The Blog

I’m coming out…

I’ve decided to ‘come out’ about what it means to me to be a ‘Practitioner of Yoga’.

When I say that I am a yoga teacher, it evokes many reactions, usually comments only referring to the physical practice. Of course, the physical practice is a good thing, and, each and every person will have their own interpretation or reaction to their idea of what Yoga is.

It occurs to me that it is much more accurate to say that I am a ‘Practitioner of Yoga’, rather than ‘just’ a teacher of Yoga, and my intention in sharing this is to bring forward what Yoga is for me.

When you look at someone who has been practicing Hatha Yoga for very many years, you may mainly see the physical effects.  Maybe also, you may sense that there is more to them than meets the eye, but can’t quite put a finger on it.

My intention in writing is to share what goes on underneath the physical, and why Yoga is a way of life for me, and not just something that I do on the mat. Of course, what I do on the mat informs everything else, and, there is a great deal more to it than that for me. Everything that I do whilst not on the mat can also inform my life, if I but have the ‘eyes to see and ears to hear’…

So I am ‘coming out’ as a Practitioner of Yoga, and sharing what that truly means to me, and what it is that informs my practice.

One of the ways that the physical practice can help me to access a deeper experience is to work with the symbolism of the asanas (poses). Take, for example, the Mountain Pose, Tadasana.

I am like a Mountain. What is visible is just the tip. The rest is hidden deep underground and is unseen. Although I have a sense of what is hidden, I cannot see where I begin and end. My goal as a Practitioner of Yoga is to strip back all that prevents me from seeing and experiencing who I am deep underneath the external, and to abide in that place in all my dealings with myself, others and life, on every level.

The practices in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and within the Kundalini System give me the tools to know myself better: to know who I truly am, unfettered by all the things that bind me to my ego and prevent me from resting in my True Self as a constant experience, which is a place of deep peace, bliss and Light…

 

March 22, 2017 0 Comments

The Alchemy of Hatha Yoga

This morning I am looking at working with Asanas that move my energy from the third Cakra at the navel, Manipura, City of Jewels, to the fourth cakra at the heart, Anahata, the place of Unstruck Sound.

I’m considering the relationship between the psoas muscle and the crura of the diaphragm, the ligaments that attach the diaphragm to the lumbar vertebrae.

Their attachments to the spine are both located in the area of Manipura cakra, and today I am considering how looking at the relationship between them can inform my practice.Their relationship and functions bring to mind the downward triangle of Manipura cakra, and the balance of the downward and upward triangles at Anahata cakra. This speaks to me of the potential for me to take my energy either upwards or downwards, and harmonizing it at the heart. By working consciously with the energy of Manipura Cakra, I can engage my will and apply it to my enquiry.

Physically, the diaphragm is the boundary between the lower and upper chakras, and the fire cakra, Manipura, a place of potential transformation.

The psoas connects to the lumbar and even the 12th thoracic vertebra at the level of the 12th rib so has a role to play in the mechanism of breathing, exerting an influence of the quality of experience at the level of the chest.

And, the psoas connects the Manipura cakra to the legs via its insertion at the lesser trochanter at the top of the inner thigh.

It occurs to me that my legs carry me forward. By being conscious of the location of the psoas I can choose what action I want to take forward with this enquiry.

If I can free up and lengthen through my psoas, I create freedom for my energy to move upwards, which is my chosen desire, to move the energy from my third to my fourth Cakra.

The ligaments of the diaphragm, the crura, connect to the lumbar vertebrae at L3 and 4, also in the area of Manipura Cakra.

Consciously working with the breath in my practice with this enquiry can bring my awareness up to the light and expansive quality of air in the chest at Anahata, the Heart Cakra.

This helps me to consider how I can raise my awareness from the egoism and will of Manipura Cakra to the freedom and expansiveness of altruism, qualities I associate with the Heart Cakra.

Within just the physical practice alone, I ask myself how I can move from imposing my will on my body, to altruism and practicing in a way that is best for the overall wellbeing of my entire being, not just the physical.

I am struck by the gift of transformation available through the alchemical practice of Hatha Yoga, and how working at one level of enquiry ripples through every level of my consciousness.

 

 

 

 

March 21, 2017 0 Comments

This is what we did in the first Friday morning class: The way of Yoga as a path to Self Knowledge.

This is taken from an email that I sent out after the first weeks class,  as revision for those and who attended the first class, and, to those who were joining in the second week and subsequently.

