Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Yoga with Mark in Corfe Mullen

Mark Allcock is starting a new yoga class in Corfe Mullen in the New Year. The class will be on Thursday mornings from 10:30 to 12 noon at St Nicholas' and starts on 14th January 2010.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Yoga for the winter solstice

For those of you who like to honour the change of season in your yoga practice there are some suggestions for yoga practice at the winter solstice on the website. In the classes this week we are telling the nativity story with yoga poses. (The postures included vary slightly each year but the basic sequence is given on the website.)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Why do yoga?

I started to write a piece about reasons for practicing yoga and the benefits associated with yoga. But it got a little large for a post! So I've put it on the website. Here are the opening few lines. It they tempt you to read further please click on the link above or at the end of the extract to read the full article.


"Improved flexibility, increased strength, relaxation, stress-relief, improved health and increased feelings of well-being.

These benefits, which occur when we practice of yoga, are well known and are some of the reasons many people practice hatha (pronounced hat – ha) yoga (bodywork, breath work and relaxation). Less well known or spoken about are attributes which have come to be important in my own practice – self-knowledge or self-understanding, personal integration and a move to wholeness.

The word yoga is a Sanskrit word commonly translated as union although I prefer to use wholeness or integration..."

Read the complete article Why Do Yoga?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Ustrasana - the camel

It's been a little while since I've looked at ustrasana (camel pose) in my practice and when I have practiced it I have been keeping my arms overhead to shift the focus away from trying to reach the heels and to keep space in the body.

Today as I practiced it dawned on me that maybe, rather like the sage pointing his finger to the moon, the yogis were bringing their hands to their feet to draw attention to the foot and it's importance to the action (the fool only sees the finger or in this case the hands on the heels!).

Using the feet as in the standing poses and bringing the back of the head back brought me into a very happy camel (although the toenails were not so happy at finding themselves pressed so strongly into the floor) and the hands found the feet effortlessly.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Introduction to yoga courses for beginners

I am starting two "Introduction to Yoga Courses" in January 2010. One will run for 6 Thursday evenings between 18:30 and 19:30 starting on 14th January and the second will be run over 2 Saturday mornings (9th and 16th January). The cost for either course is £30. Both courses will take place at Poole Yogashala and will be restricted to a maximum of 8 persons.  Full details and course outline are on the website.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Thow away Jung!

"When you observe the fact without knowledge, then you can learn...

So I have to throw away not only Freud and Jung, but also the knowledge which I have acquired about myself yesterday."

J. Krishnamurti in "Meeting Life" Page 57

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Meaning of Self-knowledge


Notes and quotes from the final chapter of Jung's "The Undiscovered Self" The meaning of Self-knowledge.

The unconscious is not inferior and merely negative. It contains potentialities of great dynamism. Whether these potentialities if realised tend towards construction or catastrophe depends upon the attributes of the conscious mind.

The spiritual transformation of mankind cannot be hurried or held up. It will not come to fruition in a single generation. Individuals who have been transformed will influence others. Not by persuading or preaching but by the "fact that anyone who has insight into his own actions, and has thus found access to the unconscious, involuntarily exercises an influence on his environment." (page 76)

The unconscious "compensates the attitude of the conscious mind and anticipates changes to come." (page 77)

"All our social goals commit the error of overlooking the psychology of the person for whom they are intended and - very often - of promoting only his illusions." (page 79)

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Self-knowledge


Notes and quotes from Chapter 6 of Jung's "The Undiscovered Self" Self-knowledge

The unconscious is our only accessible source of religious experience.The 'God' experienced is an "anthropomorphic idea whose dynamism and symbolism are filtered through the medium of the unconscious psyche." It is doubtful that this is the same God spoken of in metaphysics and theology.

"The unconscious, if not regarded outright as a sort of refuse bin underneath the conscious mind is at any rate supposed to be of "merely animal nature." In reality, however, and by definition it is of uncertain extent and constitution, so that overvaluation or undervaluation of it is groundless and can be dismissed as mere prejudice." (page 64)

"Self-knowledge, as well as being highly unpopular, seems to be an unpleasantly idealistic goal, reeks of morality, and is preoccupied with the psychological shadow, which is normally denied whenever possible or at least not spoken of." (page 66)

"Nature, as we know, is not so lavish with her boons that she joins to a high intelligence the gifts of the heart also. As a rule, where one is present the other is lacking and where one capacity is present in perfection it is generally at the cost of all the others." (page 66)

Man is capable of terrible acts but we do not see the evil in ourselves, it's always other people that do these things. Each of us has a share of human nature and therefore has the capacity and inclination to do evil things. Our human nature means that we are always potential criminals. Projection of evil onto another strengthens the other because the fear we feel for our own evil is also projected. What we call evil is lodged in human nature as the equal and opposite to 'good'. Denial of evil in ourselves leads to further unconscious dissociation in man.

The unconscious communicates with us through spontaneous ideas, intuition and hunches.

"fear of the evil which one does not see in one's own bosom but always in somebody else's checks reason every time." (page 71)

The individual is a constituent part of society and organisations which are the sum of their parts. They too always see the evil in the opposite group.

Attempts are made to level out social contrasts by applying idealism and ignoring the individual and group shadow. To be ideal is impossible - it goes beyond human capacity. We need to acknowledge imperfection in our human relationships to create real cohesion and a strong society.

"Insight that dawns slowly seems to me to have more lasting effects than a fitful idealism, which is unlikely to hold out for long." (page 74)


Monday, 23 November 2009

The Philosophical and Psychological Approach to Life


More notes and quotes from Jung's "The Undiscovered Self". Chapter 5 The Philosophical and Psychological Approach to Life.

Our ideas/philosophy of life only change when conditions are radically altered. New ideas cannot simply be dictated by the external situation they must also take into account man's biological needs and his inner situation.

Most of the religions express a world view appropriate to the Middle Ages and take no account of the mental developments since then. As a result there is a gulf between faith and knowledge - a symptom of split consciousness. As the individual so the society of which he is a member.

The legacy of the Christian epoch is the "supremacy of the word".

"People think you only have to "tell" a person that he "ought" to do something in order to put him on the right track. But whether he can or will do is another matter. The psychologist has come to see that nothing is achieved by telling, persuading, admonishing, giving good advice." (page 55)

Preservation of the species and preservation of the self are two fundamental instincts which often come into conflict. According to Jung it is probable that all man's psychic functions have an instinctual foundation. It is the learning capacity of man that causes modifications to instinct. Jung proposes that learning capacity is based on an instinct for imitation the nature of which is to disturb other instinctive activities and modify them. The learning capacity takes man away from his instinctual foundation. He then identifies with his conscious knowledge of himself resulting in disturbances and difficulties.

Separation creates conflict between conscious and unconscious, spirit and nature, knowledge and faith.

"There is an unconscious as a counterbalance to consciousness." (page 59)

"Conscious deliberations, uncontrolled by any inner opponent, can be indulged in all too easily." (page 60)

"The religious person, so far as one can judge, stands directly under the influence of the reaction from the unconscious. As a rule, he calls this the operation of conscience. But since the same psychic background produces reactions other than moral ones, the believer is measuring his conscience by the traditional ethical standard and thus by a collective value." (page 62)

"Here we must ask: Have I any religious experience and immediate relation to God, and hence that certainty which will keep me, as an individual, from dissolving in the crowd?" (page 62)


 


Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Individual's Understanding of Himself

Notes on and great quotes from the fourth chapter of Jung's "The Undiscovered Self".

