Noble Qualities – Being Fearless, Being Courageous

~.~ I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear ~.~  Nelson Mandela  

The posture of fear

When we are scared, physically we cower and round our shoulders to protect the most vulnerable part of the body – the heart. The muscles in the body tighten and lock up and you look away from where danger is. Breathing becomes shallower and faster. The natural physical and emotional reaction is to curl up and hide away until the situation disappears.  

The posture of courage  

Courage too has a posture.

A lifted chest, relaxed shoulders and shoulder blades drawn down the back, strong legs and arms, stable torso, focus. This physical composure allows us to breathe more deeply and this reverses the emotions of anxiety and fear.

Figure 1: Virabhadrasana 2
Figure 1: Virabhadrasana 2

The warrior posture – Virabhadrasana – illustrates courage perfectly. Virabhadrasana is composed of:

  •  ~ vira – vigorous, warrior, courageous
  •  ~ bhadra – good, auspicious
  •  ~ asana – posture

The pose is named after Virabhadra, a powerful mythical hero created from lock of hair torn from the head of Shiva, the god of destruction.  Shiva’s ‘destructive’ power symbolises the courageous breaking down of the ego personality and letting the divine light shine through.

Figure 2: Urdhva Dhanurasana
Figure 2: Urdhva Dhanurasana

Backbends such as cobra, bridge and wheel poses also open up the chest and the upper body and stimulate the heart chakra.  Backbends are invigorating and strengthening.

Moving into backbends forces us to open up and expose ourselves.  That requires being fearless and being courageous.

Backbends allow us to open up more fully off the mat in our interactions with the material world.

Figure 3: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Figure 3: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Examining the postures of courage

The postures of courage require a solid foundation. Depending on the pose, press firmly into the mat through the hands and/or the feet. Keep the legs and arms strong. Engage the core so that it supports your back by pulling  the lower abdominals in and up and the tailbone pointing down. Release the shoulders down your back and work the shoulder blades in towards each other. Keep the collar bone wide. Keep the neck long, chin slightly tucked and no weight should be felt in the neck. Maintain the natural curve of the spine.

Be careful not to compress the lower back or neck or put too much pressure on the knees when getting in, staying and coming out of these postures.

Work on building up these postures patiently and only going as far as is comfortable for you every time you practice.

Eleanor Roosevelt said “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”  We work this phrase on the mat during our yoga practice and carry that experience and application off the mat too.

Simple Rules for Healthy Nutrition

  • Eat three regular meals a day – “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper”
  • Leave enough space in the stomach for the stomach juices to do their work – If you think you can have one more portion, then it is time to stop!
  • Have colourful food on your plate – You start salivating as soon as you see the food which is the start of the digestion process
  • Focus on your meal only, each meal takes only 15 minutes – Try not to watch TV/iPad/Blackberry, do work, etc at the same time so as to let your body focus on the act of digestion
  • Avoid white refined foods such as food made with white flour; iodised salt; sugar; etc
  • Have fresh sun ripened vegetables and fruits and freshly prepared food
  • Chew each mouthful thirty-two times
  • Keep a positive outlook while eating
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day – perhaps try adding a teaspoon of fresh lime juice to warm water
  • To help the body maintain the optimal alkali pH, 80% of food intake should be alkali type foods (more on this next time…)

Noble Quality – Equanimity and Balance

~.~ The practices of Yoga will help you maintain equanimity in all situations by teaching you to become transparent, able to allow both joy and sorrow to flow through you without destroying your peace of mind ~.~  Sharon Gannon & David Life, 2002

What is equanimity?

The aim of yoga asanas (postures) is to develop the noble quality of equanimity in us. Equanimity refers to maintaining a calm composure with poise, irrespective of what the external situation is. In simple terms, whether we have won a million pound lottery or our business has failed, our inner state remains calm – neither do we become overexcited and leaping with joy and hysterics in the former situation nor are we dejected and dispirited in the latter situation. Of course, we celebrate our win and take positive steps to salvage our business, but do so remaining in the state of equanimity within. Hence, the peace of mind is not disturbed by either external situation.

Achieving such equanimity and balanced mind requires practice as the usual tendency is for emotions to overwhelm us so we lose ourselves in the situation and are not able to see further than that. Instead with a calm mind, various situations can be clearly defined, analysed and solutions worked out.

