Slightly different blog from me today, but as winter is my favourite time for hibernating with a good book or five, I thought I’d share a few recommendations. They’re not necessarily yoga-focused but most are at least leaning in that direction! I’ve linked to Amazon for ease and because I’m a Kindle fan, but obviously you can buy them anywhere.
This book has a special place in my heart as I read it while trekking to Annapurna Base Camp. It kept me calm through tummy bugs, back pain, bitterly cold nights and fears of avalanches. I love Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and writings anyway, and this one has a beautifully peaceful quality to it. Read it and be comforted.
I think anything written by the incredible Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron is well worth reading, but this book in particular describes a practice known as Tonglen. The concept of Tonglen is basically the opposite of the “inhale the good shit, exhale the bullshit” idea – you imagine breathing in the poison, all the dark, hot, heavy stuff, fully experiencing and absorbing it, then breathing out cool white light. It’s counter-intuititive, but an amazingly powerful practice for transforming anger, rage, frustration and fear. It’s probably best you read the book though, as there’s no way my distorted description of it will have done it justice!
Yes, it’s by the magician/ illusionist guy, but it’s also a fantastic read about stoicism and the philosophy of how to live well. It draws on a different lineage to yogic philosophy but there’s a huge amount that resonates in here. Depressing as it sounds, I found the chapters on death life-changing and regularly remind myself of some of its nuggets of wisdom when I’m feeling anxious. Don’t let that that put you off – it’s great, I promise!
Even if you’re not a fan of Forrest Yoga, or you haven’t had chance to try it yet, there’s loads to get into in this heartfelt book about the power of yoga and connection with your spirit for healing. Ana Forrest’s own personal story is inspirational too, so it’s worth reading for the juicy autobiography alone.
I was going to stick to non-fiction books but I couldn’t resist sharing this one last. I found the writing itself a bit awkward at times, but the whole concept it’s based around is irresistible. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but if, like me, you struggle with questioning your life choices (what if I’d not quit my job, what if I’d learned guitar, what if I’d gone to New Zealand, what if I’d joined the circus etc) it’s super helpful for putting some of those demons to rest.
I hope you enjoy these, and let me know if you have any good recommendations in return – I feel I’m due a few cosy reading days over the next week or two!
Wow, what strange old times we’ve found ourselves in…
I’ve got some time off work at the moment, and I’ve been quite hard on myself for not being creative enough with that time. I had all these ideas that I’d make yoga videos, try new recipes, write a book, learn a craft, plan my PhD etc etc. In reality, what I’ve wanted to do is play with my cats and read in the garden. So far, so unproductive.
But I am very grateful for yoga, and the fact I can access amazing yoga teaching from home. A few people have asked me for online yoga recommendations, so I’ve collated some of my favourites. In time, who knows, I might get around to adding my own content to this list. But until inspiration strikes, I’m happy to share a few of my own “go to” places for online yoga… If you have your own suggestions, please add them in the comments below.
Online Yoga Recommendations
Suryalila Cyber Yoga Retreat – my love of this amazing retreat centre in Andalucia, Spain is no secret. I blogged about it here. Sadly, their business has been hit hard by the pandemic. But, wonderful folk that they are, they’ve come up with a cyber yoga retreat. This means they can keep sharing their teachings, love and sense of community with the world, while hopefully generating enough income to keep the retreat centre alive. You can buy a day, week or month pass, and they’re also offering “compassion passes” for those in financial difficulty themselves. Their classes have given my days much needed structure and there’s something for everyone with a range of different yoga, meditation and philosophy classes. See here for full details.
Ekhart Yoga – this has long since been my favourite source of online yoga. I let my membership lapse a while ago, as I was drawn to the flashier, LA-based AloMoves, but in all honesty, I regret it! The platform on Ekhart Yoga is more intuitive so it’s easier to find what you are looking for, whether that’s a 15 minute meditation, or a 60 minute strengthening class. I also find the teachers seem more approachable… I know the yoga is online, but I still prefer practising with a teacher I feel I’d have a good chat with! At the moment, Ekhart Yoga have made some free classes available here, and they also offer a two week free trial.
