Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

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Online Yoga to Help You Through Tough Times

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 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Last but not least, it’s hard to beat live teaching. 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 (2021 update: I recently got to take an online class with my wonderful friend Stephanie of Kalpana Yoga in Canada – lockdown has some advantages!).
Photograph of Jade doing yoga at home in a in standing forward fold, uttanasana.
Home yoga practice

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!

How Injury Transformed My Yoga Practice

If you’ve ever experienced a nasty injury, you’ll know how frustrating, debilitating and isolating it can be. I’m sharing my experience in the hope that it brings some comfort and reassurance that the situation (or at least your response to it!) can and will improve.

The Injury

Three months ago, I taught my worst ever yoga class. It wasn’t that anything went wrong with the class itself (except a last minute room change and a power cut). The issue was that when I 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. I hoped that moving would help. It didn’t. By the end of the class, I was in agony.

Me teaching a yoga class in the Om Dome at Suryalila Retreat Centre in Spain.
Teaching whilst injury-free!

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 HIIT training, 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 worryingly helped more than painkillers!).

I scoured the internet obsessively in the hope of a cure. In my desperation I forked out for three different eBooks on healing back pain, which I read from cover to cover. These convinced me that the pain was psychological and 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. I came to surrounded by a group of lovely, and deeply concerned Spanish locals. Not cool.

Beautiful massage space outside at Suryalila Retreat Centre in Spain.
The advantage of getting injured at a retreat centre is the availability of amazing massage…

So for the next six weeks, life revolved around trying not to 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. Meditation lying down for me is just falling asleep.

Instead I started to read books on Buddhist philosophy and practice, which helped 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

Sun rising over the Annapurna mountain range

Slowly, slowly I started to build up the distance I could walk. This was going well, but I feared not well enough. I had booked to do the Annapurna Base Camp trek at the start of December – 9 days of arduous trekking in the Himalayas.

This trek was something I had dreamed about for years, so although I was nervous, I felt I had to try.

I won’t bore you with every detail of the trek, but I’m happy to say that it an incredible experience. It wasn’t painless, far from it, but the more I walked the more my pain eased. I was so grateful for what my body could do.

Not only that but the walking was an exercise in mindfulness. Because you have to place your feet carefully for each step (to avoid falling off the mountain) it is impossible to think about anything else. We also did a digital detox, spending the whole trek without connecting to WiFi. I finished the trek feeling calmer, happier and more present than I have in a long time.

Sign and prayer flags at Annapurna Base  Camp.

But still no yoga. I played with a few postures after walking some days, but they didn’t feel great, 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 nerve-wracking. Although the practice was gentle, I felt flashes of panic and sometimes anger when a posture affected my back. I didn’t love the classes, but they did help me to overcome the fear I had of practising yoga.

Signs pointing to yoga hall and other facilities at Hariharalaya Retreat Centre.
The very lovely Hariharalaya Retreat Centre

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 meditation time gave me chance to put into practice all the theory from my reading on Buddhism.

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 the most consistent self-practice 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.

Me practising dragonfly (or grasshopper) pose in Morocco.
It may be a while before my yoga practice looks like this again!

Finding Yoga Again

In coming back to yoga I have become reacquainted with my body. I enjoy feeling into where the edges are now, and where I can use my breath to open up spaces. 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 content to give it that time.

Me practising simple yoga on the beach.
Morning yoga on the beach in Koh Chang



On My Californian Hot Yoga Experience…

Hot Yoga StudioDisclaimer: 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.

Hot Yoga Selfie

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.

With ice.

Mmmm ice.

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.Motivational poster on the wall

2 more.

Final pose.

If we want to do anything else we can.

I think I’m good.

Savasana.

Thank fuck for that.

She just told us that our future selves will thank us for this. I doubt that very much.

 

Five Forrest Yoga Changes I Love

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.

Picture shows Jade in a variation of bound angle pose with the relaxed neck taught in the Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training

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 stop craning my neck 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 in extended side angle poserather than gazing into your hand, look forward and relax your neck. 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.

I’ve spoken to other yoga teacher friends who completed the Forrest Yoga Advanced Yoga Teacher Training and hated the core work. Luckily, this wasn’t a problem for me. Since my ballet teacher told my 11 years old self that situps would help my 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 put me through my paces. They have left me feeling 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. It’s part ballet training and part my own vanity and desire to have a flat stomach, but up until now, my yoga practice had only reinforced that patterm. It 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 was 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, but to help heal it. As well as Forrest Yoga abs, I’ve 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 when I’m feeling wobbly. Instead, I’m slowly learning to strengthen and stabilise my pelvis.

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. Now, my intention when I get on my yoga mat is to start from a place of “having my own back.” If something’s hard, I breathe rather than fight 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, I’d love you to join one of my classes. As I develop my teaching over the coming months, I’ll be integrating what I learned from the Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training into my usual vinyasa flow classes. I promise your neck and core will thank you for it!

