Last month I mentioned that two of my lovely yoga home teachers were climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Well… they did it! And they broke through the fundraising target for their charity too so lots of children will benefit from the money raised. I was moved reading Allie’s account of their experience. Thinking of the mental determination, not to mention the physical endurance it must have taken I am truly inspired – it made me wonder whether I would have had the courage to meet such a challenge. I love stories like this, especially when they involve people I know, because they inspire me to reach further, dream bigger and be better.
You guys are amazing!
Good Luck to my teachers Allie and Leon who are setting off on an incredible adventure to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, raising funds for the Village Education Project. This is a wonderful charity working in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania to improve education and reduce rural poverty.
Sending you both positive vibes all the way! xx
‘Leela’ means ‘play’ in Sanskrit. I learned this at my yoga home because that’s the name of the style of Hot Yoga which is taught there. ‘Leela’ is something that Stewart Gilchrist also touched on during his workshop with us last month.
At the weekend, we had some spontaneous ‘Leela Time’ when one of my fave teachers, Allie led us through some yoga-freestyling in the park.
It was so great to have a play at mixing in some moves we don’t usually do in class with the added bonus of being outside on a sunny afternoon.
When we moved onto headstand practice I found myself feeling a bit scared without the safety of a wall. But I needn’t have been so worried – Allie guided us through step-by-step.
After having a go with the help of Allie and my partner, I have a few attempts on my own, trying to get to that mid-way point where I can balance with my legs bent. I manage it for a few seconds and then… I fall out, landing on my back and staring up at the sky. And actually, it’s kind of… fun (?!) I then remember being in a Jivamukti class where our teacher, Emma told us that sometimes the most fun bit is falling out. At the time I was seriously doubtful about that, but now I’d done it I ate my words. I couldn’t believe it – all this time I’d been holding on to this fear over what would happen if I fell out of a headstand. It felt like a bit of a breakthrough. I hold my hands up – Emma was right.
In the park there’s a bit of chatter about what we should do next, then I’m not sure who says it but I hear:
“Let’s do handstands!”
I’m fairly quiet most of the time but now I go stone cold silent. I instantly feel tense and I’m thinking, “Handstands?! Now?! I really don’t think I feel ready. I mean a few bunny hops in class is one thing but -“
That thought is broken by Allie telling us that Leon (Handstand Guru) is on his way over give us some coaching.
Pants. We’re really going to do this.
We split into pairs to practice and it’s my turn to have a go.
Leon: “When you kick up, just really go for it!”
Me: “Erm, okay… Are you going to watch?” (TRANSLATION: “I really, really, hope you’re not going to watch.”)
Then as I take a deep breath, it dawns on me that we’re standing in the middle of a bustling park on a Sunday afternoon, so it suddenly feels like a lot more sets of eyes are possibly watching and about to see me land on my head…
Except I didn’t.
It took several attempts, but to my complete shock I got there. Twice! My partner spotting me and supporting my feet meant I didn’t instantly collapse into a heap. For a few moments I saw the world upside down. And I liked it!
This doesn’t mean I am now instantly ‘cured’ of feeling any trepidation the next time I try a headstand or handstand – even though the fear is gradually diminishing I know myself enough to realise it will take a lot more practice to get anywhere near that stage. But there is something quite powerful in knowing that you’ve done something once. It clarifies that it’s not impossible whatever your cynical side might say. When you’ve done something once it means it is possible to do it again. Big thanks to Allie and Leon for their guidance!
Afternoon yoga in the park was so much fun – it made me want to play more. Here’s to more ‘Leela Time’!
I always get excited when people I know have great things happening for them. Leon Taylor, one of my lovely teachers from my yoga home, has his first book coming out on 1st May. Leon is an Olympic Medallist in platform diving and is known for inventing the world’s most difficult dive.
I’m really grateful to Leon as a teacher who creates a safe space for us to challenge ourselves… even if he does make us do more ab work than anyone else 🙂 Congratulations Leon.
I think I’ve met a True Yogi.
