Want to Teach Yoga or Deepen Your Yoga Practice? Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training starts in February

Want to Teach Yoga or Deepen Your Yoga Practice? Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training starts in February

Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training with Sally Parkes

Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training with Sally Parkes

If you want to teach yoga or would like to deepen your practice then you still
have time to sign up for the next Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training with Sally Parkes.

Taking place over weekends in London plus a residential week in Spain this recognised Yoga Alliance UK and Independent Yoga Network course allows you to teach internationally.

The first of the London weekends is 28th February-1st March. I’m looking forward to meeting all the new teacher trainees in April when I’ll be introducing the group to teaching Restorative Yoga and Yoga for Back Care.

For full details, plus to hear from past graduates click here to visit Sally’s website.

Laxmi Yoga 200hr Early Bird Offer until 30th Nov

Laxmi Yoga 200hr Early Bird Offer until 30th Nov

Thinking about Yoga Teacher Training in 2015? Book your place on the next Laxmi 200hr course by 30th Nov & save £250!

The next Laxmi 200hr course with Sally Parkes Yoga starts in April and takes place in Spain and London.

Graduates from every course intake since launching in 2012 are successfully teaching in the UK and overseas. I’m privileged to be a tutor on this course and look forward to meeting the next group of teacher trainees!

For more information, please visit the Laxmi Yoga Teacher Training page here.

Light on Yoga

Light on Yoga

Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar

Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar


Over the past several months on my website I have been featuring yoga related books that I’ve really enjoyed and want to share with you guys reading out there.

For anyone who has missed the titles featured so far, I am going to include my previous ‘Books of the Month’ here on the blog starting with Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar

“[Yoga]… means a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly.” – B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga

A classic yoga text. This is the most comprehensive guide to Hatha yoga I have come across.

Ironically, it is only in the last year that I began attending Iyengar classes after a decade of asana practice, and even now it is admittedly not as often as I would like (something I wish to rectify in 2013). But I always leave feeling able to take its firm foundations into my practice elsewhere.

There is little I can say to do Light on Yoga full justice here. In this incredibly well-illustrated book, Mr. Iyengar explains not just each asana and its benefits (plus of course, correct alignment) he also guides the reader through pranayama techniques and more.

It comes as no surprise that many of the yoga teachers I know own this book. With various yoga routines to follow, hints and cautions for practice and a section on curative asanas for numerous conditions it’s an invaluable resource. It is also on the reading list for the Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training (which I am excited to be a part of this year – see here for more info).

This book also reminds us that there is no substitute for consistent practice and dedication. And for anybody who struggles with the notion of how it is possible for yoga to be more than ‘keep-fit’ exercise, I invite you to read the beginning of this book.

A must-have for serious practitioners and anyone wishing to deepen their understanding of yoga.

Continuing Education with Laxmi

Continuing Education with Laxmi

“Through our yoga practice we aim to bring balance into the body so we can bring balance to the mind.”
– Sally Parkes, Laxmi Yoga

I love that there is always more to learn.

I’ve just got back from a week in Wales with a brilliant bunch of yogis: Part One of Laxmi Yoga Teacher Training founded and led by Sally Parkes.

It is a year since I began my yoga teacher training journey and in that time the learning hasn’t stopped. From learning to teach restorative yoga with Judith Hanson Lasater to studying the teaching of vinyasa flow with Shiva Rea and attending numerous workshops. I’ve continued to learn from my spondylolisthesis in my own asana practice. And mostly, I’ve learned from everyone I’ve been fortunate enough to guide through their yoga practice since I started teaching.

In the Hindu sacred texts, the Vedas, the Goddess Laxmi is the one who has the object and aim of uplifting mankind.

The above, comes from the opening page of Laxmi Yoga’s training manual. This particular training has come at just the right time for me. There have been many lessons over the past year and I knew I wanted to deepen my knowledge in certain areas as well as engage in some more self-inquiry.

