Thursday, 22 December 2011

Pause


I gladly got back on the meditation cushion this week. It’s a bit like when you don’t do something for a while and you realise the cobwebs have started to gather a little. Yes, my mind is a little full of cobwebs. It needed a clean!

So it’s the same thing. Whether you meditated yesterday, have never meditated or have been a little neglecting of the practice recently the method is the same. Come back to your mat, plonk down your bum, set a timer for 1-100+ minutes, close your eyes and tune into the breath.

There are a million different practices out there which are profound and life changing. It might take a little time to play with which some to find one really helps you to do that cobweb clearing the best. There’s no need to be attached to a particular method, when it’s not working for you, try something else. The point is, just like with an asana practice to keep coming back, come back to the cushion, and come back to your breath whenever you can.

There is no goal, nowhere to get to; it’s your time for yourself to let everything settle and for the important stuff to bubble up. It may be a while but I’ve found that creating a little space for my sitting practice opens up all facets of my life and boosts my creativity.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Guest Blog: Yoga and Its Global Reach

Yoga is all about community so I'm delighted to introduce a new guest blogger Allie Brooks currently lives in Florida and has just graduated from University of Mississippi, with a degree in biomedical anthropology. She is studying in the field to finish an ethnography on the effects of biomedicalization on Bolivian cultures.

How yoga can ‘fix’ just about everything
Yoga is a global movement and this 5,000 year old practice is becoming increasing popular. Yoga teachers are becoming more traveled, all age-ranges of people are beginning to practice, and different reasons for yoga are being addressed. There is something for everyone in yoga and this is why the mind-body therapy has such a global reach.

Since there is much emphasis on health and fitness, yoga has become popular for those trying to shed a few pounds or tone up. Many different forms of yoga are focused on toning the body and are more physically challenging. Some postures, breathing routines, and movements are aligned with a cardio-rich music track to keep the body moving and burning calories. Hot yoga, or Bikram, is another type that is used to release toxins, stress, and help increase the body performance to get into shape.

Restorative yoga is available for those that are tired and/or injured. The poses associated with this yoga form are deeply relaxing and revitalizing. They encourage the body to rest and help to revive the mind-body connection for further healing. This yoga is admired by weary travelers who are homesick and stressed or patients undergoing severe treatments or surgery recovery. Many hospitals offer restorative yoga classes for patients with a stressful cancer diagnosis, like a non-hodgkin’s lymphoma or mesothelioma prognosis.
Acro-yoga is for everyone that cannot wait for the circus to come back in town. It is a fun way to meet new people or practice with a friend, since two yogis normally work together to achieve acrobatic fun and therapeutic release. Not only is this form of yoga great for all age groups, it combines all the “wanted” aspects of yoga. Acro-yoga is fun, physically intense, and a stress-alleviator. Many schools and parents use acro-yoga to keep the children engaged and fit.

No matter what’s the niche, there is a form of yoga for anyone. From curing homesickness to acting as a healing catalyst, yoga can facilitate any goal one could have. Since any form of yoga is a fun way to get fit, get tone, have fun, and relax it should be the new way to bring in the New Year. Around this time, everyone is setting goals and making resolutions, so why no jump start that goal with yoga? Get your friends together or make your significant other drops plans for the plans for the gym and go to a yoga studio. It is a fun way to form human connections, get in shape together, and have fun while you all de-stress.

Contact Allie

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The play of Lila


My last word in my series of three is joy. It’s that time of year, there’s a lot of it around. It’s pretty common for me to get caught up in the detail and really lose sight of I’m doing stuff in the first place. I do think of myself as pretty playful these days and take more time to notice the sweetness; it all goes to make life that little bit more exquisite. I admit though, it took me a while to refind my inner child and give her some playtime.

That’s what Christmas ends up being about for me, going back home and slotting right back into the family unit. No matter who you are now, your nearest and dearest don’t see you that way. They still see you as the person to “pile on” and squish in the back seat. So this Christmas, I say let the inner child. Let Lila come out to play.

