Spring 2017 Newsletter

Submitted by Bijam on Sun, 09/04/2017 - 14:18

Hari OM all

Last term, in the weekly classes, we continued studying the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali looking at the Niyamas, the five observances or rules of personal discipline to create tranquillity in the mind in preparation for meditation.  I was in the middle of preparing a summary when I pressed the wrong button after 2 hours' work and deleted the lot.  A great opportunity to practice one of them, santosha (contentment).  

So I'll just send a brief newsletter about the classes beginning after Easter and go back to the Niyamas when I've recovered!  Rather than send it out as another newsletter, I've added it as a blog post on my website 


Weekly classes

Gate 55 - the class resumes on Monday 24th April.  

Currie Community High School - I hope Term 3 will start on Tuesday April 18th but that depends on numbers.  At present both classes are listed on www.joininedinburgh/currie so if you haven't re-registered please support your class; one or both will only run if numbers are sufficient. 

West Lothian - all classes resume on Wednesday 19th April.


Progressive Pranayama Course

Day 1 of this course I'm teaching was full but it's not too late to hop on board for the rest of it.  Day 1 was very preparatory, "Making Friends with the Breath".  The remaining dates (all Saturdays, 14.30 - 17.30) are

  • April 29th
  • May 20th
  • June 17th

It's happening at Santosa Yoga Studio, off Leith Walk, Edinburgh.  Booking is via the website of Edinburgh Community Yoga Outreach

(this doesn't work as a link so copy and paste address in to your search engine).  Each session is £20.  All proceeds go to ECYO.  


Swami GyanDharma weekend  "The Power of Awareness" May 13 & 14

There are a few places left on the weekend in Dunblane.   I'm really looking forward to it and would warmly encourage any of the more experienced students to book for it.   There will be an opening Hatha yoga class each morning , one taught by Yoga Jayanti and one by me: and as well as lots of discussion and practice of Antar Mouna (the Tantric meditation practice of Inner Silence) we'll have yoga nidra and a kirtan.  Bookings are through Carol Godridge - Tel. 01848 200681


And now an item of information about my classes.......

Prana Vidya retreat

Between May 24th and June 3rd I'll be at Mandala Yoga Ashram on a retreat.  I'm sorry, but there will have to be gaps in the schedules unless I can find people willing to teach in my place. I've been hoping to go on this programme  on Prana Vidya (taught by Swami GyanDharma) for 3 years and have finally decided to go this year.  The Gate 55 and Currie High School classes will only miss one week, (May 29th and 30th respectively) and Currie has agreed to add the missing week at the end of the term.  The West Lothian classes will unfortunately miss two (May 24th and 31st)  because of travelling on the 24th.   I'll see what I can do about finding someone to teach the classes.  


Wishing you all a very happy Easter.  See you next term!

Love and OMMMMs





Winter 2016 Newsletter

Submitted by Bijam on Mon, 19/12/2016 - 23:05

Hari OM everyone

My final newsletter of 2016 comes with good wishes for a very peaceful and joyful festive period to all my students and their  loved ones.  This time last year I sent out a newsletter decorated with little trees and starry snowflakes, but I don't know how to do that with this new format.  So you'll have to do the "advanced practice"...visualize them!

All my classes are now on a break until w/b January 9th 2017. 

One of the philosophical themes in the autumn term was Living an ethical life off the mat.

We looked each week at one of the Yamas, the succinct guides to our behaviour towards others recommended by Sage Patanjali in Chapter 2 of his Yoga Sutras. We've had some great discussions, so here's a reminder of some of what we covered:

The  purpose behind practising the 5 Yamas  is to calm the mind and prepare it for meditation practice. They are basic guidelines for living a life of personal fulfilment in respect of our relationships with others. Patanjali makes clear the consequences of not following those precepts: simply that we will continue to suffer. One verse I love explains why we aspire to practice them:

"These are called the

great universal vows

when they are extended unconditionally 

to nurture everyone,

regardless of status,

place, time or circumstance."

 A high aspiration especially at the present time of trouble in all corners of the planet.  

