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Injuries, Injuries, injure me

Posted on Thu, Aug 29, 2013

yoga injuries, yoga related injuries, injuries from yoga, laura grace ford, ashtanga yogaSo after three months of arduous second series Ashtanga training in Maui, dedicatedly practicing everyday except for the moon days, managing to remain unscarred, I return to the UK and within 2 weeks put out my shoulder pulling a stupidly designed wheelie suitcase! Hard core Ashtangi injured by luggage! After months of Pinchamayurasana’s, Karandavasana’s and handstands where my shoulders have remained strong, I am defeated by a small hand luggage sized case, a walk, a bus and the London underground’s many steps, stairs and ‘mind the gap’s.

yoga injuries, yoga related injuries, injuries from yoga, laura grace ford, ashtanga yogaMy osteopath explained that they really are a silly design; they pull your shoulder out of its socket and twist your spine. You are pulling a heavy weight with your arm in a vulnerable position. The shoulder is at its weakest point and then you are demanding it to bear a load.

“It's much better to push than to pull, or a rucksack distributes the weight evenly over both shoulders which is also better as long as you don’t over pack it.”

Noted for next time.

yoga injuries, yoga related injuries, injuries from yoga, laura grace ford, ashtanga yogaAs for this time… my shoulder was knocked out of sorts. Resulting in a lot of pain aches and niggles. Also as I was determined to carry on practicing at the level that I had become accustomed to in Maui at the House of Ashtanga and Zen with Nancy Gilgoff. I pushed on with my 4 x second series practices a week regardless. Stupidly I practiced outside on the grass one day, which is not the most ideal of places to practice the 7 headstands at the end of the sequence… as realised when I lost my balance on the uneven ground and toppled over my bad shoulder.

I woke up with neck lock. I couldn’t move it. I couldn’t turn my head. I couldn’t sleep properly. It throbbed. It ached. It hurt… a lot. I flew back to my Osteopath knowing that he was the only one could to fix me time and time again.

yoga injuries, yoga related injuries, injuries from yoga, laura grace ford, ashtanga yogaRest he said.

“What?? I don’t understand what you are saying… I am an Ashtangi – I don’t rest”

“You need to rest it. NO if’s, no buts, no maybe’s. Rest”

“I’ll try”

And so I tried to rest . I didn’t stop practicing – I just practiced more gently.

I instantly fell into the mental trap of feeling like a failure. Feeling like I wasn’t very good. Feeling like I wasn’t very strong.

I battled with the desire to practice and the guilt of not practicing. I rested. I felt bad. I practiced. I hurt. I rested, I felt bad, I practiced, and I hurt.

I knew it was a lesson in letting go of our so-called yogic ‘achievements’. Its not about what you can ‘do’. It’s not about what pose you can get to. I know that, but when your practice goes backwards (or feels like it does) it is really hard to not beat yourself up. I could almost do Karandvasana on my own a few weeks ago…. And now I am struggling to get through primary. “I am a rubbish yogini….”

I beat myself up. My internal dialogue turned sour.

I had been working so hard at being nice to myself and then suddenly BAM a little baddie shoulder and all that loving kindness towards oneself disappears! BAM another blow from the self-defeating stick of doom!

What is all that about? We work so hard at cultivating a warm and compassionate attitude towards ourselves and then with a minor injury BAM back to step one.

yoga injuries, yoga related injuries, injuries from yoga, laura grace ford, ashtanga yogaIt is the journey, not the destination.

It doesn’t matter how many times we go backwards, we are still moving forwards. Two steps forward, one step back. That’s the scenic route right?

It’s ok. Its no reason to start being nasty to yourself all over again….but as long as you recognise that and you see yourself doing it then you are not really going backwards at all… Because now it is conscious. Before it was blind.

So that it an improvement right?

Two steps forward, one step back. Learn to enjoy each step regardless of the direction that you are going!

