Thursday, 7 October 2010

Beginners Yoga Course

The next 6 week Introduction to Yoga Course starts in Poole, Dorset on Thursday 4th November 7 - 8pm. Cost £30. The course is restricted to 6 participants and places are filling up so contact me soonest to be sure of your place.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

An Introduction to the Art of Sitting

"An Introduction to the Art of Sitting" starts 17th October 2010. The course, which is held for 1 hour over 4 successive Sunday evenings, is designed to help beginning meditators to understand the role of alignment and relaxation in sitting and how to find the posture to support their sitting practice. More information about the Introduction to the Art of Sitting Course

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Charlie Rose: The Brain Series

I'd like to draw your attention to some interesting programmes about the brain. Last week I caught a short part of the Charlie Rose show on Bloomberg. A group of top people in their fields were sat around the table discussing the brain and anxiety. A few clicks on the computer and I discovered that the show was one of a series of programmes being made by Charlie Rose on various topics about the brain. They are being transmitted one a month and the previous programmes are available to view at Each programme is an hour long. Click on the image to play (took me a while to work that out!).

Here is the blurb about the series from the website:
The Charlie Rose Brain Series explores one of sciences final frontiers, the study of the human brain.
Over the next year Charlie will interview the most knowledgeable scientists and researchers in hopes of illuminating a new topic of study. Each monthly episode will examine different subjects of the brain, including perception, social interaction, aging and creativity.
We will also look at scientific discovery and advances in technology, in the hope that someday terrible illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s will be history.
Our special colleague on this journey is Dr. Eric Kandel.
He is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist and professor at Columbia University. He’s also affiliated with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

He received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 2000 for his research into the biological mechanisms of learning and memory.
Last night I watched the first programme "The Great Mysteries of the Human Brain: consciousness, free will, perception, cognition, emotion and memory" which introduced the series. I am looking forward to watching some of the other programmes in the series over the coming weeks. You can cherry pick - it is not necessary to watch the programmes sequentially - although it may be useful to watch the first programme if you are not familiar with the basic biology of the brain and nerve cells.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Refurbished website now live

The latest incarnation of the Yoga with Anne website is now live. Although it needs a bit of tinkering (more photos and a bit more colour) it is more or less as I want it. I am particularly pleased with the drop down menus (I must get out more!). I hope that it is easy for you to navigate around and find the information you need. If you have any difficulties or have suggestions as to how it could be improved then please let me know.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Gravity, Breathing, Posture

Check out this great series of three articles on gravity, posture and breathing by Aline Newton. The three parts are:
  1. Breathing in the Gravity Field
  2. New Conceptions of Breathing Anatomy and Biomechanics
  3. Posture and Gravity

Friday, 6 August 2010

Website rewrites - latest news

Well I have now finished the rewrite of Mark's website and implemented it. No major problems reported so far! It needs a few more photographs but otherwise we're quite pleased with it. Now that it's written in HTML I'm hoping that, subject to my learning the necessary technical skills, it should be easier to update and enhance than the previous incarnation which was created using Publisher.

And so I turn to the rewrite of my site. Over the years it has accumulated many pages. To convert them all is daunting and a Herculean task. I have decided (well, almost!) that I am going to rewrite the core pages;  delete the rest and start afresh. I did think about simply leaving the old pages there but with all the links from and between those pages that would turn into a nightmare. So they are going! Looking at the stats provided by my wesite host most of these pages are rarely viewed so I hope that they won't be badly missed.

I am taking the site that I have created for Mark as my starting point so that will save a lot of hard work but even so it still takes ages cutting and pasting and formatting... but the anticipation of a shiny new site drives me on! Have a look at Mark's website and let me know of any way that you think we could improve it or content that you would like to see.

Sunday, 1 August 2010


Last weekend I lead a workshop with the title "Watch out, habits about". Here are a few thoughts about habits:
  • Habits are neither good or bad - they're just habits. At some point whatever we are doing had some benefit to us or helped us in some way - even if it's not obvious how!
  • A habit may no longer be useful to us and it may even be unhelpful now.
  • We are usually unaware of our own habits.
  • Other people's habits are much easier to see!
  • A habit usually involves a compromise of some sort. If the habit no longer confers any benefit then we may be paying dearly for it.
  • Our habits dictate our actions and our actions re-enforce our habits.
  • We can't forceably change a habit. We have to become aware of it and understand it and then let it go.
  • Don't replace the old habits for new ones; or take on someone else's habits; or rely on someone else's authority - find out the truth for yourself.
  • Examining our habits can be difficult and there may be resistance to looking at them particularly where our identity is tied up with them.
  • Habits exist in body, breath and mind.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Website redevelopment progress report

