Making A Meal Of Meditation

Dear Yogis

We’re coming into the season of eating (!) so I thought I’d tell you of something we did recently on The Happiness Retreat. We practiced mindful eating. You probably won’t employ this kind of meditation on Christmas Day but you could have a go beforehand! Eating mindfully means eating in total silence. It’s a little strange at first and the urge to make conversation, which seems the polite and friendly thing to do, can be so overwhelming that we forget our task. However, a simple introduction to explain exactly how to set your mind makes the experience surprisingly satisfying.

Deborah Smith led us into the practice: set your intention to eat with presence; take time to appreciate where the food comes from, the time and expertise behind the recipes, the water needed, the infrastructure, the transport… Then, while eating, the tastes and textures, how the tastes combine. Maybe you can feel hunger beforehand and satiated afterwards.

While queuing at the buffet I started by thinking about the plate and how many it had fed before me. Before eating I took five long Ujjayi breaths to drop right down into my rest & digest system. I looked at the food to figure out where it had come from, I pictured the farmers, the miles, the time and the trouble it took to get it to me, the flights, trains and trucks, the water systems and plumbing. Then something I think I’ve never done before: proper slow eating, appreciating the combinations of textures and tastes, how some foods melt, some need chewing, and waiting for one mouthful to finish completely before taking another one. Deborah said that we typically notice the first mouthful and the last. (I would add to that. Imagine that you run in from work and take half an hour to whip up and eat a meal, snatch a bit of Bruce Willis in a terrorist-infested building while eating then rush out again! You’re totally in the sympathetic nervous system which is not your rest and digest system. In that mode, the body isn’t interested in absorbing the goodness and nutrition and digesting healthily.)

Anyway, at the end of the mindful meal, the greedy me popped up and wanted an unnecessary second helping. It’s hilarious, but without the cover of conversation it’s impossible to go back to the buffet and take seconds! That would be the walk of shame. I told my saliva to go back to sleep and take my taste buds too. I thought of the food working its way down into my digestive system without anything else following. I drew up the drawbridge till the next meal and finished with some gentle long breaths.

Perhaps a few goes of this in the run-up to Christmas will make your Christmas meal more enjoyable, less balooning!

Home Studio

I have promised various people the track list of music I have been playing in my Home Studio this week. Here it is: The Heart of Meditation by Om in the Womb; Om Meditation from the same album, Baba Hanuman by Shantala; Lalitha Ashtotram by Craig Pruess & Ananda.

Come to class to hear more! You can see what’s available on my website.

Training

I’m really excited to be seeing my teacher David Swenson again next weekend. Come with me (Triyoga) to experience his magic! Yesterday I went to an Iyengar class with Alaric Newcombe (Triyoga Camden, Thursdays 3.30-5.30) and I came away so inspired and happy that I want to return as often as I can. I ended up in lotus headstand! We did what turned out to be a lotus workshop and I brought a couple of the drills back to torture the Home Studio yogis with.

Yoga in the news

Here’s something a bit different. You may have heard of the shootings in a yoga studio in America. The Washington Post gives us Why a far-right extremist targeted a yoga studio for violence and takes us through the logical steps from the perceived threat of yoga to Christianity, how yoga was part of a counter culture, it aided female liberation, and how yoga offends the alt-right. Such a pity.

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An Answer For All Questions

Dear Yogis

This week I wrote to Dr Timothy McCall, author of the indispensable Yoga As Medicine. I wanted advice about a yogi and, while he’s pondering my question, he gave me a stop-gap answer that covers all of us, whatever our question or problem is: “Work to reduce his stress and otherwise bring him into balance. Good luck”.

Actually, I do have that magic wand! In every class, when I emphasise the importance of lovely long breathing and reducing sympathetic nervous system dominance (de-stressing), I wave the wand of the wonderous benefits of the parasympathetic nervous system. Shall I recap on those benefits? I’ll let this Ted Talk, Breathe, by a sports coach, Joe DiStefano recap: breathing properly is about investing in your vitality and believing in yourself, delivering more nutrition to our cells, getting rid of pain, even, he claims, releasing hamstrings!

He goes further. The parasympathetic system, “wants to use all the energy it can to optimise your immune system, to detoxify, to digest your food, and, of course, maintain a very strong interest in sex”. And to remind you of the monstrous effects of sympathetic (fight or flight) overdrive he lists: cardiac mortality, acid reflux, erectile dysfunction, restless leg syndrome, low back pain, anxiety and depression.

Now that I have your attention, try some of his breathing techniques.

1.    Inhale, then exhale three times longer than the inhale.

2.    Block one side of the nose and take ten breaths, then do the other side.

3.    As you get better, progress to alternate nostril breathing.

4.    Baby postures for breathing – you’ll have to watch that bit to see the postures!

5.    Finally, blow up a balloon in the position he shows. He has his athletes doing this. 

Home Studio

Thursday evening Ashtanga classes are back to 8.00. Sorry about that disruption. It’s all back to normal now. Come to class! You can see what’s available on my website.

Training

I’ve signed up for a class tonight; Adam Hustler’s Heavenly Hips and Tight Bits at Triyoga Soho 19.30-21.30. At the recent Yoga Show I took a workshop with him and I like the way he target’s muscles and makes us think about what we’re doing. My cherished teacher David Swenson is back in the country and teaching at Triyoga Soho on the weekend of Friday 23rd to Sunday 24th. I’m doing both Saturday and Sunday. A couple of the workshops are discussions: ‘fear, focus, forgiveness + fulfilment’ and ‘advantages of age + the myth of eternal youth’.

Eden Yogis, go to Alain’s new Ashtanga classes if you want to experience what a ‘Counted’ Led Primary Series’ class is like – in Sanskrit! Monday 8.20-9.20 and Wednesday 2.00-3.30.

Yoga in the news

The Metro posts a helpful article called: Can yoga help with fertility issues? It’s true that infertility is associated with stress levels and yoga is associated with de-stressing. This interesting article sadly commits this spelling-mistake howler: ‘Another option is medication classes or a gong bath’, and this incisive technical medical gem from Tim Allardyce, a chartered physiotherapist: ‘‘Doing yoga will not directly make you pregnant.’ Otherwise worthy… for men too. Stress is associated with a lower sperm count.

This last week was International Stress Awareness Week and FM (Facilities Management) World says that ‘almost half of workers want a yoga and meditation room and exercise facilities to help tackle workplace stress’. A baffling amount of people have had ongoing workplace stress for the past five years. Have a look at the stats in this article. I’m so pleased to teach yoga in the workplace. It’s so massively important.

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Wild, Gyrating Yoga

Dear Yogis

Like a bug to a light bulb I did the David Sye workshop at the Yoga Show. I’m drawn by his endless positivity and funky James-Brown-inspired soundtrack. The actual practice is wild: lots of shaking, pulsing and gyrating. While moving our hips in an obscene manner he tells us off for not living with maximum happiness and admonishes us for wasting time instead of living life to the full. Every time I’m with him I come away with tremendous gratitude and feel a little less imprisoned behind my own bars.

This month’s Om Yoga magazine has an interview with him. Here are a couple of extracts from the article. His father, Frankie Vaughan, wanted him to train with a Hungarian teacher called Clara Buck ‘who emphasised freedom and following one’s inner teacher’. She’d say: “You didn’t come here to be a yogi, you came here to be a human being”. Also in the article he says: ‘Once you understand that celebrating life comes from within, you realise you’re on an exploration and it’s about preparing to leave this world. Yoga is teaching you to enjoy your life as much as possible while preparing you for infinity.’

Here’s something from him you can put into practice immediately. When you have a problem, he said, don’t meet it at the energy level you are in. Go out and run, dance, do yoga, do anything to come back with higher energy. Then meet the problem from this higher place. Guess what; it works! More compassion comes. Your higher and more energised self gives you more thoughtfulness and awareness. You think about the opposite point of view and you avoid getting into an arms race of arguments or resistance.

Home Studio

Just for a little while the Thursday evening Ashtanga class will start at 8.30 while I look after a corporate yoga class. This will finish on November 22nd and possibly before. This might suit one or two of you. I’ve added a Tuesday class at 6.00 next week because all the other Yin-style classes booked up. Come to class! You can see what’s available on my website.

