Blog

December 10, 2018

How to keep up your Yoga practice & reduce stress during the festive season


xmas hot 

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:

 

xmas hot 2Schedule 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!

 

By Caroline


December 5, 2018

Why I love Yin

 

Yin Erica blog kate

 

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!

 

Yin EricaHowever, 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!

 

By Erica


November 19, 2018

What are chakras?

 

chakras katie

 

Chakra noun

 : any of several points of physical or spiritual energy in the human body according to yoga philosophy

(Merriam-Webster dictionary)

 

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.

 

2112-How-To-Open-Your-Seven-ChakrasWhile 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


November 14, 2018

How to prepare for your first Yoga class

 

first class 

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.

 

first class 2Try 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.

 

By Caroline

 


October 24, 2018

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: why this Saturday is an important fundraiser - a personal view

bosom friends

 

breast cancer awarenessI 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.

 

Dan

 


October 17, 2018

Will Yoga help my bad back?

 

bad back

 

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.

 

bad back 2The 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

 


October 10, 2018

Ganesha Mural

 

Ganesha mural blog_copy

 

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


October 3, 2018

Challenge Yourself!

 

30 day challenge board pic

 

challengeI 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.

 

30 day challenge_copyAnother 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!

 

By Amélie


September 24, 2018

Cultivate a morning practice

 Susanne morning

 

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


September 18, 2018

Why is Yin so special?

 

Alison Yin 2

 

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.


Alison Yin 1Why 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


September 11, 2018

Community

 

Community_copy

 

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.

 

Community 2Why 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.


September 4, 2018

Hot Power Flow Yoga Teacher Training - Just Do It!

 

Wild Susanne

 

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.

 

Hot Power TT - YogaVenue

  • The Hot Power Flow TT is purposefully kept small so you’ll get lots of individual attention and there is lots of time for Q&As.

 

  • You’ll learn a lot from Caroline’s years of experience teaching in the hot room. She shares real scenarios and examples that show some of the decisions and considerations you’ll be making when teaching in a heated environment. You’ll feel more confident knowing about what can come up and how to respond.

 

  • You walk away with a hot power sequence and experience teaching in the hot room. You can begin to teach hot classes immediately afterwards and feel like you are in the right place. 

 

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

 

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. 


August 22, 2018

Namaste

 

namaste 1 

 

"My new favourite word is 'namaste' which is Indian for 'the Yoga is finished now'"

 

Sara Pascoe, Jun 2014

 

Not quite. 

 

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".

 

Keyte home pageIt 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.

 

By Keyte


August 13, 2018

Precision and alignment

 

Susanne alignment (3)_copy_copyAfter 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.  

 

By Susanne

 

 

 

 

 

 


August 8, 2018

How many triangles in triangle?

 

Triangle 2

 

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.

 

Triangle

 

By Caroline


August 1, 2018

Our Sangha – Our Community

 

Sangha 2

 

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!

 

SanghaWhen 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. 

 

Namaste


June 27, 2018

Tips for practising Yoga in a heatwave

 

Alison hot

 

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.

 

Stay hydrated

 

apple-403589_copy

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

 

Restorative 1 - YogaVenue

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.

 

By Caroline

 


June 19, 2018

Seeing the poetry in our practice

 

Kristian (1)

 

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.

 

Kristian (3)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.


May 22, 2018

Reading about Yoga

 

victoria books blog

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.”

victoria books



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


May 15, 2018

How Yin Helped my Yang

 

Yin luka blog

 

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.

 

Luka Yin blog 2After 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


May 8, 2018

We all need the fundamentals

 

Yoga Venue 2nd Shoot November - Potters Instinct Photography-65

 

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.

 

Yoga Venue 2nd Shoot November - Potters Instinct Photography-44Three 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.

 Yoga Venue 2nd Shoot November - Potters Instinct Photography-70

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

 


May 1, 2018

“Happy Yoga Anniversary, Susanne!”

