We chat to Brixton member Kat Berry, who’s begun a 30 Day Challenge for the mental health research charity The McPin Foundation.
There’s much to say about the physical benefits of hot yoga: major players in the field include improved strength, balance and flexibility. But what about the mental benefits? Many doctors suggest patients alleviate symptoms caused by stress and anxiety by taking up yoga and meditation.
Kat’s inspiration? “Regular practise encourages me to take care of myself and spending an hour and a half in a hot sweaty room gives me time to focus on myself and forget what is going on in the outside world.”
(Oh and she even moved house to be closer to FGB, now that’s dedication!)
Where did the idea to do hot yoga for 30 days come from?
I’ve always wanted to do the 30 day challenge but I have always found an excuse not to – either the time commitment or just the fear of knowing how tough it was going to be held me back. It wasn’t until I was lying in a class one day that I had the idea of doing the challenge for charity. I felt if I could do it for a good cause it would give me the motivation to power through the full 30 days. I am looking forward to challenging myself, raising money for mental health research and seeing how 30 days of consecutive yoga affects me.
How did you get involved in hot yoga?
A friend encouraged me to try Bikram with her, and I found it really tough for the first class, but afterwards I felt better than I had for ages and I was ready to try it again. Not long after that I tried Fierce Grace and I loved the variety of classes, 3 years on I have never looked back.
Have you got any tips for people looking to try Hot Yoga?
Take your time, pace yourself and have a rest if you need one. Yoga is not a race and it is easy to keep comparing yourself with others in the room. I have been practising long enough now to realise where my strengths and weaknesses are, and I am no longer fighting my body but trying to work with it. Progress may be slow but it is always fantastic when you can stand that bit straighter or reach that millimetre further.
Why did you pick the McPin Foundation as your charity?
I’ve recently started working for the McPin Foundation, a mental health research charity that puts people with lived experience at the heart of the research process. For me the importance of mental health and wellbeing is all too often overlooked. Having previously worked in research I have always been passionate that research can help to build our understanding of mental health problems and build better wellbeing for everyone. Personally, I have found that practising yoga regularly helps me with my own mental health and dealing with stress. Regular practise encourages me to take care of myself and spending an hour and a half in a hot sweaty room gives me time to focus on myself and forget what is going on in the outside world.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges you’ll face in your hot yoga marathon?
I think for me the biggest challenge will be making sure I’m motivated to get up early for those early morning classes before work. I’ve been on yoga retreats in the past and the longest back to back stretch I have done is ten days, which was challenging enough. One of the biggest obstacles is going to be battling through the muscle ache to get myself into that next class!
What is your favourite class and why?
My favourite class is Fierce Grace, I find it challenging and invigorating at the same time, but I do hate all those ab crunches sometimes! Fierce Grace2 is always fun to try out new things and tie myself in new knots, Shirley Williams always keeps it fun.
How have you been finding Fierce Grace Brixton?
I moved to Camberwell about 2 years ago and I’ve got to admit that having a Fierce Grace studio nearby was quite a big part of my decision to move here. I really love the studio environment – Maria and Tori at reception are always welcoming and after going on the Indian and Spanish retreats I often bump into friends and end up nattering with the teachers after class. It’s great being part of the FG community!
If you would like to sponsor Kat’s 30 day hot yoga challenge and support lifesaving mental health research please visit:
When was the last time you practiced a class that was different to your routine?
Autumn is here. Change is in the air. A fresh season and a chance to shake things up. Try something new and take your practice to a another level. Learn to FLY at FG Brixton.
“Fly challenged my core and I surprised myself that I could do Dolphin and lift my whole body…wow the strenght of my mind at Fierce Grace Yoga.” FG Brixton member, Jo Thomas.
Every Tuesday at 4.30pm, Wednesday at 5.45pm and Saturday at 2.30pm.
Yes, folks – that’s three times each and every week to challenge yourself!
A new one hour class with energetic flows and the secrets to arm balancing: building upper body strength, balance and focus. Learn the alignment protocols of inversions and arm balancing, and turn yourself upside down, get fit, and enjoy new challenges. Prepare to advance your practise and learn user friendly “glamour poses” such as Crow, Crane, Side Crow, Flying Pigeon, Dolphin and other fun arm balancing poses. The class is woven together within the Fierce Grace framework of flow, intensity, rest and challenge, to get you super strong and as light as air.