Training

Eden Yogis, don’t forget Alain’s new Ashtanga classes: Monday 8.20-9.20 and Wednesday 2.00-3.30 – a rare 90 minute class in a gym! Lucky devils! I’ve signed up for a couple of things that you can join me in. Next Friday, 9th November, I’m going to Triyoga Soho for Adam Husler’s Heavenly Hips + Tight Bits. For yoga teachers there’s training with my teacher Valentina Candiani  - 40hrs Aerial Yoga Teacher Training on the 8th-9th and 15th-16th December. I need to go to some aerial classes before that so if you fancy coming with me let’s arrange a date.

Yoga in the news

As yet another Home Studio yogi succumbs to the lure of Lulu Lemons, Bloomberg tells us: Yoga pants built a $48 billion industry that's replacing jeans, plunging denim into an existential crisis! ‘Years ago, research was limited to focus groups and feedback from store associates who would query their shoppers. Now there are fabric labs, especially in the athletic-wear space. Lululemon’s research arm does motion-capture testing and uses pressure sensors that allow researchers to test how garments work as they move’. Hence the price!!!

Happy November

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Om Yoga Show 2018 Review

Dear Yogis

What can I tell you about last weekend’s Yoga Show: eating lots of free chocolate, coveting expensive yoga leggings, taking random classes, having treatments (some dodgy!), entering competitions to win luxury retreats. There were more companies advertising retreats than you can shake an incense stick at and endless supplies of turmeric lattes. I spent lavishly, as was predestined!

By far the most impressive teacher of the weekend was with 19-year-old Robin who qualified when she was 16. You can’t believe how assured and knowledgeable she is and how wonderful it is to learn from her. Her mission is to teach teens (based in the Gloucestershire area) and her website says that she is a youth ambassador for ‘Teen Yoga’ and for the British Wheel of Yoga, she speaks at conferences, and she works with the Medical College of London and is part of an All Part-Parliamentary Group (APPG) for yoga in education. I hadn’t achieved anything at that age!

The other thing of note was this app called YogaLingo. If you want to learn the Sanskrit names of the postures or if you are training to be a teacher, it’s really fun. (In the beautifully designed quiz I won third prize. My yoga brother, Ankur, won first!) It’s only available on Apple at the moment; a free version and a £4.99 version and its great company on public transport.

Home Studio

We’re coming into the season of colds. Please be mindful of others if you’re sniffling… and please skip the class. I caught a yogi’s cold this week and had to cancel some evening classes. Now might be a good time to remind you of Samahan, an Ayurvedic ‘tea’ which definitely helps lessen the impact. I’ll be up and running next week. Come to class. You can see what’s available on my website.

Training

My wonderful teacher Valentina Candiani is holding her second 40hrs Aerial Yoga Teacher Training on the 8th-9th and 15th-16th December. It’s the only Aerial Yoga Teacher training in the UK dedicated to qualified Yoga Teachers and is a registered Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Program. I was Valentina’s guinea pig a long time ago when she trained in Aerial Yoga and I’m signing up to this. Come with me!

Eden Yogis, don’t forget Alain’s new Ashtanga classes: Monday 8.20-9.20 and Wednesday 2.00-3.30.

Yoga in the news

So many yogis mention to me they practice yoga with Adriene on You Tube. So many! Here’s The Telegraph with How the online yoga world fell in love with Adriene Mishler. She’s on European tour like a rock chick and in London she has taught over 2,400, more than even Kino Macgregor! Here’s how far she’s come: ‘She might now have a sponsorship deal with Adidas, but for a long time she owned just three pairs of yoga pants’. That’s heartbreaking!

Competing with the Telegraph’s recommendations of yoga mats, the Guardian pitches in with: From yin to iyengar: a yoga glossary. It’s nice run-through of the major styles of yoga to fill column inches.

Clocks go back on Sunday! Enjoy your lie-in.

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Mindfulness, Meditation, Gratitude

Dear Yogis

Last weekend I was teaching yoga in the beautiful Sharpham Trust house, Totnes, with Deborah Smith on her Complete Wellbeing Retreat. It was a whole weekend based on mindfulness… a very yogic word but did you know there’s a definition? Jon Kabat-Zinn who was the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in the 1970s, took the idea from the spiritual sphere into a secular setting and gave mindfulness this definition: doing something on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.

This is how we practice in a yoga class: we stand at the front of the mat and (knowingly or unknowingly) set an intention; maybe to practice with focus or kindness or with vitality. We enter the zone! When we bring the attention to the breath we tune in to the present moment. And we should try to practice without judgment but I can see how difficult this is; sometimes we have a good practice, sometimes it isn’t so good but there seems to be so much need to ‘achieve’ in a yoga class. Let it go; that’s not the point. Accept and celebrate your practice as it is.

Gratitude will help with this; it’s another definition we looked at over the weekend: “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life”. Bring that into your yoga practice too; set your intention to practice with gratitude. Gratitude has been studied since the 1970s and it is shown that people with a grateful outlook feel happier and are more energetic, hopeful, optimistic, positive and are more satisfied with their lives. Gratitude neutralises negative emotions and reduces physical ailments such as headaches.

Meditation was a major part of the weekend. Here is Deborah’s website page with You Tubes on meditation from 2 minutes to 20 minutes plus a compassion meditation. I really recommend starting with the first offering on the page – a four-minute Ted Talk on stress and how it changes the structure of the brain.

Home Studio

Final call for anyone interested in the Thursday 6.00pm Ashtanga-based class. It doesn’t seem to be a time that suits anyone but let me know if I’m wrong and I’ll keep it on the little timetable. You can see what’s available on my website.

Training

It’s that time of year again, the Om Yoga Show at Alexandra Palace. I love it! It’s the cattle market of the yoga world. I’ve paid up for Yoga Cross Training with Adam Husler tonight, Friday, at 16.45; Deeper & Higher Backbends with Craig Blake (Iyengar Yoga) on Sunday at 10.30; and OF COURSE, The Infamous Yogabeats Revolution with David Sye on Sunday at 14.00. That’s my birthday present to myself!

Sarah Ramsden, the yogi who teaches footballers, sportspeople and other inflexibles will be there and holding these free 30-minute classes: Friday 16:45 in the ‘Tea India’ area; Saturday 12:00 in the Pukka area and Sunday 11:15 in the Hero Open area.

Yoga in the news

The Scotsman has a fun article called: Yoga makes me feel the way I want to be on my deathbed. “For many of us, the thought of yoga turns our stomachs. It’s all just flower power and ringing bells, while sitting in a knee-crushing pose with our eyes closed humming “Ommmm”… But forget all that clap-trap and myth. Yoga is far from this mystical “marketeered” picture and a lot more like you and me – ordinary people with muffin tops and bingo wings. Not to mention the odd varicose vein and beer belly. And not a lotus pose in sight”.

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Blessed Are The Stiff

Dear Yogis

Summer wine gives way to Sober October and I’m a year older and very definitely a year wiser having studied with Ryan Giggs’ yoga teacher Sarah Ramsden. Her day-long workshop last weekend was called: short, stiff & tight: how to work effectively with really inflexible people. This, she says, refers to most of the population. “The miracle of ballet is that it is able to distort the body so much”… and Ashtanga, she adds, is not based on human design!

If you think you have short or tight or restricted muscles, here are some definitions for you. ‘Short' means the actual measurement of the muscle is short when compared to the bone it covers. This means the joint it operates won't go through its full range of motion. On the other hand, the terms 'stiff' or 'tight' or ‘restricted’ are expressions of feeling but might not refer to an anatomically short muscle. 'Tense' refers to the muscle being slightly contracted in its ‘resting state’ which might be because of stress.

So why do we get restricted? Routines, repetitive sports, bulking up, sedentary lifestyle… you know the kind of thing! Injury is another reason; repair tissue sets down around the injury and weakens muscle around it. There is also a genetic possibility; some people have more fibrous muscle, some more elastic and malleable muscle. And don’t forget the modern disease of stress. Constant stress releases all the wrong hormones, restricts blood flow to muscles, decreases oxygen, lets waste build up and results in muscle tension.

