Mentally and physically preparing for the easing of lockdown, as well as the return to face-to-face classes.
Aimee is running an exciting new five week online course, VIA zoom, starting Thursday the 13th of April 2021. A taster session will run next week (6th of April) so that you can try before you buy.
Gentle Yoga Flow – get fit, moving and active again after lockdown…
There will be a free taster session next week for our upcoming 5 week online Gentle Yoga Flow Course ran VIA zoom, from the comfort of your home.
As the end is hopefully in sight, preparing for a more active lifestyle is as important as ever. Especially looking after our physical and mental wellbeing moving out of lockdown. We know there are many benefits of practicing Yoga and Meditation. Our gentle movement and exercise classes help to open up the body and tone muscles in a safe, inclusive environment. We also practice gentle breathwork, meditation and relaxation. This helps the body to relax, reducing stress, anxiety and improving mood. We also include philosophy within the course, learning about body’s reactions to stress and how to alleviate this. We learn the theory and philosophy of relaxation and how to access this anytime.
When will the Gentle Yoga Flow course run?
The taster class will be on Thursday the 6th of April at 7:00-8:15pm. The classes will run for five weeks. It will run Thursdays 7:00-8:15pm every week from the 13th of April to the 10th of May.
If you sign up to the full course, here will be weekly emails and articles to help you develop a home practice. It will include tips of how to improve mental and physical wellbeing. This is really important as we start to approach the easing of lockdown restrictions, as many are finding the transition a challenge.
How much will the course cost?
The course will cost £17.50 for the 5 weeks, that is £3.50 a session plus support to develop a home meditation and yoga practice.
Drop ins will be available at £3.50 per class, however you will not get the emails and support to develop a home practice during the time the course runs.
What will I learn on the course?
You will learn gentle flowing yoga to help improve flexibility, respiratory fitness, balance and strength. This will be done with lying, seated, kneeling and standing postures. You will also learn how to incorporate movement into your daily life in bitesize chunks. Also, you will get advice on developing your own routines for day to day life. Incorporating 5-10 minutes practice of meditation and breathwork, for example, can make a massive difference to our day-to-day life.
Do I need specific equipment to join the Gentle Yoga Flow course?
Just a yoga mat, a peaceful quiet room and enough space to stretch out. Also, a blanket and comfy clothes are a must!
Sounds great! How do I sign up?
If you or a loved one would like to sign up for taster session, the process is simple. Just email Aimee at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a health registration form, then you just log in using the link at the top of the screen (located in the ‘classes’ tab). It is essential the health registration form is filled in prior to joining any classes.
What classes will be running face to face, when restrictions lift?
I have listened to music to help me sleep, study and learn to meditate. There are lots of studies around music and the positive effects they can have on both physical and mental wellbeing.
Today we look at the benefits of this style of music, how the frequencies are caused and how they can benefit your Yoga and Meditation practice.
How are binaural beats caused?
Simply put, binaural bears work by playing two soundwaves of differing frequencies in earphones. Research has shown the difference of each frequency to each ear can alter the state of brainwaves.
This type of sound must be listened to through headphones or it won’t work efficiently.
It can help the mind to relax, invoking a state of relaxation and prepare the body for deep sleep. People often use this method to access lucid dreams.
How can this type of music help your mind?
There are many benefits of incorporating music into your Yoga practice. Especially if using music and sound to alleviate stress and anxiety or improve overall mental wellbeing. Listening to music of certain frequencies, especially at differing frequencies, can help improve symptoms such as:
Reduced stress levels
Increase in concentration and focus
Reduces sensations of anxiety
Relaxes the mind and body
The binaural tones help to create a rhythmic, hypnotic beat which has an effect on brainwaves and the mind. This helps both the mind and body to relax. The brain reacts to the differences in frequencies and sounds, creating a hypnotic trance and elevating inner consciousness. The effects you feel depend on the frequencies played. This can aid with concentration, relaxation or alleviating symptoms of migraines and headaches.
What is 432Hz Solfeggio Frequency?
Music tuned to 432hz is said to vibrate with the frequency of the universe. It is often referred to as natures healing frequency. This frequency helps the body to relax and enter a state of deep rest and sleep.
What effect can binaural beats and 432hz have on Yoga and Meditation practice?
