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.



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

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)

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: Norman Blair

Norman Blair is one of the UK’s leading yin yoga teachers and has been teaching in London for over ten years. His monthly yin workshops at Globe House in Bermondsey are wonderful and leave you floating for at least three days after you leave the building (speaking from personal experience).

Norman kindly took the time to answer some questions.

CW: Tell me about your first yoga class.

NB: My first class was at Bodywise East London and a friend took me as she thought it would be good for me. I don’t really remember much about the class but what I do remember is that my friend, who I’m still in touch with, thinks it’s funny that I now teach yoga. She says that she’d never seen anyone as stiff or uncoordinated as me. There I was then… and here I am now!

I know there’s teachers who come from a place where they’re naturally really gifted in their bodies, but I really wasn’t one of them. It can be an asset to experience stiffness, a lack of coordination, difficulty with body parts and injuries. It allows you to see how much potential there is for change.

I went to those classes in East London for a bit, and then in 1993 a friend of mine called Oz was doing an Iyengar teacher training and needed her own group. I volunteered and over the next five years we’d meet in her living room on a regular basis.

Oz then went to Crete in 1995 to spend time with Radha and Pierre – John Scott’s teachers – and came back with an ashtanga practice. I remember sitting in her living room while she did a demo of the primary series. It was really intense – watching this small woman demonstrate such control, flow and grace. After that, I was hooked. I’ve been practicing ashtanga ever since and I also get a lot from Iyengar classes with Alaric Newcombe.

What I’ve learnt though is that less is more. People get confused with ashtanga and think that it’s all fast and intense but what’s the rush? Pattabhi Jois said, “you take it slowly”. We just need to slow down. One class a week is fine. I did that for five or six years.

I first encountered yin yoga at the Manchester Buddhist Centre in November 2001. It was unlike anything I’d experienced and the next year I met Sarah Powers. She’s been my yin teacher ever since.

CW: How do you describe yin yoga to someone who’s unfamiliar with the practice?

NB: It’s a very soft, slow form of yoga. It gives us time to be more gentle to ourselves. It’s a perfect antidote to the rest of our lives which are often spent chasing around.

One of my favourite lines is from Pico Iyer: “The mind is more than capable of seeing a stationary blue car and constructing out of it a six-act melodrama.” I know that’s true of me.

But yin gives us a chance to slow down. It gives us the chance to take our time. It gives us the chance to create space where we can be more aware of how distracted we can be.

I’d also say that yin is a potential bridge between western yoga classes and a more meditative practice. We need to stop and slow down. It’s so important.

Personally speaking, yin has really helped to open my body but what I would say is that people who are hyperflexible need to be cautious in yin as there’s no strengthening work. Just because you can go deeply into a pose doesn’t mean you’re ‘good’ at yin.

But it’s really helped to open my body. It helps that I love it as well.

CW: How does yin challenge you?

NB: By nature I’m fairly impatient and impetuous. To be still is hard. To maintain a level of attention is also a challenge. And to not get caught up comparing myself to someone else.

Norman and I.
Norman and I. His hand is less blurry in real life.

CW: How would you describe your teaching style?

NB: If someone’s really laid back in their everyday life, when it comes to their teaching, I wonder if they’re really up tight and like, “Do this! Do that!” Whereas in my normal life I’m quite focussed and impatient. I have the speedy London walk and I’m aware of the impact that’s had on my life.

As a result, when I’m teaching I’m all about taking it slowly, taking it easy. We have to let go of thinking, “I can’t do this…” or “I used to be able to do that…”

I encourage people approach their practice as “here I am right here in this body, right now as it actually is.”

Someone said to me that it’s about being firm but fair and I want to help people find their potential by using skillful effort. In western culture it’s all about striving for the goal and we push ourselves too hard. And there’s always more goals. Where does it end? We need to be gentle with ourselves whilst also applying a bit of a push.

We also need to be conscious of how each day is different. Some days we might need more of a push and, on others, we might just need to put our feet up on the sofa. It’s accepting that that’s ok. We have to just do what feel right with a level of skillful inquiry.

I like to think of myself as a conduit for helping people to find their potential.

Of course I still have lots to learn. I know I find it hard letting go of people. Sometimes people don’t come back to classes and sometimes I have to suggest to students that they need to go to another teacher.

For example, I’m half way through the second series and, being realistic, I’m probably not going to get much further. If there are students who are going beyond that, I can’t teach them asanas that I don’t practice myself. I’ve suggested before now that students go to Hamish Hendry. It’s hard but it’s right for them and I have to let go.

CW: How do you bring the practice of yoga into your everyday life?

NB: I feel that the word ‘yoga’ comes with baggage. I’m quite influenced by Michael Stone and he prefers to call it ‘intimacy’. Matthew Remski calls it ‘evolutionary movement’.

