Archive for October, 2014

Yoga Show

October 31, 2014

I thought I was never going to get there. Along with everyone else I got evacuated from the train after it got hit by some falling masonry in a tunnel, literally smashing a set of the trains doors of their hinges. Two hours and three tubes later I was on my mat at AYL for a rapid practice, I was in Savasana as Louise was blowing out the little candles, I’ve never been in there at chucking out time before.

The yoga show is good for a few hours, though nothing new or exciting to report on, so here are a few photos.

With Lucy and Sophia from Yogaclicks

I would love one of these but have nowhere to hang one

Sorry but nothing beats Tetley!

Cat on a mat

Wasn’t Halloween, but a few skeletons around


Far too healthy!


A weekend with Eddie Stern in Dorset

October 20, 2014


I was inspired to head to the seaside for Eddie’s weekend workshop by the wonderful Ashtanga NY video and the book he wrote about Guruji. Despite these, over here at least, he still has a lot lower profile than other teachers, so I was wondering what to expect.


Well I found a teacher who is Knowledgable, compassionate, funny, self deprecating and quite happy to go off topic and with the flow. As I was setting up my mat on the first morning he came over, introduced himself and asked about the large scar on my left shoulder, explaining my limitations and what my practice is, there was no “don’t do this or that” he just said “go ahead and do your thing!”

Friday practice was primary only, after a day off and a long journey it was probably a good thing not to push it, apart from getting me to lower my hands in Tiriang Mukha and the odd prod he mostly left me to it.

I was wondering if we were meant to do dropbacks, but then I saw someone else doing them, so I stood up and started playing around, he soon came over and did assisted cross arms then full drops and up, “very good” as I came up from the last one.


Altogether about 40 people took part, quite a few more used to being led, so for the last two days we had a choice, either Mysore style or a later led class, about 15 people took that option. I was in the first start group for Mysore starting at a very civilised 9am, 12 of us, which was a nice amount to start with. Days 2-3 it was full practice, which for me meant two days of going a bit further than I would normally at the Shala to Kapotasana hang backs. All the block experiments and running for the bus have strengthened my quads a lot and doing the extra postures feels good, not depleting. It also helps open my back up, making walking the hands in on Urdva Dhanurasna possible now and being able to hang for longer in dropbacks. Eddie helped me in Bhekasana each day, he has a different technique pressing down near the elbows to help keep the hands in place while leaving the student to try and lift the chest, all help gratefully received before heading to the back of the hall for closing. I enjoyed every practice, Eddie is a very calm presence sitting on his chair in Lotus like a Buddha watching us, then jumping down to give an adjustment.

Lunch view

Beach cafe, a change from Pret

As the afternoon sessions didn’t begin until 2pm that left plenty of time for a drink and a slice of cake in the kitchen before heading down to the cafe on the beach to have lunch in the autumn sunshine looking across to the Isle of Wight.



The afternoon class was billed as Chanting, pranayama and yoga philosophy, plus time for questions and answers. The first part of the afternoon session took place at Helen’s new Shala 2 minutes walk away, a converted Wesleyan chapel. It’s very new and to help wish the building, students and teachers well, Eddie held a puja to Ganesha on the second evening. A ceremony of chanting, invocations, offerings and flowers.

I would love to practice with Eddie again, he’s down to earth, at times irreverent, but amazingly knowledgable about our practice.

About practising on moon days, Eddie said that if we have a 6 day/week practice then it’s good to take the moon days off, but if real life gets in the way and we can’t practice every day, but happen to be able to practice on a moon day then it’s ok ” nothing bad is gonna happen!” He went on to explain how taking rest on moon days came about. The Sanskrit college where Guruji taught only took Brahmin boys who had lots of rituals to perform on moon days, so didn’t get time to do their regular work, they also took off the day following the moon day. It was believed that if teachers taught on new moon their knowledge would decrease and on Full moon days a students knowledge would decrease. Guruji kept up the tradition with regard to practice. But Eddie explained it was far from being a hard and fast rule, Guruji’s daughter Saraswathi began teaching Monday to Friday, with Saturday and Sunday off, she still taught on a week day even if it was a moon day, but did not give new postures on the moon day.

Question on religion and yoga by a yoga teacher who had been stopped from hiring a church hall to teach yoga in. Eddie talked about the lawsuit in California by Christian fundamentalists aimed at stopping his yoga in schools program. He said although all kids call it “yoga” it is officially known as the “Wellness & Health program”. The exercise part is based on yoga, but there is also health and nutrition teaching, the lawsuit was thrown out, but is being appealed.

