The class includes full body mobilisations, strengthening activities, gentle pulse raising activities and modified yoga poses. We explore elements of yoga philosophy, breathing exercises and guided relaxations. In addition to all of that we have a social element to the classes. After each session we head down stairs to Popsy’s cafe and have a chat over tea and coffee. Consequently we get to know each other and it is a great opportunity to make some new friends.
A very interesting book looking at self compassion and how to foster and approach it. A book that I have filled with page markers and annotations for referring back to.
Ahimsa / Compassion or non-violence is the first of the Yama (restraints) in the first limb of the eight limbs of yoga as described by Patanjali. When we talk of compassion we tend to think of this as an outwards thing towards other people. We often find it more difficult directing compassion towards ourselves. It is important that we practice compassion towards ourselves in order that we can be compassionate to others.
The full title of this book is Self Compassion – stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind. So, consequently the book sets out the three core components to self compassion; Self Kindness, Common Humanity and Mindfulness. Most importantly this book sets out how to limit self-criticism and its harmful effects.
The Self Critic
One of the most insightful aspects of this book for me personally was understanding the patterns of your inner self critic and where they come from. As a result of this, one can then begin to see that it is not your fault that you have a self critic. In fact, Neff wonderfully points out, we are all just human. We are not perfect and make mistakes, after all we are only human! It is this element of seeing the bigger picture that was also a moment where I sat and reflected. Neff describes this as the greater human experience, being part of the greater humanity. This has parallels to the concept of Ishvara pranidhana in Yoga, surrender to the divine. I often describe this concept as feeling a part of something greater than your individual self. We are all part of the common human experience.
The book nicely explains how the self-critic that we all have is a survival instinct. It originates from the fight or flight response and the associated negativity basis that we have. Our species survived because we were always on the look out for danger. We were able to pre-empt danger. We were able to criticise ourselves for doing things wrongly or for making mistakes. However, this is where the problem now lies. We are not in any immediate survival related danger in our western societies. So the self critic does not serve us well. Consequently the self critic is a source of stress and depression.
The Illusion of Perfection
A further part of this book that was quite insightful was the discussion around the illusion of perfection. The idea that we need to be “perfect.”
All too often , however, our minds fool us into thinking that we can, and in fact should, be other than we are.
Neff, Self Compassion p70
The above quote summarises a common theme in our self critic. It relates to any aspect of life. The book puts this in to context by stating that it is not possible for everyone to be “perfect.” If that was the case there would be no reference point from which to measure. One element of practicing self compassion is allowing yourself to realise that you are only human. Humans make mistakes and in all likelihood many people have made very similar mistakes to you time and time again. Rather than beat yourself up, allow yourself to acknowledge that making mistakes is part of being human.
This approach is therefore absolutely mindfulness. It is about seeing things for how they really are rather than through the skewed view of the self critic. It is about learning to respond to mistakes and challenges with self compassion. This is in contrast to reacting with the same old internal self critical voice.
The book concludes nicely with a chapter on self appreciation. Actually allowing yourself to appreciate yourself! Trying to adopt this as a habit.
Self Compassion by Kristen Neff sets out an approach to allow you to be aware of your self critic and to approach it with self compassion. An approach that encourages you to console yourself and acknowledge your feelings and responses to any given stimuli. And to then move forward with self compassion, letting go of the self critic and the associated insecurities.
Time to Change exists to end the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health problems. As a result you can find resources to hold your own Time To Talk event at the link above.
The Time to Change website states that their aims are specifically:
Improving public attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems.
Reducing the amount of discrimination that people with mental health problems report in their personal relationships, their social lives and at work.
Making sure even more people with mental health problems can take action to challenge stigma and discrimination in their communities, in workplaces, in schools and online.
Creating a sustainable campaign that will continue long into the future.
One in four of us in any year
Statistically, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year. We all have mental health and at any given time our mental health will sit somewhere on a scale ranging from feeling great to feeling awful. This will change and it is normal for it to change and consequently our mental health can tip below a point where it starts to cause us problems. At this point when we need help and could do with talking about how we feel, unfortunately we often do not talk.