So, as with all of my yogic lessons, I tried to see how this was reflected off the mat. Every lesson is the same on or off the mat. I looked at the last time that I injured my heart. Now I am super sensitive to rejection (as we all are) and also to being ignored or not paid due attention to. This is something that I have become more aware of through my practice. The more I became aware, the more I could resolve. I slowly came to realise that it was because of my father. Long story short I resolved my differences with my father, but when it came to actually creating a new behavioural pattern within myself…. Well that’s a bit harder. Behavioural patterns are built into us by subconscious self-protecting mechanisms and once they are in place they are hard to shift. (Not impossible…. Anything is possible if sputa kurmasana is right?).

yoga injuries, yoga related injuries, injuries from yoga, laura grace ford, ashtanga yogaAs with all of these things, first come consciousness. Once we realise that we are doing something and we recognise that pattern then and only then can we start to go about changing it, but it doesn’t happen first time around.

With matters of the heart, things are often fragile and easily shattered.  So we have to tread carefully. I looked at the last time that my heart got injured and I realised that I do the same thing as when I am physically injured. I start to beat myself up. I list all the faults within myself. I blame myself; I hit myself with the ‘I am not good enough stick’.

Just as I do when my body is injured.

Same same.                                        

yoga injuries, yoga related injuries, injuries from yoga, laura grace ford, ashtanga yogaSurely when we are injured, either emotionally or physically we should be extra especially nice to ourselves. We should take care of ourselves more: not less. We should spend longer in the bath, we should enjoy the comfort from loved ones, we should feed ourselves well and mentally we should whisper nothing but sweet nothings into our ears to make ourselves feel better from the inside out.

“Don’t let the behaviour of others disturb your inner peace”

This is one of my favourite Buddhist mantras. When we are injured we must take extra care to maintain our inner peace. We should take comfort in the knowledge that whatever it is: it will pass. The broken shoulder will heal, the broken heart will mend, the broken person will fix…. and not only that but will become stronger from it.

yoga injuries, yoga related injuries, injuries from yoga, laura grace ford, ashtanga yogaI realised that with my new heightened sensitivity from my shoulder injury I have become more aware of movements that I was doing that possibly caused me to break in the first place. I noticed the parts of my practice where I need to pay more attention to my alignment, postures that I have been working but maybe not in the best position to avoid injury, where my shoulder has been weak and not strong. I have highlighted ways of improving.  I quietly thanked my shoulder for bringing me this new awareness.

In matters of the heart, again, the injury has made me reflect upon behaviours that I displayed that maybe did not put my best self forward.  Situations that if I found myself in again, maybe I would handle differently. Self-defeating behaviours that I displayed that were not necessary or attractive (to myself or others). I can observe them but without judging them. Once more use them as a tool to improve myself. Softly. Gently. In a nurturing way. I can recognise patterns and hopefully next time, choose a different, more positive one.

self loveAgain, I quietly thanked the person that had injured my little heart for giving me the insight into myself; and the opportunity to see what I still needed to work on within me.

Not in a self-destructive manner. Not in a beat yourself with the same stick a hundred times manner…. But in a self reflective, self improving manner…… while soaking in the bath and reminding myself of how amazing I am for going that one step forward…


~Laura Grace Ford

Tags: ashtanga yoga, laura grace ford, Injuries

Help – I'm having a Yogic Identity Crisis!

Posted on Thu, Jun 27, 2013

laura grace ford, yogic identity, ashtanga yoga, So my yogic transformation has stretched so far that it has become more like a split personality! I have changed so much in the last few years that I barely recognise my new self as me! So much so that along the way I had trouble adjusting to whom I have become.

My good friend laughs lovingly at the two versions of me and calls them Laura and Vera. Laura was the highly sociable good time, out all night girl and Vera likes to drink herbal tea and wear warm clothes and sensible shoes and be in bed by 10 o’clock so she can practice Ashtanga Yoga every morning.

Everything that Laura loved, Vera has given up. Everything that Laura was, Vera is the polar opposite. Even everything that Laura would have said, Vera will contradict.

Vera is much happier and content, but Laura will not seem to die without a fight!

Yoga helps you to start looking at yourself more closely. They say it is like cleaning the self-reflective mirror that enables you to really see yourself. The cleaner it becomes the clearer you see everything. You see your own actions, you see the actions of others, you see intentions versus actions, you see old negative habits more clearly and you see the world through new eyes. You see a way to change.

