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Calm your way to wellness with yogic breathing By Sandy Hector

training.creativementalhealth.org.uk

According to the ancient yogic teachings, all things in the universe are made up of energy particles; prana, the universal life force.  Prana is in the environment in the form of our food, water, sun and air and the quality of the prana that we take in determines our energy levels.  Eating good, high quality foods for example fresh fruit, vegetables, olive oil, fish and shellfish give us high levels of energy, whereas processed foods such as white flour, white sugar, margarine and alcohol give us little or no energy.  [1]

The quality of the air we breathe also influences our energy levels.  For example, going for a walk in the woods and breathing in lovely fresh air gives us more energy than sitting indoors breathing in stale air and of course, good quality water and sunshine are absolutely essential for our well-being.

It is also possible to increase and direct our own energy levels – our prana, by practising pranayama, (yogic breathing).  This is a means of taking control of the breath – and  by taking control of the breath we are also able to influence the mind.  For the brain to be able to work properly it requires maximum prana and if it doesn’t get enough of it, we can start to feel ill, think negatively, feel depressed.  By using yogic breathing to increase our prana levels we can also help to generate more positive thoughts.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (2:42) states:
‘The movement of the breath in the middle passage makes the mind still. 
This steadiness of mind is the state of manonmani (devoid of thought)’

Normally only 1/10th of the brain is active because a very high level of prana is required for the brain to function simultaneously.  Therefore when pranayama is practised regularly with concentration and dedication, the whole brain is awakened, and you become more aware of yourself, your thoughts, feelings and emotions.  You can feel more alive and less likely to use those old negative thought patterns and knee jerk responses.

However, the benefits of pranayama are not instant, you do need to practise regularly over a period of time and I would advise anyone interested to find a good yoga teacher and attend a regular class – and keep on going to the class.  The benefits are well worth the sustained effort.

[1] Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, ‘Prana and Pranayama’ ISBN 978-81-86336-79-3

Calm your Way to Wellness with Mindful Breathing ~by Sandy Hector

creativementalhealth.org.uk

 

Learning to pay attention to the breathing process is a part of mindfulness training.    Mindfulness is about being aware of where and on what we focus our attention; it’s a way of being fully awake and aware of ourselves being here and now in the present moment.  In this way, we’re not getting tangled up in what’s happened in the past or maybe worrying about what might happen in the future.  Focusing on and becoming aware of the breath brings us back to the present moment and has a calming and soothing effect on the mind.

Being aware of how our minds help us time travel into the past or the future, can be very helpful in understanding how mindfulness works.

Our attention can be likened to shining a torch. Whatever we shine our spotlight of attention on our mind tends to dwell on.

If you imagine shining your torch into a darkened room, you may see all sorts of dirt and cobwebs in a corner, but if we shine our spotlight on other good things, the cobwebs become less important.  In this way, we can learn to direct our attention to helpful things; the things troubling us may still be there, but they don’t seem so big or have such a strong influence on us.

ann-knight-stefano-pollina
Stefano Pollina Photography, model Ann Knight

When learning any new skill it is always sensible to start with easy things.  To get the idea of being attentive to our attention, simply start to notice your feet on the floor or the feel of your body being supported by the chair you’re sitting on, or noticing objects in your surroundings, the colours, shapes, notice any smells, if you are outside, notice things in nature – in other words, bring all your senses into play, notice everything around you.

Mindful breathing is about paying attention to the breathing process and noticing the breath moving in and out of the body.  While we pay attention to the breath, the mind can sometimes wander off, this is perfectly normal.  The trick is that when you notice your mind has wandered off into its own little world of imagination, gently bring it back to the breath.  You can allow any thoughts that might come up to come and go, accepting those thoughts, but not judging them, because they are just thoughts, simply let them go and bring your attention back to the breath.
However, to feel the benefits of mindful breathing, you will need to practise regularly.  You can’t expect to be a concert pianist overnight by just having one piano lesson.  Learning mindful breathing is like getting the body physically fit; the more you practise the easier it gets and as time goes by, and you keep up the practise, change happens; new neural pathways begin to be formed and reinforced.  You will find that even in the difficult times of your life, mindful breathing can be helpful to bring you back to the present and will soothe and calm the mind.

Here is a five minute mindful breathing exercise. Try it for yourself – mindful breathing can be very empowering, it just takes practise.

