If there is one element of yoga that I have never been truly comfortable with, it is inversions. I can happily master a wheel or an inversion, but anything resembling a headstand or a handstand and I’m out. All the preparation can step nicely in to place. I can even tiptoe my feet forward in to a super upright dolphin, but the second my full weight comes up and over my shoulders, I freak out. After years of practice it hasn’t gotten any better which is pretty sad given that I actually love being upside down. So the only solution for fearless inversions…aerial yoga. Once you are able to set aside the feeling of motion sickness when you’re rocking around with your head grazing the floor, you feel like anything is possible.
The freedom you feel from being suspended gives a new sense of courage, just like floating in water. You can take this new found courage and run wild, exploring things you could never do on the ground. The best part of all this, is that after challenging yourself for 60 minutes, you get a rewarding savasana like no other, wrapped up in your own suspended cocoon. Well worth trying out an aerial class if only for the savasana!
One of the most remarkable privileges of my current lifestyle, is having the freedom to jump on a plane to visit friends anywhere in the world. The best part of which, is actually being spoiled with having friends strewn all over the planet itself. So I decided to treat myself with a last minute flight to New York for Easter, with a mid week break to Arizona in between.
With this being my third visit to New York, it felt like I was returning home to somewhere really familiar, despite it being the ever growing gargantuan metropolis. Revisiting favourite haunts in Brooklyn and catching up with old friends made it seem like it was a neighbourhood I’d never left. Finally having an opportunity to party in the city was an absolute game changer. What’s more, having a real event to dress up for in the coldest of winter meant that I went to the effort of gluing feathers to my face!
10 days of back to back yoga marathons peaked in Prescott, where I could practice with my fellow TTC course friend Perry. Taking delicious yin classes and seeing him thrive in a community he has created was heartwarming. My state of bliss peaked with the success of getting Burning Man tickets. I could not contain my excitement just across the border from Nevada, where I will return to in just a few months. The peace and quiet there in the mountains entwined with the craziness of NYC was just the perfect combo. The inspiration for costumes from drag queens and the abundance of thrift stores got my creative juices flowing and I truly cannot wait cross the Atlantic once again in August.
You know those times when you laugh so hard that your ribs ache and your cheeks hurt? Imagine that for seven straight days. It sounds exhausting but it was pure infectious week of medicine for the soul in Morocco. It’s not often that I recommend particular places to stay as I usually take the cheapest bed available and spend all of my time away from accommodation, however in these circumstances I cannot recommend these places highly enough.
It was an EXTREMELY impromptu last minute trip decided during a yoga studio afternoon tea party. Two wonderful friends are both primary school teachers, so we took advantage of their holidays. Weirdly we had been researching Tamraght individually for a surf and yoga holiday, the universe brought us together and we had the most hysterical week of exercise and laughter. There are truly hundreds of surf schools north of Agadir,but Surf Star Morocco is utterly unbeatable. The accommodation is awesome, we took a triple room and ended up with a huge apartment to ourselves. The rooftop has beautiful views for dawn and dusk yoga, and the food is out of this world. The team of people working at the camp feel like a giant extended family. October is just at the start of the season and totally worth a trip if you book your flights in advance, don’t get caught out with last minute bookings!
If you’re thinking of giving surfing a try, be warned the waves are packed and you’ll be dodging other beginners all day long. I learned the hard way on day one and bit through my lip after kissing the board in a wave. I spent the rest of the week looking like Pete Burns. Most camps will have yoga teachers that take a day off so there will be a yoga free day, perfect either for day trips, or for me an opportunity to teach.
It was really hard leaving camp after a week of dysfunctional family life but a final night in a suite at the Riad Assouel in the heart of the Medina in Marrakech was calling. Normally hotel photos exaggerate beyond belief, but in this case no picture can show just how amazing this riad truly is, what’s more absolutely nothing can capture the beautiful fragrance. The painstakingly restored medieval architecture and carefully chosen furniture make you feel like Moroccan royalty. From the riad you can take a short walk to Le Jardin, prefect for dinner in the candlelit garden oasis.
