Conference from 9 & 17 Nov. 2012

With delay :)

You should always shower before your practice, yoga is not exercise, we do yoga for purification, yoga is sadhana, devotion to the practice.
(“What is sadhana? It’s a committed prayer. It is something which you want to do, have to do, and which is being done by you. … Sadhana is self-enrichment. It is not something which is done to please somebody or to gain something. Sadhana is a personal process in which you bring out your best.” ~ Yogi Bhajan) 
1. Posture - Sthira (stability) & Sukha (feeling comfortable, which will come after many years of practice) 2. Breathing, 3. Gazing
Bringing perfection into the postures, not just doing many many postures. To make a posture perfect we have to repeat it over and over again. Your body changes every month.
If we don’t breath then the energy doesn’t flow. Through Asana and breathing the organs will get a massage (purifying). Also the mind quiets down.
Cities have lots of pollution, many children have bronchitis and breathing problems, so nowadays yoga is being introduced to schools.
If you can’t control your breath in the asanas, you are not ready for pranayama (breathing exercises). You have to be strong and stable to sit for a long time in pranayama. Pranayama is the next limb after Asana.

Going to the gym, or biking etc. will make our muscles and joints tight, in yoga we stretch and lengthen, our body has to change, so we shouldn’t do any sports.

Dristi (gaze): Trataka (āṭaka) – concentration on one point. In our practice we use dristi and depends on the posture where the dristi is. There are nine dristis. Dristis develop more concentration, you are more focussed in your practice and the oneness will come.
Dristis are being used again with higher levels of pranayama. To be able to focus on certain places is essential, is like learning the ABC. Once we’ve developed it properly the other limbs of yoga are easier.

Bandhas: “If you master the Bandhas you master death. – Life will be prolonged” It takes many years to master them.

Padmasana (Lotus), why do we cross the right leg first? – The heels should press the liver and spleen, our inside is not symmetric. If we cross it the other way it is wrong, as we get the organs in the wrong spot or miss them at all. There are other postures in the practice where you balance it (the hips) out again.

Japa: before we go to bed we should do Japa. It helps us winding down, calm our mind, get rid of worries, so we can sleep. Japa is a meditative repetition of a mantra. Most religions in the world do the practice of repetitive prayer, for example Christians use a rosary.
rudraksha-mala-rudraksha-bead-250x250.jpeg Mala, traditionally has 108 beads. Normally I do 1-3 rounds.


“You eat once a day you are a yogi, twice a day a bogi, three times a day a rogi and four times a day you go to the graveyard :)”
Too much food is not good, the body needs to work more and if we keep doing this, over the time our body wears out because of the extra work and will get sick.
Food is very important and we should always be conscious about what we eat and how much we eat. If we eat too much dinner, the practice in the morning will be difficult. If we consume too much food our mind isn’t sharp, you are getting dull and you can’t progress. A yogi eats only once a day.
Why no meat:
1. Vegetarian food is easy to digest
2. Ahimsa (means kindness and non-violence towards all living things including animals. It respects living beings as a unity, the belief that all living things are connected. Ahimsa is part of the first limb: Yama.)
3. we don’t have teeth like a tiger :)
Before practicing your stomach should be empty, just have a bit of water. After the practice wait 15-20min to drink and 45min-1h to eat.
After practice there is so much energy, you have to calm down, back to normal before you consume food.
If you are practicing in the evening at 5-6pm, have your lunch around noon, have at least a 5 hours gap.

There is always fear when we do difficult asanas. When we do new asanas our nervous system is raw, fear. Once you get used to that, you can start to relax in it. Every student has fear, if everything it is too easy you will loose interest. By practicing perfections fear goes and you enjoy the practice.

Don’t overstress yourself. The practice will change your body and you have to allow that to happen. Get used to the posture, slowly, take time, the body needs to be ready. Learn it properly and experience the posture.
Never stretch before your practice (sun salutations will stretch you and warm you up). Don’t force yourself in Asana, there is always a solution within the asana. Be conscious in the asana. Many things can bring pain, if you are not focussing on your practice, when your mind is absent while doing asanas you can get injured. Or when the alignment is not correct. Be very conscious in every posture.
1. some injuries will happen through the asanas, but they will go away by practicing
2.  If your mind is somewhere else you can get injured, not being aware.
3. or working with a teacher who doesn’t have experience

When you are ill, try to do little bit of practice, sometimes it can really help. If you have fever or too much of a cold then rest. When you are sick take one day off.

