Brightening our Inner Skies Yin and Yoga by Norman Blair – Book Review

Brightening our Inner Skies – Yin and Yoga by Normal Blair is a wonderful personal reflection on a journey through yoga. It is also a guide to Yin Yoga and a commentary on how Yoga and social responsibility are more relevant than ever.

What’s it all about?

I bought this book at the beginning of 2018 after we had booked to attend some training with Norman. Therefore, I wanted to get a feel for what Norman was about before the course. What I find most refreshing and appealing about this book is that Norman is very real. He writes openly and honestly about his journey through yoga and the shifting and changing challenges that life throws at us. As a result this book resonated with me and made it feel reassuring and life affirming.

The book is presented with lots of inspiring quotes and references. It pulls together lots of information from an array of sources. Those who have been taught by Norman will know of his ability to quote and recite interesting and thought provoking pieces, weaving them through his sessions. This book takes the pressure off you having to remember them! Norman has kindly compiled them here for us!

Norman passionately relates and reflects on the relevance of Yin Yoga as an antidote to modern society and life. My own personal experience of Yin helped me through a challenging transitionary period of my life.

What Yin Yoga has meant to me

After 15 1/2 years working at a desk, I took redundancy to become a Yoga Teacher. As a result I left a busy middle management job in the Civil Service which had required me to travel all over the country pretty much on a weekly basis. Consequently transitioning to being at home and taking time to adjust was a challenge. As a result I was drawn instinctively to a Yin Yoga practice, a calming nurturing practice that I had been introduced to via a workshop. This had been with the wonderful British Wheel of Yoga teacher Paul Wooding in Liverpool. Paul has a very real and nurturing approach. I travelled to his Wednesday morning Yin classes as often as I could and they helped with my transition from such a busy “doing” office lifestyle to a new chapter in my life.

You can read a bio for both of us and details of the training we have undertaken here: https://yogasmiths.org/about/

Training with Norman

We were lucky enough to undertake Yin Yoga teacher training with Norman Blair at Yoga Campus in Manchester back in June 2018. We As a result of spending time with Norman it really brought to life the content of his book and it was great to meet him and train with him.

At the Yoga Campus training in Yin Yoga with Norman Blair

As a Yoga teacher, Brightening our Inner Skies is a great resource and reference guide. Hence, it happily sits alongside my Bernie Clark Yin Yoga book. For me, a great yoga book is one that I read with a pencil, a highlighter and some sticky page markers. This is one of those books, a book that you want to make sure you can easily find a quote or a phrase in, a book that you want to dip in and out of for some time to come.

Brightening Our Inner Skies Yin and Yoga – with plenty of tabs to refer back to!

In Summary

Brightening our Inner Skies Yin and Yoga is both a guide to Yin, teaching Yin and also a way finder for the modern world. Thank you to Norman for realising this book, I highly recommend it.

You can find out more about Norman Blair here;

https://www.yogawithnorman.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/Yoga-with-Norman-183652105002257/
https://www.instagram.com/yogawithnorman/
https://twitter.com/yogawithnorman

Blue Monday?…..Finding that inner calm

A marketing gimic?

It is likely to be widely reported that today is ‘Blue Monday’, apparently ‘the most depressing day of the year’. A quick google search reveals that the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ was actually coined by Sky Travel in 2005! (The google search also prompted me to listen to New Order whilst writing this blog!) I’m not sure how calling a day ‘the most depressing day of the year’ is meant to be helpful to us but it might just help to sell a few holidays! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Monday_(date)

It did get me thinking, however, that there is something to this concept of ‘Blue Monday’. It’s January in the UK. Christmas is a distant memory. The days are apparently getting longer but it’s a slow process. I could swear that’s it’s getting darker and not lighter in the mornings! It’s cold! It’s often raining and grey. We’re still awaiting payday! My point is….is it any wonder that all this can affect our mood?

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Is every Monday Blue Monday in January?

Accessing our inner calm

However, regardless of all of the above, it is comforting to know that internally we can access a constant, calm space within us that is always there. It is unmoved by the changing of the seasons. It may be very difficult to access at times. Particularly with all the external factors that can affect how we feel (weather, work, relationships, whatever else is going on in our lives). However, this calm, constant space is still there, despite all this.

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But how do we access this calmness? Well the first part of this is knowing it is there. Knowing that it can be accessed with practice. A breathing practice, bringing attention to the inhale and the exhale. Simply observing the breath, without judgement. This can help us begin to access this calmness within. The breath is always with us. But how often do we pay attention to our own breath? Thoughts and feelings will of course arise whilst we observe the breath, wanting our attention. Instead of giving attention to these thoughts/feelings, gently guide your attention back to observing the breath. There are innumerable breathing techniques (pranayama) to help us in finding this sense of calmness within. So regardless of whatever else is going on, with practice we can help manage our stress levels using our own breath, the constant calm space that is within all of us.

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A mindfulness of breath based meditation can help us tune into our inner calm and help us to deal with Blue Monday. Lhasa Apsos will sometimes join in too.

