Sunday, February 28, 2010

fajitas and flow

Good evening dear readers and thank you for all your lovely comments about your experiences of dorm rooms!

Sorry I've been MIA most of the weekend, I've been busy moving the blog over to its own URL.  Well I say "I" it's mostly been Himself who should be thanked in abundance!  I would hate to lose any of my dear readers so if you scroll down to the bottom of this post there are instructions on how to keep following.  The new webpage is still a bit of a work in progress but over the next week or so there will be all sorts of fun things appearing over there so do keep an eye out.  I'll be posting both here and there for one week and then moving over completely.  Do come with!!!

We did also find time to cook fajitas for Ma and Pa Yogini at their house.  Here is my second chef hard at work at the chopping board....

....and not much liking having his photo taken!

Unfortunately, soon after this he had to be sent out for salsa which I'd forgotten to bring with me - I also forgot my camera so do forgive poor quality camera phone piccies.

Nearly ready....peppers of all colours, onions, leeks, mushrooms and Quorn pieces.

.....this was demolished in seconds!

For dessert we had another of my many vegan cupcake recipes.  This is my current favourite - lemon and orange with lemon frosting and a few grapes to pretend to be healthy!

After too much food on a Saturday night what more could you want for your Sunday morning than a nice short flow sequence.  I'm sorry this is a bit late but I'm sure it works on Monday mornings too!

1.  Tadasana - stepping the left leg back into wide legged stance
2.  Turn the right foot out coming in to Virabhadrasana 2 on the right.
3.  Inhale into Reverse Warrior
4,  Exhale into Parsovokonasana (left arm stretching up to the ceiling)
5.  Inhale left arm alongside the ear.
6.  Exhale over the right leg into Parsvottanasana (keep that right knee bent!)
7.  Inhale into Virabhadrasana 1
8.  Exhale into Virabhadrasana 2

Repeat steps 3-8 between two and four times and then repeat the whole flow on the left hand side.

Finish with a nice relaxed Padottonasana.

Happy Sunday!

As I mentioned, I'm moving the blog over to its own URL and I would love it if all of my dear dear readers came with me!  So here's how.

To follow me in your favorite reader
Go to Suburban Yogini
Click the big orange button with 'Subscribe in a reader' next to it and follow the directions.

Or just paste into your "Add" window.

To follow me on Google Followers
Open Dashboard
Scroll to just below ‘Blogs I'm Following' and click the 'ADD' button. Then just enter the url in the pop up box and you should be good to go.

Any problems drop me an email at suburbanyogini at gmail dot com

Friday, February 26, 2010

looking back

Caitlin over at Healthy Tipping Point is in the process of writing an article on dorm rooms (or "Halls" as we call them in the UK) and it got me to thinking about my first year at university all those years ago.

I went to the University of Kent at Canterbury for my undergraduate degree. This photo is me outside my college (Keynes) Halls last summer when I went back for a little trip down memory lane. Keynes was the envy of the university back in 1994, because it was the first college that had all single occupancy rooms with "en suites". I put the words en suite in inverted commas for a reason. You're probably imagining a proper bathroom aren't you? Think again.

In reality these luxurious sounding en suites were a small plastic cubicle stuck in the corner of the room. Within this "pod" as they came to be known was a small sink, toilet and shower. It was like the bathrooms you get in Greek hotel rooms, you know the type - a shower and a drain, no cubicle or shower tray or shower curtain. But Canterbury is not Greece and it was rarely warm enough for the water to evaporate. Consequently every time you went to the loo you got your socks wet and the room always had a faint smell of damp. If you ever had a long shower you ran the risk of the pod leaking. Really there wasn't that much to be envious of.

University was a bit of a strange transient time for me. I'd spent most of the previous two years travelling and living in Australia. By the time I got to university I was nearly 21. Three years isn't a big age gap once you're all grown up but the difference between 18 and 21 is immense. I think a lot of my fellow students saw me as a bit of a dinosaur.

Thank heavens then for my Tuesday night yoga class where I met a few fantastic people (I think university was where I first learned Rachel's Law #3 - if you want to meet people, join a yoga class!), most of whom were considered "mature" students. I think university is the only place a 24-year-old is considered mature.

Rachel's Law #2 is to make sure you always have space to put down your yoga mat. That bloody great plastic pod in the corner made it tricky but I did just about have space for my practice in my little room in Halls of Residence.

