26 January 2014

Quote of the day: Gratitude

"Gratitude is not the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others."
Cicero (106-43 BCE)

25 January 2014

Quote of the day: Practice

"Through actual practice in his daily life, man well fulfils the aim of all religion, whatever his denomination."
Dalai Lama. Little book of Buddhism 

15 January 2014

Eddie Stern on Moon days in Ashtanga yoga

This was a letter written by Eddie Stern of Ashtanga Yoga New York and Broome Street Temple that I found on facebook-wonderful explanation about moon days.

Eddie Sterns letter to Barry Silver about moon days

It is possible that the student who asked you about any prohibition of practicing yoga on the full or new moon days was doing so because of the observances of Pattabhi Jois. Much has been made of this observance, with all sorts of ideas about why he does this, and what significance it may have. However, the reason for Pattabhi Jois's observance of these days is quite simple. As you know, the Maharaja's Pathashala (Sankrit College) was closed each month for classes on the moon days, and the day before and after. Studies were continued by the students, but no new lessons taught. One reason for this was that on amavasya and purnima, certain rituals had to be performed by the teachers and students alike, who are all brahmins - for example, the pitr tarpana which needs to be performed on amavasya, and the ritual bathing the day after the moons – all these things take time to be performed. As well, though I have never been able to find the reference, Pattabhi Jois used to quote to us - and I also heard this from my Bhagavad Gita teacher in Mysore,Professor Narayanacharya, - that if a teacher teaches new subjects on the moon days, his knowledge will decline, and on the day before or after, the knowledge of the student will decline. Perhaps you might know where this reference comes from?

When I spoke to Pattabhi Jois's astrologer while interviewing him for the "Guruji" book, he concurred with the idea that it has something to do with the idea of 'as above, so below': in the Vedic tradition our mind is the like the moon, and waxes, wanes, and retains information following the same cycle as the moon in the sky exerts a gravitational pull on the earth.

Since Pattabhi Jois was a student at the Maharaja's Pathashala, and was the Professor of Yoga at the college from 1937 to 1973, taking those days off from teaching became a habit and observance for him. Since he held the view that yoga was a practice of Vedic origin, and that the knowledge of the Upanishads was to be accessed through the doorway of asanas and pranayama, he ascribed the same observances to teaching yoga as he did to teaching Veda. He further used to say that on the full and new moon days, there was a particular conjunction of nakshatras that made it easier to get injured, and that the injury would take longer to heal. I have never been able to verify this through jyotish; perhaps this is something that he learned from his father, who was an accomplished jyotishi.

Pattabhi Jois knew quite a bit about astrology, too - the name Jois is a South Indian corruption of Jyotish, and astrology was in his family tradition. I say all this to make the simple point that Pattabhi Jois had certain habits from the time he was 14. Why he had these habits is interesting, and though we may not be brahmins, or even Indian, as his students it is good to understand why certain things were done by him, and accept that if he felt them important enough to follow, that they are applicable to us too. But we should not go making a big thing of it and creating all sorts of fantastical ideas!

Below is a funny story to illustrate what happens when we (for example, Ashtanga Yoga students!) do not take the time to investigate simple things in a rational manner:

A saintly scholar used to give a class on Bhagavad Gita each evening beneath a tree near a village. He had a pet cat, and this cat would sometimes run through the crowd, making a disturbance. As a result the sage began to tie the cat to the tree during the class. After some time the speaker shuffled off his mortal coil. One of his disciples continued to give the Bhagavad Gita class under the tree, and continued to tie the cat to the tree during the class. After some time the cat passed away, and the disciple bought another cat. After three generations a disciple wrote a paper on the sacred tradition of tying a cat to the tree while giving a class on Bhagavad Gita.

So, all that being said, I think that out of respect for Pattabhi Jois, his methods and teachings, it is good for his students to follow the moon day observance, if they can. The purpose of following these things, and submitting oneself to a lineage, is to create humility, thoughtfulness and a certain type of discipline in the student. We will (most likely) not go to Hell if we practice on these days; Pattabhi Jois's daughter, Saraswati (who was the first and only woman to practice yoga with him at the Sanskrit College) used to teach her students Monday thru Friday and take weekends off, and said that on moon days she simply did not teach new poses. Also, she noted that her students did not practice everyday of the week, but for those of us who do, an occasional rest day is good for the body.

