Saturday, 6 December 2014

10 uses for a yoga mat

Recently I turned up to teach a class and a student had a particularly sparkly mat.
"Ah, I mainly use it for sitting on while wrapping Christmas pressies," she explained, dusting off bits of glitter. "I thought I might bring it to yoga now!"

Which got me wondering what other yoga mats got up to when not providing a non-slip space to practice on. And if you are considering whether it's worthwhile investing in a mat of your own, take a look and see how versatile they can be!

1 (With thanks to my yoga student) to stop yourself spreading all over the room (and keep your papers, cellophane and sticky stuff contained) while wrapping presents.
2 Taking camping…
3 Spreading out for tots to sit on with a few toys.
4 Roll it up to place as a prop when you need something to lean on, say while
you are watching TV!  
5 To help you relax your shoulders and lit your spirits ...  Lie on the floor, place
the rolled mat under the centre of your back and breathe for a while.
6 To sit on while you picnic or to lay on in the sun (I know, not much of that around now) so…
7 Use it as padding under a rug for extra warmth in a cold home!!
8 Roll it up and place at the bottom of a door to cut draughts!
9 Use as a catwalk for kids to strut their stuff in dressing up games.
10 YOGA - even if studios have mats the bigger, busier studios particularly, may be sweaty and worn… nice to have your own rather than a damp one ;) And then you can always do some yoga at home!

Another brilliant use for a yoga mat ....
And if you do have an old or unwanted mat lying around, you can donate it to Crisis at Christmas. The charity sets up drop-in centres over the Christmas period offering food, warmth and entertainment for homeless people. They also organise yoga classes for homeless people at the centres — and that’s why they need your old mats! Find out more from

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Reluctant yogi?

Is this you? ‘What a beautiful morning! I’ll get up, do some sun salutations to set me up for the day …’ Just as you make your way to the available clear patch of floor in your home, the aroma of coffee wafts up from the kitchen… and you’re lured off to relax with a read over breakfast instead.

Later that day: ‘Right, I’m going to set aside 30 minutes for a few heating twists before dinner.’ You slip into your yoga gear, decide what to practice and your friend/partner summons you to see something on telly or a friend phones, or child returns and before you know it…’ve missed the moment.

That night: ‘Tomorrow I will start my new yoga routine.’ You set the alarm. Drift off to sleep. Alarm rings. That time already? It’s cold, dark… blanket slides over head and there you stay for another hour, rushing to work and the other duties of the day without stopping to breathe.

Sound familiar? Home practice doesn’t have to be a ‘chore’ it is fun, it makes you feel really good! It just fits in… if you let it.

You can squeeze in a few joint warm ups, wrist and ankle rotations, gentle side lengthening postures and roll ups and roll-downs before your shower… before the coffee even goes cold! Shake off that groggy morning feeling with simple breathing exercises, or a few rounds of Kapalabhati to clear the head.

Later that day... Try sitting on the floor (or folded blanket to raise the sitting bones) with a lengthened spine, extending though your legs while watching TV. Then add some gentle seated postures. Janu sirsanasa and Maricyasana style forwards bends and twists and even a few gentle back bends, such as cobra. You'll feel less creaky than if you heaved yourself off the sofa. And if you are truly feeling exhausted, then put yourself into a supported restorative posture and give yourself a little breathing space.

The dark, cold morning scenario is tricky, but once you are up and moving, you will feel so much better. You can incorporate some spine lengthening postures and hip flexor warm-ups before you even leave the comfort of your bed (depending on the willingness of bed sharer!) Try half happy baby (or full) or supta baddha konasana (soles of feet together and maybe pillows under knees) or a few rounds of apanasana (hugging knees to chest on the exhale) and even gentle supine twists while lying in bed. Then you will be raring and warmed up ready for your sun salutations or just a few warriors to get you fighting fit for the day.

Need more inspiration and encouragement? Come along to a Developing your self practice workshop next month with me. I'll give you tips, ideas and some easy to follow sequences to fit in no matter what your schedule and mood!
Saturday November 22nd − 3pm to 5pm at the Yoga Body Centre in Clapton, north east London.
*See the Workshop link above for more details.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

What is it with the moon?