There are many studies to suggest that binaural beats can have a positive effect in reducing anxiety and stress. I often use this technique in meditation and yoga and find it have a positive effect, however it would be best to experiment for yourself. I found that it reduced my stress levels when I practiced meditation and fell asleep with binaural beats/432hz music on my MP3 player. My students enjoy using this technique, both in class for final relaxation and in person. If you are looking for a way to learn to meditate and focus the mind during yoga, but find silence distracting, then this could be the right tool for your practice.
What are your views on Binaural Beats? Will you incorporate them into your practice?
Park Run Yoga is a brilliant compliment to add to your running regime. It helps lengthen tight muscles and strengthen the body. It can also reduce stress and anxiety. Practicing gentle breathwork and meditation can help improve lung capacity. A simple stretching routine before and after running can help improve performance and reduce the chances of injury.
A 15 minute yoga session before and after your park run can really help you improve your performance.
Park Runs are 5km runs around parks scattered across the UK. They are very popular with people all across England. In my local area, there are 3 main parks that host them. They are usually held on Sunday mornings.
I love practicing Standing Forward Fold. It is A full body stretch, which is wonderful for lengthening and stretching the hamstrings.
This posture is also wonderful for calming the mind. I often find that when the head is below the heart, we feel a sense of calm. If you have low blood pressure, this should not be practiced. If you are injured, you can come into what we call half-standing forward fold. This is where we lengthen the back and come onto our fingertips, so we aren’t folding too deeply.
When practicing: – Make sure the feet are hip distance apart – Bend at the hips – Keep a slight bend in the knees
Downward dog is wonderful for stretching the hamstrings and calves, as well as gently toning the shoulders.
– How do we do Downward Dog? –
We begin in table-top position (on hands and knees). We then check our posture, ensuring our wrists under our shoulders and our knees are under our hips. Spread your fingers and press the index finger, middle finger and thumb into the mat. Have a slight bend in the elbows so that you’re not locking the joints. Draw the navel towards the spine, engaging the abdominal muscles. Tuck your toes, lift your knees off the floor, pushing the pelvis into the air. Broaden the shoulders, then gently try to straighten your legs and make the famous upside down ‘V’ shape with the body. Breathe deeply, elongating the outbreath for approximately 10 breaths. As your body and muscles relax into the posture, try to lower your heels to the floor.
– Walking the dog-
When you are comfortable in the pose, perhaps try lifting and lowering the heels. This is known as walking the dog.
– Low lunge to High Lunge –
High lunge is wonderful for stretching the hip flexors as well as strengthening the hamstrings and quadriceps. To practice low lunge, simply lower the knee of the back leg.
To practice this, we transition From Downward Dog to a low lunge. We step our right foot forward between our hands. Then we lower the left knee. We keel the right knee in place between the hands and check out alignment. Are the knee and ankle in line? Next, slide the left leg back. This is low lunge. To come into high lunge, simply lift the back knee off the floor.
Balasana – Childs pose is wonderful for releasing tight quadriceps, whilst helping to release the lower back and bring relaxation to the shoulders. Begin on your knees and then hinge back so you are sitting on your ankles, the tops of your feet on the ground.
To practice, start in table top position. Sit on your heels and stretch your arms out infront of you. Your bum should stay on your heels. Rest your head on the floor and stretch out the arms, having a slight bend in the elbows. Let the shoulders be soft and relaxed. If your head doesn’t reach the floor, you can rest them on the hands or use the fists as blocks. This means we can rest our forehead withour putting too much strain on the body and enjoy the posture.
Another wonderful pose to do after is Viparita Karani – Legs up the wall posture. There is a whole article I wrote about it here.
However, when we are struggling it can be difficult to engage in physical activity. Here are some tips and pointers to overcome those barriers and get moving to help with physical and mental wellbeing.
– Anxiety has a crippling effect on our motivation –
Stress, anxiety and depression are often reported as barriers to exercise. For those who have mental and physical health challenges, it is one of the driving factors, affecting 61% of people wishing to attend classes.
Anxiety can have such an impact on our lives, people often disengage with day-to-day tasks and have challenges with exercise and joining classes. Yoga, Gentle Exercise and Meditation lessons have a myriad of benefits for those suffering with anxiety. For example, you can learn how to control your breathing and learn relaxation techniques which can be used on and off the mat. However, anxiety can be a barrier to us attending classes.
