Yoga in harmony with nature

100_5676For many of us, within the context of our busy and often stressful lives, we may be living unwittingly out of sync with the rhythms and tides of the natural world.

For example, when we observe the seasons in nature, we see the waxing and waning of energy through Winter, Autumn, Spring and Summer.

Winter could be a time for withdrawal, a natural, instinctive conserving of energy, a storing of resources, a gathering below the surface as it were for new building to come. Spring is a time of bursting forth new buds and blossoms, a promise of fresh and wonderful things to come. Similarly, summer is a time of ripening and bearing fruit.

One way of harnessing ourselves more to these beautiful flows of natural energy would be to adjust our lives and endeavours to mirror nature’s wisdom.

Thus the winter months could be a contemplative time to re-asses our existing patterns and habit’s, whether personal or business or in our relationships.

Winter can be a time of releasing old out dated modes of behaviour like shedding old skin we have outgrown. In our yoga practice we can use the cold time to focus on building strength in the body. We can use the natural ebbing time of winter to deepen our meditation practice, almost akin to hibernating but with our mind and awareness needle sharp. Winter is a time to consolidate our knowledge of yoga with it’s wise tenets and practical philosophy.

As we move into the spring season, a natural emergence takes place. Our practice becomes lighter as energy quickens. Optimism blossoms as we become more playful. Physical work could include more activated flow sequences and jumping. Spiritually this is a time of the flowering of our new ideas. The old is shed and we embrace eagerly the new.

Warm weather can also be a time of working on our flexibility, deep stretching is an excellent way to release deep seated stress that is stored in our muscle memory. Many yoga postures require of us a high level of elasticity in the body for this very reason. Deep penetrating stretches help enormously to deepen our relaxation practice.

In many highly ‘developed’ countries, fruit and vegetables that are naturally seasonal are now-a-days available year round. This is largely due to the business opportunity’s such availability generates. A natural way of living would eschew buying out-of-season produce. Many health benefits are specific to season fruit and vegetables. Bear in mind if the general public refused to sustain the demand the business would die out. Our personal responsibility sustains or denies these types of modern day ventures.

On a shorter scale, our glorious sun begins it’s inexorable waxing from midnight until the zenith at noon. During this time the energy of our natural world steadily increases. After noon the pendulum swings back the other way as the natural energy steadily wanes again all the way back to deep midnight.

Few of us are aware of this immensely powerful daily flux of solar and lunar tide. This powerful ebb and flow acts inevitably into our very own body’s rhythms and tides. When we move against these natural flows we weaken instead of strengthen our energy.

The rising energy cycle can be used for building, growing, developing and using energy. The falling cycle can be used for slowing down, contemplating, meditating, assessing and planning, relaxing etc.

Early morning is a great time for vigorous strength and aerobic exercising. Late morning is a good time to eat our main meal of the day. After noon the body should have little food and asana should be in harmony with the waning solar flow. This way we provide maximum support for our bodies natural rhythms.

The early part of the evening should be spent quietly together and our main sleep time should be before 12 midnight. This ensures deep rest for our physical systems as we again harmonise with the solar calming and lunar rising.

Our western daily structure is once again largely a product of the fraternal ‘business day’ which it supports admirably, but has little or nothing to do with living a life in balance with the natural world.

The heavy concern of commerce is a brittle, artificial construct that directs us away from a life of yoga into a dead robotic life governed by harsh routines that long ago burnt out any spark of divine life within us. The way back is simple really but requires of us decision and courage. We need to examine with our hearts eyes the various areas of our lives and discern what genuine priority is needed. We all know deep down what is good and wholesome for ourselves and our communities. It does take some time however and some deep introspective work to see clearly. The rewards of such work if collectively undertaken would be enourmous.

 

Namaste

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Ponta do Ouro

. . . but well worth it! . . . the wind was hectic today. . . Almond tree Dining at O Lar do Ouro Glorious warm seas Informal traders eeking out an income for themselves Luxury with an un-parralleled sea view Mediteranean style beach path complete with Coconut Palms No local stuff here - all from Nepal Bali etc Offroad vehicle needed Old mission church plonked somewhere arbitrary in the sand Pizza Prawns Salads Coco-Rico. . . Restaurant al la Mozambique Shells on the wave edges Sound Journey time That sea really is stupendous The laughing buddha of Ponta The main town square of Ponta with its 'BCI Bank' The occasional clouds never lasted very long The Serious Yogi of Ponta The start of the 'Natural Jacuzi pools' The street outside the B&B Trecherous rocks Tropical vegetation Truly stunning beaches you can walk up forever What a sweet and beautiful charcoal cat with tiny flecks of white Where the crowds collect Which road should we choose You have to hold the door closed but it does the job

I have a new screen saver – the fabulous beach at Ponta do Ouro. The trip was a wonderful break to this amazing African village with a delightful combination of morning and evening Yoga, sea, Dolphins, yummy food, walks and companionship.

