Patanjali’s Niyama: help us build our character.

Where the Yamas tend to be moral disciplines, the Niyamas are more personal observances. Yamas might be considered restraints, Niyamas are postive personal duties or habits to construct.

Have you ever thought of living your life with purity? Patanjali’s first Niyama, ‘Saucha’ translates to “cleanliness” or
“purity.”

Physical cleanliness is a great start, cleaning your body, textiles and home regularly. We must also look
after our internal cleanliness, thoughts and fresh food, and keeping our environment clean.

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Are you grateful for the ife & things that you currently have? Our second Niyama, ‘Santosha’ often translates as
“contentment” or “satisfaction.”

Dreaming and aiming high is fabulous, but whilst reaching your goals be kind to yourself and celebrate
your small wins, be grateful for what you are and have IN THIS MOMENT. Exhale and delight in how far
you’ve come. Smile.

How committed are you? The third Niyama is ‘Tapas’ which means “austerity,” or “discipline or releasing through fire.”

Attending Yoga class is a great example, how committed are you to your well-being? Are you easily
distracted from your goals or your practise?

Do you know yourself very well? The fourth Niyama might help you, it is ‘Svadhyaya’ which translates to “self-study” or “self-reflection.” You might be working through Sarah’s book/course The Real Me as part of your Svadhyaya. Grab your copy using the link in the comments.

Nobody knows you better than yourself, but how much is actually You and how much is teaching, coaching and others’ expectations? Dive deep and self-reflect today and again tomorrow. Challenge your capacity and explore limits. You are already complete, life is a journey to re-discover this wholeness.

Are you will to surrender yourself to a higher power, your higher Self, or Universal consciousness? Our final Niyama, is
‘Ishvara Pranidhana’ meaning Surrender to the Divine.

Acknowledging a loving force greater than oneself governing the Universe and trusting in it’s wisdom and guidance is a real Challenge. Especially for those of us who like to Control!

This practice is not limited to any specific religious belief but is rather a universal principle that can be
applied by anyone, regardless of their faith or spiritual background. In which areas of your life can you
explore surrender?

Patanjali’s Yamas: ways of living with Grace

The Yamas are the first limb of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and often considered the foundation of Yoga practise. And living an authentic life. The 5 Yamas serve as guiding principles for ethical conduct and self-discipline, providing a framework for leading a more conscious and compassionate life both on and off the Yoga mat. By incorporating these principles into their practice, Yogis aim to cultivate a deeper sense of inner peace, harmony, and connection with themselves and the world around them.
Centenary Yoga: Grace in Yoga, Grace in life
A
Ahimsa
The first Yama is ‘Ahimsa’, “Do no Harm” as in the Hippocratic Oath.How can we do no (or less) harm in our language? Our actions? Our thoughts about ourselves?
Softening our environmental footprint? Not forcing our bodies on our mats? Or overloading our
schedules? (yep, that can be us!)


Satya
Can we find liberation by being really authentic in all our dealings with others and ourself! The second Yama, ‘Satya’ which means “truth” or “truthfulness. Speak and be our truth with kindness and awareness.“Satya” shall make you free. Namaste!
Centenaray Yoga chair warriors


Asteya
The third Yama is ‘Asteya’ translated simply as “non-stealing”.We don’t steal stuff! So can we broaden Asteya to not taking anything which is not freely given? Others’ time? Do we ever take more than we need? Consider Asteya in your life today. Embrace a life guided by integrity.



Brahmacharya
Our fourth Yama is ‘Brahmacharya’ was
originally for monastic life, historically translated as “celibacy”. Modern meaning considers how we might be wasting energy on habits or priorities which no longer serve, and living simply, without excess. Enough is a feast!Let moderation be your guide. 
Centenary Yoga bound extended side angle pose

Aparigraha
The fifth Yama, “Aparigraha” meaning ‘non-greed’ or releasing attachment. Aparigraha implies the practice of non-attachment or non-possession. We all love beautiful things in life, yet consider what you might be without them. By adapting and adopting simple lifestyles and practicing sustainable living we may find real inner fulfillment and lighntess, beyond and beneath the clutter of things.
Centenary Yoga Yamas

Centenary Yoga Balance through standing postures

Celebrations and Salutations to to our beloved Yoga community, November is a perfect time to delve into the profound benefits of standing postures – sometimes overlooked or overdone in Yoga practice.Standing postures strengthen our physical bodies – legs, core, spine – and are protective postures. They also create a harmonious balance of breath, mind, and emotions.

