New Year, new you

Good morning dear yogis, or yogis-to-be!

prismatic lotus flower
lotus flower

Wouldn’t you like to make 2018 the year that you take up yoga?  Yoga is so ubiquitous now, it seems almost silly not to at least try?
But why should yoga be everywhere, and now?  Because it complements any other form of physical education or sport, but can also stand alone.  Yoga can be used by anyone engaged in demanding sport like football, running , CrossFit, to help rehabilitate muscle and connective tissue, improve breathing technique and oxygenation, and generally settle you down after a hard workout.
Yoga is completely adaptable for all ages and fitness levels.  Especially Viniyoga, the style of yoga that I teach.  The central tenet of this style is that the yoga adapts to the person, not the person to the yoga.  This means that viniyoga sequences are modifiable, which is not the case in many yoga styles.  As we know, the European population is ageing, and ageing brings with it certain changes such as connective tissue stiffness in post-menopausal women, overweight and obesity, problems with bone density, heart disease, sleep problems and a host of other concerns.  While yoga is not a magic pill, it certainly helps practitioners to feel better in their bodies, to sleep better, to accept more gracefully the changes associated with ageing, and to overcome loneliness.
Yes, what I say about loneliness is very important.  Yoga is fundamentally a solitary practice, a journey within.  But, in the West, the social aspect of yoga, the group work, is tremendously important.  If you join a yoga class, you will find like-minded people, and that sense of separation might be temporarily eased.  Loneliness is a big problem in Europe.  Yoga, quite apart from all the other physical benefits, can help overcome this pervasive sense of aloneness.
So, please come along to class and see what it’s all about.  You will be welcomed with open arms and a big smile.
Peace, namasté, Rachel

New post on

Hey lovelies.  I am trying to move over to  So, any new posts will go there first.  Here is a link to something I wrote this morning.  Toodle-loo.

Turn around….

I have been giving classes at GOA for nine months now.  Every day is a privilege.  I honestly can’t believe how conducive that room is towards the inner experience of yoga.  The sea beyond, the salty, iodine-rich air, the birdsong…wait…birds?  Where are the birds?  Oh, yes, look at those windows at the back of the room.  What?  They open?  Sliiiiiide.  TA-DAH!  And thus we discovered the hidden treasure of GOA upstairs!  The gardens of the Edificio SKI behind us.  Mature trees, well-kept gardens, fresh shady corners, a shimmering swimming pool.  What more could one ask for, honestly?

Warriors in Warrior Pose
Warriors in Warrior Pose

GOA views
The view to the front.

I call it Krishna tricks.  The idea that you don’t know what you don’t know and that many times what you discover is humorous, tricky.  When I first came across the concept of the Trickster God (and this concept exists in many diverse cultures), it changed my relationship to the Divine.  I had been raised with the idea of the schoolmaster God – judgemental yet forgiving, but somehow always out of reach.  The trickster God likes to remind you of his presence by letting you in on the joke.  Just when you think you know something, you realise that you know nothing at all.  And so you retain the beginner’s mind, a childlike innocence.  Not all is said and done, not all is known, nothing is set in stone, especially not your personality traits or character, whatever you might believe that to be.  Life becomes a lot more fun when you think it’s conspiring to make you laugh…
Krishna played some tricks in the yoga room last week.  He reminded me that what is behind is just as important as what is in front.  He reminded me to open that back window and to look through it.  JSK.

NY Time Opinion: Yoga teachers need a code of ethics

I agree completely with the author of this piece.  As a teacher of Viniyoga, I am ashamed that there has also been a scandal in our lineage, although not mine directly.  I won’t publish details here, but it is easy enough to dig up.  Notably, the person involved is back teaching, without apparently having to atone for his indiscretions. For me, his alleged bad behaviour does not detract from the essence of the teachings of his father, TKV Desikachar and grandfather, T. Krishnamacharya.  However, I do believe that the organization that promotes the teachings of Viniyoga ought to be strong enough to discipline even the direct descendent of its founder.   Anyway, here is the link.

Bring calm into your nervous system via breathing

Here is a short video that deals with the relationship between the breath and the emotions.  In a study, scientists discovered that when emotions are elicited in trial participants, their breathing pattern changes.  But the interesting thing is that the opposite thing also happens:  When breathing patterns are altered, the corresponding emotion is elicited.  Let’s allow Emma Seppälä to explain it:
Breathe Better: How to Improve Your Mind, Attention, and Memory
In the video, she demonstrates the yogic breathing technique known variously as Nadi shodhana or anuloma-viloma.  Alternate nostril breathing works just fine, too.


