Astanga Yoga London

27th of July 2020
27th July 2020

I have this on a loop.

Today there were 38 students. It was full at 5am then slowly reduced so by 6.45am there was only one person. Then it started getting busy again from 7.15am and was full from 7.30am to about 8.40am. Four people had to wait between 7 and 18 minutes. Then it was quiet all the way through to the end. It’s really lovely to be working with everyone it feels quite special.

26th of July 2020
26th July 2020

Louise and Tom taught Sunday class and there were 12 people in.

25th of July 2020
25th July 2020

First day back at the shala. So lovely to see all your smiley faces. We started with a few people and built up over time. Only at one time did I call ‘one more’. There was no waiting. We have one meter between mats but a few times couples came in so as they live together they could have mats closer.

Thank you all for coming in. Thank you Louise for assisting and big thanks to Joan for keeping the shala clean throughout the day

24th of July 2020
24th July 2020

It feels like something special is going to happen.

Oh yes we’re opening tomorrow!

I guess a few of you may be nervous about coming back. And to be honest we are too, we don’t know what it will be like. We will be smiling though.

Tomorrow afternoon I will write up how it all went and hopefully we can do that for a few days so that you get an idea of what to expect. Feel free to email/text me any questions or worries.

See you soon


21st of July 2020
21st July 2020

Only a few more days till we open again, so put that pizza down! I’ve been using the last few days to reflect on what I’ve learnt and what I intend to do with that. Be more friendly to everyone. Get rid of a load of crap that I don’t need/never use/attached to for no apparent reason. Try and live now. (With emphasis on try).

The last part of chapter 1 of the Yoga Sutras follows the general theme of Samadhi, after all that is the title of the chapter. Patanjali talks about a variety of things that you can concentrate on/meditate on/gain insight from. The choices end with ‘you can mediate on what ever you like’. I like this freedom, this non prescriptive view.

Of course we may wonder ‘but what should I mediate on’? or ‘which chant should I use’? Which all condenses down to ‘which way should I go’? The simple answer is it doesn’t matter, just start. Sit and see what comes to you. Our endless search for happiness is always constrained by sadness. We will always have good days and bad days until we can let go of own desire. That is why Patanjali says meditate on anything. Because if he said mediate on an oak tree and it didn’t work you’d blame either the oak tree or Patanjali.

Of course we then ask ‘do I have free will’? Which has a rather complicate answer. We live in a world of free will where our sense of self exists. Our sense of self is for the most part there because of other people and our free will  or belief in it happens because our brain is not fast enough to see that our brain acts before we are aware of it. You can look up the Libet test. Not having free will is about as big an attack on the ego as possible. And because it would fuck up pretty much the whole world ‘wasn’t my fault’ we generally live in our little utopia of self.

The only option is to smile

18th of July 2020
18th July 2020

As some of you know Anna, AKA farmer wise has decided to stop teaching at AYL. For a few reasons, but mostly because she really enjoys her main job of working for Birth Companions. And now they have offered her more money/hours. Anna and I set up Dharma shala, many hours have gone into choosing how things would be. There is no way I could have done it with out Anna. (or much else)

Today I went for a nice long run, though that would be a way to then relax on the sofa after. Talia went off to Camden with her friends. And we get a call from one of them, Talia has lost her phone. Of course being Crouch end parents we track every move. So we figured the phone was on the 29 Bus. We jumped in the car, and tracked it to Wood Green. We could see the bus coming up the road on the opposite side. So as Anna was driving I jumped out of the moving car, sprinted across the big intersection. And we now have the phone and I’m on the sofa. Someone is on cleaning duty for a few days.

In the last post of the Yoga Sutras we looked at how Patanjali advises us in relationships and the related emotions. Patanjali’s main push is for samadhi, everything is to reach this goal. So not just how we do Marichasana D or that we have satvik food but how we relate with each other is a part of the yoga path. Finding joy in everything. We’re all after the happiness thing, and we can really only get that when we bring happiness to others.

