What is the purpose & intention of this blog?

I am interested in having a dialogue with you, conversation with those who are enticed to read it or feel inspired to share a picture, poem, video, or concept.  I welcome your feedback, your experiences from using the yoga lessons and dietary ideas.  I am interested in your relationship to wildness and nature, for this blog to be an experiential sharing space.

 I have recently been studying Wild Therapy, Nick Totton’s book.  He says “It is true that ‘individual’ and ‘culture’ are mutually dependant & co-arising.  A human individual can only organise herself authentically and spontaneously in and through culture, while at the same time there can be no culture without the individuals who carry and express it”.  These writings are helping me to consolidate learning, exploring who I am and how to express my culture.

It is interesting reading for study, relating everything to personal experience.  I feel that from life experience I have an authentic space from which to relate to a subject.   Learning at school was categorised and I did not feel a relationship to many subjects I read about.  This is a new relationship to learning for me.

I am currently reading Jay Griffiths ‘Wild’ and Nick Totton’s ‘Wild Therapy’.  They research terms I have a tangible interest in, such as, ‘wild’, ‘wilderness’, ‘civilisation’, ‘nature’.  It is so wonderful to connect with psychology and to be in relationship with other writers.  It takes time to understand the way they are thinking and what they are saying.  I aim to share subjects from my personal perspective, so that you can relate with me and be inspired to share from your own life experiences.

Something as human beings I feel we all share relationship to is an innate sense of survival, so we begin here.

For each of these blogs I intend to consider a core subject to web out from.

What better place to begin than Earth element, researching our sense of ‘Survival in times of change’. This subject, our survival, being the core from which we weave.   

image

This stunning sketch by Nicola King captures the magic of nature of which we are part.  See more of her creations at www.facebook.com/henna00heaven

Fire Element in the Body

Fire element in general relates to transformation, will, choice, creativity, action and movement. Physically it relates to the transformative actions of the body as a whole, to the metabolism, to the organs in general, and specifically to the heart and small intestines.

Our body is a continuous, constant process of transformation. Our body systems are working continuously for our survival, and they are transforming in response to the context we give them. If we spend much of our life still and static our body will transform in this direction, eventually shutting down signals to certain muscles, in time taking on the shape of the sofa we love so much, or the car seat we spend so much time in. The parts of our body that we consider to be the most static, such as the bones, muscles or the skin, too are in a state of continuous change, and over time are completely replaced and renewed.

When we practise yoga we channel the transformative action of the body towards flexibility and mobility, restoring function and flow throughout the body. We harness the natural transformative properties of the body towards health, balance and strength. By tuning into our innate tendency to move into alignment and dynamic balance, we direct our body to transform in this direction, to support the development of muscle and bone that in turn supports us to be in alignment and balance. In the same way that if we sit all day in a car, we create a body that is developed for that context, if we practise actions of upright dynamic balance we create a body oriented towards these qualities. By practising yoga we place ourselves in the flow of transformative action and orient it in the direction we wish to grow.

Metabolism refers to the chemical processes happening in the body, energy being taken in, in the form of food, drink and oxygen, which is then broken down and turned into forms usable by the body (that which is not usable being ejected in the form of waste), the energy from this process is used by the body to synthesise new substances necessary for life. These two processes are called Catabolism – breaking down or destructive metabolism, and Anabolism – the synthesising of new substances or creative metabolism. These processes are going on all the time in our body way beneath our conscious experience, except of course when our body lets us know we need to expel some waste materials, or when something has gone wrong.

metabolism

Each individual’s metabolism is unique, varying dependent on age, sex, gender and physical condition. On the whole yoga practises serve to slow our metabolism, the synthesis of deep breathing, meditative focus, and movement, all work towards bringing us into a state of calm relaxation. In the most extreme cases, it appears that advanced yogis may be able to slow the metabolism down to a complete stop, one of the Grandfathers of modern yoga, Krishnamacharya in a public demonstration, slowed his heart to a stop for two minutes.

There are many benefits to a slow metabolism, primarily it is more efficient at turning food into usable energy; it may slow the ageing process due to its beneficial effect on the thyroid gland; the mind is calmer, and more thoughtful; William Broad the author of ‘The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards’ says that yoga helps develop an “inner physiological flexibility” meaning “your overall metabolic rate tends to go down. You get this kind of inner flexibility that mirrors the outer flexibility.”

