Hari Om everyone - Summing up 2020 -21
The summer is rolling by and the Pentland Hills near my home are beginning to display their purple heather robes. Here we are again at the end of a over a year of online teaching - three weekly classes, including the Accessible class and two general classes. I also completed a monthly series of Zoominars previously held at Dechmont in West Lothian, focusing on developing a personal sadhana (dedicated practice). Who knew we could practice yoga via Zoom until in March 2020 we found we had to!
Thank you to those of you who stuck it out as I grappled with the mysteries of how to set it all up, being far from a tech wizard: microphones, recording, lighting and finally having a Wi-Fi extender installed to try to improve the stability of the signal. I don't think I could even have written "improving the stability of the signal" 6 months ago. That was in place for only a couple of weeks of classes before the break but (fingers crossed) it seemed to help.
There have been some unexpected but lovely benefits to Zooming, including people able to join from a greater distance. That didn’t quite make up for the number of people who felt they were unable or didn’t want to Zoom, but at least the weekly groups and the monthly seminars kept going and it was great to see you all.
Talking of Zooming from a distance, I’ve gone slightly overboard myself, taking in classes and courses from The Minded Institute in London; Swami GyanDharma’s course on the meditation practice Ajapa Japa; Swami Nishchalananda’s courses on a favourite classic Tantric text of his (and mine), the Vigyana Bhairava Tantra; my teacher Swami Vedantananda from Portugal; and even a 3-day conference on Wellness after Covid beamed from New York. I’ve also benefited from membership of the Subtle Yoga Resilience Society formed by yoga teacher Kristine Kaoverii Weber, who specialises in neuroplasticity and slow, interoceptive yoga. The phrase “the pause is as important as the pose” that some of you became familiar with comes directly from Kristine.
Over the past year the overall theme of my teaching in the general classes has been the Subtle Body, i.e. the pranic system including chakras. I've taught on chakras in the past but each time I find new insights myself. I started with the five elements this time, because the first five chakras are each linked with an element. If you include Mind as an element for Ajna chakra that’s the full picture. Gave us lots to consider and practice!
Guru Poornima and the purpose of yoga practice
In yogic traditions, Guru Poornima is celebrated every year on the full moon day in July. This year it fell on Saturday 24th July. We didn't have an actual gathering because of the pandemic but the auspicious day gives us an opportunity to pay our respects and offer our heartfelt gratitude to all spiritual masters, past and present. The guru (giver of light or spiritual teacher) may be embodied in a living person or may be the principle that exists dormant in all of us – the inner guru. Listening to and honouring our own inner voice is part of our practice.
The day gives an opportunity for a spiritual stocktaking, a chance to renew and strengthen the goals of our practice and rededicate ourselves to it. We don’t need to wait a whole year before renewing our dedication to practice, of course. I find it’s best to go one day at a time!
What are the goals of yoga and how can we express them to help us move forward? The practices of yoga – asanas, pranayama, yoga nidra, meditation and many others such as chanting or writing mantras, journaling and so on, are the tools we use on our journey. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, the founder of the Bihar School of Yoga, writes that "Yoga is the science of right living and, as such, is intended to be incorporated in daily life." It includes of course far more than the physical practices so enthusiastically taken up by Western practitioners. I feel sad when someone says to me "I can't practice yoga because I'm not flexible" , as if that's all there is to it. I'm not particularly flexible either, nor do I have a body that can easily fit into what passes for yoga clothing on Instagram. Yoga practices bring tangible benefits at all levels - physical, psychological and spiritual, helping us to integrate and become whole, whatever that signifies for us.
The autumn programme
I’m currently on a break and weekly classes will resume at the end of August/ beginning of September. I’ll send an email round to everyone with the details.
Live classes are about to resume! From Tuesday September 7th the Accessible class will again be at the Carmondean Centre, the venue in Livingston we were using when the first lockdown began. I’m also devising a programme of live monthly seminars at Dechmont Memorial Hall, dates from September to December to be confirmed once I hear from the manager, so look out for these in your inbox if you’re interested. At the time of writing, Gate 55, the venue for the Monday afternoon class, is still a vaccination centre so we’ll continue via Zoom from Monday August 30th unless the situation changes. The Tuesday evening class will also continue via Zoom, beginning on August 31st, largely because that’s what the group prefers.
Take care and stay safe.
With love and OMMMs, Bijam