Thursday, November 19, 2009


This week during the yoga classes I have mentioned "dominant thoughts" which I think is a subject so important I feel it's worth writing (more) about. I apologize to my students who have already heard me rant and rave about it this week. However if in the future you need reminding, then at least you know it's always here to find on my blog if and when necessary.....

When we do the plank pose (Ahdo Mukha Svasnasana) why is it that some of the more "muscly" males, big, bulky and brawny often have a harder time staying in the position that some of the more fragile looking females? Ok - it's true that the willowy-like among "us" (I use the term loosely!) have less weight to hold up, but we also have far less muscle to do it with. In theory the the guys who hang out at the gym weight lifting have more strength that the waif-like lettuce nibblers. Yet, for some reason in the plank it's often (but not always!!) the "weaker" sex who hold the position longer (it was my teacher Beatrice Calacagno who first pointed this out to me).

What this proves is it is not simply about muscle but about brain. Or mind. Muscle helps but it's mental power that gets you through.

One of the ways to make sure that you stay in the plank longer than you thought possible is because you convince yourself it IS possible. If you tell yourself after a couple of minutes that "that's it, I can't do it, I'm giving up" then you will almost instantly collapse onto your mat. Your body is very obedient to its thoughts.

Yesterday a friend of mine told me about, lets call her "Jane". A wonderful inspiring woman very well known in the publishing world who was, to her horror, one fine morning mercilessly fired. Her high salary and impressive CV midst the credit crunch did nothing for her unemployment situation, and she remained jobless for an entire year. Job offers came and went but she refused to "undersell" herself. Then suddenly recently she was offered an amazing job with a salary that she was worth. My immediate thought was "Wow! She had a very insistent long-term positive dominant thought pattern going on there" Had her dominant thought over the last 12 months been "I'm a failure" or "no-one is ever going to employ me again" she would probably still there in the dole queue.

Know your worth (your positive aspects) and remind yourself of that. It's not about being big headed it's about being KIND.

SO just as on the yoga mat we convince ourselves we are going to stay in the plank postion forever, we can do the same off of the yoga mat a reap the rewards.

We tend to go towards our dominant thought. We also tend to have a habitual dominant thought that is unfortunately more often than not, negative which goes something like;

I'm a bad mother, I'm unsociable, I'm a terrible boss, I'm a loner, I'm fat, I'll always be single...etc. etc.

I invite you this week to

1. NOTICE what your dominant thoughts are

2. Label them positive or negative (do they help you go towards your goal or do they direct you off your chosen path?)

3. If negative, think about how to turn the thought around to that is becomes a support rather than a form of punishment.

Repeat as often as necessary until positive dominant thoughts become a habit rather than an exception to the rule.

Use your dominant thought ("I CAN do this" "I will stay where I am") to start your asana and then a slow and even breathing pattern to help you discover and experience the asana fully.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I was lucky enough to attend a conference held by Antonio Nuzzo who made some very interesting points about our "mental structure" ( including, as we would say in English, our "emotional baggage") which, as we grow from a baby to a child and them to an adult, becomes more solid and intricate as does our ego.

What is it about being a child which is so appealing (apart from having someone to do the cooking for you)? When you hear the wise and enlightened talking about returning to the "child-like state" what is it exactly that they are getting at, what do they mean? Exactly what Avicenna implied (although this was not his thesis) when he spoke about "the floating man".

I suspect they mean using the right hemisphere of the brain, allowing space for your right hemisphere to have it's "say". In children under the age of three the right side of the brain is dominant - it "thinks" through the senses (seeing as verbally not much is happening yet) . Everything is learnt through sensations, tone, sound, touch etc. rather than through verbalization, interpretation and cognitive analysis. It is for this reason for example, that all mothers from a ll cultures tend to use that kind of "baby voice" and "goo and gar" when talking to their little ones. Because it is through tone and sound that the mother communicates with her child at that very tender age "it's right-brained friendly". Then as we age the left analytical critical part takes over, bullying the right. Seeing as we as a society reward those who are academically ahead we are encouraging a left-brained way of being. (you baby can talk ALREADY? She can do SUMS?) I once met a baby girl on the beach in Sicily who was TWO years old at the time (the same as Nina my daughter who running around the beach yet could not say her own name) , this tiny tot could reel off a list of brand-names; Dolce e Gabbana, Cavalli etc. which was "impressive" to say the least. Although she couldn't walk yet, she could say her prayers. I'm not criticizing this, what I found interesting was the joy and celebration and applause her mother and aunt showered on her for this ability. We are a society that rewards analytical thinking, that prizes linguistic prowess and...forgets about the right side of the brain. We are destined to become left-brained dominant. There is nothing wrong with that apart from the fact that it is not conducive to calm, to peace, to tranquillity. It is not conducive to living in the present moment of time, it all about living for the future or dwelling in the past. What a SHAME. It's a verbal despot with an objective in mind; to keep us busy, to keep us thinking, to keep us projected towards tomorrow.

But we are living NOW.

In order to let go of the ego, in order to find a moment of calm of on your yoga mat as in with life, one needs to plug into the child like state that is - in my humble opinion - the right side of your brain. One of the ways you can do this is by practicing yoga, which goes without saying.