yoga blog by yoga lover in Bicester

Yoga in the Garden

At this time of year, it’s really lovely to take your yoga practice out into the garden.

When I practice outside, I can feel the breeze on my skin, hear the birds, smell the flowers – it really gets you in touch with nature.  In my classes I often talk about feeling a connection to the earth – practicing outside you really can.

I notice my balance is sometimes more challenged by a slightly uneven surface – compelling me to really focus and ground through my feet.

There’s a wonderful sense of freedom with the wide open space around me – yet I can still be in the quiet place within me – in fact it seems easier to be truly present in the practice.

If your garden is overlooked, the neighbours will soon get used to you and not really take any notice.  And why do we assume anyone is looking at us anyway.

So have fun, experiment with taking your practice outside when you can …. it’s an amazing experience.anton-darius-sollers-424266

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The Gift of Sound

The Gift of Sound is one that I feel privileged to share with others.  It’s an incredibly powerful way of balancing our whole being – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  Sound can bring wonderful  healing – releasing stresses and tensions that may have been buried deep within us.

As a sound healer I have a tremendous sense of responsibility.  Releasing and rebalancing through the medium of sound is amazing.  I spent a long time training, honing my skills, working to really understand the power of sound.

Everyone will have experienced how hearing a song can take you back to a past experience – feeling it all over again… perhaps evoking strong emotions.   Healing sound does this too. – affecting us on many different levels. in the hands of a well trained, sensitive, experienced and well intentioned player the therapeutic benefits can be profound.

It’s the vibrations of the sounds that work the magic – the sound waves.  Our bodies are a mass of vibrating energy – every organ has its own natural vibration.  When things get out of balance – the vibrational energy is affected and healing sound can aid bringing things back to a state of equilibrium.  We are 70% water and water is a fantastic conductor for sound waves.  The healing sounds can shift stagnant energy, remove energy blockages, and ‘entrain’ or cause the body to energetically respond.

The term ‘Sound Bath’ refers to the body being bathed in the soundwaves.  As we relax and open the sound vibrations can work their magic.  Whilst Gongs are probably the most powerful of instruments due to the incredible range of vibrations they can emit, Tibetan Bowls, Crystal Bowls, Rattles and Shakers etc can all have a deep impact.

In yogic terms, sound works on all the koshas – Anamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijnanamaya and Anandamaya.  Some will refer to Sound Baths as creating sacred space – a powerful therapeutic space.

It is the role of the Sound Therapist to sensitively create a journey through the medium of sound to enable relaxation, release and restoration – be this in a one-to-one or group setting.   Each individual will find their own path in the sound bath.

To me intention is key.  I recognise that when I play, I am blending art and science – using a mix of learnt skills and intuition and feel privileged to share the magic of sound.

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Customer Experience

Today I had a lovely browse in the local garden centre … which like many is now more a department store.  During my browsing I saw a lovely blouse that I decided to buy ….. but after queuing at the nearest till, I was told “you can’t pay for that here” ….. I was to go to a different till point at the opposite end of the of the garden centre.  I didn’t bother … so that impulse buy didn’t happen.  The store missed out on a sale and I’m telling lots of other people about my poor experience.

Which has made me reflect on how I can give a great service to my yoga customers.

I try to make my website informative and up to date with answers to the most common questions and show various ways to contact me in the event of queries.  On arrival, I aim to welcome each person individually and talk to several different people at each class.  I aim to have a clear pricing policy that I apply consistently.  During the class I aim to give guidance to help everyone enjoy their class, to understand what they are aiming to do and why, giving alternatives they may wish to try, and helping if they appear to need help.  I aim to create a friendly, welcoming, relaxing environment where egos are left at the door, so that all can enjoy their practice.  I aim to offer variety but not too much complexity.  Every now and then I offer a free session for regular customers as a thank you.

Invetitably, occasionally someone will come to a class once …and not return.  I encourage people to give me feedback so that if my teaching style isn’t what they are seeking I can suggest alternatives.

What else could I do to help you enjoy your yoga even more?

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Advanced Yoga??

Recently a student said to me “I really need a more advanced class”.  I asked her what she meant by this and she responded that she wanted to do things like Headstands and  other strong challenging postures.

I do teach in a gentle style, and understand that different styles of yoga suit different people.  But is a physically demanding class a more advanced one?  Physical postures are but one of the Limbs of Yoga (Patanjali’s Sutras).  And they are traditionally used to prepare  for meditation.

You may have heard the phrase ‘Beginners Mind’ – it comes from the book ‘Zen Mind, Beginners Mind’ … there is a lovely quote right at the beginning of the book “In the Beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”.  To me this means approaching everything with a sense of curiosity – whether it is something familiar or something new – by doing this, there is always something new to notice.  And you can certainly apply this in yoga.  Take a ‘basic’ posture like Tadasana (Mountain Pose) – how do the feet feel today, what is my balance like today, how is my breath,  etc.  By taking this approach, you are also ‘really present’ – your mind is not thinking ‘what am I going to have for lunch?’ for example.  If you get this degree of focus and awareness in your yoga practice, this is to me what makes a practice advanced.  And if you take this approach, you are always a beginner, never an expert!


