I'm super excited to be delving into the world of YOGA this month! Courtesy of Warrior & Wild Studio in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire.
January's a month of change, where many of us try to better ourselves through making resolutions for the new year ahead. For some, this may be about making changes to become more active or taking some time away from your busy day to day schedule to clear your mind and just focus on you.
So this month, I'm trying something new, and will personally try and test different forms of yoga, and then tell you all about it via this blog...
Movement, strength and flexibility are key factors for maintaining and optimising our bodies health and vitality. Problems tend to occur when our lives are too sedentary, which leads to poor posture, reduced circulation, muscle dysfunction and weakness - nothing useful! So when we add awareness to movement through means of instruction, we not only reap the benefits of that practice at that time, but we also teach and remind ourselves of how to best look after ourselves away from these classes. Having not done much yoga before myself, I'm taking this as a valuable opportunity to learn more about these different practices; and with that; pass on what I learn to those who are interested in trying something new for themselves also.
Over the next month, I'll be trying classes including Hatha, Yoga for Sport, Yoga Strong, Restorative and Yoga Flow. Using the 30 Day Starter Pack, priced at £30.
• H A T H A •
with Jay Foo
" Wow - hello thighs. I knew you were there but now I'm sure. It's safe to say, I may have underestimated how demanding yoga can be.
I had mentally prepared for some nice stretching (which there was), but I hadn't anticipated really pushing myself or digging deep for strength in my legs, shoulders and core - or sweating! But what a great class.
We practised mostly slow, strong and sustained poses including downward dog and warrior 2, which we came back to throughout the class with different variations. I would say that this was quite an intense class due the amount of time postures (asanas) were held for, making this a great class for developing strength and balance as well connecting poses with your breathing. Jay was very tentative with everyone in the room, adjusting postures to help your alignment. I find this a real bonus as not all tutors will come around and assist you in the class.
The session ends with 5 minutes of blissful calm where you can lie down on the floor with the lights off, get cosy under a blanket and have a moment to let your body and mind rest - I very nearly fell asleep actually. A lovely contrast and end to a physically challenging class."
What Warrior & Wild say about Hatha:
"Hatha classes combine physical postures (asana) with breath practice (pranayama) to develop balance, strength and flexibility. Postures are often held for a number of counts, encouraging focus on alignment and mindfulness. This makes it a perfect class to start with for beginners. There are many variations of hatha yoga and we'd highly recommend trying classes with different teachers to find a style you connect with."
• Y O G A F O R S P O R T •
with Matt Potts
"I arrived for my 6pm Yoga for Sport class last night at the Warrior & Wild Studio, Nailsworth. Again, no idea really what to expect, but I had an inkling this class was not for the faint hearted...
I have to say, I adored this session! It was fast paced, fluid and challenging. Yet available for all abilities (not just for scary, chiseled athletes, which is the scenario I had earlier envisaged). Each exercise was broken down into different variations so you can choose how far to push yourself, enabling you to listen to your own body, to suit your level of strength, endurance and flexibility, I'd liken it to an acrobatic style of movement, that combines various elements in order to work through to more advanced postures.
As it says in the title, this class is ideal for sports people who want to improve their strength, flexibility and balance. From deep hamstring stretches, to loading of the wrists and shoulders, to core workout and balance. If you enjoy a fitness challenge or are interested in exploring what else your body is capable of, I'd recommend this class for you.
I have to say - this class was also really FUN! Matt was a fantastic tutor - like Jay, very tentative with everyone in the class, helping to correct and encourage you where needed. Matt's created a welcoming, easy-going and warm atmosphere to come into - no pretence. "
Here's a few words from Matt about his practise and the class itself:
"The Yoga for Sport class at Warrior and Wild is a great session for recovery, to ease out knocks and soreness from training sessions, whilst also allowing flexibility and balance to be improved. Although the sessions are aimed at recovery and are suitable for any level of fitness, the class still gets the body to sweat and work. We practice some challenging arm balances, such as Crow variations (including the fantastic Eka Pada Koundinyasana), to load the shoulder girdle and build shoulder strength and stability, while also toning the core muscles. We also work some deep hip openers through Pigeon and Frog Pose and some intense forward folds."
