How to change yourself and others and how yoga can help you.

It’s easy to categories ourselves and others. Maybe it’s even necessary in order to allow us to create our own unique model of the world with expectations and understanding of the people around us. However as we categories ourselves and others we create boxes, we form beliefs about what we expect and this can reinforce behavior.

I truly believe you can be and do anything. Gaininga new skill may require a lot of work and learning – it may even require that we give something else up. There are clearly only so many hours in a day and we have to decide who we want to be and what we want to do with them. When we find that who we desire to be is different to who we are, we may need to change in order to achieve our goal, but we can do it.

Believing that other people have the capacity to change can help us believe in our own ability to change. However let’s be clear, the other person has to change because they want to, not because you think they should change. Trying to change someone else against their will is not a good use of their time, but believing that someone can change is really useful. There have certainly been times in my life that I have felt that other people have believed in me, perhaps more than I did at that moment, and this has helped me to gradually see that I am capable of more than I ever imagined.

How does yoga fit into all of this?

In yoga you develop concentration through movement and focus on the breath. As you do this you start to become more aware, and as you become more aware you start to notice beliefs that you hold about yourself, some of which are limiting beliefs. As you start to notice them, realize that – far from being predestined – these limiting beliefs are actually choices.

As you reflect on these limiting beliefs and behaviors, they can seem so strange. You may wonder ‘why would I sabotage myself like this?’ Much of our behavior is governed by unconscious patterns, and probably when we created this pattern of behavior it was useful in some way, even if it is no longer useful any more. The problem is when we generalize these behaviors out into the world we sometimes forget that we have a choice about them.

Namaste- I bow to the divine in you with a picture of Helen Aldred in a yoga poseAs we make changes in ourselves we may notice the surprise in others who expect us to behave the other (old) way. One of the best ways to help other people to feel capable of their own inner transformation is to demonstrate it through our own example. We cannot make another person change and yet we can inspire them and help them to realize that they can make changes if they want to.

In order to allow ourselves and others to change, I think we have to see the magnificent, limitless being that they and we truly are. Namaste is a Hindi greeting often said at the end of a yoga class. It means I bow/ acknowledge the divine in you. So I will end this holding in my mind that inside all of us is limitless potential and the belief that you can make whatever changes you want to.

Namaste

Stretching out your psoas and why it is important

The psoas muscle is an important hip flexor and low back stabilizer that often gets tight. Stretching it will help you deepen your backbends but the benefits do not end there. It’s a key muscle and if out of balance then it can cause you back pain and freeing it up will help you move with greater ease. Due to its relationship to your glutes stretching out is key to your functional strength and therefore better posture and comfort.

What is the psoas muscle and why does it get tight

The psoas muscle can be found in the abdomen and attaches from the lumbar vertebrae. It is a key hip flexor, which means it works when the leg lifts towards the body. This is obviously a key movement, walking, running, cycling and sitting can all lead to tightening up this muscle.

Why is it so important that I do yoga and stretch it out?

A tight hip flexor is almost always at least involved in back pain so if you are suffering with back pain then it’s a good stretch to try. If the hip flexors get really tight then they pull the glutes into a slight stretch meaning that they don’t work properly. Weak glutes lead to poor movement patterns and potentially an unstable pelvis. In this case you may need to both stretch out your hip flexors and strengthen your glutes to get them firing properly.

How you can stretch out your psoas in your yoga practice

Backbending is great for stretching out your hip flexors. If you feel pinching in your back you may need to work on your technique. Make sure your feet are parallel and your knees are not splaying outwards. If you are in Liverpool and are one of my yoga students tell me and I will help you work on it. Sometimes the psoas is so tight that backbending is difficult no matter how good your technique is, in this case a lunge may be a really good option for you.

3 different lunges

I have found it is good to practice lunges in order to focus specifically on opening up your hip flexors. As a keen cyclist I have found this really important to help keep me balanced. It’s good to stretch it out in different ways as it’s a large muscle and different stretches will target different aspects of the muscle. Here are the 3 stretches that I have found useful to help stretch out my psoas. I also do dynamic walking lunges to keep my glutes working strongly.

