Thursday, October 22, 2009


Hello everyone,

Gianluca has just started a series of workshops exploring the numerous aspects of Hatha yoga. I feel very honored to have him at my center doing both lessons and seminars and I believe he will bring a great deal to Lotus Pocus in terms of expertise, knowledge, energy and wonderful teaching.

He has kindly agreed to send me a little summary of each workshop to post here on my blog.



Recentemente si è tenuto presso Lotus Pocus il primo incontro del workshop 'Fisiologia, simboli e forme nell'hatha-yoga - Un percorso di consapevolezza attraverso i chakra'.

In questa prima sessione è stato presentato il quadro metafisico di riferimento dell'hatha-yoga, analizzando in particolare il processo di manifestazione dell'universo secondo il tantrismo ed evidenziando la corrispondenza tra macrocosmo e microcosmo. È stato introdotto il concetto di prana e la sua relazione con il respiro, nonché gli elementi di base della fisiologia sottile dell'essere umano (le nadi, i chakra, la kundalini) e la loro funzione nel processo di realizzazione dell'individuo.

Abbiamo dato alcune definizioni di yoga e discusso della relazione tra mente e corpo, della

saggezza degli antichi maestri (rishi) e della prudenza che dobbiamo adottare nella nostra pratica.

Abbiamo fatto alcune considerazioni sul sentimento della paura e sulla modalità in cui la pratica dello yoga ci aiuta a superarla. Infine ci siamo confrontati sul principio dell'essere veritieri (satya, uno dei pilastri dello Yoga classico) e sul senso di libertà che da esso deriva.

Nella pratica di hatha-yoga abbiamo lavorato e portato l'attenzione su: esercizi di estensione della colonna vertebrale; tecniche per rivitalizzare il corpo e risvegliare il respiro; controllo del movimento attraverso la respirazione; consapevolezza e visualizzazione simbolica nelle varie forme proposte.

Nei prossimi incontri passeremo ad analizzare nello specifico i singoli chakra. Per ognuno di essi verranno analizzati: la relazione con il corpo fisico e con l'ambito psichico; l'elemento del macrocosmo a cui sono correlati e il suo significato; i suoni, i colori e i simboli che li rappresentano.

L'approccio seguito è sempre quello dell'esperienza pratica, della partecipazione attiva e della condivisione, nel rispetto degli specifici punti di partenza, bisogni e risorse di ciascuno; l'obiettivo è quello di avviare un percorso di consapevolezza attraverso la pratica dell'ascolto, applicando le tecniche classiche dell'hatha-yoga.

Nel secondo incontro verrà trattato il primo chakra, Muladhara (il chakra della base) e il suo elemento, la Terra.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


This post is in english - the next will be in italian.

Avicenna (arguebly the most important philosopher in the history of Islam, born in the 11th Century BC) was a very clever man, and he knew it. Famous for his groundbreaking works in the field of philosophy and medicine, he is less famous for his modesty which was nonexistent. But he had a good reason to be boastful and he certainly hasn't become one of Iran's national heros for nothing.

His most famous thought experiment was that of the “floating man” (or “flying man” depending on what your read), which he claimed proved the existence of a soul (or a god). His thought experiment goes like this;

Imagine a man is born in adult form in complete darkness and floating in nothingness. He is without gravity, without sound nor any visual input. He cannot see anything nor feel anything, not even his own body as his fingers are splayed open, his legs apart and his arms away from his sides so there is non tactile (or visual or audial) information coming in. If a man should be born in without any sensory input would he be aware of anything? According to Avicenna despite this “sterile” ambient, he would still be aware of his own existence. And this he claims is the proof of the existence of the soul (or god).

I think the floating man would be aware of his existence not through thought (as he hasn't had any possibility to develop language) but through “proprioception” which is a sense dedicated to the awareness of our body in space. I can pick up a glass of water and bring it to my lips without having to consciously follow the pathway through visual signals, although they help. In the middle of the night I do not need to see my arm to know that it is placed folded under me. Proprioception is best understood when we have lost it. For example when you drink too much: alcohol influences and diminishes this sense, which is why (at least in Britain – I don't know about here in Italy) if a policeman thinks you have been drinking to much he will ask you to shut your eyes and bring your finger to the tip of your nose. If you can do this with relative ease you probably haven't had one to many down the pub. If you lose this sense in order to walk you would need to see your leg coming up and then down in order to know where to place it. It's totally non-verbal and I suspect involves the right (sensory) side of the brain rather than the left (linguistic – but this is I confess a very crude differentiation). By the way.....If there are any neurologists out there who could clarify this for me I would be most grateful!

