Author Archives: Kirsty Lowe

Summer yoga festival

**INDIVIDUAL CLASS TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE**

We’re delighted to be hosting our Summer Yoga Festival for the second year running.

Join us on Sunday 15th September for a day of yoga in the beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside. This one-day mini yoga retreat is the perfect opportunity for some ‘me’ time. Classes are suitable for all levels. The day is designed to give you a complete mind and body workout. You’ll stretch, tone, de-stress, detox and have lots of fun.

This one day yoga event is located in Newton Longville, Milton Keynes. The yoga classes take place in a beautiful tee pee overlooking a lake. You can choose to attend for a single class (£25) or the entire day (£75).

Full day tickets include 3 yoga classes, meditation practice, snacks, refreshments and all equipment. Individual class tickets include the class paid for and equipment only.

If some self care is on your agenda, look no further.

BOOK NOW.

Yoga festival line up

10am: Open

10:30am-12pm: Wake up yoga with Charlotte Peers

We’ll get the day started with an easy-to-follow yoga class designed to wake up your body from head to toe. You’ll leave feeling stretched, strong, energised and ready for the day ahead.

12pm-1:15pm: Lunch break

1:30pm-2pm: Light meditation with Sarah K-Hirji

Join Sweat Studios’ instructor, Sarah, for some light meditation. A chance to let your lunch settle before we begin to move again in the afternoon. This session is designed to calm both your body and mind. Sarah will lead you through some simple exercises to clear your mind and reduce your stress and anxiety. If you’ve never practiced meditation before don’t panic. This is a great opportunity to give it a go.

2:15pm-3:45pm: Wind-up and wind-down yoga with Sophie Free

One of Buckinghamshire’s most popular yoga instructors, Sophie Free, joins us for the second year running. This yoga class is designed to get your heart rate lifted and then bring your down with a some slower, more mellow poses. A great class to develop your physical fitness, relieve stress and keep your body strong and supple.

4pm-5pm: Total relaxation with Sarah K-Hirji

Join Sarah for one of the most popular sessions on the Sweat Studios’ timetable. Sarah brings her monthly Rest, Renew, Restore class to the festival. Starting with simple nurturing yoga poses and ending with a yoga nidra, otherwise known as “yoga sleep”, you’ll achieve the deepest state of relaxation while maintaining total consciousness. Listening to just the sounds of the countryside, Sarah will deliver you to a state of pure bliss.

Yoga festival instructors

Charlotte Peers

charlotte-219x300 Summer yoga festivalCharlotte grew up in Australia and her first occupation was as a school teacher. She started yoga in 2011, encouraged by her husband who was keen to try a different form of exercise. She really enjoyed the challenge of combining body, mind and breath in movement and very quickly began to see and feel the physical and mental benefits. Quickly hooked on the classes, she completed her teacher training in 2013. Charlotte now regularly teaches hot and unheated yoga classes for gyms and yoga studios across Hertfordshire. She ran the Sweaty Betty Fit Club and has taught for Champneys Spa Hotel in Tring. She also teaches the senior students at St Albans High School for Girls. Her classes are accessible and fun.

 

Sophie Free

Screen-Shot-2018-07-21-at-11.46.46-300x278 Summer yoga festivalFollowing years of dedicated yoga practice and having retired from her professional dancing career, in January 2010, Sophie  graduated as yoga teacher.

After some time spent as a “yoga tourist”, teaching hundreds of classes in several different types of yoga in studios all across the world, Sophie found herself drawn to the more dynamic style of yoga. Her passion now is in designing creative flowing yoga sequences with attention to alignment and making the class accessible to anyone and everyone who walks through the door.

Sarah K-Hirji

Sarah-248 Summer yoga festivalA popular teacher on the Sweat timetable, Sarah’s been teaching yoga for a number of years for Sweat and other studios. A US National living in Milton Keynes, Sarah was first attracted to yoga as she strived for a healthier lifestyle. It didn’t take long until she was hooked and she completed her yoga teacher training in Florida in 2012. She later married, relocated to the UK and had a baby girl. Flow yoga is Sarah’s passion but she also has a much softer side that she lets shine during her more nurturing classes. Whatever the class, Sarah doesn’t take the yoga too seriously, so you can be assured of a fun approach.

10 top tips for new yoga teachers

Last month, we watched our 2019 class of yoga teacher trainees set off into the big wide world, starting their new careers as yoga instructors.

This motivated bunch had been picking up classes before they’d even finished their final exams, helping out trainees from previous years by covering their classes. Teaching as quickly as you can after graduation (or even before if that’s possible) is really important for a new yoga instructor. You’ll never be more prepared than you are at that point. This is why we accept a number of our graduates straight onto our timetable within days of them completing their final exams. The only way for them to become better yoga teachers is to teach. And, while some yoga teacher training schools, take the approach of asking their graduates to go and get their experience elsewhere before they’ll consider them for their studio, we see it as our role to nurture and support our new instructors. There’s no better place for them to learn the ropes than with us. That way we know they’ll develop to be the type of teacher we need them to be.

If you’re a new qualified yoga teacher, here’s the top 10 tips we share with our trainees that you may find useful:

1. Don’t work for free

Do be prepared to start on a more junior rate but never work for free. You’ve paid a lot for your training and it’s important to start earning that back.

2. Be as flexible as you can be

Over time you may be able to pick and choose your hours but in the beginning being flexible will open up more opportunities for you. Take all the classes you can, get as much experience as you can, be available to take cover classes as often as possible. The more opportunities you get to teach, the better teacher you will become.

