Friday, 14 June 2013

Weekend challenge... get creative

One of the reasons I love doing yoga so much is because I can express myself through it. I sometimes get completely lost in my practise, whilst being present in each moment. I can connect to that pure space deep within me.

One of the only times I've ever felt this before yoga is when I used to draw. I used to feel myself pouring out onto the paper, and get completely lost. It's me, my emotions and my drawing tools. I even remember having a conversation with a guy I fancied back in university about how I was scared I would one day lose myself completely in a drawing. I think that may have been the point he decided I was loopy!

I left my carefree student days behind me a fair few years ago, and my drawing with it. I have however moved my now slightly rusty box of pencils around the world with me, always intending to pick them up. They have for the most part gathered dust in a cupboard while life took over.

Some inspiration from a wonderful friend of mine (known as Smartin to some), compelled me today to dust off my pencils and actually start drawing. I loved every second and could feel my emotions spilling onto the page. I'm very out of practise, and the result is very far from amazing, but I don't care! The creative juices are flowing!

My humble drawing is going to sit on my meditation alter to remind me to never give up the things I love, and to dedicate a little bit of time each week to get creative.

What do you love doing that you haven't done for ages because life got in the way? Give it a few moments thought, and then make some time for it.

Happy Friday
Om Namah Shivaya x

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Do your practice ....

I recently completed a month long Sivananda Advanced Teachers Training course in India. It's an intense course which has you up just after 4am every day to start pranayama practice, and that's just the start. The rest of the day is filled with asana, lectures, meditation, karma yoga (selfless service) and chanting. You fall into your hard dormitory bed at 10pm knowing you have to be up in a few hours to do it all again. It's not everyone's cup of chai, but I love it (and the chai)!

Living in an ashram and doing a course like this you meet lots of interesting people, and many inspirings ones. Cue the voice of the wonderful young, Brazilian Swami (aka 'The swami with the dragon tatoo') who was one of the teachers on the course. There were two things he said to us time and time again:

1. 'Do you practice, guys.'
2. Keep yourself busy or you won't know what to do with all the energy you have built up from all pranayama you have been doing.

I'm now back in cold rainy (snowey!) London, and am looking for a job, something I realised I haven't done for at least ten years!  London for me has always been synonymous with being on the go, busy and work. Apart from some long weekends, when I have downtime I'm usually off somewhere sunny. I'm not good at sitting on the couch, and after a few days of going round in circles searching for jobs online I was starting to drive myself crazy.

Swamiji's rather strange Brazilian accent came into my head .... Do your practice .....

I have a fairly regular self practice, but I realised without the ashram or work routine, it wasn't really happening (even though in my mind I was). The next morning I got up and went straight to my mat, and what I difference it made to my mind set and my day. I know that my morning yoga practice makes all the difference, but sometimes I just need a reminder.

I'm a creature that thrives on routine (yip I said it!) and my morning practice sets my up for the day, and chanels my energy in the right way.

I'm loving life at the moment, and I know that to keep this wonderful energy I built up in India I need to  keep up my self practice. I've even cleared a new space to practice, which has given me a renewed resolve.

On the days I don't get to my mat, I don't beat myself up (what's the point in that?!), but I resolve to make time for it the next day.

So my words to you, do your practice, no matter what it is as long as it makes you feel good. In my life right now it's my Hatha yoga practice, but for you it might be something different.

It could be taking a moment on the tube to open your eyes and look around, be present and smile at the depressed looking people around you, finding somewhere to sit quietly for 5mins, or going for a walk... Anything that connects you back to you ....

Friday, 21 December 2012

My daily dip into The Reality of Being

The wonderful Naomi Absalom, recommend a book called The Reality of Being by Jeanne De Salzman, she's the closest follower of Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff's teaching's are a balance of what he calls the Way of the Yogi -development of the mind, the Way of the Monk, based on faith and feeling, and the way of Fakir, related to mastery of the physical body. The book is basically a collection of her (Jeanne De Salzman's) thoughts from notebooks she kept on her path to self knowledge, and living in the present moment.

It's an incredibly personal and truthful account of her feelings and observations. I try and read a few pages each week, and I must admit that some of the time it goes straight over my head, and sometimes I have to read the same paragraph three times before it registers. But when it registers and resonates with me, it has me close to tears with the beautiful humbleness and understanding it conveys.

