Author Archives: Kirsty Lowe

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.

Reclaim your lunchbreak and boost your productivity and wellbeing

Many studies have shown the damaging effect that sitting for 8+ hours a day has. Being tied to our desks is a productivity killer and has the same damaging health effect as smoking a pack of cigarettes! Yet it can still be difficult to break the habit of grabbing lunch at our computers. With an oftentimes overwhelming workload, working over lunch can seem like the most productive thing to do.

Scientific studies show however that taking regular breaks during our working day and getting out from behind our desks actually makes us more productive. A proper break over lunchtime where we get out of the office and undertake some physical exercise is a great way to boost our mental and physical wellbeing.

Here are six proven ways that a lunchtime yoga class could ensure you stay fit and healthy and have you smashing through your afternoon to-do list in no time!

Yoga relieves stress

By placing a great deal of attention on how you breathe, a yoga class reduces anxiety and stress in your body while increasing your serotonin levels which make you feel happy! It’s a great way to move on from challenging aspects of your day and start the afternoon with a positive outlook.

Yoga improves concentration and focus

An inability to focus is one of the major causes for low productivity at work. The good news is that as well as offering benefits on a physical level, yoga works on a mental level too. Doing yoga can boost your brainpower even more than conventional aerobic exercise. A single session of yoga significantly improves working memory and concentration!

Yoga increases energy and reduces fatigue

Do you find yourself needing an afternoon sugary pick-me-up as your energy levels ebb? Incorporating a yoga session as part of the workday routine is a great way to avoid fatigue as well as counteracting the physical downsides of desk-based working.

Yoga increases creativity

Practicing yoga helps your mind relax naturally into creativity. By focusing on breath and movement you clear your mind of unwanted chatter making way for new ideas and the motivation to create great things. After your lunchtime yoga practice the day ahead is like a fresh canvas to paint on!

yoga boosts morale and performance

If you feel well physically, mentally and emotionally, your morale will be high. Commanding presence and respect in the workplace is vital. If you’re feeling good about yourself, other people will feel good about you too. If you are focused and energetic, your positivity will be strong. If your creativity is unleashed, your self-confidence will soar. And all of this will make you a better employee – in your job responsibilities, your dealings with clients and your interactions with fellow employees.

How to get started

We run 45 minute lunchtime sessions on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. By purchasing a Lunchtime 5 Class Pass you can take class with us for just £7. We have extensive changing facilities, showers, lockers and towel hire. We also provide yoga mats. All you need to do is show up and do yoga! Why not book your lunchtime yoga class now?

Timetable changes

There’ll be a few changes to the schedule over the coming weeks as we welcome three new receptionists, say goodbye to our much loved Zoe, and change up the timetable in line with your requests. We’re always keen to hear your views, so let us know what changes you’d like to see.

Mondays

As we work to replace Ellie on reception on a Monday night, Jules and Ali will be temporarily sharing the task of teaching and manning the front desk with Jules taking on the 12:30pm and 5:30pm Sweat Hot Classic classes as of 15th October. Ali should be back at the helm on November 26th.

Tuesdays

Sadly for us, but amazingly for her, our lovely Zoe has gone and got herself a job promotion and is relocating to London at the end of October. As one door closes another one opens and we’re pleased to announce that Kelly will be stepping into her shoes in the 7:30pm Sweat Hot Classic class.

Wednesdays

This month we’re welcoming three new trainees to our front desk; Aimee, Julie and Jess. In order to get them trained up on all things Sweat, Kirsty will be handing over her Wednesday night 5:30pm and 7pm classes to Lucinda while she helps out our new starters on the reception desk on a Tuesday. Kirsty will be back in her Wednesday night spot the first week in December.

Thursday

We’ve had a number of requests for another Sweat Flow class on the schedule. Starting 8th November, the 7:30pm Sweat Hot Classic class on a Thursday night will be a Flow. If you’re new to Flow this class will be a great opportunity to learn the ropes.

Saturdays

While we get our new starters up to speed, Sarah will be helping out Kirsty and Ali, teaching the 10:30am Sweat Hot Classic class from time to time.

Sunday

We hear you…90 minute classes just take too much time out of your day. As of 4th November, the 90 minute Stretch & Flex class will be changing to just 60 minutes, hopefully making it easy for you to fit it into your schedule.

To see the complete schedule click here.

5 tips for choosing a yoga teacher training programme

So you love yoga and you’ve decide you’d like to train to be a yoga teacher! Now the big question is where and with whom should you train? There are a lot of yoga teacher training programmes out there. Here’s our top 5 tips on what to consider when making your choice…

Is the yoga studio/yoga teacher trainer the right fit for you?

Most yoga teacher training programmes are run by studios and the vast majority of them are offering courses as a means to develop yoga instructors to teach for them. As all studios have slightly different styles and ethos, and the studios will want their trained instructors to match that, you should always check out a studio before enrolling on a programme with them. Go to a number of different classes, speak to the yoga instructors, find out where they trained, did they enjoy it, would they recommend it?

