Yoga Tutorial: How to use Props?

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Props can help you find more freedom and space as well as stability in your postures.There are great ways to use blocks, blankets, straps, bolsters and incorporate them in your practice. The more I incorporate tools in my classes, the more the students would be likely to continue using them. Let us start with your best friend.

Yoga mat

To me, an ideal yoga mat should be light in weight, natural fabric, easy to clean, and non-slippery. You can find many type and different colors on amazon too and choose the one that suite you best. There is no need to spend a fortune on your mat, but if you are getting serious about it and want a good quality may with points of alignments to help you with your posture, check here. This is a helpful resource on yoga mats that a team at reviews.com recently put together. 16 mats were put under strenuous testing, and recommendations from few certified teachers found that this is exactly what is needed for our personal practice.

Straps

There are many ways to use straps for opening the body, the shoulders, the legs, and helps you hold poses with less effort. Straps are great for lengthening, stretching after a long day sitting and when you feel stiff. A great example to open up the shoulders is as follow: Stand up in Tadasana, (standing posture), hold on to the strap with both hands wider than the shoulders. Inhale take the strap over your head and bring it behind you as you exhale. Bring the strap back over head and repeat few times.

You can use the strap as a support for any pose variation. Let’s take an example for Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III pose). Stand in Tadasana, Hold the strap on each end behind you. Step one heel on the strap. As you inhale lift up through your sternum and engage your upper back and shoulders with straight arms. Lengthen the side of your body, as you lean your torso forward and lift your leg up to warrior 3.

Straps are useful to keep alignment while performing balancing postures. Whether you are trying downward dog, wheel, or crow pose, the benefit is the same. If the elbows tend to go out toward the side, loop the strap around your upper arms to keep the hands and arms in line with your shoulders. This will considerably re-enforce your arms strength and alignment.

Another pose Utthita hasta padangusthasana, (Extended hand to big toe) is challenging and tests your physical and mental sense of balance. This pose can be performed only when your mind is calm and when you do not try to achieve the shape. Use the strap and loop it around your foot, and keep the distance between the foot and the hand as close as you can. The strap encourages you to feel stable and in line.

Straps are fairly cheap and they come in various fabrics, they are durable the buckle material varies. I use the metal one as it holds the strap better when you loop it, it is stronger than the plastic ones, but it is often presented in white and get stained easily.

Blocks

Use Blocks for proper alignment and for adjustment in your posture. They can be very useful in your practice. Blocks are essentials for beginner practitioners and for advanced yogis. They are often used when the flexibility is not quite there yet, as an example for Trikonasana (tringle pose) if you do not reach the floor with your hand.

Using a block for forward folds can be useful to find better alignment and flexibility. For example sit on the edge of the block, sit comfortably as you notice the pelvic floor moved slightly forward. Use your breath as a tool in your practice, bend forward and feel the muscles engaging in this posture.

Another helpful way to use a block is when you perform Eka pada rajakapotanasana, (pigeon pose) especially if the rotation in your hip or knee is not available. Place the edge of the block directly under your sit bone. Just like the forward fold, the block encourages a forward tilt of the pelvis and bring the body in proper alignment. It is best that you place your elbow to the ground so you do not feel too much pressure in your pelvis and if the opening in the hip is too intense. You can also use a blanket, or a bolster and place it under the sitting bone of that leg. Supporting your sitting bone will allow you to release the weight of your body and will increase your comfort in this posture. You will be able to breath more easily and deeply producing a calming effect on your nervous system.

A simple posture such as Baddha konasana, (easy sited posture), can be difficult for some with tight hips. You can support your knees with block on each side of each leg, so the weight of the legs doesn’t pull too hard on the inner thighs.

Using blocks can be very useful for arm balances. Astavakrasana, (the 8 angle pose), is great for the hips and for the core. If I do this posture on the mat, I can’t find enough hight because my core is not strong enough, and therefore the block helps lifting higher of the ground. I have more room and I can re-engage the core and get back into the posture that way.

There are many block in the market to choose from, if you are a frequent traveller like me, I suggest you to go for the foams blocks as they are light, cost is around 6 euros. A better quality block, would be to use as daily practice, bamboo block, but they are around 15 euros each. Then there are the cork blocks, more solid and grip everywhere, but they are around 25 euros each. Ideally buy 2 blocks, to perform balances postures and hold your body evenly on each side.