When someone’s doing a dance class, they can be far less striving and goal orientated than someone doing a yoga class. It’s about what we bring to the situation. It’s about working on ourselves and transformation.

We all live in this world but I feel we have to be conscious of the choices we make. I fly, for example. But I do believe in social transformation and the more aware we become of our inner landscape, the more conscious we can become about other people.

There was a book written about a Buddhist nun called Tenzin Palmo:  ‘A Cave in the Snow’ and she talked about how great it would be if when we meet people on the street, our first thought were: “may they be happy and well”. Not judging them on the way they look, or the clothes they’re wearing. Not thinking “I don’t like you” or “you remind me of so and so”.

Cave in the Snow by Vicki MacKenzie
Cave in the Snow by Vicki MacKenzie

It’s these unconscious conversations in our head. Part of the practice is becoming aware of these conversations and just seeing people and things for their natural beauty.

I also enjoy the practice of eating in silence. You just eat with no distractions – no TV, books or music. The food actually tastes better! You’ll eat more slowly, you’ll eat less, and you’ll become more satisfied.

I’ve also been thinking recently about the sustainability of my physical practice.  Is your practice sustainable? If we’re going to strive and sweat and grunt and groan, it could be debatable. It’s ok when you’re 25 but I turned 50 this year and I approach my practice very differently to ten years ago.

I’ve learnt a lot. I do it less. I do ashtanga 3-4 times a week and I love it. But I want to be able to do it in ten or 20 years’ time. I want my practice to be sustainable.

This practice of working on ourselves will continue until our last breath.

CW: What’s the best thing about teaching yoga?

NB: I remember when I started teaching, someone said to me: “Don’t give up your day job”. I took this on board and I said I’d give it six months and see if I could manage financially and also to see if I’d enjoy it. Fortunately, it went well and I continued.

I’m always looking to evolve how I teach and learn more about teaching. Continuity and consistency of teacher is important. We can learn so much by putting our nose to the grindstone and spending time with a specific teacher. We can learn so much by staying with a situation – it’s like a relationship with a partner. If you decide to give up after three months, what do you learn?

I’ve been going to Hamish Hendry’s ashtanga classes for 14 years, I’ve spent 12 years practicing yin with Sarah Powers. I’ve learnt a lot by sticking with teachers.

CW: If you didn’t spend your weeks teaching yoga, how else do you think you’d spend your time?

NB: Before I taught yoga, I did a variety of different things. I worked for a local authority, I worked on a fruit and veg stall in Spitalfields market. I’m not sure how I’d spend my time but I know I wouldn’t be so happy.

But you know, you’ve got to make the most of this life. Life is so short and precious. With my alliteration hat on, I’d say that I just teach the preciousness of life, the precariousness of life, and the parasympathetic nervous system…

CW: What makes you happy?

NB: A good book. The taste of food. Bouncing on trampolines. Being in my kitchen. Standing on the top of Parliament Hill Fields looking over London. Standing on my head. Simple stuff.

CW: What are you up to over the next few months?

NB: I’m very excited about a teacher training I’m starting at my new studio in North London with Melanie Cooper. We teach day workshops together and a few months ago we were doing one and everyone was lying in savasana and we thought that we could do it as a teacher training.

We work well together and it’s a nice balance – Melanie’s got a lot of experience teaching ashtanga and has run teacher trainings before. I’ve taught people how to teach yin on five-day intensives and yin is definitely needed in today’s world.

I also run supervision groups for yoga teachers. All psychotherapists have to go for supervision after qualifying and it’s the same with acupuncturists and other professions. It’s totally accepted.

But in yoga teaching, you do your training and then you’re set adrift. When I first started teaching, it would have been great to meet together with other teachers and share stuff.

Each group is closed and runs for six meetings over six months – no one new can join once it’s started, it’s confidential so we can express fears and dreams and the day-to-day difficulties and joys of teaching yoga. Also it’s a place we can bring up any issues with students. I think it’s a really important thing to get going. The first session is an introduction on Sunday 1 December where you can come along and have a chat and see if you’re interested.

The next yin intensive is 20-24 March 2014 and I’ve got various classes and workshops on the horizon too. So yeah, life rolls on…

CW: Thank you Norman.

NB: Thank you Clare.


If you’d like to find out more about Norman and his teaching, visit I’m going to his next yin workshop in London Bridge on Saturday 30 November so I might see you there.

There’s more about my Hertfordshire and London yin classes and workshops on this website.

Norman Blair seated forward bend in a field
Norman in a field

You can do it! Keeping up that home practice…

With winter in the UK closing in and the early mornings becoming darker and colder, snuggling under your duvet is likely to feel increasingly appealing. But how do you stay connected to your home practice?

