Category Archives: Iyengar

Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (1)

1. Yogic practices are the vital apps to manoeuvre on unfamiliar terrain within.

As anyone living on our planet well knows, apps have become more important and indispensable to our lives than even tools like the Swiss army knife. When you are navigating in unknown terrains, the one indispensable tool is a navigator or an app like GoogleMaps. The path of Yoga gives a similar kind of support system like GoogleMaps in an unknown land. Our internal world is an unknown mass, very difficult to find and understand new pathways or live in different mental or breath channels. Normally an average person exists in three positions: standing, sitting and lying down. We merely operate and live in and through these three positions. Now just imagine if we can expand the scope of these positions, what could or would happen. Through the hundreds of yogasanas, we learn to wire and rewire our internal nervous and muscular connections, so that stress doesn’t build up. We learn to create apps (leg apps, arm apps, spinal muscles apps, breath apps) for ourselves to touch our whole embodiment.

The practices of yoga help to familiarise the practitioner with these internal pathways, and more vitally, discover and connect to the junctions of body, mind, breath, senses and speech, where further new possibilities open out.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

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Filed under Iyengar, Yoga - Beginners, Yoga - Intermediate, Yoga - Therapeutic

Accommodation for Yoga Weekends

We will arrange the accommodation for you in one of these lovely holiday cottages, most within walking distance of Saddle Street Farm. There are a variety of bedrooms with shared kitchen, bathroom, sitting room, garden or patio. We stock the fridge with simple breakfast items, milk, tea/coffee etc., and there’s a fantastic village shop for everything else.

If you prefer to be more self-contained, you can select the B&B option and we will put you in touch with your host to arrange arrival times and get directions – all are very easy to find.

The cottages are for 2 nights. If you’re coming for Saturday only, we have a single (The Tack Room) and a twin (The Apple Loft) at Saddle Street Farm. These are in the Studio, with shared kitchen and shower room. Please ask. Or check the B&B options below.

 The Forge, Yew Tree Farm, Saddle Street. TA20 4PY
(200 yards from Saddle Street Farm)

The ForgeThis lovely little self –catering cottage has a double room upstairs and a large sofa-bed in the open plan downstairs kitchen/sitting room. Both share a shower room. Ideally suited for a group of friends (max 4) or a couple who want to be independent.
£90 per person (minimum 2 people) for 2 nights, Friday & Saturday.

2 bedroom cottage in Thorncombe TA20 4PP
(10 minute walk from Saddle Street Farm.)
CazA self-catering cottage that sleeps up to 4 in a double room and a twin room with a shared bathroom. The cottage has a sitting room with wood burner, dining area with door to the garden & a kitchen. First floor: 2 bedrooms, one double, the other 2 singles. The bathroom has a bath with shower.
For 2 nights, Friday & Saturday:
Single room: £130 (shared bathroom).
Double/Twin room: £115 per person (shared bathroom).
Whole cottage for two people: £240.
Whole cottage for three
 people: £275.

 

 

Rebecca3 bedroom cottage in Thorncombe TA20 4PZ
(5 minute walk from Saddle Street Farm.)
A self-catering cottage that sleeps up to 5 in two double rooms and a single room. Downstairs is the living room with wood burner & wooden floor, kitchen, dining room/conservatory opening onto the garden, single bedroom, bathroom with separate shower, bath & toilet. Stairs lead to two double bedrooms, one with TV and en-suite toilet.
For 2 nights, Friday and Saturday:
Single room: £135 (shared bathroom).
Double room: £130 single/ £90 per person sharing (shared bathroom).
Double room with toilet: £140 single/ £95 per person sharing

B&B at Oathill Farm, Clapton TA18 4PZ
(10 minute drive from Saddle Street Farm.)
Tel: 01460 30234

OathillFarmDouble, twin and family rooms in an old farmhouse, with television and tea /coffee facilities available in every room. The rooms are ‘quaint’ and only some have en-suite facilities. BUT Oathill has its own spring water (supply quality tested and safe to drink) and Solar panels assist in the water heating. The owners are very friendly and helpful, and serve a traditional (non-vegan) farmhouse breakfast in the dining room overlooking the country garden. There are also lots of animals!

£45 sharing/ £65 single per person per night (shared bathroom).
£65 sharing/£75 single per person per night (en suite).