I’ve spent years hoping to visit Morocco and this did not disappoint. A truly fabulous week spent with the very best company imaginable.
I subbed a class for the first time here in Switzerland, not at a studio but in a regular corporate class at the Local 360 offices. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but as soon as I met the students I knew it would be fine. With no time to prepare due to such short notice, I really had to think on my feet. This kind of challenge would be daunting for any new teacher, but the class was so welcoming and they were all so open minded that I didn’t feel any pressure at all. This is such a wonderful feeling when you teach, knowing that people are receptive. the 60 minutes disappeared but I got to chat to everyone about their practice afterwards. Its such a tremendous luxury to have a teacher come to you in your own environment and give classes that conveniently fit around your day. It was further proof to me that you really can do yoga anywhere, and highlighted the importance of building your practice in to your daily routine. We all find excuses, myself included, to skip a day of practice. We’re either too busy, too stressed, or simply too plain lazy at times, but even if you take the time to meditate or practice some pranayama, the benefits can be astounding. It doesn’t need to be hours, 15 minutes of mindfullness a day can work wonders. If you work in an office with a very busy schedule, why not speak to your facilities manager and see if they can find you a space in the building for a regular class with your colleagues. After this experience I’m a full advocate for yoga in the workplace. Give it a try!
If there is one part of yoga that everyone loves it is always shavasana. I have come across many people who just can’t get on with yoga, they struggle all the way through a class and tense up rather than stretch muscles, but they all categorically agree that ‘the bit at the end is amazing’. The wonderful thing about yoga nidra is that you have all the benefits of a shavasana but for a longer period accompanied by a beautiful guided mediation. The last time I had a nidra session in India I managed to stay awake for the entire duration. It was one of the most surreal and trippy experiences of my life thanks to a mispronunciation of a key word. We were instructed to imaged that we were ‘A baby LYING in a lotus flower’ instead we all heard ‘A baby LION in a lotus flower’. So we all wrongly pictured ourselves as lion cubs, which only further added to the power of our imaginations.
One hour of nidra can give you the sensation of having had 3 hours sleep so when you come out of the meditation you feel so refreshed and energised. I took part in a wonderful workshop at the Sanapurna studio here in Zurich and didn’t manage to stay above the cusp of sleep. I was gone within minutes and awoke feeling like I had missed out on the entire session. This is not the first time either, I immediately fell asleep during a nidra session in Rishikesh too. The trick is to constantly gently remind yourself to stay focused. Its not the easiest thing to do because you’re also focusing on relaxing. but as soon as you feel yourself nodding off you have to bring yourself back from the edge whilst keeping your eyes closed.
If you have difficulties sleeping there are many suggested tips out there to get you to sleep. Nidra has all the associated benefits of a proper nights rest so I would suggest looking up a workshop or a regular class and treat yourself, the sensation is amazing. If you’ve felt tired or had a lack of energy for a while you’ll float out of that studio like a rested baby lion!
So I’ve found the most wonderful spot for lakeside classes in the park in Wollishofen. The only sad news is that we have had the worst summer in history here in Zurich, so nearly every outdoor class has been cancelled. the very few I was fortunate enough to teach were superb, with a perfect shady patch under the trees. The picture above was a sneaky shavasana shot. I couldn’t resist, everyone looked so blissful. Being outside adds another dynamic to yoga. You are aware of noises and movement around you but not distracted by them. Only when you reawaken at the end of class do your appreciate the subtlety of birdsong. It has raised my teaching confidence significantly and I hope to find a location for winter classes very soon.
