Thursday, 2 February 2012

2012  Can you believe it? The yoga term starts again Week beginning 9th January. I look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year.

It was lovely to share some festive cheer with you guys who came for a drink and merriment. And there was so little alcohol to clear up afterwards. Thank you for coming and we missed those of you who were involved in other activities and commitments on the night.

Winter Cherhill Walk

Christmas ornaments are put away for another year (well...slowly); family and friends have returned to their homes. Outside looks bare and winter-like.  I walked up to the Cherhill White Horse for a view across Wiltshire at the year’s end. At first I experienced the surprise of the view and wonder at this human response to a far reaching view, how invigorated we feel. Then a bit sad at the end of the year and see the inevitable change in the landscape. I realise that a part of me is gauging how long before I will be back in front of my warm fire and cosy house where I can relax in comfort. Here I am layered up, dragged out my son and partner, to stand in the freezing wind and all I can think about is getting back home?! Why bother walking up a hill in winter.

Maybe it is for a contrast to our daily comfortable, warmth and routine. Maybe. Or did I walk up here to indulge a sadness at the year’s passing? The gusting winds knock at us, mud underfoot, endless grey skies. I watch the distance and what arises is a feeling of waiting while the earth sleeps. I remember how my son when very young, after a busy morning of activity, we would sit on the sofa and indulge in some TV time. An exhausted young mother, I would inevitably fall asleep. He felt my absence immediately. The second my consciousness descended he would shake me, “Wake up! Don’t leave me.” Is this what I was feeling myself as I looked across the Wiltshire landscape? Do us humans feel alone when the earth sleeps? Do we feel the absence of loved ones more deeply when the winter makes our local landscape so bare? Do we feel more isolated? Lonely? When winter manifests in the fields, hills, yards and gardens and the earth sleeps like a tired mother, perhaps we need to let her be, wishing her a good rest as she prepares for the miracle of spring and new life.

What inspires us to walk up a hill in winter? Perhaps something in us understands the ancient experience of waiting. Bare branches. Mended barbwire. Hawthorn hedge. Thin grass. Dried impotent nettles. Sound of wind. Clutter cleared. Some barriers faded, some renewed, while others stand strong. New shapes revealed organic and man-made. The outer landscape not barren just bare. The landscape is my mirror. I share this cycle. It is my time to rest, to let the debris fall away, to wait. My inner landscape is also bare but it is not empty. Here too there are fences, barriers, tightnesses, histories, and viewpoints.

Rumi wrote, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built.”

I see the knots I tie myself into. Awareness is powerful; it is enough. I let the blustery wind strip away the barriers. I begin looking for openness, spaciousness, freedom.  I look for inspiration everywhere. Today January 31st it feels easy natural, but other times I know it feels as if the will to live itself is being stripped from my insides. Yoga helps, it gives us endurance for these moments, it gives us the courage again and again to look within at whatever is revealed.  Do we choose to feel exposed and isolated or freed and loved?

Though it is not always comfortable or easy, I hope your new year brings you the experience of freedom and love.

Yoga in the news
Both the Guardian and Daily Mail report that yoga may work better for lower back pain than conventional treatments. The Daily Mail reported that “Yoga is better at treating a bad back than going to the doctor”. A team from the University of York have looked at 300 patients with chronic lower back pain, a common condition which affects one in five adults in any given year, and 80% of adults at some point of their lives. Patients who did three months of yoga classes in the therapeutic discipline were able to do daily chores they previously would have found impossible, say scientists.  The researchers claimed yoga helped patients feel more confident in carrying out chores despite their back pain.

Professor Alan Silman, Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK, which funded the study said: “We’re delighted that our trial has shown that yoga provides such positive benefits for people with chronic low back pain. This extremely common condition cannot be managed with painkillers alone and there is an urgent need for non-drug therapies that suffers can utilise in their own home.”

Sting still buzzing at 60
The Daily Mail reports Sting’s fantastic physique as he approaches 60. Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler have maintained their physiques by practicing yoga daily for many years.  Photos might give you a giggle.

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