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
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 www.edyogafest.co.uk
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!
It already seems the the festive season is well behind us and we're all back at our regular classes and home practice, New Year resolutions to the fore (perhaps a better name for yoga practitioners is the Sankalpa). It’s a great idea to have a goal for our practice, whether the starting point be primarily physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual, from which will flow an intention to practice to help us reach that goal. Whatever your goal, the yoga tool-kit of practices has so much to offer. But perhaps in this new year, we can start to realise that our practice isn’t confined to the yoga mat or the time of formal practice; it can and does include all aspects of life. All spiritual traditions share this, of course.
My svadhyaya (self-study/ study of texts) for this year is the fabulous Tantric text that says precisely that. Tantra and Yoga are considered to be one and the same. Yoga is "union" and tantra is "expansion" through that state of union. The text is called the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, (VBT for short) framed as a conversation between Bhairavi (Shakti or Cosmic Energy) and Bhairava (Consciousness, also called Shiva), in which Bhairavi asks the questions. The text describes many different ways to focus and hold our own awareness so that inner illumination (Awareness ) can arise. According to tantra, Consciousness is the fundamental "substance" of the universe; it has always existed and it always will. It can't be described or defined: I found this awe-inspiring quotation from the Tao Te Ching that refers to it:
Something there is, whose veiled creation was
Before the earth or sky begin to be;
So silent, so aloof and so alone,
It changes not, nor fails, but touches all;
Conceive it as the mother of the world.
I do not know its name.....
I participated in an introduction to the meditation practices (the 112 dharanas) during a retreat at Mandala Yoga Ashram a couple of years ago but I'm planning to build on that beginning. I have a lot to study and practice! Translations vary; I have 3 translations to look at: here’s an extract from one translation of verses 1-2:
I have been listening to the hymns of creation
Enchanted by the verses
Yet still I am curious
What is this delight-filled universe, into which we find ourselves born?
What is this mysterious awareness, shimmering everywhere within it?
At least a delight-filled universe sounds good in the dark days of January. Perhaps it's possible through practice of these dharanas to develop the experience of openness and inner spaciousness that will allow us to be available moment to moment in life, rather then tangled up in constant (stressful) mental activity.
Hari Om all
I hope you've all enjoyed the summer and are now looking out your yoga mats and yoga clothes! This is a summary of the classes I'll be teaching, starting back in September.
- MONDAYS - Gate 55 Sighthill – 16.30 -18.15. Class recommences Monday 4 September. This is a mixed class, adapted to suit all levels of experience (I hope) and with modifications suggested as necessary. It's quite a large hall so plenty of space. Phone or email me to book a place. Bring a mat if you have one and a light cover for the yoga nidra.
- TUESDAYS - NEW CLASS- Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs course (YHLB) 12 weeks - commences Tuesday 5th September - venue ChooseYOU Yoga and wellness centre, Carmondean Centre Road, Livingston EH54 8PT. A proven yoga programme, 30% better than “usual care”, for self-management of pain-relief, healing and long-term improvement of your back health. Gentle, effective, enjoyable. Small group classes; specific; individualized. Phone or email me to book a place.
- Currie Community High School - 19.15-21.15 a general hatha yoga class for more experienced students. Includes mantra chanting, asanas, pranayama, mudras & bandhas, relaxation and meditation. Term begins on September 26th. Booking is via Edinburgh Leisure www.joininedinburgh.org/currie
- WEDNESDAYS - West Lothian - classes begin September 6th. All places booked by phoning or emailing me.
- Ability Centre Livingston - 13.15 - 14.30 - modified practices for wheelchair/chair users, including mantras, asanas, breathing practices and meditation
- St Mary's Hall, Livery Street, Bathgate EH48 4HS 16.45 - 18.15 - Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs course - 12 weeks, as above
- ChooseYOU Yoga and Wellness Centre 19.00 - 20.30 - general all-levels class with option to follow on into meditation group 20.35 - 21.15
- SUNDAY EVENINGS - monthly - discussion (satsang) and meditation practice in my home yoga room. By invitation only as the room is small.
COURSE - Introduction to Ayurveda, the Yogic System of Medicine - 5 weekends September 2017 - February 2018 - St Margaret's House, London Road Edinburgh. Starts very soon, September 9th and 10th. My input is teaching yoga as it interweaves, supports and is supported by good physical health from Ayurvedic living. Places available - contact Elizabeth Roberts on email@example.com
VISITING TEACHER our beloved Swami Pragyamurti Saraswati returns to Dundee for a weekend seminar, 10 am - 4 pm each day, September 16th /17th. She will continue her theme from last year of Yoga and Tantric practices. Enquiries /book a place to Vedavanam on firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope to see you at class!
