Body and Soul Yoga
|Posted on August 15, 2016 at 9:25 PM||comments (896)|
YOGA CLUB BLOG – 16th August 2016
“Now the exposition of Yoga is being made.”
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Book 1, V1
I started the Yoga Club in January with the idea of offering people “something more” than you get from a conventional yoga class. I wanted to explore the “soul” aspect of Body and Soul Yoga and look at the philosophy and theories which make the practice so much more than just an exercise to keep the body fit.
Raphael’s Café …
Raphael’s Restaurant kindly agreed to host our meetings. The café is just inside Raphael Park close to the Main Road entrance gates with brilliant views of the lake and fountain. It’s usually quiet during term time and there’s plenty of space to spread our books and papers. We even pushed back the chairs for a few standing poses.
In addition to being a fantastic location the café also sells delicious coffee and cakes. I recommend the Baklava and try Aryan (a salted yoghurt drink) for something a bit different.
The plan was to talk about the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and a fictional story “How Yoga Works” written by Geshe Michael Roach. Although there were only two of us at the first meeting we had a lively discussion and explored correct breathing, posture and the best way to sit (the “holy grail” for yogis). As the group grew each person brought a different perspective to the discussions.
A typical meeting involved chatting and finding out about each other, then a few minutes on the story and discussing the quotes. Sometimes we had group activities like card matching. Usually all this took about 40 minutes and then finished with some chair yoga, breathing and standing postures before coffee, cake and general chit chat!
What are The Yoga Sutras? …
Yoga classes rarely mention the Yoga Sutras but they are required study for teacher training and should underpin lesson plans. The Yoga Sutras are a bit like the Bible’s Book of Proverbs although that doesn’t mean that they are “religious” as such. Sutra means “thread” and the Yoga Sutras are a collection of wise thoughts or “threads” forming the complete wisdom of yoga. Yoga is much more than a series of physical movements (which is just Hatha Yoga) because it covers every aspect of our being. This is what the Yoga Sutras explain. Understanding them isn’t straight forward although commentaries which accompany the modern translations help.
I don’t have time for difficult study ….
This all sounds a bit scary if you’re new to yoga or not very interested in that aspect of the practice. However, the other study book “How Yoga Works” is very easy to follow and relates everything to the physical side of yoga which most people are comfortable with. It’s written in the form of a folk story with just a few, easy to relate to, characters. The print is large and clear, the chapters are short and woven around selected quotes from the Yoga Sutras.
The main two characters are a young girl who has studied yoga and is travelling through India from Tibet on her way to further yoga study and a police captain who runs the jail where the girl is being held, unjustly, on suspicion of stealing her own book. You guessed it! The book is actually The Yoga Sutras. The captain has lots of aches and pains probably many of them stress or work related (sound familiar?) so he asks the girl to help him with yoga. The girl instructs the captain through various yoga poses and slowly he makes the connection with words of wisdom gleaned from her book.
What does the author know? …
Although the story is very readable it takes on deeper meaning when you realise the author, Michael Roach, is a Master of Buddhism (Geshe) and has translated more than 30 ancient texts.
I can’t come to meetings. Can I do the worksheets on my own?
The worksheets are all available for download from the Yoga Club Members page of my website. There’s no need to buy either book, unless you want to, as there’s a short synopsis of the relevant chapters on each worksheet. The questions are there to set you thinking and kick off discussion.
Worksheet 1 includes a wheel with Salute to the Sun – my favourite sequence and which often forms the basis of many yoga classes. We practised a chair version in one of our meetings. You can use the diagram to practice on your own and there are online videos to available on You Tube.
Something more physical …
With each session I introduced more asanas (postures) starting with very basic sitting and standing, moving onto sequences (Salute to the Sun) and Trikonasana (Triangle). Our 1st April meeting seemed right for laughter yoga and then as the weather improved we moved outside (to the green behind the café) for forward folds. Most postures can be adapted in various ways. As you can see on the worksheets Navasana (boat) works well using a chair although usually you it’s performed on the floor.
A Walk in the Park …
Why waste summer indoors when there’s a whole park to use? We decided to take the sessions outside and a walk around the park seemed like a good idea. The study books are on hold for the duration. Lots of people can’t get to sessions because they’re looking after children or grandchildren, so why not bring them along too? The idea of the walking sessions is to make them even more fun and flexible. Everyone (whatever their age) gets a colouring sheet to take away and Raphael’s Rummage – a quiz you can start on the walk itself although probably you’ll need to come back on your own to find all the answers. Everything you need to see is on our route but some of it takes a bit of looking for. This is all part of the mindfulness – focusing on the moment and the task at hand. How often do we walk and not even notice our surroundings? I promise once you’ve been on a Yoga Walk, a walk in the park will never be the same again.
