Sunday, 20 December 2009

Winter kapotasana practice

This is where I have been practicing for the last couple of days, although it looks like a shallet in Switzerland, it is actually Manchester.  This is a pre practice photo, I am amazed at how awake I look, I certainly did not feel it.  I travelled up by coach as no trains ran early enough.  Some guy proposed to me at the bus station which was pretty surreal for 6:30 a.m.  He said he had a church booked for a few weeks time and someone had let him down, it's a new line on me!

Practice yesterday was the coldest practice I have ever had.  My mat felt like ice and standing poses sent cold up my body.  I practiced in a long sleeve helly hansen, so glad I had that with me and did not take it off until end of primary.  Great to know I can still practice in these conditions though.  All binds were there but was careful not to push myself in anything as the body did not feel warm enough.  Short relaxation as I started to shiver!

Today was better, warmed up by supta kurmasana, standing postures still  challenging due to my cold mat.  There's definitely a market for heated yoga mats!

My teacher gave me two new poses today, which brings me up to Kapotasana.  With his assistance I grabbed my heels.  Yaay! It's my 30th birthday on Friday,  (Christmas day)  Kapotasana makes a great birthday present although I wonder whether I will feel like that when I do it by myself on Christmas morning!

I have had a great weekend.  I am left with even more affinity for the tradition and this practice, my teacher and the wider Ashtanga community of which I feel part.  When I meet an Ashtangi I instantly feel connected to them as I know we already share so much.  This helps me to see the unity beyond Ashtangi's to all humanity but I guess I'm still working on that one.  I did not feel much affinity with the guy who proposed to me at the bus stop, more bewilderment!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


I have been doing yoga now for twelve years or so.....I still have many lifestimes worth of learning and tranformations ahead of me I am sure.  Sometimes though there is not much change, I am just practicing everyday.  Recently  the changes in practice, understanding and personal transformation has been incredible.  I returned for London and had no time to blog but wrote a list of all that I have learnt so I would not forget.  Hopefully I will blog more about this but it is not just these external things in fact, really what do they matter, internally and externally I am changing.  I love yoga, I am so grateful for this journey.

I was discussing Eckhart Tolle with Boodiba, as she is reading The Power of Now.  Anyhow I asked her if she had seen the film What about me?  In this film these two guys travel the world interviewing spiritual teachers and musicians about life, love, hope, etc.  They also make music as they travel through the world, it really is a phenomenal film.  Here is an extract with Eckart Tolle himself.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Imagine all the people......breathing together

I recently watched the film the US vs John Lennon. it is a great film, especially if like me you were too young to know the history John's life, despite living in Liverpool. Note to reader, I'm not from Liverpool or I am sure I would have heard all about it from the age of two!

Anyhow, in David Swenson's workshop he talked about the universality of breathing. How if you asked a group of people to Om then some would say they would feel it went against their religion. If you ask them to breathe though they would be okay with that. At which point my mind jumped to the song, imagine. I don't know why, it was a cheesy moment, we were all smiling.

Imagine all the people breathing together,
For me the most useful part of the workshop was recapping on the adjustments I learnt last year for teaching bandhas. I had forgotten them and will now feel more confident using them. Also learnt a new great adjustment on to help people access the upper lungs. Not sure I can explain clearly over the internet but you place one hand below sternum and one hand on upper back and lift with the person's inhalation.
I have at least another post in me about pranayama but I will do that another day. Today I went and did a mostly uneventful mysore practice. Felt great for it, no drama, drop backs feel fab after dhanurasana. Met Mel and Kevin for breakfast after practice. Lovely to chat with them both about yoga, yoga and well mysore yoga, yoga with David Swenson, yoga in India, you get the picture :)

Tomorrow I am practicing with my teacher....

Here is the trailer from the John Lennon film.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

David Swenson second series workshop

Woke up at 4:30 in the morning so am exhausted.  If this doesn't make much sense, I appoligise.  It is my current stream of consciousness so it must mean something to me at least.  I'm going to put some of my experiences down now while they are fresh but will probably write more  and clarify after some sleep.

The Swens took us on his tour of second series.  His light hearted humour is calming and inspiring.  He has good control of the group which is important when teaching such a big group.  Today this made me feel like I was in some kinda exam because I had to work to his timings not my own flow and I imagine that's more about me and the fact I woke at 4:30 to get the 5:45 train to London.  Good to do a led every now and then my practice just gets longer and longer otherwize!

We did all of standing which felt great and I got nicely warmed up.  We did the first two poses of primary seated.  Then we moved on to second series.  Lots of stopping and starting for information which was great but the body not as warm as usual. 

Highlight for me was his arm position in kapotasana.  He brought the hands to forehead in prayer then took them behind the head before lowering down.  He also uses his head to get arms further back. I got my feet easily with this method even though my back did not feel particulaly warm. 

He showed 3 different ways to jump into bakasana.  I had been doing the third version landing on bent arms.  I can't remember the difference between the second and third version.  Kevin? In the first version he kept the arms straight but took the hips into handstand to balance and then lowered with fabulous control.  When it was our turn I had a go landing with straight arms and to my suprise did it,  tried again and can do it so will do it this way from now on.  Oh just remembered he said to join feet mid air that really helped too. 