If you are new to the practice it can happen that you get tired or get a fever, or diarrhoea from deep back bends, all of it is good, as it means that the poison starts to come out. Fever etc. won’t last long if it comes from the practice – 1 day.

Moving Day

Today I am moving again, I think it is the sixth location during this trip! Next time  I know better to get myself organised months before I arrive here. But in the years before, it was never so busy during these months. The Shala is full, they don’t take people on anymore for December and January. When we have conference on Sundays in the Shala, you have to squeeze in. This is the room, so you can imagine :)

Inside the Shala

I can’t believe that in two weeks I am on my way home, to winter time! Although it is winter here as well, but still a few days of 20 degrees and some rain, I can’t complain :) It’s actually a relief after hot days.

Here are some pictures, which explains a bit life in Mysore, they are from my last trip to Mysore, as Mark, Jose and Michael are not here.

@ Barista, having a Cappuccino

@ Badsha Bazaar with my dear friend Shoaib

Conference from 2.11.12

Sharath was talking about Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara), why are we doing them?

The sun is a source of good health. It gives us good energy. In many manuscripts they pray to the god of the sun. There are Sanskrit chants for it, but you need proper training, as the pronunciation is very important. The reason why we do chanting is for self transformation. Mental energy, positive actions and positive thoughts come with chanting.
The pronunciation of the vowels and syllable in Sanskrit is found in five locations in the mouth. When chanted it will bring out a vibration, which will uplift us and bring us to a higher consciousness. The alphabet of Sanskrit is known as Deva Nagari. – Everybody can chant mantras, it is nothing religious, you might chant to the god of the sun, but all it means is you are chanting for your own good health. In the Ashtanga tradition we chant an opening mantra before we start the practice and a closing mantra after the practice. The opening mantra helps us as well to connect to the practice, to focus our mind and body for what is coming, to arrive on the mat. The closing mantra puts a finishing touch to the practice, it is a wonderful one and is translated like this:
“May all be well with mankind. May the leaders of the earth protect in every way by keeping to the right path. May there be goodness for those who know the earth to be sacres. May all the worlds be happy.”

In India, when a baby is born, the mother in law or grandmother will take the baby outside early in the morning, when the sun rises and expose the child to the sun for good health.

A more simplified version than chanting are the Surya Namaskara we do on our mat, saluting the sun (health) and also everybody can do them. The Surya Namaskara, which we do in Ashtanga, has been created by Sri K Patthabi Jois himself, after studying many manuscripts and books, and Krishnamacharia, his teacher, has approved it and since then, Surya Namaskara are in the Ashtanga tradition. (He wrote a little booklet about it, I will see if I can get a few for the studio.) When we do the Sun salutations, our health will improve.

Then there is another very simple reason why we are doing the sun salutations, to warm up our body, as we have to bend it into all possible directions during the practice, otherwise we will break it, if we do it from cold :)

Patthabi Jois also wrote a book called the Yoga Mala (which is at the shop now), it is meant for beginners to understand yoga, it is not a book for alignment. It’s about why an asana (posture) should be done and the benefit of it.

On our path of yoga we go through loads of pain, not just physically, also mentally. Yoga makes us change, makes our attitude and state of mind change (to the better of course:). Sharath studied 23 years with Guruji (Patthabi Jois) and he remembers he went through a lot of pain – now looking back. So when the practice gets hard, we often start to question the practice, as we’d like happiness and calmness from it. But the truth is, through the practice our issues will raise to the surface and then we need to deal with them. Instead concentrating what’s wrong with the pracice, we should concentrate on the real issue that surfaces, and not project it on the yoga practice. Sometimes the reason why we are suffering is hidden from us, for now, then we need to keep the faith and devotion for our practice and the answers and knowledge will appear when the time is right. And yes you do have to work hard for it :)

Our life is in four chapters: first is being a child up to 14, where you have all the freedom; 2nd chapter we are young adults, that’s when we are doing crazy things…, then the 3rd chapter is when we think of family and / or have it, it’s the time when we have duties to full fill. The last 4th chapter is when we are getting old and we will live a more spiritual life.