Meeting and Warm up ….
Every week is a little bit different. We meet Thursday mornings 10.30am by the Main Road entrance gates. You can park opposite in Lodge Farm Park or one of the side streets if you prefer. Colouring and worksheets are all available for download but I always have paper copies of the latest one to give out. I also have colouring pencils and other activities for children to do although they are welcome to join in with the yoga if they want. We usually start on the green behind Raphael’s Café for warm-up yoga and some yogic breathing techniques. This is also an opportunity to introduce the week’s theme along the lines of summer and the great outdoors. One week the theme was bees (see the worksheet to colour the honeybee as it drinks from a beautiful flower) and find out how to do Bhramari Pranayama (Humming Bee Breath) brilliant to beat stress and anxiety. It’s also a great hangover cure! Last week the theme was lions (yes, I know you’re not likely to see one of those in the park – but you can imagine you’re at Longleat!) so we did a standing lion breath – fantastic for the throat, communication generally and also the facial muscles.
Breath walk around the bandstand …
We then walk to the bandstand (about 200 yards away) for a Kundalini yoga breathwalk. This involves using a four part breath in time with our steps as we circle the bandstand. The Theatre Garden, where Shakespeare Summer Theatre has performed every year for the past 50, is our next stop. Usually this is where we practise Earth Salutation and last week we also walked over the steps (an opportunity to find the answer to one of the quiz questions at the same time – How many steps in the Summer Theatre Garden?).
Earth and Moon Salutations ….
The Theatre Garden leads to the wooded section and Percy’s place where we sometimes stop for Moon Salutation and chair yoga using the mushroom seats and benches. This week we came across a lovely children’s party in the woodland glade. The Lithuanian mum had made the most fantastic fruit and flower display with cupcakes nestled in the flowers. It was a really magical moment. Somehow the park is a shared experience and yoga flows with the surroundings in a way that never happens in a sterile studio environment.
Sun Salutation …
The teenage benches are just outside the wood within sight of the children’s playground and the outdoor café. Depending on time (we sometimes get sidetracked along the way) this is where we finish with energising postures such as flowing tree or chair (bench???) based sun salutations.
There is a toilet block behind the café if anyone needs it. Raphael Park went through a major maintenance upgrade a few years ago so facilities are excellent with modern toilets at both sides of the park (the other toilets are in Raphael’s Restaurant and open to the public, not just restaurant customers).
Time for coffee or something more …
The average walking time is about 90 minutes and I try to finish by 12 at the latest. During the holidays Raphael Park has a bouncy castle event on Thursday afternoons so families might want to stay for that. Others can join me for coffee, cakes or veggie snacks (occasionally even a Turkish meal) in Raphael’s Restaurant if they want. Sitting on the open terrace gazing across at the fountain it feels like being on holiday.
What next… ?
We’ve only got three more weeks left of the summer holidays with walks planned for the 18th and 25th August. This week we’ll be focusing on lions and tigers with some laughter yoga to finish. I’m hoping to end with a “Bring and Share” party picnic in the woodland glade on the 1st or 2nd September (date to be confirmed). It will also be the final opportunity to submit Raphael’s Rummage Sheets and there will be a Yoga Goody Bag for the best entry.
If the weather’s good we’ll probably continue with the walks for a few more weeks either on Thursdays or Fridays depending on when most people prefer. I will be doing some market research before deciding what form the club will take in the autumn and when and where we’ll be meeting.
|Posted on March 20, 2016 at 5:50 PM||comments (38)|
A small room tucked between the Bakery Department shelves is an unusual space for Sunday morning yoga – but then Body and Soul Yoga thrives in unconventional settings. I have to say a big thank you to Tesco for providing the room which is used by many groups throughout the week. It’s lovely to see how much actually goes on there from jewellery making and children’s activities to Harry’s stamps (which follows the yoga on Sundays). The room really lives up to its name giving community groups a place to do their thing (whatever that might be).
This morning was our fifth at Tesco and it’s lovely to see the group slowly blossom. I’m getting to know the regulars now and finding ways to adapt the asanas for their individual needs. Several are new to yoga or coming back to it after a long break. I noticed today pink mats were all the rage – apparently available in store for £6 and excellent yoga starter mats.