"Man is an enigma to himself" (page 31) Since he lacks criteria for self-judgement the psyche remains one of Nature's secrets. While the psyche can be disturbed by processes in the brain it is not a secondary function dependent only on biochemical process. It has a non-reduceable nature and holds within itself the phenomenon of consciousness.

"Consciousness is a precondition of being."

The individual is a manifestation of the psyche and is an exception to the statistical rule. Both science and Church regard individuality as egotistic obstinacy. This is ironic since the core symbol of Christianity is the individual way of life of a man (the Son of Man) which is regarded as the "incarnation and revelation of God himself".

Instincts, the foundations of the psyche, are found in the unconscious. They are ineradicable and their numinous quality arouses fear and impedes self-knowledge. Talking about the medical psychologist Jung says: "At first he will apply principles based on general experience, but he will soon realize that principles of this kind do not adequately express the facts and fail to meet the nature of the case. The deeper his understanding penetrates, the more the general principles lose their meaning." (page 36) Seems to reflect my experience with yoga teaching too!

"there is the natural cowardice of most men to be reckoned with, not to mention morality, good taste and - last but not least - the penal code. This fear is nothing compared with the enormous effort it usually costs people to help the first stirrings of individuality into consciousness, let alone put them into effect." (page 38 - 39)

" Let [society] band together into groups and organizations as much as it likes - it is just this banding together and the resultant extinction of the individual personality that makes it succumb so readily to a dictator." (page 39)

Jung examines the Churches wish to use mass action in spite of their care being the salvation of the individual soul disregarding the axiom that "the individual becomes morally and spiritually inferior in the mass". (page 40)

"If the individual is not truly regenerated in spirit, society cannot be either, for society is the sum total of individuals in need of redemption." (page 40)

"The inner man remains unchanged however much community he has. His environment cannot give him as a gift that which he can win for himself as a gift that which can win for himself only with effort and suffering." (page 41)

In a favourable environment there is a tendency to expect everything to originate from outside - effortlessly. In a mass-movement there is security, no need to think, to make decisions, to take responsibility. This easily can lead to tyranny and spiritual and physical slavery of the individual. Even if an institution still takes some account of the individual it may be compelled to adopt immoral and ruthless behaviour if it comes into conflict with the organized State.

"Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself." The dissociated individual needs a directing and ordering principle. Ego-consciousness is unable to take on this role while it is unaware of unconscious factors.

"The religious impulse rests on an instinctive basis and is therefore a specifically human function. You can take away a man's gods, but only to give him others in return." (page 46)

Instinct is specific and irreducible, it is older than the body's form. Our conscious activity is rooted in instinct. This is suited to an archaic mode of life but not the the present. Remolding of such primordial patterns of ideas is required to meet the challenge of the present.


Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Position of the West on the Question of Religion


Notes on the third chapter of Jung's "The Undiscovered Self" which was first published in 1957. Jung was writing at the time of the rise of the communists states and the iron curtain. In this chapter Jung is writing specifically about the response of the West to socialist dictatorships but what he has to say is equally explicable to current world events.

Regarding dictator states "only one possibility remains, and that is a breakdown of power from within, which must, however, be left to follow its own inner development. Any support from outside at present would have little effect, in view of the existing security measures and the danger of nationalistic reactions." (page 24)

"We know that even the biggest guns and the heaviest industry with its relatively high living standard are not enough to check the psychic infection spread by religious fanaticism. The West has unfortunately not yet awakened to the fact that our appeal to idealism and reason and other desirable virtues, delivered with so much enthusiasm, is mere sound and fury. It is a puff of wind swept away in the storm of religious faith, however twisted this faith may appear to us. We are faced, not with a situation that can be overcome by rational or moral arguments, but with an unleashing of emotional forces and ideas engendered by the spirit of the times, and these, as we know from experience, are not much influenced by rational reflection and still less by moral exhortation." (page 25)

According to Jung the antidote to emotional forces is a potent faith of a different and non materialistic kind. Such a faith does not exist in the West. The problem with the Churches is that the creeds are today based more on belief than inner experience. When belief collides with knowledge it it no match for it. Jung argues for a symbolic interpretation of Christian mythology. If the creeds are interpreted symbolically rather than literally then there is no conflict with knowledge.

As I read this chapter I was reminded of an incident in the life of Gandhi which seems to illustrate how a potent faith can stand against emotional forces. At the time of partition in the Indian subcontinent there was much sectarian blood letting. Gandhi went to stay in the Muslim quarter in Calcutta. When a Hindu mob demanded that he leave Gandhi refused saying that they could kill him if they wished but that he would not leave while one Muslim remained afraid. The mob dispersed and the killing in Calcutta ceased.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Knees again


My knees have been giving me a bit of bother on and off throughout the last year. At a yoga day just over a week ago I aggravated the left knee by going into maricyasana from a sort of half squat (didn't do the pose that way on the right!). I decided to take a rest from postures that involve flexing the knee combined with external rotation as that causes me pain. It seems that fate had other ideas. Last week some electric sliding doors tried to kill me. My left hand and arm were struck as the doors suddenly closed. I was spun around and then the door caught me on the right side of my forehead. So now it seemed weight bearing on head and hands were out too. The list of postures available for practice was rapidly diminishing. A little voice in my head suggested that this might be a good opportunity to explore (or continue to explore) the relationship between the foot, ankle, knee and hip.

Over the years I have heard many yoga teachers advise students experiencing inner knee pain to put something like a folded sock or a small sponge behind the knee as you flex it to "keep the joint open" whatever that means. This doesn't help me and I feel that it isn't really addressing the problem - just trying to get around it. Another option sometimes adopted is to not do the movement at all. That would avoid the pain but not help the body to wholeness. Wouldn't it be better to find a more intelligent way of working so that you don't need to resort to tricks or avoidance? After all I want my practice to inform my daily life. So using pain as a feedback mechanism I continue my exploration. I have had glimpses of understanding. To summarise - the ankle, knee and hip work as a team. There is a relationship between them that must be respected. When I respect relationship I can flex and rotate in a pain free way (and it's OK that the knee is not on the floor!) when I don't, when ambition takes over then there is pain.

I remembered a poem that I read years ago. It was by Swami Sivananda and was about pain being a great teacher. I couldn't find the poem but here are a few quotes from Sivananda on the subject:

Pain is an eye-opener

Pain is thy silent teacher

There is no teacher like pain

Monday, 16 November 2009

Religion as the counterbalance to mass-mindedness

Here is my summary of the second chapter of Jung's "The Undiscovered Self"

It is in the state's (i.e. those who manipulate the state) self-interest to remove the individual's dependence on anything but the state e.g. religion. But religion is more about the individual's psychic attitude and not directly social and physical conditions. Religions give a reference point outside of social and physical conditions which enables the individual to exercise their judgement.

Jung differentiates between religion and creed, defining religion as the relationship of an individual to God and a creed as a confession of faith in a collective belief. Creeds have codified their views, customs and beliefs and externalised themselves to such an extent that the external point of reference has become of minor importance.

"It is not ethical principles, however lofty, or creeds, however orthodox, that lay the foundations for the freedom and autonomy of the individual, but simply and solely the empirical awareness, the incontrovertible experience of an intensely personal, reciprocal relationship between man and an extramundane authority which acts as a counterpoise to the "world" and its "reason"." (page 15)

Man, as a social being, cannot live without ties to society but the individual needs an extramundane principle to relativise the influence of external factors. Where the State has taken the place of God doubts arise which the individual represses so as to avoid conflict with the majority resulting in overcompensation and fanaticism. The purpose of religion is to maintain psychic balance. Ritual and magic have an important psychological effect. The State as God doesn't give the individual protection against his inner demons and hence "he will cling all the more to the power of the State, i.e., to the mass, this delivering himself up to is psychically as well as morally and putting the finishing touch to his social depotentiation."

