Yogi Christmas Presents

Dear Yogis

Christmas is coming. Time to stop being in denial and think of yoga Christmas presents! I know a few of you liked last year’s suggestions. Here’s a cheeky tank top Christmas present idea: Is It Savasana Yet from Tiger Lilly which is UK-based. The Reebok Could Should Would Did top is cool, too. If the person you’re buying for is an avid reader, Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr is a real page-turning, entertaining read about the world of Bikram yoga. He’s a follower, practitioner, critic and ex-obsessive. For kids, this is a yoga poster of lovely illustrated poses. A grown-up A1 size poster of the Ashtanga Primary Series can be bought from Joey Miles in Leeds.

In my Home Studio I have the Feet Up Stool to help with headstands/inversions without putting the head on the floor. It is loved by people who are hesitant about going upside-down. (Come and try! Last night one yogi felt euphoric after her first try.). You may remember that I bought the LOVE MAT by Lāal from the yoga show after the Peruvian stall owner asked if my studio had a shop! Not really, but this is my first stock. They’re a sturdy, cheaper alternative to the Liforme mat at £55. Then you’ll need a bag! There are some really nice yoga mat bags from yogabliss.co.uk.

Home Studio

Vata, Pitta, Kapha types all came to my lucky home studio, putting their best sitting-bone forward. All are welcome! Yoga is a chance to dance our way out of our constrictions. (Funkadelic just came on the radio!) There are spaces left next week, the run-up to Christmas. There aren’t any classes in the following week and classes are back on Tuesday 2nd January.  (Please don’t book and cancel at the last minute, denying the space to others.)

Training

Tomorrow afternoon I’m training with Petri Raisanen at The Life Centre, Islington. His workshop is on the Ashtanga Second Series.  He’s launching his latest book – I was at his first book launch too so it feels nice to go for this. Come with me!

Time to big-up my teacher, Valentina, who is a precious jewel in my life. She has two lots of training that you might be interested in. The first is a refresher for people who have done Teacher Training but haven’t taught yet and need a bit of a boost. It’s a weekend in January - 6 January  – 7 January 2018.

The other is her Teacher Training which starts on March 3rd/4th. (My testimonial is here).If you’re interested in that there’s an open session that we can go to on January 14th and meet the Shakti Power Yoga community that she has created. I love to meet Valentina’s other teachers.

Yoga in the News

The Inertia has an article that really is for everybody but the title is: “Why Surfers Need to Let Themselves Fall in Love With Yoga”. Here’s why... the observation that: ‘I’ve never met an active person/athlete without regular aches and pains. And I rarely meet one who can simply reach down and touch their toes without struggling.’ And here’s the article I’ve been waiting for: ‘5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be Ashamed of Using Props in Yoga’.

Om your way through your Christmas shopping! Good luck.

IMG_0959.JPG

Yoga for the Blind

Dear Yogis

I’m still buzzing, and a bit achy, from my two weeks of training. In the end, the foot refused to go behind the head! I don't really blame it!.

The final session of training with David Swenson last week was in collaboration with the RNIB. Unsighted people joined our class and we made groups of three to experience yoga poses; one person unsighted, two people supporting. Poses included headstand and handstand!  Sighted yogis closed their eyes to experience postures and the tricky question of balance without sight. Everybody learnt something about the magic and liberating feeling yoga gives.

At home you can have a go at Sun Salutations with your eyes closed. David Swenson started our session by saying that yoga isn't about how good you look, how aligned your postures are, or checking yourself in the mirror, or about the latest mat or clothing. Yoga is all about what you don’t see. Close your eyes and find your inner guru! 

Home Studio

Once again I welcomed new yogis to my little studio this week. It’s always a joy. Thank you for bringing friends and loved ones. There are spaces left next week and I have added a one-off extra class on Wednesday at 6.00pm. (If you need to cancel, there should be a link at the bottom of your confirmation email. You can also check your bookings there.)

Yoga in the News

The Times (the paper of note!) tells us of ‘The rise of the yoga couple’. The paper helpfully tells us that ‘There was a time when the only couple to confess to doing yoga together were Sting and Trudie Styler’ but now Meghan and Harry prove that they are quintessentially a modern couple by starting their day with yoga! Rock on!

I’m giving in to stories of goat/beer/spliff/ yoga to show you this story called London gets new non-alcoholic brewery”. The company, in east London, hosts beer yoga sessions after which you can taste their produce ‘Kosmic Stout’!

Buddha Doodles NotKnowing.jpg

Leg Behind Head and Self-Discovery

Dear Yogis

My training with David Swenson, two weeks of joy, finishes tomorrow. People have come from all over the world to learn from him: from Texas, China and various European countries. One of our number is Joana Zimmer, a singer from Germany who sang for us with the voice of an angel. There was not a dry eye in the house. (Here’s another song for you. It’s very Radio 2!) The training itself, the ‘Second Series’ of Ashtanga’s postural practice, has some seismic backbends. For me, a cyclist since the 80s, it feels impossible. I didn’t realise how much flexibility my back has lost. I screamed on the first day. After two weeks of daily practice, it’s not so bad.

As part of our training we had to give a 20 minute presentation on some aspect of yoga philosophy. My subject was ‘Svadhyaya’. Sva, means self, or the human soul, and Adhyaya means lesson. It’s one of the five ‘observances’ (a bit like commandments). You can approach it as self-analysis in pursuit of daily improvement. It looks like a simple enough practice but, actually, when I look back over my life, I can see a lot of examples where I have self-analysed till the cows came home but didn’t take the next step of putting that knowledge to use.

My mum has a checklist she reviews at the end of the day. She asks herself if she has done wrong and if she could do better. She asks if she has done her duty and she checks that she has helped anyone if she has been gifted the chance to do so. I was blown away! I had no idea! I need to step right up and make a list.

