30 November 2009

Quote of the day...

A person does not have to be behind bars to be a prisoner. People can be prisoners of their own concepts and ideas. They can be slaves to their own selves.
Maharaji

29 November 2009

Quote of the day...

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Khalil Gibran

28 November 2009

Quote of the day...

The basic fact is that all sentient beings, particularly human beings, want happiness and do not want pain and suffering.
Dalai Lama

27 November 2009

Quote of the day...

But it is his work. I think God wants to show his greatness by using nothingness.
Mother Teresa

26 November 2009

Yoga classes

Here is a blog on yoga from one of my friends. She is attending a yoga course that i am teaching and this is her experience to date. The class is a beginners Ashtanga class, so we are gradually increasing Surya Namaskara A B , standing poses and working with a few seated poses. My teachers, generally speaking, do not offer the vinyasa "opt out" and I now know why; offer the "opt out" for newbies and they will take it... Enjoy this account.

I am holding my lovely yoga teacher of a friend personally responsible for keeping me sane at this moment in time. I am thoroughly enjoying doing her classes and spending an hour a week deflecting negative thoughts and working on my shoulder stands. It is really helping me clear my mind of all the crap, even if for a brief moment….

I am really not very good at it though and I’m not sure I really get it. I have never been good at learning languages and all the unfamiliar words – bungas and triganasna’s and om’s and whatever else she keeps saying are going right over my head. I couldn’t become a yogi. Way too many new words to learn.

I am still aching from my yoga class on Monday. Each week seems to get more complicated and faster – although I do feel a slight improvement occurring each week. I now know that the Down Dog, Cobra series thingy is called a “vinyassa” and you have to do loads of them. I haven’t quite got my head around that yet. I do one and then stop. Because it seems to me that one is enough. Then having realised everybody else is on to the next one I have to do the moves really quickly to catch up. Even after doing the initial vinyassas and moving on to more difficult warrior poses you are expected to do yet more vinyassas in between. She made the mistake the first few weeks of giving us the option to do another one if we wanted. We all just sat there choosing not to take her option. Now she doesn’t ask. We just have to do it…..

It’s all very well to keep reminding us that yoga is non-competitive but I can’t help looking about to see what everybody else is doing. I don’t seem to be able to do one pose without being so delighted that I’ve actually completed it, that I spend the next few minutes looking around with glee to see what the teacher is thinking and what all my friends are doing and to have a little rest and it is then that I realise I’m already supposed to be three quarters of the way through the next vinyassa.

I don’t think I’ve got the right attitude.

She tried to get us to do a “jump through” this week. No bloody way. You have to start in a press up position, bend your knees, come up on to you toes, stick your arse in the air as high as you can and then be brave enough to try and jump your legs through your arms to come to a sitting position with straight legs on the floor. My legs are NEVER going to be able to swish through my arms. Not a chance. You have to be a cheetah to do that. Apparently I can’t do it because I stop breathing at the wrong moment. You have to breathe through the move.

If only it were that simple.

Although remembering to breathe is important in life.

Perhaps it really is that simple. Perhaps it really is all about the breath. “Breathing gets you everywhere”. Maybe that should be my new motto. Although it’s taking me a long time to get used to the idea of using “audible breath”. It seems almost rude breathing loudly next to someone. It’s such a personal thing, breathing that I don’t yet feel ready to share the moment….or pretend to be Darth Vader.

Talk about reducing life down to it’s lowest common denominator.

Quote of the day...

When the doors of perception are cleansed man will see things as they truly are, infinite.
William Blake

25 November 2009

Pose of the day


Pincha Mayurasana, originally uploaded by yogamama.co.uk.

Pincha Mayurasana (feather of the peacock posture, sometimes called the scorpion)

Change and transformation

We are living in a world in which things change fast. New technology, new cars, new clothes, new this and new that; the constant need to change is everywhere.

We, as human beings, are being forced to change. The global economy crisis that is affecting millions of people around the world has forced a change on many of us; perhaps one that we might not have chosen.

Money is not so free and easy as it once was. Consumerism is not as de rigueur as it has been in the previous decade: more people are recycling items of clothing; new cars are not top of the agenda; we are being forced to reassess some of our values and change them... Conscious evolution is happening. Patterns and ways of thinking are changing, and this has to be a good thing.

As a yoga teacher I have noticed that the number of people coming to yoga classes for the first time has hugely increased. Communities of likeminded people are springing up and conscious awareness is developing. As a result, energies are changing.

