The Gift of Mobility

by Jon Ashmore


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I am a man in my early fifties, spent my life as an outdoor sports instructor until July 2016 when I became a first aid trainer. 


Over 30 years of physical activity constantly lifting, hauling, pushing pulling on a daily and constant basis together with injuries, fractures, wear and tear, overuse of joints and muscles has left my body in a state that could only be described as battered!


My back and neck particularly had very much reduced flexibility, this in turn was painful, ached constantly and felt stiff all the time. I had numerous physio sessions which did help and did free my back and neck but gradually they would return to their default position of rigidity and pain. Nothing had a lasting effect or gave a long term solution.


My sister had been going to hot yoga for some time and she bought me a months gift ticket around April / May. Well, I visited both yoga studios a number of times over the month. Not only was I made to feel very welcome by staff and members, which was lovely as  I am not of the racing whippet body shape but in each class tutors took the time to come round and help me personally with various poses, positions etc. Not once did I feel less than anyone else in the rooms. In fact it was noticeable how friendly everybody is, how people will speak to you and have time to offer advice help and just a chat sometimes. Lovely atmosphere.


But the thing that struck me most is that after only 3 or 4 sessions of Yin, my back and neck were more mobile than they have been for years. Unbelievable difference but thats not all. Due to work commitments I have not been to yoga for at least 8 weeks but my back and neck are still extremely mobile the difference is literally life changing.They are not regressing which is unheard of for me, I am pain free and mobile!


So thank you, for the warm welcome I received when I first arrived, for the care and attention the tutors give in all classes to all students and the gift of mobility in areas of my body I never thought would feel like they do ever again.


Absolutely fantastic. I hope to return soon once my work schedule settles down and involves less travelling.

Be the best beginner you can be

Today I saw the true value of going to class. Recently I recommitted back to my practise to develop as a student, rather than focusing all my energy on professional development as a teacher. As a person, I needed to myself going again, too much time in my head about MOGA and a couple of other health aspects, I needed to get back to basics and back to my heart, reconnect with my why for getting out of bed. I needed yoga in the same reasons why I started it in the first place.

Today I completed a class that was taught in the opposite style to how I teach and practise. A few weeks ago I would have really struggled through it, not physically but mentally. I would have been frustrated as hell - not a reflection on the teacher, it’s my projection. It is very yin to my yang. I often hear do the opposite of what you love, it’s what you need, which I think, if you're going to do some practise, do the stuff you enjoy first. There is clearly mileage to do the stuff you don't for sure, but if time is limited, its best doing something you enjoy than grinding out the stuff you don't, in my opinion and experience of course. We enjoy reading books that interest us, we are more likely to complete a book if we find it fun and engaging. I never finish books that don’t.

Today was a turning point and here's why. I changed my mindset for class, my why for going. I pulled out a couple of blocks and progressed through the class with the mindset as an absolute beginner physically to yoga, just saying still in the pose, operating at say 50% max of my physical limits. I ended up going so much further mentally. When I scaled it back, I felt my body more than ever, I relaxed more than I'd ever done in a class, and was more mindful about every inch that I moved by body. Huge increase in awareness and clarity to what is, huge decrease to my past and future thoughts which mattered not, but served to waste my energy and affect my class experience. After class I felt still, and because of that, boom, all these brilliant ideas and motivations ran into my mind. I really reconnected to who I am.

I have been to Hot Yoga Sheffield maybe 20 times out of the last 22-25 days. I have grown immeasurably as a student and by feeling what my students feel, I have grown as teacher. I feel a better person for it. I've even been to beginners classes as a student because I want to re-establish my basics from another perspective. Improving foundations means I'm less likely to sink right?

So thank you Anne Marie in particular (your class today was a game-changer for now). Rosie, Sarah and Koreen (your classes have been all very different on my mind and body but it’s given me so much engagement to explore and enjoy). You've all given me space to get back to basics and strip back my practise so I am doing the basics better than I've ever done.

MOGA is progressive program so I do not offer drop in classes. It is my belief committing to this path, gives the benefits which make the rest of the 100 hours off the mat, a better chance of being our best selves - calmer, more confident, creative, kinder, happier, mindful, patient etc etc. It is a bit of grind but it is absolutely worth the commitment, and the experience we have together in class, there is something beautiful and brilliant about human interaction. By putting ourselves first, we give so much more.

But some practise is easily better than none - you may just need a boost if the day, or week is getting heavy on the mind or the body needs to open back up.

