Author Archives: Kirsty Lowe

De-stress and relax this weekend

Feeling exhausted, stressed, over-wrought, in need of a rest but struggling to sleep? Then we’ve got the perfect workshop for you! ‘The Big Chill’ takes place on Sunday 17 November at 3:30pm – 5:30pm, at our new Buckingham studio, and is designed to reduce stress and anxiety.

A 2018 study* commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation found that almost 74% of UK adults said they felt so stressed over the previous year that they were overwhelmed or had been unable to cope – The Big Chill is a two-hour workshop focused on helping you find relief from the busy, stress-filled lives many of us lead.

The session will begin with some light mediation and breathing techniques designed to help calm your body and mind. You’ll then have an opportunity to learn and practice some slow, restorative yoga poses which can help reduce stress and anxiety, before the session concludes with a long, guided relaxation.

The workshop also offers you an opportunity to talk to your instructor, Lucinda Memery, who will explain the benefits that this type of yoga practice has on you physically and mentally. She will also share with you tips to enable you to take the learnings from the day into your daily life and leave you better able to manage stresses and anxieties.

Many people tend to think of yoga as an activity that just stretches muscles, however there are a series of yoga poses that are designed to work with your central nervous system to reduce your fight or flight response, which is what kicks in when we are stressed. The Big Chill workshop has been created to help you reap wellness benefits during the session, so you will leave feeling much calmer, as well as teaching you techniques you can use day-to-day to help make feelings of stress and anxiety a thing of the past.

The Big Chill takes place at our Buckingham studio, 28 Candleford Court – free parking is available in Cornwall’s Meadow Car Park, a one-minute walk away. Book now.

As well as The Big Chill, we are introducing a new class to our winter timetable: Candlelit Chill-Out. These take place in their Milton Keynes studio on Mondays at 8pm and Buckingham on Tuesday at 8pm. This seasonal class is perfect for all abilities and is designed to help beat the winter blues. It comprises slow, floor-based, simple-to-do yoga poses to deliver the benefits of rest without the sleep. Book now.

I have a confession: I’m ashamed of my yoga mat

I have no reason to be. It’s a perfectly good yoga mat. It does the job I need it to do. It provides a suitable surface for my yoga practice and cushions me when I am lying on the floor.

my-shameful-yoga-mat-150x150 I have a confession: I'm ashamed of my yoga matSo why am I ashamed you might ask? Well I’m not really, until I have to take it out in public, as I did this weekend at the OM Yoga Show and I see all the other mats that are out there. Mine seems so inferior. The others have special grippy surfaces, lines which tell you where to place your feet, beautiful patterns and matching bags. Why oh why don’t I have a yoga mat that matches my yoga outfit? Everyone else seems to!

But here’s the truth. I don’t need all of that stuff. My mat is just fine. What my mat may lack in extra grippiness, I have to make up for by having a strong foundation in my hands and feet to ensure I don’t slip, irrespective of how sweaty I might get. Without lines to follow on my mat telling me where to place my hands and feet, I have to listen to the teacher’s cues of how to move and tune into my body to check that the alignment feels right.

As I schlepped around the exhibition this weekend with my rather grubby, somewhat old, missing an eyelet yoga mat, I was overwhelmed by just how much in the way of yoga accessories was available. I shouldn’t be. The yoga apparel market is booming. And I won’t lie, I’m as partial to a snazzy pair of yoga leggings as the next person (I just don’t care overly about my mat). And while there were people at the show in top to toe, beautiful yoga swag, I was delighted to see a lady next to me in one of the classes practicing in her jeans. Now while I wouldn’t recommend that on an ongoing basis (try lunging in a pair of jeans and you’ll soon see why), I loved the fact that she wasn’t letting the simple issue of clothes get in the way of her trying yoga! So essentially what I am saying is if you want all the yoga gear, great for for it! But if you’re not into that stuff or simply can’t afford it, don’t worry! All you really need to do yoga is you. The clothes and the mats are irrelevant.

How often do I need to do yoga to see benefits?

This is probably the question I get asked the most at the studio: “How often do I need to do yoga in order to see benefits?”

Now, while I always give a diplomatic answer of “well, any yoga is better than no yoga”, which is most certainly true, let’s get real here.

Most people are drawn to yoga to become more flexible. The vast majority of our members want to alleviate stiffness caused by a lifetime of neglecting their flexibility. We are all conscious of the need to build strength, improve our cardiovascular fitness and burn calories, so we make time for activities like the gym, running, football and other sports, but flexibility training for most of us is at best, a quick few-second-long stretch at the end of a workout or a match.

And then, somewhere down the line, we realise we’re unable to put our shoes on without having to sit down, or we develop a bad back or a sporting injury and yoga is recommended to increase our suppleness or simply for rehabilitation, so we take our first class.