We feel the wobbles, we notice when our mind wanders away from the practice, we notice when we feel grounded and the balance is simple, and we notice when nothing! will balance. And we practice acceptance. And we PRACTICE.

All standing postures require balance, not only the one-legged varieties! Try placing your right heel in front of your left toes, like you were on a tightrope. Feel the challenge to your balance. Then close your eyes.
Thanks, Di M, you taught me this years ago.
Balancing on TWO feet. It’s a thing!
What to notice when you’re balancing on two feet (any orientation, even standing in a queue!) Inquiry questions: Is most weight on balls or heels? Left or right foot? And bring back to balance with your awareness. I’m standing as I’m typing this, and way more weight is on balls and left foot! Bringing it back.

Are my knees soft? Is there a gentle natural curve in my lower back? Is my belly firm yet soft?Is my crown reaching for the sky and feet reaching to centre of the earth? Is my breathing relaxed and balanced inhale & exhales?
Some balancing standing postures to practise, 5 min each. Tadasana:

1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose): Simply Standing.

The simplicity of Tadasana is deceptive, as it forms the foundation for many standing poses. By grounding the feet and lengthening the spine, this pose promotes a sense of stability and calm. Tadasana engages the entire body, from the toes to the crown of the head, aligning the energy centers and creating a harmonious flow of vitality.
Arms can be by your sides or above your head.
Through the stillness of Mountain Pose, you practise centring yourself, creating a balance that resonates both physically and mentally. Extra challenge – close your eyes and work through the steps above.
Tree pose, traditional Balance

2. Vrikshasana (Tree Pose):

Vrikshasana embodies the essence of balance, requiring practitioners to stand on one leg while maintaining a steady gaze. This posture not only strengthens your legs, and core & spine, but also cultivates concentration and focus.As the body sways, like a tree in the woods, the mind learns to explore equilibrium, teaching us to adapt, breath and stay grounded in the face of life’s challenges. The Tree Pose brings balance physically, instilling a deep sense of emotional and mental stability. Extra challenges – change foot position, raise arms.
Reverse triangle!

3. Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose):

Last week we explored Utthita Trikonasana, extended Triangle Pose. This week, we’ll explore the revolved version (standing, balancing extended twist).This posture is a dynamic standing posture that engages the entire body. It stretches the legs, opens the chest, and extends the spine, relieving back pain as we twist. Legs are straight and you’ll need to take a smaller gap between your feet. Use blocks for support and keep moving your shoulders to right angles to your hips.

Extra challenges – stretch the mat with your feet then contract and feel the difference, strength and balance. Your revolved triangle encourages a delicate dance between strength and flexibility, exploring balance physically, mentally and emotionally. As the body twists and reaches in opposite directions, you may experience a profound release of tension, and a calm balanced state of being.
In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, standing postures serve as anchors, allowingus to find stability amidst the chaos and wonders of daily life. Keep Standing!

Retreat! Centenary Yoga Retreats Brisbane & Gold Coast at Springbrook

The transformative power of Retreats
 Who is dreaming of a quiet, peaceful retreat in Nature with no chores, being looked after with great food, Yoga and Meditation?

I love Retreats, getting away from life’s minutiae with incredible people and experiences with the opportunities to breathe, reflect and go within for incredble transformations, particularly when we open our Beginners’ minds. And wonder….

Retreats in nature, with guidance from exceptional teachers, possess a transformative power. In the heart of the serene Mountainscape of Springbrook, away from the demands of daily life, we can become a canvas for our own self-discovery. 

The magic of the Mountain, whispering trees, the Quiet! and the soothing melody of flowing water bring a sense of Peace, and invite introspection and contemplation. And Rest.
Our Retreats allow real slowing down amid nature’s embrace allows us to reconnect with our inner voice, unlocking hidden potentials and deepening self-awareness.
In these moments of stillness, profound realizations can take root, fostering personal growth and healing.

Accompanied by the wisdom of our amazing teachers, Centenary Yoga retreats are sacred spaces, offering transformative insights and guiding transformational journeys. The combination of nature’s tranquility, reflective contemplation, and the wisdom of exceptional teachers creates a powerful alchemy, inquiring & reshaping perspectives, nurturing resilience, and illuminating the path toward self-discovery and inner peace.