We skipped dwi pada but did yoga nidrasana.  We did the titibhasana sequence which I love, I think primary prepares well for this. 

Saw Kevin and met Mel (fellow bloggers).  Also met up with some of the people who did David Swenson's teacher training last year.  Aswell as new people, I like the slightly social aspect to workshops.Thanks for reading hope it made some sense?  I also did aanother workshop with him about pranayama and bandhas.  Will post about that another time.  Tomorrow regular mysore practice at the shala after a very early night!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Chakra Bhandasana and one more...

So today I got to practice with my teacher.  The room was crowded, focused and hot.  I had a great practice, the best of the three of my trip to London.  Lots of assists again which were all great, nice to be taken that little bit further.  I got an assist in supta K again so grabbed my wrist, curious to see if I can do that solo, we will see. Will be good to self practice again to explore a bit before David Swenson on Saturday, so excited.

I was given a new pose so now practising up to Parsva Dhanurasana.  With the heat in the shala my back really oppened up in Dhanurasana, it felt fantastic so knew I would get some good dropbacks.

So I did my drop backs and and then teacher came.  Three half bends and then he grabbed my hands keeping them in prayer and took my right hand and then my left hand to my ankles.  Whoooosh, what a feeling, it really is quite a mad thing to do.  Right shoulder was fine, but the entry and the assist was completely different from Saturday.  Anyway whole really thing blew my mind....

Told teacher I would see him next week.... so good to have a bit of consistency.  Going to my Iyengar class tomorrow and have requested backbends as this is what I'm working on.  It'll be nice to work on them from another angle.  Then 3 self practices and back to London for more, feels like an intensive with work in the middle, glad I love my job.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Shattering beliefs

Beliefs can be such limiters. I’m always grateful in life that I realised this early on in life. I am continually changing my belief system to make it work for me. Yet, we still have beliefs, I am blah blah, I can blah blah. Yesterday when blogging and reflecting I mentioned that I'd never really tried to work at Chakra Bhandasana until a teacher said that they thought they could. Suddenly upon being told this, I made my back bends much deeper. So belief was limiting me, this unusual for me as I think I work pretty hard at my practice even when left to my own devices. Sometimes though my flexibility changes but I don't change how deep I go, from habit I guess.

I find stuff like this really interesting because although it gets played out on the mat, it transcends to the rest of my life. Conquering something in your practice that either seems impossible or that you are even scared of, helps conquer similar scenarios out there in the world which is often a lot more chaotic.

Practice good today. I got a lot more adjustments and so feel that I have been deeply bent. None of that excess energy like yesterday. Yesterday when the teacher put me in Supta Kurmasana I thought I could grab my wrist. I was a bit amazed at the thought, Supta Kurmasana was a difficult pose for me, had to work hard to get it. Sharath's adjustments in Mysore helped a lot but then trying to get it on my own was another journey, largely played out on my mat at home. These days I can do it solo but when I go to Mysore classes tend to get an assist, they're just there, like magic fairies. So today I had that same thought as I was assisted, maybe I could grab my wrist and so I did. Another belief shattered, I saw a couple of people doing it in the past and though yeah right they must be born that way or something, that's just surreal. Now here I am surreally bendy, it would seem.

Yesterday I said it was great how the teacher discussed as he adjusted and it was great. Today I enjoyed the just get on with it approach, lots of adjustments but barely a word spoken, great focused space. My mind wandered a fair bit though, some days are just like that. Looking forward to practice with my teacher tomorrow, it's been months since I have been able to practice with him. Now off to meet a friend for lunch, happy days :)

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Mysore practice day one and chakra bhandasana

I have recently noticed that my practice is reflected in the clarity of the breath. Sometimes the breath is smooth and flowing and the body follows.

Today was a nice practice, right from the first breath, not amazing but definitely not concrete like Thursday, more fluid and mostly focused. My breath though was free flowing which always feels great. Practicing with other people in a Mysore setting did strange things to my dristi. I enjoy watching others mostly stay on my own mat, with my own practice. This particular teacher allows the use of props, which means people end up doing all sorts of curious things.
I got put into Supta K by teacher, who asked if I can do it myself. I can now but he gave a nice deep adjustment, felt comfortable but legs were further round my head than I would get myself. Teacher does great adjustments and like the communication and discussion he gives too. Great teacher for me as someone who practices alone a lot.

That was the only adjust I got until backbends. I felt a bit too energised to stop second at Bhekasana but that's how far I am with my official Mysore teacher (strange way to put it maybe, but you can't just have lots of teachers giving you poses??), who I will see Monday. Anyways my chest area felt particularly open so I did 5 drop backs and up to release my excess energy. I then did the traditional half bends and got 2 assists at working on grabbing my ankles. Again really good assists and discussion, he knows how hard I can go and when I good go just a little bit deeper.
First time I grabbed my ankle with right arm but he told me to put it on the floor. I twisted to grab and am not ready for that entry yet. He encouraged me to take my hands back behind my head, like from the prayer at chest position, rather than the round and grab method. My right shoulder has something not quite right with it. Feels like it is just wrong, not pain really but definitely a limiter in things like that. My hands were maybe 5-10 cm away from my feet. Left arm could have gone in further but strange sensation in the other shoulder told me not to push it. Shoulder feels fine now.