David Frawley of the American Institute of Vedic Studies is, in my opinion, one of the most erudite and informed yoga pundits on the scene today.  I shall share with you a link to his writings on pratyahara, the fifth limb of Astanga yoga.  If you have been practising with me this winter, you will know that pratyahara has figured in my teachings.  I hope that this article enlightens you on its philosophical underpinnings.  Om shantih shantih shantih.
Pratyahara:  Yoga’s Forgotten Limb

On balance – Part II

In yesterday’s post, I hardly had time to get started.  Talking about the balancing act between prâna and apâna, I likened it to the accumulation and ridding of material things.  I wanted to finish the post by discussing the IN and the OUT of yoga practice.
Most of us arrive at a yoga practice carrying a lot of impressions (samskaras).  When used therapeutically, yoga helps us to unpick the essential from the superfluous.  Let’s use fear as an illustrative example.  A healthy amount of fear, or caution, is necessary.  Otherwise, we might try to fly off mountainsides, or jump into strangers’ cars at 4 in the morning.  But too much fear can stop us talking to interesting strangers at parties, travelling to unknown lands or otherwise enriching our human experience.  So, the continuous practice of yoga, especially challenging postures that elicit a certain amount of fear (say, backbends, breath retentions) allows us to watch our fear response, get to know it intimately and then, ultimately, control it at important moments.
So, yoga can be used to unpick the essential from the superfluous. When there is a dominance of prâna>apâna, there may be a tendency to flightiness, an abundance of ideas without the capacity to distinguish the good ones from the mediocre, and an inability to realise/materialise one’s own ideas.  Somatic manifestations like headaches, twitching eyelids, tooth grinding, jaw tensing, ear ringing, panicky breathing, neck and shoulder tension, pounding heart, tingling fingers and nervous habits like skin picking, smoking and nail biting are all related to prâna>apâna.  (please bear in mind that prâna and Prâna are two different things.  The lowercase version refers to the vayu that dominates the upper body.  Uppercase refers to the universal energy that sustains all Life.)  When prâna is in balance, our thoughts are fast but not fleeting, we have good recall and can crosslink ideas as well as exercise intuition.  When prâna is overactive, we are nervous, irritable and irascible.  When it is underactive, we are forgetful, fretful and worried.
Of course, we need adequate prâna to sustain life.  Likewise, we need adequate apâna, also.  Apâna dominates the digestive organs and pelvic region.  When it is out of balance, all manner of digestive troubles may ensue, as would varicose veins, swollen ankles, heel spoor and other foot disorders, cellulite or peau d’orange as well as general sluggishness or tiredness.  When apâna is strong, we are able to rid ourselves of waste material (urine, faeces) but don’t excrete too much (frequent urination, irritable bowel).  When it is weak, we may have flatulence, constipation, diverticules and pelvic prolapse.
Of course, should anyone out there reading this believe that yoga alone can cure any of the above named disorders, I have to do the responsible thing and state this this post is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose any medical problem.  Go to your doctor, FFS.  But, if they can’t put a name on what ails you, as often happens, ie: you don’t have a diagnosed and named pathology, then maybe some self-care in the form of yoga can prove helpful.
How to balance prâna and apâna?  Coming soon…but Krishnamacharya would probably say apanâsana and dvipâdapitam
Namaste and may you be filled with joy.  JSK.

On balance – Part 1.

I have been offline for most of the past month.  Firstly, it was due to a fault on my ADSL.  Latterly, because I have been staying away from home for a few days.
It is a strange thing to be semi-connected in times like these.  Of course, I had my iPhone, so Whatsapp, Facebook, email and the like were a-ok.  But, due to the limitations of screen size, I read more than I wrote.
This can be compared to the twin, yet opposing, forces of prâna and apâna.  Prâna in the intake and upper energy, apâna is the emission and lower energy.  They are inseparable, and each influences the other.  In prânayama, we can modify the inhale by modifying the exhale, and vice versa.
One relationship of IN-OUT that I like to contemplate is that of material goods.  We are spirits in a material world and most of us have far more things that we need.  But, it is when we get to a point of having far more things than we really want that it can get sticky.  You see, getting rid of stuff is hard.  Apart from the sentimental value that we may place upon an item, there is also pure attachment, as well as ecological considerations.  I was a pack-rat in an earlier life due to all three things.  I know how hard it is to debride oneself of possessions.  But it is absolutely necessary.
Think about this:  When you set out to buy something, you will often invest a lot of time in choosing, comparing characteristics, price-checking and what-have-you.  Whether buying online or on the High Street, you will pay for transport of some sort.  It is a process that takes time and energy.  Yet, conversely, we will often throw things away rashly or badly.  If this is not clear to you, I invite you to take a look at the trash by the kerb of an evening.  All sorts of stuff, from furniture to computer parts to recyclables will be there.  We hate being told to separate our trash, or that we will be charged for its collection and disposal.  Maybe, if you are reading from somewhere more evolved, like Sweden, this won’t ring true.  But here in Spain, it certainly is.  The funny thing is, the expats also get used to the laissez-faire attitude to waste disposal and after a few months to years living here are just as likely to leave their dog’s doo-doo on the street as anyone else.  Mediocrity breeds mediocrity.
So, I need to close this soon.  To sum up:  prana and apana need to be in balance in order for harmony to exist.  In must equal out.  If it doesn’t, something is wrong.  Figure out what it is and fix it.  Preferably with yoga!
The Guru is in you.  Practice and all is coming.  Love in all around.  JSK.

How to choose a yoga teacher

As a yoga teacher, this is a healthy and humble article to post.  I have had a long journey with yoga, and have been gifted with humility as a result.  Believe me, I did not arrive at adulthood knowing how to love, nor how to transmit compassion, nor how to respect other people’s limitations, beliefs or lifestyles.  In yoga, this is fundamental, because every single student is singular, unique and on their own journey.  You can only teach yoga from the heart, respecting physical limitations of the human body, and believing wholeheartedly that there is a Spirit guiding us from within if only we learn to tune into it.  Om.