Category Archives: Yoga Teacher Training

Want to Teach Yoga or Deepen Your Yoga Practice? Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training starts in February

Want to Teach Yoga or Deepen Your Yoga Practice? Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training starts in February

Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training with Sally Parkes

Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training with Sally Parkes

If you want to teach yoga or would like to deepen your practice then you still
have time to sign up for the next Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training with Sally Parkes.

Taking place over weekends in London plus a residential week in Spain this recognised Yoga Alliance UK and Independent Yoga Network course allows you to teach internationally.

The first of the London weekends is 28th February-1st March. I’m looking forward to meeting all the new teacher trainees in April when I’ll be introducing the group to teaching Restorative Yoga and Yoga for Back Care.

For full details, plus to hear from past graduates click here to visit Sally’s website.

Laxmi Yoga 200hr Early Bird Offer until 30th Nov

Laxmi Yoga 200hr Early Bird Offer until 30th Nov

Thinking about Yoga Teacher Training in 2015? Book your place on the next Laxmi 200hr course by 30th Nov & save £250!

The next Laxmi 200hr course with Sally Parkes Yoga starts in April and takes place in Spain and London.

Graduates from every course intake since launching in 2012 are successfully teaching in the UK and overseas. I’m privileged to be a tutor on this course and look forward to meeting the next group of teacher trainees!

For more information, please visit the Laxmi Yoga Teacher Training page here.

Light on Yoga

Light on Yoga

Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar

Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar

Over the past several months on my website I have been featuring yoga related books that I’ve really enjoyed and want to share with you guys reading out there.

For anyone who has missed the titles featured so far, I am going to include my previous ‘Books of the Month’ here on the blog starting with Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar

“[Yoga]… means a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly.” – B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga

A classic yoga text. This is the most comprehensive guide to Hatha yoga I have come across.

Ironically, it is only in the last year that I began attending Iyengar classes after a decade of asana practice, and even now it is admittedly not as often as I would like (something I wish to rectify in 2013). But I always leave feeling able to take its firm foundations into my practice elsewhere.

There is little I can say to do Light on Yoga full justice here. In this incredibly well-illustrated book, Mr. Iyengar explains not just each asana and its benefits (plus of course, correct alignment) he also guides the reader through pranayama techniques and more.

It comes as no surprise that many of the yoga teachers I know own this book. With various yoga routines to follow, hints and cautions for practice and a section on curative asanas for numerous conditions it’s an invaluable resource. It is also on the reading list for the Laxmi Yoga 200hr Teacher Training (which I am excited to be a part of this year – see here for more info).

This book also reminds us that there is no substitute for consistent practice and dedication. And for anybody who struggles with the notion of how it is possible for yoga to be more than ‘keep-fit’ exercise, I invite you to read the beginning of this book.

A must-have for serious practitioners and anyone wishing to deepen their understanding of yoga.

Continuing Education with Laxmi

Continuing Education with Laxmi
Continuing Education with Laxmi

“Through our yoga practice we aim to bring balance into the body so we can bring balance to the mind.”
– Sally Parkes, Laxmi Yoga

I love that there is always more to learn.

I’ve just got back from a week in Wales with a brilliant bunch of yogis: Part One of Laxmi Yoga Teacher Training founded and led by Sally Parkes.

It is a year since I began my yoga teacher training journey and in that time the learning hasn’t stopped. From learning to teach restorative yoga with Judith Hanson Lasater to studying the teaching of vinyasa flow with Shiva Rea and attending numerous workshops. I’ve continued to learn from my spondylolisthesis in my own asana practice. And mostly, I’ve learned from everyone I’ve been fortunate enough to guide through their yoga practice since I started teaching.

In the Hindu sacred texts, the Vedas, the Goddess Laxmi is the one who has the object and aim of uplifting mankind.

The above, comes from the opening page of Laxmi Yoga’s training manual. This particular training has come at just the right time for me. There have been many lessons over the past year and I knew I wanted to deepen my knowledge in certain areas as well as engage in some more self-inquiry.

I have attended Sally’s classes and retreats as a student and since starting to teach I’ve had the pleasure of joining her retreat team. With a background in studying sports and exercise science, and some fourteen years experience teaching not only yoga but also Pilates and personal training to people of all ages and abilities, Sally has a wealth of knowledge. As a student I appreciate her non-dogmatic style, her passion that yoga really can be accessible for everyone and that she incorporates all aspects of her experience into her approach to teaching. So, I’m very happy for the opportunity to study with her!

Our first week in Wales was spent studying and practising at the welcoming Dru Yoga Mountain Lodge in Snowdonia, which is also home to the World Peace Flame.

Our group consists of a mix of practitioners who have some teaching experience either in yoga or other disciplines along with some completely new to teaching. What we have in common is that we are all dedicated yogis and it was wonderful to share our range of experiences over the course of our first week together.

Partner work in Warrior 2

Partner work in Warrior 2

Outside of our regular sessions and posture clinics each day with Sally, we practiced meditation with Nanna Coppens from Dru Yoga who has been teaching for over twenty years.

I got to teach a restorative yoga class for the group, which was a real joy! For some, it was their first experience of a restorative yoga practice. Another group member who we affectionately named ‘Guru Chris’ guided us through an energising Kundalini yoga session. While Neil Phillips gave us a great insight into the principles of Ayurveda.