 

 

Calm your way to wellness: with Mantra ~by Sandy Hector

Have you ever tried chanting as a way to calm yourself down and help you to feel good?   If you’ve read my article about Yantras in the last edition of this guide, then you will already know that my background is from a yoga base.  Yantras, Mandalas and Mantras are all part of Tantra Yoga; the science of vibration.  The sound vibrations produced by chanting a mantra can have a powerful and profound influence on mental behaviour.  Albert Einstein said that everything is vibration; the entire universe is affected, consciousness, energy, mind and matter.    Chanting a mantra is a very subtle, yet powerful practise that can leave you with a sense of calm and euphoria.

The Mantra Om is said to represent the very first vibration; the Big Bang.  Chanting the mantra Om to yourself is mentioned in an ancient text by the sage Patanjali in which he says ‘The word which expresses Him is OM.  This word must be repeated with meditation on its meaning.  Hence comes knowledge of the Atman and the destruction of the obstacles to that knowledge’[1].  In everyday language, this means that by chanting the mantra OM you will get to know and understand yourself better and find peace within.

According to Yoga philosophy the mind is divided into two parts, the lower mind and the higher mind.  The lower mind is subject to time and space and includes all the senses of the body, sense objects, mind, and mental associations.  The higher mind is spiritually aware, intuitive, peaceful, luminous and transcendental.  In order to transcend the lower mind and reach the higher mind we need to block out the senses and all other sounds and focus completely on the mantra.

In Tantra, there are three groups of mantras.  The first group are called Bija Mantras.  These mantras are associated with the Chakras.  They are spiritually uplifting and awakening.  The middle group of mantras are the Guru Mantras, such as the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra and the Guyatri Mantra.  These mantras connect the lower mind and the higher mind and are tools for spiritual growth.  They create positive changes in attitude, helping you to feel more optimistic and content with life.  The third group are social incantations and religious chants.  These mantras are used to remove distress, or become healthier, for example in India mantra is often used for healing snake bites.

The easiest way to chant mantras is verbally out loud, or in whispers (although mental repetitions are much more powerful).   To prepare for the practise, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed  and make sure you are sitting comfortably; check your spine is straight, your shoulders are relaxed and away from your ears and close your eyes.  Start to connect with the breath; notice the breath moving in and out of the body.  Now set an intention for your practise (for example – for mental peace and physical well-being) and when you’re ready to start you can begin chanting.

Traditionally the Mahamrityunjaya  Mantra is chanted 108 times for the relief of suffering in the world, but you don’t have to chant the mantra that many times.  Depending on the time you have available you can chant any number of repetitions, so start off small and build up.  Using a Mala is very useful while chanting as you can synchronise rotating the beads with each repetition of the mantra.  A Mala is a string of 108 beads plus a ‘Guru’ bead.  If you have one, hold the Mala in your right hand between the middle and index fingers and use your thumb to count from the ‘Guru’ bead as you chant, pulling each of the smaller beads towards you each time you repeat the mantra.  When you reach the Guru bead once more you have completed 108 rounds.

Guyatri Mantra on You Tube

If you are interested in reading more about Mantra please click on the following link: http://www.yogamag.net/archives/2000/cmay00/mantras.shtml

[1] Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, chapter one, verses 27-28

little capsule of yoga ~by Sandy Hector

A little capsule of yoga every day – just what the doctor ordered!

Are you are thinking of doing yoga at home?  First of I would advise everyone to find a good class, and then you will learn the practises correctly.  The most important thing about doing yoga is that you must work with awareness and listen to your body the whole time so you don’t strain anything.

Yoga is a great antidote to modern living; there are so many benefits, it’s impossible to mention them all here.  Yoga relieves stress and tension, helps concentration, strengthens, refreshes and relaxes the whole body, in fact helps the whole body to work properly, all the internal organs get massaged, more oxygen gets into the bloodstream, you feel better, fitter, healthier and happier and what’s more you learn to breathe properly.  What could be better?

The Grace Of Change By Geraldine Lambert
‘The Grace of Change’ by Geraldine Lambert, Artist. Gera (nickname) is a Visionary Artist who aims to capture the creative interplay when spheres of thought and the mundane worlds collide. She works as an artist from home using inks, oils and a variety of printing techniques and teaches Art part time.