In this way our practice serves to control the fire of the body in a way that serves to bring us more life, more energy, and to bring the individual into a deeper connection with the reality of their own being, and with this deeper listening, the ability to tune in to what the body needs at any given moment. We learn to trust in the tremendous intelligence inherent in the body, and seek to be able to listen so that this inherent intelligence can guide us towards healthy choices that support us to grow upright, balanced and strong, and in so doing we can support our friends, families and community to do the same.

In future blogs we will delve deeper into the subject of fire in the body, hopefully this has been a good introduction to the subject, which may provoke further investigation. Please do leave any questions or observations below, they are very welcome.

Our next cycle of blogs will look into the study of yoga, the five elements and the mind.

Earth Element in the Body

Earth element relates to stability, security, structures, boundaries, materiality and form.

In the body Earth element relates to the most stable, supportive and slow changing parts, the skeleton, connective tissues, muscles and skin. These provide the structure within and through which the physiological actions of the body take place, and the forces of gravity and locomotion are transmitted.

musculoskeletal

In our classes we have been focussing our practise on the core muscular and skeletal structures, which give the basis for balance and safe, grounded movement. By bringing our attention to, and learning to trust in the support of these central musculoskeletal structures, we can rely less on the outer muscle body to support us, discovering the powerful support structures arising from our centre.

The core is formed first by the spine itself, which has what yoga educator Leslie Kaminoff terms ‘structural prana’, that is, the architecture of the spine itself has an inherent tendency towards equilibrium and alignment.

spine

The spine can be helpfully viewed as two columns, inner and outer.  The spinous processes of the outer spine, are, spiny! They jut outwards in three directions, and through the action of the ligaments that bind to them seek to maintain the spine in upright equilibrium at all times.

The discs of the inner spine are round, strong, and evolved for load bearing. Between the discs are gel-filled pockets surrounded by concentric sheets of fibre, called intervertebral discs. These too act to maintain the spine in equilibrium. As the spine moves from side to side, or forward to back, the nature of the intervertebral discs is such that they will automatically seek to return themselves to a neutral centred position.

vertebrae

In this way the inner and outer parts of the spine work together to transmit the forces of gravity and of locomotion, and continuously maintain a state of dynamic equilibrium. Our work as yogis is to support this inherent equilibrium seeking nature of the spine by simultaneously releasing tension and building balanced strength throughout the musculature. An aspect of how we do this is by connecting with the deeper layers of muscular support in the body, in particular the muscles of the core.

The core muscles of the body form an egg shape, at the top of which is the diaphragm, an upside down bowl shaped web of muscles that is situated in the base of the rib cage, and is the engine of breath in the body, in continuous movement as the breath moves in and out 24 hours a day. At the base of the core is the pelvic floor, another web of muscle, or diaphragm, a diamond of muscle across the base of the pelvis. The sides of the egg are formed by a group of muscles among them, the Transverse Abdominus which wrap like a band around the abdominal area, the Multifidus which travel from the sacrum upwards along the spine, the Rectus Abdominus and Obliques which wrap around the front and sides of the lower body and the Quadratus Lumborum which rises from the upper back of the pelvis to attach to the upper lumbar spine.

core-muscles

In the centre of this egg of criss-crossing muscle is the Psoas, which connects from the lumbar spine downwards to connect with the Iliac muscle and then join at the top of the Femur. The Psoas and Iliac muscle together are known as the Iliopsoas muscle, and weakness or tightness in this muscle can lead to all sorts of problems, including back pain, breathing issues, leg pain and more. The Psoas is sometimes called a ‘hidden treasure’, as all of its functions can be taken on by outer muscles, and so it can be hard to connect with at first, but connecting with this important core muscle leads to a sense of grounded-ness, safety and stability in the body, as well as contributing to healthy alignment and movement.

iliopsoas

In our asana practise we first connect with our ground of support, we feel into our base, whichever part of the body is supporting, be it hands, feet, sit-bones or head. Having connected with our base of support we connect with our core, feeling into the meridian lines of support running from our base in towards our centre. Then from this grounded, centred place, we can move with our breath into the full expression of the pose. In this way we always know that we are moving safely, and engaging the deep structures of support within.

There is much more to this subject, and in future blogs we’ll look in more depth at the core structures of the body and how our yoga practise can bring us into a more meaningful functional relationship with them.

Space Element in the Body

I am going to return to the subject of water element and the emotions in our next elemental cycle, this week we are working in class with the space element, so I am going to explore some aspects of space in the context of the body and its systems.

Yoga teachers often talk about creating space in the body, but what does this actually mean?

