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Science playing catch up to Yoga

imagesIn 2004 I went to India to learn to become a Yoga teacher.  It was a transforming experience.  Since then I have been fascinated by the benefits of a regular practice.  In 2006 I started investigating the research about Yoga .  This led me to take a Masters degree in Applied Positive Psychology.

In this blog I take four basic ideas from the eight limbs of Yoga and highlight some of the amazing research which supports many aspects of the practice of Yoga.

 

How you stand and move changes the way your brain works 

Shari-Half-Moon-Pose

The exercise
Try this – hold your arms above your head for just 2 minutes
Do it again after you have read the research and feel empowered. Imagine the positive benefits of an hour or so of Yoga !
The evidence base
In a 2010 study researchers Dana Carny and Amy Cuddy asked people to take on “power poses”. These were various postures reflecting confidence, such as placing their hands on their hips. The research team measured testosterone and cortisol levels (stress hormones) before and after the test. A second group was asked to hold “weak” positions (for example crossing their legs or arms or making themselves as small as possible) . The power or weak postures were hold for just 2 minutes by each group.

Analysis of the results showed an increase in testosterone of 20% for the power group and a 10% decrease in the weak group. The power group showed a 25% reduction in the stress hormone level cortisol whilst the weak group had a 15% increase. The people in the power group also demonstrated behavioural changes. They felt more confident and relaxed and more willing to be adventurous.

In a follow up piece of research one group was asked to hold their hands in the air for just 2 minutes and a second group told to hold weak positions. They were then given mock job interviews which were recorded. The study was obviously a double blind study, which means the people conducting the interviews had no information on what the participants were asked to do before the interviews.

The group holding the power postures were seen as more confident, passionate, enthusiastic, authentic , captivating and comfortable. And more employable.
And all this happened in 2 minutes. Can you imagine the positive effect of practicing physical yoga for an hour has on us?

Why is attention so important – Dharana

The exercise
Close your eyes and pick your favourite workout activity for 2 minutes – swimming, sun salutations, weight lifting etc
As you visualise this activity focus on the particular muscle group that you are using. If you are imagining swimming focus on just one muscle group – for example your chest

Do it again after reading the research and know that energy and nutrients are flowing to that area!

swim2The evidence base
A study by Erin M. Shackell and Lionel G. Standing at Bishop’s University reveals you may be able to make gains in strength and fitness without lifting a finger!
That study measured the strength gains in three different groups of people. The first group did nothing outside their usual routine. The second group was put through two weeks of highly focused strength training for one specific muscle, three times a week. The third group listened to audio CDs that guided them to imagine themselves going through the same workout as the exercising group, three times a week.
The control group, who didn’t do anything, saw no gains in strength. The exercise group, who trained three times a week, saw a 28% gain in strength. No big surprises there. But, the group who did not exercise, but rather thought about exercising experienced nearly the same gains in strength as the exercise group (24%). Yes, you read that right!
The group that visualized exercised got nearly the same benefit, in terms of strength-gains, as the group that actually worked-out.
A Harvard study reported in February 2007 on the impact of your thoughts on calories burned.
In that study, the housekeeping staff in a major hotel were told that what they did on a daily basis qualified as the amount of exercise needed to be fit and healthy. They made no changes in behaviour, just kept on doing their job. Same as always.
Four weeks later, those housekeepers had lost weight, lowered blood pressure, body-fat percentage, waist-hip ratio and BMI. A similar group of housekeepers who had not been led to believe their job qualified as exercise saw none of these changes.