I have attended Sally’s classes and retreats as a student and since starting to teach I’ve had the pleasure of joining her retreat team. With a background in studying sports and exercise science, and some fourteen years experience teaching not only yoga but also Pilates and personal training to people of all ages and abilities, Sally has a wealth of knowledge. As a student I appreciate her non-dogmatic style, her passion that yoga really can be accessible for everyone and that she incorporates all aspects of her experience into her approach to teaching. So, I’m very happy for the opportunity to study with her!

Our first week in Wales was spent studying and practising at the welcoming Dru Yoga Mountain Lodge in Snowdonia, which is also home to the World Peace Flame.

Our group consists of a mix of practitioners who have some teaching experience either in yoga or other disciplines along with some completely new to teaching. What we have in common is that we are all dedicated yogis and it was wonderful to share our range of experiences over the course of our first week together.

Partner work in Warrior 2

Partner work in Warrior 2

Outside of our regular sessions and posture clinics each day with Sally, we practiced meditation with Nanna Coppens from Dru Yoga who has been teaching for over twenty years.

I got to teach a restorative yoga class for the group, which was a real joy! For some, it was their first experience of a restorative yoga practice. Another group member who we affectionately named ‘Guru Chris’ guided us through an energising Kundalini yoga session. While Neil Phillips gave us a great insight into the principles of Ayurveda.

We are studying Anatomy and Physiology with Dawn Morse. As well as being the programme leader of the Sports Therapy Foundation Degree provided by the University of Bath and lecturing in Sports Therapy and Sports and Exercise Science, Dawn has also taught yoga (including mother and baby and children’s yoga), Pilates, personal training, sports and remedial massage and injury rehabilitation… So, it’s fair to say that Dawn knows her stuff!

With our friend Fred the Skeleton

With our friend Fred the Skeleton

Though I have a deep interest in studying anatomy this is not a subject that comes easily to me. But Dawn’s approach is brilliant. We came away covering so much more than we’d imagined possible. Certain aspects were familiar to me from study I have done so far, but I’m particularly enjoying learning more about biomechanics. And I wasn’t alone here as we even spent a whole evening of study time outside our anatomy sessions watching and discussing Paul Grilley’s anatomy DVD. I’m looking forward to studying with Dawn again when we return to Wales in November.

Friday night was Kirtan Night! It was great fun and I’ve been known to enjoy a chant :D. Along the way Nanna, who led the session told the stories of Ganesha, the Gayatri Mantra and talked about the World Peace Flame Foundation. Very apt indeed as our Kirtan was taking place on the International Day of Peace. An uplifting evening all round.

On Saturday night we after dinner we watched Yogawoman together. I’m so glad that I finally got to see it! An added treat was that one of the contributors to the movie is Laxmi Yoga course tutor, Caroline Shola Arewa who we’ll meet in October.

The week whizzed by. Yet in that short space of time so much happened. For one thing, we realised we had all taken in more that we had thought. That’s thanks in no small part to Sally consciously cultivating a great learning environment. We arrived mostly as strangers but bonded as a group very quickly.

Laxmi Yogis with Sally Parkes (far right) and Dawn Morse (far left)

Laxmi Yogis with Sally Parkes (far right) and Dawn Morse (far left)

I’m already looking forward to Part Two in October where we’ll be delving deeper into the subtle body and the Chakras with Caroline Shola Arewa. And we’ll be doing First Aid for Yoga Teachers training with Julie Cleasby – a refresher for some and all new to others among our group. To follow that in Parts Three and Four, among other things, we will be learning more about teaching special populations and the business of yoga, the latter being especially crucial for anyone seriously planning to earn a living as a yoga teacher. At each stage of the course, I’ll be blogging about the experience. In the meantime, there’s studying and assignments to be done before we meet again in October, so I’d best get on with my homework! 😀

Moving with the Flow, Moving with Awareness

Moving with the Flow, Moving with Awareness

thingsweforget.blogspot.cpm

Find joy in the present - image via thingsweforget.blogspot.com

“ Live with awareness for the sake of ourselves and others.” – Sarah Powers

So far it’s been a yin yang summer.