Home Studio

I came home to teach after training all day this week, as last. It brings the joy that it always promises. There are a couple of spaces left next week and the 6.00 Monday and Thursday classes have been reinstated. (If you would like to pay for a class after choosing the ‘Pay later’ option or if you forget to turn up, you can use my PayPal email address: taniashillam@hotmail.com.)

Retreats

Thank you for the response to the news of the Happiness Retreat with Psychologist Deborah Smith last week. Here are the dates, as promised, for the next Kapsali Yoga Retreat September 2018. There will be two retreats: the first one for all levels to arrive on the Island on Sunday 9th to leave on Sunday 16th. The second one will mirror the timetable/workload of the previous retreats with Lisa and I and go from Sunday 16th to Sunday 23rd. (This one may well be full already given the names I have collected so far!) Details will be on my website by next week – delayed by this all-consuming course.

Yoga in the News

Chris Evans on Radio 2 interviewed Gordon, the 84-year-old yoga master with over fifty years of poses. It’s a very sweet little interview. (Chris Evans is an ex practitioner. We need to get him back!)

Did you see this on BBC London Live about yoga for special needs children? It’s about the Mahadevi Centre in Islington.  

Have a lovely weekend.

Eka Pada Sirsasana A.jpg

Drunken Elephants And Boulders

Dear Yogis

On the plane from Madrid last week I had some negative feelings I had to get rid of. Perfect, I thought. I’m stuck here on the plane. Mediate! Even after five minutes I began to feel freer. Every time a thought of any type came along I said: ‘That is from the other me’ - the sabotage one – and it made me smile.

The metaphor of a story from Sunday School came to mind. (My mother was the teacher. No slacking!) After attaining buddhahood, the Buddha’s jealous cousin threw a huge boulder down a mountain, gathering speed, on course to kill him. It split and missed. He then sent an enraged and drunken elephant to kill him. It was pacified.

Isn’t’ this the definition of stilling the fluctuations of the mind – the whole point of yoga? The mind is full of wild elephants and boulders - simmering masses of feelings and thoughts gathering more of that endless ‘mind stuff ’as they roll down the mountain to destroy our ‘true selves’. The Buddha was beyond being victim to the mood swings and tides of emotion and he conquered the boulder. I conquered a tiny stone.

Home Studio

I’m sorry to say that classes are all booked up next week. There are more classes in the following weeks when I finish my training and come up for air. It’s absolutely lovely to come home after a wonderful day with David Swenson and pass on some of what I have learnt. I reckon my right foot will be behind my head by the end of the two weeks! Then it’s your turn!

Retreats

My lucky life took another chance turn recently when Psychologist Deborah Smith asked me to teach on her Happiness and Wellbeing weekend retreat next year in Devon in October. Take a look at the flyers attached. Next week I’ll have news of our Kapsali Yoga Retreat 2018; one week for all levels and one week for Ashtanga practice and workshops. Dates and details are being finalised.

Yoga in the News

This is a brilliant story from the Islington Gazette about an Islington yoga therapy centre for people with ‘conditions such as autism, cerebral Palsy and Down’s syndrome, as well as learning difficulties and terminal illness’. And, believe it or not, Yoga On Ice is coming to Clapham. We should give it a go!

Retreat Flyer Page 1.jpg
Retreat Flyer Page 2.jpg

Nerve Cleansing. Take Tissues.

Dear Yogis

For the next two weeks I will be studying with my Ashtanga guru David Swenson. The course includes philosophy, ‘community outreach’ and the Second Series.  In my classes we currently do the First Series together: we fold, twist, and ring-out the body while strengthening and gaining confidence. It’s called Yoga ‘Chikitsa’ and its goal is cleansing the body. The Second Series is called Nadi Shodhana which means (rather ominously) nerve cleansing. It comes along inducing self-doubt with its fearful backbends and challenging the emotions by working on the spine, pelvis and hips where all the emotions and chakras spin. I’ll let you know if my emotions release any kind of tidal wave from my eyes... and in which pose. Apparently that happens! And who knows what next week’s Friday Email will be like...

David Swenson is doing plenty of classes so I urge you to take a class and experience his teaching, his humour and kindness.

Home Studio

Classes are all booked up next week. (My training is from 7.30am to 5.30pm for the next two weeks which means the 6.00pm classes in my home studio have been deleted. Sorry ‘bout that!) Come in the following weeks in the run up to Christmas! And please let me know if you are unable to come in plenty of time for me to tell my waiting list.

Ealing Feeling

It’s nearly here - Triyoga opening in Ealing on the 27th. Check out their offer of 30 days for £40 and their free classes on November 25th and 26th.  You can view the schedule here and bookings open 8 days in advance.

Yoga in the News

Ealing makes it into yoga news this week. Ealing Today reports on Triyoga opening in Ealing. They also report that Skinny Kitchen is coming to Ealing, upping the vegan game in the area.

Here’s a lovely article from Oxford University Press called ‘5 facts that help us understand the world of early American yoga’. It’s pretty wacky! You’ll find a history full of scary mystics and superheroes, the influence of European fitness culture on yoga and yoga’s influence on early 20th century dance.  (Stewart Gilchrist, at the yoga show, talked briefly about the original postures and the ‘made up’ postures of the 20th century. The earliest postures are named after animals. The later ones, he said, were developed for the purposes of teaching Nazi guards and the Nazi fascination with yoga! Classes with Stewart are never dull.)

Second Series Emothions.jpg

Do What You Love WIth All Your Might

Dear Yogis

I’ve been asked to write about ‘complementary exercises to do in conjunction with yoga’. Well! I’m in favour of all pursuits: running, boxing, climbing, diving... Find something that you love and do it with all your might. Get Addicted. Find devotion. Get injuries. Recover and do it again.