I believe Avicenna's floating man would have been thinking proprioceptively through the awareness of his internal organs within his own body and through his awareness of his body in space. I think he would have had a very dominant right side of the brain. Rather than concluding that this is the proof of the existence of the soul (or god) I believe that it is the key to getting one of the former, or getting into contact with the latter in so far as, the quietening down of the our internal brain chatter and the development of the right “sensory sensitive” side of the brain brings us closer to god, peace, collective consciousness, tranquility, "being at one with the world", calm, it what you will.

Sometimes when I am in the tree position I think of Avicenna's floating man – I close my eyes, distance my body from itself so the only sensory input I have is tactile through the soles of my feet and through sound. I imagine I am floating. I fine tune my proprioceptive ability. It's very calming. Try it.

Yoga is a great way to stimulate and develop the sense of proprioception.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Ok - sometimes my posts will be in Italian sometimes in English. Hope that's ok for everyone.

We'd both just come out of our japanese class and Valerio turned to me and stated

"you know, I always go into the class really stressed ...."

(he has to dash home from work at wonderfully yet ridiculously early time)

"......... yet when I come out I feel totally relaxed."

Usually, personally I come out of the lesson feeling like my brain has been fried due to the effort made by my overly dormant linguistic neurons which are taking their time at re-awakening. However, apart from the pure cognitive up-hill struggle, I have to say I too feel the same.

Valerio carried on:

"I think it's because it has to do with the fact that for a period of time I am totally concentrated on only one thing. Japanese."

And I think he has hit the nail on the head. We do not need to sleep to feel refreshed we simply need to concentrate on one thing at a time. And to breathe :-) People tend to block their natural breathing pattern, sucking in their abdomen and creating as little movement as possible causing (along with all the difficulties big and small that the day presents one with) the body to become rigid and the mind to be in stress mode. But anyway...going back to Japenese....

Doing more two or more things at once is not clever, it's bloody tiring. And cognitively speaking we are doing ourselves no favors. Just because you are physically able to perform two tasks at once doesn't mean you should. What you are in fact doing (as I have mentioned before in my post on multitasking) is DIVIDING your attention. You cannot put 100% attention on two tasks - you have to divide it. It has been proven that if you try to learn something whilst performing another task (listening to the ipod for example), your ability to recall what you have learnt later on will be far diminished. As Norman Doidge states in his book "How the brain changes itself" "When we want to remember something we have heard we must hear it clearly, because a memory can only be as clear as the original signal". Which explains why I can never remember to buy those little honey throat sweets that every morning Valerio pleads me to get, or to remember to iron the shirts (sigh - yes yoga instructors are human beings too) not because I am The Anti-Wife in persona, but because I have has to receive his message through a blanket of noise whilst task performing ; kids screaming, cats meowing, whilst plating melitta's hair and eating my cornflakes.

SO why do you feel good after your yoga session? Apart from it being finished :-) perhaps you feel good because you have been concentrating on one thing, and one thing alone. Yoga in this case. This in itself brings about a state of inner calm. We are also (as in the case of learing Japanese for Valerio) in what Csikszentmihalyi calls a "state of flow" - a state in which you are so concentrated on what you are doing than time no longer has meaning (time flies without you noticing) you feel completely at one with what you are doing, there is a loss of ego, a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, you feel positively productive and perfectly at your ease ( least I hope you do at least some of the time on your yoga mat!) . The good news is that yes yoga does or can help induce a state of flow but even better, simply concentrating FULLY on one thing at a time should also get you in the right direction.

Going slowly and paying undivided attention IS relaxing - no matter how much you have to do. Try it.

Ma-ta-ne! ("see you later" in Japanese - but actually I have no idea how to spell it!)