We took the opportunity to slow down and really give space to our yoga practice and to go deeper. Each practice was longer than a usual class giving more time to delve, spend time exploring poses or pauses for longer and gaining familiarity with the ‘health mantra’ to cultivate our health and nourishment.
It could sound self-indulgent to spend a weekend like this, but truly it isn’t. Each of us needs nourishment so that we can show up in our everyday lives with more energy, kindness, patience and good humour and do all the things we need to do better. The hope is that periods of deeper practice rekindle the love of regular practice to inspire you to continue to nourish yourself regularly, to show up on your mat and avoid running on empty for too long.
The interest and discovery of breath was a real take-away for many. The workshop seemed to gravitate towards this through the interest of everyone there. It was so great to have time to experiment with the effects of breathwork in our practice and to understand how it can profoundly change our state and effect how we feel energetically, physically and mentally.
Working with the breath takes patience, I remember working with a breathing technique for 5 years (!) before I finally got it and was able to gain the benefits from it. Yes it was worth it! It can be such a useful and vital aspect of ourselves to cultivate.
The feedback from the weekend has been wonderful.
“Beautiful house, gardens, great food and very friendly. I enjoyed it so much and learned so much about the breath which I think has transformed my practice and I'll take forwards. I loved how relaxed it all was and a perfect gentle rhythm to the days. Thank you so much.”
“An outstanding weekend”
“A fabulous weekend. Feeling relaxed and grounded. Thank you.”
I’m already looking forward to the next one and will be planning it soon. Watch this space as the last one has been fully booked since last December.
In the meantime, keep yourself nourished, including through your yoga practice.
I have weekly classes which keep you practicing reguarly, offer 121s to support you with starting or developing your home practice, have online resources to help you practice in a fruitful way, and some nourishing Autumn workshops available soon.
Please get in touch if I can help or give me a ring if you want any guidance on your yoga practice or getting started.
One day, you stumble upon a telescope.
It looks grubby and old, but it is brass and the lenses are in good condition so it will likely clean up nicely. You make it a personal project and get started cleaning it up. You polish it until it is gleaming, you notice there are a few dents but nothing much to worry about. The lenses are grubby and you take some lens cleaner to them and make them sparkle too.
The telescope is your new pride and joy. You love it. It gleams and you enjoy keeping it golden and shiny. You keep the lenses clean and you enjoy it when others ask about your telescope. When they ask how you manage to make it so shiny and keep it in such great shape, you love to tell them about the techniques you use to polish it without finger marks and how you buff it and dust it daily. They admire it too and consider doing something similar.
But what is missing here? This beautiful instrument is now in fact more beautiful than before, but it is still a telescope. For all the polishing and shining, the cleaning and the taking pride in keeping it gleaming. It is still an instrument. And an instrument ultimately has a greater purpose.
It affords a different view from our day-to-day view that is so easy to overlook. The view that has been there all along once the lenses were clean enough to see.
We love our things, we love to work to improve them and gain satisfaction from the progress and developments we make. However ultimately the shiny brasswork is a non-essential bonus.
We sometimes approach our yoga practice in the same way. We hone our body, we become accomplished in our postures and do things we never thought we would be able to do. There is wonderful value in this and it makes use feel great and can be a lifeline in an unstable world. We refine our breath and become closer to our embodied selves and find a calm we never knew before. We make our minds attentive and focused and able to stay with objects of attention for longer than before. But then what...
The view that we can find by using the instrument for what it was intended, whether we have done all of our polishing and shining, has been there all along waiting to be seen.
The ancient Yoga Sutra of Patanjali capture this idea beautifully up front, right at the beginning.
Yoga is the containment of the minds movements
(Yoga Sutra. Chapter 1. Verse 2)
So that... our perception and awareness can rest in its own essential nature
(Yoga Sutra. Chapter 1. Verse 3)
The mind containment isn't the ultimate point, it helps us recognise it.
It makes it easier to see and notice, and a certain amount of focus and experience here helps. It brings its own benefits which can be delightful - but don't stop there.
