An Answer For All Questions

Dear Yogis

This week I wrote to Dr Timothy McCall, author of the indispensable Yoga As Medicine. I wanted advice about a yogi and, while he’s pondering my question, he gave me a stop-gap answer that covers all of us, whatever our question or problem is: “Work to reduce his stress and otherwise bring him into balance. Good luck”.

Actually, I do have that magic wand! In every class, when I emphasise the importance of lovely long breathing and reducing sympathetic nervous system dominance (de-stressing), I wave the wand of the wonderous benefits of the parasympathetic nervous system. Shall I recap on those benefits? I’ll let this Ted Talk, Breathe, by a sports coach, Joe DiStefano recap: breathing properly is about investing in your vitality and believing in yourself, delivering more nutrition to our cells, getting rid of pain, even, he claims, releasing hamstrings!

He goes further. The parasympathetic system, “wants to use all the energy it can to optimise your immune system, to detoxify, to digest your food, and, of course, maintain a very strong interest in sex”. And to remind you of the monstrous effects of sympathetic (fight or flight) overdrive he lists: cardiac mortality, acid reflux, erectile dysfunction, restless leg syndrome, low back pain, anxiety and depression.

Now that I have your attention, try some of his breathing techniques.

1.    Inhale, then exhale three times longer than the inhale.

2.    Block one side of the nose and take ten breaths, then do the other side.

3.    As you get better, progress to alternate nostril breathing.

4.    Baby postures for breathing – you’ll have to watch that bit to see the postures!

5.    Finally, blow up a balloon in the position he shows. He has his athletes doing this. 

Home Studio

Thursday evening Ashtanga classes are back to 8.00. Sorry about that disruption. It’s all back to normal now. Come to class! You can see what’s available on my website.


I’ve signed up for a class tonight; Adam Hustler’s Heavenly Hips and Tight Bits at Triyoga Soho 19.30-21.30. At the recent Yoga Show I took a workshop with him and I like the way he target’s muscles and makes us think about what we’re doing. My cherished teacher David Swenson is back in the country and teaching at Triyoga Soho on the weekend of Friday 23rd to Sunday 24th. I’m doing both Saturday and Sunday. A couple of the workshops are discussions: ‘fear, focus, forgiveness + fulfilment’ and ‘advantages of age + the myth of eternal youth’.

Eden Yogis, go to Alain’s new Ashtanga classes if you want to experience what a ‘Counted’ Led Primary Series’ class is like – in Sanskrit! Monday 8.20-9.20 and Wednesday 2.00-3.30.

Yoga in the news

The Metro posts a helpful article called: Can yoga help with fertility issues? It’s true that infertility is associated with stress levels and yoga is associated with de-stressing. This interesting article sadly commits this spelling-mistake howler: ‘Another option is medication classes or a gong bath’, and this incisive technical medical gem from Tim Allardyce, a chartered physiotherapist: ‘‘Doing yoga will not directly make you pregnant.’ Otherwise worthy… for men too. Stress is associated with a lower sperm count.

This last week was International Stress Awareness Week and FM (Facilities Management) World says that ‘almost half of workers want a yoga and meditation room and exercise facilities to help tackle workplace stress’. A baffling amount of people have had ongoing workplace stress for the past five years. Have a look at the stats in this article. I’m so pleased to teach yoga in the workplace. It’s so massively important.