Very excited to be a part of this flash mob! While the adults get hot and sweaty with some power yoga, I’ll be having lots of yoga fun and games with the kids. Thank goodness London has put on a brilliant day for it, so if you’re around grab your mat (and your kids) and come along!
“We were just coming out of the ’60s change-your-consciousness thing, and many of us were in our heads, and wanting to meditate, and reach Samadhi,” or enlightenment, Patricia Walden, a longtime student of Mr. Iyengar’s, said in an interview in 2000. “Iyengar was, like, ‘Stand on your feet. Feel your feet.’ He was so practical. His famous quote was, ‘How can you know God if you don’t know your big toe?’ ”
Upon reading Patricia’s comments in this New York Times article, a burst of lightness giggled its way out of my body. What fabulous simplicity, and yet enormous profundity. I quickly realised these are also the exact ingredients that draw me to working with children. Iyengar’s journey with yoga started when he was a very young, very ill little boy. Little did he know at the time that he would grow into one of the great fathers of yoga of the modern world by taking this ancient practice to the west. Iyengar’s system of yoga opened up the practice to anyone and everyone. Although he was insistent with his students about perfecting poses through principles of alignment, earning him a reputation as a particularly stern teacher, he was also a pioneer of therapeutic yoga. He designed special exercises and equipment, like blocks and straps, for pupils struggling with postures or who suffered physical problems or disabilities.
As a student, Iyengar studied anatomy, physiology and psychology which invariably showed up in his work as a teacher. I have selected some of my favourite quotes that have given me insight about yoga and about life. Even with his passing, Iyengar’s legacy will continue to reverberate for many years to come. And for that I am ever grateful.
As you found happiness in life, now see your majesty in death. Namaste.
Iyengar on yoga…
“Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”
“In order to find out how to reveal our innermost Being, the sages explored the various sheaths of existence, starting from body and progressing through mind and intelligence, and ultimately to the soul. The yogic journey guides us from our periphery, the body, to the center of our being, the soul. The aim is to integrate the various layers so that the inner divinity shines out as through clear glass.” – Light on Life
“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.” ― Light on Life
“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”
“As breath stills our mind, our energies are free to unhook from the senses and bend inward.” ― Light on Life
“Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together.” ― Light on Life
“It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”
Iyengar on life…
“Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.”
“Before peace between the nations we have to find peace inside that small nation which is our own being”.
“As animals, we walk the earth. As bearers of divine essence, we are among the stars. As human beings, we are caught in the middle, seeking to reconcile the paradox of how to make our way upon earth while striving for something more permanent and more profound.” ― Light on Life
“One’s spiritual realization lies in none other than how one walks among and interacts with one’s fellow beings.” ― Light on Life
“You must purge yourself before finding faults in others.
When you see a mistake in somebody else, try to find if you are making the same mistake.
This is the way to take judgment and to turn it into improvement.
Do not look at others’ bodies with envy or with superiority.
All people are born with different constitutions.
Never compare with others.
Each one’s capacities are a function of his or her internal strength.
Know your capacities and continually improve upon them.” ― Light on Life
So the yoga studio where I teach is hosting a series of budget yoga classes, taught by the recent teacher trainee graduates. As one of the chosen few, today it’s my turn to throw a bit of free love to the Lumi Power Yoga community. Here’s a little something I prepared earlier to get people in the mood…
You may be forgiven for thinking this curly-haired lass is usually seen poking out from behind the reception desk at Lumi, offering up coconut water and towels like they’re going out of fashion. And you’d be right! But Erin Dewar is abandoning her post and stepping up to the mat for today’s 2:30pm Lumi Love class, to adopt a multi-tasking role of a very different nature…
Oh boy, how much time have we got?!
I played a number of sports growing up and have been a runner for many years. There’s nothing quite like physical activity, whether playing in a team, or setting out a long, meditative run on my own. But yoga is more than just a physical practice. Yoga is like an old friend – we know each other intimately and yet there’s often times of disconnect.
It often feels like…
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I’m out of my routine – and out of the country – this week and it seems to be messing with me on a number of levels. It’s kind of amazing how a change of scenery can be so profoundly affecting. I’m spending nine days in Dusseldorf for a presenting gig which, while there’s plenty of goodness around it, for some reason it very quickly became clear just how unintelligent and distracting the mind can be when change is in the air.