“I thought that it might be useful to summarize what we did last week, and give a flavour of where we’re going with it, so that if you are starting tomorrow or in the future, you are up to speed…

Firstly, we shared names, and, what had drawn us to the class.
 The reason that I invite people to dialogue in the class is because we can all relate to one another. Although we all perceive ourselves as individuals, we are all deeply connected. In the same way that we may see trees as separate, they are all deeply connected through the root, fungal and subtle system of the forest. There is no separation! 
So, although we all appear to be separate from each other, on some level, we are all arising out of the flow of creation, experiencing this phase of being within the arena of time and space which gives rise to the perception of individuality and separation from others.
 The word Yoga is complex, but, has a sense of moving , beyond the perception of separateness towards an experience of oneness, Unity.

I work with the ‘proximal matter’ – i.e., what we have right here, right now. In every instant, it’s body, breath and being. So just by communicating on a deeper level than the social, we are moving towards an experience of connectedness.

I went on to explain what the Path to Yoga is. I’m passionate about conveying that it is not a form of exercise!
It IS a Path to Self Knowledge.
 Let me digress a little here: what is ‘Self’? 
In the tradition of the Path to Yoga, the Self is known as the Atman. Here’s some definitions of Atman from www.thefreedictionary.com/atman
Atman The essence that is eternal, unchanging, and indistinguishable from the essence of the universe. [Sanskrit ātman, literally ‘essence, breath’]
the spiritual life principle of the universe, especially when regarded as immanent in the individual’s real self.a person’s soul.

I then explained that the method towards Yoga was first written down around 2000 years ago by a person, or group of people, known as Patanjali. Given that information was handed down orally for thousands of years, and, that there is prehistoric evidence going back to at least 7000 BC of figurines depicted in seated ‘yoga poses’, we can deduce that it is a very ancient practice.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are one line phrases that were spoken, and then the teacher or Guru would give an exposition on the meaning.
I believe that it has survived all this time, because IT WORKS!

 For your information, here is Patanjali’s eight fold path towards Yoga. (some facts taken from Wikipedia)

Firstly, and most importunely, are the moral and ethical precepts for living harmoniously with oneself and ones community, the
Yamas and Niyamas.

Yama refers to how we relate to the external world.
 Ahimsa: non-violence, inflicting no injury or harm to others or even to one’s own self, it goes as far as nonviolence in thought, word and deed.
 Satya: truth in word and thought.
 Asteya: non-covetousness, to the extent that one should not even desire something that is his own; non-stealing.
 Brahmacharya: “Practicing brahmacharya means that we use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others. Also, responsible behaviour with respect to our goal of moving toward the truth. It suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths.” Acetic yogis practice abstinence from sexual activity.
 Aparigraha: non-possessiveness; non-hoarding

.

Niyama refers to the five observances: how we relate to ourselves, the inner world.
 Shaucha: cleanliness of body and mind.
 Santosha: satisfaction; satisfied with what one has.
Tapas: austerity and associated observances for body discipline and thereby mental control.
 Svādhyāya: study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul, which leads to introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God within. Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to (or worship of) God.

 Study of these brings clarity of mind.

This is the subject of the Introductory morning on June 21st, 10-1, and, five further days of study in the next year, looking at two principles deeply per day.

Asana, nowadays known as ‘postures’:
 Refinement of the body: practices and postures to keep it disease-free and for preserving vital energy. Correct postures are a physical aid to meditation, for they control the limbs and nervous system and prevent them from producing disturbances.

Pranayama: control of life force energies. Beneficial to health, steadies the body and is highly conducive to the concentration of the mind.

Pratyahara: withdrawal of senses from their external objects.

Dharana: e.g. concentration  upon a physical object, such as a flame of a lamp, the midpoint of the eyebrows, or the image of a deity of a sacred word or phrase – a mantra.

Dhyana: steadfast meditation. Undisturbed flow of thought around the object of meditation. The act of meditation and the object of meditation remain distinct and separate.

Samadhi: oneness with the object of meditation. There is no distinction between act of meditation and the object of meditation.

“Without further adieu’ (you had to be there to get that one!), the next phase of the class was about taking the focus inwards, a pratyahara practice.
 By focussing on the breath and being fully present to each in and out breath, we begin to still the mind and come into deeper contact with the Self.
 We spent the rest of the lesson in what I refer to as ‘the full yogic breath’. Once the mind and body became still we did the most simplest of movements, which involved nothing more than holding one knee and breathing and keeping attention in the breath and sensation. Then the other knee, then both. This is deep reparative work for the back, and we will build on this.

Comments afterwards reflected that time had just gone – for me, it’s actually being outside of time, (which is a perception of mind- when the mind is concentrated, it is not operating habitually).