B&B, Drimpton, Dorset DT8 3RH
(10 minute drive from Saddle Street Farm)
Tel: 01308 867313

ChapelEndTwo large double bedrooms sharing a private bathroom, with TV, tea and coffee making facilities in each. Farmhouse breakfast to suit any taste. Please let them know if you have any special dietary needs.

£45 sharing/ £60 single per person per night.

 

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Masterclass with Bobby Clennell.

Returning for her third visit, Senior Iyengar teacher and author Bobby Clennell will be teaching at the Masonic Hall on Tuesday 10th April 2018. Bobby is a long-time student of the late B.K.S. Iyengar, his daughter Geeta S. Iyengar and son Prashant Iyengar. Bobby teaches internationally and visits Dorset every year, taking a break from her workshops and events around the world. We are delighted to welcome her back again this year.

Photo © 2010 Gina de la Chesney.

This will be a very popular event so please book and pay your deposit ASAP. (T&Cs including payment details are here.)
10 am – 1 pm: Morning Workshop : £45.
2 pm – 5 pm: Afternoon Workshop : £45.
10 am – 5 pm: All day : £80.

Bobby’s books include:
Yoga for Breast Care: What Every Woman Needs to Know, presents a comprehensive program of asana and pranayama to support breast health. With 85 color illustrations by the author, the book addresses the needs of beginning and seasoned practitioners alike. (Rodmell Press, 2014) Her children’s book, Watch Me Do Yoga (Rodmell Press), is available at bookstores everywhere. The Woman’s Yoga Book: Asana and Pranayama for All Phases of the Menstrual Cycle (Rodmell Press), was published in May 2007.

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5 simple steps to #yoga practice at home.

Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation – why is home practice so difficult? With a little more time and effort between classes you could develop your practice and begin to understand and enjoy some of the more intangible benefits that yoga has to offer. These five simple steps will help to capture the enthusiasm from class and bring it home into your private practice. It’s really very simple and the only question is what path you might take between steps four and five.

  • Place
  • Plan
  • Time
  • Sit
  • Lie

MMChairWindow1. Make space – a corner will do, somewhere you can put your mat down and shut the door. In this space, create a sense of the sacred. Use a windowsill, shelf or side table and make a shrine – a tea light, a statue, a flower in a vase – any objects which bring focus to the mind and humility to our intentions. This space reminds and encourages us to do better, to go deeper, and the people around you will appreciate and respect it too. (Saucha – Cleanliness.)

2. Have a plan. Even if your plan is to go with the flow you’ll find it helpful to have structure to act as a reminder once you’re ‘in the zone’. If you want a sequence, write it down. Preparation is an important part of the process. (Santosha – Contentment.)

therapeuticpage-e1495549096875.jpg
3. Use a timer.
To build up your strength and stamina by holding poses, staying in inversions, and for recuperative poses, in home practice the timer is our teacher and our best friend. For Savasana, Pranayama and meditation, a timer can help you to release more and in the end, you won’t need it. If you use a phone or tablet, use it to store your practice notes, make use of the timer, but always put it in flight mode. (Tapas – Discipline.)

satya11

4. Always begin by sitting for a few moments. This quiet time prepares the brain and the body: it instills the essence of yoga practice from the outset and reconnects the brain with the body. (Svadhaya – Self Study.)

01 Savasana knees supported5. Always finish with Savasana. The healing benefits of your practice need to percolate through all the cells of the body and this takes time. Offer up the fruits of your labour (however bitter!) to a higher self. Lie flat, a blanket for the head and/or a chair for the legs, if necessary. Set your timer and if you fall asleep, so be it. (Isvara Pranidhana – Surrender to a higher being.)

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Filed under Ashtanga, Beginners etc., Iyengar, Lifestyle Changes, Mindfulness, Relaxation, Yoga - Beginners, Yoga - Intermediate

Praise in a #Yoga class: is it Satya?

satya3Satya is the Sanskrit word for truth. It also refers to a virtue, to being truthful in one’s thought, speech and action. In Yoga, satya is one of the five yamas. It is the virtuous restraint from falsehood and, crucially, the distortion of reality in one’s expressions and actions.

A student recently asked me why I didn’t give positive feedback to individuals in class. It’s a question that comes up from time to time. Speaking as a school teacher, she said she spent her working life encouraging and praising pupils for effort and achievement. Why is there no praise in a Yoga class?