Lesley, the Community Room Co-ordinator, requests that everyone sign in at Customer Services. Write your car reg number next to your name and you can stay over the three hour parking limit giving you extra time to do some shopping or have a coffee after class.
Tesco really is the one stop place for Sunday mornings. You can even buy clothes upstairs. I can see myself staying much longer some weeks after class to take advantage of the many facilities. So for now, a big thank you to Tesco – a big corporation yes, but definitely giving something back.
Classes at Tesco are on Sunday mornings at 10am – a bargain at £5 per class with no course to pay for. It’s best to email first in case the class gets full but there’s usually space to squeeze in an extra mat. Why not try the class for yourself and then do your shopping afterwards?
|Posted on January 31, 2016 at 1:00 PM||comments (46)|
First Meeting - 29th January in Raphaels Cafe
The Yoga Club launched with our first official pop up meeting on Friday morning. It was a slow but sure start with just me and new member, Shona, at Raphaels Cafe. I was very glad to meet Shona and I hope she enjoyed the morning as much as I did. We spent a lot of time chatting and getting to know each other. Turned out we had lots in common and although Shona is new to yoga she has links with an ashram in India and spent time there experiencing meditation. We reflected on the worksheet and talked about the study book "How Yoga Works" and how it puts the Yoga Sutras into context.
There was time for some chair yoga and we practised the most important poses - sitting and standing, using blocks and chairs for adjustments. A few cafe customers came in towards the end of our session but the cafe is very large and airy so neither of us felt self conscious. And following the session we enjoyed coffee and cakes. The coffee was lovely and the cakes delicious. Surrounded by windows giving panoramic views of the lake, fountain and park it couldn't have been a better venue. The cafe staff were very friendly and welcoming. Owners Alcoyt and Alper were also on hand to help out.
The next session is planned for 26th February at 10am. At £5 for two hours including coffee and cake it has to be a bargain. Looking forward to seeing lots more of you at Raphaels next time ....
In the meantime, let me know what you think about the worksheet and how you are getting on with a home practice. I've also suggested people start a journal to record their thoughts, feelings and progress.
Please use the comments section here to record your thoughts. Even if you can't come to meeting you can interact with other members here online.
|Posted on January 12, 2016 at 8:30 PM||comments (2)|
What a fantastic way to start the new year! I have to admit, after the mildest winter so far “since records began” Sunday 3rd January was a proper winter day. So, while the December session was more like an autumn day, this time we needed our layers to keep warm. Who says you can’t do yoga outside in winter? Nine of us hardy yogis gathered in the bandstand and enjoyed a whole hour of Surya Namaskar and Dru sequences. Thanks to everyone who came. I really appreciate it and hope you enjoyed the session as much as I did. There’s something so special about yoga outside in the crisp, fresh air. You can feel the energy and it stays with you for days. While other park yogis cancel sessions, even in the summer, when rain is forecast we’ve gone ahead whatever the weather under the cover of the bandstand.
Intentions were set and mentally repeated three times. Yoga was shared and energy created. It rained a little but we stayed mostly beautifully dry and cosy in the bandstand. Next time, though, Lorna I’ll be at the entrance where the rain can settle and you can take the dry spot by the lake view.
As we left the bandstand on the 3rd some of us wondered if it might snow next time. “I’d love snow,” Hazel enthused. “It will feel like being in Tibet.” So see you on 7th February and bring your snow shoes!
|Posted on January 12, 2016 at 3:00 PM||comments (2)|
Every other week my yoga column in the Havering and Romford Post morphs into Julie Blakebrough’s Smoothie and Juicing column. I have to admit Julie looks good on it so I’ve decided to take a “spinach” leaf out of her book and offer up my own juice recipe. I based it on the new range at M&S which provides all the ingredients for a healthy drink in a beaker. You just need to add water and blend. My recipe isn’t much different (at least it shouldn’t be because I copied the ingredients from their label!). The only extra work involved is a bit of rinsing and chopping which only adds a few seconds to the process!
I used the Ninja blender - similar to the Nutribullet but a bit cheaper. It’s easy to use – just fill up the beaker, screw on the blade and press down to operate. Washing is a quick rinse under the tap and no fiddly bits to ungunge or waste to throw away. You can even drink straight out of the beaker and it comes with a screw on top for a drink to go.
