I'm part of a community of teachers who participate in the Association of Yoga Studies (AYS). A group of a few hundred teachers, mostly in the UK, who meet annually to share teachings, learn from experts in their field, and continually develop our knowledge and understanding of yoga and yoga teaching. We are based in the teachings of TKV Desikachar and his father, Krishnamacharya, Viniyoga.
Part of this tradition is chanting. Chanting the Yoga Sutras was a core part of my teacher training. Learning by heart some of this core text which forms the basis of much of what I teach. Even though it is over 2,000 years old, the teachings on the mind are so relevant to modern life.
Being able to chant in Sankrit was a surprise part of my training that I didn't realise I was going to learn to do, but here I am, years later still continuing and participating in group chanting.
There are practical reasons to learn how to chant...
- breath development
- learning the ancient teachings of the Vedas and Yoga Sutras by heart
- focus and concentration (you literally can't drift your attention and remain true to the Sanskrit sounds without knowing that you have, as you'll make an audible mistake right away and bringing your focus keenly back)
- quietening the body, nervous system and mind
But something else happens when you chant, especially when your in a group. A resonance takes place in your own body and mind. Especially with the group sound, the coming together of individual voices to make a collective sound which is a wonderful and powerful experience. Anyone who takes part in a choir or orchestra will understand what I'm talking about. It's no coincidence that every culture has singing practices embedded deep within. And Covid has reminded us the value of being together in a room with others.
Chanting in Sankrit, continuing the strict chant rules and pronunciation that has remained as unchanged as possible for over 2,000 years is an inspiring experience. It brings us together, connecting us individually, as a collective, and to the shared subtle underpinning of our everyday life.
This past weekend I took part in a wonderful Vedic Chanting retreat with Chris Preist. Coming together with a shared joy of yoga practice and study with time for reflection and silence has never felt as needed as after the challenges of Covid.
If you've ever wondered about chanting, please do ask me, or come to one of my workshops where we use simple chanting and sound practices.
Or simply try humming to yourself and start to enjoy the sound and vibration.
Lie on your back, knees bent.
~ Place your hands over your eyes (not pressing on the eyes themselves) and block out the light.
~ Gaze into the darkness and patterns that appear there.
~ And then take a soft, easy hum each time you exhale.
~ Do this for a few minutes, slowly listening to the sound of each hum.
~ No matter what note or quality of sound, and no matter if you like the sound of your voice or not. Feel the sound if you don't like to listen to it,
~ After 5 minutes, see how you feel. Something will have changed in you. ~ Ponder....
2020 was a year like no other. It was completely unexpected and included things I never thought I would do in my life.
An incredible year
Given all the limits and constraints of the year, I found it incredible in many ways. Some things of course I'm hoping we move on from. But I've learned so much, and continue to learn from all that has been thrown at us.
My meditation practice allows me a welcome space to sit with the tragedy of the year, and the heightened visibility of inequality and privilege demonstrated through the virus's progression through different communities and countries and the BLM movements. A clear re-evaluation of life and what to do with the privilege that I have is an ongoing project.
Perhaps we've all come to value our health and way of life more than ever before. We can more easily recognise the gifts of our health and our privilege and ensure we use these gifts well in our daily lives.
Start small, for achievable and sustainable progress. From how we make ourselves more resilient in our own health, through our lifestyle and dietary choices, to how we interact with others and treat our neighbours and engage with our local communities.
My top tips for every day:
There are lessons for each of us from 2020. If any positives are to come of last year, let's find them and take them to heart.
Yoga doesn't have to be complicated, 'advanced' or be an hour long for it to be highly effective. Daily practice is in many ways more effective than once or twice a week for longer (apply this principle to cleaning your teeth). But motivation, or where to begin, can be a problem for many, so this course will help you embark on a 6 month home practice journey.
- Start with just 15 minutes of yoga each day and develop from there.
- Enjoy accessible practices, suitable for beginners or anyone wanting to embark on home yoga practice.
- All offline, arriving in a package each month - no screens or apps.
- Personal guidance based on your monthly feedback.
- Well crafted practices, mini-challenges, and thoughtful supporting resources to keep you engaged.
- Simple. Get started right away. No other kit required.
- Monthly intake - limited spaces each month for personal guidance
Find out more about it here:
We're proceeding with caution with all In Studio attendance and have robust safety measures in place.