We finished by reflecting on our experiences, and finished with chanting the sound ‘aaaaaaaa’. (If this is challenging, don’t worry – you don’t have to make a sound if you don’t want to – just be in the resonance of the sound that others are making. It can be powerful).
It was a powerful and deep experience for most. Some, on the physical level, some, on the emotional, and,some on the more subtle…”

We’re building on this week by week.
We’re practicing being in the moment, in the body and in the breath. We’re connecting to our bones. We’re learning slow gentle practices to help with bad backs and to bring energy and vitality into the spine.
By week three and four we are connecting to the feet, and coming into even deeper connection with our Self and body.
We’ve looked at some of the Yamas and Niyamas, and will continue to do so.
Each week brings new areas of exploration, fascination and connection…

May 22, 2014 0 Comments

Moving Beyond Self Sabotage: THE BIG LEAP By Gay Hendricks

I’ve just read

THE BIG LEAP
By, Gay Hendricks

“The Big Leap is famous for something called the “Upper Limit” problem. Gay Hendricks proposes that many of us unconsciously sabotage ourselves or even make ourselves ill when we are experiencing happiness, financial success, joy in a relationship or any number of awesome things”.

Some thoughts…

An example of reaching the “Upper Limit” problem – the place where we begin self sabotaging behaviour.
You’ve given up smoking, and you’re beginning to feel strange – like something is missing maybe. You’re stressed about money, life, friends, etc, and you’re habitual response would be to have a cigarette.
You’re not used to dealing with uncomfortable feelings and want to create a ‘smoke screen’ so that you don’t have to feel the discomfort.
Welcome to the Upper Limit problem! You have the opportunity here to go beyond your usual experience.
How?
Really get in touch with the discomfort and bring it into your awareness.
Pause, feel, and identify where you’re feeling uncomfortable, maybe in your body. It may be a knot of anxiety in your stomach, jittery feelings, or a vague sense of discomfort that you can’t put your finger on. Simply acknowledge it. Dare to speak it out loud – “I’m feeling really stressed/uncomfortable/nervous/a knot in my stomach”. This may in itself move the discomfort, either altogether, or, somewhere else. Follow the feeling and verbalise it – “I’m feeling x /y/ z” until it dissipates. You may find yourself in unchartered territory. You may feel a new sense of well being for not going back into the habitual comfort zone, or you may feel uncomfortable and out of your depth! Whatever, stay with it. You may have entered your zone of excellence. The next place is your zone of genius! This is the place where its possible to live in love, abundance and success. The book gives practical tools such as these to identify when the Upper Limit is reached, and, move into your zone of Excellence and Genius…

Using NVC (non violent communication) helps here. Once you’ve identified the feeling, just be present with it and sense what the need is. If it’s money problems, what do you need to do about it? When you’re in your zone of genius, the answer is very near the surface, and, may take a great leap of creativity to take you into the zone.
When you’re banging your head against the Upper Limit, you’re preventing yourself from living a highly fulfilled life. Once you can identify what’s underneath the habitual behaviour, what it is that is trying to sabotage (feelings of lack of self worth is a common one) and keep you from reaching your full genius, i.e., the feeling/emotion that is uncomfortable, sit with it, and give it a title – sadness/fear/worry etc, then tune in to see what this feeling needs to be able to move on. Maybe it needs acknowledgement from a partner – simply a reflection of what you’ve just verbalised e.g. ‘ oh, so you’re feeling sad/frightened/anxious?” Then ‘what do you need for that to change’? is really helpful…. Or, to be honest with yourself and sit and write this down and work it through… It has the potential to change your experience from living the ‘normal’, or, from a lifetimes conditioning, into the exceptional. This in itself can be frightening! And, challenges perceptions of self worth etc. Sit with them, identify them, find out what they need, sit with that fully and fearlessly, and watch the unfolding of being the change that you want to see!

Another example…
You know that feeling when everything is going really well, and it’s almost too good to be true? It’s so good in fact that you’re worried that it’s going to change, so you make sure that it does by creating dissonance, or an argument, just to prove yourself right!
You’ve just come up against your Upper Limit problem!
Ask yourself, does this make you feel good? Does this promote loving feelings? Probably not – more likely, it keeps you in the zone of familiarity, one of discomfort, struggle and stress, that confirms subconscious habitual negative patterns of behaviour, which prevents you from going through your Upper Limit and entering your personal zone of excellence, and then genius, where its possible to live in love, abundance and success.
So what to do when you feel the urge to sabotage a good thing, and keep you from moving out of your Upper Limit into your zone of excellence and into your zone of genius?
Take a moment to feel into your body/mind. Are you unhappy? Sad? Do you have financial/health problems, stress, loss of friends and family? If you can identify the feeling, you’re working towards breaking through the Upper Limit ceiling, into the zones of excellence and genius where its possible to live in love, abundance and success.
Once you’ve identified the feeling, what is the need behind it? Do you need love, understanding, sympathy, a hug? Or, to take time out to nurture yourself and take stock? If so, ask for, or give yourself what you need rather than push the uncomfortable feelings out into the world, maybe projecting them onto others as criticism and blame. This is sabotaging the possibility of moving out of your habitual way of responding, and into your zone of excellence and then genius, where its possible to live in love, abundance and success.
Identify the sadness, loneliness, anxiety, fear etc. Sit with it, giving it attention. This may be all it needs – the healing balm of acknowledgement. See if there is anything else that is needed, whether practically or emotionally. Ask a friend/partner/yourself to support you in getting your needs met, rather than retreating into pushing your uncomfortable feelings out into the world, where it is not possible they will not be met with love and understanding! Whilst these uncomfortable feelings are subconscious and non verbal, these unacknowledged needs can be destructive. I believe that when we are truly vulnerable (with those whom we trust), we are met with love, tenderness, empathy and understanding. It’s in these moments that transformation is possible.
We are all able, through application of skill full means, to live what the author refers to as the zone of genius, one of love, abundance and success…