You will need (Note: measures are all approximate):
Third of a cucumber
A handful of spinach leaves
One green apple
150ml of water (filtered or tap)
Rinse the cucumber, apple and spinach (I was lazy and used pre-washed spinach)
Roughly chop the cucumber and apple (discarding the core)
Put it into the blender with 150ml water
Squeeze the lime juice into the mix
Blend, pour into a glass and enjoy
The finished product was pretty good. My previous attempts with my Ninja Blender have been OK but very thick (more like soup). This was much better! I don’t how it compares with M&S’s version but their one costs £2.50. I spent about the same amount on a huge bag of spinach, a whole cucumber and a pack of apples so I can treat myself every day.
Give it a go yourself and let me know what you think ....
|Posted on December 7, 2015 at 12:25 AM||comments (44)|
There’s something special about yoga outside in the winter. Maybe it’s because most of the winter we’re stuck indoors. Often the only time we step outside is on our way to or from something else. Even a walk around the park isn’t the same as yoga for me. You’re still moving forwards, journeying from one space to another. Today’s time in the bandstand was something else again. A time to stop and pause – to enjoy the experience while staying in the same place. The wind blew gently around us while birds fluttered in the air and geese skimmed across the nearby lake. The sounds of walkers, cyclists and children wafted around the bandstand and we remained in our little world, cocooned in our spacious bandstand studio.
Luckily it wasn’t even cold today. December has yet to bite and, although the air was crisp it wasn’t bitter. With plenty of warm layers and Dru energising routines we could have stayed all day, or at least until the sun went down.
Thanks to Terry, Maria and Lorna who joined me again today. Rachel and Jade couldn’t make it this time because Rachel was in London continuing her Dru training. This time of year is busy for most of us and I realise it’s difficult to fit everything in. However, the four of us had plenty of space to spread out while we practised Surya Namaskar and the Earth Salutation – acknowledging the earth that nurtures and the sun that sustains.
There was time too for Vrksasana (Tree) and the opportunity to choose a tree each to visualise when we practise at home. I love the balancing benefits of Vrksasana which directs our energetic flow from earth to heaven via the solar plexus to the ajna chakra. With regular practice should open your inner vision and enable you to see the world as it is rather than as you would like it to be. The Dru Flowing Tree is a beautiful practice and really develops concentration as well as balance.
We finished with Oms and repeated our San Kalpa before rushing back to the Christmas shopping! Looking forward to the next one on 3rd January ready for the New Year. See you then ....
Eccleisiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
• A time to be born and a time to die,
• A time to plant and a time to uproot,
• A time to kill and a time to heal,
• A time to tear down and a time to build,
• A time to weep and a time to laugh,
• A time to mourn and a time to laugh,
• A time to mourn and a time to dance,
• A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
• A time to embrace and a time to refrain,
• A time to search and a time to give up,
• A time to keep and a time to throw away,
• A time to tear and a time to mend,
• A time to be silent and a time to speak,
• A time to love and a time to hate,
• A time for war and a time for peace.
|Posted on November 6, 2015 at 10:40 AM||comments (1718)|
Balasana/Pose of a child
If you need to come out of an asana or sequence early, you can rest in Balasana while others in the class finish. Pose of a child stretches and releases the lower back so there’s never an excuse to stop mid-class for a chat or to check your iphone!
Begin by kneeling, bottom on heels and knees together. Bring your head to the floor, relax into the posture and focus on your breathing. Use a block to rest your head if necessary. Stretch your arms in front of you (extended child) or rest them backwards, palms upwards either side of your feet. An alternative, sometimes described as Swan posture, is to open your knees and stretch your arms forward. In this posture your arms represent the neck of the swan while your knees are the wings - better during pregnancy as it allows space for a growing belly. It is also easier for your head to reach the ground.
Experience Dru yoga for yourself at Mary’s class on Friday evenings in Hornchurch. The next six week course starts on 6th November. A trial class is £5. Day classes are planned to start after Christmas. Visit www.bodyandsoulyoga.org for more details.
Published in The Havering Post - 21st October 2015
Adho Mukha Svanasana/Down Facing Dog
Sometimes known as Parvatasana (The Goddess who dwells in the mountains) this posture forms part of the Salute to the Sun sequence (Surya Namaskara) but can also be used as a dynamic resting pose giving the benefits of an inversion (ie blood flow to the brain) while resting the heart. Begin on all fours (table top), spread your fingers ensuring your middle fingers point forward and your knees are under your hips. Push down on your hands and raise your bottom in the air. Aim to flatten your heels on the ground but don’t be surprised if they don’t. Form the shape of an inverted V (like a mountain) with a flat back, arms stretched forward and legs straight while your shoulders externally rotate.
