Monday, November 28, 2011

Not so much Eat Pray Love, more Sing Pray Blub!

I'm not really what you would call a God type person!

What I mean is, it is fairly hard for me to believe in a beardy bloke relaxing on his cloud, surveying all that he created with a slightly smug look on his face. Similarly, I could never buy into Jesus being the son of said beardy bloke having to be tortured and killed to save us.

Now it may interest you to know that I married a staunch Roman Catholic who is totally OK with the creation, loves the stories of the virgin birth, digs the whole Noah's ark thing. He goes to church every Sunday and prays and lights candles for his family and finds total peace during this precious hour every week.

For me that kind of peace is found on my yoga mat. I zone out of the stresses of life, I focus on my actions and my breath and weirdly love. The yoga studio is my church, my mat is my prayer book and I light my candles inside my body.

If I followed an organised religion I think it would have to be Buddhism. Very simply, you are worshipping the god within which to me makes complete sense.

However, this Sunday just gone I found myself in church!

I had been invited to see my oldest friend sing in a concert with her Rock Choir at the Holy Trinity Church in Guildford. Although churches freak me out a little, I do love a good sing song and so I got dolled up in my Sunday best (no hat!) and made the journey.

Thank Goodness the church wasn't a spooky one! It was a new building with high ceilings, glass doors, polished wooden floors and chairs...not a pew or a whiff of musty prayer books to behold!
I perched gingerly on the end of a row with 15 minutes or so to kill before the concert was to start.

What to do?

I whipped out my phone and texted my sister "Sunday morning and I am in church. What is wrong with this picture?!"
She replied "pretty sure its illegal to text in church. Put your phone away before the lightning strikes!"

So now what?

thumb twiddle, hair ruffle, nail bite...

And then... I came over all Liz Gilbert.

I actually found myself what can only be described as praying...eeeeekkkk!
Well, I like to think of it more as sending out some pleas into the universe in the hope that the mighty universe may offer up some answers.

Thank goodness the choir rolled in on time or I may have signed up to weekly bible study if I had been left any longer!

The choir was (yes I know its over used but its the best word I can think of) AMAZING!
They sang, and I quote form Madeleine's email:

"All over the World - the scary arms one
Take on Me – the scary turning one
Mr Blue Sky – the one where we all sing when we’re meant to be quiet one
Walking on Broken Glass – the rather good one
True Colours – the lovely one
Something inside so Strong – the bring a hankie one"

It was rousing and inspirational, thoroughly enjoyable and hopelessly emotional.
A bright eyed, predominately female group of 50 or so singing their hearts while madly trying to step touch in time to the music and make their fantastically charismatic choir master proud.
Of course, I cried like a girl from beginning to end. The song choice was fantastic, the enthusiasm was boundless and the audience was completely enthralled.

The weirdest bit for me and the reason why I blubbed (even through Aha's hit song "Take on Me") was because, as if by magic,  each song seemed to hold an answer to the big asks I sent out into the universe a few moments earlier.

By the time we got to "Something Inside so Strong" I had to slide my sunglasses over my eyes to shield my embarrassment. I mean a pink blotchy tear stained face is not a good accessory to Sunday Best!

I left church feeling uplifted and bouncy, and to tell you the truth a little changed.

Maybe I should talk to the universe more often. 

Or maybe I should just spend a little time each week not working, not chatting, not emailing, not doing yoga, but just sitting, contemplating, putting stuff out there, and seeing what I get back.

It's worth a try isn't it?!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Muff and Meat!

"Don't stray off your mat Babe!", Terri, my trusty companion and fellow yoga tourist whispered as we walked into the studio at Bikram Soho. With that I looked down to see that instead of the usual wooden or rubber studio floor, we were walking across a floor made of what can only be described as a scrabbly mess of curled up rubber coated wire. Terri continued, "Imagine the horrors that lie in the gaps...skin cells, hair"
"Scabs?" I chimed in!
We tiptoed from that point on, eager to place our mats in the correct place, right up against the painted line, as per the diagram on the studio wall, so as not to offend the Bikramites!
When in Rome and all that...
Not all of the students had the figure to be wearing tiny Lycra shorts with ruched sides and microscopic bra tops that barely covered nipple let alone fleshy bosom,  (I looked like I was dressed for the arctic in comparison with capris and vest!) but it didn't seem to bother them. And even the stereotypical 6 foot tall, bean thin yoga gods and goddesses were struggling to hide their modesty in such postures as dancers pose where the lady in front of me advertised her Calvin Klein thong that had shifted in flight to expose a very well groomed Brazilian!
Hard to focus on your ujaii breath when all around there is "muff and meat"!
The smell of stale sweat was almost overpowering as the man next to me flapped himself from side to side trying to get into salabasana. It was all I could do to stay in the room! The thing is I don't think the smell was coming from him. I think there was a vague aroma as I stepped with trepidation into my first Bikram studio in 3 years. But as the class went on and the room heated up the odour definitely got more powerful and unbelievably anti-social!
The thing is, your senses tend to become heightened when you practice yoga and I must have been working extra hard because my nose was on overload!
Now it sounds as though I am not a fan of Bikram. Let me clarify by saying if it wasn't for Bikram I wouldn't be where I am today. I was a complete Bikram obsessive for more than four years. I loved the heat and the challenge and the competitive nature of the discipline. Plus I loved the large and airy Florida studio that never smelt!
As soon as I started studying yoga more deeply and started my teacher training I got to see that Bikram was fairly restrictive in its 26 postures and then after discovering vinyasa yoga and ashtanga I understood that you can actually create your own heat.
Anyway, I digress...
Terri and I were hoping for a teacher who had experience in other yoga styles. Our instructor seemed to have experience but she was definitely a Bikram robot, sticking religiously to the script and doing so with the smiliest of faces and chirpiest of tones. At any moment I expected her to come out with " Go back, way back, fall back...and please fasten your seat belt as we shall shortly be landing in Calcutta!"  She was Channeling her inner air hostess - Virgin, not BA!! (Terri, you may be the only one laughing at that!)

Smells aside (there is always an uncontrollable farter in every Bikram class!!) it was a really enjoyable class.
Hard to believe from these ramblings I know!
I felt fantastic afterwards and it certainly took me to a depth of posture that is hard to find without the heat...in November in England!
I was completely spent after the ninety minutes not to mention a little emotional and after a long savasana I was happy to slide across the now slimy floor out to the coolness of the studio reception. After a rugby shower and a discussion as to why all the skinny birds parade around naked in the changing rooms for hours after class doing their hair, checking their phone, discussing the advantages of a flax seed only diet with other naked birds, we grabbed our shoes at the door and headed into China Town.
Now you have to check out Y Ming on Greek Street. The greatest crispy Duck pancakes on earth and noodles to die for.
Terri and I put the world to rights over one too many beers, all the while garnering very odd looks from other "normal" colour diners in the restaurant.
You could see them trying not to stare, thinking "Radiation poisoning?" , "Allergic reaction?"
"No, I have a beetroot face because I spent an hour and a half doing seriously hard exercise in a bloody sauna...of course!"

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Yogagate!

Which word could I use to describe last week...Interesting? Challenging? Difficult?...I've got it, Shit!
Yes, a big steaming pile of it that dances under your nose wafting its nauseating aroma at regular intervals!

It really all started on Monday morning when I took over a yoga class at a local gym. Now the reason I was offered the job was because the existing "Yoga" teacher (and I use the word yoga in its loosest possible terms) had sworn rather violently at the manager for whom I think this was the final straw after a chapter of unacceptable behaviour.