Real and fundamental change can only come from personal encounters which touch the inner man.

Wyrd

It's wyrd how everything I read or hear at the moment seems to be about self-knowledge! Yesterday I picked up Awareness Through Movement by Moshe Feldenkrais and started to read the preface. The opening words, which I have chosen for today's Little Pearl, are "We act in accordance with our self-image. This self-image - which in turn, governs our every act - is conditioned in varying degree by three factors: heritage, education, and self-education."

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The plight of the individual in society

The only Jung that I have read previously are his "Seven Sermons to the Dead" in "The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead" by Stephan Hoeller. Recently in a bookshop my eyes were drawn to his "The Undiscovered Self" a small book that looked eminently readable. I have now gotten around to reading it and here is my summary of what Jung has to say on "The plight of the individual in society" (chapter1).

The individual is at risk of psychic infection as a result of limited self-knowledge and subject to levelling down as a result of scientific rationalism.

Psychic Infection
An intelligent, mentally stable stratum of the population stops the spread of extreme ideas. This stratum is dependent upon national temperament and education and is influenced by political and economic factors. But "Rational arguement can be conducted with some prospect of success only so long as the emotionality of a given situation does not exceed a certain critical degree. If the affective temperature rises above this level, the possibility of reason's having any effect ceases and its place is taken by slogans and chimerical wish-fantasies. That is to say, a sort of collective possession results which rapidly develops into a psychic epidemic." (page 2) This happens because in most of us self-knowledge is limited to knowledge of the ego, that is to knowledge of the conscious. The unconcious is not known. As a result of limited self-knowledge an individual can easily be swayed by fanatic outside influences and what Jung calls psychic infections. In the state of "collective possession" the ideas of fanatics and extreminsts appeal to the collective irrationality. "The mass crushes out the insight and reflection that are still possible with the individual." (page 2)

Levelling Down
Any theory based on experience is statistical and formulates an ideal average which does not necessarily exist. Reality consists of exceptions to the rule. It is the unique which characterises the individual so there can be no statistical based theory to self-knowledge. Understanding an individual requires a free and open mind and putting aside all knowledge of mankind in general, knowledge of which is based on statistics.

"The positive advantages of knowledge, work specifically to the disadvantage of understanding." (page 6)

With a statistical world view everything is levelled to a conceptual average displacing the individual and replacing his moral responsibility with the policy of the state. As a result the individual becomes uncertain of her own judgement and delegates responsibility to the collective.

"The individual is increasingly deprived of the moral decision as to how he should live his own life, and instead is ruled, fed, clothed and educated as a social unit, accommodated in the appropriate housing unit, and amused in accordance with the standards that give pleasure and satisfaction to the masses." (page 8).

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

November 11th


From Poppies
The earth on which we live is our earth - right? It is not the British earth, the French earth, or the German, Russian, Indian, Chinese, it is our earth on which we are all living. That is a fact. But thought has divided it racially, geographically, culturally, economically. That division is causing havoc in the world... It is our earth on which we are all living but we have divided it - for security, for various patriotic, political, illusory reasons, which eventually bring about war.

J. Krishnamurti in "On Nature and the Environment" page 73

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Yoga with Anne Sunday workshop

The last Yoga with Anne Sunday morning workshop for 2009 will be on 29th November. The workshop will be at Poole Yogashala from 10 to 12.30 and the cost is £15. The workshop is restricted to 8 people to allow for a more personalised learning experience. There are still places available. Contact Anne to book your place.

The dates for the first few Sunday morning workshops in 2010 are 10th January, 14th February and 21st March.

Mark's new website

Mark now has his own website. Its domain name is www.yogawithmark.co.uk On it you can find information about Mark and his yoga classes in Poole, Dorset plus an article about Yoga and the Martial Arts

It has a similar layout to the Yoga with Anne website. Although I took my website as a starting point the creation of Mark's website was not without its hitches! (read all the gory details) While building the website I've learnt a bit more about handling images efficiently which I will incorporate into my own website.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Snap, Crackle, Pop


Recently there has been a significant increase in the cracking of joints in class. I've noticed the same thing in previous years as Autumn takes hold and other teachers that I have spoken to have also heard the same thing! So I thought a little investigation would be in order. Here is more information about three causes of noisy joints which I think of as snap, crackle and pop.

Snap
The kneecap (patella) is a lens-shaped bone embedded in the tendon of the quadriceps femoris. On it's underside is a ridge which articulates with the thigh bone (femur). As the knee bends and straightens, the patella slides within a slot on the femur called the trochlear groove. The patella moves in many directions within this groove to provide efficient, frictionless movement up and down, side-to-side, rotational, and tilting.

Structural alignment and muscular weakness or imbalance may cause the patella (kneecap) to track improperly on the femur (thigh bone) during movement, leading to pain around the kneecap. Bending and straightening the knee can realign the kneecap. This may be accompanied by a snapping sound as the kneecap slides back into its groove. For more information about the patellofemoral joint and the structure of the knee visit http://www.steadman-hawkins.com/pate/overview.asp (This website also has information on the joints of the hip, foot, ankle, hand, shoulder and spine.) You can find strengthening and stretching muscles for the knee at http://www.bigkneepain.com/knee-exercises.html

Crackle
The crackly noise many of us hear when we move our head is called crepitus. It can occur in any of the synovial joints and is caused by bone rubbing against bone or roughened cartilage when an arthritic joint is moved.  Perhaps it should be called decrepitus!


Pop
The is the sound that set me off on my quest to find out why joints seem to be noisier in the autumn. I have spent some considerable time trawling the web without finding the answer. There's a lot out there about cracking your finger joints (not a good idea) and also about why joint pain increases with a drop in air pressure and increase in humidity (there is general agreement that the later really does happen; no 'scientific explanation' as to the cause and differences of opinion as to why it happens. It seems that a change in atmospheric pressure affects the synovial fluid in a joint causing it to expand and press outwards. Where through wear and tear or arthritis there is less or no cartilage to provide cushioning the fluid presses on pressure sensors in the joint which registers as pain) but not about non-deliberate popping.


Based on the little snippets of information I gleaned here and there, putting two and two together and hopefully making four, this is my explanation of what is happening when we hear a popping noise in a joint. When atmospheric pressure drops the pressure within the synovial fluid drops and gases that were in solution in the fluid come out of solution and form a gas bubble. Any sudden increase in pressure e.g. from bending a joint, causes caviation, the collapse of the gas bubble, which is accompanied by the familiar popping sound. The same process happens when someone deliberately cracks their finger joint only there it is the pulling apart of the bones that causes the decrease in pressure and bubble to form. In the same way that you cannot immediately crack your fingers again so it is with your knees and other joints. After caviation has occurred it cannot happen again until another bubble has formed.

How yoga may help
According to ayurveda autumn and early winter is the season of Vata, the quality of air and ether (think of windy autumn days). Dry skin, cracking joints and poor circulation are a result of vata dominance. Just what we experience at this time of year. Yoga has many exercises for the maintenance of healthy joints.

