Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Arm Balances & Inversions!

Arm balance! Inversions!
Normally these words invoke three types of response in class. I either see excitement, fear or a kind of blank expression - i read the thoughts as "nye, ok, but why??"

If it excites you, yayyy! I don't have to convince you to try it and you probably already know it's benefits. 
If you are afraid of them, I hope this will fuel your curiosity for them, enough to persevere with the practice.
Lets see if i can answer the 'why' of it... 

For many of us, our day to day life requires little work of our upper body (arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen) If we do not exercise these parts of our body, the muscles will probably weaken over time. It may seem insignificant but this can contribute to some loss of independence- for example, not being able to carry shopping bags, open jars, lift or move things. 

It is now a well known fact that weight bearing is good for our bones and a great prevention of osteoporosis and in preventing conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist weakness, finger and hand stiffness..Arm balances are a fun way to include some weight bearing exercise into our practice.

Arm balance and inversions can also help build confidence, change our perspective (literally even!) Especially if we have quite a settled or routine life. We forget that we got here through many little journeys and challenges. These practices that make us a little scared and unsure, reminds us of these journeys and of our strengths. Having to practice persistently to nail the pose also reminds us that there is no failure in effort, just many little steps forwards. In fact, making these efforts will give you a confidence boost in yourself each time. Over time, you will find you have more confidence to try the things that scare you, whether on or off your mat.

Benefits of arm balances and inversions:
Strengthens arms, shoulders, abdominals, wrist, fingers, sharpens concentration

Arm balances are challenging because they require both strength and flexibility. If you are more of one than the other, the right prep poses will help you find stability in the pose. Also, there is some technique involved of course; understanding which muscles to engage, how to stack bones, which part of the body to move and where, and understanding point of balance in your body.

I particularly love sharing this practice in a workshop setting where there is time to break down the elements of the practice, pick up prep poses, ask questions, try and try again, laugh!- plenty of laughs! Most of all, workshops will give you a better understanding of what you are doing, or trying to do when you are in class, and only have 5 breaths to a minute to try the pose. What you take away from a workshop are the tools to support you in the development of your practice, safely. So you may not leave the workshop nailing the pose, but you will definitely leave it having an idea of how to practice it!** 

Join me at my next workshop for beginners-intermediates at Red Hot Yoga Guildford on the 29th March. This is for those who have either never ever tried it before or have dabbled in it a little or a lot. If you are already stable in the either arm balancing or headstand, and wish to start trying some intermediate balancing, please do come along too. I will offer intermediate options to anyone who is ready to move there. We will apply the same principles when moving into more "technical" poses, so I will be able to serve both groups simultaneously. 

See you on the mat!


** a little note
I would really advice students not to practice headstand on their own or in class until they have had some detailed instruction or supervision on how to do it. In my opinion, headstand is an advance pose and can cause injury if not practiced properly. As always, honour where you are in your practice, practice with patience and love for your body. 

Friday, 7 November 2014

2. Action- Align With Courage

Red Hot Yogis, this is part 2 of our discussion xx

Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.16 
The following six bring speedy success:-- Courage, daring, perseverance, discriminative knowledge, faith, aloofness from company

Yoga Sutra of Patanjali 2.46
sthira sukham asanam
Practicing yoga with strength and in a relaxed manner gives rise to harmony with the physical body (asana)

I get questioned sometimes,

"why is it so hard. i thought yoga was relaxing"

Well... there are many types of practice out there and I think it is good to know why. Why you are taking the challenging approach and why you are taking the soft, relaxing approach. What is it that you are ultimately working towards. And to be honest, whatever your answer is, both approaches will provide the same outcome. 

I have always leaned towards the challenging practices. Maybe this is because by nature I am more athletic and a bit A-type in personality, so this practice appeals to me. Many have told me that because of my personality, I should choose a softer practice. I tried it, and to be honest, I feel they give me the same outcome so i choose the practice that I enjoy the most.

A challenging practice is so powerful. Through the years, it has informed me of what I am capable of. Not just what my body is capable of- your body, it is capable of doing incredible things if you are committed to your practice. But what I mean is that, the practice keeps revealing a strength that is not something new that has to be acquired, but something available that can be awakened. At times when I have been most insecure, my practice would remind me, over and over of my capabilities to stay focused, and grounded and clear. It does this by revealing my tenacious spirit.

But equally, this practice has tamed my ego and kept it real! It fiercely reminds me that I cannot rule the world (or master every pose) It has revealed my tendencies and shined them so brightly that I could not ignore them (i have lazy qualities, perfectionism, stubbornness, etc- all the usual stuff everyone has to deal with on some level) It consistently reveals my fears and encourages me to deal with them. 

