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The disco ball of yoga

September 18, 2017

As I write this, I am sat in the middle of the Gobi desert, surrounded only by herdsmen, a bunch of newly acquainted strangers and some camels. It is strange to think that after all the twists and turns that life provides, that is is yoga that brought me here.

As I reach my thirties, it seems that I have had many more lives than strictly required! I started out in France, moved to Leeds to pursue contemporary dance training in conservatoire then headed to London where I performed, partied, and worked as a bartender and waitress. I landed a job in events and became an event manager for three years with a spot of DJing thrown in here and there. In this time it was yoga that kept me sane and fit, as I was no longer free to attend professional dance classes. Eventually, it became an essential daily practice and something I yearned to explore.

Maybe I could teach? Maybe even do it well? Fast forward a few years and I now teach Rocket, Jivamukti, Vinyasa and Yoga Nidra, I qualified as a barre instructor, an animal flow coach, I manage a yoga studio and run my own retreats, I am learning to play the harmonium, and am even a mentor for new teachers!

When I first chose life as a performer, I chose a difficult life, but one that would be filled with passion. After feeling a little lost for a few years, I remember my Mum saying to me: “You know, for most people, a job is just that…a job!”. I refused to admit that I could spend most of my time doing something that I did not deeply care about.

As I embarked on my first teacher training, I was confident my life would change in the direction I already loved: movement and people. I never thought it would propel me with such force into a world where every door seemed open.

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I try to be very honest about life as a yoga teacher. When people ask me about training, the conversation usually goes something like this: ‘Yes, getting the certificate is the easy bit. It doesn’t make you a good teacher… Teaching makes you a teacher”. I tell them to stick with the day job for a while, build their classes around it. It might turn out they enjoy practising but not really teaching. It might turn out that paying the mortgage/rent becomes rather complicated. It is important not to glamourize a world that can also be highly competitive somewhere like London. However, when your job fulfils you, it is a life that you would change for nothing.

I was lucky enough to get a lot of work, fast. With that came a lot of travelling. Over the years, I have refined my schedule to include less commuting, a day off, and only classes that I love (lucky me!). Some days it is hard to stand up in from of twenty people and speak (us teachers have the same ups and downs as everyone… broken hearts, grief etc), but mostly I leave class feeling energised and uplifted from the moments shared with my students. I rarely feel depleted by that energy. I love watching people discover, progress and have that Eureka moment.

In all of this, it has become clear that I have a huge thirst for learning. This has led me to travel around the world for teacher trainings, workshops and retreats. More recently, I have earned a place back at university to study osteopathy and have been plugging away at a new instrument. I have made meaningful connections across the globe with people who truly want to make a positive difference.

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A few years ago, I became an ambassador for a sportswear brand that encouraged me to dream big. It was about going beyond any barriers that I could create (money, time etc.). They encouraged me to see that anything is possible. Despite not being easy, I have truly come to believe that we can indeed all create “our best life”. Although more than once, I saw my friends and family look at each other with that “here we go again” look across their faces – but it paid off.

I am so glad I persisted, and keep on persisting. Yoga has become much more than my job. It is my practice, my passion, it’s part of my diet, it gives me a voice for what I believe is right and just, it is my community and my family away from home. It is my root, my breath and my release.

And in that all-encompassing love for what I do, I find a total joy for life, an energy that allows me to give more, be more available, embrace every moment. Whilst my life is incredibly busy, and sometimes stressful, it is all for things and people that I love, and I can therefore do it with a smile.

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As I rest my eyes on the camels in the distance, I know there was some part of the winding path that was always going to land me here, on this retreat, with my teacher, and these new friendships. Somehow, everything is just right, and I look forward to the future turns this path will surprise me with.

x
Elodie

Moving Dynamics
Instagram: @elodie_movingdynamics
http://www.movingdynamics.net

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Yoga: A Functional Medicine Approach by Holly Dunn

July 14, 2017

When asked to write a blog for TPYC, I jumped at the chance to share my experiences about yoga and how this extraordinary practice has shaped and influenced my life over the past 6 years.

Motivated and inspired, my mind went into overdrive – I simply didn’t know where to start. In many ways, it is hard to extricate yourself from a practice that has become ingrained in most aspects of your life – from physicality to mentality, ethicality and emotionality.

