Diane’s teaching is rich and challenging. She was taught by Vanda Scaravelli and insists on deep principals with determination. She also exhibits deep care and charisma. She is American but came to live in Italy some 30 year ago to be with Vanda. She has been living in Toffia for decades, and adds words of encouragement in Italian ‘belissima!, che bello’.
Toffia is stuck about 40 years ago, and is so very special to visit. There is 1 bar, 1 coffee shop, 1 small supermarket (4 isles, one of which is devoted to pasta, and another has a wide selection of seeds to plant), a tabac and a theatre. Yes, no restaurant, and instead a theatre, here art and growth are more important than food. It’s a place of yogis, artists, film makers and farmers. It is a shard of cliff top land with curving streets, cobbles and cats. The sun sets over fields, hills and small settlements, and nature was constantly startling me – a leaf hanging in mid air, reflections on a river, persimmons dripping from a tree.
Diane always has a sparkle in her eye and a sassy attitude. She is unequivocally firm, and yet also kind. She is one of the most determined and charismatic people Ive met. One day we were working on a balance and she got angry as I was ‘fighting her’ by not holding onto the wall. I was just exploring my own body with gravity and movement, but for sure, it was her way or no way. Another day I went up into wheel and discovered I had a deep fear in my hands and arms, to which she soothed me and helped me through it. Lunch was ‘bring a dish’ so we always had a surprising and enjoyable lunch, with stories from Diane about teachers like Vanda, Krishnamurti, Iyengar and Desikachar, all of whom she had met and some of them many, many times. When she tells a story she holds court and sparkles.
My journey there was one of fun and trust. In Rome we arrived 8.52pm and miraculously I made it to the last train at 9.12pm. It took a bit of trust and yoga breathing as I imagined being stuck in Rome with no accommodation. I gently reminded myself – if it works out, it works out, if it doesn’t work out, something else will work out. I was extra tired as I had bought duty free alcohol as a gift for a friend, but in Geneva, although duty free, it didn’t pass security – so I drank it. A humorous solution. For those of you who don’t know I enjoy large doses of vertigo. See the picture of wobbly ladders and a hole? That’s the way to my accomodation, so even getting inside was a feat of endurance!
I visited a Theravada monastery, called Santacittarama. I went twice, such a beautiful tranquil place, the design detail is truly sublime. Both times the meditation or question and answer session were led by a gentle monk wearing a one piece of cloth outfit twisted and made from an almost translucent light, terracotta cotton. The outfit is both simple with a strong sense of humility, and also a deep sensuality in the twists and drape of the fabric. An Englishman, speaking in Italian about his Thai order of Buddism. I understood little with my ears, but much with my heart and eyes.
It was the wonderful Judy Cameron’s big birthday and I was honoured to celebrate with her. Judy is one of my earliest and most loved teachers. She was my tutor some 20 years ago when I studied with YogaBirth. Now she is a fellow tutor with Yoga Scotland, something I would never have imagined then. Judy is the picture of yoga. Her body has youth and vitality and a soul with wisdom, care and strength. This picture is her with her beloved husband Roy. I also met some wonderful yogis and some of the artists on retreat…. cyanotype flower shadows, broad stroke blunt work, that when placed with others became water reflections of the river.
Toffia isn’t for the feint hearted, it’s hot, the mosquitos bite, you have to cook everything yourself, the yoga is radical, there’s no public transport and the precipitous edges are enough to set of those with vertigo. So for me Toffia is always a soft home and a challenge.
Do ask me more if you’re interested, maybe we could go together another year?
For more on Diane’s teaching…. watch this space!
This term we will be learning Egyptian Salute to the Sun. For those of you who came last term you will notice some similarities (the start) and some differences (8 limed pose, plank, lunges and cobra).
The Background to Egyptian Yoga
Ancient Egypt is one of our oldest and perhaps most advanced civilisations. They invent many things form mathematics to metallurgy and astronomy to paper. I still remember a small golden model from the V&A in London which looked as much like a fighter jet as you could possibly imagine. Things like this and the grace in their standing poses has had me very curious about what they have to teach us.
Looking at ancient heiroglyphs you can see many similarities to ‘our’ yoga – kneeling twists, cobra, fish pose, goddess. Egyptian yoga has been studied and developed by translating the heiroglyphs of the temples, and is frequently known as Kemetic yoga. Kemet is the area where Ancient Egypt covered in North East Africa.
Look at the amazing picture below
- Can you see the steadiness of their poses, there is a heaviness and yet also a lightness. This is strength and fleixblility?
- Can you see the tone and alignment viisble in the front of their bodies. and now know this relates to their spine and the balance of mucles. The balance of muslces also gives fleixility and freedom of movement?
- Can you see the lightness in their diaphragms, which allows their spine to lengthen?
- Can you look closely and pick up the clues as to undertsanding their physical discipline and how we can emulate this.
If you can’t see these things don’t fret, but do be curious. The next time you go to themuseum just try to emulate some of the poses of the statues and notice how it feels.
