First classes can be overwhelming and great at the same time. Even if you’re coming back to FG after a seasonal break, it’s useful reconnect with your intentions. We chat to FGB teacher, Omae about her Top Tips for hot yoga practice… one of the biggest she says: ‘be kind to yourself’. Spot on, Omae. Thank you!
What brought you to teach Fierce Grace yoga?
I’d been working at the studio and practicing Bikram for about 6 years but as soon as I tried Fierce Grace I knew I was ready for a change. So when Michele announced the very first FG teacher training it was too good an opportunity to miss! It was four intense weeks but the real life changing experience starts when you get up and teach your very first class. I was terrified! I still get nervous but I don’t allow my nerves to get the better of me 🙂
Any advice for newcomers?
First time in the hot room can feel amazing but it can also be overwhelming! It’s different for everyone so come with an open mind. Get used to the heat by taking it very easy and pacing yourself…. get used to breathing through the nose. Rest as much as you need. Expect to feel exhausted as you are working twice as hard as anyone else but it does get easier.
What about advice if you’ve been practicing a while?
Those that have been coming a while can face their own set of challenges. Learning how to be kind to yourself can be one of the biggest. Don’t feel you have to push push all the time! Sometimes it’s about holding back and really listening to your body, accepting yourself just the way you are. There’s potential for transformation but it can be a long, hard journey. Connecting with breath is the surest way to advance your practice.
How do you encourage people out of their comfort zones?
Try out the different classes and teachers. If you always have the same spot in the room change it up a bit! Sometimes it’s small changes that make the difference. Noticing your habitual patterns is the first step, we all have them! Practice giving your full attention to any task you do, including your practice.
And tell us about evolving your own practice
This has been a real journey for me and very humbling. I love this yoga so much and it’s become such a big part of my life! However the last few months I’ve had to really learn how to hold back as an old back injury has resurfaced and it’s really affected my practice….I can’t do half the stuff I used to do, and as a teacher, that’s hard! But I see lessons everywhere and I know that there’s a huge one here for me. It’s actually given me a valuable opportunity to understand just how important breath and awareness are. I’m gradually getting stronger again and I’m strangely grateful for this experience.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m having a wonderful time teaching at FG Brixton, it’s a beautiful, well run studio with amazing staff and students, I love it here! We are all one community and this incredible practice gives us the chance to not only connect with ourselves, but also each other.
Here’s to a year of positive change, more love, more understanding, more Peace!
Wise words, Omae! Want to know more? Come to her classes on Wednesday 10am and 12.30pm at FGB.
Filling the shoes of Sophie Munson is no small feat, but our new studio manager Serena Sabala is looking forward to getting to know everyone over the coming weeks as she settles in. We thought you’d like to know a bit more about her…
Moving to London from Italy in 2005 for a career in fashion sales, she started Bikram yoga classes in 2008 and fell in love with it, becoming a teacher in 2012. After meeting her husband while travelling and teaching she lived in the US for a couple of years where she first managed a yoga studio and realised this was a role that combined both her corporate skills and her passion for yoga.
“I love being able to put my organisational and managerial skills to work in a yoga related environment. I love teaching yoga but as I teacher I felt like some of the skills I had developed during my many years of corporate work weren’t being put to use (and I did enjoy using them!); managing a studio allows me to do that within a context that resonates to me more than anything.
From my previous experience I have learnt that managing a studio requires a very wide and varied skill set. There are so many different aspects to the business (from customer service to staff management, budgeting, marketing and maintenance of the premises), most of which actually have very little to do with the yoga itself. I have to continuously remind myself that the ultimate goal still is to maintain a space where people can come in and change their life around, inside and out, for the better through the practice of yoga.”
We know how special Fierce Grace Brixton in so we asked her what she will be bringing to the party:
“Fierce Grace Brixton is already a well established and thriving community. The aim is for it to always be a place where the staff LOVE to come into work and members feel at home. The struggles we sometimes face in the day to day running of the business should never take away from a fun, laid back yet professional atmosphere we want to create and maintain for all those involved.
I try to never forget the higher purpose and to never lose a greater perspective: my life has changed and improved in ways I can’t even begin to explain thanks to the practice of yoga and to be able to now pass this gift onto others is worth all the hard work it takes.”
Sounds like Serena is pretty much the right woman for the job! We ended our chat with asking her to share something of her life philosophy with us. “In life, very much like in yoga, progress is not linear: some days feel like you’ve gone forward ten steps, others feel like you’re suddenly going back. I always try and remind myself that, as long as I’m doing my best, I can be assured that I’m moving forward. Maybe not at the pace that I’d like but there’s a lot to learn from what look like set backs or challenges.”
This month we meet one of our teachers who knows a thing or two about travel, as his non-yoga alter ego is a full time flight attendant.
What brought you to yoga and what about it made you stay?
I’ve always been interested in fitness & exercise, and so a few years ago, like many others, I decided to try out the phenomenon that was Bikram yoga. Straightaway I was fascinated by it; trying to use my body in a different way, becoming so much more aware of it, understanding its capabilities and limitations, all simply by striking a pose on a mat. Not long afterwards, I discovered Fierce Grace, and I loved it even more – I found it to be a much better fit for me. In terms of attitude, variety, humour, and approach, I knew immediately that my yoga had found a new permanent home.
