This is the first of my weekly yoga blogs. These are exciting times with yoga literally taking off in popularity everywhere, even here in Essex land where, apparently, it was just fake tans and white sandals that interested us until recently!
New studios are opening, festivals popping up every other week and you can even do yoga in our local park (OK I know I’m teaching it – but it’s there and, I’m pleased to say, growing a healthy following).
North Greenwich Vegan Fest (Saturday 6th October)
I celebrated the first Saturday of October at the Vegan/Yoga Fest in Greenwich. It turned out to be a slightly longer journey than I’d hoped and also unfortunately much wetter, but it was still a great day out. The Jubilee Line took me to Greenwich but then I had to get a bus across country (town) to the Sixth Form College (Halley Academy) where the festival was being held. Amazingly I didn’t get lost. When I got off the bus it was easy to follow the yoga mats in the right direction (those mats come in handy). Ten years ago I’d never have considered going all that way on my own but yoga has given me much more confidence. Plus I know that when I get there I won’t feel awkward or out of place with other yogis around.
The weather couldn’t have been much worse. I was really sorry for the street food traders who’d been put outside. They still did some trade because people were clearly determined to eat but it wasn’t easy for them. I picked the warmest and most convenient stall to buy from but still ended up with rain pouring off the awning onto my head. The coffee people, positioned furthest away probably didn’t sell anything at all. It was profit all the way for the one coffee/tea seller inside the hall though! Their ginger tea tasted delicious. It was just what I needed after paddling from the bus stop!
I managed three yoga sessions and for the one off price of £3.99 it was a bargain. The first session was in a chilly gym block with rain pounding against the windows. The Iyengar instructor was very knowledgeable and I loved the way she taught Tree using the wall to stretch up against. She then instructed us to pull up and away from the wall. I could really feel the difference of this approach, stretching each muscle to the limit rather than the soft joint Dru approach which focuses on allowing energy to flow instead of muscles stretching. Both have their merits and it’s just good to try different approaches – yoga has so many styles and aspects to it you can never stop learning new things.
The next session was supposed to look at how the Bhagavad Gita affects the physical practice. I’ve no idea what that would have involved but it sounded interesting. I actually only went into the session because I was passing and it was just about to start but I was still disappointed when the instructor announced she was substituting. We all agreed to stay anyway – yogis are a polite and flexible lot! And the session turned into a Vinyasa flow with Surya Namaskar and ended with a quick talk about Ayurveda.
I ended the day with Shakti Yoga. It was the only session I’d booked and paid for in advance. I was fairly certain I could get there by 4pm (even allowing for oversleeping and getting lost) and I also know the teacher and always enjoy his sessions.
In between sessions I managed to eat a lentil curry and buy an Om necklace (a bargain at £3) plus two thermal bottles for £10 (one for drinks and the other for soup). Then it was back to the bus stop through the rain. By then I couldn’t have been much wetter – made worse by the fact my water bottle had leaked through my yoga bag.
It was a shame about the weather, especially as the days before and after were both filled with glorious sunshine – but it looks like there are lots more festivals planned throughout the year with one on the 10th November in Colchester. It’s best to check online before you go and pay for one of the ticketed workshops. They all cost £3 plus a small booking fee and include entrance to the main festival and free workshops. Since entrance costs £5 on the door (without a ticketed workshop) it’s actually cheaper to book for one workshop in advance and pay for extras when you get there (subject to availability of course).
Bedfords Walled Garden Apple Festival (Sunday 7th October)
Thankfully, the rain stopped on Sunday so after teaching my regular yoga class in the Tesco Community Room (including the Iyengar version of Tree for a contrast with our usual Dru Flowing Tree) I popped over to Bedfords Park to see what was going on there.
The Walled Garden has changed a lot since the council took back control from Clear Village. “Our” cabin is still there and looking good with a new roof and electrics. It doesn’t have the same charm without its twinkling fairy lights but I can see that the new fittings are more practical and apparently the fairy lights are still around and could be strung up if required (for yoga again maybe???). The pizza oven was in full operation and the Warm Spiced Apple Juice was delicious. I didn’t sample the homemade tomato soup (with Walled Garden tomatoes) but I can tell you it looked and smelt good too.
