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The Art of Growth

                                           The art of growth By Tino Faithful

growth and the spiritual path                                                                When it comes to walking the spiritual path, it is essential that we slow down and approach things with an honest, open mind. This involves questioning the ideas we are presented with. The questioning of the idea of spirituality, in particular, constitutes a fundamental aspect of the spiritual path. While spirituality is hard to define, there are important ideas that need to be addressed on our journey.
A key concept, with regard to the spiritual path, is growth. Growth is something that takes place all the time around us. If we observe our natural environment, we will notice that everything is subject to natural cycles of growth and decay. Those cycles are mostly out of our control, though.
Learning to let go
Spiritual growth implies some kind of involvement on our part. Curiously, the driving force behind our involvement with the spiritual path is often rooted in our confusion. We are often guided by the sense that something fundamental needs to change in our lives. In this sense, confusion is an amazing catalyst for change. It’s a great way to get started!
Once we are on the path, there are many challenges ahead of us. One of the key hurdles is learning to let go. Unlike other things in life, growth cannot be achieved through will power. It is common for people to approach the spiritual path with a goal-oriented mentality. Thus, we may think: ‘what is the best strategy to apply so growth can take place?’, ‘how can I achieve specific states of consciousness?’ or ‘how can I be a more spiritual person?’
This kind of thinking doesn’t apply on the spiritual path. Growth, specifically, is not something that can be ‘done’. In fact, the mindset of striving and achievement is what usually impedes it. Thus, the more we try and achieve specific results, the further away we move from genuine growth. Ultimately, what keeps growth at bay is the relentlessness of our mental processes.

Moving away from the mindset of achievement
The mindset of achievement is deeply ingrained in the materialistic world we live in. In this sense, it is hardly surprising that we are inclined to approach the spiritual path with such a mindset. We think we can scheme our way to enlightenement! Unfortunately, this approach to spirituality only adds to our confusion and moves us further and further away from growth.
If growth cannot be planned out or achieved, what is left for us to do?
First, we need to step back mentally and stop trying to control the spiritual path by setting ourselves specific goals and outcomes—as we do! We need to recognise that the spiritual path is fundamentally open-ended. Let’s face the fact that we don’t really know where we’re going. This can be difficult if we’re used to controlling every aspect of our lives, though.
The mindset of achievement keeps us locked in the future. Somehow, we convince ourselves that everything will be better at a later time—when we buy that new house, when we manage to develop that particular skill or when we are more spiritual. We are desperately running away from the present and from the pain we subconsciously associate with it.
growth is now
However, growth only happens in the now—not later, not next year, not even tomorrow. As long as we try and escape the now, there can be no growth. If we don’t do anything about this situation, we will almost certainly remain trapped in the mindset of achievement for the rest of our lives.
So, growth cannot be achieved through doing; but, at the same time, growth won’t happen through not doing anything. It seems like there’s no way out of this dilemma… Or is there? Of course, there is.
As often, the solution lies in the middle. We need to find the right balance between doing and non-doing. While growth cannot be aimed for too directly, we can set the right conditions for it to take place. What impedes growth is lack of mental space. Too many thoughts, emotions, mental processes close the gaps in our mind. Those gaps are our best friends on the spiritual path (they are good gaps). We need to allow those gaps to open up as they provide the basis for connecting with the now.
cultivation of awareness
How do we create more mental space? How do we allow our mind to expand? This is done through cultivation of awareness. The more we cultivate awareness, the more the gaps in our mind open. As a result, we become more and more connected to the present moment. This is how growth takes place.
On a practical level, cultivation of awareness allows us to strike the perfect balance between doing and non-doing. In this particulat context, ‘cultivation’ should be understood in direct opposition to striving. It’s not too specific and doesn’t involve strong mental determination. We’re only following through that feeling that set us on the spiritual path in the first place.
Ultimately, what we’re cultivating is our whole-hearted commitment to openness, our genuine aspiration to allow the mind to unfold. This aspiration constitutes the very core of the spiritual path.
listening for the gaps
The ideal setting for cultivation of awareness—in the beginning, at least—is quiet, still meditation. The idea is simple: as we sit, we observe whatever takes place on the level of mind without labelling it. At first, this will feel almost impossible. However, if we persevere, we start noticing small gaps opening in the seemingly impenetrable wall of mental activity.
We just keep listening for those gaps, in a very passive, detached manner; they will keep expanding. This is the essence of ‘doing without doing’.
It is within those gaps that growth takes place. The mind gradually settles and we reach a state of greater emotional balance. At first, those changes are short-lived. Through daily practice, the changes become integrated into our psyche and start manifesting outwardly. There is no sense of achievement, though—ever.
Growth is a constant work in progress. No ulterior motives can be assigned to it and there is no endgame beyond its own unfolding. Growth wants to take place; and, ultimately, it’s all about whether we allow it to.