April 21, 2014 0 Comments

Formative Years – more biography

Today I am meant to be meeting a friend for lunch. Her car has broken down, and I’m sitting at home waiting for her to call and let me know if the RAC are towing her home, or, if we can meet up!

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about writing about meditation, and was looking through my computer files for an essay that I wrote around the turn of the century. (How strange it sounds to use those words: all my life I applied the phrase to the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign, but, here we are, a second successive century turning with a Queen on the throne. There’s something about that that I like).

Anyway… I realised that I had a lot of miscellaneous bits of writing which had not been put into folderss, so, as you do when you’re ‘killing time’ (interesting image really!), I started to look at documents and file them appropriately. And this one popped up. I think that I wrote it about a year ago. I’d given a talk to a group of complementary therapists, who asked a lot of questions, and were very engaging. I found myself talking about my early twenties, and suddenly it hit me just how amazing it was for me to be in such an august situation! I’m not sure that I’m alone in being unimpressed with periods of my life; I just lived what came and got on with it! It’s only on looking back and seeing with new eyes, from a different vantage point on the spiral of life, and, the reflection of others, that I can now see how extraordinary that time was, and, how it was the foundation, or, at least, the outward start of, an extraordinary life of exploration and experience.

So, I wrote down the significant and foundational events in my life’s journey.

I’ve recently come across research on Highly Sensitive People (HSP’s) and can’t adequately convey the relief that comes from finding out that about 20% of the population literally have a different nervous system which accounts for their experience of life, which can be very different to that of the other 80%.

As an HSP child, I was very quiet, and always observing, and, acutely sensitive. I was a real outdoors person, raised in rural North Norfolk. I was always on bikes, boats, horses, and, was sporty too. I used to make dens outside and spend most of my time playing very contentedly in streams, water meadows and on the coastal marshes, mostly alone. I learned very early to be content with my own company. Spending so much time outdoors opened perception to the subtle.

My family had pets all my life, and I was given sole responsibility for some of them, which taught me discipline, the subjugation of my wants and maybe needs! I had to get out of bed whether I liked it or not, as the animals needing looking after. And, I started a Saturday and holiday job at the age of 13, so that I could be financially independent. So when people are impressed with a perception of the discipline of my application to practice, trust me, it’s definitely one of nuture – it was drummed into me!

At school I was moderately academic, and enjoyed sport. Being a strong outdoors girl, I was good at gym, athletics and hockey. So physical practice was easy, and, I enjoyed it. I missed physical practice once I’d left full time education, so when I found tai chi about three or four years later, I took to it very happily.

It’s worth saying here that I have always travelled, from a 14 year old going on school exchanges through college, going back and forth to France alone from 18 onwards, travelling throughout my 20’s, culminating with a year travelling solo round the world in 1986.

Anyway, whilst that’s getting ahead, it is setting a context for my exploratory nature.

At around 17 I was introduced to a new group of people and discovered the Tarot and astrology. One of my friends was a very skilled astrologer, and finding out about the aspects of my chart, which explained aspects of my character so succinctly, opening my mind to seeing things much more broadly.
We were all using tarot cards at that time too. The Temperance card always fascinated me – I loved the concept of ’being tempered’ – it really caught my imagination, and it’s a guiding principle that has stayed with me, and inspires me to keep on going, refining, refining, being tempered in the fires of life. It is also one of the key concepts in Pantanjali’s system of yoga, Tapasaya…

As a teenager I experienced a deep bereavement, which threw me into asking ‘What is the point of life”? That question drove me pretty mercilessly for about 30 years. (It doesn’t any more – phew! :)) But without that drive to “know thyself” I would not have been on such a deep quest for ‘Sat’, or ‘Truth’. I wanted to know the meaning of, and what was behind life. And I would not have become the person that I have.

