Sunday, 30 December 2012


I've recently been concentrating a lot on the breath as the means of deepening my yoga postures. I realised that I've been straining and struggling to get into them and hold them, using all the RI (reciprocal inhibition) and PNF (proprio-neuro-facilitation) cues I could find....the result being I've over-stretched my hamstring / glut and have been in discomfort for a while now.

These cues are great, don't get me wrong and I actively use and recommend them to students as ways to deepen the postures and learn engagement of the correct muscles. However, I have been over doing them, they should be used sparingly, very sparingly, maybe just once a week even....

The one thing which I have realised that I have not been doing is letting the breath do its work. Funny eh? The only thing that makes the practice yoga. I've been rushing the in breath and  I'd noticed it was half the length of the exhale. So I've double its length, in fact, I'm breathing the entire length of the natural inhalation, man it's long...I note the top of the inhale, then let go.....the exhale comes naturally; freedom, surrender, the natural path of the breath. The lengthening of the inhalation gives me physical length in the spine and a greater softness in the muscles but more importantly has given me back the natural ability to really LET GO. 

So as new year dawns once again, along with those wishes for new beginnings and renunciation of bad habits, the negative and destructive samskaras, I suggest you take a few seconds to watch your in breath and begin to lengthen it to its full capacity in order that you can find the real space to "let go", both within and without, in 2013. 


Thursday, 20 December 2012

Bhujapidasana...are your legs too high on your arms?

Today I got my first chin down, feet through bhujapidasana!

I've always had a struggle with it until Sunday when Ben said 'try lowering your legs to just above your  elbows'. I did this and low and behold, I have more control and can really squeeze the legs onto the arms and pull my feet through my arms whilst getting my chin to the floor. It's not perfect, my feet at still brushing the mat, but the main form of the posture is there now!

Just shows how helpful it is to have a teacher there to suggest new ways of approaching postures when your clearly stuck in a groove, or have a certain samskara...mine being getting my legs as high up the arms as possible. I loe little breakthroughs like this :)

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Ashtanga Yoga Bali Conference 2013

Although my practice has felt awful for the past week or so due to the minus temperatures here in the UK, I am still slowly cultivating certain elements of it slowly, subtly...

My early morning pranayama / meditation practice is cultivating a more subtle awareness of mula and uddiyana banda. This new subtle awareness is working its way into my more 'gross' asana practice. It's enabling me to work on the light and floatiness of the jump through and handstand.

But the most exciting thing is that I have booked my place on the Ashtanga Yoga Bali Conference 2013 which will be held in Ubud in November with Prem and Radha and other revered teachers at their research centre!!!

I am so excited! Let me know whether you will be attending, it would be amazing to meet up with other ashtanga bloggers at this great event!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Goodbye to the Halcyon Days of Summer Practice!

It was -2 this morning when I rolled out the mat. (-2 outside, not in my house...thankfully!)

But my body was so cold and stiff that I might as well have been outside! My hips, oh, my hips... goodbye Baddha konasana, farewell upavista konasana....kurmasana? Looked like it did 4 years ago!!

A harsh reminder of that you cannot attach yourself to the postures, you cannot expect the body to react to the practice the same each day. Every day is different. Environments are ever changing. Prakriti is ever changing. The only thing we can be sure of is purusha, pure awareness, this is unchanging and will always be sitting in the background watching, still, enduring, eternal, immutable. Watching your every reaction to the conflicts of your senses.

So tomorrow, I will roll out the mat, do surynamaskara as if today never happened and let purusha watch how tomorrow's practice unfolds.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Jumping back - a helpful tip...

So I've been working a lot of strength building in my practice recently...and it's really damn hard! 

But in order to balance out the flexibility of my spine it needs to be done. I'm used to lifting my sternum and my lower ribs away the pelvis, creating lots of length in the lumber spine for drop backs / kapo etc. So the whole feeling of contracting the body in the opposite direction for jump-backs and jump-throughs / navasana to handstand etc feels very alien. 

Nevertheless, I'm really working hard to find this strength and to achieve a balance in my practice. 

Found a good video about jumping back the other day which said to keep the head lifted, eyes looking up when you go to jump back. It kind of helps engage the back more I think as well as bringing the weight forward more so the feet can scoot back. I'm visualising a tortoise, back rounding like its shell but neck and chest lifting out and up!! 

David Swenson said the same thing about jump-throughs at his workshop, keep the gaze lifted and the hips will follow through the arms. So I spent a good 20 minutes extra today just jumping back and through and I'm so close...This tip could just be what enables me to build the strength to pull off the jump-back. 


Just another thought...there's kind of the same action in bhujapi, I might practice this a bit more and see what happens :)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Tittibhasana to bakasana revelation!

Whilst I don't seem to have time to blog so much recently, it doesn't mean that my practice is at a standstill... it continues to flourish.