This summer marks a year of leaving the ‘security’ of my old job and beginning the journey of yoga teaching. I’d known long before that I wanted to take this leap and share my love of yoga, but I held myself back for a number of reasons (i.e. excuses) – my postures not being Cirque du Soleil enough, not looking the way a yoga teacher is ‘supposed’ to, worrying other people might think I’d gone ‘la-la-woo-woo’, and a teeny matter of being terrified of speaking in front of groups… Then along came my mate Redundancy to give me the firm kick in the posterior I needed.

Judith Hanson Lasater, when I trained with her earlier this year, joked that yoga teachers are the most “go-go-go” people she knows, often scheduled to the hilt.

I relate to this. I have always had workaholic tendencies, though I’ve increasingly spent the past months being all go-go-go. Working seven days a week most weeks (not only teaching, admittedly), out of necessity to make ends meet. I believed. But when your mind believes one thing it’s funny how the wisdom of the body tells you very clearly not to believe your thoughts!

A number of physical signs stopped me in my tracks, telling me I had to start doing things differently. (Like actually taking a day off occasionally.) So, I followed my gut instinct and did something that seemed illogical. I gave up a part-time job.

But I have faith that when you let go of one thing you clear the way for something new. And funnily enough… I’ve been having a number of serendipitous experiences.

In June I did a wonderful intensive training with Shiva Rea. The timing, though I did not realise it then, could not have been more perfect. One thing that particularly struck me, within learning about the essentials of teaching vinyasa flow, were the reminders about moving with the flow of life off the mat too.

Then this month I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with Sarah Powers – yin yang yoga and mindfulness meditation. This was certainly not my first experience of a yin practice, though it was my first (and hopefully not last) experience of practicing with Sarah Powers, and the timing seemed pertinent. On the mat we were invited to meet our limitations during our yin practice. To see where we resist and, to recognise the resistance rather than resisting resistance. Sarah talked about ‘implicit resistance’ and how we may manipulate a situation to tell ourselves, “I’m fine”. And she also talked about compassion (karuna) towards our habits of aversion towards the uncomfortable situations in our lives. In turn, this allowed me to think about where I resist off the mat too and how, indeed, I had ignored my own internal signals over the past months. I recognised how little compassion I had been showing myself in that time.

For our mindfulness meditation practice, using the breath (observing it rather than controlling it) as a tool to anchor to the present moment, Sarah talked about developing the observing mind, seeing what happens when we observe resistance, pleasure and so on.

“If you can’t listen to the breath, then you can’t listen to the subtle internal messages.”

It was in paying attention to my internal messages rather than listening to my ‘logical’ thoughts that I realised I had to change what I was doing and how I was doing it.

All of these things were reminders of what I already knew deep down, internally. But how often do we push these kinds of feelings aside in favour of what seems logical?

In talking about her own practice Sarah mentioned how it is amazing to notice when you don’t practice for a few days that everything turns into ‘thoughts’ and assuming that our thoughts are reality. Again I was reminded of Judith’s words during training – “Watch your thoughts but don’t believe them.”

So, in paying more attention to those internal messages and becoming more aware I’ve been finding some more clarity. That is not to say it is always comfortable, but I am practicing showing myself compassion along the way. It is a continual practice – usually compassion for myself has seemed to come last on the list. For how many of us has showing compassion towards ourselves seemed challenging or selfish? But it’s a little bit like the oxygen mask analogy. You know, when airplane cabin crew take you through the safety procedure and the little film tells you to put your oxygen mask on before assisting others with their masks? Self-compassion is not selfish. This applies whether it’s during our asana practice or our day-to-day life. Yes, all this may seem obvious, yet I feel grateful for the good and the ‘bad’ over the past months, which has led me to this point.

Related to this, where I have decided to move with the flow – to let go of worrying about what may or may not happen in the future and focussed on the present, unexpected opportunities have somehow appeared just when I’ve least expected it. And again, at every turn, I am incredibly grateful!

