Posted by: assuntina | May 19, 2008

Hello again, winter has ended.

Looking back over my posts I’ve written , I see a definite slow down after Christmas with only two posts in Jan, Feb and March each, then nothing until now.  Well, what can I say?  I find winter extremely hard to get through and this winter has been no exception.  Suddenly though in the last few weeks I find a huge surge of energy coursing through me; I’m able to start a more active yoga practise again, I can go to the gym again, I want to get out and do some gardening, it’s easier to walk to school.  In short I feel revitalised, and it’s a great feeling.  And once again I feel inspired to write this blog.

Throughout the winter months, I found it hard to motivate myself to do very much at all: I was either too tired, too poorly or just plain stuck in my SADness.  If you also suffer from SAD then you’ll know how awful it can be.  Next year I plan to try a light box and see where that gets me. 

Of course in this country it can still feel wintry quite often even during the summer months, I came home the other day to find that my other half had switched on the central heating, when I might have forced myself to endure it shivering.  But it isn’t winter…It feels different, the air smells different, the light and colours are completely different and I feel that difference in myself.  The flowers are blooming and so am I.

This winter I noticed an interesting difference in my approach to myself and my ‘condition’, a healthier and more compassionate approach.  I gave myself permission to take things more easily, I let myself enjoy my restorative yoga practise.  I positively chose to ignore those voices telling me that I should just push myself through these feelings, or even push myself out of them.  So I rested a lot more, ignoring more voices telling me off for watching movies in the daytime!  I did loads of restorative postures which helped me to relax and quell the anxiety.  I did the minimum amount of work that I could get away with.  And, you know what, despite feeling not at all brilliant, I did have some quite nice moments through it all, knowing it would come to an end and I would be a different person again.  And here we are.  Spring has sprung and I have too. 


Posted by: assuntina | March 26, 2008

Yoga mornings in Patcham

Next month I’m starting a series of monthly mornings of yoga from 10am till 1pm in Patcham.  Most of these mornings will be held on Saturdays, with the odd one or two on a Sunday. As with the women’s yoga morning, (see the previous post), we’ll be using up to about half the time to work actively in the postures as you would do in a standard class with me, and then spending the rest of the time relaxing in restorative poses, with breathing, chanting and a little meditation. You will leave feeling very relaxed and revitalised for the rest of the day at the very least!The sessions are open to men and women and beginners are invited to attend as well. To encourage you to book up ahead of time the classes will be discounted so that the more you book and pay for, the cheaper they become.  If you haven’t been to a morning or a day before, then don’t panic thinking you aren’t up to it: if you can manage a usual session with me, then you’ll be fine with an extended class.  Any questions or concerns about suitability, then give me a ring or send me an email.

If you want to reserve a place then send me a cheque made out to Assuntina Cardillo Zallo, (or sort it out when you next see me) and post it to 29 Highfield Crescent, BN1 8JD.


£15 for one morning

£14 each for two mornings booked at the same time

£13 each for three mornings booked at the same time.


Saturday April 12th Saturday 13th September
Saturday May 10th Saturday 11th October
Saturday 14th June Saturday 22nd November
Sunday 20th July total

Posted by: assuntina | March 1, 2008

A morning of yoga for women

This weekend in honour of Mother’s Day, I’ve just done a women’s morning of yoga at the Dharma School in Patcham.  We did some standing poses first to get the energy moving, then spent the next couple of hours relaxing in various ways. It was great to see. 

At one point all the women were lying in supported cobbler pose, Supta Baddha Konasana to give it its proper name.  They all had lots of cushions, blocks, blankets etc under their knees, arms, back, head so that they’d feel comfortable.  So comfy that they ended up staying there for a good ten minutes.  As I watched, I felt they looked like queens resting in their splendour, and relaxing their entire bodies. Although I doubt our queen does supported cobbler… but then, who knows? 

Most of the women today said afterwards that they hadn’t realised just how tired they were and I found myself thinking yet again how hard it is for us to stop and rest.  And wondering again what the solution is.  It isn’t easy to take a stand and do less or even nothing when the world around you is busy busy busy, or when so many fantastic opportunities are presented.  Sometimes it feels like you’d have to move to a desert island to get some peace. 