We’ll also continue to offer many of our classes online for the foreseeable future and the in-person classes will often also offer attendance via Zoom.
The studio feels a little different to help keep you and our teachers safe. Here are the additional safety measures we have put in place based on the government guidelines that have been issued and we welcome feedback as we navigate this ever-changing time.
Plenty of space
Booking and attending
Reducing transmission potential
We will update these guidelines as we feel the need and please feel free to give suggestions so that you feel relaxed and comfortable at the studio when you take your practice.
Look forward to seeing you soon and hope you stay well.
At the start of lockdown, they announced an immediate and unexpected change to the way they reimburse partners (all studios and yoga teachers, not just us) and drastically reduced what they pay us when one of their members attends a yoga class. The reduction was massive, sometimes as much as 70%. This inevitably meant that our income and our teachers income reduced too. They needed to do this so survive as a business, so it makes sense for them. And it has meant that their members could continue their yoga classes during this time, which has been important.
For online yoga we have continued to accept MoveGB members and we have loved seeing you in class. But sadly this change means we have no choice but to limit MoveGB members to online classes only going forwards for the time being. At the physical studio, which we are hoping to reopen soon, spaces are going to be very limited given social distancing measures, so we have to plan accordingly. So initially we will be only accepting MoveGB members to online classes.
We will continue to honour current members with online classes, but we just wanted to let you know this change ahead of time so you can consider your options as we re-open our studio space and hope to welcome you back again.
As always, we welcome your comments and questions so please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Yoga - the art of moving, breathing, sitting and reconnecting to that sense of grounded perspective and awe. Using the practice to become revitalised yet quietened in body, breath and mind, Quiet enough even, to notice and dwell in that internal spaciousness that was the same yesterday as it was the day before that, and the year before that...
It's quicker than you think
All it takes is some simple movements, attention turned towards the breath, and bringing a steadiness and calmness through intentional focus. Then space to sit and be still for a moment. Like any skill, there is a learning curve to establishing the necessary skills and understanding of what you are doing. A practice that suits you and works for you might take a bit of exploration and discovery (this is where a teacher is very helpful). But it's certainly worth the effort.
Daily yoga practice doesn't need to be hot, vigorous or sweaty. It doesn't need to be acrobatic, complicated or impressive. It doesn't require flexibility or strength. It doesn't need to be on a yoga mat and lycra is definitely not required, PJs are perfect.
I find it truly remarkable how little it takes to feel like I'm thriving again (after another tiring day of home schooling, therapeutic parenting, an onslaught of bad news from the media, and restrictions on day to day living). Of course if you enjoy making it tough, sweaty, vigorous, or otherwise, then that is great and the benefits will speak for themselves. But there is also a much simpler and more accessible alternative that can be discovered. if that will suit you better.
Home yoga practice videos coming soon
I'll be posting some home practice yoga videos online soon to support some simple home practices that you might find helpful. A yoga class is of course great - it helps you learn the skills and techniques that are time tested to work and gives you a longer practice and more time than you'd likely dedicate to yourself on a daily basis. Yoga classes also get you learning from a teacher who has been where you are and can guide you more skillfully (as long as the teacher has the opportunity to get to know you and your practice and aims). But I'd encourage anyone who is interested to take up a short daily yoga practice too. 10 minutes can truly work wonders. Or join in my yoga classes and there is a home practice handout each term based on what you've learned to help get you started with your own home yoga practice.
Please don't be fooled by the Instagram/media yoga-hype --- it simply doesn't have to be that complicated or hard, it doesn't have to take ages, and no, you don't need to balance on your hands / head at any point.
Check back soon or join the mailing list for updates on videos coming soon (once the home-schooling gaps permit).
The new normal for yoga classes over the next few months is live streaming video.
There are advantages to this:
- you can wear your PJs if you like
There are disadvantages to this:
- we don't get to chat as much, although there is still chat before and after the practice time
We are figuring this out as we go and are excited to continue meeting and sharing yoga with you and providing much needed yoga practice and support during rapidly changeable times.
How it works
It is actually easier than I thought it would be
1) You book into a class either via our online booking system or MoveGB, ideally at least 30 mins before the class begins.
2) Set up a home practice space - somewhere warm and quiet if possible where you'll be undisturbed. Set up your computer, tablet or smartphone where you can see the screen and hear me.
3) You're sent a link straight away once you've booked via our online booking system. The link is active 15 mins before the class start. Check your spam folder if you don't receive the link. MoveGB members will receive the link when they 'check-in'.
