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44 – the final flush of fertility

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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

Dancing with the Daffodils

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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.

Making your dream list

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In the last Peacock Tree Yoga blog, we urged you to put your New Year resolutions to one side, hunker down in front of a fire and eat bean stew with your loved ones. We were promoting ‘hygge’ over ‘harrrrgh’ as the way to begin the year. And we still are, but remember the bit about that cosy and intimate setting being perfect for discussing your plans and dreams, thoughts and schemes for the coming year? We’re going to expand on that in this blog.

Making your dream list

Although there’s no harm in setting goals, there’s no need to rush ahead and attempt to meet those goals immediately, as previously discussed. 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

We’ve already discussed what constitutes ‘hygge’, but for this particular exercise, you should put a few other measures in place, too:

  • Identify and then talk to 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.

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 2017:

As you all know, we are also renovating our house and having a baby – but as they’re already construction(!) I wanted to include some other things too.

  1. Change my dentist from Huntington to Leeds, so that I get to go to Harvey Nicks for lunch when I have a check-up
  2. Set up another weekly savings account bucket
  3. ‘Time block’ 180mins for additional weekly learning on Tai Chi lectures & practices
  4. Put weekend spa date in diary with Andrea this spring
  5. Set up a ‘clearing out the Acomb cupboard’ date with Miss Kelly and then lunch afterwards

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 you want to put on your dream list.

  • 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 it’s in your mobile phone notes, on a scrap of paper in your purse, or learnt 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

Mindful Eating for a Happy Christmas

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How do you feel when you think about ‘Christmas food’? Does your mouth water? Do you resign yourself to the fact that you will over-eat and plan to make up for it in the New Year? Do you panic at the thought of there being lots of ‘fattening’ foods to avoid? Then it could be time to start practising ‘mindful eating’…

Tulsi with cake mixer for mindful eating blog

Eating should always be a pleasure!

Eating more than we really need, and eating food that is convenient but not necessarily what our body needs, is an easy thing to do – even more so during the festive season.  Whether it’s the seemingly endless supply of Quality Streets found in offices across the land, the box of mince pies hiding in every kitchen cupboard ‘in case someone comes round’, or those last few roast potatoes that ‘need eating up’, there’s always something available, always something to reach for without thinking.

For some people, the ongoing availability of food – particularly at Christmas – presents a different problem: they feel guilty about eating certain types of food and go out of their way to avoid them. This has as much potential to bring about an unhelpful relationship with food as the tendency to gobble up whatever is being offered – the mind develops thought-patterns which underpin and reinforce negative ideas about body image. In this way, under-eating can become something we do without thinking, too.

Mindful eating for pleasure and good health

One way of exercising our powers of awareness, so that we can make conscious decisions about what we eat – and, importantly, truly enjoy and benefit from the things we consume – is to practice ‘mindful eating’. Before we go on to the ‘how’, here are a couple of definitions of mindful eating:

“Mindful Eating is allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom” ~ The Center for Mindful Eating

“Mindful eating is eating with intention and attention: Eating with the intention of caring for yourself [and] eating with the attention necessary for noticing and enjoying your food and its effects on your body” ~ Am I Hungry?

As these two statements suggest, there are big advantages that come with eating mindfully – the main one being that when we are aware of what we are doing, we can make choices which will have positive effects on our physical and mental health. The person who has a tendency to unthinkingly swallow more than their fair share of chocolates can choose to say ‘No, thank you’ when offered yet another, and the person who has grown to deny themselves the pleasure of eating sweet treats can choose to say ‘Yes, please!’.

Yoga and mindful eating

Have your cake and eat it!

Have your cake and eat it!

This is all good news for those of us who attempt to live our lives according to the principles of yoga, which state that a healthy mind and a healthy body create the optimum conditions for our practice – and, therefore, for reaching the goal of spiritual enlightenment that a consistent and dedicated yoga practice promises.

Not only this, but by training our powers of awareness through the practice of mindful eating, we can pay more attention to everything else we do: the things we think about, the words that leave our lips, and our behaviour in the world. Practising mindful eating works very much like practising yoga postures – we learn to listen to our inner wisdom. Just as we might acknowledge thirst and quench it with a glass of water, we can identify the need to adapt a posture in order to avoid injury, or to deepen the pose.

How to eat mindfully

One very effective exercise for honing your mindful eating skills is given in ‘A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook’, by Stahl & Goldstein. It involves spending time looking at, smelling and considering what you’re about to eat, before gradually taking in more and more sensory details as you put the item in your mouth and chew it.

