Today, 7am from 22 June 2018
I have lived by the school calendar since I was 3 years old. I went to school, high school, many degree programmes at different universities and then stayed on to work in them. For me, the end of June is a time of change, of saying goodbye to some patterns and people, and of considering what to do with the good weather and the free time. It is also a time for holidays, for unwinding, for communal enjoyment and for recognising achievements. This is an auspicious end of year for me, as I have just become a Professor of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I will be celebrating. Then I will be resting. And among both, there will be yoga. What are your plans? What are you honouring? What do you want to embrace this summer? Where are you choosing to go to?
Whatever you do, I do hope you have time to refresh, to put your feet up and stock up on vitamin D and, of course, to practice something.
What I have been listening
My first ever encounter with yoga philosophy was James Boag’s Yoga Sutras Book I workshop. Of course, the Sutras exploration was amazing but after the last asana session, James made us take savasana and recited the whole of Samadhi Pada (Book I) to us. I had such a strong reaction to the Sanskrit, the the musicality and the articulation of those sounds, I felt I was levitating. That savasana stayed with me and I have wanted to learn to recite for a while.
I bought a CD to learn to recite the yoga sutras and it has been playing continuously. Who knew one could recite the Sutras while mopping the floors? I find it very pleasant—although challenging too—to learn to recite and memorise them but I am doing good progress, just by learning one a day. I even find it useful on my mat, as I can have it as a mantra and let is guide my practice. If you want to hear Dr MA Jayashree, she has her recitations on youtube, although these are the straight chapters, without the repetitions you get on the learning CD.
What do I get from reciting? That feeling of levitating I got when James sang is quite accurate, actually. It is as if many cells in my body were vibrating all at once. Sadly, to recite is not to sing, so while my Sankrit is improving, I could do with music lessons too.
What I have been thinking about
I am an artist (and a writer) as well as a yoga teacher and it is not easy to manage these two occupations, not because of the activities involved but because of the contexts, circles, times and spaces in which they take place. I often cannot attend events because they are too late in the evening and I get up early to attend to my sadhana—of course, there are always exceptions, as yoga is about balance and integration. I have had people asking me to add them to my mailing list, only to be baffled by the yoga content, which does not apply to them as artists (I only have one mailing list, this one, which is on yoga!). Yet, I have felt for a while that these two realms are mutually supportive, already integrated in my mind-body. But how to transmit that? I have written a blog post with an example that truly inspired me.
Encountering this beautiful example from Adrian Piper has spurred a change of how I put myself out there, so much so that on the 19th June, I did a talk at the University of Huddersfield broadly on the idea of showgirls who headstand. I had a great time looking at images of Marilyn doing yoga (mentally trying not to adjust her …)
What I have been reading
On social media, Taylor Hunt wrote:
If you want something different, do something different.
Quit doing the same shit and asking things to change.
As I struggle with a pose I have only managed to do a handful of times in 6 years, I wonder how often I fall into that second line, asking for miracles when yoga is, in fact, one of the most scientific things I know. You put the work, you get the results, but you have to know what the work is and how to do it. You have to let go, you have to be willing to try different ways, even if it is scary. And it is scary because there are obstacles we have to negotiate. But, as someone said, the obstacles are not IN the path; they are THE path. Andrew Hillam puts it nicely:
Yoga practice is often presented as a salve to bring relief to our many stresses in daily life. The higher purpose of Aṣṭāṅga yoga, however, is for psychological and spiritual transformation. As with any practice of this nature, we should expect to face some obstacles as part of the process. If we don’t understand these difficulties as part of the bigger picture, it may cause us to question the validity of our practice when the results are not in line with our expectations. But the obstacles that are placed in front of us serve a purpose: They are a catalyst for transformation…
To me, this is inspiring and makes me think of my challenges in quite a different way. I am ready to transform, wherever the practice takes me.
All my programmes (Rosina Bonsu, RCS and Sweaty Betty) have finished now until September and I am going to spend my summer studying Ashtanga and Pranayama with Kia in the Spanish Mountains and visiting Radha and Pierre in Crete for two weeks of morning Mysore.
A group of us meets at the Arlington Baths in the morning to practice together. We chip in £2 to keep the space open and support each other through our sadhana. Get in touch if you want to join us.