Author Archives: Kirsty Lowe

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.


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 ( 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 ( or YouTube, where you can subscribe to her channel.

(1), 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,

(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Instagram and Yoga: How does it help?

You name it, and there’s an Instagram account dedicated to it. Everyone knows that on Instagram, reality is blown out of proportion and only the best details of people’s lives are presented. The same, absolutely, can be said of yoga.

Just take a quick look at the yoga hashtags and accounts online and what sticks out is all the incredibly acrobatic positions, held by some of the most flexible and athletic people, in photogenic and trendy situations.

And that’s the kind of picture of yoga each one of the thousands of people using social media will see – despite the fact that all these impressive and amazing balances and poses are a result of years and years of dedicated training and practice. It’s not something anyone can just do overnight.

Does it make me “bad” as a yoga business owner that I have no real desire to achieve belief-defying poses involving fitting my legs behind my head and balancing on one arm?

There are some important things to learn about yoga that many lifelong practitioners will always tell you about yoga. The first is that achieving complex poses takes a lot of hard work, and attempting them without preparation or practice can lead to injuries. More importantly, it’s vital to remember that most of yoga isn’t about these extreme feats of flexibility. Rather, it’s more important to focus on doing the simple poses well and working within the limits of your own body.

With some Instagram yogis achieving upward of 750,000 followers and posting 40 or more times each week, it’s understandable that some observers could see yoga as just too difficult. But that’s not the case – yoga’s what you make of it, the average yoga class won’t involve you hitting the perfect scorpion pose or folding yourself up as small as possible.

I love to try out ambitious poses on occasion too and see what these dedicated practitioners of yoga have been getting up to on social media. So, it would be wrong to say that Instagram has a purely negative effect on yoga.

By raising the profile of yoga, I hope that Instagrammers have had an impact on getting more people into yoga classes. And if people are happy sharing their gradual progress on social media with friends and followers, then how much harm can it really create?

It’s just very important to remember that yoga is about your own personal limits and working at your own pace towards improved strength, flexibility and fitness – not just aiming to do the most ambitious headstand or snap a great photo of an advanced pose in front of a blazing sunset. Try new things out when you feel you’re ready and be sure to have fun while you’re making progress, but never feel under pressure to emulate what you see on social media, or think that that’s what it takes to “do” a yoga class. For most of us (yoga teachers included) those feats are a pipe dream and would take more time and dedication than we care to give, or a body that we simply don’t have.

At Sweat Studios, our yoga classes promise to always keep it simple. We build yoga poses up in stages and there’s a level of everyone – novice to expert. Classes are for all levels and we promise we won’t make you turn yourself into a pretzel. Book a class online now or get in touch by calling 01908 673811. If you’re new to yoga, take a peek our information for first timers.

5 Tips for Yoga Beginners

Autumn is great time to kick start a fitness regime. The kids are back at school, life returns to normal and there just might be a few extra holiday pounds that need shifting.

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 healthier lifestyle this Autumn, 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. Our Sweat Hot Classic class is 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 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. A hot yoga class will have you dripping sweat from about 15 minutes in. It’s important that you have taken on enough water so that you don’t dehydrate during class. Aim to drink at least a couple of litres of water beforehand and rehydrate after.

While you can drink during class, don’t drink too much. Certain yoga poses are designed to massage your internal organs. Twisting your tummy is fantastic for aiding your digestion but not great if your belly is full. Also, lying on your front will be uncomfortable. Don’t forget that hydration isn’t just about water, you also need to replace your electrolytes which comprise salts and other minerals. So consider drinking coconut water or adding electrolyte supplements to your water.

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 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 your yoga mat, it absorbs your sweat during class and won’t move about as you move around your mat. 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.

If you’re interested in kick starting your wellbeing this Autumn by joining our classes, take a peek at our information for beginners.

If you do just one workshop, make it this one!

September sees the return of Posture Clinic. If you do one workshop, you should make it this one! You’ll leave with a better understanding of the poses in our Sweat Hot Classic classes so you can be sure that the time you invest in your yoga is bringing you maximum benefit.

Why do I need it?

Because of the way we are built and habitually move, we all have in-balances in our body – muscles and joints that are stronger or weaker than others. Yoga is a great way to bring much needed balance to your body.

Our Sweat Hot classes are designed to work all your muscles equally and protect and strengthen your joints. But sadly it’s not as simple as just performing the poses. Your body is inherently lazy, it looks for an easy route and left to its own devices it will continue to work the stronger areas which will become tighter, tougher and more immobile and the weaker areas will become weaker and weaker.

