Day 22 – Namaste

We are wrapping up this series of posts with another Sanskrit word. I know it is only day 22 but I think we’ve covered most bases, I don’t want to write these emails/articles and just waffle on for the sake of it.
Namaste
Nama meaning bow
as meaning I
te meaning you
“bowing to you” or “I bow to you.”
You will have come across this in yoga, it is said at both the start and the end of practice. It is offered with a slight bow of the head and with the hands pressed together into a prayer at the chest ‘Añjali Mudrā’. It is a gesture which is offered as recognition for the spark and the divine in each of us.
I also see it as recognition for the practice. Recognition for yoga in the present moment, for the class we are about to do or have just done. And also as recognition for the practice as a whole. Appreciating how privileged we are to sit in beautiful peaceful studios, to attend a variety of classes and to have the luxury of ‘time out’ in such a busy fast world.
As a teacher I use it to thank you guys – for your efforts and for showing up. Because honestly class after class and retreat after retreat, I really am so grateful every time you choose to roll out your mat or retreat with us. Fills may little heart up!
So, Namaste. Thank you reading this far.
If you have any questions let me know 🙂
With extra love,
Jess.
X

Day 21 – Speaking Sanskrit

If you are relatively new you might have been to a yoga class where it was not only physically hard but you were also left wondering what on earth the teacher was saying. That will have been Sanskrit.
This Indian dialogue is used to define and describe yoga poses and the different elements of the practice. Some teachers love it and some teachers don’t use it so much.
It isn’t essential however sometimes when your new to yoga and the studio uses a lot of Sanskrit words it can all seem pretty alien – learning the lingo can take away that perceived barrier and help you relax into your practice. Whilst I don’t actually use it that much I do think it is quite nice to treasure that connection to the ancient practice as we stand in our shiny yoga studios and fancy yoga wear? What do you think?
As teachers we often use the western terms just to help you guys out as students so you’re not worried or anxious about what your being asked to do. You can just continue to move and breathe. The names don’t change the shape and therefor you could argue they don’t alter nor validate the practice, but I want to share a few postures and their names that might make you think a little more of their desired effect.
Sukhasana ‘Easy Seat’
Sukha = Pleasure, Asana = Posture
Here we feel happy from head to toe. It is a pose that encapsulates the feelings we want to take away from our yoga practice; grounded and steady in the present moment whilst being uplifted by, and open to the possibilities around us. If we watch children when they happy and relaxed, engaged and focused they naturally come into this easy cross legged seat. Think of small children gathering around a teacher in school to listen and learn.
Virabhadrasana II ‘Warrior 2’
Virabhadra = Fearless Warrior, Asana = Posture
Virabhadra was said to have defeated their enemies on the battlefield with a thousand arms, so here we are trying to visually recreate that and channel our physical strength and determination. This can be reflected into our everyday life through yoga. We can address the challenges we are facing and using warrior like strength and determination we can persevere.
Tadasana or Samasthiti ‘Mountain Pose’
Tada = Mountain, Sama = Upright & Unmoved, ‘Sthiti’ = Standing still in steadiness
We are replicating the stillness, strength and power of a mountain. We typically stand with compensation and imbalance. However by standing here with awareness we engage our thighs and core, our weight is then distributed evenly and we create a lightness in the body that allows agility in the mind.
Balasana ‘Childs Pose’
Bala = Child, Asana = Posture
As children we seek comfort and security without awareness of the disruptions around us – that is what we recreate here. We are surrendering down to the earth, letting go of everything else and bringing ourself back to a safe place of rest.
Savasana ‘Corpse Pose’
Sava = Corpse, Asana = Posture
Encouraging the body to be awake yet totally still and rested, at ease in body and mind. Ultimately taking away the pressures of life and all its external troubles so that we are able to reconnect with ourselves and be settled. This stillness is meant to encourage union. And remember the Sanskrit word yoga translates to union, so closing our practice here really does complete the circle.
Does that help you see how a little Sanskrit could actually help you deepen your practice?
I will design a sequence for our online classes with an emphasis on some of the Sanskrit words and their meaning. It will be recorded out in Morzine so ready for the start of February 2020 🙂
Jess X

Day 20 – Hypermobile, does yoga feel easy?