Every thought counts – your thoughts change your body

The exercise
Spend 5 minutes doing breathing exercises
Now read the research and repeat. Empty your head of thoughts and fill your body with energy
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values,
your values become your destiny.”
Gandhi
The evidence base
Most people know about “fight or flight” and how the body has a physiological reaction to a perceived threat. Whether it’s a physical or a psychological threat the outcomes to the body and mind are similar – we get braced for a fight or energise our muscles to run. So whether it’s a caveman running from a sabre toothed tiger or your boss yelling at you the physical effects are similar in the short term:
• your digestion system shuts down – absorbing nutrients takes energy and the body needs the energy for a fight – hence constipation, IBS etc
• your muscles tense ready for a fight – you are braced, your body becomes brittle and armoured – neck pain, lower back pain
• your heart rate rises to pump blood to the major organs of movement – heart rate increases
• hormones secreted constrict blood vessels to enable blood to be pumped to the major muscle groups quickly – blood pressure rises and your face gets red
• the muscles of fight/flight are prioritised – there is a dramatic reduction in flow to non essential areas – like the skin, kidneys and re productive areas – so you wont look good and your bits and pieces wont work so well
• your pupils dilate in order to pick up more information from our surroundings -you look a bit unhinged
• proteins, carbohydrates and fat are stored in your body and during fight flight are mobilised and dumped into the bloodstream to provide energy for the major muscles of movement. They circulate in the bloodstream as amino acids, glucose and fatty acids and can adhere to the constricted blood vessel walls -increasing your chances of heart disease or stroke.
• amino acids are not great sources of energy so during fight/flight the protein in muscles is dumped into the blood stream and then converted by the liver into glucose – this increases diabetes risk and makes it hard for the mega stressed to grow lean muscle mass
• when the fight flight emergency ends the amino acids, glucose and fatty acids are re absorbed, often in fat store deposits – this requires a huge amount of energy to convert from one form of storage – hence we get tired easily and store fat deposits

As part of your ethical code – be kind

At the start of the 8 limbs of Yoga we are recommended to be kind to all sentient beings and avoid violence of thought, word and action (Ahimsa)

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The exercise
Close your eyes and picture a loved one. As you breathe out imagine breathing loving, kind energy to that person. Spend 10 minutes doing a Metta Bhavana Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM)

Read through the research and repeat the exercise. As you do so you now know you are changing the way your brain is wired. You are wiring it for kindness, love and compassion
The evidence base
Neuroscientific meditation researcher Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin became interested in just that question. He has extensively studied the effect of meditation, including LKM, on the brain. He had a simple question. Would LKM change the brain? To investigate the exact implication of this practice on the brain he invited two groups of subjects into his lab: those who had at least 10,000 hours of LKM under their meditative belt and those who were interested, but new to meditation. He invited both these groups into the fMRI scanner to see how LKM would impact the brain.

The results were clear. The practice of LKM changed several important brain regions: both the insula and the temporal parietal junction (TPJ) lit up as a result of LKM. The insula is the part of the brain responsible for our ability to empathize with others, and to make oneself aware of emotional and physical present-moment experiences. While both groups saw an increase in insula activity, the group with 10,000 hours of experience showed significantly more activation than the other group. This group was experiencing higher levels of compassion than the non-practicing group.

A similar finding appeared for the TPJ. The TPJ, like the insula, is also related to our ability to process empathy and our ability to attune to the emotional states of others. Again, compared to short-term meditators, those with a long-term meditation practice showed significant activation of this brain region.

Other activities where you give unconditional love, such as random acts of kindness, have been shown to change the way our neurons connect to one another and strengthen existing positive pathways. Research from Positive Psychology indicates the greatest factor in developing personal happiness is having strong, loving relationships

Coming soon – Our Positive Psychology course for Yoga teachers www.breathe-australia.com

 

 

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Yoga training for the mind

A few months ago I wrote about yoga for the first time. It’s taken me so long to get around to writing about this because its so vast and complex. What started for me 12 years ago as a nice stretch in the gym has turned into a tool which has guided and shaped my life. Going back to 1999 I was working for KPMG in a fairly senior position in corporate finance. It’s hard to imagine how doing simple yoga stretches can change a person but I feel it has changed the way my mind works.  I’m going to try to explain some of the process (apologies to the many experts on the Yoga Sutras and Hatha Yoga Pradipika out there).

