Halloween Yoga is Here!

I always plan my yoga lessons around a theme – for example ‘chest-openers’ or ‘psoas stretches’ –  or base it around a particular pose, such as last Sunday’s class on the near-impossible Maksikanagasana Dragonfly (thankfully we were doing it in a restorative setting on the floor, supported with bolsters and blocks aplenty!).

It being Halloween today I’ve been planning tomorrow’s Wednesday morning class around the same subject, adapting the names of classic yoga poses to far scarier alternatives: begone Vrkasana Tree Pose and beware Haunted Forest!

Yoga-Skeleton-plan-teach-a-halloween-yoga-lesson-class-sequence

Run away from the Utthitta hasta padangusthasana Hand To Big Toe Zombie, or your Ananda Balasana Happy Baby may just be turned into a Squashed Bug!

And of course there’s always Savasana Corpse Pose, which needs no adaptation for Halloween whatsoever… Muhahahahahahahahahaha!

So, be afraid: Be very, very afraid!*

*But um, also calm, obviously – this is yoga, after all 😉

Halloween Sequence Yoga Cat Pose Blog Image

^ Wot the Witch’s cat said ^
!

 

Digestion Suggestion

This pose – Adho Mukha Savasana – is an excellent pose for eliminating stagnation *passively*

Last week I was (happily!) surprised by Anna, Studio Manager of Unity Yoga in Brighton, who asked me to demonstrate a yoga asana for their Instagram feed.

As I was teaching a class on Detoxing (read: yoga for hangovers, jet-lag or both!), I settled on the following pose which is super-simple yet a great way to massage your pelvic lymph nodes and colon, get your digestion moving, and increase circulation in order to improve detoxification. Bonus point: it can even help with period cramps.

If you haven’t got a block, then lying on a rolled-up blanket is absolutely fine – perhaps even better if the block doesn’t quite feel enough (as it wasn’t for some of my students last week). If it feels like overstimulation, then please unroll the blanket a little to decrease the intensity. As always, do come out of the pose whenever you need to.

As the video on Instagram is short and unscripted, I didn’t get the chance to explain the importance of deep conscious breaths to help stimulate your belly. Likewise, arm position: so, if you’re able, reach your arms over your head to the floor in front of you and rest your forehead either on the mat or on crossed arms. You can also lie your cheek to one side. Just remember to change the cheek or arm-cross midway through to get a nice equal stretch on each side. And like renowned Kundalini Kriya teacher Leslie Kazadi below, feel welcome to add a bolster under your feet if you feel like being really spoiled…

Adho Mukha Savasana - forward facing rest by Leslie Kazadi - yoga kundalini by James Wvinner
Image of Leslie courtesy of James Wvinner at Yoga Journal

This is an excellent pose for eliminating stagnation passively. So, if you’re someone like me who’s disabled half the time, it’s wonderful having the opportunity to get things moving internally, even when your mobility’s compromised and you can’t move much externally. Hooray for yoga!

Finally, with a little extra internet digging I discovered that this pose has an official sanskrit name: Adho Mukha Savasana or Downward-facing Rest. It’s always so obvious when you know how!

Review: Yoga bolster by #DoYourYoga

Looking for a decent Yoga bolster that won’t break the bank?

As lovely as it is to practise yoga freestyle on a beach or outside in the park, in reality a yoga teacher needs decent indoor equipment for their students. If you’re a yogi who’s wanting to teach Yin or Restorative styles, then a yoga bolster is an essential item on your shopping list.

During my twenty years-plus of being a yoga practitioner I’d tried many different bolsters in many different studios. However, when it came to establishing my own yoga business I was a bit overwhelmed with regards to which to buy – especially since I was buying in bulk, so I couldn’t afford to make a mistake.

I already had the red bolster above by Ekotex, which was outstanding in terms of:

  • High quality of materials:
    • Sturdiness and denseness/ heaviness of buckwheat stuffing. Inner bolster lining to add to its stability during use.
    • Cover material: 100% organic thick cotton, virtually indestructible and wonderfully washable. Fantastic colours available.
  • Having the option to remove inner stuffing if a more forgiving bolster was preferred.
  • Classic heavyweight yoga bolster measuring 61cm x 23cm and weighing just under 4kg

The Ekotex was similar to many classic yoga bolsters I’d used, being of excellent quality and therefore expense – £34.84 each excluding postage: ouch!

