The Martin Luther King Chakra

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

Retreats

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the news

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

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

Have a love-filled weekend

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Solar and Luna, The Donald and The Raj

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

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

Fascinating, eh!

Devon Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the news

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

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

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

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Yoga in the Vedic Period

Dear Yogis

Last weekend I took part in the workshops of Gregor Maehle. Please take the opportunity to study with him if you get the chance. In one of his lectures I found myself absorbed by the ancient world and wisdom that underpins yoga. The history of yoga and the intentions of the people who shaped yoga are illuminating.  Gregor talked us through the four ages of life (ashrama) and the associated yoga practice as the people in the Vedic Period (1500 BC to 500 BC) saw it.

First came the Brachmacharia stage till 25 years old. This means student of life. The paramount focus in this period was on asana to build up the body; Gregor says it was a daily 90 minute practice. Next is the householder stage, Grhasta, with a family and a profession. This period, 25-50yrs old, is about having purpose and giving back to society. The idea is that you continue asana practice and add 30 minutes pranayama. Now you have a total practice of two hours. Pranayama practice completely reorganises the brain and enables the householder to juggle the many hats needed to be relevant in society.

The third stage is the Vanaprastha, from 50 till 75. This means sea change/tree change when you move to the coast or move to the forest. (Gregor moved ‘back to the Bush’ at 50. He says that ‘there’s a certain magic when you hit 50’. You don’t feel that you have to go out and participate in the rat race! Yes!) Meditation is the main practice for this age and the householder graduates to councillor or spiritual guide. Ideally you add another 30 minutes to the already established practice. That’s 2 ½ hours now. The final phase is Sannyasa. In this phase there is no longer any interest in material things and all duties are handed to the next generation. This is the monk/nun stage with a simple, detached, spiritual life.

Kapsali Yoga Retreat

When I manage to arrange my Sea Change, this is where you’ll find me… Kythera! OK, I know the flights are complicated and it is putting people off coming. I understand. My yoga sister Lisa Maarit Lischak says: ‘Us repeaters are used to the flights and we know that a bit of awkwardness pays off’. But for first-timers, it’s a bit daunting. I can only encourage you to hold your nose and dive in! You may become addicted to Kythera’s charm… Have a look at the details of both retreats here.

Home Studio

There’s a summer situation going on, and perhaps a football syndrome; class numbers are small-to-disappearing. I cancelled two classes this week in my little home studio. Yoga studios tend to change to their summer timetable at this time of year. I may do the same. Let’s see. There are plenty of places left next week. You can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

Lisa will be teaching at Virgin Active Chelsea on Saturdays 7th and 14th July at 10.30. If you can’t get a ticket, steal one!  I’m due to teach Restorative Yoga at Yoga West on Sundays 8th and 15th July at 3.30-4.45pm.

Yoga in the news

The Podcast Department of The New Yorker has: “Bikram” and the Fraught, Telling Tale of a Yoga Phenomenon. Bikram Choudhury is the subject of six programmes in the “30 for 30” podcast series tracing the rise and fall of Choudhury. I’ve listened to all of them. They are fascinating and disturbing… not a happy listen but compelling like a car crash!

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The Guy On The Train

Dear Yogis

By far the most important thing we do in yoga class is the breathing. “Breathing defines our experience of Yoga”, says phenomenal yoga teacher Andy Gill. See the attachment for his observations on how the breath reveals the yogi’s state of mind, not the postures.

This email is inspired by a thirty-something guy on the train that I couldn’t help watching. His breathing was noticeably fast. He was a bit overweight and slumping in his seat.  (Actually, so was everyone else!) He had no abdominal breathing, his chest was heaving and collar bones lifting with his shallow breaths. Shoulder/clavicle breathing is a sign that primary breathing muscles are in trouble. Raising the shoulders or arms to help breathe happens when the diaphragm has no room to move due to belly fat or poor posture and the elasticity of the lungs and chest wall is lost. Lifting the shoulders and collar bones is a compensation.

Poor lung function is the absolute opposite of what yoga is about. There is also a Hindu belief that is worth carrying around with us: that we are born with a predetermined amount of breaths and you can lengthen your life with breath control. It’s a great belief, telling us that our job in life is to make good use of our allotted breaths; make them long and lasting and not to spend time in stressful, short-breath situations. Above all, it tells us that the breath is in charge which is obvious but too easily forgotten.

Kapsali Yoga Retreat

Summer Solstice, the peak of the year, has come and gone. It always comes too soon! If you haven’t already arranged a holiday or retreat, consider coming to Kythera with me for some Greek sun and Kythera warmth. Kytheran people have an easy and genuine friendliness towards visitors that you will struggle to find elsewhere in the world. I’m teaching the first week’s retreat and Lisa Maarit Lischak is joining me for the second week. Have a look at the details of both retreats here.

Home Studio

Yesterday’s International Yoga Day started with new yogis in a corporate class and, to make the day complete, I had the privilege of introducing a new yogi to Ashtanga in my little Home Studio. It couldn’t be better. There are plenty of places left next week. You can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

This Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 to 4:30, I will be doing a weekend at Indaba with Gregor Maehle. The workshops are named ‘Integrating the eight limbs into a cohesive whole’ - how asana prepares you for pranayama, which prepares you for meditation. Gregor Maehle has studied Iyengar and Ashtanga in India, lived as a recluse, and studied anatomy, Sanskrit, yogic scripture, and philosophy. Come with me!

Andy Gill is responding to popular demand and holding another Ashtanga Yoga and Ayurveda workshop with Justin Robertshaw tomorrow. The last time was Easter 2017 and it was fascinating and I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can e-mail Andy to book at andy@andygill.yoga

Yoga in the news

Al Jazeera has a lovely picture story, ‘Thousands celebrate International Day of Yoga’, showing the massive, humungous crowds in India celebrating International Yoga Day.

The Telegraph has; ‘Bend it like Ryan Giggs: how athletes fell in love with yoga’. It says that Giggs added “another 10 years” onto his career with yoga practice. “Yoga was first about injury prevention, but later it became about recovery,” he said. “The day after a match, the adrenalin would still be in my body. But the following day, when I got out of bed, everything would hurt, so I would do yoga then.””

The Independent has the best article of all: ‘How a yoga holiday in Kent could help refugees’. Let’s go!

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Ayurvedic Treatment for Sciatica

Dear Yogis

I had the most enlightening conversation about sciatica this week with an Eden Fitness yogi, Reena. Her husband suffered with sciatica and one summer they found themselves an Ayurvedic Clinic in India where he had seven Ayurvedic massage treatments plus recommended herbs. He hasn’t suffered since. As part of her own Holistic and Spiritual Growth she went from being a dentist to studying Ayurvedic healing, Reiki and Energy Field Transformation and Spiritual Development. She very generously gave advice, which I attach. The truncated version is this:

To treat Sciatica, she says, you can do this yourself. Sciatica is crying out for lubrication internally and externally. With cold pressed Organic Sesame Oil, do this:

1. Take a warm teaspoon of sesame oil (heat over a gentle flame in a small saucepan or tablespoon) in the morning and at night. Wash it down with a herbal tea, no caffeine. 

2. Apply warm oil to the affected area(s). First of all circle your oil into the skin in an anticlockwise direction. That releases toxins. Then circle in a clockwise direction. That’s for nourishing and rejuvenation.

