Monthly Archives: June 2012

Selfing – re-creating yourself


Mrs Lancashire Yogi is one of those women who simply (in Lancashire Yogi’s eyes) do too much. Some days, he watches her with awe as she builds Rome all in one day, and then goes on to do the same everyday.  She is one of life’s doers.  Amazingly energetic, a whirlwind in action – she is a master of the multi-task, and a harnesser of the herds of cats that we all call ‘life’. 

In many ways, we are all a bit like Mrs Lancashire Yogi.  Ok, with the exception of Lancashire Yogi!  When he reflects on their relationship and their approach to life Lancashire Yogi has been known to describe his missus as being like Captain Cook to his Aborigine.  Let me explain before I get hordes of irate emails and posts from off-ended people who are feeling that this description is inappropriate.  In fact, picture this. It’s a metaphor, and may not be a factual account but it’s used purely to illustrate the difference between the ‘Yogi and his missus.  

Captain Cook, has sailed the seven seas, found new lands, names new islands, discovered new foods and captured treasures for his queen beyond the realm of imagination.  He lands off the coast of Australia, and with his men, rows ashore. He clambers over the rowing boat and walks up the beach, determined to find new lands, name new islands, discover new things and foods, and treasures a plenty. And there on the beach beside the warm glowing embers of the fire, he comes across an aborigine who is playing his didgeridoo and relaxing.  Cook is desperate and uses a mix of sign language and drawings in the sand to ask where everything is, what resources there are here, and how he can get to them. The Aborigine, stops his didge playing, pokes an ember with a stick, leans back against the palm tree and shrugs his shoulders. Then he gestures to Cook to join him by the fire. Frustrated Cook stomps off with his men to search for treasure, food, resources and a new world.   Weeks later Cook and his crew return, overheated, dehydrated, tired, hungry, thirsty, irritated, desperate to get back on their boat, and eager to tell the world about their discoveries.  Cook spies the Aborigine, different tree, different fire, same Didgeridoo, with friends laughing, singing and enjoying the moment. Cook tuts and cant be bothered to approach the man and his friends and instead cajoles his crew to jump back into the rowing boat, and they row off to their ship. Months later they are back in England greeted to a heroes welcome, feted and celebrated as lords of the high seas, discoverer of new lands, and new treasures.  Meanwhile back in Aus’, our kind and friendly fella under the palm tree is jamming with his friends round the fire, enjoying life and enjoying the moment.

This illustration typifies Lancashire Yogi and his missus in extremis.  Lancashire Yogi likes nothing better than relaxing, playing music, finding himself and connecting with nature. Mrs Lancashire Yogi loves nothing better than finding new lands, and discovering jobs to do, and throwing herself into the job with a great vim and vigour. Lancashire Yogi is the Aborigine, Mrs Lancashire Yogi Captain Cook.

It’s without a doubt, that albeit, with a few glitches along the way, Captain Cooks’ discoveries and journeys have, over time,  been of great benefit to life, the world, and everyone in it.  And it is without a doubt, that the Aborigines were the original eco-warriors living an interconnected life at one with nature and in contentment.

There is always a downside for both. Captain Cook and his crew, probably upset a lot of good folks around the world and probably stole a fair amount of the discoveries he made. He probably got his share of aches and pains, and frustrations and upsets.  The Aborigine, didn’t ‘do’ that much.  Nothing new was discovered, humanity probably wouldn’t have evolved, new insights were not found and new knowledge left uncovered.

So both ways of life, have considerable benefit as well as risks and pitfalls.

One common feature of both ways of life however, was that both Captain Cook and the Aborigine found time for themselves.  Admittedly in different ways, and for different times, but Cook,  had his Sunday ‘day of rest’ and the Aborigine spent time with himself at rest. The only improvement to this was that Cook probably needed more time to recreate,  and less ‘do, do, do’ and the Aborigine probably needed less time to re-create and a bit more ‘do, do, do’.

When Lancashire Yogi looks around at people like his Missus rushing around doing a gazillion things to do, and then ponders why and how he manages to be so ‘laid back’ and chilled, he wonders whether we could do things differently, and like Cap’n Cook and the Aborigine – we could perhaps given ourselves a bit more time to return to who we are, and ‘be’ and a bit more time to ‘do’ more. On reflection, it is about finding a good balance between doing too little, and doing too much.   

