AUTUMN 2020 - thoughts induced by pandemics

Submitted by Bijam on Sun, 25/10/2020 - 21:41

Hari OM everyone

I hope you're all as well as you can be during this challenging time, and enjoying the benefits of your yoga practice and the essential contact with fresh air and green spaces. 


My last real-life class was in March 2020.  It took me a couple of weeks to gather my scattered wits and find out how to Zoom, but classes restarted online at the end of April.  I set myself up in my small yoga room, laptop precariously balanced on 3 yoga blocks to get it to the right height, and began.  A few weeks later I learned how to record classes and tried to master sending them out, but I admit that's hit-and-miss at present.  Onwards and ever upwards. It's a real shame that quite a few people can't access Zoom for various reasons.

Currently I'm running three classes a week and the most recent theme has been the five Elements or Tattwas in Sanskrit.  It is said that everything we do and think is under the influence of these 5 elements - earth, water, fire, air and space.  They are not the kind of thing we think about as "earth", "fire" etc but  created by different energy or pranic vibrations.  In balancing them we can balance ourselves. I plan to continue this theme into next year by including chakras, as all the chakras except ajna have an associated element.  

The Dechmont seminars

These monthly seminars have sadly been interrupted, the last one being on March 14th, but at least we managed to complete the "Prana, Pranayama and Neuroscience" course.  

So what now?  Zoom to the rescue I hope.

The current pandemic has prompted me to think about wellness-or perhaps better, well-being, both of individuals, society and our precious planet Earth.   Addressing this topic I'm aware of the overwhelming amount of information readily available from books, the media, podcasts, apps and so on, but thought I'd give it a go anyway, and perhaps offer it as a topic for the next series of monthly Saturday seminars at Dechmont (now on Zoom of course).  

The concept of well-being is by no means new but we do seem to struggle to find a definition precise enough to be acceptable to everyone and able to be researched to find out ways of having the best well-being we can, perhaps without indulging in unproven and expensive interventions by celebrities.  

Whatever the definitions, having Covid definitely isn't conducive to well-being!  Individual physical and psychological health and indeed the important aspect of society's and Earth's well-being are all at risk, not only from the virus but also by the responses of our various governments.  In the end who can tell whether the different styles and types of lock-down, whilst awaiting the creation of an effective vaccine,  are managing a difficult pandemic well or badly; or possibly even creating more harm than good?  A problem for far greater minds than mine to solve.  

I have, as many of you know, an abiding interest in the mental health side of well-being, from my previous profession, and cherish yoga's contribution to that. Recently I read, linked from a newsletter by Laurence Demarco ( a paper by a New Zealand psychologist, Tim Lomas PhD,  describing something called the Global Wellbeing Initiative, set up in 2019 in collaboration with the  Wellbeing for Planet Earth Foundation: what a beautiful  name. 

Most research into physical and mental health, an important component of well-being, has been done from a Western perspective, both the researchers and the people studied.   I chuckled at the acronym, new to me, describing the subjects of such research - WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic).   Most of the world's population of course doesn't come into this category. 

There is recognition that Western societies may value "Feeling good" as meaning high arousal, excitement etc; whereas in Eastern society greater value is placed on low arousal forms of feeling good such as peace and tranquillity, balance and harmony, meaning in life, relationship with nature and resilience - yoga, anyone?

I think I may have found a rich seam to tap for future "Dechmont" online seminars.  Great to see Eastern thinking being respected by Western researchers!

You'll find details of my Zoom classes on the Classes and Courses page - same times, just on Zoom. If you haven't already installed it, you can download the free app from the App store for Apple users and  Google Playstore for Android users.  I send out a reminder by email each week and it's pretty simple to log in - just click on the underlined link I put in the email.  This brings you to a "Waiting room" and I let you in a few moments before the class starts.  One of the features I'm using is the ability (if you have time) to stay on afterwards, un-mute your microphone, and enjoy a chat. 

If you're not already participating in one of my Zoom classes, just send an email and I'll add you to the list.