3. You can apply warm oil in this way before a bath or shower or sauna or steam. Leave for a minimum of 20 minutes in between application and shower.

4. You can apply warm oil to a painful area before yoga class but wear clothes that you don’t mind getting oil on, obviously!

5. Ever heard of oil pulling? Give this a go. Take a small amount of warm sesame oil and place it in your mouth. Swish for 30 seconds, hold for 30 seconds and repeat. Spit out the oil (do not swallow and rinse mouth thoroughly after. Use your normal toothbrush to go ahead and give teeth and gums a good clean and massage.

You need to combine this treatment with elimination of accumulated toxins and bringing pacification and balance back into the bodily systems… with diet and Sun Salutations! See attachment for that advice. And if you want a consultation, get in touch with Reena via Livelaughlovemuch@outlook.com

Kapsali Yoga Retreat

A couple of places have come up on the second retreat with me and Lisa Maarit Lischak. Her spectacular afternoon workshops, where everyone achieves something amazing, are the reason people keep coming back. Have a look at the details here.  (Just a word about travelling to Kythera: you may require a night in Athens. Please don’t use booking sites to buy your flights; please go directly to the airline. You can check out Aegean and Sky Express for flights to and from the island.) And if you’re interested in the first retreat – Ashtanga in the morning, Yin in the evening and holiday in-between – click here for details.

Home Studio

It’s International Yoga Day on Thursday 21st, the day of the summer solstice. Have a great day; 17 hours of sunlight! If you want a yoga class at work to celebrate, let me know. We will, of course, celebrate in my little home studio in the evening’s class. There are places left. You can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

On June 23rd and 24th I will be doing a weekend at Indaba with Gregor Maehle who will teach pranayama, meditation and the Yoga Sutras. Come with me.

Continuing the subject of Ayruveda, there will be another Ashtanga Yoga and Ayurveda workshop with Andy Gill and Justin Robertshaw on Saturday 30th June. I went to the last one and loved, loved, loved it. You can e-mail Andy to book at andy@andygill.yoga. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in Chakras, James French will be at Triyoga on the 30th with his fantastic and eye-opening Chakra Workshop. I loved, loved, loved this one too.

Yoga in the news

The Guardian has an article about Dog Yoga and it’s quite a good read. Journalist Rhik Samadder says: “in every other yoga class I feel awkward, Lycra-lumpy, alienated by some Blake Lively-alike telling me I am more than enough. The involvement of dogs changes everything. It’s impossible to feel self-conscious in the presence of a boston terrier curious as to why you are trying to turn into a bridge. Dogs puncture the absurdity of all human behaviours.”

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The Fitness Goddess and the Yoga Guru

Dear Yogis

My weekend of yoga in Kythera with Kristina Karitinou Ireland was, as I hoped, drinking from the cup of a ‘senior teacher’. She talked a lot about her late husband, Derek Ireland, who, with Radha Warrell were the first teachers to bring Ashtanga yoga out of India and into Europe. She filled in some unexpected history of Ashtanga once it left India.

She said that Derek Ireland changed the way Europeans viewed yoga – the only thing they could compare yogis to in the 1970s were the Hare Krishnas. Yoga had to be translated from the Indian Mysore method which, she says, was only for senior students who already knew what they were doing. In a class, teacher Pattabhi Jois would only say: ‘Ekum (one) inhale. Dwe (two) exhale…’ That’s it! The student had to know exactly what to do. Derek’s contribution was to add more instruction, adjustment and variation.

One day Derek was watching fitness goddess Jane Fonda and her TV workout because he was curious to see how she taught. He saw how much instruction she gave about the postures and introduced that teaching method into Ashtanga classes. So, when we enter a posture and during our five breaths in a posture we receive a lot of information, unlike the Mysore method. In Downward Facing Dog, for example, we might hear:  ‘Encourage the heels down, lift kneecaps and quads, pull the navel in….’ This is because Jane Fonda (now 80!), with her big hair and 80s tights and leotard and ankle warmers, inspired Derek Ireland with the effectiveness of her instruction.

Kapsali Yoga Retreat

It’s all coming together after my weekend visit to Kythera. I’m attaching a couple of photos taken at Porto Delfino where we will be staying to inspire you to join us. The first is a view taken while I was doing my morning practice, watching  the fishing boats returning one by one surrounded by a dance of hopeful and happy seagulls.  The second is a view from the restaurant at breakfast. Ahhhhhh! Click here for details.

Devon Retreat

If you’d prefer a staycation (!) then I’m teaching on the October 12th-15th Happiness Retreat run by Deborah Smith, International Positive Psychologist and Mindfulness Expert. The Complete Wellbeing Retreat; Happiness workshops, Yoga and Mindfulness sessions will be held in a villa on the River Dart in South Devon.

Home Studio

Our yoga room is repainted and refreshed and waiting to welcome you. You can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here.

Training

Valentina Candiani’s newly graduated Yoga Teachers will be teaching their first community class as part of their practical exam this weekend. It’s FREE to attend! Tomorrow, Saturday, there are 2 spaces left in the 10.00-11.00 class. On Sunday there are 3 spaces left in the 10.00-11.00 class. See you there. If you practice at Eden Fitness you’ll recognise one of our number. Also if you’re coming from New Energy Yoga, Winchester, you will see one of your yogis. To reserve a space write to valcandiani@hotmail.com.

Yoga in the news

Talking of Jane Fonda, The Telegraph tells us: ‘Channel 5 revived TV keep-fit with a live yoga class – so I tried it at home’. Tom Ough is the writer and victim. He says: ‘I struggled to get a sense of where each of my ungainly limbs should be’. ‘I tottered through the eagle pose…  and collapsed out of an attempted headstand’. ‘I strove through to the end, only occasionally thinking that TV exercise classes feature more than once in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984’.

Woman’s Health this week will tell you:; ‘The Best Yoga Pose For You, Based On Your Zodiac Sign’. Mine turns out to be Boat Pose. Oh joy!

This is interesting. The Times tells of KPMG’s strategy for supporting their workforce: ‘Salvation for a stressed-out auditor: compulsory yoga’. ‘In the UK its auditors are facing an investigation by the Financial Reporting Council into their work for Carillion in the years before the outsourcing company’s collapse…’ and therefore need yoga? I love yoga but it isn’t a plaster and the wound isn’t a graze!

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Menuhin, Musicians and Yoga

Dear Yogis

Greetings from Kapsali, Kythera. I find myself on the international yoga teaching circuit! I arrived in lovely Kythera yesterday and taught Yin yoga to some players of Chris Shurety’s Allcomer’s Orchestra who are performing tomorrow. They sound superb. Musicians are interesting to teach. Their bodies adopt a certain position, probably asymmetrical, around their instrument and, inevitably, aches, pains and strains result. I remember David Williams (yoga royalty!) talking about teaching Pavaroti’s orchestra and deciding not to teacher Shoulder Stand to the flute player, who had held his shoulders and arms in a fixed position for decades, for fear or finishing his career.

Yoga and musicians are perfect for each other; appreciation of the rhythm of the breath is crucial to both. But backs are rounding, shoulders are fixed, the upper body is working and the lower body isn’t. Sound familiar?  It’s very similar to workplace keyboard warriors.