We are studying Anatomy and Physiology with Dawn Morse. As well as being the programme leader of the Sports Therapy Foundation Degree provided by the University of Bath and lecturing in Sports Therapy and Sports and Exercise Science, Dawn has also taught yoga (including mother and baby and children’s yoga), Pilates, personal training, sports and remedial massage and injury rehabilitation… So, it’s fair to say that Dawn knows her stuff!

With our friend Fred the Skeleton

With our friend Fred the Skeleton

Though I have a deep interest in studying anatomy this is not a subject that comes easily to me. But Dawn’s approach is brilliant. We came away covering so much more than we’d imagined possible. Certain aspects were familiar to me from study I have done so far, but I’m particularly enjoying learning more about biomechanics. And I wasn’t alone here as we even spent a whole evening of study time outside our anatomy sessions watching and discussing Paul Grilley’s anatomy DVD. I’m looking forward to studying with Dawn again when we return to Wales in November.

Friday night was Kirtan Night! It was great fun and I’ve been known to enjoy a chant :D. Along the way Nanna, who led the session told the stories of Ganesha, the Gayatri Mantra and talked about the World Peace Flame Foundation. Very apt indeed as our Kirtan was taking place on the International Day of Peace. An uplifting evening all round.

On Saturday night we after dinner we watched Yogawoman together. I’m so glad that I finally got to see it! An added treat was that one of the contributors to the movie is Laxmi Yoga course tutor, Caroline Shola Arewa who we’ll meet in October.

The week whizzed by. Yet in that short space of time so much happened. For one thing, we realised we had all taken in more that we had thought. That’s thanks in no small part to Sally consciously cultivating a great learning environment. We arrived mostly as strangers but bonded as a group very quickly.

Laxmi Yogis with Sally Parkes (far right) and Dawn Morse (far left)

Laxmi Yogis with Sally Parkes (far right) and Dawn Morse (far left)

I’m already looking forward to Part Two in October where we’ll be delving deeper into the subtle body and the Chakras with Caroline Shola Arewa. And we’ll be doing First Aid for Yoga Teachers training with Julie Cleasby – a refresher for some and all new to others among our group. To follow that in Parts Three and Four, among other things, we will be learning more about teaching special populations and the business of yoga, the latter being especially crucial for anyone seriously planning to earn a living as a yoga teacher. At each stage of the course, I’ll be blogging about the experience. In the meantime, there’s studying and assignments to be done before we meet again in October, so I’d best get on with my homework! :D

Moving with the Flow, Moving with Awareness

Moving with the Flow, Moving with Awareness

Find joy in the present - image via

“ Live with awareness for the sake of ourselves and others.” – Sarah Powers

So far it’s been a yin yang summer.

This summer marks a year of leaving the ‘security’ of my old job and beginning the journey of yoga teaching. I’d known long before that I wanted to take this leap and share my love of yoga, but I held myself back for a number of reasons (i.e. excuses) – my postures not being Cirque du Soleil enough, not looking the way a yoga teacher is ‘supposed’ to, worrying other people might think I’d gone ‘la-la-woo-woo’, and a teeny matter of being terrified of speaking in front of groups… Then along came my mate Redundancy to give me the firm kick in the posterior I needed.

Judith Hanson Lasater, when I trained with her earlier this year, joked that yoga teachers are the most “go-go-go” people she knows, often scheduled to the hilt.

I relate to this. I have always had workaholic tendencies, though I’ve increasingly spent the past months being all go-go-go. Working seven days a week most weeks (not only teaching, admittedly), out of necessity to make ends meet. I believed. But when your mind believes one thing it’s funny how the wisdom of the body tells you very clearly not to believe your thoughts!

A number of physical signs stopped me in my tracks, telling me I had to start doing things differently. (Like actually taking a day off occasionally.) So, I followed my gut instinct and did something that seemed illogical. I gave up a part-time job.

But I have faith that when you let go of one thing you clear the way for something new. And funnily enough… I’ve been having a number of serendipitous experiences.

In June I did a wonderful intensive training with Shiva Rea. The timing, though I did not realise it then, could not have been more perfect. One thing that particularly struck me, within learning about the essentials of teaching vinyasa flow, were the reminders about moving with the flow of life off the mat too.

Then this month I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with Sarah Powers – yin yang yoga and mindfulness meditation. This was certainly not my first experience of a yin practice, though it was my first (and hopefully not last) experience of practicing with Sarah Powers, and the timing seemed pertinent. On the mat we were invited to meet our limitations during our yin practice. To see where we resist and, to recognise the resistance rather than resisting resistance. Sarah talked about ‘implicit resistance’ and how we may manipulate a situation to tell ourselves, “I’m fine”. And she also talked about compassion (karuna) towards our habits of aversion towards the uncomfortable situations in our lives. In turn, this allowed me to think about where I resist off the mat too and how, indeed, I had ignored my own internal signals over the past months. I recognised how little compassion I had been showing myself in that time.

For our mindfulness meditation practice, using the breath (observing it rather than controlling it) as a tool to anchor to the present moment, Sarah talked about developing the observing mind, seeing what happens when we observe resistance, pleasure and so on.

“If you can’t listen to the breath, then you can’t listen to the subtle internal messages.”

