Monday, November 2, 2015

The Goal and the Journey

A week or so ago a guy at the gym asked me if he could film/photo my entire training routine. It seems he wanted to document and capture everything I did in exactly the order I do it, so he could emulate my practice.
It was very flattering but it was also one of the strangest conversations I've had in quite a while. He said he was passionate about flexibility and that it had come to play a big part in his life.
I told him that copying my routine would be a mistake as it had evolved, and was still evolving, to meet the specific and unique needs of my body and mind. I suggested that maybe the basic building blocks would be helpful, but that in the end the exact structure of the routine was something that he had to discover.
In the meantime I told him that he should come to one of the classes I teach at the gym, since he was a member it would cost him nothing and he could, at the very least, take parts of the class that worked well for him and make them his own.
He said he did not want to do that because it would take years and he was hoping to fast track his results. I told him there is no such thing, you have to do the work, you get nothing that you did not earn. He smiled and said he would think about it, but I knew it was very unlikely I would be seeing him in class.
I've been thinking more on this and how it relates to my own recent struggles. I realised that if you are just chasing or fixating on results you will probably never come to discover the magic of what it is I am really about. So I've been having some trouble with my routine because there were some parts of it that felt painful as I was trying to re-obtain flexibility in an area of my body I had lost it from. It did not feel right, pushing myself in this way but I had this idea in my head of where I should be, and as a result the enjoyment of the practice was slipping. It made it easier to skip a practice here and there because the thought of pain made it something I did not entirely want to do. This in turn made me feel bad because I knew I was never going to get there if I was missing my sessions, and it was making the sessions I did do become more painful, which of course, made me want to do them less and less.
So I changed the routine and restructured it because I remembered the time I loved doing what I do, and to get that back was actually really simple, I just had to let go of the rigid result-oriented thought pattern I was stuck in. In the end, it was only a small change but it made a massive difference. Suddenly it was fun again. Because I'm enjoying it more I find myself doing it more. Today I did two sessions and on my second session I felt incredibly limber and in control of my body. The area I'd been working on felt more open than it has in ages and I did not have to suffer what I call any "negative pain" to get there. Simply put, by changing my routine the joy was back, and I've gone from a negative feedback loop to a positive one.
My conclusion is that sure, set goals, I love goals, but be fluid in how you structure your routine to get there. Recognise if your routine is causing you mental and physical suffering, because as soon as that happens it is not a healthy part of your life anymore and you need to be proactive in finding a better solution. The willingness to change is never easy, and you will probably second guess yourself, but when you do figure it out, without fail I believe it will always turn out to be the best choice you ever made.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Final Class at St Andrews

Hi all

I came to a moment of clarity this evening with regards to the future of the St Andrews Wednesday lunchtime yoga class.

I feel the time is right to let this class gently float into the summer sunset. I will not be running any more classes in 2015, tomorrow, the 17th December 2014 will be the final class.

It feels like a significant decision for the simple reason that the classes have been going for so many years. In spite of the fact that I never once advertised the class it remained economically viable, notwithstanding the fact that I probably could have easily doubled or tripled the numbers if I'd been motivated enough to actively market the class.

But that's the thing, I'm not a commercial Yoga teacher, and I never really have been. I'm an enthusiast yoga teacher who has genuine interest in the sharing the practice using my own specific approach of guidance and facilitation, but who has no interest in selling a product. There has never been financial motivation for me in relation to my classes by virtue of my day job in the I.T. sector which has always paid me well and continues to do so. This does not mean I have not appreciated the success of my classes, everyone likes to see other people finding value in what you offer, it's just that the reward for me personally was never about the money.

I can easily summarise the primary list of reasons why I've decided the time is right:
  • I will be away for the entire month of February on an overseas trip
  • The quarterly blood collection at the hall has always caused disruption to class continuity
  • A desire to make 2015 a more focused year on my own practice and goals
The final point is probably the most significant reason. It may sound a bit selfish, but in the long term it will likely only make me a better teacher.

On that note I feel that teaching will always be present in my life in some shape or form, and this should in no way be taken as an indication that I am getting tired of it. There is an endless joy to be found in sharing your creations with others, and if anything, I still have a lot of unrealised ideas and ambitions when it comes to my classes and their future possible shape and structure. I don't know whether the fairly abstract ideas I have will ever become more solid and closer to reality, but it remains a possibility depending on how my life unfolds. I remain open to all possibilities.

In terms of what my heart is telling me, my decision to end this class feels like a peaceful one, with only a minimal sense of guilt towards my loyal participants, some of whom have been doing classes with me for around a decade. I can only thank those who have attended my classes for their support and positive energy, because you have all contributed to the richness of my own personal journey, and I am genuinely grateful for every smile, and every kind word.

