What style of yoga do you teach?

I often get asked ‘What style of yoga do you teach?’, and my stock response is ‘Hatha yoga’. I have found this to be a satisfactory answer because people then say ‘ok thanks’, and that is the end of that – they either turn up to a class or they don’t. 

No one has ever responded with ‘What is Hatha yoga?’ maybe because it is a commonly used term.  But when people think about yoga, they are most likely thinking about the physical postures known as Asana (pronounced Arsana…yeah I know..). 

Different styles of Asana practice include Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Viniyoga and Bikram yoga.  There are many, many more – it’s a bit like Ben & Jerry’s with a different flavour being launched every other week.  All essentially use similar postures but some styles flow more than others, some are more precise in the posture alignment and some are done in very hot rooms making the participant very sweaty. Each to his, her or their own…

Asana is just one aspect of yoga, often the entry point to one of the many paths of Yoga which is a system of philosophy and practice designed to re-connect with the source of our being.  If that sounds too heavy, let’s just say it helps us to find space and to relax; what better way to live out your life?

But of the twelve paths of Yoga mentioned in Swami Nischalananda Saraswati’s book ‘Insight into Reality’, only four of the paths specifically mention Asana, and of those four paths, Asana is just one of a number of practices which are performed.

Hatha yoga is known as the yoga of balance, harmonising the body and energies so that we can open up to a meditative state.  Whereas Raja yoga, as outlined in the ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’, utilises a range of eight practices from social and personal conduct, through Asana and Pranayama and meditation to arrive at a place of Samadhi, or mystical absorption.

This is only a taster and I could go on until you glaze over.  Those interested in further details can refer to Insight into Reality, mentioned above, or other yoga texts of which there are many.  Drop me a line for some recommendations.

So what style of yoga do I practice?  Well since you ask, my own personal practice involves Asana and meditation as a basis, which from time to time is combined with pranayama (breathing), shatkarma (cleansing), mudra (symbolic gestures), bandha (psycho-physiological locks), correct diet, bhakti, karma, mantra…the list goes on. 

But more than anything it is Gyana yoga, the yoga of enquiry.  And my conclusions so far – stop thinking and doing, and start being. Oh, and one other thing – stop trying to seek perfection, leave that to someone (or somefink) else. Simple really, isn’t it?

Storytelling

What differentiates humans from all the other creatures on this planet is our capacity to tell and believe in stories. Don’t we just love a good yarn? That’s why we have books, and films, and TV, and before that there were storytellers that our ancestors listened to whilst sat around a campfire.

We also have our own stories which we carry around in our heads – where we came from, what defines ‘me’, where I am going. These stories shape our lives.

This may sound a bit new age, but the Universe is also telling us stories. The world we live in, the people we meet, the experiences we have, are all part of our story and have the propensity to shape it by pointing towards something that is different to our current course.

That is if only we could just slow down, clear the head of busyness, watch and listen.

Last night a friend told me a great story written by Paulo Coelho in one of his books, ‘Light Warrior’.

We are all, ultimately, beings of light. Without the sun we would not exist. And without this body, the soul would not experience.

As an aside, one of my favourite quotes taken from a commentary of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali says ‘ The soul does not love, it is love itself. It does not exist, it is existence itself. It does not know, it is knowledge itself’. To paraphrase Eckhart Tolle, we are here to allow the universe to experience itself.

So as Light Warriors we are here to experience, and the story goes that at certain times during our lives we come to a choice of two doors. Through one door is everything we have experienced in the past – we have done it, seen it, been there, and got the T-shirt. We know EXACTLY what is going to happen.

And through the other door, everything is totally new. We don’t know what it is going to be, what kind of experience is waiting. And there is a sign on this door which reads ‘Courage’.

The only guarantee is that both doors will have challenges; neither are plain sailing.

So my question to you is ‘what is your story so far, which door would you choose, and why?’

The Practice of Mindfulness

Finding space is very tricky in a world which is so demanding of our attention. There is a constant pressure to fill our lives with the latest gadget; the driver being ‘you will feel more fulfilled and whole once this is in your possession’. And there probably is a fleeting sense of wholeness as the ‘Buy Now’ button is pressed; a small release of endorphin in the brain, but this soon passes.

