So what happened?
She moved quickly and breathed as she was used to. She would finish before everyone else, and look around bored. And she missed a fair amount of what the class was offering, the class simply didn't suit where she was.
Here are a few things she missed:
A chance to leave behind the 'rushing' that makes up most of the rest of our life.
Allowing time to not just 'do' a yoga pose or breath, but to actually embody, inhabit and Be in a pose and find a fuller connection to every single breath.
The increased challenge of moving slowly. The body has to sustain the movement for longer, the breath requires more focus as it is so different to our habitual pace, and there is less chance to escape into easier bits of the practice.
If we normally breath at around 15-breaths per minute in our everyday breath, in a typical sun salutation you might find yourself at 6 or 7 breaths a minute. This is great and offers a lot. But then what would happen if you went to 3 or 4 breaths a minute?
It feels really different, it requires 10X focus, the nervous system loves it, the body has to slow down to more control in each pose is required which takes more skill, and you notice way more.
Needless to say, the after-class chat went along the lines of: do I do any other types of class where she can work harder and feel more challenged.
I'm not the right teacher for her, and if I was, my beginners class would be a great starting point so that she could established a good foundation of movement and breath.
Not every teacher is the right one for every student. You need to be met where you are, and engaged in the practice that they are compelled to teach. I wish her well and hope she finds a teacher that can catch her attention and that she can really learn from.
When you first get started, there is a period of figuring out how to get to the mat regularly. Learning what sort of class suits you, and understanding the format of the class and what the teacher is talking about.
Then you start to figure out how to get into some basic postural forms, discover what the breath is doing. discover how to focus and pay attention. The teacher provides helpful feedback to help guide you into safe and effective practice.
As the practice becomes more familiar perhaps we can then independently start to listen to our own cues and tune in to more subtle aspects. The guidance of the teacher is part of the picture, your own internal guidance perhaps starts to be of more importance.
Some practice styles prioritise teacher feedback, others tend to prioritise students tuning in to their own feedback. Our own feedback may be more subtle and easier to miss until we become more sensitive in our practice.
A teacher can never know what you are feeling in the same way that you can. At first you might have no idea how your feeling, but that sensitivity gradually develops. Your body might need to start grumbling more before it is listened to by you. The breath might get lost or become agitated or we might become out of breath before we listen to it.
Sometimes students ask me for adjustments and may be disappointed when I suggest that their pose is in a good place, and offer cues to help them feel for themselves. Often people like to be told what to do (or perhaps they are used to being told what to do).
Your body and breath are great guides, along with pausing to notice or taking more time in your practice to understand the responses being offered.
Pausing during our practice, rather than just at the end, to observe moments of stillness and quietness, may seem counter intuitive if it isn't something your used to. Pausing, sometimes after each pose, can help us reduce our tendency to rush and not pay close attention. Some people take to it like ducks to water, moments of space and quiet are why they came to the practice in the first place. Some like to feel heat and intensity of a challenging practice with a strong focus to support and stabilise them. A long savasana at the end, once our energy is spent, may be the closest we get.
Understanding your own practice can be your greatest teacher in yoga. Understanding the body and the breath, and ultimately understanding the mind and more subtle aspects beyond can be revelatory.
A teacher / guide can be of enormous help and point things out that your not seeing and help you avoid indulging some ideas you may have about your practice. Feedback is a collaboration through relationship with your teacher, your body, your breath and the fruits of your practice.
What does it mean to be 'good' at yoga?
That you can do many of the poses or techniques?
Perhaps that you have athletic prowess or a graceful and flexible body?
Maybe your face remains serene under duress?
That you get to your mat regularly no matter what?
Or maybe you have mental focus like a laser beam and an impressive breath?
The quality of your yoga practice can be viewed through the pursuits that you are able to master along the way
it can be viewed through the lens of the quality of care and attention that you bring to your practice.
Try bringing in more care and attention.
Sun salutations not required.
A common question, often when you are getting going with it. What's my response? Well it depends on your aims and needs and what other life commitments you already have. Regular is good, but more is not always better.
