Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a new look for a new decade and a very happy new year!

I've been coughing for about three days now and have had to cancel my New Year's Eve plans for a hot date with the sofa and TV instead. Sigh. Still I've been being productive from my sick bed.

As you can see, the Suburban Yogini has undergone an overhaul in preparation for the new year. I have felt this blog has been heading in a new direction for a while so I figured it was time to make it look that way. I've added a whole new "About Me" section which should appear in the previous post and also if you click on the pretty pink "About" button! (Thanks to shabbyblogs for that and the awesome header!)

I feel as though I have undergone an overhaul over the last few months as well. I'm not going to pretend 2009 has been an easy year, it hasn't. It's been one of the toughest years of my life. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and without this transitionary year I wouldn't be in the position I am in now - to really live my life to its fullest in 2010.

Happy new year, dear dear readers and thank you for reading. I leave you, not with poetic genius as such, but with the very simple words of Dave Grohl.

It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you give and give again
It's times like these you learn to love again
It's times like these time and time again
I started this blog in early 2008 as somewhere to catalogue my thoughts and ideas as I made the transition from working in corporate law to yoga teaching. I set up my own business and ran all kinds of yoga classes all over south west London. I even taught pregnancy yoga from my living room, which I converted into a small studio (and I will be forever grateful to Himself for putting up with this lack of living space for the best part of two years!)

In the autumn of 2009, after a decade of living in and around London, we decided to move back to Cambridge, the town I grew up in. I sold my business, we packed our bags and here we are, beginning a whole new life, feeling happier, calmer, more directed.

I now work for a local arts charity and teach the occasional yoga class. Over the last few months, as I have changed, so has this blog and it has become so much more than just yoga, it has become a scrapbook of my life.

So what does that life entail?

1. Yoga of course! The yoga is still important, in so many ways I have spent many years battling CFS and Fibromyalgia as well as an upper back scoliosis and have used yoga as a therapeutic tool for managing and recuperating from chronic illness and injury. If I can do this anyone can I want to continue to use this blog as a place where I can share my experiences and hopefully inspire other yoga practitioners and teachers. You can find out more at my website.

2. Reading and Writing. I read. A lot. I will read anything and everything. If you want to know more about what I read you can click on my Goodreads profile in the sidebar. I also write. A lot. Some days I just write any old rot as long as I’m writing. Some days I surprise myself. I used to write non-fiction articles for papers and magazines on a freelance basis (sometimes I didn’t get paid at all!) but I wanted to use my creativity more and generally write fiction, prose and poetry now. I try to commit to morning pages (except I do mine in the evening) and am starting to gain the confidence to put some of my writing out into the world. Drafts often appear on this blog.

3. Cooking and food. I am a lapsed vegan (I eat eggs, I don’t eat dairy). I am passionate about organic food. The arguments about whether or not it is nutritionally beneficial are not important to me. I buy organic because it is kinder to the earth we live on. I am fussy about where I buy from and try to avoid supermarkets as much as I can. I am also passionate about home-cooked food and a little bit of what you fancy doing you good. Sometimes I post recipes. Usually I promise to post them and then never do. Sometimes you’ll have to nudge me! I have always been lucky in that I am not prone to put on weight but am trying to be more mindful about what I eat and when I eat it.

4. Walking. I walk everywhere. Occasionally I go by bicycle if time is not on my side. I power walk. I’d love to still be able to run but it’s a bit jarring on my fibromyalgic joints! I have built up my fitness and have goals I’d love to meet over the next couple of years (I’d love to walk a half marathon). I have to be careful not to do too much though or I descend into relapse, so we’ll see!

5. Shiny things. Hand in hand with all of this I love shiny things! Clothes, shoes, accessories, glitter. I believe that how we look on the outside reflects how we feel on the inside and vice versa. I love coloured tights, glittery eyeliner and second hand stores. I get huge inspiration from Lady Smaggle, Already Pretty and Daddy Likey.

Any other questions? Just ask!

Monday, December 28, 2009

love & links

Well the cold slowly descended lung-wards over Christmas and now I am stuck with bronchitus. Hurrah, hurrah and thrice hurrah! Still I scrubbed up yesterday to go to Ma and Pa Yogini's for food and presents and to treat them to a cacaphony of coughing. This is what parents are for.

I'm loving these coloured opaque tights from M&S - apart from this green colour they have red, purple, pink, stripes, leopard skin.... and probably more. The green shoes are handmade by Ren over at Fairysteps. She's updating her shop right now, you should go and check it out. New shoes and bags for a new decade!

So how has your yoga practice been going over the long weekend? Sadly yoga and meditation are not conducive with paroxysms of coughing so my yoga over the last few days has mostly been about looking after myself and my poorly lungs. Those of you who are feeling better than me but struggling to keep up a routine over the holidays might like EcoYogini's hints and tips on DIY Holiday Yoga!

Have you chosen a word for the new year? Mine is mindfulness, I keep promising to elaborate on this and I will. Soon. In the meantime find out why Kathleen's word is courage.

It's resolution time over at Read Write Poem. I particularly like the resolution about aiming to get 12 rejection letters this year. That seems do-able!

I suspect many of you, like me, feel that there's a small chance you've eaten too much good stuff over the last couple of weeks. If you combine this with the treacherous ice we've had here and the treacherous state of my lungs, I haven't had a power walk in nearly a fortnight, and I'm feeling it. Sally over at Already Pretty gives a nice little pep-talk for all of us feeling a little out of shape.

Finally, Anna at Much Love asks three important questions about love. So here are my answers:-

1. One thing that you loved in 2009. Oh there were many things! But top of my list has to be Lyrica. Strange I know to choose prescription medication as the thing you love but my life turned around this year thanks to these little pills. I'm not saying there wasn't a lot of hard work on my part but the Lyrica certainly kick started me into being able to live the life I want in spite of my Fibromyalgia rather than merely exist in its shadow.

2. One thing you're loving at this very moment. Ooooh the smell of spicy parsnip soup which is cooking in the kitchen. Also Himself for still thinking I'm beautiful despite the cold sweat glistening on my brow from the effort of coughing!

3. One thing that you'd love to do next year. I'd love to have continued good health really. I'd also love to go to Dublin.

I'd love to know your answers to these questions dear reader. Let me know if you post them in your own blog.

I hope you all continue to have a wonderful holiday season and that none of you have to go back to work just yet!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

god bless us one and all!

Seven Mile Beach, Tasmania

The magic of Christmas Eve is upon us and in just a few hours I will be leaving work and not returning until 4th January 2010 (twenty ten still sounds so far in the future to me!). Bliss! Unfortunately I am succumbing to a cold so I'm not sure what our plans will be over Christmas now but be sure there will be plenty of reading, plenty of films, plenty of good food and a lot of sleep. And my daily yoga practice of course!

This time of the year always makes me nostalgic for Christmasses past, especially those I spent in Tasmania. I love Christmas in the summertime (even if there is something very bizarre about walking down a street in Sydney in 40 degrees of heat hearing the sound of sleighbells coming from the shops). I received an email from my cousin on Monday just as she was off to catch her flight from Melbourne to Hobart for Christmas. I wish I could be there with them.

