A Bermondsey Fayrewell

Bermondsey yogis-in-front-of-shopLast month I taught my last yin workshop at Bermondsey Fayre. It marked the end of an era: Up until now, I’ve always taught in Bermondsey.

When I first started teaching, I set up a weekly class in Bermondsey Village Hall – tucked in amongst Leathermarket Gardens with its stark silver birches and meandering snowdrops and crocuses. The Shard was just a building site back then but now it looms large over the roses and squirrels.

Now when I’ve cut through on an early Sunday morning on my way to Bermondsey Fayre, the village hall is home to a South East Asian gathering doing their weekly praising with much hand-clapping, tabourining and joyous voices.

I’ve taught at Bermondsey Fayre for three years – first weekly and then monthly but I’m no longer in London and it’s a long journey from St Albans on a Sunday morning.

It’s the people that I’ll miss the most:

The giggles in class.

The groaning when I suggest you kneel, tuck your toes under and sit on your heels (you know who you are).

The occasional in-jokes.

The faces when you finally come up to sitting.

The apologetic latecomers whose penance is a spot directly in front of me.

The prop cupboard Jenga.

The wriggling up and down in twists to accommodate the pole/wall…

The catching up with people’s lives and the goodbye hugs.

But it’s Liz Dillon who has made it all happen. The place is full of beautiful things made with love and a lot of it is Liz’s love.

Thank you to everyone who’s ever spent a Sunday morning yinning with me. If you suffer from yin withdrawl symptoms (a longing for mindful poetry and being read to, blankets and eyebags, increased crankiness and hunched backs, etc) I can highly recommend Norman’s workshops at the West London Buddhist Centre or St Albans isn’t far.

Thank you to Liz for these kind words:

We are very sad to say goodbye to our lovelier than lovely Clare Wener who has brought so much joy to Bermondsey Fayre and has stretched out and released tension in so many of our muscles with her fantastic yin workshops.
There is always a sense of bliss when I walk into Bermondsey Fayre after Clare’s workshops and a feeling of joy, love and laughter.
Clare has been commuting from Hertfordshire for a year or two now after leaving London and time has come for her to pull back from her London teaching and put more of her energy into her new home and community where she is living.
We will miss you Clare!

Bermondsey Fayre yoga
Bermondsey Fayre yogis (not doing yoga) and Helen on the far left (not wearing her Take That hoody)

Reminiscing over yoga in Bermondsey

Last weekend marked the end of an era. I taught my last yin yoga class at Bermondsey Fayre and I am no longer teaching a weekly class in London. Instead, I will be focusing on classes in Hertfordshire.

I’ve had a long standing relationship with teaching yoga in Bermondsey near London Bridge. The first class I ever set up was at Bermondsey Village Hall in SE1.

Sundeep and I outside Bermondsey Village Hall
Sundeep and I outside Bermondsey Village Hall

Memories include my Mumbai friend Sundeep in London for work, joining us on a Thursday evening. He brought along Indian sweets for everyone.

This was also the place where I once – note ‘once’ – suggested that students should “flower their anuses” in down dog. A certain someone collapsed on her mat in hysterics and I think she’s still recovering.

Then I met Liz Dillon through various circuitous events and so began my relationship with Bermondsey Fayre – a little shop with a whole lotta love.

I’ve enjoyed my early Sunday morning commute into the city. The girl in the coffee shop on Harpenden station knows my order and I’m normally her first customer.

The Thames from Blackfriars station
The Thames from Blackfriars station

Whilst the train sits at Blackfriars, I look over the Thames, the sleeping City, Tower Bridge and Tate Modern. The South Bank is empty except for keen runners.

I get off at London Bridge and try not to get knocked over by the wind tunnel caused by The Shard. I snake through the back streets of Bermondsey, taking in the old brick-built buildings now converted into luxurious flats and places named Tanner Street and Leathermarket Gardens harking back to its grubby industrial past.

I walk by the Manna Centre and an old man with a white beard turned yellow often sits in a doorway diligently making rollies. On a Sunday, Bermondsey Village Hall is being used by the local Filipino community praising the heavens with their tambourines. I bet there’s no flowering of anuses happening there then.

