Celebrating ten years of teaching with a mentoring programme

This year marks ten years since I qualified as a yoga teacher. It also marks a big birthday for me. On my thirtieth birthday in 2010 I took what my teachers called a “very auspicious” dip in Ma Ganga. It was very refreshing.

When I look back over the past ten years, so much has changed. Then, I was single and seeing a lot of the world. Now I have a wonderful partner and two amazing children. I’m more settled.

I remember being told at the end of my Sivananda teacher training that we were being selfish if we didn’t share the teachings. So I came back to London and taught anyone who asked.

It was scary standing up in front of a group of people. I used to feel physically sick with nerves. I doubted myself. I worried what people thought (a lot). But then my confidence grew – not just in teaching but in all areas of my life. 

Yoga taught me to look beyond the surface, to pay attention. As a result, I’d say I’m a lot happier and at home in this body and with this mind. I know myself better.

Teaching yoga in Hertfordshire

Having taught in London for three years, I completed further training and moved to Hertfordshire. I started covering classes locally and began running classes, workshops and retreats. I felt a strong sense of community or ‘sangha’.

In the past seven years, the local St Albans/Harpenden yoga scene has changed and developed considerably. When I started, I wasn’t aware of any other yin yoga classes around here. Awareness of the style was far, far lower than it is now. It was also easier to find space in venues to start new classes. There are now so many more yoga teachers in the area. 

The growing popularity of yoga is brilliant. And people need yin to counter the increasingly hectic pace of modern living. There’s a reason why it’s the fastest growing style of yoga today.

More broadly, yoga has changed and developed too: the toppling of yoga ‘gurus’ from their pedestals in the #metoo era and the rise of the instayogi. Mindfulness is a workplace buzzword. There’s a growing awareness of yoga teachers’ pay thanks to the work of Norman Blair and others. Perhaps the London yoga market has now reached saturation point. Yoga is taught in many more schools.

What will be the next style of yoga to take the world by storm?

There’s a lot to think about and navigate. 

Mentoring programme

With this in mind, I am offering a mentoring programme for teachers of yoga and mind/body/wellness practices. It can be tough teaching out there. It can be isolating too.

We’d cover topics such as:

  • The student/teacher relationship
  • Communication with studio owners and contacts at hire spaces
  • Running classes, workshops, retreats and holidays
  • Promoting yourself and attracting new students
  • The business and financial aspects of teaching
  • Work/life balance
  • Self care.

It would be a small group and we’d meet one Sunday evening a month for four months from March. I’d facilitate and provide advice based on my experience but we’d all share and support each other.

If you’d like to find out more and book, visit the mentoring page.

Pregnancy, practice and my pelvis

For those of you who don’t know, I’m now 23 weeks pregnant. Over the past few weeks I’ve started to get a lot of pain around my pelvis – a condition known as symphysis pubis dysfunction (spd) or pelvic girdle pain (pgp).

I had this when I was pregnant with my son, Jacob, but not to this degree and it began much later during my pregnancy.

I’ve seen an osteopath a couple of times and today while she was moving me around, she said, “ You are very mobile in your pelvis – maybe too mobile.”

Now, I know this. I have a naturally flexible pelvis. I’ve never really had to work to sit in padmasana (lotus pose) and other hip-related poses come relatively easily to me. But what good is that if, during pregnancy, you lose the strength to contain that flexibility? And what good is it when you’re in physical pain getting up the stairs?

Very often people are in awe of flexibility in yoga, fuelled by images on social media and other channels. Bendiness is something to strive for and if only I had a penny for every time I’ve heard someone say, “I can’t do yoga. I can’t touch my toes.”

The curse of flexibility in yoga has been well documented – London teacher Jess Glenny writes a lot about it and my teacher Norman Blair has written this piece from a yin perspective. 

I know that my pelvic pain will go away once I’ve given birth but I wonder if my practice has exacerbated the problem. I know of other yoga teachers who’ve had similar issues during pregnancy. Or perhaps it’s purely down to the pregnancy hormone relaxin opening my body and the pelvic ligaments being stretched from my previous labour and childbirth.

Who knows? But for now, it’s cat/cow, chest openers, pelvic tilts and hip circles for me.

For this reason, the 2 March yin yoga workshop at BAYoga Studio will be my final one before I meet my second child in June.