I think anyone who has spent some time meditating, or has experienced moments of understanding and openness in yoga or in life will find little snippets in this book which will move and touch them.

I read a page on the tube on my way into work today (which I actually think I may have read a few nights ago too!), which really resonated with me, so here's my daily dip into The Reality of Being....

Taken from a section called An Inner Sensation - Obeying the attraction of the earth.

' The possibility of receiving a more subtle vibration arises only at the moment when I know my incapacity and my refusal. Because I know it, there is an opening to vibrations of a different density, as if passing a threshold. By action that comes from an immediate understanding of being insufficient, the body as a whole lets go in order to be attuned to the Presence. I begin to see that there are infinite degrees of sensation which represent an unknown world.

I need stillness and great sensitivity to have a sensation of a presence in my body. This sensation comes not from tensing in any direction. It does not tend upward; this is not its nature. It does not pull me. I do not pull it. There is no tension. I feel free. My totality is no longer threatened. I see that sensation is like an act of obedience to this Presence. The need to open is what we call prayer. '

Namaste xx

Monday, 26 November 2012

Silly Season Sunday Yoga Sessions!

I'm excited that I am going to be teaching two detox and unwind yoga classes on Sunday evenings over the holiday season.

Aimed to detox and  banish the Sunday blues the classes will start by focusing on warming up the body and creating some heat to kick- start the detox process. We'll then move into a more restorative sequence and end with a long sweet relaxation leaving you with a calm focus ready for the new week.

These classes will help to counteract the stuffed, unhealthy feeling we all get over the Christmas holiday/party season when we tend to over indulge in alcohol and food, and stay out late!

Sunday 16 December
Sunday 30 December

The classes will start at 4:30pm ending around 6pm. It's £12/ class if you just want to do one or £20 if you do both.

The classes will be at my house in Southfields/Wandsworth. Space is limited so please let me know as soon as possible if you would like to come, and I'll send you details to make a deposit.

I have a limited number of mats, so please let me know if you need to borrow one.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Yoga ruined my life!

Inspired by a wonderful Kirtan workshop with Naomi Absalom and Naryani a couple of weeks ago, I made the effort to go to the Wednesday night Satsang at the Sivananda centre in Putney. 

Satsang is the name given to a gathering, or meeting of like minded people. They usually consist of meditation, chanting or Kirtan and a discussion around a topic ( usually spiritual or yogic in nature). In the ashram in India you attend Satsang twice a day, in the early morning, and in the evening. The satsangs quickly became my favourite part of the day, so now back in the big smoke, I try to make it to the odd one to pause and reflect in amongst what often feels like a chaotic busy lifestyle living in London.

  The Wednesday night satsangs are small, with no more than ten people. The one I attended was held in 'the loft', you wind your way up quite a few narrow flights of stairs and come out in a small room, where I felt like I was on top of the world ( or maybe just south west London...). A view over the rooftops with the sky changing colour as dusk settles, ahhhh. Meditating with a cool breeze brushing your face and that feeling of being on top of the world, not much beats that on a Wednesday night in London, in my books anyway.

I have to admit that as hard as I try, I more often than not drift off when it gets to the reading and discussion part, maybe it was the topic, maybe it was the small group, but I was really engaged. Saying that I can't recall exactly what the reading was, but in reaction to it the Swami who was leading the Satsang recalled a girl who had worked at the centre who used to say  'Yoga ruined my life.' this really struck a cord with me as I completely relate to what she was saying. 

Yoga, and this yogic path I stumble along have made my life richer beyond imagination. I am only a very tiny baby on this path, but the possibilities and freedom it has opened up always surprise me. But it's also made me a lot less tolerant or interested in mainstream things. I hardly ever read the news anymore - I make sure I have a general idea of what's going on in the world, but I'm not interested in reading the generally sensationalist media in the uk. I tend to avoid all gory, thriller or action movies, not that I was hugely into them before, but now I really would rather not watch them. Frivolous TV I just find depressing... I choose my friends more carefully now, and battle to hold conversations that I'm not interested in. I was never much into processed foods, but now I actively avoid it (most of the time).  I love spending time over a meal and a few glasses of wine, but I'm really not interested in going out dancing or getting blind drunk. I'm much more conscious of how my actions and decisions affect the environment, and those around me. I'm still pretty good at ranting though (specially at work!). 