Warmly, Bijam







Submitted by Bijam on Fri, 13/03/2020 - 12:39

We are currently inundated with information about what is being described as the almost wartime challenge presented to us by Coronavirus and I'm not about to add to it.  Initially there was no requirement or suggestion to cancel small gatherings such as a yoga class but the advice has now changed.

As a result, with regret  but unhesitatingly in the circumstances, I have suspended all my classes and seminars and the home meditation group from 17th March 2020.  I hope to resume when it is safe to do so.  I will send out by email suggested practice plans to the various student groups.  And perhaps (only perhaps) I'll be able to overcome my technophobia and find ways of teaching online.  

Stay well everyone; remember yoga practice begins with kindness to ourselves and generates outwards from there. 

Here's a copy of the great healing mantra the Mahamitrunjaya - maybe you'd like to chant or say it on a daily basis for healing, power, transformation, immunity and strength: 


Begin by chanting the mantra AUM 3 times then






OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI (at the end of however many rounds you're reciting)


We pay homage to the universal consciousness which nourishes all beings.  May we be liberated from ignorance through knowledge of our immortal essence, just as the cucumber is severed from the bondage of the vine.

Translation by Swami Niranjanananda



Winter Greetings and review of 2019

Submitted by Bijam on Fri, 20/12/2019 - 20:53

Another year almost over, as we approach the Winter Solstice on Sunday 22 December; of course Christmas on Wednesday 25th and the beginning not just of a new year the following week but a new decade.  And not forgetting that 2020 is a Leap Year so we have an extra day to fill!

Weekly classes have finished for now but will start again week beginning 6th January 2020. 

For me, as most of you know, it's been quite a momentous year from a health point of view.  Apart from a break after the brain surgery in May I have been able to continue teaching, albeit having to reduce the number of weekly classes.  I was lucky (and grateful) to have most of my weekly classes covered by colleagues until I could start teaching again in July.  I'm sure much of my progress was due to a very simple and gentle home practice, especially pranayama, and a fabulous healing meditation, shared with me by Swami GyanDharma, from his Prana Vidya course.  

In August I was able to keep to a commitment to take a programme on Prana and Pranayama, developed for the EUY Annual Congress in Zinal in 2018, to Finland, hosted by the Finnish Yoga Association at their stunning Yoga Centre near Saarijarvi, deep in the forested heart of the country.  I had my first ever smoke sauna in the traditional style, including bathing in the chilly waters of the nearby lake Saarijarvi (pictured).  Wim Hof (aka The Iceman) may not have been impressed if he'd been there - the water was definitely not icy cold and I didn't stay in long - but it was a beautiful heart-full experience: sharing the sauna space, chatting, even singing a traditional song taught to one participant by her grandfather, to get his sixteen grandchildren into and out of the sauna.

In September I started a programme of Saturday morning seminars on Prana, Pranayama and Neuroscience at Dechmont in West Lothian - great fun for me to revise and update my prior knowledge.  Turns out it was a tad unrealistic to think I could complete the topic in 4 sessions (12 hours) (see previous newsletter, August 2019) - at a guess we're only about halfway through so the programme will continue in 2020.  More on that later but Dechmont fans please save the dates - second Saturday each month, commencing Saturday February 8th.  There has been some interest in my running the first part of the course again, in a different venue, if time and other considerations including my own health permit.  I’m still exploring that – suggestions have ranged from somewhere in Edinburgh to possibly Galashiels. 

In November I completed a three-day training programme on Accessible Yoga, led by Jivana Heyman, and qualified as an Accessible Yoga Ambassador.  Here's part of his inspiring statement about the philosophy behind the movement:

"Accessible Yoga is dedicated to sharing the benefits of yoga with anyone who currently  does not have access to these practices, and with communities that have been excluded or under-served.  All people, regardless of ability or background, deserve equal access to the ancient practices of yoga, which offer individual empowerment and spiritual awakening."

