Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day 30 - I did it!

So I have completed my goal - I have blogged every day for 30 days. It's actually been really interesting to sit down each day and think of something to write about - to watch my thoughts and focus on one particular thing and articulate how I feel about that thing. It's another form of mindfulness and I'd like to be able to keep it up, although perhaps not daily! That's been quite hard.

For my last post I'll leave you with some photos.

Firstly the herbs I planted before Easter are beginning to grow (I hope to post more news on that later in the summer!)

And secondly, two fat kitty bums sitting on the sill.

Another month begins tomorrow, I hope the May weather in the UK is sunny and warm and I get to spend time outside. We're due a good summer surely!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Day 29 - Pratyahara

The mind can be made steady by focussing on the activities of the senses
-- Patanjali

As we go through our daily life, many of us our not using our senses properly. We take in so much and we are so overstimulated by the energy of the world around us, but we never take the time to really process all the stimulus our senses soak up. When was the last time you stopped to smell a flower, or listen to birdsong, or taste the flavour of the food you are eating? I know for my part I have a tendency to live my life in a constant state of rush - from client to class to errand completely ignoring everything around me apart from the task I am focussing on.

Most of us our guilty of rushing through life in this way, thinking only of train timetables, email inboxes, telephone calls. We rarely stop to allow ourselves to be aware of the wonder that surrounds us and the things that our senses take in every day.

By being aware of our senses and what they take in, we can begin to have some measure of control over them and only then can we come to have any measure of control enough to steady the mind.

A good way to start is mindful eating. Next time you eat, be it a full meal or just an apple, begin to be aware of each mouthful, how it feels in your mouth, how it tastes in different parts of the mouth. Chew slowly and swallow with awareness and gratitude, taking time before the next mouthful.

Slowly over time we can begin to bring mindfulness into all the tasks in our daily routine!


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Day 28 - Lesson Planning

When I first started to teach yoga I planned my lessons in the finest detail -- what we would do, how we would do it and exactly how long it would take.

Gradually over the years my lesson plans have become less and less detailed. I have learned that there are times when certain postures/sequences are out of the question depending on who is in the class and what the energy feels like. I have learned to gauge what my students want to do rather than what I want to teach and so I lean more and more towards the stance of making lessons up on the spot.

Obviously left completely to my own devices things could get chaotic so I always have a theme and a central posture that we will work up to and down from. Vinyasa krama - step by step.

For example, last week my theme was legs and hips, my central posture was parsvakonasana - working on the energy from heel to fingertip. I teach two general level classes a week (my other classes are specialist; therapy or pregnancy), and the way we worked up to and down from these postures was quite different in each class. The energy was high on Wednesday and I could tell that the class needed a strong practice. On Thursday, however, the energy was quite different and I needed to work on a more restorative flow into the central posture with longer in savasana at the end.

It used to drive me wild when the randomness of life meant I couldn't stick to my lessons plans, but over time I am beginning to cultivate the notion of flux. Just allowing myself to roll with whatever my students need. And with this knowledge I grow to love teaching more and more and more each day!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Day 27 - Swine Flu

I woke up this morning to pouring rain, a pile of kitty vomit and a Googlereader feed full of stories of Swine Flu.

However, it didn't depress me as much as it may have done. Whilst my thoughts are with all those in Mexico who have lost people to the illness and whilst I hope and pray the illness does not become pandemic, it reminded me of an incident during the avian flu "crisis".

At the time I was working for a large American law firm in London. The American offices seemed very concerned about the outbreak (I can't remember what triggered it) and the CEO in Pittsburgh sent us out an email with about a trillion bullet points of things to do to stop us being infected.

Best of all the Americans sent over two huge care parcels. One was full of disinfectant hand gels the other full of face masks to hand out amongst the staff.

To my knowledge those two boxes are still in the basement of my old London office.

