Posts tagged practice
Ashtanga Yoga: An Authentic Practice

Ashtanga Yoga: An Authentic Practice

by Paul Fox

imageskrishThe Ashtanga Yoga classes at Camyoga are increasingly busy at the moment. Why is this form of yoga proving to be so popular with students?  I believe the answer lies in the authenticity of this practice and the connection it has back to the renaissance in yoga in the 1930s.

In an age where hatha yoga has grown, evolved and developed into myriad forms and styles – many of them excellent – there is still a place for a practice that lies at the heart of the hatha yoga tradition. It was in the 1930s that the great yogi Krishnamacharya re-invented and revitalized the discipline of hatha yoga which had largely fallen out of favour in India. While teaching at the Maharaja of Mysore’s Palance, Krishnamacharya was exposed to many influences, including Indian wrestling, body building, Swedish gymnastics and other disciplines then grouped under the title of “physical culture”.

He evolved a system of dynamic hatha yoga, incorporating sun salutations almost for the first time into the yoga tradition (their exact origin is unclear with some claiming they existed a few decades earlier in the yoga tradition, while others claim they were a warm-up routine for wrestlers).

Krishnamacharya developed hatha yoga as a complete and comprehensive discipline. He then taught it to his main students, BKS Iyengar, his son Deskikachar (much later) and to Shri K Pattabhi Jois, the Guru of Ashtanga yoga.  We can confidently say that almost all the hatha yoga taught in the West has its origins in the work done by Krishnamacharya. He is truly the founding father of modern hatha yoga. Pattabhi Jois – who passed away a few years ago in his 90s – developed the yoga of Krishnamacharya further into the current system of Ashtanga Yoga.

The practice is divided into Primary Series, Intermediate and Advanced. Most led classes are Primary Series, with other series explored in self-practice “Mysore style” classes or during specialist workshops with visiting tutors, like my own teacher, John Scott.

The Primary Series is quite possibly the greatest vinyasa ever written. The exact sequence of poses perfectly opens the body, with each posture leading the way to the next. When practiced diligently it is said to heal body and mind and is known as “Yoga Chikitsa” – yoga therapy. The Primary Series is perfectly suited for chair-sitting westerners as it contains a lot of forward bends to counteract the shortening of hamstrings from our sedentary lifestyles. The strength needed to lift and lower to and from the floor also builds power and stamina that it also often missing in our inactive lives.

If you haven’t already tried Ashtanga Yoga then consider giving it a go this Autumn with myself or Emma Lindsay. In my classes this Autumn I will be focusing on one or two poses each class to build up confidence and competence in the practice of ashtanga yoga, together with the usual emphasis on breath (ujjayi), bandha (engagement of core) and drishti (looking place).

As Pattabhi Jois was fond of saying, "practice, practice and all is coming".

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Paul Fox has been practicing yoga intensively for 17 years and holds the British Wheel of Yoga Teaching Diploma (1999), A two-year Ashtanga Yoga teaching diploma from John and Lucy Scott (2006) and a Yoga Sports Science Yoga Sports Coach Diploma (2011). View Paul's classes here.

Is Yoga Better with Friends?

Is Yoga Better With Friends?

YOGA-SUTRA-314Are you a lone yogi? Or do you prefer to practice with friends? According to research by Oxford University anthropologist Dr Emma Cohen exercising in a group actually has many benefits - both physical and psychological. Firstly, training in a synchronised group may heighten tolerance for pain, enabling atheltes to train longer and harder. At Camyoga we certainly don't advocate pushing our members to the point of pain - yoga should never be painful - but this does suggest that practising with friends can improve endurance, which is particularly relevant to more physically taxing forms of yoga such as hot yoga, power yoga and ashtanga.  As Jackie MacLeod and Sukey Novogratz, yoga buddies and founders of The Well Daily, point out, "who better to tackle crow pose with than someone you know is rooting for your success?"

Another recent study, conducted by Virgin Active Health Clubs, reveals that friends who exercise together will visit the gym more regularly, and of women who run, go to the gym or attend group exercise classes with friends, 64% push themselves harder than if they went alone. In terms of attendance, we all know that one of the most mentally challenging aspects of yoga practice can be making the commitment to just do it. Whether it's early in the morning or after work, getting into the right frame of mind to get yourself to class on time can sometimes be pretty tough. Whether you're too tired, too busy, too hungry or simply 'not in the mood', finding excuses to avoid practice, and caving in to them, is probably all too familiar for most of us. Even the most dedicated of yogis have 'off' days! Heading to class with friends can take some of the decision-making out of that process - we've agreed to go and 'that is that'. After all, it's much easier to convince yourself that you just can't be bothered than it is to convince a persuasive friend...

On  a less scientific front, many of us live increasingly busy lives, jam-packed with work commitments, financial concerns, busy calendars full of social events and even more for those of us who are parents! Sometimes socialising, outside of pre-ordained 'social events', can be hard to squeeze in. Neighbours are less and less likely to 'just pop round' for a a cup of tea. Practising yoga with friends can be a beautiful and relaxed way to spend time with pals with no pressure attached.

At Camyoga we value the importance of friendship. That's why our Gold Members can now bring a friend to class, absolutely free of charge. To find out more, ask at reception or email info@camyoga.co.uk for more details.