I’ve heard people say that the hardest step to practicing on your own at home is rolling out your mat. But once you’re standing on that mat, you’re half way there.

I’ve asked some teachers for their tips to help you stay motivated through the winter months…

Norman Blair, yin and ashtanga teacher

Norman (image from
Norman (image from

One of my favourite sayings is: A little a lot is better than a lot a little. Make it accessible. You could just sit for five minutes. Go with the morning. When does the evening start? When you get in from work? After dinner? Before bed? The morning is better.


If you can’t work out how to fit it in, just get up five or ten minutes earlier. It’s not rocket science. We can be so disciplined in reading the paper, watching the latest boxset…


People forget that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time. We have to be realistic about what we can do and we just have to do our best. Be less ambitious.


Get support. It’s great to have a home practice but a sense of community is important. In Buddhism it’s called ‘sangha’. The support that we require in these hard and difficult times isn’t unique to now – they were difficult in the times of Buddha too. But we need support. We need sangha.

Norman has been practicing yoga for more than 15 years and teaching since 2001. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, I’ll be interviewing him for the blog very soon – sign up on the right to make sure you don’t miss it.

Cathy Haworth, ashtanga teacher

Cathy (image from
Cathy (image from

Dedicate a specific time each day to practice which is realistic and manageable.


Let go of the idea that you need to do a full primary series practice. In an ideal world this is great, but with the many pressures we often put ourselves under, this is not always possible. Be happy to start with ten minutes and let the universe decide if you are able to do more.


Remember what you feel like when you finish your practice and reconnect to that feeling if you are struggling to get on your mat. Have you ever regretted getting on your mat? I know I haven’t.


Aim to get to a certain posture in your practice each time you start. This may be the sun salutations, standing, or maybe navasana. When you reach that posture, see if you feel like doing more. If not, be very happy that you have achieved your goal. Don’t forget to allow time for your relaxation at the end.


Avoid beating yourself up if, at the end of your day, you didn’t manage to get on your mat. Trust me, it doesn’t help! Look to smile inwardly as you progress through your practice, trust it, and enjoy it.

Cathy runs BAYoga Studio in Berkhamsted, Herts. Her favourite class to teach is a Mysore self practice and can’t wait to visit the place itself in India next year.

Adele Cassidy, Anusara and pregnancy yoga teacher

Adele (image from
Adele (image thanks to

When it comes to starting a home practice or keeping one going my best advice is to find something to motivate you and let that motivation be fluid.


BKS Iyengar says that practice “waxes and wanes like the moon”. Some days I spend several hours luxuriating on my mat with my books and pen to hand. Other days it’s all I can do to stick my legs up the wall in vipariti karani. It took me about three years to be ok with that.


I’m pretty sure that since you’re reading this blog something’s motivating you, but in case you’re stuck here’s my top list:


1. I’m going to a workshop/training/retreat I better get a bit fitter

2. I’ve been on a workshop/training/retreat and I’m pumped with enthusiasm

3. No reason, I just gotta do it

4. I really don’t want to do this today but I’m going to anyway

5. I am going to nail that pose


Christina Sell would say that every second you put into practice is a deposit in the bank. If you see someone striking a perfect pose and the words “I could never do that” enter your thoughts, the truth is that for the majority of us, we’re not born like that. What you don’t see are the hours, blood, sweat and tears which went into that asana.

Adele describes herself as a yoga teacher and spiritual adventurer. She’s very excited to be currently studying towards her 500 hour qualification with Chris Chavez. This requires regular trips to Istanbul. Can’t be bad.

So keep it up people! And do you have any advice? What keeps you motivated in your home practice? You can leave your comments below.


Why is there so much ashtanga yoga in Harpenden? My highly scientific theory.

Harpenden sign
Image thanks to

I was having a chat not too long ago with a local yogi and we were discussing the popularity of ashtanga where we live in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. It appears to me that in terms of yoga styles taught and offered around here, ashtanga is king.

It got me thinking why that might be. And surprise, surprise, I have a theory. Now bear with me while I give out-of-towners some context.

Harpenden is about 30 minutes by train from London. The line snakes through the heart of the capital, making stops at places like City Thameslink, Farringdon and Blackfriars. These are all areas where the big city bucks are made – they span the financial district and hotspots for law firms.

And by looking at the cars in Harpenden station car park, it’s pretty fair to say that that’s where a lot of these commuters are heading. They work hard, achieve results and can afford to live in Harpenden as a result.

“So what’s this got to do with yoga?” I hear you ask. Well, I went to a led ashtanga class recently and I heard a student say that they’d only get off the sofa in the evening if they felt like they were going to build up a sweat in class. To some, it’s viewed as an alternative to going to the gym.

