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As some of you know, I also work part time running a variety of different development workshops for different organisations. I partner with my sister, who is a psychotherapist in Devon. We learn so much from our unique and cherished relationship, which I value as a rare and special gift. We also learn so much from our other sister, who lives in us as a guiding light in our hearts.

During our Workshop last week we spent a lot of time experimenting with active listening. What it truly means to listen with our mind, hearts and intuition. To listen with our gut brain. To be fully present to the other in what sometimes feels like a rapidly decreasing art of conversation. We had the privilege of witnessing the magic that can come from people simply learning to give each other space.

So what’s all that got to do with yoga? For me, it is yoga that gives me the space to do this sometimes very challenging work. For what is yoga if not the art of creating space in mind, body and spirit. Creating space for prana, for new energy, for new awareness. A conversation with ourselves. It’s not easy. I don’t always succeed. It is a constant learning and often a challenge to practise from this place. And yet so worth the work. For after all, in a world where it sometimes feels that people are acting more and more from unconscious or conscious fear, it is surely now more important that ever, to practise the art of being fully present to our whole self and respond from a place of honesty, awareness and compassion.

For Lisa and Louise with love xxx

Inspired by Otto Scharmer’s great work

A lick of paint or stripping things back to the bare wood?

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Last night, my husband and I were talking about the different requirements of his clients. He is a painter and decorator and mainly works on older properties in the area; those usually requiring quite a bit of preparation before he paints.

We discussed how a few people just want a lick of paint to make things look good and yet, he knows this won’t last and is sometimes unsure as to whether to point this out or not. They may, of course have some specific constraints, usually budget or wanting things done by a certain date. His preference is to do the job properly and to strip a door back to the bare wood if necessary, to lay the foundation for a quality job.

This made me think about how we approach yoga and the time in class or at home, on our mat. Do we want a lick of paint, or do we want to strip the pose back to the foundations, to the basics, to build on these going forward? Again, we too may have limitations, usually time, with other things in life taking priority. In Iyengar Yoga, much time is spent on the standing poses as these are the basis for all else. As my teacher once said, what use is it being able to stand on your head if you can’t stand properly on your own two legs?!

I can feel my own practice changing more and more. Sometimes a lick of paint is OK but more often that not, I am spending more time stripping back and learning so much in the process. There is always more. I am enjoying this and would love your thoughts and views. BKS Iyengar talks about creating a marriage between the awareness of the body and that of the mind. As many of us know, creating a good marriage takes time, patience and the ability to listen. A lick of paint is not enough to sustain connection, whether it be of the body and mind, or of two individuals.

And so back to the mat!

Selfies, Imperfection and Yoga

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It’s been an interesting learning designing a new website and as I write this, it’s still a work in progress. Right at the start I thought, I must include some photos of my practice. This will help those new to yoga gain a better understanding before they come to their first class. And yet what a challenge this has been.

I sought advice from my amazing brother-in-law, Richard Garvey-Williams on how to set up the camera. Admittedly he specialises in wildlife and landscape photography 😉 but he gave me some good tips and I was undeterred. I was able to use the wonderful studio at Hereford Yoga Centre, where I practise regularly, and my husband kindly stepped in to work the camera.

On seeing the shots however, I had very, very mixed feelings. It was quite revealing. We’re encouraged from time to time to practise yoga in front of a mirror, but not to become dependent on this as the asana/pose is to be felt from within. Some of my poses were not good, others surprised me. There was no time to take more photos. My reaction reminded me so much of the words of one of my favourite authors and researcher/story-tellers (!), Brene Brown. In her book the Gifts of Imperfection she writes ‘Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect.  Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception – we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable – there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.’ And yet how could I use photos where I could see my head wasn’t turned enough or it was too far back and, and, and…

Some people misunderstand Iyengar Yoga as all about being perfect. And yet this is so not the case, but I can sometimes see how they might make this mistake. BKS Iyengar writes on perfection:

‘Do not look at others’ bodies with envy or with superiority. All people are born with different constitutions. Never compare with others.’

His focus on alignment is to allow us to truly experience the enormous depth and joy of the asana. We are always taught to work on our practice, whatever element of practice that might be, asana being just one. This can always be improved but without judgment, cynicism or fear. Self-development never ends.

I am not a slim 20 year old demonstrating really challenging poses on a beach or the edge of a beautiful canyon (I wasn’t doing that in my 20s and didn’t even know people who did!). These were the photos I found when looking for others to use on my website. Admittedly I would love to be able to do these one day, but I certainly won’t be 20, when I do! Yoga for me is so much more. It is about doing the best we can at any one time and knowing that it is enough in that moment. It is about finding courage to take the next step, whatever that might be. As Iyengar writes in his beautiful book Light on Life: ‘You do not need to seek freedom in a different land, for it exists with your own body, heart, mind, and soul.’ Like anything worthwhile, it does, of course, take hard work and practice. I will hold this in mind next time I take a selfie and remember that the turn of the head is there to remind me of the gift and lessons of imperfection. 🙂