Today I learnt from Ben that if you press your thighs into your arms in tittibhasana, this engages the bandhas and lifts the bottom high enough to be able to draw the legs back into bakasana. For years I have been struggling with this, concentrating more on trying to straighten the legs and point the toes which just kept the weight in the bottom which then meant I wasn't getting that lift of the bottom needed to bring the knees high enough onto the back of the arms for bakasana.

My knees still aren't in a comfortable position in bakasana straight away and need a bit of adjustment before I can jump out safely, but I only 'got it' today, so I'll give myself a break!! :)


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Hop up to handstand, done!

Literally just finished my practice and could not wait to get on here to write about it! 

I knew that once I'd find my bandhas the practice would open up for me, but I didn't realise how quickly this would happen. If it hadn't have been for the post by Nobel on the 'Anal Breath' I would never have found mula bandha and never achieved the full forward bend. Without the full forward bend I would never have found uddiyana bandha, and without uddiyana bandha I would never have just got up to handstand by a little hop 3 times in one practice...

Mark Darby's post on paschimottanasana is also a fantastic post about how to 'find' the bandhas. The curling under of the tailbone, the sucking in of the lower abdomen, the reaching out of the SI area, the drawing in of the arms completing that contracting movement of the whole body. 

This morning's practice was one of those ones which you don't think will come to much. A nice home practice extending the breath, watching the body, just stretching out. I managed to do my knees in last weekend and they've taken 5 days for the swelling to go down, but since Friday they've been good. So I thought I'd throw in a little handstand practice. Try and form some new positive samskaras, then hopefully they would stick and handstand would be part of my practice each time. I had about 4 attempts before I finally got up! I came down, ecstatic! Where has this been hiding? I tried another 4 times and got up again...came down and lay on the floor, gasping. I thought, right, I need to do this one more time, 3's a good number, so had another 4 goes and got up again...and again I came down, laughing to myself with joy, turned to my statue of Ganesha, hands in prayer and and thanked him again and again. 

Now I just have to stay there. I can stay in handstand but only with the top of my head on the wall as some kind of stabiliser, but it feels good and you can kinda work on on sucking in the ribs and pressing the hands into the floor, that kind of thing whilst you're there. 

....Ganesha must really like 3 candles lit around him and some Nag Champa burning!! (The first time I've done this little ritual, must do it every time now ;).....

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Are you using your fingertips to their full potential?

Fingertips? I hear you say? Really? Yes! Who knew?!

I recently realised that I when in downward dog, in jumping forward and jumping back, bhujapidasana,   tittibhasana, I wasn't using my fingertips!! It's sounds like a really minor point here, but I have double jointed fingers, the tips at least...when I thought I had my hands planted firmly on the floor, roots of the index finger firmly planted on the mat, they actually weren't... my fingertips were off the floor!

When I actually realised that they weren't planted, I started to concentrate on pressing them down onto to mat...and what a revelation!!! Seriously! If your fingertips aren't engaged then your balance and grounding won't be there either. What seems such a minor point actually makes such a difference to your practice.

It's taken me 5 years to realise this, by the way. All the little things....

You can say the same thing about your toes in all the standing forward bends. Taking your weight into the toes, the roots of the big toe especially will allow a much deeper and controlled forward bend. It will take a few practices, maybe a few stumbles forward, but it makes all the difference. Especially in prasarita padottanasana C, it will enable you to take your hands to the floor!

I guess it all comes back down to Samasthitih. Equal grounding. Equinimity. Being aware that your foundations are the most important part of your practice. A house is only as stable as the foundations it is built upon, after all.

Observe this in your next practice, tell me if you see a difference, would love to hear your comments! <3

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Dropping back, Ego and the Importance of Drishti

Unless assisted by a teacher in dropping back in class, I never do it. I never drop back on my own. I've been thinking about this, about my reasons for not dropping back on my a class situation. I've come to the conclusion, which is embarrassing really, that the reason I do not drop back on my own in class is due to the fear of failing, of falling badly, head hitting the floor, but essentially, because I DON'T WANT TO LOOK STUPID.


I understand that the ego is important in some aspects of our lives - it drives us, but in others it holds us back, preventing us from realising our true selves and achieving true happiness. My ego has been preventing me from dropping back in class. Jesus, I can drop back. I've been dropping back for almost a year now, on my own, not in class, but at home, on my own, where no-one can see me make a fool out of myself if something goes wrong. (Wonder whether anyone has ever made a movie of that - when drop-backs go wrong!)?? Anyway, No-one can see me fall over, not that I've ever fallen over dropping back mind you, but the fear is there! But the reasoning is really stupid.