If you’ve never done this exercise with us in our classes, have a go at home. Try the exercise with a small a handful of raisins, as suggested in this adaptation of Stahl & Goldsteins’ mindful eating exercise, and then see if you can apply the same technique in other situations – like when you’re sitting at the Christmas dinner table!

Read more about how you can gain control over your desires!

Turn on, tune in, drop out?

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Could you give up communication technology for a month? No late night phone calls with your lover, no scrolling down your Facebook newsfeed on the bus, no emails to open while you have your first coffee of the day. On the face of it, it sounds impossible – we live in an age where these things are the norm – but when Peacock Tree Yoga student and teacher, Steve Poile, traveled to a remote ashram in India, he was determined to leave the electronic world behind… 

Sivananda ashram, Himalayas

An ashram by the Ganges. Perfect.

This was my second TTC – the first in Mysore at The Mystic School last year, was in the centre of the city with meals and access to the outside world a short walk from the classroom. Whilst it was a great Indian experience, it lacked the peace and tranquility I was seeking. I wanted a place where I’d be able to develop a deeper spiritual practice, create closer ties with the Sivananda path, develop my readiness to teach, and withdraw from the outside world in order to be able to focus on my own yoga practice.

After a lot of research, I decided to register with the Sivananda Kutir, Uttarkashi, an ashram next to the Ganges, in the foothills of the Himalayas. It offered everything I was looking for, in particular, a core focus on Sivananda yoga, remoteness in the mountains, and an absence of any outside distractions due to the (supposed) unavailability of wifi and mobile phone signals.

Leaving it all behind

Departing from York, it took over 40 hours travelling time to reach the Ashram, the last leg of the journey being a seven-hour car journey from Rishikesh (the spiritual home of Swami Sivananda) through mountain passes and past beautiful scenery to the little collection of buildings by the Ganges that was to be home for the next month.

After just one day to recover from the trip, the ashram experience began, with a daily schedule as reliable as the sounds that formed our soundtrack; the rushing water of the Ganges, the melodic calls of exotic birds, and the rhythms of the local bugs:

  • 5am – get up
    meal time at the ashram

    Even meal times were a meditation of sorts.

  • 6am – Satsang (meditation and chanting)
  • 8am – asana practice
  • 10am – brunch
  • 10.30am – karma yoga (performing helpful tasks around the ashram)
  • 12 noon – lectures
  • 4pm – asana practice (yes, another one)
  • 6pm – dinner
  • 7pm – Satsang
  • 9.30pm – lights out

The Ashram ‘rules’

All activities are compulsory at the ashram, there are no exceptions. All food is sattvic lacto-vegetarian, consisting of one veg curry or dahl and rice (sometimes substituted by a dosa, noodles or roti), and a piece of fruit – all very basic but delicious. Everything – Satsang, meals, lectures – is undertaken sitting cross-legged on the floor. Daily Vedanta and asana homework must be crammed into the few moments of spare time since there’s no room for falling behind – hand-in is required the following day.

I was expecting all of this. However, there was one ‘rule’ which no longer applied. The relentless march of technology meant that the local area had recently obtained a 3G mobile phone signal! Giving up communication technology was no longer an externally imposed withdrawal from the external world, but a choice I would have to make. Did I switch on my phone and have access to the outside world or did I keep it switched off and maintain the remoteness and withdrawal? I chose the latter, since this was an opportunity to experience a different pace of life and be liberated from the demands of modern technology.

Read about Rob Milner’s yoga studies in Austria

Tuning out and tuning in

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A moment of pure stillness

Every day as I awoke, I no longer felt the desire to reach for the phone and see the latest news, emails, and Facebook posts. Instead, I focused on my own wellbeing, prepared for the day and quietly walked to the Satsang hall free from thoughts generated by this and that in the world beyond the ashram walls. As the month progressed, my mind became quieter and more peaceful. I didn’t once feel the need to switch on my phone. I felt liberated, able to sit by the Ganges, my spine tingling as I felt only love radiating out, and a blissful nothing coming in.

The modern world, with its demands on your time and resources is, you begin to understand, a self-made constraint imposed by the self on the self. I can choose to allow social media, email, mobile phone and so on to make constant demands, or I can choose to ignore these demands. The more I ignore them the quieter they become, and in turn the quieter and calmer my mind becomes.

Bringin’ it all back home…

When I returned to the UK I asked people what of importance had happened whilst I was away. My question was met with quizzical responses….nobody could really recall anything of importance that was worth a mention. I hadn’t missed a thing – and that’s partly why I have chosen to maintain a lower level of reliance on technology now I’m back on home soil. I leave the phone at home and don’t reach for it in the morning, and in doing so, I’ve managed to retain a quiet mind and a sense of calmness. It feels strange at times since I was used to having a mind full of thoughts.