I practice yoga every morning, before the day gets going. Before the kids are awake and when the house is still relatively quiet. I get up and take to my mat or whatever space is available if I'm not at home. I take asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breathwork) and then sit in meditation. This is my foundation, and it feels essential with teenagers in the house. It's not a chore, I love it and miss it if I don't do it.
Is a weekly yoga practice enough
A weekly practice provides a regular, intimate contact with yourself, your health and wellbeing. Spending time with a close connection to your body, your breath, your mind, Moving your body in ways that support your physical and mental health, breathing well and allowing space for the mind to quieten.
Is daily yoga practice a good idea?
I encourage my students to take practice in between classes. I provide short practice handouts based on what we do in class, and offer advice to support them in developing their own home practice. This doesn't work for everyone, but even 10 minutes a day can be a brilliant addition to your day.
A daily practice is different to a weekly class. The daily practice is more intimate - you are there connecting with your body, breath and mind more often so the relationship with yourself becomes more refined. Your understanding of your body each day will develop, along with the understanding of your breath and mind and the thought patterns you begin to notice. I have a course that is set up to help you develop a regular home practice if this sounds appealing to you: Home practice course >
Is there such a thing as too much yoga practice?
I've certainly come across keen yoga practitioners who do a lot of yoga practice, sometimes several hours a day. Anything can be taken to extremes so of course that is true with yoga practice as well. Equally there are those who have a modest daily practice who find it invaluable. How much do you actually need to gain the benefits you seek. And how much is your ego telling you more is better or being competitive with yourself or others?
How will I know what suits me?
It might not be the quantity of the yoga techniques that is being practiced but perhaps what has been chosen to practice. A yoga teacher is a great resource to help you find a suitable practice. Ensure that the teacher you choose is experienced and isn't just about fitness and getting stronger and more flexible. There is more to yoga and more to life.
Anything is better than nothing, but too much might not be as helpful as you think...
Free yoga to raise money for charity!
We are delighted that we had another successful Open Day with the other independent yoga studios in Bristol as part of the Bristol Yoga Trail. Together we all raised a whopping £943.59 for charity, all going directly to OTR (Off the Record) supporting young people's mental health. Each £10 raised equals a counselling session for a young person and we are so pleased to be able to support such a good and worthwhile cause.
Thanks to everyone who came along to our free yoga classes. From the 8:30am Saturday morning yoga class, to the pregnancy yoga and the viniyoga classes, everyone seemed to have a lovely day and we certainly enjoyed meeting so many new faces and beginners to yoga. Gloucester Road in Bishopston was buzzing and the balloons from our studio and Yogawest next door made a gloomy day into something quite delightful.
Don't forget to use your discount vouchers and come back and visit us again soon! x
Recently, on BBC Radio Bristol's 'Clueless' program, we were invited to be their special 'mystery' destination for their clue-led treasure hunt. Through a series of cryptic clues, callers had to ring in to the program and help find the location of the mystery place - US! All clues led to Bristol YogaSpace and once we were found I chatted with the show presenters where we laugh about the difficulties of starting out with yoga. Take a listen. We talk about breath-centred yoga practice which we specialise in at Bristol YogaSpace.
It is always interesting to hear about someone's first experience of yoga like the presenter in the radio chat who felt like she might never go back. She found her first class too challenging -- so for a long-term and sustainable practice, it probably isn't a good starting point. You want to have a good experience, feel engaged in what you are doing, revitalised by a positive experience, but not so challenged that you might not continue.
There is always a good starting place, and in yoga, there is always something you can do, now matter what your age or physical ability. This starting point will be different for each of us depending on our lifestyle and constitution A group class typically starts with body movements and breathwork but if your body isn't well or strong, then other starting points might be a better route for your yoga practice. But hopefully the presenter will find a class that she finds enjoyable and engaging, and something she can't wait to do again.
Maybe you first tried it through a YouTube video or DVD (my first experience was through a video cassette!). Or perhaps you tried a yoga class, or had a more meditative yoga experience, perhaps a podcast or guided audio practice. There are so many ways to first experience yoga.
Don't be disheartened if you try it and it doesn't feel right. Each teacher will teach what they found helpful and important so finding a teacher you feel comfortable with and aligned too, who can support you through the initial stages of your developing yoga skills will help you get the most benefit from yoga.