   Tino will be teaching a 2 day workshop with us at the studio in Feb 2018  for more details see here

Tino Faithfull
Over the last decade, Tino has travelled the world to study and teach the spiritual arts. He has taught in several different countries—including America, France, Great Britain, Portugal, Sweden and Thailand.
Tino recently set up his own school, xindao, which focuses on spiritual growth. Through his school, Tino teaches a number of disciplines—including meditation, neigong and taijiquan—in order to foster growth and promote awareness.
Visit the website to Tino’s school: www.xin-dao.net.

Yoga am I doing it right?

Yoga am I doing it right?

By Nikki Hambrook

When we read or hear of yoga many say myself included that yoga is a great way to de stress, release tension and quiet the mind. These statements are true. However for those of you starting yoga are you finding it hard to understand how putting your body into different and unusual positions can really provide so much benefit for the mind?

As I write this article I can remember so clearly the days when I too could not see the link. However I have now been practicing for over ten years and teaching for seven so many more layers of the practice begin to absorb into my being providing me with an understanding to benefit from yoga in more levels than just the physical. I remember in the beginning taking a class and a certain relationship problem I was going through went round and round in my head shouting lounder as I slowed down my pace of mind for a contemplative practice. I also had classes where I solely became focussed on achieving certain postures which once achieved I wondered what the point was. Am I wasting my time?

The thing with sharing yoga these days is my early experiences of not getting the practice is equally as important to my teaching as is understanding the practice. I can fully relate to my students feelings of busy minds and impatience felt when holding a simple side stretch for over a minute.

Here are a few problems that may arise that may stop you from pursuing yoga as a path for spiritual growth and self evolution. If you are new to yoga advance awareness of these obstacles gives you the gift of knowing what may stand in your way. Overcoming the obstruction is part of the whole process.

1. I can’t calm my busy mind to get the best out of the class practice.

If the mind is busy accept it as it is. The nature of the mind means it will never be completely quiet but it may be for just a few moments. If w get impatient with our busy mind then we send more attention to it. The thoughts seem louder and more persistant. To combat this redirect your focus and attention to your breath and the affect through sensation the posture is giving your physical form.

2. I can’t get into the positions that others achieve in class.

The challenge for our growth is to fully accept things as they are in each moment. Anxiously trying to push yourself further has the opposite of the desired affect. Anxiety naturally tenses the body as a protection mechanism, preventing further movement. If you have tight hamstrings or limitations in the hips then learning to accept this will help us energetically relax which in turn helps us to stretch deeper and ultimately achieve the required position.

If you firstly accept yourself just as you are then change can occur, this applies on and off the mat.

3. I feel uncomfortable in the yoga postures.

Although yoga generates lots of blissful feelings and is a real relief once you have moved the bodies tension, to actually move the tension you need to bring it up to the surface. Therefore in some of the yoga postures you may feel the tension heighten, as long as you are not pushing yourself too far this is normal.

Try to feel that by bringing tension to the surface you are enabling it to clear away so you can be free from it.

4. I feel bored when doing yoga.

We have so much stimulation in our modern day world with phones, emails and constant activity that to slow down our usual pace and remove the stimulation we can sometimes feel impatient. It is only by removing these stimuli and slowing down our breath and our movement that we can move towards the healing benefits of yoga. Those of us that lead active and busy lives are in a constant heightened adrenal state and will undoubtedly feel bored in the yoga setting by pushing through the boredom and continuing with their practice the blood which is normaly rushing to their extremities through the stress response reverses and goes to the nourishment of the deeper organs of the body. Eliminating the affect of stress leads to deeper feelings of prolonged contentment. A place where boredom is naturally eliminated.

5. Sometimes after yoga I can feel worse mentally or physically.

On a physical level yoga works to realign the posture. Think of the analogy of correcting the position of teeth with a brace it is uncomfortable for a while but eventually everything is aligned as it should be. The discomfort of making space in the body for alignment is well worth enduring as the benefits give long term comfort, wellbeing, greater energy levels and mobility and better health into old age.