Kate Atkinson will provide cover until I return in October/November.

Find out more and book.

Six reasons why yin yoga and fitness go well together

Yin yoga is an excellent practice for many types of people – from those who struggle to find time to do anything, to those who run, cycle and do more active types of fitness. We all need to take time to be still, quiet and more contemplative. Yin yoga provides this.

Here are six reasons why yin yoga is great companion to sport and fitness:

 1. Stretching to create space

Most people know that having a stretch before and after exercise is good. A freer range of movement allows the body to find the most efficient path and use less energy.

When we sit or lie in a yin pose, we create space in our bodies, in our minds, and in our day-to-day lives. On a physical level, the connective tissue surrounding our joints starts to become more malleable, improving our flexibility.

Reggie Ray covers this aspect nicely:

When you ask someone to sit down and be with themselves they go, “I can’t. I don’t have time for that.” Now you and I may realize that there actually is a problem. Most people don’t think there is a problem. 

We run our kids in the same way—and it’s destroying them. The soccer practice and the music lesson and three hours of TV and homework—it goes on from the minute they get up until they go to sleep. They never have an opportunity to experience silence. Psychological development requires periods of solitude.

Anthropological psychology—studying other cultures, as well as our own—shows that when children do not have completely unstructured time, when there are no parental expectations looming over them, they actually can’t develop normally.

Read the Reggie Ray full article.

 2. Injury prevention

Most injuries are from overuse. Imbalances in your body can cause inflammation and excessive wear on tissue. A regular yoga practice brings your body back into symmetrical alignment and corrects flexibility and strength imbalances.

You’ll be able to do sport or exercise for longer. Ryan Giggs credits yoga for the longevity of his football career.

3. Yin vs yang

You may have heard of the terms ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ from Chinese Taoist thinking. Yang is about movement, creating energy and heat in the body. Yin is about finding stillness, being calm and cooling the body. HIIT sessions, running and cycling are all yang activity. Focusing just on the yang can lead to fatigue and burn out.

Having both allows the body to come into balance and stay in optimum condition.

 4. The power of the breath

People think that yoga is about contorting the body but it’s actually a breathing practice.

Your breath provides you with energy and power to carry on and reach the finish line. Yoga teacher Donna Farhi explains all:

Doctor and triathlete John Hellemans recommends that the best breathing for top athletic performance is deep diaphragmatic breathing… Dr Hellemans also notes the importance of getting into a rhythmic flow with your breathing and synchronizing your breathing with your movement.

You can do that by taking a breath when you plant your foot during a stride or when pedalling on a cycle. Find a rhythm and speed of movement that allows you to work within the confines of your breath capacity so that you are not building up an oxygen deficit.

Donna Farhi, The Breathing Book

 5. Staying power

In yin yoga we spend around five minutes in each pose (all are seated or lying down). This builds mental stamina. I’ve heard a yin practice being compared to a marathon.

This stillness allows us to become more in tune with our body, and naturally you’ll find that you start to watch your mind. We notice our thoughts – whether they’re positive or negative, linked to the past or the future, and whether they’re recurring. It allows us to connect within.

6. Accepting rather than competing

Yoga teaches that there’s more to life than going faster or further. It’s about accepting where you are today – not comparing yourself to before you had that hip/knee replacement, or thinking about how much fitter you were ten years ago. If we’re able to accept our bodies as they are today, we’ll be happier individuals.

And over the duration of a yin pose, your body will open and you’ll naturally go deeper. No pushing, no judgement, just accepting.

 

You can now practice a 25 minute yin class with me on YouTube as part of Fluxus Fitness’ Great in 8.

 

Jen Day on pilates and practice

With me starting to teaching monthly yin yoga workshops at Jen Day’s pilates studio near Wheathampstead, we thought it would be nice for you all to learn more about her.

So, here you’ll find a little interview with her, and on her website there’s an interview with me.

The first workshop of 2018 is on Saturday 20 January. View details.

