30 Dec 2010


From one year to the next, from asana to asana, place to place, young to old.  Whatever the transition we need strength and flexibility not just physically but mentally too, right?  To find the balancing point between extremes.  

For me this year was about finding a balance, in all senses and areas, I  think finally I'm close.  It's funny how our practice reflects our life and vice versa.  As I feel more balanced with work and play, spiritually, mentally,  I can find more balance in asana.  The other theme for the year was simplicity, greatly enhanced by my Vipassana retreat, what can be more simple and cutting to the core than meditating for 100 hours in 10 days.  Simplify, simplify, shall carry on with that one in 2011.

Perhaps lightness will be my aim for next year.....or should that be strength or perhaps self-discipline, hmm so much to work on, oh speaking of transitions other aims are jump backs without feet touching, and to start a more serious pranayama practice...it's time.

25 Dec 2010

The Earth Beneath Her Feet

A nice solid friday practice, the foundation of Ashtanga.  It felt good, simple, I could concentrate and breathe deeply. 

Just finished reading Salman Rushdies novel, shook my world up a bit...love his writing, much food for thought.
Foundations.. so important. When the earth shakes it really is one of the scariest sensations.  I always took the stability of the earth beneath my feet for granted until I moved Japan, where the earth shakes a lot.

Earthquakes even shaking the foundations in the UK this week.  Death and sickness and eminient departures of close friends shaking my foundations.

After 11 years in Japan and 7 years of Ashtanga yoga, foundations take on a different meaning.  When I look back at my shaven headed image I remember the angst the worries - how I've changed, or is that just aged..

I feel that my time in Japan has in helped my appreciation of life, culture, spiritulaity in a profound way.  As Salman Rushdie said "you need to step out of the frame to see the whole picture".  So I stepped out of the UK frame into the most "foreign" culture I could think of, and then out of the frame of directionless spirituality and into the Ashtanga frame.  My view has gotten much clearer, and am looking forward to increased clarity and sharpness as I continue with this practice of awakening. 
What our lives is built on is not as stable as we think.  Take nothing for granted.  Again I am reminded of the words I read on Grimmly's blog by Zen Master Guishan.  "Some day you will die,... Practice Heroically."  But in the meantime, at this festive time of year I intend to be thankful and appreciate what I have, make the most of dear family and friends, enjoy, smile, give what I can, be merry and of course...practice. 

Love and light to all ☆

20 Dec 2010

Mountain Energy

Why is it I feel unexplainably happy at the site of white mountians?  When I see the distant peaks glistening white and harsh - a sense of adventure, mysteriousness wells up inside me.  It ignites my wanderlust, I want to run off to the Himalaya, to be surrounded by white severe peaks, to feel the energy rise.  This was from a trip to Nepal, I was so happy walking from village to village, no cars, no roads, high peaks all around.  Silence feeling nature on a grand scale.
However, I can't run off right now, and my sensible self doesn't really want to, or need to, just this urge that rears it's head.  I'm happy driving to the nearest mountain and snowboarding down it.  The feeling of silently flowing down a snowy mountain - using your body to control and balance, turning and moving with the breath - applying yoga to boarding, concentration, working hard, yet trying to keep relaxed, calm, soft.  Feel, light, strong and flexible, things working as they should be.

So I went boarding this week, and I thought how happy I am to be in this body.  A line by Iyengar struck me while reading Dharma Mittra's book:

"The body is your altar, the asana your prayer"

And after a phenominal 2 hours of powder, riding to my hearts content I attended Yuya Sarashina's Mysore class, with the extra heat and heightened energy of practicing in a group, plus some helpful tips on hand placement and timing,  I finally managed something like Dwi Pada Sirasana.  It's been quite a few years since I started it, no rush, but nice to feel change, and no pain : ) 

16 Dec 2010

What a week.

