Rolfing For A Wonky Body

Dear Yogis 

I have a therapy to recommend to you: Rolfing. I first heard it recommended by David Williams - he who is credited with introducing Ashtanga to America in the 70s. Dr Ida Rolf Invented the therapy, a ten-step system to manipulate soft tissue and correct structural imbalances... and I have so many!

My friend and Eden Fitness Ashtanga teacher Alain Zakeossian is a certified ‘Rolfer’, and so my learning curve came from his expertise. My right shoulder rolls forward, possibly due to many years of violin playing and my left is bigger, possibly due to bowing. My torso turns slightly to the right which is why I look odd in shoulder stand! My arms were held like semi-circles beside my torso, like an puny body builder! My insteps are unequal and right leg turns out from the hip. That’s the short list!

I found this interesting, about breathing: if the torso is hyper extended, like a ballet dancer with a pronounced lifted chest, you’ll never take a full exhalation. The opposite is the case with people who are hunched forward with a squashed chest; they’ll never achieve a full inhalation.

The treatment itself is really such a new experience. A few times on the treatment table I felt so deeply relaxed it was like being awake and asleep at the same time. It’s more of a learning experience than any massage or visit to the physio. It’s empowering. Take a look at Alain’s website: rolfinginlondon.com.  Ida Rolf said: "This is the gospel of Rolfing: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself."

Home Studio

Next Thursday I’m reintroducing the 6.00 Ashtanga-based classes. I’ll add it to the timetable till the end of November and see what the demand is. There’s a few spaces left in the usual classes next week and all but one of the new Thursday class to fill up. See attached for class availability.

Training

Yoga Evolved in Lambeth has a whole day of yoga in a nightclub tomorrow, from 10.30-19.00 for £30. It’s a Yoga and Fitness Festival. The day includes: QiGong, an Inversion Workshop, Power Yoga, and Gin Yin.

Yoga in the News

Reuters has:  Warrior pose: Sierra Leone's soldiers heal trauma with yoga. “Yoga is not about the past, but about living in the present moment,” Musa said. “You have to leave everything on the mat. Ebola, the war, all those things have passed, and through yoga we are learning to let them go.”

I can’t tell you how many people sent me this from the BBC: Yoga teachers 'risking serious hip problems'. Mr Matthews, a specialist hip and knee physiotherapist and member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, says he sees four to five yoga teachers a month.

The Telegraph has: Yoga has become dangerously competitive – the very thing it shouldn’t be. I like the way this starts: ‘I had been going to yoga classes for over 10 years before I did my first headstand. It took me a further five until I am where I am today; completely at home balancing with my feet directly above my head.’

Our Blueprint For Health and Fulfillment

Dear Yogis

Last weekend I went to the most entertaining all-day lecture with Dr N G Kostopoulos and Vaidya A Barot on the Principles of Ayurveda. Laughter flowed freely. They also give their knowledge freely but ask that we, in payment, “leave 1% of yourself for others. Open your heart by giving to others”. 

Dr Kostopoulos began by telling us that Ayurveda is very specific, nothing is vague. It is 10 times more precise than modern medicine which is too general. Ayurveda gives us easy access to information about ourselves, both physical and mental. Ayurveda views us in terms of our physical energies, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are our ‘doshas’, our blueprint for health and fulfillment, telling us about our type, our leaning, our disposition and vulnerabilities. When these energies are out of balance, certain diseases can be explained.

To illustrate Vata, Pitta and Kapha he used animal examples. Look at the monkey, he said to illustrate Vata - which derives from the elements of Space and Air and translates as “wind”. The monkey has a lot of kinetic energy, a lot of Vata, moving erratically, constantly and aimlessly. Vata is prominent in his brain and in his genetics. Survival comes from moving fast to escape predators. They eat banana, a settling, Kapha food. They can’t eat more Vata foods, not chillies! They would be flying! This is how nature works.

Vata people can’t make up their minds about doing this or that, preferring to go here or there. If you have a lot of vata kinetic energy your body will be a little thinner, fast moving, and your ideas will be fast moving as well. Enthusiastic but you can also lose your enthusiasm easily. You go for something but you can also withdraw from something as well.

Pitta derives from the elements of Fire and Water and Dr Kostopolous illustrated this dosha with Tiger energy. This is a Pitta animal, representing aggression, concentration and combustion. They have penetrating eyes, very careful movements and they hunt and kill for food. (The monkey doesn’t have to hunt, bananas don’t run away! This food needs a totally different mind-set to the food-hunting tiger). The tiger is total Pitta. They have so much Pitta, they can consume raw meat. Pita people are precise and have an intense, sharp, fiery nature. They know exactly what they want. They know exactly when the need to eat and when they are hungry they get irritated.

Kapha derives from the Sanskrit word ‘shlish’ meaning ‘that which holds things together’. This type is about strong structure. Look at the elephant which is very strong, smooth, deliberate movements, plenty of reserves of energy, stoic. He can survive; he is difficult to attack. Kapha people are patient, grounded, heavier... they love to eat.  They should do more dynamic yoga. They love Savasana, sleep, not exercising, community and family.

We are all slightly different, different percentages of these three qualities which is why modern medicine loses its grip because it needs the average person to have effect on the biggest percentage of the population. Yoga and Ayurveda are targeted processes to bring an imbalanced state back to balance.  You can google quizzes to check your dosha type. At the very least this can give you clues about what foods to avoid and what type of exercise to do.

Home Studio

November is here but we can still heat up the studio with our energy. There’s plenty of room in class next week. See attached for class availability.

Training

Tonight, I’ll be at Triyoga from Charlie Merton’s gong bath workshop: 20 minutes of working with mantra, 20 minutes of breath and mudra, 40-45 minutes postures and 40 minutes of gong bath. It’s at 19:45 - 21:45. Come with me!

Yoga in the News

Kent Online Iswar Sharma from Sevenoaks wins Euro yoga gold. ‘Ten-year-old Ishwar Sharma from Sevenoaks travelled to Bordeaux to represent the UK in the European Yoga Championship - and came home with a gold medal in the Boys 9-11 category!’  

The Hindustan Times has: Mudra an obscene gesture? UK court dismisses complaint. ‘A British court has dismissed a case against an Indian-origin woman whose daily Yoga practice by a beach near her house in Sussex infuriated a neighbour-couple, who believed her hand ‘Mudra’ to be an obscene gesture aimed at them and complained to the police.’  

Glamour UK has: Your ultimate guide to chakras and how to optimise your daily performance with them. It’s a nice little article. The writer says: ‘Each chakra also concerns itself with more direct emotional and physical symptoms, so along with the colours I want to teach you how to use these powerful energy centres to benefit your daily life’.

The Great Work Of Your Life

Dear Yogis

I have another book review for you. A dear yogi friend gave me ’The Great Work Of Your Life by Stephen Cope for my birthday. I’ve mentioned Cope before and his previous book, Yoga and the Quest for the True Self.

This book helps us understand the Bhagavad Gita, that cornerstone of yoga literature. Also called ‘The Song of God’, it teaches how to access the true self (God realisation) with the practice of Yoga. Cope says: ‘Yoga tradition is almost entirely concerned – obsessed, really – with the problem of living a fulfilled life. The yoga tradition is a virtual catalogue of the various methods human beings have discovered over the past 3,000 years to function on all cylinders’.

If you’ve ever wondered about the ability of yoga to pull you over to a better version of yourself, to a feeling of authenticity, here’s why: ‘The yoga tradition is very, very interested in the idea of an inner possibility harboured within every human soul’. Alternatively, we are blinded by the ‘false self’ – a collection of ideas about who we should be’. ‘Our capacity to see the world clearly is thwarted’ when those ideas are so strong that they override who we actually are. (Yoga’s theory of Koshas repeats the same idea.)

