Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Category: yoga class

Yoga For People Who Don’t Like Yoga

Yoga for people who don't like yogaI 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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Why I Love Yoga to the People

Yoga to The People BrooklynI 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.

The Class

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.

What Next?

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…

11 Quotes For A Happy Life

Quotes for a happy lifeIf you come to my yoga classes, you’ll know I love quotes, words and poems. These are some of my favourite quotes for sharing in Savasana. I find keeping these in mind helps me to feel happier, healthier and more resilient. 

 

11 Quotes For A Happy Life:

1.When you’re needing grounding:

“Flying starts from the ground. The more grounded you are, the higher you fly.” ~ J.R. Rim

2. When you’re unsure of your place in the world:

“You are a child of the universe. No less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” ~ Max Ehrman (from Desiderata)

3. When you want more creativity in your life:

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” ~ Osho

4. When you need encouragement to change:

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late… to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald (from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

5. When you are dealing with difficult people:

“If you have to choose between being kind & being right, choose being kind & you will always be right.”

6. When you need to take control:

“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

7. When you’re unsure of your life’s purpose:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Washington Thurman

8. When life feels tough:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

9. When you are afraid to feel too much:

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” ~Roald Dahl

10, When you need to find your inner strength:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

11. And last but not least, when you need to keep it all in perspective:

“When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’” ~ Sydney Harris

These are my current favourite quotes for a happy life. What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Have a fantastic week lovely people. 

Love, Jade xxx

How to Motivate Yourself to do Yoga

Camel PoseI love going to yoga classes, but my practice transformed when I started doing yoga everyday on my own. I began to explore the postures for myself and to rebuild my relationship with my body and mind. However, practising yoga by yourself brings its own challenges, the main one for me being motivation. So how do you motivate yourself to do yoga on the days when your bed is more appealing than your mat, and you don’t have a teacher telling you what to do?

Here are my three best pieces of advice:

  1. Remember that getting there is the hardest bit. A friend of mine passed on these words of wisdom years ago and they’ve stuck with me ever since. With any situation that you know will require some effort (even something you enjoy, like yoga!), the hardest bit is getting there. Once you’re there, you’ve already overcome the biggest challenge. I used to remind myself of this on the cold, dark mornings as an English teacher when I REALLY didn’t want to leave home. It works even better to get me onto the yoga mat.
  2. Set the intention that you’ll get on your yoga mat and just move for 10 minutes in any way that feels good. That way you take the pressure off your yoga practice and free it to be whatever you need right then. Often I tell myself I’ll only do 10 minutes, and after that time, my body and mind feel so good that I carry on and do lots more. But even if that’s all I do, I think of it as a gift to myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise had in my day.
  3. Create a bank of motivation prompts for the days when you really need to be told what to do. I have a few great free online yoga resources that I use when I really don’t want to practise “alone”, such as the wonderful DoYogaWithMe website – the classes with Fiji McAlpine are my favourite. I also love this mini Forrest Yoga inspired core workout, and my lovely yogini friend Amanda posts some great sequences on her Youtube channel that always make me feel good. It’s good to go solo and practice totally by yourself, but these online yoga classes are perfect for the days when you need a bit more inspiration.

Whatever you end up doing, try to keep your yoga practice free from judgement. We already spend too much of our lives critiquing ourselves, and seeing how we measure up. Challenge yourself to let that go while you practise yoga by yourself. After all, there’s no one there to impress, or even to care what you are doing – this is just about you.

Happy yoga-ing lovely people – let me know how you get on!

Jade xxx

How to fall in love with Savasana

Savasana“Savasana is the most important posture.”

When I began yoga, I didn’t believe this. I’ve seen the T-Shirts saying “I’m just here for Savasana,” which I find funny, because for me, Savasana, or corpse pose (i.e. lying flat on your back and relaxing completely) was definitely not what I was there for….

Toned, lean yoga body? Yes please.

