Yoga and Meditation at the Stow-a-thon!

I'm really looking forward to teaching meditation and yoga at the Rose and Crown Pub in Walthamstow for the Stow-a-thon, a 24-hour fundraising music event! 

Come and join me at 8.30am for meditation and 9am for yoga on Monday 1st May. 

I'll be teaching with live music from More News from Nowhere and raising money for CREST, an organisation that supports older people with disabilities and dementia.

Bring a mat if you have one and I hope to see you there!



How to sit still when you're no good at sitting still

The Buddhist saying goes, “Everyone should meditate for at least 10 minutes a day. Those who are too busy, should meditate for an hour.” 


By far the hardest aspect of my yoga practice is my meditation. It just doesn't come naturally for me to stop moving, sit quietly and live in the quiet. That's why my asana practice is a strong and physically challenging one - so that at the end I surrender and give up resisting. When I get there I'm so thankful but it is quite an effort to reach that quietness each time. 

If you're like me, wanting to make meditation a regular and meaningful part of your life but find it a challenge here as some things to consider. 

  1. It's not a test. If you "fail" at keeping your mind still and focused/unfocused it just means you're exactly like everyone else. 
  2. Find the time of day that works for you. Though there is a strong tradition of early morning practice, that just doesn't work for me. Drop the guilt and if you can't sit until 8pm, so what. 
  3. Yes, you can have that cup of tea/coffee/juice etc. OK, so don't drink it during the meditation but if you need something to get you in the zone, why not. Think of it as a  part of the preparation like getting your seat ready. 
  4. Start small and build up. If it's just 5 minutes that is better than none. Meditation is a practice just like every other skill and needs work, patience and progress. Build up one extra minute at a time and see how that extra length affects your practice. Not everyone has time for a whole hour of meditation so even 10 minutes is worth doing. 
  5. Get some help. From a book, a teacher, a centre or an app. They will give you the tools you need to explore the mind. And yes, you'll probably need a whole roster of techniques!
  6. Work with what you've got. So if it's a sleeping puppy or baby, so be it. Life doesn't always hand you the time, space and energy to meditate so sometimes you have to shove it in amongst the chaos. 

In short, unless you have dedicated your life to a monastic existence, you're going to have to deal with what's going on with you and all that means. You'll have good days and bad, but isn't that true of everything?

If you have any tips or thoughts, please share them with me. 



Cutting to the heart of my yoga - Samtosa

When you attend a yoga class, often you are asked to set yourself an intention. Sometimes this can be as simple as dedicating your practice to someone that needs your energy - someone you love, or even someone that you are not getting along with. Other times you can dedicate your practice to yourself, with an intention. 

To be honest, most of the time when I hit the mat I bring the intention of samtosa, one of the niyamas, observances, from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Samtosa can be translated as contentment. 

Contentment, something quite intangible to many these days. As we're pushed to achieve, to strive, to be better, sometimes we forget what we have, where we are, who we are and what is truly important to us. For me samtosa, contentment, has had the most positive effect on me and my yoga practice. 

If you boil down to why I practice yoga, and perhaps why I usually dedicate my practice to myself, it's because I take the time to be thankful for and remember what I already have. To be kinder, more loving, more generous and understanding with those around me. To put it bluntly, I try to be a nicer person for those who share my life.

If I could teach only one thing in yoga, it is for us all to be a little kinder to ourselves. Combining ahimsa, non-violence (to ourselves) with samtosa, contentment really cuts to the heart of yoga. Don't hurt your body or your mind, be mindful of what you already have, and be happy to be exactly where you are. Start each day, each task, each pose exactly where you are now, not trying to be something you're not and not wishing for something else. Be a little kinder to yourself. 

Me and my Pincha

So there's a lot of talk about non-attachment in yoga but I thought I'd write a little bit about that because non-attachment does not mean you shouldn't have a challenge or a pose that you're working on in your yoga practice. 

Yoga tries to teach us that we are perfect as we are. No matter what your downward dog looks like or how small your hanumanasana (splits) are, you are already there. There's no need to berate yourself or feel like you are not good enough. You're already good enough. Your yoga asana practice is as good as the person on the mat next to you whether you think your pose does or does not look as easeful, elegant, strong, aligned, whatever. It is. 

As well as remembering that you're already there, it's also good to practice non-attachment to how a pose makes you feel. If your pigeon makes you want to cry with pain and your handstand is terrifying or your crane pose is amazing, it doesn't matter.  If we get too caught up with how a pose makes us feel then we will only be disappointed or elated - on a rollercoaster ride up and down through our asana practice and our lives on the yoga mat. So we practice observing how our mind reacts to a pose with the idea that the outcome does not matter. 

But that does not mean that we can't continue to challenge ourselves in our practice. We practice yoga to focus the mind on what the body is doing. To unite, body, breath and mind and to give ourselves time and opportunity to delve deeper into what is going on beyond the things we get caught up in, in our daily lives. To do that we need to work to our edge. 

So we need a challenge - something to work on - without attaching any idea that achieving this pose will make us a better yogi, or worse, a better person. 

For me, this year, it is pincha mayurasana (forearm balance). It's a constant battle - I want to get better at the pose but as soon as I place too much importance on it, I regress, injure myself or fall over. The less I "care", the better the pose. And it is coming along strong. 

Here it is just 3 months ago. 

And today. Still up against a wall, but not using the wall. I just can't breathe yet. 

I'm only human so I do allow myself a little celebration afterwards :) 

What are you working on?