Christmas is a special time of year no matter where in the world you are or who you are with or what you believe. Even if the whole Nativity story isn't your thing, it's good to look at this time of year as a rebirth of sorts, in which we can turn our lives around, live more fully, more mindfully, more in tune with the world around us.

So I wish you dear readers old and new a wonderful holiday period. And keep practicing yoga wherever you are. All you need is the corner of a room and towel after all!

Namaste Everyone x

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

carpet on the roof


(a fragment)

(photo taken by me this morning whilst scraping snow and ice off my car again! Excuse poor quality, it was a mobile phone camera and I was shivering - but it gives you an idea)





There is a frost carpet on the roof of my car,
Turning the world upside down and
Reminding me of a time when
Christmas came in the summer.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

an early christmas present


Everybody has something that they covet over anything else. It could be an end to war, or bigotry. It could be a first edition of Keats' poems. It could even just be wealth, health and happiness.

For me would it be one of the original cassettes of Pocketwatch. I think only 200 were ever released, scattered around the globe; those that still exist, stuck in dusty boxes in people's attics. Most of them are probably destroyed. The mastertapes certainly are.

I've always hoped to come across a copy at a record fair or a car boot sale. There have been a couple of occassions when a copy has popped up on Ebay but Himself and I just haven't had the money to justify buying it (they go for £100s).

Then a couple of weeks ago this came up on Ebay. It's not Pocketwatch per se, but it is a 7" vinyl pressing of one of the 1990 tracks.

And until I have a copy of one of the original tapes, this will make me grin with delight. Best Christmas present ever! Many many thanks to dearly beloved Himself for always watching out on Ebay :D


What do you wish for this Christmas?

Monday, December 21, 2009

winter solstice

image from prancingpeacock.com

As the sun begins to show its head over the treetops and the snow makes the early morning silence of my cul-de-sac even louder, I scrape ice from the windshield of my car and remember that today is the shortest day.
Today I let the darkness enfold me and remember the year just gone.
Tomorrow I let the light back in.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

core workout

Our walk to the shops this morning took twice as long as usual due to the ice underneath the snow - so slippy! However, walking on ice does have it's benefits - it's a fantastic workout for the core muscles.

Hurrah to the gods of yoga for my core of steel ;)

Friday, December 18, 2009

snow day

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
-- Christina Rossetti

The view from our bedroom window this morning

Our back garden

The fields behind our house (and this, dear reader, this view is why we moved out of London)

I have a day off work today. I was meant to be going somewhere on a train, but clearly that is now out. But it does mean a day to play in the snow (not that I could get to work anyway, I don't think you can get out of the cul-de-sac!)

Have fun and keep warm everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2009

happy things to be thankful for

  • Teaching again. Last week and this week I have been teaching yoga again for the first time since we moved (about 3 months). Whilst it has rendered me bone tired having been crazy busy at work again, I had forgotten just how much I love it. The first night I was so nervous but as soon as I started it all came flooding back and I thought "oh how I've missed this!"
  • A vat of homemade Yellow Split Pea Daal which has kept me fed during a week when I have had next to no time to cook.
  • Organic gin. Abel and Cole have their Christmas goodies in so we got some of this last week. My, oh my is it good (although of course I can only have one small one because of headaches and falling asleep!). Himself has organic Scotch, but hasn't tried it yet.
  • Vegan hot chocolate (even though, despite checking everything for traces of dairy it still gave me tummy ache - why do all the yummy things hate me!)
  • Binge reading.
  • 100% support from Himself on a new project I want to work towards when I actually thought he would try and talk me out of it on the grounds of "doing too much".
  • The "it's nearly here" feeling of a 10 day break over Christmas!
  • A rumour that (shhhh!) it might snow!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Swan Lake

"[A] description that is often used to describe it is 'homo-erotic' ... but surely just erotic would be a better way to view it. Are my male swans erotic only to gay men? I think not!"
-- Matthew Bourne



I was lucky enough to spend my Saturday afternoon out of the freezing damp streets tucked up cosily at Sadler's Wells Theatre watching Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake (again!). A treat for my mum who hasn't seen it before.

I cannot tell you how much I love this production. Acts 2 and 4 are, to me, the most beautiful, erotic, ekphrastic pieces of art I have ever seen. Dance, more than any other media is constantly moving, changing, in flux. Like the universe around it. Like yoga.

And by casting male swans we are shown their power, their resentment and anger at their situation, their bestial quality in a way that their tutu'd female counterparts never could.

Plus of course it helps that they are hot. Chippendales for the thinking woman!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fog

(image courtesy of Jim Goldstein)

"Fog everywhere. Fog up the river where it flows among green airs and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city.... Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds."
--Charles Dickens (Bleak House)

(meant to be posted yesterday when fog hung menacingly in the air all day, but alas the day ran away with me)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On Books and Dogs

I have been reading endless lists over the last few weeks trying to find "The Book of the Decade". All of the lists I've read have had some great books on them but every single one of them is kind of generic. Same-y. These are the books you must read for all other books are crap. Apparently. (Image via cuteoverload.com)

The problem with these sort of lists is it's all about personal preference. I loathed and despised many of the books that have been seen as "must reads". I'm not sure if that says something about my reading habits or the general bad taste of the press. I'll leave that decision up to you, dear reader, because you see I have come up with my definitive Book of the Decade and to my knowledge it has made no lists whatsoever apart from this one right here (although I would be delighted to be corrected if I'm wrong!).

(Disclaimer: all opinions expressed below are mine and mine alone. Please feel free to disagree!)
There have been some fabulous books over the last ten years and I've probably forgotten more than two thirds of them. Some of those that spring to mind are Michael Cox's Meaning of Night, Margaret Drabble's Peppered Moth, Lionel Schriver's Something About Kevin (I am the only person I know who didn't guess the ending before the end and it blew me away) and Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake (I read the whole book for the first time in Abu Dabi airport waiting for a delayed flight to Delhi. I know I wasn't supposed to but I fell in love with Crake).

There have also been some utterly over-rated books (The Thirteenth Tale, His Dark Materials Trilogy (oh such promise and oh so cringe-worthy at the end) and My Sister's Keeper for example) and some absolute duffers (the Twilight books, The Lovely Bones, The Historian and possibly the worst written book in the history of publishing, The Da Vinci Code to name a few). But bad books, like bad experiences can be pushed to the back of our minds as we focus on what we truly love.

And so here it is. The Suburban Yogini's book of the decade. Corazon by Joolz Denby.

I cannot stress how utterly wonderful this book is. When I gave it to Himself to read he finished it on a train to Leeds. He phoned me from the train to utter one syllable. "Wow".

I'm not going to tell you what happens in Corazon, I urge you to find out for yourself. All I will say is that I have never empathised with a novel's narrator in quite the same way as I did with this book.

