Pavlovs-Dog

Samskara, evolution and the integration of experience into knowledge

This post is of interest to anyone who has done yoga and is starting to get an inkling for a deeper experience. Or anyone that has thought to themselves during a yoga class… “what is the point of this?” A yogin’s journey beings when s/he consciously takes steps in the search for truth, sataya. Until this point s/he has been engaged with fancy stretching or at most mastering technique neither of which are yoga.

Personal growth is not linear, we develop in a meandering sort of way and over time one seems to absorb knowledge and integrate it with what came before.

Actually there is no ‘growth’ only realisation. Broadly speaking here’s an outline of how I see the realisation taking place.

1. Seeker receives new information. For example:

  • Pain / Pleasure
  • Something unexpected
  • Negative/ positive feedback
  • An un/desirable outcome
  • Etc.

2. Their ego reacts. 

  • It has no other option. Something ‘other’ has come to it.

3.  There is conflict. 

  • The Ego initially rejects this new experience/information. There is conflict/shame between the ego and whatever is external to it. 

4. The correct attitude emerges.

  • The Yogin must humble themselves in order to be able to truly regard the new experience/information. Only then is s/he permeable enough to allow the newness of the experience to be integrated. 

5. Understanding.

  • When the defences have been removed the yogin is able to extract what is useful from the experience and in so doing give themselves the chance to integrate it. The yogin now forgives themselves for not having noticed earlier, there is no more conflict.

6. Integration occurs over time. 

  • A point arrives when the yogin has accepted the essential nature of change and impermanence. The barbs of point 1 are no longer jarringly ‘other’, they are accepted and surrendered to, one is able to forgive themselves and move on.

This is why yogic enquiry is always with the deep self, the part of us that is unchanging and present; by simply moving our attention to this aspect one observes reactions and integrates them.

Yoga is a search for satya/ truth

What’s the harm in a little white lie?

Have you heard people say that if you don’t have the reaction that you should; you can ‘trick’ yourself into changing how you feel? By pretending to have the reaction you think you should (is socially appropriate) one attempts to ‘fake it’. 

Our minds are powerful but, I would refute anyone who says it is possible to trick oneself. We always know. We may not admit it to others (or to ourselves) but deep down we know if we chose to look. And it is this knowing that we cannot escape. Like the Coleridge’s Albatros hanging on the ancient mariner. 

Pretending requires energy and sustained effort to keep up appearances and whilst you’re pretending you know there are two versions of yourself, the true you and the one you’re pretending to be. There is division. For more about yoga and mental health see this post.

Eventually the mask slips you end up feeling worse than you did before. Because the mask slipping reveals apparent failure. Others may witness it but most importantly the yogin recognises it.

The road less travelled

The alternative is the option that few embark on. It starts with the pain of having erred but then takes loving kindness and forgiveness and eventually effort to not repeat the error. When we can finally admit that we are not perfect or trying to be perfect; just more authentic, the practice of yoga can start.

What stands in our way is the colossus of our collected experiences, failures and the ensuing pain of looking at them.

In yoga this is called Samskara. The psychological and physical imprints collected over time (even past lives) are like well-walked paths in our psycho spiritual environment. They are our daily habits and patterns of reaction. On a physical level one might think of these as neurological pathways that are well worn in and we draw upon these impressions constantly. Like a reflex; samskaras are stored deep within.

Vippassana teacher S.N. Goenka likens to Samskaras to deep impressions. I recall him saying there are three types of Samskaras. The first is a light impression, like a line draw in water. It quickly disappears. The second, are temporary; like a line drawn in sand. When the tide comes in the line fades away. The third type of samskara (Prarabdha karma), is the type that is carried with us lifetime after lifetime and can be likened to a line chiseled into rock. 

An example of how this play out might help to clarify.

S.N. Goenka | Vipassana Teacher | What happens during meditation

For those who didn’t watch the video (it’s funny and worth a watch). A simple example, when something happens that goes against our wishes we react with agitation and irritation. Our mind wonders either into the past or the future, this is the habit pattern of the mind. It does not want to encounter the present moment. According to Vedanta, the present moment is not experienced by the mind, the present moment is pure awareness.

