Music and yoga

I like using music when I teach. It prevents a silence which can be intimidating, it can offer something to anchor the mind to when in a pose, especially when finding stillness, which can prevent the mind wandering right off onto your to-do list or what you’re having for dinner. As a teacher it also tells me how far along we are into the time we have, and whether I need to cue another strong pose or start bringing you down to a more relaxed state!

Several people have asked me about particular tracks on my playlists, so I thought I’d do a post about some of the artists and labels I really like, not just for yoga but also for more general relaxing and chilled moments.


Oka are an awesome band that a friend of mine saw busking in Brisbane back in the early 2000s. She bought a couple of their CDs to bring back as gifts, and I liked their music so much that I started following them and obtaining their other albums as well. Sadly, their frontman Stu Fergie (“DidgeriSTU”) passed away last year from Covid complications.

Cafe del Mar

The Ibizan bar which curated hundreds of compilation chillout albums. I first became aware of them in the late 1990s, but they’ve been around for over 40 years as a cafe-bar and a destination in Ibiza for sunsets and drinks. DJs and tracks from all over the world feature on these albums and lyrics could be in English, Spanish, French, or any other language.


Similarly, Putumayo isn’t an artist but a label, and they compile themed albums of music from all around the world. I love that they bring music to my attention that I would never hear otherwise.

Other stuff you might hear on my playlists

I’ve got a really broad range of music in my collection, and although I try to keep the sounds in class fairly neutral (please tell me if there’s something which has a negative effect for you), I do love to include songs I love to listen to as well as more ‘background’ sounds. Some things which appear I’ve known since childhood (Santana’s Albatross, for example, or The Great Gig in the Sky by Pink Floyd); some things I’ve heard on the radio (Jo Whiley, Stuart Maconie, and Lauren Laverne have all brought me great music over the years); I met one artist playing the harp in the Breton forest of Huelgoat and immediately had to buy his CD. Other sounds come from my youth, like tracks from Leftfield and Massive Attack.
Some tracks are chosen because they lift the energy, while others might be selected for their soothing or hypnotic qualities- you can get music that includes binaural beats, which can provoke a meditative state, so for the latter stages of a yoga practice or for a meditation practice, these are perfect.

In the end, I’m looking to create both a mood, and a pleasant experience. Let me know if you think I get it right!

Exciting news! New classes coming soon!

I’m starting not one, but two new classes, in the Yurt at Lifeworks by Rio Pools, Charfield. From 3rd May, the 9:15 class will be a Vinyasa Flow, suitable for most people, friendly and welcoming. Props will be offered to help access the variation of the pose that’s right for you at that moment, on that day.

The 12:15 class will be an exploration of some other limbs of yoga: concentration (dharana), meditation (dyhana), breath work (pranayama), withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara), study of the yamas (“right thinking”) and niyamas (“right doing”) , and also the most well-known aspect of yoga, the postures, or asana. (For more information on these, here is an decent article.)

Halfway through the working week, this class is designed to reset your body and mind, helping you access clarity, creativity, reduce stress, and counter some of the physical effects of working or studying. I’m really excited to offer a class geared towards the lesser-known aspects of yoga, especially because meditation and breath work have been so helpful for me personally in my mental health journey.

I’m also really excited because the venue is stunning! Check it out:

In the grounds there’s also a meadow, perfect for walking meditation or outdoor practice, and a little stream. It’s beautiful- you’re bound to leave feeling so laid-back as to be horizontal!

I am also starting an early-morning class for the larks out there: Mondays at 7am in Whitminster Village Hall. This class will start on the 5th June and will be a general level Vinyasa Flow class, suitable for most people. I know it sounds a bit brutal, but at that time in the summer it’s so worth getting up early, and the class will make you feel energised and ready to face the week ahead- what’s not to like really!? Surya Namaskar, Salute to the Sun, around the summer solstice. Perfect!

