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Rebecca Bradley, Mandala Yoga Teacher

13 March 2019

A few months ago I'd never heard of Mandala Yoga, until I walked into Rebecca's class at Yogarise in Peckham. Following the same principals of a vinyasa flow but instead of working to the front of the mat you move 360 degrees around it, therefore, 50% facing the back and the rest to the front.  A Mandala Vinyasa class is established on the 4 basic elements to bring connection between you and each of the Elements in the Universe – Earth, Water, Fire and Air – and with their corresponding Chakra. Each of the element relates to a specific group of muscles of the leg mandala:


Air – quads and backbends. Energetically activating Anahata Chakra, related with our social identity and self love, finding space in our hearts.
Fire – glutes and IT band accessing through twists. Energetically activating Manipura Chakra, our solar plexus, related with our will power and ego identity.
Water – groin and hips. Energetically activating Svadhisthana, the Sacral Chakra, our source of movement and connection, related with our reproductive system.
Earth – hamstrings and forward folds. Energetically activating Muladhara, the Root Chakra, related with grounding and safety.



One of the main missions of this blog was to profile the some of the 'standout' yoga teachers of London and Rebecca is certainly one of these. Her warm, bubble attitude and teaching technique is delightful and what ever standard of yoga you are she will make you feel 100% at ease.  You'll find her teaching at fantastic London studios such as, Yogarise, Core Collective in Knightsbridge and Kindred Yoga. 

I caught up with her to find out how she started and more about the Mandala practice..


Do you remember the first time you practiced and how did it make you feel?

Kind of, I trained as an actor and I think now looking back at drama school days we did way more yoga than we really realised in our warm-ups and breath work. However, my first proper yoga class in a legit studio was 7 years ago in London and I think I probably cried all the way through! I was going through a tough time, dealing with the grief of loosing my dad and I found practicing yoga a totally healing experience.


What do you do when you feel overwhelmed or stressed in the busy city we live in?

Either call my mum, go to a yoga class, walk my dog, or hide on my sofa. I love socializing and I love my friends dearly but sometimes spending a bit of time just being by myself and having my own space (both physically and mentally) is really calming for me.


For anyone who hasn’t practiced mandala why would you recommend it and do you have a favourite element?

Ooh ok, so my favourite element initially was earth (I like forward folding and enjoy the sense of ‘groundedness’ you get from the earth practice), but I do like the ‘flowyness’ of Water, and with air I have a love/hate relationship as I don’t backbend easily, so all of them really but perhaps fire is my least favourite (I can sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed practicing fire).


I would recommend mandala to those who already have quite an established practice and who are looking to explore a different style and to find a bit more of flow/fluidity to their practice. There are opportunities to invert, rest or down dog which is good for giving a bit of responsibility over to the student and encourages them to take their practice to where they want it to go to. I personally find Mandala very liberating and I enjoy the freedom it gives you. However, I wouldn’t really recommend Mandala to a brand new beginner as it does move quite quickly and there isn’t much time to teach the basics, so if you are new I would definitely balance out Mandala with a couple of good solid beginners classes.


Top tips for someone trying to master inversions or pincher?!

Stretch your hamstrings, strengthen your core and practice with patience. After 7 years of practice I still can’t really handstand, maybe I have too much patience ha! Also for Pincha what helped me was opening up my shoulders but if you’re already quite open it will probably be a case of strengthening them. Everyone is different and remember it really isn’t just about the pose!


Where do you practice yoga in London?

Yogarise Peckham or Kindred in Deptford both really close to where I live, great studios and really good teachers.


What are the books or book you go back to read time after time?

I’m more of a Netflix kind of girl, I know that’s bad, but if I had to choose a book, hmmm....Can I say Winnie the Pooh?!


Follow Rebecca on instagram here for all her updates.

Daniel Rama, International Yoga Teacher, Inversion Specialist

29 January 2019

It is an honour to be featuring the renowned international yoga teacher, Daniel Rama. With an inquisitive nature Daniel decided there was more to life than following the path so many take, and with that he took a trip to Sivananda Yoga Ashram in the Bahamas to train as a yoga teacher. As you will soon learn in this story, he instills the true principals of the traditional practice and is an inspiration for ones own. 