Some of the common anxieties around attending classes are feeling uncomfortable with being a beginner and worrying about what others in the class may think of their practice. The truth is, even the most experienced teachers are constantly learning and adapting their practice. Allow yourself the space to grow. People who come to yoga, gentle exercise and meditation classes share a common goal of improving their well-being.
– What are the common barriers associated with anxiety? –
– Low Energy & Low Mood –
Stress, lack of sleep and diet can cause us to feel anxious and contribute to feeling low on energy.
It is worth examining some of these things and addressing them to help lift our mood and energy.
Are you getting enough sleep at night? Spend some time before bed unwinding, have a nice relaxing bath. Read a book and ensure that there is no screen time before bed.
Are you eating too much sugar? Sugar can cause a whole host of problems for our mood, sugar spikes can cause highs in our mood, then when they wear off lows. To combat this, try to avoid having too much sugar in our diets. Perhaps, replacing sugar with healthy alternatives.
Are you eating healthily? We literally are what we eat. Our bodies build new cells from what we consume. Our bodies reactions and functions rely on vitamins and minerals gained from our diet. Ensure to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and avoid processed foods where possible.
Are you setting aside time in your day to relax and enjoy some you-time? To reduce stress and anxiety within your life, set aside time for you. Do what sets your soul alight, or soothes the soul.
– Anxiety around causing or making a pre-existing injury worse –
– Pain and discomfort –
Pain and discomfort can be a barrier to practicing and exercising. From back pain, to stiff joints – sometimes it can seem that exercising will make a pre-existing condition worse. Challenges with circulation and breathing can also make movement and exercise seem like it will be too difficult.
What can we do to overcome this barrier?
It is best to discuss exercise routines with a doctor or healthcare professional initially before starting a new routine. However, move it or lose it chair exercise classes and chair yoga classes are designed to be gentle on joints, done seated or standing. Another good way to get moving with exercise that is low impact is joining a local aqua-aerobics class.
It’s always beneficial to move the body in a safe way as much as we can. Starting out small and building up our routine is a wonderful way to do this. Break exercise down into small manageable chunks and work your way up to doing half an hour a day. Every movement and step counts.
A focus on losing weight can also help…
Being overweight can make pain in knees, back and legs worse. But, lose just 1lb and that would equate to a reduction of 4lb in knee joint pressure.
Getting more active can seem daunting, but find something you love doing and it won’t be a chore!
-Fear of injury –
Many people worry about injury and how it might affect their day-to-day life if they become injured or aggravate a pre-existing condition.
What can we do to overcome this barrier?
Again, check with your doctor before starting any new routine. However, with a gentle routine, the right instructor and the right equipment – you can get active in a safe and supported way! Exercise and physical activity often helps the rehabilitation process. Start slowly and build on your practice.
– Cognitive Decline –
Those who are experiencing challenges with memory, cognitive decline or dementia can still get many mental and physiical benefits from practice. Exercise and movement helps maintain healthy blood flow to the brain and helps the body produce new cells. It helps with proprioception, keeping the mind active. It also helps with balance and hand-eye co-ordination.
What can we do to overcome this barrier?
To overcome cognitive decline, we need to make exercise part of our daily routine. Mental hygiene is as important as physical hygiene and we should do things to stimulate our minds daily. Keeping exercises simple, such as walking, climbing stairs, or simple stretching can really help us maintain a simple daily routine. Joining a class locally or online can help you to learn the ropes and start to practice a daily routine at home.
– Feeling Isolated –
Many of us have been feeling isolated during lockdown. This has an effect on our motivation to practice. Most people are more likely to work-out with a friend, loved one or at a local class. If someone has lost someone close to them, or if their partner has mobility challenges, they are less likely to be motivated to stay active.
Walking alone can make people feel vulnerable, especially as darker nights set in. Isolation can also make people feel scared or shy of joining group classes.
What can we do to overcome this barrier?
There are lots of local classes that people can join both online and in person. AMALAwellness – Teesside offers a range of classes to help people stay active and mobile. As well as aiding physical and mental well-being. The key is to find something that sets your soul alight, that you enjoy. That way, as well as joining a class doing something you enjoy, you will make new friends with similar outlooks and hobbies. Family and friends can be wonderful for helping you stay active. Tell them about your goals and maybe you can encourage them to be more active too, or join them in activities.