So those that unfortunately not involved owing to their restrictions through work mainly, to commit to MOGA at present, get down to the brilliant drop in classes and feel the benefit of great teachings and the aspect of sweating those unwanted toxins. It's a brilliant combination. And those who are involved in my groups, get down and sample it, its only going to enhance your why for coming to MOGA. And if you're not involved with MOGA at all, just get down and try it out anyway. This is my highest recommendation, thank you Anne Marie and Co..

The right people will have read this and if it inspires just one of you to Hot Yoga Sheffield and/or strip back your practise, job done. And if not, I enjoyed writing it and give HOT YOGA SHEFFIELD the plug they deserve. Have a bloody mega weekend x

Why I almost didn’t become a yoga teacher…

Before I did my 200 hr Yoga Teacher Training I had at least five good reasons why I thought I couldn’t do it.


It wasn’t convenient…


The training I wanted to go to was a month long intensive in Costa Rica to study with Gabrielle Raiz. I was currently living in New Zealand, planning a move to the UK and it was scheduled at the same time as my brother’s wedding back in Canada. Even though I didn’t know how I was going to do it, I made a leap of faith and filled in my application form and paid my deposit.


Several months before the training, my brother and his fiance called off their wedding. At the same time, my entry visa to the UK was approved, so we moved across the world, got married and applied for the spousal visa. Even though everything was now in place, I still didn’t know if I’d even have a passport to fly because it was currently in the UKBA’s possession with only a guess as to when I’d get it back. Thankfully, it arrived the week before the start of the course.


It was expensive…


Because I had spent a lot of money on applying for a UK visa, I literally only had $500 for the deposit when I paid it and wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for the rest of it. But I had faith that something would work out.


And it did. I made a video application for a scholarship and was awarded a $1000 prize towards my tuition. My house in New Zealand sold quickly and I had enough to cover the rest of the tuition, accommodation and my flights for the training.


I couldn’t do impressive looking poses…


Before I moved to the UK, I had participated in the training for the Bikram yoga competitions in New Zealand and was surrounded by people who could do very impressive poses.


They could literally bend over backwards and then hold onto their ankles. Or stand on their hands and rest their feet on their heads. Or balance on their fingertips and float their legs out behind them.


My most impressive pose was standing balancing head to knee. I worked hard to be able to do it and this was the entry point, the very first pose you had to do to enter the competition.


I didn’t think I had been doing yoga long enough...


Although I had dabbled in yoga many years before, I hadn’t really taken it seriously until I started doing Bikram yoga in 2010. When I put my application in, I had only been doing hot yoga classes regularly for eleven months and yin yoga at home for six months. Then I moved to the UK and the closest hot yoga studio was at least an hour’s drive away.


I tried out a variety of styles of yoga in Sheffield and settled on Ashtanga Yoga at the Yoga Shala on London Rd. I enjoyed the structure of the practice, but quickly realised that even though I had been doing Bikram yoga for a year, that did not prepare me for 50+ vinyasas per class. I really disliked downward facing dog and spent much of the first couple of months cursing in my head and not feeling particularly yogic.


I had two young daughters…


We had just moved to the UK and I was concerned to leave them in a new country with a new family. Not only that, but whilst my youngest was settled in school, there wasn’t a place for my oldest so I was homeschooling her until we could get her in. It was a lot of work because I created assignments and projects that she could work on whilst I was away and I cut my lunch breaks short so I could skype with them daily during their evening back in the UK.



Yet I had to do it...


In short, like having kids, there is never a perfect time to do your teacher training. There is only now. There are always bills to pay, children to look after, other things you could be doing with your time. There will always be people who can do the poses better and have done yoga for longer.

There's a quote by Judith Lasater that I like, she says 'Yoga's not about touching your toes, it's about what you learn on the way down.' Whether that may be two seconds, two months or two years. You may not feel ready, and that’s ok. I certainly didn’t. I felt sick throughout the whole flight. Yet, I knew I had to do it. Deep down I knew it was a path I needed to take and that if I didn’t, then I’d regret it.

If this is how you feel, and you’ll know it if you do, then email me (koreen@hotyogasheffield.co.uk) to figure out how we can make it work for you.

Ready for a life change?

Janine Leagh, Hot Yogi Australia YOGA Senior facilitator, says you don't need to want to be a yoga teacher to do a yoga teacher training course, but it just might change your life. 

When I started my Yoga Teacher Training, I wasn't interested in being a yoga teacher, I already had a well paid, full time job but had been dabbling with yoga for quite a few years by myself.

Some of my friends would ask if they could join in, until there were a few of us that almost constituted a class.

Being a fitness fanatic, I loved a strong dynamic style of yoga asana but I undertook the training because I wanted to get a deeper look into the philosophy and the roots of yoga.

