Mountain Yoga!

Mountain Yoga!

lundi 18 juillet 2016

I am Not a Yoga Teacher


...If it means can I take that perfect instagram photo on a beach in California or do the splits or wrap my legs around my head and balance on my finger nails then no I am not a yoga teacher!


Social Media v Reality

Now-a-days if you do not have an instagram account with at least 500 followers or way more, facebook, snap chat etc….  you are apparently a nobody in the world of yoga and well being. It seems that the number of followers you have, the likes per day, the presence you have on social media gives you your status and credentials as a teacher of this ancient art and discipline way more than years of experience and study. As we trawl through the beautiful images on the perfect hand stand, splits or back bend in an idyllic spot miles away our eyes are pleased with the image, we may even think or aspire to the « one day I hope to be able to do that and why not in that kind of location ». But does this desire, these images, constitute & create a good teacher and yoga practitioner ? Lovely images yes – the body is inspired, the ego attracted by the challenge but is the heart filled with joy, is the mind eased and connected ?


We all come to yoga for many reasons and often even if we started out for very physical reasons as indeed I did we quickly feel the subtle shift of something deeper, wider and more special, internal happening. As a practionner we can aspire to these flexible acts of dexterity – whether we get there or not is another matter. As one wise yoga teacher once said its not the ability to touch ones toes that counts but the journey on the way down. 

As a teacher should we able to do all these postures and should we post them on instagram ? I always thought the yoga path was related to healthy well being, inner strength and harmony, calmness of mind, connected and balanced living. Yes, my body has progressed over the years and come to achieve many postures although these super bendy challenges & some technical balances remain a little allusive. As I now teach and have done for years and as the « market » has progressed, boosted and nourished by instagram, it seems the bar has been raised so that it is expected of the teacher that they can do ALL the postures AND they can perform & post them at will & on social media. 

I remember a teacher friend of mine, Alessandra Pecorella,  once saying about Yoga in London. It was a few years ago and the market has moved on even further but she said at the time « If you don’t turn up with live music and fire eating jugglers now people are not interested ! » Years of devoted practice, study of the sacred texts, of sanskrit, deep meditational practice seems some how not to count if you can’t « perform » as a bendy toy and attract 1000 simply from a photo. 

Shiva Rea – a very experienced and highly accomplished teacher & friend of mine - once told me she turned up to teach a class in London and the students were actually standing around the edges of the room with faces that sent a « so impress me ! » expression & message. She said she so wanted to shout out in true Africain style accent « I will not teach you until you can show me some respect ! I will NOT teach you» because the word teacher or guru should at the very least encourage that respect, conjure up some form of humilty.  Not a « so show me attitude » but a keen and humble interest to learn and gain experience from one who knows. Information from the person teaching, what they and are passionate & knowledgeable about and wish to share with you.  Shiva did not shout out at them but swallowed a humble pill and went in and teach an honest and beautiful class. She won the students over through the yoga practice and her flowing message.

I also remember once in India I was asked by a lovely « nodding-head couple » (if you have travelled to India you will know what I mean)  what I did for a job and I said I was a yoga teacher. They simply heard the word teacher and said whilst nodding « ooooo teacher, very good. Teacher is very good ». It seems in India the word teacher commands a respect and certainly not a « well go on then prove it attitude ». They are simple ready to sit and listen to what you have to share with them regardless of a photo clad instagram account.


So why am I saying all of this ? Well I suppose because I feel a little sad that the yoga trend and market has moved more towards the images and the « product » we are selling rather than remain on its beautiful origins of simple practices to encourage the body and mind to feel connected inside. I feel sad that the message of yoga is dilluted into the gymnastic world of beautiful bendy toys and that we are being carried along on the wave of advertising the body beautiful. As I vere towards my fifties I suppose I also find it hard to « compete » on this level of yoga external prowess. But mostly I feel sad I suppose that no matter what I do I too look at these pictures and want to be those people. I am being sucked into the world of marketing.

