The Value of Suffering

Existential crisis and yoga often meet in the intimate space of suffering. There exists the belief that through the practice of yoga we are building strong and healthy bodies, a carefully constructed pursuit of immortality. But throughout history the devout yogi has sought to transcend the body altogether, to become free from this ultimate attachment. Rather than to make it a comfortable place to reside, the yogi explores the searing fire of mortification and realizes that this is not all there is. Beyond the physical body, the vast field of bliss where all beings meet, awaits.

I came to yoga in my teens. As the foundations shook beneath me in a time that for most of us is characterized by deep uncertainty, I began to embrace a practice knowing subconsciously it would accompany me into whatever age and condition.


As I explored asana for the first time I became aware of this very clear guidance from within, manifesting through my breath. I have been listening out for it ever since. As the physical body becomes more honed, more trained, sometimes it feels as though I have to push it harder and yet yoga is a practice that improves with age unlike other activities that become a struggle as the physical body declines. The more we cultivate the attitude of ‘letting go’ of attachment to the body, the more – conversely - the practice flows.

When suffering rears it powerful head, can we look straight in its eyes without wavering? Can we cultivate the skillful means to navigate it? Unrestrained by fear can we burn through the shackles that hold us back from our true state of bliss? On and off the mat, these may be the greatest lessons yoga can provide.

The Soft Core of your Being

    There's something funny about this body of ours and its that it keeps being there. Just when we take our health for granted something pops up to remind us that we are merely mortal, inhabiting this precious human form for what seems like seconds comparative to the great big scheme of the things that Really Matter. Which is a better reason than any for letting go of all that stuff we carry, that . stuff . that . really . doesn't . matter.

    And even were we to let go for a fraction of a moment of a second we savour that bliss of softening. Often this goes with the prompt reminder of other things to worry about, if not our own health, that of those around us, of the Environment, of the greater Humanity. These are all worthy concerns, most definitely but in what way are we approaching them?

    Yoga teaches us not to separate from the greater scheme as we are part of it. Not just a small tiny part but the whole shebang. This doesn't mean that we surf on a pedestal above the suffering of the world but we can take a little perspective and realize that perhaps the most counterproductive thing to actually doing something worthwhile with this precious human life is thinking that we can. Or in other words: thinking. 

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    It may have something to do with the way we use our brains. Our education system, brilliant as it is, brings us into the left side of our brain. We are trained to be efficient and rational machines and this vast swell of tension builds up as we strain to learn and memorize factual data and how to navigate this complicated world we believe we live in. The bodies that come to me are knackered, they are worn down by life. They are assailed by stresses and strains, weak, tense, breath is restricted, thoughts are oppressive. Even the approach to a practice as overtly holistic as yoga is strained and competitive. 

    I am by no means promoting a self defeating attitude of complacency, instead a proactive defeating of the 'small' self that keeps us in this state of restricted rigidity. And how, you may ask, do I propose we do this? Practice of course. Practice really sinking into the soft core of your being. At any given time when you are practicing your asana notice where you are holding tension, where the self-aggrandizement or its opposite self-deprecating voice begins to bellow in your inner ear. It is keeping this awareness at all times that can help us move beyond into a state of true freedom from the stuff that doesn't matter. 

   When we engage with the body in true presence the chattering, exhausting left side of the brain gives way to silence. It yields to softness. Then in śavāsana we can let the true work happen. The body's innate healing energy, which is one and the same as the Universal Energy, can dissolve what is no longer needed so you can be a true peaceful warrior and choose the battles you take on with deep strength and selfless concern.

   I hope to be there with you. 

To learn more about moving from the soft core of your being, with freedom and grace, come to my workshop on the 24th of February at Yoga Akasha from 12-2. Book online through the shop.


Mother India

In the last lecture of my MA last year the lecturer asked: "How important is it to you to go to India? Is it an integral part of your yoga practice?" My one-dimensional mind said no. Yet on my return to India after 7 years every cell of my being answered with a resounding yes. 

I have been going to India since I was 5 years old. When you are a child the barriers that separate us as adults are yet to appear, to be constructed by the wood, hammer and nails of our conditioning. Communication was open, I drifted into temples barefoot, played with local kids attracting nothing but an initial giggle, delighted at the tinkle of bells at dusk, the manic drum beats marking puja time. Now as a grown up that memory still lives strong and I was determined to take my own children before the skin grew leathery.


The funny thing for me is that I haven't done any yoga training per se in India. The sadhana I undertake on the mat is homegrown, I practice in isolation. As an introvert I am not one to elbow into a culture's intimate spiritual life, neither do I feel the need to worship particular deities. And yet in so many instances of daily life in India what I observe is yoga in action. The village mothers caring for their babies, expressing love without words. Traffic swerving the cattle that have equal right to the highway, words exchanged as though the conversation had no beginning or end, the impeccable care taken to wrap basic groceries. 