Unfortunately, this made bulk-buying Ekotex prohibitive for my ickle-pickle start-up yoga company, and anyway, due to my chronic pain I was after lighter bolsters that were easier to carry and more malleable: after all, the more bendy the bolster the more versatile in terms of use during class and for travel before and after!

Indeed, in my role as Undercover Bolster Tester in various yoga classes around Sussex, I tried a good many brands in order to work out which would give me what I wanted and which would be most cost-efficient. After a lot of brain-frying (not a yoga asana I’d recommend!) I settled on these babies by German Company #DoYourYoga Because, if it’s got a hashtag in the company name you know it’s gonna be awesome! #ironicstatement

Review arctic blue yoga bolster #DoYourYoga from amazon pillow best lightweight organic bolster
Arctic Blue yoga bolster containing organic spelt by #DoYourYoga

Anyway, thanks to some in-depth research (i.e. lying down on bolsters in various different yoga classes), I realised that despite the #teenagehashtag, each #DoYourYoga bolster was truly excellent, being:

  • Perfectly adequate mid-range quality of materials:
    • Filled with organic spelt hull, which is loosely packed and easy to move around.
    • Covered in simple, washable cotton, not heavyweight but still hard-wearing
    • Offered in a variety of colour options. However, unless you like pastels I’d skip the tones of ‘Pink’ (AKA washed-out orange) and ‘Violet’ (AKA insipid pink) which are truly Ugh (although, being a Colour Queen I do appreciate I’m probably the only person to nit-pick such non-essential details)!
  • With a zipped inner lining to add more spelt should you prefer a heavier, less flexible bolster.
  • 68cm x 22cm and just under 4kg #lightweight

In any yoga studio bolsters are going to be used carelessly and often, and so getting something absolutely perfect which was likely to be trashed fairly quickly was not essential for me (plus, I’m working on taming my non-yogic perfectionist streak, haha!). And did I mention each #DoYourYoga bolster cost £22.49?

Overall, despite the off-putting #hashtag surprisingly I’m really very happy with my (relatively speaking!) cheap and cheerful #DoYourYoga bolsters (think: IKEA standard). I genuinely wouldn’t swap them for the higher quality (think: Habitat level) Ekotex brand, simply because the #DoYourYoga bolsters are so much easier to lug around, even in the same studio. Not only that, but in my yoga classes I use them in so many more ways than I possibly could were I to have bought sturdier, more inflexible bolsters.

You can see the #DoYourYoga bolsters in action below, during a couple of my Colour Yoga Restorative Yoga classes on Sunday evenings:

The following prices are correct at time of publication:

DoYourYoga bolsters are currently available from Amazon for £22.49

Ekotex Yoga bolsters are currently available from Amazon for £34.84

Oh, and full-disclosure time: If you buy any products through the Amazon links above, I get a small commission which sends a little cash my way yet costs you nothing extra: it’s win-win for both of us!

Happy Colour Yoga-ing, My Lovelies!

Chrismukkah Yoga Class

My students know there’s nothing I like better than a themed yoga lesson…!

As my students know there’s nothing I like better than a themed yoga lesson (I already can’t wait to repeat this year’s Halloween session in 2018 and it’s 11 months away), so needless to say tomorrow’s last Colour Yoga class of 2017 will be Christmas-themed, Hanukkah-themed…and full of laughter: Chrismukkah here we come!

Santa Tree Pose Vikasana Father Christmas Brighton Shoreham-by-Sea
We’ll be enjoying poses such as Chimney, Angel, Overfed Santa and Traumatised Elf, and even Placing Baubles On A Tree (Natarajasana Dancer pose) in store for you. Tree itself will be Vikasana obviously! And not to forget the Candle or Menorah (Utkata Konasana Goddess) poses for Hanukkah. So much fun to be had!

Looking forward to seeing you there. Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Winter Yoga Shoreham-by-Sea Brighton Snow Outdoor

If you’re the photographer behind either of these images, please let me know so that I can credit you for your work!

Halloween Yoga is Here!

I always plan my yoga lessons around a theme – for example ‘chest-openers’ or ‘psoas stretches’ –  or base it around a particular pose, such as last Sunday’s class on the near-impossible Maksikanagasana Dragonfly (thankfully we were doing it in a restorative setting on the floor, supported with bolsters and blocks aplenty!).

