Deep sleep

There are many things we can do to keep our body healthy, our mind calm, rested and our immune system doing it’s job. Sleep is so often overlooked but it’s so, so important. Somehow in our culture not needing much sleep is considered an advantage by some. How did this happen I’m asking? Very often we don’t realise that our afternoon and evening habits may not be actually supporting a good, nourishing sleep. Here’s what may help with healthy, restorative sleep…

1. Avoid eating heavy meals in the evening. If you can, switch to eating your main meal at lunch time, when your agni (Ayurvedic term for digestive fire) is at it’s strongest, and having something lighter in the evening.

2. Tea, coffee, energy drinks, even hot chocolate contain caffeine, a stimulant that keeps your mind active. Instead, drink a warming Ayurvedic of warm milk (cow’s or plant based) mixed with a pinch of nutmeg. Nutmeg contains magnesium helping to quiet the nervous system and prepare us for sleep. Herbal tea like chamomile or lavender is a good option too.

3. Create a habit of oil massaging your hands and feet before sleep. Your hands and feet both contain balancing pressure points, that when stimulated, help relieve stress and promote calmness.

4. Get into a good daily routine that you can stick to, like going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day, eating at regular meal times, even at the weekend.

I hope these few tips will help and you enjoy a restful sleep my friends 🙂

Why do we meditate?

How to advertise meditation? How to show on visually focused social media what meditation is if everything happens inside? How to encourage others to try it without promising some incredible out of body experiences, enlightenment or other ‘spiritual fireworks’? I can do it by sharing my experiences. And why do I meditate? Why do I spend every morning doing nothing with my eyes closed?

Imagine a house that’s never been cleaned, never ever, for years. Well this is what I found within me when I turned my focus inwards. So I started cleaning, removing dirt and dust, step by step, layer after layer. It’s not a sprint, rather a marathon. And the further I go the cleaner the house gets, the more space I feel, the more understanding I have and the more I love my life🙏

Polish Yoga :)

Picking wild mushrooms is a kind of Polish yoga. It’s very popular in my home country, many people practise it and most have at least a general knowledge of the most popular edible species.There is a whole culture, rituals, do’s and don’ts around it. I was never into it although I love eating mushrooms, cooked, fried, marinated. How did it happen that I was never interested??? We learn a lot about plants and animals, but not much attention goes to fungi. Our last trip to Scotland completely blew me away with the wild mushroom abundance. By being more aware of them, noticing them, recognising them I feel like I’m opening to a whole different world that was invisible before. Now I definitely want to know more….

Why using Sanskrit?

If you have ever tried speaking another language you probably noticed how different you sound, maybe even hold or move your body as you speak different languages? I’m amazed by how different I sound and even feel using different languages. Each language has its own sounds, structure, its own melody and rhythm. Sanskrit is kind of special 🙂

Being one of the oldest languages, in the beginning it would not be written down, only chanted because the key element is the pronunciation. It is sometimes called a language of vibration, it’s power lies in the soft and resonant sound. If we think about it, everything around us is nothing but a vibration of atoms and molecules, modern science confirms that. Coming in contact with the language of vibration gives the opportunity to bring us closer to experiencing the world around us and what we are essentially. We can feel it through vibrations. Why wouldn’t we use a powerful tool like that in our yoga practice?

Sciences like Yoga and Ayurveda developed over many centuries and the accumulated knowledge was recorded in Sanskrit, both orally and in writing, describing concepts, tools or states of being that are not described by other, more modern languages that we use today to communicate. Let’s take for example the word ‘Namaste’ or ‘Namaskar’, it can be loosely translated as ‘I bow to you’ or ‘the light/divine in me recognises and bows to the light/divine in you’. Isn’t it beautiful? Do you know one word in your language that carries the same or similar meaning? One word that includes the acknowledgement of another person, their divinity, the light within them? I don’t and maybe this is why I love greeting my students in the class with ‘Namaste’.
See you on  the mat my friends 🙂

Can you practice Yoga purely as a form of sport, without believing in its system of values?