There is a feeling of livity that, granted this is a generalisation, I feel is lacking in most of the western world. The divine is pulsating in the everyday, tragedy and comedy are the best of friends and I would like to return as often as possible, as often as Mother India will have me. 

It has always made me cringe to express how I feel when I arrive in India, because there is so much desperation, suffering and visible strife how could I heave a romantic sigh letting the obvious inequalities dissolve into oblivion? It is the immediacy of it all that soothes my soul. The visibility of death, un-suppressed. 

Imprinting your Resolution

Sankalpa or resolve is a very important component of our practice as yogis. When we set our intention at the beginning of a session it is not only a mental construction but a desire that we place in the heart of hearts from where it infiltrates every cell of our being.

Throughout the sadhana, prana irrigating our vital networks, blood suffusing our sinews, we bring our mind back to our intention, reconnecting to this heartfelt desire. When the going gets tough its important to remember why we're doing what we're doing.

Every New Year, with all the best intentions we set out our resolutions which can be more or less ambitious but are nevertheless the voice of the heart. Over the course of time, the heart itself refines our resolutions so they become our reality. We can choose to listen, as we do in the stillness of meditation or to lambast ourselves if we feel that our resolution has evaporated. Either way that which guides us remains steady, pulsating in our very breath.


Join me for a Yoga workshop that focuses on alignment and intention.
Saturday the 27th of January from 12-2 at Yoga Akasha, East Grinstead

Through this practical and interactive workshop we use yoga practices to find our deepest heartfelt intention and imprint it into the very fabric of our being.

Using 'asana' to create a limber, supple body; 'pranayama' to soothe superficial tensions and meditation to ward off distractions, we manifest our intention in this moment.

Cup of revitalising tea included!

£20 for 2 hours."

Booking is essential and I look forward to welcoming you!


Talk of the "Universe"

   I am a big fan of explanations. I like to understand what it is I am doing and why certain things arise in my awareness. For someone so keen on logic and rationale I am also fascinated by the seemingly abstract concept of "What the Universe is trying to show me". Referring to "the Universe" as a disseminator doesn't quite seem fair. The Universe is not trying to show me anything. It is not and has never been about me as an individual but about the Universe itself. 

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    We humans tend to fall short of the truth by believing that we are individuals. This is not to say that we are not each unique but this belief rapidly gets confused with severe independence. We are utterly interdependent and that is where the role of the Universe comes in. We usually turn to the "Universe" for answers when things are not turning out as we want them to. "What is the Universe trying to show me?" If we really want to know we ned to surrender to what is actually going on rather than fixating on our made up mental structure of how things should go on.

   Of course things are never going to be as we want them to be!  When we are fine with things just as they are things can flow easily. Then we are in kahootz with the "Universe". The Universe showed me this and its stupidly simple.

   This is the path of yoga: we open up to what is really occurring. This is beyond form just as our bodies are beyond the form of the āsana, beyond concept just as our breath speaks no language, beyond barriers just as we are unable to distinguish where our inner space ends and outer space begins, this porous skin is no barrier. When we learn to breathe through the pores of the skin, to see deep inside to the source of the breath, we meet the Universe in every moment. 

    Like explorers we set forth in our sadhana. Let the adventure begin.

new beginnings

There is a very wise saying attributed to Gandhi that conveys the importance of not letting your life pass you by. "There is more to life than increasing its speed". I wholeheartedly agree, and if you have been to my classes there's no need for me to assure you that I agree!

How much do I go on about slowing down? Any why do we slow it right down? moving as if 'through honey', stretching out the breath and the limbs from the inside out. We undo the effects of rushing.


Our mind in its panic urges us on. It gives us this constant 'to do' list, that if we were to pause to consider it, we'd realize has no end. As soon as we tick one thing off, a million others crop up. When we do yoga, we practice letting go of our concerns for a time. For some this involves powering through poses, exhausting oneself into distraction. But I dare to say that this form of practice, when it becomes habitual, can become simply that: a distraction. Pleasant for a while, offering a moment of respite but the mental sufferance will re-emerge.

If through our practice we can bring up this sufferance and let it play out, what would then occur? Can we give it space? Could it be that through our intention 'to do' away with this sufferance we perpetuate it? It is a brave act to confront it face on. To stare it face on, to watch it dissolve in presence.

And its in this space that a vast swell of creativity can arise that will lead us to new beginnings. Yogi live on.

Counteract the effects of rushing at my classes at YOGA AKASHA on Tuesday evenings 6-7p.m

golden ticket to fend off winter blues

In a move to help fill the lovely village hall in Forest Row this winter I am offering a class pass for all classes until Christmas to all of those who like & share my promotion on facebook.

It shall be arbitrary, I will handwrite all the names on pieces of paper, shake them around in a tophat and get a neutral passerby to pull a name out. Or something a little more 21st century!