There are the pawanmuktasana series of exercises from the Bihar School of Yoga.
"The word pawan means 'wind' or 'prana'; mukta means 'release' and asana means 'pose'" Swami Satyananda 
So literally these are the wind releasing poses. The first past of the pawanmuktasana series are the anti-rheumatic group and are "simple, gentle and comfortable" movements for the joints. The pawanmuktasana series are described in Asana, Pranayama, Mudra and Bandha by Swami Satyananda.

From the Himalayan Institute come the Joints and Glands exercises of Swami Rama. These exercises, outlined in Swami Rama's book Exercises for Joints and Glands: Gentle Movements to Enhance Your Wellbeing,  systematically go through the body from top to toe exercising and massaging almost all of the joints and glands.

Regular performance of such exercises may help delay the onset or slow the progression of degenerative conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism or stiffness and help counter muscular imbalances which lead to improper patella tracking (the snap and the crackle) but I can't see that they will override the laws of physics so I guess we will still experience the 'popping' in the joints when the barometer falls.

... and Clunk
For some of us certain movements always cause a clunking sound. This is caused by tendon friction rub. The sound is caused by a tendon or other fascia rubbing against bone. The sound has been described as two pieces of leather being rubbed together. Lying on your back on the floor and making a circle with one leg results in a clunking sound in most people. It happens when the iliotibial band, tensor fascia lata, or gluteus medius tendon slides over the greater trochanter or less commonly when the iliopsoas tendon catches on the anterior inferior iliac spine, the lesser trochanter, or the iliopectineal ridge during hip extension. Causes include leg length difference (usually the long side is symptomatic), tightness in the iliotibial band on the involved side, weakness in hip abductors and external rotators, poor lumbopelvic stability and abnormal foot mechanics (Overpronation). Yoga poses which stretch the tight muscles will help.

Friday, 30 October 2009

New Morning Class for 2010

In January I will be starting a new yoga class on Wednesday mornings from 10.15 to 11.30 am in Poole. Full details on the website.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Krishnamurti on being attentive

I subscribe to JKOnline's daily quote. Here is the quote I have received for today.

"I am learning about myself—not according to some psychologist or specialist—I am watching and I see something in myself; but I do not condemn it, I do not judge it, I do not push it aside—I  just watch it. I watch that I am proud—let us take that as an example. I do not say, “I must put it aside, how ugly to be proud.”—but  I just watch it. As I am watching, I am learning. Watching means learning what pride involves, how it has come into being.  I cannot watch it for more than five or six minutes—if one can, that is a great deal—the next moment I become inattentive. Having been attentive and knowing what inattention is, I struggle to make inattention attentive. Do not do that, but watch inattention, become aware that you are inattentive—that is all. Stop there. Do not say, “I must spend all my time being attentive”, but just watch when you are inattentive. To go any further into this would be really quite complex . There is a quality of mind that is awake and watching all the time, watching though there is nothing to learn. That means a mind that is extraordinarily quiet, extraordinarily silent. What has a silent, clear mind to learn?"
 J. Krishnamurti The Impossible Question, pp 25-26
 
Wyrd!

Website refurbished!

The Yoga with Anne website has been refurbished. I feel that it's brighter and fresher. I hope that you like it.

The website is a DIY effort created using MS Publisher. Previously I was using a Publisher template. Now I am a little more proficient with the software I have abandoned the template and have created my own. I have been wanting to change the look of the website for a while now. The final spur for change was the discovery that IE8 does not display grouped items and Publisher uses a lot of grouped items in the template. Despite the limitations of Publisher it is good enough for what I need at the moment and better the devil you know! I think that the photo gallery could be improved upon but I'm not sure quite what to do with it so I have left it alone for the moment while I wait for inspiration (and possibly technical know how).

There is a lot of material on the web and I have no desire to replicate what is already readily available but if you think of anything that I could put on the website that would make it  more useful or enhance it then please let me have your ideas.

An arduous task

In light of the previous post the following words from Krishnamurti seem relevant.


"To look at oneself without an attitude, without any opinion, judgement, evaluation, is one of the most arduous tasks."
J. Krishnamurti in "On Nature and the Environment" page 54
 
Isn't it suprising how pertinent words find you. A short while ago I started the Little Pearls Blog a collection of inspiring and insightful words. (Almost) every day I add a new quote. As I read I note down quotes for future use. It suprises me how often quotes from different sources seem to follow a theme. Maybe it's what the universe wants me to hear right now. Maybe my psychological state makes me more likely to take notice of such words. Maybe they're the same thing anyway.

Monday, 26 October 2009

A black dog practice

It was a very dull afternoon and the gloom seemed to permeate my practice. As I performed the postures even old friends seemed like total strangers. Some days that's just how it is. At such times it is hard to stay attentive, to just be with how things are, without judgement, without wanting it to be different. It's all too easy to feel cross, frustrated, sorry and despair. How much easier it is when everything is sunny.

It would be good to report that as I got into my practice it dispelled the clouds but I can't. Instead I was given the opportunity of practising being present, of observing what was happening, the thoughts that arose and my reaction to them. More practice required!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Breathe Well, Be Well


Melanie Willsher, a follower of this blog, recently emailed me about an article by Denis Ouellette. In this article Ouellette seems to be describing what I experience during my breathing practice. If you are interested in your breathing have a look at the article. It can be useful to look at things in a different way and maybe Ouellette's imagery will help you in your own investigation into the breath. He describes the diaphragm as pear shaped and how on the inbreath the pear gets pushed down causing the abdomen, sides, lower back and kidney area to expand. From the words used one might think that it is the air filling the lungs that causes the diaphragm movement but (as he states elsewhere) the diaphragm is the primary muscle of respiration i.e. the movement of the diaphragm causes the lungs to fill. It is correct that as the diaphragm moves down on the inbreath the lower torso expands (belly moves out). Ouellette describes the torso between the navel and sternum as an inverted cone. After the pear has been depressed on the inbreath the air rises in the lungs causing the diameter of the cone to expand. I found the comments about the cone enlarging somewhat confused. One moment the author says the inbreath rises to open up the ribs and expand the chest and then he says that the ribs don't expand unless taking a deeper breath. My understanding is that the diaphragm moving down causes the air to come in to fill the lower lungs, the air then moves up into the upper lungs causing the lower ribs to expand laterally but without activation of the secondary muscles of respiration. These secondary muscles are activated when we take a deliberate big breath. Check out the following link for the basic facts of the biomechanics of respiration. Ouellette says the pear movement merges into the cone movement creating a continuous wave like movement of the breath. (Michael White gives a breathing practice to understand this breath wave on his website www.breathing.com)


Ouellette is concerned with optimising breathing mechanics and using breathwork as a method of self healing. Another thing that caught my eye in his article was the information that Otto Warberg won a Nobel Prize back in 1931 for determining that only oxygen-starved cells will mutate and become cancerous. The implication of this is that if we breathe well and keep our cells well oxygenated it will help us reduce the risk of cancer. As oxygen is carried to the cells by the blood I guess a healthy circulatory system is also required because no matter how well we are breathing if there is not a good blood supply to an area then the cells in that area will not be well oxygenated. Read Denis Ouellette's full article .


From Denis Ouellette's website I found my way to Michael White's website www.breathing.com and an article called Cancer Prevention and Cure? I was fascinated to learn that the heart never gets cancer. "Insufficient oxygen [to the heart] and you die and cancer or anything else is no longer an issue". To those who are undergoing treatment for cancer Mike suggests that you improve your breathing to have the best chance of success with any cancer program.  Many years ago, at a Tai Chi workshop, Richard Bertschinger told us that in China hospital patients are prescribed slow walking each day (around 2 or 3 steps per minute if I remember correctly)  with the exception of cancer patients who are given fast walking to flush out the toxins. This fast walking would also improve the circulation in the body and hence the oxygenation of the cells.


