Tuesday yoga is changing!

Tuesday night yoga will have a new look from January 2020!  I am opening the class up to everyone, all levels welcome, so I can offer a class that is more accessible to those unable to attend weekly. For details click here.

The class will start at 7.30pm with a few minutes relaxation, followed by an asana (postures) practice that takes us to 8.30pm.  The last half hour will  include a breathing or meditation practice lasting some 15 mins,  followed by a guided relaxation practice to finish the session off.

If you would like to know any more,  please get in touch via my contacts page.

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“It’s so good when it stops”

When I hear this phrase in one of my classes, at the end of working into a fairly taxing main posture, it sets me to wondering why we go to a class to do something we could equally well accomplish at home.  Practising in the comfort of your own home means you can do yoga at any time that suits.  You can do exactly which postures you like and in the colder months you don’t have to brave the wind and rain to get there.  It’s cheaper and you don’t miss out if you can’t attend a session.  Hmmm. It’s starting to sound like I am trying to do myself out of a job!

Despite all the benefits of practising at home, so many of us (myself included!) prefer to attend a regular class instead.  So what is it that makes a yoga class special?  Although yoga is essentially a personal and individual experience, there is something more enjoyable about participating in a group.  Of course, there is the social aspect; you may attend the class with a friend, or get to know others who regularly go to that session.  There is a united camaraderie in working together in postures you are like or are less keen on (but know are good for you!) and motivation to be had in seeing the efforts of others.  Personally, I enjoy abdicating responsibility for the structure of the session to someone else.  In a group class, you are guided through a series of postures that have been planned to work and stretch all parts of the body as you move towards the pinnacle of the main posture for that session.  The mind doesn’t need to worry about what to do next and you can really let go, just focussing on the breath and coming into each moment as it unfolds.

Tempted? There are still spaces for after the break, starting from 4th November.  So if you are dithering about joining a class, why not give it a try?

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Welcome

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…to my yoga website!  Please use the menus above to find information about my classes and workshops, including venue information and details of my booking and pricing system for term-time classes.

Tuesday evening yoga at Bournville Quaker Meeting House is a drop-in session, so there is no need to pre-book. If you would like to try a class, why not come and join us?

All other classes are booked in blocks. For details please click here.   Please get in touch if you would like to join us.

Data Protection is big news at the moment with the introduction of the new GDPR.  My Data Protection Policy is available here.

Om shantii

Jillx

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Dear Santa

Christmas comes but once a year, and perhaps it’s a good job too, given the amount of time that goes into making sure the day will be a special one!  It seems that Christmas erupted into community consciousness last weekend, with many houses now decked out in their seasonal finery. Now the lights are twinkling and the tree is resplendent in the corner, you’re going to need some parcels to put underneath it, right?

Choosing the perfect gift is never easy, and finding something they will want and enjoy at the right price for your pocket can take far longer than you might have hoped.  It’s not surprising that more and more people resort to shopping online, to avoid the crush and queues of the high street in December.

If someone special in your life is still trying to decide what to put in your Christmas stocking this year, then here are some ideas from my yoga ‘must have’ list to inspire them.

  1. A new yoga mat.  Is your mat looking a bit shabby?  Or perhaps you don’t have one yet.  A decent quality mat that is easy to clean will last you for years and is well worth the few extra pounds.  I like the Warrior mats by Yoga-Mad, which can go in the washing machine at 40C when they get a bit grubby.
  2. A yoga block.  Many people find sitting for breathing or meditation practices can be more comfortable with a yoga block.  The recycled chip foam ones are best for this purpose and they are a bit more comfy to sit on than the EVA foam blocks.  Be sure to get a block, not a brick, as bricks are really not a good shape for sitting!
  3. Toe socks.  We all suffer from chilly feet in class in the winter and these socks with separate toes are ideal to keep your feet toasty while still providing you with a good grip on your mat or the floor. You can get them with or without toes and they come in lots of fun colours too!
  4. Bedtime reading.  For more on all aspects of yoga try something by Esther Myers or Donna Farhi.  Or to learn more about mindfulness try one of the thought-provoking yet easy-to-read books by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Happy Holidays!

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Yoga and mindfulness at Woodbrooke

One of the highlights of my summer is teaching at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre.  This year the course is slightly earlier, running Wednesday, 15 August 2018 – Friday, 17 August 2018.  Our title this time is “Sense and Perception: Bringing Together Yoga, Mindfulness & Photography.”