Question about the Urban Yogis program. I’ve seen the YouTube clips about this, but had no idea how involved and how much time, not to mention his own money Eddie has poured in to this. The idea is to get kids out of the cycle and control of the gangs that run the “Projects”, all of the kids who started the program have had friends, relatives killed and injured by gun crime. Eddie started the program with 6 kids who he trained 3 hours a week over a year to teach basic yoga to their peers in the schools. Once they passed his course he then got the schools to hire them as part of the staff to teach yoga and wellness. From those first 6 kids he now has many more in the program which is also now partly backed by a foundation. The idea being that the friends of the kids in the program see their friends getting a training and finding a route out of the spiral of drugs, crime and gun violence and are inspired to follow them.

Question about yoga and age. Eddie started by saying it’s a fact that eventually our body’s won’t be able to do what they once did and if after illness or injury we can’t do something to not to get frustrated, just do what we can do, but DONT stop doing a posture because we don’t like it! He said he has a lady at his NY Shala of over 80 years old who shows up every day at 6:30am and does her practice, over the years he’s taken poses away to accommodate her arthritis and fitness, but she still does her practice.

I tried to make some notes from the philosophy, but I always find when writing something down I miss whatever comes next.

Group photo taken by Scott Johnson of SYL

States of mind concentration
Mind pays attention then wanders
One pointed focus
Cessation, stilling – Nirodaha or selective discrimination

The 3 questions
Who am I?
What am I doing here?
What do I do next?

5 reasons we suffer
Avidya – not knowing who we are.
Asmita – creating a false idea about who we are
Raga – desire
Dvesha – aversion
Abhinivesha – fear of death


October 13, 2014

Today I had my 15th and final Fracture clinic appointment in the last two years. I still can’t believe how long it’s taken. Considering 1000’s of patients that must passed through that clinic in the last 2 years, the receptionist actually knows me by name and the little Indian Doctor recognises the Ganesh on my pendant, he was the one who told me a year ago if Ganesh couldn’t free my shoulder the arthroscopic surgery would!

After the usual mobility and strength tests, he asked what exercise I did, as there wasn’t much fat on me! When I told him, he said “ah YOGA is the best exercise possible”, he then niftily demonstrated Gomukhasana and said I should do that! Isn’t that third series? So I’m officially discharged by the NHS and the private physiotherapist.


My copy of David Keil’s Functional yoga anatomy book came, so at least I can look up “shoulder”, though I’ve painfully learned quite a lot about it already.

Practice on Saturday at the local Shala and Sunday at AYL, to Kapo on Saturday and Bhekasana on Sunday.

Yoga holiday by the seaside this week, off to practice with Eddie Stern for a long weekend, I’ve wanted to meet him since I read his book Guruji and the brilliant Ashtanga NY documentary.

Rejoining the rat race

October 5, 2014

Finally after nearly two years of injury, surgery twice, injections, rehab and a lot of physio I’ve temporarily at least rejoined the world of work, working part time for a company supplying Christmas Santa Grottos! I get to talk to Santa’s Elves about sending them more supplies for the next batch of little darlings who get to sit on Santa’s knee. Anyone who knows how much I hate Christmas will probably find this hilarious, more than one person has asked if I’m an Elf! NO I’M NOT, though I think to get the elf gig you probably need to be nearer the size of the hidden ashtangi.

As usual I seem to have ended up in a job where I work mostly on my own, though I do have one 8 year old furry helper called Mol, the owners dog, she seems to be my friend now after helping me with my bag of BBQ Hula Hoops!

Mol my co worker

My practice has suffered, coming home after being on my feet, running for the bus and then getting on my mat, my quads are not impressed and refuse to support me doing dropbacks. If it was summer and the mornings were warm and light practice before heading for work would be a better proposition, but dark and every morning feeling colder it’s not going to happen. I’ve not been able to go to the local Shala either.

Saturday I decided as I had to be in London anyway to return to YP and do Susan’s led primary, just 6 of us in the small room. A year ago I actually won a prize of a free class on the Shalas Facebook page, then I ended up needing the second surgery, so never collected it. having got the cash out to pay I remembered and asked the Receptionist if it was still there, she delved through a dusty pile and there it was.

It was a decent practice in a nice warm room, my first led class in a very long time, I figured I should do one before I head of to Eddie Stern in two weeks time. I learned I have rising ribs and a levitating left hand when I jump back and through, though I’ve only been jumping through for a couple of weeks since the shoulder finally stopped objecting. Little details that aren’t usually picked up in a Mysore environment, I always get something when I practice with Susan, some little detail, not saying she’s picky or anything!

Levitating buildings in London

Today it was back to Louise at AYL after their building work break, once I thawed out from the freezing cold bus journey a surprising good practice through to Bhekasana with everything bound, I even managed to land two out of three dropbacks before Tom came to assist. It’s still a fine line of how many to try and do on my own before waiting for the cavalry to show up, Louise thought I’d banged my head, but my hand slipped on number three.

The philosophy group now seems to have a core, it’s nice to spend some time with the Shala community once a month after breakfast, rather than rushing off home, another 6 sutras done.

A legal rest day this week.

So it’s back to the elves, hopefully my body will get with the program soon.