Why did you decide to become a yoga teacher?
I don’t think teaching yoga is something to take up on a whim. I spent a long time deciding whether or not to train. Teaching (anything) is a humbling and rewarding experience, and should always be approached as such. Too many times I’ve been in yoga classes whose teachers are disinterested, or overpowering, or serious, or massaging their egos, or ignorant of the varying abilities in the class. All of these qualities only serve to turn people away. So I wanted show that yoga can be taught without any of these things, but with quite the opposite; playfulness, alignment, professionalism, passion. And above all, a sense of humour.
You’ve recently started to teach Wild at Brixton – what do you like about Wild? Why would you recommend it to members?
I love Wild because it’s tough. But still satisfyingly so. I think yoga or exercise or fitness of any type NEEDS to be challenging – this works your body, maintains your interest, and suggests ongoing improvement. Wild definitely offers all this. Throughout the class there’s usually groans of pain, sighs of relief (and disbelief!), and even the odd smile…!
Also, back on the issue of trying to get more men into yoga, I think Wild helps to address this through its format – a brilliant yoga/bodyweight/cardio crossover. Wild offers a more strength-based repetition-style workout, which still uses yoga influence & techniques, which I think is more appealing to men with little yoga experience/background.
So for men AND women I’d recommend trying Wild for the variety it offers.
As a flight attendant, can you share your ‘Top Tips For A Good Flight’?
I’ve flown long-haul for many years now, so I’ve seen people have good flights… and bad flights! A lot of it comes down to preparedness – physical and mental. Especially for longer flights, I’d try to be at least a little prepared; take water and snacks, load your iPad with things to read and watch, be aware of the flight length AND time change.
On board, just try to take things in your stride – sharing a confined space with other people for a prolonged time is going to push your buttons at some point. Like a busy yoga class!
Long-haul flying isn’t always a pleasant experience, but you can make it much easier on your body & mind by approaching it well. Arriving at a destination I ALWAYS try to stay with the sun – if it’s light, try to stay awake, then try to wind down and sleep when it goes dark. I find my body responds better to light/dark triggers than anything else.
Which Yoga Poses do you recommend when flying?
In terms of yoga on boardspace is very limited – unless you’re sitting further forwards! Neck stretching is an easy ad obvious exercise – side to side, and rolling forwards. Gentle spine twisting when seated is something I do on board. Also a quick Standing Pigeon hip stretch each side, maybe while waiting for the washroom!
When trying to battle jetlag post-flight, try calming postures which work into the hips after sitting for so long, like Half Tortoise, Reclining Pigeon, full Pigeon.
What’s on your Fierce Grace playlist?
I love the use of music in a yoga class, I think it can really enhance it. But… it can also detract from it too! Mismatched or obscure music during class can really spoil the experience.
I have four different playlists I use for the FG class, but I’m always looking for music to help me create more! I’ll hear a tune, anywhere, and think “Oh that would be perfect for Sun Salutation!”, or for the abs section, or for the final 4 postures. So my playlists include disco, to 80s, to recent, to RnB, to chill-out, and more.
I teach Wild too, which is faster paced than Classic or FG, so that definitely calls for an upbeat playlist – keeping you motivated when your muscles are starting to scream at you! For that I use some ‘happy house’, some 80s retro, and a couple of my own discoveries.
The familiar ‘drip-drip’ from the forehead in Balancing Stick, the slippy-slide feel of your legs against your arms in Crow and the water-in-eyes conundrum in forward folds: In hot yoga, we sweat, a lot. If you’re working hard, hey, even if you’re not, the sweat is real. Usually we can take the heat by breathing properly, but in the instances it’s too much, were you already dehydrated?
With the average male being 60% water and average female 55%, we are essentially water-creatures without the gills. Your hydration levels within your body have to drop 2-3% in order for receptors to send messages to the brain to generate the sensing of thirst, However, at just 1% it starts to affect our overall physical and mental performance.
Water is the fuel that keeps the well-oiled machine that is the body ticking over. It allows for the digestion of food, the expulsion of toxins and temperature regulation. It is present in all cells within the body. Essentially, if you don’t put a lot in, you don’t get a lot out. Experiencing dehydration during physical exercise pressurises the joints (not very helpful in that Standing Head to Knee, is it?) and also means there is less water to create sweat for the body to cool down, further increasing the chances of cramping.
Something we learn through yoga is body awareness; understanding and listening to your body is partly knowing what to put into it. Unlike food, water is absorbed though osmosis as soon as it enters the body, starting in the mouth and the throat. It is ingested the same way the whole way down, so staying hydrated is very easy, especially if it is little and often. Unfortunately, swigging by the gallon as you run into the studio will only leave you feeling heavy and bloated… a little like offering a deluge to a sad plant after weeks of neglect. System overload and you’ll never win at the Chelsea Flower Show like that.
Water is also found in food, especially in fruits and vegetables. If you’re needing a hydration boost, coconut water can also do the trick. Low calorie, high in fibre and electrolytes, containing metabolism-balancing copper, anti-inflammatory antioxidants and more potassium than 4 bananas, plus a low sugar and sodium content, it’s no wonder it is known as “Mother Nature’s sports drink”. With the explosion of clean-eating and healthy-living in the media over recent years, it’s also got Hollywood’s seal of approval.