Upright lunge- photo by Nata Moraru

Psoas stretch 1, upright lunge

Place one of your feet in font of the other, placing your back knee on the floor. Keep your back upright and bend your front knee forwards until you feel a stretch at the top of your thigh. Use your breath to help relax into the pose. It’s fine to let your front knee go beyond your ankle but do make sure your foot and your knee are pointing forwards.

Low lunge -photo by Nata Moraru

Psoas stretch 2, the low lunge

This stretch is also good preparation for splits if that is something you would like to work on. Come into the upright lunge, as above, then drop down placing your hands or fingertips on the floor. If you don’t feel a stretch then bend the front knee more and if you still don’t feel a stretch bring the front foot further forward and drop your back hip more towards the ground.

Backbending lunge – Photo by Nata Moraru

Psoas stretch 3, Backbending lunge

This is a fantastic stretch but it can be quite challenging so take your time with it. Come into the upright lunge and then bend backwards. You can do this gently or more deeply depending on how open and adventurous you are feeling. To keep it gentle keep the arms low and just gently arch the back, taking the head back if it feels okay. To take it deeper gradually take your arms back, hanging back completely if you feel you can. Breathe!

You can practice these stretches everyday and that would be best, especially if you have an issue in this area. However a little often is best and even doing it once a week will help, so do it as often as you can find time. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds to one minute and repeat up to 3 times.

Being strong as a woman is not only okay it’s incredibly good for you

One of the benefits of a more dynamic style of yoga like ashtanga is that it will build strength. Some women may be scared to be strong fearing that they will somehow make you less attractive. Don’t panic, women build strength differently to men in fact it’s more difficult for women to build strength so chances are you won’t end up looking like Arnie especially not with the bodyweight exercises in Ashtanga Yoga.

Why challenging your strength is good for women

  • Photo by Nata Moraru

    Builds stronger bones and reduces the risk of osteoarthritis

  • Muscle burns fat at rest so increases your metabolism helping to build a lean healthy physique
  • It’s incredibly empowering and fun to be able to lift your own body weight
  • Challenging your strength physically challenges your mind mentally making you stronger and more resilient on the inside and the outside
  • It looks beautiful, whoever says woman can not be strong has an outdated view of what a woman is in my opinion, we are many things and some of us are incredibly strong
  • It helps you do stuff like lift things and have a stronger core and thus be less prone to injury

Women face a few challenges when building strength. The common thing you will hear is that because we don’t have as much testosterone it is harder for us to build strength. This is true. On top of that our hormones change throughout our monthly cycle. During the two weeks just before your period the levels of oestrogen and progesterone are elevated. During this phase of our cycle it is harder to build up strength.

Just keep going, it is possible for women to get strong it will usually just take longer than a man takes. My husband seems to grow muscle overnight that I swear it would take me months to build!

Building strength in Ashtanga Yoga

Helen doing yoga arm balance Karandavasana

Photo by Nata Moraru

Yoga isn’t about being stronger or achieving the next pose it’s more about learning to relax and accept things as they are. That said ashtanga yoga is physically demanding and it will make you stronger so it makes sense to consider your physiology and work with it. Your muscles get stronger when you challenge them and then allow them to recover. Both the challenge and the recovery are equally important here. If you just do what you normally do and don’t challenge yourself then you will maintain your strength which is great but you won’t get stronger because there is no challenge. Also if you challenge yourself everyday then your body will struggle to build muscle because it doesn’t have enough recovery.

If you practice yoga 2 or 3 days a week your body will have plenty of time to recover. If you practice Ashtanga Yoga six days a weeks as I do then make some of the days easier from a strength perspective by just doing the movement using your current strength rather than challenging yourself further. It’s fine to keep moving whilst recovering, and stretching everyday is really good for you.

Have you gotten stronger through practicing ashtanga? How has this changed you?

