Once upon a time in the North-West of somewhere there was a young man called Ernest Yogi, and despite Ernest having the world at his feet he would walk around town with a permanent rain cloud above his head. He felt that he had more problems than anyone else in the world. One day whilst pounding the pavements of Ancoats on the way to a yoga class he chanced upon a very beautiful golden lamp…a Magic Lamp no less. ( Ok you’ll need to suspend your belief here about the chance of finding a magic lamp on a pavement in Ancoats, but for the sake of continuity of the story just go with it for now) Our young depressed hero picked the lamp up and gave it a bit of a wipe as it was covered in cigarette butts and car oil and KERPOW out popped Patanjali the Genie of the Magic Lamp. Young Ernest staggered back and had to pinch himself to make sure this was all really happening and not the after effects of his medicinal ‘herbal’ cigarettes. ‘I can grant you one wish and one wish only’ Patanjali said to Ernest. ‘Oh thank-you Mr. Genie, could you please, please get rid of all my problems’ came Ernest’s reply. Patanjali the Genie raised an eyebrow and spoke ‘Are you sure you don’t want a million pounds or a big mansion or perhaps a decent leg behind head?’ Patanjali knew that young Ernest was struggling with lots of things including poor hip flexors on the right side. ‘It’s tempting to go for a decent leg behind head, but I just want all my problems to be gone’ Ernest was firm with what he thought would make him happier. ‘So be it’ Patanjali said. ‘Ok I want you to find a big box and put all your problems in it and then meet me here at the same time tomorrow’. (More suspension of belief necessary here about being able to put problems in a box)(Cheers). The next day Ernest Yogi arrived at the very same spot that Patanjali the Genie had appeared, he had with him a massive box (the big wooden ones that you get from Unicorn in Chorlton) with all his problems inside. KERPOW Patanjali appeared once more out of the Magic Lamp and spoke to Ernest.. ‘Ok sunny Jim follow me and let’s see if we can sort out this problem, problem’. Ernest Yogi set off behind the Genie down the back streets of Ancoats. After 5 minutes of dodging crazy barking stray dogs and strange gaunt looking men asking to lend 50 pence for their ‘bus fare’ they arrived at a big warehouse – a warehouse big enough to fit in boxes of problems from everyone in the whole world. ‘Ok Ernest Yogi inside this big warehouse is boxes of problems from everyone in the whole world, you have exactly one hour to go inside and swap your box of problems for someone else’s’. ‘YES!’ shrieked Ernest ‘That’s absolutely brilliant, I’ll just go find David Beckham’s box or maybe even The Dalai Lamas, they’ll both be bloody empty’! And off he went into the warehouse. Patanjali waited patiently outside and within only a few minutes the door burst open and our unhappy hero came scurrying out carrying the very same box that he went in with shouting ‘No way, no way, I’ll keep my own box of problems thanks very much’ And off he went into sunset with his own big box of problems, perhaps not weighing as heavy on his mind as he once thought. ‘Ah’ sighed Patanjali ‘That one works every time’! The End.   Me dad (RIP) told me that story years and years ago, before I even started Yoga. The hero in his story wasn’t called Ernest Yogi and neither was the Genie called Patanjali but apart from that it’s pretty much the same way he used to tell it. Quite recently I passed it on to my own son. Of course it’s a very simple story straight out of kinder garden, but that doesn’t lessen the power of the message. It’s hard to see the way out sometimes when we are stuck in a dark space. There’s a brilliant Eckhart Toll quote from his The Power of Now book. He says something along the lines of ‘Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a way out, but there’s always a way through’! How pretty fricken radical is that – there’s always a way through. It’s so easy to think that people like the Dalai Lama and Posh n Becks don’t have any problems. But of course – we ALL have problems, every single one of us. The problems are not so much the problem, but how we deal with them. So the above fable is perhaps only half the story. Ok we can acknowledge we are not alone in having problems and we can find some solace in that fact but what next. This is where my yoga practice comes in. There’s some amazing health benefits to be had from taking a regular yoga practice, including a strong fit flexible body but personally it’s the mental health benefits I’m after baby! Yes life is tough and I’ve got a ton of problems ( who hasn’t) but I do my practice and well the problems don’t exactly disappear but their firm grip on my mind becomes more like a gentle squeeze.
