Yoga in the Time of the Coronavirus

At a time when we could all do with feeling more grounded and many of us are looking to our yoga practice to help provide support and stability in our lives, what happens if even the ground feels fundamentally unstable, and the earth feels ready to shift and crumble at any time?

Over the years my asana (physical) practice has become more and more about ‘grounding’.  I love the feeling of rooting down into the ground through the four corners of my feet, or spreading my fingers and feeling my hands press into the earth, so that I can feel the charge that comes back up, the space that comes into the rest of my body when I find that grounding energy, and the support of the solid ground when I finally release and surrender the weight of my body to it…but what happens when the ground no longer feels solid and stable beneath me?

As a teacher, my favourite instructions are probably to ‘root down into the ground’ or ‘surrender the weight of your body and let it release onto the ground’.  Indeed, my initial reaction to the turmoil, anxiety and stress caused by the Coronavirus outbreak and subsequent ‘lockdown’ was to encourage my students to ‘ground’ themselves, thinking that the solidity and support of the ground would offer comfort and solace.  The problem was, that whenever I gave the suggestion to ‘feel the solid ground beneath you and then release into it’, all I could visualise were earthquakes and natural disasters!  The ground no longer felt solid beneath me (metaphorically at least) – it […]

By |April 23rd, 2020|Blog|Comments Off on Yoga in the Time of the Coronavirus

Forward Bending…

This week I have been focussing on teaching forward bends

in my classes.  It always amazes me how different we all are in our ability to come into a forward bend – how the simple instruction to ‘fold forward from the crease of the hips trying not to round the spine’ will produce such a different shape in each student.  And yet what is even more interesting than the physical expression of the forward bend, is how much our attitude to moving into a forward bend can reflect our attitude to life off the mat – whether we struggle to push ourselves forward in spite of everything, or whether we are able accept our limitations and create a sense of spaciousness internally by working with an attitude of patience and curiosity.

Donna Farhi conveys this so clearly in her wonderful book ‘Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit’:

“In truth it matters little how far you can bend forward or how far you can twist, for wherever the point of resistance lies is the place where you have the greatest opportunity to learn and to change.  This opportunity exists whether you have the flexibility of an ironing board or the mobility of a gymnast.  If you can meet yourself just where you are rather than always looking beyond yourself to where you’d like to be, this attitude of steadfastness and compassion will bring the fruits of yoga to you.”

By |March 27th, 2015|Blog|Comments Off on Forward Bending…

Street Party Yoga!

Last Saturday was our annual street party and I started the day off by teaching a yoga class to some of my neighbours.  I wasn’t quite sure how it would go as I have never taught yoga outdoors before, let alone in the middle of the street…I was a bit concerned that it might be distracting and noisy, and that passersby would stop and stare… I needn’t have been worried.  We laid the mats out in a circle so that we could practice facing each other ‘mandala’ style and there was a lovely energy as we did some sun salutes to invite the sun to shine down on our little party (it worked and the sun did come out later).  We also made a ‘circle of trees’ reaching out to support each other with our eyes closed whilst in tree pose, and it was very special to feel so supported yet exposed as we each balanced on one leg in the middle of our street.  People passing by did stop to watch and enjoy the sight, but I didn’t find this distracting as we were immersed in our practice; even when it came to lying down for a brief Savasana (relaxation) at the end of the practice, the happy sounds of children playing in the street and neighbours setting up for the party only seemed to add to the sense of being able to relax and connect deeply with the happy reality of that present moment .  It was such a pleasure to be able to lead a practice with people from my own street […]

By |September 10th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on Street Party Yoga!

One-to-one Yoga Classes (Pt II)

Yoga with Rachael 1-2-1 yogaI have now finished my 1-2-1 yoga teacher training course with Kate Ellis and I’d like to thank all the students who took me up on my special offer of 4 private yoga sessions.  I have learnt so much from working with these students individually and it has given me a great opportunity to put into practice many of the teaching techniques that we explored on Kate’s course (judging from the feedback many of the students feel that they have also benefited! – check out my testimonials page).

The 1-2-1 class is, of course, the way that yoga was originally taught in India, however in the West, yoga classes have evolved to become bigger and bigger, and whilst there are many positive points to making yoga accessible to more people, it has been very interesting for me to study and explore the benefits of the original 1-2-1 structure in more depth.  In the last few months I have come to appreciate more fully the value of the relationship between teacher and student in the context of 1-2-1 classes.  The teacher is able to witness the student more clearly within the ‘container’ of this relationship, and this in itself can help bring the student to greater levels of awareness within his/her own practice.  For example, when the student is practising a forward bend, the teacher may simply touch the student’s spine in a place where tension can be seen to have accumulated and this can help the student to identify and bring consciousness to an area where there may have been a lack of awareness – this in itself will help the student […]

By |June 15th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on One-to-one Yoga Classes (Pt II)

‘Progress’ in your Yoga Practice…

Recently I was involved in a discussion with a couple of students about how much they had ‘progressed’ recently in their yoga practice.  One student was really pleased because she had been going to a class that had improved her flexibility greatly and the other was at a loss because she didn’t particularly have any sense of ‘achievement’ over the last few years, even though she had been attending classes regularly. This got me thinking about how we perceive ‘progress’ and ‘achievement’ in the context of yoga…

Whilst the practice of yoga asanas is a physical practice, what is important in the physical context is not really how flexible we get but rather how we meet resistance in our bodies.  Of course, we all inhabit different bodies and have different points at which we meet resistance – some of us can do the splits easily, for others simply coming into a forward bend is challenging.  It is how we meet this resistance that matters – whether we can feel, accept and find a way to work with it rather than ignoring it or simply working around it, whilst possibly causing more harm than good in the body.