Please do get in touch if we can help you get started, whether in a group class or with private lessons to discover and develop your journey with yoga.
Breathing well in yoga can seem tricky
As a beginner to yoga, it can seem difficult to keep the focus on the breath. It is common to find that you’ve been holding your breath and straining in some postures. Arms and legs are just about doing what the teacher has invited you to do - but your breath, well who knows?
This is particularly noticeable in a fast-paced or deeply strenuous class where the body is most dominant and anything else gets left behind as you work your way through the class.
So what if my breath isn't great?
Day to day we typically breath 12-15 breaths per minute. The rate, depth and quality of it can help adjust our levels of anxiety and stress, our immune system effectiveness and many more physical and mental health markers. Yoga offers profound teachings in the breath if we choose to listen that can support our health, wellbeing and awareness in our day to day lives.
Familiarity helps to develop our breath focus
Gradually, with familiarity of a regular yoga practice, we can start to remember to breathe with a flowing and calmer breath. And eventually the breath and movements start to link together more. From here we can start to take that further still and refine into a more advanced yoga practice.
Once you feel you are able to link the breath and movements together, then the power of the breath can really start to be harnessed and the refinement and quality of our yoga practice can bloom. Our nervous system will feel immense benefit from working skilfully with breath centring and we can move beyond the endorphin highs of vigorous and strenuous yoga practice and move towards maturing our yoga practice.
The breath powers our yoga practice
Sounds obvious, of course we need to breath to power everything that we do or we’ll collapse in a heap. But it is easy to forget about the quality of our breath when distracted or physically strained. What if you eased back from the strain and found a spaciousness in the breath to develop the power of your yoga practice instead? What would that feel like? What could it do to your yoga practice?
What if we found our physical alignment from our breath?
We often listen to the technical instruction from the yoga teacher: move your foot here, rotate your hip there, etc... Breath-centred practice can support us to more naturally open and expand your body into a posture, rather than teaching instruction being the main driver. Explore how your breath can position you into a natural alignment from within that is unique to your body structure and your deepening breath.
Starting out with breath-centred yoga practice
The classes at Bristol YogaSpace work with a deeply breath-centred approach to yoga. Rather than simply coordinating with our breath, which is common in many Vinyasa, Flow or Ashtanga yoga practices, we centre ourselves in the breath more deeply and use it to power the practice and direct the postures and focus.
When I started out some 20 years ago I practiced Ashtanga yoga, a vigourous and strong yoga practice, then Iyengar yoga which is technical and detailed in its formal postures. But I eventually discovered a truly breath-centred approach in Viniyoga and practice was transformed for me.
Perhaps ask your teacher more about the breath when you feel ready or curious or come along to a Viniyoga class which specialises in breath-centred yoga practice, or a yoga workshop to support you to develop more breath centring in your yoga practice.
Enjoy your yoga practice.
“Without breath, it isn’t yoga – it is like a river without water”
The gentle yoga class was quieter but always nice to be able to offer a more adapted and therapeutic approach to yoga practice for those who want to start there. Small groups are ideal for this approach to yoga so that we can ensure that it is adapted and suitable for you.
We are pleased to say we raised £163.28 for Off the Record, the local Bristol charity providing free mental health support for young people. Thanks for your donations and the donation jar is there this week for anyone who wants to drop-off a donation who didn't get a chance on Saturday.
It was a lovely chance to collaborate with many of the other independent yoga studios in Bristol too. Our lovely neighbours, Yogawest, who offer the more alignment based Iyengar yoga joined in, Yogafurie who offer hot yoga in Ashley Down, Yogasara and Bristol City Yoga in Stokes Croft, and Flow yoga in Windmill Hill. It is so nice to collaborate with the other 6 studios, work together to share yoga to the broader Bristol community, and raise money for charity. It is great to demonstrate that in this day and age, not everything is competitive or trying to get ahead. We all love yoga and see if as a way to share our love of it with as many people as possible, bring people together and become more integrated with our communities as a collective. Looking forward to the 2018 yoga trail and working with the other yoga studios again to bring that to everyone.