I would like to close by saying that while I believe my classes have value simply by virtue of the community and focus they create, the essence of the practice should never be found in the centre of a class or even the teacher. It should be found in the participant, and my sincere wish is that you all take that essence away with you and make it yours, because it never belonged to me, I was just sharing a process, one that I think is very beautiful and meaningful beyond the purely physical benefits. As non traditional as I may be, I feel that it is my sincere belief in the practice beyond it's physical boundaries that makes me worthy of the title Yoga Teacher.


Monday, August 25, 2014

No class tomorrow 27 August

Hi all. Reminder that there is no class tomorrow at St Andrews due to the quarterly blood collection.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Backlash against Lululemon


A sports fashion clothing retail chain that includes, but is not limited to Yoga wear.

Of late, there appears to be a genuine backlash growing amongst the greater yoga community. The basic sentiment is that Lululemon is not an ethical company and is cynically leveraging off Yoga without demonstrating values that are aligned with the fundamental philosophy of the practice.

I've been of two minds about how I feel about this reaction. I'm not a great fan of the overt commercialisation of Yoga, but I have come to realise that I neither own nor control the word "yoga" nor what it stands for. The fact is, several years ago I got a formal teacher qualification and I am therefore allowed to call myself a "yoga teacher". At times calling myself such has really bugged me. For reasons that range from the stereo-type expectations of who I am and what it is I offer, to the genuine distaste I have of certain gurus and/or their particular systems of yoga -that have swept western culture like wildfire, soaking up a lot of money in the process.

My initial instinct regarding Lululemon is that it is a "business" that saw an opportunity and realised it. I have never seen that company as representative of anything but big business in the new age holistic fitness industry. I had a friend who used to perform Acro Yoga in one of their stores as a marketing ploy, and for doing so was gifted free clothing. Whether I think this is a useful representation of what Yoga is, at the end of the day, is irrelevant. As a libertarian my underlying attitude is that this was an agreement freely made by adults who both saw mutual benefits in the arrangement and my judgement is neither required or useful.

Lululemon sell clothes. They sell pretty and functional sports clothes. It seems like they are meeting a market requirement. while I don't think they represent Yoga in any sincere sense of the word, I'm not really sure where the depth of hostility towards the company is really coming from. I don't see that as a clothing company they are interfering with anyone else's Yoga "business". There seems to be this idea that lululemon has the power to alter peoples consciousness and divert them from the "true message" of Yoga. In my opinion I think that is an overreach. Anyone who's yoga practice is primarily defined by the brand of clothing they wear can't really blame a company who is ready to exploit their vanity, as the cause of their shallow yogic perceptions. All though it may be tempting, when it comes to our capacity to think for ourselves, that responsibility falls to each and every one of us as individuals.

Lastly, and I'm just going to say this. Fashion is part of human culture. For better or worse, it has deeply found it's way into Yoga, I mean seriously, the sheer volume of high-fashion yoga-asana photo's that roll past my fb newsfeed everyday is massive. These photo's are very much used with a commercial imperative to catch eyes; improve hits; and gain subscriptions; followers etc. Again, I've realised it is not my place to judge, I don't own Yoga, but I am free to define and evolve it in the way that feels truest to me, and especially of late, I do so without really giving a damn about what anyone else thinks. Surely, therefore I am obliged to return that favour lest I call myself a hypocrite?!?

So bottom line, as far as I'm concerned Lululemon can keep doing what they do, I'm never going to buy anything from one of their stores. Surely that in itself is all I need to say on the matter.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

My Rabbits eat Hay, but I don't..

So here it is. My personal view on eating meat.

I am well aware that a large proportion of the people on my friends list are deeply committed Yogi's. It is not a secret that it is also a big part of my own life, in spite of the fact that I quite openly reject aspects of Yoga, such as: Insincere commercialism; idolism; dogma and blind devotion to name a few.

A question that comes to me quite often, is what is my view on vegetarianism. I came to Yoga because I needed a path to physical and emotional health, and my single minded pursuit of being an elite runner had given me all it could. I'm not sure that Yoga was the reason I started a serious self-inquiry into my own life. I think that happened because when you hit a really low place, you are finally ready to start asking the right questions.

The simple fact is I am a physical person and need to live a physical life in order to maintain my sanity. The problem is that in most cultures you do that by finding a sport you are good at.  You then seek victory over others. Your identity becomes a by-product of your results, tangibly measured either by a stop-watch or by the number of points you can put on a score-board. To cut to the chase I came to the realisation that it is not what you do but why you do it. Defining your own self worth though sports results will eventually let you down. No matter how good you are eventually someone will come along who is better. I don't think this should dictate your own sense of self worth but for me it did, so I had to stop what I was doing and find another way.