Yoga will also help strengthen your joints, but to do this, you need to ensure your joints are stacked one on top of the other in a pose. This ensures your musculoskeletal system is supporting your joints. A misplaced foot or hand, can put all of this out of whack and the end result is a strained, unstable joint.

To combat this you need to understand what each pose is designed to do and how to achieve it. Posture Clinics give you this knowledge so your yoga can bring you greater benefit.

What will I do?

You’ll spend 2 hours working on around 10-15 postures. Using things like blocks, straps, a partner, the wall, you’ll understand what a pose is meant to feel like, which muscles should be contracting and which should be lengthening. You’ll learn how to “switch on” the right muscles and relax the ones you don’t need. You’ll also develop an understanding of the role of your muscles in supporting your joints so you can keep them safe. It’s fully interactive. You’ll be able to ask specific questions about your body and get hands-on instruction and guidance.

Who should do it?

Anyone taking our Sweat Hot classes. Whether you’ve done ten classes or a hundred you’ll benefit. If you’re new to our classes, you’ll get some guidance early-on to ensure you’re approaching your poses in the right way. If you’ve been practicing for a while, you’ll learn the tweaks and adaptations you need to make to your poses to gain greater benefit. This is a great session if you’ve been practicing for some time and feel like you’ve reached a plateau and aren’t seeing much change week-on-week as it will give you specific areas of focus to work on.

What poses will I cover?

We do four Posture Clinics per year and each one focuses on a different set of poses. The next session will cover; standing forehead to knee, staff, standing bow pulling pose, balancing stick, boat, half hero, 3 x separate leg stretches.

Posture-clinic-montage If you do just one workshop, make it this one!

What else do I need to know?

The two hour workshop costs £25. It is led by two instructors. There’s just 16 people in class. The heat isn’t on. You won’t get overly sweaty but do come prepared to move. Sign up! You won’t regret it.

How lifting weights can aid your flexibility

Are you doing yoga to become more flexible? With yoga the undisputed “go to” exercise form for anyone wanting to touch their toes, you might be surprised to know that other physical pursuits, such as weight lifting, can also help improve your flexibility, and, that conversely, the benefits of your yoga class can go well beyond being able to tie yourself up like a pretzel.

Maloney_Mar_2012_AuthorHeadshot-150x150 How lifting weights can aid your flexibilitySean Maloney, powerlifter and owner of Maloney Performance, a strength and conditioning business, explains why the adage that lifting weights makes you bulky, inflexible and ‘muscle-bound’ may be far from the truth and all the reasons why he does yoga. Clue; it’s not for his flexibility.

Why does weight lifting get such a bad rap?

When it comes to resistance training, it’s sadly no more than a case of guilt by association. First, you see the guys and girls lifting weights in the gym whilst they grunt and/or pose in the mirror. Second, you observe that said guy or girl can’t lift their arms above their head or bend over to touch their toes. Now you’ve put two and two together and decide that the tightness is all down to the weights…

So does lifting weights make you inflexible?

No. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. When performed with a full range of motion, resistance training has been consistently proven as an effective way to increase flexibility.

The reason the people that you often see at the gym have so little mobility is most likely because they’re only training the muscles they can see in the mirror and not using full ranges of motion. If you don’t use your full range of motion, you’ll lose it and your muscles will become tight. It’s as simple as that.

Performed correctly, resistance training has actually been shown to give superior results to traditional static stretching in a number of instances. An 2011 study1 compared groups performing five weeks of resistance training (RT) vs static stretching (SS). The figures below give you a quick overview of the percentage improvements in flexibility, a ‘strong’ showing for the benefits of lifting weights!

Screen-Shot-2018-07-26-at-16.50.52 How lifting weights can aid your flexibility

So do we no longer need to stretch?

No, I’m not saying that you should never static stretch. It can most definitely improve flexibility. It’s also a great way to relax, unwind and make you feel good. However, the improvements we see in flexibility following static stretching aren’t related to any changes in the muscle. You’re not making it any longer in the ‘long’ run. You’re also not really changing any of the muscle fibres. All that changes is the body’s ability to tolerate being stretched.

Are yoga and static stretching the same thing?

