A Q&A with Ali Cellini

Name:  Ali Cellini

Hometown:  this should be a short answer question but it never is for me! I grew up in Kenya – a small town called Malindi, though now my family is all in Nairobi. That is home, but England has also always felt like home as I grew up partially (on and off) here!


Training background:  I trained at a school called Purusha Yoga in San Francisco, where we studied in the Raja Yoga tradition – focused on Hatha, stemming into versions like Vinyasa, Yin, Restorative. Studying at Purusha was amazing as Joy Ravelli, the head instructor and owner of the studio, has been training teachers for more than 20 years, and the breadth of her experience, and that of the other teachers there, gave us a really in-depth well-rounded view on teaching, anatomy and the history and philosophy of yoga – enough to know that we were only scratching the surface and there is always so much more to learn!

What is your favourite yoga pose and why:  Downward dog. Well there are a few... but I'm going to stick with downward dog. I love it. It is essential. It is place where you don't have a reason to forget any part of the body – in it I can be aware of all things, and the connection between all things, and simultaneously it is a place of great surrender. I can feel the ground. I can feel my spine's length. It is hard work and then also shifts into almost feeling restorative at times. In those moments it feels like home. The place to return to and feel like everything is right in the world. 

What is your least favourite yoga pose and why:  Hmmm, well I'd say that I actually kind of love my least favourite poses! For example, gomukhasana – cow face pose – is so very uncomfortable in my body, but it offers me the special practice of finding ease in a place of difficulty... and afterwards I always feel better for it. It's also part of becoming more self-aware, and noticing the things you really need (sometimes not what you're naturally drawn to). It's not about feeling good right now, but about the health and benefits (and perhaps good feelings in those) that come over time.

What is one of your mantras?  Something like "Let what comes, come." I think often , in some form, about releasing the hold on things and the idea of control. And letting what is going to be, be. We do what we can, but we cannot control everything. It's about being decisive and also flexible – committed, but fluid. Being here with what is right now.


Do you have a go-to practice to get you through busy or challenging times?  Music. In any form. I sing, so singing really helps me. But listening to music, being surrounded and engulfed by it, and singing – besides yoga, that has helped me through the most difficult moments and feelings. I could sit and do that for hours in times of sadness. I put the music on and am driven by it in times of busyness. With the right music on, I feel like I can do anything. And tea. And long showers. I find that anything that is a "pause," or that helps to slow down time, helps you in the long run because you realise that everything that needs to get done will, and everything else won't matter.

What can students expect from your yoga classes?  In yoga, I found the ability to clear the space, to not feel surrounded, to release – I strive to channel this experience to others. To me yoga is like a dance; it is an expressive bodily language, and in it we move and search for the "sweet spots". My practice and my classes exist around this opportunity for clarity and expression – they are focused, challenging but accessible to all, but above all they are fun and inclusive. You will hear a lot of music – mostly unexpected! – and you will be provided with a place where you can come as you are (intentional Nirvana reference...). I believe in hard work and creating heat (tapas) where it counts and has purpose, but balancing this with softness and ease.


Where did you last go on holiday? Did you take your mat? My last holiday was in December and was actually my honeymoon! It was in Malta, was barely planned and was a beautiful, unexpected surprise of a place. I admit I did not take my mat as I was specifically there to have a break from EVERYTHING – we walked, ate, explored, and slept 10 hours every night! My practice in that period was to fully restore, and I'd say it was a massive success!

Something we may not know about you…   Well, there are so many things... I am a big Trekkie. A Star Trek fan. Very big. I love stories in general, fantasy and science fiction above all. And I do not watch TV. But Star Trek is something I will always watch. Next Generation is my number 1. But is followed very closely by the Original Series and DS9. And yes, I have related many, many things from Star Trek to yoga ...and used them in classes.

Live long and prosper.


Catch Ali teaching at CAMYOGA:

Monday nights 20.00 at Mitcham's Corner. Click here to book.


Find out more about Ali on her website here.

What is Forrest Yoga?