As a general rule yoga teacher training programmes are delivered by the most senior yoga teacher on the staff, often the studio owner. If it’s not the studio owner, find out who the yoga teacher trainer is. Take classes with them, introduce yourself, say you’re interested in enrolling on their programme, get to know them, do you like them, would you like to teach like them? You will be spending a lot of time with this person, so it’s important that you’re going to get along and that their style of teaching yoga is one that you like and could aspire to.

Is the yoga teacher training course accredited?

An accredited course with a professional body such as Yoga Alliance or the British Wheel of Yoga will give you an assurance that a certain standard will be met by the yoga teacher training programme. Yoga Alliance, for example, sets minimum standards for the amount of time that needs to be spent in key areas of your training e.g. yoga practice, anatomy and physiology, yoga history and philosophy. It also requires that the senior yoga teacher delivering the course (e.g. the person they have accredited and deemed to be of a high enough standard in their own yoga teaching to teach others to teach), spends the largest amount of time with you and doesn’t leave all the training to others, putting their name to the programme and little more. Finally, there are set parameters on how much of the course needs to be conducted face-to-face (called “contact hours”) and how much can be completed as homework or self study.

What do you want to get from the yoga teacher training programme?

Most people begin a yoga teacher training course unsure as to whether they will teach at the end of it, and for some that intention is never there. A yoga teacher training programme can be a great opportunity to simply learn more about yoga and improve your own practice. That said, if you do want to teach, make sure the programme gives adequate support for you to do that.

Posture-clinic-image-3 5 tips for choosing a yoga teacher training programmeIn our experience yoga teacher training programmes can fall into two categories; ones that teach you how to pursue a yoga path in life (improving your physical practice and also equipping you to be yogic in other aspects of your life) but can be light on teaching you how to teach, and those that spend more time on equipping you to stand in front of a group of people at the end of the programme and deliver a class, but can then be less intensive on the personal practice and lifestyle aspects.

Don’t under estimate the difference between knowing how to do a yoga pose and how to teach a pose. If you are interested in teaching make sure your programme dedicates adequate time to ensuring you understand the yoga postures you’re instructing, are able to teach them verbally and not just physically so you have the confidence to get off your mat, walk around a room, give adjustments etc. At the studio we meet a lot of yoga instructors who can only teach a class by showing people what to do. While this is one way to teach, being glued to your mat at the front doing the poses with your clients will limit your ability to assist people during class. It will also put constraints on how many classes you can teach in a day as you’ll be expending a large amount of physical energy each time. Not great if you’re trying to earn a living from yoga teaching.

On the flip side, if your intention is to simply immerse yourself in the world of yoga and have no intention of ever being a yoga teacher, a yoga teacher programme which is heavy on practice teaching might not be the right choice for you.

If you do hope to instruct yoga, another key consideration is what you’d like to teach once you’re a certified yoga instructor.Screen-Shot-2016-07-20-at-16.15.31-300x300 5 tips for choosing a yoga teacher training programme In general, if you’re going for a Yoga Alliance accredited course, you’ll start with a 200 hour foundation. This will be in a certain discipline e.g. Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram, hot yoga etc. So, if you want to be a vinyasa yoga teacher, then opt for a 200 hour vinyasa teacher training course. However, if your end game is to teach yoga to the elderly or for pregnancy, for example, there is little point in training in vinyasa as this dynamic style of yoga won’t suit your clients. It would be better to opt for a more generic Hatha yoga teacher programme and then do additional training in the specifics of teaching these groups after you’ve completed your 200 hours.

How will the yoga teacher training course fit in with your lifestyle?

Yoga teacher training courses differ in how they are delivered. Some will be intensive for a month (home or abroad), others will comprise some intensive part (maybe a couple of weeks abroad) with weekends, alternatively they will be weekends only, either one after the other or spread out over a greater length of time. The big question is what best suits your lifestyle and other commitments? All programmes will require homework, this could be in the form of yoga practice, practising teaching people, completing journals, reading, researching, writing essays etc. If you’re on an intensive course there will be less time to complete these additional activities on top of the time you’re already spending in training. Spreading the training over a longer period would give you more time for these ‘out of hours’ activities but you may lose momentum and, of course, qualifying to teach yoga will take a longer period of time.

What other support is offered as part of the yoga teacher training programme?

Embarking on a teacher training programme is hard. There will be times when you need a friendly ear or a shoulder to cry on. Look into what other support is offered outside of the contact hours. While you’re likely to make great friends on the programme, every now and then you may be thankful of an opportunity to talk to someone outside of that group. In addition, your senior yoga teacher may be stretched in terms of the time that he or she can give to you, given their commitment to all of the participants on the programme.

If you’re interested in the potential paths you could take once you’re a certified yoga instructor, take a look at our case studies of past graduates; Zoe, Jules, Claire, Kristina, Kelly and Lisa have gone on to teach classes for studios and set up their own classes independently.