3. Be realistic about the necessary changes to your lifestyle

Photo-for-bucks-landing-page-10 10 top tips for new yoga teachersMany people choose to train to be a yoga teacher as they want to work less structured hours. While a more flexible working week is definitely possible, you also have to be realistic about when during the day you need to be available to teach. Just because you are free at 3pm on a Monday, it doesn’t mean that anyone wants to take a yoga class then. The busiest (and largest demand) for yoga classes is in the evenings and weekend mornings, and that means you need to be free then too.

4. Keep up your own yoga practice

The most common complaint of new yoga instructors is that they lose any time to take yoga classes themselves. Finding time to practice yoga is important. Remember, this is the thing you loved so much that you wanted to make a career out of it, so don’t lose it. Look for ways that you can make it easier to fit a class for you into your schedule. Can you teach an early evening class at a studio and stay on to practice the later one, for example? Continuing to be a yoga student will give you inspiration for planning your own yoga classes, it will keep your teaching fresh and it will continually remind you of why you enjoy yoga so much. You’ll then bring that enthusiasm and passion into your teaching. Stop practicing and you risk you and your classes becoming stale.

5. Don’t spend money on things you don’t need

Don’t provide mats, blocks, bolsters for your classes. It’s an expense you can’t afford when you’re starting out. Work for a studio who provides those things, or tell people they need to bring their own. In the beginning plan simple classes where equipment like blocks, bricks and straps aren’t needed. Once you start to generate an income from your teaching, you can add those things in.

6. Hone the skills you have before you invest in more

Ali-teaching-for-blog 10 top tips for new yoga teachers

At the end of a 200 hour yoga teacher training programme it can sometimes feel like you’ve just scratched the surface of yoga and there’s still so much you have to learn. Focus on what you do know. You know a lot! So, before you jump into signing up for workshop after workshop in an endeavour to improve your knowledge and skills, spend at least six months putting into practice what you’ve learnt. That will give you a strong foundation to add on to. The best thing you can do in the beginning is simply teach. Much of your learning will then come on the job as you work with real people with real bodies.

7. Be adaptable

Yoga studios are commercial enterprises, whatever yoga class you teach they need to be able to sell. So, don’t simply approach the studio telling them what you can teach. Instead take a look at their timetable, attend their classes, get a feel for their style and tell them which of the classes on their schedule you’d be able to take on. This is far more likely to get you a job than hoping they’re keen to start offering Kundalini yoga.

8. Be professional

You may have turned your back on the corporate world and be keen for a less restrictive employment arrangement, or working environment, e.g. one where you can just be yourself, work when you choose to etc. but professional conduct is still really important. If you work for a studio, even in a freelance capacity, you are still working for a business. For that business to run smoothly, you will need to play you part; be responsive to emails, arrive on time, submit your invoices in a prompt manner etc. Studios look for instructors who are easy to work with and who they can rely on. Also, when you’re at the studio, make yourself invaluable, speak to clients, help out the reception team etc. Being a team player who helps make the studio a success will put you ahead of the game when other opportunities come along.

9. Don’t give up the day job (just yet)

Kirsty-teaching-for-blog 10 top tips for new yoga teachersYou love yoga, teaching gives you a massive buzz and you’ve decided that’s all you want to do. You’re ready to throw in the towel on your day job and be a full-time instructor. There are people out there who make a full-time living out of yoga teaching but it doesn’t happen straightaway. It takes time to build up a schedule of studio classes and to develop your own yoga classes. Most full-time yoga instructors supplement teaching classes with yoga workshops, retreats, clothing ranges etc. Definitely have a goal and a plan of how you’ll get there but be prepared for it to happen slowly. Keep the day job going for a while as you build things, perhaps drop down to just 3 or 4 days a week (if that’s possible), but don’t presume it will all happen overnight and be careful of placing all of your eggs in one basket.

10. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing

Putting yourself out there as a new yoga teacher is a daunting experience. In the early years for every full class you have there will be an empty one right round the corner. It can be hard not to doubt yourself. Your Instagram feed will be full of other yoga teachers showing you how they are living “their best life”, photos of their full to the brim yoga classes, retreats, workshops, the great feedback they’re getting from their clients and all the other amazing successes they are having. Remember, social media is not reality. They (just like you) are only sharing the best bits. Don’t worry about them. Focus on you, follow your plan and you’ll get there.

 

8 benefits of yoga for kids and tweens

Yoga’s growing popularity with adults is largely due to its ability to benefit people not just physically but mentally too. People practice it just as much to de-stress and enhance their wellbeing as to keep fit and improve their flexibility. Did you know it can offer similarly brilliant benefits for your children too?

According to Psychology Today, around 1.7 million children and teens practice yoga. This number is growing all the time, with yoga starting to be taught in many schools too. Here’s why your family should give kids and tweens yoga a try…

1. Yoga helps with children’s attention span and concentration

Yoga can help your children to ditch the smartphones and spend some time working on their mental focus and concentration. It teaches children how to be present in the moment and avoid distractions by focusing on simple things like their breath flowing in and out of their body.

2. Yoga develops flexibility, muscular strength and endurance

Children are naturally supple, but yoga can help them to maintain this into adulthood. As the Tween-yoga-header-for-webpage-300x159 8 benefits of yoga for kids and tweenssaying goes “use it or lose it”. It’s during childhood that we generally take up sports and physical activities. If your child is a keen footballer, runner, tennis player (the list goes on), yoga will help ensure that their flexibility is maintained rather than compromised by these activities. Yoga also helps with muscle development, particularly in the core of the body, keeping your child safer in these sports and enhancing their performance.