Youtube offerings – I’ve spent a long time sifting through various Youtube yoga channels. There’s a lot of yoga on there, but the quality is variable. However, I’ve found the following to be safe bets:
Finlay Wilson – also known as the “Kilted Yogi”, Finlay shares his Forrest Yoga teachings, and I’ve yet to try a class of his that I didn’t like. He also has a lovely voice, which helps.
Yoga with Adrienne – with a huge online following, Adrienne is firmly in YouTube Star territory, but it’s well deserved. She has an incredible range of classes from the generic, such as Yoga for Beginners, to the highly specific – Yoga for Risk Takers, anyone?! Her manner is warm and reassuring.
KinoYoga – I’ve loved Kino MacGregor’s teaching since I first discovered Ashtanga Yoga, and I still seek her out when I want something a bit more challenging. Her teaching is precise and full of helpful alignment cues. As well as full length classes she has some really nice (read: painful) yoga strength drills and advanced posture tutorials.
Core Connection Mini Sequence – I recommend this particular YouTube class from Denise Hopkins so often, I’m giving it a bullet point of its own. Those who come to my classes in real life know how much I love core work, and this class has it all: elbow to knee, abs with a block, an excruciating hold of Dolphin Pose. You are welcome.
Last but not least, it’s hard to beat live teaching, and also this is the perfect time to support yoga teachers and studios if you can. Many yoga studios are offering Zoom or other webinar-style classes, so check out any that you usually visit and see what they are doing. You can also practise with yoga teachers whose classes you’d never normally make it to.
My final little reminder (which I’m also telling myself often!) is to be kind to yourself and keep things simple. This time is stressful enough without putting undue pressure on yourself to make over your life, become an artist or learn a new language. All those are great if they’re what you’re compelled to do, but honestly, if you manage each day to move your body, eat food that makes you feel good, and send a kind message to family or friends, I reckon you should be pretty proud of yourself already.
I hope this helps. Let me know how you get on with online yoga!
If you’ve ever been put out of action by an injury, you’ll know how infuriating, debilitating and strangely isolating it can be. I’m sharing my experience below in the hope that it brings some comfort and reassurance that the situation (or at least your response to it!) can and will improve.
Three months ago, I taught what was from my perspective, my worst ever yoga class. It wasn’t that anything went wrong with the class itself (though it wasn’t without challenges – a last minute room change and a power cut to be specific). No, the issue was that when demonstrated cat-cow, something in the right side of my lower back “went” sending searing pain through my back.
I’ve had lower back issues before, so I knew this wasn’t good, but I carried on teaching, hoping that moving would help. It didn’t. By the end of the 90 minute class, I was in barely disguised agony.
I remained in acute, debilitating pain for the next three weeks. The only position that was comfortable was lying down. Sitting, walking and standing all sent my muscles into excruciating spasms. Safe to say, it was the end of my yoga teaching, and indeed my yoga practice for quite some time.
As I said, I’ve hurt my back before, and quite badly, but this was worse.
What made it emotionally harder was knowing that I’d hurt it doing yoga. Whereas previous injuries (through doing the Insanity workout programme, lifting kettlebells and most embarrassingly, tripping over the wire while straightening my hair) I could attribute to a specific, avoidable incident, what triggered this seemed so innocuous. It wasn’t even as if I was attempting a challenging posture.
The Bumpy Road to Recovery
I had some good advice and some terrible advice. Friends plied me with hot water bottles, ibuprofen and gin (which somewhat worryingly helped more than painkillers!).
I scoured the internet obsessively in the hope of a cure, and in my desperation forked out for not one but three eBooks on healing back pain, which I read from cover to cover. The worst of these convinced me that the pain was wholly psychological in nature and that once I knew that, all I needed to do was return to my normal activities.
Full of hope, I walked the 5km to the local town, determined to “act normal”. By the time I got there, I was in so much pain that I passed out on the street, and came round surrounded by a group of lovely, and deeply concerned Spanish locals. Not cool.
So for the next six weeks, life revolved around things that didn’t aggravate my back.
