26th of Nov 2020
26th November 2020
Counting down the days, I’m sorry we don’t have a chocolate advent calendar. Anyway we will be back open on Wednesday.
And for those of you who are struggling with Kapotasana and Supta Vajrasana, I got a little bored and made a couple of dimly lit early morning videos.
17th of Nov 2020
17th November 2020
Patram Pushpam Phalam Toyam, a leaf a flower, fruit some water. Why? Well, it’s part of the Bhagavad Gita chapter 9. These things should be easy to find, easy to see on a daily basis. A gentle reminder there is more to life than the millstone of work. That a spiritual practice doesn’t require much, in fact too much is detrimental.
Hanuman is prayed to on Tuesdays and Saturdays particularly. This is because he is unaffected by the inauspicious planets Mars and Saturn.
Diwali Recipes from Tom
12th November 2020
A couple of sweet Diwali treats for a chilly winter evening…
Diwali is probably best known for its lights, decorations, and riotous displays of fireworks. But food and drinks play a big part in the celebrations, too. It’s a time to indulge your sweet – tooth. Dried fruit and nuts enrich and adorn many of the traditional desserts. The choice on offer is dizzying. Singling out one to share with you today was not easy. So I’m actually giving you two. Well, one dessert and one hot, a sweet drink which can warm up any chilly evening.
To make these dishes as inclusive as possible the recipes are free of eggs, dairy and gluten. If you prefer to cook with dairy milk, you can swap it back in by all means. I’ll tell you how in the recipes.
If there’s one type of food you can’t miss in November, it’s the array of winter squashes on offer. Pumpkins of every shape and size are everywhere right now and – whilst most people have heard of pumpkin pie – not everyone knows how versatile squashes can be when it comes to making desserts. You’ll need a firm-fleshed variety for this recipe to work best. So don’t opt for the jack-o-lantern types. Their water content is too high. Butternut squash is good, as are the blue or green-skinned pumpkins with perplexing names like ‘Mother Hubbard’ or ‘Crown Prince’. Some of them, like the Italian Ironbark, are pretty hefty but they keep well in the fridge once cut. If you are lucky to live near an African or Oriental supermarket you might be able to buy pumpkins sold as halves or quarters, which saves you a bit of space (not to mention lugging one home). If squashes don’t appeal, or if they elude you, this dessert can also be made with carrots.
You can play with the spicing of this dish. Swap nutmeg for cinnamon, omit the ginger or the cloves and up the cardamom. Be bold!
Traditionally this dessert would be made with dairy milk and a little ghee would be folded in before serving. I have used coconut milk here because it has a richness of its own but you could swap it for the same amount of cow’s milk. If using ghee, fold it into the cooked dessert as soon as you take it off the heat.
For four to six servings you need :
450g pumpkin or squash peeled and cored weight
A small chunk of fresh ginger (approx. 30g)
Half a nutmeg
3 cardamom pods, split
50g green or golden sultanas
50 g dried shaved coconut
50g pistachio kernels. If you can find the kibbled (the bright green, fully skinned) version they are very decorative
1 x 400g tin coconut milk (or 400 ml of your choice of milk)
100g sugar or jaggery
A pinch of salt (optional)
Grate the flesh of the peeled and deseeded pumpkin. If you have a spiraliser or julienne blade on a food processor you could use that instead.
Peel and finely chop the fresh ginger if using.
Crush the dried spices.
Soak the sultanas in just enough hot water to cover them.
Set all the above aside.
Bring the coconut milk to a steady simmer in a wide-bottomed saucepan, then add the pumpkin, ginger and dried spices. Strain the sultanas and add them. Keep the heat gentle and cook the mixture until the pumpkin is very soft. It could take thirty minutes or so but check after twenty.
Once the pumpkin is soft, add the sugar or jaggery and stir it in. add the salt, too if using.
Now continue to cook until all the milk has been absorbed and the mix looks slightly ‘jammy’. A spoon dragged across the bottom of the pan will leave a clear ‘wake’.
