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
Yogasmiths Paul and Steve

Yogasmiths Charity Christmas Raffle 2019

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.

Yogasmiths Paul and Steve, Yogasmiths charity Christmas raffle
Yogasmiths Paul and Steve

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”.

Paul and Steve from Yogasmiths with Robyn and Graham from Wirral's Homeless CIC, Yogasmiths charity Christmas raffle
Paul and Steve from Yogasmiths with Robyn and Graham from Wirral’s Homeless CIC

Cheque and donations handover

Yogasmiths charity Christmas raffle
Paul & Steve handing over the cheque to Georgie from Wirral’s Homeless CIC

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!

Yogasmiths Christmas charity collection of hats, gloves, scarves and underwear

You can check out details of all the prizes that were donated and up for grabs here; https://yogasmiths.org/2019/12/07/yogasmiths-christmas-party-charity-raffle-collection-for-wirrals-homeless-cic/

You can find further details about Wirral’s Homeless CIC here: https://www.facebook.com/Wirralshomeless/

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

BWY Foundation Course 1 Tutor Training in Grantham

As many of you know we spent Tuesday – Friday last week in Grantham on the British Wheel of Yoga foundation course tutor training course led by Belinda Emberson with Dawn Wesselby.

The BWY Foundation Course 1 is a wonderful personal development course for those who want to delve a little deeper into the rich tradition of yoga. It also will give a solid foundation in yoga for those who wish to become yoga teachers.

Paul & Steve with Belinda Emberson!

There were long days of training involved (9am-7pm) and we learnt a lot from the tutors and also from our peers on the course. It was a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and practice how we would deliver the BWY Foundation Course 1.

There were lots of useful practical sessions around planning the course and all the associated paperwork involved. In addition we shared and discussed our favourite yoga texts.

It was an assessed course and I am pleased to say that both of us passed. We will shortly gain the status of being BWY Foundation Course Tutors which is the next rung on the ladder in our yoga journey. Paul had the nerve wrecking slot of being the first to do his presentation on the first day and Steve was second a little later in the day.

On one of the days we were also treated to a fantastic yoga asana session from the lead tutor Belinda. Belinda is a BWY Diploma Course Tutor and also the BWY Foundation Course Officer. It is a privilege to train with such experienced and knowledgable tutors.

It was also great to meet and network with other BWY teachers from across the country and to see some familiar faces that we had met before.

We will be organising our first BWY Foundation Course 1 very soon and look forward to sharing the details with you.

You can find more on Belinda and Dawn at their websites;

https://yogaingravesend.co.uk/

https://www.newdawnyoga.co.uk/

World Book Day 2019 – Svadhyaya (self-study)

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali one of the 8 limbs of Yoga are the Niyama (limb number 2). These are five virtuous behaviours that Patanjali recommends that we cultivate in ourselves. The 4th Niyama is Svadhyaya which translates as self-study.

There are two elements to this idea of self-study. There is the study of the self and there is self directed study. As today is World Book Day I am going to discuss the later.

Svadhyaya as self-directed study is the reading of books that will enrich our lives and allow us to develop in a positive way. This is very much in line with what we would call “life-long learning’.

It is the study and reading of texts / films or documentaries that will enrich our lives and increase our knowledge of ourselves. Modern research has shown that continuing to learn new things late into life can in some cases help to fend off dementia and cognitive decline.

In his book Samadhi, Gregor Maehle interprets Svadhyaya as prioritising the desire to answer the following questions;

  • Who are we?
  • What is our true identity?
  • What is the purpose of our life?

Svadhyaya has quite a life changing implication here around our consumption of such things as newspapers and television. Are we watching television programmes that inspire us and enrich our lives or do we use television as “chewing gum for the eyes”? Are we reading newspapers that educate us or do they instil us with fear of the world? Svadhyaya is mindful consumption of television and media, being aware of how such things make you feel.

Over the years I have reduced my consumption of television dramatically, only choosing to occasionally watch documentaries and films. This has had a positive effect for me, I became aware that often certain television programmes left me feeling annoyed, frustrated or down. Removing this source of negativity can have an uplifting effect on your general mood. This all comes down to mindfulness and having a greater awareness of how such things make you feel. I have found more time to read books and to undertake study. I have always found books to be a rich source of inspiration not just philosophical books or yoga books but also biographies. Biographies can give us a good insight into other peoples experience of life, this can help us foster feelings of empathy and compassion allowing us to put ourselves in the place of the author.

I have always enjoyed reading and this is something that my parents encouraged in me as a little boy. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money but my parents always bought me a new book when I had read my current one. Mum would take me down to Chapter One bookshop in West Kirby and would pick a Willard Price adventure book. These books transported me to exotic lands and exciting adventures and gave me a desire to travel when I was older.

I also loved Enid Blyton. Newton Post Office had a selection of children books and I would love looking at the selection of Famous Five titles. I read some of the Secret Seven books but my favourites were the Famous Five. The escapades of the five and Timmy the dog had me enthralled. Their adventures on Kirin Island felt almost possible for me with Hilbre Island sitting in the estuary. I remember my Dad telling me that smugglers used to use Hilbre Island and this made it all the more exciting and real!