So, dear reader, did you live in Halls/Dorm Rooms at college? What were they like? What are your memories of them?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

things I love thursdays (8)

* First up I feel rather remiss about replying and acknowledging all of your lovely comments over the last couple of weeks, so let it be said that one of the things I love this Thursday is you lot in general :)
* Eat Love Pray - what an amazing book, how was it that this has passed me by until now? Nearly everyone else has read it!
* The weather was so much milder this morning that I didn't need my winter coat. Joy and Rapture :)
* Working on moving my blog to its own URL (more news on this very very soon)
* Creating the perfect vegan cupcake recipe (more on that soon too)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

another award

The lovely ReneW has awarded me the Beautiful Blogger badge. Go check out her blog, like Yancy yesterday, she has just given up her corporate job to follow her heart!

The rules for the award state that I should pass it on to 15 Beautiful Bloggers but I'm going to shake things up a little bit. Everyone who reads this blog is a pretty Beautiful Blogger in my opinion, so let's all get to know each other a little better.

Post a comment here with a link to one of your favourite blog posts and then visit the blogger who posted before you and leave a comment on their blog.

Have fun!


The rules also state that I have to tell you 7 random facts about myself so here goes (if you share 7 random facts about yourselves in your blog, leave me a link!):-

1. I am addicted to Australian soap operas.
2. I don't want to get married, but get silly excited when other people get engaged.
3. I have two cats, both named after Foo Fighter songs.
4. My favourite film is "You, Me and Dupree" - I have lost count of the number of times I've seen it.
5. I love pancakes - when I was little I ate so many I was sick :/
6. I wear odd socks.
7. For someone who attempts to practice non-attachment, I am very attached to my pink yoga mat.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

interview with Yancy Wilkenfeldt - director of 5 Seed Beauty Products.

Meet Yancy Wilkenfeldt director and creator of homemade beauty product company 5 Seed.

I've known Yancy since last summer when she contacted me as we were both going to Paris around the same time (ah Paris!). Recently she has taken the brave step to quit her job and follow her dream. I thought I'd garner some custom for her by interviewing her here.

5 Seed's philosophy: Our bodies are vastly intelligent mechanisms. They know how to process food, eliminate toxins, move in healthy ways, and how to do these things with or without conscious effort or interference. The more we “stay out of the way,” the better. It is best to use fewer, safer bath and body products, so that our bodies can follow their natural rhythms, and keep us feeling and looking great
So without further ado, let's get on with the interview!

1. Towards the end of last year you made the decision to give up your day job and start 5 Seed. Can you tell us about the signs along the road that helped you make this decision?

Well, first of all, I disliked my job intensely. I love kids, but teaching did not turn out the way I had hoped it would. I began to dream about the possibility of pursuing the other two things that had always been dreams of mine: writing, and opening a natural bath and body product business.
After nearly 18 months of teaching, and literally feeling miserable almost every day, I began to realize that it was time to either take a risk and start the business, or at least find a new job. I knew I couldn’t go on like that.

During the two weeks immediately preceding my grand opening, I was rewarded with intensely synchronistic events multiple times per day. It is hard to describe it fully, but let’s just say that whenever I had a decision to make, I would go with my gut feeling, and would, within an hour, see, hear, or encounter something/someone that confirmed my decision. I also had dreams about a few beloved family members who have passed on, and I felt as though they were encouraging me to continue on this path.

2. As somebody who gave up their corporate job to pursue their dream, I am in total admiration for you as I know how hard that decision is. How do you feel now, a few months on about your decision? And how does your other half feel?

Immediately after opening my business, I experienced two weeks of complete terror (I recognise this feeling! - SY). I suddenly worried if I had made the wrong decision, and became anxious that things would not work out and that I would lose the investment I had made in the business.

However, since those two weeks passed, I have experienced a lot of relief and happiness. I work more hours than I did while teaching, but I’m so happy that the time flies. I love operating this business. I still struggle with fears – it takes a long time to really build up a brand new business, and money has been tight for a long time. But, I try to focus on the joy and satisfaction this job brings me.

As for my other half, he is extremely supportive. He has been hounding me to open this business for almost two years now, and was thrilled when I finally did it.

3. What have been your bestselling products so far? Why do you think that is?

So far, my Peppermint Cocoa Lip Balm and Orange Cocoa Moisturizing Cream have been the bestsellers. I’m not surprised about the lip balm – it smells like a peppermint patty and feels like butter! I knew people would like that one.

I was surprised by the moisturizing cream, however. I have the feeling that most people have not had much (or any) experience with natural moisturizers, and therefore, might get nervous about a product that changes its texture according to the temperature, that “sweats” over time and with application, and that looks kinda funny compared to commercial lotions.