Down Dog isn’t suitable for people with high or low blood pressure, detached retina, glaucoma, eye or ear infections. Modify by stretching your arms against wall in line with your ears, back level like a tabletop and legs straight. Relax into the pose while feeling the benefits to your hamstrings and opening the shoulders and chest.
Experience Dru yoga for yourself at Mary’s class on Friday evenings in Hornchurch. The next six week course starts on 6th November. A trial class is £5. Day classes are planned to start after Christmas. Visit www.bodyandsoulyoga.org for more details.
Published in The Havering Post - 4th November 2015
|Posted on November 6, 2015 at 10:35 AM||comments (82)|
What to expect in a yoga class
When you first walk into a yoga class, you may be surprised to find people lying on the floor. Don’t worry, you’re not late, regulars often arrive early so they can relax before the class starts. In our busy lives there’s rarely time to be “in the moment”. A short time, lying in savasana (corpse pose) helps you leave your day outside and focus inwards.
Tell the teacher if you have any injuries or medical issues that might affect your practice. Some asanas (poses) are contraindicated for certain conditions. For example, savasana is not recommended after the first trimester of pregnancy so if you’re pregnant expect to be offered an alternative such as lying on your side.
Once you’ve spoken to the teacher, roll out your mat and relax. Remove your shoes and socks (if you haven’t already), lie down, focus on your breathing and enjoy being “in the moment”.
Published in The Havering Post - 23rd September 2015
Many yoga classes start in a seated position. For most beginners this will be sukhasana (cross legged) which you probably remember from school. Sukhasana (its Sanskrit name) translates as “easy pose” so this should be simple. However, there are many things to consider. Your spine should be straight with your head in line and your pelvis in a neutral position. Your teacher may offer you a block or cushion to help align your pelvis. Sit on the edge of the block rather than placing your whole bottom on it. It’s an aid, not a seat!
If you can’t sit cross legged don’t worry. Kneeling is an excellent alternative. Another option may be to use a chair. Your knees should be level with your hips and your feet flat on the ground using a block to raise the floor up if necessary.
So are you sitting comfortably? Then your yoga practice can begin.
Published in The Havering Post - 7th October 2015
|Posted on November 6, 2015 at 10:30 AM||comments (0)|
2015 has been an exciting yoga year for me! I discovered yoga when I was 15 through a Sunday morning TV programme but it took many years (I’m 55 now) of personal practice before I was ready to teach others. I finally graduated as a Dru yoga teacher in January. Soon after that, I visited their beautiful centre in Snowdonia and found myself practising yoga next to a Welsh waterfall. A month later I flew to Poland for an intense yoga experience including pranayama (yoga breathing) outside.
This summer I took my passion for outdoor yoga to the Bandstand in Raphael Park in Main Road, Romford on Sunday mornings and so far have raised over £300 in aid of First Step. I’m starting a Friday night class in September (indoors this time). Anyone interested in experiencing Dru Yoga for themselves is welcome to come along. Details on my website www.bodyandsoulyoga.org
Published in The Havering Post 9th September 2015
|Posted on November 1, 2015 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
It's been nice to have a break on Sunday mornings, especially as the first couple of months back in my "real" job are always stressful. 70 new students to welcome into my ESOL classes has been more than enough of a challenge for me. Brian (my husband) welcomed my Sundays off with a celebratory bottle of wine on Saturday nights (difficult to do when you're leading a yoga class the following morning). But half term and, with the Om Yoga Show finished for another year, this seemed like the best time to bring the bandstand classes back.
I'm really glad I did because this morning was fantastic! Fellow Dru Teacher, Rachel, joined me today and led the activations and Energy Block release sequences. I love Rachel's gentle and clear style of teaching. She also has another life as a teacher - she is what I think of as a "proper" teacher in a Primary School and her clear instructions definitely reflected this. The Rock 'n Roll accompanied activations had us dipping, rocking and hand jiving. Thanks Rachel, it was wonderful!
The park itself was beautiful today - the trees a blaze of autumnal majesty. I was worried the bandstand might be lost in the heavy mist we had woken to a few a hours before but I needn't have worried. The air cleared by 10.30am and the sun even managed to make an appearance. We began with seated stretches, followed by Rachel's sections, then back to me for Earth Saluation, Flowing Tree and Bridge.
Thanks to the six yogis who joined me today and proved you can practise yoga outside in the winter. If you're thinking about it, why wait - join us next month on 6th December. You're very welcome and I promise you'll feel fantastic afterwards!