BUT and there is a big but…. At the end of the day and every day I still roll out my mat for me, not to achieve the hardest postures in the world but to create some space in my day, my body, my mind. I roll out my mat with a attitude of devotion and prayer and with a desire to root down and create strength, rise up and create joyful energy. And pretty much every day I go and teach super happy to have a job I adore and share my experience of yoga with students who are often simply just happy to have an hour to themselves and leave feeling a little happier, more grounded & sereen whether I turn up with fire eating jugglers or not ! I turn up and so do they. We move, we breath, we practise, we lay still together and we as individuals guided by a common inner need – whether our legs are behind our heads or just vaguely in contact with our hands – to connect and feel a part of a bigger beautiful picture.

So am I yoga teacher ? I have used yoga along the years to heal my mental issues and addictions, to heal and nourrish my body as the years have passed. I have a reasonable number of followers on social media, I can do the splits (it took me 40 years), just about get my legs behind my head and do my free standing hand stand on some days …. But mostly I enjoy the simplicity of the yoga message, the yoga practice and sharing that live, face to face with students I can look in the eye, smile at, hug at the end of the class, breath and be with. 


So am I a yoga teacher ? You will have to ask my students….. Namaste

dimanche 3 juillet 2016

How has yoga changed your life?

Has Yoga Changed Your Life ?

A journalist asked me recently so « how has yoga changed your life ? »
OMG I mean where do you start ?

From spotty overweight teenager to busy career girls in London riddles with anorexic & binge drinking tendancies to yoga teacher mum of two organiser of festivals & yoga classes on and offline living in France. 
Yep on the face of it everything has changed !

And yet….
Ok so lets start with the Ayurvedic principles of Doshas & Prakritis – well why not ! Fundamentally we are hot-wired to be the person and character that we are. We have a blue print we cannot change – we are born with it. A unique pattern of Vata (air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (earth). It is like an ayurvedic DNA which is called our Prakriti. This not only forms many of our physical characteristics but also many many of our personality traits. Any parent with two or more children will tell you that despite the fact they they « brought their children up the same » they are both incredibly different. The whole nature versus nurture debate.

So why say all of this in response the initial question ?
Because fundamentally I haven’t changed. I am the energetic whirlwind I always was full of life and fire and very little earth (although I do have a strong homing instinct and have to have a « chez moi » in place to function and be all the many and varied people I am or seem to be now a days.

However there is a definite BY & AY – Before Yoga & After Yoga.
A little like the BC & AC - Before Children & After Chlidren – because yes, lets face it this is a definite life factor for those « in the know »…. Similarly in yoga there is a before and after. Yoga is not a step or spinning class. You don’t usually go there to get fit there is usually a deeper rooted reason why you end up on a yoga mat in a studio with a teacher talking in « yoga speak » - you know the soft voice that guides you into the realms of « this is a totally fffing impossible pose but she is making it sound and look so easy I am going to give it a go for the greater good of my body and soul….. »


Chatting recently to a friend who knows all about internal battles and who like me has fought weight gain and loss over the years with good, bad & indifferent results, she said that she believed we were born with tendancies to get fat, be large, put weight on by just looking at a bar of chocolate. I am not so sure this a physical tendancy. Yes we are born with our body types and character – as per the Parkriti debate - but does that mean we are also born with tendancies to be and do things to ? If my mother had not fed me solids at the age of 5 weeks, if I hadn’t been made to finish my plate of food, if the girls at school hadn’t called me a fat cow & a loud-mouth would I have later on confort ate, been over weight ? Life throws all sorts of events at us and we can choose how we deal with them. Mine BY was a definite move towards over-eating then starving myself, partying so hard, smoking & drinking then destroying myself with guilt and self-loathing.

So AY ? Was it a magic wand when I turned up on my yoga mat and wrapped myself into pretzel-like shapes ? Did my life and my character and everything radically change about me all of a sudden ? No of course not. But it set the wheels in motion – it took time but to brought me back to where my Prakriti wanted me & needed me to be. It helped me learn to appreciate and love all the aspects of my natural character. Well nearly all !

Years of ashrams, early mornings, hours of yoga practice, meditation, plunging into parts of my brain and my body I didn’t know and sometimes didn’t want to know. 
All of this « yoga » showed me my path and taught me to BE more. Simply BE. Not TRY to be.