Discover Joolz, you won't regret it!
(I'm also excited and honoured to be having her artwork indelibly etched into my body by the great lady herself two weeks on Friday. More on that later!)

~~~~~

Apart from Crake, Himself and Dave Grohl I am in love with a brown dog called Wrigley who lives in Chicago. Nicole is a yoga teacher and general all round awesome lady who raises money for and awareness about abandoned and abused pitbulls as well as having four adopted pitbulls of her own. They are all cute as buttons but Wrigley is my favourite! Sadly pitbulls are illegal in this country so Mr Wrigs will never be able to come visit, but you can see him opening my Christmas card here!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

There is an irony the fact that a couple of days after my last post I had the worst fibro flare up I’ve had in ages! Plans cancelled! Catastrophe!

Hey ho and never mind, we had fun anyway. As you can see we put our tree up and everything is coming up Christmassy! I’m starting to get excited about Christmas now and really looking forward to the break. Our office closes on Christmas Eve and doesn’t open again until 2010 (which is ages in the future, right?) and we’ve elected for very simple celebrations this year. On Christmas day itself we are going to the seaside (yes, I know, in England, in December, we’re insane), then I think we’re seeing family members the day after Boxing Day, going to a dinner party on New Year’s Eve at a friend-from-work’s house and who knows what in between. We’re definitely hoping for a trip to London (I want one of those Top Shop style advisor appointments before I’m too old for Top Shop) and bowling. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without bowling.

How about you, dear reader, what are you up to for Christmas this year?

This week I am also thankful for:-

  • The writing/editing course my parents have bought for me.
  • Pain medication for flare ups.
  • V+ (the recording device on cable TV) which is very handy when Dave Grohl and Rhys Darby are on at the same time on different channels.
  • My lovely life with Himself and the kitties (only one kitty present in the photo though!)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

On living with Fibromyalgia

Learning to live with Fibromyalgia has taught me many things. And what I’m learning right now is to be kind to myself, not to expect so much from myself all the time.

Whilst I was only formally diagnosed with Fibro a couple of years ago, I’m pretty sure I have suffered on and off since I was about 17. At first they said it was “growing pains”. When I pointed out I wasn’t growing anymore they called it ME. Somewhere along the line that got changed to CFS (although I’m pretty sure they’re the same thing) and now it’s got another name! Whatever you call it, in the long run it amounts to the same thing – exhaustion, headaches, a 15 year sore throat (!!) and, coupled with the scoliosis, pretty much constant chronic pain.

Now before I go on I want to say that this isn’t a self-pity post. This isn’t a “Why Me?” lament (because, as I have said before, “Why Not Me?”). This is just a reminder of how far I’ve come.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with is other people’s attitudes. ME has another name in the UK – “Malingerer’s Disease” – and I cannot tell you how many times people have said to me “but you don’t look ill”. No maybe I don’t, I’m a whizz with the make up brush but inside I feel like stir-fried ass – thanks for asking! ;p

But no matter how hard it’s been I’ve always tried to live my life to the fullest, to drag my sorry carcass out of bed and get on with things to the best of my endeavours. There have been times when I’ve had to put my hands up and admit that something is too much. I decided against a long-term dream of studying Archaeology because I knew my health wasn’t up to the 12 weeks a year in a tent in a field digging holes aspect of it all. But if I had studied Archaeology I would never have gone to Australia and I would certainly never have found out I could write.

And that’s it isn’t it, dear reader? Everything that happens, good or bad, gets us to where we are today. Yes, I may have to walk rather than run, I certainly can’t have more than one alcoholic drink without falling asleep and some days I have to drag that aforementioned sorry carcass back to bed. But on the other hand, I have gained an Masters degree, travelled the world (more than once) and worked in law in the City of London for nearly 10 years. And I also know without this I would never have become a yoga teacher. After years of practice that helped me keep my body strong enough to deal with pain and my mind strong enough to deal with the sadness the pain could bring and with the help of some fantastic teachers I realised that my limitations (for want of a better word) could help me reach out to people who wanted to know about yoga but had been too afraid to ask! As I tell my students, if I can do it anyone can.

I have days when the pain is too much, when it really brings me down. But we all have bad days. Right now I’m learning to accept the bad days and look after myself on them, because there are so many good days and I have achieved so much in my own little way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

First Frost of the Season


(a work in progress - for some reason everything I write at the moment is 16 lines long. It used to be 20. Soon I will just be writing a line at a time)

First frost,
Icing sugar motes dancing,
Like fairies skating
On blades of grass

Buckets,
Filled with salt and grit.
Swirling ice patterns
Spiralled on windscreens.

Bright colours
Of scarf, hat and glove
As commuters pass,
Snuggled against the biting cold.

First frost,
Winter’s leveller.
Repainting the everyday
With the fashion of a new season.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reasons to be Thankful



"So who wants to live forever when these moments will only come the once?" -- Justin Sullivan




This week I saw the best band in the world. Every time I hear Vagabonds live my heart bursts. Dancing to NMA for 2 hours is worth feeling as though my sacro-iliac joint is on fire the next day. Never, ever stop touring. Never. One Family. One Tribe.

Also this week I am grateful for:-

* Poetry
* Foo Fighters on VH1 Storytellers (even if they did bleep out all the "fucks" - meanwhile Jay-Z is allowed to call women "bitches" without being bleeped!)
* Desperately needed days off work
* Donating blood (another one off my list). Having needed blood myself in the past I always swore when I was well enough I would give it back.
* Yin Yoga
* Cooking for my family (which included British wine. Yes that's right, British wine! And it was nice!)
* Sunday morning power walks followed by curling up on the sofa
* Reading a whole book in a weekend (I used to do this a lot, I just haven't found the time in the last couple of years)
* Things to look forward to

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Link Love

I am prone to melancholia. After years of thinking I had to be joyful all the time I am starting to come to terms with the fact that a little bit of melancholy teamed with a sarcastic poke in the eye and a big dollop of realism is OK. In fact it's what keeps me grounded. Times of joy in my life are important but like the times of tragedy they pass and life continues in its endless pile of laundry and cat litterboxes that need cleaning. I continue to work on finding balance.

You, dear readers, keep me on my toes as do the blogs I read. So I decided, on this cold winter morning on the fens to share the love (very difficult to pick just five, but please consider yourselves all equally loved!)

1. Fiona Robyn - a published author so always an inspiration, but also a realist as can be seen in this post.
2. Eco-Yogini - her attitude to yoga, saving the earth and life in general is just right - we could do with more of her in the world. Passion without fundamentalism. Awesome.
3. Green Ink - seems to always post something that echoes my thoughts at that moment. Plus she originates from my favourite place in the world :)
4. Rand(om) Bites - next time I'm in Sydney I am so meeting up with this girl for a beer! :D
5. Strictly Writing - inspiration and cynicism mixed in with procrastination. What more can a girl want!

(and a special mention to Just Wafflin' - I love this woman and her funny, passionate very British posts!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana 2

Or a variation of one-legged pigeon pose. That's what I'm all about right now. This pose is my current favourite pose and I've worked quite hard to get there. I love the way it stretches my dodgy hip (which I've spoken about before), and opens my chest and stretches my spine. I love the way it tests my balance and makes me ground myself. I just love it! And two months ago I could barely do it at all. Hurrah.