There are lots of articles on this website dealing with breathing and its relationship to various illnesses. Whether or not something ails us right now developing efficient and effective breathing would seem to be an intelligent thing to do to help us heal and to help us stay well. Check out with your health care provider before beginning any exercise program! While Mike White's website is a commercial site to promote his breathing programs it has a substantial amount of free material about what affects breathing and what breathing affects and it is a useful resource for those of us interested in breathing.





Friday, 9 October 2009

Posture

We've recently acquired a copy of Functional Anatomy of the Spine by Alison Middleditch and Jean Oliver
which I thought looked useful. In my practice I have been exploring what it means to stand up straight so I was particularly keen to read the chapter on posture. As this was the last chapter it meant skipping the first 326 pages (I will go back and read them at my leisure). I wasn't sure whether I knew enough about the spine to be able to leap straight in at the end like that but it was fine. My knowledge of A&P was up to it and the only thing I had to look up was to find out where the apophyseal joints were.



Most of us have been told at some time to "stand up straight". In response we tend to push our chest forwards, flatten the thoracic spine and pull our shoulder joints back as if we were on a parade ground.  Many of us, particularly desk-wallahs, spend our days slumped over with our spines flexed, over-stretching the muscles and tendons of the back of the body. Then suddenly we might remember our posture and haul ourselves upright. And so we alternate between slumping forward and pulling up. Yuk! It brings tension into our bodies and feels horrible. Why do we do that to our bodies?


I have found that to stand straight without tension with natural spinal curves is extremely difficult and demands a lot of attention But when I find that place it feels wonderful, the chest feels open and the lungs feel as if they are inflating like some sort of buoyancy aid! We have been looking at this in my yoga sessions too. Many of the participants, when shown a picture of the spine viewed from the side, were surprised to see just how sinuous the spine actually is and they too wondered why it is that we try and straighten it out. I don't know the answer but I suspect that it boils down to thought. The mind thinks that the spine should be straight and that it knows best! I was therefore interested to read on page 330 "In quiet standing, assuming that the curvatures of the spine are in correct alignment, surprisingly little muscular activity is required to maintain this position, slight or moderate activity being present for only 5% of the time." and "If the curvatures are not in correct alignment.. far greater muscular activity over the affected area is then required to maintain the upright posture.". In other words if our posture is less than ideal our muscles are having to work harder than they need to. Who, in their right minds, would want to do that?


After 17 years in the IT industry the end of my career was marked with painful RSI problems in my neck, arms and hands. As a result I am interested in learning anything about how to work smarter when sitting at a desk. Having read the chapter on posture a couple of times my understanding of the mechanics of what is involved has increased. Here is some advice based on what I have learnt.


Sitting
When sitting at a table or desk ensure that
  • your chair is at least 1/3 of your height
  • your table is at least 1/2 of your height
  • the table is not too high for the chair. If it is you will abduct your arms (elbows go out to the side) and the muscles of the neck and upper back have to work harder. Try bending your elbows and taking them a weeshy bit out to the side and feel the tension for yourself! I have this problem with our dining table and chairs so I am now sitting on a yoga block to eat.
  • Try to have the arms supported when writing or typing as this reduces muscular activity and intradiscal pressure.
Our back muscles have a very limited capacity for static muscle load i.e. they are not designed for holding us in one position for a long time. Change your posture frequently and make sure that your chair allows you to change your position.


If possible adjust the seat of your chair so that it slopes forwards. When we sit the pelvis tilts and the lumbar spine flexes. The greater the flexion at the hip the greater the flexion of the lumbar spine. As the muscles tire of holding us in an optimal sitting position the lumbar spine flexes more. When the body is slumped forwards the ligaments and fibres of the back are over-stretched and there is increased pressure on the discs. Having a seat which slopes forwards reduces lumbar flexion and the body is tilted closer to the working surface.


When we are working at a table we lean forward into the work and don't use the chair back. However when we are sitting to relax it is better to have the chair back reclined a little and to sit with our back supported. This reduces intradiscal pressure. Using a lumbar support in this position allows the muscles to rest and further reduces pressure on the discs.


Lifting
When you are lifting keep the object close to your body. The distance of the object from the body is more important than how you lift it in determining the load on the spine. Squat lift (bend your knees) if possible as this provides the greatest support to your back (but it requires more effort!). If you're lifting with a flexed spine - do it quickly. Whatever technique you are using don't twist or bend sideways while lifting as this can damage joints and discs.


Push Don't Pull When you push the recti muscles are tense and the load on the lumbosacral disc is less than when pulling.


My Knapsack on my back When carrying a load on your back have it lower on your back. This reduces the work of the back muscles.


Finally I was fascinated to learn that a woman is 30% weaker than a man of equivalent height, weight and training and that because her hip joints are more forward than a man's any weight seems 15% heavier.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Without the word, is there feeling? | Daily Quotes Arquive - J. Krishnamurti Online

I've signed up to receive a quote from Krishnamurti's teachings every day. I received this one today which I'd like to share. K is talking about envy but you can extrapolate to any feeling which we label.
Without the word, is there feeling? | Daily Quotes Arquive - J. Krishnamurti Online

Shared via AddThis

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Physiology and Pathology with Peter Blackaby

Last weekend we travelled to Ranby, Notts for a Physiology and Pathology course led by Peter Blackaby. Unfortunately Dr Christine Roberts who was to have co-led the course was unable to attend but we were fortunate that Peter is extremely knowledgeable and was more than able to teach the whole course by himself.

Peter's approach is that "yoga is to do with human integration, and the way we approach yoga is with this intention in mind. So, to the best of our understanding all the posture work and breathwork should work with the needs of the body thereby reducing somatic conflict."

Peter argues strongly for an inclusive approach to yoga classes wherever possible rather than the creation of classes for conditions (he does acknowledge that this is not always possible e.g. where someone is extremely limited in movement). The emphasis of the work is that we look at the individual and not the condition. Over the weekend we examined how when we work with awareness and attend to how well we perform the movement rather than trying to make a particular shape it is possible to include multiple conditions in a general class environment.

"The intention is to be as inclusive as possible; we should not try to separate people by illness anymore than we should by race or religion; someone with a heart condition still needs to move in all the ways a healthy person does, to breathe as effectively as possible. If we find easier ways to make people move, it will help whatever the condition they have." Peter Blackaby & Dr Christine Roberts

On Saturday we looked at the musculo-skeletal system. We started by lying in the semi-supine position and letting go of tension. We then moved on to some simple movements focusing on maintaining awareness and not introducing unnecessary muscular effort or tension as we performed them. At this stage we were not considering various pathologies but looking at how we might work to bring our students to normal functioning of the musculo-skeletal system and restore homeostasis by encouraging wholesome movements so that the student does not move into pain or tension. If a student cannot do a particular movement at all without tension or pain then we need to back off to something that they can do to work towards the function or movement involved. For example if someone is unable to weight bear then they could perform the same function is a sitting or even lying position. In the afternoon we looked at pathologies of the musculo-skeletal system and considered how, with everyone working in the above way, most pathologies can be included in regular classes. We need to look at the whole person and not the condition.