As much as the energy and effort of the Victorians created a thriving and successful ‘British Empire’, and with it the many benefits and costs – one thing that Lancashire Yogi thinks that they really nailed down was the concept of ‘recreation’.  All over England are the remnants of ‘recreation parks’ and ‘recreation grounds’ – beautifully tended municipal parks where people would walk, picnic, play tennis, go rowing on the lake, if there was one, play bowls, listen to the band in the bandstand,  and generally relax and come back to themselves.

When Lancashire Yogi was a youngster he and his friends used to go to a ‘recreation ground’ – to play tennis and kick a football around. It took him a few years to realise that when his friends said, “lets go down to the ‘rec” they didn’t mean a visit to a beached sailing ship, wrecked inland, but the recreation ground.

Anyhow,  Lancashire Yogi likes this concept – and thinks it needs to be revitalised. He also thinks it would help us rekindle the meaning of recreation, if we were to break down the word from ‘recreation’ to ‘re’-‘creation’. It would remind us that we are spending time to re-create ourselves. 

In a blinding light of insight, Lancashire and his missus have realised that they need to get off the treadmill of chores, and tasks a bit more – and have some time for themselves – a bit of down time, – non-directed, not task-drive –  just time to ‘be’, and re-create who they are.  Energy experts might say it’s time to re-charge the batteries but Lancashire Yogi thinks it’s more than that – it’s time to come back to who you are and not be buffeted by the external demands that are either placed on us by others or that we place on ourselves.

You might find this a totally new idea, or indeed, you might have been doing this for years – either way, Lancashire Yogi and his missus are going to be doing a bit of selfing and re-creating and seeing where it takes them.  Hope you join us.



“Sticking around” – in Dandasana


This is one of Lancashire Yogi’s favourite asanas. He doesn’t particularly know why, but it has something to do with the fact that his upper and lower bodies are bent at 90 degrees.  The asana seems to be a good half way house between the more active standing postures, and the active moving towards passive seated postures.  Danda is Sanskrit for staff, or walking stick and the pose dandasana describes the straightness and strength of the upper torso and back when you are in this posture.

Lancashire Yogi tends to like abdominal exercises. It’s probably because he is now at the age in his life where when his love for chocolate and beer begin to play havoc with his shape. As Mrs Lancashire Yogi says, “a second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”. In Lancashire Yogi’s case, it’s probably more like “a second of eating dumb, a lifetime on the tum’”.  Anyhow, Dandasana is one of those poses that you feel more in your back, upper torso, and legs (if you have tight ham strings).  But actually it is a great abdominal exercise. Yes, read that again. It’s a great abdominal exercise. So if you are tired of crunches and other heavy duty abdominal exercises – you could do no better than spend some time in Dandasana.

  1.  Sit on the ground, stretch both legs out in front of you. Keep your legs and feet together with your sitting bones (the boney part of your arse/bum/derriere/bottom) level on the floor. Place you hands , palm flat on the floor to either side of your hips and with your fingers pointed forward, pointing to your toes.
  2. Breathe in as you lengthen your spine, and lift your ribcage upwards, away from your pelvis.  Gently drop your shoulders down, allowing your shoulder blades to come together.
  3. Roll your upper thighs slightly inwards towards each other. However keep your toes pointed upwards. Lift your knee caps towards your hips. Dont let your heels lift off the floor.
  4. Press down through your hands and sitting bones, to lift your spine higher.  As you do this you should feel your shoulders drop gently away from your ears, and the front of your shoulders roll open
  5. With each breathe out, you should feel your ears align over your shoulders and your shoulders align over your hips.  With each breathe in, you should feel the top, or crown of your head, stretching up.  Keeping aware of these points of alignment will enable you to keep in the posture
  6. Throughout the posture, focus on your breath, be mindful of your posture, and enjoy.


Anyone with acute back pain should consider trying this with modifications. People with long term back ailments who are under the care of their doctor or receiving medication, should exercise care and caution, and if in any doubt consult their doctor.

