Student spotlight: Bev’s yoga journey

Bev has been a huge supporter of ours before and throughout lockdown and continues her yoga journey online with us now. Here are some words from her on her journey of wellbeing with yoga, and a pic of her cats who aren’t allowed in while she’s practicing 🙂

“I first started yoga classes in 1980 (!) and I have tried a variety of class types in a variety of settings.

I’ve taken classes abroad whilst working away from home or on holiday all over the world.

By 2019 with a routine of a weekly hatha class and vinyasa.

Then lock down arrived. Zoom classes began and I’ve learnt so much from this experience. Now I’m happy doing online yoga in my undecorated loft space unless it’s very cold outside. I spend much of the class with my eyes shut – unless I really can’t understand the instructions. So I don’t need a big screen to follow the teacher. I’m deaf, so as long as the teacher speaks clearly and the sound is clear then I’m happy.

My impression of BAYoga is that the teachers are well trained and highly expert in their own styles. Moving to north of Aylesbury curtailed my trips to BA Yoga since the rush hour traffic meant the journey was at least 1 hour long, but I now join online!

As my yoga practice develops I see how the transformational breath can really become part of your practice. I think that’s why I love ashtanga class – I can try and focus on the breath now I’m more accustomed to the poses. I love the regime of the breath work as part of the practice and my balance poses are improving. Similarly with kundalini yoga, the repetitive movements are great for breath work.

The best classes are those where the teacher makes you feel as if you are actually in the same room with the teacher. Teachers that watch your movement and comment on your positioning help achieve this.

Yoga isn’t “ another exercise class”.”

Thank you Bev! If you’re inspired by her comments about yoga, grab a 2 week unlimited pass and give it a go.

Two week unlimited pass

Try walking meditation this summer

Have you ever tried walking meditation?

Here’s a tip from our ashtanga mysore teacher, Caroline:

“An important part of wellbeing is connecting with nature. Although getting out into green and wild spaces of the UK and beyond may still be a way off for most of us, nature can truly be found everywhere, and taking just a few minutes to appreciate our natural surroundings can foster a sense of calm and joy, reduce our stress levels, and boost our mental health.

One of the ways I like to do this is to take a mindfulness walk. Mindful walking is a form of mindfulness (or meditation) practice that uses the everyday activity of walking to help you become more aware of the present moment. Rather than simply tuning out or allowing yourself to become distracted, a mindfulness walk involves paying close attention to the fine details of your environment and the sensations in your body, which can improve your attention and mental focus as well as interrupt unhelpful and repetitive thought patterns. Although mindful walking is most rewarding when done out of doors, you really don’t need access to big spaces or long distances to get the benefits – in as little as 15 minutes, you can take a mindfulness walk in a public park, along a riverside or canal path, or even in your own garden. Nor do you need good weather – rain can add an astonishing richness of sights, sounds, smells and textures to the experience. Even the walking part is optional; I have experienced some deeply nourishing mindfulness practices with a sensory focus during bus rides or train journeys.

If you’d like to give mindful walking a try (and why wouldn’t you!) here’s a 15 minute mindfulness walk recorded in my garden.”

Mindfulness meditation recording

Student spotlight: Dave and gentle yoga

Here are some lovely words from Dave who has been attending Tara’s Wed 9.15am gentle yoga class:

“Yoga helps me with balance and flexibility, and I feel like it helps to prevent back problems. The main benefits, though, are mental. I always finish a yoga class calmer than I started it. Recently I went to a class feeling angry and finished feeling happy and relaxed. During the pandemic it helped to keep me sane. My weekly class (on Zoom) was like a port in a storm.

I’m currently the only man in the class, although in the past there have been others. There isn’t any competition between the students, we just focus on the teacher and try to get the most from the class at the level we’re at. In general I would say that men have lot to gain from yoga, so I hope to encourage more to join!

When I started out I attended 3 different classes, 2 at BAYoga and one in a local community centre, in order to find the one which was best for me. I chose Tara’s gentle yoga class, as I felt that Tara seeks to nourish her students mentally and spiritually just as much as physically.”

Tara’s class is very popular and we run it as a course, so keep an eye on the courses page to see if there’s a course starting soon. You can also join one off sessions, but they can often be busy so if you’re very keen definitely book the course in advance.

Check out the courses page

4 ways yoga and tai chi can support your mental health

Berkhamsted yoga

Many people think about the physical benefits of yoga and tai chi, but have you considered how they can also support your mental health? Here are 4 ways they can help.

They release helpful brain chemicals.

Most exercise triggers the release of “feel-good’ chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, serotonin and nerepinephrine, which help to boost our mood. Whether you practice in a more dynamic or a gentle way, the movements can elevate your heart rate, get your muscles working and stimulate the release of these brain chemicals. As a result, you might feel happier, which can make these practices a great addition to your mental health toolkit.