Well, I have started to redevelop the Yoga with Mark website. Redevelopment is gonna take a while - I'm still on the home page! The problem is content rather than technical. Both Mark and I wanted a short summary of what our yoga is about for the home page but not being a wordsmith this is not proving easy. I thought that I would try what I have come up with here on you good folks first. Here it is:

The time we spend on the yoga mat is an opportunity to allow the natural intelligence of the body to show us better ways of moving and being. The understandings we gain from our practice remain with us when we roll up our mats and they infuse our everyday activities so improving their quality. We do this by:
  • letting go of ambition (to be proud of our postures is bad taste!)
  • stopping the pushing and pulling
  • releasing tension
  • putting aside ideas about what a pose is and how it 'should' be done
  • making friends with our bodies and treating them with respect
  • becoming aware of our habits and conditioning and understanding them so that we can leave them behind
This way of working was pioneered by the late Vanda Scaravelli. Vanda Scaravelli, a lifelong friend of Krishnamurti, learnt yoga from B.K.S. Iyengar. She also had lessons with Desikachar. After studying with these luminaries her body became her teacher.
"You have to learn how to listen to your body, going with it and not against it, avoiding all effort or strain and centering your attention on that very delicate point, the back of the waist (where the spine moves in two opposite directions). You will be amazed to discover that, if you are kind to your body, it will respond in an incredible way." Vanda Scaravelli in "Awakening the Spine" page 16
Her student of 23 years, Diane Long, continues the work.
Vanda's book "Awakening the Spine" was published when she was in her eighties and it quickly became a classic. At the time her way of working seemed revolutionary to many but it was probably more akin to the way the early yogis learnt about the body and discovered the postures. Links to articles about Vanda Scaravelli and this way of working.

Mark was impressed (he's even less of a wordsmith than I!) and got me to put it on his existing website. 

Friday, 2 July 2010


Awareness will bring you to you one hundred percent intelligence, will make you almost divine. And awareness does not stop there. Awareness helps you to use your intelligence fully.
Osho in "Maturity" page 176

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Osho's three steps of awareness

There are three steps of awareness.

First, become aware of your body - walking, chopping wood, or carrying water from the well. Be watchful, be alert, aware, conscious. Don't go on doing things like a zombie, like a somnambulist, a sleepwalker.

When you have become aware of your body and its actions then move deeper - to your mind and its activity, thoughts, imagination, projections... As you become more aware, there is no energy available for thoughts; they die out. When you are 100 percent aware, the mind becomes absolutely silent.

The third step: to become aware of feelings, moods, emotions.
Osho in "Maturity" pages 179 - 181

Wednesday, 30 June 2010


I have just finished reading 'Maturity' the second of the two books by Osho that I bought in the Borders Administration sale (the other being 'Body Mind Balancing'). I recommend both of them to you. Osho defines maturity as growing-up. All of us grow old but few of us grow-up. If the title puts 'younger' people off reading this book that would be a shame because it would be useful to read it sooner rather than later! Osho describes the changes that we go through in 7 year cycles and the lessons and experiences appropriate to both. As I move into the 8th cycle some opportunities have passed me by but I can still make the most of the remaining ones if I wake up now.

I don't feel that Osho's teachings are particularly provocative. They seem to me to come from the same source as those from mystics and teachers of various traditions but, with the emphasis on taking responsibility for yourself and dropping your conditioning, I can see how they might get up the nose of the authorities! I guess that because of the era in which Osho was active, the improvement in communications and his widespread popularity he was more of a threat than other teachers and writers. Read the book for yourself and make your own mind up!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

This little bee is after some nectar

I am looking forward to visiting Diane Long, my teacher, next month and taking some lessons with her. Yoga is an ongoing journey, there is always more, but it's hard to see your own habits and blocks. Hence the need for regular input from a good teacher. (By the way, my definition of a good teacher is one who knows from experience not one who has accumulated a lot of information - BIG difference!)
Like a bee visiting a flower over and over to collect nectar a little at a time to make honey so I visit my teacher  over and over to collect a little more raw material to work with.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Structure of foot and effect of pronation on body on YouTube

I have been looking into rebounding and came across this video on YouTube It has an excellent description of the structure of the foot, pronation and how it effects the body in everyday life. I learnt things I didn't know about the foot from watching it and highly recommend it.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Yesterday was the longest day and we had a magical moment during class. Around 8pm the Buddha statue set back in the fireplace was spotlit in bright sunshine. This was wierd because the buddha is facing east. The sun was being reflected by a window in a neighbouring house directly onto the statue. It lasted just a few minutes and then was gone.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

