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.”

Shun Sun Salutations

Dear Yogis

Last weekend I did workshops with Carmen Aguilar. She’s wonderful to learn from. She likes her students to be ambitious. (She said: ‘if you go to the toilet 7 times, well, OK, but you’re not fooling anyone’.) Apart from that, I thought this was interesting: Carmen doesn’t believe in Sun Salutations. She doesn’t teach them because she doesn’t believe in repetitive movement patterns.

Isn’t this heresy? Saluting the sun is about your sun; greeting and honouring your sun rise, your divinity and your potential. You connect the mind to the breath, you move the spine, you stretch and strengthen, you increase the heart rate, you increase blood flow to the muscles and release endorphins, you find a rhythm to the rest of your practice, and, get this, kindle your inner fire and radiate your light, your best self! Could it be better?

Actually, yes! We try, in yoga class, to break habits and patterns yet we barely recognise our repetitive patterns and bad habits. We can bring very strong opinions about what we should look like and feel like. We bring our moods and character traits..., that could go either way! There are also the shoulder-shredding Chaturangas where shoulder-dipping and crunching might replace arm strength, and it looks painful.

Here’s what you can do in your Sun Salutations. First of all, reach up and touch your sun. Stretching upwards is such a natural thing to do to awaken the body. Second, fold forward with an exhalation and see how this release feels. Can you release? Can gravity help? Are you holding your breath? Are you allowing the body to release... is your body allowing you? Forward folding, introspective postures can decrease anxiety. Third posture is to look up, flatten the back, inflate the lungs and check your sun is still shining. Next, step back and lower in a kind of prostration (with arm strength, not shoulder dips). Then lift the heart up to Upward Facing Dog and feel your sun shining warmth on your face and radiating positivity. Then exhale and release to Downward Facing dog to feel the breath in the body.

Carmen’s favourite quote is by Joseph Campbell: “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature”. We’re all trying to do that in our own way.

Retreat

I have been asked if there is a direct flight to Kythera from London for our magical Kapsali Yoga retreat in September. Well... yes there is if you want a bit of extra holiday before the retreat. Aegean Airlines will take you on an overnight flight on Tuesday 17th September, arriving Wednesday 18th and leaving on the 28th. Otherwise, you need two carriers, one to get you to and from Athens and one for the return flight to the island (see attachment). I’ve taken the boat from Piraeus Port before and I don’t think it’s worth it. I’ve never driven through the Peloponnese but it’s on my list of things to do. However you choose to come, just come!

Home Studio

Classes are pretty booked up next week! Crickey! You can see class availability on this website (which I update often).

Yoga in the News

The Metro has: Ex-rugby star says 'breathwork' changed his life – and it's easy to try. “Breathing properly can positively benefit your mind and body in a number of ways, from increasing or lowering your energy, managing emotional, physical and mental stress as well as increasing performance at work or at a sport”

The Guardian is providing yoga counselling with this “Fit in my 40s: how can I do Insta-friendly yoga poses?” The writer wants to do Crow Pose.

Last week, BBC News had Yoga Day: Thousands of Indians celebrate the day. Hilarious picture of PM Modi who is, I assume, surrounded by security detail!

Celebrate International Yoga Day

Dear Yogis

It’s International Yoga Day today. It began in a speech PM Modi made to the UN in 2014 when he called for an International Yoga Day and said of yoga: ‘It should bring a change in our lifestyle and create awareness in us and it can help in fighting against climate change’.  The UN approved it and the first IYD was in 2015.

Here’s my suggestion of a way to celebrate the day. Not everyone has time to get to class and not everyone who reads this email practices yoga. Take a couple of minutes to contemplate the breath and make your inhalations and exhalations a little longer and deeper. That’s it!

Here’s what my teacher, David Swenson, says of the breath and here’s why a five-minute-focus is appropriate for IYD. He says: “We breathe in the same language. It connects us. It connects us to the past, present and future. We're all breathing the same air. The air isn't British or European or any other nationality. The simple act of breathing is a spiritual act. Many languages have the same word for spirit and breath. If we grab hold of the breath it has an immediate tangible effect on the mind and calms us down. It even interacts with plants. We exhale and they take it on and give us oxygen.”

Watch your breath connect you to yourself, to others, to other countries, nationalities, belief systems, and to the planet. Cool, eh!

Retreat

Valentina and I have devised a timetable for our magical Kapsali Yoga retreat in September. I will teach the sunrise Ashtanga class looking out onto the morning glory of Kapsali Bay. Buffet breakfast next. Holiday time next and lounging around down on the bay.

The afternoon workshops with Valentina will start with a ‘warm up’ and work on technique and alignment. She will also focus of memorising the Ashtanga sequence. Of course, there is plenty of information and detail for Mysore and non-Mysore practitioners.

Then the daily themes Valentina will explore are: 1. The background of yoga / Breathing, Meditation and visualisation. 2. Principles of Vinyasa / Practice with inner alignment, breath and bandhas. 3. Acro Yoga and Arm Balancing / Fun yoga!. 4. Transitions.

We will also have Candle-lit yin sessions under our starry Greek sky. Come with us!

Home Studio

Classes are totally booked up next week! Crickey! You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). It gets pretty booked up so you might have to book in the following week.

Training

Yoga West is offering two free International Yoga Day classes at the top of Acton Park near to the kids playground. You have to look out for the Yoga West flag. Bring your own mat: 13:15 Vinyasa Flow with Csilla and 16:45 Pilates with Yasmine. And there’s more free yoga in London today if you google.

In our community

We have yogis who are ’dedicated coffeeholics’ with a 2kg roaster in their micro coffee lab in a converted studio. If you would like freshly roasted coffee write to Gosia and Bartosz: hello@106coffee.com or sign up for their newsletter.

A brilliant yogi who practices in my lucky studio is offering Jing Thai massage, an energy-based treatment. A testimony: ‘You know Mariusz, the biggest benefit of your massage is that you put my body together. Before your massage, my body felt all over the place. Now, it’s all in one place, perfectly realigned and balanced.’ Contact him at mpm108@yahoo.com

Yoga in the News

Quartz has: In photos: How Indians are marking International Yoga Day 2019 (They are 5 ½ hours ahead of us).

Time Out has the slightly silly It's official – London is the yoga capital of the world. ‘The craze shows no sign of entering savasana: data from the report shows more than 6,000 yoga events were held across the UK last year – that’s nearly triple compared to 2016, which saw just over 2,000.’

This is interesting. Greatest has: Should You Avoid Yoga Inversions During Your Period? The article asks: ‘is there any legitimate medical risk involved in doing certain poses during your period? Or is it as outdated an idea as female hysteria?’ and adds ‘It’s important to recognize that this prioritization isn’t rooted in biological function, but in philosophy’.

A Posture Is A Friend

Dear Yogis

This is something that comes up in conversation from time to time: in Ashtanga Mysore practice, it’s common for the teacher to ‘give’ you postures, ‘allow’ you to progress to the next posture and then slowly and surely through the 50 asanas of the Primary Series and onwards. You might think you can do more but a teacher says ‘that’s enough’! A teacher takes care to judge your readiness for more postures at exactly the right time. If a student is frustrated, it might be because this original method hasn’t been explained or that other Mysore teachers don’t follow this method and so confusion reigns.

Manju Jois says he won’t ever stop someone from practicing postures they can’t fully achieve. David Swenson was taught the original way but now says there are modified postures you can do till the full posture allows you in. Kristina Karitinou Ireland said Derek Ireland didn’t stop anyone because, for example, they can’t bind in ‘body-knotting’ Marichyasana D. Derek said this is the way Krishnamacharya, inventor of modern yoga, taught. 

