Light on Life by BKS Iyengar – Chapter 2: Stability – Part 1

Extracts from Chapter 2: Stability – The Physical Body (Asana)

It’s a long chapter, so this is Part 1:

Yoga is as old and traditional as civilization, yet it persists in modern society as a means to achieving essential vitality. But yoga demands that we develop not only strength in body but attention and awareness in mind.

Yoga offers us techniques to become aware, to expand and penetrate, and to change and evolve.

As you explore your own body you are in fact exploring the earth element of nature itself.

[One] must do asana not merely as a physical exercise but as a means to understand and then integrate our body with breath, with our mind, with our intelligence, with our consciousness, with our conscience, and with our core.

Yoga has a threefold impact on health. It keeps healthy people healthy, it inhibits the development of diseases, and it aids recovery from ill health.

You have to create within yourself the experience of beauty, liberation, and infinity. This is health.

As long as the body is not in perfect health, you are caught in body consciousness alone. This distracts you from healing and culturing the mind. We need sound bodies so we can develop sound minds.

Sensitivity is not weakness or vulnerability. It is clarity of perception and allows judicious, precise action.

The effects of impurity are highly undesirable. They cause us to develop a hard shell around us. If we construct a stiff shell between ourselves and the world outside our skin, we rob ourselves of most of life’s possibilities. We are cut off from the free flow of cosmic energy. It becomes difficult in every sense to let nourishment in or to let toxic waste out. We live in a capsule, what a poet called a “vain citadel.”

Central heating, air conditioning, cars that we take out to drive three hundred yards, towns that stay lit up all night, and food imported from around the world out of season are all examples of how we try to circumvent our duty to adapt to nature and instead force nature to adapt to us. In the process, we become both weak and brittle. Even many of my Indian students who all now sit on chairs in their homes are becoming too stiff to sit in lotus position easily.

Does not the American Declaration of Independence talk of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness? If a yogi had written that, he would have said Life, Happiness, and the Pursuit of Liberty.

If you say you are your body, you are wrong. If you say you are not your body, you are also wrong.

How does one find such profound transformation in what from the outside may look simply like stretching or twisting the body into unusual positions? It begins with awareness.

The sensitive awareness of the body and the intelligence of the brain and heart should be in harmony. The brain may instruct the body to do a posture, but the heart has to feel it, too. The head is the seat of intelligence; the heart is the seat of emotion. Both have to work in cooperation with the body.

The duty of the brain is to receive knowledge from the body and then guide the body to further refine the action. Pause and reflect between each movement. This is progression in attention. Then in the stillness you can be filled with awareness.

When we ask ourselves, “What am I doing?” and “Why am I doing it?” our minds open. This is self-awareness. However, it is necessary to point out that students should be self-aware, not self-conscious. Self-consciousness is when the mind constantly worries and wonders about itself, doubting constantly and being self-absorbed.

If you do not know the silence of the body, you cannot understand the silence of the mind.

When action and silence combine like the two plates of an automobile’s clutch, it means that intelligence is in gear.

The moment you bring attention, you are creating something, and creation has life and energy.

Extension is attention, and expansion is awareness.

Overstretching occurs when one looses contact with one’s center, with the divine core. Instead, the ego wants simply to stretch further, to reach the floor, regardless of its ability, rather than extending gradually from the center.

Always try to extend and expand the body. Extension and expansion bring space, and space brings freedom.

When there is strain, the practice of yoga is purely physical and leads towards imbalances and misjudgement.

Your energy extends through the tips of your skin and beyond. This is the secret that martial artists use to generate extraordinary force. They do not punch a brick, they punch through it. Extend the energy of the asana out through your extremities. Let the river flow through you.

Picture from B.K.S. Iyengar – Yoga Wisdom and Practice

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Light on Life by BKS Iyengar – Chapter 1: The Inward Journey

Extracts from Chapter 1: The Inward Journey:

Most of us think of our “body” as simply our physical form—our skin, bones, muscles, and internal organs. For yoga, however, this is only the outermost layer of our body or annamaya kosa. It is this anatomical body that encompasses the other four subtle bodies, or kosas.

The demarcation of the different sheaths is essentially hypothetical. We are unique and integral. Nevertheless, in order to achieve the integrity and wholeness we desire, there must be communication from the inner to the outer and the outer to the inner as each sheath blends with the next. Only then are we bound together as one functional human being. If not, we experience dissolution and fragmentation, which make life uncomfortable and confusing.

