I can’t quite believe it is December! It seems like only yesterday we were enjoying the Summer heatwave. December can be a stressful month for many, with work and study deadlines, school holidays, child care dilemmas, work parties and family commitments…. sometimes it can feel overwhelming.
Here are some YogaVenue tips to manage the festive season stress:
Schedule in your Yoga practice: Even if you can’t get to your regular class during busy December, try an early morning 7am class or a late evening one.
Make Yoga social: Commit to coming with a friend to class. You get to spend time with someone you enjoy while doing something good for your mind and body.
Set yourself a mini Yoga challenge: Having the time to do a 30 day Yoga challenge may not be possible in December, but you could try a 7 day or 10 day challenge instead! Ask us to keep track of your classes and we can help motivate you along the way.
Try a Restorative Yoga class: If you feel overwhelmed by life, sometimes simply switching off is the answer. Spend 90 minutes with no phones, no interruptions, just minimal movement and a mountain of bolsters, blocks and blankets to help keep you relaxed and supported. Restorative Classes are on a Monday at 7.45pm & Friday at 5.45pm.
Last but not least: Enjoy the festivities! Changing our mindset and thinking positively can make a huge difference. Embrace the change and remember YogaVenue is open throughout December!
I have been practising different styles of Yoga for several years, and almost exclusively Hot 26 over the last two. I discovered Yin nearly by accident last June. After one class, I was completely sold; not replacing my Hot 26 practice but enriching it to an extent I wouldn’t have thought it was possible.
Because I can only practice the Hot 26 at the studio, when I go to the studio I have to be in the hot room!
However, after that wonderful class on a Sunday morning, I have been making the time for a few Yin classes; I have been reading the marvellous Normal Blair’s book “Brightening Our Inner Skies”; I built Yin into my daily practice, with an almost exclusive focus on hips (which are my weak and tight spot).
The changes have been extraordinary.
On the physical level, my Hot 26 practice is qualitatively changed. I stopped working ‘in spite’ of my hips and started working ‘with’ my hips, which transformed my backbends. I found that for me my backbending has two pivot points, the hips and the neck, whether in half-moon backbending, or in baby cobra. Once those two pivot points are engaged, my backbending becomes an endorphin shower! It wasn’t the several years of practice that made me discover that (although this definitely helped and wouldn't have been possible without this), but the long time spent fully relaxed with my head dropped back; or fully relaxed in dragon pose or in supta baddha konasana in my Yin Yoga practice, actively and carefully listening to the tiny sounds of the body, without applying any strain or effort.
On the mental level, where of course changes are much subtler, I think Yin is encouraging me to spend more time listening, to be more alert and more aware of what is around me. And I have also become (more) allergic to multitasking! Weaning myself of the habit of multitasking is a process that begun for me a long while ago, but I am convinced that the Yin practice has accelerated it, and again brought it to a new dimension. How much we miss when we try and do more than one thing at once!
The most beautiful aspect of this Yin journey is that everything has been happening very naturally, without the need of forcing a single muscle or a single brain cell, which I suppose is what Yin is also about.
So, whatever Yoga you are in love with, give Yin a go (over a prolonged period of time though and with devotion, no sudden miracles or shortcuts here!) – you won’t be disappointed!
: any of several points of physical or spiritual energy in the human body according to yoga philosophy
Like many people, I came to Yoga for its physical benefits, attracted by the promise of greater strength, balance and flexibility. In those early classes, the mention of chakras, koshas or vayus would leave me feeling confused, uncomfortable or downright sceptical. Gradually though, it became hard to ignore the sense that my asana practice was more than just a chance to sweat and was having effects on a profound, energetic level.
The chakras were the first element of the subtle energy body to resonate with my physical experience of Yoga. As I began to feel how aspects of my consciousness could manifest in my body, I delved more into Indian yogic philosophy. Ancient sanskrit texts such as the Upanishads, refer to seven major chakras. Each one is described as a spinning wheel of energy located along the length of the spine and directly linked to physical, emotional and mental health.
While modern science hasn’t yet been able to record their presence, the location of the chakras in the Indian yogic tradition corresponds to the glands of our endocrine system which functions to maintain homeostasis (balance and optimum functioning) in the body. Long before there was an understanding of human biology, yogic philosophy advocated practices such as asana, pranayama and meditation to regulate the flow of energy in and between the chakras and so create an holistic sense of equilibrium. After a Yoga class you’ll probably be in no doubt about the work your quad muscles have done but that extra je ne sais quoi? That could just be the result of a full chakra workout!
While your Yoga teacher might not talk overtly about your Sacral or Heart Chakras, sequences at YogaVenue are designed with the subtle energy body in mind. Vinyasa flows work sequentially from Root to Crown through each of the seven, major energy centres. Depending on what’s being explored that day, week or month there might also be a particular focus on one or more chakras. During times of transition such as seasonal shifts we’ll often move with an emphasis on Muladhara (Root) Chakra to promote steadiness and equanimity in the face of change: expect postures that stimulate the base of the spine and an invitation to explore your connection to the earth, the element associated with the Root Chakra.
