Shadows, distancing and Yoga

One of Plato’s books offers us a thought experiment. He describes a scenario in which prisoners are chained facing a wall. All they can see are shadows of events, all they can hear are echoes of the sounds of the events. Between them, the prisoners find explanations for what they can see and hear – they build a whole reality based on echoes and projections.

We talk about this a little during Yogafurie’s 230-hour Yoga and Hot Yoga teacher training course, because it illustrates a really important concept handed down the long history of Yoga. Eyes can see – but they can only register a small band of wavelengths, the rest is undetected and invisible. Ears can hear, the nose can smell – but again, in a narrow range: for instance, dogs can see and smell far more keenly. We have a sense of touch – but the nerves in the skin can only react to thde textures and temperatures we see commonly on Earth. The majority of what’s “real” is undetectable, invisible. Yet we all build our rationality and reality on what we experience, as if that was the whole truth. We’re just like the prisoners from the story.

Yoga’s philosophy goes further, and it maps the dimensions of our lives to our physical senses. So, for instance, love – represented by the Heart Chakra – is paired with the skin and the physical sense of touch. Makes sense, right? The whole expression, feeling and experience of love at all levels is tightly coupled to touch. Babies need the closeness of the caring adults, especially Mum, and we all need a hug no matter how old we are. Even our language acknowledges this – how often have we spoken of needing a firm hand to guide us, etc? Yoga tells us that relationship – and the quality of relationship – is key to thrival (survive AND thrive = thrival). When relationships are wrong, when the kind of contact we get is damaging (even when it seems to feel good) then we’re heading for trouble.

There’s more to it than this, and on the Yogafurie teacher training course in Bristol, we can look deeper and practice meditations and methods to still the mind and feel the connection between sense information coming in and the response from our minds and bodies. But let’s stick with the Heart Chakra today, and ask ourselves: what’s the impact of social distancing?

Let’s be clear: if it works, the impact is great. It reduces the cross-infection of Covid-19 massively, and that’s good for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with social distancing. However, closeness and relationship are challenged in a very new way. People look afraid as they pass each other in the street. I’ve even seen people walk into traffic to stay away from others on the pavement. Of course, these people might have Covid-19 – the behaviour could be highly justified.

Grief is the shadow emotion of the heart chakra: grief is the subtraction of love, the negative case. As well as the outright worry about the consequences of infection personally, and the disruption to income and economy, we’re all grieving for the things we enjoyed so much: the meet-ups with friends, the chats over a coffee or a meal out, all the ways we used to connect with each other just a couple of weeks ago.

But of course, the message from the long tradition of Yoga is that connection is literally the heart of everything. We’ve been living disconnected from the natural world for a long time – squandering all the natural resources, polluting the seas with plastic, filling the land with rubbish and nuclear waste, the list goes on. Experts speculate that we encountered Covid-19 because we’re encroaching on animals far too much. Logging has displaced and destroyed the habit of orangutans, but there was no deadly cross-infection. We’re likely to see more if we really do just “go back to how it was before”. Honouring the Heart Chakra means more than meeting up with friends – it means a change in how we connect with the natural fabric of the world.

Plato’s story goes on to describe what happens when one of the prisoners is suddenly free: he turns around, and see fire directly for the first time. He shields his eyes from its brightness and can’t bear it. He longs to turn back to the wall of shadows and echoes, to the familiar things he can cope with, even if they’re not real. It’s an allegory of the awakening of the soul: that actually, the truth can be tough to deal with and uncomfortable to accept.

Hatha Yoga is just one of Yoga’s many methods for generating this awakening, for revealing the truth of things as they are. We often practice Yoga and Hot Yoga for exercise, or to help with sleep, or for rehab from physical or emotional injury, or for a host of other reasons. These are exactly the right reasons to practice. Don’t worry about awakening or enlightenment: the practices are old because they work. Practice, and realisation slowly dawns anyway. It can take time, but working through the physical discomfort, finding the discipline to get to class when you’re tired – these are all a practice run for those moments of insight and clarity which are inevitable, some day.