Jobs nowadays  come as a package, 2 for 1, you get a job in front of a computer and with it comes back pain, neck pain, eye strain and much more, so nowadays it is important to look after our health and connect to a supreme power (universe, nature, gods, etc. anything you like).
We are part of the nature, which we sometimes forget especially living in cities. We get lost in material world, we loose the connection to nature. When we are stressed, we should go to a place in nature and try to connect with it again.
If you know nice places, please share them with us in the comments of this post.

So long :)

Moon Day is a sweet day

I was looking forward to this Moon Day. This is now my second month here in Mysore and the practice gets really intense and I am tired. As you can tell from the many blogs entry I haven’t written lately, I am tired. So I really enjoyed sleeping 10 hours today and waking up fresh. I will soon do the Castor Oil Bath, to give my body a reboot too.

I also started to assist Sharath this week, I couldn’t get away with it :) I do my practice early morning in the Shala, go home and lay down for 45minutes and then be back in the Shala for assisting for 2,5 hours. It is hard work and the air is so humid, we sweat like it is another practice. Afterwards I go home and nap :)
But I must admit, I enjoy it a lot!

My practice doesn’t feel easy at the moment. I try to eat well, so my practice is not disturbed by feeling heavy lifting myself up off the mat, I take naps after practice and rest my body. It’s also the atmosphere in the Shala which is so wonderful and intense. Most of the time I am able to keep my mind steady during the practice and it is very peaceful feeling, the practice becomes a meditation. It allows me to reflect on the hard postures while doing them, watching myself, that when I really really want to do the posture nicely, without falling out of it, I can be sure I won’t succeed. But if I just listen to my own breath, my mind becomes quiet and the wanting is not there anymore, and I can do the posture.

If you feel distracted during the practice, have hundreds of thoughts, use your breath, breath loudly, or place your mat next to someone who breathes loudly, that is very inspiring for your own breathing. In Ashtanga you suppose to hear everybody breathing in the room! It will become like a wave that carries you through the practice.

So breath!

and enjoy your day off, I sure do :)


Conference from 18 Nov. 2012

With delay….

When we do the seated sequence we only do half Vinyasas between the postures. For those who come on Friday mornings to the Mysore led class might have noticed (if you know a bit Sanskrit) that the count starts with Sapta, which means seven, for jumping through. If you have a very short practice you are welcome to do the full Vinyasas, meaning instead from downer dog jumping through to seated, you would jump to the front of your mat and finish the sun salutation until you stand in Samastitihi again. – If you have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, don’t worry, what you do so far is correct :)

The reason why we don’t do full Vinyasas between postures is, that it would take us about three hours to finish the practice, also as we are sweating already it is not needed. - By the way, if you are cold or you feel stiff, as it is winter time, to get the agni started do more Sun Salutations, 5 x A and 5 x B, or up to 10 x A 10 x B, it helps, don’t use artificial heat, it is not good for your lungs, heart and nervous system. I am doing 5xA & 5xB in Mysore, as at 4am my body is not too flexible.

Then someone asked about what happens if people practice more than once a day and leave out the moon days and Saturdays:
Sharath answered that we have to respect our body, respect the system (ashtanga) and the asanas. Otherwise it will mess with our attitude and therefore our mind. The state of our mind is changing when we do yoga. You can eat and eat for 6 hours but then you go to the hospital, as your organs are limited in how much food they can digest, it’s the same with asanas. People want lots of postures too quickly, but you have to progress slowly otherwise it will affect your nervous system. It’s mentioned in the Yoga Sutras: strong foundation, long time you practice.

Everything has a system, yoga is a spiritual practice, and you go searching for oneness (or universal connection, or peace, or god, what ever you’d like to call it), but first you won’t find it. You have to change yourself, your attitude, and slowly over time you will find IT within you. Yoga will work only if you do it for a good reason, do it properly, otherwise you don’t do yoga.

Some people do stretching before they do the practice, like dancer preparing themselves for a performance. No stretching is needed before we do yoga! Your body will warm and stretch during the Sun Salutations.