This is a lovely book about naming your inner gift and tapping into its power. Cope says that it’s better to fail in the pursuit of our own calling than live the fake life of the false self. That brings “extreme spiritual peril” says Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. If you bring forth what is within you it will save you. If you do not, it will destroy you.

Home Studio

All kinds of alternatives were found this week to incorporate the usual sprinkling of twinge-prone backs, problematic hips, giddying dizziness, killjoy cramp; anxiety and all its attendants. There’s plenty of room in class next week. And if you come for a private class, perhaps you’ll have time for coffee after in the Grove’s Greek inspired coffee shop. See attached for class availability.

Training

For tomorrow I’ve booked to attend The Practice Of Yoga + Meditation According To The Principles Of Ayurveda. It’s at Triyoga Camden, 8.00 – 17.30, and it’s totally free. The schedule is: 08:00–09:00 Talk on ayurveda, yoga and Pranayama; 09:00–10:00 Practice of yoga and pranayama (by Dr N G Kostopoulos); 10:00–11:00 Discussion and practice of pranayama and meditation (Vaidya A Barot); 14:30–17.30 Lecture on ayurveda, yoga and meditation. It’s free! Come with me!

Yoga in the News

The Times has an advertorial telling us: How to be more flexible as you get older. The average drop in flexibility of hip and shoulder joints means they can move about six degrees less in any direction each decade from a person’s mid-fifties. “Lack of flexibility affects posture and the way we move, which can then affect breathing and digestion”.

The Tablet has: Bishop bans yoga for being 'unchristian'. ‘The Bishop also referred to a homily given by Pope Francis in 2015 in which he said: “Practices like yoga are not capable of opening our hearts up to God.” The Pope continued: “You can take a million courses in spirituality, a million courses in yoga, Zen and all these things but all of this will never be able to give you freedom.”’

Have a Zen weekend.

Om Yoga Show 2019

Dear Yogis

The trees are in their autumn beauty. Thank the various and many gods for the Om Yoga Show, marking October twilight, the end of the summer, and giving us inspiration to keep up an energetic and varied yoga practice into winter weather. It’s a weekend of yoga chaos, hullabaloo and overmuchness at Alexander Palace. It’s celebratory and I’m going with my usual addict’s helplessness.

I’m assisting Marcus Veda in his Saturday 2:00 - 3:30 workshop The Divine Spine: A Rocket Yoga Workshop. Marcus promises to give you ‘all the vitalising backbends of Ashtanga’s second series’ as well as inversions and arm-balances.

I have my eye on Claire Missinghams's The All New You in which she promises an inspirational lecture, asana, Kriyas and meditations to give and internal upgrade to the nervous system. That’s on Saturday at 10.30-12.00 for £18.

On Saturday at 16.30-17.30 Emily Brett who is the founder of Ourmala is teaching Slow Flow. Ourmala is all about teaching refugees, suicide awareness, yoga for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for people who have survived war, torture, trafficking, slavery and persecution. I have to be in her class!

On Saturday in the Soul Food Kitchen at 16.00-16.30 is chef Edward Daniel teaching How to Ferment and Create Great Bacteria For The Gut - How to make Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Water Kefir and nut cheeses. It's Free!

As usual I have to beg you to come to David Sye's How To Get High On Your Own Supply. It's on Sunday at 14.00-15.00, £15. David Sye is someone you should know. He teaches joy in the most challenging of places. (I’ve written about him before: for example in 2017, and 2018.)

Home Studio

It’s a bit booked up next week. See attached for class availability. There are some spaces left. Come if you possibly can.

Training

On Friday 1st November, 19:45 - 21:45, Charlie Merton is teaching her beautiful Friday evening workshop, A Complete Practice: body, breath, mind + mantra with gong bath: 20 minutes working with mantra, 20 minutes of breath and mudra, 40-45 minutes physical asana practice and 40 minutes of sound meditation with gongs and other instruments.

Yoga in the News

The Guardian has: Swami Shivapremananda obituary – the monk credited with spreading the teachings of Sivananda yoga throughout the world.

The Jerusalem Post has: Yoga and the Jews. “But is it Kosher?” A yoga teacher comments: “The strongest therapeutic elements of yoga get us out of our own minds, or those looping stories that we repeat in our heads. And one of the great parts of Sukkot is this approach of, ‘You did all your work and you did all this reflecting. Now quiet the mind and get out of your story and be in this moment.’

This is great! Lifehacker Australia has: How To Start Practicing Yoga With Your Kids. The article is an excellent resource for people who want a list of books and ideas to teach their children yoga.

Yoga Hullabaloo

Dear Yogis

The trees are in their autumn beauty. Thank the various and many gods for the Om Yoga Show, marking October twilight, the end of the summer, and giving us inspiration to keep up an energetic and varied yoga practice into winter weather. It’s a weekend of yoga chaos, hullabaloo and overmuchness at Alexander Palace. It’s celebratory and I’m going with my usual addict’s helplessness.

I’m assisting Marcus Veda in his Saturday 2:00 - 3:30 workshop The Divine Spine: A Rocket Yoga Workshop. Marcus promises to give you ‘all the vitalising backbends of Ashtanga’s second series’ as well as inversions and arm-balances.

I have my eye on Claire Missinghams's The All New You in which she promises an inspirational lecture, asana, Kriyas and meditations to give and internal upgrade to the nervous system. That’s on Saturday at 10.30-12.00 for £18.

On Saturday at 16.30-17.30 Emily Brett who is the founder of Ourmala is teaching Slow Flow. Ourmala is all about teaching refugees, suicide awareness, yoga for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for people who have survived war, torture, trafficking, slavery and persecution. I have to be in her class!

On Saturday in the Soul Food Kitchen at 16.00-16.30 is chef Edward Daniel teaching How to Ferment and Create Great Bacteria For The Gut - How to make Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Water Kefir and nut cheeses. It's Free!

As usual I have to beg you to come to David Sye's How To Get High On Your Own Supply. It's on Sunday at 14.00-15.00, £15. David Sye is someone you should know. He teaches joy in the most challenging of places. (I’ve written about him before: for example in 2017, and 2018.)

Home Studio

It’s a bit booked up next week. See attached for class availability. There are some spaces left so come if you possibly can. My lucky Home Studio isn’t the only exciting thing happening in The Grove! A Greek inspired coffee shop opened this week. The coffee is, I think, the best I’ve tasted – very smooth and rich. Let’s go there!

Training

On Friday 1st November, 19:45 - 21:45, Charlie Merton is teaching her beautiful Friday evening gong bath workshop: 20 minutes of working with mantra, 20 minutes of breath and mudra, 40-45 minutes postures and, what we’re all there for, 40 minutes of sound meditation with gongs and other instruments.

Yoga in the News

The Guardian has: Swami Shivapremananda obituary – the monk credited with spreading the teachings of Sivananda yoga throughout the world.

The Jerusalem Post has: Yoga and the Jews. “But is it Kosher?” A yoga teacher comments: “The strongest therapeutic elements of yoga get us out of our own minds, or those looping stories that we repeat in our heads. And one of the great parts of Sukkot is this approach of, ‘You did all your work and you did all this reflecting. Now quiet the mind and get out of your story and be in this moment.’

This is great! Lifehacker Australia has: How To Start Practicing Yoga With Your Kids. The article is an excellent resource for people who want a list of books and ideas to teach their children yoga.

