At FGB, we’re taking teachers’ injury knowledge up a level with many of our Brixton teachers recently taking part in a 6 day SOB training – even those who presently teach it.
Ex-professional dancer and Brixton teacher, Lisa Missah tells us about her experience over the 6 days.
What did the week entail?
Over the course of the week we covered detailed studies of major back issues, including problems with discs and the sacroiliac joint, as well as the psoas muscle, hamstrings and injuries to the knees.
What is an injury?
An injury can be a specific problem to a particular area of the body, back, knees, hip or shoulder. However some people who practice yoga have a general ache or pain that doesn’t necessarily have a diagnosis: this is very common with the back, in particular. Injuries can be caused in many ways, through sport, accident or general wear and tear; poor posture, long periods of sitting in the workplace and the use of our smartphones can all contribute.
What has the training brought to your teaching?
Not only are increasing numbers of people referred to yoga to assist in strengthening a weakened physical area, but also as a preventative method for further problems. Therefore, it is imperative that the teacher has a good solid understanding of possible injuries and the necessary modifications and props to apply within postures to achieve the best results.
What has the training brought to your own practice?
The training has given me a much deeper understanding of injury identification, necessary modification and how to approach students with care and a sense of empathy. I am interested in yoga from a therapeutic point of view and the SOB training has definitely enhanced this for me; especially in my own practice, as an ex dancer with 2 prolapsed discs!
An example of this understanding would be: identifying when to take the stretch a little further and when to back off. Using this knowledge enables the teacher to modify postures and give individual attention to members displaying different injuries, even in a busy class!
At FG Brixton, you’ll find SOB every Sunday 12.30pm: excellent for beginners, those with injury and we’ll help set you on your path to do the other classes with an understanding of your physical issues.
With extra sunshine earlier in the mornings, getting up has been that little bit easier, but what about when your body still wants more snooze time?
Take a moment before reaching for the coffee. An energising morning yoga practice can work as a natural stimulant to set you up for a productive day. We explore postures to awaken the body, mind, digestion and nervous system… and FYI, some of these postures can even be done from your bed! Namaste.
1. Child’s Pose. A ‘natural’ posture is a good place to start first thing. This feels great for the body, especially at the beginning of the day, since it’s calming and relaxing. Take time to breath into the back and lower spine and enjoy the wake up effect on your spine.
2. Cat-Cow. A great morning stretch which can help to open up your whole spine. Breathing deeply in this pose will massage your organs as you alternately compress and lengthen the intestines, bringing fresh blood to the cells, which are responsible for healthy gut function. Be sure to lead from the spine and only stretch your neck as far as feels comfortable.
3. Warrior One. Feel powerful, positive and ready to face the day with Warrior One. This posture combines leg strengthening and gentle back bending, bringing energy into the body. Tilt your eyes skyward for a deeper stretch. If you’re feeling especially energetic, move into Warrior Two by bringing the arms parallel to the floor and gazing over your front arm. Maybe even set an intention for the day whilst your feeling strong!
4. Bridge Pose. Back bends are all about unlocking the energy of the spine and nervous system. Lying in a semi supine position with your head below your heart calms the nervous system and open the front of the body. Use your hands under your hips for an extra deep stretch.
5. Cobra. Open. the chest and strengthen the core body with Cobra. This posture can help align the spine and invigorate the kidneys and nervous system. A great one to do from your bed – just throw off your pillows and get ready to start the day!
Fancy seeing the sun rise in a beautiful country while practicing yoga? Check out our FG retreats here.
“Ideal for those looking to escape hectic city life and find greater balance in mind and body.” – VOGUE
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.
Some people like routine and the same old, same old and some people’s heads are turned by the novelty of new.
As new classes are introduced to the schedule this year, it’s the ideal opportunity to shake things up and build yourself a Fierce Grace hot yoga practice that brings you strength, flexibility, stamina, fitness and joy. But before your head is completely turned by the glitter of the new, we wanted to remind you of the gems at the heart of the Fierce Grace system.
Created as a series of interconnected classes that work together, the classes complement each other, with different focuses, because yoga is about balance. The balance of strength and flexibility, of focus and relaxation, of fierce and grace.
So if you really want to get the best out of this system of yoga, then ensuring you mix it up by engaging with as many classes as you can is really important.