(Poonam pictured above during the studio renovation process)
If there is a single project to draw inspiration from here in Zürich its this. Sanapurna Ayurveda and Yoga Studio on Militärstrasse now feels like my second home, there are a number of reasons why. One of which is the familiar sensations that take my memories back to India. Thomas’ personal tea blend evokes a deep taste memory that reminds me of my daily morning tea drinking ritual in Rishikesh. What’s more there is constant subtle soothing music played throughout, often the Gayatri mantra that I find myself singing as I float out of the studio. The smell of the oils emanating from the ayurvedic rooms conjure up warm feelings of deep massages. But first and foremost its due to the wonderful people who run it. I truly felt welcome from the second I first stepped in the door, now just being there is always the highlight of my week. Poonam and Thomas have a wonderful story of how they built this fabulous studio. They believe in community and want to provide a haven for all, you can read more about this on the Sanapurna website.
They are currently looking for volunteers. The community feel is genuine because there is a team of dedicated volunteers that assist in studio maintenance. If this is something you feel interested in please view the Ron Orp ad for further details.
If you don’t wish to volunteer but would like to take some classes there are also some brilliant summer promotional offers. Try a class and see for yourself, the studio alone is enough to make you want to come everyday, but the teachers are superb to boot. You can check out the schedule here, or pop in to see for yourself.
This is a studio I wholeheartedly believe in and I feel very privileged and truly grateful to see such lovely faces and warm hearts every week. So a big thanks to Sanapurna for letting me be a part of their community and creating my new home from home.
Under normal circumstances I would usually be spending my time at Stonehenge for summer solstice, but seeing as I now live a plane journey away I decided now would be a good time to get some sun salutations underway for the longest day of the year. So I got back in the teaching saddle, and taught a class in sunshine down by Lake Zurich here in Wollishofen.
Granted I was teaching friends, but it didn’t seem to daunt me at all. Being outside gives you a new sense of freedom and I jumped at the chance to teach a full class. It went really well and the setting is wonderful. Saturday morning classes always run the risk of not attracting willing participants especially after big Wolrd Cup matches, but it went swimmingly. Literally, we went for a dip in the lake afterwards to cool off after our hard work. If all goes well I will make this a regular community class for the summer.
Whilst adjusting to the altitude and recovering from 30 hours sat on a bus, I decided it was high time to find a yoga class. I desperately needed to relax my muscles and prepare for the next few days of hiking ahead. We really lucked out and found a mid morning class at the Healing House in the San Blas district in Cusco.
I had an incredible class, the studio was packed mat to mat. The intensity was heightened due to being in the highlands, making your heart and lungs work that little bit harder. It was wonderful to really push yourself in a class that under normal circumstances wouldn’t phase you, it added a whole new element to proceedings.
The best bit of any class can often be a good Shavasana. Without taking that bit of time to reflect and absorb the class you don’t take stock of everything you achieve and walk out the studio unappreciative of your hard work. That class really was hard work and having an extra long guided meditation at the end really did the trick. I had the trippiest Shavasana ever! I was hallucinating my way through a Seven Nation Army video style vision. Traveling through repeated triangles with fluttering eyelids. It was truly magical and I floated out of the room. Quite possibly one of the nicest reflecting yoga moments I’ve ever had, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
If you are proficient in yoga and you feel like you would like a new challenge, or if you simply want to try something fun on the water than stand up paddle (SUP) yoga is for you. Never have I had my balance tested in such an intense way before until I tried doing a round of sun salutations on a paddle board. I was practicing alone on an absolute mill pond, but the slightest of waves or wake from a passing boat is enough to throw you off entirely. Luckily it combines 3 of my favourite things, swimming, yoga and surfing all in one package.
I was fortunate enough to try it out by renting an SUP board for an hour in Bocas del Toro, Panama on boxing day. The bay on Isla Carenero has absolutely perfect SUP conditions with seemingly never ending flat ocean and the views are breathtaking. So after you have finished a session you can paddle around and explore the surrounding area. What’s more the water is really shallow with a sandy bottom so if you fall off its really easy to push yourself back up on to the board again.