I came across these funny Ashtanga cartoons the other day.  This is the backbend I was working on, chakra bhandasana.  A few months ago I wouldn't have thought I was bendy enough to even try, I thought it was a pose for the suerflexy folk of which I was not.  I guess gradually over time my back just opened up and then a teacher said they thought I could.   Suddenly I can go much deeper, sometimes belief can be a barrier.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Last practice before London

I am going to London on Saturday for some mysore classes, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  So tomorrow will be my day off.  Today practice wasn't so hot, first time in ages, my body felt like it had been invaded.  I could still do the poses, which suprised me.  My body felt stiff but it wasn't and the strength just wasn't there.  Oh well, everyday is different right, I see myself as an observer, exploring my inner universe.

Tomorrow, I teach two classes but otherwise I will rest up ready for my weekend.  I will be going to London this weekend and the following one, the weekend after that I am going to Dublin with my mum.  We are going to visit my brother but I have arranged to go to a Mysore class on the Sunday.  So I will be getting lots of classes in  the next few weeks. With a total of 6 different teachers, that should give me a range of insight...........

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

More on Raw food

Yesterday I posted on how my eating habits have changed recently.  Unusual for me to post two days in a row but summarising a 3 month journey in one blog post left many things unsaid.  I have also found and read some interesting things since I last posted.  Skippetty posted a link that  Kai  had linked to, it is a link to a post on Autorio's blog about Kino's thoughts on Nutrition.  Are you with me?  Linkamania!  The blog post is interesting, I had no idea Kino used to be a raw foodist or that she has studied nutrition. Would love to know why she decided not to be a raw foodist?  

Also in this post the book conscious eating comes up.     I have not yet read this book but am definitely going to at some point.  It is written by Gabriel Cousens who is a raw foodist and a yogi, he is considered an expert in the field.    I have decided to move on from reading about nutrition for a while.  I'm already reading three other books, so it will have to wait.  Visit this blog hear Gabriel Cousens talk about raw food and yoga.

I realised I forgot to mention yesterday that I eat a lot more fruit these days, probably about 3 pieces a day.  We have started getting organic fruit and veg delivered and the fruit is absolutely delicious.

Yesterday Grimmly posted a question on my blog.  He said
"There's usually a gap between the fancy recipes you find in books and the what somebody actually eats in the real world once they settle down into a new way of eating."

When I first bought some raw food recipe books I was a bit overwhelmed, they seemed a bit complex and I needed to have all sorts of stuff I didn't normally buy.  I also needed a food processor for a lot of things and did not have one.  About two months ago, I took leap and bought a food processor.  I think I have used it every day since, absolutely love it.

Anyways what do I eat?  The recipe book that helped me the most is Raw Food Made Easy.  Her chocolate cake is amazing and her recipes simple and easy, it's only a small book though.  The book the Thrive Diet also has some great recipes in although he is not completely raw and this book is mostly his nutritional philosophy, the recipe section is fairly small.

I have adapted a recipe for raw lasagne which is nothing like lasagne but delicous none the less.  I  make guacamole and a sundried tomato sauce (two separate things) and finely slice a courgette and chop some spinach, all in the food processor.  I then layer them, so a layer of the tomato sauce, a layer of cougette, a layer of guacamole, a layer of spinach, repeat. Another staple favourite is a raw nut burger on a bed of salad.  There are three recipes for nut burgers in the thrive diet book, these can be cooked aswell but I have had them raw.

I usually have lunch at home but sometimes do not get home until late as most of my yoga classes are in the evening.  Last night for instance I did not finish teaching until 10 pm!  This is one of the reasons I started exploring raw eating as this is much too late for a cooked meal.  So on such evenings I try and keep it very simple and dip raw stuff in guacomole, home made pesto, etc.  When I make Guacamole etc I usually make enough for a few days and the use it in another way the following day.  This keeps the food prep down, life is for living afterall!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Food, practice and wellbeing

A few months ago I decided I should take a look at what I eat.  I am not a nutritionist, I am merely using this space to share my personal experience. I already ate pretty healthily and was interested in how I could optimise my nutritional intake to support me in my life and wellbeing, spiritually and physically.  I'm pretty active.  As an Ashtangi working on the first part of second my yoga practice is fairly long.  I also teach yoga and teach about 12 classes a week.  I do not own a car, by choice, I passed my driving test and decided to become a cycle commuter, so I cycle to all my yoga classes which are mostly in the Liverpool city centre.  I love my active life and wanted to optimise my food to support this amount of activity.

To begin with I just cut out the baddies caffeine, milk, bread and sugar.  It's hard to cut out sugar when you go out to a bar for example even if your drinking non alchoholic drinks.  I do not go out that much but when I do, I just do my best but am not fanatical.  At home I do not eat any processed food so there is no issue.  When I first practiced without sugar and caffiene, I could barely be bothered to put my leg behind my head, very sluggish practice, it was hilareous.  Now my energy levels have stabilised, I no longer need a caffiene jolt in the morning.

