Moving Mountains in the Year of the Earth Dog

By | Teachings | No Comments

Happy New Year! Yes, yes, it’s all a distant memory for those of us who organise our lives according to the Gregorian calendar. But in countries where the traditional ‘lunisolar’ Chinese calendar is used, millions of people in red attire are celebrating the start of the Year of the Earth Dog. And the rest of us can benefit from doing the same, because – like the science of yoga – the Chinese New Year gives us tools for becoming masterly in our lives.

The look of luck!

Chinese New Year (also known as the “Spring Festival” in mainland China) always begins with a new moon, somewhere between the 21st of January and the 20th of February. This year (2018), it starts on Friday 16th February, when we move into the Year of the Earth Dog – and celebrations will continue for the following fortnight, ending with a ‘lantern festival’ on Friday 2nd March.

Chinese New Year and the Zodiac

The Chinese associate each new year with one of twelve animals and one of the five elements of Chinese astrology, namely: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water (which are then further divided into Yin and Yang categories). This means that the years run in 60-year cycles; the last time we were in a Yang Earth Dog year, for example, was 1958, and before that, in 1898.

According to tradition, this information can help us both anticipate the events of the coming year and understand the personalities, relationships and destinies of the people born during each year.

Who let the (earth) dogs out?!

We’re just emerging from a Fire Rooster year – a period of focus and application, of getting the ‘farmyard’ in order, and of investing time and effort without expecting immediate gratification, according to Chinese astrology. This Mystic Mamma blog urged us to “see beyond the current situation and keep your eye on whatever it is that you value in the long run; just keep chipping away without wavering. Apply yourself.” Anyone involved with the current swell of support for Women’s Rights will no doubt find those words very poignant.

With the arrival of the Earth Dog, it looks like we’re now ready for some action – whether that’s in the realm of global politics, or in the realm of our own homes. According to one Chinese horoscope, “Planning, postponing and negligence are words you will need to remove from your vocabulary during this year… The Dog will accelerate the initiation of all things, but this will bring, in the same time, pressure and stress in the everyday life.”

But even with this momentum carrying us forward, we should still expect to face challenges. The Yang Earth Dog is represented by an image of two mountains, which apparently means, “something is blocking our view or our path. So we need to find a flat road around the mountains to find our way… We need to use our wisdom to find the better way to conquer the mountains.”

What’s your Chinese horoscope sign?

It’s both fun and useful to know your own Chinese zodiac sign. Whether or not you believe in the Chinese system of astrology – or indeed, any kind of astrology – doesn’t matter. Such things offer us a colourful way of contemplating our own lives, and they spark the imagination. We’re naturally interested in stories – watching the telly is just a modern version of sitting around a fire telling stories. With knowledge of where our birthdays fall, according to Chinese astrology, we can look at our lives and our behaviour from a fresh perspective.

Find out your Chinese zodiac sign

In our classes this week…

Chinese New Year celebrations

Get your dragon flow on!

Wear red! As good old Wikipedia explains on its page about the Chinese New Year, “Clothing mainly featuring the color red or bright colors is commonly worn throughout the Chinese New Year because it was once believed that red could scare away evil spirits and bad fortune… Red is a color of good luck.”

As well as wearing red for protection from negative energies, the Chinese perform dragon and lion dances throughout their New Year celebrations, which have as their soundtrack loud drum beats and ear-shattering clashes of cymbals. Although we’ll be leaving the noisier elements of the Chinese New Year out of our classes, be prepared to get your dragon flow on!

If you dream it…

By | Teachings | No Comments

It’s all over. The celebrations, the January sales, the resolutions. We’re into the second month of a brand new year and, even with a Wintry bite still in the air, there’s a distinct sense that Spring is on its way. So what about all those good intentions you had for 2018? If you feel like you’re on the back foot, here’s the good news; you haven’t missed the deadline! In fact, there’s still plenty of time. Right now, the best thing you can do is hunker down with a pen and paper, and create your ‘dream list’…

Making your dream list

Dreamy beach in Sri Lanka

Make your list, open some doors…

Although there’s no harm in setting goals or making resolutions at the start of the year, there’s no need to rush ahead and attempt to make good on them immediately (find out why, here). Instead, we recommend using nature’s ‘down time’ to make a dream list. Think about what you’d like to experience this coming year – the places you’d like to go, the artwork you’d like to see, the languages you’d like to speak, the new tricks you’d like to learn. Share your dreams, and listen to other people’s.