Our organs continuously transform and process incoming nutrient in the form of air and food and in the outgoing form of waste. The heart and other organs keep the many fluids of the body in constant motion, making sure that all parts of the body are continuously restored, refreshed and maintained in equilibrium, or homeostasis.

circulatory

The organs in turn are supported, and contained by the musculoskeletal structure, formed by the voluntary muscles and the skeleton, and by the connective tissues, the joints, tendons and ligaments, and fascia, which surrounds and contains the distinct parts of the body, something like the white pith inside an orange.

fascia

The shape of our muscles and skeleton is formed through our daily activities throughout our lives. Our muscles adapt continuously to what we ask them to do, and can become fixed in positions that in turn can distort our skeletal structure. If for example, we spend a lot of time hunched over a desk at a computer screen, our muscles learn to develop and maintain this hunched position, in turn distorting the shape of the shoulder girdle, upper spine and ribcage.

These distortions in the muscles and skeleton, in turn restrict the ability of the diaphragm to move freely in the body, which inhibit our ability to breathe freely. Also the actions of our organs, and the flow of fluid can become similarly restricted and inhibited.

skellington

Our practise of pranayama (breathing) and asana (posture), slowly but surely lead us towards a more open and relaxed, balanced, upright posture. We learn to listen to our body to feel into areas of rigidity, restriction or tension, and with focussed movement, begin to release them. As we release muscular stress and inhibition from the outer body and learn to listen to the deeper communication arising from our core body, we can begin to return naturally to the alignment inherent in our living being.

The practise of yoga is a way of re-awakening, or re-establishing this natural alignment by bringing us into experiential contact with the structural prana of our living body. We were born tremendously curious, flexible, spontaneous and open to experience, and through our practise we can, to some degree, restore and recover these innate properties.

Happy-baby-playing-with-his-feet-1080x675

The conscious re-alignment of the body is both an expression of prana in itself, and a process that will allow prana to flow. Prana is not some kind of magical or mystical energy arriving in our bodies from some unknown outside source. It can be viewed as simply the natural propensity of the living body to seek alignment and equilibrium, though when experienced, it can feel magical. When we let the breath and body move us, and begin to realise for the first time the tremendous intelligence inherent in our living being, it can be a profound and transformational experience, as we learn experientially that there is far more to our intelligence than simply our conscious, rational, everyday mind.

When we return to the space element in our next cycle we will explore this subject in relation to the mind. I hope this has given some insight as to how the practise helps to create and maintain space in the body, and how this in turn supports our life as a whole.

Captura de pantalla 2016-12-16 a las 13.01.33

 

Water Element in The Body

Water Element

In our classes we work with the powerful and ancient metaphor or model of the five elements. This way of looking at the world is found in all cultures, and is a naturally arising, easily understood way of looking at reality that can help us to better understand ourselves and the world we live in.

This week we are working with water element, which relates to feeling, fluidity and balance in body and mind.

splash-rebound-8564c

A key aspect of yoga practise is balance, the form of yoga that we practise, Hatha, means ‘balanced effort’. We seek to integrate and harmonise, to balance, the different parts of our being, as represented in the form of the five elements, fire, water, earth, air and space.

In the body water element relates to physical balance, our ability to maintain our physical being in a state of dynamic equilibrium. It is the nature of water to seek equilibrium, and evolution has harnessed this property to allow us to do the same, tiny fluid filled canals in our inner ears act as 3-dimensional spirit levels to let us know when we are in balance.

To be able to find and maintain our centre and our balance we need to know where our body is in space, this is a kind of sixth sense, and is called proprioception. Through practise we learn to feel into our body and develop this sense of ourselves as a 3 dimensional body moving in space and time.

Captura de pantalla 2017-04-24 a las 14.28.21

To keep our balance we need to be able to be both strong and flexible, so that we are able to adjust to our changing environmental circumstances on a moment-to-moment basis, able to hold our ground when it is necessary, and to give ground when that is necessary. To do this we want our muscles to be strong but not rigid.  We can work with our physical practise, to restore fluidity and ease to muscles that have become restricted through habituation or trauma. Also we can work to build balanced strength where muscles have become weak through lack of use or postural imbalance. There is an essential relationship between fluidity and balance, if we are not fluid we are less responsive and so less able to maintain equilibrium, and we if we are not balanced we cannot maintain fluidity and gracefulness in our actions.

Screen-Shot-2015-06-11-at-4.29.29-PM-1260x840

Water element of course relates to the liquids of the body – the water, blood, interstitial fluid, synovial fluid and lymph – which work together to transport nourishment and information around the body systems, these always flowing oceans, rivers and streams of the inner body. Our physical practise helps these different fluids to do their work, by maintaining ‘good space’ or ‘sukha’ in our bodies, we can make sure that restrictions are not developing that block the flow of fluid. It is said that ‘motion is lotion’, the lymph fluid for instance does not move on its own accord, and needs our movement to help it move and flow, so that waste from the cells can be recycled in the body or removed through our waste systems.