Balancing postures

The balancing asanas at the physical level lead on to cultivate such equanimity in the mind. Whether it is standing on one leg as in tree pose or using the arms to hold your body weight in head stand, strengthening the legs and arms provides a strong foundation for setting up our balancing postures.

Focusing on the legs as the foundation for balancing poses, a New York yoga teacher Nikki Costello recommends setting the intention of creating a firm, grounded base from your feet up into your legs and hips. “The legs hold you up. They take you where you want to go,” Costello says. “When you focus on the legs, you go back to the source of your power and strength.”

PS treet pose sunsetLet’s take the example of the tree pose. You come into tree pose by bending your right knee and holding your ankle with the right hand. Turn the knee to the right and place the sole of the right foot high against the inner left thigh. The standing left leg takes the weight of the body. Keep it as straight as possible by lifting the knee cap and activating the quadriceps. Press the right heel strongly into the inner left thigh, thus securing the legs and firming your foundation. Keep the gaze focused on a fixed point a metre or so in front of the left foot. Reach the arms up and open the palms, lengthen the trunk, dropping the shoulders down. Keep the breath flowing.

The longer we can stay in the tree pose balance – without falling over – shows that the mind is becoming quieter, disciplined and calmer; going on to then be in that state of equanimity even when we are not holding tree pose.

Let us practice our balancing postures so that we can always be in a calm and peaceful state of mind as elaborated by Sri Sathya Sai Baba “Let the wave of memory, the storm of desire, the fire of emotion pass through without affecting your equanimity”.

Delicious Wholemeal Fruit & Nut Cake (Eggless) Recipe

Freshly baked cake, just out of the oven


2 cups wholemeal flour (sifted)
1 can (379g) condensed milk, sweetened
½ – ¾ cup sunflower oil
¾ cup warm water
½ cup mixed nuts, chopped
½ cup mixed dry fruit
¼ cup fresh fruit (eg cherries or blueberries) small pieces (optional)
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tsp vanilla powder
1 tsp bi-carbonate soda
3 tsp baking powder
Egg replacement
Mixture of 3 tbsp yoghurt, 3 tbsp milk, 3 tbsp cornflower


Mix all ingredients to a dropping consistency cake mixture.IMG_20140921_144456067
Line with baking parchment or greaseproof paper a 23cm round cake tin. Grease the lining with sunflower oil.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin.
Pre-heat oven and bake at 180⁰ C for 1 hour.
Cool cake on wire rack.

Slice of cake served with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream


Where are you in your Yoga journey?

Apply DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model, as illustrated below, to assess where you are in your Yoga journey.



If you’re at Stages 1, 2 or 7, contact Three Jewels Yoga to find out which classes would give you a taste of yoga.

If you’re at Stage 3, then you’re ready to join in the current Three Jewels Yoga classes.

And of course, Three Jewels Yoga definitely loves seeing you on the mat if you are at Stages 4 and 5!


Spring Forth with Yoga


IMG_2510It’s often thought that yoga is a few stretches to make us feel good. But to a regular practitioner yoga offers that and much more. Yoga consists of certain spiritual, mental and physical disciplines which originated from ancient India. Yoga has become very popular in the West and London is no exception. Three Jewels Yoga teach yoga in London and their classes provide a modern yet authentic experience of this ancient science.

The season of spring is traditionally the season of revitalisation and growth. As the life-giving power of the sun strengthens in spring, animals and birds wake up from hibernation, trees fill up with leaves and flowers blossom. As spring unfolds, the days get longer and the winter’s chill is replaced with warmer fresher air.

Daffodils, bluebells & tulips – Spring is here…

The life-giving power of the sun is greatly respected in yoga. In yoga class, gratitude is shown to the sun by practising the sun salutation (sūryanamaskār). Many yoga postures are named after the shapes of things that they resemble, including plants and animals for example the tree posture (vṛkṣanasa) and lotus posture (padmāsana). Getting into these yoga postures is a reminder of the natural world and we develop awareness of our relationship with other life forms. Similarly, focusing on the breath during the yoga practice teaches us of our connection to each other through the breath.

The yoga postures also have more subtle significance. For instance, the tree posture teaches us to find balance even on windy days. So when we are faced with challenges in life we can remain calm and balanced yet flexible, just like a tree, and not get blown away by the challenges. Practising yoga regularly helps us to become calmer, happier and more alive.

As we enter the spring season and watch nature coming to life, come to experience a fresh, revitalising outlook to life and leave with a spring in your step!  See you in class.