Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

Pilates, Yoga & Garuda Retreat 2018 (Sold out)

Sold out

Join Adam Murby and Marta Soteras for 5 days of Garuda, Pilates, Yoga and relaxation at one of Europe’s very finest retreat locations.

Each full day will incorporate a full morning and a full evening practice taught by either Adam or Marta. The classes will incorporate Pilates, Yoga, Garuda and Yoga Nidra (yoga sleep).

Thai massage will also be available.

The retreat will include plenty of time for rest and relaxation.

The retreat is limited to a maxumum of 19 participants.

VILLA PI BLAU

Situated in the pictureque bay of Aiguablava, 1.5 km away from the iconic medieval town of Begur, VILLA PI BLAU could not be better placed. Atop a pine-clad hill and surrounded by a beautiful Mediterranean garden, Villa Pi Blau overlooks gorgeous crystalline water coves and sandy beaches at short walking distance. Modern and ethically built by Catalan architects, Villa Pi Blau is one of the very best destinations for Yoga and Pilates holidays.
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Pilates, Yoga & Garuda Retreat 2017

Pilates, Yoga & Garuda Retreat

Join Adam Murby and Marta Soteras for 5 days of wellness and relaxation at one of Europe’s very finest retreat locations. Each full day will incorporate a full morning and a full evening practice taught by either Adam or Marta. The classes will incorporate Pilates, Yoga, Garuda and Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep). Thai massage will also be available. The retreat will include plenty of time for rest and relaxation, including at least one half day excursion (optional). The retreat is limited to a maxumum of 19 participants.
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On ‘having enough’

In my last post, I wrote a critical piece about yoga teachers and the culture of ‘gratitude preaching’, a phenomenon that frankly makes me wince. I did acknowledge though, that it would be quite wrong to be against the practice of gratitude per se, which would surely be an untenable position. I do actually think though, that somehow, I managed to dwell in that untenable position for a number of years. When I was a younger (less reflective; more stupid?) man I actually hated the word content. I put it in the same bracket as settling (for less). And that wasn’t for me. I was aiming for amazing, perfection and more than. Only a loser would settle for content.

What I have realised, and sadly only relatively recently, is that this quest for perfection or more than is actually something of a thief. ‘Not good enough’ can rob you of feelings of satisfaction, achievement and happiness. Shame is a word I thought I knew, but I actually didn’t;  I never knew that it captured feelings connected to ‘not good enough’.

Paradoxically though ‘not good enough’ for many years acted as a kind of fuel. I was stoked up and propelled by it. I suspect many who have a background in professional dance know it quite well. It is part of our job description to not go wrong and do things right; to perfect movement through constant polishing and refining. More than this, a dance career is brutally competitive and an extremely difficult and gruelling career to do well in and sustain. I wasn’t even that naturally talented at it compared to a great many people I met along the way (in terms of bodily facility and technique), but as a result of being driven to do and be better I probably had a more successful career, based solely on the number of dance companies and projects I was involved in, compared to the vast majority of all the people I trained with at undergraduate level. There is no doubt that being a male helped too.  My ultimate dream was to dance for Pina Bausch’s Wuppertal Tanztheater. Very few dancers get to talk their way into doing company dance class with ‘the world’s finest dance company’. I did. The week I spent with them; doing company class, learning the ins and outs of how the company works and getting to know some of the dancers, was a priceless experience. That week ended though with me being informed I wasn’t strong enough to be put in front of Pina for a private audition. For a number of years, this experience tainted my entire dance career. I felt that all of the other very considerable achievements I had attained were clouded. I wasn’t good enough to reach the pinnacle. How terribly sad. What a shame.

Learning to feel that you are enough or have enough can be a very powerful and liberating thing. But it takes practice. One element of yoga that recurs throughout the ages is the steeping of the microcosm in the macrocosm.  Taking the individual out of their normal ways of interacting with their mundane world and placing them into the larger framework of something bigger. There are a gazillion ways of doing this, which many people would not necessarily equate with yoga practice. An example in popular culture is portrayed in the 90s film Grand Canyon when one of the characters (Danny Glover?) tells us that he goes to sit in the Grand Canyon when he is low to get some perspective on his life. Becoming a part of something bigger made him feel better. For me, that experience can be called yoga. I go for walks in a beautiful local park for the same reason. It gets me out of myself. The feeling of connection (might one say communing?) with something larger makes me feel qualitatively better. Walking in the park is a lovely form of yoga.
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On ‘Gratitude’ in Yoga: A Critical Perspective

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the USA (and may all my US friends have a joyful one). This post is not about that though, it just seems like an opportune moment to blog about some thoughts I have had for a while now on the subject of ‘gratitude’. No person could surely ‘be against gratitude’ right? That would be an untenable position. But here’s the thing; I sometimes have to work hard at not audibly groaning when yoga teachers mention the word ‘gratitude’. Does that make me a bad person?!

