It is an intriguing subject, fascia – some of which is what you may know as connective tissue – runs throughout the body and is a substance released by the cells that support tensional movement and strengthens areas of movement. There are always new discoveries being made on this mysterious subject. This video is great for revealing how involved fascia is in the anatomy of body and mind.
Nutrition and the yogic lifestyle
This evening I attended a book launch at the headquarters of the wonderful Modern Baker. The Modern Baker A New Way to Bake has some great recipes such as sourdough chocolate cake and maple sugar and blueberry scones. You can find out about the health benefits of sourdough on the Modern Baker blog written by Melissa Sharp who also collaborated with Leo and Lindsay to write the Cookbook. Sourdough can be helpful for celiacs. But also consider that you may be intolerant to wheat, sugar or dairy without even realising it. Sometimes we think we are running on normal when we have nothing better to compare it with. Twenty, thirty or forty years on habitual diet may be hiding your potential energy levels, possibly much higher, much more consistent, and everything much easier.
It was not until I stopped having dairy products that I realised I was naturally much more clear headed, energetic and positive than I had been for forty years of my life. Now at 47 from what I see on YouTube real videos of the ways animals are treated in dairy farms I understand there are many good reasons to decline dairy products, and I am glad my body told me “no” before I saw the horrid truth.
Apart from my distaste for dairy and refined sugar, I share something else with Melissa: we were both diagnosed with cancer in the same year. I didn’t know Melissa then. I only knew I wanted to survive, and from the books and research I read I knew that green leafy vegetables, broccoli and garlic were the best way to go in terms of a daily bolster against cancer cells thriving. Surgery, chemo, and yoga training later, teaching and living in Summertown I was excited to see that a new healthy bakers was due to open. I used to work at a bakers, getting up at dawn and baking early, I ate a lot of wheat working there and did not feel too well on it, so I wanted to know what the Modern Baker would have to offer. I watched keenly and on the morning of opening I took in a bunch of flowers, met Melissa, and immediately it was evident that the Modern Baker would be a valued element in the neighbourhood.
It wasn’t just Melissa’s gorgeous dogs Bo Bo and Silla that kept me returning to the Modern Baker – nicknamed Posh Baker by some, Mobo by others – It was the healthy products, satisfying and nutritious. I learnt to make some of my favourites and now I am delighted to be able to try out the new recipes in the book. I have been teaching regular yoga classes, retreats and workshops for six years now, and I am sure the tasty sourdough loaves, cakes and salads have helped me stay well.
In the yogic approach to nutrition, food is defined in three main types: Sun foods, Ground foods and Earth foods. Ayurvedic tradition talks about the need for balance between Vata, Pitta and Kapha to have a healthy system and different types of food reflect these qualities. Sattvic, Rajastic and Tamasic.
Food is categorised as nutritious which gives energy and strength; and sustaining which heals the body and maintains health. Raw foods are required for the fibre and enzymes that help us absorb vitamins and some foods require cooking as then minerals are released and become easier for us to absorb – tomatoes for example.
There are six main flavours: sweet; sour; salty; pungent; bitter and astringent. Each have their own qualities: sweet foods can nourish but can cause mucus and obesity (refined sugar inhibits the chemical in our bodies that signals to us that we are full, and it causes inflammation forming dangerous free radicals in the body); sour foods stimulate appetite; salty foods aid digestion.
Alkaline diet is important for the body which is naturally 75% alkaline. Alkaline foods build nerves, organs, glands and keep them toned. Calm us. Leafy vegetables, fruit, pulses, legumes and lemons are alkaline. Acid foods give bursts of energy, but can cause chronic illness and ageing. Meat, eggs, butter and sweets are acidic, as well as coffee and alcohol.
Trinity roots: garlic can be used to heal gastric, septic, typhus, cholera, bacterial infections and cancer. Stimulates semen production. Onion for earache, colds, fever, laryngitis, cancer, purify blood, balance blood sugar. Ginger digestion, menstrual cramps, nausea, nourishes nerves and helps them carry more energy. Keeps spine and cerebrospinal fluid healthy.
Yogi Bhajan reminds us of the importance of preparing food with love and gratitude, eating in a pleasant environment and eating consciously. To eat when hungry only and not snack, stop before full and rest the digestion once a week.
Sugar, salt, nicotine,white flour, alcohol and caffeine are not recommended.
Good foods for women are: Ginger, sesame oil, mangoes, aubergine, almond oil, turmeric. For men are: figs, banyan tree milk, nutmeg, saffron, pistachios, pears, plums, ghee, garlic and onions.
That was a quick low-down about how yogis use food. If you would like to know more you can always email me.
