Some see it as a kind of Holy Grail: the perfect ‘no effort’ drift into Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) as a new relationship with gravity. It looks smooth and it feels even better. But there’s more to it than that. I’ve been teaching inversion workshops for a while and therefore it’s important for me to ensure I fully understand the ‘ins and outs.’ As it happens, my very first teacher simply would not let me jump into a handstand, and since then I never have. In fact, I actually find jumping into handstand less comfortable and more erratic.
What are the real benefits of a smooth, controlled glide into inversions? Well, smooth and controlled are key here. Pressing hands firmly into the ground leads to far greater control, enabling inversions to become a constituent part of a regular practice rather than the uncertain bit, which is both fun and frustrating but always a mental and physical challenge. Without the elements of smoothness and control, inversions can be a distraction, taking you away from your breath and the root purpose of your practice.
Physically, the ‘press’ is likely to add longevity to a strong practice too. Each time you jump into a handstand, you put additional, excess pressure into your lower back, wrists and shoulders, which, in time, they won’t thank you for. By pressing in a controlled way, you also make sure that you stack your joints correctly from the entry into the final pose. Imagine trying to build a stable tower of glasses by throwing one on top of another from a few feet away, compared with gently placing one on top of the next. The latter’s definitely going to lead to less cleaning up!
So, yes, the ‘press’ is cool, but it’s also absolutely functional in building greater longevity and enjoyment into your practice.
In this workshop, we will spend time learning many basic techniques used to find that initial press as well as fun presses into handstand from arm balances such as Crow, One-Legged Crow and Firefly. Whether you are experienced or completely new to being upside down this workshop will support you on your journey. Inversions are a great place to build trust while practicing patience and playfulness.
Join Ambra Vallo on 10th September for a two-hour inversion workshop that will help you to overcome the challenge of going upside down, and conquer inversions with grace.
Stop, take a breath and listen. Three innate behaviours but ones that many of us find hard to do in the modern world. We have taught ourselves to find comfort in the discomfort, causing our breath to become modified and restricted. Yet, by changing the way we breathe and tuning into the feeling of slowing down, we can return to our natural state of being and reap significant benefits along the way. This workshop will take you on a journey of self-discovery. It is time to give yourself a little love.
For two hours we will explore ways to let go and create space through the practice of Satya (truth) – “am I being true to myself in my practice?” and Ahimsa (non-harming) – “am I listening to my body?”. Following these steps will help us to get deeper into our practice and truly tune into our body and breath. In our yoga practice, we focus on moving our bodies in non-harming ways, except our personal limitations and look after ourselves. But how often do we practice this off the mat?
I went on my personal journey into the breath a year ago in Bali. At the time I was lacking in confidence and, well, self-love. At the beginning of the breath workshop I was a little shy, scared others would judge me and worried that I would fail. It took an immersion of dance, music, connection and breath, to help me realise that those negative thoughts were holding me back from my true potential and that I am pretty amazing – and, most importantly, that I should celebrate these feelings, not hold them in. For the first time ever I thanked and congratulated myself, for letting go, being free and for not letting others’ opinions and views affect me.
I recently returned to Bali to take part in a five-day breath work training called The Journey of Self-love. In the Power of the Breath workshop, I will share these experiences as well as other elements that have helped me to slow down and tune in like yoga and meditation.
The first half of the workshop will offer a heart opening asana practice, where we will focus on opening the chest and upper back to create space and softness. With our hearts open and bodies warm we will move towards the theme of connection. Connecting with others and sharing can help us to fully let go and open up both to ourselves and others, which can be a real challenge for many of us. We will then transition to a meditation practice and, finally, a deep savasana. This experience will be enhanced by music, which has been shown to assist us with the process of complete surrender.
Join Frankie on September 3rd for a two-hour workshop that will help you to let go and celebrate the bodies we live in. Frankie teaches a strong dynamic flow at the PYC on Monday, Thursday and Friday evenings as well as Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons.
Sound wizard Leo Consendai returns to the PYC for two workshops. Below he unravels the mystery of ‘sound massage’ by explaining how bathing yourself in a vibrational bath of sound and frequency can heal your body and your mind.
Were you an instant gong bath convert or has it been a gradual process?
I fall into the category of an instant convert, however, I have had both confusing and frustrating experiences. A gong bath is a very strong practice that involves other limbs or facets of yoga and it is far more challenging mentally than the physical practice of asanas, also known as postures. Your state of awareness is greatly heightened and your senses are drawn inward. Those sounds you hear are not meant to entertain, in fact, it is rather the opposite. The music comes from outside but its unconventional format confuses the brain and thus promotes a total inner awareness. That state is very healing in the sense that you suddenly become acutely aware of everything that has been suppressed and stored in your subconscious, but the downside is that you come face to face with that stuff, sometimes unprepared. A lot depends on the practitioner. It is so important that people who are giving gong baths should first play for themselves and then train to play for others. Anyone can buy a microphone, but can they sing?