Creating the right setting for making your dream list

It might sound simple enough, jotting a few ideas down on a piece of paper, but there’s more to making a list than that – it requires a little bit of planning:

  • Identify the people you’d like to do this with, unless you’d prefer to do it alone.
  • Schedule some time – set a reminder on your phone, put it on the family calendar, write it in your diary. However you do it, be sure to allocate yourself this time.
  • When that time comes, switch off your computer and your phone – filter out the distractions, and give your mind the freedom to explore the topic in hand.
  • Arm yourself with a pen and a notebook (good excuse to treat yourself to a lovely new journal!).

What to put on your dream list

Think big and think small, but think always about YOU. So often, we have lists that are mostly to do with nurturing and supporting those around us – as is evident in the responses given to the artist, Alice Instone, who gathered “prominent and inspiring women’s to-do lists and made a number of art works from her own lists”, for an exhibition, entitled The Pram in the Hall. But this is a time to top yourself up with what you need. Besides, the better you feel, the better you’ll be able to continue to serve those around you.

We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list ~ Michelle Obama

 

These are some of the things on my list for 2018:

Daydreaming by the fire

PJs, a fire, time to dream…

As you may be aware, we’ve got our hands full at the Harvey household, with a new family member to nurture, a long list of fiddly jobs to finish in our recently renovated house, a yoga school to run, and all the other demands of daily life! But these aren’t reasons to NOT have a dream list; quite the opposite – these are reasons to HAVE one! This is what I’ve got on mine:

      1. Print and frame 10 family photos and put them on the wall
      2. Connect with three old friends
      3. Log 50 hours of Tai Chi lectures and practice
      4. Schedule monthly morning / breakfast dates with Daniel

Put some dates on your dream list

Visualise the year ahead, see its nature – the growth of Spring, the colour of Summer, the harvest of Autumn, and the deep rest of Winter. Some of the things on your list will naturally fall into these categories – for example, you might paint your allotment shed in Spring, go to
a lively festival in the Summer, make a photo album of your holiday snaps in Autumn, and book a Yin Yoga retreat for Winter.

Other things will be suited to any given time of the year. But nature’s rhythms can still help, particularly when it comes to actually identifying what it is that you want to put on your dream list.

      • Illustration of a girl having a dream

        Visualise the year ahead…

        Spring prompts us to ask ourselves what we want to grow

      • Summer invites us visualise how it will look when it’s flourishing
      • Autumn asks us what we will gain from it, what we will reap
      • And Winter wants to know if it’ll let us settle

Hold on to your dreams

Whether you transfer your list to your mobile phone notes, keep it on a scrap of paper in your purse, or learn it by heart, keep your dream list close. Check in with it whenever you get a moment. Seek out and create those moments. Then stop and really feel the joy of manifesting
your own dreams, however ‘big’ or ‘small’ they may be.

“Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.” ~ John Updike

By the light of the….Super Blood Blue Moon!

By | Asana, Teachings | No Comments

Something big and special is in our midst, according to the world’s astronomers and astrologers. You might even have seen one of the many online articles about it – ‘it’ being the January 2018 Super Blood Blue Moon. This full moon, we’re told, is a rare one – nothing like it has been seen since 1866!  

For Ashtanga yoga practitioners (hello, Monday night students!), a full moon will always be worth observing – New moons, too. Ashtangis consider moon days as holidays, or days when they need to reduce the intensity of their practice, because it is said that when the earth, sun and moon are all in a straight line in space, universal energy is much stronger, and the possibility of injury is greater – hence, asana practice should be avoided.

Curious to know what phase of the moon you were born in?

