Astanga Yoga London

5th June 2020
05th June 2020

I used to love these extra long weekends, where a moon day was either on a Friday or a Monday. My worry now  is how will I find time to work, the day just, pardon the pun zooms past. I know duff Dad jokes, that’s just how eye roll.

Anyway recent comedy Anna and I listened to, it’s on you tube too. No link as some countries have banned youtube:

What the African said; Daliso Chaponda.

Back to the Ramayana. Sita has been captured by Ravana and he whisks her off in his flying carriage back to Lanka. (Modern day Sri Lanka). So did he have a flying carriage. There has been lots of theories about how someone might build a flying machine thousands of years ago, supposedly powered by mercury. Anyway, probably didn’t exist, but makes the story work. On the way Sita dropped bits of her jewellery so that Rama could follow her. On the way an old bird called Jatayu tried to  reason with Ravana to free Sita. But Ravana just cut off Jatayu’s wing and he fell  bleeding to the ground. When they arrived in Lanka, Ravana says Sita has one year to forget Rama and then must marry him. She is confined and guarded in one of the palace gardens.

Meanwhile Rama and Lakshman get back to there bamboo hut and a they realise Sita has been captured. Lakshman can understand animals and they tell him  what happened. After much crying they follow the directions south and find Jatayu who tells  them what happened in detail. On their way they meet a rakshasa with his head in his body one eye and enormously long arms. This is Kabandha. Although he is very freighting Rama sees there  is  something more. What, who and why is  Kabandha? And does he need to be killed? What to do when faced with evil?



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4th of June 2020
04th June 2020

So today while running I saw quite a bit of wild life.  I’m not talking the Ali Pali party wild life but animals and birds. (No golden deers). In the woods and parks we are seeing large amounts of parakeets, apparently there are two different species in London. Ring necked and Alexandrine. And get this king fishers are not blue! I know I had to look it up. It’s to do with the way their feathers are structurally shaped not the melanin in them. They’re actually brownish.

Back in the forest with Rama, Sita and Lakshman. Ravana sent lots of rakshasas to try to destroy Rama and Lakshman for harming Surpanakha. But Rama and Lakshman sent them all flying home. So Ravana asks his friend Maricha (not to be confused with the sage Marichi) to  help him capture Sita. Maricha disguises himself as a golden deer and prances around the forest. Sita sees the deer and asks Rama to bring it to her. ‘I must have it’ Even though Rama tells her there are no such things as Golden deer, it must be some trick, Sita still wants (what she can not have) And so Rama goes of to chase the Golden deer. Lakshman stays behind to guard Sita. When Marichi has ran far enough away he calls out in a voice just like Ramas. ‘Sita, Lakshman help me’. Even though Lakshman says it’s another trick Sita persuades him to go aide his brother. Before he leaves he draws a circle around Sita and their hut. This is called the circle of Lakshman, a circle of dharma. As long as Sita remains in the circle no harm shall befall her

And of course while Lakshman is out looking for Rama, an old hermit walks past the bamboo hut of Rama, Sita and Lakshman. ‘please can I have some food’ he begs. Sita  of course offers him some but as soon as her arm crosses the circle of Lakshman the hermit reveals himself to be not other than Ravana… mwahahahaha

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3rd of June 2020
03rd June 2020

Ah, good bit of British weather. Having spent a fair amount of time in Scotland, rain is just part of it. The Highlands are incredibly beautiful. Every time I go there I’m so awe struck. And you know they have palm trees too! Plockton Village.

There are some peaceful protest happening in central  London for Black Lives Matter over the next few days. If you are able please support, in any small way you can. Even if it’s just thinking about your own prejudices. From a yoga point of view there are five kleshas. Five poisons that make yoga difficult. Ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred and fear. With lockdown we have a perfect opportunity to question ourselves. Use the names of the five Kleshas to explore your thoughts. That is if you haven’t been doing that all along. The most important thing is not to get  disheartened, to think you’re not doing the right thing. One small step will a turn a frown upside down.  Make your effort and be happy with your path, and do it all with love.