I have worked in the fitness industry for more than 22 years and can really see the shift that is taking place. The last decade has seen the birth of the iPod; people have stopped talking to each other and avoid eye contact; magazines - full of airbrushed people - have been telling us how we should look, what we should eat, what we should feel, what cosmetic procedures we should have to feel good about ourselves... In the words of Bob Dylan “Times they are a changing and we are part of that change”.

Change is not always easy, but small changes we make can go a long way.
Our own actions are one thing that we can change. Conscious awareness for others and for our own behaviour creates change. As Tolstoy said “ Man always thinks of changing the world but never of changing himself”.

Change starts from within!

Quote of the day...

Tender words we spoke
to one another
are sealed
in the secret vaults of heaven.
One day like rain,
they will fall to earth
and grow green
all over the world.
Rumi

24 November 2009

Quote of the day...

I'm very happy to say that my home life is my haven.
Derek Acorah

23 November 2009

Yoga and vegetarianism

I recently attended a yoga workshop at the Jivamuckti Yoga Centre in London. The event was hosted by Sharon Gannon and David Life, both devoted vegetarians. The studio was filled to capacity, so I snuck in at the back and was prepared for a full on yoga practice. I was, however, not prepared for a recording of harm being done to animals playing in the background.

The physical yoga was, as I had expected, dynamic and flowing (even slightly easier than anticipated). At intervals throughout the class, the tape would play describing unpleasant scenes of farming animals. At the end of the physical practice Sharon gave a very graphic talk on the abuse of animals for about and hour or so. She even used the word “rape” to describe some scenarios.

Whilst this was not what I had planned on listening to on a Sunday morning, I did find her ability to link vegetarianism with Patanjali’s Yamas and Ahimsa (not harming) both fascinating and disturbing. So much so that I am still getting images in my mind of the things she described. While I have not eaten meat for a very long time, I am not a vegan. However, I definitely found Sharon’s passionate view and her ability to articulate it very thought provoking.

Yoga and Vegetarianism: The Path to Greater Health and Happiness by Sharon Gannon

Quote of the day...

You've got to drop something. You've got to drop illusions. You don't have to add anything in order to be happy; you've got to drop something. Life is easy, life is delightful. It's only hard on your illusions, your ambitions, your greed, your cravings.
Anthony de Mello

22 November 2009

Quote of the day...

By bringing about a change in our outlook toward things and events, all phenomena can become sources of happiness.
Dalai Lama

21 November 2009

Video: Ashtanga yoga jump backs


Ashtanga yoga jump backs in slow motion. Enjoy!

Video: Ashtanga yoga jump throughs



A video of Ashtanga yoga jump throughs in slow motion.

Quote of the day...

You must make them feel loved and wanted. They are Jesus for me. I believe in that much more than doing big things for them.
Mother Teresa

20 November 2009

Video: Cat Stevens - Father and Son



Friday music video... Father and Son by Cat Stevens. Enjoy!!

Quote of the day...

Is not prayer a study of truth, a sally of the soul into the unfound infinite? No man ever prayed heartily without learning something.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

19 November 2009

Video: Ashtanga Yoga Practice on Maui



Great video clip from house of Zen in Maui, featuring my favourite teacher Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams, amongst others. I love watching the adjustments made and the steady pace at which the Ashtanga yoga is taught. Has a real traditional feel to it. Enjoy!

Benefits of inverted yoga poses

When we think of inverted poses, we tend to think of poses such as the Sirsasana (headstand) and Sarvangasana (shoulderstand). These are often described as the “King and Queen of poses”; thus defining their importance in practising yoga.

What is an inverted pose?

An inverted pose – or inversion - is a pose in which the head is lower than the heart. Given this definition, there are in fact a number of yoga poses that can be classed as inversions; some of which are more easily achieved than the poses mentioned above.


Here is a list of some inverted poses:
  • Viparita karani - Legs up the wall
  • Ardho mukha svanasana - Downward facing dog
  • Sasankasana - Hare pose
  • Prasaritta padottanasana A,B, C, D
Other inversions (not usually for beginners) include:
  • Halasana - Plough pose.
  • Karnapidasana - Ear pressure pose
  • Urdhva padmasana - Inverted lotus pose
  • Urdhva dandasana - Upward staff pose
  • Adho mukha vrkasana - Full arm balance
  • Pincha mayurasana - Elbow balance
Inverted poses are said to have many benefits on the body, which include:
  • Giving the heart and lungs rest
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Fresh oxygenated blood to the brain
  • Hormone balancing
  • Flush and drain the belly
  • They both calm the mind and enhance the ability to focus
  • Inversion will give you a whole new perspective on life and give you the chance to view things from a different angle and perspective.
Pregnant women and people with high blood pressure should consult a doctor before practising inversions

Quote of the day...