Friday 13th and a full moon — the omens were surely there! Halfway through the day one of my students emailed to say how sad she was to hear that a studio where I teach — and have been a member for many years—was shutting. Immediately. She’d really miss the classes. What a shock — I was reeling and sad because I will miss my friends and wonderful students so much, and also because no one had bothered to inform the freelancers working there, including me. Wow! Not sure if it was the news that may me feel so ungrounded. Or was it the full moon?

What is it about the full moon anyway? Some people find themselves full of boundless energy, others feel a little unbalanced, and others just heavy! Some people don’t notice anything at all. Maybe that’s because they are not used to closely watching their body? In the Ashtanga tradition, students don’t practice on the days of full moons or new moons. It’s a time to rest and observe the changes in the subtle energy in the body. What! Yes, I know… I was one of those yogis who’d turn up to my usual class and sigh heavily when told we would be doing a gentle yin practice instead of the full monty (aka the primary or secondary series)… Other students would roll their eyes with disgust when the poor teacher suggested we got bolsters and lay on our mats! Now I love the change of pace and chance to transform my body through passive release. (Though when I suggest a gentle approach in my classes on Moon days I am still met with fair few grimaces!)

Is there a reason for it? There’s a theory that because we yogis are just like other human people (in some respects!) we’re made up of 65 to 75 percent water, so the moon can have a gravitational affect on us, as it does with tides… so our energy peaks and wanes. The jury’s out on that one, but it is a nice connection to nature and a nice way to think about the peaks and dips in our energy levels.

I have a feeling I will be doing a few more days of grounding, calming practices before things get back to normal… 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Sun (rise) salutations anyone?

Are you an early morning person, getting up to greet the dawn, or a late riser, reluctant to leave the warmth of your bed? Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle?

I teach two early morning classes — ashtanga on a Monday at 7.15 and a flow class on Tuesdays at an earlier 6.30 — I am up by 5am on those days… before sunrise! I hate getting up! It’s hard to creep out from under the duvet, leaving my other half snuggled up and sound asleep, before the light streams through the curtain and before the birds are chirping away. But once I am up, and especially once I am outside, it is fantastic. There’s a peaceful quietness that engulfs the streets before the traffic starts, and on Tuesdays I leave home just as the first planes start to fly over London!

In that quietness, you can really tune in to the different sounds that underlie the buzz of the city, that we just wouldn’t notice during the hubbub of the day when the layers of sounds weave together forming a background texture of noise.

It reminds me of Savasana and yoga nidra — when you finally have chance to release and surrender at the end of your yoga practice. I often begin by tuning in to the sounds I hear around, then pushing them aside to seek the silence beneath. The whisper of the breath, the beating of the heart, then silence…. and I feel that sensation of a blanket of quietness hugging me in… just like walking along the streets at 6am. Well, much better, especially if it’s a drizzly, grey morning!

I am always appreciative, and a little amazed, that students turn up to their mats at such an early hour, and rather than self-practice at home, make it to the gym or studio. But there is always something a little special about having got up to practice together before work begins. It’s almost like sharing a secret energy. You should try it some time! Maybe in a couple of weeks when the mornings are lighter and you can get up at sunrise to watch the first rays of light lift the darkness, highlighting the branches and roofs. (Unless you are in a basement when the chinks of light will creep in from the street corners!)

Then throughout the day, when any moments of madness or tension arise, just draw those shoulder blades down and relive those moments of stillness from before the bustle began — and in savasana at the close of practice.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

New year, new yoga project!

Yay! At last the Secret Studio is open!
Especially for those who prefer smaller groups and tons of attention from their yoga teachers, here's a brand new welcoming, mellow yoga space. A max of five students ensures individual attention and classes geared to your needs.

Classes start 23rd January with separate beginners course, suitable for complete beginners or those who prefer a more gentle approach to their exercise! This will be followed by a more challenging class for yogis who want to take their yoga further. Mixed level classes
on Friday and Saturday mornings.

Restorative and pregnancy yoga
classes coming soon.