Theories

I remember something that Hamish Hendry said in a conference at Astanga Yoga London about three years ago: 

The spell has to be broken.

I suppose that Hamish referred to the spell of our recurring thoughts and habits, especially those that hold us back and prevent us from reaching our full potential in this life.

When it comes to these recurring patterns, you can think about them, or you can step into them. Experience them. Resolve them.

I am a flawed human being, full of fears and imperfections. Also, most of the times, I think that I am pretty ignorant. The fact that I am in this world is proof of how much I still have to learn.

My thirst for understanding, for exploring and for expressing myself, candidly and authentically, is at the very root of everything I do. Sometimes I feel that I am getting nowhere, which leaves me with a lingering feeling of frustration.

I so want to be fully alive, and yet, a part of me is so scared of it. The more I try to rationalize and theorize about life, the less I understand. Which leads me to believe that wisdom does not lie in theories but in direct experience. This is what probably brought me to yoga, a system structured around experiencing rather than just thinking.

Even though I have a capacity for abstract thinking, I must admit that the path of the mind has proven to be a dead-end road. My mind can create theories and arguments, but it hasn't led me to true wisdom. A philosopher is not necessarily an enlightened being, just someone with an innate curiosity and a taste for theories.

Reason by itself doesn’t seem to reveal the mysteries of life, the full scope of what I am, the depth of how I feel. Human interactions teach me so much. The fear of not being enough for someone, the pain of seeing someone go, help me see myself under a brighter light. Still, the veil of confusion is there, but my intention is pure, my resolution stronger.

I could offer one hundred reasons why you should practice yoga, physical, philosophical, moral. I have done it in the past, and I will do it again, because this is a method that works for me. This time though, there is something I wish to be clear about: there is more to life than what we can see, hear and touch. That is something I know. My mind pushes against it, but my heart doesn't. And so, I am starting to surrender.

Theories might entice, compel, and inspire, but down the line, you will have to go somewhere else, explore on your terms, with an open, brave heart. It is not in the mind. It is in the heart.


You can count on the support of teachers, role models, a community, God. You name it. But the path must be walked, and only you can do it.

Roll Up your Sleeves. Get Real. Bring your Ass to Class.

Before I let you go, a few announcements:

  • Our Summer Immersion starts next week. We have a full program and are very excited to have you. We will carry on with Immersion Programs in the future. Reach out should these be of interest, and we will keep you in the loop.

  • The school opens again on Sunday, September 1st on our Regular Schedule. From September, classes will start at 6:30 AM (instead of 6:45). Our doors open when the class starts and close when the class ends. Please, have this in mind and plan your arrival time accordingly.

Love, Carmen

Like Attracts Like

In the Summer, there is not much going on in the city. The school is quiet, most of you are on holidays or having a well-deserved sleep in. And so, I have some extra time to reflect.

Ever since Santina Giardina - Chard taught her Intensive at the school last May, I have developed a daily routine of reading Eileen Caddy’s book, Opening Doors Within. This book is fantastic. It is a source of everyday wisdom and inspiration. It sets the tone for my day and helps me get back on track every time I drift away.

One of the things that resonate with me the most is the importance of having the right attitude. When we say “right attitude,” we think of positive thinking, which is only partially true. 

Rather than just having nice thoughts, the right attitude involves cleaning our act up, taking responsibility for our actions. In doing so, we stop being a victim of our circumstances and claim our full power in the creative process of life.

Yes. Our lives are a reflection of what lies within. If doubt, anger, delusion, pride, and fear are at the front seat, our entire experience becomes an expression of that. 

When things are done half-heartedly, involving oneself only this much, that’s what we get. Life gives back according to our investments.

So, “right attitude” means having the will and the disposition to take on new things, to live our lives to their highest, to be challenged, and to grow and expand in the process. The energy that we bring to the table is of the utmost importance. That is what moves the needle.

Same with practice. When we come to the Shala with a heavy heart and a clouded mind, what can we expect? Is it yoga’s fault? Does it mean that the practice is “not working”? 

Yoga asana is just a mirror, a way to engage oneself, to gather understanding of how we function. By the framework that the practice of yoga offers, we become familiar with the way our mind works and connect with ourselves at a deeper level. Not only we tune in but develop the skill to move from that place.

