Rule 4: Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today.

As a clinical psychologist Peterson has spent 20 hours a week for 25 years listening to people tell him about their lives. The entire gamut of people from those who were barely hanging on to the bottom of the world up to people who were so successful that you could hardly believe. Being a clinical psychologist he says is fascinating because it’s like being immersed in a Dostoevskyan novel all the time. It’s amazing what people will tell you when you listen. People are so interesting and peculiar, unlikely creatures like penguins or rhinoceroses, or ostriches.

One such intriguing person was an old financier who liked mathematics and would make gold pendants of beautiful equations to give people. This man told Peterson about the Pareto distribution. The man had studied psychology when he was younger and was used to the generally accepted rule of average. In other words most human characteristics were normally distributed, so there was a norm and an extreme, for example most people are average height and most people are average weight. Psychologists tended to work on the basis that it applied universally but it doesn’t. You have probably heard of the 80/20 rule. You wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time, 20% of the workers in a company do 80% of the work. The actual rule is more exponential and has wide ranging applications, from the size of cities to the mass of stars. It is called the Pareto distribution.

The Pareto distribution is the rule that in a given domain the square root of the number of people operating in that domain do half of the work, so if you have 100 employees 10 of them do the work. If you have 1,000 then 30 people do. If you have 10,000 then it’s 100. It is a very reliable rule. Like the Matthew principle (to those who have everything more will be given, to those who have nothing all will be taken away) It is not a socio-cultural construct, it applies to many things, for example all creative products, number of records made, songs written, wealth. It is a natural law, if modified it will just go back to its state. There is always a landscape of inequality, but it doesn’t mean you should do nothing about it. We don’t know technically how much inequality there needs to be to generate wealth. It is inevitable, but we don’t know how to regulate it.

With regard to ‘Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today’, there are always people who are better at something than you are. If you are not careful about who you compare yourself to you can get jealous and bitter and resentful. When you’re young you can’t not compare yourself to successful people because you wouldn’t have anything to aim at.

Peterson talks about Jung’s theory that the Book of Revelation was appended to the Bible because the Christ in the Gospels was too merciful. And because we needed to expect more from ourselves, the more frightening book of Revelation had Christ come back as an ideal, as a judge. You are not as good as your ideal. And so an ideal is always a judge. You always fall short of the ideal. So how do you have the benefits of an ideal without having the crushing blow that goes along with having the judge that always regards you as insufficient? You need a goal, but it has to be possible in the short term. You can set a long term high aim. And you have short term goals that are difficult enough to stretch you. The gauging of the aims is so important, but you can aim high in the long term because the Pareto distribution kicks in and your success builds on itself and before you know it you’re achieving things that you didn’t think possible.

Also you can’t compare yourself to others so easily once you are an adult, as you are such a complex individual by then with your idiosyncratic history, that you can only really compare yourself to your previous activity. Aim high, but use yourself as your control. make today a tiny increment better than yesterday. You define better yourself. There doesn’t need to be an imposition of external morality. Incremental improvement is unstoppable, and Peterson has seen that in people’s lives continually. The goal should be: ‘How could I conceive of my life so that if I had that life it would clearly be worth living so that I wouldn’t have to be bitter; resentful; deceitful; arrogant and vengeful?’ That’s the bottom line because that’s what endless failure does to you, and what life without purpose does to you, because life is very hard. You have to ask what mode of being would justify my suffering? Peterson quotes Nietzsche who said “He who has a ‘why’ can bear almost any ‘how'” It is worth thinking about. So you can ask yourself ‘How do I manage all this misery and suffering and futility?’ Well, I need to figure out what I would have to do in order to make that clearly worth while? ‘Well, I can have my goal  and all I have to do is be a little bit better than my miserable self yesterday. You can incrementally work towards it and you can succeed.’

It’s a fun book. It is a humble work of art with its tactile gold lettering, its pristine pearl-white chalky cover and drawings made specially for each chapter. It subtly tempts you towards character forming aspiration, not just for yourself but also to uplift the world, who knows, even the universe. Reading it gives me that rare feeling that I am taking good care of myself. Such an elusive feeling these days, but essential.

Chapter 5 tomorrow!

