What yoga teacher has had the most influence on you?
RACHAEL: I have been lucky enough to have met and been taught by some really amazing teachers over the last 16 years . Each one in their own way has had an impact not only in my own evolving practice but the way I develop as a teacher myself. I really do believe you are drawn to particular teachers/styles of yoga at certain times in your life that will enrich and evolve your practice as well as yourself as an individual. My very first yoga teacher was Camyoga's Iyengar teacher Karen Stamper. Karen had a huge impact on me as she was responsible for igniting this little flame in me that has lead me to where I am today. My first pregnancy teacher Francoise Freedman was also hugely influential in demonstrating to me just how powerful and transformative the practice of yoga could truly be. More recently, vinyasa flow teacher Claire Missingham and Beverley Nolan have continued to inspire me with their knowledge and passion for this beautiful, ever constant but evolving practice.
Which is your least favourite yoga pose?
RACHAEL: Hmmm, tricky! I think that actually depends on whats going on for me at the time and as cliche as it sounds, the ones you don't particularly enjoy are usually the ones that can offer you the most ! Core strengthening poses are always challenging for me, as are arm balances for the simple reason that they are hard work and extremely humbling!! However, the flip side of that is that there is always somewhere to be aiming for, to keep you interested and switched on to the sensations in your body as they arise. It is a constant voyage of discovery so whats not to like!
What is the best way to build up strength for chaturanga? I find lowering down slowly really difficult as my arms are quite weak.?
RACHAEL: Chaturanga is a really strong demanding pose and although visited frequently in a flow class is often not 'taught' in a step by step way. To avoid injury, Chaturanga demands huge core and upper body strength as well as careful attention to alignment. Whilst building up towards the full pose, there are a few ways of building the upper body strength required. One way is to practice against the wall. Stand a few feet away, arms level with the chest. Slowly lower toward the wall, bending the elbows so the forearms are at a right angle and the forehead comes to the wall. Hold for a breath (or two!) and then slowly press back. Gradually build up the number of times you can comfortably repeat this. Other ways to build the necessary strength is to come to plank and before lowering, lower the knees to the ground before lowering your body or come to the knees, chest and chin variation both of which develop your strength and awareness of alignment. Dolphin (forearm dog) and forearm plank are also great for building core and upper body strength. In terms of your alignment, always ensure your wrists are in line with your shoulders and never 'behind' as this can cause huge stress in the wrist joint.