(if you look on the Google Images, you will lovely pictures of bendy yoginis made of mercury who can get their heads on their back foot. Which is great. But I'm happy with where I'm at).

So dear readers, what's your favourite asana of the moment?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Suburban Yogini's Ten Commandments

As inspired by Kathleen and The Happiness Project.
(Kathleen also inspired me to choose my word of 2010 which will be "mindfulness" - but more on that later)
--

One: I am Rachel.
Not anyone else’s perception of Rachel,
Or an imitation,
but true to myself.

Two: I will accept
that not everything will always go to plan.
I will accept
that this is just the way things are meant to be.

Three: I know my strengths.
I know my weaknesses.
I embrace them
and am honest with myself about who I am.

Four: I will be conscious,
I will be mindful and alive
with all of my senses
at every moment.

Five: I will accept
my limitations as part of who I am,
and work
with them rather than against them.

Six: I will learn
to receive as well as give,
to be inspired as well as to inspire,
to be kind to myself as well as to others.

Seven: I will love
with every ounce of my being.
I will say
“I love you” more often.

Eight: I will accept
my past self as part who I am.
I will no longer
be ashamed of past actions.

Nine: I will always remember
that living is so much more than getting through the day,
and only I
am responsible for my own happiness.

Ten: I am not my scoliosis.
The reality is much deeper within
than even my own spine.
It cannot hold me back.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reasons to be Thankful

This week has been all about work, work, work so I guess I'm thankful I have a job (although I am looking forward to work being not quite so busy!)

I spent half the week in training about new Government objectives in funding for people with disabilities. So I am thankful to live a in a country where people with disability and ill health do get finanicial help and opportunity. I am also thankful for the life I have.

The rest of the week was spent putting the final touches to a fundraising art exhibition which I have organised. It's been incredibly hard work and ridiculously frustrating but watching it all come together for the grand opening yesterday was awesome!

And a couple of other little things that make me smile right now:-

  • Lovefilm sending me the first season of Frasier - I had forgotten how funny it is!
  • Working out holiday plans which include going to see the new nephew.
  • Finally owning a vinyl player again, which means that I can dig out all my old vinyl from my parents' attic. It also means I can listen to 125mph again (which never made it onto the remastered CD for some reason - master tapes lost I presume?)
  • My dad's 71st birthday today (which he always reminds me with much delight is also the anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's resignation in 1990!)
  • A shot of JD over ice before bed.
  • Florence and the Machine
  • Yoga every day.
Good thoughts for a lovely new week for one and all - I have a very good week coming up! :D

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Inspirations

It's a grey damp morning out on the fens and after a restless night I'm finding it hard to uncover inspiration for much.... and then I came across two articles that made me smile.

Firstly, a good friend shared this one about the writer's Bad Sex Award. It made me smile particularly because I found the sex scene in Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong that it talks about one of the most cringemaking scenes ever. There is little I despise more than gratuitous sex wrapped up in literary merit.

I find sex scenes difficult to write and I'm a big fan of the "less is more" approach. The insinuation of sex is far sexier than graphic description. My favourite poem, Byron's "when we two parted", is always thought to be the ultimate break up poem. Which it is but to me it also invokes sex that has been and gone with such breathtaking and spinechilling accuracy that there is no need for description. And this dear readers is why I find the old ones to always be the gold ones!

Secondly, this article about getting to know your characters reminds me of happy afternoons in Waterlow Park, chatting away to one or other of my protagonists. I need to start some of those conversations up afresh I think.

Share your inspirations dear readers and have a beautiful weekend :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

101 in 1001

This seemed appropriate for my 101st post!

I know that several of you are in various stages of a "101 things to do in 1001 days". I made mine back in January 2008 as I was planning to leave my corporate law job. At first the list had many overambitious goals on it that in reality I just wasn't going to achieve. Learning to become a blacksmith for example takes some time and a lot of commitment. Get a grip, Rachel! So recently I decided to tidy it up and publish it here to remind me of all that I have achieved.

Enjoy (the things I have done are marked in bold)!

1. Host Christmas Dinner
2. Have friends round to dinner at least 4 times
3. Rise above all family squabbles
4. Record all family history/photographs
5. Go out to dinner with Himself once a month (26/33)
6. Play golf with my dad
7. Meet at least 3 online friends in real life.
8. Write more handwritten notes, cards and letters rather than sending emails.
9. Swim 4 times a week for 3 months
10. Complete a 40 day Samadha
11. Practice 10 minutes deep relaxation every day for 3 months.
12. No alcohol for one month.
13. Don't leave the house without breakfast.
14. Practice Judith Lassater's Moon Club sequence for 3 consecutive months.
15. Practice yoga 5 times a week.
16. Drink hot water with fresh lemon every morning when I wake up.
17. Stop smoking
18. Make home cooked meals and packed lunches at least four times a week for 6 months.
19. Bake once a week for 3 months.
20. Buy only eco-friendly cleaning and household products or make my own.
21. Clear out clothes and shoes.
22. Have a massage once a week for a month.
23. Go to the chiropractor once a month for a year.
24. Go to bed before 10pm for seven consecutive nights.
25. Run 50 miles in 30 days.
26. Give up City law job by 1st April 08.
27. Take "Teaching Pregnancy Yoga" course.
28. Set up Pregnancy Yoga classes.
29. Set up Mum and Baby Yoga classes.
30. Get "Yoga and Scoliosis" paper published.
31. Teach volunteer yoga.
32. Learn HTML.
33. Take "Yoga for Cancer" course.
34. Take "Sequencing in Yoga Classes" course.
35. Teach on an overseas yoga retreat.
36. Set up own business (set up and subsequently sold!!)
37. Double length of "in progress" novel.
38. Re-visit Keats's House.
39. Become inspired in the Poetry Cafe.
40. Enrol on a Creative Writing Course or join a writers' group.
41. Finish knitting blanket.
42. Learn to play piano (I can now play Happy Birthday and a variety of Christmas songs as well as The Can-Can)
43. Write in a paper journal every day for 1001 days.
44. Have a poem published.
45. Make a scrapbook of photos, tickets and mementos of 2008.
46. Take photos of my last walk along the South Bank to work and put in an album.
47. Learn to crochet.
48. Pay off my credit card by the end of 1001 days.
49. Live within my budget for 6 months.
50. Update my Will.
51. Get my eyes tested.
52. Go to the ballet.
53. Go to the opera.
54. Kneel at the grave of James Douglas Morrison.
55. See Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon.
56. Read "Dubliners" (I think the reason I've never completed any Joyce is that I have not started small enough).
57. Read "Watership Down"
58. Read "Finn Family Moomintroll"
59. Read entire series of Inspector Morse novels.
60. Read entire series of Falco novels.
61. Read 15 Victorian novels (12/15)
62. Re-read Byron's "Don Juan"
63. Have tea at the Ritz.
64. Go camping.
65. Have a pyjama day with Himself.
66. Take Himself to Manna
67. Have a long weekend in Dublin.
68. Have a long weekend in Paris.
69. Grow my hair.
70. Make a list of 50 things that make me happy.
71. Watch 50 films I've never seen before (50/50)
72. Listen to 50 albums I've never listened to before (43/50)
73. Grow my own herbs.
74. Grow an aubergine (eggplant).
75. Paddle in the sea on Christmas Day.
76. Get a new tattoo designed by Joolz.
77. Visit 6 British towns I've never visited before (4/6)
78. Spend 7 consecutive nights by the sea.
79. Give blood.
80. Win a game of chess.
81. Watch the sun rise on midsummer's day.
82. Read a book on the English Civil War.
83. Read a book on the American Civil War.
84. Make Jam
85. Make Marmalde.
86. Bake all our own bread.
87. Read all three parts of "The Lord of the Rings" without a break and then watch all three films.
88. Scan in file and sort out family archive.
89. Move out of London so I can fall in love with it again.
90. Blog every day for 30 days.
91. Watch the stars from the top of Primrose Hill.
92. Have a pedicure.
93. Have a facial
94. Paint a Mater.
95. Learn to play a 3 chord punk song on guitar.
