as we move from autumn to winter, i hope you can find 20 minutes to enjoy this guided relaxation from sandra sabatini.
i wonder if any of you saw the programme The Secret Life of Waves on BBC Four recently?
it’s a documentary looking at the science of waves and also exploring the subject from a spiritual and philosophical perspective.
the conclusion of the programme was that as human beings… ‘we are not just LIKE a wave. In some really important and scientific way, we are a wave.’ David Malone.
this rich idea has several threads of relevance for us as yoga practitioners, and suggests that both ocean waves and human beings are energetic forms moving to their energetic conclusions.
the wave is a central idea in Vanda Scaravelli’s teaching. she describes the effect of fully submitting to the force of gravity in practice, and the subsequent rebound or ‘anti force’ which then passes through the body like ‘waves of the sea, with that wide extension over the sand and the rebounding that sucks the water back from the shore.’ vanda scaravelli.
as a starting point for feeling something of this in practice, i have found it helpful to focus on
– letting go deeply into the ground
– following the breath carefully, down into the earth on the exhalation, and paying close attention to the moment when the breath comes back in
– moving loosely throughout the practice avoiding a sense that you are fixing into a position
‘Everything flows and nothing abides, everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.’ Heraclitus
thanks to Pete for this week’s beautiful photo.
in my yoga training, i was taught to respect autumn as a time of review and transformation.
as the oak, beech and field maple leaves turn to a glorious coppery gold, i wonder if the heightened sense of possibility we have in autumn, begins with letting go in preparation for the silence and deep rest of winter.
‘New Year –
from late autumn’
so perhaps now is a good time to review our yoga practice. most of us, opt for a loose approach to practice, adjusting as we go, and there’s certainly no need to make changes for the sake of it, but we could ask ourselves if our practice is fit for purpose.
we could think about removing any postures that feel stale; adding one or two different ones; checking that the time of day we practice still suits; or perhaps adding or extending a seated breathing practice.
if you aren’t practising at the moment, now is a good time to start.
a practice can help carry us through the winter months.
here’s a beautiful painting by Gustav Klimt of an autumn birch wood to inspire you.
a few ideas to explore in warrior 2.
step your feet into position and turn your head to face the long mat edge.
give your feet plenty of time, several breaths, until they feel at home on the mat.
allow your arms to drift up to shoulder height. give your hands time to enjoy their suspension, like wing tips – feathered fingers catching the breeze.
exhaling bend the knee and your body drops – slow, upright, directed.
turn your head now to look along the arm – poised.
now you are here, your breathing offers a fluid link between the earth under your settled feet and the space around your open body – it’s interesting to explore this.
‘A deep sense of participation unfolds in the whole being; a desire to blend and receive the qualities of the earth and space. From the waist down, gravity is actively pulling and supporting. From the waist up, space offers all its virtues.’ Sandra Sabatini
something like a dance arises
when the body responds to space and gravity,
when there is a balance of direction and acceptance
when strength and flexibility are nurtured through discipline and practice
‘At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point,
there the dance is…’
Burnt Norton. T S Eliot
the photograph is of Darcey Bussell performing a one legged forward bend… en pointe.
and doing it rather well i thought!
standing for practice
no leaf moves – light lifts and peace
drifts on early mist
‘We must understand each other and work in harmony with one another, because it is our responsibility to develop in human beings their natural disposition for peace.’ Dalai Lama
“If we think about the vast majority of human problems; both on a personal and on a worldwide scale, it seems that they stem from an inability to feel sincerely involved with others, and to put ourselves in their place. Violence is inconceivable if everyone is genuinely concerned with the happiness of others.”
with the world as it is, i have been thinking about the guidelines that yoga offers, for how to conduct ourselves well in communication with others. i began with the five attitudes suggested by Patanjali to simplify and improve our relationships, the most important of which is non-violence.
how can we practise non-violence to help ourselves and others?
here are some simple ideas.
if you inadvertently harm yourself or others – bathe the injury in love.
if it is in your power, seek to heal any hurt that already exists.
build bridges. be kind. include.
be gentle. move slowly. act respectfully. offer care.
“Himsa (violence, the opposite of ahimsa) begins with negative judgements about people. These often surface before any real contact or communication has taken place. Noticing the assumptions and judgements we make about people can be the starting point in developing a more open and accepting attitude to the world.” (Embodying the Yoga Sutra – Roy and Charlton).
your body is speaking. are you listening?
as you practise yoga, listen to the stories your body is telling you
the openings and the foldings
the small releases, breaths and pauses
the fluid parts, the parts that grip
the open spaces and looser links
“become again a flaming body
of blind feeling” from The Sea by Mary Oliver
i hope you will enjoy this, in celebration of the autumn equinox and Life.
on this International Day of Peace, dedicated to the ending of war and violence, and resonant with the yogic principle of ahimsa – non-harming – i have chosen this poem, written by teenager Mohamed Assaf, who’s grief for his homeland of Syria he expresses so eloquently.
I Have Divided My Heart,
and half of it is still in Syria.
When the sun shines in Syria
the warmth flowers in my cheek.
And when the sun sets there
my heart remembers shadows
and the closing of flowers.
taken from the collection England: Poems from a School
the picture today, is of jasmine, the national flower of Syria.