Rule 3: Make Friends With People Who Want The Best For You

Winters in Alberta, Canada. 40 below zero. No cable TV or internet or video games. I had no idea there could be so much ennui tied to a youngster’s experience of a place and its people. Peterson makes it clear at the start of chapter 3 that some of his friends were aiming up and some were aiming down. ‘If you are aiming up and they’re aiming down then they’re generally not that happy about it.’ They put down what you’re doing, or offer you a cigarette when you are trying to quit, or a drink if you are an alcoholic. They’re cynical and bitter and devoted to no good, and sometimes that’s family members or sometimes it’s even part of you. This chapter is an injunction that you have an ethical responsibility to surround yourself with people who have the courage and faith and wisdom to wish you well when you have done something good, and to stop you when you do something destructive. And if they’re not like that then they’re not your friends. And being friends with them might not even be in their interest.

‘Be careful about whom you share good news with’ was one of the rules Peterson had in a longer list he wrote for the discussion website Quora – the origin of this book. ‘Be careful about whom you share bad news with’ was another one. A friend is not envious of good news. Some people try to drag you down to see if you can put up with it. They have an idea that maybe life is not worth living and if they can taint what is pristine and good then they demonstrate to themselves that there is no true ideal and that there’s no reason to be responsible and to strive forward. They use you as a test case. They push you down and see how you respond and if you put up with it then they think that their cynicism is fully justified.

It is a contentious and painful chapter because Peterson talks about some early friendships and unpleasant realisations, and he details the suicide of a friend. He talks about the teenage wasteland and the pointless parties. He revelled in the opportunities and new friendships that going away to college offered. He noted how his hometown friends on trips to Edmonton just looked for the same parts of town and tried to score the same pot that they looked for back home. 

Freud called the unconscious drive to repeat the horrors of the past a ‘repetition compulsion’ and Peterson goes into the psychology of this in detail. He cites Dostoevsky’s bitter classic Notes from Underground the self analysis of a sick spiteful man in the underworlds of chaos and despair. His exchange with the prostitute Liza shows how far a person would easily go to endorse their own nihilistic indolence. So, if you have a friend whose friendship you wouldn’t recommend to your sister, or your father or son, why would you have such a friend for yourself? Such a straight forward point, but so often overlooked. 

‘When you dare aspire upward, you reveal the inadequacy of the present and the promise of the future. Then you disturb others, in the depths of their souls, where they understand that their cynicism and immobility are unjustifiable. You play Abel to their Cain. You remind them that they ceased caring not because of life’s horrors, which are undeniable, but because they do not want to lift the world up on their shoulders, where it belongs.

Don’t think that it’s easier to surround yourself with good healthy people than with bad unhealthy people. It’s not. A good, healthy person is an ideal. It requires strength and daring to stand up near such a person. Have some humility. Have some courage. Use your judgement, and protect yourself from too-uncritical compassion and pity.

Make friends with people who want the best for you.’

Thus spoke Peterson.

Chapter 4 tomorrow

Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping

After all that talk in the first chapter of lobster fights; a wren guarding his nest territory; and the way defensive body language learned during trauma can become a detrimental habit throughout life, the second rule goes a little deeper. It is a meditation on why humans tend to neglect themselves with such monumental diligence. It was Jung’s comment that the edict to ‘treat others as you wish to be treated yourself’ was not an invitation to be nice to each other. Far from it. If you really want everyone just to be nice to you, how would you grow? We want to be told when we make mistakes, we want to learn and be challenged. Peterson took note of Jung’s distinction and decided that we need to work out how we do want to be treated. We tend to treat others better than we treat ourselves. You are conscientious enough to give your dog all the proper medication that the vet advises, but 30% of people don’t collect their own prescriptions and of those that do collect their prescriptions a further 50% don’t take them properly. ‘Your dog likes you, your dog would like you to take your medication.’ 

Why don’t people like themselves very much? Peterson asks. Well, we are fragile and foolish. We know everything about ourselves and all the mistakes we make. We are weak and useless and prone to temptation. We are capable of some sordid and malevolent acts and we know it. So why would we take care of someone as sorry and wretched as ourself? That is what this chapter is about. Yes we’re flawed but so is everyone else and that is an existential problem, it is universal. Every single human being has always had that problem and always will. The answer put forward in the chapter is to love the sinner but not the sin. Despite the fact that you’re not all that you could be, the proper response is to treat yourself as if you are someone that you genuinely care for. It is incumbent on you to do so. It is also a discussion of why you have a moral obligation to take care of yourself.