I live my yoga daily, I love my yoga daily…..  I gave up my job as a sales director in IT, I moved to France, I became a yoga teacher……

So has yoga changed my life ?

Yes radically on so many levels – not over night and not magic wand like but yes. And also no it hasn’t. I am the person I am character body and all. I have changed directions, I have changed them again. But yoga has taught that life is not a permanent painting, that we have the power to change some things – attitudes, geographics, jobs – but that we can also not change or do not need to change others just life with them and except them more.

mardi 17 mai 2016

Smile You Are in a Yoga Class

Smile You Are in a Yoga Class

When I first came to France and went to church I was sooooo disappointed. It was so grey and serious. I was used to the Evagalistic churches of my youth, the gospel churches of Birmingham full of singing, raised hands and joyful expressions ! Maybe a little extreme on the fun side of religion but never the less my experience. My Dad used to refer to them as the « Happy Clappers » and mocked me endlessly for my Church outings but to me this was what religion and spirituality was about ! Sadly I have never found that joy in the catholic churches I have frequented – maybe I need to try again – but I am struck by a new phenomena

Yoga Classes can be the same kind of place !

I have been teaching yoga for a number of years now and have been practising for even more and very often – like almost every time – I see a raft of serious faces around me. It reminds me of the Catholic Church. It is as if once you go through that yoga studio door and sit or roll out your mat the yoga concentrated face has to appear and all the fun is gone ! Why can’t the fun stay ?

When I first went to a Gospel Church in Birmingham the priest said at the beginning of the service please leave the aisles free for those who wish to dance. I was 13 years old and I thought YES I have landed in my kind of church ! Very few people stayed seated during the service. There were electric guitares, fabulous voices, raised hands and the incredible ingredient of JOY ! For me this is what it should be like to go to church – a veritable celebration of life. A joyful expression of gratitude.


Now my first ever yoga class may well have been tough and very sweaty as I was not at all good at it physically but even then I laughed. In  all honesty I find it very difficult to stay serious in any environment but I am of the opinion – and it is just mine of course – that a yoga class should be an expression of joy, a celebration of life, what your body and mind can do, want to do. Yoga is of course a discipline and a daily expression of harmony between breath, movement, the splendid force of the earth and the beauty of the skies but discipline doesn’t have to align with dull and sad. A discpline like going to church or going to yoga class CAN and should be a joy, a beautiful gift you are offering yourself. The very fact that you have found yourself in a yoga class probably means that you are looking for something that is missing in your daily life. You might just be seeking some physical release but there is a high chance that you are looking to release some emotional shit too.

If you frown and tighten your jaw line what happens to your face and your body. What messages are you sending to your external and as such your internal being ? Try it. Frown, tighten you face, be super serious for a moment and do a simple yoga pose like Tadasana (standing straight) and lift your arms to the sky. Observe your body. Then relax your face, smile, inhale and do the same thing lift your arms above your head. I can guarantee it is NOT the same experience.

In the Yoga Sutras we are offered the expression of Sthira Sukham Asanam – a posture should be stable, confortable and joyful ! It is written there in black and white !

I still do not go to Catholic Mass – maybe I should – but every day I recreate my own church of joy on my yoga mat. A huge smile on my face and my body, mind and breath become an expression of the joy of living during my yoga session. The whole experience becomes way more like a Gospel Church on a simple external level but also on a visceral, vibrational level.

So I invite you the next time you go to your yoga class or roll out your mat at home before you even start your session take a breath and SMILE for this is an incredible opportunity to enjoy the simple fact that you are alive and have a right to smile your way joyfully through your yoga practice !

Written by Charlotte Saint Jean a Yoga Teacher in France, based in the Savoie mountains and the ski resort of Val d’Isère, mama to two great daughters (www.yogicmummy.blogspot.com), founder of the french online yoga web site www.yogachezmoi.com and creator of the Yoga Festival in Val d’Isère (www.yoga-festival-valdisere.com)
Find Charlotte here……

mardi 12 janvier 2016

Rayonnez de l’Intérieur

New Years Resolutions…
NO strike that
Intentions…

For many years like many many people I made my New Year's Resolutions. Eat less, sleep more, work harder whatever. But if my 45 years have taught me anything - 45 years, two children and a divorce - its that you cannot plan everything. Resolutions tend to lead to feeling of guilt when things don't happen as you have planned. 
So this year after a very busy festive period but a quieter start to the New Year I have decided to lay intentions in place as opposed to resolutions. Intentions that I wish and hope to flood my life with, my daily actions, small maybe but continual intentions.
So as 2016 opens its big doors I gaze wide eyed and child like and the surprising unfolding of all its beauty and challenge.
Joy - Peace - Love


mercredi 18 novembre 2015

Peace & Love - where did we go wrong post the 60's


Woodstock & the time of peace & love…..


