Back poses….on the farm?! – #StretchSundays

Cat and Cow poses – Marjaryasana and Bitilasana

An extremely underestimated series of stretches that is great for anyone with slight back pains. I’ve been in the office before where people have got lower back pains and have had to work still and I’ve made them get on the floor in the middle of the office and do this little sequence.

It’s understated and the combination of the two poses with added breathing helps to calm you at the same time as stretching your body out. Some teachers use this combination as a good warm up for a class, preparing the back for future stretches.

Ciao for now x

When the location dictates the teacher – #TalkToMeTuesdays

As my journey along this fitness path continues I’m learning more and more about lots of things. What type of teachers I like, what type of venue, how far I’m willing to travel and how much I am willing to pay. You start the journey wanting a class for convenience but slowly you can outgrow your classes, or even your teachers at some point, or stagnate. That doesn’t mean they are a bad teacher, just that the type of teaching they do, doesn’t work for you anymore.

This is why I think it’s so important to keep developing even as a teacher. By that I don’t mean by learning a new posture for Yoga, or a new choreography for Dance or even a new recipe if you cook. I mean growing into your role and developing how you do what you do. For example, as a Dance fitness teacher I have taken up dance classes myself to try and improve my technique, refine my moves and even push myself out my comfort zone. My class will tell you that when I first started teaching I did not like the traditional Zumba hip based moves. I felt uncomfortable and unwieldy. I’m not saying I am any better in how I execute the move but I have tried really hard to try and improve that element of my teaching and to give my class a much more varied workout, constantly changing my songs and my choreo so they can grow, but also so that I can grow.

I find it baffling when you may have a Zumba teacher, or a Dance fitness teacher who has not changed for years. Ok, so you don’t have to be a dancer to teach dance fitness or even Zumba but what you do is still a career. If you worked in a standard day job, you’d still have objectives, you’d still have courses for improvement, constant feedback and expect to improve year on year. So why would you not do the same with this career? I know a lot of teachers that have done the same thing for years. They still have good numbers in their classes which is great, but is that good numbers because people don’t like change or are those good numbers just a turnover of people? If you have 30 people in a class this week, in 3 months you still have 30 people you’d think that was great for consistency. But how many of those new 30 are the same 30 that you had 3 months ago? It’s all well and good to keep numbers consistent but also you want those people to be with you long term feeling like the workout is constantly something new, something fresh and pushes them in new ways. For yourself, especially if you do 10 of those classes a week, when will you get sick of that song or that choreo and not give 100% every time you teach?

Furthermore, locations. Now I understand that especially in London (though also I’m sure everywhere) there is a growing desire for boutique type gyms and studios. More trendy, more expensive and more dynamic classes. I’m all for that. However, what I’m not all for is the location changing a teacher.

Every teacher you have for any type of fitness brings their own elements to their classes. Some of us design our own classes, or even deliver the same classes in very different ways. It doesn’t mean any of us are wrong, just different. That’s why there is so much choice. Someone may love attending my class, some may hate it. It’s not because I’m a bad teacher, just because the way I teach doesn’t appeal to them.

Today I went to a trendy studio in Central London. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the studio. I was sincerely disappointed in my class. Why? It was a yoga class, 50 mins. Firstly, it overran which is a big deal when you are going in the middle of the working day. Not only that but we moved through every posture so fast I barely got into them before we were moving out of them. We also did SO MANY postures, I’m sure we were going through the entire yoga dictionary. For those that practice yoga, I was doing crow balances in my second sun salute flow. During the entire 60 mins class we did, cows head pose, flows, warrior 1, warrior 2, warrior 3, humble warrior, reverse warrior, side twist, head stands, hand stands, forearm balance, side crow, standing balance, wheel and that is just to name a few!

At the time I blamed the teacher. Most of the class didn’t do every posture, myself included so why did she not recognise that we weren’t ready for them all and just take longer with the previous pose? On reflection, and after speaking to a few others, I realised there was probably a heavy influence from the studio. The entire theme of the location is about fast, dynamic, tough, arm balances and I realised that perhaps some of it was her inattentiveness to her class but how much of it was her opinion being over written by a location?

So my statement today is this. Like every single job we do, in every single walk of life. You can love your job but hate where you work. Nowhere is worth sacrificing who you are and how you do your job for. A fitness teacher especially has to stay true to themselves and has to teach their content, their way. They can’t be forced into changing everything because that is what the location wants as it just shows that the location doesn’t really understand the topic you are teaching. Yoga is about internalising, and as a couple of my awesome teachers have said in the past, it’s about how a posture FEELS not what it looks like. How can you get to what it FEELS like if you have barely got into the posture? If every posture is a transition, when do you stop to take it in?

Something to think about.

Ciao for now x

Competitive yoga – #StretchSundays

I-will-win

This is one I struggle with a lot – trying not to compare to other people practicing yoga and trying not to be competitive and pushing myself to match what other people do.

I have to constantly go against my own grain with this one. The reason I like going to classes is because I’m aware of what others do around me and I push myself to learn more, I challenge myself to be as good or better than those around me. It does mean I progress my yoga, and everything, quite quickly as it means I try and do better than those around me.

What it does mean is it takes a toll on my body faster than expected and sometimes I can compromise my posture or alignment so I can go as low or as high or as deep a stretch as those around me.

