How to Find Lasting Peace

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Yoga is a path to self-discovery, the ancient wisdom of sages including Patanjali are as relevant today as thousands of years ago.

Y – YOU – the only person who you can change is yourself – you are responsible only for your reaction.

O – OBSERVE – your thoughts, actions, and reactions – are there patterns you have outgrown or are not serving you? Are you ready for change?

G – GRATITUDE – spend time focusing on all you are grateful for, the more you do this the more you will find and the more positive and calm you will feel.

A – ACCEPTANCE – allow whatever is happening to be okay and remember that change is the only certainty. Much angst and energy is spent on things over which we have not control.

Is it time for you to take the next step? Please email me if you would like support or guidance.

My Yoga Journey

I discovered yoga in my 20’s and have been reaping the benefits ever since.

I trained with the Yoga for Health Foundation in Group Classes and Remedial Yoga and followed this with Viniyoga teacher training in group classes and yoga therapy.  My training included in depth study of yoga texts, psychology and philosophy of yoga.  I hold a British Wheel of Yoga accredited certificate and have trained extensively with cutting edge yoga teachers in the UK and at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, India.

My specialty is working with the health and well being of the whole person.  I use ancient techniques of hatha yoga to focus on strengthening the spine and work on the bodies energy systems to restore balance and harmony.

I firmly believe in the power of yoga to transform at all levels.  It has a tremendous amount of wisdom to offer whether we are mainly interested in the physical aspect or using yoga as a spiritual journey.

Yoga and Spirituality

TKV Desikachar was in Narbonne, in the South of France, for a symposium on “Yoga and the XXIst Century” during May 1999. The purpose of the symposium was to consider the role of yoga for the coming century in the three fields of Health, Psychology and Spirituality.

Question: How do you define spirituality from the point of view of yoga? Desikachar: What are we seeking ? Within every intelligent human being there are deep, searching questions – “Who am I? Where do I come from? Why do I sometimes feel so well, and not at other times? Where is the origin of my habits? What is it that will give me permanent happiness?”

Many people are looking for perfection in life situations – to have an ideal wife or an ideal husband and so on. Searching for happiness in external circumstances often leads to disappointment. We all know that wealth will not give us happiness, and we will not find it either in external freedom – doing what we want.

When we come to yoga, we begin to discover how the mind functions, and find that there is a lot of “junk” in it, which we try to remove.

Slowly the mind becomes more and more like a mirror that tells us : “Look here, there is something that I can show you”. This something was already there, but is now revealed to us. There is “something” in us which is beyond the mind – I do not know what we can call it.

When we begin to feel this, it is spirituality. The role of yoga in spirituality is to give us awareness of this feeling.

Question: Do you think that yoga can help a person in his or her religious practices? Desikachar: The moment there is a search, an enquiry, we need some help and start looking for it. Then what happens?

We all have roots – we did not appear spontaneously! We came from our parents, and they came from their parents. We are a part of a society, with a culture. We begin to look at our past, discover aspects we may have ignored, and some of these are religious. One discovery leads naturally to another…

I strongly believe that a serious aspirant of life, who goes into yoga, will find his or her roots, and these roots are often linked to religion.

Question: Some religious groups see yoga as being incompatible with their beliefs. Do you think this is simply a question of mis-information? Desikachar: Absolutely. We have to communicate more with them. This was lacking in the past, but things have improved. Many years ago, people thought that doing yoga would make a person crazy!

Earlier, it was also thought that yoga was anti-social, that it isolated people from society. It was perhaps considered potentially dangerous because it came from a different culture. Today, I don’t think this opinion is widespread.

All my friends live normally – they have children, a husband or wife and have responsibilities within the society. They work, have fun, watch football matches…

We, in the field of yoga, have a duty to explain better the true nature of what we are doing and how we live.

On the other side, unfortunately, some religious groups are very rigid. There is also some anxiety in certain religious circles – they feel they are losing their numbers and give mis-information to try to avoid this. Perhaps there is also some ignorance – but this method will not succeed.