Wednesday's Mysore class was quite busy. D was busy assisting other classmates, when it came to my dropping back bit. I sat for a moment and thought about what I should do. I couldn't wait too long and didn't want to interrupt, I had a class of my own I had to go teach, so I thought, I have to do it, I have to show intention, no messing around, I just have to drop back on my own. In front of these people. So I got to it. I hung back for a bit. I was in front of the back door, there was a guy standing outside staring in, looking at me as I hung upside down. I just hung there and I thought it was hilarious, thinking about what he must've been thinking seeing my little red, swetty face, upside down, looking at him through the door!! he kept moving out of my vision and then back in, out then in! Hilarious.

My drishti wasn't there, my focus was on the man outside. I began to panic, then I thought 'NO!' I took my drishti to my nose and gently, with control dropped back. I'd done it. I didn't even make that much of a thump. I was THAT conscious of making a scene that I'd brought more control to the process. I was elated. I got up, I hung back and dropped again, again with the drishti on my nose, again another triumph. I got up, hung back and did my last one, just as controlled as the first. Result.

Focussing on what other people may think of you will hinder your practice. Practice alone. MAKE MISTAKES. Make mistakes in the comfort of your own sitting room / living room / bedroom or wherever you lay your mat at home. Be at one with your mistakes or shortcomings. You will grow from it. I dropped back 3 times yesterday in front of these people. Why did I even think like this? These people are my friends, they won't judge me, they will support me, they will be there when I fall.

But now I'm there again. COMING UP TO STAND. I won't come up to stand on my own in class. In fear of falling on my butt. I HAVE FALLEN ON MY BUTT. At home. Quite a few times. I now put one of my sofa cushions between my feet and hands just in case I fall so I don't hurt my coccyx (I broke it once, I don't want it to happen again, ouch!) I can come up to stand on my own, but the fear is still there and it's there too much to show in class. The ego is back. Damn it!!

I struggle with drishti. There, I've said it. I'm trying really hard though. Maybe drishti isn't 'a gazing point', 'looking place' or 'a direction of energy', maybe it's just there to help stop the ego from taking over?

Sunday, 7 October 2012

When I find my self hating something...

...I slow my breath down and bring myself right into the moment. Like hanging out the washing. I used to hate hanging out the washing. But I slowed the process of hanging it out right down, until I become like the Bionic woman, slow motion, I bring awareness to the moment, awareness to the breath and awareness to every movement I make, making sure that that one hanging washing out experience is the best hanging out washing experience I have ever experienced!! It then became one of the nicest experiences.

I also do the same with washing up. I used to rush it, hating washing every single piece of it and used to get angry about having to do it, but I slowed it down and now take pleasure in the whole process and the overall outcome of nice clean washed stuff. Try it, it works!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Mula bandha - a little death...

Just came across a wonderful podcast from Michael Stone on samskaras and bodhisattva vow. I actually think I'm in love with him :) See the link below for the full talk if you have a spare hour.

So continuing the theme of mula bandha, Michael states that the practice of mula bandha is for your chitta (your attention span) to bond with your exhaling pattern (your apana). Thus you bond your attention span to the feeling of finishing your exhalation. He says that mula bandha is psychological as much as it is physical. When you really bring your attention to the end of the exhale, to the feeling of tone of the end of the exhale, you can't be thinking, you can't be caught up in a story, so that story teller goes through a bit of a death. Every time you finish your exhale you 'wring out' the storyteller. Apparently Pattabhi Jois used to say 'little bit dying' when he spoke of mula bandha. I love this.

So the way Michael sees the practice of mula bandha is exactly how one should live their life. Giving true attention to the end of the exhalation, to death,  to the scariest place you could think of, instead of phrenetically holding on to one's inhalation, our comfortable places, to our false forms of nourishment.

He says that the practice of mula bandha is the practice of kundalini yoga and that kundalini is a metaphor for 'arriving in your life'. I know what I'll be meditating on this week :) (And no, it's not Michael Stone!!)

Friday, 28 September 2012

Mula bandha, forward bends and achieving the perfect posture

Since I've found (at least one layer of)  mula bandha, questions keep arising.

I've always been told that in forward bends one should keep the back as straight as possible so as to lengthen the spine (fine) and so to not jeopardise the lumbar discs (makes sense). Yet, I came across an article by bandha yoga on degenerative disc disease and the sushumna nadis. Below is an extract form the post..

"let’s look at some widely circulated information on forward bends that seems to imply that forward bends in yoga cause disc herniations. It begins with a graphic description of lumbar disc herniations; however, absent from this description is any mention of the fact that most of us have asymptomatic disc herniations anyway. Also absent is any real evidence that yoga forward bends cause disc herniations. (My preliminary analysis of the data on ER visits for injuries from yoga did not reveal one herniation caused by yoga). Nevertheless, those circulating this information know that they can cause anxiety by implying that forward bends harm the discs. So far so good: a problem is presented, and a reaction (anxiety) is caused. All that’s left is the solution. The solution that has been circulated is to perform forward bends while sitting on a stack of blankets with the knees bent over a bolster, using the weight of the body to slump into the pose. While this is excellent preparation for sitting in a chair (or on a couch), it is almost unrecognizable from a yoga forward bend. Furthermore, the “slumped” posture has been shown to increase the pressures in the lumbar intervertebral discs, potentially harming them. 