Once we have this, what remains for us to notice?
What has been here all along that we have been overlooking by focusing on the 'every-day'?
What we are seeking in our yoga practice, can't be found anywhere but right here. It is already available and present. We don't need to polish the brass to find it.
Don't forget to find that amongst your practices.
So what happened?
She moved quickly and breathed as she was used to. She would finish before everyone else, and look around bored. And she missed a fair amount of what the class was offering, the class simply didn't suit where she was.
Here are a few things she missed:
A chance to leave behind the 'rushing' that makes up most of the rest of our life.
Allowing time to not just 'do' a yoga pose or breath, but to actually embody, inhabit and Be in a pose and find a fuller connection to every single breath.
The increased challenge of moving slowly. The body has to sustain the movement for longer, the breath requires more focus as it is so different to our habitual pace, and there is less chance to escape into easier bits of the practice.
If we normally breath at around 15-breaths per minute in our everyday breath, in a typical sun salutation you might find yourself at 6 or 7 breaths a minute. This is great and offers a lot. But then what would happen if you went to 3 or 4 breaths a minute?
It feels really different, it requires 10X focus, the nervous system loves it, the body has to slow down to more control in each pose is required which takes more skill, and you notice way more.
Needless to say, the after-class chat went along the lines of: do I do any other types of class where she can work harder and feel more challenged.
I'm not the right teacher for her, and if I was, my beginners class would be a great starting point so that she could established a good foundation of movement and breath.
Not every teacher is the right one for every student. You need to be met where you are, and engaged in the practice that they are compelled to teach. I wish her well and hope she finds a teacher that can catch her attention and that she can really learn from.
When you first get started, there is a period of figuring out how to get to the mat regularly. Learning what sort of class suits you, and understanding the format of the class and what the teacher is talking about.
Then you start to figure out how to get into some basic postural forms, discover what the breath is doing. discover how to focus and pay attention. The teacher provides helpful feedback to help guide you into safe and effective practice.
As the practice becomes more familiar perhaps we can then independently start to listen to our own cues and tune in to more subtle aspects. The guidance of the teacher is part of the picture, your own internal guidance perhaps starts to be of more importance.
Some practice styles prioritise teacher feedback, others tend to prioritise students tuning in to their own feedback. Our own feedback may be more subtle and easier to miss until we become more sensitive in our practice.
A teacher can never know what you are feeling in the same way that you can. At first you might have no idea how your feeling, but that sensitivity gradually develops. Your body might need to start grumbling more before it is listened to by you. The breath might get lost or become agitated or we might become out of breath before we listen to it.
Sometimes students ask me for adjustments and may be disappointed when I suggest that their pose is in a good place, and offer cues to help them feel for themselves. Often people like to be told what to do (or perhaps they are used to being told what to do).
Your body and breath are great guides, along with pausing to notice or taking more time in your practice to understand the responses being offered.
Pausing during our practice, rather than just at the end, to observe moments of stillness and quietness, may seem counter intuitive if it isn't something your used to. Pausing, sometimes after each pose, can help us reduce our tendency to rush and not pay close attention. Some people take to it like ducks to water, moments of space and quiet are why they came to the practice in the first place. Some like to feel heat and intensity of a challenging practice with a strong focus to support and stabilise them. A long savasana at the end, once our energy is spent, may be the closest we get.
Understanding your own practice can be your greatest teacher in yoga. Understanding the body and the breath, and ultimately understanding the mind and more subtle aspects beyond can be revelatory.
A teacher / guide can be of enormous help and point things out that your not seeing and help you avoid indulging some ideas you may have about your practice. Feedback is a collaboration through relationship with your teacher, your body, your breath and the fruits of your practice.
When practicing in the heat when your not used to it, you might need to modify your yoga practice slightly.
Here are some top tips:
1) Come to your yoga mat well hydrated
2) Take more time between yoga poses and transitions. Blood pressure might be different so allow more time between lying, kneeling and standing transitions
3) Listen closely to how demanding your breath becomes and ease off the effort if your breath doesn't remain steady and calm.