2024 Springbrook Retreat Dates:
Feb 15th – 18th (Thurs – Sunday) FULLY BOOKED waitlist open
June 14th – 16th (Fri-Sun) NEW DATES, will be open for bookings next week.
Sept 18th – 22nd (Wed – Sun) Bookings open. 5 day retreat with 3 day option, $200 deposit.
https://centenaryyoga.com.au/product/5-day-retreat-offering-at-springbrook-q-sept-2024/
Bali Retreat? I’m looking into booking our first international retreat July 2024. Watch this space!

Beginners’ Mind

In our Yoga practise and in our lives, the concept of the Beginner’s Mind is a useful tool to consider. We know the tedium of listening to someone who ‘knows everything’, Yes, they can be earnest in their willingness to help, yet how joyful can it be to discover things for ourselves; the joy of wonder and the art of embracing the unknown. 
Rooted in Zen Buddhism, the Beginner’s Mind encourages us to approach life with fresh eyes, unburdened by preconceived notions (how difficult it that!) and to revel in the joy of discovery. This approach not only enriches our Yoga practice but infuses vitality into our lives.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind, there are few.” (Shunryu Suzuki)
Consider the beauty of a mind unshackled by expertise, where every pose, every breath becomes an opportunity to explore, learn, and develop in unconsidered ways. ‘And by taking this approach… you’ll start observing yourself and your life in a diffent manner, much like a primary school student with a project. You have a project. And you’re it.'( quote from my book,The Real Me).
Incorporating the Beginner’s Mind into Yoga can be as simple as embracing two fundamental asanas: Child’s Pose (Balasana) and Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
In Child’s Pose, we can reconnect with the sense of security and curiosity akin to a child exploring the world. Here, the body surrenders, and the mind & back-body opens, allowing a deep sense of wonder & release to permeate the practice. 
Performing Mountain Pose, we can stand tall and grounded, embodying the essence of a beginner ready to take a first step, ready to embark on a journey of self-discovery with a sense of awe and excitement.
The practice of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing) offers a profound way to explore the Beginner’s Mind. This breathing technique balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain, promoting mental clarity and emotional balance. Through this pranayama, allow & experience a sense of newfound wonder in the simplicity of breath, connecting deeply with the present moment. 
“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.” (Pema Chödrön) 
I love this.This wisdom reminds us that the Beginner’s Mind isn’t just about the self; it’s about extending the same curiosity and empathy to others, fostering deep and meaningful connections.In embracing the Beginner’s Mind through Yoga and life, we embark on a transformative journey where joy becomes meaning, and end, and a constant companion in each moment. 
Can we let go of what we think we know and approach every experience with wonder ?