Thanks again for coming and we welcome you back to the YogaSpace studio in Bishopston soon!
1) Friendly teachers
All of our yoga teachers are friendly, supportive, and are there to help you experience yoga and its benefits in a way that suits you. We are all different, need different things from the class, and friendly, approachable teacher will help you get there.
2) Health info
When you arrive, it is best to arrive 5 or 10 minutes prior to the class starting so that you can fill in a quick health questionnaire and meet the teacher. We like to know about any injuries, fitness limitations, health problems, relevant experiences that might benefit from additional supervision, instruction or adaptation of the practice to ensure it suits you. Every body can practice yoga safely and getting started at the right level will help you get there.
3) Smaller classes
We have a max of 15 in each yoga class, most classes are smaller. We strongly believe in supporting each individual and providing a good level of attention that will get you started safely. In a smaller group this enables the teacher to observe your practice and develop it when the timing is right.
4) Teacher-student relationship
Our teachers will get to know you and your health background, will observe how you practice yoga, where your interest develops, and be there to offer guidance during the class and talk through any questions both before and after class. There is no substitute for an experienced teacher to guide you along your yoga journey once you get started.
5) Step by step
All our classes are taken step by step, maintaining and developing your ability to practice in a group class and perhaps at home safely once you are familiar with the movements, techniques and ways of practicing yoga. Every body is able to participate and any postures or techniques that don't suit you, or are inaccessible for whatever reason, will be adapted or substituted suitably for you to enable you to get the most from practicing yoga..
6) Feel better
A new class should leave you feeling energised, settled, refreshed, more relaxed and spacious, both mentally and physically, than when you arrived. The benefits of yoga should feel immediately apparent and enjoyable. Then with regular practice to help you learn them, the tools of yoga, the movements, breathing techniques, meditation techniques and approaches that you learn in class, may well become a lifelong support...
Thanks to those of you who came and made our new Bishopston yoga studio open day a huge success! It was lovely to welcome so many new faces to our beginners yoga, viniyoga and gentle yoga classes. A big thank you and hope to see you in class again soon.
Yoga offers us a chance to take practices that will help make our body and mind stronger, more stable and less rigid and allow them to come back to a more harmonious and well-balanced state of being.
If you're a beginner to yoga, you may have an advantage to those experienced in yoga practice in some ways. You come to class being open and curious to what is about to happen. The uncertainty of not knowing what you are going to be doing in your class, the unfamiliar postures and ways of breathing all demand an attention and a focus to pull it off. There is an openness and natural effort, and less expectation. These are qualities that are essential ingredients in cultivating a healthy body and mind and enabling all that yoga has to offer to unfold for us.
Without the right attitude of attention and alertness in our yoga practice, our mind and body will stay in its usual patterns. Most of us are creatures of habit -- we're slouching, breathing poorly, thinking about the same old stuff (e.g. what is for dinner or mentally shopping for whatever has captured our attention...) -- all habits that we aim to improve upon through yoga practice.
Once we become experienced at yoga breathing, posture, technique and focus we can lose that fresh edge and that natural effort. We can become comfortable, perhaps complacent, or develop additional unhelpful habits rather than less.
The freshness of the beginner practitioner is a gift and something experienced practitioners may need to remind themselves of when they take yoga practice. Those with experience can become mechanical and repetitive as they practice during class, missing the potential of each posture and each breath. Being fully present in your practice, is part of the practice. The full physical and mental harmony available by taking simple practices, can be missing for the experienced practitioner.
As beginners to yoga we often feel like we don't know what we are doing. We should see this as a gift. Familiarity in yoga postures, breathing and the mechanics of meditation techniques can be a double edged sword. Trying to maintain a 'beginners perspective' will help to benefit more fully from each practice.
Is the picture above simply another beautiful sunset, simliar to ones you have seen before? The initial impression may suggest this because of the familiarity of such images - but remind yourself to see it with fresh eyes, as if for the first time. A wonderous, unexplored moment in time with untold beauty on this amazing planet, and an unexplored day to follow. Beginners eyes can discover so much more.
Beginners and those with experience, a reminder to bring along your beginners mind to your yoga practice.
Founder of YogaSpace,
More about Clara >