Reflecting on them and trying to live in accordance with them may help refine our intentions for our practice. The Yamas aren't harsh rules but a description of human potential. They offer us the means to live with deeper consciousness, integrity and joy. Applying them to our lives one at a time, perhaps keeping a note in a little diary, makes a very worthwhile practice. The five Yamas are:

Ahimsa - non-violence - avoidance of harm to any other sentient being.

Heads the list, and is seen as the root of the other four yamas.  Non-violence encompasses giving up the spirit of malice or hatred, including avoiding the violence of harsh thoughts, words, and of course deeds.  Mahatma Gandhi is often quoted as the exemplar of the practice of Ahimsa.

 Satya – truthfulness

Truthfulness defined as one's words and thoughts being in exact correspondence.  Lively discussion about modern political discourse, in the week of the presidential election in the USA.  An important aspect of Satya is to try to express your vision of truth in a way that does the least harm and preferably does good.  No words can reflect truth unless they flow from the spirit of non-violence.

Asteya, non-stealing; sometimes translated as honesty or integrity

Lots of interpretations of how to practice this, ranging from the obvious one of not being light-fingered with other people’s property to making sure we don’t steal the ideas or time of others, share unwillingly, or buy too much for our needs.  

Brahmacharya – Variously interpreted as celibacy, chastity, moderation.  In a narrow sense, Brahmacharya is sexual abstinence, believed to be essential in developing the inner vigour needed to go forward in spiritual practice.  More broadly, Mahatma Gandhi defines Brahmacharya as "control of the senses in thought, word and deed". Other commentators call it "moderation".  Another lively discussion!  Have more modern translations watered it down or is it that the original commentators from centuries ago were all men, perhaps struggling with the vital forces inherent in human life?  A translation  I like by Mukunda Stiles is:

By abiding in behaviour that respects the Divine as ever-present, one acquires an inspired passion for life. (Chapter 2, verse 38)

Aparigraha - freedom from greed, non-covetousness

One who perseveres on the path of non-covetousness gains deep understanding of the meaning of life. One who is not greedy is secure.  He has time to think deeply if not preoccupied by acquiring unnecessary goods. Some wry observations about how hard it is to practice this in the present throw-away society! 

Next term we'll continue with the five Niyamas, personal principles of positive action. 

All classes learned a new mantra, which developed beautifully over the last few weeks, Om Mani Padme Hum.  One of the members of the Bathgate class recorded us chanting it and I can send round a link to the recording on request; please email me. 

See you all in the new year, I hope.

with love and OMMMMs












Autumn 2016 Newsletter - Ayurveda and Yoga

Submitted by Bijam on Mon, 17/10/2016 - 22:00

Hari Om all

Autumn greetings!   Firstly, just a note to remind everyone who comes to my classes that I'm not teaching this week.  Normal service will resume on Monday October 24th.  Allegedly I'm spending time de-cluttering and tidying, but time alone will tell......

I hope you all enjoyed the "Indian summer" in September but colder, wetter weather has definitely set in now, with the shortening days.  Autumn is of course the transition between summer and winter, but a season in its own right, a "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" but also gusts and gales to bring the leaves down efficiently.  

My way of greeting autumn weather is to embark on an Ayurvedic cleansing programme.  They are typically done in Spring and Autumn. It's going to change my eating habits quite markedly for two weeks, with herbs, lots of water, and no between meal snacks.  Wish me luck!    Some of you will know I'm involved in teaching yoga and pranayama to students on the "Introduction to Ayurveda" course.  I've been studying with Elizabeth Roberts, an Ayurvedic practitioner who devised the course, since 2010 and, although completely different in its approach to the Western allopathic medicine I practised for over 42 years, I'm appreciating the ancient wisdom of living in harmony with the ebb and flow of nature's cycles and one's own constitution.  

But what is Ayurveda, and why is it relevant to Yoga?  Who better to explain it than David Frawley, a prolific author of books on yoga and Ayurveda.  We used a quote from him in our Prospectus:

.     “Ayurveda is the Vedic science of healing for both body and mind.  Yoga is the Vedic science of self-realisation that depends on a well-functioning body and mind… The foundation of Yoga should be Ayurveda and the fruits of Ayurveda, Yoga”.  (David Frawley). 