The first point to understand is that the physical aspects of yoga you see in a class or a gym, are just one aspect of Yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, written over 2,000 years ago distil knowledge from seekers of knowledge from the previous 2,000 years. Its content is very similar to the foundations of Buddhism. Nowhere in the text does it explain a system for physical exercise. It took another 1,500 years before the physical aspects were documented in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Like Buddhism the Yoga Sutras encourage us to enquire what truth is. However it’s the search for truth that’s important because there is no perfect point of view or perfect observation. In order to illustrate this point I will demonstrate how what we perceive to be truth is an illusion created by our tendency to view and judge our surroundings based on how we have learnt to filter and absorb information

How we perceive the world

We all perceive the world through a prism of past experience. The information that we are primed to observe depends on how we have observed information in the past and what our current mood state is. I’ve written about this many times. For example our ability to see spectrum’s of colour and detail is dependent on how we feel and what we expect to see (or are told to expect to see). I’ve used this example before but check this out if you don’t believe how expectation directs perception http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1D07neiB7HI

In Yoga and Buddhist philosophy it is the misperception of reality which leads to pain and suffering. For example, if I strongly hold to a belief whilst those around me hold different views based on how they see the world, this can lead to isolation, frustration and confrontation.

In Yoga misperception of how the world appears is called Avidya . It is the belief that our view of the world is correct and permanent. This creates separation between people because the view that you will have will be different to mine. Your processing of information will be enabled by how you have learned to perceive the world. Once we’ve made our minds up about “a thing” (say marmite) it’s really hard to experience the thing in a different way.

As soon as I write marmite people think about food types and whether they like or dislike it. I could have used the example of a favourite colour, or whether to vote Conservative or Labour, or whether to believe in climate change or not, or whether to believe Israelis are reclaiming their homeland or invading another’s. These different view points enable humour, gossip and help bring advances in science and the arts. Exploring difference through dialogue is a joy but some people lack the awareness that their view is but one of many.

Amongst other things Yoga teaches us about impermanence and humility. The more we learn, the more we know there is more to learn and the less certain we can be in our beliefs.

Observing many selves within us

In last weeks blog/newsletter I explored how we think and act as often being directed by deep subconscious patterns – bundles of deep lying thoughts and emotions which direct our behaviours.

I’m going to try and explain how yoga practices unbundle these packages of conditioned thoughts and emotions, and enable us to understand how we see the world, and how the world really is, are not the same. We learn to become confident in our uncertainty and this uncertainty drives us to ask others about how they see the world. It makes us more communicative, creative and adaptable to change.  In order to observe these deep “packages” that direct our behaviours, we first have to appreciate that when we observe ourselves (thoughts, emotions, behaviours, physical sensations) we are already primed to observe ourselves in a way that is directed by how we feel right now.

For example, when I examine my own thoughts, feelings and behaviours, there are times when I can observe that I am confident and strong and there are other times when I can feel small and low and abandoned. If I sit still I can observe that I act/think/feel in many different ways depending upon context. In truth I am not one self but made up of many different selves.

This is a really hard thing to explain especially as Western Psychology often fails to explore the idea of multiple self and context. To give you an illustration of how context changes behaviours I’ll give you the example of the good Samaritan study:

In an experiment, a group of students studying theology were asked to take a mock psychology test but at the last minute were told that they had to change venues to do the test. Half of the students were primed with words like “you’d better get a move on because the new venue is a good 10 mins walk away and the exam starts soon”. The rest were told to proceed to the new venue at their own pace. Halfway between the old and the new venue an actor paid for by the study designers pretended to be hurt. It looked as though he had been attacked or had a serious accident. In the study, the number of people who stopped to give the man assistance was significantly less from the group primed with time-scarcity words compared to the other group. And remember these were students studying religion well versed in the story of the good Samaritan – for those that don’t know the story the good Samaritan was a dude in the bible who helped an injured person on the road to Damascus thereby finding God. Just to emphasise the point a little more – the designers of the experiment had arranged that just before the mock psychology test the students had actually received a lecture on the good Samaritan story from their tutors – it was right at the front of their minds but time-scarcity, or the perception of it, changed their behaviours.  For more about this study go tohttp://www.spring.org.uk/2009/12/when-situations-not-personality-dictate-our-behaviour.php

So now consider how in a busy city our behaviours/thoughts/feelings/perception of sensations are highly contextual and influenced by our surroundings. The only way to observe these different “packages” of behaviours/thoughts/feelings/perception is to somehow slow the world down to enable us to observe our myriad selves behaving in many different ways.