96. Learn to make sushi.
97. After growing my hair for 1000 days have an expensive cut and colour on the 1001st day.
98. Smile every day
99. Give £1 to The Cats Protection League for every goal I don't make.
100. Make a new list.
101. Remember that the only people who have done everything they need to do are dead.

Monday, November 16, 2009

100

Brighton Beach at sunset - by me

This is my 100th post in this blog. It amazes me how much my life has changed since I first started to post here back in early 2008. That’s less than two years ago but to me it feels as though a entirely different person wrote that first post.

In early 2008 I was still working in corporate law in the City whilst teaching yoga three nights a week. I was exhausted as you can probably imagine. Luckily I was already well into the process of changing my life for the better. A couple of months after that first post I left law for good after 8 years and set up my own business, teaching yoga.

Since then things have changed again. Life is nothing if not unpredictable and in constant flux. We live in Cambridge now I work for a local arts charity and make the most of my evenings off. And since the move I have started using this blog a lot more and have met some fantastic fellow bloggers. It started off as an outlet for my thoughts on teaching and practicing yoga. It has since also become my notebook for recipes, and album for photos of my spoiled kitties and a blank page for the ramblings of my mind.

So dear readers, how has your blog changed since you started writing it?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Website

My new website is up and running. Want to see? OK clicky here-y!!

I haven't decided where I'm taking my yoga teaching now I've moved to Cambridge. I don't think it matters that I don't know where I'm going with it. I'm certainly not worried about it. I have so much else going on in my life and so many things I want to do. Right now I just want to put the information up and see what becomes of it. If it just becomes a community yoga website, or a rescourse for yoga and scoliosis or yoga and chronic pain and I just continue as I am, subbing classes as and when, well I'm fine with that.

I was lucky enough to do everything I needed to do with my yoga teaching when I ran Thames Yoga, I even ran a retreat in Turkey. I fulfilled every ambition I had and that is an amazing thing.

Right now I'm enjoying working on my own practice, and having most of my evenings free!

Back to the website - take a look and let me know if you see any glaringly obvious errors. Also if you know of any websites that you'd like to go on the links page then let me know.

Reasons to be Thankful

It's been a rollercoaster of a week and on this Sunday afternoon in November I feel somewhat drained by it all. But the rollercoaster has brought with it some amazing things. The two most important are somewhat interconnected and need some backstory.

Learning to Love London Again and the Return of my Writing Mojo

It only took two and a half months of living elsewhere. On Wednesday night, for a moment, I missed London. Don't get me wrong, moving out of London was the best thing I've done in a long time, but I guess it's natural I will miss it occassionally - I lived there for ten years after all.

On examination however it wasn't London per se that I missed - it was a specific part of London. A part I haven't visited for a long long time. A part, I'm sorry to say, I have never visited with Himself.

When I first moved to London as a wide-eyed 25-year-old the Ex and I lived in a gorgeous flat in a beautiful Georgian house conversion in Highgate. It was like my dream of what London should be. We had parks, we had Coleridge's house, we had a cemetery (where EVERYONE is buried), we had Hampstead Heath just across from us in which we had Keats House. My writing muse had never been stronger than it was there. I wrote all the time. I wrote for the Ham and High paper. I wrote for the local magazine Buzz. I wrote my first (unpublished and will undoubtedly remain so) novel. Looking back it was wonderful (I look back with rose coloured spectacles here of course, it wasn't that wonderful as my health was diabolical - but isn't nostalgia and hindsight all about forgetting the bad stuff?).

We were there for just under a year - then we moved and everything started fucking me off and my hate-hate affair with London began.

Over the last week or so my writing muse has returned for the first time in ages. To put this in perspective I have written two mediocre poems in the last twelve months and that's it. No magazine articles, no short stories and the only thing I've added to my in progress novel is a comma, which, like Oscar Wilde, I later removed. (Please note the only resemblance I have to the genius of Wilde is my constant input and output of commas, nothing else. I would never assume such arrogance!) This week I have written the first draft of a poem and a short story which just may amount to something and have sent off a little something to a magazine.

And so I remember Highgate. And I want to go back and take Himself. I want to show him my past. It feels important and necessary. We're going before Christmas and I'm excited.

Other things to be thankful for this week
*
Being given two weeks' worth of cover teaching for a yoga teacher I hold in very high regard.
* The latest nephew being born without a hitch and absolutely perfect apparently! :D
* Doing a presentation at a sixth form open evening for work and making lots of good networking connections. This also made me feel nostalgic for my years at sixth form and especially the Latin stall at open evenings. I ran the A Level Latin stall two years in a row. Hardly anyone ever came :(
* Solo Acoustic Everlong.
* My new Foo tshirt.
* A day off with Himself, drinking Christmas flavoured soy latte in Starbucks and discussing the future.
* Yoga with my mum.
* Walking with my face against a November storm.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Last Post

Mum sent me this poem today by Carol Anne Duffy, our newest Poet Laureate.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If poetry could tell it
backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud ...
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home -
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce - No - Decorum - No - Pro patria mori.
You walk away.
You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too -
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert -
and light a cigarette.
There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.
You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flexi-Vegan

I came across this term last week, I’m ashamed to say I’ve forgotten where because the lady who wrote it deserves credit. If it was you do tell me because that’s me, in a nutshell!

I have been vegetarian since I was 13 years old after staying with my aunt in Tasmania who took one of her sheep off in the front seat of her car and brought it back as a joint of lamb. I knew where meat came from of course, I’d just never seen it actually happen.

I was lucky. My parents’ embraced my vegetarianism completely. My mother became vegetarian as well and my father barely eats meat to this day. My brother was 6 at the time so had absolutely no choice in the matter (he has since rebelled by becoming a sausage eating carnivore).

On top of this I have always been lactose intolerant. Not in a “I will die if you bring cheese near me” kind of way, but more in a “spasming stomach and unpleasantly icky kind of way”. I have always used dairy alternatives where I can and my mother has always been magnificent at inventing vegetarian recipes that do not have cheese.

I originally gave up meat for very typical “teenage girl” reasons. I did not want the lovely little animals to die. As I grew older I learned things about farming methods and animal cruelty. I became unbelievably strict with my diet. I became a fully paid up member of the Vegan Police. I ate no meat, no fish, no dairy, no honey, no eggs. I wore no leather. I was a woman obsessed! And then a few years ago I got ill. Really ill. It was around the same time I met Himself (a man who will not be vegetarian-ised!). Together we researched organic, locally farmed meat and eggs and slowly I started bringing them back into my diet. Slowly as the protein did its work I got better.

This year I decided I was in a position to give up animal products again but sensibly, using alternative methods of protein. Obviously the dairy’s not too much of a problem. If I do eat some cheese I’m soon reminded why I shouldn’t.

But then we have the egg issue. You see I love eggs so much. I never admitted to myself how much I missed them when I was vegan before. I love golden mounds of scrambled egg on (non-dairy) buttery toast. I love two perfectly fried eggs between two pieces of homemade bread – I love biting into the yellow domes of yolk and letting it run down my chin…. Mmmm-hmmmm!

