wandering in light & shadow


I have written some poems and reflections about the traditional nature celebrations through the year, as well as my time as a therapist working with clients who are on a cancer journey.   When a person shares their story it reveals itself in different ways physically and emotionally.  By releasing tension in the body and bringing the mind, breath and body into clearer relationship, a person’s individual healing mechanisms can make sense of that story.  I find writing helps me to make sense of the stories that come to me and gives me a space to understand my own response to those stories.

I have been encouraged by some wonderful people to publish the work I have completed and have made excuses not to.  Putting the excuses to one side, I realise it is fear that stops me from printing.  Fear is such an immobiliser.  So here they are!

There are three sections: ‘wandering through the year’ was written while I facilitated monthly meditations focusing on traditional celebrations of the year.  Being connected to the seasons is deeply supportive to my therapeutic work and personal practice. ‘wandering in the light of shadows’ and ‘wandering beside you’ emerged during my time working at Penny Brohn Cancer Care.  The writing describes my own emotions at that time and the collective experience of clients who allowed me to walk with them on their journeys.  The writing does not focus on one person but on the energy shared by human beings when living with cancer.

The poems are presented in an A5 black and white booklet.  Copies cost £4.00 (UK P&P £1.75).  Please ask if you would like a preview, there will be no obligation to buy.




Reflection: Pain, breath and trust

I’ve just finished reading Hell Bent by Benjamin Lorr.  The subtitle reads ‘obsession, pain and the search for something like transcendence in competitive yoga’.  It’s a compelling read detailing the author’s journey and relationship with ‘hot yoga’ or Bikram yoga.  I found myself both intrigued and challenged.


Bikram yoga follows a set sequence of postures, 26 in this beginning sequence, leading to 91 postures.  Performed in high temperatures.  If you become hooked, you will end up body beautiful with a high level of fitness.  And you might suffer a stroke along the way, faint and work through extreme pain in the body.  There are some amazing success stories that seem impossible but I trust the author who has researched ideas, talked with experts outside of the yoga community and literally bent over backwards to ask questions and find answers for his experience and others’ experience of this approach to yoga.

The reasearch on how we interpret pain got me thinking about my experiences of working with clients in pain.  A clinic in Minnesota conducted a study of sixty patients waiting for back surgery.  They took part in a ten week programme focused on strengthening key muscles that support the spine.  Forty six participants completed the study and only three of those went on to have surgery.

The clinic questioned conventional medical wisdom in four ways:

  1. Avoiding surgery: Dr Nelson, the clinic founder and director’ is quoted as saying that 85% of the time the exact cause of pain in the study group could not be determined.  CT scans showed abnormalities in patients but it was discovered that people with no back pain have similar abnormalities on CT scans.  The abnormalities could not be confirmed as the source of pain and questioned surgery as an option.
  2. Intensive rehab: exercise programmes were used to overload the muscle until it failed to work.  At failure, nerve/muscle pathways are activated and the muscle adapts.  The muscles are sore but healing is promoted.  Pain did not need to be avoided.
  3. Specific attention: weakened muscles were isolated for strength work using exercise machines, whilst ignoring the muscles guarding the area.  Often painful areas become weaker due to underuse and the person finds ways to compensate.  This can lead to further weakness and a complicated tangle of pain and issues.
  4. To complete the exercise programme, the patients would experience pain and they needed to accept this was part of the rehab.  Our understanding of pain is incomplete.  The study attempted to educate the patients to understand that ‘Pain actually changes the pain’.  They needed to understand that pain does not mean the same as harm.  Often where the pain is perceived to be, is not where the problem originated.  The pain being felt is in another part of the nervous system.  In addition, surgery on the area of concern will not change the pain because this is not where the pain is being experienced.

The same doctor talks about the positive effects of forward bending and backbending on IMG_3104 Y utanasana arms backvertebral discs.  Discs have negligible blood supply which means a limited supply of nutrients to the disc and removal of waste products from the disc via the process of diffusion.  In a compressed disc diffusion is even more limited.  Forward bends and backbends encourage the diffusion of nutrients from the blood into the discs and ‘are probably the only ways we know of to increase diffusion to the disc’.