A wise Greek* once said “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” I couldn’t agree more.
*Hippocrates, of course!
Hippocrates also said “The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.”
You might know someone who raises the vibration of everyone with whom they come into contact (see the picture of Viktoria above). I have met such people and aspire to be like them. One way to move closer to that state is Sadhana. It is a daily spiritual practice. It doesn’t have to be yoga or exercise, it might be that you would paint, write, play music, walk, watch the trees or play with an animal for example. Something where you connect with your Truth.
Sadhana can be done alone or in a group. As a daily personal practice it disciplines the mind and body to let the infinite express itself in the soul. Morning sadhana will cleanse the subconscious. It builds up the inner resources to tap into when needed, it brings us closer to the Infinite.
Teachers need a regular sadhana for radiance and impact. Also occasionally doing a long term 40-day, 90 or 120 day sadhana will develop specific areas both physically and mentally. Sadhana allows a teacher to go much deeper into practice than when they are demonstrating.
For strong projection as a teacher, Sadhana gives a light that overcomes inner shadow and a steady level of consciousness which students respond to.
Sadhana alone is a deep personal experience, but group sadhana magnifies the experience. Yogi Bhajan recommends we imagine a million other people chanting alongside us if we practice alone. Group sadhana develops group consciousness. All the auras merge, and if one person tunes into the Infinite all the others present are lifted too. Everyone tunes in more easily to each other during the day.
Sadhana, aradhana and prabupati are discipline, attitude and mastery.
Once sadhana becomes an attitude it starts to connect self with Universal Self. So resistance to the constricts of sadhana have gone and it becomes a natural enjoyable activity, so there is more energy for subconscious clearing to speed up.
Prabupati then is the state of neutrality where subconscious has been cleared and there is no block to the link with Source. We can act in the highest consciousness moment by moment with freedom and creativity.
Santillan Retreat 7th – 14th May Prices / Booking / FAQ
Prices include all yoga, full catering, accommodation and use of all facilities
Shared Room EURO 975
Single Room EURO 1,220
Junior Suite EURO 1,325
Grand Suite EURO 1,535
(Or GBP equivalent)
The deposit will be refunded only for cancellation made until 30 days before the
date of arrival. The balance is due 10 days prior to the date of arrival.
Santillan is about 36 km from Malaga international airport. We will be happy to arrange a taxi transfer your you free of charge; please let us know if you require one.
Check-in after 3.30pm. They will need to register your name and passport number, take a swipe of your credit card and give you two room entry swipe cards. No charges will be added to your credit card without your signed approval.
On your departure, please check out of your room by 12.00 noon, and settle all Honesty Bar and extra payments.
All rooms have an ensuite bathroom, with a bath tub and shower, work desk and a balcony or patio with sea or garden/mountain views.
Catering and special diets
Santillan offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meals are usually served buffet style.
The cooks at Santillán enjoy sharing their popular Spanish and Italian influenced healthy cuisine, yet are also able to cater for gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free. They keep free-range chickens, so fresh eggs are available daily.
Please inform us of any dietary requirements, within reason, well in advance so that we can let Santillan know of your needs.
Still water, caffeinated and non-caffeinated coffee and teas are available 24 hours and are free of charge. There are complimentary soft drinks, wine and beer at dinner on the arrival day and last day of the retreat.
Internet and telephones
There is wifi Internet in all common areas and in most rooms, and dedicated areas for the best cell-phone signal strength and privacy.
Things to bring
• Yoga mat and yoga mat towel – Santillan has a state-of-the-art equipped yoga studio, but you may want to bring your own mat towel.
• Beach towel – towels for showers and pool are provided, but you might want your beach towel.
• Swimming things – there is a salt-water pool large enough for comfortable laps and leisure swimming.
• Walking shoes – or strong sandals are recommended if you want to take advantage of the walks around Molino de Santillan.
• Water bottle – to fill from the water fountains.
Extras you may need to pay for include any excursions, massage sessions, bar bills, laundry charges and purchases from the boutique.
There is a self-service ‘Honesty Book’ for soft drinks, beer and wine. Log your purchase in the book and settle at the end of your stay.
To confirm we kindly ask you to pay a deposit of 50% please email for bank details.
Payments are in EUR (or GBP equivalent) by bank transfer.
It is a condition of booking that you take out full travel insurance to cover cancellation, travel costs and other eventualities.
Book now: Stella@theyogabeat.co.uk
A mantra is the creative expression of the mind through sound. ‘Man’ means mind and ‘trang’ means wave.