3. Yoga can be essential for managing stress and anxiety

72152293-ECEA-4C29-922B-8D79C6266BA2-300x300 8 benefits of yoga for kids and tweensKids and tweens are facing more stress than ever before. Recent research revealed that 65% worry about doing well in school, while 25% were anxious about body image, their weight or bullying. 31% have problems at home, while new problems such as social media are causing stress for around 11% of 12 to 16-year-olds.

With all of these sources of stress, it’s important for kids to learn how to manage anxiety. Kids and tweens yoga offers the perfect ‘moment’ of calm for young people, a space for themselves and the chance to learn techniques for stress management.

4. Yoga teaches young people how to relax

When practising yoga, kids learn calming techniques. This can help them to manage frustration, take a moment to breathe and to respond appropriately to a range of different situations. Yoga helps to develop the prefrontal cortex, which gives young people the ability to concentrate and think things through, rather than acting on impulse.

5. Yoga is inclusive and non-competitive

Unlike many activities that children participate in, particularly in school, yoga isn’t about winning. It’s not like sport, which can pit people against each other. Yoga is for everyone, and all you have to do is to give it a go.

6. Yoga can be fun and creative

Yoga doesn’t have to be quiet and serious – it can be really fun! In kids yoga, in particular (depending on the age range of the class), classes incorporate stories, games and other creative activities.

7. Yoga helps children develop healthy exercise habits

Starting any exercise programme as a child, and sticking with it, is a great foundation for a healthy and active lifestyle as a grown-up.

8. Yoga helps with body awareness and self-acceptance

Focusing on posture and poses can help kids and tweens to learn more about their bodies and importantly, the amazing things they are capable of. Yoga teaches that all bodies are different, and that all are ok.

If you’d like to introduce your little ones to kids and tweens yoga, use our easy online booking system here at Sweat Studios to book them in for their first session. Classes are taking place over the school holidays on Mondays 11-11:45am for children aged 4-9 and Tuesdays 5-5:45pm for tweens aged 10-13. Both classes are held at our Buckingham studio. Children aged of 14-16 can join our non-heated classes as long as accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Is online the future for yoga studios?

Last week I read an article that said that in order for yoga studios to survive they need to deliver classes online.

Every news article you read or hear is talking about how businesses need to go online to thrive. I get it; online is convenient. Why would I make the trip to a store when I can shop from my sofa and get the product delivered directly to my door?

Today’s world seems to be all about convenience.

Why online yoga isn’t the right way to go

Buckingham-page-image-1 Is online the future for yoga studios?This is why I think it’s actually more important that yoga studios stay offline. There is so much that we can do today from the comfort of our own homes; order our shopping, watch movies, talk to friends, and in order to do any of this, we have to be attached to or sat in-front of some form of electronic device.

A yoga class is a chance to leave all that technology, all those distractions behind, to be free of it all for just an hour.

 

My online yoga experience

I’ve tried online yoga. For a long time while I opened our first studio, it was the only way to get a yoga class in. I was ridiculously busy. And, even nowadays, though the business is more stable and my time more structured, the reality is I live in St Albans while my studios are in Milton Keynes and Buckingham. It’s not always easy for me to get there.

Buckingham-page-image-7 Is online the future for yoga studios?So, for a time, I was member of an online yoga platform. The classes were good. They were led by some world renowned, highly respected yoga teachers. But doing yoga outside of a purpose built environment posed its challenges. Often I didn’t have the required props for the class. One class I started had a core workout mid way through that required you to use a blanket on a wooden floor. My floors are carpeted. Being able to see my laptop to follow the class was sometimes challenging. Particularly when the yoga teacher decided to take us on a 360 degree journey around our yoga mats and I ended up with my back to my screen.

All that said, by far my biggest challenge was staying focused: the doorbell would ring, my mind would wander; I’d hear the washing machine finish and I’d start to think about stopping my yoga class to hang it out; my yoga room was also my office, I’d look at the pile of paper on my desk and tell myself that I really didn’t have time for this. The yoga class had to really hook me for me to stay invested in it for the full hour. Often I just couldn’t switch off enough or get into the required headspace to complete the class.

Yoga studios versus online yoga

When you come to a yoga studio, you get to leave all those physical distractions behind. There’s a reason why we ask you to only take your yoga towel or mat into the studio along with your water; there’s a reason why we ask that mobile phones are left in your locker; the less items you have to distract you, the easier it will be to stay focused. The walls are white and the studio is bare for all the same reasons.

Buckingham-page-image-5 Is online the future for yoga studios?As you walk through the studio door it should signal a change. Your busy life stays on the other side of that door, just for an hour. Staying in the room for the class is part of this discipline. Yes, in a hot room we ask you to stay put for health and safety reasons, but most importantly, it puts you in a mindset that you have to stay, it puts an end to that constant niggling voice that tells you that you’ve got loads to do and you can’t spare the time for this. The biggest battle that we have is with our minds. That constant dialogue telling us we’ve got something better we should be doing, somewhere else we should be, other things to think about. If you can stay for an hour, focus on your breath, fill your mind with the yoga teacher’s voice and simply move your body as he or she is instructing you to, over time, you’ll learn to quiet that monkey mind.