This week we are catching up with our much loved and super loyal staff member Tori, who has just reached her two year anniversary here at Fierce Grace Brixton. Tori isn’t just a smiley face behind our reception but is also a professional dancer and dedicated yogi who practises regularly at our Brixton studio. Find out what she loves about Brixton, practising yoga and working at Fierce Grace Brixton.
What’s it been like working at FGB?
Best job in Brixton! What I love most about working at FGB, is seeing members completely transform through yoga. It can be life changing -within a matter of weeks, new yogis are calm, confident, strong, healthier, happier, full of energy and so motivated. A totally upgraded version of themselves. One member even completely healed her Arthritis through practicing FG yoga. I therefore came to the conclusion that yoga is magic.
How have things changed?
We have got so much busier and as a result, the studio’s energy and strong sense of community is blooming. One of the best additions to the studio has been the garden. What was once an empty space is now a little peaceful, secret, Jasmin scented sanctuary in Brixton. We’ve even got our very own lemons.
What have been the biggest challenges?
Not so long ago when I was cleaning up, a rather sweaty and used mat came of the rack, and planted itself directly on my face – that was pretty challenging! However, I would have to say my ultimate challenge was standing in as studio manager, during the busiest time of the year in 2016. The experience gave me an excellent opportunity to develop strong decision making and problem solving skills! Regular yoga practice hugely supported me throughout this time, allowing my mind to be left clear and focused.
How often do you practice – and what are your favourite classes?
I practice regularly. I absolutely love the Fierce class – otherwise known as The Beast! I love being challenged and pushing myself, which is exactly what the Beast class gives me. I feel most satisfied when I feel like I’m growing and advancing. I also love practicing Fly, Fierce Grace and FG2. However I must say, as I have a tendency to be a bit ‘Yang’, it’s very important for me to do a Deep Core every so often, so I can get a dose of ‘Yin’ and therefore balance myself.
What do you like about Brixton?
The energy! Brixton is always buzzing, I call it the Brixton Buzz.
The never-ending list of great places to eat.
The enchanting tree on Windrush Square.
The diversity of people and the happy sense of community Brixton holds.
The fact you can get five avocados for a pound at the market.
Anything else you’d like to tell us…!
For anyone new to the studio: Welcome to FGB! I promise you that a regular yoga practice, will be the best health insurance you could ever invest in!
For those who have been with us for a while longer: It has been such a privilege to not only support you and your yoga practice over the years, but to see you grow and achieve great things through yoga. Keep going!
Love Tori :o) x
Thank you Tori for all you do here at Fierce Grace Brixton we appreciate you and love having you as part of our team.
Brixton – we love it. From our great position on Coldhabour Lane, we are surrounded by so much great stuff; you never need get on the Victoria Line again!
Food, drinks, entertainment, you name – it’s local. We explore our fave spots to hang out in SW9.
Mamma Dough. A stones throw away from FGB, Mamma Dough can be found serving up “great tasting and good value sourdough pizza and a selection of homemade dishes & desserts”. Some of our staff claim it to be the best pizza is Brixton!
Federation. Literally our next door neighbour in Brixton Village and a hotspot for FG staff meetings. It’s the perfect route to the tube following those 6.30am classes for those early birds among us indeed of caffeine.
Want something to wear? Phillip Normal is king. Also in Brixton Village, Phillip Normal specialises in funky, individual prints: from T-shirts of Pat Butcher to the eponymous pug dog – it’s all original and very, very Brixton. We love it!
Nan Ban. Get a fix of Japanese Soul Food just along the road on Coldharbour Lane. Chef and founder, Tim Anderson was Masterchef’s youngest winner and this place is featured in the 2017 Michelin Guide. Using ingredients found locally in Brixton, expect flavourful, soulful ramen amongst other favourites.
Pop Brixton. Shoreditch ain’t the only Box Park about town. With cinema showings, Tai Chi, street food and independent shops, Pop Brixton is a very cool place to hang our day and night. “Pop Brixton is a temporary project that has turned disused land into a creative space for local, independent businesses. Come and discover South London’s most exciting start-ups working in food, retail, design and social enterprise.”