Following his record-breaking 11 hour long match at Wimbledon in 2010, American tennis player John Isner credited coconut water as what keeps him going on court, even in hotter conditions. The well-hydrated star said he drinks coconut water and water pre-match, coconut water laced with salts on-court then a cocktail of coconut water and protein powder for post-match recovery. The only draw-back is that it does not contain sufficient carbs or sugar to counteract a heavy perspiration resulting from 3 hours of intense heat; lucky that all Fierce Grace classes are under 90 minutes then, isn’t it! So, after class, have a break, have a Chi (not a Kit-Kat).
Make May the month where you honour your watery selves and hydrate to stay great!
Paula joined us this year, with her energising and warming 6:30am Monday class creating the best start to the week. With the addition of an extra Yoga Nidra class each month, starting in June we thought we would take the opportunity to get to know Paula a little better and learn more about the benefits of ‘Yogic Sleep’…
Paula! Tell us a little about yourself to start…
I’m a proud Kiwi, born and bred! However I lived a great deal of my life in Perth, Western Australia, before moving to London over 11 years ago – I was only supposed to stay two years! Clearly my love of travelling and all things exciting about London drew me in. However, the call of my mountain and my ocean back home is strong, and New Zealand will always be home to me.
Before becoming a yoga teacher I was a Social Worker for over 14 years, both in Australia and UK.
Throughout my Social Work career I chose to specialise in therapeutic areas such as counselling, group work, training, mentoring, developmental and policy work, and practice development; working in areas such as substance misuse, domestic abuse, mental health, and hospitals, to name just a few.
Healing and striving to reach one’s potential is accomplished by working organically and at each person’s pace. I have always enjoyed forming positive relationships with people, as it is the positive connection which enables that growth and that healing. I wanted to work ‘with’ people, rather than ‘on’ people, and I find this with yoga as well.
How long have you been practising yoga?
I started practicing Bikram yoga in 2008 at North studio and continued on when it transitioned to Fierce Grace. Clearly the choice of classes, the interconnected system, the flow and freedom of the practice resonated with me, and I completed my teacher training with Fierce Grace Yoga in March 2015.
This year I chose to take the leap of giving up my full time Social Work career to focus on teaching yoga full time, and I am loving every minute!
How did you come across Fierce Grace? What did you love about FG in particular?
I had always been intrigued by yoga but had somehow never properly made it happen, and then I heard about this popular hot yoga, Bikram. Honestly, I’m not someone who even enjoys the intense heat. I have never been a fan of saunas, for example – in fact before my knee injury I used to save most of my (then) annual leave to go snowboarding at least three times a year in the winter. However, I was really curious and ready for something to challenge me. I went, suffered all throughout the class, went home, felt amazing, and kept on coming!
FG in particular, the choice, the flow, the freedom, you can choose a class with music or without and choose a class for your schedule, mood and day. Like life, days and moods change, and it is great to be able to change it up accordingly.
How many times do you practice a week?
I try to practice formal classes in the studios at least 3-4 times per week. I supplement this with self practice, sometimes after teaching classes, and also with using the gym facilities following teaching my health club classes.
I really notice it if I don’t practice regularly. I don’t feel as light or as strong, I can’t ‘shake things off’ as easily, and it means I don’t get that ‘me’ time to breathe and centre. I always feel better physically, mentally and energetically when I practice, and so, I keep practicing!
What is your favourite posture?
I feel amazing after Camel (Ustrasana). I love the feeling of the big backbend. While I do also enjoy Standing Bow, Camel without the balance gives the opportunity to go deep, get the stretch all the way up through the throat, and to truly open up the front side of the body. I think the release and the feeling of spaciousness is so precious, and it’s so easy to go through day to day life never moving in this way. I appreciate what Camel gives me, to the point where I look forward to two of them when I practice the Classic class!
Another favourite for me is Frozen Cartwheel (Ardha Chandrasana). I love the expansiveness of stretching my arms and legs out like a starfish! And the balance gives more challenge – I can feel it working every part of my body and I know there is always room to grow in it, so the pose for me is continually evolving.
And the most challenging?
One of my most challenging postures would have to be Utkatasana Advanced Chair Twist. If you do this properly and really sit the hips down and back with the weight in the heels trying to get the thighs parallel to the mat whilst pressing the inner thighs together, and engaging the core while emphasising a back-bending twist, you really start to feel it! There is a lot going on at once, and I always feel it deep in the quads!
What differences would you say yoga made to your life?
I love the way practicing yoga makes me feel in my mind, in my body, and how that lifts my spirit.
Physically I feel exhilarated after class – I’ve noticed I stand differently – literally stronger and taller, and I can feel all the different parts of me working together. It’s hard to describe.
I used to be someone who held their breath, even if concentrating on the smallest thing, and I have been able to become more breath aware, not just in the hot room, but in life, which has made such a difference, particularly when the inevitable difficulties of life crop up. It changes perspective and experience.
There is a mindfulness where there feels like there is more space in between ‘stuff’. It’s like it creates more room, not just between my vertebrae and joints, but in my mind and my heart.