There is a stock answer: when I say to a yoga student, “Well done”, I am giving myself a pat on the back. I am saying, “Look! My teaching is so excellent, and this student is living proof!” Is that Satya?

alignment1What about all the lessons that student has not learned, the basic actions avoided and evaded even after months and years of practice? Shoulders back, lift your chest – do I still need to say this every time? Clearly yes – I have not taught them this lesson yet. That these actions are not coming tells me their mind is elsewhere or their ego is still in the driving seat, and I have not dealt with those issues. That is the reality, the Satya in this situation. To say “Well done” is to distort reality for both of us.

How many of us experience moments of dread when the teacher moves on to our ‘worst’ pose, the one we love to hate? Somehow we struggle through, cling on and breathe a sigh of relief when they move to the next pose. And then when we are practicing, when we see the results begin to come, is there a part of us that looks forward to showing off our new-found skills and achievements in class, anticipating admiring glances from our fellows and praise from the teacher? Is this Satya?

satya12Some students just seem to flow into the  most demanding of poses – deep twists, spring up into handstands but how is their practice in, say, Savasana for instance?

And is it so very wrong to quietly say, “Well done” to someone who has been struggling and finally gets up into Urdhva Dhanurasana? When I’m immersed in my teaching, sometimes the words just pop out of my mouth! But what if a student is unlikely ever to achieve that pose? Maybe there’s an injury, a difficulty that precludes them from the final pose – is their effort any the less because of that?

satya11Saying, “Well done” to someone in a Yoga class is the quickest way to stunt their progress. When someone is praised, in that moment, the learning stops: out come the laurels and the ego, effort ceases and is replaced by laziness, apathy and then disillusion. The brain takes over and their experience of yoga narrows down to a few postures they can use to demonstrate their experience and ability. Satya includes the reality of our inexperience, our inability too.

In Iyengar Yoga the challenge is to learn the essence of the pose, not just its technique or shape. If it was all about form and beauty, Yoga would be an Olympic sport, like gymnastics. When Mrs. Urdhva Dhanurasana finally lifts up from the floor, to say “Well done” creates a distortion of reality: the discipline and effort are gone and the student gets mentally ‘stuck’, believing that’s all they have to do. Their practice will suffer because getting into the pose is only the beginning. My teaching therefore is at fault. That is Satya!satya9

 

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#Leggings or #Pune Pants?

On a day when @united are being dragged over the hot coals of Twitter for enforcing their company’s dress code, #yoga teachers and students the world over are having a major wardrobe crisis. (Just put ‘yoga leggings’ into Twitter and you’ll see what I mean. It’s not tasteful, any of it.)

punepant8As ever, #IyengarYoga has the answer. BKS #Iyengar was a pioneer, in every respect, and many years ago the Iyengar Yoga Institute #RIMYI perfected what we now call Pune Pants. The design allows complete freedom for the body whilst protecting the modesty of the men and women in the class. They are designed like a pair of bloomers but with an extra piece in the gusset so you can bend, extend, squat and twist with no limitation imposed on the movement of the body by the fabric clinging to your skin. If you’ve never worn them, try Eka Pada Sarvangasana in your usual lycra, then try it in cotton Pune Pants…..see? For more choices, see this site HERE: www.frannixon.com

So if you want to see yourself as others see you in class (generally from behind and upside down), push your fist into your leggings. If you can see your knuckles, we can see your knickers. (As a #yogateacher, I’d rather see VPL than a thong any day.)

And if you live in a cooler climate, you won’t have to throw all your cosy leggings away – just wear them underneath. The opportunities for colour co-ordination and fashion statements are endless…..

Photo credit: Ray Burmiston http://www.rayburmiston.com

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Yoga, ‘Core Strength’ and Chronic Lower Back Pain.

Releasing muscle tension to improve posture, alignment and movement is significantly more effective at reducing chronic or recurrent back pain than typical prescription treatment. (BMI 2009) According to Frederick Alexander, the founder of the Alexander technique, we “translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual into muscular tension”. The resulting poor posture compresses the neck and spine and can irritate the nerves leading out to various parts of the body. Painkillers do have their place in a treatment programme but only as short-term relief. What can we do to treat and prevent back pain in the longer term?

Many people advocate strengthening the ‘core mucles’. Whilst this might be helpful, in the sense that any exercise can be, it’s far too general to help people who already have a problem. People need specific advice and guidance on musculo-skeletal alignment: they need to feel its effects for themselves and re-train their bodies to adopt better habits under all circumstances, sitting, standing, walking, driving, exercising.

alignment1

Fitnessnetwork.com.au

Iyengar Yoga practice encourages us to use a range of postures to become more conscious of our alignment, and of the relationship between different parts of the body. This can be as obvious as the position of a leg or arm in relation to the trunk, or as subtle as our sense of the direction of an area of skin or the angle of a joint. In this way, by identifying and correcting our physical tensions and mis-alignment, we can have a corrective effect on many systems of the body. monkeyWe can easily release tension, thus correcting musculo-skeletal problems, preventing further injury and pain.