It was in paying attention to my internal messages rather than listening to my ‘logical’ thoughts that I realised I had to change what I was doing and how I was doing it.

All of these things were reminders of what I already knew deep down, internally. But how often do we push these kinds of feelings aside in favour of what seems logical?

In talking about her own practice Sarah mentioned how it is amazing to notice when you don’t practice for a few days that everything turns into ‘thoughts’ and assuming that our thoughts are reality. Again I was reminded of Judith’s words during training – “Watch your thoughts but don’t believe them.”

So, in paying more attention to those internal messages and becoming more aware I’ve been finding some more clarity. That is not to say it is always comfortable, but I am practicing showing myself compassion along the way. It is a continual practice – usually compassion for myself has seemed to come last on the list. For how many of us has showing compassion towards ourselves seemed challenging or selfish? But it’s a little bit like the oxygen mask analogy. You know, when airplane cabin crew take you through the safety procedure and the little film tells you to put your oxygen mask on before assisting others with their masks? Self-compassion is not selfish. This applies whether it’s during our asana practice or our day-to-day life. Yes, all this may seem obvious, yet I feel grateful for the good and the ‘bad’ over the past months, which has led me to this point.

Related to this, where I have decided to move with the flow – to let go of worrying about what may or may not happen in the future and focussed on the present, unexpected opportunities have somehow appeared just when I’ve least expected it. And again, at every turn, I am incredibly grateful!

One such opportunity is officially joining the retreat teaching team at Sally Parkes Yoga. I am excited to be hosting a retreat in October at the wonderful Marsh Farm House in Sussex. Why not take a break from your frenetic pace and join me in feeling the joy of moving with the flow. But in the meantime, don’t forget to enjoy the present moment!

For retreat details please visit

Ground, Path, Fruition

Ground, Path, Fruition

“Everything we’re doing is planting a seed that will come to fruition at some point” – Cyndi Lee

I’ve been thinking about these words ever since last month when I had the pleasure of attending a training workshop for yoga teachers with Cyndi Lee. An extra thrill for me because I am a child of the 1980s :) and Cyndi choreographed music videos for, among others, the likes of Rick James, the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack and Cyndi Lauper’s, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.

The above words came from Cyndi at the beginning of the workshop, which focussed on teaching beginners: breaking down poses to their component parts and creating sequences.

I wanted to do this workshop for a number of reasons, but one of them is that I remember how I used to feel when I first started practising, imagining that I would look ridiculous in a room full of bendy, athletic-looking people. I think it’s this fear that sometimes stops people from even trying yoga. On this subject one of the things Cyndi said was:

Say to students: You have the right body and mind. You start with the mind you have and the body you have right now.

A discussion then followed about the meaning of ‘vinyasa’: to place in a special way.

Cindy told us a story of a class she attended taught by BKS Iyengar saying (when he was in his eighties) that he had spent around the last seventy years exploring what happens to his sternum when he presses his big toe down.

This reminded me of my last session with Sarah where we spent the best part of an hour working solely on chaturanga, and the session before that where we focused a great deal on observing what happens when you really ground through the soles of the feet in Tadasana.

Paraphrasing another comment Cyndi passed on from Mr. Iyengar: the arms and legs are the organs of action (rather than the abdominals, which are more the stabilisers). When the arms and legs are organised then the abdominals do pull up. Or as Cyndi described it (again, I am paraphrasing), you can’t really ‘do’ any pose without using your abdominals, whereas the Bandhas – that’s energy work and not ‘about’ the muscles.

By really observing you come to see that one thing cannot happen without the other. For example, in that chaturanga practice with Sarah by paying attention it is evident that when my arms, feet and hips are organized – placed in that special way, if you like – my pelvic floor and abdominals pull up without me trying to consciously create that action. A very clear demonstration that it’s about connection not isolation. The body parts work together.

Yoga is connection. Yoga is relationship.

In many ways I haven’t stopped learning since the end of teacher training last year. In fact, I feel my desire to learn continues to grow and grow. During this workshop with Cyndi I could see the dots connecting between many of the things I’ve been learning since the end of my course last year and it all feels very natural.

Afterwards, when I spoke to Cyndi she mentioned that this was her first time in London in about seven years. I also learned from chatting to Cyndi that she is good friends with Judith Hanson Lasater. Is it a coincidence that I am being drawn to certain teachers?

I came away with lots to think about from this workshop, but overall it served as a wonderful reminder that the postures are not the yoga. There was something I read recently also alluding to this, the comment being along the lines of, if it really was about the postures then Cirque de Soleil performers would probably be the world’s most advanced yogis. It is easy to forget that an asana practice that is beautiful aesthetically does not equal ‘advanced’, though that is how it is often viewed in the West where we tend to place so much emphasis on the physical practice. But, for instance, can you sit with those moments of discomfort when they arise without trying to or wanting to change them, whether you are on or off the mat? That’s hard. One of my favourite quotes on this comes, again, from Judith:

“The yoga is not the asana. The yoga is the residue that the asana leaves.”

So, my hope is that as I continue to grow as a teacher, I am able to (as Cyndi so beautifully put it), create the causes and conditions for peacefulness to arise, for mindfulness to arrive.

For yoga to arrive.

The Necessity of Stillness

The Necessity of Stillness

What if we took as much care with our rest as we did with say, our diet?

