Classes resume Tuesday 15th January at 6.30 pm o’clock of the evening.
Looking forward to seeing everyone then!
Classes resume Tuesday 15th January at 6.30 pm o’clock of the evening.
Looking forward to seeing everyone then!
Well, we don’t know. Luckily, from a yoga perspective, it isn’t important.
Yoga is not about the shapes, it’s about awareness. First thing to realise is, it’s your practice. Not anybody else’s. Just like it’s your body, not anybody else’s. Some people are superflexi, that’s how they are made. Some people are not, that’s how they are made. Real physiology comes into play here, size and shape of bones, tendons etc. So it is quite possible that you will never touch your head to your knees in utthita paschimottasana. The good new is, that’s okay.
Regularly practising yoga WILL improve your flexibility and range of motion. It will also calm you and contribute to your quality of life. One of the yogic virtues I recommend to my students is santosha. This is the practice of active contentment. Therefore, when in seated forward bend, don’t think, “oh when will my head touch my knees?”. Instead focus on the physical sensation present in that moment for you, notice where your body is tight (I’m guessing lower back and hamstrings), and being okay with that. You are alive, you are conscious, you are free to practise yoga. All amazing things, and all enough for now.
Be in the present moment. Enjoy it. It’s all a gift.
Photo courtesy of Nina Mel
Creativity is the first principle of the universe.
In our world, creativity is under threat. Regulations intended to protect us from catastrophe such as terrorist activities effectively curtail our human rights. Similarly, policies and procedures intended to provide safety at work or assist productivity have become so much more important than the work itself. The necessity of conforming to an established practice and of being able to prove that you have override the impulse to innovate. In our current social climate, the rule is conform or be thrown out.
But this runs counter the very nature of the creation we live in. We can equally say it runs counter to the very creation of nature we live in. Let’s trace it back to an origin story, say, the Big Bang. Science admits of neither time nor space before this proposed moment of beginning. So isn’t that the ultimate word in creativity? That time and space themselves should spontaneously arise out of nothing? And at the same moment all the laws of physics, known and unknown, are set.
From here we come to the formation of stars from one or two elements, helium and hydrogen. From clouds of hot plasma, distinct, individual dynamic suns. Billions of them. As some of them explode as super novae they give rise to all the elements we know in a creative riot of nuclear fusion.
And those elements combine in literally countless ways within molecules, eventually producing self-replicating life forms, and, ultimately, us. We are star dust.
Any creative act we do, not only in an expression of an art form, but any creative solution to a problem, any creative way of offering service to a living being, or to maintain the integrity of our natural environment, is completely in line with the nature of the universe as a whole. Creativity is the way of things. It is the reason we are here.
So follow your creative impulses, knowing that you are in flow with the core of all that is.
What is yin yoga?
Yin yoga is a super-slow form of yoga, involving seated or reclined poses which are held for at least two to five minutes each.
Some say yin is a modern variant of Hatha yoga, initiated and developed since the 1970s in America. Others say that which we are now calling yin yoga is in fact closer to the original practice of the yoga asanas, which are thought to date back at least 5000 years. (1)
The theory is that you apply load to connective tissue such as ligaments and the fascia, which is the sheath which covers all muscle tissue, in order to increase flexibility.
A second focus within yin yoga is clearing the “meridians”- the channels carrying Qi (chi), the vital energy or life force, through the body. The map used for these meridians is the same used in acupuncture. Therefore you can have a sequence to promote kidney health, for example. Although this concept is drawn from Taoism and Chinese medicine, it is also found in yoga’s “Nadis”, or energy pathways through the body which carry prana, the yogic name for life force.
Because you hold the poses for extended periods, you are not expected to put as much muscular effort into each pose. We want the emphasis to remain on working with the fascia, and other deeper tissue beneath the muscle layer. You just put yourself into a position and stay there. There is less emphasis on alignment than there is in more flow-style yoga.
A third benefit of the yin approach is that it is very contemplative. It can be especially good for those who say “Oh, I can’t meditate, I’ve got a monkey mind”. Because we are tasking the body with sometimes taxing holds-and it’s fascinating how something you can do easily for 20 seconds becomes almost impossible after four minutes!- the mind can and must slow down. We maintain focus and develop patience and resolve.
Yin sequences will be offered at Shala Om from time to time within our usual schedule during 2017.
(1)”The practice of holding yoga postures or asanas for extended periods of time has always been a significant part of traditional yoga practice, both in the hatha yoga tradition of India and in the Taoist yoga tradition of the greater China area. Some regard Yin yoga as the oldest form of hatha yoga, since it is an effective method of physical conditioning for prolonged sitting in meditation, which was the principal concern of ancient yogic practitioners.”
Article ©2017 Unjay
There is nothing more powerful than an idea.
There is nothing more dangerous than a human with a belief that their idea is absolute truth.
To be certain is to be out of touch with reality- because we must know we cannot with certainty know anything.
Astrophysics tells us this. Particle physics tells us this. The world’s biggest machine, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, was built to find out what stuff is made of at the most basic level. And we still don’t know for sure.
So, choose. Choose honestly and wisely what your faith, what your picture of the Universe, is. And act as though you are right but be open to being wrong.
In light of this understanding I approach yoga or meditation. Without dogma. Without a guru.