When practiced with regularity, attention, and reverence, yoga will heighten and refine our awareness, so now we see what was before hidden, and new ways of understanding and resolution open up. In short, wisdom happens, and thus, we may move on with our lives in full force.

Life doesn’t wait for anyone. Go ahead. Give it all you’ve got.

Before we wrap up, some news

  • The Summer Immersion in August is fully booked. Get in touch if you still wish to join us, as we might be able to make room for one or two more people.

  • Starting from September, we will held regular Beginner Courses, Workshops and Get Togethers at the school. Stay tuned

Happy holidays xo

Carmen 




Musings

I believe the path of yoga is one of Simplification.

Yoga pushes us to engage in life in a different way, which diverges from the mainstream approach. To do so, we must become both Diligent and Smart. Diligent as in Disciplined, Careful, and Thorough. Smart, as in Assertive, Pragmatic, and Down-to-Earth.

One of the byproducts of a regular yoga practice is Elimination. As yoga grows, we tend to reduce the noise, anything that is non-essential and that we feel out of alignment.

This process touches every aspect of our lives, not just our physical practice. We are shedding our old skin, leaving our old ways behind. Otherwise, there is no room for growth. If we wish to grow, we must let go first.

Let's take our physical practice as a very tangible example of this process. As a beginner, you enter a yoga room with little clue of what you are about to do. Maybe you will be given a cheat sheet to help you memorise, some props to get your body on healthy alignment and extra cueing and attention.

As you become more comfortable with the method, these additional supports are gradually removed. We are taught to tune in and focus so that we can use our body and our resources wisely.

Just like in practice, many students and fellow practitioners have, consciously or unconsciously, applied the same principles to their personal lives. Quitting a job, getting a divorce, or moving somewhere else are everyday events in any yoga community.

The dynamics of the practice of yoga, the ways how it works, give rise to events of this kind.

The reason is simple: some of our older structures do not serve us any longer. Not only we are aware: we are also willing to see and ready to take action.

Maybe the natural ups and downs that come with the practice of yoga, done on a daily fashion, gets us sharper, wiser, and more fit. Not only our bodies are fit, so are our minds and emotions. We become increasingly resilient, more in tune with the rhythms of life, and better prepared to take that leap of faith when the time comes.

This transformation comes at a cost. For instance, there is initial isolation, heartbreak, doubt, and uncertainty. Your old "you" is dying, so a new "you" may come forth. But it hasn't yet. And you are left hanging in there, in limbo, with your questions and your fears.

During these times of turmoil, know in trust that you are headed in the right direction. Allow life to happen; let events unfold. Reduce your inner resistance and embrace what comes your way with Courage, Humbleness and Reverence.

Be Quick. Be Smart. Keep it Simple. And Bring your Fine Ass to Class.

x Carmen

Guru Purnima

The Full Moon in July is known as Guru Purnima, a day of celebration in India and reverence to the Guru, the Teacher.

In the Indian tradition, a guru refers to the one who Dispels the Darkness. The guru removes ignorance and plants the seed of knowledge. It is then the work of the student to follow that path, to deepen on that knowledge.

A guide, a teacher, must create the conditions for wisdom to sprout. The teacher must hold the space for their students for this to be possible. However, it is not the teacher's job to do all the work. The teacher will show you how to climb a tree, help you hold on to the trunk a give you a little pushup, but you must do the climbing. Just like no one can climb a tree for you, no one can gather an understanding of yoga, or yourself for you. No one can give you answers. You must find them yourself.

My teachers lead by example. They practice what they preach. They show up and turn up for their students, and have developed the skill and the wisdom to know when to step in and when to back off.

On my early years of practice, I remember how I used to seek my teacher's attention, love, and care. Attention, love, and care were always there but, just not in a form and a shape that I would understand. I remember sending lengthy emails to some of them, only to receive a few words back -if I got any reply at all.

What I learned is that I was not special, which is a massive lesson. Also, this set the standards for the relationship I would establish with my teachers. A teacher-student relationship should be kind and caring, but it doesn't need to fall into the friendship arena. In keeping healthy boundaries and an appropriate distance, the purity of the work that has to be done can be better preserved.

We naturally tend to seek attention and answers to questions. We find a teacher that we resonate with, and sometimes we tend to put all those expectations on her. We tend to cling. But a teacher should make you independent, not needy, and her actions should come from that space.