Perhaps more simply put, Ayurveda and Yoga are described as sister sciences, or even different aspects of the same science.  They work together.   Ayurveda tells us how to live a healthy lifestyle, with attention to proper food, exercise - including but not restricted to yoga asanas - and rest, according to one's own constitution.  Yoga began not as some kind of workout but as a philosophy of living, a path of personal and spiritual development, seeking inner peace, harmony and freedom.  Yoga practices should ideally be tailored to our constitution, the time of day, the season and so on.  By the way, if you're finding in your home practice that balance poses are a struggle at present, that's actually to be expected in the autumn season.  So no need to worry about it.

Looking forward to seeing you all back at class next week.


August 2016 Newsletter

Submitted by Bijam on Wed, 17/08/2016 - 10:40

News and Notes

Hari Om everyone

First of all, I hope you've all had a lovely summer and are looking forward to classes starting back.  Especial good wishes to the several students who will embark on Yoga Scotland courses - three  Foundation, one Living Yoga course and one teacher training.  I'd like also to mention that the summer classes for charity raised the magnificent sum of £220 - thank you all for your generosity.  Donations will be made to Freedom from Torture and a local charity sending injured ex-service personnel on a yoga retreat.

I'm home from my travels and turning my attention to the new term of yoga classes and seminars.  My two retreats this summer included a fortnight at Swami Vedantananda's centre in the hills above the Algarve, with a four day practice called Tattwa Shuddhi (intended to clear out mental rubbish!) followed by a week of karma yoga, a challenging practice that involves moment to moment awareness while working at whatever tasks are set.  It was mainly clearing the land because there's a very high risk of fire there.  It was so hot we tried as much as possible to work in the shade of trees.  The second retreat was in South Wales at Mandala Yoga Ashram, a celebration of the 30th anniversary of establishing the Ashram.  It was marvellous - the highlight for me was the 3 - day havan with continuous chanting of the Gayatri mantra.  I recorded some of it so those of you who were practising it with me before the summer break may be interested.  Heart-warming, illuminating, fabulous.  

Class schedule update

Meditation Group

Sunday evenings 7.30 pm, every 3 -4 weeks.   Will restart on Sunday September 4th.  I'll contact the members individually.  

Weekly classes

  • Gate 55 Sighthill 16.30 -18.00.  Class recommences Monday 22 August.  We’ll continue using the Gayatri mantra as a theme and also I’m thinking of introducing (or revising for some) Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  I’ll explain on Monday!
  • Currie Community High School The 2016-17 session begins on Tuesday September 20th.   It seems that the class sessions will return to the three 10 week terms.   If numbers signing up permit, there will again be two classes – a gentle/beginners/therapeutic class and the intermediate class as before.  Sign up via
  • West Lothian - Wednesdays Chair yoga class  13.15-14.30.  Starts back 24th August.  Ability Centre, Carmondean, Livingston.

Bathgate Partnership Centre, South Bridge

  • Therapeutic Yoga class   16.45 -18.15.  This class starts back Wednesday 24th August.  
  • General (mixed level) class 18.30 – 20.00 also begins again on Wednesday 24th August, with the additional discussion & meditation class 20.05-20.45. 

Future Events

Edinburgh & Lothians Yoga Association, of which I’m a committee member, has two seminars still to come in 2016

  • Saturday 17th September - Sue McLennan
  • Saturday 19th November with Judie & Ali Freeman

Both seminars are at ELYA's new venue, St. Margaret's House London Road Edinburgh.  Details on the ELYA website.

I'll send out a separate newsletter about an exciting event in May 2017 - a two-day seminar in Dunblane on "The Power of Awareness" in May 2017 with Swami GyanDharma from Mandala Yoga Ashram.  

Contact details



Phone: 07966 573 804

See you all soon!

