After attending my classes, yogis occasionally comment that my explanations are “very detailed”. I didn’t think much about this until the 2018 Spiralling Crow teacher training graduates recently asked me why I give such detailed instructions in a dynamic vinyasa class, where a consistent pace or flow are key.
At the time, I didn’t have a good answer. I kept thinking about why I valued precise instructions and looked back to the definition of vinyasa Yoga or vinyasa krama. This refers to the careful ordered placement as part of an uninterrupted sequence.
To me, this means, we place or align our bodies carefully and precisely in the postures so we can breathe and move more easily and experience the element of flow. From a solid foundation, we can move into the next posture with greater stability and ease. Detailed explanations are simply a tool to help us in this process. Even better if the instructions are so clear that one cannot help but translate them into their body.
See you in class soon. Fun transitions are on the agenda this month. Your attention to alignment and precision will be honed in each class.
Trikonasana or Triangle Pose is one of the asanas we frequently include in the standing series of many Yoga classes. Trikonasana when translated from the sanskrit means 3 angle pose: Tri meaning three, Kona meaning angle and asana meaning pose.
A triangle has many representations - the 3 forces of nature: tamasa (inertia), raja (action) and sattva (harmony). Often the asana is explained as bringing together to balance the physical, the mental and the spiritual aspects. There are many more explanations of the power of three in yogic philosophy and elsewhere, but ultimately what we are always trying to achieve is the balance.
Some of the physical benefits of Trikonasana include stretching through tightness in the legs, hips, stimulating the abdominal organs, improving digestion and helping to relieve stress and anxiety. If you look at the physical form of the asana you can see the sense of trying to create balance in the triangles being formed.
Sometimes you will hear us say in class to think about the triangles the body is creating in Trikonasana. Someone recently asked us how many triangles there are in triangle pose. It is an interesting question and the answer is not so straightforward. There are the primary triangles and the secondary triangles. In the photo of Alison (below) you can see 2 triangles easily, the first between both her legs and the floor, the second triangle from the left leg, left arm and left side of her torso. If you look at the photo of Heidi (above) you can see a large triangle formed from her right side body, the floor and the left arm to her chin which meets her right shoulder. What other ones can you see? Luka counted 14 in total! Even if you can’t see them or they are not fully formed yet, the goal is balance and harmony.
This month, YogaVenue has its birthday. The time has flown by and we can’t quite believe that it has been 7 years since we opened the studio doors. In this time the studio has been the home away from home for us but also for many yogis and teachers, along with the occasional cat and dog!
When we decided to open a studio, it was not only for a place to practise but a place of kindness where people could come and do their Yoga. Coming to a new city/town always has its challenges with meeting new people, making new connections, finding new interests and settling in. A Yoga studio had been there for us and welcomed us when we had lived aboard and we wanted to create this too, a place to come together, practise together, laugh together, sometimes cry together, a place to be there for each other and also create friendships. In the Yoga world we call this our Sangha – our community.
Our Sangha at YogaVenue is important to us and to many of you. Without this the studio would not be as rich; the love and commitment each and every one of you makes to yourself and others when you walk through the door can not even be put into words.
Thank you, thank you for being part of YogaVenue and thank you for being you.
We are set to have a week of glorious weather!
The hot weather is a perfect time to practise Yoga. Your body responds quickly and you have the chance to make real changes in your practice and how your body feels. You naturally feel more open and this is perfect for working into areas of tightness. Practising in the warmer weather will leave you feeling more energised. Don't be scared about sweating, it is good for you! It means you are sweating out toxins, and it's great for the skin; it also means you are keeping your body cool, meaning your body is functioning exactly as it should be.
If you are worried about it being too hot in class, don't be. We take extra care to manage the temperatures in both our hot and non hot studios and ensure there is fresh air coming into the rooms (our heating system changes the air in the hot studio 6 times an hour). It is perfectly safe and (actually good for you) to practise in the heat as long as you are prepared.
Below are some useful tips to help you get the most out of your Yoga practice this week and for the rest of the summer.
It may sound very simple but it is surprising how many of us don't hydrate well enough. This isn't just about drinking enough water it is about getting the right balance of salts and minerals in the body. Drink regularly throughout the day, rather than gulping down a litre of water right before you start class. Your sweat is more than just water, so whatever you take out you need to put back in again. Coconut water is a great source of natural electrolytes and we have a wide range available at the studio.
Eat for your practice
As with any physical activity, you’ll want to make sure you’re eating right. A snack or light meal 2 hours or so before class is recommended (fruit, fruit juice, raw vegetables, or a small handful of almonds are all viable options). Don't come to class straight after a heavy meal. The only thing worse than practising with a belly full of water is practising with a belly full of food! Read our blog post on how to eat for your Yoga practice here.
Dress for it
Light weight, dri-fit materials are much better in the hot weather and in hot Yoga classes than heavy cotton materials. We have a large selection of Yoga wear available to purchase at the studio that is made for Hot Yoga so you know it is great for all Yoga classes. Read our blog post on what to wear for your Yoga class here.