Let me explain myself; I do actually believe gratitude is a wonderful thing to practice. In my second blog post on this subject, ‘On Having Enough’, I will talk about how I do just that. But today I want to probe into why it is that the word is so seemingly omnipresent wherever yoga teachers congregate. I would happily be corrected, but to the best of my knowledge there is no ancient Indian yogic text that specifically describes a process for the practice of gratitude per se. Equanimity and contentment yes, but gratitude? So perhaps something else is going on. Something sociological. Perhaps like street talk? It seems many yoga teachers like to use the word ‘gratitude’ a lot. Almost as frequently as they use that other word ‘abundance’. It’s part of the lingo. A lingo that others have felt compelled to question and poke fun at with tongue in cheek. Hang around in a yoga studio long enough and you’ll perhaps pick it up too. You’re quite likely to become unconsciously conditioned. And that is surely an irony for a practitioner of yoga.

I came across a great word about the process of this unconscious conditioning last year at Uni. That word is ‘habitus’. For anyone interested in a more academic take on it, (all two of) you might be interested in reading an essay I wrote on the subject in relation to my yoga practice.  The basic gist of habitus is this; in all social contexts one operates there are unwritten and invisible ways of behaving and speaking that individuals pick up and take on. You might look at Prime Minister’s Question Time at the House of Commons in the UK Parliament and think why on earth do they behave and speak like that? Chances are though that if you became an MP, you too would be saying ‘Hear Hear’ when one of your party speaks and be ‘Yah Booing’ the other side within a matter of weeks. Not because any one would tell you to do it, but because that context would pervade you and act upon you. If you want to ‘fit in’ and gain ‘social capital’ you have to play by the invisible rules. Another example would be the taking on of a certain way of walking down the street within a tough neighbourhood. The ‘neighbourhood’ of the yoga sangha (community) is no different. Certain phrases and ways of being get picked up, overused and can become stereotypical. The genesis of my inner groan, I think, might be stirred by an encounter with cliche. It might not be the most elegant response on my part, but I am working on it.

What is yoga?

An answer to the perennial question (without a single reference to postures)

Most yoga teachers, on being asked ‘What is yoga?’, will probably pause for a moment  to think about who is asking the question and how best to answer it, because the truth is there is more than one definition and the answer does require some reflection.

When asked, many teachers will perhaps refer to the etymology/root of the sanskrit word yuj, which is often translated as meaning ‘to yoke, join or unite’. It can then be implied that yoga means a union of mind, body and spirit. This is certainly not wrong, but it is only part of a much larger picture.

Across thousands of years the meaning of yoga has meant different things at different times. Even more confusingly it is a word that has been used differently in the same period of time across different communities.

Perhaps it is more helpful to think of the word yoga as an empty vessel, into which whoever uses the word fills the vessel with meaning. In short yoga means different things in different contexts. For dualists like Patanjali and for Buddhists yoga is not ‘union’, but some Buddhists do maintain yoga is ‘union’ and some commentators think Patanjali’s yoga is not dualist! In the Vedanta philosophy yoga is union; as is the case with Tantra later on. Those seeking the answer to the question ‘What is yoga?’ discover that there is active competition for the word’s ownership.

So in attempting to define what yoga is, where best to start? Perhaps a good place to start would be by reframing the question and asking what the goal of yoga is in the system it is practiced.  At the considerable risk of falling into the trap of being too reductive; throughout the ages, the fundamental goals of yoga have been two-fold:

  1. Spiritual liberation – transcending one’s given circumstances
  2. The attainment of powers – heightened abilities to control one’s worldly environment  and circumstances

There are various techniques of discipline and methodologies of practice that are said to lead to the above attainments and spiritual liberation is often cited as being by far the most superior goal of the two. The techniques of yoga ultimately equip and empower the human individual with a technology that helps them navigate their worldly circumstances more skillfully, which perhaps helps us better understand what people mean when they say, ‘Doing yoga makes me feel better’.