What is Vinyasa Yoga?

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
  • Improves flexibility
  • 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!

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.

3 Brilliant Yoga Poses For Cyclists

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 – if I’m completely honest I’d run out of clean yoga leggings when I took these photos!).

  1. Downward Facing Dog

Yoga Pose for Cyclists Downward Facing DogHow 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. Keep lifting your hips back and up 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.

  1. Crescent Lunge

Yoga Poses for Cyclists Crescent LungeHow 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, lengthen tailbone towards the ground and reach 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 opening for the front of your body, while building stability in your legs.

  1. Bridge Pose.

Yoga Poses For Cyclists Bridge PoseHow 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 chest. This encourages 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.

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…

Getting Back Into Yoga

Getting back into yogaDo you find it hard to get back into something after a break? I’ve experienced this recently with yoga (and blogging actually, oops…) It’s not that I stopped practising, I just hadn’t been doing as much, which I’m ok with. But it was when I found myself getting genuinely cross because my bus was 3 minutes late that I realised it I needed some yoga love back in my life (yes, doing yoga makes me a nicer person.)

But actually getting back into yoga wasn’t as easy as I expected. Here’s what I found helped:

  1. Clarify your motivations. I made a list of all the reasons I wanted to get back into yoga. They included everything from, “I’ll get better at keeping things in perspective,” to, “My back won’t hurt as much after I’ve been sitting writing.”
  2. Make a plan and keep it simple. In the past whenever I’ve wanted to get back into yoga, I’ve gone back to Ashtanga yoga, because it’s disciplined, I know it well, and I can just follow the set structure. But this time I wasn’t keen to do that. Instead I chose an online yoga class from Meghan Currie (look her up – she’s amazing) on Ekhart Yoga. It was an hour long and incorporated lots of stuff I wanted to work on – forearm balance, handstands and backbends. I decided to do this every day for a week. Simple.
  3. Stick to it. Once I’m into something, I’m pretty good at sticking to it, but I find the first few days of a new routine the hardest. So I refused to let myself skip a day or shorten the practice, because that would only make it harder to do it properly the following day.
  4. Remember to enjoy it. During the yoga class, I’d try to focus on the bits that felt good, and really notice them. I’d find ways to make my sessions nicer – lighting a candle, wearing my favourite leggings (in the picture – I actually love them) and hanging out for a little bit longer in postures I was enjoying. And at the end of the practice, I’d take time to acknowledge all the positives that came from it – strength, flexibility, mindfulness etc.
  5. Review it. After my week of doing the same thing every day, I wanted to mix it up a bit. I’m over my Ashtanga phase of making myself do the same thing repeatedly just to see how far I can push it. Variety is more fun. So my plan is now to do that class twice per week, and other kinds of yoga on the remaining days. I’ve added in some yin yoga, some core strengthening classes and sessions where I just play and see what I feel like doing.

Has it worked? In a word, yes. I can already feel the difference in my flexibility and strength. And crucially, I’m loads more patient waiting for buses. Or at least I’m working on it…

 

How to be a proper yogi

Proper yogiWhat do you think it means to be a “proper yogi”? I keep hearing this phrase, and the perception seems to be that a proper yogi is at least one, but ideally several, of the following:

  • Super bendy
  • Teetotal
  • Big into chanting
  • A wearer of floaty, ethnic clothes
  • Vegan
  • A fan of incense
  • A hippy
  • Always meditating.

Now, I have nothing against any of these qualities (give me super-comfy yoga gear over jeans any day of the week). But I don’t like the implication that if you don’t fit this painfully narrow yoga stereotype, then you’re not a proper yogi.

What I like is the kind of yoga and yoga teaching that doesn’t leave you feeling like you have to eat only lentils, speak in “Oms” and turn yourself into a human pretzel for it to count. As far as I’m concerned, if you can breathe, move and focus at the same time, you can do yoga. And actually, I’m not even convinced the moving part is essential.

Yoga is everywhere. It’s not just something you do when sticking your bum in the air on a yoga mat (although I am a big fan of downward-facing dog too!). It’s an approach to life that cultivates more presence, mindfulness and compassion. I see yoga in action when people take a deep breath to calm themselves down, stop to appreciate a beautiful view or go out of their way to help someone out.

If you want to get your Om on, fill your house with joss sticks and levitate over your meditation platform, great! But if you choose beer over kombucha, cheesecake over chickpeas and Netflix over an evening meditating, don’t panic. When it comes to the values of yoga, if you display even a hint of a moral compass, and try to be honest and kind, you’re plenty yogi enough for it to count as “proper”. And you are definitely no less of a proper yogi than anyone who might judge you for not conforming to a stereotype.

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