Need a a place to work in Brixton? CAYA is a coffee shop and workspace for you the freelance life. Become a member or pay-as-you-go, but know that you’ll find your focus here… that and a great flight white. Freelance dream, really.
Then there’s this really amazing Hot Yoga studio, with great teachers and staff, big changing rooms and it’s called Fierce Grace… oh yeah – that’s us! Another popular Brixton hangout.
Summer is here, time to broaden your horizons and go exploring! But, flying at 39,000 feet has its downsides – DVT, stiffness and tension to name a few. Check out the top Yoga postures to keep you chilled and stretched out in the sky… and we can even help alleviate the dreaded jet lag!
How can yoga help regular fliers? Which areas of the body can it help relieve stiffness from sitting down for hours on end?
Having a yoga practice is the best preventative for issues to do with flying; the cramp, stiffness, swelling from poor circulation, and even reducing the likelihood of vein issues as the tissues around the veins are soft and open and circulation in general is improved. This is mainly because a yoga practice opens the fascia (the connective tissue) of the body, stretches it and improves general circulation, so that when flying you already have better circulation and lymph drainage.
Then adding a few yoga movements to your flight time will just boost the already healthy functionality your body has. However keeping moving while on a flight can help prevent DVT as well as stiffness and lack of circulation. Yoga stretches can reduce stiffness we can experience in neck, shoulders, legs, hips, lower back and calves and feet.
What other benefits does practising yoga bring?
The benefits of yoga are well documented, but include greater range of motion of the entire body, no more aches and pains, increased strength, stamina, flexibility, and a greater sense of mental and emotional wellbeing. It balances blood pressure, cholesterol levels, burns calories and prevents degeneration and wear and tear on the joints. People don’t realise that nearly every other form of exercise, specifically sports, like running, cycling, football and even the gym, are ageing the joints of the body.
People are obsessed with “cardio” fitness, but at what cost? A healthy heart and good stamina in a crippled body? Yoga is healthy for your joints, while still creating optimum fitness and stamina.
Whatever inconvenience it is to get started in a yoga practice is a tiny fraction of the inconvenience of living in a painful body or being ill.
Yoga is concentrating on the spine as the nervous system is originating from brain via spine to the entire body, so by preventing compression on the discs, the nerves benefit and therefore the entire body’s function. Other benefits are that stretching brings increased blood supply and oxygenation to the body.
Add the mental calmness and sense of vitality and wellbeing yoga brings, are what has made yoga so popular.
Hip opening, knee alignment, strength and flexibility, leg strength and full body integration and are what you should expect from any good yoga class.
What’s special about hot yoga and how does it work?
Hot yoga is taught in a room heated to between 90 degrees to 100 degrees. A reputable studio with well trained teachers will have good oxygenation and humidity, and use properly trained instructors.
The working temperature of your muscles and joints is around 100 degrees, this ensures the synovial fluid is thinned and can move around the joint lubricating it and bring nutrition. The heat warms the muscles and joints to ensure safe stretching. Far more injuries occur by exercising in cold rooms. That’s why all exercise systems have a warm up but hot yoga means your body stays warm throughout. It also means you do not feel stiff the next day. Hot yoga students will all tell you that the heat is emotionally and mentally cathartic. Seeing your body dripping with sweat, breathing deeply, feeling open, and healthy have a positive effect on our mood.
Now that Hot Yoga is mainstream, one can’t be sure exactly what you are going to get. Check your studios credentials or go to a recognized system such as Fierce Grace.
How does it work?
Classical yoga concentrates on the spine, as that is the core of physical wellbeing, hip opening, strength and alignment, leg strength and full body integration. It moves us to our “edge” physically and we press against this edge building flexibility and strength. The beauty of yoga is that it is just the body’s natural range of motion, usually done in static poses, so we can safely improve and strengthen whatever our level. Beginners and advanced alike work together to their own ability.
We have countless students who have reported lower blood pressure and cholesterol from doing hot yoga.
Sweating is the other reason people love hot yoga. It is an important way to detoxify the body, as the skin is the largest organ in the body. It is necessary to make sure we sweat regularly to help remove toxicity from the body.
What’s the best time of day to go to a yoga class?
