Sunday, 12 March 2017

April Yoga Workshops


Looking forward to travelling to Colombo, Sri Lanka for a holiday and to run these yoga workshops in April.  We will be outdoors but under cover at Sooriya Village.

We will get a chance to explore movement and poses and work towards improving your practice or maybe starting one.  I particularly want you to learn about spinal movement, about active movement, and pain-free movement.

Please contact either myself or Tilak for more details.

samanthawhybrow@hotmail.com
tilak@antsglobal.lk

If you know you want to book just contact Tilak but if you have any questions about what we will do, whether it is suitable for you, any concerns about injuries etc that you might have then feel free to contact me.  Oh, Tilak is the guy in the photo in the batman t-shirt raising his leg quite impressively in a standing balance!


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Savouring Sidebends



I love sidebends.  While out and about today I found some nice spots to practice a few.

These sidebends are spinal sidebends.  My spine curves to the side.

Key to this type of side bending is that I make an effort to lengthen one side without squashing the other side.  You can sort of just droop yourself and look like you are side bending but that just makes you feel squishy and sometimes squashy.

When I teach side bending I often say imagine the arc of water coming from a firefighter's hose as it tries to go up to a high window on a tall building.  It does not mean you have to be upright but rather you get an internal feeling that you are reaching up and over rather than just leaning out to the side.  As always, lift rather than sink.

The video below shows some standing sidebends, including some balancing variations.


These sidebends should feel active.  There are a few key elements to each of them that I will mention here.

  • In general I am pushing my front of groins forwards.
  • In particular I am pushing the front groin forward and up on the side that I sidebend to
  • I press the same side armpit down to that same front groin
  • On the lengthening side I am reaching up and over
  • On the lengthening side I am pushing my armpit forward and up and over as though I am bringing my armpit towards my face/nose
  • Once I have my sidebend I turn my navel, ribs, and chest towards the lengthening side
  • Then I do a little backbend through my whole spine  

If you do not know what these things mean or feel like it is best to come to class.

In the first standing variation I start with a sidebend and balance on tip toe.  Then I deepen it by transferring the weight to that ball of foot (rather than being on tip toe).

In this posture I keep leaning more weight onto the ball of foot.

I am not leaning or sinking down into the leg with the lower arm.  Rather, I am actively pushing that armpit down.The arm remains straight and I do not dump the weight into it.  While it is on the knee I am using it to press and help me lift more.

In this posture I am side bending, then I do a twist, then I do a little backbend.  You can find your own comfortable position for your neck.

Do keep pressing front of groins forward in this posture so you do not end up with your butt hanging behind you.


In the second variation I take this to a more challenging balance with the leg raised.

I hug that knee to the chest and then go for a sidebend there.


In the third variation I straighten the bent knee and take my top hand over to the foot if possible.

I make sure to maintain sidebend, twist, and then a little backbend.

This third variation is obviously quite tricky.

Catching the foot means you need to be long in the legs and long in the side body and be able to maintain a turn.

Sometimes people try to grab the foot without regard to the rest of the posture and so they lose the twist and some of the sidebend.

This is because when you lean your body forward and turn your torso towards the ground it makes it 'easier' to get the foot.  Alas, you will have left half of the posture behind!

So, bear in mind the point of this position is to sidebend and turn. It is not to get the foot.  Do not sacrifice the posture for the foot.

In the video you can sort of see that my foot and hand come to meet one another without me losing the positions I had established beforehand.

The first two of these balance variations somewhat resemble parsvakonasana.  They are, indeed, a sort of balance version of that posture.

Parsvakonasana is a pose where you can sidebend, then twist, then do a little backbend.  It feels delicious.

Whether or not you reach the ground is irrelevant.  Most people will not be able to do that and it is ok.  If you make sure you maintain the key actions you should find that you are doing a lot of work in this posture without ever needing to reach for the ground.

I found this lovely arch to do parsvakonasana beneath.  It inspired me because the arch shape reminded me of the arch of my sidebend.

I found out that this gate was a gift to Canberra by the Hungarian government made by a Hungarian artist.  It is quite beautiful.



Happy and safe practicing.  Look forward to seeing you outdoors soon!

