Monday, August 1, 2016

Yoga Retreat 29 Sept-2 Oct 2016

Join me for my 4-day yoga retreat in Sri Lanka this Sept 29th - Oct 2nd!
This retreat is for people who want to explore movement and yoga with fun and friends.
I will be teaching ways to use your internal power and energy to move gracefully and with ease, to move away from pain and towards free movement.
You will learn the importance of using active movements and how the key to better stability, mobility, and freedom is to learn how to firm parts that need to be firm and, significantly, relax what needs to be relaxed.  
In this retreat I hope to help you move closer to understanding and experiencing how this movement of energy will help every cell in your body to sing!
I have a lot of experience working with people with various injuries and I encourage you to contact me beforehand if you do have some sort of condition so that we can figure out if the retreat is appropriate for you at this time and how I might be able to help you.  
Because I am interested in you learning how to be your own best teacher, I will be offering sessions between the classes for questions and answers and for us to think deeply about particular issues or postures, so come along with some of your own ideas and questions and I can help make the retreat more personal for you. 
Check-in Thursday 29th Sept 1 pm- Depart Sunday 2nd Oct after breakfast by Noon
Venue: TalallaRetreat
Classes: Six 2 hour classes. First yoga class starts on Thursday afternoon at 4.30pm.  From then we will have 2 classes on Friday, 2 on Saturday, and 1 on Sunday.  
Aside from the usual yoga there is the opportunity to relax by the pool or at the beach, surf, get a massage, or just hang out.
Because there are limited rooms I am encouraging people to please consider sharing so that as many people can participate as possible.    Rooms need to be confirmed with full payment received by 29th August 2016.

The rate includes:
   All yoga classes
   Full board (tea/fruit before yoga; buffet style breakfast served at table; a la carte lunch (there is a menu to choose an item from), buffet style dinner)
You need to pay for any extra drinks or snacks you might have if the mega breakfast and dinner and light lunch still leaves you hungry!  
Normal timetable is as follows
6.30am                     tea/fruit (if desired)
7.00-9.00am         yoga
9.00                     breakfast
RELAX                  (have massage, swim, surf, read, have lunch around 1 or 2ish depending on how full you are after brekkie)
4.30-6.30pm         yoga
7pm                     dinner
The prices quoted below are based on 3 nights per person.   You need to find a person to share with if you opt for double or triple and Tilak can put you in touch with other people who may also want to share.  
Full payment is required by 29th  August.  You can make your booking directly with Tilak ( +94-773-912-100) and pay Tilak directly or he can provide a Sri Lankan or Australian bank account details for you to transfer to if that is easier.

Retreat Rates are as follows:
Sri Lankan citizens or with those with a Sri Lanka Resident visa:
Single 3 nights                   Rs. 51,000/-
Double (share) 3 nights     Rs. 41,000/- per person
Triple (share) 3 nights       Rs. 38,000/- per person
Non-Sri Lankan citizens without a Sri Lanka Resident visa
Single 3 nights                   USD 670
Double (share) 3 nights     USD 570- per person
Triple (share) 3 nights       USD 540- per person

Look forward to seeing you!

Much metta,

Sunday, July 24, 2016

10 Minute Practice: Twists in the Olives

I had the privilege of visiting Croatia again recently, to see a dear friend from way back when I lived and worked in Bangladesh.

Her talents and generosity seem boundless and, along with her partner, they produced this lovely video for me.

This is a ten minute sequence filmed by a lake amongst the olive groves that abound in Dalmatia.  The overall effect reminds me of practicing yoga in a Renaissance painting.

My friend, Mejrema, composed the music herself and it is from an album she produced while working with people with autism as part of an art in therapy project. It fit perfectly with the mood. It also fit perfectly with me since my full-time work is with people with autism.

I did not plan this sequence. We saw a beautiful scene.  We set up a camera.  I stood for a moment, took a few calm breaths, and practiced what came to me in the moment.

The sequence consists of some strong standing balances, but if you were practicing it you could modify it so you either kept your toe on the ground or you hugged your leg to your body, rather than straightening it as I do.

There are also some standing twists and side bends.  Again, you could modify these to your capacity.

When I reviewed the footage I loved how my knobbly arms and legs seemed to blend with the branches of the olives.

The olive is sacred to the people of this area.  I love how their silvery leaves sparkle in the breeze.

I smile when I see this video.  I hope you will too.

Happy and safe practicing!

Much metta,

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Waking up to a backbend

In this video, one of my great teachers (Paddy McGrath, Dancing Spine Yoga) got a small group together so we could give a taste of what you might experience with her (for more of her genius go to

We all met at the beach at 7 am.  For some of us (me in particular) that meant waking up a bit beforehand and heading down.

We spent a few minutes trying to find a place to rest my computer so we could take the video--a handy park bench did the trick--then lay ourselves down on the ground (very bumpy as it turned out with the beautiful tree above us having shed a bucket load of marble sized seeds!).

And this is what we did.

We did a few more things like that, backbends different ways, some backdrops, a few squats, a standing balance.  Then we closed up shop and went for a coffee/juice/tea down the road.

The point is we woke up and a few minutes later we met casually on the beach and did our flicking backbends then left.  We did not spend hours or even minutes 'warming up' or 'cooling down'.

We did do a few 'rolling wall squats' (a type of moving from standing, squatting, standing where you try to keep your weight forward the whole time and prevent your butt sticking up and shifting back while pretending to slide your nose up and down an imaginary wall right in front of you).

Then it was "lights, camera, action" on our wiggling spines.

We all practiced our own variation of backbending.  We all have different spines so that is normal. We are not going to look the same.  But hopefully we all felt the same inside.  That is, with a delicious free and moving spine.

