Gentle Years Yoga© certificates and new weekly class

We received our British Wheel of Yoga Gentle Years Yoga© teaching certificates recently. This marks the end of a two year period since undertaking the initial training. We were in the second wave of teachers after the pilot study to be taught how to teacher the Gentle Years Yoga© chair based classes.

Yogasmiths with their Gentle Years Yoga© teaching certificates

The Qualification

The qualification involved being assessed on age related anatomy and physiology. We were also assessed by a British Wheel of Yoga Diploma Course Tutor teaching the classes. In addition to the course work involved we have also prepared two case studies each to contribute to the growing body of anecdotal evidence to the effectiveness of the Gentle Years Yoga© chair based yoga. Thank you to the class members who very kindly assisted us with the case studies.

The initial pilot study demonstrated both physical and mental health benefits to the chair based yoga. As a result there is now a nationwide trial of Gentle Years Yoga© taking place which we are pleased to be part of. We will certainly share the result of this interesting piece of research once the trial concludes.

You can read about the research pilot with a link to the paper on this blog: https://yogasmiths.org/2017/11/18/gentle-years-yoga-classes-hoylake-chair-based-yoga/

The Research Trial

You can find a previous blog about the start of the research trial here: https://yogasmiths.org/2019/09/07/a-great-start-to-the-bwy-gentle-years-yoga-national-research-trial/

Our new weekly class

We have a new regular weekly Gentle Years Yoga© chair based yoga class starting. The class starts on Friday 28th February 2020 at 12:45pm in Hoylake Parade Community Centre. It takes place on the first floor in the Rehearsal Room. There is parking, disabled access and a lift.

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.

You can find a link to the event on our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/207148843819466/

You can also find further details on our website at: https://yogasmiths.org/classes/

Our Gentle Years Yoga© chair based class in Hoylake

The Science of Teaching Yoga for Athletes training completed!

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.

The Science of Teaching Yoga for Athletes
Paul with his Science of Teaching Yoga to Athletes certificate from The Institute of Yoga Sports Science

Further training

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.

You can find out details of all the training we have undertaken here; https://yogasmiths.org/about/

Details of how we have been consistently listed on the Three Best Rated website for Best Yoga Class in Wirral since we started our business in 2016 can be found here https://yogasmiths.org/2020/01/13/best-yoga-class-in-wirral/

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/

Photographs from Museum of the Moon Event at Birkenhead Town Hall on 13th November 2019

Hi Everyone, we have received some wonderful photographs taken by the official photographer at the Museum of the Moon event where we taught a yoga session under the moon in Birkenhead Town Hall. The session took place on Wednesday 13th November 2019.

The wonderful photographer was my old friend Mark McNulty who I DJed with for many years over in Liverpool at Liquidation / Uptight in Le Bateau. It was a nice surprise to run into him. You can check out his website and social media channels at;
http://www.markmcnulty.co.uk/
https://www.instagram.com/markmcnulty/
https://twitter.com/markmcnulty

Thank you to everyone who came to the event, it was such a great experience to teach under the Museum of the Moon and a real once in a lifetime opportunity. Thank you to the Culture Team at Wirral Council and Imagine Wirral.

Check out the picture below and let us know what you think!

Thanks Paul & Steve x

The British Wheel of Yoga Diploma journey

This weekend marked the last day of our British Wheel of Yoga diploma course up in Troon in Scotland with Carol Price. This also marked 3 years since we first met our wonderful tutor Carol Price and began training with her.

A serious end of course picture
Slightly less serious exuberance

Our first teacher training course which we started in February 2016 with Yoga Alliance as the awarding body left us feeling unprepared to teach yoga. I am sure that there are some very good courses out there with Yoga Alliance as the awarding body, in fact I have been on some myself, my first Yoga teacher training course certainly wasn’t one of them.