[If] you too live and practice yoga in the right way and with the right attitude, far greater benefits and more radical changes will take place than mere physical flexibility.

We too are part of Nature, therefore constantly changing, so we are always looking at Nature from a different viewpoint. We are a little piece of continual change looking at an infinite quantity of continual change. Small wonder that it gets quite exciting. The most important thing we can learn about Nature is the inherent and innate laws by which it functions.

It is through the alignment of my body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.

I have purposely avoided until now using the usual translation for the non-physical reality as its mention usually stops people thinking for themselves. In Sanskrit, the word is Purusa. In English we can call it Cosmic or Universal Soul. The word Soul usually has such strong religious connotations that people either accept or dismiss it without reflection. They forget that it is simply our word for an abiding reality. It is logical but remains conceptual to our minds until we experience its realization within ourselves.

Everything that exists in the macrocosm is to be found existing in the microcosm or individual.

[The] demonstration of one’s spiritual realization lies in none other than how one walks among and interacts with one’s fellow human beings.

[We] discover ever more self-control, sensitivity, and awareness that permit us to live the life we aspire to, one of decency; clean, honest human relations; goodwill and fellowship; trust; self-reliance; joy in the fortune of others; and equanimity in the face of our own misfortune.

Self-cultivation through asana is the broad gateway leading to the inner enclosures we need to explore. In other words, we are going to try to use asana to sculpt the mind.

Breath is the vehicle of consciousness and so, by its slow, measured observation and distribution, we learn to tug our attention away from external desires (vasana) toward a judicious, intelligent awareness (prajna).

We may say that we want to reach the domain of the soul, but there remains a great tug-of-war. We neither go in nor out, and that saps the energy.

This process of relaxing the brain is achieved through asana. We generally think of mind as being in our head. In asana our consciousness spreads throughout the body, eventually diffusing in every cell, creating a complete awareness.

How to keep the brain cells in a relaxed, receptive, and concentrated state is the art that yoga teaches.

[We] all have access to a space, an inner space, where there is an end to duality, an end to conflict. This is what meditation teaches us, the cessation of the impersonating ego and the dawn of the true, unified Self, beyond which there is no other.

[A] word or action done to another is ultimately done equally to oneself.

Spirituality, as I have tried to make clear, is not ethereal and outside nature but accessible and palpable in our very own bodies. Indeed the very idea of a spiritual path is a misnomer. After all, how can you move toward something that, like Divinity, is already by definition everywhere?

Light on Life by BKS Iyengar

I am reading Light on Life by Iyengar, slowly and somewhat surely, as is my way. I thought I’d share some extracts and quotes as I read and practice. Whereas Light on Yoga looks in detail at the practice of asana, this book shows how yoga and life are one.

Introduction

When you and I meet together, we forget ourselves – our cultures and classes. There are no divisions, and we talk mind to mind, soul to soul. We are no different in our deepest needs. We are all human

Yoga is the rule book for playing the game of life, but in this game no one needs to loose.

When I say that yoga saved my life, I am not exaggerating. It was yoga that gave me a new birth with health from illness and firmness from infirmity.

Yogasana brought tremendous brought tremendous physical benefits and helped me to grow from a sickly child into a reasonably fit and agile young man. My own body was the laboratory, in which I saw the health benefits of yoga, but I could already see that yoga would have as many benefits for my head and heart as it did for my body.

You do not need to seek freedom in some distant land, for it exists within your own body, heart, mind, and soul.

Kripalu Yoga Videos

It’s been two years since I was in Massachusetts to undertake my yoga teacher training. I studied at the Kripalu Centre, who’s approach to yoga is one of awareness, and spontaneity, whether one wishes to teach or practise a gentle approach, moderate or vigorous. Recently Kripalu have put some video yoga classes online for free. It was great to be able to see my teachers, Devarshi, Megha, Coby and Jovina teaching online, and these are very good practices to work with at home.

Here’s Devarshi Steven Hartman’s class:

And a trailer for the course itself, truly one of the best and most profound experiences of my life.

And many other classes and short sessions here

I mean to post some more from the journal and course notes from that month. Here are a couple from early in the course:

Goals of teachers

And one of the more memorable days, the blindfolded meeting of hands

Iyengar Workshop with Sheila Haswell

Since Easter I have been attending classes in Winchester with a very good Iyengar yoga teacher, Sandy Bell. This has given me the opportunity to attend additional Iyengar workshops on weekends. The previous two have been for 3 hours in the morning but today’s was for 6 hours (with a 45 minute break).

