Posts in Yoga
How Yoga Can Help You To Thrive Through University
 
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How Yoga Can Help You To Thrive Through University

by James Downs

Moving to a new town to start university can be both an exciting and daunting experience. Presented with new opportunities to learn, grow and meet people from a diverse range of backgrounds, expectations can be high that our university years will be the time of our lives. But navigating the opportunities and demands of university can be a tricky business.

Whilst many appear to be living their “best lives” here in Cambridge, it doesn’t take much digging to uncover that student life isn’t always that rosey. The stresses of deadlines and exams can take their toll. It can become all too easy to sacrifice sleep, self-care and even our mental and emotional wellbeing for the sake of good grades. Finding a sustainable balance between the work you need to do, and the rest, relaxation and enjoyment that your body and mind need in order to function well, is key.

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This is where yoga comes in. In my experience, yoga can be a great teacher - and not just of postures with strange Sanskrit names. Coming to Cambridge to study psychology and education, I found it almost impossible to juggle all my coursework alongside the many university societies I had joined through a tendency to say “yes” to everything. In the end, this lead to a relapse in problems with eating that I had experienced since my teens. Without looking after my health, it didn’t matter how high my marks were - it wasn’t going to be sustainable. 

I’d always wanted to try yoga, and had heard of CAMYOGA. I’d planned to give it a try, but that plan sat with me for around 6 months - there was always something more important to do than take time out for myself. But eventually, I made it to an open day. Setting foot through the door and stepping onto the mat marked the start of one of the most valuable learning processes I have ever undertaken. Whilst I was studying the mind and behaviour in the classroom, I was learning all kinds of new lessons about myself in the yoga studio. These have helped me to find balance, feel more comfortable in my own body and move with more ease in my day to day life - not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too.

Here are some of the things that practicing yoga has taught me:

  • Letting go of an “all-or-nothing” mindset is key to finding balance.

    The yoga sutras talk about a balance between “effort and ease” when practicing yoga postures. But this is an invaluable lesson for life too. Trying hard and doing your best can be hugely rewarding, but it is never an all-or-nothing game. If we don’t take rest, we can get exhausted and burn out. If we think that anything less than perfection is a failure, we can get paralysed, judge ourselves harshly when we don’t meet expectations, and even stop trying. Yoga teaches acceptance, and working with where you are without the need to be perfect. This can be a great antidote to a perfectionist culture where our performance matters. In yoga, there is no performance, nor any competition - even with yourself.

  • Self-care has to come first.  Self-conduct has a prominent position in the philosophical roots of yoga. The founders of yoga saw our personal code of conduct as intimately related to how we treat others, with principles such as non-harming applying equally to ourselves and those we encounter. The physical practice of yoga is never about getting into a posture whatever the costs - risking injury and exhaustion just to get the perfect handstand or split. The same applies to university life - getting good grades should never come at the cost of your health. Carving out a space where you can step out of the demands of study won’t cost you marks - it will give the body and mind a chance to rest, improving your focus when you need it. Self-care isn’t just an act of generosity to yourself, either. Looking after yourself gives you more resources to contribute to your friendships and share in the enjoyable parts of being at university too.

  • Mindfulness matters. Being as attentive as possible to the present moment, without judgement or wishing things were different, is central to yoga. When on the mat, we try to notice when our minds rehash the day we had before coming to the studio - or when thoughts rush onto whatever we have to do after class finishes. When the mind is so active, sticking with our movement and breath can be so difficult. The same is true in other areas of life. For example, when working on an essay or project for university, it helps to be able to focus on the here and now, rather than mentally rushing ahead to all the other things we need to do. Letting go of the things you can’t control - whether that’s the way your hips are shaped or the grades you were unhappy with - helps. Many of us only go to uni for a limited amount of time. Learning to appreciate the present moment can help us to fully notice that experience whilst it is here. 

Whether you are new to yoga, returning to practice, or an experienced yogi moving to Cambridge,  coming to classes at Camyoga might just help you as much as it helped me. Finding balance might start with wobbling your way through tree pose. But over time, yoga can also help you find a way to balance university life - with all its challenges and rewards.


 
From School Teacher to Yoga Teacher
 
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Like many Yogis, my Yoga journey began as a physical practice. After watching a documentary called “Happy” I decided that I needed Yoga in my life and I took part in the ‘Bad Yogi 30 Day Yoga challenge’. From there I was hooked! I joined a local gym that offered Yoga classes and started doing some ‘Yoga Challenges’ on Instagram to learn new poses!