Luckily, my customers are brave, curious, and open-minded, as I have sold several moisturizing creams already, and have gotten very positive feedback on this item. I think people just fall in love with the creaminess of this product, and the fact that it lives up to its promises.

4. What is your personal favourite product and why?

My favorite product is the aforementioned moisturizing cream. I have been making my own lotions for the past two years now, but I could never seem to make one that was creamy enough to really hydrate my dry skin. Last November, I was fooling around with some ingredients, and came up with this recipe. I was so thrilled with it! This cream is the reason I started the business. I knew it was a cream I could make and sell with total faith in its ability to work well! I have used it every day since November, and only just ran out of the original jar today, three months later.

5. You're passionate about the environment and looking after the planet. What or who was your inspiration to become "green"?

Many experiences and role models contributed to my love and respect for Mother Earth. I grew up on a goat ranch, where my parents taught me and my siblings to be devoted stewards to the animals around us. We witnessed births and deaths, and learned to respect all life. We were also blessed to spend much of our youth in a rural area, where we learned to find refuge in nature.

In later years, as my exposure to the world grew, I began learning more and more about the environment, and subsequently, became more and more passionate about it. I read John Robbins’ Diet for a New America around the age of 20, and became a vegetarian immediately afterward. I became more aware of recycling issues, and toxins in beauty products. And thanks to an article in Yoga Journal about yoga teacher and environmentalist, Adi Carter, I began to question the First World belief that generating trash is not just our privilege but our right.

6. One piece of advice to someone on the verge of giving up the day job to pursue the dream?

It is hard to think of just one thing to say to someone on the verge of making such a life-changing decision, but I think the most important thing is to be patient, but be brave. I was encouraged to start this business for the past two years, but if I had started it back then, I don’t believe I would have been ready. There were a lot of small, subtle evolutions that took place (many without my notice) over those two years that I believe have helped me build a good foundation for success.

But don’t be TOO patient. Bravery is important, too. It was tempting to keep going for the semi-steady paycheck, to keep teaching despite the fact that I was miserable. The thought of jumping into completely unknown territory almost prevented me from moving forward. Sometimes, though, you have to take big risks for the sake of happiness. It doesn’t always curl up in your lap. Sometimes, it plays hard to get, and you have to go out and woo it!

(I remember someone saying to me when I was nervous about quitting my job that there is never a good time to do anything, you just have to do it and see what happens - SY)

7. And one piece of advice to make the planet a healthier place?

I think the most life-changing, eco-friendly thing EVERYONE can do is simply to meditate upon trash. How much do you throw away every day? Why do we believe we have the right to create as much waste as we want? Why does our responsibility for our disposable actions end when the trash bin is dumped into the garbage truck?

There’s no use in feeling guilty over it, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest entertaining that emotion for long. It’s not productive. All we have to do is stop and think before throwing something away. Simply become aware. We live in a disposable culture, and finding our way out of a trash-filled existence may be a lifelong pursuit. That’s okay. Every single effort counts, down to the last gum wrapper.


So there you have it folks - go check out 5 Seed, and Yancy's other blog Greenspell. Support this woman, she is a god(ess)send! :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

the image of yoga

One of the very few downsides of living in Cambridge is there is a severe lack of independent cafes that do a good Sunday Brunch, so this weekend we had to make do with Giraffe.

One of the many upsides is the beautifully laid back yoga atsmosphere.

Back in London, there was a tendency in some of the studios, to judge. To judge on the "perfection" of your asana, the austerity of your life, even the price of your yoga bag, the more expensive the better. It's enough to eat into anyone's self esteem and is one of the reasons why it took me so long to get around to training to teach yoga - I just didn't think I was "good enough".

Of course now, as I said in an email conversation with EcoYogini yesterday, it breaks my heart that beautiful, talented and amazing women are thinking twice about training to teach because they are not "good enough".

The yoga media don't help much either as Brenda P pointed out in this post. Much as I love Yoga Journal and it's UK equivalent Yoga & Health (hell I've even written for the latter one), I don't think I've ever seen a cover shot that isn't of very slim, Caucasian women bending their "perfect" bodies into gymnastic postures. Sometimes it's enough to make anyone give up. What about the tattoed, crooked backed women who will never get their head on their foot in Pigeon Pose (and yes YJ I'm willing to pose for a cover shot if you're reading)? What about all the beautifully curvacious yoginis out there? What about the graceful older yogini? What about the non-Caucasian? What, even, about the men?

