Monday, 25 July 2011

There is a light and it never goes out

Yoga offers us the opportunity to stand strong in our own light every day, no matter what. When we come to the mat to celebrate or to seek refuge, we are building our bodies into strong vessels. We are building the Prana Shakti within us so that we can shine light into those places of darkness. So no matter how much our muscles shake or how much we sweat, we stand firm and breathe.
This is Opening to Grace in its most, primal, Kali form. Sometimes that’s all we have to cling on to, to dig in and hold firm. This is when the yoga gets interesting, when there is nothing else. I’ve been here a few times before and it feels turbulent but as all things must pass, so must this. Then, when we are at our most powerful selves we are there to shine our light brightly where it is needed most.

I am caught thinking of the last line of the Anusara invocation: Niralambaya Tejase – the light within us sparkles with a divine luster. Or a Morrissey would have it - there is a light and it never goes out.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Making Magic

Relationships are hard. All relationships. What I find particularly difficult is when someone is suffering and you want to help them but know there’s nothing you can do. It’s their stuff and they need to work through it. All you can really do is create space for them to open up and confide in you.

I think mostly this is where the idea of being a magician rather than a tyrant comes from. In this context the definition of magician is someone who creates alchemy within themselves to change. They’re into changing their rubbish into gold, to work on new Samskaras (grooves of patterned behaviour we hold onto). On the other hand a tyrant is someone who wants to change and control everyone else. It’s a sweet theme started on by Marc Holzman, who got it from Elena Brower.

For me this all adds up to looking inside first and seeing perhaps that what we reflect out has an impact on the relationships we’re cultivating with others. If we’re sending out magic, magic will be all around. Someone once said to me that when she walked out of the door in the morning thinking “wow, I wonder what amazing this is going to happen to me today” something magical did happen.

And really, who doesn’t want more magic in their life.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Super Kula!

My mum always used to say that one of the best things about going on holiday is that you get to come home again. I completely get that, yet I feel a little twinge as lots of people fly off on their summer holidays and I’m left holding a few yoga babies. I always enjoy covering my friends classes, it’s Kula support in action, besides which, I love meeting my colleagues students. Doing cover isn’t easy, it’s very much about doing your best and letting go. You’re not going to be able to build up a rapport as you do with people you’ve worked with for a long time. Ultimately however, it’s fun to see the Anusara community growing in London and to be a part of keeping it tight.

It’s also good to whizz around London, discovering new places, new nooks and crannies I didn’t know existed before. From a student perspective I like studying with new teachers who I don’t generally get to in the course of the year so summer’s a bit like visiting colleges to check out which I want to go to J I will of course be glad when it’s my turn for a bit of R&R, gathering new inspiration for the new term! It’s pretty special that we have such a great Kula to support this.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Seeing the good

Twice in the last day I’ve been asked to give people feedback, it’s really interesting. I’m not someone for whom getting feedback is particularly easy, ok, full disclosure: I really don’t like it. I’m totally working on it, I know it’s not personal, I know these are the lessons which will help me grow, it’s just I don’t like it, I don’t find it easy and a bit part of me wants to go: “la la la, I’m not listening”. However, on the plus side, I think it makes me really good at giving feedback and what’s more, I’ve done an Anusara teaching training so seeing the good goes with the territory.

Seeing the good isn’t blindly saying something nice just because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. It’s looking really hard and finding something good. It’s simple but it’s not easy. It takes practice and I think it starts with you: if you can’t see your own goodness how are you going to see anyone else’s?

What’s cool is that the more you practice the better you get at it, it’s like your mind does a little check off against the five principals:

  • Pause, what’s the complete picture? (Open to Grace)
  • What am I seeing, make a mental list (Muscular Energy)
  • Refining from that list is the most important aspect to communicate right now (Spirals)
  • Where’s the positive (Organic Energy)

Apart from anything else, starting with the positive frames your comments in something constructive. It’s like you’re saying, everything’s fine, now you get to shine eeeeeven brighter, this is me caring enough to consider this and here’s how I want to support you.

Again, another thing I love about Anusara.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Anusara in a very small nutshell

I totally love yoga in all its forms and have deep honour and respect for the lineages which have brought and continue to the mat every day. However, I can’t see myself being a teacher in any other style. The other day my friend and colleague said “I don’t think you are capable of not teaching Anusara. It’s too much a part of you and your yoga”.

I remember the first time I read the word, it might sound crazy but it was a response to a survey on a website “which is your favourite style of yoga”, someone posted “Anusara rocks!” as a response and it literally jumped of the screen at me. I’ve been in the merry band as we’re known ever since.

This isn’t a treatise on Anusara, I’m not out to convert everyone. I fully believe that each person’s path is their own but as a style which isn’t that well known I’d like to give a very summary overview.