Back in May of this year, Kristina spoke about ‘Why we stop’ in a seminar in Kythera. She asked: ‘What are the criteria of stopping and what are the criteria for moving on to the next posture?’ Answer; it's familiarity, making friends with the posture.

She said: there will always be a stop in Navasana, Boat Pose, because it is a ‘strength state’ and you need to build it up. You also stop here to learn the sequence thus far. The next stop is Kormasana, Tortoise Pose, because it is an ‘emotional state’. Here is where you start to get familiar with the emotions. The third stop is at the end of the sequence, before moving to the Second Series, because you need to build up the flow. Then, in the Second Series, you stop at Kapotasana, an extreme backbend. More emotions! Another stop is Leg Behind Head. (I would add ‘obviously!’). These stopping points are ‘gates’. Somewhere there is a gate for us to have to go through.

“A posture is a friend which is teaching us things and helping unblock the system. We need to establish familiarity with a posture and make friends with it. Embrace it and have gratitude. Then you are ready to move on to the next posture”.

Retreat

I’m attaching some pictures I found online of the May 2019 yoga retreats at Porto Delfino with Kristina and also Marceau Baptiste to try to entice you to join our September Kapsali Yoga Retreat. I’m also attaching suggested flights. The Early Bird price is finished but get in touch this weekend if you want to come and I’ll extend it for you.

Home Studio

Interesting situation on Tuesday... One of our number had been ordered by her physio not to stretch! She did ‘Restorative’ Yoga while others stretched and bent and twisted. Restorative yoga has postures that last, perhaps, 10 minutes. In an hour’s class you might to four postures plus Shavasana. If you fancy a go, let me know. You can see class availability on t his website (which I update often). It gets pretty booked up so you might have to book in the following week.

Training

I’m teaching Valentina’s class at Fulham Pools on Sunday at 11.00-12.15. Don’t forget Tracy Elner and Dr Jacques Anthony Soyer’s ‘Breath & Stillness: ancient knowledge meets modern medicine’, at Triyoga Soho tomorrow.

International Yoga Day

Healthy Wealthy is celebrating International Yoga Day on Saturday 22nd June. They have a day of workshops and classes. The 6.00 includes an Indian vegan breakfast. The second session is an Ayurveda Workshop at 10.00. At 11.00 is a Sun Salutations Marathon followed by a fresh vegan lunch. The day finishes at 14.00.

Yoga in the News

Can Love for Yoga Be Learned? I really hate yoga...but it's too healthy not to do. This is hilarious: ‘I’m glad I stuck with trying different types of yoga classes over the years. Now that I’ve found ones that were enjoyable, I liken it to how going on bad dates didn’t make me give up on men; I just had to keep trying until I found the one that clicked for me.’

This looks really good! Midhurst and Petworth Observer has 'Largest yoga gathering planned in the South Downs for International yoga Day. (1 hour 20 from London!). Their event is on Friday June 21, which is also the summer solstice. Free events include morning of classes, a talk and demonstrations, and refreshments served by Cowdray Farm Shop and Café.

Suggested Travel To Kythera

Suggested London - Athens Flights 2019.png

Flights to Athens (ATH) and then a short flight from Athens with Sky Express or Olympic Air to Kithira (KIT).

Cost is very reasonable for the Athens to Kithira Leg.

https://www.skyexpress.gr – Flights all days except Wednesdays, or www.olympicair.com

POSSIBLE ITINERARY

Outbound ATH – KIT Date: 21 September 2019

From London Heathrow 06:55, Arrives Athens 12:40

ATH to KIT Sky Express Dep:15:00 Arr: 15:50

Inbound KIT – ATH Date: 28 September 2019

KIT to: ATH Sky Express Dep: 16:10 Arr: 17:00 (Olympic dep 14.50 and is cheaper)

From: Athens 19:55 to London Heathrow 21:45

Functional Training And Yoga

Dear Yogis

Here are some notes from my latest weekend with Sarah Ramsden (Yoga for Athletes) that I thought were really simple and effective and apply to all of us. We were discussing ‘functionality’ and ‘functional training’. It’s about regaining movement needed to function in everyday life and is from the work of physical therapists who work in injury rehabilitation.

It has wider, more general application. Sarah says: to move functionally we need strength, good alignment, flexibility, and normal range of movement (which is normal joint range). Normal joint range, ROM, is measureable. Many footballers move way beyond their normal joint range. They need enough flexibility to cope with and recover from the massive power needed to kick the ball in an unstable joint range.  Sarah said in another workshop: “The miracle of ballet is that it is able to distort the body so much”... and recover. Guess what, we also distort the body if we sit in an office for 8 hours a day or do any repetitive movement that becomes a habit in the body.

Sarah pops into this monologue “the stronger you are the better you age”. Strength matters. Stability matters. A good range of motion matters. Take any one of these away your ability to move functionally falls apart. They play together all the time. The question is, for all of us, can you maintain or return to optional movement and optimal stability or do you slide into permanently dysfunctional habits? Habits become posture and become a guiding principle for soft tissue. Then it becomes a way of being. Dysfunctional patterns dissipate energy.

Yoga can reverse it or stop it getting worse. Do yoga!

Retreat

The Kapsali Yoga Retreat 2019 timetable will follow the pattern set in previous years of an early Ashtanga practice under the rising morning sun which finishes in time for the buffet breakfast on Porto Delfino’s beautiful restaurant balcony overlooking the most glorious view.  Then holiday and R&R time before resuming our practice at 4.00 with a workshop led, this year, by my teacher Valentina Candiani. Our timetable will also include our candle-lit Yin practice under a star-filled night sky, too magical to resist, at the beginning and end of our week.  The Early Bird price is finished but get in touch this week if you want to come and I’ll extend it for you.

Home Studio

The addition of Thursday’s 6.00pm Ashtanga class is going well so I have added it till the end of the month. Plenty of newcomers in search of a small, tailored class are discovering my lucky studio so please book in advance to secure a place. You can see class availability on my website (which I update often).

Training

Tracy Elner and Dr Jacques Anthony Soyer do the most fabulous workshop, ‘Breath & Stillness: ancient knowledge meets modern medicine’, at Triyoga Soho on Sat 15th June. I can’t recommend it highly enough. On Friday 21st June at 2:00- 5:00 I’m going to Carmen Aguilar at Indaba for inversions, arm balances and transitions. Come with me!

Treatments

A brilliant yogi who practices in my lucky studio would like me to tell you that he is offering Jing Thai massage treatments. This massage technique is energy-based and uses combinations of powerful stretches, similar to assisted yoga, and various palming/thumbing techniques following ’Sen’ energy lines. Contact him for more information at mpm108@yahoo.com

Yoga in the News

The Telegraph has:  Spinning and yoga classes should be introduced by employers during lunchtime, NICE says. This is their latest attempt “to reduce the amount of sick leave people take due to stress, depression or anxiety. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that more than 131 million working days were lost to sickness in 2017, including 13 million working days lost to mental ill-health”. (In my experience, the best companies provide yoga in the workplace!)

Deep Listening - Thich Nhat Hanh

Dear Yogis

I have a lovely life as a yoga teacher but it isn’t problem free or conflict free. Just when I need it most, this talk between Thich Nhat Hanh and Oprah Winfrey about ‘deep listening’ pops up. It’s a sweet listen and gives a clue about a way forward. (Wind forward to 10.40 if you don’t have time for the full talk). He says: ‘Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of the other person’. You can help them to empty their heart and suffer less. If that person says things full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness you can still listen and give them a chance to suffer less, and then you can correct their perception another time. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing. (He doesn’t mention the enormous strength of character you need to do this!)