Matt found yoga practice as a way to rehabilitate injuries sustained playing rugby, but also to try and stay free from injury. His style of yoga is heavily influenced by some the more physical yoga practices and practitioners, wanting to bring the benefits he found in Yoga to a broader demographic that sometimes has a blind spot to Yoga. He hopes to give students an enjoyable yoga experience centred on improving mobility, flexibility, strength and proprioception (your bodies awareness of its position). His classes are particularly geared towards clients who enjoy sports and fitness at any level, but who are perhaps not sure of how a yoga practice can assist them.
• Y O G A F L O W •
with Courtenay Pipkin
“Friday saw my third class with Warrior & Wild, and this time it was Yoga Flow. I’ve been really surprised by how different each class has been so far, with not much prior knowledge about yoga, it’s been really interesting getting to know some of the different forms it has to offer.
I would highly recommend beginners to take this class, as I found it balanced the physical aspect of yoga with the mindfulness and use of breath. Slow but fluid sequences mean you’re not struggling for too long in one posture and repetition gives you time to familiarise yourself with the movement.
If you want to start you day right, this is a great class to achieve it! I’m typically not a morning person as I tend to work into my evenings. But this class was a great opener for my day ahead – in fact, I had such great energy following the class that I was super productive and practically re-wrote half my website – yoga powers here I come!
The class started with Courtenay (class tutor, owner and mastermind behind Warrior & Wild) introducing an idea to consider throughout the session that was about focus. Asking us to find a spot in front of us and let our eyes and face soften and focus on the point, letting everything else around us fade away. I don’t know whether it was the incense or clean white walls or bright morning light, but I genuinely found this strangely powerful. Once I’d let my eyes relax it was like a soft haze blurred out the rest of the room until my gaze felt slightly hypnotic. Unfortunately, once I’d recognised this I’d tipped myself out of this nice fuzzy place I’d floated to, but I can see how this could become a form of meditation for gaining mental clarity. My breathing had slowed and my body had sunk heavily into the floor. It was pleasant, quiet and altogether calming.
The class then continued into a dynamic sequence of postures, described as a blend of hatha and vinyasa flow. Working through a number of sun salutations that gracefully link poses from standing to the ground and up again. I loved the fluidity of these sequences and could imagine once you’re more familiar with the poses, being able to really focus on the quality of the movement and connecting it with your breath – which I guess is where yoga really comes into it’s own.
Although make no mistake, this is still hard work! Maybe this is my own misconception of yoga but I hadn’t realised the strength element involved was quite so demanding! But this is a good thing, flexibility without strength can lead us to injury and lack of stability of our joints. Valuable lesson learned – yoga is more than stretching.
The class finished with a lovely long lie down, comfortably snuggled under a blanket and eyes resting thankfully shut. This part of the class is referred to as savasana, designed to let your mind and body assimilate the benefits of your asana practice. A lovely end to a lovely class, I left feeling balanced, fresh and full of positive energy for the day ahead."
I'll finish this entry by taking the opportunity to congratulate Courtenay on creating such a beautiful and welcoming space for people to come into. A truly calming environment bought together by a great group of tutors. I can't wait to for my next class!
• Y O G A F L O W •
with Molly Chinner
"Last night I attended Yoga Flow with the lovely Molly Chinner. I was having "one of those days" and so I did consider the option of not going and instead retreating to my sofa with a tub of chocolate brownie icecream and copious amounts of tea. But thankfully, bravery prevailed - I decided not to be a big girls blouse and commit to the class - huzzah!
I'm so glad I did go. In fact, if anything, it highlighted to me the importance of doing something like this when you've had a bit of a crappy day or you're a bit stressed out or your body feels a bit "blurh". Sometimes you need to give yourself a little push in order to start engaging with things that may actually remedy or enhance your wellbeing, as apposed to to just botching it up with quick fixes (usually of the sugary and Netflicks vairety).
I've noticed looking back on my writing, that I mainly talk about the physical attributes of yoga, which makes sense as I tend to look at the body in more physical and bio-mechanical terms. So in this class, I wanted to make more of an effort to connect with the mindfulness, breathing and try to detach from everyday worries. I tried really hard to coordinate my breath with the movement, which Molly seamlessly described and demonstrated to us at the front of the class, We moved from one pose to the next without spending too long static in any one posture and took time to rest in between sequences to let our muscles recover.