Buckingham-page-image-8 Is online the future for yoga studios?The other thing that coming to a yoga studio gives you is a sense of community. To be around like minded people, to share your energy with others. A yoga class at home can be nice, but there’s nothing like the shared experience of moving through a series of postures with others. It’s that shared energy that at the end of class when you lie in your final relaxation leaves you feeling so great.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t enjoy the odd yoga class at home. But to say that online is the future for studios is concerning. Practicing in a studio is important for so many reasons, a key one, which I haven’t even covered here is safety. Who is watching your postures and ensuring that you’re practicing with good anatomical alignment (which is key to keeping you injury free), if you’re home alone?

So as you all get ready to head off on your holidays, if you’re looking for an online platform to help you keep up your yoga practice while you’re away, I’d be happy to help. But I do hope that this isn’t the future of yoga and we continue to see bricks and mortar yoga studios not just surviving but thriving.

How exercise can treat depression

In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, guest blogger, Cornelia Libal gives her thoughts on the current treatment of depression and the role that exercise and specifically yoga can play in achieving good mental health.

Depression on the rise

According to a report published by the Mental Health Foundation in 2016 (1),  a fifth of all adults in the UK showed symptoms of depression and anxiety, and nearly a half of all adults think that they have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life. According to the report, these numbers had increased from prior year’s surveys, demonstrating the increasing issue of depression in our society. 

The role of medication

Treatment of depression almost always includes antidepressant medication (2). A report published by NHS Digital8 in 2017 revealed that the number antidepressants prescribed more than doubled between 2006 and 2016. In addition, this class of medications experienced the highest numeric rise in prescriptions for the fourth consecutive year.

Exercise as a treatment for depression

Since the 1990’s scientific papers have been published evaluating large numbers of trials assessing the effectiveness of exercise for the treatment of depression.

Buckingham-page-image-8-150x150 How exercise can treat depression

One study (3) evaluated 82 participants who took part in a 12-week aerobic fitness program with a one year follow up. The researchers found physiological and psychological improvements at 12 weeks which were then maintained after one year. Thereby demonstrating both the short- and long-term benefits of exercise on mental health.

A recent meta-analysis (4) systematically evaluated 15 different studies on the impact of exercise on depression symptoms. This was the seventh meta-analysis on this topic and it should be noted that all results pointed in the same direction; physical exercise as a treatment for depression has a moderate to large effect. In addition, psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, are also effective strategies. However, medications are of limited value with many negative side effects.Buckingham-page-image-7-150x150 How exercise can treat depression

An even more recent meta-analysis (5) with 25 studies concluded that exercise may be even more effective than previously found due to a publication bias and found a large anti-depressant impact of exercise. According to the authors, physical exercise can be considered an evidence-based treatment of depression.

Yet despite these studies, exercise remains an underused treatment option.

Yoga’s role in managing depression

Now that we’ve seen that exercise in general improves depression, what about yoga specifically?

A 2017 publication (6) was the first study to evaluate yoga as monotherapy (e.g. yoga was the only treatment) in patients with mild-to-moderate major depression outside of India. Whilst it was a relatively small sample size with 38 adults, it did have a control group who attended attention control education groups. The intervention group, i.e. the yoga group, did a twice weekly 90-minute hatha yoga class for 8 weeks. The researchers found that the yoga participants were more likely to achieve remission and yoga practice resulted in a statistically and clinically significant improvement in depression severity.

Medication versus exercise

Sweat-classes-for-website-2-150x150 How exercise can treat depressionThe positive findings of exercise in general and yoga specifically on depression symptoms are in contrast to the moderate efficacy and side effect profile of antidepressants. Fluoxetine, a commonly prescribed antidepressant, has a long list of adverse effects (7). This includes, but is not limited to, anxiety, restlessness, sleep disorders, nightmares, hallucinations, panic attacks, tremor, memory impairment, decreased appetite, blurred vision, cardiac arrhythmias, and suicide.

On the other hand, exercise, including yoga, is well documented as an effective antidepressant which has no adverse side effects.

It’s important to point out that treatment options are not mutually exclusive and may well be combined, e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy and exercise. In addition, the risks and benefits of all the different treatment options should be weighed up against each other. However, exercise and, specifically yoga, should build one of the foundation blocks for both treatment and prevention of depression.

About the author:

As well being a regular Sweaty, Cornelia Libal is a pharmacist and former synchronised swimmer turned personal health cornelia-040-Edit-200x300 How exercise can treat depressionconsultant and founder of Optimia Health. Cornelia’s goal is to inspire people to become informed consumers of health care and recognise the power of lifestyle changes. She focuses on the role that nutrition and exercise play in your health to balance out an overemphasis on the role of medications and supplements.

Want to learn more?

You can sign up to Cornelia’s mailing list here (http://eepurl.com/giGgMT). As a “thank you” she’ll send you a link to a free eBook about common barriers to optimum health and how to overcome them. You can find Cornelia on Facebook (fb.me/optimiahealth) or YouTube, where you can subscribe to her channel.

