Yoga, shopping, meeting old and new friends, eating delicious veggie food - what's not to like about the annual Om Yoga Show? Best of all, it lasts three whole days so if you don't see and do everything in one day you can go again the next!
I've been going to the Yoga Show every year (apart from 2020 and 21 when it was cancelled due to Covid) since 2009 but this is the first time I've attended ALL three days. It was tiring but I'm really glad I made the effort. I literally came home buzzing with new ideas for my classes every day. Obviously I've been boring my students with Yoga Show stories all week so I thought it might be better to put it in a blog for those who are interested to read (and for everyone else to ignore!).
The biggest problem with the Yoga Show is that there's too much to do - even with three days there I couldn't do everything at the same time. There are open classes and talks going on throughout the show - not to mention the Mind Body Soul Experience next door which has its own open sessions and talks. Workshops (60 to 90 minutes) take place in side rooms and can be booked for £12 to £15 each - amazing value for a full length class with yoga greats like David Sye and Sarah Powell to name just two - but there's no way I could find the time to do them.
Making a plan before you go of what to do and see is needed. The alternative is to rush around like a headless chicken attempting to do and see everything at once while doing nothing properly at all! That's been me in the past so this year I took my own advice and made a plan. To give you an idea of how I spent my weekend and maybe to help you next year - this is how I divided my time at the show.
I've tried most ways in the past including taking a bus (don't do it!), driving (parking is available for a price so it's not recommended) and, of course, train. Sharing a taxi could have been another option. I was quoted £30 return for four people sharing a taxi this year. In the end, I used the train all three days. From Romford I took the Elisabeth Line to Stratford, then Central Line to Holborn, Piccadilly Line to Wood Green. There's a free shuttle bus every 20 minutes from Wood Green Tube and Alexandra Palace train stations OR just get on a W3 bus to Alexandra Palace. As I've got an Over Sixty pass my travel was all free.
An alternative route (recommended by Google) is to take the overhead train from Moorgate to Alexandra Palace. This could be slightly quicker but involves more walking and escalators! Something I'd rather avoid - have you seen the new escalators at Liverpool Street????
I was lucky to find complimentary tickets for the whole weekend but they were selling online for £16 per day or £20 on the door (very reasonable when you consider what you get with that). Discounts available for multiple days. I recommend waiting until nearer the show date before buying tickets. Workshop tickets can be bought at the same time as entry tickets.
DAY ONE - Friday 13th October
I arrived about an hour after the show opened so missed the early classes. After a quick look at the stalls - avoiding the sales people as that can be time consuming! - and sampling a few healthy drinks and snacks, I found the toilet to prepare for the day ahead.
Cacao Ceremony with Liam Browne 12.30 to 1.00pm
The Lotus Open Class area drew me to it - starting with a Cacao Ceremony with Liam Browne at 12.30. Cacao is chocolate in its raw and most pure state and believed to contain special nutritious and spiritual benefits. As I've already got a pack of ceremonial grade cacao in my cupboard I wanted to see what went on in a typical session. Liam was very enthusiastic and explained in colourful language (maybe not suitable for all my students!) his own personal journey from drug addict to cacao advocate. There were laughs, movement, chanting and a short meditation practice (usually the full session would be for two to three hours) alongside mindful drinking the hot cacao drink. It was very tasty but perhaps would have been better with a dollop of cream and marshmallows - maybe a thought for my own session. A nip of tequila or brandy might help too but I didn't say that to Liam!
Using Meridians and Pressure Points to improve asanas and wellbeing with Janie Larmour 1.15 to 2.30pm
According to the programme, Zen Ki Yoga is a Japanese style of yoga based on shiatsu and acupuncture using body movement to get the energy moving through the meridians. If you've been to a Body and Soul Yoga class you'll know I incorporate elements from Qi Gong and EFT etc as well as classic Hatha and Dru Yoga in my teaching. This class was really good and gave me lots of new ideas. There was also a bit of face yoga included. Definitely something to explore further.
Menopause Chair Yoga with Sue Yen Wan 3.30 to 4.00pm
Sue Yen is a Japanese teacher specialising in helping women through peri-menopause and beyond. As my menopause was blissfully uneventful this is not an area I've been particularly interested in before. However, Sue Yen has written an excellent book (yes, I did buy a copy - well it be rude not to! and she kindly signed dedicated it to me and signed it!). Having quickly looked through the book I realise I have experienced many of the 36 menopause symptoms she lists so it's worth learning and practising some of her techniques.
