Blog

June 19, 2017

Can we get out of our own way?

Alex02Do you have a favourite class? Or perhaps you have a favourite teacher, the person you believe you can learn the most from? If you do, it’s unlikely that your favourite teacher will be a fish! But why not? After all, the first Yoga teacher of all was a fish. The tradition is that Lord Shiva was talking about Yoga to his wife, Parvati, as they sat beside the river. A fish swimming in the water was so entranced by what he overheard that he asked Lord Shiva to repeat it all to him. Shiva happily did so and then he instructed this fish, Matsya, to go out and teach others about Yoga and share what he had learned. Lord Shiva didn’t make any judgement based on appearance, age, religion, gender or even species. All he saw was Matsya’s sincere desire to learn Yoga. 

Why is it so difficult for us to get over our prejudices? Why is it so difficult for us to believe that a god would teach a fish the Truth? After all the Vedantic teachings, which influenced early Yoga philosophy, say that all is Brahman, that there is nothing in this universe but God. From this it follows that the nature of all beings is divine, whatever their outer form, and therefore a great Guru or teacher could appear in any shape — or indeed species — provided our eyes are open enough to recognise this, as Shiva could.

Patañjali teaches that “the greatest obstacle to the practice of Yoga is one’s own prejudices based on one’s own preferences” (hānam eṣāṃ kleśavad uktam PYS 4.28). So we might say that one of the aims of Yoga is to open our eyes to our inevitable preferences so that we can observe how this influences our behaviour. With time and practice, when our prejudices arise or our expectations aren’t fulfilled, we might find ourselves less thrown off balance and more able to cope with things not going our way.

Maybe next time in class you notice yourself labelling poses as ones you like or dislike, you can let go of the preferences and simply experience each āsana for what it is. Or if you can’t get your usual favourite spot in the room, you can be equally content to roll your mat out in a different place. You might make a new friend there. And teachers appear in unexpected places.

By Alessandro

Alessandro teaches Jivamukti Vinyasa Yoga on Tuesdays at 18.45, Lotus Flow Advanced Vinyasa on Thursdays at 19.15, Vinyasa Yoga at 07.00 on Fridays, Hot Power at 10.00 on Fridays, and 2 hour Vinyasa on Sundays at 9.30.

June 7, 2017

Please vote for us!

Vote for your favourite business in the Bucks & Oxon in the Muddy Stilettos Awards 2017


Best Yoga/Pilates Studio - Please vote for us!

We’re in the finals of the Bucks & Oxon Muddy Awards for best Yoga/Pilates Studio and it’s all thanks to you!

Please take a minute to vote for us in the finals by clicking the Muddy Awards logo. Votes from the nominations round do not count towards the total in the final, so if you've voted for us previously, we'd love it if you could vote again.

Thank you so much for your support.


June 6, 2017

Why I’m doing the 108 Sun Salutations, and why you should do it with me!


108 sun salutations posterOn 17th June YogaVenue is hosting a charity event to raise money for a small boy in the Dominican Republic (the cousin of one of YogaVenue’s teachers) who urgently needs extraordinarily expensive surgery in the US.  The very fact that we in this country are lucky enough not to have to spend the price of a big house on hospital bills if we or our children get ill, is reason enough to take part in an event like this.  However there are a few other reasons why I’m getting involved, and why I think you’d be missing out if you didn't do it too.

The first reason is because it’s a challenge.  I’ve never tried doing 108 sun salutations in a row, and so I don’t know if I can.  I know there’s a chance I might find it difficult, and it might take me outside my comfort zone.  But if we spend our whole lives inside our comfort zones then we are apt to feel limited, trapped inside a small world where everything outside feels more and more daunting.  To linger awhile in the ‘don’t know’ place, just occasionally, readies us to face challenges in the future and builds our internal strength.  And to face a challenge and to succeed is one of the best feelings in the world.

The second reason is because lots of the YogaVenue teachers are getting involved, and we’ll be teaching in relay.  This is a very rare opportunity to experience loads of different teaching styles in one afternoon, and you might just discover something new that really speaks to you.

The third reason is because it is an experience you won’t find in a normal Yoga class - doing a small set of actions over and over and over again can bring the human bodymind into a trancelike state.  It’s been a part of spiritual practice for millennia, in many different religions (think the Sufi whirling, Catholic Hail Marys, Buddhist chanting) and also through all kinds of dance traditions.  Through repetition it is possible to achieve a higher state of consciousness.  At the very least you are likely to find an exquisite stillness in the flowing movement; to focus on one thing and one thing alone, such as how it feels to move through the asanas of the sun salute with the breath, is a powerful meditative practice which can be very beneficial for mental health and happiness.

The fourth and final reason is community. Ana Forrest, the creator of Forrest Yoga, calls it ‘mending the hoop of the people’.  If you come and join us for the 108 then you have a chance to contribute to strengthening the yoga community in Oxford. We will spend two hours moving together with the sole intent of helping little Nicolas to heal, and healing ourselves in the process.  

Hope to see you on the 17th!

Love,
Hinny

Click here for more information about the event.

May 23, 2017

A study into the effect of exercise on appetite in older adults


Increasing physical activity in older adults has been shown to have many benefits, including benefits to heart health, musculoskeletal health and mental health! We are interested in looking at yet another way in which becoming more physical active can help older people….

In the UK a significant proportion of older adults - aged 65 and over - do not meet the energy intake requirements recommended by the government. This is likely to be due to a loss of appetite during aging. Older adults have also been found to have a decreased rate of gastric emptying – this means that their stomach empties food more slowly than younger adults. As food is held within the stomach for longer, a feeling of ‘fullness’ persists and feelings of hunger after meals are delayed. This delay in stomach emptying may drive a loss of appetite and consequently inadequate energy intake. Insufficient intake can have many consequences, including nutrient deficiencies and compromised immunity, putting individuals at greater risk of illness.

Some studies in younger and older adults have shown that being more physically active may help improve sensitivity to feelings of hunger and fullness, and also increase the rate at which the stomach empties. We want to see in our study if asking older adults to become more physically active will affect their appetite, food intake and the rate at which their stomach empties.

Our study involves 3 main visits:

  • At the first visit, which will last between 1 and 2 hours, participants will be given devices to wear which will track their activity levels and pedometers which will tell them the number of steps they are taking. They will be asked to record the food they eat for 3 days and the number of steps they take for a week.
  • At the second visit, which will take place at least 1 week later and last between 4 and 5 hours, participants will be asked to eat a test meal and the rate at which their stomach empties will be measured – this will require some gentle breathing into a glass tube to obtain breath samples over 3 hours. They will also be asked to rate how hungry they feel and how much of an appetite they have before and after the meal. Participants will then be asked to increase their activity by walking an additional 2500 steps each day in a twenty to thirty-minute period for 4 weeks. Participants will continue recording their steps and will record the food they eat for 3 days again in the fourth week.
  • After 4 weeks, at the third and final visit, the rate their stomach empties will be measured again after a test meal and they will be asked again to rate their feelings of hunger and appetite. This visit will again last between 4 and 5 hours.

There are a few criteria that volunteers must meet to partake in the study. These include being a non-smoker aged 65 or over, with the ability to walk unassisted and safely participate in moderate-intensity exercise (for those over 69 we ask that you double check this with your doctor).

If you would like to get involved, know someone who would or would like further information, please contact Hannah Brennan (16037034@brookes.ac.uk) or Jessica Cooper (16036776@brookes.ac.uk). Hannah and Jessica are completing this study as part of an MSc in Applied Human Nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Alternatively, you may wish to contact the project supervisor, Dr Miriam Clegg on mclegg@brookes.ac.uk.



May 18, 2017

Music and Yoga


Music blog 1

I love music. I love the way it can shift moods. I love the way certain songs can remind us of a place or person. It has the ability to touch hearts, but how does music affect our Yoga practice?

I asked some friends and colleagues and found it to be a very personal subject, with advantages to some being disadvantages to others! Many felt that music helped to keep them present in class, quietening their busy minds. It helped to keep them going in particularly challenging sequences. I agree it can be a very powerful tool to energise students, as well as helping to quiet and ground at the beginning or end of class.

At YogaVenue, I’m lucky enough to teach classes that have playlists, and those that do not, and there can be a big difference in the way each class feels. Not better or worse, just different.  I believe the right song at the right moment can be magic, releasing strong emotions, and I often hear students ask their teachers questions such as, “what song were you playing during Ardha Chandrasana?” and know they must have felt some magic there too.

However, in the busy world that we live in, classes without music certainly have their place and can be very powerful. We’re often unfamiliar with silence, and for many, it can be almost uncomfortable. Other students and teachers that I spoke with said they found music in class too distracting, and because it is so subjective, created an extra challenge to stay present when the genre didn’t resonate with them.

Music will forever divide opinion, in and out of the studio, which is why we offer both styles at YogaVenue, so you can find the practice that best suits you.

But, perhaps, if you always practice to music, you might try rolling out your mat in silence and listening only to the breath. It is pretty magic too.

music blog 2

By Jill

Jill teaches Fierce Grace Hot Power Yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 18.00 and Hot Power Yoga on Sundays at 10.00.


May 6, 2017

Early morning class? It’s a set-up!


Oxford sunrise
Ask most of us who go, what the benefit is of going to an early class and we’ll say “it sets us up for the day”. But what does that mean? There are lists aplenty that detail the benefits of a morning practice; it’s habit-forming, it stimulates the immune system and can improve our sleep patterns, yet this is true of most morning exercise or activity. Plus, knowledge of pros and cons does not always transfer into wise decision making!

So, why do I drag myself out of bed to cycle through varying weather at 06:30, specifically to get to a Yoga class?

It’s 06:45 when I arrive bleary-eyed at the studio and I am at my least physically malleable. I occupy a half-space between sleep and wakefulness. My mind is slow and quiet, compared to my waking day. In this respect, I am at my best for practice. The stiffness in my body from hours of sleep lends itself to more considered movement. Less concerned with achievement, my attention turns inward.

keyte blog morning practiceThis inverted attention allows me to introduce integrity, rigour and commitment to asana that I may normally fly past, through or into. Low lunges take on new meaning, cat/cow movements are a warming delight and any idea of touching the floor in trikonasana leaves me completely, the concern instead becoming the openness of hips and heart.

Now compare this to an evening practice. I’ve been awake and at work. Like it or not, I bring that all onto the mat with me. Some days I can leave that behind and concentrate, but other days it is impossible to not think of work/the cat/paying bills/what’s for supper, in downward facing dog. Not only that but I’ve at least an hour or two of movement behind me and my ego has been tested throughout the day. I’m more likely to push, to try new things and perhaps, even achieve them. Class ends, I go home and eat, then sleep.

Back to the morning and it’s now 08:15. I emerge from my mat, my morning practice, having fully transitioned to being alive. I’ve done my physical Yoga, opening the door for all the other things Yoga is and can be. I have a sense of achievement. Moreover, I go into my day calm and relaxed. Work stress just becomes work and I’m more open and respectful to people and their lives. I’m more likely to choose a better breakfast, I’m more aware of the physicality of the body and I’m deeply aware of the breath in my chest. I am fully set up!

So why is it that I bother getting up in the small hours to crawl to class? Because I never regret it.

By Keyte

Keyte teaches Vinyasa Yoga on Mondays at 7am.

April 27, 2017

Asana for your spine

Derek blog post 2

Breakfast never tastes better than after early morning Yoga on a Sunday! For the next six weeks from April 30th to June 4th, we will explore that most amazing of nature’s creations, our spines. In my own physical practice, I find the greatest joy comes from sensation generated in the spine. I had the great privilege in the past of helping to teach paraplegics, whose only access to sensation is through the spine. They were able to focus straight away on where an energetic response is most prominent in the body, without being distracted by anything else. In asana practice there is a lot of functional benefit from the Yoga and a lot of pleasure derived from the endorphins released by physical exercise. But there is nothing like the sheer juiciness and joy that happens when we start to connect with our spines. It is also a bridge between the world of tissues and bones and the more subtle energetic world. 

So I am inviting you to come and explore with me in the context of a full asana practice. Each class will focus on different ways the spine moves. Short sequences are used to emphasise a particular orientation of the spine, which also prepares the body for a peak pose, suitable both for the beginner and the fine tuning of the experienced yogi. These poses are ones we usually come across in vinyasa classes but rarely have the time to explore. It can be very interesting as to how the challenge of a peak posture is worked with. We can be with it in the same way that we face a high jump. There is only success or failure. But how much more nourishing it is to approach each posture like a research project. In what way can I work with this pose so that suits me and offers deep satisfaction? This is the real challenge. So we don't even adapt postures, as though we were doing less of something. We uncover a way of practising them so that we make a posture our own. The opportunity in these classes is to take a little time, with some help, to orientate to the opportunity presented by your own body. In any one posture however modest there are endless subtleties to what we uncover.

Derek blog post 3

The sequence of the next six weeks is as follows.

Sunday 30th April. Mobility the spine. Peak pose. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog). Research the fluidity of upward dog and discover and fine tune whichever way of moving in the posture best suits you at the moment.

Sunday 7th of May. Extension of the spine. The body is prepared for backbends. Develop whichever backbend is best for you as a peak pose, whether this is simple bridge posture, or even dropping back.

Sunday 14th of May. Side bending of the spine. Peak poses Utthita Trikonasana, (extended triangle pose) and Ardha Candrasana (half-moon pose).

Sunday 21st of May. Twisting of the spine. Peak pose Parivrtta Trikonasana. (revolved triangle pose)

Sunday 28th of May. Flexion of the spine. Forward bends. Peak pose. Pascimottanasana (stretch of the West pose) plus a mystery pose!

Sunday 4th of June. The ultimate spine stretcher. The modesty of Adho Mukha Svaanasana (downward dog).

Derek blog post 1

By Derek Elliot

Derek teaches Restorative Yoga on Mondays at 19.45 and Hatha Yoga on Sundays at 08.15.



April 24, 2017

What is Forrest Yoga?

Hinny 2It is with great delight that I can introduce myself as the newest addition to YogaVenue’s teaching team. My name is Hinny Wass and I teach Forrest Yoga.  If you’ve not tried Forrest Yoga before, let me explain a little about the class and what to expect.

What is Forrest Yoga?

Forrest Yoga is a form of Vinyasa Yoga developed by Ana Forrest.  It aims to counteract the damage done by sitting in front of a computer for long hours, calm stress, replace numbness with feeling, and help practitioners shift the physical and emotional blocks which are limiting them. Here are a few things that Forrest Yoga is known for:

1) A relaxed neck

When your body perceives stress it reacts in the only way it knows: by getting you ready to run or fight.  Blood flow is directed away from ‘non-essential’ areas like the stomach and the brain, and breathing is taken up into the top of the chest, using the muscles of the neck and around the collarbones to drag air quickly into the lungs.  So far, so evolutionary.  The only problem is that the body then senses that it is in stress response and concludes that there must be something to be stressed about!  It’s a feedback loop: stress causes stress.  In a Forrest Yoga class we will work with a relaxed neck, which helps students break this cycle by changing the posture to tell the body that everything is fine. It may seem a little different but you get used to it very quickly.

Forrest hinny2) Abs, abs, abs!

When people think about Forrest Yoga they think of abs! There is a good dose of abdominal work in every Forrest class.  Abs exercises help to strengthen the core which improves your balance and protects your spine.  They’re also really good for releasing tension in the low back, and helping with digestive problems.  A key aspect of Forrest Yoga is developing muscle tone around the joints, so that the joints are protected and kept spacious.  Strong abdominal muscles mean you can begin to lift up out of any collapse in the hips and low back, reducing the risk of injury and the risk of pain from trapped nerves.  

3) Active feet

Just as strong abs help protect the low back and hips, active feet turn on the muscles that protect the ankle and knee joints.  One of my favourite things about my Forrest Yoga practice is feeling the upward lift and feeling of space inside that muscular strength enables.