A classic example of the British stiff upper lip eh?!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day 26 - Karma Yoga

I rarely get to a yoga class these days, let alone many workshops. Whilst I see my teacher on a one-to-one basis every six weeks or so, I tend to be teaching when other yoga teachers are teaching, so I rely very heavily on my own self-practice, my own reading and my own explorations of yoga.

However, a friend and fellow yoga teacher, Abhijeeta at Shiva Rooms is currently running a Yogic Lifestyle Course, which is one Sunday a month for five months -- Sundays being my day off, I signed up.

Today was wonderful. It is such a relief to allow someone else to guide me, instead of having to be the guide.

Abhijeeta teaches a quite different style of yoga from me (Satyananda), but I believe it is a good thing to break from the norm and to move away from those things we are used to. Work outside of our comfort zone.

Amongst other things we covered Karma Yoga. We were told to clean the yoga centre and I got the unenviable task of cleaning the windows. The point is selfless service. Doing something from which we will get nothing, from which we have no expectation of the result of what we do. It is the first step on the road to Seva - the ability to be that. This is not service, it is a connection with the self, the environment and with others.

And you know what? After I'd got over the internal grumblings of "what the hell am I doing paying good money for a yoga course and ending up cleaning someone's bloody windows", I had a lot of fun. It really allowed me to just be in the moment. And anyway everyone knows I love cleaning (which might actually stop it from being completely selfless?).

We also watched a video of a talk by Swami Saraswati who spoke about working on discipline, mind management, balance and the ability to take a step back and witness life - be active rather than reactive. Fabulous stuff.

Looking forward to the next session in May.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day 25 - Growing Old Beautifully

As I approach 35 I begin to notice the little signs of aging; crows feet around my eyes, the odd grey hair (well quite a lot of grey hairs to be honest!), my stomach not being as flat as it used to be. Like a lot of women, these things do bother me. I know they shouldn't. But they do. Which is why this article really made me sit up and pay attention.

An 83-year-old Australian yoga teacher, who can still do asanas that I have no hope of doing in this lifetime. A lesson to each and every one of us that as we get older we are not leaving our youth behind we are moving forward into an even more rewarding and fulfilling time of our lives.

Three cheers to this amazing grandmother, an embodiment of the benefits of a yogic lifestyle!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Day 24 - Doga

The latest craze from the US to hit our little island is Doga - dog yoga. There there is even a book about it!

The story in the link is a pretty good one, with the dogs doing yoga outside. Perhaps a bit odd, but I can see where they are coming from. But Doga was first introduced to me in a magazine article by one of my students. In this particular article the dogs were in the yoga studio with their owners being held whilst their owners did their yoga asana (what happens if your dog is a Great Dane I'm not sure!). None of the dogs looked particularly happy!

Of course, this conjured up all sorts of images in my mind. From my experiences with mum and baby yoga, once one baby starts crying they all start crying -- what would happen when one dog started barking? And if I was teaching in my home studio I can't imagine the cats would be very happy about the smell of dog in their home!

Whilst I enjoy my kitties winding in and out of my legs during my own practice, I really don't think I'm ready to invite animals to my yoga classes!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Day 23 - St George's Day

St George is the patron saint of England. He's not as glamorous, nor is he celebrated with quite such enthusiasm as his Irish counterpart St Patrick (who incidentally, according to legend was born in England -- but then St George was Palestinian -- go figure!), but nevertheless, this is the guy we're meant to call upon when our country is in great peril!

The story most associated with him is of course that of a dragon that lived in a lake and required a daily human sacrifice to feed upon. The King offered a large reward to anyone who could slay the dragon. Along came Georgie boy and the dragon was dead! According to legend he then preached a magnificent sermon that converted the locals to Christianity and he distributed his reward to the poor.

In reality of course, it is unlikely that George ever even came to England -- he was a high ranking soldier in the Roman arm who is said to have been beheaded in 303 AD because he would not deny his faith.

