a great start. Gently bring your focus back to your breath each time you notice and those little excursions will become less frequent as well as shorter and your practice will improve....

Childhood, is of course the time to sow the seeds of awareness. Some schools around the UK and other countries (especially France) have introduced mindfulness techniques into their teaching in an effort to create more attentive, content and community minded kids, as well as help tackle mental health issues that affect youngsters. The use of mindfulness techniques to help the growing numbers of people affected by mental health issues has been discussed in Parliament and even HRH the Duchess of Cambridge (patron of the Place2B Mindfulness in Schools campaign) has spoken about the positives and the role that mindfulness can play in helping to ease the stress that comes with adolescence. Hopefully, the campaigns will continue and grow and more schools will adopt mindfulness as well as yoga and meditation as a matter of course.

My favourite technique is used by a school in Sussex. At regular intervals throughout the day a bell rings.... It isn't met by loud chair scraping and clamouring to get out of the class for break time, but instead alerts each child (and member of staff) to stop what they are doing briefly, take a deep breath and bring their mind back to the present, silently creating a little space in their minds and their lives to just be where they are.
And yes, you can buy an app that will chime gently at pre-set intervals ...

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