Six weeks after that event,  I left home and went to college. After that, I worked around Hertfordshire and eventually moved into London, for the first three post college years, following the family tradition in retail.
It was on changing jobs and working in London, that I discovered the works of Oscar Ichazo. Whilst he and his wife, Sarah Hodge, lived in Maui, her executive P.A. secretarial recruitment consultancy in New Bond St, London, was being managed by a friend of hers. By chance, I became a recruitment consultant for the company, and maybe because I was trained by an exceptionally talented consultant, and, because of a deep quality of perception picked up from spending many formative years in nature, became very successful for the company. I found it easy to hear and see what people wanted and needed, so was successful at matching people together

Meanwhile, Sarah provided us with extraordinary opportunities. We were introduced to the works of her husband, the founder of the Arica Foundation.
I attended several workshops and retreats in Holland, where his work was very popular, exploring the enneagram, a map of human experience. (also associated with Gurdjieff).

Oscar’s method is based on unifying divergent mental states through self observation (that which has been called cultivating the witness state in eastern philosophy). It is an aide to coming from a state of separation brought about by patterning developed through early years into one of essential unity. So, my first introduction to the concept of Yoga, or, non-duality…

Sarah sent a very beautiful lady, Nancy, who radiated a kind of ‘translucency’ of high vibration into the office to teach us Oscars’ system of psychoclaisthenics, an kind of callisthenic yoga. She would come in two or three times a week and we would practice before we started work for some time. What an awesome boss!
Nancy also taught Tai Chi and practiced acupuncture so I readily took up both, and practiced Tai chi on and off for three years. And had the most amazing experiences with acupuncture… Quite unusual…
During that time, I also experienced Rolfing, and had an entire body Rolfing over several months.
Which took me to learning Chua Ka – a form of facial release used by Mongolian warriors before they went into battle – a 24-hour process of freeing adhesions and emotions from the fascia… Another system developed by the prolific Oscar, and taught by Aricans!
Also during that time, I experienced homeopathy, and was surprised that it worked so effectively, as I knew nothing about it.
Interesting times those.
All around me in London were people in personal growth and development movement. We were mostly hanging out with people who were Aricans, the name given to Oscar Ichazos’ followers, or, those who had gone through the EST programme, devised by Werner Gerhard, which is now known as the Landmark Education. The purpose of Est was to Realise the purpose of life as wholeness or Truth as an experience rather than a belief.
So, I was incredibly privileged to be around the cutting edge thinking which was the foundation for the Human Potential movement that is so big in the world today.  I was directly experiencing and learning powerful therapies, and, the Chinese system of healing and movement.
And, I was immersed in and absorbing the concepts of non duality from those around me and the work that I was doing with Arica…

At that time of my life I was also reading everything I could about philosophy and psychology, from Eskimo shamanism to the complete works of Carl Jung!
All in an attempt to seek out and understand the meaning of life 🙂

After two years of working for Sarah Hodge, I realized that I could keep on doing what I was doing for the next ten years, and get a bigger desk, bigger office, bigger car, bigger flat, and still not be using all of my potential. And, I’d saved up a lot of money too!
So, I gave work one years notice, to give myself time to get my head around the next phase of my life more than anything!
I spent that year planning a trip of a lifetime. It was my gap year, before gap years were invented!
People kept telling me that I was lucky to be taking a year off to go traveling. I told them that they could do it as well as I could, that it was a matter of choosing the life one wants to lead, and, that I was totally terrified of going into the unknown.
When the day finally came for me to fly to Hawaii, to stay as guest of Sarah and Oscar, I was totally terrified, and spent much of my very long flight crying my eyes out, wondering what on earth I was doing!
Suffice to say, I had the most amazing year of my life, and discovered so much about life, the universe, and myself. And, learned to trust my instincts…

About three months after I returned, in autumn 1987, I had an inspiration to learn shiatsu, funnily enough, during an acupuncture treatment from one of my Tai Chi teachers!
I worked as a shiatsu practitioner between 88 and 93 around having babies (in 91 and 93), and was privileged to study with the best teachers in the world – Kishi, Ohashi, Sasaski and Chris Jarmey, Chris Osborne, Michael Rose, Bill Palmer, Cliff Andrews, assisting the latter for two years as a teacher trainer. It was during this time that I first learned visual diagnosis and became tangibly aware of the movement of energy.