One such opportunity is officially joining the retreat teaching team at Sally Parkes Yoga. I am excited to be hosting a retreat in October at the wonderful Marsh Farm House in Sussex. Why not take a break from your frenetic pace and join me in feeling the joy of moving with the flow. But in the meantime, don’t forget to enjoy the present moment!

For retreat details please visit www.sallyparkesyoga.co.uk.

Ground, Path, Fruition

“Everything we’re doing is planting a seed that will come to fruition at some point” – Cyndi Lee

I’ve been thinking about these words ever since last month when I had the pleasure of attending a training workshop for yoga teachers with Cyndi Lee. An extra thrill for me because I am a child of the 1980s 🙂 and Cyndi choreographed music videos for, among others, the likes of Rick James, the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack and Cyndi Lauper’s, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.

The above words came from Cyndi at the beginning of the workshop, which focussed on teaching beginners: breaking down poses to their component parts and creating sequences.

I wanted to do this workshop for a number of reasons, but one of them is that I remember how I used to feel when I first started practising, imagining that I would look ridiculous in a room full of bendy, athletic-looking people. I think it’s this fear that sometimes stops people from even trying yoga. On this subject one of the things Cyndi said was:

Say to students: You have the right body and mind. You start with the mind you have and the body you have right now.

A discussion then followed about the meaning of ‘vinyasa’: to place in a special way.

Cindy told us a story of a class she attended taught by BKS Iyengar saying (when he was in his eighties) that he had spent around the last seventy years exploring what happens to his sternum when he presses his big toe down.

This reminded me of my last session with Sarah where we spent the best part of an hour working solely on chaturanga, and the session before that where we focused a great deal on observing what happens when you really ground through the soles of the feet in Tadasana.

Paraphrasing another comment Cyndi passed on from Mr. Iyengar: the arms and legs are the organs of action (rather than the abdominals, which are more the stabilisers). When the arms and legs are organised then the abdominals do pull up. Or as Cyndi described it (again, I am paraphrasing), you can’t really ‘do’ any pose without using your abdominals, whereas the Bandhas – that’s energy work and not ‘about’ the muscles.

By really observing you come to see that one thing cannot happen without the other. For example, in that chaturanga practice with Sarah by paying attention it is evident that when my arms, feet and hips are organized – placed in that special way, if you like – my pelvic floor and abdominals pull up without me trying to consciously create that action. A very clear demonstration that it’s about connection not isolation. The body parts work together.

Yoga is connection. Yoga is relationship.

In many ways I haven’t stopped learning since the end of teacher training last year. In fact, I feel my desire to learn continues to grow and grow. During this workshop with Cyndi I could see the dots connecting between many of the things I’ve been learning since the end of my course last year and it all feels very natural.

Afterwards, when I spoke to Cyndi she mentioned that this was her first time in London in about seven years. I also learned from chatting to Cyndi that she is good friends with Judith Hanson Lasater. Is it a coincidence that I am being drawn to certain teachers?

I came away with lots to think about from this workshop, but overall it served as a wonderful reminder that the postures are not the yoga. There was something I read recently also alluding to this, the comment being along the lines of, if it really was about the postures then Cirque de Soleil performers would probably be the world’s most advanced yogis. It is easy to forget that an asana practice that is beautiful aesthetically does not equal ‘advanced’, though that is how it is often viewed in the West where we tend to place so much emphasis on the physical practice. But, for instance, can you sit with those moments of discomfort when they arise without trying to or wanting to change them, whether you are on or off the mat? That’s hard. One of my favourite quotes on this comes, again, from Judith:

“The yoga is not the asana. The yoga is the residue that the asana leaves.”

So, my hope is that as I continue to grow as a teacher, I am able to (as Cyndi so beautifully put it), create the causes and conditions for peacefulness to arise, for mindfulness to arrive.

For yoga to arrive.