 

susanne anniversary

 

“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.

 

susanne anniversary blogI 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. 

Namaste

 

By Susanne Kaesbauer


April 23, 2018

YogaVenue’s 30 Day Challenge

 30 day challengeAre 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.

 

30 Day Challenge by Amelie

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.

 

dina 30 day

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!

 

30 Day Challenge by Dina

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.

 

 

 


April 16, 2018

To Yin or to Restore? That is the question.

 

restorative yin katie 2

 

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.

 

Restorative 1 - YogaVenueLike 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


April 3, 2018

Masterclass: Integration or Separation?

 

alessandro masterclass

 

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.

 

masterclass groupThat 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.

 

By Alessandro

 


March 26, 2018

Yoga away from home

 

victoria 

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


March 20, 2018

How Hot Yoga cured my bad back: A journey from back surgery to full health with the Hot 26

 

hot 26 heidi

 

hot 26An 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.


March 6, 2018

Yoga for Mums

 Mums

 

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.

 

Mums 2Whether 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!).

 

By Caroline

 


February 6, 2018

Taking time to slow down and explore

 

Derek assist

 

Derek seatedWhy 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.

 


January 30, 2018

Healing through the Hot 26

andy13

andy10_copy

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.

 

andy5After 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

 

If you want to know more about Andy’s journey, click here or here to view some videos he has been involved with.

 


January 11, 2018

New year’s resolutions or not…

resolutions

 

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. 

 

By Caroline


January 6, 2018

Yoga Nidra

 

Yoga_Nidra_Woman

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!


December 19, 2017

How to keep your Yoga practice up during the holiday season!

 

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:

 
Kee blog (4)1.Remember Yoga helps with stress!

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.

 

2. Bring a friend to Yoga

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.

 

3. Try a different class or a shorter class

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.

 

4. Take your Yoga with you on holiday

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.

 

5. Don’t beat yourself up about it!

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.  

 

By Caroline 

 

 


December 7, 2017

Śavāsana

im-just-here-for-the-savasanaHave 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


November 21, 2017

Autumn Suppers


Winter food (3)

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.

Winter food (1)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


November 14, 2017

Why I practice Yin Yoga

Karen yin (2)

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.

Luka YinDo you have the patience
to wait till your mud settles
and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
 
The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.
 
-Lao Tzu
(from chapter 15 of the Tao Te Ching, 4-6th Century BC,
translation by Stephen Mitchell)



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.


November 7, 2017

What can the tortoise teach us about practising Yoga?

alessandro tortoise blog

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:

“Just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs, so when a man withdraws his senses from the sense objects, his wisdom becomes steady” (BG 2.58)

tortoiseIn 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: 


“When the mind is guided by the wandering senses, then it carries away one’s understanding, as the wind a ship on the water” (BG 2.67).


'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


October 30, 2017

Yogis: when to eat and what to eat


Mary diet blog (1)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.

Stay hydrated throughout your day.


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.

Mary diet blog (2)How to eat for a morning and lunch time Yoga class


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. 

How to eat for an evening Yoga class

 

Mary diet blog (3)

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.

Snack suggestions


Check out Deliciously Ella for good nutritious suggestions for peanut overnight oats or for pear cinammon and walnut porridge.

Mary diet blog (4)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


October 24, 2017

Push the Yoga reset button, clear out the cobwebs and start again


Kee blog (2)

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.  

Kee blog (3)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

Kee blog (1)


October 17, 2017

Mālā beads and mantras


Mala (4)

Mala (3)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.

Mala (2)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


October 9, 2017

Effort takes practice


Effort (1)

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.

Effort (3)

See you on the mat soon.

By Caroline


September 19, 2017

Get WILD with Oscar!

Wild Susanne

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:

Variation
Wild alison 2It’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.

Muscle Building
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!