If you’re new to FGB, we highly recommend S.O.B. Perfect for beginners or those with injuries the class is taken at a slower pace to get to know the poses, learn modifications and there’s the chance to ask questions throughout. It stands for Stiff, Old and Broken, but don’t let that put you off!
The cornerstone of the practice, Fierce Grace founder Michele Pernetta suggests that everyone take this class at least once a week; and that anyone new to the practice do at least two or three Deep Core classes before diving in more deeply.
More floor based than other classes, this class is about alignment, helping correct postural issues and using deeeeeeep stretches to juice up the joints and release the muscle groups, all helping bring balance to your musculoskeletal system.
CLASSIC. With a traditional hot yoga class format, this class focuses on alignment and breathing, bringing strength and stability to your poses. Excellent for building stamina, this class offers an opportunity to think about posture technique as many of them are repeated.
FIERCE GRACE. Combining Hatha, Power and Ashtanga yogawith interval and Core Training for a fully rounded workout that works 100% of the body, this is the heart of the Fierce Grace system and the class around which all other classes are designed. Set to music, it offers strength and flexibility, fitness and relaxation.
FG2. An evolution of the Fierce Grace class, hit up FG2 once you have a handle on Fierce Grace and challenge yourself to the limit of your capabilities. General level, variations and advanced poses keep you interested, challenged and ever improving. Excellent for experienced and intermediate alike, this class will help get you ready to tackle The Beast.
THE FIX. A mix of Classic and FG, this class is short, super charged and super sweet. Ideal when you want to squeeze a class in but are strapped for time, this class is for topping up your practice.
This class is user friendly Intermediate/ Advanced class. Take practice to the next level, learn developments of poses from other classes and if you’re advanced, we will guide you to new heights!
The Brixton studio teachers are always on hand to give advice, so if you find you struggle with certain classes or have specific goals to achieve, do have a chat with them and keep playing.
This week we meet one of our Hot Founder members, Liz Popovich. Having regularly practiced hot yoga for six years now, she’s a great example of how yoga can keep you interested, engaged and ever evolving. Her practice today is just as exciting as it was when she discovered the sweaty delights of hot yoga, but she freely admits the variety offered by the Fierce Grace system of connected classes is her idea of bliss.
1.What brought you to yoga? How long have you been practicing?
I started practicing about six years ago. I had a back injury and my chiropractor told me that I had to stop using the cardio equipment at the gym, which was my only form of exercise at the time. When I asked what type of exercise I could do, she said: “yoga, but make sure it’s hot yoga!” I was living in Islington at the time, so I did a drop-in class at the City studio. This was before Fierce Grace – it was still the Bikram method – and I remember leaving the class, still dripping sweat even after changing and wondering what just happened to me! I was hooked. I moved to SW4 the next month and joined the Bikram studio in Balham immediately. I practiced six days a week there until the Fierce Grace studio opened in Brixton…
2. How have you been finding Fierce Grace?
I was in love with Fierce Grace from the very first class. As soon as the Brixton studio opened, I signed up for an introductory package, and knew I was going to commit to a Founder membership within the first week. The timing was perfect because I had reached the point where I was looking for more variety in my yoga practice. I actually abandoned two other yoga studio memberships to make the change. I find the classes brilliant, the teachers inspiring and the studio so friendly and welcoming. I feel like I belong there.
3. How has your practice changed or developed since coming to FGB?
I think I’m much kinder to myself in my practice now. This could be because I’m six years older, or because I’ve dealt with a nagging hip injury/condition, but I feel that I’ve moved beyond a solely physical practice into one that’s more mindful, observant and kind. It feels more comprehensive and much more satisfying this way.
4 . What is your favourite class and why?
I have to say all of them – because it’s the variety that works for me. I love the fact that in a given week, I get a mix of FG, Classic and either Core or Fix. For me that’s perfection!
5. What do you like doing in Brixton?
People watching. Every day I go there, I say to myself “you don’t see that every day!” Brixton has such a great vibe and colourful people – all you have to do is wander through the village and you’ll be entertained!
6. Tell us a fun fact…?
I was able to retire six years ago after being a co-founder of a medical software company. We sold the company and I took the opportunity to retire early after working way too much for the sixteen years I was part of the company. It’s not a coincidence that my yoga life started immediately after retirement – this is what anchors my days now. Bliss!