Hello Jen. Why Pilates?
Because it works! I, like many people discovered Pilates due to a knee injury 17 years ago. I fell in love with the method immediately. I found it challenging and inspiring and I still do today! Pilates keeps me connected to my body. It keeps me focused, strong and without it I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have run injury free for 16 years or competed in triathlon up to half Ironman level. Joseph Pilates was absolutely right when he said: “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”

The Studio is at Mid Herts Golf Club. Why there?
Besides it being next door to my home?! It’s a beautiful calm space, oak beams and white walls with a view that is spectacular all year round. I wanted to create a space that you walk into a feel completely at ease, it’s a sanctuary, I can see that in my students faces sometimes. I adore teaching in the space and my commute is just wonderful!

What does practice mean to you?
Practice to me is acknowledging Joe and his wife Clara’s work every day. There are movements that still challenge me, movements that delight me and some that elude me! Practice also frees up my mind which is an awesome thing for an over thinker! So practice is about creating space, in mind and body. Its about constant learning and reflection.

 

Thank you Jen. Jen can be found at The Studio on weekday mornings. For information about her classes and the yin workshop, visit www.i-pilates.co.uk.

You can read her interview with me on her website. We hope to see you at The Studio soon!

Jen on a pilates reformer

How has yin yoga influenced my practice?

I’ve written this in preparation for an advanced yin teacher training I’m doing with Norman Blair in June…

‘Practice’ is an interesting word. For me, it means:

  • moving in this body
  • being in this body
  • living with this mind.

That’s how I’ve structured this piece of writing.

Moving in this body

Yin has undoubtedly had an impact on how I practice ashtanga yoga. Although I pretty much discovered both simultaneously, it’s been more recently that I have considered how one affects your attitude towards the other.

I’ve seen people so focused in their ashtanga practice. They throw absolutely everything at it. It’s an attack or an assault and there’s no ease. I used to be a bit like that but now I try and bring the yin to the yang. I try not the force the asana.

Michel Besnard taught me on my 500 hour training and his favourite phrase is “who cares”. Who cares if you don’t get your head to your shin in paschimotanasana. Who cares if you don’t jump through. A good mantra if ever I heard one.

So I think about how I can create space. I listen inwardly and there’s less striving.

As a result, there’s more connection to breath. It really feels like a moving meditation and I feel more. I certainly notice more. How does my lumbar and glute medius feel in supta kurmasana? Am I really engaging my adductors in navasana? What’s going on with the bandhas?

Moving slowly suits me. Given half the chance, I’d happily lie in bed all morning. I’m a naturally tamasic person. I find it more challenging to gee myself up to practice ashtanga at home. But yin? I’m there in a flash – sprawled out across the living room carpet – I need to be peeled off with a spatula.

Being in this body

I remember being at university one day and walking across campus only to be brought to a standstill by the sight of a huge flock of Canadian geese flying overhead in formation, above the spires of the neo-gothic buildings. The sky was bright blue and they stood out against the grey Yorkshire stone.

I looked at all the other students scurrying around me, anxious to get to their morning lectures on time. No-one else saw this natural beauty. The geese were so peaceful and elegant, quietly making their way to wherever they were heading. The encounter inspired me to create scribbles in my sketchbook.

At that point in my life I’d never even been to a yoga class, didn’t know what yin meant but that act of noticing the little things has always been in me. I was brought up with a father who made me look at the tiny flowers growing on dry stone walls on country walks and I’m pretty good at spotting a typo. I’m all about the details.

But at the same time, I’d say that I’ve lived my life quite detached from noticing the subtleties of this body and what’s going on inside.

In my twenties, I got terrible anxiety. I couldn’t eat in some social situations and I got really stressed about it. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I remember going to see a lady for some cognitive behavioural therapy. She said, “You’re going to do a yoga teacher training? Oh that’ll sort you out!” She was right. It was through yoga that I realised it was tension-related – where do I hold my tension? In my stomach. It made sense why I struggled to eat.

While the process of looking inward can be scary at times, I’ve learnt that it’s so beneficial. Being still in a yin practice facilitates this. You notice the sensations. It’s a practice you can take off the mat and into your everyday life.

I had a run-in with someone not too long ago and there were a few very tense phone conversations where I had to make it clear that I wasn’t a happy bunny. Every time I came off the phone I spent a few breaths noticing the impact on body – the tightening, the holding, the shortening of breath. I wouldn’t have thought to do that before I’d discovered yin or Martin Alyward.