I have always been curious about eating raw.  So I started eating more raw and reading some books about the topic and eating mostly raw.  At first the results were mixed, sometimes I would feel great, sometimes not so.  I also got a cold around this time, first time I'd been sick in ages.

I figured my body was detoxing, so decided to speed things up.  I did a juice only detox for four days, I followed a specific plan which involved adding blended avocado to my drinks.  I had done this detox before a few years back.  If you are overweight you are meant to loose weight but if you are at your optimal weight you will not loose or gain anything.  So I did this particular detox because I did not want to loose any weight.  I felt amazing on the detox, practice continued as normal and I even went on a 2 hour bike ride.  Any muscle fatigue seemed to get flushed out of my body, I felt fab.

After the detox I ate pretty much completely raw for a couple of weeks.  During my reading I learnt that you can not get B12 from plants and most raw foodist take a supplement for this.  I take a very good multivitamin which has a high level of B12 , as high as B12 supplements.  However, I decided to take on some more B12 from Meridain yeast extract which is fortified with B12.  I have this on hemp bread (also non raw) as an afternoon snack.

Around this time I also read the Thrive Diet which is written by a vegan triathlete who eats a lot of raw food.  This helped me consolidate and make the stuff that I read in the raw food books work better for me.  I used to run a lot and used to think about nutrition for before and after runs but I have never really thought about that before with regard to yoga.

It's difficult to say with all the changes that I have made and explored what it is that has worked for me and I feel healthier and better than ever before.  My body is the vehicle through which I experience the world.  Increasing it's vitality has helped me on every level of activity from meditation to cycling.  I'm so glad I have taken some time to explore this aspect of my life.  I think that we all have to explore what works for us and that maybe there isn't one nutritional law that suits all.

So now my diet is mostly but not completely raw.  I still like going out for dinner and do not think cooked food is evil!  My body is pretty healthy I figure and will get rid of any waste as it needs too.  Here is an average days eating.

Museli with hemp milk or fruit
Snack hemp bread with Yeast extract
Raw meal
Oh and my favourite treat at the moment is a tofu chocolate and banana mouse, just in case you were worried about me. Lol

If you've read this far well done!  Practice the morning after a raw meal is really light.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

worshops- David Swenson and mysore classes

I already planned to go to London a week on Saturday, for 3 mysore style classes.  The following week ( I realised last night) David Swenson is doing his intro to second series workshop.  Last year I did his teacher training intensive, I learnt a lot, it was fab, in fact next year I may even do it again but back to now...well I couldn't resist going to go to London two weeks in a row.  Also booked myself onto David's Breath, Bandhas and Pranayama: Exploring the Mantra of Ujjayi and the Mysteries of Energy Locks workshop.  Yogaholics anonymous s here I come! Plan to stay until Monday so I can go to AYL Sunday and Monday.  At the moment these are the things I am most focused on in my practice second series, pranayama and bandhas so will be great to explore them all in one day of workshops with the Swens, as one of my students lovingly calls DS. 

Also Hamish is coming to Manchester to do a workshop in December, since I live in Liverpool this will make things much easier, especially as it is on a weekend.  Hamish doesn't normally teach on a weekend so I normally go to London for a long weekend, practice with other teachers at the weekend and H on Monday.  Will be great to have 2 days in a row with the same teacher!  Doesn't sound like much but it is to me, lol.

I was thinking of trying to get in some more mysore classes over the Christmas break but given that I have 3 trips planned already I will maybe go to the lake district for a few days over Christmas break instead.  Am I rambling?  Sorry I am excited!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

my practice

Well this is a practice blog and I haven't blogged about my practice for ages.  I guess sometimes there is not much to say and other times it seems unimportant.

Anyways........after Sharath's led classes my jump throughs and jump backs are more consistent and fluid.  I just needed a little more strength I think in bandhas and in arms.  They continue to improve as my strength develops greater control. This has led to a more fluid meditative practice.

I was working on the dwi pada entry to supta kurmasana as I don't get a regular assist and figured it was a good way to take it deeper.  I can do that now, have been doing it for around six weeks I guess.  So my primary feels very meditative these days, I just do it.  I usually do some simple pranayama before I start which helps me get my focus on the breath.

So I was practicing up to kapotasana, but once dwi pada entry  for kurmasana became a regular occurance I wanted something else to work on.  I don't like my practice to focus in on one pose, especially one that's not changed much!  So now I practice up to pincha muyarasana which I'm working on finding the balance in, 5 breaths today!  I then do handstands, just coz I want too!  I do a few from downward dog jumping and then from a  forward bend.  I can come up from a standing forward bend but have to bend my legs, but also exploring pushing up with straight legs, just for fun.

So my practice is long, full primary and then second up to  pincha, takes me at least 2 hours 15, usually more like 2 hours 45 including pranayama and relaxation.  I feel good though, have made some changes to the way I eat, (this would be a blog post in itself) and find that I have lots more energy and strength, which is obviously a great thing and is enhancing all areas of my life.

Kapotasana, hasn't seemed to change much in the last 6 months or so but have now realised, where I need to work.  I need to open my chest out which I focused on and explored in various ways in my practice today.  Felt very energizing and at times intense when I got in there.  It's nice to have something to work at though, I like to have something to work at in my home practice.  When I go to the shala I like to just do it aswell, just flowing through the sequence, seems to develop a good sense of non attachment. I'm going to London in two weeks to visit some mysore rooms Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  I've been loving my home practice but I'm also excited and curious about going to the shala again.