I grew up with parents who had thrived in the sixties. My Mother desperately wanted to join the ranks of those at Woodstock not in a incense burning flower power way but in a folk singing, fighting for what you believe in, lets make society fare kind of vibe. She played Carol Carpenter, Joan Baez, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan. The first album I knew pretty much all the words to was Hair! Yes ladies and gentlemen at 3 years old I could recite most of the words from Masturbation! My parents firmly believed in equality, working hard for your money, being generous when and where you can, sharing, giving out love and compassion, being part of a community. Amazing values to have as your rock and foundation. They still have these values. I still share them.

Is this why I have taken the yoga path? No I don't think so. My parents are also firm believers in what you see if what you get. They are not religious, they are not believers, they do not go to church or worship God. I do and always have bizarrely. They never understood this, they actually made fun of me (it creates a thick skin for later in life) and always worried I would end up in a sect or as a nun! Even recently when I told them I had met someone special and told Mum his name is Jésus she chuckled and said oooh let me tell your Father! She promptly went down and told my Father "I had found Jesus" - he did not reply at first so my Mum repeated that I had found Jesus and he simply said "Bloody barking mad!" I am still a Christian but I am increasingly disheartened by how people are using religion. Not just the Muslims (and please understand this is not a generalisation of the Muslim faith and followers) but Christians and Jews too. I don't understand why we should point fingers and differentiate ourselves from each other. We are all human beings, we are all equal, water has no colour, neither do tears….. a smile and a cry of pain are the same in any language and culture. 

My yoga path began at first for my physical journey - to rid myself of self-lothing and get myself on a path of love and self-acceptance. But it quickly became a spiritual journey one that only goes to encourage and develop more love, more compassion, more acceptance. After the recent events in Paris - and elsewhere - I posted this on facebook.
Years ago I went to a play with my Mother in Stratford Upon Avon. It was during the Falklands war and Margaret Thatcher was in power. An Argentine and an English woman were on the stage each one recounting their story of their sons at war with one another. Each Mother shared the same anguish, pain, sadness at the violence their sons were facing as they thought of eachother, Mothers crying the same tears, one in Argentina, one in Britain. Several right-wing journalists walked out during this scene - they were so sure that their cause, the British cause, for fighting was the right one. The two women stopped as the journalists walked out along the wooden seated areas in the Swan Theatre then continued their scene recounting their stories either side of the world - they were the same.
I am a mother of two dual nationality children, I have a Venezuelan boyfriend, I have chosen to live in this beautiful country and call France my home, I embrace all cultures, beliefs, colours….
I grieve the deaths of Friday and the deaths of many other people on many other days in many countries. I will not change my portrait photo to blue, red and white despite the fact that these are the same colours for my country of origin and that of France because my tears have no colour and my sadness knows no flag of origin. 
I pray for peace, I pray for love, I pray for union…
Like my parents before me I believe in love, I believe in compassion, I believe also in fighting for freedom, for the education and equal rights for women & men and beautiful free passage of my daughters future, I believe we should nurture our planet, our souls, our friends and family. I believe our hearts should beat with a little more love and that we should share that love wherever we can. All you need is love as John Lennon said….. some of the messages from Woodstock and that whole era should be put into place now…. why are we still fighting, why are we still trying yellow ribbons around trees, leaving flowers and candles where blood was shed, sending our citizens to war! why?????

I pray that my children and my childrens' children will see a better future one of openess, compassion and peace. One that embraces the peaceful and beautiful messages of each religion, one that leaves beautiful music behind and the spiral a little wider.
Hari Om Tat Sat

mardi 1 septembre 2015

Body Confident

Body Confident - not an easy task! 