Now you see why I put yoga in inverted commas. Yoga promotes harmony and balance within people, it embraces non-violence and respectfulness.

Anyway, turns out that the "coven" as I have now named the loyal followers of swearing lady were more than a little put out that their fierce leader had been let go. What they failed to realise was that I was not the one who had pushed her out, or asked her to leave or stolen her job.
My only crime was to accept a job offer!

I was the completely innocent party in "yogagate"!

I was therefore totally unprepared for what turned out to be the most awful experience of my yoga teaching life so far. As I introduced myself to the class they physically turned their noses up, they heaved and sighed and commented loudly to each other that it was totally ridiculous having a change of teacher half way through the term....since when do gyms run on terms?!

Anyway, I ploughed on with a smile on my face even when I had several ladies challenge my integrity, my knowledge and my patience, with one woman making a huge fuss and leaving mid balancing sequence, and two of them cancelling their entire gym membership after the class.

These are grown up people!!

I stewed and stewed over this class until Wednesday. What could I have done? How could I have made a better class for them? Should I change what I do to make it more like the last teacher?
Then on Wednesday night I had an epiphany. In fact it was less an epiphany and more an email from the lovely Julie Bealey who taught a class there the next night. She told me that there were a couple of women raving about my class, not knowing that Julie knew me.
So I looked up from my computer and the light bulb dinged above my head...Sod 'em!
For the three or four women who weren't happy there were equal amounts that obviously thoroughly enjoyed the class. 

I have spent a really long time discovering my style in yoga and although I am very aware that part of my job as a yoga teacher is to be able to adapt postures for people who have physical limitations whether temporary or long term but should I really have to adapt my style too?

And after a long and hard think over a large glass of Shiraz, the answer came to me.

NO!!!!!

You have to be true to yourself right?

I like to flow, I love to play music, I enjoy the challenge of an arm balance. And because one or two don't completely share my tastes, I appreciate they have the choice to simply not come to my class. Like dance there are so many different kinds of yoga. You don't go to a street dance class and complain it should be more balletic!

So the week rolled on to Friday where I faced my second audience with the coven. I plastered on my biggest smile, channelled my inner warrior and strode confidently into the studio, where to my complete surprise I saw 11 happy eager faces. Phew! A couple of which I recognised from the class from hell but mostly all brand spanking new and no coven!

I guess the word had circulated that there was a new kid in town and they wanted to check out my class.

The class was pretty brilliant even if  I do say so myself! There was a positive energy buzzing about as well as some great heavy breathing and a good amount of dripping sweat.
At the end of class there were still 11 people, they were still all smiling and you know what, they even all thanked me!

Faith in the human race restored!

Now the real test will be next Friday if they all come back! They could just have been coming to check out the new girl of course!

The thing is, I got myself into such a state about these women and took everything very personally. What I failed to realise until later was that it wasn't personal at all, well not to me anyway. How could it be, they never gave me a chance. I wonder if those women will look back on their behaviour towards me and feel uncomfortable or remorseful? I wonder if they will ever realise that yoga is not just about stretching yourself on a mat but more about living a life of harmony and balance with yourself, with the universe and all the people in it?

Namaste Freedom Junkies!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Eloquence is for losers!

OK so am I alone or do any of you out there start a sentence and then have no idea how you are going to finish it without sounding like a complete loser or that perhaps English is your second language?!
I do it all the time, which wouldn't be so bad if it happened when I was at home chatting to my family or in the pub gossiping with my friends. Of course it only happens when I am teaching a class. And the illusion is shattered! I am not in fact an eloquent serene goddess who glides through life on a cloud, I am in reality a gibbering idiot who couldn't string a sentence together if her life depended on it.

I hate that my cover is so regularly blown!

As a yoga teacher you pretty much have to talk for an hour straight. Now we are not the only people who have this pressure, many business types have to make long presentations, comedians have to be humorous for extended periods, actors, public speakers, politicians, but the difference is that they have learnt by heart what they have to say. I am just winging it!!

Take The President of the United States, when did you last hear him stumble over a sentence? A health reform, maybe, but a sentence, never!

Now I don't mean, I have no idea what I am talking about because I am a bit of a boffin and genuinely do my homework on anatomy and alignment and philosophy but I don't rehearse my lines. I put a sequence together, I know the relevant info about the postures but I don't stick to a script. Maybe that's why there is often a "...and now send that stretch right out through both sides of your...crown!" or "Take your weight towards the ball of your heel!" and my particularly cringe worthy favourite "...and let savasna take you into the depths of a relaxing breath"?! What the bloody hell is that meant to mean Fee you total tard!

And of course this is more likely to happen if, like last week, the lovely Julie Bealey, yoga teacher extraordinaire and fantastic inspirational guru (I want to be her when I grow up!) unexpectedly floats into my Saturday morning class for the first time. EEEEEEEKKKK!
Or when I am in a private one to one class with a super high flying, high achieving business person, and nowhere to hide!!!
In those slightly  pressured situations I simply lose complete control of my verbal abilities!
There are worse things I could lose control of I suppose!
So anyway, I am working on it, you will be pleased to know...well, those of you who have to listen to the ramblings in my classes anyway!

And I am not too worried about it. We are all, after all a work in progress. Some bits of us are finished to perfection and other bits need some work...in my case, lots of work!
I think the key is to relax, right? Listen to me, a fully fledged yoga teacher asking if perhaps relaxation may be the key to me functioning better!
Duh!

I need to practice what I preach - take a breath, and allow things to flow more naturally. As soon as we get into that survival mode, all the lovely added extras our bodies produce leave us.

All those extras like, English!!!!!

I need to tap into my parasympathetic nervous system...I am sure I have one in there somewhere...and allow the calm and controlled side of my mind and body to take hold of the nervous and quivering wreck by the shoulders, lay her down on a comfy sofa, give her a cup of tea, a copy of "Hello" and the night off whilst She takes over.

Perhaps, unlike one of the Bikram robots (too much?!),the fact that I do speak from the heart and I do get my words muddled and sometimes it seems like I have put the wrong teeth in, makes me more real to my clients? Instead of a super bendy, spiritually enlightened, goodie goodie, I am in fact a real human with real life issues and problems like everyone else? Maybe they can see I am an empathetic teacher, who is dealing and struggling with the rest of them!

And until I teach a grammatically correct class, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Namaste Freedom junkies!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Inbuilt Obsolescence