You make the world a much worse place if you don’t take care of yourself. Partly because you have something valuable to bring into the world. It is part of what being an individual is about, and what western civilisation recognises is that you have a light to bring into the world. If you do not bring it into the world then the world remains a dimmer place. When the world is a dim place it can get very very dark. It is not just that you feel better if you look after yourself, it is that you have a duty to bring the valuable thing you have to the world. 

Peterson’s in-depth study of Genesis is an excellent development of the idea, he also looks at the difference in our worldly perceptions as a result of science, but maintains that our inner seeing is fundamentally made of drama and story. What is meaningful is what we can extract from chaos. The comprehensive discussion of chaos and order is gripping and peppered with familiar mythology made fascinating again through Peterson’s interpretation. Neuroscience; the Taoists; Shiva; Eden – and not just the standard postlapsarian reading that we had in literary theory; good and evil; the divine; classical Rome; Elkhonon Goldberg and the brain…are just some of the explorations in this satisfying chapter.

I am also enjoying  the pictures that front each chapter, they look different before and after reading.

Chapter 3 tomorrow!

Rule 1: Stand up Straight With Your Shoulders Back

A lobster pumped on serotonin is a great way to make rule 1 memorable. Arguing that dominance hierarchy is older than the trees – as old as the lobster’s response to make itself appear larger when it wins a fight due to a serotonin rush – Peterson takes this as indication that the dominance hierarchy is not a social construct. Lobsters have a simple nervous system, which makes them easy to study, and they share some hormonal activity with humans. The drop in serotonin when a lobster loses a fight causes it to shrink, similar to the way a human slouches when depressed. The lobster is then more susceptible to losing again the next time. If given anti-depressants the lobster will expand, open up and fight to win next time. This is a good reason to ‘stand up straight with your shoulders back’ because you, like a lobster will be more highly regarded and potentially more successful if you bravely open yourself up to the world. Presenting yourself in a way that disgraces you, like slouching and mumbling causes negative responses, thereby creating pain and emotional dis-regulation.

This rule of course can be found in yoga: a straight spine allows for full breathing, open ribs and diaphragm. It keeps you ready and alert, vertebrae stacked with potential energy. It encourages you to speak clearly and the truth, which people respond well to. It also turns you into an antenna for direct download from universal wisdom. Peterson is a reader of Jung and often cites universal unconscious as a force to be reckoned with. He also studied great clinicians such as Adler, Freud, Maslow and behaviouralists such as BF Skinner. The lobster analogy came from his close reading of the science orientated animal behaviouralists and neuro scientists such as Jeffrey Gray, whose book The Neuropsychology of Anxiety Peterson cites, and Yak Panksepp from whose book Affective Neuroscience he takes the example of rats giggling when they are tickled. 

Peterson is fascinated by this, because it shows that there’s a psychobiological basis for play in mammals. They have a play circuit. Of course we always knew this, you only have to observe your dog or cat, or see how complex the play of dolphins is. Their play is so sophisticated that they trick each other with practical jokes and can laugh with each other. For Peterson the rats giggling example is huge because essentially Panksepp discovered a circuit in the brain we didn’t know existed (well, we did, but science hadn’t proved it yet). Rough and tumble play is absolutely essential for human and mammal psychological development. On many levels. It develops risk taking abilities, closeness, physical confidence, psychological balance and play response, alertness and sense of humour. Awareness of effect that your bodily stance has on the other person being the most relevant to this chapter.

Almost all social animals arrange themselves in hierarchies. Peterson said ‘almost’ so like anthropologists who find tribes working on completely different systems, we need to stay aware of other systems in play. Almost all, and this system is 350 million years old, so the idea that hierarchy is a socio-cultural construct, says Peterson, is incorrect. We have a neuro-chemical system that modulates our understanding of those hierarchies. The counter that you share with lobsters that rates you in terms of your hierarchical position determines the ratio of negative emotion to positive emotion that you feel. This is huge, says Peterson because it changes the way your entire system responds in the world. Also there is a tight relationship between your belief system and your dominance hierarchy position. Peterson agrees that it is more accurate now to call it a competence hierarchy because the human hierarchy now is scaled by competence. In other words what predicts success today is cognitive ability, prefrontal and cognitive function, conscientiousness and intelligence. A given hierarchy is influenced in its structure by socio-cultural conditioning, but the hierarchy itself really was on the planet before trees were.