If you sweat in class make sure you use a towel or a grip mat towel. Sometimes you may need to take in more than one towel in a Hot Yoga class if you know you are a heavy sweater, this is fine, do what works best for you. No one is counting how many towels you use.
Listen to your body
Every day is a different day and what we eat, what we do and how we feel differs. Sometimes we feel full of energy and want to practise a Hot HIIT Flow class, sometimes we need to be nurtured and supported in a Restorative Yoga class.
Listen to what your body is telling you and come to the class that is right for you that day. We run a full schedule throughout the Summer with a wide variety of classes including all our Hot Yoga classes, Vinyasa, Hatha, Yin, Yin Flow and Restorative Yoga. Click here for our schedule.
Try an early morning Yoga class
If you are making the most of the warmer evenings and socialising or just feel too tired or hot in the evenings, come to one of our early morning Yoga classes. It is bright and beautiful outside as well as cooler. There is nothing better than starting your work day after a Yoga class. Come try it!
Tuesday & Thursday for Hot Power and Friday Vinyasa Yoga, all 7am for 75mins. Click here to book.
Ask us for help and advice
If you aren't sure about how best to carry on your practice or don't know which classes are best for you, just ask us. We are always here to help and no question is insignificant.
See you in class this week.
When teaching Yoga lately, I have noticed that I often invite students to compare their experience in a given pose, or the class as a whole, with their past experiences. This pose, that you may have done 1000 times before, might feel totally different when compared to last week, 5 minutes ago, or when done on the other side. The idea being that by coming more into contact with the actual felt experience of the practice, as opposed to any expectations we might have, we are able to be more mindful, practice more self-care and generally have a nicer time.
While I still think this is a useful way of approaching the practice, I had a funny experience recently where I attended a class where the teacher invited a similar reflection on how a posture felt now compared to previously. I realized that I actually couldn’t answer the question for myself! I had already forgotten entirely how that posture felt even 5 minutes ago, let alone several days ago.
Perhaps I should have concluded that I’m not being very mindful in my practice, but instead I ended up reflecting on how what I really am looking for in my practice, and in my classes, is not an intellectual sort of mindfulness where we can compare our mental notes from last week with our felt experience today. Indeed, this can often feel to me like just another way of avoiding coming into the present moment fully. Rather, it’s a non-thinking kind of mindfulness, where we simply observe what is happening, without stories or ideas or narratives. It can be surprisingly easy to fill my practice with a narrative: “this is my body in triangle pose, I tend to like doing this, that usually feels uncomfortable maybe I’ll avoid it again today. Ah, but I’d better try to look like I’m in good alignment so the person next to me gets a good impression. Hm, I wonder how I look in these leggings?” While a narrative can include genuinely useful dialogue to help us practice in safe and stable alignment, it can also be, in my experience, extremely distracting. The moments of greatest joy in class for me have always been moments characterized in some sense by non-thinking. Just feeling, empty of inner dialogue.
By chance, I came across this sentiment recently in an unexpected place, the early pages of the novel “The Three-Cornered World” (by Natsume Soseki), about an artist. After musing on art a while the protagonist expresses the following:
“In order to appreciate the poetry, you must put yourself in the position of an onlooker, who being able to stand well back, can really see what is happening. It is only from this position that a play or novel can be enjoyed, for here you are free from personal interests.”
I believe it’s the same in Yoga (and the rest of life too for that matter). It’s not that we should be disembodied and detached to the extent that what happens to our bodies has no bearing on us. Instead, we can try to cultivate a perspective of our own journeys that is a bit less personal, less about `me’. Next time you are doing Yoga, you might play around with the idea that it’s not your body throwing shapes, just a body. Perhaps you’ll be able to see the poetry there a bit more easily.
By Kristian Strommen
Kristian teaches Vinyasa Yoga on Thursdays at 17.45 and Sundays at 17.15.
Yoga may have been famously described as 99% practice, 1% theory, but I definitely spend more time reading about Yoga than practising āsana. After all there’s only so many caturaṅgas I can manage, whereas I can sit totally comfortably for hours with a good book! And perhaps I have a reputation for being nerdy, because I keep getting asked about what’s good to read on this or that aspect of Yoga. So I’m sharing with you a few books I’ve enjoyed, either my old favourites or new finds.
If you are just getting interested in Yoga beyond the physical practice but don’t know where to start:
Richard Rosen Yoga FAQ. Almost everything you need to know about Yoga — from Asanas to Yamas
Richard Rosen is a highly respected and well-informed American Yoga teacher. His latest book is an easy entry into Yoga reading. It’s broken down into small sections so can be easily digested, read on the bus, or fitted in around family demands etc. It’s accessible and engagingly written, and the scope is really broad so there’s something for everyone here: whether Patañjali advocates drug-taking, how to pronounce Sanskrit, the history of the sun salutation (Surya namaskāra), what yogis used before the invention of the sticky mat....