All of the above describes a search for wholeness by connecting with the external. But there are vast riches within us if only we would care to look. The only problem is that the mind is conditioned to search outside of ourselves.

Mindfulness practices are designed to train the mind to look inwardly. Note the emphasis is to ‘train’, the mind.

When you first sit quietly and practice a ‘body scan’ or ‘breathing’ meditation, the first thing that most people notice is that the mind wanders. The initial reaction is ‘I can’t meditate because my mind is so busy’.

The point of the practice is to gently and kindly bring the awareness back. And over time people of all walks of life start to notice a little bit of space appearing between the thoughts and feelings.

Unfortunately it’s not an instant gratification like pressing the ’Buy Now’ button – it takes practice. But unlike the instant material reward which is fleeting, the rewards of mindfulness practice are long lasting and you will have started your journey back to wholeness and the greatest inner spiritual wealth.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness is really hip right now. Or at least owning a book on mindfulness, maybe skim reading it, maybe trying out one or two of the practices, DEFINITELY speaking about it at dinner parties – is really hip right now. It’s soooo on trend.

But what is it exactly?

It’s probably easier to say what it isn’t:

  • Stopping thoughts
  • Trying to get calm
  • Easy

Thich Nhat Hanh said ‘it’s not a matter of faith, it’s a matter of practice’. It is a process which must be repeated over and over to get better at it (whatever ‘better’ means in this context), just as you would brush your teeth everyday, or lift weights to build muscle. It’s a case of little and often.

Find a quiet spot and a regular time (first thing in the morning helps to set me up for the day), and switch off the phone (there is something about putting the phone into flight mode which has an immediate positive effect on me). Sit either in a chair or on cushions with an upright spine and bring the awareness to the body and the breath….

…and I can guarantee your mind will wander.

And when it does (not if), gently bring the awareness back to the body and the breath. If it wanders a thousand times, bring it back a thousand times.

That is the practice: it is the bringing of awareness back which is the purpose of mindfulness. Not being controlled by the thoughts or the feelings.

And eventually you may feel calm and the mind may be clearer of thoughts – or at least there will be some distance between them.

At that stage I’ll leave it to you to decide whether it’s easy or not.

Should I stop reading the fake-in news?

A year or so ago, on the advice of a book I was reading at the time, I stopped reading newspapers and listening to the news. There were various reasons to do this including (but not limited to) – it’s depressing, it’s a waste of time because I can’t influence any of it, just the shear volume of stuff out there, and ‘all of it seems to be created by the media to fill up the time slots on the TV and radio, and to fill column inches’.

So I did. And a felt better for it. But slowly, mainly because my wife likes to at least catch the headlines, I started to watch it again (but still no newspapers though).

But something has changed in me. Perhaps I had previously got accommodated to the terrible things happening in the world and got used to it. Now I watch from a different perspective.

When I hear the bad news – the various wars, famine, the stabbings, all of the darkness going on in the world – I notice the sadness in my heart, and know this is the beginning of a compassion. And in some way this light is making a difference to the world we live in.

An Antidote to Blue Monday

Thank you Millie Sarin from Sister Talk ALL Fm 96.9 for inviting me onto your drive time show on 10th January. Laughter is the best medicine for the so-called January blues and I can honestly say I had a hoot! If anybody would like to hear the show get in touch and I can send you the recording! It may also be available soon through the Listen Again tab on their website.

When Millie asked me to do the show, two immediate things came to mind:

  1. Sankalpa – a kind of yogic resolution, not just appropriate for the New Year
  2. The Other Shore – a translation of the Buddhist Heart Sutra by Thich Nhat Hanh

So what is a Sankalpa?

According to Wikipedia it is ‘an intention formed from the heart and mind, a one-pointed resolve to focus on a specific goal’. For me, it is a positive statement of becoming, lead by the heart, acknowledging that all things can, and do, change. It is a letting go of unhelpful habits and thought patterns, and a welcoming of shiny new ones.