Blanket

Place a blanket under you pelvic floor when you are performing seated postures, as example, Upavistha konasana, (the wide legged forward fold) will helps you to engage your lower bandha by lifting up the pelvic floor. This will strengthen your inner thighs and core. You can also bend your knees if your are very stiff or place a blanket under each knee if your lower back and hips are tight.

How to use a blanket for Sirsasana, (shoulder stand). Fold the blanket, Place it under the shoulders but not bellow the neck, place the head on the mat, and lift the legs for sirsasana. Using the blanket underneath this area protects your neck.

Use a blanket for chest opening. Blosters can be expensive, so for a more budget friendly option you can roll up a blanket tight and place it under the back, in line with the spine, and lower down. Place yours arms in a T shape in line with your shoulders and the palms of the hands facing upwards. Breathe and relax in this pose for as long as you like.

I would suggest you get the Manduka Blanket made of wool, for the warmth and comfort during your practice.

Bolster

A bolster looks like a big cusson, it can have a rectangular or circular shape. It is used mostly during yin or restorative practice with the purpose of relaxing and help soften a posture and opens up the body.

A good use even at home is recommended for Savasana or Corpe pose. Savasana is the most important part of your practice, because this is when your body integrates all of the efforts you have made during the practice. Place a bolster under your knees and let the legs float freely. This will help to lengthen and create open space in your lower back and allows it to be connected to the ground.

A good way to use a bolster is to perform supported back bends. It is an immediate heart opener that allows the shoulders the chest, and the abdomen to open and relax, while the head the neck and the back are fully supported. This will also decompresses the spine.

Supported forward fold. Paschimottanasana. Forward folds are amazing the bring your awareness back into yourself, to center yourself and reconnect with your inner world. On the physical level is help lengthen and relaxes the muscles. It stretches the hamstrings, the lower back the spine, and reduces anxiety by calming the mind.

Sukasana or easy pose. A bolster is very useful here especially for those who can’t open the hips because of stiffness, and in this posture the knees won’t reach the floor. Sit on the bolster and notice the difference. Legs are open, hips are comfortable, lower back is supported and the knees are in contact with the ground. This is ideal posture for meditation practice and generally how one would sit for extended hours during yoga training or workshops. Yoginis used to sit leg crossed for long periods of time, and it can be very painful at times if your back is not strong and if your hips are not open. The bolster helps greatly.

Bolster can be costly so an alternative would be to opt for a nice blanket that you can fold tightly instead.

Yoga wheel

The newcomer in the yoga world is a narrow wide cylinder made of plastic, wood, or other materials. This tool is used to enhance flexibility, deepen stretches, and can be challenging for balancing postures. Follow a course where this prop is used for a safe and effective practice.

Use the wheel in Sukasana. (Easy seated pose). Place the wheel in between your legs, knees opened wide, and big toes touching. Place your hands on top of the wheel and roll it to extend the arms in front of you until your torso touches your thighs. You will feel a deeper stretch in your arms shoulders and back.

Supta sukasana, (reclined easy seated pose variation) is great for relaxing the shoulders with the assistance of the wheel supporting your chest. Tension is the back is relieved. Spine is lengthened. Rest the forehead on the mat. Relax and breathe.

Matsyasana or fish pose. Here the wheel helps with opening the heart, arching the back, and without straining on the neck or arms. Breathe and rest on the wheel comfortably.

Yoga Wheels are around 20 euros more or less, depending on the nature of the material used, simple or with graffiti. There are many poses you can perform with the use of the wheel and benefit from it.

These tools mentioned above are a support for you when you spend a lot of time by yourself and have no one around to help you with your Asana. They are very useful for beginners and I found to make great improvement using them.

So get ready and set yourself accordingly. Have fun and keep up with the practice! Namaste.

 

Can people change?

Surely there are things about yourself or about others you do not like….Or maybe there are things that you want to improve or get rid of…. All what matter is that you already are conscious about the problem. Once you are aware and accept the challenge then you can start hopping for changes, I mean real changes in your life for yourself and others. But you can’t just clap the fingers and hope that old patterns will go away.

It takes time and patience, dedication and discipline. It takes the will to actually move forward or change a direction that does not suit with your life. However we don’t change because someone want us to. We change because we want to.

The secret is to be positive and think positive, statements like: it’s too hard, or I can’t do it, it’s not in my DNA… Such mindset will sabotage your efforts before you actually begin. Even taught “you are who you are”, and “it is how it is”, there are ways to modify and to alter aspects of your behavior and attitude.