During medieval times in England the fairy tale like story of St George became very popular and his day was dedicated to him -- plays of his slaying of the dragon would be performed. The Reformation dulled these activities and then after the Second World War St George's day was seen to be a little to jingoistic to be celebrated.

While the story of St George is still a popular children's tale he is associated with military might rather than spiritual attributes like his compatriots; Patrick, Andrew and David (and his flag, a red cross on a white background, has associations with bigotry, racism and the National Front.

Despite all this St George's Day is important. It is important to have pride in the country of one's birth -- to remember the good things about England.

St George to me represents having courage and faith in the face of adversity, evil and suffering. Important aspects of life off our yoga mats.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Day 22 - Sunny Weather

As you can see from this article, we are having unseasonably warm weather here in the south of England right now.

When it comes to warm weather, the English fall into two catergories: those that put on shorts and sundresses at the first sign of the sun (regardless of temperature) knowing, as we all do in this country, that it may not last. Then there are those that might put on a pair of flipflops and stop wearing their winter coat but still have a few layers. Followers of that ancient saying "ne'er cast a clout til May is out" (ie, keep your vest on until the end of May!)

I fall into that latter category. Whilst I agree the sun is warm, it is only April and in the shade or in the wind I think it's still quite chilly.

But whatever we choose to wear, good weather really does change everything. After a long, hard winter everyone is coming out of their shells. Their are more smiles on the street, more people acknowledging each other. And that is never a bad thing.

Now I'm just sending out messages to the universe that this fantastic weather will last right through to the autumn and this is not a quick introduction to the summer before the universe let's it rain on us all summer again!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Day 21 - Letting Go

We talk a lot in yoga classes about the concept of "letting go", but what do we actually mean?

On a purely physical level we are talking about letting go of tension and tiredness in the muscles. I always start my classes by getting my students to scan their bodies, looking for areas of tension and tightness and breathing into those areas, releasing on an exhalation. Then continuing with the idea of letting go on each exhalation I get them to release any fatigue, worry, stress or fear that they are holding on to -- let it go, allow the exhalation to take it away.

By letting go in this way we are preparing the body and centreing the mind for our yoga practice.

But we can let go on a much deeper level than this. As yogis we also need to let go of all the habitual behaviours that hold us back. We need to cut away the layers or koshas to find our true selves and relate properly with others. We need to let go of anxieties and fears that stop us looking at the world properly and at our true potential. We need to let go of all the unnecessary taks we do every day that we use as an excuse not to explore the new. Basically we need to let go of complexity to allow simplicity in.

I'm not pretending it's easy. Personally I'm not sure it's something I will achieve in this lifetime. But these things are worth bearing in mind, and when we spend time centreing and letting go of tension before our practice we should think about letting go on a deeper level. One little step at a time!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day 20 - Knitting

It was a yoga teacher who re-introduced me to knitting a few years ago. I'd learned to knit as a child, but it had been a long time since I'd got out the needles.

This particular teacher knitted like a demon! You could hardly see the needles move she went so fast, and she produced some beautiful stuff. She said she found knitting meditative, time when she could allow herself to focus on the feel of the needles in her hands, the movement of the yarn through the needles, time when she could totally be in the moment.

As someone who has a tendency to read too much and probably watch too much TV I thought knitting seemed a good way to get that "in the moment" feeling off my mat; a wind down before sleeping.

So two years ago I started what I thought at the time to be a relatively unambitious project. Knit a ton of squares and stitch them together as a blanket.

It took a little longer than I thought. I sewed the last of the squares together yesterday afternoon. It was a lesson in patience as well as being in the moment, but it has left me with a feeling of achievement now it is finished!

I have a couple of new knitting projects in mind. Like that yoga teacher said, it helps me to be in the moment, it helps me to work on mindfulness. But it is also a slow process for me, so don't expect too much too soon!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Day 19 - Cats

After talking about different ways women utilise the "mother" phase of their lives, Andy reminded me that another way of "mothering" (and fathering I guess on his part) is the great privelege of an animal deigning to live with you.