I read an article recently, which reminded me that the more you practice the more sensitive you become. You see more, you feel more, you sense more, you are more. This means that you can feel hyper sensitive to certain stimuli around you.

I now have an aversion to noisy, busy places when I used to love the hustle and bustle of busy bars and nightclubs. Now they almost scare me and like a rabbit caught in the headlights I freeze and panic. And I want to escape. I feel as though I am somehow vibrating on a different frequency. A quieter, calmer frequency that doesn’t allow me to feel at ease in over crowded, noisy, loud and aggressive situations. I’d rather be chilling in a hammock, taking in the natural surroundings, watching the sunset and listening to the birds.

laura grace ford, yogi, yogic transformation, yoga health, yoga pose

(seriously? My old self shouts – ‘just listen to yourself!’)

I started to recognise that all of my bad habits were a form of self-abuse. A way of drowning my sorrows: numbing myself to life. I would drink and smoke to disengage, to somehow become less present. You subconsciously ‘leave the room’ when the alcohol kicks in. It alters your state of mind and your whole being. Smoking too, damages your body making you weak from the inside. The sutra’s state that at first you smoke a cigarette and then slowly, it starts smoking you. Burning you away from the inside, distinguishing your self. You start to notice smokers coughs and splutters, the constant clearing of the throats, the harshness in their voices and the smell that lingers around them. Everyone hates a reformed smoker, so I found myself just pulling away from them rather than preaching to them. I am no angel, and I don’t profess to be. Smoking is a strong addiction and can take hold of you easily. I admit to sometimes smoking the occasional cigarette; and I no longer beat myself up when I do. But I don’t enjoy it anymore. I can taste it in my mouth, I can feel it in my lungs, I can feel it in the morning when I wake up and my liver has been detoxing the chemicals out of my system overnight. I quickly remember why I don’t do it anymore and knowing the damage that it is causing my body helps me to not start the daily habit again.

So why do we act in such a self-abusive way?

It basically comes down to self-love. If we really loved ourselves why would we chose to damage ourselves in that way? As an act of love would you give another a glass that contained a fluid that would nurture them or would you give a glass that would make them lose consciousness, vomit and black out? As an act of love….. really, which one would you chose?

So as an act of love to oneself, how would you treat yourself if you really loved yourself?

(Vera talking)

 yogic transformation, yoga health, yogic identity, laura grace ford, ashtanga

For me it was really hard becoming this new version of myself. I lost friends. I lost lovers. I lost my social life. I lost respect. I lost my identity. I lost touch of who I really was….. But then I started to realise what I had gained. I had gained self-discipline. I had gained self-respect. I had gained much better health and vitality. I had gained self worth. I had gained new friends with the same outlook to life. I had gained new eyes to see the world.


Yet, still my old self called.

Laura would want to party. Laura would want to dance. Laura would want to stay up late and be wild. Laura thought that Vera was boring and that nobody liked her. Everybody loved Laura! Laura didn’t want to die!

Laura and Vera were not friends. They didn’t even like each other very much. They fought. They argued. They didn’t speak for weeks. They would give each other disapproving looks and walk in opposite directions (see how a split personality can drive you crazy!).

laura grace ford, ashtanga yoga, yoga love, yoga id, yoga identity, Yet the more I practiced the more comfortable I became with my new self. The more I wanted to live in my new world. The more I wanted to practice. I wanted to continue walking down this path. I realised that the benefits far out weighed the alternatives. The positives outnumbered the negatives a million to one.

I had gone from waking up in the morning in Bristol UK, barely able to walk to the bathroom due to high levels of toxins in my system, to waking up bright and breezy, in Maui Hawaii, about to take on the second series of Ashtanga Yoga with some of the most senior practitoners in the world. People: who in the 60’s were still practicing daily and were fighting fit and strong. These people inspired me. They were full of life and vitality. Yoga was keeping them young. I want to be standing on my head at the age of 69 and balancing on my forearms in Pinchaymarasana. I want to be slipping into Karandasana like I was still in my teens and touching my toes to my head in vrishchikasana. I want to be strong enough to still complete the second series on my 70th birthday!