Her advice to teachers and practitioners is to look to the ancients for inspiration. “Teachers who went before like Pattabhi Jois were revolutionary and radical and dragged yoga up from the Tantric vagabonds and tricksters to clean it up for a new India. Like them, question, change, adapt and make it useful”.

Home Studio

Classes are starting to book up in advance up to the week before Christmas! Can you believe it! Anyway, there’re loads of spaces left and the 6.00 classes are back. It’s cold outside but we can still create a Bikram studio with our six mats and our Ujjayi breathing! You can see what’s available on my website.

Training at Eden

Really lovely news from Eden Fitness in Ealing. Incredible teacher Alain Zak is joining the yoga teaching team. You may have experienced his wonderful classes in my Home Studio, at Yoga West in Acton or at Eden. Alain is a student of John Scott who, in turn, was a direct student of Pattabhi Jois. Alain’s classes include the traditional Vinyasa count, vigorous practice and meditative focus on breathing and alignment. He is also influenced by Tibetan Heart Yoga and Buddhist meditation. Eden is giving him two classes starting Monday 22nd October: Mondays at 8.20-9.20am and he is taking over my Wednesday class which will be starting at 2.00pm from now on – not 2.30 – and finish at 3.30!  A wonderful 90 minute class! You won’t find that anywhere else in this area. I will see you there.

Yoga in the news

This is a nicely written article: How yoga is changing to meet contemporary needs from The Centre Daily in Pennsylvania. The first example given is that no one discusses renouncing existence as part of their approach to yoga! Errrm, no, not really! Other examples of how the focus of yoga has changed: yogis generally don’t prioritise meditation over physical practice, and the guru-student model has given way to the studio-student model.

This is a sweet read from the Huffington Post: ‘What My Yoga Teacher Taught Me About Improving My Life’. As you would expect, yogis never talk about the physical results but the life-changing effects. Here’s a helpful article from The Standard with suggestions for people observing Sober October. Yoga is there, of course: Disco Yoga every Tuesday at the Trapeze bar, Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3HX for yoga under a glitter ball.

Have a glittering weekend

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Conducting Reiki Waves

Dear Yogis

I had an introduction to Reiki energy healing this week… an ‘initiation’ or ‘attunement’. It was fascinating! A Home Studio yogi who is a Reiki Master guided me along this path which is rather esoteric and other worldly. Attunement is like being tuned in as you would tune in a radio to pick up radio waves. Here’s what happened.

First, I practiced long Ujjayi breathing. I was told to breath in love and exhale gratitude. I found my images and motivations easily: the silver moon over Kapsali Bay is my place of love (easy to breathe in), and my gratitude is towards my endlessly gorgeous mother (easy to have glowing gratitude). Then I was told to send down roots deep into the earth. I thought of the reading I gave at a wedding recently: ‘Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.’

AND THEN IT HAPPENED! My head filled up with… a feeling like marshmallow! It felt huge and round and warm and gently throbbing. Then my arms and hands felt big and warm. Then the right side of my intestines woke up and had a little throb. Then I swayed to my right and then back again. Then my left arm and hand seemed to get bigger and warmer and the left middle finger had a diamond glow at the tip. Then I had gentle pulsing in my head which made me nod rhythmically a tiny bit. Then the lower intestines heated up briefly. All of this took half an hour or so. It was intriguing, but I did feel that my hands with all their warmth could heal. I turned my hands down to cup my knees and send them some love. I’m told I should practice on plants!

Kapsali Retreat 2019

I’ve been checking flights to Kythera for the school half term of Monday 27th to Friday 31st May next year. I found that the journey there (leave Saturday 25th arrive Sunday 26th) needs an overnight stay in Athens. Sofitel hotel at Athens airport is not too expensive if sharing. Happily, it’s possible to return from Kythera on June 1st straight through from Kythera to London on Aegean. If you’re interested in an All Levels retreat let me know and I’ll start the arrangements. If that’s too soon for you, I’ll look at September dates as soon as flight timetables are available.

Home Studio

More joy in my Home Studio this week; more fun, more new yogis and more incredible one-to-one sessions. One yogi said her ph. level changed after our first class. Yes! Ujjayi breathing raises the carbon dioxide level in the blood which nudges the pH level back to a less alkaline state. Yet another benefit of the breathing practice. Come to class! Loads of spaces left and the 6.00 classes are back. You can see what’s available by clicking here.

Training

This weekend I’m training at Triyoga Soho: Yoga for Athletes with Sarah Ramsden. Tonight’s session is mind mastery for enhanced performance and tomorrow, all day of course, is short, stiff & tight: how to work effectively with really inflexible people. Come with me if you relate to that!

Yoga in the news

The Irish Sunday Independent has: ‘Meet President Michael D Higgins' yoga teacher. The Yogi who is helping the President unwind’. The Irish President has had the same yoga teacher for a decade, ‘dashing’ Michael Ryan. Ryan says: "We do a lot of slow and steady movements and a lot of our work focuses on breathing through the movements. We also usually do a few standing poses, back poses and a lot of twists and positions that uncoil the spine. We target the areas of joint mobility and his back and his core." I wish more presidents were like that!

Wishing you a marsh mellow weekend.

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Goodbye to Kapsali 2018

Dear Yogis

We’re back from Greek sun to chilly London, from chilled cafe nights under the stars, listening to music and the sound of the waves, to the promise of darker and darker mornings and evenings. During the Kapsali Ashtanga Retreat, fellow teacher Lisa Maarit Lischak, asked what it was that brought people to yoga. She’s asked this before and it always brings up moving answers. Not one said it was to improve on postures, to get the leg behind the head, to do splits or achieve any other massively clever posture. A common theme is the search for some kind of peace.

Why do we want peace? Well, I wish I had come across yoga before adolescence hit me with its sledge hammer. Work is world that throws peace and stability out of the window. Another place of conflict is how we view ourselves and our self-criticism. This week I’ve heard from people who have adverse feelings towards their bodies or looks and, by coincidence, Kino MacGregor has written very movingly about this in her blog called ‘Keep Practicing Until You Love Your Body. She says: ‘The promise of yoga is inner peace… While the by-products of the practice will undoubtedly make an impact on your physical body, the real gift of the practice is love.’ So true!

Lisa also asked her workshop students to spend time thinking of three things they could change when they get home. A yoga retreat is an opportunity to draw back, reflect, take time, and make positive decisions. It might be as simple as to drink more water, get more sleep, or adopt a better diet. It might be a bigger, life changing decision. 

Greek Retreats 2019

I‘ve visited the Kapsali Bay since 2004 and yet every time I discover more that I love about Kapsali. This time it was noticing the alpha star of the evening, Aphrodite. This is the Greek name for the star we call Venus. She’s the first and the brightest on the scene, daring to compete with the moon who arrives later. Nice to be where Aphrodite was ‘born’ and where her star is so eager to shine. One yogi said: “Kythera is a truly divine, special place”. If you fancy coming next year in the May half term for an ‘all levels’ yoga retreat, let me know. Two people have said ‘yes’ so far. (Flight timetables aren’t published yet!)

The next retreat I’m teaching is the October Complete Wellbeing Retreat; Happiness workshops, Yoga and Mindfulness sessions run by Deborah Smith of Grow Your Own Happiness. It’s £495 for a regular room and £565 for a premium room. It starts on Friday 12th at 4-5.30pm and finishes on Monday 15th after Lunch. I’ll be teaching Ashtanga, Yin and Pranayama.

Home Studio

This week my lucky home studio has seen returners from the Kapsali retreat, new yogis looking for a place to practice, a rock climber looking for an injury prevention practice, and an Ealing Half Marathon runner looking for a stretch. Whatever your reason, come and practice with us. You can see what’s available on my website. If you tried out other teachers in the last two weeks, please send your recommendations so that I can tell others next time I’m away.  

Training

Good luck if you’re running the Sold Out Ealing Half Marathon this weekend. I did a little training in Kapsali and I’m struck by how my legs feel fine in Kapsali and weary in London. Pollution = less oxygen to the muscles. However, it’s not a good reason to give up running. Good luck!