He says we should be able to say this: “I know that you suffer a lot. I have not understood enough of your difficulties and suffering. It’s not our intention to make you suffer more. It is opposite. So please tell us about your suffering, your difficulties. I’m eager to learn, to understand”. It has to start like that; loving speech. And if you are honest, if you are true, they will open their heart. During the process of deep listening we can learn so much about our own perception and their perceptions.

“Anger is the energy which people use in order to act but when you are angry, you are not lucid and you might do wrong things. That is why compassion is a better energy. And the energy of compassion is very strong”.

It’s a beautiful, helpful listen.

Retreat

My early bird price finishes this weekend so get in touch if you want to come on our fantastic Kapsali Yoga Retreat 2019. Take a look at the Porto Delfino Trip Advisor reviews here – the home of our retreat. Lucy Crawford, who held a retreat in Porto Delfino recently, says Kythera is 'a little known refuge from life in the fast lane' and has booked Porto Delfino again for a retreat in May 2020. I’ve been visiting Kapsali since 2004 and I know how she feels – you just leave a little bit of your heart there and need to return.

Home Studio

You can see class availability on my website (which I update often).

Training

This weekend I’m going to another inversions workshop. It’s at Yoga West, tomorrow at 1.15-3.15 with Christian Coelho. He was a teacher there a while ago, left for Brazil to open a studio there, and is now back, to the delight of his fans. Later this month I’ve booked another inversions, arm balances and transitions workshop with Carmen Aguilar at Indaba Yoga Studio, Friday 21st June at 2:00- 5:00.  Tracy Elner and Dr Jacques Anthony Soyer will be back at Triyoga Soho on Sat 15th June with their workshop: ‘Breath & Stillness: ancient knowledge meets modern medicine’. I went to a previous incarnation of this workshop in January and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here’s their blog on the subject. Come with me!

Yoga in the news

Countryliving.com asks ‘What is dog yoga? We went to a dog yoga class to see what it's all about’. ‘The yoga aspect comes from the fact that a mat is used; the dogs are encouraged to learn movements and stretches that can relax them; and the owner can enjoy a session of mindfulness with their pet.’

Meanwhile, over in Iran, ‘Iran police arrest 30 at private yoga class’ says the BBC News. ‘Those taking part were wearing "inappropriate outfits" and had "behaved inappropriately"... ‘The Islamic establishment in Iran does not allow any mixed-gender sports activities’ and ‘Professional-level yoga teaching is also banned in the country’. But yoga has become increasingly popular in Iran, says the Independent.

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Stretch Your Muscles And Your Personality

Dear Yogis

Did you know that muscles have a ‘stretch response’? They are suspicious of stretching which is the body's way of guarding against injury. Specialised cells send panicking neural signals screaming to the spine. The spine sends back an immediate message to protect and contract. No need to consult the brain!

We have to override this automatic response with a shift to the parasympathetic nervous system to relax the body. This is why we focus on the breath so constantly in yoga class. Calming music, a warmth room, soft lighting, incense and candles... muscles are a sucker for all that stuff!

There are other mindboggling factors at play. Connective tissue responds to how you are feeling; happy, sad, aggressive, positive, negative, and so on. Also, your muscles might not like the yoga teacher if they are aloof or critical. Muscles like a teacher who is complimentary, warm and encouraging! Just like a child!

That’s not all, the connective tissue also responds to all your experiences to date! It’s not just how you feel on the day but everything that makes the person you are... aggressive or kind, complaining or accepting, morose or sunny. If you are aggressive, fast and without love, you are more likely to micro-tear and add injury. Interesting, eh! Our moods and gestures become habits, habits become structure.

Retreat

The end of the early bird offer for the retreat (1st June); more and more people are showing an interest in coming. Last year a few people were concerned about their dietary needs. This year, Porto Delfino, the home of our retreat, has a new chef, Georgos, who will cater vegetarian, vegan, gluten free. Of course, there are the tavernas which all have vegetarian and some vegan. You’ll be well looked after! Have a look at the photo gallery of all the retreats.

Home Studio

Classes really filled up last week... then emptied out! Please make sure you give 24 hours notice to move a class and please let me know as soon as you can if you can’t come – email or text. You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is actually not too  much because it’s bank holiday Monday. I’v added at 6.00pm class on Thursday.

Training

New Yoga Studio Opening! All day tomorrow is the Grand Opening of Healthy Wealthy, 3 Brecknock Road, N7 OBL. There’s an evening Guided Meditation followed by Kirtan and a meal from the Healthy Wealthy Vegan Restaurant. You have to book.

Tomorrow afternoon, 2.30-4.30, I’m going to Sangye (used to be the Jivamukti Centre) for an inversions workshop with Doug Whittaker. We will ‘explore preparatory sequences as well as modifications on how to safely, and mindfully, approach inversions’.

I’m teaching at Virgin Active Chelsea tomorrow, 25th, at 10.30-11.30 and at Virgin Active Fulham Pools on Sunday, 26th, at 11.00-12.15. Also, I’m covering Alain’s 90 minute Ashtanga Primary Series class at Eden this Wednesdays at 2.00 for the last time.

I’ve been asked what would be a good yoga present to give a friend. Anything involving Charlie Merton and her delicious Gong Bath would be a lovely present. She holds Gong Baths at The Gerkin! What about a yoga weekend like Soul Circus or Wanderlust 108? Others here, including Gwyneth Paltrow’s £1,000 one-day event! Here’s what I did last weekend, present for myself! Yuuga Kemistri two-hour vegan cooking lesson! It’s in a community centre so this is not birthday present territory but I would do it again in a heartbeat. Another great present... Our Magical Kythera Yoga Retreat!

Yoga in the news

The Metro has: How learning laughter yoga changed my life. ‘Simulated laughter can be just as good for your wellbeing as the real thing...The mind will take cues from the body and it triggers the brain to think it’s happier, creating more deep breathing and the release of happy chemicals (endorphins) in the brain’

Healthy Wealthy Launch 25 May 2019.jpg

Good Times Yoga Reference Points

Dear Yogis

Last weekend I was in Kapsali, Kythera, the place of my heart, on a weekend retreat with Kristina Karitinou Ireland. I took part in her Kythera weekend retreat last year too. PLEASE come with me next year! It’s a lovely weekend of Led and Mysore classes finishing up with a talk which is followed by Zazen Meditation.

Kristina talked about the ‘reference points’ we create while we practice yoga. During our practice, the body is supposed to feel happiness. Every moment is supposed to feel beneficial, even when we come to a difficult posture. As we practice, we create, mark and build those feel-good reference points. They give us strength. Kristina said that: “When it feels good I take that feeling into my home, into my day... I take it with me. It’s like receiving a beautiful kiss..., it's a reference point”.

Reference points are not just from yoga practice: we also get good feelings with friends, with nature, with nutrition, with the arts. It is our nature to want to feel good and to repeat whatever activity gives us happiness, energy and strength. “Hopefully these reference points are going to help us to get us through difficult situations, like Odysseus going through the Sirens, getting us through in the best possible way”.

I quite like this view of yoga’s benefits!

Retreat

Come with me in September! Practice yoga in The Land of The Gods. Collect memories and lay down reference points that will sustain you through challenging times. Porto Delfino, the home of our retreat, is becoming an exciting place for Ashtanga yoga. Already this year the hotel has hosted retreats by Baptiste Marceau, (student of David Williams, Danny Paradise, and Sri K Pattabhi Jois) Kristina Karitinou-Ireland, (qualified as an Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga teacher by her late husband Derek Ireland and authorized by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois) and, this very weekend, Lucy Crawford, (started practicing yoga in 1992 with Derek Ireland and Radha Warrell in London)... Then it’s us in September! We’re part of this extraordinary list. If the planets align and the timing is right, Kristina will be our guest teacher this year.