Will you explain a little about the science of a gong bath and how it works?
Gongs produce hundred and hundreds of what we call harmonic and dissonant tones. The difference in frequency (Hz) between them is so small that they generate binaural beats. Those beats stimulate the brain to produce theta and delta waves (0.2 Hz-10Hz), which are recognised brainwave states that we can enter during deep sleep or trance. Prolonged exposure to gong tones also refocuses the brain activity in the frontal lobes, which is the “seat” of imagination or creation. Some people in America have been studying their effects on the blood, and it seems to be clearing out a lot of the bacterial debris and also aiding in reshaping the red blood cells. I believe a lot is achieved through a well-led session and I am currently trying to arrange some test studies with a couple of universities in Switzerland.
How does a gong bath relate to yoga?
Prana Kriya Yoga harmonises and unites the flow of the physical movement in our bodies (kriya) with its energetic power, helping you become aware of your creative potential. This form of yoga is one of the most effective means by which to achieve your goals and aspirations – material, emotional and spiritual – and bring your actions in line with your mental and emotional state. Prana Kriya Yoga has also long been highly regarded among many great masters and yogis as the key to slowing down the ageing process. It achieves this by recharging the blood with oxygen and decarbonising it, which rejuvenates the brain and spinal centres and prevents the decay of tissues in the body. It awakens the hidden energy (kundalini) within you allowing you to transform and free yourself from limiting beliefs and old behavioural patterns that hold you back.
Bathe yourself in two hours of healing sound and vibration during Leo’s workshops on July 9th and October 15th, which are now open for booking.
In A Mahayana Training of the Mind, Yogi Dharmaraksita states “In jungles of poisonous plants strut the peacocks. The masses of peacocks do not find gardens pleasant but thrive on the essence of poisonous plants”. Instead of being poisoned, the toxins are transformed into a beautiful and vibrant plumage. Just like the peacock, we can take challenging situations and through grace, love,and compassion transform them into a thing of beauty.
For some yogis, inversions can cause uncertainty and fear but once we overcome these barriers and focus on the elements required (inner strength, stability, and openness) – we can start to explore this exciting part of the practice.
Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock pose) – a.k.a. Forearm Stand, is a fun and exciting inversion to learn! I have decided to dedicate a whole session to this pose because it is one of my favourites, and I think that it could be one of yours too.
In this workshop, I will break the pose down into smaller, more approachable pieces and provide explanations on how to keep safe along the way. This will build both strength and confidence. We will also work at opening the shoulders and the hamstrings, which will allow us to transition from dolphin pose to beautiful feathered peacocks. Once you take flight, we will explore variations.
Sometimes students have questions and want to learn more about technique and that is what makes workshops so successful and rewarding! We will have time to explore your body’s unique strengths and limitations and how to work with both to get into the pose. Because the Feathered Peacock pose and Dolphin pose (and all the prep in between) are foundation poses for headstands – you may learn more than just a pose and start to understand some of the key concepts of inversions.
All levels are welcome to this workshop. Be prepared to work hard, have a good laugh with your fellow students and, most importantly, allow compassion to transform your fear into beauty.
Caroline’s workshop is on July 2nd from 1:30 – 3:30pm, and is now open for booking.
Caroline’s yoga journey began seven years ago in the Canadian ski resort town of Whistler where she took her first yoga class. She has since gone on to study Power Vinyasa in Australia, anatomy with Tiffany Cruikshank, Yin yoga with The Yoga People and practises with Stewart Gilchrist and Mark Kan in London. Caroline’s style of teaching is both challenging and fun. Find her at the PYC on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. carolinepegnayoga.com
Whether you are new to yoga or have an established practice, you may have asked the question: what is yoga? Where does it come from? How did it develop until it became the global phenomenon it is today, attracting millions of people around the world? And more importantly – how can this information inform my practice and my life off the mat?
I started to question and reflect on the origins of yoga from a very early stage in my practice, and now I am fortunate to be studying a master’s degree in the Traditions/History of Yoga at SOAS University of London. It came as an initial surprise to see how yoga has been understood, incorporated, and practiced in multiple ways; it has been fashioned by different persons and groups and has been adopted by schools of thought with strikingly different philosophical views.
But why should we study the philosophy of yoga – is it not just an intellectual undertaking? In my opinion, studying the history gives us a framework to understand the richness and depth of the practice. As practitioners we want to know why we come to the mat; as teachers, we have the responsibility to pass down our teachings correctly. The better we understand a tradition the more we can internalise its teachings and it can help us to have a clearer intention and sense of direction both on and off the mat. Studying yoga has been a huge source of inspiration and motivation to my practice, which I hope to pass on to others.