It’s the ‘pushing’ and ‘striving to achieve’ that can draw some people to ashtanga. I guess you do need some steely determination to get through the physically demanding asanas that comprise the Primary Series.

I’ve heard ashtanga described as a “gymnastic routine” but that undermines its beauty. When you practice ashtanga traditionally in a Mysore-style class, everyone goes at their own pace, in time with their breath. The room is quiet except for the sound of ujjayi breathing and the teacher gives you individual attention, tailored to where you are in the practice. It becomes a moving meditation.

And yin yoga really is a perfect practice for Harpenden. If we lead stressful, hectic lives, your yoga practice provides a time to slow down, to surrender and let go of ambition. If we’re constantly striving and rushing from one thing – or one pose – to another, we’ll burn out.

By spending prolonged periods in each yin pose, we let go of ambition. We come to a point of stillness – both mentally and physically – and we learn to accept our bodies. We also observe sensations that arise in our bodies, knowing full well that if we push ourselves, we aren’t half going to feel it after five minutes. There’s no hiding in yin. You’re in it and it’s for the long haul.

So if you practice ashtanga you should probably try yin yoga. It’s about achieving balance. The yin and the yang.

Of course, you might disagree with my vast sweeping generalisations of this Home Counties town. In which case, feel free to leave a comment below.

Alternatively, you could come to an upcoming workshop and take it up with me personally…

Yin yoga workshop at BAYoga Studio, Berkhamsted: Saturday 14 September

Yin/Yang yoga workshop at Breathing Space in Harpenden (Yes! Get off the sofa!): Saturday 21 September

Weekly yin classes in Southdown, Harpenden: Tuesdays, 8-9.15pm


And if you’ve read this far, Congratulations. Here’s a little treat: How to practice yoga with your cat

A yinsight into Yin Yoga!

This Sunday morning I’m going to start teaching a Yin Yoga class at Bermondsey Fayre near London Bridge station. The following is a conversation I had with YOU!

“What is Yin Yoga?”

Well I’m very pleased you asked that question as I was about to tell you. It’s a form of yoga that works on stretching the body’s connective tissue (ligaments) by holding postures for longer. We might hold a posture for anything up to 7 minutes.

“That sounds intense. Who’s it for?”

Anyone can do Yin but it’s ideal for people who already do some form of sport. Perhaps you enjoy going to the gym or you run or swim. You might already practice an energetic type of yoga such as Ashtanga, Power Yoga or Bikram.

“Why should I practice Yin?”

Because it works on a really deep level to open your body. It also can stop you getting injuries. Muscularly powerful people can become incapacitated because of joint problems. Bad backs, bad knees – these are the injuries that force sporty people to stop doing what they love and make elderly people shuffle about. Yin Yoga postures gently stretch the connective tissues that form our joints.

“I didn’t think you could stretch connective tissue.”

Oh little did you know! Moderately stretching the joints is good for you but it must be done in a Yin fashion – ie gently and over a period of time. Hence why we hold the postures for quite a few minutes.

Think about our teeth. You can’t exercise your teeth by wiggling them about as they won’t move. But if you wear a brace, gradually, over time, they move. This is like Yin and your flexibility will improve enormously. By surrendering to gravity, you can go deeper into poses. You relax your muscles and the release naturally happens.

For more information about yoga classes at Bermondsey Fayre visit their website or or email Liz to book your place for this Sunday.

I’ve taken this information from Paul Grilley. To find out more about him, visit

Learn more about Yin Yoga by watching this video by Bernie Clark:

Teacher training: Madonna inspires Sanskrit chanting

An ashtanga class normally starts with an opening mantra chanted by the teacher. Michel’s been leading the chant each morning but he now wants us to take turns.

Mitch did a sterling job this morning and, as Michel gazed around the room looking for the next victim, his eyes met mine. “Clare, how do you fancy volunteering for tomorrow?” I wasn’t totally sure that that was how the concept of ‘volunteering’ worked but I dutifully accepted. I’m turning to youtube for help as Michel is certainly no Krishna Das (read a previous post about his chanting).

Anyway, I wanted to share these clips with you just so you can see what I’ve got to work with.

Guruji himself, Sri Pattabhi Jois, opens a class:


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. some yogis tried to learn a Sanskrit chant. We also have the Star Wars version:


A nice, sensible karaoke version:


And finally, the Madonna version! I would so love to do this version tomorrow morning. I’m thinking backing singers, dancers, the full monty.. well erm, not quite the full monty. It might be a bit early for that sort of behaviour but we will be scantily clad. There’s no sign of baggy, loose fitting clothing here.


And I’m pretty sure I spotted a Madonna/Britney mash-up rajasic version in the search results somewhere…

Anyway, think of me tomorrow morning at about 7.30am Thai time. That’s 1.30am UK time. I expect you to set your alarms.