“Dharma is the compelling force in each of us that longs to thrive, to become who and what we are meant to be”
This week in my practice and teaching I am exploring the idea of expansion…. in breath, body and life!
“When you combine desire and faith to that it is in which you aspire to, you send an proactive force into the universe that creates a wave of energy, thus activating energy particles which then begin the manifestation process, kind of like a magnet to iron. The bigger the desire equaled with faith, the higher likeliness of materialising what it is you strive for. Stop living a life in which you are not in control of and join forces with the universe in which we are all a part of. Expand your consciousness and be grateful for every instance in the physical plane, it is what you must decide if you want to live the life that you want.”
I’ve had a regular yoga practice for over 12 years and since completing my yoga my teacher training two years ago, a strong daily practice. Something just doesn’t feel right when I don’t practice yoga in the morning, it’s kind of like not brushing your teeth!
A little under 2 years ago my life and practice were derailed. I couldn’t practice. I’ve spoken of it lots, a lump, cancer, operatic problems, followed by treatment. This meant my body couldn’t do what it was used to doing. At first I tried to fight it; I tried to push my body to do things that it just wasn’t ready to do. After some time, contemplation and reading of the yogic texts, I listened to my body and started form where I was. I stripped right back and modified. I went from a strong vinyasa practice to pranayama, meditation and yin style yoga.
My body, muscles and mind responded well and before long I was strong again… Indulging in sweaty vinyasa and strong Iyengar classes.
3 months ago my practice derailed again. This time for a happier reason… I’m now 4 months pregnant. What struck me first of all was excitement, joy, all of the things you would hope to feel but then the green-ness set in. Never in my life have I felt so ill and quite frankly that is saying something! I’ve heard of morning sickness, I have sisters and friends with babies but no one had prepared me for how I bad I felt! I liken it to having the flu topped with drinking a bottle of whiskey the night before. Forget morning, it lasted all day! Having spoken with my consultants they explained that I would have a particular bad case due to the suppression of my hormones relating to my thyroid cancer.
Needless to say I couldn’t practice like I could… Initially I felt a sense of panic and loss.. I wouldn’t be able to attend my strong, soulful classes, I wouldn’t be able to practice my sequences, no head stands, forearm stands, deep back bending or twists for months.
Soon I realised that even if I wanted to, I felt so ill, I couldn’t practice once again.
It’s a strange feeling in the first trimester as you don’t really feel like there is a soul inside but you still feel a huge sense of responsibility towards whatever it is.
Again, rather than learning from the past I tried to push on, practicing at home, planning and practicing advanced sequences for my students.
Thankfully I tuned into my body, let go and surrendered. After all time being pregnant is so short, magical and transitional. In the big scheme of life, it lasts for no time at all.
The late great Iyengar spoke of this often, we can’t expect to practice the same asana when we are 90 as when we are 20 so we adapt, we use the practice to serve us to support us.
It’s easy to forget why we practice yoga and it’s so important to remember That it is more than just a physical process. Yoga is a holistic science, connecting the body mind and spirit. It’s the modification of one’s self awareness and relationship to the world, ourselves and our loved ones . Namaste
“From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness”
Sutra II.42. BKS Iyengar Light on the Yoga Sutras
When I first began to to study yoga and delve into the ancient texts as opposed to just attend classes the idea of Santosha was the thing that grabbed my attention the most. Santosha means contentment and is one on the 5 Niyamas. The yoga we practice and teach is based on, amongst others Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The System is based on an eight fold path giving us clear instruction on how to live meaningful, purposeful, thriving lives. The Yamas and Niyamas are first on this eightfold path and support us on our spiritual path. They are essentially social ethics and personal practices.
The yogis believe that Santosha is a way to moksha (liberation). One thing that we can be sure of is that everything changes, nothing is permanent. Peace of mind can’t rely on ever changing circumstances. Often we are looking for the next thing.. if I get the clothes, the love, promotion , thats’ when I will find contentment but the sutras encourage to live with it day to day no matter the circumstance.
The wonderful quote “Comparison is the thief of joy” springs to mind here. Just be happy and grateful with YOUR lot, there is always someone worse off.
