Yoga, Meditation and their benefits
Yoga for Energy
Fiona visits India regularly to deepen her knowledge of yogic philosophy and has studied the Patanjali Yoga Sutras with TKV Desikachar and also at the Vyasa ashram in Bangalore. She studies Vedanta – the science of self-realisation – and communicates the knowledge – ‘I am whole, complete, peaceful, unchanging and authentic’ through her teaching.
Fiona works as a yoga therapist in Portsmouth where she uses yoga, tailored for the individual, to help empower the client in the journey towards healing and self-discovery by learning how to quieten the mind and detach from the identity and problems of suffering. She runs retreats in the UK and around the world and is a regular contributor to Yoga and Health magazine. Fiona also runs IST days on CFS for teachers for the British Wheel of Yoga. She is registered with the CNHC as a Yoga Therapist and is currently developing a teacher-training module for the BWY. Fiona is joined by Leah Barnett who also trained in the Krishnamacharya tradition. Fiona and Leah run two and three day teacher-training intensives on teaching yoga for those with Burnout, Stress and ME through Yoga Campus.
For those with Chronic Fatigue, burnout and other health challenges exacerbated by stress or trauma, Fiona works to change the autonomic nervous system response back to a healthy pattern so that it no longer chronically hyper-arouses. For many people with CFS, the central nervous system adapts to prolonged stress so that it no longer switches back to normal when the stress passes but stays in the fight or flight mode. Those with fatigue are therefore often hyper-stimulated (also known as global high activation), which leads to exhaustion, sleep disorders such as insomnia and anxiety, an over-active, busy mind which won’t slow down and muscle aches and pains. By teaching students how to be aware and to breathe more slowly and appropriately, the central nervous system begins to calm down which in turn helps the mind to slow down so that the whole system learns to relax. In this way, yoga releases knots (granthis) and held patterns (samskaras) and invigorates the whole being as energy (prana) can then flow freely. Above all, slow, healthy breathing through the nose from the diaphragm forms the foundation of health and healing to bring the student to Presence through being conscious of what is happening in the body in each moment. In this way yoga brings space and clarity, so that students can be directed to accept and love themselves just as they are. “Yoga purifies and calms the mind. Then it becomes subtle and understands the knowledge of its true identity – that which doesn’t change and from which everything arises. “ James Swartz.
Fiona’s teaching focuses on developing potential for full health . In a practice Fiona directs the student to use their awareness to explore and come home to the physical being, whilst showing how, when the mind is quiet, the student can understand that they are not the shifting thoughts or emotions but rather the unchanging self – the true identity which is always peaceful. When we are calm then obstacles and problems no long appear as insurmountable. The breath is the link to being in the present moment, so in this way the breath is the link to full heath; to Now- in other words to the unchanging self (cit). At the end of a practice, students experience the healing clarity of a pure mind, (sattva) and are directed in the understanding of what this means off the mat. In this way the self; the true identity, is shown to be something that can be experienced and also something that can be understood through knowledge, even when the experience has passed. Fiona seeks to include everyone, making yoga suitable for all levels regardless of age, injury or fitness. If you can breathe, then you can practice yoga.” TVK Desikachar.
Fiona was a Trustee of Action for ME, a large national charity for a number of years and has worked with people with cancer at the Mulberry Centre, West Middlesex Hospital. She is a regular tutor at Claridge House and Glenthorne – Quaker centres where she runs retreats for those with energy and health challenges. On retreats, changes to maintain calmness are explored through emotional culturing. This involves discussions and workshops around learning to become more present and to not identify with suffering, looking at behaviour patterns which can prevent recovery. There are also discussions and exercises around finding true purpose in life and our true nature (which is always peaceful and happy) through spiritual inquiry.
Please contact Fiona for further details: www.fionaagombar.co.uk
What is yoga?
Yoga developed thousands of years ago in India and is actually a spiritual path aimed at bring complete harmony and balance of mind, body and spirit. The essence of yoga is in stillness. The sage Patanjali said that yoga is about quietening the thought-waves of the mind. Patanjali also devised the eight limbs of yoga – also known as astanga yoga. These include a set of moral restraints and observations and the yoga postures, which is what most people in the West think yoga is about. The eight limbs also include Pranayama or yoga breathing – these include ancient techniques, which can bring about great energy changes within the body and mind. The whole purpose of the eight limbs of yoga is to bring about stillness in order that we can make a self-inquiry and understand that our real nature is free. This means that our real nature is happiness and we need nothing that is external to complete us.
Why Will Yoga benefit me?
In our busy consumer society most of us do not pay enough attention to how we breathe, how we relax and how we keep mobile and flexible Even if you are very tired all of this is very important to your health and well-being. For example, many people in the West hyperventilate. This is because we get in to poor breathing habits. When we are stressed, the body takes itself into the ‘flight and fight mode’ and we start to breathe rapidly, from our upper chest. This is fine if there is an emergency, but then after the stress has passed, the autonomic nervous system should take us back to healthy breathing – that is breathing which involves the diaphragm, so that there is a correct exchange of gasses in the body. The trouble with chronic stress is that we don’t automatically do this – so we continue to breathe too fast, and from the upper chest. Stop now, take one hand to the centre of your upper chest and one to just above the navel and note how you are breathing. Is the breath fast? If you are mainly using your upper chest to breathe, then you may suffer from fatigue, stress, insomnia and aches and pains. So the first step to health is in correct breathing – something yoga will help you with.
In yoga, we start with a relaxation posture – also known in Sanskrit as savasana. This is said to be the most important – and the hardest posture to do. It is only when we relax properly that we can start to heal. Being, not doing is emphasised in yoga, although relaxation is something we often feel guilty about and don’t give ourselves space to make time for.
Stretching postures or asanas are all designed to improve blood flow, mobility, stamina, muscle tone, flexibility and energy. Using gentle postures, we can gently encourage the body back to health. There is no competition in yoga, everything is done with the body, not against it.
– sun salutation mandala –
Meditation helps to calm and focus the mind. It helps us to be calm and centred and more in control of our mind – so that we are not swept along by our thoughts and emotions and can bring peace and a general sense of purpose and meaning to life. Most of us experience our thoughts as a continual chatter inside our head – speeding between the past and the ‘what might be’ future. The aim of meditation is to calm and still the mind, and bring us back in to the present. This quietens the brain down so that we go in to what is called the ‘alpha’ state where the brain-waves are slower. This greatly relieves stress. Information overload is then reduced, giving us space just to be. Meditation slows down the production of stress-related chemicals and the heart rate and can bring about a feeling of well being, as well as an increase in energy. There is a chapter on how to mediate in Fiona’s book ‘Beat Fatigue with Yoga’ and also ‘Endless Energy’ (Piatkus books currently out of print). Fiona also runs workshops and one-to one-sessions on how to meditate using breath, mantra, mandala and other tools.
Please contact Fiona for further information.