Sometimes, especially if you are hypermobily or very flexible, it is quite easy to over stretch and almost sink into yoga postures. This might get you there quicker but will actually weaken the support structure of your joints – this isn’t great in the long run and can possibly cause a pinching sensation and or compression on important tissues.
You can correct and avoid this your self though and as a result still get plenty out of a yoga practice. Today I will just fly through the most common places we see this:
Lower back // when we sway into our lower back, we increase the curve and the amount of stress / pressure on this area. Pressure here can pinch and compress the discs, joints and nerves in our spine causing pain around the lower back and sometimes even down into the legs. If we are also compressing and loading the back of our body then the front has to accommodate so at the same time our abdominals have to lengthen and stretch – they ‘weaken’.
  • Where we see it? Warrior postures in the rush to lift our chest up, back bends when we don’t have anterior strength to hold us, transitions if we let go of control to do it quicker
  • How to correct it? Always lift from the chest and allow length in to the lower back, draw the naval in & up to support the lower back, encourage the tailbone to lengthen down if it flares backwards, lift the ribcage away from the waistband of the trousers.
The shoulders // Typically when we move fast we start collapsing into the front of our shoulders due to lack of support and strength pulling them back, when this happens we see impingement problems. Yoga is predominantly a pushing practice, most yoga classes are pretty bias to working the chest and shoulders rather than back of the shoulder complex – also a lot of us work at laptops and spend too much time in the car so we already have quite an anterior shoulder carriage.
  • Where we see it? Chaturanga in more dynamic vinyasa classes, arm balances
  • How to correct it? Strengthen your back muscles and appose all that pushing – add a lot of pull movements into your training outside of the studio. Move slowly and in full chaturanga avoid going beyond 90 degrees in the shoulders and elbows. Keep the chest open and engage the back muscles. In arm balances keep plenty of space between the hands so chest, try to avoid rounding in.
Hamstrings // Tweaking your hamstrings is a real bugger, because of where the hamstring inserts (on to the sitting bone) when we injure or irritate them they are very hard to rest, and therefore recovery takes a long time. If we spend all our time folding forward without engagement and control we overstretch this vulnerable area – and just like I mentioned with the shoulders a lot of us already spend most of the day sat in a position that its too loving to our body.
  • Where we see it? Lots of forward folds, in fast paced classes again when your maybe not feeling warm and you rush into balance postures or the splits.
  • How to correct it? Focus on engaging the quadriceps when you move forward into folds and work on strengthening through the front of the body rather than over stretching the back of the body. Make sure you thoroughly warm up when you practice and don’t rush or push – not worth it.
Jess.
XO

Day 19 – Pilates, as well as or instead of?

I have given you plenty of information about what yoga is so now I will try my best to explain pilates.
Pilates is an exercise discipline that involves special equipment. It was developed to strengthen the muscles and to improve overall whole body health, with concideration and awareness for the breath.
You can expect a pilates class to be more exercise focused and routine than yoga, which I would say is typically more creative and fluid. There are equipment classes with all the fancy reformer gear and simple accessible mat based classes, both of which are really challenging and if taught well both are brilliant for engaging and strengthening specific muscle groups. Pilates is also excellent at improving posture, improving spinal mobility, correcting any alignment issues or imbalances that sit within the body.
My opinion. It is a strong, clever practice, that will work you like no other form of exercise.
Do I like it as much as yoga. Doesn’t come anywhere close, I don’t get that ‘yoga high’ feeling, it doesn’t give me the same mental clarity or down time, and whilst I work hard its never the full body sweat of a dynamic yoga class.
Is it as beneficial as yoga. Yes 100% definitely, and intact I would say if you have any lower back issues or other injuries its probably the place to start.
Are the two together a winning combo. I think so, as with yoga just try a few teachers and classes. Find a routine that fits your schedule and take it away.
A short and sweet one this sunday, hopefully see a few of you at our Lytham class this morning!
XO

Day 18 – Cross Training, 3 ways to mix it up.