                

Back to posture, so directly related to serotonin and emotional regulation. People will take you more seriously, you can confront the world in a courageous manner, confront things that frighten you forthrightly and with courage. it’s a good measure of success, so stand up straight!

This book is proving a joy to read, Peterson’s style is compelling and full of diverse examples. Chapter 2 tomorrow.

 

 

The two go together. The retreat next May in Andalusia, just a ten minute stroll to the beach, offers yoga, creative writing, and dance/ movement workshops. Special deal, an early bird discount if you book by the end of December, a discount of 10%. There is a further discount of 10% if you bring a friend! Details here:

  • Sunday, May 6, 2018 3:00 PM

    to

    Casa Erica Holiday Resort

    Calle Rusia 1 Niza Beach / Torre del Jaral 29700 Vélez-Málaga, Andalucia

  • 30 minutes from Malaga airport, transfers included.
  •  

    Price starts at: EUR745.00 /per person

     

  • THE YOGA BEAT

    Yoga & Creativity Retreat 

    Andalucia, Spain / 6th – 12th of May 2018

    Stella Shakerchi and Chris Leuenberger invite you to join them in their yoga and creativity retreat held at Yoga Spirit Circle, a naturally designed holiday villa and yoga resort nestled in the Andalusian hills overlooking the Costa del Sol. 

    Enjoy relaxing yet focused daily yoga sessions that will fit your yoga needs. 

    Surrender to the flow of your innate creative potential and try somatic dance and /or creative writing. 

    While on your leisure time you can go for extensive strolls on the beach (only a 10 minute walk away), hang out by the pool and maybe after dinner join mantra chanting to calm your mind. 

    You will go home inspired and recharged!

    Teachers

    Stella Shakerchi teaches creative writing and yoga in Oxford. 

    Chris Leuenberger is a Swiss dancer/choreographer working internationally. Both are 500hr RYT yoga teachers.

    Group Size 

    The maximum number of participants in the group is 12.

    Check out a video of our last retreat here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBuLArBPxGs

    Location

    Yoga Spirit Circle is located on the grounds of a beautiful Spanish finca – Casa Erica. Located about 30km east from Málaga city, surrounded by 

    nature and with the beach at your footsteps, it is the ideal spot to unwind and reconnect. The mild climate in spring and autumn with light sea breezes make you want to spend most of your time outdoors. 

    Wake up with the sun, practice yoga under the sky and make new friends.  The yoga classes and workshops take place up on the hill overlooking the sea, on pool level and on the roof top terrace.    

    Practices 

    During this retreat you will have two daily yoga classes with Chris and Stella. Experience Vinyasa, kundalini, restorative yoga, and celestial communication (mantras with extended mudras) in the evening.

    To make full use of the life-affirming benefits of a regular yoga practice and to help unleash your creativity, we offer a choice of workshops in creative writing or somatic dance on three afternoons. 

    Typical Day Schedule 

    You will start your day with a 90 minute Vinyasa class in the morning sun.

    After your class and relaxation session you can enjoy your breakfast from the buffet on the terrace with sea view. There is sufficient time to rest, have a chat or jump into the pool until lunch.

    If you can’t get enough of the yoga, we will give the option of taking a 60 minute Kundalini yoga class right before lunch. 

    In the late afternoon you will have a choice of creative writing or somatic dance workshops (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). 

    On Tuesday and Thursday we will offer a 90 minutes restorative evening yoga class with meditation or yoga nidra. 

    After dinner you’re invited to join us for 20 minutes of mantras with music and mudras. 

    Meals 

    In this retreat healthy yogic food with vegetarian and dietary options will be served.   

    We start the day with tea, coffee & fruit. Choose between soy and oat milk. After the morning yoga class a delicious brunch is waiting for you. Freshly baked bread, different porridges, vegan spreads, fruit, veggies and fresh orange juice as much as you want. 