The next sutra is rather interesting 1.34 At first it seems simple. It says Samadhi is obtainable by exhalation/restraining the breath. Which would seem obvious that pranayama can bring about samadhi. The confusion is with the first word. Prachchhadana, hard enough to say. Usually it is translated as exhale. But when you read the dictionaries and question a few people with more knowledge than me it actually comes out as ‘to vomit’. No information is given how to breath or how to hold ones breath. May be this one sutra has more to it than meets the eye. When you are sick your stomach contract strongly. In this way when we hold our breath after an exhale contraction of the stomach muscles strongly is an important part. It’s also interesting Patanjali is only interested in the exhale retention. No mention of inhale is made.

See you soon…

16th of July 2020
16th July 2020

15 has landed! It started out as a book inside a book and then rather like Scotland broke free and became its own thing. It’s a simple book about the 15 questions Arjuna asks Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. It’s like a little taste of the Gita to get you more interested in reading the real thing.

So I’ve discovered the dog has a shopping problem. Where as traditionally a dog would bark at the postie, Scout wags her tail excitedly when ever a parcel arrives. She’s figured out that occasionally there are dog treats inside.

Next in the Yoga Sutras we have three of my favourite sutras 1.31-33. The first is practical, the second is more ‘you want one answer’ and the third is how to be with relationships.

1.31 Are a list of 4 things to look out for when we have a disturbed mind. They are pain, depression, shaking limbs and unsteady breathing. I like to pass this on to yoga teachers as something simple to look out for when teaching.

1.32 JUST PRACTICE ONE THING. It couldn’t get any simpler, concentrate on what you can do, stop trying to impress the ladies/guys. As the saying goes dig one deep well not 100 shallow wells.

1.33 this one is almost word for word taken from the Pali cannon of what the buddha said. Being friendly to the happy, compassionate to those who are suffering, joyful for the virtuous and here is the hard one indifferent to those who push your fucking button. What does that really mean? Don’t treat people who push your button different. You still need to be kind and thoughtful with each interaction. But don’t get drawn in to react.

14th of July 2020
14th July 2020

Counting down the days.

In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali mentions 9 things that are a hindrance to yoga. Well actually he mentions many hindrances but there are 9 specific ones. 1.Illness, we all get ill and have to learn either to remove, cure or live with our maladies. 2 Laziness, well I think we have all experience of that. And tempting thought is to remain in bed, yoga is effort. Not much is needed, just a little kick up the ass. 3. Doubt, yoga works. We know it does because it brings up and deals with difficult emotions. So even though doubt is natural, faith in practice will help. 4. Being careless, this is something we do when we are not being attentive. Trying to do too  much in one go unless we’re really on it is difficult. 5. Sloth. So how do you say sloth? This is more than laziness this is heavy body, so more of a physical heaviness than a mental heaviness. Good diet will help, no late night pizza. 6. Desire, always gets a bad name in India thought. It’s not that we should renounce desire but we should be able to switch it on or off as needed. Good pranayama helps with this. 7. incorrect philosophy/opinion. What! Surely my opinion is the right opinion. Rather it is better to not be tied with opinion and be flexible with your mind. 8. Not going forward. Yoga requires that you are always ready to learn more, always self enquire and not sit still (metaphorically). 9. Slipping backwards. This only happens when you no longer practice. Practice is not just asana, it is a mind set that anything can become yoga, sweeping the floor, walking, eating. It’s the light concentration that being here now that makes it yoga.

I still haven’t managed to get the going to bed early nailed. But Patanjali never mentions this as a problem.

12th of July 2020
12th July 2020

It’s been nice to start to do some of the things we used to do. Visit friends for a meal and go to Ally Pally drive  in cinema. Of course Talia has had other ideas about entertainment during lockdown. School work has been done, with large amounts of distraction, Nirvana and The Clash. And while your parents are out why not give yourself a little tattoo. Should I be WTF or pretty impressed? Clearly I’m un-woke anyway.

So people have been asking about what will happen at the shala. I don’t think it will be busy busy. Because we don’t have any visiting students, non of the universities are back or taking new students. There will be no beginners, quite a few people are going away, will be working at home or live with someone vulnerable. Obviously we can’t fit in as many people as before, 7 less. We are holding off having a booking system but if we need to we will. And it will be simple, tell us what days, times you want to come in the first day you’re at the shala then if we need a booking system we can easily allocate days, times for people and you’ll get an email. No trying to get online at half a  second after midnight and our website crashing. AYL we are, Glasto we’re not.