People get so confused with the name "Forrest Yoga", especially since I'm a tree-hugging sort of person. Their faces tend to drop when I say that Forrest Yoga is named after Ana Forrest, and nothing to do with trees!  Then I explain, and their faces light up again.


Forrest Yoga was created by Ana Forrest over the years as a tool to carry out her life's mission of "mending the hoop of the people". Ana Forrest used yoga to heal herself from a traumatic childhood which she describes in her book Fierce Medicine.  This means that Forrest Yoga is at heart a practice of self-healing, and also that healing in the emotional body is given careful attention. It doesn't necessarily mean you'll cry in class - but you will most likely learn to breathe in a way that releases stuck emotions and helps you to ride the intense feelings that come up when you go into a deep pose.


 Ana Forrest - Image from www.forrestyoga.com

Ana Forrest - Image from www.forrestyoga.com

One day Ana Forrest, already a yoga teacher, was meeting a friend at a cafe. The floor collapsed underneath one of the chairlegs, catapulting her forwards, and, mid-air, to avoid a brain injury, she twisted in a way that injured her back. Whilst teaching for several months laid flat on the floor with her eyes closed (Ana Forrest can "See" energy and was able to correct her students' energetic misalignments without normal looking), she further developed her practice to enhance its potential for healing.  Forrest Yoga is amazing for self-healing any type of injury but it's revolutionary to those with back pain.  


Hallmark differences between Forrest and other styles include abdominal exercises, a relaxed neck and active feet.  It manages to be intense but accessible at the same time, and it's a very different experience from a vinyasa flow class, as poses are held and there is internal exploration during the longer holds. 

Coming up

 We are excited to be hosting Forrest Yoga Guardian Jambo Truong in April

We are excited to be hosting Forrest Yoga Guardian Jambo Truong in April

The Functional Anatomy of Yoga with Forrest Yoga Guardian Jambo Truong
April 21-22

More info and book here.

Jambo's workshop this April will be an amazing chance to see the cutting edge of Forrest Yoga, where researched anatomy meets asana.  Jambo is an expert in his field and he has a distinctive teaching style, looking deeply into the energetic patterns in the body as well as the precise muscles and tendons being worked. He is also a brilliant breath teacher and his breathing tuition alone will provide lasting value even without the other treats in store at the workshop. Don't expect it to be dry or boring either, as "hands-on" is likely to be an understatement: anatomy for Jambo has to be experienced internally to be understood. Expect to be entranced in sage smoke, drenched in sweat and to laugh till you cry, and then to hug everyone in sight.  That's the cutting edge of Forrest Yoga - take it or leave it!

You can discover the joy of Forrest Yoga at CAMYOGA with our regular classes below:

Rosalind Southward on Mondays at Central 6:30-7:45
Hannah Floyd at Mitcham's 6:30-7:45.

Click here to view our weekly schedule and to book.

 Forrest Yoga Teacher, Hannah Floyd

Forrest Yoga Teacher, Hannah Floyd

Thanks to Hannah Floyd for contributing this article for our blog!

Do you love Forrest yoga? Tell us what inspires you about this style of yoga in the comments.

Find out more about Forrest Yoga on the Forrest Yoga website here.


Hannah EllisComment
*New Literary Yoga Classes with Jessica Lawrence

You might have been wondering what a couple of our new classes are all about - Literary Vinyasa Flow and Literary Yin Restorative.... We are very excited to announce brand new classes with one of our most popular teachers, Jessica Lawrence, find out more below...


Literary Yoga Classes



"Growing up I could never quite contain myself to single areas of learning; I was a certified bookworm with a love of foreign linguistics and a penchant for dissection and astronomy, with an intense sideline in ballet. I studied Classical Greek at university so that I could understand myths and verbal morphology better and then went to work in publishing so that I could read other people’s ideas on everything from Baedecker to bike couriering.

What I am trying to say is that I have always found the world to be too huge to avoid being multi disciplinary.