There is also a little fanatism in certain religious groups. They provoke basic instincts, unfair to religion as a whole, so that their followers look at everything else negatively. Unfortunately, there can be an element of cult in religion.

So, on our side, we have not given the right information ; on their side, there can be some nervousness.

Question: It would seem that the relationship between the teacher and the student, in the traditional Indian context, is the important factor in change for the student – health-wise, psychologically or spiritually. In the western context, for the coming century, do you see this aspect as feasible or should we be looking to emphasize other aspects? Desikachar: It is not only going to be feasible, it is going to be more and more dominant. We are losing touch with relationship. We have no husband, no wife, no father, no mother, no religion… At the same time we cannot live alone.

A human being likes to be with others. I have heard that there are some “psychological clubs” in France where people meet and share over a cup of coffee, because they have nowhere else to meet and talk. We are becoming lonely, because we wanted a certain freedom, and this is the price we have paid.

Relationships are going to be very important. This means that a teacher has to be very careful, because the moment a student likes a teacher, there is a risk that the teacher will be considered as their husband or wife, or father, or guru, or whatever.

Without a doubt there will be an increasing demand for relationships. Depending on how we handle it this will be for good or for bad… Today, technology has created a big wall between human beings. No need to go to the bank to get money, nor to a travel agent to buy a ticket. Everything is done through technology. We are always focusing on machines.

I observe this when I walk in the streets of any big city in the west – people are not looking at each other, they are looking at machines or talking on their telephones. Even when I go to the counter, the lady is not looking at me, she is looking at the computer!

Technology is great, but it can separate human beings. Therefore, we will certainly be looking for relationships in the future.

Question: And where does yoga fit in? Desikachar: Yoga is relationship. The word yoga means to relate.

TKV Desikachar was in Narbonne, in the South of France, for a symposium on “Yoga and the XXIst Century” during May 1999. The purpose of the symposium was to consider the role of yoga for the coming century in the three fields of Health, Psychology and Spirituality.

With thanks to Paul Harvey – see also Relevance of Traditional Teaching, Yoga & Psycology

Download PDF of Interview with TKV Desikachar on Yoga in 
the
 
fields 
of 
Health,
 Psychology 
and
 Spirituality.

Yoga and Health

Yoga and the 21st Century – Interview with TKV Desikachar May 1999

Question: How far do you think that yoga can contribute to maintaining good health in the coming century? Desikachar: It is now known that health is not just the absence of diseases coming from infections, etc. There are many illnesses for which medicine has no answer or knowledge of their origins.

People are also turning to other health systems which give them hope. Anything that can offer some solace is now being tried – there is aromatic therapy, hypnosis, magnetic therapy, etc.

In yoga we have this fundamental idea – anything that disturbs a person, including illness and disease, can be helped if we can act on the mind. What is so special about yoga is that it gives us a way to strengthen our mind. When the mind gets stronger, we can face illness and we feel healthier.

It has already been proved that yoga can help. Yoga is not medicine – it is concerned with the quality of life, attitudes to life, personal disciplines, and various other things which any system of medicine can accept. It will certainly have a role to play in every system of health care for times to come.

Question: In this field do you see the most important contribution from yoga being on a preventive or a curative level in the coming century? Desikachar: I think the most important contribution yoga can make in the field of health is the courage it can give to face illness, the strength we can find to cope with our ailments. The moment we have this strength, we have already been cured in a way.

That, I think, is a very significant contribution. This is at least what we see with the many different people who come to our yoga institution in India. Some of them have not received education, others are very cultivated, but whoever they are, when faced with illness, they generally feel discouraged.

After some time they have the courage to smile again, to take a walk, to climb some steps – which can be a big improvement…  This happens because yoga identifies a power within them, a power which they didn’t think they had. It is not medicine, but it works.