The council were there with advice on avoiding waste (I picked up a very useful and much needed free spaghetti measurer from them), there were wax candles and smellies on sale plus garden produce and, of course, lots of apples including grading of varieties (very educational). They even had some chickens (not usual residents but very cute and interesting all the same).
I dropped into the Visitors’ Centre where they sell lots of interesting stuff including a range of very tasty marmalade and other preserves. I recommend the Grapefruit Marmalade with ginger. I couldn’t resist the chocolate spread. I’m sure exactly what I’ll be using it for but I’m sure I’ll think of something! The Centre has expanded its cafe menu to include jacket potatoes as well as sandwiches, toasties and cakes (which constantly change). Next time I visit I’ll be having the luxury hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream – sounds yummy and perfect for the colder months.
The Walled Garden is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Volunteers are always welcome to come along and help out. I’m hoping that we may be able to resume yoga classes in the cabin next year so keep checking my emails and website for news about that.
ESOL Yoga (Monday and Wednesday – 8th/10th October)
I’m now leading two yoga classes at the college where I’m also an ESOL teacher, NCC Redbridge College. One is on Mondays at 4pm, just before my E2 ESOL evening class so that the evening students can attend, the other is during the day at 12.30 on Wednesdays. Initially the 4pm twilight class was open to male students as well as female, but since none actually came I’ve changed it to female only. It’s very difficult making the class accessible to all (which is what I want) when most of our students are Muslim ladies wanting a female only class.
The classes are both reasonably well attended and hopefully more students will come when they realise the benefits of yoga combined with language learning. It’s lovely to see the ladies remove scarves and other layers in the culturally safe and comfortable environment I’m doing my best to create for them. It’s also lovely for all the levels and cultures to mix together in a shared activity. I’ve kept the classes simple to begin with and started to introduce language for less used vocabulary and body parts.
I will be producing a booklet to go with the course which will build up gradually through the year. Anyone interested will be able to download it from my website free of charge soon whether or not they are students at the college. The classes themselves are part of the college enrichment programme and only open to Redbridge students at the moment. If they continue to be successful I will consider extending the programme to an external venue for non-college students.
Raphael Park Bandstand Yoga (Thursday 11th October)
Ten of us (plus a very beautiful and well behaved baby) filled the bandstand this week. The weather was perfect and the energy amazing as we practised EBR4 – the energising sequence incorporating eagle wings, focus and fearless flight. Also compassionate waves with affirmations, especially appropriate this royal wedding week. I love circling my hands in queenly waves to close this beautiful Dru sequence.
It is particularly lovely to be outdoors at this time of year. All I have to do is look around me at the incredible display of autumn colours and describe what I see during the visualisations. Being in a circle is also very special and when we completed the EBR4 everyone could feel the energy we’d created. Even the animals in the park seem to react to the sequence. It’s hard to really explain. It has to be experienced.
We’ve got two more weeks planned in the bandstand. This Thursday I’ll be introducing EBR5 to expand the subtle body, clear the chakras ready to embrace change. This sequence will help you to establish a clear vision to see our goal in life. The natural flow and rhythm of the moevments will help us let go of deeply entrenched emotional patterns that so often prevent us from moving forward.
All welcome to join us in the bandstand this Thursday. We meet at 11am and there’s no need to book. Just come along (£5 per session for adults). Wear plenty of warm, comfortable layers and bring a yoga mat if you have one (I always bring along a few extras in case anyone needs to borrow one).
I’m looking forward to the last week of this academic term and counting down the days to the Om Yoga Show next weekend. I’ll be writing about it next week but if you want to experience it yourself check out the Events tab of my website for links to the Om Yoga Show at Alexandra Palace. I’ll be there on Friday and Saturday. Sunday will be Week 6 of the current block at Roneo Corner Tesco – a few drop-in places are still available so just let me know if you’d like to come.
Have a good week ….