Thursday, 12 November 2015

Advancing Asana Practice

Do you remember your first yoga class? Or even those first few months or years of yoga practice? As cliché as it may sound, I guess I would describe it as the beginning of a journey of discovery. Feeling your body in a different way- in fact feeling every part of your body- some parts that you never even knew existed!

In modern life, we are so accustomed to external stimuli that going inwards feels like a trip to a far away planet, but one that is most beautiful, & one that you absolutely fall in love with. And of course, like all love affairs, it’s a roller coaster ride with many highs and some lows- where we take stock, ask questions, reevaluate our aspirations.

I feel like yoga practice is very much like a romantic relationship- you have the honeymoon period, a period of really getting to know each other; the beautiful and the not so beautiful and then a ripening that is so sweet when you know each other so well that you know how to support each other’s happiness. So in our yoga practice, we have that initial discovery- we literally fall in love with ourselves (not an ego thing, but also lets not use that word like it’s the devil himself) Following that, there is that realization – “my body is so this and that”, but equally, “wow! My body is so strong and amazing”, etc. And then (after some YEARS) you get to know it so well, you know how you feel, how to make yourself feel better, how to move like a rock star!

But like all romantic love, this is not the moment to stop growing and learning, because we are always changing. If we stop putting the effort into our relationship, it is likely that we will lose that space of happiness and contentment. Contentment is not a place of non-activity. Rather, it a place you have found that you are happy to be in, but to remain there, you have to put in the work. The work may change. To remain feeling content does not necessarily mean doing the same thing over and over again. This works for some people but not everyone. So what works for you? You will know if you are doing the right thing for yourself but evaluating if you are feeling that same joy.    

For me, this is what advancing my practice is about. Although I have practiced for many years, I have discovered that the practice never stops revealing connections to my body and inner self. Through my practice, I am experiencing change every day. This is both very powerful and humbling. Let me make it clear though, that I am not experiencing these things just from advance poses. I feel the change in my warrior 2 all the time.

But whilst feeling the change in poses that I am familiar with keep me grounded in my body, advancing my practice continues to help me break barriers that cause me to move from my contentment spot. Advancing my practice is not about doing advance poses. It is about doing that thing you did when you first walked into a yoga class – remember how scary that was? And equally how empowering that experience was? Very soon, you were not afraid to walk into any yoga studio in the world. That is what it is all about – breaking barriers that we unconsciously create every day.

If you have been practicing for a while, do not be afraid to walk into your first level 2-3 class. And if you found after that it was not for you, at least you gave it a try, or you will never know. It is not as hard or as crazy as you think and it is ok to leave it for another day if it was not right. There is no ego and there is no judgement. 

Friday, 2 October 2015

Interview Q&A

Interview Q&A with Victoria from Inspired Yoga, Sweden

1. When and why did you start practising yoga? 

I took my first yoga class at university in 1994. I was not inspired to practice it regularly right away as I was distracted by student life and a lot of activities new to me. I only started to practice regularly when my best friend took me along to her class back in Malaysia in 1999. There was no profound reason for starting yoga practice. It was solely a physical love to begin with. I started practicing regularly because it made me feel good.
2. How has yoga helped you in your life?

Over time, i noticed how i had changed- feeling more relaxed, less reactive, more focused & also more mindful. My relationships with everyone became so much better. I guess you could really say, yoga practice changed my life. I realised some years later that everything I learn and encounter on the mat applies to how I flow in my life. I see this relationship clearly now.

Aside from this, I also used to have terrible body image issues. Yoga has really changed my relationship with my body. I have great respect & great appreciation for my body now. It is not that i am completely over these issues, but i am so much more comfortable in my body that I am not even afraid to put myself out in the big social media world now. It's a huge thing for me & i am grateful for it.
3. What does yoga mean to you?
For me, yoga is a complete mind body practice. Physical practice keeps the body healthy, meditation keeps the mind healthy. I think there is some confusion sometimes and there are some who think that physical practice and meditation are separate. Meditation can also happen during physical practice. Just taking time out to focus on the breath can clear the mind too. If practice is focused, meditation happens too.
However, I think it is important to stop every day and just sit quietly to watch the thought waves, even if it is just for a moment. The mind is an incredible place. I believe meditation & physical practice should happen side by side.

4. What is your favourite yoga pose?

I have soooo many! But if i have to name just one, it would be pincha mayurasana. I have been working on this pose since the day i set eyes on it when i could not even do one inversion! The pose just keeps challenging my beliefs. Even when I've got it, it will not let me keep it. Not yet anyway ;-)

5. What is your most memorable yoga moment?

I have a few and cannot pick one so here are a few...

