MAY NEWSLETTER

A dawn spent milling in the early morning happiness of the crowds drawn to celebrate first light, brushing all souls present with bursts of colour pouring into song and dance, soft eyes and gratitude. An Oxford tradition; Magdalen bridge on the first day of May, lifting curtains in bodies that had almost sunk into mourning with the sheer longitude of the cold wet winter days. As in legend it felt at last a prince or princess dressed in vibrant green walked in our midst.

This soft regal sense of friend greets us every time we receive the gift of a breath. In the majority of traditions breath is a wind carrying to us the scent and colour of our origination in the deep interior. Nothing is more constant or intimate in our experience of ourselves than our own breath. It is beautifully arranged, essential and completely accessible. When we grant ourselves the time to trace its subtle course in our own forms, it makes us aware not only of the essential quality of life that it endows but also illuminates the landscape through which it passes. When the body lightens to follow the sensation of being breathed, breath has something of the quality of light. We live in a culture where light is associated with vision, and our idea of vision is often of something that divides, assesses and lists. Whereas the illuminative quality of breath offers an experience where everything is lit up uniquely rather than separately. It is bedded in the freedom found in loosening rather than tightening. It’s energy easily engenders gratitude and gratitude engenders happiness.

Pranayama or breath practice offers a simple toolkit for deepening this consciousness of our own breath. Popular ideas of pranayama often include a lot of huffing and puffing and hard work, an idea of breath work, which is achievement based and goes against the grain. Breath freedom is really simple, and a real soul practise. Following the subtleties of our own breath in different ways slowly builds the capacity and the desire to embody its quality of illumination that can be felt in a profoundly embodied way throughout the physical structure and our deeper layers.

I am really enjoying sharing this way of being. One of the really good things about being a yoga teacher is that the teacher has to practice to offer a practice. It keeps us honest! Consequently by necessity I am spending more time with breath practice and I love what happens through it. So thank you all that come to the pranayama and meditation class on a Wednesday evening after yoga. Your presence offers me a gift. I hope it does the same for you. Breath work asks for a degree of constancy and quite a bit of repetition to be effective. But it is really worth it. And it leads us into meditation in a way that I find rather remarkable. I have deliberately made the cost of this class modest to encourage this gift. And like all good gifts we can at some point pass it on to each other. Tonight is the last pranayama practise for three weeks. It will start again on the Wednesday the 30th of May for most of the summer. The more of us involved the better the energy.

Next Wednesday the 9th of May I am offering Kirtan in place of this breath class. Please come and join in and explore the inner voice. You can find a description at https://www.derekelliottyoga.co.uk/kirtan/ .

After this I plan to move the Kirtan to a different venue on a Friday evening once a month so it doesn’t clash with the breath practice. The Community Centre is not available then, so if anyone has a bright idea as to a venue, then please drop me a line.

With much love,

Derek

January News 2018

From darkness into Light’

 We have only just passed the darkest day of the year. I am probably one of the many who usually feel it is a long way to spring. But this year I feel the darkness strangely seductive. I love it when the bright days come along, but the underlying feeling is the pull towards seclusion. Darkness can be comforting, like black velvet, opening up a mystery, releasing the pressure from thought, a sensual way into the sub-structures of our sensations. It also releases fears, since we don’t know what the darkness contains. These days are a great opportunity to give ourselves more time to explore the myriad sensations that pass through us. Much of the time I am ‘blind’ to the depth of these movements. I am so taken up by the ‘habitual’ response to what is moving inside me, that little space is given to explore what I am actually responding to. But when a pause is introduced into daily pursuits, and awareness given the opportunity to settle into these sensations, without any predetermination of what they are, then the mysterious universe opens up, and starts to illuminate this ‘darkness’. This kind of exploration is what Yoga can be so good at, offering opportunity to spend time exploring sensation where it arises, which is within ourselves, within our bodies.

The notion of the ‘blindness’ is prevalent in the writings of sages from more than one tradition. It can refer to the unconditioned reality that the conditioned mind cannot comprehend, since this mind considers itself separate, and what we fear most of all is giving up this idea of ourselves. But once we start to become free of this mistaken notion of separation, then we start to lean into this ‘blindness’, into this ‘unknown’ and feel its inherent benevolence. There is also great compassion in this, as we are protected from too much ‘download’ of the truth until we are ready. So this veil is not really hiding the unknown, it is simply not accessible to the heart not yet prepared. The pull towards a kind of hibernation, or simple retreat into the inner space, however apparently ‘dark’ seems very strong at this time of year.

I intend to follow up this sentiment in the first five Wednesday evening Yoga practises of the year, starting on the 25th of January. The theme is ‘From darkness into Light’, which doesn’t mean banishing darkness, although we are moving towards spring, but more how we move into the illumination of its velvet lining. Simply that we can start from an attitude of ‘not-knowing’ so we can move with an awareness unencumbered by an already formed idea of ourselves.  Each practice will encompass one of the five elements, working from the ground up through the body. In Yoga philosophy there are five elements, not four. In order they are, Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether or Space. These also describe various energetic ways of being or moods of the body. Hope you can join me in this exploration.