Yoga makes the heart sing

Yoga Envy – and How to Turn it Around

Envy is a dark, hidden emotion. It can sour friendships, harden hearts and most of all, poison yourself.

In the yoga world, where the underlying philosophy is based on love, light, and unity, the dark underbelly of envy and jealousy goes un-spoken about, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not there.

Sometimes you’re the one feeling the envy, and at other times it might be directed against you. But we’re here to tell you that feeling envious of someone else is normal, and can even be turned into a positive.

The green-eyed monster

Image Credit: Pro Church Media via Unsplash.

There’s a difference between envy and jealousy.  Envy is when we covet what someone else has, whereas jealousy is when we feel something we already have is threatened by a third party. Yoga envy is when someone on the mat next to us calmly catches hold of their feet in kapotasana, while we flail two feet from our feet and fume with frustration. Yoga jealousy is when we secretly revel in the fact that we’re the only one in the room who can do a press handstand, and then have that taken away by some pretender to the handstand throne.

According to the yamas and niyamas, envy is a relative of hatred. It exists when we wish others ill or desire to possess what they have. The flipside of this is that if they are less, we feel like we are more. A traditional Indian story on the topic of envy goes that a farmer encounters a great magician, who tells him he can have anything he wants. The farmer’s reply to this is that he wants his neighbour’s cow to die.

Another facet of envy is that it is usually directed at someone who you feel some degree of empathy with. I’m not jealous of my senior teacher’s yoga skills, because they’re light years ahead of me, but I might be jealous of my peers, who I feel in competition with.

It’s usually to do with the fact that they are doing something that we feel we want to have or be able to do too. It is also often linked to a sense of what is lacking in ourselves and therefore, an inner sense of inferiority.

Why we feel it

We are a product of our upbringing and our society. In the UK, our education system, with its relentless method of testing and ranking us with our peers, encourages us to think that we are all comparable to each other. In order to be ‘the best’, we need to be ‘better’.

This continues once we leave school or university and enter the world of work. We have to compete in order to get the jobs in the first place, and then, carry on competing to get to the top of the ladder.

B. K. S. Iyengar describes this difference, as that between Yoga (as it should be), and Western competitive sports.

“Yoga sees the body quite differently than Western sports, which treats the body like a racehorse, trying to push it faster and faster and competing with all other bodies in speed and strength.”

In the West we have a tendency to continue with this idea of competitive sports (and competitive living in general) and take the same attitude onto our yoga mats, so that we’re constantly checking out ‘the competition’ and seeing whose face is closer to their legs in uttansana (standing forward fold), who can stay up the longest in sirsasana (headstand) and (like a grown-up version of Sleeping Lions) who can stay the stillest in savasana.

What we’re aiming for

Image Credit: Juliette Leufke via Unsplash.

In yoga, we’re aiming for nothing short of perfection. We’re aiming for the perfect union of mind and body, through the repeated practice of yoga for many years. But, along the way, we start to look around and compare our yoga journey with the one that others are on.

We are told, “Don’t compare yourself to others”, but we are social creatures and it’s hard not to. However, there is a flip-side to this creeping envy of others. The ‘tapas‘, or burning desire to practice that is so natural in the early days of discovering yoga, is hard to maintain as our progress starts to plateau.

When we find that we are scrolling through fabulous yoga accounts on Instagram and feeling that familiar pang of envy, instead of telling ourselves off, we should take a moment to examine that feeling. Because the suppression of our emotions doesn’t work. It is about channeling and transforming the emotions we feel.

We need to ask ourselves why we’re feeling envious. Is it because the person we are looking at seems to have it all, or because they make it look so easy, or because they’re a yoga teacher? Once we begin to understand what it is we desire, we can then start to do something about it.

What’s Important

Let’s take the Advanced series in Ashtanga yoga. If you’re an Ashtanga yogi, (and respect if you are), then traditionally, your practice is about working through the primary series and finding it ‘easy’ before you can then move on to the next series. The primary series is 90 minutes of continuous vinyasa, linked through the all-important sun salutation. So, for many yoga practitioners, even that is beyond what they can achieve.

