Posts

Chair yoga can sometimes be viewed as a modality for the elderly or the debilitated and although it is extremely beneficial for people in this category the style of yoga is abundantly fruitful for anyone who practices it. The April yoga day started with sitting on specifically designed yoga chairs and engaging in pranayama which translates to “breath control”: working with the breath and deliberately changing it for the body’s benefit. Prana is sanskrit for breath or “vital energy”and Ayama means control so pranayama is control of the breath. We engaged in Ujjayi which is a balancing and calming breath, Kapalbhati which is a cleansing breath and alternate nostril breathing which relaxes the body.

Once centered into the day by deliberately working with the breath we engaged in an hour of postures that use the chair to support the body in the perfect alignment for the posture being practiced. The age range in the class was 23 to 65 and some of the postures had everyone fully focused and present in order to maintain alignment and all could do so as the chair assisted. Postures included pelvic tilts and circles, cat cow and dancing cat to awaken the chakra centers that ground us in. This led to chair sun salutations with twists and side bends to cleanse and purify. Chair tricep dips with various leg variations had everyone laughing and the day settled into a beautiful flow.

A short break was followed by a more fiery vinyasa flow to create the heat required to move fluids through the body in such a way that works all elements within the body: fire, water, air and earth. There is always the option to rest during the practice as the demeanor needs to remain calm and centered. I was particularly moved by my older foundation students who kept up in a way that demonstrated the years they have been diligently maintaining their core work.

Lunch is an opportunity to replenish the body and the preparation of the food considers the practice that came before and the activities that follow after lunch. Food needs to be nourishing but not heavy or taxing on the digestive system. Digesting food can take a tremendous amount of energy and so foods that are light on the digestion are chosen. All food is organic or sourced from local farmers who are not registered as organic but subscribe to this wholistic approach to food. Abundant salads are available and in this instant wholesome slow cooked chicken and vegetables for the meat eaters and a chili butternut and sweet potato soup for the vegetarians. A few totally healthy treats always bring smiles to people’s faces. This time it was dates filled with cacao beans or brazil nuts.

Time to be in each other’s company is valuable so lunch becomes a relaxation experience where every need is taken care of while participants simply engage in the art of conversation and being together. Such interaction is followed by the deep stillness of the next session, which is a vital part of unwinding a stimulated nervous system. Meditation and stillness by the lake is eagerly received. The April Yoga Day focused on a Vipassana technique that is both grounding and uplifting while also centering the busy mind. Back at the studio a contemplation, rather than a concentration, based technique is offered while people are given the option of being in viparita karani or another inversion.

Somehow a whole day passed and the laughter and joy that echoed into the open space communicated the benefits of taking time out and to mindfully engage in practices that offer social benefits but also have their foundations in replenishing an already over worked nervous system and mind. People leave full of being in their own company and that of others but not drained. There is a feeling that the compass has been reset towards higher levels of consciousness and this is taken home to be kindled and nurtured once life routines resume.

These days are gentle and kind to both the mind and the body so the spirit can soar.

Namasté

Marise

Accredited Meditation, Qi Gong & Yoga Teacher and Psychotherapist.

The link between promoting Holistic Health practices and creating Beauty is a strong one.

We live in an era where the information explosion has created an environment where people have access to the latest developments in politics, health, education and beauty. If a person looks it’s not hard to find the latest developments in health and beauty but it appears that the latest developments will only be a passing phase unless they are in alignment with the current global trend towards a holistic and integrated approach. People world – wide are being exposed to companies that produce goods with integrity and support a sustainable planet. As this trend grows it places considerable pressure on companies that continue to extract the consumer dollar at the expense of dwindling natural resources. Health and Beauty is at the forefront of this growing trend because it has the potential to address and make an impact on three fundamental principles of health and beauty: (1) The beauty and health of our physical bodies (2) the vibrant health and beauty of our planet but most importantly (3) the beauty and wellness of people’s inner state; emotional, mental and spiritual. To address health and beauty from all these perspectives means to have a healthy integrity, which informs the types of products and companies to support. Companies like Xinfu International and growing modalities like Qi Gong, Reiki and Mindfulness all promote a lifestyle that supports integrity and true beauty. As the Health and Beauty Industries mature in their approaches so will people’s understanding that attitudes and products that make a person feel beautiful and connected on the inside will also be good for the planet and be in alignment with inner health and wellbeing. This is true beauty.