It being Halloween today I’ve been planning tomorrow’s Wednesday morning class around the same subject, adapting the names of classic yoga poses to far scarier alternatives: begone Vrkasana Tree Pose and beware Haunted Forest!

Yoga-Skeleton-plan-teach-a-halloween-yoga-lesson-class-sequence

Run away from the Utthitta hasta padangusthasana Hand To Big Toe Zombie, or your Ananda Balasana Happy Baby may just be turned into a Squashed Bug!

And of course there’s always Savasana Corpse Pose, which needs no adaptation for Halloween whatsoever… Muhahahahahahahahahaha!

So, be afraid: Be very, very afraid!*

*But um, also calm, obviously – this is yoga, after all 😉

Halloween Sequence Yoga Cat Pose Blog Image

^ Wot the Witch’s cat said ^
!

 

Autumn Offers At Colour Yoga

This Autumn Colour Yoga has two new promotions running!

This Autumn Colour Yoga has two new promotions running:

1) Bring a friend (or few!) and their first yoga class is free

2) Fill your loyalty card and the eleventh class is free

Colour Yoga UK Loyalty Card - Back

As always, there are discounts on block-bookings here or you can contact Abi directly at colour.yoga.com.uk@gmail.com

 

Review: Om Yoga Show 2017

‘My Mum went to the Om Yoga Show 2017 and all she bought was this lousy T Shirt…’ Not even!

It’s always a good feeling to be part of a great team, so I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to Brighton’s Unity Yoga stand at the Om Yoga Show this year.

Apart from being a yoga-obsessive and a big fan of Unity Yoga, I actually attended primary school just down the hill from the venue, Alexandra Palace, and I hadn’t been to an event at the top of the hill since the Sinclair C5* launch…in 1985!

For me, yoga definitely has its spiritual side, and skipping from the free shuttle bus up to the impressive gates of Ally Pally (as we called it at school), I was really excited to be spending a day working in the impressive building I’d been able to see from my old playground. It felt like I was coming full-circle from the kid I’d once been to the parent and yoga teacher I am today.

landscape-alexandra-palace-exterior-ally-pally-om-yoga-show-2017

As I stepped into The Great Hall I was met with the sight of dozens of stalls peddling yoga-related products to legging-clad women and men in jogging bottoms. I noticed a series of penned exercise areas set around the perimeter of the hall for visitors who wanted to join a class (for some sessions there was an additional charge). These spaces were sponsored by companies such as Pukka and Tea India (tea was a big thing at the event – there were lots of smaller outlets there too), equipment brands like Yoga United, Yoga Studio and Yoga Matters, as well as schools of yoga such as Raja and Sahaja Yoga. There was even a Rainbow Yoga area set aside for kids – a great idea!

In the Tea India area I passed rows of people seated for a meditation practice, each wearing eye masks to keep out the distractions. I’m not sure how restful it could have been being barked at through a radio mike, but the students seemed happy enough.

review-om-yoga-show-2017-alexandra-palace-photo-image-by-abi-amber-colour-yoga.com-uk
Photo credit Abi Amber @ http://colour-yoga.com

Training yoga teachers is big money these days (it’s just a shame being a yoga teacher is considerably less of an earner!), and as well as the wonderful Unity Yoga in Brighton that I was helping to promote, there were a good few schools from Iyengar to British Wheel Of Yoga and beyond also canvassing visitors.

Yoga holidays are becoming increasingly popular as people look to escape the pressures of modern life, and as well as an impressive amount of stands advertising yoga retreats there was even one selling an actual bricks and mortar retreat – a very beautiful chateau in the South of France, complete with its own spring-fed swimming lake! I know what’s first on my Christmas list this year…

domaine-de-la-grausse-yoga-in-france.com/the-chateau-yoga-retreat-for-sale

At the Om Yoga Magazine stand yogis were earnestly throwing shapes in front of a white screen in the hope of winning the magazine’s ‘Search For a Cover Star 2018’. Despite being a natural show-off myself, I thought it might have been more interesting for the magazine to seek out some of the more modest show attendants, who very Britishly may not have shouted the loudest – if at all.

