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!

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!