Turns out that where my parents are concerned, I am the family geek!
Nice!
I only deduce this because lately I get a lot of "Sophie, when you've got a spare minute can you fix my printer/tell me why my email contacts aren't there any more/sort out the Sky plus/show me how to look at my photographs on my computer...."...you get the picture!
Infact I am not a geek, I think I am just patient and perhaps practical? I am sure my brother's would say, it's because I am close by and born after 1970!!!!!
Anyway, the latest breakdown in the Free household appears to be the 18 month old flat screen TV. For some reason it likes to tease you by switching itself off half way through a juicy episode of "Megastructures" or a particularly exciting seating of "Midsomer Murders" (yawn!) and not allow you back into TV land until the next day. It is like some obsessive parent who thinks that getting square eyes from watching too much Television is actually possible!
I for once had absolutely no idea! I can't even figure out how to change channels on that TV so I was a complete waste of time. After a long discussion with Mum and Dad and a fruitless hunt for the reciept and therefore warranty, we decided that we were all pissed off with electrical items. And there in debated the idea of "inbuilt obsolescence".
I believe it completely. I mean how many times have you had something go wrong a month or two out of warranty? And rather than endure a teeth sucking whistle from an overpriced, dirty booted repair man we take a quick trip to the tip on the way to Comet!
It got me thinking...maybe that's what I have going on with my memory...inbuilt obsolescence! If you know me well, then you are very aware that if it didn't happen in the last year, I have no idea what you are going on about! It has really been worrying me. I wasn't a product of JVC or Sony but perhaps I have a little self destruct button on my memories and after a certain amount of time, if I haven't used them they break!
Just to change tack slightly, I went on a completely incredible yoga workshop on Friday at The Life Centre, Islington. It was a yoga therapeutics and adjustments workshop and amongst other things, we talked about how the body is best healed by the mind, not by doctors or pills. And then the amazing Aadil Palkhivala mentioned Chitta Vritti.
I had no idea what that was...shame on me dedicated yogi!
I shrunk in the back and looked terribly humble as one of the slightly pushy Lululemon clad stick insects shot up her hand, spouted out a passage from the Yoga Sutras and waited smugly for her housepoint!
So basically its a loud and busy mind full of chatter and thoughts. Now I definitely have that! I just didn't realize that was the name for it...I thought it was called "living in the 21st Century!"
I will hold my hands up and admit that I am completely rubbish at meditating and I am only anywhere near "stillness of the mind" when I am in yoga class. And although I have been practising for more than seven years and I have been a teacher for two I am very much a work in progress and I find it very hard still, to take yoga off the mat!
But, after some soul searching this weekend and a delve back into my childhood with some old family friends I get it.
It turns out, Chitta Vritti is the reason for my lack of memory, not inbuilt obsolescence after all! The memories are all still there but I need to relax and stop the chatter for them to be revealed.
So next time you panic that your warranty is up and you are about to break, remember the Chitta Vritti, get yourself to a safe, comfy spot and relax your mind. Whether its for a few deep breaths, several sun salutations or maybe even a lie down with a lavender eye pillow, if you stop the loudness you will soon realize you have a few more years in you yet!!!!
You gotta love yoga!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Personal Touch

I read an article recently saying that it was really important to connect to your yoga students on a personal level.

That really resonated with me.

I have been to yoga classes where you are very obviously just one sweaty face in a sea of faces and the teacher doesn't know you from Adam. They take your money and put you through your paces then promptly herd you out the door so the next crowd can pile in.
A little bit cattle marketesque!
Now that’s fine, I mean I my ego doesn’t dictate that if I am not treated like royalty then I am forever scarred!
However, call me old fashioned but I like it when I go to a class and the teacher and/or receptionist greets me with "Hi Sophie! Are you feeling better after your cold last week?" or "You are going to love tonight’s hamstrings class, oh queen of splits!" You just feel like they care, they notice and they are invested in you as a person.

The other day, a successful interior designer friend of my sister’s was very patiently listening to me moan about how much more of a success I would be if I had a gorgeous white walled, wooden floored studio to teach in, with the scent of cotton filling the air and organza curtains being gently tossed in the breeze coming in from the large open glass doors!

She jerked me back from my daydream with a sharp “Bloody Hell Sophie!”
“Yeah, who wouldn’t want that perfect space for their business? But all that stuff is just the icing on the cake. You have to build a client base and your clients will come and keep coming because of you. They will come because of what you have to offer on a fundamental level, not because the floor is English Oak or because they can get a Coconut Water in the cafe afterwards!”

Giselle runs Dehasse in the same way that I aspire to run Freedom yoga. She knows that besides having all the essential qualifications and professional business qualities, you have to offer a personal touch to your clients.  She made me understand that no matter whether I am teaching in a fabulous purpose built studio or a basic (and dare I say, sometimes grotty!) make-shift space, people will come because of what I have to offer on a personal level...as well as hopefully because my flows rock!!!

And I hope that I do give a little bit of that special individual attention to my clients. Of course it was much easier when my Monday class had 3 in it and Saturday morning was only my faithfully committed sister, Louisa!
Fantastically, my classes are all picking up and I have a database of more than 50 which I am totally ecstatic about, but I am now very aware that however big I get (not my bum, my business!! And by the way I am planning on world domination so be prepared!) I aim to keep that personal approach.

I genuinely want the gossip about Sue’s latest cycling expedition and Judy’s Rock Choir exploits! I want Lucy to know that I am aware of her neck issues and I want to reassure Kev that his manic brain will calm as long as he remembers to breathe!

And all that is as beneficial for my lovely yogis as the class itself  - So what if you forgot to exhale going into downdog, on the upside you got to share your exciting engagement news and have the yoga class dedicated to love!

Now thats the personal touch!!!










Friday, September 30, 2011

Running Home for Alex

Some of you loyal Freedom Followers may remember a blog I wrote last year called Precious Lives about 2 families who had been dealt a completely crap hand health wise and were stuggling on, to overcome illness.
I wanted to catch you up with the good news and tell you about the most incredible day I was lucky enough to witness last Sunday.

Sam, my sister's friend who was hospitalized almost overnight with a very rare and paralyzing disease called Guillain-Barre Syndrome was in hospital for the best part of a year on a ventilator, unable to communicate with her husband and small son. Well, the great news is that her perseverance and strength as well as of course the wonders of medical science sees her now out of hospital, several stone lighter and a little shaky on her feet but making a complete recovery. For her family who were called into her hospoital room on more than one occasion "to say goodbye" it must seem like a dream come true to... to Sam too. I am sure it has left them all exhausted but with a new found understanding of the important things in life and perhaps a new zest for living.

The other person I mentioned in my previous blog was a brave little boy named Alex Sharp. At only 3 years old he was diagnosed with a very aggresive and rare form of childhood cancer called Neuroblastoma. The last 17 months have been, as you can imagine, an unfathomably difficult time for little Alex and of course for his parents, Ben and Miranda, and their gorgeous daughter Jennifer. Alex has been through some frankly awful and drawn out drug therapies including chemotherapy radiotherapy and immunotherapy as well as surgery to remove the abdominal tumour.
The great news is that last weekend marked Alex's last night in hospital after more than 100 nights having completed all his treatments.
A truly noteworty occasion.
The family are unwaveringly positive and determined for Alex's long and happy life ahead. They have had untold support from The Neuroblastoma Society and The John Radcliffe Hospital and in true Ben and Miranda style they had to do something big to mark the day and make sure they could give a little back to help families in the future dealing with this disease as well as raise awareness about Neuroblastoma and the much needed funds for research.

Now Ben is a bit of a superman!
He hikes and cycles and runs...but not your average Sunday afternoon ramble in the woods to a nice tea shop or a bike ride down to the shops for a lolly, oh no! He is a serious iron man type.
Hence, last Sunday he embarked upon "running home for Alex". Ben took on the amazing feat of running 35 miles from The John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford to their home in Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire.
Bloody Hell!
I know...that's like a marathon and then another 10 miles!!!!
My sister-in-law who is great friends with the family decided she wanted to join him in the last 10K and roped my sister in along with her running partner Wendy. My running skills are slightly lacking and I opted for support vehicle and cheering on!
Ben was super organised and emailed all his supporters a list of where he hoped to be and at what time with OS references and everything!!!!
So he was due at Annie Baileys pub at 3pm on Sunday, which is where we dropped his running sidekicks before we sped off to see if he was on schedule.
"It is Ben Sharp!", said my brother! And he was right, infact Ben was stalling for time as he was ahead of schedule!!! When we caught up with him at a makeshift feeding station just before the pub he looked completely amazing! Not a drop of sweat, and fresh as a daisy.
From The Radcliffe he had been joined by two mates who were running in relay an hour at a time to keep him company and motivated. He also had a support car stashed full of bananas!