As Mijael Brandwajn says, chakras are “a great way to describe our different needs as human beings and to tie them to a physical sensation”. Maybe the existence of chakras will never be proven by science; maybe you’ll never be able to put your finger on that extra ‘something’ you get from your Yoga practice but the concept of chakras and what they represent can still play an important role in our practice and the way we understand our minds and bodies.
By Katie Phelps
All booked in and ready for your first Yoga class? How exciting! So what should you bring and what should you expect?
A little preparation will help you feel comfortable and ready for your first class. You’ll need suitable clothing such as shorts and a t shirt, or leggings and a tank top. Whatever you would wear to the gym will be fine for Yoga too! If you are unsure, read our 'what to wear' blog here. You are welcome to bring your own Yoga mat and towel (you will need a towel for all hot Yoga classes) or hire them at the studio.
Make sure you are hydrated before class. This doesn't mean gulping down a litre of water while you are standing outside the entrance to the studio! It means drinking enough water throughout the day. You can take water into our hot Yoga classes so make sure you bring a water bottle (there are also water bottles available to buy at the studio). Don’t forget to hydrate well after class too; coconut water is delicious and refreshing after Yoga.
Try and come with an empty stomach. A good rule of thumb is to leave a gap of 1.5 - 2 hours between your last meal and your practice. This can be challenging for early morning classes so try and have something very light or a juice beforehand instead. We strongly suggest you don't eat pasta before class! Once you've done that, you'll know never to do it again...
The most important thing to do in your preparation is to come with no expectations, and with an open mind. Remember that every person in your class will have been in your position once, even the teacher! Here at YogaVenue we believe Yoga should be taught with kindness and we truly believe this starts from the moment you enter the building. Our job is to make you feel reassured and comfortable. Don't worry if you can't balance on one leg, or you’re out of breath and sweating buckets in the first 5 minutes and need to lie down. We’ve all been there too!
Excited? So are we! See you soon.
I was heartened to hear that Yogavenue are supporting the Oxford group of Bosom Friends this Saturday and donating 25% of all the class fees to the charity! I don’t often need encouragement to go to Yoga yet if you are sat at home this Saturday wondering whether you should venture out on a cold autumn day, this is a wonderful reason to both do some Yoga and support a charity which is run entirely by volunteers. When my partner became ill some years ago and was undergoing treatment she attended the meetings run by the Oxford group of Bosom Friends who provided a support network and space to talk to both professionals and others undergoing the same treatments and therapies. Knowing you were not alone and had other people to turn to was comforting; the support that Bosom Friends provide across Oxfordshire is only to be lauded.
So grab your mat and dash off to Yogavenue and relax knowing that it’s just not yourself you are helping this Saturday.
We get asked this question a lot. Will Yoga make my bad back better? Will it cure my back ache?
The honest answer is maybe, and it can a fantastic healer of the spine!
A lot of people start a Yoga practice because of a bad back and their doctor has advised them to start, or they are just sick of being in a state of constant discomfort. If you ask Alessandro or I, we will tell you that bad backs are what made us start Yoga and it saved our backs (and moods too!).
But this doesn’t mean you should head straight to Youtube, find the first Yoga video you can and get on your mat, because that is potentially when you could make a bad back a whole lot worse.
The most important thing to do if you have a bad back and you want to start Yoga is to speak with a teacher that can advise you as to which type of Yoga would be best for your specific circumstances. Choose a teacher who is knowledgeable to ensure you are safe in your practice. When you come to YogaVenue we ask you to tell us about your medical issues and we use this (it is all confidential) to guide you to the right class as well as suggesting modifications when necessary. This is all so important to keep you and your back safe and happy in class.
The power of the Hot 26 for healing back and knee issues is legendary. Personally, a regular Hot 26 practice helped my back and started me on a journey to recovery. It is not uncommon in a Hot 26 class to have someone with a new knee practising next to someone with a back problem, next to someone who has arthritis, who in turn is practising alongside someone with no physical injuries at all. This is the beauty of this class.
Equally beneficial can be a Restorative Yoga, a Yin Flow or Yin Yoga class. Something slower and more mat-based, where the pace is different, and props are integrated into the practice can help the body relax and release. Take Effortless Rest Pose, for example, where you lie on your back with knees bent, feet hip distance or wider (with a strap/belt/towel around your upper thighs if available) – this is a great posture in which to spend 5 mins or so resting to give your back a lovely release.
A Hatha or Vinyasa practice can be helpful but it does depend on the type of back problem you are dealing with, and in some cases these classes may not be suitable, as with Hot Power and HIIT Flow.
If you have something going on with your back, tell us! Let us help you. We will do what we can to help ease any discomfort and put you on the road to recovery, because that is what Yoga did for us.
By Caroline Gozzi
If you practise in the downstairs Vinyasa studio you’ll have seen the mural of the elephant’s face in the back corner. But this is no ordinary elephant — this is the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha.