HISTORICAL CONTEXTUALISATION:

The stereotype that Beauty was to be found and enhanced in the realm of femininity as a way to attract a partner is still a lingering idea. Traditionally women were seen as possessions that had to look attractive or come with a substantial dowry in order to secure a husband. Much effort was placed on looking beautiful in order to be financially or socially secure. Men held economic power and so women were in a vulnerable position, in competition with each other to secure the man who would provide for their economic needs. It wasn’t that long ago that, women could not open a bank account on their own and their personal identity was absorbed into their husband’s name. Ibsen’s play A DOLL’S HOUSE is famous for exposing this. It is important to understand this because the Beauty Industry is fashioned according to the MAIN CULTURAL ideas of the time and at this time it was used primarily by women because they were seen as possessions to make a man look good! Beauty was simply a means to an end and it is not surprising that many women fell victim to dangerous and unsustainable products that simply used them and their vulnerable situation. Toxic substances used on the skin to make women appear whiter, younger, browner or wrinkle free flooded the market because the beauty industry could get away with it. It is not such a recent idea either as in the 16th century Queen Elizabeth set the trend of making white skin and red hair very popular so women in that time began to use a white powder that contained white lead, which we now know to be poisonous. Of course, this approach and consciousness level is very prominent in our society today but things are changing at a growing pace.

Naomi Wolf in her famous book THE BEAUTY MYTH published in 1990, exposed the Beauty Industry’s devious promotion of women as commodities to be used. This period in our history was the beginning of the end of the Industry’s total manipulation of women as the weaker sex to be used and abused in order to make big bucks.  Wolf’s uncompromising effort to expose the lie in THE BEAUTY MYTH also led to books such as FIRE WITH FIRE and MISCONCEPTIONS which began to teach women and girls about their second – class status in society and how the Beauty Industry was at the forefront of maintaining the lie. A type of awakening occurred where women no longer gave their power away to those who promoted the idea that Beauty comes from the outside and guess what we have just the product for you! Instead Wolf opened the door to the idea that Beauty is a state of inner being and connecting with this brought an explosion of a more holistic approach to health and beauty that continues to grow. Although some companies, the media and advertising agencies still have a long way to go in ridding themselves of blatant money making schemes at the expense of vulnerable men and women in search of their beauty, at least we have made major progress in other ways. Beauty is now not about women finding a husband but an inner process for both women and men that is complimented by external products or practices to support this inner process.

THE PHYSICAL BODY

The Beauty Industry has left childhood and is well on its way towards adulthood in its understanding that beauty first and foremost springs from the integration of physical, emotional and mental wellness. Inner beauty must address all three aspects and each one must be looked at in some detail. A flurry of raw food cookbooks has hit the market over the last 8 years as we begin to understand that we are what we eat and food is the basis or foundation of inner and outer beauty. Authors such as David Wolfe, Ani Phyo and Mimi Kirk are all well respected and highly educated experts in their fields and living models of how raw food creates super health and inner and outer beauty. Pictures of all three are testimony to what they preach as all look glowing with vitality and energy. Mimi Kirk won, not too long ago, sexiest 50 year old at age 70! Food Matters websites and the well known films based on the Food Matters experts are leading the education front that supports organic produce, locally grown produce and alive food that is jam packed with nutrients that support the body at a cellular level. These current experts owe much to pioneers like Dr. N.W. Walker who in the 1970’s, when such knowledge was rare, documented the link between organic and enzymes. He promoted juices and raw salads as a way towards eliminating major illnesses. His work on the nerves of the colon and how they affect every part of the anatomy was groundbreaking and he promoted the regular practice of cleaning the bowels through colonics. This is documented in his book Colon Health.

David Wolff in his book The Sunfood Diet Success System also has a chapter on Detoxification and how vital it is to understand that the food one eats has a two fold role: one being nutrition for the cells to create energy and the other being providing fiber that comes from raw living plants in order to clean out the colon so nutrients can be absorbed. The roughage is like a broom cleaning out old debris that clogs up the intestines that are the organs of absorption. Current young and cool authors like Ani Phyo make doing the right thing by your body and the planet look exciting, delicious and easy. Her book Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen is hip, has a chapter called: “ Drinks for Radiance” and appeals to the very informed and savvy younger generation. Of course there are still issues in Australia relating to young people’s use of drugs and alcohol but a quick search on youtube also shows that the current graduates of naturopathy and nutrition are setting up blogs that connect youngsters to a more sustainable way of being that promotes physical health and a natural radiance. Just look up Meg & Veg and see what this young, cool 20 something is doing to promote inner beauty. The choice is there. Although some of these first wave authors and approaches seem very extreme for some they paved the way for the dialogue to begin and inspired a whole new wave of interest. The research continues with people like Professor Felice Jacka, a local Geelong academic who continues to research the link between gut health and common ailments like depression and fatigue.