I’ve just completed day 1 (of 5) of the Relax and Renew restorative yoga training intensive with Judith Hanson Lasater in London. This question came up near the beginning of the day.

Often, as yogis we may put special effort into taking time over whether we are eating organically. Or gluten slash wheat slash dairy free. Or thinking about what foods to eat to give us more energy – will this or that new product do that for us?

But if what if we just rested instead?

Often we are our own worst enemies as we don’t give ourselves permission to be still. We don’t have time. We are so busy. We see taking that time out as being lazy.

We talked today about how a great deal of what is beneficial about this form of yoga is that people are still. In what other place in our lives are we truly given permission to be still?

It’s true that at times restorative yoga is seen as not ‘real yoga’, (because it looks as though you are not ‘doing’ very much) or as being for people who are new to yoga. But really it’s for everyone. After all, who isn’t stressed? (And therefore, in need of physiological relaxation.)

If you’re tired it’s hard to be compassionate towards the people around us, let alone towards ourselves. Hands up who gets tetchy or lacks the ability to focus and be present when they are tired?

As was discussed today, if your life is frantic, your practice will have that vibration. And as a teacher, if you are caught up in a frantic state then that veneer of ‘frantic’ can come across in your teaching.

That hit a nerve.

I know as a student that I have often enough picked up on that kind of frantic energy from the teacher leading a class. My life is pretty frantic at the moment and I am doing some re-assessing as a result, so this topic today really resonated with me.

I know I don’t get enough rest. I know I am stressed. I know I am sleep deprived. Who’s with me? Probably almost anyone who is breathing!

So what if we started to see rest as the necessity that it is instead of a luxury, or as being lazy? Yes, it will take practise (for some of us, a lot of practise). But we can make a start. And we can try to remember to be kind to ourselves along the way.

I am so grateful to be doing this course at this particular time, deepening my knowledge of a form of yoga that I know has and continues to benefit me. I feel especially excited at the prospect of being able to share what I am learning with others. What a privilege.

I Love yoga! And I am loving that the learning never stops.

Graduating YTT

Graduating YTT


“Never get tired of doing little things for others.  Sometimes those little things occupy the biggest part of their hearts” - Anon


I’ve been AWOL on the blogging front over the past four weeks.

There’s been a fair bit of ‘life stuff’ going on, and it all seemed to culminate just at the point where I was gearing up for YTT final assessments.  I had all my plans for how and when I was going to practise, teach, study, extra classes I would go to…  I had even drawn up a schedule.  I was so proud of myself for being sooo organised and so on top of things and then… life happened.

My mother likes to say (a lot), “Man plans and God alters”.

When it comes to life we often like to think we are ‘in charge’ but really we’re not. It is up to us to take responsibility for our actions, yes, but where we are in charge is in terms of how we respond when those things we really had not anticipated happen. Especially those things that blindside us.  Those things that seem so unfair.  Those things that go against the natural order and don’t seem to make any sense.

I’ve noticed recently that so many of the people around me have been going through tough times.  And not in a ‘having a bit of difficult time with that arsehole at work’ way but in gut-wrenchingly sad, big life-event ways.

It’s reminded me that even when we have challenging things happening in our lives, so do other people.  It’s reminded me of the importance of trying to be kind.  You never really know what someone else you encounter might be dealing with.  There have been so many times in the past few weeks where people have extended what may, to them, have seemed the smallest of gestures, but those acts of kindness have meant so very much to me in those moments.

In the run up to final YTT assessments, my experiences and those of my friends and others around me made me reflect even more on why I want to teach.  People come to yoga for so many different reasons.  Whether it’s for a workout or to de-stress it all comes back to wanting to feel better in some way.  I have been so anxious about final assessments and beginning to teach for real.  I’ve worried about finding my voice and not looking the part, but I worked out that the ultimate reason for my anxiousness is neither of those things. It’s because I see it as such a responsibility.  I know how much yoga has helped and continues to help me and I want to be able to facilitate that for other people in some way.

Well, despite things not going according to (my) plan, I did my best and…. I passed! My fellow trainees and I graduated from YTT.  I feel so lucky that I got to do this course with this group of people and our wonderful tutors. It was sad saying goodbye at the end of the course, but I know this is just the beginning for all of us.  It’s less than a week since we graduated and one of my fellow trainees, Stew has already taught his first class (rather brilliantly too :D  I was privileged enough to be there in the front row!)

As I think about what to do next and begin to seek out teaching opportunities, I know that I still feel nervous about teaching, but at least I know where those nerves stem from and that it’s natural to feel this way.  I’ll take this great advice from course director, Allie as I go forward:

“It takes courage to stand up in front of a group and share the knowledge you have learnt.  The art of teaching comes from experience and being true to yourself.  Enjoy it and teach in a way that resonates with you.  It is such a wonderful thing to share with others, and over time you will realise the positive impact it has on other people’s lives.  I get told by my students from time to time, how life-changing yoga has been for them, mentally or physically.  These affirmations give me gentle reminders of the gift of yoga, and how lucky I am to be able to share such wisdom.”