The more I practice the more I feel a sense of things moving more slowly, less chaos, more calm. It’s definitely time and space for me, and a truly safe space. I’m almost always last out after Savasana, I just love that time. I always feel better on the mat. And afterwards. I always leave feeling lighter.
And now I have been able to make it my vocation, still working with people, still forming positive relationships, and still focusing on healing and therapy, but in a way which is also good for my own health and wellness. I am so grateful.
When you’re not in the studio, you are…
I am also a big Nature girl! I am lucky enough to live fairly close to Hampstead Heath, and it, alongside my kelpie and my mat, is my absolute oasis. I start to definitively wither if I don’t get my time out in nature. And my dog loves it as well.
London is the first place I’ve ever lived that isn’t on the coast, so I do miss the ocean, very much, but there is a real sense of happiness and calm when I am on the Heath and by the lakes. It really uplifts me.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra literally translates as “yogic sleep”. In Yoga Nidra you lay very still, settled and comfortable and allow yourself to be guided by a Nidra teacher – you just close your eyes, be still and follow the voice.
Where did you first encounter Yoga Nidra?
I remember encountering this in our FG Teacher Training and it really impressing upon me.
It just took me off on a journey and I felt like I had all this space afterwards. Yoga asana does this for us, but through physical effort of yoga asana. Yoga Nidra does this through effortlessness, relaxation and stillness.
What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra allows us to move within and between different levels of consciousness. It takes us away from our everyday lives. It is said to help us recognise ourselves as pure awareness.
According to yogic philosophy, there are three everyday states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and sleeping. It is understood however that there is a secret, fourth state, called turiya, which is the experience of pure awareness and which can be accessed by meditation. The practice of Yoga Nidra can facilitate access to this fourth state.
Yoga Nidra gives you what you need in that moment, and can vary with each practice. If your need is purely physical, for instance, you are very tired – then it will be relaxing and rejuvenating.
However it can also help aspire to heartfelt longings, it can help us realise solutions, increase creativity and achieve a higher state of awareness.
Letting go, which is still a task in our asana practice, is an effortlessness practice in Yoga Nidra. It gives the mind and body a ‘time out’ and allows healing and awareness to occur on a deeper, more profound level. And truly letting the process naturally and organically unfold can bring unexpected benefits even whilst having intention. So if you just want to relax, then Yoga Nidra is for you. If you want to aspire towards solutions, awareness and creativity, then Yoga Nidra is for you. If you want to aspire towards Samadhi, then Yoga Nidra is for you. Whatever your intention, and whatever your mind and your body need, you will find some benefit. Yoga Nidra is for everyone.
Thank you Paula! Join Paula every Monday morning at 6:30am and now also for Nidra every fourth Sunday of the month, starting in June!
Fierce Grace Brixton celebrated its 1st birthday last December. Now half way through its second year, we took the opportunity to catch up with Fierce Grace Brixton owner, Katie to learn about how the studio came to being what it is now!
What first brought you to yoga and how did it become a part of your life?
I was living in Hong Kong and found an inspirational teacher, Robin Tassie. She went on to set up Yoga Central Hong Kong. She said I was a natural! I found I stayed so much calmer in the uncertainty of moving to HK and finding a new position as a fashion design. AND walked taller!
How long has FGB been in the making?
10 years! Nigel did the Bikram yoga training 13 years ago. When he came back he taught for Michele at the City studio, wanting to open his own one day. We were just friends then, but started dating not long after! We always did yoga together as much as possible.
Starting a family (our daughters Eva, 10, and Honor, 8, sometimes help out on reception!) temporarily delayed the plans to open a studio. When we moved to South London we saw that it was really missing a hot yoga studio and we were motivated to find a space in our own neighbourhood. However, it took years for the right place to come up.
What were your aspirations with opening a studio? – Your yoga vision!
I wanted to create a beautiful and clean studio and a strong and supportive space where I could create a community. We wanted to welcome all people of all ages and abilities who were interested in challenging themselves and learning the amazing benefits and discipline of hot yoga. Having experienced the power of yoga I wanted to share it with others, who would in turn want to share it, and so on.
I wanted the studio to reflect the vibe and multi-culture that is Brixton and allow a flourishing yoga community to develop. At the same time, I wanted to provide a peaceful and tranquil ‘retreat’ from the hustle and bustle of daily London life and all its delights and challenges. And I had to make space for a touch of humour with Peter Blake’s Rainbow Babe – which somehow seems to fit perfectly with our hot yoga!
How did you get introduced to the Fierce Grace system?
We have known Michele for years; first as the person who brought Bikram to London, then as a truly inspirational teacher and then as a friend and mentor of great generosity of spirit.
When she announced she had created ‘Fierce Grace’ and was moving all her studios over to this new system it was very exciting. We knew that she was probably the only person in London with sufficient depth and breadth of knowledge and experience who could design a completely new, integrated yoga system to cater for the heavy demands of people living in a busy, stressful city, and make it work.
All her teachers had a chance to retrain in this new system so Nigel made the transition. When the site, designs, finances had been arranged to make our studio happen, we had to decide whether we wanted to embrace this new system.
