Thinking about whether to do your practice or not is a slippery slope. Our thoughts are tricky, easily derailed, and unreliable for doing what is best for us.
Not getting to your mat can be tempting when the weather is bad. And without the commitment in advance, it won't get any easier.
Take your decision to practice once, in advance, when your feeling pro-active. It is soooo much easier than deciding each day or week whether or not to turn up. If you are constantly questioning whether your practice is going to happen, then Autumn is the season where it will really slide.
Pick your time, pick your class, book it in and stick to it, enjoy that you did it. The same way that you don't think about cleaning your teeth each day, you already committed to doing that as part of your life years ago. Yoga practice should be developed to be that same positive habit.
I took a drenching this morning going to the studio. But it made me feel alive, vibrant, and great to be outside, rather than home watching the rain. It is always hard when you have to decide to leave the house. Commit ahead of time, book your term or pre-book your month's classes using your membership to help you stick to your good intentions.
You'll always be glad you did.
One day, you stumble upon a telescope.
It looks grubby and old, but it is brass and the lenses are in good condition so it will likely clean up nicely. You make it a personal project and get started cleaning it up. You polish it until it is gleaming, you notice there are a few dents but nothing much to worry about. The lenses are grubby and you take some lens cleaner to them and make them sparkle too.
The telescope is your new pride and joy. You love it. It gleams and you enjoy keeping it golden and shiny. You keep the lenses clean and you enjoy it when others ask about your telescope. When they ask how you manage to make it so shiny and keep it in such great shape, you love to tell them about the techniques you use to polish it without finger marks and how you buff it and dust it daily. They admire it too and consider doing something similar.
But what is missing here? This beautiful instrument is now in fact more beautiful than before, but it is still a telescope. For all the polishing and shining, the cleaning and the taking pride in keeping it gleaming. It is still an instrument. And an instrument ultimately has a greater purpose.
It affords a different view from our day-to-day view that is so easy to overlook. The view that has been there all along once the lenses were clean enough to see.
We love our things, we love to work to improve them and gain satisfaction from the progress and developments we make. However ultimately the shiny brasswork is a non-essential bonus.
We sometimes approach our yoga practice in the same way. We hone our body, we become accomplished in our postures and do things we never thought we would be able to do. There is wonderful value in this and it makes use feel great and can be a lifeline in an unstable world. We refine our breath and become closer to our embodied selves and find a calm we never knew before. We make our minds attentive and focused and able to stay with objects of attention for longer than before. But then what...
The view that we can find by using the instrument for what it was intended, whether we have done all of our polishing and shining, has been there all along waiting to be seen.
The ancient Yoga Sutra of Patanjali capture this idea beautifully up front, right at the beginning.
Yoga is the containment of the minds movements
(Yoga Sutra. Chapter 1. Verse 2)
So that... our perception and awareness can rest in its own essential nature
(Yoga Sutra. Chapter 1. Verse 3)
The mind containment isn't the ultimate point, it helps us recognise it.
It makes it easier to see and notice, and a certain amount of focus and experience here helps. It brings its own benefits which can be delightful - but don't stop there.
Once we have this, what remains for us to notice?
What has been here all along that we have been overlooking by focusing on the 'every-day'?
What we are seeking in our yoga practice, can't be found anywhere but right here. It is already available and present. We don't need to polish the brass to find it.
Don't forget to find that amongst your practices.
Some approaches to yoga teach the same sequence of postures and techniques that you learn, practice, develop, progress and refine over many years (e.g. Ashtanga Vinyasa).
Some yoga teachers change what is taught in every class (e.g. Vinyasa Flow can get very creative). There are benefits and pitfalls to each and of course it doesn't need to be one or the other ...
I teach a midline in my group classes, but with a definite pointer towards repetition and familiarity of postures, breathwork and technique. Hopefully leading you towards daily practice, repeating your personal home practice each day without variation unless there is a specific reason to adapt it.
Group yoga classes
My group classes follow a term of more or less the same practice - that is several weeks of the same class. There is some development of the poses over time, exploring variations or subtleties within the poses as they become increasingly familiar. Repetition in this way helps you move beyond the excitement of 'what are we going to do today?' to allow you to become more deeply involved in what and indeed how to practice and enable you to refine what you are doing and perhaps discover more subtlety and more spaciousness in the practice. Rather than inviting in exploration of what is new and exciting, removing the novelty to leave space for other aspects to emerge.
