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

Yoga Pop-up session – Cubbins Green, West Kirby 10:30 on Sunday 27th May 2018

Hi Everyone

Just a quick note to let you know that we are holding another Pop-up yoga session on Sunday 27th May at 10:30am at Cubbins Green , Macdona Drive, West Kirby.

Following on from the success of our Pop-up sessions last year, all the lovely feedback and requests to do more, we are really looking forward to this years run of Pop-up yoga.

The weather forecast looks great and the tide will be in so it’ll be lovely practicing facing the sea and looking out across the estuary from the cliffs.

We will meet at the end of Macdona Drive at the gate which leads on to the cliffs at 10:30am.

Please bring a yoga mat if you have one, some water, suncream and a blanket / jumper for relaxation in case there is a cool breeze. Some yoga mats will be available on the day if you need to borrow one.

We will be teaching a traditional Hatha Yoga class with a breathing exercise, postures and a nice guided relaxation to finish. The cost for the class is £5 for adults and £3 for children. If brining children please download, complete and bring with you, a consent form from our website under Student Resources. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

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There are lots of lovely cafe’s and pubs nearby in West Kirby to grab lunch / refreshments after the session.

Here is a picture and a map of where we will be meeting;

Here is a link to the Facebook event on our page Yogasmiths;

Pop-up Yoga Facebook event link

Any queries please do not hesitate to get in touch either via our Facebook page at;

Yogasmiths Facebook page

or email us at enquiries@yogasmiths.org

We look forward to seeing you there!

Paul & Steve x

Beach Yoga Pop-up at Red Rocks, Hoylake – Sunday 20th May 2018 at 10:30am

Hi Everyone

Just a quick note to let you know that we are holding our first Pop-up yoga session of 2018 on Sunday 20th May at 10:30am at Red Rocks, Stanley Road, Hoylake.

Following on from the success of our Pop-up sessions last year, all the lovely feedback and requests to do more, we are really looking forward to this.

The weather forecast looks great and we have checked the tide times!!

We will meet at the end of Stanley Road, Hoylake at the gate which leads on to the beach at 10:30am.

Please bring a yoga mat if you have one, some water, suncream and a blanket / jumper for relaxation in case there is a cool breeze. Some yoga mats will be available on the day if you need to borrow one.

We will be teaching a traditional Hatha Yoga class with a breathing exercise, postures and a nice guided relaxation to finish. The cost for the class is £5.

beach relaxation

There are lots of lovely cafe’s and pubs nearby in Hoylake to grab lunch / refreshments after the session.

Here is a picture and a map of where we will be meeting;

Here is a link to the Facebook event on our page Yogasmiths;

Beach Yoga Pop-up Red Rocks

Any queries please do not hesitate to get in touch either via our Facebook page at;

Yogasmiths Facebook page

or email us at enquiries@yogasmiths.org

We look forward to seeing you there!

Paul & Steve x

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Mental Health Awareness Week – Mindfulness taster session for UK Bike and Go / Merseyrail – West Kirby

Thank you to all the lovely cyclists that came to our morning Mindfulness taster session. This was held on the cliffs at Cubbins Green in West Kirby. The event was organised by Merseyrail (@Merseyrail) and the UK Bike and Go (@UKBikeandgo) scheme where you can hire bicycles from train stations across the UK.

You can find further details and information on UK Bike and Go here;

https://www.bikeandgo.co.uk

We were pleased to take part in this event to highlight Mental Health Awareness week which runs from 14th -20th May 2018.  The focus this year is on stress and how we cope with it.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

Exercise such as cycling (and yoga!) and a mindful purposeful relaxation meditation practice are great tools in tackling stress and its effects.

Mindfulness of breathing and yoga breathing exercises can help reduce the stress response in the body and help us to find a calmer experience of the present moment.