I have had cats since I was 7 years old although in many ways I am a dog person . Cats are easier for little kids to look after and through university and my early 20s of moving around and being out at work all day, having a cat made much more sense. These days whilst I am in the position to and would love to have a dog, I cannot guarantee that I will be well enough to give it the exercise it needs.

Not that my two furry children are in any way second best. They are without doubt two of the most awesome cats I have ever known. And Himself loves them as well. In many ways they are our surrogate children (having decided long ago we did not want children of our own), and I don't care if I bore people to death talking about them.

Our 18-month old girl, Aurora, is the black and white one. She is part British Short Hair and came from a rescue shelter when she was 10 months. She adores Andy but took a while to trust me.

Johnny Park (JP) is the tabby and white one. He's just a common or garden alley cat, one of a litter of three that we got from a colleague of Andy's. He's 9 months old now and a complete menace who eats us out of house and home. He adores me and follows me everywhere, even gets under the duvet with me and scratches and mews pitifully when I'm in the bathroom with the door shut. Sigh...
And yes, they are both named after Foo Fighters' songs!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Day 18 - Saturdays

When one chooses to be a yoga teacher, one has to accept the fact that they will work whilst other people are having fun. It's just the way of things. There's no point running a yoga class at 9.30am on a Monday morning as very few people will have the luxury of turning up!

Working evenings never really bothers me but there is something about a Saturday morning -- a feeling of sanctity that I presume is left over from doing the Monday to Friday 9 to 5 grind for so many years. Saturday mornings used to be a time for long lie ins and cooked breakfast and reading the papers and generally doing as little as possible.

These days my Saturday mornings are spent in the company of between 6 and 8 pregnant women! If you'd told me two years ago that this would be the case I would have thought you quite mad, but in fact once I get over the intial shock of getting up early on a Saturday and preparing for the class, I think my pregnancy yoga class is my favourite to teach.

Which is probably an odd statement coming from somebody who has never been, nor has any intention to be pregnant!

Ancient wisdom seperates the stages of womanhood into: maiden, mother, crone (no, I don't particularly like the word crone either -- how about wise woman?). I guess at 34 I'm well into that "mother" aspect of womanhood. However, this does not necessarily incorporate having children of one's own. There are so many ways that this nuturing side of womanhood can be expressed:- as teachers, as childcarers, as midwives.... as pregnancy and postnatal yoga teachers.

I play a small part in helping quite a lot of women bring their little ones into the world. And that is an amazing thing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Day 17 - Power Cut

I got an unplanned night off last night due to a power cut. Being self employed it was an unpaid night off as well. Sigh...

The class started fine, I settled everyone into savasana, scanning their bodies for areas of tension, listening to the sound of their breath and then....poof....the lights went out. Although it is still light at 7.30pm here the yoga studio at the health centre is in a kind of semi-basement, so we were rather plunged into darkness. I had no choice but to refund money and send everybody home.

What with that and one of my private clients cancelling this week due to a child care mix up, I don't really feel I've got into the swing of work again this week at all! Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something....

Project Fitness continues well. I did my second gym session today after two days of power walking. Pretty much the same routine as I did on Tuesday, but with some extra machine work for legs and arms.

Linking back to yesterday's post about music - there is one place where I really need my music, and that is on the treadmill or cross trainer. Today's choice was Black Stone Cherry, very loud! I've always found it gives you that extra boost when it comes to cardio work. Then I toned it down to some Wah! for my mat work.

Not much else planned for the rest of the day. I have the day off today. Like I said, I haven't really got back into the swing after holidays yet. Still I'm sure that'll change next week!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Day 16 - Music

When I was younger I nearly always did my yoga practice to music. Whilst I am a rock music fan, obviously I used to choose something a bit quieter for my practice -- some Wah! some buddhist chants, some Shiva Rhea. These days, however, I find it really distracting to listen to music while I'm practicing.