So I decided as soon as I knew that I wanted to be a yoga teacher that I would want some help along the way from voices far more eloquent than mine. Combining my lifelong love of literature with my classes made complete sense to me from the beginning; the basic principles of yoga and a yogic life are a blueprint for making the most of human nature - and human nature is what almost every piece of literature deals with. Bringing two of my disciplines together has expanded both for me and aids in communicating complex and subtle lessons to my students, with the help of the beautiful words of the world’s best and wisest authors and the greatest tool any of us has - our bodies. 


In my classes students can expect to explore elements of yoga philosophy, using novels or meditative non fiction as a thematic framework and the ancient wisdom of yoga and the physical manifestations of this in asana as a practical method of application.

The first of my Tuesday evening classes - Literary Vinyasa Flow
is all of the above with dynamic, creative, dance-like flows and more than a bit of levity, because one thing I take from my multi-disciplinary approach to life is that nothing should be taken too seriously.

The second class - Literary Yin Restorative will use its slower pace and quieter mood to explore one short story or poem within each 75 minutes. Working somewhere between yin and restorative and building up to and down from one single vinyasa we’ll have the time and the space to follow and absorb a simple philosophy from a short piece of literature, using the words as a metronome for peaceful sequences of poses. 

My aim in life has always been to expand my understanding in every direction and I hope you’ll join me in my classes for the ride."

Join Jessica for her NEW regular classes at Great Shelford

Literary Vinyasa Flow
Tuesdays 18:30
Book here

Literary Yin Restorative
Tuesdays 20:00
Book here

Can't make Tuesdays?
Jessica teaches a flow class every Sunday at Great Shelford. 18.30 Book here.

CAMYOGA Bursary Student Leads Fight Against Eating Disorders

CAMYOGA Bursary Student Leads Fight Against Eating Disorders

- by James Downs

I started attending CAMYOGA in November 2016, after a long time of telling myself that “I really ought to go back to yoga soon”. Although I had tried yoga years ago - at a very different point in my life - I would be the first to admit that my knowledge of yoga at this point was quite limited. In this sense, coming to CAMYOGA was the beginning of a whole new journey for me. At the same time however, it came with a feeling of ‘coming home’, returning to something I had a profound sense of connection with. 

Despite not really seeing myself as a yogi back then, I somehow had a sense of confidence and trust in the process of becoming a yoga teacher. As I started to go regularly to classes at CAMYOGA, it seemed as though something was slowly being revealed in me that had been there all along. With every pose I learnt, I was uncovering a greater sense of knowing that yoga was something that simply had to be a part of my life. 

Of course, the idea of becoming a teacher was a scary and uncertain one - would I be any good? Was my practice good enough? Would anyone come to my classes? These anxieties however paled into insignificance when I reminded myself of my long recovery from severe anorexia and bulimia since my mid-teens. My life-threatening struggle with eating disorders showed me that if I could cope with that, I could cope with almost anything. For many years, my eating disorder had ground me down and taken away opportunities, time and health. Now however, I took a sense of confidence from tackling such a difficult condition that I (and even the doctors who treated me) thought I would never recover from. Now I was ready.


I already had so many ideas of what I could do with my teacher training: so many ways in which I  could use yoga for the good of others. I had a strong background as a mental health campaigner, having organised events to raise awareness and funds for mental health. From charity concerts and vegan cake sales to political hustings and speaking in Parliament, it seems natural to me to use and share personal talents to make a difference. In the same way, I had benefitted from yoga myself, and so I wanted to share it with others, hoping that they might find it useful for their own wellbeing or even as part of recovery from an eating disorder. 

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The CAMYOGA Bursary has helped make my dream of using yoga to help other people experiencing eating disorders a reality. All of the plans and ideas I had, as wonderful as they may have been, would simply not have happened without the financial support of the teacher training Bursary. Soon after qualifying, I organised a “Yoga Against Eating Disorders” fundraising event, where I taught a class in my home city of Cardiff, raising funds for the Service for High Risk Eating Disorders in South East Wales. They had saved my life, and ever since being discharged I have worked with them to improve the support for other people going through similar difficulties. Having seen first-hand the level of pressure on their resources, I know that the £1000 that was raised at the yoga event will make a huge difference. 

