Nobody is perfect.

‘Nobody is perfect’. This is one of these sayings that is used often and everybody agrees to generally shaking their head in vogorous approval when somebody blurts it out. But have you really reflected upon accepting yourself as you are and integrated it into your life?

Have you really applied this saying towards yourself? Have you accepted yourself in little ways and accepted your ‘flaws’ as they are and let go of things ‘that you are not good at’. And simultaneously, do you accept your partner, best friend, parent as he or she is and realise that they are not perfect, willingly ?

What is these elusive perfect anyway? Perfect usually to us is that, which is not upsetting us, it is someone that doesn’t disturb us too much, it is that what is to comforting us. We don’t like it if someone tells us the truth or sometimes even a harsh opinion about us. If some ones honest and non malicious opinion uspsets you . really is he or she the reason that you get upset? Or is it your own mind that makes you upset? Before getting angry at the other person first have a look, a deep look, at yourself before giving the other person a hard time.

Or maybe you are someone who accepts everything from other people, but who is very critical towards yourself. In that case see if you can use that skill of forgiving others flaws towards your own self. It is very beautiful if you can laugh about yourself and don’t take yourself so seriously. It makes life more light and actually makes you more capable of changing certain habits, emotions and situations that are difficult for you. the problem usually with not applying the saying ‘nobody is perfect’ towards yourself is that we are so attached to having a good reputation, to looking being appearing so perfect all the time. This compulsion to false ideals actually suffocates our true self and out natural yearning for freedom and growth. as sll growth naturally comes from learning which involves a lot of failing, a lot of false starts, healthy doses of embarassment and falling flat on our faces. All Fun Stuff. ;-)

We want to be perfect at all times and for everybody. We are attached to that so much that we don’t allow ourselves to make a little mistakes or feel bad, or lose. But this creates so much pressure that we can get depressed when we are not that perfect version of ourselves or when someone is giving us maybe some much needed critical feedback.

Try putting  up a note saying ‘Nobody is perfect and that is ok’ up next to your bed, for a week or so maybe even print some funny pictures of yourself and paste them there as well. Then when you get up look at them and just laugh! Laugh at yourself looking funny and accept that. Then go off and enjoy your day, trying to make the best of it but resting peacefully in moments when ‘you are not being perfect’.

My opinion is that only when you are not trying to be perfcet, It’s actually possible that you are BEING perfect as you are.

Merel Martens

Open your heart and love yourself first

In yoga classes and meditations often the teacher asks you to ‘open your heart’, to see the good in everyone, to ‘realise that we are all one’ and ‘to develop love and compassion for all around you’. One very important remark that has to be noted when reflecting upon these statements is that while opening your heart we are not asking you to ‘become a doormat’, meaning that you should not just be doing anything for everybody.

Opening your heart and developing the inner urge of wanting to teach and help others goes hand in hand with being very confident and developing a health self esteem. Don’t let others walk over and on you as then you cannot be of any help to anyone.

Truly opening your heart means understanding what the other person needs which is an important skill for a yoga teacher, and for any teacher actually. It requires you to recognise where your student is at, in terms of mental, emotional and of physical state and it requires you to being able to respond and work with that. This means that you can push some students to go a little deeper in a pose, to confront that a little more with their own self destructing emotions. For others this means urging them to step back, to take it a little more easy on themselves.

With some students you need to use more academic language and arguments as they might have been raised in a society that appreciates science and for others you might want to use more esoteric explanations in order to make a point. But in order to being able to respond to others you need to take care of yourself and assure that you are balanced and energetic. So open your heart, give yourself love first and then go out there and share with others in a way that benefits that individual in his or her specific situation.

Art of Teaching

Simon-Teaching-b

 

 

Teaching is indeed an art. It requires full attention and presence, it requires confidence in yourself and creativity. As a beginning teacher we do recommend anyone to prepare your class properly. Good preparation gives a solid foundation to rely upon. With proper prepartion you can teach confidently and let things happen spontaneously.