Like I said earlier, the first step is being aware is what we start with. Not so simple as you need to open to your own weaknesses and recognize them. How can you change if you blame others for your mistakes? how do you know for sure that your thinking process is right and not conflicting with other people’s believes?

With meditative session, you can observe your taught without judgment and try to understand it. Why this happened? Why did I say this? how can I make this situation better? get to know yourself is the second step. Lot of efforts and patience are necessary.

If you are aware of your taught and know your bad habits, is it enough to change? No… You need to be committed to make the necessary changes. You acknowledge what you want to change, you stay focused on your goal, you exercise daily with self-discipline and give yourself a chance to grow and the opportunity to be a better you. When you start to see things in a different dimension, life can be incredible. Change moves in the positive direction, so is your life, your career, your relationships, change can happen, dedication and faith will pay off. You will feel self confident, capable of more then you can imagine, it is like changing the station of your radio. Small frequency wish makes all the difference.

If anyone would like to share his own experience, you are welcome to do so in the comment bellow.

NAMASTE.

Ayahuska Journey.

The most incredible, cleansing, trans-formative and spiritual Ayahuaska journey with the true master and indigenous Indian Shaman from “Cofán tribe”, in southern Columbia, has come to Europe to provide and introduce westerners with this beautiful and ancestral medicine.

Shaman Andres Criollo, comes from a lineage of shamans and has learned the secret of the medicine from his ancestors, grand father, and father. His own grand mother is also the protector of the aye (Ayahuaska). The tribe collect the Chacruna and the Vine from the source in the profound and protected amazonian forest.

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I had the honor to meet Andres, son of the famous “Jaguar Shaman”, the most respected elder shaman man in Colombia and the highest spiritual authority of the Cofán people.

The Ayahuaska brew is prepared with care and dedication, with love, songs and prayers for long hours and even days in the jungle until it is ready to consume. The ceremony takes place in the Maluka, (the ceremonial room) is usually dark with only few candles lightened during the whole evening. The ceremony starts around 10 pm and finishes early morning. The last shot of  the Aye is taken not later then 2 am.  A small prayer is always held before the ceremony starts.

A little glass is enough to feel the effects of the sacred medicine and the effects will last hours in your system. The spirit of the aye contained in the medicine depends of the nature of the vine, some of the rarest are called the “Jaguar Yage”, others the “Lucero Yage” or bright star, and also the “Gold Yage”.

The ceremony is often guided by the shaman whistling, songs, prayers, and music instruments are used such as the harmonica, the drums and the guitar. The shaman uses the Guaira to cleans the body and mind of his patient or disciple after the ceremony and brings him peace and protection.

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After a long conversation with shaman Andres, it is estimated to be around 2000 Cofán people left (compared to 15.000 people since the 16th century) and about an average of 2800 ethnic tribe members residing in Columbia and in Ecuador. The majority of the natives tribe has been decimated with mining and oil exploration and exploitation, as well as disease and violence.

Local communities and humanitarians efforts eventually gained control over nearly 4000 square meters of rain forest insuring legal protection and created local school infrastructure for their young.  The Cofán tribes remain the authentic and unique guardians of the forest today.

Thank you Shaman Andres Criollo and Sandra Fragoso for introducing me with the sacred medicine of Ayahuaska and purifying my soul and my body. Thank you Lisa Marie Robinson  for guiding me to him. Finally thank you Frank Neubert for sharing the experience with me and for your care and support along the way.

Bless, light and most of all LOVE.

Salama Ayurveda & the Fortified Ksar of Ait Ben-Hadou Morocco.

THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS.

Salama Ayurveda is a holistic center located at the base of the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The scenery and the area is beautiful quiet and this is a place where we can breathe fresh air all year around. Winter can be very cold with snow falling occasionally on the mountain slopes. Summer is wonderful, a great possibility to clean the body and the mind close to the river falling close by and listening to the birds singing while you are having a full body massage or a meditation course.

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The establishment is made of a Berber style. Khalid the owner of the centre has a magnificent spirit focusing on using all tools such as Ayurveda cooking, massage, yoga, silent walks, meditation, chants, to uplift the mind, and to make you tuned with yourself, so you can truly find the purpose of your presence on earth and understand the principles of equanimity. His aim is to make every traveler, a unique journey, with excursion in the Moroccan desert Merguza and Zagora. Options to visit the city of Marrakesh and its Medina as well as Ouarzazate and surrounding Berber villages close by other services the center provide.

