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.


“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?


Find your freedom…of movement

Many prospective students contact me in the hope that yoga will improve their flexibility, or in other words increase the range of movement they have in their joints.  Restrictions to joint freedom are often due to the muscles, ligaments and tendons that surround, support and work on those joints, not the joint itself.  Each joint has a medically recognised range of movement and it is possible for our movement to be restricted so that it is less than the typical range, or in the case of hypermobility, it may be more than is typical.

Under anaesthesia, muscles relax and the stiff patient regains their full range of movement.  However, once the patient wakes up from the anaesthetic, the old limitations resurface.  While this is not necessary helpful to potential yoga students with stiff joints(!), it does have a medical application as some conditions of stiffness in joints, such as a frozen shoulder, may be treated by manipulation under anaesthesia, allowing the therapist to move the joint in ways that would not be possible under normal circumstances.

Sometimes it is only during the yoga class that we notice that stiffness exists.  You might notice it when working in asymmetric postures that allow you to compare one side of the body to the other, or perhaps feel stiffness in a muscle when attempting a particular stretch.  These revelations only serve to remind me how little of our possible range of movement we use as a part of our normal daily lives.  And the old saying ‘Use it or lose it’ is so very true in this context.

All our muscles have a certain resting tone and a length that they comfortably stretch to.  Unfortunately, when we only use part of our range of movement in a joint, the connective tissue or fascia will ‘set’ that length within the muscles surrounding it and the signals sent by the nervous system serve to ensure we then stay within the new accepted range of movement.  Ever decreasing circles come to mind…

In order to stretch the muscle further, and thus gain greater movement in the joint, we need to increase the maximum length by working to ease out restrictions in the connective tissue or fascia that supports the muscle.  The Joint Freeing Series or Pavanmuktasana in yoga helps us to become familiar with the flexibility we have at each joint and if practised regularly, attempts to move all the joints through their full range of movement.  Enhancing joint mobility can relieve pain and stiffness, moving the joint helps to circulate the synovial fluid.

Easing tension in muscles around the joint also helps to create more space within the joint so its movement can be smoother and more comfortable.  Although I never do the whole series in any one class, most classes include some parts of the series that are relevant to that session.  This means that each class has an underlying theme of joint mobility and I would hope that through regular practice you would see improvements in how you can use your body.  So tell me, has it worked for you?


Love affair with a yoga mat

A prospective student recently told me “I expected you would provide mats”.  I blinked, and for a split second my world stopped as my mind flashed up the implications of this statement.  Firstly, I would have to buy them.  At least 20 of them.  Goodbye £250!  Or perhaps more! Then I would have to store them.  That could be interesting, in my little house.

And for each of my 8 classes a week I would need to carry them to the car (goodbye walking to class), unload them into the room, return them to the car at the end and then carry them back into the house to store away til next time.  Assuming I can carry 4 at once, that’s 16 trips minimum per class … at least 128 a week.  Hello chiropractor!  Not to mention the extra time it would take.  There would also be the need to keep them clean – can you imagine washing and drying 20 mats on a regular basis?  My mind boggled.  I blinked again.  “Afraid not,” I replied.  “It’s not really practical.”

Aside from the practicalities of supplying mats for students, as custodian of your yoga practice I do also believe that it is for you to choose and care for the equipment you need, as part of your commitment to treating your body respectfully in class.  For advice on what it might be useful to bring along to class, please check out my FAQs page.

The key investment you are likely to need to make is, of course, the purchase of a yoga mat.  While you can get away with using any sort of exercise mat or even a thick blanket to begin with, a proper mat really does make the practice safer and more enjoyable.  So, what are you looking for when you buy a mat?

Your first priority should be to choose a sticky mat.  Many types of exercise mat provide excellent padding but will slip on the floor.  This can put you at risk of injury during standing postures and balances.  Ideally we do the practice barefoot, and the stickiness will also help to stop your feet (and hands) from slipping.  Wearing socks is not generally helpful here; either they slip on the mat, or else stick to the mat and you slip inside them!  Feeling that you are sliding on the mat is likely to introduce tension into the body and make it harder for you to relax into a posture.

Yoga mats are typically 4mm thick.  This is thick enough to provide some degree of padding and insulation from the floor but thin enough that the mat is still flexible.  It is also a reasonable weight to carry to class.  A 4mm mat is easily folded to provide extra protection when you are kneeling.  It can also be rolled up to help you sit more comfortably.  Some students like to use 2 mats, or bring a blanket for extra support and comfort.

Sadly, as with anything you tend to get what you pay for.  I have tried cheap mats in the past and found that spending a bit more is really worthwhile.  My current mat is a ‘Warrior Mat’ from Yoga-Mad (presumably called after the series of yoga poses of this name).  I have been using the same one for several years now and it is just starting to show some signs of wear.  Whilst this mat is not from the eco-friendly range, I particularly like the fact that I can put it in the washing machine when it’s grubby, although getting it dry is another matter!  More recently, I have started using a yoga towel on top, as this can be washed and dried much more quickly. A decent mat might cost you £18 or so, but t probably works out at just pennies per class before you need to replace it.  And then, of course, there are myriad uses for your old yoga mat – but that’s the subject of a whole different post!


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!


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!


Anatomy of a yoga class

If you have ever wondered what to expect in a yoga class, or have been plenty of times but still wonder why we do what we do when we do, this post is for you!

The class will invariably start with a few minutes of lying down, preferably in semi-supine (more of that another time!), focussing on becoming more aware of the body and the breath.  This opportunity to centre ourselves brings our attention to the present moment and allows our breath to settle into a steady rhythm that will guide our practice.

We are then ready to begin our physical practice of the postures, or asanas.  This starts with gentler movements and postures aimed at warming the body up in preparation for the main posture.  We might revisit postures covered in recent weeks or others that are directly relevant to the main posture.  The choice of postures will ensure that the spine is moved in all directions, helping to keeping the spinal column healthy and well-nourished.  The main posture is different each week and more time will be allocated to introducing and practising this posture.  Afterwards we will do one or more counterposes, which ease the body after the work of the main pose.

The physical practice helps to both concentrate our mind and to relax the body, preparing us for breathing and relaxation or perhaps just enabling us to go home feeling calmer than when we arrived.  In a one hour class we may move on directly to a few minutes of relaxation, or else sit for breathing or meditation first.  In a longer class this quiet practice will last up to half an hour.  And thats it! til next week…


Happy holidays!

Well, its the end of term already and all classes will be taking a 3 week break, to start again week commencing 7th January 2019.  I do hope you’ve enjoyed the autumn term and will be joining your class again in the new year.  If you are interested in coming along, there is always room at Weoley HIll Village Hall on a Tuesday evening (some previous experience helpful) or if you would like to join one of the Bournville classes please drop me a line by email.

Happy Holidays and see you in the new year!