On Sunday morning Peter answered questions that we had about Saturday's material. He then wrapped up the musculo-skeletal system before leading us in a short asana session. After lunch we looked at the nervous system and some of it's pathologies including migraine, M.S., Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, stroke, and Alzheimer's. We learnt that yoga can be very helpful and that people with these conditions do not have to be excluded from general classes. Look at the whole person, work intelligently and do not have a fixed idea about the shape that the person should be in.

We also spent some time discussing the training of neural pathways. Students often think that they are not strong enough to perform a certain movement but usually it is the muscular co-ordination rather than strength that is lacking. By training our neural pathways we use our muscles more efficiently and strength becomes less of an issue.

Thanks to Pete for an interesting, informative and stimulating weekend and thanks to Christine and Dave Clarke of The Jasmine Trust for organising the weekend and providing a lovely lunch each day.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Dilbert & Yoga

I remembered some Dilbert cartoon strips that came out when I was working at the bank. A quick trawl on the web and voila here they are. Click on the strip to go to Dilbert.com to see the whole thing:
Dilbert.com
Dilbert.com
The second cartoon has been animated. View on Babelgum.

Here is a more recent Dilbert cartoon which mentions yoga. It seems pertinent in the current ecomomic climate!
Dilbert.comI

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Autumn Equinox

At the equinox day and night are of equal length. The Autumn Equinox is a time of abundance and celebration for the harvest.
In the autumn we are busy in our gardens clearing out the old and generally tidying up. Glennie Kindred suggests that we have a personal clear out of all that is no longer helpful in our lives, not just the physical things but also outworn modes of behaviour, old patterns and habits. Glennie and other authors suggest that this is a time to mend quarrels, to seek to bring harmony to the world and look to our relationships.
There is a well know phrase -
Be the change you wish to see
But to effect change we must understand the problem. Otherwise we are just trying to impose some ideal which is no more than wishful thinking and which ultimately must fail.
We need to see that we are the world and look at our own relationships because the society we live in is a reflection of these relationships.
“The relationship between man and man has created this, which we call society. Man is violent, man is self-centred, man is seeking pleasure, frightened, insecure, in himself he is corrupt and in his relationship whether it be intimate or not, this way of relationship has created this so-called society. That is clear, obviously. But we always try to change society, not change man who creates the society in which he lives. Please, this is logic, simple, clear. And the socialist, communist, capitalist and so on and so on have always tried to change this amorphous, abstract thing called society. But never tackled the problem of relationship between man and man. Right? Now can that be changed? That is the whole point.”  Krishnamurti On Relationship Page 142
When we understand ourselves and our relationships we will have created a new society. The dark time of the year is a good time for introspection and to look at our relationships. Not in a judgemental way or looking for a solution to problems but rather to understand our relationships and our problems. For help to do this I recommend that you read Krishnamurti “On Relationship”.
“We all want to change society… and you cannot possibly change it unless our relationship with each other is completely and radically changed. That is very obvious. But we always want to change the outer without changing the inner structure of the human mind.” Krishnamurti On Relationship page 153
“Suppose I have a problem. How do I look at it, how do I examine it, what is my response to it? So the problem is not important but how you approach it. Is that clear? Am I afraid of the problem? Or do I want to run away from it, or suppress it, or rationalize it? Or do I have a motive that I must find an answer to it? So I approach the problem with all my confusion, my uncertainty, my fear. We have to find out what your approach is, how you come to it. What is your motive? Your motive is to resolve it, if you are aware of that problem at all. You want to resolve it because it is painful. ” Krishnamurti On Relationship page 154
“Suppose I am selfish and I say I must not be selfish. That is, thought has brought about selfishness. It has structured selfishness. Then thought says, “I must not be selfish,” so there is a conflict between the fact and what thought wants it to be… So conflict arises between “what is” and “what should be”. The “What is” is fact, the “what should be” is non-factual. So can we drop the non-factual, the ideal, the “what should be” and only be concerned with “what is”.” Krishnamurti On Relationship page 156

Monday, 21 September 2009

Mastering the Power of Now

A few weeks ago an ad appeared on Google. It was for a free course entitled "Mastering the Power of Now"
in which "Seven world-famous spiritual teachers reveal powerful information and practical steps you can take right now to experience the spiritual awakening described by Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth, The Power of Now, and his online lessons with Oprah."
Intrigued, I signed up for it. The course has been put together by Bill Harris who is director of the Centerpointe Research Institute and it consists of six conversations between Bill and spiritual teachers from a variety of traditions who have gone through similar awakenings to Eckhart Tolle and who dwell in what Tolle describes as 'The Now'. One talk is made available each week and a transcript of the talk is also available. Each session lasts around 1 hour 15 mins.

So far I have listened to the first two of these talks. These were with Genpo Roshi, a Zen master, and Ken Wilbur, the author, philosopher and spiritual teacher. I would say that they are certainly worthwhile listening to. As you might expect there is a certain amount of plugging of the participants various programs but this is not too obtrusive and I think acceptable as they are giving the talks for free! Future sessions are with Diane Hamilton, spiritual teacher, Saniel Bonder and Linda Groves-Bonder, awakened teachers, Sally Kempton, student of Swami Muktananda and author, and Byron Katie, awakened teacher and author. You can sign up for the course at http://www.masteringthepowerofnow.com/
From the course I learnt that Eckhart Tolle did a series of webcasts with Oprah. These are available on Oprah's website This series consisted of 10 classes going through Tolle's book 'A New Earth' one chapter at a time. I have yet to view any of these but my intention is to re-read 'A New Earth' and view the associated class at the end of each chapter.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Krishnamurti Quote of the Day


If you're at all interested in Krishnamurti's teachings you can sign up to receive a quote each day. Click on the subscribe button which is bottom right on the home page of J. Krishnamurti online. Here is today's quote:
Observe for yourself how the brain operates. It is the storehouse of memory, of the past. This memory is responding all the time, as like and dislike, justifying, condemning and so on; it is responding according to its conditioning, according to the culture, religion, education, which it has stored. That storehouse of memory, from which thought arises, guides most of our life. It is directing and shaping our lives every minute of every day, consciously or unconsciously; it is generating thought, the "me", which is the very essence of thought and words.The Impossible Question, p 71


On Relationship

I have been reading “On Relationship” by J. Krishnamurti. It is a collection of extracts from talks and dialogues with Krishnamurti between 1940 and 1981 on the theme of relationship.

Krishnamurti was adamant that people should go to the source of teachings and find out for themselves rather than take notice of the interpretations and commentaries of others so I am not going to try and summarise the contents of this book.

"The teachings are important in themselves and interpreters and commentators only distort them. It is advisable to go directly to the source, the teachings themselves, and not through any authority." Krishnamurti

I do recommend that you read it for yourself. I have an Indian edition that I picked up a few years ago in Watkins in London but you can get a copy from the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust online shop or you can get a second hand copy from Amazon
Here is an extract from a talk at in September 1979 which I feel summarises the enquiry we embark upon when reading these teachings.

“So what is relationship, out of which we have made such a tremendous problem? Relationship means to be related to another, to one or to many or to the whole of mankind. Oh, you don’t see it! Why is there not in this relationship peace, a depth of understanding of each other that brings about love? Why isn’t there? The sexual relationship between two people, a man and woman, is called love. Right? For God’s sake don’t let us be hypocrites, let’s face these things! It is called love. Is it love? Or is it the demand for sensory satisfaction, the demand for companionship, the demand that is born out of loneliness, the demand that says, “I cannot be alone. I cannot stand this immense solitude in myself, therefore I must have somebody on whom I can depend psychologically.”