When you get to the shala take your shoes off as usual. Come through and we can  use the head thermometer. (Obviously if you have been running or cycling let us know). Please make sure we have your contact details, we only need it once. Then get changed, put your clothes in your bag, or we will give you a bin bag. Then either come in to practice or go to the waiting room. There are 10 spots in the main room, all marked out. Two rows of 3 and a row of 4. If you don’t want adjustments please tell us. Couples or those living together we may be able to squeeze together. We will keep the windows open. (heating on if needed). Please do all your practice in the main room and shavasana/rest. But try not to fall asleep!

When you finish smile and leave. And I will be able to say ‘one more’. The kitchen you can use if you clean after but better to bring your own water bottle.

Re cleaning. Joan will be on hand to clean regularly during the class. All the high contact areas and the toilet and she will mop in between the mats during class, just to add to the fun. Of course the shala gets a deep clean every day as has been our standard practice. Please feel free to clean the toilet too, we will leave cleaning stuff there.

There will be no blankets, shala mats, blocks, towel etc. So if you need, bring your own. You should leave your mat if possible, as this is better than taking it back and forth on public transport. The buses and tube outside of rush hour are really quiet at the moment, don’t forget your masks for this. We don’t expect students to use a mask, but feel free to do so. We will use a face shield when doing face to face adjustments.

We will try to give priority to parents with small kids. So you don’t have to wait.

I really looking forward to seeing many of you and hopefully tea and chat after class.

As you know we have a new payment system call Fair Exchange, please check it out on our website. I’m really proud of this and hope it will work. I know that many businesses are going in one direction, increasing prices. But as you know I don’t always follow the masses. So our simple system is where you pay what you can afford and how you value the shala. This means that if you have lost work, income etc you do not need to be embarrassed to ask for a discount or not come in. Just pay what you can.

Yoga will get you through times of little money better than money will you through times of little yoga.

You can still pay with good old cash and do bank transfers, just ask for our bank detail if you don’t already have them. We will still prefer if you pay at the beginning of the month. So as we are starting on the 25th, just pay a quarter of what you’d pay a month. If you paid for a month back in March, (how long ago was that) we will still honour that payment for the rest of July. Fair Exchange can work if we remember we are paying for the running of the shala (rent is £23,000 a year) supporting the teachers and supporting those students who are struggling.

We are a community and to me this is really important. Mostly because we all support each other.

10th of July 2020
10th July 2020


Saturday 25th of July, count the days. We will open from 6am to 11am (may be later if you are still around). It would be lovely to see you all.  We can’t operate as we used to at the moment. So we won’t be cramming people in. There will be space to stretch out. Please make sure you have read our covid 19 safety page and that we have your contact details. Because we don’t know how many of you are going to be coming in or what times we are just going to keep things fluid for now. We’d rather not have appointments so that students don’t all arrive at once.

From Sunday 26th classes will be back to normal times. 7.30-11am Sun. Mon-Fri 5ish to 11.30am and 5-8pm. If we need to open regularly on a Saturday so that everyone gets time to practice we will do that.

Our online classes will be phased out for a couple of weeks and then we will add a few in sometime in August.

If you have any question please don’t hesitate to email/phone me. We want to make sure you feel safe to come back

Re this blog. I’m going to reduce it the every other day for a while and then weekly. I hope to have some other teachers/friends contribute. So it should get a bit more interesting.

For now we’re back with Patanjali. He introduces the concept of Ishvara, which gets translated as, Lord or God. We’re not sure which God, shiva, Vishnu??? He mentions devotion to Ishvara 4 times in the YS so I guess it’s quite important. It’s also interesting that the YS takes a lot from Buddhism where there is no God and also from Samkhya philosophy which puts Gods as just another ‘life form/stage’. Some have suggested that God becomes a tool to get to Samadhi. Krishnamacharya suggested that the  6 sutras starting with Ishvara pranidhana were śatanga 6 limbed yoga. We also get introduced to Om, which is called Pranava which means before sound. Which suggests that Om existed before there was sound. Which does answer somewhat that age old question of the tree in the wood. And if it falls when no one is around does it make a sound? If you still don’t know the answer it’s no, because sound is only heard in ears. Although if you ever felled a tree you’d know you feel the sound as it hits the ground. But Om was always there before you could hear.

See you on the mat