Yoga is not a belief system, yogi is not a believer, yogi is a seeker. We start our yoga journey at different points and circumstances in our life, very often interested in purely physical results. But this is where the power of yoga is, it is a path of seeking and discovering. When you’re constantly encouraged to listen to your breath, observe your body in every yoga class, sooner or later you will notice that there is more to this ancient science than just stretching and toning the body. I remember my first yoga class, the only reason I went there was my back pain that was getting worse and worse. I didn’t know anything about yoga and my colleague said it might help. I remember confusion, frustration as my body was so out of balance. I cried in savasana hearing words: let go, let go of everything…. what a relief for this stressed corporate worker that I was back then. I didn’t expect that reaction, these emotions. It wasn’t comfortable, nobody else cried, what would they think about me. But there was a part of me that didn’t actually care and wanted to learn more.
And if you told me back then that one day I’d be meditating for 11hours a day, I would think you’re mad. And yet, here I am, over a decade later seeing my own practice and what I want to teach from a very different perspective. We have our own time and pace to experience and understand certain aspects of yoga. And if you want to just stretch and relax, that’s fine. But yoga is more like a marathon, rather than a 100m sprint so you may get bored pretty quickly when focusing on just stretching 😉

From a perspective of a teacher I’ll add that this is our, yoga teachers’ big responsibility to continue communicating all the potential of this practice, as best as we understand and experience it and the students we meet will walk their own path of self discovery and take what resonates with them, what and when they are ready to understand and embrace in their practice. This superficial layer of yoga advertised in the media as exercise with catchy titles like- sixpack in 20min power yoga class, calm mind in 5mins etc will continue to be there but it’s up to us, yoga practitioners, both teachers and students to make sure we do not stupefy yoga. And at the end of the day it’s better to ‘do some yoga’ than not moving at all, right?

Cultural appropriation of Yoga

Can we use the yoga practice here in the west, meaning western, white culture in a way that respects the tradition, the deep meaning and roots of yoga? I guess cultural appropriation is inevitable in today’s world, it times of free and easy travel, free and instant exchange of information. There is so much variety in the world but at the same time not enough time to look deeper into the actual meaning of the symbol, gesture, word or custom. When we’re constantly encouraged to buy more, earn more we may not have time or energy to pause to understand the true meaning and context of what we do or use. But the beauty of the yoga practice is that we do exactly that, we pause and listen. And where do we start our yoga practice? With yamas and niyamas, giving us a guide on how to behave inwardly towards ourselves and outwardly in the world. It’s crucial to know yamas and niyamas, it’s a very concrete place to start to avoid bringing old patterns, beliefs and potentially bad habits onto the mat as much as possible. My yoga practice is teaching me to be humble, there is more and more that I experience and understand, but at the same time the more I learn the more I know how little I know, how much more there is in the tradition of yoga to learn. Constant learning and self-study is so, so important.
But hey…. we’re all on this journey, individually and collectively, so let’s be kind to ourselves and acknowledge that we’re probably all guilty of cultural appropriation whether it applies to yoga or any other aspect, after all we drink Italian coffees, Chinese teas, eat Japanese sushi etc, right? Mixing of cultures is inevitable and it’s beautiful.
I was born in eastern Europe in times of communism and now live in a free western European country. This experience gives a great perspective on nuances and differences between countries, cultures, languages. I’ve seen and experienced many misunderstandings over the years. But I love and deeply appreciate them, I love being exposed to differences as this allows me to understand, become more sensitive and eventually grow. If we look back at let’s say European history, cultures, languages, different customs have been mixing right from the beginning.
I’m very mindful of symbols that I’d use or wear while teaching or promoting yoga. I would do it with the best understanding I can have and only if the symbol or tool really resonates with me. Does it mean that wearing my Ganesh yoga top is a cultural appropriation? If it is offending any Ganesha devotee, I do apologise. But I studied and learned about Ganesha and when wearing it I’m aware of the meaning of this deity.
But there is another side to this. Would applying yoga to our lifestyles and problems, which may require modifications, adaptations, some changes, would it be a cultural appropriation? I feel it’s necessary to modify how we practice yoga in the west. We have different bodies, an average yoga practitioner in the west is 30yrs old woman. We have different lifestyles, an average yoga practitioner in the west is finding squatting a challenge. We sit at the desk a lot, having problems with spine, hips, knees, even wrists nowadays, problems with blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and so on. We definitely need to change the way we move on the mat. When yoga came to the west we took what was created just over 100 years ago by few Indian men for young Indian boys and incorporated it as a practice for western female bodies. And as a result of following fixed rules without deeper connection and understanding, women practising ashtanga yoga since 60s or 70s are having hip replacements now in their 70s and 80s. This is not what yoga is about, it’s misunderstanding of the essence of yoga. There is a term in Sanskrit: Anitya, meaning change, impermanence of everything, one of the basic laws of nature. Yoga has been, is and will be changing.
So coming back to the original question: how do we know we’re appropriating yoga? When we use the tools of yoga without studying and learning what they are, where they come from and how to apply them to our modern western busy lives.