Ganesha is a very popular figure in India and has become significant even for non-Hindus, especially for modern western Yogi’s. He is most often considered as the remover of obstacles but we particularly like the help he offers when invoked for auspicious beginnings. In our personal perspective, we like to think of him rather as the creator of opportunities — all obstacles are in fact situations that help us learn something and grow towards our best self. Looking to Ganesha helps us appreciate the opportunities we can discover in meeting the challenges that life (and Yoga practice) throws at us. There will always be ‘obstacles’ that get in the way of us having what we want, or what we think we want. Ganesha reminds us to find a way to move through them or around them with a bit more wisdom and grace.
Why does Ganesha have an elephant’s head? The basic story is that his father, Shiva, had been absent for many years and did not recognise that the strange boy standing in his way was actually his own son. He cut off the head of the infant Ganesha in a fit of anger. Then to appease his wife, Parvati, mother of Ganesha, he brought Ganesha back to life and replaced his head with the head of an elephant, since this was the first dead animal he encountered.
There are many attributes of Ganesha in traditional representations which relate to particular stories about his life: why he has a broken tusk, why he rides on a rat, what objects he holds in his hands. But we’ve kept our mural simple, depicting just the face. If you stop and look closely what do you see in that face? You might notice that it’s asymmetrical — just as we all are; no-one’s perfect. In particular Ganesha’s eyes are different, one is open staring right at you as you look at him, the other is darker and turned inward. Perhaps we too all have different ways of seeing the world and of being seen by the world. Part of our nature is open, outward looking: what you see is what you get. The other side of our nature might be more complicated, the sum of all our experiences through life that make us who we are. Perhaps in Ganesha’s face there is represented the inner gaze, a view towards the wisdom that resides deep within us, the wisdom we seek to reveal through our Yoga practice.
oṃ gaṃ gaṇapataye namaḥ
By Alessandro Gozzi
I completed my 30 day Yoga challenge in October 2017 – about a year and half after I first started Yoga. I had been looking for an appropriate time to undertake YogaVenue’s 30 day challenge for a while, so I was really excited when the occasion finally arose. For various reasons ranging from personal relationships to the requirements of my PhD work, my life as an Oxford student has been quite nomadic. I feel lucky for the many travelling opportunities that I have, but this lifestyle can also be tiring and stressful. The stability of spending a whole month in the same place and the prospect of a steady, daily Yoga practice were therefore very appealing to me. In addition, I had just moved out of a house five-minutes away from YogaVenue, and I wanted to make sure that my new ‘remote’ accommodation further away from Cowley Road did not drag me away from the Yoga mat – under the pretext of feeling too lazy to get to the studio!
In truth, I did not expect to experience much change by engaging in this month-long challenge of daily Yoga. I already had a fairly regular practice, as I was coming to the studio about five times a week (whenever in Oxford!), and I thought two more classes would not make much of a difference. This expectation (or lack thereof…) 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 the child’s pose breaks I used to need. The most tangible difference I remember of was to complete a Hot 26 sequence for the first time without skipping any of the poses for a rest.
Another major difference I noticed was that I developed a sense of becoming part of a community. Instead of flexibly picking one class or another from one week to the next, I adopted a regular schedule of my favourite classes. This meant I started to meet the same fellow yogis and yoginis week after week, and often even daily. Owing to my social life spread across at least three different countries, I can sometimes feel quite disconnected from the Oxford life, so I really enjoyed getting to know people at YogaVenue.
While I am still travelling a lot and cannot always practise Yoga as much as I wished, I have tried to stick to my daily practice since I finished my 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!
What matters is not when we practice but that we can create a structure for a regular Yoga practice in our life (BKS Iyengar, the Tree of Yoga). The greatest benefits come from a consistent practice.
That being said, there are many benefits to practising early an early morning Yoga class.
If your motivation decreases as the day progresses, aim to do your practice early in the day.
You may find, the mind is very calm early morning. The deep breaths we take in class stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which further helps to calm us down.
You can expect some of this calmness to carry on into the day. Your approach to work, meetings and deadlines may just be a little different. For example, you may have a slightly different perspective and not let stressful situations get to you by not taking them personally.
After all, you have just spent an hour moving and breathing in unison with a room full of other people. It’s a little more difficult to see yourself as separate and blame others for mistakes or challenges after this.
Do these benefits last? No, that’s why we keep coming back to practice day after day.
Having trouble getting out of bed so early? Think of yourself as someone who does mornings. Visualise yourself getting dressed and practising the morning class. What does the room feel like? How does your body feel first thing?
See you on the mat, early bird.
By Susanne Kaesbauer
Having practised dynamic (yang) forms of Yoga for nearly 20 years and been teaching them for nearly ﬁve years, I had struggled with the slower, less dynamic (Yin/Restorative) forms of Yoga until a couple of years ago, when I began to incorporate slower Yin and Restorative poses little by little into my practice. I trained last year to teach Yin and have gradually become increasingly taken with its gently revealing practices.
Why is it special? I love its simplicity and it's simultaneous depth. I ﬁnd it much more challenging than a more dynamic practice - stillness for me is much harder than the moving ﬂow of a Vinyasa practice. Unlike the wonderfully relaxing and nurturing Restorative Yoga practices, Yin invites us to hold (the sometimes challenging) poses for some time, and to yield and explore the sensations in the body, the ﬂow of the breath and the ﬂuctuations of the mind.