Aparigraha in my life

Aparigraha is the Yama of letting go, ‘non grasping’. I’ve had a lesson this week in accepting what is, rather than wishing for what I would prefer, and it’s a hard one.

In this context, I had expectations of how my weekend would pan out. Friday night, dinner with the GTS*. Saturday, the workshop that Anna and I had prepared for since December. Sunday, morning yoga and a day pottering around at home with the child and the man. I’d spent Friday getting all the last bits ready for the workshop, preparing food, and double checking everything was ready. The GTS had been a bit under the weather that week, but nothing unusual- a thing he suffers with from time to time (no, not man flu!!).

On Friday night we went to bed as usual, but I woke up at about one o’clock and he wasn’t in the bed. He said he was in a lot of pain and was more comfortable on the sofa. About two o’clock his breathing said he was in agony and so I took him into A&E.

He ended up being admitted. The chronic problem had become acute and then an emergency and he could have died from it, left untreated. So, here: gratitude. Thanking whatever higher powers are out there and woke me up, allowed us to be seen quickly enough, allowed the medicines to work. Gratitude too for the fact that it wasn’t a worse prognosis. Those of you who know me will know that my parents were both diagnosed with and then died from cancers in the last decade, both before the age of 70, so this experience of another loved one being so very ill has been a frightening one.

Back to this art of letting go. Because the GTS is usually so hardy and healthy, a part of me was expecting them to give him some painkillers and send us home. Part of me really was in disbelief. This part struggled to accept that I needed to postpone the workshop and replace all my expectations for the weekend with the reality of spending time at the hospital, bringing him things that he needed, advocating for him if necessary, and waiting for him to get better. Struggled to accept that he was so very ill. I kept remembering, with a lurch, like when you realise you forgot to do something important.

It’s been a hard week. A week where I would really have liked someone else to have done the adulting for me. I’ve raged and cried at how unfair it is. But at the end of the day you have to deal with what is, and it’s no good wishing it were different. A practice this morning with Kate Beatty at Stroud Yoga Space has left me feeling much more in balance. I’m more able to be grateful at what has, in the end, been much less bad than it easily could have been. I’m able to let go of some of my expectations about how life will continue on its path (of course, life changes throughout its course, but in my experience we don’t anticipate the changes that are pre-empted by shocks, so they’re harder to take on board and accept, even if they aren’t that unpleasant- they are just different to what we expected).

The GTS is home and things will return to normal. There are changes to be made- we only get one life and I don’t want to spend mine wishing it were different, so while I have the opportunity to make positive changes, it’s a waste of that gift if I don’t take the opportunity because of feeling guilty about having it, or because of fear. So, in hand: more letting go of attachment to what I know. Preparing to embrace the new.

*Gorgeous Tree Surgeon

Workshop Offering

When: Saturday 4th March, 2023 9:30-4:30
Where: Under the Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge
What: A yummy offering of yoga, meditation, journalling, and massage, all along with teas, cakes, and lunch
Exchange: £70 per person

Join Anna and Cerian for a day retreat of mindful movement, relaxing massage, and an exploration of your inner world with some meditation and journalling practice. Enjoy moving with the breath, take time to check in and listen to body and mind, and hopefully come to a deeper understanding of yourself. 

Arriving at the beautiful Under the Edge Arts centre, you will be welcomed with a selection of teas, quiet music, and a calm atmosphere. Anna will be offering On-Site seated massage which focuses on acupressure points on the 12 major meridian lines on the back, arms, legs and head. This 20-minute treatment will leave you feeling energised, restored, and relaxed. There will be time slots allocated through out the day for you to choose your treatment time, during the journalling sessions.

We will begin with some guided mediation and breath work, then an invitation to journal, perhaps reflecting on where we are now and our intentions for the day.

This will be followed by a vigorous vinyasa flow yoga practice, where we move with the breath, and perhaps find that the mindful movement brings up insights that we can explore further in our second journalling session, along with more tea and cake.

This time will be a mixture of optional guided journalling and quiet individual reflection. 

