June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly after Indian Prime Minister, addressed the United Nations General Assembly last year.  What’s App Doc ponders the potential impact of this intervention.  Casually surfing through calendars of national events reveals a perplexing mix of days to be celebrated. For instance Diabetes week and National Picnic Week take place in the run up to our inaugural International Yoga Day on the summer Solstice, which is shared with Fathers’ Day. Following this we have Wrong Trousers Day. So much to enthuse about here but I will try not to lose focus. What interests me is that India is embracing yoga again in a way that celebrates and promotes it in a social and holistic manner. "Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being", says Narendra Modi when addressing the UN.  Shripad Yesso Naik has become India's first minister for yoga, with plans to reclaim the practice as "India's gift to the West". Indian officials plan to reintroduce yoga into all facets of civic life, including more than 600,000 schools, thousands of hospitals and police training centres. This demonstrates that yoga is so much more than just a physical practice and has potential to improve well-being at a societal and population level as well as for individuals. Sometimes the old solutions are the best and most elegant. Our current technological revolution purports to enhance our lives in so many ways, but let’s look a little more closely at that assumption. Tablet computers, smart phones, internet TVs and now watches facilitate instant gratification. We can shop, chat, watch movies and work on the hoof twenty four hours a day. Agreed this is convenient, but does it make us happier and healthier? In my professional experience this is not the case; many people come through my consulting room struggling with the demands of modern living. They experience stress, anxiety, insomnia and physical ill health as a result of technological advances rather than these advances offering solutions. The ancient practice of Yoga is arguably a perfect counter balance to the intensity and pace of the silicon age. It encourages us to slow down, be mindful and seek grounding and balance. The goals are the journey itself and will be achieved over a lifetime of practice rather than at the click of a mouse. I am no Luddite. I embrace smartphones, Apps and internet shopping. But Yoga helps me find a balance so that I am not overwhelmed by the pressure to move to 24 hour access to everything. I value the rhythm of the days, weeks, months and years. Yoga is my companion through these cycles. So I for one will celebrate International Yoga day. For time management purposes I will have a healthy picnic on hand and dedicate my sun salutations to all yoga dads. I may need to borrow Matt Ryan’s fabulous trousers to cover all bases.   Matt Joslin
I am proud to be a GP settled in Manchester city centre after having trained and worked in Cambridge, London and Brussels. Being a family doctor is one of the best and most varied jobs. The world with all its problems can walk through my office door and I am invited to collaborate in helping out. In recent years yoga has become an increasingly significant feature of my life. As well as getting me in the best physical shape it has helped me through stresses and depression. I attend several Yoga Manchester classes on a weekly basis. More and more I share my experience of yoga with colleagues and patients. It has become a lifelong friend.
     
Nothing has pressed my buttons more than a Mysore-style practice and revealed so starkly my healthy, pesky and sometimes detrimental tendencies. In March 2012 I took the leap from led classes and a romantic home practice (I.e. fancy postures I felt good doing and danced my way through) and stepped into a Mysore-style class at the much-loved Palatine Road venue with its single-glazed windows and rickety floors. As Matt and the rest of the students began to sing the opening chant, I stood on my mat feeling like I'd accidentally walked into a cult gathering with its special language and esoteric ways. Then I began the first salute and instantly felt exposed: where was the guidance, the instruction, the teacher? Oh mummy, I was in this on my own, but not like at home where there's no one to spot my mistakes; here, the teacher may see or hear me miss a posture or breath. And he did. As I was in my full stride, I vinyasa'd confidently from Purvottanasana to Janu Sirsasana A only to hear, "Where's the other two?" I hadn't a scooby doo what Matt was talking about, I'd never done those postures in the correct order before. And this is where the beauty of Mysore-style teaching comes in. I was shown Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana and Tiryangmukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana and how to practise these according to my ability while the girl opposite me sat with leg behind head, and the chap behind stuck with standing sequence. Still, I couldn't help but compare myself to those graciously folding forward while I struggled not to topple over in Tiryangmukha. "I'm so embarrassed, I feel like an eejit, I bet Matt's wondering why I bothered" came the mental rhetoric which was thankfully buffered by the stronger concentration applied to finding steadiness in crazy postures such as Marichiasana D and Bujapidasana. Yoga comparisons It wasn't until shoulderstand I had a lucid moment of seeing my thoughts and reminding myself these were just a reflection of deep-rooted thought patterns (I learnt soon after these are called samskaras). Fast forward two years, a fair few Mysore-style Intensives, and a now unromaticised home practice, the mind space Mysore-style helps to gauge is becoming wider with each practice. The group energy helps to feed me when I really want to stop, and my self-criticism and comparisons are instantly exposed before they take root. And so a new, healthy pattern, samskara, is being forged: awareness of the self-judgement and the ability to form non-attachment, vairagya, to the oh-so addictive negative thoughts. "It's like being transported into a parallel universe", a friend recently said, and while I get the sentiment, it would be more accurate to say "it's being in the actual moment", one that's more or less free from the projected mind stuff so long as the awareness remains and the asanas don't become another tool to beat oneself with. And sometimes I experience this too, but through the continuity of practice, I'm becoming ever clearer on all the internal crap that was rumbling on inside of me. So without it being too much about navel gazing, which can be the other side of the ego coin, I do my closest approximation of the postures, observe what arises, and simply move to the next without needing to find why such a thought or feeling is there. Yoga can be a transformational practice: physically toning the body, but more importantly, steadying the mind so we feel 'whole' - Mysore-style is an acute way of accelerating this process. With its emphasis on the individual and your classmates, I suppose it could be likened to group therapy, however, the words are replaced with our expression of the asanas. Yes, the intensity of Mysore-style can be daunting, but isn't all change? And that's what Mysore-style represents: the opportunity to open Pandora's box in a safe and supportive environment, so we can take what we've experienced on the mat to get rid of the stuff that no longer serves us, and reconnect with that which makes life simpler, more honest, and above all, happier. Step out you're comfort zone. It won't be easy but it will be worth it. Visit here for details of the next Mysore-style Intensive Mysore Manchester                       Charlene teaches regular classes with Yoga Manchester and Yoga Express. Visit her teacher profile for more information. Charlene McAuley
The February Mysore Intensive will be March 18 - 22 at St Clements Chorlton - for full details please see the workshops area.