Thanks so much to Allie, Toni, Bryony, Chris and Em.  To all my teachers and fellow yogis who have encouraged me along the way.  And my fellow trainees – the Class of Autumn 2011 :D


Beginning YTT

Beginning YTT

Week One – Start from Where You Are

It’s early on Sunday morning and I am woken up by rays of sunlight beaming through my bedroom window.  For a moment I wonder where I am then I remember I am in Morocco and it’s my first day of Yoga Teacher Training.  This will be home for the next two weeks.  I get up to brush my teeth and through the window I see a camel on the beach, just hanging out, like camels do in Morocco, I guess.  I can’t believe I am finally here…

The day before I felt so many mixed emotions at the airport in London – mostly guilt at not being able to go to the hospital with my Mum for her MRI scan, but she is insistent that I go on the course and not worry about her.  I am also feeling nerves, fear, excitement…  It’s not until I am at the villa – the lovely, welcoming villa with our beautifully decorated rooms – at dinner that I suddenly feel way out of my comfort zone as I think about what lies ahead.  All my fellow teacher trainees are very friendly and I feel lucky that I already know a couple of the guys from Yogahaven.  I suspect everyone else is feeling nervous too as it’s pretty quiet around the dinner table.  Allie tells us it’s always a bit quiet on the first night – wait till we’re a couple of nights in!  My stomach is churning. I don’t eat much and I barely touch my dessert – not like me at all!

Back to Sunday.  We have our first morning practice in the shala, led by Allie.  It’s the ninety minute Yogahaven sequence which we will learn over the two weeks and practice every morning while we are here. We’re right up on the roof of the villa and in front of us is a view of the ocean, while behind us are the Atlas Mountains.  While I’m in Vrksasna gazing out to the sea I feel a sense of stillness for the first time since arriving.  I feel so grateful to be here.

As it’s the first day we do proper introductions and say a bit about our yoga experiences and why we are on the course.  We’ve all found our way here through different paths but the thing that strikes me very quickly is that there is genuine warmth across the whole group.  Everyone is lovely.

We begin talking about the sequence, starting with pranayama.  Allie asks if anyone wants to teach a bit to the group. Silence. My head rotates by practically 180 degrees as I do that thing of looking out of the window to try and avoid eye contact. But then my name is called out.

“Do you want to have a go?”


So, I have a go at leading the group through a little bit of pranayama.   I wonder if my voice sounds as shaky as I feel inside.  I find speaking in front of groups challenging to the point where my voice involuntarily starts shaking, but this is something I am determined to overcome.  I can’t believe I am the first to teach!  But afterwards it feels good.  It means that later that day when we come to teach the postures we were each asked to learn ahead of coming to Morocco, I feel a bit less freaked out than I otherwise would have.

Our second practice of the day is led by Em from Yogahaven’s Birmingham studio.  Her class is brilliant and quite inspirational, not least because Em has not that long ago been where all of us trainees are and she’s clearly a great teacher.

Overall, I feel a bit better by the end of the day.  But still a bit wobbly.  Still trying to quieten those negative ‘not good enough’ voices in my head.  I now really wish I’d brought my running shoes with me.  Running, as well as yoga, always helps me feel better.  But I feel so, so happy to be doing two yoga classes a day.  And Yoga Nidra with Toni was blissful – I think I did actually fall asleep.



The day I started to allow myself to enjoy it.

I woke up with these words in my head:

“Start from where you are”

I’d been comparing myself to our course tutors – Allie, Toni, Bryony and Em.  And to all the other teachers I practice with, thinking about the apparent ease with which they guide and instruct.  They are all brilliant and have years of experience between them.  I’ve not even found my voice yet, never mind learned how to teach.  I realise I need to give myself a break and stop expecting to be perfect.  I am here to learn, after all.  And I get to start this bit of my journey in such a gorgeous setting. The sunshine is glorious today.

In the shala we discuss the ethics of yoga teaching and our reasons for wanting to teach.  We share not so positive experiences we’ve had as students from inappropriate adjustments to rude comments.  Out of that discussion we are asked to think about what our own codes of ethics would be and to write them down.  Toni says that’s what we’ll come back to in those times when we might be teaching many classes a week and unable to practise anywhere near as much as we’d like.

During posture clinic I get asked to demonstrate Garudasana (Eagle Pose). I’ve never been able to get my foot behind my calf in this posture.  Allie asks me why I think that might be:

Me – “I couldn’t do it when I was larger. I think maybe my body’s just not built for it – my legs are quite big.”

Allie – “Hmm… But you’re actually quite small.”

It felt strange to hear that.  ‘Small’ is not a word I use to describe myself.  I’m never critical about the appearance of others, but I clearly still have stuff to deal with about how I see myself.

With each session, posture clinic and teaching practise I have an increasing respect for the teachers I practise with as I recognise what it takes to teach well and how much energy they put into each class.

Our second practice of the day is a fabulous Yin class with Bryony.  I’d really love to do more of this to balance the Yang styles I usually practise. That’s something to seek out when I get back home.

Allie’s words about the group not being so quiet after a couple of nights in came true!  During some downtime after dinner we played ‘Celebrity Head’ (guessing the names of celebs written on post-it notes stuck to our foreheads).  It was a good laugh – really silly and a great way for the group to bond further.


Tuesday & Wednesday

There’s more of a focus on history and philosophy today.   After our morning practice and breakfast we look at the Vedic, Pre-Classical, Classical and Post-Classical periods.  I feel I am starting to gain a clearer perspective on the Gita and the Yoga Sutras in particular.