When i took my first Vinyasa class & experienced the freedom of movement & creativity
When I did my first teacher training. There were only 5 of us. It was an intimate & life changing month.
When I first met my teacher Shiva Rea 
When I met you! 

6. What inspires you?

Possibilities inspires me. Waking up every morning to an abundant of possibilities & going to bed, looking forward to the morning. I feel so blessed to be given this life & this moment.
Love also inspires me. Love is so powerful. When love is present, possibilities are endless. And I mean love for anything. In an all inclusive sense.

7. What do you love about teaching yoga?

Yoga is such a big part of my life. I get so much joy from being able to share it. Not just the asana practice but also the many magical & inspiring stories. Some stories & inspiration have been passed on from teacher to teacher, so it is not possible to hear these stories if these gifts are not also passed on.
The big thing of course is also sharing asana practice. For me, it's really like playground time- when we laugh & play & discover the many things that we are capable of. A time when we breakdown many of our perceived limitations that we accumulate in our adult life. For me, it is exciting when I see someone have an "aha" moment. When they find something within themselves. And this is also what I love about teaching yoga. Every class is different. You just never know what you're going to get.

Monday, 7 September 2015

ommm & omming

Before I discovered the many descriptions of om, i never questioned it's origins or it's meanings. It was just something I picked up as a part of my life in a Buddhist home. My first yoga teachers taught me OM as AUM (i will use aum and om in this blog just because neither is right or wrong) This is the understanding I normally share in class:

AUM is the sacred sound vibration. The first vibration in the universe or on earth at least. It is everything and nothing, everywhere and no where. We hear the hum of aum everywhere. When we chant AUM, we start with the vowel Aaah. We feel this vibration in our belly- the beginning. Then we start to move the vibration into Ooo and feel this vibration in our throat region- the middle. And finally we end with Mmm and feel this vibration in our third eye region- the end. And at the end of AUM there is a silence (it is not actually silence but an unstuck sound)  and we get the sense of this as the radiance from the crown of our head- after the end, there is space. So in one breath, AUM contains everything- creation, continuity and dissolution- life. To me, this is sacred sound. We all feel grounded when we connect with it. And whenever & wherever I chant it, I feel it originates from deep within me & releases as vibrations. It is not religious, but sacred. 

I am sharing this today because I often notice how this sound gets belted out. There is no right or wrong way to omm mind you, but lets consider the intention behind om & omming.

When I open and close my mediation practice, or when I am doing a japa, I will never belt out my mantra's or om's. The only time i do this is when I am trying to strengthen my voice when I know i have to lead a kirtan. In fact, when I am on my own, I feel my oms come from somewhere even deeper within. If you have never tried this, I invite you to take a moment, sit quietly, just for a moment & when you are ready, try 3 om's. I am quite confident that you will share the same experience. Because this is so, when we come together in a kula, it should be no different. We are not trying to be heard and not trying to create anything. I think sometimes, there is perhaps that idea that we should make an effort to contribute to the sound so as to raise the vibration- but actually, when the sound is forced, too loud, too domineering, the opposite happens. 

During a yoga intensive, I also received this teaching from a lovely teacher, Ross Rayburn. He said, when you go to a class, you are there to be led, so the time of invocation is no different. Allow yourself to be led by the teacher. Don't start before them, just be right behind them, be a little softer than them. It is also a way to show your respect, a way let the ego go and be ready to receive. (Ego by the way- not a bad word- another blog another time)

I hope this helps you connect to why we om & makes this practice more meaningful for you. Again, a reminder that there is no right or wrong way to ohm, and this is just my practice to share with you and an invitation to try it, if this is not already a part your experience. When AUM comes from deep within you, not as something you are trying to do or create, but rather as something you are sharing from deep within yourself which is all of yourself in one breath, one sound, the practice of chanting om becomes something sacred. And sacred- somethings have the quality of softness and love. When we practice in this way, we feel like we are sharing and receiving love. 

AUM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


Picture captured by Matt who was travelling with us in north India.

“Love is not patronising and charity isn't about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same -- with charity you give love, so don't just give money but reach out your hand instead.” 
― Mother Teresa

When I first planted the seed to become a yoga teacher, the one thing that was super clear for me (because everything else was not very clear back then) was that I would like to be able to serve some community through this new work. It was becoming obvious that the yoga community was going to be a community with great capabilities, to reach out to those in their local community, as well as those, far afield. 