But don't just take my word for it. The two texts commonly used by yoga schools prescribe it for Hatha Yoga. Ha-tha actually also means willfully or with force. Strangely, this definition is seldom heard. Yes, it means sun-moon also. Sun, the quality of fire, strength, moon the quality of water, softness. I love the yoga sutra verse sthira sukham asanam. It says, yoga practice should be practiced with strength, but it should be comfortable, easeful, joyful, some definitions even say happy!

Ultimately, what you choose has to work for you. Practice mindfully. When you practice, you are feeding your cells with information. Your body is like a super computer. It remembers everything. But it is also good at letting go of those things that no longer serves you so do not be afraid of the 'bad practice'. It is equally important to have days when it sucks! All this information, from doing the physical asana, to the thoughts and feelings that arise during practice, is stored in your cells and feeds your daily life. So feed it well! Challenge your boundaries with patience and respect for your body and your spirit. 

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

1. Matrika Shakti- The Power of Words

for Friday night practitioners at Red Hot Yoga, this is part 1 of 4

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”  ~Upanishads

Words have power. In Sanskrit, this power is 'Matrika shakti', the creative energy behind the letters that make up the words. It is said that each Sanskrit letter has a sound vibration that resonates in our subtle energetic body and in the cosmos . This corresponds with what science tells us, that everything vibrates, including the cells in our body. These vibrations can lead to thoughts, which may lead to feelings which may manifest through words and actions. 

Words can be those we receive from others as well as those we receive from ourselves, through verbalisation or thoughts. Words are like seeds that we plant, that will influence the quality of our mental wellbeing. Our inner thoughts form a big part of Matrika Shakti. We are usually our worst judge. Throughout the day, we probably criticise ourselves without even being aware of it! And we say things to ourselves that we would never say even to our enemies! This energy (shakti) resides in our body and when can manifest as thoughts, feelings or actions. So in other words, our thoughts may create an outcome that you may not desire. 

Yoga asana and meditation practice is a great mode to help us realize this and cultivate kinder, softer, non judgemental internal (or verbal) dialogue. The more we practice watching this, the more mindful we will become of our thoughts and our words. When we begin to create more peace and love and kindness within ourselves, we also create more peace, love and kindness around us. Remember, our vibration is powerful. It does not just affect us. Words are not needed for someone to feel our anger, pain, frustration, or our love and kindness. I remember the first time I encountered a Rinpoche. I was a child. My whole being felt so incredible expansive, just from a distant encounter, that I remember that feeling even now. 

Yoga asana practice can be our great teacher if we allow it to be. By this, i mean to practice mindfully. Move slowly, feel everything and expand the range of your feelings as your body opens. Hear what your body and thoughts are feeding back to you and take time to digest* your practice, so that you can practice letting go of all those things that you hold on to that no longer serves any purpose -fear, anger, limitations, habits... these are useful sometimes but we have to be aware when they are and when they are not..

And remember, it takes time. I often have to be reminded of this myself. 
It is a practice, and like all practices, we will have great moments and crap moments 
All equally important & really, there is no bad practice, all is practice :-)

i am grateful to Jaye Martin for telling me the story of Matrika Shakti. It sent me into one of my favourite exploration of Hindu mythology and yoga philosophy 


* shavasana
i see more and more that shavasana is like an obligatory rest
shavasana is a yoga pose and should be practiced with the same tenancity
When you are doing your practice, it is like... you are cooking a grand meal 
And at the end of the practice, the meal is ready- this is shavasana
missing it is like missing the taste of the meal you've just cooked
enjoy shavasana! 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


The first experience always feels like the best especially when there was no expectation or maybe i should say, low expectations, attached to it. Everything is a gift when it is not expected, everything feels extra juicy! 

I watched my cousin dig into a mussel at lunch. He didn't like mussels to begin with but went along with us to Belgo for the Belgian experience out of courtesy to my Belgian husband. I watched as he ate the first mussel how his face went from uncertainty to curiosity (like he was questioning if it was right), to being completely lit up with delight! He ate the whole pot of it and was full of gratitude for the experience.

Equally this summer, i watched many waves of disappointment in the reverse. When people would come to something new, carrying with them the expectation to experience something similar to what they had previously experienced. I do this myself sometimes....and have to remind myself, why am i expecting a similar experience, instead of being open to a new one?? I guess, ultimately, we are creatures of habit and feel more comfortable in what we know. 

Step into the unknown and see what happens :-)

Monday, 16 June 2014

simple love

i find that i am always looking for that special experience, far and exotic....when all the most special moments are right here, in my home

i find that i am always looking for something that is not there...and in doing so, i am not able to see all that is there

i find that we are always looking far and wide for that "thing" that will make us happy, that will complete us.... when often times, it is right in front of us, or within us, waiting to serve us

Friday, 23 May 2014

Tribute to Norwich

As I prepare to leave my life in Norwich in exchange for a new life in Surrey, I have had so much to reflect on, over the last 12 years. I came to Norwich having just turned 30, arrogant, selfish, a little messed up, with not a care in the world except for myself. 