Monday, 26 October 2009

unravelling for this moment

Sometimes when I blog about practice or talk about practice it seems so focused on the physical.  I was tight today, I couldn't do blah blah, oh woah I can now do blah blah.  I think this because it is something concrete and easy to explain but is by no means the whole story.  You can explain the same event in different ways.  I'll give you an example from my own practice last week.

Version 1-  I really didn't want to do kapotasana, I felt some resistance emotionally and physically. I did a few prep back bends and really felt myself open.  It was maybe a little bit deeper, I touched my toes.  Heels still seem a long way away.

Version 2-  As I reached kapotasana I felt some resistance I focused on my breath and went into it.  I love the way that yoga makes me face all aspects of myself and thus integrate them.  As I hung there breathing opening my heart.  I realised that I could die at any moment and that one day I would die and that this scared me on some deep level that I had never acknowledged.  I kept my focus on the breath and allowed my body to open as I acknowledged this deep truth about my own mortality.

They are both the same event. When I talk about trying to get a pose or deepen it, the real subtance of that experience for me is that it facilitates this process of unravelling which allows me to experience each moment more fully both on and off the mat.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Yoga Teacher by Alexander Gray

Yoga Teacher by Alexandra Gray: Book Cover    

I read a lot of yoga books and sometimes find my mind is too tired to digest philosophy, anatomy etc.  So I try to have a few lighter reads on the go as well, so I can choose what I feel like reading at any given time.  This book fit the bill totally, it was light, easy to read and about yoga.  It is a fictional story about a womens journey to become a yoga teacher.  I guess it's a bit girly with romance side stories and being about a women, but men may enjoy reading it too.  It didn't change my life but it did make me reflect a little and think about what I was doing.  I recently changed career myself to become a yoga teacher so there are some similarities but not many.  I feel like it was more of a journey for me but perhaps I'm just creating drama in my head.  Although not an amazing book, I thought the book was a good lightweight entertaining read.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Danny Paradise and Sharath day 2 and 3

Sharath day one - afternoon

After led class with Sharath I did a workshop with Danny Paradise in the afternoon, naughty I know, sorry!

Danny Paradise workshop was great. Practice was mostly second series with some third series and variations on standing as in the day before. I felt strong and really enjoyed the practice. Danny was great at adjusting really gentle encouraging you to do as much of the work as you can rather than taking over. Reminded me of Sharath's adjustments. Danny went round adjusting everyone who wanted some help with the more challenging postures. So I got my first kapotasana adjustment after two previous attempts. He helped me grab my feet and it felt nice, calming to have someone there.

Sharath day 2

So the following morning I went to led class with Sharath after my double practice the day before. I could tell I had done back bends when I woke up and did a couple of forward bends before practice to try and counter a bit.

When led class began I wondered if I'd ever bend forward but after the first surya I my body warmed up and it was nice. My breath was more fluid and so a better practice than the day before. My arms were tired but I managed to keep to Sharath's count. Danny did this awsome egyption shoulder oppener, which I felt in my arms all week, particularly Virabhadrasana B, which was difficult till Thusday!

Day 3

On day one and two I was trying my best in each posture, today although I was still stretching in each posture I found a softness in it. This morning I was reading one of Matthew Sweeney's book and what he said really struck a chord as to what it was like. He said "Effort is only there in order for you to work towards effortlessness."

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Sharath workshop

I'm back from my week in London and have had a great time, was unable to blog due to busyness and also because the experience was so ongoing, it seemed more appropriate to go with it. It was lovely to see Sharath again and to practice with so many people. It reminded me of my time in Mysore and because of that it made me think about how my practice had changed since I was in Mysore.

There are many things I can do now, that I couldn't do then but the biggest thing that has changed is that I don't get so hung up on it. Here is a link to my mysore blog. I do not think that ambition to get a pose in Ashtanga is a bad thing, sometimes it is a great motivating factor. It isn't why we practice yoga but it helps us get on the mat everyday then that's useful. I guess years of practice has just made me realise that some days will be better than others and the things I now struggle with will next year be easier, all I have to do is get on my mat.

I prefer mysore style classes to led classes but I like led classes too. They help me remove the faff as I just have to go with the vinyasa. They teach the non-attachment to asana as I was talking about above because say you have difficulty with a pose, your not going to be there long, the practice is ever changing, so you let go of it and move on to the next pose. I also like practicing in time with lots of people, there is a special focus and energy to it.

Here are some reflections on my practice.................

Day one

My breath seemed a bit ragged at times, which made me wonder if I was becoming unwell. Sometimes I notice illness in my practice first. I ate well for the rest of the day and was fine after that. Knee was also a bit iffy as I had fallen on it, the week before, twice! I was able to do everything though, just had to be careful. Sharath adjusted me briefly in baddha konasana, which I did not expect, so a real bonus. When I was in mysore, I mostly had to come down in headstand and uth pluthi as Sharath's count is long and I get more tired in led than normal. Mangaged to keep to his count though and decided it would help my practice to try and do this for the whole week. All in all it wasn't a great practice on the mat but I felt good for it so decided that was what mattered. I went for breakfast with a yogi friend which was lovely.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Danny Paradise

Really enjoyed the first day of the workshop, Danny has some interesting ideas and shares them with great clarity. This will have to be a short post as I am meeting a friend for dinner and have to be tucked up in bed soon for first day with Sharath tomorrow.