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Yoga is Everyday Mental Health Awareness Day

Dear Yogis

Yesterday was Mental Health Awareness Day and companies have been taking advantage all week to get employees involved. Companies that offer yoga at work are doing such a positive and worthwhile thing! One person told me of their day-long stress, things hadn’t gone right, deadlines missed and a sense of disappointment infused the end of the day with that tight feeling in the stomach and throat. That’s not great to take home! Along comes yoga on its white horse to rescue the situation!

Yoga is really a fancy way of meditating. The crucial thing is the breath awareness. Postures come and go and try to teach us about ourselves, mainly that we can’t keep the mind in one place! Kristina Karitinou Ireland says: ‘There’s a playfulness to the practice: the mind goes; you bring it back to the breath, in one second it's gone again. That is the nature of things. You don't have to feel guilty or bad or critical.

It’s through the practice that we re-educate ourselves: good postures give you a good feeling; postures that give you fear teach you that you can overcome difficulties; strength postures teach you that your strength is there to build.  When you achieve difficult postures, it’s not that the ego has to go crazy; you create what Kristina calls ‘reference points’ and you remember what it's like to be in a good situation and overcome restrictions. That gives you mental strength. That’s the feeling that you take off the mat to energise and benefit your day and benefit the people around you. That’s the beauty of yoga.

Retreat

If you’re interested in a retreat with emphasis on Meditation, check out Deborah Smith’s Grow Your Own Happiness retreat. (See flyer). Her brilliant book of the same name has had a load of media coverage. (Here’s my blog from her last  retreat.)

If you’d like to come to Kythera with me next year, please let me have your preference for May or September. So far, four people say September... so it looks like September at the moment! And like a sign from the heavens, a Greek inspired coffee shop will be opening up in The Grove next week. Let’s have a coffee there!

Home Studio

I’m lucky enough to find people come to yoga class with their conditions, illnesses, recovery processes and aches and pains. It’s humbling and a privilege to teach. Yoga boasts that it is for every condition and I’m interested to hear people report their feelings of how yoga has helped with various problems. This week classes had people getting over cancer, a broken back from a car accident, Parkinson’s and  high blood pressure. Hopefully we can lessen some symptoms and some prescription charges! See attached for class availability. There are plenty of spaces left on Monday and Tuesday in the stretchy classes.

Training

On Friday 1st November, 19:45 - 21:45, Charlie Merton is teaching her beautiful Friday evening workshop, A Complete Practice: body, breath, mind + mantra with gong bath: 20 minutes working with mantra, 20 minutes of breath and mudra, 40-45 minutes physical asana practice and 40 minutes of sound meditation with gongs and other instruments.

Have a look at the attachment for some of the Triyoga workshops coming up. I haven’t looked at other studios yet... Also, the Om Yoga Show is next weekend, the 18th, 19th & 20th.

Yoga in the News

Financial Times has: ‘Do mindfulness activities really work?’ FT colleague Claire Barron leads the in-house meditation and yoga classes. She says corporate mindfulness can lead to happier staff. “They’re less stressed, they become more innovative in their thinking, creative, productive.”

India’s Times Now has: Benefits of Viparita Karani yoga asana: What happens when you put your legs up on the wall? ‘This yoga posture is considered as one of the most calming and nourishing poses for the mind and the body.’ I’m a fan of this posture.

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Three Types Of Yoga Knowledge

Dear Yogis

Last weekend, Kino MacGregor talked about the spiritual journey of yoga and I lapped it all up. I used to be the type that denied I had any sort of spiritual dimension. I just didn’t like the lack of scientific knowledge and blindness that I thought it implied. I wish I had known the following from teenagehood...

Kino talked about the three different types of knowledge (Yoga Sutra 1.7). The first is the most common: reason or rational knowledge, appealing to the intellect, the rational, the logical, the Sherlock Holmes... Find a clue! But this is limited by the known universe and known facts which change! The facts that the earth was flat and the centre of the universe were replaced with newer facts. However, ancient yogis said that you should pursue the knowledge of rational thinking on the understanding that this is a foundation to another, deeper type of knowledge.

Next is emotional, devotional, faith-based knowledge. We all have this capacity. Children have this, trusting the parent. You take knowledge from a teacher that you trust. This type of knowledge carries a danger of institutional pressure or abuse potential if taught by self-serving or only partially enlightened people.
Thirdly there is the knowledge of direct experience and evidence.  It needs to be experienced as true for you, for knowledge to be complete.  This has a problem too; it can supersede and block out all other types of knowledge.

Ideally the three types of knowledge don’t fight with each other but line up. This is when the potential for spiritual progress to occur can be tapped.  Yoga is the tool to do this. Yoga practice wants you to evolve as a human being, wants to uncover your true nature which has somehow been forgotten or obscured by behavioural patterns of the mind the ego and material and physical measurements of self-worth. Yoga is the only practice from orthodox India to emphasise personal practice which starts are journey from rational knowledge through to devotional knowledge through to experiential knowledge.

Retreat

What a lovely retreat!  if you’d like to come to Kythera with me next year, please let me have your preference for May or September. So far, four people say September. And f you want to squeeze in a retreat this year, please get in touch with Andy Gill to find out about his Himalayan monastic yoga retreat, 5th -12th October. You will become part of a Monastic community for a week. I’ve done that in the UK and it is special. I didn’t have added Andy and yoga, though!

Home Studio

October is the best month of all! It’s a bit like January and it’s New Year Resolutions. Gyms fill up a bit more and more newcomers find their way to my Home Studio. See attached for class availability. There are plenty of spaces left. See attachment.

Training

The Om Yoga Show is coming. It’s on the 18th, 19th & 20th of this month. David Sye will be there. I beg you every year to do his workshop! This year it’s called How To Get High On Your Own Supply! Teachers/’presenters’ that are always great to be with will be there like David Kam, Dan Peppiatt and Adam Hocke, Marcus Veda, Tara Styles... so many! Fancy coming?

Yoga in the News

Popsugar has:  Amazon Is Selling Yoga Skeletons, and Yes, They're Still More Flexible Than You Are. I chose this story about spooky yoga decorations because the picture is good!

If you’re thinking of buying a yoga mat, have a look at this... The Evening Standard has: 10 Best eco yoga mats in the UK. Lifeorme comes out well but you can probably do better for the price. You can check out the yoga mat market at the Yoga Show this month.

Yoga Teaches Self Acceptance

Dear Yogis

I’m writing to you in the dead of the night under the deep black night-time Kytheran sky. You can’t imagine a sky so jam-packed with stars and constellations and the white cloud of a galaxy millions of light years away. It’s breath-taking.

Sprinkles of stardust attended our classes and workshops this week and everyone made progress in their postures and wider experience of yoga: Pranayama (breathing) exercises, visualisation, and daily techniques and drills to better understand the fluidity of yoga.

During the workshops, Valentina’s main message of the week was: ‘don’t make it complicated, enjoy yoga’. She said that there are so many rules that these can often form distractions and obstacles instead of aiding your practice. ‘Yoga is practical’, she says.

This is interesting. She said that in order to move on and progress through the postures, you need self acceptance. You are faced with the physical body and confronted with its restrictions. Actually, postures are not so important, in the great scheme of things, but in that moment, they are the most important thing in the world. We get upset and stressed and self-critical. Eventually yoga will make the mind discover the reality... that you can’t escape from what is. This is your body. This is what is. Yoga is how you find out who you are. Only when you accept your body can you move on and improve. The system is to expose yourself to your higher self but you have to start where you are.

Retreat

I can’t imagine not coming here next year! if you’d like to come to Kythera with me next year, please let me have your preference for May or September. And f you want to squeeze in a retreat this year, please get in touch with Andy Gill to find out about his Himalayan monastic yoga retreat, 5th -12th October. You will become part of a Monastic community for a week. I’ve done that in the UK and it is special. I didn’t have added Andy and yoga, though!

