Look at yourself: Yoga & the mirror

Yoga studios rarely come equipped with mirrors, unless you are doing the undeniably self-conscious Bikram yoga.  Perhaps this is because yoga itself is the mirror.  
A few weeks ago, I posted about still feeling dislocated here in Altea.  It takes time to settle in.  But, more than that, by writing my thoughts down and sharing them with the world, I continued the process of self-analysis that is yoga.  Yoga and mirror.  Whatever you give, you get.
I still agree with myself in most of what I said.  but I am willing to swallow my pride – and my words – and ask your kind forgiveness for my til-then blindness.  When I said that I could not understand how the folk round here could be so glum while surrounded by this wild natural beauty, what I was really asking was “Rachel, how can you be glum when surrounded by all this natural beauty?”  Good question, eh?
Since then, I realise that I was simply prioritising my worries about work-family-life (the same ones you have, I am sure) and putting them ahead of my enjoyment of the here and now.  Looking at the mountains in the Calpe pass, I would think “what am I doing here” rather than “what beautiful rusty colours, what textures and lines!”  This is pretty common behaviour, people.  Yoga helps train the mind, keeping it on the straight and narrow and avoiding all wallowing and distraction.
Right now, in my Yoga Therapy training, we are studying the third book of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  In sutras III:9-16, Patanjali exposes the new state of mind that arises when we have fully integrated into our lives the first five limbs of Astanga Yoga (as set out in book 2).  We are now approaching contemplation, Dharana.  The mind is able to glimpse states of serenity, but theses are interspersed with the usual fluctuations and distractions.  Nevertheless, the mind is becoming increasing able to concentrate.  I find the sutras amazing because they really are very accurate in their portrayal of the milestones on the road of yoga.  Or, in my case they are.  Bear in mind that each person’s experience of yoga is unique and precious.
So, Rachel, look in the mirror.  Choose happiness and helps others find theirs.  This is the road of the yogini and the yoga teacher.

FAIL: juice of the day – FALLO: zumo del día

I know I don’t like chirimoya, so why on Earth I decided to add it to my juice is beyond me.  S’pose I thought it might be just a texture thing…

Juice of the Day / Zumo del día

  • Chard, raddicchio / acelga, radicchio
  • 1/2 mango, very ripe / muy maduro
  • Ginger root / gengibre
  • Chirimoya

Sickly and thick, with a nasty repeat.  1/10.


The Art of Massage

The Art of Massage
The art of a healing massage is finding the precise point between pleasure and pain, then working there as continuously as possible throughout the session. Too light pressure can be comforting, but for most it feels like a waste of time (and money). Too much pressure will only cause the musculature to tense. It can also harm – you might succeed in releasing knots, but at the expense of two days of suffering to follow?
Each individual experiences pleasure and pain differently. Most people experience some degree of “pleasurable pain” when a massage therapist hits the spot. This is a bit like rubbing a bruise to rid oneself of pain. The difference is that the therapist has to intuit the correct pressure to remain below the threshold of the client. Some clients will give verbal feedback. Most won’t. I make a point of mentioning at the beginning of the first session that their job is to inform me of anything that is undesirable or painful. Still, most would rather put up than speak up. So, what to do? The first sign that you are applying too much pressure is when the muscles in the area being treated tense and strain beneath your fingers. If the breathing becomes irregular, you are also provoking discomfort. They may even slightly move the body away, or shift positions. When massaging the feet, watch the face for signs of discomfort. Remember, none of these signals will be overt. You must watch for them.
Women generally have a significantly higher pain threshold than men. They are also less likely to indicate to the therapist when the touch is too forceful. There is a deep psychological work to be done in which some women connect with their suffering for the first time. It’s as if they had carried around this physical pain for so long, lying to themselves about its origin or meaning, and they suddenly become aware of it. This is common around the hip flexors and the gluteals. The chest and abdomen are unending reservoirs of long-held suffering that on some bodies cannot even be stroked let alone palpated or pressed. Respect your clients’ bodies and work gradually into these areas over time. If you feel that in the first massage the hips and abdomen absolutely need to be touched, do it through the towel, rocking and stretching rather than pushing.
But I digress…
And what of pleasure? The longer I work in this field, the more I come to value the simple act of relaxation. Simple, I say. Not so, actually. It took me over twelve years of regular yoga practice to learn to relax. Remember: muscles don’t stretch, they contract and relax. Tendons are stretchy. So, one can be flexible due to lax tendons while having a highly tonic (tense) musculature. The solution is finding a way to help clients relax. I find that if I myself am grounded and well, I can induce a moment of stillness and relaxation at about the 30-40 minute mark of the massage. Cease chatting, focus your mind and rub rhythmically and comfortably deep over an area. The shoulders and neck are wonderful. The sacrum loves to be stroked. Feet are made for holding, as are skulls and napes. Choose your zone, then stay there, gently allowing the client to sink into deep calm. Even if this state lasts only 10 minutes, its a glimpse of something more, a deeper and more conscious kind of relaxation. It is a gift that a therapist can give to their client.
(PS: It goes without saying that proper training and attention to contraindications is essential…AUM)


In hatha yoga, inverted postures are recommended during the hot months of the year. In the subtle anatomy of yoga, when we raise the pelvis above the forehead, the moon is above the sun. Moon’s cooling nectar drips down to cool the sun’s heat. Shitali pranayama is a cooling addition to a summertime practice. AUM