I'm not sure why. It could be that my practice has changed so much -- from Astanga Vinyasa to a gentle meditative Viniyoga practice, that because rather than doing a set routine of postures I am listening to what my body wants and needs each day and in order to listen I need silence. It could be that as I have worked deeper and deeper into my yoga practice I no longer feel the silence around me oppressive, I no longer feel the silence to be a void that needs filling with sound, but instead welcome it on to my mat with me.

On the other hand, I studied for my A Levels listening to Jane's Addiction and New Model Army very very loud - now I can't even reply to an email if there are any distractions so it could just be a simple matter of getting older!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day 15 - British Weather

We had storms in the night last night so we awoke to a rather misty grey morning.

As part of Project Fitness I do a 2 mile walk on the days I don't go to the gym. I walk to work with Andy and then take the long route home. It's a nice walk along the river and then through the back streets - generally peaceful and there are always cats that want a stroke!

It wasn't the most pleasant of weather this morning though. It was quite cold and the air was really damp. Oddly that is the sort of weather I love the most. When I lived in Australia I missed those grey damp British days more than anything. Island weather. Call me insane, but that is just the way it is.

It's fresh and invigorating and the damp haziness changes the sights and smells around you. I find walking a very meditative experience and different weather always leads to different walking meditations.

I have a new Yoga Therapy client this afternoon. I am looking again at working on pawanmuktasana with her.

Namaste yogis - have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Day 14 - Project Fitness

Back in the days when I did full Primary Series three or four times a week I used to think of yoga as exercise as well as a moving meditation. These days as a Viniyoga teacher and practitioner, my practice has become much slower, more meditation, more healing. It stretches and tones, it calms and heals, it makes me breathe more evenly, but it doesn't really make me sweat!

So, as my health begins to take an upturn I have begun Project Fitness. I've written myself a programme to allow myself to gently and slowly raise my fitness levels (one of the best things about being a trained fitness instructor is one doesn't have to pay a personal trainer - I just shout at myself whilst I'm on the cross-trainer instead!), because I am determined to get better. My health has become too much a part of me and I know longer want to be defined by my health. Fibromyalgia is not who I am, it is merely a word.

So this morning I did:-

20 minutes on the x-trainer (3km, heart rate of 160)
10 minutes of weights
15 minutes of stretching
Short swim
Lounging in the jacuzzi (this is the best bit).

I'm hoping to do this twice a week, and then take a two mile power walk outside the other three days.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed a good workout. I've missed it. I've missed feeling like this. I'm so happy to be rediscovering my fitness levels (which really aren't as bad as I thought). A good workout is meditative and healing in it's own way -- and I think the balance between a yoga practice and a cardio programme works well.

Plus as yogis we know so much more about the importance of stretching and releasing the muscles, so hopefully the muscle aches will be at a minimum!


Monday, April 13, 2009

Day 13 - Coming Home

We came back home to Surrey today after a lovely Easter weekend at my parents' in Cambridge.

No matter how wonderful a break or holiday is, there is something very joyful about coming back to your own home, your own space (even if the cats have made a major mess whilst you've been gone!).

Coming home always reminds me of getting on my mat. It doesn't matter where my mat is but that rectangle of pink (yes my mat's pink), is my home and my space and when I lie down on it, as I do at the beginning of every practice, I always have a feeling of everything coming together; physically, mentally, emotionally.

By beginning each day with this feeling of coming home, I am always in a place to set forth on whatever adventure the day might hold!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Day 12 - Beginning Again

Whatever your religious/spiritual beliefs, this time of year is perfect for new beginnings. As the birds lay eggs, the trees sprout blossoms and flowers come into bloom it's a great time to change, from giving up an old habit or taking up a new hobby to turning over a whole new leaf of your life.