Pros and cons
Varying what is taught every couple of months supports you to encounter new postures, techniques and ways of practicing, learn how to do them in ways that suit you, and perhaps even discover that they are valuable to you and perhaps include in your own home practice.
Creative practice can be exhilarating and entertaining. Trying new things, exploring your body and breath, capturing your attention in new ways. This is particularly important for younger people who need the variety to keep them engaged and to keep them coming back to the practice. It can be satisfying in a way that is hugely important when you are embarking on your journey and need external motivation to keep going.
I practice almost the same thing every morning. However as with all elements in viniyoga, it is about picking the right tool for the job and teaching what is beneficial and appropriate to the person wanting to practice yoga.
What do you think?
Have a clear out
Have a physical clear out. Sort out a room, a cupboard, perhaps even just a drawer. Empty it out and only put back the things that you use and need. Creating physical space is a wonderful way of feeling more spacious internally too.
Let go of something old
We need to let go of something old first. Perhaps move on from a commitment, a habit, a club, a stagnant relationship, anything that feels like it isn't positive any longer and not worth reinvesting in. Re-assess your commitments and see what would be worth replacing with something more positive and vibrant.
Take a moment to count your blessings. Feeling grateful each day is a wonderful practice to cultivate. It enables you to appreciate what you have, to re-envigorate your enthusiasm for them, and importantly, to break the cycle of always wanting something that you don't have. Gratitude can help you feel more spacious and avoiding taking on more things that you may not actually need. Hey, I have opposable thumbs, thank you!
Move and breath
Yoga and other embodied meditative practices are wonderful at creating a feeling of physical and mental space. They support you to physically become stronger and de-compress yourself, enabling your body to be more more stable and move more easily and naturally - ie. feeling more spacious. Easing out tensions, stresses and blocks enables us to feel more comfortable with ourselves. And using the mental discplines of breath focus, moving and still meditations to allow us to let go of unhelpful thought patterns and feel mentally spacious and open are all essential to our wellbeing.
Notice the present moment
Practice being in the present moment more often. We often spend our days carrying around old memories and worries, or bring along anticipations and fears of the future, and perhaps feel burdened and weighed down. Try letting go of these and practice appreciating and fully experiencing each day and moment as it unfolds.
I always love reflecting on the Dalai Lamas 18 rules for living this time of year too.
Happy new year!
Life is busy and stressful but yoga can help give you peace of mind, health, strength and support. We talked about this and much more when I was recently invited as a guest on Steve Yabsley's lunchtime radio programme. So if you have 20 minutes, have a listen by pressing the play button below.
(Or find the full radio show on Listen Again here >)
We are delighted to open our doors on Sat 13th September and invite everyone to join in our free yoga classes, meet the teachers and enjoy refreshments.
We are inviting you and your friends to join us, whether you are a beginner or just want to try another style of yoga or a new teacher. Everyone is welcome!
Free class schedule
11:45 - 12:45 Flow yoga with Virginie and Sheila
13:00 - 14:00 Beginners yoga with John
14:25 - 15:15 Viniyoga with Clara
15:30 - 16:30 Beginners yoga with Clara
All levels of fitness and experience are welcome to all the classes.
YogaSpace along with most of the other yoga studios across Bristol are all opening our doors for the 2nd Bristol Yoga Trail. Last year's was great fun so hoping to make this year's even better. Hope to see you there!
See the Bristol Yoga Trail website here >
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If you've said any of these things, then this article is for you:
"where does time go?" "time is flying past"
"I can't believe it is June already!".
As we get settled into our familiar daily lives and our days become repeated patterns, it's true, time seems to fly past. We stop noticing each day for what it is (it is in fact a brand new day with a world of opportunity in it). We often find ourselves going through the motions and forget to pay attention (or are too tired to notice!).
Here is a great suggestion to keep you a bit more grounded, a bit more mindful, and to make more of each day.
~ try something new for 30 days ~
Try something you have always wanted to do, but have never gotten round to doing. It can be anything you like, small, big, easy, hard ... but it will be new to you so will mark the day as different from any other in your life.
Some suggestions to get you started
- 5 or 10 minutes each morning of a home yoga practice, even if it is just one posture or movement!