The teacher was Sheila Haswell, who has 30 years of teaching experience in the Iyengar tradition. Like many Iyengar teachers, I found her to be on the stricter side, towards bossy, but with understanding and humour, and such a wealth of knowledge and insight as to the way the body works. I didn’t mind being ‘told off’ a few times about various posture details as it really helped bring awareness to what I was doing and what could change. There is always something to modify in asana, always some learning.

We worked through a number of standing poses in the morning, followed by some backbends. In the afternoon the focus was on seated forward bends. The emphasis of the workshop was ‘getting the direction correct’. We can practice for years without realising we have been going the wrong way in asana, under the strong influence of achieving the final posture. I learnt many valuable hints about the internal movement of the muscles, allowing a fuller pose with less effort and greater alignment.

Afterwards I felt relaxed and open, and again taller and more aligned. This was evidenced driving home, having to adjust the rear-view mirror higher. It’s now set to Iyengar Height.

Here’s a couple of photos of me being assisted by Sheila, watched by 30+ people!

Iyengar x2

Two Iyengar yoga sessions over three days. I’m really into it, the lengthening, the opening, the relaxation on the blocks. On Saturday morning I went to a three hour workshop led by a teacher in her 80s, Julie Smith. She had so much energy and passion for someone of her age, and her level of expertise was excellent. Many hints and tips of how to open and relax that little bit more in the pose. The use of supports and belts really helps me too. On Sunday I was reluctant to do anything very much apart from rest, and by Monday morning I was energetic and relaxed and integrated again, with some tender spots, having touched deep. I was glad, then, that this evening’s class with Sandy was more restorative, with a long relaxation and pranayama at the end. If you want knowledgeable, reliable teachers, with detailed instruction on each pose, I highly recommend finding an Iyengar class. It’s very adaptable to each individual, so anyone can get a good feel for the postures.

Iyengar Yoga

This evening, for the first time in about 8 years, I was in an Iyengar class. It was at Compton, south of Winchester, with a teacher called Sandy. I really appreciate the attention to detail and the time given to each posture, with relatively minor changes once in the pose making a huge difference. Again I was the lone male, and among 8 middle-aged women. This is not unusual, and after all, I am a middle aged man. I was made very welcome and it was a fun class. We were in a special school, so there were bright butterflies and happy faces painted on the walls. After class, I felt a couple of inches taller, elongated gently through many tight areas of my legs, chest high and open. Staying in the poses a while and working with the same posture in a few variations really helps. I’ll definitely go again.

It’s the Easter holidays at Brockwood, so the remaining staff and mature students have the place to ourselves. Once again, relishing the sun as we ate outdoors, chatting with Friedrich, a long term supporter of Brockwood.

At work I am making sure I take breaks, even wandering down to the bottom of the lane, or among the daffodils of the centre every hour. I’ve said it before, but if smokers get a break, why can’t non-smokers?

Steps: 6515

110315 Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training; Seven Stars Yoga

Three times yoga: a session this morning running through this evening’s class; teaching this evening; then to Petersfield for a new evening class. The evening class was a new style of yoga to me, called Seven Stars Yoga. They are influenced by Chinese qi gong as well as Indian yoga, and we practised two routines, an hour in total. It was a good way to use and circulate much of the energy I get after teaching. And to be taught is always a treat. I’ll be going again. Unfortunately good venues are hard to find and the Petersfield Community Centre was a bit grubby, with icky bits on the floor. The music from the dance class next door didn’t bother me and the class itself was fun.

A friend asked why I chose Kripalu to train at. I said:

I looked around extensively over many months when I was looking for a course. I knew I wanted a month-long rather than over a couple of years on weekends. I wanted the immersive experience. So this narrowed it down. In my researching Kripalu kept coming up and so I asked around my yoga friends and while none had direct experience, they had all heard good things. The only thing putting me off Kripalu at that stage was the hugeness (and ugliness) of the building, and it was quite pricey. I was impressed at the website and curriculum and attracted by them saying it is not so much an intellectual course, and that there aren’t too many exams. So a kind of negative attraction in that sense, but I don’t like memorizing and theorizing. Then I saw they did scholarships and applied, and was granted 40% off, so that kind of sealed the deal. But mainly it was the feeling it out and the good vibes from the site. Their apparent professionalism, the fact that they were once an ashram and that they had a long history of YTT courses also counted.

