Life as Meditation, Calendar Dates, Ujjayi Breathing and more in our January 2014 newsletter.

Life as meditation

Namaste Yogis & Yoginis

Welcome to our first newsletter of 2014. There is a saying in Sanskrit “Yatha Brahmanda, tatha Pindanda” - “as in the macrocosm, so in the microcosm”. A good example of this is the single day/night cycle and the four daily seasons of morning/ midday/ afternoon/ night mirrored in the cycle of a year and the four seasons of summer, autumn, winter, spring. In our meditation practice, we are engaged with the practice of reducing our external multi-focused experience to an internal ekagraha (one-pointed focus), with that focus being the absolute/truth/ideal/divine/god.... It is easy to get distracted for a minute or ten by the sounds and sensations of the world around us. This dynamic is reflected in a larger way in our lives... we aspire to follow a practice/path to absolute/truth/ideal/divine/god.. but we easily get distracted, not just for minutes but sometimes for days or weeks. These distractions initially engage and entertain us, but can eventually leave us feeling dissatisfied...and wanting more. In both cases, once we become aware of our distraction, the idea is to gently turn our focus around and redirect it towards the goal we wish to attain. Back to one point, back to our path. With compassion and love, without force. Although some discipline/effort is sometimes required, it is gentle, with the greater good in mind. When we try too hard or force our efforts, the prize (peace/happiness/equanimity/truth) seems to slip through our grasp and elude us. When we create the conditions for grace, it naturally comes. I love the concept of open-handed-holding – if you try to capture a butterfly by closing your hand – it will probably fly away, but if you keep your palm open, it may land and rest there.. blessing you with its beauty. It is similar with love, grace and happiness. Landmarks/milestones such as the New Year, birthdays, anniversaries and life events can be useful to re-focus our intention, but they can just as easily distract. It is important to check in daily which way we are heading.. towards our goal, or away from it? Even hourly, even moment by moment.. whatever you can manage.. as this is the way we slowly turn out minds towards the light of truth and wisdom, and it is this way our whole lives eventually become a meditation. Perhaps this is your year? 

With blessings,
Suzanne Gray

What is the Ujjayi breath?

As with many of the postures and pranayama instructions, each of the lineages teaches the Ujjayi breath slightly differently. Ujjayi generally translated as “victorious” is an invigorating and energising yet steady breath, which makes it a great choice for asana practice. The prefix “ud” meaning upwards, and “jaya” meaning victorious allow us to get a sense of the action of the breath, which is upwards and expands the chest – as Mr Iyengar says “like a conquering warrior”. The breath has a few notable qualities. 1- it is a breath that incorporates all 3 parts of the breath – the abdominal breath (belly), the diaphragmatic – intercostal breath (ribs/chest), and the clavicular (upperlungs/collarbones) breath. The breath begins in the abdomen which expands and creates space for the diaphragm to lower into, it moves into the lungs, chest and heart – lifting and expanding the ribcage and chest, and continues into the upper lungs lifting and spreading the collarbones, it leaves via the same pathway, though some effort is made to maintain the position of the ribcage and collarbones and not let them collapse. 2- the breath is even and steady. The aim is for the inhale and exhale to be the same length, and same strength all the way through. If you gasp after the exhale – you have exhaled too long, if your breath gets thin and weak at the end of the inhale, you have inhaled too long. Steady, rhythmic breathing is required. 3- the most defining characteristic of this breath (and the greatest variation in practice) is the sibilant hissing sound caused by the glottis moving down and up during the breath. The intention of this sound is to create a focal point, to draw your awareness to a one-pointed focus (ekagrata), concentrate the mind, and let the practice become meditative. Generally this is achieved by imagining you are gently sighing “haaaa” while keeping the lips closed, and the sound is quiet, it's just for you, not for others to hear. Richard Freeman calls it “oceanic”. There are variations of this instruction, all of which are fine.. except for the more extreme, yet popular, version of the “Darth Vader” breath – which is loud and intense. Not only can this be distracting for others, but it has a decided drawback to the practitioner. Generally this breath can “block” the connection between the breath and the body and “lock” awareness predominantly in the head. This means that there is a lot of thought/mind/emotions in the practice, and the body and head can begin to feel quite disconnected. Although advanced postures can still be achieved, the quietening of the mind, which is the ultimate goal of yoga doesn't seem to happen, and practitioners can be overwhelmed by emotions during the practice, and unable to shift their emotions in general. This happens partly because the back of the tongue is tense, and the use of the abdominal muscles too forceful. To remedy this, relax the throat, soften the belly and imagine the breath going up through the nostrils into the nasal passage, down the windpipe into the lungs and belly, and gently follow this pathway back out, making sure the breath is open all the way. Then use the technique of imagining you are saying “haaaah” with your lips closed. You will access the belly breath more naturally, connect with your whole body, and calm and quieten the mind. Happy Breathing. 
Every day is a new day.. and so is every practice!

Calendar Dates

Monday January 13th – 2014 timetable starts. Some slight teacher changes, plus Monday night 6pm has been changed to a LEVEL 1 class, to support our students at all levels. Level 1 is a well rounded practice but without inversions, lotus, full backbends – so it is suitable for less experienced students as well as students who wish to include a more steady, supportive and grounding practice in their practice week. 

Tuesday January 28th – We are happy to announce we are introducing a NEW class – Adults & Kids – we have had a number of enquiries from parents of young yogis who would like to try yoga, but are a little young for our adult classes (13+) and a little old for Kids yoga.. now they can!! alongside Mum/Dad/Aunty etc. Ages approx 9-12yo. 4 pm, 1 hour class, Adults $13, Kids $10. First class FREE. Taught by the lovely Christine. Please arrive 10-15 mins early and tell your friends and family – all welcome. 

February 21-23 SUMMER RETREAT @ Springbrook. Last year we ran our first summer retreat, and we loved it so much, we're running it again! Yoga, stunning natural environment, Margs amazing vego food, awesome fellow retreatees, and more! We have confirmed the lovely Petrina Tonkin running a drum circle as the first guest facilitator.. Drumming up a great summer vibe  $360 Earlybird price if paid by FEB 3RD, after that $375. $100 deposit required to hold your place. 
Please see the teachers at the front desk, or email to book. A weekend of freedom and restoration!


New New New New

We are excited to finally be launching our new website! Still – we hope to be up and running by the week ending the 17th!! Check it out, with new teacher pics and more. PLUS we have a new APP that will be launched at the same time! Sign up for notifications of special offers for app users, inspirational tips, uptodate info on any changes and stay connected! The new app link will be released with the website very soon, stay tuned! 

Ready to step up? Take the 12 month Challenge! Sign on before Valentine's Day (Feb 14) for either our Yearly or Platinum passes and get $100 off! Practice consistently at least 3 times per week for the 12 months, and if you don't notice increased benefits in your practice and life, you will get your MONEY BACK!!! That's how much we believe in the transformative power of regular practice!! We have seen amazing changes in our long term yogis & yoginis who are already doing this – now it could be your turn!!

Platinum student Paula Murray

We continue to seek great yogic products to stock our shelves with, so keep your eye on our yoga shop for items that might support your practice and life. Just in – a new range of mat bags, towels and cushions. Plus our great GCYC bamboo t-shirts are now only $30! 
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