I used to associate being happy with having the perfect slim body but like many I did not fit into that mould. I was a large baby, child & teenager with a large mouth to boot! Being happy and confident with my body has not been an easy path. In fact it has been a veritable journey that really only started to find its “confident” conclusion very recently. As I have mentioned before in my blog text from ballet dancer (in my dreams) to Yogini my path to find my femininity has not been an easy one. It has been long, littered with pit falls, unhappy times and no confidence at all in my body.

As a rather large child and then teenager I battled with a body I hated. It was fat, did not look at all like I wanted or like my friends, my hair was frizzy, I had spots from the age of 10, sticky out teeth and later a brace, I felt clumsy & all together not me! As I reached my late teens and early twenties I went through phases of starving myself, binge eating, consoling myself in bottles of wine, feeling guilty so over exercising, depriving myself of all and everything, then going for it big time!  All the time I remained happy and outwardly sure of myself whilst inwardly I was crying huge tears and self-hatred.  My biggest fear was the Summer when bikinis and bathing costumes came out. OMG how would I cope with that. I was so self-conscious it was painful to bring myself to go into the sea or pool in a swimsuit and a bikini seemed like an impossibility !


I remember sitting with a friend watching women walk past and we both said almost in syncronised form “well they can’t have any issues in their life as they are slim” as if the thinness of your body constituted the level of happiness in your life. However I remained this outwardly very assured person extremely happy with herself. No-one knew how desperately un self-assured I was!

As was going through a particularly bad patch personally – this time choosing to not eat and drink lakes of wine each night a friend introduced me to yoga. I have talked about how I found yoga before – the biggest gift yoga has given me though over the years in a inner confidence in myself that I would never have had. The body, breath & mind control, the physical postures & the mental release of meditation have along the years built a stepping stone path towards an inner and as such an outer confidence. I have learnt acceptance, I have learnt to love what I hated and bizarrely & amazingly I have lost weight & built up tone because I am happier and confident about who I am and how I live. Yes I look after what I eat but not excessively. I love food, I love my glasses of red wine, I love dark chocolate & a beautiful tarte au citron or croissant. I don’t believe in depriving myself if it makes me unhappy & I do believe that my state of mind has a huge effect on my body.

This Summer I have spent a lot of time on beaches & lakes and in yes bikinis! At the end of the Summer I spent a couple of days on l’Ile de Ré in France and for the first time in my life practiced yoga in a bikini on the beach and allowed a friend to photograph me doing this! I felt strong, confident and sure of myself & my own capabilities. I felt free of anxieties that have haunted me throughout my childhood & early adult life.

Do I still have physical faults! Crikey of course! I large vein that crawls up my leg, boobs that have seen slightly better days, skin that is starting to show the inevitably signs of age. Does this bother me? No – the vein is due to my two beautiful girls – my best achievement ever! – my breasts too & my skin shows life’s path, a map of all the experiences I have been through in my 45 years on this planet.
The body confidence workshop is a means of sharing this inner confidence I have nurtured over the past few years through this incredible practice we call yoga! 

Behind every picture is a story - so this one of me bikini clad in a yoga pose on a beach is a mark of achievement not for the exterior - although I am proud of my strong and healthy body - but for the strength within that this yoga journey has provided me with! The postures, the breath, the energy of the group & hopefully from me all constitute and your positive intention seed all go towards this shared experience of confidence & pride in who you are because YOU ARE AMAZING!


Etre heureuse & avoir confiance dans mon corps n’a pas été un chemin facile pour moi – en fait il a plutôt été un  véritable voyage qui n’a trouvé son confiance que depuis peu!

Comme j’ai mentionné avant dans mon blog from balletdancer (in my dreams) to Yogini mon chemin vers mon corps de femme était très difficile. Il a été long, parsemé de trous, des périodes très malheureuses sans confiance de tout dans mon corps.