Sometimes there is no other reason to get on your mat other than for the pure joyous exaltation of it. There’s nothing to do and nowhere to go, just enjoy the spaciousness of the practice, the amazing feeling and the little smile which escapes.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Making music

Continuing my three class series, the next in the run is elegance. I just love this word. How I got to it is that I’m a planner and an organiser, there is no getting away from this personality trait.

However, what I realised is that I’m this way for a reason, I’m this way because when I put my mind to something I want it to be beautiful and at the same time I know that I ultimately can’t control the outcome.

For me it’s Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.1.12: Sanskrit:abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tad-nirodhah, or dedicated practice and non-attachment. The concept is that we put in our best effort and then ultimately let it go. Like a symphony coming together. It’s not like an orchestra magically appears out of nowhere: there’s planning, practice, logistics, a million and one different things come together to make that moment of beautiful music arise. And there’s always going to be something which didn’t quite come out like you planned, something which makes that event completely unique, a moment in time which will never arise again.

So yes, I’m a planner. However, I’m also a music maker in every single moment. Constantly playing a harmony of dedication and letting go.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Counting my blessings...

As a preparation for my 2012 theme, I sat down with one of my good friends and figured out what we feel is really important to us. Yes, it’s true; I can’t go out to dinner any more without some kind of yogic element! It was a really interesting discussion which I’ll be sharing some of the outcomes of over the next few weeks.
When we boiled it down, there were five words which really resonated with me. They resonated so much that I wanted to build a series of three classes around them to close out this most phenomenal year. They come in the order in which they felt most sequential.

First is gratitude. This is a theme which occurs and reoccurs for me regularly and one which I can so easily forget. The point is that when we take time to appreciate everything we have to be thankful for a few things happen. First, we notice things which we didn’t notice before, like a couple of weeks ago I looked outside and saw a few of London bathed in gold as the leaves were turning into their autumn shade.

Then, I’ve found that (and it’s not as if all the bad stuff goes away, it’s not that at all), it’s just that it seems less relevant when stacked up next to all the blessings. It takes practice, that irritating email which stays with you and you take it home and grumble about it to your partner all evening. You know what, when you remember something you really like about yourself the email doesn’t matter so much.

What happens next is pure alchemy and I’m definitely. Can I see the tough stuff as blessings aswell? Woah. I mean really, when I got back on my mat after several days of child’s pose, it felt unbelievably good. Can I remember that next time my life creates a situation where I can’t practice in my usual way how amazing it is that I got to practice at all?

So try this when you meditate: count your blessings. Spend the entire time building up all the things you’re grateful for: what’s stable in your life, your relationships, your history, yourself and your skills, your achievements, every person who touches your day and you never see...

If you don’t have a meditation practice, take some time when you’re in a queue and do some counting.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A mo for slo









There are a ton of colds going around at the moment, it’s that time of year. I tend to feel like the cold I have right now is slowing me down and stopping me getting to all the stuff I need to do. That is until I change my perspective around it a little.

If I believe in Anusara yoga then I need to figure out what it means at any situation:

Anusara - [a-nu-sar-a] means “to be in the flow”, “flowing with Grace”, “the soul in the flow with the Universe”, “following your heart”
Anusara Teacher Training Manual, John Friend

Honestly, when I first heard this, it felt a little passive. Like I didn’t have a lot to do with it and that made me feel disempowered, which is definitely not why I do yoga. However, what I’ve learnt and continue to learn every day is that there is a huge difference in being swept along with events and truly knowing, then following what is in your heart. Again, following the “heart”, as in the energetic centre of your body as opposed to the internal organ, is definitely something I had to learn. It sounded very esoteric and intangible when I first heard it.

