yoga blog by yoga lover in Bicester

Being kind to our world

I’ve been deeply affected by watching Blue Planet which graphically demonstrates the awful effect our modern lifestyles are having on our planet.

It’s made me reflect on the commitment that I feel I have made as a yogini to the Yamas and Niyamas – the codes of ethical living.  Can I be practicing non violence (Ahimsa) if I buy things that cause suffering to others?  Am I actually stealing (Asteya)  if through my activities or purchases I am using a perhaps unfair share of the planets resources?  Am I being truthful (Satya) to my yogic beliefs if I make these lifestyle choices?  Or could I be more contented (Santosha) with less?

I’ve been vegetarian for over 40 years and am increasingly adopting a vegan diet, using locally sourced products.   I choose skincare and makeup that’s free from toxic chemicals and is cruelty free. I’m trying to use my car less an cycle, walk or use public transport more.  I use eco friendly and cruelty free cleaning materials.  The next challenges I have given myself  are using less plastic and  reducing my purchase of synthetic clothing – I was not aware until I read a post on social media that the fibres from synthetic clothing can get into the sea and harm marine life.

Any suggestions for more?


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The Stillness Within

People often come to yoga classes as they are stressed out and have heard that yoga may help them calm down a bit … and they are so right …. yoga can be magic!

When you can loose yourself in the movement of an asana (posture) and find the moment when you feel the stillness that somehow comes from within, it can seem that the world has stopped spinning and you have those precious little spaces of quietness.

Equally when you can really focus your attention on your breath – completely and fully on your breath, everything else can seem to fade away ….. cares, concern, worries, can all just lift away for a few precious moments.

When I’m teaching, I often hear myself saying something like ‘dropping into the stillness within’ … and that stillness is within all of us … but just gets masked by the business of daily life.

Inevitably it will take some people longer than others to tap into that stillness, but we can all do it … and the more we do it, the easier it becomes.  And of course the benefits stay with us as we go about our daily lives.

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Cruelty Free?

As a yoga lover, I try to follow the principles of the Yamas and Niyamas in my daily life.

Ahimsa – non violence –physical, mental and emotional is one of the Yamas, and one way I apply it, is by aiming to always buy cruelty free cosmetics.

You might think that the big brand names would make this easy …. but that is definitely NOT the case.   A quick google search on using something like ‘Does Clinique test on animals’ will reveal that yes, they do … because they want to sell their product in China where animal testing is still required.  So most of the big corporates will not be offering you truly ‘cruelty free’ cosmetic or skin care products.  You need to read the corporate PR with a sharp eye …. look for phrases like ‘except where required by law’ ….. it will be there for almost all the big names.  They choose to put commercial profits above animal welfare.

Big corporates have also bought up companies like ‘Body Shop’ which was founded on the ethical principles of Anita Roddick.  Now the company is just a brand within the L’Oreal group.  Whilst L’Oreal state that Body Shop products are not tested on animals, every time you buy a Body Shop product you are contributing profits to the parent company.  Try the google search I suggested above for L’Oreal. Or Esteee Lauder ……do you still want to buy products from brands owned by those organisations?

I now source my cosmetics and skin care products from a little company called Tropic.   Based in Surrey, all their products are vegan friendly … no animal testing, no animal based ingredients.  And everything looks, feels and smells gorgeous too.

So what choice will you make?

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Why do we chant OM?

Chanting is wonderful – encourages you to breathe more deeply and takes you to a quieter place away from worries and cares.  But why OM?  Which we actually chant as three syllables A-U-M. Some say there are four syllables as when you chant the ‘M’ it develops into an ‘NG’ sound.

OM is said to be the primordial sound born with the universe – the essence of the universe and all creation, wrapped up in one wonderful sound.

As we exhale the A-U-M, its vibration links us to the original source of creation. The sound reverberates from the pelvic floor upward through the crown of the head, filling the body with pulsating energy that simultaneously empowers and radiates tranquillity. When we sound om together, we’re aligning body/mind/spirit; we’re aligning with one another. And we’re aligning with the universe because it’s the sound of the universe.  It’s a very grounding and peaceful sound.

