Archive for the ‘Yoga classes / workshops’ Category

Workshop on vision, brain and movement

Friday, September 15th, 2017

I did a 3 hour workshop in September 2017 on brains, vision and movement. I wanted to see if there was a way of combining 3 disciplines that I’ve studied for a while, Yoga, The Alexander Technique and Eyebody. It was the first time I had brought some ideas about how our brain works into a workshop.

We spent an hour playing around with noticing the difference between what the way that our bodies actually worked as opposed to how we had grown up thinking that they worked. This is the Alexander technique concept of body mapping. I did a whistle stop tour head/tail and then legs and arms.

We figured out where the top of our head was, the bottom (hint: it isn’t the bottom of the jaw). Then we did head / body games to figure out how our heads actually rested on the top of our spine.

Then we figured out where our brain was. Everyone closed their eyes and pointed to their brain. Differed a lot, some people pointed to their forehead. Others to the back or middle of head. As a teacher, that for me was one of the interesting learning points, that we all have very different ideas about what our brain is.

It made me realise that for me now, my brain is inside my whole head and it has a long tail of nervous system running down my spine with nerves branching out to every part of my body.

We did another hour, this time with a simple sun salutation from Yoga. We were exploring what it was like to embody the Eyebody principle of vision leads, brain, eye and body follows.

The last part of the class was on activities that everyone brought to the class.

Two people in the class wanted to work on a computer. The common theme for both people was how they interfered with their arm structure. What I noticed as was, the act of focussing on the screen ended up with both people tightening their shoulders because they had disconnected to the arm support from below. I needed to remind them that the bottom most muscle of their arms actually goes into their tail, that most of the superficial muscle layer of the back of our bodies is arm. Once I had brought this back into their body through guided touch, they were both able to notice a difference.

One chap was a motor cycle courier and wanted to work with this. We worked a lot with being alert and yet relaxed. I helped him with some guided touch around neck and shoulders and that helped him find some space within his shoulders and arms.

Then somebody wanted to work on a the cobra pose in Yoga. Like many people who try this pose, I noticed that the moment that weight was put on the hands, she tightened up. I suggested finding more support from below by lengthening out legs.

I asked people what was useful about the workshop. People found things like left / right eye connection, the body mapping and the linking of vision to movement useful.

Yoga, Alexander technique and working with brains and movement

Friday, August 18th, 2017

The woman in front of me was holding a book and trying to read without her glasses. Here’s the interesting thing: she said that she couldn’t see the words as she was reading, they were too blurry. Yet, with some teaching, she was able to read reasonably fluently.

I was at a week in (not so) sunny Wales at the 2017 Eyebody retreat and the woman was being taught by the workshop leader Peter Grunwald.

What was up with this? Well, it turns out that what we think of vision, that is our ability to see clearly is only a small part of our total visual system. Light passes into our eyes; part goes to our visual cortex at the back of our brain and part goes to the upper part of our neo cortex at top and back of our brain.

It’s the light that goes to the upper part of our neo cortex that turns out to be very interesting from a movement, brain function, seeing and general well-being perspective. Because this is the bit that most of us totally cut off when we wear glasses.

So, the next time you reach for your specs or contacts, spare a thought for this orphaned part of your brain. You might have so much spare capacity up there that cutting off a bit might not be a problem for you. Me, I like to have 100% of my visual brain in use.

That bit of the neo cortex is actually quite important for overall movement co-ordination.

When I first included the neo cortex in my yoga practice, I was quite surprised at how much further I was able to go in my poses and still be comfortable. It takes practice of course and there’s been some ups and downs along the way. It’s also helped me find some extra sensitivity with hands on work.

I’m teaching a workshop in September 2017 on exploring how we can use our brains better in our life and in our movement in particular. The early bird discount expires on 22nd August, so why not come along?

Yoga and Alexander technique, workshop report

Friday, November 11th, 2016

WORKSHOPI ran a 3 hour workshop recently on ‘Yoga and the Alexander technique’. It was an introductory workshop aimed at people who had some yoga experience and wanted to find out more about the Alexander technique.

There were 5 people who came to the workshop from different backgrounds. Some were teaching yoga, others did yoga on an occasional basis.

Head / spine relationship

I decided to focus on head / spine integration as a way of integrating Alexander technique into yoga. It was an exploration of head leading the movement and the rest of the body following.