The Time To Change website reports the following;
The overwhelming majority of people with mental health problems report being misunderstood by family members, shunned and ignored by friends, work colleagues and health professionals, called names and much worse by neighbours.
Stigma and discrimination prevent people from seeking help: this can delay treatment and impair recovery. It isolates people, excluding them from day-to-day activities and making it hard to build new relationships or sustain current ones. It can stop people getting or keeping jobs.
Experiencing a mental health problem is hard enough, without having to deal with the shame and isolation that often comes with it.
Mental Health problems can feel isolating as mentioned above. We should always remember our shared Humanity. We are all human beings having an experience of life. Part of this experience of life is that we have difficult times and challenges. Some of these challenges may by short in duration and some may last longer. Whatever we experience is part of being human and we are not alone in these experiences. Many other people have been through what you are going through, you are not the only person to feel the way you feel. When we allow ourselves to remember this and accept ourselves as being a human being having a human experience we can take a step back from our feelings of isolation.
Despite what lifestyle magazines, health and fitness magazines and social media portray, pretty much everyone will experience a mental health challenge at some point in their life. This is part of being human. Just as at some point in our life we will likely have physical health problems so too will we experience mental health problems. We are all human. Give yourself permission to be human and accept yourself as being human.
An opportunity to connect
Time To Talk day gives us an opportunity to connect with a greater sense of being part of a wider human experience of life. When we talk to others about mental health we work to remove the stigma around it. We spread the message that it is ok to not feel ok. It is part of our shared experience of being human to not feel ok.
Both Steve and I are open about our own mental health. Steve has detailed on our website in the About us section how it was a period of depression and mental health difficulties that led us to a regular yoga practice. Who knew that it would ultimately take us to where we are now! It was through talking about the challenges that he was facing that Yoga was recommended to us.
Steve, like many of us, has been through a number of episodes of depression and anxiety and continues to use the tools he has learnt over time to manage his mental health in his daily life. This has included talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), medication, yoga, healthy eating, self-care, mindfulness and exercise (too many to list!). And caring for our dog Archie! Steve has also learnt that no matter how bad things seem at the time, it will pass and you will feel better in time.
One of my own experience of my Mental Health becoming a problem was with work related stress and anxiety. I can clearly recall sitting at my desk with a huge amount of work to do. Due to this my head felt like it was in a whirl and consequently I sat there unable to do anything. I felt frozen with anxiety. I felt aware that something was wrong and decided to take a walk in the fresh air. Upon returning to the office one of the receptionist asked me if I had been for a jog. As a result of this I went and looked in the mirror and saw someone who did indeed look they had been for a jog, sweating and red in the face.
In that moment, I made the decision to log off and go home. I used Yoga, walking and swimming to help me get through this difficult period. Sometimes I did not want to do those activities, but I never regretted when I did. Slowly I felt on more of an even keel. As a result of this period, I became more aware of what triggered my anxiety and stress. I explored Mindfulness more deeply and began to develop my tool kit of things to help me.
When we feel ok
Time to Change detail on their website that a lot of people think Mental Health is something that does not effect them or the people around them. This in itself is isolating. As a result of this way of thinking people are removing themselves from this shared human experience. We are all in this together. Let us remember this when we are feeling ok and be there for others. Take time to listen compassionately and mindfully to others, do not try to solve others problems, but listen to them. If we feel ok lets make sure we keep our eyes open for those who do not.
Our life long journey
Our life long journey is to learn to live with our fluctuating mental health. The fluctuations of our minds and our emotions. With Yoga, Mindfulness and self-compassion we can build our resilience and tool kit to navigate our way through life. Whatever we experience is part of being human, we are not alone. In my experience, we can learn to control our reactions to stressful events a little more, we can learn what our triggers are. As a result we can experience life less like an extreme rollercoaster and more like a gentle fairground ride! Difficulties still arise, mental health may still raise it’s head as a problem, life can throw many challenges at us. Talking can help us. It is Time to Talk and to help end discrimination and stigma around mental health.
