The course was fantastic -- maybe one of the best things I've ever done -- but it also made me face some serious existential questions. Mainly, I wondered what was authentic, and whether I ascribed at all to Yoga's various goals and practices. Did I really want to do a headstand if its "original" goal was to accrue siddhis (supernatural powers) and preserve semen, which I don't even have? (bindu is semen in a number of Haṭha and Tantric yoga texts). Like many yoga teachers, I had been told by various people that lineage and tradition were critical, that the "original" intentions for practice were being watered down by modern practitioners, and that teachings should be transmitted by appointed holders of a lineage if they were to truly answers life's most pressing questions. I've never been drawn to orthodoxy, but I wanted to understand where the context for the claims to it were coming from.
Within the first year, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the word tradition stems from the Latin root word "trader", which means "to deliver, betray". Any time a tradition is handed down, the original practice is betrayed by the next in line who changes and adapts it to his or her personal understanding, environment and audience. This opened up the meaning of Yoga tremendously. While ancient Yogic texts offered enticing, poetic and inspiring ideas for practice, as a whole they no longer loomed as monolithic certainties. The many definitions of Yoga instead became recast as lovely bits of contradiction, paradoxes, and processes affected by various agents of change. As one of my professors on the course offered, yoga is and always has been a living, breathing, developing cultural practice that is still being formed.
And so here I am. It's where I've probably always been but just needed three years of a masters programme to affirm. I am happy to share that I still stand on my head, but haven't managed to generate any siddhis or semen (thank goodness!). I probably meditate a lot more, which I see as a pretty good outcome from my course. I also trust, as I always have, that Yoga, meditation and qigong work at some uncanny level to help relax our tensions and thus let us feel more open, responsive and free. In that freedom is the potential to love ourselves and others more fully. So... if there are any difference in my outlook post-masters, it's:
- I feel oddly gratified by the inconsistencies, paradoxes, contradictions and mysteries of the sometimes messy yet also delightful job of being human.
- I'm far more intrigued by the many attempts (including contemporary ones) by seekers and sages through the centuries to define Yoga, Buddhism or Daoism. Much of it's totally bonkers and unfathomably deep at the same time.
- If the ancient texts have revealed anything to me, it's that what is understood to be spiritual undergoes constant refinement and reinterpretation; this results in some beautiful human renderings of the sacred.
Here are a few upcoming programmes, some I'm teaching and others that I wanted to recommend and suggest. Many the courses I'm offering are a Yogic, Daoist and Buddhist practices. I'll do my best to integrate and share how these practices have informed, benefited and inspired me. And, as always, I'll do my best to unfold what I share with a smile, a grain of salt, and a lot of love.
- Exhale: A Yoga, Qigong and Mindfulness Meditation Autumn Immersion. Sunday, October 30, triyoga, Camden. This workshop's this Sunday! We'll look at the shoulders and breath, and mindfulness practices to help relax tension.
- Hands-on Adjustments: A Teacher's Workshop. Sunday, November 27, 2016, at triyoga, Camden. This workshop will focus on learning how and when to touch as well as the energetics of touch. Only a few spots left!
- Mindfulness Leads to Insight: A 6 Week Introduction to Meditation Course. Jan 9 - Feb 20, 2017.Learn the skills to meditate in the new year with mindfulness of body, feelings, emotions and thoughts.
- Water's Subtle Strength: A Yoga, Qigong and Meditation Winter Immersion. Sunday, January 22, 2017, triyoga, Camden. This winter immersion will be about cultivating deep rest!
- Yoga Like Water: Immersion and Teacher Training. Spring 2017. I've recently had the pleasure of meeting a yogi named Dan Peppiatt, who teaches a yoga immersion and teacher training based on inquiry and self-exploration (it's very much in keeping with my SOAS work!). I was inspired by Dan's approach, and the course content looks solid. I will be contributing a CPD course on his training in London called "Qigong and Asana: The Movement of Energy and Intention."
- Mindfulness Meditation UK Training -- I did this training last year and can't recommend it highly enough. Applications for the 2017-18 intake have recently opened. There are many mindfulness trainings out there, but this one's unique in that it follows the Four Foundations of Mindfulness outlined in the Satipattana Suttas, the oldest Buddhist text on mindfulness.
- Summer and the Heart: A Yoga, Qigong and Meditation Retreat in Andalucia, Spain. July 1 - 8, 2017. I'm co-teaching with Matthew Cohen, who was of my first inspirations to integrate yoga and qigong. We hope you can join us. If you'd like to come, please do book early as the retreat is nearly half-full.
- Yoga and Meditation Retreat in Umbria, Italy with myself and Louise Grime. August 26 - September 1, 2017. Bookings for this retreat have just opened!