But it’s not just in the Ashtanga yoga world, where we find respect for the phase of the moon, and encouragement to slow down and adapt our practice. Hatha yoga, which we can consider as the umbrella term for all forms of physical yoga practice, including Ashtanga, is all about balancing heightened and subdued energy – whether these are brought about by the phase of the moon, or the time of the year.

What goes up…

Subtle energetic body

Subtle energy in motion

According to Satyananda Saraswati, author of the popular contemporary text on Hatha yoga, ‘Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha’, during the full moon cycle, pranic energy (prana vayu) is dominant. This pranic energy is upward moving – through the spine and towards the head. When this happens, we tend to experience an increase of internal fluid, physical energy and mental activity.

During the new Moon cycle, apranic energy (apana vayu) is said to be dominant. Apranic energy is downward moving – towards the base of the spine – making this period one of elimination and reduction. People will often notice a loss of internal fluid, dry, stiff muscles and joints, decreased physical and mental energy, and a sense of lethargy and moodiness.

The ebb and flow of nature

Western science is pretty much on board with the idea that the phase of the moon can affect our energy levels. We know that our bodies are made of 70% water, and that this makes us vulnerable to the gravitational pull of the sun and moon, much like our oceans and seas. The science doesn’t end there, either, with yogic notions of energy and the movement of energy corresponding with Western medicine’s understanding of the nervous system.

The energetic body

PTY full moon blog anuloma viloma

Anuloma Viloma balances energy

In yoga, we have the concept of nadis, which are believed to carry this life force known as ‘prana’ (in Sanskrit) or ‘qi’ in Chinese-based systems. We can think of nadis as invisible veins running throughout the body. The most important ‘vein’ is the shushumna nadi, which corresponds with the spine and is the vessel for awakened Kundalini energy – energy which rises and leads to enlightenment!

Two other significant nadis are the Ida and Pingala nadis – and these are often compared to the two hemispheres of the brain; Ida reflecting the left side, and Pingala the right. Prana (active energy) circulates inside Pingala, while apana (passive energy) flows through Ida. For optimum health and spiritual wellbeing, Hatha yoga tells us we must ensure that these energies work in harmony with each other.

The physical body

The autonomic nervous system (which we can sum up as ‘all the things our bodies do without our conscious involvement’ – a beating heart or a perspiring forehead, for example), is comprised of two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic system prepares the body for ‘fight or flight’ during stressful situations, by raising the heart rate, releasing adrenalin and firing up the muscles. The parasympathetic system, on the other hand, operates during normal situations and is there for responsible for things like digestion and the conservation of energy.

If we’re constantly stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, be it with activity, stressful situations, or a full moon, we’re at risk of activating the parasympathetic nervous system so much so, that it becomes the norm. And as a result, so too does high blood pressure, inability to sleep, and a damaging expenditure of energy. Conversely, if we’re only ever in a state of rest, we will never get anything done! And so it is that we must find a balance between the two.

Yoga for a full moon

In Ashtanga yoga, many practitioners will gladly take a day off during a full moon – and understandably so, since they do generally commit themselves to six early morning practices a week! Many others will adapt their practice, often taking their lead from a ‘chandra krama’, or moon sequence, devised by world-renowned Ashtangi, Matthew Sweeney (see video, below).

In our classes this week, we will observe the Supermoon and bring about energetic balance by focusing on twists, and along with postures which give us a sense of being grounded – tethered and resistant to the unbalancing, upward pull of the full moon. We’ll also utilise Anuloma Viloma and spend time in Tratak meditation – a way of focusing the mind, whilst honouring the light in our Selves and the light of the sun, reflected on the surface of the full moon.

44 – the final flush of fertility

By | News, Uncategorized | No Comments

44 – the final flush of fertility (and documenting my pregnancy)

Napping with the girls

Napping with the girls

My second daughter will be here sometime between now and the next full moon. She’s feisty and strong and her kicks sometimes take my breath away. How awesome. ‘Awesome’ – that word is bandied about too much, usually to describe something slightly above mediocrity, but my husband Daniel and I are truly awestruck that my body has grown us another baby. We wonder who will arrive this time? For most of the last 4 ½ years we’ve just stared at Tulsi, hardly believing our luck that this magical creature is ours. And another one is nearly here . . .