The 5:2 diet

A Yoga Teacher’s Perspective

I never thought in a million years that I would ever embark on a fast. I’d previously placed fasting in the category ‘not for me’, alongside things like marathon running.

It is then a testament to the power of the BBC Horizon programme Eat, Fast and Live Longer presented by Dr Michael Mosley that I was immediately persuaded enough by the health benefits to give it a try.

For any readers curious enough about the programme, it is still available to watch as a series of clips on Youtube. Since it was aired there has been a lot of media coverage including an excellent article in The Sunday Times magazine (behind paywall) and the following article in the The Telegraph by Dr Mosley himself. And since first writing this post Dr Mosley and Mimi Spencer have released a new book and website called The Fast Diet.

The 5/2 diet is essentially an intermittent fasting (IF) routine which means you eat as you normally would for 5 days of the week and for the two other days of the week eat a maximum of 600 calories.

After doing a little more research I settled on Brad Pilon’s version of the diet: Eat, Stop, Eat (ESE). Via this version of IF you consume all 600 calories of your allocated daily allowance in one meal and then go for 24 hours until the next meal. i.e breakfast to breakfast or dinner to dinner. I found his argument to be quite persuasive on physiological grounds as to why this is a more beneficial way of IF, compared to splitting the 600 calories into two meals over the day, but of course it is a matter of personal choice. 

After a bit of a false start; I succeeded with the first attempt but folded on the next two attempts, I cracked it. I am now able to do it relatively easily and have been doing it for 3 weeks.

The results have been quite pleasing and surprising. The pleasing aspect is that I have lost 7 lbs and have gone down a good couple of belt notches. I was not exactly porky to begin with, but since ahem turning 40 it is almost like my stomach was waiting for that number to begin noticeably expanding! It is quite amazing how quickly this has been turned around.

There are two things that have surprised me quite a lot. The first is the lack of hunger that I encountered. I imagined that I would be famished and perhaps a bit light headed and wobbly. I have felt hungry, but it passes relatively quickly and herbal teas can be surprisingly filling. The second big surprise is an increase in energy levels. I guess it wasn’t until I tried fasting that I could have experienced just how much energy is expended simply digesting meals. This was a real eye opener.
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Contemplating Death

It’s not the downer you might think!

“It’s only when you’re aware of death… that life screams at you with all its intensity”.
Philip Gould

Nobody likes to talk about death. Of course people find the subject morbid and frightening. Whilst understanding this, I have at the same time always found people’s aversion to the subject quite odd, as it is only by taking the time to look right into the face of death, that perhaps one can feel the forceful vitality of life and all its splendor.

My mother learned this lesson first hand in the five years between her first diagnosis with cancer and her death. Saying this was a bleak time for our family is obviously an understatement and there were some very low lows along the way. But there were also some very significant highs and the larger point of this post is that positive transformation and growth can happen when faced with death.

After a period of anger and grief my mother quickly gained a new ability to see what was truly important in her life and that which wasn’t. Time became finite and life became something to take your time with and truly savor. Her zest for life became more vital and she gained a brand new appreciation and ability to sense the true value of things, especially in terms of the relationships with those around her.

The good news is you don’t need to be terminally ill to learn all of that. You don’t need to be shocked by horrific news to get jolted out of taking things for granted and letting the weeks go by in autopilot mode.

I was just 18 when my mother died. I consider myself fortunate to have been at her side learning this lesson early in life. At the time I was working in a printing factory, which had a single window (behind a cupboard) overlooking Leicester train station. Before losing my mum I used to stare out of that window and daydream about having a more exciting and purposeful life in London (It was a kind of promised land in my teenage fantasy life!).

Four years later I was in a leotard (a leotard!) standing next to ballet barre having won a scholarship to study dance at The Laban Centre. Not only was I literally dancing with joy, I was living in the promised land of London – Well, New Cross Gate to be exact!

Getting up close to death was one of the very best things to have happened to me. Life became a magnified gift.

Having got this experience in the body, it came as no surprise to me in my studies on the subject of yoga to come across a whole series of practices, which might be termed ‘Death Yoga’ or contemplations on the nature of impermanence. It is a subject I will perhaps write more about in future, but for now I would wholeheartedly recommend, to anyone interested in investigating this further, Akiro Kurosawa’s fabulous film Ikiru. The other is the short film above about Phillip Gould, which contains much wisdom.