Thus, the aim of this workshop is to introduce students to some of the main traditions of yoga in a fun, interesting, and engaging way. Through image, video, meditation and mantras, I hope to help students see yoga beyond its health benefits and to present yoga in its multiplicity of traditions, philosophies, and religious contexts.
Throughout this workshop, we will travel through the history of yoga. However, it is important to remember that the history of yoga is incredibly diverse, complex and that it spans across many centuries and a number of different groups and societies. As we move through the chronology, my modest aim is to build a framework for our understanding of yoga and reflect as well as discuss how these teachings are applicable to us today.
Two hours is a drop in the bucket of a practice that started more than five thousand years ago. So, while I cannot include the entire history of yoga, we will cover a lot of ground – from the ancient origins, to the Vedas, and Epics to Patanjali, Tantras,and Hatha Yoga until we reach Modern Postural Yoga.
Join Christian for an inspirational journey into the history of yoga. Booking is now open.
I have been practicing various styles of yoga for eight years and have always been passionate about the integration between breath-body-mind in a constant flow. Having started my practice in Rio de Janeiro, I have since trained in India, Thailand and London with a number of experienced teachers. I aim to guide students through classes that are dynamic, intellectually stimulating and uplifting – whilst being devoted to many aspects of yoga. For more information about my training, studies and class schedule, visit http://www.christiancoelho.com
Life is full of relationships. How well (or poorly) we respond to the relationships in our external environment plays a significant role in our health and happiness. Responding positively helps us to feel stable and secure while reacting negatively can leave us feeling unfulfilled, impatient and disconnected.
This Partner Yoga workshop is built around the theme of Sukha (ease) and Sthira (steadiness) and we will explore how we can most deeply tap into these themes through the support of a partner or friend. By allowing someone else to be the strength and support us in a posture, we are able to access ease and grace and go deeper into the pose. At the same time, the connection with someone else reminds us that yoga is meant to engender a deeper connection to all beings everywhere and get us out of our isolation.
Partner yoga offers a unique opportunity to connect with others by exploring the physical and energetic elements of the asana yoga practice with another person. Partnering with another person will deepen your practice and through the use of connection techniques, it will also improve communication levels and encourage trust.
Bring a friend, your partner or come alone and meet someone new. Come ready to play, have fun, learn and experience your yoga practice in a brand new way!
Katie’s workshop is now available for booking.
Having practiced yoga whilst living in Peru, Spain, South Africa and California, Katie began practicing power yoga in London in 2013. The following year she trained at the Power Yoga Company with Erin Pritchard. Her classes combine spirituality and warmth with dynamic strength, based on the belief that yoga has both physical and emotional healing qualities. She teaches in both London and Cambridge.
Yoga gives you a moment when you stop. You observe what is going on in your body, you observe your thoughts and your sensations without judgment. This awareness is the first step in releasing tension and breathing naturally. It may be the only time of the day when you are aware of your breathing and how the breath can start to change the way you feel.
If you feel stressed then you might not be breathing fully. This activates the sympathetic side of the nervous system and prepares the body for ‘fight or flight’, which switches our body into survival mode. As humans, we also have the capacity for imagination, which means we can imagine situations that do not actually exist. We can activate our physiological stress mechanisms in response to worries and fears that are not actually happening to us, they are in our imagination. We need to move away from this fight or flight state because while we do need some stress in our life to keep us active and motivated we do not want to be in a stress mode long term as it can start to affect our health.
When you put the body into poses supported by bolsters and blocks and then breathe naturally you start to switch from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. You give your body the opportunity to go from fight or flight to rest, digest, restore and renew. Your body can start to heal, which it can not do when you are in fight or flight mode.
In this workshop, we will hold supported poses for 5-10 minutes and breathe fully so that we can start to release physical tensions held in the body by initiating the relaxation response. All of the poses will help to release the diaphragm and allow us to breathe easier with less physical restrictions. You can come and practice being a human being rather than a human doing and help your body to begin looking after itself rather than just trying to survive.
Vicky’s workshop is now available for booking.
Since qualifying in 2008 Vicky has studied with many world-renowned teachers such as Rod Stryker, Doug Keller, and Julie Gudmestad. In 2013, she studied with Laura Kupperman on her Yoga for Survivors course and began teaching yoga for those living with cancer. The classes are for any form of cancer and any stage of recovery. Vicky has seen firsthand how yoga can offer benefits to those living with cancer such as building strength, increasing range of motion and decreasing feelings of stress. Learn more about Vicky by visiting her website.