Dristi: in Ashtanga we do the posture, we have the breath and we have the dristi (gaze). There are nine dristis, once you are in a posture or when you meditate, you don’t change your dristi. If you have trouble for example in Trikonasana to see you hand, then just look at your nose. If you unsure where to look, always look at your nose.

Nasagrai : tip of the nose - Standing forward bend
Nabi Chakra : the navel -. Downward dog
Hastagrai : the hand - Triangle
Padayoragrai : the toes - Seated forward bend
Angusta ma Dyai : the thumbs - Standing with arms over head
Urdhva / Antara Drishti : up to the sky -. Warrior A
Parsva Drishti : far to the right – seated twist to the right
Parsva Drishti : far to the left –  seated twist to the left
Ajna Chakra / Broomadhya : the third eye / between the eyebrows – tortoise

Breath: it is important to keep your breath in a pace, not too short and not too long, a pace, which will activate your agni (that is one of the reasons, why we are doing led classes on Fridays, so you keep a pace and don’t develop habits :)

Doing Asanas is also exercising body, mind, how you react, how you feel before and after, your change, way of thinking, attitude. Some people have strong bodies but a weak mind or vis versa, but we have to become strong in both, then the mind won’t fluctuate. The Asanas develop a yogi quality, you will gain knowledge, but you have to work for it. Yoga is within you and will happen automatically. Anyone can get enlightened but you have to work for it.

The yogi’s aim is to be calm and stable. The Yogi is not affected by anything. When we are too happy or angry or sad our breath will go, as you don’t have control over your breath in an emotional situation. So take a minute to breath and you calm down.

Sharath mentioned in another conference the following:
“Sometimes you go to a level of practice…You don’t want anything. Someone could put 1 million dollars or a Mercedes next to you and you wouldn’t want it.  You want to totally submerse in practice.  Nice backbend feels so good, like 1,000 lotus flowers floating on you, especially if you have a guru like Pattabhi Jois.  When you are sitting too.  Your attention is only in The Divine.  I hope you experience all these things”

In the west Yoga is Asanas. But Asanas is only one aspect of  yoga.

8 limbs of yoga:

• Yama (ethical relationships, i.e. non-violence, truthfulness, not stealing, continence and the non-gripping of things and thoughts)
• Niyama (internal awareness, i.e. cleanliness, contentment, mystical burning, self study and surrender to higher spirit)
• Asana (postures)
• Pranayama (extension of the breath)
• Pratyahara (drawing back the senses)
• Dharana (concentration of the mind)
• Dhyana (meditation)
• Samadhi (absorption of the consciousness in the Self; Bliss-Absolute)

Once you have perfected the third limb (asanas) your mind is still and calm.


Tipp for home use

If you cut yourself and it bleeds heavily, you can stop the bleeding with a wet, cold, soaked teabag, I had a green tea bag at hand, and the bleeding will stop and the wound will dry quickly. I speak from experience, as I cut the tip of my index finger off today by opening a bag of tomatoes with a new knife.

My downer & upper dog will look very funny with a bandaged finger sticking into the air :)

Moon Day, today is Castor Oil Bath (no not in a bath tub)

You want to be well organised before you start putting oil on your body :)

Castor oil and the powders

So I thought it might be a smart move to poor the oil into a small container, so the tin is not getting oily all over the place. I switched on the boiler to get the water heated up, so after 10min being covered with oil I will have my hot shower.

I mixed the two powders, about 2 teaspoons of each with water and got this lovely muddy paste :)

this is the paste you make from the powders mixed with water, to get the oil off afterwards

I put my hair up, you don’t want the long dry hair stuck to an oily back…

First I put oil onto the top of my head, yes the hair does get oily, but you’ll get it off easily with the paste afterwards, yes you do rub it into the hair. Then I oiled my whole body, starting with my feet, especially the soles of the feet. You can’t really walk around afterwards, as the floors would get very messy. It is very easy to apply, and if you have from nature a dry skin, the body is very thankful to receive some moisture. I also covered my face and my ears, but left out the part of my head, where the hair is, except for the top of the head of course.

