Life, yoga and other adventures

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Friday, 28 August 2015

Nobody likes a show-off

Let’s be honest; we all like to show off from time to time, whether it’s beaming proudly as you bring a fabulous pie out of the oven to Oohs! of admiration or singing out on karaoke night. But you would think that the one place you could expect modesty and self-restraint would be in a yoga class.

I must hold up my hands and say that sometimes when I’m demonstrating a posture, the thought comes into my head that my students might think I’m rather good at it. I know, I know. There shouldn’t be room in my mind or heart for such ego, but I don’t always get it right; and in my defence, I don’t start by saying: ‘Watch what I can do!’

I mention this because I’ve had a couple of strange experiences on yoga study days. On one occasion, I went to a teacher-training session on integrating philosophy into a general class. I was expecting some physical practice, but knew the day was going to be largely theory. Therefore, as I arrived I was rather surprised to see one woman turned upside-down in the middle of the room with each shoulder perched precariously on a different chair and her head dangling towards the floor between them. I could only wonder why. 

Another training day saw a group of us grappling with the intricacies of Marichyasana, that deep forward bend that involves one straight leg, one bent and the hands clasped behind the back. We talked all round it and then experimented with modifications and the use of props. In the discussion session after the practical work, one of our number raised her hand and said she wasn’t sure she was feeling what she should and could we take a look at her. I wasn’t the only one whose jaw dropped as she eased herself effortlessly into the posture. Now, perhaps I’m being uncharitable and she might genuinely have had issues, but all I heard was: ‘Look at me! Look at me!’

Ego is a tricky fellow. An inflated sense of self leads to pride and arrogance. A weak ego needs constant reassurance, but a strong one allows us to feel confident in ourselves, aware of our shortcomings yet secure enough to accept and work with them. Egoism is one of the fine obstacles (klesas) explored in the Patanjali’s yoga sutras. It’s a tough one to overcome.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Let's chant

Image result for om symbolOver the years I've been to lots of different classes that have incorporated elements of chanting and various workshops dedicated to the exploration of mantra and kirtan. However, last night I had a new experience when I joined a group of people to chant just for the joy of it.

There was no lengthy explanation of what the words meant or practising of the 'tune' beforehand: we just did it. After a short pranayama to settle us, we had a few quiet breaths then someone led us into some Om repetitions. A pause, then another person led something - and so on for about an hour. It reminded me of a Quaker meeting, where there is no structure to a gathering and anyone can step up when moved to do so. Some of the chants were unfamiliar and during those I simply sat and listened, which was a rare treat. Some were call and response; for others we just jumped in when we were ready. It was spontaneous and natural.

It reminded me that there is so much more to yoga than the physical practice.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Same journey, different path

As a yoga teacher, I feel duty bound to come up with something very profound to accompany this picture, taken at my allotment. The plant on the left is a tap-rooted thistle; the one on the right is a puny parsnip. They were pulled out from the same patch of soil on the allotment where they had been growing side by side.

It is a source of great frustration that the weed, which I don't want, has found its way downwards unimpeded by stones, while the parsnip, which I do want, has become stunted and deformed because it couldn't grow round a pebble.

OK, here's a bit of tongue-in-cheek philosophy for you: are you like the plant that keeps going straight and true whatever life throws at you; or are you like the one that gives up at the first sign of trouble?