After practicing yoga for over thirty years down in the big smoke we felt called to move back into nature into an environment ideal to go deeper into the higher limbs of yoga practice. The Vedas suggest that when one comes to the middle of ones life (around 50) to change ones mode of life and spend more time on spiritual practice in nature. This mode of life is called vanaprashtha (forest dweller). This same mode of life is suggested in many yogic texts. We took that quite literally and live now on a mountaintop surrounded by ancient rainforest. Living in nature inspires our practice greatly, which we can then share when we come back into the cities to teach workshops or retreats.

This blog will give you updates of what we are currently working on and it will give us the opportunity to stay in contact with the many people and students we have worked with throughout the last few decades. Of course if you want to post any questions, your mountaintop yogis will do their best to answer them.

Extending your Inversions: Guidelines

In Part 1 of this article I will explained the importance of extending ones inversions, headstand and shoulder stand. I showed how for meditation to succeed what yogis call prana or amrita (nectar) needs to be accumulated or preserved. In this weeks article I will delve into the technical details and guidelines for extending one’s time spent in inversions. This process needs to be undertaken slowly and gradually over many years, as sudden increases in the time spent in these postures may backfire.

The Relationship of Headstand, Meditation and Prana

In Part 1 of this article I will explain the importance of extending ones inversions, headstand and shoulder stand. I will show how for meditation to succeed what yogis call prana or amrita (nectar) needs to be accumulated or preserved. The process to do so is called pratyahara, the fifth limb of yoga. There are three main approaches to pratyahara, i.e. Patanjali’s mental approach, Rishi Yajnavalkya’s pranic approach and Siddha Gorakhnath’s physical approach. In my own practice I found out that for swift success it is best to combine all three. Part 2 of the article will explain the practical aspects of extending inversions.

How can we live a life that focuses on spiritual practice?

A student was inspired by us retreating to a live in the bush to focus on our spiritual practice. She would like to take a similar step but, finding the preparation tough, wrote the following:

“I find myself working 8am-6pm to build a strong financial foundation to retreat from this path to spend the majority of our hours on spiritual practice. However, I’m concerned I will be ‘behind’ in my spiritual practice by the time I am truly able to focus on it. In the meantime I am preoccupied with working in order to move towards enlightenment. It feels completely incongruous to what I’m trying to achieve. Grateful for your thoughts on this.”

On Svadhyaya (self-study)

Shanna Small from the Ashtanga Picture Project interviewed me on svadhyaya. This important term, that occurs several times in the Yoga Sutra is usually translated as ‘self-study’ but in yoga the term is narrowly defined and has important connotations.

Q: I, like many people, was told that, Svadhyaya simply meant self-study and that any studying we did of ourselves was self-study. Recently, It has come to my attention, that this is incorrect. […]

On Karma

I was once interviewed by a yoga magazine about my thoughts on the difference between the traditional view of karma and the contemporary one. As I was ignorant of the contemporary view the interviewer informed me that the contemporary view is that if for example you thinking badly about somebody on the next street corner you may slip on a banana peel. […]

The Cervical Diaphragm

Most of us are familiar with the importance of our thoracic diaphragm muscle and our pelvic diaphragm or pelvic floor muscles. Both of these are recognised for their importance both as respiratory muscles and their crucial role in core stability.

Why Alternate Nostril Breathing is Important

Imagine how great it would be to have a switch that, when operated, would enable you to consciously choose between your right and left brain hemispheres, intuitive and analytical intelligence, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, fight/flight reflex and rest/relaxation, and between the male and female, solar and lunar, aspects of your psyche. How great it would be if, when required, you could switch from being compassionate to doggedly determined. Or from charged with energy to completely relaxed within a few minutes. Or from extrovert (physically present, expressive and outgoing) to introvert (reflective and absorbing) within a short time. This switch does in fact exist and it is not at all hidden. It is the prominently protruding olfactory orifice right in the middle of your face: your nose. […]

Developing Your Derriere

It seems to me a divine ploy that some are obsessed with developing their derriere to its fullest potential. Our buttocks, which are predominantly composed of our gluteus maximus muscle, are one of the most important players in the human body. For this reason it is the strongest muscle in our body and has the potential to be great in size. Our modern life-style has us sitting on it, squashing it and thereby switching it off for most of the day. When glute max is continuously inhibited it may not engage automatically or its activation may become delayed, altering important muscle recruitment patterns in the body. ‘Glute amnesia’ has become a chronic modern musculoskeletal disorder often causing pain and injury. […]

How to keep hold of your feet in Supta Vajrasana.

This seems to be a perennial problem for many students practising Intermediate Series. Often students here simply emulate the actions that they perform in Matsyasana, that is comfortably leaning back and placing the head on the floor.

Supta Vajrasana however couldn’t be more different.