Sources:
(1) https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/file/2518/download?token=RU6lzcSK, accessed 20th February 2019

(2) NICE Clinical Guideline 90, https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg90/chapter/1-Guidance#care-of-all-people-with-depression, accessed 20th February 2019

(3) DiLorenzo T, Bargman E, and Stucky-Ropp R. et al. “Long-term effects of aerobic exercise on psychological outcomes.” Prev Med. 1999 Jan;28(1):75–85

(4) Josefsson T, Lindwall M, Archer T. Physical exercise intervention in depressive disorders: Meta-analysis and systematic review. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2014: 24: 259–272

(5) Schuch FB, Vancampfort D, Richards J, Rosenbaum S, Ward PB, Stubbs B. Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias.J Psychiatr Res. 2016 Jun;77:42-51

(6) Prathakanti S, Rivera R, Cochran A, Tungol JG, Fayazmanesh N, Weinman E (2017). Treating major depression with yoga: A prospective, randomized, controlled pilot trial. PLoS ONE 12(3):e0173869

(7) Summary of Product Characteristics for Fluoxetine 20mg capsules, https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/6013/smpc#UNDESIRABLE_EFFECTS, accessed 22nd February 2019

(8) https://digital.nhs.uk/news-and-events/news-archive/2017-news-archive/antidepressants-were-the-area-with-largest-increase-in-prescription-items-in-2016, accessed 22nd February 2019

 

10 health benefits of yoga

Yoga’s well known for aiding flexibility. But did you know that it does a lot more than that? It’s not all about touching your toes (though that helps!) Here’s 10 health benefits of yoga you might not be familiar with.

1. Stress reduction

Classes-image-10 10 health benefits of yoga

Exercise has long been proven to be a positive way of eliminating stress and none more so than yoga. Studies show that practicing yoga regularly can lower your blood pressure and reduce your stress levels. Yoga encourages you to focus your mind, providing you with some much-needed time to relax, unwind and forget about your worries and concerns.

2. Improved sleep

All exercise leaves our bodies in need of rest. As well as being an effective form of physical exercise, yoga’s focus on breathing calmly helps to declutter and still our minds, removing many of the niggling thoughts that can prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep!

3. Improved circulation

Yoga improves the circulation of blood through your body and lowers your blood pressure. It reduces bad cholesterol and promotes good cholesterol, helping ward off heart attacks and stress.

4. Pain relief

We all suffer from niggles from time to time. Whether it’s back pain, knee, neck or another type of discomfort. Yoga encourages full movement of your joints, keeping them mobile and supple. It also improves the strength of your muscles which support your joints, making aches and pains a thing of the past.

5. Improved brain function

Regular yoga sessions can help improve cognitive function Click To Tweet

A report in Runner’s World notes how yoga can sharpen the memory, boost brain function and improve reaction time post-workout.

6. Better weight management

An active yoga class can burn calories, tone and build strength in the same way as a gym workout. Even stiller, more chilled classes, which have no vigorous movement, can help with weight loss by reducing the levels of cortisol in your body, the hormone released when we are stressed, which is associated with weight gain.

7. Fewer injuries

One of the principle benefits of yoga is that it improves core stability and balance. Practicing yoga moves also helps strengthen our muscles and bones and increases our flexibility. This makes us more stable on our feet and less like to injure ourselves when we fall.

8. Heightened athletic performance

By making us more flexible, improving our balance, helping us with breathe better and improving our strength, participating in regular yoga sessions aids sporting performance. Many professional sportspeople now add yoga to their training plans.

9. Improved posture

Every day our spines are put under tremendous pressure and we do little to aid them. Poor posture can cause problems with the back, neck and other muscles and joints. The stretches we do during yoga sessions strengthen the spine, improve our core and force us to correct our alignment, improving our overall posture.

10. Increased happiness

Yoga makes you happy! It has been scientifically proven that a yoga class alters your brain chemistry for the good. Yoga releases GABA (short for gamma-amniobutryic acid) in your brain. These neurotransmitters produce a calming effect similar to that of alcohol without the related health issues and nasty hangover.

Take advantage of the unbeatable all-round workout of yoga by joining in a yoga class at Sweat Studios. Get in touch with the Sweat team and find out more about our no-nonsense approach to this incredibly healthy form of exercise.

Sweat Studios’ top 5 tips for yoga beginners

Think yoga’s all about stretching? Think again. Yoga is one of the best workouts you can do. Not only will it get your heart rate pumping, burn calories and build muscle tone – keeping you fit and trim – it does so without putting unnecessary strain on your body. In fact, it helps future proof your joints and keeps pesky problem areas such as your back in tip top condition.

So if you’re looking for a way to lead a happier, healthier lifestyle, look no further. Here’s our top 5 tips for yoga beginners:

1: Work at your own pace

At Sweat, we don’t offer a beginner’s yoga course or class for the basic reason that you don’t need one. Most of our classes are suitable for all levels; 16-60, from those fit as a fiddle, to people unable to see or touch their toes. The level of your fitness, or the extent of your yoga prowess doesn’t matter as long as you work at your own pace. The yoga postures we teach in class are built up in stages and there’s a level for everyone.

Like everything that you do for the first time, mastering yoga poses will take time. Yoga forces us to move our bodies in ways that we don’t usually do. That’s what makes it such as a great form of exercise – you’ll activate under-used muscles and fix your posture – but changing your body takes time, so don’t be disheartened, keep at it and you will soon see progress. Simply rest when you need to, do what you can do and don’t worry about what you can’t do. And remember, everyone has to start somewhere.

2: Hydrate

IMG_1070-300x200 Sweat Studios' top 5 tips for yoga beginnersYour body is made up of over 50% water. No matter what exercise pursuit you do, a lack of hydration will lead to a drop in performance. Yoga poses massage your internal organs, so just like you’re told to rehydrate after a traditional massage, you need to do the same after your yoga class.

