Namasté.  You are probably aware that yoga pays  very special attention to the breath.  It is considered that the breath is the link between body and mind.  The first three angas (limbs) of yoga are concerned with the outer world.  Then comes pranayama, acting as a link from the outer to the inner realms.
Of course, we are all breathing, right now.  But some of us are breathing more efficiently than others.  Efficient breathing is slow and deep.  Slow and deep breathing is very relaxing to mind and body.  When we are well hydrated and have a good supply of oxygen in our blood, our muscles relax.  When our bellies are relaxed and the diaphragm can descend into the abdomen, we feel relaxed.  Deep breathing is one of the easiest and most effective health remedies that I have ever come across.  And best of all, it’s free!  (Of course, you may decide to part with your cash in order to learn pranayama from a qualified teacher, but the basic principles are gratis.)  Why not surf over to and take their breathing tests?  The results may prove interesting.
There are three basic forms of breathing:  chest, belly and paradoxical.  In chest breathing, the lungs and chest expand due to the action of the intercostal muscles, not the diaphragm.  This is an inefficient, and very common form of breathing and results in the higher rate of breathing (more breaths are needed to bring in oxygen).  Belly breathing is the correct form of breathing – the diaphragm pulls down, the lungs expand both their lower and upper lobes and a full, deep breath is taken.  Paradoxical breathing is interesting because it seems to be associated with states of nervous anxiety.     The abdominal muscles are rigid, preventing the diaphragm from descending.  Therefore, although the lungs are inflating, the chest muscles are needed to expand the thorax because the diaphragm is pulling up.  It is called paradoxical because the normal movements of breathing (inflate abdomen on inhale, deflate on exhale) are reversed.  Odd, eh?

Hymn to the Divine Mother

This song is transformative in its power and beauty.  A link, and the text.  Om.
Ma Amba Lalitha Devi
Parashakti Sundari
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
Ma Amba Lalitha Devi
Mahamaye Mangale
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
Ma Amba Lalitha Devi
Mahakali Bhairavi
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
Ma Amba Lalitha Devi
Mahalakshmi Vaishnavi
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
Ma Amba Lalitha Devi
Ma Sarasvati Brahmi
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
Ma Amba Lalitha Devi
Durga Devi Shankari
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
Ma Amba Lalitha Devi
Uma Parvati Shive
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
Ma Amba Lalitha Devi
Ma Bhavani Ambike
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
Ma Amba Lalitha Devi
Annapurna Lakshmi Ma
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasya Namo Namah
Ma Amba Lalitha Devi
Kamala Katyayani
Namastastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
Ma Amba Lalitha Devi
Tvam Tripura Sundari
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasya Namo Namah

The yoga of patience, part II

Patience is a quality associated with the root chakra, the Muladhara chakra.  The root chakra is associated with the element Earth.  Earth changes slowly and deliberately.  I’ve never seen a rock looking at a clock!
As I began to write yesterday, patience has an element of faith in the unknown.  When we are impatient, we allow the intellect and the ego to (attempt to) determine our course . We don’t tend to wait and see…we manipulate and cajole in order to secure our chosen outcome.
When one has faith, it’s easier to have patience.  In Yoga Sutra 1.19-1.20, Patanjali describes the two types of aspirants, characterizing the majority as requiring faith, as well as other characteristics.  When there is a deep faith in the course one is following, patience naturally follows.  Why rush? one thinks, my time will come.
Indeed it will.  Have faith, be patient, still your mind and follow your course.  Be true to your heart and your intuition. If in doubt, be kind and don’t fear, wait and see what happens. It will probably be better than you imagined.  Faith.  Patience.

The yoga of patience

Patience is accepting the unknown, indefinitely.  When we cultivate patience, we accept things as they are, for as long as they are meant to be that way.  This does not mean that we sit passively on the sidelines waiting for the sky to fall.  It means that we work steadily and conscientiously on our work, leaving everything that is not ours in peace.
What is our work?  Evidently it will differ from person to person, and we all probably have more than one important task to which we must apply ourselves.  But, if I may generalize, the work of yoga is the work of consciousness, the transformation of matter into mind into light.  Were are completing the process of photosynthesis, which is the conversion of light into carbohydrate.
Our work, therefore, is to become progressively happier, ever lighter.  When we allow ourselves to become light, we effect change on those around us.  These changes are usually just the ones that the impatient person sets out to change rapidly and forcefully.  Say we have a conflict at work:  the yogi meditates on the nature of the problem, turns it around and perceives it clearly from the other person’s point of view, allows the dust to settle, then uses the gentlest words available to quietly resolve or at least begin to resolve the problem.  The impatient person perceives the conflict.  If they are lucky enough not to burst right then and there, they go home and fume about it, thinking of all the cutting ripostes they were too slow to come up with at the time.  The next day, things get off to a good start, but at the slightest provocation everything flares up again and words are said in haste, often resulting in more misunderstanding.  Of course, this outcome is not only the result of impatience, but impatience is part of it.  Yoga cultivates patience, towards ourselves and others.  When you find yourself becoming impatient, breathe slowly and exhale fully.  Then look afresh and see if anything has changed.