Practice was really different, lots of modifications of poses, some completely new to me. Like binding the arms in prasarita parvakonasana and then trying to stand on one leg. Who would have thought of that? He was generous with his time and knowledge, workshop overran by an hour.

At the beginning he said something to the effect of you have to take responsibility for your own path. I like that, people can share their experiences, sure but at the end of the day you have to practice. As Pattabhi Jois would say "Do your practice and all is coming"

Got to dash, more soon...

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Mysore classes and new poses

I went to London at the weekend, it's taken me till now to blog as I've been busy catching up with my life. I got the train in first thing in the Saturday morning, so I could do an early morning Mysore class. I went to 3 different teachers, as my teacher doesn't teach at the weekends.

Saturday morning practice was good. I had Friday off and was well recovered I guess. The teacher was new to me and maybe I practiced better to show my practice? I felt good, strong and flexible in the heat. Loved the adjustments too, lovely deep backbending.

Sunday morning and I awoke feeling the implications of my Saturday strong practice on my body. It was like being given a new body to practice with both flexibility and strength wise. Still it was interesting to observe it and I enjoyed being at the shala, tried to take it easy, sometimes this was noticed and I was adjusted!

Monday, my body was back to form, so I went full circle. When I got to the place where I stop my teacher was nearby and gave me the next two postures. So now officially up to Bhekasana, backbends were a joy after that especially in the heat. Being given poses is fun, always feels like Christmas or something.

Spent the weekend mostly talking to other yogis about yoga, it was a joy. Looking forward to trip for Sharath's led classes.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

A practice of two halves

As I practiced standing today my mind was wandering I stuck with it, and kept focusing on my breath. It must have helped because as I'm reflecting now the second half of my practice was more much more focused.

Yesterday, I went to my Iyengar class. My teacher is brilliant and it was a nice sequence. We did pincha muyarasana which I'm learning to balance in. He helped me with my alignment in the pose so that was helpful. We then did a forward bending sequence, which was really quietening and I went deeper than normal probably because of the sequence. Finished off forward bend part of sequence with supta kurmasana, which is my favourite pose, I think. Felt really chilled and slowed down afterwards.

So today back to the land of Ashtanga, I wanted to focus on back bending having done none yesterday. I did full primary and second to kapotasana, did a few kapotasana, lots of different approaches and enjoyed the exploration but still only one heel or the other. I still think it's possible if I only knew how.....but in the meantime I'm really opening up multidimensionally.

I'm going to London Saturday for some mysore style classes, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Really excited, seems like ages since I've been to a mysore style class. Going to a new teacher on Saturday (going to take Friday off practice). Excited about that as it will be an entirely new perspective, teacher is a teacher of a an Ashtangi friend of mine and she speaks highly of him so I'm curious.

Monday, 3 August 2009

just getting on with it

Yesterday I did my current weekly practice of full second series. This time I did it without a DVD for the first time. Some postures that are usually better were not there but it was a nice practice. Getting a bit more fluidity with the sequence. Kapotasana felt close yesterday but not so today as is so often is the case. Jump back was more fluid today, I worked on it and enjoyed the mindfulness of being conscious of my movements in space.

Today I did full primary and really enjoyed focus on ujayi breathing. Last week tried to speed up my primary with the virtual help of Sharath on his DVD. Today just tried to flow with it. I can get into Supta Kurmasana, first attempt but it takes a couple of breaths, at the mo, working on this, everything else I can enter with ease.

After a few attempts at Kapotasana from various different methods I still felt strong. So kept going to Pincha Mayurasana, couldn't free balance today so went to the wall. Having realised recently how much my primary has changed, has freed me a bit to just practice each day and see how it is. We can only be where we are afterall, here.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Jump back and kapotasana

I had a day off practice yesterday as I was busy and tired and it seemed to fit. So practiced today instead. This week I've been tidying up my primary trying to practice it in flow and a bit faster so I can focus on second series. My primary series is okay now, I think...... I'm amazed when I think back to how many postures I could not do that I now do with ease.

My jump backs have improved a great deal and I guess I'd been happy to let them evolve in their own way. The feet touch my mat as I go back and I think that it's just a phase. Nevertheless today I focused on this held the difficult part of the jump back a bit with a view to building up strength and also tried to keep my legs tight in. This meant my practice was a little less fluid but I guess it's for greater fluidity in the future.

Been grabbing my heels in kapotasana but only one heel at a time, I get a good stretch out of this though and think it's a useful way to work at it for now? Hopefully I'll find some relative ease in the pose and be able to grab my other heel. Feel like it's mostly psychological with this posture, it is so intense mentally and emotionally or perhaps that is the viewpoint I need to change.