Mindful Movement

Yoga posture (asana) practice is also great at helping us access that calm space within. Bringing our attention to how the body is feeling in a particular posture. The sensations you are noticing in the body and where are you noticing them? Also, breath-led movement, moving the body on an inhale and an exhale, creates a mindful practice whereby we are again bringing our attention, without judgement, to the sensations in the body. How often do we mindfully observe our bodies in our every day life?

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Mindful movement in our Yoga poses – banish the blues from Blue Monday

Self Compassion

And of course there are so many other actions that we can take to help us find this calmness within, a big part of which is to learn to treat ourselves with more compassion (ahimsa). We often find it easier to treat others with compassion than we do ourselves, especially when we’re perhaps not feeling our best. Treat yourself! Find and do the things that you enjoy, those things that make you feel good. Yes, the weather might be less than ideal at this time of year for many of us, but use this as reason to enjoy a cosy night in, a nice relaxing, hot bath, etc. Give some thought to what you can do to help you find that inner calm.

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A hot drink in front of a warm fire – an antidote to Blue Monday

So yes, it may be hard to find that inner sense of calm particularly at this time of year, and it may be easier said than done (I know I’ve felt like that many times!). But there are many ways in which we can all try to help ourselves find that constant inner calm, regardless of all external factors, and before we realise it maybe that third Monday in January, and then the rest of the winter, might not feel so ‘blue’ after all!

You may also want to check out our previous blog on Helpful ways to deal with stress which you can find here; https://yogasmiths.org/2018/05/19/mental-health-awareness-week-helpful-tips-to-deal-with-stress/

Namaste x

Best Yoga Class in Wirral

The website Three Best Rated has listings for the Best Yoga Class in Wirral. For the fourth year running we have been included in their listings and as such can display the badges below.

Best Yoga classes in Wirral

Starting our Business

We started our business, Yogasmiths back in 2016 when Paul took redundancy from his civil service job in Learning and Development. This was a dive into the unknown of setting up, establishing and running our own business. We always wanted to work together and this was a step towards realising this dream. You can read a short bio for us both here https://yogasmiths.org/about/

We initially started out teaching private one to one yoga clients and then expanded into public group classes in April 2017. We were overwhelmed that at our first class we had to turn away 3 people as the class was full. The classes proved popular and consequently we increased the number of classes we offered.

Where we are now….

As of 2020 we are teaching 7 weekly classes including Gentle Years Yoga chair based yoga, running yoga retreats twice a year, running workshops, pop-up yoga events outdoors and Yoga & Sunday Brunch events.

Our intention

Our intention has always been to create varied and interesting yoga classes that are true yoga classes in every sense of the word. As a result we work hard to create yoga sessions that cover all of the 8 limbs of yoga. We wanted to provide classes in our local area that are accessible to all. Therefore we fully embrace the British Wheel of Yoga’s staged approach to teaching yoga postures / asana. This allows us to have complete beginners in the class as well as retired yoga teachers. Everyone practicing to the correct level for them. A yoga class where you can strengthen your body, free your mind and relax.

We have been consistently included in the top 3 yoga classes in Wirral since we started our business in 2016 on the website Three Best Rated. We are the only room temperature yoga class listed in the top 3 in Wirral. You can find 3 Best Rated here https://threebestrated.co.uk/yoga-classes-in-wirral

Thank you!

We are so very grateful for all the support of our lovely yoga students who attend our events and weekly classes. Without you there would be no Yogasmiths! It is truly a joy to be able to impart the teachings of yoga and to spread the benefits of this wonderful practice.

Best Yoga classes in Wirral
Best Yoga classes in Wirral
Best Yoga classes in Wirral

We are BWY Foundation Course 1 Tutors! 2020 Course Details….

Our certificates have come through from the British Wheel of Yoga, we are now officially BWY Foundation Course 1 tutors.


This is the next stage for us in our journey as BWY teachers. We attended a fantastic 4 day tutor training course in Grantham with Belinda Emberson. As a result of which we have been approved as BWY Foundation Course 1 tutors. Here is a blog about the Foundation Course 1 training here: https://yogasmiths.org/2019/11/09/bwy-foundation-course-1-tutor-training-in-grantham/

Course starting April 2020

We have submitted and had approved our 60 hour course plan. Hence, we are now advertising and accepting applications for our first ever BWYT Foundation Course 1 which will start in April 2020. Places are strictly limited to 18.

The Foundation Course 1 is a wonderful personal development course where we go deeper into the rich tradition of yoga. It is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and to discuss the ancient yogic texts. The syllabus covers topics such as preparation for practice, asana, mudra, basic breathing, kriya, pranayama, concentration techniques, relaxation techniques, mantra, talks and discussions on the context and meaning of Yoga.  

The BWYT Foundation Course 1 runs one Sunday a month for 10 months in beautiful Hoylake on the Wirral. The venue for the course is Hoylake Parade Community Centre, Hoyle Road, Hoylake. It is a lovely community centre that used to be an old school, in fact, Paul’s mum, Mavis attended at when it was a school.

The course is taught by both of us, Paul & Stephen Smith, directors of Yogasmiths Limited. This will ensure that you get different perspectives and allow for attentive teaching of asana.

Find out all the details about the course including the application form at: https://yogasmiths.org/bwyt-foundation-course-1/

Our course is also listed on the British Wheel of Yoga Website at; https://www.bwy.org.uk/national/event/1347/