Articles


Articles, writings and books written by Norman

The moon through sun-blushed clouds

Book

Brightening our inner skies by Norman Blair
Brightening Our Inner Skies: Yin and Yoga practically and provocatively explores yoga, self-transformation and social responsibility.

Both a meditation on the role of yoga practice in the world, including Norman's personal journey, and a Yin yoga manual with over 140 photographs of poses as well as suggested sequences, this book takes the practice of yoga and self to profound levels through stories, images and well-researched debates.

Brightening Our Inner Skies can be purchased online or in fine bookshops in the UK and North America.

If you would like to buy 5 or more copies, please contact Norman direct.

“Highly recommended…Brightening Our Inner Skies has inspired me to remember the sweet heart at the centre of yoga practice, and the importance that the consistent practice of self-awareness has for each of us as individuals and for the world around us.” - Judith Hanson Lasater


Writings

20 October 2020
Shit happens. Unfortunately, this pandemic situation is going to continue for many more months. It is clear that everyone is at risk from coronavirus, so good questions as policies change and lockdowns restart are: what can we do and how can we get through this?...

22 September 2020
I am not a doctor nor a medical professional...This pandemic has many teachings...My aspiration is to encourage discussion as paths to empowering and engaging.

10 September 2020
Things were already challenging for many yoga teachers and many yoga studios pre-pandemic. Pay not meaningfully increased for most teachers for years. Studio financial margins limited. The parasitical vampires – ClassPass, MindBodyOnline, MoveGB – taking increasingly large chunks of the pie. Yogaland features included bullying studio managers and studio co-ordinators with their favourites – thus making a mockery of talk about inclusivity, diversity, fairness…

Update to this article, Sept 24. Good news – on 21 September in response to Triyoga teachers expressing unhappiness about proposed new pay rates, Triyoga management sent a letter to their teachers: "We heard clearly what you said...we have decided to lift the minimum guarantee to £30 for an hour, £35 for 75 minutes and £40 for 90 minutes.”

10 September 2020
In these changing circumstances, one strategy from some studios has been the hybrid class. This is simultaneous online livestreaming while teaching a physical class….

Live Well, Live Long
10 June 2020
These are notes that I took from Live Well Live Long: Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition by Peter Deadman (Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2016)…Research shows that following a healthy lifestyle confers surprisingly large benefits to health. Healthy behaviours have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure ...

28 May 2020
“In the steep learning curve of yoga studios during a pandemic, there are positive stories…”

Saturday 25 April 2020
"On Saturday 14 March 2020, the first deaths from coronavirus were reported in New York City. On that same day in the UK, 21 people had died from coronavirus… Paths that were considered to be impossible have suddenly become passable. It is in our hands”

March 2020
"If you’ve never heard Tom Waits tell the story of the crooked tree, then you have missed something remarkable…Welcome in the vulnerability of being human…”

February 2020
"A succinct summarising of this essay could be ‘how do we stay well when working in the wellness industry?’ It continues the ongoing discussions around yoga teachers’ pay and the economics of yoga teaching… It is good to remember that we do have the influence and the power to revalue this practice that we love.”

January 2020
These are notes taken from The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis: healing personal, cultural and ecological imbalance with Chinese Medicine by Brendan Kelly (North Atlantic Books, 2015). I hope these notes will inspire insights, encourage action and that you read this great book … 'The transition from the Yang to the Yin is coming. The only real issue is how gracefully we’ll make the transition.’

January 2020
Notes from The Yoga Teacher Mentor: a Reflective Guide to Holding Spaces, Maintaining Boundaries and Creating Inclusive Classes by Jess Glenny (Singing Dragon, 2020). I highly recommend this book. In my opinion The Yoga Teacher Mentor is of great benefit to yoga teachers...'Teaching yoga is a life-long journey involving commitment to practice, awareness and investigation into our own unfolding experience’"

November 2019
Rates of pay in yoga teaching can be a subject of intense discussion. Having such discussion is important and healthy… What seems to be carved in stone can be shifted with practices such as speaking truth and applying pressure… Ensuring sustainable rates of pay and elevating teaching quality are different sides of the same coin.