An actors job is to take on an ‘otherness’, which, after so much in depth focus on ‘self’ during my yoga teacher training, suddenly felt entirely alien to me.
‘You’re name is Diana and you are a brand manager at a consumer products company: GO!’
‘Tell me about your SKU’s and the HDR quality of that press: NOW!’
‘Erin, why are you still holding the script?! You’re giving me a heart attack!’
Wait…’Erin’…what? Where are we?
‘Germany! Don’t you understand English?’
Hang on, was that Hebrew or…?
But I don’t know my lines?! Why are you looking at me like that?
‘Here drink this, you’ll be right.’
No! No more wine, I’ll lose my mind.
Truth is, my mind was very much present. It was me who was lost.
It had managed to convince me to retreat so far inside myself that I disappeared. Stress is probably it’s favourite game. And what’s more, it has all the strategies it needs so that no amount of breathing (or booze) will get me any closer to winning. Not only does it play on the immediate stressors – like learning lines or meeting new people – but it manages to dig it’s way into the more deeply rooted places of my being. Suddenly I start questioning who I am and why aren’t I talking? What’s with all the suits or are we all in costume now? Why can’t I write anything? Why would he be interested in me? Do I really have any friends? Why am I even here? Maybe all that self discovery was just a dream, a fantasy, after all.
I left the building entirely. And I was pretty sure I wasn’t coming back.
Welcome back to the real world, Erin.
Go back to sleep, back to black.
But then – without my asking, and without their knowing – those people turn up, just when you need them. You know the ones…They break down the fortress you – or rather, your mind – has cleverly built up, wrap a warm blanket around your heart, hold up a mirror and say, ‘I remember you. Now, enough of this – it’s time to come home.’
And goodness knows where they came from. Or how they found you. But somewhere in the distance a light glimmers. And breath rushes into your lungs….and you can write, and practice yoga, and laugh and walk through the world with honesty and acceptance.
It seems there’s actually no way of avoiding these things. As I am constantly reminded lately: wherever you go, there you are. And if you do lose yourself amongst the tumbling illusions of the mind, you can be sure someone or something will show up just when you need or want it, hurl a lifeline out into the abyss and pull you back to shore…
And so, in this new light, I took myself through a yoga practice this morning – and wondered why on earth I hadn’t thought of it earlier!? – and found myself writing over breakfast, and giggling all the way to work. So of course I would stumble across this whilst kicking my heels up between shows today. Just another reminder popping up to take me home…
Source: The House of Yoga
In the same week that I stuffed my bag full of excess yoga pants, nuts and notebooks to leap into my yoga teacher training, my Mum strapped on her walking boots, her freshly pressed quick-dry man suit, adorned her rucksack and took her first steps along the 820-odd kilometres of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage track. Talk about competition…
But as she and I kicked back over this last weekend in my hometown of London – she still many miles from our Australian home – sipping wine on the Thames, hoeing into gastronomic pub meals and sharing of our stories, I quickly realised how startlingly similar our experiences have been over the past two months.
We both climbed up to cliff tops,
We walked through fields,
We stumbled onto friendships that then themselves found secret crevices of our being to lodge in.
She met people from all walks of life – and loved them all.
I met souls and hearts and minds: I met warriors of love and of grace. I met battle-shielded knights and soldiers of gentle courage. I met wounded children and mothers and lovers. I met angels of luminous energy and light.
We laughed, we cried, we loved, we fought, we broke apart, we held our hearts up to the world and we wailed out into the deafening silence, ‘I am here!’ before planting those pounding hearts back inside our chests and taking one more step.
And just when we thought we’d gone the distance, a great mountain rose up before us. We climbed to the top and there was planted the path of forgiveness, coiling itself round and round into a point at the centre of it all.
Slowly and delicately we made our way into the heart of it. The place where we met ourselves. Where we stared straight into the centre of our universe and said, ‘It’s time to come home.’
We laid a piece of ourselves down and walked away without another word.
It seems the path we choose to take is irrelevant. So to is the destination.
It is the journey that is the thing. And may it always be full of unexpected wonder.
My declaration: I am letting go of my stories of the past and those of the future. I believe that my life is yet to be written. And so as I step into the present moment, it will be with a practice of connection, acceptance and lightness.