4) Practice with your mat on a wooden or tile floor, then when you lie down leave your arms hanging off the edge of the mat and enjoy the coolness you find there. Perhaps even step off your mat and practice with feet on the floor for the standing asana.
5) Consider leaving out the really vigorous parts of your practice if you find your getting too hot or sweating a lot.
6) Feel the differing sensations in the body from how you usually take your practice, an opportunity to take familiar postures through a new lens.
7) As always, enjoy and take more time sitting with the breath as your practice focus and less time in demanding asana.
Wishing you well in the heat.
Many yoga practitioners leave it there. The fruit of practice has served its purpose, the body and mind are happy, all is good. Roll on the next practice where we do this again.
But perhaps, at some point in your developing practice of yoga, this body focus and breath focus will become more familiar and come more naturally to you. The teacher will need to offer less instruction as your own enquiry and focus will lead the way. The body and mind may become less demanding and needy, allowing for greater stability and perhaps allowing space for other aspects to emerge.
The teacher may become instrumental in guiding you in more subtle matters or ways of practicing. Rather than allowing the sometimes whimsical ways of the mind lead the way, guidance and direction can be very helpful.
The monthly Sunday sessions at YogaSpace are intended to really put further developments of yoga practice, beyond the immediate benefits and side-effects of practice, front and centre and open it up to discussion.
Reflecting on this past Sunday's morning practice we went into the depths of what the concept of 'energy' in our yoga practice might mean. Not in a text book definition, not what the ancients made of it, leaving aside theories of coiled snakes or conceptual energy centres, not in a physics theory (E = mc2 anyone?), but the actual, direct experience of energy - the stuff we are made from.
Can we feel it?
What does it feel like?
What can we 'do' with this feeling?
Can we change it or manipulate it?
Find deep rest in it?
Does it mean anything?
Can we experience it at all?
Finding a first person perspective of our energy without it being 'out there' (literally and metaphorically). You can't be told this, you can only experience it for yourself. It might be subtle, it might be powerful, it is certainly very curious.
If your curious about your practice, perhaps join us one Sunday and participate in the practice and then discussion.
There is really only one reply. Why do you want to be able to do the Lotus posture?
There are lots of ideas about yoga, and one is that the pose has some special quality that once you achieve it, will be bestowed upon you. The myth is that sitting in Lotus posture will mean you are finally 'good' at yoga, or can 'do' yoga, or will be able to meditate more effectively. Perhaps the ego will finally be satisfied (!), or your discomfort with sitting quietly will go away.
Truth is, many people will never be able to sit in Lotus posture. Or if they manage it, could well damage their knee, hip, ankle etc. or create other undesirable outcomes.
The bigger question to explore, is to understand why have they come to yoga and what can yoga offer them. It might not be obvious at first. There may be paths to pursue that then require a change of course. This is life. But starting them down a safe and satisfying route of practice, while exploring why they want a particular posture so much and helping them perhaps see a greater use of their time, is part of being an effective guide. It may be that 6-months to Lotus pose is a wonderful pursuit, if it gets them on the road to daily, safe, practice.
This term in my group classes, we are focusing on sitting in some variation of cross-leg pose. Not because at the end of the term everyone will be able to sit cross-leg, that would be a fools promise. But to help those who can and want to, move towards it safely, and those who can't (or can but shouldn't) realise that another pose, or sitting on a chair, may well be far more beneficial and fruitful for their meditation practice.
Enjoy the practice. Comparing yourself or aiming for someone else's practice is a reliable way of making you unsatisfied and unhappy.
Advertisers, social media, TV, radio, friends, family, sales people, chores - many things want a slice of our attention. It is a valuable resource and there often doesn't seem like enough to go around.
Your attention is literally for sale. Advertisers pay good money for it, news companies are funded by it. Treat it with high regard and choose what you do with it wisely.