Pregnancy is an everyday miracle. We can’t comprehend the trillions of complex decisions and manoeuvres that are unconsciously made within our pregnant bodies. It’s the stuff of Gods, way beyond our human understanding.

Daniel and I have had a long and complex journey with pregnancy, this is my 6th pregnancy and at 44 years old – really, truly, in the final flush of my fertility – we’ve been blessed with another girl. It’ll be Daniel and all his girls and all their tiaras.

Interested in joining our Peacock Tree Yoga pregnancy class? Click here!

Documenting my pregnancy

Astonished that we’ve got this far, I am keen to capture the experience. Once we dared trust that this was indeed a strong pregnancy we began to document it. From 17 weeks I took a ‘bumpie’ shot each week.

bumpie_shots_fordocumenting_my_pregnancy_blog

She had a good start, Goddessing in the American desert, absorbing ancient cacti karma . . .

Up until then, the only documentary evidence of my pregnancy was taken before I even knew I was pregnant, whilst in the American desert studying with my teacher at Zen Wellness.

Urdvha padmasana next to a cactus

6 weeks pregnant – who knew?!

There have been numerous pregnancy yoga photos, and last weekend we had enormously messy fun making a plaster cast of my tummy*.

I’d always really hoped to be able to experience pregnancy for a second time. The first time around I had done pregnancy training with the phenomenal Uma Dinsmore Tuli (famous for her groundbreaking book, Yoni Shakti) and since that time, I’d become, I suppose, a little bit more ‘womb centric.’ I began to really notice and value the power of female friendship and what happens when women support each other with kindness, empathy and humour (whether they have children or not).

Come and join our Peacock Tree Yoga pregnancy community!

The beauty and strength of women

I also enjoyed designing and executing our own goddess workshops, and contemplating women’s deeply creative and cyclical connection to nature. I loved teaching pregnancy yoga classes and watching new friendships blossom with growing babies.

And so, as this pregnancy has progressed, so has my sense of connection to mother earth and the miracle that’s happening within me – culminating in the weekend’s ‘project’, which involved Daniel digging a womb-like hole in the sand on the beach, me lying in it naked, and waiting for the waves to wash in. And it wasn’t in the tropics – it was at Saltburn, North Yorkshire. And no, the beach wasn’t deserted; it was well populated by dog walkers, because, well, that’s our reality isn’t it.

'Beach womb' photo documenting my pregnancy

As this pregnancy has progressed, so has my sense of connection to Mother Earth.

I am not easy to say no to at the moment, and bless him, my husband is such a good sport, so my insistence of, ‘Daniel I just have to do this,’ meant that that’s just what had to happen.

While I was communing with Mother Earth and the elemental forces of nature and Daniel was taking my photo, I could hear him chatting merrily to passing locals, “Turned out nice again,” “Look what just got washed ashore,” “Yes, she was just like that when I got here,”. Oh my goodness, I do love him.

Weirdly I wasn’t embarrassed, not a jot. When I am pregnant all vanity disappears – I just exist in this state of awe, beguiled by the fact that my body is creating life, and I am utterly thrilled with my pregnant form – how astonishing it is! So what if some of the locals gawped, most walked on by in that true Yorkshire way of “Nowt to see here,” and those that did see – well then what a nice thing to look at and chat about over fish and chips.

Has it been easy? No of course not (life isn’t, I run a popular yoga school and we’ve completely renovated our house during my pregnancy!), I’ve been sick most days, suffered nausea throughout, I’ve had nerve-wrecking insomnia, fainting and anaemia, but all of those are just pregnancy symptoms. I’ve not been ill and this has been a strong, straightforward pregnancy. I feel so lucky and I feel compelled to document my gratitude.

Here’s to life everyone!

francesca_king_pregnancy_photogrpahy_documenting_my_pregnancy_blog2

Get strong with the Peacock Tree Yoga 21-day Plank Challenge! #peacocktreeplank21days

By | Asana, News | No Comments

Ready to take up the Peacock Tree Yoga 21-day Plank Challenge?

We'd love to see your creative planking too!

