I was delighted to recently be a part of Fearne Cotton’s Happiness Project filmed at The Life Centre Notting Hill, where I teach my public classes. Fearne and I have been friends and practicing yoga together for years and to see her grow, become a mother, change careers and transform into the archetype of a woman all women aspire to be, is incredibly fulfilling.
In our society, it is hard to navigate our lives in healthy, positive and productive ways as the pull for instant gratification, craving and avoidance tends to be at the core of our suffering. It is all too easy to allow ourselves to contract in life, however, finding ways in which we can feel expansion is key to Fearne’s Happiness Project. Discovering and reinforcing ways to be drawn to contentment, serenity and happiness is essential to the expansion. Things like good food, self-care, moderate exercise, yoga & meditation seem to be the tried and tested techniques in which to sustain the experience of happiness.
Sure, life throws us speed bumps and curve balls and there are no shortages of pot holes in our path but along the way we become a sum total of all of our choices. Every choice we make leads us to where we find ourselves now. I find the more we are willing to be aware-full, awake-full or mind-full of our choices the better we have a chance of making our path paved with more experiences of delight, joy and happiness. This is what I have come to admire about Fearne’s Project as it illustrates this point marvellously. If we are skilled enough to see that the hardships are there to teach us something about ourselves and how we relate to life and to others and to be able to take responsibility for our (re)actions, the quicker we can continue to walk down the middle path of life and recognise and accept all it’s abundance.
I love teaching Fearne as it is filled with discussions about life, family, love and where we are going in hopes that in everything we can find happiness. She is an amazing role model and cheerleader for finding balance in ones life through constant checks and adjustments of her own life and through The Happiness Project, encouraging others to do the same. I encourage all my students and followers to have a look at Fearne’s Happiness Project and share this wonderful message.
Secret Yoga Club hosts a unique experience combining Yoga, Sound & Food at their supper club on the first Sunday of every month.
On Sunday, 3rd of July I will be helping to accentuate the evening through yoga encouraging arousal of the senses and stimulating desires through the art of movement. Music will accompany our practice with the sounds created by Susan Rozo and culminating with the taste of life at it’s finest with food by Chris Leach.
I am so happy to announce a wonderful Yoga retreat in Morocco at Azaren. As you can see, this beautifully created holiday home is fill with aesthetically stimulating details, spacious surroundings to curl up, renew oneself and soaking up the Moroccan sun which is all perfectly woven into the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains.
Yoga & Meditation twice a day, massage & hammam treatments, sun & pool, hikes & good food all resting in the most heavenly place. Pure bliss!
Workshop with The Life Centre Notting Hill, London – 12 June 2016
Roots of suffering can be branched out into 5 kleshas (mental emotional afflictions), our choices can reinforce this binding and can stain our perspective leaving one feeling alone, broken and in some form of dis-ease.
Our personal struggle has no “one size fits all” yoga prescription for relief. However, a bit of guidance from suggested living methodologies and a focused mind, heart and body can do wonders to alleviate that which creates the suffering. The hardest part of finding relief from suffering is identifying just what it is that causes the suffering to begin with. This workshop will explore different types of suffering in detail and create an active path to the relief we seek.
You will explore 4 steps to liberation from our roots of suffering, nurturing them with a bodhicitta state of mind, aware-full choices and reinforced practices to grow from healthier roots and soil.
Workshop with Yoga Campus London, UK. 16 & 17 July 2016
The treatment of addiction, depression, anxiety and other mental disorders is increasingly relying on alternative methods of therapy as more about the root causes of such disorders are understood. Treatment centres and psychologists are increasingly taking a page from the mindfulness movement to holistically treat patients that suffer mental trauma and the afflictions that are symptomatic of a life out of balance. Movement and breathing techniques have been proven to be effective to aid in recovery for all sorts of mental disorders and Yoga has risen to the forefront as alternative therapy in a science that up until recently focused solely on a cognitive approach to therapy. But, as the barometer for assessment and treatment of overall mental health changes, is yoga as a therapy really all that alternative?