Wendy, Louisa and Kate

Waiting for Ben to arrive
Ben with his support team

Getting ready to roll out




The final leg

By the time he got to the pub having already run 29 miles he had picked up two more runners. Then at the pub there were seven more who joined in.
We - my Brother, his girls, my Mum and Dad and several other husbands and wives - decided to cheer them along the route, so we zoomed in our cars to the next vantage point and clapped them along their inceredible journey. I think it helped the runners, not knowing where they were going to see us next, but knowing that every mile they would get a little boost of energy and confirmation that they were doing a great job! And every time I got back in my car I cried my heart out at what a fantastic thing Ben was doing and for the most worthy of causes. I cannot imagine having to go through what that family and millions of other families across the world go through, wondering from one day to the next if your child will make it through.
Louisa and Wendy just before a nice cup of tea!
By the time the posse got into Little Chalfont they were more than 20 strong and had been joined by several children on bikes for the last mile or so. Then about 400 yards before the house, a gaggle of scooter riding rugrats and a gang of supporters on foot took the final trek home. Along with Alex sat atop his Mum's shoulders.
Congratulations!
As Ben and the other runners got to the house, it was hugs all round and in true English style, mugs of tea and slices of cake in the cul-de-sac. Then photos galore and many pats on the back along with several tears.
Ben is truly an inspiring man.
Not only has he pushed his body to a test of endurance that only the truly brave would consider, he managed to raise more than £10, 000 for The Neuroblastoma Society to boot,which is remarkable.

I am sure there were more than a few beers in the Sharp household that night and perhaps a couple of aching legs on Monday!

But what it makes me realize is that if you put your mind to it, you can be strong enough to achieve anything.
Congratulations Family Sharp!
Check out Alex's Blog here

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Youtube Rocks!

In my quest for Freedom Yoga world domination I have been madly trying to cover all my bases to get the word out. I blog, I tweet, I email, I post flyers through letterboxes (well strictly speaking, my overly paid nephews do that for me!) I network at social events, bloody hell, I even recruited my hairdresser last week! So for someone who is a complete drip when it comes to selling herself, I am pretty chuffed.
Drum roll please...last week I had 12 new clients in my classes!
How amazing is that?
Now whether they all come back for week 2 is another question entirely but the fact that the word is getting out there is nothing short of fantastic.

So I decided I needed to make a video to put on my website as a little taster so people could see exactly what Freedom Yoga is all about. I think lots of people think that doing yoga means lying on a dusty floor in a cold village hall being forced to "Omm" whilst incense chokes you and you contemplate your navel! I have to dispell the myth. Actually I don't think it's a myth, I think there are classes out there like that and thats why yoga has such a bad reputation - For goodness sake if you want to lie down and omm at least sweep the floor and get some hetaing on!

Back to the video!

I would reccommend to any of you trying to move forward in your business to get a teenager in your life. It is so handy! Anyone born after 1995 can help you with anything in the technology department. It seems to be in their DNA or something!
A couple of weeks ago my gorgeous nephew jack showed me an amazing video that his friend Tom made of him when they were on holiday in France. I won't do it justice by trying to explain it so just watch...

I was then introduced to Tom's YouTube channel. By the way, "It's called a channel, not a page, becasue it's like a TV channel, duh Sophie!" and for future reference, in regards to Facebook you have a Wall not a Facebook page!!!! And "hip" is not cool but "next" is and you are no longer "buff" you are now "Hench". Got it?!!!
Anyway, I was really impressed with Tom's creative ideas and Jack who texts like a fiend quickly recruited him to film my video. Heaven forbid anyone should actually talk to each other now!

I got the impression Tom thought I was a bit batty during our production meeting at my sister's kitchen table over bacon sandwiches and custard creams on Saturday evening. "So you want to look thin and amazing?!"

Of course my place of choice was the fabulous Coombe Hill. Such a beautiful spot, overlooking the Chilterns with just a really lovely energy...plus there is always an ice cream van at the entrance so you can get a lolly on your way home!

So on Sunday afternoon we all traipsed into Wendover headed for the hill.
Me, Louisa, Jack, Will, Tom and Charlie...I needed moral support. Of course the carpark was full to bursting. Perfect, a billion people to watch me how embarrassing!
We spent about 45 minutes filming from various different angles and I was knackered at the end of it! I was flowing on an adverse camber so it was quite a challenge! Tom was happy with his footage and knackered too I think scrambling around like a monkey up the monument to get ariel views!

I was more than nervous to see the finished product. Excited of course but having spent so much time practising away from a mirror you have no idea really what your body looks like in these postures.

Last night on my way to work I got an email from Jack: "Tom's uploaded you to YouTube!"
I took a deep breath in as I skulked in the hallway at work and loaded  it onto my iPhone...and then a deep breath out and a huge smile as I watched the video unfold.
I love it!
I love the sky and the ramblers and the view and the fact that my bum looks not too big at all infact!!!!
The main thing is that it shows a bit about what Freedom Yoga has to offer.
See what you think...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A change is as good as a rest!

Hello lovely people, I have missed you all so much! 
Apologies for not blogging for a while but life has been a little hectic of late, plus I sort of dropped out for a few weeks! That makes me sound like I went a bit mental for a while doesn't it? How could you tell?! Actually, I had an opportunity to spend a whole month in the Med and as any sane, travel loving, sun seeking, ever so slightly spoilt person would do, I jumped on it! So this usually super disciplined yogi left her mat at home (naughty) and hopped on Ruby Princess for 26 days of drinking great wine in Italy, shopping in Spain, visiting ruins in Greece, hobnobbing with the rich and famous in Monaco and generally lounging about and being waited on. Poor me!
The good news was that the gym on-board was fab and so I did manage to pilfer a mat and ease my conscience with a few down dogs on the trip. I also whipped into a speedy Warrior in all the good touristy spots for a photo so thats something!!! Not exactly a dedicated month of yoga practice but hey, a girl needs a break every now and again!
Pompei

Mykonos

Monaco

Pisa

Rubbish warrior, Rome!

Venice - most people would have one with a canal in the background!!!

So apparently September is the month of change! Well you can say that again, but lets not get all deep and meaningful! I love this idea of September being the month where, it's not only acceptable to say "Out with the old and in with the new", but it is actually a good healthy activity! So I have been thinking hard about the changes I want to make in the little world of Sophie and for once they are not all about getting rid of the wrinkles, having a bottom transplant and being as thin as Posh Spice! I have real life grown up changes to make my friends! I have decided that I am going to be a little more discerning with the people who I choose to share my life and in a non-selfish way, I am also going to do the things that I want to do, not the things that other people guilt me into doing. The change needs to be a positive thing and enhance your life so...I have also changed from Persil to Fairy non bio...environment and all that ;) I have even changed my hair do!! How about that for radical?!!
What was it my old mate Ghandi said? "Be the change you want to see in the world". Do that by all means but why not be the change you want to see in you! And September is the time to do it!
I dare you!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The greatest job on earth (apart from dancing!)