I am very humbled to work at Yogafurie in Bristol, because we can discuss and work into these depths on the Yogafurie Academy courses. Teacher training is the start of a profound journey – life changing for many – and it’s very important that we teach the extent of the tradition. At Yogafurie, we do this without dogma: we’ll explain what’s in the books, but it’s up to the individual how much they take it on board.

This blog was written by Ed, who works at Yogafurie. These are simply his thoughts and reflections!

Yoga, heat and coronavirus

The best way to boost your immune system (in my opinion) is to practice Yoga and Hot Yoga regularly, and to maintain a really healthy diet. That’s pretty much it! But there’s more – Hatha Yoga offers practices from way back that directly work on your health, and I described three of them in a recent blog. Keep an eye on the Yogafurie online videos to: very soon, there’ll be one showing you Bristol (and beyond!) how to do the practices described in the blog.

And there’s more again, because we live in a technological age of information and study. Now, we’re aware that there’s a lot of misinformation around, not just about coronavirus, but about all sorts of important things going on in the world. Thankfully, there’s also a lot of hard fact to be had as well. My thanks to a facebook friend who posted a link to a central repository of research articles, all about coronavirus. There are lots! Depending on what you’re interested in, you can look at the virus and its spread from lots of different angles through this research. However, here at Yogafurie in Bristol we love Hot Yoga, so I’m going to dive in on the question: does heat affect coronavirus?

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On Yoga and Being Clean

Yoga has evolved a specific approach to body care, which is particularly relevant in today’s world of the viral epidemic. The six actions – or shatkarma – are documented in a classic fifteenth-century text called the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. They are likely to have originated long before the Middle Ages of course.

One of these kriya exercises is Neti: it’s basically saline nasal irrigation. This is routinely prescribed by doctors. And there is evidence that it does help control infections in the upper respiratory tract. At the start of the outbreak in the UK, there were articles stating that nasal irrigation would not help: and in fact, once you have a serious infection, irrigation probably won’t kill it. But, you can keep the tract clean with daily Neti, helping prevent any infection taking hold.

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Joe’s Story of Physical & Mental Transformation with Hot Yoga

Joe’s Story

“For me the main reason I wanted to share this story is that there are a lot of people who live with chronic pain and there are a lot of people who live with joint problems, and they might feel limited by the pain, and even the fear of the pain. Coming and exploring this with the guidance of the teachers has been really powerful for me in realising that I wasn’t as disabled as I thought I was. I would encourage anyone to try.”

Joe’s story is an incredible tale of transformation, from living with chronic pain in his hip, needing a walking stick and pain killers, to improved strength, flexibility, no walking stick and a whole lot more self confidence.

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Yoga, Breath, Movement and Not-Yoga

That’s not a spelling mistake. I did mean Not-Yoga! Hopefully it will all become clear as you read on…

Mindful movement develops strength and skill. When this extends to breath, ease comes. Movements are light and precise: it’s energy-efficient and sustainable. Attention to technique lays a foundation of ability, literally hard-coded into the structure of the brain and body. The more challenging the activity, the easier it is to lose technique. Movements are brutish, forced; breath is harsh and shouty. Energy is wasted and it’s not efficient.

Yet continuous challenge is necessary for change. Tissues is the brain and body respond to loading patterns. We will never have different outcomes from repeating the same things. If change or development of some kind is what we seek, then some new loading is required. This could be lifestyle changes, variations in existing activities or new activities. In other words, it’s advisable to be doing something that challenges our breath, our movement, and our mindset regularly.

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Yoga, Energy and Information

I’ve enjoyed New Scientist  for many years, and I thoroughly recommend getting yourself a subscription. It really is news without bias – albeit science-related news. But, there are verifiable facts to be read, whereas pretty much every other news source has its own bias.

Anyway, lately I’ve been reading some very interesting articles about energy and information, and I think that they a direct relationship to our Yoga and Hot Yoga practice here in Bristol, and worldwide.