I started to find myself not missing my old life that much after all. I started finding it hard to socialise with people who were intoxicated. Repeating themselves over and over and shouting at each other. I started finding it hard to watch people treat themselves with such little care. Watching them damage themselves in more ways than one. I started to cringe and shudder as I watched people acting in the very way that Laura behaved for such a long time. I wanted to get them all to start doing Ashtanga and start to feel the benefits of this amazing practice, both mentally and physically. I wanted to give them a new lease of life. A new love of life.

laura grace ford, yoga, yoga pose, yoga blog, love yogaA path to happiness.

But I know deep down that you can lead a horse to water….

A teacher’s job is to show people the door, but it is up to them to walk through it.


Laura will always be a part of me. I have learnt that Laura doesn’t have to die. Even though I wasn’t happy being her and didn’t like lots of things about her, she is still a part of my history.  Through Yoga I have learnt how I can take the best bits of her and merge them with the best bits of Vera.

They aren’t really two – they are one. And neither of them are who I really am; they are part of my ego. Part of what I call I. And yoga destroys the “I”.

The Ashtanga process breaks us apart. It smashes our ego to smithereans. It breaks us so that we can take out all the bad bits and then put all the good bits back together again. After talking to other Ashtangi’s I realised that I was not alone. I was not the only person to go through this…. In fact it was all part of the purification process.

The hardest thing about loving yoga so much is not being able to get everyone to do it! At first I was a real yoga pusher, but now I have come to realise that people have to find their own way. People have to find their own path. People have to come to it due to a genuine yearning for something, a knowing that there is more to life and a desire to discover what that really is. 

They have to have a genuine want for new eyes.


beautiful yoga

Nancy Gilgoff told me today that Gurji had once said that people that are drawn to yoga have done it before in a past life. People that dedicate their lives to it are firmly on the path to self-improvement and liberation. So if someone just hears the word ‘yoga’ or does one sun salutation in this lifetime, then in their next they will be drawn to it even more. So by sharing this wonderful practice and all its incredible benefits with as many people as I possibly can this lifetime, it will ensure even more dedicated yogi’s in the next round. So for every person that I get to teach even one sun salutation to, I can rest assured that it will make a difference. That was enough.

Pattahbi Jois said “Do your practice, teach, and all is coming”

And so I teach with humble pride and honour, knowing that I am sharing with others this wonderful gift. 

~Laura Grace Ford

Tags: advanced yoga, yoga for being present, ashtanga yoga, Discover your truth, forgiveness, laura grace ford

Tap Into Your Roots with the Eight Limbs of Yoga

Posted on Fri, May 10, 2013

yoga paws, eight limbs of yogaIn the Western world, many are drawn to the physical practice of yoga. You might glimpse a class being held at their gym and think how nice it would be to more flexible. Or, maybe you just want to have a better golf swing. At first, possibily that’s made you want to come to the mat. Perhaps your intention was in no way metaphysical. You may just have wanted to stretch your hamstrings. If so you’re not alone. And, there’s nothing “wrong” with those reasons. Just by wanting to come to yoga, you are already deepening your mind-body connection. You can choose how much, if at all, you want to develop a more spiritual side to your practice. And, remember, there’s no “right” answer.

yoga class, eight limbs of yogaWhile that might seem a very modern way to approach an ancient practice, the idea that it’s okay to be motivated to begin a yoga practice for purely physical reasons goes back a long way. In some yogic thinking, the physical practice of yoga poses is held to be the starting point for all yoga students.

Many modern branches of yoga are based on the so-called eight-limbed path. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (written at least 1800 years ago), these eight principles are laid out to govern the physical, moral and spiritual conduct of yogis. They consist of: yama (ethics), niyama (self-control), asana (physical yoga practice), pranayama (breathwork), pratyahara (sensory withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (enlightenment or peace).

side angle yoga poseThis might sound like the ultimate reminder that asana is just one part of what makes a yoga practice, but many teachers contend that you can’t focus on the mental or spiritual side of yoga until your body is cared for. Many teachers remind their students that their yoga practice is a metaphor for living. It combines ease and struggle, challenges and opportunities. It requires student to understand what discernment mean—where the edge is, and the cliff is. The goal is still unity—not only of mind, body and spirit but also in a physical body that is strong, balanced and flexible. A body that has all of this in place gives you a better foundation from which to nurture your mind and spirit, as well as to support those in need. Feeling physically energized and capable is a powerful catalyst for building confidence. That “Yes, you can” feeling flows over into your mind and spirit, enabling you to let your authentic self shine. 