‘Naam’ means what we vibrate we become. Our identity is formed of our frequency. And ‘Naad’ is the essence, or the centre of all sound. The Naad is the vibrational harmony through which the infinite is experienced, and Naad Yoga is the science of the Naad, how sound vibrations affect the body, mind and spirit through moving the mouth, stimulating the pressure points in the roof of the mouth with the tongue, which affects the chemicals in the brain. There are 84 pressure points in the mouth and they stimulate the pituitary which is connected by blood vessels to the hypothalamus where the chemicals are released that regulate basic functions of hunger, thirst, sleep, temperature, moods and sexuality.
‘Shabd’ means sound current that dissolves ego (ego that creates duality which obscures truth)
‘Shabd Guru’ is the quantum technology of sound that alters our consciousness through the power of Naad, i.e. sound as teacher. The intrinsic wisdom of the sound current.
A Bij mantra is a seed mantra, a seed planted in the unconscious, and within that seed all knowledge of the fully grown tree is contained. Here are some bij mantras:
‘Sat Naam’, Truth is my identity, this balances the five tattvas, it also awakens your soul and gives you your destiny.
‘Aum’, is the sound at the sixth chakra, for intuition and awareness
‘Ham’ is the bij mantra of the fifth chakra at the throat for truth and communication
An Astang mantra has eight parts. The rhythm of the kundalini responds well to the Astang, because kundalini is based on 8 chakra system and the astanga mantra stimulates each of the energy centres as they cover the spectrum of the qualities of the consciousness:
‘God and me, me and god are one’, aligns self with Source
‘Ek Ong Kaar Sat Naam Siri Wahe Guru’, The Creator and all creation are one. This is our true identity. The ecstasy of this wisdom is great beyond words. The first mantra Yogi Bhajan taught us, it is a direct line between you and creation. Awakens kundalini energy and suspends the mind in bliss.
‘Ra, Ma, Da, Sa, Sa, Say, So, Hung’, combines earth (Ra, Ma, Da) and ether (Sa, Say, So, Hung) Sa is the linking word. It works through shushmuna to stimulate the kundalini flow through the eight chakras for healing.
This is a retreat for all levels, beginners are welcome, experienced yogis will be able to take advantage of the well-appointed studio with yoga wall, props and restorative equipment. Chris and I are happy to offer some extra instruction with these.
Santillan has a salt water pool, two studios and yoga wall, paddle tennis, spa and overlooks the sea.
Temperatures in May are perfect. It is near Seville, Alhambra, Granada and Málaga.
Up to 3 yoga classes each day taught by Chris Leuenberger and Stella Shakerchi, both 500hr RYT Yoga Alliance.
Please join us on this yoga intensive retreat, relaxed and focused, this will be an incredible journey. Stroll to the sea by day, maybe join in with the mantras after dinner and feel amazing as spring turns to summer in the wonderful Andalusian hills.
See Yoga Retreat in Spain, 7th – 14th May for booking and travel info
Yoga is technical know-how to bring equilibrium to the body and enable you to experience your Infinite Self.
The word yoga means union or to yoke, as in the union to Infinite Consciousness, or the awareness that you are Infinite Consciousness.
Its benefits are that by working with the body you can keep your mind on a level of consciousness that you choose; you can change the outlook of your mind; you can have the inner experience of Source; it gives your body flexibility and your mind neutrality.
Kundalini Yoga is the technology of awareness. The Kundalini Energy is life energy latent at the base of the spine, which when moved up the spine towards the brain can bring total consciousness; the whole energy of the cosmos; the energy of consciousness; the creative potential of a human.
Kundalini Yoga compares to other forms of yoga in that they are all ways to unify the Self.
Of the 22 forms of yoga, Jappa, Shakti, Laya, Bhakti, Raja, Hatha and Mantra go to form Kundalini. This combination and their arrangement in each kriya (a set of precise actions that have specific effects) means that kundalini works faster than other yoga. Yogi Bhajan says twelve years of Hatha, plus six years of Raja, plus three years of Mantra, plus one year of Laya is equal to the effects of just one complete year of Kundalini.
The main difference between kundalini and other yoga is that in one kriya you can reach complete physical, mental and spiritual balance. It is practical enough that householders who lead busy lives can practice it and achieve results immediately.
Kundalini Yoga requires the spark of awareness passed on through the Golden Link to transfer consciousness from person to person.
Also in Kundalini Yoga the teacher does not initiate, it is the yogi’s responsibility to initiate themselves.
The concept of the Golden Link is that the wisdom is being transmitted directly with no interference. Kundalini Yoga requires a teacher in that it is the psyche of the teacher who teaches it. The Golden Chain is the chain of teachers forming a channel where the energy, wisdom and protection of the tradition flow through to students.