    In the lunch break we offer freshly made smoothies and light snacks, such as Chia Pudding and Açai-Nicecream. 

    In the evening we try our best to impress you with fresh veggies, hearty 

    dishes and colourful creations influenced by the world’s cuisines.

    The following meals are included: brunch, light lunch, dinner, drinks

    Should you have special dietary requirements, kindly send an inquiry to Chris: contact@chrisleuenberger.com

    Accommodation

    You will be staying at Casa Erica – a beautifully renovated, peaceful and idyllic finca / holiday villa. 

    Surrounded by mountains and the sea, Casa Erica offers inviting rooftop terraces, Spanish archways and staircases and spacious outdoor common areas for living, dining and relaxing. 

    There are 11 bright and comfortable apartments and studios, all of which have a bathroom with a shower and a kitchenette.  

    Accommodation Options and Cost: 

    Shared Studio (4x) EURO 745                                  

    Shared Apartment (6x) EURO 795                                        

    Single Room in Shared Apartment (1x) EURO 825                                      

    Single Studio (1x) EURO 825

    Single Use Apartment (2x) EURO 865

    Single Use Honeymoon Studio (1x) EURO 895

    What’s included:

    • 2 daily yoga classes (Vinyasa, kundalini and restorative yoga)

    • 6 nights accommodation in single or double rooms

      • Daily yogic breakfast, lunch, and dinner

    • choice of creative writing or somatic dance workshop on 3 afternoons 

    • mantra singing and celestial communication sessions after dinner 

    • teas, coffees, and water

    • Use of all facilities

      • Airport Transfers 

    • Wi-Fi     

    What’s not included:

    • Airfares

    • Alcohol

    • Excursions

    • Massages 

    Things to do  

    There are many options for you to spend your free time on your retreat:

    You can use the spacious and beautiful areas of Casa Erica to relax, read, take a dip in the pool, sunbathe and luxuriate.  You might want to discover the surrounding nature or walk down the hill to go for a swim at the beach.  You can catch a bus to Torre del Mar for some sight seeing – or how about a city trip to one of the beautiful Andalusian cities close by such as Málaga, Nerja or Granada? Maybe you feel like treating yourself to a massage.                                Massages and treatments are offered at favourable retreat prices.

    Arrival & Departure  

    Arrival is on Sunday afternoon, May 6th. 

    Departure is on Saturday, May 12th by noon-time. 

    Getting there

    Arrival by airplane:

    The nearest airport is Malaga. We offer a free Pick-up and Drop-off Service three times a day for flights arriving and departing from Malaga Airport between 8 am and 9:30 pm.

    For arrivals and departures before 8 am and after 9:30 pm we can organise a personal transfer at an additional cost.   

    Arrival by airplane and bus/train/car:

    It is also possible to fly to Seville or to Jerez de la Frontera and rent a car or take a bus to Malaga or Torre del Mar. 

    Another option is to fly to Madrid. From Madrid you can catch a train (Renfe) which brings you to Malaga in 2,5 – 3 hours. 

    Renting a car:

    Car sharing makes the cheap rental cars even cheaper. At Malaga airport you can rent a car starting from 80 € per week. 

    We will send an email before the trip and put all interested participants in contact. 

    Payment and cancellation policy

    To confirm your space please transfer a 50% deposit. 

    The balance is due 2 weeks before the start of the retreat (April 23 2018). Bank details will be provided on registration.

    Cancellation policy as follows:

    More than 60 days before the holiday a refund will be given less a 50 Euro admin charge.

    Less than 60 days before the holiday a refund (less a 50 € administration charge) will only be given if the space can be filled.

Today I had a quick chat live on BBC Radio Oxford and Berkshire with Bill Buckley; it was a lot of fun. Bill was asking me about the benefits of yoga and how yoga entered my life, the training process, and how practicing in the Parks makes a difference.

He talked about the way he used to practice in London (not keeping his drishti!) and we talked about some of the different types of yoga I teach at The Yoga Beat and the retreats we teach in spring and autumn.