These back bends were as normal as walking.  Just another movement/action in our day.

Hopefully you do not need to warm up to go for a walk or take a swim in the ocean.

And so we practice with our back bends.  As though they are just a normal movement and part of our day.

My backbend at 7am after waking is not the same shape as one a bit later.  Indeed, none of my backbends are ever the same. But if I work mindfully then I can still feel lightness and ease of spine no matter when I practice.

We did not do warm-downs, counter-poses or anything to finish.  We did do a short standing balance pose to 'give back' to our spines, which looked liked this.

And our spines felt delicious.

If your backbends in the middle of the day routinely feel squashed or jammed then you won't be able to do the same thing first thing in the morning and get a different result.  You might need to adjust your technique.

Paddy gave us lots of different ways to free our spines, with specific feedback that was unique to our level of practice, our level of 'mental preparedness', and our level of movement.  That is what makes practicing with her so special.

When you practice in a way that is not striving for a particular outcome, without over-stretching or tensing too much then you find a beautiful space to work in.

Thanks to you, Paddy, for helping us find that space, for freeing our spines, and supporting our realisation that dropping down first thing in the morning to wiggle freely into a backbend can be entirely normal.

To practice with Paddy go to

If you can't make it then you can meet me in Sri Lanka one day for a retreat.

And finally, I am not suggesting you all wake up and do backbends--especially if you have not learned to do them without squishing.  But perhaps be open to the possibility that it is possible and that there might be some teachers out there who can show you how!

Happy and safe dancing spines!
Much metta,

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Shoulder Opening Variations in Backbend

We introduced these tummy lying backbends in class recently.  There are a whole lot of things you can do with your arms in them.

This post is just for watching and not really for practicing until you come to class and I can talk to you and we can consider what is going on with your knees, spine, and shoulders and figure out what might be safe and comfortable for you.

Always remember you do not need to take your foot at all.  If you have troubles with your knees, spine, or shoulders you should talk to your teacher before you even consider it.  You can just bend the knee and reach towards your foot without actually taking it, as shown below.  For some people this will be enough.

Some other things to consider in the variations I show in the video is the shoulder is rolling out when you take it back.  It rolls in again in some variations and stays there or rolls back out again while possibly doing a variety of other things around the shoulder, shoulder blade and elbow joint complexes.

The point is, there is a lot going on around the shoulder joints and you really need to take extreme care before embarking on any of these variations.

For that reason I am just showing them here so you can maybe take a look in slow motion and have a visual memory of the movement patterns for when you come to class and we can discuss more in person.

The three shoulder variations I show in the video are shown below.  In all of these positions I am basically doing the same thing with my leg, which is to press my shin or foot away and then up. 

In these variations the hand can have a pulling action but I counter it with the pulling action of the shin and foot so that it is not just an arm pulling and tugging at the leg.  
I am mindful of how the knee is feeling and I don't feel squashing in the knee joint.  

I am mindful of how the shoulder is feeling and I don't feel over-stretching at the shoulder joint.

I am mindful of how my spine is feeling so I take action to ensure I am not bending through one part of my spine only.  In fact, I keep my pubic bone and lower ribs on the table, do a sit up in my tummy, and try to lengthen and wriggle my spine forward and up so that there is never squishing in my lower back and this pose ends up feeling great in my spine for all variations. 

I make sure I can breathe naturally (although the breath tends to quicken here).  I relax and soften my face.

These variations are tough.  They are not for everyone.  But remember the first option is also a good one (where you do not hold your foot) so you stay there as necessary.

Just for fun I also made this video of natarajasana on a table, which shows the same arm variations.  It is more tricky because you have to balance as well.

Learning on the table beforehand helps you sort out the feeling in your spine.

Happy and safe practicing.

Much metta,

Monday, March 21, 2016

Knees away, groins emerging for better back bends

This week I will be running a workshop delightfully titled 'Groins Emerging'.  Here is a little taster of Harry and I doing a little bit of synchronous work along that theme!

One of the key things we will be working on is the idea of softening and lengthening around the front of groin area as one of the 'tricks' to free the spine in back bending positions. I call this position knees away, groins emerging.  They don't get pushed or forced up.  They 'emerge' and soften as the knees move away.

This is slightly different to how many people are used to initiating a backbend.  To people newer to my class what I see are lots of pelvic curls and groins thrusting going on.  I don't want to suggest that this is a wrong movement.  But for my spine freeing purposes it can tend to jam you in the lower back.

So we will be working on figuring out some ways to first get length in your lower back.

Then we will move to some arms away and chest emerging, as shown below.

From there we might work towards combining those two elements (knees away, groins emerging and arms away, chest emerging) to see how it can support a possible spine lengthening back bend.

From there some people will possibly work on a bit more arms away and chest emerging to go deeper. But that is pretty tricky.  It is not for everyone.  

Harry and I went back up to our backbend to take a foot up.  But you could also do this (and we can try in the workshop) with the elbows on the ground like in the start position.  Maybe not.  I will be there to see what type of position will be helpful for you and it might be something different.  

We ended up where we started.  In our case this was on the road in front of what turned out to be the rubbish tip.  No wonder it smelled so bad.  Still, through it all we smiled and kept in touch with the core theme of knees away, groins emerging.  
Finishing up with a bit of eye contact, some shared laughter at our antics.  This felt beautiful to do together, almost like we were synchronised swimming yogis on the road.  

So join us for an extra special workshop on Good Friday if you are round, 9-11am (probably a bit later).  This is not for 'advanced' or 'extreme' back bending but for people who want to learn to move more freely in their spines, stop over arching their lower back and feeling all scrunched, and who want to hang out and share a few laughs.  

Happy and safe practicing. 

Much metta,