Blog

 RSS Feed

Category: Yoga Blog

  1. Yoga = self empowerment for students!

    Posted on

     P1000452

    Yoga is often a science of misconception. What I thought yoga was about when I started practising many years ago has changed many times over the years and in fact the whole idea of yoga is open to interpretation. Having said that everyone can find something they need in yoga whether it is toning and flexibility, a calm mind or stronger mind, undestanding thoughts an feelings, a complement to their sporting regime, better mental health, focus and concentration, physical and emotional balance, spiritual fulfilment etc etc. or they may want all of these things.

    I started when I was preparing for my GCE's at school when a fellow pupil told me a friend of theirs  only needed 2 hours sleep and had amazing concentration skills because of yoga. I was impressed and curious and wondered if yoga could do the same for me. I wasn't totally sure whether to believe the sleep thing but some adults at the time said it definitley had a connection with calmness and relieving nervous tension which I had loads of! I just had to try it. I must say that very early on I felt a bit special knowing that I was now a "yogi" practising this ancient mystical discipline and revealed it only to those very close to me. They thought it was just a phase I was going through. Well, many years later I'm still with it.

    Yoga definitely helped me through my GCE's then later A Levels and subsequent examinations by practising the postures, the breathing, relaxation and meditation. If not at the time, I probably came to realize much later how it all worked. How the postures began to make me feel physically more comfortable. The relaxation putting me on better terms with my feelings and emotions and the meditation bringing the incredible benefits of sitting in stillness. That also impoved my patience! The breathing sort of glued everything together.

    The greatest thing of all at that time when under the control of a structured school and later college regime and still at home under parental house rules so to speak,  was that yoga began to give me a growing sense of self empowerment. When I was in a tight corner in class, in the exam room or with the occasional family or friend confrontation I could just connect with my breath and find that calm abiding that all the great yoga sages talk about. It takes daily practice over time but it gets stronger. Cultivating that growong sense of physical awareness and the subtle power of the breath and stillness can help your own yoga practice evolve in a personal and individual way.

    You get on better terms with feelings and emotions and the continuous self enquiry improves the relationship you have with yourself and this translates onto relationshigps with others. You see things coming that bit quicker than the next person, you become less reationary and you begin to get over those day to day mini traumas more quickly so you can get on with your life in a more positive and creative way.

    So try yoga. By all means try it to get more toned, flexible and strong. To get calmer and more focused. To improve concentration. As a psycholigical buttress. But always remember that thread that runs through all practice that thread of self empowerment. Yoga can be that life long friend and rock from hereon in. The one nobody else sees but can sense it in your demeanour and the way you deal with life.

    Barry Todd

     

  2. What's Yoga got to do with men?

    Posted on

    Barry training

    I have been a yoga teacher for about 15 years and in the early days most of the attendees were women. Well I might as well say, all the attendees were women. I can't really remember any men attending in the earlt 2000's. Then around 2010 there were a few men attending with wives and girlfriends mainly from curiosity or compulsion! 

    It's all strangely surprising when you consider that yoga all started with men, for men despite it's notionally being open to all humans. Still for many years it has appealed to women with men often seeing it as the soft option to exercise. Of course those who practice yoga know it is neither of those things. When you've tried some of the core postures you soon realize its not a soft option. Further more it's not strictly an "exercise". It is physical but with a different agenda. 

    Yoga is really about calming the aggitations of the mind through the body. As we know it's difficult to separate the body from the mind. Humans are somapsychic animals and yoga practice gives us the opportunity via a diverse range of postural positioning to work deeply with our muscles and soft tissue to release knots and tension so allowing us to deal better with pains and discomfort and provide a physical environment that allows us also to be mentally comfortable.

    Even if you wish to avoid all the mental, emotional stuff of yoga there are physical bye products such as greater flexibility, toning and strength and more joint stability. This is great for sports people and sportsmen. Ryan Giggs the great Man United player swore it transformed his game and allowed him to avoid injury more and play into his 40's. There are also many other celebrities now turning to yoga both sports and none sports.