Yehudi Menuhin and BKS Iyengar (more royalty) had a friendship of many years. Menuhin said of his Iyengar yoga practice that he got: ‘less tension, more effective application of energy, the breaking down of resistance in every joint, the coordination of all motions into one motion, and…the profound truth that strength comes not from strength but from subtle comprehension of process, of proportion and balance.’ (Couldn’t this describe yoga for any profession?) He also said: ‘behind all violin technique exercises and hours of practice, the main goal is improved awareness, and that is the very goal of Yoga practice’. Amen!

Kapsali Yoga Retreat

I wish I could show you Kapsali. Those who have been here know this; you feel immediately lighter here. You breathe. The shoulders come down. The heart opens. All thoughts of rushing or stressing are vanquished. You tread your path in life easily... it’s a simple path; a sea-kissed, bay-side road, trodden languidly to the tick-tock of flip flops. On our retreats we frame the idyllic day with yoga. Ahhhhhh! Click here for details.

Devon Retreat

If a day of flights to Greece doesn’t float your boat then don’t forget the October 12th-15th Happiness Retreat. I’ll be teaching Ashtanga in the morning and Yin in the afternoon on the Complete Wellbeing Retreat; Happiness workshops, Yoga and Mindfulness sessions. It will be held in an 18th Century Palladian Villa and is run by Deborah Smith, International Positive Psychologist and Mindfulness Expert

Home Studio

There are no classes this Monday. Back on track on Tuesday. To come to my Home Studio you can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here. Please don’t forget to let me know if you are observing Ramadan and need a calmer practice.

Training

I meant to mention last week… while I’m away try other teachers in the area. Cath Barnes-Holt is an Iyengar teacher at Triyoga Ealing and also teaches in West Ealing and Northfields. Ladan Soltani has classes in Ealing Town Hall and West Ealing. And what about Free Yoga? Lululemon in Westfield, Shepherds Bush, has free yoga every Sunday at 10.00. You can see their events on here.

Props

Tiger in Ealing Broadway have yoga belts for £4. They are excellent belts with non-slip buckles. These are the ones I use in my Home Studio.

Yoga in the news

Exciting news according to Biz Asia: ‘Swami Ramdev set for International Yoga Day in UK’. He’ll be in London, Coventry and Glasgow.

The Times last weekend gave us ‘Why real men should do yoga’. The grammar of the first article is petrifying. Scroll down to the third article on the same page: “It’s as good as weight training.” Peta Bee on how yoga transforms the male body. She quotes: yoga ‘helps you regenerate muscle cell quickly by releasing muscle tension, an essential step in the muscle-growing process. This decreases muscle recovery time and helps you get back to your workouts sooner’.  Also, muscles that are more mobile and flexible reduce ‘tension caused by pulling the attached ligaments and tendons. Not only does this bring immediate relief from daily aches and strains, it reduces the risk of common soft-tissue sports injuries’. Nuff said!

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The First Lady Of Yoga, Indra Devi

Dear Yogis

We hear so much about the original yoga teachers of our time, Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, infamous Bikram Choudhury and Sivananda. In this male world, very little attention is given to Indra Devi who was a fellow student of Jois and Iyengar under the strict, famously unforgiving teachings of Krishnamacharya.

At first Krishnamacharya refused to teach Devi on the grounds she was a woman and a Westerner.   This is how Kino MacGregor describes their teacher-student relationship: He “set up numerous tests for her… assuming she would fail. First, he asked her to eat only root vegetables for months. Next, he asked her to sit outside his gate for two hours each morning from 4-6 AM and then go home with or without teaching”. That was in the 1930s. She was an actress and a socialite and this is not the kind of treatment she would have been used to! She overcame all obstacles and ended up teaching in China, India, Mexico, Russia, the US and Argentina and her first book was of the yoga that came directly from Krishnamacharya. She is the First Lady of Yoga, despite the relative silence that surrounds her name.

The only hoops we have to jump through are of our own making. Perhaps it would be easier if a teacher set up ghastly tasks. Here’s a lovely quote from Devi: "You give love and light to everybody - those who love you, those who harm you, those whom you know, those whom you don't know. It makes no difference. You just give light and love."

Kapsali Yoga Retreat

I’ll be in Kapsali next weekend, my favourite part of the world. I’ll be teaching the Allcomers String Orchestra and sorting out some September Retreat details. There are still places if you’re interested in coming. Next week’s Friday Yoga Email might be late! I’ll be practicing Ashtanga with Kristina Karitinou from Friday morning.

Home Studio

I was incredibly happy to see yogis in the studio that I haven’t seen in years. New yogis and past yogis come along perhaps for the physical practice and perhaps for the mental respite. Guess what! You get both!  To come to my Home Studio you can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.)  You can book here. Next week I will have two classes on Bank Holiday Monday  and two on Tuesday but none on Wednesday and Thursday. Please don’t forget to let me know if you are observing Ramadan and need a calmer practice.

Training

While I’m away try other teachers in the area. Cath Barnes-Holt is an Iyengar teacher at Triyoga Ealing and also teaches in West Ealing and Northfields.  Ladan Soltani has classes in Ealing Town Hall and West Ealing.

Yoga in the news

This article in The Guardian by Zoe Williams started with: ‘More things than I realised have their roots in yoga, because yoga is at the root of all things’ and ended with: ‘In a situation where you have to choose, always prioritise a straight back over straight hamstrings’. That’s pretty much all you need to know!

The Metro tells us that ‘Dog yoga classes are coming to London and you don’t even need a dog’. ‘If you’re bringing your own hound, just make sure they’re social, vaccinated neutered and insured’.

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Dedicate Your Practice To God

Dear Yogis

I have often been in a class where and the teacher has invited me to dedicate my practice to God. But how do we open ourselves up to that invitation it if not brought up with the idea of a god? Kino Macgregor said that she ‘made her peace with the word ‘God’ when she realised that is was ‘way more efficient’ to use one word instead of alternative flowery language: ‘Today I’m going to surrender to the shimmering oneness that pervades all things in the notion of universal love’, or: ‘Today I surrender to God’. She realised that the word ‘God’ is dramatically more efficient.

If you can get your head around the idea of dedicating or offering your practice, you’ll shift away from thinking about what your practice can do for you. The practice of offering is called ‘ishvara pranidhana’. It translates as surrender to the supreme. In reality it translates as letting go of the ego and the smallness and petty issues that can pervade our lives.

Kino Update

Talking of Kino, here’s an update on Kino MacGregor’s workshop on the theme of Vairagya. She said: “The biggest thing that gets in the way of us experiencing the immutable truth of the spirit is the notion of desire. In Sanskrit this is called Viragya. It’s like the English word ‘rage’ – like a raging torrent, not just anger but desire, a powerful flow, a power that runs through you”.

I had so many responses including this from a wonderful yogi who I know through my Home Studio. She said: ‘I am a student Sanskrit ( and a native speaker of a few related Indian languages) so I thought I should share with you that the meaning of “vairagya” is not desire, but almost the exact opposite of it - a freedom or detachment from desire or from “maya”. You are right in saying that maya gets in the way of a deeper spiritual yoga practise, so the idea is that we ought to get ourselves into a state of vairagya to begin to experience our true essence - both on and off the mat’.

I looked back on my notes. Yes, Kino said that too! I think she was talking with such high energy and excitement that the ideas were tumbling out in haste. I wrote to her. I’ll let you know what she says.