Everyone is different, and really in our busy lives I would re commend just to go when you can and when fits best into your schedule. It is better to water a plant sometimes, than never. It’s beneficial any time of day. Some people prefer the buzz that a morning class gives them for their day, others love how relaxed it makes them and how well they sleep by going to class after work so they get home de-stressed from their day. If you are low on energy, go in the morning, if you find it hard to relax, go later in the day. Yoga gives you what you need. Traditionally yoga was practiced at sunrise, looking a the sun.
What type of yoga is best to relieve jetlag?
Many people swear by getting off a plane and getting to a yoga class as soon as they can as it seems to have an amazing effect on jetlag. I would recommend after all the rush of getting ready to fly, the body and mind need calming and relaxing, so a gentler class is probably more grounding and relaxing.
Jetlag can make us feel very enervated. Some people love an energizing yoga class to get their metabolism kick started and their circulation boosted, others prefer a relaxing one, some deep breathing and centering, to bring them back to a grounded feeling. Either way, getting some movement, deep breathing or stretching to relieve tension is beneficial to speed up the body’s ability to return to it’s normal rhythms.
There is a yoga protocol for jetlag which is to spin (Sufi style twirling) in the opposite direction to which you flew – you stand with your arms out to the sides shoulder height. Your head is North, left hand is East and right hand is West. If you flew East to West you would twirl turning to the left. Spin slowly for about a minute, or as long as you can. It undoes the disturbance to the electromagnetic fields that have been disturbed in your body. There have been scientific studies on this and there is a book written on this by the Adi Da Samraj.
What can long haul passengers do on board to help relieve muscle tension and stiffness?
Some really good exercises are Seated Pigeon, Forward Fold, and Yogi Twists.
For Seated Pigeon you stay seated and place your right ankle across your left knee and let your right knee drop down, it may go as low as parallel with your left. Left foot flat on the floor. Flex your right foot. Lean forward until you feel a stretch through your right hip, buttock and lower back. One can add a twist by placing ones right arm at ones right foot or knee in this position and twisting to the left to release even more tension from the lower back and hip. Repeat on the other side.
For Forward Fold, go to the back of the plane and feet hip width apart bend your knees and fold forward keeping your abdomen and chest touching your legs. Hang down there, you can hold your elbows for a nice release of shoulders. Let your head hang. bend your knees more or less to feel hips lower neck and hamstrings stretch, but keep your abdomen always touching your thighs to protect your lower back.
While at back of plane or inside the washroom, you can place your feet hip width apart, arms at 90 degrees as if you were power walking and with knees only 2” bent you move one hip forward and then the other (as if your pelvis was a record on a turntable being rotated on a horizontal plane) do this fast while you pull your belly in and exhale through the nose once on each swivel. Bring one hip forward then the other, fast until you feel your entire spine moving and twisting. Powerful exhales. This irrigates each vertebra, brings circulation to hips, spine, digestive system, eliminatory system, tones the waist, prevents constipation and loosens, releases tension in your spine and makes you feel energized.
This week at Fierce Grace Brixton, we chat to one of our members who has recently finished her FG teacher training. Lizzie Sells, tells us how about her creative life as a dance artist and how she found the teacher training earlier in the Spring.
Tell us about your job.
I trained as a contemporary dancer and have been working freelance as a dance artist for about 10 years. This means I do a variety of different things but I specialise in gallery-based performance and teaching creative dance.
What do you love about your job?
I am usually doing a few jobs simultaneously. In one week I could be rehearsing for a performance, teaching dance in a community space, and choreographing opera singers. I love the variety of experiences that this versatility brings, it means, among other things, that I am constantly meeting people and travelling to new places. As a teacher, I love witnessing someone being creative with their body and exploring what they can do with it.
What made you decide to take one month off to do TT?
Working freelance means I have real flexibility around when I work. March is normally a quiet month for me, so I arranged cover for my regular classes and planned to do the teacher training well in advance. Of course, the autonomy afforded by freelancing is often challenged by the fear of not having enough work. As the beginning of March got closer, three jobs came my way that directly clashed with the course. All three were great opportunities that were hard to turn down, but I had already committed wholeheartedly to doing the TT so I stuck to my guns. I also started looking at the situation differently; if I was saying yes to doing something else (even if it was great work!), I was saying no to myself.
