Body and Soul Yoga

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Walking Meditation

Posted on 19 July, 2015 at 15:00 Comments comments (0)

I've been worrying all week about my Plan B.  It seemed a good idea to use the whole park for a meditation but I realised there were problems.  The main one being the weather.  I don't think a walk in the rain would have been very popular!  Last night I actually dreamt there was blizzard in the park and everywhere was covered in snow.  I know English weather can be unpredictable, but snow in July?  That would definitely be different!  Fortunately, my prayers were answered and although it wasn't blue sky first thing the sun shone through and couldn't have been better.  Really hot sun has its own problems too and today the weather was perfect.

I'm not sure how people felt about walking across the park - and when you've organised something it's very difficult to know what others are thinking.  Certainly we were noticed more than when we huddle together in the bandstand - a mixed blessing in itself.  As we walked silently across the park one man asked what we were doing.  I broke away and had a chat with him which was nice.  Perhaps next time the silent part should be relaxed in certain instances - today for example another man passed us by with a cheery "Morning" and confusion broke out in the ranks.  To abandon the meditation and respond or be rude and carry doggedly on was the question.  Most of us, myself included, compromised with a subdued and muttered "morning" probably leaving a very confused dog walker behind. 

There was a choice at the Summer Theatre Garden of walking up the steep slope (the hard way) or taking the easy route around the side.  I went for the easy route but many others clambered up the slope.  How did they feel about that I wonder?  Did it add to the meditation?  Do they have any thoughts on it?  Reflections perhaps for the worksheets.

The Summer Theatre Garden turns out to be a lovely yoga studio.  Without the benefit of a roof when we looked up we saw the sky in all its splendid majesty, when we looked down you could feel the earth.  Interestly some chose to be on the grass which wasn't my plan but made sense.  The garden has many choices - a shady tree for those who want to stay out of the sun, stone for those who want firm ground, grass for those who want soft, sunshine away from the shade (assuming it's a sunny day, of course) and best of all, loads of room so on a sunny day we don't have to worry so much about numbers.  Perhaps we could have stayed there longer but I wanted to move on to Percy's Place.  Next week, weather permitting, I think we'll base ourselves around the garden (but meet as usual at the Bandstand).  It was suggested we face the other way to make the most of the lake view.  It's great to get feedback and really helping me to plan the classes. 

Percy's Place in the woods was shady and changed the pace again.  It's ideal for chair yoga and something I'd like to try more of.  Chair yoga is inclusive for everyone, you can do it in the office so it's good to learn but I appreciate that some people want a more active class. The difficulty is getting the balance right - again feedback needed please??????

A walk through the woods - just a short stroll - but it gave us time to take in nature.  The wildlife was interesting, not of all it welcome but we should be non-judgemental, noticing what's around us and disturbing nature as little as possible as we discussed in the Bandstand (Ahimsa). 

In a sense the walk was a journey - from the Bandstand as our usual comfort zone, a private and adult area we've made our own over the past six weeks, across the park, up a hill or around it depending on our choice, into the garden where Shakespeare has been performed every summer for over 50 years - starting way back in the 1960s with one of my old teachers as founding member right up to recent years, including this one, with my own son performing.  For me the Theatre Garden has memories of running around as a small child around the stones and this year and others, of sitting huddled under umbrellas watching the Bard while feeding the mosquiotos.  A link with the past and the present.  Onto the children's picnic area where Percy has got his arms back, I noticed.  Through the woods and finally out into the clearing and into the Teenagers' area.

I'd planned a walk around the tree (three times) followed by Tree (Vrkshasana) but time was running out so we moved straight into Yoga Nidra.  I tried to take us back through the walk.  I invited people to think of a Sankalpa (an intention) and repeat it three times.

So thank you to everyone who came today.  We had ten which was brilliant.  I know that the summer is a busy time and people are going to dip in and out.  I feel truly blessed that so many people have been able to spare time on Sunday mornings to join me. 

What I need now is feedback and comments.  I gave out homework and it would be lovely if some of you could bring your completed mandalas with you next week.  I'd love to see what they look like, what colours you've used, what you made of the meditation.  If anyone wants copies of the worksheets I can send them a PDF.  Just let me know and you can even take our walk through the park any time you want.