I haven't forgotten this blog it's just that I've been rather busy recently. Among other things I've been teaching myself xhtml and css. I created our websites ( and using MS publisher (in my defence I didn't know any better!). It didn't take long for me to become frustrated by Publisher's quirks, foibles and limitations. Not being able to make some improvements for s.e.o. was the final straw. I decided to ditch Publisher but what to use instead? Feeling I didn't want to go down the package route again I resolved to learn html but didn't take it any further.
Mark's new aikido club wanting a web presence gave me the opportunity to create a website from scratch although the need for something to be done quickly to promote the club did put additional pressure on me! I got something basic out fairly quickly and, in a fairly short time, it has evolved into a functional, well organised (though I say so myself)  site. Check out the results of my efforts. xhtml and css haven't been too difficult to pick up but IE's interpretation of standards, it's little foibles and catering for IE6 & 7 as well as IE8 has driven me to distraction! The website will never be finished (I've already plans to implement printer friendly pages, include more photos, video clips, random quotes, search facility, more pages...) and I will never be satisfied of course but I'm happy with it as it is at the moment. So I am putting future development on hold while I convert the yoga websites. I'm going to start with as it's the smaller and less complicated of the two sites. The plan is to use the Wellsprings format and 'simply' incorporate data from the current site. I have still to make up my mind what to do with There is a lot of material on the site which I don't feel inclined to convert. My feeling at present is to convert the core pages and perhaps leave the rest as an archive (but I'll have to do something about navigation). Hopefully as I work on Mark's site over the next few weeks the way forward will become clearer.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Be who you really are

"A violet can never become a rose, but the violet in itself can be a perfect flower." Krishnamurti
Yoga will help you to discover the real you and to realise your potential. You don't need improving - you just need to let go of the less than useful ideas and habits that you've accumulated about who you are and how you should be. 
Yoga will help you do that. It will bring about change but in its own way and in its own time. It is not possible nor desireable to predict the changes as each person's journey is their own. Typically you will experience improvement in your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being but at times there may be some discomfort because change takes us outside of our comfort zone. You may find yourself challenged in unexpected ways while at other times you will find yourself suprised and delighted.
Yoga with Anne is here to support you in your practice, to help you with understanding gained through observation, self-practice and studies with my teacher, Diane Long. Anne specialises in teaching to small groups and one to one to offer more personalised support. You may join one of her regular groups or arrange private tuition. For more details please visit the Yoga with Anne website.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The Obvious vs The Important

Spring is upon us! Here are some seasonal ideas for your yoga practice.
On Sunday (21st March) we have a yoga workshop at Poole Yogashala with the theme "The Obvious vs The Important". Last night I watched Brian Cox's tv program about the solar system. He described how when watching the movement of the stars, the heavens are seen to revolve around the earth. It's obvious but it's also wrong.
We fall into the trap of mistaking the obvious for the important, for the truth, in all aspects of our lives including our yoga practice. As long as we accept the obvious we stop enquiring and so never discover the truth. We need to put aside what we think we know to find something new and refine our understanding.
There are still some places available in the workshop. Email me if you are interested in joining us.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Philosopher and the Wolf

I have just finished reading The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death and Happiness by Philosophy Professor Mark Rowlands. I bought the book in the Borders closing down sale because it looked interesting and I wasn't disappointed.
Rowlands lived with a wolf for 11 years (in Alabama, Ireland, London and the South of France). The experience influenced him both as a person and as a philosopher and is recorded in this book. Rowlands compares and contrasts the behaviour of human animals (apes) with that of wolves - and we don't come out of it as attractive animals (scheming, deceptive, malicious, merciless). No wonder many people prefer their dogs to other people! And no wonder too that the early yogis, philosophers and enquirers into truth from all traditions took themselves off into the woods or mountains away from the influence of society and so called civilisation.
If you are interested in philosophy or if you are someone who prefers to run with the wolves than walk with the apes and wonders why then read this book. I heartily recommend it.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Nothing about the bandhas