Ridiculous flexibility? Absolutely.

Inner peace and harmony? Well if that’s an optional extra, sure.

But I have to lie still and do nothing to achieve that? No, I don’t think so.

But over time, I’ve started to make friends with Savasana, and I think you can too. Here’s why it’s worth a try, and how to go about it…

Four big benefits of Savasana

  1. It allows you to notice and absorb the benefits of the practice. A lot can happen physically, mentally and emotionally during yoga. Yoga meets you where you are, but it does not leave you where it found you. You need time to let yourself catch up with that and to enjoy the differences.
  2. It rests the body after physical practice. Throughout your yoga practice, you are seeking balance between effort and ease, between strength and surrender. By its very nature, physical practice requires strength and effort. Savasana gives you chance to balance that by seeking complete relaxation, allowing the body to recover and rest.
  3. You learn the skill of relaxation. And it is a skill. When you scan through the body in savasana, you have a final opportunity to find any remaining tension, physical or mental and let it go. You learn how to consciously relax.
  4. It marks the end of your practice, creating space before you re-enter the rest of the world. If you rush out straight after the last posture, it’s too easy to immediately lose all the mindful connection with yourself you cultivated through your yoga. Savasana gives you chance to take stock, which helps you to sustain that connection afterwards.

Getting the most out of Savasana

Know that there is no “wrong way” to do Savasana. Whether you are able to relax or your mind races, allow that to be. Trust that the experience you have is enough, and is what you need right at that moment.

The biggest barrier to relaxing in Savasana is likely to be your mind. Recognise any thoughts that are holding you back. Acknowledge them, and gently answer them with something kinder. For instance:

Negative thought Positive and kind alternative

It’s pointless just lying here.

Lying here allows me to absorb all the benefits of my practice.
I should be doing something more productive. I deserve this time to relax and let go after my practice.
I’m too busy for this. Savasana helps me balance the busy-ness of the rest of my life.

If you examine them, so many negative thoughts come from an underlying belief that you are not good enough as you are. Let that go. It won’t be serving you in your yoga, and it certainly won’t be serving you in your life.

See whether you can allow yourself to dare to believe that what you are already enough. Whatever you think to Savasana…

Happy relaxing lovely people!

Jade xxx

12 Things To Do At Suryalila

Things to do at SuryalilaWhether you visit Suryalila Retreat Centre as a guest, a yoga teacher trainee or a volunteer, this is the definitive list of things to do at Suryalila…

  1. Gorge yourself on the delicious food and tell yourself it’s fine because it’s all so damned healthy. Vow to eat more lightly the next meal, then go back for seconds. And thirds.
  2. Do yoga at 8am and feel virtuous and smug all day. Make sure everyone knows about it.
  3. Conversely, miss one early morning yoga class to lie in. Even hardcore yogis deserve a day off. And it’s cool to be a yoga rebel. Fact.
  4. Borrow a deeply spiritual book from the bookshelf in the hall and convince yourself that it will change your life.
  5. Laze by the pool pretending to read said deeply spiritual book, then doze and hope it enters your consciousness via some miracle of osmotic transference instead.
  6. Take photos of yourself doing the fanciest looking yoga postures you can think of in the Om Dome then immediately post them on Instagram. #Suryalila. It’d be a waste not to.
  7. Walk to the ruins wearing inappropriate footwear. Who brings hiking boots to a yoga retreat anyway?
  8. Tear yourself away from Suryalila for the day to visit Prado Del Rey and enjoy the ridiculously cheap vino and tapas at Carmen’s.
  9. Speak Spanish, even just a little. You are in Spain after all. Practise on the donkey if you’re too nervous to try the staff.
  10. Eat the vegan rice milk ice cream. Just trust me on this one.
  11. Promise to transform your lifestyle when you go home. Daily yoga, meditation, reading and clean, fresh organic vegetarian food cooked from scratch can’t be so hard to keep up, right?
  12. Book a return trip before you even leave so you know it’s not goodbye forever.