I practiced full primary and then second series up to pincha muyurasana. Dwi Pada is improving, I can namaste with some regularity now but still find getting right leg behind shoulder awkward. All in all a good practice. Planning on doing full second tomorrow for my weekly exploration.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


I have been reading a really good book recently, Teaching Meditation to Children by David Fontana and Ingrid Slack. Interestingly the introduction to the book which discusses the benefits of meditation really resonated with me, as the benefits of my yoga practice. Recently I was articulating some of this inner experience to someone else and found it difficult to describe. When I was reading the book, I found a description of the experience that I was explaining described from another persons perspective. This helped me to clarify my own experience to myself and others much like a conversation with a good friend who knows you well can do.

The experience that I was initially describing was about being in a difficult situation and yet being totally calm and able to respond from the calm space inside myself. Despite this sense of calm the situation itself still brought up some difficult emotions for me but because of this inner calm I was able to observe my reactions rather than reacting from them.

One thing I like about reading books about yoga or in this case meditation is that because I have a regular practice some things resonate with me. Each time I read the yoga sutras I get something else out of it. I think it is more about experiencing things directly than reading about or intellectualising the process. However, sometimes I find it interesting to verbally explain to someone else or myself what I am experiencing. Sometimes the words of another person through written word or conversation can be incredibly helpful.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Second series

Yesterday I practiced full second series with Richard Freeman. I like practicing second series with his DVD it keeps me chilled in the midst of intensity. The first time I did second series there was a lot I couldn't do. I found it difficult to keep my focus, it was like being a beginner all over again which as a teacher was incredibly useful as an experience.

I have only done the full second series sequence four times I think, I have been practicing it once a week. Each time I seem to improve in a posture which seems fast progress but that's like being a beginner too. I guess a lot of the progress I have made is mental, at first I would be like, you want me to put what where? Now I just have a go and sometimes I am surprised. This week I managed to land in Bakasana B and managed peacock sort of but not for full five breaths.

My normal practice today which is full second and up to kapotasana. On my right side I can get hold of the foot fairly easily on the left side my shoulder seems to get confused and I flail a bit. Still today touching toes on both sides. I tried to stay in kapotasana B a little longer and slow my breath down, to find ease in this. Felt good in an intense way, feel like I can really get deep doing this and begin to open up.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

longer practice

My class was cancelled this morning so I decided to practice for a little bit longer. My primary was fluid and my mind focused. I felt strong, sometimes I feel tired by Thursday so that was good. You never know what's going to happen when you step onto your mat. That's been especially true recently...

Still felt good when I got to Kapotasana, so decided to keep going to pincha mayarasana. Naughty I know but life's an adventure after all. My backbends have got much deeper than I ever imagined, I can now see my legs in urdva dhanurasana and am amazed how close they are.

I've been doing full second by itself once a week, usually Sunday. I'm going on a workshop with Danny Paradise at the end of August and wanted some familiarity with the postures. Find it interesting to work with something new, really have to focus to keep the breath controlled. Have only done the full sequence 3 times and amazed at the progress week to week. Talking of which landed Bakasana B today hooray.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Back at home today, first self practice today after my shala visit.  Really enjoyable.  I did some exploratory handstand stuff, working on free balancing at the end of my standing sequence.  Then I did some playing around with lolasana and holding it to build up strength for jump backs.  Which is going to be my main focus for a while.  Like I said I like to have a challenge, it keeps me learning and curious.  Then did full primary with 3 kurmasana and a bit of work getting right leg behind the head lying down.  Gonna work on that too, to work on getting into supta kurmasana via dwi pada

Then at the end of primary I did second series up to kapotasana.  Touched my right toe again fairly easily but still no joy with my left.  I think this is due to having more dexterity with my right hand as I am right handed rather than more flexibility as my left side is usually more flexible than my right.  I feel like I am going nowhere fast with kapotasana but as I worked on it, I thought am I getting a stretch, as the answer is most definitely yes, all is good, that's all we need to find in any pose really.

Then 5 urdva dhanurasanas and 5 drop backs and coming up, they were much better today probably because I did the second series back bends beforehand.  I really like this combination of primary and second they flow together well.  So I'm happy to practice this far and have found much to work and challenge me.

Monday, 25 May 2009

at the shala

I practiced mysore style at the shala in London this morning. Always feels so much like home, to practice with others even though I barely know any of them. I feel connected to them through the practice that we all share. My teacher has gone to Mysore to pay his respects to Guru G. I thought he might.

I bought a new mat last week , a planet sadhana mat, it's meant to last a lifetime. I practice so much I wear mats away fairly quick and so have been rotating my use of my students mats. It's nice to have my own mat and although I thought there was nothing wrong with my other mats, this one is so much better. It seems to stabilise me without me having to grip it. Today was a real test for it though, as it is pretty hot in the shala and I got a bit slippy, only a couple of times. I do not usually use a rug as I don't sweat much but maybe I'll get one for when I'm at the shala and when Sharath comes........we'll see, the mat still needs breaking in.

I seem to be able to maintain my effort better in my jump throughs and backs when in the shala, there is such a wonderful focus in the room. I'm working on that as I like to work on something and although there are things to improve in my practice I can do (bind) in everything I have been given. This is a unique experience for me. It only seems like yesterday when four years ago ...I first did the primary series with all it's challenges it had in store for me. I really like being adjusted in supta kurmasana, it is very different from doing it myself and means I work more from my hips and less reaching with my chest.