As we cultivate peace and happiness in ourselves, we also nourish peace and happiness in those we love.
Thich Nhat Hanh

18 November 2009

Art, fashion and yoga

Thought I would blog a sample of my daughter Cally’s print design. She is a first year student at Central St Martins in London, where she is studying textile design. This is her first print design since she started in October.

She has created the image from scrap. The original theme was recycling, so the tree design was created by using old cassette tape and laminating it. If you look closely you can see small flowers that were created by melting old wax and moulding into flowery shapes; blocking my sink in the process!

She spent an afternoon at a scrap yard in Hackney collecting other people's bits of old junk (a lot of which sat in my kitchen for a few weeks) and creating beautiful things from rubbish.

Her final piece on her foundation course was inspired by timorous beasties and depicted a London binge-drinking scene, using colours which - at first glance - would make you think of a more picturesque outlook, but were, in fact, much more ominous on closer inspection.

Art students have pretty hectic schedules, especially at CSM. Projects often run back to back and carrying heavy portfolios and art materials can take its toll physically. My daughter has taken up yoga and often comes to my classes. Poses that open the upper back and strengthen the neck are really beneficial to her; as are poses such as the downward facing dog, where the hands are spread. Sitting down to paint or weave can cause a slight kyphosis of the spine (rounding of the upper back) if left unchecked. Repetitive strain symptoms can also occur in the hands from holding paint brushes for long periods of time.

Cally finds Ujjai breathing very helpful on the tube into Holborn. Travelling during rush hour can be pretty stressful and yogic breathing can really help her to keep calm. Practising Ujjai breath loudly on the Tube can also clear her a space as most people find it quite odd… A good tactic, I reckon. Here she is in the Lotus position (Padmasana), sitting in front of one of her designs.

Quote of the day...

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
Mother Teresa

17 November 2009

Quote of the day...

There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.
Buddha

16 November 2009

Quote of the day...

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.
Eckhart Tolle

15 November 2009

Quote of the day...

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
Dalai Lama

14 November 2009

Quote of the day...

If you could only keep quiet, clear of memories and expectations, you would be able to discern the beautiful pattern of events. Its your restlessness that causes chaos.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

13 November 2009

Video: Krishna Das - Om Namah Shivaya

Quote of the day...

Everything is a miracle.
Albert Einstein

12 November 2009

Yoga and skiing

With winter approaching, many skiers will be busy preparing themselves for the ski season. Although at first glance it may seem unlikely, yoga and skiing have a lot in common. Balance, flexibility and strength are essential for both activities, so it should come as no surprise that yoga can be hugely beneficial when combined with a suitable pre-ski fitness programme in order to optimize preparation. It goes without saying that a gentle yoga practice is a great way to unwind after a long hard day of physical exertion on the slopes.


Physical benefits
Developing all the key major muscle groups used in skiing - such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals and abdominals - by practising yoga can have a very positive effect on the body; even before you even set foot on the ski slopes.

Many of the common injuries that affect skiers, in particular those who lead sedentary lifestyles, are knee-related. By practicing balancing and strengthening poses, such as the warrior sequences, you strengthen and lengthen the supporting muscle groups and, in the process, decrease the risk of injury.

Tight hips can also restrict movement on the slopes and a lack of core strength in the abdominal area can also have an effect on your skiing. Once again, many yoga poses work on opening the hips and rotating the torso, bringing awareness and strength to the body.

Breathing

Yogic breathing is the key to finding a mental balance and focus when skiing. Breathing techniques relax and focus the mind, bringing a new clarity to how you feel and think when skiing. Yogic breathing can be very beneficial particularly to those who are new to skiing. Unlike children, who do not experience fear when new to the slopes, adult skiers do! Using these breathing techniques allows us to overcome these sensations and move on in a positive frame of mind.