When you are offered that, you are in a place of power and wisdom, and can freely decide whether you wish to continue your studies with this person. This type of learning environment makes both the teacher and the student accountable and reliable, and the connection clean.

On the other end of clinging lay pride and self-entitlement. If you think you have all the answers, if you believe you have reached the top of the tree, even though you are only up to one third, how can you learn? What do you need a teacher for?

Pride and arrogance are other forms of ignorance. Just like powerlessness and attachment, they will prevent you from moving forward.

A few simple thoughts on a rather important day :)

It is Moon Day today, and shala is closed. We will see you tomorrow on our Regular Schedule

x Carmen

Intimacy

The practice of yoga offers a gateway into the nature of the mind and the truth of who we are.

The alchemy of yoga, the refinement that the method brings about, allows a profound connection within. With pure intent and sufficient time, the practice creates an intimacy that can bring genuine transformation forth.

By putting in the regular and honest work that the practice demands, we manage to reach out beyond our confined sense of self. We learn to live beyond the limits of our minds, and so, we establish a deeper communion with life and develop an increased sense of responsibility and self-reliability.

As we acquire new knowledge and learn new skills, we start to get a handle on things, we make life "work for us."

We stop longing for something to excite us, from someone to rescue us, for events to turn out the way we hope. We must become the change that we wish to see before it can unfold in our material world.

This is a turning point, for it shifts our focus from external effort to internal work.

This process requires a fundamental change in how we show up in the world and live our lives. It is not about striving nor being inert. We must take action, move our lives forward, and do so from a place of faith and wholeness, rather than fear and delusion. How skilled we become at this will determine the result of our endeavors.

Same that with a lover, intimacy involves a gradual opening, a softening in our inner energy. In this space of increased receptivity, paradoxically, we get to claim our full power. A kind of power that doesn't impose but allows.

Obstacles will come up, but these mostly live in the mind. The drama emerges in the mind first. When given enough headspace, it impregnates the whole of our experience. When there is a pattern that keeps arising, as our awareness sharpens, we are more prone to look at it with distance. We get a sneak peek into ourselves, and so we may break the spell of our old ways and start anew.

For all the above, the process of self-inquiry is crucial. Ashtanga yoga offers a framework to engage ourselves, look, and discern. There are others. This method works for me. At the school, it is our wish that it will serve you too.

Enjoy your practice x

Carmen

A Voice

This week I wish to share a personal story. I do this with the best intention at heart, which is to give you a little push, so you are compelled to look into your beliefs around safety, properness, and self - worth. Hopefully, this story will make you reflect on how your ideas hold you back, how they keep you from living fully.

My story brings up the topic of having a voice, why this is relevant, and why you should uncover and express yours.

When your voice is repressed, problems of many kinds are coming. You will suffer in different ways because you are not being true to yourself. Don't just take my word for it, but my own, first-hand experience.

My ex-fiance left while I was away on one of my trips to study yoga. It was a shocking, unanticipated move that I had not seen coming. By the time I reached home, he was already gone, and so I wasn't given a chance to speak.

Following that, perhaps as a consequence, my sacrum was blocked, and my neck and shoulders became rigid. The deep backbends that we do in yoga, those that demand a good deal of strength and yet enough softness and trust to remain open and surrender, were still possible, but much more restricted.

Thanks to my understanding of the mechanics of yoga and the workings of my body, I found my way around these limitations. Even though you might not be able to tell the difference from the outside, this incident was a turning point, not only in my backbends.

Mind, body, and emotions are deeply correlated. There is no doubt about it. Physiologically, the tissues in the neck and lower back are connected. If you look at the body as a vortex of energy moving, the lower back, or sacral area, has to do with one's position in the world, foundational values, identity, and uniqueness. Lower back issues hence can be an indication of deeper problems.

Likewise, the neck and the shoulders are connected to the throat, where we articulate language to express, share, and connect. A lack of self-expression, ambiguity, or miscommunication may cause trouble in this area.

I would take massage, sleep with special pillows, do extra stretches, learn even more about body mechanics and yoga technique. The discomfort, the tightness, the numbness might ease up a bit. Still, it would not disappear completely.

Around that time, too, I started approaching self-expression in a variety of ways. I joined a public speaking club, I took dance classes, acting classes, I carried on with the writing. All these activities taught me something about myself and helped me digest my experiences and channel my thoughts and emotions in creative, constructive ways.