They help you to move from flight-or-fight to rest-and-digest.

Did you know that yoga and tai chi can support your mental health by moving you from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, or from flight-or-fight to rest-and-digest? When we’re in the rest-and-digest mode we enter a more relaxed state.

They help you to build a sense of self.

As we practice, we get to know ourselves and cultivate a more nonjudgmental relationship with ourselves. Practices like tai chi and yoga and really help to us to be kinder to ourselves, and develop a healthier, more balanced relationship with ourselves.

They help to reduce stress.

The tightening and relaxing of muscles can reduce tension, and the breath training included can be especially helpful as there is a relationship between stress relief and learning how to breath properly.

 

If these inspire you to give yoga or tai chi a try, grab a 2 week unlimited pass now.

Cathy’s insomnia tips – yoga for insomnia

Yoga for insomnia

I wanted to share with you my insomnia hell, does that sound too strong?  Maybe, but that’s what it has felt like over the past few months for me.  I’ve been suffering with insomnia for many years on and off, but mainly it has been short-lived and recovery fairly quick.  This time however, has been a whole new experience!

One of the reasons I resisted going to the doctor for medical help was because, being a yoga teacher, I know what to do to relax!  To be told by a doctor to do yoga to help me relax was not something I wanted to experience!  During the pandemic I’ve probably done more yoga on a daily basis than I’ve ever done in my life before.  I’ve been meditating daily too, so getting chronic insomnia seemed totally unfair!!

So this is what I’ve done to help me onto the road of recovery…

So, which of the above changes have helped me sleep a little better?  No idea!  I do all of them, and I’m still not quite there, but it’s improving.  The only addition to this is that on Thursday evening this week I didn’t take the inulin, or do my yoga for sleep sequence, and I didn’t have a good night.  However, we are all different!  Some, or all of the above, may help you if you also suffer with insomnia.

I’m not an expert, but if you think it might help, I’m very happy to chat with you about my experience.  For those of you that don’t have difficultly in sleeping… please pass this on to an insomniac!

This is a sound track that is said to help you sleep too.  As I don’t ever have my phone in the bedroom I haven’t tried it, but it has come highly recommended.

Sweet dreams…!

yoga for insomnia

 

 

Photo by Megan te Boekhorst on Unsplash

Re-opening taster classes – a festival of yoga, tai chi and meditation

At BAYoga studio, we’re so excited to be welcoming everybody back to in studio yoga, tai chi and meditation.

To celebrate, we want to invite new clients to try out some bitesize classes!

Whether lockdown has left you feeling stiff or inflexible, stressed out or unfocused – or you’re just keen to start moving your body and connecting to your breath – we have a style of yoga or tai chi that will suit you.

We’ll also have some tea and cake after the session if you’d like to stay for a few minutes to ask questions… plus a special offer for all attendees to get a discount to continue your yoga, tai chi or meditation journey with us.

Re-opening taster classes – Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd May

Book yourself onto a taster class for just £5 per 30 minute taster session. ALL proceeds will go to support COVID relief in India.

Our taster timetable:

Saturday 22nd May

Sunday 23rd May

Book yourself in for a taster class (or more than 1!) on our timetable.

BOOK NOW

Our studio is COVID secure, well ventilated and masks are worn unless we are at our designated mat spaces. If you have a yoga mat at home please bring it to your taster class.

Win a 2 week unlimited yoga and tai chi pass on Instagram

We are  the Berkhamsted yoga & tai chi space, and we are celebrating re-opening on 17th May by giving away 3 two week unlimited yoga & tai chi passes available for use in studio and/or online.

We’re so excited to get back into studio, having been offering online sessions throughout the pandemic. We love online, but it’s going to be amazing to get back in safely with you all.

There are many styles of yoga so this will give you a chance to try everything we have to offer. We believe there’s a style of yoga for everybody, you just have to find yours. And it’s such a fun journey. Check out our timetable to explore the different options available.

Whether you practice yoga or tai chi already, or not, this is for you. Our teachers are ready to guide you from your first wobbly downward dog into a full practice. You don’t have to be flexible. All you need to be able to do to start yoga or tai chi is breathe. Flexibility comes as you continue your practice, but more importantly, you build your own relationship with yoga. Yoga means different things to different people – from strength to flexibility, stress relief, connection or purpose. It’s all yoga.

Come and celebrate being able to practice in a serene, calm space with supportive, experienced teachers. Move your body, relax your monkey mind, and be a part of the welcoming community. Learn how yoga and tai chi can benefit your day to day life, and even help you to be a better person.