Meanwhile back at Ayodhya Dasharatha has died of grief. Bharata goes to the forest to plead with Rama to return. But Rama is having non of it. He’s sticking by his promise to his father to be in exile for 14 years. So Bharata takes Rama’s sandals and places them on the throne. Back in the forest however things are not all peaceful. The  Rakshasas had been disturbing the rishis. Messing with their meditation. Rama, Sita and Lakshman had build a bamboo cottage. One day a rakshasa called Surpanakha disguised herself as a beautiful woman and seeing Rama asked to marry him. ‘But I am married to Sita and I will only have one wife’. So Surpanakha approached Lakshman who also turned her down. At which point she turned back into her rakshasa form and attacked the brothers. Lakshman cut off her nose and ears and she went screaming back to Lanka. The home of the rakshasa king and her brother in law… Ravana… If you say Ravana to an Indian it’s like the name of the devil. Of course there are temples to him and Brahmin linages to him, that’s India. Anyway Ravana has ten heads, cut one off another pops up. He represents ego, our false sense of self. He is massively learned and has a boon from Brahma that he can not be killed. While Rama is bringer of Joy, Ravana is bringer of tears. Looks like things are going to get a bit toasty in that forest…

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2nd of June 2020
02nd June 2020

So there’s this animal called a Tardigrade, only about half a mm long. Lives mostly in moss. But, get this can survive pretty much anywhere. It can stand temperature from -272 to +150 C. Can withstand 6 times the pressure of the Mariana trench. Has been found on every continent. On the Himalayas in deserts and has been taken into space and let out the door, so to speak and they are still alive. They can go into suspended animation. In 2019 a space module/rocket crashed on the moon and guess what the tardigrades got out. And what will they eat? Astronaut poo of course.

In the Indian stories there are a bunch of people who while not up for astronaut poo do live either for ever or a very very long time. The number is slightly variable but here are the eight:

Vyasa, Hanuman, Parashurama, Vibhishana, Ashwatthama, Mahabali and Kripa

Each one represents something different. Vyasa represents wisdom, Hanuman represents selflessness  and devotion, Parushrama stands for patience and serenity. Vibhishana who we will meet later in the Ramayana stands for righteousness. Ashwatthama who met in the Mahabharata stands for tapas, but remember his immortality is a curse. Mahabali a king, stands for benevolence. And Kripa represents passing on knowledge.

If you’re practicing intermediate. Please remember it’s difficulty and its joy comes from how it works on the emotions. Make sure you take time in finishing asana.

Rama, Sita and Lakshman (who only looks at Sita’s feet) arrive at the Ganges. Ganga as it is known represents Gods flowing nature, of course Ganga is a Goddess. They ask a local boatman Guha to take them across. Guha means cave of the heart. He comes from the Nishada tribe. So  this minor character who comes from tribal heritage gets to take God and Goddess across the Ganges. It’s quite a symbolic moment and it interest me that it’s a simple act done by a simple person that has such a profound effect. They get to the forest on the other side and Lakshman leads with Sita and Rama following. After several days living on roots and berries the arrive at the Ashram of Bharadvaja. Again the names is given an asana in intermediate. Bharadvaja is Drona’s father and Ashwatthama’s Grandfather. He is also one of the 7 maharishis, great rishis. Kashapa, , Atri, Vashishta and Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Bharadvaja. Each Maharishi represents a day, a planet and a chakra. The seven maharishis seam to change every few thousand years and a few make it to the next list. And some get a star named after them. Anyway I got a bit lost where as Rama, Sita and Lakshman are not. Bharadvaja asks them to stay at his Ashram but they decline because people would find them and destroy their peace. And so our little team go deeper into the woods, sometimes you gotta seclude yourself to find yourself.

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1st of June 2020
01st June 2020

My first trip to Africa was to Cameroon. I remember getting off the plane and really understanding what humidity was. The air was thick. And I was too. I just couldn’t understand why everyone walked so slow. But after changing my t-shirt for  the 3rd time in a day I realised slow was good. How much the heat sucked energy away. But fortunately I could get 20 mangos for a quid. Yummy.

Farmer Wise made vegan mango ice cream. Went down a treat. Every day Anna is out in the garden doing something. Last seen sun drying tomatoes. Talia has been making earrings out of anything she can find, old ear phones, dolls heads, lighters (empty)

Sita and Rama get married. Unfortunately they were just kids. I guess it was the norm in those days and of course it still happens, in some countries it’s legal to get married at 14. Anyway on their way back to Ayodhya they meet Parashurama. So this is a bit strange because both Rama and Parashurama are avatars of Vishnu. Parashurama also features in the Mahabharata. He is on the list of 8 immortals. Parashurama passes the bow of Vishnu on to Rama. It signifies that Parashurama has done his part in righting adharma and now  it’s Ramas turn.