4) Click on the link you've been sent and join in the class. :-)
5) Enjoy your practice.
Here is more detailed information. And we are happy to help if you need support getting you up and running.
You’ll need a laptop, computer, tablet or smart phone to join this online class.
If you plan to use a tablet or phone, we recommend downloading the App in advance via your App store.
You’ll receive a Zoom link for this class once you’ve completed your booking which can be used up to 15 minutes before the class start time.
Visit the link 10 minutes ahead of time for your first class. There is a very quick and straightforward download to join in and then you can set up and relax before the class begins.
Check your spam folder if you don't receive the link.
When you join, you can choose to have video switched on or off. We'd prefer it switched on so we can see you and support your practice and offer suggestions, but you are equally welcome to have it turned off if you prefer. If your video is switched on, just like at YogaSpace, everyone will be able to see you - except you'll be a very small thumbnail video.
Once you arrive in the virtual studio, make sure that is your main view and not all of the thumbnail videos of the attendees. If it isn't by default, scroll or select the virtual studio and click on the three dots to 'pin' the teacher and make them full screen.
Once your in if you want to chat to the teacher, there is an option to 'raise your hand' next to your profile which we will see, and we can unmute you so that you can chat to us or we can chat via typing too.
If you need additional help, we’d be happy to talk you through your first set up earlier in the day or prior to the class.
Yoga practice at home - top tips
We are learning as we go given the sudden change in situation so any feedback or suggestions for improvements is very gratefully received.
We look forward to seeing you online soon.
2 metres apart - 9 max per class
We are limiting class sizes to 9 participants so that there is at least 2 metres distance between heads in the class. Arrive early and avoid lingering in reception too long to maintain your distance. The side room is also available to head towards and leave your belongings to provide more space.
Bring your own mat or towel
Bring along your own mat or towel to lay over ours. Ours are cleaned before each use with sanitizer but lets maintain caution.
Adjusting the practices slightly
- We are not adjusting using our hands or walking around in between people to maintain the social distancing recommendations.
- We are avoiding any poses that are face down on the mats and not recommending anything that involves touching the face.
Paper towels and wipes
We're using disposable paper towels to encourage hand washing and avoid communal towels.
Cleaning the studio and wiping everything
After every class all door handles, taps etc. are all wipes down with sanitizer which as far as we know kills the virus.
Looking into online class offerings
Watch this space. But we might be able to offer some classes live online so if you are self isolating, then you can still maintain some practice. .
What you can do to help
Check the website before coming in case the class has been cancelled. If the teacher feels unwell or anyone in their house does, they won't run the class.
Arrive 10 minutes early to settle in, wash hands etc.
Wash your hands before and after class
Avoid touching your face
Please don't come if you have a cough or temperature or are living with someone who is
Keep up your yoga practice
Maintaining equanimity during times of difficulty is so important and helpful not only to you but to those around you. Staying grounded, maintaining a connection to the wider perspective, knowing that this will pass, and tending to the seeds of worry that can grow out of proportion if we don't also tend to the seeds of calm and steadiness.
If I can be of any help please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Please bring along your own mat or towel
Given the need to be proactive and sensible in our response to the current corona virus outbreak, I'm recommending that if possible, please bring along your own yoga mat or a towel to lay down over the yoga studio mat where your head will be placed.
Avoiding close contact sharing could be either over cautious, or helpful in inhibiting the spread of the virus so let's err on the side of caution.
It will also help you relax in your yoga practice and place your awareness more effectively.
~ If you feel unwell, have a temperature or cough, please avoid coming to class. (We will ensure that any missed classes can be made up at a later date, we would rather you were cautious.)
~ Wash your hands before and after class.
~ Wipe down your mat when you get home.
We do clean the mats and the studio regularly and thoroughly and will be stepping up our efforts here.
In the meantime, keep moving, keep breathing, keep calm and carry on.
YogaSpace raised £228.41 (updated 22nd October) grand total of the Trail to be announced soon - all to support young people's mental health. And we had a really inspiring day talking with you about how yoga can help and how the Viniyoga approach to yoga practice ensures there is always a way to find a yoga practice that suits you, even when you don't even remotely resemble a bendy, lycra clad person doing a pretzel pose!
Thanks for coming and and joining in, and we look forward to welcoming you back to YogaSpace in Bishopston soon! xx