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  • Why Yoga (Flow) feels so amazing!

    I am writing this Blog entry after a week of clear blue skies and beautiful sunshine. It's a joy to wake up to sunshine every morning, even if it means waking up ridiculously early...long may it continue.

    I've been wrestling with the idea of a proposed change to my class timetable for the past few months and I've finally decided to follow my heart and teach only Yoga and Pilates from now on.

    Although I would agree that we all need to do some aerobic exercise to maintain a healthy cardio-respiratory system; teaching wise, my heart lies with Yoga and Pilates. I've always followed my heart during the whole of my 25 year teaching career and never taught anything I don't love.

    Teaching Yoga for the last 3 years has been both a challenge and an absolute joy and that journey continues to evolve for both myself and my class participants. I'm studying for a further Yoga qualification and am excited to see where this journey takes me.

    This week, I've been trying to explain to people who haven't tried Yoga what it is that make you feel so amazing and happily I was reminded of the Hungarian- American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (thank you Lance Sullen) and his observations and studies on Flow: The Secret to Happiness

    MH describes the 8 characteristics of Flow as:

    1) Complete concentration on a task

    2) Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback

    3) Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down)

    4) The experience is intrinsically rewarding and has an end in itself

    5) Effortless and ease

    6) There is a balance between challenge and skills

    7) Actions and awareness are merged losing self conscious rumination

    8) There is a feelng of control over the task

    MH also states that people with autotelic personalities (people with a high interest in life, low self centredness and persistence) tend to experience more Flow....very interesting!

    Experiencing Flow is also deemed to be more enjoyable when experienced as a group. In Yoga Flow classes, we move slowly but time passes quickly, everyone is so immersed in the activity nothing else seems to matter, self consciousness is lost, our inner critic is silenced and we experience a feeling of wellbeing.

    Read MH's studies on Flow; his observations absolutely and eloquently explain why any activity where you are able to 'lose yourself' bring a sense of wellbeing and happiness.

    I'll be adding another Yoga class to the timetable in September. Core Focused Yoga will have a different focus to Yoga Flow; CFY will include strength and flexibility sequences, but more core focused work too.

    Both the summer and September timetables are on the Timetable page; have a wonderful Summer :-)

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  • How Pilates and Yoga can improve our mental health

    I had an interesting conversation with a lady before our regular Wednesday morning Yoga class this week; she was telling another participant how she felt after the class. She used the following phrases 'I feel amazing after the class, I walk out of here feeling absolutely on top of the world and ready to conquer anything'. She then asked me whether anything was happening to her mind to induce those feelings.

    You may think that most people attend Pilates and Yoga classes to get a flatter tummy, improve their posture, reduce back pain and increase all over muscle strength and whilst both disciplines help us to achieve all those things, my experience as an Instructor is that my class participants increasingly comment on how calm and relaxed they feel after a class and how they value the impact of the classes on their mental health and general wellbeing.

    This conversation made me realise that people may not know what physiological changes are taking place during and after a Pilates and Yoga class which have a very positive impact on their mental health.

    Pilates and Yoga are both contemplative forms of exercise with meditative qualities and both involve deep breathing to facilitate movement patterns. Deep breathing helps to calm the mind, increases lung capacity and improves blood circulation. It also increases the removal of waste products from the body, such as carbon dioxide.

    The quiet, calm atmosphere of the classes combined with the emphasis on focusing on the breath stimulates a part of the nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system. This part of the nervous system works automatically (autonomically) and is often referred to as the 'rest and digest' system.

    This calming of the nervous system reduces heart rate and blood pressure and allows us to enter a more relaxed or meditative state. People often tell me they feel less stressed and have a great night's sleep after a Pilates or Yoga class which all leads to improved overall health.

    Combine the mental benefits of these disciplines with increased muscle strength, improved flexibility, increased energy levels and a general feeling of wellbeing and ask yourself why wouldn't you sign up to attend regular Pilates and Yoga classes!

    Check out the timetable and join us :-)

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  • A quarter of a century....what an absolute joy!

    Unbelievably, it's 25 years ago this week that I passed my first fitness industry teaching qualification. The fitness industry was a totally different environment in those days and I'm so glad I trained at that time. I remember thinking that I came to teaching quite late (I was 35 years old) and wondering whether I'd have much of a career in the industry ahead of me at that age. Happily, I can honestly say in my 60th year that I'm busier than I've ever been and have more enthusiasm for teaching than ever!