Yoga practice includes the art of cultivating sustained attention towards that of your choosing. In our practice we gradually discover that we can 'do' less, so that we can 'be' with ourselves more fully. Our practice might start with 'attention grabbing' poses and bold breath focus, and from there the practice unfolds. We gradually settle into being more comfortable in our body, our mind settles down, and we are able to discover relative stillness. We turn away from the external world for a while, discover our own internal sanctuary and find a wellspring from which to restore ourselves.
Have you noticed that in yoga practice we start with more energising, external facing, open poses, and gradually become quieter, more internally aware, more subtle? Our attention is encouraged to settle onto the body, the breath, the inner sensations, and this process unfolds as we continue through our practice. What feels like a stormy body and mind at the beginning of practice, becomes more calm and steady by the end.
The art of paying attention, of intentionally choosing what you attend to, is really a radical act in today's world as it goes against what external forces would command. But it is a skill well worth cultivating. Find more space and freedom in your life as you give your attention to what you choose, rather than by-design what you encounter. Spend your attention wisely and reap the rewards.
Spend a moment answering these questions:
1) What do you want from your practice?
3) What difference will this make?
4) Why don't you just < ... > instead?
(put in something that is quicker, easier, more convenient etc.)
Once you're satisfied that you've been honest and thoughtful, set yourself a suitable practice target to stick with for a minimum of one month and see if the results fit alongside your answers.
If they don't, go back and rethink, or ask your teacher for guidance.
Yoga can be brilliantly effective at many things. It is helpful to know what you want from your efforts and apply the tools appropriately.
If your not sure you have a goal, and just enjoy the practice, that is absolutely fine, no grand goals required, but it can be helpful to have clarity on your aims and means.
Sometimes our the ego tells us our efforts are worth it but it can be a competitive exercise that we are pursuing without realising it. Our goals could well be met with less practice or another activity or more breath focus and meditation and less asana.
I know people who practice to get their back stronger but then avoid the safe back-strengthening exercises preferring to rest the area. Appropriate sometimes but at some point, you need to gain more stability in the back, and maintain it so that the problem doesn't re-emerge.
Let me know how you get on.
What does it mean to be 'good' at yoga?
That you can do many of the poses or techniques?
Perhaps that you have athletic prowess or a graceful and flexible body?
Maybe your face remains serene under duress?
That you get to your mat regularly no matter what?
Or maybe you have mental focus like a laser beam and an impressive breath?
The quality of your yoga practice can be viewed through the pursuits that you are able to master along the way
it can be viewed through the lens of the quality of care and attention that you bring to your practice.
Try bringing in more care and attention.
Sun salutations not required.
A common question, often when you are getting going with it. What's my response? Well it depends on your aims and needs and what other life commitments you already have. Regular is good, but more is not always better.
I practice yoga every morning, before the day gets going. Before the kids are awake and when the house is still relatively quiet. I get up and take to my mat or whatever space is available if I'm not at home. I take asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breathwork) and then sit in meditation. This is my foundation, and it feels essential with teenagers in the house. It's not a chore, I love it and miss it if I don't do it.
Is a weekly yoga practice enough
A weekly practice provides a regular, intimate contact with yourself, your health and wellbeing. Spending time with a close connection to your body, your breath, your mind, Moving your body in ways that support your physical and mental health, breathing well and allowing space for the mind to quieten.
Is daily yoga practice a good idea?
I encourage my students to take practice in between classes. I provide short practice handouts based on what we do in class, and offer advice to support them in developing their own home practice. This doesn't work for everyone, but even 10 minutes a day can be a brilliant addition to your day.
A daily practice is different to a weekly class. The daily practice is more intimate - you are there connecting with your body, breath and mind more often so the relationship with yourself becomes more refined. Your understanding of your body each day will develop, along with the understanding of your breath and mind and the thought patterns you begin to notice. I have a course that is set up to help you develop a regular home practice if this sounds appealing to you: Home practice course >
Is there such a thing as too much yoga practice?
