I mention Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras quite a bit – that’s the one that tells us to ‘Still the fluctuations of the mind’ and then tells us how to do it. It’s not as simple as that, sadly! The ideas of the time reflected a spiritual and devotional society and it takes a huge leap and/or academic commitment to get inside the mindset of the time. And yet I was astounded to hear a yoga scholar say that it was time to put Patanjali to bed and take up other texts instead, ones more relevant to the West and to modern yogis. Wow! This scholar, Richard Rosen, mentioned Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (a Stoic born in 121 AD and, uh huh, modern and Western!).
So, I had a look! The opening line is already beautiful, easy to comprehend, relevant and like easing into a comfy chair: "I learned to relish the beauty of manners, and to restrain all anger"… Line after line is nourishing, reflecting on how to do right, how to cope with pressure, how to accept misfortune and how to approach death. Stoic philosophy and Marcus Aurelius are concerned with “the great maxims necessary for the conduct of life”.
Here are more examples of Marcus Aurelius’ practice of, guess what, stilling the fluctuations of the mind: “To guard, not only against evil actions, but even against any evil intention’s entering my thoughts... not to busy myself about vain things... to be reconciled and well pleased again with those who had offended me… not to be offended with the ignorant… (and) in all things to have power over myself, and in nothing to be hurried away by any passion: to be cheerful and courageous in all sudden accidents, as in sicknesses to have an easy command of my own temper; to maintain a kind, sweet, and yet grave deportment”.
(And look at Page 25 for the Stoic take on Vital Breath, the life force that exists in everything!) It’s all so yogic!
Just as the weather is turning here, getting cooler and less Mediterranean, we can look forward to some Kapsali sun on the skin, the dawning sky to greet our morning practice, the soothing sound of the sea as we sit in the cafes and contemplate the beautiful bay and the gentleness of the evenings as we socialise in the tavernas. Ahhhh, KapsalI! You can still sign up and join us on this magical island. Details are on the retreat pages on my website.
I’ve been finding it interesting and rewarding to teach just the seated postures of the Ashtanga system in the Wednesday and Thursday classes. We manage to get through to the horrible Janu Sirsasana C where you torture your toes and the dreaded/adored boat pose with it’s impossible cross-legged lift in between. I’m not sure there’s any way to make these easier but blocks are a little port in the storm. You can see what’s available here. (I update this before posting this email.) You can book here.
This weekend I’ll be going to the workshops of Tim squeeze-the-anus Feldmann at Triyoga Camden, starting tonight at 6.00. I’d love if you came with me! Here’s and interview with Tim Feldmann on Ashtanga Yoga, Dance, Philosophy
Yoga in the news
I’ll just leave this one here, purely for the headline: Yoga fitness and singing helped Briton survive 10 hours in Adriatic.