The road trip up to the border went smoothly bar some heavy mist at the outset. Once we crossed over to Mozambique the roads basically disappeared giving way to beach sand. We were thankful we had arranged to be picked up since it would have been easy to get lost as the ‘road’ branches and splits off numerous times – apparently this is from bright spark drivers thinking they know a short cut. Inevitably this does not work out and simply causes a great muddle of new paths and tracks.

Ponto itself is a typical Mozambique coastal town with amazing beaches, dozens of old derelict buildings alongside brightly painted new ones, street vendors eking out a living and a few opportunists, seemingly mainly South Africans who probably almost solely maintain any economy existing. It is quite bizarre to me to see this seriously poor district with no proper road system at all and then a large brand new BMW X5 or Audi Q7 comes wizzing around the corner. The town was abuzz with tourists (mainly South African again) who appear to quite overrun the place at peak season with their 4 by 4s, boats, jet-skis, braais, tents, caravans, beer and loud voices.

The sea was fantastic – warm and utterly exquisite. An ominous warning of cloudy weather and rain from our host as we arrived never came true and the days were hot and sunny – perfect for a seaside holiday. If you enjoy miles upon miles of wide pleasant beaches to walk up and explore this is really the place to be. I am not much of a sea swimmer but love paddling about in the shallows, and with such hot sunshine (31° odd daily) this was just heavenly.

The boat trip out to find Dolphins was fun and one can get quite a new perspective of the town and shoreline as well. The Dolphins themselves are amazing. We got them mostly in there ‘morning fishing’ phase which in itself was something to see. They literally ‘crowded’ around the main facilitator, who they obviously know well. All in all we were surrounded by these beautiful creatures and I had an excellent view from the boat of them chasing fleeing fish, turning and twisting, diving and occasionally tossing a caught fish in the air before gulping it down. Some of the guys were privileged to see large parrot fish and shoals of other exotic tropical specimens.

The sea was beautifully calm with an occasional refreshing gentle wind and was quite stunning throughout the five days we were there.

Our Bed and Breakfast was comfortable and had everything we needed including wholesome food and a neat little swimming pool that I delighted in jumping into at 11 PM or so to cool off before sleeping. Quite bizarrely to us, the local radio station playing in the lounge and dining area was piping all the hits from the 70’s and 80’s – serious retro, permanently for the whole duration of our stay. 🙂

We also explored some of the local restaurants for evening meals which also proved worthwhile bar one where we waited interminably for the food to arrive 🙂

On the journey back we had an amusing moment. The road was jammed up in the middle of know-where by a huge abnoemal load vehicle – serious frustration at 10 kms/h was looming. Gung Ho yours truly, failing to notice the traffic police car nestled in the thick, decided to take the gap and power past the cavalcade on a yellow no pass line, but didn’t quite make it and got stuck again, but at least nearer the front. Said traffic police, extremely annoyed, immediately pulled up beside me and shouted through the window: “DON’T YOU EVER DO THAT IN FRONT OF ME AGAIN” 🙂

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Our very own Inner Eagle

Spiral Flight“An individual encountering the river of life from the narrow perspective of his own particular narrow river bank, may need to occasionally call upon his eagle nature (Garuda) to lift his range of vision to take in more of the river, to see all the curves and turns and changes. Then he may put his own situation into better perspective and see other possibilities.”

Johnson – She

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The Lithesome Serpent

Lithesome Serpent

‘The serpent has been associated with the rainbow by the Greeks, the Chinese and the Africans among others.’

 “. . . The celestial serpent symbolises the rainbow and can form a bridge from this world to the next.” –

Cooper, Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols.

Image curtesy of Dreamstime free images

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Yoga in Shanghai

Did I do Yoga in China?  🙂

Asia has a seriously burgeoning Yoga scene and so most areas and suburbs have their local studios.

Local Yoga StudioI spotted this one close to our hotel and so was soon enrolled for a class.