When I practice self-observation I can observe that when I feel confident and strong I’m more likely to try new things and catch up with friends. I can also begin to observe that this confident outgoing person can become arrogant. When I’m time pressured I can be aloof. I can also observe that certain triggers make me feel insecure and vulnerable. When I work with my charity YourStory I feel kind and generous. These selves are all contained within this thing I think of as me. But each of these selves acts and behaves in different ways depending on context.

Each of us have many selves within. Each nurtured by past and present experience. Each directing our behaviours. Yoga trains us to concentrate the mind to observe these selves and how they impact our actions.

Don Juan, the Yacqui Native American tutor of the anthropologist Carlos Castaneda, explains that to perceive the world you have to stop the world. You have to be still to notice that what you observe is what you expect to observe based on past experience. To see the world through fresh eyes is to raise the veil of Avidya or ignorance.  To do this its useful to to concentrate the mind so that you can train yourself to begin to observe these selves within and how they influence behaviour. In future articles I will (try) and explain how each of the 8 steps of Yoga help raise this veil of Avidya.

In order to stop the world for a moment you can do a number of things:

– Put yourself in a place of great beauty. A place that shocks the senses. As I write this I’m looking at the Southern Cross in a clear night sky – wonder and awe are great at fostering humility and uncertainty about your views and place within the world.

– Meditate on the breath – in a relaxed state you engage the parasympathetic nervous system and concious thoughts slow. With practice this focus and concentration allows you to observe noisy thoughts from myriad selves that jostle for attention. Meditation practices do not empty our head of thoughts but allow us to observe these thoughts and how they influence behaviours.

– The next step is to be aware that as we learn to observe these different strands of self bubbling to the surface there is no one coherent self. Sometimes we observe packages of thoughts/feelings/behaviours/sensations which are confident and happy, sometimes lonely and sad. With ongoing practice we observe that these different selves may be very different from one another and that there is no one coherent self (accept maybe the self that observes these things).

– With further self-enquiry we observe that these different selves have emerged as patterns throughout our lives.

Each of the eight limbs of yoga seeks to concentrate the mind and lift the veil of ignorance that bounds us to a view of self separating us from true knowledge of our surroundings.

Untying the knot means becoming relaxed with uncertainty and going with the flow rather than trying to think our way to happiness. We get tied up by clinging to our thoughts and believing that they are us. Like everything else they arise and pass away over time. Everything around us is in constant flux and therefore we need to train the mind to be adaptable. In this way we can see the world afresh and remain youthful and vibrant.

The benefits of Yoga

A year ago I began a series of newsletters/blogs about the wellbeing courses that have inspired me. I wrote quite a few articles about the benefits that I received from studying Positive Psychology and Emotional Intelligence courses

In this newsletter I take a look at Yoga. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to this because of all the courses I’ve taken over the last 15 years it’s the thing that’s been the most beneficial to my physical and mental wellbeing.

One of the reasons that I’ve left it so long is the sheer complexity of Yoga. I teach about 15 hours every week and often find myself trying to encapsulate its usefulness. Each time I try, different words come out. The narrowest possible view is that it makes you more flexible. This is true but of equal importance is the increased physical strength, the improved balance and ease of movement.

However the physiological benefits derived from practicing the Asanas (physical postures) are just one part of the practice of Yoga. Yoga is a complete wellbeing system. The physical and psychological tools it provides you with enable a diligent practitioner to move towards mastery of the body, thoughts and emotions. In Yoga there is no delineation between the body and the mind. The body is trained to benefit the mind. The mind is trained to benefit the body.

 

Whether or not you attend Yoga classes in gyms or in Yoga centres we can begin to introduce a Yoga practice into our lives. It is not a religion and does not require a special place to practice. It is based on 4,000 years of human observation of the complex relationship between the body and the mind.

If you are interested in improving your wellbeing but have little interest in attending Yoga classes then this newsletter provides three simple techniques for bringing the practice of Yoga into everything you do:

1. Be aware of your physical essence – For example, if you are exercising a particular part of your body focus on that body part. In past newsletters I’ve set out research which indicates that when you focus attention on the muscle group you are exercising, the muscle develops more strongly than when your attention is scattered – energy flows where your attention goes. As another example, notice how when you are commuting or driving, your energy levels improve and thoughts become brighter when you sit up straight and focus on your posture.