Fast forward a few years and I decided I really wanted to deepen my Yoga practice and use my teaching skills (I am a Secondary School Music teacher) to perhaps teach some Yoga classes!

I found out about CAMYOGA at the OM Yoga show in London - they seemed so relaxed and friendly and they offered a 2 week intensive course in  August, which fit my school holidays perfectly! I spoke to some of my Yoga teachers at the gym and they all spoke so highly about CAMYOGA’s reputation and high standard of training, so I knew I’d picked the right course.

The 2 weeks intensive training honestly changed my life. My understanding and love of Yoga grew so much and my mind was opened up to the philosophical and spiritual aspects of Yoga that made me realise Yoga is so much more than what happens on the mat. It opened me up to a daily meditation practice that I honestly feel has had a huge impact on my day to day life. I loved exploring my own physical practice and realising that there was so much ego involved that I needed to remove to really deepen and develop. But most of all, I was grateful for the opportunity to work with the wonderful people I got to know during those 2 weeks - I loved eating breakfast with them in the sun, hearing all about their personal Yoga journeys and teaching and studying with them. They were a truly wonderful group of people and I have loved following their Yoga journey since we graduated in November. I must add that I absolutely loved the assessment days! I enjoyed getting to be apart of everyone's assessment lessons,having the opportunity to talk about how our 6 week courses had been and to share our lesson plans / course outlines etc. I actually posted a vlog about my teacher training journey, which can be found here.

Straight after graduating in November, I had the wonderful opportunity to cover a few classes for CamYoga at the their Buckden site (now closed). The support and encouragement from some of the wonderful Jivamukti teachers I met there (Hakan and Andy!) really helped me to kick start my own Yoga teaching business. 

In January, I set up two local Yoga flow classes in my local area, using my 6 weeks beginners course I had planned as part of the YTT. After completing the course they wanted to continue their Yoga journey, so the classes have continued to grow ever since! I also took on a weekly ‘Sweat Yoga’ class at a local gym, and from there my name was passed around to most of the gyms in Northamptonshire area, which means I each week I cover a wide range of classes (including pilates inspired Yoga and Yoga with weights!) and to work with a wide variety of people with differing experiences and expectations of Yoga. In my school holidays (especially this summer) I have been covering 2-3 classes a day! 

 
 

I have also started to bring Yoga into my full time teaching job, from holding Yoga sessions for staff and students who are preparing for their exams, to doing assemblies on mindfulness and meditation. Leading 600 Year 9 and 10 students through a short morning meditation was a wonderful experience!

 
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My favourite thing so far has been holding Yoga Brunch events. Myself and 16 Yogis spend the morning together moving the body through a themed asana practice, meditating together and finally digging into a tasty Vegan brunch! I’ve been lucky enough to find a wonderful, local, vegan catering company, Bharita, who have provided the most delicious post-yoga dishes, from pancakes to tofu scrambled ‘eggs’. It is a truly moving experience to see people coming together and sharing their practice with each other - there are always so many smiles and giggles! I am hoping to hold these events every 2 months and am currently looking into organising a mini Yoga retreat with a local glamping company. I am also looking forward to working teaching with the new HotPodYoga franchise that is opening in Northampton in September!

From a personal perspective, Yoga teaching and developing my asana / meditation practice has really helped improve my mental wellbeing. My job as a secondary school teacher and Head of Year was becoming very overwhelming for me and I would often end up crying in the toilets as soon as I arrived to work in the morning. Nothing had changed at work - my job has always been demanding, but I was just not coping with the demands any more. I was working a full school day and then coming home and working until 11-12 pm every night. I just felt so physically and mentally exhausted. After my YTT, I developed a consistent morning Yoga and meditation practice that helped me start my day in a calm way. My readings of spiritual and philosophical texts helped me realise that there is nothing more important that the present moment and it helped me accept and surrender to the fact that I may never reach the bottom of my to-do list at work...and that is ok! Spending some of my evenings teaching Yoga made me realise there is so much more to life than my job. I am actually busier than I ever have been before, with teaching full time and teaching at least 4 Yoga classes a week on top of this, but I possibly the happiest I have ever been! People I work with often say “How do you stay so calm?”!