Predictably, the instructor was a pretty, young and lithe Chinese lass, who to my surprise gave the class in somewhat halting but certainly passable English. I was the only non-Chinese person, so perhaps she did it for my benefit!

I had expected one or other of the usual flow type styles and was not surprised. For some peculiar reason unknown to me, they seem to love doing dozens and dozens of Crocodile poses and half Crocodile poses and then still other variations J Perhaps there is sense that we need really good upper back arm development for the future up-coming Asanas. Anyhow, she did put some variety in as well. No long holds, but plenty of repetition and lots of moving about up and down.

I was enjoying myself and I’m not quite sure of this but she did seem a bit focused on me, perhaps because of the western novelty factor, but as the 90 minute session progressed she became more and more excited and animated and the pace was rising to a fever pitch, after 70 odd minutes I began to wonder where on earth we were off to 🙂

This was great fun and I enjoyed it immensely.

The delightful lady went considerably over time and by the end we were up in all sorts of back bending’s with variations. The class came to sudden halt eventually – no gentle cool down, counter poses and Savasana 🙂 I was a bit sore the next day, but well, that’s pretty usual.

Down dog for two while we are waitingThen of course my friend Wouter and my-self are not much the self-conscious types, so here we are waiting around an exhibition stand for some or other happening!!!

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Shanghia by Sight, Sound and Serendipity

A while back I took a trip to Shanghai, China to play some music with the flautist Kellerman at the world trade fair.

Balcony viewThe flight over two connections was interminable with a six hour wait at Hong Kong airport to just add some extra zest. Anyhow, we finally arrived and fell headlong into this sizable residential city of a casual 20 million odd folks.

I have travelled to India and experienced the big cities there, so without wanting to really draw comparisons, I was not quite sure what to expect. All the bicycles, mopeds and small bikes were there in the streets, along-side some really high end model cars.

Bikes crowds and widow boxesOur hotel, modest at 29 floors, was somewhat dwarfed by most other blocks but had all the hi-tech modern trappings. I found the contrast quite odd – bicycles and pedlars in the street and 0 – 24th floor in just a few seconds with hardly a murmur to begin and end the lift 🙂

The city is spotlessly clean with many daily cleaners avidly searching for the smallest scrap of paper. This again is a bit incongruous as I know there are still major refuse pollution problems in China not to mention air and other forms of pollution. I actually found it quite disturbing not to see any small insects like ants or flies – a far cry from India indeed and far too sterile and synthetic for my liking. I did hear the odd forlorn bird chirrup in one of the regimented trees but that was a about it in terms of wildlife.

Look at my shoes and bowOh, there is quite a culture among the residents of having a beauty competition ready ‘doggie’. Virtually every street has its ‘Dog beauty Parlour’, and the pets are shown off proudly on their little strolls down the road. The one shown here must have taken the cake with its shoes, pink bow and collar.

I did find my way to a few inner city parks and searched hopefully for some bugs or gnats or something. . . nada! nothing, not even one single fly.

Morning exercisesThe old gentleman doing his ‘stretches’ did give me a lovely smile though.

The trade show, held over a week or so had a projected visitor quota of around twelve million folks, to give you some idea of the massive scale of this expo.

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-gig preparations and the crowds are comingWe did not play to millions, but quite a sizable number did gather. My friend Wouter, ever game for a challenge, tried to learn a quick greet in the local dialect before the show – quite a feat for a non-speaker. Not sure quite how well he pulled it off, but give him credit for trying. Can you believe that our local (South African) department of Arts and Culture flew us all out (full band) all that way for one 30 minute gig 🙂

The gig went well with lots of clapping and happy faces, but really was over so quickly.

Curves with squared off edgesWith just two days of free time left, I went exploring the city. Many if not most of the kids have the mandatory laptop, ipad or large supa-smart- phone. They sit around on the pavements, walk down the street or lounge in shop arcades, deeply immersed in one or other cyberspace intrigue. What gardens there are, are quite fabulously regimented with square edges, (even on curved roads) super smooth surfaces and spotless borders. The highway system is multi-tiered as can be expected, and travelling along one at night you are treated to an amazing display of city lights.

You should have seen this building  at nightWhole giant building exteriors are lit up in spectacular technicolor and motion lighting is ubiquitous. Lines, dots and circles spiral, zoom, whiz and arc in every direction. Colours are paramount and each place vies to out-do the next.