Both Courtenay's and Molly's Flow classes I found to be really enjoyable. They have a lovely gentle pace to them, perfect for beginners, with lots of focus around mindfulness. So far, classes have ended with savasana (IE resting on the floor with eyes closed and wrapped up warm - god yes), but in this class we started with savasana. I've discovered, it's not until you find stillness and consciously clear your mind that you realise how much holding occurs in your body, even when you think you're at rest. The notion that these moments of stillness have powerful restorative and healing benefits is one I could agree with, and liken very much to the restful state reached through receiving massage.
In summary, this a great dynamic and fluid class with time to rest and recuperate. Ideal for those who are just starting out or simply like evolving, flowing sequences of movement."
• R E S T O R A T I V E Y O G A •
with Nic Hutchinson
"I couldn't wait to step inside the cosy, warm studio on what was a rather cold and bleak Friday evening. My back was a little sore from a busy week of work, so the idea of having an hour to remedy this and start my weekend off with a good dose of self care felt just perfect.
The studio lights were dimmed and I felt an instant sense of calm as I entered the room. We began with savasana (resting on the floor with your eyes closed), equipped with extra blankets, blocks, bolsters and an optional eye pillow. I find this is a lovely way to begin.
The class was led with poses entirely on the floor with the recommendation of keeping our eyes closed throughout. Each position we moved through was held for a number of minutes, which really allowed the body to surrender any tension it was holding onto and sink deeper into a stretch.
The warmness and darkness of the room was like being cocooned in a big snuggly blanket. Perhaps if dealing with stress, emotional trauma, anxiety etc. this could be a positive environment for balancing emotions, restoring energy and letting go of worries.
We moved slowly through the body, taking time to connect with our breath. The blocks and bolsters could be used to support areas of the body where flexibility was lacking, enabling you to relax into the posture without needing to hold anything back.
I would say this class is ideal for beginners as you can get a sense of moving through basic floor postures without rushing. Also great for anyone with less mobility or flexibility - the slow poses allow time for the body to adjust, joints to open and muscles to length. Or perhaps like me, you've just had a demanding week and you want the opportunity to switch off and rest - recharge your batteries.
Gentle and less physically demanding than any of the classes I've attended so far, this is a real treat for your mind, body and sole."
What Warrior & Wild say about the Restorative class, "Restorative yoga classes allow you to press the reset button on the stresses of day to day life, providing you with a nourishing and easeful practice. You will settle into supported postures through the use of props, remaining here for a longer periods of time. All physical systems benefit from these levels of deep relaxation and stillness through the release of any muscular tension, centring the breath and body."
• T H E E N D O F M Y J O U R N E Y •
I've sadly come to the end of my 30 day starter pack at Warrior & Wild studio. I have to admit, I had my own ideas of what yoga was before attending these sessions and I will put my hands up and say that they have surpassed my expectations! My ignorance stands corrected! I feel I've learnt a lot in the short space of time and I will be continuing with a couple of weekly sessions.
Yoga comes in many shape and sizes, many different approaches and teaching styles. The great thing about the 30 day pass was being able to try as many I wanted to. Finding ones that I thought I would really gel with but then ended up not gelling with so much....and being surprised by classes that I thought I wouldn't be so interested in and actually finding great solace there.
Whether attending for the mind or body or both, I definitely felt a difference in my body physically but also in my mood and energy. I felt energised following classes but balanced. I felt grounded. I was able to clear my busy head. I was able to set aside some time just for me. I could remind myself that, self care isn't selfish.
I hope that this blog has helped to paint a clearer picture of what to expect from some of the classes available to you locally and maybe even inspired some of you to take your first steps into a yoga studio. Our holistic approach to therapy means that we like to be able to recommend clients things that could help nurture their wellbeing further and for the long-term. I think that yoga has a great place in the world and I urge anyone who's on the fence about it to simply have a go - find what suits you. You may have even tried yoga before and been put off by that particular style or teacher, so don't be afraid to try again.
We only have one body and one mind so look after it. You are precious.