This particularly resonated with the author, being a member of the Backbending club.  Lorr describes backbending as awesome: ‘training for the mind: both the deep primitive areas governing pain and the more socially important limbic channels responsible for emotions and fear.  I found this interesting too.  I am often told by clients that they are told not to do forward or backward bending.  This advice needs to be individualised, not  everyone needs to avoid this movement neither should that everyone should do it.

Lorr goes on to describe the effects of his extreme backbending practice: hallucinations, waves of tears, anger, and pulsing headaches are just a few of the many releases that occur as you work.’  Also, ‘To really backbend you have to become intimate with pain, not as an informational entity that raises awareness, not as a warning, but as a phenomenon every time it comes up, and ultimately move through it while it screams in your face.’

This is very different to my experience of yoga and I am not tempted to try it.  The idea of understanding and exploring uncomfortable sensations to see if they are harmful or informative has to be a good thing.  This is a regular practice in talking therapies where clients are given a space to process painful experiences to come to a new understanding or level of acceptance.  Often after bodywork, the client feels more uncomfortable but it has a different quality and a positive aspect.  Tension is often released but the communication between the muscles and the brain is more accurate and clear.

In my role as a bodywork practitioner I regularly listen to people’s stories and watch them sit with physical and emotional pain. Different parts of the person ask for attention; those parts may seem unrelated to the original trauma or perceived thread of related issues.  We are often hijacked by the loudest player of the piece but it can be a distraction as described in the study where a part of the nervous system away from the compromised area is in protest.  Often the first step when working with pain is to be in it and to listen.

yoga_soundI listen to the words.  I listen to the body in my hands.  I listen to the space in the room.  What I am told does not always correlate to what I feel and hear in my hands.  Most of all I listen to the breath.  When the breath disappears, we wait.  The moment a deeper breath is taken there is a change.  The breath mediates and in its honesty leads the way to a healing experience.  That healing comes from the person and their relationship to their place in the world; I am a facilitator sometimes a bystander.  It might be a complete release or just the start of a new journey.  It takes time and trust.  But there is change.

When the body is heard it is often ready to receive touch and movement.  And when the body is ready, how the mind experiences the pain changes.  The relationship between the mind and body may be recalibrated and clarified and then we can begin to understand what is harmful and what is healing.  The mind and body is an important relationship and when separated from one another there is miscommunication and confusion, as in any relationship.  Their mediator is the breath.  Bring the breath to the front of bodywork practices and magic really does occur.

© Yvonne Cattermole

Happy winter solstice

The Yew tree is a symbol of the winter solstice as well as the tree of the ancestors and transformation:yew-tree-of-life

YEW by Y Cattermole

Keeper of time and wisdom,

Holder of memories spanning time

to be rebirthed eternally.

Living the never ending cycles

of transformation,

Interweaving endings with beginnings,

Allowing change in the pauses

As we move from story to story,

The connections sometimes

Obscured from consciousness

But ever held in darker depths

of soul lit knowing,

To be offered up when we are

ready and open to learn the lessons

our elders breathed long ago


Thank you for another year of practice and companionship.

Blessings and gratitude Yvonne

Yoga: meditation and focus

This time, your asana practice has brought attention to the stillness in the breath cycle and after a simple pranayama practice I have invited you to focus on an object to hold the attention.  In a discussion last week, I was asked to explain about this practice further.  I was tongue-tied.  I have accessed three articles for you to read and the references are at the end of this blog.  My own practice is still developing and I hope the following gives you something to reflect on, encourage more questions and facilitate your own practice.

Patanjali’s yoga sutras contain four chapters, each with a number of aphorisms or sutras.


The sutras are condensed explanations about (1) what yoga is, (2) how to practice yoga, (3) the gifts or special powers that can be learned and (4) ultimately, the deep integration of the self with the Universe, the state of samadhi.

