Patanjali’s Pranayama: The Practise of Breathing

The fourth of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of Yoga after the Yamas, Niyamas and Asana & is derived from two Sanskrit words: “Prana,” meaning life force or vital energy, and “Ayama,” meaning extension or expansion. It involves various breathing techniques aimed at regulating and controlling the breath to enhance physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Abdominal Breathing (Diaphragmatic Breathing): This involves breathing deeply into your abdomen, allowing your diaphragm to fully expand, and then exhaling completely. Deep breathing promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and increases oxygen supply to your body.

Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing): In this technique, you can alternate between breathing through the left and right nostrils by using the fingers to gently block one nostril at a time. Nadi Shodhana balances and harmonizes the flow of energy in the body, calms the mind, and improves focus.

Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath): Kapalabhati involves rapid, active exhalations followed by passive inhalations. Through your nose, keeping your body relaxed. This powerful technique cleanses your respiratory system, increases oxygenation, and energizes your body. Practise for 20 rounds, 2 or three times with long recovery breaths in between.

Bhramari (Humming Bee Breath): Everyone’s favourite, Bhramari involves closing your ears with middle finger or thrumb & making a gentle humming sound while exhaling through your nose, which resonates throughout your head.
This Pranayama is known for its calming effect on your mind and nervous system, reducing anxiety and promoting mental clarity. Practise for 3 minutes.

Ujjayi (Victorious Breath): Ujjayi Pranayama involves constricting the back of your throat slightly while breathing in and out through your nose. This creates a soft, whispering sound (Ocean breath or Darth Vader breath!) and will increase your concentration, build internal heat, and improve respiratory function.

Longevity and the Role of Yoga in Enhancing It

Longevity Yoga, length of our lives, is influenced by factors including genetics, lifestyle, diet, and environment. Among lifestyle choices, regular physical activity, stress management, and mental well-being play significant roles.

Yoga, a practice that combines physical postures, breath control, meditation, and ethical principles, positively impacts longevity by enhancing mobility, strength, wellness, and overall quality of life.

Improved Flexibility and Strength: Yoga reduces the risk of injuries through body awareness and improving physical capabilities, both crucial for maintaining an active and independent lifestyle.

Pain Management: Yes, Yoga is effective in managing chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis and lower back pain, thereby enhancing mobility and reducing the burden of pain on daily life.

Enhanced Respiratory Function: Pranayama, the practice of breath control, improves lung capacity and respiratory function, which is vital for overall vitality and endurance.

Mental Health Benefits: Stress reduction, Mood, Clarity and Sleep!

Stress Reduction: Yoga promotes relaxation and reduces stress through meditation and mindfulness practices, which lower cortisol levels and combat the negative effects of chronic stress on mind and body.

Improved Mood and Mental Clarity: Regular practice helps regulate the nervous system, enhancing mood stability, cognitive function, and emotional resilience.

Better Sleep Quality: Yoga can improve sleep patterns by promoting relaxation and. reducing anxiety, leading to more restorative sleep which is essential for overall health and longevity.

Yoga for Social Interaction: Participating in yoga classes fosters a sense of community and belonging, strongly linked to better mental health and increased lifespan. Being part of Centenary Yoga community provides emotional support &
encouragement, enhancing joy, motivation and adherence to a healthy lifestyle.

Healthier Choices: Yoga encourages mindfulness and awareness, leading to healthier lifestyle choices such as better nutrition, mindful choices, and a more balanced approach to life.

The discipline required for regular Yoga practice can translate into other areas of life, promoting consistency in healthy habits and routines.

Scientific Evidence

Reduced Inflammation: Research shows that Yoga reduces inflammatory markers, associated with aging & chronic disease.

Enhanced Telomerase Activity: Some studies suggest that Yoga and meditation increase telomerase activity, an enzyme that protects length of chromosomes. Shortening of chromosomes has strong association with negative affects of aging.

Lower Risk of Chronic Diseases: Regular yoga practice has been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, which can significantly impact lifespan.

Patanjali’s Asana: practice of physical postures.

Let’s get into our bodies!! Patanjali’s third limb is ‘Asana’ means “seat” or “posture.” Asanas/postures have their foundation in the philosophy of ‘sukham and sthira’, finding ease and steadiness in our bodies; originally so we could sit in comfortable meditation on a mountain for hours! Let’s begin with sitting poses, such as Sukhasana, Dandasana, and Thunderbolt (Vajrasana). These sitting poses are beneficial for improving flexibility, posture calm and healthy

Explore supine poses, on your back! Take 5 minutes to come into happy baby pose, a supine twist and lie in Savasana, and Viparitta Karani (legs up the wall) Supine postures offer a range of benefits, including relaxation, stretching, and
strengthening various muscle groups, with limited weight bearing, making them ideal for warm ups, recovery from illness and are excellent for both beginners and experienced practitioners alike.

Stand up! Find a long spine, great for balance and legs. Practice these poses: Tadasana, mountain pose, Vrikshasana tree pose, and Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (hand to big toe, with a strap!) These standing poses helps to improve balance and coordination. They are also beneficial for overall stability in daily activities.