For a fascinating perspective on āsanas, with some highly-finessed cuing:
Erich Shiffmann The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness
This was my first ever Yoga book, so this is a special one for me. When I first read this book, I didn’t get it at all, but there was some enticing mystery that kept me coming back — a bit like āsana practice itself! Paradoxically I often turn to it if I can’t practice āsana for some reason: just reading it gives me an almost visceral feeling of what these shapes can be like. Shiffmann is an advanced yogi (whatever that means, he just is one, in my opinion!) so his expression of the poses is nothing like mine, but his descriptions are so evocative, I can feel it in my body as I read. As well as detailed descriptions of some āsanas, there’s some general advice I try to remember always: “Breathe smoothly, deeply. Relax with the intensity. Do and do-not at the same time. Allow the stretch to penetrate.”
If you are interested in the subtle body and the energetics of Yoga asana:
Tias Little Yoga of the Subtle Body
If you’re interested in energetics (the psychospiritual forces that animate the body), I reckon Tias Little is your man. He’s really unassuming but there’s such depth to his experiences that is evident in his writing. The ideas might seem a bit esoteric, but the book also contains some physical exercises to help you directly explore the ideas he writes about as he combines anatomy, mythology, and philosophy to elucidate the qualities of Yoga āsanas. This book has done more than any other for helping me understand (and experience a glimmer of) what cakras, nāḍīs, prāṅa and so on might be about.
For a more nuanced take on what Yoga practice might be about in the broadest sense:
Erling Kagge Silence: In the Age of Noise
Bear with me here! This is not a Yoga book, it’s more of a meditation on the place of silence in our modern busy lives. Kagge is a Norwegian explorer who walked solo across Antarctica and he therefore knows a thing or two about silence. He writes compellingly and rather poetically about the joys and rewards hidden in silence, if you dare to explore. His books comprises 33 short sections each attempting to answer his original questions: What is silence? Where is it? Why is it more important now than ever? This is a short read, but one to savour at leisure. It’s the kind of book I turn to on days when āsana practice isn’t the answer: I open it, read a small section and contemplate. In silence, of course.
By Victoria Jackson
The first type of Yoga I tried, and fell in love with, was Bikram Yoga (the Hot 26). Once I had developed the stamina to attempt each pose, I was able to start developing an awareness of where my body was, and what shapes it was capable of making.
Even though I was enjoying my Hot 26 practice, the time came when I began to feel stuck. I thought I had gotten as far as my body would allow, and that I would never be able to progress any further with the poses. Then I found Yin Yoga! Yin was so different from my Hot 26 practice. It consisted of mainly floor-based poses, each held for between 3-5 minutes each with props and calming music. Yin Yoga encouraged me to focus on the sensations I experienced, and to relax into each pose.
After including Yin Yoga in my practice, I began to experience positive changes in the Hot 26 class. Yin acknowledges that the mind is prone to wandering, and offers guidance on how to bring it back by focusing on the breath and sensations in the body. Practising these techniques in Yin helped me become more focused in my Hot 26 classes. I also experienced positive physical changes. Yin requires holding the poses for longer, which greatly improved my hip and hamstring flexibility. In turn, this increased range helped deepen my Hot 26 poses.
Yin Yoga investigates what the physical body wants and needs, and allows the mind and ego to quieten. I can practice mindfulness and somatic awareness rather than just pushing through to my limit. Overall I find the combination of these two very different yoga practices extremely beneficial not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. As Paul Grilley explains:
“It was and is my intention to promote Yin Yoga as a supplement to yang forms of exercise…Yin Yoga soothes and calms us, yang Yoga invigorates and refreshes us. Each form of exercise is needed at different times. The modern world is very yang; life should be a balance between competition and compassion, between ambition and contentment, but this balance has been lost… Yin Yoga can help bring balance to an overly yang lifestyle.”
I have experienced enormous benefits from incorporating the two practices and I am grateful for the balance of both.
By Luka Baggio
In the Alignment and Warriors Workshop the other week we had students with a mixed range of experience. It was super fun with a huge range of questions (always exciting and challenging for the teacher) that ranged from the very basic, to the experienced, to the subtle. “Why does Asana feel so heavy?” was not an uncommon comment.
Three moments remind me how interesting this work is:
A relatively inexperienced student who realised that she had to work out exactly where her feet had to be before doing the shape, and suddenly the shapes were much easier than she had been thinking.
The Yoga teacher who finally found a shape in W2 where she felt no discomfort and it felt so easy she said, "I could stay here forever!".
The experienced gentleman who realised that his stance was too long and he was struggling to hold the pose for five breaths.
I was most curious as to why this mixed group came together.
It sounds counter-intuitive to some, but all levels of experience know they can benefit from going back to basics/fundamentals often and this yields a deeper experience that spirals your study and practice forward/deeper.