You can do modified versions of dandasana.  Lancashire Yogi’s favourite is by placing yourself with your hips and back against a wall and gently straighten the spine to be aligned against the wall.  The wall acts as a lovely, and easy support. If your ham strings are tight you can gently bend at the knees to flex the legs and ease those tight ham strings.  Some people find that by placing a blanket or rug under the hips, it eases any strain in the lower back by shifting the pelvis gently forward.


This asana has quite a few benefits:

It massages the internal organs

Strengthens the upper back

Strengthens abdominal muscles, lower back and thighs

Can soothe heartburn

Helps build postural awareness

Seeing the wood for the trees


Sometimes Lancashire Yogi is so focussed on all of the beautiful trees at the back of his cottage, that he forgets to see the wood.  Then he climbs up onto the rocks above the wood and looks down to see the beautiful wood in its entirety.

It’s good to see each individual tree – they are beautiful and unique.  But it’s equally good to see the wood as a whole.

Likewise it’s very easy to struggle on specific contortions in a yoga posture – an arm here, a leg there, a twist round, a hand this way, a foot that. Particularly when we are learning a new asana the focus is very much on each individual body part of the posture. As we grow and learn into the posture we gradually begin to ease our concerns and effort for each body part. But we also begin to see the whole posture and appreciate the whole as the sum of those parts.

For beginners it’s often very frustrating but its worth sticking with the effort, and then to eventually appreciate the whole posture. As you learn the posture – you do eventually see the wood for the trees.  And over time, you may find that your yoga practice is becoming a bit of a vast forest.  It’s beautiful and profound and worth sticking with.


Animal Yoga


“Animals!” shouted Vera who lives down Lancashire Yogi’s lane. “They’re all animals and should be ashamed of themselves” she yelled. Lancashire Yogi likes Vera and she is passionate about life. What was up with her today?  Vera walked round to Lancashire Yogi’s cottage and knocked on the door loudly. “I’m in the greenhouse Vera” shouted Lancashire Yogi. Vera stomped over and plonked herself down on an upturned milk crate. They make good seats around the veg patch.  The long and short of Vera’s lament was that some passersby had dumped some rubblish over her front garden. She was furious with them.  Lancashire Yogi was sad about all of this: sad that the passersby had tipped rubbish, and sad that Vera was upset.  Having helped her clear up the rubbish, Lancashire Yogi made Vera a cup of tea and we sat down to ruminate on life.

There was one thing that Lancashire Yogi wanted to clear up though. He thought that Vera shouldn’t have called the rogue litterers ‘animals’. It was Lancashire Yogi’s view that animals generally don’t create rubbish and are generally nature abiding. Vera agreed with Lancashire Yogi, because she knows that her chickens are sensitive creatures and generally concerned about their environment.

When Vera had downed her tea and gone back to her cottage, Lancashire Yogi got down to some serious weeding and thinking.  To call someone an ‘animal’ is generally regarded as a term of abuse; but in Lancashire’s experience most animals are fine unless abused themselves. Infact he has known animals that could shame human beings in their sensitivity and the lives they have lived.  More tellingly though it seems that the yogis of ancient India knew a thing or too.  Go through a list of yoga asanas and you can’t help but be struck by the number of asanas (postures) that appear to have been influenced by animals. 

Lancashire Yogi’s two favourite asanas are cat and downward facing dog, as well as it’s counterpose, upward facing dog.  But there are loads of other animals that have been the model for asana, and although the list is not exhaustive they include Cobra, Eagle, Dog, Cat, Camel, Fish, Cow, Lion, Rabbit, Frog, Peacock, Dolphin, Pigeon, Tortoise,  and Locust to name but a few.

The beauty of these poses (like other, non-animal ones) is that they seem to work at a deep level on your psyche and physique. When you do the posture, you almost become the animal in all it’s noble glory.

Lancashire Yogi likes to practice animal asana both on the list and off the list. What does he mean by this? Well, there are a number of well known, and listed asanas – cat, dog and cobra are good examples of this. You find the detail of the asana in all classic and good yoga books and you can practice them.  But there are occasions when Lancashire Yogi likes to go off the list and explore other postures which are not typically asanas in the classic yogic tradition, but nevertheless are fun, powerful and healthy. His favourite is the bear. He gets down on all fours and lolls around the house like a bear. He understands that body-weight exercisers do this exercise – infact Mark Lauren the great proponent of body-weight exercise has this in his book ‘You are your own gym’.  There are some serious heavy-duty exercise freaks who love this exercise for example at Wild Man Training they tell it like it is.