Fellow Suryalila fans, let me know what I’ve missed!

Around the world in 80 yoga classes

I’ve done it! This week I’ve hit 80 classes of yoga since starting this blog and my yoga travels. This doesn’t include classes I’ve taught myself – just those I’ve attended. I’ve done 17 different types of yoga:

Types of yoga

Perhaps more importantly, I’ve had the privilege of being taught by 30 different teachers, whose experience ranged from 40 years to just 2 weeks. I’m grateful to them all:

Mike, Sarah, Adam, Vidya, Raphaelle, Gabriela, Roberto, Lidiya, Jess, Carl, Marcus, Lamonte, Charlie, Chetana, Jasmin, Nina, Josh, Dylan, Alex, Marina, Tara, Bob, Sammi, Richard, Drew, Tamzin, Jenne, Amanda, Cyrus, Alicia

What have I learned from my 80 classes?

There is no right or wrong.

Every teacher and every class is unique. Sometimes I’ve been taught ways of assuming postures in one class which directly contradict those taught in another. Sometimes classes are so different that it’s hard to believe they’re all called “yoga” My take on it is that it doesn’t matter too much. As long as the teacher is sharing their practice, with enough instruction, guidance and support to keep their students safe, the differences only add to the experience, and help me to stay more present.

Every teacher teaches you something worth learning.

As a recently qualified yoga teacher, I’m trying to soak up everything I can to make myself the best yoga teacher I can be. Often the flow of a class will exactly fit with the way I like to teach, or I’ll be in awe of the teacher’s creative sequences or their inspiring words. These are the classes I rush out of to find my notebook and scribble everything down before I forget it. In other classes the learning might be more subtle, and less easy to articulate. But maybe I’ll notice later in the day a shift in the way I feel. Or a week or even a month later, something that teacher said to me will come back to me, and I’ll be grateful for their insight.

Yoga will meet you where you are, but it never leaves you where it found you.

There have been yoga classes where I’ve been aching so much from some ridiculous workout the day before that I’ve told myself I could leave after the warm-up if it was too painful. There have been classes at 6am that I’ve had to almost literally throw myself out of bed to force myself to get to. There have been classes that I simply couldn’t be bothered with. But every single time, once I get on the mat, something changes. Somehow the yoga meets me in whatever state I’m in, acknowledges that and then gently moves me through it. There hasn’t been a single one of these 80 classes that I’ve regretted making the time for. So when my motivation to go is low, I do just have to remind myself that the hardest bit is turning up. Once I’m there, things are already starting to get better.

What’s next now I’ve done 80 yoga classes?

When I started my yoga travels, I told myself I’d maybe do this until September, but that was unrealistic. 80 classes is not even close to being enough. I still have so much I want to learn. Maybe I’ll aim next to be taught by 80 yoga teachers, or to try 80 styles of yoga. Or maybe I’ll let go of the numbers altogether. Whatever, I’ll never consider myself a “finished product” as a yoga teacher. I’m going to keep practising, keep learning, and keep writing. I am eternally a student.

What I learned doing yoga in Thailand

Chiang MaiI started out my solo travels in the north of Thailand with the best of intentions – every morning I would wake up at sunrise, do my self-practice of yoga, then meditate for 20 minutes before going for a healthy breakfast and beginning my day of travelling and exploring. It would be perfect. It was my opportunity to be completely on my own agenda with no distractions. This is what I learned:

  1. It is possible to take budgeting too far. I was so excited when I found a place to stay for just 100 Baht (around £2) per night. I was less excited when I discovered that my “bed”, essentially a mattress pad, was exactly 13cm away from my neighbours on each side. Never mind finding space to lay my yoga mat on the floor, finding space to roll over without becoming rather too acquainted with the snoring stranger next to me proved impossible. Needless to say, after a sleepless night or two, my yoga practice was the furthest thing from my mind…
  2. 39 degree heat is not conducive to an effective Ashtanga yoga practice, at least not for me. It is one thing to do hot yoga deliberately in a specially designed pod. Doing it accidentally in a sweat box of a room is an altogether different experience, and not a pleasant one. It made me question how and why Ashtanga yoga could possibly have originated in India. Given any kind of hot climate I think I would have developed a regime with a whole lot more lying flat on my back, and a whole lot less actual movement.
  3. There is something to be said for being physically comfortable. I came to Thailand with all these ideas about how I did not need anything – how I could live in the most basic of conditions, and I could do without any home comforts. And I can. But I realised that to be completely honest, I’d rather not. I actually quite like sleeping in a room which is free from cockroaches and mosquitos. I appreciate clean sheets, and air conditioning, and showers that run for long enough for me to rinse the conditioner from my hair. Who knew.
  4. Too much Chang (Thai beer) and yoga do not mix. That stuff is lethal. Nuff said.
  5. Yoga classes are invaluable. After 10 days of struggling to find the physical or mental space to do my self-practice, I needed some external motivation. I found it, in the form of Tara, a fantastic yoga teacher at NAMO Yoga in Chiang Mai. Her class reminded me why I love yoga, and what I’d been missing. Best of all, I drew energy and discipline from the other students in the class, and no longer felt that this was my solo battle.

On my last day, having treated myself to a better room, I finally managed what I had been aiming for all along. I woke up (hangover-free), rolled out my mat and practised underneath my fan with the sunlight streaming through the window. I then took a hot shower and walked to pick up a fresh coconut, kombucha tea and vegan muesli for breakfast. Okay, so it took me two weeks, but I got there in the end. And in that moment of smug satisfaction, it was all worth it.

Exhale Festival – a weekend of hardcore yoga

Black and Light YogaI’ve been lucky enough to be volunteering at Suryalila Retreat Centre during the Exhale Festival. Although I was working the whole weekend, my perpetual fear of missing out meant I tried to squeeze in as much yoga as was physically possible. Not the most yogic attitude, I know. I’ll work on that for next time…

My day on Saturday began (after a quick round of dishwashing) with two hours of Rocket Club Yoga with Marcus. Ashtanga enthusiast that I am, I loved this Vinyasa class, and all of its intense sequences, deep stretches and brilliant assists. It reminded me of something an Ashtanga teacher told me – she doesn’t believe in “hot yoga” because when you are practising yoga vigorously, you create the heat from within anyway. This two hours definitely proved that point. I finished the class feeling hot, sweaty and invigorated.

Next came my fastest ever round of dishwashing and chicken duties to allow me to get to an Inversions 101 Cyber Yoga Workshop with Lamonte. If you haven’t come across Cyber Yoga before, check out Lamonte’s website here. It makes me hurt just looking at his Instagram feed. But as well as being an awe-inspiring performer, Lamonte also turned out to be a great teacher. He catered for every level in his class, from those who were practising lifting up into their first Crow pose, to those who were working on one-armed handstands. He encouraged us to take baby steps into the postures, telling us that only way to achieve “total body control” is through dedication and consistent practice. He should know. Although I opted out of the one-armed handstands (no one likes a show off…) I did discover that I can do tripod headstands, something I previously assumed I couldn’t because I’d never tried. Another yoga life lesson there for me…

I spent the next part of my day working in the Shakti Boutique at Suryalila, before dashing off to Envision Yoga with Vidya. I think I need to devote a whole blog in itself to Envision Yoga, a practice which includes Kundalini yoga, mantras and NLP. We created our own mantras for each of our chakras, and repeated them to ourselves while doing yoga, before shouting them at our partners. Even the thought of it made me want to hide behind the nearest pile of bolsters and not come out. But the session took me beyond my scepticism and left me feeling better than I have in a long time.