If you haven't already discovered him on instagram you're in for a treat.. his hair-raising yoga balances on cliff rocks and perfect inversions are pure yoga eye candy. This down to earth yoga guru even holds Q&A sessions through instagram live; 'Real-Talk with Rama' every Wednesday at 12pm. After discovering this guy I found myself looking for retreats he was holding and stumbled across his online handstand course. Considering it's my goal this year to become confident with inversions, I will definitely be signing up for this - click here to join me!!

When I reached out to Daniel about featuring his story, little did I know I would get the most fantastic, no-nonsense interview about the practice and today's industry. Read on and you will see what I mean! 


Most importantly, how did it all start for you and why would you recommend yoga to others? 
After an accident that should have left me with severely impaired physical ability, I found myself in need of the type of healing our modern medical community often fails to provide. In many ways, the practice of yoga came into my life through pure necessity. 

Although I have first-hand experience of the profound benefits of sincere spiritual practice, I cannot recommend yoga, or anything else, to anyone. My only recommendation is that people seek to understand their strengths and weaknesses and identify their unique purpose in life.

When one truly understands what they are supposed to do and where they are supposed to go, one will naturally indulge in activities that bring them closer to their goal.



How do you see the yoga industry changing in the years to come? 
The yoga industry is a chameleon to the rest of the world. As a species, we are quite honestly lost. We have no idea who we truly are; and in a misguided attempt to find answers, we get caught up searching for answers where none will be found. 

Yoga is a scientific process through which one begins to experience reality as it truly is. We have the tools needed to satisfy our search; and yet, the modern yoga industry tends to value relatively unimportant elements.

In truth, I do not see yoga. I see a wonderful amalgamation of physical feats of asana; but I do not see yoga. I see practitioners taking steps in the right direction at best. 

Traditionally, yoga is the process of bringing one beyond the mere mundane experience of body and mind. The modern community however, is incredibly concerned with physicality and therefore barely scratch the surface of yoga’s potential. 

Misguided as mankind may be, we have a natural ability to learn from our successes and failures. The modern yoga community will continue with its superficial course of action; but eventually, people will begin to wake from their slumber. 


Most memorable place you’ve practiced?
The Dhyana Linga, Coimbatore, South India


What advice would you give to your younger self? 
Fortunately, my younger self would not have accepted even the most elevated advice. I have always been stubborn. I will always need first hand experience. Advice is just words. 


What did it feel like to teach your first class back when you started? 
The first yoga class I taught was a 2-hour Hatha flow. Before the class, I remember how nervous I was to see people filing in. I remember the feeling of inadequacy. However, as soon as I finished repeating a Sanskrit invocation, I felt almost as if a great teacher entered my body and took control of the situation. 

During the class itself, there was no nervousness, no self-doubt. Although I was teaching my first yoga class, it felt as if I had been teaching for generations.



What book (or books) have you repeatedly read or gifted to others?
I have never been able to interest myself in books. To me, everything is fictional until I gain first hand experience; and books are second hand information at best. 

Spiritual literature can give aspirants basic direction, but ultimately, I find the act of sincerely observing the organic unfolding of Life to be a more powerful teacher. 



Whats on this year with Daniel: Yoga Teacher Trainings: March 4-28 in Barcelona, Aug 9 to Sept 2 in Bali.
Regular international workshops and retreats. Visit www.danielrama.com/programs/#workshops for details.

Hannah aka Yoga Girl London

5 January 2019

I stumbled across Hannah aka Yoga Girl London on instagram. One of her posts caught my attention and my heart. It was about the difficulty that followed the birth of her daughter, how she dealt with it and how is now helping others to do the same. 

In Hannah's words;  'Being a mother can be tough. My daughter was born in the summer of 2017, and her birth and start to life were very traumatic. I don’t think you can ever be prepared for having a child in intensive care, and I was hit with postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The breathing techniques, meditation and physical practice of yoga gave me an outlet to cope and feel strong again in both my mind and body. And today my daughter is a beautiful soldier who loves nothing better than to sit beside me while I practice.' 

Yoga has helped many people like Hannah through difficult times. It's more than just exercise it's a way to connect with what's happening now, not worrying about the future or the past, but instead approaching life's little bumps in a calmer manner.  