Home Studio

This is what I’ve been playing in class recently which gets a lot of reaction: Indian Flute Meditation Music. Also this, which might make you vibrate...: Tibetan Singing Bowls. There aren’t too many spaces left next week – you might have to book for the following week! You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is attached to this email.

Training

Tonight (19:45 - 21:45) I’m going to Charlie Merton’s Yin Yoga and Gong Workshop at Triyoga Ealing with yoga chums! Charlie promises to shift our Spring into Summer; to transport us from the season relating to the liver to the season relating to the heart. This sounds promising! There will be a one-hour soundscape using 4 gongs and Tibetan Singing Bowls Come with me!

The Cocoon Academy wrote to me to ask me to tell you about their free 60 minute guided meditation sessions.  I am very happy to pass this on. Their next offering is on Saturday May 25th at 10:00 - 11:00am at On Route in South Ealing. Everyone is welcome. Free!

Yoga in the news

This is a lovely BBC TV News piece: Pilates inventor honoured with giant class at Manx WW1 internment camp. Joseph Pilates was detained at the Knockaloe camp on the Isle of Man. During his three and a half years internment he refined his system of exercise. ‘During his time in the camp it is believed the young Pilates worked in the camp's hospitals and was highly respected. He spent his time developing a comprehensive system of physical exercise which he called "Contrology".’

The Hindu tells us that Mysuru gearing up for another world record in yoga. It’s to celebrate International Yoga Day on June 21st with the largest yoga demonstration or lesson at a single venue.

Undo Habitual Actions

Dear Yogis

I’m studying Yoga for athletes again this weekend with Sarah Ramsden and on our reading list is Sarah Keys’ book ‘Body in Action’. It’s good to get back to the muscle and bone of yoga before I disappear too far into the myth of Shiva and Shakti; the melding of pure consciousness and infinite creativity which inspires a Luna quality in our yoga practice of the openness and compassion that Shiva represents... (stops for breath!) Ty Landrum’s storytelling from last week was powerful!

Back on dry land, Sarah Key’s says: “The superiority of yoga is that it undoes our complex and often-used patterns of movement. None of the postures reinforces habitual actions and all of them reclaim forgotten territory.

“Yoga does take time and effort. Sometimes it is agony just to hold a stretch for a matter of seconds. But this is what it is all about. The harder you find the stretch, the more you need it. In time, all your soft tissues will loosen—even blood vessels and nerves—as the body is reintroduced to its extremes. Elasticity is restored and so is streamlined, smooth-gliding function. The stretches pull the tissues and create a much more vigorous blood supply. Blood rushes to mop up after the unexpected demands on flexibility and the circulation through the tissues changes from torpor to a flush. The skeleton is cleansed and rejuvenated.

“That leads me to the final plus of the gentle art of yoga: the staggeringly rich variety in the choice of stretches. You can start off with the most modest, disarmingly gentle stuff, where you really find it hard to believe anything is happening at all, and eventually progress to the nigh impossible”.

Phew!

RETREAT

My retreat poster looks pretty good, I think, on workplace notice boards. I’d be grateful if you could pin it up if you have such a board. Here it is on my Downloads page.

Here’s a very sweet island review: Little Secret worth sharing in Greek Island of Kythera.

“You can still see donkeys and old ladies in black with headscarves. Religious festivals are held in caves and they make their own wine, ouzo and olive oil”. “This archaeological treasure island is the site of the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered, described as “the Titanic of the ancient world”. “A tiny sister island off Kythera, known as Antikythera, is where the Antikythera mechanism – an ancient computing device described as the world’s first computer – was discovered”.

Details of the retreat are on my website. I’ll be there next weekend for the Ashtanga Yoga workshop with Kristina Karitinou Ireland. It’s not too late to buy flights and come with me. The Seminar will be held at our Kytheran home, Porto Delfino! (I’m going on Easyjet and Olympic.)

Home Studio

I cancelled yesterday’s evening Ashtanga class because of the fear of an oncoming cold which I thing I’ve battered back into the ground with copious amounts of Sri Lankan Samahan! (Please don’t come to class with a cold!) I’ve added a 6.00 Ashtanga class next Thursday to make up for it as next week’s classes are fairly full. I;m not here on Monday 13th so, if it’s popular, I’ll do the same the following week. You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is attached to this email.

Yoga in the News

NDTV has: From Diabetes To Thyroid, This Yoga Asana Has Numerous Health Benefits. Here are some they say will make you fall in love with the Shoulder Stand, Sarvangasana. ( "Sarvanga" means "all body parts") : improves digestion; prevents constipation; cures sexual disorders; helps have restful sleep at night and get rid of dark circles.  

This is an interesting article from Egyptian Streets:  ‘What Is So Significant About Mohamed Salah's Yoga Poses?’ “I am a yoga man!” said Salah. The paper compares yoga poses and movements of Muslim Prayer. Both systems have postures to take focus inwards, activate the heart, and find a ‘spiritual connection with the universe’.

Shiva, Shakti, And Their Blistering Love Affair

Dear Yogis
Last weekend I did workshops with the visiting rock star yoga teacher Ty Landrum, currently on his European Tour! Please, please come with me next time he’s in town! He’s a philosopher yogi and his approach to yoga practice demonstrates this. He emphasises that yoga practice is about the exchange of your Prana and Apana– forces of creation and dissolution and the constant effort to align the two. These forces, he tells us, also represent Shakti and Shiva and their blistering love affair, no less, which reminds us of how difficult it can be to align our opposite energies. Despite their blisteringness, they made love for 25 years, probably an alignment record. Ty finished the weekend with the tale of the lovers to demonstrate their significance to yoga practice. Have a listen. Ty is incredibly entertaining. You can read more here if you fancy a long, detailed read!

Anyway! Our yogic breathing is where all this action of opposite energies resides: Prana is inhalation with an upward and outward action and is mentally uplifting and awakening; Apana is the dissolving force and pushes things out of the body such as the exhalation. When the two are in balance in our yoga practice “it allows our thoughts to open, unfold and dissolve”. This is the point, eh! Not grasping and attaching to thoughts.

We also had plenty of physical instruction. It’s so good to hear that it’s not just about bones and joints and muscles but, physically, he gave us techniques to move in an undulating way through Sun Salutations and in the postures we hold. Check it out, it’s beautiful. We did a lot of undulating movement of the spine. It frees the practice from rigidly holding postures.

Retreat.

One of the things we’ll be doing this year on our Kythera Yoga Retreat is a trip to Potomos Market in the middle of the island. This is where people come to sell their hand-made jewellery, their produce, their honey and ouzo, biscuits and sweetmeats, and the phenomenal the traditional liqueur of Kythira, Faturada, made with the local tsipouro, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and mandarin peel. Potomos is the largest village of the island and the square is a bustle of activity where people meet, barter, banter and drink coffee. I can’t wait to take you there.

I just bought tickets to go to Kythera in two weeks’ time and here’s what I spent. It might inspire you to come in September (September 21st – 28th) knowing that there is a non-British Airways/ cheaper option of getting there: Gatwick-Athens-Gatwick on Easyjet is £128.34 and Athens-Kythera-Athens on Olympic is € 110.60 (£95.50). Total £223.84. (PS. Sky Express is the other carrier to the island.)

Home Studio

This is what I’ve been playing in class recently which gets a lot of reaction: Indian Flute Meditation Music. Also this, which might make you vibrate...: Tibetan Singing Bowls. There’s plenty of space next week – for now! You can see class availability on my website (which I update often).