I am so grateful for having taken the plunge into YTT and for the positive impact it has had on my life as a whole. I have had so many wonderful experiences in the short time I have been teaching and I am so looking forward to seeing where this journey may take me in the future.

by Marie Newton
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You're Never Too Old To Follow Your Dreams
 

Compared to most I am fairly new to yoga. It is something that I have dipped in and out of over the years, but it wasn’t until recovering from a cycling accident in 2015 that I really found that a regular practice helped me to regain my strength, both mentally and physically.

My first experience of yoga was mainly through home practice, helped by online classes, books and the odd workshop. I fell in love with the practice and in 2017 I went to Greece on a magical yoga holiday, where after many conversations with the teachers, was inspired to look at teacher training myself.

The choice of courses was quite overwhelming, but as a CAMYOGA member it seemed an obvious choice to enrol with them and, being impatient, I liked the fact the intensive course could be completed within six months and was fairly local to my home in Cambridgeshire.

I’m not your average new teacher. For a start, my teacher training course was a 50th birthday present to myself.

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I am also no gymnast and know too well the wear and tear that years of cycling and running can cause on the body as I am tight, lopsided and click a lot, so when looking for a training course I was very conscious of all of this and extremely nervous about what I was entering into! I shouldn’t have been, the other students were all lovely, I wasn’t the oldest (not that it would have mattered if I was!) and on the first day, everyone was apprehensive about what was to come.

This year has been truly amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the training and am still in touch with all the other students. It was a tough, emotional and inspirational 6 months that I will never forget and it was well worth it. Since qualifying, I have reduced my hours as a management consultant to part-time and have started my own yoga and wellbeing business. Along with offering private nutritional advice I now also teach 5 yoga classes a week in Buckden and Stonely, Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire to a wide range of students and absolutely love what I do.

And the best bit?  All the doubts that I had about being too old, not ‘gymnastic’ enough and quite new to yoga have proved to be positives as they mean that I bring honesty, understanding and real-life experience to my teaching.

You’re never too old to follow your dreams.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judesyogawellbeing/

Website: https://www.judesyogawellbeing.com .


 
An Introduction to Yin with Jacky Kuo
 
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What does Yin mean?

Taiji Symbol

Taiji Symbol

Yin and Yang came from the Taoism philosophy. Taoism believes living in harmony with the universe and working with the universe’s natural flow (e.g. rather than trying to be the best, try and be simple).Yin and yang are the polarities of a whole, the complementary opposites of dark and light, cold and hot, soft and hard, female and male that allow all things to come into being. They are the two sides of a coin. One cannot exist without the other. Yin and yang are the vibration of the universe, the energy that informs all life. Together they form Taiji (a.k.a. Samadhi in the eight-fold path of yoga): a state of bliss through infinite potential and oneness. See picture to the left for the Taiji symbol.

As you can see from the picture, Yin (Black) and Yang (White) are not opposites, they are relative to one and other. Where you find Yin, Yang will be there and vice versa. 

Yin yoga postures, as created by founder Paulie Zink, are used to actualize the energetic and mystical attributes of various creatures and to stimulate the transformational properties of the five alchemical elements, thus enlivening and harmonizing these qualities within the body and animating the primal spirit that resides within us all. Integrating the power and healing aspects of these energies will help to balance emotions and put one into accord with the true nature of our being.

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Traditional Yin Yoga founded by Paulie Zink stems from Hatha Yoga, Taoism philosophy, martial art, Qi Gong and observation of the natural environment. He underwent years of demanding training and esoteric disciplines which he mastered. He has taught thousands of classes since the 1970s, claimed three martial arts grand champions, choreographed routines for music videos and movies and featured in many magazines, articles and documentary programmes (e.g. BBC series “Jerry Hall’s Gurus”).

Elemental Flow and Yin Yoga are both sequences inspired by Paulie’s playful style of teaching that aim to rejuvenate students. Paulie taught me Yin Yoga as he intended it to be, finding Yang within Yin and Yin within Yang balancing the five natural elements. Incorporating continuous, smooth and circular motions that promotes ease, fluidity and grace in the body. Working with both static stretching and dynamic stretching, students are given the option to flow and pause depending on their energy level. 

In both Elemental Flow and Yin we will move in a circle and enhance our linear forward and backwards one direction movement in traditional Yoga. We will face all directions that represent the five natural elements and honour each every time we find our circular transition: east wood, south fire, west gold, north water, mother earth and father sky in the centre. 