The secret Sanskrit word this week is Mooladhara.  Mool means root and Adhara means place. 

If you were with me on the meditation please share your thoughts.  Looking forward to lots of comments this week.  Hope to see you next week and bring along your record sheets so I can sign.  So far, Raphaels Restaurant have agreed to discount Sunday coffee for participants but I'm hoping to negotiate other offers over the summer elsewhere.  I'll keep you updated.  Thanks again to everyone who came and others who've supported me over the weeks.  We've over the halfway to the fundraising target!


Plan B for next week

Posted on 17 July, 2015 at 13:35 Comments comments (0)

Wow!  Fourteen came last Sunday which was a full bandstand.  We could squeeze even more in but it would mean staggering the mats.  Fourteen is probably the ideal number for the Bandstand if we want to stay in a nice, comfortable circle.  As far as I can tell, people are enjoying the sessions and the gentle Dru style is popular.  I was a bit worried about introducing Oms but generally I get the impression everyone is OK with it.  The vibrations at the beginning and end of last week's session were lovely.  I think the circle adds something to it too.

Although Dru is a very gentle style of yoga there will always be some things people can't manage.  The wonderful thing about yoga is that you can always sit still, focus on breathing and if you prefer not to do an alternative (or that's not for you), visualise the asana - as everyone else moves through it mentally go over the movements and be amazed at the benefits your body will absorb. 

Afterwards last week, Geraldine, who is a good friend of ours, joined me for a coffee in Raphaels Restaurant.  I'm very happy for others to join us other weeks.  It would be lovely to extend the sessions in that way and use the time for socialising and even maybe discussing yoga and its deeper aspects.  The good news is that Raphaels have agreed to give yoga participants a discount on drinks they buy on Sundays.  They just need proof of attendance so I'm in the process of designing attendance cards.  I'll try to get other benefits for card holders over the coming weeks although obviously I can't promise anything yet.  But I definitely want to encourage people to use local services and businesses as much as possible.  The restaurant has been kind enough to display my poster and I'm very grateful for their support.  It's in a lovely location with a beautiful view of the lake and fountain. 

There was possible bad news as I was leaving the bandstand last week.  Apparently it is being used next Sunday by St Francis Hospice, which of course is also an excellent and very important local charity too.  They are having a picnic in the park.  Unfortunately, nobody had informed me in advance even though their event was booked last February. I was told in the week that, although the picnic itself doesn't start until one, the musicians and technicians need access to the bandstand in the morning to set up which means that we can't use it at our usual time.  Perhaps we could have changed the time to 9.30am but that may be difficult to arrange now.  Although I tell people to book some people just show up and I don't want to let anyone down.  There's no way I'm cancelling.  As far as I'm concerned, the show (sorry, class) always goes on!

Never fear, as a teacher I always have a Plan B so I've decided that we will meet in the Bandstand at 10.30am as usual and then move on.  I won't say any more here - obviously it depends on the weather (which at the moment looks like it'll be OK) and other factors - but I think it should work out.  If you're coming please be patient with me and be prepared to try something a bit different.  Hopefully you'll enjoy it and maybe if you like the changes we'll incorporate them into future sessions. 

So please join me on Sunday - 10.30am at The Bandstand as usual.  Be prepared for a few changes.  Afterwards you're welcome to come for coffee (and to take advantage of your discount card).  I'll explain more about the cards too and there will be prizes and benefits to regular attendees with a big finish planned for the last official summer session on 6th September.

See you all on Sunday!

Yoga in the rain

Posted on 5 July, 2015 at 8:30 Comments comments (1)

After a hot and sometimes humid week of searing heat, I woke up this morning to cloudy skies.  My morning practice on the patio was cut short as the heavens opened and rain, much needed for the garden, but probably not for my yoga class, started to fall.  In fact, the air this morning was refreshing and much better than a lot of days this week.  I was fairly certain the bandstand would be dry today because I've checked it out before in much worse rain than today.  However, I expected others to be put off - and truthfully, even I felt a little unenthusiastic as I loaded the car and set off for the park - broom in hand.