Through Yoga we learn to cultivate awareness which helps us recognise our particular habits

The practice of yoga teaches us that by sharpening the focus of our awareness we can reach a place where the impulse to react originates and at this root cause we have the choice of how to respond. 

Another way to put it would be to say, that when one is present enough to notice the reaction begin there arises simultaneously the choice, a) should I act how I have always reacted or, b) if I wait can I let this reaction pass and then act once the heat of the experience has dissipated. 

Integration means that you don’t have to be nice. Instead of choosing what ‘should’ be done, one choses what is natural. The reaction occurs and then the process of accepting as outlined earlier.

Is this what happens at a yoga class?

If you’ve been to one of my classes, you may have heard me something along the lines of:

‘yoga is more than the poses and stretching’ 

Yoga With Sunil Hertford, Ware, Welwyn

The rest of this post will go into what I mean by that.

The longer one engages in observation of themselves the more one learns, this might be why meditation is a lifelong pursuit. This is the true teacher within, this is why you learn and someone else cannot do the learning for you. Observation is a curious nexus of ‘being’ and ‘trying’ it’s difficult to dissect precisely where one ends and the other begins. 

Life is an intermittent series of puzzles and problems to interact with. We suffer when we don’t get what we want, the lack of something draws ones awareness away from their inner self. But even when we do get what we want; eventually we suffer, because all things change and sooner or later we’ll have to encounter loss of that thing too. 

Is there a way out? Yes. And this is the teaching of the Buddha. Gotama Buddha discovered that in observation of the self eventually one comes across ones own conditioned responses. To put it another way, when we can still our racing thoughts we’ll notice that our senses (touch, taste, smell etc) will encounter sensations. Observe the sensations and you’ll find that they are triggering thoughts. Observe for long enough and one may find that one is continuously pulled hither and tither by their thoughts. There is no rest from this and this is why one suffers – as there is no peace.

Each reaction further enmeshes us into the web of sensation triggering reaction triggering thought. 

Is that the same as mindfulness?

No. Mindfulness is a simplistic training exercise, a preliminary step toward a much deeper practice. Mindfulness as most of us encounter it today, has its origins in clinicians researching meditation but not wanting to engage with the culture out of which it comes. It’s popularity is in part due to the declining faith in religions. It seems that our modern sensibility has an aversion to the ‘G’ word. Perhaps it triggers ideas of original sin, hell, the devil, being judged and found wanting etc… the cold rationality of science is less offensive.

In yoga there is no man in the clouds ready to condemn you. There is the consciousness principal that manifests itself in all things. A concept that requires detailed exploration, one must think, ask questions and then assimilate the information, in short – work.

How to further your yoga practice 

Understanding that one of the ways we humans learn is via experiences becoming hardened into our brain through repetition until we develop conditioned responses. Pavlov and his dog are a popular example of this. Knowing what we know about the brain’s elasticity, it is possible to reshape our responses into more desirable ones. Then over time and repetition one can respond to the same stimulus in a completely new manner.

In yoga asana (postural yoga) as we get stronger the poses become less challenging and one has more bandwidth to incorporate awareness of sensation into their practice. So that the effort now involves maintaining bodily awareness but, critically; integrating feelings as they arise. By letting ‘it’ all play out one begins to let go or move beyond the established reactions so that a new space is created.

We work to create this space and then not fill it.

All the technical language (jargon/nuanced ideas made short) can easily waylay someone into engaging with the language itself and thought games. Instead the primacy of the experience in yoga is more useful than a variety of words describing it. 

It’s difficult to say one can ‘know’ it, but rather be in understanding/accordance with it. Nevertheless it is a human experience. 

The usual pattern of our thoughts.

  1. Cognition
  2. Recognition
  3. Reaction
  4. Raga / Duesha > like/dislike

The Beatles were right…

All you need is love. The mind that we bring to yoga or meditation is the mind that we have carried with us for the whole day. So the thoughts we think create impressions in the mind and these impressions play out during our yoga class or meditation. 

Our day-to-day interactions influence the way we think, and some experiences can be so disturbing that they create deep samskara’s. By reliving the experience we reinforce the experience which makes it harder to resolve. Thoughts come to us all the time, some we let pass others we reinforce through repeated thinking. For example anxiety, or fear of the future.