I don’t want to live a restrictive life anymore. Life has enough restrictions anyway. So I have found my compromise. I don’t use eggs if I don’t have to. I bake without eggs, I make batter without eggs, I make the best sweetcorn fritters ever without eggs. But then, once or twice a week I treat myself.

I do not condone farming and shopping methods in the UK. I do not condone what the large supermakets do to the farmers. I shop at farmers’ markets and organic delivery stores. But my shoes are now leather, they keep my feet dryer and Tasmanian honey is too good not to eat.

Ahimsa
isn't just about being kind to everything around us, it's about being kind to ourselves as well. And that is something I have always been very very bad at.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Gayatri Mantra

Om Bhur Bhuvaha Swaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayat

The Gayatri Mantra is probably my favourite of the Sanskrit Mantras I know. My favourite translation of this is "Let us meditate upon the light of that adorable Sun, May it awaken our spritual perception on the three planes - physical, vital and mental", and one of the most beautiful versions I have ever heard is chanted by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati.

The Gayatri Mantra is known as the essence of all mantras (and there are many many many mantras). It is thought to tap into the sounds of the universe. Eastern mystical philosophy believes there to be seven plains of light above us and seven spheres of darkness below us (as above so below). The vibrations of the Gayatri Mantra allow the body to tune into these seven plains of light opening the chakras and allowing freedom and health to the physical body.

Whether or not you hold with this philosophy there is no denying the Gayatri Mantra is powerful. If you have ever been lucky enough to sit in a room full of people chanting this you will know how incredible it can feel. I used to teach yoga to a group of older ladies and a few of their husbands. When I first talked about chanting to them they looked at me as though I'd asked them to go out and murder their first born. Within three weeks even the men were chanting with gusto and asking me to make a CD so they could chant along at home, such is the power of the Gayatri Mantra. I advised them to get Swami Niranjanananda's CD. I chant on the flat side and with a definite hint of a Lancashire accent - nobody wants to hear that!

There is a bizarre little story behind the mantra that Thomas Ashley-Ferrand tells perfectly in this book. I will paraphrase for now but highly recommend his version.

The god Brahma was planning a fire ritual and the celestial priests advised him of a very small time window in which the ceremony could be performed when the planets would be perfectly aligned so Brahma headed off for the sacred site leaving his wife, Saraswati (the empowerer of all things musical), to follow him on. As the time for the ritual drew close Saraswati had not turned up so Brahma asked the priests to find him a stand-in wife.

A reluctant yet beautiful milkmaid named Gayatri was soon brought to the sacred site and a hasty wedding ceremony performed between her and Brahma.

At that moment Saraswati arrived dressed in ceremonial attire. When she saw that Brahma had taken another wife she was hurt and humiliated. Angrily as the planets began to settle into alignment Saraswati cursed Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva for the parts they played in her humiliation. But Gayatri she greeted as a friend and the two women merged as one creating scripture and writing and, of course, the Vedic Mantra attributed to Gayatri through which Supreme Truth can be found.

Enjoy the Gayatri Mantra, whether in class or just listening at home. There are a few lovely versions on YouTube (good old YouTube).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Reasons to be Thankful


Thursday Night was lovely. The firework display for Guy Fawkes Night was awesome and it was so nice for the whole family to get together for food and laughter - it's so hard to get everyone together at the same time! I felt horribly under the weather all day on Thursday, tired and washed out, and I didn't really feel like going but it turned out (as is so often the case) that it was exactly what I needed. So I am ridiculously thankful for my hilarious family this week. Other things that have made me smile with glee this week:-

* Himself making me vegan "cheeseburgers" for tea on Friday night.
* The new Foo Fighters Greatest Hits, Dave Grohl being on Jools Holland's TV show and also him saying that a Greatest Hits does not mean the Foos are over. Hurrah!
* Becoming a redhead again.
* Having the photos taken for my new yoga website (coming soon!) and actually liking all of them.
* Buying spring bulbs with my mum.
* Planting spring bulbs and reminding myself that winter may be bleak but it doesn't last forever.
* The new Flight of the Conchords album (laughed until I cried).
* Purple stripey wooly tights - winter was invented for them!
* Yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga.

ETA: I can't believe I forgot one - this week I have "met" a whole bunch of lovely new people on the blogosphere and for that I am grateful :D

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thaw


Green Ink drew my attention to this and I thought I'd join in :)

Fiona Robyn is going to blog her next novel, Thaw, starting on the 1st of March next year. The novel follows 32 year old Ruth’s diary over three months as she decides whether or not to carry on living.

To help spread the word she’s organising a Blogsplash, where blogs will publish the first page of Ruth’s diary simultaneously (and a link to the blog).

She’s aiming to get 1000 blogs involved – if you’d be interested in joining in, email her at fiona@fionarobyn.com or find out more information here.

Join up too - it looks like a great book and a brilliant idea!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Becoming Unbound

I usually see my yoga teacher on Thursday evenings but tonight is Bonfire Night here in the UK and we go to my parents’ for a party (more on that tomorrow I hope!) so I went last night instead. We are currently working through the chakras, one chakra a week so I really didn’t want to miss a week. Last night was Anahata Chakra, the heart centre. Practices for opening the heart, working into the chest, ribcage and shoulders.

As the practice began I felt a lot of resistance. And I mean A LOT. I haven’t felt that much resistance in a practice for years. My ego was wild with crazy thoughts (and not very yogic ones at that). As many of you know I suffer from an upper thoracic scoliosis, right about where Anahata is which results in a lot of shoulder stiffness and I suspected that this was the source of the resistance. So I stopped thinking about Anahata per se and started thinking about how I always feel I need to work into that part of my back. How I need to focus on straightness, strength and opening there.

And then somewhere during Ardha Chandrasana something snapped and the resistance just fell away and I SOARED!! Suddenly I felt remarkable, like I could do anything. And for the first time in a long time the permanent dull ache of scoliosis just…. disappeared!

One of the translations of Anahata is “Unbound” and that is exactly how I felt – as though all the tension in my upper back and ribcage had just come undone.

I drove home from class with a smile on my face that has just not been there in recent days (things have been a bit tough at home recently).

And then I got home and the cat peed on the beanbag and life went back to normal again!

I do still feel good today although I have a strange hungover feeling (as I haven’t had alcohol in months I am presuming the practice has had a detoxing effect on me), but this experience has made me remember one thing. I have never had any problem finding bliss, especially when it comes to my yoga practice, but I find it so difficult to maintain that bliss off my mat. And I think, if I get a chance, this might be what I write up for Blisschick’s latest project.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Ifs

We have all done it at some time or other – asked ourselves “What If?”

What if I had behaved differently in a certain situation? What if I had worked harder at school? What if I had taken this job over that job?

There are times in life when we come to a crossroads and we have to make a decision as to which fork in the road we would like to travel down. Often this is not an easy decision and sometimes I think it would be easier if life were more like a Dungeons & Dragons book and I just rolled the dice to find out the outcome!

I have made decisions that in hindsight may have not been the right ones. I’ve never been sure I went to the right university. I have made decisions about people and relationships that have ended up hurting me. What if I hadn’t made those decisions?