I wanted to keep up some kind of self-practice, but how I felt about yoga had changed. Rather than being my therapy, my healing and my safe refuge, yoga felt risky. I considered meditation but this was hard as I couldn’t sit still for more than 20 seconds, and meditation lying down for me is just falling asleep.
Instead I started to read books on Buddhist philosophy and practice, which helped a lot more than the back pain books did. They encouraged me to develop a less combative relationship with the pain. I also began very gentle and cautious mobilisation and breathing exercises.
Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp
Slowly, slowly I started to build up the distance I could walk. This was going well, but I feared not well enough, as I had booked to do the Annapurna Base Camp trek at the start of December – 9 days of arduous trekking in the Himalayas.
I was nervous to say the least. But the flights were already booked, and ABC had been a personal dream for the last 11 years, so there was no way I was going to not try.
I won’t bore you with every detail of the trek – my poor friends and family have had to put up with that a lot lately! But I’m very happy to say that it was every bit as incredible as I’d hoped. It wasn’t a painless experience, far from it, but the more I walked the more my pain eased. I was filled with immense gratitude for what my body could do.
Not only that but the walking itself was an incredible exercise in mindfulness. Because you have to place your feet carefully for each step (to avoid falling off the mountain) it was impossible to think about anything else. That coupled with the digital detox – we spent the whole trek without connecting to WiFi – meant I finished the trek feeling calmer, happier and more present than I have in a long time.
But still no yoga. I played with a few postures after walking some days, but they didn’t feel great in my body, and I didn’t want to risk it.
New Year, New Focus
Then came new year. We attended a yoga and meditation retreat in Cambodia. My first yoga class there was a nerve wracking experience. Although the practice was gentle, I felt flashes of huge anxiety, and sometimes intense anger when a posture affected my back. I didn’t love the yoga classes, but in hindsight they did help me to overcome the mental barrier I had to practising postures.
But the meditation made a more tangible difference. By then I was able to sit on a meditation bench for around 30 minutes without pain. This time daily to connect in with myself and my breath let me put into practice all the learning from the Buddhist books I’d been reading.
There was also a strong emphasis on the importance of self-practice throughout the retreat, which I took to heart.
Since coming back from the retreat, I’ve developed a more consistent self practice of yoga, pranayama and meditation than I’ve had for years. I practice daily, around 30 minutes of postures, followed by pranayama and meditation later in the day. My practice doesn’t look the way it used to – currently my most “advanced” posture is tree pose (which I love!) – but it feels better. More honest, more connected and more grounding.
Finding Yoga Again
Watch this space for a blog to follow about everything I’ve learnt about using yoga to heal injuries…
But suffice to say for now, coming back to yoga has been a process of gradually getting reacquainted with my body again – feeling into where the edges are now, and where I can use my breath to open up spaces. I’m experiencing again the joy of when I first discovered yoga, each posture as an invitation to step into myself as if for the first time. I’m building up confidence and trust in my body once more, and I know that’s going to take time. For once, I’m actually very happy to give it that time.
Disclaimer: I wrote this straight after a hot yoga class, with the intention of turning it into a more polished article, then decided that it would be more honest to publish it unedited… If you are offended by swearing, you should probably stop reading now. I can only blame the heat 😉
So… are there any “normal” yoga classes here? No? Hot yoga it is then.
The studio seems to have been designed in homage to an early nineties Eastern European dance club. It’s all disco lights and concrete.
Still at least the lights aren’t actually changing colour.
Oh no wait. They are.
It seems the teacher was joking when she said the studio isn’t that hot. It’s hot as fuck. I’ve still not got to grips with the Californian sense of humour.
Shit, I’ve put my mat down at the back only to discover that the back is the front. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit. I need to move.
It’s far too late to move. The class is filling up and the teacher has already spotted me and given me a don’t-even-think-about-moving-now-I-have-you-in-my-sights toothy All-American grin. Better brave this one out.
Let’s be nonchalant. I can just do a few cat-cows, a little plank. Pretend that I do yoga in the fires of hell every day.
On second thoughts, moving is bad. Need to stop moving. Move as little as possible. It’s so goddamned hot. How long would it take me to get to the door from here? It looks locked. Is it locked?
No one panic. I think I’m panicking. Is this what a panic attack feels like?
