Friday, 4 August 2017

Gone Fishin'




I'm away between August 5 and 12.
My next classes begin Monday August 14 and run as below with the exception of Thursday August 17 when there is no class.

General Classes 
Monday 8pm - 9pm: Gentle Flow Class at Holy Trinity Workshop, Formby

Wednesday 7.30pm - 8.30pm: Strong Flow at Formby Fitness

Thursday 6.15pm - 7.15pm: Beginners Flow at Holy Trinity Workshop, Formby

Friday 6pm - 7pm: Relaxing Flow Class
at Formby Fitness

Monday, 12 June 2017

Our Mala


Last autumn my yoga teaching was transformed when I attended Strala Yoga intensive in London with Tara Stiles and I had the 'aha' moment when everything I felt about how I should share my love of yoga fell into place.
 In London I also sat on the next mat to Niraj Shah who set up The Present of Yoga and this week I read about Our Mala  on his Instagram page.
Here I found something else I was looking for - a way of using yoga to give back. 
From this month I will be sending all the profits from my last Thursday class of each month to Our Mala to help support traumatised refugee women heal by providing free specialised yoga classes.


Ourmala was founded in 2011 by a Yoga teacher called Emily Brett at Hackney City Farm in East London.
Emily had been teaching Yoga to vulnerable refugee and asylum-seeking women at the British Red Cross’ Destitution Centre in Dalston, all of whom had experienced gender based violence, were at risk of destitution and were either pregnant or had children. 
The Mala Initiative is a community of inspired Yoga, Meditation and Wellbeing teachers, studios and organisations committed to helping Ourmala's mission. This is to help refugee and asylum-seeking women find strength, hope and support to rebuild their lives through the practice of yoga. Consistent practice helps them move on with life and leave despair behind.
All funds raised via The Mala Initiative go directly to providing free therapeutic Yoga classes, travel refunds, hot lunches and English lessons and much more. £5 pays for travel to class for one woman, £40 pays for travel refunds for eight women.
If you want to help support this work then join me in a very gentle @stralayoga flow on Thursday June 29 at Holy Trinity Workshop in Formby.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Keep Calm Exam Guide for parents

Yesterday an article I wrote for The Liverpool Echo was published with advice for both parents and teens.



If you didn't see the article, here is the full text with some links that were not available in the paper.


The Keep Calm Exam Guide for parents

By Jane Gallagher

SATs, GCSEs, A levels and degrees. As a mum of four, almost grown-up children, I have been around the exam block more times than I care to remember. The dark clouds of exam season blackened even the sunniest days between April and August. And while 2013 may have been a good summer, for me it was the darkest of times. I had one child preparing for GCSEs, another taking A levels and the eldest sitting his university finals. Yes, the stress levels were high and not just for my children; my own stressometer was off the scale.

I worried about whether I was nagging too much or too little, whether I should be rewarding their efforts with sweet treats or inedible healthy concoctions. Should I disconnect the wifi or did they need it to access the internet? And the real question behind this stress - what would happen if they didn't make the grade?

And it is not just parents who worry. Anxiety levels among young people are on a rapid incline with exam fears just another to add to the list of worries. Last year ChildLine reported a rise of 20% in calls with concerns about exams. So how can parents support their children at this time?

From my own experience I have two words to offer: let go. Let go of your anxiety. The summer of 2013 had pretty much played on repeat until 2014 when I began studying myself (to become a yoga teacher) and had my own Eureka moment. I decided that it was time to practise what I preached. At the end of teaching a yoga class  I would remind my class that should their thoughts drift back to the past (have they done enough revision?) or ahead to the future (what if they don’t get the grades they need?), remind themselves to come back to the present.

That night in the early summer of 2014 I went home and decided the best way I could help my children was to let go of my own fears and anxieties. Of course I could still do the supportive things and there are lots of excellent online articles about how you can do this. And while I couldn’t make them work harder or less if they didn’t want to, I could take control of the only thing in my power. I could work on reducing my own stress levels. I could made sure that I found time each morning to sit quietly, stretch a little and focus on my breathing. And once I reduced my own stress levels it had an amazing ripple effect. And while I can’t say the exam results in our house have been better since 2014, they certainly haven’t dropped, unlike everyone’s stress levels which have reduced considerably.

Why Yoga Works

Yoga, incorporating breathing exercises, movement and mindfulness has much medical evidence to support its effectiveness. For example, researchers from Boston University’s medical school found that levels of the amino acid Gaba are higher in those who perform yoga than those who don’t. Higher levels of Gaba in your system make you feel happier and more relaxed. It has been proved that focusing on the breath in yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect on the body and can also improve concentration. Dr Katherine Weare, Professor of Education at the University of Exeter concluded in a 2014 report into the practice by saying: “Mindfulness correlates positively with wellbeing, positive emotion, popularity and friendships, and negatively with negative emotion and anxiety.”

