Longterm Lockdown

So the shala has been closed again for the past two weeks and the lovely old room that you’ve all infused with your good energy lies empty. It’s a small hardship compared to what many people have had to go through but, nonetheless, it’s sad to see the place so lifeless. Those days in the shala when the energy is high, the mats are almost overlapping, and the steam hangs in the air, seem like something from another age by now. It’s hard not to feel nostalgic for those times, or to long for them to return soon.

But the reality is that we are in this for the long haul. We have to get used to the rollercoaster of lockdown and reopening, lockdown and reopening, and at the same time, we have to be conscious of the toll that it’s going to take on our collective and personal psyches.

There has been a lot of talk of “The New Normal” but we have to acknowledge to ourselves that none of this is normal, nor will it ever be. Humans, as well as so many other species on the planet, are social animals. We live in packs, herds, tribes, whatever you want to call it. Our evolution towards being the dominant species on the planet (for better or worse) depended on our ability to live with and to communicate with each other. When we’re not together we are diminished; somehow less than human.

And while we must, for our own sake, accept the situation we’re currently in, show equanimity in the face of these restrictions, and even try to embrace the whole thing on some level (because to rail against it just causes us more suffering), it’s also incumbent upon us to find ways to stay connected to one another.

At the beginning of the lockdown here, in March, we all took to online channels of communication with enthusiasm (remember table quizzes on zoom?) but I feel like the novelty of all of that has worn off.

In theory, we’re more socially connected than we’ve ever been before, with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp, Linkedin, Snapchat, TikTok but, in reality, both the art of conversation and our ability to make deep connections have been dying a death for a long time. Can we really get to know someone on Instagram or Twitter?

So sixteen years after Facebook arrived (and after we’ve all realised – on an intellectual level at least – that social media are, at best, just scratching the surface of what used to be normal in terms of social connection) we’re left in a situation, because of a pandemic, that we are more reliant than ever on social media to fulfil our need for human connection. And it’s not fit for purpose.

So what do we do?

I suggest that we need to be aware of the limitations of these platforms and to really realise the fact that they are more useful as entertainment than they are as a way to fulfil our need for social connection and interaction. That’s not even to mention that these platforms’ whole reason for existing is to exploit and subvert our need for social contact in order to sell us stuff (or, more accurately, to sell our attention to advertisers).

The reality of the current global situation is simply that we need to work harder than we’ve ever done in order to nurture our friendships. Meet your friends for a coffee, talk to your Mum on the phone, have a video call with your cousin, go for a walk or a run with your work colleague, go to the playground with your brother’s kids. Don’t just share, like and retweet things that your friends post on their social channels. That is not going to be enough this year. And in the long run, you will feel isolated, unseen, and unfulfilled.

We have to stay together, in our own tribe, and connected across others, or our very humanity will suffer.

Mind-altering methods

We’re all doing our best to try and maintain some semblance of normality at the moment. Some of us are embracing the opportunity for reflection, rest, learning, etc. and some of us are railing against the confinement, shaking the bars of our metaphorical cage and really struggling with the reality of the situation.

Actually, I believe that’s too simple a narrative because I think most people are actually more like me, swinging wildly and unpredictably between both extremes. Some days you feel punch-drunk, battered, and bruised. Others you find yourself rolling with the punches; ducking and diving; even throwing a few jabs back, in defiance of the fear and the confinement.

The last couple of days haven’t been great for me. I’ve been in a bad mood. I haven’t slept well. I’ve been having stressful dreams. I’ve been grumpy and short with my family. But I’m all good again today.

I know I’m not unique in this and, although we want to portray a positive face to the world, it’s important to acknowledge that so many of us are going through the same roller coaster of emotions. There’s nothing in our past that can have fully prepared us for the current situation.

So today I wanted to share the methods that I personally have found useful when my mind starts to sabotage my happiness. When you see it written down it’s very simple but any one of these things helps me to reset and to be more patient, compassionate and emotionally available to the people I live with, who I love most in the whole world, my family.


