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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Guru ABBA

Dear Yogis

I don’t know if you have heard but there’s a scandal in the Ashtanga world. It rides on the back of the #MeToo movement and it turns out that Pattabhi Jois, ‘Guruji,’ ‘father of Ashtanga’, touched women inappropriately. He died in 2009 but there is a call for the grandson, Sharath, inheritor of Pattabhi Jois’ institute, to make a statement of apology. He hasn’t said anything about that but he has deleted many senior teachers, some taught by his grandfather, from the list of authorised teachers. Being on the list is a big deal - I read recently that training and the institute is to an Ashtangi what MIT is to an aspiring engineer! Ashtangi feelings are aflame.

Shouldn’t we, anyone who is hurt, look to text for guidance? Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras tell us to ‘still the fluctuations of the mind’. Minds are very unstilled, so that didn’t help! The lesson of the Bhagavad Gita is a call to action and devotion... it doesn’t help! There’s too much activity on social media and devotion has been severely tested.

This fairly ancient text might help! I had to laugh when I heard this on radio by Guru ABBA!:

‘Like a roller in the ocean, life is motion, move on.
Like the wind that’s always blowing, life is flowing, move on.
Like the sunrise in the morning, life is dawning, move on...’

When the student is ready, the guru appears!

Greek Yoga Retreat

If you are signed up for the first retreat, please look into securing your flights soon. The second retreatees found that BA cancelled the early morning flight on Sunday 16th September and the next morning flight doesn’t give the Minimum Connection Time at Athens Airport. Everybody is stopping in Athens for a night or two. Get in touch if you have any questions.

Home Studio

More new yogis at my lucky Home Studio. I wonder if the opening of Triyoga swept in new yoga excitement in Ealing. Who knew Ealing, Queen of the Suburbs, would have royal standing in the World of yoga! Every week more new yogis are seeking out a class: people are new to yoga, returning after years or just looking for a new place to practice. It’s lovely!  There are plenty of places next week. See what’s available here. Book here.

Training

Tomorrow, Saturday 24th, I am signed up for The koshas: 5 Spiralling Layers of Being with Zephyr Wildman in Triyoga Ealing. It’s at 14:00 - 16:30 so there’s no clash with Mark Colleano’s Ashtanga class at 18.30. Come with me!

Yoga in the News

The New York Times, no less, has an article called ‘So, You Say You Want to Do the Splits?‘. Never give up on the dream says the yoga teacher-author of ‘Even the Stiffest People Can Do the Splits: A Four-Week Stretching Plan to Achieve Amazing Health’. It’s a very readable review. The bulk of the book is “a short story; ‘How Are You Going to Achieve Anything If You Can’t Even Do the Splits?’ about two shame-ridden employees of a corporation in Japan who discover the joys and benisons of shake yoga”.

Cold is coming! Stay warm!

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Yoga! Not Philosophy!

Dear Yogis

I have a little four-hour, once-a-week job at Triyoga Ealing on Sunday afternoons. I potter around cleaning up, refilling water bottles, replacing incense sticks, preparing studios and helping yogis and teachers. It’s a lovely job in a peaceful place so, quite by contrast, I heard a frustrated yogi coming out of a class announcing: ‘Don’t give me philosophy! Just give me yoga’. Hmmmm. Well, I’m not so sure I was very different back in the day.

It's possible to be a yoga practitioner without ever touching yoga postures. The inverse is also true - you can practice yoga without an interest in the ‘mind stuff’... but why not get a personal trainer and work the body that way? The physical results are quicker and there’s absolutely no philosophy.

But you’re drawn to yoga! You don’t need to acknowledge it but you’re meditating for the length of the class. However dynamic the class is, breath-focus means that calm is encouraged in the mind. The definition of yoga from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is to still the fluctuations of the mind. If you know nothing more about yoga philosophy than that, it’s enough! The waves are not separate from the sea. The shapes we make are not separate from yoga tradition.