yogapaws kidsIn Ashtanga yoga, it is believed that students have to learn the first four limbs of yoga first in order to prepare themselves for the others. And, what those principles mean is up to you. As you deepen your appreciation for yoga, you can find your own way through them. Maybe for you concentration isn’t so much about not being distracted by noises outside the window as it is making clear priorities in your day so that you can focus on one task at a time. Maybe you will never enjoy meditating for extended periods of time, but you can reflect as you walk. Similarly, as Yoga Journal points out, enlightenment can mean, more simply, being at peace with yourself and the world.


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Tags: ashtanga yoga, 8 limbs of yoga, Yoga Sutras, patanjali

Yoga Buffet: Develop a Taste for Different Approaches

Posted on Fri, Mar 22, 2013

yoga paws, tree yoga, hot yoga, yoga gloves, yoga sox

Everyone gets stuck in a rut from time to time, whether in your job, your life, your style of dressing or even your yoga practice. Routine isn’t a bad thing when it’s helping you to be organized so that your days are more peaceful. It’s also nice to know that you can count on a good experience in a class or that Thursday night out with family and/or friends as something to look forward to.

yoga paws, hot yoga, hatha yoga, vinyasa yogaHere’s where discernment comes into play. There’s a difference between the thought patterns that hold you back and the comfortable life patterns that help your days feel anchored and settled. Maybe, you can’t remember the last time you missed your favorite Thursday yoga class. Or, you consider yourself “addicted” to your preferred style. Your home practice never varies. Sound familiar? First of all, good on you for finding a practice that inspires you. Consistency on your mat is a great thing and is a wonderful tool for advancing your mental and physical practice. There’s no need to leave that routine, but sometimes trying a different style can be a fun complement to your weekly practice. Because yoga is so complex, it’s easy to forget how much variety there is beyond the classes you regularly take.

yoga food, yogi, yoga for change, yoga for depressionJust like with food, experimenting with your yoga can add flavor to your regular practice. Sometimes seeing poses through the lens of a different style or teach can help you toward that “aha!” moment. Sometimes, a different class can teach you something about yourself as a yoga student—you tend to respond to visual cues more than verbal corrections to adjust your alignment, for example—that helps you learn. Often, it takes a blend of styles to help you open all of the opportunities for expanding your physical capabilities on the mat as well as your mental and spiritual muscles.

yoga class, yoga paws, hatha yoga, vinyasa yogaIf you are looking to try a different kind of class, the first thing to consider is how far you feel like going outside the box. Maybe you are just looking for a different shade of the same color. If you’re a regular hatha yoga student, giving yin a go might offer you the chance to slow down further and explore each pose more deeply. Learning to stay in a position for five minutes, feeling your body warm and soften and passing the point of reactivity as you release enables you find new meaning to the idea of being in the moment.

If you usually seek out vinyasa or power yoga, you might want to find a hot class to intensify the experience. The challenge of creating heat inside the body as you move through a slow but steady series of asanas while accepting the 105-plus-degree heat in the room can bring a sort of laser focus to your movements and your breath. Working in the heat can help you get in touch with the idea of softening and lengthening your muscles and tendons—a perfect complement to the muscular expansion/compress that typifies flow classes.

yoga fun, yoga paws, crow pose, crane pose


Maybe, you’d like to take a leap outside of your comfort zone. If that’s the case, think about what kind of different class you want. If you are a Bikram devotee, just trying a class without the heat will offer a new experience of yoga. If you’ve done Ashtanga for most of your time as a student, you might want to try a hatha or vinyasa class to see what it’s like when you can’t predict the next asana. 

And, sometimes experimenting is just plain fun. Walking into class with no expectations is a great tool to give yourself a clean slate. The poses that send up red flags in your regular class may not even be part of the sequence in a different style. And, the class is bound to be unfamiliar, so you walk in with a fresh attitude and enjoy a new way of moving and thinking.