Of all the various yoga types you could try in order to improve postures, Aerial Yoga with my teacher Valentina Candiani will elongate the spine and give pull-up strength for the arms. Thai Yoga Massage has the attractive nickname “Lazy Man’s Yoga”. Steam and sauna! In the 90s I was a Spinning instructor, tightening my hamstrings with every class. I used to hang out in the sauna for ages and ages and ages in my quest to touch my toes.

If, however,  you want the transformation to be of the mind rather than/as well as the postures, you need to find a teacher who can lead you into the traditional texts; Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Some teachers such as Stewart Gilchrist quote from the great texts all the way through class. I feel as though I’ve had a counselling session when I do his classes.

Home Studio

I’m teaching Ashtanga both mornings of this weekend at Yoga West: Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th, both starting at 8.30 and lasting 75 minutes. In my lucky Home Studio classes are pretty much booked but Thursday at 6.00 has a lot of free spaces. Please give me plenty of notice if you need to cancel so that I can contact people on my waiting list.

Training

I’m hugely excited that Triyoga is coming to Ealing on November 27th. They have an offer of 30 days for £40 and they will be holding a weekend of free classes on November 25th and 26th.  You can view the schedule here but bookings only open 8 days in advance. The centre will be in Dickens’s Yard behind the Town Hall. At last there’ll be decent vegan food in Ealing. I’m happy!

On Saturday 25th another student of my teacher/guru is holding a wellness event. AliceLovesYoga  will teach a mindfulness session, ‘Restorative Flow’, a veggie brunch and then a presentation of plant-based products.

Yoga in the News

This is a lovely article and I do agree with the Canadian Globe and Mail: Why pain has no place in a yoga practice. “Stop thinking about improving. You're there”! The article discusses the different between Functional and aesthetic yoga, one is for your health and one is for display and not necessarily for your benefit.

If you’re a foam roller this is a good article from Yoga International about the benefits and drawbacks of punishing the IT band in this way.

In Conjunction With Yoga Teachers Suggestions.png

Stop A Cold In Its Tracks

Dear Yogis

I caught a short-lasting cold from a yogi last Friday. As we're coming into the sneezing season I thought I would write about whether you should practice yoga or not. My answer would be... da da dah, no! I know people drag themselves to work with a cold and I know our culture is to soldier on. Despite sick pay, people pressure themselves to go to work and get on with it. Yoga is different. No soldiers; no warriors!

Your body needs rest. It's usually impossible to breathe or focus anyway. Breath and focus is the definition of yoga! When exercising in sickness, energy is used by the muscles instead of going to the immune system for fighting off germs. Your cold will last longer. Avoid gym and studio classes. Hot, steamy yoga rooms will happily incubate germs, brewing them nicely in the air for others to breathe!

Here's something I always take and it stops a cold in its tracks; Samahan. It’s a variety herbs and spices and has a peppery taste. My grandmother used to make the home-made version known as Peyava. (Sri Lanka had a traditional medicinal practice before the Indian Aryuveda system was introduced on the island).

Home Studio

At the end of this month I’ll be training all day every day with David Swenson. Some classes are missing, therefore, from the evening timetable. However, there are plenty of spaces next week. Last week I put on an extra Tuesday class because all other classes were so stuffed. I’ll do the same next week if the same happens.

Also, I’ve taken on a couple of weekend classes at Yoga West, all starting at 8.30 and all 75 minutes. They are this Sunday 5th and next Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th. It’s a lovely space.

Training

And for those interested in Pregnancy Yoga, tomorrow is the first day of a class offered by a very dear yogi friend. Pregnancy Yoga will be on Saturday mornings in Leighton Hall. Contact Tzaddi at tzaddilove@gmail.com if you’re interested.

Yoga in the News

For the Royalists among you, the ‘Duchess of Cornwall: Older people should do yoga to keep supple’. Not much in the news apart from yoga with puppies, or goats or cats or beer!

Happy bonfire night!

herbal tea cure a cold.jpg

Tunnel of Love

Dear Yogis

The most inspiring thing that happened at the Yoga Show – of all the inspiring things - was in David Sye’s Shamanistic Trip. There must have been two hundred of us in the cavernous room, maybe more. We finished the class with what I will remember as a Tunnel of Love. He developed this when teaching Palestinians and Israelis in his Yoga Beats Conflict project.

We lined up facing each other making a narrow corridor. Here’s what happened: one after the other, we walked with eyes closed down the centre and people on either side whispered: “You’re amazing”, You rock”, You’re a wonderful person”, “You’re gorgeous”, “You have a beautiful soul”, “You have a beautiful smile”, “You’re an inspiration”, “You are loved”... whispering golden loveliness into the ears of the passer-by. We all went through and we were all cherished and celebrated by complete strangers who, for that moment, really loved each other. One girl cried as she walked and then we were all tearing up! It was completely moving. I have to insist that you come with me next year!

Home Studio   

More loveliness in my little studio this week; more trainees observing and more yogis getting a little further, a little deeper and a little more self-knowledge in classes. At the yoga show I learnt a small amount of Thai Yoga Massage so taught this to the Tuesday class. I love teaching you. There are still places in next Thursday’s 6.00 class. All booked up otherwise. If you’re interested in notifications about cancellations, I’ll create a Whatsapp group to notify you if a space pops up. If you’d like to be on the group let me know.

A few of you are doing teacher training and a few of you are qualified but not teaching. I think we should have Teach-in sessions to build you up. If you are interested in a once-a-month Teach-In where we get together and teach each other, let me know. Perhaps we’ll meet on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Training

Tomorrow (Saturday) the brilliant Jenny Fearnley will be teaching a ‘Jump Through’ workshop at Yoga West. Take socks! A jump-through workshop is always interesting and worth doing. You’ll build up arm strength and core strength and technique.

And for those interested in Pregnancy Yoga, a very dear yogi friend is offering group sessions and 1-2-1s. Classes will be on Saturday mornings in Leighton Hall and will start Saturday Nov 4th. Contact Tzaddi at tzaddilove@gmail.com if you’re interested.