Feeling quite despondent, we were recommended to look at the British Wheel of Yoga. We found a certificate course running in Salford with Paul Fox (then BWY chair) and Carol Price. I had a chat with Paul and we decided that we would embark on another teacher training course that would actually teach us to teach yoga! The British Wheel of Yoga Level 4 Certificate course has BWY Qualifications as its awarding body which is regulated by OFQUAL. This was more like it! A qualification that we could be proud of. There was a lot of hard work, learning and academic essays to complete. We were also assessed teaching a real 90 minute class with real students. The final day of the course was very emotional and we felt very proud of our certificate. This was a world apart from our previous experience!

We then became aware that Carol Price had a diploma course which was part way through that we could tag on to and upgrade our qualification to the highest level of OFQUAL regulated Yoga Teacher Training available, the BWY Level 4 Diploma. We gave this serious consideration as the course was running in Troon in Scotland and obviously entailed a further significant financial and time investment. We both wanted to continue our learning with Carol and felt it was absolutely the right thing to do.

The diploma top up has been a fantastic experience covering 3 modules on Hatha Yoga & Pranayama, the teaching and philosophy of meditation and progression in yoga.

On the course we dived deep into the ancient texts and looked at how we could make them relevant for our classes and create rich layered lessons. The formal essay writing was the part that I found particularly enjoyable. It really encouraged me to read around the topics and to draw together references and importantly allowed me to work out my own opinions. There was also a further assessment of us teaching one of our real weekly 90 minute classes, and those who come to our classes may remember Carol sitting in the corner! Despite having been teaching for 3 years at the point of being assessed it was still a very nerve wrecking experience. I felt supported and buoyed by the lovely yoga students who attend our class.

Let me just say a few words about Carol Price our Diploma Course Tutor. Carol has been a wonderful guide to us on our diploma course, she never fails to come up with either a wonderful pearl of wisdom, a lovely new mobilisation exercise or an intelligent imaginative sequence. Carol always provided constructive and helpful feedback, one of her catch phrases being “what could make you even better would be….”. Carol has been an extremely important teacher to us and we can’t thank her enough, we will always affectionately refer to her as our Yoga Mama!

Yoga Mama Carol Price with her two boys!

Here is a link to Carol’s facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Celtic-Yoga-264932390858722/

As an already qualified yoga teacher (at least twice over) when embarking on the Diploma top up I was keen to get as much out of it as possible. When deciding to do further training / CPD I want to gain extra knowledge that is going to make me a better teacher. This is certainly what we got in bucket loads from the diploma course with Carol. It has also been a greatly enriching personal journey studying in depth the ancient yogic texts and pulling together formal assignments.

We are both very proud to be British Wheel of Yoga teachers. With an OFQUAL regulated awarding body, you know that you are going to get excellent quality training and rigorous assessment. It may feel like a lot of hard work as you progress through the BWY training but this is exactly why it is worth it. You come out the other end of the training prepared and ready to teach yoga to all ability classes. The staged approach to teaching that the BWY train you in is all inclusive, we have in our classes students who are retired yoga teachers and others who are completely new to yoga, both being able to practice side by side.

There are so many different yoga teacher training courses out there, I even saw one that was a correspondence course! Choose wisely. How long does it really take to learn a profession such as teaching yoga? In an unregulated arena go for regulated courses, do your homework, speak to previous trainees. Spend your money and time wisely and you won’t regret it.

Yoga Workshops – Sunday 13th October

Join us for our October Yoga workshop day at Westbourne Hall on Sunday 13th October at Westbourne Road, West Kirby, CH48 4DQ

We will have a full day of Yoga from 11:00 till 17:00.

In the morning (11:00 till 13:30) we will have an inversions workshop looking at;
* Foundations & strength building for inversions, e.g. headstand & handstand
* Safe practice tips for shoulder stand and plough poses
* Gaining confidence in your practice using a staged approach
* The chance to go upside down with teacher assistance! (optional!)

In the afternoon (14:30 till 17:00) we will have a partner yoga workshop where we will look at;
* Tips and tools for improving balance
* Practicing balancing poses alone and with a partner
* Working with a partner to develop your balance
* Have some fun!
You do not need to bring a partner to come to this workshop!