But I shouldn't have worried.  Six determined yogis joined me in the bandstand and, I think, the class was one of the best.  The air was clear and refreshing.  The trees surrounded us in all their glory, freshly washed from the ongoing downpour.  And best of all, we pretty much had the park to ourselves.  It goes to prove that classes can go ahead whatever the weather.

Thanks to everyone who came today.  I've had apologies from others who were busy (summer is going to be like that and I'm happy for people to dip in and out) but mostly, I don't think the weather put people off.  So to the question: "Do we go ahead if it rains?" the answer is yes.  Looking forward to next week whatever the weather - I'm saving Sitali (the cooling breath) specially!



A full bandstand

Posted on 28 June, 2015 at 15:20 Comments comments (0)

I've had loads of enquiries this week and was getting a bit worried about a flash mob appearing in the park.  In fact, it was a perfect number this morning.  The twelve ladies who showed up, several back for their second or third session, easily fitted into the bandstand and I estimate there's actually room for plenty more.  The bandstand really does make a perfect, spacious studio.  The weather today was nicer than a couple of weeks ago although slightly cooler and cloudier than the last few days.  The air quality today was good and that's what matters most.

I decided to introduce an Earth Salutation, another beautiful Dru sequence, which fits in perfectly with the surroundings.  The Earth Salutation is easy for everyone to do and really helps to regularise your breathing and create a sense of calm.  Very important in these uncertain times we live in today.  The root chakra in many ways is actually our most important chakra.  Let's face it, most of us (me certainly) are a long way from achieving enlightenment.  If we can at least root ourselves with a sense of security it's a good start.

We finish with an Om - joining in is entirely optional - but the vibrations in park surroundings are truly powerful.  Thanks again to all of you who came and others who've been in touch and booked for the next few weeks.

I'm offering my services for individual and small group sessions.  Availability is limited to first come, first served.  Anyone wanting to take up the offer will have to provide the venue and donate my fee (a mutually agreed amount) in aid of First Step.  By the end of the summer, hopefully I'll achieve and maybe even exceed my target amount of £300.

Looking forward to working on more sequences this week ready for next Sunday.


Summer Solstice 2015

Posted on 26 June, 2015 at 15:00 Comments comments (1)

Wow - what a weekend!  I took a break from yoga in Raphael Park to celebrate the solstice and what a celebration it was! 

It started on Saturday morning with my usual home practice on the patio.  I love doing yoga outdoors and I'm so lucky to have a south facing garden and a sheltered patio.  It's very unusual for me not to get out there - even in the middle of winter.  Often I'm surprised when I go out the front door how cold it is because my place in the garden is such a sun trap.

Then it was on to the gym where my yogi friend, Paula - freshly back from yoga teacher training in India - was covering Katie's class.  Katie is a brilliant teacher.  I've watched her grow in confidence and I really enjoy her classes.  Paula's style is different but still challenging.  I am priviliged to experience so many wonderful and different yoga teachers with each one bringing something new to learn.  After Paula's class came Body Balance with Vicki.  I love the flow of Body Balance and the way it merges a variety of styles and traditions. 

In the afternoon I took off to Bedfords Park and the "secret" walled garden.  I've lived in Havering all my life but it's a part of the park I'd never known about before.  Apparently it's only open to the public for certain events and the project is under development but already boasts an organic vegetable garden and a fledgling orchart as well as a classroom, rustic room and a market on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Another of my wonderful yoga teachers, Angela Thompson, who is also the British Wheel of Yoga rep for West Essex and East London, led chair yoga in the orchard and Jane (also a BWY instructor) finished with a wonderful outdoor yoga nidra.  The rain held off just long enough for us to finish before the heavens opened and we all got drenched.  In the short run to the car I got wetter than if I'd jumped in a lake!