D30_9_112_0004_600

The more we get to know our body and its systems, the greater appreciation we develop for this intricate and tremendously intelligent vehicle that we have been gifted by evolution. Our work is to establish a deeper conversation with and understanding of our body so that we are able to better harmonise with our internal systems to support them to support us. Imagine that these body systems are all working without rest for 24 hours every day so that we can do all the things we have to do, it is not so much to ask that we make some effort to understand their functions and give them some attention from time to time.

In the next part of this blog series we will look at how water element relates to our emotional world, and the relationship between our emotions and our physical being.

c88e3f0a00d48f7c02dd42107c0c9ec9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why men’s yoga?

Good question! It is curious to note that the original practitioners of yoga in India, and the teachers who bought yoga to the west were almost all male, yet it is women in the main who have embraced yoga in the west, and it is thanks to them that yoga has become part of the western cultural and spiritual fabric.

We know how beneficial yoga is for body and mind, and started these classes in part as a way to encourage more men to practise yoga.   We also wanted to find out what men wanted and needed from a yoga practise, and to work with them to develop a practise that is tailored for them.

There are differences between men and women, both physically and mentally (of course, there are many similarities too), yoga with its emphasis on harmonising the masculine and feminine principles recognises these differences, and the strength that arises when these polarities are working together in harmony internally and externally.

Felix is teaching men’s yoga classes in Cadiar every Friday at 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  Classes are designed with the intention of giving the practitioner all the tools they need to develop their own individual practise and make yoga a part of their day to day to life.  Visit the Classes page here on our website for information on venue, email and phone number to contact.

 

Captura de pantalla 2016-12-16 a las 13.01.33

Fresh online presence

We are currently working on updating the Inner Smile Nurture website with WordPress.

If you have any suggestions or advice on what you would like us to include in our new presentation please let me know at innersmilenurture@gmail.com

You can also email me direct for details of our current weekly Yoga Classes and upcoming Retreats.

With love

Maya

Why change your name and move to Spain?

It’s been almost a full year since we left the Uk and it feels time to share with you why I have chosen the path I am choosing.

In November 2013 a new horizon presented itself at a time when our projects in the Uk were coming to a close. The College Project in Bristol and the Swindon Yoga and Massage Centre were wonderful educational journeys, yet it was becoming clear that commuting was not a sustainable way of life. The two projects were also unsustainable under the landscapes that were on offer at the time.  What now for Inner Smile Nurture?

image

An opportunity came to work with a very different landscape. We were asked to house sit for a lady in Spain, quite close to Malaga. During those 7 months my partner and I followed the Artists Way, a book that guides you through a journey of creative exercises. The house was called Las Tinajas, The Pots, with stunning 360 degrees of mountain views. In this pot we were held through winter and I gave time to my creativity. Whilst my work has always been beautifully creative, it became such a part of me that I gave little time to who I am outside of Inner Smile Nurture. The Artists Way gave me an opportunity to crack the egg and look at myself as an individual. Who am I? What do I need? Where am I going? Why? Am I making choices based on what I value?

At this time I chose to use the name ‘Maya Gayle’. In Portugal 2013 when practising yoga this name came to me in a wave. As I sat in meditation at Jai and Sofia’s house in Ericeira I felt an arising peace in life being an illusion. An illusion that I create, it was with this realisation that I embodied the name Maya.  This name is a reminder of who I am, an ancient being older than time.

Devine grace

I was nervous to share my chosen name with friends and family, thinking they might judge or feel it disrespectful of my past given name. Frances Lewis helped me with merging this experience by using ‘Maya Gayle’ in an email response. Now most of my friends happily call me Maya, some find this more difficult to adjust to & so call me Gayle. I happily embody both of these names. I also still feel a strong connection to my surname ‘Fletcher’ and even more so when practicing archery here in the mountains. “Fletcher” is an old name for someone who makes arrows.

Fletcher "arrow maker"

Whilst at Las Tinajas my partner Alex also took on a different name, Felix Rey, meaning Happy King. Around the time when his father passed away on New Years Eve this name was gifted to him by a friend. His father Nomad, also had many names through his life.  Nomad was a wonderful yogi and always shared the sun in his heart. For many yogis changing name is part of their life journey, in exploring self mastery and becoming Kings and Queens of our nations of one.