Training

Well, Please consider coming with me for this! I’ve booked flights to do a weekend retreat with Kristina Karitinou Ireland in Kythera. I was there last year; she’s very inspiring. In an old interview, Kristina talked about the similarities between the Indian and Greek attitudes towards their ancestors. Kristina says that the civilisations of Greece and India are spiritually connected and both are recognised as having given us the foundations of philosophical thinking. She says: “The Socratic inquisitive way of approaching discourse and the mental freedom he offers to human existence match uniquely the legacy of practice Patanjali has bequeathed us”. Yoga has a natural home in Greece!  You’re thoroughly welcome to come with me!

Yoga in the news

The Guardian has: Will I find mental stillness while doing these fiendish yoga poses? The article tells us: ‘Everyone wants to try primal yoga – a blend of tai chi, martial arts and vinyasa yoga – because it sounds so macho.’ ‘Positions are more awkward than a classic routine' and 'a lot of stances don’t reveal how hard they are until you’ve been in them for 30 seconds'.

The New York Times gives us: Five Lies Our Culture Tells. Here they are: Career success is fulfilling, I can make myself happy, Life is an individual journey, You have to find your own truth, and Rich and successful people are worth more than poorer and less successful people.  Interesting read!

Pop Sugar gives us: Yes, You Can Recycle or Repurpose a Yoga Mat — Here's How to Do It

(At the Yoga Show last year people were asked to donate old yoga mats to a homeless organisation to give to a homeless person so that it can be used to sleep on under their sleeping bags.)

Alpha, Beta, Theta & Delta Mind Frequencies

Dear Yogis

Happy Good Friday! The full moon is super close to earth as I start writing this late at night, reflecting the sun and throwing it onto our night-time. Full Moon Days are often observed by yogis in the form of not practicing physical yoga. Many teachers give a very muted class. Ashtangis, traditionally, don’t practice at all – a good idea if they have a daily 90 minute practice as many do. Some people don’t have the energy to practice. I do... so far!

Yoga is all about stilling the fluctuations of the mind and the mind can be restless during full moon. Why is that? Well, we have mind waves or mind frequencies which are measurable, and they respond to external frequencies and influences such as the extra gravitational pull of a full moon. Commonly referred to brain waves are: Alpha, which has the frequency of around 7 to 13 pulses per second and describes a state of relaxation. Beta describes 13 to 60 pulses per second which is agitation. Theta is 4 to 7 pulses which is reduced consciousness.Delta... you've passed out at between 0.1 and 4 cycles per second. As with other body systems, out-of-balance brainwaves might give mental and emotional disorders.

How can you detect your vibrational frequencies? Here are some suggestions from a meditation book I’ve mentioned before called ‘Inner Listening’: In meditation, see if you can hear an inner sound, a shimmering, ‘high-pitched inner ringing tone’ like a white noise. A yogi ‘might feel it in the body as a delicate, pervasive vibratory quality, a humming resonance, a tingling in the hands or a subtle, energetic presence, a continuous vital current through the body.’ (I get the hands thing).

Sharman and yoga teacher Danny Paradise says: “Brain wave function slows down with the rhythm (of music) moving the brain from Beta to Alpha states and sometimes into deeper trance states of Theta and Delta. This happens as well with breath in the practices of asana and pranayama or even just walking in nature. As brain wave function slows, perception, insight, intuition and ways of seeing can deepen” (He’s teaching in this country, in Oxford, in July.)

Take it easy and enjoy the beautiful moon. The April moon is called a Pink Moon because of the pink blossom at this time of year. In India, the birth of Hanuman is celebrated by his devotees. The splits posture is named after him.

RETREAT

A bright, gorgeous moon makes me think of the moon over Kythera bay. I have strong memories of watching the silvery moon throwing its sparkle on the sea from Banda Landra cafe. Sometimes I go there during meditation and breathe in the night time Kapsali bay feeling.  Come and drink in some of this magic with me. Details of the retreat are on my websiteValentina Candiani is the second teacher this year. There may be a third! Flights can be made cheaper if you take a budget airline from London to Athens and the cost of parking at Luton or Stansted are surprisingly affordable.

Home Studio

No classes on Monday. It’s Bank Holiday! Have a break! The classes on Tuesday are all booked up so I put on an extra class on Thursday at 6.00. We can make it an easy class to make up for the lack of a class on Monday! You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is attached to this email.

Yoga in the News

If you’ve ever been to any of the Triyoga studios, particularly our Ealing one, The Independent had an interview with the founder and owner. A View from the Top: Jonathan Sattin, founder of Triyoga, on reinventing his life and career through yoga. It came out in February. He says: “I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day and a drink about 14 cups of coffee with two sugars each. Within three months of practising I quit all of that.” Yoga “Encouraged me to do better.”

The Telegraph says: Professional footballers are turning to yoga – here's why. “Shaking off its new-age connotations, yoga has truly hit the mainstream, and footballers are climbing fully on board. From the Premier League to Non-League, yoga is helping footballers with strength and conditioning, flexibility, recovery and mindfulness. Whether compulsory or through their own volition, yoga is firmly in”.

BBC News tells us that: Yoga 'eases my Irritable Bowel Syndrome'. It’s quite a good little piece! Have a watch.

Moonlight in Kapsali.jpg

Covered in Koshas

Dear Yogis

I was back at Amaravati Monastery for a weekend retreat last Friday... a silent retreat! It’s really striking that 53 people come together without introduction, names, accent, or status but purely with the equality of being on the same venture. No one says: "I'm a doctor" and no one replies: “I'm a lawyer... teacher, accountant, carer”. And then the dynamic that you might find in a group where similar people get together doesn't happen. The judging that oils the wheels of society doesn’t take place. Lack of a pronounced self-definition makes for a gentler and perhaps truer connection.

This made me reflect on what is called, in yoga philosophy, the Koshas. This is theory that there is an essential self buried under layers and layers of identity, ego and the word ‘I’. Identification with these layers gives a false experience of who we really are. There are five koshas. The first of the layers is the Food’ Kosha - the name for the physical self. If we identify to closely with this ever-changing, ever-ageing self then loss of looks, change of weight or declining health can be devastating. We strongly identify with body image and vigorously resist change to this altering thing.

The next one is the Prana Kosha which refers to the energy body. This might be the Yogi’s favourite one: identifying with the promise of vital energy, with moving ‘stuck’ energy, connecting to the energy of others, the energy in nature and purifying oneself through the practice of Pranayama. Big attachment!

The Mind Kosha is the next one. It’s easy to over-identify with this one. We are all the time caught up in thoughts and we identify strongly with our opinions and memories. “That means believing that the contents of your mind—your thoughts and feelings—tell you about who you really are, about the nature of your self. This is a critical error.”

The next two seem to hint that we’re closer to a truer self; the Wisdom Kosha and the Bliss Kosha. The first is your intuitive self, consciousness beyond thought, where Buddhi nature arises. The second is the Bliss Kosha where the mind chatter stops and a sense of oneness replaces the sense of a separate individual ego. Promising... but these two still involve identification with a layer and is still not the true self.

Not easy, eh! However, the experience of getting to know others in silence gives an inkling that we are not the things we tell strangers we are: the profession, the place in the world, the age, the taste in music, and all the other elements we spend a lifetime collecting to make up our treasured personality... the persona... the mask.

RETREAT

I bought flights this week and it cost £403. That’s for the return flight on BA from Heathrow to Athens and the Sky Express return flight from Athens to Kythera. You might make it much cheaper by using a budget airline for the part from London to Athens. NB. London flights need to hook up with the internal flight so you might end up needing a night in Athens to make use of the cheap flight! See attached for the Athens to Kythera flight. Details of the retreat are on my website. Valentina Candiani is the second teacher this year. There may be a third! Porto Delfino will be our home. Come with us!