This is a part of the conversation with @ola_dalek. Check her on Instagram for more.

Acknowledge your emotions

Being a yogi may not mean you’re always blissful. In your life journey there will be dark moments, when old emotions are triggered, let them come. Don’t ignore them as what you resist persists. Acknowledge what is happening, give yourself permission to be vulnerable, to cry or laugh… express your emotions and allow yourself to just sit with this experience. At the same time you don’t want to judge how you feel, you don’t want to comment on your emotions, just let them be.

I heard recently someone saying that we live in emotional dark age, we’re expected to hide emotions so we put a mask and get so used to pretending that after a while we completely disconnect from feeling.

-How are you?
-Good, thank you.
Why do we even bother asking?

Be honest with yourself as much as you can. This is the most intimate relation you have. Your emotions are always there to tell you something, so listen to them, they are like compass in your life ?
So… find space and time to pause and turn your gaze inwards, ask yourself how you feel…. enjoy the conversation, enjoy this space ?

Not to Worry

This is a hard time of year for me, always has been. Christmas fever is over, New Year has started and lots of expectations, plans came with it. It would be perfect if they all came true, wouldn’t it? I’m good in talking about plans but not in bringing them to life. Because what’s coming with all the great plans I have is usually lots of fear and doubts. So at some point I start procrastinating, postponing the actions, finding excuses, distractions for the mind.

BE A WARRIOR NOT A WORRIER….. I read it once printed on a yoga top.

You could say easier said than done. And it’s true, it feels so hard sometimes to be strong, we worry so much about so many things, about our health, our family, our job or about not having it. Mass media feeding us regularly with bad news (who wants to listen to the good news, right?), local or global, economic, political, national or religious conflicts. All this slowly sinking into out mind which is then analysing all the data and creating certain conclusions.

And we are also bombarded with the solutions to our problems, lots of informations about how this medicine or that equipment can help us achieve what we want or help us with a problem we have. Don’t you think it would be wise first to use the tools and techniques that are free and we all have access to? To see if it makes any difference in the quality of our lives, to see if we can learn how to control our fears and insecurities and eventually to live a peaceful life. I don’t see why it shouldn’t be possible, it is possible. But it requires some work from us. So if you have enough of being a worrier give it a go.

It all comes down to controlling our mind to use it the way we want it. Our mind is just one of our tools as a human beings, we want to be able to use it wisely and not letting it control us.

We also have to stop running away from what we think and say, how we act and react to the world around us. Once you start noticing your thinking process, then ( and this is the hard part ? you need to reprogram your mind and stop judging and rating everything. Have you actually noticed that we put labels on everything and everyone? Including ourselves, our looks, our thoughts and actions. If you want a peaceful mind you simply need to stop. So see if you can notice what your mind is doing but not giving it any comment or judgement. There is no right or wrong, it just is and you decide if it’s serving you or not.

Once you have all the above in mind find a spot where you can comfortably sit, in a chair or on a floor, mat or blanket in a cross-legged position. Make sure your lower back is supported and neck and shoulders relaxed, you may need a wall.

If you’re busy it may take as little as 5-10min. But to be honest if you think you don’t have even these 5 min to spend, you probably need more ?

Rest your hands on your knees, gently lengthen the spine up creating a bit more space in your ribcage.

Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Let your breath be as natural as possible, don’t force it, don’t manipulate, just let the air come in and out in the rhythm comfortable for your body.

After one or two breaths your mind may start creating a story or comment or picture. And you may not notice it for a while, letting it take you somewhere as usual. But at some point you will notice and then without any judgement bring your attention back to your breath. Don’t force your mind to do anything, it won’t work. Just acknowledge what your mind is doing and come back to your breath.

Your mind will be wandering many times and every time you realise you’re not fully present bring your attention back to your breath.

This is one of the simplest ways to start meditating. And why am I linking it to being warrior not a worrier you may ask? Well, once you start using this quick technique regularly you will see that your mind is mostly analysing the past or projecting the future. Being constantly in the past is not going to change it, the past is gone. Worrying so much about the future doesn’t make much sense either as nobody knows what will happen, we may predict but we don’t know.

Practising awareness and being in the present moment helps to take all the chatter in the head away. And once there’s no noise in the head, we don’t worry so much and have space to start living the present moment fully. This is the only thing we have… the present moment.

It may be a long way, boring process of repetitions, but I don’t want to be terrorised by my own mind. Do you?

Between Pushing and Letting Go

benita yoga barking and dagenham east london

‘Yoga is a dance between control and surrender – between pushing and letting go – and when to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being.’

Joel Kramer

Do you feel that you’ve tried everything and it’s still not working?

I feel like this in my yoga practice sometimes. I know the technique, I prepare properly but the pose is still not available to me.
And then I say to myself: ok, maybe not yet, maybe my body is not ready. I take the step back and stop pushing.

When I give my body time to digest all the work it’s done in preparation for the pose then my mind is not so fixed on the pose anymore.
Only letting go of expectations allows me to go deeper in my yoga practice. And this works every time I’m stuck.
Pushing and trying creates more tension in the body, frustration and self-doubt in the head. There’s no space, no energy, no subtlety and we’re so exhausted with trying.

If we can let go and our mind is not in charge anymore then things start happening in more natural rhythm and life becomes an enjoyable experience.
In the world where everything needs to be improved to perfection, where we’re expected to be constantly better and achieve more, instead of finding space and freedom we may get ourselves into uncomfortable and tight place where it’s hard to breathe and move with ease.

So think about it for a moment and see where you need to push and where you can let go.
When the time is right whatever you’ve been preparing yourself for, will come.
And if it will not……well….. then apparently it wasn’t meant to be… just let go ?

To stay inspired and keep practising

Hi Friends,

Since I started discovering yoga I’ve been constantly looking for guidance and some inspiration to keep me motivated and on track.
I’ve noticed certain benefits of yoga after few weeks or months of practice, such as less pain in my lower back, deeper breathing and calmer mind. It was the best motivation to keep going.
But at some point your mind may get bored with your body doing the same over and over again. And you may think your body will never be able to do this or that pose. It may be true, may be not.

Some of the yoga poses will feel easier in your body than others, some of them really challenging and some absolutely out of reach… at least this’s what we may be telling ourselves. For me if the pose required more upper body strength or being upside down I’d do anything to avoid even trying it ?
One side of me was so inspired by hundreds of photos of advanced yoga poses on social media and the other was saying: you’re gonna break your neck if you try this.

Over time I started training my mind to stop criticizing all the time and training my body to be steady, mobile and ready for more advanced poses.
Taking small steps and repeating until you feel your body gets stronger, lighter and ready to go further is the key to go deeper into your yoga practice. Persistence and patience does pay off.

Sometimes I’m recording my own yoga practice, mainly to see what I’m doing, how I’m moving my body. And I put this video together as a reminder that sometimes things don’t look perfect, sometimes we may be disappointed with our body, with what it looks like, with what it can or cannot do. It’s important to remember that sometimes it takes more than one try for things to work. And it takes some determination and patience.

So don’t give up on your body. It’s a wonderful vehicle that should carry you through this life with joy and courage.

Be brave,
Stay with your practice,
Keep consciously moving your body with the breath,
Look for inspirations,
Ask questions,
Experience,
Help your body reach beyond the point your mind thinks is the limit,
And remember you’re good the way you are ?
See you on the mat ?