But just because they don’t move on to the Advanced series, does this mean they are any less of a yogi? Of course not. Kino MacGregor, the Ashtanga yogi and teacher, says, “More poses don’t make you a better yogi”. She’s extremely advanced and can wrap her legs around her head, but her advice is that the real yoga is finding your own limits. In her words, “Wherever you meet your challenge is where your yoga begins.”

That wise old Iyengar again:

“Never compare with others. Each one’s capacities are a function of his or her internal strength. Know your capacities and continually improve upon them.”

How to turn Envy into Joy for others

Image Credit: Juliette Leufke via Unsplash.

Once we realise that envy is just the misplaced desire to improve ourselves, then we can start to practice feeling envy’s happier twin sister – Maitri, or ‘the cultivation of friendliness towards those who are happy.’

Envy and jealousy feed on our insecurity and our sense of others being better than we are. This negative stance means that we leak energy, becoming smaller and weaker inside. The opposite of these feelings is love.

In order to feel genuinely happy for the good fortune of others, as they fall gracefully into a back arch, is to first feel love for ourselves. A good place to start this practice is in savasana. When you’ve got to the end of your lesson or practice bathe yourself in self-love – from the biggest muscles to the smallest skin cell – your body has worked hard for you, and it deserves some gratefulness.

And the next time we notice ourselves feeling envious of someone, instead think about what it is that you can do to achieve your goal, remembering that real yoga isn’t the pose itself, but the struggle to get there in the first place.

Poppy Pickles

Yogi Mamas: Self-care is not selfish

There was a time in my life when a 5-minute shower was a luxury. All the other minutes in a day were filled with caring for a tiny bundle. There was definitely no yoga, no green smoothies or relaxing afternoon teas with friends. Once I finally got in that shower…I felt immensely guilty. I even heard fantom baby screams. Sound familiar?

We have all been there: feeling guilty, inadequate and egoistic. and how could we not? If we stepped into the shower, perhaps we heard the baby screaming from the carrier cot. Or because we scrolled Facebook while breastfeeding and dropped our phones on their heads (true story).

We all want to be the best version of our self to our little ones.

It is easy to forget: happy mum = happy baby.

Self-care is not selfish. Not now, not ever.

Image Credit: bruce mars via Unsplash.

Let’s start with the research. Stuart Shanker, (“Self-Reg” book) states that babies (and young children) aim at limbic homeostasis. In simple terms: if you try to lull your infant to sleep while being very stressed yourself… most likely, it won’t work. It appears that our brains “talk” to each other. No matter how calm you try to appear, your baby will
sense how you actually are. Worse still, they will endeavor to match that state. The result? An overtired, stressed, angry mum (or carer) equals an un-settle-able little one. What does it mean for us? Yes, you’ve guessed it: Self-care, and taking a break from caring for others so you may care for your self, is vital.

Many of us practice attachment parenting. In the early days, it means almost non-stop carrying and breastfeeding. While I do not argue with its principles (in fact, I am an attachment mum myself), but where did the idea come from? Of course – from tribal cultures! There’s a simple catch, though. In most tribal cultures, the ratio of an adult per baby is 4:1. And babies spend an average of 60% of the time away from the mother, in other tribespeople’s arms (as per E. Aron, “Highly Sensitive Child’).

Thus, the need for time alone spent napping, reading, staring into space or doing yoga is of paramount importance to mothers. But how on earth can you carve out this time? Enlisting your “village” to help is the key. In the beginning, even 30 minutes of “off time” can be a lifesaver. Can a friend come over? Great! Plop the little miracle in their arms and go have a bath or eat a meal that the friend brings over. Are grandparents available? Do you have good neighbors? Would it be possible to have a sitter over for an hour every second day if your partner is working long hours or you are a single mum? Certainly, hiring a nanny costs money but sanity and well-being are priceless.

5-minute self-care hacks for newborn mums:

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  • Fix yourself a berry, oatmeal, almond milk, and banana smoothie, with chlorella or spirulina
  • Take a Vitamin C tablet and/or a probiotic
  • Sit or lay down and take 10 deep breaths. Inhalation equal to exhalation
  • At a countertop or table, do 10 “cat and cow” movements, ensuring 90-degree angle between hips and belly
  • Sit in the sun for 3-5 minutes. Close your eyes. Roll the head left to right gently.

