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

Advertisements

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.

Authenticity in teaching yoga: Why it took me so long to teach.

authentically ok
authentically ok

The first time I ever practised yoga was in January, 1999.  That is 19 years ago.  How time flies.  I knew from the very first class that I wanted to teach yoga, that it was my path.  So, why did it take me so long to start teaching?  One word:  Authenticity.

I had for the longest time the feeling of being an imposter.  Imposter syndrome is the persistent feeling that you are a fraud.  In the five types that are listed there, I would say I am a Natural Genius and a Rugged Individualist.  Oh, with a bit of Perfectionist thrown in, for good measure.  It’s a high bar I have set for myself.

In yoga, the stakes are high.  You are not playing with people.  You are doing serious work.  And lest we forget, you can only teach what you know, so the most serious work you are actually doing is on yourself.

It is not easy to start off with the Yamas and Niyamas, the codes of ethics that underpin all serious yoga practice.  Non-harming, purity, self-study, contention…it is a long list, and very hard to adhere to 100% of the time.  Add that to six-days-a-week practice, and an evolving practice at that, not stagnating, bringing new things to the mat.  Phew.

It is easy to fall into the idea that you are never good enough to teach yoga.  Or rather, for me it is.  Evidently, for others it is not so difficult.  There are plenty of people out there who, a year after discovering yogâsana are on a 200-hr course and then teaching a few months later.  This is not a criticism of such people, it is a reflection on my inner process, my evolution.

I could not allow myself to do such a thing.  Maybe it is simple enough to say that my baggage was too heavy, my inner world too murky, my compass skewed.  Who was I to teach anyone how to live happily?

And yet, slowly, progressively, I oriented myself, I shed my baggage, I shone my light.  The interesting thing was discovering that we don’t have to be 100% perfect and clean.  But, we need to love our own flaws, our own pain.  When you learn to love your pain, you become whole and when you are whole you can hold space for your students to learn to love themselves, in their entirety.  When I got that,  I started to teach in earnest.  Now, it is my passion, my absolute passion!

A lot of marketing in the holistic world centres on authenticity.  How can we tell the real from the false.  I dunno, I don’t have a simple answer.  I think it’s intuition, I think it’s a feeling.  All I can say is that I think I am authentically ok now, I think I am.  I hope I am cos goddarn I am not going back to that place where I was before!   So, if you feel like checking out my classes, meeting me to ask about how I teach, having a conversation, you’re already here on the blog.  Take the next step and get in touch.

Love, Rachel

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

Bhastrika, or bellows yogic breathing for healing from a cold

Even yogis get sick.  Yep, you read it here:  the end of the year is upon us and with it, the cold and dark months of the northern winter.  Now, admittedly here in Altea, the winters are not as rough as those of my native Canada.  But, the rhythm of life is just as hectic, if not more given the general disorganisation of the Iberian culture.  So, I have just spent a week on the sofa, sick as sick thing.  I thought I would share with you a pranayama technique called Bhastrika or bellows breathing.  It is a useful technique for clearing excess cold and damp from the body by nourishing the fire element.  So, watch the video and give it a try.  Any questions or doubts, leave a comment and I will get back to you.

 

 

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.

Practical stuff for the pericardium

In my last post, I described the pericardium and offered some information about how it may be affected in breast cancer survivors.  Here are a few suggestions for sequences that could go into your own yoga sequence and help focus it on the diaphragm/pericardium

practical pericardium
practical pericardium