My Tai Chi practice evolved into daily psychocalisthenics (an Arican system of movement which I liken to callisthenic form of the physical practice of yoga), to the Shiatsu makkho stretches, and then ante & postnatal yoga from 91. I maintained a daily practice of the latter until 1996. As soon as my youngest son was old enough to start playgroup, I started weekly yoga classes. I was the teacher’s only student for the first nine months, which was a priceless gift. For another nine months or so, there was just a trainee yoga teacher and myself. I am so grateful to her for the high quality tuition that she gave me so selflessly. Suffice to say, it has been my daily practice and way of life ever since…
In 1998, I started to live on my own with my children. I could no longer travel outwardly like I’d been doing throughout my teens and twenties, with youngsters at home and in the school routine. This was the time to go deep into self-exploration through personal growth and development inquiry, which I’d started in 1990.
I was persuaded to start teaching Yoga in 99, and completed a three-year diploma in 2003. Having always passionate about philosophy, I was most interested in Yoga as a path of self-discovery. In 2001, I identified that I wanted to live life as if I were on retreat all the time and have set it up to do so ever since.
I’ve been chastised for putting this on my website before, but, I’m going to repost it because it was such a life changing event. In 2002 I had the Kundalini rising experience. It was one of lucidity and bliss…. I saw things as if a veil had been lifted. This experience and state of awareness lasted for some time. When it faded, I learned the meaning of Aparigraha, which is, in this sense, when one mourns something past and tries to cling to it! The truth is that it has never gone anywhere of course. It’s now the background ‘field’ for all of my life, as is everything that I’ve lived. I’ve chosen to post it again, because there is a lot of mystery surrounding this type of powerful experience and I want to say ‘It’s OK!’ I feel priveleged to have had the experience. It is the goal of the Eightfold Path of Patanjali, and the methods outlined in the sutras give the practices to reach a state of undifferentiated consciousness. Of course, it’s vital not to get trapped in the more ‘interesting’ effects of the practice, or siddhis. I just feel it’s important to share this experience, to demonstrate the efficacy of the practice of the Eightfold Path, no more than that.

IBack to the time line… n 2003 as soon as I passed my final teaching assessment, I went to an ashram in Rishikesh, India, to find out how yoga was taught there… Six weeks after my return, I met Angela Farmer and Victor Van Kooten. I worked with them when they were in Europe as much as I could over about three years. They were responsible for my ‘teacher un-training’, which freed up my creativity in my teaching, for which, again, I am profoundly grateful. They were pivotal in my yoga teaching. I carried on working with inspirational teachers as often as possible, for many years.

I’d had such a thorough grounding in both the Chinese and Vedic Elements systems, and, an awakening to them whilst in Rishikesh, (that’s another story!) that in 2006 I started to teach workshops to yoga teachers and students on the Vedic Five Element -Pancha Tattva- system.

In these workshops I seek to facilitate an experience of the constituents of creation as expoused in the Samkhya philosophy, through embodying the qualities of the great Elements.

In 2007 I started a Meditation practice. At this time of my life I went even deeper into practice, spending many hours a day in morning and evening practice. I called it ‘self imposed ashram’!

My studies in, and assisting teaching Anatomy for Yoga teachers in 2008/9 deepened my visual diagnosis skills and I started to be able to read the body and see the source of torsion in peoples musculo skeletal structure, and, give remedial exercises to help with posture and joint, back and muscle pain.

In 2011 I went to Nepal for three weeks, and stayed in the sangha of MahaSambhodi Dharma Sangha. I came back and moved from the house I’d been living in for 23 years to a flat in Norwich. Over the next 7 months, I spent three more months living in the jungle in Nepal, which changed my life completely.

I’d become vegetarian in 2009 and vegan in 2011. By June 2012 I was experimenting with Raw Food, and went 100% in October 12, when I did a Raw Certification course.

I’m now teaching yoga teachers, students, working with remedial clients and am amazed at the way that all the skills that I have been put in the way of combined in a way that I could never have foreseen.
And, I know that the best is yet to come!

If you’ve read this all the way through, well done! You may have gathered that my friend must have got towed home by the RAC, hence giving me the wonderful gift of time to spend on editing this post. A ‘gift of time’ feels so much nicer than ‘killing time’. That concept is so contra Non Violent Communication speak!

March 20, 2014 0 Comments

So What Exactly is Maca Powder?

This mornings smoothie: in a blender place blueberries, juice of 2 oranges 1 grapefruit, on whole peeled lemon, a teaspoon of maca powder and one tablespoon of coconut oil. Blend. Sip slowly to give your body time to digest it properly.

This mornings smoothie: in a blender place blueberries, juice of 2 oranges 1 grapefruit, one whole peeled lemon, a teaspoon of maca powder and one tablespoon of coconut oil. Blend. Sip slowly to give your body time to digest properly.

“Maca is an herbaceous biennial plant of the crucifer family native to the high Andes of Peru around Lake Junin”.

It is a root vegetable, and rich in nutrients. It is well respected for its medicinal and nutritional benefits. You can find it in powder form in health stores, and in tablet form as a dietary supplement.

Maca  root is full of minerals and vitamins, such as calcium, magnesium, iron , Vitamin C vitamin and vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B12, ‘good’ fatty acids, proteins and fibre. It is an adaptogen, a natural body balancer and revitaliser.

Maca root supports the endocrine system and is said to help to balance the body’s hormones and can help to energise the body via its action on the adrenals, pancreas, pituitary and thyroid gland. It is said that it can help balance the mental faculties,  as well as supporting both male and female libido, and, menopausal symtpoms.

