No coffee, no prana?



Guruji is supposed to have said these famous words, and recently I have noticed that when I practice early in the morning without coffee, my practice is terrible – I feel heavy, lethargic and lifeless, and I can barely get through the standing poses. If I have a coffee first, I feel much lighter, energised and able to get through to navasana, even right through the primary series if time allows.

In Ayurveda, coffee is said to be rajasic – producing activity. However, it is not that we should avoid rajasic foods altogether, rather have a balance between rajasic and sattvic foods (sattvic producing understanding), & avoiding tamasic foods (meat, etc, which produce inertia and ignorance). So by implication, a little coffee before practice should be ok.

Sharath actually likened the practice to drinking a cup of coffee. He said that he looks forward to that first cup of coffee in the morning and makes a conscious effort to relish and enjoy it. The practice, he said, should be just like that too. You shouldn’t just do the practice just to do it and get it done, you should enjoy your practice every day. My takeaway from this speaks deeply to the mind training of the Ashtanga Yoga method. You can go through the motions of the practice just like you can chug a cup of coffee in the morning because it’s part of your routine. Or you can consciously choose to savor each sip of your life. You can choose to train your mind to enjoy every moment of your practice just as you can choose to focus on the positive elements of every life experience.

Kino MacGregor


The Mind Body Spirit Wellbeing Show, Olympia 30th April


I went with a friend to the Wellbeing Show last weekend. We started the day with a ‘sound bath’ meditation, by Anne Malone, which took place in a cosy yurt filled with rugs and cushions, a beautiful coccoon-like setting. Having never done anything like this before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Anne is a lovely warm Irish woman, who has an interesting collection of instruments – Tibetan bowls, a rain stick and a hang – a mini steelpan played with soft beaters. The idea was that the sound vibrations of the different instruments would enhance the guided meditation. I left the yurt feeling calmer and ready for the festival.


Annie Malone (picture courtesy of Annie’s Website)

Next I went straight into a ‘hatha yoga flow’ session. The teacher Denisa Nenova was lovely, and made a real point of explaining that yoga is way more than asana practice.

We wandered round for a bit, sipping our kale smoothies and looking at the stalls – there were a lot of ‘psychic reading’ type stalls, which is a bit ‘out there’ even for me.

We ended the day with a session on the heart chakra with Yogi Ashokonanda. Expecting this to be a gentle session, we were rather taken aback when we had to jump from Warrior I pose changing legs in one breath for about 5 minutes continuously! Even as someone who practices ashtanga yoga, this was the hardest yoga I have ever done! I guess the purpose of it was to get your heart pumping and your lungs breathing fully, so that you can really tune into the heart chakra. Some people clearly hadn’t expected this either, as they were removing layers of sweaty jumpers to keep up. The essence of the workshop was that chanting mantras can help to keep the heart chakra open (we chanted the Radhe-Krishna mantra).







Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.24


That creative source (ishvara) is a particular consciousness (purusha) that is unaffected by colorings (kleshas), actions (karmas), or results of those actions that happen when latent impressions stir and cause those actions

Ishvara is a distinguished supreme consciousness untouched by the colored results of actions or the pain of suffering

Isvara is a particular Purusa (consciousness) unaffected by affliction, deed , result of action or the latent impressions thereof

This sutra gives us more detail on ishvara – the Supreme Being or Universal Consciousness. This blog lists the following qualities of ishvara:

  • free from the 5 modes of suffering (Yoga Sutra 1.5); ignorance, desire, aversion, fear, Egoism/I-am-ness
  • free from the results of karma/action whether good or bad
  • free from the anguish of the life-death cycles
  • free from the subconscious impressions of Samkaras (karmas from past, present and future)
  • Supreme intelligence


Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.23


From a special process of devotion and letting go into the creative source from which we emerged, the coming of samadhi is imminent

Or from intense devotion and total surrender to Ishvara

Samadhi, or the highest state, will be attained when we show intense devotion and surrender to Ishvara – this could mean ‘god’ or could be a non-religious ideal such as ‘om’.

Here, ‘ishvara’ is explained in a bit more depth.  Rather than a superior deity in the clouds, when the Upanishads use the word ‘god’ it is more a sense of ‘universal consciousness’ or ‘self realisation’, rather than our modern understanding of a ‘god’ or the ‘divine’.


Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.22


For those with intense practices and intense conviction, there are three more subdivisions of practice, those of mild intensity, medium intensity, and intense intensity.

There are differences between those who are mild, average and keen in their practices.

The previous sutra outlined 9 possible combinations of conviction and time available to devote to practice. This sutra adds levels of intensity to that. Rather than getting hung up on all of the possible permutations, suffice it to say that these two sutras are saying that yoga practice is available to everyone, regardless of your level of conviction, your intensity, and the time you have available. Anyone can do it, at any level. As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said:

Practice, and all is coming.


Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.21


The goal is near for those who are supremely vigorous and intense in practice.

Success in yoga comes quickly to those who are intensely energetic

Those who pursue their practices with intensity of feeling, vigor, and firm conviction achieve concentration and the fruits thereof more quickly, compared to those of medium or lesser intensity.

This sutra does what it says on the tin – if you have strong conviction and time for practice, you will go far and more quickly than someone who has less conviction and less time for practice.






Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.20


Others follow a five-fold systematic path of

  1. 1) faithful certainty in the path

  2. 2) directing energy towards the practices

  3. 3) repeated memory of the path and the process of stilling the mind

  4. 4) training in deep concentration

  5. 5) the pursuit of real knowledge, by which the higher samadhi (asamprajnata samadhi) is attained.

Those who have not yet freed themselves from attachment to body and mind will meet with success when they imbue their practice with five virtues.Others [those who are not born with the extraordinary abilities] too attain the highest level of samadhi, provided their practice is accompanied by conviction, inner strength, retentive power, all-consuming focus, and clear understanding.

For others,the path is faith, energy, mindfulness, meditation and wisdom.

Thankfully, for those who have not attained full detachment from body and mind, Patanjali sets out five ways in which we can still attain the higher samadhi (self realisation). The word ‘faith’ in one of the translations above makes me a bit twitchy – I personally am uncomfortable with ‘blind faith’, or believing in something you have no experience of. However, reassurance is found here:

it is suggested that one test the ideas in one’s own inner laboratory, with the “faith” of Yoga thus being based on direct experience.

‘Conviction’ is a good alternative to ‘faith’.

The ‘inner energy’ in step two is outlined here:

preserving the energy of your body, senses, and mind through all possible means— eat well, sleep well, exercise well, relax, and do not abuse your body and senses through overeating, oversleeping, and unwholesome sense pleasures.

Bit of a no-brainer – look after yourself and you will reap the benefits.

The third step is smriti, the power to recollect, or mindfulness of being on the yogic path, and also being mindful in the meditative sense (a bit of a current buzz-word).

The fourth step is focus or concentration, and can also be thought of as formal meditation. I wonder if steps three and four are similar to the Zen Buddhist practices of samu (mindfulness in the physical tasks of daily life) and zazen (formal sitting meditation).

The fifth step is given as ‘wisdom’, which is quite hard to attain. One commentary describes it as ‘clear understanding’, which feels more achievable –

knowing that everything in the world, including our own body and mind, are the means for gaining self-understanding .