That can be yoga practice. It can be running, cycling, swimming, walking, stretching, lifting weights, dancing with the kids. It doesn’t matter what kind of movement it is as long as it gets you focussed on your body and less on your mind. It’s your mind that is the problem here.

As we all know it is usually our reaction to certain situations which cause us problems, rather than the situation itself. As Hamlet says “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

When we get away from our thoughts and into our physical sensations we usually begin, very quickly, to forget the negative thoughts we were experiencing.

Two minutes of movement can be enough to be of benefit. Even one minute. Set a timer for one minute and jump up and down on the spot as high as you can. I guarantee that your mental state will be different afterwards.

Have a cold shower

This is a more recent addition to my arsenal of mind-altering practices. You can build up your tolerance to cold very slowly. Just make the water a tiny bit colder for a tiny bit longer every few days. Or you can just jump into the sea if you have that option available to you. That’s even better because it’s also outdoors so you can connect with that inner need we have to be in nature.


This is the easiest and most readily available of all these practices. Just become aware of your breath coming in and going out.

This is another version of bringing awareness away from your mind and towards your body.

There are lots of ways to do this but I use a ratio of 2:3 for the inhale and exhale as recommended by Eddie Stern. I highly recommend downloading Eddie Stern’s Breathing App to start you off with this. It’s the most simple app you can imagine (and it’s free). Once you get into the habit you won’t need the app anymore. It’s a doddle.

This morning I felt a familiar negative feeling arising so I sat outside with a cup of coffee and did about 3 or 4 minutes of breathing like this. I came back indoors in a much better mood.



Entering into somebody else’s world can help us to take an exit from our own negative thought spirals. You don’t need to read Eckhart Tolle, The Dalai Lama, or the Yoga Sutras (although they’re great). It can be Dan Brown if you like, or Fifty Shades of Grey. The point here is to alter your internal landscape from one of thinking to one of forgetting yourself, not to necessarily do meaningful internal ‘work’ on yourself. I find there can sometimes be some resistance to serious literary works when I’m in a negative frame of mind. So just read what you feel like (but it has to be a book, not facebook!).

I personally feel like reading works better than TV or movies for me. There’s something more wholesome about it, and it’s silent which, for some reason, seems to help me. TV is the white-bread instant dopamine hit and reading is the brown-rice slow-release-happiness for me.


This is a tricky one at the moment for many people but, if you live with your family or with your partner, a good old cuddle can do wonders for your mental state. Cuddle your kids, cuddle your husband, wife, partner. Just make sure it lasts long enough to work.

I’d love to hear more ways that people get away from their own thoughts and into a positive frame of mind. I need all the help I can get some days!

Send us an email to share your gems of wisdom.

Continuous refinement

The long-term study of ashtanga yoga, like the long-term study of anything, is a process of continuous refinement. The longer we practice, the more knowledge we absorb about the system and, maybe, we start to gain some insight into the intentions behind it. When we reflect on the structure of the primary series, for example, we might start to question why we start with the standing postures, not the seated ones; why do the backbends only happen at the end; why do we have some really challenging postures in the middle and some more manageable ones further on? 

As we gain an insight into the structure and, therefore, the essence of the ashtanga system we may start to reflect on whether we need to change the way we approach the practice on a daily basis. If we find that we’re regularly experiencing niggles or injuries, it is incumbent upon us to investigate why that is happening. If we practice through pain for long enough it’s pretty likely that we’ll eventually stop practising altogether and so, although ashtanga yoga seems like a very strict system, we sometimes need to discover subtly different ways of doing things which will then allow us to continue to practice for our whole lifetime.

That’s not to say we should modify all the postures so that they are all achievable from the beginning. It’s my belief, barring underlying injuries or conditions which prevent it, that we should start off learning the precise system of vinyasas which constitute the ‘traditional’ ashtanga yoga practice. It’s important that there is some struggle in the learning of the practice; it’s in this struggle that we sow the seeds of the revelations that can come through practice.