Words are very useful as a means of communication - providing the person hearing the words has the same understanding of them as the person speaking them. If they don't then allsorts of misunderstandings occur and we can get ourselves into big trouble. Most of us don't realise this - that the word is not the thing - and, because of our misguided belief in the supremacy of the word, believe our interpretations of what we have heard or read. Even when our understanding of the words is correct they are always inadequate to describe a thing. There is always something more - "to see infinity in a grain of sand". So negation, saying what something is not, is actually more useful than trying to describe something because it allows us to get closer to the truth.
Take for instance the bandhas. Jalandhara (throat), uddiyana (abdomen) and mula (root) bandhas (locks) are often taught as deliberate contraction of different parts of the body. I can't tell you what the bandhas are or how to do them. But I can tell you that pulling in the tummy and 'sucking' it up isn't uddiyana bandha; squeezing the pelvic floor muscles isn't mula bandha and ramming the throat to the chest and scrunching up the shoulders in not jalandhara bandha. The bandhas are not about deliberate contraction or tension. They are locks and just as there is no force or tension involved turning the lock on a door there is no effort in 'activating' the bandhas. Effort is needed when trying to force through a lock but even then the lock doesn't expend any effort in resisting. Neither can I tell you how these ideas originally arose, maybe this was how students recreated what they saw in their teacher and it got propagated or perhaps such instructions arose as as a crude attempt to give an idea of what the bandhas feel like but was taken as the thing and propogated by students whose studies took them no further (rather like stopping the study of physics aged 14 and, being ignorant of one's ignorance, passing on what one knows and it being mistaken by others for the full story).
I'm not saying that everyone mistakes these gross actions for the bandhas. Of course there are people who have got a more accurate understanding as to what the bandhas are (and I am grateful for finding one who said "no, that's not it") but remember they who know don't tell and those who tell don't know (I guess because of the inadequacy of words). Ultimately you have to understand for yourself. And keep on understanding - infinity in a grain of sand remember.
You don't 'do' the bandhas or even 'find' them. Rather the bandhas come through you. They arise spontaneously when the correct conditions are present in the body. When they do arise, you will recognise them in a eureka moment. And you will realise then why words cannot describe them. But it won't happen while you are pushing or pulling or deliberately contracting. And it won't happen if you are trying to do the bandhas. Simply create freedom in your posture and let the bandhas take care of themselves.
And that's all I have to say about the bandhas.

Search facility on Yoga with Anne

It is now possible to search the Yoga with Anne Website using Google Custom Search. You will find the search box to the bottom right of the picture on the home page and in the top right of the sitemap page. There is also a link to 'search Yoga with Anne' at the bottom of every page.
There is a quirk. (Isn't there always?!) For some reason you have to press the 'go back one page' button twice to go back to the previous page from the results page.(The first click takes you to the top of the page but that's something that you'd only notice if you had scrolled down.)
Another 'feature' is that it searches Google's indexed pages which means that it's not 'real time' but hopefully that won't be too much of a problem.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Announcing the Beginners+ Course

I will be running a 6 week Beginners+ Yoga Course at Poole Yogashala starting on 4th March 2010. This course is a follow up to the Introduction to Yoga course and is open to students who have attended that course or who have worked with me in the past. 
The next Introduction to Yoga Course, which is suitable for complete beginners and those returning to the practice of yoga after a break, will begin on 15th April 2010.

Get rid of that new mat smell

To get rid of that awful 'new mat' smell wipe your mat over with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water (a useful tip from the winter edition of Yoga+). Apparently this is not 100% effective with rubber mats but if it helps to get rid of even some of the headache inducing fumes it has to be worth it. I find that leaving the mat unfurled in an airey garage or outbuilding or best of all, in fine weather, outside on the line also helps to get rid of the smell.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Nice cactus! Don't let the obvious blind you to the important

There is a TV ad. out at the moment based on the 'spot the difference' game. A couple sit in their lounge and the contents of the room change. In the final shot our attention is immediately drawn to a large inflatable dinosaur dominating the room while the voice-over says "nice cactus" refering to a small cactus which has appeared, unnoticed, on the coffee table. This advertisment highlights how we overlook the important in favour of the obvious. We do it all the time. An example from our yogasana would be noticing the hand of the lower arm touching the ankle and the verticality of the upper arm but not seeing the rotation of the spine while watching a demonstration of trikonasana. Then, mistaking the obvious for the important, when we practice trikonasana we displace the torso and bend the leg in an attempt to reach the ankle and yank the upper arm behind us to get it vertical while barely twisting at all.
This trait of focusing on the obvious makes it almost impossible to understand yoga just by reading a book or from watching a DVD - we fail to notice the important. For this reason it is helpful to work with a teacher who has understood what is important in a posture; to work with someone who can direct our attention away from the obvious to the important. But first of all we have to realise there is a difference between the two.

There is a whiff of Spring in the air...