So, you can mix and match your classic animal asanas with other animal manoeuvres like the bear crawl – and you can even make up your own too.

Vera’s Chickens make one heck of a clucking noise out the back; but Lancashire Yogi loves to strut around in the funky chicken sometimes and most of the time he ends up laughing and everyone else laughs either with him or at him – which is fine too.

If you are feeling a particular emotion and want to model some of the opposite – animal asanas are also good for this. Lancashire Yogi can’t think of anything better when he is seriously wired and hyperactive than to go into tortoise and mellow down.

As always, enjoy exploring these asanas and movements – and be grateful for the animals who help us model them; and for those ‘animals’ who help us self-realise too.


Gullible Gullivers


Lancashire Yogi has just finished re-reading a great book by the great seventeenth century english satiricist, Jonathan Swift – ‘Gulliver’s Travels’.  It’s an interesting satire on the nature of man.  Lancashire Yogi bets that there must be a great many detailed analyses of the book, and its many variations since it was first published by Swift.

Attributed to the GNU Free Documentation License.

The part of the story that captured Lancashire Yogi’s imagination was when Gulliver was shipwrecked and woke up in Lilliput, surrounded by Lilliputians who, were armed with bows and arrows, and spears poised and aimed at him. When he struggles to rise up, he realises that he is well and truly tied down. In many ways we are all a bit like Gulliver, and all a bit gullible. We wander through life, space and time, in and out of relationships and interests.  Sometimes we are larger than life, sometimes we are quite small.  Sometimes angels, sometimes devils, and sometimes human, and sometimes animal. Isn’t that a bit what Swift is saying?  But more importantly to Lancashire Yogi this part of the story is about what ties us down. And ultimately what we can do to free ourselves from these ties. You see, Gulliver is massive compared to all the little Lilliputians with their tiny pinprick arrows and spears.  What keeps him tied down, and ultimately captive?  Lancashire Yogi thinks it’s Gulliver’s fascination – his attraction to the experience he is having. He is captivated by the little people and their world.  And for Lancashire Yogi this is the point. Like Gulliver we are tied down by the many things in life that attract us and draw us in. We become enmeshed in so many things, until we can’t move free. We are drawn in and enmeshed, sometimes addicted, sometimes just tantalised. But nevertheless, we become tied down. Though we are bigger than the things that tie us down; we somehow acquiesce and become a prisoner of them. What are those things that tie us down?  Lancashire Yogi thinks they are different for different people. He has a soft spot for good english beer, fair trade chocolate and musicals. But that’s just the start. He gets tied down by frustration, anger, sadness, happiness, love, hope.. and so many such feelings that its amazing that he gets through the day. He hears that most people are similar. Yoga practices help. They help Lancashire Yogi neutralise these feelings and the various addictions and obsessions that he has, let alone all the other stuff that gets chucked at him in his daily life. The first step in all this though is to have a bit of an analysis and see what ties you down. Assuming you don’t wish to be tied down and held prisoner – then assess what you can do to free yourself from the ties. Yoga asana is a good starting point. Meditation can help.



What you see is how you are


Patanjali wrote in his fourth yoga sutra: “Vritti sarupyam itaratra” which is translated by Iyengar as (outside of yoga – at other times), “the seer identifies with the fluctuating conciousness”, Taimni  translates this as “in other states there is assimilation (of the seer) with the modifications of the mind”  Swami Satchidananda translates this as “at other times, the self appears to assume the forms of the mental modifications”. Desikachar translates this as “in the absence of the state of mind called yoga, the ability to understand the object is simply replaced by the mind’s conception of that object”. Geshe Michael Roach’s translation suggests that the seer of the object follows the form of the turning of the mind.

All of these translation suggest that outside of yoga the mind can be turned by whatever one sees, hears or feels. The objects outside of us can, if we let them allow our mind create a false conception of them.