While you can drink during class, don’t drink too much. We do yoga poses that twist your tummy which are fantastic for aiding your digestion but not great if your belly is full. Also, lying on your front will be uncomfortable. Make drinking water part of your lifestyle so you come to class hydrated and then hydrate again when you leave.

3: Breathe

Yoga is a fantastic way to manage anxiety and stress and also to address pulmonary issues such as asthma. This is because in yoga you are taught to take a long, deep breath. Unlike with your gym workouts, where you may pant for breath when running for example, in yoga it’s important that while you are exercising your breath stays calm. It’s this calm breath that calms your body and mind. In general life we shallow breathe, in and out through our mouths, so breathing deeply through your nose will take a bit of practice. In your first few classes you may find it hard to do; there’s a lot of new stuff to learn and as you concentrate you tend to hold your breath. So keep checking back in with your breathing and if you find you are struggling to breathe calmly, or have started inhaling and exhaling through your mouth, take a break and join back in when you have control of your breath again.

4: Invest in a yoga towel

Sweat-house-rules-banner-300x159 Sweat Studios' top 5 tips for yoga beginnersA yoga towel which grips your mat is the only equipment we say is important for class. It’s the same size as the mats we provide, it saves you schlepping your own yoga mat around and it won’t move about as you move. They are available to purchase in the studio.

5: Come back!

No one aces their first class. If you’re doing yoga for the first time, you’ll be moving your body in new ways. You are changing your body for the better, but it won’t happen overnight. The more you come, the more accessible the poses become.

Here’s more great yoga benefits.

What’s in a name?

Last week I went to a yoga class. I wanted to try out a new studio. I had a look at the timetable and booked into a class called Hot Hatha. When I got there, the instructor began by explaining that her way of teaching was slightly different to what I might be used to. While that wasn’t an issue at all (it’s nice to get a different perspective and try a different way of doing things), what the class ended up being was very far away from what I thought I’d booked. It was the slowest yoga class I had ever done. My expectation had been mainly set by the fact that our Hot Classic class could also be termed a hot hatha class (in yoga speak), so that’s what I had in my head. As we moved VERY slowly through poses, there was a lot of focus on moving mindfully, thinking about what we were doing with our bodies, focussing on our alignment. As a yoga teacher, slowing things down, really thinking about what I am doing within my body, is great as it helps me develop my teaching. What I am trying to say is there was nothing wrong with the class, it’s just wasn’t the class I was expecting.

Meeting expectations

Appropriately setting and meeting a client’s expectations is a real challenge facing yoga studios. Every yoga teacher will tell you that they’ve got their own style and approach to yoga that they want to bring to their classes. Another issue is the sheer volume of different yoga styles, sequences and ways of teaching being churned out by the various yoga teacher training schools. With all this yoga proliferation, how do studios best manage the problem of ensuring that when clients show up to take a class, it’s the class they were expecting to take?

Consistency is key

Whether you agree or disagree with them, McDonalds is successful on a global scale for one reason; it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you know what you’re going to get when you order a McDonald’s meal. There may be some slight variants from country to country, but essentially a Big Mac is a Big Mac. You could argue that Bikram Yoga is the McDonalds of the yoga world. Again, love him or hate him for what he stands for, Bikram brought consistency to yoga. A set sequence of 26 postures taught in the same conditions (and often with the same teaching script) in studios across the globe. It became (and still is) a global phenomenom.

You can’t deny that people enjoy the predicability of knowing what they are going to get. And, a yoga class is expensive, so we all want to make sure that when we hand over our hard earned cash, we know it’s going to be well spent.

Training our own yoga teachers

We see many yoga teachers at the studio. They approach us wanting to teach and will often tell us the type of yoga that they have learnt and want us to put on our timetable so they can teach it. The bigger question is, is that a type of yoga our clients actually want to do? We’ve been offered everything up to and including yoga combined with dance.

We realised early-on that achieving consistency in how a class was taught was going to be challenging. So we launched our own yoga teacher training school to ensure that we had teachers who taught in a similar way, so a Hot Classic class was always a Hot Classic irrespective of the instructor. Often finding the right yoga class for you is synonymous with finding the right instructor for you. When that teacher moves on the timetable or leaves the studio, you’ve often lost the class you loved. At Sweat, we tried to avoid the need to follow a teacher by having a consistency to the way we teach.

A new studio means a need for new class names

At the moment we are getting ready to open our new studio in Buckingham and it’s got us thinking about class names. The class names that we have at the studio now make perfect sense to me (they would, I came up with them!), but do they make sense to other people? In my mind, Hot Classic is a sequence of classic (could also be termed traditional or foundation) yoga poses taught in a hot room. When I explained this to the studio manager, Lucinda, she looked at me with surprise and said she’d never known that that was why it was called Classic. Clearly we need to work on our internal communications (!), but the bigger question looms; these naming conventions make sense to me, but do they make sense to you?

Keeping it simple

I often blog about the fact that one of the biggest barriers to people taking a yoga class is working out which one is right for them. The reality is the traditional naming conventions; hatha, vinyasa etc. mean nothing to the uninitiated. They need to be accompanied by a description of what that class is. And, even then, as my experience has shown, one (hot) hatha class can be fundamentally different to another. Hatha is simply a catch-all for describing a yoga class where postures aren’t connected/flow-ed together (as they are in vinyasa or, put more simply, flow) and there tends to be a pause between each one. Though honestly hatha flow (which I have also seen on timetables), blows that explanation out of the water!