Egyptian Saliute to the Sun
You start in Tadasana (mountain pose) fold forwards then take one leg back to a low lunge. You slide your other leg black to plank and then rest back into extended child. From here you come up to cat and then dip the back of your waist down to cow. From here we come to 8 limbed pose – where you take your chest and chin to the gound. The 8 limbs are: 2 hands, 2 feet, 2 knees, your chest and your chin. From 8 limbed pose your slide into a cobra pose and then back into dog pose. From dog pose to low lunge, forward fold, back to tadasana before doing the other side.
The Benefits of Egyptian Salute to the Sun
Egyptain Salute to the Sun is fantastic for the physical body. It will improve your physical fleixibility and your strength. This version of Salute to the Sun is great for:
- your spine, there are many forward and back ward movements to free up your spine
- your hips, the deep lunges are really going to free this up
- strength, both in yoru arms and core as you move in and out of 8 limbed pose
The Benefits of Egyptian Yoga for the Soul!
Is Egyptian Salute to the Sun good for how you feel? Ofcourse. Like yoga yoga Egyptian yoga simulates your parasympathetic nervous system. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system brings increased calm and ease which allows the mind and soul to heal and rejenerate.
Want to know more?
Go visit the NMS and see for yourself
Visit Pinterest for some inspiration
Read up on Kemetic Yoga and it’s background
And most importantly? Come along to learn Egyptian yoga with me! Looking foward to seeing an array of super sphinxes this term!
Onwards and Upwards
The Transformational Journey of The Glasgow Teacher Training 2021-2023
By Susannah Dean
Skip to the end for 2 short videos
It was with masses of joy and some tender sadness that the Glasgow Teacher Training came to completion in June 2023. 12 fantastic women became Yoga Scotland teachers. I can honestly say that each one of them has taught me so much.
Each student worked epically hard, whether that was with aspects of teaching, self-limiting ideas, life adversity, physical ailment or managing homework. Each one made a massive transformation and it has been a great honour to be a part of their journey. Here are some of the things they said:
- I feel younger after having done the course
- I feel like a better person
- I cope with stress better now
- I feel more like myself
A web of support
This was the first yoga teacher training I have led, and I was supported by Cathy Swan. Cathy is utterly graceful and also quite determined, she is formidable in the very best of ways. She also has a love for comedy and adores teaching. Teaching with Cathy was always a great pleasure and we shared a lot of humour. She helped me through the course from curriculum to class planning, and working with my self-limiting beliefs (no it’s not just the students who transform!). When I took on the job I had no idea I was going to find a mentor, friend and teacher all in one.
Judy was the Anatomy & Physiology teacher, and is also lead tutor from the Edinburgh sister course. I have known Judy for about 20 years and she also has given tirelessly to help me on the journey. Judy has wowed the students with her November loch swimming, lotus position headstands and her wealth of knowledge.
Graham Burns and Elizabeth Roberts taught the philosophy and have inspired and challenged students to consider yoga from a deeper perspective. Graham took over from Elizabeth and despite teaching from Portugal has earned a place in the hearts and mind of students.
The course has also been supported by some wonderful visiting tutors and a new admin team who have juggled finding new venues and even some lost certificates.
All of these people have helped the students in their onwards journey to becoming yoga teachers, and damn good ones at that, if you don’t mind me saying.
What is it about Yoga Scotland?
To anyone considering doing a yoga teacher training I can thoroughly recommend Yoga Scotland. I have been a member since about 2003, although I did my training with the BWY, Inner Yoga & YogaBirth. While I have been a teaching member for quite some time, it is only in the last 2 years that I have really learned what Yoga Scotland aspires to. There is an impressive devotion to Yoga Scotland. I see trustees and volunteers spend a great deal of their time working to support Yoga Scotland. Kerry Cooper (chair), Ruth Plevin (education coordinator) and Cathy Swan (yes again, this time as assessment coordinator) all put in many hours of love and devotion, free of charge. So why do so many people put so much love into YS?
Yoga Scotland is inclusive and welcomes individual paths. Although I have taught for 20 years, from the outside I thought the way I taught ‘wasn’t Yoga Scotland’, I realise my vision had been clouded. Yoga Scotland support all forms of yoga with an emphasis on evidence and groundedness. Both Judy and I have a love of the teachings of Diane Long, who is the primary student of Vanda Scaravelli. Diane is focused on gravity and freedom, but if that’s not your thing, no problem. Yoga Scotland doesn’t offer ‘do what you want, whatever!’ but asks for a deep enquiry into you, yoga and the teachings offered on the course.
Students who come on the training get a very thorough and supportive start to their yoga teaching. You can find your niche, your love and we will support you with that. Some students on the course have already done a teacher training and still want to then go onto the YS one, that says something doesn’t it!
If you are thinking about doing a teacher training you can find out more here:
- Insta: yogascotland
- Insta: theyogauk
If you feel like yoga teacher training isn’t quite right for you yet, you could consider Lindsey Poster’s wonderful yoga foundation in Glasgow or Melanie Cook in Edinburgh. I visited both courses and could see such a knowledge and passion in both teachers.