The practice is drawn from Traditional Chinese Medicine, and uses the theory of meridians, similar to the acupressure points used in some massage practices and acupuncture. It is a deeply meditative practice and, for me, offers a unique opportunity to inquire and observe mental and emotional responses to a (safe) level of discomfort. We can explore responses which may echo our lived experience, for instance in our reaction to discomfort, irritation, boredom, etc, and perhaps offer openings to deepen our understanding and awareness - both on and off the mat.
By Alison Partridge
A regular student rushed in to the studio, obviously feeling very disturbed and upset.
“I haven’t booked, but please can I do class if there is room?”
The class was full and I said so.
“Please, I’m begging you, I’ve had the day from hell and I just want to do Yoga. Can I do it in the hall way?”
Unbeknown to them, in the past I have practised in a hall way when there was no room left in a studio I was visiting (some others spilled over into the garden too). What was I to say to that?
It seems that there can be a slight disbelief that so many other people like the same class and they also want to come and experience it. And of course, this can challenge our ideas (or perhaps I should say expectations) of personal space. I welcome the experience of practising in a dynamic class with focused like-minded people. In the Yoga world it is called Sangha.
Why do people struggle with busy classes? And what does busy mean?
How much space you need and how much you want can be quite different. Yoga used to be taught one on one - the student and the teacher, and this still happens today, but in the last 40 years the movement towards group classes has grown. This is partly to do with helping more people benefit from this practice, which can only be a good thing. We want to help people experience Yoga and gain the amazing benefits from this practice safely (this is why we have maximum capacity limits on classes). It’s as simple as that. In the end, each yogi will to come to their own conclusions about which classes or studio works for them and their Yoga.
We feel Yoga is for everyone and we try as hard as we can to make it accessible; Sangha creates itself, a shared sense of learning and practising. To practise, all you need is your Yoga mat and your breath. It is the same in a class with other people, a one on one session, or self practice.
So, what to do about our desperate student hoping for a space in class? They really needed Yoga that day – who knows, it might even have saved their life. If everyone in the class just moved up a few centimetres… And when I asked the class if there was space for someone who really needed their Yoga that day, there was no hesitation as everyone shifted around. This is our Sangha.
I’m so excited, it’s nearly time for the Hot Power Flow Teacher Training again!
I think of teacher training as professional development. It’s an investment in my future and I have clear goals for what I want to achieve with each training. Some of the key strengths of this training are described below.
Taken together, this level of preparation sets you apart from other teachers. Don’t delay booking onto the training if the hot room is calling your name. Hot Power Flow Training only happens once per year.
See you upstairs.
Susanne teaches Hot Power Flow Yoga on Tuesdays at 6pm, Vinyasa Yoga on Thursdays at 10am and Hot Power Flow Yoga on Sundays at 10am.
"My new favourite word is 'namaste' which is Indian for 'the Yoga is finished now'"
Sara Pascoe, Jun 2014
We hear namaste at the end of class and it does, in some way, signify that our time together in class has almost come to an end.
Derived from Sanskrit, it is used across India, Nepal and other parts of Asia in varying ways, ostensibly a respectful greeting but its meaning is a little different in the context of Yoga.
Namaste is a salutation first and foremost (very close to the 'Namaskar' of our Surya Namaskar/Sun Salutation) but has more resonance than a cheery hello. Accompanied with a slight bow, hands lightly in the Anjali mudra, reinforcing the potency of benediction/reverance; namaste is deeply respectful. Namaste recognises the individual, acknowledging all that they are and we are, in one word. It can be translated as "I bow to you" or as "the light(divine) in me bows to the light(divine) in you".
It may feel a little fatuous to utter an ancient sacred word at the end of some moving when you first take up the baton of Yoga, but by speaking this word at the end of your time in class, you acknowledge the class, the lineage, your teacher and your fellow practitioners. As a student there are often times when I get to the end of class and I want to honour my teachers teachings, the hundreds of hours of experience on the mat they have and the love that they have crafted a sequence with. Similarly, when I teach, I feel like the end of class is the perfect time to honour the sweat and diligence of the students who have stuck with me through the rough and through the smooth.
It's the closing of the loop. It can be said with relief, with joy or with exasperation. But I think it should be said with some deference. Some acknowledgement to yourself and the other people in the room, everything around and before you.
Like many things to do with our lives and as such our practice of Yoga, the word is incomplete without the feeling.
And FYI Sara, the Yoga is never finished.
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.
Have you seen those Yoga themed t-shirts with the slogan “I’m only here for the Śavāsana”? You too might love Śavāsana like this — or maybe you find it really hard or simply a bit boring. Śavāsana is something of a marmite Yoga pose — you love it or you hate it.
It can be easy to see Śavāsana as just the relaxation bit at the end of class, but of course it’s a Yoga posture like any other, so it’s good to set up well and find a comfortable way to be here for 5-10 minutes. If you find lying on your back uncomfortable, you might modify by bringing the knees up with feet flat on the floor hip-width apart, until perhaps over time lying full-length might come more naturally. In more restorative classes Śavāsana might be held for a longer time, with options given for modifications, making full of use of blankets and bolsters.