Do turn up with the correct change for class. We all know that yoga teachers are a bit scatty. They live on a higher celestial cerebral plane, pondering life’s big questions. The worldly concept of money barely creates a ripple on their consciousness. Zero chance of them having change for your £20 note. Do be selective about sharing your health concerns. Letting your teacher know about a recent knee operation makes sense. Sharing that you have treatment resistant haemorrhoids and chlamydia may be too much information. Do have a go at chanting, even if you just join in with an opening OM. You can’t get it wrong – it’s supposed to sound flat. Don’t mix up your opening chants however. For us yoga nuts who experiment with different practices, be aware that there are different chants for different styles of yoga. There is nothing more embarrassing than belting out “Yogena cittasaya….” When you should be chanting Vande gurunam.” Or is that just me? Do invest in a sticky mat to prevent your legs sliding further and further apart as your sweaty feet slip away from you. Everyone around you has a beautiful expression of poise and oneness with the cosmos whilst you skate around like a contestant from “It’s a Knockout”. Don’t groan when enlightenment dawns and you realise teacher is turning up the heat and experimenting with a new sequence of challenging postures. It will get you in trouble later in class. How long can you hold that plank position for? Don’t stress over the Sanskrit. Who doesn’t get their Purvottanasana mixed up with Parshvottanasana? So long as you are the right way up, facing the same direction as everyone else and have the same number of feet on the ground, you are doing fine. Don’t allow the teacher to engage in some witty shaggy dog story. They think they are doing you a favour by distracting you from the pain of whatever contorted posture they have tied you up in. Since your teacher is on some higher cerebral and celestial plane, they have rejected the concept of time as we understand it. They will have you there for literally hours. Don’t eat too many sprouts before class. Wind, the downfall of all yogi’s both new and experienced. Well as with all yogic challenges, don’t resist: to quote a recent Disney Film “Let it go, let it go…”. Apologies if I have ruined that film forever. Don’t snore at the end of class when taking rest. Other yogi’s may be envious of your level of relaxation but we may leave you there whilst we go to the pub.     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.

Week 3

Into week 3 and the tough going went into hyper drive as more and more advanced postures got tagged onto my daily practice. The Sunday was a moon day so the intermediate led class got switched to Monday - and with this extra day of taking rest, this meant week 3 was a shorter week- and thank Shiva,Vishnu,Hanuman etc for that. The whole moon day thing is an interesting point of debate. For those not in the know, in the Ashtanga ( 6 day a week ) practice there are 'rest days' when it's either a full or new moon day- Saturday is also a rest day. The reason for taking rest on the Moon days is rather long winded - click here if you really want to know. Saturday's rest day I believe came about when Guruji's wife Amma complained that she never saw her husband as he was always teaching,so he agreed to take every Saturday off for a 'family day'. So Saturday became a traditional day off for everyone . Friday night becomes party central in Mysore where everyone gets really drunk and stays up all night partying - ok that's a joke b.t.w. the only difference on Friday is that you are so exhausted from the week you actually end up going to bed at 8 pm instead of 9 pm - crazy eh! During the week there was (yet another)  Hindu spiritual festival called Holi. I'm not sure exactly what the festival is all about - but the celebrations are quite good fun . To celebrate Holi people chuck coloured powder  all over each other - it's like a massive water fight with sherbet dip instead of water . Lina Agnes Boo and I got well and truly 'holied' by 2 guys on a motorbike - thanks for that fellas ! See above photo. yoga sutras of patanjali , ashtanga yoga , mysoreI'd like to report back that we've visited lots of temples and hung out with realised beings - but it's so bloody hot most days we end up going to a hotel that's got a pool -  spiritual awakening will have to wait I'm afraid well until its much cooler .I'm reading yet another commentary on the Patanjali yoga sutras when I'm at the pool and that's about as near to Samadhi as I'm going to get this trip.   So one more week to go- time seems to go both quickly and slowly at the same time (mainly slowly during the led classes ) buts that's India for you -it's as mad as a box of frogs here but thats why I love it. Ciao for now-over and out.