Whilst on Michele’s Tuscany retreat (where we celebrated our wedding anniversary), we talked it all through, got aligned with her plans and vision, and thought “let’s go do it”. And have never looked back!
What were the biggest challenges opening the studio?
Where do I begin?! There has been a hurdle at each stage! With every challenge, I have had to find the courage, inner strength and determination to carry on, find another solution, consult a new expert, find some more money, you name it!
It took 18 months of driving it! It doubled in cost; I lost two au pairs through the stress at home. I put my other businesses on hold so I could give it my full support and be there to meet builders, interview staff and oversee everything ahead of opening.
Everything had to be designed completely from scratch: the heating and humidity, hot water, lighting and computer systems, plus always ensuring that everything is as environmentally-friendly and eco-efficient as possible. That big grey machine by the mat stands is a “heat exchanger”. It transfers heat from stale hot outgoing air to fresh cold incoming area so saves on energy, helps protect the environment and keeps costs down whilst adding to the comfort of members.
The computer booking system is synced to the accounting and banking system. Behind the scenes, it is very complex and sophisticated, all designed to give members a seamless experience where everything works (mostly!).
There is nothing which has not been carefully thought through to the nth degree with lots of research and help from other studio owners. I wanted to create a state-of-the art studio taking advantage of the latest technology and design.
There must have been some teething problems and funny tales!
The most memorable occasion was when, after two large holes had been drilled through the 18 inch thick concrete floor to allow for the hot air ducts to come through, the landlord’s chief engineer took one look and said “who the f*** put that f****** great hole in my floor?!” The whole project ground to a halt until sorted!
Another was when it unexpectedly turned out there was insufficient supply of hot and cold water for the showers. We had to design and install a hot water system which could service 12 showers operating simultaneously for up to 60 people and then re-heat 1,000 litres of water ready for the next class… and could the floor slab support one ton of water (thankfully yes!)
One week before opening, we were told it would take two months to install phone lines, without which we could not open as everything is internet-dependent, even the streamed music. Three days of frantic phone calls later and showing six different BT technicians around the same facilities – their solution? To “hijack” phone lines from the neighbouring property which was just closing down…
… And what about when you first opened?
Finally we open on 4th December 2014. Half way through the first class there is this acrid smoke coming out of the studio. It turned out that the heater had sucked in some builders’ rubble, cooked it and spewed the noxious fumes back out into the studio…but everyone was great…and even found it quite funny after they’d recovered!
How did you build up the Fierce Grace team?
We made it an aim to recruit, train and retain great reception and studio staff, helpers and teachers aligned to my vision and the Fierce Grace ethos and who take the same pride as I do in providing a great space.
It has all been worth it! I love the community which is being built. I love that our members love coming to the studio and regard our staff and teachers so highly.
Building a ‘community’ has always been a big focus, how did you do this in the beginning?
We have a collection of Founder Members. I was especially pleased when nearly all the Founder Members renewed their membership. They provide a bedrock to the studio and community, and have been great at introducing their friends and family. It is also great how more and more people are taking up the Hot Unlimited package, which provides great flexibility and value.
What have been your greatest moments and milestones in opening the studio?
Having people come and thank us for providing this studio for the community! I have been bowled over by people’s support and gratitude, especially in the early period.
The ‘Touch Your Toes’ charity event raising £500 for Brixton Soup Kitchen was a particular highlight. Looking at the world upside during Separate Leg Stretching, seeing the faces of passers-by in buses, cars, taxis, lorries and on bicycles, motorbikes and on foot as they saw Michele teaching 80 people yoga in Windrush Square, cars hooting, ambulance and squad cars’ sirens wailing and passers-by cheering us on with the amazing Solomon and his colleagues was terrific!
What has helped things along the way?
Having a dedicated team that run the studio and are an inspiration to work with and serve our members. Having fabulous teachers who love working at the studio and teaching – and also knowing that Michele is always there, just a phone call away to offer her wisdom and insight into running the studio and, most importantly of all, sharing her knowledge of how to support any members who have particular injuries or medical issues to deal with.
And now some of our members have just completed the Fierce Grace Teacher Training! The momentum is building…
How do you make it work? Juggling so many things at once, on top of family life!
Work smart, work hard, plan my time in all areas, go with what feels simplest, work together, find great partners, do what I’m great at and find others who are great at what they do. And stay focused on the vision.
What are your favourite things about Brixton?
Brixton Village, vintage shops and gyoza in Pop Brixton, Ritzy Cinema on date nights with Nigel. And Fierce Grace Brixton, of course!
Over recent years, hot yoga has got a lot of press. From miraculous tales of recovery to celebrity endorsement, we can now read about hot yoga just about as much as we can practice it. Andy Murray and Ryan Giggs have sworn by it. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told David Beckham by practising hot yoga he could add years to his football career, well into his 40s. Even the tour-de-force Beyonce said the journey of a hot yoga class can be ‘therapeutic’, finding you can do so much more than you think you can. We may be thousands of miles from Hollywood but we are lucky enough to see these transformations at our studios every day!
In celebration of these joys and benefits of the Fierce Grace system, last week Fierce Grace launched #GoFGYourself. We have invited FG practitioners to share their stories with us by posting video clips or photos on Instagram.