The yoga sessions will be gentle and suitable for beginners, with an emphasis on mindful practice rather than physical ability. Mats and blankets will be provided, but you will need to bring a digital camera you are comfortable using – your phone camera will be perfect.

The course costs £170.00 non-residential or £245.00 residential and places can be booked online with Woodbrooke by following this link.

I hope to see you in August!

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All on a level?

If you have visited the list of classes I offer, you may have noticed that i have assigned them different levels, 1, 2 and 3.  The idea is that this might make it easier for people to choose the class most suited to them. In case you are still wondering which one to choose, here is a bit of an insight into those levels.

The 3 levels sound straightforward enough, but in actual fact there can be a few different reasons why a certain class might be the most suitable. For instance, take ‘beginners’ as a description.  Generally this would mean a class which was introducing yoga and avoided more challenging postures or other practices.  That sounds pretty simple.

However, such a class can also be of benefit to those who have more experience but want to work more mindfully.  And it never hurts to revisit the basics and reconsider how we are applying them in our practice.  By reducing the demands on the mind in order to complete the class activities, we create more mental space to be aware of what we are doing and bring our attention into the moment.  So this class might now suit the complete beginner or someone wanted to focus more on mindfulness than physical exercise.

When allocating different levels to each class, I had to consider the assumptions we make about how to define ‘beginner’ and ‘advanced’.  If yoga were purely about an ability to position the body into a series of complex shapes with ease, then the advanced student would be anyone with an aptitude for gymnastics.  However, if we look to yoga philosophy for our definition, then yoga is about finding a wholeness of our being which brings a calmness to the mind.  By this definition, the more advanced student is the one who is more mindful in their practice, regardless of their ability to perform pretzel-like postures.

It is in these two areas that I notice beginners finding yoga classes challenging.  Sometimes it is in the physical demands of the class, but often it is the quieter parts where we sit and breathe or relax for a longer period of time.  It takes time and patience to develop this part of our yoga practice.  So, with this in mind;

  • Level 1: Suited to beginners, returners or anyone wanting a gentler practice.  Postures are mostly done individually (rather than linked in a sequence) and it is relatively easy for adaptations to be made to suit individual medical needs.  Classes might include a short seated practice and relaxation, totally about 15-20 mins of quiet time. Beginners classes are booked in blocks and there is a progression in the introduction of the postures each week. A different theme is presented each term, with a relevant topic each week.
  • Level 2: These classes are still open to beginners but may be slightly more demanding.  They might include short sequences of linked postures and there will greater emphasis on working mindfully. The topics discussed revolve around the issues and questions raised by the group and postures will be discussed in more detail.
  • Level 3: Classes are aimed at those with some previous experience.  I assume students have a reasonable level of physical co-ordination, plus an understanding of how we combine movements with the breath in our practice.   All classes include a sun salutation sequence and longer classes include a seated practice and relaxation, totalling about 30 mins of quiet time.

If you are considering joining a class, I hope these definitions are helpful.  I have included them along with other things you might want to know, in my FAQs here. If you already come to one or more classes, do let me know what you think!

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Swapping classes at the Quaker Meeting Houses

My system for swapping classes has been up and running for quite some time now and I thought it was time to take stock of how the system is working.  As a reminder for newer students, this allows you to change to a different class within the same block, providing you give me at least 48 hrs notice and there is a space available to swap to.

By the end of each term, my record sheet is covered with scribbles of classes missed and swaps arranged.  The chaos proves the extent to which the system is used!  I really appreciate it when you tell me you will be away, even if you don’t want to swap, as it so often means someone else can be helped out.

There were a few teething problems when i started teaching at Selly Oak Quaker Meeting House, making sure everyone knew which venue to go to and how to find it, but i think we are getting there.  I hope you enjoy the variety of attending a class in a different venue with a different people on occasion.

It can still get a bit tricky in that last week or two, especially in a short block. If you will be away towards the end of the block, it really helps to let me know ASAP, as it may be we need to re-arrange your classes to earlier in the block rather than later, to reduce the demand on the last couple of weeks.  I am glad to say that i usually seems to come out in the wash and its rare that i have to tell people there is nothing to swap with.

The whole system relies on a bit of forward planning, but its worth it to maximise the number of classes people manage to attend.  That said, please don’t ask me to carry any missed classes forward beyond the end of the block, as I suspect this will cause logistical chaos! If you have any feedback on how you feel it has worked out, please do let me know!