As sensational as it may sound, there are no limits to yoga’s influence on my life (in the relatively short time period I have been lucky enough to enjoy it). My views and perceptions of the value of this ancient practice, however, have certainly evolved over time. In fact – in many ways – they have done full circle!

At the outset, an essentially physical ritual for me, I have learnt to harness some (not all!) of the cerebral benefits, and even embraced some of the more ornate and abstract philosophies. Only now am I truly beginning to understand the significance of yoga to myself as an individual, but also to the modern society in which we live.

Yoga asanas, the postures and exercises, are just one of 8 systems within an overall system of ‘Union.’ Yoga is a philosophy that describes a way to optimize a human life within these 8 interconnected and flowing sub-systems. What I find so incredible is just how relevant and remedial this remarkable tradition is becoming to our lives today. It has without a shadow of a doubt promoted personal changes and aspirations both past, present and future.

1. The Yoga Body

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It may or may not surprise you to hear it was the physicality of yoga that first tempted me to step into a yoga studio. I hated gyms and sought an antidote to the impacts of running. In my mind, yoga seemed to offer a more authentic form of body conditioning.

Hyperkinetic by nature, I was drawn to the highly dynamic and adaptive style of Power Yoga –but really this was still just another “exer-scuse” to move in a way that allowed me to sweat and ultimately re-exploit nature’s analgesics on a yoga mat!

It took some time to appreciate a few subtle shifts that were taking place and, before long, not only was I hooked, but my perception of the “yoga body” began to change.

We are the only species that have engineered mobility out of our lives – we build chairs to sit on, escalators and cars to carry our bodies, and weight machines, treadmills and rowing machines to exercise them. As a consequence, we have lost touch with some of our natural ranges and virtuosities of motion. Instead, we have replaced these with the aches and pains of chronically underused muscles, poor posture and unsupple connective tissues. Yoga restores dynamism to our bodies – strengthening, lengthening and recalibrating some of the lost art of human movement.

The more I learnt about yoga – the more I listened and practiced – the more it became apparent just how much more nourishing these movements become when they are linked to the highly potent visceral mechanism of breath or pranayama.

At a time when so-called lifestyle diseases are connected to blockages and unnatural activity in the human blood circulation system, yoga offers ways to improve circulation through the union of breath and movement – and ultimately to sustain a fully functioning human body. The asanas or postures, once they are unified with pranayama, utilise your body, your weight, inversions and twisting to drive out stale blood and wastes so that fresh oxygenated blood and nutrients can renew your cells. When the system works perfectly then the human system is self-correcting. And what is more, the energy generated, the residual buzz, “life-force” or prana is there for all to feel.

In so many more ways than I had first imagined, the definitive of the yoga body seemed to me to be: the functioning body.

2. The Yoga Mind and Spirit

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In spring 2016, I enrolled on TPYC’s Teacher Training programme under the guidance of Erin Prichard. I am hugely indebted to the experiences I gained during this time. In particular, it was a chance to deepen my knowledge of the intelligent and philosophical elements to the yoga tradition.

This time it was the ancient wisdom of the Yoga Sutras, the applicable Yamas and Niyamas (ethical codes and moral principles that govern the basis of the modern yoga tradition), that appeared to apply more acutely to modern life than I had previously thought possible.

But how and why should the philosophy be so important today? Perhaps because we are some of the most anxious and troubled guests on this planet. No other species questions why it is here and what it is trying to achieve. We have evolved a complex interaction between the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual systems – each human mind, a habit machine running a personal programme called – ego. Yoga provides a means to experience more and to suffer less. It reveals a path to becoming a much more content guest on a stunningly beautiful planet.

3. Yoga Union: A Functional Medicine Approach

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The next stage of the journey for me has really been one of integration – in the truest of yoga states – one of “yuj” or union.

Last year yoga played a major role in my professional life. It enhanced my motivation to change my existing occupation and I set out on the path to a new and exciting career.

Alongside teaching, yoga has heightened my passion for functional medicine and has given me the incentive to further studies in nutritional therapy amongst other naturopathic disciplines. The Yoga system has impelled me to ask, specifically: why is nutrition so important?

The health of our bodies and the integrity of our immune systems is directly proportional to the quality of the inputs we choose to have in our lives. Nothing highlights this quite like yoga. Over the next year, every single cell in our bodies will be made up of what we eat, drink and breathe, supplemented by some necessary sunlight. We are what we choose to consume, how we choose to move, in the environments we choose to live in. Everyday each human needs 60 minerals, 2 essential fatty acids, 16 vitamins and 12 amino acids alongside adequate hydration to maintain health. We need to breathe in oxygen and cannot survive without it for more than a few ​moments. Yoga teaches the value of purity of inputs (a principle known as Saucha) and to understand when enough is enough.