What I have learnt, through many hours on my mat and listening to some really fabulous teachers is that my heart is where my true knowledge lies, what we call Cit. As yogis what we get to do is tune into this, become more skilled in recognising it and then follow it. It comes from way inside yourself and in truth, may look kinda crazy to the outside world. Yoga is, as the Bhagavad Gita tells us, skill in action... and that’s empowering.

So what does all of this have to do with my cold? My cold is a message, a pretty strong one, to take it easy. It is officially winter now, all around us nature is slowing down and I need to align to that, to flow with it. My heart knows that and rather than assume that I know best, like the adverts which say “take this remedy and don’t miss a single day”, remember that this is the time to rest, look after myself and turn inwards, to attune to the bigger pulsation of nature. I think I'm going to enjoy my slightly involuntary break!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Couldn't resist... Harry Potter yoga

When I saw this article: Harry Potter and yoga are evil', says Catholic Church exorcist I admit I smirked. I smirked because the sprite in me met with the yoga teacher in me and I asked myself the question: what about Harry Potter yoga, is that double evil or do two negatives make a positive?...

...because I’m a Tantrika and make it my business to see intrinsic goodness in every situation (no matter how H.A.R.D. that may be), I’m going to say it’s positive.

So, since it’s positive and yoga is all about seeing the good, what would a Harry Potter yoga class look like?

One of the few things I know about Harry Potter (I know, I must be the only one on the planet) is the Dementors who pray on the positive emotions of their victims (yep, I got that from Wikipedia). Of course, and hurray, the Tantrikas got there first, sorry JK... they call this the Malas.  It’s ok, you don’t have to boo, remember, there is good in Dementors too. The Malas are a film which clouds your heart of your super-naturalness (allow me that one pun...). It’s what stops you seeing how miraculous you really are.

Now, because the Tantrikas were so wicked they knew that the film of Malas is - because everything is - a good thing. Wait, how can something which clouds your heart be a good thing? Because, get out my wizard’s wand, wave it, cast a spell: if it wasn’t there you would have no contrast. If you didn’t go to wizarding school and have bewitching teachers, how would you get to be such a great wizard? If you didn’t have sticky situations to conjure yourself out of, how would you learn? If you had nothing as comparison, how would you know?


Abracadabra, one Harry Potter yoga class!

For the geeks (note: late at night with a cold, please refine - oops, there’s my Malas, Anava if we’re going technical):

Key Actions - Hugging to the midline and full extension from the core to finger/toenails
Heart qualities - super-natural power and magic sparkles
Apex - um, oooh let’s go Eka Pada Galavasana I, or pretty much any arm balance/hip opener combo

Go, do magic...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Tiger's growing up...


Next installment of Tiger practice build up, four hours worth, officically in the Zone!!!

15  minutes Sun salutations    
5 x Surya Namaskar A
5 x Surya Namaskar B


Handstand and Pinca...
7.5 minute handstand
7.5 Pinca mayurasana

Staying upside down...
15 minutes Sirsasana I, in 2 installments
5 minutes Sirsasana II


On your feet... 1 minute holds or 1 minute per side
Uttansana
Low Lunge
High Lunge
Parsva Uttansana
Parsvattonasana
Virabhadrasana II
Reverse Virabhadrasana II
Trikonasana
Ardha Chandrasana
Parsva Trikonasana
Utthita Hasta Padagustasana, bent knee
Utthita Hasta Padagustasana, leg straight
Utthita Hasta Padagustasana, leg to the side
Vrksasana
Vrkshasana (half lotus)
Garudasana
Twisting lunge pose - knee on floor
Prasarita Padattonasana

Open them hips... 1 minute holds or 1 minute per side
Baddha Konasana
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana prep - torso lifted)
Triangmukhaipada Paschimottanasana
Baby cradle
Ardha Padmasana
Krounchasana
Agnistambasana

Crunch time... 2 minutes each, yep, 2 minutes
Abdominals 
Navasana
Navasana to Ardha Navasana
Bridget crunches
Frog crunches
Twisting straight legs