Practising (and teaching) in this manner also establishes a “fear-avoidance” behavioral pattern, whereby the practitioner becomes habituated to doing the pose this way. The “solution” to the fear based “problem” thus creates a vicious cycle that disempowers the practitioner on both psychological and physical levels. This pattern of graphic descriptions of herniated discs and forward bends has been circulated several times in the media, (including with instructions to avoid using the protective and empowering mechanisms described in our previous post on the thoracolumbar complex).

So, to recap, we have all of the elements of “Problem, Reaction, Solution,” but all of them are based on a false premise: the implication that yoga causes a core problem (herniated discs). This is a well-known disinformation technique: imply that the problem was caused by the potential solution.'

I love the daily bandha and the information and tips Ray et al have given over the past few years have had a profound impact upon my practice. However, this post and my recent explorations into mula bandha have made me question the teaching of forward bends within the context of the 500 hour yoga TT course I'm doing. I also found this post by House of Ashtanga on forward bends and found this extract very interesting..

'During a forward bend, the upper body is flexed forward with the backs of the legs and the back muscles being stretched. Anatomically, most of the movement in a forward bend takes place in the hips and the lumbar region, that is the lower back area above the sacrum, as well as the sacral region of the spine. The traditional and originally taught method of forward-bending by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is to simply fold forward, relax the head, round the back, tuck the tail bone in and avoid flaring the sit-bones up and away. This makes engaging mula bandha and uddiyana bandha possible and is a perfect example of how ashtanga yoga is more about integrating the energy (into the mula/uddiyana region) rather than ‘spacing-out’ and dispersing the flow of energy. The straight-back (flat-back) approach makes engaging mula bandha and uddiyana bandha almost impossible and has a certain disconnective effect.'

The feeling I get in the lower back when I do a forward bend now I'm engaging mula bandha is one which originates at the coccyx and lengthens through the SI joint and through the lumbar spine. It creates a feeling of rounding the lower back, but although I have not taken a photo of my new-found forward bend, it feels as if the rest of the spine is relatively straight. Well, I have my head to my shin, so it must be!! I've attached the link to the full blog post from House of Ashtanga below. Really interesting.

So these two posts got me thinking... Is the western way of teaching forward bends removing the potential for students to ever achieve a full fold? If mula bandha can only be truly engaged when there is a slight rounding of the back, then is this manner of teaching preventing students from ever finding mula bandha? There is also the question of ego here. The western way sometimes appears to be all about how a pose looks; you must keep the back completely straight, legs straight, no rounding or bending etc. But is this just so postures look nice? I've read people slagging off the postures on the practice sheets of Sharath, but when you look at the photos of Pattabhi Jois, they're a mirror image of Sharaths!! 

Are western teachers going to far with health and safety to the detriment of students' practices?

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Ashtanga research

I've had so much stick about the anal breathing post. Quite hilarious. But it's still working for me and I'm accessing depth in postures which I never thought could be possible.

Today's practice was awesome. I wasn't looking forward to it as I normally go to Stone Monkey to practice with Ben on a Sunday but it was cancelled.

So I mentioned about the anal breath in the forward bends which really helps to lengthen out right through from the coccyx through the sacrum. But today I tried it out in my drop backs as well and it helped to open up the spine beyond anything I've tried before. I dropped back on my own 3 times with my hands in prayer position which I've never done before. Better still I came up on my own twice!! I am so happy!

This week I also came up from laghu vajrasana on my own (albeit from having my head on two blocks) so I'm managing to work my thighs in the correct way, finding the strength to come up from that and also from kapo. I think a bit of second series really helps with dropping back and coming back up to stand.

I've even nearly got my jump-backs nailed. Turns out my hands have been a little too far forward of my hips... Why had I not realised this before?! So I'm just working on leaning a little bit further forward and getting my breath right now (I tend to hold me breath when I jump back strangely)! Does anyone else find themselves holding their breath sometimes?

Anyway, the practice continues to grown on a daily basis, finding new things to explore in every posture. I guess that's why they call it ashtanga research :)

Sunday, 16 September 2012

"Anal breathing"...breathing in the back body

I seem to be experiencing a period in my practice where every time I get on the mat I discover something new. I'm loving it. However, I'm kinda dreading the winter coming, the dark nights and mornings, the stiff body and well, yes, the stiff mind...

But for the meantime, it's still sunny here, warmish and I'll make the most of it.

So I read a blog post somewhere recently about anal breathing - sorry, I cannot remember for the life of me whose it was. Someone also mentioned Mark Darby mentions breathing through 'the anal mouth', which sounds hideous but what other anal-ogies (excuse the pun!) could one create?!! So yesterday I tried it.