Hari OM all
"Therapeutic yoga" may well be a bit of a misnomer - surely all yoga has healing properties, in the sense of bringing together body, mind and spirit. There is certainly an amazing amount of scientific evidence building up, confirming what the ancient Rishis have always taught.
Drawing towards the end of my teaching year, I've been reflecting on the role yoga has played and continues to play in my own life. If events get in the way of my morning practice, so that I have to shorten it or (aargh) miss it out, the day doesn't feel right. it's not only or even primarily because I need a daily practice to be able to teach. Yoga - including the daily mantras, asanas, pranayama and meditation - is what I call my life-support system for body, mind and spirit. Recently I read in a blog post from the ever-interesting Yoga for Healthy Aging team that "it’s sounding more and more like BKS Iyengar had it right when he said:
"Where does the body end and the mind begin? Where does the mind end and the spirit begin? They cannot be divided as they are inter-related and but different aspects of the same all-pervading divine consciousness."
Now that I'm in my seventies I depend even more on asana practice to maintain flexibility, keep enough bodily strength and work on maintaining the best balance I can after the depredations of foot surgery. As yoga is an amazing holistic system it's the whole tool-kit that counts, but if I had a favourite part it would be Pranayama. Breathing practices bring energy, emotional settling and resilience, leading to meditation practice for that inner sense of peace and wholeness. During the events of the day I can use my mantra silently and no-one can tell. And even a short evening practice - such as candle-gazing while reflecting on the day, and then chanting the beautiful Shanti Path - helps to bring better sleep.
So - back to what I mean by using the expression "therapeutic" yoga. I feel privileged to teach all my classes but especially the ones modified for people with a variety of health conditions. It's been estimated that around 40% of the UK population has at least one longer term health condition, and many may have a complex mixture. I try to work with class members to find versions of each asana, or sequence of asanas, that remain true to the essence of the pose, using variations in the poses, chairs, blocks and sometimes belts, to provide support and make sure everyone in the class has something they can be working on. Breathing practices and pranayama are very valuable, as are Yoga Nidra and short meditations.
There's no striving to achieve after a particular effect; a famous yogi called Sri Krishnamacharya (teacher of BKS Iyengar) said "Don't adapt yourself to yoga; adapt yoga to yourself". Some years ago I met an experienced yoga practitioner who didn't seem to be moving in any way, when I was teaching a large group in Belfast. She explained that she'd been in hospital and was convalescing, so being very careful. She told me she was doing the advanced practice- visualizing it! I've used that expression many times since then.
Of course it's not just the class content - the group support is a key factor. There's quite a lot of laughter, especially with practices such as chair versions of Roaring Lion and Archer pose, but also some really thoughtful discussions on aspects of yoga philosophy and how we can apply them to our lives. I hope that all these elements blend so that the unique therapeutic system that is yoga can work its magic on the whole person - body, mind and spirit.
Update on classes and courses
The weekly group classes in Edinburgh and West Lothian will finish for the summer on July 31st and start again in the first week in September. You'll find details of the fabulous new West Lothian venue for our Wednesday evening class, the Choose YOU yoga studio in North Livingston, along with information about all the classes, on my website. I'm hoping to run a "Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs" course at Choose You but that will depend on numbers. The studio is proving so popular that it's a challenge to find a slot in which to teach!
I'm looking forward to teaching on the next "Introduction to Ayurveda, the Yogic System of Medicine" which starts in Edinburgh on September 9th. See the flyer below. There are still spaces on the course - contact the principal tutor Elizabeth Roberts on email@example.com
A sorrowful note about one of our Satyananda Swamis - Swami Satyaprakash Saraswati, Director of the Birmingham Satyananda Yoga Centre, which she founded. Some of you may have attended seminars she gave in Scotland - on one memorable occasion over 80 keen yogis attended her seminar in Glasgow! After a relatively short period of illness, Swami Satyaprakash died peacefully on June 29th. This wonderful soul will be much missed by her family, students and friends all over the world, both for her huge contribution to Satyananda Yoga in the UK and worldwide over the past 30 years and her feisty outgoing personality.
I hope you all have a pleasant summer break and I look forward to seeing everyone again in September.
With love and lots of OMMMs