Violent disturbances such as these can be discouraged by training the mind, by keeping the mind in balance. Equanimity of the mind, of somatvam; is a natural progression in the journey of the yogin. A balanced mind is not emotionless, rather it experiences things fully rather than compartmentalising unpleasant experiences and preferring pleasurable ones.

How to attain somatvam? Karama yoga, giyan yoga. The yoga of action and knowledge. One has to experience life and to engage with it, be willing to learn and forgive and then go again. We all do this in an unfocussed and generalised manner, yet time allotted in a dedicated yoga practice is the fastest means of self integration. 

So, the next time you’re in a yoga class and you wobble out of a balance, or some other struggle ensues observe it and make space to integrate it – this is yoga, this is how to dissolve samskara after samskara. 

Yogic thoughts…

Yogic thoughts….

And I am not professing any authority on the subject, or backing a particular view point as superior. Just that these are the tools I have chosen for my exploration. In a way I’m ordering my thoughts by trying to sequence them in these blogs about yoga.

Yogic thoughts…
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Following a fascinating conversation at the end of one of our 10 AM meditation meetings I wanted to put down some of my thoughts about the impact of yoga and meditation for dealing with anxiety, depression and dementia.

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What is Kundalini?
An attempt at explaining Kundalini Yoga in 350 words. This article will help you understand the main ideas and how they relate back to Yoga Kundalini Yoga Hertford.
Update: Yoga Stays Open
In light of the current situation and after some thought as to how we can come together as a community I am reaching out to offer you this advice about my yoga classes.
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All about the new Thursday evening Yoga classes in Hertford for those that are new to Yoga. We'll be working toward a 108 sun salutation sponsored charity event in Spring.
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This post is of interest to anyone who has done yoga and is starting to get an inkling for a deeper experience. Or anyone that has thought to themselves during a yoga class… “what is the point of this?” A yogin’s journey beings when s/he consciously takes steps in the search for truth, sataya.
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One Day Yoga Retreat: Sunday 28th April
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Monday Night Yoga In Hertford
Live yoga classes or YouTube yoga?
Learn To Meditate in Hertford
What is meditation? What to expect at a meditation class and where does Yoga fit into all of this?
Is Yoga bad for you?
As with anything new that we try there are things to be careful about. This post talks about the role of the Teacher and Student. Yoga classes Hertford are no different.
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I've quit the day job!
live-online-or-youtube-which-is-better
How to set up your home online yoga space
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Grace's Indian Yoga Retreat Experience
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Online yoga classes offered everyday. £20 for a week of yoga. Tailored to your existing practice.
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Everything you need to know about coming to your first yoga class. This post will explain what you can expect and the Do's and Don't of yoga classes.
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Advanced Yoga is not simply expressed in greater flexibility. What is it? Find out at Yoga with Sunil Hertford. This post is about Hatha Yoga and how to advance your practice without being a circus freak! 🙂
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Yoga-Welwyn-Woodhall-community-centre

Beginners Yoga WGC. Everything that you need to know

Are you thinking of trying out yoga? Perhaps your Doctor has suggested it, or you’ve heard about the benefits of yoga and want to give it a go. Some people come to yoga because they want to get fitter, manage chronic body pain or are looking for a more balanced way of life. Whatever your reason, these general yoga classes in WGC at Woodhall Community Centre are a great place to start.

You are in good company, many of the people that come to the yoga classes in WGC at Woodhall Community Centre are there for the same reason as you. This class is new so you will be practising yoga with people who are also just starting out. The benefit of this to you is that you won’t have that sinking feeling that you’re not as ‘good’ as everyone else. Or that they all know each other and you’re the odd one out. 

It’s natural to feel apprehensive about trying out something new. In this post, I’ll do my best to give you the information you need to feel more comfortable.

Yoga classes ideal for beginners

Yoga is a body work, so let’s clear up some of the more obvious stuff. 

You’ll be moving, stretching, balancing, getting stronger. All this means you’ll sweat, that’s part of it. Expect to draw on your energy reserves but the pay-off is that the chemicals your brain will release shall boost your mood, metabolism and even memory – along with a ton of other good things.

