Thursday, 11 February 2016

Guru Mooch VII, Warrior II

Mooch still loves his warrior poses, and here he will demonstrate the second warrior pose, also known as Virabhadrasana II.

Start by standing straight, facing the long sir of your mat; paws  feet together, arms besides your body.

Inhale and step, or lightly jump, the legs away from each other until your feet are a metre apart ( or 3.5 to 4 feet).

Meanwhile, stretch your arms sideways, so that they are parallel to the floor with their palms facing down.

Turn your left paw foot 15 degrees in and your right paw foot 90 degrees out. 

Exhale, and bend the right leg till you have a right angle.

Keep your hips and torso firm, and look over your right arm. Make sure to keep the right knee straight over the ankle, and keep the left leg straight.

Hold for about half a minute and breathe normally. 

To end: inhale, straighten your right leg and turn feet back in. You are now in a position to repeat this pose to the left side.

Warrior II strengthens the legs and torso, it opens the hips and chest.
Warrior II requires concentration and balance and helps the practitioner in  developing these qualities

This pose improves ones circulation and respiration. Mooch has noticed that it has on energizing effect on him.

Disclaimer: Even though I love yoga, I am not a qualified teacher. In doubt, always consult with a professional teacher. 
For cats though, no qualification is required; just a tolerance for cat hair and poo, and the ability to go gooey over their antics....

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Guru Mooch VI: Warrior I

Today Guru-Mooch will show us the Warrior I pose. There are three variations of the Warrior, and we'll start with the first one. 
Mooch quite likes the Warrior poses. For him, the name has a real heroic ring to it. He can really identify with the Warrior, especially after a good night, in which he uses his hunting skills to keep the place free of potential cockroach and mice infestations. That's all every well, but what he hasn't realised yet is that the name refers to the 'spiritual warrior', who bravely battles the cockroaches and mice of his/her mind. (1)

  • Start by standing straight, facing a long side of your mat; paws feet together, arms besides your body. Inhale and step, or lightly jump, the legs away from each other until your feet are a metre apart (or 3.5 to 4 feet). Take your arms straight above your head and join the palms together. Lock your elbows. 
  • Turn your left paw foot 45 to 60 degrees in and your right paw 90 degrees out. Exhale and turn your torso and hips 90 degrees to the right as well, so that it is in line with your right paw foot. (Now you are facing a short side of your mat.)
  • Your left leg should be strong with your kneecap lifted and your heel firmly on the floor. Then, on another exhale, bend your right leg to the point where your thigh is parallel with the floor, and the knee makes a nice 90 degree angle. Finally, lift the chest and tilt the head back and look up. Do not strain the throat or constrict the back of the neck though.
  • Stay here for as long as is comfortable, but if possible for at least 20 to 30 seconds and try to breathe evenly.
  • To end: straighten the knee and come up, release your arms and turn hips, chest and paws feet back to the long side of the mat. Exhale and step or lightly jump to bring your feet back together again, with your arms by the side.

(1) The cockroaches of the mind are infestations of things like worry, perceived anger and the identification with ones 'life story'. Some are quite well known, like the 'poor-pityful-me' story, or the equally popular 'look-what-they-did-to-me' story. For teenagers, there is, of  course, the script called: 'nobody-understands-me'. 
This is not being said in order to trivialise emotional pain, far from that, but to point out that the complete identification with it as 'who-you-are', keeps the pain going for much longer than necessary. 

The mice of the mind are the things we chase. Nothing wrong with a chase, as long as you enjoy it. Mooch knows all about that. He loves it, but not all day every day. 
However, it becomes a burden when one believes that as soon as I have achieved this, that and the other, then I'll finally be happy!! In a formula it would look like this: A+B+C = Happy! For example, one thinks that one will be happy as soon as one has achieved a size 8 (preferably 6), a degree, a wonderful job and a house by the ocean. Until then, happiness is not on the cards, or so this person believes.

Disclaimer: Even though I love yoga, I am not a qualified teacher. Neither am I a psychologist. I have however, done my bit of soul searching. As for cats, I don't think one needs a qualification, just a tolerance for cat hair, cat poo, and the ability to go gooey over some feline antics.....