As evidenced by this mornings smoothie, maca can be added to smoothies and juices. It thickens the smoothie and gives a subtle and sweet taste.

Another super food to add to your healthy diet!

December 4, 2013 0 Comments

Raw Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe. Dinner Party time, with tips!

photodune-6101731-abstract-chocolate-background-xs-1I’m off to a dinner party on Saturday night.

One of the best recommendations that I’ve had regarding how to manage being a Raw Vegan when at a dinner party with non Raw Vegans is to take one dish to share, in this instance, a dessert, and your own starter and main course.

The most important thing is to respect your hostess and not try and out do her by presenting something AMAZING that everyone wants to have instead! A dessert works as it gives people choice. It’s acceptable to try one or more dessert tasters, and, Raw Food desserts are so delicious that they are a great introduction to the art of producing delicious food without cooking!

This is a fabulous recipe, and works really well. It delights all who taste it!

Raw Vegan Chocolate ‘Cheese’cake Recipe
Makes one 8″ cake
Crust –
1 1/2 cups almonds
2/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla  essence
Zest of one organic orange , and juice, to bind.

Mix until it is ‘bindable’, and press into the base of a spring form tin to a thickness of about .75/1 cm. Use the back of a spoon to help. This is the base of the ‘cheesec’ake and should hold together when cut.
Filling
2 cups cashews
3 tbsps coconut sugar, or agave syrup to taste
2/3 – 3/4 cup water
2/3 cup cacao powder
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup melted coconut butter.

(NB. If you have a high speed blender with a heating facility, you can put in the unmelted coconut oil and butter and heat to under 40 degrees whilst blending)

Blend the cashews, maple, water, vanilla and salt until smooth and creamy in a high speed blender.
Add the coconut oil and butter. Blend to incorporate.
Add the cacao powder last and blend again.The mixture is thick.
Pour over the crust and set in the fridge for at least 12 hours or in the freezer for 6 hours and then transfer to the fridge for a few hours.

Topping. Blend organic berries – blue berries/raspberries/strawberries, and add a tablespoon of chia seeds. The seeds act as a thickening agent. Leave for 30 minutes until spreadable, and add to cheesecake. This is good to do before serving as the berries can loose colour if left too long. Add fruit to garnish.

Sit back and enjoy watching your guests faces light up with amazement and delight!

November 22, 2013 0 Comments

Raw Food Recipe. Coleslaw with Pad Thai dressing. Winter raw food tips.

Ever a believer in using seasonal veg, what’s to hand, and, imagination, I had a white cabbage to use up on my last evening in the Czech Republic.

A friend had told me to look out for interesting chopping, slicing and other such Raw Food prep tools whilst in Eastern Europe as they have a lot of very useful gadgets that we don’t find in the UK. Needing no encouragement to browse kitchen wear, I spent many happy moments doing just that, and, came home with an electric mini chopper (which we do have in the UK, but they’ve never entered my consciousness before).

So, I hand grated the white cabbage into a bowl, added a couple of carrots, one large spring onion, and half a small white onion.

Into the bowl of the mini chopper I placed a generous handful of almonds and whizzed them to a fine powder, then added about a dessert spoon of olive oil. Then, I added about three tablespoonfuls of lemon juice, a tablespoon of soya sauce, a good piece of fresh ginger, about the size of half my thumb, a tablespoonful of honey, and, some hot chilli sauce! Not strictly raw, but, it was in the cupboard, and, it added a real zing to the finished dressing. A clove of garlic can be added too, if you like it.

I found that once I’d added the dressing, the contents of the bowl reduced by about 1/3. It really takes up the dressing well. Next time, I will use more veg and prepare it in a larger vessel. I will also experiment with using peanuts for a more authentic pad thai experience, and chop some up finely and add to the finished dish as a garnish.

This is a definite recipe to use frequently during the colder winter months, maybe with fresh chilli instead of chilli sauce, for a 100% raw experience which will keep you warm from the inside to the out.

Just as point of interest, some people ask me if I want something warm in my stomach in the cold winter months. I drink hot drinks (predominantly Chinese White Tea), can make soups in the high speed blender and warm them to 40 degrees, and, dehydrate flax crackers and other goodies in the oven. If I chew my food until it has virtually gone, it reaches body temperature very quickly! Chewing is so important, and, a practice in itself. I once went on a retreat where we counted how many times we had to chew our food for it to become liquid. 140 was to be aimed at! It’s a good game to play with children to encourage them to chew more thoroughly, and, for adults to be mindful of too!

 

November 20, 2013 0 Comments

Raw Falafels: Raw Food Recipe

Whilst perusing my nuts and seeds drawer this morning, and wondering what I fancied eating today, my eyes lit up on spotting a bag of organic sunflower seeds. Raw falafels, I thought. I fancy raw sunflower seed falafels. So, I set a cupful to soak (in filtered water, as always), and got on with my day.