We’d love to see your creative planking too!

Following our hugely successful 7-day #peacocktreelent, we’re upping the ante and challenging you to build yourself up to a three-minute plank, over the course of 21 days!

Why we run the Peacock Tree Yoga 21-day Plank Challenge

The Peacock Tree 21-day plank challenge is your opportunity to create strength in both body and mind; to develop your will power – and build a core of steel in the process. And it’s perfect for powering us up as we move into the firey months of the year!

It’s not as hard as it sounds – you just need to build up gradually by following the plan. But beware – once you’ve discovered your potential, there’ll be no stopping you!!

Print off the 21-day Plank Challenge practice sheet , stick it to the fridge, and while you wait for the kettle to boil at the start or end of the day, for example, get on your yoga mat and plank like there’s no tomorrow!

The Peacock Tree Yoga 21-day Plank Challenge schedule

Keeping track of your progress

Can't afford a hunky PT? Never mind, we'll support you! #peacocktreeplank21days

Can’t afford a hunky PT? Never mind, we’ll support you! #peacocktreeplank21days

Try your best to meet your daily goals – and give yourself a sense of satisfaction each time, by ticking the relevant box (as flamboyantly as you wish!). And let us know how it’s going – post your photos and films on Instagram and Facebook – but don’t forget to tag them with #peacocktreeplank21days!

Oh, and if you want to give us and your fellow students a laugh, feel free to get playful with it – find a strange location to practice, do it in your work clothes, or try some plank variations!

But above all, enjoy it – be grateful for what your body is allowing you to do (even on days when your body doesn’t allow you to meet your goal), really feel how your body is changing and becoming stronger, and join in with our online conversations for support and motivation throughout the challenge. Not part of our Facebook community? Come into the fold!

Not sure how to do plank properly?

The simplest, safest and easiest way to build yourself up to a three minute plank is to adopt dolphin plank, which involves resting on your forearms with elbows bent, rather than on your hands and with straight arms. Keep your toes tucked under and your body and legs off the floor, in a strong horizontal line (like a plank!).

Plank

Is your plank straight?

If you find it too difficult to hold the full posture, drop your knees to the floor for extra support – just make sure your thighs and torso are in a straight line. And do try to lift your knees again as the challenge progresses – you might surprise yourself!

If your neck hurts, you can always place a block or a stack of books beneath your face and rest your forehead on it while you hold the posture.

If you’re familiar with plank and other core strength exercises, you might like to work on some plank variations – be it a high plank, a side plank, or an acro yoga plank…

Beware of a cheating bottom!

Your biggest foe during this challenge will be your bottom. It will either try to cheat, by being higher than the rest of your body, or it will be lazy, sagging down to create an unwelcome dip in the centre of the posture.

Not sure if you have a cheating or lazy bottom? Then check yourself out in a mirror or ask someone else to tell you if your body is in a straight line.

Ready? Okay, download the The Peacock Tree Yoga 21-day Plank Challenge schedule and get planking!!

By | News | No Comments

A week of #peacocktreelent

Well done everyone and thank you SO much for getting involved with #peacocktreelent. You’ve amazed, inspired and amused us with the things you chose to give up – from coleslaw (yes, really!) to your car, technology, the daily mail on-line (ha!), packets of haribo . . . to name but a few – WE SALUTE YOU! Here’s a look back on some of your Facebook and Instagram posts – click on the images to read the comments that accompanied them.

DAY 1 – Letting go

DAY 2 – Motivation

DAY 3 – Alternatives

DAY 4 – Temptation

DAY 5 – Support

DAY 6 – Benefits

DAY 7 – Insights

Launching into Lent with Peacock Tree Yoga (#peacocktreelent)

By | News | No Comments

Lent is traditionally about giving something up (more on non-attachment in a moment…), and we definitely think that’s a good idea. But this year, we’re asking you to commit to doing something too: We’d like you to keep us all up to date with how it’s going, and help create a supportive and encouraging community, by using #peacocktreelent on your social media posts.

PTY rob yoga kula blog photo 6

Let’s support each other OFF the mat, too!