But why wait until the New Year to make a change? A Sankalpa, or any new resolution, can be made at any time. The way I do this is to clear the mind by lying down in Savasana (you could do a few preparatory yoga moves first if you like), and allow the new resolution to come from the heart. Don’t think too much, just allow the heart to lead for a change. And imagine what the new you looks like, how you feel, how you look, how you think. This gives tremendous energy to the transformation, whether BIG or small (a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, and all that).

So…lead by the heart, and if you do happen to fail, brush yourself down and start again – after all failure is temporary, only giving up is permanent. I read this once so it must be true.

And what about The Other Shore?

To cut a long story short, I went to see the Dalai Lama quite a few years ago, (along with several thousand other people). He spoke for several days and the only bit I can remember is…meditate on emptiness. Hmm.

Fast forward fifteen years or so, and I found the Buddhist Heart Sutra (or it found me) as a result of being at a Yoga retreat at the Mandala Yoga Ashram in South Wales. This is a classic Buddhist text translated by Thich Nhat Hanh in a book ‘The Other Shore’ which explores and explains the concept of emptiness.

It is the acceptance that the body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness are impermanent. News flash – they all change, or as some bloke said a few thousand years ago ‘All Things Must Pass’.

  • The body changes as we grow and age – there is no stopping that, even Botox..
  • How we feel changes – without the bad, how can we appreciate the good? You are not going to believe this, but celebrities have bad days too. Yes it’s true!
  • How we perceive things changes – don’t policemen and teachers look younger these days?
  • Mental formations, or thought constructs, change over time. Practice mindfulness meditation and watch the mind, see if you notice any thought constructs telling you how things should be. Are they really being helpful or just trapping you in a box?
  • And finally, consciousness changes. This is the real message (in my humble opinion) of all the great religions…a transformation of consciousness, a moving from the small mind to the BIG mind. A moving to the Other Shore (just like Jesus did at the Sea of Galilee – me thinks this is a metaphor).

As David Bowie said: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…

So like a river, flowing – it is impossible to jump into the same river twice and at the same time it is impossible for the river to have the same person jump into it twice.

 So there you have it. This is wot I thunk about when Millie asked me to go onto her show. And if you want to dance along with me and Millie to Herb Alpert’s Spanish Flea, you’ll have to listen to the show.

About Bendyoga

David Glover has been practicing yoga for about 20 years and is still a complete beginner every time he gets on the mat. His first teacher was the wonderful Mary Freeman who set him off on his journey. He then did a BWY Foundation course with Yoga Ted in Stockport, and went on to train with Sarah Beck, qualifying as a teacher through the British Wheel of Yoga in 2012. More recently, David studied Synergistic Healing with Julie Guilliam in the Lake District, and finds that energy healing and yoga work well together.

David’s philosophy is simple – stretch and strengthen the body, and relax the mind.

Classes are run every Friday night from 6pm – for more information visit www.bendyoga.co.uk

The transformation of consciousness

In the end, all that matters really is the transformation of consciousness. From being a victim of the past and future, to being a citizen of the present moment.

Eckhart Tolle talks about the collective insanity of the human race, and the early flowerings into a higher consciousness – the early Indian sages, Jesus, Buddha, are just a few examples. I am sure that there are many more lost to history. There are also a lot of commentaries on the Christian Bible from a wisdom perspective; quite the opposite of the literal interpretations which tend to have a louder voice.

Love Island or Love Silence?

In the world right now there are two horses running, the large group who are unconscious (watch the Ten O’Clock News or Love Island, to get a snap shot), and those emerging into a different consciousness. Perhaps their voice is not as loud, but it is important to see that All are whole, enlightened, its just that some are less aware than others, clouded by the ‘collective insanity’ which Tolle describes.

From a wisdom perspective, I have been musing on some of the hidden messages found in the Bible and have been contemplating whether the instructions to reach a higher consciousness are contained in the Lord’s Prayer? This is something I have been pondering for some time.