Hannah has specialised in pre and postnatal yoga and is on a mission to help others. She is renowned on instagram for her amazing videos, she has a book coming out and is a yoga teacher, all this and a full time fabulous mummy! We caught up before Christmas for a little chatter on life and yoga...

How did you come to yoga and do you remember how you felt after your first class?

I had been going to classes here and there for years but it wasn’t until we were trying for a baby and I fell pregnant that I fell in love with yoga. I had a high stress job at the time and I realised that it was exactly what I needed in my life. I found classes quite daunting so I ended up starting a daily self-practice at home and getting a one-on-one pregnancy teacher to help me understand how to modify for pregnancy. I’ve pretty much kept that daily practice up for four and a half years now and my mat continues to be my happy place to reconnect and de-stress.



Why did you decide to specialise in pre and post natal yoga? 

I have always been into fitness and used to be a complete gym bunny. After I had my first baby (Jack) I jumped straight back into exercise but ended up injuring myself in one of those postnatal kettle bell classes. It made me realise that I didn’t understand the changes in my postnatal body and what I should and shouldn’t do. There’s loads of information out there but it’s often contradicting and confusing. It motivated me to educate myself so I could help other women through both pregnancy and postpartum. That’s also when I had the idea to write a book to help mothers regain their strength post baby.



What is the book or books have you most given as a gift or have just influenced your life? 

I love the Four Agreements. So simple yet so thought provoking. Without sounding cliche, it really changed my outlook on life.



I hear you have a new book coming out, what can readers expect with your first book? 

Strength Through Yoga is a postnatal guide that ensures a safe and effective journey to restoring strength, and to support you in both body and mind. It is a 16-week programme that is evidence based, co-written by a physiotherapist (@finolaphysio) and has been reviewed by medical professionals.

The book includes six weeks of physiotherapy based exercises followed by ten weeks of yoga inspired circuits designed to increase full body strength and flexibility in just 25-30 minutes, 3 times a week. Additionally we have included information and advice on the core and other essential muscles, mindfulness and mediation techniques, and common postpartum issues - shedding some light on issues which can be hard to talk about and giving you information on what you can do to help. If you take one thing away from this book, know that you are not alone and help is out there.


What advice would you give to your younger self? 

Money doesn’t equal success and happiness is everything.




For Hannah's classes and more details on her yoga, book and events check out: www.yogagirllondon.com

Florence Swift, ED Recovery + Mental Health Awareness Champion

17 December 2018

For many, Christmas is a time for over-indulging in mountains of food, but for some this time is their idea of hell, when food is nothing but an enemy. Between 600,000 and 725,000 people in the UK are affected by eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa which are considered to be serious mental health problems. Some people attribute eating disorders to media and the increased importance that is placed on ‘needing’ to have a certain body shape or type. Although some see Instagram as a facilitator, one inspirational lady has turned this into a platform to assist her recovery of this terrible illness and by sharing her thoughts, worries, and musings with her adoring followers she is not only aiding her own recovery but helping thousands of people who are also suffering. 
Florence Swift, aka, Swift_Eats is one of Instagram's true gems, with it being so easy to get swept up in a sea of 'body goals' and 'unhealthy detoxes' she is championing being happy, healthy and confident in who you are. 

I caught up with her to hear her story..


At what point did you realise you had an eating disorder and how did you address it at the time?

I realised quite soon into my disorder that I had a problem, I studied Psychology at University so I knew the diagnostic criteria for anorexia but kind of thought I had everything under control and that it didn’t apply to me, so I was totally in denial. Luckily I was already seeing my therapist at the time and we would talk about my anxieties around food and food behaviours. I remember one session she referred to me as having anorexia and I felt so shocked because no one has used those words before and I couldn’t really believed that I’d unknowingly slipped into and full blown eating disorder when it had just started as a diet.
In terms of addressing it, I learnt that my food behaviours were a manifestation of my depression, anxiety and past traumas, so I really did the work to unravel the deeper issue. My ed was a coping mechanism so once I understood what I was using it to cope with I was more easily able to let go of it.

         


When did you decide to lay yourself bare on social media to help others? How has it helped you?