Home Studio

My lucky Home Studio has welcomed a lot of new yogis recently. It’s such an honour to introduce new yogis or rekindle the enthusiasm of lapsed yogis.  There are plenty of places to book for next week,  

Greek Yoga Retreat

I bought my tickets for London - Athens - Kythera and I have a couple of observations. The first is to watch the baggage restrictions between BA and Aegean and Sky Express. I got the first flight out of Heathrow which leaves an enormous amount of time at Athens airport so the second observation is that there’s time for a leisurely meal in the hotel opposite the airport. The same on the way back with the late flight from Athens to London. All details are on my website including suggested flights. If you want help with booking, call or email Eleanor Docarragal, at the Flight Centre: eleanor.docarragal@flightcentre.co.uk and her number is 0208 840 9179.

Training

Tomorrow I’m off to Winchester for the Day Christensen workshops. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there.

Yoga in the News

On the Simon Mayo Radio 2 show yesterday Simon discussed the diaphragm with a clip from actor Martin Shaw and then with guest Christen Linklater, a voice coach. (Wind forward to approx 17 minutes into the programme). She explains that it’s the primary breathing muscle and closely related to the emotional nerve centre - your solar plexus. She mentions that when people ‘hold the stomach’ it makes the breath go into the upper lungs and is ‘restricted’. (In Ashtanga, the instruction is to hold the ’Uddiyana Bandha’ or squeeze the lower abdominal muscles in for exactly this reason – David Keil anatomy here if you’re interested.) She ends with the importance of sighing! It’s a nice listen.

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Offering Your Practice

Dear Yogis

Have you ever heard a teacher say at the beginning of class ‘offer up your practice‘? Stewart Gilchrist says at the beginning of his classes something like this: ‘Offer up your practice to God. If that doesn’t suit you, devote your practice to the universe. If that doesn’t chime with you, offer your practice to someone you know”. With this ‘offering’ we try to take any selfishness out of our practice. It’s another way to free the mind.

In the Buddhist tradition it’s common to find ceremonies taking place to offer merit to departed ones or to people in need of support but if you’re not brought up with devotional ideas then it might be hard to get your head around. I found this on the notice board of the London Buddhist Vihara on how to make an offering: ‘As you make an offering, allow joy to arise in your heart; make your mind calm and contented; focus and fill your mind with the act of offering; and you will develop a heart of boundless loving kindness’. Nice, eh! Try that when you’re invited to offer up your practice.

One Of Us

I love it when someone we practice with has a big event or a great achievement. Professional boxer Hamid Sediqi has a fight on March 3rd in Bethnal Green. He’s a total inspiration. See attachment.

Greek Yoga Retreat

There are plenty of places in the retreat for all levels, Sunday September 9th to 16th. All details are on my website including suggested flights. Get in touch if you have any questions.

Home Studio

There are plenty of places to book for next week, especially on Monday and Thursday. It’s a cashless studio now – bookings and payments are online to ease the problem of no-shows. I still have a WhatsApp group, however, if last-minute places come up. Let me know if you want to be added.

Training

Tomorrow I’ll be doing Chakrabatics with Stewart Gilchrist at Indaba. Come with me. If you want to stay in the warmth of your home, here’s a You Tube of the led primary series with Manju Pattabhi Jois. The whole thing is completed in an hour. The film cuts out before the final two postures, Padmasana (lotus for 10 breaths) and Utplutih (lifted lotus for 10 breaths). By that time you might have been in Savasana for half an hour so don’t worry too much about it!

Yoga in the News

The Telegraph tells us that: New on the menu: Waitrose makes space for evening yoga classes. Lucky you if you’re in Newbury, Basingstoke or Banbury. Classes are £7. Apparently shoppers are spending money on events rather than things and so Waitrose is experimenting with yoga and in-store consultations with nutritionists.

Refinery 29 tells us: I Went To Meghan Markle's Favourite Yoga Class & Here's What Happened. It’s at Y7 Yoga, a hip-hop yoga studio with a cult following in LA and New York. It sounds like fun and I wouldn’t mind going!

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The Poses of Sisyphus

Dear Yogis

I wonder if your approach to yoga poses changes as much as mine does. My every posture is like a postcard from the past; a chronicle of the journey from impossible or inelegant to not-too-bad. Warrior 2 always reminds me of my original bottom-protruding inelegance. Until I found any height, Hand to Big Toe Posture (B) was five breaths of plummeting dignity. And what about the sheer persecution of hamstring stretches! Shoulder Stand deserves an ‘it’s complicated’ status on Facebook. After years of struggle I found to my surprise and delight the holy grail of surrender and stillness. Things changed after I was in a Hit & Run. Shoulder Stand was as broken as my bike and the uphill climb started again. It’s my Sisyphus pose along with Halasana which is a whole world of frustration.