Authenticity

In ancient times Yoga was transferred from a master to his/her pupil. Much of what the teacher (guru) imparts to the disciple falls under the category of spiritual transmission. The guru literally empowers the student through a transference of ‘energy’ or ‘consciousness’, much like the ‘Holy Spirit’ in a Christian Baptism

 

Through the teachers grace the deserving disciple would be initiated in the great alternative of existence, the reality of the Spirit. So it was important that the teacher is a fully realised master

 

Nowadays Yoga in the west became popular through asana practice

We are here to learn how to teach hatha yoga (asana, pranayam, mudra, bandha, kriya), so but most of all we remain students (with our own personal teacher/guru)

 

Gu = shadows

Ru = he who disperses them

 

 

“The syllable gu means shadows

The syllable ru, he who disperses them,

Because of the power to disperse darkness the guru is thus named

 

– Advayataraka Upanishad 14-18 verse 5″

 

 

Conclusion: so although we teach we remain students! BE AUTHENTIC

Nevertheless people come to your classes to learn something and regard you as a teacher

Why do people come to a class? Because of you, because of your unique message/style

There’s many teachers out there and you need to find your unique teaching style/be authentic

Preparation

Teaching yoga requires you as a teacher first of all to be present and available. Put aside your own ego and your insecurities as they will only draw your attention away from your students. It is recommendable to always arrive 10-15 minutes early at a class so you can prepare the space, set up the music, decide how you like the mats to be places and talk to students. Especially take time to talking to new students and inquire whether they have practiced yoga and/or meditation before. If they have any injuries, if yes: what kind, how long time ago, how does it limit them, etc. Ask women if they are pregnant or if they are menstruating. In this time you can give students individual recommendations and instructions.

In order to prepare your class keep the following in mind:

  • - Time of the day
  • - Type of venue (gym, yoga studio, park, office, etc.)
  • - Duration of the class
  • - Students (experience, age, gender, mind set)
  • - Expectation of the students

Tools of Teaching

There are so-called four ‘Tools of Teaching’:

  1. Instructions

As a yoga teacher verbal instructions is the most obvious way of guiding your students throughout the class. An asana class requires a lot of verbal instructions and depending on your style more details (e.g. Iyengar style or therapeutical). Here are some general tips regarding instructing:

– Voice: loud but soft and melodious

– Articulate properly

– Talk slowly

– Use different intonations

– Watch students while you explain

– Be aware of instructing while you are demonstrating

– Use short sentences

– Give suggestions for inhalations and exhalations, especially for Vinyasa Flow classes

– Don’t confuse yourself and the class while using the English and Sanskrit asana names: use them if you know them only

 

– Integrate indications, benefits, contra-indications

– Don’t give too much pointers in each pose

– If you talk about alignment in the asana: start from the feet and work your way up

– Give instructions to one person, or maybe to the group as a whole

– Choose your focus (depending on the focus of the class): alignment, flow, awareness, or…

– Suggestions for beginners: 1. give options, 2. make the class rather more easy than difficult, 3. Slow down the class as that makes it less confusing for beginners and in the same time it is a challenge for advanced students

 

  1. Demonstration

As a beginning teacher demonstrating happens kind of naturally without thinking about it, because it is easier if you are in the pose yourself, so you know what to demonstrate. However we highly recommend you not to fall into the ‘trap’ of demonstrating too much. Demonstrating while teaching prevents you from walking around and being available for the class and students. If you are demonstrating you cant properly observe what is going on, you cant adequately adjust your students. So use demonstrations scarcely and think twice if you decide to demonstrate. Remember most of all this class you are teaching and it is not your own asana class, don’t regard this as your own practice!