Our studio is COVID-secure and safe, with social distancing measures, plentiful hand sanitiser and excellent ventilation. We can’t wait to welcome you back or to meet you if you’re new!

To enter, head on over to BuzzHubCo’s instagram post where you have the instructions. Tag your friends, the more tags, the more entries!

Good luck!

Men and yoga

Here’s a guest blog post from our yoga therapist, John Grimes, about men and the practice of yoga:

Throughout the history of yoga, which has been around for hundreds of years, it was most often practised by men. Yoga was Primarily introduced into the UK by BKS Iyengar, who started by teaching yoga to the Indian army, Swami Rama and Richard Hittleman who brought the first Yoga tv program to the UK. 

Yoga is also practised by countless modern celebrities and sports men. Male stars such as Orlando Bloom, Colin Farrel, Tom Hanks, Ryan Goslin, and Russel Brand, footballers Ryan Giggs, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and David Silva, basket ball superstar LeBron James. 

There are many styles and practices of yoga, there are strong and sweaty ones, there are slow and structured ones, there are gentle and kind ones. We have to find the one that suits us.

Most, if not all, people who practice yoga regularly experience improvements in their mental and physical health. 

These benefits can include:

These benefits can be particularly appropriate for helping to prevent conditions to which men are more vulnerable.

Heart disease is the leading cause of male death in the UK, with 119,000 men having a heart attack each year, compared to 69,000 women.

A study published in the European Journal of preventive Cardiology found that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those doing yoga than in those doing no exercise. The study showed improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol and weight which can all add up to a lower risk of hypertension, Stoke and heart disease. 

In the UK, the male suicide rate is its lowest since 1981 – 15.5 deaths per 100,000. But suicide is still the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. And a marked gender split remains. For UK women, the rate is a third of men’s: 4.9 suicides per 100,000.

The Harvard medical school says that by reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. There is also evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.

The report ‘Diabetes in the UK 2009’, found men aged 35-54 are almost twice as likely to have diabetes compared to their female counterparts.

Diabetes UK say that Yoga is considered to be a promising, cost-effective option in the treatment and prevention of diabetes, with data from several studies suggesting that yoga and other mind-body therapies can reduce stress-related hyperglycemia and have a positive effect on blood glucose control

Controlling mental stress (stress management) is one of the keys of diabetes treatment When we’re stressed, our blood sugar levels increase and elevated blood sugar levels increase the chances of serious complications such as heart disease. 

Using controlled breathing techniques, meditation and body postures, yoga and other mindfulness-based programmes train participants to invoke a relaxation response.

This response helps regulate cortisol and other stress hormones, which increases blood pressure and blood glucose levels Both play a big role in the development of type 2 diabetes and related complications.

In the case of type 2 diabetes, yoga can prevent the disease from developing by Rejuvenating pancreatic cells – Yoga postures that aid relaxation stretch the pancreas, which can stimulate the production of insulin-producing beta cells. 

So yoga clearly has health benefits, but you don’t have to think about them, they will happen. Yoga will also help you with your other activities, making you more flexible, balanced and agile. And for me it helps to totally switch off and forget the day I’ve had or what I’m doing tomorrow. And most importantly it is fun.

A call out to ALL MEN because REAL MEN do YOGA

Stuart was and sometimes still is a student of mine. He has trained with many Ashtanga teachers that some of you may recognise. I was speaking with him recently and the conversation turned to who his teacher was and he said this to me, “my 1st Ashtanga teacher was you Cathy, then my ex wife and now my partner. That is my lineage. I have trained with Lucy Scott, David Garrigues, Kino Macgregor, Tim Miller, David Swenson amongst many others. People like to lay claim to a famous, ‘their teacher’. You are my teacher and always will be whether and how often I practise under or alongside you. My practise isn’t perfect, consistent or amazing but as a teacher i now hope what I have learnt I impart but with the influence of those that have guided me and it would be remiss of me to lay claim to lineage just because I have trained with some “famous” yoga teachers. Whatever that is? I hope my teachings are as open and humbling as those that you offered to me.” – Cathy

Here’s what Stuart McCabe has to say about his journey…

As a former bodybuilder, power lifter, gym bunny and runner I NEVER thought I would be into namby pamby yoga, after all it’s for women! Right?

It’s not a strong practice, you don’t get strong, you just get bendy and can kiss your own butt or you become a naval gazer, hahahahaha that’s right isn’t it?  
Wrong. At best it’s arrogant and actually very judgemental over something I knew virtually nothing about. At worst damn right ignorant.

Some of THE STRONGEST people I have ever worked with have been women and more over, women who do yoga! 
 Why? Honestly? Because most men can’t handle that they are not as strong or “good” as women but that’s just their EGO’s and boy men have BIG EGO’s! How can I be sure? Well the last time I looked down my yoga shorts I still had a penis which means I still have an ego, all be it, perhaps not a very big one.

