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  1. 5258859

    The recent referendum on the EU seems to have thrown our nation into turmoil.

    Whatever the outcome and whatever the path we go down as a nation in the coming weeks, months and even years there will be for the time being a measure of uncertainty.

    The types of things we might have to anticipate are: change, conflict, obstacles, worries and the threat of regional and community isolation.

    So how can yoga be of help with all this?

    Yoga can help support our comfort, health and happiness in this increasingly stressful world.

    In addition to what yoga can do for us individually the main concepts of yoga provide us with a mechanism for stemming the effects of social despair. We currently seem to be at a loss in our world discarding former values and hoping to construct new ones. In this scenario yoga can give us the means to discover our own true self or personal reality through self enquiry and self reflection. The strengths gained from this can enable us to come to terms with the wider realities of our world and environment.

    Dealing with Change

    One of the prominent techniques we use in yoga is asana or posture. Asana is the most prominent technique in yoga probably because it is the first thing many of us are introduced to when we take up the practice. Yoga is really more about the mind but we start indirectly with the body to get to the mind through the back door because it is more responsive to our commands than the mind.

    Having said that a lot of good work can be achieved through the body.

    If we use asana carefully over time and learn about gradual improvement rather than fast track excellence we learn that we have to be patient with change. We learn not to get too anxious about being right and perfect all the time and allow for development and evolution.

    Yoga breathing in asana helps us to cultivate this patience with change and over time this patience is translated into our day to day life. We begin to react differently to circumstances we find ourselves in. It does not mean that we have to end up being passive and oblivious to what is going on around us and we can still be proactive in the change process. However, our reaction is more considered and from a position of greater calmness and harmony.

    Dealing with Conflict


    On the issue of conflict there is a great concept in yoga known as non-dualism. Dualism is where we tend to see everything as this or that, black or white, us and them, either or....

    Non-Dualism is often a difficult concept to grasp because it is so easy to see things in a dualistic way:

    soft/hard, cold/hot, pain/comfort, high/low, light/dark etc but if we look closer we often see that things are not always quite as they seem. Bit like yin and yang there are often bits of yin in yang and visa versa.

    In our yoga practice we attempt to apply non-dualism by embracing both ends of the spectrum.

    One of the prominent practices is to use our breath to lower tensions. Here's how we do it. Whenever we move or put our body parts into a yoga position there is a potential tension somewhere in our dimensional structure. We feel this as a sensation. The more momentary or prolonged tension we introduce the more energy we use and the resulting experience can be one of tiredness and even stress that could lead to anxiety or headaches. By applying the breath to the posture we help to alleviate or soften the feeling of tension. We attempt to incorporate a degree of relaxation or calmness into the process.

    There is a similar embracing of stillness with movement in yoga. Remember the well known phrase “moving into stillness”. This can have a number of interpretations and I have always thought of it as moving in such a way that the movement has its own element of stillness. The great Yoga Sage Patanjali said that all asana must be effortless. To do this we have to blend effort with calmness.

    There is a kind of merging of these opposites.

    We attempt to make “challenge” more comfortable - movement more still - tension more relaxed.

    Pain more painless or tolerable - Still being aware of the qualities of both.

    Dealing with Obstacles

    It follows from this thinking that in our practice we strive to allow ourselves more access to new experiences learning to embrace things that are open to more than one interpretation. This is in fact one of the things we learn after a while of studying yoga. Many concepts are open to our interpretation but we still have to make room for other meanings and explanations. In this process we can learn more about ourselves. We learn to be more calm and deal better with uncertainty. Be less reactionary. Eventually, we move to solve issues without stress, participating more fully in life by removing obstacles like anxiety, inertia, doubt and lack of focus.

    Dealing with Isolation

    Even though yoga practice can often be in the privacy of our own homes it is still community based in that our choice of postures can be what we have picked up from attending classes. Many students of yoga after attending classes for a while could just as easily practice alone but they attend classes often for the community it brings, for the commitment it gives them. They are more able to share experiences and ensure their continued practice.