Calm, be calm. Focus on your breathing. This is what yoga is all about.
This is not what yoga is all about.
I’m dizzy. It’s so hot. Does everyone in here have breast implants? I think they might.
Oh no wait, there’s a guy over there. He just caught my eye and smiled. I’m getting flat chest solidarity vibes from him. That’s nice.
Ok time to start. The teacher just told us that the first rule is that you aren’t allowed to leave. I’m pretty sure this time she wasn’t joking. Even Fight Club didn’t have that rule. I think I’d rather be in Fight Club right now.
The teacher just reminded us to leave our egos outside. It’s safe to say my ego left the moment it saw the wall-to-wall mirrors in here. There is no part of my body I can’t see.
I never knew my belly looked like that from the side. Weird.
Ok, focus, stop staring at the mirrors. Focus on the teacher. What the hell are we meant to be doing? She has her back to us and is talking to the mirror. Has she forgotten we’re here? Maybe I can sneak away now…
No, she hasn’t. I just got told off for looking at her. It seems we’re meant to be staring at ourselves in the mirror. Ego-less, remember?
She just told us to engage our cores “because it’s summer.” Would you not engage your core in winter? FFS.
It’s ok though, because we’re only in competition with ourselves. I’m not even paraphrasing now.
This is the strangest mixture of vanity, masochism and self-hatred I’ve ever come across.
People pay for this.
People are weird.
She keeps counting down. Just two more flows, then we’re done. Just one more pose in this sequence. Go to your edge, then hold it for 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. We’ve had more false finishes than my nerves can bear.
So. Much. Sweat. There are puddles of water around my mat. Everywhere I touch turns to sweat. I didn’t know there was so much water in my body.
The woman next to me doesn’t seem to be sweating at all.
She is mostly lying down though. I don’t blame her.
She looks very still. I hope she’s breathing.
I’d do anything for a cold beer right now.
Or a gin and tonic.
A pint of gin and tonic.
I don’t think there’s anyone in the world I would not marry if they brought me a pint of iced gin and tonic.
Maybe Trump. I probably wouldn’t marry Trump.
Actually I probably would.
I really do want a gin and tonic.
I am never going to hot yoga again.
I think it’s close to the end.
No one seems to be doing anything anymore. They’re mostly wiping themselves with towels and wincing in the mirrors.
Oh no, 3 more poses.
If we want to do anything else we can.
I think I’m good.
Thank fuck for that.
She just told us that our future selves will thank us for this. I doubt that very much.
Recently I graduated from a Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training Course. The experience was incredible – emotional, exhausting and inspiring in equal measure. Here are five of the changes I’ve already made to my yoga practice as a result.
1. I’ve stopped torturing my neck.
“Relaxed neck” is a common cue in Forrest Yoga, and it felt alien to me. Relax my neck? As in let it my head actually hang down rather than crane my neck at a weird angle in order to get the “correct” drishti (gaze point) for the pose? Despite my initial reluctance, I found it felt really, really good. Try it – next time you’re in extended side angle pose or half moon, rather than forcing yourself to gaze up or into your hand, relax your neck instead. See how much nicer that feels? I love it, I’m teaching it, there’s no going back.
2. I love core work even more now.
Since I was about 11 years old, when my ballet teacher told us sit ups would help our balance in pirouettes, I’ve loved core strength work. But on my training, I realised that I’d barely scratched the surface. The precise, refined, and relentless (!) cues of Forrest Yoga abs seriously put me through my paces, and left me so much more connected with my inner strength. Now I do them every day. This is the video that’s my “go-to” online Forrest Yoga core practice, if you want to try it yourself.
3. I also know how to relax my belly.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t habitually suck my belly in. My ballet teacher told us to do it, my vanity and desire to have a flat stomach told me to do it, and my yoga practice prior to Forrest training was all “uddiyana bandha” and “draw your belly in and up”. So I’ve always done it. But for all Forrest Yoga’s focus on abs, the core work is an intentional practice, and they don’t encourage you to hold your belly tight all the time. In fact, in my third class, one of the intentions was to practise with a soft and spacious core. Even more than the neck thing, this felt uncomfortable. I don’t think I actually knew how to let my belly relax. But once I adjusted, it completely changed how I felt physically and emotionally.