With love, Bijam


Five levels of our being

Submitted by Bijam on Tue, 19/04/2016 - 13:18

In my personal practice and my teaching, I find the concept of the five aspects of ourselves – the pancha koshas – a vital foundation to help me create practice plans addressing all the aspects.  Pancha is a Sanskrit word that simply means five, and kosha means sheath.   All aspects are to be nourished and supported by different practices in the "yoga toolkit" (as my teacher Swami Pragyamurti calls it).  

 Another way of putting it is that we humans are like a lamp that has five lampshades over our light. Each of the lampshades is a different colour and density. As the light shines through the lampshades, it is progressively changed in colour and nature. On the one hand, the shades provide the individualized beauty of each lamp. Yet, the lampshades also obscure the pure light.  

This mystical concept dates right back many thousands of years to the Taittiriya Upanishad.  [The word Upanishad refers to teachings received "at the feet of the teacher".]  

The Taittiriya speaks of five levels  of functioning through which we can achieve self-realization:

  •  The anna-maya-atma or the "Self (atma) made of Food" (anna = food)
  • The prana-maya-atma or "the Self made of Vital Breath (prana)
  • The mana-maya-atma or "the Self made of Mind (manas)" 
  • the Vijnana-maya-atma or "the Self made of Consciousness or intellect (vijnana)" 
  • the Ananda-maya-atma or "the Self made of Bliss (ananda)", where one attains realization

 Note that instead of the word kosha or sheath, the Upanishad speaks of atma or soul.  Maya is sometimes said to mean "made of" [anna, prana etc) whereas it is also said by much later scholars - perhaps even 1500 years later - that maya means "illusion" or even "delusion", This brings a a focus on the problems that arise when we believe the illusion that we are only the body, or only the mind, confusing one part of us with the whole.  Think about our modern preoccupation with our body shape, our physical health, or even “I think, therefore I am”.  But we can make good use of these parts of us to make progress: for example the breath is closely connected to the mind and affects emotional states.  So, too, can physical postures.  Yoga works holistically on the level of our whole being.    .

First layer or sheath – Annamaya kosha - the physical body - anna means food

We are born into the physical world, which is the outermost, solid layer.  Our body awareness is the entry point to the process of moving towards spiritual enlightenment and for many people a great introduction is via the body-based practices of hatha yoga.   But we can hold to the illusion that we are the body and that’s all we are.   Perhaps we can develop towards regarding the body as temple of the soul, to be cherished and kept as healthy as possible by  asanas, pranayama, shatkarmas (cleansing practices), a modest, balanced diet & fasting and the right amount of rest.

Second aspect – Pranamaya kosha – the energy level: the layer of our being connected with prana, life force.  Some people also call it the aura.  We are energy beings, constantly taking in and giving out energy.  As we start to practice awareness of the physical body in the asanas, we begin to feel and become aware of breath, sensations and emotions.  Pranamaya kosha is said to be the link between body and mind, and pranayama practices can help to restore balance to body and mind.   And of course we can practice this at any time of the day, not just when doing asanas.  Purified by asanas (+breath awareness), specific pranayama practices and mouna (silence).

Third aspect – Manomaya kosha – the reactive mind: manas = mind.  Often described as the “lower” or instinctive and reactive mind, it is a crucial part of our functioning.  Its job is to make sense of the world as we experience it via the five senses.  Mind is supported and  purified by asanas + breath awareness, pranayama, fasting, karma yoga,  chanting and meditation.

Fourth aspect– Vignanamaya kosha (the gn is pronounced as in the Spanish word mañana).  This layer, sometimes referred to as the intellectual sheath, has the functions of reflecting and applying wisdom and discrimination.  Purified by karma yoga, meditation, positive thinking, and self study.

Fifth aspect – Anandamaya kosha or bliss.  This innermost sheath expresses the idea that we are, in our innermost true Self, in a state of bliss at our still centre where we know all we need to know and can see things clearly.  Unfortunately it doesn't  last unless we are truly and permanently an enlightened being, but even a glimpse is deeply satisfying.

Perhaps this structure will help us include different practices in the life-support system known as Yoga, which is far, far more than asanas. You'll find more information in my most recent blog and I'm planning to link this newsletter with practice plans.