Christmas and yoga

Christmas and yoga
Christmas… A celebration of the birth of Jesus dating back to around at least the third century A.D., with uncertain origins, but certainly including both Christian and pagan content.
Yoga… A philosophy and practice dating back maybe 5000 years or more, possibly to the Indus Valley civilisation. 
They are the same. Essentially.
Huh!? You may say… How can they be the same?
It’s actually simple and clear. The word yoga derives from a Sanskrit verb meaning to “yoke together”, specifically yoking together body, mind and spirit through physical, mental and spiritual practices, disciplines and virtues.
Christmas (Christ’s mass, or the sacred feast day dedicated to Christ) celebrates the embodiment of the divine in human existence.
Yoga teaches that the deep essential nature of each of us is perfect, pure and divine. Christianity says the same about Christ.
Thus yoga and Christmas are celebrations of the spirit embodied. “Hail the incarnate deity”, as the carol says. In yoga terms, “Ham sa”: I am that [which is pure perfect and divine].

The glass floor

When I was in yoga teacher training, we had a very restrictive structure. There was a set number of specific asanas we had to present, and almost a set script where we had to state counter indications, modifications and benefits of each pose. I can see why a teacher training regime would have this structure, but I did find it frustratingly rigid and predictable.
Now as a teacher in my own shala, I find classes anything but predictable. I have an outline of each class worked out in my head, but I have learnt to abandon it at a moment’s notice. Instead I take as my starting point my students’ needs at that moment in that place. My sequence starts with them.
I have regular students, but every class they have different needs. Maybe there are injuries. Maybe everyone is exhausted. Maybe they are up for a challenge… I can never predict what my students’ needs will be, so each class is a surprise to me! I may have planned a vigorous class filled with sun salutations and side planks but end up teaching a restorative class where we don’t even get off the mat. But no one has left disappointed. (Or else they are really good liars.)
In my other work, both as a kindergarten teacher and a musician, I have come to realise that I can wing it and it will work. (Almost) always. Relying on intuition and inspiration taps into a magical flow where I can connect with my “audience”, whether they are music fans, yoga students or four year olds. I don’t really know how it works, but it does. Ideas always come. Inspiration is infinite and available. It just takes a little bit of courage to step out over the ravine onto that glass floor that doesn’t appear to be there. My parachute is that I can always return to something I know if the glass floor cracks. Play the chords, read a story or return to my yoga training sequence. But I almost never need that parachute. Anyway, what is the ravine under the glass floor? Nothing life threatening- just the risk of embarrassment, an awkward moment when I don’t know what to do or say. It passes.
And the payoff for that tiny bit of courage? Thirty four-year-olds completely entranced by a story I am making up on the spot- yogis looking sleepy, relaxed and renewed as they come out of śavasana- people dancing and singing as I play.
I say the risk is worth it.

New Saturday morning outdoor class! No more Sundays

As Christmas season draws nigh, time becomes of the essence… We have decided yoga may be better placed on Saturday mornings, from 9.00- 10.00 am.

Kick start your weekends … and free Sunday afternoons for family, rest, catching up with people and all the endless events and preparations that seem to fill this end of the year.

Given the fine weather we can expect, we are also moving the class to an amazing new, outdoor location.

We meet on the lawn next to the Time Ball Tower at Semaphore at 9am from this Saturday!

Still only $10.

See you on the mat!

Timeball tower map

A couple of short thoughts on depression

Black dog

“This world is definitely a hard place for the spirit soul to be in. It’s not the natural home of the soul so in a sense we should all feel depressed.”

– Gopala dasi

Australian School of Meditation and Yoga, Adelaide

…in the chrysalis, the caterpillar dissolves into a solution, no longer a caterpillar but not yet a butterfly, and that our transitions are like that too. The pain of not knowing what is to come, of what was dissolving. And yet, you can’t go back to what you knew. You just have to ride it through. I think depression can sometimes be a buckling of the mind under that stress, a bridge that buckled under a heavy load crossing a threshold on the way to somewhere new. It is good if we are able to reach out and know we are not alone at these times, it helps us survive that cold, dark crossing.

  • Unjay, letter to Melody Marshall Habibi,

July 2015

Self consciousness versus self awareness

It is an undeniable difficulty: it is easy (and very common) to be self-conscious in yoga class.
I look at the gorgeous young things at the front of a hot class in their skimpy Lululemon crop tops and short short shorts putting their heads on their feet with ease… I look away to see a muscular gymnastic guy balancing on his hands bare chested, all biceps and pecs, not perspiring but glistening…. if I am unlucky enough to be in a studio with mirrors I may accidentally (I try not to look) catch a glimpse of myself red-faced, sweaty, bulky, in an old T-shirt and sweat pants, struggling to reach into warrior 1. 
I think, What am I doing here?
The answer is, I am trying to Know Myself. My limitations are what I am here to experience. Not to conceptualise, but to experience my edges, the edge of what I am capable of today, in this moment. Yoga is one of the few physical activities which involves or requires nothing more than your own body. There is no extenuating circumstance, no equipment failure or advantage. You simply know what you can do or can not do. Today. In this moment.
One of my teachers, Hayley, hates that stock phrase of yoga instructors, “…if this is available to you today”. (Eg., “…now put your ankle around your neck if it’s available to you today…”) I actually really like it, because it communicates no sense of shame or failure if in fact you cannot put your ankle around your neck. It’s just not available today. Sold out, we haven’t got any left. Maybe tomorrow there will be some. Not your fault if you can’t get it.
Another valuable thought from my teachers was to limit my awareness to the edges of my own mat. To practise Astreya , the yogic virtue of non-stealing, by not stealing other people’s practice. Think about your own practice only, without comparison or judgement. Sense into your own body rather than looking at someone else’s. Feel the effects of the pose rather than look at someone else doing it “better” or “worse” than you. 

Yoga is a way of coming into a direct, unmediated experience of the self, ultimately leading to an experience of the Higher Self, the people we were meant to be, and in our finest moments, actually are. Self-awareness is valuable and central to yoga. Self-consciousness? Forget about it!