Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Charity

Picture captured by Matt who was travelling with us in north India.
Copyright http://www.matttaylorphotography.co.uk/

“Love is not patronising and charity isn't about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same -- with charity you give love, so don't just give money but reach out your hand instead.” 
― Mother Teresa







When I first planted the seed to become a yoga teacher, the one thing that was super clear for me (because everything else was not very clear back then) was that I would like to be able to serve some community through this new work. It was becoming obvious that the yoga community was going to be a community with great capabilities, to reach out to those in their local community, as well as those, far afield. 

The first thing I did when I graduated was to start a 50+ yoga class. Initially, this class was meant to be a complimentary class. But everyone suggested collecting a small fee that would go charity. This was how i came to find Yoga Gives Back (YGB). I cannot even remember exactly how that happened because back then, they were still a small operation, but I somehow stumbled upon them. The founder's words inspired me and their work completely resonated with me. Right away, i knew that this was an organisation i'd love to work with. I got in touch with them and through our emails, we just clicked & I was invited to become one of their ambassadors. That was more than 5 years ago, and I have been following their work closely & proudly, watching them grow as a charity and witnessing the impact on lives. The founder continues to champion the organisation, recently visiting recipients of YGB funds. 

Through their 'Sister aid' program YGB directly funds programs for education and the economic empowerment of women and children through carefully selected partners in India. Through these funds, they are able to empower women to be self sufficient, enable girls to stay in education and avoid child labour or child marriage & fund orphans in schools. With increased support, the funds are now also able to help fund higher education. As the organisation grows, so does the opportunity to reach out to help more communities. 

When i was travelling in India, it really hit me how much support was needed out there. I used to think that there are already so many charities mobilised out there- both local and international. But when you come face to face with the situation, you realise that more help is needed, because there is so much to do. (likewise in Africa) It's not really someone elses' problem. It is a human problem. 

I left India feeling so lucky that I am a woman born and raised in the right place to the right people and now live somewhere where my rights are not restricted just because I am a woman. That I had my basic human right even (never mind as a male or female- just the very basic human right) I really felt the restrictions, unlike what I am used to- walking around wherever i wish in whatever i wish. This strengthened my support for YGB even more. Working to empower the women because women will empower their families and their communities. 

I understand that now, more than ever, there is such a huge need for our charity at home and abroad. We only give what we can. It is important to give with love. I feel that yoga events are a great channel for raising funds, a good exchange of energy, giving a yoga class in exchange for your funds that go to charity. This is YGB's mantra. Please do join me and 9 other teachers this 29th May for a yoga challenge that will change lives. You can try to raise £25 through sponsorship or pay it yourself. If you are unable to join us, you can buy a raffle ticket for £1.50 for a chance to win some fantastic prizes that local businesses have donated to the event. 

If you'd like to know why we do 108 sun salutations here's a good link to visit 
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/02/why-108-sun-salutations/
(by the way, you don't have to do them all, just join in and do as many as you can)

Thank you from my heart always!

Namaste

check out more of Matt's amazing pictures from India here India


Thursday, 23 April 2015

Me & Social Media


About a year ago, I started posting on Instagram as part of a personal project. It had come up when I had attended a really powerful workshop with Rod Stryker about the Four Desires. It is difficult to sum up the workshop which had many parts in it, but basically, it is about finding what makes you happy and what stops you from being happy and more importantly what is stopping you from living your fullest life. I really recommend it if you have the opportunity to work with him.

During this time, it came up that i was my biggest obstacle. I think most of us are our biggest obstacle, but more importantly, what is it that we do that makes us so. One of the patterns i had discovered about myself is that, my automatic conditioned response is to always not respond. Whether i can do something or not, whether i know something or not, my default reaction is to take a step back, be quiet. Never be seen, never be heard. Not out of shyness, but out of the fear of being vulnerable or wrong. And when i looked back on my whole life- this had always been the story- even when my dad passed away, when everyone was expecting me to breakdown, i didn't and instead put forward someone who had it all under control. After he was buried, I really wanted some personal time with him (because we were very close and i did not make it to say goodbye) A close friend had to take me to the grave- someone i felt comfortable enough to be vulnerable with- or so i thought- and even then, i just laid the roses and left. This is like a 40 minute drive, so I was pretty annoyed with myself that I could not fulfil what my heart desired. 

This was just part of the revelation. Of course, it wasn't just about what was "wrong" but also to recognise that the potential to stop these conflicts, is completely in our hands. Nobody can help us more than ourselves..

At the end of the workshop, I made a sankalpa- a kind of vow, to step forward and not be afraid to be vulnerable but equally not be afraid to shine. In the moment of excitement, it all seemed so easy. I just had to make a conscious choice every time so that the reaction is no longer automatic. On the plus side, once the seed had been planted, I was constantly aware of my actions- the one that got nervous as soon as i knew there was an opportunity to share something- but i still could not change the reaction. A sankalpa is meant to be something that happens in about 6 months- hahahaha how does one break a lifelong habit in that time?? Of course not. 