In a Vinyasa practice we flow or move through postures and having the foundations as your guidelines embodied makes movement between, and into, poses safer, steadier, easier and more fun. You feel confident that you are in the right place.
You will never truly grow out of the basics. If you do perhaps that says more about your attitude than your ability as a student or skill as a teacher. Basics, like hand and foot positions, ideas on developing your connection to the ground, what your hips/pelvis are doing to support your spine and, in fact, what all your body is actually doing in space are the cornerstones to your practice and deepening your learning.
Stepping back once in a while is a surefire way to move forward. Increasing your understanding and feeling so you can go deeper is about becoming better friends with the fundamentals. As your awareness increases and your understanding expands then you notice what new things are possible and new poses suddenly become accessible. By stepping back you set up the foundations for new advances – as students and as teachers.
You will never truly grow out of the fundamentals. Don’t hope they will sort themselves out along the way. So instead of shying away from them try to make them your best friends, and like best friends, they need a bit of attention and dedication every now and then.
By Alessandro Gozzi
“Happy Yoga Anniversary, Susanne!”
A recent automated message from YogaVenue prompted some reflections.
I started practising at YogaVenue four years ago. I vividly remember my first class: Hot 26, taught by Caroline. I remember thinking it was the hardest thing I’d ever done, and that I had never sweated so much in my life! I stuck with it though, and some pretty cool, and unexpected things have happened.
My posture has changed. People used to tell me on an almost daily basis that I should straighten up and stop slouching. I haven’t heard this in a while and that alone is worth it! My spine feels happier and my posture has noticeably improved.
I have also noticed that my approach to difficult situations outside the Yoga room has changed. While I used to try and find the easiest way out, I am now able to recognise when this happens. My ongoing Yoga practice has given me the self awareness and confidence to make better decisions.
Lastly, I started teaching Yoga! In 2015 I completed the Spiralling Crow Vinyasa and Hot Power Yoga Training courses with Alessandro and Caroline. I never would have dreamed I would end up teaching Hot Yoga after that first class four years ago. Now I can share my love for Yoga and the smooth and effortless transitions that make me feel like I have superpowers, and hopefully help someone else discover something new along the way.
Next time you get the automated message, take a moment to reflect on what has changed for you. Thank yourself for putting in the work.
See you in class.
By Susanne Kaesbauer
Are you up for a challenge? YogaVenue encourages you to accept ours! Commit to doing a Yoga class every day for 30 days and surprise yourself with the benefits. Our 30 Day Challenge encourages you to dedicate time to yourself, deepen the connection between mind and body, and witness the physical and mental changes Yoga can bring. Sign up for our 30 Day Challenge today and see how your Yoga practice evolves.
Read on to hear how two of our yogis welcomed our 30 Day Challenge.
Truthfully, I didn’t expect to experience much change by taking part in the 30 Day Yoga Challenge. I had been coming to the studio about five times a week already, so I thought two extra classes wouldn’t make much of a difference. This expectation proved quite wrong.
Around the third week of my challenge, I started to feel much more comfortable doing Yoga. I think that’s when I started to connect with my breath, thus making it easier to flow throughout classes without taking breaks. The most tangible difference was being able to complete a Hot 26 sequence for the first time without skipping any of the poses for a rest.
I also developed a sense of community at the studio, and really enjoyed getting to know more people at YogaVenue. During my 30 Day Challenge I adopted a regular schedule of my favourite classes, which meant I saw the same yogis week after week, often even daily.
While I cannot always practise Yoga as much as I would like, I have tried to stick to my daily practice since I finished the 30 Day Challenge. I have also established a home practice for the times I cannot visit YogaVenue, and I rarely let two days pass without hopping back on my mat. I look forward to the next challenges and discoveries on my Yoga journey!
My 30 Day Challenge was about immersing myself in Yoga. I wanted to dedicate my time to exploring balance, and figuring out what that might mean to me. Additionally, I wanted to strengthen some areas of my body and relax others in order to create a more equal left/right balance.
In my mind, a Yoga asana is a balance between expansion, gravity, and breath. Getting this balance right is challenging if we are to move with mindfulness. Every breath has a different quality and in surrendering to this I was able to capture moments of contentment. In my most meditative moments my breath expanded into the areas where my consciousness took it.
My 30 Day Challenge encouraged me to allow changes to happen rather than push them. Finding and maintaining balance as well as practising with patience are my ongoing challenges for the future.
There’s a procession of bolsters and blankets causing a traffic jam on the stairs. It must be time for Restorative...or maybe Yin. Have you ever wondered about the difference between the two and why people choose to go to classes where, as far as you can see, they just lounge around on props?
I often get asked to explain the difference between Yin and Restorative Yoga and I’m not surprised. On the surface, both practices can look very similar: postures are floor based, supported by props and held for minutes rather than a few breaths. So why do I include both in my own practice and encourage others to do the same? Well, while there are undoubtedly overlaps between the two, at their heart, Yin and Restorative are distinct styles of Yoga with their own unique histories, intentions and benefits.