By Oscar

Oscar teaches Fierce Grace WILD at 18.00 and Fierce Grace at 19.30 on Thursdays

 


September 7, 2017

Hit it with HIIT!


HIIT flow

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.

HIIT flow 2Why 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.


August 31, 2017

Layers of the yogic body


Alex kosha

Many people see Yoga practice as about acquiring something -- a new skill or an ability we didn't have before. But Yoga philosophy describes it differently: we are already perfect with everything that we need, the practice of Yoga is simply the practice of revealing our essential wholeness. This happens by shedding layers or eliminating the obstacles that prevent us from getting there, to the state of Yoga.

These obstacles take many forms and are different for each of us depending on our background, our upbringing, life experiences and so on. They might be restrictive thoughts or preconceptions about what kind of person we are or what we're capable of. It can be helpful to view Yoga as a practice of opening doorways into ourselves, investigating what's going on under the surface of habitual thoughts or behaviours until we reveal our truth. We allow ourselves to be open to more possibilities than we could previously imagine.

The model of the koshas helps us understand how asana practice might support this transformative process. The koshas are 5 layers, or sheaths, that make up the yogic body. The outermost layer is the Anamaya Kosha, the physical layer, in Sanskrit literally the 'food layer'. This is where we start, in the most obvious and accessible layer: we work our bodies through asana practice. But at some point in our practice we might come to realise that beneath this is a more subtle energetic layer, the Pranamaya Kosha, the layer where 'prana', our energy source, flows through channels (called 'nadis') within the body. Prana gives us our vitality, energising us such that our asana practice becomes lighter with less muscular effort needed. As we learn to harness the power of prana, allowing it to flow freely through the body without constrictions or blockages, we might begin to penetrate more deeply through the inner layers of the subtle body until we reach through to the deepest 'bliss layer' (Anandamaya Kosha), where our self-generated obstacles have dropped away allowing us to experience a state of peace and inner stillness. 

By Alessandro

August 17, 2017

What do we mean? Asana instructions


Derek blog 3

Are you ever curious or confused as to why a Yoga teacher gives certain instructions? Take an example. Why do we say ‘level or square the hips’. The simple reason is that the spine in connected to the pelvis. Try the following exercise out on someone. Get them to stand up straight and then get them to just drop one hip or have one foot stood on a block, so that their hips are slanted. Then have a look at their back. You will probably see that their spine has moved into a bit of a curve. If we practise postures with the same out of kilter bias to the hips all the time, and in the same way, then there is a chance that there will be a long term retrograde effect on the spine. Level hips, straight spine! Hips can be level not only up and down, but front to back. So take a posture like warrior 1. If you were looking straight into a mirror, you would want a level line, so that the hips were horizontal with the floor. If you were looking sideways at the body, you would also want the hips in line as much as possible front to back. Of course there are many postures in Yoga, where the hips are deliberately put out of level, like Trikonasana. But we are conscious of returning them to a state of neutrality afterwards, so that the spine is always straightened out. 

Why not ask the teacher what a posture is for, or why a sequence is done in a certain way? (After the class, rather than in the middle!) Or send an email. A teacher can always reply on this blog, for the benefit of everyone. Yoga is not a blind science. It nurtures exploration and the application of intelligence. If we start to understand the nature of some of the postures, then we have a much better chance of working out how it makes sense in our own bodies, rather than rigidly adhering to a superimposed picture of how we think we should look. And this is important. Our bodies are all different. A posture embodies a set of principles, and we are encouraged to explore how those principles arise for us individually. Yoga is a research project and when we really get this, the practice becomes even more nourishing. So if you don’t have an idea of why something is being instructed, and we are all in that place at one time or another, then please don’t be shy. Feel free to ask. 

By Derek Elliot

Derek teaches Restorative Yoga on Mondays at 19.45.