With this comes the growing understanding of the essential nature of WATER. It is predicted by the UN that water will become what OIL was in the 1980’s. The health and beauty of our planet rests on the sustainability of our water – ways and how we use water to grow crops and fuel industry. What can we do about this at a local level? Well, plenty! Consideration about how water is used, from where it is sourced, using filters that are bought from companies that give back to the community like ZAZEN are subtle but to focus on them has huge ramifications. Knowledge about how water is processed and consumed seems a few steps away from a discussion on beauty but upon closer inspection the two are inextricably linked.

THE EMOTIONAL & MENTAL BODY

Linked to this is the promotion of emotional and mental wellbeing. If a person begins to look after themselves on a physical level it is a small and natural jump to also balancing the emotions and thought processes. Modalities such as Reiki, Qi Gong, Yoga and Mindfulness all encourage disciplining the mind and understanding the role of the emotions so as not to be a slave to either of them.  Being master of one’s emotions and thoughts is a critical step in creating health and inner beauty so it is no wonder that Health Retreats often include access to massage, Reiki treatments, yoga classes and Meditation sessions, beginner QI Gong and walks through nature. The West has benefitted greatly from the Eastern traditions’ focus on creating inner balance and union through disciplines such as Yoga and Qi Gong. Let us look at each in turn.

YOGA

Yoga can be seen as simply a physical practice but it is over 5000 years old and began as a spiritual practice to attain enlightenment or full consciousness. It was recognized by the Buddha that true inner beauty and happiness comes from a state of inner being. This is an idea espoused by many today as it has grown as a result of the spread of Yoga as a practice. Yogananda in his famous book An Autobiography of a Yogi documents his dedication to bringing Yoga to America in the 1930’s. America has not been the same since. “’Yoga creates a sense of union in body, mind, and spirit. It brings us balance.”  So, on a physical level yoga stretches the muscles, it’s good for the organs, the muscular system and the heart and provides extended flexibility, supports the digestive system and the circulatory system.  It calms the mind reduces stress and anxiety. (Stiles, T Slim Calm Sexy Yoga 2010). However, this is only half of the picture as it only addresses the physical elements. Emotionally and on a thought level yoga works on accessing spiritual forgiveness and the value of gentleness and other high states of consciousness. The Yamas and Niyamas and the Eight – Fold Path lead a person towards inner wholeness. Both Buddhist and Hindu traditions espouse the benefits of Yoga and most major religions of the world align on a spiritual level with the truth that higher levels of consciousness is the doorway towards an enlightened or fully integrated way of being.

REKI & Qi GONG

Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese meditative discipline that helps to nourish, master and transform one of the most powerful tools accessed by being human: the mind. A series of techniques are practiced daily and the repetitive nature of the practice is its power. The essence of each technique, whether it be to cleanse, to open, to absorb, to remain alert or to focus, is integrated at a level that has the ability to supersede all the programs that a person has absorbed and to replace the programs with an alertness or witnessing quality that surrenders to each given moment and connects with the highest potential for action in that moment. A person then acts from the present rather than the programs inherited in the past. In other words, a person has the ability to respond to a situation rather than react from karmic inheritance or learned behavioral patterns.