As practising Christians will know, giving up something we enjoy, but which is not necessary for our survival, is a central part of Lent. In recognition of the 40 days and nights Jesus is said to have spent fasting in the desert, believers go without for the same length of time – ending their ‘penance’ just before Easter Sunday.

Lent and non-attachment

Going without something we like but don’t need is a familiar concept within the world of yoga too. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, ‘aparigraha’ (not being possessive – over objects or people, for example) is listed as one of the codes for living known as the Yamas. The Yamas, which focus on matters of the self (small ‘s’) and what we should avoid doing, sit alongside five Niyamas, which are more about our behaviour in the world and how we should behave.

Find out what happened when Steve gave up technology for a month

As yogis, we can use Lent to practice not wanting things we don’t need, thereby removing our attachment to them – as discussed in our blog, Spring clean your mind for Lent. It doesn’t really matter what we choose to give up – only that it is something that has the ability to cause us distress if it is taken away – something our minds have become ‘sticky’ towards.

Marking Lent with Peacock Tree Yoga (#peacocktreelent)

Giving something up isn’t easy. But it can be made easier by having a supportive network around you. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve with our social media campaign. We want to build the same vibrant, friendly community online as we have in our classes!

We’ll share our experiences – our frustrations and revelations, the highs the lows – in the form of images on Facebook and Instagram, and we’ll group our photos by tagging them with #peacocktreelent (please do this – it makes it a lot easier for us to find your photos and videos!)

Of course, you’re welcome to get started as soon as you like – we know many people will want to begin on Wednesday 1st March, when Lent officially begins – but we’ll be online, sharing our own Lent pictures as well as daily ‘prompts’, from Monday 6th – Sunday 12th March.

Get creative!

Tulsi drinking a babychino before the start of #peacocktreelent

Tea? Coffee? Babychinos? What’s your weakness?

Throughout that week, we’ll include ‘prompts’ in our own posts, to help give a focus to the images you post. So on the first day, for example, the prompt will be ‘What I’m giving up for Lent’. You might simply post a picture of a bag of coffee. Or, you might choose to post a picture of an empty cup, a coffee cup stain on a table, or a selfie in which you’re holding your favourite (empty) coffee mug.

The comment you add to your photo, should you choose to, might also give us some insight into your experience of Lent – so on the first day, for example, you might tell us what you’re giving up for Lent and why, or explain how reliant you’ve become on that thing. Whether you include a comment or not, please remember to use the tag #peacocktreelent!

Get ahead…

For those of you who might want to plan ahead (apparently this is a thing on Instagram), or at least have an idea of the sorts of moments you could capture and tag with #peaocktreelent on Instagram or Facebook, we’ve listed the prompts below. You don’t have to use them in chronological order, or at all, however – other moments might come up that reflect your experiences better, after all.

  • Mon 6th: Letting go (what you’re giving up – a habit, a behaviour, a type of food… More ideas here
  • Tue 7th: Motivation (what’s motivating you to do this?)
  • Wed 8th: Alternatives (how you’re filling the gap)
  • Thur 9th: Temptation (moments when you’ve been close to falling off the wagon)
  • Fri 10th: Support (friends, family, clubs and groups that are helping you stick to your Lent goals)
  • Sat 11th: Benefits (examples of how sticking to your Lent goals is benefiting you)
  • Sun 12th: Insights (what your Lent goals have taught you)

Any other business

Below are a few other important bits of information about our week of social media Lent support. If you have any other questions, please do send them to us (email is best) and then we can add the information to the page and everyone can benefit from your inquisitive nature!

  • You can carry on using #peacocktreelent for the entire 40 days of lent, if you like! – we’ll continue to be inspired by you!
  • You can use other #s alongside ours if you’ve committed to another challenge, such as the Trussell Trust’s #40in40 challenge.
  • There’s no limit on the number of posts you tag with #peacocktreelent.
  • Oh, and if you’re giving up social media for Lent, print this blog / take a screenshot ASAP, capture your experience on camera throughout the week commencing Monday 6th March, and send your photos to us at info@peacocktreeyoga.com !