 

Our Top Ten Yoga Books: Part Two

Our Top 10 Yoga Books: Part Two

We recently asked you to share your favourite yoga books with us. Here's part two of the results. Read the first part here. Is your favourite missing from the list? Add your own recommendations using the comments form at the bottom of the page... happy reading!

booksfarhi6. Bringing Yoga to Life (Donna Farhi)

Donna Farhi is a world renowned yoga teacher and reading this book, it is very clear to see why. Laced with real life examples and personal vignettes, this book is a wonderful guide to applying what happens on your mat to the rest of your life too. Inspiring, heartwarming and evocative, Donna's style is both down to earth and refreshingly honest. She encourages the reader to take a long, hard look at their lives, their minds and their practice. A great book to turn to now and again when you need a strong pick-me-up! Our very own Beverley Nolan studies annually with Donna. (And Donna herself will be visiting Camyoga in July next year!)

bookskaminoff7. Yoga Anatomy (Leslie Kaminoff & Amy Matthews)

Ever wondered what your psoas is or how breathing works? This popular guide to anatomy is one of the best available, revealing the inner workings of the human body asana by asana.  Whether you're studying to be a yoga teacher, looking to improve your knowledge of anatomy or simply just plain curious, this book is a wonderful reference and great for dipping in and out of.

 

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8. Bihar School of Yoga Books

 The Bihar School of Yoga was founded in 1964 by Swami Satyananda Saraswati and they have been publishing books and articles on all aspects of yoga for over 40 years through their publishing house, Yoga Publications Trust. All of the books in the series act as wonderfully detailed guides to specific aspects of yoga. Mark Stevens, our Jivamukti teacher, says "If you see a Bihar School of Yoga book in a second hand bookshop, buy it and read it. If you don't like it, I'll buy it off you." Now that certainly is a recommendation!

 

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9. Yoga: Immortality & Freedom (Mircea Eliade)

This book certainly doesn't make for light reading but readers' efforts are rewarded - a staggering and colourful ride through the history of yogic traditions and philosophy. Discover the origins of what we know today as yoga and uncover the social, political and spiritual contexts in which the practice has developed, splintered and expanded. Eliade presents yoga in all of its glorious complexity, diversity and richness.

41VCDtl3ETL10. The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy & Practice (Georg Feurstein)

This mammoth 720-page book contains a wealth of information on all aspects of yoga. Covering the links between yoga and major religions, yogic cults, literature, philosophy and practice, this truly is a comprehensive guide. The book also contains full and part translations of key yogic texts, including the Sutras and parts of the Bhagavad Gita.

Get to know Camyoga Teacher, Rachael Moore

Get to Know Camyoga Teacher: Rachael Moore

Rachael Moore

Name: Rachael

Age:  38

Occupation: Mum and yoga teacher

What brought you to yoga?

As with many people, I first came to yoga as many people do, to help combat 'stress' as a result of my job. I worked as a speech and language therapist for children with profound medical and learning difficulties and although hugely rewarding, it was also at times highly emotional and stressful. Yoga helped me find a way to deal with the challenges I faced in a calm and grounded manner, reacting to situations in a more balanced way.

As a teacher what is Yoga about and not about?

Oooh how long have you got!!!! It is probably easier for me to say what I personally think it is not. Yoga is not about being the best in the room, yoga is not about being competetive (even with yourself), yoga is not always the glossy images you see in the magazines, practising yoga, does not  mean that you no longer experience hardship or tough times (unfortunately). The practice of yoga is far greater and deeper than all of that. Yoga gives you the tools for everyday living, it helps you on every level of your being. Yoga releases your tired stiff body from sitting at a desk all day helping you re-find that childhood softness and agility. In helping you re-claim physical flexibility, this flexibilty then leads to greater flexibility in the mind and how we react to life situations off the matt. It leads you towards a truer more honest you! Wherever you are in your life, yoga can be there for you . It can transform the body physically, energeticly and emotionally. It can energize, detox, heal and nourish you . It can be a soft landing when you fall.

What do you do when you are not doing yoga?

Being mum to my three gorgeous daughters and being taken for a walk by my two huge labradoodles Molly and Floss! What is your favourite yoga pose and why?

Wow! It's almost impossible to choose one as depending where I am on any particular day will determine my favourite pose!. Generally though, I absolutely love and standing balance, especially Natarajasana for its openness and grace and Garudasana for that beautiful feeling of opening up the shoulders.

What is your least favourite yoga pose and why?

I know it sounds cheesy and a bit of a cop out, but I really don't have a least favourite pose. If pushed though, I probably shy away from strong core work a little more readily than I should do!

What is one quality you have taken off the mat and incorporated into your daily life? Patience

An interesting fact about Rachel that you may not know is:

I used to do synchronized swimming as a teenager!!

To book into Rachel's classes click on link

 

Being Your Biggest Self

Being Your Biggest Self

100ft wave

What are you like when you are your most expansive? Courageous, creative, playful, funny, considered, patient, adventurous?  What are you like to be around when you are your smallest?.......

Here are two examples of folk being their most expansive and living their best lives:

On the 28th January 2013 Garrett McNamara was on holiday in Portugal. He looked out of his window and the weather was awful and he knew it was going to be a great day.... His two friends jet skied him out to sea so that he could surf an incredible 100 ft wave. Fishermen from the town had abandoned the sea as weather as it was too rough, for him it was a chance to be his biggest self....To see this incredible achievement click here

Arthur Boorman had been a paratrooper in the Gulf War and too many jumps had left him wearing back and knee braces. For 15 years he was told this is it and he accepted it. Then he found a yoga teacher who did not know him but believed in him and he then believed in his biggest self........Be your biggest self, whatever it takes.

Arthur

 

Thank you to Pilar and Simone for sharing this inspiring clip:  Click here to see Arthur overcome 15 years of disability

Inspiring workshops at Camyoga