Living with this mind

Yin has allowed me to reconnect with a meditation practice.

Having done my initial teacher training with Sivananda, I was given a mantra and for about six months after coming home from India, I’d religiously get up early, silently chant my mantra for 20 minutes and then get on with my day. And then winter crept in, I got busy at work and the Sanskrit went out of the window.

Ryan Spielman introduced me to the teachings of meditation teacher Martin Alyward and I began doing my yin practice at home listening to his podcasts. So much of his teachings resonated. They applied to a yin practice and to life in general.

I began a sitting practice again and went on a five-day silent retreat to Gaia House with Martin last October. Since then, I’ve made time to sit during the week. For me, it feels right to spend this time noticing my breath – its nuances – and noticing sensations. I notice how distracted my mind is – and that’s ok. An insight meditation practice does exactly that: it provides insight. I notice what is instead of filling my mind with something else like a mantra.

My mind now appreciates the quiet. My boyfriend Rob likes listening to BBC Radio 5 Live and it’s a lot of talking. I struggle to have a conversation with him if it’s on in the background. I like eating in silence and enjoying the taste of food. I like listening to birdsong and watching the squirrels.

Yin has taught me about acceptance – again, the softening around the striving – accepting situations and people as they are, not willing them to be different. Of course, it’s a work in progress.

Martin talks about how we’re so fixated on ‘letting go’ and that it’s an overused phrase in today’s yoga and spiritual industry. He says we should focus instead on ‘unclinging’. I like this. There’s the unclinging and softening in yin poses and then how this translates into the everyday.

I’ve been a cling-on. In the past I think I’ve verged on the control freak end of the spectrum. My organisational skills have been praised in past jobs and I’ve taken pride in being on-the-ball. I’ve tried to find the ideal man that ticked all the boxes. But since practicing yin and finding this softening, I’ve been able to open up – physically and mentally.

I’ve relaxed my tick box exercise and now I’m engaged to be married. Would I have dismissed Rob in the past due to his love of football and for having never stepped foot on a yoga mat? Probably. But now I’m able to see deeper and recognise his wonderful goodness.

Recently I met with a friend of a friend who was considering resigning from her safe, well-paid but boring job to try freelancing. She was full of ‘what ifs’: What if I don’t get any work? What if I’m no good at it? I was talking to a mirror. I was looking at me from a few years’ ago.

I talked to her about fear. I told her that she had good skills and experience. If freelancing doesn’t work for her, she can get a job doing something, anything. Fear can paralyse us. I wouldn’t know this stuff if I hadn’t practiced yin and worked on unclinging.

I could go on talking about the way yin has had an impact on my life, but I’ll stop now. Suffice to say, it’s all about the noticing. I’m much happier as a result. And for this I’m truly grateful.

I’ll leave you with Roger Keyes’ poem about the wonderful Japanese artist, Hokusai:

 

Hokusai says look carefully.

He says pay attention, notice.

He says keep looking, stay curious.

He says there is no end to seeing…

 

He says everything is alive –

Shells, buildings, people, fish

Mountains, trees. Wood is alive.

Water is alive.

 

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you…

 

It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you…

 

Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

 

Hokusai

How has yin yoga influenced your practice? I’d love to know. Feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Habits, histories and Watford FC

Recently I’ve found myself thinking about samskaras. In yoga philosophy samskaras are seen as mental or emotional patterns that are part of us, passed on by reincarnation and karma in past and present lives.

Basically put, a samskara is a deeply ingrained habit or behaviour and we all have them. I bet it’ll take you less than a few seconds to think of one of your bad habits. I bet you have lots of good ones too.

The more a samskara is repeated, the deeper the impression becomes. Think of an old record and how the needle dutifully follows the hard-to-resist groove.

We’re all creatures of habit and often we feel the pull of the familiar – in our physical bodies, our thoughts and how we live our lives.

I’m approaching a change that I know will definitely alter my samskara. In a few weeks I’m moving in with A Boy.

Now before you say anything, yes, I know it’s exciting. I know it represents a step forward in our relationship. And I want to move in and be with him.

But change can be scary.

In an article on the Yoga Journal website, it talks about how “we often resist new patterns for fear of losing the identities we’ve so carefully constructed.