Home Studio

There’s no class next Thursday, 18th.  If you’d like me to put on a replacement class, I could do Friday 19th at 5.00-6.00pm. Let me know if that would suit you. You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is attached to this email.

Training

Ty Landrum for weekend of Ashtanga workshops starts next Friday at 7.30: The Wonder of Embodied Experience at Triyoga Soho. Come with me!

Teaching

This Sunday, the 14th, I’m teaching at Virgin Active Fulham Pools, covering Valentina’s class at 11.00-12.15. I’m also covering this class in May on the 19th at 26th. I’m also covering Mark

Colleano’s classes at Virgin Active Chelsea on Saturday May 18th and 25th at 10.30-11.30. I’m also covering Alain’s 90 minute class at Eden on Wednesdays ay 2.00 till the end of May.

In our yoga community

Nigel Tufnell is a London photographer. His project is to take photos of 100 strangers. It’s so interesting. Peter Tatchell is one of his strangers. Paul Canoville is one. I’m stranger #223! Please take a look at stretch1000 London Faces. If you need a photographer - perhaps for your website or maybe portraits of children – get in touch. nigel_tufnell@hotmail.com

Yoga in the News

Reuters says: Workplace yoga can indeed lower employee stress. Absolutely!Yoga is one of many approaches a growing number of employers are using to combat stress and improve workers’ mental health” and usually requires low investment, with minimal equipment”.
The Evening Standard has: 7 best places to practise meditation in London
. Both expensive and free are here

Kosha Poster.jpg

Sitting With The Spine

Dear Yogis

Joseph Pilates was known to say: “You are only as old as your spine is flexible”. I’ve been thinking a lot about the spine recently during my monastic retreat. We’re used to thinking of the office as the place where most damage to the spine is done but one nun said, rather wearily, “We do more sitting than an office worker”. Seated meditation is a practice of extreme stillness. Office sitting isn’t.

After a night of lying in sleep and decompressing the spine, de-pressurising the discs, elongating the body into its taller self, monks and nuns then start the day with concentrated sitting. Gravity is happily targeting their spines and dumping down on them. That happens many times throughout the day.

Whaddaya know; yoga can help! A 2011 study in Taiwan showed that the yoga teachers had “significantly less” degenerative disease than their control group. The physicians in charge of the study said “that spinal flexing may have caused more nutrients to diffuse into the disks. Another possibility, they wrote, was that the repeated tension and compression of the disks stimulated the production of growth factors that limited aging”.

David Keil, in Functional Anatomy of Yoga, asks: ‘How can we free our spine from the forces of gravity and our slouchy posture?’. He suggests: “Sun Salutations are a great place to explore... the movements of all parts of the spine. Look for the spine to undulate through the forward and backward movements in Sun Salutations. Try to loosen the movements a bit and even exaggerate them to see if you can assess which parts move and do not move in your spine. Then you can place a bit more emphasis on any areas that don’t move so easily”.

Hallelujah for Sun Salutations! (Here's Kino to take you through the basics.) It doesn’t cater for all of the movements of the spine but it’s a great place to start and a go-to practice to give your spine a daily minimum care.

RETREAT

I’ve designed a poster for this year’s September retreat. It’s attached. Please have a look. If you like it, would you be able to post it at work or send it to someone who might be interested? If you don’t like it, tell me and I’ll re-design. Details are uploaded on my website. My teacher, Valentina Candiani, is the other teacher this year. We may still have Lisa! The beautiful Porto Delfino will be our home and our venue. So far, we have a mixture of new people and returnees signed up. Come with us!

Home Studio

A couple of classes are full next week but most are not. Please give notice if you can’t attend so that anyone on the waiting list can come. You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is attached to this email.

Training

The next training I have lined up is on April 19th – 21st with Ty Landrum for weekend of Ashtanga workshops: The Wonder of Embodied Experience at Triyoga Soho. In the first workshop on Friday evening “we explore the internal mechanics of surya namaskar”. Ha!

Teaching

Next Sunday, the 14th, I’m teaching at Virgin Active Fulham Pools, covering Valentina’s class at 11.00-12.15.

Yoga in the news

At the beginning of the week, Business Matters had: Fintech lender Iwoca to offer Lirpasloof Yoga for stressed SME owners. I teach at this company! Nice to watch their You Tube and see their April 1st offering.

This article warms up and becomes quite a good read: The Guardian’s When I could barely look in the mirror, hot yoga untangled my darkest thoughts. The author says: ‘When I describe that time to people, I tell them that when my brain was broken I focused on my body until my mind returned to me’.

Kapsali Ashtanga Yoga Retreat Sept 2019.jpg

Meditation Madness

Dear Yogis

I’m writing this from a meditation retreat where we have five, hour-long ‘sitting’ sessions per day. Long meditation is not easy! Yoga hasn’t prepared my body, as promised, for prolonged seated meditation. I sit in Easy Pose, ‘Sukasana’. Dukkhasana would be a better name (suffering pose.)! My legs say: ‘you can’t mean a whole hour’. I reply; ‘Yes, listen to that lovely birdsong. We will meditate on that and picture the birds lifting their hearts and singing their gratitude to heaven. And with that I will fill my heart with a full hour of gratitude’. The legs say: ‘No, I’ll have needles and pins instead’.

Stretching out the legs in a temple is no easy task. It is considered rude to point the feet at anyone, let alone a Buddha statue. However, I stretch my legs and hope that all the other perfectly still beings (there must be 60 of us) have their eyes closed. Movement is tricky. The meditation cushion is especially noisy because it is filled with especially noisy wheat. Honestly! A whoppi cushion would be quieter!

I open eyes with embarrassment at the noise and see some fellow meditators nodding deeply with the weight of a sleepy head. I close my eyes and think I’m not doing too badly. Then the itching starts. In no other area of my life do I feel the crawl of flees as much as in meditation. Next comes the rumble of the tummy with amplification a rock concert would be proud of. I try to get back to the birdsong but now my knees are screaming and my spine, newly elongated with a good night’s sleep, is grumpy at the weight of gravity and starts to roar it’s disapproval. Hormones decide this is a good time to boil like a kettle.

Actually, the Buddha had similar challenges! He sat down to meditate and decided not to get up until he had gained enlightenment. The demon Mara sent seductresses and armies of monsters to attack him to keep him from Buddhahood. I feel the same. He succeeded, though, and made it to enlightenment.

Retreats

If you’re interested in a meditation retreat, take a look at the Amaravati offerings (www.Amaravati.org). The retreats get booked up very quickly but the waiting list usually kicks in.

For the Greek Yoga retreat in beautiful Kapsali, the dates are September 21st – 28th and the prices are the same as last year (with an early bird period this year) Details now uploaded on my website. Here’s a hint of Kythera’s charm, an article about Easter in Kythera: ‘Kythera is the ideal destination for those seeking unparalleled beauty. This beauty emerges from the whitewashed walls and cobblestone streets of Hora, glistens on the surface of its turquoise waters, brings romance to the bars at Kapsali and mesmerizes you at the mere sight of the idyllic Fonissa Waterfall at the village of Mylopotamos’. The article is about the activities that surround Easter in Kythera and tells of the island’s deeply spiritual nature.

Home Studio

Everything is back to normal next week. Come to class! You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is attached to this email.

Yoga in the news

Not much this week. The Evening Standard says: 70000 deaths a year linked to sitting down for six hours a day. “17 per cent of diabetes, 8 per cent of lung cancer and 5 per cent of heart disease cases could be prevented by spending less time sitting down”. (Hence the importance of yoga in the workplace with backing of HR, I would add!)