It’s a bit like cooking. When you’re learning how to cook something new, you follow the recipe to the letter. And the first few times you make it you’ll do it exactly the same way. If it’s perfect and it suits all of your taste preferences you might keep making that exact same recipe for decades. Over time, though, you might alter the recipe to suit your own tastes and preferences, or you might need to alter it in to allow for some dietary changes (you’ve realised you’re intolerant to gluten or dairy, or you substitute minced beef for puy lentils because you’ve stopped eating meat). After you’ve made the same dish a thousand times it will bear a resemblance to the original one, but it’s unlikely to be exactly the same.

Maybe I’m stretching the metaphor a bit here but, if you were to pass on that recipe to somebody else, you might find yourself giving them the original recipe, without your modifications, so that they may start with a clean slate which allows them to alter it to their own preferences over time.

It’s important to me that the integrity of the ashtanga yoga tradition is kept intact for future generations. If every student who learned the practice added some modifications and then taught their own students the modified version, ashtanga yoga as we know it would be unrecognisable in just a couple of generations.

So I do believe that, when we start off we need to ‘follow the recipe’ that comes with the practice. But, if we find that we are suffering because we’re trying to strictly follow a strictly system, certain elements of which are causing us physical pain and suffering, due to our own unique attributes, history, genetics and injury profile, then it is important for us neither to continue bashing our head against that particular brick wall, nor to walk away and give up entirely, but to find a new way to approach a practice that has so much to teach us.

Let me be clear; I’m not talking about wholesale changes to the practice, leaving out important postures just because they’re hard, or adding in tonnes of new postures but, over time, we might begin to bring our own flavour to the dish that is ashtanga yoga. And that is entirely rational and sensible.

The most important thing, from a personal point of view, is that we find a way to continue to enjoy the practice into our older years. If we can’t do that then, no matter how dedicated or determined we are, we are likely to stop practising, and we will lose so much.

Enjoy your practice and go gently.

There’s a trap on the path

Does this sound familiar?

“I’ve been practising ashtanga yoga for six months/two years/ten years and I still can’t bind-in-marichasana-A / lift-up-and-jump-back / stand-up-from-drop-backs / insert-name-of-asana-here. I should be able to do this by now”.

If we practise ashtanga yoga for long enough it’s almost inevitable that, at some stage, we’ll fall into the trap of believing that we are supposed to achieve certain postures; because we’ve practised for long enough and regularly enough.

After all, doesn’t Patanjali say:

Practice becomes firmly grounded when done for a long time, without interruption and in all earnestness
(Sutra I:14)

First, let me say that these thoughts are completely normal and are actually part of the process. But it’s important to eventually realise that, this kind of thinking misses the whole point of the practice in the first place.

The point of yoga practice, as we all know, is to calm down the relentless spinning of our own mind. It’s right there in the second verse of the yoga sutras.

Yoga is the cessation of mental fluctuations
(Sutra I:2)

That’s the only definition of yoga that Patanjali gives.

And yet, over and over again, we fall into the trap of trying to achieve certain yoga postures, in the vain hope that this will get us closer to success in yoga.

Even though we know it won’t!!

What is wrong with us!?

When we catch ourselves operating on this level there’s a very, very simple remedy. It doesn’t work just to remind ourselves that the point of yoga isn’t success in yoga postures, because we already know that, and it hasn’t helped us from falling into the trap so far.

We should try to remember why we started practising yoga in the first place. Well, not what first made us decide to give yoga a try, but what made us come back for a second, third, fourth time.
For me, after my first ashtanga yoga class I felt a huge sense of peace, openness, ease, well-being. Physically speaking I felt amazing (well, tired but amazing!), but it also felt as if I had tapped into something deeper; some deep-seated feeling of both ease and vitality that I had rarely felt before.

Did I achieve any advanced yoga postures in that first class? Of course not, and yet I still vividly remember that feeling all these years later.

So is it necessary for me to achieve advanced postures now in order to experience what Patanjali was talking about? Absolutely not.

And yet…

We forget.