In any case it’s good ‘Yoga etiquette’ never to skip Śavāsana. This isn’t just because it’s disruptive to your fellow students lying down around you if you get up and go early, nor because it’s rude to the teacher to leave the room before they do — it’s simply that Śavāsana is an integral part of the Yoga practice and time spent here will help you leave class feeling balanced and refreshed.
During Śavāsana control of the breath, body and mind are released. Scanning the body for areas of muscular tension might help initiate this process of letting go. Then the breath gradually deepens and all efforts fade away. This is a time for assimilating the benefits of the āsana practice, not through conscious thoughts but by allowing the body to rest and regroup. Ending practice with Śavāsana has a long tradition. It’s mentioned in the fifteenth century work the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā which gives two basic benefits of the pose: “With this āsana, tiredness caused by other āsanas is eliminated; it also promotes calmness of the mind.”
Instead of checking out and slipping towards a little snooze as you are lying down, you might try instead to use Śavāsana as an opportunity to practice Pratyāhāra (‘withdrawal of the senses’), turning your attention inward and cultivating the ‘calmness of mind’ mentioned in the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā. Practise watching your thoughts as they arise and see how they often then fall away if you don’t get caught up in them. Over time this might help you see that thoughts are just thoughts — they are not reality. This can be a step towards meditation and the awareness that some underlying stillness and truth exist on a deeper level beneath the fluctuating thoughts that often distract us throughout our lives. Perhaps it is for this reason that Śavāsana (‘Corpse Pose’) gets its name: we symbolically ‘die’ by letting go of our old way of being and our habitual patterns of thinking. It is a very subtle forerunner of the process we go through at death where everything drops away until only the body remains lying inert.
By Victoria Jackson
Winter is definitely starting to make an appearance and when it gets colder we tend to crave more heavy foods and carbs, which can sometimes make you feel a bit sluggish. But this doesn’t need to be the case. Here are some simple suggestions of foods to include into your diet, which coupled with your Yoga practice will have you fighting fit for the winter months.
Make sure you buy a variety of greens such as kale, cabbage, green beans and broccoli, and root vegetables like turnip, swede, pumpkin, carrots and squashes. If you hate shopping, Abel and Cole and Riverford deliver organic veggie boxes each week. There are other local organic food delivery schemes or drop offs and Farmers Markets in Oxford which are worth exploring. The East Oxford Farmers Market on a Saturday across from the studio has a great fruit and veg stall, all organic and locally grown.
If you prefer a plant based/vegan diet ensure you have a variety of pulses like, black beans, kidney beans, lentils and borlotti beans in stock and some tofu in the fridge. Pescatarians make sure you add in a fillet of salmon or cod. Omnivores try and go for lean grass fed, organic options. I love the Yummly website, it incorporates lots of different recipes and food writers and gives some inspiration when you’re at a loss as to what to cook.
Deliciously Ella’s warm sweet potato mushrooms and spinach salad, or from Delicious magazine, quinoa risotto with pumpkin and spinach. This is a particularly good recipe as quinoa is so high in protein and for Yogis using up lots of calories it’s good for restoring the muscles after a tough day.
Nigel Slater's chicken noodle soup which contains spring onions, kale, stock and chicken is healthy and has a good balance of protein and carbohydrate and is easy to make. The stock from the drumsticks provides a good source of calcium and potassium and makes it particularly nourishing.
There are lots and lots of options to stop you reaching for the biscuit tin on those cold night and keep you healthy, ward off colds and flus as it gets colder. See you in Yoga soon!
By Mary O'Leary, Osteopath and Nutritional Therapist, BSc Ost Med, MSc Nutritional Therapy
Yin Yoga has multiple benefits for our bodies. It focuses on the hips, pelvis and lower-back, parts of us that are prone to stiffness and injury, particularly as we age. It targets connective tissue (ligaments, fascia, tendons) with gentle long holds so they become longer and stronger. After just one class I hear people say that their body feels stretched out and more relaxed, that they notice the release of aches and pains. A regular practice will increase your joint mobility.
Personally however I value the practice of Yin Yoga most for the effect it has on my mood and emotional wellbeing. If I’m fatigued, feeling overwhelmed, or under the weather, eventually I remember that things will seem better if I pause and take just a few Yin poses.
It’s easy to numb or stimulate ourselves when we are feeling less than great: alcohol, immersion in work, shopping, food, social media, Netflix… But in the last few years I have learned that taking the time to find stillness, to feel everything happening in my body and the emotions moving through me, is the most effective way to shift myself to a more peaceful and relaxed state. Quite often I try wine and ice-cream first, but a mindful Yin session always brings longer-lasting results.
The wealth of media at our fingertips has made it harder than ever for us to be simply present in our body with our feelings. But if we want to understand the depths of our complex internal world, to allow emotions, our creativity, intuition and sensitivity to surface their messages, we must pause so they have our attention and time.
Yin Yoga gives us the opportunity to be present with all our layers – physical, mental and energetic. This awareness combined with pressure on our physical body can help release emotions and tensions in our tissues. Some practitioners believe that Yin Yoga taps into the Meridians (energy channels) of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which are said to affect the flow of our emotions and our wellbeing - but this deserves a separate blog post.