A few years go buy and Rama, loved by everyone in Ayodhya is crowned Prince Regent. King in waiting. But all is not happy in Ayodhya. Remember Dasharatha has three wives, and one of them Kaikeyi is worried that her son Bharata will not get anything when Rama becomes king. Even though Dasharatha tries to comfort her her mind is twisted by her servant Manthara (which means hunch back). So Kaikeyi ask for two boons that Dasharatha had promised her long ago. ‘I want Bharata to be crowned Prince Regent and for Rama to be exiled to the forest for 14 years. Again we have ‘exiled to the forest’ just like in the Mahabharata.

Dasharatha is speechless but he must uphold his promise. And Rama follows his fathers wish and along with Sita and Lakshman they leave for the forest. The whole city is in tears…

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01st June 2020

Next conference is Sun 7th 11.30am. Please send me some questions. Bring your tea and a cushion. Email me for zoom login Thanks H

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31st of May 2020
31st May 2020

I’m interested to see what we will miss what regrets we will have when we exit lockdown. Already I miss the very quiet roads. I still find the 2 meter thing really difficult. Silvia one of our lovely students who’s been with us for sometime sent me this link:

How to Survive a Pandemic: Fear, Vulnerability and Resilience

I first came across what was to become aids in 1982. At the time it seems of little importance. We lost a few friends but I’m happy some are still with us. It’s so easy to forget how much suffering others have.

Again our story is back in the forest. The forest represents nature obviously but also the untamed mind. To create Sanskrit meaning perfected from prakrit meaning raw nature change has to happen, and as they say to make pancakes you gotta break eggs. The forest also represents the student time. Rama is our soul and so the Ramayana is the souls journey.

Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshman make their way to Mithila a place close to the Nepal. It’s also called Videha. The word videha appears in the yoga sutras 1.19. And means beyond body consciousness. The king of Mithila is King Janiki who features in the Bhagavad Gita as the ideal philosopher king. One day someone brings a baby to King Janaki. The baby was found in a furrow in a field and so she is called Sita, which means furrow. When Rama gets to Mithila he has to string the bow of Shiva. Contest with bows seem to come up a lot in myths. They represent finding direction. Rama represents the sun and our soul and Sita represents the moon and the mind. Of course they are always together. As Vishnu, all pervading and Lakshmi the Goddess of wealth. Gods and Goddesses always go together. One supports the other.

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30th of May 2020
30th May 2020

Another sunny day. When I lived in Greece we had summer from April to October. Everyday I’d be on the beach. By September I was praying for rain. Are we ever content with what we have. It is not an easy path to be on. This is because of time. We  have to plan for the future but that gives us a sense of ‘not having’. Where as being comfortable with what you have works best when you’re focused on being here and now. So it’s finding that balance between being present and conscious of the future. Being anxious when we wish to be present rather than thinking of the future makes things worse. Our minds find it easier to be focused on now when our senses are taking it a lot. Like watching a film or reading a book. More difficult is staying present when your senses are not enticed. This is part of the yoga practice. Yoga practice changes the way your mind  works, so that it doesn’t get constantly pulled by the senses. It becomes an automatic thing. Practice good breathing and your mind will become more controllable.

The Ramayana continues, the four boys grow up. Rama and Lakshman become close and Bharata and Shatrughna also. One day Vishvamitra a famous sage turns up at Ayodhya. He says ‘there are two Rakshasas upsetting my puja. Please can you help?’ ‘  ‘Of course’ replies Dasharatha. And so Rama and Lakshman even though they’re still teenager follow Vishvamitra into the forest. Vishvamitra means friend to all and Vishvamitrasana is the first asana in advance A series. Vishvamitra also appeared in the Mahabharata as the sage who fathered Shakuntala. But what he is most famous for is coming up with the Gayatri mantra. It said the Ramayana is an explanation of the Gayatri.

Anyway Vishvamitra asks Rama ‘which way would you like to go,  the quick path or the longer path’ Rama replies ‘the longer path for I will learn more’. Rama is asked first to kill a female Rakshasa. At first he refuses as Dharma prevents him from harming a woman. But Vishvamitra points out that crimes are committed by both genders. Later Rama is asked to touch a statue of a woman (Ahilya), who has been turned to stone for being unfaithful. Again Rama refuses until Vishvamitra says forgiveness is more important. How did Ahilya come to be turned to stone? Well she was married to a sage called Gautama who spent most of his time doing sagely things without spending much time  if any with Ahilya. So Ahilya became lonely. Indra seeing this from heaven disguised himself as Gautama and they spend one afternoon happy together until the real Gautama turns up. And turns his wife to stone. Now that Ahilya is free Rama learns about emotions. Ahilya represents the planet Venus and love. She instructs Rama to find contentment and grow from your own failings.