– take care of yourself while you demonstrate (period/not warmed up/not one side all the time)

– demonstrate if you know the pose properly

 

– mirror (especially in twists)

– thkink about your angle of demonstration: from the front/the side/facing students

– if you are not warmed up or you cannot come into the pose: ask an (advanced) student to demonstrate the pose. This is nice for the student and it makes your hands free to do and point out properly what you want

 

  1. Adjustments

– If you adjust, adjust

Be firm but with a loving touch

Put awareness in your adjustment, don’t just run from one to the next student

Stay with the student for a little bit after/during the adjustment to see if it worked

Check with the student if the adjustment is ok, you can look at the students face (a grim will tell you its enough), or ask simply : “is it ok” or ‘Tell me when to stop” etc. This makes a nice connection also between you and the student

– Many beginning teachers feel insecure about adjusting. We advise you to start practicing giving adjustments on friends but especially other teachers

– Start from the feet and work your way up

– before giving an adjustment look properly at the student

 

  1. Observation

– What to look at?

– What is the purpose of the pose

– Observing is good anyway

– Look at the students face’

– Look at the breath

– Use what you see, respond to what you see

 

Qualities of a Yoga Teacher

  1. 1.            Consistent practice – at least once a day
  2. 2.            Flexible body & Flexible mind – flexibility not in the body only, but in the ind also: there is no diision between body and mind only to understand we divide up the body from the mind
  3. 3.            Leave your ego at the doorstep with your shoes
  4. 4.            Be authentic
  5. 5.            Always carry beautiful music with you – music that relaxes that mind. And with music we also mean your voice
  6. 6.            Clear instructions with loud and soft voice
  7. 7.            Be relaxed presence: if you are relaxe in your presence ou are relaxed in your words/instructions an dpoise. Aim of yoga is to be relaxed and have a relaxed body
  8. 8.            Adjustments with love – don’t push and only support where they are comfortable. Slowness and softnes are the secret to attain anything in this world
  9. 9.            Ability to connect
  10. 10.         Approach and relate to your students with patience and compassion

DwiPada Viparita Dandasna

Garudasana

Dwi-Pada-Viparita-Dandasana

Gratefulness diary

Merel-taking-notes

We all have one of those days: its hard to get up. The blankets feel so heavy, your body even more heavy and your mind is cloudy. Everything seems gray and not really worth while. Your work seems irrelevant to you and it feels as if the whole world is conspiring against you, blocking you from an easy light and happy life. Yeps, you are having a little depression.

image

Many ways to deal with this. You can just drag yourself throughout the day,waiting it to pass by, you might dig yourself deeper into your blankets and just watch some movies. Maybe you call your best friend to share your sorrow.

Or… you might want to take things in your own hand and decide to make this day as much a beautiful day as others, even though the start wasn’t as shining and stunning as others.

What helps on those days is to get your body moving, to make the blood circulate and ‘the energy’ flowing. ROlling back your shoulders, opening your chest, jumping little up and down can make a surprising change to your mood.

Another thing that does magic is reading through your Gratefulness Diary. This requires some prior work though. THis is a little book in which you write five things that you are grateful for that day.

Now the trick is that you write down five new things every day, and this is where the magic happens. It is easy to repeat kind of obvious reasons to be happy for but if you have to come up with five new things every day it is amazing how subtle and beautiful events come to your mind. It helps you first of all on that very day to look back with a positive mind and this diary helps you appreciating what you have and what beauty the world has to offer you on days that your mind is a little cloudy.

 

Cherish difficult situations like a sharp knife

Merel-doing-her-practice

One teacher helped me a great deal with comparing pain and difficult situations with a knife, a knife that is pointing at your chest and about to enter. Naturally you are afraid of the knife and you would want to back up, move away. However he advised to instead gently lean into the knife. Don’t run away but see how sharp it is, what exactly is going on, to investigate it. Now this might sound funny but try to move and lean into the sharp knife with kindness: try to look at to your own emotions and your own pain with kindness.