 

How to deal with the mental aspect of being injured

I have helped so many students with injuries over the years. As well as helping students with the physical aspect of an injury, and referring for more help when appropriate, I have discovered that there are some common mental aspects to being injured.

Being injured can be a real challenge. If you are injured then you may need to seek out specific advice about how to manage the physical side of the injury. You may need to see a physiotherapist and also talk to your yoga teacher about how to adapt your yoga practice. The range of possible injuries is vast and so I am not going to deal with that here, if you’re my student and need to talk to me about your own individual case then, of course, you can.

If you get injured and you are used to being physically active then there is usually a mental journey that you go on too. You may feel that your progress will be hindered but as yoga is an internal practice usually the opposite is true. It can be difficult to see that at the time but the patience, awareness and compassion you develop from being injured will teach you a great deal about yourself.

Blame

When you get injured it is logical for you to ask why did this happen. It’s good practice and worth asking. If you can find the cause it’s good to learn from it, particularly if you were pushing too hard. Sometimes it’s not your fault! Not every injury is caused by you or someone else doing something wrong, maybe you fell or maybe you just had some underlying imbalance you were unaware of. So take a moment to learn what you can to help you in the future but be compassionate about it – you are not invincible and sometimes things just go wrong.

48 hours rest

trikonasana yoga pose

Don’t be afraid to go back to basics – photo by Nata Moraru

If your injury is severe it is generally advised to rest it as much as possible for 48 hours. Again I am not going into specific injuries here, so seek advice on your individual injury and circumstances. After that, it is generally advised to resume activity but only to the extent that you can do so without aggregating your injury further. This may mean you do a different activity or you modify the activity – you may need help working this out. You need to be prepared to take a step back from your normal practice. It is tempting to rest completely but usually this is not optimal, as exercising helps blood circulation, which in turn helps an injury to heal. However you don’t want to aggravate things further, so I would generally advise you do less than you think you can, and gradually and carefully build back up, under the guidance of you teacher. Mentally you have to be prepared to back off and take it easy, which can be harder than stopping completely. It can seem hard, because you have to face the injury, and it can be frustrating but it’s incredibly useful as a practice because life doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes you have to keep going when things are not going the way you had planned. You can battle internally with this or you can learn to accept and embrace your current circumstances whilst taking steps forward to help you get better.

The process of dealing with an injury is very universal, so despite feeling like you are the only one going through what you are, you will probably find others have had similar experiences at some point in their lives. Yes, you are special but so is everyone else. Realizing this can help you let go of your own melodrama, so talk to others about how you feel.

Practice ahimsa. One of the ethical precepts of yoga is ahimsa, which means nonviolence. Like many things in life, it’s good to start learning to practice this on yourself before branching out into the world. It sounds easy to practice not hurting yourself but again and again, I find myself teaching this. Your body is the most amazing gift you have, it is incredible, take good care of it.

Yoga is not about advancing your physical practice, it is easy to get distracted by that. The real yoga happens practicing when you don’t want to as well as when you do. Take some time to reconnect with the bigger reasons of why you practice, be it because it makes you calmer, more focused or enhances your wellbeing. Remind yourself of that and work with what you have.

Have you ever been injured? What did you learn from it?

 

Guest Post – Nata Moraru tells how yoga has changed her life

“Home is neither here nor there, home is within you or nowhere at all.” Herman Hesse

One of my favourites quotes. Always liked it but never felt it 100% even if I thought I did. It was just after I started to do yoga (about a year ago) when I truly felt it. With all my bones, chest and water.

I felt in love with yoga the first time I went. I went for the body, stayed for the mind and soul. Because at the beginning I didn’t feel much changes in my body (the body changes came later and they were amazing), but my mind and soul was like a cherry tree in spring. During Savasana (relaxation) I started to feel that “home within” that Hesse is talking about. And it was amazing. I felt the whole universe is in my chest. I felt like I was lifted from the mat and at the same time was melting in the floor. Never felt that before. It was truly amazing. I always had a “special relationship” with water but since I started to do yoga it became stronger. When I am doing yoga I feel like I’m the whole sea and a boat that is floating on it. Both at the same time. Very interesting feeling. One time during Savasana I had tears in my eyes, totally unexpected, like the sea I was feeling inside me, that I always see an feel during yoga flowed through my eyes. Same water, same salt. At that moment I felt one with everything. I felt home. The “oneness”.

