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The Seed

28 Jul

Much time has past since my last post – an entire year, in fact!  During that time I launched a new food business with my partner, and continued teaching the Mysore program at the Life Centre in Notting Hill.  Needless to say, life has been extremely busy!  Presently, I am back in Boulder, Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, for the first time in seventeen years.  It was here that I attended my first Hatha yoga class in the mid-90’s while studying at university. Now I’ve returned to attend a one-month teacher’s intensive yoga workshop with Richard Freeman and his partner, Mary Taylor.  The seventeen years in-between have been filled with many experiences and yoga practice, and I am excited to be back where the seed was planted.


Catching a glimpse of the Flatirons on the way to yoga class

Now I get to spend a month in Boulder slowing down from my hectic life in London.  It is a moment to reflect and deepen my practice.  I have been teaching the Mysore program at the Life Centre for two years now.  It has been challenging to maintain this routine while building up our new business.  My own practice this past year in London has been more of a ‘maintenance’ practice, keeping me going amidst the demands of my everyday life. This ebb and flow, is typical of the ashtanga practice where one sometimes moves forward, learning new asanas, challenging oneself or at other times, when life becomes very demanding, one may simply continue with the sequence and postures they already know.  Of course, new things can be discovered each day, even in a posture one has been performing over a decade.

I feel blessed to be here with Richard and Mary.  They are incredibly generous human beings as well as teachers.  They have a profound knowledge of yoga from decades of practice.  Their approach is undogmatic which is refreshing with a fixed-sequence practice like Ashtanga.  Newer practitioners of Ashtanga can often become obsessed with performing an asana precisely ‘as it should be’.  They want to know exactly how a position is done (‘where does my foot go? should my chin touch my leg?, etc’).  But Richard and Mary do not say, “the asana is done LIKE THIS”.  Instead they give direction and actions with which to work.  One is forever moving into a particular posture; there is no real ending to a pose, but an infinite unfolding into the posture.  This keeps one’s body and mind active and engaged.  Each posture has a primary and secondary action, and one works with these actions constantly when performing an asana.  The ideal posture cultivates both Prana (upward-flowing energy) and Apana (downward-moving energy), so that the pose expands and grounds infinitely.  And this feels really fantastic!

We are also spending time studying philosophical texts such as the Upanishads.  The Upanishads are a collection of philosophical Hindu texts which reveal truths about the nature of ultimate reality (brahman) and human salvation (moksha).  Recently focusing on the Kena Upanishad, Richard told is that if we have read it, and understood it, then we have not grasped it’s meaning.


That is an example of the paradox inherent in studying such texts.  The term Agya (not to know) is explained in the Kena Upanishad.  It is similar to the idea of coming to the mat with a beginner’s mind.  That is to be open to what will arise during one’s practice, allowing the new to come forth, allowing for a more joyful experience.  Pratibodha, or a ‘continual waking up’ is also explained.  This refers to the idea of not becoming complacent or stuck in one’s yoga practice (or life for that matter) and to constantly awaken to that which is unfolding in the present moment. The opportunity is there for discovery with each day’s practice, as the dialogue between prana and apana unfolds on the mat.

With three more weeks of the intensive to go, there is sure to be much more unfolding.  Check back soon

and till then…

enjoy your practice!


Richard & Mary adjusting Skeletor in Downward Puppy Pose

Richard will be in London in mid-September and if you haven’t had the opportunity to study with him before (or even if you have) you should grab the chance!  You can access more info and the booking page here:


Vinyasa Count

3 Jul

If you travel, you will arrive

If you remain, you will grow

This quote comes from one of my favourite books, Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House by video artist, Bill Viola. If I remember correctly, he grabbed the quote from a Sufi poet. The book is a collection of his writings from 1973-1994 in which he explores his medium of video, as well as his development as an artist. The quote, a prelude of what’s to come, has stuck with me over the past many years as I have moved my life from New York City to Berlin and finally London with several trips to India in between. The one constant in all that time has been my Ashtanga Yoga practice, which has helped me to understand that Home is on my mat where I come back to mySelf each day.

The above quote also has particular relevance to life in London where one’s mind is constantly pulled to the next new thing. Having new experiences is important, but to truly understand something one must stay with it for a long period of time allowing one’s knowledge to expand and wisdom to develop.

This first week of July marks one year that I have been teaching the Mysore program at the Life Centre in Notting Hill. It has been a very fulfilling year in which I have learnt a great deal. This past March I returned from one of my regular journeys to Mysore to study at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI). At KPJAYI, every Friday brings a led practice of the primary series. It is at this time practitioners are able to check that they are performing the correct vinyasa count during their own self-practice. Sharath, Pattabhi Jois’ grandson, leads the class through the Primary Series counting in Sanskrit. This led class helps the practitioner learn the correct breath count to accompany their movement. By using the correct vinyasa count during practice, one remains ‘on track’ with the sequence allowing the meditative aspect of the practice to develop. Vinyasa refers to a series of body movements linked together by the breath. Every moment is counted in the Ashtanga practice. Each asana has a particular number of “vinyasa” counts for transitioning into, holding and transitioning out of each position. For example, Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) has five counts, whereas Navasana (Boat Pose) has thirteen counts. These assigned counts give another level of focus to the practice.

