Thursday, 30 July 2009

Dvipada Pitham

Dvipada pitham, two foot support, is a pose that I really disliked for many years. I always had lower back pain after performing it. But I kept on in the blind belief that it must be good for me.

This isn't a posture that Diane teaches - she works with the full backbend urdhva dhanurasana (see an earlier posting for a clip of me working with Diane in this pose) - but since working with Diane what I have learned from other poses has helped my understanding of this pose.

The first big thing was the realisation that the movement of the spine is towards the head and that nothing is being pushed skywards. Previously I was pushing the hips and back up to come onto the shoulders. This realisation made it a lot easier on my back but it still wasn't entirely comfortable. Still, I came back to the pose from time to time, largely as a warm up before urdhva dhanurasana when I was practising in the morning.

Recently however the pose has been showing me a lot about how to use the shoulders. This has helped my shoulderstand immensely... and vice versa. In the pre-Diane years teachers would sometimes say to hold your heels while doing this position. I couldn't even touch my heels and figured this must be because either my arms were too short or because I couldn't get my heels close enough in or a bit of both. And I couldn't see what having hold of the heels did for the pose anyway.

What I have come to realise is that the variations of the postures help us to understand the postures more. Now that I use the shoulders to come up into this posture, the shoulders move towards the heels as the spine moves towards the head. This brings me on to the top of the shoulders. Coincidentally it sends the hands towards the heels making it possible to hold them if you so desired. And another interesting thing happens. The thighs become parallel to the floor. I always wondered how people did that!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Tim Freke & David Hamilton

When we got home from battling the pond weed I sat down with a mug of tea and listened to Tim Freke's radio show for Hay House Radio from last week. His guest was David Hamilton whose expertise is in how the mind can heal the body. David had been a chemist working in the pharmaceutical industry testing heart drugs when his interest in the effect of the mind on the body was stimulated by the very strong placebo effect seen with heart drugs.

I was particularly interested to learn that research at Harvard in the nineties revealed that it makes no difference to the brain whether you actually do a thing or imagine yourself to do it!

In last night's show Tim's guest was Peter Gandy. I have enjoyed reading a number of the books that they have co-authored so I am really looking forward to catching up with that show when it appears on the archive.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Learning to see

To learn something by rote or to be able to describe something is not to understand it. When my teacher, Diane Long, is teaching she uses few words - although she uses more now than when I first started to work with her. This can be quite a challenge. People new to this way of working often ask for more instructions. When we follow instructions we are putting the mind over matter and intellectualising the process. Diane usually replies that you have to learn to see.

A few days ago some half forgotten piece of information came to mind. A trawl through the web and I found the figures I couldn't quite remember.

"We receive 83% of our information from seeing and 11% from hearing. After 5 days we retain 5% of what we are told, 15% of what we see, but 70% of what we gather from combined audio and visual stimuli." Wayne Turk in Common Sense Project Management.

It has often been said that you can't learn yoga from a book. And this is very true. Times have changed and we now have videos and DVDs. However what we can learn from these or from any teacher is limited from our inability to really see. We need to train ourselves to observe.

I had just written these words when I picked up 'The meaning of Happiness' by Alan Watts. In the introduction I read the following words by Tao-wu :
"If you want to see, see directly into it; but when you try to think about it, it is altogether missed."

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Yoga Sadhana #2

Yoga posts are like buses, you wait and wait and then two come along together!

Something amazing happened in bharadvajasana in my practice today. It was as though the twist did itself. It felt beautiful and there was far more rotation that I could ever achieve through effort. It's as though when the right conditions were created every part of the body was able to fulfill it's role and the pose just grew. It made me think of the young runner bean plants in the garden. When they have water, warmth and support they are able to spiral up towards the heavens.

It didn't happen on the first attempt and, needless to say, I couldn't recreate the conditions.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Actions speak louder than words

Why have I made so few yoga posts? Since yoga figures large in my life I expected that I would have made more posts on the subject than I have. But when it comes to write words fail me. The practice of yoga is experiential and words are inadequate to convey the experience.

In his writings Krishnamurti often says that the word is not the thing. You cannot know what a strawberry tastes like from a description of the taste - you have to eat one! Words are useful for communication but the communication is only pure when we and the other person have the same understanding of the words used. And this is very rare - just think about the mess we get into with words like love and God.

Language/words/instructions are all linear but the body is a supreme multitasker! It doesn't work linearly. To bend the arm the brain doesn't send a list of instructions as to what muscles should contract and relax etc. It just says bend the arm and the body contracts and relaxes the appropriate muscles simultaneously. There is a danger that in thinking too anatomically we forget this. Following a series of anatomical instructions to perform a yoga asana may satisfy our linear way of thinking but it doesn't speak the body's language and so the resulting movement is fragmented.

Likewise when the body reveals it's wisdom to us it doesn't do so linearly which is why it is so difficult to use words to explain.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Catch Tim Freke's radio show

If, like me, you missed the first edition of Tim Freke's radio show for Hay House it is now in their archive. I listened to it and it was entertaining and informative. The program went out on July 2, 2009 and was called Seriously, Folks After introducing himself Tim spoke with John Parkin, author of the book F**k It, about modern life and how we can take things a little too seriously.

It took a few days to appear in the archive so I guess the show that went out last night, which had an interview with author David Hamilton, will be there soon. Tim is doing weekly shows for 12 weeks.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Whitecliff Foxy

I was enjoying a nice afternoon nap when those damn parapazzi showed up again.

This time one of them had a camera with an even more powerful zoom than usual.

I wish that the new bush the landlords have planted would hurry up and grow to give me some protection from prying eyes.

I guess I'll just have to take myself off...

and hide behind this mound.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Yoga Sadhana

I've been studying with Diane Long for over five years. My body had obviously changed enough so that during our two week visit to Italy in May to work with her I began to get glimpses of understanding what it means to open the knees and how the feet affect the spine.

Diane often says that what you find should be true in all situations - otherwise it's just a trick. Since our return I have, in my practice, been exploring these latest insights and their effect on a variety of postures.

This morning I spent some time working in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2), using the feet to make length between the knee and hip of the bent leg. A feeling I would describe as the knee and hip playing tug of war with the thigh! This was activating muscles that would rather have been left to doze so the work was intense and I could only maintain the position for a short while.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

The bee and the heuchera

Last night I watched a bumble bee feeding on the heuchera. The heuchera has tiny flowers borne on long, slender stems. You would imagine that the weight of the bee would pull the stem down - but no. When the bee landed the individual flower bent over so that the bee was hanging upside down as it fed. Then when the bee flew off the flower sprang back.

I guess big things needn't disturb us either if we learn to give a bit and as I write I am reminded of a line in the Tao Te Ching 'The flexible are preserved unbroken'.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Urdhva dhanurasana variation

In May Mark and I travelled to Toffia in Italy to study with our Yoga teacher Diane Long who was a long term student of Vanda Scaravelli. Click here to see a 34 second clip of Diane helping me in an variation of Urdhva Dhanurasana. This is a WMV file so Apple Mac folks will need Flip4Mac WMV which you can download for free.

We have more video and photos which I eventually intend to put on my website but sifting through all the material will be a job for the winter.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Tim Freke's new radio show

Tim Freke has a new radio show. It is on and goes out at 5pm BST. The first show is tonight and his guest is John Parkin, author of the book F**k It.