The breath is the bridge between mind and body and a very powerful tool.
I started to feel my body differently. I wasn’t ashamed of it anymore (as I’ve been my whole life, because of my twisted spine and because I was always very skinny and so many people were reminding me about it every day and telling me I should eat more).
And I think that’s why it started to respond to all the exercises. Because I started to feel my body differently. I also started to become more aware of my body and how I was standing outside of yoga.

Nata-before-and-after

Before and after photographs show how Nata has gained weight as she has become more in tune with her body

I stopped hiding my back (as I’ve been always doing, with long hair or hoodies). I’m not ashamed of my back and body anymore. It feels really good. I gained about 11kg since I started to do yoga, even my eating habits didn’t change. I feel healthy and feel good in my own body.

Then the pain disappeared. The back pain, I had my whole life, especially past 5-6 years when I couldn’t stand up for more than two hours without having killing pain in my back. I few weeks ago, after a very long day at work, about 12 hours standing up I noticed that I have no pain in my back, at all. Yes, my feet were hurting my arm was tired from holding the heavy camera, but no pain in my back. My lower back that was always in pain.
It’s an amazing feeling – not to be in pain, after so many hours of standing up, when a year ago I had to crawl out of bed because of the pain (it hurt too much just to sit up from lying so I always had to crawl out to the floor then stand up).

This x-ray of Nata’s spine shows her scoliosis clearly.

I had a twisted spine since I can remember. I think I was about 7-8 years old when my mum noticed that my back was just a little bit uneven, and we had the bad luck to go to a doctor that didn’t really know what he was doing and only cared for the money. I started to do some exercises with him, and some pretty “violent” and painful massage when he was pushing my bones, I found out later that It was very bad for my back and in no time from a slightly uneven back my spine became S shape and nobody couldn’t help me.

Unmeasurable gratitude to Helen for all her help. I am very lucky and thank the gods to have decided that winter day of 1st December to go online and look for yoga classes in Liverpool and to have found Helen’s class. Over the last year I have tried to go 3 times a week because I think it’s important to go regularly. There are many more things I could say about how yoga makes me feel and how it changed my life but sometimes there are not enough words…

Don’t just go to church, be the church. Don’t just go to yoga, be yoga. Don’t just lay on the grass, be the grass. Don’t just. Be. Be.come one.

Bless.

Namaste x

This post was written by Nata Moraru. As well as being a dedicated yogini, Nata is also a photographer, you may have seen some of the photo’s she has taken of me on instagram recently, you can find her photography here on Facebook.

How accepting life as it is will allow you to experience it more fully

Not all that you experience in life will seem positive. How you deal with it, how you think about it afterwards, how you encode your experiences will determine how positively you feel about them. One definition of suffering is expecting your experience to be different from what it is. Everything occurs in the present moment. There is no past or future, only now, and everything that is possible to exist exists right now. It is only possible for you to experience right now, so whatever is happening, it is important to start by accepting it all for what it is. Failing to accept the present, or actively trying to avoid it, can cause suffering. This is true whether you experience something that is out of your direct control, or just think harshly of yourself, like that you are not living up to your own expectations.

My yoga practice has taught me a lot about this. The other week I went through this process and it was both interesting and transformational for me personally so I thought I would share it here in case you case you can find a way to let it help you redefine your experience of the present into a more positive one.

The reason yoga can be really transformational in this way is that when we connect with our breath and practice yoga positions with awareness we are practicing being present. This sometimes brings down defenses that we may have set up to help us avoid the present moment. If you have ever had this experience in yoga, you possibly didn’t want to practice that day. This is why a regular consistent practice, however often you personally can mange it is so important. Sometimes it’s the days when you think you don’t want to practice that you stand to gain the most benefit from it.

