Monday, 30 May 2011

Hitting reset

This week I’m learning an enormous amount about my practice and what it means to honour the body. This comes directly from picking up some sort of bug which has taken all my energy and left me feeling like I want to hibernate for a week! Unfortunately the demands of my life aren’t going to let me do that any time soon so I need to tune into my yoginess and do what I can to recuperate within the boundaries I’ve been set.

So I apply the five principals of Anusara yoga. First, I soften and listen to what my body’s telling me. Then I make sure I have all the pills, potions and accouterments I know I’m going to need to make me feel better. Then I create as much space as I can, clear the diary throw away my to do list and cut everything back as far as I can. Then I focus on bringing into my body what will nourish and heal the most quickly. And finally, I trust my body that it so knows what it’s doing I can just let it do it’s thing and recover.

I’ve often heard that an illness is a bit like hitting the reset button. There’s something which needs clearing and the body shuts down extraneous systems so that the mind is forced to follow. It’s very cool, imagine what would happen if we just kept on and on, at some point we’d crash big stylee. I’m grateful for these little pauses, it’s a reminder of the intelligence of the body.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Rooting to rise

I’ve started to study the chakras in more depth this month, with the intention of really understanding how they work together to help us expand our consciousness more deeply. What’s really struck me as I begin this adventure is the idea that the chakras aren’t a ladder which we ascend and move on to the next level. I think this is a very human idea, the idea of completing one thing and moving on to the next. The reality is that we’re always rooted in what went before. And that’s a good think, it keeps us safe and grounded. It’s akin to not forgetting our past as we move forward into the future. Infact, something close to my heart is the way we choose to live our lives from this second on is in honour of what has gone before.

So as I move up through the chakras, it’s with an understanding that it all starts with the root, the muladhara chakra and that’s what roots me, literally with gravity. Additionally, the chakras are all interrelated, the opening or closing of one affects the others. I’ve already begun to notice how, when I’m unbalanced it can be traced back to one of the chakras and therefore, what steps I can take to bring them back into balance. It’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to learn more!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Right here, right now

I took a wonderful class recently which explored the Tantric idea of bringing everything to the mat as a way to expand and grow. It’s clear now to me, through years of practice that there are parts of ourselves which we don’t like very much and try to push away, as if somehow we could rid ourselves of them. Douglas Brooks would say that there is nothing we need which we don’t already have and by the same token, nothing we need to get rid of.

I found this a liberating idea when I first grasped it. It don’t tend to slip and slide away from me when the every day pressures and stress of life come up. However, I now begin to notice myself and am able to realise that it is simply the situation and not something in me which is inherently awry. It’s freeing, what we cultivate and grow inside which express outwards and what your heart truly desires becomes self perpetuating as we project that with more clarity on the outside.

Simply to know that you are everything you are meant to be right here, right now is empowering. It means everything which went before and everything which is to come is meaningful. In spiritual practice nothing is wasted and that’s the kind of life I want to lead :)

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Everything and nothing

Once you’re been practicing for a while there comes a point at which you commit a little more strongly, want to go a little bit deeper and start to enquire a little bit more. I reckon it’s at that point when you tip over the edge a bit and something else, something way more important than anything else starts to come into play. It’s at that moment when your life is never going to be the same.

I caught myself saying “yoga’s changed my life” yesterday and I meant it, completely, from the base of my heart (Anusara gag there for the geeks). Thing is, now I know what it means, it’s not quite how I’d have described it if I had to project forward a couple of years and say how my life would be different because of yoga. I guess that’s because externally not that much has changed, I still live in Hertfordshire, I still live in the same house, with the same partner and yet everything’s changed. Everything.

It’s only when I take a moment to reflect back that you see this and realise how different my whole outlook on life is now that even a few months ago. It’s not to say that stuff doesn’t come along to trip me up but now that doesn’t keep me down for weeks on end, I know how to deal with it and move on. The inner monologue which was so prevalent in telling me everywhere I was going wrong is quieter and not so insistent and the Self is there to put it in line when it needs to. It’s pretty special, get on your mat and see J

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Taking just a moment

I was asked recently to consider how hatha yoga has affected my life in the last year. I was  overwhelmed by how many things I came up with, how they simply tumbled out of my brain and onto the paper. Looking at the list, it’s obvious that yoga has affected every facet of my life from relationships, to diet to just feeling better being me. I often have the thought during the day: if the last twelve months have been so amazing, what are the next twelve months going to be like! I’m torn between wanting to fast forward and see and want to relish every moment. This picture was taken at the ending of one immersion last year and the beginning of another, it was a very expansive time for me.