Tel us abut your Yoga practice – how long you’ve been practicing, what you get out of it and what you love about FG?
I have been practicing regularly since 2015 when my husband and I joined the Brixton studio. Before that my approach to yoga had been a bit sporadic, practicing at various studios and trying diverse types of yoga for quite a few years. When I started practicing with Fierce Grace I found I loved the focus and clarity of the classes. For me the content and structure of the different classes and the way in which they related to each other was just right. It felt like they had gotten rid of all the fluff around yoga. I became aware of the positive mental and emotional effects regular practice was having on me. I think it was the first time I started to really understand that yoga could be a physical, mental and spiritual exercise for life. I also love practicing to music!
Why did you want to do Teacher Training?
I wanted to gain another skill and develop my expertise as a teacher. In the first weeks of joining FG Brixton I remember daydreaming about teaching in such a nice space one day. I enjoy practicing there and being a part of the studio community. After some time researching different options, I realised that the structure of the Fierce Grace TT was the right one for me. I wanted to expand my knowledge of yoga, and start working as a yoga teacher so I can support others on their own journeys. I also saw the month of teacher training as a gift to myself and an exciting challenge to be undertaken.
What was it like doing TT?
It was a little like running a marathon (I imagine!). I was nervous the night before the training started, although I was well prepared I suddenly felt very insecure about my abilities. By the end of the first day there was no space left in my mind for fear! From morning until night, I was studying, practicing, thinking, dreaming about yoga in all its manifestations. It was wonderful to be so completely immersed in the subject. It was hard work and very enjoyable.
What did you get out of it – goals, personal and yoga experience?
I feel a great sense of achievement completing the course. I threw myself into it completely, remembering friends and family had said, enjoy it! It was a good mantra. When I was feeling insecure, lazy, overwhelmed.. I remembered that I was doing something I was fascinated and excited by, and that ultimately I wanted to share with other people. I decided that if I was doing my best in any moment, that was enough. That helped me relax and not worry too much about the exams! And it is a useful perspective I have taken away into everyday life.
Choosing a teacher training was not easy – I considered many other kinds of re-training routes and yoga courses. Once I made my choice I was still wondering, is this the right one? After the first few days learning more about FG from Michele, Emma and Karen, studying under the other excellent teachers, and getting to know the other people on the course, I knew I had made the right decision. It was a powerful lesson in trusting myself and my choices. My understanding of yoga has expanded and my practice has deepened.
Was it worth it?
Would you recommend others to do it – if so, why?
I would recommend the course to anyone considering becoming a yoga teacher or interested in expanding their knowledge of their own practice. It is a great, practical course that prepares you to begin teaching from where you are. You will probably learn as much about yourself as you will about yoga. The teachers and the approach of the course are authentic. There is no bullshit, no veil of mystery around what yoga is and a wholehearted acceptance of everyone.
I would like to thank DCD (Dancers Career Development) for their support in making my training possible. I would also like to acknowledge Francisco, my partner for his support and for keeping me well fed! The teachers on the FG course, and my peers from 07 teacher training are all extraordinary people. I am proud know them all and to be a part of the FG family.
Reading this and fancy a change? Check out our Teacher Training page for upcoming dates and course information.
This week features a guest post by Rebekah, our new marketing assistant at FGB. Sun’s out, so lighten up!
Lighten up on yourself to take better care of yourself: true long lasting progress comes from self love, not self flagellation in life and in yoga.
We’ve all had those days where we don’t feel good enough, were hard on ourselves because we didn’t reach the goals and expectations we set ourselves, wether it was to read that book we’d been meaning to for ages or to master side crow successfully, we beat ourselves up and make ourselves feel bad for not achieving them.
Well Brixton yogis, flagellate no more! Life is to be embraced and not to make us feel defeated. Lets start praising ourselves just for being us, we are amazing and need to begin giving our selves credit for the many things we achieve and tick off on our mental check lists daily.
Life can be hard and we are still standing. The same goes for yoga; the next time you fall out of standing bow dust yourself off and get back up. Instead of slapping your wrist, give yourself a pat on the back for trying.
Taking care of yourself means not always giving yourself a hard time but loving yourself for the efforts you make, like William Hickson said “If at first you don’t succeed try and try again.” But be sure to try with a smile on your face and a light hearted attitude. When it comes to yoga practice equals progression and the same applies with every aspect of life.