Until we remember again.

And then we forget again

  • when the next new posture comes along
  • or one of our friends learns a new pose that we haven’t done yet
  • or we’re unable to do something that we used to be able to do
  • or we see someone doing something fancy on Instagram
  • or we realise it’s been a year since we saw our favourite travelling celebrity yoga teacher and we haven’t yet nailed those couple of poses that he/she taught us last year, and he/she is coming back again soon, and we’re going to be embarassed, and, and, and
  • for a whole host of other reasons.

And so it goes. A continuous struggle.

Here’s the thing though:

We can use this ashtanga system to really begin to practice yoga, in the sense meant by Patanjali, very simply; by breathing deeply, always keeping our awareness on the drishti, and starting to pay attention to which of our thoughts are true and which are not.

If we practise in this way then we will always be going in the right direction, even if our ability to perform yoga postures is going in the ‘wrong’ one.

Be like the children

Like most parents, I try to be an example for my two little girls but, more and more, I’m realising that actually, they’re the ones who are teaching me how to live.

They dance with abandon the second they hear a tune they like; they spontaneously break into song in the middle of a crowded coffee shop or in the queue for the checkout at the supermarket; they’re so hungry to learn new things and have new experiences; and they lack any embarrassment whatsoever relating to their own bodily functions!

My 5-year-old daughter has, for a while now, been giving everyone who visits our house something to bring home with them. Our good friend and neighbour went home with 15 cent from her piggy-bank in his pocket this morning after dropping in for a game of Ludo with her and her sister. Yesterday another friend visited with his 16-month-old daughter. She went home with a teddy.

Most people say, “Ah, you’re very good, but don’t be giving your stuff away”. But it makes her so happy to give. She’s disappointed when they refuse the thing she has offered. It’s so easy to see that making other people happy makes her feel happy too.

Why is it that we tend to discourage this behaviour? And why is it that, by the time we’re adults, we feel like we need to hold on tightly to what we have; that if someone else has something that makes them happy (material or otherwise) we tend to feel envy rather than joy in their happiness?

We are conditioned to believe that the more we have, and the more we achieve, the happier we will be but, in reality, becoming unattached to the material world (vairagya) and being in the service of others are the things which can bring us lasting happiness and satisfaction.

We must try and follow the example of our children and revel in the happiness of others. Only then can we truly be an example back to them.

Yoga Sutra 1:33
Maitrī karunā muditopeksānām sukha dukha punyāpunya visayānam bhāvanātaś citta prasādanam

Stillness of mind is maintained by cultivating an attitude of joy in the happiness of others, compassion for the suffering of others, delighting in the good deeds of others, and disregarding to the bad deeds of others.

What is sufficient?

“Don’t think that perfecting an asana makes a good practice. Don’t think like that. Many students say, oh today, I caught my ankles in backbending, today is my good practice. Don’t think like that. Getting up and being on your mat, and just doing what you can, that is sufficient and that is your best practice.”

Sharath Jois

I came across the Instagram page of Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver last week and saw this quote beside one of the photos there. I’ve heard Sharath say something similar in response to a question during one of the weekly ‘conferences’ at the shala in Mysore.

I love how simple Sharath makes everything when he talks. It sometimes seems so unsatisfactory to people because they want everything to be detailed and complicated. There’s always the temptation to say “Yes Sharath, I know all that, but what’s the REAL thing that I need to know in order to progress”. But it’s simple. It really is.

Did you practice today? Yes or no? If the answer is yes then you are on the right track and you are (infinitesimally) closer to the state of yoga than you were yesterday.

Unfortunately these, instead, are the questions that we ask ourselves regularly: Did you catch your hands in Marichasana D? Cross your feet in Supta Kurmasana? Jump back without touching the floor? Get both legs behind your head?

And what happens when we achieve these ‘milestones’ in asana practice? We get another, usually more challenging, asana and the process of striving to achieve that starts again. Exactly the same. Why can’t we recognise this cycle? And the inescapable fact that it’s never-ending?