    As human beings we cannot help having a deep connection with others. Isolation can all too often lead to physical and mental problems. We have all experienced this in our lifetime in our own communities when lonely reclusive people can end up mentally withdrawn and in physical decline.

    Yoga class association allows us to link our calmness and challenges with others and share our human condition. As with all other yoga methods this strength of fellowship can translate into the wider community where we can bring our skills of physical, mental and emotional flexibility, strength, composure, poise and balance, calmness, compassion, understanding, friendliness and contentment all of which helps us greatly in our relations with others.

    Barry Todd (Hatha Yoga Trainer)

  2. Peace, light and love
    Lets all show some respect for each other.
    Times of uncertainty and change can bring out the worst in people.  Why?, Well they have fixed ideas about how they see things and how they want things and they think they know best.

    It is good to be confident in your opinions but just like in  a lot of other situation it is also good to respect that others have their opinions too and allow them room for that.

    Until we find out that there is a digital cloud system  scoring our behaviour and choices the result of which will send us up to heaven or down to hell, though we may have great faith in our judgement, we will never truly know which choice/opinion/belief is actually right - if any.  Somehow I don't think that's gonna happen .. but I could be wrong!

    We live in a democracy and some people don't seem to know the meaning of that.  Democracy means that the choice goes with the majority opinion and even if that is only greater by a fraction  - that's democracy.

    I personally believe that whatever happens, it has happened for a reason.  Whether that is a political vote that goes the wrong way for me, or a potentially life changing vote that could make a big difference to how we live in Great Britain.  Now that we have left the EU there will be a period of disruption and resettlement and things will settle into some sort of order.

    In my humble and non judgemental opinion i think that there have been voices crying out to be heard for the last 20 years or so and maybe the vote reflects that - I could be wrong of course.
    There are those in the EU who are being led at the moment by their emotional responses whereas if they have a bit of breathing space they will begin to look at the situation a little more logically and put their professional heads back on. (if they have any)

    It's not just politically that this rationalisation is important.
    I also believe that every time I break my ankle or get a virus or illness of some kind it is a time for me to reflect on the message I am getting.  I believe it happens for a reason.  You can either take the time to reflect and think about what the message is telling you or you can get grumpy - why is this happening to me kind of attitude.

    People seem to only consider themselves when they are so adamant about their beliefs.  Is it not time that we started to respect one another and allow people freedom to think their own way without being subject to  denigration we get enough of that with some bickering politicians.

    Lets learn to give each other respect even though we might think differently to them, let's not expect them to think like us and trust that we will do the best that we can for each other.

    We have been running a business on Bolton Street now for many years and have come across all sorts of back stabbing and dirty dealings.

    You may recall that we used to run Mind Body Spoirit fairs in the Drill Hall (Castle Armoury) for a few years.  Now you would have thought, at least I thought, that everyone  who took a stall would be considerate and fair and non judgemental,  Although we met some lovely people and some who we still have contact with now, there were an awful lot who were hard-nosed business people with little regard for others.  I was actually blamed at one point for someone being stuck in the snow in the street outside as they were queuing to unload.  This attitude by the majority was a great shock to me at the time.

    We have had several attempts to sabotage and disrupt our business by others in the area although we have made many friends.

    Rachael from Gronn only wrote last week about waiting for an appointment in a salon and overhearing bitchy comments amongst the staff  about her business.

    We have had people from other centres and cafes  coming into ours  just to see what is going on and on the menu so that we find them copying  dishes.  What is wrong with letting us know that they are just popping in to have a nosy and would we mind if they took a menu. That's more respectful.

    The worst is when people come in on the pretext of asking about a services then without a by your leave start mingling with the guests (without even buying a drink) promoting another event elsewhere.  What's wrong with asking if they can let people know about the event?  That's showing a little respect to us and our business.

