It’s one of the most common instructions you’ll hear in the average yoga class. “Protect your lower back.” “Don’t jam into your lower spine.” “Look after your lumbars.”
There are many variations on the theme, all with very similar intentions: to make practice safe and to prevent the erosion of the discs in the lumbar spine. No one wants to end up like the guy in the New York Times article and have their vertebrae fused. Continue reading
I notice a common tendency in ‘spiritual’ circles for people to label themselves in ways that imply a great deal of spiritual attainment, and others in ways that imply a low level of spiritual attainment. So, I might call myself ‘evolved’, for example, or ‘conscious’. If I were female, I might describe myself as a ‘goddess’. People who I clash with, on the other hand, I might consider ‘toxic’, and adhere to the mantra that I must ‘clear toxic people out of my life’.
The problem with this is that no human being is composed exclusively of either light or dark. While I’m committed to practices that build self-awareness, such as practicing yoga asanas, sitting for meditation, and journalling, calling myself ‘conscious’ or ‘evolved’ would suggest that I had reached a destination, which is quite contrary to my experience: in fact, the more I practice, the more I realise how much more I have to learn. It would also separate me from those people who, for whatever reason, I deemed ‘unconscious’ or ‘unevolved’. This seems to me antithetical to a practice whose very name means ‘union’.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain
At the time of writing, I’m just over a week from leaving the UK for Thailand to take up a yoga teaching position. It’s a move that offers the promise of ‘living the dream’, and finally translating my eleven and a half years of yoga experience into a full-time livelihood. It also feels like a kind of death, a change so profound that I’m unsure who I’ll be once the plane lands and I step blinking into the Bangkok sunshine. Some days, I’m excited at the prospect of the undoubted adventures that await me. Others, I’m flat-out terrified, distraught to think of the beloved friends, family, and artisan cheeses I’m about to leave behind.
Cake: terrifying [photo credit: Anne]
I hadn’t realised how nervous I’d feel.
I’d seen other people put together crowdfunding campaigns and thought, in the back of my mind, that if there was ever something I wanted badly enough I would be prepared to create one myself. Soon after I secured a yoga teaching position in Thailand in June and July, I realised this was that thing. I was confident I could sustain myself once I was teaching regularly, but – alone – I couldn’t cover the costs of flights, visas, insurance, and other essentials.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the intensity of the experience, and the anxieties it brought to the surface. The internal judgements telling me that asking other people for money made me lazy and shiftless. The burning sensation of shame as I imagined friends secretly harbouring those judgements. Continue reading
This is the first piece I’ve had published over at MindBodyGreen. For a taster, please see below. To read the full article, follow one of the links above and below. Thanks!
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There are plenty of advantages to practicing in a class. We walk into a space dedicated to yoga (or, at least, physical activity), where, for a set period of time, we’re surrounded by like-minded folk while someone who knows a lot about yoga tells us what to do.
But there are some downsides: Classes take place when the studio decides, rather than when we wish them to. They contain students of varying experience, whose abilities may or may not match our own. Good teachers adapt their teachings, of course, but often the range of experience requires some level of compromise. Inevitably, we see a yogic Goldilocks effect: some students will find the level of challenge too hot, some will find it too cold, and some will find it just right.
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To read the rest of this piece, please click here.
At first glance, it might seem a little strange for a yoga teacher to be advocating grief. Aren’t we supposed to be a little more, y’know … peppy?
That’s arguably the case. Personally, however, I find that while my asana practice certainly does enliven me, it also brings me ever more intimacy with an increasingly broad and vivid range of emotional experience. The term ‘yoga’, after all, is generally understood to refer to the yoking, or union, of mind and body. For that union to be meaningful, it seems to me that it must by necessity encompass the darker spheres of existence as well as the lighter ones. Continue reading
As you may have noticed, there’s a battle being fought in the yoga community. It started when Rebelle Society published this incendiary piece by Cameron Shayne, in which he acknowledges that he’s had sex with some of his students.
The post sparked a furious response, with various commentators, notably Chris Courtney and Carol Horton at Yoganonymous and 90 Monkeys respectively, disagreeing vehemently with his perspective. Now, Shayne has responded with a follow-up article of his own, which promises to be part one of a three-part series. This looks like rumbling on and on. Continue reading