One of the first things we hear about ashtanga yoga is that there are six series of asanas and that nobody, except Sharath, practises, or even knows, the sixth series. Why, then, can’t we seem to immediately come to the conclusion that achievement of all the asanas is almost impossible and, therefore, that it can’t be the point of the yoga practice in the first place?!

Why do we continue to miss the point, over and over and over until we are broken?

This ashtanga yoga system is a trap. The progression of the primary, intermediate and advanced series fools us into thinking that we must master the asanas. The fact that the asanas get more challenging as we go further seems to suggest that we have to be able to perform extraordinary feats of acrobatics in order to gain the full benefit of the yoga practice. But it is just that, a trap. The asanas are not the point.

It’s fun to learn new asanas of course. And sometimes we need the challenge of mastering a new asana to give us the motivation to continue to practice day after day. We learn determination and, if we’re lucky, patience. So, don’t get me wrong; I encourage you to enjoy the journey of learning new asanas and to attempt to find comfort in each one.

But again, the asanas are not the point! We’re mistaking the tool for the function. The asanas are just a way of creating the conditions for the mind to spontaneously settle into stillness. We can cultivate that stillness in the crucible of daily practice but we have to be careful to keep reminding ourselves that the goal is not achievement in asanas but rather equanimity in all aspects of our lives.

All of that progression through the different asanas and the different series is irrelevant in terms of your progress in yoga. People are way too focused on the achievement of asanas.

If you read last week’s moon-day news you will have seen that I mentioned Sutra I:14 “The mind is stopped (brought into stillness) through practice (abhyasa) and detachment (vairagya).”

Whatever happened to the varaigya part of the equation? And how do we cultivate that? I suggest starting with the above quote from Sharath. Especially these eight words:

“Just doing what you can. That is sufficient”

Embodying the habits we aspire to

“Your habits are the way that you embody a particular identity. So, every morning that you make your bed, you embody the identity of an organised person. Every time you go to the gym you embody the identity of someone who is fit. Every time you sit down to write you embody the identity of someone who’s a writer. And so, in that sense, every action that you take is kind of like a vote for the type of person you believe that you are and, as you take these actions, you build up evidence of a particular identity. Pretty soon, your beliefs have something to root themselves in and that, I think, is the true reason why habits are so important.” – James Clear, author of Atomic Habits.

I recently heard an interview with the author James Clear, from whom I have stolen the idea for this week’s Moon-Day News. It struck me that how a lot of what he was saying could be hugely useful for anyone who struggles to practise yoga regularly, despite wanting to.

The crux of his philosophy is that, in order to follow through with behaviour-change we need to be focused not on what we want to achieve, but rather, on the type of person that we want to become.

We practise yoga for many different reasons and all of those reasons are valid. If you really think about it, though, most of our reasons are based on an outcome in one way or another; to achieve good physical health and a healthy mind, to maintain a healthy weight, to gain mastery of our bodies, to become one with the universal consciousness. These are some of the potential benefits and results that we are practising to achieve.

Despite these noble reasons to practise (who wouldn’t want all of theses things) we often need help in maintaining a regular practice.

What James Clear is saying is that, if, instead of being focused on these goals, we can think of ourselves as the type of person who, for example, doesn’t miss a day a of practice, then we are much more likely to follow through and eventually achieve those goals. True behaviour change comes about by changing our view of ourselves as people.

So, let’s say you only have three minutes to practise today. You no longer have to think “what benefit will I get from just practising one or two surya namaskara?” because now you are embodying the identity of someone who never misses a day of practice.

Some days it’s not about the benefits or results of the practice. Some days it’s just about reinforcing the fact that you’re the type of person who practises regularly. And, as we all know, regular practice is one of the most important elements in the quest to experience the fullest expression of yoga. In fact, according to Patanjali’s yoga sutras, if we practise regularly we are half way there.

Yoga Sutras, Chapter 1

Sutra 2: Yoga is the stopping of the turning of the mind
Sutra 12: The mind is stopped (i.e. the state of yoga is achieved) through practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya)
Sutra 14: Practice becomes firlmy established when it is done for a long time, without interruption and with a positive attitude.