4. I keep my lower back healthy.
I now use yoga to not only “fix” my chronic lower back pain when it flares up (it’s an old compression injury), but to heal it. The Forrest Yoga abs help a lot, but I’ve also learnt techniques such as back traction for creating space in my lower back. What’s more, I’m recognising my tendency to jam tension into my lower back, and I’m learning to strengthen and stabilise my pelvis instead.
5. I’ve (almost) stopped punishing my body.
I want to finish on a high, but I have to admit that this one is a half truth still. After years of abusing my body with disordered eating and exercise addiction, softness and ease are concepts I seem to need to learn again and again. What I am finding is that when I get on my yoga mat, I’m starting from a place of “having my own back.” If something’s hard, I’m breathing, not fighting through it. If a pose causes pain, I’m pulling away, then exploring what’s going on. And if something feels delicious, I’m staying there. It’s a work in progress, but even that, I think I’m learning to accept. There are some things that just take us a bit longer!
If this Forrest Yoga thing sounds like something you might be interested in exploring, watch this space, as I’ll be leading my firstForrest-Inspired Yoga workshopon Saturday 24th March 2018 at Akasha Yoga Centre. Drop me an email at email@example.com to book your place.
Vinyasa yoga or “vinyasa flow yoga” is a style of yoga I love. It’s a dynamic yoga style, where you flow from one posture to the next, coordinating your movement with your breathing. Coming from a dance background, I was drawn in by its smooth, graceful sequences. It has the strengthening, empowering appeal of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, but with more freedom, creativity and variety in the sequencing.
What does Vinyasa mean?
The word vinyasa is Sanskrit, and there’s room for interpretation in the translation. It’s often said to mean “movement linked with breath.” However, the translation that resonates with me is the idea that nyasa means “to place” and vi means “in a special way.” Vinyasa yoga therefore is the yoga in which you place your body in a special way. It’s not just the “finished” postures, that count – instead the emphasis is on the mindful and deliberate movement into them.
To try to demystify the name, in promoting my own classes, I often refer to it as Dynamic Yoga. This also means students get fair warning not to expect a super-sleepy restorative yoga class!
Why is it so popular?
It’s hard to say exactly why vinyasa yoga has taken off in the West. Perhaps it’s because, as a dynamic practice, it’s easily integrated into a world of gym classes, fitness fanatics and cardio routines. Although vinyasa yoga is unlikely to provide the complete cardio workout of a run (unless you’re flowing so fast I’d be concerned for your safety!), it does build strength, flexibility, stamina and balance. However, I think although many people start vinyasa yoga for the physical benefits, they keep coming back because it makes them feel good – physically, mentally and even spiritually.
So what are the benefits?
Really, this depends on the class you choose. Vinyasa classes can be energetic, playful and challenging or mellow, relaxing and peaceful. The best classes, in my opinion have elements of all of these. But what you can expect is to find a yoga practice which:
Builds muscular strength
Enhances focus and concentration
Promotes mindful movement
The reason I love it so much is that flowing through the postures in a deliberate, intentional way with your breath turns the practice into a moving meditation. Even in the most challenging, tricky transitions, it encourages you to connect more deeply with your body. In fact, the movement of vinyasa yoga can be one of the most effective ways to take your focus out of your head and into your body.
If you’re looking to try Vinyasa Yoga in Nottingham, check out the classes I run with my partner Tom and Yoga Let Loose here.
Or, for those of you who aren’t Nottingham-based, there are loads of vinyasa yoga classes you can try online – my personal favourite is Ekhart Yoga. Let me know how you get on!
I realised recently that many of my yoga students are people who “don’t like yoga”. Or at least, they didn’t think they liked yoga, until they were coerced into giving it another chance. These anti-yogis are now some of my most regular students. You might relate to them if…
You think yoga is for hippies. Is being told to soften your pelvic floor so that fire energy can rise from your root chakra, infusing your spiritual being with celestial light not really your thing? No, me neither. I’m a big fan of yoga minus the bullshit, and it is possible to find it. Trust me, when you take away the pseudo-scientific narrative that accompanies far too many yoga classes, on a physical and mental level, yoga has a huge amount to offer.
