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!
Feel the Fierce!
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!
We know that Warrior III into Airplane arms is great for balance and core. When we’ve mastered it – it can feel as free as flying!
If you’re actually flying this month (see what we did there!) whether long haul or short haul, the combination of sitting for a long period of time, air conditioning and carrying heavy luggage can take its tole on the body – just when you want to be your best for adventures or relaxing by the pool.
We’ve been looking into how you can take Fierce Grace into the air, increase circulation, avoid deep vein thromboses and practice yoga while you travel.
Seated Spinal Twist
To stretch out the spine, sit up tall, grab the sides of your seat, twist to the left and right and hold for a few seconds each side. Then try using your left arm to grab the right side of the seat and extend, lifting your spine and chest to twist your head to look further back over your shoulder. Give the person behind you a little smile!
Modified Eagle Pose
Usually done standing, but this modification is great to open up between the shoulder-blades: put your hands up in front of your face, then cross the arms at the elbows, cross your forearms and wind palms until your wrists touch, then finally lift the arms up slowly.
On your way to the bathroom, try out some mini lunges. Holding the lunge in a modified version of a Warrior I pose to fit the small space can also work the hips, legs and calves.
You can modify popular poses like cat and cow (done on your hands and knees) and do them while standing or sitting instead. Just bend your knees and place your hands slightly above your knees. Then alternate between rounding your spine like a dome (cat) and curving it like an arch (cow). Place your hands on your thighs and as you inhale, tilt your pelvis and abdomen outward and allow your chest to arch up and forward. As you exhale, curl your pelvis inwards and backwards, arching your spine outwards, lower your chin as your chest moves inwards.
This standing pose
in which you place the sole of one foot against the inner thigh of your other leg and raise your arms to your chest or over your head (you can use a wall by the bathroom for balance), can open up tight hips and relieve lower back pain. A small price to pay for the possible eyebrow raise from another passenger – they’re probably thinking it’s a great idea!
If you’re an anxious traveller, focus back to the breath to find peace within the body. Take a deep breath through your nose; allow your chest and core to fill up with air. On the exhale, lips are sealed and throat is slightly constricted creating a small hissing noise. Make the same sound on the inhale and continue for 1 minute.
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.
Seated Wide Angle Forward Fold (Upavistha Konasana)
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.
For those of you who love a good Fierce Friday, you’ll have enjoyed the Sara Sandwich: 7am Fix, 10am Deep Core or 12:30pm Fierce Grace. Having celebrated Mothers’ Day earlier this month and currently launching our Off Peak membership (available to use for 10am and 12:30pm classes Monday – Friday, making it perfectly-post-school-run) we thought for this month’s Teacher Close-up we would catch up with our favourite yoga mama: introducing the fabulous Sara!
Sara, how did you first come to yoga? What about it made you stay?
I first did yoga when I was at dance college back in the late 90’s and l didn’t like it! Then when I moved to London I tried hot yoga and everything changed. I just loved it and I ended up working in a studio just so I could do it as much as possible. For me it has been a real slow burner. I have been practicing since about 2004 but at first it was purely the physical aspect I was into. The way I practice now is completely different.
Tell us a little about your ‘yoga journey’…
In 2011 I decided to go to LA to complete the Bikram Teacher Training. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. After practicing 2 classes a day for 9 weeks I felt like a shiny new being. I taught my first ever class at Bikram Headquarters in LA the day after I graduated (talk about deep end!) They loved my accent so I got away with the class being 98 minutes long! I have been teaching full time since and I am so happy I had the opportunity to become one of the first Fierce Grace teachers.
You have a dancing background; how does yoga work alongside your dancing?
Perfectly! Yoga has kept me onstage keeping up with the young ones right up until I became pregnant last year.
How old is your little one? How have you found motherhood?
Cosmo has just recently had his 1st Birthday; he is the best boy. l am really lucky he’s just such a happy baby. I have found motherhood the most crazy, amazing, tearful and joyful time of growth.
Did you practice during your pregnancy? How did you find practice and teaching after having a baby?