I hope this change of mind-set might be helpful to someone reading this. Be the type of person who practises yoga regularly. That’s half the battle. Of course, if we’re in search of true enlightenment, we’ll ultimately have to let that identity go too, along wih everything else that we identify with. That is non-attachment.

Firstly though, let’s just get the practice bit sorted!

Our new shala is almost ready

Yoga students. The day has come!

We are finally moving on from what has been a wonderful chapter in the story of our little shala in Dublin. Our new shala is almost ready and we are so excited about welcoming you there this Sunday for our first class.

Our shala in Baggot Street is about to burst at the seams in its valiant, yet futile attempt to house all of you hard-working ashtanga yoga practitioners and it is definitely time to move on! We’re delighted that we’ll have more space for you all at the new shala.

Finding a new shala, negotiating a lease, and getting the place ready has been a long and difficult process. It’s almost four months since we were told that we would have to find a new home and, at the time, it seemed like we’d have ages to find a new place. As it turns out, we’ll be moving one day before our lease expires in Baggot Street. It has been a stressful process that I wouldn’t recommend you try!

Then, just when we thought we would have everything done and finalised, we were told yesterday that the building work won’t be finished in time for Sunday’s class. Boohoo.

So, unfortunately, we won’t have a shower for the first few days at the new shala. Our builder says he should have it all finished by the end of next week. I know a lot of you like/need to have a shower after practice and I sincerely apologise that it won’t be there straight away. Everything else should be in place by this Sunday.

We really did everything that we could to have it ready in time but, as almost anyone who has dealt with builders in Ireland knows, they sometimes disappear on you just when you really need them. It has been a frustrating few weeks, to say the least. Thankfully we practise ashtanga yoga and, so our equilibrium is totally unaffected by those sorts of things 😉

I had a brief moment of nostalgia in the old shala yesterday evening while I was teaching. The room was as packed as it has been for the last few months and, as the steam rose from the practitioners and made it hard to see to the other end of the room, it struck me how much the space has held us all and provided a haven for us to practise.

Students have come and gone, some have stayed a long time, some a short time, and some only made one visit. So many people have been nourished by coming into contact with the ashtanga yoga practice at our small shala. We’ve played our part in that but, as always it has been the practice itself which has provided all the benefits. Those of you who know us will know that we do not seek the limelight at all, but sometimes we do have to step back and pat ourselves on the back. We’re so proud that we have facilitated the emergence of such a special community of yoga practitioners. That’s how I felt yesterday evening as I squinted through the haze. We’ve done our best to nurture you all on your journey with ashtanga yoga and we are looking forward to continuing that journey in a new place.

A yoga shala, after all, is so much more than the physical building that houses it; it’s the students who really make it into something special. We love you all.

Healthy habits

There’s a lot going on this month. Luke Jordan is coming next week (which takes a lot of organising), we have a new shala in the pipeline, and I’ve got a big (for me) concert coming up in Cork in a couple of weeks.

I don’t tend to suffer from stress too much but I’m feeling it a little this last month or so. I’m starting to see and feel the effects of increased levels of stress in my life and it makes me feel compassion for those who live with stressful situations on an ongoing basis. I know that includes some of you who read this email.

It’s patently true to say that stress is a killer. It has actually become a cliché to say that these days. And I find that worrying. Stress has become the norm for many of us; at work, at home, with family, relationships, commuting, finding a home, you name it.

As a society, we’re starting to sleep less, move less, connect with each other less and our food choices are becoming less and less healthy as the decades go on. It paints a bleak picture of our future and that of our children.

There are, though, some beacons of light amongst us who can help us to combat this downward trend, and I think it’s helpful to share some of the things I do in order to help me lead a more uplifting life.

I eat mostly plant-based, whole, organic food. This is where we buy most of our veggies. For those of you who say you don’t have time to go and find organic food. Just get onto these guys. And sign up for their weekly emails. I find them inspirational.