What can I do?

Compassion arises spontaneously when sadhana (practice) clears and calms the cit (mind).   By embracing the reality of impermanence, we perceive the true fragility of everything.  Impermanence is beauty – a plastic flower may be attractive and last forever, but a real flower is glorious precisely because it is short lived.
Spring is all around right now.  Awakening, renewal, growth.  The meadows and hillsides are full of blossom – acacia, mimosa, poppy, lilac…  Humans resonate with this sense of renewal, no matter how far removed we are from Nature.  We are fortunate, here in Altea, to be surrounded by stunning natural beauty.  There is a strong seasonal rhythm here, like a slow drum beat, as the fruit trees successively bear their crops, the sea warms and cools, the rains come and go.
I too find myself with a sense of the new, the undiscovered.  I find myself asking “what can I do?  how can I take yoga out into the world?”  The normal route would be to find a place to give classes, print up posters, and then hope for the best.  But somehow this isn’t what I feel called to do. My special gift is my voice, and my special way of practicing yoga is through chant.  I love playing kirtan, singing mantra in the devotional (bhakti) style.  I want to organise fun kirtan and yoga themed evening events for people not into bars or alcohol.  I want to sing to and with people.  I want to celebrate life, live, be happy, be free.
So I am putting this energy out into the world.  World, please send me the place to do my kirtan celebration!


Ananda is a word used in both yogic and buddhist lexicons.  It means pure bliss or joy.  It is often found as a suffix in the spiritual names of those who have attained samadhi and thus live blissfully a human existence (eg:  Yogananda, Sivananda).
I am inviting ananda into my daily life.  I have become aware that at times my yoga practice is a little too, well, serious.  I have a serious side to me and naturally this translates to my practice.  But I also have a very whimsical and playful side.  I don’t feel that this translates into my practice.  I invite it to join in the fun!
I became aware of one fundamentally joyful and mysterious thing today, while holding Natarajasana:  I am alive!  Yes – I am alive and that is both joyful and mysterious.  Alive.  ALIVE!  With focus, I could watch the joy generated by my awareness of my own vitality transform into simple bliss, ananda.
So, dear yogis, let us be happy and joyful and celebrate our lives.  Let’s strive to be more conscious, more aware, more expansive and more creative.  I invite joy into my life…shall you do the same?

Let the breath contain the movement

The breath is the link between the exterior and the interior yogic practices. It is not in vain that pranayama is the fourth of the eight limbs (ashtanga) of yoga.  The first three are the most external:  habits and behaviours towards yourself and others (niyamas, yamas) and postures (asana).  The last 4 angas are to do with the mind (dhyana, dharana etc.)  Therefore, the breathing techniques (pranayama) form the link between the body and the mind.
The mind has no form, it is composed only of the thoughts that define it.  The quality of mind can be either tamasic (heavy) or rajasic (excited) when not trained.  The trained mind is satvic (calm).  Because it is very difficult to work directly on the mind, to make it more satvic, we bring the mind under control by learning the control the breath.  Breathing is the only physiological process that is under both conscious and unconscious control.
An easy way to focus your yoga practice is to pay attention to the breath.  The breath should be a parenthesis to the movement.  This means that the breath is always longer than the movement:  it begins before the movement begins, and ends after the movement ends. For example, with arms by your side, begin breathing in.  Raise your arms above your head.  Finish the breath after the arms come to vertical.  Now, do this breathing technique throughout your practice. It is very difficult to maintain this kind of mental focus.  Don’t worry if your mind wavers.  When you notice it doing so, come back to the focus (bhavana.)

Yoga 1: In the body

I am delighted to preview the new beginner level yoga course that I am developing for autumn 2010!
Yoga 1 :– In the body
Dates: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-10:30 AM,   October 5 – December 16, 2010 (20 classes)
Location:  Venue as yet to be determined.
Cost: 150 per student.
May be paid monthly by prior arrangement with teacher.
Earlybird discount:130 (paid in full by 4 October, 2010)
To participate:  Class is open to anyone with general good health and a desire to learn yoga and have fun. This is a beginner level class.
Admission to the course is subject to an interview with the teacher. Interviews will be conducted on Monday 28 September and Monday 4 October.
Objectives: This is a course designed to gradually introduce students to the basic elements of yoga: postures, breathing techniques, short meditations and guided relaxations.
The establishment of a personal yoga practice is the objective of this course. Therefore, practices are designed to be manageable in a home setting. Students will receive the bi-weekly sequences on a printed sheet and will therefore finish the course with a small selection of yoga sequences to use in their daily, home practice.
We will touch briefly on the philosophical elements of yoga, for students wishing to deepen their studies.
Students who successfully complete the Yoga 1 course can then join open level classes, or proceed to the Yoga 2 course.
For further information, please call Rachel on 667 997 532 or email