The antaraya or obstacles to a state of yoga are described in chapter 1, alongwith ways to counter the antaraya. This has been this year’s journey as described in November blog.  Since September, we have discussed ways to counter the antaraya.  We have to find the way that resonates for us personally.  This includes focusing on a single principle, regulating the breath particularly the exhale and BK, mastery of the senses, meditating on purusa and the ‘light in the cave of the heart’, being in nature, seeking counsel, looking at our dreams and cultivating a positive attitude towards others (YS1.32-39).

(This term I have invited you to focus on an object rather than purusa.  Purusa is elusive at the best of times and for some is not a part of their ideology.  We have also brought our attention to the breath.)

Stay with me …

8LimbsTreeIn the second chapter of the yoga sutras the eight limbs of yoga are described – astanga.  The practice of astanga cultivates discernment and clear perception (ie yoga). The first 5 limbs are discussed at length in Chapter 2 and the final three limbs are discussed from the start of Chapter 3 (they are gifts offered through practice). I have talked about the last three limbs but you may not have realised: these are what I have referred to as the three steps of meditation.  This is not accurate in yoga terms but I wanted to give some idea of the process of meditation.  It is not one thing but an interaction of stages that are not always linear.  We get distracted and pulled away from yoga.  My experience is one step forwards two steps back, perhaps a jump, definitely a fall and lots of deep breathing.

The last three limbs of astanga are:

  • Dharana: concentration, aptitude for directing mental activity, bringing our complete attention to one object or concept
  • Dhyana: meditation, being in relationship with that object/concept, where there is a deeper understanding and interaction between you and the object
  • Samadi: contemplation, complete integration with the object/concept of meditation. ‘The reality of the object is so intense we forget ourselves'(Bernard Bouanchaud in ‘The Essence of Yoga’)

For our yoga practice this term, the object is a focus for your awareness.  Just as the breath can be.  The object will begin as a physical entity that is separate from you.  The mind will offer memories of descriptions about the object: its weight, its colour, its temperature, its sound, its meaning, its uses.  The mind likes to be busy and wants something to do.  It doesn’t want to be quiet.  It certainly doesn’t want to be ignored.  Eventually, it might give up its cause and just sit with the object.  The potential journey is this: contemplation – meditation – freedom.

In being free we are not detached.  We are clear in our perceptions of ourselves and of the world around us.  Relationships can have the space that is needed to allow each party to develop, grow and be satisfied.  We need to know where we end and the other begins.  In being free, we are more available to be connected without attachment or restriction.

The potential of this gift leaves me awe-inspired.

Thank you for your continued presence.



Yoga: our class journey

I hope you’re sitting comfortably.  During last year, I invited you to remember the foundations of yoga practice as described in the first four sutras of Chapter 1 in Patanjali’s yoga sutras (YS1. 1-4).

The yoga sutras contain four chapters: (1) defining yoga, (2) how to practice yoga, (3) the gifts or special powers that can be learned and (4) ultimately, the deep integration of the self with the Universe, the state of samadhi.  The first four sutras (aphorisms) give the definition of yoga:

YS1.1 atha yoganusasanam
And now the teaching on yoga begins

YS1.2 yogah cittavrittinirodhah
Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence, to direct and focus mental activity

YS1.3 tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam
When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature which is unbounded consciousness, the inner being establishes itself in all its reality

YS1.4 vritti sarupyam itaratra
Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by the activity of the mind, we identify with the activities of the mind.

‘Yoga is the negation of the thought composed mind.  Then the seer abides in his own nature’ The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, cited in Soul to Soul, John Mundahl

We also chanted the sutras that describe the activities of the mind. These are perception (correct knowing), misperception (incorrect knowing), imagination, deep sleep and memory (YS1.5).  Sometimes these are ‘coloured’ and sometimes they are not.  We all see ourselves and our world through an individual lens, influenced by our experience or lack of experience.