Research has shown that two thirds of people experience a mental health problem in their lifetime and that stress is a key factor. Finding practices to help reduce stress and to   deal with stressful situations is a helpful way of trying to find a calmer more peaceful experience.

Cubbins Green provided the perfect setting for the guided Mindfulness relaxation session with lots of beautiful birdsong and sunshine!

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Well Being Yoga Fest BWY Congress 2018 23rd-25th March 2018

We had a great time at this years British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) Yoga Fest at Warwick University. We thought we would report back on the weekend to share it with you all.

We arrived at Warwick Uni in the afternoon, checked in to our accommodation and went and picked up our session tickets and welcome packs.

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My first session was with a lovely Italian Yoga Teacher called Elena which was called “Lost in Translation: Intelligent and functional sequencing.” This was a great session with lots of wonderful detailed instruction moving through some simple yet very strengthening movements.

After a delicious lunch was one of the headline sessions of the weekend, a talk by Dr Timothy McCall on the Holistic Science of Yoga Therapy. Dr McCall is an American MD and explained his approach to yoga therapy. He has published a book compiling all of the papers and evidence on the efficacy of yoga for a range of different ailments. To date I think he has a list of 101 conditions that yoga has been proven to help by scientific studies. Here is a link to the list off his website;

101 Health Conditions Helped By Yoga

And here is a link to his website too;

Dr McCall’s website

This talk was then followed by a presentation on the work carried out with the NHS. This was delivered by The Minded Institute’s Heather Mason and was titled Yoga in the NHS. Heather detailed the 10 week NHS pilot scheme that has been run in London and the very positive initial findings from this study. These results will be written up and a paper published in the future. Hopefully this will roll out nationwide! Heather is a director of the Yoga in Health Care Alliance which is a social enterprise, here is a link to their website;

Yoga in Health Care Alliance

On Saturday our first session was with our yoga mamma Carol Price! We did our British Wheel of Yoga training with Carol Price and Paul Fox in Salford and are good friends with both of them. We always call Carol our Yoga Mamma! The session was a beautiful flowing sequence focusing on Dividing the Yogic Body. There is always something to learn from great teachers such as Carol and we came away with plenty of ideas for our classes!

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The next session we attended was a very interesting and informative session with Jo Creaser about Social Prescribing / working in a deprived area of Norfolk. This was an informal conversational session and it was great to learn how Jo had brought yoga to deprived areas in Norfolk and the continuing good work she is doing with people of all ages. Here is a link to Jo’s website;

The Yoga Nook

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Another headline session followed delivered by the American author Elliot Goldberg who wrote the fantastic book The Path of Modern Yoga. Elliot talked about some of the key players in the field of yoga and the development of traditional yoga into the modern yoga class we know and love. Elliot’s book is a wonderful read and busts a lot of myths about yoga and its origins!

The British Wheel of Yoga AGM followed with a presentation on all the hard work and progress made by the NEC over the last year. It made us feel very proud to be members of the BWY.

The next session for me was an Ashtanga Yoga workshop with Scott Johnson and Andy Gill. I was so glad that they were here again after attending their great sessions last year. They are such intelligent and intuitive teachers and their approach to Ashtanga is very inspiring. With the help of my good friend Sharlene I was able to fold forwards into the most comfortable and deepest version of Paschimottanasana that I had ever done!

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In the evening there was a very entertaining lesson in Argentine Tango! This fitted in perfectly to the Yoga Fest, the mindful movement of the body to the music really resonated with the yoga practitioners and teachers present. I had the pleasure of dancing with two lovely people, Nina (pictured below) and a Yoga Teacher from Southport called Pam. Next stop Strictly Come Dancing!

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After the clocks turning forward an hour overnight the 6am Ashtanga Yoga class was tough to get up for but I managed it. In reality it was 5am to my body clock! The class was led by Scott Johnson and Andy Gill and was a lovely way to start the morning. Here is a link to their websites;

Scott Johnson Still Point Yoga London

Andy Gill

We had a little break then in the sunshine and had some fun being photographed!