Plastic galoreLastly, I thought I would buy a little something for my sweetheart back home. Perhaps a small tasteful desk cloth in muted colours and natural fabric like cotton, or maybe a pair of delicate wrought iron earrings of subtle and cunning craftsmanship 🙂

 

 

 

 

Giant Pink and Blue fluffy toysHer having something of a ‘refined’ taste in odds and ends and trinkets, I set out to see what was on offer. I searched and foraged for most of the day. Shop after shop, street after street I sought in vain through mountains upon mountains of brightly coloured plastic goods. Every shape and size and description bulged out meaningfully from shelves and racks. Fluffy toys, pink socks with bright lipstick red bows, gaudy yellow plastic lace cloths, plastic mugs and plates and cups and toothbrushes, many with Disney characters boldly emblazoned. Mickey and Donald were trumps with Noddy and Big-Ears a close second 🙂

Colourful sweetsAfter an exhausting and fruitless day (I enjoyed all my explorations immensely along the way) I decided to get her something non-serious, a trifle, a jest to make her smile. So, shortly thereafter, I was the proud owner of a pair of pink mickey-mouse ankle warmers with darker pink fluff balls attached strategically. To swell the gift token a little, I also purchased a delightful bright lilac and purple Alice-band with plastic silver roses and a tiny pot of bold red seductive paint-on lipstick. I was so proud of my-self and could not wait to see her face. Well, she did smile at least, but sadly, within a month or two I noticed Colourful flower boxesshe had never worn any of my long sought after gifts and then the whole lot seemed to mysteriously ‘disappear’ one day 🙂

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Delicious Veggie Bake

Delicious VeggiesI am always a bit surprised when I see recipes that lack herbs! I see quite a few of these.

For me herbs and spices are simply standard to cooking yummy dishes. I am no trained chef, but have done a few ‘spells’ at one of our local Buddhist centres helping out as the resident cook for their retreats.

Mostly, recipes are followed quite religiously at the centre, but occasionally flair and the mysterious unknown call too loudly to be ignored. This is one such case.

Buddha at EmoyeniI thought I would share my fabulous fall back on veggie bake dish that is so easy and delicious.

The tranquil retreat in the hills has a generous garden with an amazing dedicated area of herbs. The mainstay herb of my bake grows all over the place anyway – Rosemary!

Feeds about 8 – 10 people.

Serve with steamed Basmati rice and Sambals

Gather –

  • Two medium size butternuts, peeled and cubed
  • Two cups of potatoes also peeled and cubed – sweet potato and standard potatoes mix well for more abundance. Chop the standard potatoes a bit smaller than the sweet ones since they take  a little longer to cook
  • Half of a dark green Broccoli head – cut to bite size pieces
  • One cup of diced green beans
  • Two cups diced tomatoes
  • One cup diced carrots
  • One cup diced feta Cheese, well drained
  • Two medium onions sliced into quarters
  • Two large heads of garlic
  • Four generous sprigs of fresh cut rosemary
  • Course ground Sea salt to taste
  • Course ground Black pepper to taste
  • Two fresh sprigs of Origanum – stripped
  • Two sprigs of Thyme – stripped
  • Medium sprig of parsley – finely diced
  • Three table spoons Olive Oil

Clean and rinse all veggies and herbs. Make sure all diced veggies are in smallish bite size chunks – too small tends to mush easily and too large is unwieldy. I always leave a few garlic pods whole. They bake up beautifully and are fragrantly tasty. 🙂

Herbs should also be chopped a little.

Take a fair size baking dish either with a proper lid or use heavy duty tin foil for covering later. Place in all ingredients and spread out evenly. Drizzle olive oil over. Do this bit by bit and mix as you go with a good wooden spoon. You do not want the mixture to be too oily but also not too dry.

You can leave the Rosemary sprigs whole and just bury them around the dish. Once done remove them. If a few crisped leaves remain it simply adds delicious zest!

Bake in a medium pre-heated oven for an hour – 180° F.  I usually test the harder veggies, and if needed you can just bake a bit longer.

Should feed around 8 to ten people. You can’t really go far wrong, so feel free to experiment with quantities a bit.

The Rosemary and Garlic combo really does push this one to super taste status.

Enjoy 🙂

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Spicy Indian Chai Tea Recipe

Bouquet

A while back on a Yoga intensive in India an Indian friend of mine gave me this delicious recipe for Chai. The wonderful thing is you can brew up a big potful in the morning leave it on the stove for top-ups throughout the day 🙂

Ingredients:

  • One litre water
  • Approx. one cup of fresh milk (vary to taste)
  • Three Rooibos tea bags and one Black tea bag (Ceylon tea)
  • Two pods Star Anise
  • Small cut of fresh Ginger Root
  • One medium stick dried Cinnamon bark
  • Three medium pods Cardamom
  • One medium pod Nutmeg
  • Three medium Cloves

Bring the water to boil and then turn down the heat. Add all items except the milk and allow to simmer gently for about fifteen minutes or so. My friend used to now add the milk and then turn off the heat. If you prefer you can add milk separately later.