On a mental level when we quiet down the chatter of everyday thought we make space for deep rooted emotional issues to surface. These need to come up for the chance for them to be cleared as they have an affect on our body which manifests in our posture. By giving these feelings space we are initially going to feel worse but we have to give them space to allow them to clear.

6. I don’t have the time to do yoga.

By doing yoga we train to be in the moment and address each task with our full attention. How many times do we find ourselves rushing around each day attempting to multitask trying to get everything done only to find we haven’t achieved much. The on the mat training to be fully present in each moment teaches you to be more efficient off the mat when tackling the days tasks. Leaving you more room for yoga.

Nikki teaches at Manchester Yoga central every Monday evening for gentle yoga at 545pm and Hatha Yoga at 7pm both classes are drop in.

5 reasons Mysore is worth getting out of bed for.

 

The first time I went to a Mysore class I thought I’d try it out just once and see what the fuss was about (I wasn’t really up for the seemingly impractical idea of getting up at 4.30am regularly). However that was the tipping point at which I descended down into the Ashtanga rabbit hole, from then on I went to every Mysore week that I could, regardless of what time I had to get up. Before I knew it I was traveling across the world to the Mysore rooms of some top international teachers and now I’m teaching it myself.

For me it really is ‘where it’s at’ when it comes to developing the yoga practice both inside and out. Here’s a few reasons why, from my perspective as both a teacher and a student…

1. It’s like private 1-2-1 class…

Each student in the Mysore room works through the different series of the Ashtanga system at their own pace (starting with Primary), new postures are given if/when they’re appropriate for the individual. This individualised approach means students can progress in their own time and be challenged in ways that’s right for them.

As a teacher this means that I can work with each student on a much closer level than in a normal led class. Not every cue or posture in a led class is suitable for every student in the room, Mysore style gives me the freedom to spend more time with a student whether that’s giving them tailored instructions or hands on adjustments.

2. Move to the rhythm of your own breath…

We all have a different rhythm when it comes to breathing and moving and this in itself will vary during our yoga practice depending upon which posture we’re in and how we’re feeling that day. During self-practice days students will move through postures at their own pace and get more time to explore postures or parts of the vinyasa that they find challenging. Building a relationship with our own breathing patterns helps us to notice patterns in other (connected) areas such as the nervous system, muscular system and the mind – when we’re aware of the steady and fluid rhythm of our own breath we’re more likely to notice when it becomes interrupted and explore why.

The sound in the Mysore room mainly consists of ujjayi breathing – layers of breath contributed to via individual students, each with a different volume, rhythm and quality. It’s quite a beautiful thing to listen to. As the teacher doesn’t verbally lead the whole class they can devote more attention to listening to a students breath and feeling the breath move through their body – this provides invaluable sensory feedback on how a student is doing right there in that moment. (Other sounds include the odd verbal instruction, shuffle, grunt, thud, expletive, giggle and yes, the occasional fart – and that’s just the teachers.)

During the Friday led primary class, students follow the rhythm of the teacher’s count as opposed to that of their own self-practice. It’s an opportunity for students to revise the correct vinyasa count and there’s no faffing time – so we learn to be comfortable with the expression of a posture that were in at that moment, even if we don’t have time to bind in Mari C/D. As students, this continues to exercise our awareness as we must listen attentively and resist the temptation to fall into the groove of our normal rhythm by either jumping ahead or slowing down unnecessarily.

3. Space to listen…

Students don’t follow verbal instructions for the self-practice classes, they learn a sequence of postures one by one. Once the sequence has been committed to memory there is more space for them to focus their awareness internally – the practice becomes a movement meditation and this is where the magic really happens!

For a teacher, having space to watch students practice, read their bodies, their breath and get a sense of the subtle energies at play is really important and so much easier to do in a Mysore style setting than a led-class. Mysore style gives students space to be themselves and take ownership of their practice while it also gives the teacher space to get to know them.

4. Mysore brings people together…

Self-practicing at home is great and really builds self discipline but there’s nothing quite like the energy of practicing in a group and getting input from a teacher. The person to the right of you may look like they’re in Cirque du Soleil and the one to the left may be working towards touching their toes. Even though the stuff that happens on the mat and the internal experience is unique to the individual, being in that room together at 6am, breathing and moving, creates a fantastic sense sense of unity. You may never have spoken to half of the people in the Mysore class but we don’t always need to talk to feel connected to the people we’re around.