– Set Smart Goals –
Sometimes things can seem daunting, but setting smart small attainable daily goals can really help us improve both out physical and mental wellbeing.
Try setting a goal of walking so many steps a day, or for a set amount of time a day. Join a local gentle exercise class, then progress from there. Even small attainable goals like drinking more water can help us improve our health and work towards bigger goals.
Hopefully some of these pointers will help you to get more active during and after lockdown.
AMALAwellness specialize in gentle movement and exercise. Aimee is trained as a Move it or Lose it! fitness instructor. These classes are available both online and in person and Aimee can advise you on the best route to getting you active again!
We would love to hear from you, please get in touch if you would be interested in any of our classes.
Please subscribe to our blog for up-to date information on all our classes and advice on practice!
The spotlight is on Amy Miller today. We chatted about her love for Yoga and how she became a teacher. We also discussed the benefits of Yoga and Meditation for both mental and physical wellbeing.
Amy has been practising Yoga for 23 years and has been teaching for just over 5 years. It took her a long time to trust that she wanted to take the leap from hobby to career. However, since making the decision she’s never looked back. She teaches small groups her local Village Hall and also at a brand spanking new beautiful studio space in a vineyard. Both are located in Dorking, in the heart of the stunning Surrey Hills countryside.
Read our interview below:
1. Why were you drawn to Yoga initially? What inspired you to keep practicing?
I started taking yoga classes in my first year of university, mainly because I was trying as much new stuff as possible at the time! I think a LOT of people try their first class and for whatever reason they don’t like the teacher and then quit. Finding the right teacher is SO important – you have to click. Luckily my first teacher was really inspirational in the way she held the room and captivated everyones attention. After I left I found a class in my dance studio and I kept going back because it was really helping me advance with my flexibility. That was important to me at the time because I was dancing, but I’ve come to realise that being flexible is certainly not a prerequisite for doing yoga, and is definitely not the main benefit.
2. How did you start to practice? What effect did it have on your life, both mentally and physically?
I was all about the physical when I first started. Again that was because of the teachers. I was being taught in a setting of performance so that’s what led my practice. It wasn’t until about 7/8 years later – interestingly, after I moved out of the city – that I found teachers who were much more spiritual in their teaching and I really had an AH HA moment. I had a few really profound moments on the mat that made me realise that yoga was so much more than a physical practice. That’s when I got into meditation too.
3. How did your mind and body change when you started a regular practice? Was anything a quick change, did anything take a long time?
When this realisation (re: meditation) came, I started to be injured less. The physical practice was still dynamic and I was still going deeply into postures, but in a completely different way. I was starting to leave my ego behind and not have to be the most bendy person in the room. Nowadays I am very far from the most bendy person in the room because I’ve realised that that doesn’t at all matter and I’ve lost my flexibility a bit. I began to treat my body with much more respect and questioned everything I did on my mat before I did it. I try to remember what a life changing process that was back then, and pass it on to my students.
4. When did you decide you wanted to facilitate and teach classes? What drew you to teaching?
Teaching wasn’t something I even thought about until many many years later when I had my first child. People would say to me ‘why don’t you teach yoga? It would fit so perfectly into raising a family’. I was like….’naaaaa’. I didn’t see myself as a teacher and I was worried I would turn something I loved doing into a ‘job’ and it would start to lose it’s appeal. But slowly slowly I started to change my thinking. Until one day, the universe literally aligned in a way that enabled me to move forward and that was it….BAM – decision made!
5. Where did you do your initial teacher training? What other trainings have you done? What effect did training have on your teaching style and on your own practice?
I did my teacher training locally which was necessary for me to carry on with being a mum of 3 boys under 7. I had been practicing with a teacher I loved and had a connection with and so knew that her training would be the right one for me. Since then I’ve also done Face Yoga teacher training, which I love – mainly for it’s relaxation benefits (and it can’t help to get rid of a few wrinkles at my age!) and also a diploma in Ayurveda. Starting to teach and learning the philosophy and spiritual lineage behind yoga came at the same time as I started to leave behind the idea that yoga was only a physical discipline so the two came together to change how I practiced for myself, and also the kind of teacher I wanted to be.