Comme enfant ensuite adolescente un peu “large” j’ai bataillé avec un corps que je detestait.  Il était gros, ne me ressemblait pas, je ne ressemblait pas à mes amis, mes cheveux frissés, mes dents sortaient devant puis étaient contenues par  un appareil dentaire très vilain, j’avais des boutons, je me sentais maladroite et mal à l’aise! Vers la fin de mon adolescence et meme plus tard j’ai passé des phases de privation de nourriture puis de manger trop, de me consoler dans les bouteilles de vin puis coupable de trop d’exercise, deprivation puis surcharge! Et tout le temps je donnais l’impression d’être bien extérieurement pendant que les larmes énormes coulaient à l’intérieur. Ma plus grosse peur c’était l’été quand il fallait se mettre en maillot. OMG comment j’allais faire. Maillot une pièce me remplissait avec un froid pas possible et un bikini juste hors de question! J’étais tellement consciente de mon corps je mettais mes bras toujours autour de moi – allais dans l’eau c’était un véritable cauchemare!

Je me rappelle bien avec une copine on regardait les femmes passaient devant nous et en harmonie on disait “ ells n’ont pas de soucis de leurs vies car ells sont minces!” comme si on associe le Bonheur avec les forms de notre corps! Par contre malgré ses convictions et peurs de mon corps je donnais toujours l’impression d’être sure de moi, heureuse, the life & soul de chaque fête.  Personne savait comment j’étais malheureuse à la maison derrière mes portes.

Je traversais une période pas de tout sympa dans ma vie perso – cette fois ci j’ai choisi de ne pas manger par contre boire des litres de vin rouge m’allais bien – et une copine m’a amené à mon premier cours de yoga. J’ai déjà parlé de ces premiers pas de yoga mais le cadeau le plus énorme que le yoga m’a accordé c’est la confiance intérieure que j’ai pu cultivar au fil des ans. Le control de corps, de soufflé, de mental, les postures physiques & le relâchement mental des méditations vers une confiance intérieure extraordinaire. J’ai appris comment accepter mes fautes, j’ai appris à m’aimer, à aimer ce que je détestait et bizarrement j’ai perdu du poids, mon corps à répondu de façon inattendu à mes efforts mentaux. Oui ok je fais du sport, je regarde ce que je mange mais pas excessivement. J’adore mon vin rouge, mon chocolat noir, une bonne Tarte au citron et des croissants le matin avec un bon café.  Je ne crois pas que me depriver de ce que j’aime me rend à la fin heureuse. Et je crois profondément que mon état mental a un effet énorme sur mon corps.

Cet été j’ai passé beaucoup du temps sur les plages et les lacs et oui en bikini! A la fin de cet été sur les plages de l’ile de ré j’ai fait pour la première fois une séance de yoga en bikini et en plus j’ai laissé un ami me prendre en photo lors de cette séance. Je me sentais forte, libre de mes angoisses d’avant, sure de mes capacités. Est-ce que j’ai toujours de défauts! Mais évidemment. Un énorme veine qui grimpe ma jambe, les seins qui ont vus les journées meilleures, la peau qui commence à montrer les signes de vieillesse. Est-ce que cela me dérange? Non! Veines et seins sont grace à mes deux filles que j’adore – my best achievement to date! – et la peau est une carte de toutes mes experiences de mes 45 ans sur cette planète. 


Cet atelier de Body Confident est une façon de partager cette confiance intérieure que j’ai cultivé des fondations de unhappiness et non confiance. Derrière chaque photo est une histoire alors celle de moi ici en bikini chien tête en haut sur une plage est la marque que j'ai battu mais démons pas pour l'extérieur même si je suis fière de mon corps fort et en bonne santé mais pour toute la force intérieur que mon voyage de yoga m'a fourni. La “confidence” j’ai actuellement est grace entièrement à cette belle pratique qu’on appellee le yoga. Les postures, la respiration, l’énergie du groupe et espérant de moi aussi, plus votre intention de positivité nous amène vers une séance de confiance en soi et de partage.  

Je donne des ateliers sur ce thème de Body Confidence de temps en temps sur Paris et aux festivals de yoga. Restez en contacte via ce blog ou écrivez-moi et je vous rajoute à mon mailing : info@yoga-with-altitude.net

Venez, prenez soins de votre intérieur, take pride dans vous parce que YOU ARE AMAZING!