There wasn’t really a moment where I was like ok I’m gonna start being honest about what I’m experiencing. It kind of just happened. I think the first post where I was really honest about what I’d been experiencing was about 18 months ago. At first I just alluded to the fact that I’d experienced mental health problems. Mental health is such a taboo and I initially felt ashamed talking about my experiences, I didn’t want to put people off and now I don’t give a shit! I’m always talking about mental health, periods, whatever, I don’t care.
It’s helped me come into myself so much. It’s been so empowering. In the past I used to instagram to make it look like I had a perfect life, and it felt so fake, so it’s amazing to be able to be honest and be so accepted for that. My audience are the most supportive, amazing people. They’ve helped me grow and learn so much about myself. I’m so grateful for the space the give me to share and create.


What advice would you give to your younger self and what advice would you say to ignore?

Ah jeez. I don’t even know where to begin! There’s so much stuff I wish I’d know, but I’d probably say:
1. Trust your gut above all else
2. You are your number one priority
3. If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will either
4. How you look is the least important thing about you

In terms of ignoring - basically just ignore what everyone else is doing and telling you to do!
I think I knew a lot of this already, but I kind of needed to experience everything before I truly believed it. I had to go through a lot of shitty relationships, listen to a lot of shitty advice first. I guess it’s all just a part of growing up.


In the last 5 years what behaviour, habit or belief has improved your life?

This is so hard because I could honestly list about 20 things but, really, really, going to therapy is the best choice I’ve ever made. It’s changed and honestly saved my life. I’ve been paying to go to therapy for 4 years, which financially is kind of rough, but I’d rather invest in my mental health than buy clothes or go out drinking so for me it’s a no brainer.


What five things can you not live without?

1. Some kind of mindfulness practice - yoga, journalling, mediation
2. Sourdough
3. Moisuriser
4. My support network
5. Chocolate

Follow florence here

Stef Menga, Rocket and Dharma Yoga Teacher

2 December 2018

People come to yoga in different ways, as you will read many times over on this blog, Stef came to the practice when areas of her life were slipping away from her and out of her control, yoga became healing place and has remained a mental and physical safe place.  I've been following this lovely lady for a while on instagram so it's great to have her on the blog to hear her yoga story... 


How did you get into yoga what was the first thing you thought after your first practice?

I started yoga following a recommendation of a friend after the tendons on the back of my knees got badly inflamed in 2015. In September I then randomly joined a Rocket Yoga class at my gym and the first feeling I had was that of pure body and mind empowerment. Soon after that, I received the terrible news that the most important person in my life, my Grandma, would have slowly be taken away by an awful cancer. I immediately found in yoga a safe, physically and mentally, healing place. I then decided to join a Yoga Studio attending classes almost every day, mainly Rocket and Dharma.


In the last years what new belief, behaviour or habit have you most improved?

Through two dynamic, physical, but also very spiritual practices, like Rocket and Dharma yoga, not only has my body became stronger and healthier, but I have also learned to accept the present and to deal with mental pain. I learnt and am now a strong believer that suffering can be turned into positive energy. There is an inner happiness in everyone’s heart. That could be unlocked by being kind and bringing happiness to ourselves and other people. We cannot change the past, but we can change the future by working hard in the present. This is what Yoga teaches us. When you first start your practice, you may not be able to do any pose, but if you work hard, one day you will get there. The present is all what we have, and we have to make the most of it, by being happy. Happiness is possible for everyone.


Favourite yoga teachers?

My huge gratitude goes To Emi Tull for building my body strength and for teaching me the value of compassion and acceptance. Helen Russell-Clark, Melissa Zelaya and Katarina Rayburn for teaching the monst mentally and physically empowering yoga sessions. Marcus Veda and Leon London for teaching me the body alignment and engagment during the practice.



Morning routine?

I tend to get up early to do my yoga practice or going for a run before I do anything else.



What would you say your soul animal is?

Tiger: Symbol of strength, power, and energy. Tiger also stands for passion and sensuality.


Five items you can't live without?

Yoga mat, homemade lunchbox, phone to stay connected with my friends (some of my best friends live abroad and I speak to them very often as I cannot see them) and obviously with my beloved IG yogi community ;), running shoes, watch


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