Yes I practiced and taught throughout my pregnancy and I loved it; maybe that’s why Cosmo is so chilled! After having Cosmo I think I did my first class when he was 3 months old and it was so hard!!! It was a strange feeling for me to have no strength. I had to build up really slowly and I learnt not to push myself. In the early days with Cosmo we would do mummy and baby yoga every evening before bath time. It was really good for me to put some routine into place or the days can seem endless. Practicing for me now is all about the stolen moments: 20 minutes before or after I teach a class or in the evening at home once I put him to bed, but when I do manage to get to a class it’s magical because to have that small bit of time to yourself is so energising in so many ways and I enjoy it and appreciate it more now than ever before.
Has being a mum changed your dance / yoga schedule?
Yes I have to plan much more now. As my family are all in Scotland my childcare is not around the corner, although I have some great friends who are like family to me. Teaching yoga is a great job as a mother as it has meant I am working but not full-time so I still feel like I spend most of my time with Cosmo. I am lucky that my parents are only 55 and retired so they are regular visitors to London.
What’s your favourite pose and why? What do you find most challenging?
It changes all the time and at the moment l think it’s Toestand. I am loving having the strength again to lift my hips from my heel. Standing head to knee is an all-time fav though because it takes ages to get and you have got to be up for it and even then when you get your forehead to your knee you might still wobble so you just have to laugh and try again.
Any yoga tips for mums?
I have 3 wee tips!
1. Get a mat at home and practice with your baby. There are loads of classes on youtube. It’s not the same as coming to the studio, but in the early days it will get you stronger.
2. When pushing the buggy, make sure you relax your shoulders. I have to remind myself all the time not to tense whilst pushing.
3. Practicing in the studio a few times a week will allow you to just be you again. It’s one of the only places where you have to focus so much on what you are doing that you can’t think about being a mum; you need this for you body and your mind.
Love is in the air… Love makes the world go round… It drives us to madness, to euphoria, to despair; that crazy little thing called love…
How good do you feel after you sweat it out at hot yoga? Through exercise we release endorphins giving us that post-work-out buzz, dopamine giving us a big dollop of pleasure and serotonin, providing us with a healthy appetite, a restful night’s sleep and a positive outlook. Powerful hey? Well, the science behind love is pretty similar. At Fierce Grace Brixton, we are getting loved up for Valentine’s Day this Sunday. Whether you’re a yogi with a Single-Standing-head-to-knee, some Loved-up Lunges, or a “It’s Complicated” Crow, we’ve done a little digging into the science behind love.
Research has shown there are three stages of falling in love, all with a varying hormonal response.
Stage 1: LUST
Psychologists have suggested it takes us anywhere between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to detect “fancy-ability” in someone, 55% of which is from their body language. The things we find attractive in a partner can be the result of a “love map” – things instilled in us from childhood about what we do or do not want in a partner. Furthermore, it has also been suggested we all belong to certain “chemical families”; and instinctively choose partners who balance and complement our own bodily hormone levels. Or maybe they just have a nice smile?
At this stage, the hormones oestrogen and testosterone play a key role; testosterone is not only confined to men, indeed it makes for some hot-bloodied females out there!
Stage 2: ATTRACTION
Cue the love-struck Stage 2! Example A: Take Shakespeare’s tragic hero Romeo: “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night” Classic Stage 2.
A whole range of hormones and neurotransmitters called ‘monoamines’ flood the bloodstream. Those giddy butterflies… the teenage giggles… staring into space at your desk fawning over your new love then boring your friends with it over dinner… Yikes. The increased levels of serotonin in the blood stream render us with temporary insanity!
Dopamine, created in the brain, secreted by the adrenal glands, affects our organs and our senses, influencing our mood and emotions with big highs and lows. And, oh, our sweat glands: those clammy palms you get around your new love-interest whilst you’re trying to be totally cool, calm and collected? Blame science. Love is quite literally a drug; nicotine and Class A’s scientifically have the same effect on the brain!
Also enhancing the release of testosterone, our sexual desires are ignited and we more aggressively and passionately pursue our beloved.
The neurotransmitters norepinephine and PEA act as a stimulant. In our alert state, we begin to notice all those ‘small things’ that make us fall in love. The brain actually starts to re-wire itself through the central nervous system, creating a rewards-type reaction when we are with our loved one.