The practice of Yin Yoga as we know it was developed as recently as the 1990s; its roots, however, are centuries old, stemming from ancient Chinese philosophy. Daoism observes the interconnected concepts of yin (dark, cool, soft, slow etc) and yang (hot, light, hard, quick etc), teaching that all things contain both elements and that harmony and health arise from equilibrium between the two. Recognising that today’s world is increasingly yang and that many modern postural Yoga practices are dynamic and heating, the practice of Yin Yoga seeks to bring students to a state of balance by promoting a slower, softer yogic experience.
In a Yin class you can expect to hold floor-based postures for between 2 to 6 minutes, enabling deeper work into connective tissue. Targeting the lower ‘yin’ body (think legs, hips, pelvis and lower back), you’ll be encouraged to use props for support and guided to work kindly towards your ‘edge’ while maintaining a quality of softness. Yin sequences also work into the subtle energy body of Traditional Chinese Medicine, seeking to stimulate channels of energy (meridians) to promote health and balance.
Like Yin, Restorative Yoga as we practise it at YogaVenue, is a relatively recent phenomenon but its essence is deeply rooted in the ancient yogic tradition of India. B.K.S Iyengar is credited as first experimenting with props to allow students, particularly those with illnesses or injuries, to practise Yoga postures without excessive strain. Judith Hanson Lasater, my teacher and a student of Iyengar, was inspired by his teachings to develop the practice we’re familiar with today.
Judith defines Restorative Yoga as “active relaxation” using “props to create positions of ease and comfort that facilitate relaxation and health”. Similarly to Yin, Restorative postures are floor based but instead of working into feelings of stretch you’ll be guided to use props to hold your body away from strong sensations. Instead, you’ll be encouraged to explore feelings of opening and release with the aim of bringing the parasympathetic nervous system (our ‘rest and digest’ system) into dominance. It’s helpful to think of receiving rather than doing the postures which are typically held for between 5 and 20 minutes and are deeply therapeutic.
Believe it or not, even Yoga teachers have to work at maintaining balance in their lives! In a society that reveres productivity and achievement and is quick to label anything else as laziness, it’s easy to get caught up in the cult of busyness. How often have we equated how busy someone is with how successful they are? I love both practices of Yin and Restorative Yoga because, in their own way, they help to bring me back to earth and towards balance. By slowing down and moving towards stillness I get to really listen in, open up and become more receptive to anything that the practices have to teach me moment by moment.
So, my answer to the question ‘to Yin or to Restore?’ Both, of course!
By Katie Phelps
Class recently started with an impromptu discussion about the idea of a ‘masterclass’. I was really surprised by the overwhelming negative reaction to the word: a few eyes to the sky, a few frowns, the words ‘more money’, and I am sure I heard a dismissive ‘tut’.
Although in the Yoga world the term ‘masterclass’ seems to be increasingly used and we’ve all come across it, we could not come to an agreement about what it means. Overall people suggested it was a longer class with a bit more effort made by the teacher and which inevitably costs more to the student.
That this should be the general perception concerns me, and so too does the logic underlying it. Why does a teacher make more effort for a masterclass? Because they are paid more to do this? Does this then make a mockery of general open classes where less effort is perceived? But in reality such open classes are the main context for Yoga in the Western world; they are the place where most students practise their Yoga. This should make them very special indeed!
The reason this is such a concern to me is because it reaches to the very heart of what I believe Yoga is and why we practise at all. For me Yoga is about integration and coming together. It’s about breaking down ideas of separation, coming to perceive the underlying similarities rather than the superficial differences between all of us, and perhaps eventually experiencing what we might call ‘the oneness of being’. We need to be careful with words like ‘master’, or indeed ‘teacher’, so that they do not create more division and separateness, when the intention is wholly the opposite. Yoga is an ongoing journey for all of us, and as teachers we simply aim to share our current state of understanding for the benefit of everyone, not to set ourselves on a pedestal or assume some special status.
So, coming back the idea of a masterclass — where does this leave our beloved students? Out of integration and out of pocket? I would sincerely hope not.
Towards the end someone helpfully brought the discussion back to where we thought the origins of the ‘masterclass’ terminology might come from. We found we could generally relate to a definition of: a class given, especially in music, by an expert to focus on a particular subject or aspect. We could relate this to Yoga and could all be comfortable with it.
I’m away from home for a few weeks — lucky me! But taking a break away doesn’t mean a holiday from my Yoga practice. Friends tell me how worthy I am to travel with a Yoga mat, but actually I just love practising Yoga when I’m away! A new environment is a great way of refreshing my practice, getting out of old habits and routines, and trying some new things.