Yoga is a journey inwards, a journey to connect with our souls, a study of the self or true nature. We tap into sublime contentment when we tap into the soul. The yogis believe that meditation is the access point to santosha.
” Contentment is peace. It is the result of abiding in the truth of who you are” Rod Stryker.
This week I am exploring the theme of avidya in my classes. Avidya means misapprehension / Ignorance or lack of self knowledge. The deep goal of yoga is to reduce the veil of avidya and create a shift in consciousness. Avidya is one of the five kleshas or troubles of the mind and the yogis along with buddhists believe are the reasons we are bound. Ego (asmita) , attachment to pleasure (raga) , aversion to pain (devesa) and fear of death (abhinivesah) being the others.
It is darkness within us that forces us to seek knowledge. Self knowledge is the key to overcoming avidya and meditation is a powerful tool and doorway for this conscious work.
Avidya is a pattern/habit which through consciousness can be overcome. In our physical asana practice we can fall into bad habits with alinement particularly in the Vinyasa practice. Both are habitual patterns of body and mind. Yoga is not about attaining ideal physical postures. It’s a journey inwards, of self discovery and self acceptance.
I have just taken a month away from teaching, photography and London to get married. It’s true what they say, it was the best day of my life (so far!). We walked barefoot, made our vows, danced in a tipi surrounded by love.
It felt only right that for the next couple of weeks my classes would focus on love, more importantly the heart. The yogis believe we have three hearts; the anatomical – that pumps blood around our bodies ; the emotional- that stores our emotion and then the spiritual heart or hridrya.
They say it is where the soul is. This place is pure consciousness and divine light. It is constant, no good day or bad, we are born with it and we will die with it. Essentially within in our yoga practice we are trying to connect with the place and reveal our “true nature”.
I’m fascinated by this idea and over the last year or so I have been exploring this within my own asana and meditation. When we allow ourselves to connect with the deep place within us wonderful things can occur. Yoga is not about the physical, it is much more- a holistic , spiritual practice; we aim to connect with our souls. It brings out the best in us so we love ourselves and everyone around us and feel connected universally.
Next up Sally Kempton, arguably one of the worlds greatest meditation and tantra teachers. It was at the end of my 3 day Sianna training but such a different crowd. People from all walks of life, ages, background and cultures. She has a wonderful reassuring presence. We worked to invoke Shakti – universal creativity and grace.
Still on the theme of transformation we began with chants to enable transformation and to move barriers that stop us recognising our oneness.
I have practiced yoga for 14 years but only really two years ago would I say I had a “spiritual awakening” and realised the holistic, spiritual depth of yoga, rather than just the physical practice. It was around the time of my yoga training and when I was diagnosed with cancer.
Sally explained that we don’t get to choose to transform, there is a subtle force that engineers our awakening (Shakti). It comes at a moment when you can’t carry on the way you are living.
She explained the cycle of transformation. Wake up – practice -honeymoon – fall – wake up – practice – honeymoon – fall.
What I find so interesting about tantra and yoga philosophy is the idea of grace/shakti that is a universal force. Sally summed it up beautifully.
“Living from being, whilst in a space of becoming ”
Being meaning pure awareness, presence at the heart of you. Becoming is everything else.
Being in a yoga studio surrounded by many other yoga teachers , some with years of experience was daunting. Sianna takes no prisoners – you work hard, step fully out of your comfort zone and face fears. “Transformation requires conscious Action”.
We worked with voice, themes, sequencing but most importantly teaching from the heart and the heart of the practice. Every situation has a positive, it’s up to us to delve within to reveal the creative spirit innate in each of us.
“Fear is an invitation for change “
I’m reading “Light on Life” by the great yogi B.K.S Iyengar. The below paragraphs totally made sense to me and have helped my asana practice so much.
“The goal of all asana practice is doing them from the core of your being and extending out dynamically through to the periphery of your body. As you stretch , in turn the periphery relates messages back to the core.”
“When most people stretch, they simply stretch to the point they are trying to reach, but they forget to extend and expand from where they are. When you extend and expand you are not only stretching to, you are also stretching from.”