More still, yoga’s focus on treating every aspect of the individual – the whole person – is at the very heart of functional medicine. At a time when there has been an explosion in lifestyle diseases such as cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, autoimmune syndromes, obesity and diabetes – modern attitudes to human health are increasingly becoming sensitive to this vital approach.

The more I learn about the body, the more I am astounded just how much yoga, nutrition and lifestyle can do to reset the biochemical imbalances underlying these conditions. Both my continued learning and teaching are giving me the opportunity to explore the integrative sciences of yoga and nutrition in what I hope is a practical, positive and meaningful way. I consider myself so very, very fortunate to be in a position to do this.

So, whilst it may not be for me to describe the reality of yoga and its connection to human life, nutrition, exercise, contentment and philosophy – it is for you to explore, or not explore, an ancient system designed to promote human health and wellbeing. What is true for you is true for you and just for you. I can only share what is true for me and just for me.

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Yoga is ancient. Yoga is today. Yoga is timeless. Yoga is free. There are no yoga champions. But everyone who tries yoga is by definition a Yoga Champion.

Dedicated to TPYC, its remarkable Founders and wonderful Teachers that challenge and inspire me every day. Thanks for keeping it real. Thanks for keeping it safe. And above all, thanks for keeping it fun.


Preparing to Fly – arm balancing with Becky Farbstein

May 24, 2017

When many people first begin practising yoga, they are afraid of balancing on their hands or arms. However, just as we learn to stand on our feet as children, we can learn to stand on our hands as adults. One of the best things my first yoga teacher ever did for me was ask me to practice arm balances in my very first yoga class. She eliminated the fear that some students develop about these poses by introducing them as equivalent to standing postures like Tadasana and Warrior II. Like my first teacher, I believe wholeheartedly that arm balances are integral to yoga and that it is possible to make them accessible to all levels of practitioners, from true beginners to experienced yogis.

Students sometimes tell me that they don’t think they are strong enough to practise arm balances (“My wrists are going to break!”), to which I always respond that they probably already have plenty of strength to practice most arm balances; what is needed is more body awareness and an understanding of the techniques that underlie these postures. Consider this: crow (bakasana) is very similar to an upside down chair pose (utkatasana), side crow (parsva bakasana) is a lot like an an upside down twisting chair pose (parvritti utkatasana), and flying crow (galavasana) is like practising pigeon pose on chaturanga arms.

If we start to think more intelligently about arm balances, rather than immediately panicking when a teacher suggests we try these poses, we begin to unravel their enigma and they start to feel much more approachable and achievable. My upcoming workshop is designed to give yogis the tools they need to break down the fear and intimidation surrounding arm balances so that they can practice arm balances with curiosity, playfulness, and above all else, an intelligent understanding of how to move your body into these shapes.

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Arm balances have so many benefits for yoga practitioners. Like all yoga postures, arm balances increase physical strength throughout the body, particularly in the arms and the core. The workshop will introduce the ways that physical strength and energetic engagement are necessary for practising arm balances, and we will explore how to engage energy locks (“mula bandha” and “uddiyana bandha” to allow us to lift off), while also introducing preparatory drills and exercises to learn how to use the body in new ways.

However, even more importantly than brute strength, practising arm balances both demands and fosters a heightened state of focus, concentration, and awareness. Because most of us are unfamiliar with the sensations of tilting our body weight into our arms and hands, we can’t help but pay close attention as we begin to practice these poses. In this way, arm balances can provide a unique opportunity to quiet the mind chatter and help us sustain a sense of one-pointed concentration.

Above all else, arm balances can, and should, be fun. Arm balances are inherently playful (what’s more ridiculous than standing on your hands and twisting your body into funny shapes?), and they ask practitioners to approach their yoga practice with a sense of humour. Before any of us can learn to fly, we will all have a few false starts (and, if you’re anything like me, the occasional faceplant!), and this workshop will give you the tools to learn to embrace both the moments of flight and the inevitable falls along the way.

Join Becky for her workshop on Saturday, 24th June from 1:30 – 3:30, which is now available for booking. All levels welcome – beginners and more experienced yogis alike!

