Viveka Gardens (Devon)

Viveka Gardens is the yoga farm in Devon of Sivananda yogi Fiona Sundari Law.

Amongst a full schedule of classes and workshops, they also host workaway/work exchanges.

Viveka Gardens Yoga Farm is looking for work exchange volunteers/karma yogis. VG is a retreat where the community and visitors can connect through yoga practices, food growing and nature connection fully retreat and ground themselves. The land is in Mid Devon and very peaceful, size around 8.5 acres. If you are looking for a calm, spiritual,100% vegan place and are sincerely interested in an ashram-like lifestyle we would love to have you here for anything from a few days to a month.

In autumn/winter 17/18 we are planting a woodland and some extra hedging on the land – over 1000 plants! Your help is needed to prepare the ground, plant the trees and shrubs and mulch. The new woodland will give a place for guests to wander/meditate, build even more biodiversity, make a shelter for crops in the field below and link existing pieces of woodland. The trees are part funded by the Woodland Trust, a major UK charity, and we have their support. It’s early days here but I felt it was important to get on planting woodland. It’s very auspicious!

Also needed is someone with expertise to build a compost toilet and yoga platform. You will also have the chance to assist yoga workshops and retreats. And if you can cook vegan yogi food, that is wonderful too. You’ll likely get to know some of the other like-minded farmers and yogis around the area too.

From March 2018 also get involved with food growing and supporting yoga retreats. It’d be great to hear from you if you are planning ahead. For more info have a look here

For more information on work exchanges at Viveka Gardens contact Fiona.

Yoga retreat in Las Alpujarras

All are welcome for a yoga retreat in Southern Spain with two phenomenal Sivananda teachers – Emma Brown and Sarah Odell.

Retreat begins 14 October for one week at the gorgeous Hidden Paradise near Orgiva, Spain.

For more details see www.activefantastic.com/retreats/

“A yoga retreat gives you more time for reflection and creativity as you withdraw from daily life. Combined with a vegetarian diet, the mind and body feel lighter. Stress levels decrease and sleep patterns can be restored. Breathing exercises and yoga postures help the process of detoxification so by the end of the week you are beaming with energy and vitality.

There is something very special about going high into the mountains for spiritual practice. The sound of stillness and spectacular views will inspire you to breathe deeply and rest your mind. It’s a chance to switch off, detox and restore balance in our lives.

Our base will be Hidden Paradise, in ‘Las Alpujarras’ in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Southern Spain. A place that is completely off-grid and built using locally sourced materials.

Natural springs ensure the land is perfect for vegetation to thrive. Here you will find almond, olive and walnut trees growing freely alongside fruit and vegetables used in the delicious vegetarian meals. Vegan diets can also be catered for.”

Summer aliveness with yoga

Summer is a brilliant time to start or maintain your yoga practice because our bodies tend to feel more open and alive in the sun and heat anyway.

Why is this?

Yoga observes that the force that activates our bodies – gives it that energy or life force – is prana. Prana is the energy that permeates life, giving it aliveness. We all know that alive feeling – for starters, we tend to feel it more after a yoga class, when deep breathing as we have held our bodies in expansive poses, has pumped prana throughout our system. We feel it after dancing, after connecting deeply with someone we love.

Sun, moderate heat, and certainly our breath, infuse us with prana.

On the other hand, lethargy or stagnation are the opposite to prana, and lethargy can also set in when it’s too hot or humid.

Yoga busts through the sleepiness and contraction by inviting us to open our bodies – to life, to the sun (think the sun salutations, the very first gesture we make in yoga), to the activating energy of prana through breath and asana.

Enjoy some more energy and aliveness in your summer. See you at class soon!

Mantra yoga (singing) and cake evening 15 January

Join Energy Yoga for an evening of singing, yogic chanting, heart songs, tea and cake in Central London!

Yogic singing and chanting is a key part of yogic practice – the ultimate in heart-opening!

Enjoy singing and cake in our central London hall. Gather from 6.30pm to start at 7pm. During Mantra Yoga we will sing songs from different spiritual traditions that will help us in the process of letting go; no musical training is required. We will work to release blockages. The full format of the evening is below.

Facilitated by Soma and Kyo who run weekly Mantra Yoga sessions in Bologna, Florence and around the Tuscany region.

The singing will last around an hour after which we will serve tea and cake.

Bhakti yoga in London
Soma and Kyo facilitate weekly Mantra Yoga sessions in Bologna, Florence and around the Tuscany region.


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Format of the evening will be:

• Gather from 6.30pm for 7pm start

• “Warm up and melting”: we’ll begin with the sound Om for a period of about 5-10 minutes to bring us all together,

• We’ll sing mantras. Each participant will receive a copy of the lyrics so that we can read and sing them together. Most Mantras are quite popular and the melodies are easy to remember;

• The Chanting will last about an hour. At the end we will gather for a few minutes in silence with eyes closed, so that we can connect with our inner voice;

• We end with a circle and conclude the session celebrating together!