What I really focused on, however, in this contemplation is what I ended up terming “mental fitness”. Which I would define as the ability to pick yourself and dust yourself off when you’ve been buffeted in some way. It’s not like yoga lets me live in a bubble where I’m floating in bliss. If I were, how would I know what bliss is and I’d miss out on all the gratitude that goes with that knowledge. Another discussion, but I definately live in the world and definately succumb to some of the less pleasant sides of my personality, especially when the stress levels kick up a notch.

What I’m really talking about is the process I now go through when times are tough. Rather than reacting straight away and going with whatever my brain is telling me there’s a moment of “ah, I know what my brain’s going to do here”. OK, it doesn’t always happen in the moment, but my heart gets around to tugging on my mind at some point and having a word. From that there’s an acceptance and a willingness to consider the situation and to try and expand within it. That never used to happen, I was all “that’s gone now, let’s move on”. However, I think this moment of consideration is crucial, there was a lesson there, now what do I need to learn? It’s the balance between being easy on yourself and asking difficult questions of yourself and being willing to do the work for next time.

It’s sweet and it’s what gets me on my mat because this is how I want to live my life.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Honour and trust

We had a heavy rainstorm a couple of weeks ago which lead me to reflect on how a change in weather can change our mood and perhaps, in this case, be an opportunity to clear away some stuff which I’d been ignoring while the sunshine is out. I’m always grateful for these kind of changes, yes, even sun to rain as it allows me the opportunity to reconnect with what’s happening around me, rather than simply go with my will. This doesn’t mean that my practice is any less intense, when I get on the mat I mean it. However, I can mean it in different ways, ways which respect the cycle of nature and my own body’s cycles.

Of course, it takes time to understand what it is exactly your body needs and wants and not for it to be overtaken by the thinking minds: ifs, coulds, shoulds. However, what I’ve found is that when I actually honour these cycles, far from being diminished or held back (which is my usual reason for wanting to plow forward) my body is so much happier that my practice seems to take care of itself without my interference. Of course, this is trial and error and there’s a sense of trust and learning through playing. That’s the joy, that’s when we allow ourselves to be held by grace that’s when we get the bliss, ananda.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Seeing spirals

So I feel like one group of students are ready to hear about the spirals. These are part of the secondary Universal Principals of Alignment in Anusara yoga. At the same time I’ve also been reading about how spirals are everywhere around us: our digestive system, the way a plant grows, hurricanes, water going down a plug hole.

I guess it’s not a great leap from there to start to see that the actions of our arms and legs are something of a spiral too. When I was learning this stuff (I still am) it was always easier to consider inner and outer spirals as expanding and contracting. It kind of made more sense at the time. Expanding, or Inner Spiral comes first. A bit like checking unraveling and unkinking a hose before you turn the water on. In simple terms, you create space either by widening the pelvis or upper back. This makes your back happy at both ends, then comes outer. or contracting spiral. So you’re containing the Shakti (energy) within your body. You’re need it spiritual warriors.

So the theory, as usual in Anusara is simple. What’s hard is applying that in a pose when either leg, arm or both are being pulled towards expansion or contraction. We’ll see, we’ll play with the good ole blocks and if nothing else, we’ll laugh at my duck waddling impressions.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The weighty one

I did a couple of workshops with Ross Rayburn last month; one of his key themes was to get heavy in our poses. The main effect of this was that we had about an hour and a half to get some lunch and take a 10 minute walk to the second part of the workshop. We were late. The message of heaviness definitely had an effect.

One of the definitions of Guru is the weighty one. So by getting heavy in our poses we are invoking the Guru within and I’ve found that this makes us much more aware of how we move through poses. They then are no longer become something to tick off your to do list but a delicious moment to be savoured.