So I had joined Instagram first because it was the new thing and I am always curious about new things. I joined as Cooper (my dog & posted lots of photos of him) At the same time, i followed the yoga community of course. It inspired the socks off me. Some of these people were really putting themselves out there and just opening themselves out to the world. And how incredible this community was at championing change, encouraging strangers through their goals, cheering creativity and effort, and supporting each other through difficulty (some incredible stories - i mean... really incredible true life, heart breaking, inspiring stories) I started to wonder if perhaps this could be the answer for me. So i stepped in & joined as me..

At first, I cringed...even though i had no followers LOL 
But eventually, I started to become less and less afraid of being seen.
And now, I would say, i have really embraced vulnerability. It doesn't mean i have lost my inhibition. I am just no longer afraid of not being perfect. In fact, I am happy to scream and shout about it!! I think when you scroll through the pictures, the change is obvious. I would never have thought that doing something like this could help me break a habit. I notice the change in me in everything i do. I am also less argumentative with my husband as i no longer have to be right all the time LOL (this is true) It is like all yoga practice; repeating an action makes it easier and easier. The more i put myself forward, the easier it became. It's not that I did not get this from regular yoga practice. I just needed another push out of my comfort zone.

Lastly, i just want to say, there is so much judgement out there about posting pictures- especially in the yoga community. All the other communities i follow- climbers, surfers, wakeboarders, snowboarders- nobody ever comments that these guys are showing off. Everyone just gets super excited, inspired and stoked. But for some reason- this is un yogic yoga practice, showing off LOL
Funny because, if so, then it can be said of any social media posts- whether you are posting about your practice, your lifestyle, your smoothies and food, your kids, dogs, cats, plants...
It is all saying the same thing- look at me- this is my passion, i am proud of this, i am good at this... And really, it is fine. It is only showing off if you think so and that is just your perception. And of course, everyone is entitled to think what they want. For most of us, it is a platform to share our passion- not because we are looking for acceptance or approval, but because when you love something, it's so much more meaningful when you have someone to share it with. 

I'm not saying it is something everyone should do. I'm just saying, don't get so negative about it. If it is not for you, just ignore it. 

Be love.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Tabla Vinyasa & Nada Yoga

















Sages of old speak of the mythical sound that lies within every being. 
In Sanskrit, this sound is OM or Nadam.

One theory is that life began with a vibration. And the yogis say, that vibration is OM and still resonates today and is the source of all sounds, so all sounds are sacred.

From the word Nadam is the root word ‘Nad’ which means flow and ‘nada’ means sound. The related word is ‘nadi’ which means river or stream. So ‘Nadam’ can be described as the flow of the inner sound current.

Nada Yoga is about sounds; inner and outer sound vibrations. It is the yoga of deep inner listening. It is said that there are four levels of sound, ranging from the grossest to the subtlest. Like all other yoga practices, we are trying to cultivate awareness, so with Nada Yoga we start with a more sensory practice, as we will be doing during this tabla vinyasa workshop. We will be working on the first level of sound known as ‘Vaikhari’, which is an audible sound that can be heard and felt through the senses. With regular practice, the yogi-in-practice can start to move beyond every day sounds and start to hear the more subtle sounds. These sounds are most easily perceived when we are relaxed, like in shavasana or during meditation.
In my personal experience, when I have had a really good practice; one where my mind and body and breath are most synchronized, meditation becomes easy and it is during this time that I perceive these sound sensations. In a practice with a skilled musician like Jason, who is able to influence the pulse of the class, this experience becomes even more heightened.  

Sound is the essence of all energy. All matter is made up of energy, hence all living things possess a sound quality. When there is harmony within a system, vibration frequency is lower. Lower frequency of vibration means we feel less stressed, more at peace. When we come together to practice, this is one of our aims; to be more harmonized with each other, on our mats and off out mats.
There is a lot of power in our vibration. We can observe the power of vibration through a large predatory sea snail found in Indian Ocean known as Turbinella pyrum. The Aum like vibrations are powerful and their frequency can alter thin sand to form many sacred geometries which are now being studied. Like this creature, we too can influence the feeling of a room, and the vibration around us too can influence us.
During a practice like tabla vinyasa, the musician can observe the bhav of the class and adjust the rhythm intuitively to support the energy of the class. The vibration of the class becomes synchronized and on a subtle level, we will feel this unity. It is different from having music played in class because the music has not been pre-planned but rather, it is infused into practice. The overall feeling is very different.

The session ends with live music meditation; be bathed in the deep evocative tones of Bansuri (Indian classical flute ) and delicious organic sound scapes. Listening to music with clear awareness is part of the practice of Nada yoga.
The experience is heightened after a good asana session as the mind is more still. Jason will play Indian Classical Raagas ( scales in specific moods ) which have their roots in the Nada yoga traditions.

Come and join us and experience this joyful practice.






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!

xx

** 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. 
namaste




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!
Enjoy!

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 :-)

namaskar
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

expectations

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 :-)