Sometimes slowing down and looking inside is a scary prospect, but the breath is our resource throughout. With each exhale we can let go a little of whatever we are holding onto, and each inhale brings in fresh life and possibility. With practice we can loosen our attachment to the changing thoughts, moods, and feelings that are constantly passing through us. And hopefully we finish our Yin practice feeling a little lighter, softer, more embodied and at ease.
By Karen Iles
Karen teaches Yin Yoga on Fridays at 11.30, she also teaches Hatha Yoga on Wednesdays at 19.45 and Saturdays at 11.15.
What can the tortoise teach us about practising Yoga? Perhaps not that we should be laboriously slow-moving and certainly not that we should protect ourselves with a hard shell! Instead let’s think about these lines from the Bhagavad Gita where Shri Krishna compares us to a tortoise when he instructs Arjuna:
In this metaphor, the tortoise's shell is our mind and its legs are our senses. But why might we want to 'withdraw our senses' into the shell of our mind as part of our Yoga practice? After all we rely on our senses to help us understand the world through sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
One answer is that we can have too much of a good thing! Our modern world is a bright, noisy, colourful, 24/7 environment. It constantly stimulates our senses until we can feel swept away by information overload. We become almost addicted to this kind of 'entertainment'. We crave more sensations and more vivid experiences; we become led by our desires and we latch onto the pleasure of the moment. Maybe you can observe this on a very crude level, if we think about how many times a day you check your smartphone, even when you don't really need to. Because our senses are used to this constant stimulation, our minds are unable to become quiet and settled into true focus. In spiritual terms, our uncontrolled senses drag us away from the bigger picture of self-knowledge and wisdom which is the goal of Yoga:
'Withdrawing our senses' (pratyahara in Sanskrit) is the practice of turning our attention within. By doing this we let go of sensory stimulation and allow the mind to become still. We draw our energy away from the external world and channel it inwards to create an absolute focus on the question at the heart of Yoga — exploring what is real.
By Alessandro Gozzi
One of the things we get asked frequently is how to eat and drink right for Yoga. Should I eat right before class? Should I have breakfast? How do you manage not to be hungry for the late evening classes? All really important questions. Mary O’Leary, a regular Yogi at YogaVenue who is also a nutritionist, has compiled some really useful tips to help you drink and eat for Yoga.
Keep well hydrated at all times and do this by filling a litre bottle with water each day and sip throughout the day. Aim not to have more than 2 coffees or teas a day as they can be quite dehydrating and try not to drink too much at meal times. Adjust for the seasons as well. When it is a really warm day you will sweat more so make sure that you drink more.
Always snack or have a meal 2 hours before exercise. If you don’t have time for breakfast and you know you get light headed, have a handful of walnuts or almonds and half a banana.
Lunch again is a question of keeping the blood sugar balanced. Some protein, some fat and some carbohydrate. Baked sweet potato and feta and greens and avocado. Soups can be home made with protein added. Or for the dedicated ‘nutribullet ninja’ make a green smoothie with almond milk and almond or hazelnut butter. Kale and spinach can be added to these smoothies as can protein powders.
If you’re doing an evening yoga class then aim to have a decent lunch, the more protein you have the less hungry you will be. If you’re an omnivore you can have brown rice and salmon and spinach and or broccoli. Or tofu and rice and greens, beetroot and carrots can be used too. Planning what you are going to eat usually helps so think about when you are exercising, when you can shop and when you can cook. If you know there is not much choice for healthy options where you work, prepare your lunch the night before.
Check out Deliciously Ella for good nutritious suggestions for peanut overnight oats or for pear cinammon and walnut porridge.
Alternatively, you can make your own with this simple recipe; soak a 30 g (or small cup) of oats in ¾ cup almond milk, grate an apple into it, add some chia seeds. Leave overnight in fridge, add raisins or a drop of maple syrup to sweeten. Add yoghurt to flavour or for more protein. Greek organic yoghurt, full fat, is good or if you’re vegan try the soya or coconut yoghurts.
Snacks: if you’re hungry and need a quick snack, have a bounce ball - these can be bought or made. You just need sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and dates and some date syrup and or blueberries and or hemp powder. Again there are tons of recipes on-line, they are really simple to make and are a good boost pre-exercise.
By Mary O'Leary, Osteopath and Nutritional Therapist, BSc Ost Med, MSc Nutritional Therapy
One of the perks of being a Hot 26 (Bikram Yoga) teacher is the opportunity to travel, teach and practise at studios around the world. A chance to visit new cities, see different cultures and meet local communities. Through my recent travels across Europe, I had the chance to do exactly this and also reconnect to my Hot 26 Yoga practice.
The great thing about the Hot 26 class is that the structure and the sequence is the same in every class so it is great when travelling as you get to practise a class with different teachers and in different languages. Even if a class is not what I'm used to or I don't understand what's being said, the sequence still remains the same.
