Three Jewels Wellness

PILATES, YOGA & MEDITATION Peace, Power, Purity


GUEST COLUMN: … triathlons and the breath …

Swimming, cycling, running and breathing
by Richard  City of London  Dec 2018

triathlon pic

I have been training to compete in triathlons for about five years, and after making gains in terms of speed and technique across the disciplines of swimming, cycling and running, my progress began to plateau. With this in mind, a year ago I was seeking a yoga class to complement my training to ensure I could continue to make improvements in my performance.  This is on the basis that yoga is a key part of the training programme of most elite athletes (including triathletes).

I booked Priya’s hatha yoga class (not quite knowing what to expect), and haven’t looked back. The improvements have been remarkable, not only in terms of my core strength, but my whole body (in particular my spine) and mind are now more relaxed (which in a race is an important skill to have, as I often become tense). Priya has brilliantly (and cheerfully) guided our class over the last twelve months with a range of movements which have increased flexibility and posture, whilst challenging our minds and bodies in each practice. These sessions are now paying dividends, as I am able to take more efficient strides when I run (which has made me faster), ensured I am more relaxed on the bike by reducing my tendency to have tense shoulders which in-turn has helped me get more power with each pedal rotation.  When I swim my body is much higher and longer in the water, which helps me have a more efficient stroke.

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One aspect of Priya’s classes which I was not expecting (but which is central to yoga) is breathing.  My breathing is now much slower and more controlled, which in-turn allows me to focus on my technique during my yoga practice and also whilst triathlon training.  As triathlon is an endurance sport, being able to control my breathing for a long period is key.  This allows my mind to focus on good swim/bike/run technique whilst reducing the stress on my body.

I still have much to learn (my balance needs a lot of work), but I would highly recommend Priya’s yoga classes to all athletes looking to improve their performance.


GUEST COLUMN: … it’s all about the breathe, really …

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out
by Beccy City of London Aug 2018

Of all the exercise I do, yoga makes me most mindful of my breathing. Not only to give a rhythm to the movements, but to remain centred. To block out the other noises around me. To focus internally. To ease the muscles that little bit deeper into each stretch. To keep the body flowiIMG_0015ng.

Breathing is something that comes second nature, without thought, every day. But when it’s brought to the forefront of your mind in a yoga class it can be difficult to understand its importance until you see drastic improvements.

I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for 10 years, but until early 2017 hadn’t felt any real improvements in my movements, balance or flexibility for a long time. When I started with Three Jewels, the first difference – to any other class I’ve taken – was being told to focus on my breath instead of the movements.

My mind had always been focused on getting into position and thinking “I’m doing yoga’’. I didn’t quite understand the importance of focusing on how I was breathing until I noticed how much longer I could hold warrior postures and downward-facing-dog. Then how much deeper into these postures I could get. Then how much closer I could get to my legs in a forward bend. How much easier it felt to hold balances. How much easier it was becoming to push my body to go that little bit further with each practice.

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All because I was told to focus on my breath, letting the movements flow with my breathing instead of the other way around. It’s the key element to any practice I do now, and I’ve seen more improvements in my own ability in the past 18 months than I had done the 8 years prior.

All because I was told to breathe.


Winter Warmer Drink

Here’s a traditional Indian winter warmer drink to make.

All ingredients readily available in Indian grocery stores and leading supermarkets.

It’s a soothing caffeine-free alternative to coffee and tea.

Quick to make and simply delicious.


Noble Quality – Forgiveness

~:~ To err is human; to forgive, divine ~:~ by Alexander Pope

Forgiveness

As we come towards the end of the year, it is our chance to reflect on 2015 and what happened within our sphere. Usually we tend to gloss on the nice things and quickly brush off the memories of the not so nice things. But these memories do come back and prick us when we least expect or want. And so perhaps it is better to deal with these unhappy memories now rather than let them simmer and brew within the sub-conscious self and carry the pain, hurt, anger and misery not only on our shoulders but into the New Year as well.