I get this. We both have different ideas about what it means to relax at home. He has two TVs whereas I have none (he says it’s the equivalent of having one each which is perfectly normal).

We’re building new samskara and we’ll deepen those grooves together. I’m learning about his beloved Watford FC and he’s been to yoga classes. I’m optimistic that some day we will find a way to stack the draining board that keeps us both happy.

The Yoga Journal article continues to say,

“When we change a long-held pattern, we undergo a rebirth of sorts. This rebirth hints at a new incarnation, a more evolved version of the self. Yet improving our samskara brings us closer to our true nature, which is the goal of yoga.”

So if you’re undergoing any big changes to your samskara (and I know some of you are), hang on in there. It’ll be worth it.

 

April and I will be exploring samskara in our next yin yang workshop on Saturday 25 April at All Saints Studios. Visit the workshops page to learn more.

This is Troy Deeney. He is the captain of Watford FC. Just in case you weren't aware.
This is Troy Deeney. He is the captain of Watford FC. In yoga, yellow is the colour of learning. In the world of Watford FC, it is the only colour worth knowing about.

 

 

 

It was an honour to teach you

I’ve just taught my first weekend retreat. It was a yin and Ashtanga retreat and many of you were new to Ashtanga. Some of you were new to yoga!

When assisting the led Ashtanga classes I noticed lots of stuff going on throughout the room: glances and voiceless looks of “I’m in pain, come and rescue me” and whispers of “I can’t do this.” There were baffled looks of “you’re expecting my body to do what?!”

Yin and ashtanga yoga retreatWhen we go about our every day lives, we encase ourselves in a suit of armour. We smile broadly and up goes our facade. We have our coping mechanisms.

We might be successful at work, we might have a wonderful loving family. On the surface it might look like we’ve got it made.

But we all have issues with our bodies and minds. They carry our habits and histories.

I’ve heard it said that we’re at our most honest and ‘authentic’ when we’re on our mats. We’re laid bare. We’re vulnerable. There’s nowhere to hide.

Ashtanga, without a doubt, is a demanding practice. Moving your body in unfamiliar ways is challenging. Finding your breath in these postures can feel near to impossible.

How do we approach these situations? What goes through our minds? There’s fear, feelings of not being good enough, worries about getting it wrong or hurting ourselves, thoughts of being the worst in the room. Do we give up or do we give it a go?

You all did so well. You experienced the Ashtanga primary series. And maybe this weekend you weren’t able to sit in half lotus (let alone full lotus) but that doesn’t mean you never will. You just can’t do it… yet.

But to be at your side, listening to your fears and concerns, and offering little words of encouragement while you took your first Ashtanga steps was a privilege. It’s wonderful to pass on bits of knowledge I’ve had shared with me over the years.

Thank you for letting me in. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for giving it a go and exploring and playing. You’re amazing.

yin ashtanga retreat

 

New yoga class at Sandridge Village Hall

Hello all,

This is just a little blog post to let you know that I’m starting a new daytime yoga class at Sandridge Village Hall on the outskirts of St Albans, Hertfordshire.

It’ll be on a Thursday morning 9.30-10.30 and will be a yin yoga class. The first class will be 4 September.

What is yin yoga?

Yin yoga is wonderful. Of course, I’d say that as I teach it. It’s for those days when you want nothing more than to be still but you feel you ought to be doing some exercise. We spend the class sitting or lying in yoga poses and your body gets a good stretch. It’s also deeply relaxing.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been on a yoga mat before and I’ll give you lots of attention.

Yoga at Sandridge Village Hall
Sandridge Village Hall is on the main road running through the centre of the village. Come and yoga!

Why am I starting a yoga class at Sandridge Village Hall?

I don’t believe Sandridge Village Hall has a daytime yoga class. And it’s a lovely space. I’ve taught in a few local halls and when I saw this one, I was so happy with it. It’s got heaters for winter mornings, a wonderfully clean floor, and lots of free parking to the left of the hall.

Price of Sandridge Village Hall yoga class

It’s £10 per class. I’m also starting a special deal: £80 for 10 classes – for use in this class and the Monday morning Mead Hall gentle class in Wheathampstead.

When does the Sandridge yoga class start?

First class: Thursday 4 September, 9.30-10.30. See you there!