Cost : £37 for both workshops or £20 per workshop

(non refundable unless space can be filled) – Please book early as places are limited, you can pay at one of our weekly classes or by BACS. Please email us at enquires@yogasmiths.org or send us a Facebook message to book your place.

Please bring with you a packed lunch and a blanket. We have use of the kitchen at Westbourne Hall for teas and coffees and to heat any food you bring. There will be a long table for us to sit at and eat our lunch together.

You may wish to bring your own yoga mat and props, however, we will have plenty for people to use.

There are a good number of places in West Kirby where you could purchase lunch should you not wish to bring a packed lunch.

Westbourne Hall has a free car park with plenty of parking spaces.

We are British Wheel of Yoga and Yoga Alliance trained teachers, fully insured through the British Wheel of Yoga.

You get two friendly teachers which ensures safe practice and plenty of attention and modifications are offered so that the classes are inclusive for all abilities.

Please check out the event on our Facebook page;
https://www.facebook.com/events/376596526351229/

We look forward to guiding you through your yoga practice.

Paul & Steve Yogasmiths

A Great Start to the BWY Gentle Years Yoga National Research Trial

Hi Everyone, some of you may be aware that we are taking part in an exciting trial around our chair based Gentle Years Yoga class. Here is an article written by Laura Bissell who, along with Jenny Howsam created Gentle Years Yoga;

On  30th June, nine northern BWY Gentle Years Yoga (GYY) teachers met at the Principal Hotel in York for the first Standardisation Training Day in preparation for September’s launch of the NIHR Research Trial classes. The next Standardisation Day will be on 23rd November in Birmingham for research teachers involved in the second wave of classes in 2020 to take place in the southern half of England and Wales.

Laura Bissell and Jenny Howsam opened the day with a yoga centering session, followed by inspiring talks from Chief Investigator Dr Garry Tew and Professor Tim Rapley from Northumbria. Trial Manager Helen Tilbrook, Trial Coordinator Shirley Paul and Research Fellow Laura Howe from York went through the formal process that would be used to recruit patients from GP surgeries and the procedures the yoga teachers would need to follow in order to set up the classes. 

“It was good to hear that the research so far has shown that yoga might be a useful ‘intervention’ with the ability to address multiple health conditions at the same time, simply and at low cost to the NHS’ said BWY teacher Rachel Bayliss from  Chesterfield.  ‘As yoga teachers, we may feel we already ‘know’ this but if this Trial can prove this, then it may lead to more funding and more support for yoga teachers wanting to offer these classes.”

After lunch, Jenny and Laura taught modifications required for a new Age-Related Condition section of the training in response to GPs’ suggestions for inclusion in the Trial and they covered yoga sequences that teachers’ course plans would need to follow for research standardisation and consistency.

“Undertaking the training was a fantastic CPD decision.  The training is inspiring and imaginative and equips you to create your own interesting and layered chair-based yoga sessions’ said Yogasmiths Paul Smith and Stephen Smith from Merseyside.  ‘We have been amazed at the change in the people who attend our classes. People with degenerative disease regain strength in their legs and improve their sitting to standing, those with lung diseases have reported their lung capacity checks have shown good improvement from the breathing exercises, but the most profound change is the mental health of the attendees. Some have reported that the GYY class is the highlight of their week.  It is lovely to watch the friendship groups forming.  They rally around in support of one another.”  

Clare Gardner from Merseyside summed up the day, “l thought the Standardisation days was useful, fun and informative. It was a great day. “

Celia Grieve from Ripon reported “It was so good to meet the other Research Teachers and the organisers of the Trial.  It answered all the questions I had about delivering the classes.  The whole team are enthusiastic and excited about taking this forward.”

“It felt as though the Trial will make an important transformational change’ Stephanie Braysmith from Beverley expressed.  ‘Hopefully one which will spread throughout the whole of the U.K.” 

Mental Health Awareness Week 13th – 19th May 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week for 2019 has the theme of Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.