7. Anything else to add…
I am so grateful to all my teachers from FG and before whose generosity and inspiration help to keep me on my yoga journey. I hope to do this for the rest of my life.
Thanks Liz! It’s always a pleasure to have you at the studio. x
Tales of Teacher Training – Meet Feng Cal, One of This Year’s Graduates
So many members express an interest in finding out more about the Fierce Grace Teacher Training. Whether you want to change career or just go even deeper, this intensive course is guaranteed to take you to a whole new level. So we thought we’d have a chat with Brixton member and one of this year’s graduates, Feng Cal.
What do you do?
My day (and sometimes night!) job is a finance lawyer in the city.
What do you love about your jobs?
I love the fast paced nature of my day job – building client relationships, working in a team and executing deals. It’s a busy and often stressful environment where you have to think on your feet and respond quickly. Teaching yoga actually uses a lot of same skills – building relationships with your students, encouraging teamwork and making sure that we all finish the class together without any dramas or mishaps!
Why did you take one month off to do teacher training?
It was a “now or never” opportunity! I happened to have a natural pause in my career development so used my 6 weeks of unpaid leave to do my TT. It really was a case of everything lining up perfectly.
Tell us about your own yoga practise
I have been practising yoga for over 4 years now and I have hugely benefitted from my practice, both physically and mentally. Physically, yoga has developed my strength and flexibility, helping to prevent injuries and protect my body from damage from other high impact sports such as running and rock climbing. Mentally, yoga helps me to relax and set aside time (and space) for myself, helping me to find balance in my daily routine. I was drawn to FG by the flexibility of the 6 class system, the friendly and knowledgeable teachers and the strong sense of community.
Why did you want to do it?
I wanted to do the FG TT so that I could teach at FG Brixton! For me, yoga has been this amazing journey which was bought so many benefits into my life. I want to share those benefits with the local community, regulars and newcomers, advanced practitioners and those who are just starting. I know how much of a difference it makes to have a supportive yoga teacher and doing the TT is hopefully just the first step in helping me to become the best teacher I can be.
What was it like?
It was a very demanding TT but also a very supportive TT. You are fully immersed for the month, trying to absorb as much as you can from the senior teachers and the excellent guest lecturers and benefitting from the support of your fellow students.
What did you get out of it?
I learned so much from my fellow students. We were a diverse group, from all walks of life and a wide range of ages yet we all supported each other. We recognised our own strengths and weakness and improved our teaching through feedback and supporting others.
Was it worth it?
Definitely! I know the TT is an expensive course but personally I loved being able to completely focus on the yoga and do it full time for a month. Plus, the second half was held in Italy, in the gorgeous retreat house with sun, pool and home-cooked Italian food – what’s not to love?
Would you recommend others to do it – if so, why?
Yes – if you want an in-depth hands-on training course that focuses on helping you learn how to teach more than anything else, the FG TT is one of the best out there.
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.”
Putting Your Back Into It – Fierce Grace For a Healthy Back
It might be a cliché, but it is a busy, stressful time of year. Its easy to get caught up in the fun and the drama, but we can rush around and forget to take care of ourselves. Fierce Grace Brixton co-owner, Katie, did just that when she hurt her back doing a quick, sharp movement while not being fully aware of her body.
After being in agony for weeks, Katie says that she’s now learned a lot about herself. It might not come as a surprise that yoga has helped in her recovery. To assist her recovery she came to FG 5 days a week. The results…? She claims her back has been healed by FG!
“Heat and posture sequences, particularly Classic and Core have been life saving!”
We advise you see a medical professional to ensure you are doing what is best for you – not all back pains are the same! But if exercise is part of the prescription, here are Katie’s fierce tips for working with back pain.
Rub Tiger Balm on aching muscles before going into the hot room. The menthol works deep into the muscle for extra relief (don’t forget to wash your hands afterwards to avoid stinging eyes!) A great tip from FG teacher, Gwen.
Let the teacher know you’ve got an injury. Our teachers are trained to know the correct modifications for injury – let them guide you.
Be aware of what your body is telling you. Listen to your body completely. Use your breath, don’t push it and breathe into the full posture.