It’s in stark contrast to the trendy pubs on Bermondsey Street and the Bermondsey Coffee Shop – full of hipsters with beards (the men), partially shaven heads (the women) and posters of Philip Schofield, Roland Rat and Vanilla Ice… in, like, an ironically cool kind of way.

Bermondsey Fayre
Bermondsey Fayre

My weekly classes at Bermondsey Fayre have been a delight. I love the yogis there. It’s a small space and we need heaters but everyone’s so friendly and there’s such a sense of community.

Teresa has a special place in my heart. We first met when we shared a room on a New Year yoga retreat in Somerset and she’s been coming to my Bermondsey Fayre class since the start. I’ll miss our chats in the park and coffees after class. She always has pearls of wisdom to impart.

Liz Dillon is the Bermondsey Fayre glue. I love Liz. She’s provided wise advice on my choice in men, guided me through my one and only ever experience of expressive movement and she’s just fab.

And so I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who’s ever been to one of my classes in Bermondsey. I have appreciated your presence and I hope you’ve got something out of it – even if no more than a serious attack of the giggles… I’m talking to you, Sandra Lynes.


I will still be teaching monthly yin workshops at Bermondsey Fayre. The first one will be Sunday 1 June, 10am – midday and is £25. If you would like to book, please email Liz. Bermondsey Fayre offers yoga classes throughout the week. Visit the website to find out more.


Bermondsey Fayre yoga
Bermondsey Fayre yogis (not doing yoga)

Five reasons why yin yoga is, like, the best thing, ever.

A few years ago I went for a job interview at The Life Centre in London. One of the questions I was asked was: “How would you describe yin yoga to a prospective student?” I said I had no idea. I’d heard of it but hadn’t practiced it. Suffice to say, I didn’t get that job.

And now, here I am waxing lyrical about the wonders of yin yoga.

Clare Wener yin yoga Hertfordshire
You may never have heard of yin yoga, or perhaps like me during that interview, you’ve seen it on studio schedules but haven’t ventured any further. You may have been to my monthly Hertfordshire yin yoga workshops but it’s fair to say that it’s a wonderful, nourishing practice. I’m biased, of course, but here are my five reasons why:

1. Yin yoga teaches acceptance

When you’re in a pose for a minimum of five minutes, you can’t push it. If you do, you’ll regret it. So it teaches you to stay where you feel something, but not too much – not trying to inch your forehead closer to your shins in a forward bend. And anyway, over the duration of the pose, your body will open and you’ll naturally go deeper. No pushing, no judgement, just accepting.

2. Yin yoga cultivates a beginners mind

The postures have different names in yin yoga. For example, pigeon pose is called ‘swan’. This encourages us to approach each pose with no hang-ups about how we’d ‘usually’ do the pose in a yoga class.

The mind of the beginner is empty, free of all habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt and open to all possibilities.

Suzuki Roshi

3. Yin yoga creates space

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

A reading from Reggie Ray covers this aspect nicely:

Here’s a teaching that Chögyam Trungpa gave that has changed the way a lot of people look at their work lives: learn how to invite space into your worklife. The space itself will actually accomplish most of what you 
need to do. In the form of helpful people turning up, auspicious coincidences… And in so doing, you are not only opening up your self, you are opening up the world. It becomes a dance. It’s no longer your job to sit there for 10 hours doing your thing, it’s to respond to the way the world wants things to happen. It’s de-centralized.

Read the Reggie Ray full article.

This has felt particularly apt for me over the past few weeks. Thank you, world.

4. Yin yoga achieves balance

The weekly grind can get you down. We’re always watching the clock. We’re getting children to school/clubs on time, rushing for the train, keeping our bosses/partners happy, I could go on.

We’re also always on the go when we do finally relax. TV keeps our minds active and we also stay busy when we exercise – going to the gym, running, cycling – or even through more energetic forms of yoga such as ashtanga and vinyasa flow. They all generate heat and get you moving.

This is all great, but we have to make space to be still and surrender.

Yin provides this balance. Being still can be hard but it’s necessary to counter all the busy-ness in our hectic Western lives.