4) Spirit

Spirit is best defined as your essence, your you-ish-ness, your intuition. Forrest Yoga aims to help students begin to listen to, and honour, the voice of their Spirit.  This starts with learning to use movement and breath to track feeling, and is one of the most important and exciting journeys a person can take.  

By Hinny Wass

The best way to find out more about Forrest Yoga is to come try a class! Hinny teaches Forrest Yoga every Friday at 10.30am.

April 4, 2017

Going Beyond

Yoga Venue 2nd Shoot November - Potters Instinct Photography-64

If you look around the Yoga room at rows of strong, almost majestic Warrior 2 postures, it would be easy to think that Yoga is all about strength and holding our bodies firmly in position. But look again. Under the grand gesture of this posture, you'll see softness too, and maybe some tiny movements as we work towards a subtle letting go of shoulder tension, relaxing the muscles of the face and jaw, perhaps a softening of the front hip to allow a deeper posture to emerge.

The inner warrior, not the outer form, is what Yoga is concerned with. By using the breath as a vehicle to take us deeper inside, our concerns with the physical shape start to melt away. Eventually our perception of the outer form of the posture dissolves until we truly become one with the asana. We embody ‘shunyata’ (emptiness). Empty of the idea of how separate or individual we are and a realization that we are all connected; “empty of a separate self but full of everything in the cosmos” (Thich Nhat Hanh). In such moments we become awake to the wonders of life.

It is difficult. To find this place we must let go of our preconceptions and the way we habitually perceive our existence. We must get curious and start to enquire into the true nature of things, going beyond the layers of knowing to which we have subscribed for so long. So in class recently we've been drawing some inspiration and help from this line in the Buddhist text the Heart Sutra: 

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha

Gone, gone, real gone, beyond even the most gone. Ultimate wisdom remains when everything has dropped away.

It encourages us to consider the nature of emptiness, not in the negative sense of lacking all meaning, but the idea of going beyond the surface to look into the very essence of things, the interconnected vastness of existence, beyond the small self which is the part of life we usually fixate on.

It suggests that letting go and allowing things to be fully gone (parasamgate) can take us beyond our limited perceptions of ourselves, perhaps towards enlightenment (bodhi) and certainly towards a greater sense of freedom. And if all this sounds difficult, the final word in the chant, Swaha, reminds us to be joyful and celebrate ourselves. The small changes we choose to make along the way and the efforts we offer in our practice are worth celebrating.

alessandro profile_copyBy Alessandro Gozzi

Alessandro teaches Jivamukti Vinyasa yoga on Tuesdays at 18.45; Lotus Flow Vinyasa (advanced) on Thursdays at 19.15; Vinyasa Yoga on Fridays at 07.00; Hot Power Yoga on Fridays at 10.00; and a 2 hour Vinyasa class on Sundays at 09.30.




March 27, 2017

Yoga during pregnancy; Yes or No?

Recently we have had a lot of pregnant ladies come to the studio. Congratulations to you if you are one of these ladies!

There is a lot of mixed information about whether one should practise Yoga during pregnancy. Every case is different and every teacher and studio will have a different approach to this. At YogaVenue, the most important thing is the wellbeing of this new life and the mother responsible for nurturing it. It is not a time to worry about gaining weight, pushing yourself to extremes or taking on too much.

Pregnancy yoga 2_copyIn general it is advised not to practise Yoga during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. There is so much happening within the body at this time. Thousands of new cells are developing each day so it is a time to be gentle and allow these changes to take place and embrace them. Many women feel sluggish, heavier and sick, so resting and light exercise is what is advisable. Once the 14 week mark has passed and you’ve been given the ok by your doctor we recommend starting pregnancy Yoga. Pregnancy Yoga can support the body as it changes and prepares it for birth. There are many things in a regular Yoga class that you should do or change when pregnant. It’s more than just avoiding lying on your front, it is how you stand, you breathe, and much more. Many women find they get back pain and can feel tightness in certain areas or a sense of looseness in other areas. Any exercise you do needs to support this and a trained pregnancy Yoga teacher can help through this process. Also being in an environment with other pregnant ladies can be extremely supportive.

Our approach is the same whether you are new to Yoga or have been practising for years. When I was pregnant I didn’t practise for the first 14 weeks (actually it was longer as I had terrible morning sickness!), than when I was ready I resumed a gentle pregnancy Yoga practice. I did not attend our classes at the studio, instead had one to one classes with Anne Marie (who is an amazing pregnancy Yoga teacher!) and practised at home instead.

We get asked a lot why can’t pregnant ladies join our regular classes after the 14 week mark? There are many reasons for this, first off, we are not trained pregnancy Yoga teachers. Don’t get me wrong, all our teachers are very well trained in the styles they teach and may have touched on pregnancy during their trainings, but apart from Anne Marie none are trained to teach pregnant ladies. Secondly, unless you have a very well established practice and are responsible and understanding of your limitations, and know pregnancy Yoga, it’s hard to modify your practice and keep up in a strong group class, and this can make one feel a bit left out and vulnerable to risk. The one exception to this (that a lot of people find surprising) is with the Hot 26 class, which does have a pregnancy Yoga sequence. So, if you practise the Hot 26 class and have done so regularly (at least 3 times a week regularly) for 6 months prior to pregnancy you can continue with your practice after the 14 week mark and do the modified series in the class. But before you do this you need to get in touch with us.

Pregnancy is such a special time in any women’s life and those that experience it are truly blessed. It’s a time to let nature takes it course and do its job, so take a step back, embrace these changes, don’t worry about gaining weight or what you look like etc… and just be. We will be here when your pregnancy has ended and you are ready to get back to class.

Any questions about practising Yoga during pregnancy just email us at info@yogavenue.co.uk.

Caroline05-200x300


By Caroline Gozzi

Caroline teaches Hot 26, Hot Power and Hot HIIT Yoga classes at YogaVenue.


March 11, 2017

Night Night, Sleep Tight?

Restorative 1 - YogaVenue_copy

If you’ve ever had one of those nights when you just can’t fall asleep, you’ll appreciate how frustrating and exhausting insomnia can be. I count myself lucky that those times are few and far between but, for some, it’s a nightly battle.
 
There are many causes of insomnia. Unsurprisingly, stress is one of the main culprits but a multitude of other factors can influence whether or not you get a good night’s sleep: diet, exercise (or lack of), overstimulation (caffeine, alcohol, technology), hormones, moon phases, seasonal shifts can all play a part.

katie restorative blog
Fortunately, there are many methods of combating sleeplessness that don’t involve drugs, including practising Yoga. Here are just a few of the ways Yoga can help to promote better sleep:

  • The regular practice of asana, pranayama and meditation can change the way we deal with stress. Through our Yoga practice we can learn new methods of coping with feelings of overwhelm, negativity and mind chatter, making it easier to drop off at night.
  • Expending energy through an asana practice is a healthy way to reduce feelings of restlessness, encouraging calmness in both body and mind and ensuring you’re ready for a good night’s sleep.
  • Slower, more passive, practices such as Yin and Restorative Yoga can be especially helpful during periods of insomnia as they soothe the nervous system and encourage relaxation.

Supported Savasana is one of my favourite Restorative Yoga postures and is brilliant if you’re having trouble sleeping. Practise just before bed to bring your para-sympathetic nervous system into dominance and ensure a restful night’s slumber:

  • Come to lie down on your back with a bolster or bed pillow(s) under your knees. You may want to support your ankles with a rolled blanket or towel. Place a folded blanket under your head and a blanket over your body - it’s important you’re warm and comfortable.
  • Dim the lights, better still, light some candles and if you have an oil burner add some lavender oil (seek advice on using essential oils if pregnant). Make sure you can be undisturbed.
  • If you have an eye pillow, place this on your forehead to help quieten your mind.
  • Allow your breath to be natural and your body to soften. Notice your thoughts but try not to get caught up in them. When this happens (as it will!) come back to the breath.
  • Stay for at least 20 minutes if you can.
  • After your practice: avoid caffeine, instead try this Golden Milk recipe which aids relaxation and also boosts the immune system; don’t be tempted to turn on the TV or laptop. Instead, leave the tech in another room and snuggle up in bed.
  • Sleep tight!

By Katie Phelps

Katie teaches Vinyasa and Restorative Yoga at YogaVenue. She also has an upcoming workshop on Yoga for Better Sleep on Saturday 18th March - click here for more information and to reserve a space.

February 18, 2017

Yoga and Fitness

If you are anything like me and you rely on regular physical activity to keep you mentally and physically fit, then there is nothing worse than getting an injury that puts you out of the game for a period of time. In the summer of 2014, I suffered a double injury on the left side of my lower back and piriformis during a friendly volleyball match.

Fitness 1Imagine the scene:
First time around, the ball is in play, strong outside hit cross court by a male player - I’m outside receiver on the other side of the court, in position within the three-metre line. Bam, the ball hits my forearms so hard that I fall back on my bum immediately on impact. The sharp stabbing pain was instantaneous. I try to save myself some embarrassment by quickly standing up and assuring my team members I was O.K. The opposition wins the point - of course.

Next ball: exact same play, serve, receive, set, hit, Sarah on the floor - only this time I fall on my back and not my bum, and I cannot continue playing. We lose the point.

Fast forward a few weeks of rest and a couple of physiotherapy sessions, my body seems to be on the mend, but I am paralysed by the fear of hurting myself again. I force myself back to training where the smallest rise in my heart rate sends me into a panic.

I stop all physical activity then for about a month, and I begin to notice the impact on my mood: I feel low, sluggish, unattractive and flabby. I am increasingly stressed about the final days of my PhD and I stop caring whether I eat pizza three nights in a row.

Out for coffee, a friend tells me about a Hot 26 class he has become obsessed with - he told me he Fitness 2would not miss a day and he felt great! I had practised Yoga in the past to improve my flexibility and muscle-recovery after intense gym and sports activities, and had tried hot Yoga once before. He looked so happy and wide-eyed that I decided to give it another go. I consulted with my physiotherapist who confirmed the benefits that hot Yoga was known to have on people with back injuries.

Within three classes, I was used to the heat and felt motivated again. Within a week I could feel lighter and I welcomed the slight rise in my heart rate during class. Within a month, I noticed better muscle tone and muscle shape. I soon discovered that a combination of hot and Vinyasa Yoga was helping me achieve many of the fitness goals I had had in the past.

So, if you ask me, from my experience, is Yoga good for overall fitness and for recovering after injury? Yes, absolutely.

That said, I cannot end my story without mentioning the gifts Yoga has afforded me, which I did not receive in all the years I dedicated to team sports and the gym: having a calmer mind and a lighter body, did more to my soul and my spirit than the recovery I experienced physically. Yes, I began to re-strengthen my core which has been helping me heal from my injury slowly and over time. But more than that, making Yoga part of my fitness regime and part of my life has helped me find self-love, body awareness, positivity and balance.

Fitness 3Like you I am sure, I have a full life with lots of demands, deadlines and detractors. Being physically active is important to me as it may be for you. Explosive, high intensity exercise helps to feel invigorated and to develop speed and power by activating fast-twitch muscle fibres. In Yoga, slow, controlled, breath-minded movement triggers slow-twitch muscle fibres which help with endurance and relaxation. Why not have both? 

For my part, I have made a new year’s resolution. Against all anxieties, I have decided to go back to fitness training, but this time, without fear of getting hurt again, in the place where I feel most safe and at home: my Yoga mat.

By Sarah Puello

Sarah completed her Spiralling Crow Vinyasa and Hot Power teacher training in 2016. She teaches Hot Power and Hot HIIT Yoga.

January 31, 2017

Dealing with winter blues

Suze blogWinter can be a beautiful season. Snow angels, frosty countryside walks, precious time with the family over the holidays.  However, for many people it can be a mentally, emotionally and physically draining time. They might feel lethargic, withdraw from friends and family, and are more irritable and agitated than usual and suffer from the “winter blues”.

Although little research has been done so far on how Yoga affects the winter blues, there are many studies showing how Yoga can help with depression. Some studies showed that people suffering from depression who had a regular and mindful Yoga practice experienced an increased level of serotonin, and became more sociable. (Timothy McCall: Yoga as Medicine).

The practice of Yoga creates self-acceptance. Accepting the fact that it’s inevitable to feel some degree of fluctuation in energy, mood, and ability to function as part of everyday life, will help in finding contentment. The practice of self-study can also help identify and understand particular seasonal patterns.

Depending on what stage of the winter blues you are in, whether you need energising, calming, centering or warming, Yoga has something to offer. As little as 5-10 minutes a day can make a difference.

Be it meditation, simple pranayama (breathing exercises), a hot class with the illusion of the heat of the summer sun, a restorative class helping to recalibrate your nervous system, or an energising and grounding Vinyasa class, Yoga will help you connect your mind and your body, and deal with thoughts and emotions that might otherwise feel overwhelming.

By Suze Suchak

Suze teaches Yoga Conditioning on Mondays at 11.30. 



January 19, 2017

Why Yoga?

derek1

We all come to practice in the first place for different reasons. I know when I first became involved the reasons were largely to have a physical practice, with very unreflective ideas as to why that was a good thing at the time. I confess it was quite painful at first, as my approach and the way I was taught was a little neolithic. But I somehow persisted and it has been a wonderful journey of opening up all sorts of dimensions in my life.

The great thing about Yoga is that it is a very plastic practice, in that it gives back to you what you put into it, without any kind of judgment. The original Sanskrit word for Yoga does not only mean joining up, it also means the method of joining up. This yoking or joining up is reflected in the repose we sometimes find in the practice. Yoga supplies a very useful toolkit, but we ourselves are the method by which we use those tools. This is what Yoga teaches us. We learn to become articulate and skillful about what is appropriate and meaningful for us, and we know this by the effect it has on us. And the effects are generally incredibly good. At a physical level it improves and maintains the basic functionality of the body, and in particular the joints well into old age. It is different from going to the gym. The practice is far more balanced and addresses not only the outer body, but also all the physiological systems and in particular helps to teach us to breathe naturally, which is rare in this modern life.

Apart from a few bits and pieces I feel much healthier and more energized now, than when I was a much younger man. It is healing and deeply restorative. The scientific study of Yoga is still in its infancy and to date various studies have showed promising results for all sorts of conditions, but by far the most measurable stand out effect is the way that it brings calmness and evenness to both mind and body. We might think we are are only doing Yoga for physical reasons, but it is almost inevitable that we find changes in the way we experience ourselves, including our emotional and energetic lives.

Traditionally asana practice is only the tip of the body that is Yoga. It s a much broader science, bringing benefits through meditation and breathing practice in particular. If that is what we seek, it can provide a discipline from which we learn our ‘method’ for whatever inclination we uncover on the way. We talk about measurable benefits, but it is perhaps the unmeasurable benefits that yield great good in the end. Even or perhaps especially in asana practice, it can just be a physical practice and this is all to the good. It can also be a wonderful way of exploring all the nuances of ourselves, of allowing our own bodies to reflect back to us how they want to open. This aspect can feel quite frankly, full of love. Whatever we want from a Yoga practice, experience proves that we benefit best when we are quite spacious. So rather than impose on our practice how we think it should be, which can lead to injury, we remain open to how the practice teaches us about ourselves, even at a physical level, and respond accordingly.

In the spirit of this I intend to teach the next 4 Sunday morning Hatha classes from the 22nd of January, having as a focus, opening and responding to space, both outer and inner. Each class will approach this perspective from a different angle, and will they will also each have a different anatomical focus and a different challenge.

derek2

By Derek Elliot

Book into Derek's Sunday morning Hatha classes here.

January 13, 2017

Top tips if you are new to Yoga

Gemma blog

You’ve made the decision to try Yoga. It’s something that has been on your to do list for a while now and it sounds like something you might enjoy. But maybe you are a little nervous? Not sure what to expect or what to bring? Here are our top 10 tips:


1.     Arrive early

Try and arrive at least 20 mins before the class starts. This way you have time to find the studio, complete the registration forms, pay for class and chat with the receptionist and teacher before class and get changed. You don’t want to arrive late and stressed as you will start your class stressed, you want to be relaxed and comfortable.