I've certainly come across keen yoga practitioners who do a lot of yoga practice, sometimes several hours a day. Anything can be taken to extremes so of course that is true with yoga practice as well. Equally there are those who have a modest daily practice who find it invaluable. How much do you actually need to gain the benefits you seek. And how much is your ego telling you more is better or being competitive with yourself or others?
How will I know what suits me?
It might not be the quantity of the yoga techniques that is being practiced but perhaps what has been chosen to practice. A yoga teacher is a great resource to help you find a suitable practice. Ensure that the teacher you choose is experienced and isn't just about fitness and getting stronger and more flexible. There is more to yoga and more to life.
Anything is better than nothing, but too much might not be as helpful as you think...
You'll likely be familiar with how important breathing is to the practice of yoga.
It's a remarkably effective and direct way to leave behind your whirling mind, once you've become comfortable with it.
If you've not yet discovered the benefits of breath focus, you may wonder what all the fuss is about and decide that the usual everyday breathing we do all day long is sufficient.
Breath focus, or pranayama in Sanskrit, is a profound and accessible tool that can offer a way into a direct experience of yourself, your mind, body and breath. A bridge out of being lost in thought, lost in worries, day dreaming etc. You move beyond thinking about the breath and become able to simply experience the breath with full awareness. At first maybe just for micro-moments, but over time in more sustained ways.
If you've ever tried this, you might be thinking, easier said than done. But like many things that are worthwhile, it might take a bit of practice to get the hang of it.
12 count hand mudra
A technique we've been using in my yoga classes this term which can be hugely helpful, is the 12-count hand mudra. A brilliant device for accessing the breath awareness more fully. A simple hand gesture that once it is familiar enough is a great addition to your yoga toolkit.
Using the left hand turned up, the back of the hand resting on your thigh, you use the thumb to count round the 12 inner creases of each finger (inside the knuckles).
- Place the thumb on the first crease of your first finger, and take a breath (inhale and exhale).
- Then on the next breath, moving the thumb to the middle crease on the first finger.
- With 12 creases to count on your fingers, you move round in a spiral shape among the creases. With 12 movements of your thumb, 12 breaths, you finally reach the middle of your ring finger (as long as you didn't forget to move your thumb and remembered to only touch each finger crease once).
Simple but effective
It is similar to counting on beads, and serves the same purpose. It helps you move away from your thoughts, and for a moment leave behind your conceptual mind (counting after all is conceptual).
The counting has been migrated to the hand so the mind is free to experience the breath more directly and fully. You are able to count without thinking about counting. This technique, once it is practiced enough for it to be comfortable and easy, allows you to move out of thinking and come more fully into directly experiencing the breath and the sensations in your hands. From here, you can experience each breath and moment in a new way.
It is a simple idea. As a technique it doesn't have the glitter of a complex body shape or flow of movements, but in its simplicity lies its power.
So ... a challenge for you
- Week 1: Use the mudra everyday to learn it and become comfortable with it
- Week 2: Then se it every day with more subtlety and more proficiency and notice the difference.
Simply take 12 quiet breaths, counting on your hand. Notice what you experience when you do it, how it leaves you, and if this has any bearing on the rest of your day.
Enjoy and feel free to get in touch with questions.
Online yoga has firmly established itself in our lives. It offers brilliant benefits and enables more people than ever to discover yoga practice.
Yoga is so good, that even a a few asanas (postures) can quickly improve how you feel - as can other straightforward exercise forms. Anything is generally better than nothing, no matter what it is. The body likes to move.
So having an in-person yoga teacher isn't a pre-requisite to get started. 'Yoga with Adrienne' and those like her have a valuable and worthwhile place in a yoga practitioners tool kit.
Is in-person yoga different?
I teach a handful of people who I've never met in person, just via the screen. I know most of my online students from before we all went online, but a few have joined me along the way. Some of these have since met me for 121s or come to my studio for class from time to time so that I can get to know them and their practice further.