We need images that inspire us to keep practicing despite, or even because of, our individual limitations - which, incidentally, we do all have. Images that remind us that this practice that we have right now is yoga, that we are not waiting to practice yoga until we can attain a posture akin to a Yoga Journal cover shot. As The Everything Yoga Blog wrote in this post, asana is only one of the eight limbs of yoga - a precursor if you will to the practices of pranayama and meditation.

With this in mind then, we can begin to realise that we do not have to be a certain build, or be of a certain flexibility to become teachers. It doesn't matter if we can't perform every asana "perfectly". As teachers we are enablers, helping our students work to their own abilities, helping them along their journeys, whatever their journeys may be. From personal experience I have found that my students secretly like my crooked back and dodgy hip, it gives them a sense of perspective!

Desikachar says that yoga is "to attain what was previously unattainable". That "unattainable" is different for everybody, and it's time that difference was represented more in the yoga world.

In Cambridge you can turn up to a yoga class in your pajamas (I have a friend who regularly does) and nobody bats an eyelid. Let Cambridge lead the way - I'm a lucky girl to live here. :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

mindful eating

One morning during my yoga teacher training we were each given an orange. Rather than this being a cue for a teabreak, it was the start of an exercise in mindful eating. It is an exercise that can be done with any fruit (or indeed any food), but citrus works well because you have to peel it. I have repeated the excercise again over the years both on my own and when teaching. This morning I used a grapefruit.

At first just hold the fruit, be aware of the vibrancy of its colour, feel its texture, its firmness. Roll it against your skin and feel its coolness. Inhale its aroma.

When you are ready begin to peel.

Notice the citrus aroma getting stronger. Be aware of the feeling of the skin of the fruit in your hands. Is is easy to peel or difficult? Does the pith come away with the peel or do you have to take that off separately? How does that make you feel? Does it annoy you that it takes so long to get into the fruit? Breath and be patient. Enjoy this moment.

Begin to tear the fruit into segments. Slowly. Piece by piece.

I loved it with this grapefruit as I didn't realise it was a pink one!

Feel the grapefruit juice on your fingers, how do the segments feel in your hands? Begin to anticipate how the fruit will taste. Tear each segment separately before you eat.

When you are ready take a few more deep breaths to notice how you are feeling.

Finally eat! Savour each mouthful. Chew slowly. Notice the sensations in your mouth. Notice any memories. Be aware of the fruit nourishing you, refreshing you.

Eat mindfully and be thankful! I know we cannot eat every meal with such awareness but take a moment to think about what you are eating and why you are eating it. I often find, when I think about it, I don't want that chocolate biscuit after all! And then again sometimes only a cupcake will do!

What other foods could you practice this mindful eating exercise with? What sensations would they bring?

Friday, February 19, 2010

early memories (an extract)

(mum and dad c. 1978 - apologies for lack of framing in photo, I was only 4)

My mother used to go to a yoga class once a week. I would have been about 4 or 5 and I remember watching her get ready thinking how elegant she looked in her leotard and footless tights, her long hair hanging down her back. It must have been Thursdays because I used to stay home with my Nan and watch Top of the Pops in my personal favourite evening attire of red dressing gown and Adidas trainers. This yoga, I thought to myself as I danced along to the music on the television imagining what my mother was doing at that moment, must be a beautiful thing. When I grow up I want to do that.

(me with my Nan outside Kings College Chapel, Cambridge c.1978 - check out my tree pose!)

I didn’t have to grow up by much. I went to my first yoga class alongside my mum when I was about 7 or 8 years old and I don’t really remember a time when yoga wasn’t a part of my life.

I wasn’t what you would call a sporty child at school. In fact I was rubbish. Everything always hurt, everything always seemed so difficult. I remember one summer practicing backward somersaults in the back garden all weekend just so I wouldn’t be the laughing stock in gym class the next week, as usual. I never really questioned my bad co-ordination, I just thought we can’t all be good at everything and left it at that. After all I had something that my classmates didn’t. I had yoga.

When I was 15 and working for my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award, I chose yoga as my “sport” module. When I was 18 and I was doing a lot of performance art alongside my A Levels, I found yoga helped me stretch, breathe, relax. When I was travelling, yoga was a talking point with other backpackers. When I was at university, the Tuesday night yoga class became the hub of my social life, although looking back I suspect I had quite a sedate university education in comparison to a lot of my peers. Yoga was just there. It never felt like a sport, or a gym class. It just felt like my body moving in the way it needed to move, powered by my breath, as my mind stilled and my stresses, my tensions, my worries fell away.