Not many people breathe into the whole of their lungs, when you feel stressed and tense you only breathe into the top part of the lungs, but when you’re relaxed and learn the breathing exercises (pranayama), you begin to use your lungs properly.   Stale air gets expelled, more air is taken in, helping the exchange of gasses, this is gives you more energy, helps focus the mind and is especially good for people with asthma or breathing problems.

We all lead very busy lives and its difficult to fit everything in, we’re especially bad when it comes to looking after ourselves.  I say all the more reason to do a regular home yoga practise, because if you don’t look after yourself, how can you look after anyone else?  By doing some yoga every day, you will find you actually seem to have more time, yes, really, and you will really reap the benefits, I promise.  But, how can we fit daily yoga into our busy lifestyle?

My lovely, dearest yogini friend Maitri sent me this Yogic Capsule; it’s a home practise with a difference.    When you start off though, you do need to be very disciplined, but once the practise becomes part of your daily routine, you will never go back to your old sluggish ways and the rewards are well worth the effort.  They do say that it takes 4 weeks to learn something, 4 weeks to practise and 4 weeks before it becomes a natural behaviour, so allow yourself 12 weeks and you’re away.

This is the routine – when you get up in the morning you do a few minutes chanting.  This can be an absolutely uplifting experience once you get used to making funny noises; it’s a bit like singing, but it doesn’t matter if you’re  not very good at it.  Then before breakfast you do some postures, Surya Namaskara, the sun salutation is absolutely brilliant, it tones and stretches the entire system.   Then later in the day do some pranayama, you can do this anywhere, and it only takes a few minutes.   Later on in the afternoon, you have a ‘power nap’ by mentally relaxing each part of the body, brilliant for reviving you during the mid afternoon slump, then before bed do some mediation and review your day.  You will get a deep restful sleep and feel wonderful in the morning.  Yay, result.  Oh and did I remember to say how much fitter and healthier you will feel?  But remember it’s very important to attend a weekly class too to keep you on track.

Sandy Hector

Click here for the Yogic Capsule

 

The Benefits of Hypnotherapy ~ by Sandy Hector

Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner and Yoga Teacher Sandy Hector,  talks about the benefits of hypnotherapy

What do you know about hypnotherapy?

If you were to choose a hypnotherapist, how would you go about it?  First of all, and most importantly, choose a hypnotherapist with suitable qualifications, then find out how they work and what their fees are.  If you have a specific problem that you are seeking help for, ask how their therapy will help you.

 

A good hypnotherapist will base their therapy around the client’s problem.  This is called client centred therapy.  Some hypnotherapists simply read general scripts using suggestion and imagery.  This is called ‘Clinical Hypnotherapy’ and will work on its own for some of the people some of the time, however for the therapy to be successful, the hypnotherapist should base their practice on a solid foundation.  The ‘Four Cornerstones of Hypnotherapy’ (C Roy Hunter) are four important hypnotherapy objectives which provide a blueprint for increasing the probability of client success.  These ‘Cornerstones’ are 1.  Suggestion and Imagery, 2. Discover the Cause, 3. Release,  4. Subconscious re-learning.

 

Suggestion and imagery

If you, the client, have a strong emotional desire to change, then just using suggestion and imagery alone may be helpful.  However, without a strong emotional desire to accept the suggestions, either the conscious or the subconscious may block or resist the suggestions and the improvement may only be temporary.  For lasting success the other three cornerstones should be employed.

 

Discover the Cause

When you are in a state of hypnosis, you are deeply relaxed, your conscious analytical mind starts to recede and let go.  The subconscious or inner mind can then be guided back in your imagination, to reveal the cause of the problem.  It is then possible to look at childhood perceptions of the past with adult eyes and allow the emotion attached to this to be redirected or released in a positive way.  This leads us to the third cornerstone  – Release.

 

Release

There are a number of different techniques that can be used to gain release from the cause of the problem without confronting anyone.  The hypnotherapist can facilitate forgiveness or release in an appropriate way, freeing the client from the bondage of holding a grudge and resolving the problem.

 

Subconscious re-learning

The fourth hypnotherapy objective uses suggestion and imagery to facilitate adult understanding at a subconscious level.  Clients verbalise their own re-learning and the hypnotherapist paraphrases back in the form of suggestions and imagery giving the client a more mature understanding and a new perception of the problem.

Sandy Hector, Hypnotherapy Isle of Wight,

www.embraceyourworld.co.uk