This is immensely helpful. Seeing them in-person helps the guidance be more tailored to them, and also helps me then picture what they are likely to be doing when they appear in their little box on the screen. I can anticipate the habits they are likely to accumulate if I see them from time to time.
If I haven't seen you in two years, I have very little to go on except where you were 2 years ago, and what you have fed back to me along the way. When I see you practice in your little box, I'm able to see if you have got the right end of the stick, I can pick up on a few cues, and so can trust that the basic benefits will be coming your way.
Then there are people I see regularly in-person. We chat, I see them practice and see the response in them, I see how they breathe, and hear the quality of their breath, which can be the most revealing part of someone's yoga practice and helps me provide more nuanced guidance. I can see where they benefit and where they struggle, notice their expressions or tension signs during practice, and help them practice with increasing skill.
Deepening a yoga pose
Yoga practice isn't just about accessing a posture, going 'further' in a pose, or developing physical prowess. The health benefits and physical development are rather wonderful and compelling side effects.
Often we aim to do 'more' with a pose or with the breath than is necessary. We continually 'try' and 'strive' in our practice. We want to go further, deeper, stronger, and so on. If we aren't trying, then what is the point?
Trying too hard
This accumulative 'trying' is perpetuated from the rest of our life, and seems to be an expectation of all our pursuits. If we aren't 'getting anywhere' then why bother? We 'try' all day long, pushing, striving, grasping, wanting in sometimes very subtle ways.
Our yoga practice doesn't have to be that. It can be a counter point to how we habitually find ourselves in the rest our life. It can become a place of skillfully noticing our habits and attitudes and then finding ways of 'letting go', of shedding and removing blocks, tensions, excess efforts. These are commonly blind spots that you can't see on your own, or at least it will likely take you much longer.
Yoga is as much about 'doing' something as it is about 'un-doing'. Offering ways of moving, breathing and sitting which are beyond a place of struggle and striving. Helping to find a place of greater freedom which might not be realised when you are seemingly getting along fine on their own with their screen as the guide. Finding qualities of space and freedom in your yoga practice can be revelatory.
Here's the thing with yoga... you can take practice for years and enjoy the immediate benefits of it helping you feel great. It provides so much - bringing us a comfort in our body, breath and mind so quickly. It provides so much strength, health and suppleness over time too. This is its power but also its sticking point. As we then might overlook its greatest potential. The developmental discipline, subtlety and insightful power of intimate yoga (in a space that doesn't involve a screen).
It awaits discovery for those who are curious.
Is every morning a beautiful morning?
It's grey, cold, drizzling in your face, and your getting wet. You didn't sleep well, you stubbed your toe, and you've got a job today that last time you did it, was tricky to say the least.
It's sunny, blue skies, birds are singing. Your well, you've got the day off, and you've just won the lottery.
Which do you prefer?
It depends on your frame of mind
Both mornings could be great, or both mornings could be dreadful, depending on the state of your mind. If our mind is clear and present who is to say that cold drizzle and a painful toe have any bearing on how your day unfolds or is experienced. You might even discover a song in your heart.
Yoga helps us look past our judgements
It is worth noting and querying our initial mental judgements on our day. Whether the day is going well or not.
Yoga practice helps us to find a more equanimous viewpoint. Moving into our body steadily, breathing slowly and mindfully, settling the thoughts - taken on a regular basis this can help us to react less to our immediate judgements and work with them more skillfully. It helps us take each day as it comes, and meet it with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. And with the right framing, each moment could be a treasure to be discovered.
Don't rely on the sunshine, your mood, or any other factors to decide how your day goes. If we were only happy when the day was going well, we (and those around us) are in for a bumpy ride. Find ways that help you reset your view and see what you might be missing. Noticing the beauty and joy, even in the face of drizzle and toe-pain, is definitely a skill worth cultivating. Rest assured, you'll need to deal with both at some point, especially if you live in Bristol.
Are you good at yoga?
Are you doing yoga wrong?
Is there a body position you struggle against?