Over the last few weeks things have been coming together healthwise for me so my new beginning for after the Easter break is to get back on the cross trainer and work on my aerobic fitness. Slowly but surely I hope to be able to get back into running relatively short distances over the next year. I'm really excited and have been working on a new fitness plan that allows me to work in stages whilst pacing myself and making sure I'm not doing too much. Combining this with my yoga practice and enough rest and I'm hoping to get myself better :)

Sometimes something bad has to happen to us for us to make a change for the good. Sometimes we have to see even those bad things as a blessing, because without a Good Friday there can be no Easter Sunday.

Have a wonderful day yogis and yoginis!


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 11 - Feeling Good

I'm having a good day today. One of those days when everything just falls into place. Most yogis of my acquaint admit these days don't happen as often as perhaps they ought to, but when they do happen they are a joy to behold.

We're still staying with my parents so my morning yoga practice was in their front room -- usually when I practice in a new space things don't always feel quite right, but this morning my practice and my breath flowed into one another and my time on my mat flew by!

After breakfast, we went to the morning showing of The Boat that Rocked. I love the morning showings as the cinema is always empty! We shared the screen with just two older women who were overheard afterwards talking about the memories the film brough back. It's about pirate radio in the 1960s and about standing up for what you believe in. It's also very very funny and has Rhys Darby in it, a current hero of mine :)

Now I'm curled up on the sofa with tea and books and my family around me and all is well with the world.

As I said, these days don't always happen -- but surely the key is to always remember that they *do* happen. And on those bad days, when we're panic-stricken or sad or bored, we can remember that sometimes everything does just click, and maybe by remembering and visualising those great days we can make them more frequent.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Day 10 - Being in the Moment

After years of practice, it becomes relatively easy to be in the moment when you are on your mat. Each breath and each posture follow one another easily and on most days my mind stays on my practice, and the rhythms of my body.

However, when it comes to being off the mat our ability to stay in the moment depletes! How many times each day do you find yourself wishing you'd done something in your past (immediate or further back) differently? How many times do you find yourself planning for an imagined future - wishing away the now for some time when everything is bound to be better?

This was brought home to me particularly yesterday as I drove 100 miles north to Cambridge to see my parents for the Bank Holiday weekend. It being the day before the long weekend, the world and his wife were off in their cars and we had a 2 hour delay on the M25.

I spent most of this 2 hour delay either declaring how bored I was, wishing I had never left or wishing I was in Cambridge already. There probably wasn't a single point in the whole 2 hours when I allowed myself to be in the moment. Yes, the M25 isn't the nicest place on earth but I was alone with my beloved listening to some very good music. And really, that's not a bad place to be is it?

Sometimes it's important to look past the frustrations of the now and find the good parts within those frustrations. The past and future do not truly exist; all we have is right now and we need to make the most of it.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Day 9 - Easter Baking

This is going to be a bit of a fly-by post, and not really about yoga (unless you count eating cakes and chocolate with mindfulness a form of yoga off the mat!) as I'm off to Cambridge to see my parents in a few minutes, but I thought I'd leave you with some pictures.

Firstly, the herbs I planted yesterday:
We planted, rosemary, thyme, chives and basil (the first three need to be wrapped in plastic for the first two weeks).

Then we did a bit of Easter baking - we made chocolate cornflake nests and sheep cupcakes!

Hope everyone out there has a great Easter weekend!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Day 8 - Doing Nothing

Some days you plan a whole heap of stuff to do and then... well... for various reasons you just don't do it. And it turns out to be better than the stuff you planned.

Today was one of those days. We'd planned shopping, cinema and dinner out. We ended up having a lovely day at home enjoying the good weather and some time doing absolutely nothing.

I did my morning yoga practice, had a bike ride in the sun and baked some Easter goodies to take to my parents' house tomorrow (pictures to follow tomorrow when the icing has been done)!

I also planted some basil, thyme, rosemary and chives in the garden.