Home Studio

October comes next week and we’re back in the game. See attached for class availability. There are plenty of spaces left. See attachment.

Training

This weekend, starting tonight, is Kino MacGregor. She’s back all weekend at the Oval Space near Cambridge Heath, 14:30 - 17:00.  I’ll go on Sunday 29th of September for ‘the spiritual journey of asana‘ workshop

Yoga in the News

The Telegraph has: Find your inner selfie: how 'InstaYoga' became the ultimate cultural paradox. An odd article about yoga on Instagram. ‘InstaYoga...despite representing almost every antithetical value to the practice of yoga itself (ie ego, self-obsession, and a focus entirely on the physical body), it is bringing people to the yoga practice in swathes, and a large number – admittedly not all – are finding the greater depths it has to offer.’

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Beryl's Power Yoga

Dear Yogis

It’s a moonless sky over Kapsali Bay as I write this. The sky and sea are shades of black and an occasional ship passes through the view carrying a couple of stars to light the vessel up. It’s my unbelievable luck to carry a couple of stars myself and be back here to teach yoga. Since last weekend’s workshops with Beryl Bender Birch I’ve been thinking about how yoga changed my life with what she called its ‘brilliant methodology’ and ‘subtle transformation’. We do yoga to become a little more flexible and it doesn’t occur to us what’s going to happen after we’ve been doing yoga for a short while...

Physical yoga pulls us in but it’s really meditation. What is brilliant about the methodology, Beryl says, is that it is such a subtle transformation. One minute you’re doing the postures but really the training is about learning to pay attention. You’re learning to bring your attention into the present moment.

Beryl Bender Birch is known for inventing Power Yoga and teaching the New York Road Runners club for 22 years. Power Yoga doesn’t mean that you approach yoga like the Incredible Hulk and doesn’t mean a rejection of the non-physical aspects of yoga. It was simply an alternative name to ’Ashtanga’ which she thought would attract no one. Power yoga conveyed that this practice ‘was a strong, sweaty, physical workout, unlike most of what had been presented as hatha yoga in the United States up to that time’. She said of Ashtanga: ‘I believed that there were a lot of tight, stiff, stressed, and searching people who could benefit from this specific method of yoga’.

There are interesting changes she has made to that Ashtanga sequence (she cuts out forward folds where people tend to round the upper spine) but it is still, essentially, the Ashtanga sequence. During class Beryl constantly reminds us to breathe with sound, that Ujjayi breathing turns on the heating mechanism making heat in the body and gets the system heated up. She tells us that ‘Pranayama is not only incorrect, it's impossible without mula bandha.’

And then the philosophy.  Here’s an amalgamation of the things Beryl said about yoga: Yoga changes your life when you learn to pay attention and become more mindful.  It’s about not becoming a slave to whether you’re comfortable or not comfortable. Think of all the things you do to avoid discomfort which is essential for our journey and contributes to our evolution. Without challenging moments there is no impetus to grow. The definition of yoga given by Patanjali’s second sutra is ‘the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind’. That isn’t really the definition. What Patanjali is saying is that yoga is what happens when you learn to focus your attention. We go to yoga class with tight hamstrings but eventually what drives us is to answer the question who am I?

Retreat

I’m already here on retreat, doing yoga, running, hanging out in cafes and tavernas! Unless you’re a total last minute-er, you can register your interest for next year. What about May instead of September? Teachers have always complained that they can’t come in September so it’s time to make that change.

If you still want a retreat this year and want to avoid the creeping darkness of the autumn for a little while longer, what about Andy Gill’s retreat in Nepal, 5th -12th October, held in a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist monastery in foothills of the Himalayas! You will become part of a Monastic community for a week, joining monks for morning meditation before Yoga practice. Lovely!

Home Studio

For another week I’m not there to teach so I suggest another The Grove dweller, Savita Khemlani who teaches every Sunday, 11.00-12.15 at Yogi’s Studio, 1 Springbridge Mews, W5 2AB. Your first class is free but email first.

Training

Next weekend I’ll be back from Kythera in time for Kino MacGregor. She’s back all weekend. I’ll go on Sunday 29th of September for ‘the spiritual journey of asana‘ workshop held in the Oval Space near Cambridge Heath, 14:30 - 17:00. Come with me!

Yoga in the News

Right on cue, the telegraph asks: ‘Is Yoga The Key To Becoming A Better Runner?’. Charlie Dark, former globe-trotting DJ and ex-creative writing and poetry teacher, founder of Run Dem Crew running club says:  “Yoga is just like running – it’s learning to be comfortable uncomfortable. “Runners need yoga. They need to learn how to be in the present, and that’s exactly what yoga teaches you – to live in the moment, for now.”

“So just like we dedicate our yoga practice to someone or open a vinyasa flow with a mantra – to love more generously, to be kinder, to stay curious, be present – we should also create a ‘run mantra’ to help push us to the finish line, he advises.”

Evening Standard gives us: Somatic yoga is the mindfulness practice burnt-out Londoners are loving. It is apparently ‘designed to reorganise the central nervous system, ground and realign the body and mind’. ‘The Human Method uses somatics and some aspects of Pilates, restorative yoga and yoga Nidra, which is a guided meditation, to kind of wake you up, make you more conscious and have a a really strong powerful practice that’s very in the moment’. Good idea!

Rebellious Hippies

Dear Yogis

I’m not at all in favour of this November chill on my skin! Yoga comes from a warm country, and so I must head off to one! To Greece, in fact, to hold my Kapsali yoga retreat. I know, Yoga doesn’t come from there, but Ashtanga Yoga was introduced to Europe via Greece in the late 80s by the uncontested most colourful personality of the Ashtanga world, the late Derek Ireland. I mention him often in class when I teach his extra Ashtanga postures.

Derek was many things including a Brighton and Hove football apprentice and a band promoter for the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and the Stranglers. He eventually took to yoga like it was rock n roll, practicing with weights and even a weighted jacket until it nearly killed him when he went upside-down.  According to his obituary, ‘on his daily run he generally wore nothing but trainers, the thong and a personal stereo’. He practiced yoga on the beach in similar kit! He exists in the hearts of the hundreds he taught as an example of how to be daring and free with our lives.

Derek and other senior teachers have in common that they couldn’t take to societal norms. They stayed as rebellious hippies and remain examples, helping us to become a bit more free-thinking and free living. It’s so easy to become imprisoned by norms and expectations. I nearly turned down being part of a Dove advert because I thought I shouldn’t take time off my office job. But, my sister pointed out, who on the deathbed wishes they had spent more time in the office!

Retreat

There are places left. Invest in yourself and your wellbeing. Nothing is certain in the future so if you're thinking about it for next year - don't wait Come now! Even the Guardian wonders: Is Kythera the Perfect Greek Island? (Get in touch to discuss flights. See Sky Scanner options. You can also check BA from Heathrow to Athens and then Aegean or Sky Express individually.)

Home Studio

For the next couple of weeks you have to find an alternative to my Home Studio. May I suggest another The Grove dweller, Savita Khemlani who teaches every Sunday, 11.00-12.15 at Yogi’s Studio, 1 Springbridge Mews, W5 2AB. Your first class is free but email first.

Ealing yoga teachers, write to me and let me know if you hold independent classes in the area and I’ll pass it on. I’ll be teaching again on Monday 30th.

Training

This weekend, starting tonight, I’m doing workshops at Triyoga Soho with Beryl Bender Birch who, as Triyoga says, pioneered the introduction of yoga into the world of sports and has taught yoga and meditation to tens of thousands of athletes since 1974. She published a book called ‘Power Yoga’, and was Wellness Director of the New York Road Runners for 22 years. Come with me!