I see now how necessary that was. Had i not been that person, i think I would not have had the courage to make that move. 

My time in Norwich has been my biggest life teacher (so far)

First, my ego received a great beating. 
"Nobody wants you! Whatever you thought was so great means nothing here. Who are you?...."
After a year.. (or so.. time also passed quickly),  I let go of my ambition and started looking for new ground to stand on. I volunteered at a animal shelter cleaning out shit every day- literally! And started waitressing in the evening. Later, I would stop cleaning shit as I needed to make some money and got a job at Next. 
Then came a big test of my determination, when my dad would become ill and pass away. 
"Why am i here?"

During all this time, my own practice had intensified in a very different way. This was a time when I started to see the lessons the practice was teaching me about myself. One of the tendencies that surfaced continuously is my lack of commitment. If something was no longer fun, i would just move on. I seldom bothered to explore any deeper.

So I would say... thanks to the practice, I managed to stay the first 7 years despite being unsettled. Of course, I stayed for love also. I thought many times to give it up as it was all too hard, like i normally would do, but the practice kept reminding me of this very feeble character i kept. 

So i stayed..
And I am glad I did

I can say that I am leaving a better person, or at least someone I like a lot more. I am pretty sure that had I not made that decision to come here, I would not be this person. I am so grateful to have met some people here who have taught me so much, especially about love, about sharing, about forgiveness... Although i have also lost some confidence when I lost that arrogance, I feel this in a positive way. It is good for me to be a little afraid of losing something as I find i am paying more attention and it reminds me to be grateful all the time. I hope you know who you are, my dear friends, my extended mothers, brothers and uncles and aunts, all of whom i have fallen madly in love with. I know from my experience of leaving home twice before, that things will never be the same between us, for most of us. At one time, this used to upset me deeply. But i realise now that this pattern, like everything, is the circle of life- it has a beginning, a middle and an end. What remains is this strong connection that can never be severed because we are held together by an experience shared and by love.

Yoga has been my saviour here. Before I found the community here, life was pretty empty. Through yoga, i have made some lifelong friends and have had some of the most memorable experiences whether it was at retreats, workshops, classes, coffee. I am truly grateful for all the support I have seen over the years and all the kind, beautiful and humbling feedback. 

Through all this, and through the many commentaries I have shared during class, I hope that I have never given anyone the impression that I am a wholesome yogi. I have always tried to be clear about this so I hope you never think me any other way, than one of you. I try to live as best as I can but i continue to have my weaknesses. Whilst yoga has changed me and helped me become a better person, I have some way to go. Some lessons have to be so painful so you never forget them. This too I am grateful for. 

I end with this:

Forgive me if I have every hurt you with my words or actions and trust that I will know this and feel this in my own heart, if not already

Thank you from every cell of my being for being my teachers, my friends, my mothers, my sisters, my brothers. This gratitude is held in my heart and is boundless.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Joy of Togetherness

It is hard to believe that this is now the second week since I left the studio and the work that I had become so familiar with. I am slowly getting into this new rhythm of not really having to be anywhere at any time (ie: not working!) To be honest, I find myself quite much busier than when I was working, but it is different, not having to run after time! My final class at the studio was perfect. It was in sync with the theme for the week, which was about the joy of togetherness- the beauty of the kula. Here it is for those who missed it...

What is the kula?
Kula in sanskrit directly translates as community. It is also derived from another sanskrit word 'kula siddhi' and is the idea that all creation in the universe is connected and is in a relationship with each other, no matter how diverse. These connections are why the universe continues to expand. 
Simply, a kula is us- a group of people with similar interest, similar passions, beliefs, values, who come together to share in this love and to grow together.

Every time you come to your shala, your sangha, your club, you meet your kula. In our yoga class, a few things happens....
You roll out your mat and you greet your little universe, the manifestation of your life..
You meet each other, a connection happens
You start your practice and you start to meet your challenges, your tendencies, sometimes, your demons. Some days there is laughter, other days frustration, some days are flat, some days are illuminating. Whatever it is, you share an experience. Some days you are laughing together, some days laughing at each other and sometimes, you exchange a look that needs no words, because it is understood. And sometimes, the person besides you stops and watches you and starts to root for you and cheers your awesomeness! And other times, they your frustration and it feels better already!
This is the kula
The more diverse the group, the stronger the community.
It is there to support you and remind you of your awesomeness, of your beauty. There may be someone in the kula who believes in you more than you believe in yourself or vice versa. It is a place that makes you feel good. A place that you can go to when you have had a rubbish day, to soak in the spirit of the kula, that leaves you feeling better most of the time, even if just in a small way.
This is the joy of togetherness.
And if you have happiness, share it. Share it in the kula and beyond; 
your wealth, your possessions, your time, music, art, knowledge; 
share it because it is not possible to be happy alone

thank you for 7 amazing (yoga) years