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.