Yoga in the news

The BBC has the story of India's 'king of motorbikes' shares yoga tips for success. Rajiv Bajaj says that everything he has learnt about management of Bajaj Auto motorcycles comes from the practice of yoga.

The Hindu tells us about the 8th Asian Yoga Sports Championship and its 350 contestants. It’s a four-day championship with six categories of competition and entries from 13 Asian countries such as India, Iran, Singapore, Thailand, and the UAE.

Wishing you success this weekend.

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Kytherian Eyes On The Yoga Prize

Dear Yogis

Time in Kythera with yogi friends has been a fabulous and fleeting joy. It’s nearly over. I’m writing this to the sound of night crickets, the gentle hum of a generator and the swishing song of the sea and with reflections of these two retreats. Our most popular workshop so far has been Leg-Behind-Head with our mission impossible teacher Lisa Maarit Lischak. She promised in the beginning that “all you need is a head and a leg... perhaps two”. She does that every time! She makes the impossible seem doable!

In our first week here our Kythera guest teacher, Sensei Kiros, told us that we must always practice inside, not outside. He said the location of our classes, the roof-top balcony, was ‘very bad’! The idyllic view of the bays, the beautiful sea, the cloudless sky and Aphrodite’s rock were too distracting! He is, of course, right. Every time you look out over the gorgeous bay, the soul moves and the balance is lost. The whole point of the ‘drishti’ discipline in our yoga practice is to keep our sight as close to us as possible and not let the sight and the mind stray. All the way through the yoga practice your gaze should be on one of the nine drishti, gazing points: the nose, the third eye, the navel, the hand, the foot, the far right, the far left, the thumbs, up to the sky.

By being outside we’re breaking other rules too, as set out by Pattabhi Jois in his book Yoga Mala:  “Yoga should neither be practiced in open air..., in a basement nor on a roof. Instead, the place of its practice should be spotlessly clean and level, have windows, and be suitable for smearing with cow dung”. Also “the body will be sapped and its power exhausted if, in an effort to dry the sweat of practice, it is exposed to the outside air.” (This he takes from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika of the 15th century which tells us to rub the body with perspiration to make the body light and strong!) There! You’ve been told!

PS. Dried cow dung has antiseptic qualities.

Retreats

The next retreat I’m teaching is the October Happiness and Wellbeing retreat in Totnes run by Deborah Smith of GrowYour Own Happiness. But I’m writing this in my favourite place on earth and thinking of next year. Teachers are always disappointed with my chosen month of September so, if you fancy coming to Kythera in the summer half term in May, let me know.

Home Studio

I’m back with a tan next week. You can see what’s available on the ‘classes’ page of this website.

Training

If the OM yoga Show isn’t your thing, Triyoga Soho has the perfect antidote: Dr Jacques Anthony Soyer and Tracy Elner: Breath, Stillness, Movement + Modern Medicine.  It’s on the 20th of October at 10:00 - 13:00..They combine Hindu Yoga and Taoist Neijia, teach Pranayama, moving Qi Gong, and explain how we can use different systems of breathing to balance and heal various systems within the body.

Yoga in the news

This is quite funny from the Telegraph: ‘What no one tells you about life as a yoga teacher’. It doesn’t reflect my experience but it’s a good read. Another effort to demystify comes from the Belfast Telegraph; ‘Thinking about starting yoga? Here’s what you should know’. Of the four examples the best one is: ‘“Yoga improves the body’s circulation and this includes blood flow to the brain. It promotes growth in the prefrontal cortex, the region associated with response, memory and attention span. Even after a short 30 minute class, you’ll notice a heightened sharpness.

Please get the sun out for our return.

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Pranayama with the breeze of the Kapsali Bay

Dear Yogis

Greetings from magical Kapsali bay on the island of Aphrodite. We’re practicing yoga under Kythera skies, with the warming sun of the morning to encourage our Asthanga and the sea breeze of the afternoon to cheer on our Pranayama. Of all the wonderful questions I got this week, here’s the one I always enjoy. It came after our first Pranayama practice: “Why do we do Ujjayi breathing... or any breathing exercises”. Hundreds of responses polka about in my brain but the question was about the panic of holding the breath. Breath is called ‘Prana’ in yoga. This translates as ‘life force’. Without it, we die, and breath retention is a petite threat to our lives. Good reason to panic!

Yoga gives us the rare opportunity to increase the capacity of the lungs and give the respiratory muscles a good workout. Did you know that in normal life we only use around a 1/3rd of the capacity of our lungs – top-of-the-lungs-breathing? The average human lung capacity is about 6 litres of air but the majority of the breathing we do is shallow breathing. That’s ok, we can’t Ujjayi all day, but it’s like sitting on the sofa for the lungs! They need exercise. Shallow breathing may also be caused by poor posture, stiff muscles or inactivity and those things, in turn, lead to shallow breathing and general sluggishness. Deep breathing exercises also clean out the stagnant air in the parts of the lungs we don’t use.

The explanation I like best, though, is in the Hindu belief that we are born with a set amount of breaths. We can increase our longevity by using those breaths wisely. It makes sense! If we are always in stressful situations with panicky breathing, stress stays in the body, infects the brain and welcomes in illness. Stress kills! I found a lovely article about this where the writer points out: “The restless monkey breathes at the rate of 32 times per minute, in contrast to man’s average, 18 times. The elephant, tortoise, snake and other animals noted for their longevity have a respiratory rate which is less than man’s. The tortoise, for instance, who may attain the age of 300 years, breathes only 4 times per minute... The ever excitable dog breathes 40–50 times per minute and dies at 25.”

The ancient yogis observed these things and came to the conclusion that we need to be more tortoise-like! Can there be a better example of not panicking! If fear comes up for you in Pranayama practice, don’t follow the teacher’s instructions too closely. Give yourself room. Like everything in yoga practice, it will get better.

Retreats

The next retreat I’m teaching is the Happiness and Wellbeing retreat in Devon run by Deborah Smith of Grow Your Own Happiness. Come along! After that, if you fancy coming to Kythera in the summer half term in May, let me know. I’m itching to come back!

Yoga in Ealing

Take a look at last week’s blog for some of teachers and classes in Ealing. Or perhaps you could try something else… a treatment for example. Nancy Crawford is an Ealing-based reflexologist who will come to your home to give a treatment. (I’ve written about reflexology here.) And there is a special discounted rate for Good Times Yoga Friday Email readers if booked this month: £30 instead of £40 which includes a free 20min consultation for the first treatment. Email nancy.reflexology@gmail.com for more info or to book an appointment. 

Training

Have you looked at the Om Yoga Show, 19th- 21st October 2018? I’m addicted to going every year and spending as much time there as possible. David Sye will be there. A class with him is the most positive, life-affirming thing you can do. See this description from last year.

Yoga in the news

It’s always good to see sportspeople make use of yoga to improve their performance. Watford’s football coach is leaving nothing to chance, the Telegraph tells us, and fining players if they don’t turn up for yoga: “If you don’t do yoga you get fined – which some of the lads aren’t happy about – but these are things to help us,” said one player. The Guardian this week writes that yoga in prisons cuts reoffending. The Mail Online will probably have some hapless celebrity heading to yoga or in a yoga position.

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Give Up The Fruits Of Your Labour

Dear Yogis

Something has been on my mind since my weekend with Tim Feldmann’s. He talked about ‘giving up the fruits of your labour’. This idea comes from the Bhagavad Gita and it’s useful in posture practice as well as in spiritual endeavour. Sri Dharma Mittra (visiting Indaba next February) often says if you’re struggling with a posture it’s because you’re not practicing ‘bhakti’ - love and devotion. He says ‘offer up’ your practice and then the difficult posture will come. Hmm, nice, but you need a few more pointers than that. Here they are…

Tim Feldmann talked about yogis yearning to get straight to the result instead of concentrating on the toil. I see this all the time when I teach Bakasana, Crow Pose. The eagerness to jump the feet off the floor means that no balance is established to hold the pose. Similarly in headstand: forget strong arms, shoulders, core and legs; kick up, kick about a bit, then collapse in a heap. What went wrong?