In terms of your ‘core muscles’, Geeta Iyengar had a lovely analogy for this. Think of a baby monkey clinging to its mother as she swings high up through the trees of the jungle. The relationship between the back of the abdomen and the spine, what we call ‘core muscles’, should echo this.

01-low-back-and-tummy-cropHere’s a quick and easy example – are you sitting comfortably? Consider the position of the front and back of your lower trunk. The position of the pelvis is the critical factor in supporting the weight of the abdomen: everything else, including ‘core strength’, is secondary. So here’s a test for you. Lift your pubic bone up at the front and draw the back of the pelvis (your Sacrum bone) down. Now roll your shoulders back and lift your navel area up and slightly back. It shouldn’t feel hard – this is not about creating a six-pack, which incidentally could just as easily pull a weak lower back out of alignment.

Yoga postures can help you to realign your pelvis, identify your core muscles and release lower back pain, one step at a time.

These yoga postures form a simple daily routine with three key benefits:

  • They help to keep your lower back muscles and your spine healthy and supple.
  • They help to re-align your pelvis, esp. the first three poses.
  • They will strengthen the longitudinal, transverse and oblique muscles around the front and back of your abdomen, to better support the weight of the abdominal organs.

You will feel some benefits immediately, but this kind of conscious re-training takes practice, so keep it up!

  1. Lying – lie down flat on the mat, and push your feet into a wall. (Have them 4-6 inches apart.) Feel how your thigh bones press down towards the floor. Become aware of the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis and the sacrum bone at the back. Draw your pubic bone towards your navel, your navel slightly inwards towards your spine, and lengthen your lower back and sacrum away. This realigns the pelvis and the thigh bones. Now fold your arms, hold your elbows, inhale and take your folded arms over your head. Breathe normally for 5-10 breaths. Change the link and repeat, lifting the chest and pressing the legs down as you go.
  1. 01 Urdhva hast sittingSitting – try the same alignment sitting on a chair. Draw your navel back towards your spine, lift your chest and take your shoulders back. Feel better? What you have just done is to lift your lower abdomen up and lengthen your lower back down, which levels the bones of your pelvis and puts the weight of the abdomen into the ‘bowl’ of the pelvis, where it belongs, instead of dropping over the front of your pubic bone and giving you a belly!Lifting your chest and taking your shoulders back makes more space around the front and back of your abdomen, keeping this girdle of muscles firm, and of course relieving the pressure on your digestive organs. REMEMBER: this is not about creating a hard abdomen: it’s about realigning the skeleton-muscular structure.
  1. 01 Bvajasana ChairBharadvajasana – sit sideways on the chair, feet flat on the floor and knees pressed together, with the back of the chair to your right. (If your feet don’t reach the floor, place a block under your feet.) Repeat the abdominal lift as above. Then, keeping your knees and hips steady, turn your trunk towards the back of the chair and hold with both hands. Keeping your knees and thighs together, push gently with the right hand and pull with the left, so your trunk turns and your spine revolves.Keep your shoulders level, breathe steadily, and keep your chin in line with your breastbone. Hold for 3 breaths. Slowly turn to the front and pause for a breath. Swivel round on the seat so the back of the chair is now on your left. Repeat to the right and left once more, pausing between each twist. (Ladies: Miss this one out if you have your period.)
  1. 01-navasanaNavasana – face the seat of your chair. One at a time place your heels on the seat, holding a strap round the soles of your feet. Begin to straighten your legs. Tightening your kneecaps and extend the backs of your legs, pushing your heels away, and pulling on the strap with your hands. Learn to lift your chest, waist and lower back away from the floor. Keep your head, neck and face relaxed. Breathing evenly and smoothly, hold for 3-5 breaths.Relax the pose, bring your feet down if you need to, then repeat twice more, rolling your shoulders back as you lift your chest. Try to perch on your buttock bones! If you find the chair too high to start with, use a wall and gradually work your way up to chair height.
  1. J01 Jatt Parvatasanaatthara Parvatasana – lie down on your mat. Bring your knees up over your chest and push gently into your heels, keeping your legs firm, your feet and knees gripped together. Place your arms on the floor, straight out at shoulder height, backs of the hands to the floor. Keeping your knees together (that’s the tricky part!) and well bent, roll them slowly to your right and left, keeping a slow and steady rhythm to the movement and the breathing. Keep your face and jaw relaxed.Repeat this three times on each side, then rest with your feet hip width apart on the floor, knees bent and together. Repeat for three each side again.
  1. 01-urdhva-pras-padUrdhva Prasarita Padasana –lie down on your mat with your knees bent up. Lift your hips and put a yoga block under your sacrum. Bend your knees over your chest and put a strap over the balls of your feet, holding one end in each hand. Breathe in. As you breathe out push your heels up towards the ceiling, keeping your feet together and aiming to straighten your legs. The shorter your hamstrings, the more challenging this will feel.Hold this ‘L’ shape for 2-3 breaths, and then bring your knees back down to your chest on an exhalation. Rest for 2 breaths. Repeat this three times. If you find it difficult to straighten your legs, take your legs and feet further away from your face by using a longer strap. Experiment until you find an angle at which your legs feel comfortably straight, backs of the knees open. You can also rest your heels on a wall, as with Navasana. Finally put your feet down on the floor hip-width apart, knees bent and together, to allow your abdominal muscles to rest. Eventually, lift your hips and slide the block out, and rest your back on the mat.
  1. 01 Savasana with chairLegs over a Chair – lie with your back on the floor and your legs resting over the seat of the chair. (Put the chair sideways so you have room for your feet.) The edge of the seat should come right into the backs of your knees, so your calves rest completely on the seat. If you are less than 5’6” you might be more comfortable with a yoga block under your sacrum. If you are over 5’9”, you will find a well folded blanket on the chair seat more comfortable. Your thighs should be slanting slightly away from the chair. This particular pose relived a tight lower back and relaxes the spinal muscles.
  1. Savasana – To finish, lie with your back on the floor. It’s important to release the whole spine. You may be more confortable with your knees over a rolled blanket or bolster. Stay resting for 3-5 minutes, keeping the mind quiet and breathing normally.01 Savasana knees supported