My friend Vani is from the rich, ancient culture of India and has a legitimate direct transmission of practice from her guru.
I am from no particular culture, or no single culture anyway. And although I sometimes envy people like Vani who know where they fit and who their people are, I think my situation is more representative of the current age. The age of individualism.
Western European culture has been elevating the individual above the collective since at least The Renaissance, arguably since the High Middle Ages. That’s five or six hundred years of social, philosophical and spiritual evolution. And we have lost a lot in the course of that evolution. Westerners are more isolated, lonely and depressed than ever before. But we have gained the ability to stand on our own and say, “This I believe; this is me.” And that is empowering.
It is when we have no belief, take no position, that we fail so miserably. Then we fall between a place of community and individual faith. It is then that society degenerates into a hopeless, chaotic, alienating dystopia.
I think that, moving into the future, we are going to be ever more discarding the received authority of traditional cultures, traditions, social structures and religions. This can be frightening and so there is a temptation to join the backlash of the backward-looking. The offer of the certainty of the past through right-wing political nostalgia, fundamentalist religious beliefs, nationalism, militarism. All of these give you something to belong to, something to be part of. That sense of community, of “unity with”, with which we in the West seem to be losing touch.
I value individualism highly. I also acknowledge that we are fundamentally social beings. Nothing is more damaging than isolation. So how do we resolve this dilemma?
Follow your heart. Follow your dreams. Be open to exciting choices. Then look at ways those choices give you opportunities to build community. Or join community.
My own mini “Eat, Pray, Love” story is one of leaving my teaching position and going to Byron Bay to do yoga teacher training. There was a time of uncertainty when I came home- I just wanted to go back and disappear into the seductive endless summer of a surfie/yoga/hippy Mecca. But then my friend Heather said to me, “Go and build community in Semaphore”. Her words were clear, true and inspired. One of those precious times when you know that what you are hearing is absolutely right. So I came home and Christy and I, with support from our kids, started Shala Om, a tiny yoga community in Semaphore.
It’s not on a world scale. It’s not a commercial success. It’s not even a business really. There are only a few people who know about it. But it’s our little contribution, and it is so valuable to me and to others.
It is community born of individualism.
Provocatove article offering some thoughts on trends within current yoga culture.
Like butterfly wings
Her lashes softly close and open,
Open onto unknown ancient depths of being.
Have we just met
Or have we been before many times
In the presence of the mystery that is each of us?
The mystery which is expressed through the fact of our existence,
The universe whose consciousness is us.
We wonder at the separateness of a stranger
Even as we find a oneness in our wonder.
गते गते पारगते पारसंगते बोधि स्वाहा
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha *
Gone, gone, completely gone
Gone to the otherside, the farthest shore
Alone,alone, completely alone
Sighing waves, blank sands blow
Seagulls wheel in the emptiness of sky
Sadness and sadness, deepest sadness,
Separation, awakening my heart,
Opening in tears
Around, around, all the way round
Salt sea washes, confused and crashing
Against itself, in turbulence, impassable
Oversea sun sets
Somewhere far away a lotus opens to greet her
Exposing the golden jewel,
Sun to sun, hidden treasure,
Earth echo of the star song,
Perfumed light and perfection
From the deepest dark beneath depths
*This is the mantra from the end of the Heart Sutra.
Nobody really knows what it means, but it is said
to be one of the most powerful mantras of all.
The first verse of the poem is a literal translation of it,
or at least as far as one can translate it, because the
Sanskrit grammar is endlessly debatable by the
learned in such things.
The Dalai Lama’s translation says
“go, go, go beyond, go thoroughly beyond, and establish yourself in enlightenment”.
Text and photo ©2016 Unjay
How can you tell if some one is good at yoga?
Ha! Trick question- you can’t.
Yes, of course you can see if someone has tight hamstrings and finds forward fold challenging, or if someone cannot balance in tree pose.
What you can’t see is the internal process of someone else’s awareness.
And yoga is all about awareness and acceptance.
I would rather see a student trying, failing and trying again to be that tree with equanimity and good humour than a student looking smug and trendy and self obsessed as they execute a perfect eagle pose or ashtanga jump-through.
But even then, who am I to judge? I don’t know the trials of that lululemon girl’s life; I don’t know if that perfectly built guy without a shirt in hot class has a mother in hospital. Despite appearances, we do not know what someone else’s life is like. So how can we judge them? Maybe their attitude is all front when really they are clinging on for dear life as it falls apart beneath their fingers.
So we should limit our judgement to the edges of our own mats. And even then, yoga teaches us to be actively accepting of the present moment. If that moment includes struggling with a vinyasa flow, then the only important thing is whether we are fully present to that experience. And if we are not, then let’s accept that too.
And again, asana, which is what most people think of as ‘yoga’ is only one of eight dimensions of living a yogic life. So even if someone has perfect alignment and amazing flexibility in class, it doesn’t mean they have a strong meditation practice, or live compassionately or have any of the other yogic virtues.
My advice to students: don’t compare yourself to anyone else in class; spend that energy instead on focussing clearly and closely on your own practice- and enjoy being in that moment no matter your distance from “ideal form” or “full expression”.
That spark of pure, perfect, divine essence is in you anyway. What else could you possibly add to that?