People commented today on the uncomfortable feelings they experienced when they did slow down to do the walking meditation: boredom, anger, sadness, the desperate desire to smoke…. And noticed also how the feeling usually passes or lessens as you continue with the practise.  A woman I once met on a Buddhist retreat that I went to years ago, (who now that I remember happened to be a yoga teacher and who inspired me), said that she used to feel the difference between being on retreat and her normal life was huge.  However, the more she practised her meditation, the smaller the gap became until there was none.  That’s it then isn’t it?  As usual. Keep on keeping on….

Posted by: assuntina | February 20, 2008

When is a treat not a treat?

If you’re missing your yoga class this week, could this be an opportunity to do some at home?  Nothing fancy, a few sun salutes, or some cats and dogs will do. Often, once you get started you feel inspired to do a few minutes more, and poses will come to you that you didn’t think you remembered. 

My wish this year is that more of you will do some yoga at home, or as we say in Yoga World ‘develop your own practise’.  In some classes I’ve started asking students to do certain poses as homewor.  The idea of homework though is a funny one though isn’t it….  But for some people it is useful knowing that there is an expectation, and more usefully maybe, someone who is interested in how you get on. 

Developing a private practise has not been easy for me and I still have to maintain extremely strong committment to myself on some days.  What always inspires me is knowing that I feel much better when I take care of myself in this way.  Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. 

This week has been a hard one in that respect, and each morning I’ve felt like staying in bed (just because I can, it being school hols and all) and not bothering at all to do anything.  I allowed myself a really lazy day on Monday which was fine.  There’s a lot to be said for regularly doing nothing at all.  However, not doing yoga doesn’t feel fine and in my case feels like I’m not honouring myself.  A similar feeling in fact as when I eat junk, which feels like an indulgence at the time but quickly comes to feel as if I mistreated myself. This is a tricky idea for us to get our heads around because we want to feel entitled to have treats and not to feel deprived.  It has taken me years and years (and years and years) to work out for myself that what seems as though its a treat can often turn out to be bad news.  Like eating too much cake or not practising yoga. Do I have the brains to work out which treats are beneficial to me and which aren’t?  Here’s what the Upanishads, ancient spiritual texts, have to say on the subject. ‘Goaded by their senses’ feels familiar…

Perennial joy or passing pleasure?

This is the choice one is to make always.

The wise recognize these two, but not the ignorant.

The first welcome what leads to abiding joy, though painful at the time.

The latter run, goaded by their senses, after what seems to be immediate pleasure.

Katha Upanishad

Posted by: assuntina | February 4, 2008

My body needs restoration

It is starting to feel as though Winter were ending.  On the weekend was the festival of Imbolc, or Candlemas as it’s known in the Christian tradition, when we mark the beginning of new growth like crocuses and the buds starting on the tree, and in our case especially it’s the sight of Tommy our tortoise poking his head out of his winter home to test the air and warm his stone cold shell. 

Although you can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, Winter is still not over. I’m getting up early to do my yoga practise in the living room when its still really cold and dark, and all I want to do is warm up the room so I can relax more into my body and not feel I’m forcing it.  This is the time of year still when your body has slowed down and is hibernating, and nurturing, relaxing yoga is perfect for it.

In the Thursday Patcham class last week I introduced the students to some Restorative yoga using some bolsters that I’ve just bought.  Some people loved it and some were distinctly unimpressed.  To truly get the benefits of this kind of yoga you need the perfect props so that your body is entirely supported, and it takes a bit of practise. Once you get it right though, you’ll see that it is so worth it as your body totally sinks into the pillows, bolster, blankets etc that are holding you and you can completely let go.  Once the body can release like this, the mind can start to do the same.  Here’s what restorative pro Claudia Cummins says about it, (you can click on it and read the rest too, its quite short):

Take the time to get comfortable on your props and make any necessary adjustments before you settle in. In restoratives the distance between heaven and hell can be as little as half an inch. A small adjustment to a blanket or a minor shift in the body’s position can transform a moment of exasperated agony into pure rapture. Be creative and use your inner wisdom to guide you toward greater comfort, making any modifications you need.

Once Spring arrives we’ll have a different energy, and we’ll want to sing and dance again!  It will feel appropriate then to get fitter and lose weight.  Until then listen to your body.  Does it still need relaxation more than anything else? 

If you’ve practised restorative yoga or you were at the class last week do tell what you thought of it.  Or maybe you’re practising Sun Salutes daily and are feeling exhilirated and energised?  Please let us know.

Yesterday I had a difficult discussion with my partner.  He was annoyed, well quite angry really, with me for how I had behaved on our skiing holiday. You might think it was my crushette on the handsome Spanish ski instructor that sparked off this anger, but no, it was something else althogether.