The mantra is said to stand for Supreme Reality – symbol for what was, what is and what will be, an affirmation of the divine presence that is the universe.

Om is also considered the mother of the bija, or “seed” mantras — short, potent sounds that correlate to each chakra – with OM relating to both Ajna (third eye) and Sahasara (crown) chakras – hence the chant taking us to that quiet place.

The symbol of OM is also well known – consisting of three curves, an arc and a dot.:


The large bottom curve symbolizes the waking state, A.
The middle curve signifies the dream state, U.
The upper curve denotes the state of deep sleep, M.
The dot signifies the fourth state of consciousness, Turiya.
The semi circle at the top represents Maya (illusion) and separates the dot from the other three curves. It signals to us that it is the illusion of Maya that is an obstacle to realization of the Highest state of being.

Others would say that the ‘3’ shape is the Sanskrit letter for ‘A’, the little old fashioned ‘s’ shape to it’s right the ‘U’ and the bindhi and half-moon at the top the ‘M’

Other meanings are also attributed to the three elements:

The heavens, earth, and the underworld;

The Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva (also known as the creator god, sustainer god, and destroyer god);


Some say the symbol is connected to Ganesh, the Hindu half-elephant god who removes obstacles.

The upper curve, of OM, is identified with the head or the face of Ganesh.

The lower curve his belly. The twisted curve, on the right side of OM is the trunk.

And if you’re not ‘into’ the philosophy, you can simply enjoy the magic of the sounds – there’s something rather magical about being within a group chanting OM with good intention.

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Flippin’ Incense!

I’ve written about my loathing of smelly smokey incense sticks before… but after what might have been a wonderful browse round an interesting shop yesterday, feel compelled to write again!

I’d planned a trip to a lovely shop selling beautiful crystals and was looking forward to browsing and treating myself to some lovely new crystals.

Hmmmm that was the plan … but the shop owner had chosen to have lots of those wretched smokey, probably carcinogenic incense sticks burning. Within a couple of minutes my nose was running, then the coughing started, soon followed by itching skin .. so I chose to leave.  For the rest of the day I had a headache and was coughing.

How is this a great customer experience?  I realise that the shop was trying to create a nice atmosphere, but as I’ve mentioned this issue to friends, several have commented they have exactly the same problem and avoid yoga studios, shops and centres that use incense sticks.

So come on people .. think of your customers and get rid of those horrid joss sticks!!

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Enjoy yoga outside

There’s something very special about enjoying a yoga practice outside.

You are more in contact with nature – with the feel of the ground beneath your feet, the breeze on your skin, the clouds above you, the warmth of the sun, sounds of birds etc. Yes there may also be the sounds of people or traffic, but once you are really in your practice, these sounds tend to fade into the background.

Your balance is challenged more when the ground is a bit uneven and the feedback you receive helps you bring a Beginners Mind to your practice.

I love Sun Salutations, or the slower Earth sequence, Tree balance … they all become magically different when enjoyed outside.  Just sitting with the breath becomes new again.

Try it …. in your garden, in the park, in the countryside … just enjoy the lovely summer!

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Thank you for the feedback

I’m privileged to be doing something I really love and being paid to do it.  I want to get better and better at it too … so the feedback I get from my yoga students is really valuable.

Every week someone says something lovely to me – shares some insight about how their yoga practice has affected them … and this is so wonderful to hear.

Just this week someone has told me how their balance has improved which in turn has improved their confidence.  There have been so many people who tell me they sleep better after their class, that they feel calmer, less stressed.  Others describe how their back pain has reduced, or thank me for the stretches that ease out their neck and shoulders.  Others feedback how their yoga gives them a different insight into life helping with the times when life is challenging.

And of course the feedback that gives me the opportunity to improve things to bring greater enjoyment or benefit is really helpful too – whether it is a request to speak a little louder or to sometimes have a longer session or relaxation.