5. Yin yoga is about awareness

When we practice yin yoga, it’s inward focussed. We start to notice sensations within, 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.


So there you go. There’s my five reasons. Perhaps you’ve encountered similar things if you’ve practiced yin yoga. Feel free to leave your observations below.

I teach weekly yin yoga classes at Bermondsey Fayre, London SE1; The Yoga Hall in St Albans; and from 25 February I’ll be starting a weekly class at BAYoga Studio in Berkhamsted. More details on the class schedule page. I also teach monthly yin yoga and yin/yang workshops in Hertfordshire.


A mind that is fast is sick

A mind that is slow is sound

A mind that is still is divine.


Meher Baba

Yogi Yin tunes

I must say that I’m rather enjoying teaching my Sunday morning Yin yoga class at Bermondsey Fayre, SE1. I’m used to teaching Hatha yoga which involves more movement and you get through a lot more poses.

But Yin places emphasis on stillness and prolonged time in postures to encourage the connective tissue to lengthen. We do some warm up movements such as ‘happy baby’ and ‘cat and cow’ and sometimes the odd bit of partner yoga which is always a giggle. One of the big differences is that I’m playing music in class for the first time. This helps to focus people’s attention as one pose can seem like a lifetime.

Anyone who knows me will know that I’ve always been rather fond of music. Whether it’s singing musicals in the car, chanting sanskrit mantras in satsangs, or having karaoke birthday parties (my favourite karaoke number is Elton and Kiki – Don’t go breaking my heart. A classic, I’m sure you’ll agree). Now let me tell you a secret. Sometimes in class I have to suppress the urge to sing along. It’s true. And that would not be relaxing for students.

I’m spending some time today putting together a playlist for Sunday’s class:

Yin class screen grab from iTunes

Mali Music album cover
Mali Music

It features some yogi stalwarts such as Deva Premal and Jai Uttal, but I’m enjoying throwing in some unexpected ones. Nora Mangiamele taught me to teach Yin and she always started the class with some upbeat numbers. I love Hot Chip and the mysterious dubstep man who was known simply as ‘Burial’ for a long time, like music’s answer to Banksy. One of his tunes is called ‘In McDonalds’ but somehow I didn’t think that was right for yoga.

Mali Music was one of Damon Albarn’s projects, working with musicians in the African country. The album’s happy and the Blur man can do no wrong in my opinion.

I heard about Wah! a few years ago on my first teacher training when a buddy was raving about her. She’s American and her actual name is Wah Devi. Imagine that.

Wah! Maa album cover
Wah! Maa

I was thinking earlier that some of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells would work well in class so I downloaded Sentinel from iTunes.

And if any of you enjoyed the music from the French film Amelie, you’ve got Yann Tiersen to thank for that. This song Kala isn’t quite so ‘in your face’ as the Amelie soundtrack but still has a quirky feel to it and feels relaxed enough to play in class.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn is a Pakistani musician who’s pretty well known. His music featured in the soundtrack for the film ‘Dead Man Walking’ with Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. I can see that some people might think that he sounds rather like a wailing man in the throes of death, but I like him. However, I like Take That and some people think that’s ridiculous too. Here’s a song from ‘Dead Man Walking’:

Nora introduced me to Peter Kater and this is the music from the 2006 film, ’10 questions for the Dalai Lama’. In this documentary the film maker interviews His Holiness in Dharamsala, India. The soundtrack has beautiful piano pieces and some feature Tibetan monks chanting mantras. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to visit Dharamsala and Rewalsar Lake in Himachal Pradesh with my Dad and this music instantly transports me back there to monasteries where we sat listening to chanting monks with fantastically long squawky trumpets.

So anyway, feel free to download these songs from iTunes and create your own Yin yoga playlist. Or even better, come along to the class on Sunday and try Yin yoga with me. Contact Bermondsey Fayre to book your place.

Do you have any songs you enjoy playing during yoga? I’m always keen to hear other people’s suggestions. Feel free to leave your comments below…

Chanting monks
Me and my Dad sitting with chanting Tibetan monks (2010)