- give up chocolate
- turn off the TV
- learn something for 10 minutes a day (guitar, French, YouTube is amazing for videos on just about anything)
- smile at 3 strangers every day
- pick up some litter
- sit quietly and meditate for 10 minutes
- Or a big one...write a novel (1,500 words a day for a month and your a novelist! It might suck but who cares, you did it!)
The idea is that 30 days is just about enough time for a new habit to stick (if it is a good one for you). And that it will help you re-engage with your life which otherwise will just pass you by.
Go on, try something new... think it through and start on Monday!
PS: And then 30 days later, try something else :-)
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About 3 or 4 months ago a woman in her late forties joined my class who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. She wanted to know if yoga would help and was willing to give yoga a try. She came every week, almost without fail, and enjoyed the classes.
We took it gently at first, modifying postures where needed, ensuring that the practice was safe and giving her body time to get used to moving in new ways. After some practice, she took well to the ujjayi breathing, and even came to a weekend workshop to explore taking yoga further.
I had a wonderful email from her this week saying she has had her high blood pressure re-tested and it is back to normal and she credits the yoga practice for this.
However let's give the credit right back to her. She was motivated to do something positive to help herself with her health situation. She was ready to make changes to her lifestyle that were contributing factors to her high blood pressure (high stress and lack of exercise). She stuck with it, even though at first she saw no tangible improvement in her blood-pressure and asked how long it would take for the yoga to 'work'. She helped her health situation for herself and she now has her own reward.
All of us have this ability within us to help ourselves and I'm inspired by students who come and practice the yoga teachings in their own way for their own aims. It does take perseverance; it isn't overnight. Often when we arrive at a class we are looking to improve imbalances or issues that have crept up over years or decades, and these won't be changed in a few sessions. But hopefully by finding a yoga practice that you enjoy you will enable the improvements to come.
Another woman in her early thirties came to my class in December. She was a British Athlete, a snowboarder, who had suffered a serious concussion and was unable to continue her rigorous slope and gym training. With frequent, regular yoga practice, she was able to continue her physical training in a way that adapted itself to her injury. She found a sense of peace of mind and confidence. Then in February she went on to win Britain's first Olympic medal on snow.
Well done Jenny Jones!
Yoga is adaptable to any injury, illness or health situation. When skillfully applied, it can be a great support and help you pave your way to improvements. The tools are varied and some may be more appropriate than others - bodywork, breathwork, meditation. No matter what your situation there will be something you can do to get started. Please get in touch to find out more or read more about yoga therapy here.
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Mindfulness - to be mindful. To be aware of each moment and to act with intention.
Christmas - beyond the religious festival it is to fill stockings, make plans, see friends and family, plan menus, arrange travel, eat wonderful rich foods etc. It's busy, fun, tiring, stressful, overindulgent, exciting, a whirlwind ... a mix of many things.
For many people, trying to maintain a sense of mindfulness when life gets hectic is a challenge most of us struggle with. Those who go to a yoga class will already have a headstart in maintaining a mindful attitude. To practice yoga is to develop a mindful body and movement with mindful breath.
Maintaining a mindful approach helps you to enjoy the whirlwind. To experience joy and gratitude for the festivities all around us. It is all too easy miss if your too busy to notice.
To help you remain mindful try setting aside as little as 5 minutes each day to re-set your intentions. Sit quietly, perhaps alone, or over a quiet cup of tea. Do nothing else except gaze softly at a blank wall, table, or natural object and settle your gaze there gently, or close your eyes. Notice your breathing, and connect with yourself for a short while. Note your intentions for the day and resolve to pursue them. Try this for 5 minutes each day through the Christmas period.
Try not to get carried away in the potential whirlwind but to stay connected to what is important to you and to enjoy the moments. If you find yourself feeling too rushed or stressed, take a few deep breaths and ask yourself 'what would my 'mindful self' do?', and then act.
Remember to take time to enjoy your Christmas festivities. Keep up some yoga or other grounding practice if you can. And see you in class in the new year.
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Each week in my yoga classes in Bristol, I see people come in to class feeling tired, perhaps agitated by their day, and usually more than a little lack lustre.
When they leave, there is a noticeable difference in how they seem. They are usually settled, calmer, and more comfortable in themselves. A better version of themselves. They have changed.
