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Monthly Archives: May 2016

The 21-Day Plank Challenge

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Ushering in the Summer with the 21-day plank challenge

Don’t stop reading now – this is NOT an attempt to throw this Chinese policeman’s record-breaking eight-hour plank into a cocked hat, with your own three-week plank!

The Peacock Tree 21-day plank challenge is your opportunity to create strength in both body and mind, and set your Summer alight! And all with a 3-minute plank.

It’s not as hard as it sounds – you just need to build up gradually by following the plan (see link below) and ignoring the little voice telling you there are better things to be doing than building phenomenal core strength.

How to do plank

plank-challenge-collage

Don’t let your bottom cheat!!

For the challenge, we ask you to adopt dolphin plank, which involves resting on your forearms with elbows bent, rather than on your hands and with straight arms. Keep your toes tucked under and your body and legs off the floor, in a strong horizontal line (like a plank!).

If you find it too difficult to hold the full posture, drop your knees to the floor for extra support – just make sure your thighs and torso are in a straight line. And do try to lift your knees again as the challenge progresses – you might surprise yourself!

If your neck hurts, you can always place a block or a stack of books beneath your face and rest your forehead on it while you hold the posture.

How not to do plank

Your biggest foe during this challenge will be your bottom. It will either try to cheat, by being higher than the rest of your body, or it will be lazy, sagging down to create an unwelcome dip in the centre of the posture.

Not sure if you have a cheating or lazy bottom? Then check yourself out in a mirror or ask someone else to tell you if your body is in a straight line.

Action!

Print off the 21-day Plank Challenge practice sheet below, stick it to the fridge, and while you wait for the kettle to boil at the start or end of the day, for example, get on your yoga mat and plank like there’s no tomorrow!

21-Day Plank Challenge Practice Sheet

Keep going, stay focused, and keep your eyes on the prize! What’s the prize? The ability to hold plank for 3 minutes within 3 weeks, a core of steel and all the strength you’ll need for our next big Yin Yang workshop on June 4th – more details coming soon!

And when you waiver, just remember:

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain

The animating force of rasa!

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Cast your mind back to the start of May and that weekend of glorious weather we had after months and months of cool temperatures and soggy boots. I daresay that at some point – perhaps as you walked into town along the river, or wrapped your tongue around a 99 for the first time since last August – you felt yourself being overcome with pure sensation, pure joy. If you did, you were experiencing the force of ‘rasa’.

What is rasa?

One of the best descriptions of rasa that I’ve come across is attributed to an Ayurveda teacher called Robert Svoboda, in an article on the subject, written by Shiva Rea. Svoboda says, “Existence without juice is dry and tasteless. Rasa is life’s fluid reality, life’s juice, in every sense of the word.” In other words, rasa is the stuff that makes us feel alive! It is the very essence of being – and it comes in many forms.

In historical terms, rasa is, in fact, a concept which comes from Indian theatre and it refers to an actor’s successful transmission of a character’s emotions to an audience. It’s not just a matter of conveying emotions, but of instilling those very same feelings in the spectator. The actor seeks to transmit rasa and literally bring the play to life!

Rasa in daily life

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Tulsi in the flow of rasa!

Daniel and I took Tulsi to the Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre in Pocklington during that recent warm spell of weather. The sun danced on the trees’ new leaves, sparkled on the dewy grass and warmed our flesh. We were utterly enraptured by our surroundings, the moment and each other – the rasa was flowing! And as Daniel launched Tulsi into the petals of the cherry blossom, leaving her suspended mid-air between catches, she too drank up this intoxicating ‘juice’ of life.

Rasa is something everyone can experience and enjoy – and they do, even if they don’t realise! How many of your non-yoga friends have you heard talk with such fervour about certain ‘moments’ they’ve had? How many photos of sunsets captioned only with a heart emoticon have you seen posted on Facebook? In all these cases, rasa is at play. You need only be open to the beauty of life.

Yoga and rasa

As yoga practitioners, we open ourselves up to rasa. By cultivating our internal and external awareness and by finding perfection in each moment, we invite rasa into our lives. This does not mean we can rest on our yoga laurels, however…

It’s all-too-easy to simply ‘go through the motions’, to sleepwalk through a series of postures. When this happens, we must bring our awareness back to the present moment. Only there can we feel a posture inside and out, feel what it awakens inside of us, gauge the fluctuations in our energy levels, consciously contract and relax our muscles… Only there, in that moment, can we feel the inspiring, uplifting force of rasa flowing through our veins and hearts. Try it and see.

Rasa for all

It’s rare for a yoga teacher to tell you to be greedy, but with rasa you can be! There’s enough juice to go round. Enough for the Indian theatre-goers. Enough for the people posting pictures of sunsets, who don’t know what they experienced, only that it made their heart swell. And enough for those on the path of yoga. For as the philosopher, Ramachandra Gandhi, points out:

“When you taste the rasa of life, you drink from a well that is never dry.”

This Perfect Moment

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What are you doing right now, at this precise moment in time?

You’re reading this, of course, but are you fully engaged?

A perfect moment on a clock in York

Time won’t stand still, but you can

We hear so much about Mindfulness these days, but being truly present – being ‘in the moment’ – can feel impossible.

There are so many other things to think about, after all – we chew over last week’s mistakes and difficult situations and we anticipate the challenges of the future. We live in a chaotic world, things happen in our lives that we can’t control – and the memory stays with us, sometimes forever.

The external world of distracting messages and time-consuming media doesn’t help either.

But taking small moments for ourselves can be hugely beneficial (that’s why we hear so much about Mindfulness!). And it’s not as difficult as it seems – have a go:

Pause for a moment and acknowledge the perfection of the moment – without judging your surroundings or yourself. Even if you desire change in your circumstances, know that this desire is also perfect. Be comfortable with it.

This is what Aristotle meant when he said, “We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.”

Perfect moments aren’t just for perfect lives; there’s time for everyone and everything.