So Sunday dawned and I'm told it was wonderful.  I'll take their word for it because I was fast asleep in my bed.  I do late nights, but I'm afraid not early mornings.  Real yogis were up at 4am to see the dawn practising yoga on the South Bank and Surya Namaskar at Ally Pally by 6am.  Now that is dedication.  I got to Newbury Park station to meet my friend and colleague, Bozena - unfortunately slightly late (the story of my life) but I think she forgave me once we reached Alexandria Palace!  We had a wonderful time.  Thankfully the weather was good.  I love yoga outdoors and this was my chance for a whole day of back to back yoga in the fresh air.  But if it rain would have been a disaster.  Mud and yoga don't really go together unfortunately and there was no cover anywhere other than the main stage.  We were met by a complimentary bus to Alexandria Palace from the station and free tea and coconut water when we got there.  My mum would have approved (with the tea that is - probably not the coconut water!).  The tea, I should mention, was Yogi Tea not Typhoo but much nicer I think!

So what a weekend, and what a day!  I practised yoga with the gods - Chi Kri yoga sequences with Rakhee Vithlani moving towards dynamic yoga sequences.  Then I stayed for Spaniard, Roberto Milletti's beautiful flowing yoga style as he wandered around us with Tibetian chimes.  I was at Yoga station 4 and with differernt classes going on all around the field it was difficult to know what to do next and what to miss.  I could see Bozena near the main stage enthusiastically taking part in the Kundalini yoga. 

After pizza lunch (it was pizza - very nice veggie pizza freshly cooked in an open oven - or veggie salads which I'm sure were delicious but the queue seemed to go on forever so I decided the pizza was definitely the wisest and quickest choice) it was time for Surya Namaskar fromt he main stage.  Actually there was no break, yoga just went on all day around us.  I didn't want to miss anything so I took bites of pizza between sun salutes - definitely not recommended good yoga practice but at least I didn't miss out!

Then it was the dynamic, unconventional, tatooed urban warrior David Sye.  I went to his workshop at the last yoga show and he was, as before, brilliant.  Bozena texted me to say "this is fantastic".  "Yes" I texted back "I told you that before we came!".   Yoga Jam came after that, a fusion of contemporary beats and rhythms with ancient Sanskirt mantras, yoga and meditation - very fun and contemporary while still true to the ancient practice of yoga.

A surprise for me was Leah Bracknell's Shamanic Yoga.  I haven't been to any of her workshops before and I was pleasantly surprised.  The Shamanic element has put me off in the past but it's something I want to explore in the future.  Bozena loves Shamanic practises and has been telling me about it for some time.  With Leah I felt we connected back to nature and the earth.

Mantra Chanting with Adi Guru Das was interesting and changed the pace a little.  We were there too for the finale led by the Brahma Kumaris - a very moving and spiritual end to a moving and spiritual day.  Yoga really does touch every aspect of your being - body and soul :) 

I can't wait for the Om Yoga Show now in October!

Second Class

Posted on 23 June, 2015 at 18:20 Comments comments (0)

This really is a steep learning curve for me.  After the second session last week I wrote a brilliant blog entry.  All about the lovely ladies who attended (see their photo in the gallery) and how lovely it was to do yoga in the bandstand with them.  Unfortunately my brilliance got lost somewhere along the virtual highway and so that is why the entry never made it to the website.  Clearly I have a lot to learn still.

It was a good session.  It's the participants who make it.  I was a little disappointed with the weather.  It was a bit rainy which wasn't a problem under the cover of the bandstand but it was also quite a heavy, humid type of morning.  This is the problem and the joy of yoga outside.  You have to take the weather as it comes and just work with it.  OK so the air was not as clear and invigorating as we'd like but still we enjoyed working through the asanas together.  We created our own energy and guess what - in the afternoon the sun came out.  See what miracles yoga creates!

First Class

Posted on 9 June, 2015 at 13:45 Comments comments (2)

My first "real" class in the park.  It was actually the second. The first one was on 21st December last year for Winter Solstice with my good friends, Julie and Bozena - and, no, it wasn't cold at all in the Bandstand.  As they say "there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong kind of clothes".  Yoga outside in winter is glorious - I should know because I practise every morning on my patio.  I'm very lucky because it's south facing and a suntrap but, even so, it goes to show that yoga can be taken outside whatever the weather.  The problem of course is convincing others.