(Heads up; July 25 – 29 2020 has Timothy McCall at Triyoga!)

Yoga in the News

The Telegraph gives us: Fitness on trial: Is Aerial yoga worth leaving the sofa for? ‘It’s yoga, but not as you know it: with aerial yoga, poses are done while suspended in a sling dangling from the ceiling.’

Parade has 25 Celebrity Yoga Quotes to Get You Motivated and Out the Door and Into Class. Why not! Madonna, Sting, Adam Levine, Lebron James, Elen DeGeneres, Jenifer Aniston, Megan Markle, RuPaul, Christina Aguilera, 50Cent... Of course, yoga-celebrity-in-chief Russell Brand is there.

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Last Call For Kythera

Dear Yogis

The bookends of the day are darker for longer. Bright mornings and light evenings are fading now and there’s chill in the air. Saying ‘goodbye’ to summer is an annual heartbreak. As we dive into autumn’s dusk, a yoga teacher sent me a little list of reflections à la Baz Luhrmann:

Everything has a lifecycle and will end eventually, whether you want it to or not. Get comfortable with the parting-of-ways that you hadn't planned on and find peace with change. You're not fooling yourself. Somewhere deep down you know who you are, you know the answers, and you know what's good for you. It's never too late to recreate yourself. Stop comparing. Stop Judging. Avoid negativity like a fast food. It will make you ill eventually. Have gratitude. Practice the above.

Retreat

Come with us!  Take a week where you don't have to rush to work, rush home, rush to the shops, rush back, rush to the class, rush back, rush dinner... or worse... miss yoga because the boss keeps you at work! All you have to do on a yoga retreat is yoga and relax.

A yoga retreat will gift you all sorts of unexpected benefits. A retreat can shine new light on your approach... something can click! We so easily get stuck in routine at home, in taking the same spot in the studio, in expecting the postures to feel the same as the day before, and expecting the same difficulties. A retreat relieves you of unnecessary self-perceptions. (Nothing changed about my flexibility when I finally included upside-down Lotus Pose in my Shoulder Stand sequence. My mind changed, that’s all, on retreat!)

Kythera is not the quickest place to get to but it’s special. Once you come you’ll realise what the fuss is about. People return again and again to the magic of the island. It’s my favourite place in the world... it might become yours. Come with us!!! Take a last grasp of warmth on the skin and flip-flop footwear. Details here. (See flight options from Sky Scanner attached. You can also check BA from Heathrow to Athens and then Aegean or Sky Express individually.)

Home Studio

There’s plenty of space next week in my lucky Home Studio. I love how many newcomers to yoga find their way here. Book now! I’m not here for half of September. Have a look at the latest availability attached to this email and  on my website. In the following week, beginning Monday 16th, I’m only holding classes on the Monday, then back on Monday 30th.

Training

I’ve booked Beryl Bender Birch workshops next weekend, all of them, (13th, 14th and 15th) at Triyoga Soho. On the 29th of September Kino MacGregor’sthe spiritual journey of asana‘ workshop held in the Oval Space near Cambridge Heath, conveniently near Hackney City Farm. Come with me!

Yoga in the News

The Washington Post has: 12 etiquette tips for yoga class — and the reasons behind them.  I had to laugh when I read this. The writer says: ‘I’ve been both culprit and victim when it comes to causing distraction in yoga class; I’ve walked into an already-underway session during the opening meditation...’ (She’s talking about my Friday class at Eden Fitness!!!) ‘Yoga class guidelines are undergirded by the concept of ahimsa... not to harm or injure... nonviolence in all aspects of our life, in our thoughts and our behaviours and our actions toward ourselves and others’.

The Times has: The DJs who are swapping wild nights for wellness and yoga. It’s a good read. I’ve noted these teacher quotes: “The grace of your entire past comes rushing to meet your body” and “enter the rainbow and explore the cosmic and creative realms”. Spottily and Sound Cloud have the Above & Beyond Burning Man yoga class track.

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Rescue From Slaughter

Dear Yogis

Here’s Yoga! My mum was in reverie recently about how her mother used to rescue cows from going to slaughter. They would be passing by on the road (in Waalawela, Matale, Ceylon) on the way to the slaughter house and she would buy them. She ended up with ‘quite a few’. There was plenty of land on the Andewatte estate that she had been given as a dowry in 1920; 13/14 acres of a paddy fields and rubber and coconut trees.

My grandmother would tie the cows with long, long ropes to a tree and they would eat and sleep. She would go back at mid day and move them to another place and take them water. In the evening she would bring them back nearer home. Mum laughed as she remembered that if a calf was born it would soon run around the bungalow. Such a memory of pure love!

This reminiscing came along because I adopted a chicken for a friend’s birthday present. Sunnyside Farm has 350 rescue chickens that would otherwise have been taken to the abattoir. Farmers no longer want them because they don’t lay enough eggs. Once rescued, they live naturally: they are not forcibly lit or heated; they range freely in an orchard, they’re fed with corn, grit and oyster shells (for stronger eggshells), they drink rainwater and they lay eggs without pressure.

Sunnyside Rural Trust is having a fundraiser in Hemel Hempstead on Saturday 7th September. See the flyer attached.

Retreat

It’s almost September and the 21 days to our magical yoga retreat. Come with us. You’ll come home renewed and refreshed and with a whole lot of yoga tools in your pocket to get through stresses and strains, to enjoy increased knowledge of your yoga practice and benefit from more strength and fitness. Create special memories and fill your boots with that unique Kapsali spirit to sustain you till your next escape! Come with us!!! Details here. Also on Premium Wellness here.

Home Studio

There are loads of places left next week. Last week we had loads of newcomers; new to the Home Studio or new to yoga entirely. It’s just lovely! And have a look at the latest availability attached to this email and  on my website.

Yoga in the News

This is a lovely article: Prima.co.uk gives us the 6 best yoga poses for kids. The article says; “A simple yet readily accessible way of incorporating fitness and mindfulness into daily life, yoga is one of the best ways to encourage children to take up a healthy habit and develop their sense of focus.”

Islington Tribune gives us Róisín Gadelrab's music news: Heavy metal yoga with “black candles and yoga mats provided”.

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Ealing Broadway Decathlon Grand Opening

Dear Yogis

Gaiety and merriment hit Ealing Broadway last weekend with the Grand Opening of Decathlon. Much anticipated free classes were oversubscribed and I turned up at 6.00pm on Friday to teach yoga, a display class to inspire shoppers.

 No one turned up. That’s ok... first days and openings are unpredictable. After 10 minutes it was suggested that I do a yoga demonstration in the store so a mat was put down in front of the men’s running shoes and sports socks and I started the ‘demo’. I started with a few Chaturangas; perhaps that would spark an interest in guys who like their press-ups. No interest What about standing split press ups? Nothing! No interest. Nada. Not a raised eyebrow.

 OK! I started busting out the moves: Side planks, Crow Pose, Astavakrasana, Wild Thing, and, after about 15 minutes or arm-aching postures, Headstand for a rest. People didn’t exactly step over me for the socks... but a little bit. It was absolutely hilarious to watch the upside-down store shopping around me.

 The next day a small but perfect class materialised. What an absolute  pleasure to teach! What a positive place Decathlon is as an addition to Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre. We practiced on their £39.99 eco-friendly natural rubber and jute mat. It's a lovely mat, very grippy. They have one with lines and design, perhaps inspired by Liforme, for the same price. It has inspirational words down the middle to aid your meditation! I have my eye on their meditation cushion, lovely and high.