For a moment I thought I'd found my MULA BANDHA!! Yes, the experience was that intense and powerful and changed my practice to an unbelievable degree. Now, a few months back I mentioned sitting in baddha konasana and having some kind of weird experience, albeit a nice one. Something shifted in my spine. I thought I'd worked out that this posture required ashmini mudra but I now I think it's this anal breathing thing. Ashwini mudra is the contraction of the anal sphincter, the outer section, but this is the contraction and pulling up of the area about 5 centimetres up from the anus, probably at the joint between the coccyx and the sacrum. 

I took my awareness and my breath to this area. When I inhaled I inhaled both through my nostrils and through my anus drawing up the anal breath through the contraction of this area. Inside it's like contraction of the top of the cervix and this area of the anal passage, bring them together, it's quite amazing. The benefits? FORWARD BENDS were the deepest I've ever experienced. I literally had my face on the floor, past me knees in all seated forward bends. I was using the anal breath to open and lengthen out of the sacra-iliac joint, breathing into the back of the body to release tension. I literally cannot wait to try it again today. It felt soooo good. 

Have I found my mula bandha?!!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Controlling the rib cage for core strength

Bit of  breakthrough week I've's been amazing!

Last Monday I went to Oxford to practice with Manu at Yoga Garden. Got my first heel-grab in Kapo and my first supta vajrasana on my own and got back up albeit with a huge groan and a pull of both my biceps! By the end of the class I was shaking like a leaf...bloody nadi shodhana ;)

I haven't practiced for 3 days. I over did it on the lotus's last week, heard a crunch and they've both been a bit tender since. So I'm taking it easy. I've also pulled something just at the insertion of the hamstring to my left sitting bone, really not nice either, overdoing it on the forward bends, trying to get kurmasana with straight legs and finally getting chest down in upavistha konasana. So I'm practicing a lot more second series, which is coming along really well. 

So I've had a massive breakthrough with my navasana...I know, it's been a long time coming and I've been posting about my lack of navasana for ages now, thinking up all kinds of reasons why it wasn't happening. But my teacher said I had the core strength. Yes, my legs are long and that will be a problem with having the toes at eye level, but there's no harm in having them higher to balance the lever and keep it a safe posture without straining the lower back. So I've been working really hard on it. And something has finally clicked. It's about sucking the lower ribcage in. That simple. I was previously trying to get lift my chest, getting a big curve in my lumbar region and really trying to lift up/out of the pelvic bowel. However, this is all good for preparation of the posture, but as soon as I let go of the legs (I still have to hold them to straighten them first), I'm drawing the lower ribs back into the body, reducing the lumbar curve and I'm able to hold them straight for all 5 goes!! Hurrah! 

So I then got thinking about how this might affect other postures. So I gave it a go whilst jumping in to bhujapidasana, and low and behold I instantly gained more core control and managed a leg wrap for the first time without touching the floor!! Hurrah again!! And yes, you've guessed it, jumping through to sit is lighter and slower with more control. 

I even stuck pincha mayurasana in to the sequence today and managed a hold of 6 breaths!! Amaze! all because the ribcage was sucked in. 

Why did no one tell me that it was THIS important before?!!! Then again, I love it when I work things out by myself, it makes the journey way more interesting!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Where would be on your list for the perfect ashtanga yoga world tour...?

So I'm going off to find my guru....

Actually, it's more of an excuse for a year or so out to practice with lots of different teachers, do a few TT's, a few courses and of course have fun. And now I'm almost half way to saving for my round the world ashtanga tour!! Happy days.

I just have to work out where I'm going.... On the list so far...

Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandarim
David Garrigues 1 month intensive in Kovalam
Sharath, Mysore
David Williams / Nancy Gilgoff and Norman Allen, Maui
Tim Millar, Encinitas
Chuck Millar, LA
Richard Freeman, Boulder Colorado
Eddie Stern, NY
Mark Darby, Montreal
Peter and Sue, Olerios, Portugal

I'm still working out timings, especially hard planning so early when the teacher's schedules for 2013/2014 aren't really out yet...planning on leaving August 2013 when I've finished my BWY diploma with Paul Fox.

So...if you were going on an ashtanga world tour where would you go to practice? Which teachers would you try and practice with and where? I'm planning 3 months in Mysore, but with my weak stomach I may not be able to cope with such a long time in India... So I'd love to hear of any more great teachers / places to practice for a while and I may add them to my list!! Any ideas would be really helpful!! Also, at the moment it's not so much of a 'world tour' rather India and the US and Canada, so if anyone knows of anywhere else to practice on other continents that would be great!!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A 3 hour practice... It's all about the intention

Thought I'd share I photo of my first kurmasana with shoulders completely only floor, heels up and well, as you can see, everything else pressed firmly into the ground, including my chin...ha ha ha. Not got the hang of taking photos of myself whilst in compromising positions just yet :)

After a horrible night's sleep, probably got about 3 hours in the end, I had a slow day at work, finished at 3:30 with the intention of doing the whole primary series plus second up to kapo as soon as I got home, which was exactly what I did. I spent some long stays in paschi, following a tip from Digby who said that I should breathe into the lower back/rib cage to really let go in paschi, which worked a treat. I then had a long stay in the prasarita p's, to try and work out a niggle in the left hip/SI joint which has been irritating me for a couple of days, to the extent that most of yesterday I had more or less a 'dead leg' (not nice).