Treated myself to a very healthy breakfast and drink and have a big bottle of orange juice to rehydrate me through the day. I have resolved to make an effort to eat more healthily and also go back to having a fresh juice every day, not that I'm unhealthy, I just know I can improve. I think getting away from my everyday life once a month allows me to reflect on my life and what I could change. It's so much easier to see if you take a step back.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

catch up

I have decided not to have my day off today, well it is Saturday, so I guess that's normal.  I had Thursday off last week and so have practiced 8 days straight.  I'm going to London tomorrow and I'm going to practice Monday and Sunday at the Shala.  I'm really looking forward to practicing with others and so glad I have started to go every month, twice this month.

Having a blog feels a bit like having confession, I imagine...although mostly I have nothing to confess.........but so much has happened.

I just read my previous post to see where my practice was up to when I last blogged.  I am now able to get my shoulders down in Kurmasana.  I am still working on it and repeating three times when I practice at home (I think doing exploritory stuff like that is important if your practicing mainly alone).  Anyways it worked..........I have been trying to do Supta Kurmasana every day since I went to Mysore last year so about 17 months............I have loved the journey..........and now I can do it.  I get into it by crossing my feet first,  then wiggling the shoulders through.  Some advice from a friend really helped with how I cross.  I take the left foot to the right of the centre so when the right leg crosses over it doesn't have so far to go.  I'd like to be able to clasp first then cross my feet, as I'd like to teach it that way, for some of my students it would work better.  I think I can do this but have to work out the action needed to lift the heel.  Anyhow I can do it all by myself and have done so every day for about a week now.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the shala and was given the first two postures of second series.  My practice felt great used to be exhausted after practicing in the shala but feel like I've really come through that and now feel quite energized.  Feel like my practice has really changed in the last couple of months.  I think not being a supply teacher will have worked wonders here.  It was such a tough job.

So I'm still a little naughty and continue to practice up until the posture I can't do rather than the one I'm stopped at.  I practice by myself mostly.  I go to an Iyengar class once a week and a couple of mysore classes a month.  The rest of the time I do full primary and then currently up to Kapotasana.  I like to have a posture to work on, it can be a good motivator for home practice. I do yoga for many reasons but I guess the most important is that it transforms me.  Getting the asana is not why I do yoga it's just something that helps motivate me to get on my mat and practice.  So here I am very much at the beginning of a new journey with kapotasana.  Woah what a posture, it's so opening emotionally and physically and requires so much perseverance.  Can touch my right toe by myself on a good day, I'm surprised by that as my right side is generally tighter than my left but I think it's because I'm right handed and can move that arm more?

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois died this week and I could right a long post just about what I have been through with that.  Ultimately I am left realising how much this guy has changed my life mostly indirectly although I am honoured that I had the opportunity to practice led classes with him last time he was in London.   

So I finish this post with thanks to Pattabhi Jois for putting the practice out there so that so many people could practice it.

Sunday, 3 May 2009


I have been practicing intensely recently and really enjoyed my day off yesterday.  Came back to my mat with renewed enthusiasm and resolve to not push myself too hard.  I've been working on Kurmasana for a long time..................I have really learned to love this pose.  Recently I have been trying to get my shoulders to the floor as my teacher suggested that would help with supta kurmasana.  On Friday someone adjusted me and I was able to take my shoulders down, afterwards I was able to get my shoulders down by myself.  Today I got my shoulders down without assistance.  Still working on supta kurmasana but am pleased to see progress.

I am currently practicing up to laghu vajrasana in the second series.  I do not have a regular mysore style studio near me and so stopped myself there.  I was unable to come up until today although for the last few weeks I have been able to come up if I came up straight away.  Today I came up after five breaths and then repeated it to make sure my body remembered what to do.  Managed it both times.  So moved myself on to Kapotasana as a reward.  Managed to touch my toes in kapotasana with a bit of help.  I have been working on the previous posture for some months and must have developed some of the flexibility and strength needed for kapotasana from it.   Glad about that as it is pretty intense!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

where to start

Where to begin?  Having decided to start to blog my practice I then realized how much I could actually write about it.  So with that in mind I have to begin somewhere.  I'll start by explaining about my practice.  Ashtanga yoga is my primary practice although I also practice Iyengar once a week mainly because I have such a good teacher.  As the postures are the same I am able to apply what I learn to my Ashtanga practice.  Day to day I usually practice at ashtanga at home and go to my Iyengar teacher once a week.  I also attend workshops and go to London for a couple of mysore style ashtanga yoga classes every six weeks or so.

These last couple of weeks have been great because  I have been able to practice mysore style with a teacher two weeks in a row.  This has inspired my practice greatly and given me lots of things to work on in my self practice.  As a result of this today I am tired!   

I guess my overzealous attempts have tired me out but I like that yoga shows me where my limits are for now its very grounding.  Sometimes I have more energy and sometimes less. If I'm tired self practice can be challenging so I often use a dvd to lead me through the primary series.  Today I think  I'm just going to start and see what happens.....................