2.     Come hydrated and don’t eat for 2 hours before class

Make sure you are well hydrated before class. Ask your teacher if you can bring a water bottle into the class with you- some allow that and others don’t so it’s best to ask. Refrain from eating at least two hours prior to and 30 minutes after your practice. 

3.     Check with the studio what you need to bring

Check on the studio website or give them a call to see what you need to bring for class and if you can hire what you don’t have. Most studios have Yoga mats available to hire and if you are practising a Hot Yoga class you will need a towel for your mat and some water to drink. 

4.     Tell the teacher/receptionist before class of any injuries or medical conditions

Another reason to arrive early is to speak with the teacher about any reservations you might have, we understand trying something new can make you nervous.  If you have any injuries or medical conditions, it’s important to let the teacher know before class so they can make sure this is the right class for you and if required make modifications to the class for you. Remember, most teachers want to help you have the best experience possible and they are there to help you. We aren’t therapists or doctors but we will always do the best we can as Yoga teachers.

5.     Always try the intro offer

Most Yoga studios have an intro offer. Always take this if you know you are going to be around for the next couple of weeks as it tends to be the cheapest way to try as many classes as possible. If you didn’t like your first experience, don’t give up, try another class, teacher or studio. If you are trying Hot Yoga, you need a good few classes to get to grips with it and see the benefits of the practice.

6.     Don’t come if you are feeling unwell

If you don’t feel 100% or recovering from a cold/flu, leave starting Yoga for another time when you feel better and can enjoy the class, rather than worrying about if you have enough tissues or if you are going to faint!

7.     Wear appropriate clothing

You don’t need to buy a new outfit for Yoga (I mean, you can if you want…). Wear what you normally would wear to exercise and if you are unsure call the studio and ask. Click here to read our blog post on what to wear to Yoga.

8.     Turn off your mobile phone

When you enter the building, turn off your mobile phone, you don’t need it! Enjoy the quietness for 60mins, 75mins or 90mins. The Facebook posts can wait till afterwards! And please, no need to take photos in the class to post on Instagram!

9.     Have no expectations

Yoga is not a competition; it is a practice. You don’t need to be perfect and push yourself to the point of hurting yourself. It’s always ok to take a break and sit out a posture or lie down and rest. All teachers will tell you this and it’s better that you do this for your first few classes when you need to than push yourself to far. Remember the person in front of you who is doing all the fancy moves has probably been coming to class for a long time and practises regularly, so try not to compare yourself to them.
 
10.  Relax and enjoy!

Yoga is meant to be fun and has so many physical and mental benefits. Try and relax and enjoy the experience. Remember everyone in the room has been exactly where you are now at some point.

By Caroline
 


January 7, 2017

Finding time for Yoga

‘How can I find time for Yoga?’ That’s something that’s always a challenge. I am a busy person. I have a full time academic job in London and a part time job in Oxford because I have lots of bills to pay. I am a single parent with four wonderful children, who stretch from the bitter sweet teenage years to babyhood innocence. I have a regular Yoga practice, not despite the demands and restrictions on my time, but in many ways because of them. Yoga helps me cope with life’s challenges with patience and love. It teaches acceptance and understanding of oneself and others. Breathe and enjoy the moment, you are exactly where you need to be.

sarah w 2

Thus, for me, the question has become, over the years: ‘How could I not find time for Yoga?’ Rarely is there time better spent. Yoga enables me to keep focused on my work, able to deal with the demands of my children, happy with myself and in harmony with the world around me. It has helped me to be stronger, flexible and more confident and self-expressive. So, I defy the odds – weaving my classes in between my other commitments and rushing to Yoga when rationally it’s not possible. But when I get on the mat, the energy flows and time stands still.

Without Yoga, I simply could not be who I am and I certainly could not face life with the joy and serenity I truly feel in my heart. Yoga helps me find peace and happiness in the midst of the sometimes dark chaos of life. It compels me to believe and believe in me when there is nothing and no one else on which to depend.

Sometimes people say to me that they have no time for Yoga, I just smile to myself and suggest that although it is difficult, it would be good for them to try to find the time. Objectively, they probably have more than me, but, time is relative after all.

By Sarah Washbrook

December 22, 2016

A New Year for Yoga

Lucie1

Almost drawing to a close, 2016 will have been defined by significant moments for all of us, more highs than lows for some, for others, an overwhelming number of episodes of not insignificant turmoil - lows perhaps overshadowing precious moments of contentment and joy. However, one constant is that nothing remains constant. As we live in a perpetual state of flux, we can expect 2017 to be peppered with yet more wonderfully fabulous highs and not so fabulous lows.

In a similar manner, our relationship to our Yoga practice evolves, consistently interspersed with new challenges and personal triumphs. At times, the draw to the mat may seem like the only lifeline, providing a sense of guidance when all else is in a state of relative chaos. In these moments, our practice may be vigorous or it may be slow and contemplative, but always acting as a comfort and grounding presence in our day to day life. There are other times, when the pull to the mat may appear diminished and our practice may move temporarily to a more subtle presence in our everyday life. Even at such times, our practice can still offer a grounding support, albeit more peripherally. 

Just as 2016 may have been a veritable hoot or a year better left behind, 2017 will undoubtedly provide a mixture of experiences and events that make up the rich tapestry we call life. Providing a fundamental backbone to these challenges, both positive and negative, is the beauty of a Yoga practice rooted in the fundamental elements merging and aligning breath, body and mind. In keeping a connection to our Yoga practice we can be prepared for whatever 2017 throws at us and secure in the knowledge that a constant practice in some form or another will provide a familiar grounding that enables us to get through anything. 

May we all look forward to wonderfully yogic 2017!

Lucie2

By Lucie Spence

December 13, 2016

Homestretch

Blog crop Yoga Venue Oxford SRes

I have stood on three yoga mats in my life. Each one became a home.


redSunYoga (Berlin)

The first mat is thick and red and I bought it in Berlin. It is the year I work at a former concentration camp and with Holocaust survivors in Germany. It is the year I go to yoga almost every day. At work I walk amongst barracks and graves, and hear stories that have not lost their horror over 60 years. When this work leaves me overwhelmed and grieving, I bike from the train station to the yoga studio, my red mat in tow. In these hours, yoga is the way I bypass my mind and connect to my body. I discover a holy moment somewhere between posture one and twenty-six, when I am more attuned to the physical experience of the stretch than any mental thought of stress. I practice holding on to these moments beyond the studio, as well. On cold, winter evenings, I stand on my mat and learn the German words for elbow and heel; I lie on my mat and match my breath to those of the people beside me. These are the months when I learn the importance of emotional boundaries and physical connection, that stretching can bring release.

 

Solo Yoga (Kampala)

thin blue mat_copyI leave Berlin and replace my soft red mat for a thin blue one I can fold up in my backpack and bring travelling. In Kampala, Uganda, I meet urban refugees from Congo and Rwanda. There are no traces of reconciliation in their lives; instead they are desperate and impoverished, and wildly resilient. It is devastating to hear their stories of rape, torture and exile, reminiscent of those of the survivors in Germany I have just left behind. Yoga remains my refuge, my way of maintaining both muscle and emotional composure. On afternoons so hot that sunshine makes the air smell like smoke, I roll out my mat in the narrow space between my bed and the wall, claiming the only space I can. With the door closed and my eyes shut, I sink into Balasana, Trikonasana, Uttanasana. Each movement is a meditation, a way to remind myself that my body is powerful and has stories of its own.



YogaVenue (Oxford)

saffron_transparent_bkgd_3_1024x1024_copyToday I live in a library. During the day I pull heavy books from shelves and navigate both the past and the present in different ways. My yoga mat is thin rubber and the soft pink-orange of sunset; I can still roll it up and carry it anywhere. It does that for me, too. After sitting for hours, lost inside my mind, I crave the feeling of yoga, a stretch that moves from my back to my toes and up again to expand and release my mind. As I remember Kampala and Berlin, I move in and out of stories that are both history and reality. I seek to understand cycles of violence and all the scars we do not see. I still need reminding of boundaries and connection. And so, I stretch and then release. In a different city now, and on a different mat, I move beyond and within the expanse of the studio. Alongside people and at the same time alone, I step onto my mat to return to a home.
 
by Evan Easton-Calabria

December 3, 2016

What to wear (and what not to) to a Yoga class

I remember back when I started practising Yoga there wasn’t anything called ‘Yogawear’, or any Yoga clothing brands in the UK. You wore what you wore to the gym, or tracksuits bottoms and a T-shirt. If you practiced Hot Yoga (it was only Bikram back in the day) you did the best you could, and if you were lucky and went on holiday to the US you could pick up a few Yoga tops and leggings.

Before Alessandro and I started YogaVenue I ran a Yogawear company, so spent a lot of time looking at brands and importing the latest and most technically advanced activewear to the UK, because there just wasn’t anything that you could buy here. Luckily, times have changed and there is now an abundance of fantastic brands around, and even Yoga fashion trends! Right now it’s all about the colourful long leggings and short tops for ladies and for men, a looser fit knee length short and tank top.

Having the right attire for your Yoga practice is so important. Here are my 5 top tips for what to wear when practicing Yoga.

1. Wear the right fabric and style for your practice

If you are practising a more physical form of Yoga, wear clothing that wicks away sweat that sits close to the skin. Wicking material has advanced so much and is no longer just the traditional dri-fit - there are lots of materials developed from bamboo and recycled plastic that are equally as good, lighter to wear and also more environmentally friendly.

Tank tops, shorts, capris, leggings - all great for ladies. Some ladies prefer shorts and short tops for hot Yoga but with the quality of the fabrics around these days you won’t feel like you're overheating if you choose to wear leggings instead. Sports bras are dependent on the individual’s requirements but you want to ensure you have the right support for you. For men, shorts (length varies on taste) and a slim fit T-shirt or vest work well. At YogaVenue, all men will be asked to wear tops when practising non-heated Yoga classes, tops are optional in the hot Yoga classes.

For slower classes where you aren’t going to sweat so much you can wear the same things mentioned above, with maybe an extra layer for warmth, or looser, comfortable types of clothing. Cotton and other fabrics which aren’t so good as wicking away sweat are fine for these classes.

2. Underwear and swimwear are not Yogawear

You don’t see runners and cyclists exercising in their bikinis or mankinis so why would you wear these to practise Yoga?

A lacy bra may look lovely but it is not the right thing to wear to a mixed Yoga class. The same goes for boxer shorts. You need support in the right places, decent coverage and also a bit of respect for your fellow Yogis. Why ruin that nice lacy fabric? If you come to a class at YogaVenue wearing just your underwear we will politely ask you to change and can lend you some spare Yoga wear.

3. Make sure it fits!

If you’ve lost weight, put on weight or just changed shape, it's time to invest in new yoga wear. You want to be comfortable and feel supported so your clothing does not become the focus of your practice. You need also to consider coverage. Shorts that are too short and ride up will be uncomfortable. If your top is too large you are going to be distracted in class worrying that you'll expose too much flesh (ladies you know what I mean here). Guys – please don’t wear loose shorts without the appropriate support underneath…

4. Wear clean clothes

Clean fresh clothes are good for you and your fellow Yogis.

Hygiene is important. Yes, you may sweat a lot in class but that doesn’t mean it's ok to come wearing sweaty clothes or use the outfit you wore last night to a Hot 26 class that is still in your bag. The same applies to grip mat towels, please use a fresh one every class. You will feel so much more comfortable practising in clean attire and it will be more pleasant for your fellow yogis and teachers. Don’t think spraying perfume on sweaty gear it going to make it better. Trust me on this, it makes it worse.

5. It's not about what you look like in the mirror

We take our Yoga practice seriously at YogaVenue. I completely understand wanting to look nice but it is not a beauty contest or a bar on a Saturday night. Yoga wear can look great but is also needs to be functional. The mirrors at the studio are not there for you to focus on your hair, make up and outfit, they are there to help you with alignment.

We stock a range of different brands at the studio for ladies and men and do feel free to ask us at any time what maybe the best clothing for you and your practice.

By Caroline

 

 


November 12, 2016

Yoga for Children

kidsyoga_copy

Childhood is an intense period of growth and development - physical, emotional, social & intellectual. Yoga and mindfulness for children has become hugely popular in recent years and has been introduced in many schools. Scientific research continues to provide supporting evidence that these practices address the needs of the whole child and support academic learning.
A typical children's yoga class includes many aspects of a traditional yoga practice - breathing, postures, mantra, relaxation & meditation. Additionally it includes discussion time, mindfulness techniques and games. Within classes yogic values or philosophy are introduced in an age appropriate way. These include kindness, honesty, self-respect and respect for the natural world. Mindfulness focuses on understanding emotions, coping strategies and respecting differences. The games, whilst fun and engaging for the children, are aimed at developing specific skills like auditory memory or sequencing.kidsyoga2_copy
 
Some of the many benefits of yoga for children include:

  •  improves balance, co-ordination, strength, flexibility and agility
  • improves physical health: circulation, digestion, sleep, posture and alignment
  • promotes a healthy lifestyle
  • enhances listening skills, attention span, memory and focus
  • calms the mind and reduces stress and anxiety
  • boosts self esteem and a positive body image
  • emphasises individual ability rather than competitiveness
  • teaches life values such as patience, kindness, respect for others
  • encourages a positive outlook and promotes gratitude and acceptance
  • it provides a safe, nurturing environment to have fun, with time and space just to 'be'.

When planning a children's yoga class consideration is given to the developmental stage of the children, the skills and needs of that age group and the learning styles that work best. For the pre-schoolers yoga is introduced in a playful way with games, stories, songs and creative movement. The 5-7 year olds have developed better stamina, co-ordination and strength. Classes are more dynamic and challenging and include more structured games and team work. From 8 years onwards children can understand abstract concepts, a strong sense of self identity emerges and the peer group becomes increasingly important. The hormonal changes that precede puberty begin. More emphasis is put on alignment in poses, philosophy and formal breathing practices are introduced. The teenage years are a time of immense change and can be very stressful. The emphasis of the practice at this stage is on self study and self care.

In an increasingly busy and demanding world we cannot predict what challenges our children will face in the years ahead. By introducing yoga practices into their lives we are equipping them with skills to become happier, healthier & more resilient adults of tomorrow.

By Margaret

Although our regular classes are not suitable for children, we often have kids yoga workshops. Our next workshops are on Saturday 19th November, taught by Margaret. Margaret also teaches monthly baby and toddler yoga classes.

Click here to book in now.

November 1, 2016

Teaching the Community Class

Someone told me you never forget your first time — teaching your first yoga class that is! But actually I’m not sure this is true. We did so much practice teaching during the Spiralling Crow Vinyasa teacher training this summer that by the end of the course it seemed a natural progression to start teaching a full class. 

grads_copy_copy
Because of this it felt quite a treat to be invited to teach one of the community classes at YogaVenue this autumn. Sure, it was little daunting teaching in the studio where I trained and where I feel very much the student — plus I felt I was stepping into some big teacherly shoes! But as soon as there are people in front of you, waiting for you to teach — well, you just have to teach! There’s no time for any worries about whether you know enough, whether your playlist flows, if you’ll remember the sequence, how to accommodate all levels of experience… So many possible worries!

For me all these concerns fell away in the moment. Teaching feels very much like the practice of yoga itself — being wholly present and focussed, following the breath, standing steady and moving consciously, offering up what you can in that moment. It feels a real privilege to spend an hour supporting others on their own yoga journeys. In the words of one of the other Spiralling Crow graduates “just open your heart”. Beautiful teaching advice!

