“Any plans for the Bank Holiday?”
Phil's question was innocuous enough; friendly chit chat as he helped pack my groceries.
“Not much. I’ll be lacing up the trainers again, I guess. You climbing on Sunday?”
“Yes, we’re off to the Peak District. By the way, you should come to my Yoga class next Tuesday. Might help with the flexibility. I’ve got a couple of runners who seem to benefit,” he suggested as he swiped my loyalty card.
“Yoga? Hmm. Maybe.” My reply must have sounded sceptical and images of purple rinses and pink leotards were doing little to help. But feeling the tightness in my calves as I reached to put the grocery bags in the boot of my car, got me thinking. I might just give it a go.
By 8.45pm on Tuesday evening, I was destroyed. After Phil’s diplomatic but nonetheless embarrassing suggestion that I remove my trainers, I settled in to what I thought would be a breeze. After all, I was training for an ultra-marathon at the time. OK, I was a yoga virgin, but really, how demanding could this be? Very, as it turns out. Though this was a “gentle” class, my hamstrings were screaming after years of pounding pavements. On Wednesday (and for much of Thursday) I paid dearly.
But the following week I was back for more and after six weeks - stupidly - I’d booked myself on to a Yoga Manchester Weekend Workshop with Ashtanga teacher to the stars, Danny Paradise.
Though it was a baptism of fire, I loved that weekend. It was the second of my yoga epiphanies. I asked ridiculous questions, could manage only the vaguest approximations of the asanas but everybody was wonderful; welcoming, supportive, encouraging. And I’ve never looked back - well, at least not with a stiff neck.
Since Phil’s suggestion at the supermarket checkout six years ago, my practice has been pretty consistent. Sometimes five times a week. Not always. But I love the discipline. The seeming opposites of pure focus and escape bring me back to the mat regularly. Primary Series really is a moving meditation.
Late last year, inspired by Matt Ryan, my teacher at Yoga Manchester for several years; and also Phil, who introduced the world’s most reluctant yogi to his mat, I decided it was time to share a little of this practice with others. I’ll be starting my teacher training in a few weeks. I’ve reached a time in my life where I’m very keen to give something back, so my plan - once qualified - is to teach yoga exclusively for the Wonderful Organisation - www.wonderful.org - a non-profit we launch today (which also happens to be my 50th birthday). Though I hope to pass on a little of what I have picked up along the way, the most important lesson yoga has taught me is that you never stop learning.
If you have a moment,please take a look at the Wonderful website. If you can, share your skills. Maybe you’re a yoga teacher too. Maybe you teach piano, walk dogs, work in a health spa, or garden. Perhaps you’re a bookkeeper or work in PR. It doesn't matter. Get involved. The Wonderful Organisation is up and running. But it’s a new site so it’s over to you to fill its database with wonderful services - all supporting the tremendous work of our charities!
In the words of Walt Disney,
“You can design, create and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
After recently posting an Elephant Journal article on yoga and food, I was struck by how many people clicked the link in a space of a few hours. Rather than the usual 'Detoxify yourself in a day' drab we're becoming accustomed to on yoga sites, this piece called into question the need to detox at all when you have a regular yoga practice. And it's true. In Ashtanga Yoga, the Primary Series is call Yoga Chikitsa with the latter word translated as 'cleansing'. During a practice, the digestive system is stimulated through the massaging action of forward bends, wringing-out through the twists, and moving into back bends that stimulate the nervous system, which plays a crucial part in digestion. It's also no wonder flatulence and physical yoga go hand in hand. After a couple of months or so of regular practice, the digestive system becomes like a well-oiled machine taking what it needs and sends the rest to the waste bin. Crucially though, we start to change psychologically: the boring apple now looks so refreshing and the croissant just seems artificial. Don't get me wrong, the desire for treats still remains but we just want them less as we know we'll physically feel rubbish if we were to indulge all of the time. So this brings me back to the article that inspired this piece. Exasperated by the constant talk of fasting and detoxification, I, and I'm guessing the hundreds that read the piece, welcomed it with open arms as a counter to the accepted belief that yoga practitioners should continually 'purify' themselves at any cost. What's failing to be picked up is the fact that simply practising yoga leads one towards a balanced diet, avoidance of processed foods, and cultivates an awareness of what is right for the individual in a progressive, organic way. image While there is a place for occasional cleansing if one is recovering from an illness or has been living the life of a Rolling Stone, my gripe is with the sub-conscious message running through most of the pieces that we are somehow toxic - the exact same message the beauty industry also sells to us. Yes we want to know a good nutritious dhal recipe, or a refreshing smoothie, but what is not healthy is the innumerable articles posted everyday about detoxification. The sheer quantity and clever advertising has made 'detox' part of our vocabulary and is used to self-judge oneself as if we're walking hazardous waste, which is communicated in both the mainstream and yoga community. It's no secret that parts of the yoga industry has become a willing participant in our consumerist society and with that has co-opted the messaging that one is not good enough unless, in this case, you detoxify yourself to become a healthier, happier, brighter you. Reading this, most of us know it is tripe but we still can't help but click on those 'Fast for Vitality' articles. So what are we to do? The real detox: from my own experience avoiding such articles by unfollowing certain people and groups who spout this nonsense helps to cleanse my mind and get back to my intuitive self. The self that loves a simple diet without commentary and would always choose chippy chips and a vegetarian sausage as a dying meal. image                             Charlene teaches regular classes with Yoga Manchester and Yoga Express. Visit her teacher profile for more information. Charlene McAuley  
  In the Ashtanga Yoga system there are 6 different sequences. They are Primary Series , Intermediate Series and the A,B,C + D Advanced series. The Primary Series is referred to as Yoga Chikitsa which means Yoga Therapy. The therapeutic aspect of the practice is built through the sequential order of the postures as each one works as a foundation for the next asana in the sequence. Through the purification factor of the practice the body becomes stronger and the skeletal system is realigned. The Intermediate Series (sometimes referred to as second series) is called Nadi Shodana. Nadi Shodana means nerve cleansing, this is done through the specific postures of this sequence which work to open and clear the subtle energy channels of the body. Once the students has strengthened the body with the Primary Series and has a good foundation with this sequence only then are they ready to focus on the purification of the nervous system with the Intermediate postures. The A,B,C & D postures of the advanced series are known as Sthira Bhagah which means steady strength. Higher levels of strength and flexibility are created with the advanced sequences , and only after years of a disciplined practice of the Primary and Intermediate postures would the student have built the right physical and mental foundation to begin the advanced series. Guruji Sri K Pattabhi Jois is to have said about the different sequences
Primary Series very important, Intermediate is of some importance and the advanced series for demonstration only
 
Yoga Manchester's Matt Ryan  showing the alternative exit from the Supta Konasana posture from the Primary series sequence. Supta Konasana means ‘sleeping angle posture’ , and to enter into it the student would lie down and bring the legs over the head and down towards the floor  then take hold of both big toes with legs wide , paying particular attention not to create tension in the neck. The posture is held for 5 deep breaths before exiting by gently rolling up the spine with legs straight , pausing , engaging the quads so when the legs are lowered to the floor the calf muscles are the first point of contact with the floor and not the heels of the feet. After touching the chin to the floor , the vinyasa is then to lift the head cross the legs and jump back as normal, when one builds strength and balance the exit can be performed by placing the hands onto the floor and lifting up the hips and legs into the handstand posture before dropping into chaturanga dandasana as in the video. The muscles of the shoulders and legs are stretched along with the muscles and ligaments of the neck . This video is for demonstration only