During the class the Yoga Teacher, me (Sunil) will give you instructions on how to move and also where to place your attention. Many beginners often make the mistake of thinking yoga is just about moving their body into fancy stretches. Nothing could be farther from the truth, the quality of your attention, how present you are is as important as the body work.

healthy woman relaxation garden
Yoga WGC with Meditation all welcome

What do beginners have to ‘get’ at yoga classes 

Move safely

During your first few classes I’ll be looking to establish the basics. Primarily I seek to make sure that you are moving in a way that is in harmony with your body mechanics. In simple terms this means making sure that you are forward folding with your knees bent and are using the muscles in your back to prevent overloading the vertebrae in your lower back and neck. It may sound like a simple thing, and it is; but you’ll be surprised how easily this gets overlooked when in the midst of a sequence of flowing yoga poses. 

Discover your breath

If I could tell you the secret of postural yoga, it would be this. Focus on your breath. As it is something that we always do one can easily miss this. Whilst you wrestle with your body, the physical challenge and thoughts your breath is an allay and aid that is invaluable. By focussing on your breath you will open up the deeper aspects of yoga. 

Getting stronger

We are all different and our bodies get conditioned at different speeds. The more you practice the more your body will learn what is required of it. The amazing thing about yoga is that it is a complete body workout. The movements will get connected chains of muscles to work in concert. This means that you gain true functional strength. That’s the kind of strength that you need to pick things up, improve your balance and lighten the load on any ‘problem areas’ of your body.

Not getting it right and managing that sinking feeling

Wobbles and getting tired or stepping out of a balancing pose are all part of the process. You won’t be the first nor the last person to step out of tree pose! More important than falling out is the way that you get back in. What I mean is; to not simply jump back into a shape but that we take a breath, ground and go back in using the same steps taken when we first attempted it. Once you do this you will no longer be a beginner because you’ll have cultivated enough presence to approach the pose in the correct way. Falling out has nothing to do with how ‘advanced’ you are. 

Time for another secret. There is no such thing as advanced yoga! Yoga is that moment when you find your flow state, when time stops and you are entirely present with yourself – you’ll still hear sounds about you, be able to see other things but your mind has become still. This is yoga. It has no gradients where one state is higher than another. Either you are in yoga or you are not.

What about that sinking feeling?

We all experience ‘failure’ when trying something, this is part of the process and not the destination. We go again and when we do this with a smile then we have learnt another valuable lesson that yoga brings. Everything changes, but through it all the awareness is constant and as long as you have that you will be a life long yogi. You can also take this resilience with you away from the mat. It is the art of pausing to take a breath, it has immense power.

What to expect at your first yoga class

Once you’ve settled on to your mat we always take some minutes to arrive and acknowledge the space that we are in. In this way one creates a space around themselves, a boundary between what came before and the present moment. This ancient custom has been practised by the human family for countless thousands of years and we honour this with the Om. The chant can be vocal or an inward intention. It is a way of connecting with the others in the room and feeling one’s own vibration which is in itself a step inward.

After a warm up we begin the class proper. Expect to bend, twist and balance. Expect to call on your strength. Expect to notice the little things and let them go. Expect challenge, support and the trust in your body to grow. At the end of the class we take our final and most important pose. Shivasana. The final relaxation is one final opportunity to integrate what you have experienced, to let go, relax and let the benefits of your practice sink in.

Do’s and Don’ts at a yoga class

Do…

  • Bring/buy your own yoga mat
  • Pay before the class starts
  • Take off your shoes before you enter the hall
  • Ask questions if something isn’t clear
  • Rest if you need to
  • A quick warm up at home if you have time
  • Let me know if you have an injury/ailment 

Do not…

  • Look around or talk to others once the class starts
  • Push beyond pain. If you feel pain stop!
  • Book if you are not sure you can come
  • Have your phone or smart watch by your mat
  • Judge others

Yoga with Sunil has been in Hertfordshire since 2016, although I have been teaching yoga since 2010. I tailor each of the classes depending on whomever is present and always seek to bring in something specific to you. It takes a little time for me to learn how you move and what works for you – this is why maintaining a regular practice will be beneficial. In time you will surprise yourself, I have seen this many times and yoga still regularly surprises me.