These activities make us human and could be said to make us individual.  However, rather than serving us, it is often the case that we begin to serve the mind and it becomes the master of our actions and takes us away from a state of yoga.  In a state of yoga we have clarity and focus and are connected to our higher purpose.  We can reach this state through practice which requires abhyasa and vairagya.  This brings us to the start of this year YS1. 12-16.  These sutras teach that to be successful in practice, we need to practice with the correct effort and consistently over time, without interruption, whilst maintaining a positive and enthusiastic attitude (abhyasa).  Through practice, we develop discipline and focus which may lead to a state of detachment (vairagya).  This is not detachment in the sense of not caring or being cut of from others.  In this state there is an absence of cravings, a sense of fulfilment and we become more aware of the extraordinary everyday.  Connections become clearer and there is space in our relationships with others and ourselves; with the planet, our universe; with ideas and concepts.

yoga_soundIn summary, a state of yoga where we are not distracted by the activities of the mind is reached through practice (abhyasa) and detachment (vairagya): putting the support in place and letting go of the outcome – we discussed the idea of seeing where the journey takes us rather than being limited to a set goal.

The next sutras  continue the discussion of reaching a yoga state with or without the influence of faith or sraddha.  I have not brought these discussions into the class setting as this feels more pertinent to indiviual study.

In YS1.29 we are told that our journey to realisation may be disturbed by obstacles (antaraya).  I have used a model proprosed by Peter Hersnack.  He grouped the nine antarāyā into three ideas.  We spent three terms using asana (postures) and reflection to contemplate the antaraya:

Issues with support:

  • vyādhi – illness, loss of support
  • styāna – lethargy, welded to inappropriate support
  • saṃśaya – doubt, becoming sure of our support

Issues with energy:

  • pramāda – impatience, using energy as your support
  • ālasya – fatigue, lack of energy
  • avirati – distraction, searching for energy

Issues around direction:

  • brāntidarśana – confused direction
  • alabdhabhūmikatva – lack of direction
  • anavasthitātvani – loss of direction

Perhaps all the antaraya resonate or maybe just one or two show up on a regular basis.  The antaraya journey is not linear although I do feel it gets more serious as the words get more difficult …

The antaraya are distractions of the mind.  We know we are experiencing an obstacle when symptoms arise: we might feel weakness of the limbs and/or disturbed breath, the mind can feel restricted and our well being can be low or even depressed. (YS1.31).  The person is rarely just affected on one level of being.  The mind and body are intimately linked.  Yoga allows us to see the different parts of ourselves: what is the mind, what is the body.

Since September, we have spent time working with practice to think about ways to counter the anataraya.  We have to find the way that resonates for us personally.  This includes focusing on a single prinicple, regulating the breath particularly the exhale and BK, mastery of the senses, meditating on purusa and the ‘light in the cave of the heart’, being in nature, seeking counsel, looking at our dreams and cultivating a positive attitude towards others (YS1.32-39)

Having found a way or a tool(s) that resonates, we begin to work towards direction rather than distraction, a state of yoga. But it does not finish there.  It is not like taking a magic pill.  We need to practice if we want to remain focused or to be aware when we become distracted again, which is inevitable for most of us.  When we are busy and overwhelmed, practice becomes more important.

I finished the term with this reading:

Axioms for Wildness- by John O’Donohue

Alive to the thrill
Of the wild.
Meet the dawn
On a mountain.
Wash your face
In the morning dew.
Feel the favor of the earth.
Go out naked in the wind,
Your skin
Almost Aeolian.
With the music inside,
Dance like there is no outside.
Become subtle enough
To hear a tree breathe.
Sleep by the ocean,
Letting yourself unfurl
Like the reeds that swirl
Gradually on the sea floor.
Try to watch a painting from within:
How it holds what it never shows.
The mystery of your face,
Showing what you never see.
See your imagination dawn
Around the rim of the world.
Feel the seamless silk of the ocean
Womb you in ancient buoyancy.
Feel the wild imprint of surprise
When you are taken in by your lover’s eyes.
Succumb to warmth in the heart
Where divine fire glows.
In overcoming obstacles the mind becomes more transparent.  We become aware of our personal bias and how we colour our experiences with our own way of seeing.  With a more honest and focused attitude, true contemplation becomes possible and we are able to grasp subtlety (YS1.41-44).  With continued practice, we can deepen our connection to the subtle and gain a more profound understanding of ourselves and perhaps beyond ourselves (YS1.45-50).
diamondTKV Desikachar interprets the final sutra of chapter one as ‘the mind reaches a state when it has no impressions of any kind.  It is open, clear, simply transparent.  This is the yoga state.  One cannot will it, nor receive it verbally.  The pure consciousness, purusa, shines there’ (YS1.51).
Thank you for taking the time to read all the way to end.  I look forward to continuing these ideas in November.  We will be working with a practice to take us within, to honour the respite that winter can offer and allow the darker months to be a space to reflect and wander.
© Yvonne Cattermole