Teaching yoga is often considered an act of service and community classes even more so — there are so many good aspects to this! These classes are something the studio offers to the wider community, not just regular members; newly qualified teachers appreciate the chance to practise their teaching in a well set up space; and all the proceeds are offered to charity. Alessandro and Caroline this year have chosen to support the Felix Project, a charity close to their hearts since it was established by a student of theirs. The charity does a fantastic job of taking surplus fresh food from supermarkets that would have just been thrown away and getting it out to various organisations that make meals for those in real need. It’s win-win, and I feel proud that my small efforts have gone to help this worthwhile cause.

By Victoria Jackson

You can read more about the Felix Project here.
The community class runs weekly on Fridays at 16.15, and all of the £8 class fee goes directly to the Felix Project.

October 10, 2016

Chocolate & Ginger Pancakes

HungryYogi

One of my favorite things about weekends is the time for a long breakfast with plenty of coffee and great conversations. I believe some of my best ideas have emerged on Saturday mornings over a long and leisurely breakfast. With the whole weekend to look forward to, I usually feel energized to create a more interesting breakfast.

A stack of golden brown and fluffy pancakes makes for an exciting start to the day. They are easy to make and only require one mixing bowl, which means less washing up afterwards.

Chocolate and ginger is an unexpected combination in pancakes but works surprisingly well. As you may know, I like to throw in chocolate whenever possible but you could easily replace it with something more grown up and healthy like a mashed banana or nuts.

Chocolate & Ginger Pancakes (V)
Pancakes 2Serves 2 people

Ingredients:
- 1.5 cups of self-raising flour (substitute self-raising gluten-free flour blend, if desired)
- 2 tbs ground flax seeds
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1/8 tsp ground vanilla bean
- 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
- dash of cinnamon
- 1 cup of soy milk
- 25g mini dark chocolate chips (or cut up some of your favorite vegan dark chocolate bar)

Instructions:
1. Pre-heat pan over medium heat.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, flax, sugar and spices).
3. Add the soy milk and stir with a spoon until batter is smooth and no lumps remain.
4. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Lesson learnt while working in a fancy restaurant: Cook your pancakes in coconut oil for a more cake-like taste.

Enjoy your breakfast and don't forget to brainstorm new ideas and make plans for world domination.

By Susanne

October 1, 2016

Shift happens!

katieP1120587I love the light and warmth of the summer months so it’s always a wrench when the days begin to get shorter and I have to dig out my woolly jumpers! From a young age, we learn to expect big changes during the Autumn as the new school year begins and the seasons shift. This stays with us long after we’ve left academia and can make us feel a little unsettled at this time of year.

The first time I met Yin teacher, Normal Blair, he was wearing a T-shirt that read: ‘Shift Happens’. It really struck a chord. Change is inevitable and our challenge is to let go of our attachment to the status-quo and move with these shifts. This Autumn, I’m trying not to resist, but to embrace the natural changes in rhythm and energy that are occurring. I’m learning that this can be a great time to take stock and to re-centre. I’ve been trying to honour this energetic shift in my Yoga practice, exploring how it can support me during times of flux. I’ve found that a grounding, centering practice has been helping me establish a steady foundation from which I can move forward, embrace change and explore new opportunities.

Slower, more passive practices such as Yin and Restorative Yoga can help us during transitional periods by giving us the space, and time, to re-centre and re-balance. If you gravitate towards a more dynamic practice, fear not! You don’t have to ditch the Vinyasa or Hot HIIT. To stay grounded as you move (& sweat!), keep your awareness on a smooth, steady breath and focus mindfully on the placement of your body during transitions as much as in the asanas. Turn off the autopilot! Can you be truthful about where you’re at and what you actually need from your practice in the moment...and be ok with that? Letting go of habitual patterns both in, and out, of the studio can help us open up to new possibilities and healthy change.

Our Yoga practice will, and should, change throughout the year so let the shift happen! Let’s honour and embrace these times of transition, welcoming the opportunities they bring to learn and grow as yogis.

By Katie

Katie teaches Vinyasa Yoga on Wednesdays at 6pm & Saturdays at 9.30am and Restorative Yoga on Fridays at 5.45pm.

Photo by @journeyunfolds - Brittany McBride

September 24, 2016

Managing chronic pain through Yoga

This is my own experience of how I have learned to manage my chronic pain coming to regular classes in YogaVenue.

I was very lucky to have both my back and dermoid cyst surgeries done courtesy of comprehensive corporate health insurance 16 years ago. I had the best medical care in amazing hospitals. My husband says that I am a "value-added" wife, due to the high cost of these two medical procedures. Jokes aside, there is yet no surgery that can treat chronic pain.

The many different types of painkillers my GP prescribed had many effects on me, but not on the pain.  I was also going to an osteopath once or sometimes twice a week when the pain was taking me over.

I came to YogaVenue 3 years ago; I go to class nearly everyday. For me, it is exactly like going back to school: collating infomation, knowledge and inspiration together for myself. For example, I have learned "less is a great deal more" from Emma's Yoga-Pilates classes, also to move "through treacle" in asanas. I love listening to Karen talk about "acceptance". At the moment, Hot 26 is a big favorite: it allows me to grow stronger, move safely and meditate.

I believe in the drip-drop, that I can do something everyday about managing my chronic pain. I am grateful to pain, which has lead me to Yoga. I heard the term "superficial compassionate" in a film the other day and immediately thought: that is exactly what I am! I donate to good causes but it is a minute percentage my income; I champion the environment but I use too much water and resources... Perhaps I can aspire to the drip-drop change in my mind?

Namaste!

by Lisa 

lisa forman_copy

September 17, 2016

Practising Yoga with Lord Krishna

1271_krishna-cow-wallpaper-02_copy

Shri Krishna sharanam mamah

Lord Krishna, be my refuge

 
Who was Lord Krishna and what’s he got to do with Yoga practice? Do you have to be Hindu to call on Krishna through a mantra like this?

Krishna is the Hindu god associated with love and compassion and Yoga. But rather than getting caught up in ideas about gods and religion, perhaps we might think of Krishna as an archetype, a personification almost, of the qualities of love and compassion. By chanting this mantra to Krishna we are calling to mind these qualities and encouraging ourselves to keep them at the forefront of our physical practice.

How do we practise with love and compassion? When things get tough, when our breathing becomes uneven, when we start to push ourselves further into poses or berate ourselves for not being ‘better’ in some way, can we use this mantra to remind ourselves to soften and let go of the criticisms and comparisons?

Sometimes it can be difficult to find these feelings within ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy! Finding a point of focus through mantra (meaning “beyond thought”) can take us out of our habitual patterns of thinking. Concentrating on someone we admire, or someone who seems to exemplify qualities we would like to cultivate, can be a powerful inspiration. Perhaps chanting to Krishna can help with this.

Asking Krishna to provide ‘refuge’ doesn’t mean that we should retreat or withdraw from the realities of life. Rather, if we can cultivate self-love and compassion through our asana, maybe we can awaken Krishna’s luminosity inside of us; Krishna is the archetype, there to remind us of qualities we have forgotten or buried. Perhaps when we walk out of the Yoga room we can more easily carry such feelings into the world and extend them to the people in our lives, or those we encounter fleetingly on the street or on the bus. The refuge Krishna offers is to find the faith to step out into the world with love even when it seems hard. It takes a lot of confidence. In times of difficulty or stress it is easy to draw into ourselves, turn away from the open-heartedness of love. We could say that Krishna offers protection when we need to feel some support as we dare to extend our love to others, or perhaps he offers solace or forgiveness when it’s hard to truly love ourselves and let go of our deep-held fears or emotional triggers.

By Alessandro
alessandro profile

September 10, 2016

Why I will always practise the Hot 26


As a Hot 26 (Bikram) teacher and student I get asked frequently whether I ever get bored of teaching and practising the same and I can honestly say I never do.

IMG_5747Every class is different from the one before and I know the next one will also be different. I have great classes, I have ok classes and I still have terrible classes where I feel I can't balance, feel stiff, dehydrated - all the same things as everyone else! The beauty of practising the same 26 asana is I can see how I am changing physically and emotionally. I know those days I can't balance on one leg it's generally because I've let my mind drift and I'm not concentrating. When half moon feels like it is going on forever it's because I've not practised enough and my shoulders are so tight they feel like they are in my ears! Yes, I'm human too, the same thoughts go through my mind and I deal with the same challenges of juggling work and family.

I've had times when I've not practised the Hot 26. When I was pregnant, for example, I decided to take a break, and it was over 12 months before I took a class. I couldn't wait but I was also a little nervous about how it would go. I was careful and my body remembered, and the Hot 26 has been the class that has really helped the most with getting back into my yoga practice.

The Hot 26 was the class that opened the Yoga world to me and for a long time it was the only Yoga I practised. Now I teach and practise other forms of Yoga and love them all, but there is a special place in my heart for the Hot 26 and I know it will always be part of my life.

Namaste

Caroline
Caroline05-200x300


August 20, 2016

A story of barefoot (shoes) trekking

ericaDSCN1098

My partner Andy and I love walking holidays and each year we try to walk from place to place for a week (or for however long office-slavery and family commitments would allow), with our loyal companions: rucksacks and hi-top walking boots. This year, I wanted to try something a little different…

The feat (well, a feat for my office-bound middle-aged-woman standards of course) came after years of listening to my body, thinking about my gait, exploring my aches and pains, and exchanging ideas with like-minded other women. We all seemed to have the tendency to wake up in the morning with an extraordinary variety of niggles.

No one believed I could make it - but I did it. 

The what: walking from Cadaquez (North-East Spain) to Colloiure (South-East France), about 100 km in five days through the foothills of the Pyrenees, up and down hills and mountains, in rain and sun.
The how: leaving the boots at home and walking 100 km in my Vivobarefoot minimalist shoes, with just a 3 mm sole.
The why: just to experiment!ericaDSCN1184_copy
 

I won’t bore you with the details of the journey of discovery; I will just share the summary of my observations over the week. The experience for me was truly revealing, and perhaps there is someone out there that might find my list if not inspirational, at least vaguely interesting.

  • My foot wasn’t constrained by the heavy sole of the walking boots and the toes could flex by 50 degrees or so (as the experts say they should), and the ankle could too. This meant that foot and ankle did some, if not most, of the work that if I were wearing boots would have been left to the muscles of the thigh and the lower back to do
  • The feet felt literally ‘light’ (in fact I imagine their weight is proportional and appropriate to your body weight).  This again contributed to a lesser strain of the muscles in the thighs and the lower back which were not forced to lift the abnormal weight of the boot; I felt this especially when going uphill
  • The strain which now, with hindsight, I realise my muscles experience when walking in boots was replaced by a gentle internal massage; the pelvis gently rocking from side to side in sync with the swinging leg
  • The ankle was clearly ‘not supported’ (as in a specialised mountain-walking shop you would be told with a frown), and I felt every single stone under the sole of my feet. However, because of this, I was ten times more careful and fully aware of where I was putting my foot, always making sure it landed lightly and – consequently – without shock to the joints.

The beauty of all this is that it was completely effortless: I was unconsciously more aware, unconsciously lighter on my feet and unconsciously careful to choose precisely the right spot where to land my foot. I felt light and I could have walked forever. There was no need to apply any ‘technique’ but it just happened. All I did was observe it. 

Watching Andy in his heavy hi-top walking boots was interesting too:
  • Going downhill, he was throwing his swinging leg forward and landing it heavily on whatever happened to be there - the walking boot then was essential for him in order to absorb the shock in the joints, while the foot and ankle were doing barely any work
  • Going uphill, he was pulling his heavy leg up each stone and step, contracting the thigh and the lower back muscles.

Obviously walking in barefoot shoes means sacrificing speed; you are a lot slower and your companions will notice it!

I won’t linger then on how unnoticeable it was to slip out of the light shoes at the end of the day, or on the lack of drama in having to put them back on the next morning (unlike Andy)! Admittedly, the soles of the feet were a bit sore for the first couple of days, but soon the skin hardened and it was fine.

On the whole, I can summarize the entire experience just by saying that for the first time I felt the body having its own intelligence; I just needed to let it work and do its stuff, and trust that this would have been the right thing to do, which it turned out to be.

One last observation, but this is very much blue-sky thinking: perhaps tarmac roads are wrong for us too. The beauty of trekking in barefoot shoes for me came ultimately from the different types of motion the terrain was forcing on me; I felt that it was this variety to prevent any strain due to unnatural repetition, as well as giving me the lovely sense of massage through the fascia and the muscles.  Of course I can control the shoes I wear, I cannot control what verges and roads are made of!

ericaDSCN1135_copy_copy

Finally, a couple of ‘must reads’ if you are interested in the subject:

- Christopher McDougal - Born to run (2010) (in my top 5 books list)
- James Earls -  Born to walk (2014) which I haven’t finished reading yet, but so far very interesting indeed!

By Erica

August 4, 2016

Why We Meditate

derekIMG_0400On the increasingly rare day that I don’t put aside time for meditation I feel the difference, which really points out to me the value of taking the time to sit and drop into a quieter space where I can feel far more grounded and intimate with whatever meets me. I do emphasise the ‘whatever’ meets me. Meditation is not about self-control but about self-exploration. Not about keeping something out behind boundaries, but allowing boundaries to open up. We build on our practice, in the sense of developing a preference for staying more open more of the time. I think this is what really matters. Meditation is not a thing in itself, not something quantitative we can be good at. It simply means that we put aside the time to touch base with ourselves in the most intimate way possible. We sometimes are caught up in the idea that this involves a long a torturous journey to some mysterious end that we can’t possibly live up to. That’s just a story we tell ourselves. The reality is that the ingredient that supports the unfolding of a more spacious and present way of being is here and has been here all the time. It is simply oneself. Not always easy to be with, but that is part of the journey and there is plenty of support for how we work with what we experience as barriers. But once simple curiousity begins to unfold our own experience, the rewards are rich and profound.

I can recount a story.  I once had a job which involved introducing besuited captains of industry to a wilderness space in South Africa. In the early dawn light these people were invited to find a piece of wilderness of their own and sit still for half an hour.  The results were remarkable and a few of their lives took dramatic turns. One person still emails me to tell me about his efforts to find a personal sitting place some place in the wild. Our wilderness space for the upcoming meditation workshop will be a little more modest on the Cowley Road, but need not be the less for it.  The common factor in all these people was very simple. Stillness. Most of them could not recollect being still in the middle of their busy lives. Since they were so far away from the experience, the results in their cases was far more dramatic than for those of us who eagerly seek spaciousness on a more regular basis. Stillness means being at peace. It means there is nothing missing. It means working with all aspects of oneself and the world and starting to understand them as doorways that have potential to unfold meaning rather than exclusion zones to keep it out.

The workshop coming up in August will do its best to work with this sense. That there is a generosity of spirit that approaches us when we are prepared to open up to it. That this is our starting point rather than our end point. That whatever we need to be fully ourselves is already constitutionally inherent in who we are.

By Derek

Derek photo

Derek teaches Restorative Yoga on Mondays at 19.45

If you're interested in meditation and want to find out more about Derek's upcoming workshop at YogaVenue, click here.

August 1, 2016

It's Pitta Time!

C&A01

Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga recognizes three doshas – vata, pitta and kapha - and we are each made up of a combination of these doshas. Along with our constitutions having a dosha focus, so too do the seasons, and in summer it's pitta time! (You can read out the kapha dosha here).

To balance out our pitta doshas we slow things down a little and try to enjoy being present here and now, remembering it's not always about pushing, sometimes less is more, especially as we enter into the warmer months. We try and avoid being judgmental and critical and remind ourselves Yoga is be fun and can be playful.

Many of our Yoga classes are designed to reflect the doshas and if you come to our Hot Power class in the next couple of weeks you’ll notice it has changed to help you balance our your pitta! We’ve slowed things down a little to work on those asanas that help bring you back to the present. So come along and try it out.

By Caroline

Caroline05-200x300

July 26, 2016

Walking a Hot and Humid Path: 60 Day Hot Yoga Challenge

vanessapic

I first tried Yoga 5 summers ago, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2014 that I began a regular practice. The story of how that happened and what made the Yoga ‘stick’ the second time around is a pretty long-winded one, so I’ll spare you the details.