Yoga Mats

I bought four of these mats at the Yoga show, the LOVE MAT by Lāal, because I thought they were a very good deal. They are like liforme (£100) but much cheaper (£55). They are big, made of rubber, have brilliant grip, and are from Peru, like Paddington! I thought it was a bargain so in case anyone is interested I thought I’d stock a few (in black).

Yoga in the News

Healthista uses celebrity news to draw readers in then has quite a good article about yoga, as it turns out. Kate Winslet’s yoga teacher reveals 9 ways it could change your life. (Kate practices four times a week!). This article talks about losing weight, ujjayi breathing, hot yoga and is an uplifting little read.

Hello Beautiful Soul.jpg

The Om My Goodness Yoga Show

Dear Yogis

The OM Yoga Show in Alexander Palace starts today. It’s chaotic, crowded, and crazy and I adore it. The spirit stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife... it's the antithesis of yoga philosophy, practice and inner journeying. You can do 'Yoguh'; you can be a 'Yogangster'; you can find 'Buddhamagic', you can go on a ‘Bodhi Adventure’; you can ‘Om & Bass’! It’s nuts! And there’s more vegan chocolate than you can shake a calorie-controlled diet at.

Most classes are free. These are 30 minute taster classes. The paid workshops are in rooms that can take hundreds of people with the celebrity guest teachers. I’ve paid up for my favourites: DJ Goldie, Stewart Gilchrist, and David Sye. I really hope to see you there. (According to TFL Journey Planner it's 1 hour 5 minutes from Ealing Broadway or Acton Central to Alexander Palace.)

Training

Last weekend I was in Leeds practicing Mysore with Joey Miles and studying anatomy with Stewart Girling. If I lived in Leeds, this is where I would practice. Here’s Stewart interviewing Joey who started off at 17 as a juggler. He began yoga because the Cirque du Soleil guys warmed up with yoga and he believed it would make him a better performer. Joey talks about the effect of ‘being seen’ in class and how it increases his effort. Ha! I’m like that! He also says that ‘on a good day, yoga feels like play’. Ha! I think that! He says that yoga is ‘studying what it is to be a human being’. Yes!!! On his website you can download audio Primary Series classes and order his lovely wall-sized chart.

Home Studio
 

I’m teaching tomorrow at Yoga West. Please come. It’s an 8.30-9.45 Ashtanga class. It’s the perfect time and the ideal way to start the weekend.

Welcome to all the newcomers who contributed to the usual loveliness in my little studio. (Joey Miles, Alaric Newcombe and John Scott and others had home studios!) I was enormously honoured that a Yoga Teacher Trainee came to observe a class for her studies. Come and join us! Tuesdays are booked up till mid-November; next week has a few spaces. Book early and come.

Yoga in the News

The Standard gives us: ‘Where to do free and low-cost yoga in London’... The broke girl or guy’s guide on where to achieve inner zen in the capital. If you work anywhere near the LSE there’s a great deal there. For West Londoners, Lumi in Hammersmith makes it on to the list.

It’s a yoga weekender. Enjoy!

Yoga Show Crazy.jpg

Better With Age; Approaching Magnificent

Dear Yogis

Last Saturday I went to a workshop with Jared McCann. What an inspirational teacher! He’s based in Brooklyn. His classes are full of cues in his Hawaiian drawl such as ‘Breath, relax, and be awesome because what else are you going to do with your time?’ We held postures until muscles drained and he beamed: ‘be as happy as an angel in a bubble bath’. We were all eating out of his hand. Here he is teaching Sun Salutations for beginners. (I say it’s for beginners to encourage beginners, but it’s for everyone! It’s slow and with constant instruction. He includes three-legged dog, a nice-n-high/not-too-low Chaturanga, the Sivananda Sun Salutation, a twist and a pyramid.) It’s a good 26 minutes of his positivity to start your day.

Home Studio 

This week has been a lovely birthday week. Thank you for all the presents, treats and wishes. Your energy in class has been tremendous and inspiring. Newcomers have slotted straight in and everybody came with positivity, energy and warmth. Come and join us. There are still spaces left on Thursday of next week. Thank you for all the responses to my news about the Kythera retreat next September. So many of you expressed interest. It’s already exciting. 

Yoga in the News

The New Scientist writes that Different meditation types train distinct parts of your brain. Neuroscientist looked at three types; mindfulness meditation, loving kindness meditation and compassion or perspective-based meditation. “Just like physical exercise, the kind of improvements you get depends on exactly how you train”

This is a lovely listen! Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 has a slot called ‘What Makes Us Human’. Here is Carlo Rovelli the physicist and his answer to this question reminds me of a discussion we had in Valentina’s Yoga Teacher Training. Atoms and stardust make us human! Finally, I include this next one because I know some of you have trouble falling asleep. Yesterday’s Telegraph had a piece called: How to get to sleep: eight surprising tricks and tips. It’s all about yoga, really!

Teacher Training

Valentina has set the dates for her next teacher training course. You have time to think about it and take some classes with her – it’s in March. 

On turning 50

Still cycling through sun and rain, still yogering like a contortionist in plaster cast, still running like a dodgy-kneed demon, still swimming like Eric the Eel. Life is sweet and I think it can get sweeter. Birthday tip: Once you have taken a class at the yoga studios, sign up for their newsletters. They give a birthday present of a free class ever after! Another tip: start celebrating in the previous month and just keep going!

Zen Journey.jpg

Raise you 50!

Dear Yogis

The clattering autumn leaves and the absorbing Harvest Moon can only mean one thing... soon we’ll hear old winter's song. It’s a good time to plan and look forward to next summer’s sunshine and its possibilities. Already I’ve had a lot of responses about joining me for next year’s Kythera yoga retreat. Lisa has already advertised it on her Instagram page. Once on the island we will have to visit my friend Sara’s herbal apothecary. Take a look at some of her inspiring remedies. In the not too distant future I will write about some of her products in a Friday Email. She has a cream that she uses before her yoga practice to encourage the muscles. She has creams for knee problems! I bought the Tendonitis Cream for my tricky knee which has an ingredient ‘Devil’s Claw’.