Poses

The following poses may be beneficial to skiers before hitting the pistes. Some are ideal for working on balance and buidling up strength in the legs, whereas others work focus on increasing mobility of the spine and opening the hips.
  • Warrior I - Virabhadrasana A
  • Warrior II - Virabhadrasana B
  • The tree pose - Vrksasana
  • Eagle pose – Garudasana
  • Seated twist - Bharadvajasana
  • Cobblers pose - Baddha konasana A
  • Camel pose - Ustrasana
Apr├Ęs-ski...

After a day on the pistes, a gentle yoga practice will ease and lengthen the muscles and re-balance energy levels, thus making yoga and skiing perfect partners. The shoulder stand (Savangasana) and the corpse pose are especially suitable for unwinding after a long hard day skiing.

More information

For more information about yoga classes, workshops and retreats, visit the yoga mama website or email her at info@yogamama.co.uk.

For skiing holidays, visit:

www.call-a-yogi.com
www.divaski.com

Credits
Skiing photographs courtesy of Thorsten Jochim and special thanks to www.call-a-yogi.com

Quote of the day...

There are five billion human beings and in a certain way I think we need five billion different religions.
Dalai Lama

11 November 2009

Yoga weekend at Pelham House

I spent last weekend running a weekend of yoga in the beautiful town of Lewes, near Brighton. It was a mixed group of students some of whom knew each other, and some who met for the first time. The group was quite varied in terms of yoga experience, with some people having practiced a lot of yoga and some real beginners. This can sometimes be difficult for more advanced students, but on this occasion there was patience and tolerance abound.

We practised asana, pranayama and yoga nidra. The yoga nidra session on the Saturday night was pretty changing to say the least… There was a teenage party going on at the hotel and Abba and Katie Perry blasting away in the background. "I Kissed a Girl" really doesn't encourage relaxation. Nonetheless, everyone in the group managed to stay focused on the nidra, until someone decided to empty the entire contents of the bottle bank. At this point we all roared with laughter and called it a day…

The common denominator of the weekend was obviously yoga, but many aspects of life were discussed over dinner and the odd glass of wine. This was definitely a yoga treat, having some time away from work and family responsibilities to practice yoga and have some “me time” is a gift we should all give to ourselves every now and again. I will definitely stay in touch with new friends made!

Pelham house is a beautiful boutique hotel in Lewes with views of the South Downs. I would use this venue for a yoga weekend again or for a quiet weekend break. www.pelhamhouse.com

Quote of the day...

I have faith, therefore, that if, in spite of our shortcomings, the big thing does happen, it will be because God wanted to help us.
Gandhi

10 November 2009

Quote of the day...

I believe that it is essential to appreciate our potential as human beings and recognize the importance of inner transformation.
Dalai Lama

09 November 2009

Quote of the day...

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
Buddha

08 November 2009

Quote of the day...

The power, when it comes, will belong to the people of India, and it will be for them to decide to whom it placed in the entrusted.
Gandhi

07 November 2009

Quote of the day...

I think in many ways narrow minded-attitudes lead to extreme thinking.
Dalai Lama

06 November 2009

Quote of the day...

I believe that in the history of the world, there has not been a more genuinely democratic struggle for freedom than ours.
Gandhi

05 November 2009

Me & Miss M

Last night I went to the launch of the lovely Jemma Forte's first novel entitled Me & Miss M.

She and her family are great friends. She is a bright, talented, witty woman and her book looks great. I am about to start reading it and I can guarantee there will be some of Jemma's fantastic sense of humour, somewhere in the book.

The event was in Waterstone's on The King's Road. It was packed with family and friends and she delivered an amazing speech, which was both moving and hilarious. She is also one of my yoga students and I love having her in my classes. We always laugh a lot when she is in class. I am really proud of her and wish her lots of luck.

The book is on sale in the UK from today, and Jemma describes it as "Chick Lit"; my sisters will be getting a copy for Christmas.

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana

Pose of the day. .Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana

Quote of the day...

We have sufficient cause to be cynical about humanity. We have seen enough injustice, strife, division, suffering, and pain, and our capacity to be massively inhuman.
Nelson Mandela

04 November 2009

Quote of the day...

Neither my life of luxury in the palace nor my life as an ascetic in the forest is the way to freedom.
Buddha

03 November 2009

Quote of the day...

World economies are always so tenuous and we are subject to so many losses in life, but a compassionate attitude is something we can always carry with us.
Dalai Lama

02 November 2009

Quote of the day...

Ours is not a drive for power, but purely a non-violent fight for India’s independence.
Gandhi

01 November 2009

Quote of the day...

The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious of the rose.
Khalil Gibran