    I said about avoiding the mental stuff and you can decide to do that but in reality your body won't let you. Over time regular yoga practice incorporating correct brathing and relaxation will naturally begin to quieten you down and bring greater calmness enabling you to see tensions and callenges coming earlier so you can deal with them and recovering from stress and emotional attacks more quickly.

    In the last few years I've seen an increase in male attendance at classes. Just yesterday the majority of my students were men. Some come for physical reasons such as a compliment to their sport or sports injury recovery. Others to relieve stress from a pressurized job. Still others who are at a crossroads in their life and are seeking to engage better with their inner self - yoga can be "spiritual" but at the very least it is always self enquiring. The increase in male interest in yoga is great because it begins to signal that yoga is a beneficial practice for everyone and can only bring more harmony into the lives of both women and men. 

    Barry Todd (Yog Teacher/Trainer)

  3. Yoga Teacher Training:how much do I need?

    Posted on

    ad yoga on lawn1

    In recent years there's been a lot of speculation about how long yoga teacher training courses should be. Perennially, we have had the 200 hour courses. Then some of the yoga associations began proposing 500 hour courses and then almost as an afterthought along came the 300 hour compromise from some yoga schools. Recently, we have been getting suggestions about a 1000 hours! Of course you could always opt for the 30 day fast track style course in some far flung exotic location but who would seriously fancy that!

    So which is right? 

    I'm grasping here for the piece of string concept. There is a belief in learning circles that anyone wanting to become adept at any subject has to be looking at around 10,000 hours of application and of course this would take years. So we are moving towards the idea that the more you do the better you get and that's obvious of course. 

    There are a number of variable factors that ought to be considered when thinking of how long you initially train and what might help project you forward in your progress. 

    My first concern about extended training courses such as the 500 and possible 1000 hour courses is trainee commitment. Even the 200 hour courses can require a full weekend every month for a year with additional attendance for observed teaching practice and maybe assistance work plus added homework. Many of my trainees over the years have missed days and even whole weekends of their course despite signing to full commitment.

    Some prospective trainees also have the hidden belief that a 200 hr course is a softish option and really just about attending the weekends when they can have an interesting interaction with like minded students and practice a bit of yoga with a bit of philosophy thrown in. It really depends on which 200 hour course you do and the syllabus is worth looking at and even asking the trainer what the course work is like and what to expect. Some 200hr courses are superficial and can be a bit like some of those in Australia where many 200 hr graduates are only expected to act as yoga teaching assistants.

    There are 200hr courses that have a lot of depth and where the homework can be more demanding.Its often about striking a balance between exposing trainees to enough (probably 50%) practice and training with methodology and the philosophy, traditions and thinking behind yoga. 

    I insist that trainees do several of their later observed teaching practices with invited members of the public as this gives them a more realistic experience so they don't have to wait till after the course to teach "real people" as opposed to peer group teaching. My trainees are also preparing yoga sequences from month two and teaching their per group from month 3. Where appropriate I also encourage them to start teaching in the community if there is the opportunity and I think they are ready. This will depend on their confidence and early knowledge. Remember, insurance is needed and their students must be informed that they are on a training course and perhaps charge a bit less. In my experience those trainees who can find this opening (not always easy but doable) progress more quickly even if they start the course with less experinec than other trainees.

    Also it's easier to get to grips more quickly with a teacher training course if you have first attended a short (6mnths) Yoga Foundation which is aimed at deepening your practice.

    In conclusion I think the 200hr can be enough to be ready to teach if you apply yourself to the course work and do plenty of background reading while also considering some of the other factors I have mentioned above. It's worth noting that those who embark on a yoga teacher training course will no doubt have been personally practicing for some years and attending regular yoga classes weekly. This should give them a strong start especially if they have been getting their heads into yoga thinking behind the Yoga Sutras and other texts.

    It's courses for horses so to speak and also how you work. Some people just like taking courses all their life. I have heard of someone who has taken no less than 6 yoga teacher training courses and this was while they reamined an assistant teacher! In the end you have to dip your toe in the water and find every opportunity to teach as this is what will make you strong. The course is really to propel you forward to that place.