Sarah Mills Oct 2023

Anjali Mudra for Balance

Balance Yoga Mudras – Anjali Mudra
‘I salute the divinity in you’
Mudras are a set of subtle physical movements or positions
that can change one’s mood, attitude, or perspective, and
which help increase concentration and alertness.
A mudra can be a simple hand position or it can encompass the
entire body. Mudra means “seal” or “closure” in Sanskrit. The
science of Mudras, a part of Yoga is based on the fundamental
principles of life, namely the five Elements: the five Pranas and the
three Doshas (more on Sui
We use these gestures often in meditation but also in asana and
breathing practice to direct the flow of energy within the body by
using the hands. Our fingers have more nerve endings than any
other body part. They are ‘sense-’ itive and our prana/energy
channels (nadis) are generally considered to correspond with our
physical nerves. When we place our hands in yoga mudras, we
stimulate different areas of the brain and create a specific energy
circuit in the body.
Some of you may be familiar with Anjali Mudra (palms together in
front of your chest) as prayer pose or Namaste pose. Anjali mudra
is a powerful gesture of wholeness, peace and respect.
This mudra is found in the practice of many religions and
represents devotion to a Higher Power, deep listening within,
behaving with sincerity & respect.
On a physical level, Anjali mudra unites the left and right sides
of the brain and body.
The many nerve endings/nadis in your right hand activate the left
side of the brain which is linked to analytical skills, and your left
hand stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain which is the
creative & intuitive side of your brain. ‘When you touch your hands
together both sides of the brain are stimulated simultaneously,
which is said to integrate the brain to function as a whole and
enhance our concentration and assimilation.’
(Vrndavan Dasi).
The mind experiences positive thoughts, your breath slows and
calms & opportunities for intuition arise. Anjali is a deeply balancing
Mudra.
How do we perform this mudra?
Every Surya Namaskar starts with the practitioner bringing their
hands in Anjali Mudra. However, there are ways to practice this
mudra for most benefit
First, sit in a comfortable position. You can sit on a chair,
cushion, or in a sukhasana (easy cross legged pose). Keep
your spine relaxed and lengthened. You can even tuck your
slightly chin in to lengthen back of neck.
Then, slowly bring your hands together in front of your heart
chakra, the Anahata chakra. When you do this, your
awareness is being directed to your heart, letting energy flow
from other points of your body to the heart center.
When correctly performed, your palms are not completely
flat; allow space between the knuckles at the base of your
fingers. This will also allow space between all knuckles.
Fingertips are connected as are heels of you hands and outer
edges of your thumbs and palms. This allows less tension in
your hands and shoulders and a more open gesture to the
Divine within us.
It is not necessary to close your eyes. If you do so, you can be
even more aware of the energy flowing to the center of your
chest.
Relax after taking a few deep breaths and relax your hands to
your lap.
Every time you bring your hands together, feel the two
different aspects of your energy coming together in balance
and harmony.
You can also use this posture to bring more energy to your
heart. Touch the thumbs to the sternum of your chest lightly.
Arch your shoulder blades a little to open up the chest more.
The elbows can be in line with your fingers. This change will
take a little effort but the experience of balance would be
greatly heightened. If holding for extended time, elbows may
relax; let your body guide you.
When do we perform Anjali Mudra ?
In our yoga classes, we often embrace this mudra at the end of a
class as a humble thanks and way of recognising our teacher and
classmates & the light within ourselves and each of us. We centre
our mind and body.
Anjali mudra is also adopted in Mountain Pose and at the
beginning/end of Sun Salutations but it may also be of assistance
in standing Balancing poses like Tree Pose, pyramid pose, lunging
twists and Yogi Squats (Malasana). When used in variations of
Anjaneyasana (high lunge) and Warrior Poses, this mudra can add
to the grounding, calming effect of these strong balance poses. In
any yoga pose this mudra may gently remind us of our inward
Balance & journey, as well as the spiritual purpose of our lives.
The mudra can be practised during class, home practise, prayer
and simply anytime to bring you back to Balance.
How long to hold the Mudra? From 30 seconds to 30 minutes, as
works with your intention and practise. Notice sensations, calmness,
intuitions, improvements in concentration and memory and
feelings of Balance. We are offering to the Divine, to the Divine
within others and to the Divine within ourselves.
Namaste, Sarah
Thanks to Art of Living.org for material used to dot-point how to
perform the mudra

The movement Imperative

Sarah Mills 25 May 2022

We live: we move. Movement is so simple, yet vital for life.

Our bodies are designed to move so without movement we cannot live our vital, interactive and best life! Movement gives us great circulation, mental wellbeing and coordination, whilst improving our learning skills. Quite simply, without movement we deteriorate. We have to move our bodies; its an imperative.

Sitting is the new smoking. So what about NEAT?

Research has linked a sedentary lifestyle with back pain, obesity, reduction in bone density, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer and depression. Compared to our agrarian ancestors who may have sat 3-4h per day, in modern western society, you might sit for up to 10-13 hours per day. Really. Estimate: how long do you sit? driving? working? Relaxing? What's your magic number? Likely somewhere between 4 and 13 hours.

How do we challenge our sedentary lifestyle for health and wellbeing? If you sit alot, take more breaks and when you do, Get Up! Simply standing makes a difference. Take a walk during or after lunch during your break. Ride the stairs instead of the lift, and maybe walk to a further bus stop or train station on route to and from work. Walk to your colleague in the office instead of sending an email. Walk to the local shops for grocery top up, instead of driving. And, of course, regular Yoga. Take more opportunities to move, today.

These simple activities increase your NEAT, an acronym for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Non-exercise? Hmm, you might think. How does this work? Quite simply, NEAT is the movement you do and energy you expend whilst engage in normal daily activities which do not include planned gym sport and cardio sessions. 