Stage 3: ATTACHMENT:
Here, two more hormones that come into play. Oxytocin, is the hormonal creator of strong bonds. It is secreted into the bloodstream by mothers during childbirth. It is also secreted along with vasopressin to strengthen our feelings towards our partner, released in its greatest form after ‘mating’. What a wonderful place the body is.
Science aside, this Sunday we will be celebrating the theme of love with our fabulous Partner Stretching class, taught by senior teacher Nina Rashid. Nina will guide you through some partner stretches and balances that may have you falling out of postures, but certainly more in love… Maybe you want to gaze into each other’s eyes, maybe you want to giggle along with a friend or maybe you want to come along solo to soak up the FGB love, come along and live and love life with Fierce Grace. And enjoy strawberries and fizz afterwards. Win win. Book here.
‘The Beast’ is our toughest class yet, Fierce aka The Beast is guaranteed to challenge even the most experienced yoga practitioner to take their practice to new heights. Try it for yourself at Fierce Grace Brixton on 5th December 12.15 -2pm
What is ‘Fierce’? Blending arm balancing poses, deep hip opening, inversions, lotus, shoulder opening, deep backbends and deeper meditation, this class is 1 hour and 45 minutes of intense hot yoga challenge. Requiring strength, flexibility, balance, patience and a sense of humour, it is taught in an encouraging atmosphere; you are encouraged to work at your own pace while learning the correct stages of entry into these challenging poses, whilst advanced yoga students are encouraged to explore new horizons under expert guidance.
“Fierce” makes us superhuman with its wide alphabet of physical, emotional and spiritual expression. It’s the ultimate expression of Fierce Grace. Ready?
Health Warning: This class should only be undertaken if you have at least three years practice under your belt and are proficient at the Fierce Grace class. If unsure, ask a senior teacher if they think you are ready.
A user-friendly Intermediate / Advanced class. Learn the developments of the poses you have learned in the other classes. We will encourage you, while pushing you. If you are new to it, we will help you learn the steps to master some of the most glamorous poses in yoga. If you are an advanced practitioner, we will guide you to new heights.
Key benefits: Stamina, grace, flexibility and strength. Learn to use the body to deepened awareness, meditation, lack of ego. Take your practice to new heights.
Fierce Grace presents WILD, a new, multi-system, cardio yoga workout unlike any other, designed by Michele Pernetta, one of the UK’s top yoga-fitness gurus. Few classes bridge the gap between conventional gym workouts and yoga, but WILD, a weightless gym, manages to fire up the body with the strengthening benefits of weight training, non-stop movement of cardio and the muscle lengthening and alignment of yoga, all in a dynamic one hour class.
Based on a unique structure of modern/ancient exercises from Martial Arts, Kundalini Yoga, Ballet Conditioning, Qi Gong, Physiotherapy, resistance stretching, HIIT and Super Slow along with strength conditioning. Simple functional movements allow the body to make it’s own micro adjustments to loosen, tone and integrate safely.
Experience WILD at one of our upcoming FREE taster classes:
- City – 5PM Wednesday, 14 October with Gwen* – BOOK
- City – 7PM Wednesday, 14 October with Michele Pernetta* – FULLY BOOKED
- West – 6PM Thursday, 15 October with Michele Pernetta* – FULLY BOOKED
- Primrose Hill – 6:45PM 21 October with Gwen* – FULLY BOOKED
- Brixton – 2-3pm 31 October. BOOK
- Taster session are FREE but they must be pre-booked.
After this initial taster session, FG Brixton will be scheduling a WILD class every Saturday in November at 2-3pm. Like our other classes, Wild will be included in your FG package. So there’s no reason not to come along! As ever, we welcome feedback from our classes and hope you enjoy the challenge.
WILD was specifically designed by Michele Pernetta to bring cardio fitness and build stamina, core power and strength, along with yogic breathing to help oxygenate the entire body and purify and balance the nervous system.
Michele explains “I wanted to develop a class that targeted strength, oxygenation and stamina, while remaining in the arena of yoga wisdom. Many cardio activities can wear out the joints. This new, dynamic class speeds up the development of building long lean muscle, core stability, cardio fitness and helps prepare the body for every expression, whether it be yoga, the gym, sports or just living a fun, active life”.