I bloody love my job! Its the best job I ever had, apart from being a dancer. I bloody loved that too! But sadly I got too old and tired to drag on the false eyelashes and fishnets every night (that makes it sound like I worked in a strip joint doesn't it?!...I hope from the general air of class that I carry around, you will know that that is not the case!) plus, eating actually started to become more enjoyable than smoking!
So as I was saying, being a real life honest to goodness yoga teacher pretty much is the bollocks! Mostly because I get to help people transform their bodies, their state of minds and sometimes (dare I be so bold), their lives.
It's so fantastic to be able to see the process.
A person comes to yoga for the first time, a little unsure of what to expect, maybe a little sceptical. Generally they want to find a workout for their bodies, a gentle but powerful form of exercise where they don't have to pound on a treadmill or bounce around on a dance floor. I very often see it on their faces that "Is this really for me?" kind of  look and on some the "Yeah well, how hard can it be?" kind of look. And very slowly you see those looks change into a "Bloody Hell! This is tough" kind of look or a "This is what I've been missing" kind of look. Although sometimes this is hidden by the ruffled hair and the sweating and the panting!
And more often than not, after one class of powerful vinyasa flow they are completely hooked!
Then comes the next phase. The part when a pose suddenly just clicks. It's normally something like down dog (trickier than it looks) when a small adjustment from me either vocally or physically means that the weight is suddenly in the right place and the shoulders are finally relaxed and it at last feels "Comfortable"! And you see it, as a teacher I mean, you see that long deep breath that tells you "She's got it now!"
And for others it is something like rolling up into shoulder-stand for the first time without using the wall or pushing up into wheel when the crown of the head is no longer on the floor and you are flying! The expression on peoples faces are priceless. Elation suddenly replaces that determined, clenched look!
My favourite part however, is when someone comes up to me and confides that suddenly they are sleeping at night or when I hear that a friend commented on how confident they look, or how they feel so much more clear headed and able to simply "cope", attributing all of these things to their weekly yoga practice.
With this great job, comes responsibility however. I feel a pressure. A pressure to ensure that my brood of chicks are continuing to progress and transform and be enlightened. I want to be the absolute best teacher I can be, allowing them to develop their physical practice, giving them knowledge and encouragement and hoping to let them see that yoga can enrich their whole lives, not just satisfy them in that one hour on their mat.
So I am hard on myself. Shocker! I read endless books and spend evenings glued to YouTube finding new ways to get into postures. I take workshops and watch DVDs and bore my entire family with yoga talk as well as the usual "Do you think I am doing right by everyone?" conversations.
But as soon as I press the play button on my ipod and say the words "Take a moment to check in and start to connect your mind and your body through your breath" I am in a total state of happiness and contentment.
I am the luckiest person alive!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Face your fears!

A few weeks ago I had a voicemail from a lady saying she had got my number from Jane (of Chiltern Academy fame!) and then she asked if I would like to teach at a disability dance festival.
Now I am generally completely rubbish at saying no to things but I must admit, I was rapidly running through a list of plausible excuses as to why I wouldn't be able to attend: Private clients all day that day! So sorry, I have to attend a funeral! What a shame I will be away...in Nepal...meeting with the Dalai Lama! Anything!
Although my mind was racing with excuses there was a little voice in the back of all that chatter saying, "you should do it Fee, come on, be brave, face your fears!"
And that is the voice that got louder and louder until eventually I found myself punching 5 into my phone to return the call.
You see, I am a nice, kind, loving, generous person (I think!) but I am absolutely shit scared of being put into a scenario where I might feel out of control. I have no experience of working with people with disabilities and I honestly didn't know if I was a big enough person to get on with the task at hand and not be horribly nervous and uncomfortable. An awful thing to have to admit but I realised I was scared of the disabled.
So that is why I returned the call and committed myself to this daunting task. What is the book called, "Feel The Fear and do it Anyway"?
As the day grew nearer I was told that I would have the least able groups of children and should prepare a simple 35 minute class with emphasis on arms as the kids may be wheelchair bound. OMG! Panic again!
The lovely Jane suggested I borrow her pom poms!!! (minds out of the gutter people!) They would be fun and make a good sound and be something a bit different.
I turned up to William Ramsay School last Friday with 2 bin liners stuffed with cheer-leading equipment and a tummy full of butterflies. The two wonderful ladies who organise this yearly event met me at the gate full of smiles and enthusiasm. They showed me my room for the day and then pointed me in the direction of the sports hall, which is fantastic by the way. I walked in to find probably 150 or more kids all chattering excitedly and I walked straight back out again, scrabbling in my bag for a tissue as the tears rolled down my face.
How could there be this many disabled children in this small area alone?
I was overwhelmed with emotions. I felt so sad that these children were having to face their own daily struggles, I felt so lucky for everything I had and I wondered just how I would feel if I had a child who was disabled.
"Pull yourself together woman!" - It was that little voice again!
I did of course. I cleaned up my face, marched back in and got involved in a fab group warm up that one of the teachers was taking. I watched every child's face light up as the music came on and they followed along with the hand shaking, head rolling, leg stretching etc.
I taught 3 sessions that day and I loved every bloody minute of it! The kids were so happy to be there, so enthusiastic and keen to join in and learn. They all face terrific challenges, some mental, some physical and some both but they weren't limited at all. And when I say limited, I mean in their enjoyment, which is what dance is all about...what life is all about really!
I was completely inspired by the staff that accompanied the kids too. I am so full of admiration for these wonderful people who were so patient with their charges. I mean, I experienced them for a day, but these men and women care for these kids every day. They must have hearts so full of love and compassion and an unending supply of patience. They also all had wicked senses of humour which made my job even easier, particularly when one group of female staff decided they might enter "Britains Got Talent" with their new found cheer-leading skills! They were pretty good too!
It was the most incredible day and I loved every minute of it.
I was completely inspired, and so glad I listened to that "little voice"!
I realise now that these kids don't see their disabilities. To them, this is normal. To them life is great. It is only us able bodied people who see their daily routine as a struggle, and are perhaps made uncomfortable by what we see as their abnormalities.
I hope to be involved in this dance festival again in the future. There was an overwhelming feeling of positivity and happiness throughout the day amongst the kids, the helpers, the other teachers and the organisers the likes of which I have never experienced in any other environment.
This blog is all about freedom and do you know what this day embodied that completely. Freedom, despite your physical or mental obstacles, to be exactly who you are and love every damn minute of it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

