In the west, when people hear the word 'yoga' they most commonly think of the various poses and positions of the body (asanas). However, asana is only one small part of the practice of yoga. The majority of the practice of yoga occurs off your mat, not on it.
The word 'asana' roughly translates as 'comfortable seated position'. The purpose of practicing asana is to create a strong and healthy body that is able to sit comfortably in meditation. The classic yoga text Hatha Yoga Pradipika says that asana can 'create both physical and mental stability, health and feeling of lightness in the body'. Modern asana practice improves your coordination, flexibility, core strength and balance.
During our retreats you will experience a wide range of asana styles - from Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar and modified Ashtanga to Yin and Restorative. Learning about the benefits and differences of each. Exposing yourself to wide range of styles and disciplines means you may try a form of asana you have not previously experienced, perhaps even discovering the tradition that best suits your body and personality.
During asana classes the emphasis is always on presence, self-awareness and self-acceptance. You are always encouraged to perform the exercises according to your own level of ability.
Pranayama is the practice of regulating the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force. The breathing techniques we use in yoga aim to establish a balance between the functions of the body and mind.
The most important breathing techniques you will learn with us include Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing), which aims to revitalize and purify the energy channels, Bhastrika (bellows breath) which is a revitalizing practice and Bhramari (bumblebee breath) and Viloma (interrupted breath) which are both calming and stress-relieving.
Pranayama, especially those practices that involve deep, slow breathing, can have a calming effect on the mind and therefore are an excellent preparation for meditation.
Yoga Nidra & Meditation
Yoga Nidra means "yogic sleep", that is, a fully conscious experience that the physical body is asleep. Its current form was drafted by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in the 1960's and is a technique of sensory withdrawal (pratyahara) that builds a sense of conscious peace within practitioners. Yoga Nidra is different from other relaxation techniques in that you are never instructed to consciously relax.
Meditation is a process of turning inward with a sense of relaxed yet focused, concentration. There are many different types and techniques of meditation, but the purpose of each of them is the same: Complete acceptance of the present moment, exactly as it is and the creation of an opportunity to touch a space that exists within yourself - a space that is not governed by your mind, because it is not your mind.
The most common technique is to sit still and relaxed with closed or half-open eyes and focus your attention and consciousness on a single idea or object. This can be a prayer or mantra, the energy centres of the body (chakras), a candle flame, an idea, a colour or a shape. Alternatively, you can simply keep your mind calm and focus on a sense of inner peace or your own breathing.
The word mantra comes from the root words Man, meaning mind, and Tra, meaning liberation. It is a vibrational form of energy healing. A mantra is a series of sounds created to quieten the mind and modify consciousness through their rhythmic repetition.
The most famous mantra is Aum (Om). Aum is actually made up of three different sounds. You can feel the vibration of each sound in different parts of the body: "A" in the stomach, "U" in the chest and "M" in the head.
Gayatri Mantra and Maha Mritjun Jaya Mantra are two other well-known mantras that you will hear, chant and feel on our retreat.