Don’t forget the clocks!

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Miscellaneous And Disreputable Vagrants

Dear Yogis

I worry that I’m getting a bit po-faced with recent Friday Emails so here’s a dispatch on the darker side of yoga’s past. The retelling of the history of yoga makes it sound very clean, meditative, full of devotion, ending up in a simple spiritual life with a refined way of approaching death. Imagine being so pious and profound! Yikes! If you have trouble with piety, don’t worry, you’re not the first!

According to William J Broad’s book, The Science of Yoga, there’s an older history of yoga which existed right at the extreme edges of society. Hatha yoga is a branch of much older Tantra Yoga which is not clean, cultured and comfortable. Yoga, he says, was a ‘mystic wonderland’, and yogis were gypsies, circus performers and vagabonds. The more pious were often naked and smeared with funeral ashes to emphasize the body’s temporality. The less pious and perhaps more entrepreneurial yogis contorted their bodies for money, read palms, interpreted dreams, performed live burials and engaged in sexual debauchery under the pretext of spirituality. Some were ‘child snatchers’ who would buy, adopt or steal children. Some formed protection rackets, smoked ganja and ate opium. They were rejects and, as India prepared for Independence, they were the embarrassments of the hopeful country. A British census called them said: “miscellaneous and disreputable vagrants”!

Thanks to a clean-up and repackaging of yoga as Independence advanced, our yoga ancestors with the ash-covered bodies, spiritual orgies and general unsavouriness disappeared. Iyengar, Jois and other 20th century names that we know developed not only postural practice but also the therapeutic and scientific approach, the high meditative mind and the agreeable spiritual slant. In our Ashtanga classes, when we chant the opening prayer which gives thanks to all the teachers who passed yoga down to us through the centuries, we also chant to some pretty grubby people!

Retreat

I bought my tickets and I must admit, this is not the usual experience of buying, flying and sliding into blissful asanas! However, Greek islands are such. BA will do the London-Athens-London bit of the journey (There are cheap flights from Ryan Air) and you need at least two hours at Athens airport in between flights. The guys in the Flight Centre say five or six hours. I can’t believe they’ve ever travelled. However, if two hours sounds too tight to you, plenty of people spent a night in Athens and explore the sights for an evening.

My London to Athens BA flight leaves Heathrow at 06.55 arrives at 12.40. My Athens to Kythera Sky Express flight leaves at 15.00 and arrives at 15.50. On the way back on the 28th there is an Aegean flight that comes all the way back to London but the transfer in Athens is less than an hour! I’m getting the Aegean 14.50 arriving in Athens at 15.35 and the BA flight back home leaving Athens 19.55 arriving 21.45. The dates are set for September 21st – 28th. Five people have signed up. Come with us!

Home Studio

There’s plenty of space next week – plenty! You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). On the week beginning Monday 25th there are no classes. I’m away on my first meditation retreat.

Yoga in the news

Jakarta Post 'Dharma Pātañjala': a compelling look at yoga practices in ancient Bali. A new book ‘reveals that Balinese and Javanese people in former days took yoga very seriously. Yoga was an inseparable part of their love life and their preparation for death’.

BBC News has: Yoga in schools has 'profound impact' on behaviour. The classes at Reedham Primary in Norfolk have been aimed at children with a range of special needs, including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

I did like this article: Richard Hold in the Telegraph with: How I fell in love with hot yoga (even if I can't stand the omming). ‘Most classes have at least one man that has gone a little bit too deep. Topknot, flowy Russell Brand clothes, probably would sit cross-legged in meetings if he had anything as conventional as a job’.

Yoga Chronology from The Science of Yoga The Risks and the Rewards by William J Broad.png

Vagabonds, Outcastes and revolutionaries

Dear Yogis

Sarah Ramsden, my Yoga in Sport teacher, finishes her workshops by saying that the people who gave us the yoga we practice today, were revolutionaries. People like Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi and Sivananda took yoga from the vagabonds and outcastes and adapted it politically and physically to spread the benefits of yoga. Sarah suggests that those pioneers would support us in having the same revolutionary attitude of questioning and making postures relevant. It is often said that yoga is widespread, but perhaps we can spread the practice much, much further to every hospital, doctor’s surgery, school, prison and old people’s home.

Sharath Jois, who is the ‘holder of the lineage’ and in charge of the Mysore Programme in India, is coming to London in July and I’ll be at his workshops to see how traditional yoga is currently being taught. He describes his job as teaching ‘the proper way’. I wonder if that Proper Way will attract the ‘I-can’t-touch-my-toes’ brigade. There is a staggeringly rich variety of postures; some are impossible and mind-boggling, some feel too simple for anything to be happening or improving. Sri Dharma Mittra is famous for photographing himself in 1,350 postures. We don’t need to do that many or even be particularly devotional. We just need to look after the body and yoga can do that for us.

Retreat.

Come and do some of those 1350 postures in the idyllic island of Kapsali this September! The dates are set for September 21st – 28th. The prices are the same as last year (with an early bird period this year) and we are staying in the same fabulous hotel, Porto Del Fino. The details of the timetable will be finalised in due course, but we will start every day with an early Ashtanga practice in front of the rising sun, we will have workshops in the afternoon and some moonlit Yin, meditation and pranayama. Write back if you’d like to come. Deposits have already started coming in!

Home Studio

There’s plenty of space next week – for now! You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is attached to this email.

Training

Triyoga Ealing has an Open Day tomorrow which involves two free classes. (This one isn’t sold out yet). Tonight’s Triyoga Ealing workshop is: Raimonda Richards + Dr Alexandra Melo with Homeopathy and Kundalini yoga to empower your female energy.

Yoga in the news

Thank goodness Good Housekeeping has: Here's Exactly How to Clean Your Yoga Mat. All questions about cleaning your mat are covered here. Keep this article!

The Metro gives us: The easiest yoga poses for beginners. Not bad suggestions and some helpful advice that: ‘The only prerequisite for taking a yoga class is knowing how to breathe’.

 

Happy International Women’s Day

Dangers Of A Six-Pack

Dear Yogis

Welcome to Spring! White Rabbits! Pinch and a punch! In the top temperatures of last weekend, I started my training with Sarah Ramsden, Ryan Giggs’ yoga teacher, to teach yoga to athletes. Teaching in many football clubs is what she is known for. Her mobilisation routines seem very fast and un-yogic. This is, apparently, because you have to keep a class of footballers or rugby players moving and busy or they start mucking about. Don’t even think of a meditation session – there may be talking, even fighting! Forget chakras!

So, in teaching yoga in football/rugby clubs, yoga teachers have to change mindset completely. No mention of ujjayi breathing which is too complicated; no props which will get thrown around. Instead, we teach to a limited Range-Of-Motion which needs to regain ROM for safety’s sake and for longevity. It’s a good goal and it has wider application than just with athletes.

Once you calm down and stop throwing yoga props around, the anatomy of breathing specifically for sportspeople highlights (whaddaya know) how dangerous a six-pack is! An overbuilt, tight six-pack will inhibit the movement of the diaphragm which should push the belly out, stretch the abdominals and gently move and massage the lumbar spine. Breathing should bring a natural, undulating movement to the spine, feeding the discs, bringing fluid and nutrients in and moving waste out. Limited movement of the diaphragm, it turns out, can ruin your stability and bring back ache, utilise the wrong muscles for breathing and, of course, decrease the effectiveness of your breathing!

