Fierce Grace Brixton member, Clare Duggan practiced right up until the day before she gave birth! How’s that for motivation in February?
We chatted to Clare about her favourite postures whilst pregnant and what kept her coming back to Fierce Grace throughout. Did you know that yoga and being healthier, both in mind and body can actually help some women through their pregnancy with minimal discomfort?
Here’s what Clare has to say:
I fell into Fierce Grace Yoga after having been a regular Bikram practitioner for many years at the City studio, which subsequently evolved into a Fierce Grace studio. Having always found the heated practice a good way to keep niggling injuries at bay and enable me to continue to run and partake in more high impact exercise, Fierce Grace in addition offered more class variation making for a more interesting practice with extra benefits.
I couldn’t have been more delighted when Fierce Grace opened in Brixton, as having had my first baby and being on maternity leave, I was unable to get to the Old Street studio easily or quickly so wasn’t anticipating being able to return to practice until I returned to work in the city.
As with my first pregnancy, I practised through the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of my recent pregnancy and am sure this has kept me healthy, sane and able to keep active right up to when my waters broke (on my bike funnily enough) on the 17th January 2017. I had done a Fix class with Lisa Hood that same morning so maybe that hurried the birth along. My daughter Hettie May was born in the wee hours of the 18th January.
The main classes I practised throughout my pregnancy were Fix and Deep Core but that was more to do with the times I could get to class than anything else. I enjoyed the sets as a sequence but some of the postures I found most beneficial over this period were pigeon (all shapes and forms), down dog and dragon pose. I think that was as they were targeting areas where I was experiencing more tightness than usual. I was lucky that the Brixton FG teachers were so supportive and helped with any necessary modifications to my practice and I still had the energy to enjoy and practice regularly.
Providing my 10 week post-baby medical check-up is positive, I’d like to return to Fierce Grace classes again at that point. The main challenge will be timing classes around my daughter’s feed times. She has an insatiable appetite at the moment so we’re pretty much joined at the hip!
It’d be great to try some of the newer classes I haven’t yet had the opportunity to practise and develop my practice further. It may take a little while to stop doing the modifications I’ve been taught whilst pregnant so am sure there’ll be some corrections to be made over the coming months but I’m really looking forward to getting back to full fitness and enjoying a bit of me time, as well as catching up with all the lovely folk who work and practise at Brixton Fierce Grace studio.
At FGB, we love having such a variety of members at our studio at all stages of their lives.
Whether you are new to yoga, or hot yoga, or Fierce Grace; or you are someone who has been practicing for a few years, one of the truths of yoga is that your practice is different every time you get on the mat. Class after class your practice changes and evolves. Mood, energy levels, stress levels, different teachers, there are lots of factors that contribute to your practice being a living, breathing, every-changing thing. But how to evolve more consciously? And how can we help?
Well, start by looking at the foundations of your practice. Is it solid? By this we mean paying attention to the building blocks of the poses. Set yourself up properly; even if you think you know how a pose should look and feel, or you have been practicing for a while, listen to the teacher and their instructions for getting into position. You may hear something different. Use your breath, use your focus and work to your limits, whatever they are that day.
Try some of the new classes on the Fierce Grace schedule. They have been created to help you work in specific areas, taking some poses further and breaking down others into different steps. Fly for upper body strength, Deep Dark Core to add a more meditative dimension, FG2 to take some poses into different expressions to keep you challenged, interested and evolving.
Go back to some of the old classes in the schedule. We all have our favourites, and the classes we aren’t so keen on. Sometimes we aren’t keen on them because they challenge us in ways that make us physically or mentally uncomfortable. Work through it, man!!! That’s what Fierce Grace means!
When you first get back on the mat in 2017, or you step on the mat for the first time, think about your practice. How has it changed? What do you want from it? Fitness, health, flexibility, free heating? Whatever it is you want to get out of Fierce Grace, bring your fierce, bring your grace and remember to bring a towel, appropriate clothing, no aerosols, plenty of water and practice evolution.
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.”
It’s all about gratitude this month, inspired as we are at this time of year by the harvest festival and the sheer abundance of crops we enjoy in the UK. We have been scrumping, brambling, crumbling, preserving, chutney-ing and making various fruit gins to our hearts content!
Gratitude is a central part of a yoga practice, so here’s five things we are grateful for at Fierce Grace Brixton – let us know what you are feeling grateful for….
YOU. Awww, schmaltzy maybe, but so true, we never fail to be grateful for the wonderful members that make this studio such a friendly, happy place to practice.
We are also grateful for your personal hygiene, your thoughtfulness to other members, your not using aerosols in the changing rooms, your turning up dressed appropriately, your cleanliness, and most of all for your turning up to your classes on time, so as not to disrupt everyone else. Keep up the sterling work!
The Fierce Grace system and Michele Pernetta, who created this perfectly formed system of interlinked classes, have both created a fierce yoga practice that works, for balance, for strength and flexibility, and for living life with Fierce Grace. We are grateful for the fact that it continues to challenge us, keeps us hot and keeps us mindful.
