Thursday, 23 June 2011

Dancing with fear

There are load of occasions in life where we believe we get thrown off course in a way which we wouldn’t have chosen. Stuff happens and before we know how we’re in the middle of it, with no clue how we got there or how it’s going to play out.

Our responses range from our rational mind going into overdrive, trying to figure out the options and putting probabilities against each one to try and glimpse into the future. Or we shut down and pretend it’s not happening at all, pretend everything’s going to get back to normal. We really don’t want to stay in the moment, it’s unpleasant.

The difficulty is that we can never really move through something unless we acknowledge it; admit that it exists, that we’re frightened by it and bring it to our yoga mat. We then move through a grounding practice with a focus on creating space for opportunities to arise and changes to occur. It takes really dedication and spirit to look our fears full in the face and own them. What we find when we do this is that they don’t own us.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Divine playtime

I’ve been lucky enough recently to spend a bit of time with my nephews (18 and 6 months). I just love how everything is play and everything is so fascinating at that age. I remember not wanting to come in from playing in the evening because I was so absorbed by it, that’s not coming into eat. That’s almost unheard of now!

So I developed an appetite, I developed the teenager’s attitude of knowing everything then I developed the adult attitude of having to pretend to know everything. It’s taken me quite a while to break down that shell and find the inner child again. That’s why I’m proud to say this decade is my misspent 30s.

How does this relate to yoga? Because of course it does! One of the main reasons I practice yoga is that I love it and it’s fun. Simple as, and yet, so easy to forget when one gets caught up with technique and philosophy or just having it on the end of a long to do list. At the end of the day, something brought me to the mat and something takes me back every single day. It’s the biggest, bestest expression of joy that I can give. When I want to honour this I bring it to the mat and play, just like my nephews.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Purifying pulsation

I’ve been feeling under the weather for the last couple of weeks, it’s ok, it’s just a cold, I’ll live! What I found interesting is that we have this expression “under the weather”, as if we equate our inner experience to the outer by way of communicating this message. It reminds me of one of the Upanishads, one of the seminal works of yoga philosophy: what's inside is outside and what's outside is inside. Essentially, we carry a microcosm of the universe within our bodies.

I love to think of myself in this way, to draw the parallels between myself and nature. To understand that there are constant cycles, pulsation, what the Tantrikas call Spanda. Day follows night, summer follows spring. These things are all so familiar to us and returning to them time and again regrounds use into our essential nature, the earth. It’s only with a solid foundation that you can build a house, the same goes for our bodies.

When we honour these cycles, when I rest, do restorative or pranayama (breathing exercises) because I’m sick or tired, I find I’m much more able to expand out from a place of solid foundation. It feels really good J

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Grooving with Gunas

One of my students this week admitted that when he gets on his mat he may or may not always be 100% on the case, shock. So who can claim to be present every second of the day, mat or no mat? What I find more interesting is the way we can transform our attitude by following our heart.

This is where I start to talk about the gunas. The three qualities of Prakriti (matter) which are present in all things. They're thought of as threads woven together, in varying quantities depending on the situation.  Tamas is related to earthy quality, rooted in the lower Chakras and responsible for the energy we need for rest and contemplation. Rajas is fire, energy, what we need to get us out of bed with a zing in the morning, linking to the mid-Chakras. And Sattva, conscience, when we’re aware of the other qualities and which we need in any given moment, related to the top Chakras.

What I love is the way our yoga practice and therefore, life, is a mirror to this. So often, when we get on our mats it’s the Tamas energy which is prevalent, we’ve just had a long day or just got out of bed and our brain is telling us it really would much prefer to hang out in front of the TV. Ah, so familiar! So it’s my responsibility as teacher to lift that energy, bring in the fire, warm you up and get you pinging again. Then we reach our apex and the energy is high, at this point we begin to initiate more Tamas, bringing the body back to equilibrium, grounding and rooting ready for what’s next. So when we finally come to Savasana the body is ready and willing to take rest, filled with Sattva, which we didn’t even notice we were cultivating all the time.

So we can flip things around both on an off the mat with conscious awareness. It so simple but so not easy. It takes time, dedication and listening to your heart. But it’s so worth it!