In a ‘level 2’ class this week the teacher offered various options for poses – as most teachers do – so I did Shoulder Stand against the wall keeping my feet on the wall. Ahhhhh, glory! That’s where the posture is! Another one is Bound Marichyasana C. Why am I struggling to bind when the posture (twisting the spine, calming the mind) happens when I don’t! Ambition o’vaults itself; postures get lost. I’m entering my third decade of yoga and I think light bulbs are only just going on.

Greek Yoga Retreat

There are plenty of places in the retreat for all levels, Sunday September 9th to 16th. All details are on my website including suggested flights. The second retreat is full.

Home Studio

There are plenty of places to book for next week in the Ashtanga-based classes of Wednesday and Thursday. It’s a delight to welcome new people to my joyful Home Studio. The stretchy classes are popular and packed so it’s probably time to add another class. If a Tuesday 6.00pm class suits you, let me know.

Training

Join me in one of these! Next Saturday February 10th, I’ve signed up for Chakrabatics with Stewart Gilchrist at Indaba. The following weekend I’m in Winchester at the Day Christensen workshops. A long way in advance, in April, I’ve signed up for Eddie Stern workshops in Brixton and in May, when summer will be well on the way, I’ve signed up for Kino MacGregor’s workshops. One I haven’t booked yet but looks thoroughly appealing is on February 24th – a workshop in Ealing Triyoga with Zephyr Wildman on the koshas.

Yoga in the News

Frankie McCoy wrote in the Evening Standard about how bad posture, specifically the spine, is at the root of so much of what makes s feel bad. I couldn’t find it online so it is attached. A really good read. (Grateful to Emma Leahy for sending it to me.)

This is an ‘article’ about Yoga for Energy from Inside Time, The National Newspaper for Prisoners and Detainees. It’s not so much an article than a chart of postures. Pretty useful!

If you like podcasts, I’ve been listening to Fit & Fearless on Radio 5 Live. The presenters, Tally, Zanna and Vic, are not so easy on the ear but they are very inspiring and their tips are brilliant. They are completely positive and encouraging about their experiences, mistakes and  successes and, mostly, about lifting weights.

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Savasana Sadness

Dear Yogis

Have you ever found yourself overly emotional or crying in Savasana? I was chatting with a yogi this week who said that he sometimes does... even though he’s a Northern bloke! It’s no surprise at all – in any part of the country. In everyday life we build up or various personalities for work, home, friends, strangers and don many types of armour and emotional control. We layer that with tightly held opinions, politics and beliefs. On top of that, big challenges make us fight, flight, or freeze, all of which show up in the body (perhaps endless colds, perhaps thyroid dysfunction, perhaps psoriasis). The list of ingredients that make us who we are is exhausting! In the yoga studio we start to let go of those layers, those artificial constructions.

Yoga is like taking the armour off – or at least loosening it.  In class we peel back the layers, the koshas, and try to get to our truer self. Whether this is your intention when buying expensive Lulu Lemons or not, this is what’s happening! It doesn’t have to be about tears. Stretching and exercise releases endorphins so your Savasana might be in a state of bliss.

Greek Yoga Retreat

What a nightmare! I’ve had to change the dates of the retreat by one day. I found to my horror that Aegean Airlines has changed its timetable so it’s impossible to leave the island in time to catch a London flight from Athens. Both retreats are now Sunday – Sunday retreats. (Allcomers and All levels will be 9th to 16th September and Ashtanga with workshops will be 16th to 23rd). The price for the first retreat will change slightly to reflect one extra day. The website will reflect those changes later today.

Home Studio

I hope you’re managing to dodge cold & flu season. I had to cancel classes yesterday but I think I dodged the bullet. Samahan definitely helps! One yogi called it ‘magic tea’.

There are plenty of places to book for next week in my little Home Studio, especially the early Ashtanga class on Thursday. The new booking system seems to be well received but please let me know if you have reason to be unenthusiastic about it. Payment is now with Timely (debit card), not Paypal.

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I’ll be teaching Ashtanga at Yoga West this Sunday from 8.30-9.45, covering Titi Rylander’s class.