The definition of Yoga has roots firmly grounded in a focus on self-understanding. The more we understand ourselves, our habits and our suffering the more we have choices to align ourselves with the true path and the state of balanced flow. The equilibrium and harmony of a balanced life takes in to account the spiritual, the mental and the physical. Yoga, at its fundamental core is an exercise in developing a strong and balanced state for all three. Yoga puts the same amount of emphasis on, and gives an equal importance to, the emotional health as it does physical health.
This weekend workshop taps into the Yogic roots of holistic health and focuses on the skill in action yoga creates, helping to bring self-knowledge and the ability to identify and enact constant beneficial corrections as we follow our path. The course is designed for Advanced Yoga Students and Teachers and will introduce an adaptation of the 12 steps of Recovery to develop skills that will aid students to identify suffering in our lives and how to move past them. We will use Vinyasa and Kriya yoga, as well as Meditation and Yoga Nidra to create bespoke therapies for the sufferings of our clients, our students and most importantly, ourselves.
Saturday 16th July 2016
We will discuss the basic neuroscience, behavioural patterns and simple techniques to support strategies in enhancing emotional well-being in a yoga practice. Zephyr will lecture on yogic theories and begin to map out the foundation in bespoking a client’s therapy to a client’s condition. Emphasis will be on seeing a holistic picture of a client by using the yogic sciences and techniques as resources to address imbalances. Application of these yogic resources will be through practice of Vinyasa flow and Kriya yoga.
Day One will draw from the the yogic principles of:
Sunday 17th July 2016
Turning the focus now inward and working on the 12 Steps ourselves, Zephyr will illustrate personally how this method works in creating positive routines and habits to help those suffering. Drawing from the wisdom of the Four Noble Truths, The Eight Limbs of Yoga and the philosophy behind Kriya Yoga, Zephyr will help students identify their own sufferings and how those may create routines and habits that can influence the paths we follow and the imbalances that arise.
Workshop with Yoga Campus @ The Yoga Lounge in Manchester, UK
The way we carry ourselves sends a message to the world conveying our state of mind, perspective and our physical health. To the trained eye posture is the tell-all for those suffering from pain and those that live in balance. The foundation of our body is inherently based on our feet, knees and hips and a little bit of TLC in those areas can have remarkable effects for our overall health. Our main objective with this workshop is to re-educate the body for pain-free movement by restoring postural balance, increase self-knowledge in dynamic flow, habits and routine and most importantly re-learn how to carry ourselves off the yoga mat.
Saturday 25th June 2016
We will look at specific alignment issues and causes of pain with a focus on the spine and postural integrity. Evaluation of posture will be our focus, however it takes more than just good posture to maintain good health and balance. We will explore methods of assessing problems with movement issues, the three diaphragms and also discuss the myofacial planes. We will explore techniques for dealing with Flexion and Extension Syndrome, while putting a special focus on understanding the focal points of weakness, stability and how they are affected by our lifestyle and genetic predisposition.
Saturday will introduce the importance and functions of the Pelvic Girdle. We will discuss and develop techniques for assessing problem areas and imbalance within the uniqueness of every pelvis. Hands on practice of applying and developing techniques that build alignment, flexibility and stability of the pelvis to alleviate pain and aid balanced holistic health. Zephyr will instruct students on bespoke yoga asana and basic massage techniques to alleviate misalignments and pain due to every day lifestyle problems.
Sunday 26th June 2016
Sunday will focus on anatomy and function of the feet, knees and hips. Working from the ground up, we will learn to see the body in action and how the interconnected lines of intelligence inform our patterns of movement and sometimes can result in pain. Approaching the feet, knees and hips as, literally, the foundations of our bodies’ health and balance, we will evaluate the alignment of the feet and legs and discuss how to assess alignment highlighting common problems, misalignments and causes of pain. By looking at the feet, knees and hips as the foundation for the spine and the connections the spine has to the rest of the body, we understand that this foundation is critical to supporting that well-being and balance for the entire body. The metaphor for the Middle Path as our centre of balance is well illustrated in the application of techniques for this session. Zephyr will use yoga asana and massage techniques as well as customised sequencing to create paths to long term healing.
