Life, yoga and other adventures

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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Effortless exchange

The title above is taken from the latest newsletter of the Prison Phoenix Trust. Have you heard of this organisation? It encourages prisoners in the development of their spiritual welfare, through the practices of meditation and yoga, working with silence and the breath.Yes, that's right: it takes yoga into prisons. Isn't that amazing?

I don't have what it takes to do this, but I do support the charity in others ways, including buying its Christmas card, which is always designed by a prisoner. I also receive its regular newsletter and always find it inspiring. In the latest issue, the feature 'Effortless Exchange' begins by posing the question 'What would you really like this Christmas?, which must be a tough one when you're locked up.

The article goes on to explore the effortless exchange that takes place every time we breathe in and breath out, a process that offers us all the chance to offer silent gratitude.

If you'd like to know more about the charity, visit its website:

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

It's getting hot in here

The weather forecasters might be saying the temperatures are dropping, but with my students this week things are definitely hotting up as we focus on agni, our inner fire that governs not only how we digest our food, but also how we process our life experience. Crudely put, it stops up getting constipated, literally and figuratively.

When it's cold outside and you've had a hard day at work, it's tempting to put on your elasticated trousers, turn up the central heating and reach for the hot chocolate, with extra marshmallows. This is a perfectly understandable response and I'm not backwards in coming forwards when there's comforting carbs on offer.

But we're yogis; we know there's a better way. Tune into bastrika breathing, hold those planks, power up your salutations and get your motor running.


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Making connections

Happiness is in the connections we make with ourselves and with each other.

This is a quote from Be Happy by Robert Holden and was one of this week's prompts at the Weaving Words writing group I attend.

In yoga recently I've been working with the philosophical point of vairagyam or non-attachment. On the face of it, this is the opposite of connection. However, often what stops me connecting with new people is a reluctance to let go, to allow myself to release my attachment to habits and forge new connections. Phrases like 'the wrong sort of people' or 'not like us' - which may well be rooted in my upbringing - can prevent me from crossing the floor to say hello to a stranger or to sign up to a course beyond my realm of experience. Yet when I do step forwards into a new circle, it often transpires that I already have a connection there through mutual friends or shared experiences.

Letting go can actually mean taking hold.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Mrs Angry

This morning, I was moved to complain in Morrisons about the rudeness of a member of staff. It was the person collecting trolleys from various bays around the car park and returning them to the trolley stable by the entrance to the store. It doesn't matter what he said; let's just say his attitude was appalling. I wasn't the only one put out.

Something had to be said because he needed to be told that his behaviour was unacceptable. Actually, I told him that myself, but he wasn't interested in my opinion.

Perhaps I was a little hasty. Maybe his feet were hurting or his dog had just died. No matter; you don't take your troubles to work, especially when you're dealing with the public. Anyway, lovely Lisa at the Customer Service desk took my concerns seriously and offered me coffee and cake in compensation. I was entirely satisfied by the way the matter was handled.

Then I came home to  write a yoga lesson plan and my book of Buddhist reflections that I sometimes turn to for inspiration fell open on this:

Never speak harsh words, for once spoken they may return to you.
Angry words are painful and there may be blows for blows.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Sweet dreams

The trouble with being asleep is that you don't know what your body is going to do while you're not paying attention. It could emit all manner of noises.

I like my students to relax at the end of a class, but I always warn them that while it's OK to nod off I will wake them up if they start to snore. Despite what you might be thinking, it's actually quite rare for someone to go off so soundly that they don't wake themselves up with a surprise snuffle. Occasionally, though, there is a persistent rumble and it's not always easy to decide where it's coming from. I can tiptoe around the room getting as close as I dare to my yoga corpses, but just when I think I've located the culprit a snort will erupt behind me. Most disconcerting.

Usually a discreet stroke of the foot with my pen is enough to disturb the guilty party. Occasionally, though, I have to resort to a gentle shake of the shoulder. Best response to date came from a chap who was totally out of it, and as I roused him he brushed my hand away and said: 'All right, I'm coming, darling.'

And relax.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Sharing spaces

Image: Morguefile
I love all my students, of course, but some of the most rewarding reactions to my classes have come from people I've encountered in gyms. This is in part because I'm never sure whether they've come because they actually want yoga or because they're just having a go at every free class included in their membership package, so it's always pleasing when they seem to enjoy it and, better still, come back for more.

It's  not all sunshine and lollipops, however. The most challenging aspect is often the noise, because sports complexes, leisure centres and the like are busy places. It often takes all our yogic powers of concentration not to be distracted by excited children hurtling along the corridor to the swimming pool or a football squad being briefed by a barking coach just outside our door.

Also high on the list of challenges is the fact that timetables are often very tight. One class finishes at 10.45 and the next one starts at 10.45. You see the problem. Surely it's only fair that we teachers finish on time so that the next class can start on time and that we vacate the space as quickly as possible. I recently took over a studio from one of those pump-and-grind style classes, where the participants lingered to chat and the boom-boom-boom continued at full volume while my yogis tried to settle themselves for as prompt a start as we could manage. No one seemed in a hurry to leave, and the instructor looked quite affronted when I asked, 'Could you turn the music off, please?'

Sometimes I forget that not everyone lives by yoga manners.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Returning to the fold

It is almost a year to the day since I last posted on this blog (although my general blog Life, Yoga and Other Adventures is still going strong). I stopped because I didn't feel I had anything constructive to add to the yoga debate. You might decide that this is still the case. However, I plan to post here about once a week. I shan't be writing essays, but rather sharing little snippets with the odd photo or two.

And speaking of odd photos:

In my ridiculously large collection of yoga books I have one published in 1959 called Hatha-Yoga: An advanced method of physical education and concentration by Professor Shyam Sundar Goswami. I mean no disrespect to the good professor, but a glance through this book shows how things have changed over the last nearly sixty years, not least our yoga clothes.

Can you imagine the looks you'd get if you turned up to a class today dressed like this woman?

And what do you make of this fine fellow (right)? The caption reads: 'Beauty and power in relaxation'.

We might laugh, but I'm willing to bet it won't be long before we look back on our current penchant for multicoloured leggings with equal incredulity.