Up until Sunday I was on fine form, then I go and cut my finger....sliced the skin off my little finger's knuckle while washing a glass I forgot had a crack in it.  Thought I would be able to get back to practice, but any slight knock or bend and off the blood would start again.  Also, it is surprisng just how much we use out little fingers.  So nearly a week of just standing postures, and a new appreciation for how important every little part of the body really is. 

On the up side I spent the day researching Mula Bandha, I pulled out ALL my yoga books and a wonderful medical anatomy book in English and Japanese that my even more wonderful English/Yoga student lent me and figured a way to explain the details, and more importantly how do this in Japanese.  Wow, is Mula Bandha a fascinating topic.  Shall have to post on that soon.

I have a lot of books, it's almost a problem, but I ordered a whole new pile of books to inspire me a little more.

Dharma Mittra's 'ASANAS: 608 Yoga Poses.
The devotion.  The surrender.
Total inspiration. 
There's not much written in this book, but what there is cuts to the core, and the rest can be seen clearly in his asana.
 When can I get to New York?

Found my homework for the next few weeks, Dharma wrote:

"Essentially, if you control your mouth - what you put into it and what comes out of it - you've controlled much of your mind already."

Perfect for Christmas.  Our Winter Solstice, Yoga Nidra will be followed by Japanese Temple Cuisene, absolutely delicious and 100% vegan, a quiet calm event to mark the darkest night and the return of light.

12 Dec 2010

Deaths, funerals and hospitals..

Been a lot of this.  Yesterday a Buddhist funeral,  cutting away the strings of attachment to this world.  Today a hospital visit due to a big ole gash in my finger.   Death all around, especially my good friends sister.  And then Grimmly's posts, all a good reminder of what it's all about.  Hearing and seeing the suffering of the physical body, seeing your own flesh without it's skin.  Food for thought and practice becomes more serious. 

Once again reading the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.  First read in March 1998 Dharmsala...  It opened my eyes and got me started. 

Here are some of the things that my 21year old self underlined. 

"They have marvelous houses for the dead corpses.  But haven't you noticed?  They have such wonderful houses for the living corpses too."

"Our lives are monotonous, petty, and repetitive,  wasted in the pursuit of the trivial, because we seem to know of nothing better."

"it reminds us that we are only travelers, taking temporary refuge in this life and this body."

"Tomorrow or the next life - which comes first, we never know."

"Our task is to strike a balance, to find a middle way, to learn not to overstretch ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations, but to simplify our lives more and more.  The key to finding a happy balance in modern lives is simplicty."

"To enter the transforming field of that much vaster vision is to learn how to be at home in change, and how to make impermanence our friend."

"When through contemplation we really have seen the emptiness and interdependence of all things and ourselves, the world is revealed in a brighter, fresher, more sparkling light"

"Our deepest fears are like dragons gaurding our deepest treasure"

"We are terrified to look inward, because our culture has given us no idea of what we will find.  We may even think that if we do we will be in danger of madness.  This is one of the last and most resourceful ploys of ego to prevent us discovering our real nature."

"We are all already essentially perfect."

It is indeed the season for introspection, reflection and so I shall contine simplfying and organising my disorderly house and mind.  Dug up this old photo taken whilst reading the book sat on a rock in Bhagsu, thinking about how far I've come since those first angsty days.  Or rather than how far, travelling in ever decreasing circles, spiralling towards the centre...

10 Dec 2010

Sauca the first Niyama

So have been going pretty well with my wind down.  Not making myself too busy, just working, foccusing on my practice,cleaning,sorting my house, thinking...

Practice has been good untill today's very stiff primary, not sure what happened, but felt heavy, stiff and had to drag myself through it.

Simplicty, space, light, these words have been flying around my head a lot since March after the Vipassana, and then received further reinforcement after reading Ghandi's autobiography, I am striving for simplicity, lightness, clarity in all aspects of my life.

Further inspriration has come from the Yoga Sutras, thinking about Purusha, the divine in me, which deserves a nice light clean body fit for a god to reside in, which in turn needs a suitable material dwelling. 