Children’s Books

This week my favourite children’s books came out inthe Home Studio so I promised links. I’ve used Wai Lana’s Exercise is Fun with my niece since she was three-years old. It’s a gentle and colourful and engaging book. When she was a little older (six or seven) I bought her Babar's Yoga for Elephants which steps up from individual postures to sequences. Inevitably you have to hold your trunk in some postures. We held a teddy instead. My Daddy Is a Pretzel is a book I bought for a friend’s children (under ten) and, along with two other friends, they went off and conducted their own yoga class. It worked well.. I also bought a new one: I Am Yoga by Susan Verde. And here are some You Tubes.

Yoga in the News

The Metro this week told us that ‘Apparently, hot yoga is no better for you than regular yoga’. It’s the postures, not the heat, that benefit the body! Hmmm... but some people just like the heat on the skin.

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Ashtanga Insomnia?

Dear Yogis

Do you ever have trouble sleeping after an evening Ashtanga practice? I usually hear the exact opposite but it is widely written that Ashtanga is stimulating and energising so it would be no surprise if it felt like a coffee at bedtime. If this is the case for you, you might need a much longer Savasana after practice – perhaps with legs up the wall for extra restorative effect. Leave out any backbending poses as they are said to be particularly stimulating. Traditionally, Ashtanga is practiced in the morning before the daily grind.

I put the question to an Ashtanga Discussion Group. Here’s an answer from one person which echoes other responses:I think it negatively affects my sleep if I practice after early afternoon. On the whole though, years of steady practice have generally helped improve my quality of sleep while reducing the number of hours I need”.

Here’s another question which might shed some light on this... what is your Ayurvedic type? If you are a Vata type, then perhaps your evening needs to be particularly concerned with grounding and winding down. Here’s an article about the right yoga practice for your Dosha type.

Greek Yoga Retreat

There are plenty of places left on my yoga retreat for all levels, September 9th – 15th. Take a look at my website page for Greek retreats in September. Check out the Devon ‘Complete Wellbeing Retreat’ in October too.

Home Studio

Every now and again we take a look at angle strength and stability in our sessions. It helps in all the standing postures. Here’s the Physio department of the Australian Ballet to give tips.

There are plenty of places to book for next week in my little Home Studio.  I have a new booking system. Payment is now with Timely (debit card), not Paypal. If you have any problems, let me know. I have ‘data inputed’ with abandon this morning so that current bookings are transferred. If you have been inundated with confirmation emails, that’s why.

Yoga in the News

Here’s a lovely article in The Telegraph: ‘Should our children be learning yoga in the classroom?’ The thrust of the article is that yoga sharpens their developing minds and increases short attention spans.

GQ is telling its pump iron readers that Yoga is the New Rest Day and that it helps with purposefulness and mindfulness. Here’s what the writer entertainingly says about his introduction to yoga: ‘During the first few times I went, I would have been extremely self-conscious about how profusely I was sweating, if not for the fact that I was already extremely self-conscious about the fact that I resembled a stiff, spindly-legged newborn deer while trying to contort myself into each successive position‘.

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I Think Therefore I Am Not

Dear Yogis

I hope the year is going well for you so far. Me... I've had a cluttered mind! If yoga is encouraging us to still the fluctuations of the mind, why has my mind been fluctuating like a crowded Jacuzzi? In Savasana yesterday I had to laugh at the endless chatter. What is it this time!!! Events over Christmas and a marathon 16 hours looking after an old neighbour addled my brain but, in truth, the poor grey matter has been fuzzy before and will be foggy again... And so it goes!

This is exactly where yoga kicks in; to point out when you get tangled up in thoughts. Yoga is the art of disentanglement.  Problems occur when we attach to the story and then endlessly regurgitate it to make it palatable. So obvious, eh! I can see exactly when the mind bubbles with those self-spin-doctored stories. (Sometimes it’s like having my own personal Iago.) It’s just thoughts, that’s all. Mental phantoms. And when people do or say something hurtful, well, they are supposed to! They are helping to make the mind a stronger and quieter place.

Next week the news will be full of ‘Blue Monday’, supposedly the most depressing day of the year (originally press-released to make you book a holiday!). Really is should be called Messy Mind Monday. Don’t get tangled up – it’s just a news-filler. Clear out the Jacuzzi mind instead!