The really important and perhaps somewhat paradoxical lesson I've learned that I hope to share with you is this: Yoga allows you to undo.

This is a concept that was central to the teachings of Bhud, a beautiful and life-loving yogi whose Thai retreat I attended this January. Rather than achieving or performing, she taught us that Yoga gives you the opportunity to undo – undo the knots and tightness in your mind and body, remove emotional blockages, undo, undo, undo until you are left with just your truth. It is a wonderful and empowering sense of freedom. It goes without saying that maintaining a regular practice will benefit you in many ways, and I’m certain if we all reflect on where our minds and bodies were when we first started we’ll appreciate how far we’ve come. But doing a challenge is the cherry on top of that delicious Yoga cake, and here’s why.

Now, it is often taught that in our practice on and off the mat, it’s all about finding that limit, that place of discomfort – and taking a breath. I’ve found that’s when the most magic happens, when you have come to your maximum and somehow find stillness. This is what doing a Yoga challenge did for me! 60 consecutive days of stretching, compressing, releasing, sweating and breathing took me to the edge of my comfort bubble and showed me that outside of it lay a world of possibility.

collage_20160722204229219Showing up on your mat day in and day out becomes quite rhythmic, and like the repetitiveness of stringing several sun salutations or doing 2 sets of the same postures in Hot 26, you slip into a meditative state. There will be good days and bad days, but the consistency of the challenge itself can become quite comforting.

It isn’t called a ‘challenge’ for nothing though – committing to a daily practice for an extended period of time is no small feat. Having said this, I honestly believe we’re all capable of doing it! Hopefully the following tips will help you:

  • Tell people you’re doing it. It’s not about showing off or having them feed your ego, it’s about trusting your support network. All challenges are made less daunting when you’re not alone!
  • Plan ahead so that logistics don’t interfere with your Yoga schedule. Work/social commitments, packing your bag the night before, preparing meals in advance… Whatever you can do to minimize stressors.
  • Listen to your body. You’ll likely realize it actually talks to you pretty honestly about what it needs in terms of food, water and rest. Practice with kindness towards yourself!

I chose to only do hot classes for my challenge, and I committed to 60 days. I’m in love with that sticky, sweaty endorphin rush – and I knew I needed the prolonged physical intensity in order to reach a breakthrough.

But our journeys are all different, so I invite you to go back to that idea of undoing, and decide what your needs are. A Yoga challenge will help you to work through all the layers between you and your truth. What are those layers made of? What will you let go of? What will you notice and become more aware of?

And ultimately, what is your truth? There’s one way for you to find out!

By Vanessa


July 23, 2016

Five reasons to practise Hot Yoga this summer!

IMG_5759

It looks like the sun has finally arrived and it is hot hot hot! You may think its time to ease off your Hot Yoga practice, but actually it’s a great time to deepen your practice or to restart. The heat in our Hot Yoga classes remains the same so if you are worried that you are entering into a furnace you won’t be. Our heating system carefully monitors and controls the temperature so that the temperature never goes above what it should be. Here are 5 reasons why you should practise Hot Yoga this Summer.

1. Your body is already loose
IMG_5744You know how it feels when you get to class on one of those really cold winter mornings and you feel stiff as a board and can’t wait to feel more opened and able to move more easily after your class? Well in the warmer months you don’t need to worry about this as you will come to class already warmed up and we find students are generally able to deepen their practice more during this time because they are already warmed up.

2. It helps you stay or get fit for the summer

Practising Hot Yoga in the summer keeps you strong and flexible and allows you to enjoy other sporting activities. There is no secret to the fact that a regular Hot Yoga practice does help with weight loss and toning up so if you are looking to get into shape for beach season than keep coming to class!

3. It helps you manage the heat better
You’ve probably heard teachers say it again and again: that after a while with a regular Hot Yoga practice the heat becomes IMG_5747less of a
distraction and you are able to focus on your practice. Maintaining your Hot Yoga practice in the summer will strengthen your tolerance to the heat, which comes in especially handy if you work in a building with no air conditioning.

4. It encourages you to eat healthily
Hot weather isn’t conducive to eating heavy foods and when we practise Hot Yoga regularly we find we start to want to eat lighter, more natural foods. Plus if you do have the odd naughty snack, the detoxing benefits of a Hot Yoga practice will help you sweat these out and maintain a healthy body.

5. It makes it easier to ‘return’ to your Hot Yoga practice in the colder months
Staying disciplined and committed to your practice during the warmer summer months means that “returning” to your practice in the autumn is a non-issue. When we have had a break it can be so hard to get back into the swing of things, our bodies change and our minds definitely do so avoid this by not easing off your practice this summer.

By Caroline

Caroline05-200x300


July 14, 2016

Why Do We Practise Asana?

YogaVenue-15_copy

A strong focus on asana (the physical poses) defines most western Yoga, and it is an increasingly popular practice — probably because it makes us feel good! But what’s really going on and how do we explain it in Yoga terms? After all, there’s more to Yoga than asana. Why do we choose to spend time on our sticky mats in class rather than practicing other forms of Yoga like Bhakti Yoga, chanting or some type of meditation?

One way I like to think about it is that it’s a practice of ‘embodiment’, of getting back into our bodies. In modern life we spend so much time living in our heads (or on our computers and gadgets) that many of us have become estranged from our bodies. We force ourselves to sit still for long periods of time in an office, we wear constraining shoes and clothes, we eat and drink substances that keep us awake artificially, and we distract ourselves with social media and TV. This is the world we live in.

C&A01In Yogic terms our bodies are the storehouses of past behaviours, habits and tensions. We hold emotions and stresses in our muscles and our joints; think tight hips and tense shoulders maybe. This is one aspect of the concept of karma, where all thoughts and actions have a consequence. Living in our heads doesn’t help us resolve these tensions — but physical movement can. As we move our bodies, we work through the tensions and blocks we all hold. Our bodily systems, like blood, airways, hormones begin to work more efficiently. We bring our mind and our body into alignment, as we focus on our momentary physical experience and turn our attention inward to cultivate what Patanjali calls sthira sukham asanam (a comfortable and steady pose).

Through the movement and stillness of Yoga and focus on the breath, we can liberate ourselves from the tensions that have built up and gradually we can liberate ourselves from social conventions and the expectations of others. Once we are comfortable in the poses we are free (or have the space) to explore who we really are. When we have the space to explore this perhaps, with practice, we might eventually find enlightenment!

And then we must choose what use to make of the joy, peace and freedom that our asana practice might bring to us.

By Alessandro 

alessandro profile

Alessandro teaches:
Jivamukti Vinyasa Yoga on Tuesdays at 18.45
Lotus Flow Vinyasa on Thursdays at 17.45
Advanced Level Lotus Flow Vinyasa on Thursdays at 19.15
Vinyasa Yoga on Fridays at 07.00 
Hot Power Yoga on Fridays at 10.00
Vinyasa Yoga (120mins) on Sundays at 09.30


July 4, 2016

A walk on the Yin side

Yin Yoga is becoming increasingly popular in the Yoga world, but people often are often unclear about what it really is, and how yin Yoga differs from restorative Yoga. 

Yin and Yang

Literally translated yin and yang mean bright and dark. More generally, yang attributes are energetic, rapid and dynamic things, whereas yin attributes are calm, slow and steady.

Yin Yoga

Modern Yoga has come a long way from its origin as few seated poses designed to prepare the body and mind for long periods of meditation. Over the years more and more athletic practices with an emphasis on ‘yang’ elements (muscular strength/ flexibility and an elevated heart rate) have become the norm.

Yin Yoga emerged to bridge the gap between the modern yang forms of Yoga and seated meditation. In a yin practice the aim is to gently stress the connective tissue (fascia/ tendons/ ligaments) and joints so they acclimatize to stillness.  These yin tissues adapt much more slowly to change. Hence, yin poses are held for much longer than you would in a regular Yoga class, typically 3-5 mins, to give the body time to respond.

Yin postures mainly target the big stiff joints of the body involved in sitting e.g. hips, pelvis and lower back.  They often stem from traditional Yoga poses but are given alternate names to delineate the different emphasis e.g. pigeon is re-named swan.

How deep someone can go into, and how they experience a yin pose varies widely from student to student but there are a few key points that everyone should keep in mind:

  • Start at an appropriate depth – especially when new to the practice it is important to be kind to the body. Go to a point where you feel a gentle stretch, stop and wait. The long holds can significantly change the sensations experienced during the pose.
  • Breath with your whole body. Use your breath to help you soften into the poses.
  • Be mindful of the sensations happening in your body as you hold the pose. Notice if they change in intensity or if they travel, and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Cultivate stillness in mind and body. This can be the hardest part! Yin teaches you how to stay with something even if it not totally comfortable,  it helps train the mind to be more focused and allows a deeper awareness of the body to develop.
Yin Yoga also works on the subtle energy channels within the body. These energy channels, called meridians in the Chinese system or nadis in the yogic system are believed to run throughout the electrically conductive fascia of the body (see research by Dr Motoyama or Daniel Keown). Stretching the fascia as we do in yin poses stimulates the meridians, helping to clear blockages and promote healing within the body.

Edge and Time:  The Yin – Restorative Spectrum

There have been lots of discussions about yin vs. restorative Yoga. Is one better than the other? Should you use props in yin? Where is the line drawn between the two? 

Personally, I feel the difference simply comes down to ‘edge’, ‘time’ and emphasis. The emphasis in yin is a gentle stretching of the connective tissue while softening the muscles, whereas, in restorative Yoga the emphasis is deep relaxation with no strain in body or mind.  Edge is used to describe the amount of sensation/stretch felt in the pose, and time is the duration of the pose.  For example, in a yin pose you might feel quite a strong edge in the target area of the pose and hold it for 3-5minuites, in a restorative pose you might feel little or no edge and hold for 5-10 minutes.

Props may be used to help the body stretch, strengthen, balance, relax or improve body alignment. Restorative Yoga poses tend to involve a lot of props (see restorative childs pose below) to ensure the body is completely supported and thus feels safe to completely relax. It also means the poses are comfortable for extended periods of time.

kateIMG_7638_copy

While fewer props are used in yin, (see yin child’s below) they can still be very important in helping students experience a pose more comfortably and safely. They allow students to hold an appropriate edge without overstretching (e.g. placing a rolled up blanket under the knees to protect tight hamstrings in a forward fold.) Props can also be used to help relax other parts of the body not directly involved, in particular supporting the head and neck so they are not dangling and adding additional strain to the shoulder girdle.

kateIMG_7634_copy

In short, yin and restorative Yoga are a wonderful compliment to a traditional Yoga practice. Why not come to class and give them a try?

By Kate
12227719_1084225911610896_6103933840633896932_n_copy

Kate teaches Yin Yoga on Fridays at 11.30am & Sundays at 12pm and Hot Power Yoga on Thursdays at 7am


June 30, 2016

A mini Yoga challenge (for when life gets in the way)


Diary of a Yogi v1
In my last post, I said that next time I’d be looking at wide-legged forward bend. I’m still trying - mentally, not physically - to disentangle my hip joints from my sacro-iliac, so this topic’s going to take a little longer than I thought. Watch this space for updates.

Overall, it’s been a challenging couple of weeks. From comments I’ve heard around the studio, a lot of us are feeling the same way. And a lot of the comments have revolved around the same idea: “I needed to come to class”; “Best thing to do today was to come to class”; “I didn’t want to be sitting at home, so I came to class”. 

These comments have really reinforced the benefits of regular practice, and how class can provide a space to calm the body and mind. Right now, I’d love to be taking more classes, but I also know that making it to the studio more than three times a week just isn’t realistic right now.   

So I’m going to have my own mini version of the 30 day challenge. No big investment of time, no physically challenging poses: all I have to do is get out my mat, sit, and focus on my breath for 10 minutes a day, every single day. If I feel like doing more, I’ll do more, but the only commitment is to finding, and using, that 10 minutes in the best possible way. 

It’ll be interesting to see what happens. Anyone up for joining? 

by Anna

annaz

June 29, 2016

Gender and Age - No Barrier for Yoga


IMG_5728

My first experiences of Yoga: late eighties Scotland, and mid nineties central England. They took place weekly (during term time) in dusty rather cold church halls with metal and plastic chairs stacked up in the corner. Grave attempts were made, using straps and belts, to mold my body into patterns it did its best to refuse. I was usually, awkwardly, the only man: A fish out of water. My flexibility barely increased, and whatever enthusiasm I had soon petered out.

Fast forward twenty sedentary years. Middle age is taking root in my hips and making it painful to stand around for too long. hotclassKeen to impress my soon to be (second) wife, I accompany her to a Bikram Yoga session in a 40 degree room in central London. We step off a gray London street into a tropically heated mirror-fronted room and join 60 people twisting and turning their bodies on orders from a skinny man in swimming trunks. To add to the strangeness - the room is delicately lit by an impressive collection of mismatched chandeliers. About ten minutes in I abandon my modest decision to keep my shirt on - I have already become more like a fish in water. At the end of the class, I am both wrung out and wet as sponge. The whole thing is strangely exciting, inspiring even. It’s hard to say if I feel double or half my age. I opt for the latter view, and shortly after discover YogaVenue. It’s down the road from where I live.

That was about three years ago. The friendly people at the front desk have become friends and I am no longer the stiffest guy on the block(s). I’ll mention a few of the things that have made it work for me. Firstly, I felt really welcome, encouraged, and certainly never stigmatized for my lack of flexibility. I’ve come to realise that the more rigid your body the more Yoga is actually doing for it*. Move over Bendy Wendys – its only doing half as much for you! Secondly, a dedicated studio like YogaVenue makes it practical and possible to practice classes regularly. You wouldn’t get far beyond chopsticks on the piano if you only practiced for an hour and a half on Wednesday evenings (during term time). Why would Yoga be any different? Finally, the heat. I’m not always found defending it straight after a class, but it has enabled me to get right into Yoga without injuring myself. That’s a serious consideration if you don’t start off with a natural ability to scratch your ear with your toes.

Most of all, I think those ancient Indians and their followers discovered that life tastes better when you regularly flex, stretch and breathe into every part of your body. Given our more temperate climate it has taken a while to find a format for this practice that truly works over here. It’s taken me a while to find one too. Over the last few years, YogaVenue has enabled me to make Yoga a regular, even daily, part of my life. It seems now as necessary as eating good food and getting a good night’s sleep.

 
* And your mind, but let’s not get into that now

 By James


June 24, 2016

The Hungry Yogi - Baking Adventures

Almond + Cacao Nib Cookies 1

In addition to yoga, my weekend ritual includes baking something sweet. I always find baking to be an adventure and love getting my hands into a mixing bowl. When baking, I never know for certain how things will turn out.  Even if followed exactly, the same recipe will turn out slightly differently on each occasion.

You may have heard me say this in class, if you don’t know how things will turn out, just look at them as an adventure and try to detect as many small differences as possible. This way, it becomes more exciting when things are a little different each time.

Another reason I like to look at baking as a weekly adventure is because I rarely follow a recipe exactly. I am not sufficiently organised to locate a recipe the week before and build all the required ingredients into my weekly shopping trip. This means, I have to work with the basic ingredients I have at the time and come up with creative substitutions.

Most weeks, my creations turn out great with subsitutions. On occasion, the result doesn’t taste or look great but still yields a funny story and a good laugh.

For the Almond + Cacao Nib Cookies below, I started with a basic recipe from the Vegan Bible cookbook. 

Almond + Cacao Nib Cookies 2

See the original recipe below. 

Almond + Cacao Nib Cookies 3

I kept the specified proportions but substituted almond butter for cashew butter, almond milk for oat milk and cacao nibs for chocolate chips and pecans. That’s a few more substitutions than I am normally comfortable with but it worked out great. 

Almond + Cacao Nib Cookies 4

Here is the adapted recipe. 