Despite all this it was years before I considered teaching yoga for a living. I still remembered the little girl who couldn’t do a backward somersault to save her life. Who wanted to be taught yoga by her? But then the strangest thing happened. My dad qualified as a yoga teacher.

(dad and me on his 70th birthday - November 2008)

Now I love my dad very much, but if you saw him, you just couldn’t picture it. He’s a slightly overweight accountant who does love a glass of wine now and again (well now really). I guess somewhere along the line mum must have dragged him along to a class too and, like me, he just had to keep going back. Before he knew it he was signed up on a teacher training course.

I talk about how yoga is for EVERYONE a lot, but this was my turning point. This is the point when I realised that yoga isn’t about how strong you are or what you look like. It isn’t about how “perfect” your postures are, or whether you are wearing the right clothes. It isn’t even about austere living and strict rules. I realised that most aspiring yogis and yoginis are just ordinary folk like me with bad back, dodgy hips and podgy tummies, with ordinary jobs that on some days they can't stand, and ordinary families who, on some days, can’t stand them. And I realised that maybe I could share my experiences of yoga with other people too, just like my dad.

Yogi(ni) readers, what are your earliest memories of yoga? Where did they take you?

Non Yogi(ni) readers, what is your passion, and what are your earliest memories of it?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

things i love thursday (7)

This week I received the Sunshine Blog Award not once, but twice! One from Heather and one from Jamie. Thank you so much ladies - that made my week.

I now have to pass the award on to 10 people. I read a *lot* of blogs so it's hard singling it out to 10. The 10 I have chosen are not all blogs specifically about yoga but they do all encompass so many of the thoughts of yoga, whether they know it or not! (Also I'm trying not to double up on people who already got the Sunshine!)

So instead of a "things I love Thursday" I'm going to have a "blogs I love Thursday" for the 10 wonderful bloggers who bring sunshine into my week with their brilliant writing. Spread the love onwards if you so desire!

* Brenda P at Grounding Through the Sit Bones
* Marie at Begin: Writing, Yoga, More
* MG at Who's That Gamine? (you always make me smile girl!)
* Kiki at Yogademia (hope all is well in the States)
* Angela at Just Waffling
* Leslie at YogaDiva's Divine Life
* La Gitane at Yoga Gypsy
* Kathleen at Soul Sisters
* Josephine at Tale Peddler
* And the final one goes to Himself over at Iron Thumb. A blog about software development (*yawn*), but he brings sunshine into my life every single day. Boring blog, fabulous man :D

(I know I'm going to get into trouble for calling his blog boring.....)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

40 days

Good morning all! I hope you all enjoyed your pancakes yesterday. We had blueberries and maple syrup with ours (the blueberries made us feel we were getting some fruit at least)! No photos I'm afraid as they were pretty much inhaled before I could get near a camera.

And so 40 days of Lent begins. Research suggests that 40 days is the right amount of time to start a new habit, or give up an old one, and for it to stick.

I went to Catholic School and so I remember Lent with a sense of trepidation. Every year for 40 days the tuck shop and snack bar were shut. No sweets or hot chocolate for us - we were all forced to give up snacks and sweets whether we wanted to or not.

These days I prefer to think of Lent as not so much a time to give things up, but more a time to start positive thinking and practices, or working on one of the Yamas or Niyamas (the yogic codes of conduct towards ourselves and others).

This year as I continue to travel through my year of mindfulness, I'm going to work once more on ahimsa. The first of the Yamas, ahimsa asks us to act in a non-harmful way, in kindness - towards others, towards the planet and towards ourselves.

And it is that last I have trouble with. I spend so much time on others and on the external world that sometimes I burn myself into the ground. Sometimes I beat myself up, compare myself to others too much, ignore my own limitations. So this Lententide I am going to act with kindness in any way I can including towards myself.

What about you dear reader? What are you giving up or starting for Lent?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The reason God made February short a few days was because he knew that by the time people came to the end of it, they would die if they had to stand one more blasted day.
--Katherine Paterson

Tell me about it. I have officially had it with winter now; the cold, the wet, the having to wear tights. Roll on summer!

Monday, February 15, 2010

vegan pancakes

So somehow another year has flown by and it's Fat Tuesday again tomorrow. Traditionally the day to use up all the eggs and milk in the form of a pancake before Lent starts. But what if you don't eat eggs and milk?