Allow the mix to cool slightly. It can be eaten warm but is not at its best when piping hot.
While the dessert cools, roast the coconut shavings and allow them to cool. You can crush them to crumbs or leave them as they are.
To serve the dessert, portion it onto small plates or present it in a large bowl adorned with as much of the coconut shavings and pistachio kernels as you like.
Baddam ‘Mylk ‘
If you don’t fancy making a full-on dessert, try this sweet drink, as rich and warming as a cup hot chocolate…but prettier! It can be enjoyed hot or cold.
Traditionally this would be made with cow’s milk and enriched with almonds. I’ve worked out a way to make a fresh and very indulgent almond ‘mylk’ instead. It’s a cinch and way tastier than most commercial brands. If you want to make the dairy version simply swap in milk for water.
To serve 4 to 6 small glasses you need
100 g blanched or flaked almonds
3 cardamom pods, skinned and seeds lightly crushed
A pinch of saffron
50 g sugar or honey (or any sweetener you prefer)
1 level tsp. cornflour (optional)
Soak the almonds in the water for at least a couple of hours, overnight or throughout the day is even better. If you are soaking the almonds in cows milk, refrigerate it.
Then add the nuts and the liquid to a blender or food processor and blitz until you have a smooth, creamy looking milk.
Pass the milk through a fine sieve or muslin cloth and discard the almond pulp. Transfer the milk to a pan with the saffron, cardamom and sweetener and bring to a simmer for no more than a minute or so. You want to avoid boiling it, so keep the heat low. It’s ready when the saffron and sweeteners have dissolved.
There is always a chance that fresh almond milk can separate slightly when boiled so this barely noticeable trick to coax it back together with cornflour is entirely optional. Dissolve the cornflour in literally a tablespoon or two of water and stir it into the simmering almond milk. Keep stirring. You will see and feel the milk thicken slightly. As soon as this happens to take it off the heat.
If you want a super smooth drink you can now sieve or pass it one more time although this means you will lose the ghostly remains of any saffron threads which haven’t dissolved. They do look great left as they are. It’s up to you.
Serve immediately if drinking hot. Baddam milk can also be chilled and serve over ice if the mood takes you.
Any questions email email@example.com
10th November 2020
I’ve been trying to make an origami Hanuman for some time and although there are plenty of monkeys out there I felt it needed something different. It has to be simple. So here we go. Hanuman with a big tail to protect us all.
Start with a square of paper crease the diagonal and fold in two corners to make a kite shape.
Fold in other sides to make a diamond shape, notice the intersection above the halfway mark.
Fold in half.
Open up and fold one point to where the edges meet, the intersection.
Fold again using the crease you just made to lie above the intersection (keep looking ahead it will make sense).
Fold back up on the crease.
Turn model over and fold down the tip.
We’re just working on the head now, fold up the nose, make sure to keep it just in front of the body.
Fold over the top of his head over just over the tip of the nose.
Fold up the tail behind.
Fold in the sides, he’s quite cute at this point
Open up the sides a little to become strong arms. If you can, poke the base up a little to give him a rounded tummy.
Om Hanuman namah
9th of Nov 2020
09th November 2020
Second time round feels different, not so much of a shock. More prepared, and hopefully we have an end date. This Saturday is Diwali, a celebration of light after dark. It usually is a celebration remembering Rama and Sita’s return from Lanka. The soul and mind coming home after defeating the ego. None of this happens without Hanuman. And so on Saturday at 5pm, we will have a little zoom puja and mini-conference. We’re working on a few things so that you can feel part of it. Obviously, if you wish to dress up we will be very impressed (you can still wear pyjama bottoms). Actually thinking about it aren’t pyjamas an Indian thing?
Anyway here are a couple of chants we will be using for the puja.