So how do yoga studios tackle this problem? What names can we choose that are both easy to understand, appealing and mean from a consumer perspective, someone knows exactly what they are buying. To be honest, I don’t have the answer. Most yoga studio timetables are led by the yoga form (e.g. yin, vinyasa, hatha, kundalini etc.). While this works for lots of studios, this wouldn’t be the right approach for Sweat. Our goal has always been to remove the barriers to yoga, to reduce the complexity, so a myriad of different yoga forms that people have to choose from wouldn’t sit right with us. So what do we call our classes? Do we lead with the benefit the class will bring (some studios call their classes things like ‘Strong’ or ‘Chill’), or do we lead with what’s going to happen in the class (e.g ‘Flow’)? To add even more complexity, our studio in Buckingham won’t be offering hot yoga, so we need names that clearly show what’s hot and what’s not to avoid missed expectation.

The final decision

After spending a number of mind-bending hours, here’s where we have landed (for now). It’s a bit of a mixture of everything and hopefully covers all bases.

Classic – a set sequence of classic (foundation) yoga poses.

Hot Classic – a Classic class performed in a hot room. Simple!

Mix – similar to a Classic class but you can expect to ‘mix things up’ a bit. A chance to learn new poses and try new things.

Hot Mix – a mix class performed in a hot room.

Stretch (previously known as Flex) – a deep stretching (clue’s in the name, people) yoga class, where postures are held for a longer duration to really improve your flexibility.

Move & Stretch (previously Stretch & Flex) – simple-to-perform yoga poses, designed to move (geddit?) your body to increase your mobility, followed by a Stretch class.

Flow – a dynamically moving class where postures flow (again – see what we’ve done here?) together to form sequences. You can choose from slow flow (moving slowly – great for learning the basics), hot flow (flow in a hot room) or just regular ‘ol flow.

We are also going to be categorising our classes under three headings; work-out, stretch-out and, chill-out, meaning you can sign up for the class that best suits your mood and need and hopefully there’s no missed expectation.

There really is no right or wrong way of doing this, but it has to work for you, so let us know what you think! You’ll see these changes rolled out across our timetable, app and website in the coming weeks.

Happy gut, happy you: 3 strategies for a healthy gut microbiome

When you go to a yoga class, you bring a towel, a drink and that’s pretty much it. Right? No, not quite. You also bring the 100 trillion microbes residing in your gut with you.

These 100 trillion (1) cells are predominantly bacteria, but also include fungi and viruses. It’s called the gut microbiome and it is difficult to find an aspect of human health that’s not affected by it.

In fact, our human cells are outnumbered 10:1 by the cells of the microbiome (1), so technically we are only 10% ourselves and 90% microbes.

Researchers keep discovering new ways of how the gut microbiome impacts health. What we do know so far is that it acts as a barrier between the outside world and our body, it affects our mood through the production of serotonin, it supports immune function, it facilitates the absorption of nutrients and it influences inflammation. Additionally, those who engage in regular physical activity may see quicker recovery from exercise due to faster metabolism of lactic acid facilitated by a healthy gut microbiome (3,4,5).

These are good reasons for keeping our gut microbiome happy because ultimately a happy microbiome makes a happy, healthy you!

Diversity of the gut microbiome is key (6) and it is a fine balance between microbes with a potential to cause disease and those that support human health. Reduced diversity has been observed in autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, eczema, and obesity. So how do we support those bacteria that keep us well, whilst keeping the others at bay?

Here are the most important strategies to achieve this goal and if you are a regular sweaty, you are already doing one of them!

Avoid unnecessary antibiotics

This one should go without saying, but sadly we are still overusing antibiotics. We all know about the risk of resistance and antibiotics not working any longer if used too liberally. Researchers are finding that there’s another cost to antibiotic usage: damage to the gut microbiome. Antibiotics don’t discriminate and they will kill bacteria, whether they are harmful or useful to us, so the fine balance between different bacteria in our gut gets destroyed (7) with a detrimental effect on our health. As with any medication, consider carefully whether the risks are worth the benefits and discuss with your doctor.

Exercise

There are many benefits of regular exercise, covering both mental and physical aspects of health. Relatively recently it has been discovered that exercise can also impact your gut microbiome (8,9). In studies with healthy adults, there was a clear correlation between physical fitness and gut microbial diversity. In other words, the more active participants were, the more of the health-promoting bacteria they had in their guts. Interestingly, those who engage in regular exercise have a specific bacterium in their gut microbiome that breaks down lactic acid after exercise (10). In comparison to non-athletes, they also had a significantly larger population of this bacterium in their gut. This may be one of the reasons why athletes and those who engage in regular exercise, recover faster than those who do not exercise. Although this effect was independent of their diet, it makes sense to combine nutrition with exercise to maximise the benefit for our gut microbes and ultimately for our own health.

Up your veggie and fruit game

The microbiome ferments dietary fibres, thereby supporting the growth of specialist microbes that produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

Randomised controlled trials have shown that higher production of SCFAs correlates with lower diet-induced obesity and reduced insulin resistance. Additionally, there is evidence from animal studies that some SCFAs control gut hormones and reduce appetite and food intake (2).
So we need to feed our gut microbiome fibre, for it to keep us healthy. As this is only found in plants, it benefits us to eat a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. As a nice side effect, the increase in dietary fibre also resolves constipation symptoms. Where dietary changes are made, this often generates changes in the microbiome very quickly, sometimes within days (11).