Well fear not, you can still join in the fun! This is posted with Mary in mind - she's doing a vegan experiment right now!

150g (5oz) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
half teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of rapeseed/sunflower/vegetable oil
5 tablespoons of water
300ml (half pint) of plain soy or rice or hemp milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)

Simple really!

Sift the flour, baking powder salt and cinnamon together in a mixing bowl.

Mix the oil, water and milk together with the vanilla extract into a jug.

Slowly pour the wet mix into the dry, stirring as you go until you get the consistency you like for pancake batter (I like it quite thick but a lot of people like a thin batter to make crepes). Don't overmix though or the pancakes will be tough.

Cook exactly like you'd cook a normal pancake.


LadyBloggers - come one come all!


Just a quick post to remind you all to check out LadyBloggers - guess who's guestblogging over there today! I'm sharing my "Yoga at Your Desk" routine, so it might come as timely reminder if your shoulders are feeling tense already now we're back into the working week.

It's a great site and I've already "met" some lovely ladies over there.

See what you think.

I will be back :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

valentine's link love

snowdrops in my back garden yesterday

* Have you seen LadyBloggers yet? Check it out. It's a network for.... you've guessed it... lady bloggers! And I'm going to be contributing semi-regularly (time permitting).
* Some beautiful pictures of love over on Sarah Von's yes and yes blog.
* A video of me and some gentle sun salutations (a nice alternative for people like myself who have back and shoulder problems and find chaturanga and astangasana to much of a challenge) over on Emma's Joy of Yoga. The video was taken in my old house/studio in London. Sometimes I miss it.
* The Victorian love story of Robert Browing and Elizabeth Barrett over on The Virtual Victorian.
* Greenspell, who I will be interviewing soon, has some fun hints for an eco-friendly Valentine's Day. Love the eath too people :)
* And finally, not very romantic this one, The Misantropic Yogini ponders body odour over at Damn Good Yoga. What do you think?

Friday, February 12, 2010

yoga for walkers and runners

As promised, a short sequence for walkers and runners. It can be practiced anytime but is especially effective after your run or walk. Enjoy!

begin with the centring and kneeling saluation practices described in this post.

Holding the final downward dogs for 5-10 breaths.

Optional sun salutations of your choice.

High Lunge - begin in a kneeling position and step the right foot forward - inhale lifting out from the waist and exhale lift the left knee off the floor. Make sure that the right knee is bent at a 90 degree angle and the left heel is off the floor. Have the hands on the hips to ensure that the hips are square to the front of the mat then raise the arms up and lower the shoulderblades. Hold and breathe - 5 -10 breaths. Exhale into downward dog again, inhale to all fours and then come back to kneeling to repeat on the other side.

From downward dog step or jump the feet between the hands to uttanasna. Hold for 5 breaths and then roll up slowly on the inhale.

Step the legs wide for Triknonasana - 5 breaths to each side.

Paddotanasana - 5 breaths then walk the hands forward and the feet to hip width to come into downward dog once again. Bend the knees and push the chest towards the thighs to open the chest.

Plank - 5 breaths

Lower to the stomach.

Salambhasana - 3 sets of five breaths.

Child's pose

Pachiomottanasana - 5-10 breaths

Supine hamstring stretch - lying on the back with the knees bent, feet flat on the floor, stretch the right leg up to the ceiling, holding on behind the calf or thigh. Point and flex the foot a few times and rotate the ankle a few times in each direct. Lower and repeat to the other side.

Halasana (optional depending on whether you are doing inversions)


Thursday, February 11, 2010

things i love thursday (6)

* This skirt. This is a skirt I bought when I had my Topshop Style Advisor appointment. It is not something I would have even tried on had I been shopping by myself, but it is fast becoming my favourite day to day item. It reminds me of Twin Peaks with a bit of post punk thrown in for good measure.
* The lovely comments you guys left on this post. Thank you ladies for your encouragement.
* Cadbury's Creme Eggs.
* My evergrowing Amazon wishlist.
* Sleep - even though I have had nowhere near enough this week.
It's been a long tough week and there is still one day to go, so forgive the trivaility of some of my TILTs this week.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

yoga for cyclists

All this cycling I have been doing has made me ever more mindful of the way my body works, what muscles I'm using, how I'm holding myself.

I do love my bike ride to and from work each day (although it wasn't a whole heap of fun in the snow this morning), but I'm not sure it does an awful lot for my tight hamstrings and crooked back.