Almond + Cacao Nib Cookies 5

If you fancy some cookies, give the recipe a try this weekend and use up the ingredients you have in your cupboard. Let us know about your adventure next time you’re at the studio.

By Susanne

susanneIMG_6809_copy 


June 9, 2016

Diary of a Yogi: You Do You


Diary of a Yogi v1

As well as practicing and thinking about Yoga, I spend a lot of time on the Internet. (That, and some bad physical habits, is the legacy of 10 years with an IT company). “You do you” is a phrase I see a lot in responses to people who are fretting in some way about Yoga.  Maybe it’s their first class, and they’re worried everyone is going to be looking at them. “You do you”. Maybe they’re worried that their poses don’t look like everyone else. “You do you”. Maybe they want to go deeper into a particular pose they’ve seen others do beautifully, but their body just isn’t co-operating. “You do you”. 

It may seem like a pretty glib response but it’s actually a point of view that as a beginner, I’ve found to be extremely helpful. My body, my experience, and my approach to Yoga may have a lot in common with yours; we may even be identical in many ways, but when I practice, I’m working with my body and my experience, and no-one else’s. 

This is something I’ve been trying to bear in mind every time I get on the mat. This week I’ve been “doing me” by not practicing physically at all: no classes, and no home practice either. Instead, I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the poses I love and some of the ones I really, really, REALLY dislike. Puppy dog, humble warrior and certain variations of wide-legged forward fold are two that are firmly in the “love” category, while half-tortoise and the classic wide-legged forward fold are definitely on the “strongly dislike” list. 

I’ve been trying to identify why some poses are more appealing than others – what is it exactly that makes them work for me? And conversely, why is it that some days I’d be very happy if I never did half-tortoise (or certain other poses) ever again? Is it because – as some people argue – that the pose challenges me emotionally as much as it does physically, and I’m not ready to face that challenge? Or is it simply that my body isn’t built for certain thing? 

Next week I’m going to be looking at wide-legged forward fold in a little bit more detail and sharing some of my ideas. I haven’t found any definitive answers to my questions  – but even though I haven’t practiced any poses this week, the process of thinking about them is another step towards “me doing me” as well as I can.

By Anna

annaz


June 6, 2016

Teaching Yoga: a New Experience


_DSC9290

The Spiralling Crow Teacher Training was exclusively intended to further my own personal practice, as it turned out terribly difficult to find another place abroad that would give me a comparable feeling of trust, comfort, joy and challenge. After I completed my training, I organized two classes in my departments in Oxford and two for family and friends and I thought that’s it for now. When I was asked to teach at the big studio I practiced at regularly in Dusseldorf (YogaKitchen), Germany and later at another one in Dinslaken, Germany (Yogaloft Dinslaken), I discovered that I would never want to stop teaching.

There was a lot to learn and my first challenge was to teach in German, which I hadn’t done before. Some of my teacher friends tell me now that I said some very odd things in the beginning and I still do sometimes. The next challenge was to talk for 90 minutes without anyone talking back – that’s quite a lot of talking! I knew a chunk of the students from practicing with them but being their teacher now was an interesting experience and I sometimes wondered whether they would compare me to more experienced teachers. Luckily, the studio has exceptionally friendly and warm students, and this idea quickly became history.

_DSC9386

I have complete freedom in what and how I teach, as long as it is Vinyasa. I teach all levels (beginners, 2 intermediate and one advanced level), play around with the harmonium, I approach hand balances with beginners, and whenever I get the chance I teach party-mood classes. Alessandro’s advice has always been to keep it simple, so I started from that and slowly worked my way through more complex and creative ideas. Mostly, careful preparation makes it successful and students enjoy playing around with fun Yoga elements, but occasionally, even the - what I had thought were the simpler things - will not work out as expected. Every body is different and I learned quickly that I need to carefully research options for different body types.

IMG_0611_copy

For me, teaching feels like having a great party with friends that I care about; you listen to your favorite music, you dance your asana, you smile and sometimes have a good laugh, you share this positive energy, and you connect with everyone in the room, be it assisting them in their practice, sharing smiles when they lose balance or being happy for them when they achieve new levels of poses. If my day is ever gray, teaching my lovely yogis turns my mood around every single time. I always try to find new and creative things I think they would enjoy, try to find ways to help them ease postures when they tell me about injuries or anatomical difficulties, and it makes me happy to see them leave with a smile on their face.

IMG_0532_copy

In the short time I’ve been teaching, I’ve seen some students and groups that don’t connect with me or one another right away. It felt odd at first because I couldn’t tell whether they were ok, happy, exhausted or disinterested but I think now that many people who begin with Yoga are very, very focused on what they do in their asana practice. With practice, they can free up capacity to be more flexible with their senses and engage more with the energy surrounding them. Once, a new student came to me and said she had an emotionally difficult day and now after class she felt much better. This is a wonderful thing to hear but also demonstrates that you should not worry about making people happy and especially, you should not interpret their face or body expressions and take it personally.

Over the past months of teaching, I have become more flexible and spontaneous in my approaches and in dealing with different unexpected issues. You can be perfectly prepared for a class but you never know who is showing up for your class. I always prepare a relatively advanced class for who I expect to show up and then downscale when less advanced people come to my class. This way I can slow down the class and still provide a good range of poses. Keeping it simpler but offering more advanced options has not worked as well. The students coming to my studios are used to trying everything the teacher provides and they often don’t know their boundaries before they go too far and struggle. For me, it is important not to cause frustration, so instead of overwhelming students, I now advice them to visit more advanced levels if they would like to further their practice.

_DSC9287

My past and current Yoga community has become a dear and crucial part of my life that continues to inspire me. There is a whole new group of friends and it connects people from the most distinct fields of work and backgrounds, which is unique in my own experience. The interactions amongst people here are marked by friendliness, openness and support. Suddenly lots of my friends are Yoga teachers and we try to help each other out in covering classes, go to workshops together, take each others’ classes, and go out for dinner. The Yoga creates a loving, happy bubble, almost vacation-like within my otherwise busy and sometimes chaotic life. I can take this bubble wherever I want because it is not bound to a place or time and I am inspired to bring it to anyone who wants to explore it too.

_DSC9424

by Bea

Bea is a graduate from the Spiralling Crow Vinyasa Teacher Training at YogaVenue. If reading Bea's post and learning a little more about life after training to be a Yoga teacher has inspired you, have a look at the training programme for this year here


The photos of Bea in this blog post are by the photographer Karina Guenther. The photos of Bea teaching classes are from her studio in Germany.

June 2, 2016

Diary of a Yogi: You Deserve It!

Diary of a Yogi v1

Share news of something nice – a new job, an exciting trip, or even the purchase of a particularly pleasing item of clothing – and you may get the response “You deserve it!” It’s often an entirely sincere reaction, because who doesn’t want their friends to enjoy life? 

I’m never sure what to say in return, though. And ten years ago, I used to answer, perhaps too forcefully, that no-one deserves anything, and that the logic behind the expression was deeply flawed. My point of view hasn’t changed much since those days, but now if I hear “You deserve it!” I tend to smile vaguely, say “Thanks” and move onto the next topic. Last week’s classes, though, made me think slightly differently about whether or not people get what they deserve. 

The class I took at the beginning of the week was full of frustration and annoyance. Same people in the class, same poses, same instructor as usual, but my body and mind weren’t having any of it. None of the poses worked. I was stiff, crunchy, and furious, and ended up spending the majority of the class resting out, wishing people would breathe more quietly, that the instructor would stop talking, and generally wanting to be anywhere except the studio. The one positive was that I didn’t walk out.

I didn’t want to come to the next class I’d booked. I was feeling seriously resistant to anything to do with Yoga. But I showed up. My body wasn’t being any more co-operative  – flowing from one pose to another while standing on one foot caused some serious comedy wobbling – but I left that class feeling deeply content. Strong poses, new flows, and a focus on how any movement starts from the breath made it one of the most memorable classes so far.

My personal jury’s still very much out on the question of whether people deserve the good – or the bad – things that happen to them. But oddly, there is a tiny part of me that can’t help seeing the second class last week as some sort of reward for having stuck with the first, less satisfying one.    

by Anna

annaz

May 26, 2016

Diary of a Yogi: The Other Anna

Diary of a Yogi v1

I don’t have a doppelganger, or at least, not as far as I know. But the other day I ended up in class with someone of the same name – another Anna – and this added a whole new (and surprising) dimension to that day’s practice. 

Coming to class, rather than practicing at home, means a lot to me. DSC00218It means I commit to being on my mat for 75 or 90 minutes, rather than thinking about what’s in the fridge after the first three minutes. It means enjoying the energy and support of the other people in class who’ve made the same commitment to turning up. It means seeing how differently people use and inhabit their bodies, seeing things that are sometimes strange, and sometimes incredibly beautiful. And it means having a teacher who is responding personally, tailoring their teaching to who is in class that day.

“Make sure you’re not crunching your toes”. Pause to check. Nope, I’m not crunching my toes. I didn’t think I was. Why is the teacher bothering me with this? “Dave, don’t hang on with your feet. Relax your toes.” And even though I know I’m not called Dave, and I’ve already checked my toes, I may end up checking again. And then I wander off into a little internal dialogue with Dave: the teacher already said stop crunching your toes. Why don’t you listen, so the rest of us can get on with our practice?  

To prevent this internal grumbling, I’ve found myself filtering out instructions which come prefaced with a name. This may help me avoid distractions, but last week’s class with my namesake also showed me what I may be missing. 

It was a relatively small class with a lot of very specific, personalized feedback from the teacher. I was cheerfully ignoring the comments starting with other people’s names, but my brain tuned in to suggested adjustments starting with the word “Anna”. Most of these seemed to be directed at the other Anna: telling me to touch my chest to the floor when I’m barely managing to sit upright didn’t seem relevant. But this made me curious: what would happen if I thought about touching my chest to the floor? Was my left shoulder actually down as much as I thought? Could I tighten my quads more? 

While the corrections may not have been meant for me, I learned some unexpected things about asana in that class. So thank you, Anna. And Hannah, and Richard, and Andrew, and Rachel, and everyone else who comes to class. I’m considering which of your names I might borrow for the next class to make sure I don’t miss anything.

By Anna
annaz

May 24, 2016

Yoga for Stress Relief

It is an unfortunate truth that most of us will undergo periods of signficant stress at different points in our lives. Wherever this stress comes from, be it ones job, relationships, health or elsewhere, it can be tricky knowing how to relate to and deal with it in a productive and balanced manner. Quick fix solutions abound in adverts, but it can often be equally tempting to just ignore it. However, a growing body of research suggests that yoga and meditation has significant stress-reducing benefits.

stress2

This resonates well with my own recent experience. During the course of 2014/15 I finished my Ph.D. in mathematics, probably one of the most stressful periods of time in my life so far, especially given how drawn out the process was. Not only did I need to finish, I also needed to decide what to do with my life once it was over! Throughout this period the consistency of my yoga practice became even more important: rather than skip some of my usual classes I instead ended up doing a little more than usual. The yoga gave me a space to decompress, to focus on something totally different, and let my mind unclench from the work. It also gave me inspiration for making life decisions: I firmly believe that the lessons you learn on the mat can be taken with you off the mat. As I learned to let go of bodily preconceptions on the mat, I was able to let go of other preconceptions about my life and career goals and make some tough but ultimately positive decisions.

Around December of 2014, I was particularly struggling with the decision of whether or not to stay in pure maths or transition to climate modelling, a change which seemed drastic beyond comprehension back then, immersed as I had been in my maths world for so long. Still, part of me knew that it would be the right decision, but I couldn't bring myself to actually acknowledge it. One day, in one of Emma's classes, I was moving from one posture to a very different posture, and was suddenly struck with a thought: why couldn't I let it be as easy to change work as it was to change postures? How silly to make it more difficult! Looking back, it was a real turning point for me and now, happily having transitioned, I feel very grateful for that lesson.

stress1

So if you find yourself in a period of stress, I can heartily encourage you to keep up your practice, and be unashamed in using the classes to help yourself in whatever way feels positive! And I would recommend being really focused on the breathing. When we get anxious, the breath reflects it. If we can regain control of it, it's often the first step to calming the body, and thereafter the mind.

By Kristian

kristianIMAG2870

Kristian teaches Vinyasa Yoga on Tuesdays at 17.30.

May 18, 2016

Intimidated by Labels?

HungryYogi

Vegan and gluten free creations often look super delicious when featured online. Just when they have you convinced that you must make the food immediately after returning home, you discover a long series of steps and a collection of fancy ingredients that generally don’t live in your cupboards.
 
There is no shortage of online recipes that promise to deliver great taste with better for you ingredients. Unfortunately, the initial excitement about a new recipe is often followed by a sense of intimidation by the upcoming amount of kitchen duty.

Recently, this mouth-watering featured creation had me thinking of leaving work early just to get into my kitchen. I managed to read on all the way to step 2 of 13 before deciding to park this recipe for later.

IMG_2284


Click here for the recipe

After nearly three weeks of vegan procrastination, I decided to revisit the recipe but only to see if I could reduce the steps down to a few manageable ones that can be completed in 20 minutes or less (clean-up included).

It was indeed possible and the resulting raspberry chocolate cake was delicious. 

IMG_2281_copy

Here are the steps I used to reduce the recipe down to its most basic components.

Note, you can apply these steps to make almost any vegan and gluten free cake recipe more manageable and less intimidating.


1. Preheat your oven and grease your cake tins

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients (these are your flours, ground nuts, salt, etc.)

3. In a smaller bowl or a small sauce pan, combine all wet ingredients (these are your oils, maple syrup and even apple cider vinegar) Note, if using coconut oil, you will need to melt it first over medium heat, hence the sauce pan)

4. Add wet to dry ingredients and stir well until smooth.

5. Pour batter into cake tin and bake.


Call this a cake and ignore the icing! After measuring and mixing all the ingredients, who wants to clean up their measuring cups and spoons just to start mixing and measuring again to make icing? Make life easy and sprinkle some nuts on top or, if you’re feeling extra fancy, melt some chocolate and pour it over the cooled cake.

Finally, if you’re putting in all this work to make a cake, double the recipe and make two! For no extra work, aside from the mental maths, you can get two cakes instead of one. If you’re worried about eating two cakes in one weekend, surprise a friend with your second delicious creation (though this might just warrant the fancy melted chocolate).

IMG_2282_copy

By Susanne 

susanneIMG_6809_copy

When Susanne isn't in the kitchen or at work dreaming of cake, she's at YogaVenue teaching Slow Flow to Bed on Tuesdays at 20.30 and Vinyasa Yoga on Sundays at 17.15. Click here to sign up for one of her classes.



May 17, 2016

Jedi Fight Club

IMG_5752Esak Garcia is renowned in the Hot Yoga community as a teacher who has dedicated his life to yoga. Jedi Fight Club (JFC) is the name given to intensive training camps held by Esak during which students immerse themselves in their yoga practice through additional classes, discussion and workshops. In 2014 I attended the first JFC weekend at Yogavenue, which was also the first JFC held in the UK! Over the weekend we were given a taster of one of Esak’s JFC’s – we practised the series of 26 postures plus 2 breathing exercises developed by Bikram Choudhury (the Hot 26), the advanced series of 84 postures that builds on the 26 in the beginners series, were led through posture workshops and were introduced to Esak’s homework exercises.

Esak’s homework involves exercises that you can do in your own time alongside your usual yoga practice. The aim of these exercises is to help deepen and strengthen the postures you practice in class. One of the main focuses of the homework is back-bending using the wall as a prop – or ‘walking down the wall’. Over the weekend Esak taught us how to walk down the wall and provided lots of information on back-bending technique. It was inspiring to watch Esak demonstrate an impressively deep and even back-bend, something that he has achieved through repetitive wall-walking and learning how to isolate and work on specific areas of the spine. When we were challenged to complete 40 consecutive wall-walks I expected to hit a wall of nausea, dizziness and exhaustion after 10. However, following Esak’s instructions on how to approach the wall-walks slowly and mindfully - and importantly remembering to breath – made this challenge fun and there were plenty of smiles in the room! Since learning this technique, wall-walks have become a remedy for a headache or to stretch out a crick neck in the morning – and this is definitely thanks to Esak!