Chanting “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” links all the teachers by consciousness. The chanting of this mantra at the start of each class protects students and surroundings.
Ong Namo means I call on the creative consciousness
Guru means from dark to light or infinite teacher, the agent of change or catalyst of transformation that awakens spiritual knowledge.
Dev Namo means I call on the subtle wisdom.
The Adi Mantra is an ancient yogic mantra which instantly relates the yogi to the divine teacher within, and was used by Guru Ram Das and Yogi Bhajan. Bhajan said the guardian of the Aquarian Age was Ram Das. The Adi Mantra was how Yogi Bhajan stayed connected with his teacher Guru Ram Das, because Adi Mantra is a call that can penetrate through maya and essentially manifest the presence of Guru Ram Das. That way he could stay humble but strong in the knowledge that he was passing on pure Kundalini Yoga.
I understand Dhyana to be meditation. I see asana practice as a form of meditation, also I see dance as meditation.
The Yoga Sutras define Dhyana as “absorption in meditation:”
“the repeated continuation, or uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus” [dharana]
There are many ways to meditate. Mantra, walking, creative flow, focus on another being or sun-gazing. Sun-gazing can also improve your eye-sight, as many people have attested. When I first started to meditate I would sit cross-legged on the floor with a straight spine and let my thoughts pass. Still acknowledge the thoughts, but then let them float away “like clouds in the sky”. Then I practiced walking meditation; stillness; and mantras. Then I studied Transcendental Meditation and continue a 20 minutes a.m. /20 minutes p.m. practice. It is effective in that there is less of a sense of being Time’s slave and more of a sense of calm through the day.
I see Dharana as single pointed concentration. I can see how this overlaps with Saucha and Dhyana as they are all aspects of techniques for self realisation.
The Yoga Sutras define Dharana as concentration: “the process of holding or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place, and is the sixth of the eight rungs.”
When I was young I used to moon gaze and candle gaze until my eyes watered; I later learnt this was called Trataka. Also being in the flow of art and music feel like dharana to me. When you listen to people talk, or theatre, or poetry, if you can stay completely focused on the words, you are practicing dharana. When I teach – whether it is yoga to adults or creative writing to teenagers – I try to practice dharana, to concentrate fully on the students’ needs at that moment. When I was seriously ill I concentrated my attention on ways to get well efficiently. Probably in all aspects of life we have the opportunity to practice dharana.
Saucha is purity, or cleansing. I understand it to be something that will help you to be open to universal consciousness. If we can cultivate purity then we have less obstacles to being in tune with the Truth of ourselves and the Infinite.
The Yoga Sutras define Saucha as “cleanliness and purity of body and mind” and this brings ” a purification of the subtle mental essence, a pleasantness, goodness and gladness of feeling, a one-pointedness with intentness, the conquest or mastery over the senses, and a fitness, qualification, or capability for self-realisation.”
Techniques and practices that support and cultivate Saucha are a clean diet, conscious nutrition; morning Sadhana; meditation to cleanse the mind of junk; pranayama especially good for cleansing the energetic body; and kriyas.
For my Saucha I try seasonal fasts; cleanses; a forty day green diet; I eat a vegan diet (my main motivation for this is Ahimsa); and practice TM almost every day. I love pranayama and practice most days, though sometimes only 5 minutes. I also integrate pranayama to my Sadhana, as I have a cherished personal practice in kundalini yoga.
Have a play with Dhyana, Dharana and Saucha and see what comes about for you!
The title of the book is significant as kundalini yoga is about experiencing for yourself and tuning into the inner guru. This book is meant to be continually used over the years as the reader develops their own kundalini practice.
Yogi Bhajan is acknowledged in the introduction as the man who brought kundalini yoga to the west in the late 1960’s. There is a brief definition of yoga and kundalini as its essence.
In Part 1 the basics of yogic energetic physiology and numerology are introduced, the numerology based on the movement of the planets, relation of the sun to the earth and the effect it has on your life. It shows how to work out your numerology in relation to the ten bodies. so I found out that my Soul Number was 9; Karma Number 8; Gift Number 6; Destiny Number 7; and Path Number 6.
Then follows a detailed look at the ten bodies: the Soul Body, Negative Mind, Positive Mind, Neutral Mind, Physical Body, Arcline, Aura, Pranic Body, Subtle Body, Radiant Body and the Embodiment.
Three possible interpretations of the chakra system are offered: as a process of evolution; as a transformer of energy and as a system of esoteric instruction. The chakras are listed with their attributes and a chart for each, followed by a questionnaire to find out if all your chakras are balanced.