As I practiced, I noticed I was feeling a bit fed up. I breathed and observed this feeling, and realized that I was frustrated that I was not living up to my own expectations in one specific area of my life. I realized that although I may be able to change the future this is how things stood right now. I learned to accept this real version of myself instead of the one I thought it should be.

I find that as I practice acceptance and move through my practice there is a shift in the feeling. As I accept it, it loses it’s power over me and I become more present and experience it for what it is – and it really isn’t that bad after all.

My next step in this case was to discover how I could work on this aspect of myself. It led to some really positive changes for me. Sometimes you can’t change a problem so accepting it is all that is necessary. As you learn to accept life as it is, you experience each moment more fully and realize how amazing life really is.

Much of this can be simplified in the following Buddhist quote

“If something can be remedied
Why be unhappy about it?
And if there is no remedy for it,
There is still no point in being unhappy.”
Shatideva

How has yoga helped you to accept yourself, just as you are?

How working on that seemingly impossible yoga pose will enhance your life

Yoga can sometimes be challenging. Really – it’s like that for everyone. I know you maybe weren’t sold it that way. You were led to believe it was all peace, light and relaxation and it is, but sometimes it’s hard too.

We all face challenges in our yoga practice. You may think you’re the only one, that you are special and nobody else has it as hard as you do, I am sure, but we all have our challenges. Challenges on the yoga mat aren’t usually as hard as the challenges we can face in life. Yoga can be hard but life is sometimes harder still. What do you do when you can’t do something, how does it make you feel, what do you do about it? So you can’t touch your toes, grab your big toe, bind your hands together, jump back, whatever it is. Or maybe the challenge is getting on your mat in the first place; maybe you don’t feel like it, maybe that’s the best day to practice.

Helen doing yoga pose supta kurmasana

Supta Kurmasana – sleeping tortoise a challenging yoga pose which became possible after years of dedication

It doesn’t really matter if you can do fancy yoga poses although sometimes yogis get so obsessed with asana that they forget this. Yes, I have been there too. What matters is how you learn to embrace the impossible, can you work at something again and again that you can’t do. If you can manifest this attitude on your yoga mat can you bring this new skill into your life? If you can do this, and of course you can (I believe in you every step of the way), then imagine how much more you can achieve. Maybe you won’t manage to do all of the things you set out to achieve but I suspect that not only will you achieve more than you ever imagined possible but somewhere along the way you will realize that the journey is way more important than the destination. You will find that being willing to step into the space of what you deem impossible, gradually, carefully yet consistently, gives life more color and possibilities. Yoga has taught me so much patience and perseverance I sometimes feel unstoppable.

How you can to face the impossible on your yoga mat

• Practice, this is the most important one. Practice often and just appreciate that there are poses you can’t do yet.
• Avoid getting overwhelmed; choose a maximum of 3 yoga poses to work on in any session.
• If you are going to repeat a yoga pose, do it a maximum of 3 times, if you have done it 3 times move on with your day.
• Work out what is making this challenging for you in the pose, if in doubt ask your teacher for guidance, maybe some other poses can help.
• Keep your sense of humour and perspective. People are not going to love you more or less depending on your ability to do this pose. Achieving it will not perceivably change you or your life. It is far more important who you are in the moment – and for that, the journey and the humility you learn are much more important.
• Do go easy on yourself in those times when you fail, just showing up is enough.
• You may feel resistance, acknowledge it but don’t let it control you.
• Listen to your body, this isn’t about doing more than you can, it’s about safely exploring your current limitations, safely and consistently.

Have you faced the impossible on your yoga mat? How has this helped you in your life?

Measure your progress in yoga not by the yoga positions you can do, but by the person you become.

Modern society thrives on progress. It seems like we are always being pressurised to achieve more, earn more and buy more. This rarely leads to lasting happiness because there is always more you can have and do. With social media images of bendy yogis bombarding your newsfeed, and with pressures to achieve coming from all directions, it’s easy to bring this mindset to your yoga practice. This is such a shame because if you are always striving to achieve more, you will never surrender and accept this moment, just as it is, enjoying the real fruit of yoga.