Talking of which, Lucas Rockwood has a podcast this week called The People’s Pharmacy and he discusses remedies such as cannabis, turmeric/curcumin and the thing that interested me the most: yellow mustard, hot pepper, or vinegar to reduce muscle cramping. (At 26.30 they discuss home remedies if you don’t want to listen to the whole programme). Diet advice is at the end including ‘reverse vegetarianism’. He’s my favourite podcaster.

(PS. Take it easy if the full moon affects you).

Home Studio

Classes are back... and packed. I have the joyous problem of welcoming many new yogis with my limited numbers of classes and limited places. Book early! There are still places available next Thursday. I’m afraid I’m not teaching on Tuesday – it’s my 50th which accounts for my recent escape to Kythera to kick off the birthday season... which may last a while!

Cover classes

Tomorrow (Saturday 7th) I’ll be covering Mark Colleano’s class at Nuffield Ealing. 8.40am. Soon I will also be covering two Saturday classes at Yoga West, 8.30am, for Jenny Fearnley: Saturday October 21st (before scooting of to The Yoga Show) and November 11th.

Training

Tomorrow I was planning to be in Winchester but that class is cancelled so I booked a workshop at Indaba for some backbending with Jared McCann, Saturday 1.30-4.30 for £35. Come with me. He says ‘beginners welcome’ too.

Yoga in the News

The Evening Standard wrote this week about a charity helping refugees recover from atrocities through yoga, Ourmala. Very inspiring! If you’re thinking of becoming a yoga teacher and scared that the world of yoga studios and Chelsea yogis won’t accept you, read this. The yoga world is wide and there’s room for you

Dragon’s Den this Sunday (8.00pm) will feature the founder of a yoga mat company who will be asking for funding for one of the first social businesses to enter the Den. Profits from the company are for the education and employment of human trafficking survivors in Kolkata.

Zen Birthday Card.jpg

Come With Me to Kapsali

Dear Yogis

The Botticelli clouds are gone and the rain is here but my eagerness to plan next year’s yoga retreat has been fed and watered by Kapsali’s magic. Here's my plan: to do two retreats next September, one advanced and one less advanced!  This would be in the last two weeks of September 2018. Let me know if you think you might be interested.

Advanced people, you will have to do a Mysore session under the pre-dawn stars! If you’ve been to previous retreats you know our spectacular workshop teacher Lisa Maarit Lischak  who makes impossible postures possible during the week - our Mission Impossible teacher!. Beginners, you can start later and take in a run or swim before the morning practice. Along the bay and up the hairpin mountain to ‘the capital’ is a nice hour’s run. Hikers can have a field day with Kythera’s marked and mapped hiking trails. Up another mountain is the chapel of Agios Ioannis on-the-rock where we can experience a pranayama/meditation practice. Kapsali, and Kythera’s special produce,  has all we need. You won’t believe the magic in the air here!

Home Studio

I’m not there. No classes till October 3rd. Thank you for your emails telling me of the yoga you have done and the teachers you have tried and for the feedback of cover teachers. I love how you enjoy yoga! There are brilliant teachers all around for you to experience. Classes next week are almost full but there are still places on Thursday. More and more new yogis are discovering my home studio through an online search which is thrilling but, as you know, spaces are limited.

Training

Don’t forget the Om Yoga Show is coming up at Alexandra Palace on October 20th, 21st & 22nd. Phenomenal teachers will be there such as David Sye, Stewart Gilchrist, Eugene Vegan Butcher, DJ Goldie with Benjamin Sears. This workshop caught my eye: Sarah Ramsden who is the yoga teacher at Manchester City and Manchester United football cubs will hold a sports yoga workshop. Download a programme to see all the free classes.

Before that on October 7th I’ll be in Winchester’s New Energy Yoga for an arm balancing workshop with my very dear friend the Mission Impossible teacher! Come with me!

Yoga in the News

This is an interesting article in The Voice, Yoga’s African Connection, which claims that yoga originated from the motherland (Africa) and not India. Published a couple of months ago, it rang a bell with me because of something Stewart Gilchrist said in a recent class. His comment was about the origins of Hindu’s animal deities. He said something like: ‘Are you telling me that a religion that worships the elephant, the monkey and the cobra didn’t originate in Africa?!’ This is an interesting aspect to look at. If you’re interested in Afrikan Yoga here is the website.

Greek Virabhadrasana II.png

Sun Salutations to Kytheran Stars

Dear Yogis

I'm listening to the roll and tumble of Kapsali’s windswept waves as I write this. I got up at 6.00 to do my yoga practice on the balcony under a black starry sky. If only it were this easy to get up at home and practice in less, romantic, perfect, idyllic, superlative, stupefying conditions! That’s the challenge! By the time I finished Orion’s belt could still be seen as the sky turned blue as the sun signalled its arrival. Even yesterday, with a stiff, jet-lagged body, nothing could beat Sun Salutations to the stars. (PS. It is said that Sun Salutations are said to be the most comprehensive workout with wide-ranging health benefits and the only exercise you need!)

Mat Update

I have written about yoga mats before (here and also here.) and often get asked for recommendations. TK Max tempted me just before this trip with a £12.99 Casall mat. It’s unbelievably lightweight, incredibly thin but gives more cushion than you’d expect from a mat topper. On the flag tiles of the balcony it’s more than enough cushioning. The grip is ok but I think it will improve with a bit of use.

Home Studio

I’m not there. No classes till October 3rd. Time for you to find out what else is on offer in West London from Lumi in Hammersmith to Yoga West in Acton. I urge you to try out classes with my teacher, Valentina Candiani. I did her class last Sunday in Virgin Fulham Pools and I had forgotten that feeling of victory and sheer relief of making it through a class of hers. No other teacher assembles the postures in such a way that makes the muscles isolate and work hard or makes Savasana so sweet and deserved.