Cast down your nets

Considering Jesus as a wisdom teacher, there are a lot of messages which can be taken literally or from a perspective of higher consciousness. Like when the fishermen are encouraged to cast down their nets and become fishers of men. This makes perfect literal sense, but from a wisdom perspective, are the nets a metaphor for the psychological nets that we are trapped in – fear, anger, anxiety, desire etc etc – cast away these nets and we become liberated. We are already whole, perfect, it’s just that we carry such burdens around all the time. ‘Letting go’ is a lifetime’s practice.

Instructions to reach a higher level of consciousness

Read the Lord’s prayer a few times. Take months, years even, there is no rush. This is what happened when I did, line by line:

The first line – Our Father which art in Heavenacknowledges a higher consciousness,

The Divine,

Which is honoured.

This higher consciousness will open to me and everyone who allows it

As ignorance is swept away

And the consciousness of the whole of humanity can be raised.

It feeds me physically and mentally, as its nature passes through me,

And this same awareness allows past and future actions to be forgiven, so we need not dwell on them.

And we need not judge others.

It gives strength to control the senses – the desires and distractions

And if we have allowed earthly desires to take hold and distract us, it brings us back into consciousness

So that we can be freed from the bondage of suffering

Amen / AUM

Conclusion?

Perhaps the meaning of life is to transform our consciousness, and when we do so we discover there is no meaning – we simply go beyond conceptual thought and acknowledge the great mystery that is beyond shape or form. Before enlightenment we chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment…. we chop wood and carry water.

About Bendyoga

David’s philosophy is simple – stretch and strengthen the body, and relax the mind.

David Glover has been practicing yoga for about 20 years and is still a complete beginner every time he gets on the mat. His first teacher was the wonderful Mary Freeman who set him off on the journey. He then did a BWY Foundation course with Yoga Ted in Stockport, and went on to train with Sarah Beck, qualifying as a teacher through the British Wheel of Yoga in 2012. More recently, David studied Synergistic Healing with Julie Horner in the Lake District, and finds that energy healing and yoga work well together.

Classes are run every Friday night from 6pm – for more information visit www.bendyoga.co.uk

Should we teach our children Yoga?

Should we teach our children yoga? I was asked this question last week and it got me thinking….aren’t children natural yogi’s anyway? So many examples started to flirt around in my mind and here’s a few:

  • If you watch them, they breath beautifully, with soft bellies their diaphragms move up and down in tune with the breath.  As adult yogi’s we often have to re-learn how to breath as it becomes shallow and stuck in the top of the chest.  Pranayama is often described as controlling the breath, but I like to think of it as re-learning how to breath naturally just like children;
  • They get really absorbed in what they are doing, caught in the moment they can spend hours making mud pies, throwing stones into a lake, building sand castles on a beach.  Totally immersed, and here we are as adults reading all these books on mindfulness. For the record, I once spent a family holiday listening to Eckhart Tolle on the Power of Now whilst my wife and kids played on the beach, until I realised that by learning how to be in the moment, I was actually missing out on being in the moment – how crazy is that!
  • Have you also noticed that they can get very upset one minute and then laughing and playing another minute – if you don’t believe me, trying taking away the toy that they are playing with! But there does seem to be a natural ability to be non-attached to the raging emotions, instead these just seem to flow through them and then they are shaken off.  As adults, don’t we just love to bare a grudge?
  • And don’t they just drive you mad asking those incessant questions, why this? why that? If only we remained as inquisitive, having a hunger to learn new things as we get older.  Asking the political elite ‘Why isn’t there more light in the world’ is a start…but don’t get me started… (If you do know the answer to this, please let me know – possibly the collective insanity of the human consciousness as my beach buddy Eckhart Tolle once said);
  • And of course, they are so naturally bendy! Whereas we as adults seem to be stiffening up both physically, mentally and emotionally by the second.

All in all, children are just natural and at some point we move away from this natural state and become conditioned one way or another. Stop right now and ponder on the habitual stuff in your life which could be addressed / got rid of.

So on analysis, I have decided that it is they who should be teaching US yoga and we should be encouraging THEM to maintain a child-like innocence about life and to avoid (what seems like) the inevitable conditioning that that we experience every single day.

So should we teach our children yoga? No – they should be teaching us and together we could ride our pretend horses on that journey back to Eden.

So, what is the point of Yoga, anyway?