The cool thing is that practicing in this way gets taken off the mat and you become much more aware of everything which is going on around you. When we were mid-way through our workshop we were far more interested in what each other had to say, knowing that we wouldn’t see each other again for a while. OK, it made us a bit late which isn’t great Adhikara (studentship) but that’s a subject for another post and to be honest, Ross only has himself to blame for being such a great teacher ;)

Friday, 6 May 2011

Rocking with the Kula

I got a super hit of Prana Shakti last night when I had the privilege of meeting up with my colleague Chris before going to our great teacher, Bridget’s class. It’s so special to arrive in a place and see so many welcoming faces. On top of that, I got to rock out in some yoga moves, so I was super happy.

This has kind of become my theme for the moment and I’m constantly contemplating how we can connect even when we’re not together. It used to scare me a lot when something ended that I’d never get that great feeling back again. What I’m learning is that every experience is valid and appropriate, wherever, we are. So we ride the difficulties with as much equanimity as we can muster which helps us appreciate the sweet times so much more.

My own practice is very important to me. I love going to classes, workshops and trainings and I definitely won’t be stopping that any time soon. For me being with my teachers, my practice and teaching are a fantastic triad which support each other, in a fantastically expansive way.

Yet, there’s a quiet contemplation which comes from following your own body and moving with that you can’t get when your with others. But here’s the triad full circle: I’ve found that my own practice connects me back to my teachers, which makes me happy which makes me raise my teaching game. This happens every time I plug in J

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Getting a lift from the Kula

So I really didn't want to practice yesterday. I came up with my favourite excuse of all time: I'm wearing my jeans. Bearing in mind I was in my house at the time which does include a fully loaded wardrobe. Never fear, I did eventually get on my mat but it did involve an hour of faffing around, finding out what the birds in the garden were doing, whether anyone had texted me. You know the thing.

One thing I also did was to update my Facebook status: Please can someone kick my butt onto my yoga mat. My dear friend dutifully obliged and as he's approaching 7ft I thought it best to pay attention. It worked, my mat was unfurled, then my practice was for my friend and became some much more than a series of poses, it becomes a connection to you and your community.

Kula, or community, is a big deal in Anusara yoga. It's not a passive thing, it's active and passionate and it's one of the things I love most about Anusara. Yes, I know I say that all the time but it really is! I love the fact that my teachers have shown me this path then got out of my way to let me stumble down it myself, only to know that if I shout out there'll be a chorus of responses. It's making me well up just thinking about it now. Really, it is.

There's been too many occasions to count when I've needed something, asked for help and it's been there, unconditionally and fast as lightening. To be supported in that way just means I want to shine my light even brighter. It's why I say a big fat THANK YOU to the universe every day!

Monday, 2 May 2011


I have a close friend who always asks me about yoga. He's genuinely interested and because I'm a total dork I can't help but plough forth with a massive spiel on whatever question I'm being asked about. Recently I've begun to rib him about actually getting on a mat and finding out for himself.

Then I realise I do this ALL the time myself. Find an excuse not to practice. We all do and I've long since stopped beating myself up about it. That only ends up with me taking a longer time to get back on the bandwagon. It's an interesting conundrum though, why do we resist so strongly the things which our hearts yearn for?

I certainly don't have an answer, it's just a pattern I notice in myself and a pretty strong one in others. What's interesting though is that is happens whatever your practice is, whether you're a fresh faced yogi or a seasoned practitioner with decades on the mat, there's often a "I don't do this well enough" comment on the cards. It's what the Tantrikas would call Karma Mala, the feeling of not being able to accomplish actions. Yes, the Yogis of the early Common Era had massive to do lists which they found overwhelming too.

So what to do? Flip over the coin and see  the other side of Karma Mala. Seeing what you can accomplish and where you already are. Here's the thing: if we didn't feel a little Karma Malic occasionally where would our passion come from? In a lot of ways we need it, so we can move forward. The trick is to be objective about it. The fact you're aware is pretty amazing, carry on with that line of enquiry, get on your mat, set yourself goals then let them go. Do it all with a smile on your face, it will change your life!