I was not disappointed. There was a strong sense that while they were routed in traditions (particularly chanting) they were progressive. The course was beyond anything I expected. Way beyond yoga-yoga into experiential sessions, dance, and what they call meditation in motion. I would definitely recommend it. The days are long, but not as long as some YTTs. Importantly it felt like a really safe training ground, and they structure the weeks very well, lengthening each practice teach each week. And you only have to teach those to five people. The food is very good. And there’s a sauna and hot bath, which I used every evening. You get two yoga classes a day plus a whole bunch of posture workshops. Damn, I need to say something negative, but I can’t… Of course, you have to take in a lot of the ‘real self’ ‘true self’ yoga talk, but I kind of accepted where they were coming from. I went for the cheapest option, the dorm. The girls had sometimes twenty in a room, but we were only five. Sound.

I’d really love to do it all over again, a course like that.

Something is changing for me in yoga after all these years. I am no longer subtly afraid of it, nor am I as afraid of teaching. Which is a very big deal.

Steps stepped: 4705

110301 Marching

March no less.

Feeling so much better, the sick dizzy feeling a mile away and the tight head easing up. Yoga. Yoga. Yoga. It’s the bomb. For real. I recommend the Sivananda sequence. It’s a classical sequence of 12 major asanas together with some pranayama (breathing techniques) and counter postures (gentle postures in the opposite direction to the major stretch one has just done. With relaxation between every posture. It really is a total workout and touches everything. I mean everything.

More energy at work, but none of the temper. Fixing a list of all the Krishnamurti videos we have (over 600), for the Centre library, grouped by type of event and location. It’s been quite a lot of work to code them all by genre, but soon we’ll have for the first time the entire list sorted correctly, making it easy for guests and customers to find what they want. This will also help us to organise it online when we get the download shop going.

YouTube wrote back asking me to put a couple of extra paragraphs in my counter notification because the claim was made in the USA:

“I swear, under penalty of perjury, that I have a good faith belief the material was removed due to a mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled.”

“I consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court for the district in which my address is located, or if my address is outside of the United States, the judicial district in which YouTube is located, and will accept service of process from the claimant.”

So at least they are looking into it, and for the first time a human wrote the email asking for this. There is hope of getting my account back. Hopefully in time to post the next walking video, as next week I might finish the last two stages of the South Downs Way, from the far eastern edge of Brighton, to Eastbourne.

Steps stepped: 2580

110227 Yogi/Surfer’s Path

Back to the yoga with a delicious Sivananda session first thing. That routine really ticks all the boxes for me. This morning I was really feeling the sickness of the last couple of weeks and breathing with it. I felt energised and relaxed through the day, even though health hasn’t fully returned. Spending an hour or more on the mat is different from any other activity. Changes happen, things are learnt, just by gently watching and stretching.

Surfer’s Path magazine is full of wonderful images. Here are a few from the March/April edition that just arrived, as two surfer friends come to Europe for a visit from California:

100215 Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

It’s all caught up with me today, almost exhausted after the moving, decorating, the underlying emotions of C moving, the work on the flat here and this evening, the yoga teaching. I didn’t have much ooomph for the class but I enjoyed teaching it once I was there. Beforehand, as each week, the flight response so strong, the wanting to cancel, to walk away, to not bother, to find any excuse. But each week I go through with it and despite the nerves it does ease something deep inside that has long been fearful. I was very much in touch with this shameful fear on the yoga teacher course, often listening to a small voice asking why are we doing this, not wanting to it, wanting to stay with mother, stay safe, and not mix with these outsiders. To this I listened, I accepted, I loved. And now I am doing something I never thought I would be able to, something I have run from my entire adult life and most of my childhood. It’s hard but there is nothing else for it. And I get to share the thing I love, the thing I have stuck with longest in this life: yoga. I have total respect for this ancient art.

Steps stepped: 6044

110214 Domesticity

Finally got everything put away in its right place. The bedroom is now a study as well:

The kneeling chair is C’s but she’s not using it so I get to have it for my desk. And the living room:

This area where the sofa is may become a day bed if I get the other memory foam mattress from the attic. But for now I like the sofa.