I am sat here on my 49th birthday, reflecting on life, the universe and everything and as always happens at these moments, have started to contemplate yoga. It’s kind of a passion, I guess, but these days everybody is passionate about something, especially if they want to sell it to you. More than that, for me it is a compassion. A means of spreading the love, if you like: firstly towards oneself and expanding from there. It’s not being selfish, but what is the point of being outwardly compassionate if you are screaming on the inside?

What yoga isn’t, is getting into those weird and wonderful positions that those horribly flexible people can get into – having a leg behind the head isn’t the point, nor is balancing on one hand with the legs in lotus position whilst holding a glass of beer in the other hand…

For me, yoga postures are an aid to exploring the physical body. Being still at first, stopping, then gentle movement, being interested in how the body feels today, whether good or bad. Each in-breath and stretch creates space, and the out-breath lets go.

‘Breath in, expand – breath out, let go’ is a lifetimes worth of practice. And then as space is created in the body, this expands into the mind and the emotions. From experience, the best time to practice is when it is the last thing you want to do.

Now, let me make a confession – I drink alcohol (mostly in moderation, but not always!) and I eat meat (okay, 80% veggie and occasionally tempted by a full English…). But don’t let that get in the way.

So last night when I got home, I really thought I needed a beer, and then I got barked at by one of my daughters who had just had enough – she was stressed and tired, and so was in her room with her lights out trying to sleep, and it was only 6 o’clock!

And then she asked me if I was teaching yoga that night, but I wasn’t. So here was the choice – crack open a can of beer, or help my daughter shake off the fatigue. So, I put the beer back in the fridge, and the glass back in the cupboard (very reluctantly, I am no angel), got out the yoga mats and, joined by another one of my offspring, we simply practiced together. All three of us had had enough, but through stopping, stretching and breathing, we all emerged after just one hour, feeling calm, refreshed and relaxed. And I no longer needed that beer. In helping others, I helped myself – perfect!

So, what is yoga, anyway? For me, it’s about taking a little bit of time out and being compassionate to one and all. Quite simply, it is a means of emerging into the present moment.

About Bendyoga..

Hi, I’m David and have been practicing yoga for about 20 years. My first teacher was the wonderful Mary Freeman who set me off on this journey. I then did a BWY Foundation course with Yoga Ted in Stockport, and went on to train with Sarah Beck, and qualified as a teacher through the British Wheel of Yoga in 2012. More recently, I have studied Synergistic Healing with Julie Guilliam in the Lake District, and find that energy healing and yoga are complimentary.

My philosophy is simple – stretch and strengthen the body, and relax the mind.

www.bendyoga.co.uk

Best New Year’s Resolution…try Yoga..

IF YOU are looking for a New Year’s resolution, then why not try yoga? Come to think of it, just try something, anything, that is a new experience. Try it once and see if it grabs you, if it doesn’t, try something else. Just do it…go on, have a go.

Next best thing – go buy some wellies and squelch in the mud. You’ll never look back.

Seriously though, I have been teaching yoga for long enough now to have heard all of the excuses…the main one is ‘I can’t even touch my toes’ (yawn). Well, my New Year’s Resolution is to buy a horn and honk it every time somebody says that to me.

Once we get past the excuses for not doing something different, the main reasons people want to do yoga are for the following reasons:

  • I want to help my bad back
  • I want to try yoga for stress reduction
  • I’ve heard that yoga helps to improve posture
  • Yoga can help relax and get better sleep
  • I need to do something to help my aching joints

New Year, new start. Give something a go. Switch off your television set, go out and do something less boring instead….why don’t you??

Hope to see you soon!?

David

About

David has been practicing yoga for about 20 years. My first teacher was the wonderful Mary Freeman who set me off on this journey. I then did a BWY Foundation course with Yoga Ted in Stockport, and went on to train with Sarah Beck, and qualified as a teacher through the British Wheel of Yoga in 2012. More recently, I have studied Synergistic Healing with Julie Guilliam in the Lake District, and find that energy healing and yoga are complimentary.

My philosophy is simple – stretch and strengthen the body, and relax the mind.