bodywork: the pelvic girdle

Last Saturday I found my way to a secret garden (Kingwell Walled Garden, Timsbury) to attend a workshop with Markus Heimpel.  Markus is a practitioner and teacher of shiatsu and an important influence in my life. Spending time witkingwell-walled-gardenh 8 shiatsu practitioners was interesting in itself.  The day was open to all bodyworkers and I felt very honoured to be invited to work with this group; finding workshops about Thai massage which resonate with how I work is a difficult task.

The day was spent exploring the bony contours of the pelvis, acknowledging the shape, the support and the space it offers us.  This was done through touch, discussion and pelvismovement.  Our attention is often drawn to neck and shoulders to relieve tension.  Focusing on the pelvis, I became acutely aware of the tensions in this area.  Muscles from the back and the legs attach to the pelvic bones, creating different forces through the girdle. For example, several key muscles of the hip joint, including the gluteus maximus, iliacus and piriformis, insert onto the surface of the sacrum and pull on the sacrum to move the leg. The muscles respond to postural habits as well as active movement.  This central part of the skeleton can have a profound effect on our sense of centre, whether we feel light or heavy both physically and emotionally.  Its orientation affects the shape of the back, how we carry our head and the motion of the legs from hip to knee to ankle.  A slight twist or tilt ripples up through the body to affect the shoulders, again feeding into the neck as our evolutionary requirement to keep the eyes level with the horizon kicks in.

Experiences in adolescence, intimate relationships, pregnancy and childbirth can be held in the pelvis. Those experiences can be positive and/or negative.  As a bodyworker, I attract clients with physical issues however it is rare that discomfort or pain is not felt in the mind and emotions.  The held emotions of the pelvis need a safe space to be released. Some physical examples of emotional tension you might be familiar with are the tight neck after a difficult interaction or the twisting of the solar plexus when you are anxious.  Working with the body gives insight to subtle aspects of a person.

sacrum-keystone1Within the pelvis, an area I do focus on regularly is the sacrum – the keystone of the pelvis.  If you place your hand at the base of your (lumbar) spine so the hand curves around your bottom, you will mirror the triangular shaped sacrum in the palm of your hand, tapering down to the coccyx.  The joints between the sacrum and the ilium (the winged pelvic bones) are called the sacroiliac joints.  Many ligaments bind the sacroiliac joints together tightly to reduce motion and solidify the pelvis.  The female sacrum is shorter, wider, and curved more posteriorly than the male sacrum to provide more room for the passage of the baby through the birth canal during childbirth.

The sacrum also surrounds and protects the spinal nerves of the lower back as they wind their way inferiorly toward the end of the trunk and into the legs, including the sciatic nerve.

Taking the time to consider the role of the pelvis in our bodies has reminded me of all the reasons for paying it attention.  It can have a profound effect on our wellbeing as it impacts on where we feel our centre, how we walk, how we carry ourselves and find our structural integrity, how we connect intimately with a partner and how we carry our children.

The name sacrum honours this part of the body beautifully so to finish my reflection here are some ideas about the naming of this bone:

  • Roman: os sacrum = the holy bone
  • Greek: hieron osteon = holy bone; hieron is also a temple, in this case the temple that held the female reproductive organs
  • The afterlife: the sacrum is usually the last bone of a buried body to rot. It is suggested that the ancients believed the sacrum to be the focal point around which the body could be reassembled in the afterlife.
  • A sacrificial vessel: there is some archeological evidence to support the use of the sacrum as a vessel to hold the sacrifice in ancient sacred rites.