I absolutely 100% need to get outdoors every day. And so do you. You know it. So do it. Go out and move around. You can borrow my kids if you need an excuse!

I listen to The Rich Roll Podcast almost every week. This guy, for me, is the ultimate lighthouse in the stormy sea. There are so many amazing people out there; teachers, mentors, or people who lead and inspire us by example. How many of them are available for us to listen to for two or more hours every week in our earbuds though? And all for free? Get listening to The Rich Roll Podcast asap!

If I’m lying in bed, unsuccessfully willing myself to get up and get on my mat I sometimes get the phone out and go onto The Happy Pear Instagram account. Seeing those guys swimming in the Irish Sea at sunrise every morning never fails to give me the jolt of positivity that I need to throw the covers off and put the coffee machine on! Be careful though, not to start clicking on all the other accounts or other apps that you’re addicted to on that iPhone!

All of these things are really great but, most importantly, I practice yoga every day that I can. Every day that I practise I am thankful for it. I have found that my life improves in direct proportion to the amount of time I spend on my mat that day, week, month or year.

Stress really is a killer.

And yoga really is magic.

P.S. You can’t really borrow my children. They’d freak out.

The cycle of long-term practice

Just as I was about to roll out my yoga mat yesterday morning my 5-year-old daughter Molly walked into the room. She woke up two hours earlier than usual and, despite my encouragement, didn’t want to go back to sleep. She was upset because a small, stick-on ‘jewel’ that she had gone to bed with on the back of her hand, had fallen off and she couldn’t find it in the bed. This is grounds for becoming inconsolable at the age of five!

I calmed her down and promised (actually I DOUBLE-PROMISED!) that I would find it as soon as her little sister woke up in the lower bunk.

Then I had a decision to make. Do I start my yoga practice and make her wait until I’m finished, maybe give her some colouring to do? Or do I be with her and spend some quality time with just the two of us?

I chose the quality time and we snuggled up under a blanket on the couch and I read “Daisy And The Trouble With Piggy Banks” to her for a full hour. Molly likes chamomile tea so we had some of that and then it was almost time to wake Anna (the almost-three-year-old) and get the day started properly with breakfast, hair-brushing, teeth-brushing etc. etc. etc…

So I skipped a day of practice.

Despite the fact that the choice I made is the patently selfless and compassionate one, I still have the small gnawing feeling that I’m a sort of ashtanga yoga delinquent for missing a day of practice.

The institution being represented by the man who is visiting Dublin this weekend might have something to do with the installation of those guilty feelings into my consciousness but let’s not get into that here!

I feel like, over the years, as ashtanga yoga practitioners we can be prone to swaying gently but surely between periods of over-exertion and periods of under-exertion. We might spend a couple of years practising really hard, pushing our bodies and minds to their limits on a daily basis. That can be a lot of fun, especially when we’re young and full of vibrancy, but it can also sometimes lead us towards injury and burn-out. Then we might spend another couple of years becoming a bit less energetic in our daily practice. We might do fewer asanas, or do them in a much gentler way and we might miss a day of practice here and there.

It seems to me to be a cyclical thing, akin to the cycles of inhalation and exhalation that we perform through our yoga practice and, indeed, our entire lives. Inhale is effort, exertion, energy, drawing in vitality. Exhale is relaxation, softening, surrender. The cycles of prana and apana happen not just on a minute by minute basis but also over the course of years and even lifetimes.

The idea that someday we will find the perfect balance is, I believe, a myth and I’m starting to think of balance as being something to be achieved over longer periods of time. Nothing is in stasis, everything is in flux and this too shall pass. A period of intensity will be balanced by a period of restfulness.

So I feel, for sure, that I’m in an apana period in my asana practice and, as much as I would like to engage in a long, strong, energetic practice every morning, I must accept and embrace the reality of my daily life.

And anyway, the blanket snuggles with Molly were great 🙂

Keep practising. Don’t stop. But just do what you can.


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