Paul did not want me to come on the skiing holiday.  He wanted a boys’ activity week that would not involve him having to deal with my fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of hurting my knee, fear of going down a mountain at speed.  You can see where he’s coming from maybe.  However, me being me and not liking it when I don’t get my own way, and to be fair to myself, up for a challenge as I said in my last post, I muscled my way into the holiday telling myself as long as I was on best behaviour and controlled my fears it ‘d be ok.  I thought I had been on my best behaviour and had dealt with my fears and issues well….  Apparently not well enough.

I had a great time overall.  Paul also had a great time, but only when I wasn’t around.  My fears and needs really got in the way just as he’d feared, and he didn’t get to have the boys’ week he’d hoped for. 

It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn.  I’d hoped he’d share in my achievements and challenges and encourage me to move through my fears.  Yes of course he does, but not on his time off when he’s trying to relax and have a good time.  This morning after my yoga practise, which was hard as I was spitting with resentment and rejection, I managed to see it from his point of view.  Almost. You could say it was wrong of me to insist I go on the holiday in the first place.  Or that I was selfish in not listening to his needs.

Time and time again, I come back to the lesson of expectations, and not seeing the world as it really is, but as how we want it to be.  Ignorance in buddhist and yogic terms is one of the ways of describing this.    In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, (the first person to write down the basics of the yogic way) Patanjali talks about the obstacles we have to face on our journey:

misapprehensions, confused values, excessive attachments, unreasonable dislikes, and insecurity“.

 All of those apply to me in this episode I think.  And what do I do about it?  Blow me if I know the answer.  But to quote Patanjali again:

It is only when the correct practise is followed for a long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitdute and eagerness, that it can succeed

I take that to mean, don’t give up and be positive.  I haven’t really got a clue though and in the meantime, anyone who’s managed to stick at a long term relationship is welcome to give me tips.  Please.

Posted by: assuntina | January 15, 2008

Mountain pose on the mountain

I’ve just come back from a week’s skiing. My first in my life.  I have a terrrible and sometimes quite disabling fear of heights, and skiing, much as I love mountains has always been a no no.  Latterly, what with my dodgy knees, and the way everyone gasps when you mention knees and skiing in the same sentence, I truly thought it was not for me.  However, at this time of my life I like to challenge myself to my limits and this was one area that needed challenging, so armed with a very expensive knee support from a proper skiing shop (did you know such a thing existed?)  I set off with my son and husband for Andorra.

My yoga practise got me through what ended up being a fantastic week, and every day I spent at least an hour doing different calf muscle postures: all kinds of forward bends, downward facing dog, standing poses. 

The pose that was with me most of all, though, was the Mountain pose, Tadasana, one of the most difficult of all the postures. For all that you think you’re doing nothing but standing up straight this posture holds within it the true essence of yoga for me.  I have heard more than once that yoga is not about learning to stand on your head, but about learning to stand on your own two feet.

At every anxious moment I aimed to stand in Tadasana and observe my breathing, placing myself steadily on my own two feet. When I was side on to the mountain and my legs were screaming with pain and tiredness I was desperate to be able to stand up straight.  Those damned ski boots have you standing in the most peculiar position.  I took a private ski lesson with an impossibly handsome Spanish instructor who kept telling me to focus on my feet.  “The feet are the mos importan, don ignorr the feet…” How mortified was I when he pointed out I didn’t stand evenly on my feet and legs but had a definite tilt on my right leg.  When I told him I was a yoga teacher he asked me “Why you don breathe then?”

At the end of the day, I relearned the same old lesson I seem to keep on learning.  When I practise Tadasana, I’m developing resilience, i.e. the ability to cope in life no matter what happens, the ability to stand on my own two feet.  I finally got up the mountain on my last day.  I worked hard.  I focussed.  I controlled my feet and legs.  I relaxed and breathed.  I skied.  I got crashed into by someone behind me.  Twice.  I twisted my knee.  I picked myself up and carried on down the bloody mountain.  

I cannot control the world.  I can master myself however, and take responsibility for my own responses and actions.  I can stand on my own two feet.  The fear of not being able to control a scary and unpredictable world seems, in my case at least, to be more to do with not being able to control myself.  I could’ve given up when I was injured: I was furious that despite my best efforts, I still ‘failed’ in looking after myself.  I decided though that to give up would be the failure and mastered my upset and disappointment (eventually) and remembered I can’t control the world, only myself.  Now I feel triumphant: yes I have a sore knee, but I can ski, and I can stand on my own two feet coming down a mountain.