Click HERE for a printable pdf version of this sequence.

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Iyengar Yoga Home Practice Sheets

These yoga routines are designed to be simple, effective and easy to use. You may need some equipment, but most can be substituted with things you have at home. Beginners can try any of the first seven sequences. The Level 1 and Level 2 sequences are for more experienced students.

Staying in the poses is part of the process, to observe the way the body adjusts, learn how to release pain and tension, and allow the body and mind to relax. So it’s helpful to have a timer for these sequences. If you use your phone put it in flight mode.

If you have any questions or comments, please use the box below.

With best wishes, Hannah.

 

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Filed under Beginners etc., Breathing, Iyengar, Lifestyle Changes, Pain, Relaxation, Yoga - Beginners, Yoga - Intermediate, Yoga - Therapeutic

Iyengar and Ashtanga Yoga.

Men & Yoga7
The philosophy behind Yoga is vast. It’s practically impossible for a Western person to embrace the beauty and subtlety of it all in just a single lifetime. If you practice yoga regularly, you may have had glimpses of your own inner potential, your natural spirituality. In order to explore that potential further, it’s useful to have a framework, or a map to guide you.

People usually start coming to yoga classes for reasons of fitness, health, flexibility but they find there’s another benefit, one that can’t be described, only experienced. When they come out of a class, everything is the same but something is different. The discomfort and stress in our brains is diminished, mental noise and emotional instability have been replaced by a quiet stability. What is it about yoga, specifically, that does that? And how does that lead to spiritual transformation?

Most of life is an accident that happens to us. We all have commitments, family issues and financial constraints, health problems. Things happen to us, some good, some bad, and we live with the imprint of these accidents for the rest of our lives. For richer or poorer, no one is immune. At times life is extremely uncomfortable, painful and stressful.

BKS Iyengar famously said that, “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” In this quote, he’s talking not just about the body, but the mind and the emotions too.

He also said that health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. “When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.” How can both those statements be true?

hall-of-positivityFirst we must cure what we can and the framework for this is found in the first two of the eight limbs of yoga: the Yamas and Niyamas. The first sets out a series of restraints in order that we might do the minimum amount of damage to others and to ourselves. Then we are encouraged observe and discipline ourselves. The reasoning behind this is very sensible – social justice is better for everybody and natural law encourages us to create a climate around ourselves that is comfortable for us and for others. And self discipline is the key.