So did I achieve the objectives I set out at the start of my trip? The answer is as loud and noticeable as the sound of insects scurrying along the stone floor of the quiet ashram: Yes! The regularity and simplicity of ashram life, combined with a voluntary withdrawal from technology, allowed me to delve deep into my yoga studies, and tune into an inner peace and tranquility that I’ve been able to hold on to – even when my phone lights up.

 

By the light of the silvery moon…

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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 November 2016 Supermoon. This full moon, we’re told, will be one of the best for a long time to come due to its proximity to the earth.

For Ashtanga yoga practitioners, a full moon will always be worth observing. New moons, too. Ashtangis practising in the traditional way (as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois) consider moon days as holidays. Guruji, as the tradition’s founding father was affectionately known by his students, told his students 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.

The Jois family has a strong background in Vedic astrology, which should be taken into consideration when we speak about the importance of the phase of the moon to Ashtanga yoga. It’s worth noting, too, that Guruji himself was born on a full moon, giving him the ability to “bring consciousness to bear on the hidden dimensions of life”, according to one astrology website. Why not find out what phase of the moon you were born in?

Subtle energetic body

Subtle energy in motion

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 vinyasa, 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…

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, such as the one on November 14th – 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 ‘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.

Finding my Yoga Kula

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When Peacock Tree Yoga teacher and student, Rob Milner, took up yoga in March 2012, he couldn’t have anticipated the world it would open up for him – the yoga kula, or community, he was about to enter. In this guest blog, written after his second trip to an Austrian Sivananda Yoga ashram, he recalls how it all began…

PTY rob yoga kula blog photo 6

The Peacock Tree Yoga kula, where my world opened up…

Yoga was something I’d been curious about for a while, but I hadn’t really looked for a class. In fact, it was my mum who found the advert and suggested we both give it a try.

From the moment I started it just felt like the right place to be. I remember distinctly how Lilley had set up the environment, with incense, the right kind of music and a well-balanced class, and it was a spiritual experience. I wasn’t familiar with spirituality that much at the time, but looking back, that sense of connection to the peace within appealed to me on some level. Yoga was the thing I was looking for, though I didn’t even know I was looking for it. You can say it was fate, or the universal order, or just luck, but the yoga found me when it was the right time.

chloe mckay and rob milner

Who knew yogis love to party?!

I started with the beginners’ class, once a week. Initially I couldn’t even touch my toes, but yoga allows you to steadily improve your flexibility, focus and strength. Sometimes the results are quick, sometimes they are more gradual, but you can see your progress, and that’s wonderful motivation.

After finishing the beginners’ course I moved into the intermediates: giving the body and mind the extra level of challenge allows it to rise and adapt to the situation. It’s important to build up to it though, always finding that relaxation within the postures, where the breath can be even and steady. A lot of the practice is in the mind and it’s the meditative aspect that really connects us with the true practice of yoga.

 

A seed takes root…

PTY rob blog swiss chalet

Sivananda Yoga Ashram, Austria

Once I’d done intermediates for a while I needed to get deeper into the yoga, so I started going several times per week. I gradually invested more time in it and improved my practice. I did some yoga at home too and started assisting with some of the classes. One evening after class, Lilley mentioned the Teacher Training Course to me and this piqued my interest. It was the next step that I was seeking on my yoga journey.

With a year to go before doing the teacher training, I began preparing and started counting the days. The training itself was a month-long intensive in a Sivananda ashram in the Austrian Tyrol, among the forests and mountains and provided a true retreat experience.

PTY rob blog shrine

Diving deeper in Austria…

A major revelation I had when doing the course was that there was so much more to yoga than I had been aware of. I’d been practising the postures (asanas) and the breathing (pranayama), but had really only scratched the surface. I was introduced to Vedanta, which is the philosophical backbone of yoga and started practising meditation twice a day.

The schedule was intensive and not always easy, but yoga is also about applying the calm, peaceful state of mind to more stressful situations, so that we don’t get so emotionally involved in every little thing, but learn to approach all of life’s events with a balanced outlook. Good things happen and bad things happen. Everything can be a lesson for us, and sometimes it’s important to go through bad things in order to develop our character and grow stronger and wiser.

Connecting with my yoga kula

Acro Yoga Kula

Our Acro Yoga Kula in York!