But I know that if I hadn’t made these decisions I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I know that even the bad decisions have been huge steps of learning for me.

I have always had a bit of a habit of living in the past, of dwelling on my mistakes (or rather, what I perceive to be my mistakes). I have to remind myself to breathe and to be here with that breath, right here in the present moment. In the present moment the past plays no part and the “what ifs” become merely stepping stones on the journey to the right now.

Do you have “what if?” moments? How do you put them back into perspective?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween


Samhain greetings bloggers and a very happy Celtic New Year to you all :) Reading your blogs it seems you all had a lot of fun! As you can see, our pumpkin lantern was not the most artistic one this year, but at least he looks happy!

So this seems as good a time as any to post a list of things that have made me happy this week.

* Kicking piles of autumn leaves into the air on the way back from the Post Office.
* Scratching furry cats' bellies.
* Watching Himself carve the pumpkin lantern.
* All of my yoga practices but especially class this morning because Himself came too.
* The awesome costumes that the little trick or treaters that knocked on our door last night had come up with (my favourite was the toddler dressed as pumpkin and taking it very very seriously).
* My dad winning the big tin of choccies at our work fundraiser on Thursday and giving the whole tin to me :D
* Pictures of my friend's new kitten.
* Having my medicine cards read by my office mate and them just being spot on.
* Making plans for the future.
* Just breathing.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Attachment

Flo told a joke that made me giggle the other day. In fact she won a yoga mat for telling this joke.

Why couldn't the yogi vaccum his carpet?
Because he lost all his attachments!

It brings up visions of a little Indian man sitting in lotus smiling serenely whilst surrounded by pieces of broken vacuum cleaner!

Joking aside, letting go of attachment is a strange thing. What does it even mean? I guess it's something different to everybody. To me attachments are more emotional than physical. Yes, I have physical attachment in terms of non-necessary items such as a TV, PS3, my beloved laptop (although I'd argue that last was necessary!!), but I'm not so emotionally attached to them as to be unhealthy I don't think. I just like having them. No, to me emotional attachment to people places and objects of apparently no value are far more difficult to get rid of.

I have a friend who has a broken tambourine. You can't play it, it's not even pretty to look at, but she cannot give it up. It reminds her of a time past, a time of joy. Some would say we shouldn't need to hold onto that physical object to remember the time of joy. Others would go further and say that we should only live in the right now and therefore we do not need to remember past joys but instead focus on the present joy within. As for me, well my friend knows her relationship with her tambourine is bizarre and she works hard towards present joy. Maybe being aware of our attachments and treating them with mindfulness is all we need.

I have been working through a particular attachment myself recently - an attachment to my chiropractor. My old chiropractor Zane changed my life. For any new readers I have a rather rare form of congenital upper thoracic scoliosis which for many reasons was not diagnosed until adulthood. Yoga does it wonders, Zane worked miracles. When I moved to Cambridge I had to leave Zane behind. I have recently begun to see another wonderful chiropractor here called Jasper. He is very good, very understanding. But he's not Zane.

I have to let go of that attachment though if I want to move forward fully into this new phase of my life. I have to appreciate Zane for what he was and where he took me. And now I have to step forward on my own.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pratyahara for 2009

Pratyahara is one of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga. The idea of sense withdrawal, looking inwards. We spend so much time looking out, filling our senses but without some inward direction are we just projecting our thoughts and emotions onto the outside world unnecessarily?

Human beings have a definite tendency to look out on the world as the source of their unhappiness, their dis-ease, their discontent. We spend time searching outside ourselves for contentment. If only I had a better job/more money/the perfect partner then I would be happy. And then we get those things and realise still, something is missing. Looking for happiness in external things is akin to “planting an apple seed and hoping to see a banana tree grow”1.

In yoga we stand all this on its head. If we believe all suffering is about perspective and it therefore originates in the mind then it is the mind that needs to be changed. And to do this we need to bring the awareness inwards. Pratyahara.

Sensory withdrawal is not easy and I don’t want to make this post any longer than is necessary. It involves reigning in ego and judgement. It involves letting go of what the ego tells us is “bad” and “good”. It is about realising that how we see things is only our perspective and not truth. And I learned a very important lesson in this on a personal level recently.

How do we approach Pratyahara in our modern world, surrounded as we are by sensory stimulus? One way that has been springing to my mind recently is occasional technological fasting. A weekend perhaps without computer, phone, iPod. I think a huge amount of insight and creativity can come up out of that. There is nothing wrong per se in sensory experience. I love music, the internet, watching Australian soap operas (well I’m only human!), but I also want to be sure I make time to not be surrounded by these things. To work out who I am.

Some people have said to me that Pratyahara is like closing a door. Shutting out the world around me. Ignoring, or even ignorance. But I see it more like a door opening. I feel if I take the time to withdraw from the things that cause my mind to give me pain and examine the root of that pain I am able to cope with the world around me, or my perception of the world around me with heightened insight and hopefully (eventually) a little more patience and mindfulness.

1 from Darren Main's "Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Trying too hard

This post was inspired by the lovely Nadine Fawell.

I have been for many years a great believer in The Middle Way. Balance. In terms of yoga practice, to feel as if you are working on all levels but not to feel as though there is any strain. This is my own version of Ch2v46 of Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras, about finding steadiness and softness at the same time I guess.

In terms of life, I'm not a fan of extremes or fanaticism, I always find that getting too extreme about a belief can lead you all the way out the other side. I try to live a good life, a kind life. But at the same time I'm only human. I try to eat a vegan diet but when I wanted an egg salad sandwich yesterday I had one. I believe in women's rights, but not to the point where we begin deny men rights.

But sometimes when it comes to my own emotions I find balance very hard to maintain. I beat myself up over the tiniest thing. I obsess over constructive criticism. I will try so hard to be kind that I let people walk all over me.

I constantly need to remind myself about balance. Just as I constantly need to remind myself that all that really matters is right now. This moment.

And all of this raises the question - do we try to hard to be "good yogis" whatever that means? Do we put too much pressure on ourselves to reach some sort of unacheivable perfection? Is our pursuit of happiness in fact making us unhappy?

Sometimes I have to remind myself that it is OK to break the rules sometimes. After all, I set the damn rules to begin with!

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Healing Meditation for Women from Louise Hay

This meditation has struck a chord with me over recent days so I thought I would share it.

"I am willing to see the magnificence of me. I now choose to eliminate from my mind and life every negative, destructive, fearful idea and thought that would keep me from being the magnificent woman that I am meant to be. I now stand up on my own two feet and support myself and think for myself. I give myself what I need. It is safe for me to grow. The more I fulfill myself, the more people love me. I join the ranks of women healing other women.

I am a blessing to the planet. My future is bright and beautiful!"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

On the Yoga Sutras (well the first three verses anyway!)