The day was slow enough for me to take in the little things; the warmth of the sunshine, the sound of birdsong. That sense of slow rarely happens off my yoga mat.

I learned today that sometimes a negative thing that puts all the day's plans out of kilter, can turn into a positive thing if you just keep living your yoga off your mat.

And to finish up today, a couple of photos of my insane cats in a bag!!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Day 7 - Counting Blessings

I self practice every morning. I wake up, have a cup of hot water and lemon and get on my mat. I'm incredibly lucky in that I can do this at 7am every day. I am a morning practice person. I really need that time, first thing, to collect my thoughts, to awaken my body, to move my spirit, to prepare for the day.

It has not ever been thus. Before I gave up work I had to be on a train to work by 7.55am. I had two choices, get out of bed at ridiculous o'clock or miss my yoga (as I was teaching most evenings directly after finishing my day job, evening practice really wasn't an option). Five mornings out of ten I didn't get out of bed in time. Whilst I learned a lot about "yoga off the mat" during this time and came to relish those three or four self practices I got each week, nothing beats knowing that very little is going to come between me and my mat at 7am each day (unless you count two kitties twirling in and out of my downward dog!)

My morning practice makes the stresses of daily life that little bit more bearable -- and on days like today when I've had a rather unpleasant day, that means so much.

So today I remember how blessed I am that I am able to be on my mat rather than a commuter train each morning!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Day 6 - Loves and Hates

Like every Yogini I have yoga asana that I love and yoga asana that I hate.

My personal nemisis are backbends. Strong backbends such as chakrasana and full unmodified utrasana are big no-nos for me because of my scoliosis. These asana put too much pressure on my thoracic spine and end up doing more harm than good.

However, I do need backbends within my practice to open up my chest -- one of the problems with thoracic scoliosis is a tendency to slouch into the chest so chest openers rather than strong backbends are the way forward. Whilst I really do have to persuade myself into them I do find a gentle Setu Bhandasana or Salambhasana very helpful. Some days I'm even up for a modified utrasana (with my hands on my lower back rather than my heels).

Working through modifications for back problems such as scoliosis and fatigue problems such as CFS and Fibromyalgia has been one of the highlights of my career thus far as a yoga teacher - I cannot tell you how liberating it is to find a way of modifying a posture to gain the benefits without putting the body under strain.

But what are my loves when it comes to yoga asana? Well I love anything that works on elongating the spine and sides of the waist and works on lifting out of the hips whilst grounding through the feet:- balances such as vrkasana for example, or vertical standing poses such as virabhadrasana 1 (although personally I would say the stance in that picture is way too wide!)

But my all time favourite yoga pose has to be Downward Dog. I am happy to hang there for breath after breath, releasing and releasing and releasing into my crooked spine :)

Sometimes it's good to think about those poses we dread - very often the body needs what it least wants.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day 5 - New World Order

The week of the G20 Summit I propose my own New World Order:-

I yearn for a dawn, a dawn most blessed
when every child has protection and is cherished;
every fist opened, every caress for giving not taking;
every clenched heart that hits out be melted;
every mouth fed, every head sheltered;
where weapons would be beaten once and for all into plough shares;
where difference could be celebrated
as the walls of dogma and division come down;
where broken relationships may be restored;
and unspoken family members hold each other in long embrace
--Tess Ward

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day 4 - Nearly holiday!

I have just finished teaching my Saturday morning pregnancy yoga class - 6 round women this morning, and in a particularly rowdy mood. Took me ages to settle them to get started and they bordered on the hysterical whilst we were doing partner squats! Must be something in the air - everything is in full bloom and the air smells of sunshine and spring. Spirits are lifting from the dull days of winter.

So now, time for some lunch before a private session with a client this afternoon. She is one of my regulars from my Wednesday night class who comes about once a month to work on her own self practice. She likes to pay particular attention to core strength so I incorporate quite a bit of Pilates into her sessions.