Much metta,
Samantha

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Hornstand Variations




We had a mini-workshop on the weekend (unplanned) where our class ended up playing around with hornstand and ways to help ourselves in this posture.

Hornstand is a forearm balance--that means the head is not on the ground.  The head is as far away from the ground as you can manage.  If your head starts to unintentionally dip towards the ground while you are in this posture then come out.

You should feel light and lifting in this posture and all of its variations.  If you feel heavy and sinking then these practices are not for you just yet.

In the video below I have put some ways to practice hornstand with increasing difficulty.  I have skipped the more basic practices and this post assumes you can get yourself into a downward dog on forearms position while feeling freedom around the neck and shoulder area.  If you cannot then don't practice any of these variations.


Variation one is against the wall with your tummy facing the wall.  I get myself into a small little ball and then 'emerge' into forearm down-dog from this little ball.  I am not concerned with straightening my legs but more trying to let my spine unroll and feel as light as possible.  In class I sometimes say it is as though a crane has got your hips and is just lifting them straight up.

In this wall variation I am on tip toes.  The soles of my feet are against the wall.  Being able to be on the tip toes is important for the upcoming variations.


If it feels comfortable (and no sinking head) I can take one foot up, then the other.  My legs are not straight.  I am not trying to make an 'l' shape.  If possible I take one leg up and reach up through the ball of foot and hang out there.  This is actually 'easier' than having both feet on the wall.  It is a great way to start to feel your balance and lightness.  Don't try to take two feet off.  If you come crashing down it will be into the wall and will really hurt.

Variation two relies on you being able to kick up to a wall.  That is a technique in itself (not described here).  If you can get to the wall then I practice trying to find my balance point by keeping one tip toe on the wall as lightly as possible.  Then, slowly remove the other leg and bring it more over your shoulders.  You will need to find the place where you feel like it is helping you lift and reach and balance.

Keeping the toe tip lightly on the wall you hang around there and start to pay around with putting weight through the horn and making slight weight shift variations until that toe tip starts to 'float' off the wall.  When you are in the right balance the toe will just come away from the wall so don't try to take it off.

Variation three is the full hornstand away from the wall. Look how far my kicking leg has to come behind me initially.  I spend some time in a sort of 'splits' with the legs and slowly bring the front leg up as I bring the back leg forward to bring them together.


Don't practice this without a teacher.  This post is mainly intended for regular class attendees who can get individual attention and adjustments so we can discuss whether this is appropriate for you.

Happy new year.  Happy and safe practicing.

www.yogacafecanberra.blogspot.com
Canberra Outdoor Yoga

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Trikonasana 3 Ways



It has been a long time between postings.  We have still been out there practicing our yoga together and here is something we are thinking about in our current sequence.

The video below shows our practice of trikonasana in three variations.


Fundamentally the major actions are the same in all three variations.  It is just that as I progress to 'closer to the ground' options I make sure I bring my back leg pelvis around.

Bringing the back leg pelvis around means I am progressively bringing the pelvis more towards the front leg.
Hand on back leg pelvis to show I have turned it more

If you practice this way you will feel how bringing your pelvis around helps to 'free up' the front hip joint and you can move your torso more freely.

In each of the variations I am doing many key things, ones I will mention here are:

  • I start this one from gadjastan (elephant stance).  This puts my hips in external rotation (they are rolling out).
  • I turn the 'front leg' foot out some more to match the rolling out of the front thigh.
  • I turn the whole back thigh in, allowing my pelvis to come with me as it needs so that I don't feel strain on my inner thighs and so my front thigh is not struggling to roll out.
  • I 'stretch the ground' with my feet.
  • I lift up and out over my front leg with my torso in a way that my spine is not drooping to the floor and my side waists stay long.
  • I let me bottom hand go down wherever it goes to without drooping the spine to the floor.
  • I keep my pelvis where it is and turn my navel, ribs, and chest towards the sky.
  • I reach up with my top hand if that feels comfortable.
  • I put my head and neck in a comfortable position.
  • I do a gentle backbend along my spine.