We do our first bit of group meditation too after a chat about our various experiences of meditation so far.  Today it’s the SA TA NA MA meditation (Kirtin Kriya) – the most important meditation in Kundalini Yoga.  We will try out different meditation styles over the two weeks.

In the evening we play a game during downtime after dinner again.  This time it’s a game invented by fellow trainee, Stew – a step up from yesterday’s game incorporating charades and quick fire rounds.  It’s genius!  It’s really funny to see different people’s competitive sides start to emerge too.  There may be no competition in yoga, but the gloves were off in Stewie’s game :D

On Wednesday we pick up where we left off with history and philosophy.  The philosophy discussions are giving me so much to think about and bringing up all sorts of things I never expected – big stuff, small stuff.  I really think about how much I have let experiences from the past – painful experiences – define who I am and what is possible for me.  I don’t want to do that anymore.

Teaching practice in the afternoon on the warrior sequence feels awful.  I start to beat myself up again.  Then I stop as I remember what Lorin predicted on my last blog post:

“From one perfectionist to another, I predict that there will be times during the training that you get very upset that you can’t ‘get it’ (by which you’ll mean be absolutely perfect with all of it) but in the end it will be so very worth it.”


I take a step back.  I know I am doing my best and that’s all I can do.

During a discussion about Atman – The Individual Soul and Brahman – The Universal Soul I think about the idea that we are not our thoughts or our bodies. It not the first time I’ve heard or thought about this, but in this context, in this environment it takes on a different resonance.  Can I observe and have compassion for my ‘self’ who expects to be perfect, who struggles to accept my’self’ as I am?



Day Off!

A group of us have an outing to the aptly named Paradise Valley up in the mountains.  It was very hot, very magical and a lot of fun.  I mention this particularly because it involved me wearing a swimming cossie.  And swimming.

To put this into context, you are more likely to see a baseball cap donning, Bengal Tiger ambling up and down the aisles of your local convenience store than see me in a swimming costume or swimming, so rare is the occurrence.  When one of my teachers mentioned to me the day before flying out to Morocco that I’d probably need to take a bikini, I laughed.  The only time in my life that I’ve worn a two piece is when I was four.  And I only know that because I saw a photo.  I had no intention of bringing any swimming attire to Morocco.  But after that conversation I went out and bought a swimming costume.  I could always keep the tags on to take it back to the shop if I didn’t use it, I reasoned.  Yet, here I was actually wearing it and doggie paddling (yes, doggie paddling) in a picturesque mountain valley.  And loving it.



Self-Doubt Day.

Everyone’s feeling it. The mood is a bit subdued. We all feel our speed runs of the yoga sequence so far aren’t up to scratch.  But Toni assures us that we are all doing well and that how we are feeling at this stage is completely normal.  It’s great having reassurance from Em too who has been where we all are.

I am worried about my tendency to mumble.  Bryony suggests I could project more.  I take that on board for our practice later where I describe getting in and out of Garudasana and Utthita Parsvakonansa.  But I still need to work on raising my voice.

We spend some more time looking at the Classical period before rounding off the day with a fab Flow class led by Em.

Can’t quite believe we’re already at the end of week one!


Week Two 


Our morning posture clinic with Allie focuses on the first part of the standing sequence, looking at adjustments for Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended hand to big toe pose). Then we move onto a voice exercise.  We are each given a posture to go away and practice teaching by ourselves for ten minutes.  Then we have to come back and teach it to the group just using words – no visual demonstration.  A bit like an acting exercise, Allie asks us to really go over the top with our expression.  The results are surprising because we see that what we think is exaggerating is for most of us (not least my mumbling self) actually just about the level where are voices need to be, especially if we are teaching in a busy studio.  It’s amazing to see the improvements in everyone with just this one tip.

I still find it nerve-wracking standing up in front of everyone, but it’s still great.  I love this exercise and I know it’s something I will practice.

That afternoon we chant the Gayatri Mantra (one of my favourites!) as a group.  I have this on my iPod and chanted it a lot in the couple of weeks before flying to Morocco.

It’s sad later on saying goodbye to Allie and Em as they head off back to London and Birmingham.  Allie tells us that we’re doing well and to keep doing what we’re doing through the second week.  Those words really buoy us up.



A full schedule.  More history as we look at Physical Culture and the Krishnamacharya lineage.

In today’s posture clinic we focus on balancing postures with particular attention on Natarajasana (Dancer’s Pose) and Tuladandasana (Balancing Stick).

Bryony takes us through the Chakras in the afternoon before a strong vinyasa class with Toni, with a focus on inversions. I clearly need to work on my core and shoulder strength – I am a looong way from Pincha Mayurasana, but it was fun!

It definitely feels quieter without Allie and Em – we all miss their presence!

I feel exhausted today and I decide to go to bed earlier in preparation for our sunrise practice.



After sunrise practice facing the Atlas Mountains, the Eight Limbs is our big focus in the morning.  We spend quite a long time discussing the Yamas especially.  This gives me a lot to think about.  Before coming away on this course, a number of teachers who have already done it said that on teacher training you learn a lot about yourself.  I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but increasingly I am understanding.  There is a lot of being honest with myself, which isn’t always easy but is ultimately worthwhile.