October 2019
In the last ten years, more books have been written and published on yoga than in the last fifty years. Some of these books are excellent, some good, some ok. Recently I read Yoga Biomechanics: stretching redefined by Jules Mitchell…

July 2019
This word ‘mentoring’ has numerous aspects. One is a process that helps us to wake up to who we really are. Another is a journey where we are facing fears, observing personal limits and making difficult decisions. A third possibility is a path that helps us to keep things in perspective. Yet another could be a dialogue between people with differing levels of experience…

Why Yoga?
July 2019
It's a question that I am sure many people ask themselves...
Why practice yoga? Well, to begin with, because it is enjoyable. If practising yoga did not bring some enjoyment, then I would stop. The process of stretching and opening tissue within the body is intensely rewarding not only for the future, but in this present moment too.

Let’s Talk About Too…
February 2019
In January 2019, I published an online article on yoga teachers’ pay, Let’s Talk About…. It stimulated considerable response, both from teachers and studios, as it mentioned the unmentionable: speaking openly about pay rates and calling for clarity on topics that some studios wish to keep secret. This article continues that conversation and refines the information about yoga teachers’ pay based on feedback from teachers and studios… This topic will not be silently squashed back into a box. (February 2019)

Let’s Talk About…
February 2019
Yoga teachers and pay. A fascinating subject that pushes buttons. It is one that a lot of us avoid. Face facts – most of us did not become yoga teachers because we want to earn vast sums of money… In my years of teaching yoga, the rates of pay have stayed substantially the same… It can almost be considered ‘unyogic’ to talk about money. But this view is not grounded in reality… No wonder so many teachers feel devalued, disempowered and worn down. No wonder so many teachers are straining to manage and finding it really quite difficult…

Wisdom & Wellbeing in education settings
October 2018
We are in the midst of a planetary crisis - socially, environmentally and politically. Prevailing economics favour growth, at any cost. Among young people, mental health issues and obesity, among other issues, are dramatically rising.
Against the wider context of increasingly stark environmental predictions, we urgently need to provide children with tools to support their wellbeing today and enhance their resilience to meet whatever demands will come in the future. Wisdom & Wellbeing aims to do just that. 

Helping Hands: guiding, mentoring supervising
August 2018
A well-known short story is The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Of course, loneliness is very much part of human life – and working on our own (as we often are doing as yoga teachers) can accentuate these lonely feelings… My aspiration is that the mentor groups provide support to enable sustainability. Few yoga TTs offer ongoing support after graduation. Many yoga TTs can be limited and basic. A 200-hour training is a drop in the ocean. Of course, we all have to start somewhere. But continuing learning and continuing support is essential for us to evolve and grow as yoga teachers.

My Brother: A Eulogy
August 2018
4.30pm. Friday 8 June. I was in a café near Angel, north London. A text came through: “Are you free for a call in 5 minutes? Bad news I’m afraid.” I guessed what could have happened. Stepping outside the café, I had that conversation…

Ashtanga Yoga Stories
June 2018
This is not Instagram. This is a long look at Ashtanga yoga and the current discussion regarding it. I have attempted to write with love and clarity…

Some Words of Advice for People on Yoga Teacher Trainings
June 2017
Over the past fifteen years, I have been involved in many yoga Teacher Trainings: as a participant, as an assistant, as a teacher. Much can happen! Expectations are disappointed, buttons pressed, hopes disillusioned. Inevitably there are fears, insecurities and negativities.

Yin Teaching Tips
June 2017
Here are some ideas for how we can teach Yin yoga. This is from my experience and the experience of other teachers. 

What are we doing? The spinning wheels of social media
April 2017
Personally I have an addictive temperament. Cannabis, chocolate, sweet things, amphetamines, needing to be seen. All these I have been addicted to at different times…what encourages calm perception and what heightens hysteria? What assists transformation and what fuels materialistic consuming? What clarifies and what mesmerises?

The Great Fall
June 2016
Anything does happen; it is true... Life is constantly surprising with its swerve balls and sudden shifts... it happened very suddenly because I had fallen headfirst down the stairs. 14 stairs from top to bottom. En route I banged into an able crystal, breaking it into two with my head. I think that I have a thick skull!