The session was chair based and intended to help women on days when they might not feel like a stronger practice. Quite honestly, it was quite a strong practice even though we used a chair but it definitely gave me ideas of classes and I love the way she describes the seasons of life. As a post menopausal woman I'm in the crone or wise woman stage: "A time to conserve physical, mental and spiritual strength and equilibrium, building towards authentic acceptance. Peace and quiet to honour, feel and hear the vibrational sounds from within.
A shift has taken place and a sense of freedom can be felt as the timely thawing out of the freeze starts to melt. You step into your personal power and emerge, unapologetically. Reclaiming NO, gives an authentic YES putting yourselves in the centre of your existence!"
Taken from Yoga and the 36 Menopause Symptoms by Sue Yen Wan
I loved this taster session and I'm going to explore the Crone stage of life further with a view to offering a workshop in January and opening a dedicated Facebook group for over-50s females wanting to make the most of this special time of life while helping their younger sisters and supporting the men in their lives with their accumulated wisdom.
Let's hear it for the Crone!!!
There was no time for shopping on Monday although I did a quick circuit of the stalls and decided I wanted everything! My eye fell on an Ocean Drum, more about that later!
Not much time to eat but I did manage a quick Jamaican pattie (very tasty and not too expensive (only £5) or filling) washed down by a Raw Cacao and nut smoothie also a fiver.
DAY TWO - Saturday 14th October
I got there a bit later as I was teaching in the morning. My plan today was for shopping so with a credit card burning a hole in my purse I set out for the stalls. I also made time to visit the Mind Body Spirit side of the show which I'd pretty much ignored the day before.
Visiting stalls is a time consuming activity as the stall holders want to describe their wares in detail and it feels rude to rush them, especially if you've just grabbed a freebie from them. The Yoga Show is one of the reasons my email inbox fills so quickly. I'm very generous sharing my email with all and everyone at the show in return for prize draws etc. This year it's apparently paid off as a wellbeing basket is on its way to me as a "first time" lucky winner! I've no idea what was in the basket but I'm looking forward to its arrival any day now.
I looked for Yoga United who make beautiful Indian yoga bags. I've got a couple which I use to carry all my stuff to classes but they've seen better days and definitely need replacing. Sadly they weren't at the show this year although I did receive an email offering discount for show weekend. I gather the stalls are getting too expensive for a lot of suppliers. Dru were missing this year too. The Yoga Show is where I first discovered them so I was very surprised and sorry not to see them. Cat Sturjit (who I trained with) of TruDru was leading one of the open access classes but Dru themselves weren't there at all.
Fortunately, lots of suppliers were there. I found two brilliant bags - a deluxe bag to hold a couple of mats and blocks and a Teacher's Kit Bag big enough for a whole class load of mats or blocks. Both only cost £15 at the show so I couldn't resist the bargain. I treated myself to a peanut massager - two balls stuck together like an egg timer - for only £3 and a knee pad for £4. I've ordered lots more for students and a few extra in case anyone else wants one. The company are more functional than Yoga United but excellent value and very helpful. As a teacher I've registered for 35% discount which I'll pass on to students if they want to order anything.
On the same stall I found two self published books which I couldn't resist by a yoga teacher called Vani Devi. They are literally packed with sequences I can incorporate into my classes, some are actually based on Dru sequences and the illustrations are really helpful. Watch out for these in Body and Soul classes very soon. Both books were a bargain at £12 each and I would never have found them without the Yoga Show.
I picked up Swami Sarandananda's latest book "Sitting Comfortably". Did you know that sitting is the biggest barrier for most people trying to meditate? Swami provides the tools and techniques to sit comfortably in her book. Most of the information was on the meditation course I studied online with her during lockdown. Swami is a very strict teacher - she scared me! - but I learnt lots with her and her teachings are the basis of my own meditation practice.
I treated myself to a mini massager - £6 for two. I only wanted one so I've sold the other one on to a student. They had various other massage equipment which I was tempted by but resisted. However, as they are apparently based in Ilford which is not too far away I might consider more products in the future. It seems like they have something to solve every possible ache and pain!
My other purchases were a chakra candle and a chakra necklace - both very reasonable and, let's face it, I deserve them. I renewed my Om Yoga Magazine subscription: £39 for 10 issues and a goodie bag which is always nice to have although nowhere near as generous as past years. I've registered as a contributor (writer) for the magazine. Once I submit an article it will be considered for the online publication and maybe even for the printed version. If I get published I'll let you all know!!
