Did you see what I did there with the title of the blog ? No ? Didn't get it ? Ok I'm making a statement that the item in the photo is the best yoga mat in the world , except it ain't no yoga mat - you dig? It is in fact a zafu more commonly known as a meditation cushion. And not a rectangular shaped piece of fabric that one would use to bust out some yoga postures on. So what gives I hear you say - what on earth am I on about ... Well I guess I'm having a little fun mainly at the expense of the interpretation of a famous yoga scripture 'The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali'. The Yoga Sutras is the bible for Ashtanga Yoga students like myself - I've read it a bunch of times , never quite grasped it but persevered with it - mainly due to the fact that when I stated practicing Ashtanga all my peers would wax lyrical endlessly about it. Anyway I don't want to open the can of worms debate about The Sutras having naff all to do with physical yoga postures -and is actually an esoteric instruction manual for meditation allegedly written by some bloke called Patanjali in the second century  - I'll leave that to the yoga academics and their pals. What actually interests me a lot more these days is why there aren't more people practicing meditation. It kind of dawned on me that folk are either lazy or impatient or perhaps a little of both - I know I'm both. The late great Ashtanga Yoga Guru Sri K Pattabhi Jois would say that all types of people could practice Yoga - fat, thin, tall, small, old, young even poorly people ! The only folk who couldn't practice Yoga he would say are 'lazy people'. But what about meditation - coz basically all one has to do is 'sit down and shut up' ( as my Zen teacher Brad Warner would say) that might be a bit of a struggle if you're a chatterbox or you've got a boil on your backside but other than that it's a sinch ! So why can't people do it ? It can change your life for the better - it changed my life immeasurably. I think the problem lies in my above statement about people being impatient. When you start practicing yoga the benefits are so much more tangible - you might not even be able to see your toes when you start. But after a few short weeks of practicing the postures you are able to start touching your knees, then shins then 'hallelujah' toe touching happens ! With meditation you can be practicing for like ages and it feels like absolutely nothing is happening , impatience sets in and the next thing you are putting the following advert on eBay...
For Sale 1 Zafu like new - might be broken as my life didn't get better after a ten minute meditation session.
But the thing is , things are happening - but very subtly. It's hard to see it at first it's a bit like one of those puzzles where you have a picture hidden in lots of dots and you have to adjust your eyesight to see the picture- well same same ( but different !). Meditation is a practice that has to be done every day - like brushing your teeth. So don't delay sit down and shut up and meditate today !   If you're interested in starting meditation Yoga Manchester is now hosting '1 day introduction to meditation' workshops - the next one is on Saturday 18th March - click this link for more information.   Matt Ryan teaches Yoga and Meditation at Yoga London Club.      
  To watch the video tutorial please click on the play button (in the middle of the screen) on the box immediately above. I have no idea why but when I first started to practice the handstand, I never used to have any fear of falling over as I always confident I could twist around and land on my feet –maybe I was a cat in a previous life : ) When I first started Yoga I remember going to a class and watching in awe as my teacher placed his on the floor and floated up into a handstand from a standing position with straight legs. It was pretty darn cool and I always thought I’d like to be able to do that. And remember folks these were the days before online you tube tutorials – it was all trial and error – mainly error on my part and lots of laughing at how useless I was. I’m not sure when the penny dropped but eventually it did – and maybe it was my Dad (RIP) who mentioned the main drawbacks of the kicking up one leg at a time method I was using to try and master the handstand. This was having to find the balance point twice (one for each leg!) so I sussed out that if I could find a way of jumping up both legs at the same time I might have cracked the handstand code. And like all buildings needing a solid foundation, the handstand was no different and also working on the premise that if I was able to do a full handstand surely I need to be able to do the half handstand ie have the legs bent rather than straight. And slowly – very slowly things started to happen. I kicked up both legs bent hold for a breath then come down , 1 breath turned to 2 then to 5 and so until I got to half a minute balancing on my hands with knees bent. A solid foundation was created so that I could slowly start to straighten the leg and remain steady and secure without falling over. It was very simple but very effective – no nonsense. I have watched online tutorials on handstand but found them to be too long winded, to over descriptive. I find this method  to be much more straight to the point – hope you enjoy it – have fun and remember Guruji’s famous  words ‘Yoga is 99% practice 1% theory’ (and I like to think this handstand method most definitely fits into that category).