6. How to people benefit from Vinyasa & Hatha Yoga?
I teach a mix of Vinyasa and Hatha for a very specific reason. I love vinyasa. I have a background in dance and choreographing vinyasa flow gives me the space to be creative and introduce movement that is maybe slightly ‘outside’ the traditional set asanas that you would see in hatha. However, I feel that a vinyasa class is often too fast paced. Yes that’s great for the body but it doesn’t allow you the time and space to observe what’s happening in the body on a more subtle level. There is no interoception. There is no time to ask yourself…. what do I actually FEEL here, besides just my hamstrings! What is my energy? What am I learning about myself? Do I have space to go further? Or is where I am right now the best place for me to be.
Combining the two modalities means that students get the physical benefits whilst practicing internally. Balancing and gaining the meditative benefits from the practice. Improving strength, flexibility and mobility combined with calming and stilling the mind have an amazing effect on wellbeing.
7. Do you practice any other modalities or do anything else that is positive for mental and physical wellbeing, to compliment your Yoga practice?
YES! Everyday. I’m a little obsessed with ritual. I am a self care and wellness advocate so I try and practice what I preach as much as possible. Rituals help us keep on the right track mentally and physically. Making small changes daily and sticking to them help us improve our physical and mental health. Plus I practice modern witchcraft which is all about natural healing. I start my day with 20 minutes of meditation; I go outside into nature everyday; I use diet for medicine; I make my own natural remedies…(which I sell btw!)
8. What would you recommend for people looking to practice Yoga and Meditation, but don’t know where to start?
One good thing about lockdown is the current accessibility of yoga and meditation. The amount of free content on the web, social media and via apps is wonderful and gives anyone who has never practiced before to try different classes, teachers, styles etc for free before they commit to anything. I currently teach on Zoom, till we can return to the new form of normal.
Aimee of AMALAwellness has used a Neti Pot for many years, here she speaks of her experiences:
– What are Kriyas & What is Jala Neti? –
Kriyas are a cleansing technique used in Hatha yoga to help clear toxins and purify the body. One of the most popular Kriyas is Jala Neti.
I have had the chance to experience a few of the Kriyas in my practice and Yoga teacher trainings. One I love doing and regularly do is Jala Neti. I practiced it a lot in Rishikesh, Northern India and still continue to practice to this day.
– How do you use a Neti Pot? –
As the diagram shows; salt water is passed through the nasal cavity, with the aid of a ‘neti pot’ or lota.
When you hold your head at a certain angle and pass salt water through one nostril with your mouth open, it passes out the other nostril.
– Sinus Relief –
Some common symptons with sinus problems include:
Pain / Pressure / Swelling / Tenderness in the face
Reduced smell and taste
Neti pots with a saline solution help to clear the sinus cavity and reduce these symptoms.
– What are the benefits of Jala Neti? –
It is really effective at removing mucus and dirt from the nasal passages and clearing sinuses. I had really bad sinusitis recently and practising jala neti reguarly recently has helped to clear it and my sinuses feel a million times better! Its been a good thing to practice as it can be quite dusty here, so I have been doing it regularly early morning before practice.
It definitely improves a persons ability to breathe more clearly.
Mental & Spiritual Benefits
This process helps clear and cleanse the third eye chakra (agna chakra), helping us think more clearly and aiding with stilling the mind when practicing meditation.
– Give it a go …! –
I would definitely recommend it to anyone who suffers sinus problems or asthma.
It may seem weird at first (I can remember the 1st time I did it and thought… what is this bizzareness!) but its a practice definitely worth doing. When I have showed my friends how to do it, they also enjoyed it!
What are others experiences with Kriyas? I’d love to hear from you!
-Continuing online and transitioning back to in person classes –
AMALAwellness – Yoga in Teesside will be staying online during the easing of lockdown. Until the Government announces we can return, we will keep Zoom classes running. This is looking like May 17th.
– What classes are still available online? –
Our classes will still run as normal till we can return to in-person classes. See our timetable below.
– Looking after yourself as lockdown lifts –
As lockdown lingers on, many of us may be feeling stressed, anxious or exhausted right now. Even with light at the end of the tunnel and the hope that the worst of the pandemic was behind us. If this is you, you’re not alone. The premise of staying at home should be easy, all this free time! No commuting! – However the reality is not as simple as that. Too much alone time can feel overwhelming, or underwhelming. Whether you live with your partner, family, housenates, dog, cat or by yourself. The first lockdown demonstrated to us that we all face different challenges. As things start to lift, getting used to the new normal will be challenging for us all. Make sure to look after yourself as we start to transition.