Their website (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week) defines this as;

‘Body image’ is a term that can be used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can impact us throughout our lives, affecting, more generally, the way we feel about ourselves and our mental health and wellbeing.

Body image concern itself is a relatively common thing to experience and is not in itself a mental health issue. However, it can be a contributing factor to mental health problems.

Whereas body satisfaction has been linked to better overall wellbeing and eating habits.

We live in a society that has become more and more fixated with the outwards image of the body. Social Media is awash with picture of people with what some people would view as the “perfect” body and lifestyle. Social Media has made so many people use their social media accounts as if they are celebrities and in doing so sharing edited highlights of their lives in an attempt to show the world that their life is perfect. Social Media is completely fixated with the external, both image wise and also in engaging with the external world, trying to obtain followers and get “likes”.

How does Yoga help us navigate our way through all of this?

As we have said many times in our yoga classes, Yoga is a work in not a work out. Yoga is about internalising our awareness via breath work, posture practice and relaxation / meditation. In doing so we realise that our true self is not our physical body, our true self is not the chatter of our minds. Our true self is deeper again and is the quiet place beyond the chatter of our mind, a place where we can find contentment, acceptance and calmness.

The Pancha Maya Kosha model detailed in the Upanishads sets out a model of the true self being encased in 5 wrappings that prevent us seeing through to the self. The outer most layer is the physical body and people can be stuck here and fixated with their physical ability and / or appearance. This philosophical model tells us that whilst we are stuck in the physical we will not progress to reveal the true self and the peace / calmness that comes with it. We are much more than our reflection in a mirror, an obsession with the reflection prevents us from seeing through the mirror to the deeper layers of ourselves.

Some factors that impact how you relate to your own body image are your family, peer group, pressure to look a certain way and social media. From a personal perspective, as someone who has worn glasses from an early age, I was quite self conscious of my glasses which is only natural. However, people said to me on a number of occasions, when I was in my teens, if I took my glasses off, “Oh you are handsome without your glasses on.” The inference that I made here is that I was obviously not handsome with my glasses on! This is something that certainly affected my confidence somewhat. However, with positive role models wearing glasses in music and the media as I grew older I embraced my glasses and enjoyed wearing them!

Scruffy mod circa 1997

Another personal experience growing up was that I loved sixties music and mod culture. I bought (and still own!) vintage scooters, a parka and desert boots. Once I had decided I was a mod then there was self inflicted pressure to conform to a certain style and look. However, I’ve always been a little on the scruffy side so it probably wasn’t the ideal thing to get into! When attending scooter rallies and mod nights I felt like I didn’t fit in because I was not quite so fastidious with how I looked. It is interesting to reflect how we strive to fit in when we are younger, trying to find the hobbies or groups that we can relate to and identify with. Body image is intrinsic to this idea of fitting in and how we portray ourselves to the outside world.

The health and fitness industry is probably one of the biggest purveyors of images of the “ideal” body, second only to the fashion industry. Magazines and social media are full of pictures of men and women with bodies that require an unhealthy addiction to the gym and the taking of ridiculous amounts of supplements. Pictures of people with six packs abs and veiny muscles don’t explain that the models are mostly in dehydrated states in order to look “optimal” for the photo shoots. The yoga world is the same, often using pictures of people with extreme hyper-flexibility or natural gymnasts as their pin-ups. This puts many people off yoga – how often we hear “I can’t do yoga I’m not flexible enough”! It also encourages some yoga practitioners to push themselves too far and to try to achieve ranges of motion that are far outside that which is normal and some would argue, healthy.

My own personal experience through Yoga has been to find a much happier relationship with my own personal body image. Yoga allows us to turn our attention inwards and to let go of our self-critic which drives negative body image. When we practice mindfully we obtain greater body awareness, listening to our own bodies, accepting all of our limitations and abilities in the same way. We can come to realise that the life force / essence of the self that it within you is the same as that which is within others. We learn that we are ok just as we are. With this acceptance we often find that we then make healthier decisions for ourselves and appreciate our bodies more, gaining a healthy relationship with your own body image.

Namaste – Paul