Following my 'how to jump back' video a few weeks back , I now teach you how to jump-though with straight legs in my latest 'Back Yard Yoga' videos series. These short 2 minute videos will feature tips and advice on technique and also how to improve your Ashtanga Yoga form. The straight leg jump through from downward dog to Dandasana in Ashtanga Yoga is an eloquent movement and can take some time to perfect.It will take a combination of a good forward bend which is important for keeping the legs straight when you are able to jump through.Strong legs to give you the power to lift the hips high enough to keep the legs straight And strong flexible shoulders which will provide the pivot for the body to move from the back of the mat to the front. Enjoy your practice ! Save
What are you listening to at the moment? It really varies depending on what I’m doing. But here’s a snapshot of the last week.. To dance around the living room with my daughter it has been Led Zeppelin and The Doors. I’ve been listening to Brian Eno and Harold Budd whilst doing my practice. I have also been decorating so have felt the need to transport myself somewhere else (not very mindful I know), so I’ve been reminiscing whilst listening to old 80’s Madonna songs. Where would you be teleported to? I’d head to New York in the late 60’s early 70’s. I’d check in to the Chelsea Hotel and hang out with Dylan, Patti Smith and Hendrix amongst others and try to absorb some of their philosophical and artistic genius. Where do you buy your clothes from? I’ve recently discovered TKMax for leggings, which are comfortable and reasonably priced. I choose comfort over style, which is why I am currently sporting bright pink leggings (I don’t really wear bright colours and I’ve never liked pink). Other than that I don’t buy anything from anywhere in particular and have no clue about yoga clothing brands. What does a regular practice look like for you? It depends on how much time I have. It has definitely become a greater challenge making time for practice since having a baby. Most mornings it is 45/60mins before I get my daughter up. When I have more time I will do 90mins. I usually do the Primary Series but sometimes I will do a vinyasa flow. I have recently been incorporating 10mins meditation at the end of my asana practice. Any advice to a yoga beginner? Try to leave your ego at the door. Be patient. Breathe. Enjoy.          
Being a GP gives me the very special privilege of being a fellow traveler for a time in people’s lives. This perspective has allowed me to reflect on the diversity of joy and challenge that life may bring, and that if we choose, there is a place for yoga in all facets of our personal journeys. I may see you in my consulting room to manage minor ailments, or in your own home when you are brewing appendicitis. In previous incarnations as a junior doctor I will have seen you in hospital clinics to optimize your diabetes and on the wards while you were having dialysis. I have delivered babies and had afternoon tea in nursing homes. When the time comes I may be invited to be there in your final hours. All these places invite yoga. Sometimes it may be the jumpy invigorating energetic kind. Oftentimes it is the more reflective mindful aspect that fits the situation. Nevertheless every health related encounter strikes me as having elements where a perspective of yoga can help. So this last week, with my patients, I have found myself inquiring “have you considered yoga to help with that?” This line of questioning wasn’t planned. I wondered if asking would seem contrived, but so many situations cried out for the question to be asked. The answers I got have reinforced for me the concept that whether we know it or not, yoga can and should be part of all of our lives. Among many, I asked the question to these people. The new mum wanting her pelvic floor back and seeking an hours respite from the constant demands of a newborn. The surgeon in training who is constantly striving to achieve more yet wonders why he feels anxious. In addition he struggles with poor posture and gets back pain when standing for long period in the operating theatre. The retired university lecturer who has just been diagnosed with a rare blood cancer and is looking for a strategy to help with her sadness and navigate the uncertainties ahead. If allowed and embraced, yoga can be a constant presence in our lives. The practice itself being resilient to the passage of time, yet subtly changing emphasis depending on the needs of the individual. For me this yoga practice is my time machine. In my younger days the physicality of the postures was to the fore, freeing up my stiff body. Currently the same yoga gives me endurance and commitment to keep me in good shape for the years to come. It is also introducing me to a mindful way of being. I hope that this time machine in the future will have helped to preserve my joints and strength yet also will have given me clarity of thinking when the mind otherwise begins to dim. The health of the nation is in everyone’s thoughts. The NHS is taking a battering and we are all rightly worried about whether we can afford the looming medical bill as the nation ages. There are always new medical advances to help with particular illnesses. But sometimes the old ways are the best. Yoga can play the role of prevention and alleviation. It is not problem specific, indeed there doesn’t even need to be anything to fix. Yoga can just be a companion, cradle to grave should we choose. Many of you know this about yoga already. If so share the message. Bring a friend to class, encourage family members to try yoga, or revisit your own practice if it has slipped a little. There is nothing to lose and so much to gain.