Our staff. The teachers who share their knowledge with such passion, and who encourage us to do our best, work our hardest, and understand our bodies and our minds in a whole new way. The cheerful, lovely reception team and those excellent members who volunteer to help us clean mats, clear the studio and support the team.
The studio space itself. We have practiced in some pretty awful studio spaces, and hot yoga studios can be the worst, but we hope you agree that Fierce Grace Brixton is a pretty decent space to spend time, learn and grow.
Nope, not a blog post about the clocks changing, but a brand new type of membership we are introducing at Fierce Grace Brixton. For just £69 a month the Daylight Savings membership will give you access to any class starting between 10am and 5pm Monday to Friday. Yes my friend, you heard that right. £69 a month.
Why? We know our neck of the woods here in South London is knee-deep in freelancers, creative types, and people who work nights (Brixton’s nighttime economy is the epitome of booming), as well as parents whose only hope of exercising is when the kids are at school.
And it’s no swizz. The schedule at Fierce Grace Brixton is packed with options. There are at least two classes on weekdays which fall into this time slot; one at 10am and one around lunchtime, so whether you come after you drop the kids off at school, or take a class before starting your afternoon’s work you can really get your moneys worth.
According to Wiki, Winston Churchill argued that daylight savings enlarged “the opportunities for the pursuit of health and happiness among the millions of people who live in this country.” We’re with Winston.
You’ve seen it on the schedule. You’ve thought about it… twice. You were on your way and then found a burning desire to go to Wahaca on Saturday instead. You’re not sure you’ll be good at it. What if everyone can get their leg behind their head? What if everyone else is levitating when you arrive???
Now, it’s time to zip up that chatterbox and step outside your comfort zone. The worst that can happen is you fall over laughing! (I did)
Fierce is a wonderful sequence of postures, which are accessible to all, but take your practice to the next level, with fun and laughter along the way. If you’re new to it – Fierce is a friendly, safe place where you can try postures out for the first time and learn the developments of poses from other classes. If you’re experienced – Fierce will stretch and guide you to new heights.
When I did Fierce for the first time last week, I found it a really open environment, lots of encouragement to try something new and even surprised myself with what I could achieve. Yes, there are some super challenging postures to aspire to, but it’s a great feeling to get part way there. It also felt like a collective, as over half had never done the class before.
Krzystof kindly took some photos of us during the class and when we took a look afterwards, we were all really pleasantly surprised at how well we did – hey, we even looked good!!!
Alternatively, if your just starting at FG or have any injuries, get yourself down to our SOB class every Sunday. This is a user friendly class where there is more time to understand how to work safely and effectively, get to know the poses, learn modifications and ask questions. Know what works for you and your body. Better still, if you have a friend who is FG-curious, but maybe a bit unsure, bring them along as a big open-armed introduction to our classes and what can be achieved with regular practice.
It’s been said that we should aim to do 3 things each day that scare us: a daily risk quota if you will. Start this by coming to Fierce on Saturday, challenge yourself, do something that scares you; be Fierce!
Whether you hit the studio a couple of times a month, or religiously do 3 classes a week, the 30 day challenge is going to be tough, no two ways about it, but it’s absolutely worth the commitment. You will be fitter, more focused, calmer, stronger, more flexible, and quite rightly mightily proud of yourself.
Making it through the 30 days with grace…
– the 30 day challenge is an intensive course in your own body. Listen to it. You don’t need to go all out in every class, if that’s not what you can do today. Turn up, breathe and be in the studio.
– master your ‘monkey mind’ , the voice that tells you it is too hard, that you can’t do it, that you should just give up. It’s not too hard, of course you can do it, so be the master of your mind and make it work for you, instead of letting it knock you down.
– look after yourself outside the studio. Water, water, water, bananas, protein, sleep. You are an athlete for 30 days!
And if you don’t believe us, here’s the skinny from a couple of members who have already done it.
Katie Smith wrote:
Making and finding time is the main part of the challenge! I just looked at it from the perspective that I was finding 90 minutes in the day to focus on myself.
Naively I thought I would suddenly see loads of improvement in my practice after a week, I mean I was going every day! But I realised that it was the tiny improvements that build up over time that made the biggest difference; like hooking my right foot behind my left calf in Eagle without falling over felt like a breakthrough moment.
The third week was the hardest for me. I felt quite stiff and inflexible when I went into week 3 but I realised that I didn’t need to push myself hard every class, and I learnt to listen to what my body was telling me it would do today, and what it wouldn’t!
Sometimes the classes I wanted to go to the least ended up being the ones I enjoyed the most. It sounds daft, but I often found the most benefits from my practice, or improvements, on the days when I felt like I would much rather just go home and have a large glass of wine after a particularly stressful day at work.
As someone prone to anxiety, by far the biggest benefit for me committing to practicing yoga every day was how I felt mentally and emotionally. It gave me a sense of calm and positivity, as well as accomplishment, by allowing myself the time to focus solely on me, my practice and my meditation.
and Katie Brown wrote:
I really enjoyed the 30 day challenge but it was definitely challenging! At times I found it difficult to make sure I was getting enough liquids and rest in-between consecutive classes. Since finishing the challenge I have noticed a big improve in my yoga practice, particularly with my alignment, and my upper body strength has drastically improved!
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.