Yoga can help to close (yes close) your heart after grief.

Grief is the heart-breaking feeling people experience after they’ve suffered a loss. This loss may be from an illness or death, somebody leaving home or moving away, someone changing, physically, emotionally or mentally, and is no longer what or how we expect they should be. It could perhaps also be due to a change of residency, getting married, or becoming pregnant. Regardless, we grieve the significant changes that take place, as we come to realise life as we knew it, will never be the same again. Even if we have a tremendous gain as a result of the change, such as moving to a beautiful new home, we can still grieve the loss of the comforts of the old – the friendly neighbour, the favourite cafe nearby, the customs we had in the home. We somewhat expect grief to arise around death, but it also shows up ‘unexpectedly’ in other areas of life.

While everyone experiences grief and loss differently, yoga can help with the process of moving on and healing for all. The combination of both the heart opening backbends and the nurturing forward bends work together to heal and mend your broken heart. The backward bends help to stretch and ‘crack open’ your chest – allowing suppressed emotions to flood out, flow freely and pass naturally. This can be confronting and challenging – even emotionally painful – but the breath-work that comes with your asana practice helps support you through this process, and return you to a place of calm. It’s very important to allow these feelings to flow freely, rather than trapping them inside. The longer you hold onto them, the deeper they will ingrain. The more you let them free, the quicker the healing process will be, and the lighter you’ll feel.

Taking a longer savasana after a backward bend will be extra nurturing for you, as will the forward bend that usually follows. Forward bends give your heart the added comfort, love, and support it needs as it rebuilds and restrengthens itself – as it starts to put the pieces back together. Forward bends are like giving yourself a giant hug. It’s not surprising in Bikram yoga, the deepest backward bend of the series (Camel / Ustrasana) is followed by the deepest forward bend (Rabbit / Sasangasana).

The asanas, breath-work, and stillness that comes with your yoga practice all work synergistically to support you through your grieving process. It’s a safe, wholesome space for you to feel your emotions, set them free, and gently put the pieces back together.

If you don’t feel up to a dynamic practice, we also offer a slower style, Yin Yoga. Yin also offers forward and backward bends, and gives extra time within the asanas for you to release stored or trapped energy.

We hope to be of service and support to you always- but especially through difficult periods of life, such as when you’re grieving a loss or experiencing significant change in your life. If this is you right now, please prioritise your yoga and self care. It’s tremendously important.

Namaste

Create the time for meditation

While we may have heard a daily meditation practice brings with it many benefits to our overall happiness and wellbeing, there’s often resistance to committing to it. Common resistances include thinking ‘I don’t have time’, ‘It’s boring to just sit still’, or ‘I am not good at it, my mind just runs the whole time’. These last two examples are similar to expecting an untrained puppy to sit still the first time it is asked. Whereas the first, simply requires you to have an honest conversation with yourself about what your priorities are, and perhaps shift the expectation of exactly how much time you need to dedicate towards mediating.

Just like your asana, meditation is a practice, not a performance. So a good place to begin is removing any outcome you perceive you need to achieve, which may be ‘successfully meditating’. I know this is one I’ve had in the past. Benefits and blessings will come to you over time, but for now, all you need to do is sit down, try to be still, and practice the meditation technique shown to you. If you don’t have one already, don’t worry, there is one included at the end of this blog.

Initially, sitting still for a period of time can be challenging, especially because we’re so use to ‘moving’ and ‘doing’ constantly. In our modern world, it seems even sleeping is becoming something we ‘do’, rather than being really enjoyed. So to begin, simply designate a specific time window, duration, and place to practice on a regular basis. Begin with five minutes, and set a timer so looking at the clock won’t distract you. Commit to practicing meditation before you have your breakfast in the morning, in a quiet corner or room in your home. Another option is to close the door at your office, and practice your meditation at your desk. Otherwise, you may choose to commit five minutes at the end of your yoga class, when you’re in savasana. Regardless of where and when, we can all create 5 minutes of space in our day. Over time, you can gradually lengthen your practice.

For most people the normal state of the mind is a constant chatter. Don’t be put off by this; Rather, use the stillness, use the quiet, to bring awareness and observation to how much your mind chatters. With repetition of practice, you can use this awareness to soften the chatter, and delve deeper into your consciousness. The associated benefits to this such as a calm mind, eased stress, anxiousness, and depression, healthier sleeping patterns, increased creativity, improved relationships, and self-appreciation and respect, make the practice even more enticing, and even easier to commit to.

Again, just like your asana practice, meditation will bring with it a new experience each day; some will seem ‘easier’ than others. If you a miss a day, feel distracted throughout, or finish early, just start again. Have faith your mind will come to settle down and feel at ease with regular practice and eventually longer periods of sitting. Be as gentle with yourself as you would a puppy you love, and allow your mind to learn to release in the same way it has learned to hold on.

Meditation Technique:

Sit or lie comfortably, with your spine straight. Set a timer on your phone or meditation application (we recommend 1 Giant Mind, or, Insight Timer) so as not to be distracted by looking at the clock. Close your eyes and take a few slow breaths in and out of your nose to calm your body down and prepare for meditation.