    Its all just so underhand and disrespectful.  However, I am tolerant of their behaviour.  I really don't care to sneak into other establishments and see how they are operating.  I'm not saying I wouldn't pick up ideas whilst I am out and about, that is just unavoidable in an active and creative mind, but I wouldn't go out and deliberately make a point of it.

    I believe in Karma and trust in serendipity so those who don't,  carry on with your sneaky and disrespectful ways and hopefully you will come to understand eventually.  - That is if I am right.

    Peace love and light to all - lets spread it.

  3. Little Boxes, Little Boxes
    Wonder what's inside?

    We all have little boxes that we keep the lid on.  Why?  'Cos we're too scared to find out what's inside.  And what is inside is misguided fears and liberation from the ties to them.

    Imagine landing on another planet far away in an altogether new galaxy.  Imagine exploring and planning how you would like to live.  What things you would change and how your new planet life would be.  All sounds fantastic so far doesn't it.

    There you are busy discovering what new materials you can use to build your shelter, what you can eat and how you may need to form some kind of cultivation so that you never run out of food,  Imagine this great adventure as you become familiar with the new weather, new gravity, new sky and pretty much new everything. 

    It truly could be a new beginning.
    However, when you first arrived on the planet there was an area marked out and labelled as very dangerous, you were advised not to go there.  it was just a pile of old boxes.  occasionally there would be the odd weird noise coming from the boxes or a bit of a rattle and shake

    Many people would be tempted to explore the boxes and to see what all the fuss was about.

    Now imagine you decided to take a closer look and on each box was an old tatty label that said property of ......looking closer you discover it is YOU.... your name on the boxes.  How do you feel now?

    Well if they're  yours, then presumably you can do what you want with them, including open them - no?

    So are you going to open the boxes?

    What will happen if you open the boxes?

    What will happen if you don't?

    There's the dilemma that we all face when we find little boxes in unexpected places.  And we all have them.  Those moments when a simple word of phrase can make you feel vulnerable or frightened.

    Those topics that you just don't want to face.  Those attitudes that you want to hang on to even though, if you do take the time to think, you know they don't make sense.

    Those things that so annoy you about yourself - limitations, inhibitions, fears.....  but you just don't want to know what's inside the box.

    It is always worth the effort of taking that brave step into the unknown and finding your liberation from these inhibiting, limiting beliefs.

    That is what hypnoanalysis can do for you - set you free.

    Hypnoanalysis finds the boxes, the limiting beliefs that you have created at a time when they were useful to you, a time when your life was awkward and limiting your behaviour kept you safe - that could be the simplest thing like not being disapproved of by a strict aunt etc.
    You learned that way of thinking and decided that it was a safe way to behave.  it istill is safe but it is also locking you in  a cage where your freedom of choice for behaviour is limited.
    Finding the reasons for these behaviours is so freeing - everyone should do it.
    Andrea lowe

    Senior Therapist and Trainer.

  4. I'm Not Fit enough to do Yoga!


    I think it is safe to say that most people who start attending yoga classes are what they might describe as being a bit out of shape, a bit overweight, stiff and inflexible, off balance and/or experiencing stress or anxiety. They may be influenced by their doctors or other health professionals to try yoga or by a friend who is already feeling the benefits of regular yoga practice.

    Of those who attend probably half keep with it for a while and the other half fall at the first yoga mat.

    Of those who sack yoga sooner rather than later it is a particular category of triers who I feel most for.

    Take a not uncommon situation: two middle aged lady friends (or sometimes males friends) book a yoga class together. One has tried yoga before in the past and scanty exercise since and has become stiff and inflexible and a little overweight but could be just a few weeks away from getting back on track. The other person has never tried yoga or much of any physical exercise perhaps since school days, they are well over weight as well as being stiff and inflexible, they may also be experiencing poor balancing skills and poor range of movement at the best of times.

    After one class either the first person keeps attending - alone – or both stop attending.

