September 2018: On Expansion and Contraction

Today, 7am from 12 September 2018

In yoga, no two mornings are same, even if we do a series of poses day in day out. It is a practice of expansion and contraction, as my teacher Radha (who is coming to Glasgow in November) once said. Sometimes you get things, sometimes you lose them. And some times, they also return. This, in my experience, happens without warning, you don’t get up one day and say: ‘today is the day I will bind’ and then it happens. Although intention is extremely important (after all, yoga is a practice for the mind), this quality of expansion and contraction is there for us to keep practicing and to remain equanimous. As the famous saying goes, before enlightenment, chop wood; after enlightenment, chop wood. Whether you bind or not, it does not matter. What is important is staying present in all the facets of the journey, feeling that primordial pulsation, found in heartbeat and breath, and common to every thing. Pure expansion and contraction.
Now that the summer is gone (certainly in Glasgow) and the season is changing, I feel this expansion and contraction even more: adapting to the new rhythms and new patterns, letting go of what has been and not worrying about what is to come. I feel it all on my mat and I know that this, just this, is the work of yoga.

Laura x


What I have been watching
The Evolution of Yoga is a beautiful short film by Danny Paradise, where he explains why yoga is expanding, why more people are practicing, what it gives to the world. He also expands on the themes of this video for a longer podcast here. I like Danny a lot because, while rigorous and traditional, his practice is expansive, including elements of shamanism, and spiritual practices from other cultures. I met him briefly in Crete once, as he was teaching along the bay from us and came to say hello to Yoga Plus practitioners. 


What I have been practicing
Earlier in the month, I went to a backbend workshop with Kino McGregor at Sacred Heart Yoga in Edinburgh. Kino’s youtube channel has always helped me on the mat and, in person, she did not disappoint. She is very knowledgeable, clear and kind. In her workshop, she gave us 4 principles for backbends and I think they apply to everyone in every pose, all of the time: (1) Set appropriate goals. These can be simply to straighten the arms in urdhva dhanurasana, rather than backflip (2) Have positive internal dialogue and check yourself when you slip into negative chat. Yoga is an opportunity to befriend yourself. (3) Visualise what you are trying to achieve; keep the whole pose in your mind’s eye. (4) Constantly be aware of your breath as it is the window to your nervous system.

What is interesting about Kino’s approach to backbends, you will notice, is that the physical ability is not there in the principles. Of course, it is implied and needs to be built on, but for her it was not about turning the feet, lifting the ribs, relaxing the psoas etc (although she did instruct that too) but an opportunity to see how mind and body are connected. This really expanded my awareness of practice.


What I have been reading
I have been reading about the emotional effects of yin yoga, and trying to adapt my practice of this form to my needs in order to experience this more subtle aspect. Sarah Powers’ Insight Yoga offers a very useful matrix, I have been experimenting with on the mat.

– A Wood element practice, focusing on the liver and gallbladder, would balance anger and compassion;
– The Fire element in the heart and small intestine would work on hate and love;
– The Earth quality in the spleen and stomach would address the axis between anxiety and equanimity;
– The lungs and large intestine, which belong to the Metal element, levels sorrow and courage;
– The Water element in the kidneys and urinary bladder stabilises fear and wisdom.

As we find ourselves in the late summer season, it is the time for the Earth element, for grounding and foundation, for reflecting and taking things in (and yoga can help enormously with that). Sarah Powers also relates the elements to tastes and the one associated with this particular time is sweet so, what more is there to say? Enjoy all the season brings!


Until 13 December 2018
at the Arlington Baths, 61 Arlington Street Glasgow G3 6DT, as part of Rosina Bonsu’s programme:

Tuesdays, 18.15 – 20.30: Assisted Self-Practice (Mysore), £11 full price | £9 concession or included in the 8 class and unlimited cards.

Thursdays, 7.45 – 9.30: Assisted Self-Practice (Mysore), £11 full price | £9 concession or included in the 8 class and unlimited cards.

Fridays, 12, 19 October 16.30 – 18.00: Fundamentals of the Breath. Booking required. £40/£35 Arlington members, concessions / £70/£60 for both courses.

Friday 9, 16.30 – 18.00, Saturday 10 November, 12.00 – 13.30: Deepening your Breath (for yoga & life). Booking required. £40/£35 Arlington members, concessions / £70/£60 for both courses.