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Braving the elements

Well, what a winter it’s been already, with Birmingham finally seeing some pretty heavy snow…followed, of course, by treacherous icy pavements to test our balance in the extreme!  I have quite a dilemma at the start of an icy winter blast like this; do I cancel everything or, unwilling to be beaten by the weather, do we forge ahead with classes as planned?  This time it seemed prudent to give into the weather, so 3 classes were cancelled when the heaviest snow came down in December.

Having spent a considerable amount of time attempting to read between the lines of the weather forecasts, I decided it really depended on how far people had to come – would they be able to get to class safely? So I got out my student records and checked out the addresses.  This is a section I don’t usually pay much attention to, but it turned out to be quite revealing!  I discovered that the majority of students live remarkably close to the class venue; for some classes, almost everyone was within a half mile radius!  This confirmed for me that it’s reasonable to go ahead as planned in all but the most extreme weather Birmingham offers.

And turn up you did!  Boots, wellies, scarves and hats adorned our venues and there were many tales of the challenges faced even on a short journey.  Each winter I am humbled by the number of people who made the effort to come along despite the harsh conditions.  It’s really great to see how many have chosen a class that’s within walking distance, helping to reduce the traffic on already-busy roads and my yoga classes’ ‘carbon footprint’, in turn helping to reduce our impact on the planet’s stretched resources

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Yoga at Selly Oak Friends Meeting House

I have been teaching in Bournville for a number of years, but last year I introduced 2 new classes at Selly Oak Friends Meeting House.  The building is set back from the Bristol Road, just as you begin to head out of Selly Oak towards Northfield.  It can also be approached from  Oak Tree Lane, via Langleys Road (for a map and directions click here). There is a car park on site and an area of  garden with mature trees, making it a lovely peaceful setting. Classes are held in the main hall of this beautiful old building, with a vaulted wooden ceiling and tall windows, which gives an airy feel to the space.

Both of the classes here are aimed at beginners, one on a Tuesday morning and the other on a Wednesday teatime. More information is here, on my classes page. Both classes begin with a few minutes of relaxation, to allow us to begin to focus on the breath.  We then move into postures that are done lying down and progress into ones based on sitting, kneeling and standing.

There is a different main posture each week and I also talk through key issues of relevance to beginners. Topics might include subjects related to working with the breath, anatomy for yoga and mindfulness.  Students are encouraged to ask (relevant!) questions and adapt the practice to their individual needs.  The Tuesday session includes a breathing or meditation practice and both classes finish with another short period of relaxation.

if you fancy coming along to give it a try, please get in touch.  I look forward to meeting you!

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Creating balance

This term in the beginners/returners classes we are looking at different aspects of creating balance and inner space.  Mindfulness is central to this, as it allows us to become more aware of how things are now and whether we might want to change this.  Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as paying attention on purpose, without judgement.  We frequently act on autopilot, as we are busy with thoughts of either the future or the past at the time.  This often happens when we are preoccupied with something and doing activities that we do every day, or many times a day.  Practising being mindful of small activities can help with your memory as well.  If you find yourself regularly hunting for your car keys/ chequebook/ reading glasses then you may improve your chances of remembering when and where you put them down!

On a larger scale, mindfulness allows us to experience life more fully as it unfolds, one breath at a time.  Try noting the topics you think about over a set period to get an idea of how much time you actually spend in the present.  It can be surprising how much your flow of thoughts concerns plans for the future or reliving past events.  If you are bored, ask yourself how much of the present experience you are actually aware of.  It is easy to belittle the everyday and long for the unusual – but when it arrives it can be over before you know it, leaving you already planning the next big event as your everyday moments flash by unnoticed.  If life comprises only the wonderful bits it is very short indeed!

With mindfulness we are more aware of the messages brought to us by the senses, such as touch, taste, smell and sight.  We can fully appreciate simple pleasures; the smell of cut grass, an ice cream on a summers day, a fantastic sunset.  We can also increase our awareness of the impact of our lifestyle on our health. Early recognition of changes in the body gives us more opportunity to address a health issue before a problem develops.  Reflecting on the impact of both our actions and our inaction can break a cycle of habitual behaviour, potentially opening doors to future actions that can help live our lives more as we would like to.

All this mindfulness can be hard work!  The mind likes to ramble and daydream, it may not be used to the discipline you demand of it.  Start small, for a few minutes at a time, by giving your full attention to something you are doing or to the breath. You can gradually increase the length of your practice until being mindful becomes the habit rather than the exception.

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