Training

On October 7th I’ll be in Winchester’s New Energy Yoga for an arm balancing  workshop with my very dear friend and fellow Greece retreat yoga teacher  Lisa Maarit Lischak. Those who have been on my Greek Yoga retreats know how much unbelievable progress you make with Lisa’s magic. Come with me.

Yoga in the News

After writing about Hilary Clinton’s promotion of Alternative Nostril Breathing last week i was told about an actual demonstration of the pranayama on Radio 4’s PM programme with Eddie Mair. It’s hilarious. Blow your nose before listening.

The Mail is again touting another footballer, Gareth Barry, who has taken up yoga, overcoming his prejudice and scoring more goals! Sometimes I think the Mail is on a Yoga Mission!

Good luck if you’re running the Ealing Half Marathon.

IMG_0950.JPG

The Wise And The Wicked

Dear Yogis

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are 196 Indian sutras in a book that everyone on a yoga teacher training course has to read. We're not ready and, as with the Bhagavad Gita and other profound and immense treatise, very little sinks in. However, a friend of mine has been recently hurt by the betrayal of someone and one of the sutras flooded back into my consciousness: "By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness".

The Yoga Sutras tell us in the first line to ‘still the fluctuations of the mind’ and then goes on to tell us how to do that. Some call it The Yogi’s Roadmap! One crucial way to keep a calm and even mind is to dwell in good company. When you think about how the wrong company agitates your waters and, by contrast, how much beautiful energy you get from celebrating good people, you can see that this sutra is a great tool or reminder of how to use your energy. There is a yogic way to approach every kind of person.

Home Studio

I’m completely delighted that new people are coming here every week. More and more people discover the magic of yoga and the relaxing, re-setting effects after a day of work. I love it. Next week I’m only be teaching on Monday and Tuesday. I’ve added an extra 6.00 class on Tuesday 19th and there is still plenty of space on Monday. No classes in the following week but people are booking for the first week in October.

Training

No workshops this weekend but join me for classes if you’re free. I’ll be at Yoga West for Jenny Fearnley’s Ashtanga class Saturday 8.30-9.45 and then I’m off to Indaba for Saskia Vidler’s Ashtanga class at 11.15-12.45. Come with me. (Then to the V&A at 3.00 for an African Heritage Tour.)

Yoga in the News

I’m still ignoring Goat Yoga but this comes close. The Debrief reviews Hilary Clinton’s recent book on losing the election and finds this nugget: ‘I did some yoga,’ she said. ‘I tried Alternative Nostril Breathing. I highly recommend it. It calms you down.’ (That and Chardonnay!) The article includes CNN footage of her demonstrating.

By cultivating attitudes of friendliness.jpg

Hips Don't Lie

Dear Yogis

What did I learn in the splits workshop last week? It was brilliant. Nathalie Mukusheva teaches with such interesting detail to target individual muscles and, importantly, align the foot properly. However, it’s as I suspected; the Royal Ballet will not be knocking on my door anytime soon. Walking with a strange new wiggle in the street afterwards I got a wolf whistle from a terribly young man. Oh baby, no! It’s not a come-on. My hips have gone! This prompted the need for a proper Nuad Thai massage the next day to put my legs and hips back in place. (Don't be put off if you think a workshop is too advanced for you. Go and see what you can learn. Reward yourself with a massage!)

Teaching

I’m teaching tomorrow, Saturday, at Virgin Pools in Fulham in their fundraiser for Grenfell. The class is at 10.45 – 12.00 and it’s free. People who are not members of Virgin Active are able to come but you need to come a little early to fill in their PAR-Q form. There will be a bucket in the studio for donations.

Home Studio

There are places left next week and in the following week I’ll only be teaching on Monday and Tuesday. I’ve added an extra 6.00 class on Tuesday 19th. We can make that an Ashtanga class.  I’ll be away after that. I’m celebrating my birthday in Kythera, my favourite place on earth.

Training

On Sunday I have signed up for a handstand workshop with Sainaa Janchivdorj.  He’s great teacher and he is apparently the UK’s ‘go-to’ guy when it comes to handstands. I’ve a better chance at this than splits! Its Stewart Gilchrist tomorrow for Asana Chakrisation and I’m happy to have the company of a few Friday Yoga Email readers. I’m so pleased!

Yoga in the News

Kenny Farquharson in his Notebook in The Times writes about being a middle-aged man with aches and pains in a yoga class with twentysomethings. It’s funny. I wonder if he’ll go back. The Express & star has a nice article about how West Brom players are taking to yoga. One player, Craig Dawson ‘has been doing it for about five years and he’s never had a strain or a hamstring problem’. John Terry is taking most of the football/yoga headlines, though.

This is me.jpg

Alone in a Crowd

Dear Yogis

If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while at your gym, it might be time to try Mysore-style yoga. If you can commit to memory the Sun Salutations and Standing postures, you’ll be fine. You turn up, lay down your mat and start. Other yogis may have arrived before you, some after you. You move with your own breath at your own pace.

There's tremendous freedom in knowing the sequence and flowing with the breath in this way and that. This is where you find self-enquiry, meditation and insights. One GTY yoga student said: “Mysore is in some ways the same feeling as leaving your parents house for the first time, so many unknowns but... can result in empowerment which is just beyond words”.

In Finland we had daily Mysore. On the first day I was delighted with my cooperating body. Poses rattled by, like being on a train and passing beautiful villages. The second morning, some of the villages looked a little tatty but the journey was nice.  The third morning was a tatty train, tatty villages and an uncooperative body.  Thursday was better and Friday, not only better but utterly surprising and a glimpse of those inner ruminations that yoga promises. I thought: 'I'm finally getting this yoga lark'!