Need a bit of juicy explanation for the universe? I have just read Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddess of Yoga by Sally Kempton which inspired my latest workshop. Perhaps you have been pondering the power of attraction since love was in the air last week. Or maybe you just need a lovely, re-vitalising savasana with visions of creation, eroticism and a healthy dose of the path to samadhi that will awaken your artistic side, creativity and sensual allure. This is the theme of my latest recorded savasana available now on my web site (see Track 3 on Zephyr In Her Own Words on the right side of the page). This is a recording from my workshop on February 21 where we focused on Lalita Tripura Sundari: Goddess of Erotic Spirituality of the three worlds.
Her power is the ability to carry us beyond the mundane through love making or inner mystical union and leave us with the highest form of spiritual bliss. She is the reason for the origin of the universe and continuation of it. As the story goes while Shiva is in meditation, nothing exists, the universe has collapsed. When she awoke Shiva, the universe was created and union between the two becomes one of the most erotic and enlightening stories ever imagined. The story of their union has become the aspiration of all who seek the divine and ultimate partnership.
She is represented in many stories in many ways but the constant is that she represents ultimate partnership, attraction (actually binding molecules together to create form), activity, bliss and even cleansing the doors of your perception to see the world as it really is: shimmering with beauty (Kempton, Awakening Shakti p.289).
We had a lot of fun discussing Lalita on Sunday, but I wanted to start this week embracing the coming of the new month, with a bit more sunlight in our day, to heighten the shimmering beauty around us and to help arouse the creative play and sensual allure that we all posses. Spring is almost here and with the coming of March the beauty of the trees blossoming, the flowers blooming and the birds singing are all that much closer to surrounding us. This savasana is designed to help you take a moment to take it all in, the creation of all the beauty, our innate attraction to beauty and observe the creativity and playfulness within ourselves and all around us.
The way we physically carry ourselves, our posture, our gait and our physical alignment sends a message to the world conveying our mood, attitude and our perspective of how we experience our quality of living. Those that are trained to recognise how the body is moving and what kind of (mis)alignment one possesses and how to correct it, can be incredible healers for those that suffer with pain. Using Yoga as therapy and addressing the underlying causes of habitual misaligned postures, the management of chronic pain and reeducating our bodies for greater well-being is one of the focuses of my upcoming workshop: The Middle Path.
In this workshop we will focus on our Flexion Addiction. An example of flexion addiction is illustrated by our modern human tendency to sit too much and for too long which causes movement syndromes leading to chronic back pain. This ‘flexion addiction’ creates a state where our body experiences amnesia and forgets how to contract or release, creating conditions for greater imbalance. The main objective for this workshop is to inform students on how to create pain-free movement by restoring postural balance. We will learn how to preform postural assessment and use yoga-asana and simple movement based techniques to therapeutically address the imbalances. Using the information gathered from the workshop we can start recovering from this amnesia, re-connecting and support this ongoing process of healing.
For more information on this workshop please click here.
My personal path back to yoga
When I was 20 years old I started having spasms in my lower legs and feet which would last up to eight hours. The triggers were frustratingly, very inconsistent. When I was finally diagnosed with a Talocalcaneal coalition and an inverted heel in both ankles (this is where the ankle bone and the heel bone melts together, damaging the joint movement, nerves and soft tissues) I was on crutches most of the time, being carried to the toilet and on heavy pain killers. My orthopaedic surgeon said I had 80 year old feet and that he could separate the joint, however he could not guarantee I would be free from pain. Upon hearing this news I sat at home defeated, thinking I would never be able to walk, run, carry children or ever be free from the chronic pain. I surrendered, as there was nothing else I could do to force the traditional medical community to fix me and in that exact moment a voice in my head said, “go back to yoga”.