After a final session on Wellbeing and Yoga Therapy and we then attended the closing of the weekend with a talk from The Indian High Commissioner and Amarjeet Bhama from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Traditional Indian Science. The UK is at the forefront of trying to integrate yoga into health care and this is an emerging area to look  out for!

A leisurely trip home along the A-roads through Cheshire and the BWY YogaFest was over for another year. It goes much too quickly!

BWY Yogafest is open to all BWY members both yoga student and yoga teacher members. To join the BWY follow the link below;

Join BWY

All photographs are either my own or Tori Williams.

First Annual Yogasmiths Christmas Get Together – Thursday 21st December 8.30pm – West Kirby Arts Centre

As a thank you to all our class members who have supported us throughout this year we are hiring West Kirby Arts Centre for the whole evening of Thursday 21st December!

Our Yogasmiths Christmas party will start straight after class at 8.30pm. All of our students from our Pensby, Hoylake and West Kirby classes past and present are welcome to come along and join in the festivities! Dress code is anything goes although Christmas jumpers, hats, etc are positively encouraged.

Entry is of course free! We only ask that attendees bring along snacks/food if possible for a buffet to share with your fellow friends/yoga students. Any contribution big or small is welcome. There will also be a bar open for those who wish to have a Christmas tipple. Of course soft drinks will also be available.

There will be the usual Christmas music in our first annual Yogasmiths Disco (Yogasmithsco)……think Mariah, the Pogues, Phil Spector’s Christmas album etc…and we will be more than happy to take requests!

We look forward to welcoming you to our Yogasmiths Christmas get together!

Further details available on our Facebook page : Facebook event page

See you all there

Paul & Steve x

Yogasmiths Gift Vouchers – Ideal Xmas or birthday present

We are pleased to announce that we have Gift Vouchers available for purchase.

These are an ideal gift for our regular class attendees and also for anyone who may be interested in coming to one of our classes.

The gift vouchers can be made out for any amount that you want, we would suggest maybe one of the following;

  • One public class £6
  • A block of 6 public classes £33
  • A block of 6 Gentle Years Yoga classes £33 (starting in Hoylake on Friday 12th January @ 10:30am @ Hoylake Parade Community Centre )
  • A one hour private one to one yoga session £35 (in West Kirby)
  • A one hour private one to one yoga session £40 (in West Wirral) (Enquire for costs for elsewhere)
  • A block of ten private one to one yoga sessions £300
  • or any other amount to suit your budget

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The gift vouchers come with an envelope to place them in.

The vouchers can be purchased and collected from one of our classes or alternatively we can send them out in the post at cost price.

Namaste

Paul & Steve

West Kirby Light Opera Society – Stars in their Eyes night!

Tia and Ben, two of our regular yoga students at our weekly Hoylake Yoga class kindly invited us to attend the West Kirby Light Opera Society Stars in their Eyes night.

It was held in Westbourne Hall and was a fantastic night out. Steve and I took my mum to see it and we all had a great time.

All of the performers were wonderful. There was Johnny Cash, Kate Bush, The Supremes, Michael Buble, Dean Martin, K D Lang, George Michael, Roy Orbison, Shirley Bassey, Taylor Swift, Bewitched, Tina Turner, Cindy Lauper, Nancy Sinatra, Grace Jones and more! The Winner was the very fierce Grace Jones. She had everyone on the edge of their seats wondering if they were going to be picked on from a very in character temperamental Grace Jones!

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We were overwhelmed by Tia who performed as Shirley Bassey, Kate Bush and Diana Ross and the Supremes. Our personal favourite was her turn as Kate Bush performing Wuthering Heights complete with the famous dance!

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The Yoga has got to help with a dance routine like this;

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Ben too was in fine voice as the man in black Johnny Cash performing Ring of Fire, complete with a Tijuana Brass man in the background!