Kapsali Yoga Retreat

Thank you to the Yogis who have paid in full. Here’s a gentle reminder to others to suggest an instalment plan. There are places still on the first retreat. These are the costs: Single £700; Shared Double £650 (Each); Shared Apartment £680 (Each). The deposit is £200. Please come!

Home Studio

Ramadan has started. If you want to still practice yoga, come to the low-key Monday and Tuesday classes. (If you still want to do Ashtanga classes there’s no problem but just take it easy – Child’s Pose instead of Downward Facing Dog, for example). Here is the Wall Yoga pdf so you can have a gentle stretch at home. In any class just let the teacher know that you want to conserve energy due to Ramadan. To come to my Home Studio you can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.) You can book here.

Yoga in the news

The Metro tells us that ‘Yoga has lost its zen thanks to show-off influencers and novelty studios’. The writer feels that the West has ruined yoga with our ’amateur acrobats masquerading as yogis’. The writer reminisces that: ‘When I started practising years ago, it was in a dingy university hall with crap mats and bad balance… And while there was no chance we’d ever get into a headstand, it was a pretty honest attempt to find mental and physical clarity’. Yuck! (PS. ‘Zen’ is there if you’re looking for it. If you want a physical workout, that’s what you’ll find. No judgment necessary.)

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Vairagya, Not Viagra!

Dear Yogis

I spent the bank holiday weekend, all of it, in workshops with Kino MacGregor. There are many famous teachers with finely honed teaching skills but my heart opens wide as the world to Kino’s teaching and humour and cartoon-like noises and the easy, smiley way her philosophy tumbles out. By the end of the weekend I was so full of big loving feelings that I promised I would go and study with her in Miami! (Help!)

On the first day she talked about the Sanskrit word Vairagya. (I know! It sounds a bit like Viagra!) It means desire; powerful, raging desire. In yoga practice, the biggest thing that gets in the way of us experiencing the spiritual practice of yoga is desire; we want more difficult postures, deeper backbends, more flexible hips, longer hamstrings. But this is like obsessing with the finger that is pointing to the moon instead of looking at the glory of the moon. Kino says; ‘All the poses and the body itself is the finger pointing to the moon of the deep spiritual realisation that yoga practice promises.’

If you get lost in the Instagram hype of worshiping the body and physical accomplishments then you will always feel ‘less than’. This is something that every yogi has to contend with. Desire left unchecked leads to accumulation of things, not only amassing poses but pursuing the perfect job, perfect relationship, perfect poses, perfect house…When we have all the things we desire, will it be enough? The basis of all desire is the feeling of not being good enough; the feeling of ‘if only I had that, I’d be better’.

Yoga practice encourages you to relocate your sense of self-worth in the eternal and beautiful spark of your spirit (which in Sanskrit is called Purusha) that lives in all of us. OK. How do we do that? Vairagya is the active practice of letting go of the results of our actions. In class, the paradigm shift is when you replace desire with listening and try to experience the pose to see what happens rather than projecting what you want to happen. As soon as you hear the voice in your head saying that it wants the posture to be deeper, the hips to be more open, the hamstrings to be more flexible, THAT is your yoga, THAT is where you begin to practice.  The paradigm shifts to listening and mindfulness. Listening implies that we are open to change by what we hear and what we experience. Listening allows you to be vulnerable to yourself and to be compassionate to vulnerability in others. We have a responsibility to listen and to respond and to change.

That’s a lot to take in, eh!

Kapsali Yoga Retreat.

The first retreat arrives with the new moon, the Harvest Moon, on September 9th. The second retreat leaves just before its fullest glory on September 24th. I have never seen such a huge and shiny moon but that’s probably because of the setting, over Kapsali bay in a wondrous galaxy of stars. It adds to the enchanting spirit of Kapsali, the reason I am drawn there and the magic of teaching yoga there. Please come!

Home Studio

It’s always fulfilling to teach people who are new to yoga. It’s just lovely to introduce people to Ashtanga and see the spark light up in them. Thank you for making the studio such a blessed space. If you haven’t come already, come and have a go! See what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.) You can book here.

Training

To regroup after the weekend you really can’t do better that Yin Yoga with Ruth Voon at Triyoga Ealing. It’s at 6.15 on a Sunday evening and is just the stretch you need to round off your Sunday to dive into Monday.

Yoga in the news

BBC News tells Asks: Can prison yoga help tackle reoffending?  The first prisoner says that yoga makes her feel free, gives her hope and takes away her stress! Just like civvy street, then!

The Business Insider tells us that: Doctors are warning people not to wear Lululemon-like clothing during MRIs. This is worth knowing!  Athletic clothing manufacturers weave small threads of silver into their clothing to prevent smells from sweat during exercise. Metal heats up in MRI machines and people have experienced low to moderate burning. (Check out silver nanoparticles.)

The Evening standard tells us: This is the difference between Bikram, Vinyasa, Rocket, and Power yoga — and how to know which one is right for you. (That’s helpful – especially since I saw a class called ‘Space and Flow’ and had to ask my teacher what it meant). The evening standard helpfully covers the established types.

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Light the Corners of my Mind

Dear Yogis

I practiced Ashtanga the other day with a mind resolutely opposed to any stilling. It became fascinating to see how one immaterial thought careered into another and another and another like a mad Bond car chase in tiny Italian streets. Watching the breath never had a chance; I was barely in the room. And yet, by the end of the class, I still felt better and a tiny bit closer to enlightenment, and incredibly grateful for the practice and the teacher. In Savasana the mind finally parked up and turned the engine off. Practicing a Loving Kindness meditation naturally suggested itself. You could do this in Savasana.

First of all, say to yourself: ‘May I be well and happy. May no harm come to me. May I have courage to face life’s fairness and unfairness alike. And may I have a peaceful heart.’ Then bring to mind someone you love and repeat the whole thing: ‘May you be well and happy…’. Then bring to mind someone you don’t really know – perhaps a neighbour you only see in passing, the newsagent, perhaps the person you buy your train ticket from, and repeat. Then bring to mind someone who is difficult in your life and repeat with a sincere heart: ‘May you be well and happy…’ Finally, you can widen the wishes: ‘May all beings be well and happy…

Yoga Retreat

There are still two places left on my September 9th-16th retreat. You’re very welcome to come but take a look at the flights – you need to spend a night in Athens. It’s straight through on the way out on Sunday 9th. There’s a 06.45 flight from Heathrow to Athens that hooks up with a 17.55 Aegean flight from Athens to Kythera. On the Sunday 16th return you could have the Aegean 19.05 - 19.45 to Athens and spend the night there till Monday or get the Saturday flight at the same time and fly back to London on Sunday. It’s well worth it! Come! (If you’re interested in driving over the Peloponnese and taking the ferry, let me know.)

Home Studio

There are 12 places booked and 12 available next week. The 6.00 classes on Tuesday and Thursday could do with a bit of your affection! No classes on Bank Holiday Monday as I’ll be training. See what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.) You can book here. You can also see my Eden Fitness classes and the dates that I cover at Yoga West further down on the same page.