2. Be aware of your breath – Observe your breathing in a dispassionate way (ie. not directing the breath to make it fast or slow). When you do this the act of observation has the effect of focusing the attention and engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. If you focus on your breathing, your attention is diverted away from anxiety stimulating thoughts. Thoughts have a consequential physiological impact. We find it difficult to multi-task and by focusing on our breath we learn to sharpen our attention and enable a feeling of centered calm to reside. By feeling calm and centered inside we are less likely to pay attention to our own internal thoughts and prejudices and more likely to observe the fine detail of the world around us.

In Yoga breath is Prana or energy. In addition to breath there are other forms of subtle energy. If we allow ourselves to observe the present moment we can tap into a limitless supply of universal energy. In my last sentence I’m not repeating what I’ve read in a book about Yoga. It’s what I’ve observed in my own practice. The more you practice, the more you observe the complex relationship between thought, energy and matter. Yoga is a about practice and personal observation of cause and effect.

3. Observe your thoughts and emotions – As you move through the world, continue to observe your thoughts and emotions as they flow through your mind. Become the observer of yourself. In Buddhism there is no delineation between thoughts and emotions. They are bundled together. One does not precede the other. They emerge blended. Through the practices of Yoga you charge your energy levels by allowing a universal energy to flow through you. You feel light, connected and balanced. As you feel connected you feel less isolated and more confident in the world around you and your place within it. Once you cease to observe your thoughts they can wander and become scattered. This scatters the energy you have built up. Even worse than this is that in an absent-minded way your thoughts may drift to a situation that causes you anxiety. Immediately the energy that you have built up seeps away – energy flows where attention goes.

When you focus on your physical presence, your breathing and subtle energy as well as remaining aware of your thoughts, you charge your body with positive energy. In yoga you focus first on your own wellbeing. From this position of confidence and strength you can then choose to help others.

Hope you found this useful

Andy

New things at the Breathe Centre

Sara is practicing Chiropractic care 6 days a week at the centre now

 

Lindsey is now practicing Holistic Massage on Fridays 12 to 5pm and all day Sunday

 

Zoe does sports massage on Fridays 5 to 7pm

 

Pawel is focussing on Craniosacral, Mysofascial release and Reflexology on Tuesdays 5 to 9pm

 

 

Trying to find a yoga quote for new flyers

We are in the process of branding up everything we do under the Breathe London banner.  So we are producing new flyers for each are of our business…massage,  acupuncture, yoga etc

On each flyer I’m looking for a non cheesy quote so for on the massage one we have

A mind free from all disturbances is Yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny. Upanishads

 

A man should look for what is, and not for what should be. Albert Einstein

 

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”

― Anonymous, The Bhagavad Gita

“The happiness which comes from long practice, which leads to the end of suffering, which at first is like poison, but at last like nectar – this kind of happiness arises from the serenity of one’s own mind.”

― Ved Vyasa, The Bhagavad Gita

A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.

Gandhi

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Gandhi

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Gandhi

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.

Gandhi

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

Gandhi

Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.

Gandhi

Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.

There is more to life than increasing its speed.

 

 

 

 

 

Building a Positive Psychology business

In this week’s newsletter I’m going to explore some ideas on building a business based on the values of Positive Psychology. When we set up Breathe London in 2003, we didn’t have a clear strategy or a clear idea about what we wanted to achieve. For my part I knew what I didn’t want to do, ie. to continue working in corporate finance, but it wasn’t clear what I wanted to create or what I truly wanted to do. The picture has emerged slowly after lots of trials and many errors.

From the start the guiding light for developing a new career was based on a few basic ideas:

  • I wanted to create a job that I loved
  • I wanted to make Mondays at least as interesting as the weekends
  • To create a pattern of work that allowed me to explore my interest in health and fitness
  • To help other people as I supported myself financially
  • Strive to add more to human and environmental wellbeing than I took through my consumption

Over the last nine years Tom and I have travelled to India, become Yoga teachers and studied for Masters degrees in Positive Psychology and Cognitive Science. During that time we’ve both explored many areas of wellbeing, including varied spiritual, physical and psychological practices. This wandering has been an important of what has made our business thrive. There’s a lovely JRR Tolkien quote:

“Not all those who wander are lost”

Sometimes you need to go on a wander to appreciate what’s important.