I did yoga with my mum and her friends as a young girl, however, as a teen I rebelled as it was so boring. My time was better spent running in the foot hills of the Rocky Mountains, cycling, rock climbing and hanging out with friends being moody teens. After my rebellious stage I had not thought of yoga until I moved to the UK and became stricken with the chronic pain. When that little voice spoke to me I was aware of a few classes around the corner from where I worked in London. For the first six weeks I would go to three different teachers who’s approaches to yoga were all very different. I would sit there, listen and do the best I could to move and I would cry. I cried for two reasons: the first reason was that the pain was so intense to try and manage I thought that I couldn’t take it. The second reason was the vulnerability I felt in attending a group and showing that I wasn’t managing my body anymore. This realisation unlocked desperation, shame and an emotional mess within me. This was hard for the person I saw in myself, because she was strong, capable and independent. To need and accept help was the hardest thing to allow. Not only was I dealing with my current physical state, I also unleashed this part that was holding onto previous experienced trauma, fears of facing a lifetime of physical disability and the constant reminders of what I had lost…
I found that I was emotionally and physically melting from my foundation. About the same time of attending regular yoga classes, I saw a therapist that specialised in co-dependency family issues, and started attending regular Alanon meetings. I look back on it and see that the historical, emotional and physical healing all needed to happen together. I was able to start to see how my body walked, sat, and interacted with my life. Linking my physical chronic pain and my psychological pain together.
After some time, I remember a point in my yoga practice that I would be pain-free for a few hours. This grew to a day, two days, a week and now, I am with out pain everyday. During my first four years of practice, it unfolded a lot of other issues that my misalignment caused: sensory motor amnesia in muscles, acquired scoliosis, chronic headaches-migraines, a bulging L4 and L5 disk that caused femoral nerve misfiring; this meant that my leg would give out and stop working (falling over in the street as graceful as possible became a necessary skill of mine). I focused my time in rebuilding my body, determined to use my love for human anatomy and physiology to reeducate myself. I could see there was a line or ‘sutra’ that ran up my body linking all of it together in this matrix of emotional, mental and physical holding, that everything is connected, that nothing acts alone. My posture that protected me, however, over time was causing me further harm. I would attend every workshop, and consult every yoga teacher who knew anything about structural alignment. I was consumed with reading about the subject and filling my brain with solutions rather than focus on the problem. I give most of my credit of holistically healing to two teachers: Doug Keller and Rod Stryker, who have passed on to me the living traditions of yoga and therapeutically healing ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically.
Although I still have the coalition, I now know how to manage it. I have to keep my body strong as I have loose ligaments holding certain joints together and I have to release other parts of my body that work to stabilise my instabilities. I am conscious of my good and bad patterns. Though sometimes I may fall off my path and pain reoccurs, yoga gives me the skill and knowhow to take action to get back on my path for this continual healing and rediscovering myself at any given time.
The hard part these days is I see my ageing body with all my limitations and I look at the gymnastic yoga out there that seems to be capturing all of the attention and I wonder what is this movement really about? I catch myself comparing my practice to others and even yearning to do extreme yoga poses, which only leaves me with the residue of frustration and a lack of self-acceptance. But when I come back to my senses and recognise myself having a deeper relationship with my body over the past 18 years, with this maturity, I have accepted that I had to let go of certain yoga poses as they are not helpful to my condition and leave me in a lot of pain. I practice my yoga to create balance, to reconnect, embody and ultimately to prepare my body for my meditation practice. I want to feel good rather than look good. As hard as I am finding it, watching the popular world of yoga follow a path I seem to be diverging from, I have learned that along with Doug and Rod, I have to place my body, my will and my heart amongst my greatest teachers. I put my full trust into them. I know that the lessons I have learned from them will continue to serve me on this path and by passing on these lessons to others, will serve my community.