Home Studio

Let me know if Mysore-style classes are something you’re interested in. I can add it to the GTY timetable here. Yoga West has Wednesday morning ‘Self-Practice you could try in Acton. Gyms don’t generally offer it. There are plenty of spaces left next week in my little home studio. (I’m away from the 20th of September through to October 2nd. Places are already being taken up for the next three weeks.)

Training

Come with me! Tomorrow I’ll be at Indaba for Mastering The Splits with Nathalie Mukusheva This should be hilarious! Next Saturday I’ll be at Indaba again for Stewart Gilchrist’s Asana Chakrisation and I’m so pleased to say that a couple of you have booked to come with me. 

Yoga in the News

The Telegraph writes about Disco Yoga which takes place in Shoreditch. Hammersmith Today breaking news is free yoga every Saturday at 10.00 on Brook Green and Tudor Rose Community Centre. I just love this article from Pop Sugar about improving your sport with a yoga mind. The writer says that "over the years influenced every other physical activity I participated in, especially running".

Yes We Can Yoga.jpg

Fierce yoga, I swear...

Dear Yogis

Last weekend I attended Ana Forrest’s workshops to experience her ‘Fierce Medicine’ to ‘heal the body and ignite the spirit’. Ana’s life was scarred by abuse and neglect and even alcohol dependency at 4-years-old. As a result, yoga postures are not the main message of her teaching. It’s about healing, building strength and integrity. I attach the afterword of her book ‘Fierce Medicine’ because I really like her advice. You don’t have to be from a challenging background to neglect yourself; disregard the fact that you are loved, ignore that you have the capacity to love, and to overlook the power of gratitude. We’re all like that a bit.

The ‘F’ word made appearances in these workshops! Like a fool I asked about this in a yoga teachers’ forum. A hurricane followed. However, of the answers that managed to keep a low pulse rate, one Forrest teacher said when he went to his first yoga class he was ‘firmly in the grasp of PTSD having witnessed the horrors of Afghanistan and other armed conflicts’ and if the teacher hadn’t been ‘authentic’ (including swearing) he would never have gone back to class. Another Forrest teacher said: ‘swearing or curse words are quite often used in the training as a way of bringing those of us who are more tentative in our personalities out of our shells. We are encouraged, ultimately, to step up and be our most powerful and authentic selves’. Another one who teaches in prisons and rehab centres says ‘You meet the student where they are’. Ana Forrest herself says that ‘A lot of people come to Forrest Yoga because they’ve got a storm brewing inside them’.

Interesting, eh! So many styles of yoga for every possible need!

Home Studio

It’s Bank Holiday Monday, Carnival weekend, and I have the usual two Monday classes – 6.00 and 7.30. Book a place and have a go. No swearing, I’m afraid. I’ll also be teaching Jenny Fearnley’s Ashtanga class again at Yoga West tomorrow, Saturday 26th at 8.30am-9.45. (Talking of Yoga West, they are in a fight for survival. They need permission from Ealing Council to continue to operate and ask for our help.)

Training

This weekend, Danny Paradise is at Triyoga Camden. I haven’t signed up for his classes but he is such fun that I recommend his classes highly. I will be attending Mastering The Splits with Nathalie Mukusheva at Indaba on September 2nd. I can’t imagine what tips she might have for me but I thought I would present her with a fun challenge.

I’m also signed up for Stewart Gilchrist’s Asana Chakrisation on September 9th, at Indaba. Come with me! (Here he is doing a Ted Talk on breathing. At the end he talks about the power of breath in his life and how he discovered how to wilfully move his body through breath as a paraplegic having broken his back.)

Yoga Jobs

Triyoga will be opening a yoga centre in Ealing in November of this year. How cool! They have a recruitment day if you fancy being a manager or front-of-house or a number of other roles.

Yoga in the News

It’s all the usual stories this week: Yoga and meditation are good for you, a survey shows; Yoga good for your brain, a survey shows; Goat Yoga is good for you; Beer Yoga is good for you! Here’s a nice story you can check out if you’re in south-west London. From Weightlifting Champion to Yoga Instructor. Peter Cardona has also been a tennis coach and now teaches yoga in Surbiton.

Ana Forrest Fierce Medicine.png

Spin Those Chakras

Dear Yogis.

The more I learn about chakras, the more intriguing it is. It's a subject that begins to make sense to me now that I have taught for a few years and a few hundred people. In Teacher Training I had no interest in it. Now, I can see that some parts of the body refuse to respond to physical posture practice. How can it be that I cue drawing navel to spine day-in-day-out but some yogis’ abs simply say ‘no’? Why do some bodies look delicate, ethereal and without groundedness? Why do some yogis seem to punish their bodies with yoga? Why don’t some yogis care particularly? Why didn’t I for so many years?

Our consciousness, personality, experience and posture are driven by energy. Actors study this in drama school. You know what your energy is like: forceful or not, hedonistic or not, loving or not. Is your dominant energy power-driven (third chakra) or driven to charity work (heart chakra)? Is it pleasure seeking (second chakra) or intuitive and meditative (third eye)? Is it driven by creativity and expression (throat chakra) or driven by materialism and the need for security (root chakra)?  The chakras actually refer to things we already know about. ‘Unblocking chakras’ is really just a way of describing some kind of counselling or therapy that shows you how to recognise and tackle harmful patterns laid down in formative years. It’s not an obscure subject. It’s actually a useful tool for that old chestnut, self discovery. James French, the brilliant teacher I did a chakra workshop with last weekend, is teaching at Triyoga till early September.

Home Studio

There are still places left in classes next week. Book a place and have a go. Spin your chakras. I’ll also be teaching at Yoga West for the next two Saturdays: 19th and 26th at 8.30am-9.45. It’s early... but gather a group of buddies for a yoga/breakfast outing and it won’t be so bad!  These are Ashtanga classes usually expertly taught by Jenny Fearnley. If you need an introduction to the only dedicated yoga studio in our corner of London, come along.