We did some very nice explorations of head neck where we did it in 3s, one person a head, another a neck and another a body. Then we tried to figure out how that person would move if their necks were totally relaxed. Or how they would move if their bodies were desperately trying to be a good yogi.

We did some very simple sun salutations seeing what came about when we allowed our heads to lead and our whole bodies to follow. There were lots of experiments, letting go of some perfect outcome.

We did some work in pairs during the sun salutation in finding a more neutral pelvis and tail. I used Robyn Avalon’s idea of finding a dinosaur tail rather than a dog tail (pelvis forward, tail tucked in) or a duck tail (pelvis back, tail pushing out). I gave the students some ideas about letting the pelvis float relative to the head of the femurs – most of the people I work with tend to lock their pelvis down on their legs. It was interesting for me that there was one person in the workshop who was already letting their pelvis float on their femurs, but was doing it too much. It was a good reminder that images and cues are always individual, what works for one doesn’t work for another.

We ended the asana practice with a supported restorative twist.

Alexander and yoga in everyday life

Then we did a section where everyone thought about something that was tricky for them in daily life. I used an idea from Jeremy Chance of asking people to think through their normal day and pick something. I also said that if they wanted to work on a yoga pose, that was really good too.

We had someone who wanted to work on trying to print out from a photocopier and talk to a colleague at the same time. We had someone who wanted to practice running, so we all got on our warm weather gear and took a walk outside. We had someone who wanted to work on how to put bolsters underneath the student’s legs in svasana to support them without feeling rushed or stressed. We had someone who wanted to practice her tai chi warms ups and someone who wanted to get to standing from sitting on the ground while carrying her toddler.

Each one needed something a little different and it was great for me to work individually with people. With most people in this class, the problem wasn’t their head / spine relationship but the fact they were so preoccupied with the activity they were doing that they had lost contact with their body. Just asking some people to think of themselves as a whole person in that situation seemed to really help bring everyone back into themselves. Often their head / spine relationship would just correct itself without any other help from me.

At the end, everyone was smiling and I felt great. When I asked them what they were going to take away from the class, the answers were, whole body, whole person moving, the idea that our jaws are separate from our heads.

Here’s a comment from one of the participants on the course:

I  enjoyed very much the workshop on Saturday the 5th, thank you. I got a lot out of it, you came across many points that were complete new to me, I keep thinking about them and try to remember and use them into everyday activities.

Yoga and the Alexander Technique, Workshop Saturday 5th November 2016

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Click here to apply for this workshop

Cost is £28. There is an early bird discount of £22 if you apply before 22nd October 2016

AlexandertechniqueAt its best, the Alexander technique is a conversation in elegant simplicity. For me, there 3 key elements in the Alexander technique

  • Head / spine relationship
  • Body mapping
  • Guided touch

Head / spine relationship
Alexander teachers have done a lot of experimenting was done over the last 100 odd years into how to pay attention to that very delicate and easily upset connection between head and spine without disrupting ground support, breath or connection to environment and the people in it.

What they discovered is that a small movement in your head relative to your spine produces a global release right the way through your whole body. That release goes beyond that to put you into a different orientation and relationship to the ground and the environment. They discovered that the head / spine relationship is a key relationship in our body that not only helps movement but also is a reliable guide to general human health and happiness.

There are many such key relationship in our body, our hara centre (our centre of gravity) is another one.

Guided touch
The Alexander technique excels in guided touch that awakens tensegrity. Jeremy Chance, an Alexander teacher trainer, says that this guided touch is something that can’t be faked. It’s the opposite of a manipulative, coercive touch. Bruce Fertman, an Alexander teacher of over 40 years experience, says

Alexander teachers excel in creating what I refer to as “tensegral support.” It’s the support system that creates the hallmark experience of kinesthetic lightness, the sense of suspension.

Body mapping
Body mapping offers the opportunity to bring the more anatomical approaches into a more thoughtful reflective approach which combines movement, function, anatomy and emotion in one package. It looks at what our internal map of our body is and then asks how we feel about that.

And lastly, it offers a way of having an informed thoughtful discussion about the 3 dimensional complex interactions between mind and body which makes movement in general an interesting human activity to think about. And yoga has lots of movements which are really interesting to practice, discuss and generally be fascinated by!

We will be doing some simple vinyasas (flowing sequences) and asana as part of the class.

It is suitable for yoga practitioners of 1 year of more of yoga experience.