Today is Imbolc and there is a whiff of Spring in the air. Have a look at the website for some practice suggestions for your yoga at Imbolc

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Will power covers up inability

Today's Little Pearl is a quote from Moshe Feldenkrais from his book "Awareness through movement". In it he talks about will power tending to cover up an inability to carry out an action properly and how the right way to learn is to eliminate the efforts opposing the goal. As I read his words it struck me how eloquently this describes how I approach my yoga practice. Here is the link to the full Feldenkrais quote about will power

Vanda Scaravelli, her legacy and my yoga

There is a new article on the website Yoga with Anne (at 3 x A4 pages it is too long for this blog). Its title is "Vanda Scaravelli, her legacy and my yoga" subtitled "Or why I won't be calling my yoga Scaravelli Yoga".
It begins with a short biog of Vanda Scaravelli  - no new revelations here just material that is widely available. This is followed by a exploration of why Vanda did not want to create or give her name to a style of yoga and how to people unfamiliar with Vanda's teachings, terms like Scaravelli Inspired, Scaravelli Approach and Scaravelli Tradition are synonymous with Scaravelli Yoga and how by using such terms to describe their yoga, teachers are actually endorsing a separate type of yoga. (The article turns into a bit of a rant here - sorry, I didn't mean it to, it just came out that way.)
Having understood that I can no longer label my yoga I then go on to convey with mere words my yoga practice and how it feeds into my teaching. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

If you need a counterpose you're doing it wrong

Years ago I went to a talk given by David Williams, Pattabhi Jois' first non-Indian student and the man who, along with Nancy Gilgoff, introduced Ashtanga Yoga to the west. I remember him saying, in his delightful southern accent, "If it hurts, you're doing it wrong." I would add that if you need a counterpose then you're also doing it wrong.
If there is a need for a counterpose then you aren't doing something too intelligently. Understand what it is that you're doing that requires a counterpose and you will find that you change and the need for the counterpose disappears.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Awareness by Anthony de Mello

If I was restricted to recommending just one book to read it would have to be Awarenessby Anthony de Mello. It is fabulous. On Amazon it has a five star rating from 27 reviews and it really is that good.

I am not going to attempt to summarise the contents of the book because I would simply be interpreting de Mello's words as I am. What I can say is that the book is about awareness, waking up, recognising our conditioning and self-understanding. It is easy to read and full of amusing stories. Read it. Wake up and smell the roses!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Chaos Theory and the practice of yoga

On Thursday evening I watched a fascinating programme on BBC4 about Chaos Theory. I learnt that biological systems follow simple mathematical formula but that unpredictable things occur as a result of variations in the starting point. Some variations are useful and so persist while others are not so useful and become extinct i.e. the system evolves.
We can see chaos theory in our yoga practice. The body is different today from how it was yesterday and from how it will be tomorrow. It may be stiff or injured, it may be affected by what we've eaten or drunk or by the environment around us or it may be under attack from viruses. When we move into a posture we are, in effect, doing it as if for the first time because nothing is exactly as it was before. As a result we cannot know exactly what will happen.
Let us take uttanasana as an example. Uttanasana is a standing forward bend. A standing forward bend not the standing forward bend. The label tells us nothing about the movement other than give some indication as to what its not. It's not a backbend, a twist or standing on the head. We do the forward bend as we are and it is never the same because we are never the same. Knowing this if we pay attention each time we do a standing forward bend we may discover something new about forward flexion and about ourselves. Then both we and the posture can evolve.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Articles about Vanda Scaravelli

If you are interested in Vanda Scaravelli and her teachings then you might like to read the following couple of articles:

Awakening the Spine by Esther Myers and Kim Echlin This article includes an interview with Vanda. I recommend that you don't take much notice of the piece "Applying Vanda's Ideas in Your Practice" that follows it. The words are not the thing - you interpret them as you are. All you will do is your interpretation of Esther's interpretation of what Vanda was doing and like some sort of Yogic Chinese Whispers it will be a weird distortion.

Lesson in Freedom by Emina Cevro Vukovic translated from the Itallian by Vanda's daughter Paola.

More articles about Vanda Scaravelli and her way of working can be found from the links page on

Monday, 11 January 2010

A New Look at Yoga

Joel Kramer's A New Look at Yoga is also well worth a read.This article, which appeared in Yoga Joural in 1977, is particularly useful if you are trying to get your head around Jnana Yoga!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Yoga as Self-Transformation

Yesterday I re-read Yoga as Self-Transformation by Joel Kramer. This excellent 8 page article appeared in Yoga Journal in 1980 but is available on Joel & Diana's website. I thoroughly recommend you read it.