The first thing I did when I graduated was to start a 50+ yoga class. Initially, this class was meant to be a complimentary class. But everyone suggested collecting a small fee that would go charity. This was how i came to find Yoga Gives Back (YGB). I cannot even remember exactly how that happened because back then, they were still a small operation, but I somehow stumbled upon them. The founder's words inspired me and their work completely resonated with me. Right away, i knew that this was an organisation i'd love to work with. I got in touch with them and through our emails, we just clicked & I was invited to become one of their ambassadors. That was more than 5 years ago, and I have been following their work closely & proudly, watching them grow as a charity and witnessing the impact on lives. The founder continues to champion the organisation, recently visiting recipients of YGB funds. 

Through their 'Sister aid' program YGB directly funds programs for education and the economic empowerment of women and children through carefully selected partners in India. Through these funds, they are able to empower women to be self sufficient, enable girls to stay in education and avoid child labour or child marriage & fund orphans in schools. With increased support, the funds are now also able to help fund higher education. As the organisation grows, so does the opportunity to reach out to help more communities. 

When i was travelling in India, it really hit me how much support was needed out there. I used to think that there are already so many charities mobilised out there- both local and international. But when you come face to face with the situation, you realise that more help is needed, because there is so much to do. (likewise in Africa) It's not really someone elses' problem. It is a human problem. 

I left India feeling so lucky that I am a woman born and raised in the right place to the right people and now live somewhere where my rights are not restricted just because I am a woman. That I had my basic human right even (never mind as a male or female- just the very basic human right) I really felt the restrictions, unlike what I am used to- walking around wherever i wish in whatever i wish. This strengthened my support for YGB even more. Working to empower the women because women will empower their families and their communities. 

I understand that now, more than ever, there is such a huge need for our charity at home and abroad. We only give what we can. It is important to give with love. I feel that yoga events are a great channel for raising funds, a good exchange of energy, giving a yoga class in exchange for your funds that go to charity. This is YGB's mantra. Please do join me and 9 other teachers this 29th May for a yoga challenge that will change lives. You can try to raise £25 through sponsorship or pay it yourself. If you are unable to join us, you can buy a raffle ticket for £1.50 for a chance to win some fantastic prizes that local businesses have donated to the event. 

If you'd like to know why we do 108 sun salutations here's a good link to visit
(by the way, you don't have to do them all, just join in and do as many as you can)

Thank you from my heart always!


check out more of Matt's amazing pictures from India here India

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Me & Social Media

About a year ago, I started posting on Instagram as part of a personal project. It had come up when I had attended a really powerful workshop with Rod Stryker about the Four Desires. It is difficult to sum up the workshop which had many parts in it, but basically, it is about finding what makes you happy and what stops you from being happy and more importantly what is stopping you from living your fullest life. I really recommend it if you have the opportunity to work with him.

During this time, it came up that i was my biggest obstacle. I think most of us are our biggest obstacle, but more importantly, what is it that we do that makes us so. One of the patterns i had discovered about myself is that, my automatic conditioned response is to always not respond. Whether i can do something or not, whether i know something or not, my default reaction is to take a step back, be quiet. Never be seen, never be heard. Not out of shyness, but out of the fear of being vulnerable or wrong. And when i looked back on my whole life- this had always been the story- even when my dad passed away, when everyone was expecting me to breakdown, i didn't and instead put forward someone who had it all under control. After he was buried, I really wanted some personal time with him (because we were very close and i did not make it to say goodbye) A close friend had to take me to the grave- someone i felt comfortable enough to be vulnerable with- or so i thought- and even then, i just laid the roses and left. This is like a 40 minute drive, so I was pretty annoyed with myself that I could not fulfil what my heart desired. 

This was just part of the revelation. Of course, it wasn't just about what was "wrong" but also to recognise that the potential to stop these conflicts, is completely in our hands. Nobody can help us more than ourselves..

At the end of the workshop, I made a sankalpa- a kind of vow, to step forward and not be afraid to be vulnerable but equally not be afraid to shine. In the moment of excitement, it all seemed so easy. I just had to make a conscious choice every time so that the reaction is no longer automatic. On the plus side, once the seed had been planted, I was constantly aware of my actions- the one that got nervous as soon as i knew there was an opportunity to share something- but i still could not change the reaction. A sankalpa is meant to be something that happens in about 6 months- hahahaha how does one break a lifelong habit in that time?? Of course not. 

So I had joined Instagram first because it was the new thing and I am always curious about new things. I joined as Cooper (my dog & posted lots of photos of him) At the same time, i followed the yoga community of course. It inspired the socks off me. Some of these people were really putting themselves out there and just opening themselves out to the world. And how incredible this community was at championing change, encouraging strangers through their goals, cheering creativity and effort, and supporting each other through difficulty (some incredible stories - i mean... really incredible true life, heart breaking, inspiring stories) I started to wonder if perhaps this could be the answer for me. So i stepped in & joined as me..