Thursday, 19 February 2015


Once in a while, I get a commission for a portrait that takes my breath away. I love doing portraiture because, for me, faces have a story to tell. Most of the photos I get are interesting, but this one just blew me away. All portraits are, off course, important to the owners, so all get treated with the same care.
This time was extra special. I got a tiny photo of a young woman in an elegant pose and a huge, vibrant smile. I could see that the photo was quite old and she seemed to be from Papua New Guinea. A brilliant fuzz of black hair crowned her face, and, (my heart sank at this time) facial tattoos. Her aliveness and radiance were just palpable.

I have tackled a few challenging portraits: old people, young people, ringlets, bad photos and smiles (believe it or not, teeth are one of the hardest things to tackle). However, I never  considered that I'd be doing facial tattoos. They are basically a drawing on a curved surface. I also remember looking at it thinking how much it must have hurt.

She was the great-grand-mother of the lady who commissioned the portrait, and what I learned was that the tattoos were a sign of high status. Unfortunately, that is all I know, apart from the fact that she seemed very happy.
By contrast, I can tell you about the photos I've seen from my great-grand-parents. They were farmers and fishermen. They looked straight into the camera without so much as a hint a smile. 'Vibrant' or 'happy' are definitely not words that spring to mind. 'Stern', 'serious' and 'hard life' seem to be etched on their faces. 

I have included a sequence of photos to show the progression in this portrait. When it works well, it is like a polaroid that slowly comes to life. I am very happy with the result, and I think the tattoos worked out just fine! It has been an absolute privilege!


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Guru-Mooch V: Cat and Cow Pose

After Mooch's grudge against the Downward Dog, it is about time to demonstrate the Cat Pose. 
Cats are known for their ability to arch their back, and in yoga this pose is used to give our spine a great stretch. The Cat Pose is usually combined with the Cow Pose, since the combination of these two poses are like a match made in heaven. They naturally seem to complement each other.

So this is what we humans do:

  • Start by sitting on your hands and knees, make sure your knees are under your hips, and your wrists are under your shoulders. (Ironically, even though this is called the Cat Pose, this seems to be a bit of a problem for our fellow felines. However, there is nothing that cartoon-physics won't solve!) 

  • Start with an inhale, arch your back towards the ceiling whilst your head drops towards the floor. This is then followed by the Cow Pose where you exhale and drop your belly towards the floor and you lift your head towards the ceiling. 
  • Continue flowing back and forth from Cat to Cow pose for at least ten times, and make sure you connect your breath with the movements.
Guru-Mooch has noticed that his human, Ivette, practices this pose often after she has worked in her garden. She seems to come back, making noises like : 'ooh' and 'oww-my-back'. A few rounds of Cat-Cow seems to make her feel better.

Disclaimer: These little blog-entries are written by someone who loves yoga, spirituality and cats. They should not substitute for professional advice from a qualified yoga teacher.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Guru-Mooch IV, Downward Dog

The Downward Facing Dog is one of the most well-known yoga poses. It is also one of the most popular, and for good reason. It provides a beautiful stretch that lengthens the spine, improves your circulation, strengthens not only the upper body muscles, but also the abdominal muscles. It will also leave most people feeling invigorated.
During a yoga session, the Downward Dog (as it is called for short) can give the practitioner some time to assess the body. Assessing your body does not mean that you judge it; it simply means that you are aware. Your breath might be shallow, your hamstrings tight, your shoulders may be sore but this does not need to make you feel inadequate or frustrated. If it does, just notice that too....
The Downward Dog is also a transitional pose, which means it will be revisited a few times during a session in which the practitioner moves from one pose to another. At the end of a session you might be pleasantly surprised to feel that your body has eased a bit more into the pose.