When I get home in the evening, if I don't go to a yoga class on the way, I do some yoga at home. I've devised a little yoga sequence that's particularly suitable for my bicycle weary bones that I thought I'd share. Sometimes I do more than this, but this is my minimum. I hope you like it! Once again I've done links to Yoga Journal pictures - don't worry too much about looking like that. I don't!

I begin with the centring and kneeling saluation practices described in this post.

Then a few rounds of a sun salutation of your choice if you like.

Hold the downward dogs for longer and longer to really stretch into the hamstrings and shoulders, both of which get tight on a bike. Try coming down onto forearms for downward dog, or bending the knees and drawing the chest nearer to the thighs.

Vrkasana followed by Garudasana (legs only, hands in prayer position) - at least 5 breaths in each pose on each side. This rotates the hips in both directions loosening them up from that bike ride!

Paddotanasana - 10 breaths, you can start with the knees slightly bent and then straighten them as you breath into posture.

Triknonasana - 5 breaths to each side

Uttanasana - bent or straight knees - 10 breaths

Return to kneeling

Utrasana - 3 x 5 breaths each. This really opens out the chest and shoulders - I often find my posture on the bike ride home isn't that much better than my posture at my desk!

NB - people with back problems (like me) might want to try "baby camel". Instead of trying to reach the heels just keep the hands on the small of the back, push the hips forward and open the chest by drawing the shoulderblades and elbows towards each other.

Child's pose for as long as you need.

Janu Sirsasana - 5 breaths to each side

Pachiomottanasana - 5-10 breaths

Lie down on the back and hug the knees into the chest



Later in the week I hope to do a sequence for all you runners and walkers out there!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

the yoga of writing

There is a moment whilst writing when pen and paper or fingers and keyboard become one; when nothing else matters; when the writer is totally absorbed in the present moment and the line between writer and written word disappears completely.

These moments to me are the yoga of writing. If yoga means 'yoke' or 'union' and yoga is the union of breath and movement, of body and mind, then this moment is the union of me as the writer and the writing itself. There is nothing else but the sound of my heart, my breath and the words forming in my mind and reforming on the paper or screen. There is no monkey mind. There is just writing.

I wish these moments came more often. But as with meditation and asana practice, the moments come and the moments go. We cannot force these moments, we can just allow ourselves to be.


Which brings me to a question, dear readers. I have read many, many books on yoga over the years; from the ancient texts to modern travelogues of yoga ashrams; from anatomical text books to the poetry of Shiva.

But is the yoga book market saturated? Or do you think there are so many more stories to be told?

(Naturally I am in the second camp. Otherwise I could be wasting my time!)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

quieting the monkey mind

Anyone who has ever practiced any form of yoga or meditation will have experienced the monkey mind. The monkey mind jumps from one thought to another like a monkey jumping from tree to tree, and it does it at the most inappropriate moments.

In the second verse of his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali talks about chitta vritti nirodhah or the ability to control and still the movements of the mind so that the true self or Atman can be seen without distortion or distraction. Only then are we truly practicing yoga. Only then are we truly practicing meditation. Only then are we able to enter sat-chit-ananda, a state of conscious bliss.

Apart from very brief and occassional moments; one notable one in a hotel room in Katmandhu, the state of sat-chit-ananda has mostly eluded me mainly because of the constant distraction of my monkey mind.

We've all been there, sitting on our meditation cushions pretending to look calm and serene when really our mind is racing ten to the dozen like a duck's legs as it paddles along, producing a stream of consciousness of which Joyce would be proud.

"Goodness I'm uncomfortable."
"I wonder if I'm sitting up straight enough."
"I'm hungry."
"Must remember to buy some washing up liquid on the way home."


It happens in asana practice as well.

"Hmmmm... she's very bendy, I wish I looked like that."
"oooh nice yoga trousers/tattoo/navel piercing."
"I'm hungry."
"Must remember to buy some washing up liquid on the way home."

And I don't know about you dear reader, but even away from my mat and cushion my monkey mind is in overdrive. Whilst looking for one thing, I will find another and begin an entirely new search at a wholly impractical time. I will be distracted by a shiny button and right now the monkey mind is in overdrive about an exciting new development in my writing. Now this is all well and good, but there is a time and a place for everything.

In this year of mindfulness it is more important than ever before for me to be conscious of my monkey mind and at least attempt to deal with it when it strikes.

Personally I have always found focus on the breath the best way to bring the awareness back to the present, to the here and now. One practice that works for me is feeling the breath travelling up and down the body and this can be done anytime, lying, sitting, standing, during asana practice, whilst doing the washing up, wherever you choose!