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The experience this year has been one of its kind, close to nature, silent walks to waterfalls, and other trip such as camping in the desert, practice yoga and eat lot of Tajines! I was hoping for more Ayurveda type of food, and a more intensive program to detox my body and mind.

The Excursion was nice, the 4 of us, our guide, a girl from Holland and a men from Germany and myself. First camel ride for about an hour and a half felt like a full body workout! My legs started shaking and my back sore, so I decided to continue the journey walking and following our guide. Arrived at the camp we had more Arabic mint tea and a Tajine with vegetables and meat. The evening was clear and the stars shining above our heads.

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The next morning, we dealt with a little disagreement, when the weather changed to blow sand on our faces most of the day and therefore we had to cancel the yoga classes and head back to Ouarzazate that same day. The time we spent driving hours was animated by deep spiritual talks and listening to powerful sounds of music.

A good rest, a shower and a light meal and we were on the way back to Salama Ayurveda in the morning. We stopped on the caravan trade route to visit the ancient Ksar Ait Ben Hadou, the famous fortified village or Ksar in Arabic. This village is made out of natural material, covered by red mud plaster, and surrounded by high walls. I was able to take impressive shots from the UNESCO heritage site, renowned for it’s natural and cultural importance but also a site where many films have been made, such as “The Mummy”, and “The man who would be king”.

Apart from villages, public establishment such as a mosque, and a saint school and a public square where built. The trans-Saharian route connected Europe and North African coast. Because of such a traffic on the road with merchants transporting gold, salt and also slaves, gave no choices to locals but to build towers and high walls to protect the customers living on the site as well as local inhabitants.

The beautiful day became cooler and heavy winds have started to blow in this month of March. We kept driving toward the Mont Tishka in 2260 m altitude where snow started falling. We were driving slowly on this wet road slope after slope, turns after turns, until we arrived in the beautiful valley of l’Ourika. I conducted a yoga class the next day at Salama Ayurveda under the soft sun and with beautiful people.

Reference of the KSAR ofAIT Ben Haddou UNESCO World Heritage Site.

NAMASTE

Travel Marrakesh.

This is an insight about my hometown Marrakesh. Here you will discover some of my photographs of Marrakesh Medina, oriental market, places to eat drink and spend a great evening.

I have always been distracted by the unique vibration and energy the Medina has to offer. Only an hour tour would be enough for me to appreciate it’s variety, art, smell, music and people.

One of the dinning restaurant is single of it’s kind, the Narwama, a family owned restaurant, fusion of Moroccan and Thai food. Located in the Medina, in a splendid riad dating from the 19th century, heritage world of UNESCO.

From 2012 and 2013, I managed the restaurant following previous steps of my father until I flew to Australia.

The experience of working in Morocco was one of the most challenging I had. Not always easy to mix feelings with a parent who has a different approach in regards to establishing ways for the development and success of the restaurant as well as keeping the line of one of the most famous and recognized dinning place in town.

I have always known Khalid and Brahim. Both fellow employees, dedicated  hard workers, bartender on the left and chef de rang on the right, serving for years in our restaurant.

Today Narwama is under the management of a couple and a whole new team keeping up with the hard work, since the owner decided to focus most of the past 9 months for the opening of a new business in the heart of la Medina. “Soukine” is due to open in the end of the year 2018.

More photographs of the umber city of Marrakesh.

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Surfing – Breathing – Meditating.

I have been teaching yoga 5 years and surfing 10 years and I am still learning. When you are out there in the surf line up, you are fully tuned with your surroundings and completely focused on what’s going on around you, if you don’t, there are chances where you could easily lose control of your balance, control over the board and control over the mind.

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I use this example as an example for life. Steady rhythm, steady breath, steady mind and therefore steady life.

Yoga is a great example and find equanimity (balance) with the breath but also with the flexibility, the strength and focus. If you clear your mind from fluctuation you will progress more.

When I am surfing, I feel like my thoughts disappear and no other emotions evolve except full awareness, the sensation of the slide on the lip of the wave.

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Just like meditation, the visions and the sensations flowing from my chest through my arms and my spine are magical, a feeling of calm peace and freedom holds me.

“Yoga and surf are naturally flowing, one by the rhythm of breath and body and the other gets you tuned with the ocean and the waves. You can’t force it but only go with it, and fully be in the moment”.

Life…. you make it. With faith, hope and discipline in your practice, you will be the King or the Queen of your own century.

Enjoy the journey.

 

 

 

What people wish for in life?