No, yoga is great because most forms incorporate lots of ‘dynamic’ (as opposed to just static) stretches, e.g. where your muscles have to work to control movement through full ranges of motion. Think of poses like warrior 3/balancing stick or chair with a twist. I bet you feel your muscles working hard in those! Dynamic stretching results in longer lasting improvements when it comes to flexibility, so yoga should form an important part of your training to aid your flexibility.

What role does yoga play in your training regime?

Yoga at Sweat is a key aspect of my training programme but the reasons I prioritise it go beyond flexibility training. A big plus point for me is the heated studio as there are lots of purported benefits of passive heat stress. The dynamic nature of the yoga performed at Sweat gives me an opportunity to work on my breathing, mobility, proprioception and body-awareness. The classes also give me a chance to switch off and detach from thinking about other stuff, I use them as a kind of active meditation, which I don’t get from other forms of exercise.

How does resistance training improve flexibility?

It’s best to think of weight training as just dynamic stretching with resistance! By controlling theSnatch-Catch-300x225 How lifting weights can aid your flexibility lowering portion of the exercise (called the ‘eccentric’ portion) under resistance, your  muscle fibres are producing force whilst being stretched. This has two main benefits. First, by getting stronger in these stretched positions, the body learns that it’s ‘safe’ to be there. The brain can be a little overprotective at times, so it won’t let you get into positions you can’t control. Second, you’ll actually increase the length of your muscle fascicles (these are little bunches of muscle fibres). This plays a big role in strengthening the muscle and protecting against injury. It’s the eccentric portion of the exercise that some people scrimp on which can lead them to be tight.

Could stretching ever be dangerous?

In some instances, static stretching can be a bad idea. Particularly if you’re doing it prior to training. If you give the body extra flexibility without teaching it how to control these new-found expanses, it’s a bit like trying to roller skate over marbles… it’s unlikely to end well! Also, if you stretch for too long (> 30 seconds)3  it’s likely to partially switch off your muscles and make your tendons less springy for short while. Not good news if you’re looking to run, jump or do anything sporty immediately afterwards.

Resistance training is more likely to protect you

We all know that stretching is good for reducing injury in the long term… right?… Well, a review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine4 conducted an analysis of 25 studies and over 26,000 participants. They reported that stretching training reduced the risk of injury by an average of 4% but that resistance training reduced the risk by a whopping 69%! That’s a hell of a reason to get lifting!

What exercises to choose?

To resistance train effectively it’s vital you pick exercises that allow you to train safely within full ranges of motion. Good form should never be compromised. Here are some example exercises and the bits that they’ll help get more mobile:

  • Overhead squat – everything! (all types of squat are great though)
  • Romanian deadlift – hamstrings
  • Single leg calf raise – calves and ankles
  • Rear foot elevated split squat – hip flexors and quads
  • Plate pullover – lats and shoulders
  • Dumbbell fly – chest and shoulders

How to perform them?

  • A good starting point is to choose a resistance that allows you to perform 8-10 comfortable repetitions.
  • Control the lowering (eccentric) portion of the exercise over 3-4 seconds.
  • Hold the bottom, stretched position (under the full control of your muscles) for 2 seconds.
  • Lift the weight up (the concentric portion) over 1-2 seconds.
  • Don’t perform so many reps that you fail or lose form. Be sure to leave 2-3 reps ‘in the tank’ as a general rule.

So, there you have it. Lifting weights isn’t going to make you tight and muscle-bound. Do it right and it’ll leave you more flexible and much less likely to get injured.

About Sean

Dr. Sean Maloney PhD, ASCC

PTS-Tyre-Flip-150x150 How lifting weights can aid your flexibilitySean has been a member at Sweat Studios since June 2016, practicing yoga to help his own endeavours in the sport of powerlifting. Sean runs his own strength and conditioning business, Maloney Performance, and is the founder of MK Powersports weightlifting club. Away from training, Sean holds a PhD in biomechanics and lectures in sports science at the University of Bedfordshire.


  • Morton SK, Whitehead JR, Brinkert RH, et al. (2011). Resistance training vs. static stretching: Effects on flexibility and strength. J Strength Cond Res 25(12): 3391-3398.
  • Weppler CH and Magnusson SP. (2010). Increasing muscle extensibility: a matter of increasing length or modifying sensation? Phys Ther 90(3):438-449.
  • Kay AD and Blazevich AJ. (2012). Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: A systematic review. Med Sci Sports Exerc 44(1): 154-164.
  • Lauersen JB, Bertelsen DM and Andersen LB. (2014). The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Sports Med 48: 871-877.