Also, try varying the tea bag additions. I like an ‘only rooibos’ version, some folks may prefer no Rooibos and an extra black tea bag. Try experimenting with the spice quantities as well. Just be careful of adding too much Cardamom and Nutmeg, these seeds can be quite strong.

The tea is rich and full bodied. If you get a bit tired of endless watery teas this gives a wonderful robust boost. May even give a good cup of full aroma coffee a good run! 🙂

Enjoy

 

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Swim With Wild Dolphins with us this March – Mozambique

Om Namah Shivaya

YAY! We off to Ponta Do Oura this coming March 🙂

Yours Truly!

Awesome!

Awesome!

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Scary!

Scary!

Hectic Scary!

Hectic Scary!

Easy 🙂

side balnce on the beach

Join Us ? Drop me a mail for getaway details, We would love you to come along! –

sacredspiralyogandtaichi@gmail.com

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Newsletter No 16

The serpent of time winds itself about the cross of matter. Some say it has seven heads, some say only three. The difference counts but little. It is the body of the serpent that crushes its prey not the head”

Katherine Kerr (the secret book of Cadwallon the Druid)

 ”. . . I had learned to live in the present, time was outside of me, it was something only to be used at the moment. Once used, it sank back into itself and became an imperceptible part of my inner being”

                                             Florinda Donner – Shabono

100_0795 - CopyWelcome to our Sacred Spiral newsletter. This will be the last for the year. We all need a good rest so I will be picking up again in the second week of January 2013

I have always loved books, poems, movies etc. that capture an essence of life or spirit that seems to move beyond our (my J ) somewhat limited and admittedly selective area of perception. I suppose like many folks I tend to gravitate towards confirmation of my beliefs and views but at some stage I became aware that the more ultimately beneficial perceptions usually came from the uncomfortable, challenging or downright obnoxious items that come my way. Author, mystic and facilitator of spirit Florinda Donner’s book published in the early 80’s ‘Shabono’ was one such case. (Obnoxious on one hand and utterly transcendental and heart wrenchingly beautiful on the other)  Florinda basically gave up just about all her associations (not always voluntarily) to western conditioning and lived for two years with the Yanomama Indians deep in the Venezuelan rain forest. I will do a short review of this incredible book later on in our Book Nook section. __________________________________________________________________________

Asana Spot

Boat Postures – Navasana and variations

Ardha NavasanaThese buttock balancing poses are wonderful for developing core strength, balance & concentration. Starting with a classic ‘half boat’ pose, this is one of the few times in Yoga training where we get a chance to really ‘drop’                 our chest (sternum). The back is strongly rounded in order to gainmaximum engagement of the mid-abdominals. In all three variations shown the legs are laminated well together with the toes level and spread wide. If o looking at your toes you Navasanasee they are not level, the over or under extension will tell you about the over or under extension of the entire inner or outer leg extension and engagement. The front thighs are powerfully active and full engagement of the leg occurs from big toes to the root of the femurs. The arms are stretched fully with a degree of ‘back-thrust’ from elbow to arm/shoulder socket.

The Full Boat requires us to reverse the chest action and create a strong upward lift of the sternum. The legs would be a little higher than half boat.

Navasana 3The last variation requires even more lift on the chest in order to avoid collapsing the abdominals and again even more lift on the front thigh muscle group (quads) try to not lift the shoulders too much although this will happen.

Start off with shorter holds repeated, say 30 secs each. Gradually work up to longer holds in your training, say a minute each. Breathing should be deep smooth and connected.

The boat postures are great to add in to a sequence although then one would most likely not hold much longer than a breath or two. Never force your breathing to conform to a highly stress position like the half boat or fully developed variation. This could result in serious problems with your respiratory system. Keep the breath natural, connected and if anything try to quieten the breathing – smile to yourself gently J

Vatta ↓Kapha ↓Pitta ↓↑

Carry on reading Newsletter No 16 – The full format – all images, photos and articles – Sacred Spiral Newsletters are now archived in Box file storage, so please visit and enjoy this informative, free content.

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