It’s normal here in Greece to observe ‘quiet hours’ in the afternoon (the traditional siesta time), so I mostly do my practice in the mornings so I can play music if I want to. Not my preferred time of day; I have to be patient to allow my muscles to wake up. But I have time on my side. I’m not trying to cram my practice in between all the responsibilities and duties of my normal life, and I take it slowly. I might spend some time with a particular anatomical focus trying to isolate a specific action (yes, I am nerdy enough that I brought an anatomy book with me too!) or I might work towards an āsana I’m not comfortable with. The wonderful warmth of springtime here brings a sense of energy and draws me towards balances and inversions. And without my trusty Yoga blocks, I’m getting inventive about using a wall or a piece of furniture as a support — or even that thick anatomy book!
Although I love this quiet work at home, I’m not ready to become a Yoga hermit, so I’ve also been going to a few classes locally. It’s always interesting checking out different studios and seeing how Yoga practice ‘translates’ in other countries. My nearest studio teaches in English whenever I come to class. I feel very welcome! But when I ventured further afield with a local friend, the classes were held in Greek, with just a few words in English every now and then to keep me on the right track. I joked with the teacher that Sanskrit would be easier for me than Greek — but apparently that’s only used advanced classes! Yes, I do speak a little Greek, but it dates from my pre-Yoga days as an archaeologist and has a very different focus in terms of vocabulary. Unsurprisingly knowing the Greek for ‘wheel-barrow’, ‘gorse bush’ or ‘surface survey’ isn’t much use now! Although I was expecting to be totally lost in class, of course a vinyāsa is a vinyāsa in any language, and once we’d warmed up and done a few rounds of sun salutations I began to pick out the Greek for ‘Downward Facing Dog’, and instructions like ‘knees, chest, chin’ or ‘lengthen the spine’. Now with a few basic terms under my belt, I’m feeling so full of beginner’s confidence that I’m off to a Kirtan at the weekend — anyway that has to be in Sanskrit, right?
I’m enjoying my Greek Yoga adventures a lot, but at the end it’ll be nice to come back home — and back to YogaVenue, my second home! I’m looking forward to being among friends and familiar faces — and in a familiar language. See you all soon!
By Victoria Jackson
An Osteopath with a bad back is a poor advert, but due to bad sinuses and daily sneezing fits I acquired a weak low back and my job wasn’t helping. In 2009 something finally gave: it was L5/S1 prolapse disc, requiring surgery and 4 months off work to recover - eeek! The surgery was successful, but recovery was going to be long, arduous and boring, then a friend mentioned Bikram Yoga (the Hot 26). I wasn't sure, to me Yoga meant a cold church hall, hard floors - no thanks! But when they said this was hot Yoga in a heated room… well, now you have my attention.
So, I went, 2 months after my operation and only just driving again; the studio was an hour away and en route I was both excited and anxious. Well, what happened next blew my mind!
I couldn’t do much. It was hard just to stand for 50 minutes, let alone do anything else and finish a 90 minute class. I had the wrong clothes on, and I hadn’t drunk enough water or eaten. But, I breathed my way through my first class, and wow! I felt amazing after crawling out the room, and by the time I got home I felt alive. I didn’t really ache much the next day and bounced out of bed ready for my second class.
I went 22 times in the next 30 days and gradually I was getting nearer to touching my toes and more. My surgeon couldn’t believe what I had managed to achieve in such a brief time.
This Yoga has changed my life: I've healed my spine so much that I can trek up mountains - including getting to Everest base camp - and it is all thanks to the Hot 26. Not only has it healed my spine, but it gave me a new career. I love teaching and practising the Hot 26, and as a medical professional I can't vouch for its healing powers enough. Bad backs or knees and think you can't practise Yoga? Come chat to me and I'll tell you what we can do to help you. I'm living proof.
By Caz Pittard
Caz teaches Hot 26 on Monday evenings at 17.30 and 19.30, and Tuesdays at 12.00.
With Mother’s Day around the corner I thought it would be good to write a post about a question we get asked a lot: What is the right Yoga class for a busy, and probably exhausted Mum?
Getting back into exercise after pregnancy can seem daunting. We are inundated with images on social media of women who seem to ‘ping’ back into shape right after giving birth. Trust me this is not the reality! Finding the time to do anything other than look after children, and balance the other demands of work/study/your partner/a never ending pile of laundry is a significant challenge, so if you can find time for a yoga class, any yoga class, then well done!
If you gave birth at least 6 weeks ago, and had no complications, pretty much any of our Yoga classes will suit you, with some modifications as required. Please note: Yoga during pregnancy is specific and we recommend a pregnancy Yoga class (click here to read our blog on pregnancy Yoga).
If you are breastfeeding and/or suffer from Diastasis Recti (more commonly known as split abs) or have a pregnancy related condition, please talk to your teacher before class or email us. We may need to modify postures or need to give you specific advice to help you get back into your Yoga practise. Remember, you should always wait at least 6 weeks post birth to return to your practise.