    I've seen so many exercise regimes come and go over the years and am so glad that I trained at a time when training was very rigorous and most qualifications were tough to pass. The depth and breadth of my studies have given me a solid platform of knowledge and experience over the past 25 years.

    I've only ever taught exercise disciplines that I love and believe in; if I don't 'feel' it, I can't teach it. I'm so passionate about Pilates and Yoga and I never get tired or bored with teaching my classes. Thankfully, I have a wonderfully supportive and enthusiastic group of people attending my classes, some of them who have been with me for 20+ years.

    I think it's unlikely I'll still be teaching in another 25 years, but I'm so very grateful to still be doing what I love and to have such brilliant support from all my class participants. Thank you to each and every one of you. I'm so grateful and so very blessed xx

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  • Allow teachers to teach!

    I can remember being chastised by a teacher when I was 7 years old for trying to help one of my school friends do their class work. At the age of 60, I can still remember the huge sense of injustice I felt at being told off when I was only trying to help someone understand something. Even then, I loved knowledge, learning and I realise now teaching. Teaching for me is an absolute passion and I never, ever get tired of it.

    Every week I hear stories from teachers and support staff working in the education system about how stressed they are, how little they enjoy their jobs and how restricted they are by funding, targets and regulations.

    Having worked in education (albeit FE) for quite some years, I can understand how they feel. Towards the end of my lecturing career in FE, I wasn't valued or appreciated; my skills didn't fit in with the ethos of the system and I became a square peg that was never going to fit into a round hole. I also knew 100% that I had no faith or belief in that system, but had total belief in myself and what I knew teaching to be for me.

    5 years on and 25 years after passing my original qualification, I love teaching more than ever. I find it challenging, interesting and valuable. My class participants value my knowledge, skills,experience and my efforts to deliver the best experience to them in every class I teach.

    My efforts are not driven by money or business (as education now is) but by my desire for everyone to work to the best of their ability and so achieve their individual goals. That might sound very worthy, but my business is all about people and no 2 people are the same.

    I heard on the news this week that exclusions in schools have gone up 26% since 2014/15; that doesn't speak of a system that's working. Teachers are hamstrung in every area of their job with so many other things to do that have nothing to do with teaching and meeting the needs of individual children. It's thought that children are being excluded so schools are able to meet targets, unhindered by children that might make those targets look less than good.

    This whole situation saddens me beyond words. The education system is on it's knees.

    I believe teaching (any teaching) to be a privilege, a responsibility but an absolute pleasure. Good teachers enhance lives; it's time we left them alone to do what they do best....teach!

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  • Too much information :-(

    The start of every new year sees many magazines and newspaper supplements full of information about exercise and nutrition. I spotted a new cookery book being advertised yesterday specifically targeted towards middle aged (mid life) people?! With such a lot of information available to us, it's becoming more and more difficult to determine what we 'should' be eating and what type of exercise is best for us.

    I watched a TV programme last week called 'The truth about exercise' which conducted several experiments leading to conclusions that I think anyone with any basic exercise knowledge would already know.

    Some of those findings were that it's more effective to walk very briskly for 10 minutes several times a day rather than doing an ambling 10,000 steps a day, that resistance training is more effective if you lift as heavy a load as possible for a smaller number of repetitions(reps) rather than doing lots of reps with a smaller weight and that running is not as detrimental to joints as you might think.

    My philosphy regarding exercise has always been to integrate into your day what works for you. I've always been an early morning exerciser so since January 1st, the alarm has gone off at 6am on 6 days of the week to ensure I fit in 3 kettlebell training sessions and 3 runs every week at the start of the day. Together with a healthier eating plan, I've now started February 3 kgs lighter and am feeling stronger and more aerobically fit than I have for months.

    For optimum health, you need to do some aerobic activity (walking, jogging, swimming, cycling), some strength exercise whether that be using resistance bands, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells or your own body weight and some stretching and mobility activities.

    I do all my exercise sessions at home or I run from home and never set foot in a gym, but that's my personal preference and it means I don't have to spend hours travelling to and from a gym. I can literally get out of bed and be starting my exercise session within 15-20 minutes; this works for me and the barriers to me achieving my goals are minimal.

    If you're yet to start exercising this year, take some time to figure out what you can realistically fit into your every day life and go for it....I can promise you you'll feel 100% better for doing it :-)

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