During the Satsang, with a broad grin on my face, I thought about how much my life and interests have changed due to yoga, how I now stop and notice the small things, but I will more often than not pass up a social engagement for a yoga class, or quiet time at home on my own. Does that make me a weirdo - maybe, but I've met lots of people who think the same, and I don't care !

Sitting in that little room on top of the world, listening to a man dressed in orange playing a harmonioum, I wondered, not for the first time, what my friends and family would say if they could be a fly on the wall here? Or knew that I had passed up a few drinks with friends to be here? ...  Maybe yoga has 'ruined' my life in some people's eyes, but I like it this way (most of the time anyway) ;)

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Waste not, and make healthy carrot muffins!

I've been doing quite a lot of juicing over the past few months, which creates quite a bit of pulp which ends up in the bin - what a waste! This got me thinking that there must be a good way to use the pulp to make some slightly healthier than usual baked goods.

One of my favourite juices is carrot and ginger, the pulp from which makes great carrot muffins. They are really easy to make I sometimes get up and make them on a Saturday morning. Not much beats a healthy freshly baked muffin for breakfast!

Carrot (pulp) muffins
(makes 12 muffins)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup of algarve syrup ( you could use unrefined sugar here, add and extra 1/4 cup more if you prefer sweeter muffins)
1 cup olive oil ( I usually substitute 3/4 of this for low fat yogurt)
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
4 medium eggs, beaten
2 cups carrot pulp ( mine usually has some ginger in it too)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to approx 180 C degrees. Grease approximately 12 muffin tins.
Mix dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl mix algarve ( sugar) with oil  (yogurt) water and vanilla, add beaten eggs and blend throughly.  Incorporate the carrot pulp and nuts. Finally add the dry ingredients.
Spoon into the muffin tins, and bake for approximately 20 mins.

Allow to cool slightly and enjoy warm with your weekend cup of coffee- yum!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

What yoga means to me at this moment...

I've had a strange weekend, after a rather crazy week, I taught two classes on Saturday morning at the North London Buddhist Centre. What a great space, and what great groups of people, I floated home.
On Sunday morning, I decided to attend a class at a centre local to me which I have been meaning to go to for ages. Usually if I go to a class on a Sunday it's a strong flowing class at the Jivamukti centre in North West London. I really didn't enjoy the class at all. Really slow class with all the emphasis on the postures. These are probably the classes I need to go to more of to improve my alignment, but it just felt that there was no heart on the practise.

This got me thinking... I often verbalise why I practise and teach, what I teach and practise and what yoga means for me, but have I really really thought about it?
So I've started a list of thoughts around what yoga means for me - I see this as a work in progress,  I'll add to and refine this...

  • Opening up your heart, and bringing compassion into your life, it's a slow process, but it's a beautiful one.
  • It makes my relationships with others better as I'm able to be more present in them.
  •  It's about finding freedom and joy in the simplest things from a lightness in a pose, to the sound of AUM, to noticing the colours and sounds around me on and off the mat.
  • It's about breathing and letting go of all the bits we hold onto.
  • It's about watching your mind and emotions, on the mat, and trying to take the awareness into daily life- it's not easy, especially when they are ugly but ultimately it allows you to be more present and aware.
  • I love the fact that I can chant away in my terrible voice in a Satsang and feel freedom - I don't care!
  • And most importantly - For me it's about connecting to, or usually just getting glimpses of, my true self, that place in my centre which is everything and nothing at the same time. These are the most beautiful but sometimes painful experiences.
  • ... And I have to admit that I also love the feeling of getting into a pose I've been struggling with for ages :)
More to come.... But for a moment I'll reflect back to one of my posts from a while ago called 'Everyone's a teacher' ... I think I ended up getting so much more out of the class on Sunday which I felt uncomfortable in as it's made me reflect and reaffirm why I practise yoga. Incidentally I went back to the teachers class that I referred to in 'Everyone's a teacher' and I really enjoyed it!

Next post will contain some food stuff too I promise!