August 1, 2017

Why it’s good to sweat


Sweat2

We love to sweat! Why? There are many benefits from sweating during your Yoga practice. If you are turned off from our more physical Yoga classes and in particular our Hot Yoga classes because you don’t like to sweat or you think it’s not good for you, we’ve listed 5 great reasons to sweat that might change your mind.   

Sweat rids the body of toxins

Sweat1It’s true…we literally release toxins from our system using sweat as the conduit.  Experts agree that we mainly release excess salt, cholesterol and alcohol. Which means that a sweaty work-out will de-bloat us and help to clean our clogged arteries.

Helps to regulate the body temperature

As we go through our day, our bodies adapt to temperature changes in our environments. Perhaps you’ve dealt with cold offices, hot automobile interiors, menopause, etc. and wonder if your immune system is out of whack? A regular hot Yoga practice which keeps our sweat glands in tip top shape, help our bodies regulate its temperature more easily in these modern society environments.

Controls mood swings

Sweat3The rush of endorphins is really true. A regular Yoga practice can help to both  transform and regulate your moods. The proof is in the smiles after the sweat! But to get this feeling you do really need to sweat. Your endorphin level is unique and it will be through trial and error to find the right kind of physical activity that will induce your very own brain “opiates” that can transform your mood.

Improves your skin

You’re literally sweating out all the bad stuff! Regular exercise helps fight against signs of aging, leaving your skin with a healthy glow and fewer spots. By opening up your pores, the perspiration process helps them release the grime that holds in bacteria which as we all know, leads to spots.

Helps to relieve stress and aid relaxation

Sweating it out is not just a metaphor.  The combination of the release of positive brain chemicals like endorphins, an increase in body temperature, and a decrease in negative immune system chemicals can help diminish feelings of stress or anxiety.


By Caroline

 

July 20, 2017

How to practise Hot Yoga during the Summer


Summer hot yoga

Sunny days in the UK still feel like a rare event, so when it’s a nice day outside it’s understandable to want to not come to a hot Yoga class. It is not uncommon for us to hear at the studio “I only practise hot Yoga in the winter, in the summer I switch to Vinyasa because it is too hot”. The great thing about YogaVenue is we offer many different types of Yoga classes so you can do this if you want. However, there’s nothing wrong with practising hot Yoga in the Summer, it’s actually a great time to really immerse yourself in your practice - you aren’t going to overheat and it isn’t bad for you, it is good for you and actually it feels really nice!

We have a great heating and humidity system at the studio so we are able to control the room temperature, which means it stays consistent all year around; it isn’t any hotter in the Summer! The air in the room changes 12 times an hour so there is a constant supply of fresh air entering the room while you practise and we have added a special anti-UV glare to the windows this year to reduce the UV rays entering the room by 99.9%. 

Still not convinced or a little nervous? Here are some useful tips to help you with your hot Yoga practice this Summer.

1.    Hydrate well!
Summer blog 2Even if you are not coming to a hot Yoga class or doing any exercise it’s still important to increase the amount of water you drink on warmer days as you will naturally sweat more. Manage your hydration throughout the day BEFORE you come to class and the same after class. Drinking in a hot Yoga class is fine, but you don’t need to drink more in the class on warmer days if you’ve hydrated well before class and will plan to do so after class. Treat yourself to a nice cool coconut water afterwards, it tastes amazing!

2.    Wear appropriate clothing.
Yoga wear technology has advanced so much in the last 5 years. You can wear leggings and not feel hot if they are of the right material (everything we stock at YogaVenue is perfect in the hot room). So stock up on new Yoga wear that works for sweatier environments – trust us on this, it really does make a difference. Please don’t come in a hoodie!

3.    Increase your Hot Yoga practice.
You may be thinking ‘WHAT?’ but this really will make a difference. Your body will acclimatise to the heat better and very quickly you won’t even notice it. This also helps with being able to handle the heat outside if we are in for stretch of hot weather.

