Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gayatri Mantra

Hmm, the Gayatri Mantra is a great way to wipe the slate clean each new day, I could do with that after my last post. This is sooo cool, in a slightly cheesy way - link courtesy of a student:

Return of the Killer Shoulderstand

In the last week, two of my students have got sore necks from practicing shoulderstand. This means I have been remiss in my teacherly duties. It shouldn't have happened. As I was apologizing profusely to one of them this morning, she said to me,
"But I don't blame you: I wanted to do it even though I knew I could just do legs up the wall. And it felt good while I was doing it."
But. I am the teacher and I should have know better.

Which got me to thinking:

Kris over at Total Health Yoga recently posted this entry:

My friend currently attends a class with a very knowledgeable woman. We'll call her Mary. Mary has studied Iyengar Yoga with Iyengar and many of his senior teachers for 30 years. She leads a well-structured class and has a firm understanding of how to guide students. My friend feels safe in this class and appreciates how Mary is able to watch and ensure folks don't overextend themselves. Sounds great, right? The catch is that after class, Mary is a judgemental and mean person. This really bothers my friend and she's questioning whether-or-not to continue attending a class given by someone that she can't respect or like as a person. There is another teacher, in the Anusara style, that she can go to. This gal is very sweet and nice, but she keeps stressing the class to go a little further--take it deeper. I have heard this frequently in Anusara--constant encouragement to "take it to the next level." (A blog topic for another day.) My friend is concerned that she could easily get hurt in such a class.
And I posted this reply:

I wonder, does your friend not have other options by way of teachers? Because it sounds like neither is REALLY kind - pushing too hard in class is almost as bad as being mean outside of it.

I think, on balance, kindness is the most important quality for a yoga teacher. Even if you don't know what you are doing, as I feel I frequently don't, harm doesn't tend to arise with a kind, present teacher.
In spite of which, it appears that I have been the bubbly bully this week. I am sorry. Shoulderstand will not be making an appearance for a while. Nor will any other joint-threatening poses. Let's just hope I have learnt my lesson...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Oh wow, more yogi knitters!

Aha, turns out I have loads of great company on the knitting front - many of you will have seen this article from the September Yoga Journal. I didn't because:
  1. I was traveling
  2. I have been a little off YJ of late - too many unfeasibly beautiful people, not enough substance. It's back in favour right this second, though.
If you want more mindful knit-spiration, check out Tara Jon Manning's blog, Earth-Sky-Knitter. Lovely!

And, just so you know, knitting really is therapeutic. Except when you mess up in a lace pattern and can't figure out where things went wrong, so you are forced to live with the glitch. Grrr. Well, it makes the items handmade I guess.

Lastly, I simply MUST have this book:

Greetings from Knit Cafe. I think I might want to knit everything in it. Now. Right after I finish this slightly dodgy, very simple-lace scarf (yes, scarf! Leopards can change their spots, it seems.)

Treat the Individual

So, a little more on stuff I learned at KYM in August (quelle longtemps!)

One day, in an applications of yoga class, someone asked what you would do if a thyroid patient couldn't do sarvangasana, since that is the best pose for normalising thyroid function. The teacher, with a horrified look on her face, replied that you should Never. Never. Never. Treat the symptom. You treat the individual, and just moving the body in any kind of asana practice goes a long way towards restoring homeostasis.

It got me to thinking: it really is overly simplistic to say that this treat this and that treats that - basically like prescribing headache pills. We all get headaches for different reasons, so the solution will be different in each case too. It gives us far more, erm, flexibility in how we structure and practice our yoga.

For example, it may be appropriate for one person to do very little asana and a lot of philosophy, while the reverse may be true for another. I know I have said this before, but when I heard the shoulderstand exchange at school, it sank in just a little more for me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Puppetji. Really

This is a great blog I found via the link at Paper or Dysplastic?

If you have a few minutes to kill and want some light entertainment with your wisdom, Puppetji is you man. Erm, guru. Erm, puppet.
Ahh, just have a look!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Real Yoga for Real People

The trailer for Mark Whitwell's DVD by the same name. I think we all need to hear what he has to say, over and over again.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Isn't this just the cutest piccie of baby L practising her morning yoga? Her mom, a gorgeous yogini currently living in Brazil, said I could share this with y'all!

A Balanced Yogi?

Yeah, I know this has already done the rounds, but it is kinda fun. Now, if you'll excuse me, I am off to work on being as fabulous as the quiz results say I am!

I'm a Balanced Yogi!