Training

It’s Kino MacGregor this weekend for her three-day Ashtanga immersion on May 5th-7th . There’s plenty to choose from if you want to come for just one workshop – backbends, handstands, twists and arm balances! After that, don’t forget AliceLovesYoga, May 12th with her team of Reiki healers! Tickets here.  Or you can fly with me to Kythera for the Ashtanga Workshop on Kythera with Kristina Karitinou. Way into the future in June I have booked a weekend at Indaba with Gregor Maehle who will teach ‘how asana prepares you for pranayama, which prepares you for meditation, with the Yoga Sutra explaining how all are connected’. That sounds right up my street.

Yoga in the news

The Metro tells us that: Lululemon and Psycle London are offering free yoga classes for Londoners. These are free yoga sessions in Covent Garden over the next couple of months from 8.15am and they started yesterday! Book Here.

The Voice Online tells us that the Balance Festival Announces 2018 Line-Up. It’s at the Truman Brewery May 11-13 2018. Take a look at this to get a flavour: ‘On Saturday, workout with Cat Meffan and Michael James Wong for a girls vs. boys kick ass yoga’. You’ve been warned!

The Telegraph covers ructions at the British Wheel of Yoga, the qualifications governing body: Yoga wars as heads of British ruling body quit in protest of 'interfering trustees'. The Guardian in 2016 has the background: Disharmony in British yoga community over moves to regulate teachers.

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On The Pull In Yoga

Dear Yogis

The shoulder workshop last weekend with Andy Gill shone a light on some incredibly obvious points but things I had never really considered. He said that many people come to yoga not as athletes or gymnasts but from sedentary lives. We come with muscle imbalance, tightness and weakness already in place. On top of this, we immediately rely on the shoulders to carry body weight in Downward Facing Dog, Chaturanga and arm balances. The shoulder structure is designed for incredible mobility, not enormous weight-bearing.

Some of you find Chaturanga totally elusive but it’s not really shoulder design at fault. Here’s why… we’re not working our muscles groups equally in our yoga practice. There’s plenty of push effort but no pull activity, like rowing or pull-ups, so perhaps we’re in the habit of only using half the muscles available to us. By chance, I found this piece about ‘Yoga’s Missing Nutrients’ and advising us to get a pull-up bar! Even just hanging is recommended. The upside-down rowing is doable – just about! (I just did four and a half (!) and you can probably hear my thumping, jumping heart!). The grip action will also strengthen wrists. And here’s a lovely demonstration from Yoga Journal on ‘Cross-training for Chaturanga’!  

Yoga Retreat

There are four full months to go before the need to pack starts nudging our consciousness. Please include your mat, a cork block and a yoga belt. I notice that Decathlon has some good prices. I’ll write to everyone this weekend to make sure you have your tickets and travel plans. And I’ll send out some information about Kapsali village where we will stay: about the people we will meet, alternative activities, tavernas and bars and, to top it all, a picture of the gorgeous infinity pool in our hotel! There’s two places left on my September 9th-16th retreat. You’re very welcome to come.

Home Studio

My lucky Home Studio welcomed more new yogis, more joy and laughter and some really lovely yoga practices. There are plenty of spaces next week. (There doesn’t seem to be any demand for the 6.00 Tuesday class so I might cancel it if no one needs it). See what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.) You can book here.

Training

May is a packed month for training. Join me on one or all of these. Kino MacGregor is doing a three-day Ashtanga immersion on May 5th-7th at Seymour Leisure Centre – a big venue to pack the numbers in. I have also signed up for AliceLovesYoga  on May 12th. She will teach Yoga with a small team of Reiki healers! Tickets here. At the end of May I’m flying out to Greece for the Ashtanga Workshop on Kythera with Kristina Karitinou. Please come!

Yoga in the news

Business.com has this great article: ‘Yoga in the Workplace: More Than a Wellness Fad’. Absolutely! The writer is a corporate lawyer who says ‘Beyond the physical benefits, we've witnessed a change in the day-to-day interactions around our offices. Collaboration has increased as listening skills and emotional intelligence play a more significant role. Company events often focus around fitness and competition rather than food. Employees are happier, office morale is consistently positive and retention rates have grown’.

The Telegraph gives us: ‘HIIT x Yoga: the rise of the mash-up fitness class’. The mash up combines yoga with Spinning or with High Intensity Interval Training. “Many people don’t want to sacrifice a ‘workout’ for a yoga class but the mash-up option offers a balance between functional strength and mobility and flexibility." Good Grief!

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Why Does Yoga Work?

Dear Yogis

Last week, I wrote about Eddie Stern and the vargus nerve. He started his lecture by asking ‘Why does yoga work?’ Having established the significance of the parasympathetic nervous system and the vargus nerve, he then wanted to know: ‘how do we make the vargus nerve stronger and reap more benefits from yoga practice for a wider assortment of conditions? Here comes the science bit. Concentrate, as Jennifer Anniston used to say!

Four things improve Vagus nerve tone. The first is breathing consciously which changes the PH level of the blood and balances the parasympathetic (PSNS) and sympathetic (SNS) nervous systems. If we live life on the acceleration pedal, SNS overload, the system reorganises to a new reality of overstimulation with a higher heart rate and higher blood pressure. Conscious breathing, lengthening the exhale, breathing with sound (Sound of the Sea breathing) and breathing with vocalisation (like Om-ing) hacks into the nervous system and presses on the brake pedal.

Number two is chanting and singing. The vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords and the muscles at the back of the throat and so is toned by chanting. Number three is posture practice. This is because of Baroreceptors which are all over the body sensing blood flow and blood pressure and sending messages back to the brain to make adjustments. Yoga postures, by making us concentrate and use strength while consciously breathing and slowing down the heart rate, bring balance to this monitoring system.

The last thing which tones the vagus nerve, I like this one, is behaviour. Things that negatively affect vagus nerve tone and heart rate variability are; anger, irritation, judgment, criticism, stress, overwork. The opposite, things like gratitude, compassion, love and positive thinking, have been shown to tone the vagus nerve and improve heart rate variability.

Do Yoga!

Yoga Retreat

There’s two places left on my September 9th-16th retreat. You’re very welcome to come. By the way, if you play a stringed instrument and you’re more interested in an orchestra retreat than yoga retreat, check out Strings In Greece. There are places left for this year’s trip, Friday 25th May to Sunday 3rd June. I’m going along to teach some Yin Yoga. I started visiting Kythera in 2004 when Chris Shurety started his musical retreats using Kapsali’s Amphitheatre. Eventually, inevitably, I spotted someone with a yoga mat and so finally, predictably, I started my yoga retreats there.

Home Studio

It’s getting hot in my little studio; the fan is on setting 2 and the window flung open! I have added a 6.00 class on Tuesday and taken off the 6.00 Thursday class until the demand returns. See what’s available here. (I update this every Friday before posting this email.) You can book here.

Training

Andy Gill is running a workshop on Pain-Free Shoulders in your Yoga Practice. It’s tomorrow, Saturday 21st from 14:00 to 16:30 at Globe House, London, SE1 3JW. It’s £25. He will be teaching shoulder anatomy, ‘de-bunking yoga myths on what constitutes healthy movement for shoulders’, how to stay injury free and shoulder rehabilitation practices. I’m definitely going to this! My shoulder hurts! To book this workshop contact Andy at andy@andygill.yoga or 07913-615984

Yoga in the news

The Telegraph asked this week if Yoga improves your skiing. The journalist goes skiing with a snowboard champion who is also an Ashtanga ‘master’, Emilien Badoux, who aims to bring this feeling of calmness to all his yogis and skiers.