Dancing with the Daffodils

By | Teachings, Uncategorized | No Comments

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

~ Daffodils, by William Wordsworth

Living in England, we understand the importance of daffodils, what they represent. Here in York, these ostentatious flowers turn the city’s ancient walls into a halo of orange and yellow – giving us a sure sign that Spring has arrived. Even as early as February, it’s not difficult to find one or two enthusiastic daffodils, not-so-patiently waiting to shed their protective layers and reveal their undergarments. We’re a bit like that too, being as keen as we are to spot them, to get proof that Spring is definitely coming…

After the lull of Winter, we – like the daffodils – are ready to burst into Spring! Or, to put it in terms of Chinese medicine, we’re ready to move from water into wood.

Water to wood

PTY tulsi and cousin for daffodils blog

Into the woods…

As was noted in our New Year blog about hunkering down instead of revving ourselves up and attempting great feats of resolution, Winter is down time. Or, as Neil Gumenick from California’s Institute of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture so perfectly puts it; “Winter is for us, as it is for all of nature, a time for internal work: meditation, containment, concentration, and the storing of our energy. We use this season for rest and the filling and maintenance of our reserves, gathering strength for the year ahead.”

During the cooler months, we need to allow ourselves “to simply be still and quiet… to stand in the energy of the Water element”. And if we do? If we do as nature asks and use that time to take rest and spend time with our Selves? Then we continue to mirror nature as we move into Spring; we find ourselves as keen to burst into the next season as those prematurely sprouting daffs – like Ethel Merman singing ‘There’s no business like show business’!

What’s more, if we’ve truly spent the downtime of Winter nourishing ourselves, and using that deep connection with our inner Selves to understand what we need from the year ahead (something we encouraged in our Making Your Dream List blog), then we not only have the energy to match Spring, but its sense of growth and purpose, too.

Moving into Spring

We find joy (and Tulsi!) in daffodils

“Wood is the energy of youth and growth.”

“The Wood, which has been at rest, storing and concentrating its energy under a winter blanket, now bursts forth with new buds, new life piercing Earth’s crust… Wood is the energy of youth and growth: a new beginning, a vision of a whole new cycle. The Wood energy of spring is an expression of life at its strongest.” ~ Neil Gumenick

Let’s enjoy the energy of Spring, yogis! Feel it coursing through us. Utilise it. Capitalise on it. Know that we are investing this powerful energy in positive growth and change. But let’s also stop to re-focus every now and then; take stock, check that we’re pouring our energy into the right things. And then carry on – happy in the knowledge that come next Winter, when we dive back into the pool of our Selves, we’ll be able to think fondly and proudly of how we used these heady Spring days…

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

By | Teachings | No Comments

When we think about Valentine’s Day, we tend to think about the love we give to and receive from others. Tradition has it that you buy or, if you have the time, make a card and maybe a gift, and give it to your romantic partner – or someone who you’d like to fill that position. But we can use Valentine’s Day in another way; as a reminder to send love to ourselves.

PTY bath drawing for valentine's day rebel blog

Take a bath, fill your cup…

Of course, it’s easy to think of plenty of reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t be loving towards ourselves, from needing to prioritise others, to not ‘deserving’ it somehow. We often place compassion towards others above self-compassion. But we need to fill our cup in order to pour from it. As the former president of France, Charles de Gaulle, so delicately put it;

‘The graveyards are full of indispensable people.’

When we take time to tend to our mental, physical and spiritual health and wellbeing, when we show ourselves love and compassion, we’re better equipped for sharing our love with others, we can give them more! We radiate a happier vibration, and we see the world through loving and compassionate eyes.

Saint Valentine the Compassionate

Valentine’s Day was never really about romantic love anyway. As with Saint Nicholas (whose compassionate nature saw him transformed into the gift-bearing character our children now eagerly await in the lead-up to Christmas), the story of the saint behind Valentine’s Day has been distorted over the years. Saint Valentine never said anything about hearts or roses or snogging.

Saint Valentine of Rome – whose story is one of the most popular among the several stories of saintly martyrdom that were traditionally honoured on February 14th – promoted compassion. He was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who weren’t allowed to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. He’s even said to have healed the daughter of his jailer.