Whilst yoga is flipping wonderful, it isn’t the be all and end all if you are looking at it in terms of making you healthier, fitter and stronger. It it extremely complimentary to a few other styles of training that I would recommend.
As with yesterdays message I am just someone with a keen interest in all things wellness, I may have a few relavent qualifications but that doesn’t mean my word is to be taken as gospel. It is just what I have found and, or learnt along the way.
3 ideas to mix it up:
Challenge your cardiovascular and respiratory system // These systems will get a fair push in a very dynamic yoga class but that is not where most of us start. You need to look for ways you can raise your HR. The biggest benefit here being the increased strength of both your heart and lungs; increased capacity; increased turn over of fresh oxygenated blood and a lower blood pressure.
Strength work // Especially for women reading this – a staggering 1 in every 2 women over the age of 50 will likely have an osteporosis related fracture in their lifetime so this is real important. We need the resistance and challenge of weight training to drive the osteoblasts in our bones, so they get to work and continue laying down new tissue. Yoga is obviously a physical practice and it demands you carry and resist your body weight – but this isn’t enough to build more strength. You can maintain strength with a strong yoga practice yes but there needs to be more load (weight / resistance) to get stronger and to improve your bone density.
Drive and Purpose // If you practice yoga because you want to stand on your hands or do the splits, then be grateful that brought you to the practice but appreciate there is way more to it. I would find another goal to support your training. Don’t be chasing the visual achievement of yoga, nothing miraculous happens when you get to that balance or bind, yes there is a moment of wahoooo. But yoga is how things feel not how they look, I worry when we chase that visual ‘yoga’ goal we then start to chase other ‘perfect’ ideals – not a healthy place to be. Why not enter a charity walk, sign up for a 5k with friends, plan to hike a mountain or cycle from A to B. It just tees you up for a healthier relationship with training, fuelling your body and motivating yourself to move on days where the office hours are long and the sky is dark.
I also think pilates is gold hence why I try and add it to our Retreats but I am going to save that till tomorrow.
Jess.
X

Day 17 – The veggie / vegan chat…

Being vegetarian or vegan is certainly not a prerequisite for attending the weekly yoga class at your local gym. However once the initial draw of the physical practice moves aside, there is room for discussion and education around a more plant based diet. This shouldn’t come across in a forced way though – if it does don’t feel obliged to hang around.
Many students choose not to eat meat or animal products because of the Yama, Ahimsa meaning ‘Non Violence’ to all living beings. But you can practice this in your own way – minimising the violence, that might just mean choosing eggs and meat that has come from your local farm shop or reducing your intake slightly – by substituting meat for a plant based option or simply upping the veggie to meat ratio.
Our planet.
Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock for the last 18 months you won’t be a stranger to how our diet is changing / having to change because of the impact mass farming is having on our precious planet. You can turn a blind eye to it all you like but at some point very soon we are all going to have to get pretty friendly with a more plant based way of life.
In search of health.
If you are looking at this in search for the most ‘ideal’ diet you are going to be looking a long time because we are all very individual. But one thing we can’t argue over is that increasing the amount of fruit and veg you eat improves a whole ray of health factors – from skin health, to digestive health, weight management to exercise recovery.
Quality counts.
Now something we can influence is the quality of the food we buy; be that meat, fish, fruit or veg – trying to buy the best quality we can afford, I understand its a privilege to be in that position but just try doing what you can from a farm shop or grocery store and I bet you see a huge difference in taste. I am by no means an expert just someone who has a keen interest in their own wellbeing.
Life is short, eat the cake.
With all of this comes a remember to enjoy your food and not to attach the negative stress of worrying about what we shouldn’t be eating to our meals. Meat, No Meat, Dairy, No Dairy. Life is short, eat the cake. I actually do avoid dairy & meat most of the time, so by no means am I trying to call any veggie warriors. Just do me a favour and if its for health reasons that you make a switch be sure to look at the alternatives and what’s in them.
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I hope this message comes across light hearted. It is such a huge conversation at the moment and actually one I could talk about for days, but for now all I want to emphasise is that we enjoy our food and we try our best with the choices we make.
All the Love,
Jess.