Paul recently completed his 40 hour Yoga Teacher Training course in The Science of Teaching Yoga for Athletes. He luckily won this training course in a competition run by the Institute of Yoga Sports Science website https://www.yogasportscience.com/ The Institute of Yoga Sports Science are listed as a recognised centre by The British Wheel of Yoga. This recognises that they show excellence in their specialist field of yoga.
It is an interesting course which focusses on looking at specific sports and the most common movement patterns involved. As a result, intelligent yoga interventions can be formulated to suit particular sporting populations. Paul chose swimming as he used to be in a swimming team in his teens. He has always maintained this sporting hobby. Practicing the sport specific yoga alongside having some improver swimming lessons has resulted in him improving his front crawl stroke.
This year we are furthering our training in the area of Sports Yoga. We have already trained with Sarah Ramsden, the yoga teacher who worked at Manchester United and Manchester City football club for many year. Completing The Body Aligned training with her was a fantastic CPD course. We enjoyed it very much and consequently have decided to do the next level of training with her called Sports Yoga -The Body Athletic – teaching yoga to athletes and in sport. As part of this training we will both be working with a sports person or athlete over the summer and are looking forward to this.
We love undertaking additional training and continuing our professional development. In doing so we can provide our yoga students with the best experience possible and further our own knowledge.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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 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
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.
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.
Yogasmiths third annual Charity Christmas Raffle raised £1,353 for Wirral’s Homeless CIC.
Raffle and Party
The Christmas spirit was in full swing on Thursday 12th December in West Kirby at our annual Yogasmith’s Christmas party and charity raffle. The event raised £1,353 for local charity Wirral Homeless CIC, double what was raised the previous year.
There was a great turnout with around 100 of our yoga class students in attendance at Tanskey’s Bistro on South Parade in West Kirby.
We are truly overwhelmed with the generosity of our yoga students in both providing prizes, purchasing tickets and donations. We are delighted to be able to support the great work of Wirral Homeless CIC.
As a result of peoples generosity, the raffle had nearly 100 prizes ranging from vouchers donated by local businesses to hand made gifts made by our class attendees.
Robyn (one of the founders of Wirral’s Homeless CIC) and Graham Wilson, from the charity attended the event and said;
“Wow… just absolutely overwhelming amount raised! It was a great night and such a fun atmosphere. This amount of money will make a difference and put smiles on the faces of people who don’t get to smile often. We can take a few of the guys shopping and support our ongoing treat night too amongst other things! We salute the Yogasmiths and all their members and supporters, what a beautiful yoga community”.
Cheque and donations handover
On Friday we met with Georgie from Wirral’s Homeless CIC to hand over the cheque of all the monies raised and also the donations of hats, gloves, scarves and underwear. We hadn’t realised quite how much we had collected until we came to put it all in the van to take round. Check out the picture below!
Hi Everyone! We would like to remind everyone that it is less than a week until our Yogasmiths Christmas Party & Charity Raffle in aid of Wirral’s Homeless Community Interest Company.
Our party will be held at Tanskey’s on South Parade (on the prom) in West Kirby on Thursday 12th December starting at 7:30pm. It is free to attend and you do not need a ticket. There will be the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets (£1 per ticket) on the night and the raffle will be drawn at 9pm. This will be a lovely evening to escape from the all the craziness of the General Election TV coverage and an opportunity to socialise, support a worthy local charitable organisation and to have a dance!
This is the 3rd year on the run that we have supported this local Community Interest Company who tirelessly work all year round to support our local homeless and other vulnerable members of society. We firmly believe that a society should be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable members and initiatives likes this one should be highly valued by all Wirral’s residents.