© Yvonne Cattermole

For presence

This blessing came into my head this morning, another beauty from John O’Donohue:


For Presence

Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to
follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek
no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
around the heart of wonder.


The art of practice

In discussion with my teacher, I have been reflecting on all the words, ideas, goals, opinions around yoga.  I have been set the challenge of keeping it simple.  It is the practice that is essential.  Why I do it, where I want it to go, what I want to achieve can be seen as distractions.  It is making it much simpler to get on the mat each day.  My focus is simplicity.  Try it.  It’s the most powsky_rock_watererful of practices.

Let me know how you get on.

yoga reflection: come back to centre

cakra 1899We can visualise ourselves as being composed of different elements: air – intuitive and free; fire – creative and directive; water – flowing and determined; earth – containing and grounding.  You might remember thinking about these elements in relation to the cakras.  On a good day, these elements mesh into a balanced whole, the balance being a dynamic relationship to allow us to do what we want/need to do.  For many of us, our constitution is biased towards one element or combination of elements.  For every positive interpretation there is a challenging alternative: air -mental discordance; fire – excessive heat and reaction; water – stubbornness and untempered emotion; earth – stuckness and heaviness.  Each element moves through a spectrum of characteristics.

When we move away from our centre, one element can dominate.  For example, if we leap into water we can lose our boundaries and become any shape we are poured into.  This is ok providing we hold awareness of our own shape.  When I am pulled from centre I return to my yoga practice.  I sat in the garden on my mat, I remembered the first two yama, described in the yoga sutras (Chapter 2.30)

8LimbsTreeThe yama are one of the eight limbs of yoga (astanga).  They can be thought of as disciplines and describe the attitude we have to our external world.  Peter Hersnack (PH) described the yama as an opportunity to explore the relationships we form and to discover how a space can be opened within the relationship without confusion about where one person begins and ends relative to another person or thing.  A relationship has different parts, it is not one entity.  We need to avoid confusion about who is who.  Using the image of water, when this element is dominant, we can observe ourselves mimicing the emotions and attitudes of a person we are close to; we may forget to move from our own centre, flooded with the strength of emotion filling the space in the relationship.

The first yama is ahimsa, kindness and thoughtful consideration for others.  In every situation we should adopt a considered attidude:

PH: Ahimsa brings a protected space around the relationship.  What space am I ready to give the other?  Can I offer him a space of security and freedom where that which is vital in him can express itself?

The second yama is satya, to speak the truth, to be authentic.  This is truthfulness but with consideration, it should not conflict with ahimsa – your truth should not be used to harm another.  Can I be in relationship with another and honour my integrity and principles?

PH: Can I be in the relationship with what I am?  Am I able with what I am, to take support on what is? I need to be responsible for the space that I am ready to occupy myself.

A relationship will experience limitation because of differences between two people however this should not limit each person’s freedom.  We may not fully understand all that is said and done between us but perhaps we can respect the experience if ahimsa is being observed by both.  What a different time we would live in if this level of respect for another being was observed.

PH: ahimsa and satya are the basis for a shared space; we can be in relationship and individually be free.  Ahimsa opens a protected space for the relationship, and satya allows for simplicity and direct interaction.

I continued reading and was drawn to the last three yama.  The third yama is asteya, not stealing.  To take nothing that does not belong to us.  This includes not taking advantage when we are in a position of trust.

The fourth yama is brahmacarya, one essential truth.  A movement towards the essential; mostly used in the sense of abstinence; traditionally this referred to sexual activity.  We can understand brahmacarya as forming relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths; and whilst on our journey of growth we must not forget our responsibility to others and our priorites in life.

PH: asteya and brahmacarya deepens the exploration in relationship but each one has his place in the world, respecting the difference.  Asteya allows what is precious in life to reveal itself and brahmacarya preserves and rekindles our energy for staying with what is essential

The fifith yama is aparigraha, not seizing opportunity; to take only what is necessary, not to take advantage of the situation

PH: non accumulation; something beyond us opens up some profound understanding about the relationship.  Asteya and brahmacarya deepens the relationship and allows each person to be what he is.  Aparigraha explores the possibility of not accumulating, not being attached to what has been found in a relationship based on freedom

Aparigraha – accept the difference between life and the forms by which life reveals itself.  Something beyond the relationship can be revealed.