Similarly to a musical score or the choreography for a dance, the Ashtanga sequence follows a particular arrangement, and in doing so, focuses the mind. With its set sequencing system, Ashtanga is a very accessible way to develop a regular yoga practice. Through repetition of movement, breath and postures, practitioners can turn their focus inward. The practice becomes a dialogue, a conversation between you and yourSelf on the mat. When you allow yourself to think in this way, it enables you to simply do your practice without judgment. Wherever you are in the practice on a particular day is where you are meant to be. You may not get into Marychayasana D as easily today as you did yesterday or at all, but that’s fine. That is simply where you are today. Tomorrow may be different and it may not. This helps us to deal with the things that life throws at us more easily without reacting so strongly, leading us toward greater contentment. Additionally, this practice brings greater focus into our daily lives so that we follow through with completing tasks, projects and anything else we put our mind to!

Depending on your level of experience with Ashtanga, the monthly led class will give the opportunity to learn the correct vinyasa count or to help one memorize which asana comes next in the sequence. Just when you thought you had learned all there is to know of the Primary Series! There’s more!

Stayed tuned till next time when I will write about the most spoken word in Mysore this past spring… SURRENDER!

(and I won’t leave you waiting for months!)

Guruji leads practice in Mysore in 2004

Guruji leads practice in Mysore in 2004

Please visit: for more info on joining these classes!


8 Mar

Time is a great teacher of lessons – if one can just hang on, one can learn alot. I was thinking about time during practice recently…

time to leave London life behind and settle into India

time to develop a relationship with my teacher

time to become more flexible and strong

time to understand the practice better

time to make friends

time to find myself again

I’ve been here now for  six weeks and the time has moved quickly, almost flown by. And this is only my second blog posting! When I first came here at the end of January, I was starting my practice at 10:30 am. Now I begin at 7am, still vacation-like compared to my life in London waking at 4:30. This also gives me a chance to do sitting meditation on the terrace before going to the shala. My last trip here I was given one new pose in two months time. This trip I have already been given six new poses. That, coupled with the heat, is kicking my butt. Which is good, and in time, will get easier.

On Sundays, all the students meet in the Yoga shala for a “conference” with Sharath, the director of the K.Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute and my teacher. This is really the only time one gets to hear more than a few instructive words flowing from his mouth. A point he keeps repeating is that yoga is what happens inside you. So one comes to Mysore and practices yoga asana. It’s intense and sweaty, sometimes painful, often blissful. Finally it makes life so much sweeter because it helps one to develop a perspective on life which helps it flow more smoothly. The cobwebs get dusted away from the heart, and it begins to shine and become more open.

I spent the day with friends yesterday; just relaxing, speaking and a bit of eating! This is one of the great reasons to return again and again to Mysore – the wonderful friends one meets here. You keep them in your heart forever. Then when you go away from here, each new day they are practicing with you. On a practical level, you meet some of the most dedicated practitioners of ashtanga yoga here in Mysore and much knowledge and insight can be gained from the many conversations you will have with them during your stay.

This time I am attending a Yoga Sutra class during the afternoons with Lakshmish, the Vedic scholar, at the Institute. While I have dipped into the Sutras over the years since beginning yoga, this time I am giving them much more time and focus. They are such an integral part of the practice and bring greater understanding to Yoga as being far more than a physical practice. Patanjali is attributed with writing the Sutras, which systemized Yoga, sometime between 5,000 BCE to 300 CE. The Sutras are comprised of 196 statements which define the real practice of Yoga – the understanding and mastering of the mind.

The first sutra begins with the word, Now – “Now the exposition of Yoga”. We can read this simply as an introduction: “Now the practice of Yoga will be explained”. But as Sharath pointed out in a recent conference, this word Now means much more… You have tried many things to obtain happiness: escape through drinking and drugs, self-help books, shopping, television and numerous other things. So, Now you come to Yoga. If you can truly devote yourself to this practice, then real happiness can be obtained. Again this takes time! But with that simple three-letter word, Now, you are ready to give it a go.

When I was a little girl and my Mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I told her I wanted to own a farm with horses which I could ride everyday; to brush them and scoop their poop. Easy. When I became a teenager and my Mother asked me what I wanted to be when I got older, I told her simply that I wanted to be happy. Oh teenage angst! Many difficult years ensued, but perhaps I can say it was all leading up to Now.

I keep returning here just as I return to my mat each morning. My yoga practice has strengthened my body and my mind, and I am gaining a greater understanding for the practice of yoga. I am in Mysore again for Now.

my new friend, the gardener

Greetings from Mysore

8 Feb

Main Street, Gokulam - home of KP Jois Ashtanga InstituteA new blog, a new journey; I’m back in Mysore for the first time in over three years. Back at the shala practicing with Sharath.

Every trip to Mysore has its own personality. Even though I am returning to the same place again, new experiences always unfold. This is similar to the ashtanga practice itself, where the same sequence, practiced each day, brings something new every day.

I’ve wanted to start this blog in connection with the Mysore program I began teaching at the Life Centre in Notting Hill last summer. Now in Mysore, I have some more time to give to it. I took over the program last July, and it has been such a rewarding and joyful experience. Currently Nikos Klironomos and Jennifer Dale are covering my classes.

At the moment, in Mysore, there are so many people here, over 400 students. So the Shala is über-crowded and I have never begun my practice so late. A 10 am start insures a very warm and sweaty shala in which to practice, and it’s a nice break from waking at 4:30 every morning in London.

I am keeping this one short and sweet, but want to keep updating during my time here. Keep checking in and let me hear from you! e