A very important aspect of my teacher training, and one of the main reasons I practise in a class, is that you get to meet and connect with a lot of really wonderful people. I’ve made some really deep connections with people I’ve met through yoga and they will always be special to me and remain my lifelong friends.

Maybe it’s the type of people who are drawn to yoga, but I find yogis to have an inspiring attitude, looking for self-improvement and a more peaceful existence, sitting a level above the stresses and strains of everyday life.

I love the fact that yoga is open to everyone, it’s never too late to practise and you will always gain some benefit. There are so many variations that all bodies can find the yoga, you don’t have to be super fit, but just have a little discipline and go to a class.

Catching up with fellow TT's Anju and Elizabeth at London's Sivananda Centre

Catching up with fellow TT’s Anju and Alice in London

Through yoga I’ve made friends all over the world, and love to visit them and reconnect with them. It’s great catching up with my fellow TTCs (what we call the people who did the Teacher Training Course) and seeing how they’re getting on. Some are teaching, some are practising, but they have a deeper understanding of yoga from doing the course, as do I. It was a pivotal point for me, and I think of my life before and life after the TTC as two different things, almost a rebirth.

Wherever I lay my mat, that’s my home

I recently returned to the ashram in Austria for a yoga vacation, with my mum, and I really enjoyed connecting to a new group of people. I specifically chose to return when the teacher training course was on this year as I love the energy that all the extra people create.

Yoga is a path we can walk with others

Yoga is a path I like walking with others

But one thing I also realised is that though the environment is lovely (it’s really a detox to be in the mountains, away from the busy stimulation of daily life) it’s not necessary to go anywhere to experience the bliss of yoga. The important part is the people you practise with.

Next time you’re in your class, try to become aware of the beautiful people that surround you and the amazing community and sense of connection that’s there. Talk to people, smile at people, be happy with people and look for opportunities. Follow your intuition and say yes to things. You never know where you may end up. I feel so lucky to have had so many opportunities since returning from my course, but they were always there, I just wasn’t aware of them.

Life is beautiful, the world is beautiful, and people are beautiful. Yoga is a way to connect to the blissful self within, but also a way to create unification with those around us too. All you need to do is commit to a practice and give yourself to the yoga, and you might find that it leads you to the place you want to be.


Rob sounds brilliant! Where can we find him?!

PTY rob yoga kula blog photo 4

Rob Milner

Rob has a really strong practice, so you’ll find him teaching some of Peacock Tree Yoga’s more challenging classes, while Lilley is 5000 miles from home:

  • Mon 17th October: Improvers, Acomb, 6.45 – 8.00pm
  • Mon 17th October: Ashtanga, Acomb, 8.00 – 9.30pm
  • Mon 24th October: Improvers, Acomb, 6.45 – 8.00pm
  • Mon 24th October: Ashtanga, Acomb, 8.00 – 9.30pm

Guest blog: Gratitude Crumble

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Some people eat humble pie. Katy Wright recommends Gratitude Crumble…

I’ve developed a new morning ritual and I can’t recommend it highly enough. But you do need to live near some brambles, which – luckily for me – I do. In fact, where I live in France, it’s pretty rural, and I have immediate access to all the delights Mother Earth is currently serving up. But even if there’s more concrete than grass where you live, you can still go out on weekend ‘shopping’ trips.

Katy looking at blackberries

Behold the plump berries!

So, my ‘harvest bowl’. Every day it gets filled with blackberries, apples, hazelnuts and, soon, walnuts!! And the act of filling it has become my daily reminder to be grateful. Grateful for the abundance of food growing just metres away from the kitchen in which it will be prepared, and grateful for the abundance in my own life.

But having a lot of fresh produce is a bit like having a lot of money – it comes with responsibility. You can’t just pick blackberries willy nilly and let them go soggy in the fridge. Or watch your apples develop that weird, waxy skin texture that signals impending decay. (The nuts, granted, do have to be left to their own devices – and when they’re ready, I have to practise moderation in the face of delirious greed!).

I’ve found the best way to be responsible with, and respectful towards, my harvest is to make sure it gets eaten and appreciated – by me and anyone else I encounter. And I do that by making the delicious things listed below. There’s something for everyone – unless you’re both vegan and gluten intolerant, in which case, I suggest eating your fruits, berries and nuts in all their unadulterated glory!

Happy foraging!

Katy x


 

How to eat your Autumn harvest

 

Pancakes and blackberriesFlourless Banana Pancakes

These are quick and easy to make, tasty, filling, good for using up ageing bananas, and good for sharing. And they can be made better still by putting blackberries and cinnamon on top! They’re also classed as ‘Paleo‘, so if you eat like a caveman, you’ll like these!