Whether pregnancy was part of your journey to motherhood or not, we have a Yoga class to suit your schedule and your needs. Our Hot HIIT Flow classes are 60 minutes long, so easier to fit into your busy life, and are perfect for waking up, and detoxifying your system. If you really want to work on your core strength, this is the class for you! I developed it after giving birth and now have a stronger core than I had before my baby.
If a heated class is not your thing, than any of our Vinyasa classes are ideal for getting your body moving, and bringing together your breath and movement. If you are experiencing a stiff neck and shoulders from carrying a little one or loads of washing, a Yin class can provide the release you need. Of course, if you just need to chill out, our Restorative classes are perfect. Doing nothing, as Derek says in his Restorative Yoga class, can be very hard. How often do you get the time to just switch off and relax?
So on this Mother’s Day, don’t ask for chocolates or flowers - ask for some time off and get to a Yoga class. Yoga boosts and improves the metabolism, immune system and energy levels, and will make you feel better than any amount of sugar will! I’ll be here on Mother’s Day too (I’m going to be doing 2 classes – Kristin is here!).
Why practise the slower forms of Yoga such as hatha, yin, restorative and the slower flows? Many of us prefer the quicker, more intense and heating forms of practice. Once upon a time I was an ashtanga teacher, and the quieter forms of Yoga rarely got a look in. Then I discovered the benefits of taking my time, with more space to explore both the detail of the practice and the inner world which is discovered extensively through attention to the breath. For some people this is the practice they prefer, for others it provides a lovely resource which feeds back into the quicker flows.
When we take the opportunity to explore the postures in greater detail, this provides the physical memory which will then offer greater evenness and balance in the quicker movements. When we pay more attention on the way the breath moves the body, we develop a quality of inner listening so that we know how the body wants to self-adjust, rather than be forced into shape. It all helps. The purely supine practices such as yin and restorative, as well as being deeply relaxing are much quicker at developing suppleness. They teach the body to let go of some of the tensions which lead to inflexibility. So in a word, go and give some of these practices a go. Anything that helps our movement feel a ‘delight’ is worth exploring.
By Derek Elliot
Derek teaches Restorative Yoga on Mondays at 19.45.
Derek will also be leading a two part workshop series: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Part 1: The Art of Meditation, and Part 2: The Art of Breathing. Part 1 will be held on 24th February from 2-4pm, and part 2 will take place on 10th March from 2-4pm. These workshops can be taken as a pair or individually - click here to read more and sign up.
I have had arthritis for over 40 years, mostly psoriasis, but in May 2015 it blew up into Rheumatoid Arthritis. By that November I could hardly walk and had to give up employment. In January 2016 I was retired on grounds of ill health. I faced a future bound to my home except going out in a wheelchair and having my home modified - this was truly my life coming to an end.
In February I found what is known as the Paddison Program which is largely a whole-food plant based diet with minimal oils. Based on my experience and research this is something I have now decided is arguably one of the healthiest lifestyles on the planet. There is more to the Paddison Program than that, but one thing is a hallmark of that program - the 60-40 rule. That is that 60% of recovery from RA is diet, and the other 40% is exercise.
As for exercise Paddison strongly recommends Bikram Yoga (Hot 26). Having never done Yoga, after six months of diet I was walking again and in October 2016 started at Yoga Venue in Cowley. I have been here, excepting holidays etc, at least four days a week ever since. When I started Caroline kindly provided me with a stool to sit on because I could not get to the floor. At my second session two people lifted me physically and very carefully to the floor, and at the end back to vertical again. This assistance continued for two months, and then down to one person and then... After four months I was able to use the ballet bars and get up and down from the floor by myself.
After about thirteen months of Hot 26 I completed over 500 hours both in class and my own private exercise regime. Hot 26 has been nothing short of transformative for me. From being wheelchair bound I have walked distance walks up and down very steep hills and kept up with seasoned walkers. RA still presents very serious challenges for me. But now I find Hot 26, supported by my dietary regime, means I feel a bit healthier each and every day.
For forty years I have not knelt properly. It was over six months before I was able to kneel in my Hot 26 sessions. In today's session I knelt and was able to kneel back on my haunches - and almost relaxed in that position. For me, that is a huge moment.
Whatever (small or large) health challenges you have, I am totally confident that if you can do Hot 26 Yoga regularly, you too will find your body recovering and then improving steadily. I am so very confident that Hot 26 Yoga is absolutely the best thing to do - even if all you can do (as I did) is "stay in the room" during your early sessions.
Who knows whether I can ever restore myself sufficiently to be proud of my poses. All I know is if I do nothing my health will degrade, if I do something else I will progress less well generally, and if I postponed my Hot 26 Yoga experience (say for 5 years) any recovery would be that much more of a challenge.
So I am who I am and I am thankful to be allowed into the studio with all the other yogis. I know that I am not the only person with serious challenges. I honour each one of them and am proud to share my time with them.