During the class we move the body, opening, expanding, stretching, challenging, engaging and working the entire body in some way. We breathe fully, slowing and extending the breath where possible. And we try to focus internally and our breath.
I came across a fascinating talk by Amy Cuddy recently called 'Your body language shapes who you are'.
Amy is a social psychologist. She researches body language at Harvard Business School and she was interested in researching how body language not only effects other people's perceptions of us, but how it actually effects our own body chemistry.
In her research she concluded that by standing up tall with the feet apart and with the arms raised and open for only 2 minutes daily, we can raise our testosterone levels (dominance hormone giving a confident outlook), and reduce cortisol levels (stress hormones). Simply by changing our body position in this way, we are altering our hormones and brain chemistry. We are changing ourselves to not only feel but become more powerful, confident and laid back.
In yoga classes it is very likely that you'll do a lot of arm raising like she describes, standing with the feet apart, reaching up, opening up. Also combining this with bending forwards, twisting and so on. So her research suggests that we are actually changing ourselves and our hormones in a very real way by doing this.
I took two things from Amy Cuddy's inspiring talk
- firstly, that yoga postures seem very aligned to the body changes she talks about, and that by doing them you'll actually become more confident and laid back.
- and secondly, that only a little practice, taken regularly, can make a big difference!
Pass it on...
PS. I love TED Talks!
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I've recently been inspired by reading about minimalism as an approach to living. I've been enjoying how it reflects many values that I hold close, and that I've been cultivating through my study and practice of yoga. It has also inspired me to have a really good clear out of my home!
The idea of living simply with less to enjoy life more is one that has taken more prominence for me since becoming a yoga teacher. I teach viniyoga - yoga that is applied carefully and adapted to suit those who are participating. Viniyoga embodies a minimalist approach to yoga practice. It doesn't require a super heated yoga studio, or any special kit (no blocks, belts, bolsters or even mats required). Nor does it require a certain level of fitness or skill to participate. All you need is you, your body, your breath, and your attention. In fact this is why it initially appealed to me. I wanted to start practicing yoga at home but found the foam blocks, folding chair, bolster, strap and bricks used in class rather unwieldy and off-putting to home practice, and questioned how essential they really were. Upon discovering the simplicity of viniyoga I was hooked, home practice became encouraged, and there has been no looking back.
I often do use a sticky yoga mat, but at home I'm equally happy practicing on a carpet (or even floorboards if necessary as I did last week when I was away but it's a little less comfortable). I use my body's own weight to create resistance to help strengthen and energise as I practice the various postures (asana) of yoga.
Viniyoga has a minimalist approach to the repertoire of asana usually practiced. At it's core there are a carefully selected set of primary asana, each serving an important purpose. These asana are gradually explored in further and further depth, with a deepening emphasis on breath and focus and techniques around these as the practice advances. This makes it a very accessible form of yoga practice as you can deepen your yoga practice and continue to develop without the need for a gymnast's or dancer's body. Let's face it, if you started practicing yoga as an adult, that isn't a realistic ambition for most people.
And beyond the daily bodywork and breathwork to maintain and develop our health, yoga cultivates mindful compassionate living, minimising the dependence on material attributes in our lives so that we have space to spend each day in an enjoyable, meaningful way. A wonderful way to live with amazing potential.
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If you head to London's Olympia on October 25th - 27th you'll no doubt be headed to the Om Yoga Show. A space where the whole range of yoga approaches and yoga products can be found. From their hot yoga pod - a super heated bubble of 37 degrees to make you sweat, to the world record attempt for the most people in headstand at any one time (aiming for 300 yogis in headstand!).
With so much yoga teacher training being advertised, the target audience must be mostly serious students who enjoy yoga so much they want to go on to become a teacher. Something that can be a life changing experience.
There is of course the usual array of yoga clothing, to yoga oils, yoga crystals and all sorts of other yoga regalia to help you feel like your buying a little more yoga into your life. The Om Yoga Show will bring a little commercial mayhem, and perhaps a little inspiration into the lives of those who attend.
I have a couple of free tickets to give away if anyone can use them. Om Yoga Magazine sent me a case of free magazines and a card signed by all the editorial staff congratulating me on being the Om Yoga Magazine teacher of the month. Who knows how that happened but I don't even know if they've ever been to one of my classes. But my students enjoyed the free magazines so thank you for sending them!