Let’s practice prone poses such as Downward Facing Plank, Cobra, and Locust. These prone poses helps in aligning the spine correctly, especially for those who spend long hours sitting or standing with less than perfect posture. By lying on the stomach, the spine is encouraged to open & create space, relieving tension and promoting better

Let’s do some twisted poses such as seated twist, supine twist (softest), Lunge with Twist,
Trikonasana, Thread the Needle. Twisted poses have a calming effect on the nervous system, helping to reduce stress,
anxiety, and tension. The shallower breathing and focus required during these poses promote being fully present, relaxation and mental clarity, leaving you feeling more centered and balanced.

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

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
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!)

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

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.

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

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

Let’s Hydrate our bodies

“Hydration Happiness” is a holistic approach to well-being that recognizes the harmony of physical and mental health with optimal hydration. It’s HOT and we need to drink a little more. Homeostasis & drinking often and mindfully will reward us with improved energy, mood, and overall Wellbeing.

Drink Water Mindfully

Practice mindful drinking by paying attention to your body’s signals and sipping water throughout the day. Establish daily water intake goals based on your thirst, activity level, and climate (HOT). Apps or reminders can help you stay on track. Stay hydrated!

Healthy Skin

Hydration contributes to skin elasticity, preventing dryness and promoting a vibrant, youthful complexion. Experiment with herbal teas, infused water, or electrolyte drinks to make your hydration routine enjoyable and personalized. Remember to drink your water, your skin will thank you now & later.

Enhanced Cognitive Function

Hydration is essential for maintaining concentration, alertness, and cognitive function. It can positively impact memory and overall brain performance. Being well-hydrated helps the body manage stress more effectively, reducing the physical and mental toll of stressful situations. Stay hydrated to stay present!

Enhanced Physical Wellbeing

Our bodies simply function and perform better when properly hydrated. Optimal hydration helps maintain optimal bodily functions, including circulation and nutrient transportation, leading to increased energy levels. Keep sipping your 2L a day, ideally away from meals to enhance digestion.

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.
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

Winter Balance

Winter Balance!

Last month we considered how choosing discomfort can assist our quest for Balance. Winter can be uncomfortable!
Finding Balance in Winter: Nurturing Mind and Body
Brisbane Winter has arrived in force and, it’s essential to pay attention to our well-being and keep seeking balance and re-balance in our lives.  The colder temperatures and shorter days can affect our bodies in unique ways, requiring us to adapt and find harmony within ourselves. Let’s explore how our bodies respond to the cooler weather and shorter days, and intentionally build practises for nurturing our well-being during the winter season.
The Body’s Response to Cooler Weather
During winter, our bodies respond to the drop in temperature in several ways. Firstly, our blood vessels constrict to conserve heat and maintain core body temperature. This can lead to decreased blood circulation, making us feel colder. Additionally, our metabolic rate may increase slightly as our bodies work harder to generate warmth. And, of course, cooler weather can cause muscles to tighten, leading to stiffness and reduced flexibility To counter these effects, it is crucial to engage in activities that promote warmth and flexibility, such as Yoga!  
“In winter’s embrace, our bodies seek warmth and harmony. Embrace the season with practices that nurture your soul and body.” 
Shorter Days
The reduced daylight hours during winter can affect our mood and energy levels. Many people experience a dip in serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, due to limited exposure to natural sunlight. This can lead to feelings of fatigue, low motivation, and even seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Sound familiar? To counteract these effects, it is essential to prioritize self-care activities that uplift the spirit and boost overall well-being. Yoga, the overdue massage (in a warm room!) connecting with friends and getting into Nature.  “Winter is the perfect time to turn inward, explore the depths of your being, and reconnect with your inner sanctuary.” 
Get into Yoga
Practicing Yoga during winter can be an excellent way to maintain physical and mental well-being. The flowing movements and focussed breathing during Yoga practises help increase blood circulation, warm the body, and enhance flexibility. Additionally, the camerderie, mindfulness and relaxation techniques incorporated at Centenary Yoga can reduce stress and uplift the spirit.  
Prioritize Self-Care Rituals
Engaging in self-care rituals is vital during the winter season and these may be quite different to your Summer self care. Taking warm baths infused with essential oils (Cleopatra’s bath: add 1/4 cup milk to diffuse the oils and treat your skin), practicing meditation, if only for 5 quiet minutes per day, and enjoying an extra cup of warming herbal tea can provide a sense of comfort and relaxation.  Listen to your body’s needs and make time for activities that nourish your soul.  
Connect with Nature
Outdoors? in Winter? Please do, it’s crucial to spend time in nature whenever possible. Bundle up warmly and take a brisk walk at Rocks Riverside park or Toohey Forest. The fresh air and natural surroundings can uplift your mood, boost circulation. Your connection to the natural world is omnipresent, get out an experience it!  
Finding balance in winter is a journey of self-care and mindfulness. By understanding how our bodies respond to cooler weather and shorter days, we can make conscious choices to support our well-being. Embracing indoor yoga, prioritizing self-care rituals, and connecting with nature are all ways to nurture our bodies and minds during the winter season. As we navigate through the colder months, let us remember to embrace the beauty of winter and find inner harmony amidst its challenges. Discomforts are simply reminders from our bodies to  choose actions which bring us to Rebalance.    
Finding Balance in our Yoga practice and life is a continuous journey and part of our human condition. Yes, it requires us to keep an open mind, a willingness to expand our comfort zones, and a commitment to self-care. At Centenary Yoga, we know that navigating Winter is an essential part of this rebalancing process. Let us embrace the discomfort, prioritize self-care, and consciously create a  Balanced and fulfilling life. Each and every moment. Thanks for reading! Namaste 🙂
Balance Yoga You!