We will have a nutritious lunch, taking our time to slow down and enjoy mindfully, before discussing and perhaps sharing our journalling and insights, then moving into a restorative yin yoga flow and (optional) yoga nidra*. The final invitation to journal will follow this deep rest, where perhaps you find some clarity or maybe further lines of questioning!

*Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation and deep rest. It’s possible in a Nidra state to tread the line between sleeping and waking, and to access creativity and insight. Not everyone may wish to take part in this, and there will be an opportunity to end your practice at the end of the restorative flow, rather than staying on the mat for the Nidra.

Our closing circle will be an invitation to share (only if you feel moved to) anything you have noticed or learnt.  There will be an opportunity to discuss and reflect our experiences all over a cup of tea and a piece of cake. 

What to bring…

Please bring with you a notebook and pen, or anything else you might want to have to hand for journaling. Wear comfortable clothes you can move easily in, with layers you can take off. A blanket is also recommended. We have mats and props, but if you prefer to bring your own, please do so.

Aparigraha, compassion, the year turns to darkness

We need the darkness to appreciate the light. As I write this, it’s shortly before 7am and it’s dark. I’ve avoided the electric light and am using candles- candlelight is beautiful, which is why I’ve chosen it, but I’m not sure how useful it is for writing on paper and so here I am, despite the contradiction, resorting to the laptop so that I can see what I’ve written!

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, no doubt about it, but it does bring with it the short days and long nights. The clocks will go back on Saturday night, and then we are into darkness at 4:30- fine if you get the chance to snatch some daylight at lunchtime, but less fine if you’re busy in your indoor job and you often arrive at work in the dark and leave in the dark, only seeing daylight on your days off. It makes it more important than ever to take the opportunities offered to see the sun and appreciate the light- while also understanding and accepting the different opportunities that the long evenings might offer, to turn inwards, to cherish your home, to meditate, to read, to settle in on the sofa with someone you love…

Meanwhile, autumn also brings the chance to examine and work with the Yama of aparigraha, sometimes described as letting go or non-clinging. As the trees shed their leaves, it can be a good time for us to let go of what no longer serves us. That might be clothes that we’ll never wear again (no matter how much we think we’ll get back into those 28″ waist jeans one day) or thoughts, or attitudes- perhaps that same thought about the jeans: instead, embracing our bodies as they are, rather than as we might wish they were (and why?). Or a job, or a relationship. It could be as simple as taking a different spot in your yoga class. It’s always a question worth asking- what am I clinging on to? Why am I? What does it bring me, and does holding onto the old thing mean I miss out on something new?

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, “Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction.” Krishna is suggesting that we try and stay focused on what we are doing, rather than the anticipated result of what we’re doing: enjoying the process, not worrying about the outcome. In the physical practice of yoga, this might look like concentrating completely on the practice we are doing, instead of comparing ourselves to the person on the next mat, or pushing ourselves into that tricky posture just to indulge our ego. Rather, by focusing on the immediacy of the practice, enjoying what it brings in and of itself, we develop the ability bit by bit to access those more challenging asanas- and we gain the immediate benefits of being present in the moment, without feeling dissatisfied about what we’re not doing.

Compassion can help here. We are often very compassionate towards others, but not to ourselves- for a myriad of reasons, including feeling that it might be self-indulgent, or that we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold others. However, compassion isn’t pity, and compassion towards yourself isn’t self pity or self indulgence. Rather, we might think of it as parenting oneself, or being the adult- seeing the bigger picture, giving permission or advice, and allowing kindness. For example, if you are exhausted after a long week, compassion might be allowing yourself to have a takeaway, or fishfingers for dinner instead of cooking something from scratch. On the other hand, if you have had a week of wine and takeaways on the sofa, the compassionate thing might be to go for a long hike up some hills and then make a healthy meal to nourish your body properly. It’s about being honest, recognising needs, and allowing ourselves to meet those needs- or to ask others to help us to do so.