This is the most at home I’ve felt since I was a teenager. Moving the furniture around at the weekend felt just like back in Broughton Gifford where I would often spend Sunday afternoons rearranging things, to get that just right feeling. And then the novelty of going to bed that night everything tidy and facing a new direction, and forgetting where you are when waking up in the morning.

For a while researching running OSX on PC components. May sell the MacBook Pro and small TV and get a PC (for OSX), a large TV and an iPad 2 when it comes. A real domestic day, what with the supermarket run with the girls this evening. Yet I could give it all up no problem, fine with a bed and a book.

This morning’s yoga was a run through of tomorrow’s class. It feels a good one. I will further investigate the poses in the morning to learn some more subtleties to teach. Less of the standing poses tomorrow, with seated forward bends. Looking forward to using the Tibetan Singing Bowl for the first time too, to end savasana.

Random Photo – Devon School of Yoga Foundation Course – Pool

Long before the teacher training I undertook at Kripalu in the States, there were two yoga foundation courses I took in the south west. One was with The British Wheel of Yoga in Bideford and the other with the independent Devon School of Yoga. The Devon school is founded and run by another Duncan – Duncan Hulin. What a great teacher Duncan is! He’s really found his own style of teaching and a non-dogmatic approach to postures and sequencing. In 2003, part of the foundation course was a trip to Orgiva in southern Spain. The classes and meals were up in the hills at a small studio with mountain views. Also this gorgeous pool right outside the studio:

The studio is no longer a studio and as far as I know the foundation course is held in the UK, near Dartmoor. Duncan continues to teach in the Exeter area. While I was considering living there I didn’t know how it would be for there to be two teachers called Duncan in town…

110201 Mean World Syndrome

I taught yoga at Brockwood Park School this evening – a weekend class open to students, mature students and staff. I kept to the same format as last year, a gentle class with relaxation at the beginning and end, plenty of pratapana before some classical poses. People welcomed it and said it was just what they needed. I’m glad to be able to help a little. I still get nervous beforehand. Not directly before but during the afternoon as it gets nearer. But once I am inside the hall and I get to the reality of it rather than the imagined scenario, it is fine. I am accepting what I feel, loving it and allowing it’s place. I’ve been afraid of speaking in front of groups since Miss Dolan’s class when I was about six, when I probably cried. So this is healthy for me, to speak in a context in which I am comfortable and enjoy sharing. Another class tomorrow due to demand (and my wanting to keep class sizes to around 10).

A clue to DJ Premier’s inventiveness:

Like, I was a weird dude… I used to listen to a lot of New Wave stuff, like The Smiths, and Psychedelic Furs, and The Cure, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Dial House, Joy Division… I was into all that stuff. The Thompson Twins, just all this crazy stuff.

Great iPlayer viewing: How TV Ruined Your Life. Episode 1: Fear.

Those old public information films were very frightening. It’s all inside somewhere; I’m riddled with fears of overhead power lines, substations and farmyard terrors.

From the show:
“Television began to enjoy the same level of influence on society as religion had for centuries.”
Our “brain nuts” (Amygdala) don’t know the difference between TV and real violence, so despite any rationalisation and fancy shoes, the same primitive fight or flight response kicks in. It’s stressful, and the nervous energy doesn’t get used up in the would-be fight or flighting.
“The more TV news you watch, the more passive, nervous and frightened you become.” But you don’t show it of course. The more frequently an image is repeated on screen, the greater significance we attach to it in the real world. Mean World Syndrome: the belief the world is a mean and frightening one.
And switching it off doesn’t make you feel any safer because now you are more aware than ever of the glowing silence all around.
“You are 20 times more likely to die driving to the airport than you are on the plane”
The more frequently an image is repeated on screen, the greater significance we attach to it. Mean World Syndrome, the belief the world is a dangerous place.
“What if the Large Hadron Collider went a bit Amstrad?”
Good old Charlie Brooker.

Steps stepped: 4447

26 Jan 2011

This is the last day of my 30s, or until 1530 tomorrow afternoon so I am not quite middle aged yet. What is middle aged is the amount of steps stepped today: 2961. One of my 40-something resolutions is to take a walk every day.

Yesterday I posted a quick facebook survey about toilet roll direction. The results:

Duncan Toms
Survey: Loo roll dispensing towards wall or away from wall?