Standing in the bathroom I wished I prepared a towel on which I could lay for 10min, but I only had my fancy shower towels, which I didn’t want to ruin. So I put some toilette paper on the floor and sat down, you don’t want to just sit down in India…

I sat for 10min, and it felt all right, my body didn’t have strong reactions, I just felt heat inside my body, but not extreme. After the 10min were up I thought I get my hot shower. When I turned the handle you can imagine what happended, no hot water at all. I guessed that the boiler must be slow in heating up the water and gave it another 5 min. – still no hot water. Waited another 10min, still nothing. I really didn’t fancy the thought of having a cold shower and wash my hair with cold water too, especially one of the important steps of doing castor oil is having this hot shower!

When 30min later there was still no hot water I had this idea to boil water on my gas stove. So I attached toilett paper to my feet, as I didn’t want all the floors oily. I shovelled out of the bathroom through the living room in to the kitchen, hoping, that nobody is looking into the window, but I actually haven’t even opened the curtains yet, so all was good.

my stove

Filled up my pan with water and tried to light the stove, but guess what nothing happened, so I found on this grey round valve, that there is on & off, put it to on, nothing happened. Until I realised, that the tube is not attached to the orange gas container, something I really do not fancy doing myself. I shovelled back into the bathroom and prepared myself for a cold shower. And somehow I had a flash back, as I’ve been living in this building before in 2008, I remember there was something with the shower… and I tried to turn the handle which is labeled with a big ‘C’ for cold and yes of course, hot water came out!!! :)

Had my hot shower, rubbed the muddy paste in, showered, rubbed the paste again, showered – it is actually quite nice, as you get a little peeling out of it too, but the smell is not too great. Put the paste also on top of my head where I put the oil, no problem, came off instantly, whithout having the feeling your hair gets peeled and damaged at all.

I was so thirsty afterwards and gulped down a litre of water. Then I lay down, my body felt really heavy, all my limbs were weighing a ton, but it was not uncomfortable, it was quite cosy and warm. My thoughts started to calm down and I felt quite clear in my head. After a while the heaviness started to disappear, starting from my feet up and I became lighter and lighter and colder and colder, so I put on socks and a jumper (it’s about 30degrees in Mysore). I laid down again and started to read. Then at one point I thought enough is enough and got up. An hour later I was still in my socks and jumper, I felt also very light headed, but could be the fact, that I haven’t eaten in 24hours because of my stomach bug. After another 20min my normal body temperature was back and I definitly can feel the 30 degrees again.

All in all I feel really good, I feel my lymphatic system worked, feel my muscles are attached to my bones again (if that makes sense:), I feel relaxed and quite calm with my thoughts and motivated to do some meaningful stuff today, like writing this blog :)

It is also nice, that during the whole process, you really take time out for yourself, rubbing the oil in means you give each part of your body attention, and you are constantly observing yourself, what kind of effect this oil procedure has on you, so you give your mind a break from thousands of thoughts and just observe.

And the best of it, my back feels a big relieve from all the intense drop backs, grabbing your shines every day :)

Sharath does that by himself, without anyone grabbing his hands to place them there :)

I can really recommend the castor oil on Saturdays or Moon Days.

Let me know if you find the powders somewhere in London and post where. ARAPU POWDER & SOAPNUT POWDER

Hope you are going to try it out and let me know how it felt and what you experienced, have fun!


Saturday: today is moving day… so castor oil procedure has to wait until Moon day :)

I moved, and I am not too happy about the new place. I had to deal already with two cockroaches… But at least they have here proper internet :)

Monday: I moved again yesterday, couldn’t bear the place, and lucky me I found finally a place where I can relax, it’s a big apartment with kitchen and everything! I am very happy here, so happy that I probably was not careful enough with food and I got a stomach bug. Let’s face it, it is quite common to pick up something each trip to India, our western stomach are just not used to everything… So I am staying in bed most of the time and drink water and hope tomorrow will be better. Lucky there is a moon day, so I have time to recover. So forgive me if my post is not too insightful today :)

Wedding from last Saturday

Last Saturday I was invited to a wedding from my dear friend Shoaib, who I met in Mysore in 2005. The wedding gave us the chance to dress up in a Sari :) Nea and I we tried hard to wrap our sari by watching a Martha Stewart YouTube movie. But it was soon obvious that we had no idea what to do. A sari has about 6m fabric, which needs to be wrapped and plaited. We started off by plaiting the wrong end of the Sari. Thankfully my landlady was at home and gave us a hand. By the way, this is my room.