Yoga, meditation, Gentle exercise, relaxation and creating a stress-free home environment is so important, now more so than ever. At AMALAwellness we have a regular class timetable designed to help deal with the lockdown blues, maintain good mental health and keep active.
– Transitioning back to classes in person –
There will be some changes to our schedule in person coming out of lockdown and moving out of lockdown. Our schedule is updated on an as-know basis and can be found here.
In todays Spotlight is Steph Wall, a lovely and talented Yoga Teacher who specialises in Pregnancy yoga and Post-Natal yoga classes in Middlesbrough. She is also a massage therapist and reflexologist working from her home treatment room in Marton.
She was interviewed about her about her experiences with Yoga and Pregnancy / Mother & Baby Yoga. Read on to find out more and the classes she runs in and around Teesside.
1. Why were you drawn to Yoga initially? What made you interested in Pregnancy Yoga and Mother and Baby yoga?
I started practicing yoga by accident really, 20 years ago I went along to a class in a tiny church in Hull with a friend and didn’t really know what to expect. I became interested in Pregnancy Yoga and Mum and Baby yoga through my own experience having a dedicated yoga practice and throughout 3 pregnancies. I am passionate about sharing with others how yoga practices, however simple or complex can really empower women throughout all stages of pregnancy, birth and post natally.
I wasn’t even sure if I liked yoga at first, I was about 40 years younger than everyone else, it felt really slow and I found it really hard to slow down and stay still! Looking back it was exactly what I needed at the time. Despite being unsure that tiny seed was planted and I went to that little Hatha class with dedication for another 8 years. At that point I was truly hooked on my yoga path. My teacher Hilda Ormrod was in her late 80s when I started and she continued to teach until she was 91! She was and still is my inspiration. Hilda was one of the first women in England to train and teach yoga through the very early days of the British Wheel of Yoga.
2. How did you start to practice? What effect did it have on your life, both mentally and physically? When did you decide to practice and teach pregnancy yoga?
I didn’t really know of many other styles of Yoga at that point as it wasn’t as mainstream back then as it is today. I learnt to love the slowness of Hatha and also it continued to challenge me. Hilda always encouraged us to delve deeper into the philosophy underpinning the asana practice. At that point I became pregnant with my first daughter. I didn’t know that “pregnancy Yoga” was a “thing”! By that point I had a good understanding of the basics and instinctively adapted my hatha practice to what felt good. I was a full time teacher so didn’t have the same level of practice that I have now but I clearly remember how yoga suddenly seemed so important and magical during my pregnancy. I had a homebirth and the pranayama techniques I was familiar of in class (especially ujaii breath) became instinctive, I felt I could trust my inner wisdom and the birth was an amazing experience. I remember the midwives actually in shock that I had given birth! I knew then that it was all to do with Yoga but it still wasn’t quite clear to me how.
3. How did your mind and body change when you started a regular practice? Was anything a quick change, did anything take a long time? (Give examples if possible) did you feel any effects from pregnancy yoga?
I think when you start a regular practice changes definitely happen but you don’t always notice them as they can be subtle. The changes in my mind and body I found from my early practice were very different depending on the style of yoga. The years of Hilda’s classes gave me a solid grounding in breathing techniques, meditation, Yoga Nidra and Yoga Philosophy. It also began my meditation practise. I found it nearly impossible to lay down for Savasana but as the months and years went on it became my favourite part of the practice. I found that I was able to navigate through the highs and lows of life in an easier way. Yoga is like a friend that is always there for me and it allowed me to connect to that inner stillness. That’s what I needed and the challenge for me to connect to that. Later after I had my first baby I felt that I was looking for strength and for something else, a more physical practice. I found an amazing teacher with Anne-Marie Mainprize in Hull and that was really transformative both physically and mentally. I found that my body became so strong. I loved the repetition of the practice and could feel physical progress (as in strength and flexibility) quite quickly. Whether it was Ashtanga or Forrest Yoga I found that I moved from one goal asana to the next whether it was a head stand, then lotus, or forearm stand. There was always and is always somewhere to progress to. The strong postures, the flexibility and smashing those inversions were all very alluring but I soon realised and began to feel that it was the practice itself – not the elusive asanas that gives the benefits. As an example it took me 2 years of a stronger practice and 8 years in total before I could do some kind of headstand. It’s that mental dedication, focus and practice itself that matters not the actual headstand.