Day 16 – Will Yoga help my Low Back Pain?

Low back pain (LPB) is hugely prevalent and seen as we aren’t getting rid of our computers or cars anytime soon we best start to better understand and manage it. It took me a four year Osteopathy degree to get my head around, but we like things quick these days don’t we so I am going to do my best to give you on a run down of the common causes and how yoga could help.
For the sake of this message I am defining LBP as the daily ache or discomfort that comes from postural strain, our habitual patterns and the sedentary lifestyle that too many of us lead.
Movement is medicine and our bodies are self healing mechanisms
DISCS – these maintain their health (hydration & nutrition) from pressure, stretch, strain, torsion. All movements that are encouraged in yoga. So the more we do them the stronger and healthier our discs become, given we don’t have any underlying problems. Absence of the ability to perform these movements means when we bend down and reach for a sock we ‘pull’ or strain our back – we simply aren’t use to stretching that far or demanding that much of our body. And dehydrated discs, from lack of movement & nourishment are even less resilient to load and more susceptible to injury, plus when they take a knock they are going to have a tougher job recovering.
POSTURAL STRAIN – those of us who have sedentary jobs (lets just say you work at a desk 9-5? And terrifyingly that might be a short day) and don’t regularly stretch out, move or mobilise our bodies allow imbalances and compensations to develop. These might lead to compression on sensitive tissues, nerve impingement, discomfort and pain.
In a seated position we place way more stress on our back, figures online suggest up to 300% of the load compared to standing. I am not the scientist behind this though so don’t take it for gold. Build up of this pressure can agrivate & irritate the nerves leaving our spinal column causing severe pain. Yoga helps us to release the load of this forward position, it also encourages us to open the hip flexors which when we are seated hold this chronically short position – placing even more load on the spine.
LACK OF MOVEMENT – The muscles in our body are designed to keep us upright, to stabilise and to produce force / movement. I can’t dive into how they all work but lets just look at a few big ones.
The spinal extensors – these hold our spine upright, without them we would be compressing our discs, pinching nerves and wobbling all over the show. But what do you think happens when we sit forwards as a computer? They are on stretch all day. Imagine you take an elastic band, hold it stretched out for 8 hours and notice if it bounces back. It probably would after the first stretch, but the second time maybe not so much, the third time less so and by the fourth time you start to see that it can no longer retain the shape or strength it was designed to have & hold. In the same way your extensors loose their ability to support the spine. So if you can’t change the nature of your job, maybe you find a way to strengthen your spinal extensors… yoga.
The Glute muscles – these stabilise your hips and lower back but a lot of us sit on them all day, giving them permission to turn off and not work. If we allow them to stay ‘turned off’ they become weak and lazy, so we need to strengthen them and remind them of their job. Look out for a well sequenced strong yoga class and it will quite literally ‘have your back’
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This is such mini information bomb but hopefully it helps you see how pivotal movement is.
Quite honestly I don’t care if that’s yoga or not just as long as you are keeping your spine supple and strong.
Any questions you know where I am .
Jess.
X

Day 14 & 15 – Yoga, Meditation & Stress

I originally combined these two as there was an error with my email distribution however I think they work nicely together so thats how I am going to share them 🙂

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Meditation is a practice where by we train our attention and awareness to achieve mental clarity. It is not a state of forced silence, it is a state of emotional stability and calm.

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We have become much more aware of mental wellbeing and its importance – now we just need to action it.
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If we lived in a more simple time where there wasn’t such a parade of stimulation and distraction we wouldn’t need to think so much about having a ‘meditation practice’ – but unfortunately we do. There is rarely a moment in our day where we aren’t responding, reacting, on hand or available.
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Imagine your mind as a race car, you wouldn’t drive around at a million miles an hour without giving the engine time to rest would you? And we simply need that moment to recharge.
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A Meditation practice can be part of your yoga class in three ways:
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Firstly most classes tend to give you 5/10 minutes at the start to settle in, to regulate the breathe, to ask your self how your feeling / where and if you are holding any tension. Think of this as a self check up. You don’t need a studio setting though – take 5 minutes at lunch, before work or to decompress when you get home.