The noble quality of Forgiveness is a unique way of drawing a line on the past. To the extent that people have spoken harshly to us, caused us anger and pain, take this opportunity to forgive them. By the same token, where we have caused unhappiness to others (which incidentally also made us miserable), then we should gather the strength and ask them to forgive us.

Where possible one should try to go physically to the person to seek forgiveness and/or to forgive. However, if this is not possible, then forgiveness can be sought and given in the mind.

Practice of Asanas & Mudras

IMG_0270The twisting postures in our Asana practice are not only wonderful for massaging the digestive system, liver and spleen and so helping remove any undigested material from the body but emotional cleansers too – but they also wring out the negative emotions stored within.  Taking a bind with the hands deepens the twists.

Here the bound Ardha Matsyendrasana (half Lord of the Fish) which energises the spine and stimulates the digestive fire is shown.

 

Mudras are mainly hand gestures which are used to stimulate different parts of the body involved with breathing and to affect the flow of Prana (the life-force) in the body.  In performance of Varada Mudra, the right hand is pointed downward and the palm is turned to the front. The left hand is placed on the lap or thigh. The palm of both the hands should be completely exposed to the onlooker – the palms are open and empty. The five extended fingers in this mudra symbolize generosity, morality, patience, effort and meditative concentration.budhha in varada mudra

Benefits of Varada Mudra

  • Varada Mudra is beneficially linked to the virtue of forgiveness, the open right palm signifies our generousness to forgive the world
  • This Mudra also helps one to control mind
  • It enables one to practice meditation with complete focus
  • It enhances one’s mental state of serenity and harmony
  • This Mudra is capable of reducing anxiety and tension from an individual’s mind when it is practiced regularly

 

And so as we approach Christmas, we end with these beautiful words of forgiveness from the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

 


Noble Qualities – Being Disciplined; Accompanied by Patience and Perseverance

PNS and Pattabhi Jois Photo

 

~:~ practice, practice, and all is coming ~:~ so often softly spoken by our beloved Guruji Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915 – 2009)

 

 

Chaturanga Dandasana

Chaturanga Dandasana (or Chaturanga for short) – the four limbed staff pose – embodies in physical form the noble quality of Discipline. It is a challenging pose that requires the co-ordination of many muscles and direct focus to do it correctly.

Therefore, during the Asana practice, there is a strikingly unusual tendency to rush through it leading to the creation of for example the half chaturanga- half up-dog posture; the mat belly flop; etc. Not doing Chaturanga correctly can lead the head of the shoulder rounding forward and stress in the shoulder joint; strain in the lower back; etc.

Hence, it is very important to follow the right technique to get into Chaturanga.

blog36-1Start from plank:

  • Hands under elbows
  • Elbows under shoulders
  • Abdominals and low ribs pulled in; core engaged
  • Thighs pushing up
  • Heels pushing back
  • Neck long
  • Hug all your muscles into the midline of the body
  • Roll way forward on your toes – even more than you think you should. (This ensures you will lower down with your arms in a 90° angle.)
  • Now begin to lower down until your arms form a 90° angle and stop just at that point. Your hands will be near your lower ribs (not under the shoulders). Do not go any lower.
  • Use a block to help you become aware of how low to go

Do this while keeping the following in mind:

  • Keep your core engaged just as in plank—abdominals and ribs really pulled in
  • Hug your elbows into the sides of your body
  • Keep the tops of your shoulders pulled back away from your ears and pointing straight forward, not drooping forwards and down.
  • Keep the chest broad and open up the collar bones to make a big smile

Indeed it does take regular and consistent practice to perfect the Chaturanga but once the technique is set in the memory of the cells, it stays with you.

Life

So it is with life experiences.

In this era of having everything available on tap, it may seem old-fashioned to wait for success, reward, dreams to be fulfilled. And it may sound even more ludicrous that you would have to go through difficulties, challenges and pain to get it. And yet this remains the case. So learning from our Chaturanga experience, by persevering patiently in a disciplined fashion, this should also lead us to achieving our objectives in life.

 

As John Quincy Adams – the sixth President of the USA is attributed to have said – “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”