If you would like to come to a class or book a place please email me. You’ll have to pay in advance of your first class. I look forward to welcoming you to a yoga class in Welwyn Garden City soon.

online-yoga-morning-zoom

11 Reasons To Do Yoga In the Morning & How

From decreasing anxiety and depression to improving heart health and feelings of social connection, the effects are well-studied. Whether you are a busy parent or a commuter you’ll know that mornings can be a window for productivity – learn more about online yoga classes.

1. Setting your intention at the beginning of the day can help you keep your focus throughout the day. It might be to drink enough water, to stop negative thoughts before they start, to practice self love.

2. Get rid of ‘fuzz’. Whilst sleeping our bodies are moving a lot less than during the day. Getting your body warmed up and stretched out is an excellent way to maintain optimal good health.

3. Don’t start stressed. A clear and calm start to the day will help you notice when you start to let things get the better of you so you can stop and re-connect and stop the slide.

4. Activate your white blood cells. Waking up and getting moving gets your natural defence mechanism up and running. Yoga activates all your body’s systems.

5.Get happy. As well as activating your circulation and immune systems yoga in the morning helps you to get a mood boost too. Research shows that it actually helps your sleep too!

6. Me time. Get your day off to a flyer by having some me time. Your practice of yoga is something you do alone but helps those around you too.

7. Boost your digestive fire. Getting moving will help your body to process the nutritional benefits of the food that you take in. By strengthening the deeper muscles around your organs your body will get more efficient at extracting vitamins from the food you take in.

8. The inner creates the outer. Getting your inner world right will influence how you see the world around you. Yoga is all about perfecting this.

9. Quiet mornings are the best time to get your dose of peace, just before the world starts to wake up, enjoy the quiet and merge with it during your yoga practice.

10. Boost your brain power. Focussing early in the day helps you increase productivity and alertness throughout the day. 

11. Experience the flow. Connecting with your deep self is part of being here now. Being present with your breath in yoga opens up a doorway into a flow state. 

Still not sure?

When it comes to online yoga a live Zoom yoga class is the better option. Check out my post about Zoom Vs. YouTube Yoga to discover why you’ll get a more authentic experience.

3 Morning classes Zoom yoga classes
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£12 x3 Morning Classes – Pay by PayPal
£12 x3 Morning Classes – Pay by Card
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5 reasons why yoga with Sunil is different

Outdoor yoga classes starting May 2021

Spring is an ideal time for a fresh start,  with the gradually longer days and warmer climes it is natural to be want to spend more times outdoors. I invite you this Spring on an exploration of authentic, traditional yoga . 

Yoga is a structured means by which one can systematically come to the gateway of profound inner knowledge, for some it is transformational for others it is a confirmation of deep murmurings. 

My mission

outdoor-yoga-with-sunil

I want to share the ancient authentic wisdom traditions of yoga and well-being with you. I reach out to all serious people; of all body shapes, levels of experience and ages to extend your knowledge through activity and self enquiry.

I believe that the post c-19 world should be one of integrated communities, this means getting out there and saying ‘hi’ to the people we share our space with.

Yoga is a brilliant way to do this because yoga is for all people, regardless of gender, body type, age or ability.

Reason 1: You’ll learn to control your emotions, not suppress them.

As the felt response to a given situation, emotions play a key part in your reactions. When you’re in tune with them, you have access to important knowledge that helps with decision making and relationships. I have written about yoga for mental health else where on my blog.

Accept your emotions — all of them

Accepting emotions as they come helps you gain self understanding. Increasing your comfort around intense emotions allows you to fully feel them without reacting in unhelpful ways.

So… Take a deep breath

There’s much to be said for the power of a deep breath, whether you’re ridiculously happy or so angry you can’t speak. Slowing down and paying attention to your breath won’t make the emotions go away (that’s not the goal).

Nevertheless, deep breathing exercises can help you ground yourself and take a step back from the first intense flash of emotion and any extreme reaction you want to avoid.