During the Friday led primary class students are moving and breathing to the same rhythm which is unifying within itself. They all start and finish at the same time and chant the opening and closing chants as a group. There’s a real potency in the sound of those group chants and contributing to the closing mantra at the end of a Mysore style practice week can leave you with a tingle!

5. Early mornings are great!

Yes, you did read that correctly… early mornings are great! There’s a host of benefits to practicing in the morning – often the mind is quieter, the practice sets us up (physically and mentally) for the day and you’ve done your practice so you can walk around feeling smug! There are also the added bonuses of travelling on quiet roads, spotting foxes and seeing the sunrise.

Getting up early can be like approaching a challenging posture – try not to get ‘the fear’ when it’s coming up and take it as it comes (have confidence that at least one of your three alarms will go off and go to sleep), be prepared (the body is prepared for a posture by the ones that precede it so pack your bag the night before!) once you’re in it its not as ‘bad’ as you thought it would be and over time you might like it.

Attending early morning Mysore style classes requires a fair amount of effort, from both students and teachers but the return on investment is invaluable. Cultivating the dedication and self-discipline to get up in the morning is all part of the practice and it is definitely worth getting out of bed for.

By Marie Harris

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Become a Thai massage practitioner

The self-healing power of becoming a Thai Yoga Massage therapist

By Katrin Heuser

Working as a Thai Yoga Massage therapist, you often need to explain what you actually do. So that’s a good place to start before talking about the transformational journey it can be.

Thai Yoga Massage is a healing art that comes from an ancient Buddhist tradition. It’s a unique combination of yoga, acupressure, meditation, physiotherapy and energy work – a holistic therapy form with the aim to restore the natural energy balance in body and mind. Often called the Sacred Dance, Thai Yoga Massage is an act of loving kindness and meditation in movement between two people.

For the receiver, no doubt, this is a wonderful experience. So what makes it so special for the therapist? When I first started my training to become a Thai Massage therapist, I had no idea it would become such a big part of my life. I had just qualified as a yoga teacher and wanted to add another string to my bow. I chose Thai Massage mainly because of its clever body mechanics. I have scoliosis and didn’t want to work at a massage table. In Thai Massage you work on the floor, always aligned over the receiver, using your own body weight, coming from your centre. Seemed like the perfect option for me!

Halfway through my training, I felt a shift. I suddenly felt a depth in the connection through the power of touch that is hard to describe. It comes from being perfectly present and requires being at peace with yourself and the receiver at that moment. However you normally identify yourself needs to fall away, so you can connect with the receiver without an agenda. It’s not about wanting to fix the person, but ‘simply’ about giving them the space to be and to feel safe. Then the healing can take place.

Of course, we move the physical body, dig into muscles, move joints, release tension, work on fascia, revitalise organs, calm the nervous system, the list goes on. But the difference is in the way with touch, with presence, attention and clear intention. This quality comes from the same place as the quiet we find in meditation.

I prefer to call Thai Yoga Massage a practice, rather than therapy. There are always two people on the mat exchanging trust, giving into the present moment, receiving a deep connection from the heart. As much as you give, you receive back in loving kindness. It is like an echo.

Through this practice, I have found my own axis from where I live. I have found glimpses of unconditional joy and a connection to my self that is not clouded so much through misconception and attachment to the material any more. There is still a long way to go, but the unexpected directions this has already taken me are extraordinary. I now train people in Thai Yoga Massage and feel so privileged and grateful that I am able to share this gift.

Next practitioner training course starting 11 September 2015

www.muditathaiyoga.com

We are at the Om Yoga show

We are so happy to be attending the Om Yoga Show in Manchester and Nikki will be demonstrating one of the classes at the weekend. We will be on stand G8 and would love you to come and say hello!

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At the show we want to spread the message about our beautiful yoga studio set within a grand warehouse retreat. Known for a feeling of sanctuary within the Salford Quays area. Where we offer workshops on meditation, sound healing and more!

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And we want to give a shout out for our NEW holistic arm and therapists who provide some wonderful treatments such as, sports massage, EFT, Reiki, reflexology, shiatsu and energy alchemy. All our therapists have 10+ years experience.

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We also want to present our studio as a hire opportunity for workshops and events in Manchester.

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We hope you will help us spread the word and the love x