Merel-doing-her-practice

 

Don’t blame those feelings, don’t blame the difficult situation, instead try to see how and what it is trying to teach you. It doesn’t mean that you have to be kind in the sense of pleasing yourself and getting comfortable with the pain and the difficult situation. It is kindness in the sense of accepting the knife (aka pain) so that you can look at them, recognise them and change them.

Understand that you can move away from the knife, avoid the situation, repress it, don’t talk about it, don’t look at it. But that knife will remain there and move closer and closer and it will continue haunting you unless you face it. Kindness is moving into the pain, into the knife, to learn from it, and gaining clarity to overcome it completely once and for all instead of letting it fester due to fear and lack of examination..

 

Merel Martens

 

Childrens Yoga

Doing yoga with your child is fun. It is a good moment for you to connect with your child in a playful and yet conscious manner. For the parent is good to move the body and to use your imagination and in that way connect with your child on their level. For the child this is a fun way to connect to their body and breath without mentioning that specifically. Also you can beautifully integrate relaxations in here again in a light way connecting it to a story.

The ‘heart’ of the yoga that you do is making up a story and integrating different poses in the story. So for example you are going into a forest in a country very far from here and meet all kinds of animals, such as a lion, a very big dog, a cobra, etc. Anytime you meet this animal together you can imitate the animal with your body. Also you see many trees (Tree Pose) and you can imitate the wind blowing (to practice different types of breathing).

You can see that there are in numerous possibilities here and destinations where you can travel so let your mind become flexible and flow and go wherever :) Children themselves have great fantasy so let them join in wherever you go and what is happening on the way.

If your child has friends coming over you can nicely do this in a small group. If you want to do this with a group of children that don’t know each other very well than you might want to introduce a name game at the start. You could for example ask every one to say their name and after that make a gesture or funny dance pose and after everyone can repeat. Before diving into the Story you can star off with a fun game such as 1,2,3-Yoga Tree: one child faces the wall and the others are at the other end of the room. The child calls out ‘1,2,3-yoga tree and turns around. While calling out the other children can run but have to freeze into a Tree Pose when the child has turned around. The one who has reached the other end of the room first wins and if you didn’t freeze in time you are out of the game.

A very short relaxation up to two minutes is good. If you have mats or blankets you can ask them to roll up into a donut and lay down, or play sleeping lion (together make a roaring sound and after that be quiet for one to two minutes). Or if you want to work in pairs you can ask one child to listen to the breathing through the belly button of the other.

  1. Name game
  2. Start with a game (difficult to start at the mat) e.g. 123 Yoga Tree or Stop/Dance (stop and make a pose or touch finger/nose)
  3. Sit to bring everybody together (e.g. human mandala or King of the Dance or King of Yoga)
  4. Yoga Story
  5. Game (because they are sitting long at the mat)
  6. Savasana (yoga hotdog or just laying down one by oe, the other observing the others breath, or hand at the stomach of the other) or sleeping lion (make lion sound and then be quiet for 1 minute)
  7. Angel’s Walk

Google You tube: cosmic kids yoga for more

Merel Martens

The importance of expressing anger in a healthy manner

anger

Here is a way, to express your anger in a powerful healthy manner.

First we have to understand the need of expressing anger in a healthy manner.

Why ? Repression is the opposite of Expression.  Repressed anger is one of the most dangerous emotions to be sitting and boiling inside your body and mind. It can give rise to many physical illnesses and mental distress. People that repress their feelings of anger usually are people that are said to be ‘very easy going’. They agree (outwardly) with everything and never set boundaries. They never get upset and you will find it hard to argue with them. However, also these people have a certain limit for containing their emotions and at some point they will ‘explode’ and suddenly burst out, or suddenly make a seemingly unexpected decisions such as breaking up a relationship without giving any signals before, or suddenly quit their job, or very unexpectantly burst out in complaints and sum up everything little thing that has been bothering them for a very long time.