The findings from Positive Psychology and teachings from Yoga and Buddhism seem to support the decision we made to radically change our career paths. Some of the core findings from Positive Psychology include:

  • Beyond a certain financial level, and given adequate healthcare, education and a stable political environment, additional material resources do not make us happier
  • People who feel that they are happy and engaged in their worklife are more likely to be like this in their home life

In an earlier newsletter I touched on the idea of the three pillars of wellbeing:

  • Autonomy – To feel free to do what you want to do in life
  • Competence – To feel skilled in your role, or know resources are available to attain new skills
  • Relatedness – Your life roles bring you into contact with people who you value (love) and value (love) you

Its taken a long time but I now think we have a network of amazing therapists at Breathe London, and are supported by great landlords in Jubilee Hall Trust/Coin Street and have a wonderful group of clients from whom I learn so much. As we expand to four treatment rooms and increase our corporate wellbeing events it’s important to reflect on why success has come. We broke all the rules of business development.
We didn’t (and still don’t have a strategy).
We take the minimum amount we can from the therapists that work under the Breathe banner’s earnings, to support our overheads
We want to work with clients to provide them life enhancing tools so eventually, they no longer require our services
We send clients to other organizations without expecting reciprocal arrangements

We have learnt many things over many years of wandering, but the most important thing is that while its important to work hard, you should not take yourself or your business too seriously. Try and stay playful when you build a business and look for opportunities to have fun.

Hope you found this interesting

Andy

Loving what you do

One of my clients said to me recently that it was a very special thing to love what you do.  In all sincerity I can truly say that I love the job that I’ve created over the last eight years.  I love teaching  yoga and helping people feel much better with massage.  I love the rich conversations that develop during positive psychology coaching sessions.  I cherish the team of therapists that work at Breathe London and the wonderful support we get from staff at the Colombo centre.  And I love to see our clients, many of whom have become good friends.

Eight years ago when we set up this business we were looking for a fresh challenge. I also wanted to experience what the Buddhists call Right Livelihood ie that my job not only supports me financially and enables me to grow as a person but also enable me to give back to society. I left the world of corporate finance at KPMG eight years ago.  Prior to that I had spent some very happy years in Australia.  It was in Australia that I first became interested in massage, yoga and psychology and over the last twelve years I’ve explored these areas in order to better understand myself and enable me to become a better therapist.

Three years after we started the business we came across the Colombo centre, a not for profit sports and community centre which uses its surplus to fund community programs in South London.  I thought it was a good idea to build a business in a place that promoted wellbeing to those in society that could least afford it. It also enabled me to feel that I contributed to my local community.  Having the Breathe business at Colombo means that we bring affluent people into a community centre .  Many of our clients value us because we offer a great personal service and because we have this strong ethical element.  Some of my city hedge fund managers now practice yoga with people who have lived in the local community all their lives.  I like this mixing.

Breathe has developed as an integrated mind body practice.  We recognise that physical and emotional issues often go hand in hand and we therefore have nutrition therapy, life coaching and hypnotherapy to compliment our physical therapies.  The idea was to create a business that provided our clients with empowering tools to help our clients help themselves.

My challenge for 2012 is to get more people interested in Breathe London and understand more about our ethics and values, where we came from and how we are building an integrated wellbeing practice

Have a wonderful Christmas break and fabulous 2012

Lots of love

Andy

 

Learn an amazing way to boost your energy levels

One of the most important energy centres in the Tai chi system is the “Tan Tien” (lower energy field). It is situated three finger widths below the naval and mid-way between the front and back of the body.

Try this exercise to increase awareness of the Tan Tien and to improve your ability to quickly find inner stillness whenever you need it.

Standing in the Tai Chi posture (see last issue) or lying on your back, rest your hands on your tummy and begin to just notice your breathing. Not trying to change anything about how you breathe, just enjoying watching in a calm and unconcerned way as your mind becomes clearer and more relaxed.