Āñjaneyāya vidmahe, vāyu putrāya dhīmahi, tanno Hanumat pracodayāt
Patram puspam phalam toyam, yo me bhaktyā prayacchati Tad aham bhakty-upahrtam, aśnāmi prayat’ātmanah
If you want to do something yourself. You’ll need a candle, a leaf, a flower and some water.
I’ll send out a zoom link in the next few days, if you don’t get it please email me from Wednesday.
Tomorrow I’ll be at the shala, so if you need to collect your mat let me know asap.
31st October 2020
We had some little scary kids trick or treating which was good to see. Happiness is still there. Unfortunately, we are looking like we will have to close for a month from the 5th of Nov (no fireworks) until the 2nd of Dec. Of course, if we can find a way to be open we will. Please keep an eye on our website for online content/classes we will be offering.
It goes without saying, stay well and safe. Please stay in contact with us and each other. Support is really important. I know a lot of you are going through tough times and we are here if you need to chat.
For your home practice set a reasonable goal of what you can do, keep it simple and always be happy with what you can do. Breathe well
8th of Sept Beautiful news
08th October 2020
A few days ago a dear friend and occasional assistant Jo opened her new shala near Southend. It’s taken her and her family a few years to build from scratch with limited finance a shala to serve the local community. And of course just to make things simple getting pregnant on the way. I’m so proud of you guys. (Ashtanga yoga Essex).
8th of Sept 2020
08th October 2020
There is a story I often tell at the end of workshops or sometimes in conference. It revolves around happiness and God hiding it in the last place people would look. Inside ourselves. Now seems a good opportunity to bring back the subject of happiness particularly when it seems to be hidden from sight.
First let me set out my basic feelings. Happiness is our natural state and that it is the removal of obstacles that help us re-find it.
The obstacles are many and at the moment they seem to revolve around a pattern of stress, anxiety and fear. One obstacle can lead to another. We feel stressed we end up shouting and getting angry at people we love. So removal or to use a word in the yoga sutras attenuating which mean reducing, those basic obstacles is our first step. It goes without saying that yoga practice is the main obstacle remover. Having had the pleasure and honour to teach not only in London but in many yoga studios and shalas, small and large in towns and cities around the UK and the world one thing stands out that adds tremendously to our yoga practice.
The unwritten rules of yoga spaces. Speak quietly, respect others space and practice, equality for all and gratitude for the practice and teaching. These four things we can take away from the mat and use them in our daily life.
Speak quietly, don’t shout on zoom. I know we all do it, me too. With our ability to communicate quickly we don’t always take time before we say or type something. Sometimes slow is good. Communication is 99% listening.
Respect others space and practice. I’m not talking about social distancing, we know all about that. It’s more that you may not understand someone but you show them respect as they are a fellow traveller. We are all on a path. Give them space to find their way and if possible help them remove obstacles. The easiest way to help someone with their daily obstacles is to smile. I know it’s difficult with masks and I have been intrigued that we have adapted to be able to smile more with our eyes. I smile, you smile.
Equality for all. We all have different practices and some are more able to do difficult asana but no one is more yogi than another. Off the mat this translates as finding joy in the diversity of life. A great oak tree is as precious as a humble weed struggling to grow.
Gratitude, you can not say thank you enough. Where ever I travel (back in the day) the first word I always learn is thank you. To go along with this, when someone says thank you to you try and accept it as a gift of love. Sometimes it can be difficult to say thanks and difficult for some to accept thanks.
You could be forgiven for thinking that all is required is that we be more civilised. The rumour goes that Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western civilisation, he said it would be a good idea.
The concept of civilisation fits in with Sanskrit and Indian philosophy. Sanskrit simply means polished or refined. A concept where we help each other and not just ourselves. One theory behind why there are so few temples to Brahma are that he was just in it for himself. Brahma would chase Lakshmi were as Vishnu would just open himself up to her.
When we practice there are many conflicting issues, how do I breath, do I take my time, do I force my body, which part of this asana is more important. Doubts and questions become the obstacles. The quality of concentration is more important than the asana.