Question: Are dietary restrictions a part of yoga? Desikachar: When we start yoga, we begin to look at ourselves. We notice what creates problems and what relieves these problems. Food can do both. If we notice that good food makes us feel better, we will start taking more care about our diet.

People who begin yoga practice start thinking about many things which they hadn’t considered before. Some even reflect on what colour the carpet on which they do their practice should be!

Obviously what we eat is an important consideration, but it is not something that we as yoga teachers insist on.  Each person takes care of his or her own diet. As time goes by yoga makes us more aware of what we are doing and what we should be doing.

Question: Modern medicine has done wonders to improve many ailments, but the contemporary disease which we call stress seems to be difficult to handle for the medical world. Why is yoga practice effective for this field? Do you think it will remain so in the future? Desikachar: Our future life will be stressfull – there is no doubt about that. With all the comforts and conveniences we have, and all the opportunities which modern life gives us, we have more and more ambitions – this can only increase the stress level.

The question is how to cope with it? No outside force can do this for us – we have to look after it from within ourselves, using our own resources.

Yoga cannot prevent stress, but as I said earlier, yoga gives us access to our ressources, which are linked to the mind. In strengthening the mind, yoga enables us to develop a sort of cushion, an increased ability to withstand stress. This is the best way to cope with it. It’s like having a good shock absorber when driving a car on a bumpy road.

Through an understanding of what is at stake, linked to the practice of yoga, the force of our mental ressources are developed and we can handle stress better.

TKV Desikachar was in Narbonne, in the South of France, for a symposium on “Yoga and the XXIst Century” during May 1999. The purpose of the symposium was to consider the role of yoga for the coming century in the three fields of Health, Psychology and Spirituality.

With thanks to Paul Harvey – see also Relevance of Traditional Teaching, Yoga & Psycology

The relevance of Traditional Teaching

Yoga and the 21st Century – Interview with TKV Desikachar May 1999

Question: Do you think that the teaching you received from your father is still relevant today, particularly in the West? Desikachar: It looks like it because, wherever I speak, more and more people come, and from all sorts of different backgrounds. It is relevant, and it is going to be.

Question: You studied the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali many times with your father. Could you say a few words about this text, and since it is about 2,000 years old, do you think its message is still valid today and for the future? Desikachar: This text is very old, and it deals with the mind. Anything we do, or intend to do, involves this instrument, and all pains and pleasures are rooted here.

Patañjali was very prophetic, because he spoke not only of yesterday’s mind, but also of tomorrow’s. His message concerns clarity, and it will become more and more pertinent as time goes by, because people are now questioning much more than before.

Earlier there was belief, and so people did not have to question, or even to think. Now, we all want to have more responsibility in what happens to us. Therefore, we need to have a clearer mind, and this is why the yoga sûtra is still valid and will remain so.

I believe that, unless a new religious order comes to the world in which case belief will take over, this text will have a wider and wider impact in times to come.

TKV Desikachar was in Narbonne, in the South of France, for a symposium on “Yoga and the XXIst Century” during May 1999. The purpose of the symposium was to consider the role of yoga for the coming century in the three fields of Health, Psychology and Spirituality.

With thanks to Paul Harvey – see also Yoga & Health, Yoga & Psycology

Yoga & the spine

The emphasis of our yoga asana practice is to keep the spine healthy.  It is of vital importance to our health and well being on a structural and energetic level as well as playing a vital role in the function of the nervous system.

The 33 vertebrae support the head and allow the body to be upright and move as well as protecting the spinal cord, which delivers messages between your brain and the rest of your body.  The S-shape of the spine prevents shock to the head when walking or running

The Anatomy of the Spine

Image of spine

  • 7 cervical vertebrae support the head and neck and allow the head to nod and shake
  • 12 thoracic vertebrae attach to the ribs
  • 5 lumbar vertebrae support most of the weight of the upper body
  • 5 fused vertebrae sacrum make up the back wall of the pelvis
  • 4 fused vertebrae coccyx/ tail

Shock absorbers

Between the vertebrae are pads of tough, fibrous cartilage which cushion and absorb shock. If they become damaged/prolapsed they may put pressure on spinal cord resulting in pain

Flexibility

The spine is supported and stabilised by strong ligaments and muscles around the vertebrae.  The facet joints of the vertebrae give flexibility to the spine allowing backward and forward bending as well as twisting.