Which was filled with lovely clients: one, who is doing brilliantly with incorporating more raw food into the diet and was delighted to observe that the scales were 9lbs lighter than the last weigh in. Well done! With another, the focus was on learning a pranayama (breathing) technique for lowering blood pressure, which is also very effective for stress management. Remedially, working with different people, giving them techniques to bring relief from pain, and balance into, the hips, and, the same for addressing acute shoulder/upper back pain. As well as teaching a physical practice for general well being.  I even got out for a walk by the river for a breath of fresh air, and to get the lymph moving!

By  the end of the day, I was ready to get creative with the sunflower seeds. And, the joys of raw food prep is that it takes such little time!

First, I rinsed the sunflower seeds thoroughly in filtered water (see previous post about phytic acid and soaking nuts and seeds), and left them to drain. I ground up some pepper corns and coriander seeds and placed them and the sunflower seeds in a food processor with some cumin and a bit of salt. (Intuitive recipe creation – adjust seasoning to personal taste!) And added juice of a whole lemon. I like lemon – you may not like such a strong lemony taste, so start with half, and add more later if required. Add about half a dessert spoon of tahini, and, a clove of garlic, if you like it. I used a small onion, (because there were some growing on my allotment when I took it over on Friday),  and, I don’t eat garlic! Then processed until well combined and beginning to bunch into a consistency which would hold together when formed into balls – the final step.

I made a dressing with juice of 1/4 of a lemon, a touch of apple cider vinegar, and the same quantity of olive oil as the lemon and vinegar. I then added a teaspoon of tahini and whizzed them all together with my favourite kitchen gadget, a hand blender. They are about £5 from supermarkets with electrical departments, so excellent value, and highly useful. There’s not many days when I don’t use it.

And made a salad with rocket, also harvested from the allotment, parsley, and sweet potato noodles, (created with the spiraliser mentioned in the kohlrabi post) – delish with the lemon tahini dressing and falafel balls…

So that’s me refuelled and relaxing after a a full and rewarding day. I thought about putting ‘raw warding’, but thought you might think I’d made a tpo 🙂

November 11, 2013 0 Comments
kohlrabi DSC_8925

What do you do if a nice young man offers you a Kohlrabi?! Raw vegan Recipe.

Yesterday, I met the nice young man who is working the allotment next to mine. We introduced ourselves and had a pleasant chat. At some point, he asked me if I liked Kohlrabi. Well, what to say? In theory, yes, but, I’d not eaten it since going raw, and wondered what on earth I would do with it if I wasn’t going to be cooking it. Realizing that this young man did not need to know the inner workings of my mind, but was simply waiting for a yes or a no, I told the truth and said ‘Yes, I like kohlrabi’, with mind racing as to what I was going to do with it when I took it  back to my kitchen. Ever convinced of the benefit of taking a risk, and batting outside of the box, I experimented with this interesting member of the cabbage family, and was quite stunned at the result! See below for the recipe.

kohlrabi

I decided to use my Spiraliser – here is a link to the type that I use – http://amzn.to/1de8jgR. I used the blade that shreds rather than creates spirals. A mandolin would be perfect too.

Oh, by the way. I washed the kohlrabi and took the stems off, and tried to slice it, but, the kohlrabi wasn’t having any of it.  Having battled with trying to shove it through the spiraliser with little success, I eventually  realized that it has a very woody skin, which was preventing it from going quietly in the manner that I had intended for it.

So, it had to be peeled, which was a shame, as I like to eat all of an organic vegetable if possible and practical.

So, once it was peeled, shredded and tamed, I added the most simplest of things. Lemon juice- of one whole lemon. Sprouted green lentils (umma umma – love these). Sprouted broccoli seeds (look like alfalfa sprouts, but taste more peppery). And, pear. It’s seasonal, and, I had some in the fruit bowl. I have a fabulous swede and pear recipe, so figured that adding pear could be a winner. And, then a little salt.

That simple, and, amazingly delicious!I mean, really, I was amazed at how tasty it was.

Wikipedia states that “It has a texture similar to that of a broccoli stem, but with a flavor that is sweeter and less vegetal”. I’ll go with that. This recipe has to be tried to be believed. By the way, I do find that if people ask me what I am eating and I simply state the ingredients, it does not do justice to the amazing alchemy that happens when you use fresh, organic ingredients creatively. So, I find it best to decline to say, and just let people try. Unless it’s nuts: always good to check if people are allergic to anything before they try!

Anyway, if a nice young man offers you a kohlrabi, just say “yes’. I’ve already done the head work on this one. Take it, and, enjoy!

November 10, 2013 0 Comments