Patricia H
away. definitely. I’ll even change it round if necessary. not that I’m OCD or anything…

Celeste C
Clearly explained: http://currentconfig.com/2005/02/22/essential-life-lesson-1-over-is-right-under-is-wrong/

Lucy H
Away, i too have to change it around…even if im in someone elses house!!!

Duncan Toms
I’ve changed two this week to away :) Celeste, I like the poster version:
http://currentconfig.com/images/overisright_hanger.pdf

Martin T
Away. Always.

Duncan Toms
Oops I’ve prejudiced my own survey!

Nicola B
Even your inevitably superior wisdom would not affect my response – AWAY!!

Sam B
towards.

Duncan Toms
Freak!

Sorry, I mean to say thank you for filling out the survey today.

Sam B
I prefer unique, if you don’t mind. And I’ll be the person behind Trish putting it back the other way!

Seppo V
This is clearly one of those things that divides humanity into two distinct schools of thought. Having done filling loo roll dispensers over 9 years as a professional cleaner (next fall I’ll be entitled to a gold watch after 10 years of toilet cleaning service) I’ve always belonged to the “away” school. However, I have once changed the content of a dispenser facing the wall, after customer request. I can see the esthetic sense of it, too, as it minimizes unsightly flapping of the free end of the roll and naturally aligns it with the wall.

My experience is that “away” school predominates. Nevertheless, lets us remember that adherents of “towards” style of thinking, while being in minority, are human beings, too, and don’t deserve discrimination on the basis of their esthetic leaning. “Away” with prejudices! “Towards, or let it flap away, let everyone have their say” could be our motto here.

Duncan Toms
I am humbled

Douglas H
Away if a choice allows, but sometimes you have to put it on coming off towards the wall, because if you put it away from the wall it will trap itself.

An interesting one that for some reason attracted me to speak up. Yeah and there have been occaisions when I see the toilet paper coming off towards the wall and It can obviously roll off coming away from the wall, then I have been known to turn it arround to come off away from the wall. Thanks for this one Dun.

Douglas H
I’ve just noticed all these comments after posting mine, this is supprising. I would have thought it would have been a more balanced out come, because the choices arn’t so diversly different as the results of the survey are.

Coming up to middle aged but for me I am only a third of the way through. Things are pretty sorry for a lot of old folk who need care. In the Indie today are 10 ways we can turn that around:

Act One Support elderly people to stay in their own homes wherever possible

Everyone would rather stay in their own home than be institutionalised. There is a whole range of services that make this possible – from Meals on Wheels to home helps who are there to help an old man to shower in the morning and get into bed at night. We should be stepping them up, to keep anybody who possibly can free and independent. Instead, we are ruthlessly stripping them away. The local councils who provide these services are facing the largest cuts of any part of this cut-hungry government. As a direct result, Which? magazine reports that councils are “tightening their eligibility criteria, cutting services and putting up prices” on help for the elderly. All the charities for the elderly are warning frantically that many won’t be able to cope, and will end up falling over trying to shower themselves, or wasting away because they can’t cook for themselves. The result? Huge numbers of people who could have stayed at home with a little help are about to get knocked into the care system.

An article on Tara Stiles, a yoga teacher in NYC and self-confessed nerd, who doesn’t go the traditional yoga route. I like her, erm, style and damn she’s gorgeous:

“I feel like I’m standing up for yoga,” Ms. Stiles said. “People need yoga, not another religious leader. Quite often in New York, they want to be religious leaders, and it’s not useful.

“Here, people want to sit and talk about yoga; it’s very heady. It’s very stuck, very serious,” she continued. “I was never invited to the party anyway — so I started my own party.”

Besides running the studio — which draws about 150 people to 40 classes a week that are called simply Strong, Relax and Stralax, a combination — Ms. Stiles posts a short video most weeks to YouTube. There, she has a channel with nearly 200 videos that have drawn about four million views. She stars in the yoga DVD that was part of the fitness set that Ms. Fonda issued in December (it sold out in Target, where it was first introduced). And “Slim Calm Sexy,” published last summer, was the No. 1 yoga book on Amazon.com until recently, she said.

None of this has made Ms. Stiles rich, but it has led to a certain celebrity. Last summer, Ms. Stiles released an iPhone app, Authentic Yoga, with Mr. Chopra, and the two recently completed a video in Joshua Tree National Park that will be released this year.

