Up in the early morning

Up in the early morning on Saturday, I chanced to spy the alignment of the heavenly bodies. Sun, moon and star traced a straight line in the dawn sky, casting their reflections on the calm surface of the sea.  As the heavens sang their coloured glory and the birds their joyful chorus, I was given a reminder of my own insignificance.  It felt great.

When I see the planets align, feel the Earth turn upon its axis, watch the days break and then later fade away, I realise that I matter little, if at all.  I am a speck upon a speck, hurtling through space and time infinite.  

In childhood, we believe the world revolves around us. Much of our long-lasting angst arises in childhood when we somehow think that we are responsible for everything that happens around us.  Parents divorce, must be because I didn’t put my socks on that morning.  Vacuum cleaner broken, must be because I left that dirty little candy paper on the floor.   Etc etc ad nauseum.

Growth, maturity, is reached, I believe, when we lose our sense of self-importance.  When we realise that we won’t save the world, that our scope is limited, we see that our only duty is to be as good as we possibly can be within the tiny scope of our lives.  This is actually much easier, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not that difficult to decide to walk in the door of your house with a smile on your face despite your soul-destroying day at work, now is it?

We are all specks upon a speck, hurtling through space.  We don’t know what we don’t know.  Life is a huge mystery and probably none of it matters.

Yoga taught me all this.  Yoga taught me to be still, quiet, and find that quiet place within myself.  I often close my classes with a discourse that goes along the lines of “that stillness that you feel inside, right now, was always there.  It’s just that you didn’t know how to reach it.  Yoga gives us the tools to reach that still point, that quiet place, and to do so repeatedly and reliably.  That is what yoga is, a series of ancient and well-tested tools that help us find our true selves, our quiet, calm, detached peaceful centre.”

We are specks upon and speck, hurtling through space.  We probably matter not at all.  And that’s ok.

Happy Monday, dear souls.  Be joyful.

-Rachel

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The sun will come out, tomorrow….Yoga before the sea and the big blue sky

Yesterday morning dawned rainy and grey.  Around these parts, precipitation is a present, a gift.  The chill in the air was invigorating, and the light reflecting on the wet cobblestones a portend of danger, for they are slippery when wet.

Sophie and Laurence and I warmed up with a white tea before class, then ventured upstairs to el Cielo, which means “Heaven” in Spanish, for yoga class.

There was a chill in the room, so we doubled up the yoga mats, and distributed nice, warm, hot pink wool blankets.   When we reached the floor phase of the practice, I noticed that the chill was starting to bite.  Feeling protective of my students, I hoped and prayed for some warming rays.

As we began to practice dvipada-pitâm (“the two-legged table pose”), the sun burst through!  Suddenly our little greenhouse of a room warmed up!  Joy!  We finished the sequence with Dolphins and headstand prep…energies were moved, smiles dawned upon faces and yet again, yoga worked its magic.

Thanks to everyone who came to class, it is a honour and privilege to be allowed to teach even a little bit of this ancient system.  Thanks to all the yogis and sages who kept this oral tradition alive for us to employ now, in 2018.  Thanks to my teachers, Claude and Carmen, for dedicating your lives to teaching teachers.  Namasté.

Yoga at GOA Altea, with Rachel – video clip

Hey ladies and gentlemen,

A few months ago, the team down at GOA made a fab little video about the yoga and wellness programs that we run.  I, of course, am the yoga teacher.  That’s me on your right, with the braid.  So, click the link, watch the video and dream of quiet mornings in front of the sea, doing hatha yoga, breathing in the salty air, luxuriating in the silence and the sound of the waves.

Alteayoga @ GOA Altea
Alteayoga @ GOA Altea

New Year, new you

Good morning dear yogis, or yogis-to-be!

prismatic lotus flower
lotus flower

Wouldn’t you like to make 2018 the year that you take up yoga?  Yoga is so ubiquitous now, it seems almost silly not to at least try?

But why should yoga be everywhere, and now?  Because it complements any other form of physical education or sport, but can also stand alone.  Yoga can be used by anyone engaged in demanding sport like football, running , CrossFit, to help rehabilitate muscle and connective tissue, improve breathing technique and oxygenation, and generally settle you down after a hard workout.