Most recently I have used it to try and adapt my practice to match those around me with good posture or alignment. I use my competitive nature but instead of stretching deeper, reaching higher or folding more, I use it to adjust my back, get my legs straighter. Often that means I’m taking my legs closer or moving back a level so I’m at an easier level but working on perfecting my alignment. It’s a hard balance but it works quite nicely as I can still convince myself it’s competitive without pushing myself beyond my body’s limits.

Each of us has our limitations and our aspects that we’d like to work on. This is just one of mine that I deal with by adapting my existing issue into something that can be used productively and to better myself.

Remember, yoga is not meant to be about being competitive, it’s about bettering yourself and focusing on your own practice in that moment.

Next time you’re in a class, try and focus on yourself, look at how others are working their alignment, ask your teacher to adjust you into the right posture but try not to be the one pulling the deepest stretch or folding the most…unless you naturally are more flexible of course!

Ciao for now x

Kids and Yoga? – #TalkToMeTuesdays

KidsYoga

Some of us already know the benefits of yoga. Having practiced ourselves for years we understand that it just makes sense to have children get engaged with yoga but how? and what are the benefits?

Focus – one of the huge benefits is teaching people how to focus. Using breath, teaching patience, holding postures, all subtle ways to teach anyone, regardless of their age how to focus. Once done correctly it can teach children how to use that focus on their exams, studies, learning in the class room

Behaviour – by rewarding well behaved children with more complicated postures, asking them to be your assistants and demonstrating to the rest of the class or even asking them to name their favourite posture can make them realise how easily they can be rewarded for the simplest acts of good behaviour

Patience – underestimated often by children and the impact and change it can have on their lives when they correctly master it. By correctly using yoga, postures and breathing you can teach children how to be patient. How to use that patience to benefit themselves

Those are just some of the benefits of yoga for kids but how do you deliver it? How do you keep a child’s attention span long enough to get them into poses, to breaths or even to explain to them what you are planning?

Simple. Stories. Tell them stories that they already know, some they don’t and incorporate yoga postures. Stretches, breathing exercises, all hidden within the story telling. Find ways to mask the moves so they don’t really acknowledge they are doing yoga, as far as they are concerned you are showing them moves that uses their imagination and incorporates it into part of the story.

Simple yet effective. That is how we change the next generation. Using what we already know in new ways.

Think on that and tell me what you do? Do you have a child who’s interested in yoga? Do you have an idea for how to deliver it? tell me! I love hearing more stories.

Ciao for now x

Lunge it – but keep it low! – #StretchSundays

Low lunge

Low lunge – Anjaneyasana

Another stretch in the category of a hip opener. When you first start there is a good chance you will be pretty high off the floor and feel like your legs will never stretch enough to get as low as you’d like, but bear with it, it does happen.

This is a great pose in itself and a balance can be added to it to turn it into the High Lunge. Both poses are great for your hips again and just remember to try and keep this hips facing forward and not turning out to the side

Ciao for now x

Yoga is only for women – #TalkToMeTuesdays

Anyone who knows me knows I am particularly random. I like doing random activities and I like meeting and talking to random people. I don’t have a problem trying anything out, which is why some of my fitness passions come from activities traditionally linked to female activities, Zumba, Pilates and Yoga just to name a few.

It’s because of this attitude that I have got into yoga. It’s crazy how many times I ask men to come along with me to yoga and how many times they have excuses. Yoga isn’t for me is the most commonly used phrase, but I’ve also had lots of ‘yoga is for women’.

Now, it’s true that I like random things but yoga is not random. If you don’t really understand yoga and understand how good it can be for anyone, regardless of age, sex, conditions or a million other things then you really should educate yourself.

Rather than find yoga emasculating, I actually find yoga maculating. In order to perfect a yoga technique you have to have strength, balance, focus and determination. None of that is attributed to only one type of person. In order to hold a pose I need to focus on me. Yogi’s or just general yoga practitioner can be from every walk of life and the feeling I have after a good yoga session is euphoric at times.

I like all yoga, but I LOVE tough yoga. Tough yoga is yoga that makes me sweat (without the heat needing to be on!). It’s yoga that takes me much longer to hold a pose because I am trying to move my body into exactly the right pose while still being relaxed and still focusing on my breath. Tough yoga needs a strength, not just physically but mentally and that’s why I LOVE it.

So yea, I find it hard to have patience with men who say yoga is only for women. Maybe you should stop making excuses and get to a class? Let’s see if you can hack it 😛

Ciao for now x

Liiiiiiiiiizard – #StretchSundays

Lizard pose – Utthan Pristhasana

Lizard - knee down Lizard - knee raised

Another pose that I absolutely love. The feeling on your hips and inner thigh is just profoundly satisfying.

Be careful with posture here, a lot of people sacrifice proper alignment by trying to get their forearms down to the floor. I have been guilty of that myself and have had to teach myself about how not to be as competitive when it comes to my yoga. Focusing on you, your posture, your breathing and trying to look inwards while still keeping your eyes open is not something that comes naturally to a lot of us but that is one of the things to try and work towards when doing yoga.

Our eyes are sensory objects and we are used to taking in that information and assessing. If you can, practicing yoga with your eyes closed is an amazing experience but there’s no denying the benefits it can give you with your alignment and your practice.

The best way to start this pose is with both hands flat on the floor and both arms slightly inside your forward leg using your elbow to pop your knee out and get a bigger stretch on your hips. If you can you can then work forward to bending the arms slightly and once your flexibility gets better, actually working down to be positioned on your forearms with your gaze forward.

Then if you really want you can lift your back leg but only if your posture won’t be compromised. I’m still working on mine but I love the feeling on my hips and thighs!

Ciao for now x