Tim says: “you changed your mind from the effort to the effect! Don’t put your mind on the result; always put your mind at the root of the activity. Success happens or doesn’t happen, don’t be concerned. If you put your mind on the result, the posture won’t work”.  When projecting on the result, the mind isn’t still enough, not meditative enough, not selfless enough. Don’t project on the outcome! Just do the work with all your might and make your discoveries there.

Kythera Retreats

The first group is leaving this Sunday (9th). I had an unbelievably last-minute cancellation. If you want to be totally impulsive and come, get in touch! There are no classes in my Home Studio for the next two weeks. The next classes here are on the week beginning Monday 24th September.

Yoga in Ealing

Try out one or two of these. If you are completely new to Triyoga you get your first month for £54 or an introductory two classes for £20. For your Ashtanga needs go to Zeena Kalisperides at Yoga West – you just can’t go wrong with her and the Yoga West space is just lovely. If you don’t like big studio classes try Cath Barnes-Holt, an Iyengar teacher in West Ealing and Northfields. Or First Class Free with Ladan Soltani  in Ealing Town Hall and West Ealing. Also free are classes in Lululemon in Westfield, Shepherds Bush, every Sunday at 10.00. Finally, a perfect winddown to your weekend is with Ruth Voon for Yin on a Sunday evening at Triyoga Ealing.

Training

I would definitely do this if I wasn’t in Greece: Wanderlust108 is a ‘Mindful Triathlon’ of running, yoga, and meditation. It’s on September 15 at Battersea Park. It’s a 5k run, 75 minutes of Yoga and 25 minutes of guided meditation and then from 1.00-5.00 there are classes and other activities. Goldie will be there! When I get back from Greece I’ve signed up for the Ealing Half Marathon… no training! I could do with your company for that!

Yoga in the news

Elite Daily has a rather sweet article: 5 Life Lessons From Yoga That Will Stick With You Long After You Hop Off The Mat. ‘The physical poses are honestly the least interesting thing about the practice; rather, they are the gateway to acceptance, self-love, and unconditional compassion.’ The first of the 5 things is how your thoughts shape your reality! It’s a sweet article!

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Dynamic, Difficult and Disagreeable Postures

Dear Yogis

Next time Tim Feldmann is in the country PLEASE come with me! He’s such an amazing teacher and totally approachable and relatable... and funny and a joy to be with. He is Danish by birth and has spent so much time in India that his intonation and his head movements are very Indian. It’s so nice.

He says that what we are trying to discover in yoga, according to Patanjali, is abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah - thought patterns are mastered through practice and non-attachment. Mastering thought patterns is what we are trying to do; our mat is the laboratory. Onto our Bunsen Burner the ingredients are the lengthened the breath and a stilled mind mixed with the combustible factor of dynamic, difficult and disagreeable postures. We test the mind as we try to do as Patanjili says, master its activity.

Here’s the interesting thing; the whole reason for putting the mind into stress tests. On the mat, we can fail. It’s ok if we either achieve the postures or struggle or nose dive. But what kind of person are we going to be when this happens in life? Will success make us egotistical. Will failure make us morose? Do we give up? How will we treat ourselves? How will we treat others?  Life gives us all kinds of combustible ingredients which make it a struggle to stay centred. Tim says: ‘Our body is a vehicle to a deeper understanding of our self’.

Kythera Retreats

Here is the editorial welcome to the Sumer Edition of Kythera’s newspaper: ‘When the ‘merry-go-round of modern living has left you feeling emotionally nauseated, let Kythera take you into her hushed embrace, offering her soothing time warp of old-world charms that follow the beat of the natural world. The rock walls scattered throughout the island carry the stories of long gone generations, while the dramatic cliffs and ravines stand silent witness to the subtle simplicity of life itself unfolding.’ Romantic souls, eh! One person writes in the paper: ‘The only time I truly feel alive is when I’m in Kythera. There’s no easy way to describe the metamorphosis, the almost tangible shedding of stress that occurs once I’m on the island’. YES!!! That’s why I hold the retreats there! If you’d like to come you can find the retreat pages on my website.

Home Studio

Next week is the final week before a two-week break when I am holding the retreats in Kythera. You can see what’s available here for next week (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here. There are teachers in Ealing you could try out while I’m in Greece. Cath Barnes-Holt is an Iyengar teacher at Triyoga Ealing who also teaches in West Ealing and Northfields. First class free with Ladan Soltani  in Ealing Town Hall and West Ealing. Also free are classes in Lululemon in Westfield, Shepherds Bush every Sunday at 10.00. You can see their events on here. For your Ashtanga needs go to Zeena Kalisperides at Yoga West – you just can’t go wrong with her. Wind down your weekend with Ruth Voon for Yin on a Sunday evening at Triyoga Ealing.

Training

I have signed up for Yoga for Athletes with Sarah Ramsden. One workshop is called Mind Mastery for Enhanced Performance and the day-long one is Short, Stiff + Tight! They are at Triyoga Shoreditch, October 05th and 06th. (As a newly qualified yoga teacher I took an expensive Yoga Sport Science course which left me absolutely none the wiser! I have since learnt how to work with an athlete via the tools that we have in every Ashtanga, Iyengar and Yin class.)

Yoga in the news

The Telegraph tells us that: ‘Yoga could be as effective as a pill at cutting blood pressure, study suggests’. The study is a school project carried out by a 16-year-old on 60 volunteers who had raised blood pressure. “His paper, backed by the Cambridge Cardiac Care Centre in Canada, was presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich.  “Blimey! My school wasn’t like that! He is quoted as saying: ‘A large proportion of the benefit could be attributed to deep breathing.’

Here’s something else that might help! The Metro tells us that  Listening to yoga music right before bed may be good for your heart. Anxiety levels dropped significantly after participants listened to yoga music, as opposed to pop or no music, showed the study that was

From the Scotsman: 'Tough guys' can learn to be real men through yoga’. It’s about the Art of Living Foundation programmes for teaching yoga to prisoners, biker gangs, street gangs and violent offenders.

All human life is here! Have a lovely September weekend.

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Yoga and the Stoics

Dear Yogis

I mention Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras quite a bit – that’s the one that tells us to ‘Still the fluctuations of the mind’ and then tells us how to do it. It’s not as simple as that, sadly! The ideas of the time reflected a spiritual and devotional society and it takes a huge leap and/or academic commitment to get inside the mindset of the time. And yet I was astounded to hear a yoga scholar say that it was time to put Patanjali to bed and take up other texts instead, ones more relevant to the West and to modern yogis. Wow! This scholar, Richard Rosen, mentioned Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (a Stoic born in 121 AD and, uh huh, modern and Western!).

So, I had a look! The opening line is already beautiful, easy to comprehend, relevant and like easing into a comfy chair: "I learned to relish the beauty of manners, and to restrain all anger"… Line after line is nourishing, reflecting on how to do right, how to cope with pressure, how to accept misfortune and how to approach death. Stoic philosophy and Marcus Aurelius are concerned with “the great maxims necessary for the conduct of life”.

Here are more examples of Marcus Aurelius’ practice of, guess what, stilling the fluctuations of the mind: “To guard, not only against evil actions, but even against any evil intention’s entering my thoughts...  not to busy myself about vain things... to be reconciled and well pleased again with those who had offended me… not to be offended with the ignorant… (and) in all things to have power over myself, and in nothing to be hurried away by any passion: to be cheerful and courageous in all sudden accidents, as in sicknesses to have an easy command of my own temper; to maintain a kind, sweet, and yet grave deportment”.

 (And look at Page 25 for the Stoic take on Vital Breath, the life force that exists in everything!) It’s all so yogic!

Kythera Retreats

Just as the weather is turning here, getting cooler and less Mediterranean, we can look forward to some Kapsali sun on the skin, the dawning sky to greet our morning practice, the soothing sound of the sea as we sit in the cafes and contemplate the beautiful bay and the gentleness of the evenings as we socialise in the tavernas. Ahhhh, KapsalI!  You can still sign up and join us on this magical island. Details are on the retreat pages on my website.