This can be summed up a bit by the paraphrased version of ‘twinkle, twinkle little star’.  The paraphrased bit is “what you see is how you are”. It’s also summed up with the great english phrase: “laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone”.   Lancashire Yogi knows that if you conceptualise something as good, because you feel good, it will probably be good. But all of a sudden it becomes bad. And then you feel bad.  The great cycle ride up Pendle Hill and the gorgeous views across the Ribble Valley are suddenly spoiled by the down pour of rain. How can that be? The view is still the same, the trip was too, and Pendle Hill hasn’t shrunk.  It’s just our conception of the rain that changes our mind which then labels the experience. It’s “ruined the day”, or become an inconvenience. How awful!  We could be singing in the rain as we bomb down Pendle Hill, rather than complaining about it.  What an amazing end to a great day!

The trick of course, is to maintain a mind that is neutral and objective – seeing, hearing and feeling things as they just are, not how we think they are or how we feel.

Yoga practice can help you do this.

Meditation is the “Royal Route” to this but meditation is a hard thing to start in this crazy, 24/7 world where our minds and bodies are facing demands all, or most of the time.  So the best thing to start doing is yoga asana – the postures.  Find a class, or get a book as a starting point and start some of the simple postures first.

After a while of practicising the postures – you might find that you are ready to meditate. Sitting quietly doing nothing is very very hard for most people to do, and in reality meditation is simply not just sitting quietly with an empty mind, doing nothing.  Meditation is hard work.  So the suggestion is to repeat a mantra or find a nice piece of poetry or scripture and recite it, slowly learning it as you go.  Lancashire Yogi reads the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras. But one of his favourite pieces is the Prayer of St Francis which you can find here.

Best wishes,

Asana reflections


“Be mindful!”,



Those are the usual cries Lancashire Yogi hears when he is in his asana class – or in his practice at home.  But what does go on for Lancashire Yogi when he is doing yoga asana? It’s interesting.

You know the person who looks like they are in a perfect asana posture and you think they are hitting good karma and realisations and emptiness…and then you chat afterwards and they spent the whole session worrying about the shopping or the size of their ‘butt’ or wondering if they were doing it right, or maybe even thinking that they were better than someone else in the class or that someone was better than them in the class…..

You get the picture. Just settling into a good looking posture or asana is only part of the picture. It’s not just what is happening ‘outside of you’ it’s as much about what’s going on inside of you.  Reflecting on his practices (in class and on his tod) Lancashire Yogi finds it helps to think about four elements.

Actually these are pointers that the brilliant Sarah Beck, Yoga Teacher trainer, and teacher of lucky recipients of her yoga knowledge suggests that Lancashire Yogi and his wonderful student teacher colleagues and comrades consider in their practice:

1) What is my attitude to my practice? Is it competitive or non-competitive? An internal or external focus? Is my mind busy or quiet?

2) How is my breath and use of breath during the practice?

3) How do I judge my asana to be the right intensity for myself?

4) What do I observe in myself – using concepts such as  “playing the edges”, using ujjayi or “exploring the lines of effort”….

Lancashire Yogi loves this kind of reflection. He finds he is compelled to sit right down and right a note after each practice. And that is what he has been doing since his last session with the brilliant Sarah. 

So what is going on inside?

Lancashire Yogi thinks its very much about what’s going on in your mind in the build up to the session, during and after.  It’s a bit like that monk story where two monks come into a village and get chatted up by the local beauty.  She really turns on the charm, and one of the monks is flattered and obviously quite smitten by her. As they walk away they see a river and the love-struck monk admits he can’t swim. The other monk gives him a piggy-back across the river. When they get to the other side the love-struck monk is now full of remorse and guilt and self-flagellation. They keep walking and the love-struck monk falls to the ground, wailing, “oh why did I let that girl tantalise me so much”  he cries. The other monk crouches down, “brother, I carried you across the river. why are you still carrying your local village beauty?”.  Attending yoga class can be a bit like that. You come into the class and start practicising, and then wham, a thought from the day comes zooming in and you are away, without focus, breath or attention.

You’ll be surprised.  Lancashire Yogi isn’t perfect. Not by a long stretch. Heck, he’s probably got a zillion lives to live before he even gets to first base… So there are many sessions when he comes to the class, or gets down on the mat and finds his mind shifting and focusing on stuff that he really should have left back in the house, or the office, or on the road.

Lancashire Yogi finds little pricks of competitiveness. He sees a good asana from a class mate and think “oh they are better than me” – but most of the time he finds he is competing with himself – “last week I was better”, “last year I could do this, or that”. 