I treat each class at a new studio like my first ever class. I focus on my breath and stillness, I listen intently to the teacher, and let go of any expectations as to what might happen in the class. I'm not worried about how deep I go in postures, I let go of the external forces (heat, humidity, teacher, people...) that I can't control. I concentrate on my breathing, bring awareness to my body, and I'm conscious of my alignment.
The Hot 26 class is more than just a tough Yoga class in a hot room. The benefits of this practice have been well documented. A consistent practice can do wonders for your wellbeing, both mental and physically. I know the healing benefits myself as I have used this practice to help recover from chronic sciatic pain.
Each class is a chance to push the reset button, to clear out the cobwebs and start again.
My recent trip to Gothenburg has reignited my love for the Hot 26 practice. I practised everyday, mostly the Hot 26 classes (interspersed with intermediate, Hot Power, Vinyasa, Yin and Restorative classes) and this has continued since I returned to the UK.
Its comforting to know that I'm able to practise the 26/2 sequence anywhere in the world and get that same euphoric feeling after class.
If you've been away from the hot room recently for whatever reason or have never tried it before or you find yourself in a new city, get yourself to a hot 26 class - embrace the heat and start again!
By Kee Chan
Have you wondered about the beads on sale at the reception desk? They might look simply like jewellery (and they are really pretty to wear as a necklace or bracelet), but actually they have a deeper significance -- and they might even help you with your yoga practice!
Rather than being jewellery as such, they are mālā beads (mālā means ‘garland’ in Sanskrit). A mālā is a bit like a Catholic rosary; it’s an aid to meditation by helping you count the number of repetitions of a mantra. Within a Yoga context, mantra repetition can be done as a spiritual or secular practice. Traditional Sanskrit mantras (like OM) are believed to have a particular vibrational quality in their sounds that is healing or spiritually uplifting. Secular mantras might be compared to positive affirmations, helping us grow in ourselves and achieve our goals. So whatever your practice and beliefs, mantra meditation might offer something to you.
A mālā usually has 108 beads (a sacred number in Hinduism) and a larger ‘guru bead’, or it might be shorter, often 27 beads (a quarter turn of a full mālā). Within the Hindu tradition you hold the mālā in your right hand starting at the guru bead, and you use the thumb to count each bead towards you as you repeat the mantra. You travel round the mālā, bead by bead, with each repetition, until you come back to the guru bead. If you want to continue reciting your mantra, you flip the mālā over or reverse the direction — you never cross the guru bead.
A mantra can be recited out loud, whispered quietly or just repeated silently in your head, depending on your preference or circumstances. Mantra repetition can, of course, be done without a mālā, but using these beads introduces a tactile dimension to the practice. It can act as a focal point, stopping the mind wandering too much, especially as the sounds become familiar and difficult to give full care and attention to. It’s a bit like focusing on the breath or dṛṣṭi during āsana practice. It helps keep our attention and from that allows us to cultivate concentration and inner stillness.
108 repetitions of a mantra might sound like a lot, but it needn’t take too long. While a full mālā of a longer mantra like the four-line Guru Mantra might take about half an hour, a shorter mantra like OM obviously can take less time. Whatever mantra or affirmation you choose, try to repeat it with full focus each time, bringing every bit of attention to it as though each repetition is the very first time. After some time of practice (weeks, month or years…) you might notice a different quality to the mantra, as new layers of meaning or resonance reveal themselves to you. Just as āsana practice changes over time, so too our meditation experiences deepen and become more subtle the longer we commit to our practice.
By Victoria Jackson
Often there is an assumption that as Yoga teachers all we do is practise Yoga all day long. I’d love to say that my answer is YES. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Although maintaining our practice is crucial to being able to teach Yoga, most of the time we are not on the Yoga mat all day.
Like anyone it can be a struggle to find the time to myself to work on my practice. Juggling all the things that come with running a Yoga studio and being a teacher – teaching, studying, studio admin, meetings, social media etc. along with home life – cats, a toddler whose favourite word is “RUN!” and occasionally seeing Alessandro can very hard.
It can be easy to sometimes roll out my mat and flop on it, or make an excuse to take the easy option in my practice all the time and not put the effort in or say to myself that I am tired and should be doing paperwork instead.
But when I feel like this the best place for me is my mat and this is the time when rather than taking it easy, I need to make the effort to go deeper – physically and mentally and take myself to my mat because I know my body and my mind needs this. Putting in the effort again and again will result in change and allow me to juggle the various challenges in my life without too much stress. This is not a commitment on an ad hoc basis, but one that needs to be constant. When it feels like a struggle I remind myself of one of the Yoga Sutras. “Tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasa – Effort to stay there is called practice” (Yoga Sutra 1.13).
Yes, it is easy to find an excuse to not practise Yoga or to do the thing on your ‘To Do List’ you are avoiding. Yes, it does take effort and time, but sometimes that is what we need to do.
See you on the mat soon.
WILD sits on the yang side of the FG system. High energy, dynamic movements, in a heated room and great beats, what more could you want? Suitable for everyone regardless of level. I love teaching this class, so come and get WILD with Oscar. I can promise you’ll be challenged but will have a lot of fun.