I will follow the path of least resistance and trust that this will lead me home.
And that is who I am.
Have you ever practiced the physical difference in the qualities of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space?
Baron Baptiste talks about The Principles of True North Alignment in his Power Yoga practice. These principles are fundamental cues for speaking to our physical alignment, as well as – or in conjunction with – the alignment of our physical, mental and spiritual worlds.
I’ve always felt like quite a grounded individual. I move from my base, I make decisions with my gut and my sense of the spiritual has always been bedded down with a heavy cloak of reasoning and logic. Call me a typical Virgoan – if that’s your thing – but if I had any more earth in my being I’d probably start growing roots and plant myself. I love being close to the ground, this is when I feel the most free, my most authentic. Being a relatively short person most of my life, you’d think I’d be craving length and flight.
And you’d be right. I’ve discovered my body’s own true intelligence. And guess what: it already knows what is best for it.
Throughout this yoga teacher training I seem to have unlocked one of the big reasons why I thrive so much on the kinaesthetic experience of life. In yoga asana we talk about grounding down through our base in order to create space and freedom in our spine. In yogic meditation we speak to sitting in concentration, with focus in order to release our spirit from the burden of the mind. In a spiritual practice we might focus on finding support and stability in our life, to allow our hearts to open to the possibility of the divine.
sthira sukham asanam
– Sutra 2.46: The posture (asanam) for yoga meditation should be steady (sthira), stable, and motionless, as well as comfortable (sukham).
My default is sthira. I’m really good at that. So good, in fact, that I’m also exceptional at inaction. However, through this training I have realised that finding sukham and freedom within this is something my body, and my mind, craves. Possibly one of the biggest shifts in my physical practice has been in exploring a sense of fluidity, a water-like quality. I am now that student who appears like they can’t sit still in class. I’m often adjusting and moving in and out of the edge of my postures because it feels good. It also means that when I do find steadiness, stability and stillness, something lands much more authentically. I actually arrive in the posture, in the moment.
Water in it’s natural state always finds the path of least resistance. It’s not confrontational. It abides by it’s own natural laws, without question, without doubt. It just is. And yet, it is determined to go somewhere, to keep a constant forward motion, to arrive somewhere new. Even upon arriving, it immediately lets that go and keeps on in its relentless quest for something more, something beyond.
You are not that which gives rise to what the body can do. You are not the body, yet it has it’s own intelligence. What comes with this idea is the dread of death, illness and time-wasting. But this is not the case: you are that which is behind your body.
The body needs maintenance and a lot of attention. It gives you a location. But we do not start and end with it. It has its own destiny – it is our vehicle to ride to our own true destiny.
Many people believe that they are trapped in the torture of the ‘cage’ that they are housed in. But if you look at a child, this idea is absent. Children are fluid by nature. They don’t get in the way of themselves. However, what comes with this fluidity is their openness: they are highly impressionable. Tensions that arise in an adult may have been born out of hereditary conditioning. Consider that in later life, you will be moving just as your parents do in their later life. I was relieved to hear my own mother say to me a couple of days ago after struggling bravely through her very first yoga class, ‘You girls (my sister and I) are so much more supple than I ever was at your age’. But this does not mean that either of us escaped playing that mirror game of physical and mental tension with our parents.
Through yoga, we are attempting to lift the veils of maya so that we can see our true selves. While some view maya as meaning that nothing is real, and turn this into a cold-hearted intellectual practice, others view the illusion of maya as being shakti, the creative force of the universe – a divine mist in front of our eyes that obscures our vision of the truth.
Sutra 1.12 These mental modifications are restrained by practice and non-attachment.
Sutra 1.13 Of these two, effort toward steadiness of mind is practice.
Sutra 1.15 The consciousness of self-mastery in one who is free from craving for objects seen or heard is non-attachment.
Sutra 1.3 The the Seer (self) abides in His/Her own nature.
As adults, therefore we need to come back to that child-like source of fluidity, and for some of us – certainly, me being one of them – yoga is that access point. The promise of yoga is freedom, is Being-ness, is our plug in to our natural state. It allows us to undo these tensions or habits – those that actually don’t even belong to us! – so that we live in our story, not one that we have adopted.
This is your body, your mind, your life. Here and now.