    Barry Todd (Hatha Teacher and Trainer)

     

  4. Our retreat in Wales June 2018

    Posted on

     

    WHAT HAPPENS ON OUR SPIRITUAL ADVENTURE WEEKENDS
    One of the very best things for us about the retreats is that we have people who we see fleetingly each week for a yoga class and some who come to other activities too or even people that we have never met or who we only see on the retreats each year. We find that it is a time to get to know these people in more depth and when people begin to relax over the weekend their different side begins to come out and we really get to know them well.

    group

    We have people who have been coming to yoga classes for years but on retreat we find a different more relaxed side to them and it really is very fulfilling to experience this and I am sure they would probably say the same about us.

    lawn work

    Each years we have a slightly different set of experiences so here's the story of our recent retreat just to give you an idea.

    We were very fortunate that the weather was fantastic most of the time and we were able to have a yoga session on the beach and an optional swim in the sea which for me I think was the hghlight of the weekend. Some followed by taking a coffee/ice cream in the beach cafe

    beach yoga

    A close runner up for me were the sessions of yoga on the lawns under the shade of the old trees.

    outdoors

    Whenever possible we were outdoors and the only indoor activities were the evening yoga sessions that took place in the atmospheric stone walled chapel and the individual hypnotherapy sessions. It was great to relax to the yoga and then be able to go straight to bed.

    herb labyrinth

    The labyrinth mediation walk was wonderful on the grass labyrinth with bare feet and the pebbly one was a good additional one to try andto smell the bountiful herbs on the way around.. I kept seeing people returning to the labyrinth alone to work some of their aims over the weekend which was great.

    gass labyrinth

    enterainment

    We made use of the marque in the garrden on two evenings. One when we had a professional magic performance and the other was a sing along around a virtual camp-fire (and dance it turns out).

    singing

    Each morning before breakfast there was the option to meditate around the fountain in the grounds, others chose to wander the grounds and explore, others had a lie in.

    magic

    We also had a Qi gong session on one of the lawns which was interesting and a contrast to the yoga

    yoga lan

    We had a sponataneous yoga laughter workshop by popular demand and unplanned, on the lawns. It seems that absence made the heart grow stronger as it was with reluctance that people joined in last year.

    We had a spontaneous peeble art session and left stones to remember our visit.

    The mandala workshop was also very interesting followed by a yin yang yoga session.

    Even the stroll into the nearby village about 15 minutes away was a pleasure as we picked up forgotten essentials and special treats from the local shops.

    yoga in chapel

    It was good to catch up with successful progress of some of the aims and projections made last year on things like the labyrinth meditation workshops and also good to see some people were able to bring problems to the sessions and find solutions. Can't wait for next year to see how they all work out.

    Linz who was offering really reasonably priced therapies sold out and was working untill 10pm some evenings. People were gong back for seconds! we saw so little of her we began to suspect she had sneaked home.

    Last year we had a didgeridoo demonstration as evening entertainment.

     

    Not sure what it will be next year. We will definately be holding an extended version of our regular candlelight meditation evenings which incuded mediation, guided visualisation chanting and mantra for one of the evenings though.

    As we are now offering more days/nights there will be more time to introduce lots of exciting things. So watch this space.

    We already have bookings coming in for next year.....

  5. Get Your Breath Back with Yoga

    Posted on

    New yoga students are often worried that they are not flexible enough to do yoga. There is an assumption here that yoga is defined by posturing alone : what we call asana in yoga.

    Anyone out there who still thinks that their lack of flexibility is an obstacle to yoga can stop worrying and start thinking that they want to do yoga to GET flexible and toned.

    There is however another consideration when starting your yoga journey and that is the importance of the breath. In many ways this is THE most important consideration and often lost in the translation of how practising yoga makes us look good especially when we are parading around in our fancy new yoga gear and trying to get into these weird and wonderful aesthetic positions.

    Correcting your breathing could be your first consideration when starting yoga. 

    It has been said that correct breathing is the thing that glues everything together in our yoga practice. Yet it is often not till students have been practising sometimes for years that they come to realise this.

    Our breathing experience in practice is probably closer to the true nature of yoga than asanas can ever be and that is why it is wise to cultivate a more nourishing relationship with that wonderful phenomena that we have known about since birth but hardly noticed or appreciated.

    If you are budding yoga student be sure to find out as much if not more about the breahting side of the practice when you go to classes.