IMG_5727The mini posture workshops involved looking at certain postures from the Hot 26 series in more depth. They involved discussions, trying different exercises to look at technique and often working with a partner to assist and support each other. Esak put a focus on learning to feel which specific muscles are working in certain postures, rather than relying wholly on the mirror to check your alignment. One that stuck from that weekend is the use of the quadratus lumborum – the QL muscle - in Standing Bow Pulling Pose. It has become a good reminder in class now that if I cannot feel the QL working in that posture the alignment is probably wrong.  

The JFC weekend was informative and inspiring. It was a privilege to be taught by someone with so much knowledge. Esak was open to answering any questions and encouraged us to do so which created a real sense of community over the weekend. I can’t wait for the next one!

By Hannah

hannah


If this sounds like something you'd be interested in to further your Hot 26 practice, there are still a few places left on the next Jedi Fight Club weekend: 3-5 June 2016. Click here for more information and to sign up now.

May 12, 2016

Diary of a Yogi: The Accidental Yogi

Diary of a Yogi v1

Ask ten different people why they started praticing Yoga, and you’ll hear ten different stories. Everyone has their own reasons steamfor coming to class or getting on the mat at home, and everyone has their own way of practicing. 

I didn’t come to YogaVenue because I wanted to do Yoga; I came because I missed the ritual and relaxation of the weekly steam bath that I’d got used to while living abroad. A hot Yoga class might, I thought, offer the heat and humidity I wanted so much. 90 minutes listening to an instructor and doing some postures would just be a trade-off, a deal I’d have to do in order to have a proper, sauna-style sweat. 

A year and a half after that first class, and I’m still a beginner, who happens to be taking three classes a week. Although I don’t feel noticeably more flexible, my body – and my mind – have started changing. I think a lot about Yoga, and even – sometimes – dream about it. 

I had no idea when I walked into that first Hot 26 class what might happen. And now I have no idea how Yoga may fit into my life in another year’s time. All I know is that right now, in all its forms, Yoga puzzles, delights, and challenges me, and I’ll be exploring this on a weekly basis through this blog series.     

annaz

By Anna


May 9, 2016

What is Hatha Yoga?

As a Hatha teacher I am often asked this question, and the answer is a little complex!
20150311_KarenYoga-1618

From Ancient times

The term ‘Hatha Yoga’ has been used for over a thousand years to describe a methodology for preparing the body for higher levels of consciousness. The body is purified and energy is balanced using Yoga postures (asana in Sanskrit), breath control methods (pranayama), and bodily cleansing techniques (shatkarmas), so that the practitioner is ready for meditation.

There are references to Hatha Yoga practices from as early as the 6th century BC, and the system of Hatha Yoga emerged in India around the 6th century AD. In the 15th century it was documented in the text ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’. Modern types of Yoga, such as Bikram, Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga, are styles within this broader definition of Hatha Yoga.

 
The literal translation

The word hatha can be translated from the ancient Sanskrit language in two ways:

  1. willful or forceful
  2. 20150311_KarenYoga-1292sun (ha) and moon (tha). Hatha Yoga unites the masculine (active, hot) and feminine (receptive, cool) aspects that exist within each of us.


What to expect from a Hatha Yoga class?


Hatha Yoga is now also used as a term to describe a style of Yoga asana class. These can vary greatly, but they are usually slower classes with long holds in the postures and can include periods of rest, to balance effort with surrender. They usually include a form of the classical sun salutation.

 

What are the benefits of a Hatha Yoga class?

If you want your Yoga practice to help you feel grounded, present and centered, then movingly slowly so that you can focus on a long, controlled breath, and feel into the experience of each posture, can be very beneficial. It can also be physically challenging and strength-building.

20150311_KarenYoga-1665Life is often hectic and rushed, and a slow, breath-focused Yoga practice can bring us into our parasympathetic nervous system – the state of relaxation and healing for the body.

There is also opportunity to explore the nuance of what is happening inside our body and mind. J Brown, a New York based teacher, who has advocated a ‘slow Yoga revolution’ writes: ‘Slow Yoga takes the emphasis off accomplishing something and puts it more on experiencing something… (It) allows me to discover subtle variations in alignment ­ on both physical and energetic levels. It also allows me to tune in to any emotions that might want to come bubbling up. Most importantly, this mode of yoga allows me to move deeper and deeper without injuring myself, and for the practice to truly be a meditation unto itself.”





    By Karen

Karen teaches Hatha Yoga on Tuesdays at 11.30, Wednesdays at 19.45 and Saturdays at 11.15.


May 3, 2016

What is Cross Flow?

Cross Flow is everything I love in one class. Challenging, but leaving you feeling exhilarated, it’s a sweaty, smiley power hour!C&A02

We start slowly, breathing deeply and grounding ourselves before flowing through sun salutes to warm the body. After this, elements from Cross Fit are introduced. Expect sets of squats and lunges to build stamina and strength – amazingly beneficial for your yoga practice.

We then spend some time focusing on our core. There aren't many postures I can think of where we don’t engage the core (maybe just Savasana!) so this is important. The sequences in this class will definitely create muscle tone, and this might be a nice bonus! However, the emphasis on the core is really about connecting with our centre – our inner strength – which is very empowering.

For me, Cross Flow is a really well-rounded class and it is a lot of fun! Please come and give it a try!

By Jill
jill mini

We have 3 Cross Flow classes a week: Tuesdays at 19.30, Thursdays at 19.30 and Saturdays at 11.00. Click here to view the schedule for Cross Flow classes this week and sign up.


April 21, 2016

The Hungry Yogi


HungryYogi

Between Yoga, work and cycling around town, I need constant supply of energy. While I never skip meals, snacks are essential for keeping me fueled and smiling throughout the day. You can usually see my at the studio eating a quick snack before class or squirreling away my other snacks for later on the bottom shelf of the fridge.

Unfortunately, not all snacks are created equal and some leave you hungry again within minutes. I really like raw energy bars because they are portable, easy to eat on the go (no crumbs or loud packaging) and provide lots of lasting energy.

As they have fibre from dates and essential fats from nuts, they tend to release their energy slowly. In Yoga terms, this means, these will keep you going for a 90-minute class. Raw energy bars can always be found at the front desk at YogaVenue. Most major supermarkets also carry a small selection, often tucked away somewhere among the “gluten free/free from” foods.    

Best of all, raw energy bars are super easy and quick to make at home. They don’t require a lot of ingredients or complicated steps. If you like to use your hands and don’t mind getting sticky up to the elbows, these babies are for you.

See below for two of my favourite recipes. These should get you started successfully in your own kitchen but don’t hesitate to try out different flavor combinations. You can always bring any leftovers to the studio and feed hungry yogis.

Raw Cacao and Cherry Bars

rawbars
Makes 6 to 8 bars

Ingredients

  • 100 g almonds
  • 30 g Brazil nuts
  • 150 g dates
  • 30 g baked or dried cherries
  • 2 tbs raw cacao powder (alternatively 4 tbs cocoa powder)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tbs warm water


Instructions

  1. Grind raw almonds and Brazil nuts in blender.
  2. Transfer ground nuts to medium mixing bowl. Do not clean blender.
  3. Place dates and cherries into blender and cover with warm water. Let these soak and re-hydrate in the blender for 10 minutes.
  4. Add raw cacao and salt to the bowl with the ground nuts and combine.
  5. Drain water from dates/cherries and blend for several seconds until sticky and chunky mass forms. You may have to stop the blender and scrape down the sides once or twice.
  6. Add the date/cherry mixture and 1 tbs warm water to the nut mix and knead with your hands until sticky.
  7. Press firmly into a square form and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  8. Cut into bar shapes and store in an airtight container in the fridge.


rawbars2

Raw Cacao Orange Bars


rawbars3


Makes 6 to 8 bars

Ingredients

  • 140 g almonds
  • 140 g dates
  • 2 tbs raw cacao powder (alternatively 4 tbs cocoa powder)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • zest from ⅓ orange (alternatively, ¼ tsp orange extract)
  • 1 tbs warm water


Instructions

  1. Grind raw almonds in blender.
  2. Transfer ground almonds to medium mixing bowl. Do not clean blender.
  3. Place dates into blender and cover with warm water. Let these soak and re-hydrate in the blender for 10 minutes.
  4. Add raw cacao, salt and orange zest to the bowl with the ground almonds and combine.
  5. Drain water from dates and blend for several seconds until sticky and chunky mass forms. You may have to stop the blender and scrape down the sides once or twice.
  6. Add date mixture and 1 tbs warm water to nut mix and knead with your hands until sticky.
  7. Press firmly into a square form and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  8. Cut into bar shapes and store in an airtight container in the fridge.


rawbars4

April 16, 2016

Kapha Dosha

Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga recognizes three doshas – vata, pitta and kapha vatapittakaphaand we are each made up of a combination of these 3 doshas. Now that Spring is here, we may feel an excess of the kapha dosha, which can make us feel a bit sluggish, heavy, slow, soft, cold, low mood and energy. Not surprising after the cold winter months when we feel a need to withdraw a little.

As you may have noticed we have changed the sequence in our Hot Power class to help you get your Spring mojo back and get rid of this excess Kapha. We do this through our Yoga practice with more heating and stimulating Yoga asanas. You will find more sun salutations in your practice to heat the body up and start this process of re-awakening and asanas to build the fire in the belly and open the chest as we start to get rid of the winters layer.

Have fun at this time, fight the kapha that wants you to stay under the duvet and get to class and help welcome in Spring.

 
See you in a Hot Power class soon.

By Caroline
Caroline05-200x300

We have Hot Power Yoga classes everyday, click here to see our class schedule and book in.


March 29, 2016

Becoming a Yoga Teacher

Becoming a Yoga teacher is a very exciting and inspiring process. At the same time, the transition towardsDSC00304_copy teaching is also challenging and resource-intensive.

Before I could start my own teaching adventures, I needed to develop a toolkit of Yoga-related knowledge and skills. These included both technical and interpersonal skills, as well as a thorough understanding of alignment, anatomy, sequencing, and the history and philosophy of Yoga.

These tools now allow me to design class sequences and answer the day-to-day questions from students. For example, among the first things students asked me were, "What does namaste mean?" and "How is Yoga different from Pilates?"

Taking part in a Yoga teacher training is a great way to quickly get the relevant Yoga knowledge and skill basis. Having a solid foundation will enable you to be confiendent in front of a class and interact successfully with students.

If you are considering a Yoga teacher training, read on for my top three teacher training insights.
 

1.     Finding the right fit is key

Take some time to research teacher training programmes. These vary not only by style of Yoga but also the types of information they cover. For example, some trainings are more applied and emphasise teaching practice and interpersonal skills. Others, focus more on history and philosophy or teaching a set sequence really well. Finding the right training programme will allow you to make the most of the resources you invested.

2.     Teacher training is just the beginning

While you invest at least 200 hours of your time into a teacher training, keep in mind that the training is only the beginning of your teaching efforts. You will likely continue to devote a substantial amount of time to the preparation of each class you go on to teach. As a new Vinyasa Yoga teacher, I spend about two to four hours preparing for every one hour taught. This includes the sequence design, testing my sequences, teaching them to a supportive friend and building a playlist.

3.     Keep it professional

Treat teacher training as a job you like or something you want to be really good at. Be professional at all times. Prepare for each day, show up on time and be friendly. A lot of information is covered quickly during each training day and it will feel intense. Be present and don’t worry too much if there is something you don’t grasp as well. Remember, it’s just the beginning of your teaching process and you will revisit things at a later time.

DSC00222

Feel free to get in touch with any questions or comments. The lovely team at reception would be happy to give you my email address.          

By Susanne
susanneIMG_6809_copy


Susanne teaches Slow Flow to Bed on Tuesdays at 20.30, and Vinyasa Yoga on Sundays at 17.15.

March 19, 2016

Yin Yoga

There is a saying in yoga circles that new teachers appear in your life when you are ready for the lessons they have to give. This was definitely the case for Yin yoga and I.12227719_1084225911610896_6103933840633896932_n

Yoga has been one of the most constant parts of my life since I started in 2003. It has seen me through university, my PhD, moving countries, emotional upheaval and, of course, becoming a yoga teacher!
However, until recently, it was only the strong dynamic forms of yoga that I was drawn to. I found peace in yoga when I was pushing the edge of my limits. The strong practice felt the ideal complement to my other activities or running, cycling and aerial circus. Rushing from activity made me feel alive and strong.

My body had other ideas though…. Eventually, worn out from all my frantic activity it made me stop dead. In late 2014 I was hospitalised with a kidney infection which lead me into a dark tunnel of chronic pain.

The infection appeared to clear quickly, but unfortunately I was left with constant pain in my bladder and an unshakeable exhaustion that made a short walk feel like a marathon. Months of tests and antibiotics followed but no underlying cause could be found and the specialists were left shrugging their shoulders. It was incredibly frustrating and without the support of my wonderful partner András I would have gone mad.

Thankfully I was still able to teach yoga even though I could no longer practice in the same way. In the middle of it all Caroline suggested I go and do a Yin yoga teacher training as she was looking to expand it at the studio and though it might be a good fit for my mellow teaching style. I was happy to give it a try and pottered off to London a month later to take a course with Norman Blair. Although I was looking forward to learning how to teach Yin yoga, I was in no way prepared for the powerful effect it would have on my life.

The best thing about the course was that it was taught in an experiential way. Yin poses are held for a long time which meant Norman was able to teach the theory while we were practicing the yoga. Using, what at the time seemed like, a bewildering array of props he’d set us up in a pose and then start talking. Norman has a vast amount of knowledge and would interleave the material with stories and anecdotes pausing briefly to allow us to switch sides or poses.  The common thread was the art of finding an appropriate edge that could be held safely for the duration of the pose. Cultivating a mindful state, which allows you to listen to the sensory feedback from your body, and a softening breath are the key parts of this process. Additionally, Norman also emphasised the carful use of the afore mentioned props to support the body at the right point, making it feel safe enough to relax fully into the pose.

By the end of the first day, I was amazed to notice that the pain in my bladder had lessened. Tracking back I realised this was the first time I had softened the muscles in my stomach and pelvis for as long as I could remember. The pain came back overnight but I was very intrigued to see what would happen over the rest of the course. Sure enough the pain eased again and I began to feel on yin-yoga-lovethe verge of a breakthrough.

I spent the rest of the course trying to figure out what was going on. The poses I found most helpful
were wide leg forward folds because they stretched my inner thigh and pelvic muscles and taught me how to soften them. I learnt how to use my breath to expand around the sensation and dilute it, rather than tightening and trying to pull away from the pain.

On returning to Oxford I continued to practice Yin daily, combined with seated meditation. I found the mediation helped to draw my attention away from the pain and keep the softness in my muscles once
the Yin poses had loosened them. Gradually, over a period of about eight months the pain kept decreasing and then melted away. My energy levels slowly increased and I was able to start picking up some of the threads that I had had to let go of. Not everything however. These days I’m much more careful about resting when I need to and I’m more selective about what I spend my energy on.

Mainly though I’m just so grateful that Yin came into my life when it did and for its profound healing effect. I feel lucky to now be able to teach Yin yoga to others as well. And most of all I’m thankful for the amazing people who helped my get to this point today.

By Kate

kate r 225

If you're interested in trying a Yin class, we currently have 2 on our regular schedule: Friday at 11.30 and Sunday at 12.00.

Kate will also be teaching a workshop on Saturday 14th May - 'Breathe & Release: Using Yin Yoga to ease tension.' Click here to sign up now.