Kicking off what we regard as Instagram’s hottest new trend is Chris Polglase aka The Jungle Drummer, with a positively astounding tales of recovery. Chris is one of the UK’s best drummers, a prestigious live drummer in the club and festival scene, having worked with the likes of Nigel Goldrich, the producer behind Radiohead, Shy FX, DJ Fresh, Scratch Perverts and many more. Whilst playing a live show he plays up to 180 beats per minute, totalling about 11,000 per hour.
Following years of playing, accompanied by poor diet, drinking and negative thought patterns, Chris had chronic pain in his hands. He had RSI, breakages, swelling and has permanent osteoarthritis. It became so bad that he was unable to drum for two and a half years, a devastating blow to him mentally and professionally. Meeting Michele Pernetta, he came along to a Fierce Grace class where Michele could offer him modifications for his hands. After one class he went home and drummed pain-free for a full 30 minutes. After one year of regular Fierce Grace practice and lifestyle changes he is now drumming faster than ever before.
He explained “Yoga has helped me take control of my body, and my healing, without needing excessive treatments and physio appointments. When I don’t attend class for a few days sometimes the pain in my hands returns and then my mind-set changes. I then go back to class and I am again able to manage my pain and I feel better physically and mentally.” At Fierce Grace Brixton, it is a pleasure to see little changes in our members every day. Coming in to open up at 6am, we are not exaggerating when we say it is the reason we get up in the morning!
Chris added “Anyone with severe injuries, who is unable to work, or do what they love, or suffers from severe anxiety or depression, I really suggest attending a Fierce Grace yoga class. The benefits you receive from just one class are exponential and the potential to feel good and change your body and mind can happen within your first session.” With a regular practice, we have seen a member half their body size. With regular practice we have seen a member combat depression and find a happy home with us and with themselves. One of our newest recruits limped in the studio and is now skipping out, having seen the effects on her arthritis after a few days!
The Fierce Grace system is a full mind-body workout. It strengthens, it stretches. You breathe, you focus, you relax. The diversity offered by the integrated class-system provides you with a framework with which you can explore various movements, tempos and attitudes. It is YOUR Fierce Grace.
Just the other day we were delighted when a member told us she had taken the day off work to celebrate her birthday; her gift to herself being to practice not one but two Fierce Grace classes that day! She told us “After 15 years of running I started yoga because I was injured. Fierce Grace gave me the body I wanted, then it gave me the peace of mind I needed and now I just do it because it’s fun… FG is my gift to myself”. I think this means we can describe Fierce Grace as the Pringles of yoga: “Once you pop you can’t stop”!
What could Fierce Grace do for you? What has it done already? Has Fierce Grace enhanced your lifestyle? Has it helped you recover from an injury or allowed you to return to or keep doing something you love? We would love to hear from you! To be in with a chance to win 1 month Unlimited yoga, post your video clips on Instagram before 11 May and tag #GoFGYourself and @fiercegraceyoga and @fiercegracebrixton A winner will be announced then!
During this time, Fierce Grace Brixton is running: Check our Instagram for our daily posts of regulars telling us what they love about practising Fierce Grace and you can email firstname.lastname@example.org your words or photos for us to post, to be in with a chance to win a Brixton bag and Complimentary class for a non-member friend.
In Chris’s words, quite literally “Anything is possible with Fierce Grace”.
Last month, several of our Brixton members completed the Fierce Grace Yoga Teacher Training. This month for our ‘Member Mention’ community feature we have the lovely Kelly Garrett to tell us more about the training…
Congratulations on completing your Fierce Grace Yoga Teacher Training, Kelly!
Please give us a little background on yourself…
My background is in mental health as a Psychotherapist. I run my own private practice in Clapham and manage a ‘talking therapies’ contract for the NHS in Lambeth. Plus I supervise trainee counsellors’ with their clinical work. My earlier career included extensive work in the media industry as a Human Resources specialist.
Can you tell us about the Fierce Grace Yoga Teacher Training?
The content of the Fierce Grace Yoga teacher training programme is abundant in its offer. This isn’t just some yoga course where you might spend most of your time learning about the asanas; instead, we were taught and introduced to many subjects that reflected the twenty three years’ experience of its founder, Michele Pernetta. The rich philosophy of yoga was captured within the first couple of weeks and delivered succinctly by Peter Cherry. Not necessarily the most exciting subject for me, Anatomy gave us a greater understanding of what’s going on internally with muscle groups and bones during practise, which is very important considering the many injuries that students have when they come to yoga.
Delivering a yoga class to 60+ practitioners is no ‘walk in the park’ and confidence alone is not enough to get you through. Body language, breath and voice play an integral part in engaging your students – apparently, the deeper the voice, the better. A Voice Coach provided us with many tools on how to use our breath and voice in preparation for the podium and we were filmed regularly to observe how we delivered a class, some of which would be great material for a comedy sketch!
How did you find the guidance through the course?