There are several reasons I think people should try the WILD class:
It’s always great to vary things as your body adapts if you do the same type of exercise constantly. Not just for the physical reasons but for the mental benefits also. With the wild class there is upbeat funky music making the class much more fast paced then the other yoga classes. Health and fitness is a broad spectrum of many things, change is always good.
We all know that yoga builds muscle and strength but the wild class take it up a couple of levels. Focusing on a lot of movements for core and upper body it’s a great class if you have the focus on building a bit more muscle and strength. With a wide range of exercises this class works most muscles in the body!
Give you some new ideas
You might want to try something different for yourself; maybe you have some new fitness goals. With some great and unusual exercises and movements the WILD class might give you some new insights into some exercises you haven’t done before that you can take home and do yourself. The whole class is just using yourself as a gym!
Oscar teaches Fierce Grace WILD at 18.00 and Fierce Grace at 19.30 on Thursdays.
Maybe you are already a regular to our Hot HIIT Flow Yoga classes or you’ve just seen them on the scheduled and have been thinking about giving them a go but weren’t sure exactly what they consisted of. There is a lot of press about HIIT (high intensity interval training) type exercise classes and it is very much seen at the “workout of the moment”. But is it any good? What is the point? Does it work? Most importantly why bring HIIT into a Yoga class, especially a heated class?
HIIT is a form of exercise where you alternate between very intense periods and short rest to create a efficient workout in less time. The high intensity intervals are performed at 85-90% of an individual’s maximum training capacity, recovery intervals at 50%.
Here are our top 4 benefits of HIIT:
Boosts metabolism – The American College of Sports and Medicine said that High Intensity Interval Training helps you consume more oxygen than a non-interval workout routine. The excess amount of oxygen consumed helps increase your rate of metabolism from about 90 minutes to 144 minutes after a session of interval training. Thus the increased metabolism helps burn more calories at a faster rate which can last for up to 24 hours. Boosting your metabolism can also positively influence growth hormone which has a whole host of benefit from metabolism to immunity and even anti-ageing.
Good for heart health – High blood pressure is increasingly becoming a problem for all ages due to stress. Usually, periods of stress will raise blood pressure, and then when the stress goes away our blood pressure goes back to normal. When we're under perpetual amounts of stress, blood pressure can stay elevated and have a negative impact on our health. Exercise in general is fantastic for blood pressure, but HIIT has been shown to improve arterial elasticity because you are able to work in an anaerobic zone where you lose your breath and feel your heart pounding faster and faster for short intervals and, recover and do it again. This helps keep a healthy heart and helps blood flow effectively throughout your whole body.
Helps build endurance- Although it may seem counter intuitive, short bursts of maximum work can actually improve your endurance and carry over into other types of endurance exercises, like running, biking and swimming. How? High intensity training adapts to the cellular structure of muscles which enables you to increase your endurance while doing any type of exercise. “Journal of Physiology,” posted a study where people participated in HIIT for eight weeks and the results showed that they had doubled the length of time they could ride a bicycle while keeping the same pace.
Burns calories and lose fat – HIIT is great if you have a limited amount of time to work out. Studies show that 15 minutes of HIIT burns more calories than jogging on a treadmill for an hour. Steady cardio is often associated with losing muscle. HIIT workouts, however, combine weight training (the weight being your body) and effectively allows you to preserve their muscle gain while still shedding weight.
Why mix with Yoga?
At YogaVenue we have created a fantastic class to bring together the benefits of a HIIT workout with a Yoga class. So often we find our muscles get tight from high intensity or cardio workouts and we don’t stretch enough. On the flip side, fitting a cardio activity into your schedule maybe be challenging but you need it to maintain heart health. Now there is everything in one class. The class starts with a gentle warm up, increasing in intensity leading you to the HIIT section, which lasts around 20mins, before slowly bring the heart rate down and finishing with asana designed to elongate and release muscle tension bringing you to a peaceful savasana at the end. The class is done with music.
Why add the heat?
Our HIIT Flow Yoga classes are heated to around 30-33 degrees. The heat has many benefits and if you already practise Hot Yoga you’ll know all about this, if not click here. Heat combined with HIIT increases the anaerobic intensity of the HIIT section and allows you to stretch safely in asana sections. It’s a win win!
Join one of our Hot HIIT Flow Yoga classes on Tuesdays at 19.30 and Saturdays at 11.00. From the 23rd September our Saturday Hot HIIT Flow classes will move to 08.30.
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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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Derek Elliot
Book into Derek's Sunday morning Hatha classes here.
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.
‘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.
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
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!
By Lucie Spence
by Evan Easton-Calabria
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
- 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)
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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 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:
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
Kate teaches Yin Yoga on Fridays at 11.30am & Sundays at 12pm and Hot Power Yoga on Thursdays at 7am.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Kristian teaches Vinyasa Yoga on Tuesdays at 17.30.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Makes 6 to 8 bars
Makes 6 to 8 bars
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.
We have Hot Power Yoga classes everyday, click here to see our class schedule and book in.
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.
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.
Susanne teaches Slow Flow to Bed on Tuesdays at 20.30, and Vinyasa Yoga on Sundays at 17.15.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
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!
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!
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.
1. I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.
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!
Karen teaches Hatha Yoga at YogaVenue