Malvern Wells Yoga

Smile, it's yoga! Yoga classes in the Malvern area.


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Karma Yoga

Today we’ve been watching birds for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. It takes place several times per year here in the UK.

I love birds. We both do. When we moved to our cottage we were overwhelmed by the number of birds who visited our garden. It was pretty wild and overgrown, but we’ve spent the last two years clearing out the rubbish, chopping down some of the more wild aspects and generally trying to create a wildlife haven, not just for birds but for all manner of other animals too. Not in the least, two squirrels who visit regularly (we think they’re a couple and we’re hopeful that we might see some squirrel babies in the spring).

We keep our bird feeders topped up throughout the year and we make sure that our birdbath is full of clean water too. Trying to keep our three cats away is challenging at times, especially in spring, but we manage ok and casualties are minimal.

So anyway, what does this have to do with Karma Yoga?

Yoga is not just about the asanas (postures). There are different aspects or “Paths” of yoga. One of them is Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is the path of selfless action and/or service. It is nothing whatsoever to do with the karma sutra… (why is it that when you tell people you’re into yoga, they automatically think that it means bendy or kinky sex?)….

When I first began yoga (many moons ago), I wasn’t massively into serving or helping anyone outside the immediate four walls of my house, or my close family. I definitely think/know that through my yoga practice I’ve become more aware and more compassionate towards other lives around me.

To practice Karma Yoga, you need to remove the “I” from it. Whilst you’re at it, also remove the “ought to” and the “got to”. Don’t be arrogant about what you are doing, don’t sit there and polish your halo. This is not Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is selfless. Do it out of kindness. By all means, do it because you want to… but not out of a sense of duty.

Think about the Karma Yoga you can practice. Maybe you can visit an elderly neighbour or relative. Perhaps you can offer some of your time to the local dog shelter because they always need people to go in and walk the dogs. Think about how you can use your skills for the good of others. If you’re a cook, why not volunteer at the local soup kitchen? Even buying an extra tin at the supermarket and putting it in the food bank, somebody, somewhere will be thankful of your tin. Or maybe just feed the birds in your garden, help them to grow big and strong to protect themselves against the inevitable bad weather to come, and hope that in spring they’ll be able to have birdy babies to form a new generation.

Think about one thing you can do, would be glad to do, that could help make a difference to someone’s life.


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Yoga websites worth looking at

I like yoga websites. Websites about yoga. In the old days (before I became a yoga teacher), I used to like websites about shoes, and handbags. I still do… but I spend more time reading about yoga than I do buying shoes. How times change! And anyway, I already have way too many pairs of shoes.

For this week’s blog post I thought I would share some of my favourite yoga websites. Please don’t think I agree with every single post on these websites. Sometimes they can be a bit controversial… but worth checking out if you want to read more about yoga, maybe deepen your practice, find the best alignment in a pose, learn about pranayama – honestly, the list is endless.

1. Do You Yoga
I’m actually an Ambassador for Do You Yoga. It’s also the home of the 30-day yoga challenge with Erin Motz. Recently they also launched the most successful yoga-based Kickstarter project ever (more about this at some point). Kino McGregor, deeply cool Ashtanga teacher, is also on there sharing her wisdom about poses. A recent favourite post on there has to be Why Savasana is the Hardest Pose… And How to Master It. It’s a light-hearted website, taking a mainly humorous look at yoga.

2. Elephant Journal
I would say that Elephant Journal is more spiritual, more serious than website number 1. It’s not all about yoga either. Quite a lot of it is not about yoga at all. There’s a wealth of information on there from appreciating your husband to this article about productivity. There is definitely something for everyone. It’s worth noting though that you need to sign up if you want to read more than 5 articles per day.

3. Yoga Journal
The Yoga Journal website has everything. A great blog, recipes, practice videos, hints and tips, explanations of postures… If you are ever confused about any aspect of yoga, just visit the Yoga Journal website and it is guaranteed you will find an answer. It has been my goto resource for a long time. Try this useful guide to chakras on the blog. And check out the Pose Finder database.