5-30 minute self-care hacks:

  • Have a soak in lavender-rose oil
  • Do a session of sleep yoga, Yoga Nidra
  • If your energy allows, move. Go for a walk — even around the block
  • Complete a maximum of 5 yoga poses
  • Order in, or cook a simple hot meal. Eat slowly, no baby on your lap

1-hour hacks:

Image Credit: Rima Kruciene via Unsplash.
  • Attend a gentle yoga class of your own choosing
  • If you are advanced enough in your postpartum, having a swim is a great idea
  • Walk in nature, spend some time in the sun
  • Talk to a supportive person
  • Have a massage or acupuncture session

It may not be easy to take this time out. You may hear phantom cries and be convinced your baby is suffering. Remember, however, even the tiniest break will make appreciating and caring for your bundle much easier. It will allow your stress levels to regulate faster. You will be able to process the tiredness, hard or unexpected feelings better. This, in turn, will — as science tells us — help your baby to regulate more effectively. Who knows? Maybe they will even sleep more and better. Self-care is not selfish. It is a right.

Hanna Skomra

Our Favourite Instagram Yoga Accounts

Image Credit: livnir on Flickr.
Image Credit: livnir on Flickr.

As a social media platform, Instagram is perfectly suited to portray the grace and flow of yoga. Plus it’s also a great way to spread the word about your own yoga business.

However, it’s easy to get sucked into the glossy, styled pictures, and not see the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that gets people there. But there are some accounts out there that show yoga as it really is. Or themselves for who they really are. They’re the yoga teachers that make us feel like our dream pose is achievable, that sometimes even the most inspiring teachers have an off day, and that we’re all in this wonderful yoga world together.

Whether you’re looking to further immerse yourself in a worldwide community of yogis, looking for some fresh inspiration or just looking for people to help ground you on days you feel you could float away – these are ten of our favourite yogi accounts to follow.

See Also: The Yoga Teacher’s Guide to Instagram


Autumn Yoga Workshops in London


Image Credit: andrea castelli via Flickr.

The summer holidays are over, the conkers are beginning to fall, and we’re beginning to think about putting the heating on – it’s time to embrace the beautiful season of Autumn!

Autumn is a transitional season, which takes us from the relaxing warmth of summer to the crisp cold of winter. Transitions can be a time to re-think our routines and take advantage of the seasonal change to make changes of our own.

Autumn is also a time of plenty when the fruits of the fields are harvested and we give thanks for the way the Earth provides for us. We can also give thanks for our own ‘harvest’. What fruits have we grown from our dedication and hard work? Instead of always looking to the next challenge, consider your achievements.

Autumn is also a journey into the dark days of winter. Our bodies have to work harder to fight off the seasonal coughs and colds, while the lower Vitamin D levels reduce our natural immunity. This is a time to prepare, strengthen and restore our bodies through an extra commitment to yoga and restorative practice.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of seasonal yoga workshops to give you an extra boost for the coming season.

1. Yoga Foundation Course

Where: Oval, 40 St. Agnes Place, London SE11 4BE

When: 13th & 14th October 2018

How much: £225

To book.

As the seasons change, it can inspire us to make the changes in our own lives that we may have been putting off for a while. The Yoga Foundation Course offered by YogaLondon is a condensed exploration of the vast subject that is yoga.

Set over a weekend, you will cover a large range of topics including bandhas (body locks), kriyas (cleansing exercises) and how to do adjustments. You’ll also get to hang out with a group of like-minded yogis, who love yoga just as much as you do.

The course also acts as an introduction to yoga teaching, and if you’ve been considering this as a career option, but would like to ‘try before you buy’, look no further. You’ll get to jump in at the deep end and stand in front of a class and teach. That way you’ll know for sure!

2. Embracing Change through Yin Yoga & Sound Healing

Where: Zen Yoga, 24A Camberwell Grove, Camberwell, London SE5 8RE

When: Saturday 27th October, 7.00 – 9.00pm

How Much: £28

To book.