Lightening up can be difficult at times especially when you feel things aren’t going your way, but a change of attitude often brings a change of mindset and what a perfect way to help the process along by practising yoga.
Yoga has been proven to promote a positive mindset and encourage self love, so the next time your feeling defeated instead of sitting in your sorrow, grab your mat and come to practice. Lighten up your mind and body at the same time and show your self some self love, TLC and appreciation.
Two of our amazing Fierce Grace Brixton members are taking part in Rough Runner on Saturday 16th September; an event like no other which brings a range of obstacles so massive, so ambitious, and so much fun into the centre of the capital!
We chat to Virginia and Cyndii about forming the group – Yoga Gangster, donating funds raised to local charities and why they’re looking for YOU to join them!
Virginia & Cyndii:
We are two yoga enthusiasts who met at the beginning of the year at the Fierce Grace Brixton studio. Since then we have become firm friends bonding over our shared love of fitness, good food, music and socialising. We both also believe in the importance of charity work and the benefits of building strong inclusive social networks. We have recently decided to enter Rough Runner, Clapham Common and are extending the invitation to the Fierce Grace Brixton family to join us in this challenge.
This invitation is open to all FG members of all fitness levels. It really doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned challenge taker or if you sit at the other end of the spectrum and have not yet quite managed to sign up for your local fun run. Our ideal team would be one that is diverse, inclusive, supportive and fun. It’s all about the camaraderie!! We will prepare for the challenge together. There will be a training schedule which will involve yoga classes, group jogs / runs, boot camps and a few cheeky nights out to get us prepped for the main event. You are welcome to join in as little or as much as you like.
So, come on all of you lovely yogis and yoginis it’s now time to embrace your inner warriors and join team Yoga Gangster in our bid to conquer the Clapham Common Tough Runner obstacle course.
We’re hosting a very exciting workshop at FG Brixton this June. It’s going to be popular, so get booking!
A workshop by Pete Cherry
Saturday 24th June – 2.30pm to 5pm
An introduction to the theory and practice of Pranayama – “breathwork”, consciously harnessing the breath for yoga practice and meditation. Starting with a discussion of “Prana” as integral to yoga, exploring breathing methods – calm and quiet to vigorous and powerful, infusing the body with vitality, well-being and peace as a potent tool for positive transformation concluding with a led meditation.
Pete Cherry is a Zen Meditation and Mindfulness teacher and regularly teaches and lectures on yoga and the philosophy of yoga, and teaches on the Fierce Grace Teacher Training.
Early Bird price – £25* (until Sunday the 4th of June, includes free 5.30pm FG class taught by Karen Bellfield)
Karen has a background in Psychology, Philosophy, Counselling and Addiction Therapy. She has been studying and practising yoga for 15 years and has been teaching for over 10 years, holding the highest level of certification with the Yoga Alliance (SYT). Karen was among the first teachers in the UK to train in Bikram Yoga, Baptiste Power Yoga, Vinyasa and has studied for 2 years in Yoga Therapy with the Yoga Biomedical Trust. She also holds certification with renowned yoga teachers Erich Schiffmann and Paul Grilley and has studied Thai Yoga Massage with Kira Balaskas.
Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from a great teacher and put into immediate practice the new principles learnt on Pranayama.
This class will be free for all members who purchase the Early Bird offer for the Pranayama workshop (included in all unlimited memberships or standard drop in rate will apply).
Frozen Cartwheel is an exceptionally good posture at creating space within your body. As your arms and legs expand out in different directions: your muscles lengthen, your joints are relieved from compression and the brain re-orientates your balance, relaxing into the new space created with every exhale.
As well as exercising the brain, frozen cartwheel challenges the muscles throughout the body, building strength and stability. As your practice develops there is room to evolve this posture, opening up extra space, building more strength and becoming more confident and stable in the posture.
Benefits: Expands your chest and shoulders. Increases mobility of your hip joints. Increases neck mobility. Lengthens your spinal muscles. Strengthens and tones muscles of your thighs and calves. Stretches your hamstrings and groin muscles. Increases proprioception (the sense of position in space) of feet and ankles. Good for core stability and balance.