 Retreat

The mat that you need for the retreat needs to be more than a travel mat or a mat cover. We practice on the balcony in the mornings and any little breeze will blow a light mat away. Those Decathlon mats are 2.6kg and 2.3kg. It’s not bad. The green mats I have in my studio, Calyana, are 3kg. The black Laal mats that I have in the studio to sell are 3.3kg.

I’m mindful, as I write this,that mats are a modern phenomena and back in the day the 70s yogis didn’t have a billion dollar global yoga mat market. Morning practice was on a cotton rug made at a local prison! Well, some things stay, some things change! We’ll keep the traditional early practice; Ashtanga is a dawn practice to set you up for the day. The earlier we practice, the more we catch the last of the stars of the night sky and watch the magic of Kapsali dawn waking up the seaside village as early fishermen come home with their catch and their hovering halo of hungry sea birds. Come with us!!! Details here.

 Home Studio

I’m teaching the usual two classes on Bank Holiday Monday. It’s a post-Carnival. Calm-down stretch!   And have a look at the latest availability attached to this email and  on my website.

 Yoga in the News

The Telegraph  has: 'Your life is bigger than your pant size'. Yoga teacher Jessamyn Stanley on why body obsession needs to stop. She says that in the beginning:  “I really wasn’t pushing myself outside of any boundaries in my day-to-day life. The reason the postures challenge us so much is because they’re trying to push us beyond our comfort zone.”

I love this article: The Irish News has: Key facts about Zen Buddhism – the practice that's all about 'nothingness'. It’s an article about Zazen meditation. (It’s the meditation practiced with Kristina Karitinou Ireland on the Kythera weekend retreat). ‘Before it became a trendy buzzword in the West, (Zen) dates back to the Tang Dynasty in 7th century China, where it then spread to Japan. In fact, the Japanese term Zen is a derivative of the Chinese word Ch'an, which means concentration or meditation. Unlike other strands of Buddhism, Zen isn't based on religious teachings and it doesn't involve prayer or studying texts. Instead, it's an internal investigation which helps to give insight into your mind and how it works. In other words, you can be a sceptical person and still benefit from it.”

On the other hand... The Times has:  Too fidgety to meditate? Try TRE — the new tension-release technique. ‘TRE, short for tension and trauma releasing exercises, is a series of movements that encourage your muscles to shake, with the idea that this will help to release the tightness in your body that is caused by stress. TRE was originally developed to help people affected by war in the Middle East and north Africa. It has been used to aid earthquake survivors in China and returning soldiers in the US.’

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Strictly Come Yogering

Dear Yogis

As I may have mentioned before, Ashtanga and its teachers can be strict... Strictly Come Yogering. Some teachers get very militant about teaching Ashtanga the-way-it-is-taught-in -Mysore. However, there have been many changes over the years. David Swenson tells of how, during Pattabhi Jois’ second visit to America, he found students had added a posture and liked it... so it became part of the Primary Series.

In Greece, teachers Kiros Tzanne and Kristina Karitinou Ireland add extra postures to the standing sequence: after the four standing wide leg forward folds (Prasaritta Padottanasana) there’s a hip-flexor stretch (Anjaneyasana) and a splits-like pose (Ardha Hanumanasna). After that it’s back to a wide leg forward fold but this time, much, much wider. (Samakonasana .For some people this is box splits! For most of us, no!).

I asked Kristina about these additional postures. She said that the postures were given to Derek Ireland by Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, as he had a very stiff lower back. Today these extras are not found in Mysore but, Kristina said, ‘we practice them in Greece’. Tim Miller also adds these postures for advanced students. Carol Miller tells me: ‘Tim says he adds them because he enjoys doing them’.

Hallelujah! Enjoy what you do!

Retreat

Come on our magical yoga retreat, starting September 21st! I‘ve been visiting Kapsali Bay since 2004, first when I played violin with an amateur orchestra, and then on my own yoga retreats. Every year I discover more that I love about Kapsali. Kiros Tzannes told our first retreat yogis that Kapsali Bay is shaped like an ‘Om’ and has healing properties. It feels true when you look up to see the Ioannis chapel carved into the cliff, and the Chora Castle lit up at night, and the little church of Agios Geogios is on the tiny peninsular separating the two bays. The smaller, quieter bay is called Piso Gialos and is a harbour for local fishermen who return with their catch in the rising sun as we practice our Sun Salutations overlooking the bay.  It’s the perfect place for relaxing and recharging, reclaiming the person that you could be. Come with us!

Home Studio

Classes have gone from being packed to having availability. And have a look at the latest availability in my Home Studio classes on my website.

Training

It’s the big Decathlon opening weekend in Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre. I’ll be teaching tonight and tomorrow in the Sports HUB of the new Ealing Broadway Decathlon. The whole weekend is full of free classes. I’ll be teaching at: Friday 18:00 - 18:45 and Saturday 12:00 - 12:45. You can sign up here. You have to add ‘yoga’ as a filter and take the ‘radius’ down to zero.

Yoga in the News

The Huffington Post has:  Why Are You Still Doing Bikram Yoga? The sub heading is ‘While disgraced yoga guru Bikram Choudhury hides out in Mexico amid allegations of rape and harassment, women all over the world are still giving him their money.’ Mr Bikram decamped to Mexico after several lawsuits, an arrest warrant and rape allegations. His current teacher training is apparently between $12,500 and $16,600. ‘The cost of this recertification is between $750 and $1,200, and it must be repeated every three years.’ ‘Certified instructors are required to teach “The Dialogue,” a word-for-word replica of Choudhury teaching a class.’ (If you’re interested, there’s a 2016 HBO Documentary on him)

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Who Let The Gods Out?

Dear Yogis

There are a couple of sweet things from the book Ageless by Sharath Jois that I’ve been meaning to pass on to you. I like the little inspiring stories of yoga, the things that the gods get up to, the symbolism and stories.

Hanuman, the monkey god, is a great source of inspiration. He’s the one the splits pose is named after. Sharath writes how Hanuman mistook the sun for a giant mango. Easily done! He leapt from earth to seize the sun and ate it. However, the universe went dark and the gods were alerted. Only a thunderbolt from Lord Indra opened Hanuman’s mouth and the sun popped out. The gods took Hanuman’s powers away but left him with powers of strength, shape-shifting, speed, a gift of celibacy (!), a prodigious memory and the qualities of a true lover of God.

Another story of Hanuman from Sharath’s book: Hanuman had to go and get the herb Sanjivani from a Himalayan mountain to cure dying warrior Lakshmana. He leaped, as was his want, split legs and high energy over to the Himalayas. When he got there he couldn’t identify the herb so he brought the whole mountain back. He also stuck the morning sun under his arm and came back to cure the ailing Lakshmana. True devotion!

Senior Ashtanga teacher Tim Miller has adopted Hanuman as his personal god for devotional practice and strongly suggests we do to! He says ‘Hanuman represents bhakti (Divine Love), which has the power to annihilate the ego’.

Retreat

I’ve been asked if partners can come along on our magical yoga retreat even if they haven’t done any yoga! (It made me think of the time that I went on a diving holiday without knowing much about diving). They’ll learn plenty during the week, no problem at all! And if diving is something you’re interested in, the Kythera Dive Center is a hop, skip and a jump away. And if you’re more of a land person, there’s canyoning and hiking. Come with us on this, our fourth retreat in beautiful Kythera, starting September 21st.

Home Studio

We (I) had a wonderful time in yesterday’s Ashtanga class discovering different ways to do the ever-challenging Chaturanga. Should you have a 90 degree angle in the elbow? (David Swenson said that when he started yoga in the hippy times of the 70s, hippies would never worry about such a detail as the degree of bend in the elbow!) Should you dip the shoulders to take strain off the arms? (No!). What about Day Christensen’s method of keeping the head up and letting the belly touch the floor first? It makes for a useful class to explore all the different ways our own body might understand a posture better. If there’s something you’re working on, let me know. And have a look at the latest availability in my Home Studio classes  on this website.