4.    Learn to love your sweat.
Resist the urge to wipe your sweat. Wiping can be a distraction to you and the people around you and will not stop the sweat from coming. Sweat is your body’s natural cooling mechanism, so let it flow and focus on your practice. Also, make sure to remove your makeup before class. A clean face is better for your pores as you sweat.

5.    Change your mind.
The summer heat can make you feel stifled and sluggish. Hot Yoga energises you by increasing your oxygen intake and balancing the various systems of the body. The hardest part of a practice is getting there, so do your body (and mind) some good and show up for class!

Still a little nervous or have any questions? Just ask us, we are always here to help.

By Caroline

June 19, 2017

Can we get out of our own way?

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

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

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

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

By Alessandro

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

June 7, 2017

Please vote for us!

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


Best Yoga/Pilates Studio - Please vote for us!

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

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

Thank you so much for your support.


June 6, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you on the 17th!

Love,
Hinny

Click here for more information about the event.

May 23, 2017

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


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

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

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

Our study involves 3 main visits:

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

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

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



May 18, 2017

Music and Yoga


Music blog 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

music blog 2

By Jill

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


May 6, 2017

Early morning class? It’s a set-up!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Keyte

Keyte teaches Vinyasa Yoga on Mondays at 7am.

April 27, 2017

Asana for your spine

Derek blog post 2

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

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

Derek blog post 3

The sequence of the next six weeks is as follows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek blog post 1

By Derek Elliot

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



April 24, 2017

What is Forrest Yoga?

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

What is Forrest Yoga?

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

1) A relaxed neck

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

Forrest hinny2) Abs, abs, abs!

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

3) Active feet

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

4) Spirit

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

By Hinny Wass

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

April 4, 2017

Going Beyond

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

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

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

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

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha

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

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

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

alessandro profile_copyBy Alessandro Gozzi

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




March 27, 2017

Yoga during pregnancy; Yes or No?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Caroline Gozzi

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


March 11, 2017

Night Night, Sleep Tight?

Restorative 1 - YogaVenue_copy

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

katie restorative blog

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

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


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

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


By Katie Phelps

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


February 18, 2017

Yoga and Fitness

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

Fitness 1Imagine the scene:

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

By Sarah Puello

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


January 31, 2017

Dealing with winter blues

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


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

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

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

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

By Suze Suchak

Suze teaches Yoga Conditioning on Mondays at 11.30. 



January 19, 2017

Why Yoga?

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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.

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By Derek Elliot

Book into Derek's Sunday morning Hatha classes here.


January 13, 2017

Top tips if you are new to Yoga

Gemma blog

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


1.     Arrive early

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

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

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

3.     Check with the studio what you need to bring

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

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

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

5.     Always try the intro offer

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

6.     Don’t come if you are feeling unwell

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

7.     Wear appropriate clothing

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

8.     Turn off your mobile phone

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

9.     Have no expectations

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

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

By Caroline
 


January 7, 2017

Finding time for Yoga

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

sarah w 2

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

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

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

By Sarah Washbrook


December 22, 2016

A New Year for Yoga

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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!

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By Lucie Spence


December 13, 2016

Homestretch

Blog crop Yoga Venue Oxford SRes

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



redSunYoga (Berlin)

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

 

Solo Yoga (Kampala)

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




YogaVenue (Oxford)

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

by Evan Easton-Calabria


December 3, 2016

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

What to wear

 

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

What to wear 3If 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!

What to wear 2If you’ve lost weight, put on weight or just changed shape, it's time to invest in new yoga wear. You want to be comfortable and feel supported so your clothing does not become the focus of your practice. You need also to consider coverage. Shorts that are too short and ride up will be uncomfortable. If your top is too large you are going to be distracted in class worrying that you'll expose too much flesh (ladies you know what I mean here). Guys – please don’t wear loose shorts without the appropriate support underneath…

4. Wear clean clothes

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

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

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

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

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

By Caroline



November 12, 2016

Yoga for Children

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Childhood is an intense period of growth and development - physical, emotional, social & intellectual. Yoga and mindfulness for children has become hugely popular in recent years and has been introduced in many schools. Scientific research continues to provide supporting evidence that these practices address the needs of the whole child and support academic learning.

