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Autumn Archives - Peacock Tree Yoga

The cool winds of vata…

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If you’ve noticed an increasing sense of unease lately, and have been feeling scattered, exhausted and anxious, then you’re probably wondering why – and worrying if it will ever end.  The good news is, it will, but maybe not until Spring – unless you choose to make some adjustments now. And how do you do that? Well, as Bob Dylan so memorably put it, the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…

bob dylan album cover for PTY vata blog

Bob knows all about vata

It’s typical at this time of the year – when the Autumn winds are shaking down the trees and Winter’s long fingers begin to give us an icy poke, as though warning us of an impending deep freeze – for our bodies to respond. We can feel stiff and fragile, we might experience difficulty sleeping, and develop dry skin – as though the wind and cool temperatures are shaking us down, too. And when our bodies feel under assault, so do our minds.

According to the ancient science of Ayurveda (a system for maintaining physical and mental wellbeing, which developed alongside yoga and is considered its sister science), when we experience these changes, it’s due to an excess of ‘vata’.  The cooler months of the year are renowned for creating this effect.

What is vata?

Vata is one of the three doshas, or types of energy, which Ayurvedic science tells us each person is made up of (the others are ‘kapha’ and ‘pitta’). None of us are the same, according to this theory; we’re all composed of different amounts of each dosha – and it’s a matter of maintaining our individual constitution in order to maintain optimum health. If you’re curious to know your dosha type, you can find out very easily and for free on the Chopra Center website (in return for your email address).

For our purposes, the point is this: whether vata plays a dominant role in your make-up or not, Autumn and Winter still have plenty of potential for creating excessive amounts of this fast and flighty kind of energy – an energy which, when in balance fuels our creativity and vitality, makes us quick and bright, joyful and active, but causes fear and anxiety when in excess – as well as countless other symptoms, as listed in this article from Svastha Ayurveda, a holistic healthcare practice based in Colorado.

‘That which moves things’

Windmills and vata

Vata in balance brings joy, not stress

So, what to do with all this ‘vata’ swirling around in the November air, moving through us and within us? Well one thing we can do is play vata at her own game. If we translate the word ‘vata’ from Sanskrit to English, we get ‘that which moves things’ – and therein lies the answer: we move – mindfully. In doing so, we soothe the nervous system whilst generating lubricating and nourishing heat in the body.

A fluid, yet grounding yoga asana practice, such as the one we’ll be working on in our classes this week, offers us the perfect way to raise the temperature and focus the mind. But it’s not only the healing effects of asana that yoga brings to the Ayurvedic table. Pranayama, meditation and relaxation also help to stop our swirling thoughts, our fluttery stomachs, our shortness of breath. In short, yoga can help us remain calm, joyful, warm and secure, in even the strongest of winds.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the yoga student adjusts the sails” ~ William Arthur Ward (paraphrased!)

Counting your Conkers

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Ahhh, bountiful Autumn. It’s so kind of nature to let go of her abundant creation of the past year, in a grand final display of fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals. And so kind of her, too, to offer us this opportunity to recognise and be grateful for our own ‘harvests’, and make way for the growth and expansion that will lead to next year’s.

 

Finding time for gratitude

Unfortunately, being grateful on a personal level doesn’t happen as easily as donating some tinned food to the local harvest festival. There’s rarely time to reflect on what we as individuals have completed or produced over the previous year. Finishing things generally means we can simply get on with the next job. But it’s essential that we follow the rhythm of the earth and make time for ‘completion’, for the sake of our self-worth and our peace of mind, as Mark Williams and Danny Penman note:

“If you can practise cultivating a sense of completeness – even a glimmer, right now, in this moment, with the little things in life, there is a chance that you will be better able to cope with those aspects of mind that keep telling you that you are not there yet; and not yet happy, not yet fulfilled. You might learn that you are complete, whole, just as you are.”

~ Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World

Letting go of old leaves…

Autumn’s lessons don’t end with gratitude. As well as encouraging us to acknowledge what we have and have done – our own cycles of creation – nature instructs us to graciously let go of some things, too.

Autumn leaves for harvest blogTrees don’t desperately cling onto their leaves because they might need them next year. Yet us humans have a tendency to defy the cycle and hold onto what we’ve produced or collected – those decayed leaves, that old negativity, those old ideas, those friendships or relationships that don’t serve us… Like plants and trees, we need to return to our essence, value the life lessons, and eliminate what we no longer need in order to blossom and reap our harvest next year.