This evening we are practicing vinyasa again in the University Parks 6-7pm and remember kundalini Wednesdays 6-7pm also in the Parks near Keble Gate.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05b7zdg

Rejuvenating Retreat in Italy 23-30 September

With Chris Leuenberger & Stella Shakerchi

VINYASA / KUNDALINI / YOGA NIDRA / CELESTIAL COMMUNICATION

 

23-30 September at Locanda della Quercia Calante, Umbria

A week of yoga and cleansing in the in the Umbrian hills. Relax, consolidate and strengthen at Locanda with tranquil gardens and magical sunsets.

2 yoga classes each day, after dinner mantras, swimming, free to roam the woodland walks, one to one sessions, massages and spa available, beautiful accommodation and three fresh healthy meals every day at Locanda della Quercia Calante, near Orvieto.

 

Treat yourself to 7 days of yoga and relaxation on this natural retreat in the hills of verdant Umbria, Central Italy. Fill up on inner strength and peace of mind in the beautiful grounds of a renovated old farm surrounded by a green park with spring water pools and century-old oaks. Whether you are a beginner or a well-practiced yogi, our retreat will be a safe environment in which you can explore, grow your practice, cleanse and achieve long lasting health benefits. Locanda has beautiful gardens where you can relax and natural pools. All meals and comforts are provided, and any extra yoga tuition all included.

– 2 yoga classes a day (Vinyasa, Kundalini) 

– pranayama, meditation, chakras & mantras

– free use of all facilities including natural spa with energizing properties

– 3 healthy vegetarian meals per day (local cuisine, natural ingredients)

– lovely accommodation in quadruple, triple, double or single room

Chris Leuenberger (chrisleuenberger.com) is a dancer and Stella Shakerchi is a KYTA certified Level 1 kundalini yoga teacher. Both are 500hr Vinyasa RYT Yoga Alliance certified. 

4 SHARE: EUR 675

3 SHARE: EUR 745

DOUBLE: EUR 815

SINGLE: EUR 1025 

You may wish to share a room with a friend or partner, or we can place you with other yogis who are attending.

To book your place on the retreat, contact Stella: stella@theyogabeat.co.uk or text on (+44) 740 212 6826. We ask a 50% deposit to secure the place, the balance payable 60 days  before the start of the retreat.

 

for more information email stella@theyogabeat.co.uk or text (+44) 740 212 6826

 

It is an intriguing subject, fascia – some of which is what you may know as connective tissue – runs throughout the body and is a substance released by the cells that support tensional movement and strengthens areas of movement. There are always new discoveries being made on this mysterious subject. This video is great for revealing how involved fascia is in the anatomy of body and mind.

Nutrition and the yogic lifestyle

This evening I attended a book launch at the headquarters of the wonderful Modern Baker. The Modern Baker A New Way to Bake has some great recipes such as sourdough chocolate cake and maple sugar and blueberry scones. You can find out about the health benefits of sourdough on the Modern Baker blog written by Melissa Sharp who also collaborated with Leo and Lindsay to write the Cookbook. Sourdough can be helpful for celiacs. But also consider that you may be intolerant to wheat, sugar or dairy without even realising it. Sometimes we think we are running on normal when we have nothing better to compare it with. Twenty, thirty or forty years on habitual diet may be hiding your potential energy levels, possibly much higher, much more consistent, and everything much easier.

It was not until I stopped having dairy products that I realised I was naturally much more clear headed, energetic and positive than I had been for forty years of my life. Now at 47 from what I see on YouTube real videos of the ways animals are treated in dairy farms I understand there are many good reasons to decline dairy products, and I am glad my body told me “no” before I saw the horrid truth. 

Apart from my distaste for dairy and refined sugar, I share something else with Melissa: we were both diagnosed with cancer in the same year. I didn’t know Melissa then. I only knew I wanted to survive, and from the books and research I read I knew that green leafy vegetables, broccoli and garlic were the best way to go in terms of a daily bolster against cancer cells thriving. Surgery, chemo, and yoga training later, teaching and living in Summertown I was excited to see that a new healthy bakers was due to open. I used to work at a bakers, getting up at dawn and baking early, I ate a lot of wheat working there and did not feel too well on it, so I wanted to know what the Modern Baker would have to offer. I watched keenly and on the morning of opening I took in a bunch of flowers, met Melissa, and immediately it was evident that the Modern Baker would be a valued element in the neighbourhood. 