For Guru-Mooch however, this pose comes as easily as eating, sleeping and purring. For him, it is sometimes hard to distinguish where yoga begins and the mundane ends. There is most definitely a great sense of well-being, and no feelings of frustration or inadequacy. To be fair, feeling inadequate is not something our feline counterparts suffer from. It is us humans who seem to be very good at that. 
Nevertheless, Mooch has a bone to pick. From his 'humble' opinion, it should have been called the 'Downward Cat'. He is very quick to disregard the fact that dogs love this pose too, and excel at it. His human female, Ivette, tried to reason with him and pointed out that there actually is a 'Cat Pose'. Guru-Mooch was equally quick to point out it is not as well known as the Downward Dog, so he is holding on to his indignation. Ivette simply assessed the situation as 'too-hard', and Guru-Mooch still feels he is 'right', which only fuels his anger! Obviously, at this point yoga has 'ended' for him and he is indulging in something very mundane: a grudge!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Guru-Mooch III, headstands and face-lifts

Guru-Mooch is enthusiastic about yoga, and his enthusiasm is rubbing off on others. There was a tiny bit of information that totally swayed his human female (you know, that big, lumbering thing that sits in front of a computer all day). It especially concerned the headstand. While she was aware of the headstands invigorating effects, she was completely sold after reading an article, suggesting it has face-lifting potential. Guru-Mooch thinks she's being rather silly, like so many of her species. He thinks she looks fine, as long as she keeps feeding, massaging and admiring him. Oh, and open the doors. (They are pesky things. Stupid human invention!). She, on the other hand, doesn't consider herself to be particularly vain, but, when push comes to shove, is rather attached to her youthful looks.
The headstand seems to have many health benefits, ranging from a face-lift to the strengthening of the core muscles, anti-depressant and detoxing. It is even said that it slows the graying of one's hair!  

For those interested in the article that inspired his human, follow this link:

Both Guru-Mooch and his human female are aware that this pose should be taught by a professional yoga teacher!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Fifty shades of black...

Some of you already know that besides 'Guru-Mooch' and painting abstract paintings, I also write the Moo-Chi Diaries. Obviously, both Guru-Mooch and the Moo-Chi Diaries are inspired by our well-pampered cat, Moo-Chi! While I am fond of writing these stories, there is one factor that slows me down no end: the illustrations! That might sound a bit strange from someone who is trained in painting instead of writing, but there is the problem: Mooch, as he is often called, is jet-black. (Oops! Correction. I have the problem. It's an artistic one. Mooch, being feline perfection incarnate, cannot possibly have any problems!) 
Nevertheless, when I envisioned a bundle of funny stories with lovely water-colours, I was thinking of something like this:

or this:

Yes, stripes and patches! Or at least a darker face, paws and tail, like a Siamese. This is much easier to paint. If I'm not careful, Mooch ends up looking like a blob of ink with two triangles on top. I am counting my lucky stars that he is not all white though.... Ever heard of fifty shades of white?! Well, neither have I. So, how did we end up with a bundle of glossy, black fur? 
Over a year ago we went to the RSPCA, 'just to have a look'. A volunteer asked us what type of cat we were looking for, and David said that in his experience it was the cat that chooses us, not us choosing the cat. Famous last words. The first kitten I wanted to hold was a little black and white tom. According to his description, he would lie in the sun all day, and sleep on your bed at night. That sounded good to me. I hunched down and reached into the enclosure. Mr Black-and-white didn't respond and stayed well out of reach, whereas his brother, called Midnight, tapped my hand with his paw, looking at me expectantly. 
I ignored him. 
Black-and-White ignored me. 
Midnight tapped me again, with a bit more force. 
I still ignored him. 
Midnight wiggled his bum and jumped straight into my lap. Now he had my attention. I went like: 'Oh, look at him!' I handed him to David and Midnight just flopped in his hands and started to purr. Loudly. We both turned to mush. 'Well', said David, 'I think we have found our cat!' To be fair on the other cats that needed a good home, I decided to have a look at some. All cats that day must have decided to join the dark side of felinity: aloof, uninterested and unaffectionate. A feline conspiracy that day? It wasn't much of a choice in the end. Two hundred bucks lighter, we walked away with a cardboard box containing a gorgeously cute, black inspiration called Midnight; soon to be renamed Moo-Chi!