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Becky completed her teacher training at PYC under the guidance of Stewart Gilchrist. She has continued to seek out the best teachers across the world to train with including David Swenson and Mark Kan. She teaches physically and intellectually challenging vinyasa yoga classes that place primacy on building a steady, strong ujjayi breath. Becky has regular classes at the Power Yoga Company, learn more about her by visiting her website.

Do kids need mindfulness?

April 25, 2017

Lately the news has been full of stories about mindfulness and the Government is starting to trial mindfulness programmes as part of the curriculum in state schools. But what is ‘mindfulness’ and why do children need it?

Mindfulness is training one’s mind to pay attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental and curious way. It develops three core skills – concentration, helping to understand one’s feelings, and sensory clarity. It has been proven to reduce stress, depression and help with emotional regulation in adults and children.

But how does it do this? Yogis have long known about the power of the breath and with mindfulness training there is an emphasis on breath awareness, co-ordinating movement with the breath and using breathing techniques to calm down and control impulses. Children are taught techniques for relaxation and getting to know their own ‘monkey mind’ and how to concentrate more effectively.

In the children’s yoga classes at TPYC there is a strong element of mindfulness in everything we do. Each class begins with breathing techniques and an emotional ‘weather check’. Breathing is co-ordinated with movement in sun salutations and other poses and children are encouraged to notice the sensations in their bodies. The interactions between students are full of kindness – competition is discouraged and students work at their own pace to put in their best effort. And finally, every class ends with a guided relaxation/ meditation where the children ‘float up in the clouds’ or ‘fly with magical birds’, for example. They leave the class very relaxed and centred.

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But classes are not the only thing you can do for your children. Practicing mindfulness at home will greatly help them and you. Take time to notice things around you – smell, see, feel, eat slowly, pay attention to the present. Sometimes less is more. Encourage your kids to notice their breathing. Any pranayama practice from class can be worked on at home – count your breaths, try to make them audible, feel your breath in your chest and tummy. And we all need more savasana time in our lives! Model self-care for your kids by sitting still or lying down for 5 minutes with some gentle music or a guided relaxation. Kids love the Calm Kids meditation CDs- great for kids struggling to sleep at night.

Make mindfulness a part of your family’s life and you will see the reward of happier, more focused and calm children.

Kids yoga classes at PYC are on Tuesdays at 4:45pm (ages 5-7) and Wednesdays at 4:45pm (ages 8-12). The all-level adult class is on at the same time in the studio below. You can sign up your kids for a full term (10 weeks) for £90.

Transform with Forrest Yoga

March 31, 2017
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Hi PYC yogis! I hope you’re all well! I’m writing this blog to explain a little more about Forrest Yoga, a style of practice that has hugely influenced my life and my teaching. I’m really happy to deliver another Forrest Yoga workshop at PYC on 20th May and I would love to see you there.

Simply put, Forrest Yoga is a style of practice created by Ana Forrest, who, after studying with world-renowned yogis such as B.K.S. Iyengar and spending time with indigenous tribes in America, developed her own approach to deal with her traumatic life experiences. This, in turn, makes the practice brutally honest, and one that can be deeply healing both physically and emotionally – if you let it.

If you are interested in Ana’s incredible life and how she turned it around, I recommend her book Fierce Medicine. In her own words, “I developed Forrest Yoga as I was working through my own healing. I took poses and modified or created new ones to address today’s lifestyle physical ailments… Through Forrest Yoga you get your physical health and strength and also a place in which to welcome your Spirit back home.  And by this, I do not mean a spiritual practice but rather being your authentic self.”

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Ana Forrest

When I first joined the Forrest Yoga Teacher Training I didn’t know it would be such an emotionally intense experience. Having not gone through the traumatic life experiences Ana or other trainees had, I wondered if the practice would apply to me. Yet, I came to realise pretty quickly that I too had been feeling an urge to connect in a deeper way to life – but aren’t we all?!

So, for me, Forrest Yoga became a practice of relationship – first to myself, to my breath, to how I feel, to the earth/sky/sun…then to others. Every day. We all want to lead a life that is whole and connected, that is not dictated by fears or insecurities, and I believe Forrest Yoga is a transformative practice that gives us the tools needed to clear all the bullshit that hardens us so we can walk (as Ana says it) in a ‘Beauty way’ – to walk through life in a healing way.