This piece from Health 24 tells us of medical research into four chronic conditions: 4 ways yoga can improve chronic health conditions. This is what Eddie Stern was saying – treat the underlying condition which is apparent in the nervous system.

The Evening Standard tells us, in London Marathon week, ‘Why you should take up yoga if you want to be a better runner’.

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Vagal Superstar Eddie Stern

Dear Yogis

Last weekend I trained with Eddie Stern who was an inspiration and intellectually more stimulating and enlightening in the few hours than I could have imagined anyone to be. His main lecture was on the parasympathetic nervous system, the one we indulge in during our yoga practice. 80% of this system is made up of the Vagus nerve, the oldest branch of the nervous system. This nerve is a wanderer – a vagabond - and stimulates lots of things: the bronchial, larynx, heart, lungs, diaphragm, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, and intestines.

Why is this related to yoga? At a very basic level, when we lengthen the exhalation, we engage the parasympathetic nervous system which is almost totally synonymous with the vagus nerve – 80%. A strong vagus nerve means a strong immune system, digestive system, blood function and heart function. It will protect us from inflammation in the body and therefore from certain diseases. It also means good emotional balance. If you have stress or anxiety, high blood pressure, back pain, diabetes, just as a few examples, these are dysfunctions of some part of the nervous system for which doctors may give pills but you can also work on bringing back balance yourself. Your Vagal Nerve might already be really strong in which case you’re a ‘vagal superstar’

Yes, Eddie’s lecture was detailed – apparently a four-day lecture in a couple of hours. The hallelujah message is that everything we do in yoga tones and strengthens the Vagus nerve: breathing with lengthened exhalation, breathing with sound, posture practice and chanting. Yoga works on treating the underlying factors to bring balance to the body. Hurray! If you want a little more on this, here is a Q&A article by Eddie on the vagus nerve which sums up his lecture. The more I find out about yoga the more I find how rich and clever it is!

Home Studio

There has been a lovely little flood of new yogis coming to the home studio. It’s such a joy to welcome new people here. I have had new music to play in class which includes Krishna Das Baba Hanuman and Anne Malone Aad Guraynamey Chill. Kino MacGregor will make a comeback next week. Last night we discussed doing another introduction to Mysore so let me know if that’s something you’d like to experience. For next week, see what’s available here. (I update this every Friday before posting this email.) You can book here.

Yoga West

This Sunday (15th) at 8.30-9.45 I’ll be teaching an Ashtanga class at Yoga West: 33-34 Westpoint, Warple Way, London W3 0RG. Here’s a map.

Website

Have a root around this website if you want to find out about my retreats, read previous blogs, want to introduce yoga into your workplace, or want to download an Ashtanga chart or Legs-up-the-wall sequence.

Yoga in the news

The London Marathon is next weekend so I thought this might be useful: Five Moves To Help You Recover After Long Runs from Coach Magazine. (Actually, come to a Monday or Tuesday class here instead!). The independent this week tells us that Adidas has launched a yoga clothes collection made from recycled ocean plastic. Actually, it’s ‘infused, with plastic but that might mean it lasts longer in better condition. It might be good for swimming in!

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Blossom In Riotous Bloom

Dear Yogis

Friday Yoga Email time again but this time with cherry blossom in the trees, the positivity of Spring in the air and a faint, wintry sun whose rays will be hot and unhidden before too long.  With this sense of blossoming and positivity I want to share this with you the thoughts of Scott Johnson, founder of Stillpoint Yoga in London Bridge and Brixton. Scott is a teacher I know a little but instinctively admire greatly.

He has written a beautiful piece is about listening properly, not just with ears but “listening to the way that our own life is playing out”. He writes that this deeper listening is hard and we might not like what we hear; we might witness the ingrained narratives and hideous stories we tell ourselves. Yoga can point out how we physically experience the mind’s false narratives in the body and feel their tones and sensations (or aches and pains!). We can ultimately, in time, change our approach to those false narratives and let them go. This might be an inappropriate relationship of a false career path. (My CV is an unending list of those!) Letting go happens through creating new stories and creating new positive habits. “This is deep practice. This is yoga”.

It’s such a lovely read. It’s like a yoga practice; you’ll feel better after reading!

Home Studio

I have been asked about the mats I have in the studio. The green one is a Calyana mat. The cost is around £50 but I found it here for £20. The next one, several steps up in price, is the Atmananda mat by New York ‘mat creator’ Jhon Tamayo. Here it is at £75. I bought a little stock of the LOVE MAT by Lāal from the yoga show. I feel that they should have a Barry White voice but they are from Paddington’s motherland, Peru! They’re a cheaper version of the Liforme mat (which is around £100). These are £55 and you just need to pop over if you want one. See picture attachment. Otherwise, forget about mats and just come to class! See what’s available here. (I update this every Friday before posting this email.) Book here.

Yoga West

Next Sunday (15th) at 8.30-9.45 I’ll be teaching at Yoga West. It’s an Ashtanga class. The address is: 33-34 Westpoint, Warple Way, London W3 0RG. Here’s a map. It’s a very nice space to practice in with floor-to-ceiling windows and endless energy in the room. Come for the change of scene.

Free Yoga

Triyoga is holding a whole week of free Hot Yoga. This freedom-to-sweat takes place next week. Book online or visit Triyoga Ealing.

Training

I’m looking forward to studying at Stillpoint Brixton this weekend with Eddie Stern from the Brooklyn Yoga Club. I found this thought from him: ‘So, which Ashtanga Yoga is “pure”? The version that Pattabhi Jois taught in 1937 at the Sanskrit College? How he taught in 1948 when he opened his first institute? The version the first Americans learned in 1972? What I learned in 1991 when I started with him? Or today, as Sharath teaches it?’ I wonder why the idea of a pure practice even arises. Come with me!

Yoga in the news

Here is The Times telling us about one woman’s journey from yoga derision to yoga devotion. There is one nice thing she says about her yoga mat: “It bears witness to what you do on it, and what you think on it, day after day. And, somehow, as a result… you actually stop thinking. And even if you don’t stop thinking, when you finish your practice you always feel more clear-headed than you did before you started.” The second half of the article is about Yin Yoga and Simon Low. (Not an easy read if you’re an ex-sub!).

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Upside Down Empowerment

Dear Yogis

Every time I teach headstand (Sirsasana) to someone for the first time I am newly delighted by the positivity that it brings. People smile with every tooth. They overcome a fear or hesitancy, set a goal and rise to it - exactly the kind of lesson we need to take off the mat and into life. It gives a profound sense of presence; let the mind wander and you’ll fall. It achieves what we are striving for in class, to still the fluctuations of the mind.

By what exactly explains the happiness that headstand stimulates? We get a good feeling from other difficult postures that we achieve but this is different. Headstand stimulates the pituitary gland (regulates hormones) and pineal gland (including secretion of melatonin, serotonin and dopamine). This means it stimulates a collection of happiness, positivity and relaxation hormones. Conversely, low levels of melatonin are linked to insomnia, fatigue and anxiety.

Finally, headstand will give you the sleep of kings! It’s the King of the Asanas, after all, and it controls the Kingdom! The Pineal gland creates melatonin sleepiness in the evening and dopamine wakefulness in the morning. I get lovely feedback from people who achieve headstand for the first time. There really is a ‘bliss effect’.