For me everything really came together in a large extract from a talk given in Bombay in January 1981 (25th according to the book, 24th according to http://www.jiddu-krishnamurti.net/. The full transcript is available online. The book contains the final passage starting “Society is an abstraction…”

Here are a few more quotes from this talk:
“The relationship between man and man has created this, which we call society. Man is violent, man is self-centred, man is seeking pleasure, frightened, insecure, in himself he is corrupt and in his relationship whether it be intimate or not, this way of relationship has created this so-called society. That is clear, obviously. But we always try to change society, not change man who creates the society in which he lives. Please, this is logic, simple, clear. And the socialist, communist, capitalist and so on and so on have always tried to change this amorphous, abstract thing called society. But never tackled the problem of relationship between man and man. Right? Now can that be changed? That is the whole point.”
...

“So come to the point: why do human beings never change? This is an important question.”
...

“You listen to all this, does this listening bring about an abstraction called an idea, or in the very act of listening you see the truth of it? Which is actually going on in your brain? Seeing the actual truth or listening and making an abstraction of it into an idea and therefore the idea becomes all important and not the fact, which is what is going on.”

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Website updated

My website has been updated. The only significant change has been the removal of the Reading List page, which held a list of recommended reading material, and the addition of a link to Anne's Bookshop with Amazon. Anne's Bookshop has books that I recommend and the books that were previously listed on the Reading List page have been included in it. More will be added in due course and blurby bits when the muse visits me! The links to online articles that were on the Reading List page have been transferred to the Links page

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Yoga without a label

When we visited The Krishnamurti Centre they gave us a copy of the latest issue of The Link. According to its editor, Javier Gomez Rodriguez 'The Link is a literary contribution to the global dialogue around K's teachings and a source of general information on many of the related organisations and their activities. It is an open and international forum for the expression of diverse approaches to the teachings, some more experiential and others more philosophical, including current discussions on consciousness and education. It aims at maintaining a high quality with an eye to the authenticity and insightful nature of the pieces published and always includes excerpts of original K material.' You can read The Link online.

In a letter to The Link Lionel Claris, a former student at Brockwood Park School, differentiates between K's teachings and living the teachings. He argues that while the name of Krishnamurti can be linked with the teachings to link the name with the work of living the teachings is a form of propaganda and could lead to corruption of the teachings.

When I read his letter I thought of Vanda Scaravelli, author of 'Awakening the Spine', and what has come to be known as Scaravelli Yoga. Vanda was a great friend of Krishnamurti for nearly 50 years, from before her marriage until K's death in 1986 and K's teachings are very evident in her work. Diane Long, who has helped me greatly in my practice, studied with Vanda for over 23 years. Diane says that Vanda did not want to create and give her name to a style of yoga and that she was simply interested in the work itself. None of Vanda's students say they do 'Scaravelli Yoga' and neither do any of their students as most are aware that this is not what Vanda would have wanted.
"the mind should not be rigid or tied to traditions or patterns, but open and supple, even ready to change directions."
"BE CAREFUL, VERY CAREFUL about organizations. Yoga cannot be organized, must not be organised. Organizations kill work."
Vanda Scaravelli in 'Awakening the Spine'
However there is a tendency, and I've done it myself, to use such phrases as 'inspired by Vanda Scaravelli' and 'in the Scaravelli Tradition' to describe the way that we work and teach. What I hadn't understood was that it's not just about Vanda not wanting to create a style of yoga, which would fossilise it and turn it into something habitual and mechanical, but it's also about me. While I may not use the term 'Scaravelli Yoga' if I use her name I am still associating myself with her whatever the words I use. By associating myself with someone bigger, better, more famous etc. I feel more important, comfortable and secure. But it separates me from others who are not in this 'club' and leads to feelings of superiority. By associating myself with Vanda's name not only am I corrupting her teachings but, as yoga is interpreted as union, I am not even doing Yoga.
"When you are seeking status in function, then to you status is far more important than function, and hence in that there is conflict inwardly as well as outwardly." Krishnamurti in 'On Relationship'

Lionel says that when he left Brockwood Park his intention was to recreate the quality of being that he had found - without its label. He has managed to practice his understanding of K's teachings without using the name Krishnamurti much.(Read Lionel's full letter on page 14 of issue 28 of The Link ) So the challenge for me and for all of us who study Vanda's teachings is to do the work without name dropping.



Thursday, 3 September 2009

Practice

Folding the knee and rotating the leg causes a pain in the inner knee when sitting. This has been going on for some months now. There was no obvious injury and anyway it happens on both sides. The pain is intensified if there is any forward flexion with the leg in this position.

I have been patient hoping that this would give any injury a chance to heal but there has been no improvement. The problem isn't going away so I must look at the problem and understand it.

In the prone pigeon I find that moving the body weight towards the folded knee changes the relationship between the upper and lower leg taking away the discomfort (while intensifying the stretch in the hip!). Noting the tendency for the weight to go over the straight leg when I fold a leg into janu sirsasana I try the same action. Shifting the weight back to a more even distribution between right and left relieves the pain somewhat but not entirely. I play with pressing the foot of the bent leg into the opposite thigh and find relief.

The problem is not so great in cross-legged sukhasana. The weight is fairly even in this position. Any discomfort is felt in the knee with the most acute angle (the inner leg) and can be eased by pressing the feet away.

Half lotus is the ultimate test! This pose is a big challenge for me especially the left leg. Even here shifting the weight and pressing out through the foot of the bent leg makes a big difference.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Website updated

I have updated my website with the new term dates and prices.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Visit to the Krishnamurti Centre

Yesterday Mark and I went to The Krishnamurti Centre at Brockwood Park in Bramdean, Hampshire for An Introduction to Krishnamurti day. The Centre is a place where people go to study Krishnamurti's teachings. It is run by the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust whose role is "to see that these teachings are kept whole, are not distorted, are not made corrupt. They will not give rise to any sectarian spirit in their activities... nor create any kind of place of worship around the teachings or the person." We had both been wanting to visit The Centre for some time now but until yesterday had not been able to attend any of the Introduction Days (not that you have to go to one of these days first - you can visit any time the centre is open).

The eight of us attending the day gathered in the lounge where we helped ourselves to tea or coffee and biscuits. Our guide for the day was Shakuntila. Shakuntila was a teacher first at the Rishi School in India and then, for 15 years in the 1970's and 80's, at Brockwood Park School. It was great to be shown around by someone who had actually known and worked with Krishnamurti. Our day began with a tour of the centre's beautiful, spacious building which was designed by Dr. Keith Critchlow. Kishnamurti himself was involved in the initial stages of the design and the building was completed in 1987 the year after his death.

There is an amazing meditation room. Guests are asked not to visit this scared space during the first day of their stay so that they bring quiet to the space rather than going there for the quiet (but not to worry as there are plenty of quiet places). The centre also has a library, areas for watching videos or listening to tape recordings of Krishnamurti's talks and discussions, a book store, a spacious lounge and dining room (quiet table available) and a magnificant kitchen as well as the Foundation's offices and guest accommodation.


The photos above show our first glimpse of the building and the central courtyard. Visit The Centre's Home page to see more images of this special space.

The tour was followed by a slide presentation about key events in Krishnamurti's life and after a refreshment break we watched a video by Professor Allan Anderson in which Krishnamurti's main teachings were outlined. The video included many clips of talks and conversations with Krishnamurti.