Flip onto hands... 1 minute holds or 1 minute per side
Kickstand Vascistasana
Lolasana
Vasisthasana straight legs
Bakasana
Vasisthasana leg in tree
Vasisthasana hold foot
Eka Pada Bakasana
Wild thing
Parsva Bakasana
Tulasana
Eka Hasta Bhujasana
Dwi Hasta Bhujasana
Tittibhasana
Astravakrasana

Luscious backbend time... 1 minute holds or 1 minute per side
Salabasana (torso elevated only)
Salabasana (torso & legs elevated)
Bhujangasana
Eka Pada Bhekasana
Urdva Mukka Svanasana
Dhanurasana
Eka Pada Dhanurasana (holding opposite foot)
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana I prep, 1 leg bekasana
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II prep, 1 leg bekasan
Purvottanasana
Ustrasana
Setubandha Sarvangasana
Urdva Dhanurasana
Ardha Salabhasana
Viparita Salabhasana prep
Mermaid pose 1
Paryankasana
Supta Virasana

Best foot forward... 1 minute holds or 1 minute per side
Virasana
Gomukhasanana (forward fold)
Janu Sirsasaana
Marichyasana I
Upavista Konasana
Parsva Upavista Konasana
Eka pada gomukha paschimottanasana
Eka pada rajakapotasana prep
Vajrasana
Paschimottanasana
Longhorn pose
Ardha Padmasana
Padmasana
Siddhasana
Baddha Konasana with forward bend
Malasana - arms in front

Home stretch...
10 minute Shoulderstand
5 minute Sharvangasana II - arms clasped
5 minute Sharvangasana II - arms straight
5 minute Halasana

Here we go...
10 minute meditation
15 minutes Savasan

Awesome, aswesome, yoga is awesome :)

Friday, 18 November 2011

Breathe in... breathe out...


What have I learnt on my mat this week? I’ve learnt, yet again, to pause, soften and be lead by my breath. Something I’m trying hard to cultivate in as I frantically search for a document I spent an hour working which has disappeared...

I’ve learnt that I can engage my adductors even more, yes, that much, so they’re firing on all cylinders and interestingly that the right doesn’t like to play as much as the left. This is more than a physical action, it’s grit and determination to stick to what I believe in no matter what...

I’ve learnt to find room for my femininity, to giggle and be playful, to dance. That makes life just that little bit sweeter...

I’ve learnt that playfulness needs to be appropriate to the situation and that having an open heart means to keep listening...

I’ve learnt to shine out in my poses with unabashed joy in all directions and without reservation, to be vulnerable and open...

Yet again, I’ve learnt the lesson of Spanda, pulsation, where everything in the universe expands and contracts and to find equanimity wherever I am in that cycle. Breathe in, expand, breathe out, contract, I will never get tired of that...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Whatever next?!!!


A little update on my 365 day yoga challenge: in summary, the very cool think about yoga is it doesn’t burn you out. Well, it might for a couple of days as your muscles screech at you but in general, you’re revitalised. That’s how come I can get up early, do my practice and get through my day relatively unscathed. I feel more tired when I don’t practice in the morning, which, honestly hasn’t really happened this year... so far. The 365 day yoga challenge isn’t really a thing anymore, it just is. I practice yoga every day. Somehow I find a way.

This is really why I felt like: hmmm, what would happened if I leapt for the stars and built up to a full blown tiger’s practice as a little Christmas present to myself (follow the blog if you want to see what this entails, they’re not just words, I’m really doing these practices and they are so awesome). It’s pretty amazing to me the effects that three hours of practice have on my body and mind. Sure, I’ve practiced that much but never alone, just with some music and some poses in my head. They say that every time you step onto your mat something shifts. That definitely happens and I’m just finding that when I shift if up a gear, like right now, it’s tectonic. I really can’t wait to see where this journey goes next...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Almost crazy enough to be true...