It’s no surprise that the average age of members at the yoga studio is 35-55, because it’s later on in life, after years of pounding treadmills and sitting hunched over laptops, that we begin to experience problems. And, in these cases, yoga can be an absolute game changer, but here’s the hard truth, a class a week may not cut it. Here’s 5 reasons why:

1. You need to get the balance right

If you’re going to the gym three of four times a week, but are coming to yoga just once, improvements to your flexibility will be slow. Every time you run or cycle you are tightening your muscles. If you do that three times a week but you only stretch them once a week, it’s easy to see how your flexibility will forever be compromised.

2. You need to retrain your body and that takes time and effort

We move our bodies in habitual ways all day, every day. For most of us, we sit – working, driving, eating, relaxing and then, if we favour cycling for fitness for example, we continue to sit. Which means on a daily basis we are using the same muscles time and time again. The only daily activity we do which isn’t sitting is walking. And then, if we run, again we are using the same muscles and moving in the same way just at a quicker pace.

A yoga class is one of the only workouts that requires you to use all muscles. It forces you to move your body in a way that you don’t in every day life. Using under-utilised muscles is hard as they’re weak. It takes time to develop your body to the point whereby the shapes you make in a yoga class (think backbends) are as easy as the ones you spend countless hours performing every day (think hunching over a desk). I once had a conversation with a guy who said he found doing reverse tabletop really hard and he couldn’t understand why as he was strong and fit. I politely pointed out that that pose required flexibility and strength in muscles that he was neglecting on a daily basis simply due to his lifestyle – e.g. strong glutes and open hip flexors, chest and shoulders. A reverse tabletop is literally the counter pose to sitting at a desk all day and if all you ever do is sit and hunch (and his passion was also cycling) and you never train your body in reverse tabletop, why would you be able to do it?

3. Seeing progress is a motivator

We are all motivated by achievement. So if we are going to invest time in something, we want to feel that we are getting better at it. If you only do yoga once a week, your progress will be slow and accordingly you may lose motivation. Taking classes more frequently will enable you to progress at a faster pace which will boost your motivation.

4. It takes time to build a habit

There are a number of studies out there that talk about how often you have to do something for it to become a habit. Once something is a habit it becomes part of your every day rather than something you have to motivate yourself to do. So, you tell yourself that you just do yoga once a week on a Tuesday. Then Tuesday rolls around and something comes up at work, or one of your kids is sick and you can’t make class. You miss class that week and the habit is broken. If you were regularly coming two or more times a week, the odd missed session wouldn’t break the habit.

Your yoga workout should be the workout you prioritise above all others

While I would never tell you to give up the gym or to stop running, the reality is your yoga workout is the one workout you should prioritise over all others as it’s the one your body really needs. Yoga is the only workout that directly addresses the mental and physical problems created by the lives we lead today. It improves your balance (which becomes increasingly important as we age), it develops your strength (in a super safe, low-impact way as the only resistance you use is your own body weight), it improves your mental focus and your ability to concentrate, it reduces your stress and anxiety, it takes your joints through a full range of movement and keeps them healthy, it can heal (and prevent a bad back), it changes your brain chemistry (for the good) and makes you feel happier and more content, I could go on but hopefully you get the point.

So no more excuses. Let’s make it to yoga today!

The benefits of yoga during pregnancy

Moderate exercise during pregnancy can offer lots of benefits. According to the NHS, keeping active and fit during pregnancy can help you with weight gain, adapting to your changing shape, coping with labour and regaining your fitness after the baby is born.

Yoga is the ideal form of exercise during pregnancy. It’s not too strenuous and can help you to relax as well as staying fit and building core strength. Here are just a handful of the main benefits of prenatal yoga, according to advice from Mayo Clinic:

Yoga reduces stress and anxiety

The calmer you can be during pregnancy, the better it is for both yours and the baby’s health. Yoga helps you to take some time out for yourself, teaching you techniques to calm your anxieties, clear your mind and soothe yourself.

Yoga reduces back pain

Prenatal yoga is all geared towards alleviating the aches and pains pregnant women experience, including back pain. By building core strength in your abdominals, you can take some of the pressure off your back as your baby grows. Pregnancy yoga can also help to reduce other unwanted side effects, such as nausea and headaches.

You meet other women preparing to become a new parent

A prenatal yoga class can be a supportive and bonding experience, helping you to discuss and share fears and worries, pass on advice and simply offload. Together, you’ll strengthen your bodies while hopefully alleviating any stress about becoming a new parent.

Yoga improves your sleep

Pregnant women often have trouble sleeping, but yoga can help. When you learn how to relax and self-soothe using yoga techniques, you’ll find that you’re more comfortable in bed and find it easier to sleep for longer.