I spent more time on the second day in the Mind Body Spirit area, as I'd completely blanked it the day before. I was given a free book (I love a free book!) from a very nice Japanese man. With all the shopping and talking to various stall holders there wasn't much time left for classes but I squeezed in some Laughter Yoga with Joe Hoare and Strength and Mobility for the Joints with HIGHPERTROPY (Malcolm and Norbert). Not yoga, but I felt amazing afterwards and apparently they are running sessions at Fitness First in Baker Street, London on Thursday evenings with a first session free. It's definitely something to explore and an addition to Body and Soul activations. They had some tempting products on their stall including toe separators which I resisted but might get online later!
Back in the Yoga Show area there was Voice Yoga - Free your Body, Find your Voice with Katie Hockley looked good. I stayed for part of her class (watching from the side) because I was short of time but wish I'd taken part properly. Definitely something to explore further.
I made a point of visiting the Prison Phoenix Trust. This charity supports yoga and meditation in more than 100 prisons and their style of trauma responsive yoga really does make a difference. I taught former prisoners when I worked at Havering College and was struck by their sense of hopelessness and total lack of employment options following a prison sentence. Anything to change their lives has to be good and, while I don't feel called to teach in prisons myself at this stage in my life, I would love to support the charity via Body and Soul Yoga.
Another charity represented at the show was Yoga Stops Traffick which helps survivors of human trafficking in India. I spoke to them last year and was impressed by their dedication and values.
I also made a point of dropping in to the BWY Stand. I recently rejoined and I like to let them know I'm around. The British Wheel are a highly respected organisation with brilliant teachers. I joined them when I enrolled on their Foundation Course (which I really recommend everyone do before starting teacher training). Although I went on to train elsewhere (YMCA and Dru) I kept up my membership until last year and dipped into their CPD days whenever I could. The Wheel has had its problems but it seems to be getting its act together and starting to offer more training both locally in person and online so I'm hoping to get more from my membership.
So to my big purchase of the weekend - a Varuna Ocean Drum. I paid it for on Saturday and collected on Sunday. It was too big to carry home on the tube with all my other purchases! It cost £153 (a bargain as it's usually over £200 or so I was told) and includes a certificated course which will quality me as a sound therapist. Look out for the workshop probably in January to coincide with the launch of the Time of the Crone group - working with the female water element. I'm really excited (my family less so!!!).
I'll be writing a separate blog about the drum, it's symbolism, history etc very soon.
Of course, I found time to eat between all the shopping: Sweet Potato and lentil dahl followed by the Cacao and Nut smoothie again.
DAY THREE - Sunday 15th October
This was my most chilled out day. I was there mainly to collect my ocean drum and terrified I'd forget it! I taught in the morning again and came with one of my students, a lovely lady named Loreta from Lithuania. It was nice to have company on the train for a change but we split up at the show and there wasn't time to meet again after that. I gather she had a good time too and bought a few things for herself. We only had a few hours at the show so not long enough to do much.
I checked out the stalls again, treated myself to a bigger lunch: a Gumbo Bowl which was very tasty and spicy. It involved lentils and a spicy mushroom patty among various other things but definitely the nicest meal of the weekend. I followed it with the Cacoa and Nut smoothie again. Having had it three days running I've a feeling some kind of fruit got mixed in with it so it wasn't quite as I'd expected but I drank it anyway. It was the last day and everyone was getting tired!!
Believe it or not, I managed a couple more sessions. One was a chakra yoga class which I thoroughly enjoyed but I've no idea who led it. At this point of the show, I was just dropping into anything I saw as I passed - all planning and structure completely forgotten.
However, with no plan at all I found the best session of all: Flying Free with Judy Sampath at 3.00 to 3.30pm. Judy is a brilliant BWY teacher who works with Yoga United providing online classes - some of which I've experienced before. The session involved trauma sensitive somatic movement and embodied mindfulness to shift from correction to celebration through breath, movement and listening to the body. It was very different in that Judy gave us general instructions rather than leading us physically and invited us to move in a way that suited us individually. She then offered a beautiful sequence and asked us to interpret it in our own way. I've received the sequence via email and have already used in my classes this week with varying success as I need to work on the way I deliver it.
Phew - so that was the whole weekend! I can see why I was so tired but inspired on the journey home. I realise not everyone enjoys the Yoga Show but, for me, it's the best weekend of the year. I love the combination of yoga and shopping. I caught up with many yoga teacher friends - it's very rare for us all to be in one place at the same time and great to compare notes, even though time is limited. The atmosphere is fantastic, everyone happy and calm amid the chaos. Everything I bought I need (I'm sure) and I can't wait to use my new drum with the students.
Let me know if you want to come next year. Maybe we can organise a taxi or even a mini-bus and travel in luxury.