    I am not over worried about the first person as they are not so far from getting back into practice and may soon try again or take up some other exercise dumping the yoga out of loyalty to their disheartened friend.

    It is the second person, the disheartened friend, my heart goes out to. They may simply retreat into giving up and never experience the great benefits of a regular yoga practice.

    I understand that for a person with poor flexibility, range of movement and balance, a typical scheduled yoga class can be daunting. They look around the room and see most people at least moving in the right direction with some success while they are struggling to get off the floor and come into the most simply of poses. It's hardly surprising they give up and they probably cant wait to get out of the room in some cases.

    At this point I thinks it's important to remember one of the well used yoga slogans:

    “yoga meets you where ever you are in life”

    This is a very true saying. Yoga is in fact for anyone. There is always some technique you can use even if you are laid up in bed recovering from a road accident.

    I know this because just a few years ago a yoga student of mine was in a serious motorcycle accident. After a lot of surgery to save his leg and general health he ended up at home in bed for many weeks awaiting further surgery. He emailed me asking me if I could put together a collection of yoga postures that he could use while restricted to the confines of his bed. I sat down and worked out a regime for him and he used it daily to help the progress his recovery.

    This was an extreme case but there are many people who are chair bound in nursing homes benefiting from yoga every day. People in wheelchairs, people with cerebral palsy who can only walk with the aid of sticks, blind people and the list goes on. Yoga meets all these people where they are.

    All its takes is a little more courage and perseverance and commitment and the disheartened friend might never look back.

    I am often amused by some of the conversations amongst students after class It's surprising what students will reveal about themselves after just a few sips of herbal tea! Lemon grass, green tea, lemon and ginger can sometimes have that wonderful power of lowering peoples barriers.

    I have had students who attend for months if not years and then one evening out of the blue while intoxicated by the delights of nettle tea divulge their yoga secrets. One recently said to another fairly new attender “Yoga was the best thing I ever started...” and “I could not do without my yoga” and ”Even after a couple of weeks on holiday I miss it and start to feel it physically”.

    As a yoga teacher I know that even the disheartened friend if they persevered and tried to stick with yoga they would never look back. If they tried to resolve to do a daily practice even if only for 5 minutes to complement their weekly class they would start to see progress in weeks. After a few months they would notice they were calmer, more toned and flexible and that their range of movement was noticeably better. This should be true even if their initial worry was their overweight. Yoga helps people to handle weight better and can even put them get back on track to begin to lose some unwanted weight.

    You might say but how would they survive that scheduled class where everyone seemed to be coping but them. Well, the best thing to do is not just go to the first class that comes up and be a little wary of a class a more nimble friend attends. Look for a class that is for beginners or if this still seems challenging look for a restorative or remedial class where the spirit of yoga asana is still practised but on a much lower key to accommodate various needs and gradual progress. Don't be scared of ringing up or emailing a teacher you have in mind and asking them what might be suitable if you believe you would struggle. Ask if you can meet them at their studio just for a quick chat so you can find out what to expect and get the flavour of the environment. You could even ask about private sessions for a while until you feel more confident – this would incur more cost but you may have the means to do this.

    A good Respite Yoga Class still sticks to the spirit of yoga but does not push the classical postures. It rather modifies them so that attendees can learn to move in the right direction. In addition it's important to point out that if you are new to yoga there are a lot of yoga techniques that are more subtle than posturing but equally as important. These include correct breathing, relaxation and even some of the psychological buttresses of yoga such as tapas that seeks to bring thoughtful daily regularity into your practice, svadhyaya that helps us to learn the great value of self enquiry and ishvara pranidhana that teaches us to release our worries and concerns to a non-religious spirit higher than ourselves and one of our choosing.

    If you are thinking of trying yoga because everyone you know who has tried it says it is great remember another thing: you don't need to use your body as a tool for yoga but use yoga as a tool for your body. In other words yoga techniques are there to use in the service of our physical, mental and emotional well being and as you get to know yourself more through the practice of yoga so you get to know how to choose what technique to use, when to use it and exactly how much effort to apply.