Reiki is a Japanese healing art that taps into universal life energy and with intent offers this space to clients as a means to regain the homeostasis that brings wholeness and hence healing. Like Qi Gong,  Reiki asks the practitioner to be aware of the physical, emotional and mental bodies and their relationship to each other within him-self, and to use this awareness with clients as they explore the disconnectedness being experienced. By creating the symbols that are associated with each of the bodies, whether it be the emotional, mental or physical body, the practitioner is bringing to mind the energy of each symbol which has a direct impact on the client. It assists to direct the client out of old ways of perceiving and to see an imbalance with new eyes or awareness. The client is asked to use the intuitive mind to access knowledge the linear mind cannot access and as the client accesses these realms the practitioner holds a loving space that can hear what is being said by the client, decide which levels of consciousness are speaking and direct the client to the part of the body that holds the memories or stale energy. Reiki can be used as a way to open a client to the healing power of loving touch and to begin the process of connecting the parts of the body that are not communicating. If psyche and soma are not communicating then the body is out of balance! Once such connections are made the body has an incredible way of bringing itself back into balance if it is the right time to do so. Both systems access the soul space that is required to bring about lasting change but Qi Gong goes a step further in providing the practitioner a system by which the mind can be molded and changed in very specific ways through intense repetition. It accesses the realm of WILL in ways that may not be such a focus for the art of Reiki. Such deep ways of penetrating the old belief systems that destroy balance and inner beauty are becoming part of the required Beauty treatments at Beauty and Health Retreats and Day Spas.

CONCLUSION

The power of a Health Industry that is in alignment with the current trends towards supporting the planet we live on is that everyone at some stage will need someone who works in the industry; for a massage, Reiki treatment, an operation or Psychotherapy. This means that change towards a more sustainable lifestyle can literally be in the hands of health practitioners who understand the power they have to educate clients and support companies and products that believe in creating a Beauty that is not superficial but deeply lasting and incredibly rich. There is a solid awareness that health and beauty, comes from physical fitness, emotional stability, mental clarity and a desire to share this wonderful planet we all live on.

Marise Jose (15/7/18)

A YOGA DAY & BUILDING COMMUNITY.

On the weekend I facilitated a Yoga Wellness Day that took participants through an active 90 minute practice in the morning, a walking meditation around a lake before lunch and a more relaxed 90 minute Yin practice after lunch, to aid digestion. Thirteen people booked in to deepen their experience and knowledge of Yoga and the wellness it promotes. Why would anyone do that? There were an eclectic mix of people ranging in ages from early 30’s to mid 60’s, both male and female. All had one thing in common: their willingness to build community. Now what does yoga have in common with building community? Well quite a lot in fact. You see, a yoga asana or posture requires every part of the body to play its part to activate the beauty and benefits of the posture. Some parts of the body will need to be in contraction and other parts in a more lengthened state, some parts of the body will need to be spiraling one way while others spiral in another. In yoga anatomy terms it’s called reciprocal inhibition. For the posture to take place every part of the system must play its part and one part is no more or less important than the other. The body, if you like, functions to its highest potential by being in a state of community. A singular part aware of its communal purpose.

As participants arrived there was some sense of community but as they did not know each other, it was limited. The full potential had not been reached. As the day unfolded and people began to be free to explore the asana and to be utterly themselves in doing so, a freedom emerged that promoted a consciousness level that creates an “US”. An “US” is a powerful field of consciousness as it is not self – serving or motivated by fear or competition. Any subconscious beliefs that are held from the level of fear will often arise through the practice of Yoga and these beliefs and the emotions that come with them, can be addressed as they arise on the mat. People often experience moments of exhilaration as they realize they are letting go of an old version of themselves. I often hear “I’ve never done that before!” Letting go of such limited consciousness levels becomes a way of being when off the mat if Yoga becomes a discipline or devotional practice. As a yoga practice deepens there is a natural movement towards being in community with another and so a sense of being an “US” grows.

A full day of yoga heightens for participants the lessons around working together, letting go of fears, trying a new posture and understanding that mastery takes time and patience. A day of Yoga solidifies these lessons in a way that an hour’s practice may not be able to. The benefits continue to penetrate the subtle and physical body of the participants over the weeks ahead. There appears to be a sense of enthusiasm and the energy level is more buoyant.

Sharing Yoga is a big part of the day but so too is sharing an organically grown meal that celebrates wholesome growing practices and is lovingly cooked. This is accompanied by the beauty of nature all around. The chooks Donna and Basil often come in to the open studio and cluck their way around to enhance our practice while Bonnie the cat is a little more reserved but equally curious. Participants also enjoy the company of the horses over the lunch break. Personally, as the facilitator, there is a deep awareness that sharing Yoga this way is a lesson in life, a life we are each asked to live fully, with awareness and with each other.

I look forward to meeting you on the mat when you are able to join me.

Marise Jose, Yoga & Qi Gong Teacher and Psychotherapist.


Subscribe to Marise's Blog!