Born in 1997 and formulated by John Friend, Anusara is an alignment based methodology based on five Universal Principals of Alignment. That means that as we move into each new pose we apply specific actions to bring us back into our most optimal alignment. Truth be told, it makes it simple and elegant. However one of my teacher’s would say out of the corner of his mouth “it’s not easy, or we wouldn’t have a job!“

Philosophically, Anusara is rooted in Tantra, so in all aspects of our life we attempt to reconnect to our own goodness and see that in everything around us. A practice in itself but you’ll notice it in class with an experienced teacher; they’ll always say something positive about a student’s posture first. It sounds pretty obvious but it absolutely changes the way people feel about themselves.

Finally, and by no means least is Kula or community. This is a theme I come back to again and again in my classes and it never fails to make me go goosepimply as I recount one story or another about how someone has been lifted up by the power of this community.

That’s it in a very small nutshell.  

Monday, 18 July 2011

Peeling away the layers

This last month has been a real eye opener in terms of understanding the importance of my own practice to my teaching. I really can’t underestimate how important my practice is to me and that’s just amplified when I come to verbalise it. Sure, you can say “now, scoop your tailbone” but how does that feel, what are you going to get from that. I know because when I get a good Outer Spiral going on my backbends go through the roof. I guess what I’m saying is that the better I know the principals in my own body the better I can see and articulate what’s going on in others.

What’s really exciting is that there are layers and layers and layers. I’m assuming this goes on infinitely but haven’t got their yet! I think it was Tara Judelle I once heard say that learning the principals is like going to school, you learn them, and then you get to learn them all over again at a new level. It just keeps on refining itself. This feels nothing like a burden, more an ever inspiring, ever expanding view of body, mind and soul. It’s really beautiful and I can’t wait for the next layer.

Friday, 15 July 2011


I’m pretty excited because I’m over halfway through the challenge I set myself at the beginning of the year to practice yoga every day, #365yoga as it’s known on Twitter. I felt the need to deeply commit to an asana practice as a way of moving more deeply into a meditation practice. My meditation commitment has been sketchy at best so I figured going via this tried and test might help me out.

It’s been interesting.

The thing is that I’m much more drawn to the asana. It keeps my mind busy and my body moving which I love the feeling of. All in all, sitting on a cushion kind of feels a bit less glam. But here’s what I’ve found recently: there are moments when my brain just floats on the mantra and I’m buoyed by the feeling of my breath. They’re brief and they might not even happen during a sitting but they keep me going back. I’m also finding that, must like after asana, I feel better and I’m not willing the timer to ring. I’m just staying with what is. All good things for practice and for life.

The research continues…

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Shakti surfing

After all the excitement of Sianna’s workshop I’ve continued in that vein and been hit by a huge wave of Shakti directly from across the channel, it’s been somewhat overwhelming. A load of my friends and colleagues were in Geneva to study with John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga. I was pretty glum I wasn’t going but felt my place was in London at this time. So I begged my friends to keep me in touch with what was happening so I got a little drop of whatever they were getting in Switzerland. I totally got that and some, so much love coming in waves at me all week I was feeling lifted aloft by the Kula I could barely keep it in.

I haven’t extracted every last ounce from my friends about that training but whatever they got I definitely got a hit of it too. So I talk about Kula a lot, it’s my big thing at the moment I guess. To be around people who just get you is pretty incredible, no questions, no judgment, just it is what it is. Pretty much you don’t even need to tell your story, it doesn’t matter you get the love anyway. I’m a very lucky and happy girl :)

This idea of connection always leads me back to the beautiful concept of Indra's net. This Buddhist theory posits that we are all interlinked across the earth, each person a node linked to all others through all of our relationships. Where the stronger each node is, the stronger the net is:
"Imagine a multidimensional spider's web in the early morning covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And, in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum. That is the Buddhist conception of the universe in an image." -Alan Watts

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Bubbling over

I was at an amazing workshop with the delightful Sianna Sherman last weekend. She is so full of light and inspiration you can’t help but get set on fire when you’re in her presence. I always come away from these adventures bubbling over with things to share. And yet, there’s a process of assimilation which goes on for me right now which means that I have to take time contemplating the information and truly making it my own. That way, when I come to teach it, it’s an authentic representation of my experience.

So I’ve learnt to allow myself this time and space because I know that things will bubble up and then I get to share. It’s so often like that when we’re on the mat that we come into a posture, we align, and then we just wait and see what happens. We just wait and breathe, then suddenly the pose opens up and we find ourselves in a completely new space and a whole new perspective.

I love diving deep into Anusara for many reasons and this is one of them. Yes, the content’s the same but the reality is that we hear it differently at different times and then when it comes to speaking it ourselves we’ll interpret it differently each time. It’s like having kaleidoscope of imagery which makes it deeper and richer each time.