Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Christmas Tree

If you are stressed about shopping or worrying about what to wear to the next party this Christmas, then don’t despair - try the Christmas Tree Pose to help bring you back to a calm and focused place. Stand up straight, shift your weight slightly on to your left foot and bend your right knee out to the side. Reach down and place the sole of your right foot either above or below the knee. Place your palms together and take 5 long, slow breaths. Repeat on the opposite leg.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

What is Strala Yoga?

Although my yoga journey began in 1991 when I was pregnant with my first child, my teaching journey did not begin until June 2014 when I enrolled on a teacher training course with Yoga Professionals. It was the start of an exciting new journey. After qualifying I threw myself into teaching and learning. I just wanted to soak up as much as I could. Seeing people leave my classes feeling relaxed and de-stressed gave me a sense of purpose.
I didn’t know it at the start but that course with Yoga Professional was just the start. In March 2015 I was lucky enough to spend three days being trained by Jo Manuel of Special Yoga so that I could teach yoga to children. In April 2015 I studied more anatomy with Dr Ray Long. In July 2015 I completed the Pawsb Mindfulness course at Bangor University so that I could teacher Mindfulness to children. In September 2015 I spent three days learning more about Ashtanga Yoga with Kino McGregor. In October and November 2015 I spent 5 days completing my Teen Yoga teacher training. In December 2015 I spent another day at Special Yoga on the Enchanted Wonders course and in June 2016 I got the opportunity to spend 3 days with David Swenson. I learned to much from these teachers but nothing prepared me for road to Damascus style awakening I encountered after my trip to London in October this year to qualify as a Strala guide.

Learning how to teach Strala Yoga by the founders of Strala, Tara Stiles and her husband, Mike Taylor, has been nothing short of a revelation to me. Everything I learned so far on my journey just fell into place. So what is Strala Yoga?

Strala was created by Tara Stiles, drawing on her background in classical ballet and choreography, as well as her long-time personal practice in yoga. The science and movement of Strala is also guided by Mike Taylor. Mike studied mind-body medicine at Harvard, and complementary medicine at Oxford.  He has practiced Eastern movement and healing, including tai chi and qi gong, for 30 years.

Movement begins with your breath. Every inhale opens and creates space, every exhale relaxes and lets you move easily into the space you create. You move through the familiar and unfamiliar with far less effort, taking you much further without tiring, just feeling good.

Strala is designed to activate your body’s Relaxation Response – a chemical cascade responsible for overall health, healing, and wellbeing. This doesn’t happen in common yoga or exercise systems, which stimulate cortisol production. When attention is aimed narrowly and forcefully at accomplishing goals — for example in yoga, jumping and pushing into poses — our body is bathed in stress hormones, including cortisol. We become chemically less able to see the full range of options available to us. By contrast, when we move with ease through all conditions, we trigger our body’s Relaxation Response. This is where we want to live most of our lives. The good news is, we can activate our own Relaxation Response by moving gently and exploring where we are, rather than forcing to be somewhere else. We get happy, creative and intuitive.
 It feels FANTASTIC!
All of my classes are now fuelled by the Strala style and if you would like to give it a try please come along to any of my classes.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Practising At Home

I have been practising yoga for more than 20 years.
I tried it when I was pregnant, alongside my gym work and when I was injured from running and the stretching made me feel great. I would also enjoy a good night’s sleep after a relaxing Savasana. Sadly, with a job, a house to run and four children and a husband to care for, the effects soon wore off and within 24 hours I would be back to climbing the walls.
And it wasn’t until I committed to a regular home practice that I really started to notice the full power of yoga. I noticed considerable progress in my physical practice as I was able to move deeper into the postures, releasing my muscles and joints. But regular practice meant that my mind was calmer.
My moods didn’t swing quite so much and I felt I was becoming a nicer, kinder version of my old self. That once familiar feeling I experienced at work as tasks piled up and I felt helpless just disappeared as I abandoned my efforts to clear my desk by the end of the day. I do what I can and I do it well. I prioritise in a much more mindful way and nothing seems impossible anymore.