In the last 10 years, science has supported that NEAT is an important way to boost your metabolism via your BMR (basal metabolic rate). This is the amount of energy your body burns through staying alive (breathing, moving, body temp, heart beating, thinking, even fidgeting!) And the higher your BMR, the more energy you naturally use/burn and the more vital & healthier your mind body will be.

Your BMR is not set in stone; it will be individual to you, but will also depend on your age, fitness level, diet, lifestyle, genetics and weight. NEAT can account for as little as 15% of energy expenditure in the very sedentary and up to 50% in very active individuals. Yes 50%!

This is great news for those of us who maybe have an injury or don't like hot & sweaty exercise! If you think you have a ‘slow metabolism’, yes, you may be right. However, you may not be as active as you need to be for your body type, and you can improve your metabolism, health and wellbeing by increasing your NEAT through Yoga and some of the simple suggestions above. Move More.

Yoga increases your BMR and your NEAT without being a cardio workout. Your body moves consistently through the practise and Yoga safely takes you beyond your usual range of movement for strength, flexibility and pain management. The breathing and pranayama aspect of Yoga also stimulates your metabolic rate.

So whether you commit to Yoga as part of your exercise regime or as regular habitual movement; move frequently and regularly, breathe and Get into Yoga!

Surrender to Love – Isvara Pranidhana

When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.

(Dalai Lama)

The last of the ten Yamas and Niyamas is Isvara Pranidhana.  This is the culmination of a series of steps leading us to that deep sense of peace, tranquillity and overall happiness that is yoga.

Isvara Pranidhana may be translated as the surrender of the ego to the divine.  While the concept of “divine” might mean different things to different people, the essence is the same regardless of the interpretation.  The “divine” may mean God, the universal oneness, or simply “love”.  Replace “divine” with whatever is your concept of the ultimate source of life – I will be using the word “love” in this blog.

Surrendering our ego to love means taking a deep look at ourselves – our thoughts and actions, and removing any self-centred motivation.  All that we think, say and do comes from a place deep in the heart that is inspired by love for all life.

This may sound simple enough, but is it realistic?  Can we love that neighbour who likes to party when we need to sleep?  What about that person who rudely pushes in front of people who have been waiting in line?  Isvara Pranidhana may be the hardest of all the Yamas and Niyamas to put into action.  This is why we start at the beginning, Ahimsa, and work our way through the Yamas and Niyamas to get to Isvara Pranidhana.

Our starting point, Ahimsa, teaches us to be kind to all.  Regardless of whether someone else is being mean or acting rudely, we respond with kindness.  This in itself can have amazing therapeutic benefits for both the person giving kindness and the receiver.

As we work through the other Yamas and Niyamas, we become more in touch with our true selves (think of Satya, Saucha and Svadhyaya); learning to let go of what doesn’t serve us (Aparigraha) helps us rise above problems caused by the ego (I explore this concept further in a forthcoming blog); and our journey takes us to a place of deep happiness (think of Santosha) where we fall in love with life.  Here we are ready for Isvara Pranidhana.

The world is more beautiful when all our thoughts and actions come from a loving heart.

Dancing in the Rain

Australia has voted to retain its conservative government. For some this is good news, for others, bad. Regardless of where you stand, there will always be winners and losers in every election. Indeed, we experience the ups and downs of winning and losing throughout our lives in many different ways: the job that we “won” or the promotion that we failed to “win”; relationships where we have “won” or “lost” the love of a partner; football or other sporting teams we support that have winning or losing streaks.  Whether we like it or not, competition with its winners and losers is an integral part of life.

How we respond to the challenges of life’s ups and downs defines us as a person.  Every true champion has faced adversity and risen above it.  The key is having the right attitude.  We all know people who have a “glass half full” outlook and others who see the “glass half empty”.  Actively looking for the positives instead of focusing on the negatives is a start. Equally important is the ability to keep your eye on the big picture – the end game – and not get dragged down when you experience a setback.

Yoga helps us deal with life’s challenges through its body-mind-soul connection. It begins by preparing the body, as a healthy body is needed for a healthy mind.  Next comes the calming of the mind and, with it, finding a deeper connection with the soul.  When we find this connection, we learn to see the beauty that is life – the beauty that lies deep within each soul.  Yoga teaches us to be present – to live in and appreciate every moment.  When we can keep our eye on the big picture – how amazing and beautiful life is – and apply this to every moment, then we truly know how to dance in the rain.