4. When did you decide you wanted to facilitate and teach pregnancy and mother and baby yoga classes?
I qualified to teach yoga in 2015 and during that time I was about to embark on IVF. I instinctively moved away from a strong Forrest Yoga practice to much gentler and nourishing yoga to try to help my fertility. I was drawn to Uma-Dinsdmore Tuli’s work on Yoni Shakti. It’s the incredible approach to gain back the feminine power of yoga. That book really changed my practice and my life! I enrolled on her Pregnancy and Post-Natal training course in London and I’ve never looked back. The practices I learnt are not just for pregnancy but they empower women in all stages of life, helping women (and men) get back to their inner wisdom, to use that wisdom to nourish and bring back power and freedom. I really immersed myself in all the practices of this Yoni Shakti or “womb yoga” ( awakening the feminine life force “Shakti”). I started up a pregnancy yoga class and our IVF was a success and I was pregnant myself. I don’t think it’s a necessity to have experienced pregnancy to teach this form of yoga. However, personally I felt I could really relate to my students and adapt my classes through experience. When my little boy was born I felt so much more empowered and equipped with the knowledge of how to maintain a yoga practise in a safe way, I understood how to rebuild my core strength and how the body changes. I set up my first mum and baby yoga class when Dylan was 5 months old, it was a magical time as my mam brought him along to the class and we all practiced together!
5. What are the benefits, both mentally and physically, of practicing Yoga and meditation when pregnant?
Lots of my students come to pregnancy yoga without any other yoga experience. Doctors and midwives strongly recommend yoga now along with hypnobirthing techniques. There are so many reasons and benefits, the most popular reason women come to pregnancy Yoga is to be able to continue physical movement and gentle exercise knowing its safe. It can help prevent SPD (pelvic pain), It can reduce swelling, improve the lymphatic system, ease lower back ache and general pains and improve posture and strength. We also cover techniques to help with birth; such as learning how to release the pelvic floor and the chemistry of hormones. When women come to class however they find that yoga is so much more than just the physical benefits and has profound effects in unexpected ways! We practice relaxation and Yoga Nidra which is so important. It nourishes both the mum and baby in the womb, it helps balance hormones that constantly change and fluctuate. Most importantly it makes you feel good! Sound practices and mudras (hand gestures) are so magical and powerful during pregnancy. Working more on the energy body we can directly bond with the baby in the womb, a low hum is like giving our baby a little sonic massage. They love the vibrations, their heart rate lowers, stress hormone cortisol is reduced, babies also recognise these sounds after birth and feel soothed. I feel it’s important to share in my classes the scientific research that backs up all these ancient practices too.
6. How do people benefit from mother and baby yoga?
Everyone has such different experiences during pregnancy and Birth. When women come back to me for Post-Natal Yoga they share their stories. They are there to support each other to help navigate this constantly challenging but also beautiful time. I feel that’s the most important thing for the wellbeing of new mums. Whether they have had a C section, a traumatic birth or a natural birth (and all inbetween) we come together to work out what that particular group need at that time. We always work on strengthening the pelvic floor, gentle core work, easing out aches and pains in the shoulders and upper back common with nursing young babies. We learn yoga sequences and breathing techniques to nourish and gradually build up strength. I want the mums to feel looked after, cared for and safe for that small time so always have time for relaxation. The sessions are balanced so they are really beneficial for baby too! Babies love the sound practices, songs and rhymes and its lovely to see they recognize them! Mums learn postures that help babies development and also fun yoga that they can enjoy together and bond.
8. What would you recommend for people looking to practice Yoga and Meditation when pregnant & postpartum , but don’t know where to start?