Sarah Keys, in her book ‘Body in Action’, says: ‘If you are tense during sleep and do not relax your muscles the discs will not get back their full complement of fluid, and disc nutrition suffers… (Discs) are slow to break down, and also slow to repair.’ For sportspeople and for the rest of us, relax, destress, unwind, chill, climb down from being Ms or Mr 100%.

Home Studio

We’ve had wide-open-window yoga this week due to our summertime snap. I’ve been trying out Sarah Ramsden’s Spinal Articulation Routine and it’s been going down well. There’s plenty of space next week – for now! You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is attached to this email.

Training

I’m excited to announce that my teacher, Valentina, is coming to teach with me in Kythera this year on our Kapsali Retreat. Just as exciting is her upcoming workshop in Winchester next Saturday 9th March. It’s all about having fun with exploring unusual arm balances, jumping through and floating up! It’s £35. Come with me!

Yoga in the news

The South African Independent Online tells us: Adam Levine finds zen in yoga. (He’s the Maroon 5 singer!). He has some sweet things to say about his practice: ‘my practice is riddled with mistakes and imperfections. Which is precisely what makes it so powerful. Striving to do better while simultaneously remaining satisfied with where I am.’

Reuters Health tells us: Yoga linked to lowered blood pressure with regular practice. Participants in this study were ‘middle-aged, overweight women and men who already had high blood pressure or were close to developing the condition’.  It’s all good if you include pranayama and meditation. Unintended consequences are the injuries caused by yoga. The article helpfully says: ‘if a person is 70 or 80 and does too many hip-opening movements or hyper extensions, they may develop hip pain’.

Happy St David’s Day. Happy Springtime.

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How Many Yogis Fit On One Mat?

Dear Yogis

I’m reading a book called Functional Anatomy of Yoga! Can you imagine! Thankfully, David Keil, the author, has a refreshing take on the subject. In describing the complexity of teaching yoga to countless types of body, mentality and emotion, he says that we show up on the mat with: our physical body, our genetic history, our Learned (copied) Parental Behavior, our ways-of-being and patterns-of-thought, our activities history from the sports we do (or don’t do!), our injury history, our nutritional history, our mental and emotional history, and, since this is yoga, our Karma and impressions from past lives. All of this arrives on the mat with us. Blimey!

Teachers see these things. It’s easy to spot someone back from holiday all healthy and happy. They hold their face up to the world like a sunflower. On the other hand, a yogi going through a stressful time might barely hear the instructions and stare into the mid-distance. Some yogis show the child that they were decades ago – a playful child or a heavily controlled child. The confidence that comes from being truly loved is beautiful to see. Lack of belief in oneself is in the posture. Depression makes it hard to look up. Constantly fighting with life is in the tension in the jaw. I’ve yet to spot a past life imprint. David Keil says that the point is “to see beyond the body” and see the whole person.

Movement is a way for us to know ourselves. Yoga can be a way to undo negative patterns and encourage positive and healing patterns. On the other hand, yoga can be the place where we ingrain damaging emotions and experiences. David Keil says of yoga practice: “Does it not bring up issues of our own determination? Doesn’t it reveal our negative or positive thought patterns? Can’t it even help us overcome the negative ones? The impact that regular physical practice has on the mind is huge”.

Home Studio

New Year new yogis are still making their way here; the 2019 fizz is still fizzing! There’s plenty of space next week – for now! You can see class availability on this website (which I update often).

Training

There’s so much going on this weekend. First and foremost, my treasured teacher David Swenson IS IN EALING tomorrow, 23rd. The 9.45am class is his FUNdamentals workshop and,  in the afternoon at 2.15, is his Breath, Bandhas and Pranayama workshop. I can’t believe that I’ll miss it but I urge you to go. (I’m at Triyoga in Soho for Sarah Ramsden’s for Teaching Yoga in Sport.)

Also this weekend, Sri Dharma Mittra is here with ‘A Celebration of Yoga, Teaching and Liberation’ hosted by Indaba Studio and using Lords Cricket Ground. He’s a legend.

Yoga in the news

Time Out tells us that You can do yoga under a giant indoor moon at the Natural History Museum this summer. It’s a class that ‘promises to eclipse other classes! There’s full moon Kundalini yoga and gong bath (£26) on June 17, or the new moon yoga Nidra with a crystal sound bath (£26) on June 3.

The New Indian Express says UK's NHS to incorporate ayurveda, yoga soon. The article says that the NHS has begun consultations to prepare a roadmap to incorporate Ayurveda and yoga into the system and has a 10-year plan to promote traditional medicines. Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman, co-chair of the of the parliamentary group in charge of Indian traditional sciences, was in Kochi this week. 

Valentine's Boxing Day

Dear Yogis

It’s Valentine’s Boxing Day so I feel compelled to continue the love theme in the hope you’ll take your Cupid heart into the weekend… and on and on! For inspiration, I turned to the teacher whose only theme is love and joy, not precise postures, breath exercises, meditation, austerity or any kind of seriousness! My adored teacher David Sye teaches people to have fun. That’s what the practice is meant to do, he says. If you’re not a more loving, kind person because of the practice, you’re doing it wrong.

His teacher, Clara Buck, demanded that he practice yoga to be a better human being, not a better yogi. She said: the level of love and kindness and adventure we give ourselves is the level at which the body is going to give back. ‘Unless you love this body it will kick you out’. It’s ok in your 30s, 40s and 50s but when you start hitting your 60s and 70s then you see what you’ve laid down in your body. If it’s cruelty, it will bite you back.

She taught him to trust love because it’s the one thing that ‘turns the mundane into the miraculous and then the miraculous becomes continuous’.

Greek Retreat

After February’s Valentine fizz comes Spring’s Hayfever season and then, after we’ve used up all the tissues, it’s Kythera retreat time where sore, city noses can breathe in Kapsali’s clean and healing air! I think there’s a bit of travel uncertainty, so I’ll just hold one retreat, the Ashtanga retreat, in the second half of September and find a UK venue for a more general retreat. If you haven’t done so already let me know if you’d like to come to Kapsali. Then I’ll write to all of you separately.

Home Studio

Last weekend my lucky Home Studio hosted Andy Gill and his all-day Teacher Development Group workshop. It was the kind of training and support a teacher thirsts for: new approaches to postures and adjustments, discussions about the role of a teacher, how to support students while setting boundaries and how to manage teacher/student relationships. Then, on sunny Monday morning, another Home Studio yogi baby was born. Welcome to Kit, whose spectacular mother I taught through the pregnancy and whose brother was the first Good Times Yoga baby! And, finally, red roses shone their special magic on the Valentine’s class where we explored some of Any Gill’s postures. Bring your magic next week! There’s plenty of space. You can see class availability on my website (which I update often). The latest availability is attached to this email.

Training

Tonight I’m going to Charlie Merton’s ‘ mantra, mudra, pranayama, asana, meditation and nada yoga (the yoga of sound)’ at Triyoga Ealing. I feel like a Gong bath! Come with me!

 Yoga in the news

The Evening Standard has: Why hitting the yoga studio will help you lift weights better. ‘“It’s all about making sure the joints are protected and balanced,” says Dyl Salamon, the man behind Gymbox’s Yoga for Lifting class.’ (Gymbox is opening in Ealing and we need to give this a go!) Salamon says: “If you’re constantly fighting against stiffness or injury, you’ll never achieve your maximum potential” and “to feel truly strong, he says, you should aim to hit the yoga studio twice a week — at least”.

The Courier tells us: Want to improve your golf game? It’s time to take up yoga.  The paper tells us why they are such good candidates for (proper) yoga: ‘A common issue with golfers when it comes to training is the fear that they can’t become stronger as they’ll lose flexibility’ which will affect their golf swing. Yoga is about both incredible strength and amazing flexibility!

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