There are so many different types of yoga: Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Iyengar, Yin, Hatha, Acro Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Aerial Yoga, yoga with dogs (“Doga”!), yoga with goats, etc… it gets confusing! If you’re interested in coming to my class, you might want to know more about my style of teaching.
I originally trained in 2013 in Vinyasa Flow: a vigorous, fast-paced flowing style, including frequent repetition of a sequence of movements called a “vinyasa”; and including challenging postures such as arm balances, headstands and great big back bends and forward bends. There were also a lot of strict alignment “rules” - indicating what was the safest and best way to practice. At my teacher training I was one of the less flexible of the group. For example, I couldn’t sit with my legs out straight and fold myself flat, belly to thighs, keeping the knees straight (see pic above). I couldn’t sit with the soles of my feet together and bring my bent knees all the way to the floor on each side (pic below - vest says "nobody puts baby in a corner" for any Dirty Dancing fans out there). The culture of the training was very goal-oriented, and I was striving to overcome my “limitations”: my “tight hamstrings” (the muscles at the back of the thighs) and “tight hips”. I remember the lead teacher on the training saying “it doesn’t look very good if you are a yoga teacher with tight hamstrings”. At that stage I had already drastically increased the range of motion that my hamstrings could offer, and had previously thought I was doing well! So, believing I wasn’t good enough, in the process of striving to “improve”, during the training I strained my hamstring attachments – the tendons attaching the muscles at the back of the thighs to the sit bones of the pelvis. This led to a continual dull ache, and soreness in the area - it took three years for them to feel better (and I had to stop stretching my hamstrings!) – and I still have to be careful not to passively over-stretch. By the way, this is a very common yoga-related injury, that in the US is known as “Yoga Butt”!!
After my training, I dug around to find out more information about yoga injuries – online, in books, and from other teachers. I read and watched anatomical teachings – learning about the wide range of variability of how bones and joints are shaped and configured (see http://paulgrilley.com/bone-photos/). I attended further training, and over time, realised that it is ok not to be able to do certain yoga poses in specified ways, it is ok not to be able to make the most “desirable” shapes. I am interested in how the “rules” of yoga can potentially make it less accessible, and even disempowering for certain people, if their bodies don’t fit into the supposed ideal. This means that when I teach, I offer different options, and am in the position of “not knowing”. I invite students to explore for themselves what feels strong and steady – for example, what is the best foot position, how far to turn out the knee, where and how to place the hands. Playing with movement. The more I learn, the more I realise I will never have all the answers, and I am finally accepting that this is a great position to be in! It creates opportunities to continue learning and kindles endless curiosity. “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few.” - Shunryu Suzuki, Zen master.
In recent years, I have become very interested in how yoga can support healthy, functional movement in our bodies. How we can boost strength and flexibility to be more capable in the activities of daily life. How our everyday movement habits shape our bodies. I am loving the work of teachers, writers, YouTube-ers, Instagram-ers and podcast-ers such as Katy Bowman, Kathryn Bruni-Young (Mindful Strength), Cecily Milne (Yoga Detour), and Ido Portal. After attending workshops with Kathryn and Cecily, I introduced more functional strength training, including resistance bands, into my practice and then into my classes. After reading some of Katy Bowman’s books and attending her “Move your DNA” training with Jeannette Loram, I became much clearer on how my daily movement habits and the types of shoes I wear were interfering with my body’s healthy functioning. I’ve learned how important foot and ankle mobility and strength are for whole body health, so that’s why we do that stuff in the classes too! I am making the transition to “barefoot” footwear, which my feet are very happy about, and incorporate mindful strength training with a kettlebell and pull-up bar into my own practice. I get excited about "re-wilding" the body - restoring "natural" movements such as the deep squat (pic above) that young children can easily do, but which gets tricky in adulthood and must be eased into gradually after we have spent years never doing that movement and sitting in chairs. Movements that we evolved to do, and are actually really helpful for healthy, strong joints. Movements that bring playfulness and experimentation into our yoga practice.
So, if you are interested in:
moving in new ways
experimenting with how your body feels in different postures
being curious about what alignment works best for you
increasing joint range of motion while strengthening through those ranges
experiencing muscle activation and de-activation
becoming more body-aware
increasing motor control, a.k.a. stability
having fun with movement and feeling good afterwards
Then please get in touch!