It turns out that information is energy. That’s right: you can convert information into energy. Recent research suggests that tiny devices could one day be powered by information alone, and some speculate that this is how life is different from things that aren’t alive: that life has long exploited tricks to convert information into energy and vice-versa. Information is a kind of energy storage. Crazy, right?

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Mental health for self-employed Yoga teachers

We live in a dangerous world! It’s called self-employment. And it is dangerous: up to 30% of new ventures fail within the first year, and 60% or more have folded within three years[1]. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure to do well as a teacher – in part, to be recognised by our peers, but also to pay the bills every month. Being a teacher is a great lifestyle, and we’re all grateful to have this wonderful opportunity to help and share with people. And at the same time, it really isn’t easy for Yoga and Hot Yoga teachers – especially in Bristol, because Bristol is so well-served with studios and teachers (and that’s a good thing for Bristol).

We all know how important it is to take time out for health and well-being. But often, we don’t, because there are pressing matters to attend to all day long. Let’s reflect on that for a moment. As Yoga and Hot Yoga teachers in Bristol, we often help people who have injuries. It’s not uncommon to be told: “My neck|shoulder|wrist|back|hip|etc was fine… I wasn’t even doing anything. One day, it just went, and I’ve been in pain since.” And we’re probably thinking to ourselves that the injured part wasn’t fine, and it may have been trying to say that it wasn’t fine for a long time. But for whatever reason, it didn’t catch the students’ attention until lasting damage actually occurred.

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Why are more and more Yoga studios using heat?

Heated Yoga classes really are a thing. For instance, Forrest Yoga classes run at 29oC, and have done for a long time. Yogafurie classes (in Bristol) run at between 30oC and 42oC, depending on which of our seven class styles is running. In this blog, we’ll talk about why heat works for Yoga, and what this means for today’s Yoga teachers.

Yoga is Breath…

…or so many people would say. As it happens, good breathing is the first thing a student learns in well-led Hot Yoga classes. If students do not breathe well, then they will struggle to relax into practise. A fit person could go through years of room-temperature Yoga practise, and never really learn to breathe – their strength and fitness carries them. But fitness does not make any difference in elevated temperatures: the body-mind is under a distinct load, and the only way to relax into that load is to breathe well. In this sense, each Hot Yoga class is an opportunity to help students understand and realise the power of their own breath to influence their mood, their energy and their day. At Yogafurie, we understand and want to make the most of the opportunity in our Bristol classes.

Here to stay

It’s unfortunate that many schools of Yoga have been hit by scandal in recent years. Sadly, many of the most senior figures have been discredited. However, despite the problems, Hot Yoga is here to stay. It delivers unique results – we’ve spoken about breath already. There are other, measurable benefits too. For instance, due to a property called thixotropy, Hot Yoga can help our bodies to better manage the waste products that our cells produce.

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Don’t snooze the alarm…

I’ve always been a morning person. That’s useful these days, because my life is quite busy. Often, the only chance to get a Yoga practice in is first thing in the morning. It’s not uncommon for me to get up at 4AM. This is very early – and it feels very early at the time! – but it does mean that I can get a really good Yoga practice, perhaps even go to an early Hot Yoga class, and still do a day of work and family life. I just find I go to bed earlier.

Discussing this with someone recently, they said: “If my alarm went off at 4AM, I’d just snooze it”. And I just thought: well, nothing changes if we snooze the alarm all the time.

People come to Yoga and Hot Yoga for a variety of reasons: they want to be stronger, they want to recover from injury, they need to relax and de-stress, and many more. Most boil down to a feeling that something is not right at the moment, and that Hot Yoga can help remedy things.

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8 Reasons Why You Would Love a Yoga Holiday

Who doesn’t like taking a break? Whether we take city breaks, week long beach holidays, staycations, extended travel, or anything that gets us out of the routine of life, they are an essential part of staying happy and healthy throughout our lives.

Often we go on holiday so that we can take a break from work, family, responsibilities. We dedicate time to see somewhere new, learn something new, remind ourselves what life is about. And yes you know it – life isn’t about the grind!

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