When I was 7 years old we got a lovely little dog called Sandy and she was my “Timmy the dog” from the Famous Five stories. We would have lots of adventures in the fields around Newton, finding dens and watching foxes, rabbits and hares. This sense of exploration and interest in life and nature came directly from the books that I read.

This interest in books and knowledge stayed with me into adulthood and is a continuing gift that my parents gave to me by providing me with books as a child and by taking me for walks in nature.

Today is World Book Day, Thursday 7th March 2019. The impact that reading and access to books can have on a child and the subsequent adult is great. I feel that encouraging reading is as important as ever in this age of modern technology. The purpose and aims of world book day from their website are below;

World Book Day is a registered charity on a mission to give every child and young person a book of their own. It’s also a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.


This is the 22nd year there’s been a World Book Day, and on 7th March 2019, children of all ages will come together to appreciate reading. Very loudly and very happily. The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. That’s why we will be sending schools (including those nurseries and secondary schools that have specially registered to participate), packs of Book Tokens and age-ranged World Book Day Resource Packs (age-ranged into Nursery/Pre-School, Primary and Secondary) full of ideas and activities, display material and more information about how to get involved in World Book Day.

From http://www.worldbookday.com

Support World Book Day in any way that you can, it is a fantastic initiative!

Here is a link to the World Book Day website where there are lots of great resources;

https://www.worldbookday.com

Congratulations to our Duke Of Edinburgh Award Yoga Students!

We have been delighted to have been able to introduce yoga to a group of young women completing the Duke of Edinburgh award via our weekly yoga classes.

Faith, Katie and Maisie have been regular attendees at our weekly classes to fulfil the requirements of the Duke of Edinburgh for physical activity / sport.

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They have been and continue to be regular attendees along with their friend Esme. We have been very pleased with their commitment to their yoga practice and their progression within yoga. It was with great pleasure that we were able to sign off part of their Duke of Edinburgh award as assessors and wish them good luck in completing the rest of their award.

If you are completing the Duke of Edinburgh award why not consider attending yoga classes to satisfy the Sports / physical activity requirements!

As they are all under 16 they attend with a parent / guardian and we are pleased to have 2 of their parents as regular attendees to our classes now as well! If you are interested in attending our yoga classes with somebody under the age of 16 please see the student resources tab on our website for details of consent forms that need to be completed.

Namaste

Paul & Steve

Please see below for information about the Duke of Edinburgh award, taken from their website;

Since its creation in 1956 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, the DofE has gone from strength to strength. Guided by the same set of principles and by young people themselves, it’s as relevant today as it was then. The DofE Award was based on Kurt Hahn’s Moray Badge, run by him while Headmaster at Gordonstoun School.

A flexible programme that helps to develop young people for life and work, the numbers speak for themselves: 93% of participants feel that DofE has helped them to work in a team and 84% feel that they have become a more responsible person.   From 1,000 DofE Awards achieved in year one to 142,961 last year, we have both a rich history and a bright future. Why not let our timeline and our young people tell you more?

The DofE has a positive impact on young people’s lives, in terms of their personal development and employability, and on wider society, from charities gaining active and engaged volunteers to businesses hiring work-ready recruits.

Demand remains high. With increasing numbers of young people wanting to take part in the world’s leading youth achievement award, it’s our ambition to give another one million 14 to 24-year-olds in the UK this life-changing opportunity by 2021.

Thanks to our fantastic team of employees and volunteers and the generous donations made by our supporters, we look forward to doing just that.

Find out more here;

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

Mental Health Awareness Week – helpful tips to deal with stress

At all of our weekly classes this week we discussed Mental Health Awareness Week and the topic for this year which is stress.

Stress has been shown to be one of the main contributory factors in triggering a mental health problem. Research has shown that two thirds of us will experience a mental health problem during our lifetime.

In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness week we decided we would start the conversation about mental health and ask our yoga students to share their tips and ways of dealing with Stress.

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We had our Stress board at all the classes and students all wrote down on a post it note what they do to deal with stress.

At the end of this week we had a mountain of post it notes with lots of helpful tips and ideas. We typed them all up and entered them into a special website of wizardry which came out with a wonderful word cloud with the most common suggestions in a bigger font. Here are the results;

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The top 3 helpful suggestions were going for a walk, talking to someone and doing yoga! Have a look at the word cloud and see if there are any ideas that you may like to try next time you are feeling stressed.

We would like to sincerely thank all of our students for taking part in this activity and sharing their own personal strategies for dealing with stress. Sharing our ideas can help others and remove the perceived stigma around Mental Health. The greater our awareness of Mental Health is and the knowledge that many of us will experience a mental health problem in our lifetime will help those who are suffering in silence. There is no need to suffer in silence, talk and reach out. People have lots of tips and strategies that may help you too.

Paul & Steve