First impressions

So I guess the latest craze in the exercise and fitness world is Zumba. It seems that every other person you talk to is either going to a Zumba class or raving about Zumba for Wii. For those who have been living under a rock, it is a sort of a cross between aerobics and salsa (dancing not dip!) The tag line is "ditch the workout, join the party!" and yes, need you ask, it is hotfoot from the US! 
Anyway, a friend of mine who is on a big health kick, as is every other person I seem to meet this month, was talking about a class she went to and how she enjoyed the class but wasn't going to go back because the teacher wasn't very inspiring, physically! She told me that the woman looked very overweight and "lumpy!", commenting, "If this is what Zumba has done for her then you can forget it!" No thought as to what this instructor looked like pre Zumba. She could have been a 30 stone couch potato for all we know and thrilled with how she looks now as a svelte size 22! 
The conversation continued with another friend suggesting an alternative local Zumba class she had attended which she thoroughly enjoyed. 
"What's the teacher like?"
"A hairy middle aged man"
"Got one of those at home thanks, don't need any more in my life!" came the quick reply
She is right, you don't want to rock up to a fitness class taught by a professional who doesn't look the part.
This got me thinking and if I am honest, worrying...a lot!
Yoga's image has in the last few years been elevated thanks to the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, Cameron Diaz, Gisele Bundchen. Because all of these women look so incredible and are so successful the thought is that doing yoga will turn you into them! Of course the reality is that lots of yoga will not turn you into a film star or a model or suddenly up your earning potential (unfortunately!) but it will help you to make the best of yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally. Now with that in mind, as a newcomer to yoga, if you turn up to a class and the teacher looks less than healthy and glowing with bit of a tummy and a saggy arse, how can you not feel disappointed and frankly, cheated?!
Suffice it to say, this conversation was the boost I needed to join in the health kick craze sweeping my friends this month!
I want to be the kind of teacher you look to for your inspiration both in my practice and in my physical form. 
My passion for yoga and all its benefits actually means that I do have a fairly healthy diet anyway and spend much of my day on the mat either in my own practice or helping clients, therefore I am pretty active. But the fact that the Cadbury chocolate consumption had crept from one to two bars a day and the fact that my glass recycle bin is rather full of Shiraz bottles at the end of the month and the fact that my skinny jeans had been tried on and cast aside on several occasions because I was sporting far too much muffin top were the tell tale signs that I had been a little lazy!
It has been almost a month now since I revamped my eating and I feel great actually. I think I have lost some weight although I haven't weighed myself since 2000 when I stopped working ships and had the mandatory cringe inducing public weigh in weekly! I certainly feel more energetic and enthusiastic about life, as well as generally happier and dare I say it, virtuous!
My goal is for yogis to come into my class and be able to concentrate on their practice knowing that they are in good hands with a teacher who practices what she preaches and is proof that yoga can get you a toned and lean body if that's what you are after. 
Of course the benefits are so much more than merely physical but you have to keep coming to get all the really juicy stuff!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Need a P?

Practice, perseverance and patience. These are the three P's, and according to Jivamukti king Stewart Gilchrist, all that we need to continue on our own personal yoga journeys . Now I challenge that, because I think you also need a nice O (outfit) a pot of C (cash) and in particular, a large pair of B's (your choice!) to get yourself into some of the more challenging postures!
The lovely, loyal yogi's who come to my classes have been struggling with Bakasana, (Crow) for several weeks now. Each week I go home from class and either get straight onto the internet or dive into my extensive yoga bookshelf to gather more information so I can help them in their quest to float up into this slightly restrictive arm balance. Now I say restrictive because although it feels great when you have finally got the balance just right and you manage to actually find yourself tilted forward enough that your toes are suddenly aloft, it does not give you that free soaring feeling that perhaps firefly pose does or the elusive handstand. It actually feels a bit rounded and crunched at first giving you the kind of "Is that it? I'm not sure! Am I there?" sort of reaction. It is hard and actually, a bit scary.
Have you ever done that thing where you drink half a can of coke and then attempt to balance it on the edge of its rounded base. You take tiny sips to get just the right amount of liquid inside the can and hey presto it balances perfectly at a 45 degree angle, but not before you get the panicked feeling as you gingerly take your hand away, that it is actually going to topple over at the last minute leaving a big brown sugary stain on the carpet. Well that is Bakasana. Hopefully you're not worried about a stain (!) but you have that "Oh My God, if I tilt any further forward I am going to fall flat on my face and break my nose" kind of moment!
As a practitioner you know how far you want to challenge yourself to get into your poses but as a teacher you have to be guided by each individual, setting their own challenges and boundaries. So here is the thing, do you encourage someone to keep going when they obviously feel wary but you know from watching their practice over the weeks and months that they have the physical aptitude to get into the pose, if they just stopped being such a weed?!
Did I say that out loud?!
That's not very all loving yoga teacher is it?!
I know! I know! I shouldn't think stuff like that, but as a former dance teacher I sometimes want to break free from that "challenge yourself, work to your own personal edge" thing and instead yell "Oh for Gods sake, stop faffing around and bloody do it!" 
It took me ages to get the hang of crow and now I can float into it fairly easily from Garland pose and even from three pointed headstand too - I am bragging now but I can never do that good fancy stuff so I was totally thrilled that day! But even now I feel that maybe I am missing something. Should my arms be straighter, should my hips be higher, should it feel a bit more bloody comfortable at least?!
So those who are just getting to grips with crow pose, please persevere. Even when it feels like your elbows shouldn't bend that way or that there will be bruises on your triceps or that you like the way your face looks with this nose, one day when you  least expect it, something will just click in your mind and then your body and you will wonder why it all seemed so difficult as you suck in your belly button and float forwards on strong arms with your pointed toes hovering a foot off the mat! And then you will probably laugh and fall flat back down in your bum!
Stewart is right of course, Practice, perseverance and above all patience are key, and not only for the practitioner but mostly, from re reading my blog, for the slightly whacky, but ever so passionate and committed yoga teacher!
Namaste Lovelies!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Liberate your soul

Imagine a cross between Billy Connolly, Catweazle and Bob Marley and that was our host for two and a half hours of Jivamukti workshop on Sunday afternoon! Now for those of you who are not familiar with Jivamukti, it is a full on, hard core flowing yoga style that is heavy on the spritual side and light on water breaks! Founded by the inspirational Sharon Gannon and David Life in 1984 it is actually one of the nine internationally recognised styles of hatha yoga, literally translating to "individual soul liberation"...gotta love that!
I am not quite sure what I expected when I trotted into a jam packed Studio 1 at Yogahaven Clapham but I think I imagined we would discuss a bit about Jivamukti philosophy and ethics and maybe have a bit of a posture clinic.
Could I have been more wrong?
Stewart Gilchrist marched in sporting a beard like a rhododendron bush, swinging his dreadlocks and belted in his heavy Scottish accent, "Come on, I want to start! Get yourself in tadasana and lets get going!" I was frightened! Then I was annoyed! Hang on I haven't paid £28.50 to be shouted at! I was thinking I wouldn't last long under the Gilchrist regime.
No discussion, no easing in, no sitting and watching. It was two and a half hours of hard, dynamic, vinyasa yoga. The banning of drinking water didn't bother me because there was no time to anyway. I was wrong about him too, we flowed in and out of postures with his expert guidance and unexpected sense of humour for 150 minutes and it was the hardest but most exhilarating time I have ever spent on a yoga mat.
Jivamukti are big on their lotions and potions and right at the beginning, Stewart came around and rubbed something that smelt like tiger balm and burned like buggery on our lower backs. After a seriously deep bound extended side angle, where we then straightened our front legs and placed our chin on our shin (!) I managed to get the gel all up my arms and even in my eyes when I found a millisecond to wipe the sweat before diving into the next seemingly impossible asana! Burning eyeballs were not my favourite part I must say!
Jumping forward from Down Dog to uttanasana, we were encouraged to straighten our legs lifting up our hips in preparation for flipping up into handstand through the transition (maybe in my next life!) The point was hammered home when I found a giant Scottish leg under me, now my yoga practise was incorporating an obstacle course! Thrilled though, I made it over and to my relief Mr. Gilchrist was left unscathed! He also showed me the correct head alignment for chaturanga to up dog and lifted me what seemed like 6 inches higher in shoulder stand.
Simple tweaks for amazing results!
The inspiration from Sundays workshop is untold. I was blown away by this man's intensity and his passion as well as his incredible knowledge. I learnt some great new ways to get in and out of postures like for example from savasana into full wheel through a series of just 5 breaths...incredible!
I also learnt about me too!
I am a determined, I am strong, I am open to suggestion, and I can asana the shit out of a Tripod Headstand from Prasirita Padottanasana!
Now, the chanting towards the end was not my thing at all. For some it is a big part of their practice and I totally respect that but apart from anything I didn't know the words and felt like a div!
I will definitely be returning to a Jivamukti class soon. I loved the intensity and the speed of the flow but mostly I loved how I felt immediately afterwards...knackered but alive!
I must say it also stirred up something inside me that made me have a case of Tourettes, which was pointed out by my lovely friend Terri who was counting my swear words over a cup of tea afterwards!
I imagine that the shares in Nurofen went up on Monday too as I was suffering with a sever case of the aches but my soul is well on the way to liberation!
Namaste Freedom Lovers!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Handstands - not just for 7year olds!