I believe that there is so much potential for yoga to help people experiencing all kinds of mental and emotional difficulties - especially where these relate to the relationship between mind and body and anxieties around body image. Of course, yoga can be used unhelpfully and we can punish ourselves by pushing into pain, comparing ourselves to perfect Instagram photos and reinforcing unhelpful patterns of behaviour. This was certainly how I encountered yoga for the first time, when I would push my emaciated body in intense yoga classes to the point of passing out or being asked to leave the class. Because of this, I am especially passionate about promoting ways of practicing yoga that are beneficial for our mental health. Practicing yoga in a very compassionate way is what has given me the confidence to use my own body to help others to learn, and helped changed the way I think about my body from something I once wanted to destroy to something worth nurturing and celebrating.

James presenting at a National eating disorders conference in Brighton earlier this month

To try and help promote yoga as a therapeutic rather than competitive or punitive practice, I’m trying to take my own personal experience and beliefs about yoga into my campaigning and academic work. On November 17th I gave a presentation and lead a workshop on the benefits of yoga at a national eating disorders conference in Brighton, exploring issues such a self image, body dissatisfaction and exercise in relation to eating problems. This builds upon outreach events I have already done with the wider student body at Cambridge University, at my own college here, and through teaching at NHS England on World Mental Health Day. As a psychology student, I am hoping to further my connection with the Service for High Risk Eating Disorders as part of my Masters thesis, and have set up an honorary contract with the service to teach yoga on a 1-1 basis with patients. Watch this space!

What strikes me most when I look back on my journey into teaching yoga is how much I’ve relied on the support not just of myself, but of so many people around me. Yoga is all about connection, union, joining. I have been so lucky to have everything fall into place at the right time, and all the necessary dots join together to make becoming a yoga teacher happen. A fundamental part of this was the CAMYOGA bursary, which enabled me to learn from inspiring teachers during an amazing teacher training. It helped me to find the support of tutors and fellow trainees, and I have continued to be supported by CAMYOGA as a graduate. Of course, I continue to learn from my students every time I teach. 

The generosity of the Bursary scheme motivates me to be generous with what I’ve learnt. Having the chance to use my skills towards making a real difference to others - especially for those struggling with eating disorders - has been hugely rewarding. For me, this is an example of what yoga is all about. 


Find out more about our Teacher Training Diplomas here.

Want to have a chat about Teacher Training at CAMYOGA? Give us a call on 01223 840700 or email tt@camyoga.co.uk


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How a CAMYOGA bursary is helping people affected by breast cancer

A beautiful letter from Louise, a 200hr Intensive Teacher Training graduate, who has taken the skills learnt on the teacher training course and is using them to make a significant change in peoples lives. 


Being awarded a CAMYOGA bursary has been life-changing for me and enabled me to bring the gentle healing power of yoga to a group who really need and appreciate it. Let me explain….

I’ve ‘dabbled’ in yoga off and on over the years, but would say that I truly fell in love with it five years ago when a substitute teacher arrived to take our gym class. This was my introduction to Sanskrit, chanting, pranayama and yoga nidra and I was immediately hooked! I remember going home to my husband and saying, “that’s the kind of yoga I want to do!”. I managed to track that inspirational teacher down, became her student and began my own studies: reading the yoga ‘classics’; attending workshops and retreats; and was lucky enough to spend time in two ashrams (Sivananda, Kerala and Shekinashram (bhakti yoga), Glastonbury) – both of which were profound experiences that I would recommend to anyone…