Yet I still have 24 hours in my day and still lots to do.
So how do I find time to practise yoga?

The answer is creativity.

Yesterday I locked myself in a shower room at work and spent 30 minutes practising the poses I felt I needed most. This morning I was awake early and managed 45 minutes before breakfast. The day before that I completed 3 rounds of Sun Salutations and rested in Savasana. I try to practise six days a week (not including the classes I teach).

Generally I practise at home or work Monday to Friday, take Saturday off and attend a weekly class on a Sunday. That is what works for me. Some days I will practise for 10 minutes, other days 90 minutes. On average I would say I dedicate between 20 and 30 minutes a day to asana practice – finding time when I can.

I know many dedicated yogis will schedule a regular time in their day for asana practice which is ideal – a sacred time just for you and your yoga sounds like bliss and maybe when my children are all grown up and left home it may be possible. But then again what about the other demands that may come upon my time. In reality, most of us have jobs, commitments and families that would mean missing our regular yoga time. Much better is to do what you can rather than abandon the idea all together if something comes up.

So this begs the question: what should you do?
The answer: whatever you need.

I usually start with three or found rounds of Sun Salutations and then rest in Savasana and notice how I feel. If my hips feel tight I will move into some hip openers. If my lower back feels a bit tender I will slowly stretch it out with some backbends. And so on, before ending my practice with five minutes of relaxation and focus on my breath.
Google Sun Salutations and you will find many variations.
As I practise Ashtanga Yoga I prefer Surya Namaskar A as it avoids the single leg lunges which many people find challenging, while preparing the body for asana practice.
Here is my favourite Ashtangi, Kino McGregor showing you how it's done.

Of course if you are new to yoga it isn’t as easy to work out which moves you need which is why I always suggest starting off your home practice with some Sun Salutations as they are a perfect ‘all over body’workout with a mixture of standing, forward bending, backward bending, inversion, flexion and extension. The only thing really missing is a twist which you can try at the end.

If you would like an idea of a basic home practice I would suggest the following:

Beginners Home Practice

Start by sitting on your mat and focus on your breath. Add in some side stretches and a gentle seated twist before moving to your hands and knees and move through 3 rounds of Cat/Cow.

Bring yourself to standing and move through between three and 12 rounds of Sun Salutations, starting slowly and gently – maybe pausing for a few breaths in each pose.
Add a seated spinal twist.

Before gently lying back in Savasana.

Start to observe your breath as you inhale through the nose and exhale through your nose. Relaxe your body from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Relax there for five to fifty breaths or however long you have. Complete your practice with a full body stretch, knee hug and rolling over to your side to bring yourself slowly up to sitting.

Place your hands to your chest in prayer, inhale and thank yourself for the gift of your practice and get on with your day.


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Teen Yoga

   Stressed-out Formby teenagers are being offered a chance to chill out with a new Teen Yoga class.

The pressures on young people today are enormous and as a pastoral support tutor in a sixth form college I have noticed that there has been a rapid rise in the number of students coming to my office with anxiety related issues. This inevitably impacts upon their ability to work and ultimately, realise their potential.

Last year I decided to gain additional qualifications to teach Mindfulness and Yoga to teenagers and completed a teacher training course with Teen Yoga UK. I am also certified to teach Mindfulness to young people after completing the Mindfulness in Schools programme (MISP) at Bangor University.

Research by Teen Yoga UK and Leeds University has found that students who take part in regular yoga classes notice a clear shift in the state of mind from stressed to calm. There is also evidence to show there is an increase in concentration, confidence and improved sleep.

In my classes I incorporate mindful practices with yoga postures to enable students to develop techniques they can use both inside and outside the classroom.

I tell the students that I can’t stop difficult things happening in their lives but I can help them to respond in a different way. Yoga and Mindfulness explores ways to respond rather than react and therefore, helps young people make better choices and take the best care of themselves.

The classes will begin at Holy Trinity Workshop every Thursday between 6.10pm and 7pm from February 25th.A six week term costs £21. All equipment is provided but students are free to bring their own mats.

For further details call me on 07808 800 681 or email

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