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Zen Yoga: How do you relax...or how to relax in a breath! (TCP Newsletter)

Let's explore what relaxation is for you, or even if it actually helps....

Relaxation can be a very individual thing as we all have different preferences according to our personalities, lifestyle and favourite hobbies. Do you relax by actively swimming, running or going to the gym to pump adrenalin to fuel your system and physically feel your muscles scream 'hey sexy'? Do you relax every time you instinctively reach for a cigarette and enjoy the nicotine coursing through your blood in an assuring chemical release? Do you relax by veg-ing out in front of the telly every night so you don't have to think and just lay passively like a ripen strawberry ready for picking? Do you relax by listening to the tinkering notes flowing into your being and feel yourself soak up the vibrational tunes of feeling alive? Do you relax by pushing yourself into a 'ou la la' pretzel yoga posture and try profusely to direct the inner you to clear your mind completely in emptiness? The brilliant answer of these questions is that there is...no answer at all.

Relaxation is an individual experience, often linked to how we feel and usually what we define as enjoyable. What drives us to relax is definitely keys to our internal psyche or voice that is worth noting, like trigger points to keep us sane and functioning. Remember the time when your shoulder started to ache from sitting at the desk all day and you think to yourself 'I must sort it out', then just continued working anyway. Or the time when your shoulder started stiffening up so much that you suddenly started to roll your shoulders back and twist in your chair without you even realising? Whether we mentally realise it or not, our bodies are actually very intelligent in sending us cautionary messages of what needs to be done and even taking control to instinctively do what it desperately needs in order to continue functioning with or without our mental consent. More often than not, when we finally take heed from the immense pain within our bodies to actually do something like see a doctor, physiol, massage, therapist or even just make time to relax, there are quite a few red flags already raised within our bodies or minds. Through the process of getting fixed or relaxation, the pleasurable release we receive is often short lived and easily forgotten when compared to the urging pain. So we settle back into habits of work and life, only for the cycle of pain and then release or pleasure to re-enact like a vicious circle.    


Perhaps the better question to consider is...after what you chose to do for relaxation or a release of pain, did it help you face the challenges in your life in a better way? Let's not even go so far to suggest its a complete turn-around to make you utterly different and an angelic better person altogether. If or when all hell breaks loose and you are back to feeling like you are still in utterly hopeless stressful square one, then it might be time to reconsider your relaxation routine or indeed choose to start one. Whether it is relaxation or physical and emotional release of tension or stress that we seek, or just being able to cope, it is often for the ultimate aim of happiness. As human beings we crave happiness, we want to be better versions of beings, we want to laugh, we want to be loved and we want to live. For one thing or the other, it is not always easy for us to live as we would love to, but 'love' is exactly the one ultimate cure we need. How much do we really love ourselves? Is spending 2 little minutes a day or even one hour a week stretching too selfish a love for yourself? No, because we all need to take care of the one single body we have in order to continue functioning and living. What life would we live if we are cranky, agitated and in pain all the time? How would it affect those that we love? Where do you find that emotional pleasure of joy and mental relaxation of peaceful harmony? Where do we even begin to untangle the knotted webs of our life? How do we set free the good and beautiful within us?

One thing we do definitely share as living human beings is breathing. The most simple and effective method that is constantly overlooked or pushed aside because we don't feel like it, or we are too lazy, or we don't have time to do it properly....yet every living moment we take it is crucial for us to be breathing. The good news is that breathing well is definitely rewarding and can be a deeply beautiful experience. The bad news is that only YOU can do the work for you. Am I making sense yet? I am probably sounding like a broken record, especially if you have ever been in one of my classes or followed a YouTube video, but your breathing is capable of shifting the energy within you. In Zen Yoga we work not only on alignment, but on energy as well as mindfulness...which is why my classes are often styled as a slow flowing dance of meditation. It's not about acrobatics or what posture you can hold, as underlying all of our bones, tissue and cells we are all an electromagnetic field of atomic vibrating energy....every breath, feeling, sensation and pulse is a frequency of energy. Which is why I choose to focus my teaching on visualising the release of tension mindfully, simplicity of bare breathing and tapping into the vibrations of light within a posture to help us re-energised, rather than performing a hard to master acrobatic Asana (posture) for the sense of achievement.


If you have not made the most important commitment to love yourself yet, then start today. Try this breathing exercise for 2 minutes daily for the next 30 days, and see if this simple no-frills challenge helps you relax even more:

  • Set a vibrational timer if you wish to time your daily session for 2 minutes. 
  • Sit with both sitting bones connected to your seat and keeping the spine relatively straight without rigid force as well as shoulders openly relaxed.
  • Focus on breathing through your nostrils. Inhale to the count of 4 as you aim to direct the breath down towards your abdomen.
  • Retain the breath for a count of 2.
  • Exhale slowly to a count of 6 as you aim to direct the breath gently all the way up from the abdomen and out through the nostrils. Releasing all you need to release back into the universe.
  • Repeat for the duration you have set yourself and focus on the sensations of the breath. (If thoughts arise, just acknowledge them as something to deal with and continue with the flow of breathing.)  

Let me know how you get on with this 30 day challenge here, or feel free to drop me a line in our Facebook Group or Page so I can cheer you on. People often comment that I have a calm presence or energy, but not many realise it really does come down to something as simple as a breath, which is what I have learnt from the day I started my practice as a Vajrayana Buddhist at the age of 16 years. When I feel a panic of anxiousness or when I hear the breath of the people around me rise and fall in cascading waves of stress, I always come back to 'what can I do to disperse this energy positively'. As I begin to note my breath, often those I am communicating with suddenly sense the energy communicated and somehow slowly shift to follow the flow of that energy....almost like a mirroring of beautiful lakes where we both float into a calmer space. After all, it is about living your yoga on as well as off the mat.


Find 'The Cat Pose - Zen Yoga' on.....


*Join our 'Zen Yoga Introduction' FREE (or donate the value to a charity of your choice) in Greenwich Park (London) on Saturday 5th September 2015 to support our 'Karma Yoga' practice (yoga of action for benefiting others) or meet May!

*Find out more about our upcoming 'Zen Yoga Beginners' course 


Last but not at the very least, I shall leave you with an interesting video by 'Mark Bertolini CEO: Mindful management means yoga for employees'. [Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh5burfafOo] Besides teaching yoga this upcoming weekend, I shall also be thinking about which Qipao to wear and style, perhaps a tad bit of sewing, for my photoshoot with the fabulous Caroline next week. [Walking in May's official photographer: Caroline Opacic Photography] Jitters of excitement, as I have missed our fabulous shoots together where it always turns out to be fun girly time more than anything like work. Have a fabulous mid-week my darlings!


Until the next time,
May xx

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