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29th of May 2020
29th May 2020

Living with a teenager is fun, in that it reminds me of me, secluded in a dark room with music playing and monosyllabic answers. Guess I turned out ok

Someone recently asked me about the ego and so here is the reply.

Regarding the ego and yoga. So European understanding of the ego and Indian understanding are similar but with a few differences. The ego is regarded as a filter through which our senses take things through. So that everything is then rated on how much you like it or don’t. So naturally we shy away from things  we don’t like and are attracted to thing we do. When we practice yoga asana and more importantly pranayama that filter drops. At first this is short lived, a few minutes at most but after time that state becomes easier to access.

The Ramayana starts with Dasharatha the king of Ayodhya. Dasharatha means 10 chariots, which refers to his power in battle. However Ayodhya means without without fighting. This really means that it’s a place of peace. Dasharatha has three wives Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. Kaushalya means skilful and we find the word in the Bhagavad Gita 2.50 Yoga is skill in action. Kaikeyi is named after her place  of birth and Sumitra means good friend. Dasharatha doesn’t have any children and so does a puja to have children. Rama is born first to Kaushalya, Bharata to Kaikeyi  and Sumitra has twins Lakshman and Shatrughna. So again we have twins as we did  in the Mahabharata. And Shatrughna becomes ‘the spare’. He doesn’t get much action in our story. Rama of course is our focus. Rama means ‘one who brings joy’ and yana means journey. We can take this to mean physical journey and a spiritual journey. But  it’s really our journey because Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu. Rama was part of the Solar Dynasty and Krishna was part of the lunar Dynasty. Why is this relevant? Well the two stories are said to balance each other out. And Balance is alway good. Not only do we have to be kind to each other we must be kind to ourselves.

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28th of May 2020
28th May 2020

I love Thursdays. I’m usually at my tiredest but that is mostly a mental thing and it stops me getting distracted. My body is also at its most open, and most  importantly it’s primary tomorrow,  so winding down already. Obviously it’s  easy to put your feet up and take it easy. However we should balance being kind to our selves and accepting our selves with being lazy asses.

I live near a large estate and nearly every day there is police helicopter hovering over.

My future worry is we will find it difficult to get back to real life and off our virtual world.

So we finished the Mahabharata yesterday. The other great story is the Ramayana. First the pronunciation. English speakers like to split the word and put the stress on the penultimate A. So Rama- yAna. But the correct way is for it to be said as one word and the second A to be lengthened. So Ramaayana. The yana part is said without any stress on the A.

The Ramayana takes place before the Mahabharata in what is called the Treta yuga, that is the second Yuga. Satya yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara yuga and our own Kali yuga. The Mahabharata was in the Dvapara yuga and ends at the beginning of the Kali yuga. The Ramayana is set in the Treta and ends at the beginning of the Dvapara yuga. Some of the characters in the Ramayana some how manage to last out all the way to reappear in the Mahabharata. Not bad considering the Treta yuga was 1,296,000 years  long. However the Mahabharata was written before the Ramayana, in fact a shortened version of the Ramayana is found in the Mahabharata called the Ramopakhyana. Rama the main character is another avatar of Vishnu, like Krishna. Rama comes before Krishna in the line of avatars, however surely God can be at more than one place and time.

The Ramayana is a much simpler story than the Mahabharata, not as many characters of twists and knots. The author of the Mahabharata was Vyasa and Ganesha was the scribe. For the Ramayana we have Valmiki to thank. He is known as the first poet. His own story is worth telling. He was born a Brahmin with the  name Agni Sharma but the land he lived in experience a drought and so to feed his family he started robbing people. Until one day he tried to rob Narada the sage. Who said are you ok with all the karma you are going to accrue from robbing. Agni Sharma hung his head and admitted it wasn’t great. ‘And how about your family will they take your karma too just as they take the money you steel’. At this Agni Sharma fell down crying. ‘what can I do, God has not be kind to us’. And so Narada says ‘simple just chant the word Mara, again and again’. MaraMaraMaramaramaRamaRamaRama. And so Agni Sharma sat and meditated chanting Rama’s name until the ants built a home around him and hence his name Valmiki which means Anthill. The whole of the Ramayana is written in Sloka meter which is the first time it gets used. Two lines each with 16 syllables. (often it gets written or chanted in four lines).The first line of  of the Ramayana has the word Krounca which means love bird, the second asana in intermediate.

And tomorrow we will start with Valmiki’s  lovely story…

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