So, true to my word I am getting out there and doing it... practising and learning and  growing my yogic self! 
Last week I was whizzing through the websites of two great London yoga studios Triyoga and The Life Centre looking to see what they had on offer in the way of workshops and courses. I really want to do a pregnancy yoga teacher training but they seem to be few and far between and always sold out when I find one!
Anyway, on my quest for said course, I found some fantastic workshops from such yoga bigwigs as Jason Crandell, Richard Freeman, Max Strom, David Swenson and Shiva Rea but they all seemed to fall on a Saturday and I work all day on a Saturday...Bugger! Then I saw a workshop for inversions which looked right up my street and I could make the day so I read on. "Must have a practice of unassisted handstand". 
OK then!
When I was between the ages of 7 and 12 I had an amazing handstand. I used to do them all over the place, dress overhead, knickers on full view to all and sundry, not  a care in the world! But it seems as you get older life doesn't really call for a handstand much! Plus, you could get arrested for indecent exposure!
The thing with a yoga handstand is, you don't wind your arms up, take a big breath shout "Watch me, watch me, Mummy!" and fling your legs up letting them fall down immediately, jump up from a heap and say "No, I can do it much better honest!"
In yoga you actually have to have control and alignment and balance and once in a perfect straight, strong position you then start to float your legs into different positions!
So simple...it's no wonder we aren't all doing it!!!!
Now, the lovely Julie Bealey lent me a Shiva Rea DVD when I told her that I couldn't make it to her workshop this summer. Shiva is a really inspirational yogi who although has an annoyingly calm voice, has wonderful explanations and really builds great sequences. I actually found a small space between the sitting room and dining room in this tiny cottage to lay out my mat and practice with her DVD. Despite two annoying phone calls from random Delhi based people trying to sell me computer software and a new phone package I was uninterrupted for 90 minutes of challenging flowing asana and lo and behold, there was a whole section on handstand! Yay!
So you guessed it, I am on a mission! I have been practising with my new best friend, Shiva Rea and I have been going mad on YouTube trying to find every video I can on different approaches to this allusive inversion.  I am determined to get a free-standing, unassisted, strong and most of all grown up handstand by the end of the summer.
Anyone want to join me? We could start a handstand revolution. After all the benefits are vast, working to strengthen your core, arms, shoulders and wrists. It also calms the brain, stretches through the abdomen, can help to relieve mild depression, improve sense of balance, and give a good workout to the lungs, pituitary and spine. Plus, you get to feel 7 again, what can be better than that?!

Check out Mike Taylor for total inspiration and to see the control that can be acieved with a little hard work and a positive attitude!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Eternal Student

Since embarking on my yoga journey, I tend to rate my success in life by how well I cope in potentially stressful or difficult situations and this week I am a complete and utter failure! 
Naturally rather a highly strung, short tempered person, thanks Mum, yoga should be allowing me to listen a bit harder and breathe a bit deeper and be more balanced in my emotions. 
Apparently I need to do some more yoga!!!! 
This last week has been an absolute shit of a week and instead of floating through it, being strong in the hard times, keeping calm in the stressful times and enjoying the relaxing times, I have been a right old bloody mess the whole time! Now here is the worst part, today I find myself beating myself up because of how I reacted to my week of hell. I went completely to pieces. I know what to do in fraught times, I talk to my clients all the time about using what you learn on the mat to enhance your life, calm your emotions and make a happier more balanced self - "Take a moment and breathe, then using that moment to rationalise your thoughts deal with what is in front of you with dignity and grace and a clear intelligent head." 
My head and body said "Bollocks to that" and crashed through the week like a huge over emotional elephant launching into venomous rants at anyone and everyone that got in my way.
"Attractive!" I hear you cry!
So, I sit here at my trusty Dell this evening taking stock. I do that a lot lately...does that mean I am self obsessed? Maybe I am just putting off doing my HUGE pile of ironing! Anyway, since freaking out over my freak out, I felt even more of a failure. I should be practising what I preach. I should be great at this, after all I have been teaching for a year! Then it dawned on me. I have been teaching ONLY a year, I have been living for 39! And those 38 years of gut reactions and high drama have become embedded in me. Now of course I am starting to reprogramme and starting to transform but it isn't going to happen overnight. (Do I sound like I'm a member of a cult?!!!!) I need to stop wasting energy beating myself up and realise that most things that are worth doing are hard and take time, lots of time, to develop and perfect. I want to be Mrs. Blissful, the type of person who is unflappable, rational and fantastically calm. Instead I am Mrs. Almost got a grip, Mrs. Shit you shouldn't have said that, Mrs. Next time I will breathe, then speak! And I know that all I have to do is practice. What is the expression, reap what you sow?!
I think the point I am trying to make here is that no matter how long you have been involved with yoga whether as a practitioner or as a teacher, you are forever a student. You never stop learning and remembering to put all that stuff that you learn on the mat into practice when you are most in need. And then, after a while, you won't have to remember, it will just happen, naturally, like breathing in and breathing out. So I am making a promise to get on my mat more, to step back from trying to build my business every second of the day and take time for my own personal practice. After all, I got into teaching yoga because of how amazing it made me feel! 
The great part for any yogi is that you always have that yoga tool box to dip into and pick out just the right implement to help you  along your road to Calmsville, which, by the way is just up the road from Cope Central!
Namaste Freedom Lovers x

Monday, May 23, 2011

Be wild, do it outside!

Mad, mad two weeks of work!
Now that is great of course but as I lolled in front of the TV at 11pm the other night, (I only ever watch for Brothers and Sisters, the greatest show anywhere, ever) hypnotized by "Made in Chelsea" (OMG!!!!! Will Caggie get over her lost love...who cares?!!) whilst stuffing my third chocolate bar of the day and barely able to keep my eyes open I suddenly had a realisation: bad TV, bad food, bad sleep habits and I have not done a yoga class for myself for the last couple of weeks. I need to get back on the mat and save myself!
How can you profess to be a good yogi and yoga teacher if you don't take time to develop your own practice and be inspired by other teachers.
After a slap on the wrist, and the last bite of my chomp bar I headed to bed on the promise that I would make time for class. Now of course if I was a really dedicated yogi I would be unrolling my mat in my sitting room at 6am every morning and taking my yoga journey on my own, but to be honest with you, I love my bed too much, my sitting room is barely big enough to swing a cat and I am not very disciplined!
However I can get up to go to work or to catch a plane...what does that say about me? Lets not dwell on that question!
Thursday came and I juggled my schedule to make it to lovely Julie Bealey's class at lunch time. For those of you not acquainted, Julie is my total yoga inspiration. Offering challenging 90 minute flowing classes across South Bucks she teaches with care and precision, a sense of individuality and humour. With Julie, you float easily into poses that you never imagined possible.  Her Thursday class is at her house, with a select group of women who are all very dedicated to their practice and approach each class with positivity and elegance.
Julie's house is beautiful and always immaculate too. I mean if you laid in savasana in my kitchen you would probably be too distracted by the cobwebs on the ceiling or spots of Ketchup on the kick boards to be able to relax and breathe! This week the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day on Thursday and when I got to Julie's the patio doors were flung open (she has the kind that concertina across the whole of the back of the house like a Grand Designs house). "Yoga in the garden today" announced our guru. I was sceptical as although the weather was gorgeous, the ground was slightly uneven and I was worrying if my new mat would get muddy-sad!
Well, it was AMAZING! I know that word is over used but the only other word worthy is AWESOME and then I will have to kill myself!
We did a wonderful Jason Crandell inspired flow full of Cobra and side plank in various incarnations. It seemed that each time I got into a side plank and was struggling with my deepest expression of the pose, a breeze blew my hair back and lifted my chest and I was able to bring my foot higher in vasistasana with Vrkasana or extend my leg a little longer in Vasistasana with side extension. And when we took a generous wheel toward the end of the practice, again, the perfectly timed breeze filled my body with energy and light and I floated up into the most satisfying version of this gorgeous pose that I have ever experienced. For our final relaxation we hopped to the shelter of her glass roofed kitchen and, lavender bags in place, we basked in the warmth of the sun as we floated in the glow of our practice.
So if you get a chance, fellow freedom lovers, throw your doors open this summer, or take your class to the park or the beach and get your yoga on in the great outdoors. It may hold new challenges but it will also hold fantastic wonders!
Here's to being back on the mat and to a summer filled with new adventures in yoga!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nobody's perfect!