Is there a breath technique which feels hard?
Who made up the rules of yoga anyway?
Rules are made up by people
Rules are made up by people. They are guidelines that probably helped someone (or many people) to gain more from their yoga practice, and so they keep being repeated and enforced in the hope that they will help you too.
They are often from a book and you don't really know if the person who wrote the book would stick to that rule if they knew what happened with you when you tried to follow it. Or the rule might simply be from a bossy person who likes to tell people what to do.
I do this to my kids quite often, enforce rules and boundaries, sometimes I'll seem bossy. And this has its place. Sometimes they just need to know where to start, and what to do, and how to do it. It is a good place to begin for them, and they like rules ... at first.
But at some point there is a conversation about the rule, when they are ready or when they feel like that rule isn't a great idea, and the rule may well be due for an update as a result of the discussion. Or they may just need to understand what underpins the rule helps it make more sense to them.
When to break the rules
Rules are there to be helpful. But rules are also there to be broken / updated / changed when they aren't working.
If you come up against a rule in yoga, use it as a springboard for your own enquiry into what it does for you, or what it doesn't do for you. This doesn't give you free reign to do what you like, discipline is a powerful tool in yoga and one that I have high regard for.
This is where teachers are really helpful. Someone more experienced at understanding this rule than you, with whom you can discuss it. Explore why the rule would be a helpful one for you to work with (or not). What might the rule offer that your not seeing from your viewpoint.
Be prepared for an outcome either way, or if the teacher doesn't know why the rule is there, and isn't able to explore it with you, then find someone more experienced who is.
Perhaps the rule is generally a good idea, or perhaps the insight you gain from the conversation and enquiry is perhaps more beneficial than the rule itself.
Some approaches to yoga teach the same sequence of postures and techniques that you learn, practice, develop, progress and refine over many years (e.g. Ashtanga Vinyasa).
Some yoga teachers change what is taught in every class (e.g. Vinyasa Flow can get very creative). There are benefits and pitfalls to each and of course it doesn't need to be one or the other ...
I teach a midline in my group classes, but with a definite pointer towards repetition and familiarity of postures, breathwork and technique. Hopefully leading you towards daily practice, repeating your personal home practice each day without variation unless there is a specific reason to adapt it.
Group yoga classes
My group classes follow a term of more or less the same practice - that is several weeks of the same class. There is some development of the poses over time, exploring variations or subtleties within the poses as they become increasingly familiar. Repetition in this way helps you move beyond the excitement of 'what are we going to do today?' to allow you to become more deeply involved in what and indeed how to practice and enable you to refine what you are doing and perhaps discover more subtlety and more spaciousness in the practice. Rather than inviting in exploration of what is new and exciting, removing the novelty to leave space for other aspects to emerge.
Pros and cons
Varying what is taught every couple of months supports you to encounter new postures, techniques and ways of practicing, learn how to do them in ways that suit you, and perhaps even discover that they are valuable to you and perhaps include in your own home practice.
Creative practice can be exhilarating and entertaining. Trying new things, exploring your body and breath, capturing your attention in new ways. This is particularly important for younger people who need the variety to keep them engaged and to keep them coming back to the practice. It can be satisfying in a way that is hugely important when you are embarking on your journey and need external motivation to keep going.
I practice almost the same thing every morning. However as with all elements in viniyoga, it is about picking the right tool for the job and teaching what is beneficial and appropriate to the person wanting to practice yoga.
What do you think?
I'm part of a community of teachers who participate in the Association of Yoga Studies (AYS). A group of a few hundred teachers, mostly in the UK, who meet annually to share teachings, learn from experts in their field, and continually develop our knowledge and understanding of yoga and yoga teaching. We are based in the teachings of TKV Desikachar and his father, Krishnamacharya, Viniyoga.
Part of this tradition is chanting. Chanting the Yoga Sutras was a core part of my teacher training. Learning by heart some of this core text which forms the basis of much of what I teach. Even though it is over 2,000 years old, the teachings on the mind are so relevant to modern life.