Louise and her cohort

Although I’ve had CFS/ME and Fibromyalgia for 17 years I was doing OK and had a great job working for the Environment Agency (a brilliant employer for anyone with a disability). Then I got breast cancer. Twice. The treatment, including five operations within three years, saved my life but was too much for my body and led to a severe CFS/ME relapse meaning I had to give up work. It was during that difficult time that I truly began to really appreciate the more subtle practices and that yoga really is for ‘every body’. As Krishnamacharya said, “if you can breathe you can do yoga”. I’d wanted to take yoga teacher-training for a couple of years, not with the intention of teaching, but rather because my self-directed learning had left me with more questions than answers! This dream now seemed impossible - I was unable to work, money was tight, and my personal practice had diminished considerably due to my health problems. Head well stuck into the ‘self-pity potty’ I was having a big old moan to my husband when he just looked at me and said, “but Louise, you could teach people like you”. Wow. Talk about ‘light-bulb’ moment. Of course I could! I could share all the yoga techniques that had helped me physically, psychologically and spiritually through those difficult times with others affected by breast cancer. I’d already shortlisted CAMYOGA as a preferred training provider when I’d initially researched courses so, excited and inspired, I went straight to their website.

I had no idea until that moment that they offered a “bursary scheme for those who can demonstrate their qualification will be used to teach in a community who will receive a high level of benefit as a direct result of the applicant’s work as a teacher”. So, full of hope and anxiety, I applied. This involved submitting an outline of my proposal and then an informal phone interview with CAMYOGA’s founder, Louise Palmer-Masterton. Fortunately, she believed both in the viability and value of my proposal (research has shown the benefit of practising yoga, mindfulness, and meditation for people affected by breast cancer) but also my commitment to, and passion for it. Louise also encouraged me not to let my disability hold me back. I was really worried about how I would cope with the ‘intensive’ part of the training but arrangements were made for me to rest as much as I needed to and the sense of achievement I felt on actually completing it was just wonderful.

Louise preparing for class

Once my training was booked, everything started to gather momentum. The local NHS hospital trust was extremely enthusiastic about my proposal and I’ve been working closely with the specialist Macmillan nurse there, Nicky Turner, who has been instrumental in getting the project off the ground – there was a lot of paperwork involved, as you can imagine! I might not be well enough to work, but can volunteer two hours of my time each week. For me, it is both my karma yoga and my dharma. And by volunteering I can ensure that the other part of my vision can be fulfilled i.e. that the sessions be free for participants. Having any form of cancer can be a massive financial burden and I wanted them to be as inclusive as possible.

Having worked in education previously, and already being qualified to teach adults, I had both high standards and high expectations of the CAMYOGA course. I can honestly say they were exceeded in every way and that I would not hesitate to recommend CAMYOGA training to others. The course has not only consolidated and extended my existing learning but also given me the confidence and skill-set to be a knowledgeable, safe and compassionate teacher. I had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve, and arrived at the intensive with my six-week plan roughed out (cancer-related themes using the chakras as a framework), but lacked confidence as to their viability and my ability to ‘teach’, to convey and share what I hoped to, so especially valuable to me was the way the training has engendered confidence within me to ‘teach from the heart’, be authentic, and to teach ‘my’ style of yoga. 

I (or rather my husband!) may have had the initial idea, but I am deeply grateful to the whole team of people, including CAMYOGA, who have made it come to fruition, plus a good dose of serendipity of course! The project received a massive boost when I approached the British Wheel of Yoga to see if they could support us in some small way and they responded by generously donating 15 sets of yoga kit (if anyone wants to follow our progress there will be updates on the BWY website, in the ‘news’ section). We are now half-way through the six-week pilot and initial, informal feedback has been encouraging and we even have a waiting list for the next one! Participants have agreed to complete an evaluation questionnaire after the final session, at which point we will undertake a formal review. Lincolnshire is a large rural county and we hope, in 2018, to extend the sessions to the other two main hospitals so they are accessible to people across the county. 

Nicky and I have been surprised and delighted by the amount of interest our small project has generated, not only in local media – we have also been approached by a team from a London hospital who are hoping to set up a similar scheme, which is wonderful. Louise Palmer-Masterton encouraged all of us on the intensive to have a BIG vision of what we wanted to achieve, and mine expanded to become, “free yoga to be available to everyone, through the NHS”. Watch this space!

by Louise (CAMYOGA 200hr Teacher Training Graduate 2017)
Hannah EllisComment