For anyone interested in pregnancy yoga or even looking for a class with their baby I would always suggest asking other mams and friends. There are more and more classes out there now and it’s always good to go with a recommendation. It’s been especially hard during this last year with Covid as many classes are cancelled but on the flip side this has opened up a whole new world on online classes and groups! In some ways online classes may be more accessible for some women and you can connect with women and teachers from allover the county or even world which is pretty exciting! I recommend a teacher called Suzanne who is based in York who has put together an Online Pregnancy Yoga programme for anyone who may not be able to get to a class in person. I am affiliated with this course so feel free to contact me for more info on this. Also find her directly at www.formodernmothers.com
Vikki is amazing and an ex midwife who offers all kinds of services for fertility, pregnancy and hypnobirthing in the Stockton and Middlesbrough Area.
Janis Leach is a lovely teacher, currently teaching 1:1 zoom pregnancy yoga classes and is based in Redcar.
Most teachers offer trial classes before booking up a block of classes so its’ always worth trying a class first as its important to feel a connection with the teacher or group.
I personally love to teach face to face and I’m waiting patiently to be able to set up my groups again soon. I run a Pregnancy Yoga class on Saturday Mornings and Mum and Baby classes on Wednesday mornings.
– Thank you Steph! –
Thanks so much Steph, for taking the time to feature on our SpotLight for this week.
For more information on Steph and the services she offers, see below:
We should be truthful in thought, action and in speech. Our expressions and actions should be true, whilst causing the least harm and influencing positivity. What we say, both internally and externally has an effect on our mind and consciousness.
– How often are we truthful in daily life? –
This is a really difficult thing to practice, if we pause and reflect most would be surprised how often we revert to telling white lies, or falsehoods. Whether it is in our mind internally or externally speaking to others. Exaggerating a situation, belittling ourselves, telling stories, etc. I am sure we can all think of an example when this has occurred in daily life.
Small, white lies can also have just as much effect as big lies too. Or avoidance of speaking the truth. Sometimes, its better to be honest and word things in a way to avoid causing pain if possible. Sometimes, its just better to stay quiet also, rather than cause hurt. However, this is all a fine balancing act, which is why practicing Satya is very challenging.
On the mat, off the mat and Ahimsa…
We practice Satya on the mat, being truthful with our abilities in Asana. Realising our limitations and not pushing too hard, or not beating ourselves up about progress (practicing Ahimsa). When we start to open up and progress, we realize a lot about ourselves and our behaviours on the mat. Rushing through certain postures, avoiding things that may be challenging.
It starts to transfer to off the mat too and when we pause an reflect we notice truths we maybe avoid, maybe we should speak up about, or we are aware of and should not speak up due to the pain it may cause. It’s like balancing Satya with Ahimsa (non-violence in thoughts, actions and speech).
Do you resonate with this post? Do you incorporate Satya in your life? I’d Love to hear from you!
This accessible yoga pose is suitable for most practitioners and has many physical and mental health benefits.
– What is Viparita Karani? –
Viparita Karani is one of my students (and my) favorite poses. It’s a rejuvenating, relaxing pose where it is easy to invoke calm within the body. Switching the nervous system from flight or fight mode (sympathetic nervous system) to rest and relaxation mode (parasympathetic nervous system).
Its a restorative pose where we put our legs up the wall for 5-10 minutes, usually at the end of class. It has a whole host of benefits and I regularly encourage students to practice it in their own time to compliment their practice outside of class.
What are the benefits of Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose)?
– Physical benefits –
The physical benefits of Viparita Karani include:
1.Allows your muscles to relax.
2. Helps calm the nervous system, relieving stress and anxiety.
3. Helps relieve fatigue.
4. Releases tension and stress. (Especially in the legs and lower back)
5. Lengthens your hamstrings passively.
6. Relieves tired legs and feet (great for after exercise)
7. Stretches the glutes, hamstrings (also, if legs are apart, the hip adductors).
8. Helps improve blood circulation.
9. Helps encourage drainage of excess fluid from the ankles and feet.
This pose relaxes the shoulders, abdomen, lower back and legs. It’s great for relieving symptoms of sciatica, releasing the muscles and nerves associated with the symptoms.
It’s also great for those suffering with menstrual cramps, allowing relaxation and relief.
– Mental Benefits –
This pose really helps to calm the nervous system, thus having a calming effect on the body and mind. It helps switch on the parasympathetic nervous system, where the body can enter deep rest and relax. It is a really soothing pose to practice when feeling anxious or stressed.
What are your favorite lockdown poses? Is it also Viparita Karani?