My upcoming Workshop; The Middle Path, is something I have been working on for a long time now. It is the culmination of years of study, suffering, heartache and most of all, restoration. The constant through it all has been my yoga practice, my struggle with physical pain and my relationship with the world of addiction and recovery. While I have never battled with addiction personally, too many people that I have loved in my life, have. The darkness it brought to my life was at times unbearable, yet I found solace through my yoga practice and the systematic approach to recovery that I chose to embrace. I also suffered through physical pain that came into being during adolescence and was only relieved in my twenties once I found the root cause of my pain and worked hard to counteract the part of my body that was at war with itself. I found a very personal and very pro-active approach to dealing with my suffering that involved yoga and meditation but also a serious amount of self-reflection and exploration of my choices, repetitive movements and actions. As I continued down my path I realised there are so many people out there suffering in so many different ways. Some suffer with addiction, some suffer with physical pain, some suffer with mental and emotional issues that are deep seeded and have roots that can take years to unearth. But the suffering is there and it is real and our ability to alleviate that suffering is inside all of us if we can only find the methodology and approach to recognise it’s roots, surrender to them, and work hard to move beyond them.
The Middle Path is that approach. It is something I have come to explore and celebrate in my life as it is the learning and understanding of how the philosophy of yoga can be of service to those suffering in all forms. The physical practice of what we know as Yoga and the philosophy behind it is a study of “skill in action” or put another way “informed navigation in life”. With the knowledge of ourselves and insight into why we have physical pain, suffer emotional trauma, or battle with any multitude of disorders, we can use active movement along with meditation and even breathing techniques to find an acceptance and a release of the cause of our suffering and commit to action and informed choices in order to be free. The knowledge and practice of The Middle Path is restoring the balance to our lives and relieving the suffering in a way that is bespoke to each one of us as individuals. It is using yoga as a transformative force for holistic positive change and helping others discover that change themselves.
In my life I have been blessed with the knowledge and understanding through the guidance of my teachers of what it is to really have self-knowledge and more importantly, how to use that self knowledge to create a system of informed navigation through life. I, much like many of my students, have been through dark times and the feeling of hopelessness is an easy adversary to surrender to. Those who live with pain suffer that same hopelessness and often have found little or no relief from western medicine. Hopelessness and suffering is a familiar spectre to those suffering from emotional and psychological affliction. It does not have to be like this. The simple acknowledgement of our suffering is the beginning to the restoration, balance and the relief that we can manifest. Each one of us has a very personal suffering, yet each one of us can have a very customised relief from it.
The Middle Path can bring that relief to you and those in your community. Finding a methodology for self-knowledge and learning to help others discover that same skill will be the focus of my first workshop. This will be the foundation that we as yogis can build upon to create an understanding and a practice of Yoga as Therapy. Join us and find out how you can help create a bespoke dynamic therapy for yourself and those in your community.
For more information, or to join us and register and click here.
Join Zephyr as she guides you through this workshop consisting of a short lecture and study of the deity, asana, mantra and meditation inspired by the Goddess Lalita Tripura Sundari.
This workshop will be playful exploration of self love from Lalita Tripura Sundari, the Goddess of Erotic Spirituality of the physical, subtle and casual experiences.
We will study her divinely desirable form as the Goddess, learn from her stories of the erotic play directing the outer-mind into the spiritual-heart. We will use the Shri Yantra as a map to carry us beyond the mundane to the sensual merging of our desire for self-empowerment and spiritual delight.
For the seekers who attend, she will awaken your creative impulses, the sensations that bring us into higher states of union of our male & female aspects, ultimately revealing a blissfulness to our meditation and yogic practices.
Suitable for all levels and genders.
21 February 2016, 2-4pm @thelifecentre Notting Hill £25
For online booking or more information click here.