In the afternoon we have our posture clinic and teaching practice.  I feel like I am finding my voice.  Slowly but surely.

In the evening Toni tells us we’ll be doing a silent sunrise practice in the morning, followed by a silent breakfast.  I love the silent practice, but the silent breakfast is a bit of a surprise.  As well as no talking we are to avoid eye contact. No problem though.  I’m not that much of a talker anyway – it’ll be easy…



Silent breakfast wasn’t easy.

I had assumed that because I am a pretty quiet person a lot of the time it would be a breeze.  But I didn’t like it.  I like own company, but I realised that when I’m with other people I thrive on them chatting and having fun and seeing them being happy around me.  That, in turn, makes me happier.  I find myself feeling very uncomfortable and not being able to make eye contact or smile makes it even harder. I leave the table as soon as I finish eating.

One thing the silent breakfast does do is make me conscious of is what I am actually eating.  Rather than rushing my food because I felt uncomfortable, I noticed that I took a bit more time over each mouthful and consequently, I ended up eating less.  I feel grateful for what I had to eat and it reminds me that’s not how I always felt.  For a long while I used food to punish myself.  In that sense I have come a long way.

After breakfast Toni asks us what we thought of the experience.  Everyone seemed to feel discomfort to a degree or felt more conscious of the surroundings, their food. This exercise really highlighted how we often use distractions to avoid truly being with ourselves.  Today I really take time to appreciate our surroundings, breathing in the sea air.  Feeling grateful.

Bryony takes us through the Koshas and we do more on the Eight Limbs with a bit of a pop quiz from Toni.  Plus, some more teaching practice.  I am still working on my voice – trying to project more.

A really fun Shiva Rea inspired class led by Toni rounds off the day to the melodies of MC Yogi! :D

That night, after dinner we go back up to the shala for some candle gazing (Tratak).  It’s cosy being up there in the dark, wrapped in blankets. We discuss our experiences afterwards.

With our assessment day on Friday looming, a few of us have an impromptu study session on what we’ve learnt so far for about an hour before bed.  I think it might actually be sinking in!



Mixed feelings today.  The end of the two weeks is in sight, so I try to take in the view of the ocean and lock it into my brain so that it doesn’t feel like a distant memory when I get back home.

We get a slightly longer lunch break today so that we can visit the local market.  I love looking around at the stalls selling all sorts from an abundance of vegetables, to piled high spices, to bric-a-brac and so much more.  A few of us buy some incredible macaroons which taste as good as they look.

During teaching practice after lunch we do some speed runs through the sequence.  I realise I actually remember the whole sequence from start to finish!  And I’m not alone.  What a contrast from how we felt about our speed runs last week.  I go into our energizing flow class with Bryony feeling good.


Thursday – Day Off

A few of us decide to do some more teaching practice in the morning, ahead of tomorrow’s assessments, so a well-earned trip to the beach follows.

For me, it’s a step up from last week’s doggie paddle at Paradise Valley with a little swim in the Atlantic Ocean.  It may not sound like much, but for me this is progress.  A little step further out of my comfort zone.  And playing in the waves was so much fun!  It felt like being a little kid and I laughed till my sides hurt.

In the evening a few of us visit the Souk before heading out to dinner at a restaurant near the harbour in Agadir with the rest of the group.  It’s our penultimate night and feels a little bittersweet.  Part of me is really looking forward to going home, but I know I am going to miss this too.



Assessment Day

The day has come!  We start with our written test.  I was never good at exams. How much will I remember of all we’ve learnt over the past two weeks?  To my surprise I do better than I expected and realise that I’ve actually taken in more than I thought.  In fact, everyone does really well.  Relief!

But now the bit we’ve all been waiting for….  teaching the sequence.

We set up our mats to practise and over the next ninety or so minutes Toni randomly calls each of us up to the front of the room to teach postures.  We work through the sequence in order so that it’s like a proper class where we are each others’ students.  And because we don’t know when our names will be called up we always have to know what posture is coming next.  It’s a great way of testing our knowledge of the sequence as well as seeing where our teaching skills have developed over the past fortnight.

I feel sick with nerves until just before we begin, then when I sit quietly on my mat a sense of calm comes over me.  I think about all I’ve learnt over the past two weeks, all the words of encouragement from my teachers.  And I come back to my ultimate wish to share yoga with others.  I decide to just do my best.

Toni silently makes notes on us as we go.

Seeing the improvements in everyone is brilliant!  It really is like a proper class.   I can’t ‘see’ how I am doing.  But I do feel that my voice is clearer.

At the end Toni tells us how well we’ve done as a group and that we should all be proud of ourselves.  Toni spots that I look doubtful – I’m focussing on my mistakes.

Toni – “Don’t you think you did well?”

Me – “I’m not sure…”

Our one-to-one feedback with Toni follows and I am gobsmacked by how positive she is about my teaching.  I know I have stuff to work on but it feels like a huge endorsement and really encourages me.

Post-assessments our final evening is celebratory!  I can’t believe we fly back tomorrow.  This second week especially, has whizzed by.  What an experience! Even though I’m now ready to go home, I already know that things will feel different.