As you inhale visualise the breath travelling up the body from the soles of the feet to the top of the head, filling up the whole body with energy and vitality. As you exhale visualise the breath travelling down the body from the top of the head to the soles of the feet taking with it tiredness and tension. A few rounds of this breath can soon bring you back to the moment, and the task in hand.

As for the achievement of of chitta vritti nirodhah, well all I can do is keep practicing. Maybe one day. In the meantime I take solace in something Tara once told me. Like sleep, we can set up the perfect environment for meditation, but like sleep, we cannot force it to come.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

things i love thursday (5)

A special edition in honour of my return from holiday :)

* Staying in beautiful hotels with blue bathroom lights (see above).
* White fluffy robes.
* Old fashioned afternoon teas complete with little sandwiches, scones and cake.

* Finally visiting Haworth after years of meaning to. Above is the house, below is the walk down to the church through which Emily, Charlotte and Bramwell's bodies were carried - Anne was buried in Scarborough. I cried when I saw the little stool Emily sat on to write Wuthering Heights. Wuthering Heights is my favourite all time novel.

* Sleeping and reading whenever I want.

* My new tattoo (see above). Yes, it is a possum. It's my Australian sun sign. It means I can carry a little piece of Australia with me wherever I go.
* Coming home again to two disgruntled cats.
* Sleeping in my own bed.
* Meeting Kiki for coffee.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

an interview

Well I'm back! There will be more on my lovely but exhausting holiday tomorrow but firstly, before I can be distracted any further, as promised an interview with Fiona Robyn.

Fiona is the author of several books, including the novels The Letters and The Blue Handbag. On Monday her third novel Thaw came out which, as the regular reader will know, she is promoting with a Blogsplash.

In honour of this momentous event Fiona very kindly agreed to answer some pressing questions regarding life the universe and octupi (SY = me, FR = Fiona)

SY: My earliest writing memory is making a picture book about a kingdom under the sea. I was about 6 and the octupi all had 16 legs. Do you have a similar writing memory dating back to childhood? If not what was your earliest realisation that you needed to write?

FR: That sounds like a good story! I do remember stapling folded paper together to make books, designing the cover, writing the first couple of pages, and losing interest. Thankfully I’ve learnt the skill of completion since then. I also loved books from an early age, Roald Dahl was a particular favourite. I didn’t start writing until I was 18, but words were already in my blood.

SY: Tell us a little bit about your writing day. Do you have routines and rituals or are you more spontaneous? What are your favourite procrastination tools?

FR: I have a wide range of procrastination tools, from feeling hungry to suddenly needing to dust the living room. I’m very creative. I need to sit myself down first thing in the morning, and make myself stay at my desk until I’ve written 1000 words, although that does vary depending on what stage of the novel I’m at. I do light a candle before I start writing. A good (writer) friend gave me the candle holder.

SY: Your first two novels, The Letters and The Blue Handbag, were published last year. How was "the road to publication" for you? Long and winding or smooth and straight?

FR: Long and winding, I suppose, as it took six years after finishing my first novel to find a publisher, but I know it can take much longer. In retrospect, I’m pleased it took so long, because I had a lot of opportunity to learn how to deal with rejection. That’s a vital skill if you want to be a writer. I was also able to write exactly the kind of books I wanted to write, without having to worry about an audience, agent or publisher, as I didn’t have any of those things.

SY: Your next novel, Thaw, is out now. It tells the story of a woman deciding whether or not to end her life and explores what makes a life worth living. Can you share a little about where this story came from and what it was like to write?

FR: The book came from the same place as all the others; they begin when the main character turns up in my head. As I get to know the character, their story emerges. It was quite difficult to write sometimes, as the book is hard hitting, but I’m very fond of Ruth and I hope my readers will grow fond of her too.

SY: Finally Fiona, you have decided to publicise Thaw with a "Blogsplash" in which as many bloggers as possible will publish the first page of the novel on their blogs. How did you come up with this idea?

FR: It’s a bit of a gamble to blog the whole book, it might mean I don’t get any sales at all, but I wanted to make sure that as many people as possible knew about the project and the Blogplash felt like a way of getting the word out. Bloggers have always been very supportive to me, and I knew they’d be up for it! Let’s see if we can still make 1000 blogs. I’m at 245 so far so it’ll be a big push!

To buy Thaw right now go to Amazon UK or the Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery).

Thank you Fiona and best of luck with the new book!