Yet, it was not until two weeks ago when the restrictions around the sacrum disappeared, and I managed to feel into the numbness of my neck and shoulders. Coincidentally, about two weeks ago, I managed to forgive honestly. Finally, I dropped the story of the wrongdoing, as it did not suit me any longer.

For the last couple of weeks, I haven't been looking back in anger. My back is back on track. My backbends are free. My awareness, sharper. And my voice, louder.

Happy New Week x

Carmen

Where Are You Headed?

This yoga venture is a singular one. When I stepped into my first yoga class in 2004, what stroke me the most was how on earth making shapes with my body could possibly make me any happier.

That first class did not leave a significant impression on me. It felt alright, but still, I failed to connect with the dynamics of what we did. And the friend I went with fell asleep and ended up snoring in the final relaxation. Not very encouraging.

After exploring different mind-body disciplines, I came back to yoga a few years later. I was in the midst of a personal crisis, one of those times when one is forced to reconsider the course of life. Yoga popped up again, and I picked it up. It felt different this time. I wasn't blinded by it (yet), but for some strange reason, I was hooked.

In 2010 I discovered Ashtanga yoga. I liked it, but the fixed sequence of postures felt daunting and a bit tasteless. Two years went by mixing up Ashtanga with other disciplines, with running and the gym. Then in the Fall of 2011, I started to wake up increasingly earlier to do a few Sun Salutations before heading off to work. I was in Dublin back then, working in Business Development for a world-class technology vendor. The energy that those 15 minutes of practice gave me kept me going for the entire day. I started to overachieve in my numbers, I felt focused, vital, and connected.

These 15 minutes became 30, then 45, then 90. If I missed one day of practice, I would feel uncomfortable and uneasy. And so, I started to give up on other things: the running (it messed up my knees and tightened my hips!), the gym (so tedious!) and other disciplines of yoga (now being used to doing my own thing, being led in a class seemed unnecessary, disturbing and deeply annoying).

Anyway, I became an Ashtanga groupie. And that was the case for a few years. Then, in 2018, after a series of events that changed my life and my outlook on the world for good, things started to shift. I'm convinced that the practice and the teaching saved me from severe dysfunction. I had devoted myself to a worthy cause, to something that made sense to me, and so, in the middle of chaos, I could still see the beauty of life and have hope.

Nevertheless, there was still much confusion. And yet, there is.

I got used to living without some answers. To soften up. To let life happen. I saw through my illusions, my inner demons, the ways how I fooled myself, and how these were responsible for my unhappiness. In short, I realised I was being a victim of my own ignorance.

Ever since, I have made of my daily practice a time for genuine, honest self-search. Day after day, I step on my mat, not knowing what will come up. And I take that as an opportunity to observe, to listen, to come to terms with the changing nature of reality. Often I'm uncomfortable, not liking what I see. But hey, no one said it would be easy.

Along with honesty and pragmatism, compassion and patience have become essential qualities that I have come to cultivate. The practice is just a tool. The intent is what matters. The willingness and the readiness to look, to stay with what comes up and to connect the dots.

Then, after some time, you get to know your mind better, your soul better, what your triggers are, what pushes your buttons, the stories that you tell yourself. In short, you get to see through your bullshit. It is very hard at times, for the ego wants always to be right. But that's hardly the case. We are blind, and as long as we are blind, there is no knowing, just fantasy.

Our future is not carved in stone. Even if there are certain tendencies within us, we create our circumstances. With every decision we make, we are going somewhere. Sometimes our thoughts, our actions, and our unresolved emotions push us deeper into the pit. Sometimes though, we manage to find a way out.

Hence, my question to you this week is, where are you headed?

x Carmen

The Force of Gravity

The other day I was watching Netflix (again!). This time, it was a documentary on science. To be more specific, on Einstein, on his findings, and how these shaped our understanding of the universe as we know it.

The film revolved around the Force of Gravity. That pull, that attraction that makes objects fall and keep us closer to the ground.

The first -and pretty much only- scientist that spoke about this phenomenon was Sir Isaac Newton. Newton formulated his Theory of Gravity after his famous anecdote with an apple landing on his head. According to him, mass falls as a result of the pull of the more significant mass at the center of the Earth. Like that apple.

His theory meant a revolution in the world of physical sciences and shaped our understanding of the world. However, it failed to explain the peculiarities of the orbit of planet Mercury around the Sun. Einstein observed this, was challenged by it and picked it up.