A Balanced Yogi

You love your friends unconditionally and accept them for who they are no
matter what their yoga style preference, religious beliefs, or spending habits.
You focus on the good in people and would never try to change them. Almost
everyone feels comfortable in your presence. You live your yoga. You are an
inspiration to yoga students everywhere!

Take the Yoga Journal Yoga Snob Quiz!

PS: Don't you think this picture actually looks a little like me, hair and all?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What I learned

I learned so much at KYM that it is difficult for me to put it into words, but, at Linda's urging, I shall try!

Of course, I learned a great deal from what we were actually taught, but I learned almost as much from the way our teachers conduct themselves. I think this is the great power of great teachers: leading by example. All of the teachers at KYM are very well trained, and receive a few extra hours of training just about every day, something we in the West can usually only fantasise about. But. Far more importantly, they all teach yoga because they really believe in what they are doing. Some are former housewives, but many are people who overcame great obstacles with the help of yoga and want to pass that gift along. Sometimes they take time off from their businesses or jobs to teach, sometimes they do other tasks at KYM in between teaching, and even more impressively, some of them give up lucrative careers to teach yoga for not very much money at all. I believe this is because they are following the example of their teacher, who has lived modestly all his life, following the example of his teacher.

It helps to have a good example. Something else I noticed about these teachers: never a bad word crosses their lips. I particularly noticed this with Shaheeda Murthy, a consultant at KYM who taught us yoga therapy (Always my favourite subject for some reason.) She would praise the teachers who presented their students to us for case studies, and she always found a kind word for the students too. Even the ones who were presented to us as 'failures'. We specially asked for those because it seems that KYM has a much much higher success rate in getting people to actually do the yoga than we do in the West. They do, but they still have a few fall off the wagon, and that was so encouraging to see. Imagine always being able to find the good in someone. That, I think, is a skill that takes years of cultivation; watching Shaheeda, I noticed that her way with people made them stand a little taller, glow a little brighter, and, for a while, see themselves in the light of her praise. This was not fake praise either. It was the real thing. She seemed to keep silent unless she could find something real to say. Wow.

And this brings me to one of the 'new ' definitions of yoga we were given:
Yoga not just as a binding or union of the various parts of ourselves (mind, body, spirit...) but also as a function that we all perform. In the context of the course (yoga for women) this is done particularly by women. We link our inner selves to the outside world, our nuclear family to the extended family (birthday calendar, anyone?), our children to their activities and so on. In order to be an effective link in the chain, we need to be whole, not broken - or we would be the weakest link, maybe even the broken one. And nobody wants to be the weakest link. This, say our teachers, is why we really really need yoga. So we can yuj to the world, just as my lovely teacher Shaheeda creates links with her kind words.

This is Shaheeda, in the centre. Isn't she lovely?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Future of Air Travel


All travelers: Standard procedure, for your own safety and protection:

  • Please undress in the curtained booths and put on one of these standard paper jumpsuits. Place your clothing in the plastic bag, and we will perform security checks on it. We might return it at the end of you journey.
  • Please shave you head and all other body hair.
  • Your luggage will also be security-checked, and incinerated if it is a security risk. Or if we just don't like the look of it.
  • Please arrive 24 hours before your scheduled flight in order to allow us to complete security checks in a timely manner.
  • If you have a green passport (i.e. Third World somewhere), you are not welcome. Anywhere. Go home.

Yoga in London

I am finally back on home soil, after much hanging about in airports, and assorted red tape. Suffice to say that wasn't my favourite part of the travelling, and more on that in a separate post.

I did manage to get to a few yoga classes in London, which was very exciting! Here is the rundown.

Jivamukti Yoga London

Fabulous studio, clean and pretty in a nice part of town, but be warned, it is a 15 min walk from the nearest tube station. 10 if you are willing to trot. I enjoyed the class, classic vinyasa, warm and sweaty, heavy on arm balances and inversions, but the instructor was young and inexperienced and he did a few things that made me uncomfortable. My friend Huma, whom I met at KYM last year, works there though, and so I got the plus of a yoga class and catching up with her.

Yoga in London costs, but Jivamukti has a ten day intro offer of ten pounds. Not bad value at all!


I loved these classes, and went back three times. Amanda, the teacher, looks like Yoga Barbie, but without the huge bust! After the class with her, I felt euphoric, the way I did when I first started yoga. She is great, and I can't recommend her highly enough. Classes are a little out of town, in Uxbridge, but if you find yourself anywhere near Northwest London, you gotta go. Really!

Her prices are reasonable too, starting at five pounds fifty.

I wanted to check out more classes, but ran out of time. Sigh. So much yoga, so little time!