As a result of those long stays in the forward bends my body was a lot open for more. Hence the great kurmasana result! Did a bit of leg behind the head prep then had a go at supta k - got one leg behind head as you can see, but 10 seconds from pressing the button on the camera is not conducive to a good supta k preparation or shot, as you can see ;)

Digby mentioned in his led ashtanga research class on Saturday that the practice is all about the intention. If you don't work with intention in mind then you will not progress with the asana. So I was practicing with full intention. I tried chin to shin in all seated forward bends and got them. I tried the fancy jump backs after all the mari's, didn't quite make all them but impressed myself with how NOT far off I am in getting them (one day!) I got 2 inches off the floor on both sides in preparation for the splits (yay!) I think only fear of tearing something there is keeping me from getting right down :-/

I managed full binds on both sides in pasasana (heels on a soft block). The best bit was just going for it in supta vajrasana, my thighs didn't give way on me (just the FEAR again) and I got the full posture (but without getting back up...well, not very gracefully anyway!!) I also went all the way back in kapo, grabbed the toes and relaxed my breathing in it, which is great.

Legs are a bit too long to look graceful in most yoga postures, I tend to look like a baby giraffe, but I'll share another....for the craic. Legs were slipping out of this one at this point, a bit too much 'magic spray' on the go, might have to dilute with some more water ;) First time I cupped my face in my hands though, so that was nice.

So all in all a pretty amazing practice. Finished at 6:55 after a great savasana. Just shows how much you can get out of one practice if you slow it down, give the postures some love and attention and INTENTION, I think that has to be my word for the day :)

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Activate where necessary, relax where possible - the use of the hip flexors in Utthita Hasta Pandangustasana

I've recently had a couple of teachers adjust my utthita hasta padangustasana giving me the same instruction, to relax the hip flexors in the first two stages (front and out to side) and only engage when you release the leg to hold it in place.

So previously I've worked out that I have to drop the sitting bone / drop the ball into the socket or however you want to describe it. This has been working just fine, hips beginning to open slowly and being able to hold the posture for longer without falling out.

But this has transformed the pose to even greater extents! No way? - I hear you cry! Yes way. SO this is how I think it works...

In the first two stages you relax the hip, drop the sitting bone to level the hips to get your balance, you then use and engage your arm, your biceps, to hold the leg up, pulling the leg up as if it were a 'dead weight'. Still leading with your arm only you take the leg out to the side, letting the leg follow, still relaxing the hip flexors, you continue to hold the leg, using the bicep to pull the leg towards the body. You then, still using the arm only, take the leg back out to the front - in fact it's not the front, I'd say hold it about 10 degrees out from the midline of the body - you 'bow' to the leg pulling it to its highest point. You stand straight and release said leg and then...only THEN...engage all the hip flexors in the world to hold the leg up!!

Activate where necessary, relax where possible. It appears that the passive stretch of the hip in this posture in the first two stages stretches the required muscles to get a deep posture, without wearing them out, leaving the strength of the hip flexors for holding the leg in the final stage. You will find the posture will not wear you out, you will feel the whole posture lighter and the passive stretch of the hip flexors will allow you to hold the leg higher in the final stage.


Sunday, 29 July 2012

Deepest Garbha Pindasana to date!

It's been just over 1 year since I wrote about my first Utpluthi and finally getting into full Lotus. Since then I have been worked solidly on hip opening. Really taking the time over the Mari sequence, the konasanas, especially baddha konasana and garbha pindasana.

Finally got my knees to the floor and my chin to the floor in baddha konasana. To get the knees down is all about opening using ahwini mudra and mula bandha, then letting these go and holding the hips open with the hip flexors. The forward bend comes again from 'letting go' and leaning into it, lengthening out the spine from the bowl of the pelvic floor, trying to keep distance from the pelvis to the rib cage as long as possible. The opening of the feet 'like a book' actively pushing the outer edges of the feet towards each other seems to help with the lengthening of the adductors to get the knees down.

Upavistha konasana is a different storey altogether - will I ever be able to lay my chest on the floor in this posture?? Any tips would be welcomed :)

I used to HATE garbha pindasana with a passion. I think my teacher Ben could see how much I hated so told me that I had to put more effort into it and my hips would eventually open. So I did.

