I have practised yoga most of my life. I have a childhood memory of watching yoga on TV and sitting in the lotus position. As an older child and young teenager, I used to dance – and ballet was my favourite. I started attending yoga classes when I came to Sheffield as a student in the late '80s and got hooked. I enjoyed the physical gracefulness, which reminded me of ballet, and I also enjoyed the 'sleep' at the end of the class! In the mid '90s, yoga helped me through the birth of both my children. It continues to be an essential part of my life.
My yoga experience and training
I have been a yoga student in my adopted home of Sheffield for over 25 years. I have attended classes in Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga and Bikram. But I mainly attend classes with Chris Noon and Hannah Penn at Sheffield Yoga School and continue to do so. They run workshops and retreats and teach in the satyananda style, You can find out more at www.sheffieldyogaschool.co.uk.
I have taken yoga classes all over the world. If I can find a class on my travels, I will attend; if not, I will always find a place to practise on my own; hotel room, beach, field, you only need yourself! I have taken a Kundalini class in an ashram in San Francisco, Hatha Yoga on the Costa Del Sol, I have also spent a week on a yoga and meditation retreat in Majorca. Back home, I have attended weekend retreats in the Peak District, Lake District and at Wortley Hall in Yorkshire.
Becoming a yoga teacher
My motivation was not just about being a teacher but to extend and deepen my practice. My training was with Steve Avian of Shamayoga. I was fortunate to be among a class of trainees with a wealth of yoga experience from which I could also draw Teacher training is the first step on a life long journey of learning and in Sheffield we are incredibly fortunate that are so many teachers and courses/workshops available.
My yoga style and philosophy
Yoga is an ancient practice. It has been adapted over the centuries to become a number of distinct approaches; these days you will hear people talk of Iyengar, Ashtanga, Hatha and so on. In the West, classes often focus on the physical aspects, but Yoga is so much more than creating shapers with our bodies. You can find many workshops that explore some of the elements of yoga without travelling too far.
For me yoga is a way of being; it is both a physical and a spiritual practice (a spiritual practice can mean many things; for me it includes aspects such as connecting with nature, mindfulness practices, following the cycles of the moon) The eight limbs of yoga not only describe the asanas (postures), breathing practices and quietening of the mind, but also the ethical precepts of the yamas and niyamas.
What my classes offer
My classes focus on a simple principle: the union of the body and mind. The aim is for you to get to know your body and mind, as well as develop physical strength and flexibility. Often people say they leave feeling relaxed and calm too.
Practices to quieten the mind
I begin the class by taking a few moments to settle the body and observe the mind, allowing ourselves to be present and ready for the class. Many of us have busy minds: and being able to observe them can help us to feel less stressed, and more at peace. In turn, this can help us to tune in to our inner wisdom. . In class I use a variety of techniques to help us settle including mindfulness practices, yoga nidra and relaxation techniques. At first, your mind may race away ( its what our minds naturally do) – During the practices perhaps you may feel as though you are drifting off – but, in time, you can start to slow the mind down and find moments of stillness, peace and feel relaxed,.
After the first quiet practice I invite you to find a sankalpa for yourself. A sankalpa can be described as a resolve. When our minds are quiet, we tune into what we need or desire: not a materialistic need, but something that will help you. For instance, you may wish to be more patient, kind, compassionate or peaceful. Essentially, a sankalpa is a short positive statement: we repeat it silently three times at the end of a “quietening” practice.
Posture work (asanas)
Part of the class will focus on physical aspects of yoga: the asanas. Each term I teach a different group of poses or focus on a specific area of the body e.g. the spine We practise the same movements each week so we can explore what works for our bodies, tuning in and listening to our bodies; letting go of tension, building strength and possibly increasing range of movement. This term on Mondays we are focusing on the spine, and Wednesday legs. (Feb 2021)
The pranayama are breathing practices. As we come to the end of the class we focus on a breathing practice such as nadi shodhana – alternate-nostril breathing, or the humming bee breath. Sometimes just simply extending the length of the breath. These practices help prepare the mind and body to become still and also help to release stress.
There are different techniques for relaxing the body and mind to find the quietness that exists in us all. Some weeks we practise yoga nidra; some weeks I use a mindfulness practice; and sometimes I will use a simple progressive muscle relaxation technique or guided meditations.