Part 2 discusses the best way to go about preparing for a kundalini class. It is emphasised that group practice is preferable. It suggests practicing a Kriya for 40 days to improve negative traits; 80 days to implant a new positive habit and 120 days to seal it in your psyche. It also talks of a Kriya that could be the key to your lifetime, and if you find that Kriya then to practice it for 1000 days for self-mastery.
Then it is offered that Yogi Bhajan’s suggested routine is followed to get ready for practice: cold shower, almond oil, white cotton, a sheepskin or rug and a pleasant environment. The ‘Amrit vela’ or ambrosial hour of dawn or dusk is recommended for practice as it intensifies the effect of the yoga, and we are more conscious of higher frequencies. It gives some warm up exercises and describes how a kundalini yoga class starts. Always the Adi mantra is recited at the start of the class “Ong Namo guru dev Namo” and the focus is taken inward to the third eye. Jalandhara bandh is held throughout and at the end of each exercise Mul bandh is applied. Between every exercise you relax with a straight spine to let the energy settle around the body and absorb the exercise.
Part 3 illustrates Sat Kriya, which Yogi Bhajan recommends for everyone every day. He calls it a full body workout, as it massages the inner organs, strengthens the sexual system and increases energy flow, releases energy stored at the navel centre and it uses the bij mantra of “Sat Nam” Truth is my identity.
Yogi Bhajan said the Kirtan Kriya meditation is the fastest working mantra as it cuts through any neuroses and is spoken, whispered then thought. yogi Bhajan says “we chant in three languages of consciousness, representing the three ages of the great cycle: the everyday human voice of the Base Metal Age we are living through; the whisper of lovers in the dark who remember the Silver Age of myth and legend; the silence of the Divine, the Golden Age that was and will be when All are One.”
For Kirtan Kriya meditation the thumb touches the Jupiter, Saturn, Sun and Mercury finger in turn as we chant Sa, Ta, Na, Ma. “Sa Ta Na Ma” is infinity, life, transformation and rebirth. The infinite cycle of life.
Next in Part 3 there are kriyas for each chakra. it is fun to try and anticipate which kriyas are chosen for each chakra, using the information on the chakra charts to work out which asanas would benefit each chakra. For instance in the root chakra, kriyas that work the lower spine and deal with elimination are effective. For the second chakra kriyas that open up the pelvic area are effective. For Manipura kriyas that strengthen the navel point such as Nabhi Kriya are effective, and so on.
Finally in Part 3 there are meditations for each of the ten bodies. I found this particularly interesting to work through as the mudras and mantras are so satisfying. For example meditation for the Arc Line: in easy pose cup palms and hold them face up above the knees, then scoop arms as far back over the head as possible, like throwing water over you, saying Wahe guru, Wahe guru, Wahe guru, Wahe jio at the same time. Yogi Bhajan says this meditation clears karma stored in the Arc Line “the power of Infinity is not outside, it is inside. when ‘I’ and Infinity create impact, you’ll become totally Divine. otherwise there’s a duality that keeps you away from reality.”
Part 4 deals with components of kundalini such as pranayama, mantra, mudras, asanas with pointers for safe alignment.
Talking about breath, the authors say that if you change the way you breathe you change the person you are. Clavicular breathing sustained for too long could induce a panic attack and conscious control of the breath is an essential part of yogic practice. “Kundalini yoga employs a wide spectrum of breathing techniques to balance, energise, modify and heal.” Unless specified, breathing in Kundalini yoga is through the nose. Long deep breathing and rhythmic breathing are looked at. “If you slow the breath to eight breaths per minute you move into a meditative state; slow the rhythm to six breaths or less per minute and the pituitary gland is stimulated. if you slow down to four breaths per minute or less, the pineal gland activates the Crown Chakra.”
Breath of Fire and Alternate Nostril Breathing are also described.
In the Mantra section Yogi Bhajan is quoted: “Mantra is two words Man and Tra. Man means mind and Tra means the heat of life. Ray means Sun. So mantra is a powerful combination of words which, if recited, takes the vibratory effect of each of your molecules into the Infinity of the Cosmos.”
The mudras looked at are Buddhi; Buddha; Christ; Praying Mantis; Reverse Prayer; Shuni; Prayer pose; Gyan; Lotus; Surya; Venus Lock and Yoni Mudra.
The bandhs are also described in detail: Mul bandh; Uddiyana bandh; Jalandhara bandh and Maha bandh.
There is a useful glossary and some resources listed at the back.
I found it an inspiring and useful book; it is one that I will often refer to over the years.