If you are local, a yogi, or keen to try yoga ; I hope you feel inspired to participate!

click here for link

classes run: Mondays 9.30-10.45    Tuesdays 11.15-12.30    Fridays 11-12.15





Any attempt at defining yoga has always seemed to me to be necessarily limited. But then maybe that's just me, it is what I occupy most of my time pondering. 

How to define yoga? like this: it's not purely physical practice, got it. It makes you feel good, but sometimes not, got it. It's fascinating, to me it is. It has it's historical roots in India, ok. 


Things might get sticky at this point. We start to identify this thing that turns us on with a nation some distance away with a very rich and complex history, just as our own. We start to think we could never possibly even begin to understand what yoga is. I mean most of us don't speak sanskrit, we may not have even been to India. And yet this is where the chorus of angelic voices chants from, this is where the wafts of incense transport us to. 

The common conception of yoga looks something like this, bendy person on a mat, looking peaceful, contorting in a typically non-peaceful shape. Students come to class for the first time and are so surprised, it's much harder than they thought. The process of engaging the mind and the body at the same time; it has its challenges. This is yoga responding to a need. 

To me the definition of yoga is tricky because it has come to signify so much more than the original word yoga. Yoga comes from the root -yuj; to yoke. It has 'gathered' its own multiplicity of signifiers along the way, and it is gathering a very strong bunch of signifiers at this time, namely: peaceful, stretchy, sporty, physical, spiritual, odd, fashionable, hard etc. And the signifiers that I associate with yoga are more to do with the subtle realms: quiet, nuanced, slow and yes: strong and supple. 

I would like to see a move towards the subtle aspects of yoga. There is a good minority for whom this is happening and it excites me. Many pure hearted teachers are putting great work into helping people develop insight in their practice. Breaking through the surface or as my friend Flor Sylvester quotes: "working from the inside out" looks to me like the greatest need of this time. 

There is so much movement in the subtle signifiers of yoga, there is room for growth, for shape shifting for awakening. There is room for what is needed to arise. 

So when we stop hammering the doors of the body, perhaps we could knock gently and be let in. It is Autumn, the leaves are starting to let go, let us follow suit.

There's still space to join HILL YOGA from the 2nd-5th of November, come and nourish. 


fan mail

"The chain of lovely emails truly reflects what a magical retreat it was … 

I do think you have a wonderful gift and you give it so well… I certainly took some home with me… As I walked through my Mother’s door on Sunday night she said I looked so different … so good … so much better!!

I think the yoga had a great effect on me…. THANKYOU… I had tried a few classes of yoga randomly in the past but this time I really got it."

Sarah, Hill Yogi, October 2017

next retreat at Trasierra 2nd-5th November




your deepest vitality

Yoga asanas should never be practiced superficially. Surely we notice the surface, the direction the skin is pulled in, the beads of sweat gathering in the crevices of the armpits but we reach into the depths of our body for the juicy stuff, the transformative shifts.

The kidneys are the storehouse of our deepest vitality. Nestled as they are in the centre of the back, between the front and the back of the body, they are the deepest organs.

Their job is to filter the impurities from our blood and they are therefore paramount to true wellbeing.

Many yoga asanas have a direct effect on the kidneys, they are rinsed, squished, stretched and juiced up from without.

In Chinese medicine the kidneys are related to the element of water, to the ever-changing nature of reality. The element of water has to do with letting go; letting go of impressions, of impurities and even of life itself as we progress along the path of inevitable ageing and death.

The kidneys are also closely related to the ears and the sense of hearing; to sound. B.K.S Iyengar claimed that we practice pranayama with our ears. We attune to the ever-changing true nature of reality that is presented to us through sound. Reality, often obscured by the various robes it wears is stripped down as we sink into silence.


Begin by lying in savasana and releasing the jaw and the inner ear, then rest your hands to lightly cup the lower ribcage, feeling the floating ribs flare out to the sides. This way you are able to fill the lower lobes of the lungs, to expulse stagnant air and to deeply refresh. Take a few moments to deepen the breath into the lower ribcage at the beginning of your practice and notice how the awareness changes. Consciously pour the breath into the kidney area tuning into your deepest vitality.

Then you could practice a few gentle twists to wring out the kidneys:

-Bend your right knee and place the sole of the foot on the floor near the opposite knee.               -Press into the ball of your right foot to send the bent knee across the body creating a rich back arch along the right side.                                                                                                                       -Inhale as you do this movement and hold the inhalation feeling the internal massage of the right kidney and the stretch along the waist.                                                                                                -Return the sole of the foot to the floor on the exhalation and let it settle as you observe internal sensations.                                                                                                                                              -Repeat a few times slowing right down and then change sides.

When you’ve practiced both sides pause in savasana and observe sensations in the mid back. 

This exercise acts as a pump for the kidney, aiding its smooth function as a filter.

On our next Hill Yoga retreat from the 2nd-5th November we shall be looking at how we nourish ourselves. Come to learn more practices that will restore your vitality.