My own yoga practice began as a result of a strong motivation to recover from the long-term illness that had rendered me unable to experience and enjoy life as I wanted. I had had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome probably in some form since my teens – alongside a catalogue of conditions including depression, anxiety, insomnia and IBS – and having needed physiotherapy for back issues understood that new physical and mental attitudes were needed to change what had become ‘normal’ for me. I began a journey of looking at all aspects of my body and mind, including what led to my becoming a Nutritional Therapist over ten years ago.
- “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured” – B.K.S. Iyengar
I was drawn to yoga not just for physical recovery, but also through a recognition that I was using up a huge amount of energy with continual brain noise. I realised I had never been able to live in the present and needed to learn to help calm those ‘chattering monkeys’ that were keeping me in a permanent stress state. This drew me to my teacher Jim Tarran (later teacher training with him at the Vajrasati School), whose practice is rooted in Buddhist principles and using yoga’s meditative focus alongside Mindfulness pillars of letting go, trust, patience, ‘beginner’s mind’, acceptance, non-judgement and non-striving.
After extra teacher training with Fiona Agombar to teach people with ME/CFS and Burnout and assisting her on retreat, I was able to add in other dimensions of teaching to combine the most supportive elements for those needing recovery.
Who is this class aimed at?
When I first started up a class at the Special Yoga Centre in London, I called it Healing Yoga knowing that the style and content would be accessible for anyone needing the time, space and gentle movement to be able to explore body restoration within a safe and supportive environment. Within the first few weeks of teaching this class. I realised the universal appeal of this name and was teaching people with Chronic Fatigue, but also Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, joint problems, anxiety, even paralysis – anyone wanting to practice yoga at the right level for them. I nurture an environment where choice is always available and working with props can always offer a myriad variations to suit anyone’s absolute individuality.
The truly calming nature of this class means that it can help those suffering from stress-related conditions; those where the heightened nervous system ‘constant alert’ agitation continually feeds into symptoms like nervousness, anxiety, fear, vertigo, sleep issues, headaches, tension, IBS, nausea, addictions, fatigue and difficulty relaxing. The underpinning practice of Mindfulness throughout the class provides a clear guide to feel we can safely ‘let go’ and start to trust our bodies. I have personal experience of the resistance and fear we can feel when asked to ‘just be’; this helps me to notice when people need help along the way and provide the right tools to guide people through this.
Straight away there have always been fully-able students wanting to supplement a stronger physical practice with the opportunity to explore stillness and being guided to experience awareness within a fully somatic nervous system state; where we have optimum waking relaxation and healing potential. This is the chance to experience meditation within movement and the mindfulness we really need to stay and really feel what our bodies have to tell us they need. We can miss a lot when we constantly move more quickly and feed habits of distracting ourselves!
What actually happens in a class?
Within this rough layout, modifications for any student are available:
- We start by lying fully supported for a long relaxation session to arrive and connect with the breath. You will be guided to focus on moving down from the brain to let your breath be your guide and really start to occupy your body. Different simple breathing techniques, focussed attention and visualisations are used here to help you create ease.
- This sets the scene for initial mindful movement (lying down) to soften lower backs and gentle open hips. Here you will be guided to use your breath to experience the body and mind sensations this brings up, fostering the practice of non-reaction that has been shown to help reduce sensations of pain and anxiety.
- The main physical portion of the class helps open up spines and upper backs to promote postural changes that can help body systems work to their optimal. We do this through various gentle movements, including back arches, forward bends and twists; all poses chosen to provide as little or as much space as you need to move within your capacity for that day. You are able to rest at any time you need, someone is usually doing so!
- We lead back down to a restorative and relaxing practice at the end; to assimilate energy we have created, fully release any tensions moved out and to prepare us to take this attitude of non-reaction and energy efficiency into our daily lives through a focus on the breath.
If you have any questions at all about the class content, your suitability or any aspects of your personal physical or mental condition, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Private sessions are also possible for those unable or preferring not to attend class sessions.
- See Healing Yoga All Levels class with Charlotte in London here
- See Healing Yoga All Levels class with Charlotte in Brighton here