So back to this Sunday.  The weather was perfect - sunny but not too hot.  A lovely group of us met up including Julie - thanks Julie, it's eleven years now since we worked together but you are still a brilliant friend.  They were all ladies this time but I want to encourage men because yoga isn't just for the girls.  In fact, originally, like most things it was mainly men who practised yoga.  Michelle Mitchell from First Step was able to take part this week which was great because she explained exactly what First Step is about and the wonderful work that they do with young families.  I can only guess what it must be like to have your world turned upside down when the "normal" baby you expect to have arrives with challenges you hadn't planned for.  Although it was 24 years ago I still remember how hard I found new motherhood and I'm really not sure I could have coped with the challenges some families have to face.

After filling in my health forms and acknowledging the simple fact that we all have aches, pains and creaky parts that need to be treated gently and with consideration.  That is what my form of yoga is all about - moving slowly and mindfully into and out of asanas, recognising where our body needs a bit more care and only going as far as is right for us.  Despite this I was impressed by how well the whole group managed.  Clearly everyone there had practised yoga before so my job was easy and teacher directions limited. 

The hour went surprisingly quickly and I had some good feedback at the end.  The Dru sequences seemed popular - particularly the Flowing Tree, which was very appropriate surrounded as we were by trees and greenery.  I had a request for a longer Savasana to finish.  I was a bit worried about people getting cold but it seemed OK.  Nevertheless, I will stress the need to bring jumpers and fleeces.  Even in a heat wave the Bandstand can be chilly because it's out of the sun and temperatures drop during relaxation anyway.

I got so carried away with the class itself I forgot to take any photos.  Suzie and Corinne were last to leave and very kindly stayed a bit longer for a few photos.  Don't they look fantastic?  Wonderful yogis, both of them.

Thanks to all who donated on my justgiving site.  It's moving slowly and surely towards that £300 target.  Hopefully by the end of the summer we'll be there.

I'm looking forward to next week now.  I've already got people booked in for the coming weeks and I've spent time today developing the website and getting my head round the maze that is social media.  A photoshoot in the park with The Romford Recorder photographer was another new experience for me - just hoping I don't end up looking fat and fifty.  Look out for the article on Friday and hopefully a follow up to come.  They are sending another photographer along on Sunday to take photos of us all in action after the class.

Unfortunately I've got to go to my "real" job tomorrow so this will have to take a backseat.  Please keep reading my blog.  I will be adding links and interesting stuff as time goes by and I learn more about how to do things.

Thanks again to everyone who came on Sunday, all those who've wished me well and "liked" me on Facebook.  Please keep passing my details on - the more people who know the better.  I only ask that people contact me rather than just turning up so I can plan for numbers.

Ready to launch my classes

Posted on 5 June, 2015 at 14:55 Comments comments (0)

It's been a busy time, first getting permission from the council and then promoting the classes.  I'm very grateful to Martin Stantan at Havering Council for giving me permission to use the bandstand and Michelle Mitchell at First Step for her help and advice regarding the charity and legal side of things. 

The weather looks good for Sunday and I'm going to spend tomorrow afternoon in the garden finishing my lesson plan for the session.  Teaching is a strange job - it's a bit like performing and you never know quite what is going to happen.  Yoga Professionals and Dru Yoga prepared me with their excellent training but, at the end of day, it's up to me to go out there and just get on with it.  Here's hoping for Sunday ....

Starting my journey

Posted on 24 May, 2015 at 20:30 Comments comments (4)

So this is my very first blog entry.  After finally getting permission to run my first yoga classes in the park, I've spent the weekend designing my business cards and taking my first baby steps towards setting up a website.  It's all really exciting for me. I've even found out how to create a Page in Facebook.  I'm looking forward to experimenting more and hopefully a few people will come to my first class.  Donations to First Step, a brilliant local charity for pre-school children with disabilities and their families, is the only cost to attend - a bargain for invigorating yoga in the stunning surroundings of Raphaels Park with free air-conditioning and authentic bird music thrown in!

Looking forward to meeting everyone in the park on a Sunday soon.