Yoga teaches you breathing techniques

The breathing exercises you practice during prenatal yoga sessions can be hugely helpful during the birth of your baby, teaching you how to manage shortness of breath and work through contractions by focusing on your breath.

Why it’s recommended to go to a specialist pregnancy yoga class

There are lots of yoga classes to choose from, but one specially designed for pregnant women is recommended. This is because it will focus on areas of the body and exercises that help to ease discomfort and pain that pregnant women tend to experience, particularly as their bump gets bigger.

A trained pregnancy yoga instructor will also know exactly how to lead the session safely, taking everyone’s needs into account. They will lead you through gentle stretching and yoga postures to help you develop strength and flexibility, choosing yoga poses designed to be safe and comfortable for pregnant women. You’ll be encouraged to listen to your body, cooling down and relaxing at the end of each session by settling into a calm breathing rhythm.

Want to give pregnancy yoga a try? You can sign up for a 6 week pre-natal course at Sweat Studios, or pay session by session to see how you like it – click here to book.

Why do we talk all the time in a yoga class?

One of the things you may have noticed in our yoga classes is that we talk, a lot. There’s actually a reason behind this. Yes, we want to give you clear and accurate instruction, and in a yoga pose there’s a lot to be paying attention to, but that’s not the only reason why we talk.

One of the things a yoga class can do for you, that other exercise forms don’t, is give you an opportunity to clear your mind. In our yoga classes, we often ask you to focus; maybe on your breath, perhaps on a point in front of you as you balance. Essentially we are teaching you tricks to block out the world, to tune out the external stimuli that are a constant distraction, that keep your thoughts whirling, your brain racing and often leave you feeling stressed, anxious and exhausted.

Our voice is simply something for you to focus on. If we can hold your attention on us, on our words, on the instructions we’re giving, we stop your mind from going to other places. Some people who come to class find the constant talking a distraction in itself. They prefer quieter classes, with more silence and we offer those too with Stretch and Rest, Renew, Restore. On the flip side, for people who struggle with silence, who will always fill that silence with thoughts, the more active classes with the constant dialogue (Classic, Mix, Flow) really work.

That’s not to say that being able to clear your mind happens overnight. I still remember the first yoga class in which it happened for me. As I left, I had this sudden realisation that for the last 60 minutes, I had literally not had another thought other than what I was doing in that moment. It was a completely liberating and new experience and one I continue to chase in every class, because it’s hard to do, and, sadly for me, practicing in one of my studios makes it even harder. My thoughts constantly wander; “are people enjoying the class?”, “is the heat the right temperature?”, “how long has that lightbulb not been working?”, “what’s that new crack on the ceiling?”. Given that the studios are my business and place of work, they are a place in which I find it very hard to switch off. So I often take my yoga practice to other studios, where I can be free of the concerns of how the studio is being run and instead can focus in on my breath and what the instructor is saying to me.

Also, when I am practicing our set sequence classes and I know what’s coming next, it can be easy to go on autopilot, to stop listening to what the instructor is saying and get caught up with my own thoughts. And I know I’m not alone in this. I see other people struggling with this all the time in the classes I teach. That’s why, every now and then, you might get us pointing out that you’re not doing what we’re asking you to do. You’ve presumed we’re turning to the right when actually we’ve thrown you a curve ball and started by turning to the left. We don’t do this to make you look or feel silly, but to point out that you’re not listening and, if you’re not listening, you’re not focused, which means your thoughts have wandered and you’re missing out on the magic a yoga class can bring. If this is you, mixing up your classes, taking a Mix or a Flow class every now and then (where the postures are different every time) will help build the discipline of following the yoga teacher’s voice and not your own thoughts.

Maintaining your focus in a hot yoga class can be particularly challenging. A hot room is teeming with distractions. In your first few classes all you can think about is the heat and your sweat. You need a drink, you’re fidgety, itchy, in a word, distracted. In these types of classes a loud, clear, strong voice and a commanding way of teaching is imperative. We need to hold your attention on us and stop your brain from getting caught up with those distractions. And, over time you learn to ignore them, you leave the sweat and you just stay focused on your breath. You follow the cues you’re given and keep your attention focused on what’s happening inside your body rather than all around you. And, when you do that, when you can take control of your thoughts, rather than letting them control you, that’s when your yoga becomes more than a class and part of your way of being.

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

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 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

Kids-yoga-for-homepage 8 benefits of yoga for kidsChildren are naturally supple, but yoga can help them to maintain this into adulthood. As the saying 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 kidsKids 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 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 yoga, we have classes on Thursdays 4:30-5:15pm for children aged between 4-9. Classes are held at our Buckingham studio. Click here for more details. 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