Unfortunately my first experience of yoga was with a sleeping bag, candles and chanting Ommmmmm at the end of a class, as an 18 stone bodybuilder it didn’t quite work…  
 Anyway, 7 years later Ashtanga was introduced to me and again I pre-judged it, they do handstands and jumping. I am not a gymnast and I am not flexible, it’s a stupid practice, in fact ridiculous.

What all forms of yoga do is reflect you to you. It was ME who was stupid, ridiculous, judgemental and had that BIG EGO. Yoga has taught me much. And reflected more to me, about me, than any form of therapy could. It is therapy and in fact the 1st sequence you learn in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is called Chikitsa – Sanskrit for therapy.

I am Stuart and I am 47 years old, I carry multiple injuries from my years of stupidity harming my body. By training in Ashtanga and listening to my body I am able to work with it. This practice is NOT easy, it can seem harsh, it will make you challenge your perceptions of what it means to have “health and fitness”. You will get angry, frustrated and sometimes emotional.

What a man…emotional, even in this day and age? I don’t think so. It’s an outlet guys, it serves a purpose, among many purposes. Look, I still love pies, beer, coffee and cake. Oh cake…even a take away! This is about moderation and yoga somehow modifies your responses to the stuff you, “think” you want or, “think” you need.

There is a freedom in there and space, it is unique and liberating, once the sweat finishes dripping off your nose (did I mention you will sweat?). Think you are fit, can run 12 miles, do spin classes? Try Ashtanga, it will meet you where you are, believe me it will be an experience. It won’t suit everyone and if you do take this up and are a little like me, you will leave it and come back to it, perhaps many times.

In my 13 years with yoga, I have had 3 major layoffs, twice for 9 months and once for 18 months but I keep coming back to it and each time I do, the mat welcomes me and my body thanks me (after being sore for days!). Try it. You will look at things differently, maybe it will change you life. It did mine! I now teach that stupid, ridiculous, pointless thing called Yoga and for me it is a gift that I am thankful for every day.

What you need to know about barefoot boogie

What you need to know….about Nia and Nia FreeDance (Barefoot Boogie)

Nia was the first fusion-fitness programme in America. It’s about moving in a way that feels joyful for your body.  Nia blends concepts and movements from martial arts, dance arts and healing arts (eg.yoga) and has 52 moves that address the base, core and upper extremities of the body. Nia is practiced in over 45 countries world-wide and is both a holistic fitness programme and life-style practice.

As well as a Classic Nia class there is also a Nia FreeDance class experience (which I also call Barefoot Boogie) – see below.

Benefits of Nia

Nia is brilliant cross-training

It calms the mind, and promotes relaxation

It makes you stronger

It improves circulation and heart health

Develops grace, power and muscle tone

Promotes weight-loss and supports weight maintenance

Key things you need to know:

A regular Nia class is 60 minutes

Nia is sensory-based and practiced barefoot

Suitable for all levels of fitness and agility as every movement should be adapted to feel good for your body

Nia moves are body-friendly and teaches you to move according to the design of your body

NIA – non-impact aerobics

Classes are done to exhilarating eclectic music and are fun!

About Nia FreeDance

The intent of Nia FreeDance is to Stimulate Movement Creativity.

This class has four unique parts that tap into the creative wisdom of your body, emotions, mind, and spirit.

I will guide you using a focus and words that assist in directing

energy to stimulate movement creativity. The movement artistry you create comes from your body, moving, listening, and creating with your life force.

At all times, you’re in charge of how much or how little you do.

Debbie Rosas, Nia founder and creator says: “Nia FreeDance is an awareness practice. It is an expanded experience that takes you out of “just dancing” and into the river of the unexpected. Being guided by the teacher and moving through the 4 unique parts of Nia FreeDance is one of the best ways to witness your own movement habits – the movements you gravitate to time and again; the movements you avoid. Your body is always looking out for you, sending you messages and providing you with the space to be healthy, to make choices, to be in conscious relationship with yourself. You could say body awareness is your witness. It all comes down to: Are you listening?”

Moving safely comes about through listening to your body. “Listening also allows for directing the kind of healing and conditioning you need and most importantly, for responding to the sensation of pleasure, the voice of your body. FreeDance creates a foundation for listening and movement awareness. It encourages you to move, feel and express yourself authentically so you can develop an intimate relationship not only with movement, but also with awareness of your movement.”

Join Michele Kaye, Nia Black Belt teacher for a Barefoot Boogie opportunity to explore movement, self, space, music, energy, community and body-mind-spirit  on Saturday 1st June 6 – 7.15 at Bayoga.

Book now

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