Greek Yoga Retreat

The retreat of September 9th – 16th is over half full, all will be coming to Kapsali for the first time. This tiny and exquisite seaside village will inspire your yoga and make you feel fabulous. Yoga in our normal setting takes the edge off life's stresses but yoga in Kapsali is practiced at a whole new level. The body unwinds and the shoulders drop down to their rightful place. I think of Kapsali as a place where my soul can breathe. Come with me.

October Happiness Retreat

Well, we’ll have to practice headstand on the Complete Wellbeing Retreat, October 12th-15th , run by Deborah Smith. You have another month before the Early Bird rate finishes.

Home Studio

I decided not to teach on Easter Monday but I have added a 6.00pm class on Tuesday to try to make up for it. See what’s available here. (I update this every Friday before posting this email.) Book here.

Training

Next weekend, on the mornings of the 7th and 8th of April, I’ll be doing the Ashtanga weekend with Eddie Stern from the Brooklyn Yoga Club. His lectures will be: How Does Yoga Work? and Yoga as Social Justice. Come with me!

Yoga in the news

Prime Minister Modi of India is continuing the rich history of Yoga as a political tool as The Guardian tells us: Yoga with Modi: Indian PM stars in cartoon video of poses. He has released a cartoon video of himself demonstrating different poses. He emphasises that the discipline, rooted in ancient Indian religious traditions, is key to health. (If you’re interested in how this fits in to the recent history of yoga, read Mark Singleton’s book, Yoga Body.)

The Evening Standard tells us that: Arsenal star Laurent Koscielny reveals how yoga is helping to ease his tendon injury. He says: “I can recover better after the matches. At Arsenal a yoga teacher comes once a week to give classes, which is another form of therapy that allows you to work on relaxation, meditation, breathing, stretching, many important areas for a football player.” (Aston Villa has now made yoga compulsory in the academy, says Birmingham Live.)

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Breathing; You Just Can’t Lose!

Dear Yogis

I had the privilege of teaching chair yoga to Deaf Women Ealing. It was such a joyous and funny class. The ujjayi breathing was superb, (I bought little mirrors for everyone to practice the ‘haaaah’ by fogging up the mirror) and we discovered a few hundred different facial expressions to convey various levels of ‘ouch!’. Hamstrings are hamstrings, in any class!

We explored the value of full yogic breathing. I’m sure many people get a shock the first time they expand the ribcage to its full circumference; unused respiration muscles actually do strain. ‘Incorrect and shallow breathing leads to stiffening of the ribcage and wasting of the muscles of respiration so that insufficient oxygen is available for healthy metabolism’, says my book Chair Yoga. It goes on: ‘When inhalation is deep and full, blood is drawn from the periphery of the body towards the lungs, the heart fills with blood and its activity is sustained and strengthened’.

Remember that even when you think a class isn’t going your way, (postures are wobbly, muscles are uncooperative and bed is calling), the full yogic breathing is strengthening your heart and boosting your metabolism, and you just can’t lose!

October Happiness Retreat

If you’re interested in coming on the Complete Wellbeing Retreat, October 12th-15th , run by Deborah Smith, here on her webpage are meditation recordings of 5, 10 and 20 minutes. Have a go. I will be teaching the yoga component the weekend.

Greek Yoga Retreat

The retreat of September 9th – 16th is over half full. Everyone so far on this retreat will be visiting my favourite corner of the world for the first time and I can’t wait to take them… and, perhaps, you. Here’s an article the Guardian wrote just before my first retreat asking ‘Is Kythira the perfect Greek island?’. Come and practice yoga watching the sunrise coming up on Kapsali’s double bay, birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love! Leave this gentle, soul-nourishing place renewed and planning your return.

Home Studio

There are plenty of places in next week’s classes – two classes are still empty, so you might want to book a group of friends. Let me know if you want to organise this. See what’s available here. (I update this every Friday before posting this email.) Book here.

Training

In anticipation of tomorrow’s training (Saturday 24th March) in Thai Yoga Massage with Sensei Tassie, I took a Thai Massage treatment at Triyoga with Eve Khambatta and I can’t recommend her massage highly enough. She said: ‘Ooooh, you’re tight’ about 57 times which I thought wasn’t too bad! She worked some magic on what she called my ‘tightness’ (and I call ‘normal’) and I’m eager to learn those techniques. If you want to train with me there are still four places left. The workshop costs £25 and starts at 4.00

Today, this evening at 7.30, Sarai Harvey Smith is doing a jump-through workshop at Triyoga Ealing for £25. ‘Jumping through is also known as a floaty practice, when you can lift yourself up from sitting and jump back without scraping the mat. It’s the holy grail of Ashtanga!

Yoga in the news

The Mirror has the breaking news: ‘Why your back pain treatment is probably wrong - and how to do it right’. Guess what! Any yogi knows that: “To stay pain-free and flexible the spine needs to regularly and carefully go through its whole range of movements – bending from side-to-side, rotating and moving forwards and backwards,” … “This stops it becoming stiff and prone to injury.” 

The Metro has an advertorial explaining what Yin Yoga is – it’s not a bad read. They want you to buy M&S yoga pants!

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Five Breath Fix

Dear Yogis

Have you ever wondered why we take five breaths in each posture in the Ashtanga system? Does it seem enough to fix tight muscles? Apparently, the Yogis who discovered Pattabhi Jois in the 1970s had no such restriction but when hordes of eager yoga seekers lined up outside the yoga shala in Mysore the five-breath tradition was born to get the queue moving along.

Pattabhi Jois, recommended various amounts of time for staying in a posture. Sometimes he said five to eight breaths. In an interview he said 10, 15, 100 breaths or, if you have the strength, hold a posture for three hours! Yikes!. Manju Jois, his son, recommends taking more breaths in difficult postures.

In class, you may be breathing your loveliest, longest and most lyrical ujjayi breath and still the teacher hasn’t called ‘five’. What then? Think of the very reason we practice yoga – the definition. Still the fluctuations of the mind. If they are not stilling then watch them; notice what arises; notice if it is frustration, the urge to giving up, the tendency to self-criticism. Watch all the other various voices that climb into that five-breath fraction of life. Trust your breath, watch the breath, listen to the breath, find inner strength and stay there. Unattach yourself to the number 5.

Think of this: the feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Saint Hildegard

October Happiness Retreat

Make sure you get the early bird discount if you want to come on the Complete Wellbeing Retreat; Happiness workshops, Yoga and Mindfulness sessions. Sign up soon to save a bit of money. It’s on the weekend of October 12th-15th.  The retreat is run by Deborah Smith (here’s her Grow Your Own Happiness Twitter page).  I will be teaching the yoga component. Here’s a review from one of the participants last year.

Greek Yoga Retreat

If you’re interested in the retreat of September 9th – 16th, there are still places – it’s half full. There’ll be plenty of happiness… Ashtanga in the morning and Yin in the evening and holiday in between. Get in touch if you need more information. Flight suggestions are on my retreat page.

Home Studio

My lucky home studio had a guest teacher on Tuesday - my guru Valentina Candiani. People came for a stretchy, easy class and found themselves in a Hot Yoga routine which includes some pretty demanding peak poses. I turned the central heating up and sweat was spotted! I’m sorry that can’t happen every week. Back to normal next week. See what’s available here. (I update this every Friday before posting this email.) Book here.