Having put our house in order, the third limb suggests we focus on what we can do to counteract the natural physical, mental and emotional stresses of life through Asana practice. Asana means “seat”. When we practice we are developing our inner climate, one which is comfortable and supportive for the spirit. Sometimes the practice is for the body, sometimes for the brain, or the emotions, or the mind. We practice so that somewhere within any one of the asanas, we can find a moment of equilibrium. The asana needs to be physically comfortable, and with skilful teaching (as you find in RIMYI), if we ‘cannot do’ we find a method or a prop to provide that stability so that we can ‘go inside’.

Eight LimbsWith these first three basic steps, we can cure what need not be endured. The reason we continue to practice is that life goes on, some problems come and go, but some stay and must be endured. We do everything we can to create a harmonious, balanced, protected and receptive climate within and around the physical body from which we can access the spiritual body. It’s not dependent on how many postures you can do or how ‘well’ you can do them. But can you use them to create the freedom from physical and mental distractions and go further, spiritually? How do you do that?

The bridge between this external work and our spiritual world is Pranayama, the fourth limb, simply described as conscious breathing. The link between the body, the mind and the spirit is our Consciousness. Through the asana practice, we learn to read the body and the brain, like a textbook. We stay in the pose and use our intelligence and our breathing to explore further and further. And this is where the Western depiction of yoga loses its way. We improve and evolve, not by ability but by education, by becoming cultured in our practice. Like seasoned wood, which does not change with external conditions, we need to season our consciousness so it is not disturbed by external fluctuations.

And the next step towards this is withdrawal of the senses, Pratyahara,  the fifth limb, when the asana practice has settled the body, the brain and the mind, and our consciousness is free to explore our inner landscape. Look at the chart above – you’ll notice the figure is lying down for this stage and then sitting up for the 6th and 7th stages of focus and meditation. We’re entering the realms of prana, energy, nadis and chakras, concepts that are relatively inaccessible to the Western mind, because they exist in many dimensions, and we don’t have a deep familiarity with philosophy.

So first we have to learn to walk. “Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you have to choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it … Penetration of our mind is our goal, but in the beginning to set things in motion, there is no substitute for sweat.” BKS Iyengar.

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From #YOGA to Integral Consciousness.

BKS Iyengar said, “Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization.”

Ancient YogaThe purpose of yoga is to develop our self-awareness and lead us towards spiritual transformation, using the body as a microcosm, a map if you like, of previous incarnations, each of which have left their imprint: karma. Our yogic purpose is to access as many of these imprints as possible, using the asanas to break our resistance, face our fears, and transform ourselves. The body is simply a vehicle. It’s the mind that is the target and it’s very tricky, because it’s always moving, or getting stuck. 

‘Dis-ease’ in the human system manifests as changes in our emotional state, a negative mental attitude, physiological changes, altered breathing patterns or a combination of these. One fundamental Ayurvedic understanding is that an imbalance in any of these dimensions leads to dis-ease in others. What manifests in one dimension may have a root cause in another. Yoga practice is recommended in Ayurvedic medicine as a preventive and as a treatment, from a psycho-spiritual perspective. Thus yoga treats all the dimensions of the human system.

But how does this lead to human evolution, self-realisation, and spiritual transformation?

To begin to answer that massive question, we might consider what Jean Gebser called the Four Structures of Consciousness, which he suggests have evolved in our brains since Australopithecus roamed eastern Africa about 4 million years ago. Gebser’s major thesis was that just like any natural organism, human consciousness is and always has been, in transition, something that BKS Iyengar obviously understood.

The Heart has its reasonsIn the first transformation, the brain of Australopithecus evolved what Gebser called an Archaic Structure of Consciousness, almost completely instinctual with minimal self-awareness. We feel it when we are ‘at one with Nature’. The human being was totally immersed in the world unable to extricate him/herself from that world: they identified completely with that world and had no ego. (Think of a plant or a tree.) Today this manifests in our behaviour as the impulse towards self-transcendence, the need to remove the distinction between subject and object through ecstatic experiences or drug-induced states. Young people often seek this experience during their teenage years.