 

apple tree for gratitude blogGratitude Crumble

That’s just my playful name for what is actually a recipe by Paul Hollywood. The only things I do differently are leaving out the seaweed (that’s not a joke – he really does use the stuff in his crumble!) and using salted butter. Oh, and I like it served with crème fraiche. Naturellement.


peach and blackberry bircherAutumn Porridge / Bircher 

No-one can claim to have invented porridge, apart from the oats themselves. And yes, Bircher was invented by a Swiss doctor, but it is basically just a cold version of porridge. So I’m going to lay claim to these variations. You can invent your own versions, too. The ‘Bircher’ on the left contains peach.

 

  • Porridge: Make as usual and then stir in a teaspoon of turmeric, if you’re daring. Put it in a bowl, and add half an apple (chopped into small pieces) and a handful of blackberries. Top it off with some chopped nuts. You can also add cinnamon or, even better, cinnamon pumpkin seeds (for 3 or 4 servings, fry 40g of seeds in ½ tspn of coconut oil along with as much cinnamon as you desire)
  • Bircher: Soak the oats overnight, in half the amount of water/milk you would use if you were cooking it in a pan – so, roughly 1:1. In the morning, stir in some plain yoghurt (it’s up to you how much – depends on your feelings about gloopiness), grate an apple on top, add your blackberries, and top with nuts and pumpkin seeds, either plain or made as described above.

Working with the Autumn equinox

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As the children fall back into their academic rhythm, as you pack away your shorts and vests for another 6 months or so, and as the last roses of Summer drop their petals in response to the dip in temperature and the lessening of light, we reach the Autumn equinox – that moment in the year when light and dark are of equal measure, and when we find ourselves on the precipice of change.

Pranayama for the Autumn Equinox

Pranayama for the Autumn Equinox

It’s a time that can be very exciting – who doesn’t enjoy the prospect of a nice new pair of tights, a crackling fire, or a stomp through crunchy leaves?! But it can also be unsettling – after the heat and romance of Summer, a cold, dark winter isn’t always such a cheery prospect. But we can overcome this feeling – and indeed, capitalise on the time of the year – by mimicking nature, by finding the same balance of light and dark in ourselves.

Finding balance through yoga

Yogis love balance, whether it comes in the form of a stable posture, an even breathing pattern (anuloma viloma is particularly helpful for establishing balance), or the avoidance of excess – the ability to make choices that serve the Self, and not the ego. Yoga teaches us to find a balance between effort and rest, elimination and assimilation, yang and yin. And in this way, yoga gives us tools for maintaining energetic and emotional balance in our lives.

As the days shorten, it’s common to find our energy levels dipping. When this happens, it’s easy to reach for seemingly easy solutions – we might simply increase our coffee consumption, for example. But that only chafes against nature’s cycles. We know, really, that we’d benefit a lot more by taking a nap or going to bed an hour earlier. And we know this because it’s what our inner wisdom tells us. Our job, then, is to listen to the wisdom inside – to hear her when she tells us to slow down, speed up, resist, or pursue.

How to hear…

recogniding the light within with anjali mudra

Anjali (‘salutation’) Mudra

According to Hindu tradition, along with many other cultures, that innate wisdom comes from the heart – and each sun salutation we do is a reminder of this. The sun is a symbol of consciousness and self-illumination, and by putting our hands in prayer position front of our hearts (anjali mudra) at the beginning and end of each sun salutation, we acknowledge that the sun, or the light, resides in all of us.

Each time we practise yoga, we have an opportunity to connect with our inner light and receive its wisdom; our bodies, our minds and our choices become further refined in the laboratory that is our yoga mat. With asana, we can nourish or strengthen weary limbs. With pranayama, we can soothe an aggravated nervous system. And with the awareness of our needs that comes with these physical practices, we can learn how to meet the pressures of life – and the Autumn equinox – with equanimity.

Want to walk the path together? Join us for our next Yoga Ninja workshop on September 24th!

Spectacular September – Yoga in the Autumn

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Yogis, doesn’t our country just do September spectacularly well. Drink in these wonderful September days. Be enthusiastic about September. In class this week we’ve been talking about the success of our yoga not lying in our ability to perform postures, but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationship. Yogis tend to have a positive ‘ripple’ effect in the world. And this week we’re rippling out our enthusiasm for autumn.

Remember that the word the word ‘enthusiast’ originates from a Greek word meaning ‘possessed by God’s essence’.

Little apples of autumnal poetry to share . . .

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.” John Donne, 1572 – 1631IMG_0507

“By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.” –   Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885