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Secondly the practice itself – a moving meditation. You are being guided by a teacher who hopefully knows what they are doing so you don’t have to think too hard or process too much. You can just be in that calm meditative state.

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Thirdly classes sometimes include a guided meditation, or sometimes even solely this and it is known as yoga Nidra. By guiding breathing techniques, using a script, offering positive affirmations your teacher will assist and support your relaxation. Note here it is perfectly acceptable to have a little snooze if you become so relaxed you drift off.

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Yoga isn’t the only moving meditation. Head out for a walk, maybe don’t take your phone. Grab your trainers and go for a run, maybe don’t get your phone. You see where I am going. We are so dependent and exposed to technology that is half life changing, half… life changing. Work it out.

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More on the physical practice of yoga to reduce stress. 21st century life is mayhem. Sunlight doesn’t run our day, artificial light does. We don’t wake after 5 strong sleep cycles, we wake to our harsh unforgiving alarm. We don’t rest, we just order an extra shot of coffee. We don’t leave the office, we carry our work and emails home with us. We don’t relax at the weekend, we squeeze in the social plans that work has pushed to the back of the week. You see where I am coming from?
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We bombard our bodies and that’s okay to a certain degree but there comes a time you need to rest and reset. We have become so custom to the pace that sometimes actually sitting and resting is HARD, infact not just sometimes.
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Yoga Classes are a great place to start. You are doing something (tick – for the busy bees amongst us) but its nourishing and beneficial. A class is usually 60 minutes. That is a whole hour where you aren’t checking your phone, you aren’t answering an email, you aren’t rushing from A to B. They provide you with the chance to just chill out, let someone teach you, hand over the reins. It isn’t going to shorten your to do list but it will help you realise things; emails, calls, bookings – they can all wait. You can go slower. You have to come first.
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Our body can’t differentiate between physical and mental stress. So lets say this morning you say in a tonne of traffic getting more and more anxious about being late, then you get to work and it is deadline day, your boss is piling on the work load, stress levels continue to rise, you get home and a surprise speeding fine is waiting for you, insert more stress as you think about paying that off. And then on top of that your then telling me what your body needs is a high intensity gym class? And even more stress? I don’t think so.
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If you are someone who likes to be doing, and trust me I think I know someone like you… then maybe on those busy evenings substitute your HIIT workouts for a vinyasa yoga class, you will still find it challenging but just with a softer more nourishing edge.
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We have a threshold and when we hit that we open the door to injuries and illness. Yoga is one way to make sure that with all day to day life asks of us we stay safely under that threshold.
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I have a few simple exercises for you, you can try them now or bank them for when your next feeling the pressure. If you have been to my classes they are nothing new or fancy, just three ways to let go of tension and regulate the breath.
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Breath // Sit with the legs crossed & rest the hands on your knees. Take an inhale through the nose and your biggest loudest strongest breath out through an open mouth X5. Now just sit and take steady breaths X10. Notice the ease of the breath now.
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Shoulders // Inhale & scrunch your shoulders up to you ears and really feel it, hold them there for a moment, notice the tension and the pressure. Now exhale and slowly unwind them back and down. Feel the pressure ease off X5.
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Neck // Right arm up to the sky over head and place onto your left ear. Draw your head over to the right. Find the stretch into the left side of the neck and take 5 big deep breaths. As you do so feel the tension and the stretch into the side of the neck start to soften. Repeat this on both sides.
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If you just tried that how do you feel? Magic hey!
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Have a good day gang and we are nearly half way so anything I haven’t covered or you want to know more about let me know.
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Jess 🙂

Day 13 – Hot Yoga, yay or nay?

