Life, yoga and other adventures

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Friday, 16 March 2018

Is it spring yet?

The New Year for me begins not in January, but on the day spring finally arrives, regardless of what the calendar says.

How do we know it's spring? It's not when the dawn chorus returns or the clocks spring forwards. It's not when the winter duvet is packed away for another year or fledgling daffodils appear. Rather, it's a change in the air that can be tasted. It's a lightness in our steps and a looseness in our shoulders, as we tune into rebirth in the natural world, shake of our winter weeds and drink in optimism.

It's a time to refresh our yoga practice, too: maybe buy a new mat, sign up with another teacher or re-read the Yoga Sutras. How do you celebrate spring?

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

What do you think?

I've been thinking about thinking, and what I think is that I've been thinking too much recently. Notwithstanding all that yoga training and practice, I'm finding it hard to switch off my thinking circuits (and yes, I'm aware of the irony, given the title of this blog). Even when I have time to sit, I'm reaching for a book to read or a notepad on which to jot something down. I don't seem to be able to keep my mind still.

That is why in all my lessons this week I shall be encouraging my students to come out of their heads and into their hearts, to stop thinking and start feeling. It doesn't matter to me what they look like in their postures (as long as they're safe, of course); what is important is how they feel.

A yoga class near me is holding a fundraiser in aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind at which 'blindfolds will be provided'! Can you imagine practising yoga without your sight? Is it true that if you lose one sense the others compensate? I'm not sure if it's true for the physical body, but it's an exciting prospect in a yoga context for those brave enough to try working in the dark.

In the meantime, I'm going to dial up the meditation and see what happens to my thought processes. If you have any tips for achieving mental stillness, please share them.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Back on my hobby-horse

Many of you will know that I have a bit of a thing about brand-name yoga. I'm not talking about respected traditions, such as Iyengar, but rather the proliferation of such practices as Goat Yoga and Beer Yoga. Sticking the word 'yoga' in the name doesn't make it right, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Now, I'm sure that some of the leaders of these classes are teaching with integrity and are genuinely trying to find a way to introduce yoga to as many people as they can. I'm equally sure, though, that for some it's just a kerching move, aimed at separating gullible hipsters from their money.

Twice in the last week I've heard about PiYo (note that annoying upper case Y). This is apparently a fusion of Pilates and yoga and not the latest in pick-your-own veg - although it might as well be. Pilates is a fine practice. It has proved beneficial to many people, including those who also practise yoga. My question is: why the mash-up? Why not teach both, but separately?

It is, as they say where I come from, neither t'other nor which.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Survival of the fittest?

Well, I survived. I spent all day teaching yoga to Year 12 students at a local senior school as part of a PD Day (which I think stood for Personal Development). Despite my apprehension, it went well. Nobody walked out (although one student decided she'd rather watch: fair enough) and three out of the five supervising staff members joined in, which was pleasing.

Lessons I learnt from the experience included:
  • Have a plan in mind, but be prepared to change it, depending on the group
  • Despite being so young, teenagers aren't necessarily flexible or strong, so be kind
  • Check you have taken the price tag off your new t-shirt before you begin
  • Drink lots of water and suck throat lozenges 
  • Anyone who chooses to teach full time in a senior school deserves a medal
Initial feedback suggests that I delivered what was wanted. At any rate, my invitation to go back in a few weeks' time to do more sessions with a different year group hasn't been withdrawn.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Back to school

Today, I've been planning my lessons for the forthcoming week, which includes a special day next Thursday, when I shall be working with the students in a senior school. I'm looking forward to this - I did it last year, so I know what to expect - but I shall be a bit apprehensive, nonetheless. Teenage girls can be scary, and I know because I can remember being one: full of attitude and so sure I was right about everything. What do you mean, I'm still like that?

My plan is to treat them like adults. Of course, I'll bear in mind that they are still growing, physically and emotionally, but I see no reason to dumb down. It will be interesting to see how they respond. Some of them will hate it, I'm sure. Some will say they hate it, but secretly quite enjoy it. Some, I hope, will fall in love with yoga. I was a teenager when I first started going to classes with my mum - and look what happened to me.

Wish me luck. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Taking the register

January does strange things to class attendance. On the one hand, it's a New Year and the urge to take up exercise can be overwhelming. Some of my sessions over the last couple of weeks have been packed to the rafters. This morning, for instance, I had 18 in a session that normally attracts about a dozen. My evening session has been fully booked and with a waiting list. I'm pleased, of course, but I know that this will pass, once resolutions start to falter.

Conversely, other class numbers are down, due to coughs and colds, bad weather, and good stuff on the telly that is a much more attractive option than braving the elements. This too shall pass.

That's the joy of teaching. You never know who's going to turn up - and that also brings challenges at this time of year, when absolute beginners jostle for position with old hands. What can I teach that will not only please someone who can't reach their toes, but also satisfy a yogi who is comfortable in a headstand? I don't want to frighten anyone away, but nor do I want anyone to be bored.

Oh, I love a challenge.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Arise, great warrior!

Warrior I
It might seem strange that there is such a thing as the Warrior posture in yoga, given that yogis are known for being peace-loving and non-violent. Actually, there are three Warriors (Virabhadrasana I, II and III), strong, standing poses that are the foundation of any practice. Despite the name, however, they are not aggressive.

They are really about tuning into your internal, spiritual warrior: that part of you that chooses right over wrong, good over evil. In the Bhagavad Gita, we read the conversation on a battlefield between Krishna and Arjuna, as two armies prepare to fight; but it is clear that the universal enemy is ignorance of the self.

'Kill therefore with the sword of wisdom the doubt born of ignorance that lies in thy heart. Be one in self-harmony, in yoga, and arise, great warrior, arise.'

That said, though, I maintain that if you practise a Warrior pose before a tricky conversation, you will have a better outcome!