    Barry Todd (HathaYogaMan)

  5. usfiretalk

    Yoga practitioners out there will be aware of the renowned yoga sage Patanjali who it is claimed put together 2500 years ago the Yoga Sutras (or threads of wisdom) as a guide or framework for yoga practice. These were threads of wisdom that were meant not as a practitioners manual for practice but more as principles upon which to base practice.

     There is also a claim that because of the way the sutras were worded they were intended for practitioners already on the path of yoga practice not really for beginners and if you start reading them for the first time they can be a bit of a handful to follow. With perseverance however as you practice their meaning begins to reveal itself. Having said this the late great B.K.S. Iyengar known for his precise interpretation insisted that the sutras were not just for experienced yogis but were also intended for anyone wanting to take up the practice.

     As with a number of other contemplative paths Patanjali did however suggest a preparatory way for beginners to use the sutras and this has come to be known as Kriya Yoga.* This is not the Kriya Yoga associated with Kundalini – the Kriyas – the latter are a set of around 20 definite practices each of which can bring together asana, breathing, mudra and visualization.

     The Kriya Yoga Patanjali referred to for getting practice under way or even for getting it back on track is the application of the principles of the last three Nyamas in his Eight Limbs contained in the 2nd pada or chapter of the sutras, that of Tapas (resolve), Svadhyaya (mental perceptions) and Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion).

     These can seem like lofty principles but they are accessible by everyone as they they need not be as demanding as they appear.

    Take for example Tapas. Strictly defined as a burning resolve or discipline. Applying oneself to ones goal of yoga with such determination so as to burn off any impurities in our lifestyle that stand as obstacles to our evolution. Sounds like hard discipline. Even Patanjali put such importance in the idea of discipline that he included a section in the sutras that referred to Abyasa and Vairagya (see below). Abyasa simply means never give up (discipline) but always let go Vairagya (be non-attached).

    Don't be disheartened as even some of the great masters of yoga have claimed that applying tapas can be a gentle process rather than one of extreme austerity. If we look at the concept of discipline it is the action rather than its severity that counts.

    I love a Taoist reference to discipline I came across a few years ago which said that if your discipline was to get up each morning at 6am and jump in your local river in any season this was a powerful could also be powerfully life threatening! What's important really is the regularity and timing rather than any possible pain that can be attached to it. So it would be equally as powerful if you got up at 8am (if that was a more civilized time for you) and moved three stones from one end of your garden to the other or even if you took three glasses out of your cupboard and then put them back. The timing is important in this however, so instead of saying I'll do whatever “action” at 8am, which can eventually become “about 8am”, resolve to do it at a precise time such as 8.01am or even 8.29am. Believe me there is still some pain with keeping such simple actions going day in day out!

     If you want to bring your yoga into the equation then resolve to start your meditation at 8.01. Remembering that severity is not necessarily so important, if you were wanting to get into a daily discipline with your personal yoga asana practice, it's not so vital to start a full practice at 8.01. If you are struggling to get off the mark then resolve to do asana for just 1 minute starting at 8.01. Do this for a month and then increase the time. The action of the daily discipline will start to make a difference in your life as the repetitive action firms up your resolve to make choices, to persevere in your practice, determination not to give up (abyasa) and coping better with distractions and temptations. This is true not just of your yoga practice but also in your day to day life and yoga off the mat is just as important as yoga on the mat.

    (Next time Svadyaya.)

     Barry Todd (HathaYogaMan)

     *Two other great paths of yoga are Jnana Yoga and Bhakti which also have a preparatory approach.With Jnana it is viveka (mental perceptions come first here)) or the use of insight meditation loosely to discriminate between body, mind and spirit, then vairagya (devotion) and shatsampatti (resolve)With Bhakti it is pranipata (devotion comes first) then pariprashna (mental perceptions) and then seva (resolve)