Training

I’ve signed up for two workshops that you might be interested in trying with me. The first is tonight; Ana Forrest’s Celebrate Your Practice. It starts a weekend of interesting but massively expensive workshops held at Lord’s Cricket Ground to hold the massive numbers of Ana Forrest’s Yogis! The second is Stewart Gilchrist’s Asana Chakrisation on September 9th, again at Indaba.

Yoga in the News

Sweet, local stories this week. The Louth Leader celebrated the birthday of a 90-year-old who says that yoga saved her life. Half her life ago doctors told her she wouldn’t live long due to an incurable chest complaint. They seem to have been wrong. She’s still teaching yoga. For Cambridge yogis, the launch of an illustrated guide to children’s yoga makes the news. It looks like a good one.

This is an entertaining article if you agree that “all this constantly changing information on what to eat or which exercise class to take” means that we form distorted mindsets towards the idea of a healthy lifestyle.  Vogue UK asks; ‘Are You Suffering From Wellness Fatigue?’ I think it’s only about people with too much money and not enough sense... but see what you think.

Chakras Explained.png

I Did It My Way

Dear Yogis.

Following on from last week’s Letter From Finland and my little history lesson about yoga in 1975 California, hippies, drugs and carrot juice, here is Manju Pattabhi Jois’ account of yoga according to his father. It’s rather different to the accounts of the first western yogis who trained with him in the 70s and became today’s senior teachers. Manju said: 'My father never tried to control anyone’. There were no rules and regulations. We just enjoyed yoga. Westerners asked him questions but he laughed and nodded. Those people took that laugh and nod to be affirmation but ‘my father didn't understand English'.

Yoga was simple and easy and to be enjoyed back in those days. “Our job is to keep it that way”. (I relate to that entirely). If you miss a day it doesn't matter. Do it the next day. (I relate to that more than is good for me!). “If you can’t do certain postures you can skip them and go to the next one. That’s how you open up your body. The body has to open one way or the other. That’s why we have so many postures. When you start practicing like that then you really enjoy it and you get all the therapeutic benefit”.

How could this man not be my guru?!

Home Studio

I’ve been heady with my Finnish experience of Mysore yoga under the guidance of such a liberating teacher. On Thursday in my Home Studio all the classes were Mysore. This means self-practice in a class with a teacher to help, not to teach a class. Most people liked it! Some thought they might get to like it! It’s clear, even when not knowing quite what to do next or what direction to go in, everybody still gets a lot further into the Ashtanga practice than would otherwise be the case. I might add it to the timetable if there’s demand. We also had an extra 4.00pm class yesterday (Thursday). Let me know if that would suit you or if a lunchtime class would work for you. And there are still places left in the usual classes next week. Book a place and have a go.

Training

For something completely different, I’ve booked a day-long workshop called ‘7 steps to transformation: a chakra daylong workshop with James French. It’s this Sunday. This is a subject I gave no thought at all to before teaching. Now, it’s just obvious. The description tells us to dive into the hidden knowledge of this beautiful system. Come with me!

Yoga in the News

Here’s a lovely article from Business Insider on how to be happy. Matthieu Ricard, 69, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, is scientifically the world’s happiest man. The article is from World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where Ricard has been scattering his happiness to business leaders.

The New Scientist tells us that: Hot yoga classes reduce emotional eating and negative thoughts. They report on a small selection of women with high stress, unhealthy eating patterns and depression who were sent to Bikram yoga. Well done those women! If you’ve never been to a Bikram class, reading this account is compulsory!

Yoga is Dope

Dear Yogis.

I write this from Finland in the beautiful haze of its late evening sunset. I’m learning the traditional technique of teaching ‘Yoga Chikitsa’, yoga therapy and healing, with Manju Jois. This was the original use of yoga in Mysore in the 1930s when Manju’s father, Sri K Pattabhi Jois started teaching. Doctors would send hopeless cases to do yoga and be cured.

On our first day in class, Manju spontaneously recalled the simple and easy time of 1975 when he and his father took Ashtanga yoga to the hippies in California. “Everyone wanted to get high one way or another and when they started yoga they were already high. They all had the same kind of smile. My father did not understand why they were smiling. Then everyone was saying :’Oh man, there’s a new drug in town called yoga’. So that’s how it started. Everyone was looking for some kind of escape or some kind of answer.”

Manju said in those days it was very, very simple everybody just enjoyed yoga. It was never serious. “Yoga is a beautiful subject if you do it right. You’ll be happy all the time. But if you do it wrong it’s the satanic version. You get angrier and angrier. When people take it too seriously they ruin everything and become like militant sergeants”.

“The 70s was great. Nobody was serious. They practiced yoga, smoked dope, and drank carrot juice. Instead of rules and regulations it was free yoga”. (Interesting to learn that Guruji never preached giving up drugs. He just taught the yoga and let people move away from drugs themselves.)

Home Studio

After a week off, there are plenty of spaces available next week. I’ve missed you and, if you’re interested, I’ll demonstrate some of the yoga massage that I’ve studied this week. So far we have been concentrating on the back (scoliosis) and a small amount of knee therapy. All classes but the Tuesday class have spaces. On Thursday we can have a go at Mysore style yoga. Book a place online here.

Yoga in the News

Here’s an article that tells you who the best yoga teachers in London are. It’s a surprise list. I know a few and the others look interesting. Some of the more obvious names are not there, though, so I’m guessing this is the personal favourite list of the writer.

The New Scientist weighs in on the subject of yoga and depression and reports on a study which looks at the ‘link between meditation, which is at the core of many yoga styles, and boosted insulin production and slower cellular ageing. Yoga may also dampen down inflammation genes. (If you’re interested in the links between stress, sleep, hormones and weight loss, FMTV carries an entertaining interview with Jon Gabriel who lost 230lbs by rediscovering sleep!)