How much yoga do you need to do?

In 2016 researchers at Western Sydney University found a 33% reduction in anxiety among patients who practised just 12 minutes of yoga a day compared with those receiving treatment as usual. More importantly, they observed an increase in resilience and frequency of positive experiences and a reduction in the frequency of negative experiences.

Do Good Grades Really Matter?
While exams results can indicate a level of knowledge and skills they are not the only predictor of success in life. The Institute of Directors surveyed its members and found that they valued soft skills — communication, team-working and leadership — just as much as academic and technical skills. Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment of Skills Policy, said: "Exam results are important, but they are only one element of a broad and comprehensive education. And whatever happens, it’s never too late to return to studies. After all, the former lead singer of D:Ream picked himself up after a disappointing Grade D in his A-level Maths to become a Master of the Universe, otherwise known as Professor Brian Cox.

Simple Practices for Parents and their Children
You don’t need to attend a class to gain the benefits of yoga, you can reap the rewards of the ancient science of life by regular practice in the comfort of your own home.
If you have 1 minute try some breath awareness
Sit comfortably with your spine long, eyes closed and hands resting on your lap. Take your attention to the part of your body where you feel your breath. Notice how you are breathing and then take your awareness to the tip of your nostrils. Notice the cool air entering your body and with your mind’s eye follow that breath. Notice where the inhale becomes and exhale and where the inhale becomes an exhale. Spend one minute riding the wave of your breath.
If you have 3 minutes
Follow the Breathing Space Meditation by Professor Mark Williams, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford which is available on youtube. 


If you have 12 minutes


Begin with 5 minutes of breath awareness, move through five rounds of Sun Salutation A (tutorials on youtube) and conclude by lying quietly in a comfortable position and take yourself through an auto-suggestive relaxation by saying silently to yourself (‘I relax my feet, I relax my feet, my feet are relaxed’ and so on moving through the whole of your body and ending with the crown of your head). 



If you have time for just one pose
Try Viparita Karani otherwise known as Legs Up The Wall Pose which is perfect for tired bodies and helps to calm anxious minds.



Simply lie close to the wall with your legs supported by the wall. Rest your hands by your sides, above your head or lightly on your abdomen and feel the expansion of your abdomen as you inhale and the gentle release as you exhale. Keep the back of the neck long and soften your shoulders into the floor. Stay here for up to 10 minutes with your eyes closed.









Friday, 28 April 2017

Surviving the Exams Season for Teens: Part Three

Trying to balance schoolwork, friends, hobbies and possibly part-time jobs can all be a bit overwhelming especially when exam season begins. 
At times when you are feeling overwhelmed Child's Pose can be extremely helpful.

Pic courtesy of www.teenyoga.co.uk

Most yoga teachers will offer Child’s Pose as a resting pose whenever you feel you need to take a break during class. There is a very good reason for this as it is a gentle and calming posture. It is great for relieving back, shoulder, neck and hip strain.



How to Do Child's Pose

Begin by kneeling on a yoga mat or the floor. Bring your knees together and your buttocks to your feet. 
Exhale and slowly rest your torso over your thighs so that your forehead touches the mat or rest it on a book. 
You can keep your arms in line with shoulders over your head or rest your hands, palms facing up by your feet.
You can also try putting your big toes together and taking your knees as wide as your mat on either side for a bigger stretch.
Stay here for 5-10 deep breaths maybe adding a gentle sway form side to side.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Surviving The Exam Season For Teens: Part Two

Revision is not always the most exciting time of year but it can be the most rewarding when you sit down at your exam desk and those hours spent consolidating your knowledge are now deeply embedded in your brain for easy access.



When you are going through the revision process it can sometimes feel as if your brain is crammed and fit to burst. Generally, experts who have analysed revision techniques have found that little and often is best and taking regular breaks is much more effective to allow those layers of learning to settle.

When you do schedule your revision, try to add some breathing breaks.
Alternate Nostril Breathing is a great way to create a sense of calm balance within your body and mind enabling you to improve concentration levels and focus.

How To Practise Alternate Nostril Breathing

Sit comfortably with your legs crossed and raise your right hand to make the Vishnu Mudra by folding down the index and middle fingers. If this is difficult just place your palms together and your thumbs at the tip of your nose. Close the right nostril with the right thumb and exhale completely through the left nostril. Inhale completely through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed with the right thumb. Release the right nostril and exhale completely. Inhale fully through the right nostril and then release the left nostril and exhale completely. This is one round. Aim for 10 rounds and then rest your hands on your lap taking a few gentle breaths in and out using both nostrils. Rub your palms together to create some heat in your hands and gently place them over your eyes as you gradually open your eyelids and return to your studies refreshed.