The second ‘cognitive style’, which Gebser called the Magical Structure, evolved through the era of Homo Erectus, about 1.9 million years ago until as recently as 70,000 years ago. It still pre-dates what we know as the Ego, and it operates at the archetypal level, what we call gut instinct. Today it’s active when we fall in love, when we’re spellbound, or in sympathy with someone or something. In the negative sense, it manifests as temporarily losing one’s judgment, or even one’s humanity, under the hypnotic influence of a large crowd. (Sounds familiar?) Gebser suggests it’s also the cognitive basis for magic, some inward yogic paths, and the cultivation of paranormal powers.

Buddha2The third transformation of the brain Gebser called Mythical. By this point, Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon people had evolved a degree of self-awareness and ego, similar to that of a child. The Mythical consciousness is active today when we “immerse ourselves in the imagery of the mind*”, when we express to our thoughts and feelings through poetry and art. Symbols & myths, feeling & intuition – these were the contributing factors used by our brains in the creation of sacred texts and ancient writings. We often use symbols and imagery for comfort and support, in times of stress.

These first three transformations involve structural changes in both mind and body and as we evolve, each ‘mutation’ continues to operate to some degree within us.

In the past 1-2,000 years we have evolved a fourth: the Mental. This operates in the domain of the rational mind which has now become acutely self-conscious, with a well-developed Ego. This cognitive style is based on the principle of duality – subject/object, black/white, yours/mine, either/or. And it’s proving extremely unhelpful to mankind and to the planet. Duality gives us only two choices and our fear of making the wrong choice or being told we’re ‘running away from the problem’ is exploited all the time by individuals and organisations whose sole purpose is the getting of power and money.

Your Magic Zone

Julian Lennon

Fortunately, evidence suggests there are millions of individuals who question and reject this approach. In his book ‘The Ever Present Origin”, Gebser suggests we could be witnessing the emergence of a fifth structure – Integral Consciousness. It might be wishful thinking but if he’s right, it could be the antidote to the excessive egoism of Mental Consciousness, along with its denial of our Spiritual reality and our Natural origins.

Integral Consciousness transcends the ego and restores the balance between the various structures of consciousness. It can be difficult to imagine but John Lennon wrote a song that describes what that might look like.

Yoga and other spiritual traditions contain within them many values and elements that could help us. The central principle is the ability to focus and discipline the mind in order for transformation to begin and continue. So when you unroll your mat, you’re becoming part of the solution. Discipline and humility are the key.

*With thanks to Georg Feuerestein PhD and his excellent book The Yoga Tradition.
**For a classic guide to integrating yoga into your daily life: The Tree of Yoga by BKS Iyengar.

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From #YOGA to Self-realisation.

Self-Discipline for Westerners.

As an Iyengar Yoga teacher, I’m at odds with Western depictions of what yoga is and what it’s about. To start with, there’s a fundamental issue I want to explore and that is our skewed Western view of the purpose of humility and respect.

At RIMYI, the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, we hear the phrase, “You people” used to describe “us Westerners”, when one of us has behaved like an idiot in class. It’s true – when we arrive most of us just don’t get it, and the learning curve is very steep.

20161110_091700_resized_1Take the crazy traffic as an example. The rule seems to be: keep moving, don’t waver and pedestrians, never step backwards – someone could easily be squeezing through the gap behind you. No one stops at roundabouts with the “After you” attitude of the Western give way system. Anyone who wavers causes problems for everyone else and I’ve seen dogs, cattle, pigs, hand carts loaded with all sorts, street sweepers (women in lovely saris with a long wispy broom) wandering up and down the roads quite safely while lorries, cars, motor bikes and scooters, often with several people on them (including children and babies), are doing things you’d get arrested for in the West. It might seem undisciplined and dangerous but if anyone causes an accident he/she will gather an angry crowd in seconds for displaying such stupidity and endangering the lives of others.

The practice hall in the Institute is a sacred place where for over 40 years Iyengar Yoga teaching has been developed, practiced and freely given. All the yoga props you see around the world today – wall ropes, bricks, belts, the trestler etc– and their therapeutic use in yoga, originated here, from hours of experimentation and refinement carried out in this room and in the small library below by BKS Iyengar, his family and his team of senior teachers. Why? Because in the beginning, Yoga is about healing, and they wanted to “help people who could not do”.

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Today, the city of Pune and it’s 2.5 million inhabitants (about the size of Greater Manchester) has five or six generations of Iyengar Yoga students and teachers. The daily classes in the two practice rooms are filled to capacity. The queues for registration in May each year are legendary. The rigour and discipline in class are eye-watering to soft Westerners, poses often performed completely without props, except for a sticky mat. (The Seniors use bolsters and belts to ‘help them do’, to sit straight, or to raise their arms.) The classes are strong, quick and detailed; every instruction is delivered from ‘a very straight bat’. The locals love it, and their love and respect for the Iyengars and their teachers is clearly evident. In the world-famous Medical classes, Iyengar Yoga and props come together and are used with years of skill and experience, providing relief and respite to those who need help.