Practice brings us closer to our real self. We do that by reducing our sense intake. Our eyes and ears are more focused and we are acutely aware of our body. Off the mat there are increasingly more things to take away our focus, we go into a state of information overload. What you take in, is what your mind thinks about. If you look out of your window, something we should do more often a peaceful view of a tree or smoke from a chimney are very calming, satvic. But if on the other hand we spend too much time looking at things that spike our rajistic side like violence, porn, things that make us angry, then that is how we will feel. Pratyahara we know as sense withdrawal. Correctly it translates as control of what we put in.
I use the Shanti mantra Saha nau vavatu… every day. It’s all about working together and ends with may we have no enmity between us. No hostility, no animosity. It is so easy to slip from trust to un-trust. It’s a bit like doing a difficult asana, sometimes you just got to hold on and breathe. And then you move on, happiness is the space between stress, between inhale and exhale. Happiness is yours.
1st of Sept 2020
01st September 2020
When I first moved down to London from Scotland, people asked if I’d be staying. Assuming that ‘why would I want to live in London when Scotland was so beautiful’. Well, I’m still here. Yes of course Scotland is beautiful but one can find beauty in the most unlikely of places. People also said I’d not manage more than three years of teaching Mysore mornings, I’d burn out, well I’m still here. Which brings me onto Santosha, contentment.
Of course, we’d all love to be blissfully bouncing around in samadhi (that is if we didn’t know we’re already there, we just need to real eyes). But failing that contentment would be very nice indeed. But unhappiness knocks on all our doors in many ways. In the failings of others, in the failing of ourselves.
Often we respond with anger, this may not manifest as shouting but as snide remarks or internal frustration. In our practice, we have the opportunity to make changes in the way we think. And to use that as a way to enhance our daily life. So an example might be you’re trying to get into marichasana d, which you know you can do but last nights pizza or some stress from work is making it more difficult. So now you feel anger. The anger is there because in the past you could do it and you’re focusing on the past. Being able to do marichasana d is not the point, the point is to be here and now, to be present while you’re doing whatever you are doing. Not thinking about how it was or what difficult asana is coming up soon. The ‘perfection’ of the asana is not the point. Be here now. And we certainly shouldn’t get caught up in other peoples practice!
Other people (usually people we love) annoy the fuck out of us. Whatever it is that has annoyed you there is a good way and a not so good way to respond. This leads me in a roundabout way to Krishna and Arjunas relationship. They’re known as best of friends. A man brought up as a cow heard and a man brought up a royal prince. An odd combination. Showing that we shouldn’t judge others for what they do or from where they have come from. Krishna becomes Arjunas teacher. But not until Arjuna asks. Krishna never forces his teachings. He always gives Arjuna autonomy saying he always has the choice. (Even though free will is pretty debatable). This is really an important part of teaching. Being self-sufficient on a spiritual path is something we all need to gain.
Krishna is always honest with Arjuna, he doesn’t beat around what he is trying to say in a very English sort of way. He is direct without being confrontational or unkind. Sometimes being honest is not always easy. You’d think it should be but it can present a problem when we fear we may hurt someone. Being honest while remaining kind is always difficult.
You can’t go over it you can go under it you can’t go around it, we have to go through it. We need empathy. Of course, we all think we are empathetic and usually, one person in a relationship is more empathetic than the other and it’s always you. When we are empathetic we understand not only why someone says or does something but their thinking/beliefs behind that. Being empathetic for some comes easy for some of us we have to work at it. Being empathetic gets damaged by trauma. Being empathetic is part of being human. When we are not we dehumanise. To increase our empathy the first step is to look at our own feelings and beliefs when we practice. If we can first understand that we can then take that and let it change our daily life. By looking at our inner world we can see that others also have an inner world.
Being content in yoga is the first step. If we can find that even if we are having the shittest of shit days then we will start to find contentment in the most unlikely of places.