When A Stranger Blows Your Mind | A Book Review of ‘The Magic Mat’

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When on silent retreat, it is typical to find all sorts of things to do other than simply sit with oneself – walking, yoga, swimming, reading (although it’s advised to rather read the ‘journal of ones heart’) and, if there is a shop of sorts at the venue, to spend semi-infinite amounts of money on things one doesn’t really need. I am very good at this. I have any number of shawls, meditation cushions, incense, prayer flags, mustard baths, insect repellent, cook books and so on that I have purchased whilst on retreat. It’s usually my last ditch attempt to not look within, although of course sooner or later you are just left with yourself and that’s why we go on these retreats after all.

Sometimes, in my wonderings and wanderings, I stumble across a real gem of a book, and last month at Bodhi Khaya (where I was fortunate enough to be teaching yoga on one of Sue Cooper’s nurturing retreats) exactly this happened. This particular find is called ‘The Magic Mat’ by Carmen Clews and it is a book and DVD set aimed at introducing yoga to 5-12 year old children. Of the myriad books on children’s yoga that I have read over the years, this one is quite honestly in another class. I bought it almost instantly and read it cover to cover a number of times, getting more and more excited at just how beautifully and creatively it is written and illustrated.

Incidentally, please note that I was very aware of, and present in, my conscious action of distracting myself from myself through my absorption in this book, so surely that gives me some spiritual brownie points?

Having a six- and eight- year old of my own, I could immediately tell that the way that the lessons are presented would appeal hugely to their age group, and that for a yoga teacher such as myself, it is laid out in a way that is just so accessible and easy to present and interpret to the little ones.

I’ve long wanted to teach yoga for children at my little yoga studio in Stellenbosch but one of the main things that’s stopped me is that I’ve not felt that I’ve found exactly the right style that I wanted to present – I covered some teaching yoga to children in my advanced teachers training at Ananda Sangha a few years back, but it just hasn’t gelled for me – until this wonderful book ended up in my hands. I wouldn’t change a thing about how Carmen has presented it, and so I felt compelled to write her an email, expressing my delight in finding the book and to humbly request her permission to offer a pop-up children’s yoga workshop at my studio, using her book as the inspiration.

It’s possibly quite a cheeky request, and I was fully prepared for either a ‘yes but you’ll have to pay me’ or a straight ‘no’ response, but I do believe in just asking – just putting it out there, because increasingly my experience is that there is a whole lot of love in the world and a whole lot of willingness to help and to share knowledge and resources – it all comes back to us in the end. Even so, to receive Carmen’s completely delightful and overwhelmingly positive and generous response just a few hours later was an utter delight. I had what my children call ‘happy tears’ in my eyes as I read her lovely reply and blessing to use this valuable resource at my studio, with no strings attached. I am so grateful, and I am so excited, and I cannot WAIT to share her beautiful teachings with the kids that will be joining me on Monday.

Her approach is so playful but yet so profound – using animals to embody certain qualities such as a wise owl, a flexible cobra, a duck that shakes things off its back… taking children through some lovely simple asana whilst weaving a beautiful story throughout, and leaving them with a reminder that the magic on the mat is actually within them and is accessible at any time they need or want to tap into it.

The book and the DVD themselves are fabulous, and Carmen’s genuine and heartfelt wish that they go some way towards making yoga more accessible to as many children as possible was a huge and refreshing breath of fresh air. I strongly recommend that anyone with children, or with friends with children, or who is thinking about one day having children, or those who have grandchildren, or teachers (at schools or yoga teachers), basically anyone who has involvement with children and believes in the transformational power of yoga, gets at least one copy of the book. You can find all the details and order the book / DVD and optional mat at her website – I am sure you will be as delighted as I was and still am.

And if you are a parent living in or near Stellenbosch, there are still a few spots left in my pop-up children’s yoga workshop taking place on Monday morning between 10 and 12 – you can see the details on my Facebook page. Bookings essential and spaces limited.

Thanks again, Carmen. You rock.

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. -Maria Robinson

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. -Maria Robinson

After a lengthy hiatus, I am back. I’ve been on a roller coaster ride the past three months which I am going to be slowly and respectfully blogging about. It’s a big deal for me, and I’m still not sure if this platform or the actual act of disclosure is the best place for this but let’s see how it goes. Basically, it’s all about starting again and using yoga to help me on my path, and to working towards making a new ending. Watch this space.

I am looking forward to teaching again tomorrow at my beautiful yoga studio in Stellenbosch. It’s been my happy place for so long now. Every single time I set foot in there, I feel a sense of calm descending upon me. I breathe deeper. I smile slightly. I inhale the lingering scent of incense. I love every single thing about that space and I am constantly stunned by how fortune has smiled on me so kindly by making this dream come true: the dream of teaching yoga at my own house in my own home town.

 

10 Easy Ways to Love Your Home Yoga Practice

From talking to my students at my yoga studio in Stellenbosch, I realise that many yogis are so daunted by the idea of cultivating a home practice that they simply don’t do it at all, rather waiting for their one or twice a week class at the studio, or in their minds they build it up to be an insurmountable task and feel so pressurised to get it ‘right’ at home that it becomes a slog rather than a pleasure, if and when they do actually get to it. It took me a long time before I really felt comfortable and at home in my home practice, and now I can’t imagine my life without it. Whether it’s a couple of rounds of Surya Namaskar in the morning before my kids wake up, a few cat/cow stretches before I go to sleep or a full hour of mindful movement, it’s what keeps me sane and centred.