 
Next start to breathe a little deeper, making the hands on your abdomen gently rise and fall with each ‘in’ and ‘out’ breath. Imagine a place of stillness, safety and peace at the centre of your abdomen and with each breath imagine that you sink a little deeper into this comfortable place. Resting in the stillness you have created ask your “judging mind’ to be quiet for a while and know that in this moment, while you take this breath, everything is just as it should be, In this moment nothing can be added and nothing can be taken away. Each time a stray thought, doubt or worry comes into your head just think of it as a cloud and watch it float by as you gently bring your mind back to your quiet centre and continue watching each breath. Try this for 21 breaths each day and go to this place whenever you feel the need to be calmer or more centred.

To read more about Tai Chi and Yoga go to Breathe Yoga, Tai Chi and Stress Management

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Learn a simple Tai Chi exercise

 

In order to have a relaxed, pain free body and achieve flowing and graceful movement, students of Tai Chi spend time paying attention to their standing posture. Try these visualizations and see if they help you to be more comfortable in your skin.

Stand with your feet hip width apart, your knees soft (not locked back) and feet relaxed, as if melting into the ground. Try to have your feet parallel, toes and kneecaps facing forward. If your normal habit is to stand with the feet and knees pointing outwards, this new position may at first feel a little odd and just means that the muscles in your thighs and buttocks are over tight. Now allow all of your weight to sink downwards through the strong bones of your legs and feet into the ground. Scan your body for places where you holding on and let the tension in these places sink into the ground through your legs too. Allow the muscles of the legs and thighs to go as soft as possible, let the bones do the work and know that the Earth can take it all.

Next, imagine that you are a giant jam sandwich, (you may choose your own flavour) The front piece of bread goes from the hip bones up to the collar bones. The slice at the back goes from the top of the shoulder blades down to the top of the buttocks (or just where a t-shirt would end). As you breathe in, imagine the front slice sliding up and the back slice sliding down. Finally, allow the head to float upwards like helium filled balloon tied by a light thread to your heart.

If you make it your habit to stand like this you will gradually start to notice that your posture improves, that you have more energy and your muscles and joints move more freely.

To read more about Tai Chi and Yoga go to Breathe Yoga, Tai Chi and Stress Management

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DETOX YOUR BODY AND MIND – 3 hour detox package for just £99!

POST-CHRISTMAS / NEW YEAR SPECIAL – We are offering a 3 hour detox package for just £99!

Start 2011 feeling great with a Breathe Detox package including:

– One hour Lymphatic Drainage to clear toxins and stimulate the immune system
– One hour Deep Tissue massage to revitalise body and mind
– One hour of one-to-one Yoga or Acupuncture to raise energy levels

Buy the detox course of treatments online and we’ll send you vouchers in the post. There is no limit on when you can use the vouchers.

Breathe at the Colombo Centre has the largest team of dedicated Sports and Deep Tissue Massage therapists in Waterloo, SE1 in the heart of the Southbank and minutes from London Bridge.

We also have a wide range of stress busting relaxing massages, Rolfing, Reiki, Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Aromatherapy Massage, Pregnancy massage, Myofascial release, Reflexology, Lomi Lomi massage and One to one Tai Chi and Yoga.

Our therapists offer treatments Monday to Friday 10am to 9pm and Saturday 10.30am to 4.30pm.

Massages usually cost £30 for 30 minutes, £50 for one hour and £70 for 90 minutes.

To meet our therapists and see our timetable, click here…
To view our range of treatments, click here…


Other lifestyle benefits can be found at www.bprlondon.com

Massage Gift Vouchers

It’s easy to buy gift vouchers for a loved one or colleague through the Breathe website.

To order your voucher, or a series of vouchers for a course of treatments, simply purchase from our online Massage catalogue.

You can either pick the vouchers up from the centre or we will post them to you. Vouchers can be used for massage or acupuncture treatments. If possible, please let us know who the vouchers are for in the “Order Comments” field during the checkout process.

To read more about our range of treatments including Sports, Deep Tissue, Thai, Swedish, Reiki, Reflexology and Rolfing, go to the Massage treatments details page.


Other lifestyle benefits can be found at www.bprlondon.com