It feels that Felix and Maya are guardians as we move into adult life, gently encouraging Gayle and Alex to unlearn preconceptions. Maya holds hands with Gayle and helps me to step into taking responsibility for this life. The name Maya reminds me that there is a sense greater than life, wholesome and infinite. Gayle grounds me in experience and gifts love to all my friends and teachers. Maya Gayle is just a name and not really representative of who I am, I respond to it in conversation. Just as learning a new language, any object can have multiple names yet it still has the form, this form can be perceived in many ways at the same time by differing minds. The same mind can gift a different perspective of this object in any given moment, such is the dream of existence.

image

During this time in Las Tinajas we regularly visited our friend who lives in Yegen, a small mountain village in Andalucia. She has given Felix and I a most amazing gift, approximately four acres of land to live and work with in Yegen. Surrounded by the Alpujarras mountain range it is one of the most biodiverse lands in Europe. The landscape is quite incredibly supported by the irrigation channels created by the Moors. The water travels from snow that gathers on the mountain peaks, pure spring water. Clear air, pure water and fertile earth, of course we jumped at the chance to be with natures gifts.

As we packed up in the Uk this past summer I felt huge layers of clearing. It was an emotional time and as we were packing I felt a lot of fear and resistance. As we hugged my parents ready to leave I acknowledged the leap I was making. I am the little bird finally flying the Swindon nest. I cried deeply, as I imagine it maybe like for those who marry, the symbology of the father giving away his daughter felt very real in this moment. My Dad cried, one of the few times I have seen his tears, as I write tears again return to me. I felt so supported and such love and trust handed to us from my parents, they gave us two horse shoes, also a symbol of this change.

Typhoon's gifts

We travelled on the ferry with our converted ambulance and a yurt ready to set up on the land in Yegen. Now living here we are getting to know the local villagers and learning the language. The population of Yegen is rapidly decreasing as the youth go to work in cities, we bring youthful enthusiasm back to this area of stunning beauty. Without people to maintain the water systems the Alpujarras will return to desert. Climate change may see it that way regardless. The region has been inhabited for over 10,000 years and well managed can maintain fertile lands for all of natures inhabitants to thrive.

In choosing to live more closely with nature and leaving much of what I know behind, I have everything to learn. In the not knowing and accepting being a fool, I am vulnerable in this venture.  I regularly feel fear, in fact savasana (corpse pose) is often feeling more like gripping to a rock face rather than the blissful surrender I’ve known in the past. This will change, as all things in time. I trust in the greater spirit to guide me and I step slowly in surrender, palms open with tears in my eyes.

What are we doing in Spain?

Here in Yegen we are steadily growing a food and medicine garden, living yoga, simply and in tune with natures rhythms.

In Autumn I naturally deepen my pranayama (breathing practice) and invite aloe vera to cleanse my system. There will be an article about seasonal yoga practice in my October blog at www.innersmilenurture.com

I am steadily researching venues to host some regular yoga classes and workshops, for now classes are available in the natural park with beautiful mountain views. In time I aim to offer yoga classes in Spanish too.

Research is in progress for us to grow and create aromatherapy essential oils, this will take some time. For now “Message in a Bottle” prescription blends are made to order.

Yoga for gardeners is something I’m discovering, easing the lower back, shoulders, and hands. I’ve been surprised that my hands can ache from pulling weeds!

Thanks to Gerald Jones, a yoga student from Swindon, we are learning about wonderful water harvesting technology that could help us to have a lesser impact in living with our environment.

How can you be involved?

You can come for a holiday to Yegen, it’s one of the most beautiful hiking routes in the world. Come for a camping visit to help out with gardening and building. Or you can stay in a holiday apartment in the village and still come to play on the land.

During your stay you can book yoga classes and massage therapy with me.

You can mail order “Message in a Bottle” aromatherapy blends for yourself or gifts by emailing me at : innersmilenurture@gmail.com

In May 2015 I have hired a gorgeous venue in Lanjaron to host a yoga retreat “Yoga for Nurturing the Wild Within” Full details for this are on my website listed below. If you book before December then you can receive a half price massage with me for during the retreat.

Join my mailing list for newsletters, follow my blog and Facebook at :  www.innersmilenurture.com

You can also make a donation to support our project. Donations help us towards creating a medicine garden and building a holistic space for yoga, dance, therapy, women’s circles, music and community sharing. We are naturally getting involved in helping with animal welfare in the local area.

You can email us at innersmilenurture@gmail.com for details to donate through Paypal or Bacs payments.
Keep in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
Email : innersmilenurture@gmail.com
With love and bright wishes,

Maya Gayle