Reason 2: Understand your body rather than forcing it to fit a modern template

Yoga knowledge reaches back into the human story over 6000 years. There is a reason you have the body that you do. Cherish it, it will always change. By borrowing from the traditions of yoga we will begin understanding the nature of change and how it is integral to our growth.

Reason 3: Develop your power of intuition

Yoga teaches us to move beyond a simple reductionist view of reality. We are engaged in something more meaningful than simply our sense perceptions. 

Knowledge: Empirical understanding combined with theory

Each one of my yoga classes incorporates meditation. The principals of yogic meditation have been borrowed by many modern approaches, experience first hand the original form of these modern approaches.

  • Arrive
  • Acknowledge
  • Observe

When you still the (surface level) internal dialogue intuition comes to you. You will learn to interpret the amazing things that your body is communicating.

Reason 4: If your cup is already full how can you add anything new? 

We have to be willing to let go of one thing so that something new can enter.

Entering a wider knowledge base and also the community is opening yourself up so that you can wisely take on board that which will help you cross a barrier. On the other side? That which lays dormant within you.

Surrendering the ego so that the real you can win. The beginner mindset is the ideal starting point of entry into the profoundly deep.

Reason 5: By the end of summer, you will not be your best self. You will simply (and magnificently) be yourself. 

The difference will be that you will have a clear understanding of the process of stilling the mind. What is more, you will have it with you to use whenever you need it.

In fact, the fundamentals of Yoga with Sunil are such that you will be able to explain them with precision to your friends and family members. The information will have been assimilated into a wider body of knowledge that is contained within you. There’s a good chance that you will continue to practice yoga, develop and look on the group as a community.

So join us…

live-online-or-youtube-which-is-better

Book Live Online Yoga Classes

When are online yoga classes?

How does it work?

Daily live yoga classes are held via Zoom, you can download the app to your phone, tablet or laptop. I send you an invitation to the class to your email address, all you have to do is click the link and the class starts.

You can buy a single class, a week of morning classes or evening classes. week of classes

Will everyone be able to see me doing yoga?

No. Nobody can see into your space, I turn off video functionality on your side as you sign in. You can turn off your video sharing to further prevent this from happening.

Pay Securely With Your Debit/Credit Card or PayPal

To book for the week

Evening Yoga Classes

Book 3 evening online yoga classes.

£12.00

Morning Yoga Classes

Book 3 morning online yoga classes.

£12.00

online-yoga-classes

What if I don’t have PayPal?

That’s ok, you can also use the links above to pay via your card.

Can I pay for more than 1 week?

Yes. You can select the number of weeks when completing your purchase using the buttons above.

Can anyone in my household join in?

Yes. And this is no extra charge for this. If they have any concerns they can email me or read the information here.

It will be a new learning experience for all involved, however; I will still tailor each online yoga class depending on whom is present. Whether you have been practicing with me for years or just a few classes, I have a good understanding about your physiology as well as where in you development you are. Each class can be adapted to suit the needs of those present.

How do I join?

You can pay right now using the options above.

Yoga-Cancer-Survivor

My Yoga Story

A guest post by Yogini Jill

“You have cancer”. The 3 words no one ever wants to hear. It took my breath away. Literally. I stopped breathing and almost passed out. Once I gained composure, I knew I had to be strong. Strong in my mind. I knew I was going to lose control of what was going to happen to my physical body but I still had control of my mental state. And that’s where Yoga came in.

Continue reading My Yoga Story

Learn To Meditate in Hertford

If you landed here because you were searching for meditation classes in Hertford – you’ve probably read or heard of meditation as a means of relaxation, improving mental health or even productivity at work. Don’t worry this post isn’t going to be about how meditation can make everything in your life better, instead I’ll go into some detail on the type of meditation that you can expect when you come to Yoga and Meditation at the Mill Bridge Rooms, Hertford. Continue reading Learn To Meditate in Hertford

Is Yoga bad for you?

Yoga can be bad for you if you have an preexisting health condition and through the practice of certain positions your condition becomes worse. It is the role of the teacher to keep you safe. There has been a lot of research into Asana (Yoga postures), and with the guidance of Osteopaths and other body work specialists there is no reason why anyone’s health should be compromised when practicing Yoga. Continue reading Is Yoga bad for you?