    In the early days you practice should be navigated with good breathing in mind. 

    Some of this can be usefully done IN posture even using simple warm up movements with considered inhalations and exhalations. It can also be done in relaxation beginning to cultivate an awareness of the Passive Breath and later working with yogas more controlled breathing techniques. The passive breath is often deemed boring by beginner students who cannot understand the need for it. Early on students are easily distracted from this practice as it has little value to the mind. It has been shown however that observing the passive breath while in relaxation allows it to perform more naturally than when we are distracted by conversation, eating, reading TV etc etc. Over time the passive breath BECOMES more interesting. We begin to form a more intimate relationship with the various nuances of the breath cycle and thus are able to keep with it for longer. This process also bears the wonderful gift of a calmer and more relaxed body and mind.

    The increased tempo of our breathing in asana and the introduction of controlled breath techniques adds more strength and dimension and over time some of the tension that we have built into our lungs and  the deep tissues of our muscles of respiration begin to release allowing us to feel more calmer.

    Becasue we also learn to breath more correctly while in a wide range of body positions (asanas) some quite restricted this also helps us to breath better when in other tight situations in life such as difficult meetings, confrontations and unwanted social gatherings.

    So when beginning or returning to yoga or even if you have been practising for a while and "forgotten to breath" and have never quite got it, start to bring as much if not more importance to its value. Find that magic relationship that you can have and deserve to have with your breath. Don't let asana take your breath away.

     

    Barry Todd 

  6. Yoga for the Embarrassingly Basic!!

    Posted on

    Yoga for the Embarrassingly Basic!!

     out of fitness doing yoga

     


    I have many people telling me they have attended yoga classes mainly at sports and leisure centres and have found that their billed beginners classes are definitely NOT for beginners. Many complain often with humour that they were run ragged a bit by the flow they were asked to participate in.
    This might happen for a number reasons.
    1. the teacher might be expecting some of the attendees to be gym or fitness aficionados so they put on a moderately challenging flow.
    2. Some teachers feel too embarrassed to effect a flow that is too basic or that might look like a gentle exercise workout.
    3. Some teachers might have been trained or evolved with a strong approach to yoga and find it hard or refuse to moderate - this last approach is not necessarily inconsiderate as yoga teachers are often rightly advised to stick to their personal philosophy about their approach to practice. This would also apply the other way in that a gym yoga class with some students demanding hard core yoga could be well confronted with a teacher that refuses to put everyone through a wringing machine.
    Having said this we are also taught to teach who ever is in front of us and to quickly assess if there is anyone who might have less than peak range of movement. Teachers can often sense this simply by seeing how a student walks across the floor to their mat. This enables teachers to make allowances for those students by offering variations or moderations in poses.
    4. It may be that a teacher has been trained in a specific yoga tradition that doesn’t lean too close to calm abiding or meditation
    5. It could be that the manager of the establishment asks that the yoga classes keep to the regime of fitness.
    6. It could mean that the teacher is not too bothered and has the attitude that this is how I do it so take it or leave it.

    Hopefully there are not too many of the last category although I am sorry to say I have known some.

    When first starting out if someone said why not and teach a senior or remedial group or an absolute beginners class some would baulk at the idea or some might think they are only experienced enough to teach beginners. Further investigation would reveal otherwise. These last few categories and even Chair Yoga can be surprisingly challenging and also interesting as teachers attempt to bring the magic of yoga to the novice.
    Annually I run a five week absolute beginners class of one hour per week to ease new students into the practice of yoga. There is a lot of early foundational light yoga work to waken the body to the idea of asana and then some light strengthening and stretching posturing . Don’t be pout off if you think you are not flexible enough to do yoga because that could be your prime reason for taking it up. We must not forget however the main objective of yoga and that is to calm or abate the distracting and unnecessary activities of the mind. The posturing with considered breathing begins this process by toning and calming our human physical structure.
    Don’t be put off but rather be inspired by the great sage Patanjali who laid down much of the thinking behind most modern yoga practice if you discover that he found out more about his inner self by spending long periods of time in stillness! How much of this do we get in modern asana classes!
    (If you come on my AB classes and find anything too challenging tell me right away.)

    Barry Todd