What people wishes for in life? It is simply being happy. I think we all agree on that. We search for joy, contentment, desire for feeling good all the time. If you want proof, ask yourself that question: What do I want in my life? … Most of all, I want happiness. YES?

I want a big smile on my face every day. I want healthy relationships in every areas in my life. I want to be seen as a human being. I want my perspective and my beliefs to be respected and understood. The best way to start happiness is that simple gesture of compassion and love. So when you have something, share it, don’t be selfish. When you do not share, you lose your inner peace.

Another way to make things work for you, is the practice of meditation. Select one practice that suits best your temper and stay with it. Keep doing it until your mind becomes totally absorbed and focused in that practice. This is called Samadhi. Your mind comes to a well-balanced state, in equanimity. The mind is pure, with no fluctuations or changes.

“Blessed are pure in the heart”. Yoga sutras.

In India yoginis seek for inner peace, meditating hours and do rigorous Tapascharya (meditation of self-discipline).

When you work with purity in your heart, things work better for you. When you only see darkness and complaining, it is just a waste of time. You are simply ruining your life. Days, months, years, pass by, then one day you realize all that you have done was being miserable.

There are ways out of that spiral, you must keep having faith and believe in yourself. What should you do to keep a positive energy? Stop complaining now. Purify your mind with positive and affirmative statements.

If you can watch the way you think you can change your taught”. 

Train your brain few minutes every day. Just do it. Soon you will notice that your thinking process is different. We have the power to make a change, this change start within each one of us. I would like to refer to the concept of self in the Upanishads, who explains great philosophical truth. The concept of self and identification with Brahma (the creative source of the universe).

 “He who sees all beings in his Self and his Self in all beings, never suffers because when he sees all creatures within his true Self, then jealousy, grief and hatred vanish.”

 You must look for happiness in the right places, inside yourself, not outside. We carry love in our hearts, a powerful tool to return to every time you feel down. Do not wait and hope for external situations, outside factors or people to make you happy. If you think like: “I would be happy if I had a boyfriend or a girlfriend”, or “I would be happy if I could get a Dior handbag”, or “I would be happy if I had enough money”.…. If I had X, Y, Z, I would be happy. –Wrong! Happiness starts within yourself. Focus on learning about your weaknesses and your qualities. Connect with yourself by studying who you are. Connect your human side with the spiritual side, the union of the body and mind, which is the meaning of YOGA.

Love shines on everyone, it is your choice to open or close the path in being happy.

The choice is yours.

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Happy mind, happy life.

We humans are a big family. Instead of killing and disrespecting each other, feeling jealousy, greed between each other, why can we not be happy for the other person success or wealth? Why so much competition? Why so much sadness? Why so much violence? Is this being civilized? Educated? Cultured? – No.

Think and make a test for yourself. Can you understand the people who think differently then you? Test of life? We have to ride each other waves to understand who we are, we are gifts for each other, and we can learn from each other, we are all student and teacher. With communication, understanding, compassion, love, we are capable of everything.

The choice is yours.

In Yoga we often say “Namaste”, what does that mean?

I see the soul in you, you see the soul in me”.

It is a form of deep respect for the other being, coming from the heart. Practice in a way your mind doesn’t go over you. If a person has been nasty to you, tell “Namaste” and walk away. This person does not deserve your energy. We can’t always match with certain people, but that’s OK. We are civilized, respectful, let it be, and go. Focus on the goodness, the darkness doesn’t work.  Constantly remind yourself on who you are. I am spectacular or I am miserable.

The choice is yours.

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Yoga is about living your life fully. I struggled myself in keeping that in mind, too busy worrying and questioning. I realized it was a waste of energy, and I could use that energy for best results. Happy comes from within. Nobody is going to make you happy. Nobody can make you happy. Whatever the condition is, don’t forget that. It is temporarily. When you learn enough lessons in your life there is no other way for you but to go back within yourself.

The world is there to teach us:

Don’t come to me for happiness, because it is within you”.

Be independently happy, not dependently happy. Allow your mind to always see the positive in all things and beings.

You are the image of God, you carry God in you, you carry love in you and love transmits into healing, do not let anyone still your love. The divine energy is in us, it is in all of us. We all have the power to make things right for us the right for all beings, for the animals, for the earth, for the plants and for the trees, for the lakes, for the mountains, for the oceans, for the sky. Love yourself and love all beings.

“Be happy first and see the world unfold in front of you”. 

 Bless you all.