Training

Triyoga asks you to bring along a male friend for free! The offer runs until 18th March. On the 24th March, Valentina is hosting a Thai Yoga Massage Workshop and you can find details on the Facebook page here

Yoga in the news

The Evening Standard explains ’Why men are taking up yoga... Boys to Zen’! The article says: “Not even his tight white trousers could stop the Duke of Cambridge from putting chakras before chukkas when he limbered up with yoga poses before a recent polo match”.

The New York Times features beautiful yoga photography from photographer Andy Richter, ‘a Minnesota native and former ski patrolman, has been devoted to his yoga practice since 2004.’ 

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Savasana Like Snoopy

Dear Yogis

I’ve been thinking about Savasana recently and, in particular, the yogis who can’t do it...yet! Some keep shoulders up, taught arms and stiff little fingers. One or two drum their fingers on their belly, check the clock and stare at the ceiling. For some, it’s five minutes of imprisonment. Sometimes, rarely, someone walks out.

One phenomenal yogi, he won’t mind me saying, would erupt with laughter and then quickly leave. Savasana was impossible but as his yoga confidence grew and grew, his mind really did still and he became a Savasana champion. One yogi squeezes every last minute out of the class and, while others are in Savasana, keeps going with more postures. That always reminds me of when I was a Spinning© instructor (indoor cycling) and of the cyclists who wouldn’t take part in the last five-minute ‘cool-down’. They hammered on the pedals to the last minute and got off the bike stressed, breathless and blood pooling and with the possibility of fainting.

After the body has been wrung out in postures, savasana is a post-practice discipline of letting the body rest, renew and repair. It operates on a different brainwave type which decreases stress, anxiety and depression. It’s important and, like other postures, it needs practice and it has benefits to give. If the thought of doing nothing is like death for you, it’s called ‘Corpse Pose’! This lovely blog says “It is about the old you (the one that walked into the yoga room) ‘dying’ and the new you (the one that’s just done a delicious yoga class) coming back to life.”

Greek Yoga Retreat

I’ve had a really lucky time with my previous two retreats in Kythera. I have seen so many people fall in love with the island and return again and again. We have no idea what next year will bring, if we will be in the EU Open Skies Agreement and how easy it will be to fly. This is your year to discover a yoga retreat in an idyllic corner of Europe! I really can’t wait to introduce new people to this lovely place. If you’re interested in the retreat of September 9th – 16th, there are still places.

October Retreat

On the weekend of October 12th-15th I will be teaching on the Complete Wellbeing Retreat; Happiness workshops, Yoga and Mindfulness sessions. The Devon retreat, in an 18th Century Palladian Villa, is run by Deborah Smith, International Positive Psychologist and Mindfulness Expert. I really can’t wait. It may well turn out to be where our Greek Retreat is held next year!

Home Studio

The upside-down stool made an appearance again this week. Headstands can be daunting for newcomers. (Handstands are easier!) With such a small studio we can always unpack fears and explore the posture needed for Headstand and Tripod Stand. We can find out which one is best for you. There are class places available next week on Monday and Thursday. See what’s available here. (I update this every Friday before posting this email.) Book here.

Training

Diaries out! On Saturday May 12th another Shakti Power Yoga student (like me) is holding a Mindful Movement Yoga & Energy Healing Reiki event. AliceLovesYoga  will teach her signature yoga practice and, back to the theme of Savasana, ‘there will be a small team of Reiki healers administering group Reiki (beaming) healing energy during Savasana’. Tickets here.

Yoga in the News

The Telegraph says: ‘Meet Michael James Wong, the yogi encouraging men to take to the mat’. It tells of Michael James Wong’s new book and of how he wants to combat antiquated definitions of being a man. The journalist doesn’t seem convinced! ‘It’s downward-facing dog... that still gives me nightmares.’ ’The next morning my chest and arms are in considerable pain.’

Huffington Post tells us that ‘IKEA has launched a new sustainable wellness and yoga collection’. OK, but I’m still not going there!

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Superman Yoga

Dear Yogis

My flight to Madrid this weekend has been cancelled. I was hoping to rendezvous with a New York friend who is also, by chance and by walking life’s askew road, a yoga teacher. But the cancellation and the snow fixed my resolve to book my tickets for a weekend yoga retreat in June with Kristina Karitinou-Ireland, the wife ofthe late Derek Ireland who was probably yoga’s most colourful, characterful yoga. His obituary in the Independent says he did: ‘demonstrations in designer knickers and his own yoga practise... wearing only a thong. On his daily run he generally wore nothing but trainers, the thong and a personal stereo’. He had the body of Adonis and knew it. His phenomenal strength drew a lot of people to yoga. He clearly practiced with joy. He must have been scintillating to know.

David Swenson spoke affectionately about him recently and how he would do his yoga practice wearing weights. As the obit says, he got rid of the weighted jacket after he did a handstand and nearly killed himself: “it slipped down and hit me on the back of the head”. He was the teacher of many great teachers including John Scott who I have written about beforea few times, Petri Räisänen the phenomenal Finnish teacher, Hamish Hendry of Ashtanga Yoga London, and Kiros Tzannes who I practice with in Kythera. Kristina Karitinou-Ireland says: ‘Derek's students were actually the ones who made Ashtanga so popular in Europe’. She will be in Kythera on June 1st- 3rd. Let me know if you fancy joining me.

Greek Yoga Retreat

Here are some reasons you should book a yoga retreat...possibly with me in Kythera in September! Go to a place of beauty; a place where the soul can breathe. Surround yourself with good company and a great vibe. Get to know the local community. Do lots of yoga. Swim, trek, run and take other lovely pastimes in the sun. Discover different tavernas and bars. Be a tourist and learn something about another little location on this planet. Wake up with determination, go to bed with satisfaction. If you don’t feel like you are the ‘type’ that would do a yoga retreat, then try this one...

My retreats are on Kythera, Aphrodite’s own Island. Yes, she was born there! Kiros Tzannes told our first retreat yogis that Kapsali Bay is shaped like an ‘Om’ and has healing properties.  It’s the perfect place for relaxing and recharging, reclaiming the person that you could be. If you’re interested in the retreat of September 9th – 16th, get in touch.

Home Studio

Week after week new yogis come to my lucky Home Studio. If you don’t want to practice with colleagues at work, if you don’t want big classes, if gyms don’t turn you on,  if you can’t decipher yoga studio class descriptions, if a small group is what you’re after, if you want to get to know others in class and not be a stranger, come and have a go. See what’s available hereBook here.

Yoga in the News

The Telegraph tells us: ‘Ringing the changes: why gong baths are the new yoga’. The writer helpfully tells us that participants “move into different states of consciousness as different sound waves affect their bodies. During a session, they can move from a normal waking state (beta) to a relaxed consciousness (alpha), to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, deep meditation (theta), and deep sleep (delta) where internal healing naturally occurs”. Here’s some feedback: “In most cases a gong experience feels like a psychedelic journey, without taking any psychedelics”. Cool, eh!

Here’s a sweet thing. It’s Yoga in the News if you include blogs! I received an email this week telling me: ‘I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog Good Times Yoga has been selected by our panellists as one of the Top 100 UK Yoga Blogs on the web. It’s only number 25. Onwards and upwards!

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