Life, yoga and other adventures

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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.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Feeling formidable!

Ready to take the plunge?
In classes last week, we worked with the idea of springcleaning our lives and making a fresh start. This week, I'm thinking about how brave we have to be to make changes, especially when people around us are determined to stay exactly where they are. If you have the mental agility to make any sort of change, this can be seen as a threat to the status quo.

We can all get comfy in our rut. It's warm and cosy and we know what to expect. It's OK to be reluctant or even scared to change. The question is, what is holding you back?

Do you dare live a new life by letting go of the old one?

Monday, 19 March 2018

Feeling funky!

Image: album pic from
Well, what an extraordinary day Saturday turned out to be. I went across the county border into Leicestershire to work with two new-to-me teachers (see Friday's post) and it was physically and mentally challenging - in a good way.

The first session was Funky Yoga. Now, some of you know that I'm not usually a fan of attaching the word 'yoga' to another when it is purely for the sake of marketing, but that is definitely NOT what was happening here. Pascale Taylor delivered a fabulous morning of 'proper' yoga, but with the twist of funky background music to help us lose our inhibitions and do what felt good. As someone who is grounded in a hatha practice that involves holding formal postures, this was really liberating. Nor was it an easy option; she made us work for our lunch!

The afternoon was also a revelation. Inner Dance, led by Kerry Calle, was a completely new concept to me. I was expecting a sound-based relaxation; what I got was certainly sound based, but I'm not sure it was relaxing. The pre-workshop info said:

[Inner Dance] is a meditation to music developed or discovered by Pi Villares in the Phillipines. It uses music to affect brain waves to take participants first into deep relaxation and then into a state similar to lucid dreaming. During a typical session people may twitch or jerk, move as part of the dreaming, experience emotional release, or stay deeply relaxed for the whole session. Its been likened to the visions that come from using Ayehuasca . . . Music will play and you should close your eyes and keep them closed to the end of the session. Then just do what feels right. The music will change, I will come and work within your energy field and may lay hands on your body.'

To be honest, I was rather disconcerted by some of the sounds that she played to us (there was some deep, noisy breathing, for instance) and when we came round, as it were, I wasn't sure how I felt. (I was also cold, but that was probably down to lack of blankets rather than anything mystical.) By the time I'd driven home, I felt a peculiar mix of tired yet alert. I really can't explain it. However, I slept well on Saturday night and woke full of energy on Sunday - and having reached a decision about something that had been bothering me. Hmm. 

I offer thanks to both these wonderful teachers for opening me up to new ways to practise. I would love to work with them both again.


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.