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

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

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 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


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.

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.

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

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