“We are both nonconformists who have incurred the wrath of traditional yogis,” Mr. Chopra said of Ms. Stiles, whom he now considers his personal instructor. “A lot of the criticism is resentment of her rapid success. I have been doing yoga for 30 years. I have had teachers of all kinds. Taking lessons from her has been more useful to me than taking yoga from anyone else.

“She is not a showoff,” he added. “She is ambitious, but there is a lack of ego.”

Bought a cover for my Kindle. Now it feels right. The Kindle itself is very slim and so a little awkward to hold after a while. I bought the aluminium shielded Proporta case:

25 Jan 2011

Steps I stepped: 4864. A walk around the supermarket this evening was 1300 steps. Step step step.

I’m so very tired now. If I write little bits of the blog during the day, that’s going to be easier.

Our new Outwell tent, porch, carpet and footprint arrived today. We haven’t opened up the bags but it’s looking like it’s very good quality. Little Danish flags on each bit of kit. I don’t like flags but on kit they say ‘good quality’, don’t they? Especially Scandinavian ones.

Nearly finished the yoga course. Today you are finally allowed to headstand after three weeks of preparation. Fair enough if you are new to it. The common mistake is headstand before one’s arms are strong enough, so too much weight comes through the head and neck. So this course builds up the muscles needed ahead of the short hold.

The foundations for the Pavilions project are proceeding. It’s really happening after some years of planning and permissions. Today there was a very long drill on site:

Who is the biggest polluter on the planet? The US Military. Not including all the contractors they contract, they are using up nearly a third of a million barrels of oil every single day. That’s preposterous.

Environmental journalist Johanna Peace reports that military activities will continue to be exempt based on an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that calls for other federal agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Peace states, “The military accounts for a full 80 percent of the federal government’s energy demand.”

As it stands, the Department of Defense is the largest polluter in the world, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest US chemical companies combined. Depleted uranium, petroleum, oil, pesticides, defoliant agents such as Agent Orange, and lead, along with vast amounts of radiation from weaponry produced, tested, and used, are just some of the pollutants with which the US military is contaminating the environment. Flounders identifies key examples:

– Depleted uranium: Tens of thousands of pounds of microparticles of radioactive and highly toxic waste contaminate the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Balkans.

– US-made land mines and cluster bombs spread over wide areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East continue to spread death and destruction even after wars have ceased.

– Thirty-five years after the Vietnam War, dioxin contamination is three hundred to four hundred times higher than “safe” levels, resulting in severe birth defects and cancers into the third generation of those affected.

– US military policies and wars in Iraq have created severe desertification of 90 percent of the land, changing Iraq from a food exporter into a country that imports 80 percent of its food.

– In the US, military bases top the Superfund list of the most polluted places, as perchlorate and trichloroethylene seep into the drinking water, aquifers, and soil.

– Nuclear weapons testing in the American Southwest and the South Pacific Islands has contaminated millions of acres of land and water with radiation, while uranium tailings defile Navajo reservations.

– Rusting barrels of chemicals and solvents and millions of rounds of ammunition are criminally abandoned by the Pentagon in bases around the world.

So Wikileaks are due to release the tax records of 2,000 fat cats, potentially exposing large scale illegal tax evasion and money laundering. The guy who handed Assange the data has been charged with breaking Swiss secrecy laws. No one is safe.

In a carefully choreographed handover in central London, Rudolf Elmer, formerly a senior executive at the Swiss bank Julius Baer, based in the Cayman islands, said he was handing the data to WikiLeaks as part of an attempt “to educate society” about the amount of potential tax revenues lost thanks to offshore schemes and money-laundering.

“As banker, I have the right to stand up if something is wrong,” he said. “I am against the system. I know how the system works and I know the day-to-day business. I want to let society know how this system works because it’s damaging our society,” he said.

Today’s Watsky video. He kind of reminds me of Mike D.

5 Jan 2011

When the room is stale, you open a window and let the clean air in. The lungs get stale too. After a night’s sleep the air at the base of the lungs is rather old and needs refreshing. The complete breath is the equivalent of opening a window, except you can reach the whole of the lungs within a few breaths.

Sitting, lying or standing, exhale fully without strain and relax the body. As you inhale, expand the belly allowing air into the bottom of the lungs. As the inhale continues, feel the ribcage expanding. Continue the inhalation into the clavicles and raise the shoulders. At the full extent, hold for five seconds then gently release, exhaling from the shoulders, the chest and lastly the abdomen. A squeeze of the bellybutton towards the spine as the diaphragm lifts in and up, will expel the last of the stale air. You may taste or smell it as it leaves. Continue these full breaths five times, and whenever you feel like a break during the day.