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Tia is heavily involved in putting the night together and is also a key member of the West Kirby Light Opera society. The night was a great success and we will be sure to return next year!

Check out the website for the West Kirby Light Opera Society and their up coming events here;

West Kirby Light Opera Society

Paul

Spotlight on – Esperanza Holistics – West Kirby

One of our regular West Kirby yoga students Ludmila has her own business, Esperanza Holistics, based in West Kirby.

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Ludmila offers Reflexology, Indian Head Massage, Reiki, Deep Tissue massage, Seated Acupressure massage; either as individual treatments, or usually as a wonderful combination.

Both of us had a lovely massage from Ludmila and we both felt fantastic afterwards. We have booked in for another and I think we will make it a regular thing! We have both had a number of massages before and Ludmila provided one of the best massages we have ever had, we highly recommend her!

A combination of a regular yoga practice and regular massage is a recipe for good physical and mental health.

Esperanza Holistics is situated in a specially dedicated room in a family house, in the centre of West Kirby.

Find out more information at Ludmila’s website at;

Esperanza Holistics

Namaste

Paul & Steve

World Mental Health Day 10th October 2017

It is World Mental Health day today, Tuesday 10th October 2017. Most people suffer at some point during their life with a mental health problem.

This can range from a period of work related stress and anxiety to a more complex mental health condition. Sometimes these challenges can come right out of the blue and hit us.

Yoga is an excellent way of helping to build our resilience to mental health challenges and is also a wonderful recuperative practice.

Both Steve and I have used yoga to help us at various times in our lives. We first ventured to a yoga class when Steve was living with depression and we thought we would see if it would help. Steve found that the yoga really helped him and was a step towards recovery. I also found that the yoga helped me in many ways and I hadn’t realised that I needed it! That was the start of our regular yoga practice that has lead us to becoming yoga teachers!

I have also used yoga and breathing techniques to deal with periods of work related anxiety when I was working in middle management. Yoga techniques can provide you with the space that is all so important when the mind feels so busy and full.

There is an excellent article written by Dr Mercola titled Yoga Benefits Your Brain Function and Mental Health.

The following is an extract from it and there is a link to the full article below;

Why Yoga Is so Beneficial for Your Brain

Over the years, a number of studies have honed in on the brain benefits of yoga. For example, studies have found that:

Twenty minutes of Hatha yoga improves your brain function (speed and accuracy of mental processing) to a greater degree than 20 minutes of aerobic exercise (jogging).5,6 Potential mechanisms include enhanced self-awareness and reduced stress.

Yoga helps improve mental health, including psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.7,8,9,10

Some of the studies suggest yoga can have a similar effect to antidepressants and psychotherapy.

Yoga helps improve teenagers’ emotional resilience and ability to manage anger. As noted by yoga educator and writer Iona Smith:11

“During adolescence, the frontal lobes of the brain (the seat of language and reason) are still being formed, leaving teens to overly rely on their amygdala (the seat of emotions) …

The brain’s malleability during adolescence marks a crucial stage in both cognitive and emotional development.

Luckily, researchers are now able to paint a clearer picture of some of the factors that allow students to thrive throughout high school and into adulthood, such as self-awareness, managing distressing emotions, empathy, and navigating relationships smoothly.

When students hone these skills, they are not only happier and healthier emotionally, but are also better able to focus on academics.”

By improving stress-related imbalances in your nervous system, yoga can help relieve a range of symptoms found in common mental health disorders.

Researchers also believe yoga can be helpful for conditions like epilepsy, chronic pain, depression, anxiety and PTSD by increasing brain chemicals like gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA).12

 

Here is a link to the full article;

Yoga and the Brain – Dr Mercola article

We always ensure in our Traditional Hatha Yoga classes that we teach our students a range of different breathing exercises and different guided relaxation so that everyone can find one to suit themselves that they can use in their day to day lives.

Namaste

Paul