Rebellious Hippies

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

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

Training

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

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

Kythera Weather Greek Retreat Sept 2019.gif

Last Call For Kythera

Dear Yogis

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

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

Retreat

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

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

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

Sky Scanner Flights to Kithera September 2019.png

Rescue From Slaughter

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

Bee Flyer Front.jpg

Ealing Broadway Decathlon Grand Opening

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

 Retreat

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

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

 Home Studio

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

 Yoga in the News

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

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

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

Decathlon Yoga Class1.jpg

Strictly Come Yogering

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

Hallelujah! Enjoy what you do!

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the News

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

Kapsali Yoga Retreat  2019 Poster.png

Who Let The Gods Out?

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

Quotation-Toni-Morrison-If-you-want-to-fly.jpg

Ageless by Sharath Jois

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

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

Retreat

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

One year brilliant teacher Lisa asked her workshop students to spend time thinking of three things they could change when they get home. A yoga retreat is a perfect time to reset, invest time in yourself, reflect, and make positive decisions. It might be as simple as to drink more water, get more sleep, or adopt a better diet. It might be a bigger, life changing decision.  Come with usstarting September 21st. Write back if you have any questions.

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

 

From Staccato To Legato

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

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

Let Yoga Happen Within You

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

34_mats_across_and_10_deep_so_far[1].jpg

Ashtanga's Parampara system

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

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

Wild Gyrating Not Necessary

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

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

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the News

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

Shun Sun Salutations

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

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

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

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

Celebrate International Yoga Day

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

Retreat

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

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

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

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

In our community

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

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

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

A Posture Is A Friend

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

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

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

International Yoga Day

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

Suggested Travel To Kythera

Suggested London - Athens Flights 2019.png

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

Cost is very reasonable for the Athens to Kithira Leg.

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

POSSIBLE ITINERARY

Outbound ATH – KIT Date: 21 September 2019

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

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

Inbound KIT – ATH Date: 28 September 2019

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

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

Functional Training And Yoga

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Treatments

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

Yoga in the News

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

Deep Listening - Thich Nhat Hanh

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

It’s a beautiful, helpful listen.

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the news

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

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

Waterfall Hike of Milopotamos, Kythera.jpg

Stretch Your Muscles And Your Personality

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

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

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

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

Yoga in the news

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

Healthy Wealthy Launch 25 May 2019.jpg

Good Times Yoga Reference Points

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

I quite like this view of yoga’s benefits!

Retreat

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

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

Yoga in the news

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

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

Undo Habitual Actions

Dear Yogis

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

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

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

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

Phew!

RETREAT

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

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

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

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

Home Studio

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

Yoga in the News

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

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

Shiva, Shakti, And Their Blistering Love Affair

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

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

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

Retreat.

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

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

Home Studio

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

Training

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

Yoga in the news

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

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

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

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