Tuesday 6 March 2012

Autobiography in Five Chapters -excerpt from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Chapter 1 

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

by Sogyal Rinpoche

This week in yoga class I have read this poem. It has moved many of you and I have heard how it has been passed around, shared amongst friends and even taking a chance and emailing it in the work place. It speaks about taking responsibility for what is happening in our lives, for our success and our happiness.

I hope you too will share it.

Friday 17 February 2012


Some of you were very moved by this poem which I read in class before Christmas 2011. I really like the earthiness and honesty. Let's face it, yoga is for humans and I am sure we all have experienced times when hiding from the world and defending seem like the best choice. Yoga accepts everything about us; we are not saints, nor purists. We are just trying to become ourselves. Here it is for those of you who wanted to share or just keep it for yourself:

there's a bluebird in my heart
that wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
there's a bluebird in my heart
that wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that

there's a bluebird in my heart
that wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do

--Charles Bukowski

For your info:

Indigenous cultures across the globe hold similar myths and beliefs about the bluebird. It is a widely accepted symbol of cheerfulness, happiness, prosperity, hearth and home, good health, new births, the renewal of springtime, etc. Virtually any positive sentiments may be attached to the bluebird.
In magical symbolism, bluebirds are used to represent confidence in the positive aspect and egotism in the negative. A dead bluebird is a symbol of disillusionment, of the loss of innocence, and of transformation from the younger and naive to the older and wiser.
-- Wikipedia

Whiskey anyone...?

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. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2035832/Still-buzzing-60-Sting-shows-buff-beach-body-Hawaiian-surf.html

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Earthquakes, Hurricanes and Chinese characters

I look forward to seeing you all after an eventful summer holiday.  While visiting family in the USA I experienced a small earthquake; raced ahead of the evacuees across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel ahead of  Hurricane Irene; shopped for yoga clothes; and even found time to sit quietly, breathing in the smells of marsh grass, salt water, and pine woods.  Every now and then the fresh outdoor experience  was tempered by the smoke from the Great Dismal Swamp in southern Virginia which has been burning for  25 days and counting, despite the 10-15 inches of rain dropped by Hurricane Irene.  The fire now covers 6,000 acres and was started when lightening stuck a tree. Many dynamic natural  occurrences.  Some pleasant. Some unpleasant.  Crisis. Change. Falling away.

The day the hurricane evacuations began on the Eastern shore of Virginia, my 18 year old niece, Katherine said, with a down-turned mouth and a gesture of hopelessness, “The whole word is ending.” I can see how she might feel that way as she contemplated rioting in the streets of jolly old England, turning points in the Libyan revolution, violence in Afghanistan, natural disasters on her own doorstep, breaking up from her boyfriend and  leaving home for university all in the same week. We all know that overwhelmed feeling that crisis brings. The Greek word krisis, from kr nein, means to separate. Being separated from our family members, loved ones, our past, our familiar reality:  separted from our ideas about how reality should unfold in our lives is often a painful process.  But perhaps the secret to going forward is to recognise the opportunities that can become apparent in these situations in these situations:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those whose lives face dramatic change and who face pain as these events arise. In our own lives we try to turn with courage to face the dangers and difficulties in order to find the opportunities.  Sometimes these opportunities are so subtle that we cannot see them until much time has passed. Across a span of time we see that our choices in the face of crisis have brought us in some mysterious way, exactly into being the people who we have become.

Research into the benefits of yoga (The Daily Mail 14 July 2011)  reports that scientists have shown that good posture doesn’t just give a good impression—it also raises your pain threshold. They also found that slouching makes our physical body more sensitive to discomfort. Regular practice of yoga brings us fundamental improvement in posture. Perhaps through this research we can link yoga’s influence on our physical bodies to our ability to withstand the pain of change and to transform crisis into powerful turning points in our lives.  

Yoga elsewhere in the news:
A study by the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University-Perdue University, Indianapolis, shows stroke survivors who participated in a specialised post-stroke yoga class improved their balance by up to 34%.

Researchers say the participants experienced a boost in their self confidence after their yoga practice and became more physically active generally. Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, Arlene Schmid said, “It was also interesting to see how much the men liked it,” and that many of the participants wanted to continue their yoga practice at home after the study ended.  “They liked it so much partly because they were not getting any other treatment. They had already completed their rehabilitation but felt that there was still room for improvement,” Schmid stated. Previous research shows the risk of falls and breaking a hip increased significantly after a stroke and also with increased age.  In this small study participants had an average age of 26 and attended an hour long yoga class twice a week for eight weeks. The yoga therapist modified typical yoga poses to meet participants needs: initially participants performed the yoga poses seated in chairs and then progressed to standing poses. Eventually, all the participants were able to perform poses on the floor.

At the end of the study the researchers found the participants balance had improved by 17% on the Berg Balance Scale and by 34% on the Fullerton Balance Scale. In particular, the average score on the Berg Balance Scale improved by 40% to 47% indicating the participants were no longer at high risk from a fall.  (reported on WebMD Health News June 2011)

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Yoga in Walchsee

Walchsee See

         by Jan Dymond  http://2ndcurtain.blogspot.com/

The Tyrolean Alps really remind you that you are only a small part of a much bigger picture. My friend took this delightfully eerie yet serene photo of the lake and mountains. Its reflective quality reminds me of how this place that is quiet, pure, natural and ancient mysteriously gets into you and awakens something in you that is quiet, pure, natural and ancient.

In my own practice I am continuing the work we have been doing in class before I came here. Really slowing it down. And boy! are muscles aching! I sneak up to the Fitness room in the early hours as the sun is coming up and practice my supta upvista konosana and bow poses before anyone can turn up to interrupt me with chat about yoga, lympheodema, the day's weather or anything else. I am easy to interrupt....