Happy Halloween, happy Diwali, happy Samhain, happy All Saints. However you like to do it, bring the light into your home.

Autumn’s here

Class news, and news from the boat
We’re a month into the new school year, and three weeks into our yoga term. Classes are going well- numbers are up in each class, for which I’m really grateful and I hope they stay up! It’s been lovely to see everyone again after the summer break.
The Boat Child has started secondary school and is settling in well, adjusting to new routines and habits, homework and so on. The dogs are being walked by Lisa of Petals and Paws, the GTS has an interesting opportunity to teach a bit of wood turning, and as autumn arrived on Friday I have had a chance to use my new Wonderbag to make a venison casserole, yum! We also caved into the damp and chill and lit the first fire of the season.

Things coming up
I’m beginning to plan a workshop for early spring/late winter. I’m thinking yoga, meditation, and journalling, with some massage as well. Let me know of any tips or wishes you would like to see!
I’m considering another go at running a yin/restorative class. It’s such a nourishing, worthwhile practice that I really want to do it and make it work!! I’m keeping eyes open for a suitable time and venue; third time lucky!

As well, I’m excited to announce that I have a place on the Diploma course in Yoga Therapy at the Minded Institute, starting in May 2023! As preparation, I’m studying a beginners’ course in counselling- partly to get into the habit of studying, partly to support my own therapy journey, partly for interest, and partly to deepen my knowledge and inform my teaching.

Injury, oh no!

Last week I was coming back from yoga with Julia Frearson, took my shoes off and went to climb down the ladder/steps into the boat, just in my socks. I slipped, my left foot shot forward and my right foot stayed where it was on the top step. As my weight went left, the right knee came with the rest of me, ending up twisting in a sideways movement which tore my medial collateral ligament. I was super-lucky that I was holding the edge of the hatch opening, which meant I was supporting a lot of my weight already and so I didn’t tumble all the way down the steps.

I’ve seen Katy Stephens from Bouncing Back Injury Clinic and fortunately, ligaments can actually heal on their own (I thought they couldn’t so am delighted by this news). Katy was great- really thorough and offered clear, precise explanations for what she was doing and why. I’m so grateful for her skills and reassurance.

The knee is supported by a ligament on each side- the lateral is on the outer side, the medial is on the inner side. These ligaments help to stabilise the knee, and injuries like mine are commonly caused by forces pushing the knee sideways (as in a rugby or football tackle, or indeed slipping and falling down stairs). I’m lucky really because these outer ligaments are easier to heal than the cruciate ligaments and the meniscus which are inside the knee’s bony structure. I’ll be wearing a knee support for a few weeks or months, and have to be patient- I’m not great at patience, but it’s a reminder to let go of attachments and expectations around the body (Aparigraha) and to be disciplined about practising the rehab exercises (tapas). It will also help me to be more mindful about my movements and to experiment with different modifications- if it doesn’t hurt, I can do it, so I need to find ways of doing it without pain.

It’s the end of the holidays again…

There seems to be a theme, this blog is written at the end of holidays! I always over-plan and under-produce on Jobs during the holidays, because as well as Jobs it’s important to relax and spend quality time with the child and the animals, and the GTS.

This month (August) I have also spent a lot of time rediscovering my own yoga and meditation practices, and am feeling the benefits. It’s so easy, when you’re busy with work and family and domestic routines, to neglect the physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing side of life in favour of an extra few minutes in bed; but this is a short-term benefit and over the longer term, I know it’s always worth getting up and getting on the mat.

The GTS gets up for work at 5:20, and this was the view from my bed as I drank the coffee he brought me!
Yoga and meditation practice

I’ve been to Ashtanga yoga with Julia Frearson at The Warehouse, Ashtanga yoga with Jo Patrick and a couple of restorative flows with Jodie Stinchcombe at Quay Yoga Studio in Gloucester, and to SUP Yoga (with Julia again, and Discover Paddling). It was my first time on a SUP board and much harder than it looks!! Awesome fun though (despite my serious face) and I really can’t wait for next year to do lots more.