So, it was a delight for me to find this lovely article by Cheryl Warrick. She puts it so clearly and concisely, and I just love her summary of how to fall in love with, and build upon, your home practice. Read on for inspiration and some simple tips…

You have a home yoga practice but, sometimes you worry that you are just not “doing it right.” Sound familiar?

I have great news for you.

There is no “right way” to practice yoga at home.

Each time you step on to your mat, you are opening a fresh inquiry into understanding and relating to your body, mind and spirit. Each day your body is different, so each practice is unique.

Here are ten ideas to help you practice at home with a sense of curiosity, playfulness and ease:

 

1. Set your intention.

Take the first few moments on your mat to settle into your body. Close your eyes. Draw your awareness inward and set an intention. An intention can be any simple and heart felt truth or desire you wish to manifest.

This practice helps you align with your higher self.

 

2. Ask yourself what you need from your yoga practice today.

Honour what your body and mind are asking for.

 

3. Keep it brief.

Sometimes we think we “should” practice for a full hour or more. Give yourself permission to practice just a few poses that you are comfortable with. Notice how it feels to do less instead of more.

 

4. Take your time.

Practice each pose slowly and mindfully. Become aware of your transitions between each pose. What do you notice between each pose?

 

5. Be gentle.

Notice if you have a tendency to be critical of yourself as you practice. Meet yourself where you are today and practice in the body you have right now. Can you extend compassion and acceptance toward yourself?

 

6. Practice gratitude.

Take a few moments in your practice to find something or someone to be grateful for.

Practicing gratitude helps boost your mood and helps anchor you in the present moment.

 

7. Pay attention.

Meet yourself with acceptance and non-judgement.

What do you notice about your body and your mind before you practice?

What shifted after yoga?

 

8. Journal.

Keep a small journal and pen next to your yoga mat.

After you practice make note of any insights from your practice.

 

9. Follow your breath.

The breath is a bridge that connects the body and mind.

Begin to notice how your breath feels as you move.

Gently anchoring your attention on the breath creates deeper awareness of the present moment.

Send the breath to any part of the body that feels stagnant or stuck.

 

10. Don’t forget Savasana (corpse pose).

Coming into a quiet resting posture at the end of your practice is one of the most important and most difficult poses.

The gift of non-doing allows your body to soak in all that you have done in your practice.

**

Keep your yoga practice going!

I’d love to know more about your home practice. What keeps you coming back to your mat? What do you struggle with?

Published November 1, 2012 at 9:20 AM

About Cheryl Warrick

Cheryl Warrick, M.Ed, RYT is a 200 hr. level certified yoga teacher, reiki practitioner, wellness coach and artist. She is the Director of Yoga Services for the Domar Center for Mind Body Health in Waltham, MA. Her passion is to inspire her students to discover and welcome a sense of curiosity, balance and ease in their yoga practice. To learn more about her go to www.cherylwarrickyoga.com .

I’m so happy for you

I recently read a lovely thing that said ‘Take delight in the good fortune of others to create more happiness for yourself’.  It made me think about how often I am surprised by how many people seem to struggle to rejoice in other people’s good fortune, luck, success, achievement, joy, happiness – call it what you will. 

Case in point: having had the staggering privilege of my firstborn coming into this world healthy and happy and, within a relatively short period, sleeping through the night, I was astounded when not one but two of my dear friends commented, when I fell pregnant again: ‘well, you’re going to get your comeuppance with this one’ and other comments along the lines of ‘you’ll never get so lucky a second time around’. It was all I could do to stop my jaw from literally hanging open.  Never  mind the fact that we worked hard at it (thanks to a fairly strict bedtime routine – it doesn’t work for everyone and not everyone approves, but it worked like a charm for us), whatever the reason for our good fortune, I would have really thought that the wish would rather be for me to have exactly the same wonderful ‘luck’ with the second baby (who, by the way, slept through even earlier than my son). I know it’s unyogic to gloat, but I did have a little, tiny, miniscule gloat as I typed that. As I said, I  have a way to go along my ‘evolutionary path’ (as my yoga teacher calls it) and I obviously have a lot to learn from Patanjali’s teachings…

 I was reading recently about the brahmaviharas (the yogic teachings on love), which show us the way to a kinder, more compassionate relationship with ourselves and others, and thought how interesting it is that so many people seem to be scared of yoga, finding it all esoteric and a bit spooky, where in fact the teachings of the ancient sages are actually so beautiful, so helpful, and so very focused on helping us become more. I was amazed when I first read Patanjali’s Sutras and realised that they are actually very similar to the Ten Commandments – only, in my opinion (and it’s all subjective, obviously), more user-friendly and easier to digest. 

More than two thousand years ago, both Patanjali and the Buddha taught the practice of mudita as an antidote to the feeling that your happiness is threatened or diminished by the happiness of others – mudita is the ability to take active delight in others’ good fortune or good deeds. In one of the Sutras, Patanjali advises us to take delight in the virtue of others as a way to develop and maintain calmness of mind. We’ve all probably experienced how painful envy can be, and how much it affects our mental well-being, and the fact is that any feelings of envy that we may harbour don’t diminish the happiness of those we are jealous of, but they do diminish our own serenity. And then I read a lovely thing about the Dalai Lama who speaks of mudita as a kind of “enlightened self-interest.” As he puts it, there are so many people in this world that it’s simply reasonable to make their happiness as important as your own; if you can be happy when good things happen to others, your opportunities for delight are increased six billion to one! It works for me!