Training

Tomorrow, Saturday 10th, Sainaa is back at Indaba, 1.30 – 4.30, with his Handstands workshop. I’ve done this a few times and it’s just brilliant. I haven’t booked that (yet) but I’ve booked Beryl Bender Birch in September (come with me!) and on the 29th of September Kino MacGregor’s The Spiritual Journey of Ashtanga (come with me!). I’ll go to that after the Ealing Half Marathon! (Support your local Marathon!)

Yoga in the News

Well! I couldn’t resist this! The Metro has: If Nigel Farage is doing yoga, he's doing it wrong. “Perhaps he’ll discover some of the techniques that open the heart chakra”, says the writer. “This is important because if the heart chakra is too weak, a lack of trust and sense of disconnection from other human beings is almost inevitable”.

The Guardian has: Boom in wellness at festivals as young people swap hedonism for yoga. “It comes as young people turn their backs on alcohol. Research, published in the journal BMC Public Health, found more than 25% of young people classed themselves as “non-drinkers.”

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Ageless by Sharath Jois

Dear Yogis

I’ve been reading Ageless by Sharath Jois, the man who is the ‘source’ of Ashtanga yoga! In his book he talks about food, daily routines, postural yoga and breathing practice. It’s not deep! If you’re looking for a quick read, this is quick.

I thought this was fun; he names some physical problems and the yoga postures ‘that cure them’. For backache he names a whole lot of postures from Ashtanga Primary Series. (It might be easier to just do the Primary Series!) For flatulence and indigestion he says “Pavanmuktasana almost immediately relieves discomfort from flatulence”. Not for nothing it’s called ‘wind relieving posture’.

Lotus pose ‘destroys not just disease in the body but great sins too’. Paschimattanasana (sitting with straight legs and touching your toes) is advised for backache, indigestion, headaches, painful periods and menopause, anxiety, high blood pressure, but not for hamstrings.  It’s the magic posture!

(If you want comprehensive advice about postures go to Dr Timothy McCall or Iyengar’s Light on Yoga)

I’ll take any opportunity to pass on this kind of advice: lack of sleep, he says, is known to cause cardiovascular diseases, compromised immune function, diabetes... ‘and without it we will descend into madness’. Fix the same time for going to bed every night.

Retreat

I’ve been asked about the timetable of our magical yoga retreat. It follows the shape of our previous retreats: Early morning Ashtanga with the rising sun; plenty of time for breakfast, holiday and rest; afternoon workshops with Valentina and evenings on the bay, sipping something cool and watching the sea. It’s idyllic...and, yes, all levels welcome.

One year brilliant teacher Lisa asked her workshop students to spend time thinking of three things they could change when they get home. A yoga retreat is a perfect time to reset, invest time in yourself, reflect, 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.  Come with usstarting September 21st. Write back if you have any questions.

Home Studio

Plenty of room next week. Fans are whirring at speed to keep you cool-ish! Have a look at the latest availability attached to this email or on my website.

Training

If you are thinking of introducing a regular yoga class in your workplace, I have a morning slot free. Let me know if this would be of interest. You can read about yoga in the workplace on my website.  

Yoga in the News

The New Yorker has: Yoga Reconsiders the Role of the Guru in the Age of #MeToo. An interesting article! ‘Devotion to the guru is meant to symbolize devotion to the teachings, not to the man. But in the Western context gurus become rock stars, and students compete to curry favor with them. This gives gurus significant influence over their students, which is sometimes misused.’

NBCNews has:  5 ways to avoid back pain during yoga class. What’s the answer? Engage the core!

 

From Staccato To Legato

Dear Yogis

I have been asked this week about techniques for Ashtanga Yoga. What might they be? Perhaps something to help make the practice flow more, make more sense, feel less clunky perhaps. I remember when my practice went from staccato to legato. Strength had something to do with it. Having greater lung capacity and breathing technique played a part. Once the body becomes more flexible, more stability comes, for example, in being able to step one foot all the way forward from Downward Facing Dog. If your foot can only step halfway down the mat, you’ll know all about yoga wobbliness! I wobbled for years!

Ultimately, you find a way to move that takes you into a meditative space where you’re really happy to be on the mat, knowing what you know and doing what you do.

All the senior teachers have their particular take on ‘technique’ but the teacher that changed my practice recently is Ty Landrum. I liked the way he wanted us to use the breath to produce a wave-like action through the spine. It’s a technique that helps move out of rigidity and into fluidity.  I teach his technique for twisting (Marichyasana C – wind forward to 8 minutes) in class.

You can try what various teachers suggest but ultimately you find a technique that makes sense to you and employ that.

Retreat

We will be looking at techniques and alignment, of course, on our magical yoga retreat. Valentina Candiani will teach the afternoon workshop sessions looking at the principles of the practice. There isn’t anyone better to explain to you what the body is doing, why, what yoga is asking of the body, and how to achieve that. She originally comes from a background of classical, jazz and contemporary dance. Contortionism gives her an understanding of the body that is rarely found in teachers. Come with us, starting September 21st. There are a few places left.

Home Studio

There are a few spaces left next week. It’s been mercifully cool this week. Next week I have a request for a hip-opener class during one of the Easy, Stretchy Yoga classes. Please always let me know if you have any requests. Have a look at the latest availability on the booking page of this website.

Training

Decathlon Ealing is opening in the shopping Centre and having a Grand Opening Weekend starting on Thursday 15th of August at 5 PM. Lots of teachers from lots of different disciplines will be teaching throughout the weekend, I’ll be teaching in the store’s Sports Hub on Friday 16th at 18:00 - 18:45 and Saturday 17th at 12:00 - 12:45. Here’s what available now, Ealing will be added.

Yoga in the News

The Telegraph has: The rise of upside down workouts - and why they're good for you. "And those “gravity boots” worn by Richard Gere in that unforgettable workout scene in American Gigolo back in 1980? Yep, those are still around – and top trainers swear by them."

The Evening Times has: ‘Glasgow man teaches yoga in housing estates’. Mick, a painter and decorator, even has a white van advertising 'affordable community yoga classes’ on the livery, with a step ladder on the roof for his day job. He says: “When I first started it there was a butcher, a taxi driver, a social worker - all different types of men. I could talk to them like guys on a building site.”

Tricycle has: ‘The Buddhist Roots of Hatha Yoga’. The author says that the historical lines between yogic and Buddhist traditions them are blurred. The author worries 'I also worried whether in mixing the two traditions I was not being enough of a purist in either'. Not many people will have the same concern but if you’re interested in Buddhism and yoga and their relationship, it's a brilliant read.

Let Yoga Happen Within You

Dear Yogis

Last weekend I took classes with Sharath Jois, the big cheese in the Ashtanga world and ‘the source of Ashtanga yoga’! There were 400 or more of us in the sports hall of the aircraft hanger-like Sobell Leisure Centre, N7. Everyone kept strictly to his count; no one moved until he called the next posture; hundreds of us held Chaturanga Dandasana (Lowered Plank) until he told us to move. Apparently he’s famous for holding suffering yogis in intense positions. It’s all good fun!

Sunday’s class was followed by a talk and questions. Senior teachers, I guess, have to get used to the idea that yogis want to hear their version of the yoga story and the yoga way of living. Sharath started his address by saying that without a philosophical / spiritual underpinning, physical yoga practice (asana) is just aerobics. Asana is the first step towards cultivating a changing perception, cultivating good qualities, so that ‘yoga can happen within you’. He used that phrase a few times.