What makes Forrest Yoga unique compared to other Vinyasa practices?

Unlike more traditional forms of yoga we do not maintain a ‘flow’ in a Forrest Yoga class. Instead, we practice in a slightly heated room where the teacher slows down the pace to encourage students to hold the poses for longer than the usual five breaths. As a result, students are not rushed through asanas (such a wonderful feeling!) and have plenty of time to go on a quest to connect and feel. Forrest Yoga is known for emphasising core strength – if you haven’t experienced the joys of Forrest Yoga abs, you’re in for a treat! We work with the core at the beginning of class to bring focus to the centre to stay connected and keep moving from that place throughout the class. The practice is intelligent and the poses are carefully sequenced with the aim of guiding students through a journey – whether physical, mental or both! Another signature move is to work with a relaxed neck, picture Trikonasana with a completely relaxed neck (like in my photo above)… It’s a pretty weird feeling at first, but I absolutely love it now.

If you’re interested in slowing down your Vinyasa, learning how to authentically connect and bring life to your practice – and get insane core strength along the way (ha!) – jump on board!

See you on the mat!

Christian x

Meet our Newest Teacher: David Pearce

February 22, 2017

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The City Actuarial Systems Developer turned yogi began his yoga journey back in 2002 as a means of injury prevention. David first found yoga via Bikram. His love for the physical and mental balance of the class later served as a springboard for three yoga teacher training courses: 200h training in Ashtanga Vinyasa and Rocket, 50h Advanced Rocket, and 100h Yin with The Yoga People. Not one to do things half-heartedly David is heading off to Goa in March to do 100h Mandala, and another 50h Rocket in May. Safe to say that he has definitely got the yoga bug!

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David likes to teach a strong class and has a passion for inversions. He (seriously) started his handstand journey at the start of 2015. David says he has come a long way since, but “still have a long way to go”. He co-teaches inversion workshops and hopes to bring them to PYC. However, he is not all about the Yang and admits that he has grown to love and embrace the power of Yin, which he thinks is an amazing practice!
David loves yoga because he believes it is the union of the body, mind, and breath and because it offers the opportunity to connect with, learn from and be inspired by so many amazing people. “I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the most fantastic beings on my journey so far, and they are a huge part of why I practice. Their positivity, childness, and happiness constantly encourage me to be a better, happier person not only for myself but for those I know and meet as well,” says David.”I’d encourage anyone to try yoga and believe it has something to offer everyone,” he adds.
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We are excited to have David as part of the PYC teaching staff family, and we hope you are too! Catch him at 8:30pm on Wednesdays.
To learn more about David, visit his website or follow him on instagram

 

Now stocking Embrace the Cake

February 13, 2017
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A mouth-watering mountain of Rawreos, waiting to be devoured

We are now stocking Rawreos – the delicious brainchild of Embrace the Cake’s founder Beckie Bird. Rawreos are just one of many cleverly named and healthy takes on some of the most popular unhealthy snacks – oreos, snickers and pecan pie amongst others. Naturally, all of the products

Naturally, all of the products are free from refined sugar, dairy and gluten, and packed full of 100% natural ingredients. With only gluten free oats, cashew nuts, dates, coconut oil & nectar, almond milk, vanilla extract and either cacao powder or lucuma powder, these healthy bites pack quite the nutritional punch, leaving you satiated for hours compared to store bought oreos that contain high quantities of fructose sugar, cornstarch and palm sugar, all of which contribute to the dreaded ‘sugar crash’.

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The perfect snack with a hot cup of tea or coffee

So how did Beckie come up with this brilliant idea? She tell us – “I set up Embrace the Cake in 2015 after moving back to the UK from New Zealand. I adopted a much healthier lifestyle whilst living in New Zealand and realised I had a real addiction to sugar. With so many wonderful healthy cafes over there it was a great place to start learning about how to fuel my body with real food and cut out the refined stuff! I figured if I wanted to keep eating dessert and treats I would have to experiment and fill them with satisfying whole foods. I documented everything on Instagram and over time became obsessed with creating the most indulgent desserts that were made with simple natural ingredients. Fast forward a year, I moved back to the UK and found a real lack of good quality refined sugar- free treats so decided to follow my dream and set up a business to help others to embrace cake as much as I do!

You can find both the original and salted caramel varieties in our refrigerator. We think they are the perfect healthy snack option to get you through until your next meal.

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Beckie

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