Have you ever wondered why we take five breaths in each posture in the Ashtanga system? Does it seem enough to fix tight muscles? Apparently, the Yogis who discovered Pattabhi Jois in the 1970s had no such restriction but when hordes of eager yoga seekers lined up outside the yoga shala in Mysore the five-breath tradition was born to get the queue moving along.
Pattabhi Jois, recommended various amounts of time for staying in a posture. Sometimes he said five to eight breaths. In an interview he said 10, 15, 100 breaths or, if you have the strength, hold a posture for three hours! Yikes!. Manju Jois, his son, recommends taking more breaths in difficult postures.
In class, you may be breathing your loveliest, longest and most lyrical ujjayi breath and still the teacher hasn’t called ‘five’. What then? Think of the very reason we practice yoga – the definition. Still the fluctuations of the mind. If they are not stilling then watch them; notice what arises; notice if it is frustration, the urge to giving up, the tendency to self-criticism. Watch all the other various voices that climb into that five-breath fraction of life. Trust your breath, watch the breath, listen to the breath, find inner strength and stay there. Unattach yourself to the number 5.
Think of this: the feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Saint Hildegard
October Happiness Retreat
Make sure you get the early bird discount if you want to come on the Complete Wellbeing Retreat; Happiness workshops, Yoga and Mindfulness sessions. Sign up soon to save a bit of money. It’s on the weekend of October 12th-15th. The retreat is run by Deborah Smith (here’s her Grow Your Own Happiness Twitter page). I will be teaching the yoga component. Here’s a review from one of the participants last year.
If you’re interested in the retreat of September 9th – 16th, there are still places – it’s half full. There’ll be plenty of happiness… Ashtanga in the morning and Yin in the evening and holiday in between. Get in touch if you need more information. Flight suggestions are on my retreat page.
My lucky home studio had a guest teacher on Tuesday - my guru Valentina Candiani. People came for a stretchy, easy class and found themselves in a Hot Yoga routine which includes some pretty demanding peak poses. I turned the central heating up and sweat was spotted! I’m sorry that can’t happen every week. Back to normal next week. See what’s available here. (I update this every Friday before posting this email.) Book here.
Triyoga asks you to bring along a male friend for free! The offer runs until 18th March. On the 24th March, Valentina is hosting a Thai Yoga Massage Workshop and you can find details on the Facebook page here.
Yoga in the news
The Evening Standard explains ’Why men are taking up yoga... Boys to Zen’! The article says: “Not even his tight white trousers could stop the Duke of Cambridge from putting chakras before chukkas when he limbered up with yoga poses before a recent polo match”.
The New York Times features beautiful yoga photography from photographer Andy Richter, ‘a Minnesota native and former ski patrolman, has been devoted to his yoga practice since 2004.’