It has been a while my friends, not least because every time I tried to blog the bloody blogger site was mysteriously unavailable and offline. Anyway, I am here now and that 's what matters, right?

Now I have also been rather pre-occupied with my health actually. Yoga is definitely a miracle worker and with a regular practice you can certainly combat all sorts of ailments, injuries, chronic symptoms and conditions but there is some stuff that just happens and has to be dealt with and no amount of down dogs or headstands can  help with the physical problem you are facing. Of course yoga can help to deal with the anxiety and the stress associated with these problems and that has been my saving grace this last couple of months. My daily mantra has been "Breathe Fee! Breathe your worries away and be positive"
Now before you all go sending me get well cards, I am totally fine. I had been told very casually after some blood tests that I had a raised hormone level in my pituitary and that I needed to have an MRI. The doctor then proceeded to direct me to a page in her "go to" book, the only word on which I honed in was "Tumor". Completely stunned, I left the surgery and spent the next little while alternately being in pieces and determined it was a freak test and I was going to be fine. After 2 weeks (seemed like 2 years) I got a letter referring me to a consultant. 
Now those of you who know me personally may beg to differ but I could never imagine there could be anything wrong in my head! (OK, OK concentrate now, joke is over!) 
5 weeks went by before my appointment and you can imagine I was a joy to be around! People telling me that if it was really serious I would have been taken in there and then, wasn't helping. I was convinced I was not long for this world and was a total wreck. 
Fast forward to last Monday. I finally walked trembling into the consultants office wincing, waiting to be told the worst. The fact that my specialist was called Dr. Brain slightly brightened my day with a faint chuckle! 
I am not about to keel over, you will be happy to know and after more blood tests it is possible that I have an issue with cells or even a larger nodule putting pressure on my pituitary but it is completely treatable. The other good news is that the fact that I am emotionally completely out of whack (again with the giggles?!) is all attributable to the physicality of what is going on in my head and not because I am generally a basket case!

The rubbish part is that I thought I was perfect (OK, OK, Stop!)! 
Turns out I am a little bit defective after all!

Now I am waiting for the MRI appointment to come through to confirm the type of treatment I need, which I gather will be drugs to shrink the cells rather then surgery which could be scary.
 But of course it being me, I am now worrying and preparing for the MRI. I am completely claustrophobic you see and I imagine it to be like being buried alive. Maybe however, in reality it will be more like sleeping in the upper bunk of a crew cabin on a ship, but without the boat drill announcements at 400 decibels in your ear and your precariously balanced alarm clock cracking you in the head in the middle of the night! I can do that!!!
As usual, when life throws me a curve ball, I shall take a moment, get my yoga on and breathe through it. I am already planning a breath meditation for the occasion. I will partake in a little Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) before I get in there and then take a simple sama vritta pranyama (equal breath) during the process. Those two types of pranyama are great for calming the body and focusing the mind. Of course that may all go to pot and I may end up eating a shit load of Dairy Milk before hand, then trying to figure out how I can assuage the guilt of the calorie consumption might take my mind off the fact that I am trapped in a confined space with someone checking out my brain for lumps!

Until next time Freedom lovers x

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The 108 was a grand success!

1 church hall, 4 yoga teachers, 18 raffle prizes, 23 willing bodies, 108 sun salutations and £438.47 raised for comic relief!
What an incredible set of numbers that is and one I am very proud to say I had a hand in. A big hand actually. I asked nicely, I emailed, I texted, I nagged and I plain got all Bob Geldoff on some people but it was all worth the effort. To see all those gorgeous people and aged from 8 right through to 58, inhaling and exhaling their way through an hour and getting their sun salutation on, was so fantastic.
They came from far and wide to support me and the AMAZING charity that is Comic Relief. And they donated their little butts off, buying endless raffle tickets and throwing their hard earned cash in a contribution bucket and then as if that wasn't enough I made them unroll their mats and work their bodies in a manner they may be cursing me for today. I mean most people who do a regular yoga class, may do up to 25 sun salutations a session, so 108 is immmense. I think, no, I know some of my friends were a bit nervous about it:
"Really Sophie?"
"108?"
"Why?"
"Are you mad?"
Me: "Yes really!"
You may want to read my post from September 16th 2010 entitled, "108 Ways To Get Ready For Fall" to find out why 108.
But the reason why I thought this would be such great way to raise money was a no brainer. It was a tough physical challenge, and that is exactly what people face every single day in poverty stricken Africa. 
To answer the last question, no, not mad exactly, just a little bit eccentric maybe and a lot passionate about people and yoga and great causes.
And, I know this isn't very all loving and all giving and  yogic etc. but I bloody hate those "Just Giving" pages. Is it just me or do you get an email linking to one of those pages every other day? I have donated but I never remember who to or what for or why.  I wanted to get people to donate in a way they would remember (You'll all remember this for sure!) because they physically got involved. So as well as doing good for other people you were doing yourself some good too. Now I know if you were one of the lovely yogis who came last night, you are probably feeling like you did yourself some damage!!! (Am I the only one whose shoulders feel like they are falling out of their sockets?) But believe me when I tell you that you have done so much good. You have re-oxygenated your entire body, you have exercised your heart, opened up your lymphatic system, toned your muscles, strengthened your joints, stimulated your endocrine system, increased your spinal flexibility and raised shit loads of cash for charity.

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU to the fabulous teachers who helped me put our unsuspecting victims (Wendy!!) through their paces last night; The wonderful Julie Bealey, Nicola Brown and  Terri Walford.

And another massive THANK YOU to all those who attended, to those who stumped up cash, to those who organised and to those who contributed to the raffle. Without you all we cold never have pulled this off.
I am thinking we should make it an annual event...shall I ask you all in a few months when the aches and pains are a distant memory?!

Take a look at the pics...


Warming up


We've only just begun!
Come to yoga and get a great butt!

Inhaling with Julie!

up dog number 58...only 50 to go!

Nicola

Keeping count for us, Will!

I smiled through all 108...freak?!

How sweet is Megan?

Everybody in love put your hands up!

Breathe Helen, breathe!

We even had boys!
Exhale!

....And relax!

You earned it Terri!

holding hands in savasana, aaahhhh!