So I didn't start Yoga because it had a predefined set of ethics or moralities. I started Yoga because I'd finally found something that apparently wasn't interested in judging me at how good I was at doing it. I won't ever forget my first class because it utterly humiliated me. Equally I won't forget it because not a single other person in the class, including the teacher gave a shit. It didn't matter that I could not do 90% of the poses the way most of the other people could. It was only me that cared about that, it was only my own ego I had to contend with and after what I had already learnt through my time in sports, I was ready to see the truth of that and "get over it".

I can't say how amazing it was to find something I could turn my full tenacity to, without the fear of competition being the driving force behind my efforts. It didn't take long to realise that I am just a person who loves to work hard at things that capture my imagination. The pursuit of the results, and the idea of being defined by those results actually just gets in the way. Not only does it cloud the vision but it ruins the journey and disconnects me from being at peace with who I really am.

Having said all that, the truth is I never really found a single class or style of Yoga that felt 100% like me. In fact often it was a love hate relationship and there were teachers who crossed my path who left a very bad taste in my mouth. Either that or their belief system forced me to think about, and make decisions about the Yogic doctrine, and what parts of it worked for me and what parts I needed to discard, simply in order that I could continue to do "yoga" without feeling like I was no longer being true to my own belief systems.

So here's the thing about doctrines, whether they are tied to religion or sport or philosophies: They are a predefined set of rules that give the system it's structure. For this reason alone I am very uncomfortable being labelled with anything. It seems to me that the moment you hook your hat to a label you have introduced limitations on where your mind and heart can travel. The limiting thought structure is fundamental, and the example for today is via a quote from a deservedly famous Yogi

"Stop eating flesh, that is Yoga".

Not that it should matter to anyone who understands the concept of "critical thinking" but I am a vegetarian. I did however eat meat growing up, and I personally have no issue with the basic idea of humans eating meat, but I'll get into the details of my own philosophy a bit later.

For me though, it comes down to this. I don't believe anyone has the right to define Yoga in such absolute terms. If we are to take the above statement in it's most literal form, if you eat meat, then it doesn't matter what else you do, you are not doing Yoga. Honestly, regardless of the debate about whether eating meat is good or bad, I call bullshit on that. The world is not made in digital. We are not a series of ones and zeros. The digital world was designed to allow computers to approximate the real world (using cold hard logic) not the other way around. We should not make the mistake of applying such limited Boolean expressions to our real lives.

So to the question of eating meat. No I don't eat it, but it is not so much a decision about health, as it is a way of protesting commercial farming, both on land and in the oceans. ethically, I think humans do treat farm animals despicably. Animals are sentient. They feel pain, they feel love, there is no question in my mind they feel fear. Most people reading would have no problems recognising these qualities in their own pets. For this reason I feel we have a moral responsibility to farm animals with a genuine concern for their quality of life while they live. I don't, however think it is inherently wrong for a human to eat meat anymore than I think it is wrong for any other animal to eat meat. Our evolutionary biology marks us as omnivores. We are not true vegetarians go check out the biology of a Rabbit and you will find it is completely different from us. Failing that try living on a bale of hay for a month and see how that works out for you. Yes, I realise there are other options than grass, but my point is we are quite capable of eating and digesting meat and depending on some peoples constitutions, I am at least anecdotally convinced that certain people become quite unhealthy if they do not have at least some meat in their diet.

In simple terms, I take a naturalists viewpoint. Nature, in balance, has always involved the killing of animals by other animals for reasons of food and survival. However humans are now the shepherds of this planet, and we are smart enough to know that we have both ecological and ethical responsibilities to all other forms of life on this planet. Those people who become evangelical about being Vegan are not doing their cause any favours. All they are doing is alienating themselves from the people they want to change. Along those lines I have to wonder, is Yoga about trying to change other people to think the way you think?!?

That seems very "external" to me. I prefer to see Yoga as a personal and internal practice of self inquiry. As a practitioner and teacher I don't have any interest in trying to change anyone. I'm just doing and sharing a "process" that has made my life better, and I hope that in some shape or form it may do the same for others. I may have questions, but I sure as hell don't have answers, nor do I want to. For me, that is kind of the point.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

No class today!!! (16th October 2013)

Late reminder but I have been mentioning this over the last few weeks. There is no class today as the Hall was rebooked for an all-day client.

Ironically that client cancelled at the last minute but it was too late for me to reverse the decision to cancel this class.

Namaste all

Monday, August 26, 2013

Blood Collection tomorrow!!!

Hi all.

No class tomorrow since the hall is being used for it's quarterly blood collection.

So in the name of providing Vampires with much needed sustenance and to stop them attacking innocent people in the middle of the night, there will be no class for the 28th August 2013.

See you all the following week I hope (Vampires welcome)