 

UPDATE: As of January 2015 this class is being held at All Saints Studios just up the road. Visit the class schedule page for details.

 

Six reasons why cyclists and sports people should get thee to a yin yoga class

Clare Wener - Shanta Yoga, Simon Barnes, The Hub Redbourn
Just an everyday occurrence on Redbourn High Street – Simon Barnes runs The Hub. On Wednesday evenings he can be found on a yoga mat.

I’ve started teaching a yin yoga class for cyclists, runners and other athletes. At the first class there were nine people. Women were outnumbered two to one – a rare thing in the world of yoga! The majority were new to the practice. It felt great to be sharing yoga with so many newbies.

If you’re thinking about coming along – or you’d like to find a class near you – here are my reasons why yin yoga is great for cyclists and sports people.

I’m focusing on cyclists as the class is run with The Hub, a cyclists’ cafe in Redbourn, Herts, but it can equally apply to runners, swimmers and any other endurance athletes.

1. Injury prevention

A handful of athletes may get acute injuries – broken bones and such like – but most injuries are from overuse. It’s the repetitive nature of endurance sports.

Imbalances in your body can cause inflammation and excessive wear on tissue. A regular yoga practice brings your body back into symmetrical alignment and corrects flexibility and strength imbalances. You’ll be able to compete for longer. Take Ryan Giggs for example. He credits yoga for the longevity of his football career.

2. Stretching out

Most athletes know that having a stretch before and after exercise is good. If there’s a freer range of movement, your body can find the most efficient path and use the least energy.

Also, cycling long distances with the body fixed in one position takes its toll. Spines become rounded, shoulders hunch and the connective tissue around your hips tightens. Yin yoga counters these positions – offering backbends to open and lengthen your spine and improve posture. We’ll also work on postures to improve the flexibility in your hips and your lower back.

3. Yin vs yang

You may have heard of the terms ‘yin’ and ‘yang’. They come from Taoist thinking. Yang relates to movement, creating energy and heat in the body. Yin is about finding stillness, being calm and cooling the body.

You need both to come into balance and stay in optimum condition.

Cycling is yang activity but if you only ever focus on the yang, your body can suffer from fatigue and burn out. Yin yoga provides the balance.

4. The power of the breath

Your breath gives you energy and power to carry on and complete the race – even when you think you’re done in. Yoga teaches breathing techniques to allow you to inhale more and encourage more gaseous exchange in your lungs – sending more oxygen to your internal organs.

If you find yourself struggling to pedal up a never-ending hill with the wind in your face, focus on your breath. Time your breath with your pedal strokes and you’ll be up it in no time.

Doctor and triathlete John Hellemans recommends that the best breathing for top athletic performance is deep diaphragmatic breathing… Dr Hellemans also notes the importance of getting into a rhythmic flow with your breathing and synchronizing your breathing with your movement.

You can do that by taking a breath when you plant your foot during a stride or when pedalling on a cycle. Find a rhythm and speed of movement that allows you to work within the confines of your breath capacity so that you are not building up an oxygen deficit.

 

Donna Farhi, The Breathing Book (Taken from ‘Pedal Stretch Breathe – the Yoga of Bicycling’ by Kelli Refer)

 5. Staying power

In yin yoga we aim to spend a minimum of five minutes in each pose (all are seated or lying down). This builds mental stamina. You breathe and you get through it – whether it’s the final minute in a yin pose or the final few miles of a race.

Of course, you can always ease off and make adjustments to your pose, but you become more aware of what’s going on inside and more in tune with your body. Surely that’s no bad thing for an athlete.

6. “I’m going to win!”

Endurance athletes like to win. It’s all about the competition – with each other and with yourself – trying to improve your personal best.

Yoga teaches you that there’s more to life than going faster or further. It’s not about looking around the room to see who’s struggling to touch their toes and whether you’re doing ‘better’ than them.

It’s about accepting where you are today – not comparing yourself to before you had that hip/knee replacement, or thinking about how fast you were ten years ago. Gushy and naff as it sounds, if we’re able to accept our bodies as they are today, we’ll be happier individuals.

 

So there’s my six reasons. If you’re in Hertfordshire, feel free to come along to the class on a Wednesday evening in Redbourn. You’ll be made to feel very welcome and you don’t need to be flexible in the slightest. In fact, the less bendy you are, the more you’ll fit in.