March 8, 2016

A Restorative Yoga Workshop

Blankets, bolsters, bricks — and a skeleton! These were the props Katie brought out for us in her skeleton2Restorative Yoga workshop. We had a great two hours together exploring the whys and wherefores of restorative yoga.

Katie talked us through the science behind the practice, with the help of her bony assistant. She explained something of the workings of the nervous system and how important it is to allow the parasympathetic nervous system to fire up, since this governs the rest and digest responses in the body. It gives some balance in our systems to the stress mode that many of us live in habitually. Blame too much screen time (Katie revealed a personal weakness for box sets!), social media making us feel always ‘on’, not to mention the caffeine and sugar that keeps us going. She made a compelling case for making time for some restorative yoga. Not that I really needed much convincing!

If you’ve been to a restorative yoga class with either Derek or Katie you’ll know that there can be quite a lot of set-up involved — piles of blocks and elaborately folded blankets. The use of props supports the body, encouraging it to soften more deeply into postures that tend to be held for longer periods of time (five to twenty minutes). But the props can be intimidating if you want to incorporate some restorative poses into your home practice. Katie showed us some really simple set-ups that would be easy to recreate at home and showed how we could use regular pillows instead of a yoga bolster to equally good effect.

Finally she guided us through a restorative practice, encouraging us to let go of effort and to receive the poses passively, softening more deeply with each exhale. Practice ended with her signature blanket-tucking to support the neck (so simple but so amazing!) and a mini massage of the forehead with some lovely scented oils. The opinion afterwards was that we simply didn’t want the final śavāsana to end. Even the skeleton seemed a bit rejuvenated!

By Victoria

Restorative classes are held on Mondays at 19.45 with Derek and Fridays at 17.45 with Katie.

DSC00502



February 25, 2016

A Kirtan Experience

Kirtan has to be experienced to be understood — a bit like yoga! YogaVenue offered us the opportunity for this experience last weekend when Nikki Slade visited for the second year running.
This wasn't my first kirtan so I had some idea what to expect but — again like yoga practice — each time is different and you can never know what it’ll be like until you are there, right in it, doing it and feeling it.DSC00506_copy

So what was it like? Really relaxed and joyful, in a nutshell. Nikki was so warm and gentle that she put us all at ease immediately. There were some first timers who might have been nervous at the idea of ‘singing’ in a group, but Nikki quickly explained that we didn’t need to be Sanskrit experts or choristers to participate fully in kirtan. Kirtan works as a call-and-response of short phrases that are repeated over and over so you don’t need to remember the words or the tune. Phew! My confidence in singing ended when I was thrown out of the school choir (I don’t do high notes!) but I loved every minute of this. In the true spirit of yoga there was no judgement and no comparison. Nikki led the singing and played the harmonium with her drummer, Mike, keeping the beat and all our voices joined in response. I just eased into the music and the repetitions and let the sounds wash through me.

You can take kirtan at whatever level you want to — whether it’s a devotional practice offering up your voice and your love, or as a way of connecting with your inner peaceful self, or just as a bit of relaxing fun. Once you put any self-consciousness aside, the musical repetition is really very absorbing and leads naturally into feelings of relaxation or even into a meditative state.

At the end Nikki complimented our voice — perhaps other studios she visits are more shy than we were! But truly we all came together in a really harmonious and natural way. And being in such a warm group of people really added to the experience for me.

…But I really needed that cup of tea at the end of the session!

Thank you to Alessandro and Caroline for inviting Nikki. I can’t wait until the next kirtan!


By Victoria

February 23, 2016

Lotus Mudra

Mudras are a great way to experience yoga with your hands. lotus-mudra-800x879They also help to seal or direct and retain energy. They aren’t specific to one type of yoga, anyone can do them, and even if you are practicing a non-physical type of yoga they are great to integrate to help express oneself or add a physical aspect.

The Lotus mudra is one you may have practiced regularly in class already or maybe a new one for you to try.  
So how to do it?

Bring hands together in prayer

Keep thumb and little fingers together and then open the 3 fingers in the middle and the palm. Keep wrists together. Its a beautiful mudra, see. 

What does the lotus mudra mean? It signifies purity. Think about a beautiful bud yearning towards the light. Growing out of dark muddy pond where its roots are, opening up to a perfect flower. So when we practice the lotus mudra we cultivate faith that as long as we stay rooted, even if we feel we are in a dark place, we can move towards the light and become the best versions of ourselves. Whatever that maybe. The lotus mudra  also relates to the 4th Chakra.  The anahata chakra, our heart chakra. Its designed to tap into the energetics qualities of the heart – so compassion, forgiveness, affection, loving and kindness.

So when we work with the lotus mudra, we tap into the heart chaka and awaken it and find anything is possible.


AMBER-278

February 13, 2016

What is Kirtan?

Triyoga-photoshoot2015

In a few weeks we have the pleasure of having Nikki Slade returning to YogaVenue for a Kirtan Evening. What is Kirtan?

Kirtan is the practice of chanting. Many of you may have already done this in some form in our classes when at the beginning we chant OM bringing the class together and to help quieten our minds setting our intentions for class. Its fun and no experience is necessary!

Kirtan is a very simple and powerful way to meditate. Its effortless and joyful, the music does the work for you as you flow with the melody and rhythm. The chants are sung in Sanskrit as the roots of kirtan are in India (so don't worry it's not singing!). Music often accompanies the chants, and this Sunday we will have drummers and Nikki will play the harmonium. 

The chants tend to be done on a call and response basis, so it doesn't matter if you don't know the words. No one cares what you sound like, as all the voices merge together to form one voice. 

Kirtan is non-denominational, the Universal language of Spirit, the song of the Soul.

Our next Kirtan is on Sunday 21st February from 5pm to 7pm. To find out more and sign up, click here.

January 20, 2016

Hot 56


If you have been practicing the Hot 26 or Hot Power for at least six months, the Hot 56 is a great class to try if you are looking to explore your yoga practice a little further.

The class is a little faster paced than the Hot 26. All 26 postures are included but are only practiced once and are not held as long (hence previous experience required). Backbends, arm balances and the hip area are explored a little deeper.

Sometimes students feel a little intimidated when starting a new class for the first time, just remember to take things step by step. As always, with regular practice, real changes within the body can be made.

Try something new for 2016!!!

IMG_5677IMG_5664

By Heidi 
heidi

Heidi teaches Hot 26 and Hot 56 on Wednesdays.

We now have 2 Hot 56 classes on the schedule - Wednesdays at 12.00 and Sundays at 15.00. Come along and give it a go!

January 18, 2016

New Year Detox

Next Saturday (23rd Jan), I’m running a Detox Flow Yoga workshop at YogaVenue, and I hope many of you will find the time and space in your diaries to join me.new year detox2

This is a slow flow class, holding poses for longer than in a traditional Vinyasa flow class, and focuses on decompression, compression and twisting, using the yoga asana practise to massage and stimulate internal organs, encouraging the body to detox.

If this sounds like the ideal way for you to work through the excesses of the Festive Season, or to help you kick-start your well-being goals for 2016, then why not combine the day with a juice cleanse?

Why juice? The aim of juice cleansing is not to leave you starving, but to give you the chance to rest your digestive system, allowing your body to cleanse itself from the inside out.

I really discovered the power of juice cleansing during 2015, taking several 1 to 3 day cleanses at least seasonally throughout the year, and have really felt the benefits – a calmer, more regular digestive system; a great way to quell cravings such as sugar and caffeine; less bloating; as well as the loss of a few excess pounds after seasonal over-indulgences (yes – yoga teachers do have those too!!)

If you have not tried a juice cleanse before, and maybe you are a little nervous about being hungry, then I would recommend trying a 1 day cleanse with 6 juices. If you want to try and stem cravings (for sugar, caffeine, etc) and you are really committed to cleaning up your digestive system, then I would recommend a 3 day cleanse with either 5 or 6 juices per day.

I use and recommend Radiance Cleanse - the longest established certified organic and cold pressed juice company in London. They offer fresh, raw and unpasteurised juices, rich in nutrients, and simply delicious, delivered direct to your door. They are also a great source of help and advice, allowing you to get the most from your cleanse.  I recommend the Winter Cleanse or the Gentle Greens.

You can discover more about juice cleansing at www.radiancecleanse.com and they are giving 10% off any cleanse to my students, using the code RUMBOL10.

If you have any questions or queries about juice cleansing, you can catch me before or after my Monday class (6pm) or ask at reception and we will try our best to answer your questions.

I hope you will want to join me next Saturday (I will be juice cleansing too) – a great opportunity to clear out, lighten up and move forward with new focus.

Love and Light to you all!


Anne Marie

annemarie2



January 4, 2016

New Year – New Yoga Class?

namaste1w

Coming to a yoga class or studio for the first time can induce performance anxiety… Will it hurt? Will I be able to get in the positions? Can I be too sweaty?

In reality, there’s no need to worry. Your first class will challenge you - a yoga practice asks for focus of mind, control of the breath, balance, strength, stamina and flexibility. But no one has all of this mastered from day one; this is what keeps people coming back to practice. And as we persist we start to uncover a potential in ourselves that we didn’t know existed.
Still not convinced? Here’s the reality to overcome those excuses.

1. I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.e603d310-4448-44a0-ae8f-ad5e52b782d5
It’s a myth that flexibility is the number one quality required for yoga - flexibility is a benefit that develops as you practice, but being bendy is neither required nor the only goal. Postures and awareness of our breath are used to explore our body and mind. It doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your toes.

2. I can’t do a handstand or stand on my head.
In yoga everyone is considered to be their own best teacher, and you need only do what feels safe and good for your body. If you want to learn to stand on your head you can, but each person and their body is unique and there are no requirements for your yoga practice, even in a group setting.

3. I don’t have the right clothes to wear.
Yoga fashion has exploded, but you can wear any comfortable sports clothes to class. Just check in the mirror that your leggings remain opaque or that shorts cover you when you bend over. I’ve learnt this the hard way!

3. Everyone will laugh at me if I fall on my face.
If you challenge yourself in your practice, at times you will wobble or topple out of a pose. Most people are too absorbed in their own practice to notice what others are doing. We aim to take our awareness to what is happening inside our body, rather than observing what is going on around us.

5. I’m not fit enough to keep up with a class of yogis.
One of the mantras of yoga is ‘start where you are’. Don’t wait until an imaginary day when you’re ready, accept where you are today and begin with that. You can rest on your mat whenever you need to and there’s a range of styles of classes, so find the one that best suits you.

Most of all, make your 2016 resolution to have fun in class!

By Karen 
unknown_copy
Karen teaches Hatha Yoga at YogaVenue


December 14, 2015

Yoga and Ageing

20151208_110903_copy_copy'If you don't use it you lose it' goes the old adage ... and there's no doubt that yoga helps us keep it - whatever 'it' is - strength, flexibility, balance - inside and out.
20151208_111001_copy_copy 
And most of us would probably sign up to the sentiment that yoga's for everyone - regardless of age, fitness, bendiness etc ... but when the joints creak, the muscles moan and everything wobbles, yoga can feel a bit unreachable - something that reminds us that we're not that bendy beautiful strong fit body of yesteryear (in our dreams at least!). 

But yoga IS for everyone - as we age our bodies may not be as they were, but yoga helps us to retain and improve flexibility, build strength, develop balance and prevent some of the more restrictive problems of ageing. Research is beginning to show the positive impact of yoga on all kinds of physical conditions, for instance menopausal symptoms, arthritis and osteoporosis (see 'What the doctors don't tell you' www.wddty.com); as well as having significant benefits for those with mood, anxiety and memory problems/disorders (see www.yogafordepression.com and www.yogajournal.com).
But it is important to find classes that are right for us as we age. Everyone's requirements are different but its important to recognise what you need. Here at YogaVenue we have a wide range of classes to suit all levels and abilities. This maybe a Hot Yoga class or maybe a slower paced class or a seated class and definitely a teacher who understands the physiology of ageing and can offer translations to allow a full expression of poses whatever your mobility and fitness. If you are unsure do ask us.

20151208_110843_copy_copy
I teach and practice a variety of yoga classes to people of all ages, including Hot Power as well as seated yoga mainly to yogis in their 70's, 80's and 90's. They bring a wide range of minor to significant health and mobility issues. Yoga helps in small ways that makes a difference in their everyday lives - turning more easily to reverse the car, bending to put on socks, weeding with a little less discomfort, opening jars, feeling less wobbly, breathing easier, feeling both more energised and calmer, sleeping better. Yoga is certainly for everyone!

'Wabi sabi' is an ancient aesthetic philosophy rooted in Zen Buddhism, it celebrates beauty in what's natural, flaws and all. Loosely translated, "wabi" is simplicity and "sabi" means the beauty of age, imperfection and wear. In my experience, ageing brings a richness to our practice as we connect more deeply with ourselves, are freed a bit from competition and self-criticism; and can explore the rich and complex tapestry of our lives - on the inside and outside.

Come and give it a try - or contact us to find out about suitable classes for you. One of my 90+ yogis, who joined the class last year, came along because she decided she wanted to try something new - an inspiration indeed - perhaps it's all about attitude and nothing to do with age! 

By Alison P
20151208_110606_copy_copy_copy
Alison teaches Hot Power Yoga on Tuesdays at 7am

November 19, 2015

Getting Back into your Yoga Groove

Taking a break from yoga (or any exercise) and restarting is always challenging and sometimes just thinking about restarting is enough to put you off or delay the return, especially as it starts to get colder and the warmth and comfort of the sofa is so appealing!YogaVenue-168-copy-300x200

Having a baby and being immersed in the first weeks of this new wonderful life, adjusting to the changes he has created both in my body and my life led to my break from yoga. Once I'd been given the all clear from my doctor to exercise I carved out a bit of time to get to class (this was more challenging than I thought!). 

I started with the Hot 26 class, as I knew the heat would help to open up stiffness and tightness caused by carrying a baby and feeding. Also, being able to continue with the modified series for pregnancy for the first couple of months means I can allow my body to safely get stronger and more flexible in its own time. 

I was a little nervous, months out of the hot room can be daunting, but as soon as I was there I remembered why I practiced this yoga and why I loved it. I came out feeling alive again and although exhausted from new motherhood I felt a bit more awake. I can't wait for my next class! 

Here are my tips to getting back to your practice after a break. Pregnancy was my reason for a break, but these tips apply to all reasons. Don't delay anymore, just remember how great you feel after class. 

Set the intention - change your mind; yes the sofa is comfy, but a strong, flexible body and a calmer mind is also a good place to be. 
Schedule time to go to class - go with a friend or partner so plans are fixed, maybe plan to go for coffee or lunch afterwards
Tell your teacher you've not been for a while. If there was a reason such as an injury, they may suggest modifications or provide additional help.
Hydrate well before class.
Take breaks in class. First class back is not the one to rock out the splits! 
Breathe! So often we forget this! 
Have no expectations. Yes, your practice maybe different - you may feel weaker and that is OK - it's part of the process.
Lastly, come back the next day or as soon as you can. 

See you back in class soon.

By Caroline
Caroline05-200x300

November 6, 2015

Vata Season - It's Here!


You may have read recently about the woes of Vata season. Vata is the Ayurvedic season5110197457_15e2f83fa5_z (sister science to Yoga) that corresponds to our Autumn. 

This season is ruled by air and ether so it is not surprising that many of us struggle to stay focused and if we are not careful our minds get swept away by the strong winds of the season. 

Our bodies and our minds are very much influenced by seasons and nature so it's normal to feel frazzled, frustrated and like you have a never ending list of things to do.

Yoga is very much about trying to calm the whirling of our minds on and off the mat. So at this time of year we are trying to find balance in our bodies and our minds through our breath, mantras and asana. 

Balancing postures are great for helping us to stay grounded. Imagine how much focus you need to do a headstand - it requires a huge amount of concentration. So what better way to do this than to focus on asanas in our practice that ground us?

By Caroline

Yoga-autumn-494x265










© Copyright 2014 YogaVenue  |  Terms and Conditions  |  Website Usage Terms