Generally he has a strong internal focus but it just takes a funny word from the teacher, a smile from a friend, or a frown from a co-practitioner, or the ambulance outside, to shift his attention.

He works hard to bring his mind back to the internal focus but it is tough. Mostly if he meditates before an asana session, with some serious chanting – he finds this stills and focuses his mind.  His favourite and usual chants are “om”, “om mani padme hum”, and “om vajra guru padme siddhi hum”.  These chants seem to knock the busi-ness out of the mind and help bring stillness and focus.

During a session, Lancashire Yogi finds breath, and breath finds him. On a good day it’s a consistent partnership between breath and body and mind. On a crazy day Lancashire Yogi finds that its a tussle between his breath and body or breath and mind or body and mind!  When he remembers to breathe – it infuses his practice with vigour: life, light and love. He feels energised and can breathe into the edges of his practices – what Sarah Beck calls “playing the edges”. 

Lancashire Yogi loves the Dandy Warhols and their song “the last high” is how Lancashire Yogi feels when he breathes into his practices to perfection.  You can hear the song here. Of course your practice might be so far away from this that you think “what the heck is he on?” but that’s the beauty of the practicing life.

Judging the right intensity of asana practice is one of those wicked things – you can either under do it (boring, lazy, so what?!),  over do it (ouch!) or get it just right. This might be driven by the gunas.  Lancashire Yogi finds it’s a bit like archery. You get everything right and then just let go into it. In the case of archery, you hold the bow and the arrow, and then pull back with the correct tension and breathe out and let go. The arrow and the bulls eye do their own thing.  Your just creating the environment for it to happen with your being.  Same with asana. You get the alignment correct, the limbs moving in the right way, the breath flowing and assisting the movement and the mind itself in the movement.  When everything is set up and ready,  you then just move with the intensity of the moment. 

The right intensity is driven by the moment, particularly when all the components are in place such as alignment, breath, emptiness of mind.  Sometimes Lancashire Yogi confuses anger for intensity, and passion for intensity, and then he knows that he is in the world of appearances and ego rather than pure yoga. And that means going into emptiness or neutrality through breathe work, chanting or body work. Sometimes working the edge – taking your body right to the edge of its ability can bring you back to the right intensity, avoiding anger or aggression or laziness.  It’s worth exploring this.

Lancashire Yogi loves playing the edges. In Trikonasana he loves the feeling of complete openness and the expansion from his centre out to the edges of his hands, and feet and of course his mind. Pascimottasana is another asana that Lancashire Yogi loves to play the edge of – as well as matseyendrasana. These are asanas that he loves exploring the edge.  He loves finding the edge of his physical being as much as the edge of his awareness and working along that edge without tipping into frustration or laziness or boredom.  Rather they aid self-realisation when the edge is worked well. When Lancashire Yogi find himself tipping into frustration or boredom, he breathes in and gets centred, and then finds a new edge of awareness or physicality.

He loves hearing his teachers say “breathe”, particularly when he is in an asana and isn’t breathing, rather he finds himself holding his breath or panting.  Kit Hartley in Burnley and Colne, and Rosemary Board in the Ribble Valley are excellent at reminding practitioners this, right at the best moment – their teaching is perfect in this regard. It’s a bit like Gurdjieff saying “stop”!. Those requests themselves bring new life into the practice. Lancashire Yogi considers that this is the benefit of having a teacher – an outside voice guiding you along.  

But ultimately the practice is an internal practice manifested in the physical postures which if practices correctly can help the inner life come to realisation too.

What’s with the seal picture you may ask?  In the Spring Lancashire Yogi spotted this fella on the beach. Some people thought he was lonely, others thought he was bored, yet more claimed he was stranded, while a couple of people thought he was happy, enjoying himself.  Some kind of expert on these things told us all that the seal was a young fella who had been in a fight and was taking some time out to enjoy the sun and prepare to go back into the fight with another seal. Just by looking at the fella we all came to different conclusions.  Leaving the beach and the seal fella, and returning back to the mat…it’s probably best just to focus on your own practice and not worry what the fella or lass next to you are up to, or doing and it’s certainly a good idea to leave your baggage at the door before you practice. You see, like that seal fella basking on the beach – there are so many interpretations and really the most important thing is what’s going on for you.