For the last couple of months I’ve been cultivating the idea of intuition, or, well, let me just put it out there - psychic ability... OK, so all those still with me, yes, that might sound a little off the wall. However, I deeply believe that we can tune into that part of ourselves that just knows, how many times have you thought: “dammit, I knew that was going to happen?” or “I had that feeling”. Guys, that’s being psychic, it’s true and you know it!

So, the first step is the open up to the possibility that this might be possible and you may be a magical, psychic being. Seriously, you are, own it, strut it, walk it. Take a huge breath, get big inside, find spaciousness and say (you may whisper quietly), “yeah, I want some of that, I want to know”.

That’s a huge step and you get to totally have an awesome party, do the dance, clap and jump up and down like a little kid. However, there’s always more, when you’re turning inside and listening and you know your heart’s desire, what then?

Then you get to act on that intuition, on that feeling, let your heart lead the way. It will guide you. Onto the fullness of your inner body, let the heads of your armbones move back as a natural continuation of having a massive, bright heart.

That’s when you get to move from a place of deep intuition out into your life, to flow through each moment. Even when your intuition is warning you, forewarned is forearmed. A life lived from the heart is a life lived in fullness. And I for one want more of that!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tiger Tiger

Still going strong, more tigers a-coming... this one's about 3 and a half hours... oh my goodness, that's halfway!!!

15  minutes  Sun salutations...
5 x Surya Namaskar A
5 x Surya Namaskar B



7.5 minutes (you can go up and down !)
Handstand 
Pinca mayurasana   

10 minutes Sirsasana I
5 minutes Sirsasana II

1 minute...
Tadasana
Uttansana

1 minute each side...
Low Lunge
High Lunge
Parsva Uttansana
Parsvattonasana
Virabhadrasana II
Trikonasana
Ardha Chandrasana
Parsva Trikonasana
Utthita Hasta Padagustasana, bent knee
Utthita Hasta Padagustasana, leg straight
Utthita Hasta Padagustasana, leg to the side
Vrksasana
Twisting lunge pose - knee on floor
Prasarita Padattonasana

Sit down...
Sukkhasana

Baddha Konasana

One minute each side...
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana prep - torso lifted
Triangmukhaipada Paschimottanasana
Baby cradle
Ardha Padmasana
Agnistambasana
Krounchasana

Here come the abs... two minutes per pose people!
Navasana
Navasana to Ardha Navasana
Bridget crunches
Frog crunches
Twisting straight legs

On to the hands... one minute hold per side... spot the odd ones out
Kickstand Vascistasana
Lolasana
Vasisthasana straight legs
Vasisthasana leg in tree
Vasisthasana hold foot
Wild thing
Bakasana
Parsva Bakasana
Eka Hasta Bhujasana
Astravakrasana
Tittibhasana

Now the back... one minute holds
Salabasana (torso elevated only)
Salabasana (torso & legs elevated)
Bhujangasana
Eka Pada Bhekasana
Urdva Mukka Svanasana
Dhanurasana
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana I prep, 1 leg bekasana
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II prep, 1 leg bekasan
Purvottanasana
Ustrasana
Setubandha Sarvangasana
Urdva Dhanurasana
Ardha Salabhasana
Viparita Salabhasana prep
Eka Pada Dhanurasana (holding opposite foot)
Mermaid pose 1
Paryankasana
Supta Virasana

Final stretches... one minute holds
Virasana
Gomukhasanana (forward fold)
Janu Sirsasaana
Marichyasana I
Upavista Konasana
Parsva Upavista Konasana
Eka pada gomukha paschimottanasana
Eka pada rajakapotasana prep
Vajrasana
Paschimottanasana
Longhorn pose
Ardha Padmasana
Padmasana
Siddhasana


Turn it all upside down...
10 minute Shoulderstand   
5 minute Sharvangasana II - arms clasped
5 minute Sharvangasana II - arms straight
5 minute Halasana

We made it!
10 minute Meditation  
10 minute Savasana