Surrendering oneself to a lineage has its own charm and effect on our character, so why should we not try it? I do not believe that all yoga students should refrain from practice on these days - they too should follow the observances of their teachers, and hopefully by aligning our minds with higher principles, we will all find happiness in our practices. On moon days or not!

Eddie Stern
Director: Ashtanga Yoga New York & Broome Street Temple

14 January 2014

Ashtanga yoga and injuries

I have not been blogging much recently, partly because of this...

I am currently working a really modified ashtanga yoga asana practice, which allows a bit more room for seated pranayama. I will be off to Mysore next week and my experience with Sharath while injured has only ever been positive. Learning to work with a body that is more than half a century old (that is female and hormonally changing), is certainly bringing up stuff, but I am more accepting of this than I have ever been. Yoga is teaching me that!

10 January 2014

Pregnancy yoga teacher training with Yoga Mama

Next course: 21, 22, 23 of March and 4, 5, 6 April 2014

Time: 08:00 - 18:00 (each day)

About the course

This is an 80-hour course, accredited by Yoga Alliance UK, with a maximum of 15 students per class. Taught by a team of highly qualified yoga teachers and other women's health practitioners, there will be six full days of classes, divided over two weekends in March and April. Topics that will be covered are:
  • Asana, pranayama (breathing and relaxation techniques)
  • Sequencing pre and postnatal classes
  • The dos and don'ts of pregnancy yoga
  • Propping and assisting pregnant students
  • Pre and post natal anatomy for yoga
  • Common ailments associated with pregnancy
  • Setting up classes for pregnant students


The course is suitable for both existing yoga teachers who already hold a yoga teaching qualification and trainee teachers. We may also consider applications from midwives and health professionals who have a strong personal yoga practice.


The Yoga Mama prenatal yoga teacher training course costs £750. For full terms and conditions, please visit  our website.


(if booked before 1st of March 2014)

More information and applications

For full information about the Yoga Mama pregnancy yoga teacher training course, visit the our website. Should you require any further information, please call 07939 58 90 83 or email education@yogamama.co.uk.

02 January 2014

Course timetable for January 2014

Below you will find the complete up-to-date list of courses running at Yoga Mama this New Year. The new timetable comes into effect the week starting the 6th January. Courses run for 8 weeks unless stated otherwise.

January 2014 class timetable

Day      Course  Time  Teacher  Duration  Starts  Price
Mon Yoga & birth prep    10 - 11am Diane 4 wks Jan 13 £16 per session
Mon Mat Pilates 7 - 8pm Laurent 8 wks Jan 6 £112
Tue Baby first aid 10am - 1pm Nurse  1 day Jan 28       £60
Tue Baby massage 11am - 12pm Hajni 3 wks Jan 7 £45
Tue Antenatal course       6:30 - 9pm Midwife       7 wks Jan 7 £295
Wed Tai Chi 9:30 - 10:30am Enid 8 wks Jan 8 £112
Wed Postnatal Pilates 12 - 1pm Katie 8 wks Jan 8 £112
Wed Prenatal yoga 7 - 8pm Diane Ongoing      --     Class pass (£84)
Thu Mum & baby yoga 10:30 - 11:30am Hajni 8 wks Jan 9 £112
Fri Ashtanga (led) 9 - 10:30am Cherie 8 wks Jan 10 £120
Sat Prenatal yoga 10 - 11am Andi Ongoing          --     Class pass (£84)
Sat Postnatal Pilates 11:15am - 12:15pm     Andi 8 wks Jan 11 £112

More information and bookings 

For more information about any of the courses currently running or to reserve your place, please contact us on 020 8789 3881 or drop us an email at info@putneyclinic.co.uk.

01 January 2014

My Christmas in photos. Happy New Year!

So here we go... 2014 has now begun! After a wonderful family holiday in the sunshine I feel refreshed and ready for what 2014 may bring. Here are a few photos of how I did a bit of spiritual banking without a single Christmas meal in site.

My pregnancy yoga teacher training starts on Friday the 3rd of January and ends on the 19th. I leave for Mysore on the 22nd, so an action packed start to the New Year.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2014!

Saint Maarten  & Anguilla