We then enjoyed a delicious lunch which included produce grown in the garden of the centre. Over lunch we chatted to some of the other guests. Some had come for the day while others were staying for a few days (the centre has 19 bedrooms). All appreciated the fact that there is no guidance or structured activities and that they were free to enjoy the peace and tranquility in their own way... going for walks, being on their own, being quiet, reading, watching recordings of Krishnamurti's talks or talking with other visitors and the staff. The centre does also run a number of themed weekends throughout the year where guests can get together to discuss the topic.

Fortunately there was then time for a quick visit to the bookshop before we reconvened :-) I bought 3 books (Letters to a young Friend, On Nature and the Environment and Meeting Life) and a DVD of two talks between K and Anderson ( A Wholly Different Way of Living Talks 17 & 18 Meditation, a quality of attention that pervades all of one's life & Meditation and the sacred mind).




When we had all gathered together again Shakuntila took us through the gardens to the school for a tour of the buildings. The grounds are fantastic. We walked through the Rose and Vegetable Gardens to reach the school buildings which are in the old house. The Vegetable Garden is amazing and very beautiful. The 1.5 acres are tended by two gardeners with help from volunteers. The produce from the garden is used in both the centre and the school and manages to supply 1/3 of  the school's veggie requirements). The school has around 60 students above the age of 14 from all around the world. What a special place to learn! Of note is the Art Barn - another fantastic building designed by Keith Critchlow. From the school we walked through the playing field to The Grove with it's giant sequoias, oaks, rhodedendrons, azaleas, camelias and other trees planted in the 18th century. Apparently this was a place that Krishnamurti loved.

We returned to the centre through the gardens for afternoon tea and a final Q&A session. Talking to Shakuntila we discovered that she stayed with and did yoga with Vanda Scaravelli in Italy! Next time we meet we will talk about yoga.

Mark and I both intend to return to this very special place to study, and be quiet and to enjoy it's tranquility.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Multiplication of Blogs

As I have been blogging for a couple of months now I decided to take some time to review the topics covered in my posts and consider where I want to take my blog from now on.

The posts can be divided into three categories: yoga and philosophy, gardening and other stuff. I doubt that there are many people out there with exactly the same interests as me and that while someone may be interested for example in following my yoga posts they may well not want to read about what is going on in my garden or where I went for a walk today. So I have decided that it would be better to have three blogs! Blogging can be addictive!

I have created a blog for news from my garden called Pretty Productive Little Garden and another for all the other stuff called Anne's Other Blog (original, eh?). I will from henceforth use this blog for yoga and philosophy posts. I have put the non yoga posts in the appropriate new blog and will delete them from this blog in due course.

Any complaints speak to the management!

Keep interested, stay young!

I am reading 'On Relationship' by Krishnamurti. It is a collection of extracts from various talks, dialogues, journals and letters of Krishnamurti from 1940 to 1982. The following quote, from 16 June 1940, reminded me of the way I practice yoga.

"Mere control with its peculiar training has its dangers, as it is one-sided, incomplete, and therefore shallow. Interest brings its own natural, spontaneous concentration in which there is the flowering of understanding. This interest is awakened by observing, questioning the actions and reactions of everyday existence."

I do yoga because it interests me. I practice with awareness, attention and curiosity, approaching each posture as if for the first time - well most of the time anyway! We usually start yoga for one or more reasons including relaxation, flexibility, stress relief or mental or physical health. While yoga gives us all these things if we aren't interested in the yoga itself then either we become bored and our practice soon fizzles out or we continue to go to classes or do a few postures now and then through habit or because it's what we do - but we're no longer doing yoga!

Vanda Scaravelli wrote in
Awakening the Spine: The Stress-free New Yoga that Works with the Body to Restore Health, Vitality and Energy

"The old seem to forget, but it is only that they are not interested in what they are doing. They lose contact with the world, with their environment, with themselves. They too easily give up their activities and the things they care for, taking refuge in their own protective shell.
We have to keep on using and entertaining our memory. It is a delicate organ and must be looked after with care."

What ever it is that you do keep interested and stay young!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Tao of Decorating part 2

As I have been peeling and scraping and sanding and washing and my sub conscious has been processing the words of Alan Watts in The Meaning of Happiness I realise that I love the preparation for decorating in as much as it cannot be separated from the painting and papering - you can't have one without the other. But I don't like the tasks involved in the preparation. Accepting the dislike/frustration/impatience prevents these demons from taking me over.

Now the preparation is over and the ceiling and woodwork painted everything is looking brighter and so is my mood because, even though things still don't go entirely according to plan, I am doing tasks that I like. Practising acceptance of something I like is a piece of cake!

Painting the woodwork is my favourite task of all. I find it very soothing and I become contemplative. While I was on my knees painting the skirting board I got to thinking about the ancient Indians. They recognised that creation, sustenance and destruction were all part of the same spectrum and that one could not exist without the others. This realisation is reflected in the Hindu trinity of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (sustainer) and Siva (destroyer).

Siva, who represents the destructive aspect of the divine, was said to be the originator of yoga the purpose of which is transformation. Siva gave man yoga to transform his life. It's interesting that that which transforms us comes from destruction. It's good to be reminded of this in our practice. We cannot be transformed while we hold on to our likes and dislikes, habits, what we know and what we think we want. All has to be swept away. And while this may be uncomfortable and we may be resistant to giving them up it is necessary to do so if we are to be transformed.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

I don't know

Socrates was considered to be the wisest of men because he knew that he didn't know. Yet how often do we not act because we don't think that we know enough or as much as someone else? We feel we still need to learn a bit more.

Or maybe we feel the need to act because we think we know better than others.

The fear of not knowing enough and the confidence of thinking we know are simply different ends of one spectrum which is a characteristic of the ego.

Diane often recalls how when Vanda Scaravelli told her to start teaching and Diane said that she couldn't possibly teach Vanda told her that it wasn't about her. I used to think of this as some sort of admonishment recalling what I had often heard people say about letting the teachings of yoga come through us and similar platitudes that are bandied about. But they're other peoples platitudes and I realise that I understand that differently now. Saying it's not about you is like saying it's not about your ego; it's not about what you think you know or don't know. It's about just being who we are.

Can we put aside thoughts of what we think we know or don't know and just be as we are right now because in fact that's all we ever can be.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Swans and Foxes

Around midday yesterday I took a break from my labours and went for a walk through the park, around Baiter and back through the park. The reed beds that were created a couple of years ago are beginning to look really good and hopefully will provide accommodation for lots of wildlife.

As I mentioned previously on Monday I had my first sighting of the harbour swan family. Yesterday I saw the Poole Park signet! Whereas the harbour swans are excellent parents the breeding pair in the park are not. They have failed to rear any young previously. The cob (male) is extremely aggressive and the pen (female) seems to loose interest. Last year they lost 3 signets very early on. The pen looked after the remaining youngster for a while and then deserted it. A regular visitor to the park noticed and contacted the ranger who managed to rescue it and take it to a sanctuary where, in spite of it being very small, it thrived and I hope that it still does to this day. So it was very pleasing to see that the mother still has one healthy looking signet this late in the summer. Fingers crossed that it survives to adulthood.

Further on around the lake I stopped and watched a pair of swans performing their courtship dance which involves slow, synchronised movements of the head and neck. It was very beautiful to watch. After a while I thought 'You chump, why aren't you filming this!', I got my camera out and of course by the time I had got myself sorted out the dance was over. So unfortunately you don't get to see it.

I walked the route anticlockwise which meant that I could see the foxes lair from some way off. As I approached I saw one fox climb up the bank, nose rub its mate and then disappear through the fence. As I got within shooting range the second fox, taking its time got to its feet and followed.

Here are a few photos for you.