The science bit

A 2011 study of engineering students demonstrated how alternate nostril breathing boosted academic performance by improving feelings of well-being, memory and stress relief.

Find out more about the research here

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Surviving the Exam Season for Teens: Part One



It's that time of year that brings the darkest clouds on the sunniest of days: EXAMS!
But don't panic, you can create your own sunshine and find light at the end of the tunnel by applying the yogic magic to the season.
Over the next few posts I will be introducing a series of simple yogic practices you can do whenever you take a break which will bring an instant sense of calm (and perspective).
One of the most relaxing poses is Viparita Karani or Legs Up The Wall Pose.

How does it work?
This is an inversion where your legs are above your head and you gain the same benefits as if you were in a headstand or handstand.
This is a powerfully restorative pose that will rejuvenate tired legs, relieve mild backache and calm an anxious mind.

Avoid if you have serious back, neck or eye problems.

Instructions
Lie with your buttocks as close to the wall as possible and extend your legs up the wall. Position your palms to your abdomen or arms out to the side.  Alternatively, arms overhead with elbows softly bent.  Allow the shoulders to soften and relax into the floor. Keep the back of the neck long.  Stay here for up to ten minutes, breathing deeply through the whole body. Alternatively, you can let the legs fall out to a wide “V” shape to stretch the inner thighs.
Another great use for your heavy text book is to place it on the top of your feet as it will help you feel more grounded.

Visit next week for another pose to help ease you through the exam season or join Teen Yoga every Tuesday at Life Balance Studio, Harington Road, Formby between 6pm and 7pm.



Friday, 24 March 2017

Welcome to Spring


Time to roll out your mat and go with the flow.
All classes are located in Formby.
My Spring Schedule is as follows:

Mondays
Holy Trinity Workshop
8pm - 9pm
A mixed ability class suitable for all levels
£5 drop-in or £24 for 6 class pass (can be used on Mondays and Thursdays)

Tuesdays
Life Balance Studio, Harington Road
Teen Yoga (12-17)
£5 drop in or £20 for 5 classes
Classes run during term time only
(No classes Tuesday April 4 and 11 and May 31)

Wednesdays
Formby Fitness
Ashtanga Inspired Yoga
7.30pm - 8.30pm
£5 drop-in or free to members

Thursdays
Holy Trinity Workshop
6.15pm - 7pm
A gentle class - perfect for beginners or those who want a slow flow class
£5 drop-in or £24 for 6 class pass (can be used on Mondays and Thursdays)

Fridays
Formby Fitness
Relax Flow with yin postures
6pm - 7pm
£5 drop-in or free to members

121 sessions are available from £20
For more information email formbyyoga@gmail.com
or follow FormbyYoga on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook



Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Gentle Class



Welcome to my first yoga video which was produced by two students at the sixth form college where I work.
It is a gentle and relaxing 20 minute video, perfect for first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
Enjoy.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Classes for 2017


Welcome to 2017.
I'm back from a brief walking holiday in the Lake District and looking forward to an exciting year ahead, if 2016 is anything to go by.
In 2016 I got to meet and train with two of my favourite yoga teachers - David Swenson and Tara Stiles, which was an interesting and inspiring experience.
Training to become a Strala Guide with Tara has probably been the most influential training of my yoga career and I look forward to attending many more of her trainings - hopefully in her New York headquarters (universe -if you are listening I do have some Premium Bonds!!).
For now, I am excited to share the Strala philosophy of uniting body and mind one simple breath  at a time.

To find out more about Strala Yoga just click here. 

And if you want to experience this wonderful system of yoga, my classes for 2017 are:

Mondays: 8pm - 9pm. Gentle Strala at Holy Trinity Workshop, Formby, £5 drop-in or £24 for 6 class pass.
Tuesdays: 6pm - 7pm. Teen Strala (for 11-18 year-olds) at Life Balance, Harington Road, Formby £5 drop-in or £20 for 6 class pass.
Wednesdays: Strong Strala 7.30pm - 8.30pm at Formby Fitness, Green Lane, Formby. £5 drop-in or £35 for 10 class pass or free to members.
Thursdays: 6.15pm - 7.15pm . Basic Strala at Holy Trinity Workshop - Beginners Class. Booking essential.
Fridays:  6pm - 7pm at Formby Fitness, Green Lane, Formby. £5 drop-in or £35 for 10 class pass or free to members.

My Three 2017 Yoga Wishes
1. Travel to New York and complete further trainings with Tara Stiles.
2. Enjoy a yoga holiday to Purple Valley.
3. I get to share Strala Yoga with as many people as possible and bring lightness and ease to their lives.

Gone Fishin'

I'm away between August 5 and 12. My next classes begin Monday August 14 and run as below with the exception of Thursday August 1...