 

Your body, the tree

It’s not just the events, objects and relationships in our lives to which we can apply Mother Earth’s lessons in gratitude and letting go. Our bodies need attention too – the right kind of attention, a nourishing and helpful kind of attention.

Daniel Tree RievaulxWe have an odd relationship with our bodies. On the one hand we identify with them strongly. We tend to despair when they become sick, suffer agonies over how others perceive our appearance, take it personally when they show signs of ageing, and sometimes spend large amounts of time and money in order to look our best. On the other hand, we neglect them, fill them with unhealthy foods, and use them in ways that cause them damage.

Being grateful for what our bodies can do results in a tendency to look after ourselves better, and it allows us to grow older and less able gracefully. Why? Because gratitude brings us joy. It’s a deeply healing practice that allows us let go of resentment towards our bodies. Have a go with the exercise below, be flooded with gratitude, let go of old criticisms, and notice how your body is seemingly relieved to be appreciated.

Practising bodily gratitude

  1. Notice each part of the body in turn and say thank you. It’s important to articulate the words clearly in your mind.
  2. Notice any sensations that are arising as you focus on each part of the body in turn. And say thank you.
  3. Feel extra gratitude if the part of the body you’re focusing on tries to help you each day, but struggles with pain or illness.
  4. Notice your body’s functions: the heart breathing, like a faithful old friend; the lungs pumping away, day and night.
  5. Notice your senses. How fortunate you are to have functioning eyes, ears, a sense of taste, smell, touch, balance!
  6. Notice the act of being aware – your ability to think, reflect, and remember. Even the ability to pay attention.
  7. Notice the joy in your heart.

Guest blog: Gratitude Crumble

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Some people eat humble pie. Katy Wright recommends Gratitude Crumble…

I’ve developed a new morning ritual and I can’t recommend it highly enough. But you do need to live near some brambles, which – luckily for me – I do. In fact, where I live in France, it’s pretty rural, and I have immediate access to all the delights Mother Earth is currently serving up. But even if there’s more concrete than grass where you live, you can still go out on weekend ‘shopping’ trips.

Katy looking at blackberries

Behold the plump berries!

So, my ‘harvest bowl’. Every day it gets filled with blackberries, apples, hazelnuts and, soon, walnuts!! And the act of filling it has become my daily reminder to be grateful. Grateful for the abundance of food growing just metres away from the kitchen in which it will be prepared, and grateful for the abundance in my own life.

But having a lot of fresh produce is a bit like having a lot of money – it comes with responsibility. You can’t just pick blackberries willy nilly and let them go soggy in the fridge. Or watch your apples develop that weird, waxy skin texture that signals impending decay. (The nuts, granted, do have to be left to their own devices – and when they’re ready, I have to practise moderation in the face of delirious greed!).

I’ve found the best way to be responsible with, and respectful towards, my harvest is to make sure it gets eaten and appreciated – by me and anyone else I encounter. And I do that by making the delicious things listed below. There’s something for everyone – unless you’re both vegan and gluten intolerant, in which case, I suggest eating your fruits, berries and nuts in all their unadulterated glory!

Happy foraging!

Katy x


 

How to eat your Autumn harvest

 

Pancakes and blackberriesFlourless Banana Pancakes

These are quick and easy to make, tasty, filling, good for using up ageing bananas, and good for sharing. And they can be made better still by putting blackberries and cinnamon on top! They’re also classed as ‘Paleo‘, so if you eat like a caveman, you’ll like these!

 

apple tree for gratitude blogGratitude Crumble

That’s just my playful name for what is actually a recipe by Paul Hollywood. The only things I do differently are leaving out the seaweed (that’s not a joke – he really does use the stuff in his crumble!) and using salted butter. Oh, and I like it served with crème fraiche. Naturellement.


peach and blackberry bircherAutumn Porridge / Bircher 

No-one can claim to have invented porridge, apart from the oats themselves. And yes, Bircher was invented by a Swiss doctor, but it is basically just a cold version of porridge. So I’m going to lay claim to these variations. You can invent your own versions, too. The ‘Bircher’ on the left contains peach.