People practice yoga for all sorts of reasons and I understand that you may want to become more flexible. You may be really tight and need to get more flexible in order to enjoy normal healthy movement and posture. If you practice regularly this will happen, whether you strive for it or not. If you have been practicing yoga for many years, as I have, you may be very capable of doing all sorts of positions that you never dreamed were possible, and yet you still may seek progress in what you can do. I do. I love to challenge myself to do more, but the main benefit of this is what it brings to my life. It helps me to stay calm in challenging and new situations. It helps me to be more present for my friends and family, it helps me to believe that anything is possible, and hopefully it helps me to be a better person. Very few people really care, or even know, what yoga positions 18 years of yoga has made it possible for me to do. But they do care about what kind of person I am.

If you practice yoga regularly you will become more flexible. There is no need to worry about that. Practice, surrender, and use your practice to become more present. Sometimes it will be wonderful. Sometimes it will be challenging to really be here. Practice, practice and practice some more. Then bring your practice into your life.

Sometimes as a teacher, I notice that the people that seem to understand it the most, are actually the tightest. They have had to tune into their breath. They have realised that it is going to take a while. And they have surrendered. I am not saying this to be harsh to the bendy people. I happen to be one myself, but I think sometimes within the yoga community, we forget this and we think the bendy people are the great yogis. This is not always the case. They may not have even done that much yoga. They might be a gymnast or a dancer. They might really struggle with other aspects of the practice too. We are all different, but the real journey is an inward one, and that’s where the real peace lies.

Do you ever put pressure on yourself to be better at yoga? How has yoga had an impact on your life and or who you are?

Happy New Year – How you can achieve your goals in 2015

Happy new year! This is the year, the messages are everywhere today is the beginning of the new you. Here I am going to share some tips for how I set my goals to help you achieve yours. Yes I know I am am a yogi, I should be happy just where I am, and I am but our lives will change in the next year and we can have an impact on what happens.

My tips for achieving your goals

  1.  Set your goals high but be realistic. You might want to do 5 hours of yoga a day, spend 3 hours a day  with friends and get promoted but are there enough hours in the day to achieve this? By all means set a big goal. One of my goals is to cycle 100 miles. I know I will have to make some sacrifices to achieve this I know I will have to do some extra yoga stretches to keep my body in a balance. It’s a big goal but I am excited enough about it to prioritise it.
  2. Write them down, and if you can, tell someone. Writing it down makes it more real, and telling someone makes you more accountable. Another one of my goals is to write on this blog more often, at least fortnightly. There I have told you so feel free to comment if you see I am slacking.
  3. Break it down. Some goals can seem huge. If you feel overwhelmed by your goal you may put it off but most of the time a big goal can be broken down into small actionable tasks. For example if you want to eat healthier you could start by learning to cook one new healthy meal a week. Work out what your next step is for each of your goals.
  4. Do challenge yourself. Your goals should be exciting they should make you feel inspired. Don’t be scared to challenge yourself.
  5. Find inspiration or help if you need it. We all get inspired by different things. Think back to a goal that you have previously achieved. What helped you achieve it? Was it involving your friends or your family, was it reading books about the topic, was it following a blog of someone going through a similar journey? See if you can find what motivates you then go find it.
  6. Make your goals clear. We all want to eat well, do yoga and exercise more but when will you know that you have achieved this goal? What is the outcome you are really looking for? If you want to lose weight what’s your goal weight and how are you going to lose it? Be clear on where you want to go and how you are going to get there.
  7. Regularly check your goals You need to check in regularly weekly is best but monthly is okay too. Are you still working towards this goal? What could you do next? Have you achieved it?  As you start making progress towards your goals you may find that you don’t want them after all or that something else is more important. That’s fine you learned something about yourself and you can set new goals at anytime, you don’t need to make them in the new year. Set new goals or change your current ones if you decide they need changing.

