Back to school

I’ve been planning a relaunch of two classes- one in a new evening slot- and a brand-new one. It’s really exciting to plan for gorgeous yin and restorative yoga, sorting out battery candles (real ones aren’t allowed in the venue), write a nidra script…

There’s definitely an autumnal feel to the evenings and the early mornings just now. We’re all getting ready to go back to school, in a way- the swallows are gathering on the phone wires, the politicians are gathering in Westminster, and anyone involved with education is preparing to start the new term, whether teaching, attending, or on the school run. It’s a time of change and transition, a time of new beginnings just as the natural world looks as if it’s starting to shut down.

Resolutions can be made in September, it’s a kind of new year after all, and for me the autumn has always been the time to make new starts. I’m rested after the holidays, ready to get back to being productive, and often inspired by the hours of dreaming in the warm sunshine. (It doesn’t feel like we have had very much warm sunshine, but with a couple of trips in the van I have had plenty of time to dream anyway.) So this autumn, I’m looking forward to getting back into college, to starting new yoga classes, and to resetting my own routines and habits- shedding (or trimming, at least) the bad, and making more of the good.

Santosha can be loosely described as contentment. I’m in a good place at the moment and am finding santosha in much of my life. I feel more and more that I am working within my dharma, fighting less to fit into a mould that doesn’t suit me. My resolution this autumn is to stay on this path, to make it more and more viable, and to enjoy and appreciate the journey. What’s yours?

Yoga in the park, yoga nidra, and the effects of a meditation practice

With the beautiful warm weather we’ve been having, I’ve been lucky enough to have people join me to practise in a local park. The sessions have been fairly mellow the last couple of times as it’s been so hot, and we had to miss most of May because of the rain, but practising in the fresh air is such a lovely experience. Feeling the breeze and the warm sun on your skin, smelling the scent of freshly-cut grass, hearing the birds… Fi also has been coming along with her hula hoops teaching us some moves after the yoga (although some people [me] have been very slow at learning how to do them- apparently yoga needs far less coordination than hula hooping!!)…

My yoga nidra course was really interesting too. I learned a lot about the brain, I got to experience some wonderful nidra states, and I’m even more full of enthusiasm for it than I was before- to the point of being slightly evangelical, oh dear!!

Some lovely yogis accepted my invitation on Tuesday for me to try out my new skills on them, and they seemed quite happy by the end of the practice. I intend to record some out in nature, and then share them on this site- another new challenge for my IT skills!

On that subject, increasing my yoga nidra practice and meditation practice has had a noticeable effect on my moods and also the cravings I sometimes get for comfort foods, like chocolate, crisps, and wine. I feel better regulated and am able to make healthier choices more easily. I’ll let you know how that goes. I’ve always started practice with some breathwork, usually breathing for heart rate variability, but after the nidra course I’ve introduced nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing) both in class and for myself, and it is also having quite the effect on me. It helps with grounding and reducing stress, and like the counting breath practice, it takes concentration so you have to be mindful and in the moment.

Further teacher training :)

I’m really excited to be signed up to complete 30 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) in Yoga Nidra. The training is run by Melanie Cooper (who was my teacher trainer for my 200 hours certificate) and Jennie Wadsten.

Yoga Nidra, or ‘yogic sleep’ is a beautiful, restful practice that I find wonderfully restoring. If I’m short on sleep, or suffering from night-time wakefulness, a guided yoga nidra can either refresh me far better than a nap, or get me back to sleep so that I don’t have to watch the small hours tick past. However, that is only one small part of the art- so I’m very excited to learn more about the different styles, the science, and the history behind yoga nidra.

I can’t wait to be able to offer yoga nidra as part of my classes, and to share the benefits with everyone who wants to try!

New beginnings

In-person classes could restart on Monday 17th May, and I kicked off with a beginners’ class in Slimbridge. It was a simple, straightforward routine designed for people who haven’t done yoga before- slower so that everyone could find the pose, work out how their body needed to approach it, and have time to find integrity in it. We worked on breathing with the movements, and ended with a lovely long savasana. I really enjoyed teaching the group, and I hope to see them all again next Monday- along with some others who’ve previously thought that yoga wasn’t for them!

I haven’t yet managed to get to an in-person class for my own practice, but I hope to very soon. Life’s been pretty hectic lately and my body and soul are both craving mindful movement with somebody else directing me!

Yoga and hula hooping in the park

On Sunday 25th April we braved the chill and enjoyed the sun as we moved through a simple vinyasa flow before getting some expert tuition in hula hooping from Fi Lewis.

The fabulous Fi demonstrating yoga while hooping!

The yoga flow was offered with different options for the different bodies, from a gentle vinyasa with knees down, chest down, baby cobra; to a full plank-chaturanga-upward dog. We moved into different lunges, Warrior poses, a balance flow, and some hip-opening and side-stretching postures.

Fi tutored us into walking in a circle while hooping (well, some people did that. I found it way too challenging!!) before a sequence of catching the hoop mid-spin and spinning it the other way.

In the beautiful sunshine, a yoga flow followed by the fun of hooping left me glowing both inwardly and outwardly!

What does yoga mean for you?

For many people, their mental image of yoga is of an impossibly bendy person holding a really challenging pose, but actually the asana are just one ‘limb’ of the eight in classic yogic thought. For me personally, yoga is a way of grounding myself, reconnecting to my body and being mindful, and fully in the moment. It can reset my mindset and make me feel peaceful. Other people see it as a way of getting fitter or stronger, more flexible, or even achieving those challenging asana as a form of validation. While all of those things are very individual, the image of yoga often seen on social media is, in my opinion, very superficial and often doesn’t consider the philosophy or the aspects of yoga aside from the postures. That can be off-putting to the beginner.

To anyone thinking that yoga is a thing that thin, bendy people do- I would say, give it a try if you struggle to be mindful or grounded. Have a go to benefit from increasing physical strength and flexibility, but appreciate the process and the journey because that is where the growth is to be found.

This image, shared by Om Magazine, really sums it up for me.