WILD is a new approach to improve your general overall fitness, help build strength, stamina, mobility and burn serious calories, whilst sculpting every inch of your body. It is nothing short of transformational. We can vouch for the positive effects it can have on muscle tone, overall fitness, vitality, flexibility, injury prevention AND skin.
Suitable for all levels, except the lazy…
WILD classes launch at City, West, Hothouse and Primrose Hill on 2 November. The schedule will be announced shortly.
*Please note WILD will be replacing the classes regularly scheduled at the above times. At Fierce Grace City the 5PM class on 21 Oct will be switched to a Fierce Grace class (hot) and the 15 Oct 20:30 class at Primrose Hill will be switched to a Fierce Grace (Hot) class to accommodate anyone that may not wish to attend a WILD tasters.
The Barre Concept is one of the latest fitness concepts taking the UK by storm. Founded in ballet and Pilates techniques, with a focus on strength and conditioning, the Barre Concept is a high powered, fast paced and fun way to sculpt your body.
The low impact, total body workout lifts the butt, tones the thighs, flattens the abs and sculpts the arms, whilst protecting the joints. Small isometric contractions are performed and integrated with an interval training approach that burns fat and develops cardiovascular fitness. Posture, alignment, flexibility, stamina and core strength improve. The result is a body that is realigned, rebalanced and works harmoniously and efficiently.
This is an intense yet accessible work out offering a wide range of variations and modifications, making it suitable for all abilities and experiences; no previous ballet experience required. Barre Concept is the perfect complement to your yoga practice, helping you to feel grounded and strong on the mat, from head to toe.
When can I try it out? Fierce Grace Brixton will be hosting two Barre Concept sessions in the up coming weeks.
13:30-14:45 Saturday 26th September
13:30-14:45 Saturday 24th October
The sessions will be led by our very own Grace Farmer. Grace is a fully qualified Barre Concept teacher and has been teaching across the country for the last two years. Previous to teaching Barre, Grace has 20 years of dance and performance experience and is of course, a dedicated yogi at Fierce Grace Brixton.
“My sessions are always set to fun, upbeat music to help motivate you as we work through some tough exercises that are guaranteed to make you ‘feel the burn’. Expect to get sweaty, feel energized and push yourself. I promise you’ll enjoy it!”
To believe that yoga is just for the body is to miss a world of experience and pleasure; an opportunity to process emotions, burn off mental anxiety or to enjoy the freedom of mindlessness… says Fierce Grace founder Michele Pernetta.
In my years of observing practitioners go through the myriad of feelings, thoughts and sensations that arise in their yoga practice, I have come to this conclusion:
Alpha types, high achievers and the very fit, often like to ram and cram, push, confront, struggle and strain, and they tend to avoid any “softer” more internal classes, that might get them in touch with how they feel. If this is you, those are the classes you need occasionally – to balance you and connect you with the parts of yourself you are out of touch with and actively avoiding! Although having a lot of energy and willpower is wonderful, if you only practice this way you could become insensitive, disconnected from your feelings, angry and hard, and tire out your nervous system.
On the other hand, unfit, lazy or weak people whose energy may be low, tend to be attracted to easier, softer classes, where they can carry on resting, not engaging their force, and not risking confrontation with anything uncomfortable or demanding. But if this is your tendency, you actually need to go into the uncomfortable, disciplined or challenging classes to balance yourself and develop your male energy, get fitter and develop your willpower and strengthen your nervous system. If you never challenge yourself you could end up getting weaker, overweight, and unable to meet life’s challenges with the feeling you have a strong “backbone”.
I was so alpha that any soft class, with breath or “going within” used to make me impatient and angry. If that’s you, get into what that actually is – isn’t it interesting?! Your fire is looking for things to burn, but it may just burn you if you aren’t mindful of it. More sensitive types can find challenge upsetting and frightening, they close down, “feel sick”, get too hot, leave the room, make excuses. Look at this refusal to accept the challenge of life. Be patient with yourself, but don’t succumb to this weakness. Life will not treat you gently so you may as well confront some difficulty and work on getting stronger in the safety of a yoga class.
So go out of your comfort zone a little and get curious about the things you avoid, they might be what could balance you!