Some bodies are very stiff and experience a lot of resistance – for these students there may be fewer external signs of ‘achievement’ and they may never progress to doing advanced postures such as a headstand or a full backbend, however internally they may experience and ‘achieve’ far more than a super flexible student, simply by learning how to work with their resistance and engage with their breath.  On the other hand, for the more flexible student there is less opportunity to meet with resistance in the […]

By |April 25th, 2014|Blog|1 Comment

The Conscious Breath…

I find myself focussing on the breath more and more in my classes, my own yoga practice, and off the mat.  This is my ‘quote of the week’ by Thich Nhat Hanh which explains so simply and clearly the benefits of breathing consciously:

“..while we practise conscious breathing, our thinking will slow down and we can give ourselves a real rest.  Most of the time we think too much and mindful breathing helps us to be calm, relaxed and peaceful.  It helps us stop thinking so much and stop being possessed by sorrows of the past and worries about the future.  It enables us to be in touch with life which is wonderful in the present moment.”  


By |March 11th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on The Conscious Breath…

Why One-to-One Yoga Classes? (Private Yoga Classes)

I am currently attending an additional training course entitled ‘Embodied Relational Therapy: The Art of Teaching One-to-One‘, with a genuinely inspiring teacher-trainer, Kate Ellis.  Kate believes passionately that one-to-one yoga classes can help bring about ‘profound and lasting transformation’ in the student, as they give the teacher and student the opportunity to work much more deeply than in a normal group class.

It is my experience that after attending one-to-one yoga classes, students often feel more confident in their own practice and in a group scenario.  We are all different, we have different strengths and weaknesses, our bodies have experienced life differently, we each have a different way of learning and responding.  Private classes allow time to discuss and evaluate the student’s individual needs so that this becomes the baseline from which we work, enabling the student to truly embody his or her own practice.  Each session is uniquely tailored to suit the student with a sequence structured around his/her specific needs and time to explore and modify poses so that the student can get maximum benefit from the practice.

I realise that the higher cost of private classes means that they are not necessarily accessible to all students, however I would like to offer as many people as possible the chance to experience the benefits and therefore I am offering a SPECIAL REDUCED PRICE OF £25 PER ONE-TO-ONE CLASS to all those who book 4 classes with me before 30 April 2014 (to take advantage of this offer students must come to me and classes must be paid for in advance as a block of 4).

By |February 24th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on Why One-to-One Yoga Classes? (Private Yoga Classes)

Twisting from the inside out

In this week’s yoga classes we will focus on TWISTS.  Whenever I feel bloated or sluggish I always feel like doing twisting poses which are wonderful for stimulating the digestive system and the internal organs and keeping the spine flexible and healthy.

It is so helpful to begin any twist by moving from within around the central axis of the spine (try to get a sense of initiating the movement in your organs); avoid over-using your limbs and external surfaces to pull you into a twisting position.  The breath can help: in seated and standing twists focus on lengthening up through the spine on the inhale and releasing your body round into the twist from deep within on the exhale.  Once in the twist try to overcome tension by creating internal space on the inhale, breathing into the spaces where you feel excessive holding and releasing this tension on the exhale. When the twist moves you from within it may become deeply calming for the mind and deeply nourishing for the body.

This idea of moving from within rather than being driven by external forces makes me think of the cake that I nearly bought to go with my cup of coffee this morning…my external, pre-patterned response when I saw the yummy slice of cake on the counter was that I wanted to eat it, however when I paused, took a breath and thought about it more deeply I realised that I wasn’t actually hungry and didn’t really need anything to eat.  This made me realise how helpful it can be to pause, breathe and drop down inside, to allow myself to move from a deeper place rather than allow myself to be driven by a more ‘external’ or […]

By |February 5th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on Twisting from the inside out

“A dance between control and surrender…”

I love finding inspiration in quotes, here’s a beautiful one I came across recently by Joel Kramer:

Yoga is a dance between control and surrender – between pushing and letting go – and when to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being”.

In this week’s yoga classes I will be working with hip-opening poses and focussing on finding the fine balance between ‘control and surrender’ in order to achieve as much release and ease as possible within these often challenging poses.

By |January 13th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on “A dance between control and surrender…”

‘Habituated movement’

In this week’s classes I will be encouraging students to look out for any habitual patterns of movement which may lead to the creation of tension in the body.  The practise of postures and sequences of movement within a yoga class can help us to become aware of these patterns and it is only once we become aware of them that we can begin to re-educate our bodies to move differently gradually creating new, healthier habits or patterns.

For example, in practising Tadasana (‘mountain pose’) I have observed that I tend to stand slightly unevenly on my feet (leaning onto the outer edges) and tense my shoulders up towards my ears.  By practising this pose daily and focussing on grounding evenly down through my feet and releasing my shoulders I can create new patterns of movement that will become ingrained and hopefully replace the old unhealthy patterns that create potential issues of bad posture and muscular tension (which can lead to all sorts of other issues).  It is worth noting, however, that regular practise is necessary in order to replace such deeply ingrained, subconscious habits.

My husband gave me Peter Blackaby’s book ‘Intelligent Yoga’ for Christmas – it is a wonderful, well-thought out and thought-provoking book.  In it Peter states that “If we are to change patterns, we first have to unearth the habit that is embedded in our movement – to understand how we move”.  Yoga helps us to take this first step of understanding how we move.

Something to try:

1. Stand in front of a mirror with feet hip distance apart, arms by your side  2. Allow your breathing to settle, becoming smooth and slow for 5 breaths  3. Close your eyes and try […]

By |January 7th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off on ‘Habituated movement’