If you are a complete beginner, please call me to discuss whether this workshop would be suitable for you

Click here to apply for this workshop

The workshop will be limited to 6 people

Yoga and the spine, workshop Saturday 3rd December 2011, 10am to 1pm

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

I am running a drop in workshop on Saturday 3rd December 2011, 10am to 1pm. Cost is £20.

Click here to apply for the class.

Our spines and our breath are intertwined. Often the first sign of problems in our spines is the lack natural breath movement in part of the spine. Just getting the breath moving in the spine can offer us a chance to get in touch with our natural strength and flexibility without having to do complex or difficult asana. It also offers us a way of establishing a perceptual baseline, a neutral starting place in our yogic adventures of movement, meditation and stretching.

We will be exploring how the breath moves in our spine. We’ll be taking those ideas into exploring our natural ability to flex,extend, side bend and rotate our spine to see how that can expand our life experience. We will take a look to see how simple self-help can help maintain and improve the health of this essential centre in our bodies.

We will be doing some simple vinyasas (flowing sequences) and asana as part of the class.

Yoga and the spine, Workshop 30th July 2011, 10am to 1pm

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

I am running a drop in workshop on Saturday 30th July 2011, 10am to 1pm. Cost is £20.

Click here to apply for the class.

Our spines and our breath are intertwined. Often the first sign of problems in our spines is the lack natural breath movement in part of the spine. Just getting the breath moving in the spine can offer us a chance to get in touch with our natural strength and flexibility without having to do complex or difficult asana. It also offers us a way of establishing a perceptual baseline, a neutral starting place in our yogic adventures of movement, meditation and stretching.

We will be exploring how the breath moves in our spine. We’ll be taking those ideas into exploring our natural ability to flex,extend, side bend and rotate our spine to see how that can expand our life experience. We will take a look to see how simple self-help can help maintain and improve the health of this essential centre in our bodies.

We will be doing some simple vinyasas (flowing sequences) and asana as part of the class.

Goma Retreat 29 April to 1 May 2011

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Goma have let me know that they are doing a retreat from Friday 29th April to Sunday 1st May 2011. Cost is £150 for a dorm accommodation, £108 for share in large heated yurt or £80 camping.

There’s a choice of yoga, drumming, Indian dance or bushcraft for some of the sessions over the weekend. Of course, there’s also a Goma concert at 8:30 on Saturday night.

The location is Cleeve House, Seend, Wiltshire SN12 6PG.

If you’re interested, phone the retreat on 0789 199 0642, email them on gomaretreat [at] yahoo.co.uk or see the information on


6 week Yoga class, Wednesdays starting on 10th November

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Class starts Wednesday 10th November, 7.30pm to 9pm. Cost is £40 for 6 weeks. This six week class introduces the ancient art, philosophy and science of yoga and encourages you to learn new ways of being and repattern old habits.

The we move is mostly unthinking and habitual. This class series re-examines these habits in a friendly and safe setting. Often it is the way we understand and initate movement that is problematic, leading to sitff muscles, high degree of tension and other issues such as anxiety, sleep loss and joint problems. By working on whole movement patterns I’ll give you a chance to open up to more freedom and ease in your life. Classes will be small in number, around 4 people, so that I can give each student some personal attention.

Yoga class, London N4, Wednesday 14th July 7.30pm

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Class starts Wednesday 14th July, 7.30pm to 9pm. Cost is £40 for 6 weeks. This six week class introduces the ancient art, philosophy and science of yoga and encourages you to learn new ways of being and repattern old habits.

The we move is mostly unthinking and habitual. This class series re-examines these habits in a friendly and safe setting. Often it is the way we understand and initate movement that is problematic, leading to sitff muscles, high degree of tension and other issues such as anxiety, sleep loss and joint problems. By working on whole movement patterns I’ll give you a chance to open up to more freedom and ease in your life. Classes will be small in number, around 4 people, so that I can give each student some personal attention.

Yoga class London N4 begins Wednesday 19 May 2010

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Yoga matThis six week class introduces the ancient art, philosophy and science of yoga and encourages you to learn new ways of being and repattern old habits.

The we move is mostly unthinking and habitual. This class series re-examines these habits in a friendly and safe setting. Often it is the way we understand and initate movement that is problematic, leading to sitff muscles, high degree of tension and other issues such as anxiety, sleep loss and joint problems. By working on whole movement patterns I’ll give you a chance to open up to more freedom and ease in your life. Classes will be small in number, around 4 people, so that I can give each student some personal attention.