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£8 including tea and cake
£5 concessions

The venue is:
Energy Yoga
4 Foster Lane, London
EC2V 6HH

Karma yoga for Christmas

Life speeds up in December, as we rush to get things done before going away, connect with colleagues and family in new ways, and try to create happy memories for those we love. Pace and heightened expectations can bring stress, because it’s harder to perform well and deliver quality under pressure — or with a fuzzy head…

One of the central lessons we learn in yoga — and in Vedantic scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita — is to loosen our investment or attachment to the results of what we do. Doing asanas (yoga postures), we realise that hatha yoga (the physical yoga we teach) is not at all competitive, and it doesn’t matter how far we come in poses or how long we can hold them. We get the feelings of peace, freedom and satisfaction just by doing them. That progress comes is awesome, but in fact ‘progress’ is hindered by straining or trying too hard. When we relax into postures, our muscles loosen, our balance sharpens, and the postures sit more steadily in us. We’re not trying to get somewhere with them, we’re trying to relax into them.

Similarly, in ‘karma yoga’, or the yoga of action, we also loosen our focus on the result of our actions. We still do action, but we do it without a ‘me and mine’ attitude — instead with the quality of service.

The Bhagavad Gita (chapter 3 verse 19) describes the essence of karma yoga:

Bhagavad Gita verses 3.19 and 3.20

Therefore without attachment do the work that is to be done. For by doing work without attachment, man reaches the heighest good.

Everyone has to find their own way to action without attachment to the results of action. Perhaps bringing the same intention to relax, to let go, that we invoke as we hold asanas, can provide the model for how to let go, mentally and emotionally, of that quality of clinging to, trying to control, or caring too much about the results of the work we do.

But doesn’t this mean I’ll become lazy and quit my job?

In order to be motivated to do something, we often buy into or create within ourselves a sense of the stakes involved in our work — ‘if I don’t do it on time, we’ll lose the pitch,’ ‘if I mess up, we could get sued,’ and so on.

But there’s a difference between doing something well — caring about the quality of what we do — and doing something in order to validate our sense of self, our personal value, or to give ourselves a feeling of security. Maybe, if we’re holding tightly onto those motivations, we are setting ourselves up for a rollercoaster of reactions — we feel like we’re great when things go well, and like we’re stupid or worthless when things go badly.

In reality, much of the consequences of our actions are not in our control anyway. And even if they are, does an event or thing transpiring in one way or another change who we really are, and how much we value?

Sometimes our minds resist this train of thought with an objection that goes — ‘if I ascribe to this, I’ll never do anything, I’ll lose my job and become a bum (or hippy).’

In fact, in the verse above from the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna the God is telling the warrior Arjuna that he must go out onto a battlefield and fight — “do the work that is to be done”.

It doesn’t mean we become lazy or ineffective.

It means we direct our attention to what really matters — doing the work well, with others in mind, and doing it with concentration. What we’re trying not to spin our wheels about is thoughts about how others will see us as a result of the work, or worry over what will happen if the work is not well received. We’re doing the work without attachment.

We’re trying to hold this in December, as we teach and live. We invite you to a spirit of karma yoga as the busyness of the holiday season takes hold.

How physical yoga sits within ‘yoga’

The Sivananda yoga classes we teach at Energy Yoga London reflect a traditional yoga sequence – how yoga has been practiced in India for thousands of years. Yoga is a body of knowledge that goes back around 4,000 years, and along with some forms of Chinese martial arts, are the oldest practices in continuous practice, to be found anywhere on earth. As you’d perhaps expect, this body of knowledge is vast and very powerful. When we say ‘yoga’ in the west, we think of the physical yoga poses (or asanas). In fact, asanas are one of the three main techniques of hatha yoga—pranayama or breathing exercises and kriyas or cleansing exercises being the others.

Hatha yoga itself is only one branch of a broader yogic body of knowledge, ‘Raja yoga’, the science of physical and mental control. And Raja yoga is itself only one of four main paths of yoga. The four paths are:

  • Raja yoga, the yoga of physical and mental control (or the yoga of Kings)
  • Karma yoga, the yoga of action
  • Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion
  • Jnana yoga, the yoga of knowledge or wisdom

In theory, each of these paths is suited to a different temperament of person, but they all evolved as practices that lead to the same result, which is union with consciousness/God/the universe/bliss (it goes by many names!). In our Sivananda system of yoga, we believe that you don’t have to choose between raja yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga or jnana yoga—instead it’s good to practice them all. So we’d practice asanas and pranayama (like we do at Energy Yoga classes—raja yoga practices), but we’d also chant (bhakti yoga), do volunteer/selfless work (karma yoga) and maybe even study scriptural or Vedic texts like the Bhagavad Gita (jnana yoga).

One of the key texts that describes and sets out raja yoga practices are the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These sutras describe the raja yoga set of practices, observances and techniques that are intended to lead to realisation or samadhi. There are eight key ‘limbs’ of raja yoga. They are:

The eight steps of Raja Yoga

You’ll notice asanas and pranayama at number 3 and 4. The asanas and pranayama we teach at Energy Yoga are part of this path, and help us to bring the mind and body into a state of calmness and control, to make meditation and the other yogic arts more possible.

So come into class and continue your journey!