Teaching yoga as you
When you come onto a YS teacher training you are free to be you, teach your style of yoga and to grow. That said we are very clear on some things: safety, due diligence and evidence. We are firm believers in clarity, which does not extend to elaborated claims that cannot be substantiated. After that you are free. That is a very beautiful gift. You are not being taught a doctrine, a list of right and wrong, better or worse, but a way to question, research and ultimately find your own ground as a teacher. When you leave the course, you will teach with integrity and from a deep truth within yourself.
On the 2021 – 2023 teacher training we had teacher whose passion lay in
- Anatomy and physiology
- Energy work
- Elder years yoga
- Iyengar based
- Mental health
- The science of running
The way teachers taught varied to show their characters: from sunny & joyful, to steady & succinct, to sacred & ethereal, to graceful and radiant. Each teacher found their voice, their way. Hopefully each teacher is also set up to keep growing and transforming.
At the graduation, Isabel Marshall very kindly gave out certificates on behalf of Yoga Scotland, and we all celebrated the students’ hard work. Celebrations included tender sharing, Rajasthani folk dancing, a shamanic labyrinth in the park, cacao ceremony and haiku’s to name a few.
On behalf of Yoga Scotland I would like to formally congratulate and welcome you to Yoga Scotland:
- Ailsa Primmer (St Andrews & Cupar)
- Aradhana Thistlethwaite (Bearsden)
- Elizabeth Oldcorn (Dalgety Bay)
- Janice Whittick (Brechin & Kirriemuir)
- Kerrie Kallus (Falkirk)
- Laura Finlay (Dumbarton)
- Liz Storer (Renfreshire)
- Maria Harper (Edinburgh< Midlothian & Tweedale)
- Marie McKeown (County Donegal)
- Sara Noble (Anstruther & Pittenweem)
- Suzie Byer (Dundee & Broughty Ferry)
- Vikki Stephen (Aberdeen)
Each one of you is unique, special and also a wonderful yoga teacher. You have worked so hard, believe me, I have watched you, and you have earnt your place as a Yoga Scotland teacher. I wish you joy, light and strength in your onward journeys as a yogi and in your lives. I can’t wait to hear what you get up to next.
For those of you looking to expand your yoga, why not get in touch with one of our lovely new yoga teachers, above!
Susannah Dean is the lead tutor for the Yoga Scotland Glasgow Teacher Training. She has been teaching yoga for 20 years in Fife and is a wellbeing writer.
Yoga is a system of movement and breathwork that you repeat, again and again
Mountain, triangle, warrior 1, tree, dog, cat cow, lying twist, relaxation
We do these poses, maybe different ways and ith different adaptions, but we do them again and again. Some style of yoga even do the same class every single time. Why? To keep the whole body limber, to find ease in the practice and it also helps you see things change. The down side is that it can get boring.
At the beginning of a new year you want newness, hope, grand ideals… so why take up yoga or do more of it?
In short the more you put in, the more you get out. Slowly slowly you will get to love your body whatever shape it is, whatever limitations it has, weird bits, lumpy bits, bumpy bits. You are going to enjoy being you and in your physical body more. Long term worries and ttraumas can fade and ease, long term joys can become more vibrant and colourful.
But doing the same yoga poses is boring!
Yes, yoga can be boring. Until you have linked your breath, your sense of enjoying having a physical body and found a base line level of ease in the poses it can be challenging. If you feel stiff and sore you’re never going to find enlightenment are you! You’re just going to count the seconds until its over. Thats why adapting poses is so important. Yes, you want to grow and transform, Yes you want fun challenges and to expand your abilities – but the trick is to go slowly enough that you enjoy the journey. A ‘great looking pose’ is worth very little if you didn’t enjoy the journey. That’s just insta worthy gymnastics.
Is 3000 dog poses too many?
How many dog poses have you done? 10, 100, 1000? Ive been doing yoga for, yikes, 30 years. Once a week for about 15 years (780) and 3 to 7 days a week for 15 years ish (2340). So at a low count Ive done a minimum of 3000 dog poses. You’d think it’d get boring wouldnt you? I do dog pose nearly every day, so what is it that keeps yoga new and exciting. So is 3000 dog poses too many? No, defeinitely not. Infact I got more bored of dog pose when I did fewer. As you get to like the feeling of being in your body it gets more exciting, more interesting, supportive and enjoyable.
So what it is that makes yoga eternally new?
Yoga can get stuck and boring, just like anything can. So sometmes you need to shake things up. Do it differently, add a variation, listen to a particular part of your body, retune alignment, or your breath. Dog pose, and every other pose you rely on can become like a micro universe. Everything is mirrored in that one pose: your love, frustration, fear, anger, boredom and passion.
What if Im different and it gets boring?
It’s really simple, give it a good go and if it doesnt float your soul try another teacher or style or go play tennis, chess or go surfing. There are many ways to inner harmony. Find yours. Yoga works for hundreds of thousands of people, but its ok if you;re not one of them. This year is a precious time for you to find what you need in life… and enjoy it!
Come give it a try, or don’t ; )
To find my classes for the new year: https://www.theyoga.co.uk/classes/
To see more yoga snippets see my insta: theyogauk