Greek Yoga Retreat

My website has been updated with details of the three retreats: the Greek retreats in September and the Devon ‘Complete Wellbeing Retreat’ in October. The retreat with Lisa has a waiting list. There are plenty of spaces on the other retreats.

Home Studio

The effect of Triyoga in Ealing seems to mean the general interest in yoga is on the rise and new people are coming to give it a go in my little Home Studio. New Year resolutions make for an exciting time.  There are plenty of places to book for next week.  I seem to have lost my Paypal button. Until I rectify the situation, you can pay online with my Paypal email, taniashillam@hotmail.com but please write and let me know. (Please don’t book with no intention of coming!)

Yoga in the News

Newspapers seem to think it interesting to send unfit journalists to yoga classes and spiritual sceptics to ashrams for a dose of yoga and meditation. However, this article from the Inde is quite fun. ‘Nepal yoga retreats: Are spiritual holidays a load of nonsense?’. It turns out the answer is ‘no’.

Not to be outdone, the Guardian kicks in with ‘Yoga for lazy people: seven moves to make you happy’. More interesting is the Guardian’s travel guide and yoga guide to Mysore (Mysuru).  Mysuru, India, city guide: what to see, plus the best yoga centres, hotels and restaurants. Makes me feel like going!

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Need a Resolution? Take a Retreat!

Dear Yogis

How are you doing with your resolutions? If you haven’t decided on one yet you can come to class and take part in mine – 10 press-ups a day! I think yogis are smiling... it could, of course, be grimacing. The Bhagavad Gita, that cornerstone of yoga literature, tells us that you can only give up something of a lesser taste if you experience something better. It's called The Higher taste. The book, of course, refers to our spiritual quest. However, I commandeer the idea for your New Year Resolution quest. A higher experience will come with daily press-ups!

Here’s a better example of a Higher Taste and, on finding it, getting rid of the lower behaviour. On my recent course with David Swenson, one yogi gave a presentation about Brahmacharya or redirecting energy. We had to ask ourselves where our energy is being used and can it be better directed. Do we waste energy on uninspired thoughts? I thought this was massively useful, especially over Christmas when family might bring Eastender-like issues.

Another yogi gave a presentation on Atseya  or non-stealing. I was fairly confident that I’m not a thief. Boy, I was wrong. She asked if we ever steal energy from another person... perhaps there’s someone we don’t like and don’t give our best to. Obviously, they can’t shine in our company and we drain their good energy. That's theft! I thought of all the times I have stolen somebody’s light!

My Nan, as a schoolgirl in Edwardian Britain, had to go to the headmistress to learn the lesson of the day and then go and teach other children. I feel similar in teaching yoga. I learn all that I can learn and do my best to pass it on to you.

Greek Yoga Retreat

The venue is booked. The dates are secured. The buzz is palpable! Write to me if you’re interested. The dates for your diary for the September 2018 Kapsali Yoga Retreat are:

Week 1 for all levels (Ashtanga, Yin and holiday) will be Sunday 9th to Saturday 15th. The cost is Single £650, Shared Double £600 and Shared Apartment £630. I will be teaching this retreat with guest teacher Kiros Tzannes.

Week 2 (Ashtanga and Workshops) will be Saturday 15th to Saturday 22nd. The cost is Single £700, Shared Double £650, Shared Apartment £680. I will be teaching this retreat with Lisa Maarit Lischak, my yoga sister, and guest teacher Kiros Tzannes. So many requests have already been made about this week that I will have to operate a waiting list for the moment.

Home Studio

It’s so good to feel the buzz of the little Home Studio after time off over Christmas. No one looks full of mince pies. Everyone ate smartly and drank wisely and a good time was had by all. It’s so good to see the post-celebration relaxed smiles and stress-free vibe. There are plenty of places to book for next week.  I seem to have lost my Paypal button. I don’t know why. Until I rectify the situation, you can pay online with my Paypal email, taniashillam@hotmail.com but please write and let me know.

Yoga in the News

The Independent helpfully tells us that ‘Yoga in the workplace can reduce back pain and sickness absence’. Absolutely! I teach in many work-places and hear about back problems due to endless sedentary duties all the time. The Inde tells us that ‘back pain is one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor, and missed work. In fact, absence from work due to back problems costs British employers more than £3bn every year.’ If you want to introduce yoga into your workplace let me know. I have lunchtime slots available.

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