Posted by: assuntina | December 31, 2007

New yoga classes: geeks and babes

Yes, there will be two new classes starting in January.

I’ll be starting a new Yoga 4 Geeks class Palmeira Square, Hove on Monday lunchtimes. For the address/details etc. see the yoga classes page. This is a class for people who do a desk job primarily and have stiff neck, shoulders and sore wrists.  However it will be open to anyone in the area who wants to attend (whether or not you consider yourself a geek).

Back in Patcham, there will be a new class beginning for post natal mums with or without their babies.  Babies includes from 6 weeks old up to crawling, and mums can have any level of yoga experience.  This will be a class for women to help with recovery, aid relaxation, and promote lots of lovely bonding with baby.  Babies love yoga and are naturally very good at it!

Please pass this on to anyone you know, who might benefit from either of these two classes.

Posted by: assuntina | December 27, 2007

Christmas? Kiss my artichoke.

Here I am, at my mother in law’s doing the Christmas thing: eating badly, watching stuff on telly and not moving my body as much as it wants to be moved… Grrr.   No wonder it doesn’t always feel cheery. 

I love Christmas.  I love the tree, and the lights and spending time with family and friends, and of course getting gifts!  Parts of it though I find hard, and I know I’m not the only one.  I did a yoga practise this morning, and yesterday afternoon when we arrived in Yorkshire, and boy did it feel good after all that driving and over indulging.  But I’m embarassed to say that it was the first time this week.  After a good hour of stretching, and meditating I asked myself (for the thousandth time) why do I let other things get in the way when this does me so much good?  Well that’s the way it is sometimes.  And Chrstimas is a good example of how life gets ambushed by other stuff.  Like eating the wrong kind of food which really knocks me off balance.  I was reading how, according to Ayurvedic principles (Ayurveda is a system of health that is closely related to yoga) overeating really affects moods, as if I didn’t already know that, and that we need to be more aware of what we’re doing particularly at this time of year when it’s too easy to stuff any old thing into our gobs.  Here’s the link if you want to read the same short piece.

Today I did a few Sun Salutes and some standing poses to kick start my body out of its sluggish free falling, then followed that with some back bends and twists.  That did the trick.   Which is why my brain has sufficiently re-engaged allowing me to come back to my blog after several weeks of absence.  I apologise if you’ve been looking to no avail.  Put it down to the festive madness…

Good luck if you’re grappling with it all too. Try some yoga yourself and see if it helps. 

Dates for 2008 will be on the yoga classes page.  See you then.

In the meantime, have a look at this video to remind you of why you love to do yoga and how wonderful it is.

Posted by: assuntina | December 3, 2007

who’s in your yoga class?

I’ve been reading stuff about why men might want to do yoga: obviously as I’m teaching a men’s yoga class I want to feel I’m doing it right, especially given I’m not a man myself.  Thanks to Marc who posted the comment ‘It’s nice to have a bit of male company’. It made me wonder about men who’d be happy to join a mixed class and men who wouldn’t. And then I don’t know what the women in the classes think either about it. Yoga has a reputation for being a woman’s thing, rooms full of leotards etc.  (Don’t get excited, any men who read this, I’ve never ever had a student wear a leotard in any class of mine, man or woman). 

‘And men can come too…yoga for men’s health’ gives a good overview of the benefits of yoga for men whether in separate classes or no.  Personally I’m very happy to have men join the usual classes if they feel comfortable, and I’m also extremely interested to see where our men’s class will go. 

Of far more importance to all yoga students is that once you become immersed in your yoga practise , whoever and wherever you are, you won’t notice or care who else is in the room around you as your focus becomes internal.  What becomes important is your relationship with your own body, your breath and your own experience of how your yoga practise is: that’s all part of the practise of swadyaya or self study that’ s so intergral to yoga.  As Gary Krafsow, well known American teacher of the Viniyoga style, says:

“It’s important to remember the study of of yoga is not about anything external to you.  It’s about studying yourself and learning tools to reduce the undesirable things in your life, like back pain, and increase the positive things, like happiness.  It’s about refining yourself at all levels.”

That however can take some of us a long time and lots of practise, and it’s too tempting to look at other people and compare, or ignore the pain in your back so you can achieve the pose…so I say whatever helps you on the path is ok by me, and if going to the right class for you will help then that’s good.

Oh, and here’s a silly visual yoga joke on making comparisons:

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