Anyway, have fun if you go and if you do, leave a comment on what you discovered there. (Or get in touch for the free tickets!)
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Over 20 FREE yoga classes across 6 locations in Bristol! Saturday was a chance to explore the wonderful variety of yoga available in our city. We are lucky to have such a rich array of yoga teachers, yoga classes and yoga participants and there really is something for everyone, new and old. We were thrilled to welcome so many students to YogaSpace on Saturday who were keen to explore our classes. We are very sorry to those who couldn't fit in as a couple of the classes were completely packed and we just couldn't fit anymore in!
We loved the range of students, from complete beginners to some who had been practicing for 25+ year. And we were inspired by the open questions and range of experiences that you all came with. We would love to welcome back students new and old to yoga classes in the meantime, and we very much look forward to next years' Bristol Yoga Trail!
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Fascinating radio programme on Radio 4 where we explore findings that show we are made up of 10x more microbial cells than human cells. We are a community of billions of micro-orgamisms. In fact we are more a microbiome than human. The community is constantly exchanging between our environment and other people, in constant interchange. We're not as individual as we think we are, sharing much of our environment internally aswell. Which I find mind-boggling and food for thought. So who am 'I' again?
Listen to it by following this link:
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As we set our good intentions for the new year (including re-igniting your commitment to yoga classes!) it is sometimes helpful to get some inspiration...
The Dalai Lama shared some wonderful advice on how to live in the new millenium, and I love to read them at the start of each year.
Enjoy in a short video or read below!
The Dalai Lama's 18 rules for living
1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
3. Follow the three Rs: 1. Respect for self 2. Respect for others 3. Responsibility for all your actions.
4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
6. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
7. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
8. Spend some time alone every day.
9. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.
10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
11. Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.
12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.
14. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.
15. Be gentle with the earth.
16. Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.
17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it
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Well done to Pilates teachers Emily and Linda who raised over £800 for the charity "Breakthrough Breast Cancer" at YogaSpace on Saturday!
They ran Pilates classes all through the day, creating a wonderful, welcoming atmosphere that was fun and inspiring, and they put so much energy into making the day a huge success! From pink balloons everywhere to pink strawberry cup cakes on sale, to Linda's pink wig, and even pink worn by some of the students, it was a wonderful and positive event. YogaSpace was delighted to host the day and hope it plays its small part in helping to make breast cancer a disease of the past.
Well done to everyone who helped make it a successful day!
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Yep, she has finally arrived --
Yoga Teacher Barbie!
Complete with pink yoga mat, puppy dog and sparkly pink and blue outfit, perhaps she can inspire the 3+ year olds to find out more about yoga.
She comes from the 'I can be...' series of dolls to help the aspirations of the next generation. Her figure still remains impossible, but she has a serene look on her face, and maybe taking up yoga practice will help her relax a bit more.
She reinforces all the girly pink, image driven stereotypes that children and young women have to negotiate. But before we reject her as a bad idea, perhaps we could remember the teachings of Krishnamacharya... aim to meet people where they are and teach them yoga in a way the can understand and accept.
So introducing children early, in a way that fits into their every day, childhood landscape, could be a helpful introduction to yoga that hopefully will bring them into a more realistic understanding.
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Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard Brain Scientist who had a life changing experience: a stroke in the left side of her brain. This offered her the extraordinary experience of analysing the progression of left and right brain function first hand as her left brain function subsided. She describes her intermittent experiences over four hours during the stroke, experiencing moments of pure stillness, fascinating insights and being an energy being connected to the universe. The chatter of the brain turns off as her left brain function is hampered, and she experiences the purity and wholeness of what we really are as her right brain comes to the fore. An interesting and inspiring experience which is worth seeing in her 20 minute TED talk.
Watch the video here >>
The tools and techniques of Yoga could be described as aiming to allow us to quieten our left brain, to bring it under our control by training and discipline, to allow us to experience and tap into the right side of our brain. Being in the present, letting go of the baggage that our years of living have left us with, and becoming fully aware of our sensory experiences, being a witness, completely at peace with ourselves and the world.
She says 'the more time we choose to run the deep inner peace circuitry that is the right brain, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful the world will become.'
Yoga movement and body work, breathing, sensory experience, and meditation are all tools that help us to still the left side of the brain and run our deep inner peace circuitry and find our own freedom.
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Founder of YogaSpace,
More about Clara >