As I progress from one posture to the next my legs stay in place but I start to allow my pelvis to turn even more, which allows me to place my bottom hand further down my leg as it pleases.  





Hand on sternum to show I am thinking about lengthening the spine

In the final variation I do a 'wrap'.  Most people will not be able to do this wrap.  Often they will try to take their bottom hand underneath the front leg by bringing their whole spine forward and so end up losing the alignment of the spine in this position.  If you watch the video you can see that when I wrap and bind I do not go into a forward bend of the spine.  In the video I touch my sternum so you can see that I am emphasising lengthening rather than shortening of the front of the body.  

Happy and safe practicing.   It is better to practice with a teacher present.  


Merry christmas and a happy new year to all!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Yoga Retreat 29 Sept-2 Oct 2016


Join me for my 4-day yoga retreat in Sri Lanka this Sept 29th - Oct 2nd 2016!
This retreat is for people who want to explore movement and yoga with fun and friends. 
I will be teaching ways to use your internal power and energy to move gracefully and with ease, to move away from pain and towards free movement.
You will learn the importance of using active movements and how the key to better stability, mobility, and freedom is to learn how to firm parts that need to be firm and, significantly, relax what needs to be relaxed.  
In this retreat I hope to help you move closer to understanding and experiencing how this movement of energy will help every cell in your body to sing!
I have a lot of experience working with people with various injuries and I encourage you to contact me beforehand if you do have some sort of condition so that we can figure out if the retreat is appropriate for you at this time and how I might be able to help you.  
Because I am interested in you learning how to be your own best teacher, I will be offering sessions between the classes for questions and answers and for us to think deeply about particular issues or postures, so come along with some of your own ideas and questions and I can help make the retreat more personal for you. 
Check-in Thursday 29th Sept 1 pm- Depart Sunday 2nd Oct after breakfast by Noon
Venue: TalallaRetreat  http://www.talallaretreat.com/
Classes: Six 2 hour classes. First yoga class starts on Thursday afternoon at 4.30pm.  From then we will have 2 classes on Friday, 2 on Saturday, and 1 on Sunday.  
Aside from the usual yoga there is the opportunity to relax by the pool or at the beach, surf, get a massage, or just hang out.
Because there are limited rooms I am encouraging people to please consider sharing so that as many people can participate as possible.    Rooms need to be confirmed with full payment received by 29th August 2016.

The rate includes:
   All yoga classes
   Full board (tea/fruit before yoga; buffet style breakfast served at table; a la carte lunch (there is a menu to choose an item from), buffet style dinner)
   Accommodation
You need to pay for any extra drinks or snacks you might have if the mega breakfast and dinner and light lunch still leaves you hungry!  
Normal timetable is as follows
6.30am                     tea/fruit (if desired)
7.00-9.00am         yoga
9.00                     breakfast
RELAX                  (have massage, swim, surf, read, have lunch around 1 or 2ish depending on how full you are after brekkie)
4.30-6.30pm         yoga
7pm                     dinner
The prices quoted below are based on 3 nights per person.   You need to find a person to share with if you opt for double or triple and Tilak can put you in touch with other people who may also want to share.  
Payment
Full payment is required by 29th  August.  You can make your booking directly with Tilak (tilak@antsglobal.lk +94-773-912-100) and pay Tilak directly or he can provide a Sri Lankan or Australian bank account details for you to transfer to if that is easier.


Retreat Rates are as follows:
Sri Lankan citizens or with those with a Sri Lanka Resident visa:
Single 3 nights                   Rs. 55,000/-
Double (share) 3 nights     Rs. 43,000/- per person
Triple (share) 3 nights       Rs. 40,000/- per person
Non-Sri Lankan citizens without a Sri Lanka Resident visa
Single 3 nights                   USD 670
Double (share) 3 nights     USD 570- per person
Triple (share) 3 nights       USD 540- per person




Look forward to seeing you!

Much metta,
Samantha


Saturday, 23 July 2016

10 Minute Twisting Practice in the Olives



I had the privilege of visiting Croatia again recently, to see a dear friend from way back when I lived and worked in Bangladesh.

Her talents and generosity seem boundless and, along with her partner, they produced this lovely video for me.