It’s not the be all and end all. You won’t burn 1000 calories in one session and you won’t magically ‘detox’ away all the chocolate you ate over Christmas. However, is it nice to feel a little more mobile and a little less rigid? Yes. Was yoga originally practiced in India where the average temperature and humidity left our UK climate far behind? Yes. Are cold toes at the start of class really irritating? Yes. So it is appealing.
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Hot Yoga is practiced at a variety of temperatures across many different studios, and infact hot studios now are often no way near as hot as they use to be. Most studio owners add a little heat (really nothing scary, sometimes just a few Dyson heaters) to help you ease into stretches and avoid pulling or straining cold muscles. If you live in the UK or anywhere else where winter hangs around to long then I would take advantage of the heat. When I practice hot yoga regularly not only do I notice an improvement in my practice but my skin and my digestive system are both a lot healthier – you do have to wash your hair a lot more though so its swings and round abouts!
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For your first class make sure that day or the night before you are well hydrated, take an extra towel and expect to get pretty sweaty.
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Ready to give it a go?

Day 12 – Ready to jump in, but where do I go?

Something a lot of people ask is how to find a good teacher and what type of yoga they should do. It is really personal. Teachers you may love, drive others crazy. You have to be open minded (patient) and try different teachers until you catch one whose classes you love – then hold on tight. You might love the intensity of a strong firey class, whilst other hate the power and the fast pace. Most studios offer an ‘introductory offer’ which is a great and affordable way to try different teachers and styles without committing to membership.

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I am going to fire through the most popular styles, the classes you will most likely see and wonder about at your local studio.
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HATHA – this is the blanket over most of the yoga classes you will come across. Hatha classes are defined by their physical postures and breathing techniques. Typically if you see Hatha Yoga advertised I would expect it to be slower paced and not quite as dynamic.
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VINYASA – you are going to recognise the postures here from a hatha class we are just moving a little quicker with the breath – I would say there is usually more creativity and freedom (for the teacher and student). This is my personal fave!
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ASHTANGA – this is a very structured vinyasa class. You would find the same sequences class in class out, and in order to ‘move on’ you have to master each posture as you go.. I find it a bit to disciplined boring if I am honest – but if you are someone who like routine then I guess here’s a strong start.
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ROCKET – think vinyasa, speed it up and add a few more tricks. This is a fun, dynamic, punchy practice. You don’t have to be a pro to give it a go by any means – but do go expecting a challenge and quite a hefty workout for the wrists and shoulders. This is a style of yoga that grew from the frustration of the ashtanga discipline.
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POWER – I am squeezing this in here as you will have seen it on class schedules it isn’t actually a style of traditional yoga. We are basically talking a vinyasa class that packs a punch, and probably in the absence of any spiritual chit chat.
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JIVAMUKTI – I do love a jivamukti class! This well balanced vinyasa style class brings together a strong physical practice, education / a little take away lesson and meditation. The training for this style of yoga is hefty – in both time and cost. So I would say as a rule most jiva teachers are pretty damn good > they have really thought about and dedicated them self to this practice. Heads up there is always a bit of chanting so if that isn’t your jam or your brand brand new it might be overwhelming.
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IYENGAR – This is a heavily alignment focused class which as an osteopath you would have thought I love. However it is a very static, very still, very slow class – there is a huge amount fo precision and time put into the postures which are assisted by the use of props. Horses for courses but if you want to go, move, flow, be free and get a sweat on then this might not be for you.
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YIN – the dream of all yoga classes. Deeply relaxing, slow paced. You may use bolsters and blankets to settle into the postures for long enough that you fully open, twist, release. If your other forms of training (or life) is super intense outside of the studio then this would a great way to relax and unwind.
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I hope that helps and takes away any confusion that comes when you look as a busy studio schedule.
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The classes I teach fall somewhere between vinyasa, rocket and power depending where I am teaching – I appreciate the alignment focus of iyengar and love the practice of jiva so both have a little say but they aren’t fields I have any training in.
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The same goes for my online classes – I would say the daily movement series are mini vinyasa classes / a gentle introduction to the practice.
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Enjoy trying the different styles and let me know how you get on.
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Jess