Friday 27 June 2014

Active body, still mind

Have you noticed that after yoga you come out of class more centered and calm? Your mind at peace, resting a moment from the incessant activity that often occupies it. Patanjali wrote about this phenomenon thousands of year ago in the yoga sutras, short aphorisms describing the yogic path. Sutra 1.2 yogah cittavritti nirodhah is translated from the Sanskrit by Mr Iyengar* as “yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness...the restraint of fluctuations of thought”. Yoga asks us to be in the present moment, the same thing that Eckhart Tolle refers to in The Power of Now. In fact the sutras begin with the word now. “Now we begin the practice of yoga...” It is that quiet state in which the mind stops chattering and we can simply breathe and be. Like a blank slate, without preconceptions. The mind feels like it is coming home and is able to relax. In this state we actually clear out our samskaras (our past influences that can limit us by determining how we react to things), much like de-fragging a computer. This creates more freedom to be our authentic selves. 

* Light on The Yoga Sutras, p.46

Wednesday 19 December 2012

One student's story

This week I asked one of my students, Tessa, to write a piece for my blog about her yoga experience at The Yoga Nook. Here is what she had to say .....

Twenty years ago, in my early twenties and suffering from panic attacks, a naturopath sent me to the Glebe Yoga School. This was back in the day when there were very few yoga schools in Sydney and I had no idea what to expect. I lived in Glebe at the time, and twice a week I dutifully turned up for two hours of Iyengar yoga under the direction of Peter Thomson or one of the other teachers at his school and within weeks the panic attacks disappeared and my intrigue in yoga began.

When I moved from Glebe I stopped going to the school simply because it was too difficult to get to and from Glebe without a car. Over the years as the popularity of yoga grew I tried different schools of yoga but I never found one I felt was as good for me as those original Iyengar classes. When I moved to Dulwich Hill I often walked past The Yoga Nook and was curious as to what was on offer but with two small children I didn’t have the time or motivation needed to get me there. That was until my son befriended Linda’s son at preschool and I met Linda and discovered she had done her teacher training at the Glebe Yoga School and was teaching Iyengar yoga at The Yoga Nook, so I enrolled in her classes and have been going regularly ever since.

The thing I love about Iyengar yoga is the emphasis on doing the poses correctly, and in Linda’s classes the detailed instruction has often made me realize that for years I had been doing a pose incorrectly. Her gentle instruction as you align your body into a pose takes you deeply inside your own body and there is often a point when I feel it all comes together, the balance, the lightness and the strength, and I gain the pleasure that comes with movement and the release of tension.

Linda takes great care to consider each individual’s needs and issues and offers modified versions of poses ensuring any injuries or issues are cared for. At times she will explain the effect a pose may have on our minds and our moods too, and it is these insights into yoga philosophy we all enjoy. 

The Yoga Nook is a small school and the students get to know each other and friendships are formed so it is nurturing on that level as well. It has become a place of rejuvenation for me.  No matter how tired I am, or caught up in the daily grind, I know that once I am in the room I will start to feel better. In my fantasy life I have the time to go to a class there every morning, but in reality I only make it two or three times a week, which is enough to have made significant improvements to my health and well-being. 

Friday 9 November 2012

Retreating to move forward

For me breaking my routine and going away for a short holiday has become an essential part of life. It recharges me, reignites me and wakes me up to the possibilities that exist beyond my everyday existence. It shifts my focus to the big picture and lets me return to my routine excited and energised, with new perspective and enthusiasm.

It also means I can concentrate on my yoga practice and give it more space to affect me. This is the beauty of going away on retreat, it allows us the luxury of space and time around our yoga practice to process the things that come up and let the energy fly!

                                I found this recently in a box of old photos. It was taken many 
                         years ago in Rishikesh where BKS Iyengar was teaching in a 
                         tent on the banks of the Ganges. These senior Iyengar yoga 
                         teachers from around the world were giving a demonstration. 
                         It made me feel nostalgic too, for India and the luxury of 
                         spending six hours a day doing yoga!

I especially love doing yoga surrounded by nature because it takes me out of my head and into my animal body, feeling the heat and the breeze and smelling the earth. It is liberating to do yoga in the warmth with the vigour of a tropical vine and revitalise afterwards with a swim in the ocean.

I have been coming up to Yeppoon from Sydney for more than 30 years now because some of my family live here. I find it the perfect antidote to Sydney. That’s why I started offering yoga retreats up here at The Haven in Emu Park, to share my Queensland experience with my Sydney students.

Yoga retreats work on different levels for practitioners at different stages. In the beginning, it’s just great for people to connect with themselves and their yoga away from the distractions of normal life. As we practice more, it can be great to go on retreat to deepen our experience by working more intensely into the asanas and giving ourselves the space to process whatever comes up. Often a deep yoga practice can unsettle us and bring up anger or other emotions that are difficult to deal with when you’re busy trying to get the kids to school or yourself to work. A yoga retreat lets us deal with this stuff without having to worry about any of the consequences of taking it out on the people around us!

As one of the participants at my last retreat said “My partner always encourages me to go on retreat because he knows I’ll come back a happier person, easier to live with!”

I think going on retreat is like getting to the heart of whatever may be disturbing or inspiring us, and looking at it so we can function optimally and continue to grow and flower like a healthy and luxuriant tropical plant.