As we move from the yang summer months into the yin of autumn, we begin to feel changes in the air – colder weather and shorter days prepare us to move into a phase of slowing down, reflection and introspection. It is also a time to shift into a more nurturing and healing space.

Hosted by Zen Yoga – a studio based on Buddhist principles  – this workshop will be taking you on a journey of the self to stop and just be; to see where you are now, tune in to how you’re feeling and reflect back on what you have achieved. This will be done through gentle yin yoga, guided Metta (loving-kindness) meditation, pranayama and sound healing with the Tibetan singing bowls.

You’re pretty much guaranteed to come out of this workshop full of peace and self-love!

3. Yin & Yang: Reflect, Release & Restore Workshop

Where: yogahaven Clapham, 63 Wingate square, SW4 0AF

When: Sunday 28th of October, 2.30 – 4.30pm

How Much: £25

To book.

As the clocks go back, it is the perfect time to reflect on the year we have had; letting go of what no longer serves us and welcoming the natural change of season. The opposite forces of yin and yang sum up the contrasts of Summer and Winter, with Autumn being the link between the two.

This workshop at yogahaven in Clapham will help you to find this balance through a slow, strong Yang practice with lots of twists, forward folds, and inversions. This is then followed by a short reflection and meditation as you enter a soft, still, Yin practice.

You’re also asked to bring a piece of paper and a pen to ‘jot down some reflective thoughts’ for the full self-reflective package.

Image Credit: Tarcio Saraiva via Flickr.

4. Release & Replenish: Delicious Autumn Yin

Where: The Honor Oak Wellness Room, 82 Brockley Rise, se23 1ln

When: Saturday 10th November, 3.30 – 5.30pm

How much: £25

To book.

Taking their cue from seasonal changes, this yin yoga workshop encourages you to slow down, turn inwards, and become more introspective.

This workshop at the Honor Oak Wellness Rooms in south-east London will focus on the seasonal cues of Autumn and Winter: to take time out to rest and replenish, turn inwards, become more introspective, conserve energy, nourish yourself, and let go of what you no longer need (like autumn leaves falling from the trees).

The Honor Oak Wellness Rooms specialise in evidence-based health and well-being classes, and this workshop is no exception: guided breathing and meditation techniques ground the mind, activating the soothing parasympathetic nervous system to leave you feeling spacious, calm and full of ease. Suitable for all levels, there will be plenty of props for support and modifications for those recovering from injury.

5. Full Moon Sound Bath: Rest, Reflect & Review

Where: Good Vibes Fitness, 14 – 16 Betterton Street, London, WC2H 9BU

When: Friday 23rd November, 7.30 – 9.00pm

How much: £25

To book.

This workshop is based on the ancient wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine and focuses on a yin and restorative yoga practice that supports the body and all its organs through the changing seasons.

The melodic resonance of hand-crafted full moon singing bowls, as well as a guided Yoga Nidra session will lead you into the forthcoming year while harnessing the powerful energy of November’s Full Moon. Suitable for beginners as no yoga experience is necessary – all you need is an ability to get onto the floor and breathe – which sounds like a good start!


Poppy Pickles
Find your Foundation

How To Achieve Your Dream Pose

Is there a pose that you would love to be able to do? Do you find yourself enviously watching YouTube videos of toned Ashtanga warriors effortlessly doing the Advanced A series?

Image Credit: Form via Unsplash.

Or you might have a nemesis pose that you just can’t beat. It might be as simple as padmasana (lotus pose). I say ‘simple’…but in reality, there’s no such thing as a simple yoga pose.

As yoga practitioners, part of what keeps us coming back for more is the allure of ‘cracking’ a pose we once thought impossible. It also gives us an incentive for getting on the mat as often as we can to keep up our physical practice.

So what is the best way to go about achieving your dream pose – without ending up in A&E?

Identify the pose

There might be many poses you aspire to do, but it helps to narrow the field. First of all, choose one pose that you feel you could only achieve in your dreams. For me, it used to be handstand. When I first started doing yoga I had never managed to do a handstand without someone picking my legs up and holding them against the wall. Growing up, I hadn’t been one of those gymnastic children that could spring about doing cartwheels all over the place. Handstands were just something other people could do. Handstand became my dream pose.