Now I’ve been back for a week I’m able to begin reflecting on the time in Morocco.  It felt strange waking up on Sunday morning and not having breakfast with my fellow teacher trainees.  I feel so fortunate and grateful to have been able to go away for this part of training, away from the distractions of home and to share this experience with a brilliant group of people who I am sure will all go on to be fantastic teachers.

Despite the fear, not once did I ever feel over the two weeks that I might give up.  I kept coming back to why I want to do this.  I accept that I may not be able to banish fear or nerves completely, but I can and will work through them.  My desire to share yoga with others is bigger than any fear. And I know that’s what will keep me going as a move forward.

For me, the intense two-week structure worked really well because I know I learn better that way. I’ve learned all sorts of things about myself so far, including that I could do with being kinder to myself a bit more.  And that my miming skills aren’t great, as those games of charades proved :D

We have two weekend modules to follow over the next couple of months along with homework in-between.  I’m surprised to now be looking forward studying anatomy, given that this was exactly the kind if thing I disliked with a passion at school.  How things change!

I look back at where I was at the beginning of our two weeks in Morocco to where I was on our last assessment day and I’ve surprised myself.  At the start I was almost overwhelmed by fear.  By the end I was (and still am) overwhelmed with gratitude, especially towards my fellow trainees and our teachers. I still have a long way to go and I know that it’s up to me to keep practising and studying and learning. I am certain that I want to teach and I recognise what a privilege and responsibility it is to have that opportunity. I am really looking forward to seeing where this journey takes me.

This is just the beginning.

Atha Yoganusasanam

Yoga Teacher Training

Yoga Teacher Training

In a few days I fly off for two weeks to begin yoga teacher training with my yoga home.

It’s not something I’ve taken lightly.  I’ve thought about it so much.  I first started looking at teacher training courses roughly two years ago. And each time I would dismiss the idea pretty quickly.  For a long while I had a lot of excuses as to why I couldn’t or shouldn’t do it:

  • I can’t afford it
  • I can’t do every posture perfectly
  • I’m nowhere even near getting into headstand or handstand or toe stand or….
  • I get shy in big groups and don’t do public speaking, so HOW would I stand up in front of a class
  • I don’t know about yoga philosophy
  • I was rubbish at biology at school – there’s no way I could get my head round the anatomy

That’s not an exhaustive list, but you probably get the idea.

Once I’d started practising regularly at Yogahaven I saw the course that they offered and my desire to do teacher training was reignited. How I would love to do that course, if only I could afford it.

For a long time, “I can’t afford it” was my biggest excuse. Then I got laid off from my job and got some redundancy pay.  So I couldn’t exactly use the money excuse anymore.  It’s not that I am rolling in money – it’s scary seeing my bank balance going down so rapidly, with no indication of when or if I will be paid for the freelance work I have done so far.  But I instinctively know that now is the time, so I purposefully put some of that redundancy money into teacher training.

But then once the money excuse – my biggest excuse – was off the table, there was still something stopping me.  What was it…?  I was slapped in the face with the realisation that the money excuse was not my biggest excuse after all.  My biggest excuse was:

I don’t look the way a yoga teacher is ‘supposed’ to look.

I felt genuinely shocked and rather disappointed (in myself) at this realisation.   As a student I actually don’t expect teachers to look like they could grace the cover of Yoga Journal because in my view and experience what a teacher looks like has nothing at all to do with whether they are a good teacher or not.  But I have overheard enough conversations in female changing rooms (not at my yoga home, I hasten to add) to know that some people do think very differently indeed.  As dumb as it might sound it really made me doubt myself and question what ‘right’ I had to want to do teacher training.  Yoga really is for everybody, but that’s not how it always appears. I’ve noticed that in the last several years especially, yoga has increasingly become more fashionable.  And tied up in that I see certain images presented and certain expectations of how yoga practitioners are ‘meant’ to look.  I was faced with this myself when someone I met was surprised to learn I practise yoga and actually told me I didn’t look like I had a ‘yoga body’. I thought about that conversation and wondered what the reaction would have been if I had said I was a yoga teacher.

All this concern about what other people might think made me seriously consider not pursuing teacher training at all.  I confided in one of my lovely teachers about wanting to do the course and she was kind enough to give me some advice and really encouraged me.  But still, I worked myself into such a state about asking Allie, who is the course director, about whether I could apply.  In the end I just thought:

Woman Up!

When did I start letting what I imagined other people might think stop me from doing something I really want to do?  I thought I’d got past that a long time ago.

I’m so glad I got over myself and decided not to let my insecurity get the better of me.  I know why I am doing this.  And I know that I do want to teach and share the wonderful gift of yoga with others.  But Allie gave us teacher trainees some really valuable advice – to see the course as a journey of discovery and not to get addicted to the destination of being a yoga teacher.

I’ve been putting quite a lot of pressure on myself and have become increasingly nervous as the start of the course draws nearer.  Over the past week especially I’ve wound myself up into a bit of a panic about it – I don’t feel as ready as the old perfectionist side of me expects me to be.  But when I feel myself getting overwhelmed I remind myself of Allie’s advice.  I remind myself of the kind words of encouragement and support I have received from all my teachers – such goodwill which I appreciate hugely. I remind myself of how very lucky I am that I get to do this and how exciting it is.

This has been a pretty significant year of change so far.  This is the next step in that journey.  Yes, I do still have some butterflies about what lies ahead as I embark on teacher training, but now I can’t wait.