You reckon yoga is just relaxation. This is a tricky one because some yoga classes are. I once covered a class for someone whose style was evidently more passive than even my most gentle practice. I was asked afterwards whether I could make it easier. I politely explained that to me vinyasa yoga is a dynamic, physical practice, and one which has maximum benefits when it requires some mental and physical effort (notice, I said effort, not struggle – there is a difference). I’ll always, always offer modifications for students with injuries or limitations, and I make it clear that it’s good to rest whenever the practice becomes too much. But actually, I teach yoga to help people become stronger, more flexible and more self-aware. Relaxation is an important part of that, but it’s not the whole story.
You don’t think your kind of people go to yoga. Considering points one and two above, you may well fear that a yoga class will be full of hippies, or people coming for extended nap time. However, as more and more people give yoga a try, and find a style that works for them, the yoga demographic broadens. I teach yoga to men, women, athletes, cyclists, those with disabilities, climbers, students, office workers, artists and builders. Oh, and a few genuinely lovely hippies. I don’t exclude.
If you’re a yoga-hater, I’d encourage you to give it another chance. And if you can get to Nottingham, come to my class… I like a challenge. For those further afield, I’ll also be compiling a list of good quality, bullshit-free yoga videos online in the new year (I may even add a few of my own), so watch this space.
I’ve been a fan of yoga workshops for a long time, and recently my obsession has reached new levels. 2016 has been the year of the yoga workshop for me – I’ve been on a mission to attend and teach as many workshops as I can. Why? Here are my top five reasons to go to a yoga workshop:
Yoga workshops have a specific focus. Whether that’s improving your handstands, exploring meditation, or learning how yoga can help you cope with the colder months, with yoga workshops, there’s a clear and honest objective. Even when you go to a yoga class led by a teacher you love, there’s no guarantee that they’ll cover the thing you’re curious to know more about. When you choose a workshop though, you know exactly what you’ve signed up for and can make sure it’s something you’re into.
Yoga workshops deepen your learning. Unlike in a 60 or even 90 minute class, yoga workshops give you the luxury of dedicated time. There is time to get proper instruction on a topic, to have it demonstrated and explained fully, then to try it out for yourself. Say you want to learn yoga techniques for cyclists, you get chance to explore these in detail, rather than gleaning the odd happy gem of relevant information from a general yoga class.
Yoga workshops can answer your questions. Do you have a burning question about how to strengthen your core? Do you want to know what to do about the fact your right wrist bothers you every time you take weight into your hands? Or would you like a teacher to check your alignment in full wheel pose and give you feedback? You probably won’t want to ask those questions mid-flow of a yoga class, but yoga workshops are the ideal time to do exactly that. I recommend going with a list of questions, and checking at the end for any that haven’t been covered so that you can run them by the teacher.
Yoga workshops are fun. If you’re looking for a great way to spend an afternoon, evening or day, you can’t go far wrong with a yoga workshop. You get to learn interesting things, play with yoga, and dedicate a couple of precious hours to developing yourself and your own yoga practice. Also, yoga workshops tend to be more sociable than yoga classes, and are a great chance to meet and interact with some lovely like-minded people.
Yoga workshops are an investment in yourself. The couple of hours and the money that you invest in a yoga workshop directly benefits you. After most yoga workshops, I come away with lots of useful “takeaways” – new learning, things to try and ideas to incorporate into my own yoga practice. Workshops are also a great way to get re-inspired, especially if you’ve hit a bit of a plateau. I usually leave a yoga workshop motivated to get back on my mat, practising and learning more stuff.
If you’re convinced by all this, and want to give a yoga workshop a try, check out my page here for upcoming yoga workshops. Right now, I have a lovely workshop planned which will teach you strategies to beat the winter blues. And of course drop me an email with any questions you have: firstname.lastname@example.org
After clocking up the miles cycling, yoga is the ideal way to release tight muscles, keeping your body healthy and functioning at its peak. These are 3 brilliant yoga poses for cyclists. They’ll improve your range of motion, flexibility and strength. Practise them after a ride, or on their own after a bit of a warm up. Hold each posture for at least 5 breaths (practising in dungarees is optional).