Be the love you want to see…

PTY breakfast in bed for valentine's day rebel blog

Rest, relax, restore…

This Valentine’s Day, take a leaf out of the eponymous saint’s book. Be a rebel. Love the forbidden, the forgotten. And by that, we mean love yourself. After all, being selfish is an essential part of preserving and sustaining ourselves – and, in turn, others.

And don’t feel the need to limit your self-compassionate moments to just one day a year. We recommend a weekly or, if possible, daily ritual of self-love – be it a long bath, a body-love meditation, a yoga class, or any of these fabulous Valentine’s Day ideas to fall in love with yourself. In fact, why not add ‘establish regular self-love practice’ to your 2018 dream list and start sending love to yourself right away!

Happy Valentine’s Day! x

Chinese New Year (and why yogis should embrace it!)

By | Teachings | No Comments

Happy New Year! Yes, yes, it’s all a distant memory for those of us who organise our lives according to the Gregorian calendar. But in countries where the traditional ‘lunisolar’ Chinese calendar is used, millions of people in red attire are celebrating the start of the Year of the Fire Rooster. And the rest of us can benefit from doing the same, because – like the science of yoga – the Chinese New Year gives us tools for becoming masterly in our lives.

PTY chinese new year blog - tulsi bird costume

Welcome to the Year of the Fire Rooster!

Chinese New Year (also known as the “Spring Festival” in mainland China) always begins with a new moon, somewhere between the 21st of January and the 20th of February. This year (2017), it started on Saturday 28th January, when we moved into the Year of the Fire Rooster – and celebrations will continue for the following fortnight, ending with a ‘lantern festival’ on Saturday 11th February.

Chinese New Year and the Zodiac

The Chinese associate each new year with one of twelve animals and one of the five elements of Chinese astrology, namely: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water (which are then further divided into Yin and Yang categories). This means that the years run in 60-year cycles; the last time we were in a Yin Fire Rooster year as we are now, for example, was 1957, and before that, in 1897.

According to tradition, this information can help us both anticipate the events of the coming year and understand the personalities, relationships and destinies of the people born during each year.

No more monkeying around

We’ve just emerged from a Fire Monkey year – an intense and chaotic period, according to Chinese astrology. You don’t have to cast your mind back too far, to see that this description fits very neatly indeed. As noted in this Mystic Mamma blog, “Last year’s current schooled us all in crisis management as the Fire Monkey’s erratic impulsiveness and dramatic flare produced an unprecedented bit of theater in American politics.”

If 2016 was a year when everything was taken apart, when the ground was laid for new and radical ideas, 2017 is the collective prompt to get up and get on! The year of the Fire Rooster is about putting everything in place again. People who are born during a Fire Rooster year are said to be “rather impatient in life, always feeling that there is something missing if they don’t get things done.” So don’t be surprised if you suddenly start feeling the urge to start crossing off the things you put on your 2017 dream list, too!

What’s your Chinese horoscope sign?

It’s both fun and useful to know your own Chinese zodiac sign. Whether or not you believe in the Chinese system of astrology – or indeed, any kind of astrology – doesn’t matter. Such things offer us a colourful way of contemplating our own lives, and they spark the imagination. We’re naturally interested in stories – watching the telly is just a modern version of sitting around a fire telling stories. With knowledge of where our birthdays fall, according to Chinese astrology, we can look at our lives and our behaviour from a fresh perspective.

Find out your Chinese zodiac sign

In our classes this week…

Chinese New Year celebrations

Get your dragon flow on!

Wear red! As good old Wikipedia explains on its page about the Chinese New Year, “Clothing mainly featuring the color red or bright colors is commonly worn throughout the Chinese New Year because it was once believed that red could scare away evil spirits and bad fortune… Red is a color of good luck.”

As well as wearing red for protection from negative energies, the Chinese perform dragon and lion dances throughout their New Year celebrations, which have as their soundtrack loud drum beats and ear-shattering clashes of cymbals. Although we’ll be leaving the noisier elements of the Chinese New Year out of our classes, be prepared to get your dragon flow on!