A typical children's yoga class includes many aspects of a traditional yoga practice - breathing, postures, mantra, relaxation & meditation. Additionally it includes discussion time, mindfulness techniques and games. Within classes yogic values or philosophy are introduced in an age appropriate way. These include kindness, honesty, self-respect and respect for the natural world. Mindfulness focuses on understanding emotions, coping strategies and respecting differences. The games, whilst fun and engaging for the children, are aimed at developing specific skills like auditory memory or sequencing.kidsyoga2_copy
 
Some of the many benefits of yoga for children include:

 

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


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

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

By Margaret

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

Click here to book in now.


November 1, 2016

Teaching the Community Class

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


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


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

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

By Victoria Jackson

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


October 10, 2016

Chocolate & Ginger Pancakes

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

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

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

Chocolate & Ginger Pancakes (V)

Pancakes 2Serves 2 people


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

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

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

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

By Susanne


October 1, 2016

Shift happens!

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


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

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

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

By Katie

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

Photo by @journeyunfolds - Brittany McBride


September 24, 2016

Managing chronic pain through Yoga

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

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

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

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

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

Namaste!

by Lisa 

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September 17, 2016

Practising Yoga with Lord Krishna

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Shri Krishna sharanam mamah

Lord Krishna, be my refuge


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

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

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

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

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

By Alessandro
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September 10, 2016

Why I will always practise the Hot 26

 

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

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


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

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

Namaste

Caroline
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August 20, 2016

A story of barefoot (shoes) trekking

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

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

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

The what: walking from Cadaquez (North-East Spain) to Colloiure (South-East France), about 100 km in five days through the foothills of the Pyrenees, up and down hills and mountains, in rain and sun.

The how: leaving the boots at home and walking 100 km in my Vivobarefoot minimalist shoes, with just a 3 mm sole.
The why: just to experiment!ericaDSCN1184_copy
 

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

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


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

Watching Andy in his heavy hi-top walking boots was interesting too:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

By Erica


August 4, 2016

Why We Meditate

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


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

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

By Derek

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Derek teaches Restorative Yoga on Mondays at 19.45

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


August 1, 2016

It's Pitta Time!

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

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

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

By Caroline

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July 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

By Vanessa


July 23, 2016

Five reasons to practise Hot Yoga this summer!

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

1. Your body is already loose

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


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

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

3. It helps you manage the heat better

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


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

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

By Caroline

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July 14, 2016

Why Do We Practise Asana?

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

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

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


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

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

By Alessandro 

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


July 4, 2016

A walk on the Yin side

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

Yin and Yang

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

Yin Yoga

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

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

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

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

  • Start at an appropriate depth – especially when new to the practice it is important to be kind to the body. Go to a point where you feel a gentle stretch, stop and wait. The long holds can significantly change the sensations experienced during the pose.
  • Breath with your whole body. Use your breath to help you soften into the poses.
  • Be mindful of the sensations happening in your body as you hold the pose. Notice if they change in intensity or if they travel, and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Cultivate stillness in mind and body. This can be the hardest part! Yin teaches you how to stay with something even if it not totally comfortable,  it helps train the mind to be more focused and allows a deeper awareness of the body to develop.

Yin Yoga also works on the subtle energy channels within the body. These energy channels, called meridians in the Chinese system or nadis in the yogic system are believed to run throughout the electrically conductive fascia of the body (see research by Dr Motoyama or Daniel Keown). Stretching the fascia as we do in yin poses stimulates the meridians, helping to clear blockages and promote healing within the body.

Edge and Time:  The Yin – Restorative Spectrum

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

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

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

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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.

