Four Simple Yoga Poses to Assuage Existential Dread

Modern life can be tricky: busy schedules, inexorably rising sea levels, rampant species extinction. Sometimes it’s hard to kick back, relax, and silence the nagging inner voice that insists we’re hurtling towards ecological calamity.

Yoga can help! A little bit ‘left-field’ even a decade ago, yoga is experiencing a meteoric rise. It’s an ancient science of self-realisation and a popular workout craze, offering great fitness benefits and temporary relief from deep-seated ennui. Continue reading

The Lower Back Conundrum

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

We’re all Toxic, We’re all Divine

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’.

He just wants to be loved [photo credit: Nathan Rupert]

He just wants to be loved [photo credit: Nathan Rupert]

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It Takes Courage to be Frightened

“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]

Cake: terrifying [photo credit: Anne]

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The Surprising Profundity of Crowdfunding

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.

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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

How to Improve your Home Practice

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.