May 2020: On Counting


Today, 6am, on 6 May 2020.
I remember telling my friend Peter, who is not a yoga student, that when Rosina taught classes she always said some strange magic words that did something to me. They focused my breath and my mind, allowing me to get deeper into the postures. A little later, I found out that what Rosina was doing was counting and that those magic words were humble numbers in Sanskrit. Anyone practicing ashtanga yoga will know the power of a teacher saying ‘ekam innnnnnhale …’ There, it all begins. The whole class is together, synchronised, breathing as one and supporting each other through the count.

But counting is not the only the domain of Ashtanga led classes. I first learned the power of the count while dancing. There, the convention is a little different. It goes: ‘and 5, 6 … 5, 6, 7, 8, GO.’ The feeling is so different. The wave of the anticipation, having to hit the move just after the 8. Took me years to perfect my entrances. I count in pranayama too, ratios between inhalation and exhalation in my head and with the fingers of my left hand, the rounds. I count time, I count breath, I count beat.

Counting in your head and keeping to the teacher’s count are not easy. They require attentive listening and strength of spirit. But the count helps us notice things in our mind, body and breath, and invites us to let go of the postures when it is time. This might seem inconsequential but I really, really did not want to let go the first time I bound in Marichyasana C, just in case it never happened again. The count also invites us to practice equanimity. Tim Feldmann made us repeat the 25 counts of utplutih until we practiced it equally to the posture before, when seated in meditation. We had to let go of our likes and dislikes. The count is emphasised when you get a new posture. When Radha came to me after my last asana and told old me to come to standing, I knew she was going to count me into something new.

The count, Kia says, is our breath, like the thread holding us together in our community mala. This is a very powerful thing to experience in her online shala. Apart from feeling connected, the count relaxes if you surrender to the rhythm, like when you go to sleep. And it is only when relaxed, when you are in parasympathetic mode, that you can grow. So if you don’t already have a practice of counting (breaths, beats, steps, mantras), take this opportunity, when things are still a little slow in the world, to practice it by going to a counted class, or learning the numbers, or simply trying to count Surya Namaskar a. It will be worth it.

Laura x

What I have been practicing

I do various counted classes a week and my two full primaries, with Kia on Friday, when the whole Ashtanga world does primary, and Judi on Sunday are my favourites. As they are online (for the moment), you can join too. I have been counting all my practices and I feel pretty confident up to navasana but after that, I admit I need to brush my count. Counting Bhujapidasana is my challenge for next week.
What I have been listening to

There are lots of nice counted classes on YouTube. Try the ones from John Scott, or Deepika Mehta’s half primary for example. A very interesting recording I sometimes practice with is a sound file you can get from Peg Mulqueen’s website (through a donation). Many teachers each teach one pose and it is amazing to see the different rhythms and styles of counting, while noticing which I like and which I don’t. Of course, I need to get past that too.
What I have been reading

The best book to learn the count is, I think, Ashtanga Yoga by Lino Miele. I often consult it in new postures to make sure I got them right and I am not missing any transitions, even if I don’t learn the full count in the first go. Call me a nerd (I am). I think all this counting in yoga is making my dance entrances and timings better!

We may not be able to gather under the same roof, but we are all practicing under the same sky – with the possibility to tap into the beauty and energy of shared intention.

Mysore Yoga Paris online Shala with Kia Naddermier is open and you are all welcome to connect via zoom, from wherever you are! The beauty of this virtual space is that we are finally able to bring our wider community together from all over the world…

This is an amazing opportunity to practice with my teacher. The current situation can have some positives and this is definitely one of them. It will transform your confinement time.

Kia will be holding this sacred space connecting us all, in the hope that it will resource, nourish and support you in these vulnerable and tender times. We remain Closer Together than ever before.

SIGN UP HERE (note there is no online shala week 8 June)



All of my open classes are off until the quarantine in the UK is lifted. A few of us meet twice a week on zoom to self-practice together 8-9.30am and then we stay on for a chat. Please email me if you want to join us. No need to know the sequence, I can send you a cheat sheet!

I am also available for pranayama one-to-one sessions online and may run some classes if there is enough interest.

I have been attending Maureen Thorpe‘s zoom classes and Judi Farrell’s Sunday Counted Primary at Merchant City Yoga. Both are a joy and you should try them! Please email me for details.
Since late April, I have been practicing with Kia in my living room (see details of her online shala above). I cannot express enough how special and healing this is. It is accessible to all and you don’t need to be confident in the practice. She will guide you and modify.