This is a ten minute sequence filmed by a lake amongst the olive groves that abound in Dalmatia.  The overall effect reminds me of practicing yoga in a Renaissance painting.

My friend, Mejrema, composed the music herself and it is from an album she produced while working with people with autism as part of an art in therapy project. It fit perfectly with the mood. It also fit perfectly with me since my full-time work is with people with autism.  

I did not plan this sequence. We saw a beautiful scene.  We set up a camera.  I stood for a moment, took a few calm breaths, and practiced what came to me in the moment.

The sequence consists of some strong standing balances, but if you were practicing it you could modify it so you either kept your toe on the ground or you hugged your leg to your body, rather than straightening it as I do.

There are also some standing twists and side bends.  Again, you could modify these to your capacity.

When I reviewed the footage I loved how my knobbly arms and legs seemed to blend with the branches of the olives.

The olive is sacred to the people of this area.  I love how their silvery leaves sparkle in the breeze.

I smile when I see this video.  I hope you will too.



Happy and safe practicing!

Much metta,
Samantha

www.yogacafecanberra.blogspot.com
www.yogacafelk.blogspot.com

Saturday, 30 April 2016

No warm up backbends




In this video, one of my great teachers (Paddy McGrath, Dancing Spine Yoga) got a small group together so we could give a taste of what you might experience with her (for more of her genius go to www.dancingspineyoga.com).

We all met at the beach at 7 am.  For some of us (me in particular) that meant waking up a bit beforehand and heading down.

We spent a few minutes trying to find a place to rest my computer so we could take the video--a handy park bench did the trick--then lay ourselves down on the ground (very bumpy as it turned out with the beautiful tree above us having shed a bucket load of marble sized seeds!).

And this is what we did.


We did a few more things like that, backbends different ways, some backdrops, a few squats, a standing balance.  Then we closed up shop and went for a coffee/juice/tea down the road.

The point is we woke up and a few minutes later we met casually on the beach and did our flicking backbends then left.  We did not spend hours or even minutes 'warming up' or 'cooling down'.

We did do a few 'rolling wall squats' (a type of moving from standing, squatting, standing where you try to keep your weight forward the whole time and prevent your butt sticking up and shifting back while pretending to slide your nose up and down an imaginary wall right in front of you).

Then it was "lights, camera, action" on our wiggling spines.

We all practiced our own variation of backbending.  We all have different spines so that is normal. We are not going to look the same.  But hopefully we all felt the same inside.  That is, with a delicious free and moving spine.

These back bends were as normal as walking.  Just another movement/action in our day.

Hopefully you do not need to warm up to go for a walk or take a swim in the ocean.

And so we practice with our back bends.  As though they are just a normal movement and part of our day.

My backbend at 7am after waking is not the same shape as one a bit later.  Indeed, none of my backbends are ever the same. But if I work mindfully then I can still feel lightness and ease of spine no matter when I practice.

We did not do warm-downs, counter-poses or anything to finish.  We did do a short standing balance pose to 'give back' to our spines, which looked liked this.


And our spines felt delicious.

If your backbends in the middle of the day routinely feel squashed or jammed then you won't be able to do the same thing first thing in the morning and get a different result.  You might need to adjust your technique.

Paddy gave us lots of different ways to free our spines, with specific feedback that was unique to our level of practice, our level of 'mental preparedness', and our level of movement.  That is what makes practicing with her so special.

When you practice in a way that is not striving for a particular outcome, without over-stretching or tensing too much then you find a beautiful space to work in.

Thanks to you, Paddy, for helping us find that space, for freeing our spines, and supporting our realisation that dropping down first thing in the morning to wiggle freely into a backbend can be entirely normal.

To practice with Paddy go to www.dancingspineyoga.com

If you can't make it then you can meet us here in Canberra out by the lake doing our own bit of wriggling.

And finally, I am not suggesting you all wake up and do backbends--especially if you have not learned to do them without squishing.  But perhaps be open to the possibility that it is possible and that there might be some teachers out there who can show you how!

Happy and safe dancing spines!
Much metta,
xosamantha

www.yogacafecanberra.blogspot.com
www.yogacafelk.blogspot.com