Life, yoga and other adventures

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Sunday, 10 June 2018

Taking flight

There was a lovely mis-hearing in class this weekend, when a student thought she'd been asked to make 'evil arms'. The request was actually for Eagle arms.

Mind you, Garudasana can be a tricky blighter and is definitely not one you could pick up from a book - for example, in Asana, Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswait, the go-to text for many teachers and from where I've taken the accompanying image, the instructions are:

Bend the elbows and bring them in front of the chest. Twist the forearms around each other with the left elbow remaining below. Place the palms together to resemble an eagle's beak. 

Got that?! Students blessed with an ample bosom might fall at the first instruction. I maintain you could simply bring the backs of the hands together and still reap the benefits in terms of awareness and focus. Find a good teacher to talk you through the finer points. It's not worth tying yourself in knots over it.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

R . E . S . P . E . C . T .


At the end of my yoga classes, I always invite those present to join me in saying Namaste. There are many ways to interpret this word, but I usually explain it as 'The divine light in me honours the divine light in you.' It is, I explain, a gesture of mutual respect.

I try to show respect to everyone on and off my yoga mat. It's not always easy. Some people are, shall we say, challenging. However, if someone is difficult I tell myself that maybe she's having a bad day. Perhaps she was up all night with a fractious child or maybe she has bad feet. I do believe that it's important to take what we learn on our mats into the world beyond.

You might like to consider whether you always receive respect from the people for whom you work.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Creative contacts

I am privileged to know and work with some very creative people, not only in a yoga context, but also in my other job as a writer. Sometimes these worlds collide.

My forthcoming book Stripped-back Yoga is in the final stages of production and I've spent the last few days sorting out the cover. I'm delighted to say that I've been lucky enough to work on this with artist and author Malcolm Parnell and he has created an image specially for me. The big reveal isn't far away!


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Money makes the world go round

I'm a fan of The Pantaloons theatre company. At the end of their performances, they always say thank you to us, the audience, and ask us to buy some merchandise because this magically turns t-shirts into petrol for their van.

There is sometimes a feeling that we yoga teachers should work for love: for the sheer joy of sharing the knowledge and spreading the word. Perhaps that's true, but it doesn't wash with the staff in Morrisons, who always ask for money in return for my bag of food. The fact of the matter is that we need paying for our labours (most of us, anyway). That said, I've never come across a yoga teacher who won't step in at short notice to help out a friend or run a session at a charity do for nothing.

The thorny question of what to charge for covering someone else's classes came up in conversation with a fellow teacher this morning. My advice to her was that it's perfectly reasonable to ask for the appropriate fee for the job; that way the situation is clear and there are no nasty surprises for anyone. This might mean losing out on work occasionally, but so be it.

Go back to the yamas, specifically asteya, which is usually translated as non-stealing. If you undersell yourself, you are giving the other party the opportunity to steal from you, albeit unknowingly and possibly unwillingly.

Asteya pratishthayam sarva ratna upasthanam 
To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Little bit of politics

Every organisation has to have committees and people in charge. Compliance and transparency are essential, especially in charities. Today, though, I'm finding it hard to reconcile the administrative unrest caused by political matters in certain quarters of the yoga profession with what I'm trying to teach.

I did my teaching diploma with the British Wheel of Yoga: 500 hours of study for what I still believe is the best qualification around. Yes, you can pop along to some places and do a couple of weekends, learn a few Sanskrit words and a clutch of basic postures, and then call yourself a yoga teacher - but why would you, when you can do it properly through the BWY? I'm still a member. I've been to many events and training sessions run by the Wheel and met some wonderful and inspiring people along the way.

It saddens me, therefore, that the organisation seems to be in such disarray. The election of managing officers is underway at the moment. Ballot papers were despatched, but then had to recalled because of a mistake. A few days ago, I receive a replacement election pack, but this, too, is likely to be deemed redundant, because of the resignation of various key players over matters that need not be explored here.

I am grateful there are people who are willing to put themselves forward for what is often the thankless task of committee work, and I hope that those in the BWY who are embroiled in disputes about the direction the organisation should be going find a way to resolve whatever lies behind this unrest to the satisfaction of everyone involved

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

How many is too many?

I was pleased to be asked to cover a class at the gym yesterday. The usual Pilates teacher is on holiday, so I took the session instead and gave them yoga, which is what I'm qualified (and insured) to teach. This was a surprise to them, but nobody left, so I think I got away with it. As I never tire of telling people, Pilates and yoga are not the same, but there are enough similarities to make the two compatible.

One of the challenges of teaching in a gym is that I have no control over numbers. In one way this is good, because it saves me worrying if anyone is going to turn up. However, gyms need bums on mats to make a class viable, so the groups can be larger than they would be in a private class.

Yesterday I had 22 people to teach. There was just about room for them, although I had to modify my lesson plan to avoid anyone losing an eye to her neighbour's flailing limbs; but it made it quite tricky to watch them all at the same time.

It also made it quite hard for them to concentrate on their own practice. There was a lot of head-turning to check what everyone else was doing and I did wonder if they were getting as much out of the session as they would have done in a smaller group.

I'm not complaining, though. It was useful and interesting not only to have my teaching abilities challenged, but also to work with new people. I wonder if anyone of them will start yoga in addition to their regular Pilates sessions.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Who is the most important person in your life?

I caught the tail-end of Book of the Week on Radio 4 this morning: Factfulness by Professor Hans Rosling, read by Adrian Rawlins. I only heard a couple of sentences, but the gist was that too often we spend our time focusing on things we fear, rather than on what is actually dangerous: and that is a waste of energy. On this alone, I'm minded to seek out the book and read the whole thing. I thought it chimed nicely with our recent yoga focus on being brave.

This week, we're moving our attention to self care. It's a bit corny, but nonetheless true, to say you can't pour from an empty vessel, but you need to take care of yourself in order to care for others. Of all relationships, the one you have with yourself is the most important, because it colours everything that you think and say and do.

I'm just going to leave that with you.