I spent the next 4 months with constant bruises on my inner arms from trying to squeeze them through, nice!! But I've cracked lotus now - the final deepening of the posture coming from realising that once in lotus I have to then draw the sitting bones together causing an outward and inward rotation which draws the femurs in closer towards each other which then gives the space between the calf and thigh to squeeze the arms through! I love these 'Aha!' moments!

Today they slipped straight through like a knife through butter. I haven't got my face in my hands yet but I have my thumbs touching my chin, I think this will come with relaxing more into it. However, I have to admit that I have produced my own 'magic' water spray (teacher doesn't know) - a mix of 50% water and 50% Sanctuary Body Mist, which has a little oil in it, but it sure saves on the hassle of not enough water and is a lifesaver for stopping the bruising! Smells nice too :)

So what else do I have to tell you - it's been sooo long since I've posted. I bind fully now in Mari D on both sides - again all the konasana work. I even bind fully in baddha padmasana, this has only happened in the past two weeks, so still a revelation for me, but it feels so good having both toes tightly held, a long spine and chin on the floor.

All the hip opening is finally paying off! Hurrah! Thought I'd add Mr Iyenga below :)

Nourishment...Guest blog post by my wonderful new friend Michele



The week has passed so quickly at the yoga farm, and along with it so many thoughts, emotions, ideas, inspirations, dreams, hellos and goodbyes to process. The hellos are sweet, tentative, and energizing as you gauge who you are sharing your company with and wonder about their stories when you first meet. A blank slate of expectations is essential as rarely does anyone ever fit into the box our human minds sometimes try to put them in upon that first hello. I won't bore you with that same old, "I can't believe how lucky I am to be living the life I am living and how enriched my life is everyday by love and yoga and the energy from the people and places I encounter"....but, it is quite frankly true. The gratitude I have come to feel on a daily basis just at being alive and in love with the world pales beside the actual experience itself and a week in Amieira at the yoga farm raises the gratitude levels to interstellar. I wish you all even some fraction of the peace and love of this beautiful journey of feeling awakened, alive, raw, vulnerable, loved, supported, and wholly nourished that I have come to know simply as a day in the life here at Peter and Sue's place in the mountains of Portugal. Nourishment is truly the apropos word that can encompass what I receive from the rigorous twice daily practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, the morning silence through breakfast, the deliciously fresh, creative and entirely natural nontoxic macrobiotic meals, the time to walk, reflect, read, nap, explore new friendships with people from around the world who have come here to have this experience, the endless and ongoing conversations that reveal the beauty in another's soul and often reveals the beauty in my own to me. To be nourished is not simply to fill your belly...people do that every day. And unfortunately often with poisons and chemicals and non-food substances created to feed the morbidly obese and insatiable appetites of profit driven industry. A dirty business that does so little to actually provide nourishment for the bodies being served, but as usual, I digress. Nourishment first of all comes from within. The recognition of and the desire to feed oneself with what will heal us. With what is good. With what really serves us. Light. Release. Beauty. Healthy foods. Water. Breath. Life. Experience. Love. Acceptance. Safety. Evolution and self actualization on the journey. We learn in yoga that the breath is primary and indeed it is. You can't live without the breath, yogically inclined or no. Without breath, there is no life. Take that on whatever level speaks to you. For me, it is at the core and heart of everything. It is nourishment. If I could ask you one question right now, it would be what do you do everyday that truly nourishes you? What feeds you and fills you with energy and wonder? What inspires you? What breathes life into your soul? What gives you purpose? What attracts you? What makes your very life-force sing? I suppose, as is my usual form, that was actually several questions, but they do all interrelate do they not? If those questions leave you unable to answer or thinking "I'm too busy for that mumbo jumbo" or scratching your head because don't know what I mean, or maybe even compelling you to tell me to go fly a kite...then with the deepest sense of love and compassion I'd like to ask you to challenge yourself to find at least one thing a day that nourishes you and do it. In fact, I'd like to implore you to do so. For the beautiful life you have, for the lives of those around you, for the world we all share and the connecting energy that ties us all together...nourish yourself. Every day. Then give gratitude to yourself for that nourishment. Thank yourself. Love yourself. Show others how to do it. Then do it a little more each day. Pretty soon, it will just become how you live and how you walk through the world. And as you walk in nourishment, you nourish others and they in turn will do the same and maybe, just maybe (yes, here's my kumbaya moment) we'll all start to appreciate each other more... That appreciation will lead us to appreciate our bodies more...our minds and souls more...our planet more...and maybe, just maybe we can care a little less about the things at don't serve us but that we think we need, and will know that the only thing that matters, the essence of it all, is love in all it's manifestations and definitions. Love. Breath. Gratitude. The ultimate nourishment. I believe these words are as interchangeable as they are connected. I've got another week ahead at the yoga farm and hope to check back in more than once. For now, I am left with the imprints of those I had to say goodbye to last night who made my life richer for knowing them. Michelle, beautiful artist, yogi, and gentle soul... Mir, loving, healing, engaging, and kind man... Lisa, beautifully funny, quirky, Ray of bubbly sunshine...Michael, German soul with great wit and contagious smile...Beth lovely yearning and filled with wonder...Lisanne, beautiful and exotic, marvelously fearless and ironically deaf but who hears much more than many ever will, Hannah, with the quiet and unassuming manner and the elegance and grace of the dancer, and the fabulously funny and Irish Georgina, an engineer and a blooming warrior spirit. I'd rather not say goodbye to any of you, so let's just say "till we meet again" or see you later. Thank you all for choosing this past week to have your yoga retreat journey. I'm honored to have shared time and space with you. Of course, I've spoken of Peter and Sue and Isabella before and I can only say that my respect, admiration and love for each of them has only been deepened (or nourished, if you will). And to those still here for either another few days or weeks, we've much left to share and learn and I am gratefully looking forward to it. One of so many sustaining pieces of wisdom has been beautifully painted and expressed by Michelle Hill in mural form on the yoga farm.

