It’s a known fact that a regular yoga practice helps relieve stress, so why on earth is this class specifically given the title ‘De-Stress’ you might well ask….. Well, it follows my years of research and teaching, not just as a yoga teacher but also a nutritional therapist specialising in all things stress-related. This has led me to understand the particular need for we have for yoga within this 21st century context. We are not living the life ascetic on a remote mountain, but rather bombarded by constant stimulus, psycho-social pressures and the continual demands of an urban lifestyle.
- “The breath leads, the body follows and the mind observes”
Yoga is connection; not the shapes we make or the flexibility we might want, but awareness created and in the first of the Yoga Sutras, ‘stilling the mind’. A large part of any yoga practice is to ‘just be’ and help us move away from the stress-inducing ‘fixing and doing’ so rewarded in our culture. This is the essence of being in the here and now – if we’re not ‘present’ then our brains are flitting around in the past and/or future. This is how we tend to live and many of us need dedicated tools and guides to help us stay in the moment and truly feel what we feel, whatever it is, without judgement.
A physical yoga practice can help us do that, providing a focus for our restless minds and helping us to stay with strong sensations with our breath as a guide. The more we practice with this mindful attitude, the more we create a more easy attitude and sense memory – a calm place to come back that seeps into everyday life.
What actually happens in a class?
When teaching these classes, I find that using the De-Stress banner helps set a context. Students have come because they have recognised a need to specifically address the effects stress has on their bodies and minds.
- We start by arriving and connecting with the breath, recognising that we may have been holding stress up in our shoulders and helping redirect focus down into our bellies. This may be done lying or sitting.
- Recognising our tendencies to sit on chairs and so hold tension in hips and lower backs, we start mindfully moving to release that with loosening hip work, again lying or sitting.
- We then use this cultivated mindfulness of movement – feeling release happening via the breath – to move into a stronger asana (posture) practice to open up tight upper spines, compressed front bodies, tight thighs, hamstrings and psoas muscles so common in the modern body. This will be wherever we need to safely and effectively encourage postural conditions and habits as our bodies are designed but may not always achieve.
- I teach with a focus on alignment and staying soft with breath and attitude to hold postures so that we can grow within them; building strength but releasing tension at the same time. I have been told that I build to a surprisingly strong practice ‘by stealth’!
- We lead back down to a restorative and relaxing practice at the end; to assimilate energy we have created, fully release any stress moved out and to prepare us to take this attitude of non-reaction into our daily lives through a focus on the breath.
My yoga teaching training was rooted in Buddhist principles and so the Mindfulness pillars of letting go, trust, patience, ‘beginner’s mind’, acceptance, non-judgement and non-striving are inherent parts of my teaching language. This practice has been shown to be very effective for those suffering symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, depression and addictions, but also help anyone looking for more stillness, connection, adaptability and resilience in life.
Each time afresh
I have taught yoga to a multitude of people showing the same symptoms of stressful living; tight breathing, bodies and chattering monkey minds alongside difficulties ‘letting go’. I have seen how all bodies and minds respond to consciousness breathing and opening up shut-down bodies with great relief and steady progress however challenging this seems in the beginning. This certainly doesn’t just apply to beginners; we can all build up habits over years, particularly if our focus has strayed into ambition in poses, losing sight of the meditative essence of yoga.
As I am keen to help us connect with our ‘beginners minds’ and always view with fresh, new eyes (and other senses) those new to yoga will have the advantage of no expectations and those with more experience will be guided to help let go of attachments (samskaras) and sense of ‘going through the motions’. I believe my role as a yoga teacher is to facilitate you truly feeling what your body needs at any given time and helping your practice unfurl accordingly.
If you have any questions at all about the class content, your suitability or any 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 De-Stress Yoga All Levels classes with Charlotte in London here
- See De-Stress Yoga All Levels workshops with Charlotte in Brighton and London here
- Also Hatha Yoga All Levels classes with Charlotte in Brighton here