Being able to chant in Sankrit was a surprise part of my training that I didn't realise I was going to learn to do, but here I am, years later still continuing and participating in group chanting.
There are practical reasons to learn how to chant...
- breath development
- learning the ancient teachings of the Vedas and Yoga Sutras by heart
- focus and concentration (you literally can't drift your attention and remain true to the Sanskrit sounds without knowing that you have, as you'll make an audible mistake right away and bringing your focus keenly back)
- quietening the body, nervous system and mind
But something else happens when you chant, especially when your in a group. A resonance takes place in your own body and mind. Especially with the group sound, the coming together of individual voices to make a collective sound which is a wonderful and powerful experience. Anyone who takes part in a choir or orchestra will understand what I'm talking about. It's no coincidence that every culture has singing practices embedded deep within. And Covid has reminded us the value of being together in a room with others.
Chanting in Sankrit, continuing the strict chant rules and pronunciation that has remained as unchanged as possible for over 2,000 years is an inspiring experience. It brings us together, connecting us individually, as a collective, and to the shared subtle underpinning of our everyday life.
This past weekend I took part in a wonderful Vedic Chanting retreat with Chris Preist. Coming together with a shared joy of yoga practice and study with time for reflection and silence has never felt as needed as after the challenges of Covid.
If you've ever wondered about chanting, please do ask me, or come to one of my workshops where we use simple chanting and sound practices.
Or simply try humming to yourself and start to enjoy the sound and vibration.
Lie on your back, knees bent.
~ Place your hands over your eyes (not pressing on the eyes themselves) and block out the light.
~ Gaze into the darkness and patterns that appear there.
~ And then take a soft, easy hum each time you exhale.
~ Do this for a few minutes, slowly listening to the sound of each hum.
~ No matter what note or quality of sound, and no matter if you like the sound of your voice or not. Feel the sound if you don't like to listen to it,
~ After 5 minutes, see how you feel. Something will have changed in you. ~ Ponder....
2020 was a year like no other. It was completely unexpected and included things I never thought I would do in my life.
An incredible year
Given all the limits and constraints of the year, I found it incredible in many ways. Some things of course I'm hoping we move on from. But I've learned so much, and continue to learn from all that has been thrown at us.
My meditation practice allows me a welcome space to sit with the tragedy of the year, and the heightened visibility of inequality and privilege demonstrated through the virus's progression through different communities and countries and the BLM movements. A clear re-evaluation of life and what to do with the privilege that I have is an ongoing project.
Perhaps we've all come to value our health and way of life more than ever before. We can more easily recognise the gifts of our health and our privilege and ensure we use these gifts well in our daily lives.
Start small, for achievable and sustainable progress. From how we make ourselves more resilient in our own health, through our lifestyle and dietary choices, to how we interact with others and treat our neighbours and engage with our local communities.
My top tips for every day:
There are lessons for each of us from 2020. If any positives are to come of last year, let's find them and take them to heart.
At the start of lockdown, they announced an immediate and unexpected change to the way they reimburse partners (all studios and yoga teachers, not just us) and drastically reduced what they pay us when one of their members attends a yoga class. The reduction was massive, sometimes as much as 70%. This inevitably meant that our income and our teachers income reduced too. They needed to do this so survive as a business, so it makes sense for them. And it has meant that their members could continue their yoga classes during this time, which has been important.
For online yoga we have continued to accept MoveGB members and we have loved seeing you in class. But sadly this change means we have no choice but to limit MoveGB members to online classes only going forwards for the time being. At the physical studio, which we are hoping to reopen soon, spaces are going to be very limited given social distancing measures, so we have to plan accordingly. So initially we will be only accepting MoveGB members to online classes.
We will continue to honour current members with online classes, but we just wanted to let you know this change ahead of time so you can consider your options as we re-open our studio space and hope to welcome you back again.
As always, we welcome your comments and questions so please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Founder of YogaSpace,
More about Clara >