At the weekend I had the great privilege of attending a workshop led by Stewart Gilchrist at my yoga home. During a two and a half hour class titled ‘Chakra-ise the Asana’ Stewart taught us about the chakras (our wheels or nerve centres of power) in relation to the asanas we ‘lay out’ (Stewart expressed that ‘lay out’ is the correct term, rather than ‘perform’). He also told us about how it has now been scientifically proven that chakras do exist – it’s not the la-la hippy nonsense that many thought for a long time.
I’d arrived on the mat with some trepidation. Knowing a little of Stewart’s reputation I already knew this would be no beginner’s class. Then he actually tells us as much, but adds that anyone can do it as long as they listen, even his Scottish Granny. With that, I am convinced Stewart’s Granny is a far better woman than me! I exchange a look with my neighbour and realise I am not the only one feeling a bit fearful of what lies ahead…
“Yoga without devotion is just keep fit”, Stewart tells us. This I believe. When I first started yoga I just thought of it as exercise but I now know it is so much more. For Stewart’s class, I dedicate my practice to someone I know whose Mum passed away earlier in the week.
Then we begin moving. The pace is quick and then… it gets quicker! Never before in a class have I been so aware of the importance of remembering to breathe! During a seemingly endless sequence of vinyasas my triceps burn and I wonder if I’ll be able to go on. Yet, somehow – thanks to my breath – I do. As we continue to move through the dynamic practice there is so much information to take in as Stewart works through the chakra system. I know I won’t remember everything, but if a fraction of it stays with me I’ll be happy. It’s certainly fuelled my desire to learn more.
Even though the room is packed out, Stewart darts about making adjustments and miraculously it seems as though every single person in the room gets his attention. Though some of the hands-on adjustments are quite strong, I really like this. I’ve learned this approach particularly works for me through the handful of Jivamukti classes I’ve taken part in so far. I feel the hands-on adjustments very directly show rather than tell me where I am working towards in an asana. And I’ve found that combined with verbal instruction really helps me to understand better.
We move onto some even more challenging asanas. “If you decide you can’t do something, then sure enough you’ll find you can’t,” Stewart tells us. I know this has been an ongoing issue for me, as I’ve written about in previous posts. Whenever I see a seemingly impossible posture in front of me, my immediate thought tends to be, “There is no way in hell…” It’s a pertinent reminder that this is something I need to keep working on. And I am reminded to accept where I am right now when Stewart adds, “You’re perfect. Where you are is perfect for you.”
Throughout, Stewart is funny, cheeky, warm and wise. Our incredibly dynamic practice is balanced by his vast enthusiasm and encouragement. As we continue, Stewart warns us not to over-extend in our asanas, “…that’s the ego. Under-extending is your fear.”
Stewart later tells a story that speaks to my ‘sweat neurosis’. It’s about some Americans practicing yoga in India who ask their teacher what they should do with their sweat. It turns out the answer is to rub it into your skin (!): “It’s your Prana. Your life force.” Well, sweat is something I certainly have a lot of!
I am taken by surprise when we move onto the finishing sequence. Could we really be nearing the end of the two and half hours already? I find myself feeling a bit sad that the workshop is almost over – that was a shocker considering how I’d felt during all those vinyasas earlier on.
I float off into the sunny spring evening feeling uplifted and inspired and knowing that I definitely want to practice with Stewart again. The friends I meet up with later look at me with a mix of awe and bemusement as I explain to them how I spent my afternoon…
The next day I get up for my Sunday morning class. I start moving around my place to pack my gear and – Oh. My. Goodness!!! My hips, my glutes, my trapezius, my triceps… I could go on. Yet, I was still smiling. And it turns out that making the decision to still go to practice was the best thing I could have done for my body – all that soreness eased thanks to Leon’s Hot Flow class!
I am so grateful that Stewart came to Yogahaven to teach us. And everyone else I’ve spoken to who was there had wonderful things to say about Stewart and his workshop too. So, with any luck, Allie and Krystal will be able to persuade him to return on a regular basis, fingers crossed!