In Yoga the Bhagavad Gita details the 4 paths of yoga, one of which is Karma Yoga. This is the Yoga of selfless action and charitable donations and charitable work are examples of this path of yoga.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our class members for their support, we have a huge number of wonderful prizes for this raffle, the best so far since we started in running them in 2017. Many prizes have been donated by class members and also from local businesses. Check out the list of prizes at the end of this blog and also links to the local businesses that kindly donated prizes.
Wirral’s Homeless Community Interest Company are based in Birkenhead feeding and supporting local homeless people and other vulnerable members of society. They provide fresh, healthy home-cooked meals to the homeless community in Birkenhead each night, along with packed lunches and snacks at the weekend. They also provide tents, sleeping bags, toiletries, underwear, socks, hats, scarves and gloves. They are often looking for volunteers to cook food; volunteer drivers to pick up meals from addresses on the Wirral and deliver to Birkenhead in the evening; as well as donations of the above items along with microwavable plastic tubs for food.
Below is the list of Raffle Prizes that we currently have, there are lots of lovely things to win! The Raffle will be drawn at the Yogasmiths Christmas Party.
Vouchers Yogasmiths block of classes gift voucher Yogasmiths block of classes gift voucher Tanskeys afternoon tea for one voucher Tanskeys afternoon tea for one voucher Karma Indian Food voucher C Saw cut & finish hair voucher Susan Maire Sports Massage voucher Susan Maire Sports massage voucher Dancing in the Rain £30 gift certificate Sweet Pea Cafe coffee and cake for two voucher Amazon voucher Ground £20 voucher Fox & Hounds voucher Evans Shoes voucher Nail Elegance gel nail polish voucher Kerry Clegg Montgomery Hairdressing voucher Posh Hair and Beauty voucher Esperanza Holistics voucher Tropic Skincare by Suzi Facial Voucher x 2
Bottles Three Mills Rose wine Casa Turano Pinot Grigio Co-op fairtrade Chardonnay Baileys Ron Miel La Indiana Honey rum Sainsbury’s Asti Liverpool Gin Freixenet Prosecco AlliNi Prosecco Spumante Prosecco Bottega Gold Prosecco Highland Black Scotch Whiskey Hardys Crest Shiraz Captain Morgan Rum 1L Captain Morgan Rum 70cl Carlos Rodriguez Tempranillo Lamb’s Navy Rum Christmas Prosecco Toro Loco Wine and olive oil set Sainsbury’s Mulled Wine Bella Cucina Prosecco Green Mountain IPA box Famous Grouse Whisky x 2 Ballycastle Country Cream McQueen Gin Jean Juviniere Sloe Gin Famous Grouse gift set Martini Prosecco Cockburn’s Port Set M & S Prosecco Gluhwein Mulled Wine Etienne Dumont Champagne
Chocolates Box of Roses Thornton’s chocolates Linder White chocolates Chocolates with hand knitted Xmas jackets Quality Street Hotel Chocolat Prosecco & Truffles
Toiletries Bath House Feel Gorgeous gift box Esquire shower gel gift set Ted Baker body spray for her L’Occitane shower gift set Bayliss & Harding sweet mandarin and grapefruit gift set Ragdale Hall Spa gift set Spa shower gel collection The White Company hand and nail gift set Rituals gift set
Candles Oud & Bergamot candle Yankee Candle simply home gift set Torc velvet rose candle Yankee Candle Medium Jar Candle Alusi Multi-flame candle Yankee Candle scented tea light candles Parks Aromatherapy candle
Miscellaneous Amazon Echo dot Dirty Dog Sports sunglasses Richardson Sheffield Cheese Knives Mr Lister’s Quiz box Doll with home knitted clothing Lavender eye pillow Lavender eye pillow Notepad gift Ladies scarves bundle Perfected Fusion hair styler Crofton glass Bon Bon jars Melinera Storage jars Yoga Cats Calendar Designed by Mel print – Phone Box Designed by Mel print – Telephones Eden Floral Design – Xmas table centre piece Warrior Yoga Mat Green bottle water bottle