Home Studio

I’ve been finding it interesting and rewarding to teach just the seated postures of the Ashtanga system in the Wednesday and Thursday classes. We manage to get through to the horrible Janu Sirsasana C where you torture your toes and the dreaded/adored boat pose with it’s impossible cross-legged lift in between. I’m not sure there’s any way to make these easier but blocks are a little port in the storm. You can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

This weekend I’ll be going to the workshops of Tim squeeze-the-anus Feldmann at Triyoga Camden, starting tonight at 6.00. I’d love if you came with me! Here’s and interview with Tim Feldmann on Ashtanga Yoga, Dance, Philosophy

Yoga in the news

I’ll just leave this one here, purely for the headline: Yoga fitness and singing helped Briton survive 10 hours in Adriatic.

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Aretha Franklin: The Imperishable Spirit

Dear Yogis

I’ve been crying on and off all day about the passing of Aretha Franklin. I’m left wondering about how I find myself wallowing in the glory of grief when I talk so often about stilling the fluctuations of the mind, observing thoughts with non-attachment and making the mind a more skilful instrument for our daily use! With all that, why have I watched Aretha’s Nessun Dorma 10 times in a row?

Feelings are transitory and impermanent, says the Bhagavad Gita, as is physical body. Yes… we know that, but here’s what we also know when someone has permanent residence our hearts, even decades after they departed: “No one can destroy the imperishable Spirit”.  “The Spirit is neither born nor does it die at any time. It does not come into being, or cease to exist. It is unborn, eternal, permanent, and primeval. The Spirit is not destroyed when the body is destroyed“. “The Spirit is said to be unexplainable, incomprehensible, and unchanging. Knowing the Spirit as such you should not grieve.”

OK. But just for today I want to feel utterly connected and attached and have mushy feelings and a grieving heart… I’ll be day late for my enlightenment!

Kythera Retreats

Here are some articles about beautiful Kythera. This first one was published in The Guardian days before our first retreat in 2015: ‘Is Kythira the perfect Greek island?’ Yup!

This is an article about one of the boats of booty belonging to Lord Elgin, the Mentor, which was transporting 17 crates Parthenon sculptures to England. It didn’t make it! It sank in Avlemonas, a beautiful port village of Kythera.

This sweet little film for children ‘I am the Lion of Kythera’ by the Archaeological Museum of Kythera is one of the 12 finalists for the Museums in Short 2018, the winner to be announced on the 31st of this month.

You can still sign up and join us on this magical island yoga retreat. Details are on the retreat pages on my website.

Home Studio

More newcomers to my little Home Studio and to yoga joined us this week. It’s such a delight to see how old and new students come with friends and family for a taste of yoga’s magic dust. There are, so far, plenty of spaces next week. You can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

The Om Yoga Show is on 19th, 20th & 21st October 2018 at Alexandra Palace and the programme is out. I was just about running out of air and in need of a David Sye Yogabeats Revolution fix. He's back with his tequila and chocolate and 'funky grooves' and endless positivity.  By unfortunate coincidence on the same weekend  Danny Paradise is back at Triyoga Soho. He’s such enormous fun. 

This looks interesting. Christopher Hareesh Wallis: a world come alive: fundamentals of tantric yoga on Fri, 28 September to Sun, 30 September in Triyoga Camden. Whenever I have trained with a Tantric Yoga teacher I have loved it.

Yoga in the news

'Breathe Easy' says the Dhaka Tribune in an article about how to alleviate Asthma.  The article gives a description of the inflammation that triggers the asthma chain reaction and describes how yoga calms and controls respiratory muscles. The article gives postures for asthma sufferers – backbends… which open up and stretch the front chest.

I’ll say a little prayer for you weekend.

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Yoga on the NHS

Dear Yogis

I taught Restorative Yoga recently (more props than postures!) and so investigated the background and aim of the practice. Judith Lasater, a student of Iyengar in Pune, first popularised the Restorative Yoga. She says: ‘Mr Iyengar conducted special therapeutic classes for those with a variety of ailments. Many had been referred by physicians.’ ‘Each person had a personalized series of passive postures supported by various combinations of pillow, folded or rolled blankets, and odd pieces of furniture’. Judith was also cured of her pain from Endometriosis and Iyengar, as a boy, had typhoid, tuberculosis and malaria and was sent learn yoga to improve his health – which it did!

The story of how Ashtanga came to have a home in the Mysore Palace was because the Maharaja fell ill, was failed by doctors and cured by Krishnamacharya, the teacher of Iyengar and Jois, through yoga therapy. Doctors would commonly send patients to Pattabhi Jois in Mysore.

Fast forward to today. I was lucky enough to talk to a yogi in Eden Fitness, Ealing, who was referred to an NHS yoga therapist for arthritis and it ‘changed her world’. She said her therapy involves loads of chanting and it works! Her therapist is Vidhi Sohdi who has researched yoga for diabetes, rheumatic conditions, back pain, and did the first in UK pilot study of Yoga Therapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis at Central Middlesex Hospital. It turns out that there are many medical and Ayurvedic practitioners researching individualised yoga intervention and its role and potential in public health. How positive is that!

Retreats

A month to go, now! Time for participants to think about insurance, exchange rates, sunscreen and sandals, and the coolest shades for sitting in the cafes and tavernas and looking out to sea. If you’re interested in coming but unsure about the level of yoga or any other detail of the retreats, get in touch. Retreats details are on BookYogaRetreats.com and on the retreat pages on my website.

Home Studio

I seem to be operating a summer timetable. There aren’t enough people to fill all the classes. There is space next week, very few bookings, so take advantage. For next week’s classes you can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

I’ll be going to the workshops of Tim Feldmann at Triyoga Camden, 24-26th August, bank holiday weekend. Fellow Kapsali teacher and Yoga Sister Lisa Maarit Lischak is coming too. Come with us.

If you’re looking for a festival, the Flo Vibe festival in Hampshire which has Yoga Meets Reggae on Sunday!  Another possibility is the Soul Circus on the weekend of the 19/20th in the Cotswolds. Ambra Vallo will be there… which is a draw.

Yoga in the news

Not much around this week. Working.It.Out in The Guardian has a plea for help from a 20-something who asks for career advice; ‘Should I give up my public sector career and teach yoga instead?’. It’s a no-brainer, surely! The replies from the Agony-Aunt readers show otherwise.

Have a cool weekend

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The Buddha was a Yogi

Dear Yogis

Last weekend, all over the Buddhist world, was the celebration of the Buddha’s First Sermon. Many people link yoga and Buddhism; it is common to find a seated Buddha statue in yoga studios giving an example of a perfect yogi in flawless meditation pose with textbook lotus feet and mudra hands. Sometimes he is depicted as being protected by a many-headed cobra – the common image ascribed to Patanjali who gave us the Yoga Sutras. Like the Buddha, Patanjali was interested in the cessation of suffering and stilling the fluctuations of the mind.

An article by Ramesh Bjonnes says that before the Buddha became the Buddha he was a yogi, a wanderer and a spiritual seeker and therefore familiar ‘with the various practices of Tantra: mantra meditation, kundalini awakening, asana practice, fasting, the smearing of the body with ashes.’ Yogic ideas and Buddhist philosophy came about in reaction to the Vedic order of the day. Both systems include precepts to follow as part of a spiritual life. Yoga has the Yamas and Niyamas (Things to avoid: violence, lying, stealing, wasting energy, and greed. Things to undertake: cleanliness, contentment, purification, self-study, and surrender to or contemplation of a higher power). Buddhism has the Noble Eightfold Path, introduced in his First Sermon (Right Understanding, Right Intent, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration).

Both systems argue that it is a mistake to identify ‘the self’ with the body, beliefs and other mental formations. Instead, we are trying to conquer our obsession with ‘I, me and mine’. If we locate the ‘self’ in what we do for a living, what we own or how we look, suffering caused by impermanence will inevitably come.

