Yoga, Mental Health & Michael Stone

[Image: source]

My personal world was rocked recently. It all started on Friday 14 July when a post on my social media newsfeed had such impact, that everything went to freeze-frame for what felt like a lengthy time.


A teacher, an inspiration, it’s difficult to find the appropriate way to describe him, Michael Stone was all this and more, was said to be on life support in a coma in hospital.

At that time, information was sketchy, so naturally, as is human-nature, we began to fill the gaps ourselves with a narrative that we felt was most appropriate.


Perhaps he had an aneurysm or had had a stroke? Why else would he be in such a critical condition considering that to everyone, he was fit, healthy and had such vibrancy?


The update when it came on 16 July was devastating to many across the world within Buddhist, yoga and meditation communities alike. He had been taken off life support.


An official statement was released by Lion’s Roar which bought with it, the courageous revelation from Michael’s wife, Carina Stone, that he had battled with bipolar. The circumstances behind his death are covered with sensitivity in the statement, and therefore I don’t feel any need to mention them here.


As a result the news has sent a shock-wave through the communities he inspired. With it, sadly, has also come much rhetoric as to his lack of transparency about his mental health issues.


It brings with it, the issue of each person’s rights to privacy. It is not for me or others to question his motives about his diagnosis, his choice to not reveal it publicly, or indeed, suggest a narrative around the events of 13 July.


What is apparent is that Michael, like many, many others, was suffering. The extent of that suffering for me is quite unimaginable, but I can understand it to a point. The desire for a release of the inner turmoil can be both seductive and over-powering.


I have read many articles that have since debated whether anyone should in fact take medication, and this has led to further debates on over-prescribing and the use of street drugs. This in itself is the reason why so much stigma still persists around mental health. Yoga can be a tool to help support with many conditions, but it does not offer a cure. We need to be mindful of this subtle, but important difference.



My hope is that when the essence of shock settles, others, like me, will choose to remember all that Michael was to everyone, rather than focusing in on one aspect of his life.


We are all a sum of our many parts. In this I am reminded of something I heard on a podcast interview many years ago. Apologies that I am unable to remember the name of the person who spoke these words, but they have remained at the forefront of my actions and I often remind my daughters of them too:


We are never any better than anyone, but we are always just as good.


I particularly appreciate the reflection of Matthew Gindin in this regard. As practitioners we would serve our teachers best by not putting them on a pedestal, which ultimately elevates their position in such a way that we forget their common humanity. It would also mean they are at liberty to be able to live without fear of judgement or discrimination.


Sending love, prayers and healing to Michael’s family, friends and wider community.


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feels our love

Supported Squats for Birth

Within the pregnancy yoga classes that I teach, I also incorporate aspects of active birth education too. It creates a more rounded class and allows context for many of the postures that lend themselves from yoga into the birth environment.


Squats are often discussed, and I like to offer two variations where the labouring woman feels totally supported. It also means that she is not bearing all the weight and effort.


Below you will find the variations I teach:


flipped supp squat

This variation can be performed with your birth partner sitting on a chair as in the picture above, or it would transfer to them sitting on the side of the birth pool and being able to support you whilst you are in the water.

With this option you would not be getting up and down between each contraction as you are able to enjoy the full support of both your partner and the water.



Supported squat

This option gives your partner the opportunity to fully support your weight from behind, meaning less effort for you.

Important Note: If your birth partner has a back condition, it is important that they lean against a wall for support in order to protect their back from strain.

Your partner takes their forearms under your arms / armpits and you hold their hands. Make sure you are allowing your body to lean against your birth partner, and then drop into a complete squat. It is important that you let go completely and allow your partner to take your weight.


Information and images taken from my self-published guide: Birthing Positively – Create the birth that’s right for you – available for £10.00 in class, or via post (p+p charges applicable).


To find out more about my pregnancy yoga classes and the education that I offer, please visit my website: Claire Murphy Yoga


All images in this blog are copyright to Susan Alexander Photography


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Schwarze Steine mit Text - Oneness

Meditation on Oneness

[Image: Google]

The women’s meditation group that meets once-a-month in Central Watford, is currently working its way through Christina Feldman’s book: Woman Awake.


It is creating something of a hotbed of discussion within our group, especially on typical themes of women’s lives.


So what does this have to do with meditation?

Everything! When we sit for formal meditation, we are bringing the whole of ourselves to the cushion. The myth of clearing the mind and no-thought is nigh on impossible.

The sessions I run and create are firmly rooted in reality and how life and all its challenges cannot be left behind because we wish to take 15 minutes or so to unplug.


We will keep getting the reminders via intrusive thoughts, events that have happened appear on the mind’s screen on an internal video-loop it seems, or alternatively, we are rehearsing what we will say, what someone may say in return. This is what happens when we get quiet.


Then why bother?

So that we can create space between ourselves and all that’s intruding. We do this by acknowledging what’s present, in each moment as it appears. Then we come back to our point of focus.


Over time, this trains the mind – yes, I used the word train, in pretty much the same context as we would train for a marathon or something else that requires our undivided attention.


As women, we are tasked with many complexities that we have to navigate on a daily basis, sadly due to the fact that the world hasn’t caught on to the fact that we are still faced with inequality. For this reason alone, it becomes a feature of discussion as to how meditation can support us as women and in our lives as a result.


This Saturday (08 July) we shall be discussing chapter 3 from the book and undertaking the meditation that the author has provided; meditation on oneness.


Join us if you can. Full details can be found on the website: Claire Murphy Yoga & Meditation



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