If you study yoga with me, you will know that I have been sitting with the antaraya (obstacles) and what that means for my relationship with myself and others.  Over the autumn, I am looking forward to discussing different ways we might counter the antaraya.  As a light is shone on the obstacles in our lives and the role we play in putting them there, we can consider how to remove them.  Yoga practice is central to increasing awareness and clarity.  Astanga is part of that practice.  I think I know what we will be spending time with next year.

So it is, Yvonne

Reflections: feeling lost

I am awake with confusion and uncertainty.  When I feel like this, I often pick up John O’Donohue’s book, Benedictus, A Book of Blessings, to find solace.  I have not found solace but am left reflective and am encouraged to climb out of my rut.  For Failure:


The will of colour loves how light spreads

Through its diffusions, making textures subtle,

Clothing a landscape in concealment

For colour to keep its mysteries

Hidden from the unready eye

wheel of fortune

But the light that comes after rain

Is always fierce and clear,

And illuminates the face of everything

Through the transparency of rain


Despite the initial darkening,

This is the light that failure casts.

Beholden no more to the promise

Of what dream and work would bring,

It shows where roots have withered

And where the source has gone dry.

The light of failure has no mercy

On the affections of the heart:

It emerges from beyond the personal,

A wiry, forthright light that likes to see crevices

Open in the shell of a controlled life.


Though cruel now, it serves a deeper kindness,

Wise to the larger call of growth,

It invites us to humility

And the painstaking work of acceptance


So that one day we may look back

In recognition and appreciation

At the disappointment we now endure





I was asked if I was doing much playing at the moment?  I recounted stories of going grocery shopping, buying green bags for garden waste, general pottering and ‘chores’.  I’ve started going to the gym three times a week with my partner.  We’re using the Couch to 5K app to improve our fitness and ensure we have moments through the week that are shared.  Apparently I need to work at my play activity choices!  I also read a book in the middle of the day on Sunday.  I’m reading Bill Bryson’s ‘Road to Little Dribbling’ and find I am laughing out loud at my fellow countrymen.  My favourite quote so far is ‘all this pretending, it must be exhausting being English’.  My reading activity was indeed deemed ‘play’.

I’ve been reflecting on my response to letting go of the stressful role I was trying so hard to get to grips with and have been helped at work this week to interpret my response.  All clients and yoga classes are being serenaded by a family of great tits, nesting in a space between the stones of the barn wall.  When the parent bird returns the family jump into life.  It’s an amazing cacophany and I’m aware it will be for such a short time.  They are a long way up and at some point will all appear from the dark to take their first flight.

It’s made me realise that in my determination to be more aware of day to day me and this life I’m living, that I am nesting.  I’m rebuilding my home and space and I’m loving it.  My family are in the foreground.  Exams are underway but there is a feeling of contentment and whilst all are working hard, we see each other for cups of tea (and custard creams of course) and share meals.  My eldest is at Birmingham Uni doing his end of first year exams and is in contact daily via WhatsApp; he has his own unique cacophonic ring tone.

You might like to know that the garden is looking verdant and a friend gave me a damson tree which has pride of place in the middle of our patch.  The piano playing is coming along too!  Turns out I’m easily pleased and this refusing to get stressed whlst working to live rather than living to work, is a much better game to play.



it was in front of me all the time …

The last fortnight has been a time of revelation.  I have resigned from a teaching post and taken a step back to evaluate where I commit my time and energy.

My children are more independent although we are marching into exam time (end of first year University and GCSEs); I’m self-employed so ultimately have control over my work time and space; I’ve finished all necessary qualifications which has taken 20 years(!) and have access to wonderful teachers and peers; I have a thriving practice and work in a space of peace and calm; I teach yoga therapy and Thai massage, two practices I deeply respect and love.

