Yoga 4 Faces

Yesterday’s session encouraged us to focus on appreciating our sense organs. Eye exercises were accompanied by a potted evolutionary history of the eye. If you palm your closed eyes and then move the hands away and back you can sense not only the temperature change, but a change in the quality of light and darkness. Somewhere in ancient history this sense, from a light sensitive cell or two on the skin, would have indicated a possible predator and enabled our primitive ancestors to hide, and survive and reproduce, and ultimately refine the light-sensitive spot to become the amazing organ it now is.

Even though we focused mainly on the face, students felt completely relaxed, body and mind, by the end of the session.


Fantastic Planets and Where To Find Them, Emily Brunsdale, University of York, Lit and Phil Newcastle

Yoga is about union with the universe, so it seemed pertinent to go to a talk and learn more about the galaxy we live in.

Presented as a travel guide to space, (complete with retro style travel poster images), we learnt how we find new planets orbiting other stars (the science bit) and which ones really should be on your bucket list, if you have the time (a spare 100 light years or so) and the money (a trifling £50 trillion or more, for each trip…)

To date 3890 exoplanets have been found and with new spacecraft already out there and in the pipeline, this is set to increase exponentially.

Recommended trips include:

51 Pegasi b – this was the first ever exoplanet found, so a bit of a must see.

Kepler 16 b – has two suns, so you get two shadows and two sunsets.

Kepler 186 f – possibly has red vegetation as the light from the star is predominantly red and vegetation may reflect that light. Apparently our own sun gives off light mainly from the green spectrum and this is reflected out by plants on earth.

Trappist-1 System – has 7 planets all in the same orbit. All the planets are ‘tidally locked’ which means they always show the same face to their host star. As a result they are hot on one side and freezing cold on the other.

PSO J318.5-22 – is a rogue planet with no host star! Permanent darkness, permanent party planet!

LHS 3844 b – orbits its host star in 11 hours. Birthdays twice a ‘day’. You’ll be blowing out candles at breakfast and bedtime!


Someone asked me last week why we didn’t breathe out through our mouths. I was a little stumped. I know why we don’t breathe in through the mouth. It’s a protection thing. Nasal hairs trap bacteria and the nasal passages warm the incoming air so it’s not a shock to the system. But why don’t we breathe out through the mouth?

Some disciplines encourage it – pilates students are instructed to breathe out through the mouth.

In Hatha Yoga however we work with the life-force, the vital energy or prana. You may have heard of chi in acupuncture or Tai chi. Prana is the yoga equivalent. It travels in channels or nadis through the entire body. We want to conserve and control this flow of energy and when we breathe out through the mouth we lose this energy, more of it and more rapidly.

Also there are two main nadis connected with the nasal passages. They cross each other in the body and their points of intersection are the chakras. By breathing out through the mouth we are perhaps losing part of this connection with the chakras.

There are a multitude of disciplines, yoga, pilates, tai chi, aikeido, karate etc, etc, and they all have specific breathing practices. It might be confusing to be told one way to breathe in a pilates class and another way to breathe in a yoga class. Be flexible and open minded, keep practising and you may find that you can accommodate the different approaches and appreciate the distinct effects that they have. Above all, keep breathing!!


A fun session today with a laughter birthday cake and unexpected hilarity with imaginary braces!!! Adding it to the repertoire right now!


Coal Forest Trail Woodhorn Colliery Museum, Northumberland

The exhibition encouraged visitors to think about the ancient carboniferous forests of 300 million years ago which decayed, compressed and became coal. Lungs, trees and giant millipedes were just some of the artworks on display. (Who knew that giant millipedes up to 2 metres long once roamed the lands of Northumberland!).

A lovely rose window kaleidoscope of coal related images was accompanied by a plainsong chant of coal facts.

Try dolefully chanting ‘What is coal? Coal is carbon, volatile gases, ash and some waterrr. Carbon is one of the most common elements…’


woodhorn lungs7

Breathing definitely a theme for this year!

This installation by Brass Art featured a pair of inverted lungs/tree. The text panel invited visitors to go out and take a deep breath, hold and then let it go. In the context of miners breathing in toxic fumes, the next breath in felt like the freshest breath of air ever! (Helped by the fact that it was a freezing cold day!)


woodhorn tree6

Become a tree…

Visitors were encouraged to stand in front of this sculpture and feel rooted to the ground, while still able to branch out and grow. It felt great to feel the feet grow heavy and the body correspondingly light.

Lots of tree related yoga postures coming up next week!


Raj Rani, City Library, Newcastle

Creative use of mixed media/recycling, depicting Buddha, Peace, Love, The Key To Wisdom; and a couple of pictures allowing you the opportunity of ‘Being in Nature,’ right in the heart of a city.


Catch Your Breath at Palace Green Library in Durham

The breath is the one constant thread in our life, on which all our moments are linked. Breathing is the only function of the body that can be brought under conscious control as well as working involuntarily. Most of the time we are unaware of it, but it conveys our emotions and allows us to communicate, laugh, cry, sing, dance, and live our lives.

Artists have made the invisible visible with Jayne Wilton’s Breath sculptures and Miriam Quick’s Sleep Song blankets. There is a section on spirituality and how the breath is regarded as the source of life; another section highlights the breath in literature and film, covering Bleak House, Darth Vader and Beckett.

There are some really interesting videos about people with breathing difficulties, and about asbestos (- a mineral ore created deep within the earth’s crust millions of years ago, the Greeks named it asbestos – ‘the unquenchable, indestructible stone’. Asbestos was mined for building purposes because it is fire and water resistant, but ultimately proved incredibly damaging to the lungs. Its use was banned in England in 1999).

Do check out the video of yoga teacher Felix Price. A great example of breath, body and mind working as one. Inspiring!