Fear, Faith and Gratitude


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The universal forces of nature keep all of life in check and balance through the equinox; auspicious times of year when transformation is apparent in the change of season, light and darkness, the birth and death of nature. It is said that the fabric of space and time becomes more porous during these times of year.

Every year, Halloween and All Saints’ Day occur around the time of the fall equinox. As the atmosphere is more transparent, the spirits play between the realms of the gross and the subtle, between the worlds of the limited manifest, and the limitless ethereal.

Although the words ‘limited’ and ‘gross’ imply some negativity, and it certainly may not always feel wonderful or magical to live in this world, having a body is a tremendous gift. Not only do we have the capacity to feel, share and express love, but as it turns out, it is easier to work out our karmas in a body. Our physical body is a precious vehicle, something to value rather than take for granted. Even so, many of us neglect this gift.

“Hungry ghosts” is a term that some traditions use to describe disembodied souls. These bodiless souls are hungry for a vehicle to resolve their past lives so they can finally find lasting peace.

Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve as it was called historically, is the night these hungry ghosts reveal themselves to the world of the living. Due to the atmospheric conditions of the equinox, they are able to pierce through the boundaries that normally separate the dimensions of life and death. They make mischief as they seek to have the same experiences and feelings as those living, and will do just about anything to inhabit a body with a weak soul they can boss around, even briefly.

People anticipated the arrival of these ravenous ghosts by preparing food offerings for them. The goal was to ensure the food would be so delicious that the ghosts would be satisfied by the food alone and forget about trying to possess their bodies. Today, this tradition is still practiced. People leave food on their doorsteps for spirits at certain times of the year, hanging scary, demon-faced masks above their front doors in the hopes unwanted guests might be scared away.

In the old days, no one who valued their life would have left their house on All Hallow’s Eve. Most likely they would have locked their doors and bowed down at their altars, calling upon all saints, gods and goddesses. The next day, awaking in their human form meant that their faith saved them, and the entire day was spent in gratitude. Therefore, the day after All Hallows’ Eve is reserved for remembrance of the saints and is called All Saints’ Day.

Putting the Head on Yoga Asana (the last workshop of 2014)


image378Workshop, The Architecture of Asana: Part 3 (The head and neck)
Sunday, November 2nd, 1.30-4.30pm Indaba Yoga Studio, Marylebone

 

An awareness of the head, jaw and neck in asana practice is crucial to being balanced in body and mind; after all, it houses all of the nerves that help us to function physically and mentally. However, most of us have ongoing confusion about a myriad of details – anything from where the ‘crown’ of the head is, to the gazing point, or dristi. This three hour workshop will focus on the cranium and neck and their relationship in key asanas and pranayama. While it is a workshop and will have a slightly different pace than a normal 90 minute class, be prepared for a full asana practice as well as an asana lab at the end, where you can bring your questions.

Hope to see you there as it will be my last workshop in 2014.

Breast Cancer Benefit Class : Saturday October 18th


I’m so thrilled to be teaching to the live music of Javier Rodríguez Huertas this weekend to benefit Breast Cancer International. All proceeds will go to this charity’s mission – to give women with breast cancer the tools to improve the quality of their lives, regardless of race, background or income. Please come and sweat and support! A gong bath savasana and a prize raffle, to boot. Indaba Yoga Studio, 10-11:30am, Saturday 18 October.10661744_890305917654658_7393616449238100219_o

 

Sound Advice


600394_421617931239046_1475004198_nOn October 11 and October 18th there will be LIVE MUSIC in class, provided by Luc Acke and Javier Rodríguez Huertas at Indaba Yoga Studio, Marylebone, 10-11:30am. Please come!

Tasya vachakah pranavah
Always chant OM; God is OM, supreme music
-Patanjali

Living and working in London means that all around, there is sound. Police sirens, bus horns, jack hammers and cars whizzing past provide a colorful if not distracting backdrop. Sometimes moving beyond the chaos of the cataclysmic sound waves can be challenging.

The practices of yoga provide a framework of moving from the gross (large) elements to the subtle. We work from the outside, in, so to speak. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali outlines and eight-limed path (ashtanga) the provides steps for transformation; transformation from our belief about being rooted in our belief about who we are as a physical form, to being something more subtle, something timeless. The eight-limbed path consists of the yamas (restraints), niyamas (self-restraints), asana (seat/connection), pratyahara (looking inward), dharana (concentration), dyana (meditation), and samadhi (enlightenment).  Throughout these practices, we learn to cultivate our listening skills, ultimately arriving at the ability to hear even the unstruck sound, the soundless sound of Om.

In the sanskrit dictionary, there is a word nadam, which translates loosely to sound. Nada Yoga is the yoga of deep inner listening. The related word nadi means river or stream. Nadis are the channels in the subtle body through which consciousness flows.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states that samadhi (enlightenment) is achieved when the anahata (unstruck) nadam can be heard. The ultimate goal of Hatha Yoga is to hear this soundless sound which is Om, the dissolution of all sound and the music of the spheres. To do this the yogi must first perfect the ability to listen.

Sound is the essence of all energy. The first vibration, the Nadam, was “unstruck,” meaning that it occurred at a time when there were no things to strike against each other to make a sound. This first very subtle vibration is still resonating through each and every vibration that has arisen since the beginning of time.

To begin the practice of Nada Yoga, the yogi first practices pratyahara, shutting off as many external sights and sounds as possible and drawing inward. The first stage of pratyahara is to become still and quiet, and allow an inner tranquility to permeate the senses.

This is not easy to do, so a prerequisite might be to refine the ability to really listen. One way to do this is by appreciating good music. Be selective; it is helpful to choose music that induces an inner state of well-being. Practice listening to your own voice and to those around you. See if in walking through a busy city you can look for the sound of Om, even in the jackhammer, even in the car’s horn.

Once external listening is refined, we can cultivate the ability to listen inward. Yoga practices provide techniques for tuning our instrument, for transforming an ordinary body into an extraordinary instrument for Divine Will; for love. Through the practices of Nada Yoga, the yogi’s mind becomes absorbed in the inner sound of Om.

Live Music, Saturday October 11, with Luc Acke


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I’m so excited to be teaching with Luc Acke again on Saturday, October 11th at Indaba Yoga Studio, 10-11:30am. There is nothing like practicing to live music, and Luc’s voice and the harmonium are especially grace-filled. If you have never practiced to live music before, come and experience the live vibrations and incredible sweet bhav (mood). Hope to see you there (to sample Luc’s sound, click on the link below his picture).

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