I liked what I read somewhere about Monks keeping the temple spotlessly clean, so I shall do my best in my house, the picture is a spotlessly clean corrider from the Zen Head Temple in Fukui, the perfect place to focus on meditation. Calm, and seeped in years of practice.  

The cliches "Your body is a temple" and "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" resonate on a different level these days.   I guess one's dwelling reflects one's consciouness, and the opposite is true.  So my natural tendecies to messiness and disarray are a product of my monkey mind, so tidying, sorting, organising should help my mind right?  And through the years of yoga I do feel my mind beoming calmer and my environment becoming clearer, and not being able to live in the kind of mess I was once quite happy in, as much as the proverbial pig.

5 Dec 2010

Before the new moon.

Is it just me or do everyone's joints feel a little creaky before the new moon?   Decided that I've been slacking a bit so decided to crank things up, seeing as I'm only doing up to Eka Pada, I did everything twice, also tried to take a picture, this is the first time I've seen myself in Bhekasana, not sure if I like seeing pictures of myself or not, yet.  I was most curious about this particular asana, as it feels so difficult, and so good at the same time. 

3 Dec 2010

Winding down...

Oh dear, I laundered another book!!!  What a mess, this time it was Buddhism and Science. I love to read in the bath and have a horrible habit of placing books on top of the washing machine (top loader).

Well that will teach me to slow down, I was feeling so good, after a three day ladies holiday and then an extra work enforced day off asana practice yesterday that I felt extra specially good after today's primary series.  Energized by the practice and feeling lighter and a little cleaner from within I decided to clean everywhere else...like a whirlwind and must have knocked my book in the machine.  

Like a whirlwind, that is just how I decided I wouldn't be, message from the washing machine taken!  NO more whirlwind, time to wind down, slow down, reflect, and respect the earths rythm as the days continue to shorten and shorten.  I shall not get caught up in the end of year frenzy around me, everyone on hyper speed, rushing around getting ready to finish the financial year (here in Japan) and participate in the all the year end parties.  They are called Bo Nen Kai, which means  forget the year party, this all makes everyone so busy and heavy (same here as the UK over eating and over drinking) there is little time for reflection as everyone races to the end, the New Year's holiday only to collapse in front of the T.V. exhausted.  I don't want to forget my year, I want to learn from it, so I shall be slowing down, taking the time to practice and enjoy my last month of 2010.

1 Dec 2010


Where to start a blog I feel I should have started years ago. 

Recently I have been so inspired and motivated by reading other people's blogs I thought it time to start my own.  I live in the north of Japan, and don't get a chance to 'talk yoga' in English much. I'm always writing my thoughts, experiences, revelations, responses to things I've read on all these bits of paper.  I hope this blog may help me express myself and consolidate my studies and practice, and even tidy up all those random bits of scratched and scrawled over paper!
I first came accross yoga when I was 18 at University, whilst studying Psychology and Philosophy of Mind.  At that time the attreaction was it's mysteriousness, it's depth, a way to tap into one's creative energy to realise one's potential - awaken and heighten consciousness.  I was a paper yogi. I read about it, talked about it, occasionally practiced a few asana and something like meditation...little did I know about the actual hard work involved.  After graduating I took myself off to the foothills of the Himalaya - studied Tibetan Buddhism and meditated...it's cliche I know, but my eyes were opened,  a little.  I duly shaved my head, so as not to forget what I'd learnt.

On my return to the UK I turned towards Zen, rejoined a yoga class and then by chance ended up in Japan.  My first few years were spiritually isolating, never quite finding the right people, or more likely not having the Japanese to talk about the things I wanted to.  Eventually I came across Ashtanga yoga, and that was it, hooked, totally, daily practice from the start.  It was like coming home, I can't explain the joy I felt at the simple act of movement, breath and drishti combined.  Now 7 years on, after many ups and downs and rounds and rounds I still walk the Ashtanga path, and very happily so.