When I need some help with meditation, I like to use apps to choose either a guided meditation or a yoga nidra practice. I generally use Calm and Insight Timer which both have lots to choose from, arranged around themes or levels.

Class news

Classes start again on Monday 12th September: Gentle/beginners’ yoga on Mondays at 6pm in Slimbridge Village Hall; Vinyasa Flow yoga on Wednesdays at 6:30 in Stinchcombe Village Hall; and Vinyasa Flow yoga (donations based) on Sundays at 10am in Frampton Village Hall. Classes have space for drop-ins or do call me, message on Facebook, or email if you have any questions in advance of coming along.

Holidays again :)

It’s my last day of being on holiday, and when I woke up the clocks had gone back and it was raining A LOT, so me and the puppy snuggled up with coffee and yesterday’s rugby on the laptop. It’s a real treat to spend a Sunday morning in such a relaxed* and decadent way.

*Only relaxed once the game had finished, of course.

The child, the GTS and I went to stay in a friend’s caravan at Hillend on the Gower for a few days this week. It was such a blessing to spend chilled, relaxed time together. We played Scrabble, walked the dogs on the beach, drew, ate, drank, and even watched a bit of telly!! Compete bliss. The child and I even managed a bit of a surf, and she’s now completely obsessed and wanting to do LOTS MORE surfing- something I’m always up for, even if it means putting a cold, damp swimsuit onto my bed-warmed body on a morning!! We popped into PJ’s surf shop in Llangennith and saw the man himself- I remember going in there for my very first surfboard when the shop was still in a shed further down the road through the village. Legend then, legend now and a lovely bloke.

To be fair I didn’t take this particular photo on this trip. I didn’t take any photos this time! I tried hard to ignore the phone, had a bit of a social media detox, though only a bit… but anyway, this is from last autumn when we were there. Gorgeous.

Tomorrow I’m back to work and yoga classes re-start with Gentle/Beginners’ Yoga at Slimbridge Village Hall at 6pm. We missed the one before half term because the child was invited to an open evening for a high school that she wants to go to, so we went there instead (today is the last day for secondary school applications, so we needed to visit it before the holiday). I’m really looking forward to seeing the Slimbridge group again and will be planning a nice gentle flow today, with not too much up and down but a good range of mobility-enhancing postures and movements. On Wednesday it’s Vinyasa Flow in Stinchcombe, and next Sunday morning it’s Vinyasa Flow for Everyone in Frampton- check out the classes and about pages for more information.

In the meantime have a lovely Halloween Sunday!

Overwhelm and restorative practices

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, one which I really love. However, for anyone with children at school, or who works in education, it can be such a busy time that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. We’re going into week six on Monday, with another two weeks until half term, and for many people it’s a routine of early starts, scrambles from one activity to the next, and lots of work. Although we’re having a really mild, sunny weekend right now, the nights are definitely drawing in, the damp is creeping, and it can all get rather much.

While having a yang yoga practice is great (I love a strong flow), and getting out running, cycling, boxing or any other sport where we work the muscles, including the heart; it’s also good to balance that with a yin practice, or restorative.

I’ve posted before about yin and restorative- they’re a very different way of working to most people’s ideas about a physical asana practice. My own preference is to make the poses really snuggly and comforting, allowing gravity to work, and giving myself permission to let go of thoughts which circulate and persist in my mind. Even if it’s just for an hour, even twenty minutes, it can be a wonderful way of taking a proper, soul-soothing rest. Combined with a practice of yoga nidra as well, it becomes beautifully refreshing and relaxing.

My yin, restorative, and nidra class takes place by candlelight. I invite people to bring as many pillows, cushions, and blankets as they can carry, and come in for an hour or 90 minutes of just letting go. Why not give it a try? It’s an excellent way of banishing that Sunday-night feeling of dread or tension at the week ahead!

Yin and Restorative Yoga at Frampton Village Hall