 

  • Porridge: Make as usual and then stir in a teaspoon of turmeric, if you’re daring. Put it in a bowl, and add half an apple (chopped into small pieces) and a handful of blackberries. Top it off with some chopped nuts. You can also add cinnamon or, even better, cinnamon pumpkin seeds (for 3 or 4 servings, fry 40g of seeds in ½ tspn of coconut oil along with as much cinnamon as you desire)
  • Bircher: Soak the oats overnight, in half the amount of water/milk you would use if you were cooking it in a pan – so, roughly 1:1. In the morning, stir in some plain yoghurt (it’s up to you how much – depends on your feelings about gloopiness), grate an apple on top, add your blackberries, and top with nuts and pumpkin seeds, either plain or made as described above.

Back to School?

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Even as adults, we never quite shake off the rhythm of the academic year. September brings a sense of newness – it feels as though the time is right for going ‘back to school’, whether that means taking a course, developing a new hobby, or joining a club of some sort. This is one reason why the Peacock Tree Yoga beginners course is so popular each September. But we know that going ‘back to school’ can be a nerve-wracking experience, so here’s a reassuring lowdown on what you will – and won’t! – encounter at ‘yoga school’…

Pack up yer pencils!

Well, for a start, you won’t be needing a new pencil tin to etch your name into with a compass. Nor will you be required to cover your books with posters of your favourite pop group. In a yoga class, it’s less about pens and rubbers and more about mats and eye pillows (we’ll provide you with these items in your free trial class). We don’t give out grades either; no-one is ever judged on their ability. We only want to help you to reach your highest potential – whatever that may be – and to live a joyful life in a healthy body, free of stress and suffering.

Go back to school with Peacock Tree Yoga!

At Peacock Tree Yoga, we aim to help you reach your goals.

Back to school fears…

However, we completely understand that for many people, joining a new yoga class can be as terrifying as starting primary school at the tender age of four. But we want you to feel confident about going ‘back to school’ this September – because, like these Peacock Tree Yoga students, we know what a positive impact yoga can have on people’s lives! So, with that in mind, we thought we’d unravel a few myths and misunderstandings about yoga.

Already convinced about the benefits of yoga? Then register now for your free trial class!

There’s a rumour going around…

  1. Yoga is for bendy, slim, young people. WRONG: Yoga is for everyone – and every body. You don’t start off being bendy – that comes with time, along with strength and focus. You might become slimmer – many people find that they do, with a regular yoga practice. You can become younger with yoga too – one of our favourite testimonials is “First time I’ve touched my toes in 35 years”!
  2. Yoga is a religion. WRONG: Yoga complements religion beautifully – and when we say religion, we mean any religion. Yes, yoga is integral to the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, which adopted it, but it is, in fact, a science – of the Self. Yoga gives us techniques for uniting mind, body and spirit – including asana (postures), breathing and meditation – to help us achieve optimum wellbeing and experience the ‘oneness’ of everything!
  3. Yoga isn’t challenging enough for sporty people. WRONG: Yoga can be incredibly challenging – especially for sporty people! Have you ever tried stretching a muscle that’s more familiar with being in a state of contraction?! Or using muscles you didn’t even know you had? Well it’s high time you did, especially if you want to enhance your sports performance!
  4. Yoga is about following rules. WRONG: Yoga shows us how to use our own wisdom to make the best of ourselves and the situations in which we find ourselves. Having said that, we do ask our students to observe some Yoga Etiquette!
  5. Yoga is expensive. WRONG: Yoga is cheap when you consider the cost of having a bad back, a sport injury, or a stressful life – all of which can be alleviated or avoided with yoga. Or when you compare the cost of a class to the cost of that takeaway coffee you buy each morning, the bottle of fizz you put in the fridge for Friday night, or any other indulgence… Indulge your mind and body instead – or as well, if you must!
  6. Yoga is boring. WRONG: A good yoga class leaves you feeling invigorated, relaxed, determined, focused and, yes, happy! And at Peacock Tree Yoga, we occasionally take it further – celebrating the likes of Hallowe’en, Bonfire night and Christmas by practising in costume!

So now you know the truth…

Are you feeling a bit more confident about going back to school? Are you ready to make a commitment to your physical and mental wellbeing, and discovering new ways of coping with everything life throws at you? Then head over to our Yoga Essentials page for a complete break-down of what you can expect from our twelve-week course, and to find out how you can register for your FREE trial class.

Still don’t believe it’s for you? Then watch at this time lapse film we made in one of our Yoga Essentials (beginners) classes – what’s not to love?! Hope to see you soon!