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How to find a good yoga teacher

So you’ve decided you would like to take up yoga …. how do you choose a good yoga teacher:

  1. Check our their training.  A good teacher will be happy to tell you about their training.  Yoga teacher training takes around two-three years.  (If someone has only done a short weekend type course, they will not have any real depth of knowledge with which to guide and support you).  All the reputable teacher training programmes cover not only yoga postures, breathwork, mudras (gestures), and bandhas (energy locks), but also the philosophy that is an integral part of yoga, plus anatomy and physiology, health and safety, teaching skills, how to adjust students safely, common health issues etc … you can see why a comprehensive course needs to take a coupe of years.
  2. Are they registered with one of the major yoga organisations – such as British Wheel of Yoga – to be registered with the British Wheel of Yoga, a teacher has to have evidenced a comprehensive training and also on-going professional development – i.e. they are competent to teach and keep their teaching skills up to date.
  3. Check their insurance.  A good teacher will be fully covered by an insurance policy..  Whilst one hopes nothing bad wil ever happen, it’s another sign that you are in good hands.
  4. Can you try out a class?  A good teacher will want you to be in the class that is right for you and will be happy for you to try a class before committing to a term.
  5. Does the teacher seem professional?  Are the tidy and organised?  Are you asked to complete a health questionnaire before starting a class (in a gym it might be a verbal health screen rather than a written document, as you are likely to have completed a full screen on joining).
  6. Do they explain things in a way you can understand?  A teacher may use demonstration or words or a mix of both.  Some may bring along pictures or other teaching aids … but you should always know what you are supposed to be doing.
  7. Is the teacher happy to answer questions?  You should always feel able to ask questions (even if you choose to wait till the end of the class so as not to interrupt the flow of the class)
  8. Do you like the teacher?  And yes this is important … if you don’t, you won’t keep going to the class!
  9. Do you enjoy the class?  Do you feel welcome as you arrive and enjoy the practice.  Yoga is wonderful with the teacher that is right for you.
  10. Does the class flow well.  A good class will have a mix of standing, seated/kneeling and laying postures with alternatives offered to suit different levels of ability.  There will be forward and backward bends, side bends, twists and inversions, plus breathwork, relaxation and perhaps meditation.
  11. Do you feel good afterwards?  Most people find yoga refreshing and relaxing, they enjoy the stretching, toning and de-stressing.
  12. Do you want to go again?  Find the class that makes you want to keep going back for more!
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Starting a home yoga practice

So you’ve been going to a yoga class for a while and would now like to start developing a home practice too … what might you want to think about?

1.  Where to practice

Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a room you can dedicate to your practice.  But for most people it will be finding somewhere in the house (or perhaps the garden on a nice day) where you can practice undisturbed.  So long as you have space for your yoga mat and enough space around you to move safely you’ll be fine.

2.  Creating the right environment

To make your space special, maybe you’d like to have a candle (safely positioned) or some flowers, an ornament …. whatever you fancy really that just marks the space out as special to you.  I’d suggest shutting out the cat and dog …. they always seem to want to join at the most inconvenient moments!  Make sure you’ll be warm – perhaps have a blanket nearby to wrap yourself in for your final relaxation.  And don’t forget to turn the phone to silent.

3.  Getting started

Settle yourself first – slow, deep breathing – standing, sitting or laying as you prefer.  Then do some warm up movements – gentle stretched.  Then work through some postures that you are familiar with – trying to incorporate a range of movements – forward bend, backward bend,side bend, twist and inversion.  And finally some breath work and relaxation.  Avoid anything that is contraindicated for any health issues you may have.  Don’t overthink what you plan to do … go with the flow … otherwise there’ll always be an excuse not to get started!  It really doesn’t matter whether you spend 10 minutes, half an hour or more ….. just do it!

4.  Keeping up the momentum

We tend to start something new full of enthusiasm … and then life starts to get in the way … I’m too busy, too tired, there’s something on TV (or whatever your pet excuse is!).  It’s useful to note how good you feel after a practice, and any changes you notice in how you act and feel later.

5.  Sources of inspiration

Your yoga teacher may provide home practice routines – I do for my students – see  Yoga journal is a reputable site  The British Wheel of Yoga also has some poses

Do be careful with what you pick up on the internet … anyone can put anything up and there is an awful lot of rubbish there!

6.  Enjoy it

Really the most important thing ….. pick times of the day that suit you – it doesn’t have to be the same time everyday, or the same length of time … or even every day. …. just enjoy!

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Why yoga keeps me learning

I’ve often noticed that  I can be doing a yoga posture that I know really well, and have probably done hundreds of times before, yet it never ever seems boring … there’s always something else to notice …to be aware of….. something that just keeps my yoga fresh, interesting, rewarding and wonderful.

Have just been reading about the concept of the Cross of Learning ….. and it really resonated with me.  It’s mentioned by Alison Trewhela in her Yoga for Health Lower Backs book (a programme I’m teaching in Bicester).  She says “one of the wonderful aspects of yoga is that the subject is vast.  Learning can take place at various levels and layers and go in various directions.  Typically in the West, we feel we must learn ‘vertically’ with learning becoming more difficult as we go in an upward direction.  Similarly, we can learn more challenging yoga poses, but the more yoga we do, often the more we benefit from returning to the very basic simple poses and penetrating downward or inward gaining more precision, depth and subtlety.  In yoga we also learn ‘horizontally’, by adding ever more details about the same poses.  All these different directions of learning should be regarded as progression in yoga.”

I’ve blogged about this concept myself, as it is to me a really important principle.  I feel it’s somewhere so much of the joy of yoga comes from.  There’s no need to do gymnastic poses …..just feel your yoga from your heart and it will always be fresh, vibrant an amazing.

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