Many Savasanas
September 2015
Depending on perspective, savasana is either very easy or very advanced… With savasana, there can be a beautiful letting go of everything. There are many ways of being in savasana… These are a few ideas and obviously you can mix these suggestions… In these deep states of relaxation, we get much more grounded in the parasympathetic nervous system – where we are less reactive, less defensive, less closed; where we are more responsive, more receptive, more open… The body requires proper rest...

Limbs Twigs Lists
September 2015
There is great suffering in this world. There are tens of thousands of human beings putting themselves at enormous personal risk in their flight from war, fear, disaster and strife... there are countless individual stories of difficulty and illness, of loss and struggle. A question for us is, 'What can we do?' In asking ourselves this question, we are applying our awareness to what is in and around us. An essential part of awareness is considering our personal behaviour and how we live our lives. This can be called a matter of ethics and morality.

Being Flexible about Flexibility
September 2015
"When I first taught yoga in 2001, I did not know what hypermobility or being too flexible meant. I remember Richard Freeman saying in June 2005, “the curse of flexibility and the blessing of stiffness”... The way that I practice and teach Yin yoga has changed considerably... In my Ashtanga practice, I used to drop back into urdhva dhanurasana and (sometimes) come back up to standing. Now I don’t. Change happens."

This Body
August 2015
"It began on the first Saturday of August... With the participants in something like child’s pose, I head for the toilets to throw up. Now this is a first for me: throwing up in the middle of teaching a yoga workshop!”

Sparks, meridians and more
August 2014
Notes from The Spark in the Machine: how the science of acupuncture is explaining the mysteries of western medicine by Daniel Keown and Theories of the Chakras by Hiroshi Motoyama

Journeys, Plans, Memories: small steps towards greater connections
August 2014
Events from my life and the influence of various forms of practice on my life; reflects on a few of these experiences as a way of learning and hopefully helping, a transmission of stories from warm hand to warm hand.

Stretching
August 2014
Considering the words, comedy and nuggets of wisdom in Neal Pollock's book Stretch

Yin Yoga Manual
October 2013
Philosophy, practice, principles, postures of yin yoga.

January 2013
Looking at the joys and pains of Bikram with a nod to Ashtanga, inspired by Hell-Bent and Sacred Fire. 

Broken Gods, Breaking Hearts: Pedestals, Boundaries, Pitfalls
May 2012
To start with words from a song by Katy Perry: “lost my discretion…caught my attention” (‘I kissed a girl’). This article is an attempt to make sense of our relationships within the yoga world (particularly that of teacher/student). It proposes specific ways of dealing with some of the difficulties that arise within these relationships. And it is significantly inspired by what has been happening with John Friend and Anusara. 

Other Ways of Seeing
March 2012
Too often we are too stuck in ways of seeing: how we perceive this world and our lives. This piece attempts to encourage a different way of seeing drawing inspiration from Buddhist teachings and radical politics such as the Occupy movement.

Quotes and more quotes
March 2012 
Words from various people about practice, meditation and yoga.

Journeying and Resisting
February 2012
A review of three quite different books.

Some of my favourite quotings
October 2011
Quotes that I have collected over the last ten years.

The Box - Being inside looking outside: an ashtanga story
June 2011
The purpose of writing is to encourage debate and dialogue amongst practitioners. Some of what is written might be controversial but this is not a rocking of the boat simply for the sake of provocation. If I see an elephant in the room it needs to be said – even if that elephant is Ganesh. This is a heartfelt attempt towards understanding this tradition and the possibilities for transformation.

Yoga and yoga and yoga
February 2011
A comparison of different tendencies within yoga from the commercialised to the radicalised.

An interview with Lizzie
January 2011
A catch-up and a chat with yogi blogger Lizzie Reumont after a yin yoga class.

Bodies and minds in yoga: a response to 'Yoga Body'
February 2010
An examining of the roots of yoga practice and what influences the physical postures.

Mindfulness meditation
October 2010
Practical ideas and resources for establishing a meditation practice.

Review of 'Joyful Wisdom' 
May 2010
A review of Joyful Wisdom by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.

108 things I learnt at Gaia House
September 2008
Some thoughts after a meditation retreat.

January 2005
Reasons to practice yoga.