Make Tuesday night yoga night!

If you have done some yoga before, why not come along on a Tuesday evening to Bournville Quaker Meeting and give this class a try.  We moved to this new venue in January, as it is more suited to our practice than the previous venue. This session also has the advantage of being a drop-in class, so if you can’t commit to a block of classes you won’t be paying for any you need to miss.

The class starts at 7.30pm with a few minutes relaxation, followed by an asana (postures) practice that takes us to about 8.30pm.  This part includes a short sequence that we do each week, so you will soon pick it up if it is new to you.  We then sit for a breathing or meditation practice lasting some 15 mins and this is followed by a guided relaxation practice to finish the session off.

Some previous experience of attending a yoga class is preferred so you have an idea of how we work, coordinating movement and breath – it doesn’t need to be much, a few classes will be fine!  If the time suits your schedule and you want to give it a try, I look forward to meeting you soon!  The next class will be on 11th June.

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Swapping classes at the Quaker Meeting Houses

My system for swapping classes has been up and running for quite some time now and I thought it was time to take stock of how the system is working.  As a reminder for newer students, this allows you to change to a different class within the same block, providing you give me at least 48 hrs notice and there is a space available to swap to.

By the end of each term, my record sheet is covered with scribbles of classes missed and swaps arranged.  The chaos proves the extent to which the system is used!  I really appreciate it when you tell me you will be away, even if you don’t want to swap, as it so often means someone else can be helped out.

There were a few teething problems when i started teaching at Selly Oak Quaker Meeting House, making sure everyone knew which venue to go to and how to find it, but i think we are getting there.  I hope you enjoy the variety of attending a class in a different venue with a different people on occasion.

It can still get a bit tricky in that last week or two, especially in a short block. If you will be away towards the end of the block, it really helps to let me know ASAP, as it may be we need to re-arrange your classes to earlier in the block rather than later, to reduce the demand on the last couple of weeks.  I am glad to say that i usually seems to come out in the wash and its rare that i have to tell people there is nothing to swap with.

The whole system relies on a bit of forward planning, but its worth it to maximise the number of classes people manage to attend.  That said, please don’t ask me to carry any missed classes forward beyond the end of the block, as I suspect this will cause logistical chaos! If you have any feedback on how you feel it has worked out, please do let me know!

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A scary world

A scary world

Those of you who read my Facebook page may have seen the recent article I posted from Elephant Journal, in which a yoga teacher comments on the nature of yoga as it is practised in America today.  For me, it made for pretty scary reading.  It painted a picture of a culture in which I struggle to recognise the essence of yoga as a way of life that brings together body, mind and spirit.

The author, Robyn Parets, described classes in which the most important thing seems to be some form of gimmick that can act as a hook to draw people to the practice.  Rather than helping students to slow down and find some inner space, it appears that classes are trying instead to appeal to just the opposite; the face-paced and full-on approach which typifies modern life if we allow it.

When I first started teaching yoga, I worked in gyms and leisure centres.  Here, the majority of students were likely to want an exercise-style class.  I felt pressure to deliver a faster-paced class, with more postures in less time. Many times I struggled (and frequently failed) to hold the class together as we practised to the tune of a thudding bass line and the grunts and groans from weightlifters working just outside.  Mindfulness didn’t really come into it.

Since then, I have managed to establish enough classes of my own to not need to work in these environments.  I still meet people whose interest in yoga is purely physical, but find they are not that keen on my style of teaching.  I remember the ones who were pleased to have lost 2 stone in weight by attending hot yoga classes…and told me that they sometimes threw up after the session.

Now, as well as hot yoga, we have naked yoga, and just this week I saw an article on ‘Paddleboard yoga’.  I wonder where it will go and when it will stop.  Already it seems to me that much of it is exercises that just happen to look like yoga postures.  At what point do we stop calling it yoga?

It feels as if there is an endless quest for something, that indefinable something that we feel our modern lives lack.  We know it’s missing but can’t quite figure out what it is.  In our not knowing, we may look to the familiar.  Alternatively, we trust in the promises of the new and different, going to greater extremes in our search.  All this does is lead us further away, to further distractions and greater confusion.

By running towards the solutions we run away from the answer.  We may find it is closer than we imagined if we but choose to look.

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Meditation as performance art?

Converts to meditation can soon find that they cherish the daily opportunity for some mental quiet time, using meditation as a way to find clarity before the bustle of the day kicks in or perhaps some welcome time out in the evening.  However, newcomers to the practice can find themselves wondering what it’s all about as they wrestle with their ‘monkey mind’ and fidget to find a comfortable position.

Meditation takes many forms and Patanjali encourages us to find our own approach, using any technique that suits us.  It would appear that one of those, and one that has people queuing up to try it, is participation in performance art!

Marina Abramovic’s new installation at the Serpentine Gallery in London apparently has eager hopefuls queuing at 2am in order to gain access to three rooms displaying just a few folding chairs.  The performance aspect comes from the artist and her assistants, who gently lead visitors to a space in the room and whisper brief instructions.  According to Chris Blackhurst, in his article in the Independent, he “was led to the middle of a side room. I was told to close my eyes and listen to my breathing and the sounds around me. It was a profoundly relaxing, reductive experience.” Sounds much like meditation to me!

Mindfulness and presence seems to be a theme in the artist’s work.  In her 2010 show, ‘The Artist is Present’ Abramovic sat for over 736 hours, while visitors had the opportunity to sit and face her.  She has also devised the ‘Abramovic Method’, which uses mindfulness exercises to raise awareness of your physical and mental experience in the present moment.  These include writing your name extremely slowly, mindfulness of drinking a glass of water and counting the individual grains of rice in a large pile.

It would be wonderful if some of the visitors to these shows were tempted to explore meditation and mindfulness further as a result.  What do you think?

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Happy holidays!

Well, its the end of term already and all classes will be taking a 3 week break, to start again week commencing 7th January 2019.  I do hope you’ve enjoyed the autumn term and will be joining your class again in the new year.  If you are interested in coming along, there is always room at Weoley HIll Village Hall on a Tuesday evening (some previous experience helpful) or if you would like to join one of the Bournville classes please drop me a line by email.

Happy Holidays and see you in the new year!

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