We left Brockwood at about 1015, 19 staff members in three vehicles. I drove the minibus, with Mark as co-driver. The journey was without incident, but for my heading south on the M40 instead of north. It took five miles before I reached a roundabout to about face. Mark was trying a new satnav. It wasn’t much good. It didn’t seem to know about services so when we’d stop for breaks it tried to recalculated the route. And then near Kendal it tried to take us who knows where, towards Barrow. We weren’t impressed with this Garmin.

I like the Lake District. Who doesn’t? We are staying at a large guest house belonging to a Brockwood Trustee. He also owns a cinema and two vegetarian restaurants in Ambleside. I’m in a particularly floral room:

How many flowers can you fit? Even the wardrobe has the same material on the doors. And the mirror surround. It’s cold in here, the room probably not having been used since before Christmas. They apologised for the radiator not having been turned on, like every year. It’s the 8th time I’ve been here for a staff week. The first time I came to Yewfield was when working at the youth hostel in Coniston, down the road a few miles. Raman was showing Krishnamurti videos here sometimes, and I hiked up the hill, returning through the moonlight with Consiton Water stretched out below.

Q: How many lakes does the Lake District have?

A: The Lake District only has one lake. The others are all something-or-other Water, or Tarn, or -mere. Buttermere. What a fab name. The only lake is Bassenthwaite Lake, in the north. Looking at the map, some other nice names right near Yewfield: Bettyfold, Keen Ground, Bobbin Mill. Ah, the Lake District! I can’t wait to take a walk, and maybe a skeet tomorrow. Now to the warm open fire downstairs…

4 Jan 2011

Last night I began packing for the Lake District staff week. So far: ice skates. Then lay down and listened to music until sleepy, again lots of energy coursing through my body. It doesn’t make me jump and twitch and shake like it used to; the channels are clearer. Following a beat, a refrain, a melody took me on many journeys. Just stay with it and music can be magical, not just a distraction or entertainment.

Yoga this morning, a review day of the eight postures learnt so far in the course. The first four days of sustained practice are very familiar to me – the loosening up of the body, unwinding tensions, increased energy, greater awareness. It’s now that things get interesting and less predictable as these trends continue. While sitting I searched for the sick feeling of the last few days but only sensed traces of it. Often as thoughts ceased there was an immense presence of now, a pervasive energy tangible yet non-personal.

Back at work my lower back feels much stronger and I am sitting straighter. I feel it loosening up, too. I firmly believe yoga is the best prevention for back troubles. After all, most back pain is initially caused by weak back muscles. Look after your back – stretch. Gently.

WordPress are promoting postaday2011 (or postaweek2011). Today’s theme is: Share something that makes you smile. This works for me every time (although I do feel a little sorry for him, poor little blighter):

Perhaps even better, the remix:

Right, on with the packing, and laundry. Hoping for more anti-zap.

Notices (29 July 2010)

– I listen to the seconds tick and they seem to be somewhat in a hurry. Or maybe it’s me, because sometimes they seem incredibly leisurely

– When I breathe it originates from the back of the nose. When the body breathes it’s from the diaphram

– I used to wake up in the morning and want to go back to sleep. Now I want to get up

– Having filled my head with trivia and crappage, I can’t expect the brain to be quiet just like that

– When I lie still and make no effort, blisses are returning

– All action has consequence

– Get the balance right. Headstands are becoming steadier

– Because I made a decision last week, year, yesterday, it doesn’t mean I have to stick with it

– Yoga has nothing to do with pride

– Take full, effortless breathes whenever you remember. This may not be often

– Where does the time go? Was it ever here?

– I find myself funny

– Time for myself, else bitterness and regret

– Let’s twist again, like we did last practice

– The Sivananda Rishikesh Sequence has allowed me to practice in silence, alone, steadily, without an instructor, audio or book

Breathing consciously makes all the difference

Breathe
Stretch
Stretch no more than if waking up and yawning
A natural stretch
A natural breath
No fancy postures needed
Breathe into any tightness
And as the breath leaves, notice any relaxation
Not only in ‘yoga’
But sitting at the desk
Watching the television
Breathing consciously makes all the difference

When there is love, the word duty disappears.

– Krishnamurti, Book Of Life, 13 April