By Andy Swarbrick
With the start of every new year, the papers, social media, anything that requires marketing of some sort focuses on telling you to set new year’s resolutions. How many of us have said on the 1st Jan I’m going to stop eating chocolate, quit smoking, eat healthier, exercise more, lose weight, be less stressed, GET TO YOGA MORE! The list can be long…
Come 1st February, how many of these resolutions have you stuck with? Maybe now you are preparing for what to give up for lent?
Sometimes we can be very hard on ourselves. We set expectations that are unrealistic and we set ourselves up to fail. Why do we do this? Because everyone else does and we want to change things in our lives. Nothing wrong with wanting to change things for the better (whatever this maybe), but change is hard and doesn’t happen overnight. What is the point of giving up chocolate for January to feel miserable about it and just to eat double the amount in February?
We are so very fortunate to be able to get up every day, open our eyes, breathe and smile. Life is challenging enough at times so perhaps let’s celebrate living and being here in the present moment. Atha Yoga Nushasanam (the first of patanjali’s Yoga Sutras). Now begins the practice of Yoga at this moment.
Yoga Nidra literally means "yogic sleep," but that is a bit of a misnomer. The practice is not about falling asleep — though for beginners, that can often happen if we’re not used to slowing down so much and lying still! Rather Yoga Nidra is a meditation practice that draws us towards a place of consciousness that lies between sleeping and waking, that liminal state we might have already experienced where problems seem to melt away and we feel the simple joy of existing, without needing to do anything.
In a Yoga Nidra session the teacher typically guides students through several stages of meditation. The practice often begins by setting an intention or making a heartfelt prayer (sankalpa in Sanskrit). This might relate to our deepest yearning in life, but importantly is phrased in the present tense (for example “I am at peace”) to encourage us to realise that we already have everything we need within us. We learn to settle into what’s already available, rather than striving to achieve anything in particular. This place of wellbeing is an “inner resource” which helps us more easily access our own innate wisdom and can ground us throughout the practice.
The guided practice then leads us progressively through the layers of the Yogic body (koshas in Sanskrit). It begins with a focus on the physical body and encourages us to direct our attention to various parts of the body in turn, establishing greater concentration and awareness. As we travel deeper into the layers of the subtle (or energetic) body, a non-judgmental attitude is encouraged throughout, so that we learn to welcome all thoughts and experiences without labelling them. We cultivate "witness consciousness," observing and welcoming whatever is present, without getting caught up in it. Because it is always available and is non-changing, this sense of “witness” can help us to experience a sense of the interconnectedness of all life, tapping into an underlying feeling of peace that is always present. As we let go of our ego-centred narratives, we come to experience for ourselves that joy and contentment are not dependent on outside circumstances or the approval of others.
We are complete in ourselves. We can rest (but not fall asleep!) in this ground of wellbeing.
By Victoria Jackson
On 3rd February why not join us here for iRest Yoga Nidra: A Journey into Ease, Well-Being & Consciousness with James Reeves. Click here for more information and to book your place!
It’s that time of year again. Less than a week to go till Christmas and everyone is busy meeting deadlines, finishing up school, socialising and Christmas shopping! When our diaries are full of extra activities it is sometimes hard to keep up a regular Yoga practice, and before you know it it's December 31st and you are vowing not to eat anymore celebrations chocolates or mince pies!
If you find the holiday season a bit stressful, here are some tips to help you get through it and how to keep your Yoga practice going:
Work, family, juggling – it all gets more intense at this time of year. Yoga has an amazing therapeutic affect and studies show it can be extremely helpful with stress management. So rather than skipping class when things get a bit intense, try and make time for class and you will feel more calm, less stressed and more able to manage the juggling of the season.
This time of year is known for over indulgence and a lot more socialising with friends and family. Why not make an evening out of going to Yoga and bring a friend to class instead of going out for a drink or a meal. You get to keep up your practice, you share your interest with a friend and you are both getting healthy at the same time! You never know your friends may enjoy the practice as much as you! We have lots of gift voucher options so sharing Yoga with a friend can also be a great gift idea.
If you can’t make your regular 90 minute class, why not try one of our 60 minute or 75 minute classes. These shorter classes still give you the full Yoga class experience but may give you a bit more flexibility with your busier schedules.
If you are going away why not invest in a travel mat or a grip mat towel and keep your Yoga practice up on holiday. A few simple stretches in the morning when you wake up or before you go to bed can help to open your spine and prepare you for the day ahead. If you are unsure what you could practise on your own just ask us at the studio. There are lots of online Yoga resources, some are really great and make a good temporary alternative if you can’t get to a studio or a class when on holiday.
Don't get stressed about not getting to class and practising. We all go through periods (yes, even Yoga teachers!) where our Yoga practice slips a little. A break every now and again can be good for our practice. We learn different things about our bodies and it can allow us to refocus for the new year.
We are open throughout the holiday period, closed on 25 & 26th December so if you are in Oxford we are here and would love to see you in class.
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