I've always had an interest in figuring out what I deemed my 'messed up head' and had studied psychology and many self help modalities, but it was the Yoga studies that really took me by the hand and led me down the path of truth.

It was a game changer for me.

That was in 1999 and I haven't stopped since, it is a way of life for me now.

Inspired to teach yoga

Anne Marie Gordon, Yoga Teacher and Co-Director of Hot Yoga Sheffield (HYS) encourages you to make the 200hr Hot Yoga Teacher Training Course at HYS and in Bali the beginning of the rest of your life.

Back in 2010, I was living on Long Island, working at Whole Foods and working my way towards realising my life’s dreams. I would practice tai-chi in my grandmothers backyard and reaffirm to myself daily that connecting with nature and filling myself with a deep seated sense of peace and joy was the most important thing in life. I knew that I needed to make that experience part of my ‘career path,’ and that sharing that experience with others and teaching them to make that connection within themselves was what I was supposed to do - the only thing I didn’t know was, what job was that?! In university, writing essays about existence and analyzing the world of concepts taught me that even my professors didn’t really know how to guide me towards a path of fulfillment in my day to day life - that is a completely independent job.

At work, I started to meet brilliant minds that were opening my eyes every day to a lifestyle that eluded me for years. I found a local hot yoga studio that I had been practicing at for less than a year, where I opened my heart to yoga. I remember distinctly lying face down in a puddle of my own sweat, listening to mystical mantras sung by Deva Premal, and really feeling tapped into an energy way beyond the scope of my physical self. It was at that point that I realized that Yoga was the pathway toward realization, and a ‘career’ path to share that with others.

With barely a second thought, I signed up for the upcoming teacher training, and that’s where it all began! The next year of my life saw me complete the intensive training, get married and move to Sheffield - everything I could have wanted. From there, my daily practice has become strongly established, and I have gone on to compete two further teacher trainings.

When it comes to signing up for a 200hr teacher training, I like to remind students that this is the starting point. Whether it is for your own personal practice and development, or to gain the qualification to teach others, this the first step on the path to your future. I know from personal experience that just like any other program, you get what you give. When you have the desire to pursue Yoga as a path for personal development, you will be given the tools and the inspiration to follow the lead of your heart as well as your own needs and interests. As you grow your personal practice, the experiences you have will be the substance of who you become as a teacher, friend, or partner. The skills and information given in yoga teacher trainings is infinitely invaluable, and as time goes by, you will notice that you are naturally able to share the light you’ve developed with those who need it most, in a way that is true and authentic to you.

The upcoming 200hr teacher training led by Janine from Hot Yogi Australia will be an excellent time to receive the inspiration to get serious about the yoga path in your life. Janine has a wonderful background of experience not only well versed in Acro Yoga and moving mindfully through Embodied Flow, but also the wealth of self knowledge that comes from yoga philosophy and spiritually enlightening texts from ancient to modern times.

I am so pleased to be able to host this program that will also give students the tools to: teach safely in the heat with the Heat Safety Training lead by Koreen, as well as feel confident in learning how to assist other students physically through the Skill of Mindful Adjustments Training lead by Karen Russell, along with so many other skills that come from the program set out.

It is with a sincere wish that anyone considering a Hot Yoga teacher training that is comprehensive and well versed in all things yoga feel the urge to join us on this adventure. There are so many experienced and qualified yoga teachers that will be here to guide you on your journey towards your best and most liberated self. I will be here as your mentor and guide to ensure that this experience sets you on the course for bigger and better things, all manifested by you!

To knowing the light within yourself.

With love,

Anne Marie

Running and yoga – it’s more than your flexible friend

Sun’s out, trainers on! With the longer evenings even more of us are out pounding the streets in training to get a PB in our next Park Run or race. 

But as we all know, it’s not all about run, run, running. Research shows that in order to improve our performance we need to cross train, stretch key muscles, stabilise our core, strength condition, rest and recover.

But how to fit all of that into our busy schedules when we can’t even find time to do a few stretches post run?! Go on, admit it, it’s so tempting to skip and head straight for a hot shower!

Well have no fear - A hot yoga class encompasses it all...

Increasingly more of us runners are catching on to the accessibility and benefits of yoga and that it doesn’t involve tying yourself up in impossible pretzel-like knots. Plus, we don’t have to be flexible to do yoga – that’s just one of the reasons why we do it!

Hot yoga also improves our strength, stability, mental focus, weight-loss, range of movement, breathing,  joint alignment, posture, mental focus, body awareness, pre-race composure, balance, recovery time and sleep – to help us gain that winning edge.