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Tags: yoga for beginners, advanced yoga, Beginning Yoga Poses, Mindful eating, vinyasa yoga, hatha yoga, ashtanga yoga


Posted on Thu, May 10, 2012

downward facing dog“What on earth are you doing?” My yoga teacher asked me in class last week as he caught me trying to peer round and look at my own shoulders
in downward dog. “Nothing” I said as I tried to wriggle out of it. He bought me down to my knees and asked me kindly to explain myself. The truth is I was paranoid that I was doing it wrong. During a weekend workshop in Paris with Chuck Miller, we had explored the shoulders in downward dog. We had looked at them in micro detail and worked towards straightening the arms so that you spread the load of the weight. We were learning to lift the forearms up and away from the floor, lifting the inner arm up and firming out, and get the outer arm moving down and firming in. It was pretty complex work, but I tried my darn hardest to grasp the concept and then to apply it to my practice.

yoga artDuring an exercise with a partner, it was pointed out to me that I had
large dimples in my shoulders. I instantly took this that I was doing
it wrong. I then set about trying to correct it, in every downward

When I learn lots of new information about ashtanga yoga, I take it
away, digest it and then try to apply it to my own practice. The
problem is that I will try to over do it. I have a perfectionist
streak which is amplified by an inner fear of 'doing it wrong'. This
leads to me mentally trying too hard. Putting too much emphasis on
doing it right. Trying to hard to be perfect.
This is what my teacher really caught me doing.

yoga classIn yoga we try to burn away our samskara’s, our bad habits or
behavioural patterns; which no longer serve us. But in order to burn
them away, first we must see them clearly. We can’t change something
that we can’t even see. Yoga can be seen as a mirror, in which we
start to see our own reflection. It enables us to see how we do
things. Why we do them a certain way. Only then can we try to change
them for the better.

So one of my samskara’s is seeking perfection. Born out of a fear of
doing it wrong, desperate for others not to look down on me. I not
only do this in my every day life, but I bring it to the mat with me.
Often the behaviour that we display on the mat is exactly the same as
the behaviour we display elsewhere (we just may not be aware of it
“Same person, same body, same behaviour” As Chuck Miller puts it.

Wendy 7 LAfter class my teacher had a little word in my ear. He very gently
pointed out to me what it was that I was doing. “Seeking perfection in your practice is only really re enforcing your samskara’s. It is maintaining those patterns that you apply to your life. Yoga is supposed to be diminishing that very process, but you have to recognise that and you have to let it go. It doesn’t matter if your right – in fact there is no right or wrong. Its good to try to apply what you have learnt, but the only thing you will gain by trying to look over your shoulder in downward dog is a crooked neck and a dodgy shoulder. Not what you are trying to achieve!”
He was so right.

Sometimes we need someone else to point out these things to us!
In the post that week I received a printed out article from my
teacher. It was explaining how when you open the shoulders and create
space, these dimples appear. So in fact the very thing that I thought
was a sign of doing it wrong, was actually an effect of doing it
“The man in Paris was obviously paying you a compliment” The note read.
Unnecessary worrying on my part.

So busy worrying about perfection that I missed the point.
So the moral of this story is that you have to learn to look at what
behaviours you have towards yourself. Do you beat yourself up for
being wrong? Do you compare yourself to others? Are you better than
them or worse than them?

yoga prayThis behaviour will indicate to you your own samskara’s and will then
hopefully give you something to work on.

Whatever it is that you notice in your practice you need to increase
the opposite of it.
Do you need to be kinder to yourself? Do you need to relax more? Do
you need to learn humility? Do you need more self confidence? Do you
need to be less uptight? Do you need to not fear being wrong and be
happy where you are?

Yoga is balance. It works at creating balance not only in your body
but also in your mind to get you back to being who you really are.
So for me right now – perfect doesn’t make practice!

Happy practicing.

Laura Grace

Ashtanga Yoga Devon - UK Distributor for Yoga Paws

Tags: hatha yoga, ashtanga yoga, forgiveness, laura grace ford, self discovery, yoga for transformation, Chuck Miller

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