Here are my goals for 2015 in no particular order

  1. Write more – specifically writing a blog post on this blog at least fortnightly and starting a new cycling blog.
  2. Meditate for at least 30 minutes daily
  3. Cycle 100 miles, plan is to this in August at a sportive in Anglesey where I grew up.

Yoga is not there, I know but I already practice every day and I don’t need to do more than that.

Helen and Marc toasting their engagement

Marc and I celebrating our engagement with Appletise on Christmas Day. I know I like to step onto the wild side!

In other news I am very happy to announce that my partner and I got engaged whilst on holiday in Lanzarote. We are delighted. I look forward to seeing those of you in Liverpool soon and sharing more on this blog this year. Thanks for reading.

Do you have goals for 2015? Do you have any tips for how to achieve goals?

It is not about the asana, no really it isn’t….how to get beyond the fancy yoga poses

Seeing pictures of people in advanced yoga positions can be inspiring. One of the benefits of yoga is an increase in flexibility. Over time if you practice regularly, your yoga practice will change, you will be able to do things you never thought possible, but hopefully you will realise yoga has so much more to offer than freaky party tricks.

People practice yoga for all sorts of reasons. I am not going to tell you why to practice, you can work that out for yourself. I expect that your reasons will evolve, they will change over time as your practice deepens. I’m not going to tell you not to work on the yoga positions either. We all have yoga positions we can’t do and I think it’s great to work at them. I love doing something impossible everyday but not because it looks cool on instagram or wherever but because it challenges me. It doesn’t just challenge my body, but it challenges my mind, my ego, my beliefs. I learn to step outside what I think is possible. Sometimes I have to accept that I can do less on a particular day than I normally can and sometimes I have to believe that I can do more. The truth is it doesn’t matter which positions someone finds impossible it could be reaching to touch your toes in a forward bend or grabbing your ankles in a backbend. Where is your mind when you are doing it, where is your breath, are you here? Does your yoga practice help you to be a better person? Are you calmer, happier, more focused? These are the questions you should be asking.

Social media and yoga poses – Inspiring?

Over the last few years the bombardment of images of people doing advanced yoga moves on photographs or videos has increased. I sometimes find these images and videos inspiring and helpful. It can be interesting to watch someone else doing positions that are challenging. Sometimes I post pictures of myself and even made a video recently with the same intention. These things can be useful. They can also be intimidating because behind the video you can’t see all the hours of dedication that made that possible, you can just see someone doing something impossible with relative ease.  As a yoga teacher sometimes I feel like there is some kind of pressure on me to be some amazing gymnast. No such pressure exists of course. I have a commitment to myself and my students to practice, to learn and continue to learn more so that I can share more but this learning isn’t just physical. I have to understand what it is like to practice, to be a student of yoga philosophy as well as asana, to be on my path and to practice diligently. I have to understand what it is to be physically unable to do something again and again and again until one day I can. I do commit to this daily both on and off my mat.

It is not about the asana…

This is so easy to say. As we can sit there and smile at each other like the spiritually realised beings that we are. We can say it again and again but ultimately we have to learn it. If we are focused on an asana obsessed even, should we deny this experience, suppress it, deny that it is there and repeat the phrase, it is not about the asana again and again. To do so is to try too hard to be something that you are not in that moment. It is natural when when you practice asana and you can’t do something to want to be able to do it. As you practice you will probably find your habitual thought patterns unravel. They might not always be pretty, your ego might not be as spiritually realised as you think it should be, I know mine isn’t ;-). That’s okay, embrace it all, allow yourself to even experience any negative thoughts or emotions, accept that you experiencing these that but know that it is nonsense. Laugh at yourself, share your experience, just know that this is not what yoga is about. Your mind is just clinging to whatever it understands and your ego is driven by progress, this okay but it isn’t important. If your mind clings to the importance of asana at some point it will have to let go, the practice itself will teach you, surrender to it and bring yourself to your mat, just as you are. So yes yoga is not about the asana but you practice asana so it’s okay to think about it, it can even be transformative…..
What is yoga about to you?  Do you find videos/ images of yogis in advanced positions inspiring or intimidating?