Being the other person involved it is obviously hard to deal with a situation like this and can be painful also. So this person has been feeling like this and this for such a long time, I have been hurting this person with my behaviour and I didn’t have an opportunity to change? Also, people that tend to repress their anger can fall into depression more easily than others, for they tend to self blame.Not expressing emotions usually is compensated with worrying a lot which costs heaps of energy.  At the other extreme this people are also prone to self harm as a way of releasing some emotions and energy.

anger

 How ?

So what to do when you actually feel anger coming up when you feel kind of out of control and are afraid to hurt someone with your words.

The best way to express your feeling in a very good way, to release the intemnse emotional energy  is to engage in some vigorous physical activity. This can be anything from actively dancing to vigorously sweeping the floor. (For outdoor people cutting wood, or digging a hole in the found or working out in the gym etc. are all great way to enegage in the physical.)

For some it works to actually more actively release the anger by screaming and shouting, but you want to be sure that you have a place then where you can do so without upsetting others (your children neighbors etc.) and where you feel really free to express yourself. While you do so be very aware – don’t just go in to dancing, cleaning, screaming but keep an eye on your thoughts and thought processes – in other words don’t drown yourself in your emotion.

By doing this  you prevent building up negatively charged emotions in your physical and mental bodies. Also you will have created space and time for yourself to actually look at your emotions in a detached manner. Why are you feeling angry, Is it a realistic response to the situation ?

After this stage of releasing and observing your emotions you might want to just sit down quietly or make a short walk to sort out your thoughts and find a way to bring this into a conversation with yourself first and with the other  if there was another person involved in evoking your feelings. Sometimes you will find out all it was needed was to work it out with yourself and the conversation with another is far more calmer and ralistic minus the unnecessary emotional drama and the sturm and drang. Most important though is that you didn’t ignore your emotion but worked with it. You felt it coming and you helped processing it in a healthy way.

What do you think ? Do you agreee ? Is there another way you have found which has helped you in better expressing your emotions? Please let me know the comments below.

Study yourself, study your patterns

You probably recognise this. Your best friend is coming up to you and says: ‘Why do i always get into a relationship with men that hurt me?’ or ‘Why do i always get into trouble with bosses at work? ‘And you know exactly what the reason is, and you have probably talked about this with your friend before. But you are a friend and again you help your friend by responding in a loving and understanding way and trying to help your friend by giving suggestions and understanding her patterns.

Now put yourself in place of your friend. And ask yourself that question. That question that always comes up. In other words: recognise situations and relationships that keep coming back in your life and that keep creating problems and pain and tears. Why? Because it is those situations that can teach you the most. It is exactly those situations/relationships with similar patterns that you are supposed to learn from. And until you have not understood that relationship or situation clearly you are bound to make the same ‘mistakes’ and you will keep running into them again and again.

Once you have identified that situation, instead of calling your friend and discussing the situation. Go sit quietly somewhere where you cannot be disturbed. Turn of your phone and deeply reflect on the situation. Reflect and see if you can dig a little deeper into the issue, try to go deeper than the usual superficial reflection that you might have done before. This might need some time and repetition. To write down this situation, this pattern that is reoccurring in your life, stick it on the wall and for one week reflect on it every day for lets say 15 minutes. Now while you are reflecting your mind might wander off but just keep going back to it. I promise you that your understanding will have deepened after deeply looking into for seven days. Naturlly with understanding some conclusion might come up, some conclusion about changes that you might have to make. Here too, reflect on those until you deeply feel that they are good changes and maybe solutions. Doing this will strengthen yourself and your decision making and it will save your friend from repeating his/her advice once again :)

Merel Martens

 

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3 powerful ways to overcome negative emotions with awareness and attention.

Yoga-reconnects

Our lives are emotional roller coasters,sometimes full of ecstatic moments of excitement and joy and at other times filled with  endless valleys of mind numbing sadness. Some of these emotions tend to stay and disturb our minds and moods and control our daily lives, even to the extent of interfering with our well-being and happiness.

