Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Chuck Miller Workshop

   This weekend, I went to a workshop with Chuck Miller in the Liffey Trust Dance Studios, it focused  on Sama Vinyasa: Breath, Roots, Core – Ashtanga Yoga.  I was only able to attend 2 sessions: Standing Poses on Friday evening and inversions on Saturday, so I lapped up every single minute.

The overall theme of the workshop was Sama, the Sanskrit word that depicts the meaning cluster of same, like, level, unaltered, even or straight. In other contexts it’s been translated as calmness, tranquility, control of the mind, as in SAMAdhi, and so we spend a good long time in SAMAstithi, standing posture, standing firmly without moving, trying to find the evenness, the centeredness in this basic pose.

Chuck talked to us about the practice not leading to some kind of success, by achieving more and more complicated, challenging posed (a basic truth, that nevertheless I need to be reminded over and over and over again), but to become more even, more levelled and unaltered in the simplest of forms, poses, actions. He taught that the practice is not like running forwards into new forms, but rather bringing us back to the form and function that we are meant to be, before we accumulated all the bad habits of wrong posture, misuse of the body, before injuries and sickness have occurred to every one of us, to greater or lesser extent.

Yes. And I notice that the more I practice Yoga, the clearer I can feel that there are all these imbalances in me, the twists and unevenness, the inefficiency that I have slipped into, over my living years. So, this weekend we were practicing to come back to a more Sama state, staying in postures for long, quite long, waiting for our bodies to reveal more of the un-sama-ness in us, and then to try and gently correct.

Having practiced yoga with my ego leading forward for many good years, overworking my body in the futile attempt to prove that I-am- just-as-good-as-anybody-else, or to please my teachers (I can smile about that now when I catch myself doing it again), I accumulated a few little but persistent injuries throughout my body, hello sacroiliac joint, hello right knee and right deltoid muscle! Reliant indicators for me of where to go and what to avoid in my practice.

Chuck summed it up in a very comprehensible, useful way, as we were all standing in Trikonasana for a good while: Distribute the work/stress evenly throughout the body, making a significant effort to share the stress throughout the spine (as opposed to damage one bit of the body by relying heavily on it, usually a rather strong or rather numb part within us)

So, this gave me a few beautiful new (but old) impulses for my practice, and also I was delighted to meet again some comrades from the teacher trainings in the Elbowroom and trainings with Dave Curtis’s Vinyasa Flow Yoga.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Thursday, 8 September 2011


This is number 5 from a new series of work. "Panels"

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Ibex, Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park

Adult Female Ibex

So I am standing about 5-7 meters from this beautiful animal and need to photography her. She is baby sitting 4 inquisitive kids and is on high alert. I ignored the SLR around my neck and slowly took out the Lumix and made about 15 shots without making sound,

The clatter of the SLR shutter would have spooked her.

I felt truly privileged to be so close to these wild animals

Mother taking the Kids home

Friday, 2 September 2011

Yoga Surfaces

 Recently I was on a camping holiday in Spain. Early each morning I went down to the beach to do my yoga practice. (I know! I am writing this with a big grin on my face, so great it was!)
 I am generally not a big fan to outdoor yoga, due to the many distractions, weather moods and occasional spectators, this was different. I went early enough to be alone, or pretty much alone on the beach, apart from the birds and one or two dog walkers. The sun was still gentle and I tried to align my breath and the Vinyasa of my practice to the the Vinyasa of the sea. But the best thing of all was the grainy sand or small pebbled surface I was on. On top of the ground I had my ashtanga mat, one of the porous, thin, floppy ones, and I felt I never practiced better than on these various beaches. With the help of rocks and little piles of sand I was creating little bolsters and lifts, just as I needed them at the moment. I got sidetracked by the beauty and diversity of these million little pieces of silicia minerals, but since I was on holidays, I didn’t have any time restrictions. 
While I was practicing my standing postures, I was amazed how giving and flexible the ground below me was, adapting to my weight, but at the same time gently holding and supporting my feet. I felt very much connected and supported by the ground, much more so  than in a studio or at home.  Could that be an idea of how to equip a yoga studio? Beach Yoga Studio Dublin, how does that sound? We might have a little problem with hygiene though, but so does the damp carpet in a Bikram studio, or rental mats, for that matter.
A nice, wooden floor with underfloor heating has advantages of course, especially here in breezy Dublin.
Some swear by sprung flooring, like in a dance studio, to have a bit of give and shock adsorbing during practice, especially, I might imagine, those yogis that don’t have the well sufficient  amount of natural body-padding, that I am carrying around, ha! Some like to have two mats, piled on top of each other, especially in colder rooms.
I also have this insanely expensive, ecological sound mat, with a fancy pattern and different colour on each side, it feels very nice, is extremely slip resistant, and my cat loves it too, I often see him burying his claws or teeth into the mat, with obvious pleasure, but there is one big disadvantage: the mat is elastic! Whenever I stand in a wide legged posture or in downward dog, slowly my extremities drift apart, not a good thing, so don’t use it that often!
Still, my favourite is my worn old, purple, totally unglamorous ashtanga mat.  On a sunny beach.  In Spain. What is yours?