At first, I cringed...even though i had no followers LOL 
But eventually, I started to become less and less afraid of being seen.
And now, I would say, i have really embraced vulnerability. It doesn't mean i have lost my inhibition. I am just no longer afraid of not being perfect. In fact, I am happy to scream and shout about it!! I think when you scroll through the pictures, the change is obvious. I would never have thought that doing something like this could help me break a habit. I notice the change in me in everything i do. I am also less argumentative with my husband as i no longer have to be right all the time LOL (this is true) It is like all yoga practice; repeating an action makes it easier and easier. The more i put myself forward, the easier it became. It's not that I did not get this from regular yoga practice. I just needed another push out of my comfort zone.

Lastly, i just want to say, there is so much judgement out there about posting pictures- especially in the yoga community. All the other communities i follow- climbers, surfers, wakeboarders, snowboarders- nobody ever comments that these guys are showing off. Everyone just gets super excited, inspired and stoked. But for some reason- this is un yogic yoga practice, showing off LOL
Funny because, if so, then it can be said of any social media posts- whether you are posting about your practice, your lifestyle, your smoothies and food, your kids, dogs, cats, plants...
It is all saying the same thing- look at me- this is my passion, i am proud of this, i am good at this... And really, it is fine. It is only showing off if you think so and that is just your perception. And of course, everyone is entitled to think what they want. For most of us, it is a platform to share our passion- not because we are looking for acceptance or approval, but because when you love something, it's so much more meaningful when you have someone to share it with. 

I'm not saying it is something everyone should do. I'm just saying, don't get so negative about it. If it is not for you, just ignore it. 

Be love.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Tabla Vinyasa & Nada Yoga

Sages of old speak of the mythical sound that lies within every being. 
In Sanskrit, this sound is OM or Nadam.

One theory is that life began with a vibration. And the yogis say, that vibration is OM and still resonates today and is the source of all sounds, so all sounds are sacred.

From the word Nadam is the root word ‘Nad’ which means flow and ‘nada’ means sound. The related word is ‘nadi’ which means river or stream. So ‘Nadam’ can be described as the flow of the inner sound current.

Nada Yoga is about sounds; inner and outer sound vibrations. It is the yoga of deep inner listening. It is said that there are four levels of sound, ranging from the grossest to the subtlest. Like all other yoga practices, we are trying to cultivate awareness, so with Nada Yoga we start with a more sensory practice, as we will be doing during this tabla vinyasa workshop. We will be working on the first level of sound known as ‘Vaikhari’, which is an audible sound that can be heard and felt through the senses. With regular practice, the yogi-in-practice can start to move beyond every day sounds and start to hear the more subtle sounds. These sounds are most easily perceived when we are relaxed, like in shavasana or during meditation.
In my personal experience, when I have had a really good practice; one where my mind and body and breath are most synchronized, meditation becomes easy and it is during this time that I perceive these sound sensations. In a practice with a skilled musician like Jason, who is able to influence the pulse of the class, this experience becomes even more heightened.  

Sound is the essence of all energy. All matter is made up of energy, hence all living things possess a sound quality. When there is harmony within a system, vibration frequency is lower. Lower frequency of vibration means we feel less stressed, more at peace. When we come together to practice, this is one of our aims; to be more harmonized with each other, on our mats and off out mats.
There is a lot of power in our vibration. We can observe the power of vibration through a large predatory sea snail found in Indian Ocean known as Turbinella pyrum. The Aum like vibrations are powerful and their frequency can alter thin sand to form many sacred geometries which are now being studied. Like this creature, we too can influence the feeling of a room, and the vibration around us too can influence us.
During a practice like tabla vinyasa, the musician can observe the bhav of the class and adjust the rhythm intuitively to support the energy of the class. The vibration of the class becomes synchronized and on a subtle level, we will feel this unity. It is different from having music played in class because the music has not been pre-planned but rather, it is infused into practice. The overall feeling is very different.

The session ends with live music meditation; be bathed in the deep evocative tones of Bansuri (Indian classical flute ) and delicious organic sound scapes. Listening to music with clear awareness is part of the practice of Nada yoga.
The experience is heightened after a good asana session as the mind is more still. Jason will play Indian Classical Raagas ( scales in specific moods ) which have their roots in the Nada yoga traditions.

Come and join us and experience this joyful practice.