In several thought experiments, he realised that gravity and acceleration could not be distinguished from one another. In fact, they could be considered the same thing.

Also, time and space are joined entities, deeply entangled with one another. Furthermore, the time/ space matrix has shape, which is altered by mass moving, which results in the pull of gravity.

So, the mass of my own body moving creates a curvature in the time/ space matrix, which results in gravity. My movement is responsible for the Force of Gravity that I experience. I create my own forces of attraction, my personal circumstances through my actions, being either conscious and deliberate, or unconscious and unintended.

How is this as an example of Personal Responsibility & Power?

Happy practice :)

x Carmen

The Call to Courage

I recently watched a Netflix documentary by Brené Brown called The Call to Courage.

In it, the speaker talks about vulnerability, the spirit of being oneself in the world, of taking a stand, and how this often comes with feelings of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Nevertheless, this is the only way for more intimacy, love, and joy.

I believe that the work that we do on our yoga mats is good practice. In the yoga room, we are to deal with ourselves day in and day out. Through the framework that the practice of yoga offers, once we engage ourselves wholeheartedly, we open up to who we are, embrace our shadows, understand our patterns and triggers. Then, our awareness sharpens, and our consciousness expands. In short, we grow.

Following up on a conversation with Santina Giardina - Chard in her latest intensive at the school, yoga postures are not ends by themselves, but tools to engage ourselves, opportunities to observe and refine. What was unconscious comes up, leaving us shaken at times. Hence, the quality of the work that we put, the regularity, and the intention are essential factors in our growth as yoga students and, above all, as humans.

One of our values at the school is personal accountability, taking full responsibility for what we do, say, think, and for how we feel. We are responsible for the way how we show up in the world. No one but us can rescue us, clear out our mess. We are accountable for the energy that we put forth. It is the inner that determines the outer, so the real work happens inside. Then, the outside shifts.

It is not through effort or force how our world change, but through our intention and regular, honest work. Runoff when something uncomfortable comes up, and it will keep coming back over and over. Same pattern, different scenarios. Samsara halahala, as the Ashtanga yoga opening mantra recites, "The bonding of our conditioned existence."

Sometimes things get tough on the mat and in life. Suffering is a catalyst for growth. This practice offers you the opportunity to leave your old ways behind and to cultivate the courage, the presence, and the drive to step into the unknown. It is uncomfortable but worth it, or only in the unexplored, real growth, freedom, and joy are found.

Leave your excuses at the door. Unroll your yoga mat. Do what you have to do.

Happy practicing.

Carmen

What's Your Super Power?

On being in alignment with the spirit of the school, this week, we wish to further elaborate on one of the values that we uphold.

Personal Accountability

To us, this means being responsible for our thoughts, words, and actions. Standing our own ground. Owning up to our circumstances and to the choices that we make, instead of blaming external factors. Reframing the ways how we define personal accountability and what they involve.

The above has some critical practical implications. Firstly, it gives us full power. What we think, and how we feel determine how we show up in the world, how we relate to ourselves and to others. Instead of placing the blame on what happens around us and how other people treat us, what is of utmost importance is how we respond and how aware we become of the internal processes that our environment triggers within.

Here is how Sharath would probably summarize this idea:

"Correct yourself, not others."

Secondly, with great power comes great responsibility. The moment when you realize how powerful you really are is a turning point. It is sweet, indeed, for there is no room for helplessness, hopelessness, weakness, or fear. Likewise, once this simple truth has been digested, there is nowhere to escape, no one to blame. We become fully responsible for our lives.

Thirdly, one must be established in compassion. Having compassion for those who are walking the same path, understanding that we are all human, and as such, we make mistakes.

There is no such thing as a perfect human being- neither I am, nor you are!. Cultivating Strength of Character while remaining Soft at the Core is challenging, and there is no magic formula to get it right. One may go through trial and error, figure it out himself.

Just do what you can, always to the best of your capacity. Be steadfast in your resolve, humble in your approach, open in your heart. Let go of the unessential and Keep going :)

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Not only we love to share the values that inspire our work. We also enjoy yoga technique and philosophy very much! If these are topics that appeal to you, please do visit some of our latest articles!

On yoga technique and practice sustainability

On purity in the Vinyasa and correct method in transitions

On the role and support of the Community

x Carmen