I was back at Rushton Hall last night not to teach an extra class, but for a gathering to mark the publication on my book, Stripped-back Yoga. It was a lovely evening, made all the more special by the support - and purchases! - of so many of my students who turned up, some of whom I hadn't seen for ages.
I made me realise, yet again, that I really do have the best job in the world.
I took one of my classes outside this week, into the beautiful grounds of the hotel and spa where I'm lucky enough to teach. We found some shade on the manicured lawns, and as we lay down beneath the evening sky we could see red kites overhead and hear the distant sounds of the village cricket team practising. It was splendid.
The only thing that would have improved the setting would have been if the hotel hadn't been playing host to a conference that finished just as we were about the start. Delegates were pouring out on to the terrace with drinks and buffet food in hand jostling for position, not to find a table, but rather a spot on the steps leading down to the garden for a good view.
We didn't mind, really. We have enough inward focus not to be distracted by clinking glasses and chatter, but we did wonder what they thought of us sticking our tails in the air while they were enjoying their chicken legs. What was really funny was how they made no secret of the fact that they were watching us. I almost expected a round of applause when we finally rolled up our mats and headed back inside.
It was a challenge at the gym today. The car park was heaving, because there was a conference on next door; the online booking system is still showing classes are full when they're not; and the air conditioning wasn't working. It was a sticky start in many ways.
Because the room was so hot, we agreed to keep the doors open. One door opens on to the corridor leading to the changing rooms and the swimming pool, so there was a constant stream of folk going past our session. Many were talking loudly into their phones and quite a few stopped to have a look at us with our tails in the air.
The other door opens on to a reception area, where people were chatting and clinking coffee cups, and loud music was playing. We acknowledged the distraction, but tried to keep our focus inwards, like good yogis. I smiled on the outside. Highlight of the session came when we were moving into Eagle posture, just as Lynyrd Skynrd's 'Freebird' came on.
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.
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.
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!
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.