Next, place extra attention on your breath. Stilling breathing by your nose, bring your inhale and exhale to the same steady length, and then continue to observe your breath. Feel your chest rise on the inhale, and then the chest fall on the exhale. Feel the coolness of the air on the inhale, and warmth of the air on the exhale. Maintain your focus and observation on your breath. If at any point, you notice your mind wandering, gently come back to the awareness of the breath. For some extra support, you may choose to silently say in your mind ‘inhale’ as you breathe in, and ‘exhale’ as you breathe out.

At the end of your practice, give a statement of gratitude. For example, ‘I am thankful for making the time to do this meditation’, ‘I am thankful for my breath’, ‘I am thankful for how relaxed I feel’, or, anything that naturally arises in to give thanks for.

Some general recommendations to support your meditation practice include, not eating or consuming caffeine/ any other stimulants just prior to meditating, finding a private and quiet space where you won’t be interrupted, and keeping a journal to track your insights and progress.

Let us know how you’re going with your meditation practice. Leave us a comment on this post, share in our facebook group, or talk to any one of us at the studio! We look forward to hearing of how meditation is supporting and enriching you in your life.

Namaste

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

While many think yoga starts and finishes on the mat, the truth is yoga extends far beyond the classroom – it expands into your entire day, throughout your lifestyle choices, and deep into your mentality, morals and spirit. The physical expression of yoga, also known as Asana in sanskrit, is what you do for 90minutes when you visit the studio to do class. You’ll also do some breathing techniques, which is another integral component of yoga, called Pranayama. However, there are indeed 6 other limbs or components which together unite to be the system or science of living and being that we call Yoga. The eight limbs are –

  • YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows
  • NIYAMA – Positive duties or observances
  • ASANA – Posture
  • PRANAYAMA – Breathing techniques
  • PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal
  • DHARANA – Focused concentration
  • DHYANA – Meditative absorption 
  • SAMADHI – Bliss or enlightenment

1 Yama: The first limb yama refers to our interaction with the external world, and specifically the disciplines or practices we use to ensure peace within ourselves and with the environment around us. There are five yamas – Ahisma (non-violence), Satya (truthfullness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (right use of energy), and Aparigraha (non-greed or non-hoarding). These yamas are unconditioned by time or place – which is to say, regardless of who we are, where we come from, or how much yoga we’ve practiced, we can still all aim to instil the yamas within us.

2 Niyama: The second limb, Niyama, are primarily our personal disciplines towards ourselves, but they still have meaning for our interactions with the outside world as well. There are five niyamas – Saucha (cleanliness), Santocha (contentment), Tapas (discipline), Svadhyaya (self study and study of spiritual texts), and Isvarapranidaha (surrender to a higher power). These disciplines are intended for us to explore ourselves beyond the layers, to discover our essence, and to (re)build our character,

3 Asana: The third limb explores the physical aspect of yoga – perhaps the one we are most familiar with. Yet, something we may not realise is that asana doesn’t refer to someone’s ability to do a handstand or an aesthetically impressive backbend; rather it means ‘seat’ in english, or more specifically, the seat you would take for the practice of meditation. You move through the sequence of postures to heal and harmonise your body from injury and illness, so as to sit steadily, comfortably and in stillness during meditation, without complaint.

4 Pranayama: The fourth limb can be broken down in two parts – Prana means breath, energy, or life force – it is the very essence the keeps us alive, as well as being the energy in the universe around us. The Chinese call it ‘Chi’ or ‘Qi’, and the Japanese, ‘Ki’. Yama refers to control and thus by breathing in a very specific way, or controlling our breath, we can improve our state of being.

5 Pratyahara: Pratyahara, the fifth limb, means to ‘withdraw’ or ‘draw back’, and ahara refers to the information we receive from our senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. It’s useful to practice withdrawal from our senses when we sit down to meditate, want to achieve deep concentration, without distraction, or really be in the present moment. This can be achieved through focus on the breath (or pranayama).

6 Dharana: The sixth limb, Dharana, refers to ‘focused concentration’. Dha means ‘holding or maintaining’, and Ana means ‘other’ or ‘something else’. It’s closely linked to the previous limbs; In order to focus on something, the senses must withdraw so that all attention is put on that point of concentration, and in order to draw our senses in, we must focus and concentrate intently. Tratak or candle gazing, visualisation, and pranayama (focusing on the breath) are all practices of Dharana.

7 Dhyana: The seventh limb is ‘meditative absorption’ – when we become completely absorbed in the focus of our meditation and free of engagement with the activity of the mind.

8 Samadhi: The eighth limb Samadhi (Sama, same or equal, and Dhi, to see) refers to ‘bliss’ or ‘enlightenment’. This doesn’t mean to float away on cloud nine in a state of happiness; Rather, to have the ability to see equally, and realise the truth or reality that lies in front of us without any disturbance from the mind or pain in the body fluctuating and governing it. There is observation rather than attachment, and this is freedom.

While our attachments, aversions, desires and habits may creep back in and pull us out of Samadhi, continually practicing the 8 limbs of yoga will help to purify our mind and body until we can maintain Samadhi in a permanent state. This is when we attain Moksha, also known as Mukti, meaning a permanent state of being liberated, released and free. 

Do you practice the eight limbs of yoga already? What benefits and changes have you noticed in your own life since following these yogic principles? Please leave us a comment and let us know, we’d love to hear!

Contact Bikram Yoga North Brisbane

Questions? Get in touch with us by filling out the form below. We'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial