Monday, March 22, 2010

The inequality of time and speed

As in velocity.

Yesterday Milan held an event called "StraMilano" it's a half marathon, with the option open of doing a 5k or a 10k if you are not up to doing the whole lot. I did the 10 k. (oops! that little snippet of information just happened to get through - not that I would want to boast about having completed my FIRST marathon !!!! When I told Melitta my eldest that I ran a race she said "Did you win?" Incase you, like my daughter were wondering, NO I did not.)

Anyway....when it comes to running there seems to be a discrepancy between out-put of effort and the concept of time. Let me explain (for the yogis of you who are not interested in running - stay with me, this is for you too)....If I go at a relatively comfortable pace I complete my 5k in X amount of time. If I really push myself to my physical maximum the amount of time I presume I will have earnt is NOT the expected 5 minutes, but a mere and disappointing 10 seconds or so less than it would be under normal conditions. This came as a shock to me. How is it possible that my concept of time under stress or duress can be so completely over-estimated? And am I alone? I fear not.

Is our concept of time completely out of sync with reality when one is going about normal everyday activities? Is the amount of effort one puts into doing something quickly, matching up with the time saved? Personally I find I rush around at my maximum believing that this way I will earn an extra 5,10,30 (?) minutes of extra time. But is this too a fallacy exactly as it is when I have my running shoes on?

Today I decided to experiment. I leave the house at 6.45 in the morning. I have to rush back to be at home for 08.00 so I can help Valerio get the girls ready and feed them breakfast. I arrive puffing and panting, my heart beat elevated and my stress levels high. I weave around my children like a cyclist in heavy traffic and try to get them out of the door by 08.30. Today instead of rushing home I went at a reasonable yet comfortable pace and I arrived my feathers smooth rather than ruffled. I arrived ONLY 3 minutes later than I would usually despite the fact I was going at a "human" pace. Suprised, I felt calm. I continued to be attentive and productive and slower as I made my way through hair-brushing, tea-making and snack-preparing. The girls got out the door just as they usually do - five minutes later than they should - so no change there.

I continually hear people say "the fast pace of life is too stressful" but few tend to complete the syllogism; that slowing down reduces stress! Simple, no? And think - it costs us nothing.

Considering that going at our maximum pace earns us comparatively little in matters of time (if you don't believe me do as I did today and TRY. ) but a lot when it comes to stress levels, perhaps we could entertain the idea of creating a stress free day NOT by having a massage, listening to classical music, having a glass of wine, taking the day off work or going for a swim, but by simply MOVING MORE SLOWLY.

But not if you are doing the marathon :-)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Why is it that when we feel a state of boredom, anger, frustration, sadness we turn to the biscuit jar, the television, internet, in some cases alcohol, sex or a cigarette? The obvious answer seems to be that these things are fun. Well, some of them are. But if we delve beneath the surface there seems to be a different darker reason. It's avoidance. In order not to feel anything vaguely negative we cover up that emotion or sensation by replacing it with another more pleasurable as quickly as feasibly possible. God forbid that I should feel sad! Why is this?

I noticed recently with my small daughter Nina that when she cries my immediate reaction to this is to distract her. I point something out to her, I show her a book, I offer her a toy and in extreme cases or when I'm depleted of energy or creativity I offer her a biscuit or a sweet or a dreaded cartoon. What message is my behavior giving her? That pain or discomfort is to be avoided. That pain and discomfort is something bad. WHich is a shame as I don't think it is intrinsically "bad" and definitely not to be avoided. Feeling anger or frustration or sadness is a normal part of ones daily mental make-up. And it's actually ok. The problem is not to avoid these sensations or try to suppress them (a recipe for disaster) but to deal with them.

My homework for you this week is when you feel mental anguish or discomfort to ride the wave. Stay with it without distracting yourself with another cigarette. Pay attention to how you feel and let that sensation wash over you. Like a wave it may hit hard and then will dissipate and disappear. As one of my students said "invite it in for a cup of tea". Be hospitable. Thereby accelerating acceptance of oneself with all your sharp edges because they too are (sometimes) part of who you are.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Life is wonderful

photo by Giorgio Majno

Valerio strolled into the kitchen and said "How is it possibile? I mean life is so hard, people are so stressed, there's no justice in the world, but despite this...despite this, life is wonderful. How can that be?!"

I think the answer has to be that your happiness does not depend on outside circumstance and context. Having a roof over our head and and enough money to pay the bills and afford a comfortable standard of living does of course help, but it goes no further than this. Happiness, or "santosha" in yogic terms, is something that comes from the inside. Which is just as well considering that Valerio is, being the only male in the house, a definite minority ; he lives with four females (including an aging disabled three-legged cat) all of whom clamor for his attention constantly - our household with two small demanding daughters (and an even more demanding wife) is not exactly relaxing to say the least. Yes, contentment comes from within which is the only thing I suspect, keeping him from packing his suitcase and running away to a log cabin in the mountains.

(In case it's not clear - Valerio is infact my husband.)

For your homework this week I suggest you observe your wishes for the future. Do you find yourself saying - " I can't wait until.....

I lose three kilos/

I buy a BMW/

The summer holidays/

My daughter will eat something other than "pasta in bianco"/

I pass my exam/

I find the man of my dreams"

As if somehow obtaining these things or reaching these goals (I have nothing against goals! We need them - not to reach but to work towards) will almost magically secure you happiness?

Well, relax. The good news is you don't need any of these things to happen to feel happy.

The point is this; YOU DON'T NEED ANYTHING.

Liberating isn't it?

Monday, March 1, 2010

ASHTANGA yoga starts at Lotus Pocus

photo by Giorgio Majno

I am very pleased to announce the arrival of Mozart, our very own ashtanga yoga instructor here at Lotus Pocus. He will be holding his lessons IN ENGLISH on SATURDAY's at 09.45 in the morning. For any information do not hesitate to contact me at or 3939844025.

The Method:
Ashtanga Yoga, according to the method of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, is a system of hatha yoga based on "Vinyasa", movement synchronized with the breath.
There are several series or sequences of postures (asanas) in the system: Primary Series (yoga chikitsa) purifies and aligns the body. Intermediate (nadi shodhana) deepens the cleansing and strengthens the nervous system and the nadis, energetic channels found in the body.

Breath control, along with correct execution of the asanas, and the technique of gazing (drishti), are the hallmarks of this tradition, elevating it from mere gymnastics into a physical, mental, and ultimately spiritual practice.

The Teacher:
After having taken the Sivananda TTC, Mozart was exposed to the Ashtanga tradition by his mother, who started studying it in 2001. Mozart then studied with AYRI-certified teacher Alexander Medin before making his own way to Mysore, India, in 2008, to study with Guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Rangaswamy

First trial class offered free of charge. Enjoy!
Warning; it's addictive.