Friday, 15 June 2012

A nice Friday home practice

Had the dentist this morning, tried to convince her that there was no need for a filling as I'd had no pain since we'd made the appointment but she wasn't having any of it! Grrrrrr.... Subsequently I was a dribbling mess for 2 hours and looked as if I'd had a stroke, for a minute I thought she'd severed a nerve, but thankfully she hadn't. A couple of pain killer later and I felt fine. 

Worked from home today, got lots done but wasn't too sure whether to attend a Mysore class tonight, but I had two to choose from and in the end I was waiting for a while for them to start so I thought I'd do a home practice, save some money and get it done so I had the evening free for leisurely pursuits :)

I had a great practice. Really concentrating on the handstand element of the jump back and through now that I've got the rest of primary more of less nailed. It's the handstand balance that's holding my practice back from looking a strong practice. Getting the strength built now is my priority. I was making an effort to jump at bit higher, get the hips lifted on every jump through and landing softer. I managed it a couple of times in the practice. I'm sure it's not far off now. I'm pleased I practiced at home :)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

How and when I practice (Response to Grimmly's Questionnaire)

My Practice


1. What approach to/style(s) of asana do you currently practice? Ashtanga Vinyasa

2. What time do you practice? Between 4:30-8pm

3. Where do you practice? At home 3 days a week, at shalas 3 days a week

4. How long do you practice for? Between 30mins -2hrs, depending on where I practice 

5. How many times do you practice 
a. per day: once

b. per week: 6 days


6. Do you practice pranayama? Yes

7. Which pranayamas do you practice? Ujjayi, nadi shodana, seetali, all with breath retentions and bandha

8. How long do you practice pranayama? 10-20 minutes per day

9. When do you practice pranayama? Evenings before bed

10. How long have you practiced pranayama? Since April 2012 - I have to keep a practice diary for my BWY course


11. Do you include pratyahara in your practice? Not separately, but yes if you include sense withdrawal in Ashtanga practice

12. what approach to pratyahara do you take? Drishti


13. Do you practice meditation? Yes

14. What approach to/style of meditation do you practice? Vipassana

15. Where do you meditate? At home in the early morning 5:30 - 6am

16. How many times do you meditate
a. per day? Once

b. per week? 4 times per week

17. How long do you meditate for? 30 minutes 


18. Do you take time to formally reflect on your asana, pranayama, pratyahra, meditation practice? Yes

19. When do you reflect asana, pranayama, pratyahra, meditation? In the evening and at weekends

20. Where do your reflect on your asana, pranayama, pratyahra, meditation? Generally through my blog.

21. How long do you reflect on your asana, pranayama, pratyahra, meditation? 30mins - 1hr per blog post

Textual study

22. Do you study carefully any 'Yogic' texts? Read bits

23. Which texts do you study? Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Padiprika, Upanishads

24. When do you study? At weekends, generally

Yamas and Niyamas

25. How familiar are you with the yamas and niyamas? Very

26. Do you make a particular effort to practice them? Yes

27. Do you reflect at the end of the day on how well you have practiced them? Sometimes, then I'll beat myself up about not practicing them well enough!


28. How long have you been practicing Yoga? Since sometime in 2006.

29. Have you ever attended a teacher training or teaching intensive course? Yes, apprenticeship with a teacher and currently with the BWY

30. Have you attended a retreat or workshop and if so how many? Yes, 3 retreats and lots of workshops


31. Do you practice chanting? No, apart from the Ashtanga Vinyasa opening chant

32. When do you chant? Before practice

33. How long do you chant?

34. Where do you chant?

35. Which chants do you practice?


36. When did you begin your asana practice? BWY style - 2006, Ashtanga properly 2008/2009.

37. When did you begin pranayama? Apsil 2012

38. When did you begin to practice mediation regularly? May 2012

39. When did you begin to pay particular attention to the yamas and niyamas? 2012

40. When did you begin to formally reflect on your practice? 2010