What’s more, Hot yoga is even more popular with runners who want to ‘up’ the challenge by doing it at 38-degrees. A study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that eight weeks of hot yoga sessions increased flexibility in the trunk, hips, hamstrings and shoulders, while improving dead-lift strength. Fat loss also occurred, likely because of the intensity of the classes for new participants in yoga training.  

Flexibility is only the beginning...but it’s a good place to start

In running we use the same muscles for the same repetitive movement which adds extra stress and makes them pretty tight – how many massages have we all booked in for and how many times have we fallen off our roller – although if we can manage the weird contortions we have to get into with a foam roller then yoga will be a doddle!. When muscles are tight then other undertrained muscles might over compensate and can become stressed or torn – resulting in .... down time – eeek!!!  Hot yoga loosens the muscles naturally and safely, to increase flexibility and ease tight areas more quickly. Increasing flexibility also improves our range of motion which increases power output thanks to muscle recruitment and more efficient movement.  Yoga pre-hab is best!

Hot Yin will help you move deeper into the muscles. 

Stability is core

We’re often recommended yoga to strengthen and stabilise our core (abdominals, hip flexors, gluteals, and lower back) to improve our posture, stave off injury and ensure efficient energy transfer between the upper and lower body to save energy.  The results are increased speed and endurance. Excessively rotating our hips and shoulders can cause all sorts of injuries to our upper and lower bodies as our limbs compensate and energy is exerted in all the wrong places. 

Holding postures such as balances also improves our joint stability and alignment particularly in the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Yoga can isolate and concentrate on the muscles surrounding the joints and warm up the synovial fluid  to reduce aches and pains.

And not forgetting our feet – they’re the foundation to our every run. So many yoga postures help strengthen and lengthen the muscles in the feet - think arches, ankles, and toes - and  maintain healthy connective tissue to provide better shock absorption. Yoga helps us to get the right joint alignment which in turn can help us to correct an inefficient or unhealthy running style and reduce the risk of injury. Plus, the balances help us to improve our core stability, mental focus and agility.

Hot Hatha classes encourage the yoga postures to be held for a small time to strengthen the muscles, check alignment and gain mental focus.

Range of Movement

We are all too aware that running uses a constant forward motion of the same muscles putting them under a lot of stress. Yoga uses  different muscles we didn’t even know we had and wouldn’t usually move in different directions, including lateral and rotation – making our bodies feel more balanced and relaxed. Consequently our running style will feel freer and more fluid.

A Hot Vinyasa class is a little more energetic and encourages a full flow of movement in all directions – including upside down for upper body strength.

Better breathing

In yoga, all movement and mental focus are in line with the breath.  We breathe in and out through the nose which is a more efficient way of getting oxygen to our lungs than through the mouth and helps to lower the heart rate – thus improving stamina.

When running we can replicate the focus on the breath to zone out from any mental gremlins that might affect our performance. Deeper breathing will also help calm our pre-race nerves and relax tense parts of our bodies to direct energies to more efficient usage. So goodbye monkey mind, muscle fatigue, gasping for breath, and side stitches!

The extra challenge

Because the room is heated to a delicious 38-degrees (who needs to go on holiday?!), the body has to work harder and the mind has to focus more. It’s a mental and physical challenge of intense heat. It can take a few classes to get used to and some days may feel better than others but this all helps us to hone in on specific parts of our body and feel what’s going on – even if its discomfort or fatigue! But that’s where the focussing on the breath bit comes in – much like how we would do when running. Plus, with the extra heat, it’s impossible not to feel a little bit zen which is what we need to calm our active minds and bodies.

The sciencey bit

The heat warms up the synovial fluid around our joints and makes our muscles more elastic and pliable allowing for deeper and safer stretching with results that are longer lasting. The heat makes our blood vessels expand to increase the blood and oxygen flowing around the body which allows them to build, lengthen and repair more easily (vasodilation). This increased blood and oxygen also speeds up our body’s ability to breakdown glucose and fatty acids that help shed fat tissue and weight (if you even need that!).

There’s only one way to find out...

If yoga’s good enough for ultra marathon runner Scott Jurek then it’s certainly good enough for me! On the days that we aren’t running, we can slide some yoga into our rest days for active muscle recovery, improved core stability, increased range of motion and to borrow a few poses to use as a warm-up or cool-down at a training or race. So there’s only one way to find out the effects of hot yoga on our running performance, and that’s to give it a go... I’ll race you to the mat!

 

By Rebecca Leam, yoga teacher and runner.  Rebecca has a strong interest in the benefits of yoga for sporty peeps and last year trained with Sarah Ramsden, aka yoga teacher to Ryan Giggs, Manchester United and Manchester City Football Clubs and GB Olympians.