I've been teaching a weekly specialist class in West Lothian  for people with limited physical mobility for the best part of a decade now, recently with the invaluable help of a colleague, Elaine, who trained with Yoga Scotland.  The challenge implicit in Jivana's philosophy is that all classes should be as inclusive as possible, rather than having specialist themes.  I hope to be able to rise to this challenge next year...but I need to have my driving licence restored first! 

I hope you all have a peaceful joy-filled Festive Season and that we'll continue working and learning together when classes start again in January.

With love and OMMMs




The Dechmont Seminars - Pranayama and neuroscience 2019

Submitted by Bijam on Mon, 26/08/2019 - 22:38

Yoga seminars in the Dechmont Memorial Hall began some 15 years ago, instituted and taught by Yoga Jayanti (Jane Russell) until 2017, when she went to live in Portugal. Since then Yoga Jayanti's regular attenders have by consensus kept the seminars going as often as possible.  Essentially we are a group of Yoga Jayanti's friends and students who just want to carry on meeting regularly, enjoying  one another's company, devotion to yoga,  and practices including asanas, pranayama, yoga nidra (especially yoga nidra!) and meditation.

For the autumn of 2019 the theme will be Pranayama and neuroscience, four linked sessions in September, October, November and December.

There is almost certainly a connection between the (hopefully successful) surgery I had in May 2019 for the removal of a meningioma, a tumour involving the meningeal covering of the brain.  Naturally I have been revising my knowledge of the brain and nervous system and finding yoga practices, especially pranayama and meditation, very helpful in the healing process. I have been wonderfully supported by my principal pranayama teacher Philip Xerri, whose course I first took in 2001 -2 and am currently repeating.   I have also been studying online with Kristine Kaoveri Weber, a yoga teacher in the USA whose system of Subtle Yoga feels very similar to Satyananda Yoga.  Over the last ten years or so Kristine has done a lot of research on the Yoga and Neuroscience connection and presents insights from research that supports what most of us have intuitively discovered from our own practice about the healing power of yoga.

In some ways the course builds on the foundational Progressive Pranayama course I have taught in various locations over the past two years (including in Zinal in 2018 and Finland this year); but I hope  it will also develop more of the connection between yogic and western scientific knowledge.  

The programme will include

  • Overview / revision of the brain and nervous system
  • Stress and the autonomic nervous system
  • Chronic inflammation (including auto-immune disorders) and its impact on health
  • Breath-centred asanas, pranayama, yoga nidra and meditation practices to balance the autonomic nervous system, especially moving from over-activity (sympathetic stimulation) towards more rest/digest (parasympathetic enhancement).
  • Tea/coffee and biscuits with discussion – hoping participants will bring their own books and other sources to share
  • Home practice schedules

Dates 14th September, 5th October, 9th November, 7th December 

Times: 10 am to 1 pm



Edinburgh Yoga Festival 2018

Submitted by Bijam on Tue, 27/03/2018 - 15:10

The third Edinburgh Yoga Festival is happening in May.  It raises money for Edinburgh Community Yoga because teachers donate their time and their venues.  It begins with a full weekend of events mostly at the wonderfully named Serenity Cafe, then over the week to May 20th various yoga teachers around Edinburgh are donating the money from a session or two.  You can see the whole programme on the website

My contribution is called 

Celebrating the vital layer of our being - Sunday May 13th 2018, 1.30 - 3 pm at the Serenity Cafe Edinburgh.

The pranamaya kosha or energy sheath is the “energy department” of our system, the link between body, mind/emotions and spirit.  Prana is life; and pranayama is the control and expansion of prana.  Following the two popular 4-seminar programmes “Progressive Pranayama” I facilitated in 2017, in this 90-minute session we  will begin to look at how we can use asana practice not only for its structural benefits but also in the service of pranayama.  The breath work in asanas can bring us to a deeper, more inwardly focused place to facilitate pranayama practice; and pranayama can lead us to mantra and ultimately to meditation.  This journey is likely to be the central theme of “Progressive Pranayama 2”. 

If you're interested, you can book now via this link 

The rest of the programme looks fabulous - I'm booked for the Yin Yoga session after mine!