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.