I met some truly inspirational people working at the stalls, many whom, extremely experienced in yoga, worked with yoga in deserving areas of care or education. For example, as the mother of a (high-functioning) autistic child with ADHD, I was drawn to the Yotism booth – a yoga teacher-training school with the tagline ‘Inspiring Harmony In Autism’ – as well as that of Rainbow Yoga Kids Studio, which offered classes for children and their parents or grandparents (‘the family that yogas together’, etc).

The LA-founded but international team behind the Yoga Gives Back scheme would also make a commendable cover story. They raise money through yoga classes in the west to enable “small loans to women in India who are otherwise excluded from the conventional banking and financial systems. In the last ten years, YGB has grown to fund over 1100 mothers and children with micro loan programs and education funds with a minimum of five-year commitment to each person.” Special mention for UK-based aid goes to Yogacycle, where yogis can donate disused or damaged yoga mats for distribution to homeless shelters, refugee camps and animal shelters**.

The remaining stalls comprised insurance brokers, jewellery and accessory companies, skincare manufacturers offering items such as organic and ayurvedic face creams or hand soaps and big name brands like Riverford, Abel & Cole, Planet Organic and Biona trading speciality foodstuffs. Smaller booths selling liquid refreshments like smart drinks, vitamin drinks and juices vied for attention with a delightful array of cottage industries offering edible treats – raw, vegan chocolate being the standout trend of 2017 (perhaps it should have been called the NOm Show this year, nom-nom!).

alexandra-palace-om-yoga-show-review-2017-by-abi-amber-colour-yoga.com.uk

Of course there were also a great many yoga clothing companies evident at the Om Show, with the most wonderfully bright and colourful Athleisure**** wear shops hawking their wares alongside the calmer muted greys, whites and beige sweats and shirts of organic cottons and ethical cashmere. It was refreshing to see a great many clothes on offer for the male yogis amongst us, with show sponsor Yogangster making its presence felt with cool urban togs, as well as Yoga Bloke featuring esoteric designs printed on hoodies and sweatpants.

Overall, I noticed that people seemed more interested in yoga retreats than teacher-training schemes, and a few people mentioned that last weekend’s Show felt quieter than that of the previous year.

On a personal level it was wonder meeting so many passionate yogis in one place. I was really pleased to bump into the lovely Ellen at the Independent Yoga Network, one of the UK Yoga governing bodies under which my training diploma at Unity Yoga Brighton was accredited.

Buttafly-yoga-prop-block-foam-wedge-om-show-2017

Another standout meeting was with Tilly (AKA Louise) and her tirelessly enthusiastic helper at the Buttafly stall. The Buttafly is a foam wedge available in three heights that can be used as an alternative to a yoga block, bolster or meditation cushion to correct posture and support better alignment of the spine. Suffice to say, as someone who still finds Dandasana difficult after 20 years of practice (due to additional fused vertebrae in the spine than just the usual 5 in the sacrum), I was sold! I’ll pen a more detailed write-up on the Buttafly once I receive my review sample.

Apart from an entire collection of Buttaflies, a whole new yoga wardrobe (or few!) a yoga retreat (or few!), and a lifetime’s supply of raw chocolate, also on my wishlist from the Om Show was local (to me) Sussex yoga treat company Bhava Box. Following on from the popularity of beauty boxes such as Birchbox and Look Fantastic, Bhava Box offers monthly subscriptions of goodies such as organic skincare, deluxe samples, healthy snacks, essential oils and teas (of course!) all boxed up and sprinkled with lavender oil to be delivered straight to your door. Santa, if you’re listening this comes a close second to the retreat for sale in France!

* Nothing to do with the Om Show but I couldn’t resist this little reminder:

** Courtesy of Spectrum Magazine BWY:Jennie-keighley-recycle-yoga-mat-uk-for-homeless-refugee-animals-article-from-bwy-spectrum-magazine

*** The ‘Kiss My Asana’ T-shirt was funny and reminded me of another ‘80s fad: the ‘My Mum went to … and all she brought me was this Lousy T-Shirt’ souvenir. I didn’t buy this particular top for teaching my classes. Should I have?!

****yes, Athleisure fashion’s an acceptable descriptive term, and has actually been around as long as I have, first recorded as being used in a trainer advert in 1976. Reaching prominence in the last couple of years, according to Business Insider the trend is already on the wane, as discussed in their piece ‘Athleisure Is Dying’.