Downward Facing Dog
How to do it: From all fours, tuck your toes under and lift your hips back and up so that your body forms an inverted V-shape. Press into your fingertips and externally rotate your upper arms. Bend one knee at a time to take the stretch deeper into your hamstrings and calves. Release your heels towards the ground and take the gaze to the big toes. Hold for at least 5 breaths
Why it works: Downward facing dog is a great yoga pose for cyclists because it releases the back of your legs, especially your hamstrings and calves which riding tends to tighten. It also helps to bring your spine back into alignment and strengthens your upper body and shoulders.
How to do it: Lunge forward with one leg and bend your front knee, taking your front thigh towards parallel to the ground, but not letting your knee come forward of the toes. Lengthen your stance if necessary. Keep your back heel off the ground but press it away to deepen the stretch into your hip flexor. Engage your core and lengthen your spine, lifting your arms overhead. Remember to repeat on the other side!
Why it works: Crescent lunge deeply stretches and releases your psoas and hip flexors, which are often super-tight for cyclists. It provides a much needed stretch for the front of your body, while building strength in your legs.
How to do it: Lying on your back, bring your feet in, positioning them parallel and hip width apart. Press into your feet to lift your hips. Interlace your hands under your back and draw one shoulder at a time underneath you. Press the sides of your arms, wrists and hands into the ground to lift yourself higher.
Why it works: Bridge pose is the ideal counter for a rounded forward cyclist’s posture. It takes your arms into external rotation, opening the front of your shoulders and training your upper body to return to a healthy, neutral alignment after a ride. It also strengthens the muscles of your back and glutes while releasing your hip flexors, abdominal muscles and chest.
To learn more yoga techniques to improve your performance, endurance, strength and recovery, book onto my Yoga for Cyclists workshop, Sunday 11th September 1.30-3.30pm at The Fitness Space, West Bridgford.
I recently spent a couple of weeks in Brooklyn, writing and yoga-ing, and generally falling in love with the place. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen a lot of photos from my rooftop. There are still more to come. I can only apologise. The view was incredible though…
Yoga to the People
While I was in the US, I wanted to get some experience of NY yoga classes. I was lucky enough to stumble across the incredible Yoga to the People. I can’t recommend this studio highly enough. In Brooklyn, a city where I spent 2 dollars on an apple, and 9 on a teeny tiny beer (it was really good beer though…), and yoga classes are often $20 drop-in, their ethos is all about keeping yoga accessible. The classes are donation-based, with a suggested donation of $10. If you can pay more, they ask that you do, and if you can’t pay $10 they ask that you pay what you can (if anything) and just keep coming back.
Sharing the Yoga Love
I love this approach. To me, the elitist yoga scene is off-putting and distracting. I love yoga for its accessibility – you don’t need expensive equipment, just your own body and a mat. And even the mat can be optional. Yes, if you want to spend a fortune on expensive designer yoga leggings, coordinating props and luxury studios, of course you can. But none of it is necessary. The power of the practice is in its simplicity.
So on a seriously hot Tuesday morning in Brooklyn, I found myself rolling out my mat in the studio of Yoga To The People, along with at least 20 other dedicated yogis. In that first class we were put through our paces in a gorgeous, sweaty vinyasa flow class. The theme seemed to be accepting yourself as “good enough”, which I liked. The encouraging teacher managed to tread that fine line between fitness trainer and spiritual guru with grace. Delivered with less skill, his guidance may have bordered on preachy, but it was full of warmth and peppered with humour, so even my repressed British self couldn’t get too cynical.
The Best Bit
What stood out for me most about that class was the atmosphere in the room. It was a group of motivated, focused people, all there because they love yoga enough to want to go to class, even in the middle of the day when it’s almost unbearably humid. The sense of community was like nothing I’ve experienced before in yoga, and I loved it.
Now I’m back in the UK I’m incredibly excited to share all my US yoga learning with my UK yoga family. Watch this space for details of upcoming yoga workshops, classes and retreats…