Yoga is completely adaptable for all ages and fitness levels.  Especially Viniyoga, the style of yoga that I teach.  The central tenet of this style is that the yoga adapts to the person, not the person to the yoga.  This means that viniyoga sequences are modifiable, which is not the case in many yoga styles.  As we know, the European population is ageing, and ageing brings with it certain changes such as connective tissue stiffness in post-menopausal women, overweight and obesity, problems with bone density, heart disease, sleep problems and a host of other concerns.  While yoga is not a magic pill, it certainly helps practitioners to feel better in their bodies, to sleep better, to accept more gracefully the changes associated with ageing, and to overcome loneliness.

Yes, what I say about loneliness is very important.  Yoga is fundamentally a solitary practice, a journey within.  But, in the West, the social aspect of yoga, the group work, is tremendously important.  If you join a yoga class, you will find like-minded people, and that sense of separation might be temporarily eased.  Loneliness is a big problem in Europe.  Yoga, quite apart from all the other physical benefits, can help overcome this pervasive sense of aloneness.

So, please come along to class and see what it’s all about.  You will be welcomed with open arms and a big smile.

Peace, namasté, Rachel

On balance – Part II

In yesterday’s post, I hardly had time to get started.  Talking about the balancing act between prâna and apâna, I likened it to the accumulation and ridding of material things.  I wanted to finish the post by discussing the IN and the OUT of yoga practice.

Most of us arrive at a yoga practice carrying a lot of impressions (samskaras).  When used therapeutically, yoga helps us to unpick the essential from the superfluous.  Let’s use fear as an illustrative example.  A healthy amount of fear, or caution, is necessary.  Otherwise, we might try to fly off mountainsides, or jump into strangers’ cars at 4 in the morning.  But too much fear can stop us talking to interesting strangers at parties, travelling to unknown lands or otherwise enriching our human experience.  So, the continuous practice of yoga, especially challenging postures that elicit a certain amount of fear (say, backbends, breath retentions) allows us to watch our fear response, get to know it intimately and then, ultimately, control it at important moments.

So, yoga can be used to unpick the essential from the superfluous. When there is a dominance of prâna>apâna, there may be a tendency to flightiness, an abundance of ideas without the capacity to distinguish the good ones from the mediocre, and an inability to realise/materialise one’s own ideas.  Somatic manifestations like headaches, twitching eyelids, tooth grinding, jaw tensing, ear ringing, panicky breathing, neck and shoulder tension, pounding heart, tingling fingers and nervous habits like skin picking, smoking and nail biting are all related to prâna>apâna.  (please bear in mind that prâna and Prâna are two different things.  The lowercase version refers to the vayu that dominates the upper body.  Uppercase refers to the universal energy that sustains all Life.)  When prâna is in balance, our thoughts are fast but not fleeting, we have good recall and can crosslink ideas as well as exercise intuition.  When prâna is overactive, we are nervous, irritable and irascible.  When it is underactive, we are forgetful, fretful and worried.

Of course, we need adequate prâna to sustain life.  Likewise, we need adequate apâna, also.  Apâna dominates the digestive organs and pelvic region.  When it is out of balance, all manner of digestive troubles may ensue, as would varicose veins, swollen ankles, heel spoor and other foot disorders, cellulite or peau d’orange as well as general sluggishness or tiredness.  When apâna is strong, we are able to rid ourselves of waste material (urine, faeces) but don’t excrete too much (frequent urination, irritable bowel).  When it is weak, we may have flatulence, constipation, diverticules and pelvic prolapse.

Of course, should anyone out there reading this believe that yoga alone can cure any of the above named disorders, I have to do the responsible thing and state this this post is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose any medical problem.  Go to your doctor, FFS.  But, if they can’t put a name on what ails you, as often happens, ie: you don’t have a diagnosed and named pathology, then maybe some self-care in the form of yoga can prove helpful.

How to balance prâna and apâna?  Coming soon…but Krishnamacharya would probably say apanâsana and dvipâdapitam

Namaste and may you be filled with joy.  JSK.