With so much work done, lessons learned and supports in place, I have been made to question why I feel I need to add more.  When I resigned from one aspect of my teaching, a dear friend said ‘when one door closes, another door opens’.  NO!  No more doors opening.  I just want to enjoy what I have and stand still.  The most shocking and liberating revelation of all: I don’t have to keep adding and growing.

I want simple pleasures.  What I want is to feel I have the time to buy fresh food and cook it.  I want to practice the piano every day.  When the phone rings I want to answer without worrying how long the conversation will take.  I want to go for a walk and notice. I cleaned the kitchen windows at the weekend.  In twenty minutes my outlook was clearer.  I could see the midges above the pond, watch the wrens diving in and out of the hedge and enjoy the robins searching in the newly dug soil – being in the garden was something else I found time to do.

It’s all so obvious.   I love my work but if I work even more, I play less.  And if I play less, I forget how important it is for me to be present to receive the hug from my son, to send cards to my family abroad, to invite my parents over for brunch, to see friends, to listen to music and choose how I move through life.  I love my work but it is not my life (that was another revelation).  Leads me to another revelation – I am in a position to choose.  So I’m choosing.

With that choice I am recalibrating and as I do, I am left to wonder why it has taken me so long to see.  Today, lots of questions have just disappeared without needing time and energy to answer them.  I thought I was good at ‘not doing and being’.  But actually, I have been ‘doing being’.  Turns out it’s not the same thing.

I am in my ideal life  – it was in front of me all the time

Today my offer is unconditional gratitude

The Quality of Self-Care by Yvonne Cattermole — Bristol College of Massage and Bodywork

This weekend was my first experience of the MTI conference. I was looking forward to meeting other members as well as attending and presenting a workshop. Cardiff Met University is a great venue with the added bonus of being an hour down the road! The keynote speech from Darien Pritchard was thought provoking and entertaining…

via The Quality of Self-Care by Yvonne Cattermole — Bristol College of Massage and Bodywork

teaching reflection

My favourite class asana is samasthiti.

‘A place of balanced attention’, standing on the mat.

I listen to the room settle and breathe.

Small movements, readjustments,

Notice a frustration or a loose thought,

Come back to ground.

Live in the space.

Energy separate.

Energy united.

It’s a private and a shared moment.

An experience with noise and silence,

With focus and expansion.





Everything is there, everyone is there

Being still, sometimes waiting

But often just being.

It offers everything but seems to be nothing.

It offers nothing but seems to be everything.

It’s a good asana.

© Yvonne Cattermole, March 2016

Yoga class reading …

It is Peace by Barb Larson Taylor (from Soul to Soul: Poems, Prayers, and Stories to End A Yoga Class, Edited by John Mundahl)

What does stillness sound like?
What does it sound like when you
Turn off the television set and cell phone?
What does stillness sound like when you
Take a break from talking
With family, friends and colleagues?
What does it sound like in your mind when you
Turn off the constant stream of thoughts?
What does stillness sound like?

What does stillness feel like?
Does it feel uncomfortable?
What does stillness feel like?

What would happen if you stopped thinking about the past?
Stopped replaying the same tapes over and over in your mind?
What would happen if you stopped thinking about the future?
Always waiting with anticipation for what is next?
What would happen if your brought your foci to this moment?
This breath coming in…
This breach coming out…

What is this?
When you hear stillness,
When you feel stillness,
When your focus is only on this moment?

It is Peace.

Reflection Retreat November 2015

Wooda Farm once again provided the container for our retreat.  We spent the days protected by the elements and were graced with clearer skies when we did venture out.

Each day started with yoga practice and we spent time together reflecting on the role of pratyahara and silence.  We also worked with inversions, leading to shoulder stand, to consider life from another perspective.  Sometimes a different viewpoint is not our choice but we have to find a way to be in the spaces that life offers.  Sometimes the choices we do make, take us down a path that we had not considered and we have to adapt and adjust.  The retreat has had a profound effect on my own practice and I believe offered each person something for their own journey.

Thank you to all who joined me at Wooda and thank you to our hosts, who once again provided a sacred space with nurturing food and fireside moments.

My health feels well and truly embodied.