My uninhibited energy buzz from Envision Yoga was put to great use in the final yoga session of the day – Black and Light Yoga. For this our beautiful Om Dome was transformed into a UV light spectacle. Daubed in neon face paint, we began our session with yoga, before rolling up our mats and breaking into a rave. Forget dancing like no one was watching, we danced like everyone was watching, and loved it. Then, all danced out, we came back to our mats for a final yoga sequence, ending on a euphoric yoga-fuelled high.

That night I discovered the true meaning of falling asleep before my head hit the pillow, and was still up before 8am the following morning for the next Vinyasa class. The whole festival was an incredible, enlightening and exhausting experience. If I ever do it again, and I hope I will, I definitely need to learn to pace myself…

Sweating it out at Hotpod Yoga in Nottingham

Photographer Credit : Ed ReeveWhy hot yoga could be ideal for reluctant yogis…

It was with some trepidation that I arrived for my first ever hot yoga class on Tuesday evening at Hotpod Yoga in West Bridgford, Nottingham. The thing is, I’m the sort of person who gets nervous in a sauna. After 2 minutes, I feel panicky and have to check that a) I know where the door is, and b) I can open it. I’ve learnt the hard way that this can be off-putting for other sauna users, hence I tend not to inflict myself on them too often.

So it was with some relief, that after a lovely welcome from Sarah, the teacher, I let myself into the heated pod, and found that it felt pleasantly warm, not unbearably hot. I could actually breathe quite easily. The pod itself I can best describe as an inflatable, deep purple tardis, sort of like a grown-up, enclosed bouncy castle, lit by candle lamps and heated with portable heaters. I’m no snob about where I do yoga – some of the best classes I’ve attended have been in run-down community centres with biscuit crumbs from the morning’s toddlers’ group stamped into the carpet – but the pod transformed this unremarkable church hall into a space which felt almost magical. It was as if we were cocooned in our own special little yoga bubble.

My slightly smug “It’s not even that hot in here,” thoughts did not last long. After 10 minutes of gently-flowing vinyasa yoga, I was drenched in sweat. My nana used to tell me that ladies don’t sweat, they glow. If this is true, my experience at hot yoga proved beyond any shadow of a doubt (as if this were needed) that I am no lady. Before the class I had deliberated over my choice of towel – I could only lay my hands on either a little gym towel or a giant bath sheet. I opted for the little one, a decision I quickly came to regret. I could have done with two bath sheets. Performing Parivrtta Trikonasana becomes a whole lot more challenging when you are trying to stop yourself from sliding right off your mat and into your neighbour.

That said, the heat really helped my muscles to let go. Under Sarah’s encouraging guidance, I felt my body move easily into deeper lunges, twists and back bends. My upper back and shoulders, where I hold a lot of tension because I work on my laptop for most of the day, clicked and crunched satisfyingly through the whole practice. By the end they were so released I felt like my head was lighter. It was better (and cheaper!) than a deep-tissue massage.  I had also tried my first Kayla Itsines workout the day before (if I keep this up maybe I’ll blog about it soon!) and so I was experiencing major DOMS in my thighs and bum. This class was great to ease some of that out.

I’d say in fact that this class is perfect as a counter to both sedentary office-style working and any physical training which leaves you feeling tight and sore. Although as I’ve practised yoga, I’ve become more comfortable with exploring some of its more spiritual aspects, I know a lot of people who would benefit from yoga are resistant to trying it. They find its new-age, hippy-ish reputation too esoteric and off-putting. HotPod Yoga as its website states, pares down “thousands of years of yoga tradition…to some critical, logical and powerful elements.”  This makes it ideal for anyone who wants to feel the physical benefits, as well as the relaxation of yoga, without “chanting, a cult mentality… or haughty gurus.” I think the “Namaste” from Sarah at the end of the class was about as overtly spiritual as the class got, and yet I still left it feeling physically and emotionally uplifted.

To sum up, despite all my initial reservations, I whole-heartedly recommend you give hot yoga a try. Just remember to take a decent-sized towel!

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