The authors of a paper in the British Medical Journal conclude “Fibre is a key nutrient for a healthy microbiome and has been overlooked while debates have raged about sugar and fat” (2).

It’s really simple. To keep our gut microbiome diverse and healthy we need more fibre, more exercise and fewer antibiotics. So next time you do a class at Sweat, think about the fact that you’re not just doing this for yourself but also for 100 trillion cells residing in your gut. And they will reward you with many benefits in return. How’ss that for motivation?

About the author

As well being a regular Sweaty, Cornelia Libal is a pharmacist and former synchronised swimmer turned personal health cornelia-040-Edit-200x300 Happy gut, happy you: 3 strategies for a healthy gut microbiomeconsultant and founder of Optimia Health. Cornelia’s goal is to inspire people to become informed consumers of health care and recognise the power of lifestyle changes. She focuses on the role that nutrition and exercise play in your health to balance out an overemphasis on the role of medications and supplements.

Want to learn more?

You can sign up to Cornelia’s mailing list here (http://eepurl.com/giGgMT). As a “thank you” she’ll send you a link to a free eBook about common barriers to optimum health and how to overcome them. You can find Cornelia on Facebook (fb.me/optimiahealth) or YouTube, where you can subscribe to her channel.

(1) britishgut.org, accessed on 15th February 2019

(2) Ana M Valdes et al. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ 2018;361:k2179

(3) Hank Schultz “Probiotics developer finds functional candidates in athletes’ microbiomes.” NutraIngredients May 29 2018

(4) Hakansson A, Molin G. Gut microbiota and inflammation. Nutrients2011;3:637-82

(5) Clair R. Martin et al. The Brain-Gut-Microbiome Axis. Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018; 6(2): 133–148.

(6) Levy M, Kolodziejczyk AA, Thaiss CA, Elinav E. Dysbiosis and the immune system. Nat Rev Immunol2017;17:219-32.

(7) Blaser MJ. Antibiotic use and its consequences for the normal microbiome. Science 2016;352:544-5

(8) Estaki M. et al. Cardiorespiratory fitness as a predictor of intestinal microbial diversity and distinct metagenomic functions. The FASEB Journal. 2016;30(1):1027–1035.

(9) Mach, N.; Fuster-Botella, D. Endurance exercise and gut microbiota: A review. J. Sport Health Sci. 2017, 6,
179–197.

(10) Hank Schultz “Probiotics developer finds functional candidates in athletes’ microbiomes.” NutraIngredients May 29 2018

(11) David LA, Maurice CF, Carmody RN, et al. Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome.Nature 2014;505:559-63.

How yoga can keep your spine healthy

Spinal health is essential. Our spine supports our bodies, protecting the nerves and enabling us to move. Each cell in our bodies is controlled by our central nervous system. If problems with our spine means it is unable to support the central nervous system, issues can rear their head.

Maintaining spinal health is therefore vital.

Easing lower back pain

Figures show around 2.5 million people in the UK suffer from back pain on a daily basis, costing the NHS approximately £12.3 billion and contributing to half of all sick days in Britain.

Back pain can range from anything from a constant, dull ache, to a sharp pain that leaves someone incapacitated. Pain in the back can be the result of years of bad posture, heavy lifting or the result of an accident.

Proper alignment and a good posture, designed to maintain the natural curvature shape of the spine, is important in helping to avoid or reduce lower back pain.

Yoga is an extremely effective form of exercise for maintaining good posture, keeping the curvature shape of the spine and therefore easing back pain.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), practicing a set of carefully adapted yoga postures may help ease the pain for individuals suffering from mild to moderate chronic low back pain and improve their ability to move and walk.

How yoga can help

One of the myriad of benefits of yoga includes improving and maintaining healthy movement and strength of the spine.

Yoga expands the different motions of the spine. By improving the agility and flexibility of the Ali-backbend-248-150x150 How yoga can keep your spine healthyspine, yoga can help reduce the chances of spinal injuries. The different yoga poses encourage the muscles which support the spine to be in alignment with the deep core muscles and the abdomen.

Two of the principle components of maintaining a proper alignment of the spine are flexibility and balance, both of which yoga helps develop. The different poses carried out in a yoga sequence elongate the spine and stretch and strengthen its range of motion.

Yoga for a happy, healthy back

If you are suffering from back pain and are seeking alternatives ways to help alleviate the discomfort, increase your spinal strength and flexibility, and help you move more freely, why not join our Happy Backs workshop on Saturday 9th February?

We’ll be joined by the super knowledgeable Charlie Taylor-Rugman, back again following his sell-out Happy Hips and Happy Hamstrings workshops. Using his extensive knowledge of yoga and anatomy, Charlie will teach you how to use your yoga classes to develop a happy and healthy spine. You’ll learn how good alignment in your postures, coupled with proper breath control can strengthen your spinal muscles to keep your back healthy and reduce pain and discomfort. If you suffer from back pain during your yoga classes, or in every day life, or simply want to understand your spine better, this is a must-do workshop. Charlie is a Yoga Alliance accredited Senior Yoga Teacher. He is a regular guest instructor at Sweat Studios, delivering workshops designed to help you understand your body better and get more from your yoga. He is also an instructor on Sweat Studios’ Yoga Teacher Training Programme covering all aspects of anatomy and physiology.

You can book into our Better Backs Workshop here. £27 if purchased before January 1st 2019, £32 thereafter.