Once she goes I have no more classes or clients until Tuesday 14th April. Whilst I love teaching, I love time off just as much. It helps me gain that perspective I was talking about.

I hope it is beautiful spring weather for all of you.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Day 3

This morning I taught my last class at The Mulberry Centre, where I teach volunteer yoga to people with/recovering from/caring for someone with cancer. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my schedule has spiralled out of control and I've had to cut back on a few classes. I've chosen this particular class less because it doesn't pay (that's really not a huge issue) and more because it involves a nearly 2hr round trip in the car which really depletes me of spoons!

Word had got around that it was my last class and nearly everyone I've ever taught there turned up! It's not a huge room so it was a bit of a squish, but we had a lot of fun and worked on pranayama and meditation. It was so incredibly moving and humbling to see so many amazing people coming to me for their yoga - and thanking me afterward for everything I had given them. Some of them had all sorts of advice/tips for living with fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue as well - although I'm not quite sure how that bit of information got out into the public domain!!

Speaking of the fibromyalgia, I had my follow up appointment with my GP today to get the prescription for the Lyrica (for reasons I cannot understand, you need 2 doctors say so before you can get it). I picked it up from the chemist today - although there were only 10 tablets in the whole of Surbiton and I was prescribed 84. I have to go back for the rest next week.

Because they can cause drowsiness at first I'm going to start taking them Saturday night as I'm teaching pregnancy yoga tomorrow morning. It seems somehow serendipitous that I have all of next week off in which to get used to the drowsy feeling!

So I think that's it for today - have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day 2

My Wednesday night class is usually an intermediates vinyasa flow class. I tend to get between 7 and 10 people (and believe me, the size of that room, 10 is pushing it!); last night due to holidays and sickness I only had 3. Three very exhausted students and one equally exhausted teacher! I always find the clocks going forward leaves everyone slightly jetlagged.

We decided to take a break from the norm and work on a more yin than yang practice. I started with some focussed breathing practices, letting go of the day with the breath and drawing in energy; and then followed with my current favourite - the Pawanmuktasana series. Moving on to postures on all fours, some gentle sun salutations and standing postures focussing around the Warrior series.

Returning to all fours and gentle backbends before coming into child's pose for complete release.

I finished the sequence with some seated postures (holding twists and forward bends for longer than usual to release both tensions and emotions), some supine hip openers and Nadi Sodana before coming into a Yoga Nidra.

My students' verdict?

"Oh I'll sleep well tonight" :-)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Blog every day of April

I am about half way through one of those 101 things in 1001 days goal lists.

One of my goals is to blog every day for a month. The point of this is not the random drivel and brain dumps that I do over on Live Journal but to actually blog about something with a point every day for a month. So I've decided to do it here and write about yoga.

I feel that since giving up work to teach yoga I've lost some of my perspective. I feel that writing about my practice, my teaching, my thoughts, my feelings both on and off the mat will help me to get back some of that perspective and also refresh me, inspire me in my practice and my lesson planning. I just want to find my yoga"ness" again. I feel tired and jaded and I don't want this to become just another job.

This is my last week of teaching before I have 10 days off - I'm hoping my time off will be conducive to finding my "ness" again as well.

On Tuesday nights I teach a small gentle yoga class from my home studio. It's mostly older people (a pretty equal balance of men and women), who are just looking to keep flexible and strong. I really love teaching this class; because of the nature of the clientele I tend to teach the most pranayama, meditation and chanting in this class and we always end with a full Yoga Nidra. That's if you can get them all to stop gossiping for long enough to get started in the first place! They are a really lovely group, full of life and adventure - they make me look forward to my 50s and 60s!

Last night was the last Tuesday night for a couple of weeks. We worked mostly around the various Pawanmuktasana series from the Bihar Yoga school along with some standing and seated poses to open up and bring energy into the whole body. I finished with Nadi Sodana, chanting and full Yoga Nidra. Hopefully that will keep them going for a couple of weeks!