Dare to Dream

Like handstand for me, perhaps there’s a pose that you’d love to be able to do, but assume that you’ll never achieve it in this lifetime.  But why not? What’s stopping you? The usual answer is, ‘well, my body just couldn’t do that’. But if you think back to the beginning of your yoga journey, remember how far you’ve come already! Perhaps you weren’t able to touch your toes, and now you can get your hands flat on the floor. If your body can change that much, then the possibilities are endless and it’s only your head that’s getting in the way.

Imagine Yourself In the Pose

Have a look at the pose and imagine you’re doing it. See yourself in the pose and then imagine how you’ll feel when you’ve done it. Awesome – right? If we can visualise ourselves in the pose we make it more real, by tricking the mind into thinking we can already do it.

Break it Down

Image Credit: David Hoffman via Unsplash.

The secret to achieving any yoga pose is in the discipline of yoga itself. Beginners start by mastering the basics, such as the standing poses or the sun salutation. Within these poses are the building blocks of all the advanced poses. So if you want to be able to drop back into urdhva dhanurasana you need to practise all the poses that come before it, for example, virabhadrasna 1 (warrior 1), virasana (hero pose) and dhanurasana, (bow pose) which lengthen and strengthen the front of the thighs.

Break down your dream pose into its component parts and start by practicing those. Aim for perfection but be content with a little progress every day.

Practice Makes Perfect

When I was aiming to kick up into handstand unaided I practised downward dog, then moving forwards and shifting the weight onto my hands and arms. Then I practised kicking up against the wall ten times in a row. I did this for quite a few months until one day both my legs ended up against the wall.

The only way we can progress is through disciplined practise. We need to have faith that even if we can’t do something today, by putting in the practice we will get there one day. We need to have the tenacity to keep a firm hold on our goal and the perseverance to stick with it. With these characteristics, we will get to our yoga goal.

Be Cautious…

Patience is a virtue worth having in yoga. We don’t become advanced yogis overnight. It takes years, even decades, of dedicated practice on the mat. But that doesn’t mean to say that you can’t achieve a pose you never thought possible.

However, don’t be tempted to skip the slow build up to a difficult pose, because down that road lies injury. B.K.S. Iyengar says that:

“Overstretching occurs when one loses contact with one’s center … instead, the ego wants simply to stretch further, to reach the floor, regardless of its ability.”

The repeated practice of a pose needs to be done with the restraining balance of intelligence. If you have an injury or a weakness it’s worth bearing that in mind. It might be that the final pose is simply too dangerous for you to achieve. But there might be a way of getting to a variation of the final pose using props.

…But also Feel the Fear and DO IT ANYWAY

Image Credit: Avi Richards via Unsplash.

Having made friends with handstands, my new goal is to be able to do a free-standing handstand away from the wall. This step away from the security of the wall is frightening. Fear is a powerful emotion that holds us back from taking risks, that paralyses us and whispers in our ear that we should stay in our comfort zone. B.K.S. Iyengar tells a story of a student who was afraid of doing headstand. Iyengar’s characteristic response was to shout:

“Forget about fear. You may only fall on the floor, not beyond. In the future there is fear. In the present there is no fear.”

So what’s there to be scared of? If you’re frightened of falling then position yourself near a soft landing, such as a bed or sofa, or pile blankets around you.

Then Celebrate!

You’ve set your sights on a dream pose. You planned how to get there and practised like mad. Finally, you achieved your dream pose! And then you promptly moved on to the next impossible pose. Don’t forget to take a moment to celebrate your achievement. It’s easy to constantly look forward to the next goal, but it’s also important to recognise your own achievements, however relatively small they might be.

Poppy Pickles

Zen Monkey, a sub-division of YogaLondon, is an online conduit for yoga students and teachers to share ideas and develop a catalogue of content that is informative, creative and fun. We are a community founded from the collection of writers and yogis we've mentored, worked with and been inspired by. Together, we are building a tribe that shares the tools, the inspiration and the motivation to lead a healthy, mindful and sustainable life.