Attachment to yoga postures is the same; my difficult Lotus pose, my struggling handstand, my brilliant crow pose! Watch that attachment! We love some postures (ego) and dread others (also ego!). All of them, however, lead us to observe how the mind works; from a state of bliss to reluctance to a myriad of other responses. And so, it turns out, the main lesson is not the asana but the nature of the mind! Thank you Buddha and Patanjili!

Retreats

It’s just over a month to go! It’s come so quickly! Enquiries are still coming in and I just can’t wait to take you there. The retreats are now also advertised on BookYogaRetreats.com and there are spaces available. Details are still on the retreat pages on my website and plenty of photos on both sites.

Home Studio

Welcome to more and more new yogis who are coming to my Home Studio and discovering or re-discovering yoga practice. In the Wednesday and Thursday classes we’re concentrating on the seated postures of the Primary Series and adding some stretches to help. It’s so nice not to be worn out by the sun salutations and standing postures and then having to squeeze the seated postures in. For next week’s classes you can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

I have a few free weekends so I’m open to ideas. There are some yoga festivals around. Next weekend is the Flo Vibe festival in Hampshire which I might go to just for the Yoga Meets Reggae!  Another possibility is the Soul Circus on the weekend of the 19/20th in the Cotswolds. Ambra Vallo will be there… which is a draw.

‘I have signed up for Tim Feldmann at Triyoga Camden, 24-26th August. (Anus engagement again!) He is over from the Miami Life Centre on the Bank Holiday Weekend. Last time I trained with him I felt so lucky to have access to such brilliant teachers in London.

Yoga in the news

Did you see this heartbreaking story? ‘Yoga for three-year-olds to combat London city stress’. It’s because three-year-olds need ‘coping strategies’.

KTSM.com says: Cowboys' offensive line takes up yoga. The Dallas big boys are trying to get their legs behind the head in preparation for the next American football season!

Stay cool this weekend.

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Yoga of Love and Devotion

Dear Yogis

This Friday Email is a bit lovely dovey because I am giving a reading at the wedding tomorrow of two wonderful yogis. The reading is about the love that remains after the madness of falling in love subsides. Of course, what is left is devotion and oneness. Now, how to relate this to yoga? It’s so easy! Love is one of the pillars of yoga!

There are different types of yoga named in the Bhagavad Gita, that cornerstone of yoga literature. They suit different types of personality; intellectual, emotional and physical. One is Karma Yoga – living through action and good deeds, like Mother Theresa. Another is Jnana Yoga, the path of knowledge to suit the intellectual type. Raja Yoga captures the physical type – this is the one we are most familiar with through the Ashtanga system. And for the emotional type, there is Bhakti Yoga, the path of love and devotion to a higher being. Your ‘higher being’ might be ‘the universe’ or a deity or the sound Om which represents the fathomless, the root of all life.

In India and Sri Lanka devotion is an everyday occurrence – from offerings at the temple to bowing down to touch the feet of elders. Here in the west, it isn’t our custom. Some yogis follow the Hindu tradition where you can choose your personal deity. Consider Hanuman, the monkey god, who totally devoted himself to his friend King Ram. Because of his faith and devotion, he was capable of fearlessness and of accomplishing the greatest tasks. Hanuman told King Ram that he ‘even the fibres of my heart have your name written upon them and with each “thump thump” the chant “Ram Ram” quietly sounds’. If only I could use my heart like that.

In a difficult situation I sometimes ask myself: ‘What would yoga do? and I try to recall some philosophy or mythical character or even maybe a word like ‘devotion’. I don’t always get an answer but the question itself helps. More to the point, there’s a line in a book, The Yogi’s Roadmap, which sometimes pops into mind. The line was at the end of a poem: ‘What would love do now?’. Ahhhhh! This brings me back to the whole point of trying to live in a yogic way.

Retreats

The Greek retreats are now advertised on BookYogaRetreats.com. There have been cancellations due to family situations and broken limbs so a couple of new spaces are available. Details are still on the retreat pages on my website.  If you don’t want to fly, I’m teaching the yoga segment on the Happiness Retreat in South Devon, October 12th-15th! Details also on my website.

Home Studio

People are doing so well in this heat. The studio is small, the fans are blasting and the effort is inspiring. New yogis have become regulars. Ashtanga in this heat will focus on the seated postures. Who needs more Sun Salutations!. For next week’s classes you can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

Tomorrow, the brilliant Iyengar teacher Khaled Kendsi will be taking a workshop from  2.00-4.30, at Triyoga Ealing. I can’t recommend his classes highly enough.

Brilliant, brilliant Ashtanga teacher Alain Zaks will be teaching at Yoga West on Monday, 16:00-17:15, Ashtanga - Level 1-2. He is also assisting in a ‘Jumping through and other ashtanga transitions’ workshop with Alex Blanchflower Tomorrow, Saturday 28th at 13:15 - 15:15

I’ll be going to a Handstand Workshop with Saina (Janchivdorj Sainbayar) at the London School of Acrobats & Hand Balance this Sunday from 1.30-4.30pm. It’s for beginners and intermediate handstanders for £50! Come with me. It’s at St Stephen’s Church, Pond Street NW3 2PP.

Yoga in the news

In a Yoga-Gone-Wrong story, CNN reports: ‘Thieves take hundreds of leggings from Lululemon stores in San Francisco Bay area’. And I think the security policy is straight out of the Yoga Sutras… ‘Employees are not allowed to confront or chase thieves due to a company policy, CNN affiliates reported.

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Summertime... And The Living Is Easy

Dear Yogis

During hot weather, getting to yoga class can be really hard. Muggy, sticky weather might rob you of your yoga intentions. It turns out that the body has seasonal needs as well as different requirements at different times of the day. In cool mornings and in the cooler months Vinyasa, Rocket, Power and Ashtanga are perfect to build heat in the body. Ayurvedic science tells us that our ‘Doshas’ (Pitta is fire, Vata is wind and Kapha is water) need to be balanced and in the Pitta season we should try balance the fire energy through our practice and our diet.

Practice in the morning if you can, before the heat of the day rises. In a fast-paced or demanding yoga classes shift your focus to a gentle and patient attitude to the practice. If you remember that over-heating brings about moods such as irritability, aggression, competitiveness and self-criticism, then consciously let any such tempers go. Intentionally focus to an internal, meditative, in-the-moment practice. Perhaps in some of the practice such as Sun Salutations you could close your eyes. Remember: Summertime, and the living is easy!

Ayurvedic advice for diet to balance the Pitta Dosha is to eat cooling foods: water melon, fruits and veggies, leafy salads. Avoid hot, spicy, greasy, fried foods and avoid dehydrating drinks… coffee! Very hot days are when a cooling raw food vegan option becomes welcome. Pranayama can come into play as well. There is a breathing exercise called ‘Sitali’. It’s a cooling breath you can employ after a hard practice or simply to reduce fatigue and cool down. You stick your tongue out and curl it (we used to do that in the school playground) and breathe as if sucking up through a straw. Hold it; it’s cool! Then breathe out through the nose. Here’s Ekhart Yoga giving a demonstration.

Retreats

I have had a few cancellations and there are places on both Greek retreats. I have added pictures of our accommodation to the website. Take a look… but please get in touch before booking flights if you would like to come. I really would like to introduce as many people as possible to this corner of the world where the soul can breathe! Take a look at the retreat pages on my website for information about the Greek retreats in September and the October 12th-15th Happiness Retreat in South Devon!

Home Studio

It’s such a joy to welcome new yogis to my little Home Studio and watch how, by the end of the class, people all seem to have known each other for ages. Yoga is magic! I have added the Thursday 6.00 Ashtanga class next week to see if the demand is back. You can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Iyengar classes at Triyoga Ealing. One of the brilliant teachers there, Khaled Kendsi, will be taking a workshop on July 28th, 2.00-4.30, next weekend, with all the details and precision that helps deepen your understanding and practice in any style of yoga.

Yoga in the news

This is a lovely article after the initial word games: Yoga is not Indian, says Jaggi Vasudev at a UN meeting. This was said at an event "Conversation with Masters: Yoga for the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals” We get a little insight into yoga at the UN! Liechtenstein's Permanent Representative Christian Wenaweser conducts yoga lessons for diplomats and others at the UN. Masud Bin Momen, the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh said it cured his sciatica. 

