This term I will introduce one of two new pranayama meditation practices to each class, called Kapalabhati and Chakra Breathing meditation.
In the Hatha class we’ll practice a form of Kapalabhati, an age old method to wake up our energy and bring strength and focus to the lower belly. Here‘s a very short but clear article about it.
And you can find a video here.
In the Yin class we’ll practice a variation of Chakra Breathing, which draws our attention towards the subtle sensations of the body and helps us recognise where our force of habit might be holding tension.
In the Gentle class we’ll practice one of the two, depending on the theme of the day.
I hope to post a video explainer on these meditations soon for you to refer to, so watch this space!
Of course we’ll also end the class with a short meditation, preceded by a deep relaxation as always.
Take a moment to notice right now, even as you continue reading:
What happens to your spine when you tilt your pelvis forward or back?
What happens to your chest when you round your shoulders or roll them back?
What happens to your posture when you hang your head or lift you chin?
The positioning of the pelvis, the shoulders and the head have a huge impact on our yoga poses as well as on our posture in general. Bringing awareness to the way we tend to hold them out of habit, and purposely finding alternative ways of moving them can make a huge difference to our yoga practice and how we move about in daily life. All we need to do is listen inwardly with curiosity and just try it out.
In triangle pose: what changes when I roll the shoulder back?
In forward bend: what happens when I keep the head lifted, or tilt the pelvis?
This type of enquiry is called proprioception and I refer to it all the time in any Kishori Yoga class, because it’s as relevant in Hatha as in Yin Yoga.
The three tilting or hinging points play a crucial role in the freedom of our spine and the range of movement for your shoulders (arms ) and hips (legs) and they give us wonderfully refreshing and liberating focal points to experiment with.
And they are just three of innumerable others, related to rotation, to breathing, to flexing or relaxing, to skin, bone, to the movement of energy and the mind… The more we pay attention, the more we realise the more subtle aspects of what makes a harmonious and enjoyable yoga session.
Regretfully the Summer Yoga can’t go ahead this year for two reasons:
Firstly because I am momentarily out of action, and secondly because the National Trust is, quite understandably, not keen to have large groups gathering on the Common just yet. Although the government has lifted restrictions, the overall feeling of the public is still one of caution. As yoga aspires to create harmony rather than division we decided to leave the Summer Yoga for the time when things have settled down and everyone feels free to join with confidence.
However, last year I made a video of the standing sequence that is always part of Summer Yoga. So I’d say, go find yourself a spot of grass or sandy beach, somewhere your bare feet can be in direct contact with the earth, and enjoy this lovely flow by yourself. Remember this: when you let yourself become one with the elements you are never alone.
Chakra Sounds is a real treat of a meditation that I first learnt 30 years ago in India.
Humming along with the music, or simply tuning in with the sounds, brings you deep into your centre and the silence that follows is exquisite.
The next TUTI meditation course will be from 8 to 26 February.
Lockdown is a challenging time for many of us. We may have more time than we know what to do with, or feel stressed by unusual demands. Setting aside a moment for yourself each morning is an important step towards looking after yourself and bringing more light into your day. And especially in winter, we can do with a bit of extra light!
Lockdown provides us with a tremendous opportunity to find a kind of happiness that is independent of the adventures and travels you relied on before. The TUTI meditation mornings are there to give you a new routine with a positive intention. The presence of other people turning up at the same time as you, and meditating alongside you, is an invaluable support in that process.
For as long as the lockdown measures make it impossible for us to move about much, Elles will be hosting a simple daily morning mediation that is suitable for everybody. Find out all you need to know here.
To signify the end of a yoga or meditation session I often ring a bell or gong three times. I intend no specific meaning with that, except to give you a few moments to make the transition to the rest of your day and perhaps appreciate what you have just given to yourself.
That said, it can also be nice to use the three bells as a moment for affirmation or gratitude, in which case it’s good to know where the sounding of them originally comes from.
The gestures that accompany the ringing of the gongs or bells are an ancient tradition. In Buddhist circles you will often see people bring their hands together at the forehead, at the heart and then bow down. The three gestures have a certain symbolic meaning and are sometimes accompanied by a mantra or a prayer. In effect they are a summary, a reminder, of what is most essential on the spiritual path (or in other words, the path of happiness).
Much of this can be quite mystifying but over time I started to boil them down to a few simple words that I can understand. For example: Clear mind Open heart This body, this earth
Or even simpler: See Listen Feel
Their significance lies not in any belief, religion or holiness. It is a recognition of what is fundamental to our contentment in life, of what is real and possible in our existence, of what is most essential in the barest way, independent of circumstances, be they political or personal.
A clear mind: Unobstructed by compulsive thought, by judgements and fears, a mind that distinguishes between the continuous internal gossip and the quieter wordless waters that lie beneath. A mind that is perceptive, intuitive, conscious.
An open heart: The sense of connectedness to others, of care and kindness, beauty and joy. A heart that allows, listens and embraces all.
This body, this earth: Honouring that which makes our experience possible. Without this body, this earth, where would we be, how would we feel? A sense of gratitude. Recognising that which is greater than me, that I am only one of many, that we are one, and one with this earth. A sense of humbleness. A surrender to the fact that so much in life is beyond my control, a reminder to trust it instead.
With or without the accompanying gestures, see for yourself if this is helpful to you, find your own words.
Or no words at all. Simply let the three gongs be just what they are: the sound that emanates from a stick striking a bowl.
Here’s the newspaper cutting I told you about in our Zoom class yesterday, which is on the wall in my yoga room.
It says “90 year old in the yoga headstand” with “And, done your yoga today?” written beneath.
My housemate put it up in my room when I lived in Cologne in the 90’s. He had been showing me a few yoga poses that he’d learnt from his father, so I’d only just started practicing. There was no such thing as a yoga class in those days, not even in all of Cologne, so I just picked up bits and pieces from various sources.
The message was clear: if you want to be able to stand on your head when you’re 90, you have to do your practice now.
I thought that was a perfectly good aspiration to have in life so I kept up with it. I also realised how profound the method really was and that I still had a lot to learn.
Meanwhile yoga classes started popping up everywhere and I attended many of them, though my main practice stayed on my own mat at home. By this time I’d moved back to Amsterdam and this mat was made of two thick wonky pieces of black rubber glued together. It couldn’t be rolled up easily so it was out all the time (I lived in a bedsit the size of my lounge now).
Many years later, by now in England, I remember being surprised at the amount of people teaching yoga classes when to my mind they had really only just started practicing. How was that possible? I’d always thought of myself as an amateur and a beginner, there was so much still to understand.
I was working as a personal tutor at Cirencester College then, helping students make decisions for their future, and one day I heard my own counsel: If these people can teach yoga, why can’t you?
I graduated from teacher training in 2012 and as they say, the rest is history.
I suppose technically I am a professional now and no longer an amateur, but I still consider myself a beginner really and perhaps I always will. In fact I’d encourage anyone to keep approaching yoga as a beginner. After all, each and every moment is fresh and gives you the opportunity to experience something new, something different. If we let it.