On a yoga day yesterday with Helena del Pino we talked about Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, which reminded me of that "OMG Eureka" moment when I first studied these and realised that it was all right there in those first three verses. Everything. The whole point of yoga.

atha yoganusasanam
yogah citta vrtti nirodhah
tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam


OK so I'm going to try and translate that as best I can. :) We need to commit to our practice and to learning from a teacher (even when we are teachers ourselves). We need to restrain the movements of the mind to allow the mind to be clear and calm. Then we will be able to see ourselves as we really are.

Amazingly simple and pretty awesome huh? Yet so hard. So hard! :)

To even begin to achieve this we need discipline and routine. We need to start to become self aware - we can only change if we are aware of what needs to be changed. We need to surrender - be aware that we just cannot control EVERYTHING.

We need to look after our bodies and our minds together. Sometimes we need to turn all the external stimuli off completely and listen to our bodies and our minds because they contain the real information that is important to our lives. But there is always so much external stimuli. Even as I type this I can hear the hum of my laptop. The sound of my neighbours' (extremely loud) TV. We are constantly bombarded by news feeds, and twitter links and blogs (and yes I see the irony) and music and muzak and advertising and ..... oh the list is endless. This very typically western situation is why Krishnamacharya believed that the only real way to meditate in the West was by using Vedic chanting (it's extremely hard to get distracted when you're trying to pronounce Sanskrit correctly).

Sometimes I love technology. But most times it drives me wild with the constant bombardment of things I don't necessarily want to be bombarded with. It is why over the last few months I have been trying my hardest to cut many forms of reporting and media from my life.

It's hard but I want to find the right balance.

Monday, October 12, 2009

On the role of a yoga teacher

The interwebz have been full of thoughts and answers to this question and it's something I've been mulling over for a while. I thought I'd add my two pennies for what it's worth. This is purely how *I* feel as a yoga teacher and bears no judgement whatsoever on teachers who think differently! :)

I think teachers, of any discipline, are enablers. We enable our students to reach their full potential. We encourage them to keep working, to keep improving. Sometimes our students surpass us. My mother was an English teacher for many many years and got many of her students into Oxbridge - a feat she never managed herself. Sometimes we just help our students move on to the next level.

As a yoga teacher therefore it is not imperitive that we can perform every asana we teach "perfectly" (whatever that means). In fact, in my experience, I have found that my own limitations give my students a deeper insight into their own practice. "Look at me," I say, "I can't do some of these asanas very well. Some of them I may never do in this lifetime, but I keep trying because yoga is a journey, a work in progress". I've always found this attitude makes my students realise what they are capable of, because they can see I am only human too.

Because to me what we as western yoga teachers are not is great leaders, gurus, spiritual teachers. I don't ever want to be seen that way. It makes me uncomfortable when students refer to me as their guru, or even their mentor. I am just an ordinary woman with an ordinary job who teaches some yoga because it is my greatest love. I am just helping you a little along your road in yoga. Most of the work comes from you, from deep inside. Don't become too attached to a teacher or a particular class in a particular place because this detracts from the root of yoga. That part of yoga that you carry around with you anywhere. That ability to practice, wherever you are, whenever you need to.

I am not denying there are some teachers who are able to lead the way, who are able to give deep insight into the spirit and philosophy of yoga. But if you are just an ordinary person who enjoys coming to a weekly yoga class to stretch and relax and meet people and ease your bad back then you really are the same as me. Eventually you will probably strive for more, you will look for further reading, you will self study, you will find yourself being kinder, calmer, less demanding. You may even train to teach yourself. But at the end of the day we are all the same, we are all on the yoga road. We are all in it together.

Namaste :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Opening out

I went to a Pilates class last night run by my friend Katrina, who is also a yoga teacher (so honestly it's pretty far removed from the Pilates if you are a sort of Body Control Pilates type - but it's exactly the sort of Pilates I like - we use Ujjayi breath - very un-Pilates!!). I find I have to go to Pilates every couple of weeks for so to just check in with my alignment again. Alignment and physiology are so important to my yoga practice.

Katrina was talking about the changing of the seasons - I know she finds this time of year as depressing as I do. She said we all have a tendency to close in on ourselves, to want to hug ourselves - whether that be actually or metaphorically. So to counteract this we did an "opening out" practice. Lots of chest/shoulder/hip openers. Lots of grounding. Lots of strength.

And it felt gooooood!! :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Changing of the Seasons

The first signs of winter have begun to show themselves here in the UK. It's still only October but the mornings and evenings are darker, the leaves are turning and there is a hint of unmistakable chill in the air. Not to mention the long grey featureless days of nothingness which are so typical of East Anglia from about October to March every year.

I won't lie to you, I find the winter months extraordinarily difficult. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and without my lamp that simulates sunrise I honestly don't think I could even get out of bed in the mornings. It can be truly beautiful in England at this time of year but I always approach autumn with a feeling of dread knowing that the days will get shorter, colder, drearier. It would help of course if we had had any semblance of summer in this country over the last few years but....

To counteract the onslaught (and for me it truly is an onslaught) of winter, I allow my yoga practice to change, to slow down, to become more introspective. I focus on poses that ground me, that keep me in the here and now and that warm me. Lots of Ujjayi breath, lots of standing and balance. It helps, it is as close to hibernation as I can get. :)

My yoga changes with the seasons, with my body, with my mood. And thank goodness it does because until I can afford to retire to the Gold Coast it is all I have!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Not a Real Update!


I haven't updated. I keep meaning to and I will, I will! In the meantime shadow kitty would like to wish you all a happy weekend :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I got a job!

Yes that's right. Tuesday was a very good day because I got offered the job I was interviewed for on Monday! And miracle of miracles, it was, out of all the gazillion jobs I applied for, the one I wanted the most. Which goes to show if make enough affirmations, something will happen :)

It is working as office manager for a charity called Inspire who basically promote art and music and performance as holistic healing for people with chronic illness and disability. Yesterday they had a ton of kids with Downs Syndrome in making rock music. :) They also work with people with Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Chronic Fatigue, depression and even Fibro - so you see it's right up my street. Maybe I can get them all doing yoga too! The hours are pretty flexible (so hopefully I can fit yoga teaching in around it pretty well, when I start up again) and best of all it is just an eight minute drive away!

I haz teh happy :)

=

I am going to spend some time flitting around various yoga classes in Cambridge, working out what I like, what I don't, leaving my resume wherever it may need to be left and seeing what come of it all. I have a couple of masterclasses coming up with my teacher in the next few months also.

I went to a good class on Monday night - the first flow class I've been to in a while. Although someone came in ten minutes late and then left before savasana. Seriously?? I wouldn't never allow that! Maybe I am too strict? :/

Also I have been working on Eka Pada Rajakopotasana. It's something I have been practicing against the wall for some time. Well earlier this week I managed it without a wall!!! Only for a few breaths and my head is a looooooong way away from the sole of my foot but yay for balance!!!

So yeah, all good stuff!