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

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


June 30, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

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

by Anna

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June 29, 2016

Gender and Age - No Barrier for Yoga


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


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


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

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

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

 By James


June 24, 2016

The Hungry Yogi - Baking Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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See the original recipe below. 

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

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Here is the adapted recipe. 

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

By Susanne

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June 9, 2016

Diary of a Yogi: You Do You


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

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

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

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

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

By Anna

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June 6, 2016

Teaching Yoga: a New Experience


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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by Bea

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


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

June 2, 2016

Diary of a Yogi: You Deserve It!

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

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

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

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

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

by Anna

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May 26, 2016

Diary of a Yogi: The Other Anna

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

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


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

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

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

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

By Anna
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May 24, 2016

Yoga for Stress Relief

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

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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.

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

By Kristian

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Kristian teaches Vinyasa Yoga on Tuesdays at 17.30.


May 18, 2016

Intimidated by Labels?

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

 

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

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Click here for the recipe


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

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

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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).

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By Susanne 

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


May 17, 2016

Jedi Fight Club

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


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


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

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


By Hannah

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


May 12, 2016

Diary of a Yogi: The Accidental Yogi

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


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

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

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

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By Anna


May 9, 2016

What is Hatha Yoga?

As a Hatha teacher I am often asked this question, and the answer is a little complex!
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From Ancient times

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

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

 
The literal translation

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

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


What to expect from a Hatha Yoga class?


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

 

What are the benefits of a Hatha Yoga class?

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

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

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





    By Karen

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


May 3, 2016

What is Cross Flow?

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


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

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

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

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


April 21, 2016

The Hungry Yogi


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

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

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

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

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

Raw Cacao and Cherry Bars

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Makes 6 to 8 bars

Ingredients

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



Instructions

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



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Raw Cacao Orange Bars


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Makes 6 to 8 bars

Ingredients

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



Instructions

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



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April 16, 2016

Kapha Dosha

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


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

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

 
See you in a Hot Power class soon.

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


March 29, 2016

Becoming a Yoga Teacher

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


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

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

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

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

1.     Finding the right fit is key

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

2.     Teacher training is just the beginning

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

3.     Keep it professional

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

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

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


March 19, 2016

Yin Yoga

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


Yoga has been one of the most constant parts of my life since I started in 2003. It has seen me through university, my PhD, moving countries, emotional upheaval and, of course, becoming a yoga teacher!

However, until recently, it was only the strong dynamic forms of yoga that I was drawn to. I found peace in yoga when I was pushing the edge of my limits. The strong practice felt the ideal complement to my other activities or running, cycling and aerial circus. Rushing from activity made me feel alive and strong.


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

By Kate

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

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


March 8, 2016

A Restorative Yoga Workshop

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

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

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

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

By Victoria

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

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February 25, 2016

A Kirtan Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Victoria

February 23, 2016

Lotus Mudra

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

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

Bring hands together in prayer

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

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

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


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February 13, 2016

What is Kirtan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 20, 2016

Hot 56


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

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


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

Try something new for 2016!!!

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By Heidi 
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Heidi teaches Hot 26 and Hot 56 on Wednesdays.

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


January 18, 2016

New Year Detox

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Light to you all!


Anne Marie

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January 4, 2016

New Year – New Yoga Class?

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


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

Still not convinced? Here’s the reality to overcome those excuses.


1. I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.e603d310-4448-44a0-ae8f-ad5e52b782d5

It’s a myth that flexibility is the number one quality required for yoga - flexibility is a benefit that develops as you practice, but being bendy is neither required nor the only goal. Postures and awareness of our breath are used to explore our body and mind. It doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your toes.


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

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

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

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

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

By Karen 
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Karen teaches Hatha Yoga at YogaVenue


December 14, 2015

Yoga and Ageing

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 19, 2015

Getting Back into your Yoga Groove

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you back in class soon.

By Caroline
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