When the negative emotions overwhelm, we need some extra effort to let go of these painful emotions. Most of us have a tendency towards a particular negative emotion that stays.

Some people are prone to feelings of depression naturally, while others may have a lot of anger, some might feel disturbed by fear and others might get caught up in a spiral of overwhelming anxiety.

If you can identify  the emotion that has a strong effect on your psyche and which is causing you a lot of grief in your daily life, you can start working on these emotions and dealing with it in a powerful manner.

Here are a few different ways to deal with negative emotions, you can use a combination of these methods in varying ways and intensity depending upon the depth of your emotions.

1.) Observing the emotion – letting go through mindfulness

If you have been practicing Mindfulness or self awareness this technique can work wonders for you, Mindfulness needs to be used in order to notice the subtle rising of the emotion in your mind or body.

The faster you notice the emotion, the better. Physically, it is more effective if you can notice the emotion once it is in stomach area (usually at the beginning ) instead of once it is in the throat area, (prompting you to start screaming in anger uncontrollably). For example.

Pamela-Meditation-BW

By being very aware of the emotion and looking at it with an equanimous state of mind you can control the emotion from growing and taking control of yourself. It is not an easy method and needs some practice. But once you get the knack of this, it can be the most powerful ally on your side.

IMP: Try not to change the emotion and don’t make it bigger or smaller. It is what it is, and if you notice the emotion getting bigger, that’s ok, don’t stop it. If it gets smaller thats ok too. Don’t put a label on the emotion, merely observe with an equanimous, non-judgemental state of mind.

2.) Realising the nature of the emotion and the mind – letting go of it through understanding

This is a very analytical way of dealing with your emotion, but very useful once you have understood the mechanism at a certain fundamental level.

What helps particularly is that fact that you are diving into the nature of the mind instead of the emotion itself which means that you are in a way diverting your attention away from the emotion and towards the source of pain and discomfort.

So if you emotion is very overwhelming then go for this option instead of observing the emotion (1). When analysing the mind, realise that the mind is always changing and nothing remains permanent. Realise that the emotion actually is a creation of the mind and it is a product of yourself and not yourself.

Merel-taking-notes

So realize “I am having an emotion that I have labeled angry”,  instead of ‘I am angry’. This helps with dis-identifying with the emotion and can help you not be so deeply disturbed by it.

Think of your emotions as clouds obscuring a blue sky. And imagine the clouds simply passing by and simultaneously let your thoughts gently float away. (as they must naturally)

Realise you are not your emotion and do not act on the emotion. Remember the times that you didn’t have the emotion so understand it is merely a temporart ‘cloud’ and also remember that soon again you will be free of this particular emotion.

3.) Opposite thinking – letting go through changing the focus of your attention

If both the above described methods don’t work then try this one. It is a very effective method of, temporarily, getting rid of destructive emotions. I recommend doing this when the emotion is too strong and gets the best of you. This method involves recognizing your emotion that is causing your immense pain and making an effort to develop the opposite emotion.

So if you are feeling very angry do a meditation on love - for example, by thinking of your very best friend or someone that you have a lot of positive feelings towards, and realise/remember all that he/she did for you.

Afterwards wish him or her all the best back, and if possible extend that love from there to all the people around you that are not necessarily friends and even extend it to people that you would consider ‘enemies’.

Yoga-reconnects

This method works because of the simple fact that your mind cannot hold two contradictory emotions at the same time.

If you feel very depressed think of all the people in the world that are doing worse then you, all the people living on the street without money and food, all the people that do not have the possibility to study yoga or mediation or who would gladly give their right arm to just have a roof over their heads or a bowl of rice for their loved ones.

The ones that do not have access to internet or the safety of civilisation to read this, etc. and feel gratitude towards your circumstances however depressing they might be.

And develop compassion towards them, develop maybe the slightest feeling that you could help them with all the gifts at your disposal – and maybe just maybe that thought might pull you out of your own depressed feelings….