There are hundreds of websites about yoga, but these three are a good place to start. There is something for everyone on all of these sites. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned class attendee, take the time to deepen your practice by reading what other people have to say about it, and indulge yourself in the wisdom.

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Yoga documentary – Enlighten Up!

This week I’ve watched a documentary about yoga called Enlighten Up!

Kate Churchill is a filmmaker and yoga practitioner who sets out to prove that yoga can transform anyone.  Her test subject is Nick Rosen, skeptical but well up for a challenge.  Kate and Nick travel extensively, meeting plenty of yoga celebrities and some of the godfathers of modern yoga.  I don’t want to spoil it for you because I believe it’s worth dedicating an hour and fifteen minutes of your time to watch it.  You can watch it here on documentarywire with helpful Spanish subtitles!  Needless to say though that it doesn’t go entirely to plan and Kate’s plans start to unravel as Nick begins to question what yoga is truly about and some uncomfortable feelings bubble up to the surface.

Overall I found the documentary very interesting and it made me think a lot about my own yoga practice.  Yoga is not the miraculous answer to all of life’s questions.  It will not transform you overnight into an enlightened, tofu-eating yoga-lebrity, wafting serenely through life in a cloud of patchouli!

However, a regular and dedicated yoga practice keeps you fit, helps alleviate the symptoms of many illnesses, can help with stress, anxiety and depression, improve your posture etc., just Google it and you’ll find hundreds of articles about it. Here‘s a good article on Yoga Journal.

What about enlightenment and inner peace though?  Do I have to travel to an ashram in India and sit in meditation for 10 hours per day?  It’s unlikely that any of us will ever achieve guru-like grace from a once per week practice.  But, you can cultivate a calmer, more peaceful, less tumultuous approach to your life with a regular yoga practice and I guarantee that a some point you’ll have a revelation or two.  Sometimes hitting you between the eyes like a thunderbolt when you are in a posture and sometimes appearing more subtly the day after or week after in the form of feeling more calm about a situation or person.

The important thing is to remember to listen.  Listen to your body and approach your yoga with reverence, moving in and out of each posture with a joyful curiosity.  No two practices are ever the same, your body and mind are different each time you practice.  Take care of your alignment, trust your breath, respect your body and the sensations within it instead of throwing yourself around your yoga mat and pushing yourself to the very limit of your physical abilities.  Enlightenment comes from within, it’s inside you already.  Stay present, stick at it and you’ll find what you need to find inside yourself.


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New Year 2014

It’s a new year.  It’s here: 2014.  It’s pretty much the same as before, you just have to keep remembering to put /14 when you write the date.

Or is it the same?  Is this your opportunity to begin taking fairy steps towards making your life what you want it to be? So that, in January 2015 you can look back and say yes, I’ve made the changes that I want to make and I’m happy to be me.

You can do what you want with 2014.  It’s yours for the taking.

I don’t believe in resolutions, if you want to do something you don’t need to wait for a new year to do it, but I do believe in having a theme, a focus or a word for your year.  My word for 2014 is TRANSFORMATION.  I want to transform the way I live my life and spend my time. 

Anyone who knows me well enough will know that I complain about not having enough time.  Working a full-time job and teaching three classes for week has made me adopted this martyred approach to my week.  Well this year I have pledged to myself that I will use my time more wisely and make time work for me instead of it seemingly working against me.  In short, this means getting out of bed earlier on weekday mornings so that I can meditate and do half an hour of yoga.  I feel so much better when I am practicing daily instead of trying to fit in a couple of half-assed practices per week.

Of course there are other things on my list of transformations too.  Maybe I’ll share some more ways I am transforming my life in future blog posts.  I intend to write at least one blog post per week this year.  I was terribly neglectful of this blog last year and it doesn’t do my SEO any favours whatsoever!  So there, I’ve said it now, it’s here in black & white, so I’ll have to do it!!

Why not think about ways that you can transform your life?  It doesn’t have to be huge, sometimes the seemingly little things are the ones that can make the biggest difference to your life.