Yoga asana/postures use the deep supporting spinal muscles as well as the larger superficial ones to release tension and bringing about optimal alignment and a balance between strength and flexibility, encouraging full use of the diaphragm when breathing

Energy

The spine is linked to the flow of prana/life force energy; the major chakras through which it passes are situated along the spine.  The way the spine is worked affects each of the different types of prana, it can help energise or calm, support digestion/elimination.

Many students report that their back pain has gone or is greatly reduced.

I was really pleased how much better my lower back felt after our session. Jane

I have osteoporosis and suffered from pain in my neck and joints. Since joining Suzan’s yoga class I have become stronger and have a greater range of movement.  I have been able to go hill walking again.  My latest scan showed that my bone density had increased 3% in the spine and 10% in the hips.  I am delighted to have gained so much, usually the best aim is to maintain density and avoid any further reduction Ann

The morning after my first yoga class I got out of bed and for the first time in 3 years had no back pain! JL

I used to suffer regularly with lower back pain, but this is now a rare occurrence.

Suzan’s yoga has worked wonders on my back! I can thoroughly recommend it. Nicola, Aylesbury

My back has been a million times better since I started your class

I look forward to my weekly class with Suzan as she offers a relaxing and non-competitive atmosphere in which to practise yoga.  Her focus on the back, neck and shoulders has helped to free up my upper back and has made me more aware of my posture on a day to day basis. MW

I had a discectomy 6 months ago and was quite concerned about how long my rehabilitation would take. The beauty of Suzan’s yoga classes are that she was able to give slightly easier versions of the exercises in the first few weeks to make sure I didn’t place any undue stress on my recovering back. Now that I am 6 months into my yoga classes, my core strength has increased considerably and I am now able to undertake the more challenging variations of the exercises, whilst always being reminded to listen to my body and make adjustments where necessary if there is too much of a strain. I am a real convert to yoga and would recommend it to anyone. I only wish I had taken it up before I began suffering with a serious back problem! Mark.

Stress and anxiety

What is stress?

Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. In emergency situations, stress can give you extra strength to avoid accident or injury. In manageable amounts stress helps you stay focused and energetic, however, too much or chronic stress may cause problems to your health, relationships, and quality of life.

Effect of stress

affects of stress on the body

Effects of stress and anxiety on the body

Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system which triggers the “fight-or-flight” response. The Mayo clinic describes the effect of stress below

“When you encounter perceived threats — a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance — your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.

Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.”

When the threat is over the parasympathetic nervous system becomes active and the body comes back to homeostasis balance (rest and digest).

Excessive/chronic stress
Just as when you have a nightmare the body reacts as if the event was happening, the body doesn’t distinguish between physical and psychological threats. When you are under permanent stress, the fight or flight response which is designed for short term emergencies is constantly in operation and the symptoms of stress become an accepted part of your life. This can cause many health problems including disrupted sleep, raised blood pressure, obesity, suppressed immune system, and increased risk of heart attack, stroke, anxiety and depression.

Causes of stress
Any thought or event that puts a lot of demands on you whether it is positive or negative may cause stress and each of us responds to these events differently. Stressors may include: –

Major life changes
Work
Relationship issues
Financial problems
Being too busy
Family

Reducing stress

Identify what is stressful to you
Become aware of your response
Change or avoid situation if possible
If you can’t change the situation you can change your response
Let go, when you are away from the stressful situation focus on positive, relaxing things
Practice yoga, tai chi, relaxation, breathing, meditation

For further information please contact Suzan

Ways to reduce stress

 

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