Asana, he said, will change your body, your mind, your actions, your reactions. Too much asana brings negativity and it will be impossible to know what yoga is!

After that, questions inevitably came about asana! One guy asked about how to have a good yoga practice when the kids have kept him up all night. Sharath’s answer was that ‘the children are your practice’! Another asked about preparing for motherhood and what postures to practice. Sharath’s answer was to adopt a child. It’s important to help a child who doesn’t have parents. Love love love that answer!

Retreat

I can’t wait to be in Kapsali. Observing the full moon this week made me long to watch it make its way across the sky over the gentle waters of Kapsali bay while we listen to music in Banda Landra cafe.  When I do a Love and Gratitude meditation, bringing to mind examples of love and gratitude, I spirit myself over to exactly that spot and breathe it in. Come with us and experience the magic of Kapsali and our yoga retreat, starting September 21st. Write back if you have any questions.

Home Studio

Summer is heating up and two fans are whirring cooling air around the studio. It’s the time of year that I have to give a gentle reminder to shower before class! Sharath Jois has a book called Ageless in which he says: ‘Yoga is prayer. It’s much more than exercise. So, all yogis bathe before their practice’. You’re welcome to shower here if you’re coming straight from work.  Classes are booked out next week. Have a look at the latest availability over on the Studio Classes page of this website..

Training

Don’t forget Charlie Merton at Triyoga Ealing tonight.  In September, on 13th – 15th at Triyoga Soho, Beryl Bender Birch is over from America. Here’s a podcast with her talking about yoga back in the day, the Mad Men culture when women were used to being mistreated, her love of animals, and Yoga for veterans.

Yoga in the News

The New York Times has: Maty Ezraty, Who Spread Her Yoga Methods Globally, Dies at 55. “As she once said: “Keep in mind that when you practice yoga, you’re not practicing to improve yourself. You are perfect. The practice is there to help you know that.””

The Sunday Post says:  It's no joke: Laughter yoga is the best stress-buster, even if you're faking it.’ Just like all exercise, laughter yoga can help to reduce stress because it boosts endorphins and gets your heart rate up’.

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Ashtanga's Parampara system

Dear Yogis

This weekend I’m attending Led Primary Series practice with Sharath Jois. He is the member of the Jois family who inherited the Ashtanga Shala of Mysore (Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI)) and therefore its history and its list of authorised teachers. Some call him Sharathji and revere him as the lineage holder of Asthanga Yoga. His official website uses the word Paramaguru. This is because he follows Parampara – he is the follower of a lineage. (It is the Indian yoga institutions that honoured him with the Paramaguru status.)

The Parampara system is where knowledge is passed down from teacher to student... eternally. Sharath can look up through his immediate ancestors and see his mother, his uncle and grandfather as his immediate influencers. He took yoga seriously from 19-years-old when he started assisting his grandfather, Sri K Pattabhi Jois. Sharath’s mother is Saraswathi Rangaswamy, daughter of Pattabhi Jois. She learnt from her father from 10-years-old who, in turn, studied with his teacher, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (‘inventor of modern yoga’), from the age of 12 for almost three decades. Krishnamacharya’s teacher was a yoga master who lived in the Himalayas. Pretty cool, eh. It’s all about keeping a line of knowledge continuous, constant, uninterrupted.  

Here’s an interview with Sharath by Kino Macgregor about his book which came out this year.

Retreat

It feels like ages since we had a night-time moon in London and I long for my Kapsali moon over the bay, kept company my the star of Venus. It feels like heaven shines on Kapsali. I think it does!  Why don’t you come on our magical Kapsali Yoga retreat, September 21st? It’s now being advertised on Book Yoga Retreats to a worldwide audience. I’m excited to see who will join us. One of our excursions on the island will be to Sara’s herbal apothecary. Take a look at some of her inspiring remedies. She has creams for knee problems! I bought the Tendonitis Cream for my tricky knee which has an ingredient ‘Devil’s Claw’. She has anti-aging cream... I probably need more of that. It’s a beautiful shop and she gives us a talk on herbal remedies and answers our many and various questions.

Home Studio

I was badly delayed yesterday and had to cancel the evening Ashtanga-based class. I’ll replace it with a class tonight at 7.00. Let me know if you’d like to come. There are plenty of spaces in the classes next week. The latest availability is attached to this email.

Training

Charlie Merton will be at Triyoga Ealing on July 19th with her gongs of joy! I’ve booked the workshops taught by Beryl Bender Birch, September 13th – 15th at Triyoga Soho.

Yoga in the News

The Evening Standard has Where to find the best outdoor yoga classes in London this summer – always good to see at this time of year. The article features Peckham, The O2, St Pauls, Belgravia, and Canary Wharf.

BBC News has: St Edmundsbury Cathedral yoga experience 'boosts wellbeing'. "A man who was inspired to start fitness classes while homeless has set up a yoga session at a cathedral.” What an inspiration!

Hong Kong Tatler has: These Are The World's Most Expensive Yoga Mats. They start at US$15,000! Third on the list is Liforme and Burberry at £300. How uninspiring!

Wild Gyrating Not Necessary

Dear Yogis

Last night in my home studio, while yogis were in Savasana, it struck me how really rather advanced many of the postures we had just practiced were. I didn’t even know some of these postures existed before Teacher Training like Rotated Triangle Pose or Half Bound Lotus Standing Forward Bend or binding hands in Marichyasana C.

The nice thing about my teacher was that ego didn’t flourish in her classes. I was never made to feel inadequate or self-conscious about my countless limitations. I know that I wobbled and I must have looked ungainly but I just remember enjoying yoga classes. Her adjustments didn’t crazily push anyone into extreme shapes or cause injury. (My teacher was Valentina Candiani who is teaching the yoga retreat with me this September).

Difficult or complex postures just come along in their own good time. Lotus pose, for example, came via a simple technique and easy encouragement from Chicago yoga teacher Jim Bennitt in 2015. (I’ll show you in class if you like.) I was 48 and had no idea that Lotus would ever grace my practice. I’d never given it much of a thought.

One teacher decided to tell my legs/hips what’s what! My non-existent Lotus Pose needed his interesting technique: he squatted in front of me while I was minding my own business in cross-legged posture and hooked my hapless foot into the crease of his hip. He then proceeded to gyrate... I think! I don’t really know because I closed my eyes, terrified for my flailing leg. After circling wildly with my captured foot he tried to deftly slip it up into half lotus. Well... after that inevitable defeat I don’t think he attempted the other leg! Not easy if your gyrating isn’t appreciated, eh!

Postures will come along in their own good time. Wild gyrating not necessary!

Retreat

If you’re worried about the level of yoga on the retreat, really, you don’t need to be. All levels are welcome. If you are very experienced you’ll feel perfectly matched by the amount of yoga and the level. If you are relatively new to yoga, you can join the morning practice and do as much as you can. Your strength and endurance will increase day by day. The workshops will be both physical and philosophical. Everybody can do the Yin classes! Come with us on our magical Kapsali Yoga retreat, September 21st.

Home Studio

It’s good fun! Come and join us! You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is attached to this email.

Training

I notice that Charlie Merton is back at Triyoga Ealing on July 19th for an evening’s Silent Yin & Gong Workshop for £25. It’s such a nice practice! I’ve booked the workshops taught by Beryl Bender Birch, September 13th – 15th at Triyoga Soho. She’s the originator of ‘Power Yoga’!

Yoga in the News

The Independent has: The undocumented history of female yoga teachers in Britain. Articles like this don’t come along very often. It’s about two teachers: “Sunita and Kailash were more than simply yoga teachers – their lives exemplify how yoga provided new opportunities for personal empowerment and social influence, offering a new route to liberation for women.”