Avoid forward bends. Instead of floor bow, turn onto your back and slide up into bridge pose. Try to pull the stomach muscles in while stretching – this helps support the back and engages the core.
Be kind to yourself and REST. Katie used a heated lavender pillow under her back at night. This heat and extra support helped feel more comfortable and get a good nights sleep!
Well, the time has come to say goodbye after a wonderful two years with Fierce Grace Brixton. Times of change always trigger pause and reflection, so here are a few words I’d like to share…
Why did you want to do the job?
I love yoga and I love Brixton, so when I heard that there was a studio opening up on my turf I was duly excited. Having been here since before there were even doors to throw open, I feel like part of the fabric of the building itself, so it made so much sense for me to progress into the role of manager.
What do you love about the job?
As with any place it is the people who give it soul, and there have been many great ones here, both past and present, staff and members, that have made the job truly enjoyable. So many interesting personalities walk through that door, varying in so many ways but with one unifying factor: a thirsts for self improvement. (This same drive for learning is actually what drew me to the position of studio manager in the first place!) Whether that’s to be stronger, more mindful, or whatever, we are all here because we are making an effort to be a better version of ourselves. You are a special group of people and I will definitely miss you. I have learnt so much from you and hope that you continue to succeed in your life journeys.
What do you feel you have created?
My Fierce Grace Brixton family.
Any last words?
I would like to sincerely thank each and every one of you for every experience shared, opportunity offered and friendship made during this time. I feel honoured to have been given the privilege to see the studio blossom, along with all those inside it.
Thanks for all the good times! It’s been a journey.
This month we discover Posture Secrets from FG Teacher Paula Cronin.
Paula is a regular teacher on a Monday morning and evening. She’s the one setting you off for the week ahead with that oh-my-goodness-it’s-so-dark-outside 6.30am FG class. We thank you Paula!
Posture: Side Crow – Eka Pada Koudinyasana. (Arm balance or Circus trick?!)
Benefits: Arm and hand strengthening. Upper body strength. Balance. Lower spine flexibility.
Side crow was always my nemesis. It was the one pose I couldn’t do in the whole FG integrated system. I always figured that it was because of my knee injury or due to my thoracic outlet syndrome. I tried, but didn’t get it and felt very frustrated in the posture.
However, I first did Side Crow in my FG teacher training. We were doing one of our many posture workshops, and even though I was really scared (and quite frankly ashamed), I got up in front of everyone to admit this was a posture I had never managed to do. Then in front of everyone Michele talked me through it: I did everything she said (and it truly is all about the set up), I took my time, and I was in. Not only was I in my first ever Side Crow, but I STAYED in, for like, ages! I even remember looking up at Michele while I was holding the posture, and mouthing an expletive which could, for the purposes of this piece, be described as ‘Wow!’ I even cried. I will never forget it.
I see so many students in every FG class struggling in the same way and the chatterboxes in their heads are winning; “this is too hard, I’ll never be able to do this, oh this is for the advanced yogis, I will fall, I will embarrass myself, who do I think I am thinking I can do Side Crow.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is the most “I’ll just sit this one out” posture around. To be honest, I used to do the very same thing as I thought I wasn’t ‘good enough’ to do it, that it was ‘too advanced’ for me.
But the truth is – everyone can do Side Crow (of course as long as injuries such as wrist strain don’t contraindicate it).
So it is important to listen to the teacher and follow instructions step by step. If one step is missed out, the set up is incomplete and it won’t come together. I see lots of people trying to get into it before setting up properly. This just causes frustration, disappointment, and a misconceived belief that the pose isn’t for them.
So here we go – The Setup
Firstly, the key part of making Side Crow work – is having the forearms vertical. You are, in a sense, creating an upper arm shelf and moving the weight onto the vertical forearms; a bit like resting on a table or chair.
– Ground the base of the knuckles down into the floor (like crow claws!)
– Bend your elbows to create a vertical shelf with your forearms to take the weight
– Lift your hips high to drop your knees on top of the elbows
– Look forward
– Lift you legs!
Mindful set up.
Successful Side Crow!
So next time you are taking the Fierce Grace class don’t hesitate to ask the teacher to assist in giving it try – it’s easier done than said!