Each week, we will focus on connecting and balancing the five natural elements in both Elemental Flow and Yin Yoga. These five natural elements correspond with the five elements that reside within our own body, fire, earth, metal, water and wood; heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys and liver. The two yoga classes are designed to follow the five element meridian pathway and complement each other. Elemental Flow balance wakens the awareness of all five elements and Yin focusing in depth on one particular element and the corresponding meridian pathway. For example, you might find water warrior challenging; in Yin, we would switch the focus to channelling the water element in our body which we are in excess of or craving for.  

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What is the idea behind Elemental Flow?

Elemental Flow is designed with an emphasis on nature.

Students are invited to develop a connection to the five elements found within the environment and within the body. Finding harmony between humanity and nature so that we can both thrive. Allowing nature to connect us to a larger system where we can come to terms with what we cannot control and simply follow the order of nature. 

By following the order of nature, we are giving up our false sense of control that social media and consumer advertisement is constantly bombarding us with. Giving up the false sense of control over the weather, time, environment, sound, smell, other people, other vehicles, etc. When we give up these false senses of control, we give up our expectation and starting to look inwards with clarity over our behaviour, mindset, body and breath. 

Jacky teaches Elemental Flow & Yin on Wednesday evenings at Mitcham's Corner. Click here to get yourself booked in and see her other classes.


About the Author

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Jacky Kuo

Like most of the people who come to a CAMYOGA class, Jacky started practicing yoga because something wasn’t feeling right (namely poor posture and stress). Despite her career in Psychology research there simply aren’t enough accessible solutions for better wellbeing other than a weekly evening Ashtanga Classes.

As a student and a yoga teacher, Jacky is passionate about dynamic and energetic practise that allow you to ‘empty’ your mind and focus on alignment that continue off the mat. Jacky received her BWY yoga foundation certificate in October 2013 with Cam Yoga and completed her Ashtanga Vinsayas Flow Teacher Training RYS 200hrs in February 2017 in India.

 

 
Journey to Pincha Mayurasana
 
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Journey to Pincha Mayurasana

Disclaimer - remember to practice at your own pace and listen to your body. If anything hurts or pinches, come out of the pose safely and rest in balasana (child's pose).

Pincha Mayurasana
pinca = feather
mayura = peacock

Pincha Mayurasana or forearm balance proves for many, to be a fairly elusive asana. It requires strength, core and shoulder stability alongside good balance and courage. But with a strong foundation and (of course) practice it may prove easier than you might think.

We asked CAMYOGA teacher, James Downs to show us how he gets into Pincha.
 

Pincha Mayurasana Step-by-Step


1. Set yourself up by coming into Dolphin with a brick or block between the palms. (Dolphin is similar to Downward Facing Dog, but with forearms flat on the floor and parallel to the long sides of the mat).


Squeeze the brick with your palms concentrating on broadening and stabilising the shoulders. Push the forearms firmly into the mat which will enable you to lift the crown of the head away from the floor.

Build strength by taking 5-10 breaths in this posture and then coming back down into child's pose and repeat 2-3 times.

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2. Flash Prep! Remove the block and then from Dolphin lift the left leg high - keep the shoulders strong and your core engaged.

If you'd like to go further, start walking the opposite hand towards the grounded foot and maybe grab hold of the heel. Breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Try a balance: Right forearm presses firmly into the mat, left arm at a right angle palm pressing down (think chaturanga alignment). See if you can lift the right leg and use the left tricep (upper arm) as a ledge to rest your left knee on - right leg lifting high.

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Try a balance!

Try a balance!


3. Once you've done your conditioning (previous steps). It's time to try the full posture!

Start with your solid dolphin pose, bend one knee and keeping the other leg straight do a couple of bunny hops to get the feeling of going upside down. This may be where you stay, but eventually, you'll feel more comfortable and maybe even get both legs straight!

If you're worried about falling, you can always try this against a wall (palms facing the wall) but be mindful that you're not overarching or banana-ing your back.

Another way to try this against the wall is with dolphin against the wall. Come into dolphin with heels touching the wall. When you feel stable here, place the sole of the left foot onto the wall - your body and leg at a right angle, then bring the right foot up to meet it. Try lifting each leg up and maybe both at the same time!

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James teaches regularly at CAMYOGA Central and Mitcham's - check out the schedule here.

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