All the comments help me to continuously grow and develop as a teacher of offer more and more of value to my students.

So thank you for the feedback.

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What is Mindfulness?

There’s been lots of mention of Mindfulness in the press, on the radio and TV … but what is it and how could it benefit you?

Mindfulness is essentially about being fully present in the moment.   Sounds easy … but most of us spend a lot of time worrying about the future or reliving the past.   We ruminate on the ‘What If’s – and this can can be a major cause of stress, anxiety and even depression.

When we’re being mindful, we’re focused on now – ‘What Is’ (not what if).  This takes time … you’re breaking down habits that have built up over a lifetime.

But goodness, it’s worth it!  Mindfulness helps promote a greater sense of calmness that can be useful for daily life – whether you have a stressful job or a generally stressful life.   You gradually develop the ability to step back and see clearly what is really going on rather than just reacting or getting caught up in an endless stream of thoughts.

Mindfulness is also associated with finding a greater sense of happiness. As you practice mindfulness, you find the endless stream of negative thoughts start to diminish as you learn how to keep bringing yourself back to the present moment.

You start to find joy again in the simple things that you’d forgotten how to notice.  And this seems to kick start a more creative way of approaching life – with greater flexibility.

Interested?  Find our more on the next Mindfulness course in Bicester.  I’ve been practicing Mindfulness for many years and it’s really helped me  – both on an everyday basis when everything is going well, and through times of stress and unhappiness.

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I hurt myself doing yoga

I seem to be hearing this phrase more and more as the fashion for strong, vinyasa and fitness power type yoga grows.  This type of yoga tends to be very physical and can encourage competitiveness and ‘end gaming’ as students try to force their bodies into postures …. a recipe for injuries.

If you are strong, supple, fit and healthy then maybe this tough, demanding yoga with lots of upper body and shoulder work, and lots of strong, dynamic posture changes is for you.  But make sure you work with an experienced and well trained teacher (ideally look for someone who has completed a 500 hour teacher training programme with a respected yoga institution such as the British Wheel of Yoga or validated by Yoga Alliance)

But many people drawn to yoga are not strong, supple, fit and healthy.  They perhaps wish to increase strength, flexibility, balance, co-ordination or overall wellbeing.  These individuals may well be better served by a more gentle style of yoga with a teacher who, whilst encouraging them to explore their boundaries, makes it a priority to keep them safe from injury.  Still look for a well trained and experienced teacher (as above) – but look for clue words in their descriptions of teaching style such as ‘gentle’ or ‘holistic’.

It’s always good to try and talk to the teacher prior to attending a class …get to find out about them – why do they teach, where did they train, what style do they teach in etc.  Make sure you feel comfortable with them.  Be clear what you are seeking in  a yoga class, and then you can find the right teacher for you.

I always love to talk to prospective students, and am happy to answer any questions and give reassurance.  I welcome students with existing injuries and am happy to offer modifications so that they can enjoy a safe practice.

Enjoy your yoga!

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The Magic of Yoga

I am so lucky to be a yoga teacher!

Why?   Because of the difference I seem to make to the lives of so many of my students.  This week at least half a dozen people have commented on the beneficial effect their yoga practice is having on their lives … using powerful language such as “yoga has changed my life” or has been a “life saver”.

And they are right ….. yoga is wonderful!  The word ‘yoga’ means union and refers to the union of mind, body and spirit – hence the overall wellbeing effect yoga can bring.  It always saddens me when I see yoga referred to just exercise – fitness yoga for example, as it shows a real lack of understanding of the true meaning and magic of yoga.

Yes, on a physical level yoga can help you gain strength and flexibility, improve posture and balance, reduce back, neck and shoulder pain.  But there is so much more.  Yoga can do wonders for stress management, confidence, and positivity. And increase feelings of ‘connectedness’ and wholeness.

So a big thank you to all my students for the wonderful feedback you give me.  I really appreciate it and will continue to work hard to share with you the magic of yoga.

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