Michele Pernetta, following her long history with yoga, radiates everything yoga. Her knowledge and experience permeates every page and aspect of the course and she was dedicated to making sure we got as much as possible from every minute of every hour during the training. She has an incredible sense of humour, particularly when sharing the many anecdotes from her past. At the same time, she is extraordinarily humble and doesn’t take herself too seriously. She was gentle in her approach and made the sometimes arduous task of learning accessible to us all. She has spent countless years establishing the Fierce Grace programme and has certainly developed a fantastic product. Most days began at 06.00 am and ended at 21.00 which was both physically and mentally challenging. If nothing else though, being taught by Michele was worth the thirty days in and of itself!
Karen Bellfield, or ‘mother earth’ as I liked to call her is a truly grounded Senior Teacher whose presence and energy was calm, holding and authentic. Someone who really knows her stuff, she effortlessly supported us in trying to make sense of the amount of data we had to digest during posture clinics. Her instruction was rich and meditative with added wisdom as she guided us through many morning classes. I always looked forward to our modules with Karen.
When and why did you decide to do the teacher training? What were your motivations and aspirations?
I first thought of doing teacher training in 2011 when I was practising Bikram Yoga. At the time, I just ended a long-term relationship, sold my flat and moved into full time clinical work, having spent many years in the corporate world. It was a huge transitional time and yoga felt very containing. When you fall in love with yoga, one of the first things you notice is an intense desire to share it with others. Of course you’ll talk to your friends about it and drag them along with you to classes, but for me, the possibility of teaching was exciting and after many years of practise and my love of the FG sequences inspired me to do the Teacher Training programme.
How long have you practiced yoga? What first brought you to yoga and what about it did you love?
I’ve been practising yoga for 6 years now. I initially started with Bikram yoga, then moved into Vinyasa flow and finally ended up at FG. I particularly love the Deep Core and FG classes. Both have helped improve my practice significantly. Hip openers and more Yin postures are my favourites. Moreover, I have a very busy schedule, often juggling many things while maintaining a complex case-load within my private practice and yoga helps me remain centred. My practise has allowed me to develop strong mental and physical strength, clarity of thought and a renewed sense of being.
What would you say have been the most enriching / positive / beneficial aspects of the training?
A deeper understanding of yoga, both from a philosophical and physical aspect. As a practitioner, I didn’t realise the challenges teaching a class may present. I always thought that it was about delivering the monologue, but it’s so much more than that. Each and every student is equally important and have different needs, whether new, injured or advanced – balancing this all while making sure you deliver an energetic class on time can be tough, so I have a new found respect for my yoga teachers.
What did you find the most challenging?
The long days were probably the most challenging – up to 15 hours per day, 6 days a week is no small feat! By the end of week 2, I felt like I was living in a bubble! Additionally, trying to absorb the enormous amount of data in a short space of time was daunting.
How did you stay motivated and energised throughout?
Laughter! We laughed a lot. Being a bit of a perfectionist, my starting point was to try and get everything right. There were definitely moments when my motivation dipped, but by the beginning of week 3, I realised that at the end of the 30 days it didn’t mean that I would somehow become a perfect yoga teacher, but that I have a good enough framework to develop and like most professions, this would take months, if not years. Michele’s encouragement and support was always a good antidote when my energy was in the basement.
Has your training changed the way you approach your own practice?
I have a different perspective. I have a much better understanding of what it means to practice yoga. I am more accepting of my limitations and have an awareness of what’s going on inside my body. I’m not preoccupied with how deep or how perfect my postures are, but being ok with where I’m at on that day. As a therapist, I’m also acutely aware of the mental benefits and approach my practise more holistically.
What would you say your own teaching style is like?
I’m still in the process of developing my own style as a yoga teacher, but I imagine my class will be challenging and energising yet equally containing and soothing. I hope that students will leave feeling more connected to themselves and their practice. I have spent many hours listening to different types of music to create a playlist that will hopefully reflect my intention to provide a space for them to have this experience.
Congratulations Kelly! We look forward to seeing you at the studio soon.
Did you miss our Runners’ Workshop last weekend? Maybe you just need a little bit more of a strettttch… Today as we are blowing the dust off our trainers ahead of summer (we defy you, rain!) we have been looking at some of the best postures for those post exercise cool-downs. If you’re anything like us, the journey from hibernation to international athlete is sure going to need a little yoga! Strengthen, improve your flexibility and prevent injury, huzzah!
Work on getting down low into Warriors I and II in order to alleviate tight hips whilst stretching the thighs and glutes. Then transition into Warrior III to lengthen running muscles, strengthen ankles and core and improve balance and posture. And don’t forget to channel your inner Warrior vibes!
Forward Standing Bend (Uttanasana)
Stretch the hamstrings and straighten the spine. Take hold of either elbow and rotate from side to side to release out of the hips and lower back.
If you are warmed up you can take all 10 fingers behind the backs of the heels and bring your forehead to your knees and belly to your thighs; use the inhalation to pull and exhalation to relax the upper body down.
Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)
Strengthen and lengthen the legs. Step one foot back about 1m (front foot facing forward and back foot 45 degrees), inhale and lean forward with the straight spine. Interlace the fingers behind the back or bring them together in reverse prayer as we all do in FG! Little mico-mm adjustments to keep on lengthening.
Garland Pose / Squat (Malasana)
Free up the front and back torso and stretch out the groin and ankles. Keep your feet as close together as possible then as you exhale lean forward and press your elbows lightly against the inside of your knees.