The Evening Standard advertises that: Tate Modern will host a series of yoga brunches this summer. Classes are one hour on Saturday mornings and you get great views of the Thames and St Paul's. What the article doesn’t tell you is that it’s £25 Yoga and Brunch and £41 if you include The Picasso 1932Exhibition. Nice for a present!

Wow, look at this! Leisure Opportunities reports that: More Yoga entrepreneurs plan 100 studios for London. “Entrepreneurs Shamir Sidhu and Daniel Marin are aiming to build the UK’s dominant yoga chain with their “no fuss” budget brand, More Yoga”. No reception desks or showers but as much of a variety of yoga as possible. And for venues they say; ‘Former betting shops and retail outlets work really well. Our studios enhance the high street and bring more footfall."’ Full article in Health Club Management.

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The Martin Luther King Chakra

Dear Yogis

Gregor Maehle said so many things that inspired me that this is my third Friday Email featuring his teaching – the last one for now! Talking about the heart chakra, he said: ‘The heart isn't just a primitive pump. The heart has a magnetic field which can be measured eight metres away from the body’.

Coincidently, I’ve been thinking about how we project ourselves and the effect we have on others. Instinctively we know that our heart energy reflects on our face and the way we move through the world. We know that we affect others before we say a word. If you’re in yoga class next to someone with negative energy if affects your practice! There are studies which attempt to directly measure an exchange of energy between people.

Gregor Maehle says that the only way you can advance the heart chakra is by advancing all others. You do this by practicing radical forgiveness, trust and compassion.  Samadhi (or meditative absorption) on the heart chakra leads to the ultimate view that there is no ‘other’, that we are connected and that we form one humanity. Gregor says in his blog on the heart chakra: “In the human chest there is a small shrine (the heart) in which there is a small flame the size of a thumb (the soul). And in this flame miraculously there is this entire vast universe with its planets, stars, continents, rivers, mountains and oceans.”

Here’s something that might inspire you; he calls the heart chakra our Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Chakra, examples of people who were propelled by their belief that there is one family of all beings. 

Retreats

Advance your heart and happiness by coming on the October 12th-15th Happiness Retreat in South Devon! I’m teaching yoga in the morning and the Happiness workshops and Mindfulness sessions take place in the afternoons. Meanwhile, another place has opened up on the Kapsali retreat with me and Lisa. Here are the afternoon workshops she’s planning on: Splits and Backbends, Leg Behind Head, Inversions, Arm Balances, Philosophy. A lot of time is spent on drills and preparations so it doesn’t matter if we get to the final splits/leg behind head or not. She says you can also ‘Watchasana’! Write back if you’re interested in coming with us to either Kapsali retreat. There’s a gentler retreat too!

Home Studio

Small classes and more room this week means that we turned some Ashtanga postures into restorative poses propped up with many bolsters and blocks and we had some upside-down fun using the wall. I see that I’ll be welcoming new yogis to my little Home Studio next week and places are filling up. You can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

You should have seen last week in Virgin Active Chelsea how a class responded to Lisa Maarit Lischak’s positive, welcoming, confident, serious heart energy. She projects that she has high expectations of the class and yogis responded with their best yoga, Heart energy exchange in action! She’s back tomorrow at 10.30. At the opposite end of yoga, I loved teaching Restorative Yoga (adult nap time!) at Yoga West last week and I get to do it again this Sundays at 3.30-4.45pm. It’s just four postures followed by Savasana! Can you imagine!

Yoga in the news

The express has: ‘World Cup: England stars relax with yoga after stunning quarter-final victory over Sweden’. It shows a clip of their yoga class and there are some odd postures that don’t work in general class, let alone for tight hip and hamstring footballers.

I love this article from HR News: ‘Why Wellness in the Workplace Matters’. ‘In 2016/2017, an estimated 12.5 million working days were ‘lost’ in the UK due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety’. They quote a yoga teacher who says; ‘Many of the yogis who come to my classes, do so to help them cope with work stress. Yoga improves posture and breathing, boosts morale and shows you how to go with the flow!”’ (I agree. I love teaching in the workplace. People also come to improve their chosen sport with yoga).

Have a love-filled weekend

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Solar and Luna, The Donald and The Raj

Dear Yogis

Gregor Maehle says that Alternate Nostril Breathing saved his life! From that statement we went on to the personality of Donald Trump and how the British colonised India!

Introduction: Believe it or not, you have one dominant nostril and one that is a little bit blocked. (Try and see.). The right nostril is known as the Surya/Solar ‘Nadi’ and the left nostril is known and the Ida/Luna ‘Nadi. The right nostril powers left brain which is where our analytical, scientific, commercial, militaristic, power thinking resides as does our extroverted self. The left is where our holistic, intuitive, artistic, nurturing thinking resides as does our introverted, parasympathetic self. Our whole society is powered by our collective right nostril / left brain and preoccupation with power in some form. (Read this for a beautiful explanation.)

Right nostril breathing powers the fundamentalist mind. This type of personality has difficulty accepting views that are contrary to their own. This attitude is rife in society; you can hear it fueling radio talk shows!. The left nostril-dominant person has a relativistic mind and accepts everyone’s point of view.  The problem with this mind is that it is impossible to stand up against an oppressor. Gregor said ‘The tragedy of most people is they find it difficult to balance, and switch at a time when they need to switch.’ In ancient society people knew how to switch channels or change activity every 90-120 minutes.

Here is how we got to Donald Trump. He is clearly locked in the Surya Nadi. He doesn’t think about how he comes across. He only thinks of what he can get out of others and what influence he can have. He can get by with 4 hours of sleep - this is typical of people in the grip of the Surya Nadi.  The trouble, though, with being locked here is that common symptoms are inability to relax, sleep disturbance, stress, anxiety and possibly panic attacks. You don’t have to be president for those to come along. It’s sympathetic nervous system overload.

Rattling through to the British Raj: the British, Gregor says, pulled off the biggest coup in history. It took only 50,000 British to take over 350 million Indians. It can only be done if the colonisers are fully locked on the Solar Nadi, have a total belief in what they are doing, not wasting time wondering how they are perceived and how others feel. By contrast, the Indians, stuck on the Luna mind, were too introverted and unable to stand up to dictatorship. The Moguls were Solar and the British were not able to overcome them and had to work with them.

Fascinating, eh!

Devon Retreat

OK! Meditation is needed after that! Just to remind you that I’ve been invited to teach on the October 12th-15th Happiness Retreat run by Deborah Smith, International Positive Psychologist and Mindfulness Expert. The Complete Wellbeing Retreat; Happiness workshops, Yoga and Mindfulness sessions will be held in a villa on the River Dart in South Devon. We could do some Alternate Nostril Breathing (click to try it) to balance things up a little.

Home Studio

I realised last Tuesday that the classes might have been empty due to the football! I’m cutting classes… so if the one you want seems to be not available, let me know and I can add it back to the timetable if there are enough takers. You can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

Tomorrow, phenomenal Lisa will be teaching at Virgin Active Chelsea (7th and next Saturday too - 14th July). The class is at 10.30. If you’re wondering about the magic of her teaching in Kapsali on our retreat and the way she coaxes your best practice out of you, come along. I’m due to teach Restorative Yoga (like an adult nap time!) at Yoga West on Sundays 8th and 15th July at 3.30-4.45pm.

Yoga in the news

We go highbrow this week with the New Scientist (full article for subscribers) and find out about ‘turbocharging meditation’! ‘Yoga and meditation work better if you have a brain zap too’. It says that ‘passing a small electrical current through your brain enhances the hard-won effects of yoga and meditation, leading to greater feelings of well-being, more quickly’. Could this be military related! Cue outraged yoga teachers.

Then we go lowbrow with The Sun which helpfully tells us that ‘Your bloke may think yoga is as far from football as possible’ but the English football team do it and The Sun suggests 10 poses you can try with a partner.

CNN has a really interesting story: ‘Contemplating suicide, this Marine turned to yoga to save his life’. It was in Savasana (after his marine life of hyperarousal, hyper fight-or-flight) that the point of yoga clicked.

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