But some of the Westerners don’t seem to get it. During general classes, if you make a mistake, the length of the tirade will depend on your ability to explain what you were doing and why: in other words, your level of stupidity in not acting on instructions. In taking it upon ourselves to do something different, are we suggesting we know better? We are teachers – we go back to our countries and pass these instructions and our attitude on to others. To bear the Iyengar name, our teaching must be of the highest quality to instruct our students safely and appropriately. And as a student, we must truly know ourselves, and as we develop, we need teachers to show us our blind spots. This isn’t always comfortable, but Geetaji’s lesson to me changed my lazy chatush padasana and I am grateful for it!

20161107_091241_resized_1Indian culture is rich with gods and rituals. Humility, homage, respect are naturally and unselfconsciously displayed by people here. Discipline doesn’t need to be rigorously applied – the Institute isn’t festooned with notices telling us what we can and cannot do – because if you behave with humility, pay attention and show respect, there’s not a lot of need for reminders. But Western stupidity knows no bounds, apparently. Last week a group of Westerners ate a picnic in the practice hall between classes. That’s as bad as bringing your shoes into the Institute. Self-discipline and appropriate behaviour grow naturally from humility and respect. ‘It’s a cultural thing,’ someone once said. If you haven’t grown up embedded within that culture, your understanding of it will only ever be sketchy.

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Yoga Days with Lovegrove Essentials.

Lovegrove Essentials Yoga & Spa Days at Saddle Street Farm are ideal if you want to organise something special for a group of friends, or give as a gift to someone you love. If you have any special requirements please let us know – we’re very happy to work with you to provide a relaxing and nourishing experience for your group.

Your spa day can be tailored for you with combination of a yoga class, massage therapy, beauty treatments, a make-up lesson, hair styling and nails; plus a delicious, healthy lunch.

Hannah Lovegrove – Iyengar Yoga Teacher with many years’ experience offers high-quality yoga classes in a fully equipped studio. Hannah is also a qualified masseuse and beauty therapist offering tinting, waxing, pedicures etc.
Hayley de Beers – top London make-up and hair artist. http://www.hayleydebeers.com
Daniel Stevens – gifted chef and food writer, and author of the River Cottage Bread Book.

The Lovegrove Essential Day Spa packages:
£85 – Yoga Class with Hannah, lunch and a Massage Treatment.
£90 – Yoga Class with Hannah, lunch, and an hour with Hayley.
£125 – Yoga Class with Hannah, lunch, a Massage Treatment, and an hour with Hayley.

For accommodation we recommend local B&B – Mary at Chapel End, Liz at Fulwood House and Lucy at Oathill Farm – all about 10 minutes from Saddle Street Farm and very reasonably priced. Please ask for details.

 

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Children are natural yogis!

Taylor (7) said, ‘ Look, Granny – I can do yoga,’ and threw himself down on the tiled kitchen floor in Yoganidrasana – just like that.

I was intrigued! So (on a carpet this time), we went through the pictures in a couple of children’s yoga books – ‘Watch Me Do Yoga‘ by Bobby Clennell and  ‘Yoga For Children‘ by Swati and Rajiv Chanchani.

Taylor – you’re a natural – even your mother was amazed!

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Iyengar Yoga home practice sheets.

These yoga routines are designed to be simple and easy to use. You may need some equipment, but most can be substituted with things you have at home. The first six sheets are suitable for all levels. The last two are suitable for more experienced students.
If you have any questions or comments, please use the box below.
With best wishes, Hannah.

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?

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BOOTCAMP & YOGA WEEKEND 2017: Friday 3rd March – Sunday 5th March

Contact Romla & Julian Ryan Tel: 01308 867 440 Mobile: 07920 262 971 Email: info@marshwoodmanor.co.uk

Marshwood Manor, Bettiscombe DT6 5NS

Marshwood Manor1This residential weekend is suitable for all levels, including Beginners. The teaching and small group size allows everyone to work to their own level. Please email me if you have any questions about the yoga, and contact Marshwood Manor to discuss the Bootcamp or to book. 

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Filed under Iyengar, Yoga - Beginners, Yoga - Intermediate, Yoga Days