Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Be the star you are!

London is dark. It’s raining. So how come I feel like a seed reverberating underground, ready to shoot forth new green shoots?

Part of me thinks it’s best not to ask. However, the yogi in me can’t help it.

Here’s my theory: last year I spent a lot of time going inside, asking questions of myself. Why yoga? Why teaching? Why this, let’s own it, craziness?

I got answers, I got more questions, I got a frown and a smile. What I mainly got was a deeper awareness of myself, what does motivate me and why I do come back to the mat day after day.

The reason is pretty simple. I got to be the person I always thought I was inside but never quite knew how to be. It’s not like yoga changed me, more like it unveiled me. In a good way, not an emperor’s new clothes way. I’m not there yet, no way. Where I am though is at a point of no return, again... in a good way. This is the point at which my mind quiets and I move from a place of deep inner knowledge. Definitely not every moment, I do travel on London Underground daily and I am human. Although I do now have knowledge and a memory of feeling this amazing, like that seed ready to burst forth my heart yearns to know itself and connect with every other heart. Yoga gave me the ability to be the person I always thought I was but never knew how to be. It’s that simple, that complex and always evolving.

However, that’s a bit of a mouthful though and I spent a number of weeks rolling it around in my mind, trying to put make it clear, universal. One day, I was on the train, flicking through my ipod and My Way by Ian Brown came up. I love that album, I love Ian Brown. He can’t sing and he can’t dance and yet... oh yet, he’s like a magnet to me. I can listen over and over and over to those tunes.

My favourite song on that album is called Stellify. It’s a crazy song with a beat and the accompanying video is basically him and a brass brand marching around Manchester. I guess harking back to F.E.A.R. when he rode a bike backwards around Soho. Something about it sucks me in and makes me play it again and again. Brown says it's the first love song he's ever consciously written.

It struck me that morning when I played that song. That’s it. That’s why I do yoga, why I keep doing yoga and why every time I teach I wish to transmit that feeling. Stellify means to become starlike, to be a star. The paradox that we are stars, each and every being, we just get to shine even brighter and connect like a constellation around the earth. Like so much else, what it boils down to is love.

That's it, be the star you are!

Monday, 9 January 2012

“Ouch! It really hurts when I do that...”

How many times have we all said or heard that?

I think most of us get physical injuries at some point, sometimes on the mat, sometimes off it. However ‘good’ you are at yoga asana, however strong/flexible/experienced you are, there’s gonna be a time (or several times!) when something goes twang in your practice or in your life and it hurts.
Fortunately, help is at hand!

John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga, explains that each person has what he calls an ‘optimal blueprint’ for their body, a perfect (for them) alignment.

Each person’s optimal blueprint is as unique as they are.

There are two big upshots of this. Firstly, if we can learn to bring our body into alignment with its optimal blueprint (for example through the practice of yoga asana) then we are waaaayyyyy less likely to injure ourselves in the first place, and secondly, if we do injure ourselves, we can help our body to heal by putting ourselves back into alignment with our optimal blueprint, and this is the core of yoga therapy from an Anusara perspective. If you talk to an Anusara yoga teacher about an injury, they will use the Universal Principles of Alignment to help you move towards your optimal blueprint, and the closer you get the less it will hurt and the faster you’ll heal.

Easy, right?

Sadly, it’s not so easy, of course. You think you work hard on the mat now? Wait till you’ve tried therapeutic yoga! It’ll make you sweat for sure – you don’t overcome a lifetime of misalignment without a LOT of effort. Before you even start therapy you really need to commit 100% to doing it. It’s first principle stuff – Open to Grace. Are you really open to the possibility of getting better? Are you really ready to work hard every practice, or every day, to get rid of your pain? Or is it serving you in some way? Is it an excuse to avoid something? Is it something you can hide behind? What is your injury trying to teach you? Was it a misalignment that injured you or was it your ego?

When he’s not busy being a yoga therapy geek and Anusara addict, Chris is a yoga teacher, massage therapist and reiki master in and around central London and one of my best yoga buddies!

For more information, or to contact Chris, check out or Like “Yoga with Chris Carmona” on Facebook.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The end... the beginning

I’ve been a bit shy this week about writing a blog this week. It’s because there are like a million out there advising new starts, resolutions etc. etc. Not that I have a problem with that at all, it always great to know when deep in your heart that you want to make a change and to commit to that. It’s just that I’m not really one to jump on a bandwagon. Right now I’d rather talk about endings.

Last year I committed to practicing yoga for 365 days in a row. I blogged about it a few times during the year to keep myself in check but pretty much once I’d committed to it and said it out loud there wasn’t really any question that I’d complete my self-imposed challenge.

And without a doubt it was the single most influential decision I made in 2011.

What is boiled down to was surrender. Which is a tricky word for someone who loves to be in control, if I surrender, who’s going to be running things? What I know now though is that you’re surrendering to your own heart: that part of you deep inside which already knows everything you need to know and is complete. This is Purna, one of the characteristics of the divine, that which is ever present and perfect. That’s what I gave myself over to, because it was hard. Getting up in the morning and doing asana, rushing through a few poses when I had to get out early, dragging myself to my bolster when I was ill, making myself get on my mat when I really wasn’t feeling very perfect. That’s when it was hard.

What I learnt, however, was that those were exactly the times when I needed to be there. More than when life was flowing beautiful.

I ended feeling so grateful for that decision that I kicked my own butt at New Year’s Eve and did a six hour eye of the tiger practice. Now that’s rock and roll!

What’s in store for 2012? I'll just say that an end is the beginning of something new...