It wasn’t just Melissa’s gorgeous dogs Bo Bo and Silla that kept me returning to the Modern Baker – nicknamed Posh Baker by some, Mobo by others – It was the healthy products, satisfying and nutritious. I learnt to make some of my favourites and now I am delighted to be able to try out the new recipes in the book. I have been teaching regular yoga classes, retreats and workshops for six years now, and I am sure the tasty sourdough loaves, cakes and salads have helped me stay well.

          

In the yogic approach to nutrition, food is defined in three main types: Sun foods, Ground foods and Earth foods. Ayurvedic tradition talks about the need for balance between Vata, Pitta and Kapha to have a healthy system and different types of food reflect these qualities. Sattvic, Rajastic and Tamasic.

Food is categorised as nutritious which gives energy and strength; and sustaining which heals the body and maintains health. Raw foods are required for the fibre and enzymes that help us absorb vitamins and some foods require cooking as then minerals are released and become easier for us to absorb – tomatoes for example.

There are six main flavours: sweet; sour; salty; pungent; bitter and astringent. Each have their own qualities: sweet foods can nourish but can cause mucus and obesity (refined sugar inhibits the chemical in our bodies that signals to us that we are full, and it causes inflammation forming dangerous free radicals in the body); sour foods stimulate appetite; salty foods aid digestion.

Alkaline diet is important for the body which is naturally 75% alkaline. Alkaline foods build nerves, organs, glands and keep them toned. Calm us. Leafy vegetables, fruit, pulses, legumes and lemons are alkaline. Acid foods give bursts of energy, but can cause chronic illness and ageing. Meat, eggs, butter and sweets are acidic, as well as coffee and alcohol.

Trinity roots: garlic can be used to heal gastric, septic, typhus, cholera, bacterial infections and cancer. Stimulates semen production. Onion for earache, colds, fever, laryngitis, cancer, purify blood, balance blood sugar. Ginger digestion, menstrual cramps, nausea, nourishes nerves and helps them carry more energy. Keeps spine and cerebrospinal fluid healthy.

Yogi Bhajan reminds us of the importance of preparing food with love and gratitude, eating in a pleasant environment and eating consciously. To eat when hungry only and not snack, stop before full and rest the digestion once a week. 

Sugar, salt, nicotine,white flour, alcohol and caffeine are not recommended.

Good foods for women are: Ginger, sesame oil, mangoes, aubergine, almond oil, turmeric. For men are: figs, banyan tree milk, nutmeg, saffron, pistachios, pears, plums, ghee, garlic and onions.

That was a quick low-down about how yogis use food. If you would like to know more you can always email me.

A wise Greek* once said “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” I couldn’t agree more.

*Hippocrates, of course!

Hippocrates also said “The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.”

I recently met a friend who twisted his back a few weeks ago. He’s still stiff, and hunched over because he’s walking with a zimmer. He asked me about stretching exercises to straighten his back, and also about relieving sciatica, which he’d been told he might develop. As it happens, conversation then turned to somebody we know who has arthritis. The 17th Century writer and historian Anthony à Wood observed in his diary one January that:
 
Beginning of this month colds became very frequent, many sick and keep up, colds without coughing or running at the nose, only a languidness, and faintness, certainly Oxford’s no good air.
 
And indeed, Oxford lies in a river valley, has suburbs and roads whose names derive from “marsh” and “ferry”, has a region in the University Parks named Mesopotamia — “between the rivers” — and is cursed with perpetual damp. It must be one of the worst places for arthritis in the UK.
 
So how can yoga help? One of my specialities is aerial yoga, a class I teach on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings in the Beat Studio in Summertown. Look at my photos, and in the Aerial Yoga section, you will see people suspended on aerial yoga hammocks. It might look like an activity from the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Society warm-up book; but in fact, it is excellent for making the spine more flexible with supported stretches. It encourages space between the vertebrae with suspended inversions. It increases upper body and core strength with weight bearing exercises, and lifts mood and strengthens the immune system with stimulation of the upper glands – pineal, pituitary, and hypothalamus.
 
You might give it a go and feel the benefits!