Find out more on the class schedule page.

 

 

 

Teacher Interview: Cathy Haworth

Cathy Haworth runs BAYoga Studio in Berkhamsted, Herts. She teaches Ashtanga vinyasa yoga and particularly enjoys teaching ‘Mysore’ style classes. I’m one of her Mysore students and I asked her a few questions about this style.

Cathy Haworth BAYoga Studio ashtanga yoga
Cathy

CW: Where does the Mysore style of ashtanga yoga come from?

CH: Mysore is a town in Southern India where the founder of Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, Shri K Pattabhi Jois lived. Since his death in 2009 his grandson Sharath continues running the shala and each year thousands of ashtangis go to Mysore to practice with him. I’m planning on visiting for the first time this summer and I can’t wait.

CW: How would you describe Mysore style?

CH: Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic style of yoga where movement is synchronised with the breath. There’s a set sequence of poses which are held for five breaths and you then move onto the next posture.

To practice ashtanga yoga ʻMysore styleʼ is to practice the ashtanga sequence in a class situation but at your own pace. You follow your own individual length of breath, receiving guidance and adjustments from your teacher on a one to one basis. I, or whoever is teaching, don’t lead the class as such.

Learning the ashtanga sequence may at first appear a little daunting, but myself or your teacher is there to assist and we take it slowly.

As you learn and grow confident in each pose, you’re given new poses by your teacher, making this a very personal journey. Once learnt you have a practice for life.

CW: What’s so special about a Mysore practice?

CH: Moving with your own breath at your own pace enables you to work at your own level, extending the breath as it suits you. We all have different lengths of breath and this way of practicing enables you to be in charge of your own destiny.

Cathy Haworth supta kurmasana adjustment
Cathy’s supta kurmasana adjustment is to die for. Not like, as in she’ll kill you… well… not really. Not on purpose, anyway. I’m sure this person is still breathing. And that’s what counts.

It is a disciplined approach to yoga that allows for no opt out of poses because you find them challenging. You have to face up to every eventuality that the pose may bring.

Thereʼs no hiding, and by working with your own breath you can really connect to what may be happening both in the pose internally and externally. By bringing this discipline into your life enables you to be more focused and present not just on your yoga mat but in all aspects of your life.

It gives you the space to be you.

Whilst on your mat, working and moving with your breath, you are able to let go of the outside world and be in the present moment, allowing the real you to shine through.

Once off the mat we take on board the many outside influences that we have accumulated over the years and often act in a very different way to who we really are.

Being on the mat allows us to be true to ourselves and the more you practice, the more you are able to let go of this external ʻbaggageʻ and allow yourself the space and freedom of just being who you really are.

CW: You’ve mentioned before to me about the versatility that these classes offer. How is that?

CH: You don’t have to be on your mat at the very start of a class. You come when it suits you. If you get stuck in traffic, if you have to drop the kids off at school… that’s fine, no rush. The latest start time is one hour before the end of the class.

Classes vary in length from 2-3 hours at BAYoga Studio and if you’re a beginner you’ll need to allow approximately an hour to do your practice. Eventually, as you progress you will build on this to 1.5-2 hours.

One of the many joys of a Mysore practice is that it is very portable. I know that wherever I may be in the world, I’ll have the opportunity of going to a class knowing exactly what to expect from an ashtanga Mysore style class. Get on your mat in Paris, Sydney, New York or India and you know that you will be just fine regardless!

CW: Thank you Cathy.

Cathy teaches Mysore style classes at various times throughout the week. Find out more by visiting bayogastudio.co.uk. On a Tuesday morning she teaches a Mysore style class from 9.15-11.15am and then I teach a yin yoga class from 11.30-1pm at BAYoga Studio. Come along to both classes for only £16. It’s a bargainous morning of yin and yang.

Cathy and I will be teaching an ashtanga/yin retreat together 3-5 October 2014. Visit the retreats page for more details.

Do you practice Mysore style Ashtanga? What do you enjoy about it? Feel free to comment below.

 

Read my previous teacher interviews with:

Norman Blair, my yin teacher
April Nunes Tucker, my local yogi partner in crime
Lila Conway, who taught me how to teach Sivananda yoga on my first teacher training.