From here, you can always take it FG style into Crow to work on your balance, focus and confidence!
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
… And breathe… Although this foundation posture can sometimes be a challenge on tired muscles, the yoga favourite Downward Dog is immensely restorative. It’s great for stretching the entire length of the spine and legs. Pull in the belly to simultaneously strengthen the core.
Cobblers’ Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Opening up the groin, hips and inner thighs. With every exhalation take the body a little further forward to release tension in the back.
Similar to Cobblers’ but with your legs straight out, this is a great stretch for the hamstrings and calves. Maintain a straight spine and with every inhalation lengthen up and pull in the belly to keep your front and back core engaged. With every exhalation continue to deepen until you comfortably reach the maximum point of your stretch.
Reclining Pigeon (Sucirandhrasana)
Stretches thighs, groin, hips, psoas and IT band. Deeply stretches glutes preventing sciatica. Increases circulation into these areas and stimulates abdominal organs.
TOP TIP: Relax into this as much as you can and breathe: your body will respond best to the stretch and allow you to open more deeply
Cow-Face Fold (Gomukhasana)
This can be a little tricky to get at first but it is an absolute winner in getting into those deep hip muscles. It works into the IT band and the piriformis, a hard-to-reach muscle in the glutes which gets tighter with exercise such as running. If one or both hips start to come up off the ground you can always use a block. Too much? Stick with Half Cow Face and breathe!
Spine Twist: Half Lord of the Fishes Twist (Ardha Matseyendrasana)
After a long run, twisting that spine can feel incredible! A healthy spine will help with your posture and mobility whilst running. Maximise the benefits by focussing on twisting through the belly rather than just the neck.
You can learn more about these postures in our series of inter-connected classes. To learn more about them look here and you can also book in online.
In our busy 21st century schedules, devoting hours to maintaining a strong and healthy body is a serious hats-off pastime. It would be really great if we could install a high-fives giving machine as you walk out the FGB door. After a Fierce Grace class, your body is singing from the inside out (even if you feel like you could savasana forever). That’s why it is essential to give your body what it needs to repair. In the fitness world, not balancing your nutrition alongside your work-out is like hiring builders to tear down some walls in your house and asking them to rebuild them… without giving them any bricks. And we want strong houses!
Exercise is a physiological ‘stressor’: challenging the body to make it better. Side-effects such as sore muscles and the need for more sleep or food is the body’s way of telling us that we have depleted our fuel resources and that we need to replenish. This pattern of temporary depletion allows our bodies to adapt to the demands being placed upon it. For example, with increased cardio, the body becomes a more efficient respiratory mechanism (#cleanleanbreathingmachine) and with weight training, muscle fibres are broken down to create bigger and better ones. This process, known as ‘re-modelling’, (cue the cloning generation) works best when we are giving the body what it needs. Alongside complex carbs, good fats, minerals and vitamins, protein is a major power-player. All hail the protein!
During exercise, we break down carbohydrate stores and protein structures in the muscles. It is considered best to replenish as close to the end of the work-out as possible as the body is keenly awaiting the arrival of new recruits! Muscles need 10g-20g protein to maximise recovery post work-out.
Humans are protein beings. Protein accounts for about 15% of the average person’s body fabric and mass. It is an essential component of every cell. In fact nails and hair are mostly protein. The body needs protein to repair tissue, to make enzymes, hormones, and antibodies for the immune system; to carry messages within the body, follow instructions and perform basic to complex bodily functions. In a nutshell: protein is essential.
Protein is a ‘macronutrient’ meaning that along with fat and carbohydrate, we need it to stay healthy. Unlike fat and carb, however, the body does not store protein, meaning that we need a constant flow. Recommended daily intake is estimated to be in the region of 56g for men and 46g for women. 7g equates to a large egg, half a cup of lentils, 1 tbsp of peanut butter, 1 cup of milk.
Protein is made up of chains of amino acids which the body absorbs and breaks down to turn into different amino acids. Imagine amino acids made up of letters of the alphabet which the digestive system re-arranges to find the words it wants to spell out.
The fact that protein creates hormones which regulates metabolism makes protein the serious King of the Castle when it comes to health. High levels of sugar and simple carbs can spike our insulin levels. Therefore, it is worth setting yourself up each day with some high protein and fat-rich fuel to maintain optimum blood sugar levels. If you aren’t an egg enthusiast, a sucker for the smoked salmon or a peanut-butter proponent, there are other quick and easy solutions to increase your protein intake and maximise your workout!
This brings us on to one of our favourite recipes!
2 scoops vegan protein powder (available to purchase at FGB reception)
1 tbsp coconut oil (great also for skin and hair)
1 tbsp flax seeds (balances hormones, source of omega 3, reduces inflammation)
1 tbsp chia seeds (fibre, antioxidants, fatty acids)
Handful of leafy greens (kale / spinach)
Handful of berries (strawberries, blueberries)
If you are interested in learning more about how you can fuel your practice, come along to our Runners’ Workshop at 5:30pm on Saturday 2nd April. We will be having a pre and post talk where you can ask any questions to Katie Young, who will be delighted to help with your nutritional queries! We look forward to seeing you there. Book now at www.fiercegracebrixton.co.uk/schedule
This workshop is free to members and £5 to non-members