Yoga blog High Wycombe

New Class Starting

I started teaching regular yoga classes back in January 2018 so only 6 months ago and yet, it feels much longer than that. Not because I’m such a wonderful teacher who turns up for a class and makes up a sequence there and then, adding some bits of wisdom between poses, but because teaching yoga feels natural and I very much enjoy it.

I love the space where I have been teaching for the past half a year – a small yoga studio in the heart of Bourne End in Buckinghamshire - and I have managed to acquire a small group of regular students, some of whom have been coming from day one while others joined just a few weeks ago.

I still put a lot of time and effort into preparation of each class, but it does pay off. Sitting and talking in front of a number of people who have paid to be there with me does no longer feel intimidating but exhilarating. I do admit, some classes have a better feel to them and I leave, feeling completely satisfied, and then there are classes, after which I do wonder why I have ever taken up teaching at all. But yoga is a life-long journey and the same can be said about teaching it. I continue to be a diligent student myself and I always make sure that I have things to share with my students to whom I’m eternally grateful for supporting me in my quest and my dream to be a good (enough) teacher.

I have been thinking about setting up another class for a while now, but there is much more to it than just finding the right venue and attracting enough students. Many newly qualified yoga teachers start by covering for other teachers in their local gyms or even yoga studios if they are lucky, hoping to be given a regular class to teach one day.

I have covered for other teachers myself, which has been invaluable experience, and to my utter delight I have just agreed to take on maternity cover for the lovely Yogi Julie.

As of 21st June 2018, I will be teaching another regular class every Thursday from 18.30 to 20.00 in Micklefield Library, Micklefield Road, High Wycombe, HP13 7HU. Please come and join me!

Stephanie Snyder: One of My Favourite Yoga Teachers

We all tend to gravitate towards certain people in life. I am not talking about physical attraction, but this kind of inner appeal, which not always can we put a finger on. There is something about these people that resonates with us and we instantly feel better in their presence. And this is even more true about yoga teachers. Yes, we can go to a particular class because there is a yoga studio around the corner from our house or its time slot suits us. However, that’s barely ever the case. We usually try a few different classes, different yoga styles, and before we know it, there is a yoga teacher whose class we keep coming back to and whose class we don’t want to miss.

Since I started practicing yoga I have found only a handful of such teachers and Stephanie Snyder is definitely one of them. Stephanie is a San Francisco-based yoga teacher who have been teaching yoga since 2000; she teaches workshops, trainings and retreats internationally, and is an industry festival and conference presenter. Stephanie comes and teaches in London once a year, usually a whole series of weekend workshops.

I first signed up for her workshops at Triyoga Studio in London four years ago, not really knowing who she was, but back then the description of her strong Vinyasa Flow practice appealed to me. Like anyone else I do tend to feel apprehensive when I don’t know what to expect, but those feelings dissipated within 15min or so of her very first workshop. From day one I have found Stephanie down-to-earth, warm, and funny; her storytelling compelling and thought-provoking, her asana practice strong yet methodical; her sequencing logical and when she chants I have goose bumps all over.

I have since attended every single workshop she has taught in the UK, I have signed up to her newsletter and I enjoy her online classes on yogaglo.com.

Over the past weekend I attended four of Stephanie’s workshops at Triyoga Camden under the title ‘Becoming Whole + Mending the Chaos Gap’. She used the term ‘chaos gap’ to describe a gap between our inner spiritual world and the outside material world, from which most of human confusion and suffering arise. I have learnt and taken a lot from her workshops, but one of the main things for me was the reminder that there is an ’unstruck and untouched’ place within all of us, to which we need to stay connected at all times. And the only way to find and be able to return to this place of quiet peace and steadiness is only through regular and consistent practice of asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation.

Flow Through Any Difficult Emotion

I’ve just completed this seven day online yoga programme called ‘Flow Through Any Difficult Emotion’ led by Jo Tastula.

Seven days, seven classes, seven emotions to tackle through yoga practice.

We all have our own unique ways to deal with emotions such as anger, sadness or anxiety, but more often than not we don’t even allow ourselves to attend to these emotions. We ignore them, we neglect them, we push them away; sometimes we even berate ourselves for experiencing negative emotions. But as an old saying goes ‘what you resist persists!’.

Yoga teaches us to welcome difficult and unpleasant feelings; to be with them without trying to change them, make them better, or resolve them. As we move through our practice, we should learn to let these feeling arise, allowing them to be what they are without analysing or judging. If we manage to do so, if stay open without an urge to react, we become more accepting towards ourselves as well as others. 

My favourite quote from the programme: ‘You are capable of holding yourself; and you’re the best person to do it. Nothing that comes from inside is ever going to be too much.’

And as Max Strom says: ‘Happiness is a choice. It’s getting a handle on our emotions within a situation, remembering that circumstances are often beyond our control, but our emotions are our own. We only need to practice our state of mind; that’s beginning of happiness.’

Teaching Pranayama

We spend our whole lives breathing, day in, day out, whether awake or asleep, paying little attention to this vital function of our bodies. We take breathing for granted without even realising how much our physical, mental and emotional state affect this subtle activity, both in a positive and negative way. But equally, breath can have a tremendous effect on our general well-being.  

Pranayama within the yoga system is often translated as ‘breathing exercises’ or ‘breath control’, but the meaning of the word has much more a deeper meaning. The word is composed from two Sanskrit words: prana meaning life force; a core energy that animates our existence; and ayama, which means ‘to restrain or control’. And the key to unlocking the potential of this cosmic force is our breath.

Breathing is automatic and easily falls into habitual patterns. These patterns tend toward breathing in the mid and upper chest and are often of a shallow nature. Breaking these patterns, however, can prove life-changing! Having said that, it is impossible to achieve any such changes overnight; it requires a regular and methodical practice. There is an unconscious fear of having to try and alter deeply ingrained breathing patterns. When asked to sit and focus on one’s breathing, most people experience a wave of panic.

Integrating breathing into a yoga practice is crucial. Although breathing should be emphasised throughout the whole class, spending just 5-10min at the beginning or end of the class working with different types of pranayama will undoubtedly have a positive impact.

On the weekend of 3rd/4th February 2018 I attended a weekend long course ‘Teaching Pranayama’ with Philip Xerri. During the weekend Philip took us through endless Pranayama techniques and gave us a step-by-step guide for introducing some basic techniques to our students in the class situation.  

It was an amazing weekend, which not only did leave me revitalised but also more confident to work with my students and their breath.

On the Upside (Down)

When it comes to inversions in yoga, i.e., being upside down whether on hands, forearms, or head, etc., people tend to fall in to two categories. Those who loathe inversions, usually for fear of falling, lack of control, or not knowing where they are in space, and those who love inversions.
I definitely belong to the second category! I find arm balances and inversions energizing and exhilarating at the same time. That's not to say that I sometimes don't get frustrated because of my inability to stay up long, but that's part of the fun and playfulness inversions represent.

Today I had the pleasure to attend Marcus Veda's 'On the Upside (Down)' workshop at Triyoga Camden. If you want to approach inversions in an unusual way, Marcus is your man. He is probably 10 kilos lighter than me, which undeniably helps when you are trying to get your hips over your shoulders, but his technique is second to none. And so is his core and his arms!

In addition to that, Marcus's sense of humour, banter and comments are as brilliant as his ease to get and stay upside down, which made the workshop even more enjoyable!

After 3 hours of trying to defy gravity my body feels knackered, but I am full of energy inside, determined to make inversions a regular part of my home practice.

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“Yoga does not change the way we see things; it transforms the person who sees.” B K S Iyengar